Birthday boy!

Liam turned One Year Old! I cannot believe this time, over a year ago, I was laboring in the hospital, about to greet my baby boy.

We love our “puppy” “googy bear” “pup pup” “baby head” SO MUCH. He is the SWEETEST little boy. He brings so much happiness into our family. It’s amazing how he completely changed from being the hardest baby, EVER, to being the sweetest, happiest, little guy! I understand now, when parents say their kids feel like “gifts.” I feel that way about Liam. He just brings so much light and joy to my heart and the heart of everyone in the family! The girls can be at each other’s throats and then Liam toddles into the room and suddenly they are oohing and gooing all over him and inviting him to play with them. And then they quickly start fighting over who gets to play with the baby…but that’s not a horrible problem to have!

I was so excited to have Liam turn one and “officially” be past the SIDS risk. However, my heart aches because we simply replaced the fear of him dying in his sleep, to a fear of him dying while he is awake. Sometimes, when I write, I feel like I sound dramatic. But it’s true.

It turns out Liam has a “severe” peanut and egg allergy.

I discovered this by accident a few weeks ago when I gave him the tiniest taste of peanut butter on his lips. He immediately started throwing up. Then, he got some on his fingers and wiped his face and immediately broke out in hives all over his face! I didn’t know it at the time, but that was an anaphylactic reaction! When I took him to the allergist and described the reaction, she said, “That was an Epipen worthy event.”

So instead of getting a cake for his birthday, I substituted Oreos. I took the top off an oreo and put a candle in the frosting. I had taken him to the allergist that morning so the news of these allergies was fresh and instead of feeling happy to celebrate his first birthday, I felt sad and overwhelmed. I know it’s not a big deal that he didn’t get a cake to smash in his face, but it felt sad to me. I have to reframe some of my hopes and wishes for Liam and the Oreo substitutes felt symbolic of those changes…and he didn’t like the Oreo.

I want to do a “do-over” for his birthday where I can make an eggless cake and I’m not in such a negative headspace. For a couple weeks after we got this information, I felt I needed to grieve. I felt angry and deflated that it feels we don’t EVER get to let our guard down! The whole first year it was anxiety over whether Liam would die in his sleep, and now it’s anxiety about an anaphylactic reaction with an accidental exposure to peanuts! We purged the house of peanuts and stocked up on Epipens, and I have been practicing with trainer pens on the girls (they think it’s kind of fun).

Now, a few weeks out, I feel less overwhelmed and that this just is a new normal I need to get used to. I have talked with several people who either have, or have friends, who have similar allergies, and they’ve been really helpful. I know as I get used to reading labels and making new recipes, eventually, this won’t feel so overwhelming. Also, there’s hope that Liam can outgrow these allergies!

The allergist said that 80% of kids with egg allergies outgrow them and 20% of kids with peanut allergies outgrow them. I did some research on Oral Immuno-Therapy for kids with peanut allergies and while it is a newer practice, it has excellent research to back it up and has great efficacy rates (as high as 80%!). Liam’s allergist doesn’t do that kind of treatment so I found a doctor in Salt Lake who does, with a great reputation, and we have an appointment in July. I’m hoping Liam will be a good candidate for that treatment. Even if we can just get him to a place where exposure to peanuts isn’t life threatening, I’d be super happy! But we shall see.

Looking at Liam, I can almost forget he has these vulnerabilities. He’s so healthy, and happy, and thriving! Now that he is one, I’ve begun to wean him. That’s been a bitter-sweet experience for me. As you know, I’ve worked so hard to keep up my milk supply and I love nursing him. And while I’m happy to keep nursing him in the morning and at night, I don’t think my milk supply can keep up. We are trying, but it just keeps going down. I tell myself it’s ok. Maybe even a good thing, as Liam is a little on the skinny and small side. Drinking whole cow’s milk might help him grown and gain weight. But it’s such a heartbreaking transition from my BABY to my little toddler, who will forever just continue to grow more independent!

Having Liam has brought so much unanticipated but much appreciated healing. He doesn’t, can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t fill the hole in our hearts left by Charlie, but he has breathed so much needed joy and life into our family! I honestly think he’s everyone’s favorite in the family right now! He has the biggest smiles and happiest coos for his sisters, his dad, and me. Grateful to have him in our arms, every-single-day!

 

 

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Parenting trial runs

Dear Hailee,

We don’t know what we are doing. I’ll just own that! You are our first child and our trial run. I worry constantly about how I may be screwing you up! This week I have been so stressed making decisions for your future. In reality, these decisions may be inconsequential, but they feel life changing.

Club soccer tryouts are this week and next week. You played all last year for the 08 team even though your birthday is 09. You did well, held your own, and improved SO much. You are so speedy on the field and not afraid to go after the ball, no matter how big the player is you are confronting! It has been so fun to watch your growth, Hailee! However, more than once throughout the year, you wanted to quit. We insisted you finish the season as you made a commitment to your team and we are all glad you did. Your team, Avalanche, went from being the worst in your division to the second best! All of you improved SO much! At the end of the season, you were really enjoying soccer again.

Selfishly, we really want you to stick with soccer. It’s something you are good at and a sport you can play throughout high school, if you wanted to. We like you playing a team sport where you learn the value of teamwork, sportsmanship, etc.

But do we keep you on your 08 team? Your team is moving up a division because you all did so well! We are so proud of you for that, but also wonder what that means? You are already younger and smaller than everyone on your team. While you aren’t afraid of playing against bigger girls, as you get older, players will get more aggressive. Will that matter? I don’t know. Your coach says he is happy to have you continue to play on their team but said it might be to your advantage to play with your age group; the 09 team. The 09 team’s coach is eager to have you and she seems like she’d be a great coach. You are also a little young, interpersonally, so maybe you’d have an easier time connecting with teammates if you played on the 09 team. However, your best friend is trying out for the 08 team and you really want to play on the same team as her. But we have no idea if she will make the team or not!

Ideally, we’d just wait to see if your best friend makes your team and then make a decision. But we have to let the 09 coach know tomorrow if you ware going to be on her team or stay on the 08 team.

The good news is, we are faced with two good options. But which is the RIGHT one? Is there a right one? Does this really matter? My biggest priority for you, Hailee, is for you to grow, build confidence, learn teamwork, develop skills, appreciate your body, and have fun! I worry that staying on the 08 team you won’t have fun if your best friend doesn’t make the cut and you face really hard teams. But I worry that if we put you on the 09 team, you won’t have fun if your friend makes the 08 team but you can’t play with her!

On top of all this, you qualified to move up in gymnastics. They want you to enter the Pre-Team level, which requires four hours of commitment a week at the gym. I honestly don’t want you to do this but you get so upset at any suggestion of not moving up in gymnastics or quitting. You say you love gymnastics. And in contrast to soccer, with gymnastics, you never, ever complain about going.  You have also come a really long way with your gymnast skills and can do a back handspring into a back tuck. You are especially proud of your skills on the bars. You are really coordinated in your body and it’s fun to watch you. But I honestly don’t want to encourage gymnastics much more. As you progress in gymnastics, it takes over your life. Just ask your aunt Ruth. She had a really positive experience with it but I don’t want you to spend every day at the gym, for hours on end. I want you to be a kid and have playdates and time with family. I am also sensitive to environments that can make you vulnerable to caring about your weight, shape, and size. I want you to love and honor your body and I know there are sports that (depending on the coaches, teammates, and environments) can be toxic for body image.

Soccer is more focused on performance and it doesn’t matter what your body looks like. It only matters what your body can do. But soccer is also big commitment and I don’t feel we can continue to do both soccer and gymnastics. I’m also not sold on you choosing just between soccer and gymnastics. I want you to try tennis. Maybe even karate. Maybe lacrosse or volleyball! You are only 9 (in one week) and you don’t need to decide now what sport to specialize in! But there is only so much time in the day and I really feel the pressure, that if you want to be really good at something, you need to start NOW. I could totally be wrong about that, but this pressure is in the water. So many parents are stressing out about this! That’s validating but also serves to increase my anxiety. Parenting decisions are the worst!

I also want to be mindful to not project my history onto your story. I have a lot of regrets with sports. I am athletic and could have been really good at either soccer or volleyball. But I lacked the commitment. I gave up too easily and didn’t push myself. I also had some negative experiences with coaches, but instead of quitting, I could’ve found a new team. I don’t want you to have regrets like mine. But I also don’t want you to feel you need to compete at an elite level. You don’t. In fact, I don’t want you to.

All I want is for you to be able to be the best version of you. I want to provide you opportunities and experiences to facilitate that growth. But I hope you always know that I see you as amazing, worthy, and whole, just as you are. Nothing you can do, or don’t do, can ever change that fact or my love for you. I am so proud of you. I am also probably going to screw you up. We all get screwed up by our parents, right? I can only do my best and hope I do more right by you than wrong, and through it all, love you fiercely and unconditionally. I am also more than happy to pay for your therapy bills in the future! 😉

6 year Angelversary

It’s interesting, whenever April approaches, I notice I start emotionally eating. I get grumpy and a little sad. But the good news is, this April, while I still felt those things, I didn’t clue into why until Charlie’s angelversary was almost upon us! When I realized, I practiced important self-compassion, which helped.

I have learned not to have expectations for angelversaries. I don’t know how hard or easy they will be. I also learned it’s valuable to have a proactive plan for how to spend the day.

This angelversary was the best we’ve passed. It was actually a really good day. Chad ditched work, and we let Hailee stay home from school and we spent the whole day together as a family. In the morning, Hailee and I hiked up to the Reservoir where we fed the ducks and played around. Then, after lunch we all went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity. Hailee was the only one who had been there before, on a school field trip. The museum was so much fun! It was even better that it was during a school day so we practically had the whole place to ourselves. We spent several hours there goofing around. I was struck several times that day that I laughed! Like really laughed! We all had fun together making memories in honor of Charlie.

Of course we concluded the day at his grave where we gave him some small presents and released 6 balloons to heaven. We came home tired but pretty happy.

I like this new tradition we are creating of using Charlie’s Angelversary as a family holiday. Hailee was too young when Charlie died to remember him and Cami and Liam never got to know Charlie in this life. So having an annual family holiday where we make special memories together in Charlie’s honor is a good way to keep Charlie’s memory alive. I like thinking that when the kids are all grown up, they will remember “Charlie Days” together.

I am grateful to be in a place where the sadness I feel about Charlie’s death doesn’t feel dark and heavy. Of course grief waves still strike, but I have learned that I am a strong swimmer. I also can’t help but look at my little family and feel full of so much gratitude for the life we have together now. Cami and Liam are here because we lost Charlie. Our family feels complete, even though our hearts will always yearn for our little angel.

Biting the bullet

At seven months, when we did all that intense sleep training with Liam it was GREAT! And worth every penny and all the time and effort we put into it. But Liam only slept through the night for about the next month. At 8 months he started teething. And Liam did NOT like teething. So we sleep regressed. Despite giving him Ibuprofin before bed, Liam would wake up one, to two, to three times each night crying! And as he got older, his cries were louder and more persistent! He would stand up in his crib and see us in bed and just cry and cry and cry until we relented, got him out and snuggled him back to sleep.

This got worse. I kicked Chad out of our room and he went to sleep with Cami. I thought it was his snoring that was waking Liam up. But no, Liam kept waking up. I became so tired that I would pull him into bed with me and nurse him back to sleep. But then I began to fall asleep cuddling him and hours would go by before I’d wake up and attempt to put him back in his crib. Liam became so sensitive to being transitioned that eventually he refused to sleep in his crib at all. He just wanted to be in my arms, on my chest, or just right by me, all night long.

Well, this made for poor sleep! While I secretly LOVED cuddling him, he also wiggled all night long and whined. Neither of us got good sleep. So, before this could become too much of a pattern, we KNEW it was time to move Liam into his own room.

I dragged my feet about this so when I was gone one night at a women’s retreat, Chad took down the crib and re-assembled it in the nursery. When I came home the next afternoon, Liam had already taken two naps in his nursery and seemed to be adjusting just fine! In fact, Chad said when he brought Liam into the nursery and Liam saw his crib, he got a big smile on his face.

I was super sad when I got home and realized my little baby would be sleeping away from me from now on. I honestly wanted to cry big alligator tears. But I knew it would be the best thing for all of us.

He’s been in his nursery for a week now and the last several nights he has slept 11 hours straight! At first this made me nervous and I’d wake up to check on him throughout the night. But I am getting used to it too. We had some Owlet difficulties for a few nights where it had difficulty getting a reading, but after re-setting the base station, I think we figured that out and the owlet hasn’t gone off since. Knowing Liam has the Owlet on is very psychologically reassuring since he’s not in my room. When he wakes up between 7-8am, I will still pull him into bed with me to nurse and snuggle for a little bit, so we still have that connection. It’s also good to have Chad back in my bed and our bedroom to ourselves again. Liam seems really happy in his own place as well.

While I am still sad at this transition and that Liam is growing up, I am compensating for the sadness by putting energy into decorating his nursery. Mel is helping me and we are making it really cute! Having a cute space for him makes me excited.

The sleep experts who consulted with us about Liam when he was 7 months old told us that having Liam in his own room would be the best for sleep training. Three months later and lots of hours of lost sleep, we realize they were right! But better late than never!

Liam Charles Packard birth story

I woke up at 1:15am on June 6th with painful contractions. The contractions came at regular 10 minute intervals but did not speed up nor increase in severity…so I knew I needed to just sit pretty and wait. I was somewhat bummed that I was missing out on what would be my last good night of sleep as the contractions were so painful I couldn’t sleep through them. At 4:30am I got up and put together the hospital bag. I noticed the birds started chirping that early and it was going to be a sunny, warm day.

The irony of my body starting contractions on it’s own was that June 6th was my scheduled induction day. I had actually prayed that my body would go into labor on it’s own and it seemed Heavenly Father was answering my prayer. And that we were also going to go through with our scheduled induction. At 6am I called Labor and Delivery at St. Mark’s hospital to find out when they would have me come in. When I called, they said they were really busy and I needed to call again at 8. By that time in the morning I was tired enough that I was able to doze until 7:30am. At 7:45 Labor and Delivery called me and asked if I could come in by 8:30.

We packed up, gave last minute instructions to Grammy, and I quickly made a bagel with peanut butter and we were off! Once we got the hospital, my contractions had increased to about every 7 minutes but I could still talk through them. The nurse checked my cervix and I was 4cm dilated and 70% effaced. They hooked me up to an IV and after a bag of saline, added Pitocin to increase the frequency and intensity of my contractions. Man, this is when it really started to hurt! I kept asking Chad to come and massage my back through each contraction as I had back labor this time. I tried to put off an epidural for a little bit because I know epidurals can slow down labor. I tried using the labor ball but it wasn’t super helpful. Pretty soon I was done being in intense pain, especially as the contractions came more and more quickly. I asked for my epidural but the anesthesiologist was in the middle of a c-section. The nurse informed him to come give me my epidural next but as soon as he finished that c-section, he was off to another! So I had to labor about two more hours without my epidural! I was in intense pain and the nurse suggested I take a dose of Phentinol for the pain while I was waiting. This made Chad and I nervous as back in October they gave me Phentinol when I was in the hospital with my ectopic pregnancy and crashed. We knew logically that I went into shock because my tube burst and I was losing blood but it still made us a little nervous. But I was in so much pain at this point, I was willing to try. As a compromise I asked for half a dose.  That did the trick and I was able to endure another 45 minutes of labor waiting for my epidural.

Side note, Chad is an anxious person when it comes to labor! He was super vigilant watching baby’s heart rate on the monitor the whole time. Anytime baby’s heart rate dropped at all he’d tell me to shift positions.

Finally the anesthesiologist came and proceeded to set me up for my epidural. This was probably the scariest moment of labor because based on how the anesthesiologist placed me, baby’s heart rate dropped into the 90s. They gave me oxygen and then had me position myself a different way and baby did fine. I felt really great after having my epidural. My pain was gone and my mood quickly improved too. The only thing I wished was different was I wish he hadn’t given me so much as when I became complete, I couldn’t tell it was time to push.

With my epidural on board, Dr. Watts came in and broke my water and they turned the Pitosin up to full throttle to move things along. I could barely feel a thing and baby’s heart rate stayed great through that. Not too much time later, the nurse came in and asked if I felt any urges to push. I didn’t, but asked that she check me anyway. She checked and exclaimed, “You are complete and a +2! Don’t push! We want to get the doctor here!” Within minutes Dr. Watts was back in the room and I started pushing. They had a hard time tracking baby’s heart rate during this part of labor so they put a pulse monitor in his scalp as I was pushing. It only took about 4 contractions worth of pushing and baby was here! He arrived at 2:28pm.

After sucking out his mouth, he quickly started crying. Chad immediately started crying and forgot to take photos. I had to prompt him several times to start taking photos. They put baby on my stomach and I felt it warm, sticky body as he squirmed and cried. I started crying too.

Baby weighed in as our biggest baby: 7lbs 8oz. He was 19 inches long. His APGAR scores were 8 and 9. When they gave him back to me, I immediately started breastfeeding him. He latched like a total champ! I was really impressed. He ate for over half an hour within his first hour of life!

Baby and I stayed at the hospital for two nights. I was feeling great and ready to go home the next day but they recommended a little extra monitoring for our baby. He failed his first hearing test and if we stayed a second night they could just run the second test the next morning. It was nice to take advantage of the nursery services so I could get some stretches of sleep. Baby struggled both nights with the middle of the night feeding. He had a sour stomach and it took 3 hours each time to get him to eat. When he did eat, he ate well. I felt bad for his sour little stomach.

The second day, Chad and I pushed ourselves to decide a name. We went back and forth between Everett and Liam. Finally, we decided on Liam. We like the meaning of Liam: Strong willed warrior and protector. We also like that it’s Irish. Ireland has a special place in our hearts as it was on a vacation there, over 8 years ago, that Chad and I decided to start our family. It feels fitting that our “Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow” has an Irish name and is the completion of our family. We always knew his middle name would be Charles, after his angel big brother. It’s a way to honor Charlie and also acknowledge Charlie’s impact in our family and the reality, on the very existence of Liam. If Charlie were here today, we would not have had Liam. I also strongly believe that Charlie will protect and watch over Liam so I love having Charlie’s name be part of Liam’s name.

Liam’s sisters love their little brother! Cami was a bit scared of the baby at first and didn’t want to touch him. But very quickly she warmed up to baby and both girls are eager to hold him and love on him. Hailee was over the moon to meet him and is so thrilled to have him.

We are home now and it’s nice to be back in our house. It’s also hard. Last night was our first night home and I got VERY LITTLE sleep. The owlet wasn’t working quite right so we didn’t have a monitor on him. As a result I was an anxious mess, trying to stay awake to hear him breathing all night. By the time morning came, I was a tearful mess. I predicted this, as this happened with Cami. It’s so hard having a newborn, and then obviously  even harder with our history of loss. I pray sweet Liam gets to stay in our family and we can raise him with his sisters. I feel hopeful that will be the case. But I am also scared, naturally. I’m not letting that fear interfere with the lovely moments of cuddling my sweet newborn and enjoying breastfeeding him and kissing his fuzzy soft head. We are definitely smitten with our little “golden boy!”

 

35 weeks with our last rainbow

This last week caused some anxiety as my belly is measuring small for my gestational age. As a result, Dr. Watts sent me to get an ultrasound at the Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic downstairs. We had that ultrasound yesterday.

And baby boy is growing just fine! In fact, baby boy is measuring in the 86%. The doctor we saw asked if I had gestational diabetes, because he is that big! What a relief! And also, because I’m just so anxious with this pregnancy anyway, now I’m worried about him being too big! The ultrasound tech commented that this baby was on it’s way to being a really big baby that would be hard to deliver so it’s a good thing I usually deliver at 38 weeks! I agree! Glad I deliver early…but what if I don’t?! I need to meditate more…too much anxiety.

Other good news from the ultrasound is that the baby is head down! So I should be able to have a vaginal delivery! 🙂

But seeing baby on ultrasound and seeing how he is growing perfectly and strong, made me feel like crying. Both in a, “I’m so excited to meet him!” way as well as, “This feels so vulnerable!” way. From the ultrasound 3D pic, little boy looks a lot like Charlie. But this little boy also has fat rolls and a bit of hair on his head!

I feel so eager for him to get here so I can hold him in my arms and snuggle him! I am simultaneously so nervous about him getting here! So much has happened in this pregnancy so it’s hard to rest easy. On the other hand I keep thinking of what a miracle this baby is and hope there is meaning in that.

I love this little one so fiercely already and I pray he gets here safely and joins our family!

It’s a boy!

I am inclined to think of this baby as “The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” This baby will be the completion of our family so it seems perfectly fitting that he be the Pot of Gold!

While I was at my OB appointment a few weeks ago, I asked my doctor to do an ultrasound and check for gender. Based on that ultrasound he said he was 75% sure it was a boy. I’m glad I had that first revelation that I could ponder on for several weeks before the confirmatory 2o-week ultrasound.

My first reaction to learning I was having a boy wasn’t positive. The thought I had was, “That doesn’t seem fair.” I couldn’t quite articulate or understand why I felt that way. But I think I had this belief that “the Universe can’t send us another boy and think that makes everything all right.” While I know this boy doesn’t replace Charlie, I somehow felt we shouldn’t have a boy in this life. That our life somehow always needs to represent our loss.

When we saw the baby at the 20 week ultrasound, my feelings changed. I found myself feeling genuinely happy. I was also happy to see Chad so happy. And of course, most important, was that the ultrasound didn’t see any physical problems with our baby and he is growing strong and healthy!

I was especially excited to surprise our girls and the rest of our friends. After the ultrasound we went to the Sweet Tooth Fairy and I ordered four cupcakes with blue frosting inserted in the middle. They looked like normal cupcakes on the outside but the colored frosting on the inside would reveal the gender of our baby.

Later that afternoon, after Hailee got home from school, we brought out the cupcakes. The girls were so excited! Although I think Cami felt somewhat confused. We filmed the girls biting into the cupcakes and finding the blue frosting. Hailee’s excitement was the best as she exclaimed, “We are having a brother!” We used the video to tell our family and friends (and social media) our news.

Everyone is really excited for us. A lot of people are also being sensitive and thoughtful as they inquire how we feel about having another boy.

I still feel really happy. I know this is going to be quite messy and hard. I know the trauma memories will be stronger. I am worried this little boy may look like his older brother and that will be messy if that’s the case. But I also hope and am looking forward to raising a boy! I’ve always wanted to raise a boy! While I don’t feel I’m missing anything with my sweet tom-boy, Hailee, it’ll still be great to experience raising a boy. I am hopeful this little guy will live. I feel his story is incredible and he is a miracle. I feel as a result, he “should” live. But I am also very aware there are no such things as guarantees. I am trying not to jump too far ahead in the future and stay present. Now that I am past the first trimester and no longer feel miserable and sick, I am trying to soak up and enjoy my last experience of growing a baby.

As I write this, little man is kicking around in my tummy. He’s a very active baby and I love it. I am loving him.