27 November 2011

Before the Homecoming

It was decided that we would not go directly home after Guinevere left the hospital.  We were encouraged to stay close by for the first couple of nights, in case Evvie did have problems.  And on Monday Dave officially takes over his new position at work and had already said that he was planning on being in the office that day.  Originally my mother-in-law was going to come up to help me care for the children and do all those things that I cannot yet do (such as lift Veda), but God had other plans.

This past Tuesday morning my father-in-law's father (Dave's grandpa) passed away.  He was ninety-three, adored my children (and even liked me), and while his death was expected, it is still always hard when the end does finally come.  His funeral is tomorrow and this is where Dave's family will be.  There was just no way that we could attend services, given our own family's situation.  But there will be an additional service at the Veteran's Home (where he was a resident) and we will attend this memorial.

And so, our family has continued to take up residence with my folks, whom have been most supportive.  And it was to their house that Evvie was first introduced.  She was greeted warmly by both of her sisters.
As we suspected, we have already had some trouble with Sylvia being a little too motherly.  We have had a couple of incidents where she has been "holding" Baby Evvie and then has not wanted to give her up when I have said that it was time for me to take her.  It is very sweet, and the Little Pumpkin is a truly caring big sister, and when you're three and as independent and stubborn as my Sylvia, you think you can do it all as well as Mommy.  Guidelines will be given and over the next several weeks I am hoping that Sylvia will learn all the ways in which she can help Baby Evvie while not causing unintentional harm to her.

What has surprised me is the initial interest Lovebug has shown in her baby sister.  She has wanted to hold her (which she sort of did once already), and she has "helped with feedings," and has often run over to check on her.  But probably the sweetest thing is the last couple of nights while climbing the stairs to her bedroom she looks behind her, waves her little hand and says, "Night-night, baby."  And this all coming from the girl whom when I told her we were getting Baby Evvie from the hospital and bringing her to Oma and Opa's house she looked at me, shook her head, and said, "No, no."

But as it begins to sink in that Evvie is a permanent fixture, we will see some jealousy begin to emerge (from both our older children).  Sylvia sort of understands that Guinevere is now a part of our family and that she will be going home with us.  Veda, I do not believe, can yet comprehend that when we go home Guinevere is coming with us.  Guinevere is going to be in Veda's house now, a place where Veda has only ever known her mommy and daddy and big sister and pets have ever resided.  It will be interesting, to say the least.

This and the following pictures are all of Evvie today.  She is eating like a "real" newborn and is quickly filling out!  She is growing chubby cheeks, and her tummy is beginning to get round.  She is adorable.  She is a miracle.

I knit those booties months ago already.  I made them especially small as all of my children have always had small feet, and I suspected that I may not deliver a full term baby as Veda came early.  But still I worried that those booties would never fit on my third daughter's feet.  It is the feared crisis situation for every knitter.  But in the end, not only do those booties fit, they are too large.  She has the teeniest ankles and the most narrow feet I have ever seen.  But again, she is growing fast and those adorable preemie outfits she has been wearing will be packed away in the closet probably far more quickly than I am prepared for.
Dave is a very happy Daddy.  The love he has for his girls is amazing to me.  I always knew that when the time came and we decided to have children he would be a good father, but I had no idea just how much love is inside this man.  This coming Sunday will be our seven year wedding anniversary and while we have been through some remarkable struggles and continue to face some present hardships and will certainly have many challenges ahead of us, I would marry him again and again and again.

Late Tuesday morning Guinevere has her first doctor's appointment.  It will be the first time Dave will get to attend one of our girls' first doctor's office visits.  He had to work for the other two and my mom had to drive me and my daughter.  It is after this appointment that we will return to my parents' house, load the rest of our stuff into the van (including our three girls) and then finally head home-- together as a family of five.
And as a final note:  My day to day life is hard.  We live in a very rural area with no support anywhere in the immediate vicinity (not to discount Phil, who has been amazing in caring for the animals these past couple of weeks), and there are no local places to bring the children so they can run around and burn off energy (and we live in a very small house).  I have one child with special needs that do affect our daily life and, well, I now have three very small children.  I do worry about this winter.  It can be very isolating by us, and now with a preemie who is not supposed to go anywhere except to the doctor and back, it will be just me and my girls. 

Yes, it is hard.  But I cannot complain.  I have been given three precious little lives.  I often lie in bed at night and feel overwhelmed with gratitude that for some reason I have been entrusted with these amazing daughters.  And I am so excited to get to know them and watch them grow and I can only hope and pray that I can have the same positive impact on them as they have already had on me.  When it comes right down to it, I love my life.  I feel as though I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve. 

And so, Lord, thank you for all my blessings, particularly those in the form of my loving husband and three beautiful girls.

Escaping the Hospital!

Friday was the day!  Evvie was going to escape from the hospital!  We arrived late morning, and as we weren't sure how long discharge was going to take, we quickly grabbed a bowl of soup from the Cafe (one last meal in that place, which is actually pretty good).  And then we headed upstairs and flashed our "parent bands" one last time . . .

I had gotten a phone call that morning from one of my favorite nurses in the Special Care Nursery, Martine.  She was calling to let me know that Guinevere was discharged.  The paper work had all been signed.  We just had to let her know an approximate time for our arrival to come get her!

In the above picture she is wearing what was supposed to be her hospital picture outfit, but it didn't get used for that purpose.  In fact, Evvie never really got any "real" hospital picture taken, and she never even got her second week picture taken by the professional photographer who comes into the hospital to photograph the preemies.  Oh well.  The outfit served a far finer purpose:  It was her going home outfit!  We couldn't get a good picture, but it is kind of difficult with a baby that small to figure out how to prop her to show off her cute little duds.  I had made the booties (and a scad more for other babies) months earlier.

This was the first time I got to photograph the whole going home process.  Before, I had always been too close to my surgery to think that clearly to get all these classic shots.
As Evvie and I waited for Dave to pick us up, we sat by the Christmas tree that had been put up near the front entrance earlier that week.  I looked down and realized that she was the most perfect little present sitting under this tree:
You may need this closer shot to see that she is actually there!
It was a gorgeous day.  Dave and I did not even need to wear our coats!  It was probably about 50F and sunny.  There could not have been a more perfect late November day to bring our little girl home.

A Thankful Thanksgiving

This was the precious face that greeted us Wednesday when we went to the Special Care Nursery.  This was a very happy day.  We learned that Guinevere had passed the last 24 hours with great success.  She had taken more than enough with her feedings (needing a required 180 milliliters of milk in four feedings in twelve hours, and having taken over 200 milliliters!).  She also had only one small alarm earlier that morning but she came out of it herself.  She was doing so well that we were told that if she "behaved herself" then she would maybe get to come home the following day, Thanksgiving Day.

The next morning I phoned the NICU, eager to learn if we would get to celebrate the holiday with our entire family together.  The nurse answered, I gave our "parent code" and then asked how Evvie was.  The first thing I heard was, "She's doing great.  In fact, we think she gets to go home tomorrow!"  Tomorrow?  I was surprisingly disappointed. I had been preparing myself for a Friday discharge, just so that I would not experience this precise disappointment.  And yet, disappointment still came, especially after learning why she was not being discharged:  She had only gained ten grams two days earlier.  Two days earlier?  If that was the beef, then couldn't they have told us that the day before?!

Oh well.  We were just thankful that our daughter was doing spectacularly well and that she would be coming home the next day.  And we enjoyed our Thanksgiving Feast:

And after the food was eaten and the children were down for their naps, we went to celebrate with Guinevere (and watch a host of videos and listen to a lot of lectures on how to be a parent, all the while thinking to ourselves, "Hmmm . . .  We have done this whole newborn/infancy (and even preemie!) thing two other times in the last THREE years . . .  I think we're pretty good on all categories."  But we would do whatever it took to bring our daughter home.)  This is Dave and Evvie "celebrating" this wonderful Day of Thanks together:

21 November 2011

Taking a Closer Look

Evvie sported her "cool sunglasses" (as her biggest sister, Sylvia, says) for two days.  We were happy to arrive at the hospital Sunday afternoon and find that she was no longer the "blue light special" of the NICU.  Her bili count did climb a little today, but not enough to warrant any concern.  We were told that we are in the holding phase right now.  She just needs to grow a bit more and be able to bottle enough food and then she will be ready to come home.  She will not be home for Thanksgiving, like I had originally hoped, but she should be ready to come home at some point this coming weekend.  But aren't those some cool shades?  Let's take a closer look . . .
As I said, Evvie needs to be able to take enough food from a bottle before she is ready to come home.  She did really well today, nippling most of her feedings and needing only small "leftovers" put through her tube.  Dave is demonstrating this feeding technique, called gavage feeding.  But let's take a closer look and see what Evvie thinks . . .
Hmmm . . .  I'm not sure what she thinks, but I do think she looks tired and isn't too sure about the tube in her nose.  Let's see what bottle feeding with Daddy looks like:
You may notice that Evvie is lying on her side while Dave is feeding her.  Preemies are best fed when held in this position.  It allows the milk to pool in the side of their cheek, giving them a little more time to swallow and decreasing the amount of sputtering and choking that may occur.  Taking a closer look again we can see that Evvie is very happy and content with her bottle feeding:
Truth be told, she was a little too happy and content.  Very shortly after this she had fallen into a deep sleep and could not be roused to finish her bottle and we had to commence with the G-tube feeding.  This is what happens with preemies, they work so hard to suck, swallow, breathe that they often pass out before they can finish their feeding.  But with a little more time, she will put on more weight and gain more energy and then she will probably be sucking down bottles like they were chocolate milk.

And I spent some quality time with Evvie today, teaching her a very important skill:
Yes, we were knitting together.  I am nearly finished with her entire layette set (cardigan, pants, hat, headband, booties, and stuffed animal) and I figured, as she came so early, she could at least help me complete her goodies.
And what is that?  Do I have a born lover of fiber lying on my lap?  Let's take a closer look:
Why, yes . . . Yes, I do!

19 November 2011

Fidget is Here!

I am still in some shock as I write this, announcing to you that this past Sunday afternoon (2:15 p.m., to be precise) our little Guinevere "Evvie" Rae was born!  She entered this world with some sass, crying and fussy-- no greater sound to parents of a baby born nearly six weeks early.  She was 5 lbs. and 5 oz and 18" long.  Dave was able to hold her and show her to me and then got to walk her down to the NICU himself.

Once in the Special Care Nursery (NICU), she was given an x-ray to check her lungs, placed on oxygen, and had some blood drawn.  The x-ray came back with a reading that she possibly had pneumonia, but the hospital pediatrician said she thought the scan was blurry only because Evvie took a deep breath in, expanding her lungs and moving her body a bit, to scream at the precise moment the x-ray was taken.  Blood work confirmed this theory, as everything came back normal.

She was quickly weaned from the oxygen and within a day or so was removed from air altogether.  She has never been placed back on.  Her first two days proved that she is an amazing little girl.  She began to nipple from a bottle, often taking her entire feeding through a bottle (and not her tube).  She was also completely weaned from her i.v. by Tuesday evening.  Wednesday we began to see her tire out a bit and her bilirubin count was rising.  She began to take less of her feedings from a bottle as she just got too tired to continue sucking.  I was discharged from the hospital Wednesday afternoon.

By Friday her bilirubin was so high that she was placed in a bili blanket (this replaces the old "blue lights" of the past, and has proven to be about 3x more efficient).  Yesterday was a hard day for her.  She ate very little from the bottle and most of her milk was given to her through her tube.  She had also lost an additional 2 ounces, putting her weight under 5 lbs.  While I got to feed her without the bili blanket, the rest of the time she was snuggly wrapped in one, glowing a nauseating blue.  Evvie gets to wear "cool dude shades" to protect her from getting a headache or even sick to her stomach from the glow, but the rest of us cannot look at her for too long without feeling a migraine coming.  Dave had been at work for part of the day and by the time he could have gone to the hospital to see her it was already dark in the nursery, making the blue light even more intense.  He decided to just let her sleep in peace and visit her today with me.

Today she was doing so much better!  Her bilirubin count had dropped by nearly 4 points and she had gained 2 ounces back.  She did not look nearly as orange and was eating better.  She was also alert for most of the two feedings we got to do with her today, which was not the case yesterday.  She knew when we arrived at the nursery, because when she heard our voices she promptly stirred, opened her eyes and began to search for the voices.  This was really neat to see.
So, what happened?  Why did she come so early?  This is the question(s) I have been asked a lot this past week.  The short answer is that I went into labor.  The long answer:  I woke up Sunday morning with contractions around 4:00 a.m. but did not think much of it yet because I had been waking up around the same time every morning with contractions.  But by about 9:00 a.m. I began to wonder a bit.  I took a shower and got dressed and at around 10:00 I decided to let Dave know that we were maybe going to be having a baby that day.  At 11:00 we piled the kids in the car and headed for my parents' house.

On the drive down I finally heard back from the on call doctor.  It was, of course, the one doctor I had never even see, much less met before, from my OB/GYN's office.  He sounded rather skeptical on the phone and when I told him we were already on the way he just said, "Well, I guess we'll see what you've got when you get here."  [As a side note:  I had decided that we were not going to drive 70 miles, burden my parents with the kids, only to be told to go back home.  I was going to make sure I was actually in labor and that a child was going to be born before deciding to go to the hospital.]

The doctor came into my room shortly after our arrival.  He casually sat down in a chair across the room from me, looked me over and said, "Well, you do have a look about you.  That look that I often see on women in labor . . ."  Meanwhile, I'm thinking, Will you just check me already and get this show on the road?!  ". . . Because, you know, we don't take delivering a 34-weeker lightly . . ."  Yes, I know!  Will you just check me already?!  "So, I'll check you now and we'll see what's going on."  It's about time!

He checks me, gives what almost seemed like a little sigh and then looks right at the nurse and says, "Oh, yeah, she's in labor.  This is a no brainer.  I'll make the phone calls."  Finally!

Surgery went very well.  No complications.  And the doctor actually proved to be a pretty great guy.  He's a little odd, but he knows his stuff and was even willing to do sutures instead of staples at my request.  My recovery time went without a hitch as well.  And a little after 9:00 p.m. I was able to be wheeled down to the Special Nursery to see Evvie and do some Kangaroo Care with her (also known as skin to skin).  Below is me holding my baby for the first time:
And please remember that I am only six hours post-op at this time, so my appearance should be somewhat excusable.  She was already sucking, the pacifier (or "pipe" as we call them in my family) is evidence of that.  And currently, even when she takes little from her bottle during feedings, she has already begun to establish a very good "suck, swallow, breathe pattern."  In many ways this is more important than her taking her entire bottle.

Her sisters are allowed to visit her.  They have been twice now.  Tuesday morning Dave brought them and he again came with them after nap time today.  Sylvia is rather fascinated and smitten with her sister, but Veda remains a little stand-offish.  This does not come as any great surprise.  We fully expect the jealousy issues to be more severe with our second daughter than with our first.  Our primary concern with our eldest is that she will be too much of a mother to "Baby Evvie" and we may need to intervene during some of her "caring" for her baby sister.
Her name:  Guinevere we just really liked, much like her sisters' first names.  Also like her sisters' names, her middle name is after a late family member.  Rae is after Dave's grandpa, Raymond.  Dave always had a huge respect for his grandpa and I was lucky enough that I got to meet him and spend some time with him before his passing from lung cancer.  He was a pretty neat guy, and I know he really liked me and I suspect he knew that Dave and I were going to marry one day.  And so, Guinevere is his little girl in name.  And, also like her sisters, she has a second middle name- my last name.

We have been calling her "Evvie" for a long time already.  I just thought it was a cute nickname but it is also easy enough for both of her sisters to say.  And Sylvia has, in fact, been talking about and to "Baby Evvie" for quite a while.  [Please note:  The name is Evvie with two v's and not Ewie, with a w.  I chose the two v's so that people would know the E was short and not long, as in Eve-y.  But perhaps I only added to the confusion!]

While Evvie is in the hospital all of us are staying with my parents.  This is both wonderful and stressful all at the same time.  We hate being an added stress and burden to my parents, but we also know that they are more than happy to help us.  We need to be close to Evvie and the girls need someone to watch them so we can spend time with our youngest.  We are immensely grateful to my folks for all their help and support.  Likewise, not enough can be said for the ways in which Dave's folks have also been amazing in their willingness to help.  My mother-in-law has been available to come stay with the girls so that my mom can bring me to the hospital or to run some errands or to just be able to get a cup of coffee in peace.  She has also been our "gopher," willing to pick up all those last minute essentials.  And while I am still recovering from surgery (which will be for several more weeks), we need all the help we can get!

This is, believe it or not, the short synopsis of our last week!  I will try to keep everyone updated on Guinevere and as soon as I know she gets to come home, I will be sure to let you know too!

05 November 2011

Halloween Faeries

This year the girls were faeries for Halloween.  And just like last year, I could not get a nice picture of either of them.  But trust me, they were adorable!  Lovebug, especially, was just too cute with her chubby butt cheeks.  (Something I am sure she will appreciate me having said about her in the future!)

Trick or Treating was at a minimal this year.  We were at my folks' last Saturday afternoon and the girls got their treats from Oma and Opa and then we headed to Dave's folks' for the evening where the girls went Trick or Treating at three different doors at their house.  This was very fun and it gave the Pumpkin the impression that she really had gone Trick or Treating.  And she had, even if it was in miniature form!  We do not live anywhere near an area where trick or treating is a real possibility for the kids, so in the years to come we will have to be on the lookout for weekend activities that we can take the kids to.
Last year we took the girls (and Stepher and Joe took Dax) to Aunt Selma's nursing home.  We had such a wonderful time and this is my last good memory of Aunt Selma before she passed away in December.  It made for a kind of bittersweet time this year as I just kept remembering Aunt Selma wheeling herself in front of all of us down the crowded hallway and telling everyone who passed that "These are all my nieces and nephews behind me.  All my nieces and nephews."  She adored the babies and even that last night that she saw Veda she was trying to reach for her to hold her.  Aunt Selma was stubborn, crotchety, and an obsessive worrier, but I really do miss her.
I am aware that my daughter has her finger up her nose.  Despite all my demands (and my mother's as well) to pull her finger out, she refused.  So yes, Veda, you had adorable chubby cheeks and you picked your nose!