Abby Update: 18 Days Old

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Weight: Almost 2 pounds, 15 ounces
Feedings: 25 milliliters fortified to 24 cal every 3 hours given over the course of 1 1/2 hours

This week Abby is just making slow and steady progress. Now that she is off the breathing support and has reached full feedings, she really just needs to keep doing what she’s doing and gain weight. Once she reaches 32 weeks, she’ll be allowed to start learning to nurse (although it will probably take two or three weeks before she “gets it”). Until then, this Saturday, no news is good news.

Abby has continued to spit up at the end of her feedings. On top of that, her blood sugars were starting to drop. So the nurses began to check her blood sugars a couple of times a day. This weekend they extended her feedings to stretch over 1 1/2 hours to try to help the blood sugar issue. Dan and I were just thinking today that Abby is literally eating half of the time! Today her blood sugar levels were nice and high so tomorrow she will probably go back to hour long feeds. As for the spit up issue, she continues to spit up, especially if we move her at all, but the amount is small and no one is really concerned.

For about the past week Abby has only been gaining about 15 grams (half and ounce) every two days. Now that she is getting 25 ml every three hours and it’s being fortified to 24 calories, she is expected to gain faster. Since the last weight check (they weigh every other day) she gained 45 grams (about an ounce and a half) which is much better.

On Friday Abigail reached the age at which Lydia was born. I pulled out Lydia’s NICU scrapbook and have been reading my updates that correspond to Abby’s current age. Contrary to how things have seemed to us, Abby is not progressing faster than Lydia. In fact, they’re pretty much at the same pace. However, with a busier schedule and a toddler to chase around, time seems to be going faster this time. And Dan and I were commenting that, although we never would have expected to say this a couple of years ago, Abby makes Lydia look like a chubby baby. Hopefully that won’t be the case for long!

As for the rest of us, we’re doing much better than we were a week ago. Dan’s Mom came down last Wednesday and stocked us up on some fresh produce. Then, his Aunt Debbie joined her on Thursday and together they unpacked us and moved us in. This is the second time we’ve had a baby in the NICU and had to have others move us in and it is SUCH a blessing. Now we don’t have to go home to boxes and dig around to find our stuff.

Our NICU Routine

How do you manage parenting a toddler and spending time with a NICU preemie? Leading up to Abby’s birth I really thought this would be completely impossible. When Lydia was in the NICU we were busy enough, never eating regular meals, never getting to the grocery store, never getting any sleep…however God gives us the grace we need to meet our present needs. Three different families are taking turns watching Lydia from Sundays through Fridays and we keep her all day on Saturdays. For a family that never left Lydia with anyone ever, it’s a little strange to pack her a lunch and drop her off at someone else’s house, but we are grateful for the help. Another family is picking up fresh produce for us once a week and bringing it to us at church. We’ve put together a weekly meal plan and have actually been able to sit down together for dinner almost every night. Other families have helped by bringing food, gift cards, and gifts for Abby. We certainly would be floundering without our family and church family.

Others have asked how they can help. At the moment the best thing anyone can do for us is pray. For those who are able, we do enjoy having visitors and showing off our tiny bundle. I’ll post the times we are usually at the hospital and available for visitors, but it’s always best to give us a call ahead of time to make sure we’ll be here so you don’t waste a trip. The bold times are when we have Lydia with us and are easier times for us to have visitors as we probably won’t be holding Abby during those times. (Getting to hold Abby is quite the process. We have to get her out of her isolette with all those wires and wrap her up in warm blankets with Mom or Dad. Then she gets her feeding while we hold for an hour or more. We usually don’t have people in to visit while we are holding.)

Sunday: 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM (we come right from church) and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Monday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Tuesday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Wednesday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Thursday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Friday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Saturday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Praise the Lord
We are thanking the Lord for:
-Abby’s continued progress with no major bumps in the road yet
-generous friends and family who have helped and are helping with moving, food, and watching Lydia
-a more relaxed pace as we settle into a routine
-a sweet husband who has been sacrificing his turns to hold Abby and letting me hold her instead (he says it’s “good for a Mommy’s heart)

Please Pray
-that Abby would gain weight and that spitting up would not be a problem
-for continued healing for me…it takes a long time to recover from a c-section, I am learning
-for strength, energy, and endurance for all of us as this is a tiring lifestyle

The Birth Story I’ll Never Tell

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As our due date approached, Dan and I felt very prepared for labor and delivery. I had studied up on childbirth and knew what to expect and different methods for coping with the contractions. I had written up a “cheat sheet” for Dan, telling him what I wanted him to know and what I wanted him to do to help me during labor, without getting into too much of the medical jargon or graphic details (he doesn’t do so well with anything medical). We were hoping for a natural birth, but were surrendered to whatever course God had for us. When my water broke, I called Dan at work and let him know. Soon enough we were at the hospital, and Lydia was being watched by a family from our church. Labor progressed steadily and just when I didn’t think I could take it anymore, our sweet baby was born. She let out a cry and the doctor handed her to me to hold right away, just like I had wanted. The next couple of days were filled with happy phone calls, lots of pictures, and some welcome visitors. Lydia came to the hospital to visit and we let her hold her new baby sister. She was so proud, and she even started learning to say her name! Two days after delivery, Dan wheeled me down to the hospital entrance and our nurse followed wheeling a cart with some flowers, a balloon, and the rest of our stuff. I got to hold the baby. Dan went to get the car and we loaded everything up and drove home. It felt good to sleep in my own bed in the apartment we had just moved in to a couple of months before our due date. Dan’s mom came down for a week to watch Lydia and I mostly rested with the baby as generous ladies from church provided us with two weeks worth of meals…

If you have been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that this was not our story. Lydia, our first little munchkin, was born 9 weeks early. Abigail, our second, was born 11 ½ weeks early. The births were eerily similar: my water broke when I was sleeping at around midnight, contractions started within an hour, the doctors were unable to stop or slow labor, and we found ourselves in the NICU with a preemie. This time, however, we had to have a c-section.

While the doctor was “putting me back together” and I was laying paralyzed on an operating table, she told me that she thought she knew the reason I was having early babies. Then Dan and I both thought she said I had a unicorn inside of me. Finally we got things cleared up a little bit and learned, as the doctor and nurses looked inside of me like some sort of weird science project, that I have a unicornuate uterus.

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Photo Credit: loveandmarriageblog.com

Basically that means that, half of my uterus is just solid muscle with no cavity, and the other half is normal. That also means that, when I’m pregnant, my babies only have half of the amount of room to grow, so when Baby reaches about 3 pounds, she runs out of room. My water breaks, labor starts, and we have another preemie.

I had a long talk with my OB a couple of days after Abby was born. Yes, I am still able to have more children. However, I will probably never make it past 32 weeks gestation. And, I have an increased chance of having breech babies.

The night after Abigail was born, I woke up in the middle of the night and was awake for a couple of hours trying to process this new information. I had a few difficult realizations:

I will never get to nurse my newborn.
I will never get to hold my newborn baby.
I will never get to bring my babies home with me when I’m discharged from the hospital.
My deliveries will always have to take place in the operating room adjacent to the NICU so my babies can be rushed out of my sight to the waiting team of doctors and nurses.
My babies will always have to spend weeks or months in the NICU.

There have been so many thoughts swirling around in my head since this discovery. This is perhaps the most significant event in my life so far that has made me mourn the affects of sin, the curse, and the brokenness in this world. It makes me long for heaven.

This morning, as I was thinking about all of this once again, I pulled out one of my favorite missionary biographies on Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. There is one chapter in particular that describes a year in Amy’s life when two of her spiritual mentors died and then one of the children that she had rescued as a baby also died. Many people began to console Amy by saying “It is very hard to see how this can be for the best”. Amy responded,

“We are not asked to SEE. Why need we when we KNOW? We know – not the answer to the inevitable Why, but the incontestable fact that is is for the best. “It is an irreparable loss, but is it faith at all if it is ‘hard to trust’ when things are entirely bewildering?”

So, as Dan and I continue our NICU visits, and eventually bring Abby home, we’ll keep processing this news and its implications for our family. And we will continue to cry out to God for grace to trust that all of this is for the best. I know there are plenty who have suffered far greater losses than this, and I don’t mean to minimize their trials. I’m just trying to be a little transparent about the trials God has allowed into our lives, hoping that some will be comforted or encouraged.

And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my Father,
Until it be according unto mine?
But, no, Lord, no, that never shall be, rather
I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.

I pray Thee hush the hurrying, eager longing,
I pray Thee soothe the pangs of keen desire –
See in my quiet places, wishes thronging –
Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.

And work in me to will and do Thy pleasure
Let all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry content my Well-Beloved’s leisure,
At last, at last, even as a weaned child.

Amy Carmichael

Abby Update: 2 Weeks Old

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Weight: 2 pounds, 13 ½ ounces
Feedings: 23 mililiters fortified to 22 cal every 3 hours given over the course of 1 hour

Abby keeps on cruising along. Preemies are given lipids and TPN through a PICC line. The lipids are basically fat. The TPN is basically food. As Abby has increased her feeding amounts each day, she has needed less and less of the lipids and TPN. On Sunday the doctor gave orders to stop lipids and on Monday her TPN was replaced with clear fluid. Yesterday they took out her PICC line! So now little Abby only has a feeding tube and the leads that monitor her breathing, heart rate, and oxygen level.

Yesterday the nurses started to feed Abby by connecting her food syringe to a pump that slowly gives her the food over the course of half and hour. Today they slowed it to one hour. Previously the food was just “plunged” in the syringe and given to her by gravity. However, research seems to show that babies do better with the slower, consistent rate of food being given using the pump. We’re hoping this helps reduce the amount of milk Abby is spitting up. Preemies often develop reflux, so it’s not terrible if she does too, but we’re hoping to pump will help.

Now that Abby has reached her “full feed” amount of milk, she has started receiving fortified milk. This means that formula is added to the milk to give it extra calories and is pretty typical for every preemie. We’ll wait and see over the next few days to find out how much weight she starts to gain with full feeds and fortified milk.

As for the rest of us, thank you all for your prayers! Yesterday as I held Abby I was so filled with thankfulness and peace as I reflected on God’s leading in all of this. What a change that was from a few nights ago! I am encouraged to think that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed” and also that our trials and suffering produce perseverance, character, and hope. I have also been thinking about how God definitely does give us more than we can handle on our own, but never more than we can handle with His help. God has been helping us and the past couple of days have been so much better. We are so thankful.

On Monday night, a couple from church came over to babysit while Lydia slept and Dan and I got to spend some nice time alone with Abby. Dan also started going in to work for a few hours on Monday and Lydia and I have been surviving alright without him. Since I’m not able to lift Lydia for two more weeks, I’ve been building “stairs” up to her high chair and crib for lunch and nap times. The first day was rough at nap time, but she’s figuring things out and cooperating very sweetly.

We are growing more and more certain that Dan’s nausea was due to stress, lack of sleep, and irregular meals. As we continue to adjust and figure out a routine all of those things have been starting to improve. I am enjoying our new apartment a lot already, even without having unpacked anything yet, and Lydia loves it here now that Dan has started taking her to the pond to feed the ducks every day or so. Since we expect to spend another 6-10 weeks in the NICU and then have a newborn at home, we know that we’ll be sleep deprived for quite a while (though I, at least, get a nap a day when Lydia naps) so if anyone has any tips for keeping our energy up besides drinking caffeine, we’re all ears!

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-Abby’s continued progress, that she is off her PICC line and continuing to breath well
-a new normal, settling into some sort of structure and no longer feeling quite like chickens running around with our heads cut off
-an apartment that is already feeling like home (to me) and doesn’t appear to be the cause of Dan’s illness
-that our first little munchkin has done so well with an irregular schedule, lots of different babysitters, late bed times, and less play time with Mommy and Daddy
-generous friends who have offered help in so many ways: watching Lydia, providing healthy food and gift cards, and so many who are praying

Please Pray
-that Abby would gain weight quickly, continue to breath and digest well, and not have problems with reflux
-for a more consistent routine for us
-for strength as we are both (Dan and I) very tired