Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You Will Get Better...You Will Get Stronger!

Up until now, I have not enjoyed reading books. I can find anything (and I mean anything) to pass the time rather than read. Most of the time, I am a classic In Touch and US Weekly reader so that I can catch up on all the latest celebrity gossip (and look at all the pictures). Reading books usually makes me very sleepy or I tend to think of anything else besides the story's plot. Terrible? Yes! Especially for a teacher!

Motherhood must change many things...not just sleep schedules and priorities in life...

Once I started making these NICU trips on my own, I knew I would need something to help pass the time. Elise would need to be in her isolette growing and I would need to do something besides staring at the walls or out the window. I do love my "trash mags" but there is truth in the statement, "once you've read one trash mag, you've read them all." I knew I would be spending quite a few days in the NICU. 

This took me to Barnes and Noble with G one afternoon {gasp}. When (and that's a big when) I read, I am usually drawn to biographies of famous people. Browsing the biography section, I came across Gabby, a biography about Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at a congress event. The book was written by Gabby's devoted husband Mark Kelly.

What the heck, I bought the book and was hopeful I would follow along and not make a mental 'to do list' while reading...

...I started reading last week and only have a few pages left. As my mother used to say, "I can't put it down!" I've realized quite a few similarities between Gabby's story and our NICU experience. Mark was told by the surgeons, "Hope for the best, but expect the worst." This famous line was also told to us by Elise's doctors when she first arrived in February. NICU journey or brain surgery...both have roller coasters of highs and lows and unfortunately, you have to prepare yourself for the worst case scenarios many times. Elise has dodged many NICU bullets, but has certainly given us quite a few worrisome days between possible seizure activity the first night to a PDA surgery to an infection...all of this had her living on a ventilator for 34 days. 

In the biography, Gabby, this powerhouse couple, one a top dog NASA astronaut and the other a go-getter representative from Arizona, remained so strong and positive throughout  their entire journey. At one point when Gabby became very embarrassed and frustrated that she couldn't get to the bathroom in time and therefore, wet her pants, Mark was able to tell Gabby about the many times as an astronaut he had to wear a diaper during preparation for take off. He told her that 3 hours into orbit he would be wet from his socks, up his long johns, and all through his mid-section. "I didn't have a brain injury to blame my accident on." Mark was able to make Gabby laugh. I am a firm believer that laughter is sometimes the best medicine when life is so unstable.

This doesn't go to say Gabby and Mark didn't have their low points. They certainly did. At one point Gabby started to cry and wave her hands in front of her mouth. Mark finally figured out that Gabby was trying to express that she had words in her brain, but she couldn't get them to come out of her mouth. As a grown woman who remembers who she was before the accident, this experience must've been tough. However, Mark ran Gabby's recovery like a captain in the military.

When visitors came to Gabby's door, Mark had 3 rules:
1. You do not have to speak loudly, Gabby can hear you just fine.
2. Be patient with her.
3. No crying.

I want and hope we've carried out our journey with as much respect and positivity as Gabby and Mark had during their journey. We can certainly relate to the life "before the incident" and the life "after the incident." The "before" Jessica was a very energetic pregnant 4th grade teacher who worried more about her students than anything. She was dreaming of planning a nursery and bringing home an 8 lb. healthy baby girl in late May. That Jessica is now gone and replaced by a mother who is still coming to the realization she is not pregnant, but does have a baby girl...who just so happens to be 90 minutes away in what we like to call an "alternative womb." The "Jessica switch" happened in 6 days starting on Feb. 2nd. Gabby's switched happened even quicker. As devoted husbands, Grant and Mark had drastic changes in their lives, too. 

Grant and I even have similar rules as Mark and Gabby. Of course we use quiet voices in the NICU. We must be patient (very hard at times) and the no crying rule? Well, Daddy could pass that rule, but Momma could not. Although, my tears ARE becoming happier tears than sad tears as time continues to move forward.

Just like Gabby, Elise continues to make great strides. She is down to needing 22-24% of oxygen while on the CPAP. They will start to wean the CPAP pressure once she gets down close to room air (21% oxygen). Since the CPAP is so uncomfortable, we pray she isn't on it long. Friday will be one week. They also continue to bump up her calories in the milk to try to beef her up!

We've also been able to hold Elise much more often. We usually hold every day that we are in the NICU. Things like holding her and dressing her with cute preemie outfits make this new life of ours seem much more real.

In my Daddy's arms...

Happy Spring! 

As Mark said many times to Gabby, "You will get better. You will get stronger."

Elise continues to make great strides and we are so very thankful (and relieved). We look forward to watching her pack on the pounds (ok, ounces!) She's up to 2 lbs. 4 ozs...we are getting there! 

G & J & E

P.S....If you need a good book, pick up Gabby or borrow my copy. You will laugh and cry throughout. I always say "laughing and crying are good signs of a touching story...all emotions wrapped together."


  1. She looks soooo precious in her little spring outfit! I absolutely love her little hands and those precious little fingers! She is simply beautiful in every way!! She will get better and stronger! She is one amazing baby girl and we love you Olsen family!

  2. She's growing well! YAY! And you are so right- I am a trashy mag kind of girl, but they are all kind of the same... *sigh* I could use a meaningful book in my life. I will definitely plan on checking that book out.