Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My First Blog Post

Originally, when I was hospitalized with preterm labor, I sent out "update" e-mails to friends and family to let them know how we were all doing. Now that the babies are here, I have continued to send out e-mails, except now they are full of pictures which sometime exceed e-mail limitations. At the recommendation (or perhaps demand) of many recipients of my e-mail updates, Gary and I have begun this blog so that everyone can check on how things are going and see pictures of the babies without my needing to send out e-mails. So, I have tested my computer skills to the limit and this is the result. For continuity, I have posted on the blog all of the update e-mails that I have sent out. I considered revising them -- but decided that they are best just as they were written during the experience.

Now, on to the update. . . .

The babies are doing great! This past Thursday we bathed the babies. It was pretty funny. Afterward, they all had these looks on their faces that clearly said, "What the heck just happened to us?" Here are some pictures of each baby's expression after their baths:


And then today, we finally got all three babies together for a picture:

We've had lots of excitement over the last few days, so I'll try to go over it all the best I can, baby by baby.

PIPER: As of last night, Piper weighed 4 pounds and 11 ounces, and was 16 1/2 inches long (although Gary and I suspect that the length measurement is a little off, as she looks longer than that). Regardless, that is a significant weight gain! Piper is now attempting to take all of her feeds by bottle, but if she doesn't finish them she gets the rest via her feeding tube. Thankfully, she doesn't have to take very much by feeding tube. Piper had been on "human milk fortifier" (or HMF), which is a powder containing extra calories which was added to her milk. Well, she was gaining weight so rapidly on the HMF that she was taken off of it on Saturday. In order to go to a crib (and get out of the isolette), a baby must be able to maintain his or her temperature. Piper was "tested" yesterday and unfortunately didn't maintain her body temperature well enough to go to a crib, but the nurses think she'll be in a crib in a matter of days.

HENRY: As of last night, Henry weighed 5 pounds and 10 ounces, and was 18 3/4 inches long. Henry is also taking all of his feeds by bottle, and whatever he can't finish he takes by his feeding tube -- which is not much. Like Piper, Henry was on HMF and was taken off of it on Saturday due to his rapid weight gain. Henry also got the crib test yesterday -- and he passed! So, today Henry was in a crib! And, when a baby goes to a crib, the baby gets to wear REAL CLOTHES! Here is Henry in his first little outfit:

ROSEMARY: As of last night, Rosemary weighed an even 3 pounds and was 16 inches long. She has really done some growing lately. Also, Rosemary is now allowed to take two bottles a day, and is doing a great job with the bottle. As she gets bigger, she will be allowed more bottles each day. Despite her rapid weight gain, Rosemary is still on HMF simply because she has some catching up to do. Babies need to be on almost all bottle feeds before they go to a crib, so Rosemary needs to do some more growing before she can try the crib, but she is on her way!

As far as when they're going home, a doctor estimated about a week or two on Piper and Henry. He said that he suspects that Piper will make it home before Henry simply because he is still having "bradies" (which are heartrate drops as explained in a previous e-mail) about once a day, and Piper is not. A baby must be brady-free for 5 days before he or she can go home, so that would probably put Piper going home earlier than Henry. The doctor estimated that Rosemary would go home a week or two after Piper and Henry.

We cannot wait to get them home!

Friday, July 18, 2008

E-Mail Update #10

Hello, everyone!

I have new pictures attached. The first one is a pretty picture of Piper from this past Saturday. The second is a picture of Henry from last Friday being kangaroo'd, and the third is a picture of Rosemary from this past Saturday being kangaroo'd. The fourth is a picture of Piper and Henry meeting each other from this past Sunday -- they were wholly unimpressed by one another. The fifth is a picture of Rosemary from Wednesday with her new bracelet -- which happens to be Gary's wedding band (yes, she really is that small). The sixth picture I just love -- it's from this past Wednesday and it's Gary and Henry practicing how they're going to watch football games this fall.

As far as the kangaroo thing, it's also called "skin-to-skin" and is a way to keep the baby warm while bonding with Mom. Basically, we just shove a baby down my shirt and then I get to sit there and hold them. All sorts of studies show that kangaroo'ing has many benefits to the babies, including helping them eat better, maintain their body temperature better, etc. Plus I love getting to hold the babies.

As of Wednesday night, Piper weighed 3 pounds 10 ounces, which is 8 ounces up from her birthweight. Henry weighed 4 pounds 5 ounces, which is 6 ounces up from his birthweight. And Rosemary weighed 2 pounds 4 ounces, which is also 6 ounces up from her birthweight. This past Saturday, all of the babies got moved from the NICU they were in to another stepdown NICU. In fact, the babies skipped one stepdown NICU and are in the least critical NICU at UAB. We are so proud of them for making it to that NICU!

Other than the NICU move, the last week has been pretty uneventful for the babies, which is perfect. All of the babies are doing great and growing and eating well. Henry and Piper are taking two bottles a day and are slowly working up to all bottles. Because of the calories it takes to get a bottle, Rosemary is not allowed to try a bottle yet because she needs to conserve all the calories that she can. We expect her to be a champ at the bottle when she gets a shot at it, though! We still don't know when they will be home, but the goal now is for them to eat and grow and hopefully come home really soon.

I have a correction -- or clarification -- to make to my last e-mail update. I'm definitely not doing the nursery alone -- Gary has done a lot of work helping get the nursery ready, including putting together three cribs and moving anything and everything I've wanted moved around in the nursery. My mom has also been helping a lot with the nursery. And when I said that the house was in dire need of attention -- it was NOT because Gary had allowed the house to get out of control. In fact, Gary did a great job keeping up the house while I was in the hospital. The mess was because of all of the things that I brought home from the hospital as well as all of the things that are needed for three babies that seemed to multiply as every day went by. I did not mean to imply that I was doing it all by myself. (Gary, is that better?)

Hope you're all doing well!

Piper at 17 days:

Henry at 16 days:

Rosemary at 17 days:

Piper and Henry at 18 days:

Rosemary at 21 days:

Henry at 21 days:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

E-Mail Update #9

So, it has been a while since my last update. Even Gary was reminded this morning that it's been almost 2 weeks since the last update, so I decided I better hurry up and get something out! I'm failing miserably at responding to e-mails, and I realized this morning that I'm not sure where my cellphone is, so I'm sure I've missed many calls.

First of all, the babies are doing fabulous and much better than the doctors had expected babies born at 30 weeks to be doing. Secondly, I figure most people just want pictures -- so some are attached. Gary and I got 4th of July cards from the babies, thus the cute set-up for Piper and Henry. Unfortunately, Rosemary was having some eating issues that day (more on that below) and didn't get to get out of her isolette that day for the picture.

Many people have said that Piper looks like me and Henry like Gary. My mom thinks that Henry looks just like me and that Piper looks just like Gary, and that Rosemary is a mix of the two of us. Gary and I think that Rosemary seems to be taking after me. We think that Henry may resemble me and that Piper may resemble Gary. Gary's mom thinks that Henry looks like someone in their family, but she's not sure exactly who. . . . Gary said that babies are like clouds and it depends on what you're looking for -- it could be a dog, it could be a horse. I think it will be a while before we see exactly who the babies resemble.

As to the things you will see attached to the babies on the pictures: the tube coming out of their little noses or mouth is a feeding tube. It looks bad, but it's actually good because it means that the babies are eating. The babies aren't yet "old enough" to have much of a sucking reflex, so they have to eat through the tube mostly from now, although Henry and Piper have been taking a bit of their morning feeds with a bottle. As of today, all three babies are on "full feeds" (which means that they are eating as much as their weight will allow) and none of them have IVs any more. The wires attached to their chests are monitors for heartrate, etc. and the little boot around their feet keeps a monitor on them to check for oxygen saturation.

For premature babies, there is a big risk of a brain hemorrhage, or a brain bleed. Having a small one is common, but having a large one can indicate potential severe problems, especially disabilities. In order to see if there is a brain bleed, about a week after the babies are born the doctors review an ultrasound of the babies' brains. We had the ultrasounds done I am pleased to report that none of our babies had any brain bleeds at all. So, it looks like we have good lungs, good hearts, and good brains. Now we just need to get them eating well and gaining weight.

Another big concern is the risk of infection. If any baby shows any sign of infection, then the doctors recommend doing a "sepsis workup" on the baby, which is accomplished through a blood draw and a lumbar puncture -- which is a nice way of saying a spinal tap. Rosemary was showing some signs of an infection about a week ago and was not eating well (when she missed her 4th of July picture), so when I arrived at the hospital to visit I was immediately told about her problems and asked to sign a release for the lumbar puncture. There are some things that you never forget signing -- paperwork for your first car, purchasing your first home, your first legal document. . . . I will never forget signing that release. I think it's the hardest thing I've ever had to sign and I hope I never have to sign another one -- though I'm told it's likely that I will just because they are overly cautious in checking for infections. The great news is that we found out yesterday that all of the cultures from the workup are negative, and Rosemary has no infection.

Like term babies, premature babies lose weight after they are born and all of our babies did lose some weight initially, though all are now gaining steadily. As of this morning, Piper now weighs 3 pounds and 3 ounces, which is one ounce more than her birth weight. Henry weighs 3 pounds and 12 ounces, just 3 ounces shy of his birth weight. Rosemary weighs a whopping 2 pounds and 2 ounces, which is 4 ounces above her birth weight.

As far as coming home, the doctor who suggested two weeks for Henry was being a little too optimistic. We probably have 2 - 4 weeks on Henry and Piper before they come home, and probably 4 - 6 weeks on Rosemary, just because she's our little one. However, that is subject to change at any time. The babies are having very occasional spells of what the doctors refer to as "brady's" -- which is when the babies just kind of forget to breathe and their heartrates drop a bit. The doctors expect for premature babies to have these spells and constantly tell us not to worry about them, but they will not be allowed to come home until they go at least 5 days without one. Fortunately, we are having very few of these spells. When some premature babies have these spells they have to be "stimulated" to come out of them -- in other words, someone has to go tap them on the foot or sit them up to wake them up and remind them to breathe and get their heartrates up. Our babies have been able to bring themselves out of the spells without stimulation, which is a great sign. We are told that we can expect these to stop over the next 2 weeks or so, though it may take longer depending on each baby.

Many people have asked about visiting the babies. The babies are in a NICU, which means that no one can get into the nursery to see the babies unless accompanied by me or Gary. The babies only grow when they are sleeping, and upon doctor's recommendations, we avoid stimulation and extra visitors as much as possible. The babies need to stay in their isolettes as much as possible to rest, so even Gary and I do not get to hold them very much. We have held each baby about twice for 15-30 minutes or so, and mostly just sit and look at them while we are at the hospital. It may not be very different when the babies come home as far as visitors -- and some pediatricians recommend that premature babies do not leave the house for the first year and that there are no extra visitors other than very close family. Whereas a term baby will get sick from germs from other people, a premature baby could die. So, please don't be offended if you don't see the babies in person for a while or if we refuse visitors for many months. You will see pictures, though!

Overall, things are going better than we ever imagined. The schedule is hard, though. A c-section is no joke to recover from (and honestly I'm shocked that people are sent home with babies to take care of after one), so that's been a little harder than expected. I'm also having to recover from being pretty much immobile for the 14 weeks before the babies were born. Our nursery was practically empty when I got home from the hospital, so I'm working on getting that in order. The house in general is been in dire need of attention after all of our time in the hospital. Also, since our babies are premature, it is critical that they receive breastmilk, which means that I am using a pump every two hours to make sure we have enough milk for three babies. And that is on top of the visits to the hospital for several hours a day. . . . We are definitely staying busy already!

I hope you are all doing well, and thank you for the continued prayers and thoughts. I will try to do better on the updates!

Piper 4th of July:

Piper at 6 days:

Henry 4th of July:

Henry at 6 days:

Rosemary at 6 days:

Rosemary at 8 days: