Double Daddy Diary: April 26 & 27, 2009

Sunday, 4/26
–Moving day. Movers on time, cranked it out in three hours (7AM to 10AM). Of course, we had tons of help from parents – rented U-Haul got tons of stuff over to new house on Thursday.

–6:45 a.m. UPDATES:
Norah = doing really well, they let her rest last night
Alexandra = also doing well, no changes
Stable = good.

In-laws took my parents to the airport. I’m sure they didn’t want to go back yet – especially with such progress being made. (And the girls being so completely gorgeous and all.)

–12:04 p.m. UPDATES:
Norah = doing well, TAKEN OFF NITRIC OXIDE!!! HUGE step. Lower settings on ventilator, increasing feedings. Breathe, eat, home. Breathe, eat, home. (Our new mantra.)
Alexandra = Doing fine, no more space bubble over her head for humidity; feisty when eating, switching between tube and bottle. The other day, she didn’t like her bath. Now she’s not loving eating. Smelly + no food = future supermodel?

–3:45 p.m. UPDATES:
Alexandra = good visit, no news to report;
Norah = Dr. called to say that she’s down to 35% oxygen assistance, doing “rock solid,” and that if we were there to see Norah late tomorrow morning we might have a surprise…she might be OFF THE VENTILATOR! (We cried.)
Great guy, that doc. Even if he’s a Mets fan from Jersey.

–8:22 p.m. UPDATES:
Norah = no news, just keeping fingers crossed for tomorrow.
Alexandra = eating through a tube at this time, but made “all gone” with two bottles today; trying for three tomorrow; switched from NICU-type bed (not incubator) to “big girl” bed.

First night in new house. Feels weird, and will get a whole lot weirder when we’re able to bring the girls home.

Tried to hook up the Internet, giant fiasco. Will blog about it separately – don’t want to taint this great day and blog entry with negativity.

Looking forward to tomorrow!
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Monday, 4/27

Oy, such crap with the Internet. Unable to work from home or do anything online. (Again, check separate blog.)

But the big story on Action News…

9:00 a.m. UPDATES:
Norah = EXTUBATED!!! (No more ventilator, for your non-doctor-y types.) Breathing on her own, just with a little help from a nasal cannula. (One of those tubes that sticks into your nose a little bit.) They took out her arterial line last night, just one IV and that’s pretty much it! This is what we’ve been waiting for, folks. On to the eating!
Alexandra = also doing great, set for three bottles today (after an 8AM tube feeding). Up to 36cc of formula, and Shannon will get to do the 2PM feeding!

1:00 p.m. UPDATES:
Norah = went to visit her, took picture of her area without all that equipment. Looks wonderful. Shannon got to hold her up a little, and she’s so much more awake and moving around. Coming off the painkillers slowly.
Alexandra = saw her at 2PM, Shannon tried feeding her a bottle but she didn’t take to it much at this time. Mangia, girl, mangia!

Went to cable company to return equipment. Surprisingly short wait and cheerful customer service rep.

Back home for dinner, then back for a double visit to the girls…

8 p.m. UPDATES:
Norah = Shannon got to hold her a while, so awesome. Me, not going to “chance it” since I had a MRSA infection years ago. If I do want to hold her while she’s in the NICU, gotta gown and glove up. Not sure I want my daughter’s first memories to be of Daddy with rough blue papery skin and sticky smelly plastic fingers.

Alexandra = Got to her around 10PM so Shannon could hold her too. She makes all these great funny faces. Smiling one second, pre-crying tension the next, and this little Elvis-like lip sneer that gets me every time.

Both girls resting and sleeping a lot, which is good since they’ve been through so much so far.

Daddy Diary: April 25, 2009

–Up for moving day, no calls by 10AM as expected. Told 1st moving truck died, diverted other truck, would be postponed from 12-2 PM slot to 2-4 PM slot, and to expect call around noon.

–9AM kiddie updates:

Norah = changed from high-frequency ventilator to conventional ventilator!!! Still on nitric oxide, but eating a little…”this is progress,” said our nurse

Alexandra = doing well, feeds fine, much more comfortable

–2PM kiddie updates:

Norah = really good; weaned from 20 to 10 on nitric oxide; 50% on oxygen; waking up a little, tolerating feedings, much more comfortable

Alexandra = resting, no problems, hoping to see eating for 2 days before the magic words: COMING HOME (hopefully within a week or so)

Because movers were now delayed until at least 5PM, actually went to see the girls around 3/4 PM. Both sleeping comfortably, didn’t want to bother them much.

Called movers around 5PM, before going to quickly browse Container Store. Said they’d check with team directly and get back to me in 5 minutes.

By 6PM, I had no call back and left three messages with them.

Just after 6, they called and said truck had been pulled over for random DOT inspection which takes a couple hours and they couldn’t call the office on their cell phone by law. Not sure I believe it.

Got upset with the guy, who said the whole thing was out of his control and that they’d be at the house by 9:30 or so. But that’s too late to move, especially to a smaller town. So we ended up postponing until Sunday morning, when the guy promised the truck and his three best guys would be waiting at 6:45 a.m.

Thus, we went to the new house and helped the parents, who were busy assembling and folding and putting away. (They have all been invaluably helpful, and we are eternally grateful.)

Ordered in pizza from Roma’s in Little Elm. Good stuff.

8:30 PM kiddie updates:

Norah = doing “fabulous,” PAL and PIC lines in successfully, just hanging out, no ventilator changes

Alexandra = doing “really well,” tolerating feeds, had a bath she didn’t like but now smelled clean 😉

More move stuff, put on new toilet seats (sis-in-law’s boyfriend did one, I did the other). Felt manly.

Called it quits around 10:30, drove parents back to their hotel.

Midnight kiddie updates:

Norah = just fine, letting her rest after a busy day

Alexandra = doing really well, drank 23 out of 33 cc bottle

Beat tired, and have to be up at 6AM to get ready for movers. Ugh.

Sleeping on couch at old house tonight. May have to brush teeth with Diet Pepsi.

Nope, water still on. 😉

Daddy Diary: The most difficult three days of our lives

(Note: Other than the delivery time/date, some of the dates/times may be messed up. I think you’ll excuse me after reading what was going on.)

Shannon gave birth to our beautiful girls – Alexandra Faye Rose and Norah Vivienne – at 11:34 p.m. on Thursday, 4/16/09.

They were born at 34 weeks and change, and like all preemies, went immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Thursday morning, everything seemed OK at first. The girls needed nasal cannulas (those tubes that go under the nose) for additional oxygen, but appeared fine.

Preemies need to be successfully breathing on their own before trying to feed, so they had IVs giving them their nutrients.

As Thursday went on, both girls were struggling with their breathing and were intubated (put on ventilators which did their breathing for them). Although this sounds – and is – pretty scary, we were told that this was pretty standard for preemies with respiratory distress (a common problem with preemies).

So we tried to get to sleep Thursday night with the knowledge that our girls had machines doing their breathing for them, in the hopes that they would be able to relax and heal and grow while the machines did their work.

The girls did OK, seemingly, on Friday.

At 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, we were awakened by a kindly, soft-spoken doctor telling us that Norah was not doing well at all and needed to be transported to another local hospital. At this other, more established NICU, they would administer nitric oxide gas treatment (along with the oxygen) to open up the stuff in the lungs that hadn’t unclenched because of her premature birth.

[Sidebar: Watching an episode of “House” as I type this. Interestingly, it involves a father trying to decide if his son should have surgery that could improve his life dramatically – but the surgery is removal of half his brain. As a new parent with two kids dealing with major health issues, this sure hits me where I’m living.)

So Norah was brought to us by the transport team before going on to the other NICU. We got to see her for a few minutes, then she was off. Needless to say, sleep was impossible after that.

There we were – Shannon recovering from her C-section with a painful incision, one daughter on a ventilator a few hallways away, the other 10 miles away on a ventilator with special gases being pumped into her. Not exactly the rosy picture of post-partum life we hoped for.

Saturday morning, I went with my mother-in-law to see Norah at NICU 2. We had to scrub up (wash your hands up to the elbows, then use sanitizer up to the elbows, then put on a gown and gloves. (And we weren’t even going to touch Norah.)

The NICU nurses were amazing. Constantly doing stuff to Norah – checking blood, running tests, it was a non-stop job.

After our visit to see Norah, we went back to be with Shannon and to see Alexandra. Shannon was – all we all were – incredibly upset, scared and living on pins and needles. But as the new mommy, Shannon got the worst of it. She (wrongly) felt guilty and thought she had done something wrong – even though every single person (medical personnel and family) told her she hadn’t. She completely quit caffeine and artifical sweeteners, never drank or smoked, ate the best she could, took her prenatal vitamins and saw the best doctors.

My mom flew in mid-day Saturday, and my sister-in-law and mom-in-law went to pick her up at the airport. When they got to the hospital, we all went to see Alexandra at NICU 1. Later that afternoon, we met up with my dad-in-law and bro-in-law, and we all headed over to see Norah at NICU 2.

The reports on the girls were “stable” – which has become our favorite word. Stable pretty much means “not bad and no worse,” and that’s all we were looking for at that point.

The gang went to dinner while I had the “celebratory dinner” with Shannon that they give to new moms before they’re discharged. Steak, lobster and “the best chocolate cake you’ve ever had.” Not to offend, but only the steak was halfway decent. The cake? Not even in the top 10.

Obviously, it wasn’t much of a celebration for us, although we did start to get slightly positive reports on each baby.

Saturday night, we got a little bit more sleep…until 6:30 a.m. Sunday, when my cell phone rang loudly. As the primary contact person, NICU 2 was to call me with any less than good news – so I picked up the phone with my own heart racing as fast as it could.

Luckily, it was just the night-shift doctor, wanting to update me on Norah’s condition – which was stable. Again, hard to fall asleep after a scare like that.

Shannon and I visited Alexandra after a lousy breakfast (great care, lousy food) and got another slightly positive report. The moms and sis-in-law showed up, then after a mediocre lunch we saw Alexandra again and Shannon got her discharge from the hospital.

We immediately took her to the NICU 2 hospital, where we went to see Norah. Shannon felt so good to see her (first time since Friday at 4:30 a.m.), and was thrilled to see the progress she was making. We each felt a huge weight lifting off our shoulders, as every few hours we seemed to be getting little bits of good news.

Each girl was slowly slowly slowly being weaned off the various medications and equipment, and as of midnight Sunday (going into Monday) each of our daughters was showing continuous slight improvements.

As happy as we are that the girls are doing better, this experience has been the most gut-wrenching time of our lives. Shannon still hasn’t had the chance to hold either of our daughters in her arms, and that breaks my heart. (I got to hold each of them briefly after delivery.)

All we can hope for is continued slow improvements, and that some day soon, we’ll have both of our girls healthy and at home with us.