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

Monday, October 4, 2010

First kangaroo care with Ella and an update on her health

Today was an amazing day!!! I don't even know where to begin because SO much happened!

Daddy feeding Ella breastmilk on a q-tip

Okay, well I'll start with an update on her health. I found out today that I was incorrect about her being on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). She started on a CPAP but had to be moved to a ventilator when she was struggling to breathe. The ventilator is essentially doing the breathing for her, which I didn't understand until today. THAT was a very scary thing to find out. However, they have been slowly weaning her off it. If I understand it correctly, the way they do that is check the gas levels in her blood every several hours to see how much oxygen she is getting and then they turn the ventilator down so that she is doing more breathing and it is doing less breathing for her. They had thought that maybe she would be off it by today but they found a heart murmur and that's apparently making her body work harder so not quite yet. They did an x-ray and saw (as well as heard) the heart murmur and are treating it with a medication that is supposed to treat the valve. Her doctor told us today that it's extremely common with preemies to have heart murmurs and that usually in babies, they close up but with preemies, a lot of times they don't. Because of her gestational age (29 weeks), she should only need the medication to clear it up and not need anything further. They gave her the first dosage today (it's 3 dosages). The bummer thing is that they stop their feedings during the medication. She was getting 1 ml of my breastmilk every 4 hours. She'll continue getting just a tiny bit put in her mouth every 4 hours though. They put some on a q-tip and spread it in her mouth to get her used to the taste, to swallow and so the enzymes can go down her throat. Today, Shane got to give it to her and she sucked it off the q-tip in a second!! Good thing my breastmilk tastes soooo good! he he he! Other then that, everything is still staying the same and we're hoping she's on a CPAP machine by tomorrow and off the ventilator! 

Mama changing Ella's diaper
When I went to visit Ella this afternoon, I'd asked about holding her and the nurse said no, not yet (YET AGAIN!). I was super upset because not only did I desperately want to hold her but I also wasn't producing ANY colostrum and I knew that if I could have more contact with her, I would produce more! The nurse had a lactation consultant come in to talk to me about pumping. I told the LC everything I'd been doing--breast massage, pumping every 3 hours, sitting in different positions, smelling a blanket from Ella, seeing pictures etc and she finally asked me if I was doing kangaroo care with Ella. I started crying and said I'd been asking for 2 days but they wouldn't let me! The LC immediately turned to the nurse, questioning why I hadn't held Ella yet. The nurse gave her some lame answers, obviously none of which the LC thought were acceptable and she said to her "No, that's no okay, this mama needs to hold her baby. She NEEDS it. We need to talk to the doctor and make this happen. That's not a good enough reason for her to not be holding this baby." I started sobbing in relief. FINALLY someone had listened to me! I'd been asking to do Kangaroo care (skin on skin contact) with Ella since she was born. I KNEW that it would be good for her and I KNEW it would help bring in my milk! So the doctor came and they PROMISED me I would be able to do kangaroo care that evening at 4:00 when they did her diaper change, check up etc. 

At 3:30, Shane came up to the hospital. We loaded up with the camera and wheeled down. Shane did her oral (spreading a few drops of colostrum in her mouth with a q-tip) and I changed her diaper. Before holding her, I used the pump and was able to pump 2 ml colostrum. I'd been struggling all day and hadn't gotten any out so this was nice. I found that if I was in Ella's NICU room and looking at her, I could get some out. After that, the nurse brought the chair over and started readying Ella for me to hold her. I'd take off my shirt and bra and was wearing just an open front nurses robe so that Ella could lay against my naked skin. 

Mama holding Ella for the first time ever! 10-4-10
When they first gave her to me, and I felt her tiny body against mine, I completely lost it. I felt like an empty part of myself had been filled when she laid against me. It is so natural to hold your precious baby against your skin and I was finally able to hold her!!! It was so amazing. We just sat there, skin on skin, with blankets covering us, rocking in a chair and singing. I sang her a song that my grandma made up for her great grandbabies that includes the baby's name and goes through each person that loves the baby. It goes along to the tune "Oh My Darlin' Clementine" and goes: 
'Oh my darlin', Oh my Darlin', Oh my Darlin' Eleanor (or babies name). Mama Christa loves the baby, oh my darlin' Eleanor" (this gets sung to Olivia and her cousin Kyra as well and goes through each person in the family or close friends who love the baby)
Not only do babies love to be sang to of course, but this also gives me the opportunity to share with Ella how much each of her family members, her Godmother and her friends love her already. After I sang to her for a little while, we just sat there but I started dozing off so Shane and I just used the time to talk and touch her. He sat by me for a while and put his hands on her back and kissed her head while she cuddled up close to my breasts. She kept cuddling in closer and squirming herself up. Then she'd close her fingers around my skin. I could have died from happiness right then and there!! The nurse had originally said we could go for an hour. After an hour, the nurse (the same nurse who earlier had told us we couldn't hold her today!) came in and said that Ella was managing so well that it would actually be a good idea to CONTINUE doing the kangaroo care (I felt a very small urge to kick the nurse at this point...) and if we wanted to, we could stay and keep holding her. Would we continue to stay?! UM YES!! Ha ha. So we just kept holding her, talking to her, kissing her head, rubbing her back under the blankets...we were all in heaven. After more then 2 hours, the new nurse came in and it was time to do her check up so we put her back into her solette. It was such a wonderful night for all of us!! And preemie babies need kangaroo care as much as they need breastmilk and oxygen. It's not just a nice thing for them--it's a NEED! So I was just thrilled to be able to finally hold her against my skin, especially for so loong! 

After we put her back into the isolette, you could tell she was irritated with the nurse for taking her away from me. She was grumbling and kicking her legs around so daddy put his hands into the isolette and they held hands for a while. When she calmed down a bit, she opened up her eyes and was looking around. She has such beautiful eyes and is SO alert!! She was looking around for a really long time--I was so excited! I must have taken 15 pictures of her with her eyes open (and of course, they all look the same!). We also got two videos from the NICU tonight but the hospitals internet is too slow to download them so we'll have to wait until I get home. 

Right before we left, I pumped one more time and was able to get SIX ML of colostrum!!! That doesn't sound like much but in the world of colostrum, it's a TON! Especially since earlier in the day I was unable to get even so much as a DROP out of my breasts!! I was so happy that I was able to get so much for Ella. It's absolute liquid gold and one of the best things I can provide for her right now!! 

Here are some more pictures from today. I know this is a really really long blog post, but today was a really, really special day so it deserved one! :) 



  1. LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!

    you are bringing me back, girl! and making me weep. i remember all of this - but most vividly, i remember kangaroo care and how freaking special it was. how it could take my breath away, how i could feel the oxytocin just flowing through me. aww!

    you are so amazing, Christa. i think it really does take a special mama to be a mom to a preemie :) so excited to watch you go through this tough but rewarding NICU journey...you will come out a stronger mama!

  2. Brittany, YES!! I was saying that to Shane tonight as I was holding her! I told him I could literally feel the oxytocin just pumping through my entire body. I KNEW that i'd be able to pump a ton when we were done. It was like the hormones were dripping out of my pores ha ha. I loved it!!

  3. YAY Again Christa! :) Congrats girl! I am SO glad you were able to do Kangaroo Care! So happy too that the nurse saw how well Ella was doing with it and allowed you to continue! :) I think that every time we PUSH the medical staff to do things they don't want to do and they can physically see, in person, why it was so awesome to do that we have pushed and enlightened them. We have given them the chance to look at the scenario and think "Wow, if it worked for Christa and Ella maybe it will work for the Mother down the hall. I am going to try it tomorrow". :) It happens in life too! Every time you push a boundary (nursing in public, nursing past a year, BLW, AP, CD, ANYTHING) it gives someone an opportunity to look at it in a positive light. I hope SO much that you were able to change her mind LOL :) You are an awesome Momma and you are doing an awesome job :) Keep up the amazing work :) :) :)

  4. Christa,

    I am reading this as I lay next to my sleeping post NICU toddler, and I just want you to know- I am indeed doing the ugly cry. Every woman knows what I'm talking about. The so moved and touched cry you let out when know one is around to see how dumb you look. That one.

    I remember that, I so remember like it was 30 seconds ago. I can smell the freaking hand sanitizer/lotion from the hospital and that funny vinyl smell that comes out of the ventilator, I can smell them right now. I too, begged and begged for kangaroo care. For two weeks I begged. That's why I had FRIENDS dvd's, were it not for friends, there'd have been no colostrum. I just had an aching in my heart all of the time. Finally the same flight nurse that transported my Tenley to a that hospital was her night shift nurse. She found out that no one had let me hold Tenley and said no wonder Mom and Baby aren't doing well! Are you people new here? FINALLY I got to hold her. We didn't do actual Kangaroo care that time, but man was it beautiful. Just the weight of her tiny body against my arms and her baby smell. Like you said, the way you had felt empty the whole time you were apart and now you were whole again.

    I understand about how every fraction of a ML is like a major victory! Go you, mama! Good for you for sticking with it! Also, if you don't like your nurse and you feel you've been reasonable in expressing your concerns and you feel he/she has been UNreasonable in trying to accommodate them...get another one! I know, it's awkward, but its COMPLETELY within your rights. She is YOUR child, not the hospitals. They should be asking your permission for things, not the other way around. It starts to feel like that isn't the case when you are in the NICU, and it can start to feel like you have no purpose. They have her best interest in mind, but this is so common to them and they forget how basic human needs like love and connection play a HUGE part in a baby's overall health. Like you said- its a NEED! If I learned anything in the NICU, its that Mom's instincts are always right on. If there is something you FEEL strongly about, you're probably right.

    About the vent and oxygen support. She may get better all kinds of fast, and she may give you mixed progress. That's ok. If it's not what the Dr said it would be, it doesn't mean she had a bad day. The NICU is all guess work. One thing I liked to think about if she had to go back on oxygen or use more or stay sedated longer than I wanted was that- she got to rest. These babies are such fighters, they love us and they work so hard to get better. And sometimes, they need a break. I mean look at Ella! TWENTY NINE WEEKS and she came out saying "Mom, look! See- I can do it! Check me out! All breathin and stuff! 29 weeks, I'll show THEM what 29 weeks can do! Eat my co2!" And now she needs some rest, her little body is working so hard. Think about it, if she was in the womb she wouldn't be breathing or eating or looking around, so she is already a super baby for even attempting all of that. She's just resting up. Anyway that's what I always told myself and it helped me get through.

    I know I babble, but I will risk over sharing on the off chance that it might help you.

    Love and prayers,

  5. Aw Jacque, your post made me cry. The entire thine. I hated that it took them two days for them to hold me but it isn't every second of the day that I'm not also so eternally grateful thatI was able. When I went in there, we honestly though 10 minutes. When she told me an hour, i started sobbing like someone had shot me. When they left me to go for over 2 hours because she was thriving so well, I just may have died briefly and gone to heaven.

    I tell myself the resting thing too...so that I will leave her isolette, go to my room, take a shower, eat, and remember that indeed there is another part to this world and that part includes a 2 year old who despearately wants her mama to come home and dance with her!!

    :big hugs: You are AMAZING Jacque!! This is probably a blubbery post...I'm crying, i've been sleeping for only 3 hours and I'm just up to pump. Good thing I decided to check my blog and FB huh?! :D

  6. I'm so glad I've made a friend in you. The NICU left me some emotional wounds, and it's so healing to think that *maybe* sharing what I went through might help someone. You're really helping me, thanks for allowing me to ramble on :)

  7. Oh my gosh, girl, you ramble and ramble away! And cry, and laugh, and vent, and whatever else you need to do!!!

  8. Christa, Jacqueline is very right about the nurse thing too. If you are unhappy with a nurse get them kicked off of Ella's rotation. We had to do that with one. Tony was PISSED because she would basically ignore Culley like she had better things to do and if he got worked up his breathing got worse, he needed to be tended IMMEDIATELY, it wasn't something we thought was unreasonable so Tony spoke to the supervisor or whatever and we never had that nurse again. It's your right as the parent especially if it's in Ella's best interest.

  9. Thanks girls! I know I have the right to ask for a nurse not to be her nurse again. i've decided that if she ends up in the cycle again, I'll give her one more chance and if she crosses the line again, I'll ask for her to be removed.