Thursday, August 2, 2012

How Can I Love This Much?

I must say, I really miss blogging! But as all parents know, many days end while you crawl into bed and ponder in amazement how you ever got to the bathroom during the day. Ahhhh, parenthood!

I must catch you up on our tiny tot (a little lady who has many nicknames!) She currently weighs 9 lbs 7 oz! We traveled back to the NICU last week to repeat her swallow study. She is improving! We now thicken her bottles to the 'nectar' consistency rather than the 'honey thick.' The speech therapist was confident that in 1-2 months we will be able to move to the 'thin' consistency, which is just good ol' formula mixed with water. We won't know what to do with ourselves when it takes less than five minutes to prepare a bottle!

After taking her bottles like a champ, Elise still struggles with reflux. If we don't increase her Prilosec when her weight increases, we see signs of the reflux almost immediately. Looks like she may be on Prilosec for a year or so. That's not uncommon for preemies. However, we have been able to wean Elise off the lung medicine that helped her in the NICU to get fluid off her lungs and breathe at a normal rate. We are down to one medicine, given twice daily, and her vitamin...truly blessed!

Can you believe Elise will be six months old August 8th?? Of course she is not expected to act like a 6 month old, but she sure is doing some 2 month old tricks...which is her adjusted age!

I love to track people with my eyes!

Not so sure about this Bumbo thing...it's a lot of work to keep this big ol' head up! 

As for Elise's eyes, she is still right on track! The eye doctor wants to see us once more since the blood vessels have not grown the length of her eyes yet. The doctor hopes to see this happen in the next 1-2 months. Then, he will see her every 3 months. We have noticed a little bit of a lazy eye when Elise looks at us. However, Dr. Roberts said lazy eyes can not be determined until 4-5 months adjusted age. Since Elise is only 11 weeks adjusted, Dr. Roberts said what we are seeing might disappear as Elise continues out of the newborn phase.

At the eye doctor...waiting for my pupils to dilate! 

Elise has taken her eyes on a road trip this summer! We traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to visit Elise's Ami and Grande. We stopped halfway so Elise could snuggle with her great-grandma and great-grandpa Olsen. Elise did sooooo well in the car! I was quite worried before we left because our short trips to Target and back (30 minute car trips) usually involve Elise screaming her head off. I knew I would need to gather a lot of patience for a six hour trip to Milwaukee. To my shock and disbelief, Elise slept the ENTIRE six hours there AND back. This momma awarded her girl with several shopping trips while we were vacationing! ha!

Beautiful Lake Michigan...and a pretty cute baby!

Grande and Elise bonding over their synchronized tae kwon do moves 

Elise continues to be a wonderful baby! Many nights, we still have a fussy 1-2 hours when sometimes nothing soothes her. Those are the rough nights that we go through our bag of tricks searching for something to work. Usually, we resort to laying her in her crib and letting her 'cry it out.' It's not easy to listen to her scream, but knowing we've tried everything (and that 'crying it out' has never hurt a baby), the screams do become our listening 'pleasure' some nights. Still, 1-2 hours get no complaints from me. At eight weeks old, Elise started sleeping from 10:30p to 7:30a. I think God finally said, "Eh, give those Olsens a break!" We will take it!


Deep in thought...
As for our routine at home, Elise and I continue to become best buds. We attend aerobic classes each morning and sneak in some lunches with a busy daddy. Naps are fun in the afternoons and then Grandpa comes to see us when he gets off work in the afternoons.

"Gampa" and his little lady
As the school year quickly approaches for my teaching buddies, I do have mixed feelings. There is a part of me that misses getting my classroom ready, the first day jitters, meeting a new "family" of students, and adult conversations (that's a biggie) with all my teaching pals. However, I've thought of the flip side. I could be trying to juggle a career and dropping my child off at daycare, after it feels like we JUST got her home from the NICU. Many moms have this as their only choice. They have all my admiration and prayers! When I think about trying to be the best teacher I can be while worried my preemie is in a daycare, I cringe. I'm then reminded that I am where I need to be. Home with my babe...forming unforgettable memories.

Enjoying my first Olympic Opening Ceremony party...go  USA!!
P.S...the only age when stars and polka dots could be pulled off in the same outfit and look darling. 
Elise is VERY close to giving us her social smile! Sometimes she gives a real quick one...of course these are the times I DON'T have the camera in her face. Once she starts to smile and provide more interaction, I think my mixed feelings about working vs. staying home will diminish. Transitions in life are never easy, especially when a heart and soul are put into teaching, but each day as a stay-at-home-mom is a huge gift to me. I'm not going to ask for an exchange with this gift :)

Always a happy girl...working on our social smile! 
I will close this blog tonight with a new mother learning experience. When I announced my pregnancy, all my friends who were mothers told me that I could never love someone as much as my own child. My inexperienced mind thought, "Eh, sure I could. I love my students very much. And sadly, for some of my students, I do feel like their mothers. I also love my husband and brothers like crazy." However, I've learned this summer that a love for a child IS like no other. A day may be long and exhausting in this house, but when I tuck in Elise at night, I'm already thinking about kissing her in the morning.

Last week, before I went to sleep, I took one last glance at the camera, per my usual routine. The time was around midnight. I had laid Elise down around 10pm. To my surprise, when I glanced at the camera, Elise was laying in her crib calmly, but wide awake. I watched the camera for a few moments before I snuck upstairs and turned on the tiniest of light in Elise's nursery. I scooped her up and headed to the rocker in the corner of the room. The house was quiet. All I could hear was the dishwasher running downstairs and the softest coos coming from the babe in my arms. The light was dim, but I could certainly make out two big brown eyes staring up into mine. Before I knew it, tears were trickling down my cheeks. I couldn't stop whispering to Elise how much I loved her while giving her kisses all over her soft forehead. After a few moments, her eyes became heavy and she made some long blinks before she was finally sound asleep in my arms. I continued to rock and take in the moment before I quietly placed her in her crib, swaddled her, and tiptoed back downstairs into my own bed.

We always called the 8:00 hour in the NICU our 'night cap' with Elise before we made the trek back home to Seymour. Last week's night cap ranked number one by a landslide. It was such a magical moment for me....my heart about to burst while my mind was screaming, "I ADORE this new phase in my life...motherhood." I may have had a pretty rocky start to this new phase in my life, but I am finally becoming comfortable as Elise's mommy. A bond began when I found out we were expecting in September 2011...but now that bond has really started to strengthen.

As I was rocking Elise, I couldn't help but think about my own mother (hence, the tears were for many reasons). I'm sure my mom had similar moments with me when I was a baby, as I did with Elise last week, but I'd love to know all the tiny details now. I'd love to know a lot of things about my mom being a mother to me as a baby, but a 26 year old daughter doesn't always know to ask those detailed motherly questions before her mother passes.

I do know one thing. My mother IS the reason Elise is here, alive, and thriving.

Thanks for the chat last week, Mom. And if I didn't understand before, I now realize how much you loved me as your daughter. I plan to have a bond with Elise just like you and I had. Inseparable. There is no love quite like a mother and daughter.

Until Next Time...
G & J & E

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Preemie Catch Up Game

During our initial appointment with Dr. Kleber, Elise's pediatrician, she showed me Elise's growth charts. Knowing that I was a teacher, Dr. Kleber said that I would probably think the charts were pretty 'ugly' at the start. However, she told me that I would be intrigued while analyzing the charts as we continued to have appointments and plot Elise's measurements. She told me preemies play this fabulous catch up game with their measurements. By playing this 'game,' at the age of two or three Elise will measure just like a two or three year old that was born full-term.

When I first looked at the weight and height chart for Elise, Dr. Kleber was right. I cringed slightly. My poor girl had the have the chart extended downward just so she would make a 'point.' However, the more thought I put into it, the more understanding I gained (funny how that works?!) Her chart benchmarks (5th percentile and up) are based off her chronological age (5 months on July 8th). Moreover, her black points are based off her adjusted age (roughly one month old).

Weight


Height
Dr. Kleber was dead on when she said I would be intrigued with the charts! If you look at the curves on Elise's graphs, you can already see how she is showing signs of the Preemie Catch Up Game. She has a greater upward trend than you would expect from a full-term baby. So cool!

Speaking of weight, Elise is now up to 7 lbs 10 oz! We are still feeding her every 3-4 hours and we've increased her volume from 2 ounces to now 3 ounces. She doesn't always take the full 3 ounces, but she's consistently taking more than 2 ounces at every feed.

Yesterday, First Steps from Columbus came to our home to assess Elise. First Steps is the local program that sends therapists into the homes of babies/children who might have any type of delay from developmental to speech to cognitive. Yesterday, the therapists raved about how well Elise looks and all the progress she is making! After examining her, they recommended NO services as of right now....what a wonderful thing! They said everything she is doing is right on track for what a one month old baby should be doing. They gave us charts that show what Elise is doing and what she should be doing in the months to come. We will stay in their system so that if/when we see signs of delays in the future, we can contact them and they will come back to re-assess and provide services if needed.

We had a follow-up eye appointment today with Dr. Roberts in Greenwood today. His words were, "Elise's eyes are awesome guys!" He wants to see us in one month to make sure her blood vessels grow completely across her eyes (right now they are heading in that direction, but aren't finished growing). He will then see us in 3 months for a follow-up/discharge appointment. It's always difficult to pull out of the driveway at 7am with an infant to make it to these early appointments, but to receive that news from Dr. Roberts, the sleep deprivation/stress was well worth it!

As you can read, we continue to make great strides having our little lady home! Although most days are wonderful, I'm reminded daily that not everything about being a stay-at-home mommy is glorious and glamorous (the realistic side all mommies go through). There are days I don't get a chance to shower until G gets home from work. There are days the dishes sit. The kitchen floor is ridiculously dirty and laundry is begging to be washed. There are days I miss my mother terribly. I wish I could load up Miss E in the car and head to Nana Lisa's house for a visit. Girl time with my best pal and getting to watch my mother with her granddaughter. As I tell people who ask: at times, it's very hard to be a mother without a mother.

However, those days mentioned above are in between days when Elise and I stare at each other with our big brown eyes. She coos while looking into my eyes and my heart completely melts. Hours pass by just staring at each other. We take power walks, attend aerobic classes, have tummy time, and take cat naps together. If we are missing girl time that day, that's when I call up one of my fabulous girlfriends and we get together. Then, we wait for Daddy to get home from work so we can hear about his day and I can tell him about every "Elise moment" made throughout the day. Elise is Nana Lisa's little lady that was snuggled close in Heaven and kept safe in the NICU. It may be difficult at times to not have my best pal and mother with me physically, but there is a definite reason why Elise is our miracle baby.

Here are some of the latest photos of our sweet peanut...Enjoy!

All ready for church! 

When items do not fit, a lady must improvise!
On a power walk with Mommy

See what I mean about staring into my eyes and making my heart melt??


Until Next Time ~
G & J & E

Friday, June 8, 2012

Two Weeks at Home!

I may not have much time to write anymore as a full-time mommy, but I sure do miss it! It has been so wonderful to hear from all our followers. Whether it be family, friends, or even complete strangers that come up to us when we are out and about...Grant and I are reminded how many people follow our journey and how much support everyone continues to provide to our family. Beyond blessed.

Today, while Elise snoozes for an afternoon nap, I thought my TWO hands could type an update. Isn't it funny how mothers become professionals at being one-handed most of the day?? I am certainly not complaining....I absolutely LOVE that I can snuggle with my girl anytime of the day that I feel the need.

Elise's pediatrician is VERY pleased with her weight gain since being home. She has gained an ounce a day in two weeks...yeehaw! That brings her to six pounds, thirteen ounces! We have another appt. on Monday the 11th to adjust feedings if need be and check her weight again. Dr. Kleber would like us to stop into her office at least once a week to check Elise's weight.

It was nice to hear a "plan" mapped out for Elise by Dr. Kleber. During RSV season (fall into winter) Elise will go in once a month for shots :( These shots don't guarantee RSV will stay away, but it provides a very good barrier against it. To be extra cautious, once Daddy gets home from working with the kiddos in the hospital, he will have to change clothes and shower before handling Elise. A healthy baby with developed lungs does not want RSV....we especially don't want it for Elise.

Last week, we had a check up with the eye doctor in Greenwood. He said he sees a teeny tiny amount of ROP (prematurity of the retinas) in one eye. He is confident that when we see him again on June 20th, Elise's eyes will show no more signs of ROP! How encouraging! The eye doctor is not the most comfortable visit for Elise (who actually likes eye drops and metal clamps keeping the eyelids open??) We will be happy for her when we can say goodbye to Dr. Roberts. HA!

During the first week of July, we will travel to Indianapolis and see an at-risk pediatrician who specializes in seeing preemies. He was recommended by the NICU and will receive all of Elise's charts and paper work from her stay at St. Vincent. Around this same time in July, we will repeat another swallow study to determine if Elise's feeds can be modified to a thinner consistency. Right now, we are still at the "honey thick" consistency.

Elise continues to prove she's a great sleeper! We feed her around 11:30 at night and then once around 4:00am. She goes right back to sleep and wakes up around 8:00 ready to eat again. I am THRILLED with this schedule...because I know it could be much, much worse! Dr. Kleber is fine with feeding her every 4-4.5 hours during the night. During the day, we feed her every 3 hours.

As for my health, I had a follow-up with Dr. Fish yesterday. I am still seeing some swelling, but it's slightly better than before. After wearing socks all day, I will take them off and see a small bubble around my ankle (not just your typical sock line). Depending on the day, sometimes my wedding ring slides on, and sometimes it goes right back into the jewelry box. When I updated Dr. Fish, he told me that I am going to have to give it a year. It's a long year, but since my preeclampsia was so severe, my body is going to need close to 12 months to recoup. It's amazing to me that a condition, such as preeclampsia, took less than a month to take over my body, but it will take over a year to leave my body.

It was a bummer to hear this, but having Elise home has helped some of my anxiety, which I'm sure has helped my body. Elise and I have been going on 3-4 mile stroller walks everyday and we had a killer Buggies workout today. Buggies is a class designed for mommies to workout with their children in strollers. Lots of running drills, kickboxing, weights, and ab work! I love that everyone can go at their own pace and still get a great workout.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share a sneak peek of our "newborn" photo shoot that happened on Tuesday. We are absolutely in love with Ashley Bowen Photography...and our precious baby girl. Enjoy!



The tag reads: A Gift from Nana Lisa
This is my favorite picture for many, many reasons.


Until Next Time~ 

G & J & E

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tips from One NICU Momma to Another...

Since my last post, I've had a few women reach out to me via email with questions and concerns that range from preeclampsia to NICU stays. During our 106 day stay in the NICU, I came across many things that worked for me and my family. Since these helpful tips and suggestions are fresh in my mind, I thought I would jot them down in a post; hoping that some suggestions are helpful to other NICU mommies. If you want me to elaborate on any of the tips, please email me (raynorj12@gmail.com). Once again, I'm here to help. 


As for the pregnancy....


~ Listen to your body. At 25 weeks, you should not have large amounts of swelling or be out of breath getting ready in the mornings for work. 
~ Swelling of the eye lids or anywhere on the face? Make an OB appt. ASAP. 
~ If you are placed on bed rest, let people help you. Magazines, movies, visitors, etc. make the days go faster. 
~ Blogging also keeps your mind focused during bed rest. 
~ If on bed rest, get specific restrictions from your doctor. Sometimes you CAN get up for a short period during the day. Don't assume "bed rest" always means on your back 24/7. 
~ To lower BP, lay as much as possible on your left side and drink tons of water. Yes, I know that means more trips to the potty, but you need the fluid. 
~ Hold onto your belly as much as possible. You may deliver your baby early, so she/he needs to know Momma's touch. You need to feel all flutters/movements to keep you positive and sane. 


Delivery...


~If possible, make sure you get the steroid shots in your bum that help boost your little peanut's lungs. This could be a lifesaver. 
~Don't worry about family/friends driving like bats out of hell to make it to the hospital. You need their support. While lying in the operating room, knowing I was delivering my 25 weeker, I felt comforted by all my family and friends who were anxiously sitting in the waiting room. 
~ You will probably be put on Magnesium for your delivery. It can affect women very differently. I felt like I had downed a bunch of alcohol, and as things was happening in front of me, I couldn't find the strength to react to any of it; emotionally, verbally, or physically. Magnesium was kind to me during a time when I needed my emotions to shut off. 
~ Use your pain pump for at least 12 hours post surgery. You just had a C-section. And if yours was an emergency like mine, they cut quickly to get the peanut out STAT. 
~After you are wheeled back to your hospital room, you might think, "What the hell just happened?!" This is normal. You were pregnant 2 hours ago. Now you are not. Ask for a copy of your child's footprints and hold onto it. I slept the first night with a copy of Elise's footprints tucked into my hospital gown. Every time I pulled out the copy to look at them, it reminded me that I was now a mommy and had to remain strong for myself, and also for my little one who was getting worked on in the NICU. 
~As soon as you can, make a trip to the NICU to see your baby. Ask the doctor be at the bedside so he/she can answer all your questions. Ask away momma...they have knowledge and they work for your little peanut. 
~ It's perfectly normal to cry when you see your little baby and ask the doctor questions. 
~ If allowed, touch your baby's tiny hands or toes. You both need to feel each other. For several days, Elise didn't react when I touched her hands, but her feet would make the slightest movements when I gently touched them. 


NICU stay....


~Find a 'healthy' schedule for how many NICU trips you make per week. I don't recommend going everyday. You will continue to have duties at home as well as a new baby in the hospital. I know you want to be close to your baby, but the NICU is an emotionally exhausting place for parents, especially in the first few weeks before you adjust to your new normal. 
~If your spouse cannot go with you (and it's in the beginning of your stay), take a girlfriend with you. It is very difficult to be there alone in the beginning. Eventually, you will adjust and grow stronger so that you can make the trips solo. 
~ When you can't be at your baby's bedside, call the NICU for updates as many times as you want. If you want to call every hour...do it. She/he is your baby. Those nurses work with NICU mommies all the time. Do what is best for you. 
~At St. Vincent's, Elise's doctor called every afternoon with a daily update. That call was always wonderful! If your doctor does not do this on his/her own, see about requesting this. 
~If you are able, start pumping milk right away. This will help you feel needed when all you can do is change a diaper and check a temperature 3x daily. The NICU will store your milk for you. You can also rent pump machines from the hospital for a monthly fee. When your child is ready, he/she will get to take your milk and LOVE it. Nothing better than Momma's milk! 
~If you have any pumping/breastfeeding questions, ask your nurse to schedule an appointment with a lactation nurse. They come to the bedside and help you with whatever you need. 
~A chaplain walked around the bedsides at St. V's. She offered prayers for me and Elise when I was still on bed rest. Then she came around the NICU and offered prayers at Elise's isolette. She happened to stop by Elise's corner the day we were being discharged. We both teared up just making eye contact. She, too, remembers the very first days and how scary they were for us. 
~Social workers will walk around the NICU as well. At St. V's there were services available for families who needed gas, food, or lodging assistance. 
~As hard as it may be, strike up conversations with other mommies around you. Having others to talk to on long days will make your NICU stays a little more comfortable. Some parents don't want to chat, and you'll be able to pick up on that vibe. Others, will come up to you and introduce themselves. Try to do the same to others. 
~Once you get a nurse you really enjoy and trust, ask her to be your child's primary nurse. That means, whenever she works, she will take care of your child. 
~Get to know the nurses and doctors on a personal level. Again, it will make your NICU stay a little nicer if you are able to have some 'fun' conversations. 
~While in the NICU, take time to decorate your baby's corner with memorabilia from home. It's wise to make your child's corner a "home away from home," especially if you know you have a long stay ahead of you. 
~If financially able, go to Hobby Lobby or a nearby craft store and buy one yard pieces of your favorite baby fleece. You can use this fleece to make your baby's isolette/crib instead of using the NICU linens. Make sure you wash everything in hypo-allergenic, unscented detergent before taking it into the NICU. 
~When people buy you preemie (or even micro-preemie) outfits, wash them and take them to the NICU. Eventually, your little peanut can be dressed everyday. When your peanut's laundry bag gets full...take the laundry home and enjoy doing it (yes, I said enjoy). This is another way you will feel needed. 
~If you have a long distance to drive, invest in some books on tape. Comedy radio stations also helped me. It's nice to laugh on your way home. 
~If you are financially able, enjoy a dinner out every once in a while. If it had been a really rough day for us, we always splurged and got desserts. After all, "stressed" is "desserts" spelled backwards! 
~Speaking of food, I know you want to diet to immediately lose the ridiculous amount of swelling and puffiness you received from the preeclampsia ugly fairy. Clear your 6 week check up before doing anything, and don't panic if the weight does not fall off right away. After being stressed and worried that my weight wasn't falling off after 2 months on Weight Watchers, my OB doctor told me that severe preeclampsia bodies can take up to a whole year to recover. 
~While in the NICU take pictures. Lots of them. Your brain will block mental images over time. As your baby grows, you will forget what she looked like at 1 lb 4.5 oz. You will want pictures to look back on and say, "We got through that." 


~Your NICU stay will truly resemble a roller coaster ride, as cliche as that may sound. You will have your "throw your hands up in the air- we are almost to the top of the mountain!" days and then you will have your "my stomach is in my big toe because we continue to ride down hill" days. Sometimes both 'rides' are in the same day. Those are the days you need a dessert as well as an adult beverage to wash it down. 


~In the end, rejoice as often as you can, cry whenever you feel the urge, and always practice deep breathing exercises.


All emotions play critical roles in your journey.


Sending my strength to other NICU mommies---


G & J & E 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adjusting to Our New Normal

We've been home with Elise for five days now and soaking up all the joys (and nerves) fresh parenthood brings to two newbies! After the first night and very little sleep, Elise has proven to be a decent sleeper. We met with our pediatrician today for our first check up. I was hoping we could feed Elise during the night when she gives us cues, rather than a strict every 3 hour schedule. Elise's 2am and 5am feedings have proven to be challenges for more reasons than the obvious...the time! We usually have to wake Elise out of a deep sleep and then it takes a while for her to wake up enough to take the bottle. By the time we are laying her back down, we have about 2 hours before we start all over again.

Dr. Kleber would like to see Elise have a little more weight on her before we go to cue-based feeds during the night. She did say we could space out the night feeds to every 4 hours instead of every 3 hours. She made an excellent point: when Elise is sleeping away at night and it's past time to feed her, we really don't know if she is truly sleeping or if her blood sugars are so low that she is forced to sleep. Hearing this was enough to make me continue to set that alarm every night.

Elise weighs six pounds and six ounces! She is putting on weight quite nicely since transitioning home. Once she hits around eight pounds, we can space out daytime feedings to 4 hours and nighttime feedings to 5 hours. We are looking forward to that! Do I dare type that we are getting ready to box up our preemie clothes because we've outgrown them?! It's the truth! Newborn sizes here we come!!

We head back to Indianapolis tomorrow to see the eye doctor. We are hoping he will give us the green light when it comes to continued appointments for her ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity). Once a baby becomes full term (like Elise) their eyes have landed themselves where they need to be. We will keep our fingers crossed tomorrow morning!

Grandpa and his tiger

As far as Elise's parents, we are doing well for the circumstances. We are certainly tired, but that is to be expected. We are catching our cat naps when we can. Grant and his partner worked out this week's schedule so that G works nights and his partner covers the days. That means G is home with Elise and me until 5:00 in the evening. Once the hospital patients are 'tucked in' for the night, G can return home and take calls from his pager. It has been so nice to have Daddy around during the daytime.

As for me, I have found that it has been quite challenging to continue to pump 5-6 times a day while caring for a newborn who is bottle-fed. There are times when I could sleep for 30 minutes, but instead, am forced to pump during that time. I haven't wanted to be a "quitter," but if a professional would tell me it's certainly ok to stop, I would stop. We have 2 freezers full of frozen milk that we cannot use until Elise is strong enough to swallow thin milk and not aspirate. We are talking possibly months until this is possible. Also, there is a rare chance that Elise will actually be able to breastfeed after all this time spent with a bottle. Once again, we can't breastfeed until she can take thin milk.

When I was in the NICU, of course I wanted to pump...it was one of the very few ways I felt helpful. She could take my milk on a pump during those first few weeks when life was so touch-and-go. Now that we are home, it's been quite difficult to keep up the pumping with all my other (new) duties. Twenty minutes is a long time when you are pumping and listening to your daughter cry from her crib because she is ready to eat, but you are the only one home.

Tonight Grant talked to his partner and while giving updates on our family, mentioned the pumping difficulties for me. His partner said, "Why doesn't Jess just stop...it would certainly ease up some stress and help her anxiety." Grant came home and we discussed it further. In a way, to think about tomorrow morning and being able to sleep until 6:00 instead of 5:30 because I won't have to pump, brings a huge relief to my mind.

As you can see, we continue to make adjustments for our new "normal!" One of my favorite times with Elise is around 8:00 in the morning when she is bright-eyed and ready to eat. If she's in a patient mood, we will do some tummy time before a bottle. When I laid her down on her mat yesterday, she had her head facing away from me. I started to call for her and ask her "Where's Mommy?" I absolutely melted when she picked up that VERY heavy head of hers and turned it to face me. Just when I thought I couldn't love her anymore than I already do....I'm in love that much more.

Tummy Time! 


Goodnight!

G & J & E

P.S....I've mentioned before how thoroughly I have enjoyed 'writing out' our journey with Miss E's early arrival into our lives. Your comments...prayers...and just knowing you are reading and staying connected with us has meant the world to my entire family. Now that Elise is home and my duties have multiplied, I will probably write less. As always, I want our story to give another family hope. If you know of anyone who may have a child in the NICU, please forward this link to them. If they have questions, concerns, fears, or just need to cry to a person who has 'been there and done that,' have them email me at raynorj12@gmail.com. My number one goal throughout this blogging process has always been to pay it forward and possibly give a little relief to another NICU momma who has her own journey to ride. 




Saturday, May 26, 2012

Taking it All in!

See that little speck?! Welcome Home Miss Elise Diane!!

We arrived home to Seymour around 3:30 Friday afternoon! It was an emotional goodbye to all the NICU professionals...all 3 of Elise's primary doctors and her 3 primary nurses came to the bedside to say goodbye (some even made a special trip to the NICU on their day off). I did ok with the momma tears until we buckled her in the car seat and I turned around to see everyone waving goodbye. We were truly going through with it--- not a dream after all!

Our ride home was very successful! I sat in the back while Dad drove home in pre-Indy 500-race-traffic. Yuck! Elise wore her "Lil' Dr. Olsen" baby doctor scrubs as her 'riding home outfit.'

Testing out her newborn napper in her pack n' play

Per the suggestion of my OB doctor, we purchased an Angelcare Monitor for Elise's crib. It's a pad that senses the baby's breaths. If it does not signal a breath for a series of seconds, it sends very loud and fast beeps through a monitor: a.k.a. Angel Fire Alarm. Even though this monitor is designed for a crib, we thought maybe it could work for the pack n' play as well....did we ever tell you we were newbie parents???

....we were both sound asleep at midnight. The alarm goes off. Even those Elise's pack n' play is on my side of the room, G made it to her first. As he fumbled for the light, I grabbed her chest. Whew. It was rising up and down. False Alarm. We climbed back in bed with heart beats that you could hear a mile away. Sure enough, the alarm went off a second time 10 mins later. We decided it wasn't working due to the design really being for a crib, not a pack n' play. We made the mutual decision to remove it so we could get some sleep. Even though I agreed, I laid there debating our decision until fatigue took over and our alarm clock went off at 1:55 for the next feeding.

We want to keep Miss E on the same eating schedule as she was in the NICU. That means every three hours we need to wake up and feed her...8:00, 11:00, 2:00, 5:00. The 2:00 and 5:00 am bottle feeds were pretty tough, mostly because Elise wasn't hungry. We had to wake her up out of a deep sleep. She took over an hour to eat two ounces and then when we burped her, she became wide awake. We would lay her down shortly after her bottle, but it would take 30 mins or so for her to fall back asleep. An hour and a half later, we were waking up to do it all over again. We realize this is the life of newborn parents...we aren't complaining...just realizing for the first time how physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting it can be! We have our first pediatric appointment on Tuesday morning. We will ask about when we can feed Elise based off her cues, rather than a three hour schedule. Hopefully that will get everyone a little more shut eye time.

After Miss Elise's 5:00am bottle, she thought sleeping was for the birds! We started our day. The last time this momma saw anytime before 5:00am was when I was catching an early morning flight with my mother and matron of honor to Punta Cana for our destination wedding in June 2010. Oh how time flies!

Loving my mamaRoo from the Fallis family! 

We did catch some winks when Elise laid down at 1:00pm for a two hour nap. Ready for night #2! Might explore the stroller and a walk tomorrow if the air doesn't feel like typical Indiana jungle. While in the NICU, we took preemie steps for Elise. Now it's preemie steps for Momma.

Snoozing in Momma's boppy at 4:00pm. Momma wonders why not 4am?!  :)


Can't stop staring at our miracle baby who is HOME...

G & J & E




Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tell the World I'm Coming Home!

106 days....15, 000 miles on the car....

We started on February 8, 2012....34 days on life support. Daddy's wedding ring fit on Elise's upper arm. Weighing in at 1 pound, 4.5 ounces.



17 days on CPAP....still so tiny.



Comfortable on Vapotherm...3-4 pounds.



Peaceful 5.5 pound baby with NO respiratory support.



On Friday, March 25, 2012, Elise Diane Olsen will be discharged from St. Vincent's NICU in Indianapolis!!!! 

The car is packed! Diaper bag is ready! Car seat is securely in place (a BIG thank you to Chris Hughes for coming to our home and making sure we had it latched into place!)

We are so excited to make this post! What a journey we have been on...but now we get to face a happy journey that we have oh-so-longed for since those cold, scary February days. Our family. The 3 of us. Blessed beyond words.

We're Comin' for ya Elise!
G & J & E

P.S...We can't wait to introduce Elise to everyone who has prayed for her and wrapped her up in love! However, all three of us will need a few days to get comfortable with our new surroundings. We ask for your heartfelt patience and understanding while we adjust to life at home with our sweet little lady. Once Elise is ready, we will let you know a good time to come love on her. She certainly loves to snuggle! 



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mixed Emotions

As our NICU journey comes to its final days, I find myself with mixed emotions. Of course we are beyond thrilled that we are finally bringing our little lady home! There were many days that it felt like we'd never be that family with the discharged baby being carried out in a car seat by two very happy parents. Now, our moment to be those two very happy parents is days away. Sometimes I literally have to pinch myself since I have dreamed of this moment for a very long time...104 days to be exact.

My feelings don't end at excitement. We are nervous as hell too. In a lot of ways, we are similar to first time parents taking their newborn baby home. We are yet to face the sleepless nights, checking on her multiple times just to see her chest rise up and down, and asking ourselves, "why is she crying?" There will be no monitors, nurses, or doctors to provide us with comfort or knowledge when we might need it the most. We are thrilled to break free of all the NICU technology, but after 3.5 months, being 'let free' stirs up some anxiety as well. The nurses tell us we are ready, but self-doubt can be a very powerful feeling when beginning to enter a new "normal" in your life.

I find myself becoming more emotional as we get closer to bringing her home. Many tears are pure happiness (and somewhat disbelief that we are finally "here"), but there are anxiety tears too.

If preparing for Elise to come home hasn't been enough on my plate, I've had some medical issues myself. Some of my swelling has reappeared and I can't seem to shed the weight even though I've been on Weight Watchers since March 11th and pumping 6-7 times a day. Adding a few headaches and dizzy spells to the list made me call my local OBGYN and schedule an appointment for today. I absolutely adore my Schneck OBs-- a very talented group of doctors who are extremely in tune with their patients and care deeply about what they are going through...pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and postpartum. As I began running through my symptoms with my doctor, he started to take notes and just listen. Then he asked the million dollar question, "How are you doing emotionally?"

I couldn't say a word. All I could do was cry. My number one goal was to remain strong throughout this journey, but I never said I wouldn't shed tears. As I tried to speak about my feelings through tears, my doctor made me understand what I was feeling was acceptable and normal. He looked up from taking notes and said, "You've spent every ounce of your emotional energy on getting through these last four months. Now you are filled with anxiety as you prepare to bring her home and try to muster up more emotional energy for this new journey you are about to begin. You can't be supermom. I won't let you. If you weren't showing me signs of anxiety/depression after everything you've been through, I'd be worried about you. You have been through hell and back. Let it out." 


It's easy to feel like you are alone when you are on a unique journey such as ours. "Traditional parents"with "traditional newborns" have seemed to pop up all around us. Commercials on t.v., friends having babies, or your husband being a pediatrician and examining these types of babies. When what you don't have is always in your face, it's hard to not feel like you live on an abandoned island.

After my appointment today, it is comforting to know that my anxiety is normal and a slice of 'traditional mommyhood' is around the corner. My doctor has all the confidence in the world that my emotions will change once I get Elise home and find a routine in a new life together. He wants to see me in two weeks to get an update.

Elise, herself, has had an amazing medical family for the last 104 days as well. When I was transported by ambulance to St. V's on February 3rd, strangers surrounded me. Staff doctors, residents, interns, medical students, nurses, respiratory therapists, neonatologists. They were buzzing around my unfamiliar hospital room as I held onto my belly, praying I could keep Elise inside me for at least three more weeks so I could deliver a 28 weeker, not a 25 weeker.

On one of the nights I was lying in my hospital bed, Karrie, a NICU nurse stopped by to say hello. In 2006, Karrie and I were two IUPUI students that happened to both sign up for a month long internship in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I was an education major and would teach English in the schools and Karrie was a nursing major and would work in the hospitals. We both would learn Spanish at a language school and live with host families nearby. We had a great time blossoming a friendship in Mexico with many, many fond memories. Once we returned back to campus, we became Facebook friends to stay in touch.

Little did I know that six years later I would really need Karrie in my everyday life. When she visited me before Elise arrived, she said to me, "Don't worry, when you deliver, I'll make sure I sign up to be Elise's primary night nurse. I'll take good care of your little lady." Little did we know that Elise was on her way. Elise came three days later as a 25w 5d preemie. The first night Karrie was able to take care of Elise was the first time my shoulders finally got a rest. In the scary, unfamiliar world I was quickly beginning to live, Karrie was a familiar soul that God knew I needed.

When I couldn't sleep at night, I called Karrie. When I was scared to ask too many questions of the doctors, I kept Karrie on the phone answering all my mommy questions. When I was afraid to bond, Karrie said cuddle with your baby girl. When I was fighting back tears, Karrie would hug me and reassure me that everything was going to be OK. When I so badly wanted to touch my daughter, Karrie would let me take off those darn purple gloves for a few seconds and touch her. When I was afraid to love, Karrie told me to love....and never, ever stop.

Tonight, Karrie works her last night shift with Elise.




My daughter will never fully understand how Nurse Karrie helped me get through this journey. Nights could have been lonely and sad for me...but when Karrie had Elise, the anxiety washed away and I was able to get some rest. Tonight, I joked with Karrie and told her that once we are home for 15 minutes, I will start texting her. We also started to make plans for her first trip to Seymour!


We have come so far, and now we must say our goodbyes to a very special medical family. These medical professionals raised our daughter for almost the first four months of her life. No food platter or bouquet of flowers could adequately thank the NICU personnel at St. Vincent's Women's Hospital.  However, someday, Elise will be able to thank them for herself. She will grow up learning about her NICU friends....and especially how Nurse Karrie let Momma get some rest during night shift.

Karrie once said, "There will never be another Elise in my life." Well, there will certainly never be another Nurse Karrie in our lives.

Forever Blessed,

G & J & E

Monday, May 21, 2012

Working Out the Last Kink

Today (Monday) was the day of Elise's swallow study to redetermine what thickness of milk she could successfully swallow into her esophagus. Grant and I actually got to attend the swallow study this time. We stood behind the glass window with the radiologist and watched the X-ray monitor. Nurse Donna fed Elise the different thicknesses while Elise laid on a big X-ray table. Elise was such a trouper! As the radiologist would ask for different nipples and different thicknesses, Elise would accept each one and swallow away. For Grant and I, it was very neat to watch Miss Elise's insides working so hard!

The radiologist started with the honey thick milk which is what Elise has been successful with since the first swallow study. As usual, she performed great with the honey thick. Then the radiologist moved to a step down from honey thick-- nectar. With nectar, Elise did OK, but not fabulous. After a few good swallows, the formula started to penetrate her windpipe. She certainly wasn't as strong on the nectar as she was on the honey thick.

Therefore, she needs to stay with the honey thick for a while longer. This means we will go home with that consistency. The problem with the honey thick would be that she can't get all the nutrients that she needs from honey thick bottles. She needs some nutrients from breast milk, but as I last wrote, breast milk cannot be thickened with the thickener we are currently using. We thought this would mean she would need to come home and be on the pump for a few of her feeds.

HOWEVER, it is a possibility that we could use a different type of thickener and thicken the breast milk for 1-2 feeds per day. Therefore, she would get the nutrients from the breast milk AND the milk would be thickened so she could successfully take it through a bottle. Tomorrow, we will know for sure if this is possible when the doctors meet with the dietitian and discuss Elise's proper nutrition.

Really Mom?! Possibly no pump feeds?? Yahooooo! 

All in all, it looks promising! Elise took 6 bottles today and did great. Tomorrow, they will try all 8 feeds through a bottle (and hopefully work out the pump feeds so they are through bottles as well). She is OFF all respiratory treatments and lung medicines! It is POSSIBLE that when the time comes, we will come home on vitamins, Prilosec, and thickened feeds...that's it. To think of all the things we could have come home with (oxygen, monitor, pump feeds, medicines, respiratory breathing treatments, etc), we are very, very blessed.

The next step will be feeding Elise ad lib. Meaning, instead of feeding her on the dot every 3 hours and giving her exactly 45 mLs, we would watch for cues from her as to when to feed her and how much. Most likely, it will be close to every 3 hours, but the amounts per bottle may vary. She may be super hungry and take 60 mLs one time, but the next time she may only take 40 mLs. We will make sure on average she is taking full feeds. I'm excited for this...something traditional mommies do :)

You might be reading this post and thinking, "When is this little lady going to come home??" Soon! We have a few more kinks to work out and then we will be making that celebratory post that we've been waiting to write for many, many weeks.

On the ride home this evening, I found myself thinking about making the drive home with a little peanut in the back seat, all buckled into her new polka dot car seat. It still seems soooooo surreal at times. Even though we've had Elise in our lives for 3 1/2 months, my schedule hasn't resembled that of a "traditional" mother. On my days spent at home, I can sleep in if I need to, and I'm certainly not woken up in the middle of the night unless my bladder starts to scream. When I run errands, I jump in and out of the car and do whatever I need to do. Basically what I'm saying is, when I'm in the NICU, it's 'Elise time' and I'm all about rocking and holding her. When I'm home, it's easy to forget about full-time, 24/7 motherhood.

I do know one thing: I am beyond excited to get my baby girl home so we can cuddle and play in our pj's all day long with no nurses, doctors, monitors, or other crying babies to be seen or heard!

Our pink-legging chunker: 5 lbs. 9 oz! 


Patiently Waiting,

G & J & E


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Thick vs. Thin Dilemma

We continue to inch our way closer to the "going home" light! She is still off all respiratory support and doing fabulously! She also is packing on the ounces too. She currently checks in at a whopping 5 pounds 6.5 ounces!!

Friday, May 18th, happened to be my actual due date for Elise. During the day on Friday, I took a moment to think about the last 3.5 months. Imagining myself still pregnant on Friday? Whoa. Imagining myself still teaching?!?! Double whoa. God certainly had a different plan for us.

Speaking of Miss E, the dilemma right now is her feedings. Ever since we found out that Elise was aspirating (swallowing food into her windpipe) during the swallow study 3 weeks ago, the nurses have been thickening four of Elise's feeds with rice cereal. Right now, she is on the thickest of the thick because her swallow study showed her aspirating on anything less than honey consistency. The doctors have slowly increased the amount of thickened milk (formula) in her bottle. However, thickened formula does not give Elise all the proper nutrition she needs. Therefore, four feeds a day are through bottles with the thickened formula and four feeds a day are on the pump with nutritious (yet thin) breast milk. It would be ideal if Elise could take all her feeds by mouth, however, the nutritious breast milk cannot be thickened. If she would take it through a bottle (instead of it going through the feeding tube directly into her stomach), she would aspirate it into her windpipe due to how thin it is.

Soooooo....Monday we are going to do a repeat swallow study to see if she can take a less thickened formula and not aspirate it. Since the first swallow study, she has gained weight, she is older, more mature, and has been practicing swallowing into her esophagus. If she can take less thickened feeds-- well then wonderful! She will be able to take all her feeds orally and get the proper nutrition. If she continues to only take the thickest of the thick on Monday during the study, then she will still need her pump feeds once she comes home.

This means Grant and I (ok, really just me since Dad knows this stuff) will have to be trained how to place a tube down her nostril that goes directly through her esophagus and on into her stomach. We are then trained on how to listen to her belly with a stethoscope and make sure we inserted the tube down her esophagus and not into her windpipe. We do not want milk going into her lungs! When I've watched the nurses do this in the NICU, of course Elise hates when the tube is inserted. Who wouldn't?

Regardless of getting this news today, we must remain thankful. We dodged a huge bullet: since Elise is doing so well off oxygen, there's a 99% chance we DO NOT have to come home on oxygen! She might be coming home on pump feeds, but HOME is in SIGHT! The last thing I want to be trained on is how to insert a tube down my daughter's nostril and hear her scream and squirm, but my best friend said it so well: "It's amazing what you will get trained on and be able to do for your child" (and might I add...It's amazing what you'll do so your child can come home from a 3 1/2 month NICU stay).

We would just have to insert the tube at night and do four feedings during the middle of the night with the tube. During the day, she can get her thickened bottles. Hopefully she will only have to do pump feeds for a few weeks to possibly one month. Then we will probably repeat the swallow study for a third time and see where she is at and what thickness of milk she can swallow safely. Inch by inch we will get there.

There is still a possibility that we MAY dodge this 'pump feed' bullet on Monday if Elise can show us she CAN take less thickened feeds and not aspirate. However, Elise's primary nurses, who know her inside and out, are not hopeful of this occurring. They think the swallow study won't show much improvement from the initial disastrous swallow study from three weeks ago, and therefore, she will be on the current plan once we come home: 4 thickened formula feeds with rice cereal through a bottle and 4 feeds of the nutritious (thin) breast milk on the pump.

The nurses and doctors are confident in me that I can learn all I need to in order to bring her home and provide her a successful environment. I just need to gain confidence in myself!

On my drive home from the NICU today, I was thinking....women need a set of ovaries AND a set of balls. I think God secretly always gives both to females. I just need to find mine so I can get over my "donotwanttohurtmychild-phobia."

I'm almost ready for you Mommy and Daddy! 


Onward and Upward~
G & J & E

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kiss Those Lips!


What a milestone day! Miss Elise Diane Olsen came off all respiratory support!!!! No more nasal cannula. Her lungs are proving to us that they are ready to handle “this breathing thing” on their own. Wow! I find myself pinching my arm to make sure I am actually typing the above statement and not dreaming. Inch by Inch…we are getting there!

Of course today was beyond exciting. We couldn’t wait to get to the NICU and start kissing Elise’s lips…something we’ve never been able to do because a breathing apparatus has always stood in the way.


 

However, in a weird way, taking off the nasal cannula was a little nerve-wracking as well. There was no more “turning her up” or “giving her a little more support.” Of course the nasal cannula was on stand-by all day today (and probably tomorrow) since we are in the trial period, but the time has finally arrive for her to show us what she’s got. She has to keep her oxygen level at 92% or higher to be considered ‘successful with no support.’ At 91% an alarm sounds that tells the nurse she is de-satting. A slight dip down is not worrisome. It becomes alarming if Elise would continue to keep her oxygen level in the low 90s or high 80s.

Another reason I was nervous that they were removing the nasal cannula today was because the eye doctor always comes on Thursdays. He uses a big black piece of equipment that keeps her eyes open so he can look in and examine her retinas. Regardless of a person’s age or size, this would piss off any human being. Sure enough, Elise likes to fight the eye doctor with the best of preemies. A nurse holds Elise’s arms down while she screams bloody murder. I worried about how Elise would handle the eye doctor drama today with no respiratory support. When she got so worked up during the eye examine, would they have to quickly put a mask on her to give her some breathing support?

No fear…sure enough, she sailed through! She impressed everyone, especially her momma and daddy. The best part? The eye doctor said he has decided to move Elise to every other Thursday appointments because she continues to improve with every examination. Yeah!

Daddy's mini


Our trial period with no respiratory support continued to go well until about 5:00 when Elise started to show signs that she was de-satting and not bouncing right back up. She kept her oxygen level around 89-91%. The alarm had nurses and doctors studying her monitor screen, while it had momma and daddy worried that nasal cannula was about to go back on our daughter’s face. We left for dinner around 6:00 with the thinking that when we returned for our night cap, there was a strong chance Elise would be back on oxygen. If she indeed would have to go back on it, it was highly likely that she would be coming home on oxygen.

At dinner I expressed my worry and downright frustration about this. When a person gets to a point when they ‘can see the light’ within walking distance, it’s hard not to get frustrated with the slightest setbacks. G and I talked in length about how we will adapt at home if she does come home with oxygen. Certainly NOT something we will wish for, but something we will accept if our hardworking lady needs it.

After dinner we headed back to the hospital. Again, we thought Elise would probably be back on cannula. Sure enough, the night nurse said Elise had kept her oxygen between 97-100% since shift change. Amy, the nurse, was very promising and helped me feel much stronger. Hearing her say, “I think Elise will do great with this new change,” meant everything to me. It was much easier to head home after seeing Elise in the high 90s and hearing the positivity from Amy.

On the scale with a double chin...that's our girl! 

I think I’m also overly tense this week because our doctor is brand new to Elise. Unfortunately, every 16 weeks, the NICU doctors rotate floors and patient assignments. We’ve worked so close with Dr. Ben Saad, Dr. Pyle, and Dr. Maylock for our entire NICU stay. This week, two new doctors were introduced to Elise. These doctors have had Elise on nightshift sometimes, but it’s incomparable to being the day doctor that calls all the shots and communicates with family. Although I understand hospital policies, such as doctor rotations, it still isn’t comforting when a doctor has to learn about Elise after we’ve spent three and a half months with other doctors that know her inside and out at this point.  Fortunately for us, the new doctor, Dr. Tauscher, is very nice and knowledgeable. He listens to family members and leans on the nurses before he makes big decisions because he knows family members and nurses are the constants in Elise’s care. It will take sometime to get to know him like we know the other doctors, but we certainly will try. We loved hearing Dr. Tauscher say, “I’ve been instructed by Dr. Ben Saad to follow the plan in place for his little girl, Elise.” It’s nice to know the doctors get territorial over their patients and their families because we certainly get territorial over them.

We continue to pray that Elise will soar! It’s all up to her now.....wait, hasn't it always been?

Goodnight,
G & J & E  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Capturing Our Normal

Several weeks ago, we received a fabulous gift from one of Grant's medical school buddies and her family. It was a gift certificate for a professional photographer from the Indianapolis area to come capture a day in the life of a NICU baby.

Joni Streit is absolutely amazing! (www.streitphotography.com) Due to the MRSA regulations with Elise, I had to ask Joni to put on the gown and gloves. I hated to ask her to do this, but she shot her camera for over 45 minutes with all the garb on, never complaining once. She was at complete ease and so were we! A HUGE thank you to Joni and her incredible work! We've posted some of our favorite pictures from the session. These were taken on 5.2.2012 when Elise was approximately 4.5 pounds. Enjoy!

Melt. 

Dr. Pyle happened to stop by during the shoot :)
We are forever grateful for everything the doctors and nurses did to keep our baby girl alive.  Miracle Makers. 

I didn't know I was capable of loving this much. 

Sleep baby girl, sleep. 

To have someone so dependent on us...we are blessed beyond words. 

We. Are. Family.

We've come a long way...Daddy's ring used to fit up to Elise's elbow.
Now it fits over 3 little toes. 

No doubt that she is loved. 

We can't wait to leave behind all the wires and cords.

Daddy's Girl she is...

Those eyes....those EYES.  

What a story these eyes can tell...

For many days those tiny fingers didn't grasp on to anything.
Her touch means the world to us. 

Elise continues to improve during the last leg of our NICU journey. She now weighs FIVE POUNDS, THREE OUNCES! She is on 1/4 of a liter of nasal cannula and still sitting at room air (21%). Her bottles continue to go well...she slurps them down and gives me a look that says, "More Please?" Elise's nex tdoor neighbor, Abby, was discharged today. I felt bittersweet while rocking Elise and listening to the excitement in Abby's parents' voices as they were given final instructions for their preemie baby girl. I'm sure they are home by now soaking up parenthood in their home. We cannot wait to be doing the same!

Continuing Forward,
G & J & E

Sunday, May 13, 2012

We are Family!

We had a very busy weekend! It's always fun to sit down and blog about the exciting moments...

Friday, Uncle Matt and Aunt Becky got into Indianapolis after their long 9.5 hour car ride. Becky had not seen Elise since she was three days old. Uncle Matt saw Elise right after her PDA surgery on Feb. 21st. Needless to say, they were both chomping at the bit to get their hands on their sweet niece! They got to give her a bath and rock her to sleep Friday night. I know all three of them loved it. Nothing better than family time.

proud uncle :)

Hi, Uncle Matt!

Loves her bath from Auntie B! 

Saturday was a wonderful day as well. Uncle Jordan graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine! We are all so proud of his amazing accomplishment! We are especially excited that he will remain close to home for his residency program. Out of fourteen IU applicants, Jordan was one of six medical students who was chosen to complete his neurological residency at IUSM in Indianapolis. Elise is one blessed little lady to now have TWO doctors in her immediate family.

Dr. Raynor! 

At the graduation ceremony on Saturday, I couldn't help but think back to Jordan's white coat ceremony four years ago this August. This was before Grant, before Elise, and before Momma passed. I remember watching my mother's reaction as Jordan walked across the stage of the Murat Theatre and a doctor helped him into his first white coat. Mom's face was priceless...a huge smile as her eyes glistening with tears. I'm sure she wondered if she would be able to watch him walk across the stage four years later to graduate medical school.

A very proud momma with her doctor son-- just beginning his journey


She did watch him walk across. She had the best seat in the house along with our grandpa and grandma and our 90-year-old Dr.  Russell Davis. Was it hard to not have her physically with us on Saturday? Absolutely. She flooded our minds and hearts many times during the moments we celebrated. However, we could feel she was with us, making sure we were celebrating the right way...many laughs, only happy tears, and of course, cocktails in hand. I think we made her proud....the only way we want our Momma to be.

Momma continued to be in our heats and mind on Sunday, Mother's Day. I know she wanted to be around to see me become a mother, but God had a different plan. Today marks the second Mother's Day that she has spent in Heaven. As I think about her on this Mother's Day, I feel her patting me on the back. No words need to be said. Just feeling her patting me on my back keeps me confident that I'm doing the best I can do as a new Mommy. I know she approves.  It's hard work to be a good mother, and I hope everyday I'm on my way to the level of my own mother. Quite frankly, being a good mother takes big cojones (or shall we say ovaries?) that allow mothers to remain strong during the difficult moments of raising a child or children. I know Matt, Jordan, and I gave our mother plenty of worrisome moments as a single mother of three children- all fourteen months apart, but we all made it through. Elise has already presented us with numerous moments when we've had to remain strong during times of instability, but that's a child's job, right?

In the end, the most exciting part of my first mother's day is knowing we are almost at the end of our NICU journey. Elise continues to soar! She is now on one-half liter of nasal cannula and still sitting at room air (21%). The doctors continue to play around with her feedings so she continues to increase bottle feeds and decrease pump feeds. She now gets four bottles of rice cereal a day of 25 ml's. The other four feedings are fortified breast milk and on the pump. Elise also continues to increase her weight. She is now up to 4 lbs. 15 oz! SO close to having a five pound party!!

What a story this eyes can tell....
Guilty! ...of being cute. 

Getting closer,
G & J & E