Monday, December 8, 2008

A Heart Mama's Guide to Holiday Giving.

Our visit to see Mr & Mrs Claus. Luna screamed herself purple and now Sienna is so worried Santa won't come because, "Luna was cryin' all over the place on Mrs. Claus' lap!"

It's amazing how much can happen in a baby's life during the six short weeks since I last posted. Luna sprouted her two bottom teeth, she's standing (assisted), clapping, waving, laughing, babbling REALLY loudly, and has endured more shots in the past few weeks than any human should. On Thursday she'll turn a whopping nine months. This is my absolute favorite age in the world of babies. Beginning at around six months when they really start to blossom, watching the personality that emerges makes for a steady stream of joy and wonder. Luna, in her infinite and often unbearable cuteness, brings on the urge in many to simply take a nibble off her generous cheek. When she wakes in the morning she will happily babble and play with her stuffed animals in her crib for hours. Every moment of her life seems to be filled with giggles and yelps and a never ending game of peak-a-boo, always pulling up and yanking down her blanket with such force and zeal. Sometimes she will linger while holding the blanket in front of her face until she finally crumbles into an infectious bout of the giggles.

But don't taunt her or tease her or hold out on feeding her. Then you'll hear it. Sienna will often give her food, and then pull it away. Luna makes it known, often with a good shove, that she will not tolerate such cruel antics. She is developing a strong sense of being which I hope will ground her when she's faced with special challenges, both heart and otherwise.

It's hard to imagine that last year at this time I was chasing a 21 month-old, struggling to keep her pace while my back ached and buckled under the weight of Luna kicking-pounding more like-from inside.

The year, it goes without saying, has been monumental. Another birth by c-section, followed by two open heart surgeries and a very invasive catheter procedure endured by Queen Lu (the surgeries and cath, the c/s was all mine). Though I honestly cannot complain, so many of my heart family companions endure far more hospital stays, for much longer stretches than we did. With this in mind I've come up with a brief list of ideas for holiday giving:

Give blood. Blood donations are at an all time low and the reserves are critically scarce. I read and article recently how hospitals are using blood that is older than they like (yuck). So blood that has been stored, that normally would be discarded after an extended shelf life is being used. Of course, my first thought is, if blood is running short, then most likely it's not shelved for very long. At any rate, I drive by many blood drives a week and they post huge signs of desperation, begging for patrons to stop and roll up their sleeve. The best part of course, is it's free. And you usually get free swag like tee-shirts, snacks, cookies and mugs. Luna, at barely 9 months has already received two (or is it three now?) blood transfusions. In the case of undergoing her catheter to open up her left pulmonary artery, her little body was having trouble retaining safe oxygen levels so blood was administered to boost them up. (the donated blood carried healthy oxygen levels and thus was able to mix with Luna's blood, giving her a much needed boost in her sats). You can easily find out where your local blood drives are by visiting The Red Cross website here.

Gift bags filled with goodies to leave in the family room of any hospital. After the Glenn operation Luna-and all children-are brought up to the ICU where they are hooked-up to their banks of meds. As parents, we are called to the floor and then asked to wait in the family room until your child is stabilized. This is probably THE worst part of the entire experience. Your baby has just endured a major surgery and now you are asked to wait for what seems like an eternity before you can greet your sedated child in her ICU room. As Paul and I entered the Family room (just a small room with a kitchenette, TV and a few toys), someone had left a huge basket of sweets and gourmet popcorns from Au Bon Pain along with a dozen or so gift bags each filled with a toothbrush, tooth paste, travel-sized shampoos, soaps, candy and chips. Really, the gifts were incredibly simple, but to Paul and me it provided a much needed distraction and boost to our low morale.

New toys, strollers, or infant seats. Perhaps your little ones received TOO many gifts and you need, for your own sanity, to unload some. Any Children's hospital will GLADLY take unopened baby gear off your hands. AND if you have the receipt you can use it as a tax write-off.

Cash donations. Maybe you're one of the few this year who had a GREAT year and you need to unload some cash. Any Children's hospital happily assist you. With this not-so-stellar economy even hospitals are struggling (heck, even Harvard University, which practically sits atop the original Boston Children's Hospital building, and provides the education for many of the fellows at CHB, lost 22% of their endowment!). And, if you donate enough you'll even make the Wall of Big Donors in the main lobby.

So, there you go. Four Heart Mama-inspired giving ideas that range in cost from free to the big bucks. You may never know exactly who will receive your gift. But you can be assured that no matter how large or small, your gift will make someones day, and possibly even save a life.

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