Abby Update: 9 Weeks Old

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Gestation: 37 weeks, 4 days
Weight: 4 pounds, 5 ounces
Feedings: However much she wants by bottle, every three hours

Right now, everyone is just waiting on Abby. On Monday she had lost 10 grams (1/3 of an ounce). Tuesday she stayed the same. Today, however, she gained 36 grams (1 ounce)!

Every feeding time has become a circus act of trying to feed, frequently burp, and hold Abby all while moving her as little as possible. I think it might be working, even though she still spits up at almost every feed. The nice part for us is that she eats like a champ, and frequently wants to eat more after spitting up. On Monday night Abby finally nursed again, and then spit up more than she took in. Then she followed up with a full bottle which she did manage to keep down. Other than that one feed Abby still won’t nurse. We’re trying not to focus on that right now and just try to get enough food in her however she will take it.

Edit: Abby did nurse again this morning and took in 42 milliliters, a full feed!

Abby’s blood and urine cultures came back looking good, which means she doesn’t have an infection. Still, we’re holding off on the hernia surgery until she is a little more stable, consistently gaining weight. It’s possible that she may have her surgery Monday morning.

Abby’s isolette temperature is set at 27.5 degrees Celsius. Every three hours, they take her temperature, and if it’s a little high, they’ll turn down the isolette by half a degree. When it gets down to 26, she can move to an open crib again.

Everyone was so excited at rounds today because of Abby’s big weight gain, that they jumped right to talking about discharge. No, she is not ready to go home yet. But now that she gained weight once, everyone is eager to send her home soon (babies always do better once they get home).

Dan and I are hanging in there. One night as we walked into the hospital, I was insisting that I can’t take any more. It’s one thing when you feel like you can’t take it. It’s another matter when your body starts having problems. Dan and I have been getting a lot of headaches, and mine threaten to become migraines that make me sick and keep me from being able to do much. Dan suggested that it must be possible to handle all of this without “freaking out” or completely “losing it”, because “Hudson Taylor could do it”. I pointed out that, while Hudson Taylor was able to handle trials, heartache, responsibility, and all other sorts of stress all while calmly and peacefully “resting in Jesus”, he did have two wives that both died. Well, in light of our stress and that conversation, we’ve been re-reading a favorite book of ours, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret during our numerous car rides to and from the hospital. I think it might be helping.

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-that Abby gained weight!
-that it seems like Abby might be spitting up slightly less
-that Abby doesn’t have an infection
-a couple of successful nursing attempts in the past few days
-Hudson Taylor’s story and the encouragement it has given us

Please Pray:
-that Abby will continue to gain weight, spit up less, and keep her temperature up
-that our family will continue to “hang in there” until Abby comes home
-that Abby won’t have any more setbacks

Abby Update: 58 Days Old

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Gestation: 36 weeks, 6 days
Weight: 4 pounds, 5 ounces
Feedings: 37 milliliters every 3 hours by gravity or bottle

If you’ve been paying close attention to Abby’s weight, you’ll see that she’s lost 7 ounces in the past 7 days. In the past couple of days she’s made more steps backward, which is always hard, but we got some answers too.

On Wednesday, I got a call from the NICU doctor. Now, in the six weeks Lydia was in the NICU and in the 8 weeks we’ve spent there with Abby, we’ve never gotten a call from the doctor before. He was calling to tell us that Abby was being taken to radiology for an upper gastrointestinal test to find out why she was losing so much weight. The test revealed that everything is normal, but the esophageal sphincter (that is, the valve at the top of Abby’s tummy) is wide open. Therefore, anything that goes down into her little tummy can come right back out without much trouble.

There’s not a lot that can be done to help with reflux. Abby has been taking Zantac, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much so they will be upping her dose today to see if it helps. Neonatologists differ about their use of antacids in preemies, but in this specific case, our doctor thought it was worth a try. In addition, Abby is being held upright for half an hour after a feeding. Today they also started to thicken her milk with rice cereal.

As Abby has been spitting up a lot and loosing weight, she has also started to drop her temperature. Yesterday morning we were running late to the hospital so I called our nurse to let her know we were still coming. After I let her know, she informed me (so we wouldn’t be surprised when we got there) that Abby’s temperature had dropped a lot so she was put back in the isolette. During our visit Abby was too exhausted to nurse and she only took 16 ml from a bottle.

Yesterday afternoon we got another call from the NICU (which we’ve learned is never good) informing us that Abby had failed to take in much milk by mouth so often that they had to put her feeding tube back in. Now she’s back to her old feeding routine: she eats as much as she wants by mouth and whatever she doesn’t take is put in through her tube. At our evening visit she nursed about 15 ml and got the rest through her tube.

Abby has been on a new formula for the past couple of days, and in that time she has failed to stool on her own. This is something Dan and I are watching out for, because every time she stops stooling, she stops digesting well, and then she stops eating as much. However, this time the doctor isn’t concerned how long it takes her to go as long as her tummy stays soft. We’ll wait to see if she can handle the fortifier this time.

The pediatric surgeon came by Wednesday afternoon to take a look at Abby’s hernia. He recommended the surgery be done before she comes home. However, he’s a busy surgeon and the surgery couldn’t be scheduled until at least halfway through next week. This is no longer a problem, because Abby is not going to be home that soon.

Finally, the good news is that Abby’s blood count was up to 28.3 this week (from 24.5). Now that it’s increasing, it should continue increasing until it reaches a “normal” level.

Throughout the time we’ve spent in the NICU, I’ve tried to include on our updates how the rest of us are doing. This time, it’s more difficult to put into words. We are so ready to be home with Abby. We’re tired and weary and longing for home and togetherness and to be one whole family. The past eight weeks, however quickly or slowly they may be going by for others, have dragged on and on for us. Unless you’ve spent an extended amount of time in the NICU with your own baby; unless you’ve seen her make so many tiny steps forward from the isolette to the open crib to bottles to being feeding tube free, only to hastily return to the isolette and get her tube back in; unless you’ve heard the doctor predict “home” in two or three weeks, only to hear three weeks later, “she won’t be going home for a while”; unless you’ve watched your tiny little blessing put on weight one ounce at a time, only to see her once chubby cheeks shrink back down, I don’t think you can completely understand what this specific situation feels like. And I’m sure all of the moms who read this can imagine the fears that temp to fill a Mommy’s mind as she watches her little one grow too tired to eat and too weak to keep herself warm.

We’ve had a hard, a very hard week. I’ve recently been dropping Dan off at work and driving home, then driving in to pick him up later. One day I decided to start putting on music, and I found that listening to worshipful songs was helping my attitude. This morning as I drove home an old song came on that resonated with our situation.

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-an increased blood count
-that we won’t have to come back to the hospital for surgery once Abby comes home

Please Pray:
-that Abby will gain weight, eat more, and keep her temperature up
-that Abby will be able to tolerate this new formula being used for fortifier
-that the attempts to fight Abby’s reflux (Zantac, upright holding, and rice thickener) will be successful
-for Mommy, Daddy, and Lydia, who are heartsick and wanting Abby to thrive and come home

Abby Update: 8 Days Old

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Weight: 2 pounds, 9 ½ ounces
Feedings: 7 milliliters (about 1 ½ teaspoons) every 3 hours

Yesterday when Dan and I walked into the NICU our nurse informed us that Abigail has been hungry. Standard procedure in the NICU is that for the first seven days of life babies are only allowed to receive their MEN feedings (minimal enteral nutrition) which is only four milliliters every four hours. The point is to get things going in the digestive system without causing any problems. Well, Abby wasn’t happy with her MEN feedings. She was hungry! Our nurse asked if she could get her feedings bumped up a day early, but the doctors turned her down. That’s ok. Today Abby is getting more food at last. Now we can really start watching her gain weight.

Yesterday Abby was off of the bilirubin light. Her bilirubin had come down from 7 to 4.6, but today she was back up to 6.6 and had to go back on the light. That’s ok. She may come off and on a couple more times before she’s done for good.

The other excitement today was that Abby is being weaned from her cannula. She has been on 2 liters and today the nurse turned it down to 1.5. If she continues to breath well, and she seems to be, they will continue to wean her until she is breathing on her own. Last night Dan and I helped give Abby a bath, and she was off her cannula for almost an hour with absolutely no problems. Out of all of her achievements so far, it’s the breathing that amazes me the most. She seems to have very strong lungs, especially considering how early she was born.

And, thanks to all who were praying! Abigail’s first brain ultrasound came back normal. She will have a few more ultrasounds as she gets older to make sure there is no bleeding in her brain, but so far, so good.

  photo 03_zps695c5a49.jpgHow is Lydia handling her new role as big sister? The first couple of visits to the NICU were a few steps short of disaster. She wanted to touch everything and when she couldn’t she screamed and cried (not an ideal situation when there are babies in critical condition). However, she’s been doing much better and will not sit happily with us as we read to her and listen to Adventures in Odyssey. Every time we visit, Lydia gets a sticker from the nurse at the front desk. Then she tells everyone we pass, “Abigail!” as we head in to Abby’s room. Once there, she knows that she has to wash her hands (she loves throwing the paper towel in the trash). We hold her up to see Abby and then she entertains herself, or we entertain her, until it’s time to go. When we leave, she says “Bye!” to Abby, blows her kisses, and then says “hug” and won’t let us go until she, Dan, and I all take turns “hugging” Abby’s isolette. It is precious.