On the day Alicia was born and the news was broadcast over Facebook and other media, almost immediately the congratulations and well wishes began to flood in. "Congratulations!" "So happy for you!" people would say. And under normal circumstances these words would be received with much joy and elation. However, given the condition in which Alicia was born, the sentiment, "congratulations" while, appropriate and appreciated, felt a bit, well . . . odd.
Yes! We have a daughter, "a living female" as her birth certificate states, and that is cause for celebration. But I spent the first hour of her life sitting outside the NICU, exhausted and wondering if she was going to make it. Definitely didn't feel like celebrating. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all the congratulations and I do believe that we do have an amazing gift, one for which we are very grateful and excited about. We are parents! We are a family. However, at least for the time being, being parents and having a daughter has brought on a bevy of questions, doubts, fears and concerns that we were just not prepared to handle.
Before Alicia was born, our biggest concerns were, "Where are we going to put her crib?" "What kind of stroller are we going to use?" "What kind of schedule are we going to put her on?" We dreamed of singing with her and playing with her, teaching her things about life and about God. We prepared ourselves for weeks of sleepless nights, while she adjusted to life outside the womb. And then BAM! Now it's all about, "Is she breathing?" "Is she getting enough oxygen?" "What do we do about the hole in her arteries?" "Make sure you disinfect before you touch her." "It's 6:30. We better go or we'll be late for visiting hours." "What are those tubes sticking out of her body?" "Is there something wrong with us?" "What would have caused this?" "She's so small." "Why is she so pale?" "What's that black stuff coming out of her feeding tube?" "Why are the alarms going off?" "Is she pooping on her own?" "When can she start drinking milk?" "Will her body be able to digest the milk?" "What about the blood in her brain?" "How long will she need to be in the hospital?" "Will she have any lasting damage or problems from her early birth?"
Congratulations! As if parenthood weren't enough of an adjustment in and of itself, here's a whole load of other crap for you to deal with!
And on top of that, let's be honest, Alicia at this point doesn't look like a typical baby. She's tiny! And as much as all of you tell me that she's adorable and beautiful. Let's face it, she's a far cry from the cute, rosy-cheeked babies we see in diaper and baby food ads. She's scrawny, wrinkly and oddly hairy. Kind of cross between an old woman and a monkey. Haha. (Sorry, Alicia, if you're reading this in the future. But Daddy's just being real.) Now, OK, before you all crucify me for talking down about my daughter, please understand that I love her, and I think she is very cute and adorable, and I wouldn't trade her for anything. I also know that she will fill out and plump up. But honestly, at this point, upon first-viewing she elicits more gasps and silence than coos and awws.
Anyway, all of this to say, these past few weeks have been a far, far, far cry from what Linda and I imagined our first couple of weeks of being parents would be.
The great news? We're not alone. First of all, we have all of you. I'll never get tired of saying how big of a difference your love and support has made in our lives. Second, after recently getting a hold of some books on premie care and reading about the "typical" fears and questions that new parents of a premie have, I realized, we're completely "normal!" For some reason, I thought that everything we were going through and thinking about was unique to Linda and I. I know there are millions of other premie babies born each year. But I thought that no one else felt the way that we did. I guess I thought that since each baby is unique, that each parents' experiences and thoughts were unique as well. And yes, I think that that is true somewhat. But last night, as I started to read this book about premie care, I felt like the author had been reading my blog or listening in on Linda and my conversations and then transcribed them into the book.
Good to know that we're not crazy. =) haha.
By the way, I have to thank a couple of our friends for sending us a couple of books on premie care. You know who you are. Life savers I tell you. I think being able to read and process and get some more information about what we're going through from some experts in the field, has been a huge help. It makes all of this less overwhelming, reading about other people's experiences. It helps to be able to get an overall picture of what we've been through and what we potentially might need to face in the future. It makes things less daunting.
In other news, Alicia's 阿公 [a gong] (grandpa) has arrived on the island. Yahoo! It's so good to have my dad here with us. I never felt more like a child than the night that Alicia was born. Oh, the irony. Becoming a father made me feel like a child. (Deep, I know.) Anyway, it's good to have my dad here. He brought many goodies from you loved ones back in the states. Thank you, everyone! You guys are a huge blessing.
A Gong got to meet Alicia for the first time last night. I felt so proud to introduce Alicia to A Gong and I was excited to have him pray a blessing over her. Dad's first reaction to meeting Alicia was silence. Not an unhappy silence, but an awe-inspired silence. I think he was, as many others are, quite taken aback by the tiny person in the incubator. I wasn't sure, but I think he was a bit choked up as his heart melted at the sight of his precious granddaughter-- his first grandchild -- so tiny and fragile hooked up to so many lines and IVs. It was really sweet to watch Grandpa greet Alicia and then gingerly reach in the incubator and touch her hand. Made me think about what my dad must have felt the first time he saw me and then introduced me to his father. I look forward to seeing how Alicia's relationship with her grandparents is going to blossom. I think it's going to be beautiful.
As for Alicia, we have progress! Thank you all for your prayers. There is power when we all come together in agreement before the Father.
The blood has cleared from Alicia's body and she has started to drink milk! Go, baby! Praise the Lord. Linda practically cried when the nurses told her that they were able to feed Alicia some milk yesterday. And as of last night, Alicia has responded well to the milk and her body has been taking it in and digesting it. Whoo hoo!
Also, seeing her for the first time in a couple of days, I couldn't help but notice that she looked different again. My ever-metamorphosing daughter. She had her eye mask off last night, so I was able to see her face more clearly for the first time. She is really a beautiful, adorable little child, albeit not the typical looking baby, yet. =) Still can't quite figure out who she looks like. But she does have a lot of hair. Head to toe. Seriously, she looks like an adorable little monkey.
So prayer requests:
1. Praise and thanksgiving that Alicia is now feeding. We pray that this will continue and that she'll be able to take in more and more milk so she can grow stronger and healthier.
2. She's still having problems breathing, and still has the apnea where she forgets to breathe. So pray that her brain and her lungs would both develop so that she can get the oxygen she needs.
3. There is still blood in the brain. But doctors don't seem too concerned yet. As of now, they're only checking once a week for that. So we'll keep you posted after her next checkup. Pray that the blood would get absorbed and disappear.
4. Her PDA is still there and hasn't closed. Pray that God would perform a miracle and get that closed off soon.
5. Our girl is also pooping a little on her own now. So we have progress there too. And her poop according to the doctors is no longer black from the old blood, but green. So that's improvement.
6. Please pray for Alicia's emotional health. The environment of the NICU is a far cry from the womb. It's loud, there are many bright lights, and she's constantly getting poked and prodded. Things that her tiny body isn't quite ready to handle yet. Also, I can only imagine what a newborn who is totally helpless to communicate and unable to comprehend her environment must feel when all she's doing is lying there and then all of a sudden giant hands grab a hold of her and stick something uncomfortable in her arm or down her throat. Just thinking of it makes me think of those horror films that Linda and I try to avoid. So pray, pray that God would communicate with her and help her to understand why all of these things are being done to her and that they are only temporary. I don't want her to start to associate "touch" with "pain."
7. Along those lines, pray that Alicia would be able to gain weight and get off the ventilator soon. The sooner she can do that, the sooner we can actually hold our little girl and bond with her.
Alicia is reaching the end of her second week of life, which is a huge thing to celebrate. If she's made it two weeks then prognosis is great that she can make it all the way.
I have faith that our daughter is going to be alive and well. She is quite the fighter and already quite the miracle.
And please if there is anything that Linda and I can be praying for you guys about, please don't hesitate to email us or let us know. While this situation is definitely stretching us, we are quite aware that we are not the only ones in the world that have challenges. So if we can be a help or support to you guys, please don't not tell us because you're afraid of burdening us at this time.
To end on a happy note, I say that Alicia is quite a lucky girl. In the future, she'll get to have two birthdays. The day she was born, and the day that we get to take her home from the hospital. And that is definitely a cause to celebrate!