Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Month Letter


My sweet baby girls,

Happy One Month Birthday!  I can’t get over the fact that you are one month old before you were even supposed to be born!  Every time we woke up to feed you in the middle of the night last night, I thought about what a big deal this is and where I was exactly one month ago, how much our lives have changed since then, and how I wouldn’t want it any other way.

This first month has flown by.  You spent almost the first two weeks of it in the NICU, and I am so happy to say that you have now spent more time at home than you did at the NICU.  You both seem very content at home most of the time.  The first couple of nights you were home, you weren’t too sure about the flat cribs we were making you sleep in, but after a few nights, dad and I got into the groove.  We figured out that you really love to be swaddled, but not too tightly(except for when you’re really fussy!).  You like your hands up by your chest when you’re swaddled so that it looks like you’re saying a prayer.  When we swaddle you up, we started saying your prayers…”Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep. May angels guide me through the night, and wake me with the morning light.”  You always turn your heads to one side, usually the one that is facing mom or dad.  You also really love to have a blanket over you—we tuck it into the side of your co-sleeper crib so it can’t move and cover your face.  The final piece to the puzzle is your sleep sheep or gentle giraffe.  We have one attached to each crib, and they both make soft noises, and you love to have those on when you go to sleep.- Daddy’s favorite sounds are the ones that make him feel like he is camping! 

Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night, and all it takes is for us to turn those on and you go right back to sleep. Each night we switch which baby gets to sleep by dad or me since we have one crib on both sides of the bed.  For the most part, you are such calm babies.  Often, we will put you in your beds and you will still be bright-eyed and awake, but you don’t cry—you just look around until you fall asleep.  You both have two different pacifiers that you like, which is very convenient for us because we don’t end up mixing your pacifiers up. (We haven’t really decided on a nickname for the pacifier yet… sometimes we call it a paci, I call it a binky, and dad calls it a ginky).   Both of you make some funny grunting noises in your sleep.  I can sleep through them pretty easily, but sometimes dad has a hard time. We think you have found your voices and just like to listen to yourselves talk!  Ever since we figured out that “magic combination,” you very rarely wake up crying in the middle of the night.

You eat on a three hour schedule around the clock.   First, we change your diaper, then we feed you.  Right now you are eating 55ml of milk at each feeding.  Annabel is an easy burper and has ripped some burps our family is very proud of.  Sophia, you don’t burp as well, and sometimes it takes you a lot longer to let one loose!  You are both VERY good eaters and finish all 8 of your daily meals with no problem. 

Sometimes, by the time we change your diaper, you are so hungry that you scream!  Sophia, you have the funniest cry, and you have ever since you were born.  When you cry, it sounds like you are saying “eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh” or “no, no, no, no, no.”  Annabel, when you cry, you SCREAM.  There isn’t a little whimper for you; it’s an all out “ahh!!”  I think you are just making up for not crying right when you were born. It is very easy to tell your cries apart, so that really helps mom and dad! 

We started using cloth diapers about a week after you came home from the hospital.  Sophia, you are still a little bit too small for the cloth diapers.  You need to put some fat on those skinny thighs because the extra small, newborn diapers are still way too big for you, and it causes you to pee through them a LITTLE bit!  Your sister, who is about a pound bigger than you, has chubbier thighs, so the diapers fit her perfectly.  So right now, we have one baby in cloth diapers and Sophia is still in disposable newborn diapers.  Hopefully we only have another week or so with Sophia in her disposables!  We also use only cloth wipes now, which are actually very convenient (and save mom and dad a lot of money! – Dad counts a quarter for each diaper J)

You spend the rest of your day sleeping, primarily.  Between feedings, you will usually have about 20-30 minutes of awake time.  During that time, you like to lay under your play mat, be talked to, stare at the Christmas tree, or sit in your bouncer.  When you get sleepy, you spend time in either your swing or Rock N Play.  Sometimes you rest in your Pack N Play, too.  To be honest, though, you are held by someone a good majority of the time!  Between having me and dad here and grandmas and grandpa and Aunt Lauren, someone is always DYING to hold you!





You both look so different!  You are both still tiny enough to wear newborn clothes at one month old.  As different as you are, sometimes when you are wearing the same thing and you fall asleep, you look very very similar!  Annabel, you are definitely your mom’s little girl.  You are nicely filled out, you have big, bright beautiful blue eyes and a FULL head of blonde hair.  Grandma thinks you are going to have curly hair.  You have a little “stork bite” right in-between your eyes…it’s just a little red patch, but from what I’ve read, that will probably go away.  You have recently started staying awake a lot more—when you’re awake, you love to stare at the Christmas tree!  You have gained so much control of your head, and you like to turn your head from side to side and look around.  When you were first born, and for the first few weeks of your life, you had a really hard time keeping your eyes open.  You would try SO hard to open your eyes, but you would always fall right back asleep.  Not anymore!  I call you a lot of different things—My Bell, AnnieB, Belly, Annie, Annie Bananie, and  Annabelly. Daddy calls you Miss Bell. When you were still in the NICU, I found a song by Don Henley called “Annabel.”  It was stuck in my head for days and days because one of the lines is “Sleep tight, Annabel.  You can always count on me.”  I repeated it over and over in my head when I was going to sleep and would wake up with it in my head, too. Now I sing that song to you, and only you!




Sophia, you are definitely your dad’s little girl!  You are teeny tiny, have a full head of dark hair, and darker skin and eyes than Annabel (and mommy).  You love to hold your hands together, and you love to put your hands in your mouth and suck on them.  It’s adorable!  Just yesterday, you had your paci in your mouth, and you brought both of your hands up to your mouth and actually looked like you were holding it in!  You have really begun to love your seahorse that plays lullabies and glows.  If you are fussy at all and we turn it on, it only takes a few seconds to calm you down.  I call you my Sopapilla Margarita Burrito Peanut Baby.  Clearly, your mom likes food.  Sopapilla Margarita obviously comes from your first and middle name, but I always think you look like a burrito all wrapped up in your swaddle, and you are our little peanut in size.  Speaking of peanuts, I sing the song “Found a Peanut” to you (and only you, my little peanut) pretty much every day.  That’s another thing that really calms you down, which is surprising to me, because my voice is really, really bad.  You are a very active little peanut, and you love to kick your legs all over the place and Daddy thinks that means you will hike giant mountains with him.



Dad loves to play with you and can’t wait until you can interact a little bit more.   I think that (and sleep) are what he is most looking forward to in the coming months. I love reading to you both, even if you occasionally sleep through it.  A few days after you came home, I read you On The Day You Were Born and teared up a little bit because I was so happy you were home.  Then, I read Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You, and oh my goodness, your mom cried and cried!  Don’t’ worry—they were happy tears.  Your mom is a little emotional these days. It’s amazing how much my world has changed with the arrival of the two of you.  I feel like I see everything differently now.  I won’t even try to put that feeling into words here because it’s impossible for anyone else to understand or relate to until they become a mother themselves.  You have also read You are My Miracle and On The Night Before Christmas

You celebrated your first Christmas this year!  You had a lot of adorable outfits, and you got lots of little presents.  In all honesty, you slept through most of it, but gosh you looked cute doing it!



Medley and Annabel
You also got to meet your sister, Medley this month!  She feeds you two bottles each morning, and she likes to pick out your clothes for you, too!  She has spent some time taking videos of you and showing you her magic tricks.  She might be a little bit intimidated by how teeny tiny you both still are, but she is doing a great job being a big sister!


Medley and Sophia


  Your other siblings, Mandy and Carlton don’t bother you at all.  Mandy does a good job of protecting you and will often sit right in front of wherever you are.  She gets very concerned when one of you cries and will come and sniff you.  Occasionally, she will even lick you, which is strange, because she NEVER gives kisses to anyone else.  Carlton sniffs you a lot.  Daddy says it’s because you leave lots of little presents for him. Other than that, he doesn’t bother you at all.

Pups looking over Annabel on Christmas



For so many months, I wanted you both to grow, grow, grow and get big and strong and healthy.  Now I just want time to stop for a little bit and have you stay teeny tiny for just a little bit longer.  You are just so sweet and cuddly, and I love to hold you close on my chest.  On the other hand, though, I can’t wait to see what the next month brings…everyone is going to leave soon, and dad is going to go back to work, so it will be just the three of us at home during the day soon.  I’m a little nervous about that, but I know we will have a great time, and I will have a lot of new memories to write about on January 28! 

I love you more than I ever thought was possible.  You are my little miracle babies.

Love,

Mommy


Monday, December 19, 2011

Quick update

Annabel and Sophia are three weeks old today!!

The girls had a quick doctor visit today. Both of them have developed mild cases of oral thrush. The doctor assured us it's nothing we did and probably from them being on antibiotics in the hospital. They have some oral swabs that they will have to use for a couple weeks but it should clear up quickly.

We have only taken the girls out twice... Both times to the pediatrician, and we are a spectacle each time! People always coo over the babies and ask questions about them-- how many weeks were they when they were born, NICU time, why the oxygen, fraternal or identical, how can we tell them apart, are we surviving, etc. I don't mind the questions, but our mommy and daddy instincts kick in and we both joke that our karate reflexes are on full alert when people get too close, especially kids!

  Both girls are doing super! Annabel now weighs a whopping 6lb 2oz and Sophia weights 5lb 4.5oz! They are feeding extremely well (particularly at night... Annabel really loves the unscheduled midnight snack here and there and has no problems telling us when she wants it!) and the doctor is very happy with their weight gain. It is so hard to believe they were born three weeks ago today!

A lot of people have asked how I am doing, and at this point, I am pretty much completely back to normal! I told David two weeks was my turning point when I felt much better. The first week after the c-section was rough, and then the first few days out of the hospital going back and forth to the hospital (and getting in and out of the car, up and down stairs, etc.) was not easy, but in all honesty, I don't really remember the pain anymore. I still have a little bit of tenderness on my stomach where the doctor said I had some "massive bruising" from the csection and the babies, but other than that, I'm fully on the road to recovery and mostly back to my normal activity.

Here are a few videos of Annabel and Sophia's third week (They aren't too exciting, but give you a good glimpse into their little movements)!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Been a little busy!

We got to room in with Sophia on Friday night.  We got our little girl right around 7:30pm and hung out in the room all night.  She was a sweet little thing and cried only when hungry, and right on cue about every 3 hours.  We would feed and change her and she would go right back to sleep.  About an hour after we would put her down, the NICU would call and David would go feed Annabel, who was still in the NICU.  It was a fairly sleepless night, me sleeping in a labor and delivery bed (not the definition of comfortable!) and David sleeping on a hospital love seat (even worse!).  We loved every minute of it, though, and every time we would wake up to a crying baby, we would smile and say "can you believe we have our baby?"  I gave Sophia a pep talk before I put her to sleep telling her to eat well all night so she could MAYBE come home tomorrow.  The feeding champ that she is, she of course ate super!  The nurse came in around  2am to check her vitals, and everything was perfect.
Sophia after a feeding at the hospital

Mom holding Sophia on our first night alone
The NICU called at 7am the next morning for Annabel's feeding, and I got up for the day, too.  David was gone for almost an hour, and I had no way to contact him since I couldn't leave the room with the baby.  At about 8am, he burst into the room and shouted "Rise and Shine! Our babies are coming home!" I was confused and asked if he meant just Sophia, and then he explained to me that there was a new neonatologist on today who looked at Annabel and said she could come home--she was in her car seat doing the test to make sure she didn't have any de-sats (drop in oxygen levels) in the car seat for 90 minutes.  The doctor basically determined that our pediatrician could track the same things that they were tracking (weight gain and feedings) and there was no reason for the girls to be separated.  We were shocked, obviously!  There had been absolutely no mention of Annabel coming home anytime soon.  (We did later find out that there was another mom in labor with twins, who also had chicken pox, and they were already at their max capacity, so that MAY have had something to do with her early release.)



Everything has gone perfectly since they arrived home!  I was pretty worried about Annabel's ability to take in enough food since she had struggled to do so in the NICU, but she has been amazing! Here and there, she will take only half of her bottle (maybe twice since she came home), but then other times, she will demand more than what we give her, so it has all evened out!  We are using an iPad app to track all of the feedings and diapers, and the girls are right on track with taking what they need to and also getting rid of what they need to.  Both girls are on small amounts of oxygen, so we have tubing all throughout our house, but it's been no big deal.

The girls checking out their living room!
 The first afternoon we came home, my dad was arriving from New York, so Lauren and my  mom left us alone with the babies for a few hours.  We decided to put their cosleepers up in our room (basically two bassinets, one on each side of the bed) and take a nap with the girls.  We got all settled in, both girls settled in and sleeping with about 2 hours before their next feeding was due.  We got in bed, and David and I remarked at how crazy it was that "we did it" and here they are, home with us.  As soon as we closed our eyes, little Sophia started crying! Both of us opened our eyes and looked at each other and grinned...here we go!  We ended up having to feed and diaper both girls again and wound up with about an hour of sleep, but we were deliriously happy, as crazy as that sounds.

We hadn't told anyone that both girls came home instead of just Sophia so that we could surprise my dad.  They came in and both girls were still sleeping in their cosleepers in our room.  We brought him in the room and I picked up Annabel to show to him.  He remarked that she looked so much bigger than in all the pictures and then said "Hi, Sophia!"  We all giggled and he asked why we were laughing, and I told him that it wasn't Sophia... he looked around and saw little Sophia in the other cosleeper and was so thrilled to see that both girls were home!

Grandpa meeting the girls
We took them on their first outing today to the pediatrician visit, and our girls are thriving!  We were admittedly a little nervous because the NICU nurses repeatedly warned us that if the girls went home and then didn't gain weight, they would end up back in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit).  Annabel weighed 5lb 10oz, which is above her birthweight, and significantly above where she was when she left the NICU, and Sophia weighed 4lb 14.5oz, which again, is significantly above her discharge weight and above her birthweight!  The pediatrician told us they were perfect babies.  We agree!  (As a side note, nobody has been able to hear Annabel's heart murmur since a day before she was discharged from the NICU, so we are crossing our fingers that it has closed.  We have an appointment with the pediatric cardiologist in 4 weeks for a follow up.)

The girls checking each other out at the doctor's office
Now we are just enjoying our time with the girls and getting used to their schedule.  We still have to feed them every three hours, whether they like it or not. I have to give a great big shout out to my awesome friends in the neighborhood.  They have been providing us with delicious meals since the girls have been in the NICU, and it has been an absolute lifesaver.  We are so, so grateful for them and for everyone who has reached out to help during this time (including our parents and Aunt Lauren, who have also been lifesavers!)


Annabel

We will continue to update the blog as we love to have a record of our girls, and we are so glad this is no longer a means of communicating about how our girls are doing on their NICU journey, and instead is now going to be documenting their journey at our home!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tonight, Tonight....

We've been given the all clear to "room in" with Sophia tonight!  She has been a champion feeder, and even though she lost a little bit of weight last night, they are not concerned at all.  I was getting ready to feed her last night, and she scared all of us by taking a yank on her feeding tube (it's just threaded down her nose into her belly and taped to her face) and pulling it out about an inch.  As I was calling the nurse over, and before I could stop her, Sophia reached up, grabbed the little tube and yanked the entire thing out of her stomach and nose.  Of course, I just about died when I saw the entire thing come out, but the nurses decided it was just her way of telling us that she was done having to be fed through it, so she was done having it in her nose.  They decided to leave it out since they were going to pull it out anyways... but what a scary moment for me!!

So, Sophia basically has one foot out the door and has her other toe tiptoeing out as well.  David and I will stay in a hospital room with Sophia by ourselves (no monitors, no nurses, just oxygen) and feed her all her feedings, do all of her care, etc. overnight.  It's optional for parents to do this in the 24-48 hours before they are discharged, but we would not pass up an opportunity to spend the night with one of our girls.  This will also enable us to go in for some of Annabel's late night feedings that we usually miss.  We are very excited!

Annabel is doing well, too. She did have one feeding gavaged (force fed down the tube) last night because she "didn't wake up."  So this morning, the neonatologist was doing her rounds and decided to also make Annabel an ad lib feeder--she gets fed as much as she wants when she wakes up instead of making her wake up every three hours and take a certain amount.  They just give us a minimum amount she has to drink in a 12 hour period.  For now, she still has her feeding tube, and she's still just as precious as can be.

Say a little prayer for us that Sophia gains some weight tonight and that we have a successful first night alone with one of our little ones!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

They warned us...

The NICU staff always warned us that it was highly probable that the girls would not come home on the same day.  They also told us that the "sicker" twin is often the one that takes off and sometimes goes home sooner.  When they told us that, Sophia was hooked up to a CPAP machine, had a hole in her lung and a chest tube draining air out of it, and we couldn't even talk to our baby girl because it overstimulated her to the point of her not being able to breathe.  When they told us that, we seriously questioned the ability of the staff to take care of our sick babies because what they were saying seemed absolutely absurd.  We had always mentally prepared ourselves that one would come home sooner, but in my mind at least, I was always prepared to have healthy little Annabel home a few days before Sophia, who had struggled so much for the first few days of her life.

Well, the tables have turned, and it looks like Sophia will get to come home before Annabel.  She has taken all of her feedings for 24 hours now, and is now an "ad lib" feeder...she has to wake up and eat on her own every 4 hours now and continue to gain weight.  If today goes well, her feeding tube will come out tonight!!  They told us today that if all continues well, she will be discharged on Saturday or Sunday (Monday at the latest).  Of course, we are so thrilled with this news and proud of our little girl (who is back up to her birth weight)!  Sophia is such a little feisty fighter!

Sophia tuckered out after a feeding on Tuesday night.
As if the NICU hasn't been enough of an emotional roller coaster, this news is definitely bittersweet.  On one hand, we have to celebrate Sophia's incredible progress and success, but on the other hand, Annabel is still struggling a little bit to take her feedings.  She always starts out taking them very vigorously...sucking, sucking, sucking, and then she seems to just stop.  She hits a wall about half way through, and it's very hard for her to come back from it.  From a mommy's perspective, it breaks my heart.  We burp her, we move her around, we talk to her, we kiss her, but once she hits her wall, she is too tired to feed, and too tired to finish her bottle on her own.  She tries SO HARD to eat her food, but she just can't pace herself yet.

And then the inevitable hiccups arrive.  Who ever thought a mom would cry over their baby having the hiccups?  Sweet little girl is all cuddled up in my arms trying to sleep and recover from her feeding sprint and she always--every single time--gets the hiccups, and there's nothing we can do to help her.  There's nothing David, I, my mom, or the nurses can do to "teach" her to slow down and finish her entire bottle in one feeding.  We just have to wait for what the NICU nurses call "the food fairy" to arrive.  And in the meantime, it kills me to see my otherwise healthy little girl laying in an isolet in a hospital just waiting for the next feeding time to come around to see if she can eat her entire bottle.  Everyone keeps telling us that soon this will be a distant memory for all of us and just a blip on the radar, and I completely believe that, but for right now, I wish there was something I could do to make life a little bit easier for my Annabel.

AnnieB all tuckered out after a feeding
 It's so hard to admit that my baby (Annabel) just isn't ready to come home with us yet.  The nurses remind us that they aren't even supposed to be having to do all these things--breathing, sucking, eating, etc.-- yet...they are only 36w3d gestation.  I know they are trying to make me feel better by telling us this, but I think it goes without saying why it's so hard for their mom, who is still supposed to be providing all of these things for them, to hear that.

Mommy Montero

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eat Babies, EAT!


Its day 9 of the NICU stay for our little ones and they seem to be doing very well. Sophia’s chest tube is gone, both girls are no longer on CPAP, the jaundice is gone, they are maintaining their body temperatures on their own, they are breathing regularly with the lowest amount of oxygen supplement possible, and they are digesting their food completely after each feeding. Feeding – that’s what I’d like to write about tonight.

Many of you have had children and I’m sure that the first few days or even the first week home was a challenge. There were probably sleepless nights in which you tried to get your newborn to eat. Well that’s where we are at now. They just need to eat. Sounds simple enough right? Well, let’s explore that statement from a NICU standard.

Eating – the baby must “nipple” (bottle feed) its maximum food intake for 24 hours straight.

Maximum intake??? How does one figure that? They haven’t shared their magical NICU mathematical formula with us yet but they did give us the grand total for each girl.

Sophia must eat 1.4 ounces of food every 3 hours or 11.2 ounces of Montero Milk in 24 hours. That equates to 15% of her body weight every 24 hours.

Annabel must eat 1.6 ounces of food every 3 hours or 12.8 ounces of Montero Milk in 24 hours. That also equates to 15% of her body weight every 24 hours.

15% of their body weight is the official term of release for our babies! Hmm – sounds a bit HEAVY to me.  That would mean I would have to eat 22.5 lbs. of food to get out of jail!!! I’m not going to ask all of you to post your release weights here, but take a minute to figure it out and then , just like I did, say out loud OMG!

These numbers prompted me to do a bit of internet research (my most intelligent wife has drilled this ritual into me).  I did a little bit of checking and here is what I found.

Hippopotamuses consume 1% - 1.5% of their weight every 24 hours.

Horses consume   1.5% - 2.5% of their body weight every 24 hours.

Cows consume 2.5% of their body weight every 24 hours.

Elephants consume 6% - 8% of their body weight every 24 hours.

Harbor Seals consume 8% of their body weight every 24 hours.

Manatees consume 10%-15% of their body weight every 24 hours.

Birds consume 25% of their body weight every 24 hours.



Astonishing right? I mean I have to compare my sweet little angels to … ummm … SEA COWS????

I once read about noetic sciences and the theories of collective consciousness. While I’m still unsure of the reality behind a collective group of people thinking the same thoughts being able to influence the outcome of specific situations, I would like for all of us to try it. I know many of you have put our babies in your prayers and we truly appreciate those prayers.

For the next few days, just for fun I think we should all collectively cheer our babies on in their gorging ritual. They will eat tonight at 8pm and then at 11pm, 2am, 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm – and so on …  So choose your time, or choose all of the times and cheer our babies on in their jail break efforts. Whether you chant EAT! EAT! EAT!, Whinee like a horse, moo like a cow, ^$*&^$* like an elephant, bark like a seal, gurgle-gurgle-moo like Sea Cow, or caw like a bird – let’s do it together and help our baby girls to eat, eat, eat!!!!



Father of Fanatical Feeding Phenomenon

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy One Week Birthday, Baby Girls!!

Sophia and Annabel are ONE WEEK OLD today!  It is kind of surreal. On one hand, it feels like they were just born, and on the other hand, it feels like they have been here for weeks!  It has been a very difficult week, but it has also been the happiest of times for us welcome these babies into our lives and hearts. We have spent countless hours bonding with them, snuggling them, and loving on them.

Sophia 1 Week Old!

Annabel 1 Week Old!


The girls have grown (figuratively speaking...they are still below their birth weight) so much in that week.  They are looking more and more like little newborn babies than tiny preemie babies, they are more alert every day, and Annabel is even wearing a newborn size outfit today instead of a preemie outfit!  Considering they are only 36 weeks gestation (or as David says, negative 4 weeks old), they are doing amazing things.  When the clock struck 12:28 today, we did a little cheers with out water cups to our sweet girls.

Our girls are officially just "feeders and growers" in the NICU!  They need to practice feeding and show the staff that they are growing and gaining weight (which they did last night!).  They need to take all of their feedings from a bottle for 24 hours, then "ad lib" feed (wake up on their own at least every 4 hours) for a certain amount of time, and then they can come home.  Both girls will probably come home on oxygen for a bit.  Yesterday, the staff told us they would be home in 7-12 days.  I'm definitely hoping for the shorter end of that.  There is also a strong possibility that one of the girls will get to come home before the other (Annabel will likely come before Sophia).

They were doing really well with their feedings, but Annabel has been a little pokey butt in her feedings, and half the time sleeps right through them.  The NICU staff tells us that with preemies, it seems like one day the food fairy will come in the middle of the night, and all of a sudden the girls will just take off with their bottles.  Both of them are serious hiccupers! Here's a little clip of Sophia and her hiccups yesterday.



Both girls have their belly button IVs taken out, which is a huge relief!  This morning, they took Sophia off of the Hi-Flow oxygen and she is now just on regular oxygen.  YAY!

The girls look completely different, so we joke that there is a Carney baby (blonde hair, light skin--Annabel), and then there is a Montero baby (dark hair and skin--Sophia).  Both of them have completely stolen my heart, and I truly can't imagine two more perfect babies.

The grandparents are thoroughly enjoying taking a few feeding shifts everyday and are getting in some good bonding time!


My mom even got to give Sophia her first bath in a "tub" (the others have all been sponge baths).

Annie getting a bath! 
Sophia watching Annie in the background




Saturday, December 3, 2011

Videos

Here are a few more videos we have taken of our sweet girls in their temporary home.


Double Trouble


Quite a bit has changed since last night. It seems so much can change in so little time. Late last night I went to the NICU with my Mom for their 11pm feeding. Annabel took 26 milliliters from the bottle in less than five minutes and her little sis (in size only) took 12 milliliters through the milk bong. Both of their little bellies were completely empty as were their diapers which mean they REALLY need to relax those bowels. I’ve had several poop talks with them but those girls just refuse to listen to their regular wise ole dad.



My mom went back to the NICU for their 5am feeding (thank you Mom!) and unfortunately Annabel didn’t want to wake up for a good dose of unpasteurized Montero Milk. Annabel “nippled” a bit of it and then she joined her sister in the world of milk bongs (a baby version of the ever-popular beer bong I frequently used in college). However, when we arrived this morning at 8am Annabel had digested all of her 2nd breakfast and was ready for breakfast number 3. Sophia had 5 milliliters of food left in her tummy which was eloquently shown to me by the nurse on duty. They both looked so sweet. For the past 3 days we have seen them in their birthday suit tanning and flailing about. But today they were swaddled tightly and sleeping like little angels with no billi lights. YAY!

Angel Sophia
Angel Annabel

We prepped Annabel for her bottle and once again another new nurse wanted to do the head to toe $19.99 jiffy lube check on her. I wish they would just keep the same people around so we wouldn’t have to hear a dozen different ideas of how one should hold, swaddle, diaper, burp, and feed a baby. For goodness sakes, people have fed their babies for nearly 26,000 years – I think WE can figure this out on our own! Hmmm let’s see … if the baby cries, don’t do it! If the baby chokes, take the bottle out! If the baby flails, wrap her up! Its rocket science I tell you, rocket science!  While nurse number umpteen completed her inspection, we moved on to prep Sophia for said nurse to do her inspection on her too. Sophia began to show signs of feeding readiness and I was able to convince nurse umpteen to get a bottle for Sophia instead of allowing the nurse to suck her stomach and then milk bong her 3rd breakfast for her. This was very exciting for me and Mary. It meant that we could actually feed both girls at once. After, finagling a half dozen tubes and wires for each girl we finally managed to create enough slack in the leads and lines so that we could remove the babies from their “cribs” ,which look more like an incubator than a crib, and sit next to each other for the feeding session. I found this particularly fun. It was a full on milk guzzling contest. I have to say that me and little Sophia left the competition in the dust! We then swaddled the little ones up for a good rest while we partook in some good ole hospital food – oh how I missed that food over the last 24 hours – NOT!

We returned from our “nutritional” supplementation just in time to meet with the nurse practitioner about Annabel’s heart murmur. Heart murmur! What?!?! I know, we didn’t mention it yet to many of our friends and family only because we were unsure of its severity. Luckily, it turned out to only a small hole which will eventually seal itself up and it has nothing to do with her prematurity. Phew, one less worry! I guess we are going to have a lot of these worries to face in the coming years. It was time to feed our little angels again. And the excitement returned. This time I had Annabel in my lap and Mary took Sophia. A true test of my daddy skills! Could I win another milk race? Once again, BAM! Not a chance team Daddy smoked team Mommy! I must admit this was more of a buy for our team due to the fact that the guzzler from the competition failed to wake up! Oh well, Sophia is definitely ahead on the milk bonging – I guess one could consider this an early start to college. Let’s hope this isn’t an indicator of how our savings will be spent! After I soaked up the sweet sound of victory (a burping baby) we were able to have some kangaroo care with the girls. Kangaroo care is the act of stripping (without a pole and topless only) and allowing your naked roo to sleep on your chest. I never thought that I would be fond of a marsupial’s maternity magic but it was quite magical. We stayed with our little ‘roos in marsupial form for half an hour of total bliss for parents and babies alike.
I've spared you from my 'roo anatomy!

It’s been a very stressful 5 days but now that we are starting to see double trouble in action, it’s really more like double the pleasure. I can’t wait for our babes to be home so we can enjoy many more of these special moments as a family.

Male Marsupial Montero

Friday, December 2, 2011

Happy :-)

It has been a fast 24 hours for us! I was discharged from the hospital yesterday around 10pm.  Even though we had just spent two hours with the girls, leaving them at the hospital while we came home was, hands down, the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  We both left a great big piece of our hearts with the girls and headed home to try to rest.  I must say, David may joke about the lack of sleep we are getting, but considering, we don't have babies at home or to even care for, we are seriously behind in the sleep department!

Now that we are home, David and I are trying to find a schedule that works so that we or another family member can be at the majority of Annabel & Sophia's feedings.  Feeding time includes changing their diaper- -David is SO far ahead of me-- and taking their temperature, in addition to 30 minutes of holding time with Annabel (until she comes out from under the lights, then it's pretty much unlimited) and feeding.  For at least the past 36 hours, Annabel has not had to be fed through her feeding tube.  We are ready for it to go away...one less wire!

It's challenging, and of course, it's unrealistic for someone to be there for the middle of the night feedings, but we are making it work as well as we can for now.  My mom and sister are here are able to go to the NICU without us, so they went to the 2pm feeding and fed them while David and I actually got some rest.  David's mom is arriving tonight for a week to meet the babies and to also spend some time with them.  It may sound silly, but it is really important to us that when they are awake and alert, they are surrounded by more than just beeping machines and "strangers" (although the NICU staff is wonderful).



Sophia Update:  Our little Sophia is doing so well, and as of today, she is OFF of the CPAP!  This is huge, huge, huge news as it has taken since Monday for her to wean off of it.  She still has a little bit of oxygen, but it's actually very common for babies in Colorado to need some oxygen due to the altitude, and they have warned us that one or both of them may actually come home with some oxygen.  We are so proud of our little girl!  The video above is of Sophia this morning (12/2) a few hours before they took the CPAP off completely.  We just love her.

She is still under the billi lights to combat the jaundice, but she doesn't seem to mind.  She is incredibly mellow, and considering all the poking and prodding this sweet girl has had to endure, she tolerates it so well and just looks around.  She is still being fed through her feeding tube, but that is primarily because of the CPAP machine, so we will see how that changes now that she is off of it.  Right now, I believe she is getting 3ml per feeding and digesting most of it (It's so crazy... their feeding tubes go directly to their stomachs, so right before each feeding, the nurses check for "residuals," which is basically what is left in her stomach after the last feed.  A lot of residual means they aren't necessarily digesting the food they are getting.  Sophia hardly has any, so that is great news.)  I don't know how else to say this without sounding crass, but girlfriend REALLY needs to poop, so that will be our next milestone (we are so obviously parents now that we get excited over poop).

When we were visiting this morning, the wonderful nurse let me hold Sophia for the very first time!  At this point she was still hooked up to her CPAP, but she was so awake and alert (perhaps even more than this sleepy momma was!).

Mom holding Sophia for the first time!
 Annabel Update: Little Annabel is still doing great!  We're going to go with the old adage "no news is good news" with Annabel.  But to give you an idea of how quickly she is progressing, at our last update she was still taking 3ml of milk each feeding..... well, now they are upping her amount every other feeding and for the last feeding she had...DRUM ROLL... 23 ml!!  For her weight right now, the goal is 46ml per feeding, and it should come from either the breast or the bottle, meaning she has to finish it all on her own (or else they will put it in her feeding tube).  

She isn't having an issue with residual either, so hopefully she is starting to store some of that fat and start gaining weight.  Last night, she weighed 5 pounds, so she has lost some of her starting weight, but they keep telling us that is completely normal in the first 10 days of life, especially with preemies.

When we came in this morning, we just about died when we saw how she was sleeping....
Evening out her tan

Her pacifier had fallen out and was shoved up against her little mouth!

She loves daddy's hands.

She was so content!  You probably hear David comment at the end of the video above that Sophia's sister would not have tolerated all that action so well--usually Annabel is a little fussy during diaper changes, but today, she was just as content as Annabel.  We are convinced it's because she's getting to know David and I :-)

I think that's it for now.  Keep praying for our little girls because so far, it's working!  We look back on the past 4.5 days and are astounded at how much has happened and how much progress they have made...I can't wait to see their progress 4 days from now!

We love you, baby girls!

Mary

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rise and Shine, Rise and Shine, and ... Rise and Shine!


I have spent many late nights playing video games, testing my liver and even long nights on the road. But our latest routine takes the cake. It goes a little something like this:

 We prepare to walk to down to the NICU at 10:30pm to feed Annabel at 11pm. We're allowed a whole half hour of time with her right now and then we return to the room by midnight. Then we set up the newly founded, well rounded, and HUGEly successful Montero Dairy. (I must refrain from sharing our proprietary trade secrets that detail the ultra-efficient operations of the family dairy as I’m bound to confidentiality by the production manager’s strict and loop hole free contract which is punishable by marital law in Colorado, New Mexico, and New York.) 45 minutes later we lay our heads down to rest for about an hour before the cycle begins again.

Ironically, I have been preparing my body for this lack of rest for 3 weeks. I must give thanks for my rigorous practice routine to my beautiful wife and sleeplessness coach, Mary. It seems nearly impossible to continue this insanity each time my iPhone alarm clock wakes me. But once we are with Annabel and Sophia the sleep sacrifice fades away as I see Annabel rise and shine.

This morning she was hungry once again at 5am on the dot. However, she had to wait a whole half hour! The NICU needed to draw blood, weigh diapers, check her fluids and digestion, and adjust her monitoring equipment while our little girl tossed and turned, cried, rooted (yes, rooted), and wailed. I gave in and put her pacifier in her mouth as the nurse (one of those that REALLY likes to chart) repeatedly sighed, stood up, and glared at me. I guess we were disturbing her charting! Finally, they released our baby to us (seems backwards doesn’t it?) so we could feed her. Again, she sucked down 3 milliliters of unpasteurized Montero Milk and vwalla the morning’s work was done for Annabel!
Full and Content Annabel


While Mary fed and cuddled Annabel, I snuck over a few times to whisper a few words of encouragement to Sophia. She is sound asleep and still medicated. They were able to lower her oxygen level from 41% to 35% and she seems to be stable. While we were there, they also tested her blood / gas levels and they hadn’t changed too much since last night. But she did digest 2 milliliters of the good ole unpasteurized Montero Milk! It seems she is getting a bit better, slowly and surely.

Well my “rest time” is up and we are off to the NICU again.



David

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Great Night!

We had a really great night!

Earlier in the day, the nurse practitioner came up to our room and told us that both Sophia and Annabel would be getting an IV line put in through their umbilical cord stumps because they had both had a hard time keeping IVs in their little veins.  They did the procedure on both girls this afternoon and everything went very well!  The hope is these IVs will stay in for about 2 weeks so that they won't have to keep poking our little ones.

We also found out that the surfactant seems to be working--Sophia's blood gas levels are significantly decreased (which is what we had hoped for)!!!  This is a big deal, and as of right now, she is beginning to heal herself, and hopefully won't have to get another round of the artificial surfactant.  They will continue to watch her overnight and do more blood work and an x-ray in the morning.

In other Sophia news, the hole in her lung seems to have sealed, and if that remains the case, she will have  her chest tube removed tomorrow as well.  If her chest tube is in fact removed, we will be able to hold our little Sophia for the first time tomorrow!

She also began receiving my breast milk in her feeding tube instead of the water, sucrose, and protein mixture that was being fed to her previously via IV.  Right now, she gets 2 ml (yes, milliliters!) every three hours, but we are very excited about it.



Cross your fingers that she continues to make progress! The nurses, nurse practitioner, and neonatologist (newborn baby doctor) have all told us that there is a chance Sophia could get better quickly and even catch up with her sister!  When I asked the nurse practioner if these were all typical concerns for a 35 weeker, she responded that it's typical in preemies but maybe just a little "dramatic" for a baby of her age-- I guess she takes after he mom!  We have all joked that it will be interesting to see if "dramatic" will define her little personality as she grows.

Although we haven't been able to hold her, she is already very clearly a daddy's girl.  There can be three doctors working on her (and thus upsetting her), and as soon as she hears her dad's voice, she is instantly soothed.

That's all the updates we have on Sophia, and we are hoping for the best and everyone is still confident that she is going to be just fine in due time.

Little Annabel continues to be a rock star preemie.  Her main objective right now is feeding and growing and tanning under the bilirubin lights that David so eloquently explained and ....reflected upon... in our last post.  We still get to hold her and snuggle her for 30 minutes at each feeding time, so that's good news.  She has the most expressive face I've ever seen on such a tiny baby and loves, loves, loves being held.  So far, she has been getting her milk from a feeding tube and occasionally a little syringe dribbled in her mouth, but we decided to try to put some in a bottle tonight and try to feed it to her (she has to be able to either nurse or bottle feed all the time to be able to come home) and she was a CHAMP!  She sucked down her 3ml in seconds and had no issues whatsoever with it.  She then sat up and burped a good burp.  David and my mom were both there and it was a very exciting event!




David even got to change a poopy Annie diaper! :-)



David and I will be heading home tomorrow, which is bittersweet.  While we are looking forward to going to our own home, it breaks our hearts that our baby girls will be staying behind.  The hospital is only about 10 minutes away from our house, but we already know how hectic it has been visiting them just a floor away!  We are still working out a schedule, but our hope is that someone (either me, Dave, my mom or sister) will be there for the majority of the girls' feeding times and beyond.  It's going to be a crazy few weeks until they come home....and it will only get crazier from there!


I think that's it for now...we so appreciate all of your kind words and your care and concern for our family.  It's going to be a long and winding road, but in the end, we will have our girls at home with us ready to meet you all!


Love, Mary

Hours into Days

          
It seems like we have had our little tube filled and wired bundles of joy for days now. Hmmm – I guess we have.

 This morning Annabel was once again wide awake for her 9am feeding. She was quiet as could be with wide eyed expectation. I think she is begging to learn when it’s time to have her tummy filled. She is really sweet and quite expressive too! She will begin her phototherapy today for jaundice and will probably continue to “tan” for another 3 days until the bilirubin leaves her system. Heh – Billy Reuben – I mean why don’t they call it Jilly Rueben, or Milli Rueben, or god forbid Willy Rueben or Dicky Rueben … humor it heals all wounds, riiiight? In all seriousness, it’s sad to now be limited to only 30 minute increments of QT with her.  

Annabel "tanning" under the lights.  Notice the cute eyelashes on her sunglasses.
Meanwhile Sophia continues to struggle to breathe on her own. The chest tube has relieved all the pressure caused from the air cavity in her chest and the doc thinks the hole in her lung has sealed itself but we won’t know for sure until tomorrow. They plan to pinch the tube early tomorrow morning and if all goes well, remove it by midday. However, it didn’t solve little Sophia’s breathing difficulties. The X-ray this morning showed that her lungs are still under a lot of stress. As a result, they introduced artificial surfactant into her lungs to help them to develop. An hour after the introduction, the blood / gas levels still had not improved. She is still receiving about 40% oxygen mix and she is both sedated and relieved from pain from various medicines. She seems to be breathing more easily but it’s hard to really tell given all the meds that are in her system.  They plan to monitor her for time being and see if her blood / gas levels improve. Ultimately, the doc says she is going to be ok with no long term problems but it’s terribly hard to see your baby girl laying there sedated, full of tubes, wired in every direction, and struggling to breathe to the point that your attempts to soothe her by talking to her or stroking her head may actually be detrimental to her progress.
Sophia getting a short reprieve from her CPAP face mask for a little face massage.

To end this post with some fun – here are some new and wonderful things that a husband gets to learn about life in the “ward” –

Ambulate – the act of a mother moving around the ward or to and from the NICU. (Personally, I think if one is going to Ambulate they should get a light and siren on their wheel chair)

Charting – what nurses do when they aren’t helping patients (we have had some nurses that seem to REALLY like to chart. I won’t mention any names  … cough, cough … Aletha)

Meshies – Super sweet see through mesh panties. (I mean a pregnant mom has to stay cool down under and still look super sexy)

Medical Housekeeper – a person who empties trash. (I don’t know why they need a mop, duster, and a cart full of chemicals to throw out the trash)

Feather Strokes - __________________ (ugg I have been censored, once again!)

 - Daddy David

First 24 hours - Sophia and Annabel


Hi Everyone, Thank you for all your support and inquiries. It's been a pretty eventful couple of days in the hospital for our newest family members. The good news is that Annabel is completely off CPAP and she is digesting her food while her vitals remain stable. This morning we spent a good 20 minutes with her while she was actually awake! It was very exciting for us all! Sophia continues her struggle with being able to breathe on her own. Since my last update there have been a few set backs in her progress. Sophia has been diagnosed with RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome). Her lungs didn't have a chance to develop fully and it's ended up being a bit of a challenge for her. Initially, the medical staff put her on CPAP but after 24 hours of lack of progress they took some XRays and found a small hole one of her lungs. The air she breathes has been escaping her lung and creating a a cavity of air in her chest which in turn compresses her lungs and makes it even harder for her to breath. The NICU staff unsuccessfully attempted to remove the pocket of air with a needle and syringe. In order to the keep the air pocket out of her chest while her lungs heal, she now has a tiny needle sized chest tube to release the pressure. She has been breathing well now for 18 hours but her lungs are still unable to process enough oxygen to sustain her vital functions on their own. She currently has been breathing air with a mixture of 42% oxygen and compared to room air which is 21% oxygen. The goal is to get her below 40% oxygen mixture before additional steps are taken to help our baby girl breathe. She has an Xray at 8am this morning to look at her lungs and determine what the next steps will be for her recovery. Annabel eats at 2am, 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm, and 11pm each day. We try to spend each of those feeding times with the babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit but it's quite a process to do so. Mary is still recovering from the surgery and it takes nearly 30 minutes to get her all set to "ambulate" down the NICU. Once we are there, we spend about an hour with the babies and then return to the room for an hour's rest before we do it all over again. Needless to say sleep has been a missing part of our routine. So, if we have been less communicative than normal, please bear with us as we are keeping busy with our new routine. We appreciate all the support that you have all given us! We can't wait to bring out babies home and the staff here has assured us that many premature babies face the same challenges that Sophia is currently facing and that she will make a full recovery! David and Mary

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meet Our Girls!

 November 28, 2011 12:28PM

Annabel Grace Montero
5lbs 8oz and 18.5”





Sophia Marguerite Montero
4lbs 11oz and 17.75”



 

6pm Update: Great news - Annabel is now able to fully breathe on her own. Sophia is working hard at it too but she's still attached to the CPAP. We're so proud of our baby girls! Mary and I are going to hold Annabel for the first time in 15 minutes. We'll have to wait until Sophia graduates from the CPAP to hold her :(



Thank you for you all your support and we look forward to the day that baby girls get to meet you all!


David and Mary