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).


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 ( 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. 


~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 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