Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Early Easter morning, Roo's blood was drawn again. I didn't know it yet, but that would become a regular occurrence—getting his blood drawn early so that the residents could get the results and give them to the attending during morning rounds. An hour or so after the blood draw, my hubby wasn't back yet, but the resident was. She did not have good news. Roo's bilirubin was still pretty high, and he would need more time under the lights.
But that wasn't all. He was dehydrated and wasn't gaining weight. She needed to talk the course of treatment over with her attending physician, but they may want to put in a feeding tube.
And that is the moment that I completely lost it. Also the moment that this particular resident forever cemented herself in my mind. With a look of sheer terror on her face, she said, "Don't cry—what can I do to help you stop crying?" It wasn't the words so much as the tone… the tone that said, "Holy crap, they didn't prepare us for this in med school. Why the heck is she crying?" Let me tell you, Sweetheart, it's because my baby is in the hospital, I am filled with post-baby hormones, and you seem about as sure of his treatment options as you do about how to achieve world peace!
I explained to her that I did recognize the fact that this was likely not one of the more serious charts on her plate, but it was my baby and it was all new to me, and my body was still full of hormones, so I couldn't help but cry. The jaundice was enough to make the tears stream down, and the addition of the news that I was starving my child (No, that's not what she said, but that's how I felt!) was just too much.
As if she hadn't already done enough, the resident then felt the need to add, "So………. with a regular newborn… how do you know if they're eating enough?" I was speechless. Actually, "speechless" implies that I didn't know what to say. I knew exactly what I wanted to say—I just felt that saying, "You are walking around here masquerading as a doctor at CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL. What is wrong with you? Why on earth would you ask a sobbing hormonal mother that question???" would not be helpful to the situation at hand. So I stammered through an unsarcastic-as-possible explanation about how you feed them when they are hungry… and then they don't cry as much… and then they grow… and then you know they're eating enough.
She left then. In a hurry.
Fortunately, my husband had arrived by the time she came back. This time she told us that she and her attending wanted to proceed with putting in a feeding tube to be sure that he got the amount of nutrition that he needed. My husband and I couldn't wrap our minds around a tube going down our tiny little boy's throat. Have I mentioned that my hubby likes to ask questions? Lots of them? Well, combine that with the fact that he was in full Papa Bear mode, and he was just about unstoppable. He convinced her to tell us how much Roo should be eating and give us 12 hours to try to feed it to him orally. After all, I had been feeding him until he stopped, but hadn't really pushed him to wake back up and eat, etc. It was worth a shot.
Throughout the day, we were all-out cheerleaders for our little guy as we encouraged and prodded him to eat. And he did it! He ate every last milliliter that I gave him. We were thrilled.
I should mention that I did run home that afternoon for a bit. My husband and mother-in-law came in the morning with the Lamb & Monkey, all dressed up for Easter. My parents—who no longer knew what to do with the whole Easter dinner they had prepared—came in too. Not exactly how we had planned to spend the holiday. But that afternoon, my hubby stayed with the baby so that I could go home for a while. I don't think I really followed his plan, though. I think he had wanted me to grab a shower, take a nap, etc, etc, and come back later that evening… but I just couldn't stay away. I rushed through a quick shower, put on clean clothes, threw together a bag with some clean PJs and clothes for the next day, and went back in. As much as I missed my big kids already, I was still hopeful that we would be coming home the next day, so I wasn't worried at that point about spending time at home.
But nothing was as easy as it seemed during our hospital stay. The attending physician came to see us that evening, and he was still concerned. (He was great, by the way. Both of the attending physicians we had during our stay were wonderful.) He suggested that we put in a feeding tube right away. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I protested that Roo had eaten what the resident had asked, and he explained that the number she had quoted us was just what he needed to survive, but he needed at least 50% more to grow and thrive. "But she never told us that!" I cried miserably. This girl was lucky that I never had to see her again. The attending gave us the new numbers that Roo needed to reach and encouraged us to try feeding it to him orally—but he warned us that as soon as Roo had one feeding that fell short, we needed to put the tube in. He was also insistent that we could spend only 15 minutes feeding the baby each time. After that, he explained, Roo was actually expending more calories than he was taking in.
It only took one feeding. I tearfully called for my nurse and told them he would need a tube. Honestly, the tube itself really wasn't that bad. It was quick to put in and very small. The sad part was what it represented… Another problem. Another issue to keep us at Children's. Another symptom that could point to something bigger. I was scared.
And so a new step was added to our routine… Every three hours I would measure out 35 milliliters of breast milk (That's just a tiny bit more than an ounce.), attempt to feed it to him, then page the nurse to come and give him the rest via the tube, then pump. The schedule was rigid—the nurses would come in and tell me when it was time for him to eat. If he got off schedule because of bloodwork being done (which was now happening several times a day), they would quickly adjust his feedings until he was back to "normal." Throughout the night I would set the alarm on my watch so that I could wake up and get a bottle started before the nurse came in… at least I did at first. I quickly realized that they were quite happy to feed him for me, and I was glad to get a little extra sleep.
On Monday morning he was still taking only half of his feedings by mouth, and I knew we weren't headed home any time soon. But I didn't know that there were more hits coming.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I tried so hard to keep a good attitude on my way to Children's that afternoon. "Maybe they'll just examine him and then send us home with the bili-blanket," I told my hubby. (That's the pad he had been laying on with the lights in it.)
As we pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance, I said hopefully, "You know, this all seems so scary and overwhelming now, but someday we'll look back on this and say, 'Remember when we had to take Roo to Children's? Why was that…? Something to do with… jaundice or something, right?'"
From the very beginning we were quite thankful for the nurses at Children's. As soon as we walked in the door with a tiny little newborn, they put us in a separate area so that we didn't have to keep him out in the waiting room with a lot of sickies. I was so appreciative of this little gesture. There was some confusion over Roo's direct admittance, but we quickly got it sorted out and were on our way upstairs.
It didn't take long to see that my hopes of going home were completely out the window. In fact, they already had the room all set up for us, complete with the dreaded isolette. The nurse was very nice and tried to keep everything as cheerful as possible. Bottom line: we were in there for jaundice—it was not the end of the world. She examined the baby and got him all set up under the lights. Then she explained some of the "amenities" for us—the complimentary meals for nursing moms, the play room if our big kids came to visit, the shower room, etc—but said she wouldn't spend too much time on those since we would most likely be headed home in the morning. Whew! That's a relief, I thought.
We called our parents with an update, and I encouraged my mom to go ahead with Easter dinner preparations. We weren't going to make it to church in the morning, but we should be able to have Easter dinner, even if we had to postpone it until later in the afternoon.
Then the resident came in. Have you ever met a resident in real life? On "Grey's Anatomy" they seem like actual doctors—in real life, they seem like teenagers who came in for "Take Your Kid to Work" Day. On top of that, I don't think the hospital was exercising its "A Team" on Easter weekend. It was not one of my favorite parts of our stay at the hospital. Anyway, our resident walked us through roughly 1,000 questions about Roo's medical history… all 72 hours of it. Then she explained that they were going to do some bloodwork—one more check of his bilirubin, as well as a few other routine checks—and then Roo would be under the lights for the night. She showed us the chart explaining safe bilirubin levels based on the newborn's age (in hours), the same chart I had already pored over at the first hospital. And then she left to order the bloodwork.
At this point, frustration set in. I was hormonal and exhausted, so I was already starting from a disadvantage. But now my baby was back under those awful blue lights… his eyes were covered… I knew this was not a major medical issue, but it seemed so hopeless. Every parenting book, website, and magazine out there tells moms to hold their new babies, bond with them, snuggle them as much as possible. Now the best I could do was stick my hand through a hole in the side of this acrylic bassinet—and the nurse had already warned me that the more time I spent covering his skin, the less he was getting exposed to the light he needed. Every 3 hours I could take him out for 15 minutes to eat, but that was it. My heart was breaking.
On top of that, I had now been asked at least 3 times if I had known he was going to be so small. Were there any indications that there might be a problem? I remembered all of the questions I had planned to ask at that 37-week appointment, questions that had been forgotten in the midst of intense contractions and excitement at Roo's impending birth. What if we missed something?, I wondered.
As if that weren't enough, breastfeeding—already something that I struggled with—was quickly becoming a huge issue. He hadn't latched much so far, so I was currently attempting to nurse him each time, and then pump and feed him from a cup. Yes, a cup. Have you seen the teeny tiny newborn cups that some hospitals use? It's actually really cool, and it helps to prevent nipple confusion. My hospital (where Roo was born) had been using them for years, and it was working quite well for us. The nurses at Children's, though, said they had never heard of such a thing and were wary of letting me use it. They eventually conceded, though, since they really wanted to measure how much he was taking in and I really didn't want to start using a bottle yet.
And that was another issue adding to my frustration level. The doctors at our first hospital were quite happy with how much Roo was eating. The doctor we had seen that morning at our pediatrician's office had been satisfied with how much he was eating. Suddenly the staff at Children's was concerned that he wasn't getting enough. How could one doctor think it was great and the other get such a concerned look when I told him how much Roo was eating? Why couldn't they just make up their minds??? (Remember, I was very hormonal and completely exhausted at this point. Everything was magnified by about 500%.)
I took a deep breath and settled in for the night. My hubby stayed as long as he could, but the room really only had space for one person to sleep. If that. The "bed" was a small couch that extended lengthwise, but didn't get any wider. It was efficient, but not designed for comfort or a good night's sleep. Still, it was just for a night, right? I stretched out, turned on a rerun of "Law & Order", and looked forward to Easter dinner at my parents' house the next afternoon.
No such luck.
Monday, June 28, 2010
What kind of mom am I??? I didn't include a picture of my newborn baby boy in my last post! So here you go…
Can I just tell you… I loved having a tiny little baby. FOUR POUNDS—he was like holding air! (He's still only about 8 pounds, so it's not like he's huge now, but it's just not the same as when he was a teeny tiny newborn.) Within minutes of coming in to see him and visit us, our moms got this excited look on their faces: We would need new clothes!!!! Preemies were definitely in order for this little guy. J
At the same time, my midwife was busy trying to figure out why he was so tiny. She said that the umbilical cord was very small in diameter, and that he likely wasn't getting the nutrition he needed. She also said that the placenta was covered in calcifications—she said it looked like one they see on heavy smokers. (I have never even been tempted to smoke, let alone actually stuck a cigarette in my mouth.) There was also meconium in the fluid when he was born… it was just a whole mess in there, apparently! My midwife said multiple times that he was obviously in distress in there and we just didn't realize it. If she had known all this was going on, we would have induced. Thank you, Lord, for knowing he needed out. But the bottom line was, he was out now and healthy. No need to worry too much about what was going on inside. So we just continued with life as normal.
I really enjoy getting visits from people in the hospital when we have a new baby. I know that opinions vary on that—some people prefer not to even call friends and family until they're back home, some like to just have certain "visiting hours" or to have people call first, but not me. Come anytime, stay as long as you like, as long as you dote on my baby and tell me how beautiful he is. J Of course, when you have a four-pounder, you do have people who are afraid to hold him—but that's OK, more snuggle time for me. J We had lots of visits from friends and family over the next couple of days.
The day after Roo was born his bilirubin was elevated. This did not concern me one little bit, as both of my other kids had the same issue and it just worked itself out. That afternoon, though, a nurse came in and told us we were going to have to put our little guy under the special lights. I still didn't fully understand. Thank God for my husband, who will ask every question possible until he understands the situation down to the last detail. I'll admit, about halfway through the conversation I wanted him to JUST STOP TALKING because I don't always want to know all of the details… but I have come to be very thankful for this quality in him, especially over the last couple of months.
So my precious little boy was taken away from me and put into an isolette. He was stripped down to his diaper, his eyes were covered, and the lights went on. Not only were two banks of lights shining down on him, he was also laying on a pad of lights, to try to get maximum exposure. We were allowed to take him out for 15 minutes every three hours, but that was it. Looking back from a less hormonal state, it wasn't that big of a deal. At the time, though, it was heart-wrenching. (Forgive the picture. For some reason all of the pics from my camera are on a different computer…)
The hospital staff had informed us that we would be there at least two more days with him under the lights. By the next morning, though, I was certain we would be headed home that day. I mentioned it to a couple of the nurses, and they gently told me not to get my hopes up. Around lunchtime, though, our nurse came in and said, "We're turning off the lights!" YAY! We still couldn't be discharged—they wanted to do another blood test 6 hours after he was out from under the lights to be sure that his bilirubin didn't shoot back up. So we waited, watched TV, visited with family, and counted the minutes.
In the meantime, because he was so tiny they had to do a special test to make sure it was safe to take him home in the car seat. Apparently some preemies have trouble with infant seats because their lungs get too compressed, so we had to set him in the seat for an hour and hook up monitor to make sure his pulse and oxygen levels were OK. Luckily he passed, so we didn't need a special "car bed" to take him home.
His bilirubin was tested one more time… and it was great! We were free to go! We packed up all of our stuff—which was no small task between baby gifts, hospital freebies, stuff our big kids had left behind when they had visited, etc, etc, etc—and headed HOME. We were instructed to have his bilirubin checked again the next morning. Unfortunately, it was going to be a Saturday. Our pediatrician's practice does offer Saturday hours, but it is only same-day appointments—we couldn't schedule ahead of time. But that was just fine by us, as long as we got to go home!
I feel like I should stop here and mention that this was Easter weekend. We didn't have the slightest inkling that Roo was going to be born at 37 weeks, so we had made Easter plans with my parents and mother-in-law. My poor mom, who was hosting/cooking, didn't know what to do about Easter dinner, since we were just getting home from the hospital on Good Friday. I assured her, though, that we intended to be there. Heck, I even planned to go to church that morning—it was Easter Sunday, after all. I didn't want to miss it!
So on Saturday morning we left our big kids with Gram (my mother-in-law) and drove 30 minutes to the office that had Saturday hours. We enjoyed our time together, just the three of us. We got the blood drawn, then went to Babies R Us… and even made a quick stop to Chipotle so that we could eat lunch while the kiddos were napping. We headed home to see our big kids and to start getting Easter baskets ready. (Hey, I didn't want my kids to miss out on Easter, either!)
Shortly after we got home, though, we got a call from the doctor we'd seen that morning. Roo's bilirubin had shot back up again, and she instructed us to take him straight to Children's Hospital and get him back under the lights. She had already called and told them we were coming, and they'd have a room ready for us. So much for enjoying my Chipotle burrito.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I have to admit, I'm not a fan of clichés. "Every cloud has a silver lining." "The grass is always greener on the other side." "It's just a drop in the bucket." Not only are they trite, but I think they sound downright condescending when they are directed at me.
Lately, though, one phrase in particular has become especially true for me: "Life can change in the blink of an eye."
Like the day last August when we got a positive pregnancy test, even though we hadn't really decided whether or not to try for a third baby. Blink.
Or the day less than three months ago when they handed us a beautiful, tiny little boy. Blink.
Or the day just last week when a specialist told us that Roo's future—and ours—would be much different than we had planned. Blink.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little story.
About this time last year, my hubby and I were enjoying life with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. We were trying to decide if we wanted to have a third baby, and on any given day the decision ranged from "Wouldn't it be nice if we already had a third one right now?" to "Let's schedule a vasectomy for tomorrow." It was a negotiating process.
And then one Saturday morning in August, we realized that the decision had been made for us. The pregnancy test was positive. It was completely unexpected… and completely exciting! It was really going to happen—one more baby in the Epling family!
The next nine months were a constant adventure. I had been struggling with depression before we got pregnant, and the exhaustion of the first trimester—and the later discovery that my iron was low (which can cause a lack of energy)—didn't help. And every pregnancy symptom I'd had with my first two came back with this one, but intensified about 150%. But the real roller coaster was happening on the inside. Major spotting during the first trimester sent us running to the midwife's office… and then she couldn't find a heartbeat. We spent 45 miserable minutes waiting for an emergency ultrasound, and then discovered within seconds of having the wand on my belly that everything was fine. At the 20-week ultrasound, a spot on the baby's heart caused some alarm, but was later ruled to be just a common abnormality. Toward the end, I started to have some worries about little things that didn't seem to be concerning my midwives… the baby started measuring small, even though my due date had already been moved back by 10 days. He didn't seem to be as active as my other two were. His heart rate had been at the low end of normal. Little things. But I wondered if anyone was really looking at the big picture, putting all of the little things together and wondering what they meant. I decided I would bring them up at my 37-week checkup.
The checkup happened to be scheduled for the same day as a Spring Break Tea Party that the Lamb and I were planning for some of her friends. The night before, my husband and mother-in-law (I told you, what would I do without them?) planned to spend the evening helping me decorate, make food, etc, etc. Instead, they walked in the door and I said, "Change of plans." I'd been having contractions all afternoon, and they had been getting stronger and closer together. We took the kids to a friend's house and headed to the hospital.
Let me tell you… getting sent home after a false alarm with your first baby leaves you feeling a little sheepish; getting sent home with your third is downright embarrassing. We didn't have the baby that night, but I'm glad that we went in. Apparently I was dehydrated, which was part of the reason my contractions were so intense. But they also noticed that Roo's heart rate would periodically dip with my contractions, which was not a good thing. They monitored us for a few hours before being satisfied that he was safe, but I had only gone from 1 cm to 2 cm in that entire time… So they sent us home (at 3 AM) to get some sleep.
By then I was too exhausted and too far behind on the party prep to even think about entertaining a group of 4-year-old girls, so we cancelled the party. My contractions were still going full force, but I was afraid that they weren't really causing any progress after our experience in the night. So I tried to just continue with our normal life while I counted off the hours to my regularly-scheduled appointment that afternoon. I didn't even realize that my contractions were slowly getting stronger and stronger. Fortunately, my mom was more concerned than I was, so when I announced that I was going to Target, she did insist on going along and convinced me that the kids would have more fun staying behind with Papa than going with us. By the time we got done shopping, I could barely stand up during the contractions.
But did that stop me from driving myself to the doctor's office for my appointment? Of course not! (My hubby had gone into work for a few hours while I was out at my parents' house, so I drove from their place and he met me there.) I waddled in there, taking frequent breaks to try not to kill anyone during my contractions, and was promptly hooked back up to the monitor to make sure Roo's heart rate was stable enough to withstand delivery. All of my little concerns were long forgotten by then—I no longer had to worry about the pregnancy because I was not going to be pregnant much longer!
The midwife said that I was 6-7 cm dilated and sent us to the hospital (which, fortunately, was actually attached to the building that houses my midwives' office, so we essentially just walked down the hall). We walked into the birthing center at 4 PM. I asked for an epidural, but quickly realized that there wasn't going to be time for that.
Roo was born at 4:17 PM.
It was amazingly fast. Unbelievably fast. We had called our parents on the walk to the birthing center, but only my mother-in-law had made it before he was born. (I was glad that she had made it because she brought the camera!)
It's funny how quickly you forget just how little newborn babies really are. But when the labor & delivery nurses—who see newborn babies every day—remark over and over and over how little your baby is, you know his size is something unusual. The nurse put him on the scale… he was 4 pounds, 2 ounces. FOUR POUNDS. I had never even SEEN a baby that small, let alone held one! This little guy was just full of surprises!
Little did I know the adventure was just beginning.
When I sat down to write this, I didn't intend for it to be a multi-part story. It's just too long, though, to put into one post. So I guess I've got a hook to bring you back, eh? ;-)
Thursday, June 24, 2010
So I really wanted to post yesterday, but I just couldn't. Why? Well, because I was too busy being a warrior. A conqueror. An absolute superhero, capable of super-human feats.
Yesterday, I singlehandedly took three small children on a daytrip.
Through the miracle commonly known as Facebook, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with many college friends. OK, sidebar. I love Facebook. Really. Facebook understands me in ways that few people do. Facebook realizes that I crave relationships, but that I only have a few minutes at a time to satisfy that craving. Facebook also knows that I need a place to vent, to ask parenting questions, to post bragging pictures of my children, and of course… to talk about Katy Epling in the third person. I heart Facebook.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
So a month or two ago, a college friend posted that she & her daughter were heading to the zoo and jokingly invited any of her Facebook friends to come along. I mentioned that I would be up for a daytrip to the zoo, but needed more notice. Through this witty little exchange (another thing I love about Facebook: Facebook never judges my wit.), my friend decided to organize a little get-together for a group of us who had been sorority sisters, along with our children. Before we knew it, dates & arrangements were set and we were getting ready for a good old-fashioned reunion. Why did it take us 9 years to come up with this idea????
Plan A was to meet at the Columbus Zoo, but since yesterday was 90 bazillion degrees, we decided on COSI instead. And for those of us who have just a little extra dose of crazy, we met at Spaghetti Warehouse for lunch first. And to add even a little more spice to our day, I also made a stop to visit some other friends in the area who I hadn't seen in almost four years (but who I had been able to keep in touch with thanks to--you guessed it--Facebook). Did I mention this was all with my children?
So yesterday morning I packed up the Lamb (5), the Monkey (3), and baby Roo (2 months), and we drove 2.5 hours to Spaghetti Warehouse—but not without 2 false starts. The first was to change plans with our non-sorority friends because we got a late start. The second was because the Lamb announced as we were getting ready to get on the Interstate, "I don't think I've gone potty since I woke up this morning."
We had a very fun lunch followed by an even better afternoon of playing, exploring, meeting lots of beautiful kiddos, and a little bit of catching up. It was more fun than I had dared to hope, not knowing how the kids would do with a long drive, no naps, and lots of new faces. I have to admit, I grew up less than 3 hours from COSI but had never been there before. Now I can't wait to go back! J But the exhibits weren't the best part. It was so nice to reconnect with some fantastic women & moms, almost all of whom were just girls when I had seen them last. I was so happy to be a part of that great afternoon.
We left COSI at closing and ran to our friends' house for just a quick visit. They also have a new little baby and I wanted to sneak a peek. She is too cute! She's also bigger than Roo, even though she's two months younger. He is such a tiny little peanut. J Then we went to McDonald's for dinner (OK, first we went to Chipotle, but the Monkey—who drinks roughly ½ gallon of milk per day—had a total meltdown because I told him they don't have milk there. So we loaded everyone back into the car and drove across the street to McD's. I am honestly not usually that nice. But the poor guy was so exhausted and had been so good all day, he deserved some milk, darn it.), followed by a quick change into PJs in the van, and then the big drive home. With everyone still in a good mood.
What did I tell you, folks? Warrior.
I am actually feeling a little guilty, though. I can't really claim to have done it all myself. I was over an hour late getting on the road, but I wouldn't have made it at all if it hadn't been for my mother-in-law and husband. Both of them took time out of their work day to help me get everyone ready, the van packed, and even to facilitate the almost-forgotten bathroom break (which took place at my husband's office). Where would I be without my trusty sidekicks? ;-)
So today I've been resting on my laurels a bit (Laurels are those fancy Egyptian cotton sheets, right?) and haven't gotten much done even though I've been home all day. But I manage to carve out time for the important things, like blogging. Blogging is Facebook's fun but slightly-more-time-consuming cousin. I heart blogging almost as much as I heart Facebook. Anyway, now that I have three sleeping children, I believe that I should probably attempt to get a few things done that will make my hubby happier than this blog post will. But come back tomorrow, because tomorrow I have a tale for you. A tale of how this blog came to be. A tale of Kanga & Roo.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Of course, every zoo needs a keeper or two, and that's where my husband and I come in. We do our best to care for these animals and raise them right. :-)
So thanks for stopping in. I hope you'll visit again soon--there's always a new adventure here in our zoo.