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:

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