"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Breastfeeding SUCCESS!

28 days old/days in NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz ( +2 oz)

October 30, 2010

Yesterday, we were speaking with one of Ella's doctors and I asked when we would start introducing breastfeeding. After determining how old Ella was gestationally (33w2d), Dr. Bendel-Stenzel (whom, by the way, I call Gods right hand..) said we could start breastfeeding...RIGHT AWAY. I was so flustered and excited! Ella had just eaten so we decided we'd come back for her 8:00 PM feeding. 

That evening, we came back at 7:30 PM and I pumped so that if Ella did manage to latch on again this time (she'd latched on once before), she wouldn't have any issues with choking or aspirating or anything. I got comfy on the chair, with a pillow on my lap and the nurse handed Ella to me. I wasn't sure the best position on how to hold her because she's so darn small! Holding a 3 lb 5 oz baby is much, much different then holding a 15 lb baby to your breast! The nurse asked me how I'd nursed Olivia and I told her that Olivia's favorite way to nurse had always been draped across my body with her belly against mine. So, that's how she told me to hold Ella. Ummm...it's that simple?? Guess so! 
See those smiles? Those are the smiles of pure amazement
 at a  3 lb baby that latched on and started sucking without any help at all!!!!

I don't have any fancy words of advice to other moms of preemies except it simply can come down to patience and knowing that babies just know what to do sometimes! With Olivia, that wasn't the case, but with Ella, it was. She latched on with not a single issue. She's obviously not taking any full feedings or anything like that and she latches and pulls off but she latched and breastfed from my left breast (both times we've breast fed funnily enough). You can see in the above picture how I held her and that worked out really well except the arm I was using to hold my breast got really sore so I think I need a pillow or something to go underneath it. 

It was so amazing though. I can't even tell you. Just to have her latch and suck but when she actually caused a let down and started nursing for several minutes...I swear, a choir of angels started singing!! It was the most beautiful, natural thing ever. All the fears I had about breastfeeding such a tiny baby completely flew out the window and it was like we fit together like two puzzle pieces. I had worked myself up so much being so worried about having such a tiny little baby at such a ginormous boobie but when she latched on and we relaxed, it all fit together. My advice to new breastfeeding moms, whether or not you're breastfeeding a preemie is to relax and trust your body. And DON'T GIVE UP!! :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday to my first miracle baby!

Today was Olivia's 2nd birthday!! We went to Mall of America this morning and did Build-a-Bear which she LOVED! She picked a dog and a "princess" (ballerina but we called it Princess) outfit and she named her dog Princess (shocker). Then we had a cookie for a snack instead of something healthy. Later in the afternoon, we went to our friend Deanna and Emerson's house for a big birthday play date. There were so many kids there!

Tomorrow morning we're having a small birthday party (with many of the same people from today ha ha) at a park and we're having Mickey Mouse cupcakes. Here are some pictures from today's birthday celebrations and tomorrow, we'll share some more.

I'm so overwhelmed at my luck of having not one, but two, beautiful girls. Each of my girls are miracle babies and we are so blessed to have such amazing children. I thank God that He blessed us with these two girls in spite of the many, many odds that were against us!!

Ella gained 2 ounces and now weighs 3 lbs 4 oz and is on the human milk fortifier every feeding. What a great day!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

26 days

26 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 2 oz (-1 ounce)

Ella has some congestion and her oxygen needs were up last night, so today her doctor decided to bring her cannula from .5 liter of pressure up to 1 liter of pressure. She was needing between 40-50% oxygen and now she's back down to around 30%. The way the nurse explained it was that it's not a step backwards, it's more of a sideways step but this way, she's burning less calories while trying to breathe. Ella isn't gaining weight the way they'd like her to, and as you can see she lost an ounce (BOO!) so hopefully this will help. Dr. Morozek decided to keep her feedings exactly as they are because she handled them well (so 18 ml every 2 hours with the human milk fortifier every other feeding) and she's planning on adding the human milk fortifier to every feeding starting tomorrow. I'm glad she's handling it better this time around. 

Today, Ella had her first eye exam. Premature babies are at risk for something called retinopathy of prematurity. Basically, when full term babies are born their eyes are fully developed but when a baby is born prematurely the eyes haven't had a chance to develop and the vessels can have problems. There is a lot more to it but honestly, I'm not even going to TRY and explain it. Anyways, she had her first eye exam and she was found to have premature eyes (duh) but within the normal range so, hurray! They'll do another exam in 2 weeks and we'll probably need to continue seeing a pediatric opthomologist once she's home. 

Tonight the NICU is having a pizza party for the families, and all family members can come so Olivia and my mom are coming too. I'm pretty excited to meet some other families, especially since we've been here for almost a month and we're looking at another 7ish weeks in the NICU. 

Today, I would be 33 weeks pregnant. It's been kind of a rough day for me simply because I SHOULD still be pregnant. Several people have said to me that our situation is just like me being pregnant still but I get to hold her everyday instead (since she's in the hospital and not at home). I appreciate the sentiment and that people want to help you feel better, but it's really not anything like that. If I were still pregnant, I would not be watching her struggling to breathe or worrying about how much weight she's gaining or every single gram that she loses. I would know that she was protected and warmed by my womb and was gaining weight thanks to the nutrients provided by my placenta. Plus, I'd have that super adorable baby belly where, at this point it's just the right size to be nice and big and round without being extremely uncomfortable yet! 

Tomorrow is Olivia's birthday! We're going to get up early, stop into the NICU for a short time and then go to the Mall of America to do build-a-bear with Olivia! On Saturday morning, we're having her birthday party at an indoor park with some close friends of hers (and ours) and her cousin. She picked a Mickey Mouse cake and blue monkey plates. I'm pretty excited to celebrate her birthday and on Sunday...she gets to meet Ella!! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

25 days old and ready for Level II!!!

25 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 3 oz (+ 2 ounces)

I haven't blogged about Ella in a few days because there have been no changes. She's been on 18 ml every 2 hours for a few days and they weren't making any changes. Today, they started her on the human milk fortifier again to see how her tummy handles it this time. Dr. Morozak (one of the Dr.'s I really like!) put her on it every other feeding to see if she handles it a bit better this time. 

We also had some very exciting news today. Ella is officially ready for a Level II NICU! We're HOPING to stay at Children's Hospital because we know the hospital and plus, they have lots of benefits that Abbott doesn't have like the Sibling Play Room, the $45 meal voucher every week for breastfeeding and private rooms. They are going to try to get us in there, and our NICU social worker said they'll have some beds opening up next week but if we can't get in there, we'll be transferring over to Abbott. Abbott will still have the same doctors, which was important to us and is also part of Allina, which is the medical system we decided to stay in. Regardless, soon we'll be in a Level II and we're well on our way to coming home. I'm SO READY for November to come so I can say "Ella will be home next month". I know, it's totally in my head, but I just want to be able to put it that way ha ha. 

Because I haven't blogged in a few days, I have lots of pictures to share so this is going to be a picture heavy post!! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's times like these when differences get put aside

Saturday morning, after rooming in with Ella (staying the night), I was down in the cafeteria getting breakfast. As I was making my coffee, there was a lady beside me who had beautiful, long, thick, red hair and I just had to compliment her on it. We started talking and found out that we both had babies in the NICU. I asked her if  her baby had been born prematurely. With tears in her eyes, she told me that when her full term son was 7 days old, they discovered that he had a heart defect and he was air lifted from Pine City to Children's Hospital. I could tell by how she was talking about it that their night had been very much like our night when Ella was 4 days old. She was crying and I reached over and hugged her tightly. She was a stranger, probably 15 years my senior and nothing in common that I knew of but at the moment, we were both one and the same--a mama in desperate need to help their baby but with tied hands. I reassured her that eventually she would be able to talk about all of this without crying. She smiled at me and said thanks. We swapped stories about our babies and how they were doing. I discovered that he was going to have surgery on Tuesday morning (that's tomorrow...we're praying for you baby Malachai!!) and that he was the youngest of 7 children. This mama, whose name I found out the next day is Leslie, probably is completely and totally different then I am. If we were to run into each other on the street,we probably wouldn't have talked much less embraced and bonded but in this moment, all of those walls were dropped and we came together, all differences aside, and we were one and the same. 

Today, Shane and I were talking about Leslie and her family and how amazing it was that situations like this just shove all differences aside and bring people together. Like I said, Leslie and I would have never bonded but after this, even if we never see each other again, we will have a small special place in each others hearts as the woman who bonded with the other over a cup of bad coffee on that Saturday morning. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

22 days old

22 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 1 oz (+20 grams)

A lot of the same going on in the NICU the last few days. Ella's feedings have gone to every 2 hours and she's getting 18 ml each feeding. They tried to add the human milk fortifier but she had a lot left in her tummy afterwards so they decided to not do it anymore for today. Ella is now 3 lbs 1 oz, 16 inches long and her head is measuring 11 inches. She has gained 7 ounces, 1 inch in her length and 1 inch in head. Now that she's eating more and once they are able to get the human milk fortifier (which adds extra calories) into her breast milk, she'll really start packing on the pounds. At about 1500 grams (which is how they measure her in the NICU), she'll be out of her incubator and in an isolette. That equals about 3.3 lbs, so we're pretty close! 

Another super exciting thing that happened today was one of Ella's primary nurses Jeanette dressed her in an adorable onsie. She looked so sweet!!!!! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

20 days old

20 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 1 oz (+2 ounces)

Lots of changes this afternoon at the NICU! Ella is now on a regular flow cannula and only on .5 Liter of pressure. She's also being moved to 10 ml every 2 hours for her feedings as opposed to continuous feedings of 6 ml an hour. They tried this yesterday and she still had a lot left in her belly so they went back to continuous feedings but the doctor wanted to try again today. I don't know how she's reacting to either of these things yet since the changes just went into affect but tonight I am staying at the NICU so I'll have the opportunity to see first hand how she's reacting! I will also do K-care tonight and hopefully we'll have a super awesome nurse like we did last night who will let me do it as long as I want! As you can see, Ella gained 2 ounces and that is NOT water retention!! We're at the point with weight gain where it's all GOOD weight gain! Hurray! If she is handling the every 2 hour feedings well, they will increase her feedings every several hours and by tomorrow she will be on full feedings (for her) of 14 ml every 2 hours. At that point, they will add in the human milk fortifier into her feedings. 

In ONE week, Olivia will be two years old!! I can't believe my beautiful little baby who weighed 4 lbs 9 ounces will actually be two years old! We're having a very small birthday party with her favorite friends at an indoor play area. We're hoping later to celebrate her birthday with family as well but for now, this is what Olivia would like the best. Hopefully we can have a dinner and small party later on with family so they can be part of the celebration. 

Once she is two, Olivia will be able to go in to officially meet Ella. She was able to see her after she was born for a very short period, but now she'll be able to see her in person. Our plan, assuming she stays HEALTHY between now and then, is that on Halloween, Olivia will meet Ella. We're going to have Ella dressed up in a pumpkin onsie and pumpkin hat for Halloween and Olivia is going to be in her costume, which is Little Red Riding Hood. In her basket, she's going to have some (hopefully) homebaked goodies for people at the NICU. :) Then we'll get pictures of the two girls together in their costumes. I can't WAIT!!!!!! <3 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Only silly people say that new babies can't really smile!!

While doing K-care, Ella repositioned herself so her arms were folded under her head <3

19 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 2 lbs 15 oz

Everyday things just get better and better. Ella is on 6 ml an hour and is on 23% air. Room air is 21% so by tomorrow, she'll probably be breathing room air! You and I breathe 21% so it's a really big deal!! :) She was on 2 liters pressure on her cannula and is now on 1 liter! That's the lowest you can go on the high pressure cannula so probably by tomorrow she'll be on a regular nasal cannula!! We're days away from being switched over to the Level II NICU. Respiratory wise, she could be there although they said the prefer to have them on the regular nasal cannula but it's not a requirement. Some nurses have told us she needs to be on full feedings and some have told us she doesn't but still, we're within a week of being switched over to the Level II NICU. We're going to stay where we are because we're really happy with the doctors and the system. It's only about 15-20 minutes away from us and quite frankly, I don't want to deal with the stress of learning a new medical system, new parking, how to get there, new doctors etc. It's just not worth it to be 5 minutes closer! Also, you can't see it but Ella doesn't have a SINGLE IV in her body right now!! Her last IV (in her arm) was removed today!!! SOOOOO exciting!

You may be wondering about the title of this blog. Well tonight, Ella smiled at both Shane and I. You may not believe it but you're just silly if you don't he he. He had his hand on her head and was talking to her and Ella opened up her eyes and looked at him and smiled. She did this multiple times while I was pumping. Then I was over there talking to her with my hand on her head and she opened up her eyes and the corner of her mouth went up into a definite smile. We didn't have the camera or we would have taken a picture, but without a doubt, she was SMILING! Sooo sweet. Her smile is absolutely beautiful!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

17 days old

17 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 2 lbs 15.5 oz 

Another excellent day at the NICU! Ella is doing so well on her cannula! She needs a bit more oxygen but that's totally normal for babies switching from the vent to the cannula. She lost another 2 ounces and is just a few ounces from her birth weight. I asked her nurse today (Mary, whom I love) if it was possible she won't get down to her birth weight since she's eating 4.5 ml an hour (3.5 oz a day) and she said it's definitely possible that will happen. 

Today I did K-care with Ella and I put her near my breast to get her to start nuzzling to see what she would do with my nipple. I started by just resting her against the top of my breast to calm her down (she doesn't like being moved around and gets fussy). Then I moved her to my breast and just let the nipple be near her mouth to see what she would do. She definitely enjoyed it and actually latched on and suckled a few times!! I was SO excited! I actually cried when she first brought it into her mouth. It was definitely a weak suck and I had to pull it out because she destated a bit but we're definitely on the road to breastfeeding!! Right now we're just practicing but around 34 weeks is when babies are generally able to do the suck swallow breathe and able to breastfeed. I'm pretty confident based on today that she'll be able to successfully breastfeed soon!! :) 

Monday, October 18, 2010

16 days old and another great day!

She was grabbing onto the cord. Just like her older sister, she likes to hold onto stuff when she sleeps <3

16 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 1.5 oz 

Day 1 on the high flow nasal cannula went very well! Ella is much more comfortable and it made K-care much easier this morning! Ella is now on 4.5 ml an hour of breast milk, so 3.5 ounces a day. Hurray!! They'll be starting to put human milk fortifier in her feedings soon.  Human milk fortifiers are powders added to breast milk to increase the amount of calories. Human milk fortifiers are used with premature and small babies to help them to gain weight faster and catch up to their peers. They'll increase it again tomorrow, so that's great. She's really doing a good job digesting her food. Ella is just slowly getting better and better. It's so great! They didn't even do an x-ray last night because she's getting so much better, they don't feel they need to do them regularly anymore. She also got another IV taken out so now she just has one IV in one of her hands. 

Today I did K-care with Ella. From now on, we'll be able to do it everyday and soon we'll even be able to do it twice a day!! It was really nice with the cannula. Not so freaky!! 

I also had a 2 week check up today which I had to have because of my severe preeclampsia. They lowered my blood pressure medication, thank GOD, because I'm on too high of a dosage and I get super dizzy and light headed about 1-2 hours after taking it. He also said there is a good possibility that eventually I will end up off it completely and NOT have chronic hypertension (fingers crossed). I also lost almost 30 lbs of water retention so far and still have a bit of swelling left in my legs and fingers. I can't BELIEVE how much swelling I had with Ella!! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

SHE'S OFF THE VENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shane just called me and told me to check his facebook and I was greeted with this:


Of course I wish I had pictures of her coming off the vent but it's okay! I am beside myself with excitement.

15 days old and lots of snuggles!

A video of Ella doing what she does best. Being adorable! :D

15 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 2.5 oz (-2 oz)

I could just write every blog post from here until Ella comes home: She's doing even better!! Okay, I know that's not true and we'll probably have our bad days but things are finally looking up after 2 weeks of absolutely no progress (even the little that there was, we backtracked and ended up at -0-). Ella lost another 2 ounces and is really starting to look like her skinny, wrinkly self again. She is still pooping and peeing really good which means that not only is she losing that water weight, but she's digesting her food! They have been increasing it by .5 every 8 hours and they haven't had to stop the feedings at all because she's digesting it. Right now, she should be at (I believe) 3 ml an hour...maybe 3.5. I can't totally remember. 
She was so awake and aware today! 
Her doctor told us today that she'll be off the vent very soon AND those IV's are going to come out in a day or two! She's receiving very little support from the ventilator so we're right there on the brink of not needing it anymore. I SO hope we are there when they make that call so we can get pictures of her coming off it!!! I'm SO excited for this milestone. It's such a huge thing! Today when I was there in the afternoon, Ella almost pulled her vent out and I warned the respiratory therapist who moved her hand and then muttered "She'd be fine without it." I just about puked from happiness. I have a feeling it will be within a day or two that it comes out, but I'm trying not to get TOO excited about that or get too high of expectations. 

Today was an exciting day also because we got to do K-care again (THIRD DAY IN A ROW!). Daddy was the one who did it today. I can't speak for him but based on the pictures the nurse took, I'd say he was pretty much over the moon. What do you think?
This picture makes my heart melt <3

One of my closest friends, and Ella's Godmother Faith, came to visit for the day. On the day Ella was born, Faith and her fiancee Kevin drove over 3 hours to be there with us. They stayed, I believe an hour or two, most of which are pretty fuzzy to me, got to see Ellas foot, brought me some bananas since the dang nurse wouldn't let me eat, hugged us and left. She's a wonderful friend and such an important part in my girls' lives. Today she got to meet Ella for the first time. My heart exploded when I saw how much love she obviously had for Ella. My girls are lucky to have such a loving person who adores them so much in their life! I posted some pictures of Faith meeting Ella. 

I also got an unexpected surprise today! We were there and Ella was getting a new incubator. Right as we were going to leave, her nurse said to another nurse "Mom will hold her while we're switching them [the incubators]." Needless to say, we didn't leave ha ha ha! It was only for a few minutes but it was still a wonderful, special surprise and very fun because it was the first time I got to hold her in my arms as opposed to against my chest. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE K-care and it's amazing but it was fun to actually FEEL her weight! Here are some pictures from that. 

Olivia had a fun time seeing Arianna (my friends step daughter) whom she adores, and of course her auntie "Fait"! She LOVES Faith and I know that Ella will too!! :D 
Olivia and her auntie "Fait"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Two weeks old!!

14 days old/days in the NICU
Weight: 3 lbs 4.5 oz (-2 oz)

Today was another excellent day for Ella! She came down even MORE on her vent and O2 and the doctor vaguely mentioned the possibility of her being off the vent soon. She said she wouldn't give a time line or make any promises because it's totally up to Ella (and I told her I didn't want any promises!) but it sounded like there is a very good possibility it will be very soon!! As in, within a few days!!! That's GREAT news! After that, she'll move to either CPAP or the nasal cannula (mentioned in other posts). I'm hoping for a nasal cannula because it's less intrusive but it's completely up to Ella and how she reacts. I'm including some pictures of CPAP and the nasal cannula so you know what each looks like, for those of you who don't know. 
CPAP (I don't know this baby)
Nasal Cannula
Ella lost 2 oz today of the water weight, which is great. It sounds kind of weird to say that it's good that our little 2lb10oz baby is losing weight ha-ha! But she's peeing super good AND she's pooping on her own so they are no longer going to be doing the suppositories regularly, just as needed. They also increased her feedings. Every 8 hours, it will go up .5 ml. So at noon today, she started getting 1.5 ml an hour and then at 8:00 PM, it went up to 2 ml an hour, so on and so forth. She's digesting her food really good. 

She's really starting to be aware of the ventilator and she apparently finds it extremely disagreeable. But then, if you had a tube down your throat, wouldn't YOU find it disagreeable?? She is trying to cry but can't with it down her throat. It is so sad to see her mouth open up and her face scrunch up and tears coming out of her eyes but no sounds being made. I want to tear that dumb thing out of her mouth and tell her to just let it out! :sigh: In time, I know it'll come out. 

I feel like there was something else that I wanted to add but to be honest, I'm so exhausted writing this blog post, I can't really think straight. Olivia didn't want to take a nap today which meant that mama didn't get to take a nap. OH OF COURSE!! I got to hold Ella again this evening! She was kind of cranky when she first came out, just from the movement but once we figured out how she wanted her arms and legs to be positioned she zonked right out on mama! I sang to her a bit and then I dozed off as well. It was nice to cuddle and hold Ella while I dozed a little bit. It gave me a slight sense of normalcy. Here are a few more pictures from today's Kangaroo Care session. They aren't the best because I was taking them myself! 
Our friend Meghan made this pretty hat for Ella.
Kissing my Ella <3
Oh my gosh, she's so pretty!