Merry Christmas Eve to all, and to all a good night.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Merry Christmas Eve to all, and to all a good night.
After a year of reading about and being promised that RDSPs (Registered Disability Savings Plan) would be available in 2008, the government finally made RDSPs available. We had the choice (is it a choice if there is only one option? I think not) of going with BMO. The RDSPs became available on December 22, 2008 and you have to contribute before December 31, 2008 in order to get the grant for 2008. What this means is that we had to go to BMO, set up a profile, speak to staff who had no idea what they were doing and actually were incorrect in that they did not take Gavin's info which means he has to go back today. Then we had to call a 1-800 number (the same number that all Canadians were using and no, they did not have extra staff on hand to handle the extra calls) and wait 80 minutes to talk to an investment agent. I have to say, that when we did finally get through, the person was knowledgeable about RDSPs. So that was helpful. He emailed us the forms, we filled them out and faxed them today. According to the guy we spoke with, as long as BMO gets the paperwork by December 31, we will get the grant money. It does not matter if the actual RDSP is not set up until after the New Year.
They don't seem to have some kinks worked out quite yet. When I asked how we will know that they got the fax, his response was, "We haven't figure out how we will be contacting clients." He said we could call again and wait in line for another 60-90 minutes to speak with someone but they may not know because some of the accounts will not be in the system until after the New Year. When I asked how we can make deposits in the future, he recommended calling and giving the account number and password. On the forms we set the password but how can we know the account number if they don't contact us? His response, "We haven't figured that part out yet."
And so, in blind faith we have faxed the forms. Hopefully all goes well and Zoe will have an RDSP opened in her name.
Good News from Ontario
The good news is that Ontario has declared that a person receiving money from an RDSP will still be eligible for full disability support. We are setting up our assets in what is called a "Hensen Trust" which also does not affect disability payments. By leaving Zoe our money in these ways, she will still be able to get support from the government as an adult and use our money for the extra things like new clothes, travelling, hockey tickets, whatever she wants. If we did not set up this special trust and just left the money to Zoe, she would be disqualified from getting any public supports. It gets complicated when you are trying to think about all of these future things for your child who will be disabled and most likely unable to support themselves. I think Gavin and I are both relieved that the Hensen Trust will be finalized soon and that the RDSP has started.
Where to go for more info about RDSPs
If you are interested in setting up an RDSP for your child, go to http://www.rdsp.com/
Also, I have the forms from BMO, so if you don't want to wait in line on the phone, I can email them to you. Just let me know.
Monday, December 22, 2008
For now, here we go:
The First Time I Saw Zoe
Gavin and I knew all along that we were having a girl- we both just felt it. The midwife student had accidentally told us late in the pregnancy that it was a girl, but we weren't too surprised. And so when the baby finally did come out I did not think to ask if it was a boy or girl. I just looked to see if the baby was ok. At that point, we knew about the heart problems so I was worried. During the pushing phase of labour, the heart monitors kept losing the heartbeat. We weren't seriously worried since we knew it was faulty monitors, but still I wanted to see for myself that everything was fine.
Unfortunately, that squiggly, pink, screaming infant was not the sight I saw. Instead I was met with a white/grey baby with a cord around its neck and I could see she was not moving. I had great fear about the cord being around the neck since I had an older sister who lost a baby during birth due to the cord being wrapped around the neck. My midwife quickly flipped the baby and unwrapped the cord that was wrapped around the neck twice. We are told that this did not harm Zoe in any way.
But back to first impressions.
The baby was handed over to the respiratory therapist who was already in the room due to knowing about the heart condition. Gavin held my hand but was looking at the corner where they took the baby. I told him to go to the baby. He took off and I immediately asked the midwife if the baby was alive. I can't remember her exact response, perhaps it was something about focusing on delivering the placenta. But I do remember that she did not give me an answer. I knew that was not a good sign and I asked again. This time she honestly answered, "I don't know."
It felt like forever, it was probably just a few minutes before Gavin returned to my side. I could tell by his face that there was something seriously wrong. He did say though that the baby was breathing. Later, I learned that Gavin had watched as they tested the baby's reflexes and his concern was how her arms just flopped at her sides and she never made any noise.
I could not see this.
I was busy delivering the placenta.
Stuck on a table.
Unable to see the baby or wrap her in my arms.
Which is what I wanted most.
Zoe goes to the NICU
After a few minutes? I am not sure how long, the respiratory therapist decided that the baby was not breathing well enough on her own and wanted to take her to the NICU. As they got ready to leave, I asked if I could see the baby. She brought her to me and finally I got to see her little face. Her eyes and mouth were tightly shut and her fist was on her chin. She looked pale but perfect. I could tell that she already looked a lot like Gavin. It took all of my self control not to grab her out of the therapist's arms. I could see that she needed to go to the NICU but I wanted her to stay with me. Gavin and I never got to hold her before she left the room. Gavin followed the baby to the NICU but was asked to wait outside while they got her settled. Intubation (for those of you who have never seen it) can be pretty violent and they don't usually let families watch.
Gavin and I wait to see the baby
After Gavin returned from being kicked out of the NICU, I could tell he was really worried. I tried to get him to sit down and relax (yeah right!) The midwives were amazing and got us some tea and toast. I had to wait at least thirty minutes until I was allowed to stand up. All sorts of scenarios ran through my head. I just tried to focus on getting something to eat and drink to build my strength. Getting Gavin to sit down for one minute. And getting to the baby as soon as possible.
The Doctor Gives us a Report
After about 30 minutes (again could have been more or less) a doctor finally came to update us on how the baby was doing. At that time, she was still just "the baby" since we had not named her yet. I can not remember all that was said but the doctor mentioned that something was seriously wrong. He mentioned rocker bottom heels and the small size (born at 42 weeks plus one day, Zoe weighed in at a whopping 5 pounds, 3 ounces) being indicative of a syndrome. Both Gavin and I have experience working with trisomy 13 and 18 kids who have rocker bottom heels. They do not typically live very long after birth. He told us the various tubes and why they were inserted into the baby. He also used words like "dsymorphic features, low set ears, wide nasal bridge, small chin." While I appreciated his honestly, I wish he had spoken to us after I could have seen the baby for myself. Because we had already learned that something was wrong, when I saw the baby in the NICU and had my first good look I kept looking for these "dsymorphic" features instead of just enjoying looking at my new baby for the first time. I suppose he just wanted to prepare us for what could lay ahead. But I still feel very sad that I never got to just hold Zoe and discover her for myself in those first minutes of life. It feels like even those first precious moments (which should be filled with excitement and bliss) were taken away and instead filled with fear, worry, and sadness. In some ways, it feels like most of her infancy was taken away in this manner.
But what choice did the doctors have? They thought that Zoe had a horrible syndrome that could kill her in days. I can not imagine how difficult it is to give families this news.
Anyway, back to Zoe.
First Trip to the NICU
The doctor said it would be ok for us to visit the baby. We immediately got a wheelchair and got ready to go. I remember the midwife looked very worried. This was her first birth where the baby was not healthy. She hid it well and was I not trained to read people, perhaps I would not have sensed her worry. I hugged her as I sat down in the wheelchair and I began to sob. I realized I would never get through the night if I thought about anything or hugged Gavin. And so instead, I just held his hand as he wheeled me down the hall.
As we approached the incubator the baby was in, we could hear staff talking. What I remember is a comment about it being good that mom had no drugs on board since the baby was so flat at birth as it was. Also, someone said something about it being a shame that it was our first baby and all. The midwife went behind the curtain and cheerfully said, "I have mom and dad here," which promptly shut the staff up.
My Beautiful Dsymorphic Daughter
It is difficult now to remember just what it was like seeing Zoe for the first time. Now, every curve of her face, every eyelash, every hair is so familiar to me. Then, it was such a weird feeling. Here is this child I carried inside of me for ten months and I don't even recognize her. When I saw her "rocker bottom feet" it made me smile. For months I had been feeling her zip an appendage along my insides. I could never figure out- was that a hand, a foot, a knee? It did not feel like any of these things. Now I understood it was a rocker bottom heel. And I knew that this baby was mine because I recognised the feet. I wanted to pick her up, snuggle her against my skin but I was not allowed to do more than hold her hand. I was not put off by the tubes. Gavin and I work in a hospital so the tubes did not bother me. But until the baby was considered "stable" we were not allowed to move her.
Gavin and I stood at her side, discussing which name suited her. All along we discussed names and Zoe was always a favourite of Gavin's. I resisted this name. It is complicated to explain it all but I will try.
The entire pregnancy, both Gavin and I always knew it was a girl. And we both always suspected that the child would have special needs. Was this paranoia from working at the hospital or just parental instinct? Gavin has a cousin Zoe that has down syndrome. I was worried that if we named the baby Zoe and the baby had special needs, everyone would assume we named her Zoe since the other Zoe had special needs too. This was a silly thought but I wanted to honour Gavin's cousin Zoe by naming our baby Zoe but I did not want it to mean less if the baby was going to die. That doesn't make sense I know.
Toward the end of the pregnancy I got a very strong feeling that the baby was a Zoe and I wasn't going to have much choice in the matter. Perhaps I thought by resisting the name Zoe, I would prevent the baby from having special needs? Who knows what twisted thoughts I had- I was a pregnant lady who was way overdue and just wanted to have this kid already!
I loved the name Zoe and its meaning. Zoe is Greek for "life." I thought this was perfect since Gavin and I never thought we would be able to have biological children together. I liked Zoe paired with Alexander, a good strong family name. Both suited Zoe well. And at that point we knew that this kid needed a good strong name to match her determined personality.
And so, standing by her bed I could see that she really was a Zoe. We had debated some other names and we tried them out. Said them to the baby to see if they would stick. But no, Zoe it was.
It wasn't until later that we decided for sure. During a bomb scare (what my American relatives who have heard my labour story must think of the Canadian health care system! I swear it is not normally like this!) we called down to the nurse to let her know that we had named the baby Zoe. She even made a little name card for her. But more on that in a later post.
We were given a picture and we knew what that meant....
While we were sitting with the baby, a nurse gave us a picture that she had taken of the baby. It was from the Linden Fund. My mouth went dry when she handed it to us. I knew these were pictures that staff took just in case the baby doesn't make it so the parents have at least one photo.
Suddenly I realized how serious this all was.
Suddenly I was really scared that we could lose her.
Up until then I thought, "I don't care if she is dysmorphic, has funny shaped feet, or has a syndrome. She is going to be ok."
Suddenly I thought, "Wow, we could actually lose her."
Now Go Get Some Rest- Yeah Right!
We were asked to leave so they could finish "settling" the baby. The midwife said she had to finish checking me and would help us get settled in a room. Again, my midwife was thoughtful and had us moved from the room with a roommate to a room with the second bed empty. If we had to have a roommate with a healthy baby that night, I don't know how we would have coped. As it was, it was a terrible night. I think we made it maybe three or four hours before we went back to the NICU. We were told to get some rest, who knew what the next day would be like. After having the baby inside of me for ten months, how could I leave her all alone with strangers? I couldn't stand the thought of her being without us. All we had with us was that picture the nurse gave us. Initially we could not look at it. All I saw in it was the dysmorphic features the doctor talked about and the possibility of losing her. Now, it is one of my favourite pictures of Zoe because it reminds me of the first time I really saw her and how far she has come. Gavin posted this picture on the very first post on this blog, so I won't repost it now. Instead, here is another wonderful picture of my beautiful daughter:
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
We went back to the doctor's today for a lung and weight check. The doctor stated that Zoe's lungs are "a little better." I asked if Zoe still had pneumonia and she said, "definitely but the right lung is nice and clear now." So I guess that is something. I will be very happy once I hear that both lungs are clear, but at least she is improving slowly. As long as nothing changes, we don't have to go back to see her for one whole month! That will be the longest we have gone without seeing a doctor since September. So we will keep our fingers crossed, continue doing the respiratory therapy, and hope that we have a nice quiet holiday at home.
Zoe gained 180 grams (about 6 ounces) whoohooo! Her appetite has definitely increased and she is back to eating table food that is cut up in small pieces. We still give her pureed food at times when her mouth gets tired. We are really happy that she is not having the choking and coughing she has been having for the last few months with table food. It is great to continue forward with our eating goals. One of the reasons we go to this doctor even though she is now 45-60mins away since we moved is that she is great at seeing the whole picture with Zoe. She has always been supportive about us giving Zoe as normal a childhood as possible. Eating has taken a lot of work for all of us, but we feel strongly that oral eating is the best mode of eating for Zoe. I have to admit that the tube feedings Zoe was on a few weeks ago really made me realize how much easier that path would be for all of us. It was so easy to get the calories into Zoe. But the gtube comes with many problems. Some kids do need tube feedings, but we feel confident that Zoe does not need one at this time.
Fun News- Getting ready for Christmas.
Zoe chopped down her very first Christmas tree this past Saturday. Since she still has a nasty cough, we picked the first tree we saw, gave Zoe a quick turn at sawing, plopped her in a snow bank, and chopped it down as quickly as possible.
I am really glad we did not plan to travel this Christmas since we would have had to cancel our plans. We really look forward to grandma coming after Christmas to spend some time with us. I think she will be very surprised at how much Zoe has changed since she saw her in July. Her communication and social skills have really picked up recently.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Zoe an inpatient on my floor
While Zoe was admitted, she was inpatient on 7C, one of the units I cover professionally as a Child Life Specialist. So I knew all the staff, and was seeing kids I work with on a day to day basis all the time, while walking back and forth getting things for Zoe. And to get linens and supplies, which of course I know where they are, I'd have to ask staff. I generally try to keep my personal and professional life seperate, but since Zoe came along this has become increasingly difficult and last week it was impossible. I had families asking about how my daughter was doing, and I have to admit I struggled a little bit keeping it all seperate. There were times when I ended up doing work stuff, and there were times that I really wanted to connect with other parents on a parent to parent level, rather then a professional to parent level. There were times when I found myself doing both. It is very hard to describe how this personal/professional conflict is not only logistically difficult but gut renchingly hard at times. Not just last week but frequently at work I see situations so similar to what could occur with Zoe or that are occuring or have occured that it just feels emotionally quite overwhelming. My job is one where you have to be emotionally. . . available, or at least aware, and having Zoe and with her being so involved with the health care system it places a huge toll on my emotional reserves. Sometimes work seems too much like home and home is, well, work (like last week, where I spent a continuous 120 hours or so at "work" with Zoe as an inpatient). This last Wednesday- my usual day off home with Zoe, was the first time in a month that Zoe wasn't at the hospital for an appointment of some kind.
It really does sometimes become very hard, to both do my job well in the way I need to and to be a valued employee. Being Zoe's dad is different- it is just who I am and I have no choice but to do it with everything I have. And usually I am that way with my job as well, but it gets so difficult and emotionally exhausting on top of everything else going on. At some point I might make a posting on this topic itself - it sort of deserves it. Maybe one of these days I'll get around to making one. Anyway, onto my new teeth!
Oral surgery (doesn't actually have anything to do with 1p36 so skip it if you want to).
Here is the background to the oral surgery thing, for those of you who don't know (which would be most of you). I have had a lot of trouble with my teeth since my early 20's. I had a lot of various treatments for cancer when I was in my teens, and it seems like it really did for my teeth. No definitive explanation was ever found. One dentist thought it was the NG tube I used to put down and it causing acid reflux (which it did). It could be radiation or chemotherapy, or possibly nutritional or hormonal causes during the structural and formative development of my adult teeth. I just learned (from an article on Neanderthal man I was reading in a National Geographic in my dentists office) they can put Neanderthal teeth in a particle accelerator and "read" the development of the teeth, tracing nurtitional deficits, periods of stress, etc. Now this has never been done with my teeth- to do would involve putting my head in a particle accelerator which would, I imagine, be fatal (maybe not- I'm no physicist) but it made me wonder if my teeth just never developed properly at a structural level due to all the other stuff going on at the time. Certainly, looking back I had some poor dental hygiene practices at times; my priorities were not on my teeth as my very survival/continuation as a living person took precedence. If I could go back and change this I would, but what difference it might make I don't know. I've seen some very bad cases of dental care in the hosptials I've worked in, and they generally would improve with better hygiene and treatment. Such was not my case. Since my 20's I've been fighting a losing battle to keep what I had and make what I had functional. I have spent thousands of dollars and tried so many options; at times my dental hygiene regime has been pretty grueling and time consuming (not to mention money consuming!) For the passed four years or so I haven't had a good solution- I haven't really had functional molars for ages and I had continual absesses and cysts and swollen lymph glands and nasties like that. So the time came to finally move forward on a long term solution.
(for those of you who are squemish about dental stuff you might want to skip the next bit)
So that is the background. This week I finally did what I had been trying to avoid for so long, and I had basically all my teeth removed. They were all crowned anyway- I think I may have you only one left that was not root canalled. The crowned molars I had left (six lowers in all) had all broken and had nothing to oppose against, as I had my six top molars removed with my wisdoms about four years ago (plus my first attempt- very unsuccessful- with a partial denture). I had put this off for years, for expense, for time, for ego, and most recently for Zoe. I thought I'd have to postpone again last week, but then Zoe got released so I went ahead and got the surgery. I now have a full lower denture and a partial upper denture- my six front teeth are a bridge type crown thingy I've had for awhile and which is holding up for now. I got two implants put in my lower jaw that the lower denture will eventually lock onto. So far I am extremely happy with the results. The dentures fit great (even the lower one, even though the implants won't be hooked up for another while yet). I can't really chew on it yet, but the pain has been much less then I expected. Genevieve has been wonderful staying home and taking care of me and Zoe has been especially gentle with my face. She knew I wasn't feeling well on Tuesday and kept signing "Daddy". So cute!
So I am very relieved to finally have got this done, and to be pleased with the results. I was at the point where the teeth I had were a constant source of infection and pain, and I am sort of glad to rid of them. And it is so odd to see myself in the mirror with a full set of "teeth"- I haven't seen that in years! Damn I look good! And I am really looking forward to chewing my food again- years of grinding all my food with my front teeth makes me wonder what it will be like to have functional molars again!! Back in the Neanderthal days when you lost your molars that was it man, your life is over - feed you to the wolves, you were dead. I'm glad we live nowadays and I can get away with my "falsies"- being eaten by wolves doesn't seem very nice.
Sorry if this is a lot of detail, and not related to 1p36 stuff at all, but I just wanted to share something that had been a long time coming for me, and that I am very happy to have finally done. It was a bit painful, and very expensive, but it was past due to get done and I am happy it is. I am actually quite thrilled to finally have my "old man false teeth in a jar". It is a huge relief to have it done and to have the results be so positive. Thanks be to Genevieve and Zoe for seeing me through- they are my world.
What a roller coaster. It truly has been a bit insane these last 12 weeks or so. Thank you to everyone for their support and kind words. It has been really hard to be trying to balance work and Zoe's health and the worry of her getting worse and the knowledge of just how much worse it could get. Because really, she has been doing pretty well, if you count four antibiotics, five days in hospital, two ED visits, one allergic reaction, at least a dozen doctors appointments and twelve weeks of illness as good. We know it could get so much worse, and does for some of the 1p36 kids. Some of the kids we know have fairly severe respiratory issues, and they began around Zoe's age, so we worry about this being the start of something. But then we step back and try not to think ahead to much, lest we go insane (or maybe even more insane then we already are).
Look at that hair!!!
So this was suppose to be an encouraging post, so I'll end now on the note that Zoe is sounding good and getting back to giggly girl self. She went to school (what we call her daycare) today and yesterday and did really well. It's great (and a bit weird) to get back into a routine. As for myself, I don't know what that is like myself- I have only worked three days in the last three weeks (see the next post)- it's going to be very strange to get back to work next week! Thanks again for your positive thoughts and comments- we do really appreciate it. Keep 'em coming!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
It has been a really hard week. We did not expect Zoe to be in so much constant pain and that was extremely difficult to watch and feel like we could not do anything to stop it.
But at least now we are home and hopefully she will start feeling better soon.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Just wanted to let people know that Zoe was admitted to the hospital yesterday. We are hoping to make it a short stay but first we have to figure out what is going on. They are now thinking that the pneumonia is a symptom of something else going on rather than the problem. We'll see.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Showing off her arm boards that we taped in place so she can not pull the tube out when she is in her crib. Check out that double chin and those teeth!
Our respite worker, Riann, has been helping us out through this. It has made such a difference to have some help. Gavin was unable to be at the doctor's on Friday so it was great to have someone there to help me. Also, Riann came over Friday morning so I could sleep in until 9 before getting up to go to the doctor's. It was great to be somewhat rested before dealing with the doctor visit. It is amazing how much more rational (and how much less of a b$%ch) I am when I get a little sleep!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Gavin took off of work today and I will take off tomorrow. We were relieved that her fever seemed to be going away but by this afternoon she was running a fever again. We do not want to go back to the hospital for IV meds since this would mean Zoe would require a central line in order to get the meds since she is such a hard stick. Since we know other 1P36 kids who have constant lung infections we are holding our breath and hoping that this is not the start of a bunch of infections. The doctor in the emergency room brought up the fact that the pneumonia could be partly caused by or made worse by Zoe's choking on her food. Zoe could be aspirating her food into her lungs. Since Zoe has never had pneumonia before, this is unlikely. However, if Zoe continues to get infections then we will look into this.
It is heart breaking hearing Zoe cough and I can't stand forcing the meds into her mouth. She has gotten very clever and has figured out how to throw up right after you give the med so we have figured out ways to distract her.
Going through all of this has made me appreciate a few things in my life. Number one is how amazing Zoe truly is. She must be in so much pain right now but she is still such a trooper. She was upset with the IV and blood draw attempts but she did so well with it all. On the way home (we ended up having to take the subway and bus home at midnight and we laughed since it was in middle of a snowstorm- I am not sure the doctors would approve of it but we had no choice since we did not have her car seat at the hospital to take a taxi home) Zoe just played quietly and fell asleep. She really is such an easygoing child. We worry that doctors overlook her pain since she does seem to have such a high pain threshold. But since we know her so well, we can advocate for her when know she is not herself.
One of the other things it made me appreciate was Zoe's communication skills. This was the first time that Zoe was in distress and could sign what she wanted/needed. She kept signing "mommy more" or "daddy more" when she wanted us to just snuggle her. She also signs a very firm "no" and "all done" when we try to feed her right now. It is so much easier now that she can tell us what she wants. We can see how much less frustrated she gets since she can communicate her needs.
Another thing I appreciated last night (and always appreciate) is the great partnership I have with Gavin. He and I were always on the same page. We advocate for Zoe in the same way and we both feel comfortable and confident in questioning the doctors. Having children puts a strain on any relationship. Having a child with special needs puts even more strain because you are more sleep deprived, worried about different things, and for us there is a huge loss in income since we are unable to work full time. On average, it takes about 20 hours a week to coordinate Zoe's appointments and take her to the doctors. That does not include the extra time it takes to feed her or do her therapy. And that does not include when she is sick and it takes much longer. 20 hours is a part time job! No wonder we hardly ever have time to spend alone as a couple! Even though Gavin and I are exhausted right now and very worried about Zoe, we are always still on the same page. I just can't imagine if I didn't have someone by my side going through all of this.
Anyway, I have to take Zoe back to the doctor tomorrow and hopefully all is well. As soon as this cough clears, I look forward to getting some sleep. It is incredibly hard to sleep when your child is struggling to breathe. Since Zoe does not have the muscle tone of a typical 21 month old, she is not able to have productive coughs which makes it harder for her to clear her throat and initiate breathing after a coughing fit.
I hope she gets her appetite back soon. Last time she was measured she had gained 6 ounces in the past three months. Not bad since she has been sick for the past two months. More importantly, we have to be sure she is staying hydrated.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Our friend "Auntie" Katie slept over last night so she could help us out today. First, she got up with Zoe when she woke up which meant Gavin and I got to stay in bed together! This is the very first time we have ever been able to sleep in like this. I, of course, did not sleep much but it was nice to lay in bed. Zoe has an EEG (electroencephalography is the measurement of electrical activity produced by the brain as recorded from electrodes placed on the scalp) scheduled for Tuesday to check for seizures. Zoe woke up with a coughing fit at 6am and then after that I was thinking about her appointment on Tuesday so I found it hard to relax and fall back to sleep. Not to mention I am just not used to sleeping in any more. After we rolled out of bed at 10am (can you imagine!), we went to the eye doctor (both of us needed to be seen) and then out for a relaxing lunch. We returned to a very happy child and a clean house. We are so grateful for Katie helping us out like this. Zoe has been sick for the past eight weeks so we have had a lot of doctors appointments and sleepless nights. So the extra rest and relaxation was wonderful. To say we are desperate for help right now would be an understatement. We do not have any family in the area so we are completely on our own and this is the first time we had help like this. As a bonus, Gavin and I realized on the way home from lunch that today is our anniversary. So, it is nice that we got to spend a nice day together as a couple.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Zoe is doing really well and we are very proud of all of her milestones. She is now sitting for twenty seconds independently, rolling from her tummy to her back and her back to her sides, and able to stand with a lot of support. Zoe is now grasping toys and bringing them to her mouth to chew on. She enjoys wiggling around on the floor, rolling from side to side, and getting herself to her toys. Zoe's cognitive skills seem to be ahead of her motor skills as seen by her advance in communication skills such as the sign language and her understanding of cause and effect. It is a bit tricky to find toys that Zoe can physically play with that still keep her interested since she is now bored with baby toys that are easy to grasp. Here are a few ideas of some toys that would be easy for Zoe to manipulate but still keep her interest:
good old fashioned wood blocks- who doesn't love these?
Little Tikes tap-a-tune piano http://www.littletikes.com/toys/baby-tap-a-tune-piano.aspx
Little Tikes Discover Sounds Tool Box http://www.amazon.com/Little-Tikes-DiscoverSounds-Tool-Box/dp/B000067PUP
Tiny Love Activity Ball http://www.tinylove.com/toy.aspx?toyId=30
Tiny Love Bead and Blossom http://www.tinylove.com/toy.aspx?toyId=176
Signing Time Videos- we already have the Baby Signing time videos and Signing Time Vol one is a repeat, so any of the videos Volume two and past that would be great. Also, they have signing time board books http://www.signingtime.com/
There is a fiber optics therapy toy that Zoe really loves. It is called StarLight and can be found at http://www.flaghouse.ca/itemdy00.asp?T1=37656
Playskool Busy Basics Busy Poppin' Pals http://www.hasbro.com/playskool/default.cfm?page=browse&product_id=18095
Lamaze First Mirror http://www.liveandlearn.com/lamaze/firstmirror.html
We read to Zoe every day- so books are always great. Specifically, "And Tango Makes Three" is a cute book we read recently http://www.amazon.com/Tango-Makes-Three-Peter-Parnell/dp/0689878451
Clothes- any and all clothes are more than welcome since Zoe has outgrown most of her clothes recently. She is currently wearing size 18months (can you believe it!) so perhaps 24 months and up would be a good size. We do not look down on used clothes (or toys) so feel free to pass along your children's old cast offs or hit a thrift store.
We will be setting up a RDSP (Registered Disability Savings Plan) as soon as they are available for Zoe. We would love if anyone wants to help contribute to it (sorry contributions to Zoe's RDSP are not tax-deductible but the government does match some of the money you put in, so every dollar you put in is worth two or three dollars plus interest). Here is a link with more info: http://rdsp.wordpress.com/
Family gift idea- we really want to visit Edmonton next year but with Gavin stopping work in January, our funds are getting tighter. If anyone wants to donate towards airline tickets that would be wonderful.
All of the toys can be found at any toy store except the StarLight Therapy toy. Cheaper versions can sometimes be found elsewhere, but Zoe has torn out the fiber optic bands because they were not attached as firmly as the one from Flaghouse.
We hope that people find this list to be helpful. We are not, in any way, trying to tell you what to get Zoe (or saying that you need to get her a gift at all). We just recognize that buying a gift for Zoe is a little different than buying a gift for a typical almost 2 year old. All of the toys we put on this list have therapy goals in mind. With Zoe's visual impairment, it is important to use toys that are not overstimulating visually but are brightly colored and attract her attention. Just writing this list out was a little sad for me because I look at the toys I would get for a typical 2 year old and those are way beyond what Zoe can do right now. A close relative mentioned going into a toy store and seeing toys that Zoe would enjoy but noticing the age range on them and becoming sad and needing to leave the store. We know exactly how this feels.
But then we focus on the fact that this time last year Zoe was wearing 3 month size clothing and just starting to reach for toys. Now, she has such a good grip that we have to teach her to be gentle with our faces and hair. It is amazing how much she has grown in the last year.
Zoe showing off her pumpkin hand.
The quality of the video is a bit off but we are going to post them for now and then try to fix them later. Zoe's sign for "more" has become much clearer in the past few weeks and she is starting to get quite insistent when she wants more of something.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Here is a quick video of Zoe enjoying carving her pumpkin at our friends Amanda's on the weekend. She loved it, and is soooo cute in this video (Zoe, that is-not Amanda)
I don't know what I did to deserve that stink eye, but Yikes! I love how expressive her face can be, going from that wide grin to that scowl in just seconds.
There will be more pumpkin/Halloween pictures to come- we just need to pick out the best ones. It's a hard choice- they are all super cute!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
We were lucky enough to get over there last year with our Zoe (or wee Zoe, as she is known to that side of the family) last year. Zoe was 6 months old at the time. My grandmother was still in somewhat good health (though rapidly declining) and she enjoyed visiting with her great grandaughter (her "bonny wee babbitty") immensely. I can't say I knew my grandma well, owing mainly to the fact that Scotland is quite a long way away from Canada, but I am very glad that she was able to meet Zoe and that they could spend some time together. It meant a lot to everyone involved, I think (though Zoe looks a little mystified, to be quite honest).
This video is, I guess, my tribute to my Grandma. She was a spunky old lady- I think there can be no argument about that. She lived a grand old life, and I'll miss just knowing she is there. I'm posting this video in the hope my family can see it, and remember how happy Grandma was to see her "wee Zoe".
The music is "Flower of Scotland"- this version by a band called Runrig. The other lady in the video is my cousin Zoe, who is only a few months younger then I am and a charming young women who was also absolutely thrilled to see "wee Zoe".
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Amaya and Abby
Sunday, September 28, 2008
So I worked until three days before the baby was due and began having contractions on and off soon after I left work. Silly me kept thinking "this is it!" especially after one event of contracting for twelve hours straight with the contractions happening closer and closer together. However, the contractions would eventually stop and I began to realize this is not it. I had to start going to the midwife pretty regularly (every few days at first and then every day in the end). The midwife told me I was already a few cms dilated and so I really began to think "this is it!" I come from a very large family with lots of births every year and they are all healthy and uneventful for the most part. So, although I knew about getting induced or C-section, I never thought those things would be part of my baby's birth plan.
And so the week passed with me going to the midwife for stretch and sweeps of my cervix (just about as comfortable as it sounds) and us trying every trick in the book to convince the baby to come on out. I even bundled up (remember this was February in Canada) a couple of times a day and waddled around the neighbourhood until my feet were numb hoping that the activity would start labour. Now we know that kids with 1P36 lack the muscle tone to initiate the labour process. Although my body was doing its job- I was 4cm by the time I was induced, Zoe was just not programmed to come out yet.
After I was ten days over due and feeling pretty anxious, I went for an ultrasound to see how the placenta and amniotic levels were doing. We knew the baby was fine since Zoe was always very active and kicked me non-stop. We also had our own stethoscope and listened to the heartbeat several times a day. So we assumed that all would be well. At that ultrasound we found out two things. One, the baby was very small for its gestational age- they estimated it was six pounds three ounces. Two, the baby had something seriously wrong with its heart. The heart defect they thought the baby had was fatal and it was most likely not going to survive the birthing process. We were told to go home, relax, enjoy the weekend, and then show up on Monday to be induced if I had not gone into labour before that time. Because the baby was so small, they wanted to give it as much extra time as possible to build fat and strength before inducing me. The good news was that the placenta and amniotic levels were fine, so for now the baby was in the best place it could be.
To say we were devastated just doesn't really explain how we were feeling. After having so many normal ultrasounds where the baby was a perfect size, we were confused. Why it had suddenly stopped growing? Was it the heart defect? Is that why the baby was so small? If the baby survived birth, it had a 75% chance that it would die in the first few days. We didn't know what to do. Do we tell people? Do we just "relax and enjoy our weekend, haha?" In the end we decided not to alarm our families. Since we weren't 100% sure of what was going on, we decided to hold off. We spent most of the weekend crying, listening to the baby's heartbeat while crying, eating while crying.....you get the picture. We also continued our attempts at inducing labour.
Monday morning we showed up for another ultrasound and the tech was the same one from Friday. He looked horrified and said, "Why are you still pregnant? You should have been induced." Then the tech called in someone else who happened to know someone at Sick Kids and was able to set up a fetal echo for us. So, we would be able to find out exactly what was going on with the baby's heart before birth. That way, if birth would be too much stress on the baby's heart, we could plan a C-section. We had five ultrasounds that day and heard a few different hypotheses thrown around as to why the baby was small and what was wrong with the heart. The fetal echo showed right ventricle hypertrophy (thickening of the heart muscle) and we were told that at most the baby would spend a few days in the hospital and would be fine. We were overjoyed by this news. We now know that this was partly correct, but Zoe had five other heart defects along with the hypertrophy. The last ultrasound of the day we were able to see the baby peeing. It was kind of cool, despite the fact that we were so exhausted by that point.
Meanwhile, there was a gasket in an OR room that blew. What this meant was that the hospital we planned to birth at, the hospital my midwife had rights at, was not inducing anyone. When you start an induction, there is always a chance of needing a C-section. So, we were not able to start induction that Monday. People kept reassuring us that the placenta and fluid looked good which is why they did not consider the baby at risk so they could put us off another day or two. Someone mentioned returning Friday for induction and I think I shrieked at them "Are you kidding me!" Yes, I knew the baby was technically fine, but I also knew the risk of staying pregnant past 42 weeks. Our midwife (I can not say how glad we were to have midwives at this point and later) advocated for us to start induction on Tuesday. So, we left the hospital on Monday with a plan to return Tuesday. As a last ditch attempt at starting labour, I took caster oil that evening. The only thing it succeeded at was cleaning out my bowel! No contractions.
Tuesday we returned to the hospital with our bags packed and feeling quite anxious to get this all started. We wanted the reassurance of seeing that the baby was fine and to get a proper echo right away to find out what was really going on with the heart. We ended up sitting around the hospital all day Tuesday and were told to return at midnight (some emergency pts had shown up and therefore we were bumped).
We went home for a few hours of sleep. Returning at midnight for the induction was surreal. We parked at Sick Kids since it is right across from the hospital I would give birth at and we now knew that the baby would be transferred to Sick Kids after birth. The hospital was deserted and there was so much snow on the ground, I felt like we were on a movie set. They lock the doors of both hospitals that face University Ave which meant that a normally 5 minute walk took us about 20 mins. I was jogging and sweating up a storm and thinking "If this doesn't start labour, I don't know what will!"
After finally getting settled in our room, a doctor came to tell us that the induction would not be starting at midnight. The reason we were given is that all of the NICU beds were taken and if the baby needed any resuscitation after the birth, it would be very dangerous without the NICU bed space. At the time we were very annoyed at this reason, but given how Zoe did need resuscitation and the NICU bed after birth we are now very grateful for this doctor for being so careful. At this time (and earlier in the process) we were given the choice to go to another hospital. We loved our midwife and felt completely comfortable with her care. We did not want to switch hospitals because she would not be able to follow us. So, we decided to get some sleep. Even our midwife slept at the hospital with us that night. She did not want to miss the call if they suddenly gave us the green light to go ahead.
The next morning (Wednesday), our midwife advocated for us to move into one of the swanky new birthing suites. It had a tub room, TV, etc. Not that we cared at that point. And because I was hooked up to pitocin the whole time, I wasn't able to walk around much or use the tub room. The extra room did come in handy when the repository therapist and doctors had to rush in when Zoe was born.
At noon on Wednesday, when I was 42 weeks plus one day, the pitocin was finally started. It finally hit me that I was going to be induced after all and I cried. I know, how could I just be getting it right? I guess up until that point I still hoped that I would go into spontaneous labour. I did not want pitocin because I did not want an epidural or pain meds. I decided to go without both despite the pitocin and I can tell you that was not a good idea. I know labour is never comfortable or much fun, but pitocin without drugs was more awful that I thought it could be. I have a high pain tolerance. Anyway, I will spare you the gory details. Many of us have been there, done that. I can say it was way more painful than I counted on but it made it all worth it in the end when I overheard a NICU doc say that it was a good thing that "mom didnt have any drugs on board because this kiddo was born so flat. Who knows if the kid would have made it if her apgar was any lower." And so, the pain was worth it because although we thought Zoe was dead when she was born, she was not and who knows if drugs would have caused her any problems. Or maybe I would have needed a C-section and I can't imagine coping with post-partem recovery of a C-section on top of being by Zoe's side in the NICU.
So that is the story of Zoe's labour. There was some other random things I was barely aware of since I was in so much pain. At one point there was a chemical spill and so the pitocin had to be stopped. The plus side is that I was able to unhook from the IV and get a hot shower which felt really nice and helped with the pain. Also at one point, a friend from work brought us some lunch (had I called her? I can't remember) but it was really nice of her to bring us food. So, thank you Cathy!
We will post more about Zoe's birth story later. I just want to say a huge thank you to my midwife, Robin. The back up midwife, Joyce. And the midwife student, who I can't remember her name even though she got up close and personal with me by holding my leg during the pushing faze (it is amazing how you don't care who sees you at that point!) Our midwives were awesome in all of their support during the pregnancy, labour, and after. They even got us tea and toast while we were waiting to hear how the baby was. And they visited us and Zoe in the NICU several times. I don't know any obgyns who would have taken such care of us physically as well as emotionally.