A Personal Adventure Into Parenthood

V and Pooh Bear – A Love Story November 6, 2013

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If you’ve been reading my previous blogs then you’ll already know the story (and have seen pictures) of when V received his first toy: his Pooh Bear layette! When we first brought it for him in the NICU we figured it would keep him company until he got home and saw all of the other awesome toys and blankets awaiting him, not the cheap little thing we picked up at Walmart on a frantic afternoon away. Little did we know that it was the start of a beautiful and serious relationship between one tiny little boy and his comfort blanket.

V's newborn pictures, with Pooh Bear

V’s newborn pictures, with Pooh Bear

I know that most of us, as children, had a stuff animal, or lovie blanket that we carried around day after day, night after night, keeping our secrets, snuggling and chasing monsters away when we were tucked up tight in bed. I know even as adults, some of us, myself included, have one or two that we keep to remind us of easier times and maybe give us comfort when we’ve just had one of those days/weeks/months. The thing with stuff animals is that they never give you any judgement or attitude, they just lie there and take the tears, hugs, or punches, whatever you need at the time. As a parent I assumed my child would have a toy that spoke to him but I didn’t really think about how that toy would be chosen or understand just how much he would love it. I think every parent of a small child understands the absolute world ending panic that occurs, both for your child AND yourself when you’re unable to find that ONE toy they can’t do without. Its like the apocalypse happening in slow motion…

As for Pooh’s beginnings, when V was in the NICU, he was so tiny that the nurses actually used Pooh Bear as a blanket, resting him onto of V’s swaddle for a little extra warmth. Sometimes Pooh would migrate up to V’s head and they’d participate in some tete-a-tete snuggles, but they wouldn’t last for long since it was dangerous to keep anything near V;s tubes, wires and face while he was in the isolette.

Pooh Bear and V chillin in the NICU

Pooh Bear and V chillin’ in the NICU

When we got home V kept Pooh Bear close as he moved into his bassinet and crib. We noticed, especially when he had colic, that it was one of the only things that helped soothe him. Our nighttime routine was swaddle, soother, music, Pooh Bear. Pooh Bear also hung out with V on his playmat and during tummy time to make it less traumatic on our little drama king. When V was starting to reach out for things, Pooh Bear was right at hand for those first tentative grasps, and when he was learning to focus his eyes on objects and hold his little head up Pooh Bear was a great focal point.

Learning to focus his eyes and hold up his little head.

Learning to focus his eyes and hold up his little head.

As V grew into toddlerhood, Pooh Bear took on new roles. He was a great teether for when V’s gums were giving him issues and around 6 months totally replaced the soother when V ditched the plastic in favour of sucking on Pooh Bears arms. Pooh Bear still travels to all of V’s doctors appointments and takes the sting out of those ouchie vaccinations. When our little guy started to walk he used to try and trade Pooh Bear to people for things he also saw as valuable. Most memorably he tried offering Pooh Bear to his Uncle S in return for a sip of his beer…no dice little man! He just couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t as overjoyed as himself to have Pooh Bear by his side.

Nothing says Xmas photo shoot like Pooh Bear!

Nothing says Xmas photo shoot like Pooh Bear!

Pooh has been through more car rides than we can count and even two trip to Florida! He’s a well travelled stuffie who doesn’t mind being sogged to death when V decides to take a nap while he waits to get wherever we’re headed, Pooh Bear hanging out of his mouth. Pooh has also sadly made several trips to the ER and tagged along for V’s week long stay at Children’t Hospital last year.

4 hour delay at the airport? Good thing for Pooh Bear!

4 hour delay at the airport? Good thing for Pooh Bear!

One of the most important roles that Pooh Bear fills though is as emotional support and confidant. As V starts to work his way around all these big emotions swirling in his tiny body he needs an anchor when everything else seems to be all messed up. No matter how V is feeling; happy, sad, scared, angry, Pooh Bear is there to help him through. V will take a few minutes to pull himself together, suck on Pooh’s arm, stroke his head, occasionally cover his face with the blanket portion and get himself back on track to being a functioning kiddo.

Recovering from the trauma of his first haircut with Pooh Bear.

Recovering from the trauma of his first haircut with Pooh Bear.

I know that a lot of parents are in a hurry to distance their child from their comfort object be it a blanket, soother, toy etc but as parents A and I are really going with the flow. Pooh makes V happy so I’m happy for V to have Pooh, when and where he needs him.

The most common rebuttal we hear when we send him out with his Pooh is ‘What are you going to do when he goes to school? Other kids will make fun of him!’. All I feel like saying is ‘WHOA! Slow down there buddy! This kid has JUST turned three, this toy keeps him happy during travel, naps and long outings, and it’s not hurting anyone, least of all you!’

Nothing helps you get ready for a good night's sleep like a Pooh Bear (and Daddy) snuggle.

Nothing helps you get ready for a good night’s sleep like a Pooh Bear (and Daddy) snuggle.

I know that he won’t take it to kindergarten with him but I don’t see a reason to rush him away from what is his main coping mechanism at the moment. Kindergarten will be the start to a whole new routine, and Pooh Bear just won’t even come into the picture, but as his life is right now, Pooh Bear is a member of our family and where we go, he goes. It’s also great to have such a loved constant in V’s life. We know that wherever he is right now; home, grandparents, car, vacation, he’ll have Pooh Bear with him when he’s trying to adjust to new or different environments. We value constants as adults so why would we deny them to our kids who don’t have the life experience or maturity to know how to work through all of those conflicting emotions.

Pooh was also great for self soothing when we were ready to move V into his crib from our room. We just stressed that he had his own room now and things would be okay since Pooh Bear was there. We only had a couple of night of issues before everything settled into our current routine. However if Pooh Bear, that sneaky devil, makes his way off the bed or under the pillow during the night and V can’t find him immediately during his half asleep fumbling then we definitely hear about it. A mad run to the room and a Pooh Bear search will usually result in all parties returning to sleep within 3 minutes flat.

Sleeping with his Pooh Bear

Sleeping with his Pooh Bear

The best thing V does with Pooh Bear though is this sound he makes when you first hand him over after he hasn’t seen him in a while. He immediately puts Pooh Bear into his mouth and moans like an addict getting his fix for the first time, closing his eyes to savour the moment. I ask you, when as an adult was the last time you were that happy? How simple it is to be a kid!

One word of advise to parents who find their kids with a strong emotional attachment to a toy, BUY MULTIPLES! Seriously….buy ALL of them! There will never be enough! We have 7 Pooh Bears and we rotate them because with all of the sucking they get pretty gross and we swap them out for a ‘bath’ every day. This kind of wear and tear is pretty hard on a cheap stuffie or blanket so you want to be prepared. I really try to not think about the first day our kid has to go to bed without Pooh. I imagine a lot of tears and very little sleep will be had. We had our first ‘accident’ last week when Pooh’s head came off but Daddy can fix anything (just ask V) and sewed his head on good as new. Hang in there Pooh Bear…you’ve got a few more good years in you yet!

Recent family photo session! We love you Pooh Bear!

Recent family photo session! We love you Pooh Bear!


The Milk Mafia and Other Tales from a Monday in the NICU February 17, 2012

After that busy and stressful weekend, Andrew, Vaughan and I settled into a somewhat regular routine of visits and appointments. I would head to the hospital after my noon pump session and walk to St. Jo’s to perch on my stool next to Vaughan’s isolette.

A note to be made here was that I always tried to pump at home as much as humanly possible, not because I was shy or weird about pumping in public (childbirth will definitely cure you of any illusions of feminine modesty you may have), but at this time I thought there was only one pump room, with one pump, for a NICU full of Mommies squeezing out that liquid gold. Anyone who’s pumped or nursed before knows that if you miss your time it becomes quiet painful, almost to the point of tears and you’d step over your own mother for 10 minutes alone with that ugly green machine. The sign-up sheet for the single room was almost always full and it used to stress me out. I’d spend the 45 mins around my pump time watching the door like a hawk, and when it was empty,  darting in before my opportunity was lost and it felt like I had a 25 pound weight crushing my chest. Considering my pump times were 2 hours apart this added up to a lot of stressful hours watching an ugly laminated door as opposed to my beautiful son.

Now why all of the anxiety towards making sure I made my times you ask, besides the threat of engorgement? Well that 1st Monday in the NICU I received a visit from Michelle, the resident LC (also know as a lactation consultant, or milk goddess). She approached me as I sat by Vaughan’s bed and asked to see my equipment and my log book. She checked over my various bottles, lids, labels, cords and attachments before flipping through my orange notebook. The room got very quiet as she looked over my times and amounts and followed up with ‘Is this it???’. I must have looked like a 6 year old getting scolded for sneaking cookies before dinner and I decided silence was my best weapon…wrong! She began peppering me with questions: How often are you pumping? How much are you getting? What are your daily totals? Any signs of infections? Etc etc etc. It was probably the most personal version of 20 questions I’ve ever played but her heart was in the right place.  I answered that I felt fine, no infections and I was pumping about 400 mL a day and pumping every 3 hrs or so and every 4 overnight. You could practically see the steam coming out of Michelle’s ears. She pulled out her pamphlets and very sternly told me that I needed to pump every 2 hours, absolutely no exceptions, even over night for the next 14 days. This time period is essential for setting up a solid milk supply that will last your child for the whole time you’ll be breastfeeding or pumping. She then told me that I should be recording my amounts down to the mL, bringing in frozen or refrigerated milk daily and make follow up appointments with her on a weekly basis. There was no way to say no to this lady, so I frantically agreed to anything she said. It felt like I’d just become a huge disappointment to her, my husband and my son and I was desperate to make it up. Therefore for the next 2 weeks I became attached at the hip to that Ameda Elite. Opening night of Andrew’s play? We went home between the show and cast party so I could have some private time with my plastic tubing! I didn’t want to hear that stern voice again when she checked in the following week.

Bless her heart though, Michelle was right…I went from a halfhearted 400 mL/day to a 1.7L/day dairy cow and eventually both the NICU and my home freezer ran out of room to store all of that nutrient rich milk. Three cheers for me and my pump!!  I definitely recommend following that schedule for anyone thinking of pumping or even nursing. It’s a huge time commitment especially when you’re dealing with hormone changes, mood swings, new baby excitement/anxiety but it was totally worth it. My supply never went down until the day I decided to start weaning.

Another exciting moment from that first Monday was when the resident NICU doctor decided to try their hand at removing V’s umbilical line. They thankfully asked me to step to the side because it was not a pretty sight. Like an open sore, the umbilical cord dries up over time and for most kids falls right off. Well V’s was stuck to his lines and getting it unstuck and the lines removed wasn’t pleasant for him, the doctors, nurses or Mommy. It became a team effort as two residents, the regular doctor, and three nurses all threw their hats in the ring. There was blood,  towels and gauze all over the place, and if I hadn’t known what they were doing I would have thought something serious was going down in that isolette rather than a ‘simple’ line removal. V screamed his tiny head off (he sounded kind of like a kitten, so cute/pathetic at the same time) and flailed his arms but at the end of a very long half an hour he was finally minus some of the colourful attachments that had been getting tangled around his little legs. One more step in the right direction! Each little bit of progress he made lifted our spirits. We were a little less anxious as we went home for the night, and a little more hopeful that one day, hopefully soon, we’d be a complete family of three, at home, where we all belonged.

Daddy came to visit after work and before rehearsal and we finally got to give our little man his Pooh Bear layette. What a hit!! V must have been excited to finally have a permanent snuggle buddy because he nestled right in. Over the next 6 weeks the layette was sometimes used as a rolled support, a blanket or, just for comfort. Even at 17 months it is his favourite toy. We actually have 7 rotating Pooh Bears, just in case one bites the dust, but more on V and his buddy later. For the moment we were just glad that he had something with him that was ‘his’ and for comfort when we couldn’t be with him.

You can't see him very well, but the yellow blanket on top of our little guy is actually part of his Pooh Bear layette!

Obviously it is emotionally crippling to see your child alone in their isolette and have to leave them there, but to top it off, the NICU is also incredibly impersonal. It’s all white walls and beeping equipment, not your typical newborn nursery covered in animals or flowers. The only thing Vaughan wore at the beginning was a diaper and he was always wrapped in hospital receiving blankets, sucked hospital soothers and bathed with hospital washcloths. All of those cute things we had at home were sitting in his empty room just waiting to be used…and all of those clothes would be waiting for a very long time. Newborn sizes go from 5-8 lbs and at under 3 lbs even preemie clothing was a suffocation risk, so our little man went naked. We could have brought in our own clothing and blankets (and we did later on) but the NICU is a crazy busy place and sometimes your personal clothing, even when clearly labelled, has a tendency to become part of the public clothing pile, never to be seen again. We weren’t ready to take a chance on something we might later regret losing, so at that time we stuck with the ugly blue and pink blankets.

Having done our parental duty in spoiling our umbilical line-free little guy with his first toy we headed home for the night and I ended my day the same way it began, spending quality time with my pump!