Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quick Update

Oy! I get so hung up on having images that I put off posting for days at a time, and then poof! everything passes in a flash and I've missed all sorts of stuff.

Highlights from the past week or so:

- At her last appointment, Penny tipped the scales at 6 lbs 1.5 oz! We were going to bet how much she'd weigh, but all three of us -- me, Randy and the doctor -- bet the same thing, so everyone's a winner. Yawn. But yay! That was a gain of an ounce a day, just as she's supposed to do!

- She had a day or two of fussiness and needing to eat almost every hour -- which apparently signifies a growth spurt. I'm happy about the growth spurt, or I would be if I were awake and aware enough to know what emotions are and identify them individiually. My right nipple is rebelling. Get in line, right nipple!

- She is still outstandingly cute.

More soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Grandparents!

The last two days have been interesting because Miss Thing continues to spend longer and longer periods in her little chair. Part of me aches to have her so far away (all the way across the room!) but hey, her due date approaches.

The big news this week is: Grandparents! Miss Lady met Grandpa Harry and Grandma Marge yesterday. Everyone seemed happy about the situation, though P was a little fussy (probably cold, or excessively fond of her outfit).

The day before, we had our first successful bath. What made it so successful? I finally gave in to the suggestions of, oh, everyone and tried bathing with her: sat in the bath, Randy put her on me, and she got a dubious look on her face, then started hollering. Then she espied a familiar object, leapt forward, and latched on for dear life; I spent the rest of the bath washing her left side extremely well, and just enjoying hanging out peacefully in the warm water together. It was blissful.

I unhooked her only at the end to give her right side and hiney a quick swab before she peeled the tiles off the wall with her caterwauling. Just kiddinnnng! She didn't seem to mind it nearly as much.

Aunt Elizabeth also came by, and I want you to compare and contrast her two meetings with Miss Penelope:
Wowee! What a difference a month (or so) makes! Elizabeth is the only person besides me who looks at Penelope and says "Oh, she's HUGE!" instead of "Eek, she's TINY!" I like that in a person.

I also ordered her birth announcements. They are goshdarn cute if I do say so myself.

We're off the the doctor tomorrow to weigh in. We were going to lay bets on how much she's gained, but then we both thought she's gained the same amount, so it's a very boring bet. Well, boring bets make for nice marriages, I guess.

Friday, December 19, 2008

baby power!

little miss fussbudget isn't feeling so photogenic, so here is a shot of her and Dad engaging in some solidarity, from a few days ago.

Please note that neither I or Randy have managed to take off the blue bracelets that gave us entry to the NICU. Funny, huh? Superstitious or lazy or what?

We ran the new humidifier last night, despite my fear of legionnaire's disease, and I'm happy to report that I no longer think I have strep throat. I am worried that I have a minor cold, though, so I'm trying to keep snot away from the tiny immunocompromised patient here. but since we're like siamese twins connected at the everything, I don't know what I can do.

I just realized that she hasn't had a bath since last Saturday. This was no big deal when I thought today was Wednesday, but it turns out today is actually Friday. Which means my parents are coming tomorrow, and I don't know what else it means except that where did the days go?!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

basket full o' baby

Randy walked in while I was snapping this photo, said "Oh, no!" and ran back out. Yes, I have turned into the woman pulling things off of shelves and out of cabinets to see if my baby will fit in them for a photo op. Note to the curious: She does not fit in my bread-rising bowl. (If she did, I'd leave her there till doubled, and promise not to punch her down!)

In a supreme sucker-punch from the universe, I have a dreadful sore throat and am weirdly dizzy, with symptoms getting worse at night. I remember this exact illness when I was "nursing" my kitten, Theodor, in 1991. At the time, I thought, "Good lord. If this is motherhood, I hereby vow not to be a single mom." And see? Theodor taught me something! But I still feel like crap. I will call my doctor to verify that I don't have strep, but I don't know what I can do about it if I have something contagious. Penelope's doctor was all "oh, just make sure you wash your hands," and I'm like, okay! when?

Anyway, things continue: still sleeping in shifts. Last night Penelope had something amiss in her tummy, I think, because she screamed bloody murder from about 8pm to 1am. I hope this was a one-time thing. I'll let you know tomorrow. Anyway, I put her in the vibratey chair and did bicycle-legs with her till she gave a little poot and calmed down, then sank into a deep, grateful sleep. It was heartbreaking, and also gave me tintinnitis (or however you spell it -- what I just typed makes it look like I have been infected with a Belgian comic book). And I continue to not be able to sleep.

I did watch "Charade," the stylish Audrey Hepburn-Cary Grant vehicle, and have several questions about plot points that occurred when the heat was on (loud) or the baby was crying (louder) or I was too logy to understand anything beyond "preeety... haaandsome...." I also watched "The Man with a Cloak," with Leslie Caron and Joseph Cotton, and have only this to say: Just because a movie is old and has a pretty lady in it doesn't mean it's not a pile of steaming crap. Also: Lamest reveal ever. Take that, Ebert and Whoever.

Oh, and in conclusion, here is a funny thing i said: at our last pediatrician appointment, a woman was in the waiting room with a big belly. She told me her due date, and I said, "That was my due date! Take a good look: this is what your baby looks like right now, but inside you." She was a bit taken aback. Haha, I freak people out with my human-ultrasound preemie power! shaZAM!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Since our little girl doesn't have her own little curl yet -- despite having a fine head of hair -- she borrowed one from Daddy. Not bad, right?

This is the thoughtful face that accompanies a full belly -- when she can stay awake, anyway. The eye doctor* says her eyes are developing as they should, and says that by her due date, she'll be seeing 20/20, or close to it. See, that's odd to me, because I thought that for a good long while she could only see the distance from her face to mine while breastfeeding. And I also thought that she would be at newborn-levels of development at her due date, when in fact she's slightly ahead at things that she had to be -- like sucking and seeing, I guess. So that's a funny preemie fact.

We just took a walk up the hill. Not all the way up, but I put her in the Moby, wrapped us both up in layers (very attractive layers, I'm sure), and trudged up to the base-camp of our little mountain, and then up a ways till the wind seemed too strong and I started back. She becomes extremely quiet outside, it's either soothing or terrifying to the point of coma. Now that we're home, she's starting to snort and stir, so I don't have long to type.

The thing about her is that she's no more of a blank slate than I am. She has definite feelings about certain things, as I do; for me, it's the death penalty and abortion rights; for her, it's wet diapers and nipples. But we both make the same caterwauling when we want something. that's darn cool, or will be till we start to butt heads. But who could butt such a cute little head?!

Monday, December 15, 2008

well, this is a new wrinkle

So, what's the most ironic thing that could happen to a sleep-deprived mommy? Funny you should ask. Because last night I had a solid 2-hour chunk of sleep time, and I spent it wondering why I was suddenly an insomniac. What? Who? Where? Why? No! Seriously? Yes.

I cannot express how much I dislike this. I was awake till just before her next feeding, during which I think I started dreaming, because I remember wondering why my child had long squid tentacles for legs. By the 7 am feeding, my brain had ceased working completely, and I handed her over to my husband in a state I can only describe as despraddled. When it was time to wake up and get ready for her opthamologist appointment, i thought I was going to strangle everyone except my baby with my bare hands.

And then, when it was time to come home -- and my home is comfortable, clean, beautiful -- but when it was time to come back to this safe, no airborne-illness haven, I thought I would collapse under the weight of it. I did think the isolation would be fun and relaxing and I still try to think of it that way. And then I fail. And it has only been a week!

Yet when she's snuggled up beside me, I can't do anything but smile. Drifting in and out of fitful near-sleep, i found myself starting awake with my eyes looking directly into hers, both of us heavy-lidded and bewildered, her rounded forehead filling my vision like a velvety full moon. Blink. Blink.

Every woman with a daughter since the beginning of time has made the silent promises I'm making to her now. The trick is to figure out how to keep them.

p.s. she did happily sleep in the co-sleeper for like two hours last night, as I draped myself over the edge of it so I could still curl around her. Ow. The thing is, when she's not fully against my body (or her dad's), she's one of those snorty sleepers, and I don't have the soporific talent to sleep through that. But: progress.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

hooray for mobywrap

Today was wonderfully quiet: Randy took Eli to a birthday party, and Grayson took Max to the movies. It was just me and Penn around the homestead, watching Drumline and listening to the torrential rain outside. Emily had brought over a Moby wrap, which Penelope fit neatly into, so it was easy to putter around the house doing small tasks (nothing too taxing) and just enjoying some quiet. Days like these are what I fantasized about when I thought of having a newborn; it's good that fantasies can come true, at least once a week or so.

I've been feeling weirdly dizzy and woozy the past two nights, but my blood pressure was a perfectly zen 102/75 or thereabouts both times. I think I've found the culprit: to save Randy from waking (and myself from having a zombie husband), I had been sleeping in the living room, but could not do that the past two nights with a full house of stepchildren. I think it's the heat! I think the giant window in the living room makes for coolness, and being in the bedroom means I'm way overheated.

God this is boring. I have to figure out how to say something interesting about this baby business or give up entirely. My sardonic sense of humor, she is shrinked! All I want to do is stare at chubby soft cheeks! Sigh.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Now What?

Good thing I got the co sleeper, btw! Otherwise, where would I put my magazines?!

So: if I'm not going to post obsessive updates on breastfeeding -- and I do not want to do that -- and I am not going to discuss poop -- and you do not want me to do that -- what is there to say? Now I'm just a normal mommy with a normal newborn. Okay, so she's half the size of most of the newborns I've seen, but after the drama of the past weeks, I feel like things are blessedly normal.

I'm a little worried, of course. We're three weeks out from her due date and as far as I can see, she's a normal newborn -- opinionated, insomniac, and kind of codependent, if you ask me. But the popular wisdom says that this is the honeymoon, and that once she hits her due date, she'll be something else. I don't want something else! This is fine! I get 2-3 hour cat naps between feeds, and I'd like to keep those, please! okay? right? who do I write?

well, no sense worrying. whatever happens happens. for now, I'm happy, and very tired. It's hard to understand that I'll have a newborn so much longer than most people, but since I never did it before, I don't know the difference. It's hard to imagine that she'll be six months old, a year, three years old, when for so long all I could do was imagine having her. It boggles my mind that my friends have been doing this for the past eleven years. And I hate that I can't just ask Nurse Chu what to do every five minutes!

Better go see what's happening in the living room. I suspect Randy's fallen asleep in front of what sounds like a Kirk Douglas movie. Is that bad for the baby?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Well, Not Quite

That worked for about 24 hours, and then something happened. I don't know what. She was feeding for about 15-20 minutes at a stretch, every 2 or 3 hours, and that was doing it, but today we got out of our rhythm on account of a doctor's appointment, and suddenly she won't eat for more than 10 minutes and is uber-starving after. Randy took advantage of a nap on my part to sneak some bottled food into her, and she was famished. So we'll figure something out, pumping-wise. Maybe I don't pump after every feed, but I've got ot have some extra milk on handfor when she gets too tired. She's still 3 weeks from her due date; I guess it was a lot to expect, developmentally.

On the upside, she didn't lose weight and may have gained a bit during the nurse-in. And the best part is that it was a reality check on my part. Enough with the doing-doing-doing. I'm not doing-doing-doing anymore. Others can run errands, cook, finish ikea furniture, whatever; my job is to be on Penelope's skedge, in her world, and I'm just not going to do anything anymore that can lead to me saying "just a minute, I have to finish yadda-yadda." We'll figure it out.

Getting 3 hours of sleep at a stretch isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be!

but it's pretty bad.

Anyway, right now she's actually happily sitting in her weird vibrating seat, courtesy of cousin Harry, smoking a binky, and wearing an adorable outfit from Celeste that is not nearly as too-big-for-her as everything else I bought. Win!

Speaking of Harry, he came over today with his maw, my sister Em, and peered curiously at her for a few mintues. Then, determining that she was not a threat -- Em was only demonstrating the Moby wrap -- he ran over at full tilt and sweetly patted her on the head, blurting out something like "Wagoo nanna!" He did this several times! It was really heartwarming. I, of course, burst into tears, as I do ... oh, just about every hour on the hour. Outstanding.

OK, we've run out of vibrating-chair bank -- more soon from the loudest third trimester ever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nurse-In for Milk

So things are a total blur around here! We're sleeping in shifts, as it seems we used up all our "put down the baby" bank in the last 6 weeks and P won't put up with any more of THAT nonsense, boy howdy. So she's on my chest or Randy's, checking for heartbeats, and mostly happy except when she's got a diaper issue or a hunger issue.

Speaking of the latter, the first stretch of days back were a bit complicated in terms of feedings. I was sure she wasn't getting enough out of me, as she ended each breastfeeding session with a round of rooting and whimpering, so I'd give her a bottle (breast or formula, whatever I had) and feed her into a coma-like state. Every feeding went like this: leave her on each side for 30 minutes (that's each), hand her off to Randy for a bottle, pump. By the time I was done it was usually time to start again, because I'd be running around sterilizing bottles or pump supplies in the meantime, and it was really awful having to dread the end of nursing because I'd have to hand her over (you were a BAD NURSER, give me that baby!) and hook myself up to the machine I detest so deeply, anxiously estimating how much she might have gotten based on the output.

I never could even start nursing when I wanted, because of the stupid nipple shield, which I know I was happy about a week ago but now I hate it. I was just tired of all this stuff getting between me and my baby, so yesterday afternoon I started my Nurse-In. Got in bed, nursed. If she still seems hungry, nurse more. When she's done, keep her on me and grab a cat nap -- none of this whisking-her-away nonsense. And so far, so good: She seems satisfied, she doesn't root at the end of her meals, she naps happily, and her diapers are wet. We see the doctor tomorrow, so I'll anxiously and obsessively ask him if she seems dehydrated or didn't gain enough ozzes and libs. I really hope this is the right thing to do.

Yes, I'm more tired, but less frustrated and stressed, so that's a tradeoff I can live with. AUGH! I just looked in the mirror. No pictures today, friends!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

we're home we're home ohmigod we're home we're home we're home we're home we're home ohmigod we're home we're home we're home we're home ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod we're home we're home we're home we're home ohmigod we're home ohmigod we're home we're home we're home we're home ohmigod we're home we're home we're home we're home home home we're home we're home we're home home home ohmigod we're home ohmigod we're home

HomeGirl

We interrupt this hospital-preemie blog to bring you... a homecoming dance!

More later, but yesterday morning I got a call from the NICU asking if I wanted to room in "tonight." "Tonight?" "Yes, parents can room in the night before their baby is discharged in case they have any issues or questions." "But tomorrow's Saturday ..." "Oh, nobody told you?"

NO! NOBODY TOLD ME!

The rest of the day was a blur of getting the cleaners to come a day early, clearing clutter, building the rest of the changing table, getting A MILLION THINGS from my amazing sister (car seat! bjorn! bassinette! but wait there's more!), getting her medicine from the pharmacy... and going in to unhook her from the monitor. I wanted to take her home right then and there, but cooler heads prevailed (the big hairy head, if you must know) and the upshot is right now I'm getting dressed and WE ARE GOING TO PICK UP OUR BABY.

Yay! Wait! WHat? AUGH! YIKES! BUT YAY! etc.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holy Crap, I'm the Mom

Sad but true: Everyone seems to have the "holy crap, I'm the mom" moment, and I had mine just a few days ago. There's this one nurse, Chu, whom I would dearly love to take home. She's made it her business to be on with Penn as often as possible and I really feel so comfortable with her. She's reassuring and encouraging and knows how to strike the right tone -- good qualities in anyone, but especially in a nurse working with unsure parents of fragile bebes.

Anyway, I was fretting because the onesie Penelope was wearing had touched dirty laundry. So not a big deal in the real world, but in the NICU, with a kid who'd had a sepsis due to contamination mere weeks before and who has no immune system whatsoeer, it's actually something to be considered. Fret fret fret. I kept asking Chu, "Do I worry or do I just change her? I don't have anything to change her into. What do I do?" And she just didn't have an answer for me.

Because really, it's not her job to have an answer. Her answer was probably "It's fine, for Chrissake!" except that she'd never in a million years say such a thing -- and also, that answer could leave her liable if I left her in the onesie, she got another infection, and I insisted that it was all her fault. Her job is to be ubercautious.

In the end, I changed the onesie -- bfd. But the point of the story is, I just realized, after a while, that Chu couldn't make this decision for me. It was a tiny point and life is going to be full of them and I can't go running to a nurse every time, even though I had a preemie, even though I legitimately needed to know certain things at one point. I have to wean myself off of Chu (and Laurie, and Sarah, and Sue...) the way we weaned P off of the isolette.

It's like the other day, when my friend Rebecca said that even now, with her daughter now a toddler, she wonders who people are talking about when they say "the mom and dad." every time, she gets a little frisson of "oh! crap! they're not talking about my mom -- they mean me! I'm the mom. Right!" Sad as it is, at 41, I still kind of expect to not be the decider. Well, that's over. I'm deciderific.

Anyway. Check out this week's New York Times Magazine -- the woman on the cover is Alex Kuczynski, formerly of Six Milks, my college's comedy troupe. Oddly, this is not mentioned in her bio. Anyway, it's a funny, touching, affecting piece about her becoming a mom via a surrogate. The surrogate is older than me! She's just better at being pregnant! And/but she sounds like an amazing person. I was particularly touched at Alex's revelation that some friends expressed envy that she could have someone else carry her child. I loved being pregnant, I had an easy birth (well, except for the whole "holy shit, is my baby going to survive" stress), but I know how terrifying it is to think of losing control, to know your favorite bits will be stressed, stretched and possibly torn, and to have your body taken over. I wouldn't go so far as to express envy, but I understand both sides. Oh, and she has a kind and thoughtful husband -- just go read it.

Now that you've made it to the end of the blog entry (good for YOU!) you get a little surprise. Penelope's homecoming is imminent -- maybe as early as Sunday, probably Monday. I have a shit-ton to get done before that -- get a cleaning crew in here, finish the changing table, move the bookcase, for three. Go to the garage sale. Get the car seat and have it properly installed by the policemans. I can't think of the rest but i think it's going to be a lot.

ANd then I'm basically stuck here at home for a month. It's feast or famine: either I have to go out every single day just to see my kid, or I am on house arrest hoping to keep her safe. Randy's starting his leave on monday so at least we'll be able to hang out together. oh. oh my gosh. OH wow. So... wow!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

She Looks Big to Me

The thing that's hard to remember with this kid is that she's still small, she's still fragile, and she's still a month out from being officially born. By all rights, she should be peering at me from an ultrasound, not a bassinet. The 8th month is when moms say "you know, the baby could come now and everything would be fine," and everyone around them says "stop that! you don't want the baby to come this early, it could have all sorts of issues." Penelope is still a preemie.

But from my point of view, she's huge -- almost a pound and a half bigger than when she was born. She makes eye contact (albeit briefly). She moves and picks up her head, shrieks like a banshee when I don't hold her the way she likes in the bath, and grasps fingers, binkies, and my iPhone wires for fun. She breastfeeds, for heaven's sake. Compared to where she was a month ago, she's Bam-Bam Rubble. So what's the fuss?

She's very close to coming home, and I have to grab the reins on my runaway motherhood and slow down. It is so hard to see her the way she really is, and give her time to catch up. It's not that I expect more from her than she can give -- it's that i'm so optimistic, I worry that I'll be too cavalier. On the other hand, I'm not afraid to handle her, not worried I'll break her -- from early on I was able to handle her IVs and leads with a decent amount of self-confidence, and I don't want to lose that.

She's just so awfully spunky. I vacillate wildly between "this is going to be so great" and "holy crap I'm going to screw this up so utterly." fun to be me!

Monday, December 1, 2008

mmm. fingerrrrs.


Penelope's cousin Gabriella sucked her second and third fingers when she was a beebee... so did her mom, Elizabeth. Is this a coincidence, or is Penelope following suit?

She's back over 5 pounds! I'm not depending on breastfeeding to fill her up -- we do 20 minutes, and then she gets a bottle, and then I pump. So she practices, but then we make sure to get the food in her -- and it's a lot of work, but so far, she seems to be gaining in spite of the calorie-burning hard work. I didn't check to be sure, but I don't think she's had a tube in the last day ... I'll check in the morning. That's the key here: she has to get strong enough to eat, one way or the other.

She had another bath tonight -- this time Daddy did the honors, and she really wasn't any happier about it. Sheesh! And let me tell you, for such a little pipsqueak, she has a big holler. Did someone say preemies have lung issues?! Penelope didn't get the memo.

Wish I had more energy to get the house ready. That would really help. You know, in the olden days, they gave new moms speed to help them lose the baby weight! can I get in on that? is it bad for breastfeeding? maybe i could just breastfeed really really fast.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holding Steady

Just before bathtime last night, Mish MoneyPenny had gained some 20 grams. Not a colossal gain, but not a loss, either: I'll take it.

The thing is, she seemed to do a great breastfeeding job on Lefty, but when she was done she still acted hungry -- starving, even -- yet wouldn't take Righty. Buh? So Mary the nurse said "what the heck, let's see if she'll take a bottle," and she sucked that thing down like a starving Armenian. Double buh? I have no idea what's going on. But later that night she took another bottle, the whole darn thing. So I guess right now bottles are easier than breasts, and neither is the dreaded tube, so I'm sticking with it. Because eating sans tube is a ticket home.

I can't talk her into enjoying her bath, strangely. Who doesn't love a bath? Well, right now the answer to that would be: Penelope. She squalls, then stops to check: am I still in the bath? Then she resumes squalling. Fortunately her squalling is both cute and hilarious, but I feel bad for subjecting her to such annoyances.

But these problems are so much more fun than the ones I was having a few weeks ago!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blarg

So I guess we've hit a bit of a plateau, and I had a frustrating night last night. First of all, Penelope has lost weight for the third day in a row -- just a little, but still a loss, and she's certainly not gaining. I found out she has still been getting the OG tube -- and here's how I found out: I walked in and she was getting one. You know, this hospital is super responsive to the parents and has a very open-door policy, but sometimes I swear they are either weirdly passive-aggressive or they just don't really mean it when they say they want the parents involved. I understand that sometimes she gets tired and has to have the tube, and after the nurse explained that she was tired all day I was ok with her getting the tube, but what the hell? Can we talk about it? How about let me in on the conversation?

As with any other health-care situation, you have to advocate for yourself -- i learned that early on, when she was taken off feeds and they fogot about the milk that was in the fridge, so it went bad and had to be tossed. I try to read her chart when I get to the hospital, but there's so much going on with just the overwhelming emotion of seeing her again and getting her to breast that first time of the day that I sometimes forget. Whatever -- I'm there every damn day! It's not like I'm hard to find.

I also found out they've been giving her formula for the past two days because they ran out of the milk I'd frozen while she was sick. Now, I know intellecutally that formula is no big shit, but again, nobody could mention this? I'm redoubling my pumping efforts, and/but ...

... the milk I had with me yesterday? I idiotically forgot to put it in the fridge when I got there. I actually thought of it and then said "oh no, that's right, I left it home because I thought we were going to stop in again before going to the hospital." In fact, it was with me, but by the time I realized that it had been in the cooler for 12 hours and the nurses thought it was too iffy. I know this was entirely my fault, but I still wanted to punch the nurse when she told me it made her too nervous.

To make matters worse, Penelope was, in fact, super-tired yesterday, and every time I put her to breast she fell asleep before she was really done (maybe getting a full feed every other time). At around 9:30 or 10pm she woke up hungry, and latched on but wouldn't suck. She was rooting like an insane monster baby but just wouldn't seal the deal no matter what I did, and I got increasingly frantic and worried, which of course doesn't help. And I guess the nurses that were on last night just weren't the best match for us, because they just stood around and had no advice or encouragement for me...

big difference from two nights ago, when I had the awesome Chu and wanted to get an isolette of my own and just stay there. Jeez! Not only that, but when I finally decided to pump so she could eat fresh, I don't know what happened, but one of my pump bottles just disappeared... vanished! You know that thing where you just keep looking where something is supposed to be, because it's not possible for it to have just walked off? I just couldn't fathom that it had vanished, so in this tired, frazzled, frantic state I was poking around the bassinette for like a half hour at midnight.

I don't know. I'm used to having Randy there with me at night and he kind of drags me out of there by like 11, so I probably need a wingman to keep me focused after a certain number of hours.

All of this sort of gets made worse because the more I look at Penelope, the more I realize -- even as I see her developing to a closer-to-term baby -- that she is really supposed to be inside me right now -- always in contact, always in communion with me. It's maddening to have to put her down, let alone leave her for the night, when I realize that.

Blarg. So the plateau is this: she doesn't have the energy or skills to take enough food by mouth to keep gaining weight. so she still has to take every other feed via tube, AND she has to get formula some of the time because my production is good, but still not quite enough. (Ferinstance, I'm pumping as I type this, and I just finished -- totally under target. I should have had a snack before I started.)

But I'm still thankful: see this spread? One of the cleanup ladies, Angela, has taken a shine to another one of the moms and myself. She made all this food, plus soup, and set it out for us on the day after Thanksgiving -- the noodles were a special un-spicy version for nursing mothers. (She wouldn't let us try the one she made for the pot-luck the day before, because "too spicy for the baby! I don't wanna take the chance!") When I walked into the parents' kitchen and saw this, I melted into tears -- which indicates that I am still quite hormonal. And that people are really wonderful even when you're feeling homicidally stressed and apoplectic.

So, you know. The problems are small and will be overcome in a matter of days or a week or two. It's just a moment.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

Oh goodness. It's Official Arlo Guthrie Gets Played on NPR Day, and I haven't checked in for three days. Whoops!

Penn continues to get bigger and better, except for the bigger part. We've switched to a feeding-on-demand schedule, and it's a few steps forward and a few steps back all the time. I'm learning how to figure out if she's really swallowing or not and trying to gauge how much she takes in, anxiously timing her breastfeeding, measuring post-breastfeed pumps, and making sure her diapers are wet when they're supposed to be. She's learning that for eight hours each day, the only food she's going to get is from me, and she'd better get to work. It's a bit of a learning curve for both of us, and she's actually dropped a little weight in the last two days (she's just a hair below 5 pounds now). But the nurses say that's to be expected, we're pushing her to eat and taking away the easy put-on-the-pounds tube, which can plump up kids quick but leaves them with no eating skills. All right.

So I can deal with a day or two of dropped weight (especially since she gained a freakish amount, 100 grams in one day, on Monday) as long as I see she's peeing and pooping. What I don't like is how fussy she was yesterday. Babies are fussy, I get that, but she just never settled down, and I kept putting her to breast, thinking she must be hungry. But even when I gave up and gave her a bottle, she was restless and seemed uncomfortable, and that just worries me. If it turns out she's a restless baby, fine; but so far, she's been very predictable, letting me know when needs something and settling down when she gets it. So this is unusual and I am looking forward to seeing her today to see if she settled down after we left. Randy did get her to sleep by the time we left -- at like 11pm. It's really hard to leave when she's fussing.

The nursery we're in is much more crowded -- fewer nurses to more babies, in less space. But it's the step-up nursery, where the kids don't have any real problems other than being small and dumb, and everyone is friendlier and more engaged with one another (especially the mom of the twins who's been in the same room with me from the beginning, except during Penn's infection). There are fewer beeping machines and less of a sense of pervasive dread. So that's a plus.

Anyway, here we are on Thanksgiving. I am thankful, of course, that she's doing so well. I'm a bit aware that I'd originally hoped to have her home today. I'm worried, now that I've met with her pediatrician, about keeping her safe from the flu and, of all things, whooping cough, which is apparently pandemic right now. But mostly thankful, yes, for Penelope and for the team that's been caring for her. Okay.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Movin' on up!

Let me tell you something, this little girl of mine is amazing. Today I went in to see her, and she'd been moved again. No biggie, I checked the other bays -- but she wasn't in any of the usual places. Turns out she and her roommates have checked into the "high observation" nursery -- down the hall, right off the "well baby" nursery. She's moving on up!

She's also up to 5 lbs 1 oz, maintaining her body weight, and as alert and aware as any full-term newborn. I have to keep reminding myself that she's still a pipsqueak, and as strong as she seems, she's still fragile and sensitive to noise, light and germs. To me, she's huge; to anyone else, she's still terrifyingly small.

But she's so vocal! She lets me know when something's amiss, and when I fix it, she stops fussing. That's magic!

The other big news from today is that we're switching to "ad lib feeding." That means she eats ___(noun)___ whenever she ____(verb)____. No wait! that's "mad lib feeding." Ad lib feeding means she eats on demand, unless she doesn't demand anything for four hours (not likely). And it means she eats directly from me whenever possible, so whenever I arrive I can just whip off my shirt and let her go to town, and I don't have to make her stop for fear of exhausting her, nor do I have to wait for feedin' time. Let me tell you, this child likes to breastfeed, and she's not shy about it. Which helps my cows come home, so it's win-win.

This might be TMI, but they have these little thingers that go over my nipples to make them smaller. Apparently, the fact that she CAN open up her head like Ms. Pac-Man and get it all in there is all fine and dandy, but it's also exhausting. Making them smaller lets her get more without working so hard, and bonus: it hurts less. So she was able to feed a lot more efficiently. The downside to that is that she was concentrating so hard on the suck-swallow-breathe trifecta that she forgot how to keep her heart beating a couple times (totally normal, that's called a Brady, remember?), so with so many steps forward she took a little step back. Remember, she's supposed to still be in utero, so her "dumb preemie brain" still has to figure some stuff out, and we're giving her time to do that. It's no problem. We'll continue to let her breastfeed, and give her stimulation if necessary -- a jiggle or two does the trick.

If she were doing that while lying in her bassinette, it would be terrible. But we know why it's happening so we're just continuing to let her figure it all out, and in a day or so she'll have it down.

She's very close to being released, but it won't be this week. Okay. That's fine! I can see where we're going and what needs to happen. She's not getting the stupid tube down her throat anymore, or much less, so I'm OK. (She'll only eat by breast when I'm there, and we'll track her weight carefully to make sure she continues to gain. If not, we change the plan.)

All in all, she's doing fabulously well. Sorry for the lack of pictures -- i was literally falling asleep at the hospital and barely made it home with my eyes open, but had to check in with you people. Photos of last night's bath should be posted tomorrow.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quick Check-In

Okay, I'm less angry but have a million things to do, so I'm just going to say this:

All IVs are OUT
Which means no more sponge baths -- I gave her a REAL bath last night, I guess the first one since she was born!
She liked it -- at least, she liked it after she pooped in it and we had to change the water and start all over again. Randy said she was like a frightened squid.

More later!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Rant

I think I've hit a wall with this whole experience. I have to say. I'm glad the hospital is there and I am grateful for the care, but I am so frustrated and tired of it at this point, and I want her out. I know that sounds crazy to everyone who isn't me, because Penelope sounds so small and fragile, but she's so much stronger than she was, and we're at an awkward point in her treatment.

I think all preemies go through a time where they are strong enough to object to treatment -- IV pokes, long hours of sitting alone instead of being carried and cuddled, and especially the blasted gauvage tube (the one they feed down her throat every mealtime) -- while not yet quite being able to leave the environment of the hospital. So I get that this is a bit of a transition. But it is not happening fast enough for me. The tube to her stomach is what really gets me steamed. She's surely ready for a bottle when I can't be there with my (really nearly useless) breasts, but they keep gagging her with that fucking tube, and I want to punch the nurse every time. She did not mind when she was tiny and weak. Now she's big enough to know it feels uncomfortable and wrong, and she hates it. I don't know what the hell is going on over there; I keep asking for her to be given bottles, and they keep NOT doing it without explaining why.

If it's an issue of her not being strong enough to maintain her body temperature and suck on a bottle, then put her back in the frigging isolette. I mean, how does that logic not make sense? Let her do one thing at a time, and let the first thing be what'll fatten her up so she can do the second thing. Explain where I'm going wrong with this.

Here's the thing: Who goes to hospitals? Sick people. My daughter's not sick. She's small. And fragile. And being around a germy hospital is not going to help. There's another mom in there with me, her daughter came at 32 weeks, 2 weeks after Penelope, and now she has a staph infection from her IV site. Are they kidding me? That's enough. I want her home and away from IVs and away from a million sick people and their germs.

Okay.

Today I do battle over the bottle. I want her eating like a normal person. Last night she spit up with the tube down her throat and I don't even know how that happens. And I just had to put her little bundled-up self back down in the isolette and walk out? I never saw my daughter spit up before. I'm tired of not being the one to take care of all this. She's my kid, hand her over.

(over to you, sally field.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

brilliant child



That killjoy Randy, joined by the killjoy medical profession, wants to tell me that no, in fact, my four-week-old preemie is not actually holding the binky in her mouth. she just likes to mash her hands into her face and is not cognizant of the fact that (a) she has anything to do with her hands getting mashed into her face and (2) that this is what's keeping her binky in place. I say nuts to that.

In other news, we are turning the heat down in her isolette again, getting her ready for another try at the bassinette. Since she's now up to one ounce per feed, fortified with extra fat for fatness, and gained another 70 grams so she's up to 2170 grams (4.78 pounds), I say she's going to do it, by george!

She's also a breasfeeding champ. I, unfortunately, am not. I am redoubling my efforts in that area, because the irony would just be too great.

I think she gets her IV out today (Thursday). I am heading over there now to see if that's the case. (I am still home because I had a doctor's appointment -- my blood pressure is holding steady! Hooray for my blood pressure! -- and have to get prescriptions filled, check the local used-stuff store for a co-sleeper, etc.) (defensive much?) (yes, I feel guilty whenever I am not at the hospital. Yes, my husband is desperate to see a movie and I'm too worried she'll miss me. Yes, this is all ridiculous. Now you know.)

That was a lot of parentheses. I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kid In A Box

Dangit! We tried the new bassinet today, but Penelope's not chubby enough yet -- she didn't maintain her body heat. We'll try again tomorrow. But this is how she looks in her soon-to-be new home! Ignore the IV in her head, it looks dire but it's totally normal to do that.

I'm unusually exhausted, so I'll check in quick and dispense with the philosophizing for the evening. Baby's cute, did a little breastfeeding, she's extremely alert, and wow, I have no idea why I'm so tired.

It got chilly today. The fog rolled in, and not on little cat's feet either. This was San Francisco fog. It rolled in on big fat clown feet. The cold is wetter here and goes straight to your bones; even the NICU was chilly, so I'm sure that's the only reason she was too chilly to stay out of the isolette. Once we all adjust, she'll be ok -- but I am going to get some kind of bunting for her. It's northern california, after all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

ow excuse me

Very bad manners if you ask me. i mean, i'll get her a teddy bear if she needs a friend.

Anyway, she did, eventually, release her grasp and latch on the usual way. And after our pretend-breastfeeding session, the nurse gave her her food via the stomach-tube, and found there was already fresh food in there. In other words, P somehow managed to bully some food out of me -- so there's hope!

She's getting very huge and chubby and alert and interesting. She didn't gain weight today, oddly, but she had gained so much the day before, I guess it's okay... the big news is this: She finishes the first two antibiotics on Thursday (after a two-week course). The third, she can then take orally. And the fourth finished today. So as of Thursday, she won't have any more IVs poking into her poor hands and feet.

In even bigger news, she seems to be able to maintain her body weight, so tomorrow they are going to try moving her to a regular crib -- the next step toward getting out of the pokey. This is really terribly exciting. It also means I really can not screw around; every single day this week i have to be getting at least one thing ready for her. Oh jeebers, there is a LOT to do. augh!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Action Packed

Oh lordy, what a day. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but i'm exhausted, hooked up to a pump, and in a different room from my camera. Feh.

Anyway: Today was full of adventures. First, the kids came to the hospital, and Max held P again -- but this time wasn't scared, and totally said "I'll do whatever you say, tell me how to hold her" -- to ME! And not only that: both kids were so amazingly sweet with her, it gave my coal-black heart just the slightest smidge of hope that, you know, things could work out for all of us.

ptui ptui ptui

Anyway. When Randy and the kids left, the first thing that happened was that P lost the IV in her hand -- it started leaking, couldn't be saved, so it had to be removed. This left her with only on IV in her foot. I think we're all familiar with my thoughts on things being stuck in my daughter's hands and feet (and head), so I charmingly pointed out that I'd been told she'd probably be taken off the 4th medication tomorrow, so maybe we could hold off on trying to stick her again? So as of this moment she's only got the one IV. I'll investigate tomorrow.

Once that drama was over, Penelope was most definitely awake, so I stripped down for some breastfeeding practice. Let me tell you, the child is a breastfeeding genius. A champeen. If Bela Karolyi had been there, he would have been red-faced and cheering "she can do eeet!" She rooted, had her tongue in the right position, latched on and even sucked a bit, though you could tell it's still hard work for her. But it was amazing to see her do it. When she opens her mouth up, I sort of wonder: yawn, cry, or chomp? And it was always chomp. She was all about getting her food-friend positioned perfectly.

She's gaining weight like a champ, too: up 110 grams to 2100 since yesterday. Yesterday she had gained 60 grams since the day before, so that's quite a jump -- we checked 3 times to make sure, and yep. So while I can see that she's not maintaining her body temperature quite yet (that's one of the three main factors in determining that she can graduate from the NICU), if she continues to gain like this she'll be a nice little chubster in no time. Some of the preemie books say she can go from the isolette to the crib around 2000 grams, so I'm saying yeah, another day or two and they're going to start talking to me about it.

That's 4 lbs 10 oz, for those of you playing the home game. More than a pound gained since birth (3 lbs 7 oz), and very respectable if you ask me. It shows, too: Max had pictures from last visit on his phone, and seeing them side by side with current pictures was astounding.

But that's not all: After the nurses changed shift (7 to 8 pm), I went back in and after a while she woke up and was more alert than I have ever seen her. Not upset or angry, just gazing around, blinking, throwing her arms and legs in the air. So I asked if this was bath night, and it was: the babies are bathed every other night, spongebath style. Oh. My goodness. This baby LOVES the bath already, just like her cousin Harry.

First we picked her up and put one of those blue wee-wee pads under her. Then we got two bowls of warm water, one with soap, one for rinsing. Then she got all naked, no diaper, and the nurse and I lathered her up and wiped her off. Last was her beautiful hair, which I washed and then rinsed and then dried very well. Then the little hat went back on. Through it all she just kept looking around, happily, and was so comfortable she even pooped. Then we changed her leads (the little stickered-on montiors on her heart, belly and lungs) and covered her back up. Then her dad arrove in time to watch her eat (14ccs, with 2ccs residual from the last feed -- not too bad). Then we soothed her down, though she was still dozily awake when we left.

All in all, just a beautiful day.

Oh, but then there was this: When I was watiing to give her her sponge bath, she was being totally crazy -- rooting, moving her head around, and since she was on her belly, shoving her face into the blankets and chewing on them. I said, "This crazy girl is chewing on blankets." The nurse, who was attending to another kid at the time, said "Does she have her pacifier?" I said, "Oh right!" And she said "Or maybe you want her to keep chewing on blankets....?" I felt like such a dummy -- and the paci was EXACTLY what she wanted. Now that I'm trying to get her to breastfeed, I get why it's so good for her to have it -- she's learning to suck, and the more she has it, I think the more her muscles get used to that action. So ok! Pacifiers all around.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Boobage!


Penn continues her upward arc, which of course just makes me worry. I absolutely freak out at the sight of any foreign object coming near her, even an innocent stuffed animal. She's doing great, just still sleeping a lot because she's fighting off the last of the bugs (and also operating under the effects of four antibiotics, which is also hard on the body). And all I can do is anxiously watch her for signs that she's getting sick again. Eh, may as well commence with the worrying now, it's going to last a lifetime.

Also: Breastfeeding. When Randy and the kids came to pick me up, Penn had finally, finally woken up and, when faced with the giant nipple, latched on. I am amazed at the alacrity of the nurses, by the way. Here I am gently nudging my breast at her, figuring she'll get the hint and help me out. After a couple of pathetic tries, the nurse comes over, whips Penny onto her side, and does some kind of crazy lego-move with my breast. Schtoink: she's on it. Not quite getting the hang of it yet, but at least we've re-started the process.

The kids were adorable. I was worried they'd be weirded out, but I guess they see plenty of breastfeeding over there in Hippieland and they were just delighted to see her doing something normal babies do. Max had brought her a stuffed animal that was bigger than her, bought with his own money. I think she likes it.

And, in a nice coincidence, I returned home to find a friend had sent me this cool gallery of breastfeeding images from the ages:
http://www.breastfeedingart.net/index.html

Anyway, I await tomorrow with cautious optimism. Also, people are coming to see the rabbit tomorrow. I would be overjoyed if they left with him. I think.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Of Course I Hesitate To Say "Great News"

I am way too paranoid and superstitious to, you know, celebrate any sorta milestones. But yesterday P was 3 weeks old, today she reached 33 gestational weeks, and you know, things aren't bad. She finally had 2 negative cultures on the yeast (they will continue to check them, and to keep taking one each day, to make sure), so it looks like that's finally been vanquished. She's cleared for feedings, so I watched her take 5 ccs of my breastmilk today (finally!!).

The best part is that we had a meeting with our team (doctor, nurse-practitioner, and social worker), and we found out that it ain't necessarily so that we have to wait 21 days after the last positive culture. We take that day by day. It was true for the strep, but not necessarily for the yeast, so she could be sprung from the pokey in as soon as 2 weeks. YaaayyyYYYAAUUUGGHHH WHAT?!?!! We need everything! A co-sleeper, a crip (no wait, a crib -- a crip would really not help, it's the Bloods who are known for their childcare abilities), a changing table, a crib, those cute decals for the wall, an Ergo, a car seat, A CAR!!! AUGH! also: AUGH! okay. So i have my work cut out for me the next few weeks. Ikea, here we come!

What else? Oh, we tried breastfeeding, but she was infuriated by the attempt. She made a really loud, squeaking cry that scared the crap out of me. In retrospect it was really cute and funny, but in the moment I was like "Oh, super duper. My breasts are poison -- I knew it."

I was saying to Randy a couple of nights ago that I felt like there was something wrong with me because although it's horribly difficult to leave her each night, I don't feel that physical pain in my chest and hands and heart that I used to feel after a terrible breakup/heartbreak. Why, when some now-nameless guy broke up with me, did I shatter, and now, with this, which is so much harder, I'm able to move through the world and function?

He said, well, it's not a personal rejection -- it's just that she was born early. There's hope. But I still crave her all night and all day, like an amour, yet without that overarching misery. It's difficult to leave her, but I manage. Am I heartless? I remembered back to when my grandma died and I didn't feel as sad as I thought I should have. She was 95, sick for years, and I felt relieved for her, and then I felt like a schmuck because my mom was so destroyed and what the hell was wrong with me?!

But now, a few days later, I'm starting to realize that yeah, it's just that the feelings are too big to have all at once. The first week I was just too flabbergasted to have much of a response. The second week was all about working out a routine and being all official about getting things done and then going to the hospital, la-dee-da, lookit me having a job-like schedule and a big important thing I do. Now it's week three and it's starting to get really old. The novelty has most definitely worn off, and it is slowly wearing on me -- worse and worse -- the more I hold my daughter, and the more times I have to put her down, the worse it feels. It is a slow burn. The kind of thing you think would be a shock at first and then you'd get used to -- but it's the opposite. At first you're too preoccupied and too scared to hold such a tiny creature and too dependent on the nurses and the machines to care for her. Now she's looking so hale and hearty, and so close to being healthy and well, it's almost impossible to imagine putting her down at all.

I know where she belongs -- on me at all times. And yeah, it's just a few more weeks and this is just a blip on the radar-- yes. right. I get that. But one thing giving birth has taught me: there is an Amy that has nothing to do with rational thought, who operates, literally, on instinct, and that animal-lizard-brain Amy is foaming at the mouth with frustration and fury. So uh... down there, Chaka. All in good time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Little Miss Onesie

Gimme a break. That's so cute! I didn't get to dress her in it -- one of the nurses did -- but she picked the prettiest one. I think Miss P likes it, too. She was totally showing off, with her little pinkness. And you know, I was worried the preemie onesies would be huge, but this one fits her just fine. Awesome.

So the yeast infection stubbornly refuses to leave Penn's body, despite the fact that she appears healthy and is breathing entirely on her own. It's weird to think that a yeast infection can cause so much hassle, but my BIL the doctor says it can go hog-wild in a baby's body, blossoming around the heart or the eyes and causing all kinds of havoc. Plus: blossoming. how gross is that? Anyway, it's not the kind of yeast infection you or I get, making us want to sit on a hairbrush and bathe in yogurt. It's in her blood, and I guess it's hanging on longer than it's supposed to, which is unusual (I hate when things are unusual). She's now on 4 medications, 2 for the strep/meningitis, 2 for this fungus, and I have a meeting with my "team" tomorrow to talk about her care so far and what happens next.

The fourth medication means that she has to have 2 IVs going into her, and she's a tough kid to get an IV into (which is crazy, because my one talent is having bulgy veins that are easy to stick -- she couldn't inherit that?!). When I got there, they had already tried 3 times to get an IV into her and were about to try a fourth time when I told them (nicely) to fuck off, she'd had enough. I guess it's a little complicated because they can't have the IV nutrition going in at hte same time as the medicine, but the nurse that came on at 6pm found a vein with no problem apparently, and so now she has 2 IVs anyway. I guess some nurses are better at finding baby veins, and others are better at TORTURING MY CHILD.

Actually, the real torture is that she still can't eat. She's not starving -- she's gaining weight, one of her IVs is literally full of fat (don't tell my mom!). But she can't have anything going into her stomach. Which means I still can't breastfeed her. Which is like not breathing. It's horrible. She wants it (rooting and opening her mouth whenever I come near), I want it (leaking like a crazy woman when I get in her radius), my milk is ready to go on strike, we all need to go forward here... and the stupid effing yeast just won't leave us alone. Gah! It's enough to make you switch to matzo.

I have to remember to call my doctor to ask when exactly I had that yeast infection when I was pregnant (the kind that makes you want to sit on a brush). The nurse practitioner said it wouldn't change the course of treatment, but more information might help them figure out why it's overstaying its welcome. So weird.

Anyway. Back to boobs. I bought another box of nursing pads, and guess what? The cases come 25 to a box. That's right. 25. As in, an odd number. Why wouldn't they have them in an even number? Are there that many people who either have only one breast, or only one leaky breast? Enough to outclass the women with two? I thought it was so weird, i emailed Natracare. (No reply. I'm sure they're stunned at my idiocy.) My friend Suz says it's like hot dogs and buns -- they want to get you into a vicous cycle of having to buy box after box to try to even out your supply.

It's as good a theory as any.

Our pal Victoria -- free doula! -- stopped by today to make Penelope hit herself on the head. I know, it's ridiculous, but it's not like she has a lot of party tricks of her own. Though man, the kid really comes alive between 6 and 7 pm -- she pees, opens her eyes, and engages for like an hour before falling asleep again. It's funny that she already has daily habits. Tomorrow I'm going to ask if I can give her a sponge bath. And I have that big team meeting -- yikers. Full report tomorow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You can not tell me this is not a smile

People, this is not gas. I know gas. I am intimately acquainted with gas. And senator, that is just not gas! It happens when she's faced with a nipple and/or her dad's voice. And when I touch the side of her face just so. If you're going to persist in the notion that that -- that punim -- is the result of farty feelings, then up your nose with a rubber hose.

Penn continues to get more active, more charming, and stronger, but dammit, she's still testing positive for the candida albicans. She can't get the nicer, deeper IV till that's vanquished. And I'm not so sure about feeding her, either. I think they have to wait before they put anything in her belly. As of today, they still weren't re-starting her feeds.

Which led to an odd thing. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but one of the things they do with preemies is "recreational breastfeeding." right after the mom pumps, they put the baby to the breast so she can try latching on; Penn is a champ at this, and in fact may have actually managed to get some down her hatch before she got sick (developmentally, she is not supposed to be able to figure that out yet).

Anyway, since she started feeling better, she has been absolutely desperate to start feeds again. She likes it, she loves breastfeeding, and she makes it all very obvious by opening her mouth and rooting and kicking up a fuss when she smells my milk (like when I pump by her isolette). Today, I was doing kangaroo care with her (skin-to-skin holding), and she just kept shoving her head toward my nipple -- she's strong, and she knows what she wants. It's instinct. Also instinct: my giving it to her. I let her latch on just for a few moments, figuring my production's so crappy she wouldn't get anything, and she could do it before...

ah well. The nurse was kind about it, but I really wasn't supposed to do that. Apparently, when they have a fungal infection, milk in the belly can lead to a bodywide infection, which is what we've been trying to avoid. If any of my milk leaked out into her mouth and down her throat, it could -- I dunno. I don't know how bad it could be, or how seriously I have to worry about it. They are getting a platelet count tomorrow, some blood test or other, and if the platelets are high (or low -- honestly, it's hard to keep track of which direction all these numbers have to go) then it'll be OK for her to feed and it won't matter. "Just cross your fingers," the nurse said, which is what I've been doing all along. I hope it's okay, and it's hard to imagine that my milk could be so dangerous. And honestly, I really defy any mom reading this blog to resist the instinct to put a baby to your breast when she's asking for it.

Geh. As if I weren't worried enough about having given her this infection somehow in the first place. Or about not having handled the milk properly, and that got her sick. Or just -- you know, I'm already paranoid. But apparently about the wrong things.

Eh, the golden retriever in my soul swears she's going to be fine.

Anyway, the numbers: Her culture from 11/10 still shows yeast. She's completely off oxygen, as you can see from the picture! She had here eyes and kidneys checked for fungus/yeast -- all clear, though they may check again in the days to come (the eye exam she "tolerated well," according to the nurse's notes).

As for her weight, at birth she was 1570g (3 lbs 7 oz), and today she was 1830g (4 lbs and change), up 40g (almost an ounce and a half) from yesterday. The street value of my child is just collossal!

Dammit people -- where is my milk?!?!

cranky equals good

Oops, I forgot to post last night. The fact is, there are nights when I'm sorta dragging by the time I get home. It's great to see P doing better, but when it's time to leave and she's crying and I can't quite soothe her before I go, it's a little torturous. I mean, I know she's got a fleet of amazing nurses at her disposal, but all I want to do is sneak her into the pocket of my hoodie and take her home, where I don't have to ask for help every time I want to hold her.

Okay, rant over: she's doing better. Still testing positive for yeast, but the new culture hadn't grown out by the time I left yesterday, so maybe that'll end up being the negative test and the countdown to home can begin.

She's breathing on her own and, in my opinion, extremely anxious to start eating again. She gets so agitated when she smells me, and I think it's because she wants milk, not IV nutrition. I'm hoping they'll start her on food again today. Of course, the problem there is that my production has been ... okay! you know what? I'm in a bad mood! I'm going to post again when I'm feeling better!

The upshot: Penelope's doing great. She continues to gain weight and get spunkier and funnier. She completely relaxes when one of us holds her. So things are good! I'm going to have some coffee.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Graduation day!

I arrived at the hospital today and got a great surprise: P is off the ventilator! "Notice something different?" her nurse asked. Yeah -- you moved her again! Nice to give mommy a heart attack. Oh wait! My daughter has a face again! Wahoo!

Of course, this means she has to work harder to breathe again, and she does have a fair number of As and Bs -- she forgets to breathe from time to time. But at this point, she's 32 weeks old, not 30, and that is a huge difference in terms of brain function -- it's easier now than it was before.

She's not out of the woods yet. She's tested negative for 2 of her 3 infections, but the yeast still lingers, and within the next day or two they will test her eyes to make sure it hasn't spread there. But it's not in her mouth -- i saw them check. Apparently that's a good sign. But until she tests negavive for the yeast, they can't put the deeper IV in, and she's gotten stuck so many times that there's almost nowhere to put a line at this point -- so I'm anxious for the final infection to abate so she can have the more comfortable IV.

The other bummer is that she can't go home for 21 days after her last clear culture (showing the infection gone), and she hasn't had a clear culture yet. So it looks like she won't be home for Thanksgiving. Gaah. I'm trying to be OK with that but it's really frigging hard. I'm worried, I hate having to see her on a schedule, I hate having to hold her in a roomful of people, I hate having to pump because I only see her half the day -- I'm grateful for all the great care, but I want her home.

Well, at least it gives me time to keep cleaning and decluttering. Tomorrow I get my desk in order -- or start to, anyway. I wish the professional-organizer fairy would visit me!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Pumper

Have I mentioned how much I hate pumping? Yes? Then have I mentioned it today? I love that I now have two bins full of frozen milk waiting for P, but my G-d, hooking myself up to this blasted green machine every 2-3 hours is a ring of hell I would only wish on my worst enemies.

Also, having a preemie who you can't actually HOLD for any length of time means your milk let-down gets all wonky. For me, that translates to: my nipples feel like an evil monkey has grasped them in his iron-strong paws and he's hanging from them. And he weighs 500 pounds. All the time. OW. For some reason, today Lefty is feeling the pain more than Righty -- possibly because she's producing more. (Step it up, Righty!) It's nowhere near unbearable pain, but it's that constant, distracting, nagging pain -- the kind that sets your teeth on edge and makes you want to punch people, any people. Find me people and I will punch them.

I have my phone set with alarms to remind me when to pump; the alarm sounds like an old-fashioned "Ah-OOOOga!" horn. When I hear that frigging sound, I get homisuicidal. I want to fling myself off a roof and land on people. GAAAAH.

Oh! And now I'm done. Okay. Life is good for another 2-3 hours.

Oh, sorry, were you here for news of an actual baby, rather than my tales of hooter woe? Well: She's doing great. She's still on the ventilator, but way down on the Ativan and very responsive to both my and Randy's touch. She looks beautiful, her color is completely back. She opened her eyes to gaze at me today, and really implored me to take her out of the isolette. It's very, VERY hard to wait. But I read in one of my four huge preemie tomes today about a thing called the "womb hold," a particular way of putting my hands around her that will make her feel most secure; I can't wait to try it out tomorrow, along with the "preemie massage" later in the book.

Her tests show negative for meningitis (but they'll do a second spinal tap in a few weeks to make sure), inconclusive for the kajdfahfejfcoccus (whatever the hell it was), and still positive for the yeast. They'll put in a Picc Line, a different kind of IV, as soon as her yeast is negative for 2 days -- that means they wont' have to poke her with IVs as often, which is great because today they ran out of places to put IVs and had to put one IN HER SCALP. which meant SHAVING some of her precious adorable HAIR. NOOOOOOES!!!!

i have the hair, though, and i'm going to go braid it now.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Worlds better


Well, you think something like the ventilator will happen and it'll just be the worst thing ever, but I got there today and it just wasn't as awful as I'd thought. It just looked like a tube down her throat and at least she was breathing. Even better, she was active, squirming around, and her color was excellent. Her blood-gas tests show improvement every time, she is "overbreathing" on the ventilator (breathing on her own, outside of what the ventilator helps her do), and though she's still very sick, things are really looking up.

And now, a Q&A:

What was the goddamned virus?
A something-cocchus. My brother-in-law the interventional cardiologist (ooh la la!) stopped by today, asked a bunch of questions, and gave our course of treatment a big thumbs-up. He also confirmed that, well, if you're in the hospital, that's where the sick people are, so it's pretty common for babies to get sick with this particular virus, which is just sort of floating around all the time.

What about the meningitis?
SHe's already testing negative for it. She's on antibiotics for it and they are carefully watching to make sure there are no side effects. The worry is the kidneys, but she's "peeing like a race-horse" in the words of her nurse, so um... yes, the world's smallest and slowest race-horse seems to be ok in terms of the inflamed meniscus.

And the frigging yeast?
Yeah, I don't get this one. But it's in her. Yeast is "always around," you can't get rid if it because it's always supposed to be there in small quantities; when things get imbalanced, the yeast overgrows. She's on an intravenous antifungal (eeeyuw!). There is a slight worry that the yeast could grow on her retina or her heart or her brain, but that's highly unlikely and they'll be checking for it in the next few days.

So if she's doing so stellar, what's with the ventilator?
Slow down there, Charlie! She's getting better -- she's not Superbaby. It'll take some time for her to heal, but they are thinking they'll try to take her off it as soon as tomorrow. What they do is turn it down and look at her breathing. If she seems like she has the energy to breathe on her own, they'll take it out. We're just waiting.

The thing is, she really hates the ventilator. She hates the CiPAP mask. She hates the IVs and tries to kick them off. She hates all the stuff. Anyway, so the sorta bad news is that when they intubated, they had to give her some morphine (doesn't hurt her, and I don't want her in pain, so ok). And then she was just really mad, furious, wiggling around the minute she started feeling well enough to realize she had a thingy in her throat, so they also gave her Ativan, an antianxiety medicine. I thought this was weird, but then I saw her heartrate kept going up dangerously high, and I couldn't calm her down with my magic mommy hands, so I said OK, and then she was comfortable. As unhappy as it made me to think of her drugged up and sacked out, I recognize that she really has to have time to heal, and fighting the ventilator is just going to cost her precious energy.

Randy and I sat with her for a few hours, as I sang into the porthole. I wasn't able to hold her today so this'll have to do. Our friends Murphy and Haili came to visit her -- Haili had her first baby at 6 months, and she was 4 lbs, and that little girl is now a stunning 21 year old, so I was grateful to have their good example paraded before P. Plus they brought the cuuuutest presents.

As predicted, I no longer resist The Pink. When all I had were preemie clothes in boring ol' boy colors, I wasn't even tempted to bring them in, but now that my editor and friend Leslie has sent over rose-sprigged onesies, I can't wait for her to get better so I can dress her up again. Crap, I have to get iron-on name labels!

so so so -- things improved immensely and only show signs of getting better. ptui ptui ptui.

Oh for shit's sake!

And now my child has a yeast infection! Wuh tuh fuh!

I knew those spandex diapers were a bad idea, but I just can't resist retro '80s preemie chic. Darn me and my priorities.

big scary vocabulary words

I'm going to say some scary words in this post, so keep at the top of your mind the fact that P is resting comfortably, that her blood-gas results (an indicator of her health) are slowly getting better and better, and that she's on all the correct antibiotics and responding, albeit slowly.

Penn has an strep infection, most likely something she got from me while being born, though it could also just be something random from being handled over the past two weeks. It's one of three bugs -- the culture will show what it is today.

In babies, it's very easy for an infection to spread from the blood to the brain, so she also has meningitis, which is much less dire for her than it would be for an adult or an older child. It was caught very early and the treatment is the same antiobiotics she is on for the strep infection.

This has really exhausted her -- she needs all her energy to fight the infection -- so she started having some trouble remembering to breathe. So last night she was put on a ventilator. This gives her the chance to relax and recover without doing the extra work of breathing. She will be off it as soon as she is feeling better, and she should be feeling better in a matter of hours or days.

Again, her prognosis is excellent. Nobody is worried about her survival. The worst-case scenario is that there's a slim chance she could have "some hearing issues" or "some learning disabilities." And that's a slim chance. So just sit tight and hang in there and there'll be some good news soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baby's First Setback

I'll preface this entry by saying Penn looks much better and is going to be fine, but she gave us a bit of a turn today.

This morning, as I was pumping, I got a call from the NICU (man, that's a number you don't want to see showing up on your "incoming" list). It was Kay, the nurse-practitioner on our team, saying that Penelope seemed to have an infection and was put on antibiotics. They were checking her blood gas and culturing her blood and pee to see what the infection might be, but in the meantime, the antibiotics would start work. Her symptoms were lethargy and slightly elevated temperature, so they were watching her carefully. I guess "mellow" was a precursor to "sick."

When I got to the hospital, I was a bit surprised at what I saw. Penn looked, in a word, awful. She had been moved from the almost-all-better bay to the shit-this-kid's-sick bay, she was out of her onesie, she was back on a CiPAP mask. Worst of all was her color: mottled and kind of grayish-yellow in tone.

Luckily my sister was there, because I really didn't handle this all that well. After the past few days of the pink, alert baby you saw in the earlier posts, it was heart-wrenching to see her back at square 1. But as I sat with her (unable to hold her, but I put my hand on her chest under a blanket), her color steadily improved. She opened her eyes twice, when she got hiccups, and cried a little, which I found reassuring. She sure didn't feel good.

But as I said, her color was vastly improved by the time I left (at around 7:30), and I have corroboration on that: my birth doula works at the hospital, and she saw her in the a.m. and in the p.m. and agreed she was much pinker. Her blood gasses came back showing a little improvement already.

She may have to go visit Uncle Billy Ruben -- she did look a little sallow.

They are re-checking her blood gasses right about now; I'll call in an hour for those results.

She's off her feeds till she feels better and back to IV nutrition.

As for where the infection came from, that's anyone's guess. Obviously I blamed myself, figuring i didn't wash my hands well enough, but the nurses insist that preemie immune systems are just crappy, and while this doesn't happen to every preemie, it happens to many. They just get worn out trying to grow, and when they're worn out, they get sick.

So, no pics today. But more soon. One of my editors sent a huuuge box of the most adorable preemie clothes from her baby (2 weeks early). As soon as she's feeling better I'm going to put the one that says "early bird" on her for a photo op.

Oh dear. My breasts are responding to this stressful day by witholding milk. Ladies! Rise to the occasion, please!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mellow Day


Today was a perfect day, and I don't mean that in the Lou Reed sense -- we just had a nice mellow time. I guess I'm figuring out a routine: wake up, pump, eat breakfast and walk up the hill, pump, do one or two errands, get to hospital, pump, hold baby, pump, Husband arrives and holds baby, and then we go home and I pump or I pump and... well, the evenings are still getting worked out. But at least I feel like there's a rhythm to the day.

Today I got to the hospital nice and early to find that P has gone up to 20 ccs per feed (30 ccs is an ounce), is tolerating it well, and has gained 30 grams. I don't know how much that is in American. She's also peeing enough that we no longer need to weigh her diapers -- her "output is adequate." Would I prefer that her output be described as stellar? Of course. I'm an east-coast overachiever. But hey, it's the preemie ward -- there's plenty of time to catch up.

Not to jinx things, but she has gone an entire day and night with no bradys (her breathing has been steady). Of course that doesn't mean she won't have one again -- many preemies have several "good" days and then fall back a bit -- but it's encouraging. I have no doubt she's making steady progress, but it's nice to have tangible proof. There's nothing we can do to hurry it along, of course. Her "dumb preemie brain" will move along at its own pace.

Anyway, after an active and alert day yesterday, she was totally sacked out today. She was fed in my arms and then spent the next 2 hours fast asleep, which is why my post tonight is less than lively. It's very soothing but I feel weirdly comatose.

Guess who her nurse was tonight? Penelope! A grown up Penelope. Who said indeed, she was a little embarrassed to have such an unusual name as a little girl, but now she likes it. And who didn't want to be Penny (her mom is Penny). I was just glad to finally meet her after hearing about her from everyone else.

Anyway, buh. I'm tired. And today was good. Which is great. And that's all she wrote.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes She Can!



























Well, if I was ever inspired! I just got a text message from my brother-in-law, who said "What changes will P see in her lifetime? It began tonight." I'm so happy and proud of the world I have brought her into. I can't wait to bring her canvassing with me as I went with my mom. This was a good, good day for Penn, for the country, for everyone.

But it was annoying for me. I voted and took a little run-walk up the hill, and then went into a black hole of dithering before I got myself to the hospital. I had to pick up a prescription, argue with the insurance company, shower, pump --everything took longer than it should have, because I'm used to having Husband around. (I also didn't have the car today.) And then I had to check in with the doctors again, who took my blood pressure (repeatedly, every 10 minutes for an HOUR) and declared it a little high, but acceptable while I'm on the medication. So. I take this stuff for 6 weeks, check again, and if it's still high I start making major lifestyle changes (which I'm making already) and managing that.

Anywho, as for Miss Main Event, she continues to thrive. At this point she barely has any of the Bradys (where her breathing dips or stops). What she has is these hyper high-heartrate things: the machine beeps, I look up, her heartrate flashes red at 202, 206, 210, and I look at her -- and she's got a peeved look on her face while she tries to crawl out the porthole of her isolette. I kid you not, she moves her entire small bulk around in there in a way that she is not supposed to be able to do. Anyway, so those alarms are a lot less alarming. And usually, when she gets really mad like that, it means a wet or dirty diaper. Which I still think are cute!

Anyway, all these annoying interruptions just meant that by the time I shook off the doctors and pumped, I had barely 45 minutes to hold P in my arms. which was hard and upsetting but the nurses were so gracious and made as much time as possible for me. And tomorrow I'll be there earlier, with fewer dumb errands to run.

They are feeding her more and more -- she was up to 16 ccs today, so her gut is fully awakened and she may be able to drop the IV nutrition in favor of my own concoction. Which is awesome.

Lori, today's nurse, said she was all set to give her a glycerine suppository when she pooped -- I contend that she saw it coming and said "ALL RIGHT ALREADY! I'll poop!!"

She was amazingly, amazingly alert today. I was with her for about an hour before I had to go meet with the doctor, and her eyes were open the whole time, just looking around. She loves the sun, turns her head toward the light whether she's on her tummy or on her back.

I was actually chatting with the lactation consultant when my breasts felt like they were on a cheap date with an overzealous swain. Randomly. I said "wow, I must be ready to pump, this kills," and she said "your milk just came in -- your baby's calling for it." Simultaneously creepy and cool.

I still cannot figure out how to put video on this darn thing -- i have to ask my sister how she does it. For now, fotos.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Not The Day I'd Planned

So today was a little odd! I'll just start out by saying everything's completely fine now. And it started out great: Randy went off to work, I had a little walk up the hill, felt like a million bucks, was getting ready to run some errands and head to the hospital when I looked at the calendar and realized I had a doctor's appointment. It was supposed to be a quick peek at my stitches, since my regular ob-gyn hadn't been at P's birth.

The thing was, when they did the routine blood-pressure check, all of a sudden everyone started giving me the hairy eyeball. What? WHAT?! Turns out my blood pressure was so high, they didn't want me driving anywhere in case I had a seizure. Fantastic. My doctor had me do blood tests at his hospital, but wanted me examined at the one where P is, so that if I had to be admitted, I'd at least be near her. Stepson drove me over and Husband met me there; they took my blood pressure a bunch of times, and sure enough, it was high. They put me on medication and it came right down. I'll go in and check it out again tomorrow, and if it's ok, I'll just stay on the medication for 6 weeks. What they think is that I was preeclamptic when I gave birth, but it all happened too fast for them to figure that out. Or it was very mild and is only showing up now, which happens sometimes. I dunno how it all works. All I know is they freaked me out but they swear up and down that I'm fine.

Poor Husband has had about all he can take. He deserves a medal for all the worrying i'm putting him through. Everyone be very very very very nice to him.

Anyway, at this point it was after 7:30 pm and the night nurses were on. Husband was exhausted but he was a great sport; he'd gotten an hour with Miss P while i was hooked up to the endless blood-pressure machine, and I hadn't seen her at all. It is collossally amazing to realize how much you can miss someone, especially someone who weighs less than a grocery bag of pasta. Jackie, tonight's nurse, took her out and she latched right on to Lefty. I mean, she went to town. In fact, and this is weird because it's IMPOSSIBLE, when Jackie went to feed her right after that, she found some food in Penn's stomach, and it didn't look like leftovers from the last feed. It's entirely possible that she actually got milk out of me at Week 31, which, in case I did not mention it, is technically impossible.

So all you (imaginary) a-holes telling me she is not really smiling, SUCK ON LEFTY.

Oh! My gosh. Also, they put her in a onesie today. I plotzed. It was white with little pink flowers on it. I thought she wasn't allowed to wear anything! I can't upload the photo at the moment, though, because did I mention the day I had? Instead, all you get is this machine, which is the thing that shows us her heart rate, her breathing, and her blood gas. We're supposed to ignore it and focus on the baby: as long as she's nice and pink and we can see her chest moving as she breathes, she is OK. But how do you ignore such a thing? It keeps beeping! (Honestly, it's actually reassuring. And it's fun to try experiments, like breathing deeply while she's on me and seeing if her breathing becomes more deep, which it does, because I am all-powerful mommy goddess.) (for now.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Hail the Silver Bullet


Check out this insane bit of machinery. Go ahead, check it out! This, my friends, is the Silver Bullet, so named not because of its metallic hue but because it is a missile that goes to the heart of your boobs to shoot milk out your nipples and into two plastic bottles. The nurses say it's some 40 years old; its gentlest setting feels like the overzealous attentions of a superhero called Purple Nurple; and despite its large and clunky plug, I'm pretty sure it's powered by mice on a treadmill. Nonetheless. I hooked myself up to this baby while next to Penn, behind a screen, today, and behold! four ounces of the finest breastmilk in all the land. of course, that was after 3 completely dry and frustrating attempts to divine nourishing liquid from my hooters. but i'll take one gusher over no gushers.

As for the star of this show, well, she had a wonderfully uneventful day. The kids came by and sat with Randy while he held her, and fought over who got to sit in the groovy chair. Then they left and I pumped; she was fed some of my breast milk via a tube to her stomach, and tolerated all of it (no residual leftovers at the next feed). She napped while I stared stalkily at her. Then I held her, and almost immediately she started making lip-smacking "that smells tasty" noises, so I showed her Righty and she latched right on, while our room's two nurses looked on and cooed their admiration (this is advanced behavior for a 31-weeker). Apparently I actually wasn't supposed to be letting her try this yet -- I need the doctor to order it -- and the nurses will make sure they get the order tomorrow. "Nature took its course, so it's okay," one of them said. Oops! What do I know? My kid asks for a nipple, I'm gonna say no? 

She then took a couple-hours nap with no As or Bs, just nice calm shifting around and gentle paddling of her feet and hands. Heaven. 

When it was time for her to eat again, everything went really well, but after that she started to have a bunch of overstimulated alarms go off -- her heartrate was high, and she was doing her cool baby yoga move. I thought maybe she was trying to poop, but it became evident that she was just plain overstimulated and had to just be left alone with a blanket over her isolette. That was hard. I couldn't calm her -- the best thing I could do was walk away. Just in case you ever wondered what that's like, it's hard and weird and awful. Thank goodness the nurses are so amazing, or I would really just melt down every time I had to leave. Actually, I melt down anyway, but I usually keep it under pretty good wraps. Now you know.

the yoga move:




Saturday, November 1, 2008

What's different here?

That's right! Very good! No nasal canula! (that's the tubey thing going into her little nostrils.) Know what that means? NO BOOGERS. I'm very frigging pleased to see the back end of that thing, let me tell you.

We had Mary again today, and it was happily uneventful. Randy held her first, then went home because the kids were arriving; I pumped and then held her, and then the kids came in. Max held her, Eli just stroked her with a finger. It was fine. Max got a ltitle scared when Penn had a little brady, but all it was was the poor kid needing a poop, and one glycerine suppository later, she did. Wahoo.

She was very sacked-out today. I'm figuring it's a little harder to breathe without the nasal canula so maybe she's more tuckered out. We didn't try any more breastfeeding, but she got fed every 3 hours today and that continues to go well. Now if I could just keep up with her, milk-wise, I'd feel a lot better; in a supreme moment of irony, my ginormous orbs have decided they're strictly for show, and aren't producing more than a pathetic unappetizing dribble no matter what I do. I'm not engorged. They're just being assholes. So Em's getting me various potions from Whole Foods and I'm going to try, I dunno, meditating and relaxing and whatnot. I don't know how I could get more relaxed -- I sleep 8 hours at night and have a hot bath every evening when i get home from the stupid hospital, what the hell's my problem? I'm not the one sleeping in an isolette with an IV in my foot.

Anyway, yeah, so in case you didn't notice, my state of mind is not the best. I guess I'm bummed that Husband goes back to work on Monday and I don't enjoy having the kids around at the moment. I really just want everyone on the planet to dry up and blow away, unless they are directly taking care of me or Penn or running for President. I'm so awesome! I love everybody. No seriously I do. la la la

let me just count my blessings: Penn is having a great day. She's breathing totally on her own. She's in a room with other lively kids who are all doing great, rather in the scary quiet room. I have a great husband with whom I'm still in love as we go through this, and we have each other's best interests at heart. I have been able to heal from childbirth safely at home while the best baby-nurses in the world watch my kid. And Obama's up, up, up in the polls. So I'll just power through and I'll see her again tomorrow. Okay.