Wednesday, June 24, 2009


that's us. Whoopah. We'll do anything she wants.
Charles had kind of a frustrating Father's Day. We'd been hoping Olivia would be home by Father's Day, but no such luck. She was, however, breathing on her own, and beating her own heart and pumping her own blood and even eating from a bottle. She just doesn't get very far before she poops out and falls fast asleep. And when she's out, she's out for the count. There's nothing you can do to wake her up. We've tried. Her aunt Chris tried for two and a half hours straight the other day. To no avail. She's kind of stubborn, we're finding out.

They're saying she'll probably be there two or three more weeks, just regaining her stamina so she can eat enough to thrive. I'm kind of impatient, I'm finding out.
Charles walked in to the living room tonight to find me pumping milk while drinking a glass of milk. He thought it was ironic. I assure you, I was drinking cow's milk. With a straw, of course. But I'm glad he could see the humor of the situation. I think we'll make it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Olivia's birth story

I know we totally owe you guys an update. Sorry to keep you hanging for so long, and you've all been very patient with us, so thank you!!
Now that the dust has settled a little, and things are looking so good, I'm finally feeling up to writing about this experience.
Friday morning, the 29th, at 5:3o I woke up to go to the bathroom. I got back to bed, and ten minutes later I woke feeling like I had just wet my pants, but I knew I had emptied my bladder just minutes before, so my heart skipped a beat, and I thought maybe my water just broke? So I stood up to go to the bathroom, and all of a sudden my pants and legs were completely drenched. Even though I was completely alone in the room, I was really embarrassed because it really looked like I'd wet my pants. Just for the record, I hadn't. I was in labor!
I yelled at Charles that my water had broken, and called my mom, who of course reminded me that I had an OB and should probably let her know. By the way, this post is a birth story as well as a post-birth story, so of course it'll be TMI for my dad and anyone like him. He knows this all already, but he's going to mortified that I'm putting it on the internet for all the world to see. So, I called my OB and told her that my water was broken, and it was definitely still coming! I told her also that it seemed to be kind of green, which I hadn't expected. She said it probably meant there was meconium in the fluid, which meant I needed to be checked out. I was a little disappointed, because I was planning on going all natural, and had counted on being able to labor at home for the most part. But I took my seat on the birthing ball and directed traffic while Charles packed us a hospital bag. Don't judge, we'd done all the laundry in anticipation of packing that morning, so there. Charles carried it all out to the car, with the carseat and birthing ball, and we headed on our way. The hospital is about ten blocks away, and it was a quick ride, and we got there at about 6. I had started feeling contractions every four minutes or so, but they were totally manageable. I knew that if labor stayed that way, I was going to kick labor butt.
They checked me right into the room with the laboring tub because I was hoping to go unmedicated. They held a lithmus strip up to me and announced there was meconium and that I was there for the duration, so we hunkered down and got down to business. I was breathing through contractions and staying pretty relaxed. We walked around and kept moving into new positions to see what worked, and then the contractions started lasting two minutes and coming one right after the other without a break in between. I got to the point that I couldn't stand through the contractions, and sitting was excrutiating, and I was stuck laying on my side just wanting to die. I said the secret password Charles and I had worked out to let him know I was serious when I told him I wanted the epidural. I wanted it. I said the word, he passed it on, and it took a matter of five minutes for the anesthesiologist to show up and do his job. In that five minutes, I broke down and told the midwife to just get a knife and cut the kid out of me. She didn't, but she did give me some morphine. That was totally against my birth plan, and I didn't even remember that at the time. This was seven hours into my labor, so I feel like I put up a good show at least before the epidural. And nobody can tell me I chose poorly, because the rest of my labor was a breeze, and I was a happy camper.
I took a nap for an hour or two, along with Charles, who was pretty worn out by my antics up until that point. The nurse came in about five and told me she'd get the midwife cuz I was ready to push. I stopped pushing the epidural button, and let the epidural wear off as much as possible before I got to work. I pushed for two hours, pretty much falling asleep between each contraction, but it really helped to be able to feel the contractions, so I'm glad I stopped the epidural when I did. Charles, by the way was really helpful during the pushing stage. He held his breath and pushed with me each time, and his muscles were probably as tired as mine the next day! I would have laughed at him if I wasn't otherwise occupied. Alas, I really was.
Because there was meconiom in the amniotif fluid, they decided to have the nursery nurse and the respiratory therapist in the room as a precaution, and it turned out to be necessary, unfortunately.
Olivia (who was still unnamed at the time, and for a few days afterward) had swallowed and aspirated the amniotic fluid, and her lungs were actually coated in the meconium. It was counteracting the natural lining of her lungs, and while she was definitely able to breathe on her own, she was not able to oxygenate any blood. As a result, her lungs were under immense pressure, her heart was weakened by the lack of oxygen, and they were concerned that her brain had sustained permanent damage.
Charles followed Livie to the nursery, where she was sent before they determined how serious her condition was. She was then sent to the NICU, where they started a brand new treatment where they cooled down her core temperature to about 92 degrees in order to keep her brain from swelling from any damage she had received. This is a treatment that has only been available in this state for about eight months, and has only been at our hospital since December. It has to be begun within six hours of birth, and it was begun pretty quickly after Olivia was born.
About forty five minutes after I gave birth (at 7:36 pm, by the way) Charles came in with the doctor to hold my hand while he gave us the news.
There should be a legal limit to the number of times a neonatologist can say "life-threatening" and "the odds are not good" in one conversation. I'm going to be lobbying for that in the future. Really, he was not sounding hopeful that my baby would make it through the night, and he was telling me that he was purposely inducing a hypothermic state in my newborn infant, who I had yet to touch.
This all came as such a shock to me that I was able to completely hold it together while he delivered the news. That was just because it didn't seem real, and I was pretty sure I was being falsely punked or something. When the doctor left and Charles and I were alone, he asked how I was doing, and I realized I wasn't doing too great. "I want my mommy" was all I could get out before I started bawling. We had a few minutes to cry together, before I insisted on being wheeled to the NICU and seeing my baby.
That was when they told us that in addition to the possible brain damage and the fact that her heart wasn't doing too great, Livie had meningitis and pneumonia, so she was on antibiotics. A 21 day round of IV antibiotics, meaning she'd be there at least three weeks. Well, three weeks is up today, and she's beaten the pneumonia, meningitis, heart problems, breathing problems, and proven that her brain is top-notch. She just needs to learn how to eat!
Because she was on respirators and stuff for so long, she just barely started being fed by mouth a week ago. She's learned how to latch, suck, swallow and breathe at the same time, which is pretty incredible for a kid who's had tubes shoved down her throat most of her life. She just doesn't have much stamina yet, because she's been fighting so hard, so we still have to use her feeding tube to finish off her feeds when she poops out.
In order to come home, Livie must take all of her feeds by mouth and gain weight for two days in a row. Who knows when that's going to happen, but she's doing her best. Everyday she gets more milk in her tummy through her mouth, and that what we need. It'll probably be another week before we can take her home, though.
It's strange how sometimes I can feel so maternal to Olivia, and then I can come home and live my life like usual with Charles and Wilson. It hurts every time we leave her in the hospital, and come home like we never even had a baby. I feel like a bad mom, leaving her there with nurses who occasionally call her a "him" or put her in newborn diapers (she needs a size 1, now). But I also hate going there and trying to feed her with all those nurses popping their heads around the silly privacy screen and offering "helpful" advice.
Last week I showed up at the special care nursery that Livie had been in for the last few days, and nobody answered the door. Apparently they had moved her and the other babies to the regular special care nursery, but hadn't called to tell us. So I was freaking out that I couldn't get in to see my baby and that nobody was in there watching her monitors. Or that someone was in there, but they were trying to resuscitate my kid and couldn't answer the door. I don't appreciate being this emotionally vulnerable. By the time I found Olivia, I was totally panicked and ready to break down. I did, that night. I cried for an hour on Charles' shoulder, then took an Ambien and stayed asleep as long as I could. I think it helped to be able to get some rest, because I'm doing much better now, but I'm still not crazy about the situation.
We've picked out her coming home outfit and it's laid out and ready. Her carseat is installed, her cradle and crib are both set up and have clean bedding, and we're just waiting for Olivia to be strong enough to come home forever. Patience is a virtue, but it's definitely not my strongest suit, so I'm learning a lot right now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

reality check

So, I'm supposed to be headed back to work on Monday. Not sure how that's gonna work out.

on a side note, it's been kind of a blessing for Charles not to have a job right now. He hasn't had to ask for time off, and he's been with me the whole ordeal. I couldn't do this without his constant hugs and reassurances. He's still looking, though, if you know of any openings in the area. Or in Florida. We'd settle for Florida.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures in Lactation: Eat like a troll

My new theme song is "Pump it" by the Black-eyed Peas. At or around the hours of 1, 4, 7 and 10 (am AND pm) I am to be found in the baby's room. That's where we keep the pump. My visiting teacher generously offered to loan me her pump while Olivia's in the hospital. And while I love my visiting teacher, and my baby, and the fact that I have milk and can pump, I have grown to hate that pump.
It's not the pump's fault. It's a very nice double electric, and without it I would long ago have opted for a double mastectomy. But I still hate that pump.
For one thing, I've practically had to devote my life to it, and it's not a very interesting companion. It has one thing to say, over and over and over: "Eat like a troll, eat like a troll, eat like a troll." I swear that's what it's saying to me. It never changes it's mantra. Just once I'd like to hear it say to eat the troll. Instead, I just remind myself that I'm doing this for my baby, and I congratulate myself on my freezer full of milk for when she comes home. And I take fresh milk in to her everyday, too. In the long run, it's going to be worth it.
And it's not like I can just pump and go back to sleep. You have to be sitting up, or the milk won't go down into the bottle. And you have to hold the pumps to your chest, or they'll lose suction and either fall off and spill or make a really loud farting sound (Charles loves that part. It's lost it's charm for me.) Then, when you've pumped two minutes past any milk flow, you have to label the milk and either freeze or refrigerate. Luckily, the hospital provides labels with Olivia's name and birthday and medical record number, but I still have to figure out what day and time it is everytime I pump. It's not as easy as it sounds when all your days are running together in a blur of pumping and hospital-going.
Then comes my favorite part. You have to wash the pump parts and put them out to dry for the next time you pump in two and a half hours. Yes, they are dishwasher safe, but you can't justify running the dishwasher four times in a night for four little parts. I just wish they had disposable pump parts because I'd be filling landfills with them, and getting fifteen extra minutes of sleep every three hours, and while that doesn't sound like a lot, it would be, ok?
And lest any of my readers fear that I've lost my good attitude and healthy perspective, I'm trying to make the best of it. Pumping has created a most insatiable thirst in me, and I've had fun trying millions of beverages to quench it. Right now, as I lay out all my pumping supplies for the night, I am also putting out a thermos of water, a thermos of lemon lime kool-aid (my mom never let us have it when I was a kid because of the staining risks. The sugar wasn't an issue.) and a plate of purple grapes, which, interestingly enough, seem to take the edge off the thirst at least temporarily. I also have a bag full of fruit snacks (snoot fracks, as Charles calls them), granola bars, and other such delicious and nutritious midnight snacks. Last but not least, I have a fully charged ipod so I can while away the hours playing solitaire and furthering my music education.
And in the morning, I get to take all the fruits of my labor to the hospital where my daughter smiles at me as she digests them, and that makes it worthwhile. But I really can't wait to bring her home and have a more amiable companion for my late-night lactation adventures. Of all the noises and sounds I've heard Livie make, "Eat like a troll" is not one of them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Her eyes are open!

(this is a post by Charles)
Olivia is doing so much better. It truly has been a miracle. Thank you for fasting and for your prayers and support. She has been moved from the NICU to the Special Care Nursery; the next step is out the door. She no longer has a ventilator, but is getting a little help through a nasal canula. She still has a feeding tube going into her tummy through her nose, but no more lines in her belly button. The only medicine she is on are antibiotics. We are so proud of her! The doctor is letting Molly try and feed her twice a day. Since she is no longer on sedatives she is awake and alert sometimes, and is starting to do baby things. We were even able to get a couple pictures with her eyes open. The earliest she could come home is 9 days from now, but that's not set in stone. We're really grateful we get to hold her in our arms finally, and can't wait to bring her home.

our latest addiction

Monday, June 8, 2009

It's official

She's off the respirator! She hated having that tube down her throat, and now it's gone! Her voice is still very hoarse, but we got to hear it for the first time yesterday. She is really exceeding expectations left and right; we couldn't be prouder of the fight she's putting up. Thank you all for your prayers!

Friday, June 5, 2009

one more thing

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Livie was 9 pounds 4 ounces when she was born. I think that qualifies me as an amazon woman. I am hereby demanding a trip to the amazon.

VERY quick update

I know I owe you all a real update, but this will just have to do for now, because I haven't finished writing the whole story yet. 
For now:
Olivia is impressing her doctors everyday, and is making progress slowly but surely. She's been able to ween off of her heart medications and keep her heart pumping enthusiastically all by herself. Her brainwaves have been satisfactory for the whole week, so her forehead electrodes are all gone, and my baby has a forehead! She still continues to run a fever with the pneumonia and meningitis, but her bloodwork shows us that she's fighting those infections and they seem to be responding to the antibiotics. 
We've gotten to see her eyes, and they're a dark, dark, dark blue. And the most beautiful baby eyes I've ever seen. I can't believe how much emotion she evokes in me already; I've never even held her, but I feel like her mommy. I can't get enough of her! The nurses have to keep reminding us to go home every now and then for some sleep, but I'm up pumping every three hours anyway, so I might as well be hanging out with my girl. 
We feel incredibly blessed to have such a great support system in our family and friends. Thank you so much for all you do! The prayers, fasting, food, visits and love have been overwhelming, and I know Livie is being blessed by your faith. 
We have faith that Heavenly Father is taking good care of our baby in the ways that we can't; We can't hold her,  but I know that Heavenly Father is sending his spirit to be with her so she doesn't feel alone. And I know that she was meant to come to our family at this time, and that things are going according to his plan. That gives me peace, even if I can't tell what's to come.