Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Too Many Words and Not Enough Time or Energy

This is so awkward. 99% of my days are really good. But lately I've been thinking too much. Mainly about Bennett's health. One question that I can't shake is, "is this going to be a life-long thing that we're in together?" To dumb it down, what I mean is... I am trying to understand if Bennett will need Ross & I (the same way that babies need their parents) for his whole life. Or will this just be something that Bennett deals with on his own forever? Or will there be no complications and he winds up perfectly perfect?

It's definitely a fearful thing to not have a "normal" baby.

I don't even mean to withhold information about Bennett to our family and friends, but there's a lot of unknown with him. So if something doesn't seem so significant at first, but eventually it appears more important to mention, well how was I supposed to know? I don't have the energy to update everyone about every little thing.

So, there's a lot that is kept confined to the walls of our home; between Ross, Kensington, Bennett, and I. For no other reason than: 1) the unknown, 2) exhaustion of having to repeat everything.

To put it bluntly, I am starting to be concerned about some possible neurologic issues. Or possible cerebral palsy (which by the way, I know nothing about). I just have these inklings that there's something more going on. If you want to ask me to explain why, well, you won't get an answer unless you're a doctor examining my kid. How do I put into words Bennett's life from birth to present date? You won't get an answer from me because there's too many words and not enough time or energy.

Thankfully, we have a couple of special doctor appointments in August that I'm really looking forward to. Fresh eyes will see Bennett and that definitely excites me. When it comes to Bennett, I don't want anything sugar coated regarded his health and I want a honest assessment of him done. I think it's easy for some doctors to say, "he's perfect! Don't worry" (which by the way, he is perfect) instead of looking more analytically.

This wasn't a post I was planning to write, but today has been pretty tough. Our sweet OT, who comes to our home 3x per week, got a mouth full from me today and she listened so patiently. I love how compassionate she is; towards Bennett and myself (and let's be honest, she is compassionate towards my rowdy two-year-old also).

That's all today because there's 500 million more things I ought to be doing right now. But I can't post anything with an adorbs picture or video. Here is Bennett being way too cute, laughing :)
p.s. I am trying to get better about updating Instagram, if you want to follow along: @MrsSouthernMama

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Reintroduction

Since it's been awhile, I decided that my blog needed a fun, light-hearted post. So that's what you're getting today! Yours truly complied a list of very random, but completely accurate tid bits. This can also serve as an informal introduction to people who maybe don't know me well, but want to. 
Here's a pic of me & my oldest because CUTE. Thank you Fifty Clicks Photography & Loryn Eaton Photography!

Cleaning is one of my most favorite things to do, which is probably part of why I love being home so much. The only problem is that I never have enough time, so some days my house does look filthy.

I recharge by having alone time (so I guess that makes me an introvert?) but I do still consider myself very social! 

I do not "suffer" from RBF. In fact, I may suffer from the opposite: always having a smile on my face. It's not that I try to, that's just how my face is. *insert shruggie here*

I require a hot breakfast every day. I've tried yogurt and similar items for b-fast, but after 30 years on earth, I am proclaiming that I'm a breakfast snob and need only warm items first thing in the morning. See: I eat a lot of eggs & sausage.

I am a rule-follower for sure.

I am *not* a morning person, despite having thought I was my whole life. This only recently became apparent when my hubby pointed out that I always need about an hour to fully wake up. 

One thing that really irritates me is when I see people litter. I have no clue why this makes me so frustrated, but it does. 

I have nothing against alcohol, but I don't drink. It's just not my thing. I am completely open to it (and had plenty of college drinking days) but don't see the point in drinking alcohol unless I'm going out and dancing or something similar. Since I'm currently a mom to two babies under two years old, that just isn't happening right now. Or anytime soon.

I've always considered myself a girly girl, but I have decided that I'm not as girly as I thought. I never get waxes, pedicures, manicures or my hair done. But when I do, I feel really fancy and special. Which reminds me of another truth bomb: lately, I've been getting my hair cut at Great Clips, because $10 on a trim never felt so good.

I have terrible spring allergies and have to take Claritin or similar during the spring.

I absolutely hate texting. I'm the worst at responding. Currently, I have 38 unread text messages. I'm not kidding. So if you're wondering if I'm ignoring you, I'm not. I just wait to open texts until I feel up for the challenging of responding. I'm sorry that I'm like this!

Spoilers are kinda my thing. I love to know what happens on TV shows & movies before watching them. My favorite site to read is Reality Steve (and it just so happens that he announced yesterday who Rachel, the new Bachelorette, picks)!

Taking a shower is such a chore to me, but I begrudgingly do it daily in the evenings before bed.

Stripes are my favorite pattern.

TV watching is my most favorite thing to do. I just finished Santa Clarita Diet. Often my shows are pointless and not brain stimulating at all, but I still like it. If you've seen it also, I just want to point out that my favorite line for the show (it's only 10 episodes long) is in ep. 9 when the blonde housewife says to her son, "you still have that new baby smell." You'd really have to watch it to understand what I'm talking about.

I was always a terrible sleeper (restless, easy to wake, etc) until I had two kids.

I consider myself a really good window shopper. I scope things out for a good period of time before I buy.

I only drink my coffee iced. Hot coffee has a completely different taste to me, and I don't like it one bit. Unless it has a boat load of cream and sugar in it, which is not preferable and clearly just tries to cover up the taste of coffee.

Friday, May 5, 2017

GJ Button + Other Updates

I honestly only had enough energy in this post to write about a few things that I just knew, in my gut, were going to happen before they came to fruition. And unfortunately we're going to add another thing to the list.

When I first heard about the GJ Button (you can learn more than you'd ever want to know here), I just had something (i.e. God) telling me to prepare. Get prepared for another change, because the GJ button is coming. I knew. Yes, I did. For those who have no medical background, the GJ button is different than the G button.

That being said, the GJ button isn't dramatically different from Bennett's current G button. No surgery is required (praise God), but it is a process to change out his button. The hardware will look very similar, except there will be two ports: one that goes to Bennett's stomach, and one that goes past it to the small intestine. Essentially, Bennett will get his food in his small intestine. The g-button side will be to vent him and check for fluids. With the GJ button, continuous feeds are a must. We're already on a continuous drip, so that will remain. I've mentioned before that we're adamantly against the fundoplication surgery and we have high hopes that the GJ button will help Bennett have a much more pleasurable feeding experience.

With the GJ button, the doctor said, "in rare cases" XYZ happens after working on GJ button feeds. "You'll need to contact me if this happens" she said. Well, Bennett is rare, and he is the exception case more times than not. Bennett is doing REALLY good for a micropreemie, but that doesn't take away the fact that when there's an exception to be had, Bennett is it. Please help us in praying that Bennett will tolerate the GJ button well and that he, indeed, won't have anything "exceptional" happen to him. Ross and I are making very well thought-out decisions. That means when we say we're against something, it's been considered and ultimately, we know what's best for our son.

One way that you can help an anxious mom like me is by always being upfront about your health. If you can't come over in good conscious that you're healthy, not having any bit of symptoms, then it's best to reschedule. Also, you can help by asking questions. I think the more I talk about this to people whom I trust, the more at ease I feel.

Bennett's also had an eye exam last week. There's no change, which isn't a bad thing. But again, he is the exception to "most" micros. Our eye doc said, "in rare cases, baby's eyes won't be fully developed until 60 weeks gestation." Well, Bennett is currently 57 weeks (as of yesterday) gestation.

In other news, Bennett had his first real laugh yesterday. It was faint and sweet, but it was a laugh. We were all sitting on the couch, surprising Bennett with Poppy (Kensington's troll doll) and he just thought that was the funniest thing ever. Also, his physical therapy is going very well! He is so interested in sitting up, but isn't quite strong enough. If it were up to Bennett, he'd skip rolling all together, but I personally want to see him rolling around!

I try to keep things in perspective. I really do. Sometimes I'm mad about where we're at. Sometimes I'm totally okay with it. Overall, despite how stressful this is... and how sad it makes me, I know that we're really blessed that Bennett doesn't have more issues considering the long list of possibilities for 25-weekers. And you know what, this is just how life goes. This is our trial to work through, whereas some families may face scary things like bankruptcy, adultery, or cancer. Everyone has something.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bennett Update

Pretty sure my thoughts are bouncing from place to place in this post, but I promise that it all ties together.

In the words of Trolls, "Hairrrrrr we gooooo." Kensington and I say that multiple times every day when we're about to start something. Here we go :)


Of course I love my husband's help, but when it comes to the day-time happenings, we really enjoy our routine, just me, Bennett, and Kensington. Ross does so much for us while he's at work by providing *everything* that we have. And if we're being honest, he thrives most at work. I've known that about him since the very beginning - which is part of the reason I was attracted to him. Something biological in me was drawn to a man who felt passionate about being the provider.

Sometimes I feel really guilty that I flourish as a stay-at-home-mom. The world tells me that it should be lonely and that I should immerse myself in playdate after playdate. But in reality, me and mine are homebodies. We thrive on routine and pouring ourselves into one another in the walls of our home. Some days (most days), we don't even leave the house. But that's us. I completely understand that other parents thrive in different environments - so I'm only speaking on how we best operate.

One of our usual day-time happenings include doctor appointments. Today, I took the kids to Bennett's GI appointment and I thought I'd update y'all on his feeding plan. P.S. this double stroller is life! Ross' amazing colleagues bought it for us. It fits through doorways and I can keep both kids contained. Current mood: winning.
As many of you know, we've been on a continuous drip for 4 weeks now. Bennett has been getting 120mLs (4 oz) every 4 hours continuously. Meaning that he gets 1 ounce per hour. We have to wash the bag every 4 hours to ensure no bacteria starts growing. He's on a 24 calorie mix, which by the way, I had no idea until Bennett that there were recipes to mix different amount of calories in formulas. I believe most formulas are around 20 calories. When the hospital tested my breastmilk, it was 20 calories as well. I think that's the standard. Babies who need help with growth will sometimes be on 22, 24, or 27 calorie recipes.

Bennett's gastroenterology appointment was very productive! They are so awesome because 1) they get us in & out - having a screeching toddler probably helps to move the appointment along, 2)  they listen to us and ask us all of the questions - which is seriously so appreciated because afterall, Bennett's mom & dad are the experts on Bennett, and 3) we always come out with a plan!

Our dude weighs 13lbs, 13oz which is pretty average for babies his adjusted age. I always compare him to what Kensie Grace was. Bennett is 3.5 months old adjusted, and at 4 months old, Kensington was almost 15lbs. So, he's not doing bad!

Our plan going forward is to try bolus feeds during the day and continuous feeds at night. We'll have to increase from 24 to 27 calories, at a lower volume. Our regimented schedule will consist of 4 bolus feeds per day at 8am, 11am, 2pm, and 5pm. Then, we'll start his continuous drip from 8pm-6am. From 6am until 8am, he will get a break. This will hopefully work up his hunger cues. Before each bolus feed during the day, I'll be able to offer him a 15mL (half an ounce) bottle of a special rice-cereal/formula concoction.

The bolus feeds are soooo important because they will help Bennett realize he's hungry and (hopefully) he'll be interested in the bottle. For the last 2 weeks, he has refused the bottle and paci. We're going backwards, and that's not good. I blame the continuous feeds. But, we had to do a continuous drip because he was vomiting so much. Bennett's GI doc mentioned doing the fundoplication and Ross & I are *extremely* against that for several reasons that I don't feel like typing out. That would be a last resort for us.

In addition to our new feeding plan, we're increasing Bennett's prevacid dose from 3mL to 4mL. When we were discharged from the NICU 2 months ago, he was on 2mL's so we've increased it once and will try to increase it a bit more. Poor Bennett always cries once he realizes the cold medicine is in his tummy. I don't think he likes that sensation!

We are prayerful that this new plan will help Bennett become re-interested in the bottle/paci and move us in the right direction. We will have the g-button for longer than we anticipated because of our backwards steps. All that being said, we really have no idea of a timeline for his button.

The other things we're working on with Bennett are his PDA (we got the all-clear for waiting a full year before his next echo!!!) and Bennett's eyesight. We will hopefully bring good news regarding Bennett's eyes very soon. Our next appointment is at the end of the month.

So if you're wondering, my life continues to be full of chaos and stress, but a large dose of joy. It's apparent that I was chosen for this life. Even from the beginning. I remember doing IVF in 2014. The first time we had to mix bravelle and draw up a specific mL. I was like "w-t-f mate?" Then we went through a frozen embryo transfer (more mLs of medication). And now home medical life. We're constantly mixing, measuring, and injecting. I never went to medical school but I have most certainly earned a paperless degree in medicine.

To end this blog post, which was written during the kids' naptime, I should ask for forgiveness for spelling and grammatical errors because I have zero desire to edit this post. Also, thanks for following along to those interested. I mainly feel an obligation to update our family members with as much detail as possible, but I know others are interested in Bennett's progress. Even if this is all foreign to you, but you still take the time to read, I want to thank you! Thanks for simply reading and reaching out to me with encouragement.

The last thing that I want to make abundantly clear is that although we're out of the NICU, life isn't easy all of a sudden (although it is less painful overall). Ross and I have honest conversations sometimes about how much we just wish, for heaven's sake, that Bennett could've been full term. We know we wouldn't be facing these issues today. There are times when we have a pity party for two to sulk in the what-ifs. But alas, here we are, just trying to do our best. We absolutely appreciate every continued prayer over Bennett's health and even for Ross and I as the leaders of our two precious kids.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Motherly Instinct + The Sweetest Photo Ever

So y'all.

I've actually written several blog posts lately but for some reason never hit the 'publish' button. I guess that I keep thinking to myself that it needs to be perfect or that "what if this comes off wrong?" I am going to try and let my guard down just long enough to publish at least one post a week. Primarily because I want to keep everyone updated on our family and our day to day. I don't feel as eloquent with my words as I used to, so bear with me.

Before the meat of today's post, I'll start by posting something that I wrote in a different post which never got published:

"Last thing that I wanted to say is that I previously used this platform (my blog) as a way to write about really lighthearted things like makeup, mine & Ross' dates, and all things girlie. As if it hasn't become obvious, this blog is now much more personal as a way to update a mass amount of people about our life. Please bear with me as I'm knee deep in this funky phase of life. Love you all! Thanks for following our journey from TTC for two years, to IUI and IVF, and now to the micropreemie world."

Just getting that housekeeping item out of the way. You've been warned. If you're here for some easy reading, this isn't the place. I'm strictly here for updates and praise reports. 

I am not sure if I've ever shared this, but it's a pretty incredible thing; being a mom and all. All of the awesome things that come with mamahood are great, but one of the coolest things is something deeply rooted that only moms have. Sorry dads! I'm talking about maternal instinct. Yes, it really does exist.

The point of this post is coming. Promise. 

Premature delivery - I knew in my gut. In my heart. In every ounce of me; that when I started having complications, I knew what it meant. Every night, the Lord would hear me whisper a prayer begging for viability week. Lord, please just let my baby survive. Lord, I NEED THIS BABY. Of course I would never have admitted it during my pregnancy or week-long labor. "Speaking life" is something that is extremely important to me. I never wanted to harp on what I felt like was imminent because I know words and thoughts are powerful.

Swallow Study - Desperate for answers to Bennett's issues in feeding, I consulted my Micropreemie Mom group on Facebook. Real scientific, I know. After looking over the site for hours, I finally landed on something I could point to: a swallow study. This was the answer. I asked approximately 3 times while in our first NICU about them doing a test. I asked 2 NP's and 1 nurse. Their response was, "Bennett knows how to suck, swallow, breathe, so that's not necessary." They assured me time and time again that an imaginary lightbulb would flick on one day with his endurance in taking a bottle. Eventually, what I knew in my heart to be of importance *finally* was taken seriously and the second NICU we were admitted into performed a swallow study, which showed that Bennett was aspirating both silently and non-silently. 

Hernia - The look on the Speech Therapist's look said it all. She was surprised but I wasn't. Days before Bennett was scheduled for his g-tube surgery, I pulled aside our nurse and ST to ask if they would expect any complications during surgery now that they knew more about Bennett's case. I wanted to make sure there would be no surprises during his surgery. I kept telling them that I had this weird feeling a hernia would be found. They said, "no - we typically are aware of most hernias before surgery." Surgery was at 8am and by 8:15am, the doctor was paging me in the NICU. "Mom, everything is okay, but can you please meet me real quick." Our surgeon was in the middle of working on Bennett when she needed to step out to receive my consent to fix his hernia. I wasn't the least bit surprised and immediately authorized it. "Something" told me he had a hernia and I was right. 

Caffeine - "Only in rare cases, does the caffeine not work." Those were the doctor's words. He meant to help wake Bennett up from surgery. In Bennett's case, since he was oxygen dependent for so long, I knew having him breathe on his own was going to be the biggest hurdle. My gut kept telling me that time would be the only thing that would work. Sure enough, I was right. The team gave Bennett caffeine to help assist him in waking up, but it wasn't working. Of course I was on high alert, worried that my baby boy was needing a ventilator to breathe. But the caffeine didn't work, and I knew it never would. Bennett needed time instead and my motherly instinct knew that well in advance.

Other things which I had instincts about too, were Bennett's vision and his need for a continuous drip instead of bolus feeds. I'm just flat out too tired to write about all of that.

This mama instinct that I've had in Bennett's 6 months of life is proof that God was preparing me for each little thing. The Lord knew that I was the only one who could be trusted to take care of Bennett in the way that Bennett needed. Jesus planned it all. To dumb it down, I'm assuming the Lord said something along the lines of, "Let's trust Bennett to Allison Skinner, because she'll listen to what we (the father, son, and holy spirit) tell her and she'll understand how to best care for Bennett." There is no way on earth that I would've known each of the above would come to fruition without peace and knowledge being put into my heart. The Lord knew that Bennett needed a voice and who better to be the voice than his mom? I wish my poor baby didn't have to endure so much in his short life, but I will always speak up. I'm attributing my motherly instinct to the Lord putting that knowledge into me.

I'm starting to believe I'm the world's craziest mom. And honestly, it wouldn't even bother me if someone agreed. That won't stop me from doing what I feel is right. If that means being a helicopter mom and speaking up for those who can't speak up, I will do it.

Now that Bennett has been home 1.5 months, I've decided that: 1) I'm not willing to share him with the hospital any longer, 2) I have no regrets about "sounding crazy" to nurses and doctors regarding my son's care, and 3) NICU life is done and finished with and I have said goodbye to those awful memories. I see no reason to harp on where we've been because the *only* thing it brings is sadness, regret, and fear.

Life started on Valentine's Day 2017 when we were all under the same roof.

P.S. I realize that this blog is missing a big chunk of info from my last post until this post. The short version is: 1) we got discharged from one NICU very prematurely, 2) we got admitted into another NICU after being home for three days together, 3) Bennett had a g-tube placed & a hernia repair, 4) we got discharged from our second NICU on February 14, 2017.

Now that this post has been sufficiently long enough and I've (hopefully) made my point clear about that neat thing called motherly instinct, I'm going to end this post with the sweetest little picture you ever did see. Thank you Kim at Snap Happy Photography. We're in love with our photos!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

He Gives and Takes Away

Many of you know that I spent 24 hours at the hospital the other night. We opted to do an overnight stay at the hospital so that we could take care of Bennett entirely. His biggest obstacle is feeding, so we thought it would be a good chance for us to practice feeding him (because it really is a learning curve) and cater to his cues instead of being on the eat-every-3-hours-whether-he's-hungry-or-not schedule that NICU babies are on.

The overnight stay was mostly everything I thought it would be. We, however, did have a slightly rocky start to our overnight stay. First, the NG tube was pulled earlier in the day than I would've liked (thus not giving him a full belly when we started our portion of the night), second, he was due for a bath and that tuckered him out which doesn't exactly make for an ideal feeding, and last, we didn't stick to an ad-lib schedule like I would have preferred when it came to Bennett's feedings.

The amazing parts of the hospital stay were: seeing Bennett without any cords or tubes on his sweet body, having him by my side the entire time, playing dress up with Bennett, gushing over Bennett's good looks with some of the amazing nurses and staff who love him (it is so clear who the compassionate nurses are), and most of all: feeling like we actually have a plan.

Really and truly, I couldn't be more glad to have some sort of idea where we're headed. I can't tell you how relieving it is. But - no amount of information during my week-long labor about what 25-weekers will be like could have prepared me for each and every emotion that I have felt over the past 3.5 months. So, while I am okay in one moment, I still have harder moments. I held it together mostly, despite having (literally) two 1 hour naps in my 24 hours at the hospital. But the exhaustion wore on me and when I had to give my son back to the leads, pulse ox, and feeding tube, I did cry.

With Bennett, he needs time. That's ultimately where we're at. And his time can be spent at the NICU or in our home. Because his only obstacle is learning to feed safely, and there is no definite answer for how long it will take for him to learn, we are considering coming home at some point soon on either an NG tube or a g-button. I have learned SO MUCH over the past 3.5 months, mostly thanks to our amazing primary nurse. She has always explained things so well. And I've been at the hospital in these 111 days. So, you could say that I do have a pretty good understanding for Bennett's care. I'm not at all worried about learning to care for an NG tube or g-button, but of course we wish we didn't have to talk about these options.

This whole time, I've been waiting for a grande finale. I've been waiting for that moment when we'll put a period at the end of the NICU sentence and it will all be a memory. And part of that is true because praise God, we will NEVER have to relive those terrifying first 30 days again. But I was reminded by our (amazing) primary nurse practitioner that this idea I had in my head isn't exactly in line with having a micro-preemie. Yes, I'm sure people do have fairly easy and time-appropriate transitions to come home with their 25-weeker... but Bennett isn't just any 25-weeker. He is his own.

One difficult thing about being the mama of a micro-preemie is that sometimes there aren't going to be answers. I could apply that to my pregnancy complications or to Bennett's life outside of the womb. One thing that I've been searching for is: what is holding him back from learning to feed? The team who helps care for Bennett has been so helpful in brainstorming ideas. We thought of this, that, and the other. We have thought about everything under the moon it seems like. Poked Bennett for blood samples, given him oral medications, offered him various nipples/bottles, consulted with speech and occupational therapists, and we've even done the random thing that you're probably wondering in your head if we've tried yet.

I was reminded that even once Bennett is home, life isn't going to get any easier. Life isn't going to magically be as carefree as it was with our full term daughter. With Bennett, we will have appointment after appointment; and frequently at that. Some appointments will be local and others will be an hour away.

We really have a lot to pray about and I hope that you will consider joining us. I have been praying that God would give us the answer for what to do, because I really feel like I don't know what the answer is. We're also in prayer for Bennett's eyes and feeding, of course. I could go on and on about all of the other things we're specifically praying about for Bennett, but sometimes I still can't get over that hump of, "God doesn't run out of grace or mercy" thing. Sometimes I do still feel selfish for begging people to pray.

While I was cleaning up our overnight room, the hospital chaplain came in and offered to pray and I was like, "yes yes yes, please!!!!"

So, thank you to those so willing to plead for Bennett's complete health as you pray for your own family. I'll say it over and over if I have to: if you love my kids, then you have won my heart. You need not do anything else for me, because I will forever think the world of you simply for the fact that you care for my babies.

I will end this post by saying that although there are zero guarantees for plans playing out as we would like, the "plan" is to give things another week-ish at the NICU. He will have another eye exam during that time too, because his sweet little darling eyes are not any better than they have been, so we MAY need to consider treatment. The next week will also give Bennett an opportunity to learn a little more about feeding. At the end of next week, Lord willing, we will (maybe, hopefully) have Bennett under our roof??? But don't hold me to that because we're on Bennett-time.

Happy 1-week old (corrected) to my sweet little 7 & half pounder. You have come so far, my perfect angel boy. I mean it when I say that I could never love another little boy as much as I love you.
Please forgive the horrible hospital lighting, but I'm sharing these pictures for your enjoyment of our darling tiny human with absolutely zero monitors. HE'S A REAL BABY, y'all. I have no recollection, other than photo documentation, of this angel being 2lbs and needing a breathing tube at birth. Thank you to the Lord who GIVES and TAKES AWAY. We have been given a gift (i.e. Bennett) that only prayer can buy. And when we need things taken away (i.e. sadness, bad memories, etc etc), God even does that for us. The Lord is sooooooo kind.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

We Made It To Our Due Date!

We made it. Happy 40 weeks to Bennett Jimmie. My whole heart and soul loves every perfectly formed ounce of our Bennett. I never thought his due date would roll around, but here we are, 104 days later. 

It all still feels very hazy. I wake up every morning and consider that maybe it's all just a bad dream having a baby 3.5 months early and all. But you know what? We have survived (to my SERIOUS surprise) and we're going to be okay. The pain doesn't get any smaller, but the hope does get bigger. 

For those who know little about preemies, one of the most basics things you should know is that once the due date arrives, (today in our case) babies are considered newborn. So, although he is 3.5 months old, he only has the capabilities of a baby who was just born today - and even still, he could lag. He won't be rolling, crawling, sitting, or walking "on time." For the next two years, we will be followed closely by a team that tracks preemie babies. Yes, we'll be discharged soon, but no, the doctor appointments won't end. Once Bennett is 24 months old, he should be caught up to others his age, or close there to it.

It only recently hit me how life changing this whole process has been. Not only for Bennett (especially for Bennett), but for me. And I assume for my husband too. 

We still have some work to do in the NICU and are hopeful for a discharge in 2ish weeks (Lord willing). Each and every day since stepping foot into that world, I have been molded to be a different me. For those who knew me well before Bennett was born, I want to say that I'm sorry if you look at me now and see someone else. We are probably going to have to get reacquainted. I can't unsee, unhear, or undo the past 104 days. 

My number one goal recently has been to guard my heart. If that seems selfish, then so be it. But unless you've been in a similar situation, it will be hard for us to connect some days because this world consumes me. If I appear to not be as trusting as I once was, it's because I am still in survival mode. I'll get back to being more trusting eventually. 

Also, I just want to say that it really means a lot to me when others hurt with me. Instead of offering good words about how this will all be a memory eventually, sometimes I just prefer to be told, "I am crying with you." For everyone who has cried and hurt for us, it means so much to know that we're not alone.

Anyways, since today is pretty special, I want to rave a little bit about our Bennett.

First and foremost, surprise, here's a sweet picture of my angel with zero tape on his face. We got to experience him like this for two whole days.
THE NOSE. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.
Mom, you're not really going to eat me, are you?
My handsome.

No oxygen and no NG tube in those pictures. What a joy! I kept saying, "he's a real baby!!!!!!" As most of you could probably guess, I basically ate his entire face off during those amazing 48 hours. I swear, if I was left alone with him in a room, I probably would've licked his face raw. I'm laughing because that sounds psychotic, but I dare you to try having a baby that is as delectable as Bennett and NOT lick him.

But seriously, look at this text Ross sent me. Ross sent this text on the same day that he knew I would be going to see our baby boy completely tape-free. I laugh. (p.s. Ross meant to say, "wear" not "where").

Bennett has been sitting right at 6lbs 15oz for the past week. 
The one and only reason Bennett hasn't crossed over the 7lb mark is only because we've been doing a lot of experimenting with his feeds. At this point, his ability to eat full feeds is the only thing holding us back. We've tried TONS of different avenues to getting Bennett to eat more and better, but what it comes down to is that our baby boy is taking his own time and learning things as his own pace. He WILL figure it out, but we're all on Bennett time. We're back on P.O. feeding (bottle) & gavaing the rest through the NG tube. 

We are absolutely praising the Lord and so joyful to say that Bennett passed his hearing screen. That is such a relief.

Also, most importantly to Bennett's progress, he is 100% off breathing support and has been since right before Christmas. We were waiting several days to make sure he was in the clear, and it turns out, YES HE IS IN THE CLEAR. He doesn't need any support at all, even during feeds. He is 100% all.on.his.own. Seriously just thanking God every single moment that I can for this amazing gift he gave to Bennett and to us!

One thing that we would love to have you pray for is for Bennett's sweet little eyes. His eyes are still underdeveloped at this point, so the doctor can't say right now what Bennett's future is with sight - if it'll be absolutely perfect, or if we'll have to pursue treatment. Of course we are believing that his eyes would be healed 100% from a preterm delivery, but statistically, babies born at 25 weeks generally have issues with their sight. My mama heart is worrying sick, but I know that each prayer is heard.

Last but not least, I HAVE to share this sweet video of Bennett. Ross sent this to me the other day and I thought it was so sweet! 
Thank you all for loving Bennett so well for the first 104 days of his life!