Monday, June 30, 2008

30

When we are 29, we dread turning 30. Well, most of us do. I welcomed it. I was sick of being 29, and I was ready to be out of the whole decade of the 20's, during which I made poor decisions and did not further my emotional health, career, or financial well being. I guess I thought that rounding the 30 corner would make me a grown up...

Here's hoping for the 40 corner!

Our baby just turned 30 (gestational age), which is even more welcome to me. He's still ten weeks away from the magical "40," but he's inching (and ouncing) forward. The book says that he weighs about three pounds, which is about right. He was 1345 grams on Friday, which translates to 2.965 pounds. Supposedly, were he "inside," he would gain around half a pound a week until week 37. It will be interesting to watch the board to see what happens. He lost 15 grams (.03 pounds) from Saturday through Sunday, but his weekend nurse, Michelle, expected that he would gain that back overnight. I could not go this morning to see him because I needed to be at work early, and Pete did not check the board to see what his weight was, so I can't report on that.

This is a great sentence for the parents of preemies: "Your baby may practice breathing by moving his or her diaphragm in a repeating rhythm." It's true! He's practicing, which is why he still has A&B spells and de-sats. I'm getting better about it; I am not panicky, I just don't like to see him struggling or in any distress whatsoever.

He looks pretty chill here, though... I don' think that turning 30 bothered him in the least...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Geeks

What magic power would you like to have, if you were given the choice? I am, of course, thinking about powers from the Harry Potter stories. My first choice has always been apparition, but lately, "Accio" has been gaining a glossy sheen due to the fact that I am so often sitting in one place with both my hands occupied by the breast pump and its apparatus. I could easily free one hand to use my wand to summon a book or other useful object. But it seems that no matter how hard I concentrate, I can't get the warm washcloth to fly from the kitchen to the couch.

The harried lives of hapless muggles.

I think about these sorts of things a lot, and many of my references are pretty dorky. During our hospital stay, whenever we went through the tunnel from Abbott to Children's, the Lord of the Rings references were plentiful. The doors that open automatically reminded us of opening the gates to Moria, and more than once, the word "Mellon" was uttered in their presence. The word "tunnel" was said in Gollum's voice.

Really, we're just geeks in grown-ups' clothing, and this child has years ahead of him, feeling embarrassed by his juvenile parents. His mother will quote lines from "Friends" at seemingly inappropriate moments, his father will say "What's taters, precious" while cooking in the kitchen.

There will be much eye-rolling in the McCauley household.

Even the presence of the onesie and the huge giant shirt have me in mind of house elves, and I can't stop thinking about Dobby saying "Master has given a sock" and thinking that clothes are a rite of passage for our little schnooks, too. Clothes make him look like a real baby and add another level of humanity to him.

He's still not as big as a house elf, but he's gaining. He was 2.877 pounds this morning (1305 grams), and that's so very close to three whole pounds!

Bag Lady

OK. I should be ready to pump at work.
I think I have everything...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Express Yourself!

Now that I have (hopefully) put that song into your head for the remainder of the day, I ask you: how expressive does this make you feel?


Maybe it's meant to be a blank canvas that spurs the user to new heights of light and color, but I don't picture Chagall being all that inspired by these surroundings.

I just returned from my first expression at the "Expression Connection" room here at my work (yes, that's the Sesame Street name for the program). The room will be called The Bunker from here on. I am not really complaining; at least I have a place to pump close enough to my work to make it relatively convenient, and once I get a routine down (and remember all the stuff I need), it will be fine. I am simply observing and relating my impressions.

I figure I will only need to use The Bunker once or twice a day, for twenty minutes, and my other four to six "expressions" will be conducted in the comfort of my home. Tomorrow, I will try to get all the things I need together. I have access to two different kinds of pumps from the same maker. One style is at home and at the hospital, and the other is here at work. One uses membranes and hoses; one uses a piston and hoses. Invariably, when I head to the hospital with the intention to pump while I am there, I forget the membranes and hoses. Yesterday, when I came to work with the intention to pump, I brought the membranes (which are unnecessary) and hoses, but forgot the pistons. Today, I remembered both the membranes (still unnecessary) and pistons but forgot storage bottles or caps for the pump bottles. I also did not bring the little cooler. The milk will be fine until I get home--the cooler would only be a place to put the milk so that co-workers don't have to look at little bottles of breastmilk kicking back in the communal fridge.

Tomorrow, I am putting the diaper bag that I knitted into early service to carry my parts back and forth (you can't leave them in The Bunker), and I figure I will throw them into a plastic bag for washing and transit. The yellow basin is too cumbersome. The Bunker is only two buildings away, but that's far enough to not want to carry all my gear in plain view. Once I get a chance to pick up an extra set of hoses, breastshields, connectors, and valves, I'll leave it here, as well as a stock of storage bottles and labels, so I don't have to transport anything but the milk and cooler. And I don't have to forget essential items.

At some point, I am sure that The Bunker will lead me to create something very similar to this:

last night's cuddle



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This means... CLOTHES!

He's wearing a shirt!
I told you...

Bright-eyed, and...

It's hard to believe that one month ago this moment, I was at the clinic, waiting nervously for a diagnosis. Today, we have a 2.7 pound baby in the NICU, and my life is timed according to my breasts. It's going fast, I must say, mainly because of our schedule. When your life is divided up into small chunks of time in between a repeating event, it tends to slide by pretty quickly.

I still don't pump 8-10 times a day. I can't imagine being able to do that. Yesterday, it was only 5, in fact. But there's no more sleeping through the night--the boobs won't let me. It's too uncomfortable, and I wake up. This morning, I was up at 3:00, and that's pretty standard. I had The Machine ready to go when I stumbled out to the living room, so I was headed back to bed at 3:39.

Back to bed. Back to sleep is an entirely other thing. I am usually awake by the time I go back to bed, and I start thinking about all the things I have to do. Right now, its mainly work stuff--end of the fiscal year type of hoo-ha. Very exciting. I lay there last night, thinking and relishing the few short hours during which I can lay on my stomach. And then the cats started.

Max began his ritualistic stalking of something in the yard, from the inside of the house. This involves trotting to the kitchen (or part way to the kitchen), turning around, coming back into our bedroom, jumping up onto the bed, running over us, hopping to the window, jumping down onto the floor, repeat. Ad nauseum. I got up and closed the door as he ran out of the room. Five minutes later, Fritz, who was asleep on the bed, decided that he needed to leave. He scratched at the door, I got up and let him out. Max was right outside, waiting to get in. I closed the door again. Not much time passed before someone was scratching to get in. I got up and opened the door. Sometime later, Pete got up and closed the window because the "f#$%ing birds were too loud." He slept through a cat running over his prone form, but the birds were too loud. OK. That was 4:55. I fell asleep sometime after that. Pete's alarm went off at 6:00. He got up, but did not turn it off, so it went off again at 6:08 and then 6:16 when my whining finally alerted him. I don't know how to turn off his alarm.

Wait. Was that this morning?

It could have been yesterday.

I am not even sure.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reading

Our Little Man weighs 1245 grams (2.745 pounds), and he's going back on the all-at-once bolus feedings today. We'll see how it goes this time. He desaturated a couple of times while I was there a little while ago but came out of it pretty easily. His color stays the same, and he's still breathing, just not deeply enough. I have not seen the grey baby in awhile, and that's fine with me.

I changed a nice, poopy diaper, and he kept on pooping while I was wiping. I waited for him to finish because I am nice that way. He's also wearing a big, giant, light blue shirt. It's the first time I have seen him in clothes. He usually wears only a diaper; it was a bit surprising to lift up the isolette cover and see a garment. It looks both funny and charming, and also made me feel like he was more of a "normal" baby.
This weekend, I finally dove into the literature. Pete got some articles from a colleague on premature babies, but I have not been able to look at it. Possibly, I was avoiding reality in the form of medical fact, instead choosing to deal with the real situation in front of me in the form of Finn and the entire experience. Now, I am able to deal with reading. Granted, it's a book for parents called "The Premature Baby Book," so it's not wildly clinical, but so far, I have found it surprisingly accurate and helpful.
It validates the myriad of feelings that parents of preemies pass through, and reminds us that we are not alone. We are not the first, and we will not be the last, to have this experience. I am getting the feeling, however, that most moms stop working while their babies are in the NICU, which could make me feel guilty if I felt that there were anything else that I could do. Granted, I do not have to be strapped to my desk because my co-workers are understanding, but I have to work and earn money. On the bright side, I can pick up my key to the "expression room" here at work, and I am going to check it out. Hopefully, I can get set up over there this week and have a slightly more regular schedule.

How's the Boy?

It seems that they are trying to move Our Little Man right along. They switched him to a "lo-flo" canula on Saturday. I was there when they did it, but they just said "we're switching out his canula." I thought they were putting in a new one because the old one was gunked up. They had also changed to "bolus feedings," the all-at-one-time kind. The result of this was that he was spelling a little more and his belly was distended again. They switched him back to continuous feeds, and his belly has gone down a bit, but they are keeping him on the lo-flo for now because the hi-flo will fill him up with more air. This might be why he is desatt-ing more often, meaning the oxygen saturation in his blood is dropping below their limit more often. His levels on the monitor are set between 85% and 94%, and alarms go off whenever he is too high or too low. They go off a lot.

The whole place is alight and abuzz with alarms. Finn is one of six babies in his room, and there are rooms on either side of him with as many babies in each. You can tune out a lot of it, but it's still there.

The doctors are still pleased with him and his progress, though. He's up to 1225 grams, or 2.7 pounds, and he looks good to us. Last night, when we came in for our evening visit/cuddle, he was wide awake and squirming. We got him out for some daddy time, but he would not stop fussing. He wanted to move his head from one side to the other, and only really settled for a few minutes at a time. His heartrate was going up to 201 (his monitor levels are between 90 and 210 bpm), and he just seemed uncomfortable, which was making me worry, which was, in turn, making Pete nervous. We decided to put him back into his third womb and check his diaper.

Sure enough, it was wet. He really hates having a wet diaper, something which I think is just fine. Once we changed it, he settled down. Then the nurse moved him onto his belly, which he normally likes, and he eventually got fussy again. We asked the nurse to check his diaper again as we left at 10. It was not a very satisfying cuddle for either Pete or Finn, so we'll try again tonight.

On the bright side, Papa got to come and visit after his work at the LPGA tournament, and he saw first hand how much his grandson has changed in the last few weeks. (I'll have to ask Dad if that is how he spells it. That's how I see it in my head, but it might be "Poppa.") Grandma is coming this afternoon or evening. She's working the tournament, too, but she likes to point out that Dad is working more in one day than she works the entire time.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stuff... and Nonsense

I cleaned out the refrigerator this weekend, and I don't just mean "got rid of the beans that had been in there since April 27," I mean, I cleaned out the refrigerator.

First of all, let me introduce you to our refrigerator. It's a 1951 International Harvester, and it's relatively rare. It's most likely highly inefficient, and I cannot be convinced to abandon it, even given all my sustainable practices. This refrigerator is so cool that Monica and Rachel had one in their apartment on "Friends." The company only made refrigerators for seven years. When it stopped working once, I tracked down a local, independent company that would service vintage appliances, and the guys at the shop practically fought over who "got to" come out and work on an operating International Harvester Fridge.

If you needed any more convincing of the hotness of this cool fridge, it's "Femineered." Just for me.
That's how I looked when I cleaned it out.

The machine was a mess. When we came home from the hospital, it was one of the many things in the house that stood out as being filthy and too full of crap. In fact, when we came home from the hospital, the whole house seemed filthy and too full of crap. I needed to gain control over my environment. Being pregnant had left me tired, and I had just started to get my energy back when I went and had a baby and got tired all over again. But having that teeny little baby and thinking about eventually bringing him into our House of Squalor was too much for me, so I have been trying to find the time to tackle the Mountains of Crap and the Piles of Filth.

By no means do we have a Garbage House. We are not going to wind up on the news any time soon, but we are definitely behind on the cleaning, and I don't know where all the stuff came from. I know that I did not have this much stuff when I lived in an apartment, but it's amazing how stuff expands to meet any allotted size. First of all, I knit and sew and do crafty things, so there are bins and stacks of yarn, fabric, and sparkly bits. Then there's Pete's music, which means much gear, though his does not generally explode in piles of fluff, as my tiara supplies often do.

Beyond that, it's the general Too Much Stuffage from which many people suffer: When will I EVER wear this again?! Where did this even COME from? WHY do I own this? Give me the strength to discard this!!

I have to be brutal and get rid of things. It may sound a bit extreme to be asking the question "will anyone care about this when I die?" but come on, if I have not used it/worn it/cared about it in over a year, what are the odds that someone else in my family will? But someone else in the world might, and that's why humans invented yard sales and The Goodwill.

When it comes to the filth, I blame much of it on the three cats, even though it was not their choice to live with us. It's a land of continuous cat hair and litter bits. I should vacuum every three days, but who wants to do that?

Once you get behind on the cleaning, it's exponentially harder to catch up. The fridge was a first battle in the war. I took a toothbrush to parts of it; I got rid of condiments from the Pleistocene; I defrosted the freezer so that I would have more than 4 cubic inches of storage space. I swear, every time I defrost that freezer, and it takes forever, I vow "never to do this again." And, as with alcohol, that vow never pans out. At least I don't have to worry about the "never again" hangovers.

But I swear, I am going to regularly defrost that frickin' freezer.

Friday, June 20, 2008

29

He's 29 weeks gestational age today. Time is passing pretty quickly, even though we look at him with longing every time we visit. We want that baby, and it seems like it will be ages before we get him home. Then we realize that it's already been three weeks since we drove to the hospital with that feeling of doomed resignation hanging over us.

He's 1140 grams, which is about 2.5 pounds in America where we refused to adopt the metric system. They have changed his feedings to 18, then 20, then 22 milliliters every three hours instead of the continuous push. I guess he will stay at 22 ml for a while. He's been "stooling" (a new verb to add to the lexicon) on his own for the most part. He's still scheduled for regular suppositories, but I guess he has not needed them as much lately (lucky boy). They are weaning him down on the O2 pressure, from 3 liters to 1 liter. He still "spells" periodically, which is normal for preemies and disconcerting for parents, though we are getting used to it. Somewhat. I don't need to see him go grey again. Fortunately, the spells I have seen in the past couple of days have not been that bad.

Pete had a good, long cuddle last night while I went to see "Sex and the City," the movie, with Christine. We had purchased our tickets for the opening night weeks ago, but Finn caused just a slight hiccup in those plans. If I had to choose what I would miss, Finn let me have the best show: Eddie Izzard, the night before I went into the hospital. We had tickets for "Spamalot" the same night I was admitted, and Christine and Mercedes used them so they would not be wasted. While I was in labor and giving instructions to Pete, this was very important to me.

I managed to get through the baby bins that my aunt, Cindy, sent out to us two years ago, and I found the two that contained relevant materials, although Finn will need more tiny clothes. My cousin, Andrew, was born at 5 pounds, so there are a few preemie things floating around out there. We'll get the rest of the stuff we need when we have a better idea of the plan and when I feel comfortable enough bringing baby stuff into the house.

It's the weekend of my 20-year high school reunion. I had a ticket for that, too. I wish that I could be there tomorrow, but Pete has an out-of-town gig, and we feel that one of us has to be in town, just in case.

To be grateful...

I often feel a sense of hopelessness for the human race. That might be because I listen to the news too much while I am in the car (Minnesota Public Radio rocks).

But Pete and I have a lot to be thankful for. We don't have to look very far to realize this. We know it when we are in the NICU, and we see our son doing so well, so far. I thought about it yesterday when I parked my car a block away from where a young man was murdered two nights before, not far from my workplace. I think about it when we drive to the hospital through a neighborhood that is doing its best to pick itself up from economic disenfranchisement and crime. We are fortunate people.

Our friends and family have sent lovely cards and gifts, welcoming our early little man to the fold. People have called and written to offer their help and good wishes, and everyone has been so kind. Both Pete and I work in supportive and positive environments that have been nothing but understanding. There is even a group of knitters from my Atheist and Agnostic Crafters Group on ravelry.com who are knitting Finn blankets as I type.  I was absolutely bowled over to log on after I got home from the hospital to find my moniker (kittywhumpus) in a subject line on the message board, and to see that they were getting projects together for our boy. One of the women in the group is even a mom of a preemie herself!

Amazing.

The nurses and doctors at the NICU are also great. Finn has a couple of primary nurses who we see often, and Jen, who is with him the most, made him a sweet little collage on his "one week birthday."
All this to say that scheduling problems and all other frustrations aside, we are doing all right. Things will get to us from time to time, and I am sure that they will almost all wind up here, aired in public for all to see, but underlying it all, I know that we have a lot to be grateful for.

Time in the Day

There are not enough hours; there's not enough time. Especially during the week. I was sitting at my desk at work a couple of days ago, realizing that I need a new schedule, a better plan, a more workable routine for the week, and I started to wonder what the actual routine looked like on paper. I decided to keep track of a day.

This is June 17:

2:40 -3:16 a.m. Wake up and pump. This includes assembly, pumping, disassembly, and cleaning.
7:00 a.m. Wake up and pump.  I had trouble getting back to sleep after my mid-night pumping because I was thinking about everything that I have to do.
7:30-8:15 a.m. Poop, wash face, get dressed, put dishes away, drink tea, cancel catalogs through catalogchoice.org, check email, update blog, check local headlines, check two social networking sites (myspace & facebook).
8:20 a.m. Leave for hospital
8:25 a.m. Drive to hospital (I don't know where that five minutes went, but I would have been able to use it later)

While Pete drives, I do stuff. Today, I brushed my hair and filled out the FMLA form that my HR department has been asking about and that we keep forgetting to leave at the hospital for the doctor. Also, Pete has been nagging me to fill out part of it, even though the doctor is supposed to do it, and I have said more than once that I don't have the time, and that it's for the doctor to do. He won't let it drop, so I decided to do it. Unfortunately, he did not notice the pouty, huffy way that I did it. Turns out, I didn't know what to put in most of the boxes and no one needs to fill out the majority of the boxes, anyway.

It was not a good start to the morning. I also realized that I forgot my knitting and would now waste a whole 8 minutes in the car during which I could have been doing something. I can't justify knitting when I am at home, so the only time I get to knit is in the car or while Pete is having cuddle time with Finn, unless I have something else I am working on in those moments.

8:33-8:37 a.m. Sit in car and stare; wonder why people still insist on using weed killer; realize that I have not even kissed or hugged my husband yet this morning. Maybe if he had just let the FMLA form issue drop. Just kidding.
8:37 a.m. Check voicemail; call Nancy at Regions Hospital and leave message to cancel childbirth and related classes. I think I have graduated.
8:43 a.m. Park at hospital
8:44 a.m. Kiss and hug husband
8:45-9:35 a.m. Good morning visit with Finn. Pete had a little daddy cuddle.

At the end, when they were moving Finn to put him back into his third womb, condensation in his hi-flo ran into his nose, and he startled and started  coughing, spewing water all over Pete's chest. He was fine--it happens, but it was a little disconcerting. He also started this visit with a poopy diaper and ended it with a poopy diaper. On the second poopy diaper, he was still pooping as Pete started to change it.

9:36 a.m. Leave hospital, and drive to Pete's work
9:52 a.m. Drop Pete off at work
10:08 a.m. Arrive back home
10:09-10:41 a.m. Pump
10:41 a.m. Realize that I have not eaten yet today (this is very common). Eat a cheese stick and have a glass of lemonade.
10:42-10:50 a.m. Load tiaras into car (Yes, tiaras. 200 of them. I make them in my "Spare Time." I have to ship them to the Renaissance Festival in Colorado.)
10:50-11:40 a.m. Work at home.
11:40 a.m.-12:01 p.m. Get ready for work
12:02 p.m. Leave for work
12:39 p.m. Arrive at work.

En route, I stopped at the Y to cancel our membership. Working out ain't gonna happen any time soon, and that 94 bucks can go straight into savings every month. After I stopped there, I remembered that I did not have my cell phone with me. A month ago, I would have left it, but now, I need it in case any doctors or nurses call. I parked at Augsburg College and walked to my office.

4:26 p.m. Leave work.

By this time, I have not "expressed myself" (I don't think this was what Madonna was talking about) since 10:00. It's been over six hours. I am uncomfortable to say the least. While I was walking to my car, I tripped and fell on my right boob, which did not feel good, and at which point, I thought for a brief second that standing there and crying would be a fine idea. Then I realized how unproductive and wasteful that activity would be and went on my merry way.

5:15 p.m. Arrive home.

Pete was supposed to be ready to go at 4:45. He did not get out to the car until 4:50, by which point, my frustration levels with the day had reached what I thought was a peak. I did not realize that the real peak would come when I realized that I had forgotten to ship the tiaras, and the trunk of the car was still bursting with pink and purple fluff. Pete offered to take them and ship them, but he had rehearsal at 6, and I knew they would not go out that moment anyway. Also, I was beyond help at this point. People offering to help just made it worse. I decided to run them over to the UPS Store after pumping.

5:17 p.m. Pump
5:58-6:21 p.m. Have bath and read "The Horse and His Boy." Ignore all Christian allegory and racist insinuations.
6:21-7:36 p.m. Prepare and eat food , update blog, download and upload pictures, do dishes. Decide to take tiaras in the morning.
7:37-8:05 p.m. Pump
8:05-10:05 p.m. Fall asleep on couch while watching Friends reruns on DVD.
10:25-11:43 p.m. I don't know where that 20 minutes in between went.

Pete was late coming home from rehearsal. I had decided not to run to the hospital because he had said he would be done at 9:00. When he came home at 10, I was just about to get ready and go by myself. Had I known that there would be 20 minutes of abstract meandering about the house, I would have pumped while I was waiting. As it was, I kept thinking "Surely, we will leave at any moment." We had our goodnight visit with Finn, who was doing very well, and headed back home.

11:46-12:15 a.m. Pump

A critical analysis of this day shows me where I can make improvements. A big part of it will be helped once I have a key to the "Expression Room" at the U. Once that happens, I will not have to worry about getting home within 3-4 hours; I can actually go to work and stay there for almost a normal day. I have to remember to breathe and do all things with intention (thanks again, yoga). I need to figure out better transportation. (Our carbon footprint right now as a family is more of a carbon open-pit mine at this moment, but that's another post.) I need to put eating up higher on the mental list of things to do. That and personal care are the things that fall by the wayside easiest because of all the other things I need to do. They seem like they can wait. Not a good idea. I already cut out the celebrity gossip diversion, and I hardly have time for my knitting social networking site. (That one will not be cut out because it's awesome and the people are awesome, but that, too, is another post).

I am sure that people will say that I need to be better at accepting help, but it is not going to happen, at least not right now. What they don't realize is that I already have accepted help up to my Help Threshold, and anything else will stress me out more than it will "help" me. (See earlier post). Usually, having someone "help" means having someone to supervise, and I don't need that. "Help" also means that I have somehow shirked responsibility or been inadequate. You can say what you want and tell me that I am being ridiculous, but it won't "help." Everyone has an illogical quirk in their personality that is resistant to change.

Many friends and family have offered to help, and I appreciate it. Now I know they are out there, ready to help, and I can call on them when and if I need them.

Yes, I am what is popularly known as "A Control Freak."

Wow, that was a long one. And, it's time to pump...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

baby

I'll get caught up, I promise... but until then, from last night's cuddle...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How's Finn?

This weekend, the doctors took Finn  off the C-PAP and put him solely on the hi-flo. They upped his feedings and took out his IV line. He's up to 7 ml of food per hour, where he will stay for awhile, and they are adding protein to the milk and the supplement. Iron comes next. He was up to 2.5 pounds and then dropped slightly, according to the board. He had two small spells today and only needed mild stimulation to bring him out of them.

I held him last night, and Pete held him for a little while this morning.

So far, he's being a good boy...
I am feeling a little busy and crazy today.

You'll see tomorrow.

Now, I think I have to lay down.

After I pump, of course.

Monday, June 16, 2008

bum wrap

Presented here, for scale, Finn's first diapers. I have one in my purse to show people to give them an idea of his size. He's actually in the next size up now, though the new diapers are rather huge on him. I think that he would still fit into these teeny ones, it's just that all the poop and pee might not.

Better safe than sorry.

Besides, all the kids are wearing baggy pants these days, right?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cuddle Time

They call it "Kangaroo Care" or "Skin-to-skin care," as I mentioned, and I call it "holding our baby." Pete calls it "cuddle time," which sounds nice. Whatever you want to call it, Finn and I had a really good session last night. I had him for almost two hours, and he did really well. I was the one who had to end it because I was getting tired, it was time to pump, and I had started to get a little nervous. He was fussing here and there, probably because of gas, possibly he was just fussing in his sleep, but after our attempt at cuddletime on Friday evening, I was a bit on edge if he seemed distressed at all. Not too long into our time on Friday, he had a total spell where his heart rate dropped substantially, and he stopped breathing. You only really need to see your baby turn grey once. The nurse got him going again, and we put him back inside his third womb, but it left me just a little bit worried. I know that it's what preemies do, and that they expect him to have apnea, but it was not a pleasant sight.

Last night, however, he was comfy, snuggling, warm, and best of all, breathing. He only had one small drop in his O2 concentration, and it did not last long. Pete read "Goodnight Moon" and a little bit of "Return of the King" to him and sang him a made-up Finn Song, and I talked to him some. Pete is better at vocalizing for the child. I feel a little self conscious about it, for some reason. He'll have no trouble recognizing Pete's voice; I'll have to rely more on boob-bonding, eventually. At one point, Finn managed to wrangle my thumb up to his mouth and was smacking away at the pad. He has no trouble sucking on his pacifier, too; he can really get that thing going. I hope that, when we get to that point, he gets the hang of the real thing.

What's in YOUR freezer?


Finn's not keeping pace with me, but he's starting to catch up. We were able to take two little coolers full of breast milk in to the NICU to put in his freezer bin, and I think we are almost out of the green-sticker-labeled bottles here at home. The green stickers mark the first 60 pumpings. He's going through those first unless I bring in fresh at the right time. As of last night, he was up to 5 milliliters per hour. I get around 300 milliliters in the morning because I am sleeping through the night, and a little over a thousand a day, so he has a way to go to actually catch up with me, but I hope to be ready for the time that he does.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

28

Yesterday, Finn was 28 weeks gestational age, according to the calendar I have been using all this time. It may be a few days off by the one that they are using, but I see no reason to alter my math at this point.

At 28 weeks, the trusty book (out of which I WILL get my money!) says that Squirmy's eyes are beginning to open and we might be able to get an idea of eye color (though that could change). Our little early-over-achiever had at least one eye open at 25 weeks because I saw it in the transport womb. He had both open soon after that. Though it is true that they are open even more often as the days go by.



Right now, his eyes look to me like they will take after Pete's. We'll see as time goes by.

As far as his brain goes, the book says that it is continuing to develop and expand rapidly. It says nothing about his head expanding along with it, but I guess we are supposed to assume that the carrying case expands along with the contents. He's also accumulating layers of fat. In Finn's case, he's getting a lot of that from a supplement that is going into the breast milk to make up for what he would be getting from my placenta if he had stayed in his room like we asked him to, many times.

We may be in for quite a ride with this little man when it comes to following instructions.

He is gaining weight, though. The last number I had was 2.4 pounds, which is above his birth weight, which is very good to hear. Never mind that this experience is making me reacquaint myself with the metric system as I measure breast milk in milliliters, and he's measured in grams. He was 1020 grams on the board, which equals 2.25 pounds, so they must be behind on the board totals.

It's ok. It's just nice to see that total be over a thousand grams, even though my American brain does not really know what that means when it comes to, say, buying flour or hamburger.

Finn is already making me do math.

Supposedly, he's sleeping and waking on a regular schedule. I can believe that, at least when it pertains to the comfy environment of the womb. Now that he is in his plastic house, he probably has some patterns, but I imagine he gets woken up by his cares every four hours, or by the suppositories (I know that would wake ME up), or by the Vitamin A shots, or by the other numerous medical interventions that happen to him on a regular basis. Not to mention mama and daddy sticking their big mitts into his house unannounced, two or three times a day, though we try to plan our visits along with his cares, and I tend to be more reticent to disturb him if he seems relaxed because I want him to grow and not be upset.

The book says that he should be ten inches from crown to rump and weigh about two pounds. He's ahead of that curve, too.

Not that I am bragging.

fingers and toes

Scale is an important concept. My father is a geologist, and when my brother and I were small, we were often used as scale in front of road cuttings or geological formations that were too large to incorporate the hand lens or the lens cap. In this case, I have to use a quarter to illustrate the size of our son.



I don't know about you, but I am not so good with anticipating size when it comes to pounds and ounces. When the doctor told me that it looked like the baby would be about two pounds from the measurements in the ultrasound, I envisioned something unbelievably small. Babies are 7-8 pounds, and two just seemed impossible. I was surprised at the size of what came out of me. And though I am used to his size, and I understand that he is small, I am still surprised at how big he actually is.



So far, it appears that he has inherited my hands and feet, which are both big. Pete says it is good. I think his first thought on that is the future ability to play stringed instruments.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Dr.'s update: Friday the 13th!!

Pete here: Don't let the title fool you - it's a good day for Finn today!! Dr. Hustead just called me to let me know that she "could not be more happy with his progress". That's exactly what I like to hear, especially after a couple of days where both Karen and I have been kind of extra worried, as he has been showing some signs of fatigue and possible difficulty. But not today!

He had a good night. He's tolerating his feedings well, so they're going to increase the fortifier they've been adding to the breast milk in order to increase his caloric intake. He's also been on a schedule of 3 hours on the "hi-flow" or canula (the smaller breathing apparatus) and 1 hour of CPAP "as tolerated", which means as long as he doesn't have more than 3 apnea spells in that 3 hour canula period. So far I guess he's only made it 2.5 hours on the hi-flow, and then needed the help of the CPAP (higher pressure, not as much work for him to breathe). But that's okay - he's getting used to breathing on his own, and he doesn't need to rush. I told him yesterday that we don't mind if his report card doesn't always come back with straight A's - that B's are okay too...

As for his belly, the Doctor said that at this point she's not really concerned about it. All the tests and x-rays and indicators reveal that there is not a serious problem; and she suspects that the high pressure air and all the food is causing the swelling as his body is simply adjusting to all of this stuff. They are of course keeping a close eye on it, but the doctor did not seem concerned. As she said, she was "thrilled".

Lastly, his blood screenings came back with no signs of any inherited diseases, his hemoglobin levels look good, and his brain ultrasound also looks good. He may need another small blood transfusion sometime next week if his anemia returns, but that's a "wait-and-see". It sounds like the doctor somewhat expects that to happen.

Overall though, you couldn't ask for a much better call from the doctor in a situation like this, so I'm very pleased. I love you Finnbo! Keep up the good work. Thanks everyone! - P.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2 weeks old today!!

Pete here. Our little Finnbo is 2 weeks old today!! 'Finnbo' is one of my nicknames for him... I'm not sure how much Karen likes the moniker. We'll see if it sticks.

Finn is still steady; there are a few things that the doctors are watching closely, and so therefore of course we are worried about him. He has been exhibiting a swollen belly, which in preemies can be the sign of many things. The biggest concern would be if he has a rupture of the bowels or intestines; that could lead to an infection and it would require surgery, and we really don't want him to have to have surgery. But right now he is not exhibiting symptoms of this occurance other than the swollen belly. It could also be a sign that he's simply not tolerating the breast milk as well as we 'd like: but for a 26 weeker this type of delayed development is common. His insides weren't meant to process food for another 2.5 months, and it may just take some time for them to get used to it. It's also possible that he's swallowing too much air while on the CPAP, and so they have a (another) tube going into his belly to allow for venting of excess air in the belly. They're keeping the amount of breast milk they're giving him steady now rather than increasing every hour to see if that affects things.

His weight is up though - he's above his birth weight today at 2 lbs and 4 oz!

His temperament has been really good lately - the blood transfusion seems to have helped him to breathe easier and more regularly - he has had significantly fewer apnea spells than he had prior to the transfusion. Last night and this morning when I visited him he seemed relaxed and able to get some sleep - which is of course the most important thing for him.

So - keep your fingers crossed that this swollen belly thing is just a minor obstacle for Finnbo. I'll try to post a new doctor's update as soon as I have more info - and hopefully tonight Karen will get a chance to cuddle with him. Stay tuned and thanks again for all the love and support!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dr.'s Update: June 10, 2008

We had not heard from the doctor, so Pete called the nurse.

She said he is going well. He's tolerating the hi-flow well and put in his full two hours on it. The feedings are also going well. He pooped this morning at 6:00 and his tummy is good.

The doctor had not rounded yet.

She called me a few minutes later, and she had a lot to say.

"Finn's having a nice day. His overnight was not quite as great," she said. This just meant that he had a few spells, so they are keeping him on the same C-PAC rate of 2 and 2. He's tolerating his feedings, getting just a touch over an ounce an hour. He'll be at 3.6 ounces an hour by morning (I think this is what she meant). Were he still in the womb, calcium, fat, protein, etc. would be coming from the placenta through me during the 3rd trimester, so he needs a fortifier. He gets his daily needs from breast milk, but he'll get human milk fortifier added to it. He's starting with the low amount of this today, and we'll see how he does. After a couple of days, they will up that. At the same time, they will turn his IV nutrition down. That will probably end Thursday. Then it's just time and growth. They don't have a set day when they say that they want him off the C-PAC. That's for him to decide. He just needs to get stronger.

All in all, he is doing well...

Boobs

Do I have your attention?

The first thing I look at when we arrive at the NICU is the white board that lists all the patients' names, locations, doctors, and weights. Finn was 845 grams just a few days ago, and today he's 970. He's above his birth weight, which was 930, and his feedings are still being upped every hour. They moved his feeding tube from his left nostril to his right, and he has new tape for his hi-flo. He was pretty relaxed, which helped me to relax. We just stopped in for a moment to say "good morning."

I went in to work with my rollie bag that Pete made me buy for our trip to New York City. In it I had stashed my breast pump and paraphernalia, ready to find a place at the office to pump at least twice. Yesterday, what with running around, going to work, oh, and having to come back to the house in the morning so I would not be a weepy mess at my desk, I only pumped six times. I am supposed to be doing 8-10 reps, but I have not hit that mark yet. Granted, I am also supposed to be producing 24-30 ounces by the end of two weeks, and I got 27 ounces yesterday, and it will be two weeks on Thursday.

I now have "yield," like on a farm.

Moo.

There are places to pump on campus, but the Lactation Lady did not thoroughly read my email when I told her that I was already back at work, my baby was born prematurely, and I needed to get set up with a place to pump now. She responded with "we'll set up an orientation for 2-3 weeks before you come back to work. A Friday would be good."

That's impossible, unless she's more talented than Einstein, which I don't think she is. How about a Tuesday, like, say TODAY?

When I started to feel ready to relieve my chestal area, I went to check out the bathrooms in the building, and none of them have outlets that are near the stalls. I have read stories of some women pumping standing up in the bathroom at work and having lovely conversations with other visitors, but I have only been at this job for four months. They don't need to see my boobs.

But you do, just to get some perspective:

I know. It's like they're comin' right atcha.

That was first thing in the morning, but still. It's astounding to me. Luckily, I am over the phase where they are huge and hard; they have softened up with usage, and I can sleep on my stomach again.

For today, I bundled up my budget files and came home. There is plenty I can do from the house right now, and I figured this was the best thing, at leas for today. I am not sure what I am going to do on Thursday when I have all-day training on our new financial system... It would probably not be appreciated were I to plug into a wall socket and whip out the machinery during travel training.

Funny, but not appreciated.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Part V: Interior Decorating

Remember when I mentioned that my doctor said "What is that?!" during my second ultrasound?

Yeah.

That was cool.

On Thursday night, I had a visit from a urologist. He appeared in my darkened room while I was dozing off. He explained that he had been referred to me (the doctor had told me he would do this), and wanted to know if I wanted to have the cystoscopy while I was in the hospital or would I rather come back. I decided that I might as well get it over with, so we scheduled me for 11:00 the following morning.

This was a bit terrifying. What if there was something wrong with me? What if it was cancer? What if I needed surgery? What if, what if, what if...? I thought that perhaps Pete and I had plenty on our plate without a sick mommy to add to the mix.

On Friday, they wheeled me down to pre-op, gave me a lovely paper robe that hooked up to a warming air hose, nurse after nurse came to ask me the same questions for their system of checks, and then I waited. Finally, they wheeled me to an operating room through a white fluorescent labyrinth of hallways, and got me onto an operating table. I had not realized that the procedure before the procedure would be so surgical. The doctor had mentioned doing these "in his office all the time." Here I was in a clinical, cold, rather large operating room, trying to relax.

The doctor came in, they got the camera all hooked up, and in it went, through the out door. As unpleasant as I had always assumed it would be to have anything going into one's urethra, after two unanticipated visits to that area by first the catheter and now a camera, I would have to say that it was not as bad as I thought it would be. He looked around in there for a few minutes, said that it all looked good and that he did not see anything, and it was done. He recommended that I have an ultrasound in about two weeks to double check.

I just wish that they would have put the camera view up on a monitor. After all, it's not every day that a person gets to see the inside of his or her own bladder.

Thank goodness.

Best Laid Plans

I had it all worked out: I was coming back to work today, and it would be fine. As today started to get closer, it started to be less appealing, but still, it's fine! I'm fine! I am a superhero.

I guess the adrenaline has worn off and the hormones have set in. This morning was the first time that I could not hold it together. When we stopped in to see him before work, he was fussy and squirmy, crying quite a bit, and his O2 levels were all over the place. I just wanted to be able to help him; I just want him to be well. I was watching him and thinking about the long summer ahead of all of us and wondering how we will all make it through. All the time, I also know that many, many people have made it through this, and that there we are doing everything that we can with what we have.

Pete fell in love immediately with this baby. I was holding back out of surprise and fear or any of the other weapons of the Spanish Inquisition (aside from a fanatical devotion to the pope). It was a shocking experience, and it happened very quickly. I went from pregnant to flaccid belly in 11 hours, and though I am mostly used to it now, it's still so weird. It was hard to believe that little guy is mine. I knew it, and I felt it, but because he lives in his third womb and my short-term housing duties are over prematurely, it was harder to grasp that connection. And it was a self-protection scheme because clearly, we are not in control of this situation.

But Pete was right last week when he said that I could allow myself to attach to this baby, because it would not be any less devastating were we to lose him. Being able to hold him has helped, and so has the gradual passage of time, but as the attachment grows, so does the fear, and watching him struggle this morning was too much.

We went back to the house. I had every intention of just staying home, but then I checked my work email, and there was a reminder about something I could not remember having done... or not... I knew it would just keep bugging me, so I pumped, Pete toasted some home-baked bread that was a gift from a neighbor, and we came in to work. I'll stay here as long as I can stand it, and then head back home. I'll need to pump again, after all, and I did not bring my stuff with me. There are locations here at the U for pumping, so I have written to the designated authorities to check into it. Hopefully, there is one close by because I will need to go twice a day.

This week is for establishing routines, as best as we can. I'll ease back in and figure out how to work for eight hours, pump for four, visit our boy two or three times a day, sleep, eat, and do everything else.

Wow.

This should be interesting...

hold yer baby!

I have long been annoyed by the practice of carrying one's baby around in a car seat. I don't get it. Why would you want to lug around a big, swingy hunk of plastic that will put you off balance and out of whack in the spinal area when you could hold your baby in any of the seemingly hundreds of slings, packs, and wraps that are out there on the market? You had a baby, so hold it.

Now that I have a baby, and I can't hold him except for an hour at a time here and there, I am beyond annoyed at those people who have a baby and don't hold it whenever they can.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

27


The book says that at the 27th week of pregnancy, the fetus looks like a "thinner, smaller, redder version of what he or she will look like at birth."

They got that right. He was 27 weeks on last Friday, and he's thin, small, and red, though not as small as the book--or I--expected him to be.

Also, his lungs, liver, and immune system are not yet fully mature. Finn is having to do some things for himself very early, and the medical establishment is filling in the holes where he can't compensate. This is why he needed the phototherapy to correct the jaundice, why he needed the transfusion today to help with his red blood cell count, and why he is on the Hi-Flo and the C-PAC. I should still be doing things for him, but the doctors and nurses are taking care of that now.

He's 915 grams today, which is 2.017 pounds, so he's catching back up to his birth weight. They up his feeding every hour, but he has quite a way to go before he catches up with me. My boobs are busy. And immense. I pumped this evening at the hospital in one of their little rooms and got 155 ml, so I am progressing every day as well.

When we arrived this evening, he was getting the promised blood transfusion. In his head. They had the IV in his scalp because the nurse could not get it into his arm or leg. When we left, she was getting ready to take it out and put his C-PAC back on. While I pumped, Pete sat with him and changed his diaper and took his temperature.

I feel better now than I did earlier today. I was down, worried, and lonely, which started last night when Pete called me from his gig during a break. He was in the middle of a conversation when I said "hello;" people were laughing and talking, and he was listening to them and laughing, and here I was at home, getting ready to pump, feeling extremely tired, and absolutely left out. I would have been too tired to stop down in any case, and probably would have felt overwhelmed by the attention of friends, but still... it's not like life is back to normal now that I am not pregnant anymore. It's a weird limbo in which I don't have a baby, but I do. I am tied to a machine, getting up in the middle of the night to pump, with no baby. I have the inconvenience without the reward.

I went to the co-op two days ago for the first time since Finn was born, and I bought whatever I felt like buying, which was bittersweet. I'd rather still be pregnant and not be eating brie, but I am not pregnant, so I bought brie. I'm still not bothering with caffeine for the most part because I don't miss it, and I am also not planning on drinking because he's just so little. I would not have been drinking anyway, and even though I know that I could once and awhile with meals, it does not feel right to me. He's just so little, and he's relying on my for food. And, he's just so little.

I am used to his littleness, though, and the babies in the NICU who are close to term seem freakishly huge to me. It's hard to imagine him being that size. It's going to be a long summer, and I am looking forward to him growing, changing, putting on weight, and becoming more stable, but in a weird way, I will probably miss the tiny-ness.

Doctor's update - Sunday June 8th

Pete here:

Well, it was bound to happen - Finn had a less than stellar report this afternoon - but it's not that bad.

Finn needs a blood transfusion. The doctor says he is anemic, and because of his early development, his body cannot create new red blood cells. This is affecting his breathing, and she wants to take preventative measures to decrease the apnea spells he's having.

Apparently his apnea is less frequent than most 26 weekers, so that's good, But she's afraid that if they don't boost his red blood cell count that he may slip backwards, and nobody wants that. So they're going to give him about 3 teaspoons of a highly concentrated red blood cell cocktail that should hopefully give him a boost and allow him to NOT have to work so hard to keep up the regular breathing. O negative, the universal donor.

Other than that, he is doing very well. He's managing the breast milk feedings very well, and he's gained some weight. 40 grams, I think. He's back on the CPAP to help him breathe a little more than he was - 3 hours out of 4 as opposed to 2 and 2. But that kind of variation is expected, they tell us.

I miss him terribly when we are away from him and yet I feel so helpless when we're with him. I love the "Kangaroo Care" when I get to hold him and let him sleep on my chest - and yet, all the damn alarms and the bustle of the NICU combine to make me anxious when I'm with him, which is no good for him. It does feel good to touch his little head and hold his feet, and feel him calm down with my touch. I love that little bugger so much it's amazing.

Well - we're off to run errands and then ultimately visit with him for a while. Thanks for tuning in and thanks again for all the love and support!

(Note: Finn is already a celebrity. There's quite a buzz going on about him on ravelry.com...)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Doctor's Update: June 5th

Pete here: things are good with Finn.  He's been having infrequent but regular apnea spells - where he stops breathing for a little bit.  It's disconcerting - but normal.  The nurses just need to tap his chest or give him a quick rub to get him going again.  

But he's been tolerating the breast milk feeding very well - so they're going to increase the frequency from every 4 hours to every 2 hours.  Hopefully he'll start gaining weight like a champ!  But he has already been putting a little back on, (he lost a bit over the past week - he was 1 lb and 14 oz as of Tuesday) now he's back up to almost 2 lbs.

Other than that, the doctor had nothing to report - and no news is good news! He seems to be progressing as great as can be expected for a "26 weeker".  We're on our way to go see him now, before I report back to work for a while...  Cheers!!  -PRM

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Good Day




Happy Birthday, Part IV: First Visit

According to the books, at week 26, the fetus' eyes are still closed, but it has eyelashes and eyebrows as well as hair. At 25 weeks and four days, our fetus became a baby, and at least one eye was open when they took him over to the NICU.

I was scared to go and see him. I certainly was not going without Pete, and I preferred to go only with Pete, so he asked the nurse if he could wheel me over by himself.

Abbot is connected to Children's by a tunnel, which is convenient although not very cheery. The NICU is on the second floor, and it's quite large. The website says that between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campus, there are 154 beds. And, at least in Minneapolis, they all seem to be full. Now that I think about it, it sure seems that premature births are more common than I could have believed. I guess it's nice that we are not alone, but I wonder if the rates are going up, and if so, why?

One of the things I have learned from this so far is how adaptable humans are. Or, how adaptable they can be. I grew accustomed to being in labor for the whole 11 hours it lasted, and it did not take me long to grow accustomed to the NICU. When I first came in to see Finn, it was 6:00 a.m., and I had been up for 24 hours and had not eaten or drank anything for 23. We had just been through a surprising day, and I was most likely in a bit of a haze. When Pete wheeled me up to the isolette, and I saw him in there, so small and hooked up to monitors, it was the first time I cried. Pete and I were helpless; there was nothing we could do for him. Was that my baby? I was used to my firm, moving stomach. I was used to him being in there. I was not enjoying the flaccid tummy that I now had.

I learned the ropes: wash hands, dry hands, use alcohol foam on hands. Then we could touch him, without gloves. I held his little hand. The nurse asked if we wanted to take some pictures, and we said that we did not have a camera. I did not have my purse, where the little camera lives. I have that stupid camera with me all the time, usually, just not for one of the most important moments of my life so far. The nurse got a camera and took a few photos for us.

We were now those people you hear about: the couple in crisis. We were a story I would hear and wonder "How do people get through that sort of thing?"

I guess you just do. You have to because you can't change it, you can only accept that this is the path you are on and make the journey, picking up experience, wisdom, and, apparently, cliches along the way.

Vocab Lesson

Normal words that sound strange now that they are applied to my life:

Parent
Mom
Mother
Mama
Dad
Father
Son
Baby
Ours

It will take some getting used to, but I think I am up to the task.

Good Morning


It was a combination of a dream, uncomfortable boobs, and Hazel merrily munching away at flowers that woke me up.

In the dream, Pete and I were going up in the Space Shuttle in the morning. I was exhilarated and terrified. I wanted to go, and I did not want to go. I was concerned about safety; I was worried about not being able to see Pete's face or hold his hand during the launch. It was a scary prospect. The best thing was for me to wake up.

When I did, I heard the gentle slurping of a cat eating something, and I remembered that we had fresh flowers on the dresser. They came from "All of Massachusetts" for us and for Finn, and what that translates into for two of the cats is "dinner." I got Hazel down off the dresser, and then tried to settle back into sleep. It did not take me long to realize that she would just get back up there once I drifted off, and that I was not going to drift off with these hot, hurty, hard melons strapped to my chest.

Might as well pump.

(Isn't that a Van Halen song? Ah, the 80's. That reminds me: have to see if I can get my money back from that 20 year class reunion I won't be attending on June 21.)
I find that dream to be very funny for its subconscious revelations. I am fascinated by the space program. I especially love the tales from the Gemini and Apollo missions, but I'll watch a Martian rover scuttle across an alien surface or track a Shuttle launch any day. At the same time, I don't care for flying, and the prospect of going up in the Space Shuttle would probably render me almost catatonic with fear... mixed with excitement.

Hmmm.... what event that is two parts excitement and two parts fear could that possibly reference? (insert game show timer music here).

I can't believe people actually get paid to figure this sort of thing out for other people. When Pete came to bed, he brought me the news that Finn is not only doing very well but that tomorrow, we could probably start "Kangaroo Care" (thank goodness that "C" is not a "K") or "Skin-to-skin" care which translates into: we can hold our baby. They want you to hold him against your skin for about an hour at a time to help them grow and help us adjust, I would imagine. It will also be good for my milk production.

The prospect of this is terrifying and joyful, and it makes me nervous.

It's time to get back to sleep. I might not have a baby in the house, but I still get up in the middle of the night to feed him. The outcomes are just delayed a bit.

The pump and its parts, the basin, the bottles for freezing, the knitting. I can't use my hands while I do this. The knitting is just there. I need to make him leetle things now.
Ready to be measured:
The log:
Ready to be frozen. That's about 85 mls. It will take him days and days to finish a shot that big.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Part III: Thursday

"I have not read this far in the books, so I really don't know what I am doing," I told the nurse and doctor. After all, we had just registered for our classes at our chosen hospital, and I was mostly reading along with my progress, just about to delve into the third trimester/labor parts of the literature. But for this test, there would not even be any last-minute cramming. This would be like taking your driver's test before you have ever sat behind the wheel of a car. Except the car is my uterus and the trickiest part is not the parallel parking but the safe arrival of an infant.

They wheeled me down the hall to a delivery room along with Pete, the doctor, the nurse, and a surgery technician, just in case. The room was very bright, as you would expect, and perhaps a bit cold. Next door, the NICU team was assembled: 4 nurses and doctors ready to receive the baby once it came out. It was a good set up. There were only three people attending me, including Pete; I knew that they were ready just next door, and though I could see them, I was isolated from the bustle and business of receiving a premature infant.

It was a little after 1:00 a.m. when they started moving me from the hospital room to the delivery room, and I think that I started pushing a little before 1:30 a.m. I could feel my contractions, so I knew when to sit up and push, but I could not entirely feel everything that was going on. I was concentrating on the actual pushing and on my breathing, which was basically just my yoga breathing (Thank you, yoga. It came in handy throughout this experience), and trying to concentrate on where to bear down so that I could focus that energy where it needed to be. Whenever I had to sit up and push, the doctor would use his fingers as a focal point for the pushing, and the nurse and Pete would hold my legs up, and I would hold onto the bottom of my thighs. The baby would move a little bit each time, and Pete could see when the head appeared. I could not see over the towels that were laid on my belly to receive him, but I had my eyes closed, concentrating in any case.

I think I pushed through four or five contractions, and the baby arrived at 1:56 a.m. The doctor put him on my belly, and I was surprised at how big he was. I have never been very good at envisioning how much a weight number would translate to in "real goods," so when the doctor had said that he thought the baby was about 2 pounds, I was expecting something shockingly small. This was a baby--a baby boy, they told us--just very little, and very red, with a little bit of blue and purple, and as the doctor cleaned out his mouth with the little squeezy ball, he made a few crying attempts, which also surprised me, and then they handed him off to the NICU team. The doctor asked Pete if we had a name, and Pete said "Finn James McCauley," and I had a moment of surprise, but I overcame it quickly. That would be his name.

We waited while they stabilized him, and before they took him over to NICU, they wheeled him in, inside his second womb, so that I could see him. I even got to touch him on his tiny hand, and one of his eyes was open. Pete went with the team and our new little man, and they got me ready to go back to the room.

It happened pretty fast. The nurse asked if I wanted to get ready and go right over to see him, once they had checked all my vitals and disconnected me from tubes and wires. I would be moving to a new room momentarily. I did not know what I wanted to do. I wanted them to get him all set up, I did not want to be in the way of that or perhaps see upsetting things. I wanted Pete to be with him, and then I wanted to go back over with Pete so that we would be together. The hospital room and my nurse were familiar at this point, and going over to the NICU would be unfamiliar, and I wanted to be with Pete. When he came back and said things were going well, they moved me to my new room, and Pete and I got ready to go across the way to Finn's third womb and first home.

Doctor's Update, Tuesday June 3rd

Pete here, chiming in.

We just got a call from Dr. Hustead - Finn's main Neonatologist at the moment - and she said he's doing very well. He's off the photothrapy for a while - but may need to go back on it from time to time. He's off the antibiotics, too. Apparently he pooped and his tummy is doing better so they're going to start him on the breast milk again today. His weight has remained constant and hopefully with the feeding he'll start to gain weight. He's also been off of the CPAC and on a kinder, gentler breathing apparatus for one hour out of every four, and he's taken to it well, so now they're going to allow him 2 hours out of every 4 or so to get him breathing more and more on his own. This is good, as I think that CPAC unit is really uncomfortable for him. It's big and bulky, and the air pressure is nearly high enough to fill up my bike tires... but it's better than the ventilator.

So - today's report is really good. Finn is hanging in as strong as could be imagined - and everyone at the NICU seems really pleased with his progress. We can't be happier for him.

On the home front, Karen has been pumping like a champ, and Finn has plenty of breast milk to get him started on the good food he needs to gain weight. I've been trying to be as supportive as possible and making her as comfortable as possible in order to give good yields. This morning the yield was less than it has been, but I imagine it goes in cycles as well.

The feeling of helplessness is constant, and yet there are so many positive things that are happening that it's not too hard to remind myself that feeling helpless simply isn't worth the energy drain. For the most part my mood has been good and I'm remaining upbeat as his reports just keep coming in so strongly... but I have a little emotional breakdown at least once a day - like a little steam release where the worry that I'm bottling up in it's own little psychic tupperware needs to be released. Then I'm fine again, and able to help my sweet honey baby do what she needs to do and relax into that little machine pumping breast milk.

Happy Anniversary my love! You are the best thing that ever happened to me - and marrying you was the best decision I ever made. Now I have a new love, and a new "best thing" - but Finn will share that distinction with you I'm sure without any argument. Thanks for the anniversary present... What an amazing ride! Thanks to everyone for all your support as well. Stay tuned for more from FINN-LAND!! (yeesh... bad pun)

A little fun reading... http://allaboutirish.com/library/tales/gcauseway.shtm

What to get the one you love...

I had not really thought about what to get Pete for our second wedding anniversary, which is today. We don't usually go in for presents because it's a bit like exchanging the same twenty bucks. Plus, our house is full of stuff; we don't really need much.

It was probably a little over-the-top to give Pete a teeny tiny infant, but there you have it. I guess someone wanted to also be able to celebrate Father's Day this year instead of next.

Happy Anniversary to my handsome, helpful, smart, funny, and talented husband! I'd marry you all over again if it were not overkill and we were not a little... busy at the moment.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Happy Birthday, Part II: The Rest of Wednesday

When we were getting out of the car at the clinic, the clinic called. The nurse said that the doctor who had reviewed my file and who was going see me wanted me to go straight to the hospital.

"Well, I'm here," I said.

"Oh. OK. Never mind; come on in."

I checked in and waited until my appointment time... 20 minutes, which was bothering Pete, as they just said that they wanted me to go to the hospital. I was trying not to get upset about anything at this point. It's just not helpful. They brought me in and weighed me (165 pounds), and put me into a little room, just like at a usual appointment. The nurse took my blood pressure, and had me wait on the table in my socks and shirt with a drape over my legs.

Waiting is fun.

This doctor was new--not my midwife, and her manner was very calm and a little too therapeutic for me. It did not make me feel more relaxed; rather, the opposite. She asked me my symptoms, checked for the heartbeat, which was thankfully there, and then checked me with the speculum. When she inserted it, a lot of fluid came out. I heard it raining onto the metal basin, and I knew that was not good. I had still been hopeful that I was just having some urethral control issues--odd how something that would be otherwise so undesirable would have been a gift in this instance.

She put her hand on my arm and said, in her quiet voice "You've definitely ruptured. I am going to test this and double check, but I am not going to pretend it's not very serious," and she left. I looked at Pete, and said "This might not be our baby." Pete was being very calm and supportive and positive; I could not have asked for better. He'll have to tell you how he was doing inside.

When the doctor came back in, she had checked me in to Abbott Northwestern Hospital: "You have to go there because of their nursery." She gave us directions, and we walked out into the bright sunlight and headed across town to the hospital, in a daze.

Nursery.
Hospital.

No one had said "You are delivering a baby today," but all indications pointed to that outcome.

It was slowly sinking in, on some level. This was either happening today, or in the next couple days or, if I was very, very lucky, I would be on bed rest in order to eke out as much time as possible for Squirmy. I was thinking about what kind of life this baby had were it to survive, what I would do if it didn't, if there was anything at all good that could come out of this if it didn't, how this happened, etc. etc. The doctor had said "we don't know why. We're just not smart enough." I was not laying blame or feeling guilt or even concerned, it was just a wonder. It did not matter how it happened. It had happened, and now we had to deal with the circumstances. Nothing would be able to change that.

At the hospital, we parked in a lot where we should not have parked, and walked up to the Maternal Assessment area, where I was admitted, sampled, and tagged. By the time I arrived at there, I had started cramping, and I knew that they would hopefully try to stop that. A nurse led me to a room and said "Enjoy this walk. They won't let you walk again for awhile."

Everyone was very calm, very professional, and very nice. No one was making me agitated or upset, and I pretty much just went where they told me to go and did what they told me to do. In my room, I put on a lovely robe that opened up the back, stashed my clothes in a plastic bag, and got into bed.

They did an ultrasound to check on Squirmy. It was head down, in position, which was good news. At least that cut down a bit on the C-section chances, which were quite high, were I to progress into full-blown labor. Out came the monitors. Fetal monitor, contraction monitor, blood pressure cuff. They had given me a belly band, basically a giant Ace Bandage tube, and the fetal and contraction monitors went under that. I had to poop--for quite some time--but I had not wanted to use those muscles. I would not be pooping for awhile; I would not be getting up at all. The doctor came in and did another ultrasound so he could check things out himself. The fetus' heart rate was dipping with every contraction, probably because of cord compression, and that was worrying them. If that continued, it was definitely going to be a C-section, and sooner rather than later. He saw that my bladder was very full and hoped that emptying it would perhaps cause the contractions to abate and help the fetus out. I became the lucky recipient of a catheter and an IV. Going from no memory of hospitalization to all the hospitalization I could ever wish for was an experience.

During my second ultrasound, the doctor said "What is that?" That's not something you ever want to hear from your health care professional, whether in a normal office visit or when you are flat on your back in a hospital bed. He saw something on my bladder that he wanted to have a urologist look at. I had that thought of "Oh great. I'll be one of those 'No, I felt totally fine. It came from out of nowhere' people, and that in the middle of a completely separate crisis."

I was getting antibiotics because the best I could determine, the rupture had happened over the weekend. That was days where Squirmy would have been vulnerable to infection. I was also getting fluids for me and magnesium to hopefully slow or stop the contractions.

It didn't help. The contractions were getting worse, and they were making me stressed and worried because I knew it was too early. I thought that I would have been able to handle it were it happening in August or September, and the fetus was full-term, but this was the end of May, not even 26 weeks along.

At around 6:30 in the evening, Pete went to make phone calls to the people who needed to know and make other arrangements for himself. He had a three night gig with his Irish group beginning Thursday, and it certainly did not look like that was going to happen, though my first reaction to that was an idea that he could still maybe make one of the nights. Funny how the brain works. Oh, and our car was towed, too, so we had to figure out what to do about that. I didn't even have my purse because I had forgotten it at work. Luckily, I had not needed it to go through admission. Pete arranged with my brother to get the car out of jail, and I figured that the $280 it cost would be partially covered when we got back our $195 for the childbirth classes we would no longer be needing. I would be doing this little test without preparation.

People kept coming in to tell me things, to check on me, to consult. I talked to the anesthesia team, two doctors, nurses, and people from the NICU at Children's next door. They all told me that I was in the best possible place; that they had a 90% success rate with premature infants; that we would be in good hands. These people usually had about two minutes to get their words out in between contractions. I never had that 7-8 minute window. I went straight to 2 minutes and stayed there for a long, long time. The first time they checked my cervix, it was 1 centimeter.

If they did a C-section, they would use an epidural. The anesthesiologist asked me a few questions; I told him that I thought I was a fast metabolizer, and he said "Of course. You're a red head." That made me feel better. The last thing I would need in the middle of all this would be pain killers wearing off during invasive surgery, and hearing him recognize that he was aware of the strange correlation between redheads and anesthesia was reassuring.

By the time it was starting to get dark, my contractions were not going away like we had hoped, and it was causing me worry and stress. They decided to give me an epidural because it was looking more like C-section time. This was the only occasion on which there was a lot of bustle. They got the anesthesia team in, and it seemed like there were dozens of people in the room. There were probably six, but there was a lot going on. They had to get things ready and try to get the drug administered between contractions. This came off without incident, with only a mild pressure and warmth when the needle and medication went in, and it almost immediately relaxed me. They put a catheter in my back and gave me a button to push when the pain came back. Then they propped me up, tilted me a little to my right because that's where Squirmy seemed to be most comfortable, and put all the monitors back on. I was expecting to be prepped for a C-section at any time. They gave Pete scrubs to wear, and when he came out in them, my first thought was "Hey, Pete looks good in scrubs."

For someone who was planning a natural child birth in September, a fully medicalized one in May was quite a change of pace. The only thing I was thinking about, however, was getting through this and getting Squirmy through this, if at all possible, and making sure that Pete and I would be OK in the end. It was lovely to not feel the contractions not because it took away my pain but because it took away a lot of the stress. I knew what was happening; after all, there were plenty of monitors and every-15-minutes blood pressure checks to remind me. I was able to relax and be calm, breathe, and think.

Whether it was this relaxed state or just the passage of time, who knows, but the doctor eventually came in and said that the fetus' heartbeat was stabilized, and that he wanted to try for a normal delivery. I worried that this might be too much for Squirmy, but I was hoping for a normal delivery, so this was good news.

The little pain medication button was hanging there near my right hand but I had not used it. I wanted to use as little as I could, so I was waiting for the first twinges before I hit it. It had a 15-minute lag time, which would probably be longer for me. I pushed it after I was feeling a bit of pain, and nothing happened. They told me to push it again about 30 minutes later. Again, nothing. By then, my whole left side had worn off, and it was odd to be feeling contractions on only one side of my body. They tested me out with ice packs to see what I could feel, and yes, definitely, the epidural had worn off on the left. They tried out a couple of doses of pain medication directly into my arm IV and that evened things out so that I could still feel the contractions, but they were not causing me stress.

They had checked my cervix again earlier, and it was at two. It then jumped from two to seven and then to nothing. It was time to get the little bugger out.