Diary of a NICU Dad - Day 24 of 114
Addie will be fine. I know this because she's stubborn. I know that because she's her mama's daughter. After some stern "convincing", Steph went to urgent care this morning. She's had a wicked cough for the last two weeks that wasn't getting better. For her health and Addie's safety, we needed to get it checked. In Steph's brain, she was just tired. The NICU was just dry. It was just a stress cough. In my mind, she'd run herself so ragged that she'd made herself sick. A nebulizer treatment, z-pack, and an inhaler later, she has bronchitis. Untreated, bronchitis turns into pneumonia. Pneumonia isn't only a danger to Steph's health, but it is also one of those significant issues that, if Addie were to catch it, could change her long-term outcome drastically. Understandably, mama has been single-minded in her focus on being there for Addie that she forgets to take care of herself. She doesn't slow down. She doesn't let up. She's stubborn. Addie has inherited that stubbornness and I know that's what will get her through her stay in the NICU and keep her healthy on the other side of all of this. She won't slow down. She won't let up. As I've watched her fight, grow, and progress over the last 3 weeks, I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach, a voice telling me in the back of my brain, that she's going to be OK. And not just OK. She's going to be special. Not just because she's my daughter. Not just because she's a miracle. Just because.
She continues to move forward. She continues to press on. Without knowing why or how, she continues to fight her way into this world. She's gained more weight this week, up to 2 lbs today. Her feeds are increasing. Her color looks better. She's now visibly more healthy. The nurses tell us that with increased weight, the healthier she'll look. The less "preemie" she'll become. Her once opaque, rice-paper skin is starting to morph. At birth, the spiderweb of veins was easily visible throughout her body. On her face, her back, her hands, arms, and legs. Ever so slowly, those veins are starting to become less pronounced. Before we know it, she'll have that creamy pink glow. The one that all those full-term babies in the monster nursery have. There's a new 26-weeker in the NICU this week who looks like Addie did in her early days. Seeing those two, side-by-side, shows us how far she's come. And with more body fat on the way, her C-PAPP belly and her tiny frog legs will be gone before we can blink. Soon enough, the rest of her body will grow to fit into her bullfrog figure.
Her blue eyes are starting to open more. Starting to focus on us. She's wide-eyed and curious about the world around her. She's working hard to strengthen the muscles that stabilize her eyes. At first, she'd open her eyes and they'd dart about in her head. Like the ones you buy at Michael's when you're making sock puppets. Now, her eye movements are more deliberate. They tell us she can't make eye contact yet, and that she's just trying to make sense of what her eyes are showing her brain. But we think differently. We think she knows us and that she's trying her hardest to make a connection with us. She can see only shapes far away, but can make out finer details up close. But when we're doing kangaroo care and we see her peer up at us. When we step up to her isolette for the first time on any given day and she opens those blue eyes widely. We can't help but feel that these aren't just involuntary muscle movements. In preemies, vision problems are another one of those things you worry about. ROP, while not as common as in the past, is still a concern. Stevie Wonder had it. It's why he's blind. But with everything she does with her eyes, my gut tells me it's not going to be an issue.
She's smiling. At least we think so. We're told that she can't smile. That it's just a chance facial contortion that happens to resemble a smile. But to us, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...We've already seen so much emotion in her little face when she's unhappy. Her vitals when her face contorts into a frown confirm that she's unhappy. When she smiles, and her O2 sat is high, we can't help but feel that same confirmation.
Today, during her kangaroo session with me, she whined loudly and decided that she'd had enough of the position we put her in. She lifted her head, and turned it from one side to the other. I don't think even the gigantor babies we see as we walk back to the NICU can do that. Babies aren't supposed to be able to hold their head up or move it like she did today. She's not yet coordinated enough to move the rest of her body with her head, but she still tried. When we finally listened to her and flipped the rest of her around, she settled and fell fast asleep.She's able to regulate her temperature better. Even out of the isolette, during kangaroo care, for 2 hours or more, her body temperature is remaining stable. More progress in this area means clothes. It means the top off of her isolette. And it eventually means a crib in the NICU. Temperature regulation is one of the more important milestones for NICU babies and all signs are pointing to good things for Addie.
While she bakes in her isolette and continues to fight for freedom, her mama is also fighting back outside in the real world. Fighting to increase her milk supply. Fighting to give Addie more of that medicine she needs. The supply hasn't been as plentiful as we'd expected. Stress, one of the outside influences that can impact milk supply most significantly, is part & parcel of being a NICU mom. The deck is stacked against them from the start. Add to that recovery from the c-section, the bronchitis, and lack of sleep from having to pump your brains out and you don't exactly have a recipe for a bounty of milk. But she's not giving up. Because Addie's not giving up. Fenugreek drops. Lactation cookies. Drinking water until it leaks out of her eyeballs. Constant snacking. Power pumping. Hand expression. Boob massage. Hot showers. Protein. Oatmeal. Oatmeal. Protein. You name it, she's trying it. She'll get there, but it feels like an on-going struggle. A vicious cycle of ever-increasing stress and pressure. You need sleep, but you can't because you have to pump. You need to relax, but you can't because you're stressed about not having enough milk. She'll get there. She's stubborn. She won't give up.
Addie's not giving up, either. She's just as stubborn. She'll get there. As we continue through this journey, I'm realizing just how strong these two women of mine really are. In times like this, it's a blessing. It's what will pull us through this all. I am thankful for it. When Addie hits the teen years, I may be singing another tune. But for now, I'm grateful for these stubborn ladies.