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newbie mom

Anniversary of our trip to Children’s Hospital

March 3, 2016

Professionally this month I celebrated the one year mark of joining a new client team. Personally we, as a family, celebrated the anniversary of our toddler’s health scare.

Back in February of 2015 we noticed an odd rash on our son’s face – we scheduled a doctors visit and found out that he had a very low platelet count that then plunged to dangerous levels. I can still remember the fear I felt welling in my throat when I received the call from his pediatrician while preparing for my first client all-agency presentation.

We were fortunate that things came out on top for us and our little guy made a full recovery – but it was definitely an unexpected and frightening experience. (More about our visit to Children’s, some of our learnings and our follow-up visits).

4 things we’ve learned over the last year since our trip to Children’s Hospital:

1) Trust your gut

It drives me crazy when people say ‘you’ll know it’. Too Olivia Pope ‘trust your gut.’ Maybe it’s the planner in me that just has to know. Like… “What does labor feel like?” “If you were in labor, you would know it.” Annoying.

When our son V woke up from his nap over President’s Day weekend last year with a rash on his face like we’d never seen before we just knew something was off. It just didn’t feel typical – it felt odd. So I’m going to do the thing I hate… tell you that ‘you’ll just know it’.  So here you have it…

If something is wrong, you’ll know.

2) Google is not your friend

According to Google our son had nothing or cancer… and all that’s in between. An online diagnosis can read like the disclosure on pharmaceutical advertisements – listing every single potential scenario that may be anywhere near a slight possibility. Needless to say, it’s worth the copay to go see your pediatrician for an actual diagnosis. They got a degree after all. Wouldn’t you rather have the peace of mind instead of worrying over the unknown infinite possibilities?

3) An elephant never forgets

It’s true that thoughts will flutter in and out of your conscious as you move further from the hospital stay. But the memory of the event never fully leaves. Instead the thoughts hang in the back of our minds waiting to be brought to the light. We kept a keen eye on V this past year. We’d take special notice and mentally log every mark and bruise on his active toddler body. Commenting to each other at the end of the day while brushing our teeth “Did you see that mark on his back? Let’s keep an eye on that.” Fortunately most kids his age that experience ITP and recover do not have a recurrence. However with no reason for it’s cause in the first place it can be cold comfort. So now, on the year anniversary, we’re putting it further to bed than we ever have before but our guard will not be completely down.

4) Teamwork makes the dream work

It’s true that I sometimes want to murder my husband a little bit in his sleep. (Mostly because he makes this insanely annoying ‘ticking’ noise – according to facebook and the inter-webs I may have misophonia. I realize this is ironic since I just told you in my second point that online diagnosis is a no-no). When we were faced with this scare we banded together instead of splintering apart. We were scared, we were facing the unknown and we did it together. Yay us!

I cannot express how thankful I am for the health of my family. Events like the one we experienced last year bring our fortune into sharp focus. We were lucky that our scare was brief however there are many that are not so fortunate. To mark the anniversary we will be donating some items to the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital Ronald McDonald Family Room. In what was, thankfully, our short stay at the hospital we really appreciated the toiletries we received and hot shower we were able to take in the RMHC Family Room.

If you’re ever wondering what to do with those soaps, shampoos and lotions you couldn’t help but take from the hotel on your last business trip – stock up and donate to RMHC!

Find out more about Ronald McDonald House Charities.

-JLVR

newbie mom

I want you to make the days move easy – most days that is

June 23, 2015

Some Father’s Day wishes for my husband in classic working mom style, which is to say belated

To my ridiculous human man of a husband whom I most of the time find endearing and adore and some of the time want to murder a little bit in your sleep.

You’re killing it at this parenting thing. Thank you for showing your love and support for our family every day. For all that you do, and don’t do, we’re grateful. In your words – not every day can be a fairy tale – but we sure come damn close sometimes. Here’s to our tiny human (soon to be humans – YIKES!) that have made us parents in this adventure together.

Thank you for your support and your partnership. I’m still glad I listened to you.

Always,

JLVR

newbie mom

ITP, the (seemingly) never ending story

June 2, 2015

It all began on February 15th when a strange rash appeared on V’s face and was kicked-up a notch with V’s admittance to Children’s Hospital for treatment for ITP on February 23rd.

NOTE: Petechiae has a very specific look – see a few pictures of V’s cheeks above for reference. It looks like tiny pin pricks and is not raised. It’s one of those things they say ‘you’ll know it when you see it’ and it’s true. It’s very distinct.

Since being released from Children’s Hospital on 2/24 we began a regimen of weekly blood draws at our local Cleveland Clinic lab. V was a champ. He was a ham in the waiting room, flirting with the ladies. He did really well even though most of the time it was not easy to draw his blood and he was poked and prodded a bit. (Also have you ever met a kid that hated band-aids? It’s this guy. NOT A FAN. All I hear/read about is kids asking for cool looking band-aids even though they don’t have a boo-boo or they have a microscopic scrape. This guy – not so much.)

Each week, in the beginning, we saw a decline in V’s platelets. The declines prompted the request for a quicker turnaround visit in March only leaving half a week rather than a full between lab visits. Then we had an inconclusive test. It was slow torture. The decline was constantly in the back of our minds each week as we waiting until the next draw. The waiting game and the unknown was the worst of it for sure. Here’s how it played out in his platelet count (normal levels are between 150-450,000)…

  • 2/17 Count at 25,000
  • 2/23 Count at 7,000
  • 2/24 Count at 31,000
    • V was released form Children’s Hospital
  • 2/26 Count at 160,000
  • 3/13 Count at 116,000
  • 3/26 Count at 46,000
    • Glass half empty – Another test ordered for Monday
  • 3/30 Count at 60,000
    • Glass half full – Though it was still lower than we wanted, his count had rebounded
  • 4/6 Inconclusive test
    • Glass half full – Even though the test was inconclusive, the doctor felt we could wait until our next weekly draw rather than redoing the test
  • 4/14 Count at 196,000
    • We could skip a week and get checked after our mini vacation to Florida
  • 5/1 Count at 101,000
    • No need to get blood drawn again, schedule appointment with hematologist to HOPEFULLY have one final check and be cleared

Today was, I’m happy to report, our final visit! His count came back at 287,000. V has been cleared by the hematologist. We no longer have to visit the lab for blood draws and can consider his ITP resolved however we should keep an eye out for atypical bruising and petechiae – both signs of ITP. For most kids it’s a one-and-done thing with treatment. We’re hoping this is the case for us. For now we feel fortunate that this can categorized as a blip on the radar of an otherwise perfectly healthy toddler.

– JLVR

More about our visit to Children’s and some of our learnings.

newbie mom, working mom

my worst pumping experience at work

March 27, 2015

To this day, almost 16 months later, I am still bothered by this incident. I was newly back to the office and just felt so incredibly out of my element.

I was in one of our dressing rooms at work pumping prior to our Halloween party. I knew we’d be enjoying a few libations for the party and I wanted to partake. It was my first all agency social activity back from maternity leave and I was excited to catch-up with everyone.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing it, the act of pumping leaves you exposed no matter which way you slice it. I mean how can it not? You’re milking your damn self! So I was hanging in the dressing room, with my top pulled up, milking myself when there was a knock at the door…

The room was needed for a psychic/fortune teller for the party. I knew this and I knew when the party started. I purposely timed this activity. (I mean c’mon I’m a super organized planner by nature and trade… I knew what was up.)

The knock came again accompanied by the request to vacate for the not-yet-in-the-building psychic.

I said through the door ‘No problem, almost done. I will be out in a few minutes.’ A brief minute flew by and again… a knock…

Urgently was not a request but a voice telling me they need the room… NOW!

I literally finished-up in a rush (logistically, not easy) and hurried out the door flustered and fighting tears. I mean a psychic was going to use the room right? Couldn’t she see I needed more time? Not to mention that the psychic hadn’t even shown up yet!

I’m still steamed about the whole thing.

I just felt so exposed and like I had no place to go. It was truly the only time I felt this upon returning to work. It was likely compounded by my newness back to the office, to motherhood, to pumping and how quickly I’d returned to work from maternity leave. That said, it still felt awful. It’s one of those things that likely the person asking for the room, who no longer works at our agency, doesn’t realize how profoundly it affected me.

It may feel awkward to let people know you’ll be occupying a room for a period of time to pump, however I promise it’s far less awkward than negotiating through a door while you’re hooked up to a breast pump!

newbie mom

code V

March 4, 2015

I stopped and started this post about our trip to Children’s hospital a dozen times. I was honestly beyond nervous to write anything about what was happening since so much was unknown. We just didn’t have a clear picture of how everything would turn out. At worst it was terrifying and at best an underlying ever-present nagging thought. Luckily we’ve had a lot go our way thus far so we’re proceeding with tempered optimism. Some additional thoughts/observations regarding our stay…

Wasted worry.

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due. -William Ralph Inge

One of the most difficult parts about this whole ordeal was waiting from our initial blood work result to the retest. We actively tried not to get too caught-up in the thought of what could happen and instead work through what was happening. Focusing on what little was in our control. Sometimes and some days that was easier said than done.

“Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not.” -Ana Monnar

Cry like a baby. 

Even though all the signs pointed to the news we received from the doctor that V’s platelet count had dropped to a dangerous level and that we needed to act now, it didn’t make it any easier to hear. Actually, that’s not entirely true, it was easier for me to hear than relay. As soon as I had to discuss what was happening I choked-up, it became real. It seemed unbelievable. I was shaken. So I cried. Sometimes you need a good cry – and that’s just what I did on the drive home from work. Just enough time to let it out and compose myself to get home and put a plan in action.

Our healthy looking sick baby.

Everyone kept saying  how healthy V looked. “He doesn’t even look sick!” I’m sure in some respects they were just trying to make us feel better about being in the hospital for the night but the truth was besides the rash and increased number of bruises he was the picture of health! The kid didn’t even have a runny nose! (And if you have or have had a kid in daycare you know that runny noses are standard winter fare). It made the experience all the more surreal.

Why did daycare cut him?

The first person we talked to once admitted to Children’s Hospital was a medical student. We relayed V’s recent history leading up to our visit. Noticed a rash, blood work indicated low platelets, second blood draw finger prick needed several bandage changes at daycare and didn’t stop bleeding until after noon, baby also came home with a huge bruise on his back that same day. I’m not sure what got lost in translation but he thought we told him that daycare ‘cut Danny’. He kept asking us and circling back to how Danny got ‘cut at daycare’. We kept trying to explain that they didn’t cut him they tended to his cut from the blood draw. He seemed very concerned that we weren’t more concerned!

Two is a crowd.

Before our nurse saved our marriage by finding us a recline-able chair – my husband and I attempted for a hot minute to share the twin hospital bed in V’s room. I was game for it, ready to cuddle-up and recreate our college twin bed sharing days. Him? Not so much.

Always a surprise. 

With this and with the birth of V, we were amazed at how little we actually saw the doctor. By happenstance we ran into him on the elevator after breakfast, he recognized us which was a great sign, but then we didn’t see him again until discharge. Never ceases to amaze me.

Thankful. 

Though we couldn’t know it going in, we were so lucky we had such a short stay at the hospital. There are other children and families that are dealing with a much different reality. We were reminded at every turn and that was not something lost on us.

Accepting the unknown. 

The doctors aren’t entirely sure what caused this to happen. It’s common not to have a specific thing to point to. Additionally, we’re not sure if V will need another treatment or if it’s a one and done scenario. For the majority of children they see with ITP, one treatment does the trick. A blip on the radar and nothing more to worry about. For others it takes longer but again can completely resolve. Hopefully we fall int the former category and our follow-up tests all show strong levels. For now things are looking good, his rash is gone and bruises healed. Other than a few middle of the night wake-ups V’s been doing great. We’re hopeful the trend continues!

 

newbie mom

our trip to children’s hospital

March 2, 2015

Last week our V was admitted to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital to treat  Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) – a disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding due to unusually low platelet levels. Though not an uncommon occurrence in children it was still a scary experience that luckily we came out on the right side of. Below are all of the details of our experience. We are so fortunate this has gone our way thus far and that we were able to have the flexibility in our work schedules to tackle this as a family.

Sunday Feb. 15th

  • Afternoon – Our little guy went down for a nap (not without a fight) and woke up with a rash on his face.
  • PM – We were giving DV a bath and noticed that he had quite a few bruises on his legs. He’s an active toddler so some bruises are common but he seemed to have a lot.

Monday Feb. 16th

  • AM – The curious rash on V’s face didn’t fade at all overnight so we looked a little more into it. The rash looked like he had been pricked by a bunch of pins which was unlike any other rash we’d seen on him to date. That said, we’re first time parents and he’s only been around for 17 months so there are a lot of firsts. We Googled the rash – it looked more like petechiae – and were met with potential diagnosis information that ranged from nothing to cancer. So we decided to make an appointment to be sure – joking that the doc would wave it off as nothing.

Tuesday Feb. 17th

  • AM – We chose to see DV’s pediatrician because he had an opening in the morning. My husband took V so that I could get to work because I had another appointment early afternoon. At first our pediatrician didn’t think much of the rash but by the end of the examination he’d requested that DV have blood work done. My husband said V did amazing with the blood draw – he didn’t even cry!
  • PM – That night we got a call form another physician in the practice with the results. Though all of V’s other counts looked good, his platelet count was at 25,000. It should be around 150-450,000.  We were told to bring him to the lab on Monday for another blood draw to recheck V’s levels. In the meantime we were told ‘Don’t throw him off any cliffs and you should be fine until Monday morning. If he develops a new major bruise before then bring him in earlier for a blood draw.’

Wednesday Feb. 18th-Sunday Feb. 22nd

  • We had a nerve-racking week and weekend as we waited for Monday morning to arrive and DV’s next blood draw. We inspected V’s body every night to ensure that he didn’t have any other spots of rash or bruises. It was a buzzing underlying worry that followed us through the week as we played the waiting game.

Sunday Feb. 22nd

  • PM – As we were doing our new routine bedtime inspection we noticed some more areas of rash on V’s bottom that hadn’t been there before – not a good sign.

Monday Feb. 23rd

  • AM – We woke up in the morning to fresh rash spots on DV’s face – not good. My husband took him to have his blood work done, they pricked his finger this time to take the sample. Shortly after lunch I received a call form my husband. Daycare let him know that V’s finger didn’t stop bleeding until midday and they had to change his bandage a few times – also not good.
  • Afternoon – I received a call from our pediatrician around 4PM. DV’s blood work had come back and his count was at 7,000 – anything below 10,000 you’re at risk of internal bleeding – we needed to pick V up from daycare and take him to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology department. They were expecting us. We should pack a bag and plan to spend a few nights.

    • I was in a meeting with one of my direct reports working on our first client agency summit presentation for Thursday when I took the call. I held it together to listen to the instructions from the pediatrician and take notes but as soon as I had to relay to her what was happening I broke down. This wasn’t a complete surprise, we had quite a few signs that cropped up that morning pointing to this outcome but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear.
    • I called my husband, gathered my things, shot an email to my team to let them know why I was leaving because I couldn’t tell them without crying and walked out the door.
    • When I arrived home my husband let me know that V had come home with another bruise on his back, he said it was pretty ugly and that I may not want to look at it. I did. It was. I almost wished I didn’t.
  • PM – We arrived early evening and went through admissions. We were set-up in a room and awaited visits from the medical staff. V loved being examined by everyone. He was a complete chatter box. I think he secretly delighted in being up hours past his typical bedtime.

Diagnosis – Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), an unexplained destruction of his platelets by antibodies produced by his own immune system.

Treatment – IV steroids and immune globulin (IVIG)

  • Late PM – At 10:30PM they put an IV line in V’s foot (because he’s a hand kid – sucks his fingers, holds his ear for comfort – they decided foot was best for the IV). Dad held him, he cried, I tried not to pass-out. After that he was both hooked up to a bag of steroids and dosed up with some Tylenol and Benadryl he was understandably exhausted and fell right to sleep. We put him in the crib and covered him with a blanket from home.
    • The nurse, who was amazing, began the IVIG around midnight. To do this she had to constantly monitor his vitals. While V was sleeping she adeptly attached 4 stickers to his chest and belly, a cuff on his leg and pulse ox on his foot so that she could run tests without waking him.
    • He woke up a few times, once at 2:30AM and once at 5:30AM and he was able to get right back to sleep (after a little snuggle in his Dad’s shoulder). He was done with all the IV’s after 5:30AM and we all slept until the nurse shift change at 7:15AM.

 

Tuesday Feb. 24th

  • AM – We threw a sock over V’s IV port and took him down to the cafeteria for breakfast where he ate approximate 2/3 of a pound of pineapple and strawberries as well as some Chex cereal. He LOVED hanging out down there and seeing all of the people. When we got back to our room breakfast had arrived – he proceeded to drink milk and eat waffle sticks. Clearly he had not lost his appetite!
    • After breakfast our friend, who is a dietitian at the Clinic, dropped by between her meetings to say ‘hi’. V loves visitors so he quickly cuddled up in her arms after playing in his crib with a few balls we brought from home.
    • After our visit, I took DV down to the 3rd floor to look at the fishes in the aquarium. We also checked out the playroom which was awesome. He loved getting out and about. I’m so thankful that he had the IV’s overnight because I’m not sure how we would have kept him still!
    • We had a blood draw late morning to check V’s platelet levels which lead to a midday snooze for the little guy.
  • PM – After lunch the nurse let us know that V’s platelet count had rebounded to 31,000. With this positive response to IVIG and the stable platelet count we received great news from our doctor – we were being discharged!

Wednesday Feb. 25th

  • My husband and I arranged our workday so that we could stay home with V rather than sending him to daycare. I took the morning shift and he took the afternoon so I could head to work and practice my presentation for the next day.

Thursday Feb. 26th

  • AM – My husband took V back to Cleveland Clinic Children’s for a blood draw and immediate results. V’s platelet count had rebounded to 160,000. I was half way through the morning session of my day-long client meeting when I got the good news via text. (Thankfully the morning session was held in a large auditorium and I could stealthy yet obsessively check my phone!)

The Game Plan

We’re not completely in the clear but things are looking great so far. We have to follow-up one time per week for the next three weeks with blood work, fortunately we can have V’s blood drawn at the medical center down the street from where we live.

If everything keeps looking good for the three weeks we will meet with the Hematologist again at Children’s to determine the schedule of blood draws for the next few months.

What I Learned

  • My husband and I did well in a crisis situation. We calmly put a plan in motion and did what needed to be done. We worked well together as a team facing the unknown.
  • I already knew he was an amazing Dad but he truly cemented his status. V is a Daddy’s boy right now and definitely needed him for comfort. He was calm, collected and extremely attentive to his little boy.
  • We’re beyond fortunate for our health, and that of our little guy.

 

newbie mom

pumping fail

December 4, 2014

Dan V was a little over one month when my sister-in-law got married.

I thought I was so prepared. I had tried to pump while I was home to get some milk for him that day knowing I’d be involved in wedding activities as a bridesmaid. I even had my dress altered so that I could pull the straps down from the top to hook-up Dan V or my pump – whichever! I was prepared.

That day began with hair appointments and promptly went downhill from there. Next thing you know I was shuttling my brother-in-law and husband over to my soon to be brother-in-law’s house to prepare for the festivities of the day, then I needed to hand-off the baby to my parents, from there it was off to get ready and hang in the bridal suite with the rest of the maids and the bride-to-be…. etc.

In all of the craziness my breast pump was left at my in-laws house, a 30 minute round-trip from where the reception and hotel was located. We were still getting acquainted and all, not attached at the hip yet – me and the breast pump that is. I hadn’t really begun to rely on it yet since I was still on maternity leave and breastfeeding V. So it just kind of got lost in the shuffle.

I thought “It’s OK, no big deal. I’ll be able to get together with the baby and breastfeed quickly, WE GOT THIS.” Get together with the baby? Breastfeed quickly? Ha! I mean I haven’t had a baby before but I had been to and in a wedding before, I should have known better! Not surprisingly a session with little Dan V did not happen.

I’m so organized, how had I omitted this very crucial piece of equipment?!

I’m not even sure the last time I pumped or breastfed that day, it all became a blur. After the ceremony we took pictures in the church and rushed into the limo for photo sessions around town. During pictures and on the limo thereafter I realized that I was in big trouble, really BIG trouble. I was literally bursting out of my dress. I was almost in tears, I had no idea what to do! My chest was hot to the touch and rock hard. I kept picturing myself standing in a hot shower and hand expressing with literally no time to do it. Either that or I was going to begin leaking through my bridesmaid dress as we were being announced into the reception. Either way = wedding ruined. (I clearly overestimate the impact my presence makes for emphasis really).

Thankfully two twenty-something boys, friends of my brother-in-law, came to the rescue. They stopped by my in-laws on the way to the wedding and dropped off my coveted pump. I have never been happier to see them. They were my heroes!

Not even 5 minutes later… there I was, standing in my hotel bathroom hooked up to a breastpump while carrying on a conversation with my Pinot Grigio sipping Mom.

It. Was. Glorious.

The rest of the evening was a fantastic celebration of a beautiful couple – without the distraction of a bursting bosom. We ate and drank and were very very merry. Later that night as my husband promptly passed out in our king size hotel bed while I spent a few extra minutes in the bathroom pumping directly into the sink.

Some things change, some things stay the same.

LV ♥

– JLVR

newbie mom

registry musts and must not

September 29, 2014

Here’s some quick hit items to add, or delete, from your registry…

MUSTS

  • Drying Rack – The First Years Spinning Drying Rack – It’s a space saver and holds an insane amount of items
  • Bottle Brush – Playtex SmartSpace Baby Bottle Brush – It cleans beautifully and has a smaller brush built in for bottle nipples
  • Burp Cloths – Suggested investment to avoid constant laundering
  • Swaddle – Summer Infant SwaddlePod and SwaddleMe – It takes the guess work out of swaddling when your baby begins to kick out of the traditional blanket
    • V skipped the pod but we used the SwaddleMe for a while, he loved to be swaddled arms out
  • Changing Station – Skip Hop Pronto! – Super easy and convenient without all the added stuff

MUST NOT

  • Drying Rack – Boon Grass Countertop Drying Rack – It’s adorable and impractical
  • Swaddle – Miracle Blanket – Literally a miracle that anyone would choose to buy or use this item, it’s intense
  • Shoes – Adorable and impractical, your little one will not need shoes for awhile but if you want to get fancy while being practical check these out Trumpette – you can buy multi-packs of super cute enviable socks
    • When your little one is ready to walk these are the best, they are easy to slip on and stay on plus they come is wicked cute styles – Robeez
  • Dishwasher Basket – Munchkin Dishwasher Basket – We simply don’t run our dishwasher enough for this to be helpful
  • Wipe Warmer