A is for Abigail

This book is a gift from Nana and Poppi. (Photo by Brienne Michelle, of course!) On Mother’s day this year, they took me to the Ronald Reagan Library to celebrate at their Mother’s Day Brunch. In the gift shop, we saw this book on the shelf. Everyone got all excited because Anthony and I had just announced, about a week prior, that if Peep turned out to be a girl, we would name her Abigail. Her Tia (which means “Aunt” in Spanish) wanted to get the book, and pouted when I pointed out that we still didn’t know if it was a girl. So we left the book on the shelf.

But the book had touched us all. My parents agreed that they would go get the book as a surprise for me in September if Peep was in fact a girl. 3 weeks later, Abigail arrived. So my parents made a special detour to the library before coming to visit me at the hospital the day after she was born. I was so touched. I thought it was so cool! And it wasn’t until I had held the book in my hands that I realized the tag line of the title: A is for Abigail; An Almanac of Amazing American Women.

The title is referencing Abigail Adams, the second First Lady of our country. I couldn’t believe how appropriate and poignant that was for me. She was less than 24 hours old when the book was purchased and she was already amazing. And Anthony and I have joked on several occasions that our children could not be more “American” if they tried – Our daughter is a true melting pot of heritage which makes us so proud. The book talks about who these women are (Abigail Adams, Emily Dickinson, Harriet Tubman, Sacagawea, and Susan B. Anthony,  just to name a few) and what they did for our country. The book encourages little girls to become the best American Women they can, and join their ranks. I’ve realized over the last 2 months that the sky is the limit for Abby – she can do ANYTHING. I know it in my heart. I feel it in my bones. She is destined for great things.

It dawned on me that I have spent most of my time writing about Abby’s conditions, rather than writing about her as a person. Truth be told, viewing her in a box every day makes it hard to realize that she is just that: A person. I mean, I understand the concept, but she is sort of one of those things you get scolded for touching in a really nice store. She’s meant for display only, and if you break it, you buy it. But in reality, she is so much more than that! She is a person! And she has a major personality to boot.

Abigail is almost 2 months old (and 32 weeks gestation) and boy has it been fun to watch her come to life! She has so many nicknames already that I can’t keep track of them all! Here are my favorites:

Princess

Angel

Peanut

Booger

Little Girl

Drama Queen

Squirmy Worm

Those are just a few.

That face!!! Oh, melt my hear why don’t ya?! Honestly, when Bree sent me this photo the day she took it, I truly did not see the mask. I was so focused on her eyes and her nose and her smile (and her hair!!) that I never noticed the tube and the tape. That is what Abby does – she makes me forget that I am in a hospital. She makes me forget that she is “sick.” She makes me happy to be alive!

I wrote one of those Acronym poems using her name. I used many of the words we use to describe her daily. The poem is below and an explanation of each descriptor follows:

A is for Abigail

B is for Beautiful

I is for Intelligent

G is for “Grabber!”

A is for Active, Alert, and Animated

I is for Impressive

L is for Lovable

A is for Abigail: I know, that is cheating. But I make up for it later, using 3 words for the second “A” in her name. And really, it is a descriptor in addition to her name. Abigail is a Hebrew name. I have found two meanings for it. The first is “Rejoicing.” The other is “Her Father’s Joy.” I assume the reference is to God the Father. But it fits in so many ways. She is such a miracle. She is such a fighter. She is such a joy in our lives. And she truly is Daddy’s little girl. She sleeps her best when she is in his arms. She loves to look at him and she smiles more often for him than she does for anyone else. Anthony holds her during the night shift every night. I hold during the day. And while he was away on a trip for three days this past weekend, I was so excited I’d get to hold her twice each day! But the first time I held her at night, she stared at me… and she just wouldn’t stop staring. She really did look confused. I think she wanted her Daddy! No surprise. She really is her father’s joy.

B is for Beautiful: Oh, gosh. Don’t get me started. I mean – you’ve seen the pictures haven’t you? I know, I’m SUPER biased. She is, after all, mine. But look at her! She has the “Francis” nose. It is a cute little button shape. And she has her Daddy’s eyes (Yippie!). She got my cheek bones, my forehead, and a combination of both of our hair. While it still hasn’t decided on a color, it is growing like a weed! It is thick and soft and CURLY!!! It is going to be curly. *sigh* And it isn’t just the “who does she look like?” features. I love her little face. It seems to have grabbed all the best qualities possible from both of us. At some angles, she looks just like her Daddy. At other angles, her pictures could be mistaken for my baby pictures. She is truly “our” child. And her body is perfect – in every sense of the word. I’ve explained before that many Preemies her age are born with deformities. Not the kind that last forever, but they look “weird” because they aren’t done growing. Abby looked like a miniature full term baby – perfect fingers, perfect toes, round head and all. She truly is a beautiful miracle.

I is for Intelligent: Ok, seriously people – We are in trouble! We’ve got a cognitive thinker on our hands, and that is dangerous at any age!!! At 3 weeks old, I took a video of Abby in her giraffe because I wanted to capture what the nurses were calling her “Daily Yoga Poses.” I got more than I bargained for. See, Abby is very strong for her size. And she was determined to show it. She would (quite literally) do “butt-ups” (a form of push-ups, without lifting the head). She could actually get herself into a yoga pose called the “downward dog” where her butt is waaaaaay up in the air, and her feet and hands (and head) are all on the bed. Well, when I went to video this crazy phenomenon, she decided now would be a good time to show off. Instead of just giving me the push-ups and the yoga pose (as if that wasn’t enough!) she showed me a new trick. She pushed off of the bed with her feet, and (at the same time) pulled really hard with her hands and managed to scoot herself forward. For all intents and purposes, she had just crawled, if that is possible for a 3 week old!!! And I have it on video. The Dr. had apparently seen it before and laughed. She told me she is one cute smartie-pants to have been able to figure that out already. Technically she shouldn’t be that strong OR that smart at this stage. Well there you have it. After this, I was also told by several other nurses of their adventures with trying to keep Abby in the center of her bed. Turns out she had managed to scoot herself all the way forward one night and hit her head on the plastic wall of the box. Yikes!!! Time to seriously baby proof our house!!!

G is for Grabber: Abigail has a major grip! As I’ve said, she is super strong. And she likes to grab at things. At first it was just Anthony’s and my fingers. And she’d hold on for dear life, as if to say, “please don’t leave!” But as time went on, she started grabbing other things. Actually – pretty much anything within reach! She grabs all of her tubes. The ones on her face have to be tapped down REALLY well because she grabs at them. She has actually grabbed the nasal therm and yanked it out of her nose. Because the tape was pulling at her cheeks when she did this, she quickly shoved the nasal therm back up her nose. And the result was her very first bloody nose. AHHHH! And I was there to see it. Even more AHHHH! She grabs everything. Her favorites, though, are her nasal therm and her feeding tube. They had to adjust it several times when it went down her throat because she kept yanking it out a little and that isn’t good. Finally, they just put it down her nose so she couldn’t yank it out anymore. But she still plays with the tail, ALL THE TIME! She grabs fingers, she grabs arm hair, she grabs at her clothes and her blankets, she even grabs her own pacifier! And she’ll hold it there so she can suck on it (although I guess that should have gone under “Intelligent”). Oh, and she grabs things with her toes, too. Yup – she got her Daddy’s monkey toes. Boo! Man, am I going to have to keep an eye on this one. I guess Pup is going to learn the hard way about getting too close to her! One good grab of fur from Abby and he’ll steer clear! 😉

A is for Active, Alert, and Animated: Abby is a mover and a shaker. While she does sleep about 85-90% of her day, that 10-15% she is awake, she is AWAKE! She loves to look at things. She has tons of black and white pictures in her house because she loves to look around, and those are what is best for her eye sight developement. When she is out of her house, you will see her looking all around. She stares at faces. She stares at patterns. She stares at light fixtures, which we try to discourage, but we can’t win them all. She is so alert. And she loves to wiggle. “Wiggle Worm” is such an understantment. I’ve always been told that once babies are 3 months old, you really have to keep an eye on them because they start to roll around. Yea – she’s been moving around (and even rolling out of her nest in her house) from the moment she wasn’t connected to a ventilator. So no one, nurses, Dr.s, or parents alike, has been able to take an eye off of her from the get go. She LOVES to bust out of her swaddling. It is almost like a game to her. She thinks it is so funny! And she does this stretch that involves her whole body, and if you aren’t careful, she’ll roll right out of your hands. So we have to hold on pretty tight. And she makes the best faces! She is so animated. It is easy to tell when she is happy, sad, grumpy, tired, comfortable or uncomfortable…just read her face. She has no problem expressing herself. She uses her hands, too. She is a bit of a drama queen in that respect. She covers her face with her hands when she is upset. When We”ve fixed whatever was making her upset, she’ll place her hands on her forehead in a “woe is me” fashion. And when she’s happy, she covers her mouth like I would if I was laughing to hard. She smiles a lot, and only cries when she needs to. Yup, she’s a teeny tiny girl with a HUGE personality.

I is for Impressive: If I had a dollar for every time one of her doctors or nurses told mr my daughter was impressive, I’d take you out to lunch! Day one, she was impressive for taking a breath all on her own. In the beginning, she was impressive for responding to almost every treatment they tried. She was impressive for all the movement she was capable of, for feeding so well, and for how easy-going she was and still is. When she got sick, her recovery was impressive. Now, her growth is impressive. And the latest item of impressiveness is latching on to breast feed. Shee’s been “rooting” for about 2-3 weeks now. Rooting is all of the motions she makes with her mouth to indicate she is ready to try to latch on. In the beginning, it was just her mouth moving, and her tongue licking her lips, and her little sucking noises. Then, as time when on, she got more aggressive with it. She wasn’t just licking her lips anymore – she started licking me! And she got upset when it wasn’t what she wanted. Days before we tried Non-Nutritive breast-feeding for the first time, she was so determined to try, that she threw her head to one side in an attempt to get closer to my nipple. The day she turned 32 weeks gestation, we decided to give it a go. The nurses warned me that she might not figure it out quickly and not to get frustrated. We had 2 whole weeks before she could start feeding that way, anyway – so just let her play. NOPE! Day one, round one. She started rooting and I let her lick me. She knew exactly where she was and what she wanted. She opened her mouth SUPER wide, I brought her head to the nipple, and voila! She latched on. First try. Our nurse was so impressed, she called other nurses over to see. She continued to latch on several times that day, and still – every time we do non-nutritive, she latches on. They do her feedings now, while she does this so she makes the association that this will make her full. We still have a week and a half or so before she can actually feed off of me. But something tells me that she’s not going to have a problem with that either…

L is for lovable: This is a picture of my little princess, taken yesterday. 8 weeks old and 3 whole pounds.I love this little girl so much. And she makes it so easy! She is so loveable! She loves to be held and cuddled. She loves to be talked to, and she especially likes to be sung to. (You are my sunshine and Amazing Grace are among her favorites.) She is so content to be in our arms, and she shows it by having the best breathing readings and highest oxygen saturation when we hold her. What once was our 15 minute holds because that is all she could handle are now hour to hour and a half, plus! And she could last longer if she didn’t need the warmth of her house to keep her well. She makes Anthony and I know that she loves us. She tells us, in her own special way, every day. She is just a joy and such a pleasure to be with. She makes me happy and she truly has completed our little family circle (for now…). I miss her every moment I am away from her. And we are both so happy to see each other when I arrive.

Speaking of which, I must go! I have to see my little angel! If Any of her nurses reading this would like to post more about her personality, I’d love to hear it, and I’m sure my readers would, too. Thanks ladies!!

-Jen

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The truth about breast feeding

IT ISN’T EASY!!!

And whoever said it was is full of beans!

Yet another WARNING!!
I’m about to write about breasts. Most specifically, my own. I will also be referring to them as anything from “boobs” or “Ta-Tas” or “the girls” or, as I have affectionately come to call them, “Righty and Lefty.” If that offends you, or if you don’t want to hear about my breasts, stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

I don’t know about you – but as a first time Mom, I did everything I could to learn about motherhood ahead of time. I reached out to Mommy communities (like The Bump and BabyCenter.com), I reached out to organizations specializing in becoming a Mom (like Le Leche League), and I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. And while I learned that there is A LOT to learn, I also heard one pretty consistent train of thought: Mommy = Breast feeding.

It is pretty common knowledge that, medically speaking, breast-feeding is the best thing you can do for your baby. The nutrients, vitamins, and immunity boosters in there are pretty top-notch. But that is a medical fact. I.E. NOT an opinion. So why there are so many opinions out there on breast-feeding confuses me. And pretty much every opinion out there is that if you don’t breast feed your baby, you are a bad Mom.

HUH?!?!?! I’m not even a Mommy yet, and someone is saying there is potential for me to be a bad at it? It almost scares you into thinking there is no other way. I’ve heard everything from “Moms who don’t care about their babies are the ones who don’t breast feed” to “There is no such thing as ‘can’t’ breast feed – that Mom isn’t trying hard enough.” WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? I mean, talk about pressure!

On the flip side, every positive opinion about breast-feeding is flowery and delicate and sort of sugar-coated. Some are of the opinion that breast-feeding is “the most beautiful thing on earth.” Breast feeding is “easy and carefree.” Breast feeding is “natural.” And oddly enough, these opinions put on pressure, too. They make it sound so easy and so great! But what if it isn’t easy? What if it isn’t great? Then not only am I a “bad mom,” I’m not “natural” either.

What I didn’t know until after Abby was born was that my fears about breast-feeding were as common as eating eggs for breakfast. I told Anthony during the whole pregnancy, “I’m going to breast feed!” Anthony had a better grip on reality (as he normally does). We talked it out and he made me think long and hard about it. He was so concerned that I was becoming too obsessed with breast-feeding and that it was going to have some serious postpartum repercussions if (for any reason) it didn’t work out. So we made an agreement. We were going to try our best to help me breast feed Abby, but if it didn’t work, then we would pick the best formula money could buy.

Oh no! I was only 4 months pregnant and I had uttered the “F” word. Formula was some sort of swear word in the baby/mommy communities. I had just agreed to possibly be that mom that “didn’t try hard enough.”… Are you getting it? Do you see the kind of downward spiral this idea puts on us? During a time when our emotions are just ridiculous and our brains fell out of our ear as soon as the word “pregnant” registered? It creates a worry and a stress that is just silly.

So, fast forward to June 3rd. I. WAS. TERRIFIED. She’s 24 weeks premature! There is no way my milk has come in! There is no way I can do this! I’ve failed before I even start! (And please note: Yes, failure. The pressure put on me from these communities really did make it seem like I had failed.)

Lois, the lactation consultant came in to chat. She brought the hospital pump and a book on feeding preemies. She told me that if my milk came in, I’d be pumping for quite some time because Abby isn’t ready to be put to the breast yet. She taught me how to use the pump and how to bag the milk. She told me to relax (because I was obviously freaking out) and just let it happen. She took a picture of Abby off the wall and brought it to me. She told me to focus on the picture. We set it up, turned the pump on, and waited.

10 minutes of pumping produced only a small puddle of this rust colored liquid out of Righty. Lefty produced only a few drops of yellow liquid. I freaked out. Why are they two different colors???? Why is one giving more than the other???? What is wrong with ME????? It turns out that both are very common. Righty had something called “Rusty Pipe Syndrome.” (No joke, she showed me the term in a medical textbook the next day.) Rusty Pipes is when a blood vessel bursts in your breast from the suction. Blood gets into the colostrum. To full term babies, it isn’t harmful, and most mom’s never know they had it – because their milk goes into a baby’s mouth and not into a clear plastic bottle. Hence why you’ve probably never heard of it. But for Abby, we needed clean stuff. The solution? Pump it out – I had to do what is called “Pump and Dump” for that whole first day. As for Lefty, Lois thought that the milk just wasn’t in yet. She told me to give it time.

I had to pump for 10 minutes every 3 hours. By the afternoon Righty was going to town! But it was still all rust colored. So Anthony and my Mom had to pour that down the drain. It was physically painful to watch them do it. I’d just worked so hard for that! And Lefty wasn’t much help. Not only was nothing really coming out, but that boob seemed to be growing before my eyes. By the end of the day, Lefty was swollen, red, and hard to the touch. And it HURT!!! I was getting very discouraged. I couldn’t get Lefty to work, and Righty was bleeding to death. Great.

I told the nurse, but there wasn’t much she could do – she wasn’t a lactation consultant. She was sweet though. She wandered over to the nursery to talk to the nurses there. One said that Lefty was probably blocked. Try a heating pad to see if that helps. So my nurse brought me a heating pad, which was a no-no because the temperature couldn’t be regulated, but we had to try something! So with the promise that I wouldn’t let myself over heat, I left the heating pad on Lefty for about an hour. The swelling and redness went down a bit. So we tried it again. And Hallelujah!!! The flood gates opened!! Lefty had a lot to get rid of (and on day 2 of motherhood, “A lot” was still less than half an ounce). And no blood! Lefty’s milk (which was really colostrum, still) was usable!

And it was fascinating to watch. When you pump, you’ve got these clear suction cups on you (they look like the horn portion of an air horn you’d bring to a sporting event), and those cups filter the milk into a bottle. When the pump is sucking out the milk, it literally sprays in every direction. I always thought it was like a bottle where there is one stream pouring out. Nope – there is a stream here and another there, and they are both streaming in different directions, and then there is broader spray coming from yet another source. It is like a leaky sprinkler system. Kind of odd. Pumping is just odd, in general. It seriously made me feel like a milking cow. To the point that I still say, “Mooooooo!” when Anthony is around for it. And for those who are of the opinion that breast-feeding is “beautiful” and “easy” and “natural,” well goody for you. But I’ve got a news flash. It’s awkward. And it hurts. For me, getting it started was harder than passing my 10th grade geometry final. And I’m sorry – but hooking yourself up to plastic suction cups is anything but “natural.”

I asked my Mom why no one ever told me this was going to be so hard? And why so many people had lied and said exactly the opposite? I remember talking to one friend about it and she HATED it. She only did it because it was what was best for her baby and she was able to do it. She was happy that she stopped producing enough to feed her baby, so formula was introduced. And My mom told me that both my sister and I were breast-fed for only a short time. We were both jaundice and formula was needed. My mom told me that I didn’t know about all of this because it was one of those things that isn’t talked about. It is a subject quite like sex was in the 50’s. We don’t discuss that. It just happens, so deal with it. And then, we have a lack of information about how to make informed decisions. Yea – cause that’s a great plan. Sheesh. Well, dang it, I’m talking about it! Soap Box, here I come!

There was a sense of relief to know that I could at least produce milk for Abby. I couldn’t believe I was able to make it happen. But I’m still not done with the fear and anxiety. You see, the brain mechanism for “suck-swallow-breathe” doesn’t kick in until the 34 week mark. Today, Abby is at 32 weeks gestation. All of this time I’m producing milk like a cow farm (literally half of our freezer is FULL of milk bags), and not once has she been put to the breast. Until today, that has been too risky so she gets fed through a tube. And she may not take to the breast. She might not latch on. In all honesty, I think the girls are too big for her to get into her mouth (a problem teeny-tiny-little-me never thought I’d have!). She also may not be strong enough to suck the milk out. So breast-feeding may still not work for us. Again, Anthony had to sit me down and help me realize that it didn’t mean I was a bad mom. It may not take, and that is ok. At least we know I can pump and we can feed her what she needs through a bottle.

Jen Confession #182: I cried when the Doctors told me she’d be 2 months old before I would be able to try to put her to the breast. And honestly, I cried for no other reason than I thought it meant I wouldn’t be able to bond with my baby. There is yet another school of thought floating around out there in pregnancy world: No breast-feeding = No bonding. The way the idea comes across, a first time mom can truly be made to feel that our bond will never be as strong as it could be because we can’t or don’t breast feed. I cried because I really did think that there was no other way for Abby and I to bond. I couldn’t hold her, I couldn’t comfort her, and now I couldn’t feed her. The words “Bad Mommy” kept flashing in my head.

ENOUGH!

This is dumb. This is so utterly stupid. I’ve got news for the world at large – “I’M NOT A BAD MOMMY! SO SHOVE IT!”

It took me a couple of days to get there, but I quickly learned that the idea that breast-feeding is the ONLY good option is a bunch of bull shit. THAT’S RIGHT! I said a swear word. Bull SHIT! And then, I got angry. I got angry that these “experts,” these other mom’s, and these crazy people were able to instill fear. And I know that these types have also hurt other moms feelings who aren’t as lucky as me. My Mommy friends shall remain nameless, but I know of more than one occasion where someone actually said TO THEIR FACES that they were unfit mothers because they weren’t breast-feeding their baby. Who the hell do you people think you are? Do you people know that one of the MOST COMMON reasons a Mother can’t breast feed is stress? Yup. Stress. Anxiety. It’s a combo of stress stopping production and stress deterring the baby! These emotions have an actual physical effect on people. And look at what they are doing! They are creating stress!!!

I’m one of the lucky ones. My body miraculously produced milk for Abby 4 months early. But there are so many moms – especially those in my kind of situation, where it never happens. There are hundreds of reasons for the inability to produce milk. 95% of them are medical and cannot be treated. So, that idea of “she didn’t try hard enough” can take a hike off a very high cliff. Common things like thyroid problems or diabetes can make it hard or even impossible for women to produce. Did you know that? And as for the dreaded F word – did you know that NICU’s across the country are partnered with Enfamil? Enfamil makes a special formula JUST FOR PREEMIES that mimics the same nutrients and antibodies that breast milk has? And they worked so hard to perfect this formula because many women in my situation are not able to produce. And we’ve got to feed them something!!!

And let’s not forget the Dads! Hello? Dad’s don’t breast feed. Ever. So how the heck do you think they bond with their baby? By holding them and touching them and talking to them and spending time with them. Anthony even asked me far before Abby was born if I would be willing to pump some milk so that he could feed her, too. I was so touched by the initiative he was taking and the proactive approach, that I simply had to say yes to that! So we’ve known far before we ever had to deal with the NICU that dear old Dad would get his chance to feed her, too.  What do you have to say to that, crazy “breast-feeding only” people? Huh? Huh? Yea – bet you didn’t think about that one, did ya?

And as for the question of bonding, I’d say some pretty choice words to anyone who questioned my bonding capabilities with my baby. Abby is 7 and a half weeks old. Weeks at a time have gone by when neither Anthony or I could hold her, and we’ve still managed to bond with her. She knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who we are and when we are there. She responds to our touch, our voices, and our love. Literally – it is something tangible. She can feel our love. All the babies can. I have bonded with my baby girl. Past tense. Already happened. So has my husband. And today, at 32 weeks, is the first time she’ll get to try to latch on. While she is still too young to feed from my breasts, she is old enough to figure out how it works. It is called “Non-Nutritive breast-feeding” and it means that she’ll go through the motions without getting the nutrients. So I will pump today and empty out the Ta Tas before I head to the hospital. And we will give her the chance to try.

I’m not going to lie, I’m excited. But I’m more excited for the developmental implications this has for her than for the “mommy/baby” thing anymore. Sure – if she can do it, I’ll take it! I’m going to give it my best shot, because she deserves it. But I’m not going to push it. And while there will be some amount of disappointment if she can’t or doesn’t latch on, I can honestly say I’ll be fine. Because she is fine. And there are so many other ways to bond.

Normally, I would apologize to any of my readers who fall into the category of  the “breast feeding only” way of thinking, simply because I’m sure I’ve offended someone. But I’m not going to apologize. Because I’M offended. I’m offended that other women and even some prestigious organizations were able to make me feel like a failure. I’m offended that there are mothers out there who speak OPINIONS before knowing FACTS. I’m offended that there isn’t more information out there on exactly what breast-feeding entails and both the hardships and triumphs that are had by all. I’m offended that no one is talking about this. So no apologies. I’m a good mommy to my precious miracle baby, no matter how today goes. And I’m never going to let anyone tell me otherwise, again.

To all the mom’s out there – What is your story? I want to know. Good, bad, ugly, or indifferent, it is ALL important.

-Jen

One CRAZY case of gas

On Saturday night, I had an instant message conversation with one of Abby’s nurses (because I’m facebook friends with as many of them as I can find!) and I can’t tell you how awesome/awkward/hilarious it is to be ECSTATIC about the news she had for me: “Abby had a very big and very loud fart. It was hysterical.”

Yup. You read that right. Fart.

If you’ve read my status, you’ve seen that Abby has had a rough couple of days. On Wednesday  of last week, she started spitting up. While this is normal for newborns at home, it isn’t normal for a baby who has precise feeding amounts for her size and regularly digests her food well. So, when she does it more than once, it is a warning that something might be a little off. Usually it means that we’ve increased her feeding too much, or she hasn’t pooped recently, or she didn’t want to digest her multi-vitamins (because those are just gross…poor girl). But after spitting-up multiple times on both Wednesday and Thursday, the nurses started watching for other indicators that something might be wrong.

When I saw Abigail on Thursday afternoon, she was fine. She was her normal, active, alert, and animated self. Her color was good (a nice shade of pink) and I got to hold her for over an hour. When I left, we were still only concerned about the multiple spit-ups. But when Anthony and I arrived for our nighttime visit, something was definitely wrong. Her nurses had looks of serious concern, and my beautiful little girl was no longer pink – she was grey. She looked close to the color of an elephant, with pink undertones. And that animated face that you probably saw in Bree’s video last week? Gone. She was laid out like a limp doll. Her breathing was labored, she wasn’t moving, and (for the first time ever) she didn’t respond to my voice.

Her nurses didn’t need to spell it out for us – Abigail was sick. I had a meltdown. I had no control over the emotions. Fear for my precious angel overtook me and any strength I had left in reserves to keep it together suddenly disappeared. Tears were streaming down my face in a not-so-silent sob. I had to step away from her house in an attempt to pull it together. Anthony hugged me and said that I needed to remember our agreement – no negative energy inside the NICU. Those babies (not just Abby) can feel it, and it is our job to help keep them all healthy and stress free. I did the best I could. The waterworks never stopped completely, and I had that whole “snot nose” thing going on, but I managed to stop the sobs. Her nurses were sympathetic and tried to explain the situation as best they could without having any real answers.

****DISCLAIMER****
I am NOT a nurse. I am NOT a doctor. I wasn’t even a science major! So don’t quote me (or correct me, for that matter) on any of this. I will probably get a term wrong, or at the very least, misspelled. Ok. You’ve been warned. You can continue reading now.

On Thursday night, the answer to “what is wrong with her?” was, “She may have an infection. It is either in her intestine or in her lungs.” What?!?!? How did she get an infection? Well, it turns out that infections in preemies are common, and it could be any number of things. Only, with Abby, we thought we were in the clear because most infections happen in those first few weeks. She never got one, so we thought she wouldn’t. Yup, well, we were wrong. We will probably never pinpoint it exactly, but it could be anything from something that got in her food, to bacteria grew because something stopped working, to she breathed in a floating bacteria from the air.

If seeing my baby as limp and lifeless as a doll wasn’t scary enough, let’s remember what got us here in the first place – she came 16 weeks early due to an unexplained infection. The fear factor on Thursday was at a new level for me because, for the first time since she was born, no one was in control – we had to figure it out as we went along.

That night, the nurses sent us home – they had to focus on her care and my hovering/sobbing wasn’t helping. Her night nurse said she had tests to run and that she’d be done with them in about 2 hours time. I could call the NICU then to check in. So we went home and waited. 1am rolled around and the 2 hours were up. I called and the nurse told me that Dr. Ben-Avi (one of her 3 doctors) was coming in shortly to assess the test results. While the nurse could not diagnose, she could tell me what it “looked like.” Her breathing was normal for a preemie her size. So the problem wasn’t in her lungs (thank goodness!). Which meant it was in her intestine.

Abby was no longer tolerating her feeds. So they stopped them altogether. They also stopped all medications she was on at the time. An X-ray showed that her intestines were distended. This means that there are air pockets where bacteria can grow. Her belly was blowing up like a balloon, and the nurses could see “loops” which is what they call it when you can see the coils of the intestine through the skin because they are so inflamed. All of these symptoms pointed to an infection, so they started Abby on antibiotics in an IV right away. While we still didn’t know exactly what was wrong, the nurses and the doctor felt that this was something we could handle and that she would be fine in a few days. *whew*

Friday morning brought more answers. It appeared that, for reasons still unknown, Abby’s intestines stopped working. Again, this is common in preemies her size – I have to constantly remember that no amount of personality on her part will counter the fact that her whole system didn’t get the time it needed to develop. This was her body telling us, nope! Not ready for that much work, yet! Stop it! There is a very fancy, very long, very scientific name for “intestines not working” and it starts with “Nec.” That is all I know – don’t ask me to even try to repeat it because I can’t. The point is, it means that if they didn’t get all that air out soon, parts of her intestine could actually “die” and those portions would need to be surgically removed. Ahhh!!!!! Get it out! Get it out!

Well, getting that air out isn’t as easy as you might think. We can’t simply “flush” it out, and we certainly can’t just pop her like a balloon! Much of the air (that is now turning into gas) has to make it’s way out on its own…the only way gas does. The only things we can do to help are to a) not feed her, b) give her antibiotics, and c) suck out what little air we can without hurting her. So, in comes another tube down her throat to periodically suck small amounts of gas and bile out of her intestines. Poor thing… as if she didn’t already have enough wires and tubes attached to her!

And speaking of more wires, on Saturday Dr. Mah called to ask if we would consent to have a PICC line put in. Again, PICC stands for something I don’t remember, but I can explain it just fine. See, with babies as tiny as Abby, their veins are even tinier (is that a word?). So while an IV can be put in, the fluid going through will eventually saturate the vein and (for lack of a better term) “leak” inside her body. So they can’t keep an IV in any one vein for very long. When a baby needs 10 days of antibiotics plus fluids, plus lipids (liquid fats), it means they are constantly having to change veins, which means poking her every 12 hourse at least! We needed something better than an IV. In comes the PICC line. This is a SUPER tiny catheter (about the width of a strand of hair) that they thread through her vein. It goes from the point of entry (which for Abby is her right wrist) and threads through that vein all the way to her heart! (Ok, serious cringing every time I think about it!!). This line protects the vein and can stay in for very long periods of time. Abby’s will only stay in for as long as she needs the antibiotics.

The PICC line procedure is actually considered a “surgery.” While there is no cutting into her, or even anesthetics needed, it requires a surgically sterile environment, and it needs parental consent. So we were briefed on Saturday about the procedure, given the risks and the benefits, signed the papers and helped prep Abby for “surgery” (It isn’t nearly as traumatic as a real surgery, but it still has to be taken seriously.)

Here are a few pictures from Prep. Check out the size of that bed!!! It is what typical, full term babies are put on in the nursery to keep warm. I forget just how small she really is.

After the PICC line went in, we saw a big difference in her comfort level. Always a plus. We left before the actual procedure (they don’t recommend that parents watch things like that – she has already forgotten it went in, but I’d remember that forever). Oh, and she got her first Sweetie because of it! A Sweetie is a pacifier that has glucose (sugar) on it. Research has proven it to be an effective sedative for babies undergoing procedures like this (they give them to boys having circumcisions). She has been a paci baby from the get-go. So to have a paci that tasted so good was apparently more than sufficient. She sucked away on that thing and never noticed what Dr. Mah was doing. Thank goodness.

The only thing left to do was to give her another blood transfusion (her hemoglobin levels had still not returned to normal) and wait for this whole thing to pass (in her case both literaly and figuativley 😉 ). The blood that her Nana (my mother) donated for her was on file and ready to go! And the transfusion always does wonders for her – she came back to her normal pink color before the transfusion was even finished! And I find comfort knowing that she will forever have a little bit of my mom in her. Thank you, Nana! You’ve helped more than you’ll ever know!

By the time shift change rolled around on Saturday evening (around 7pm) things were starting to look better. Her color was back, she was awake and alert again, and the waiting game had begun. The first thing we needed was for her intestines to calm down. This means she needed to pass some serious gas. And at some point late that afternoon she did just that. Her day nurse was in the milk room (where all the breast milk is stored) and when she came out, everyone in the unit was laughing. When she asked what she had missed, the charge nurse told her that Abby had let out a very loud fart. So loud that many assumed it had been an adult! When a nurse said to the group that it had been Abby, someone had said they knew grown men who couldn’t fart that loud! Definitely worth a good laugh. And the end result for Abby was a significantly smaller tummy (from about 28 CM around to about 25 CM around) and a big smile on her face for the nurses. So, now you know why an IM that night that said “she farted” was music to my ears. 😉

I have to hand it to the women in this unit. The care they take of these children is phenomenal. Thursday, Abby was just so sick. And because her nurses were so proactive in her care (blood tests, X-rays, physical exams, etc.) they caught whatever was wrong with her early. So early that the infection never got big enough to show up in her blood test. But they treated her for an infection with strong antibiotics anyway, and they worked. Here we are on Wednesday, almost a week later, and she is about 90% back to normal! It is amazing what they can do!

We got to hold her yesterday. She was a wiggle worm for both of us, which is a great sign. She was rooting like crazy for me, but that is a WHOLE other story. She is still off her feedings for now, but she is doing so much better so those will probably start back up today or tomorrow. An X-ray yesterday (Tuesday) showed that while most of her intestine had gone back to normal, the end of her bowel was still distended. That needs to go down before we can feed her again. It is amazing to me that a bag of yellow fluid and some lipids help her so much! They tell me she hasn’t wanted to eat yet, but she will tell us when she gets hungry. I don’t blame her – I wouldn’t want to eat either, if my tummy had swelled up like that! But the good news is that this too, shall pass. She will be fine and it won’t set her homecoming back at all.

So there you have it. A story about baby gas that was worth writing down.

-Jen

One Incredible Year

If Anthony and I have a theme song for our first year of marriage, hands down it would have to be ‘Hold On” by Michael Buble. Here are the Lyrics:

Hold On, Michael Buble
Didn’t they always say we were the lucky ones?
I guess that we were once, babe, we were once,
But luck will leave you cursed, it is a faithless friend,
And in the end, when life has got you down,
You’ve got someone here that you can wrap your arms around.

So hold on to me tight,
Hold on to me tonight.
We are stronger here together,
Than we could ever be alone.
So hold on to me,
Don’t you ever let me go.

There’s a thousand ways for things to fall apart,
But it’s no ones fault, no it’s not our fault.
Maybe all the plans we made might not work out,
But I have no doubt, even though it’s hard to see.
I’ve got faith in us, and I believe in you and me.

So hold on to me tight.
Hold on, I promise it will be alright.
Cuz it’s you and me together,
And baby all we’ve got is time.
So hold on to me,
Hold on to me tonight.

There’s so many dreams that we have given up.
But take a look at all we’ve got,
And with this kind of love,
And what we’ve got here is enough.

So hold on to me tight.
Hold on, I promise it will be alright.
Cuz we are stronger here together,
Than we could ever be alone.
Just hold on to me,
Don’t you ever let me go.
Hold on to me, it’s gonna be alright.
Hold on to me tonight.

They always say, we were the lucky ones.

On the day I was released from the hospital, Anthony was the one who went and got the car. I was not ready to go home. I was not ready to leave my precious baby behind. It didn’t matter that I’d just held her hand. It didn’t matter that I’d be back that night. It didn’t matter that I was feeling better. At that moment I felt like the worst mother on earth – I was going home when she couldn’t. And I just couldn’t stop crying. After my mother and my nurse had helped me into the front passenger seat, telling me over and over again that I would be OK (when all I could do was nod my head at them through the tears) my amazing husband came through for me, once again. He had cued up the CD player to play this song on the ride home. It started playing the moment the passenger door closed. He took my hand before we drove off and he never once let go of it the whole ride home. He sang this song to me and he let me cry my heart out in that passenger seat. And when we made it the 4.4 miles to our front door, he kissed the hand that he had yet to let go of, looked me straight in my tear-stained face and promised me that no matter what happened, we were in this together and everything was going to be alright.

I have to be honest and say that it was not the first time in our 1 year of marriage that he has made this promise to me.

When Anthony and I were married last summer, all I could think about was how wonderful and easy our life together would be. And for the most part, that is pretty dead on. It is easy to love him. It is easy to be loved by him. It is wonderful to hear his voice on the phone or see him when I wake up in the morning. Our day-in and day-out is pretty much that: wonderful and easy. But as anyone who has survived a successful marriage (and I’m talking 20, 30, 40 years or more, not just one!) will tell you that marriage is far from easy. I always thought they meant that things like communication, finances, intimacy issues, the dreaded “In-laws”… you know, the “tough stuff”…were what made marriage hard. But I’ve come to find over our one humble year together that no, that is NOT what the seasoned vets are talking about. They are talking about life in general. It isn’t easy.

Our wedding was wonderful. One of the absolute best days of my life thus far. And our honeymoon was one that several people in my life still envy (and I’m ok with that). It truly was the trip of a lifetime. But once that whole fairytale aura wore off and reality set in, we started to learn what “tough” was. I had been laid off. We lived in southern California. We had an apartment (and all the bills that go with it), 2 SUV’s (with large gas tanks), 2 Smart phones, student loans and a DVR. We learned quickly that it is not cheap to live comfortably around here. So I started pounding the pavement… hard. In 1 month’s time I had been offered and completed 7 (count them… 7!) FINAL interviews. Meaning it came down to me and one other person every time. And every time I was told I was liked and was a good fit, and yadda-yadda-yadda, but the point was that I didn’t have the same amount of experience as the other guy, so sorry but we can’t offer you the job. I was getting so angry. So frustrated. I knew I could dance circles around some of these “more experienced” bozos if someone would just give me a stinking chance to try! And I was about to give up and go work at McDonalds just to have a paycheck.

And then, Anthony showed me, once again, how good it feels when someone has your back. He told me not to worry. At least we could pay for rent and food and gas for one car. If we needed to, we’d make do. But he told me he had faith in me and my abilities and that I’d get a job soon. He suggested that maybe I needed to look outside my field for now, just so we can get by and then we’ll work on finding me a job at a University when the economy got its ass in gear (yes, he did actually say that). For the first time in our marriage he had to look me in the eye and promise that everything would be alright.

I broadened my search, landed 2 final interviews and got offered both jobs. While both were over a $20,000 drop in salary annually, I was finally the one beating everyone else out in the experience field. And even with the pay cut, we had more than enough to get by. So at almost a year later, I’m still the Office Manager at Charming Pet Products because the economy still hasn’t gotten it together. But at least Anthony was right – we were fine.

Then came October. Jen confession #63. Every year that I get a flu shot, I get the flu. End of story. So, several years ago, I stopped getting the flu shot and have been flu free ever since. That is, until this past year. And of course it is this past year that we’ve had one of the deadliest flu epidemics in decades… H1N1 reared its ugly little head. Yes friends, in October of 2009 I contracted swine flu. Yuck.

This flu is gross. Because not only is it your usual fever, achy body, runny nose, over-all-feeling-like-crap, you add a cough and congestion element in that is nothing less than repulsive. It no longer “feels like crap.” It “feels like death.” And only because it makes you feel like you should be balled up in the fetal position and want your mommy like there is no tomorrow, does it doubly suck that it is as contagious as it is.

At a mere 3 months of marriage, Anthony and I couldn’t share a bed. Actually, we couldn’t share ANYTHING. For three weeks it was as if we were living two totally separate lives. Anthony slept on the futon in the living room and used the guest bathroom as his own. He took care of the dog, the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry, and anything else that needed to get done while I wasted away on our bed. I felt so helpless and like I was a burden. I couldn’t do anything for myself and even if I could I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. And I couldn’t even HUG my husband! Otherwise he’d catch it, too. Boo. At one point I got so upset with the whole situation that I kind of had a melt down. It was a  combination of crappy feeling and high emotions. And to make it all better, Anthony pulled a “No-No,” wrapped his arms around me, kissed my forehead, and promised me everything would be alright. He calmed me down, promptly took a VERY hot shower, and went back to his futon. About a week later, I was cleared to go back to work. Anthony never caught it.

The rest of ’09 passed in a blissfully uneventful way. We spent our first holidays together with our families. We did Thanksgiving with my family in Carson City, NV. We had a blast, adding Anthony to our family traditions. And it snowed!!! Christmas was our usual crazy schedule of getting every last family member within driving distance in on the fun. We got to decorate our apartment for Christmas, and we got a real Christmas tree. We were able to give each other our gifts in our own living room, and were just so thankful for everything we had.

We made our trip up north for the annual Greenia Family New Years Eve party. We had been “trying” to start our family for less than 3 months, and as we reached the New Year, I just KNEW I was pregnant. That, of course, was the great news. The bad news was that as 2010 started, so did my morning sickness. By the end of January (about 6 weeks in) I was so sick that my doctor felt it necessary to prescribe medication to help me through my first trimester. While I know I didn’t have it anywhere near as badly as some of the horror stories I’ve heard, I didn’t get off easy either. And on more than one hormone induced meltdown after vomiting more than I thought humanly possible, Anthony had to help me through it and promise me everything would be alright.

You know the rest – My pregnancy was amazing for the short period of time we could keep it going. And when Abigail came 16 weeks early, Anthony promised that everything would be alright – this time not because it knew it would be, but because both of us needed to believe it would be. We ended up promising this to each other several times in that first week she was with us.

Our Anniversary came and went. We love that our Anniversary always includes a holiday!! And Fireworks!! It was a great day that we spent together doing many of our favorite things. We also had a dinner/movie date which was awesome! And we stayed a little longer than normal for our 2 daily visits with Abby – because we could.

I know that every good wife will argue that they have the best husband around. And who am I to deny them? But I will say that after the amazing and highly eventful year we’ve had to start off our marriage with, Anthony pretty much takes the cake as far as #1 husbands go. I know that he’d say that I’m the #1 wife too. And that is simply because we believe it. There is NO ONE else that can make this work the way he has for me, and I for him. We are a solid team.

The best line in that song is the one that goes, “We are stronger here together than we could ever be alone.” And for us, it is our #1 truth. If Anthony and I have learned nothing else this year, it is that we are a force to be reckoned with when we stand together as one. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it another gazillion times – I would not have come through the birth of our daughter anywhere near as well as I did if it weren’t for him. He keeps me safe. He keeps me SANE!!! He’s got my back. And he means it when he promises that everything will be alright.

Cheers to us, Ant! Happy first anniversary with many, many more to come. I can’t wait for the stories we’ll be able to tell. I love you!

-Jen

July 2nd, 1/3 of the way home

When Abigail survived her first 24 hours, her doctors started making plans. Plans for her treatments, plans for her medications, and most importantly to Anthony and me: plans for when she will come home.

No doctor can tell for sure. It is far too early. But they have all said that if they HAD to predict, they would go on averages. The average Micro Preemie that does NOT have any significant setbacks (like surgery for example) will go home approximately two weeks before their original due date. For Abby, that would be right around 3 months from birth. If we play our cards right, she could actually come home ON Anthony’s 25th birthday (Sept. 3rd). And I thought getting engaged for my 25th birthday was the best gift ever. 😉

Well, if all that holds true, then today means we are one-third of the way there. Today, Abby is one month old. (And for those of you keeping track, tomorrow, she will be 29 weeks gestation!)

I can’t believe it! I mean, I know that everyone says this time passes so quickly and before you know it they are 16 and dating, but come on people! I swear to you, I JUST gave birth to her the other day. There is no possible way that a month has passed. A week or two, maybe, but 30 whole days? I cannot explain to you how mind-boggling that is. Nor can I tell you where those 30 days went. I know I spent her first 5 days in the hospital with her. But the other 25? Nope, no clue as to what happened to them. I have spent this time recovering and doing my darndest to get our lives back to “normal” but really… if the rest of the time she is in the NICU is going to pass this quickly, then I know we can do this!

I have been told that the average length of stay for a baby in the NICU is 10 days. Most babies we see are there for minor treatments and observations. At this point, we’ve tripled that! And it seems like no time at all. And it truly JUST dawned on me, as I sit here typing, that this means I have been a Mom for a month already, too. Wow. Just… wow.

Anthony seems to have a better grasp on time than I do. I asked, “Can you believe our little girl is already a month old?” and expected the same “yagada-yagada-yagada” double take I had. But no, he looks at me and says, “Yes, I can.” Oy. The realist is showing his spots again. He then gives me an account of just where those 30 days have gone, noting each with a reminder that we have pictures to prove it.

So I thought that now would be a good time to give you all a true update on Abigail’s progress so far, complete with pictures. Please note, while I find these pictures precious, it is not easy to look at a baby with so many wires and tubes stuck everywhere. But as I’ve become an advocate for letting the world know more about babies like Abby, as well as maintaining the “This-is-MY-blog-and-if-you-don’t-like-it-don’t-read-it” attitude, I feel it is one of the most appropriate places to showcase them. Consider yourself warned.

Abby, at birth, was able to achieve the unachievable. She breathed, on her own, as she was pulled out of my womb. At 24 weeks, such a feat is really unheard of, as her lungs are not yet developed enough to actually breathe automatically. She was, and still is, a fighter. When she was born, she got stuck… because she was so small and not “down” far enough. So Dr. David had to actually grab her by the back of the head to pull her out. At 24 weeks, her skin is so thin and so sensitive that this simple grab bruised her pretty badly. When we say she was born with a black eye, we aren’t kidding. The picture below shows her black eye, and a bruise in the shape of Dr. David’s thumb print below her left ear. Oh – and don’t worry – while it might look like it, her whole head wasn’t bruised… that is mostly her hair with a little blood from, oh you know, being born mixed in.

She started out her breathing treatments on the Ventilator – this machine did most of her breathing for her, automatically. But it was forcing her to breathe too deeply. It resulted in a small tear in her right lung. Which, in turn, made it harder for her to continue breathing on her own. So, she was quickly transferred from the ventilator to the Oscillator. This machine did all of her breathing for her in small short bursts of air straight to the lungs. These bionic breaths “puffed” so quickly and often that it literally made her body vibrate. The Doctors assured us that she was not in any pain or discomfort. In fact, she was more comfortable on the oscillator than the ventilator and it showed in her moods. The oscillator made her happy. She stayed on it for About a week. It did its job well – the tear in her lungs had healed, and she was strong enough to go back on the ventilator.

The black eye mask you see is to protect her from the blue light. The blue light is both a heating lamp and a treatment all in one, to help with the jaundice. The blue light is very helpful, but could severely damage her eyes, so she had to wear the mask in case she opened her eyes while we weren’t looking.

Ok, back to breathing. She did so well on the ventilator that they moved her from that to the “Nasal Canular” also known as a Nasal Therm. The Nasal Therm is a steady flow of oxygen that encourages breathing, but doesn’t do any of the breathing for her. Every breath she takes on this device is her own. She was on the nasal therm for less than 3 days. In the words of Dr. Mah (her neonatalogist), she “flunked” that test. Couldn’t keep up. But the good news is that we only had to take a half a step back, rather than go all the way back to the ventilator. In came the C-Pap. This is a mask that covers most of her face, with a long tube up the front – we thought it made her look like an elephant. This device provided a steady flow of oxygen that keeps her lungs inflated and forces her to take her own breaths. It works as a kind of breathing assistant. She was on this device for just over a week.

After a week of that one, Dr. Mah felt her lungs were strong enough to try the Nasal Therm one more time. This transition was made last Tuesday. As of today, she is still breathing with it – all on her own. Dr. Mah was looking for “progress” which to him meant flunking out in 4 days rather than 3. I don’t think anyone expected her to go more than 5 days, let alone 10 days! So we are super proud of how hard she is working.

In one month’s time, Abby has had two blood transfusions. We hope she won’t need any more, but a pint of her Nana’s A Positive blood is on hand, just in case. During week one, we were worried that she might have needed to be transferred to UCLA Medical Center to have surgery on her heart. Dr. Mah explained that there is an artery that we all have in the womb that closes up and (for lack of a better term) dissolves when we are born. At 24 weeks gestation, this artery was not wanting to close yet. But we needed it to. So, the first step was to give her a special medication that would hopefully close it. If that didn’t work, the second step was surgery. That would have meant a helicopter trip to UCLA Medical center, a surgery on her tiny little body, recovery time very far from home, and then another transfer back to Los Robles. I still stop and thank God every couple of days that the medication worked. Currently, her biggest problems are her low red blood cell counts (hence the 2 transfusions), her low sodium levels, and her small size. She gets Epogen shots every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to help her body produce the red blood cells. While I know nothing about what the numbers actually mean, I know that the report today was that she was at “40.” She was below 30 when she needed the transfusion. Her sodium needs to increase because that plays a big part in helping her grow. Which of course, is why she has the third problem… Her weight is increasing, and she is growing, but she isn’t growing at the rate that her doctors want her too. So she gets a dose of vitamins and a dose of sodium added to every feeding. Let’s hope that works.

All preemie babies have apnea. End of story. If you are more than 2 weeks early, you will experience apnea. At this gestation, breathing isn’t “automatic” like it is for the rest of us. Abby actually has to remember to breathe. Can you imagine that? Having to think about breathing? Luckily it is the only thing she has to think about because everything else is being taken care of for her. But anywhere from 5-12 times a day (on a bad day, even more) she stops breathing because she forgets. It happens mostly when she is in a deep sleep (because who can be expected to remember to breathe when you are sleeping???) So then her alarms go off because she isn’t breathing, and then more alarms go off because her heart rate drops too low because of lack of oxygen. It’s a vicious cycle. And the HARDEST part is that we have to stand there and let it happen. I know that sounds awful, and trust me, no one is going to let her forget to breathe for too long, but she has to learn. She has to learn how to make breathing automatic. She has to learn how to pull herself out of it and take another breath. So we watch her, and we watch her numbers on her monitor, and we wait…hoping she’ll do it on her own. If too much time passes (about 30 seconds or so) then the nurses take over. They wake her up and stimulate her which forces her to breathe again. The best part of my day is when the nurses tell me she hasn’t had too many “A’s and B’s” (which stands for Apnea and Bradacardium episodes (aka Brady’s, which is drops in heart rate). But we do have days that the news isn’t so great, like one last week where she had so many A’s & B’s that the nurses ran out of room to write them down on her chart and had to add a second page to her file for that day. Sheesh! Needless to say that was a day we couldn’t hold her, either. Those are the worst. Luckily, those days don’t happen that often, and even more lucky is that she seems to breathe at optimum capacities when Mommy or Daddy hold her. (I also get some kind of weird satisfaction when they pull her off of me and she screams in protest. While I don’t like hearing her cry, I do like knowing she’d rather be with me than in the fancy plastic box.)

This is what she looks like this week. Her feeding tube has been moved from her mouth to her nose, and the nasal therm is the smallest of all the breathing devices they have. So this is the most we’ve been able to see of her face so far. I gotta say, biased or not, I’ve got a cutie on my hands!

I know that many people are having trouble grasping just how tiny she is. She was born weighing 1 and a half pounds. That is the same weight as an iPad. And she was born 12 and 3/4 inches long. That is less than an inch longer than a standard school ruler – And that is head to toe.

To help everyone grasp just how small she is, Anthony and I did a little photo shoot of our own for all of you. Here are some pictures of her, laying next to some baby clothes. The first is a newborn outfit. This tiny little onsie is meant to fit the torso of a standard 7 or 8 pound baby in the first week of life. As you can see in the picture, what should only go from shoulder to hip covers her from head to toe.

So we went smaller. A friend sent us a “shirt” from a website that specializes in dressing preemies and micro preemies. This “shirt” is meant to fit a micro preemie about 3 or 4 pounds. Let’s remember that Abby is not yet 2 pounds. As you can see the “shirt” is more of a “dress” on her. And the beanie that comes with it is still far too large. But I will say that this is probably the first outfit she will fit into, hopefully within the month of July.

And last, but not least, shoes. As her mother, I felt that I should have the honor of buying my baby girl her first pair of shoes. Anthony, being the involved Dad that he is, felt he needed to pick out a pair, too. So in one night she got 2 new pairs of shoes!!! (But for this, we only used the ones I got her). These shoes are size “Newborn.” So small that many newborn babies don’t actually fit into them, or if they do, they last maybe a week or two. I’ll let the photo speak for itself.

Here she is today: 1 Month old. As of today she is 1 pound, 14 oz, and 13 3/4 inches long. My little Princess Abigail.

Happy Birthday, baby girl. I love you so much!! And I’m so proud of how far you’ve come!

-Jen