NICU day 11

Another day down. I’m back in the NICU after about 24 hours away. I’ll stay through the night and the morning, and then D and I will trade off so I can take T to a birthday party tomorrow afternoon.

Emmett lost his IV last night, but they said he was doing so well on his feedings that they decided not to reinsert it. So there’s one less tube to worry about, at least, and now the IV sensors won’t be beeping every time the bag starts getting low. He lost about 10 grams between yesterday and today, which they attribute mostly to lack of IV fluids. He’s up to 14.2 inches, though, so he’s definitely growing. His bili levels were up again this afternoon, so he went back under the lights, and they’ll recheck his levels tomorrow morning. Things have otherwise been pretty uneventful — still going up and down on his O2 levels because he keeps either desatting or high-satting. All pretty par for the course, though.

This morning I woke up with a bit of a stuffy nose. I think it was just allergies, but with T’s runny nose yesterday I decided to play it safe and not hold him today. So D got to hold him for the first time instead. I wasn’t there since I was home with T, but he got a nurse to take a photo. Heart melted.

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D’s mom came to visit this afternoon. Since E was under the bili lights instead of having his isolette covered by a blanket, she got to see quite a bit of him, though his eyes were covered by a mask the whole time.

That’s about it for today. “Blissfully boring,” as I like to say.

NICU day 7

Today was a good day, followed by a not-so-great evening. I’m emotionally drained.

First, the good stuff…

This morning, after being under the bili lights again for almost 24 hours, they checked E’s levels and they were down to 1.4 (they were 7 something before). So he got to get rid of the lights — hopefully for good, this time. They increased his feedings again from 3 to 5 ML, and he’s tolerating the increase very well. He’s also pooping like a champ, which the nurses are all very impressed with! They’re also very impressed with his newfound ability to suck on a pacifier, which is pretty amazing for 27 weeks. Everyone just keeps marveling at how well he’s doing so soon, and for so young. He really is our little miracle baby.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the routine exams they do about a week into life with preemies is a head ultrasound to look for brain bleeds. We were told they are measured in severity from 1-4, with 1 being mild and 4 being severe. I have surprised myself with my ability to stay away from Dr. Google through this whole ordeal, so I couldn’t tell you what a brain bleed means, but I’m guessing it’s bad. Thankfully, that’s one less thing we have to worry about because his scan came back completely clear. No bleeds. That was a huge relief, but it was a pretty emotional hour for me in between the tech conducting the scan and waiting for the radiologist to give the results to E’s doctor.

Theo came to visit again today but he wasn’t as interested in Emmett this time. He was still very sweet and waved to him and blew him kisses, but he was WAY more interested in the cool chair with a table attached.

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After a brief visit, I took T home and we all had dinner together, and then I rushed back to the hospital. I needed to get back so I could do another kangaroo session at 8, something I had discussed with our daytime nurse, whom I adore.

(and this is where the good turns to bad…)

When I got there, the night nurse (a new nurse I’d never seen before) practically lectured me when I mentioned wanting to do kangaroo care, saying we should only do it once a day when they’re this small. I explained to her that we hadn’t done it yet today, and that our day nurse and I had agreed that 8 p.m. would be an ideal time to do it, after they came in to do his diaper, feeding, etc., She agreed to it, but she seemed annoyed by my request, and I felt like she kind of rushed getting him out of his isolette and onto me, and didn’t even really help me with my positioning. It was still nice to hold him, but he wasn’t nearly as calm as he had been the other two times, and his oxygen levels dropped a little instead of rising like they had before. His heart rate also dropped very low at one point, briefly setting off the alarms. He recovered on his own, but it just wasn’t the blissful experience it had been before.

When I was ready to put him back, my nurse apparently was on lunch, so a nurse I’d never worked with before came to put him back and I felt like she rushed it too. She basically just lifted him off me and set him in his isolette without taking the time to make sure he was comfortable, or that his wires weren’t pulling or bunching in any way. I was particularly concerned about his nasal cannula, because the tape was pulling down on his lower eyelid so he couldn’t close his eye all the way, and the cannula was twisted to the point it wasn’t even in his nose anymore; it was just below it and slightly off to the side. When I called our nurse into the room to fix it, she said she was going to see if they had a smaller cannula. I explained that the other nurse had already looked into that and that this was the smallest they had — and that while it was a little big and slipped position occasionally, he had been wearing it for five days with mostly no problems. She didn’t even listen to me and just kept saying she was going to ask the respiratory therapist if he had a smaller one, but that he was at a delivery now and he’d look at it later. I told her I was concerned because if E stopped breathing and the machine went into backup mode (it will breathe for him if he goes 4 seconds without breathing), it wouldn’t do him a lot of good if it weren’t in his nose. She said if he stopped breathing they would “just bag him.” I was shocked and told her it wasn’t necessary to jump to extreme resuscitation measures if she would just fix the cannula so it was angled properly into his nose. She tried to say it wasn’t a big deal and that the alarm would sound at all the nurses’ stations so someone would get to him. I felt like I was talking to a brick wall. Just fix the cannula – we’ve had this for five days and it’s been working fine. It just needs to be adjusted. By this point I was starting to cry out of frustration (and fear) and she made absolutely no gesture to try to comfort me or anything. I get that this is her job, and maybe she’s a bit jaded, but this is my baby and she should treat parents with the compassion someone going through a traumatic experience deserves. Finally the respiratory therapist arrived and it took him less than five minutes to fix the cannula and Emmett seems to be resting comfortably now.

I have no idea why this turned into such a big deal, but I’m tempted to talk to the charge nurse tomorrow and request that she not be our nurse again. I’m not even sure if I can do that, or if it would cause more drama than it’s worth. I have been VERY happy with most of the staff here, but there are definitely some nurses I like better than others. This is the first time I’ve outright disliked a nurse here, though. It’s a helpless feeling to know we’re here for the next 3 months and our child’s life is in their hands. It’s not like we can just pack up and take our business elsewhere.

Oh, and she kept calling Emmett a “she.” Not a huge deal, but on top of everything else, it just feels like she doesn’t care.

It’s almost 1 a.m. and I am going to attempt to get some sleep. I have a feeling I won’t get much tonight though.

NICU day 6

It’s 10 p.m. and I’m settling into my evening routine of pumping one last time before bed and recapping the day. I don’t know whether I’ll keep doing daily updates — I’m kind of hoping things get more boring at some point, but for now there are still a fair number of changes each day so here I am.

I spent the night in the NICU last night, after tucking T into bed. Overall, we had a good night. The lactation consultant said I was doing so well with my milk production that I could drop to every four hours at night as long as I was still pumping every two hours during the day. Sleep is good! I did wake up once to Emmett crying, but he is so quiet I can barely hear him and I have no idea how long he had been crying. This isn’t something the nurses monitor unless it sets off his alarms, or he’s loud enough someone hears him from the hall. But since I barely heard him from six feet away, it really made me glad D and I have been making sure one of us is here at night. By the time I woke up and got to E he had worked himself into such a frenzy that he temporarily stopped breathing and his heart rate dipped, setting off all the monitors. He recovered, but those episodes are always a little unnerving. The rest of the night was fine, though, and I think we both slept pretty soundly.

After yesterday’s PICC line removal, the doctor attempted to place a new line today, but couldn’t get it in and so we had to go back to IVs. It was disappointing, but he felt the IV was doing a sufficient job for now, and didn’t think it was urgent enough to force the PICC. He said if they got really desperate they could go in through his groin, but that that would be a little more invasive and not as comfortable for him. To make up for the lack of fluids we would send through the PICC (the IVs don’t handle quite the volume), they decided to increase his breastmilk feedings from 1 ML to 3ML (still every three hours), one day ahead of schedule. He has handled the increased feedings like a champ and was moving everything through his stomach fine, but it still wasn’t coming out the other end. So they gave him a suppository this morning, and another this afternoon after no progress, and he finally had a good poop around 8 p.m. I’m told sometimes their immature little systems just need a bit of a nudge. We’re hopeful things move as they should from here on out.

The great news is that he’s finally starting to gain weight, after pretty steadily losing over the last week. Even after that big poop, he is up 10 grams, so we’re hoping the increased feeds will help him continue to grow and that we’re on the upswing now (even for term babies, it’s normal to lose weight after birth).

His bilirubin levels were a little high again so he went back under the lights this afternoon. They’ll test again in the morning to see if he can come off them.

I got to hold him again tonight, but this time only for about an hour, since he needs to spend as much time as possible under the bili lights. It was still wonderful, but I’m hoping to get a longer hold tomorrow.

Some volunteers from a NICU parents support group stopped by tonight, so that was nice to talk to someone who could relate. The group is run by moms whose children are NICU alumni and they visit every Tuesday. I think this group will probably be an important resource for me. Almost a week later, the shock of what happened is just now starting to wear off, and I think I’m coming to grips with just how long and difficult of a road we have ahead of us. In a quiet moment by myself this afternoon, I suddenly found myself crying out of nowhere. I’m sure the postpartum hormones don’t help, but I’m also feeling a lot of guilt. Guilt for even mentioning in my last pregnancy update post that I was “over pregnancy” and “ready to meet my baby.” (I swear, I didn’t mean RIGHT NOW!) Guilt for not going into L&D a couple days earlier when I first thought something might be off. Guilt for being so reproductively defective. Obviously that last one has nothing to do with anything I actively did or didn’t do, but why does it seem like some people just have so many more challenges than others when it comes to having babies? My OB doesn’t think this is related to our losses in any way, but no one seems to have any theories on why this happened, either. I’m certainly glad we don’t want any more children after this. Because if the miscarriages hadn’t scared me away from getting pregnant again, this sure as hell did.

Anyway, sorry to go down a dark road. Emmett really is doing about as well as he possibly could right now. I just know I will have some stuff to work through for quite a while. D and I both probably will. But tomorrow E is one week old! He took a pacifier today (who knew they made pacifiers that tiny?) and the nurses all marveled about how good his sucking was, which will hopefully help him out when it comes time to breastfeed eventually. He was also quite alert several times today, which was really great to see. In just one week, he has changed so much and I’m looking forward to his continued progress.

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NICU day two

Emmett is two days old now – about 55 hours to be exact. So much has happened in just one day, and I think the gravity of what we have ahead of us is starting to sink in. How can we do this for three months? It feels impossible. But I guess we have to. The alternative is even more difficult to fathom and I refuse to even type it. The good news is, Emmett continues to impress the NICU team, though we certainly got our first taste of the “two steps forward, one step back” pattern we were warned about today.

The biggest milestone today: they removed his breathing tube! That’s a huge step in his journey toward breathing on his own. The problem was, he still needed some assistance, and the team determined a CPAP (like what adults with sleep apnea use) was the way to go — and Emmett HATED it. It was too much air pressure for him, so every time he would get a puff of air from the CPAP through his nose, he would open his mouth in reflex and chuff out some of that precious oxygen. This caused the oxygen sensors to go berserk every couple minutes and made it sound like he was crashing. Even though the nurse and RT assured me he was fine – that he just needed to get used to it and that the alarms were just overly sensitive, the sound of all those alarms was just so unnerving, and in my sleep deprived state (3 hours last night and 4 the night before), it was simply too much for me to handle. Emmett was flailing around in protest, alarms were going off left and right, and I broke down sobbing. This went on for a couple hours. They even put a chin strap on him to keep him from letting all the air out his mouth, but then his face just looked smooshed and he was still fighting the machine. Finally, the team determined he was expending too much energy fighting and tried a nasal cannula instead of the CPAP. It was like an instant calm came over the room and things have been better ever since. I swear, I’m going to be hearing that damn alarm in my nightmares. D joked that E will probably need it to fall asleep once we take him home.

One thing I should mention, that was pretty amazing, was in between pulling the tube and putting on the CPAP, I got to see his full face again for the first time since birth. It was only a split second, but I snapped a quick photo.

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Another benefit of not having the breathing tube is that he can actually cry now! As of right now it sounds more like a kitten mewing than a baby crying, but to me it’s the most beautiful sound in the world. I hope six months from now when he’s hollering and screaming all night, that I remember and appreciate how truly beautiful that cry really is, and how far we’ve come.

His bilirubin was looking a little low today, so after bragging yesterday that he hadn’t needed phototherapy yet, he started on it today, and will be on it through the night. They’ll draw his levels again in the morning. Thankfully, he doesn’t seem to mind it, though our whole room is glowing blue.

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Around 1 p.m. the nurse wanted to insert a PICC line for nutrition and antibiotics. It’s a bit of a complex procedure so they require parents to step out of the room. D and I used the opportunity to take a walk and get some fresh air. We went down to an outside courtyard and sat in the sun, and I called my parents and gave them an update. The nurse called me on my cell when they were done and we went back to the room and found a calm and sleeping Emmett. Everything had gone perfectly with the PICC.

Around 5 p.m., the doctor stopped by to tell us she was concerned with how high his metabolic acid levels were. She said it could be something as simple as dehydration (he has been peeing a ton), or it could be an infection. She wanted to give him fluids and another dose of antibiotic (he’s been on antibiotics since birth due to the amniotic rupture), and then check his levels again at 8 p.m. If they didn’t drop, she wasn’t sure what could be causing it and mysteries are no good. D and I were a little troubled, but took a break to go home to the dogs, ate some dinner, cleaned up the house a bit and then met the doctor back in E’s room at 8. Thankfully, his metabolic acid levels are now fine. What a relief.

Another highlight of my day? I officially have working boobs. I may have shed tears of joy over pumping a whole 1.5 ML of colostrum this morning. It’s not much, but it was enough to get into a syringe and we can start feeding tomorrow (he’s been on just IV fluids so far, and the doctor wanted to figure out what was happening with his metabolic acid levels before we attempted feeding). I’ve been pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock since he was born and was beginning to get pretty frustrated with my lack of anything to show for it. But since this morning’s pump, I’ve been gradually increasing my production and am now up to 8 ML. The nurse says we’re already way ahead of what he needs, so I guess I’ll just get started on that stash! Since we’ll be pumping for quite a while before I can actually nurse him, it’ll be nice to have a good stash built up so I don’t have to worry about running out. Speaking of nursing — the nurse and I both noticed he has a tongue tie, which could interfere with nursing. They said it would be no problem to clip it once we get a little closer to that milestone. No use in putting him though more than necessary right now.

D went home to sleep shortly after talking to the doctor this evening, and I’m spending another night in the NICU. Tomorrow I’m going to take a little break and take T to swimming lessons, and D will come stay in the NICU. Then around naptime we’ll trade off and I’ll head back here and he’ll take T to a party. I’ll probably go home to sleep tomorrow night since we’ll have T with us again. Balancing our home life and our NICU life is going to be a bit tricky. We still haven’t decided when or how to tell T about baby brother, but will probably wait until E is presentable enough that we can introduce them. Right now all the wires are pretty intimidating and he’s too fragile for us to even hold. I can’t wait for the day I can get a picture of Theo holding Emmett.

Really looking forward to seeing my big boy tomorrow. I’ve missed him so much.