Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And Now...The Rest Of The Story

Edyn and Cayde, holding Declyn as a newborn, in 2009.

All three, much bigger, riding a turtle sculpture,
last fall.
While Ella has been the focus of my recent posts, she's only the most recent addition to our family. It would be inaccurate to tell only her part of the story. When I was first put on bed rest, it was like a call to arms. With an army of adults rushing to our aide, Edyn, Cayde and Declyn had a daily decision to make: to join or not join. Most of the time it was at least two out of three, but not always the same two.
The kids all knew that Ella was coming, that she was a "she" and that we would be expecting her in February. So, it has been difficult to explain concepts like hypertension, bed rest, premature delivery, etc. They are very smart, though, and capable of rolling with the punches most of the time. It never quite sunk in that I wasn't supposed to be up, getting snacks, checking their chores, tucking them in... I often felt like I was hurting their feelings by saying "No, I can't do that, but you can ask_________." Declyn seemed to adapt better in the beginning, though. He loves to cuddle with me and loved to rub my pregnant belly and talk to Baby Ella. He continued to do this, almost like he was happy to take whatever he could get. Edyn, my oldest and a classic first child, was eager to jump in with things she thought were fun, like making dinner with Uncle Marc and helping with Declyn. However, like any normal 8 year old going on 15, she realized that other not-so-exciting-tasks needed to be done, like dishes and laundry. Cayde pretty much acted like nothing had changed. Things went on almost without interruption, until I was admitted into the hospital. Then, with my husband at my side, my brother truly took over as the full time caregiver. Marc brought them up to the hospital the first night, so they could see me and I could try to explain what was happening. It was hard for all of us. I wanted to show them that I was fine and reassure them about Ella. Declyn had been with us all day, so he was getting testy. Edyn had questions that seemed beyond her years, specifically about my blood pressure and the baby. Cayde cried. Remember, he's the one that acted like nothing had changed. He's also the most sensitive of them all. My Cayde is this loud, funny, rough-and-tumble boy, but he's also the one that feels everything the deepest. You just wouldn't know it until he opens up. I held him and told him it would be alright. Then, my Mom took them home to bed. So, we were in a holding pattern until Ella was born. I saw the kids every other day. We filled the gap by talking on the phone, and at nap and bedtimes, I got a special phone call from Declyn, so that I could sing his good night songs.
When the news that Ella was born reached the kids, it was very anticlimactic, because they weren't able to see her. The baby sister that Edyn has been dreaming about, that Cayde has been curious to see, that Declyn has been talking to, the full size baby that we were to meet in February, came out too small and early. We had her 6 days before Christmas, but it was like a big Christmas surprise that no one could open. The kids couldn't even look at her through a window, because she was in NICU. We showed them pictures, but it's hard for a kid to get excited about a picture. In the mean time, I was finally discharged home. Things were far from back to normal. With twice a day trips to the hospital that, because of gas consumption, turned into me spending seven hours a day gone, it's like not being home. I leave mid-morning and get home just before dinner. The kids have taken it all in stride and, at least now, I can tuck them in at night. A week ago, I was allowed to take Edyn with me for a visit. We dubbed it our first girls' night with Ella, since my husband and the other boys stayed home. Edyn was so fascinated by her, touching her little hands and asking questions. Then, I took Edyn for a frosty and fries. It was nice to have some time alone with her. I know it was good for us both. Edyn finally got excited about her new sister.
Cayde broke my heart by telling my brother that he was sure he wouldn't be allowed to touch Ella because everyone kept telling him to settle down and be gentle while I was pregnant. So, I took him aside and told him how important he would be as an older brother and protector. I explained that in the beginning we would have to be very gentle, the way we are with eggs so we don't crack the shells. A little light bulb went on and I think he's a bit less apprehensive about this tiny thing coming home. He wasn't happy about Edyn going with me to meet Ella without him, but I told him he was just too young.
Declyn still tells me he loves my belly! It's funny, because my belly is shrinking. One day last week, though, he was looking at my belly and asked to see my "boo-boo" (we showed the kids my incision). When I showed him my now healing scar, he asked again what happened. I explained that the boo-boo was how we were able to get Ella out. He became very offended and demanded to know why we took her out. My husband and I made eye contact across the room, then we very gently explained that I was sick and Ella needed to come early. Then we reminded him that she was too little to come home, that she would stay at the hospital until she ate enough to get bigger. He accepted this explanation, as he accepts almost everything we tell him. Thank you, Jesus! He's at the age now where he will accept most anything we tell him as the final word.
Thankfully, throughout most of this experience, Rich has been off of work. Once I came home, he was able to resume full-time parenting and things at home came closer to routine. We are about to lose him to work, this next Monday. Edyn and Cayde will be back at school tomorrow, so that leaves Declyn and me. We will have to do some creative scheduling starting next week. I'm sure it will involve Uncle Mom again. The only thing of which we can be certain: this is all temporary. We will get back to normal, or rather, the new normal, where we are truly a family of six.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year's Resolution I Can Get Behind

Daddy got to hold her for only the
2nd time last night.
Kangaroo care.

Caught her smiling today.

Yesterday, I went to my 11am appointment with Ellowyn and found a bottle warmed and ready. I was apprehensive, because last time we tried a bottle feeding, she sputtered and choked and held her breath, causing her heart rate to drop, along with her oxygen saturation. I have to add that those are normal set-backs, because of her age and development. The pediatrician said it was fine and not to rush. That was on the 29th. So, yesterday, I gingerly offered her the bottle and she started sucking it down, swallowing it like a pro! It was like she'd resolved to learn to eat like a big girl this year. She got down over half of her bottle, then passed out, like a toddler face plants in a plate of spaghetti. Then, today we tried again, and she managed to take her whole meal from the bottle. I am so proud of my little girl.
The other fun development in our routine is once a day kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin contact. In the evening, when Ella tends to be more drowsy, I get to hold her against my chest. She is undressed to her diaper, so that we are "skin-to-skin." This is more than just a bonding exercise. Research has shown that kangaroo care actually stabilizes a baby's heart rate and respiration, while aiding in brain development. It also helps baby grow because while snuggling with mom for a nap, a baby's body doesn't have to work as hard to stay warm and burns fewer calories. Kangaroo Care, offered by the Cleveland Clinic is a great source for more information.
It made me a little nervous the first time we tried it, because Ella seemed unsure of the point, and took a little while to settle down and get comfortable. I just knew she was going to start crying and call the whole thing off. Then, she suddenly stopped moving and I realized she'd fallen asleep. It was so precious and now she seems perfectly happy to snuggle up with Mama. Everyday is a new experience for us both, and the speed at which she is growing is almost shocking. I am still curious to see how she transitions to coming home. I want her to be happy and feel safe when she gets here. I don't want her routine to be too disrupted, but I'm not sure how to avoid it. Our house isn't exactly quiet. But I am trying to subtly introduce elements in her current environment that can be part of her new one. My aunt and cousin bought this precious little, plush lamb that plays different soothing sounds. I took it this morning and put it in her isolette and turned it on after I put her back to bed. I did it again when I saw her this evening. I thought maybe, if she becomes familiar with the sounds from her little lamb, then maybe that same noise will make her comfortable at home. The nurses and doctor say that it's usually at their original term age, or 37 weeks, before preterm babies are ready to go home. Ella is officially 35 weeks today, so that's really just around the corner. As of this afternoon, she had gained half a pound from her birth weight, bringing her to 3lb 13oz. Also, she has grown three inches, to a whopping 17 inches long! Who grows 3 inches in two weeks? That's my miracle baby.