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I think it kind of goes without saying that we have an incredible amount to be thankful for this year.  Although not the joyous time I had expected when I gave birth, the end result has defied most odds and we now share our home with two healthy, happy, special babies who have brought more laughs and warmth to our house than we ever could have expected.

Thanksgiving was a whirlwind day – but a great one.  We started by bringing the twins to Chris’s cousin’s house for their annual tradition of skeet shooting in the field.  We go mostly to socialize (and enjoy an adult beverage or two) and it was nice to have them out in the fresh air.  They weren’t even bothered by the noise of the gun!  After about an hour, we headed back home to get ready for the arrival of our immediate families who were all bringing pieces of what would become our wonderful Thanksgiving feast!  I asked to give the blessing and choked up doing so – I’ve been a bit of an emotional mess lately but all for good reason.  These babies truly astonish me with how big they are, how well they’re doing, and the love that grows in my heart for them every.single.day. 

Colton and Keltie loved all the attention they got throughout the day and enjoyed their first helpings of mashed potatoes and turkey, along with some squash.  Surprisingly, Keltie was more “hands on” with her food than Colton was – he had Grammie shoveling spoonfuls of potatoes and was happy with that thankyouverymuch.  After everyone left, we headed over to Chris’s other cousin’s house to have a quick visit with some family we didn’t see earlier in the day.  Many hadn’t met them yet and were so surprised to see how big they’ve become since we sent out their birth announcements at 6 weeks old! 

It was a wonderful day full of lots of gratitude.  I’m smiling now remembering our table full of food, family, and love.  It was so nice to look around at everyone and see our beautiful babies in their highchairs, joining in on the celebration.  I am so grateful Chris was home to experience it as well.  These first holidays are such precious events – Christmas is up next!

We have never been so thankful!

November is prematurity awareness month and although I have always supported the March of Dimes, it hits closer to home this year because of my two special fighters.  On November 17th, World Prematurity Day, we wore purple to honor the preemies still in the NICU fighting for their lives, those that have lost their battle, and those that are home – once tiny, always strong.  We also went with the March of Dimes to South Shore Hospital to bring the NICU baskets of items to help other babies in need.  Our family contribution was eight of our ever favorite Aden & Anais swaddle blankets with the hope that the nurses will snuggle some of the current itty bitties in those soft swaddles instead of the sometimes stiff and rough hospital blankets.  Colton and Keltie had an arsenal of those swaddles and their nurses loved them – so it was nice to give back to the place they called home for 100 and 142 days.

We were lucky to see some familiar faces – a few nurses we knew and one of our favorite doctors.  He held Keltie and she smiled and giggled at him – I have to think that made his day.  Walking out, I teared up.  It was the first time I walked both of my former 26 weekers out of that hospital, healthy and enjoying life outside of those walls.  It warmed my heart to give back to the special nurses, doctors, and staff of their NICU as they will always be considered extended family members of ours.  It was even better to have one of their primary nurses, Fran, come to the house to visit the following day.  Having these people remain in our life is so important to me – and I know it will be important to Colton and Keltie in the future.

Just as important to giving back to their NICU is spreading awareness.  My lovely preemie mom friend, Joanna, has an excellent blog about her twin boys who are also preemies.  She dedicated blog entries for the month of November to sharing stories of all their preemie friends.  You see – there is a group of about 60 of us who are in this “sisterhood” because of the common bond of having experienced life with a preemie.  These women, I’ve mentioned before, are some of the strongest, most incredible women that I’ve ever met.  Two of them came to my house to help me when Colton came home – they had only known me through our online group, yet they sacrificed their time to help a preemie mom in need.  We lift each other up in support during the downs and we cheer and applaud all of the ups.  We also overshare and may even be a bit crass.  But they’re amazing – I wouldn’t want to walk this life without their love and support. 

So – check out the highlight on Colton and Keltie and some of the other stories on Joanna’s blog, including her own.  You’ll find some pretty special kiddos and some pretty amazing mamas!

http://hydrobabies.blogspot.com/2012/11/aware-meet-my-preemies-colton-keltie.html

And remember – everyone knows someone who loves a preemie.  Spread the awareness – 1 in 8 babies are born premature in this world.  That is a ratio that is far, far too high.

Sooo…it’s obvious that time is something I lack these days.  Such is life I guess – between the peanuts, their chaotic schedules, work, home, holidays, etc…it’s been quite busy.  I keep saying that I need one of those little yellow minions to help me out but I’ve yet to figure out how to get one.  But, here I am and we should get caught up on the wee ones!

On October 24th, they turned 9 months old!!!  Amazing – simply amazing.  Here were their  9 month (5.5 adj) pedi appointment stats:
Colton
– 17lbs, 2oz (10th percentile for actual LOL FATTY)
– 25.75″ long (25th percentile for adjusted)
-17.5″ head (25th percentile for actual – huge dome)
Keltie
– 14lbs, 4oz (2nd percentile for actual YAY!)
– 24.75″ long (20th percentile for adjusted)
– 16.75″ head (11th percentile for actual)

They have made it onto the chart for all but their length – I am so shocked considering how tiny they were!  As of last week (they went for their first Synagis shot to help fight against RSV), Colton was 18lbs, 1oz and Keltie was 15lbs, 6oz so they are doing a fantastic job growing!

We were blessed to have my friend Candace from Candace Schwab Photography in town the day before their 9 month birthday and she was kind enough to come down and do a family photoshoot for us.  Her pictures came out absolutely incredible – as always!

 They experienced their first earthquake and hurricane as well – and survived both.  Lucky for us they were minor events but it was my first earthquake and I am over 31 years older then they are! 

Colton and Keltie both sat unassisted in the month of October.  Colton is perfecting his sitting while Keltie has a little more work to do.  They continue to roll all over the place, laugh while being tickled (and sang to), and love eating all kinds of new food.  We got the green light to start adding proteins so they have had chicken, turkey, yogurt, quinoa, and other yummy things. 

We attended their NICU Follow-up Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital at the end of October and had assessments done.  The clinic included meeting with two neonatologists and a psychologist.  It was a bit uncomfortable (we were in a room with one of those mirrors where people could watch from another room), but we tried to go with the flow.  Colton came out in all areas between his adjusted and actual age so he is doing really well with his milestones.  Keltie met her adjusted age for almost everything but was slightly delayed in a few areas so we scheduled a physical therapy consult to see if there is anything more we can do to help get her caught up.  They also suggested a second hearing screen (ABR) for both of them and that is scheduled for December.  Nothing major to be concerned about, but making sure everything is still good.  Much of the testing was done with toys so I wasn’t surprised that Colton did so well – he’s the toy guy.  Keltie much prefers to be social with people so I think that may have played into the results slightly but we will get her there.  I know she will walk and talk eventually! 

We also got to experience their first Halloween!  A good friend of our family agreed to sew handmade costumes for them and they were Pebbles and Bam Bam!  The costumes came out incredible – Lois did an amazing job!  We took them trick or treating to a few neighbors houses and it was fun – Keltie enjoyed the crinkle of the M&M package she got, while Colton was more interested in chewing on his basket.  No surprises there!

Look at us getting so big!!

On September 24th it was Colton and Keltie’s 8 month birthday!!! 

As of last week, Keltie weighed 13lbs, 9oz and Colton weighed 16lbs, 2oz!  They are growing so well and each day it seems they do something new to make us laugh.  In fact, Keltie’s newest trick is blowing raspberries:    Excuse it being upside down but I was trying to film it while she was on my lap.  And when she’s shaking, it’s me laughing at her.  She also does this now while eating which is really fun…   Both are still rolling champions!  You can’t put them down on their activity mat and walk away for a second.  Keltie likes inch worming to get to where she needs to be.  Today, Colton sat unassisted (froggy style) during his Early Intervention session!!!  We have been working with them both on their arm strength and sitting and I was so happy to see him do it! 

Overall, I can say I never thought we’d be at such a good place with these two miracles after only 8 months.  We are so proud of their strength and development and enjoy witnessing these milestones so very much!

(PS -I don’t know what is up with the formatting of the blog lately…it seems to have a mind of it’s own!)

Food!

As the peanuts catch up on some rest from their exciting outing at Cape Cod Doxie Day yesterday, I can spend some time updating on their new favorite thing – real food!

During Colton’s modified barium swallow study, they had me feed him with a spoon to make sure he wouldn’t aspirate during spoon feeds and he did wonderful. This opened up the opportunity to start them with some real food! I have always planned to do a modified version of Baby Led Weaning (BLW). The concept itself just makes so much sense to me – and especially with preemies sometimes experiencing feeding issues, oral aversions, and the like, it made even more sense. But, because of their prematurity, I wanted to start some solids sooner than 6 months adjusted which is when BLW is suggested to begin. So, I decided to start with some purees and make my own baby food so I could monitor what goes in them (for calories) and adjust the consistency of the food. My baby food isn’t stuck in a Baby Bullet or turned into liquid puree form – but, instead, is hand mashed with a fork or potato masher to allow for lumps and small chunks so they can get used to texture and some chewing. I also started incorporating some Mum Mums to help teach them how to hold and self-feed. It also acts as a distraction since I’m often found feeding two babies alone! A lot of my research on Colton’s severe reflux indicated that once they begin solid foods, their reflux dramatically decreases – so I was excited to start introducing them to stuff other than formula. But, their pincer grasp isn’t close to being ready for full on BLW (kids develop from the “top down” and “inside out” so their grasp right now from a gross and fine motor perspective is more of a full handed reach and grab) so voila – Krista’s Modified BLW!

I can do this myself, TYVM.

Here, let me help you.

Their first food was prunes. I don’t know why I chose it except that I knew it was safe since we have used prune juice in their bottles to help “move things along” in the poop department. Colton enjoyed it and Keltie was a little “eh” about it. We do the foods for 3-4 days to ensure no reactions and so far we’ve been successful with everything we’ve tried!

Here is a breakdown of their favorites:

Keltie – carrots and bananas

Colton – everything except peas 🙂

We have tried:

– Carrots

– Bananas

– Peas

– Butternut squash

– Avocado

– Pears

– Sweet potatoes

Today I’ll be making some apple sauce for this coming week!

They’ve moved from taking about 1oz before their last bottle of the day to 2oz – they really like it and are doing awesome eating from the spoon! They even try and “help” us by taking the spoon themselves but that usually ends up in me putting their Spacesaver high chair covers in the wash. I spoke with their pediatrician last week and she wants us to move to having it twice a day (morning and night) in order to build up to three times a day. It does add more steps in our feeding process and more time to get it all done but we seem to adjust okay once we can get a rhythm down with a new schedule. The good news is Colton barely spits up after his spoon feeds and that is so reassuring to us that, once he starts weaning down his formula, his reflux will get better.

So, we are loving our spoon feeds over here and getting geared up to start this week by adding a morning session to their schedule. Unfortunately, we’ve been struggling with thickening Colton’s bottles (for reflux – to cut down on the spit ups) since there was a warning issued by the FDA of his zero calorie gel thickener, Simply Thick, due to infant deaths. We moved towards using oatmeal but the jury is still out on whether it is helping. Hopefully his GI doctor will call tomorrow with some alternatives.

Here are some fun eating pictures!

7 months ago as of August 24th, the twins came rushing into the world and we were faced with a lot of fear and unknown.  Today, the future is becoming less scary and the memories of their first few months are ever so slowly fading into our memories.  We have made some strides in their health – resolving some of their preemie issues and feeling a little more “normal” each day. 

Keltie

Miss Keltie had a routine renal appointment and they cut her blood pressure medicine by one dose to eventually discontinue it.  The dose she is currently at of Captapril is 0.12mL and isn’t even therapeutic anymore based on her weight, but they didn’t want to stop it cold turkey.  They will do a urinalysis (once we have a successful attempt to actually get some – Urine catch bag:  0, Diaper:  4) and an u/s is scheduled for next week to take a look at her kidneys.  We are hoping and praying that everything looks good and the nephrocalcinosis is stable or maybe even better / gone!  As of last week, she weighed 11lbs, 10oz so she is likely close to the 12lb mark by now!

Developmentally, she is perfecting her roll from back to belly and belly to back.  She does it well enough to sleep on her belly when she chooses (much to my dismay and my 2890123810 attempts to roll her back over).  She loves laughing, smiling, and has recently discovered her voice.  Chris and I joke that we now live with a teradactyl!  She is working on learning to sit unassisted and had her first spoon feed last week! 

Keltie in her fancy BabyLegs!

Colton

Colton has had a whole bunch of appointments and all of them turning out very well!  He met with his surgeon and he confirmed that his hernias were not present and he doesn’t need surgery!  That same week, we met with his GI doctor and he isn’t concerned about his delayed gastric emptying and is okay that he spits up 24/7  (it’s a laundry problem!).  The only additional testing he would consider at this time is an upper GI but because he’s gaining weight and doing well, he doesn’t think it is necessary.  His reflux does seem better – he doesn’t get the “attacks” like he used to and it truly doesn’t seem to phase him when he does reflux.  We go back to him in about six weeks and will likely continue to see him routinely until Colton works through the reflux.  Finally, Colton went for his third modified barium swallow study last week and the best news of all is:  he no longer aspirates on thin liquids!!!  We are slowly weaning his thickener (to make sure the thinner feeds don’t increase his reflux) and they even had me test him eating by spoon and he did great.  So we were able to introduce spoon feeds to him and he is LOVING IT.  I am so happy to know that he matured his swallow and can safely have thin liquids and start these spoon feeds!  As of last week, he was 13lbs, 13oz so I’m sure he’s well over 14lbs now!

Developmentally, Colton is still working on rolling over completely from back to belly.  He does well belly to back and we know he’ll figure it out soon.  He is doing excellent pushing up on his forearms and playing on his belly.  He is also learning to sit unassisted and found his feet and loves playing with them.  Colton has become a much more smiley guy and has the most adorable giggle.  He LOVES playing with toys and really enjoys chewing on his Sophie giraffe.

Mmmm Sophie is yummy!

   

Overall, we are so pleased with their progress and love checking off these boxes with each doctors appointment.  They are doing well meeting their adjusted age milestones and their laughs, smiles, and interactions warm our hearts each day!  Coming up next –  Spoon feedings, food, and baby led weaning (BLW)!

Happy 7 Months, Peanuts!

Mommy is dealing with a house full of yuck.  Daddy is down and out with some sort of summer flu and the twinfants were taken to the pedi yesterday and confirmed to have summer colds.  And Mommy woke up this morning with a head full of yuck and a sore throat.  Fun times around here!  Hearing my snotty nosed little babies cough like the dickens and sneeze like crazy truly hurts my heart.  It’s not like they understand how to blow their nose and all you can really do is keep them elevated and saline their nose.  It also started my head spinning even more about the upcoming winter months and the big, scary threat of RSV.

What is RSV?  Well, I happen to have some information to share about it and I hope it also sheds light into how we will be handling the twins and visits starting in October.

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus and if you’ve never heard of it you are not alone.  You see, RSV is essentially the common cold.  Most children have actually had it by the age of 2 and suffer no more than anyone else with a cold.  Unfortunately, for preemies it means a lot more.  Preemies are at the highest risk for severe complications such as pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and other sometimes fatal complications.  Colton and Keltie were born premature, had low birth weights, and are twins which put them in an even more elevated risk group for contracting RSV and suffering severe complications.  Here is a good comparison example of a full term baby’s lungs vs. a preemie baby’s lungs:

If lungs were trees…full term baby on the left and preemie baby on the right.

“When children are born prematurely (before 36 weeks of gestation), their organs are not as prepared as those of full term children to handle functioning in the outside world. As a result, the most important bodily functions become circulation, breathing air effectively and efficiently, and carrying oxygen to the organs.

Premature birth interrupts the final stages of normal lung development. If lungs were to be represented as an upside-down tree, the lungs of a full-term baby would be fully branched with many leaves. The lungs of a premature baby would look like a simple tree or sapling and would be very rudimentary, with only a few branches and leaves. Since the body counts on those branches to breathe, a simple tree cannot function as well as a fully developed tree.

The illustration graphically shows how the lungs of a premature baby differ from a full-term infant and why a disease such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) can be so serious. A premature baby’s lungs are underdeveloped and cannot fight an infection such as RSV as well as a full-term baby’s can.”

– Alan Cohen, MD, FAAP, FCCP – Pediatric Pulmonologist

RSV season in our area typically runs October through April.  During that time, we will be taking extra precautions to ensure we protect Colton and Keltie as much as possible.  When we took them each home from the hospital, we promised them we would do all we could and sacrifice whatever is necessary to ensure they never have to go back.  As you can imagine, we take this promise very seriously as we feel their 100 and 142 day stays were enough for one lifetime. 

How is RSV spread?  It is passed through physical contact, airborne through a cough or sneeze, or by touching an infected object.  Colton and Keltie are in the stage of putting anything and everything in their mouth, so that last part is critical.  The virus can live up to six hours on your hands and up to twelve hours on objects!

Some of you may come from the stance of “if they get sick, it helps build immunity” but in our case that is not what we want.  Because they were born premature, they lack some of the strength in their immune system to fight off illnesses like a full term baby could.  As mentioned above, to you or me or even someone else’s full term baby – this is simply a cold.  But to Colton and Keltie, it could mean a readmission to the hospital or even something worse. 

Unfortunately, we will not be attending many events as a family during the RSV season this year (holidays will likely be our exceptions).  Because of their breathing issues early on, our pediatrician has indicated that their lungs remain fragile up until two years of age (adjusted).  We will also ask that all visitors follow similar precautions that they were so kind to do when visiting Colton and Keltie in the NICU such as:

1 – When you arrive, please wash your hands and use hand sanitizer provided prior to handling the babies.

2 – For those who visit or handle them often, we are asking that your strongly consider getting both the flu and Tdap shots.  Pertussis is another huge concern for us and with the ill-informed anti-vaccine movement, it is reaching epidemic levels in some areas.

3 – Please refrain from visiting if you are currently sick and have not been symptom-free for at least 5 days, if you live with someone who is sick, and / or have been in close contact with someone who is sick.

4 – If you smoke, we ask that you change your clothing and refrain from smoking prior to visiting.

5 – If you are parents to a baby or toddler, please refrain from bringing them to our house during RSV season.

We hope this helps explain RSV and our winter worries.  Here are additional resources on RSV:

RSV Tracking System:  Find up-to-date information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about RSV outbreaks by state, region, or the entire US.

RSV FAQs

We strongly encourage visitors and outings through the end of September, so please let us know if you’d like to make plans to see us! 

Coming up next – our 7 month birthday and some new milestones and health updates!!!