Monday, May 29, 2006

Who's Who?

Can you guess which photo is of Beth and which one is of Elliott?

We've been dying to put Beth in this outfit given to us for Elliott by our good friends. While it is a little boyish, Beth does look adorable...but which one is she?? Read the previous entry to find out.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

They Do Look Alike!

Answer to the photo quiz:
Beth is on the top photo (yellow background) and Elliott on the lower one. His eyes are a bit more open as this photo was taken at his 8 week birthday. Beth's was taken on May 26 when she was still less than 4 weeks gestational age. It is hard to believe she is really 4 months old based on her birthdate of January 31.

Elliott brought home a cold and shared it with all of us. Beth has a runny nose and a rattle in her breathing when she sleeps. We are watching her very closely because this could be dangerous. So far, no fever and no decreased appetite. Her lungs are very sensitive and any infection could cause damage. In fact, it is possible her lungs will have decreased capacity due to the ventilation while in the NICU but we won't find this out until much later in her life. Keeping her healthy is critical.

We are saying our prayers and keeping a keen eye on her.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Prefer the Real Thing!

The good news is that Beth is growing--quickly! On May 18 she measured 7 pounds and 7.5 ounces and a healthy 19.75 inches. This is comforting given the concern with her bottle aversion. She takes numerous supplements (Neo-sure for Calcium and Phosphorous, as well as Iron and a multi-vitamin). If she doesn't consume her bottle, she doesn't take in the required supplements. I have tried squirting the liquid supplements into the side of her mouth (very small dosages of .3 mls and .5 mls) but this isn't a preferred method given her aversion to anything plastic or latex in her mouth.

She still will take the Haberman bottle but it can take 45 minutes to consume 50 mls. We'll simply have to keep trying other techniques to keep her comfortable and willing to bottlefeed. If she isn't reliable...I'll have to remain by her side for the next year (no trouble really except if I ever expect to resume my consulting work!).

As with all new parents, we are somewhat sleep deprived. She feeds every 3-4 hours during the night and most nights will go right back to sleep after adequate burping. However, she INSISTS on sleeping on Mommy's chest between 3 or 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. It is really very cute; almost as if she misses me and needs to hear my heart beat for that last little time before dawn.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Life is Normal Now

Life with Beth is about as normal as it can be. We are still in shock and have to remind ourselves that she is here and safe. Her bouts of choking are growing less and less frequent. She seems better able to control herself while coughing. She has even shown us she can gulp down a bottle (55-60 mls) in about 5 minutes if she puts her mind to it. However as we add more Neo-sure to boost her calories, she seems less interested in the bottle and would rather breast-feed.

A nurse will come visit later this week and weigh her. We have many additional services at our disposal due to Beth's rocky start. We'll gladly take advantage of each of them. Weighing Beth is of utmost importance to us to make sure she is consuming enough calories.

For now, enjoy these photos and notice how completely "babylike" she seems. We are so pleased with her progress. She is handling noise and extra light very well. She is still a bit less than 7 pounds. We hope she'll eclipse this mark by Thursday.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Smiles for Everyone

Today is our actual due date. We have mixed feelings about this day but reality is that life with Beth is too busy to dwell on anything. She is healthy and doing much better with the bottle.

Beth weighed in at 6 pounds and ounces at her doctor appointment. She is 19.5 inches long and doing very well. The doctor showed us the preferred way to hold her when she is coughing and stops breathing. He also told us that she needs to hold her breath during these episodes. Her body is actually protecting her lungs from any fluid going down her windpipe so we should just let her hold her breath until she is ready to breathe. This makes sense now. Our first instinct is always to get her breathing as quickly as possible but as each episode gets less severe, we can see that her body is starting to develop its own timing and protection mechanisms. If she stops breathing for too long and really turns blue, then we know it is time to intervene.

traveling with a preemie is nerve-wracking. And when I say travel, I mean just a 20 minute drive to the doctor and navigating away from curious eyes. It is terrible to say this but we just don't want the average person poking their head into her carrier. I cover her with a blanket but her little coos are irresistible. I have resorted to carrying her up the stairs to avoid elevators. The doctor also reminded us to stay away from crowds and limit access by children. However, Elliott is bringing home all kinds of germs despite is best efforts and hand-washing. It is recommended that she have limited exposures for 3-6 months. He will also give Beth vaccinations as RSV which is a highly dangerous respiratory infection for babies and especially preemies. In the average adult and child, RSV seems like a cold but to Beth, it could have dire consequences. These vaccinations will start in October because RSV season runs from November to May.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gaining Weight, Charming Us All

Life in our home will never be the same. I know every family says this with a new addition and it is enormously true for us. Elliott finally has "his baby" home. Despite his pleas for her to sleep in his bed, she has her own bassinet, crib and room (although Mommy is sleeping in Beth's room to make sure she stays safe).

We also purchased a sound and movement monitor which seems to be working very well. If Beth ceases moving for 20 seconds an alarm goes off. While she hasn't set it off yet due to lack of movement, I have after forgetting to shut it off after removing her. If this ear-piercing alarm doesn't start her breathing in event of a brady...well let's hope we never have to experience that.

The Vitals
She left the hospital at 2990 grams (about 6 pounds and 9 ounces). She had lost a few ounces during our feeding trial on the weekend. This resulted from extra energy needed to nurse and that she didn't consume as many calories as she received on the gavage tube. I weighed her at the maternity store yesterday and she clocked a healthy 6 pounds 11.3 ounces or 3040 grams. This indicates she is bringing in enough food and we can relax a little bit.

She had a follow-up ROP exam (remember the eye development is skewed with extra oxygen). Her doctor said she had immature eyes with no abnormal development. This is what we want. She will have to be watched for most of her young life to see if she develops nearsightedness or other problems but she will likely have little or no impact to her vision. She has "graduated" out of the need for more exams unless we notice something amiss. The eye exam is a rather ugly process although they assure me it doesn't hurt. Her eyes are dilated and then anesthetized. A metal clip holds open her lids and the doctor peers in to look at the vein structure.

Feeding Well. Sleeping Lots.
Her job right now is to eat and sleep and she earns high marks for her expertise. She takes a good 50-80 mls from Daddy while bottle feeding. He has become her trusted expert. Given how difficult it was to feed her in the NICU, this is a great achievement. Even the best nurses had some trouble getting Beth to take a bottle of breastmilk. Remember the issue with the fortified breast milk? The doctor was concerned that Beth wouldn't take the NeoSure additive but she is sucking it down with Mike. I can get her take half a bottle during the day so between the two of use, she is getting her allotted 100 mls of NeoSure/Breastmilk. She is also nursing every 2-4 hours for 15-30 minutes. Given her weight gain, we are certain she is taking in enough.

Most of her day is spent sleeping. Last night she slept a 5 hour block despite my attempts to roust her. I tried diaper changes, cool air on her face, back rubs, talking and a few other tricks. Then I resorted to a cool wet washcloth. I rubbed her head then placed it on her exposed tummy. Oh, that seemed far to cruel but Beth squished her eyes even tighter, squeaked, squirmed, sighed...then passed out again. I spent nearly an hour trying to awaken her before I gave up and went back to sleep myself. She made up for it with a 30 minute nursing this morning.

The doctors want her to feed every 3 hours so this 5 hour block concerned me but we are too tired not to take advantage of extra time to sleep.

She seems quite alert after having been so sensitive in the NICU. Our home has lots of light so some rooms seem to agitate her a little bit but in all other respects, she seems like a full-term baby. Beth is noticing her surroundings and is reaching her hands out to grasp items. In the bouncy seat, she smiled and enjoyed looking at the toy bar and even managed to grab hold of the rings. Now, I'm not a developmental specialist but I am quite pleased to see such precocious behavior. This seems rather early to me given that she is still 1 week premature. It will be interesting to see where she lands on her developmental milestones over the next few months.

All in all, you would never know that Beth arrived in this world 14 weeks early and weighing 1 pound and 15 ounces. Every moment of every day we are amazed that she is here. And, every moment of every day, we miss her sister. Julianne will always remain in our hearts and thoughts and not a moment goes by that we wish she were here, too. It is an odd feeling to be ecstatic but mourning at the same time. I think it just makes the emotion of happiness that much stronger and sweeter. Life is about feeling and loving and the greater the intensity, there is more "life" in our lives.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Of Course We are Ready!

Beth's feeding trial was a great success. She took numerous bottles during the night and on into the Sunday. In fact, the feeding tube was not reinserted. She lost a few grams but nothing to be alarmed at.

Here is where the surprise came. On Sunday, we discussed a potential plan for bringing her home. The doctors wanted to make sure she wasn't losing weight and that she would take a supplement that included calcium and phosphorous for bone growth. Studies have also shown that these nutrients are critical for cognitive development and Beth should recieve them for at least a year.

Daddy had successfully given her a bottle with "NeoSure" supplements on Sunday but the nurses had no luck with her taking this supplement during the night. The doctor told us we might need to give her supplement drops each day. That would be fine except that the drops are compounded and the only pharmacy that can make this solution is at Mercy General which is downtown. I could handle that part but what we didn't expect to hear is that the solution needs to be refilled every 2 to 4 weeks necessitating a drive to Mercy General every two weeks with our highly sensitive preemie on board.

While I was concentrating on settling this issue. The doctor said, "why don't you take her home today." ...silence...

After all we've been through and all we have hoped for, when the time comes to hear those words "take her home", the world stops. I was speechless. We had anticipated going home this week but thought it would be on Wednesday or Thursday after an overnight stay, a few more tests and a few more ounces. We were planning to bring the entire family in the car so Elliott could be the escort. I still had two days to pick up a changing pad, wash basin and few other items we needed. Yet, there was no way I was going home without her now that the chance had arrived.

I couldn't think straight or talk. I had to call Mike and get my head reattached to my shoulders. I had carried the car seat around for weeks. I did have diapers and clothes and we had all the love and experience needed to keep her safely at home. All we needed was her.

Thirty minutes later when I had settled down and talked to Mike, I started to cry. He dashed over on his scooter (pretending to be the motorcade home). We signed papers, collected clothes, photos, special bottles, left-over breast milk and every little memento from her crib. Oh, and we did decide on using the NeoSure somewhere along the way so they gave us three cans to take home.

We took photos, finished our car seat test (she has to stay 60 minutes in the car seat without desatting or any issues), hugged everyone, paraded around the NICU, got a final feed in and then...we walked slowly and magically out the door.

I watched Beth in the mirror the entire ride home. Thank goodness I didn't crash. Mike rode along side on his scooter and looked ever so proud. He jetted up to Elliott's school while I stayed with Beth in the car seat. I wanted Elliott to see her in the car and get to walk up the stairs all together. We filmed everything. The house was a mess but who cared.

We are together for the very first time. Elliott got to hold and kiss his baby sister. We are all sleeping under the same roof, eating at the same table, breathing the same air and feeling the collective, unconditional love that families share. And if Elliott had had his way, everyone would be sleeping in his bed.