This first week of having Hope outside my body has absolutely flown by! We’ve figured out a pretty good rhythm for our family in terms of when I’m with Ella and when I’m at the hospital, and Ella is coping much better than she was the first two days that I was home. Thanks to my mom’s indefinite stay, Nathanael is still able to work full days to get through his workload for the end of busy season. And my dad and sister visited this weekend to give Grandma a break and Ella some new company. They also got to meet Hope.
I got to have my first outing with Ella in nearly a month this week. We ran some errands with my mom, including playing with the display toys at Barnes and Noble for nearly an hour and playing peekaboo between the bookshelves.
Ella was delighted the whole time (except for our attempted trip to the potty), and it was so nice to just be out and about with her and watch her enjoy life. She really is full of joy, and it’s infectious. I’m so thankful that she’s maintained her bright personality (for the most part) through these weeks of constant interruptions of her norms.
It stinks that Ella isn’t able to come meet Hope. She’ll probably have this baby sister for about two months before she actually sees Hope in person (when she comes home from the hospital). We did FaceTime with Ella from the NICU once the first day that Hope was born, but then we learned that we’re not supposed to use phones in the NICU. Since it’s flu season, Ella’s not allowed to visit (no one under 14 is allowed), but even if it were summertime she wouldn’t be able to because she’s under 3. I guess the standard protocol for visitors is that they have to be at least three years old. I’m not sure how to deal with the prolonged separation of my two daughters other than to just try not to think about it.
Our sweet peanut here in the NICU is doing such an awesome job! Over the course of the past few days since my last update she has continued to breathe on her own without any “spells” (instances of apnea, where she forgets to breathe for more than 10 seconds) which is probably at least partly due to being given caffeine daily as a respiratory stimulant. It helps tiny babies remember to keep breathing. Who knew!
She got her umbilical line taken out on Wednesday and a saline trap put into her arm instead to finish off her last day of IV fluids. The trap came out Thursday afternoon, and I’m pretty sure that was the last “input” to be removed, so now the only thing going into her is the gavage tube for feeding her. All the other wires on her now are just monitoring her vitals.
Saturday morning her phototherapy for jaundice was discontinued, so now we’re allowed to hold her twice per day! Holding her is the best. She’s such a snuggly little girl.
She sometimes roots around when being held, even on Nathanael’s chest, and it’s so cool to see her exercise that reflex even though everyone keeps telling us babies don’t have the ability to coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing until about 34 weeks. Even if she can’t actually drink yet, I think it’s awesome to see that the instinct to look for food is there already.
Another plus to not being under phototherapy anymore is that she’s now allowed to get snuggled into her bedding a little more tightly by having some things over her to contain her arms. She is visibly more restful in her isolette now with extra barriers that they couldn’t use before when she needed as much skin as possible exposed to the phototherapy lights. She also doesn’t have to wear that little mask to protect her eyes from the lights; that mask drove her crazy! She was always trying to pull it off, and she often succeeded!
Now that the phototherapy lamp isn’t above her isolette, Hope has a blanket that was made by a volunteer just for the NICU over her isolette to block out bright lights. A coincidence that made me smile is that she was given a blanket with blue anchors on it, and my Tula (a baby carrier for babywearing) is blue with grey anchors. A perfect match!
Hope stopped losing weight and started gaining 1-2oz per day a few days ago! Thank God for that milestone! Hopefully she’ll be back up to her birth weight soon. Last night she was 2lbs 14oz. She is also up to her full feed amount for her current size as of Thursday or Friday night (the days are running together). The nurses also started fortifying my milk with a few extra calories a few days ago, which will help her gain weight at a good pace.
I think/hope she’s starting to regulate her own temperature, because her isolette temp has had to be turned down today to keep her body temp where it should be. At the control temp that it has been at she was starting to get too warm. I’m pretty sure that’s a good sign! Today’s nurse thinks so, too.
A goal that I’m excited about is that I’m planning to look into donating some of my pumped milk to a regional milk bank. The hospital where Hope is is actually a drop-off site for the non-profit milk bank in our area. Every time I have a baby (so far) my body seems to think I had quadruplets. Ella struggled to handle nursing in her first couple of months when I had a ridiculous oversupply, and so far I’m producing about four times as much milk as Hope needs at her full feed amount and I’m basically pumping just enough to keep myself comfortable. I know there are probably more moms who wish they had the problem of too much milk than moms who are in the same boat as me, especially moms of preemies, so I’d really like to donate so that other NICU babies can benefit from human milk that’s just right for an early babe. I read on a milk bank’s website that most donor milk is given by moms who have weaned older babies and continue to pump just to donate. Although it’s great for preemies to have human milk of any kind, milk that was made for a more mature baby doesn’t have the same nutrients that a premature baby needs.