Wednesday, August 29, 2012

{ Nine Weeks }

Dear Elaina Rae,
At nine weeks old, you are quite the little charmer. You smile and coo many times each day. You have frequent little "conversations" with Mommy, the back of the couch {you roll over to look at it while I'm changing your diaper and will often entertain yourself "talking" to the couch for 5-10 minutes}, and light fixtures. Your repertoire of sounds is increasing steadily; sometimes it's hard to tell if you are really excited and happy, or hysterical-about-to-cry!
Your favorite place to sleep is still on a warm body.
:: too hot for clothes! ::
Daddy and I both started this parenting thing strongly anti-baby-in-our-bed. When we put you in your cosleeper next to the bed, you often cry and fuss for hours before falling asleep. But if I put you next to me in our bed, you're usually sound asleep within 15 minutes. And since Daddy and I aren't huge fans of baby crying for hours during the middle of the night, we've eased up a bit on this front. ;-)
Last Thursday, you slept for seven hours without waking up! Glory Hallelujah!! You continued that streak, sleeping 6-7 hours, waking up to eat, then sleeping another 2-3 hours, 'til last night...and I don't think either of us wants to talk about last night. Let's just say that nonstop crying and wailing and fussing from 10:30pm till 3:00am was not how either of us wanted to spend last night, yes?
Recently, I discovered that you love to lie on the floor and "talk" to chair legs, the wall--anything that's within a couple feet of your face. Last week I put you on the floor next to me while I was folding laundry. You promptly rolled over onto your left side {your very favorite position--you have rolled onto your left since you were a couple weeks old} and started cooing at the wall. Then you realized your feet could touch the wall, and you started dancing away...and actually propelled yourself several inches down the hallway!

:: another hot day...don't worry, I don't take you in public in your skivvies! ::

:: picture time with Mama ::
You have always had a super strong neck, holding your head way up from the time you were a week or two old. Lately you have taken that skill to entirely new heights {literally!}, lifting up your entire upper body and holding yourself up for a minute or two at a time while you look around.

:: showing off your neck skills with Daddy ::
In spite of your love of holding your head up when we're holding you, you have absolutely no interest in doing so during tummy time. At least you don't hate tummy time anymore--but all you do is lie there, looking to one side, perfectly happy...but lift your head up? Exercise those neck muscles? No ma'am! Why waste perfectly good, comfortable time on your tummy by lifting up that enormous head? On more than one occasion, you've actually fallen asleep during tummy time. {I don't blame you, I'm a stomach sleeper too...much more comfy.}

:: finally, some of your size newborn onesies are getting a little snug, but all your newborn clothes still fit ::
I love all your little facial expressions. You talk with your whole face, girlfriend! Though I have yet to capture a true smile on camera; as soon as I bring out the camera you get really serious and frowny. I don't think you like the flash. At all.

You snort on the inhale all.the.time. when you cry, which is adorable and hilarious.

You make the sweetest little noises in your sleep; sometimes you look really worried and make almost-crying sounds. I wonder what you dream about?

:: CHEEKS! ::

:: Echo Babies of 2012: Meeting Violet, my former coworker's baby, who is 22 days older than you but almost three pounds heavier. ::
One thing that stands out to me lately is that you don't really look like a baby. Perhaps because you don't have much baby chub--nothing like the rolls I'm used to seeing on babies--you look more like a little person. A tiny little person, not a roly-poly baby. At your two-month checkup today, you weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces--almost three pounds above your birth weight!

Your eyelashes are getting longer and darker. They are so pretty!

Dear little Bug, your Daddy and I love you so much and we are just tickled pink to be your parents. You delight us daily as you reveal more and more of your sweet, quirky little personality. We can't wait to get to know you better as you grow up!

Friday, August 24, 2012

{ Miss Peanut's Story, Part IV }

After Lainie's stomach suction tube was removed and she began taking milk orally, our days settled into a three-hour rhythm focused on getting her to eat as much as possible at each feeding. It seems like such a little thing, but it was EVERYTHING at that point!

:: Sleeping Beauty ::

Fiona took out Elaina's epidural on Saturday evening, two days after it was put in. From then on, Lainie only needed Tylenol for pain control. The doctors had prescribed morphine for her as well, but she never needed it--in fact, after a couple of days, they switched the Tylenol from every four hours to every six. She was such a little trooper and never seemed to be in pain.

Getting the epidural out was a huge relief because it meant we could hold her without fear of jostling the catheter in her spine. It also meant that she didn't need continuous monitoring of her vital signs {heart rate and oxygen level}, so Fiona took off her EKG patches and the oxygen monitor. Suddenly our baby was hooked up to a lot less lines and monitors--holding her {especially when nursing} was no longer somewhat dangerous and full of tricky maneuvers! We slept so much better on Saturday night: there wasn't a monitor beeping continually in the background, and alarming each time Lainie stirred in her sleep.

:: Daddy giving Lainie a bottle ::

In the picture above, you can see a dressing over one of Lainie's three surgical incisions. Each incision was sealed with Dermabond, a topical skin adhesive. When the epidural was placed, a bit of the tape to hold it went over that incision, and when the epidural was removed, some of the Dermabond was pulled off. The dressing was just to protect the site, which took a little longer to heal than the other two incisions.

Our church family took such good care of us! They set up a meal schedule and people brought us dinner at the hospital. We absolutely love Seattle Children's Hospital and cannot speak highly enough of the employees and the institution, but their cafeteria is abysmal. I've eaten at quite a few hospital cafeterias, and this by far is the worst. Having company and a warm, delicious dinner each evening meant a lot to us.

:: Getting ready for her first sponge bath since birth, on July 4 {notice the infant socks on her hands to keep her from scratching herself...they were sooooo huge!}::

:: Admiring each other {this photo reminds me so much of her ultrasound profile!} ::

I think it was on Saturday afternoon that the decision was made to turn off Lainie's IV nutrition in hopes of getting her nice and hungry and encouraging her to eat more. They left the IV in her hand in case it was needed; it was a huge clunky thing, attached to a sort of brace to keep it stable, so it was like she had a cast from her elbow to her fingers. On July 2 {Monday}, her IV went bad, so they took it out and removed the brace. For the first time since she was born, we had a medical-device-free baby, unattached to any lines or monitors!

Around this time {Monday}, we learned that while 36 ml/feeding was the minimum goal for hydration, the minimum caloric goal--the smallest amount the surgeons thought she could consume to maintain her body weight--was 60 ml/feeding. Whoa! She was just barely eating 36 ml at most, but not all, feedings...and now we find out that they want her to eat almost double that?! We were incredibly discouraged by that news. Our nurses and the lactation consultants were also cautious about that number; they said that Lainie's stomach probably wasn't big enough to hold that much. I felt stuck: The surgeons were telling us that there were increased metabolic demands on Lainie's body, because she was recovering from surgery. She started out tiny and was losing weight, as all newborns do at first. Yet it was likely that her itty bitty stomach just wasn't big enough to eat that much milk all at once. Add to that the fact that she was a very sleepy newborn--probably sleepier than most because she was born more than two weeks early--and it seemed like we were headed for disaster. I could easily imagine us staying at the hospital for weeks trying to get Little Miss to eat 60 ml consistently at each feeding. Although they were dubious about the surgeons' goal for her feedings, our nurses and the lactation consultants constantly reassured us that this type of difficulty feeding is very normal for all newborns. Add to that that Lainie was recovering from major surgery, and she was doing fantastic! They kept telling us that, over and over. The discouragement must have been written all over my face each time I told her nurse how much she'd eaten and handed off a bottle of pumped breastmilk.

:: Lainie meets Julia, the other baby in our community group {11 weeks older than Lainie} ::

:: snuggling with Mama ::

:: hearing test on July 3 ::

:: bright eyes ::

:: still a bit of a conehead ::

Slowly, Lainie's feeding volumes c.r.e.p.t. closer to the 60 ml/feeding mark, but only close. Still, by the time Wednesday {July 4} rolled around, we--especially Mike--were confident that Lainie would be discharged. Much to our delight, the surgeon doing rounds that day was Dr. S, the surgeon who had spent so much time with us during our big day of ultrasounds and consultations in May. He remembered us and was very optimistic about Lainie's overall health, and sounded hopeful about discharging her that day. He said we would see how her next few meals went and make a decision about discharging after that.
I don't remember the exact numbers, but her next couple feeds were all under 60 ml. When the surgical resident came back late that afternoon, it was to tell us that the surgical team didn't think it was a good idea for Lainie to go home that day. They didn't want to discharge her, only to have her get worse {not eat enough and get sick/lose weight} and need to be re-admitted. We were bummed, and while Mike was pretty frustrated--he had been so sure we would go home that day--I was a little relieved. This whole feeding thing was something that only me and Lainie can do, and it made me uncomfortable to take her home when it was still such a struggle to get her to eat what they considered minimum requirements.
Our nurse that night was awesome. She said that she was "getting us out of here" and did Lainie's daily weight check with her dirty diaper on and after she had a full tummy.
I remember washing up the pumping equipment after Lainie's late evening feeding and crawling into bed next to Mike, looking out the window with him at the Seattle fireworks show. We were both disappointed not to be felt like we had lived in that hospital room f.o.r.e.v.e.r....
When the surgical team did rounds the next morning, the lead surgeon {a rather dour gentleman...I can say that now, right?} said that Lainie could go home! It was a good thing, too: Mike and I were literally wearing our last pieces of somewhat-clean clothing, because the family laundry room was being renovated and we were too lazy to go to a laundromat. Our nurses had the paperwork all ready to go, but we ended up waiting a couple more hours because Lainie needed one last blood draw. We packed up our stuff and Mike made multiple trips to the car. {The previous Sunday, our friends/neighbors Chris and Sarah had brought us dinner, and we'd asked them to swing by our house and bring the carseat and a couple newborn outfits. Since we'd been prepped for a hospital stay of at least 4-6 weeks, we hadn't brought any clothes for Lainie, let alone the carseat to get her home!}

:: Waiting for the last blood draw! ::
We dressed Little Miss for the first time...yes, she had lived in nothing but diapers and blankets for 8 days...she was literally swimming in that size newborn sleeper! Lainie went outside for the first time {her ambulance trip inside an incubator doesn't count!}, we wedged ourselves into the car amongst our bags of faintly stinky clothes and what probably amounted to 1.5 gallons of frozen breastmilk, and on July 5, just eight days after Elaina's birth, we took her home.

:: dressed! ::
Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

{ Midweek Date Night }

Last week, Lainie and I ventured down to our local farmer's market. It's quite small; just Wednesday afternoons from 3pm-7pm, and less than two dozen vendors, but it's fun and very picturesque {in the lighthouse park, the Puget Sound a few steps away}. I suggested to Mike that we go there for our date this week, so we did.

Disclaimer: You won't see evidence of Lainie or her stroller in any of these photos, but both were definitely present.


:: picking out sandwich bread {I just now noticed the tablecloth--love it!} ::

:: My dinner: pear and Gorgonzola pizza with caramelized onions ::

:: the pizza stand--cool oven, huh?! ::

:: One of the pizza guys pretended he was going to photobomb the shot, and Mike encouraged him to actually do it! ::

:: fresh two-patty cheeseburger {is anyone surprised that's what he chose?} ::

:: blackberry lavender ice cream bar for dessert ::

:: coconut lavender ice cream was SO delicious! {See the bouquet of dahlias Mike got me?} ::

Happy Date Night, Honey!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

{ Miss Peanut's Story, Part III }

As I write this post, I'm sitting on the couch with sleepy little Lainie nestled next to me. She's seven weeks old tomorrow. This morning I did something I haven't done since before she was born: I visited a couple of CDH blogs. A month or two before Lainie's birth, I found the blog of a couple whose first child {a daughter} had CDH and was treated at the same hospitals we were going to use. One CDH blog is linked to twenty others; pretty quickly I discovered an entire network of CDH families on the internet...and they completely freaked me out. Their babies were really sick, and/or still hospitalized months after birth, and/or had major complications--one little girl only lived a few weeks. After first discovering these blogs, I never went back. {As a friend pointed out, it does make sense that all the CDH blogs are on the worst-case-scenario side: You only keep writing about CDH if it's an ongoing issue. I'm not going to have a CDH-specific blog, because it's no longer something our family is dealing with.} Anywhosies, this morning I ventured back, and I was blown away all over again by how incredibly, deeply, overwhelmingly God has blessed us. I have a happy, healthy, completely "normal" seven-week-old baby at home with me; our biggest issues are thrush and that she doesn't like to sleep if she isn't snuggled against another human being.
This is not normal for CDH babies.
Elaina never needed a breathing tube. She never had problems with reflux, swallowing, or latching. Her heart was not affected by the hernia at all. Good grief, it appears her LUNGS were not affected by the hernia at all! NOTHING about Lainie's medical course is "normal" for CDH babies--she was, and is, off the charts "abnormal" in the very best ways. Even according to the doctors' conservative best case guesses prior to her birth, she'd be hospitalized at least 4-6 weeks. Their best case scenario--the best possible outcome they could imagine--was her being discharged from the hospital around now. Not five weeks ago.
Man, Jesus, You are awesome!!!
I have already forgotten the fear and the gut-wrenching unknowns of that season. I have forgotten how not knowing how anything was going to pan out and that undercurrent of fear was our normal for two months. I have already forgotten how much worse this could have been. I don't want to forget, because I don't want to forget the depths of mercy we have to be thankful for. If I forget how crazy bad things could have been, I don't recognize how crazy good things are. I'm frustrated with my lack of sleep these days; any other parent of a CDH baby would give the world for the privilege of sleeping in two-hour increments, if it meant their baby was healthy enough to go home.
Thank you, Jesus, for the shocking gifts You have given me, Mike, and Elaina. For the incredible gift of this little girl, healthier than anyone could imagine, eating like an eight-pound piglet, charming everyone with her smiles and her sleep talking and those blue, blue eyes.

Back to the story:
 Friday morning at rounds, the doctors told us that Lainie would probably be discharged from the NICU to a regular room that day. She wasn't in need of NICU-level care, so there was no reason to keep her there. We were shocked and ecstatic. I remember the neonatologist {who asked about her pooping the day before} saying that they were going to miss her; she's such a sweet, cute baby, but she really doesn't need to be in the NICU anymore.

We spent the morning hanging out with Baby Bug, holding her, and waiting for her to get a room assignment.

We discovered the trick for instantly calming Little Miss if she fussed: One hand cupping her feet and legs, the other hand gently holding down her arms. She would immediately relax and drift off. Mike spent a lot of time "holding" her like this...she loved it.

:: Ramah and Lainie...Lainie's head had already outgrown the hat she got from the university hospital, so they gave her a new one that was hand-knitted and donated to the Children's NICU ::

Sometime on Friday, I randomly thought of baby footprints {I still have no idea where that thought came from} and asked Mike if they'd taken Lainie's footprints at the university hospital. He didn't remember them doing that, so he called them and asked. They said they don't typically do footprints on babies that go to the NICU. ?!?!?! Ramah was Lainie's nurse again that day, and she very graciously hunted up a footprint kit and made us some footprints.

It was mid-afternoon by the time Lainie had a room assignment on the surgical floor. She got a new crib--it was huge and reminded me of a cage--and then Ramah and another nurse took us all to our new digs. I was a little nervous, because once Lainie was out of the NICU, we were no longer eligible to stay in a parent sleeping room. Comically, our tour of Children's had been scheduled for the day Lainie was born; as it was, we hadn't seen much beyond the NICU and cafeteria. I needn't have worried. This was our room in the surgical unit:

:: doesn't that crib look like a cage?! ::

The couch {seen in the first two photos} folds down into a double bed! It was actually pretty comfortable. The room was quite spacious, and we had our own private bathroom with a shower. Thank You Jesus!! This setup was even better than the parent sleeping rooms: much bigger room, much bigger bed, same room as our daughter, private bathroom, big windows. It felt luxurious, folks!

What I did not realize till a few days later, walking around the unit, is that most of the rooms on that floor are shared by two patients. We got one of the few single-patient rooms. With all the pumping and breastfeeding I did during our stay, I can't even *imagine* sharing the room with another family...

We met our sweet and unspeakably awesome and helpful nurse, Alysia {she was our day nurse Friday, Saturday, and Sunday}, and she showed me around the unit: linen closets {"If you need bath towels, new sheets, blankets for your baby, etc."}, elevators, the family area {"Feel free to use the fridge, freezer, and microwave--there are plenty of disposable dishes and utensils."}.

Our night nurse, Fiona, was equally awesome {we had her Friday and Saturday nights}. When I think about Fiona and Alysia now, I seriously get teared up and want to go find them and hug them and give them each a $500 Starbucks gift card RIGHT NOW and show them how well Lainie's doing. They both spent so much time with us, answered our dozens of questions, thought of our every need pretty much before we did, never rushed or answered a single phone call while they were in our room. They were both total godsends. When Alysia brought Fiona in to introduce her and Fiona saw teeny tiny Lainie in that enormous crib, she exclaimed delightedly, "Oh, it's a wee baby!" {Fiona is British; you have to read it with an English accent for the full effect.} As Alysia had said, having a baby less than 48 hours old on the post-surgical floor was quite unusual!

That night, I had just drifted off to sleep when I realized someone was coming in the room {we had pulled the curtain partially around the daybed}. Groggily I watched a lady in a lab coat fix her hair in front of the mirror on one of the cupboard doors before she went over to Lainie's crib. Retrospectively hilarious, since she thought Mike and I were asleep. A few minutes after she left, Fiona came in and said, "I'm so sorry to wake you, but the night resident just rounded on your baby, and she said we can take out her stomach suction tube, so I'm going to do that when I take her vitals at midnight."
Me {suddenly very much awake and incredulous}: "Does that mean she can eat?"
Fiona: "Yes, you can feed her after I take it out. I'll bring in a bottle and we can use some of your breastmilk that's in the refrigerator. I'll wake you when I come."

She's starting oral feeds at a little over 48 hours old...not when she's a few weeks old. I can't believe it. I can't believe it!

Needless to say, I couldn't really sleep! When Fiona came back, I watched her take out the tube, then I fed Lainie her first bottle with Mike and Fiona watching. {They wanted to use a bottle, rather than the breast, in order to measure how much she ate.} She ate an entire 30 ml--one ounce--very hungrily, which was phenomenal!! Mike and I were so excited, it was hard to go back to sleep--but that was definitely in our best interest, since we now needed to feed Lainie every 3 hours around the clock.

Even though Lainie was still getting nutrition through her IV, we learned that it was critically important for her to start eating more than she did at her next few feedings. She needed to eat a minimum of 36 ml per feeding for hydration, and that was not happening at each feed--sometimes by a long shot. At first we were feeding her pumped breastmilk in a bottle, but soon they got us a special baby scale that measures down to grams. One gram is approximately equal to one ml, so by weighing her before and after she breastfed, we could know how much she ate.

We didn't know it at the time, but this was the beginning of what was to be our biggest challenge for the rest of Lainie's hospitalization, and several weeks after: Getting her to eat. Every three hours, we went through the same routine:

~ Try to wake Lainie up {a long and sometimes unsuccessful process}: change her diaper, talk to her, tickle her, etc.
~ Weigh her
~ Nurse her and try to keep her awake--this was often very frustrating, as it was very difficult to keep her from falling asleep
~ But don't nurse more than 30 minutes, otherwise she will burn more calories than she takes in
~ Weigh her again
~ Record how much she ate
~ Pump for 15 minutes
~ Package up milk and give to nurse to freeze
~ Wash pumping equipment

All that takes at least an hour, so I generally had less than two hours till I had to do it all over again...and at night, that was definitely not long enough! {Sad but entertaining side note: The song that my phone plays as an alarm was going through my head pretty much the entire time we were at the hospital, because I heard it every.three.hours. I was SO SICK of that song!!}


: :a little jaundiced ::

:: trying to treat the jaundice with sunlight ::

Mike was incredibly helpful with all the pre- and post-feeding stuff. After a day or two, he volunteered to wash the pumping stuff at night so I could get a little more sleep. I felt bad, waking him from a sound sleep every three hours just to wash the pumping equipment, but I was so exhausted that the extra ten minutes of sleep was worth it. And Lainie slept like an angel in between feedings. We were lucky to see her eyeballs for a few minutes twice a day. She almost slept too was really, really difficult to {a} get her to wake up period, and {b} keep her awake while she was nursing. That was the main reason she often ate less than we wanted.

On Saturday evening, guess who popped in for a visit?! Chelle and her family, who just happened to be making a quick trip to our side of the state! It was so special for them to meet Lainie when she was only three days old! Chelle made the most beautiful quilt for'll see photos of it when I do a post about the nursery {whenever that may be}.


:: family photo, taken by Chelle ::

to be continued...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

{ Six Weeks }

Dear Little Lainie,

Today you are six weeks old! Just think: Before you were born, the doctors told us that if we were really super lucky, maybe you would only have to stay in the hospital for just 4-6 weeks after you were born. You were better than really super lucky: You were blessed by Jesus with what is probably the record for the shortest hospitalization of any CDH baby: eight days!

So now here you are, six weeks old, and tomorrow you will have been home for five weeks. You are still the sweetest, mellowest little girl. And when I say little, I mean little. At your four-week checkup, you weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces, which puts you in the seventh {yes, 7th} percentile for weight. We chose well when we nicknamed you Peanut prenatally--you are such a tiny little peanut! But your newborn clothes are starting to get just a tad snug...and you were literally swimming in them when you came home from the hospital.

At six weeks old, you love:
~ being held, by pretty much anyone. You love physical contact, and sleep a lot better if you are touching someone.
~ snuggling
~ stretching. If stretching were an Olympic sport, you, my dear, would be a medal contender. You seem to abide by the idea that you can never stretch too frequently or too vigorously.
~ sleeping next to Mama
~ your pacifier. Sometimes.
~ Daddy talking to you
~ being in the Baby Bjorn. Anytime. Anywhere. You love it!
~ holding your head up. Your neck is ridiculously strong.
~ having your bottom thumped and/or being jiggled up and down
~ farting. It makes you grin.
~ sponge baths. You get really quiet, then start making your happy, singsong sounds.

What you don't love:
~ real baths
~ tummy time
~ diaper changes
~ losing your pacifier
~ not being able to see/feel Mama when you think you ought to
~ camera flash
~ feeling the wind
~ being buckled into your carseat {though once your carseat is in motion as we walk to the car, you're fine}

What I love about six weeks old:
~ you're going for slightly longer stretches between feeds--up to 5.5 hours a few times! {Translation: a little more sleep for Mama! Yay!}
~ your baby smell
~ how incredibly soft your hair is
~ the way you immediately curl up into your comfy position and nestle when I put you on my chest
~ how floppy and relaxed you are after you eat
~ all the little noises you make while you sleep
~ the ever-so-slight beginnings of rolls on your thighs and upper arms
~ wrinkles on your wrists...rolls will be coming soon!
~ your smiles
~ your dainty little toes
~ how you stop crying or fussing immediately when I pick you up. Every.single.time.
~ your eyelashes...just yesterday I noticed they are getting longer, and they are oh-so-pretty!
~ happy grunts while you eat. Sometimes throughout your entire meal.
~ your long, long fingers
~ the hilarious incongruity of the man-size burps and farts that come out of tiny little you

Here are a few snapshots from the last week or so. When I look at these photos compared to ones from a few weeks ago, I can't believe how much you've grown. Even though you are still itsy-bitsy for a six-week-old, you've changed so much in a short amount of time!

:: tummy time, in the 30 seconds before you decided it was pure torture ::

:: talks with Daddy ::

:: sweetest little smile in your sleep ::

:: your first BBQ and bonfire, at Luke and Joanna's house {you slept through the entire evening} ::

:: keeping Daddy company while he works {if someone can't hold you on their chest for your nap, this is your second favorite way to sleep} ::

:: not entirely sure what you think of the bouncy chair! ::

:: in your happy place: the Baby Bjorn ::

:: first trip to the local beach--proof that we DO take you outside!! ::

:: it was a gorgeous evening...first your Daddy and I had burgers at Shake 'N' Go, then we got ice cream cones at Ivar's and ate them as we walked down the beach ::

:: sleepytime with Grandpa {Mike's dad} ::

:: typical reaction to the flash going off in your face ::

Lainie Bug, we couldn't love you more!!
Happy six week Birthday!