NICU day 71

After the drama late last night with E’s bad reaction to his shots, the nurse ended up putting him back on wall oxygen at 1 liter and gave him some Tylenol for his fever. He actually ended up having a pretty calm overnight and a relatively uneventful day today. This morning they were able to put him back on the tank and gradually turned him back down to 1/64 liter and he stayed there the rest of the day. He still had a fair number of desats today, but they were brief and only into the low 80s/occasionally high 70s — nothing like the scary 32 percent desat he had last night.

I had a pretty long conversation with his doctor today, and he feels confident last night was just a bad reaction to the vaccines, and that the worst is behind us. He also believes by the time his four month shots come around, he’ll be big and strong enough to handle them without any major issues. I’ll definitely bring it up with his pediatrician when the time comes to see if she recommends staggering them at all instead of doing them all at once. I will say, despite what happened last night, I’m still 100 percent pro-vaccine and believe the benefits far outweigh any negatives. As scary as last night was for me, he was in good hands and never in any real danger. At the end of the day, I trust his doctors know what they’re doing, and I trust that his pediatrician will know what to do in two months.

Another interesting conversation I had with his doctor today was around his progress and eventual release. He surprised me by stating the only thing still keeping him here are his feeding issues. He’s gaining weight like a champ (and is up another 40 grams tonight, bringing him to 6 lbs 4 oz), and he’s on the lowest oxygen support possible — a level of support we could actually go home with (though I’d still prefer not to, and the doctor thinks it’s unlikely we will either). The occasional desats E has are a product of shallow breathing and breathing pauses, but not any central apneic issues — and we’ve seen firsthand that bumping up his oxygen eliminates them altogether. The doctor said IF we had to bring him home on oxygen, they’d have us turn it up to somewhere around 1/8 liter, which is more than he needs, but would ensure he didn’t desat. So in theory, he could figure out nursing tomorrow and go home in a few days. Which is crazy. Also, highly unlikely. The more likely scenario is that he will take a few more weeks to figure it out, during which time he’ll kick his oxygen habit altogether as well. To be honest, I’d be okay spending a few more weeks here and getting to bring him home completely healthy and “wireless.” As long as this road has been, it would feel like it wasn’t quite over — like part of it had followed us home — if he came home still on oxygen.

It’s exciting to see how close we’re getting. I’m looking forward to closing this chapter on our lives and leaving the NICU behind for good.

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NICU day 61 and 2 months old

Today Emmett is two months old. And we’ve been here 61 days now. With any luck we’re about 2/3 of the way through this NICU journey.

I went into the office today so D was here most of the day. He seems to be doing better with his breathing and reflux, though they were having to chase his oxygen levels all over the place today. He’d desat and they’d turn his O2 up — and then he’d high-sat and they’d turn it down. They’re still having to suction him a fair amount, but he sounds better than he did the other day.

This evening I hurried back to the hospital after dinner so I could get here for his 8:30 cares and give breastfeeding another shot. I’m happy to say we had, by far, the most successful session to date. More about that below.

So here’s what’s going on at two months…

Adjusted age: 35 weeks

Stats: 5 lbs 5 oz and 17.5 inches. Like last month, I created the image below before they did his evening weigh-in. I figured like last month he’d maybe be an ounce or so off but wasn’t expecting him to put on a whopping 110 grams tonight!

Milestones: Getting moved to an open crib, stepping down to low-flow nasal cannula at 1 liter, beginning to breastfeed.

Sleeping: So far so good, but as I mentioned last month, at this gestation most preemies sleep pretty well. Within the next few weeks he should start showing his true colors.

Eating: 45 ML of breastmilk every three hours via NG tube, plus 26kcal of fortification added to my milk.  We got to try breastfeeding for the first time last week, and as of tonight I think it’s finally starting to click with him. I think it was a combination of him feeling better, simply getting bigger and more mature, and I think a lot of it was that I was more comfortable. For the past several days the lactation nurses had been telling me to hold him a particular way (“cross body” hold, with my hand holding his head), and I had been following their direction, even though it felt unnatural to hold him this way (I had always preferred to nurse Theo in a “cradle” hold, with his head in the crook of my arm). But since I had never fed a preemie before, I followed their direction. Tonight I did what felt natural to me, and was far more successful. Moral of the story? Listen to your instincts, mamas.

He still isn’t able to get much, but he was rooting around, opening his mouth and truly giving it his best effort. And several times he would latch and actually get in several good sucks before losing his “grip.” He probably would have done even better, but he got a vicious bout of the hiccups about halfway through and I could tell that just wiped all his energy. It was just such a relief to see him actually doing what he should, though, even if he needs more practice. I think the most discouraging part about the past few days is that he just didn’t seem to know what he was supposed to do. We’ll probably try weighted feeds tomorrow (where they weigh him immediately before and after to see how much he got), now that he seems to be actually getting a little. As he gets more and more by breast, they’ll start subtracting that amount from his tube feedings.

Personality: Like last month’s update, it’s still pretty early to see much personality shine through, but he’s certainly gotten more vocal about when he’s unhappy with something lately! Whether it’s reflux or those horrible eye exams he isn’t shy about speaking his mind.

Likes: Being held. His oxygen and heart rate are always at their best when one of us is holding him.

Dislikes: Reflux and eye exams. And boogers.

Mama: is down to pre-pregnancy weight but feeling pretty squishy still. I went to barre for the first time postpartum last week and am hoping to start making that a regular habit again.

I’m back at work now so that I can save the rest of my leave for when E comes home. It’s actually been kind of nice to be back. I only go into the office twice a week (usually Mondays and Fridays) and I work from the hospital Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’m thankful to have such an understanding employer, and this schedule allows me to have two “consecutive” days in the office (Friday and Monday), but still lets me get 2-3 days of hospital time in between so I don’t feel like I’m missing E too much. I also have most of my standing in-person meetings on Mondays and Fridays, and all the others I can easily call into. I’ve discovered the kids’ play room on our floor is quiet, has a desk, and is rarely used (the only kids allowed in the NICU anyway are siblings and they’re probably spending most of their time in their brother/sister’s room), so it’s perfect for taking calls.

I’m still obsessive about pumping (even though I despise it), but I’ve been able to stretch it out to every three hours during the day and and 4-6 hours at night, while still increasing supply. Currently getting about 33-35 oz per day, which is way more than he’s eating right now and we’re running out of freezer space in both the kitchen and the garage freezer!

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Birth, one month, two months.

Birth, one month, two months.

NICU day 56

Today had its ups and downs. After yesterday’s conversation with E’s team, I was excited to get to the hospital today and try breastfeeding. When I mentioned it to the nurse this morning, though (a new nurse we’d never had before), she said, “we usually don’t try that with babies who have breathing problems.” I instantly felt disappointed — and a bit defensive. First of all, he’s on 1 liter of oxygen and we were told we could try nursing once he got down to 2. Second of all, he has chronic lung disease, so by her standards we’d never breastfeed. Third, despite the CLD, he’s been doing pretty well lately (and the doctor said he’d hesitate to even label him CLD at this point since he responded so well to the steroids) so her “breathing problems” comment rubbed me the wrong way. Thankfully I was able to talk to the lactation consultant, who was still on board with trying today, and the doctor was in agreement this was the right time too. So the nurse finally agreed.

The nursing went pretty well. He would latch and then fall off, latch and fall off, and then went to sleep after about 20 minutes of this. So I don’t think he really got much and they didn’t bother weighing him before and after to check, but the LC said it was a great effort for his first time, considering how little he still is. Our plan is to do this once a day until he starts to get the hang of it, and then we’ll kick off the official 72 hour breastfeed. Meanwhile, he’s still getting full meals via feeding tube.

Unfortunately, his reflux seems to be bothering him quite a bit today. He was desatting a ton and he just sounds so uncomfortable when he breathes. This evening at one point he even sneezed and milk shot out his nose. It had been over an hour since his last feed so it was all his previous meal that was backed up all the way into his nose. It’s frustrating listening to him snort and grunt and not be able to help him.

This evening I went to barre for the first time since before I gave birth. It was good to be back, but I definitely felt like I hadn’t been there in two months! I am definitely going to be sore tomorrow, but it feels good to work out again. I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I just feel squishy. I need to build up some muscle tone again. I grabbed a quick beer with my friend after class and then headed back to the hospital for the night. I have a feeling we’re in for a long night with all the snorting and desat alarms.

Weight was up 78 grams tonight, bringing him to 4 lbs 13.5 oz.

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NICU day 48

So, this happened today:

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Emmett got to ditch the isolette and is now in an open bassinet. At first I thought it seemed really soon. And then I realized he will be seven weeks old tomorrow. Seven weeks in the NICU, wow. If someone had told me months ago their baby had spent seven weeks in the NICU, I would have thought that sounded like the most awful thing in the world, but it’s flown by. Don’t get me wrong – this is by far the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through, and we’re only about halfway there. But we’re also doing okay. As I’ve said before, as long as he’s okay, I’m okay. And huge milestones like this really do wonders for keeping a positive outlook.

Speaking of positives, E gained 48 grams today and is now 4 lbs 1 oz. He’s down to 1 liter of flow on his oxygen and the nurse told me tonight that she thinks he could be off oxygen altogether within a few days. I’ll believe that when I see it, considering they’ve prepared us for the possibility that he could come home on oxygen due to the CLD. He also still has a few more days on the prednisolone and we’ve been told that babies can sometimes rebound a bit once they’re off it, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up until I see how he handles that. But the fact that we’re even talking about it blows my mind.

Now that he’s in the bassinet he’s wearing clothes, which is pretty exciting. Last night I washed a bunch of preemie clothes we’ve gotten as gifts and he’s gotten to wear two of his outfits today (he peed on one and needed a wardrobe change!). We also have free access to him and can pick him up if he cries now. He still has a lot of wires and tubes to navigate so I’m not very comfortable with that yet, but I’m sure that will come with time. It’s funny, he suddenly feels much more like he belongs to us instead of the hospital.

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NICU day 47

Today was a good day. D spent the night at the hospital last night and said Emmett had one of the best nights to date. This morning we took Theo to a 4th of July parade, and then I went back to the hospital so I could hold E this afternoon. When I got there, not only was E swaddled in his isolette, but he was wearing clothes! His temperature on his isolette was turned down to 26C, and the nurse gave me the great news that he would be moving to a crib tomorrow! They will also be turning his oxygen down to 1 liter, which is officially low-flow. Lots of great progress.

I didn’t get a lot of time with E today. Just the three hours I held him, and then I left the hospital to meet D and T at our friends’ house for more Fourth festivities. As hard as it was to have so little time with E today, I know he doesn’t consciously miss me while I’m gone, where T definitely does, so it was important to spend this holiday with him. It was good to see friends and we lit off a few fireworks after dark and kept T up WAY past his bedtime. So worth it to see the sheer elation on his face over the fireworks. D went back to the hospital for the night again and I came home with T to tuck him into bed. And then I started a load of laundry, including preemie clothes (!!) since we can start dressing him once he’s in the crib. The hospital will provide us with clothes if we want, but I figure we might as well use some of the preemie clothes we got as gifts since he probably won’t fit in them for long. He gained another 36 grams tonight, bringing him to 3 lbs 15 oz. There’s a very good chance we’ll crack 4 lbs tomorrow!

Baby clothes!

Baby clothes!

 

Cute kids

Cute kids

 

Sparkler fun.

Sparkler fun.

NICU day 46

One year ago, we got the news 13 weeks into our pregnancy that our baby no longer had a heartbeat. And while I’m grateful for how well E is doing, I can’t help but feel sad about the rough journey we’ve had to this point, and still have ahead of us. Four pregnancies: two miscarriages; one perfect, textbook pregnancy; one premature birth. My OB doesn’t think my preterm labor had anything to do with our losses, but she doesn’t know what caused it either, and we’ll probably never know. She did say if we were to get pregnant again I’d have to be on progesterone injections throughout the pregnancy — possibly in addition to the drug cocktail I was on this time around just to keep from miscarrying. Even then, there are no guarantees. Yeah, no thanks. My body hates babies. We’re done.

Interestingly, we have plans for the Fourth tomorrow with the same group of friends, at the same house we were at this time last year, after just learning we had lost our baby. I was still carrying my baby because I couldn’t get in for a D&C until the following week because of the holiday weekend. I was still wearing maternity pants, with a flowy top to hide a small baby bump. Many people at the party didn’t know we had even been pregnant, and I didn’t feel like talking about it. They had no idea the multiple glasses of wine I drank that night were the first I’d had in three months and that I so desperately wanted to escape the nightmare I was living yet again. Now here we are, one year later, living a different nightmare. It’s more bearable this time because our baby is alive. But it’s a lot more draining because it’s so drawn out and there are still so many unknowns.

But I should try to focus on the positives. Emmett is really doing very well, all things considered. The CLD is still haunting me because we don’t know how severely he’ll be impacted, but for the time being, he’s making forward progress. He’s continuing to gain weight. He’s still having occasional events but they aren’t too frequent or severe. He handled the drop to 2 liters of oxygen like a champ, and they’re talking about possibly dropping him to 1 tomorrow. He put on 28 grams today, bringing him to 3 lbs 14 oz.

His heart rate has been jumping up frequently these last couple days, but that seems to only happen when he’s agitated. The higher heart rate episodes seem to have coincided with when they started swaddling him – perhaps he just prefers having his arms free. And he has shown us that despite his lung issues, he can let out an impressive cry when he wants us to know he’s unhappy!

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