Baby Emmett, NICU

NICU day 19

After a good day yesterday, E had a lot of events overnight. Even though we seem to be having a good day about every other day, the events have been increasing in frequency. He also is more dependent on breathing support than they’d like him to be at this point. So D and I were invited to attend rounds this morning to talk about next steps.

Since many of his events seem to happen around feedings (a full stomach can make it hard to breathe), the nurse brought up the possibility of going to continuous feedings, instead of “meals” every three hours. They had already stretched out the feeding time from 45 minutes to an hour to allow him to digest his feeds without getting quite so full, but the doctor wasn’t quite ready to jump to continuous yet. For one, it would require an additional special feeding tube, but more importantly, he said the human body is designed to have meals, not continuous feeds so he preferred not to jump to that just yet.

The doctor recommended instead that we increase his caffeine intake. I can’t recall whether I’ve mentioned this before, but yes, you read that right — caffeine. They give caffeine to preemies because it prevents them from going into too deep of a sleep, because their brains are immature and they “forget” to breathe when they sleep too deeply. Since Emmett has gotten bigger (he gained another 28 grams today and is now up to 2 lbs 6 oz), and also because he’s eating more, his initial caffeine dose just might not be cutting it anymore. So he essentially got bumped from a grande to a venti.

The other thing they wanted to look at was his heart. We’ve known he has a murmur, which is really common with preemies and pretty much expected. But the doctor thought we should get a better look at it, so he ordered an echo cardiogram. Thankfully, we got the good news later this afternoon that the murmur is very mild and not likely the culprit of his increased episodes. It should resolve on its own eventually. In some cases the murmur could get worse down the road as his lungs grow, but at least now that we have a baseline, we know what to look for. If in a few weeks he suddenly starts having more episodes they’ll repeat the ECG to check its progress.

The good news is, after increasing his caffeine earlier he had a good rest of the day, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that’s all we needed. The doctor also started him on a steroid inhaler (Flovent – the same thing I’ve used to treat my asthma) to treat some inflammation in his lungs. They’re hoping a couple weeks on the Flovent will allow us to start weaning him off some of his respiratory support so he can work toward breathing more on his own — an important step in getting him home eventually.

As if that weren’t enough excitement for the day, he also had his first bath! Now that his umbilical stump is gone, it was a prime time to do it. And he was starting to smell a little ripe. 🙂 He wasn’t a big fan of the bath and cried through most of it, but they put him on me for kangaroo care once it was over and we had a really nice session. I held him for almost three hours and his heart rate and oxygen saturation were really good.

After going home and having dinner with D and T, I’m back at the hospital and hoping for an uneventful night.

Baby Emmett, breastfeeding, NICU

NICU day 15

Today was a good day. D spent the night at the hospital last night and said he had way fewer alarms than the last time he roomed in. And today was the same. Fewer alarms are always good! Despite wanting to hold off yesterday on increasing his fortification, the doctor today decided to up it to 26kcal just to see how he did. He did great! He isn’t losing excess water any more, so it seems he’s handling the increase well. And he put on another 20 grams since yesterday, which is awesome.

D and I attended rounds this morning, and there wasn’t a whole lot to report, which is a good thing. We’re in maintenance mode right now. Or as his nurse said to me, “this is the boring part.” I’m totally fine with boring. He’ll have his third and final brain ultrasound on June 18 and will have his eyes checked on June 23rd. Barring any surprises or changes in health, until then they’ll just be fine tuning his breathing assistance and feeding.

Speaking of feeding, I’m finding that I’m getting a little obsessive with pumping output. I’m still a little behind what I should be producing at this stage, but I’m rapidly catching up. The lactation nurse says I should ideally be making 24 oz per day right now and I’m on track to get 21-22 today, up from 19.75 yesterday, which is up from 18.5 the day before. I’m taking fenugreek, drinking mother’s milk tea and trying my best to stay well hydrated. I’m tracking all my sessions on an app that puts everything into graphs and tables for me. I do love me a good graph! Breastfeeding was always something that was so important to me with Theo, and even though I got off to a rough start this time around, I’m trying really hard to make this work. I’ll be the first to admit, I have control issues. And since so much of what we’re dealing with is beyond our control, this is something I feel like I can control, though not without a ton of effort on my part.

E and I had a great kangaroo session today. He did have one brady episode, but aside from that, he was great and we snuggled for more than two and a half hours. I was completely blissed out, and E got down to 21% oxygen and still managed to keep his saturation in the 90s most of the time. In fact, I went home for dinner shortly after our session and came back a few hours later and he was still hanging out happily in his isolette at 21%. It really is amazing what that human contact does for him. And it makes sense. Babies need to be held a lot, and he should still be on the inside – the ultimate hold. It’s just too bad it’s such a process to get him in and out of his isolette and that we can only do it once a day. I’m looking forward to the day I can hold him all the time. I did a lot of babywearing with Theo and I have a feeling I’m probably never going to put E down once I get to take him home.

Baby Emmett, NICU

NICU day 8

Last night was a little rough. Emmett had several bradys and vagels (heart rate drops brought on by gagging/choking). He recovered every time on his own and the team says it’s normal, but no parent likes to hear their baby’s alarms going off because their heart rate is dropping. I didn’t get much sleep at all, and I was still stewing about the nurse situation. In addition to last night’s cannula debacle, she just had no bedside manner. Not once did she even acknowledge the stress I’m under, even as I was curled up in the corner, sobbing. And not once did she talk to Emmett while handling him, and she handled him a little too rough, in my opinion (of course, that could just be the mama bear in me).

The good news is, one of my favorite nurses was on today. She is just so compassionate toward me, and talks sweetly to Emmett, which is exactly what a NICU nurse should do, in my opinion. One of the first things she asked me today was how I was holding up, and when I’d like to hold him. Since they like to time kangaroo care around when they do their “cares” every three hours (feeding, changing diaper, taking vitals, etc.), we decided I would hold him after his 2 p.m. cares. They also needed to swap out his isolette, which they do once a week so they can thoroughly clean them, so we decided they’d take care of that while I held him. The type A in me likes having a plan, and the “yellow” in me (a reference my work friends will get) likes being involved in said planning. So the morning got off to a good start. We had a plan.

The team holds parent rounds every Thursday at 10 a.m. so it was good to attend that today. This was our second time attending, though I honestly couldn’t tell you what they said at last week’s because I was still in a fog, less than 24 hours after giving birth. Today’s felt much more productive. I felt like I was more of an active participant in the discussion of his care and I’m starting to understand (and speak) the lingo. It was reassuring to hear the doctor say he wasn’t concerned about the bradys and he emphasized again how amazing Emmett is doing, especially for a baby born at 26 weeks. Part of me sometimes wonders whether they say that to all the parents, to reassure them — but if so, it’s working. I felt 100 times better after attending rounds. Our Emmett is certainly living up to his name, which means “strength.” Interestingly, I hadn’t even taken the meaning of his name into account when we picked it. It’s all a bit serendipitous.

One of the things the team discussed at rounds was starting to give E more breathing independence. Because he’s been doing so well, they decided to reduce his PEEP levels (positive end-expiratory pressure – essentially keeps his lungs partially inflated, even after he breathes out). The hope is to start weaning him from some of his assistance and move toward having him doing more of it on his own, so reducing PEEP was the first step. Unfortunately, it was kind of a bust. He had a few more apnea episodes than before so they turned it back to where it was before. Not a big deal – it was still pretty early to be doing that so we’ll give it some more time and try again.

As mentioned earlier, we planned to do kangaroo care at 2 p.m. I’m happy to say, it went much better than last night. I think a huge part of that was that my nurse really took the time to make sure E was situated on me in a comfortable way, that his wires were all tucked out of the way and his head was positioned in a way that allowed him to breathe easily. She also made sure I was comfortable, with pillows propping my arms up and warm blankets covering us both. E did fantastic and I held him for two and a half hours. Like the first time we did kangaroo care, E’s breathing and heartrate were steady, his O2 rose, and he just seemed so content. I fell asleep again too. One of the benefits of kangaroo care is that it increases prolactin — which helps with milk production but also makes you feel sleepy and euphoric. It was wonderful. I could have held him forever, but I had to leave to get T from daycare at 5 and needed to pump one more time before I went. I think I’m going to try to do kangaroo care during the day from now on since I like our day nurses better than our night nurses for the most part. Having someone take the time to get us situated really makes all the difference in the world.


D is staying the night in the NICU tonight and I’m back home. Most of the time I really don’t mind staying at the hospital. The bed is comfortable enough, and I like being so close to him (and truthfully I don’t sleep that much better at home, anyway). But after last night, I think it’ll do me some good to get away for a bit and decompress. Right now I’m catching up on The Bachelorette, and I must say, it’s nice to do something mindless.