Monday, August 23, 2010

I've Learned...

No matter how tired I am, my new baby's face always looks sweet.
You can sleep sitting straight up.
To eat when I get a second.
To sleep when I get a minute.
No matter how many times I've done this before, it still seems scary.
Preemie babies are not the same as full term babies.
When a nurse says to do something once we're home, I should listen.
You can sell breast milk on the Internet. (Don't worry, I didn't.)
New babies don't adequately fulfill an adult conversation craving.
Reading is nearly a thing of the past.
Friends care about our yard getting mowed.
Employers can be more than a boss.
And yes, we did just start all over again. Wow.

But most importantly, I've learned that even when my spirit faints within me, the Lord knows my ways, my thoughts, my heart (Psalm 142:3).

Peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sweet Slumbers

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Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, August 20, 2010

We're HOME!

That's right; we're home!! I still can barely believe it. Caleb did great on his sleep study, so they called around noon yesterday to tell us we would be taking our precious baby HOME with us! I literally jumped up and down, so excited that I couldn't stay quiet!

Here's our adventure in pictures:

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We had a good night and are adjusting well! Thanks everyone, for your prayers! We're so tickled to be home! Praise God!

Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Caleb Update-Aug 18

Matt and I went back to see Caleb yesterday and to have my 2 week check up as well. He was still doing really well! And my check up went great, too.

They took his feeding tube back out and said that he hasn't had any apnea for a long time. So...they said if he did well on Tuesday night, then they would retest him Wednesday night to see if he could pass it this time.

I called this morning, and he did great last night, so they're going to retest him tonight! (I'm trying really hard NOT to get my hopes up again, because it didn't go well last time.) But the hope is that he will pass the sleep study tonight and get to go home with us tomorrow. Will you please pray this for our family? Last night was especially hard leaving him and I broke. He was wide awake, which didn't help because he's just so cute (I think, of course)! I'm just so tired of leaving him there. It doesn't feel right. I know they take good care of him, but it makes it seem like he isn't really ours.

Keagan is having a hard time dealing with all this emotionally. He doesn't want to go to school anymore because he doesn't want to miss time with me and Matt. He sobs and begs to stay with me and he says, "I don't wanna lose you." In his mind, he never knows when we'll leave and be gone or be home since we're having to go to Tulsa so much. Poor guy. I just hate that. It breaks my heart and Matt's. So please pray for Keagan, too.

Here's Caleb from our visit yesterday:

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Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Caleb Update-Aug 16

Guess who had a good night and morning? It feels so nice to get good news finally! Caleb is feeling better and is more alert today. He is also starting on a bottle again and doing pretty well. They left the feeding tube in to put what he doesn't finish down. They've done more lab work on him, but I don't know the results yet. He must have been a little sick, but seems to be picking back up today!

AND...the nurse said there were NO apnea, bradycardia, or de-saturations last night! I can't tell you how happy that news makes me. The apnea is scary to me, and this is phenomenal news--especially when he had 3 episodes just yesterday while Matt held him.

We're praising God that he is picking up and doing better now. Thank you for your prayers over our Caleb. This is such an up and down experience, and it can be exhausting. It's really hard for me to remember that God loves Caleb even more than we do, but I'm trying to trust Him more. I do know that He gave Caleb to us and can certainly take care of him.

Peace of Christ to you,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Caleb Update-Aug 15

Well, today has been disheartening. Saturday night was rough for Caleb; he wouldn't drink bottles very well for the nurses, and he ended up losing a few grams (which isn't too bad). The sleep study was shut down around 9:00 this morning and we waited until after 1:00 pm to hear the results.

They weren't exactly what I'd hoped to hear.

Caleb has apnea (he stops breathing for periods of time), which will lengthen his PICU stay quite a bit it seems. They also had to put him back on a feeding tube, which just broke my heart to see. Matt and I went up to see him this afternoon, and he just didn't seem like the same baby that we left on Thursday night. He had been fed some formula since they ran out of my breast milk, and he spits it up. He was wet with spit up and also had a messy diaper. It just didn't seem like he was being well cared for when we arrived. But I think it was a coincidence, because the nurse who was coming on duty with him came in and talked with us for quite a while about his progress.

He's basically just exhausted. He's hit a wall and has decided he's too tired to climb it.

They also drew some blood to check for any infections, and they did find a small trace of a virus of some kind, which I'm trying not to worry too much about. This could explain a lot, too. He just looked so tired today. He wouldn't open his eyes while I held him like he has done in the past. The nurses say he has the "wimpy white boy" syndrome. I think they're right. (Preemie babies who are male Caucasian do the worst on progress.) They said if you're going to have a premature baby, you want it to be a female African American. Interesting, huh?

So, Caleb is not home, and we don't know when he will be. We're still praying that God will speed his growth and maturation so he can be home with us. But we know this just takes time, and if that's what he needs right now, we have to give it to him...as much as it hurts being here without him.

On a brighter note, Matt got some sweet photos of him that I have to share:

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Thank you for your continued prayers for our sweet boy.

Peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Caleb's Birth Story Part VI

The next day-Thursday-was very different from my birthday. I wasn't up for long before things started falling apart.

Caleb had had a rough night. His oxygen saturation level kept dropping during the night, and he'd had a couple of heart rate drops as well. I woke feeling so discouraged, like we were taking giant steps backward.

I didn't want to go backward; I wanted to go home.

And it just continued to get better. It started sinking in around 9 am that I'd just missed Keagan's first day of school...ever. And later that morning, I found out just how big of a work load I had for the semester, and my emotional dam collapsed. Every problem suddenly felt magnified by ten, and I couldn't imagine how I'd ever make it through the rest of the week, much less the rest of the year! After calling Matt and dumping all my anxieties on him, we decided I should drop one of the classes I was to teach. So I called and took care of that, which did bring some relief.

The rest of the day, I felt depressed. All I could do was get up to feed Caleb and then lie back down in a depressed stupor. I had no reason to get up, nowhere to go, no one to talk to, no real purpose it seemed. I told the nurse that I felt like we had just crashed-that we had been doing so well before, but now...now we were only getting worse instead of better. She assured me that Caleb had not crashed, but that this part was the long part, the part that just took time. Time was not my best friend at the moment. I never thought I'd say this, but I simply had too much of it. Oh how I wished I could snap my fingers and fast forward to the day where they'd let Caleb come home with me.

That evening, I talked to Matt on the phone about Keagan's first day of school and whatever else we could think of. He was having a tough time dealing with the kids' attitudes without me. Keagan had become defiant and was acting out of character. Clearly, his world was turned upside down.

After I got off the phone with him, I realized I had started bleeding very heavily, bright red-which the nurses in postpartum had told me was not okay with a c-section. Later that night, I told the late shift nurse what had happened along with how I was feeling emotionally, and she said she wanted to call my doctor right away since that was not something to shrug off. When she came back into my room, she said the doctor wanted me home right away and that I needed to stay home for a few days. She said I could come back on Monday. My head started spinning with "how am I going to get home?" thoughts. It was already eight o'clock, and it was a 2 hour drive to come get me from home.

Thankfully, one of our dear friends rode with Matt up to pick me up that night. They didn't get there until after 11 pm, and we didn't leave for home until around midnight, getting us back after 2 am. I'm so thankful for the TONS of people God has used to help us through this time. Our families have been incredible, and our church family has reached out to help us in so many ways with food, mowing our yard, helping with the kids. I'm continually amazed at how He has taken care of us through all these things.

So, this is where the story catches up to the present. I'm currently at home, resting like my doctor wanted me to. Since I've been home, good things have happened with Caleb! They did a Car Seat Tolerance Test on him, which he had to pass in order to go home. That's where they sit him in the car seat for 2 hours and monitor his breathing and heart rate. He passed it today! And tonight they are performing a sleep study on him, monitoring the same things. If he passes that, then we actually can take our sweet boy home tomorrow! Please pray with me that he passes this so we can all be together as a whole family at last. I've been waiting for this for nearly 2 weeks!

Thanks for all the prayers, by the way. They're how I have made it through this tough time of my heart being pulled in so many different places.

Peace of Christ to you,

Caleb's Birth Story Part V

Days in the NICU are long and bipolar. One minute things seem increasingly optimistic, and the next, it seems that any great achievements are suddenly depleted because of new, different issues. Caleb's progress was fast at first; one day he was breathing with a CPAP--the next he just had a small oxygen line in his nose--the next no oxygen at all and he was moved out of the heated bed into a regular "box"--etc. But then things just slowed down. Way down.

The days kind of ran together, so I can't accurately remember on which days exactly what happened. He got off the IV and started drinking a bottle pretty quickly, too. (I do know that the bottles came before the IV left.)

That first weekend my parents brought our children up to see us! We stayed in the Ronald McDonald house, so the kids got to stay the night with us. They had missed us a lot, obviously. It was so nice to see them, but it was also very difficult because they couldn't understand why Mommy couldn't do anything with them. Kate wanted to be held and snuggled or to climb into bed with me. But I was just glad to at least see them.

Sunday night the kids went back home with my parents, so Matt and I got some more time together just us and Caleb. I knew what was coming, but I thought I would handle it okay. Boy, was I wrong. When he finally left me around 9:00 that night, I cried some of the deepest sobs I've known. I felt so alone, so desperately alone. I knew it'd be a whole week before I'd see him again, and I didn't know how much strength I'd have on my own...so far away from home.

The next day I woke up and went down for a late breakfast. I didn't finish my biscuits and gravy before I was crying again. That was probably the lonliest day I had. The minutes and hours dragged on. There didn't seem to be an end to the tunnel I was walking through.

God did some sweet things the rest of the week, though. On Tuesday I had two visitors who made the day go by quickly and brightened my spirit! One-Samantha from high school-I hadn't seen in years and the other-one of my very best friends, Gwen-were just what I needed. They both brought gifts that warmed my heart.

Later that day a nurse suddenly came into our little closet-room in the NICU and said that they were going to move Caleb to the PICU on the 7th floor. I was so confused, but she said this was a good sign; it meant that he was the best candidate out of the other babies and that it was one step closer to going home. When we got up there, I couldn't believe what God had just done for me: we were given a major upgrade! We now had a large room with a real bed, a recliner, a T.V., and my own private bathroom! Thank you, Lord.

The next day was my birthday, and I was kind of dreading it. Since it was Wednesday, I knew there was no way Matt could come up, so I was prepared for a long, lonely day. But that wasn't God's plan! Around 11 am, I was changing Caleb and heard a knock on the door. I turned around to find two ladies from our church standing there! The tears came immediately, but these were joyful tears--tears that said, "I can't believe God loves me this much to send these ladies here today!" And He did. They had come to steal me away for a lunch date, and it was so wonderful. We ate at the Olive Garden--my favorite restaurant. It ended too quickly, of course, but I soaked in every moment.

I was so delighted that God had used them to surprise me, and it made the rest of the afternoon so much more bearable. For dinner, I walked across the street to Wendy's and ate a small dinner. I'd planned to go back to feed Caleb and just wind down for the night. As I walked back toward the hospital, a burgundy minivan drove past, and I thought to myself, "There's a van exactly like ours." It took a few seconds for me to see the Fuel Church sticker on the back, and once I did, my heart literally danced in my chest! Could I really be looking at our minivan, meaning my husband would be inside? He hadn't seen me, obviously, since he kept driving. I was too excited to think about my incision hurting, and I nearly ran up the inclined street to the hospital! I hadn't felt that much joy actually threaten to burst my chest open in a long time.

I beat him up to the room, and as I waited for him to show up, I started doubting what I had seen. What if I had imagined that out of loneliness? What if I'd just set myself up for the longest night so far? But I hadn't. He finally made his way up to our room with his handsome smile as well as an armload of presents! I just could not believe I was actually standing in front of him! It was the best birthday present I remembered getting in a long time! I opened gifts from different family members one by one and then he took me out to dinner. We shared amazing food and talked about what all was happening. It had only been a few days since I'd seen him, but it had felt like weeks. We went to Walmart and bought me a second pillow for the bed and a backpack for Keagan, who was starting Pre-K the next day.

When he had to leave that night, I didn't cry; our visit had refreshed me and I knew he'd be back that weekend, too. I knew then that it would somehow all be okay.

Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm Pleased to Introduce to you: Caleb Aaron

Here he is today:

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He's come a long way:

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Please pray for Caleb's breathing. He's started to de-sat (which means his oxygen saturation level goes down) when he eats. Pray that this will fix itself very soon; I am ready to take my baby home and be with my family. He also lost some weight since I tried to breastfeed him a couple of times. But now he's back on bottle feeding (I pump, so he's still getting my milk), and I'm hoping when they weigh him tonight that he'll have gained some.

Today two ladies from my church completely surprised me and showed up at the hospital to kidnap me for a birthday lunch! (Today is my birthday.) They certainly helped my emotions today! Thanks for all the prayers for Caleb. Please keep them up!

Peace of Christ to you,

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Caleb's Birth Story Part IV

That first night was tough since I couldn't see Caleb at all, but God provided something quite special to ease my sadness: the nurses in the NICU pointed a camera at Caleb all night long, and it played on my T.V. screen at the foot of my bed. I stared at it all those hours of the night, wondering what he smelled like, watching his back and sides expand with his breathing. His breaths were sporadic, fast, and choppy; I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen for more than a few seconds, fearful that he wouldn't be breathing right when I next looked.

I dozed that night for about fifteen or twenty minutes, but the rest of the time I stared at the screen that held my baby...because I could not.

Matt slept in the room with Caleb that night, and every once in a while, I'd see his hand come into view, gently patting Caleb on the back or bottom for comfort. (Have I mentioned what an incredible dad he is? Well, now I have.) I knew at one point by the way his hand was just resting motionless on Caleb's back that he was praying over him. And nothing made me feel safer in those moments.

I continued to pray for Caleb's health and safety all night, but I also thanked God for what he was doing so far. I knew He was in control; I could feel it, although I was still significantly terrified. There's a delicate balance of knowing He is good and He does good...and fearing that He for some reason won't do good this time. I was right in the middle all night.

The next morning the nurses told me to make my first visit a short one since it'd probably be an emotional one. They were right, but I stayed as long as I could anyway. And it was a lot more joyful than I'd imagined, too, because I was just so relieved to finally be with him in the same room.

I breathed him in and kissed him; and I realized how silly I had been during the pregnancy for fearing that I wouldn't bond with him once he arrived.

He was mine. And I was completely captivated by him.

Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Caleb's Birth Story Part III

The doctor and his team were jokingly discussing going to Bermuda, I remember, and asked if I wanted to go. They were light-hearted, again trying to relieve the tension they knew I was feeling. I appreciated it, but nothing seemed as important as knowing if my baby would be okay or not.

As they were putting me back together, I started feeling even more out of control with my breathing--which became panting. The anesthesiologist asked repeatedly if he could give me something to calm me down. I said I was just scared. He said that was completely normal and that I did wonderfully, and everything would be just fine.

Coming off that anesthesia was one of the worst feelings I've felt, physically. I remember thinking it'd be better just to cut my arms off rather than feel the sensations that were coursing through them at that point! The strangeness of knowing I was moving the top part of my chest but not feeling anything was so odd. They had warned me that it may feel like I couldn't breathe, even though I would be inhaling and exhaling as normal. They were right--it was so strange.

I was wheeled back into the room we'd just left only minutes before, where I'd been all day with a baby in my womb. And now, I'd come back with no baby--just me. I felt miserably alone and couldn't stop sobbing. All the nurses were wonderful and checked on me every 15 minutes.

I must have said the exact same prayer one million times while lying in that room alone for the next nearly 2 hours: "Please, Lord, keep Caleb safe." I knew Matt didn't mean to leave me alone so long without knowing, and I wanted him to be there with Caleb, but those minutes alone were haunting. Every possible disaster came to my mind. I threw up and I sobbed. I wondered, If I'm a Christian, why do I feel so terrified and unable to trust right now? I knew God was in control, and I kept asking Him to continue to be (although I know that sounds so silly).

Finally, the curtain of the room opened and Matt stepped past it, smiling with a worn out smile. "How is he?" I immediately asked. "He's gonna be just fine," he assured me. He told me about the tests they were doing, the oxygen he was already on, and the IV they had started, but all the while assured me that God was definitely taking care of him. I knew He would; I just needed to hear it.

Peace of Christ to you,

Caleb's Birth Story Part II

I never left open the option of having a C-Section, so naturally I was rudely misinformed on the whole bit. I had no idea what was about to happen to me! The doctor was so nice and gave me the fastest run-down he could before starting. It felt chaotic--being told they would be cutting me open and that within 15 minutes, I'd see my baby! Matt was trying to inform family members and get into the sterile white jump suit at the same time. And I was just scared.

I'm not sure how to describe that fear. It was fear of not really understanding what was about to happen, fear of not knowing if the baby would be okay, and fear of not being able to be with my baby immediately. The way they shuffled me around in the operating room, I was afraid at one point that they would drop me on the floor!

In the middle of it, I realized just how comfortable being in control makes me. Because I've never felt that out of control before. There was absolutely nothing I could do but stare into the faces of the people above and around me. It felt like a production of some sort, with around a dozen people zipping around the room, prepping this and prepping that. I remember thinking: All these people are doing this for me and my baby. Wow.

There was a cluster of people I heard being referred to as the "Respiratory Team"--just waiting for Caleb to arrive. They asked me questions about him from across the room. They were probably trying to be nice and help me relax. I know the terror I felt was tangible; my anesthesiologist stood directly over me, checking on my emotional/mental state every few seconds. He was really kind and helped me feel more calm about everything. His eyes were blue crystals that told me he was smiling at me, even though his mouth was hidden.

Matt not being able to stay with me through the spinal tap was one of the worst parts. I couldn't ask him to hold my hand and reassure me that it'd be okay. But it was incredibly fast, and he was right by my side in no time. And I was wrenching his hand off, asking with my eyes if he thought everything would work out like we planned.

I didn't know that babies who are born by C-Section don't automatically cry on their own. Now I do. I think that was the point where fear seized me the most--when I knew Caleb was out, but he was making no noise at all. Matt could see him and kept patting my hand, telling me he looked like he was going to be fine. He was purple like the others had been, and in a few seconds, I heard the tiniest, highest pitched whimpers I remember ever hearing!

He was out, and he was crying! I immediately thanked God and just as immediately began praying that He'd keep Caleb safe and healthy. Caleb's pediatrician (I didn't know they waited for babies right there in the room) brought him over to me for an all too quick kiss on the cheek, and then he was gone. I knew they would take good care of him, but I couldn't be there, and I knew the next hour would be torture. Matt followed and there I was again...alone, but not alone.
Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Caleb's Birth Story Part I

Well, I'm typing from my hospital room while I have some quiet time alone. I thought I'd give our birth story and the journey we're on since then:

To start the past weekend off, I was having contractions and was on unofficial bed rest. I was eating all the fat and calories I could find, too because I knew at 35 weeks, labor isn't always stopped, and I wanted to pack on as much weight to our baby as I could--especially since I had to be making the trip back to Tulsa one day that week.

I really didn't think it'd be Monday that we went to Tulsa because I planned to have my Monday mid-morning appointment changed to maybe Thursday or Friday. By that point, we'd be closer to 36 weeks and I'd feel safer if I did go into more active labor. (I'd been hospitalized just briefly Friday for early contractions and figured it'd happen again after another 2 hour drive in this heat!)

So, Monday morning I called my doctor, but instead of hearing that he'd like to see me later in the week, he did want me to come in that day. So, Matt and I frantically threw things together "just in case" and dropped the kids off at our pastor and his wife's house. I was convinced we'd be back later that evening, even though I knew I wasn't feeling right at all.

I was so emotional all morning, and I couldn't explain why. I cried half the way to Tulsa! And then I cried in my doctor's appointment, too. I had close to 15 contractions on our trip and was having another as I walked into the exam room, so the doctor wanted us to go over to the hospital to be checked and monitored for a bit. He figured I was going into labor. The bad thing was: the baby was turned the wrong way for a normal delivery. The plan would be to lessen my contractions and give the baby more time to turn for a regular delivery.

But that's not quite what happened...

After sitting for hours of monitoring my contractions, they just kept getting more regular and more intense. The doctor came in around 7:45 and did another ultrasound to see where the baby was positioned since my contractions weren't stopping. He had turned the other way, but still sideways. But this time, he was facing down with his hands and feet right into my cervix. And he had the cord down there, too. The doctor was worried that the baby would get tangled in it and possibly risk strangulation. He said, "We need to have this baby and we need to do it tonight. We'll prep you for a C-Section." And within about 10 minutes, I was being wheeled into the operating room, scared out of my mind.

Peace of Christ to you,