Tag Archives: NICU

Memory Lane

About 3 weeks ago, one of the NICU volunteer photographers came around to the bedsides of different babies and offered to take photos. I just received them and boy was it a trip down memory lane. While I’ve all but forgotten about our time in the NICU, it was nice to see such beautiful photos and have a stark reminder of how far we’ve come with Ben. Ben was 2 weeks and 2 days old in these photos.

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{During his stay in the NICU Ben had four different rooms. This is a photo of his first room down on the second floor, which is the lower level acuity floor. He shared this room with three other babies.}

{Changing his diaper was quite difficult because he had so many wires all over the place. At the most, he had 4 monitoring wires {heart rate, oxygen, breathing, temperature}, his PICC line {deep IV}, the feeding tube in his nose, his oxygen sensor on his foot, his HUGS tag {to make sure no one stole him} and his ID bracelet.}

{Changing his diaper was quite difficult because he had so many wires all over the place. At the most, he had 4 monitoring wires {heart rate, oxygen, breathing, temperature}, his PICC line {deep IV}, the feeding tube in his nose, his oxygen sensor on his foot, his HUGS tag {to make sure no one stole him} and his ID bracelet.}

{Precious feet with all the wires...}

{Precious feet with all the wires…}

{I'm happy to say that Ben has already outgrown this outfit! He was completely swimming in it when this photo was taken.}

{I’m happy to say that Ben has already outgrown this outfit! He was completely swimming in it when this photo was taken.}

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{I bought this mountain necklace not long after I found out I was pregnant with Ben. It didn’t symbolize anything at the time, other than that I love the mountains. Eventually I realized I wore it every day when I was hospitalized before Ben’s birth and I grew to associate this necklace with Ben and his strength, plus his nursery has a mountain-theme, so now it’s my Ben necklace.}

{His little face has filled out SO much since this day!}

{His little face has filled out SO much since this day!}

{This is a perfect photo summing up my days in the NICU, except not all of them were spent with a smile on my face - I sure did try!}

{This is a perfect photo summing up my days in the NICU, except not all of them were spent with a smile on my face – I sure did try!}

{It's great to have a reminder of how Ben's life started, though I don't intend on coming back to these photos very often!}

{It’s great to have a reminder of how Ben’s life started, though I don’t intend on coming back to these photos very often!}

The Homestretch

Today marks day 26 in the NICU. We probably won’t know for sure when Ben is coming home until the day he is discharged, but we do know we’re in the homestretch. Ben is doing fantastic, amazing and superb and is SO close to being ready to go home.

{This is Ben at the beginning of the week... he's made great gains since this moment.}

{This is Ben at the beginning of the week… he’s made great gains since this moment.}

This last week has been filled with some of the more frustrating days and experiences in the NICU and I haven’t had the energy to talk about them. Now that we’re so, so close to having Ben come home it’s gotten harder and harder and the hospital experience has become less tolerable. We’re worn down, stressed out, exhausted and ready for Ben to be home, but our heads are held high and we’re staying positive and encouraged by how well Ben is doing and how close we are to bringing him home.

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One of the difficult components of this last week has been that while he finished his “feeding pathways” feeding plan super fast and super strong, the doctor changed the rules that the nurses were going off of and said that Ben actually isn’t ready to come home yet. There was a major communication breakdown from the information the nurses were giving us to the information we were hearing from the doctor. The reason Ben hasn’t come home yet is because while he’s being bottle fed sometimes his heart rate drops because either he swallows too much milk or he hasn’t coordinated breathing along with sucking and swallowing, which is something that mature, full-term babies do.

{One of the best moments of the week was when Ben's feeding tube was removed! He is now eating 100% of his meals by mouth.}

{One of the best moments of the week was when Ben’s feeding tube was removed! He is now eating 100% of his meals by mouth.}

The doctor wants to make sure that we’re competent and comfortable feeding Ben because when we take him home we won’t have the support of the nurses and hospital staff in case he chokes. So, what he’s waiting for is either for Ben to mature a little bit more and develop the rhythm of suck, swallow, breathe, or for us to be completely effective at feeding him without him having any heart rate drops. Now that we have a little context to the feeding situation it has put a little more stress behind it, because while we originally were told that it’s not a big deal that he’s having heart rate drops while eating, it actually really could be a really big deal after all.

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One thing putting our minds at ease is that today Ben tried nursing for the first time. I have several friends with preemies and small babies and nursing has been really difficult for many of them, so I anticipated it would take a lot of patience and several tries. The feeding plan that Ben was on was not friendly or conducive to breastfeeding, which was extremely disappointing, so I had put off trying to start until Ben got home. Now that he’s done with the feeding plan and we’re still in the hospital and have the support of the lactation nurses I decided to give it a try today.

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I was floored how well Ben did – on his first try he had a full feed and his heart rate and oxygen saturation rate stayed completely constant and normal throughout the feeding and he did amazingly well. We won’t be able to exclusively nurse him for a while because he needs some fortification in the milk to provide extra calories so he gains weight at a slightly more rapid pace. It was so encouraging and rewarding to have this experience today.

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We are currently “rooming in” at the hospital with Ben, which is basically the last stage before discharge. What that means is that Ben was moved to a private room {hurrah!!!} and we’re staying here with him {well, at least one of us is} likely for the duration of his stay in the hospital, and providing all of his feedings and care while only receiving light supervision and guidance from the nurse. Thankfully his primary nurse, Megan, is here all weekend. She has put our minds at ease and it’s been refreshing to see her. She is very confident in our abilities and it’s her intention to be our discharge nurse this weekend.

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Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are so unbelievably excited to get Benjamin home and begin our life together. The last seven weeks have been quite trying and we have put our life on hold. We won’t ever have the same life we had before this all started, but we can’t wait to start a new one together, in our home, as a little family of three.

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NICU Life

I’ve shared a lot about how Ben has been doing and in turn it gives a little bit of background to our NICU experience, but I really haven’t talked much about what it’s like to have a baby in the NICU. Ben has spent 20 days in the NICU so far, and some of them have been easier than others, but until you have a baby in the NICU you really can only imagine what life is like.

{My daily skin-to-skin routine while Ben would get his meal via feeding tube.}

{My daily skin-to-skin routine while Ben would get his meal via feeding tube.}

We were lucky in that we knew that Ben would be born prematurely and that he would have some time in the NICU. Not all babies come out healthy, and we met some parents who had really big, full-term babies with normal deliveries, but who didn’t come out healthy and had to have an unexpected stay in the NICU, and then another whose baby arrived out of the blue at 26 weeks gestation. At least we had time to take a tour of the NICU, speak with a neonatologist and try to mentally prepare ourselves for what the journey would entail.

{Our sweet little love - so excited to see him without the NG tube in...}

{Our sweet little love – so excited to see him without the NG tube in…}

But in reality, it turns out there’s really no way to prepare yourself for life in the NICU. And there’s no way to prepare yourself to leave your baby behind when you get discharged after delivering him. And then again every single time you go visit him. Some days were easier to say “see you later” than others, and a lot of that depended on the nurse and how much confidence we had in her ability to take care of our little boy. One evening we had a nurse who we thought was unfriendly and incompetent and I spent our visit with Ben sobbing and dreading leaving him overnight with this particular nurse. I figured she really wasn’t incompetent, but she didn’t leave me feeling confident in her nursing skills.

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On the flip-side, we got to know several nurses who are extremely talented and compassionate. One of the nurses we regularly had so obviously cared for both the babies, but also the parents. She was very hands-on and when the parents weren’t there she would talk and sing to the babies and make sure they were getting some love. She is an excellent nurse.

{Our primary nurse helped us give Ben a bath!}

{Our primary nurse helped us give Ben a bath!}

My favorite part of the day is snuggling with Ben. While I wish it was at our house and on our terms  and with our blankets and without all of the wires attached to him, I am grateful for the time I get to spend with Ben. Alex loves being involved in his care and feeding him, as well, though he doesn’t get to spend as much time with Ben during the weekdays. It’s really hard having such limited time together and the visiting schedule is tough and leaves us exhausted.

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We have to plan our visits around his care and feeding schedule, as well as my pumping schedule, which means I have to be there by 8:15 a.m. {and get on the bus at 7:40 — I’ve been taking the bus because the cost of hospital parking is really expensive and for the first two weeks I couldn’t drive}, and then for our evening visits, we arrive at 8:30 and stay until around 10 p.m. – it makes for some very long days in the hospital. We’ve gotten into a good routine now, but as his feeding plan evolves this week I am positive it will change.

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There is constant change in the NICU – we’ve got our primary nurse, who is fantastic, but when she isn’t working we never know which nurse we’ll get, and almost every shift besides when we have our primary nurse, Ben has a brand new nurse who we have never met. It makes it tough to get in a groove, plus each nurse does things differently, has a different schedule and a different interpretation of “the rules” for the feeding plan.

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One of the more challenging NICU experiences for me has been Ben’s current feeding plan. I absolutely hate it. It’s a four phase plan, where he has to meet a particular feeding goal each shift for four consecutive shifts, and if he doesn’t “pass” then he has to start that phase over again. We’ve found that some of the nurses are a little more lenient on this than others, but what I hate is that Alex and I are learning how to feed Ben and it’s very, very particular how to feed such a tiny preemie.

{This is the feeding plan chart - the nurse marks off if Ben "passes" the goal for their shift, or she'll erase the phase if he fails.}

{This is the feeding plan chart – the nurse marks off if Ben “passes” the goal for their shift, or she’ll erase the phase if he fails and needs to start over. Ben is currently on the last shift of phase 2 of 4 — hopefully he’ll start phase 3 tomorrow.}

I don’t want my inexperience to be what sets him back and makes him have to start the phase over again. I also really want Ben to start learning how to breastfeed, but he’s not going to be able to pass right away, therefore he would have to start the phase again, which delays his discharge, so it makes me not want to try to start breastfeeding him until he comes home. It’s extremely frustrating, makes me crazy and stresses me out.

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That said, though, the nurses and the occupational therapist have taught us how to feed Ben and it is so rewarding to be able to hold a bottle for him and watch him learn how to take a bottle. He is making progress every day and each time we visit him we notice something new.

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There is so much noise and commotion in the NICU. Each baby is hooked up to a number of monitors that measure their heart rate, oxygen levels and breathing rates. Every time one of the numbers is high or low or has a bad signal the monitor goes off and beeps. Instinctively we’ll jerk our heads to look at the monitor and look to see if it’s Ben having a “brady” {heart rate drop} or a “desat” {desaturation in his oxygen} and thankfully it’s rare that it’s Ben. Basically it’s constant beeping in the NICU and after we’re done in the NICU if I hear those beeping sounds I’m sure it’ll trigger my hospital memories.

{Ben and his "binky" and hospital blankets... I swear if I never hear the word "binky" after the NICU I'll be a happier person!}

{Ben and his “binky” and hospital blankets… I swear if I never hear the word “binky” after the NICU I’ll be a happier person!}

While it’s tough to go through this, I have a feeling we’ll come out on the other side and remember it as a little blip on the radar. We’re also really, really lucky in so many ways about our situation — Ben was never sick and there was never anything wrong with him, he just needs to grow and learn how to eat. We consider ourselves fortunate for how easy we have the NICU situation compared to others.

Overall, it has been a pretty surreal experience. There’s this adorable little boy who I gave birth to and who we’re crazy about and think about and talk about constantly, but it feels like we only have visitation rights to go see him every day and be sort of involved with his care and day-to-day life, but then we go home without him and come back later to visit again. It’s really, really strange.

Ultimately, Ben is receiving really terrific care and has a team of experts working to make sure he grows and learns how to eat and is really ready for life at home before they release him to us. We are extremely grateful for the medical team and most of them have made the NICU time easier. We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and think he’ll be home before we know it.

Ben is Two Weeks Old!

Time is flying by {thankfully!} and our little boy is two weeks old! We have had so much fun getting to know Ben and seeing his personality start to show – he’s such a character already. We can’t wait to continue watching him grow up. One of my favorite things about Ben is how expressive he is – he’s always making some ridiculously cute/funny face – it’s hilarious sitting there watching him. He is an extremely content baby – he seldom cries and seems really chill – hopefully that keeps up!

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Here’s what’s going on with Ben:

  • Ben is doing exactly what he should be doing – sleeping, growing and learning to eat.
  • Ben weighs 3 pounds 14.5 ounces {his birth weight was 3 pounds 3 ounces} and is 17 inches long {he was 15 inches long at birth}.
  • He got moved down to the intermediate level nursery on Friday night, so he’s in a less intense care unit now. It’s much quieter downstairs!
  • Ben passed his “binky trainer” feeding program where he learned how to drink milk out of a pacifier. The pacifier was hooked up to a little tube, which was hooked up to a syringe filled with milk, so when he sucked on the pacifier he would be able to pull milk out of the syringe.
  • After passing the “binky trainer” he started bottle feeding! This is a four phase feeding plan, which begins with him taking the bottle once per nursing shift {there are two shifts per day} for four consecutive shifts. From here, it will move to him taking the bottle twice per shift for four shifts, then he’ll have to take the bottle for each feeding {every three hours} and then the last phase is he’ll have to demand his bottle for every feeding time. This whole four phase plan will take a minimum of eight days – likely many more than that as he learns to take a bottle and increase the volume he’s taking orally. We think it will take Ben a while to get through the first phase.
  • Ben can officially regulate his body temperature, so he came out of the isolette and is now in an open crib. This was a huge milestone, as this was one of the three things he needs to be able to do to come home! {The other two are: breathe on his own (done!) and bottle feed.}
{Ben got dressed finally! The nurses collect outfits for the babies in the NICU, so Ben has a little drawer full of his own hospital clothes. And this is a picture of Ben in his open crib...}

{Ben got dressed finally! The nurses collect outfits for the babies in the NICU, so Ben has a little drawer full of his own hospital clothes. And this is a picture of Ben in his open crib…}

{Another little outfit while Ben was still in his isolette.}

{Another little outfit while Ben was still in his isolette.}

{This kiddo makes the funniest darn faces!}

{This kiddo makes the funniest darn faces!}

{These two are already starting to dress alike!}

{These two are already starting to dress alike!}

{Waving hello in his sleep ;) }

{Waving hello in his sleep 😉 }

Time & A Disclaimer

I’ve been meaning to write this post for nearly two weeks now, which is a perfect segue into saying that holy cow there is not enough time in a day right now! For Alex, he’s juggling managing Jackson, going to work full-time and coming home, eating dinner and then going to the hospital to see Ben. I really thought I had more time but when it comes down to it, I really don’t at all! I spend four hours of my day pumping, about six hours visiting Ben, an hour napping, at least an hour, if not two, cooking/eating and then the day is basically accounted for.

{Catching up on sleep while snuggling with Benjamin.}

{Catching up on sleep while snuggling with Benjamin.}

My point in writing this is because so many of you have been so kind and thoughtful about checking in to see how Ben is doing and it is taking me forever to respond to texts and emails and especially phone calls. So, thank you for making sure we’re hanging in there {we are!!}, and I apologize if my response time is ridiculously long. I can’t imagine it will get any better once Ben comes home – maybe? But probably not!

{I managed to find a few minutes to swap out my maternity clothes for my pre-pregnancy wardrobe - had to trade in a nap for this one + laundry!}

{I managed to find a few minutes to swap out my maternity clothes for my pre-pregnancy wardrobe – had to trade in a nap for this one + laundry!}

{Jackson and Henry are our other priorities - they have been so cuddly and fun lately. We woke up one morning a few days ago and both of them were asleep together at the foot of our bed - it was such a sweet moment!}

{Jackson and Henry are our other priorities – they have been so cuddly and fun lately. We woke up one morning a few days ago and both of them were asleep together at the foot of our bed – it was such a sweet moment!}

Anyway, bear with us! We’ll get the hang of our schedule eventually…

Ben is One Week Old!

…Ok so he’s a week and two days old now – I can’t keep up with the posts!

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Ben is doing amazingly well and has had a really, really good week of growing, eating and sleeping – his three primary goals in life right now.

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Here’s the latest on Ben now that he’s in his second week of life:

  • Ben got his PICC line {deep IV that was providing electrolytes and fat} out yesterday! This is a great milestone because it means he’s only eating breast milk now. The breast milk is being fortified with some extra calories to help him pack on the pounds {rather, grams!}.
  • After spending just over 24 hours “under the lights” Ben’s bilirubin {jaundice} levels have dropped down to normal.
  • Not only is Ben back up to his birth weight, but he’s four ounces over his birth weight already! As of last night, Ben weighed 3 pounds 7 ounces. He’s steadily putting on about an ounce and a half a day.
  • Yesterday Ben got fed from a bottle for the first time. Normally his feedings are via his NG tube {that’s the tube that goes in his nose} but I pushed to see if he could try to bottle feed and see if he was ready. Turns out he’s not quite there yet!
  • Starting on Friday Ben will begin a new feeding protocol. This one is a multi-phase protocol that teaches him how to bottle feed. It begins with a “binky trainer” which is a pacifier that the nurse can somehow feed him milk through, so he has to suck on the pacifier {I am not fond of the word binky, but that’s what the nurses choose to call the pacifier} and work for the milk. This is to build the association of sucking with food and work up to taking the bottle.
  • The goal with each phase of this new protocol is that he’ll increase the amount of milk he is getting, ultimately via bottle, and work towards having all of his milk come from a bottle by the end of the protocol. The first part of the protocol is the binky trainer and then really “phase one” is the introduction to the bottle.
  • Basically when he is finished with this new feeding protocol is when he’ll be ready to come home. This will be the point where our patience will be tested a lot, I think, because it’s highly likely that there will be some regression. Each phase lasts a minimum of two days {and there are essentially six phases}, but he has to successfully consume the goal amount of milk in each nursing shift {two shifts per day} during the phase to move onto the next phase. If he doesn’t pass on one shift, he starts the phase over again. So if he passes each phase without repeating it again, that equals 12 days, but it’s very unlikely that will happen.
  • One of the other requirements for him to come home is that he needs to regulate his body temperature on his own. He’s super close to being able to do this! He is in an isolette, which is like an incubator, and the isolette is set at 30 degrees celsius, and when they drop it down to 28 it means he’s regulating his body temperature. They don’t arbitrarily drop it down – they adjust the isolette based on his body temperature. Eventually when he regulates his temperature he’ll be in an open crib, and he’ll probably be able to get dressed then!

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Upcoming milestones:

  • Friday {tomorrow}: Ben finishes his first feeding protocol and starts on his “binky trainer” protocol which will segue into his bottle feeding protocol.
  • Maybe tomorrow or shortly thereafter: Ben gets to move down to the lower level NICU! This is SUPER exciting – the lower levels are full right now, so he’s on a list for a bed and will move down whenever one is available.
{no PICC line in his right arm! woohoo!!}

{no PICC line in his right arm! woohoo!!}

Overall, Ben is doing really well! Again, his life goals are eating, sleeping and growing and that’s exactly what he’s doing. I’m spending several hours with him during the day, primarily doing skin-to-skin, and then we go back for a visit with Alex after he gets home from work. While we’d rather he was home, it’s clear he still needs to learn how to eat before it’s safe for him to be here with us. We’re crossing our fingers that he’ll be home by the end of June, but that’s up to him to decide.

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A Benjamin Update!

Our little Benjamin is doing fantastically well! We are so impressed with his resilience, but after our month in the hospital we are not surprised how strong he is.

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Here’s a little update on Ben:

  • Ben is on day 5 of a 9 day feeding protocol.
  • He is being fed breast milk through his NG tube {through his nose} and a combo of electrolytes and fat through his PICC line {a very deep IV}.
  • Every day the amount of breast milk that he is fed increases based on his weight {there is a specific algorithm within the feeding protocol that dictates this}.
  • Since he started receiving breast milk he has been gaining weight steadily – most babies lose weight for about the first week after birth, but by day 3 of life, Ben was already gaining weight.
  • Ben’s birth weight was 1440 grams {3 pounds 3 ounces} and as of last night he was back up to his birth weight! This is a really quick rebound, as most babies, especially preemies, take a week to 10 days to get back to their birth weight.
  • On day 3 of life, Ben started being able to suck on his pacifier and since then he has continued to work on his “suck” {very important for when he transitions to being bottle/breastfed}. This is a really great sign!
  • He loves skin-to-skin care and whenever one of us gets him on our chest he is out like a light within about a minute. He is showing signs of being able to regulate his body temperature while out of his controlled environment during the skin-to-skin time, which is a really important step in him being able to come home.
  • Ben got moved from an open bed to an isolette {pronounced eye-so-let}, which is basically an incubator. It’s harder to interact with him in the isolette {and MUCH harder to change his diapers!} but it’s a better environment for him – it helps him control his body temperature better and it keeps out the noise much, much better, which promotes more sleeping and growing for him. It is VERY loud in the NICU with monitors constantly beeping, babies crying and people talking.
  • Ben has spent the day today and will spend tomorrow “under the lights” because his bilirubin {jaundice} levels haven’t dropped as much as the doctors wanted. They aren’t particularly high, but they’re not decreasing on their own, so they decided that Ben needs phototherapy, which is basically sitting under the UV lights for two days.
{This is Ben's isolette - he is always so cozy and tucked in!}

{This is Ben’s isolette – he is always so cozy and tucked in!}

Upcoming milestones:

  • Wednesday: Ben’s PICC line comes out!!! This is VERY exciting because it means that he’ll be on breastmilk only {they will add a little fortification to it, though}. Then he’ll only have his NG tube {feeding tube through his nose} and then the rest of the wires on him are only monitors.
  • Friday: Ben will finish the 9 day feeding protocol and be re-assessed for what’s next with his feeding. We spoke to the doctors about how they’ll start introducing the bottle to him and it seems like it’s possible that will happen within the next week or so.
  • Starting Friday or sooner Ben will begin a new four-phase feeding protocol where he’ll be learning to drink from a bottle. How quickly he progresses through this protocol will determine when he can come home. The hospital is very regimented with how they introduce feeding and we’ll have to be very patient through this process because Ben is in charge and it could take a while.
  • To help teach Ben how to suck on the bottle they’ve been introducing the pacifier and dipping it in a little breastmilk. Eventually they’ll be able to feed him breastmilk through the pacifier and then transition to the bottle and then breast.
  • Possibly Friday/sometime soon after his feeding protocol is over he will be moved down to the less intensive care floors.
  • We still don’t know when he’ll be able to come home, and we likely won’t until we’re within a few days of his discharge. Our fingers are crossed that he’ll grasp the whole eating concept fairly quickly and be able to come home by the end of the month.

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The care we have been receiving at the hospital has been exceptional. I am so impressed with how the whole women and infants component of the hospital is run. There are so many support services for us, from the March of Dimes program {supports NICU families} to the lactation specialists, to the Lytle Center {a care center in the hospital designed to support pregnant and new moms} it’s truly incredible. I have learned so much and feel like if I have any questions or problems I will be able to get the help I need. That is making this whole process a lot easier!

The NICU & Our New Normal

We’ve had a solid month of adjusting to an assortment of “new normals” – from my hospital admissions, to waiting in limbo, to now being home but with a baby in the NICU. Each scenario has had its ups and downs, and this one is no different.

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I got discharged from the hospital two days earlier than expected because my recovery was going so well. The day of my discharge was a really, really hard day. I was emotional that morning seeing my teeny tiny baby being poked and prodded and realizing that’s all he knows right now is a life in a hospital and that basically broke my heart. And then I had to leave the hospital and go home without him.

Leaving the hospital on Thursday was extremely bittersweet. I was so ready to be home, but I had to leave my baby behind. Going home without Ben was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was overwhelming arriving home without Ben having been with us, knowing that he will remain in the hospital for several weeks. Our homecoming also seemed to coincide with my mama bear hormones changing, so that was fun.

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We have been through a lot, but it seems {hopefully!} like the hardest parts are behind us and now all Ben has to do is continue growing and eating and then he can come home with us. Alex found a great way to look at things – we’re just lucky enough to have gotten to meet our baby so much earlier than expected but he’s still got some cooking time where we can come visit him and hold him. That perspective has been really helpful for me and each day has been easier than the last. Today when we were visiting Ben we overheard another NICU mom being told that her baby basically had no brain development and that made me realize just how darn lucky we are. We’re in a tough situation but my goodness it could be a whole lot worse.

In any case, now that we’re home and Ben is still in the hospital and I’m recovering from my c-section, we’ve got a very new normal to adjust to. While my recovery is going very well I still have a lot of limitations {like no driving for two weeks!} and I am taking it very easy, which puts a little added work on Alex to pick up my slack. I’m officially on maternity leave and will be until three months after Ben comes home. Tomorrow Alex will go back to work, which will set in motion another new normal. Alex will work up until around the point that Ben comes home, then he’ll take a portion of his paternity leave through Labor Day.

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We’re trying to find a “schedule” that works for us – I’ll be going to spend the mornings with Benjamin while Alex is at work and then after dinner Alex and I will go see Ben again in the evenings. I am providing breastmilk for Ben, so that requires me to pump every 3 hours, round the clock, so don’t be thinking we’re sleeping through the night here without our baby being home!

{The animals have been coming to keep me company while I am pumping in the nursery - I think they're excited to meet their little brother!}

{The animals have been coming to keep me company while I am pumping in the nursery – I think they’re excited to meet their little brother!}

All in all, we’re adjusting really well to this new normal. The first day home was extremely difficult but every day since then has been fine. We would much rather be in our present situation than have me still be in the hospital awaiting “d-day” {which would have been tomorrow!}. It has been nice to move on from that phase and we are cherishing the time we are able to spend with Ben. We can’t wait for him to come home and shake up our “normal” again!

Ben’s Birth Story

Alex and I got to meet our little boy, Benjamin Ames, earlier this week on May 31st. Ben was born at 33 weeks 2 days gestation and weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces and was 15 inches long. The story of his arrival, including the days and weeks leading up to it is quite a dramatic one, but thankfully since he’s been in the outside world, all of our lives have calmed down and are forever changed for the better.

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After knowing for three and a half weeks that our babe had a “growth restriction” in utero and spending two and a half of those weeks in the hospital we had mentally prepared ourselves for pretty much anything. Throughout that time, the baby was being regularly monitored to keep track of his heart rate, the amniotic fluid levels and the flow restriction and rate from his umbilical cord. We knew at any time if any of those elements changed for the worse that we would get to meet our baby. The doctors were simply waiting for the moment when the tables turned and it became safer for our babe to be born than to stay inside.

{my hospital room - on my third and final admission I spent 14 nights here.}

{my hospital room – on my third and final admission I spent 14 nights here.}

 

The evening of May 30th was a rough one for me and the baby – I was hooked up to the monitors for several hours throughout the night and kept having contractions. The baby couldn’t handle the contractions very well, so the monitor was picking up an unusually high number of heart rate drops that night. It was really stressful and I was uncomfortable and nervous about the situation. The next morning I had an ultrasound and the results showed that the amniotic fluid levels were at the very low end of normal and that there was an absence of flow from the umbilical cord. The doctors made a quick decision based on the ultrasound and the baby’s heart rate from the night before that it was time to deliver the baby.

{my nurse, Kay, prepping me to go in for delivery.}

{my nurse, Kay, prepping me to go in for delivery.}

I had about two hours from the time they made the decision until the time I was in the operating room, so it didn’t feel terribly rushed. And yes I’m being serious that I didn’t feel rushed – my hope for the situation was that I had an hour and that it wasn’t an emergency, and I had both! Alex and I had a couple moments to ourselves to process what was going on and we got to let our parents and a couple close friends know that we were going to meet our baby that day.

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The whole process of delivery was really surreal. The nurses had prepped me in advance to know what to expect for the c-section and that was really helpful for me. Because of the baby’s prematurity there was a whole crew of people in the OR waiting for him to arrive – the neonatologist, a few nurses for the baby, a respiratory therapist for the baby, plus the anesthesiologist and the surgeon and nurses and all of the residents and fellows who were assisting {I was at a teaching hospital} in the process. I think there were probably 12 doctors and nurses altogether.

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Everything happened rather quickly – once I was numb it was really less than 30 minutes until the baby was out. I was really just laying there and all of a sudden I heard “they know it’s a boy, right!?” and then the baby let out his first cry. A few moments later they carried the baby over to a baby bed to assess him and make sure he was okay, meanwhile he was crying the whole time, which was terrific to hear because I knew it meant that he was okay. It was an overwhelmingly emotional moment knowing that our baby had been born.

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Benjamin Ames Allen was born at 11:21 that morning. His Apgar scores were 8 and 9. He weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces and was 15 inches long with a 29 cm head circumference. After they did the initial assessment of him they wrapped him up and brought him over to see me briefly before they took him up to the NICU.

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Alex went up to the NICU with Ben while I stayed in the operating room getting put back together and then I spent a couple hours in a recovery room. It was a really weird experience for me because everybody just kind of left and I was just hanging out getting stitched back up.

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Alex got to participate immediately in Ben’s care and learn first-hand what was going on with him. Because of Ben’s prematurity he will be staying in the NICU for a while – they’re not able to give us an accurate estimate yet because they’re still evaluating him, so for now they’re saying we should plan for him to stay until his due date.

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So far, in Ben’s first 72 hours of life he is showing tremendous strength and is doing exceptionally well. We’re not surprised with this at all given how well he put up with the less than ideal circumstances while he was in utero. We had two names picked out for him {no we aren’t sharing the other one} and we opted for Ben over the other name because it’s a more easy-going, calm name and we felt like throughout this whole situation he was so resilient and strong and just kept right on going even though his environment was really awful. We think he’s going to be one tough little cookie who will keep rolling with the punches. As for his middle name, Ames, we chose that because Ames is the town that Alex and I met in Iowa.

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We are so proud and overjoyed to be Ben’s parents and to have gotten to meet him already. While the circumstances surrounding his birth have been stressful and extremely difficult we are treating the situation like we’re getting a little sneak peak into meeting our kiddo early while he’s still “cooking” in the NICU for the rest/most of the rest of the third trimester.

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