Saturday, July 30, 2011

At Last

At last, at last, at last!

At last, I got to hold my baby girl in my arms. At last, I got to feel her tiny weight nestled against my chest. At last, I had to chance to look at my daughter and to have her see me without a plate of plastic obstructing our view. At last.

Was it everything I imagined it would be? It was more. Definitely, more.

Our visit this evening started off like any other. We went in, washed our hands, put on our scrubs, then took our place besides Alicia's incubator. She was sleeping as usual. We greeted her quietly without wanting to wake her up, and then for the next half hour, proceeded to take turns holding our little girl with the palm of our hands. As we sat there, Linda commented on how things were a lot quieter tonight than in the morning. And told me, "Maybe you'll get to hold Alicia tonight." I just kind of brushed her comment aside, not wanting to get my hopes up.

About 20 minutes into the visit, one of our favorite nurses came over for a chat. We got to talking about how well Alicia was growing and Linda shared with her that she got to hold Alicia yesterday morning. Knowing Linda, she wasn't sharing with the nurse just for the sake of sharing with the nurse. Linda has an amazing ability to suggest things to people without actually coming right out and saying what she means. And somehow, people always understand her. So upon hearing that Linda had held Alicia the day before, the nurse got really excited. She was really happy for Linda and said that actually Alicia is doing a lot better, and she's really stable, which is why Linda was able to hold her. Then she said the magic words that I'd been waiting all day yesterday and today to hear. She asked, "Daddy, would you like to try holding her?" I didn't dare believe it. The moment I'd been waiting for. "Really?" I asked, "Could I?" "Sure! After visiting hours just wait a while, and we can let you hold her." My heart lept. Could it be true? Was I finally going to hold my little girl?

The nurse stood by us and talked to us a bit longer. She even said that from her observation of Alicia, she's stable enough to do Kangaroo Care. And actually she and the other nurses really want us to be able to do it as soon as possible because they know what a difference it can make for the kid. But, she said, it depended on whether we were OK with it, and of course, whether the doctors felt Alicia was stable enough. Of course, Linda and I told her emphatically that we were OK! And we were ready, whenever the doctors felt that Alicia could do it.

I stood there listening to Linda and the nurses conversation, but I could barely concentrate for anticipation of what was to come. Usually, I feel that visiting hours end too soon, but tonight, I couldn't wait for them to be over. The sooner everyone left, the sooner I could have my baby in my arms.

Finally, we heard the announcement that we usually dread. "Dear Family Members, visiting hours are over, please come back tomorrow to see your children." Suddenly from across the room, these pink partitions started floating over in our direction. I was confused. These are the partitions they use to give parents privacy as they're doing Kangaroo Care. I didn't think we were doing Kangaroo Care, so I thought maybe the screens were for someone else.

But suddenly, the partitions stopped beside us, and the next thing I knew we were being enveloped in a curtain of pink. Were we doing Kangaroo Care? Linda, I guess, had the same thought, because as the nurse went over to the incubator to get Alicia, she asked, "Are we doing Kangaroo Care?" The nurse kind of smiled and said, "Oh, no. Not yet. Besides to do Kangaroo Care, you'd need to take a shower first." OK. Slight disappointment. But who cares! I was going to hold my daughter.

One of the other nurses pulled a stool over, and Linda told me to sit on it. The nurse opened the incubator and there was our precious girl. One of the other nurses poked her head around the partition and asked what was going on. The nurse handling Alicia told her that she was taking her out so that we could hold her. Then one after another the other nurses started coming over wondering what was going on. One by one the nurses were told that "Daddy is going to get to hold Alicia." All the nurses started to get excited. Eventually, one of the nurses was like, "Why do you have these partitions up? We want to see too." So the partitions were removed, as the nurse picked Alicia up, wrapped her in a towel, detached her ventilator, pulled her out and placed her in my arms.

My arms accepted my daughter like they were created for the sole purpose of holding her. She fit into my arms so perfectly. I had the biggest, goofiest grin on my face and I could feel my eyes watering. At last. My daughter. At last.

Alicia did so well in my arms. She didn't cry or give any sign of being uncomfortable. She did flinch a little at the light, but she was so content in my arms, and I was so content just holding her. I could have sat there for hours.

We took picture after picture of the momentus moment. Family shots, close ups of Alicia, Daddy and daughter, then a big group shot with all the nurses. We were quite the site. Good thing no one else was around, except Kai Ge's mom behind us. She was happy for us too. The doctor came over at one point just to check and see if Alicia was OK. And she was, so he left us alone.

Too soon, it was over. The nurse asked Linda if she would like to hold Alicia, because we needed to put her back in to rest. I handed Alicia over to Linda and let her hold her for a few minutes. Then it was back into her plastic royal chambers.

The nurses kept joking that Alicia was going to get addicted to being held. I think Linda and I are already addicted to holding her.

Linda and I compared notes about how we felt the first moment Alicia was placed in our arms. And the feeling that we both had was that it felt right. It felt like she belonged in our arms. She is ours.

There is nothing like, holding your daughter and having her look at you with her big doe eyes. Granted, she did look a bit confused, kind of like, "Uh, Why you all up in my face?" haha. But she did settle down and just kind of looked around like, "I like this. This is cool."

It's strange to think that it took 2 months for us to be able to hold our daughter. Before yesterday, I hadn't given any thought to how odd it is that we hadn't held her yet. But after hearing about Linda holding her, and now having held her myself, I can't believe we went that long.

Great news is that us being able to hold Alicia means she's on the up and up! 1026 grams today. Who knows how much more she'll be tomorrow! Keep growing baby girl! Mommy and Daddy are so proud of you and we can't wait to bring you home when we can hold you and love on you whenever we want. =)

Update: Linda just read the blog and informed me that when she shared with the nurse about getting to hold Alicia, her sole purpose was only to share the great news with her, since that nurse has been so sweet to us. She was not trying to hint at the nurse in anyway. So the whole thing was all God. Thank you, Daddy, for the amazing opportunity to hold our little girl. Thank you for opening the doors and placing it on the nurses heart to give me the chance to hold her. Thank you for loving us and blessing us with so many little gifts each and every day. I'm sorry, that sometimes we forget to acknowledge your goodness, for truly every good and perfect gifts comes from you.

Family Reunion

It's been a week since I left Linda and Alicia and went back to work. Starting work again has been a mixed blessing. It's been good to get back to a normal schedule and to be doing something productive again. It's also been nice to be back in my own house, in my own bed. However, it is hard being away from the girls. Not getting to see them every day is no fun. But I trust that they are in God's hands and it's really fun to come back and to see how much Alicia has grown in just one week.

They started visiting hours early last night, so by the time we got to the NICU, the doors were already open, so after washing our hands and putting on our smocks, we just went right in. Alicia was in her usual spot and she was resting peacefully. The other mothers whom we've become friends with now, greeted me and welcomed me back warmly as I stepped closer to get a better look at my little girl. She looked good, definitely bigger than the last time I saw her. I spoke to her, opened the incubator and put my hand through and laid it over her. As I did, she stirred a bit and opened her eyes. I started to talk to her again, but Linda told me to wait and just to let her rest. So I did.

We sat there for awhile like that, just holding and watching our sweet girl. Eventually, she did wake up a bit and we talked to her in quiet voices. I don't remember at which point Linda noticed, but sometime during our visit she pointed out that Alicia's heart was racing faster than normal. Her heartrate is usually at about 160 or 170 beats per minute. Last night, her heartrate was up to 190. Linda says that she must have been excited to see me. That made me smile. She didn't really stir too much and show me any signs that she recognized me or was glad to see me. But I do feel that in her spirit, she does sense me and know when I'm around.

I was hoping that since they'd let Linda hold her yesterday morning, that maybe I'd get my chance last night. No such luck. It's OK. Holding off will just make that moment that much sweeter when I do get to hold her.

Last night, out of curiosity, I pulled back her cover to check out her legs. Man, they'd grown! Definitely saw signs of fat rolls. Made me happy.

This morning when we went to see her, Alicia again was sleeping, but she seemed really happy. She had this sweet smile on her face as she was sleeping, and when she heard my voice the corners of her mouth curved up some more. I have no idea if she was smiling in response to my voice, or if she’s even capable of doing something like that. But it warms my heart to think that maybe my daughter does recognize and enjoy hearing my voice. The nurses tell us that Alicia actually smiles a lot. =) That’s good. I like that we have a happy baby.

We’ve also been told that she’s really smart and has a bit of a naughty streak. Hmm… I wonder where she gets that from. Haha. (Oh, for those of you who don’t know. I’m actually a bit of a prankster.) Alicia apparantly, at some point this past week, was somehow able to push herself so far that she tumbled out of her makeshift bed inside the incubator. Don’t worry, she didn’t actually fall out of the incubator, and she wasn’t actually hurt, but the nurse definitely got a scare. Hearing this story, I still have no idea how that is physically possible, but our daughter, she somehow figured out a way. She also apparantly is quite aware and smart. They’ve got this monitor that they tape to one of her appendages. It’s a light that monitors her blood oxygen levels. The problem with this monitor is that whenever Alicia moves, it will have a hard time getting an accurate reading, so the monitor will show that her blood oxygen levels have dropped, setting off the alarm, causing the nurses to rush over. Yeah, well, our daughter, according to the nurses, always knows which hand or foot the monitor is on. Whenever no is really watching her, she will move the appropriate hand or foot setting off the alarms. The first few times it happened the nurse thought it was just a fluke, so she did an experiment. She moved the sensor from one foot to the other, then from foot to hand, then to the other hand. Each time, Alicia knew exactly which one to move to set off the alarms. Smart little girl. I mean, I don’t know if it’s a conscious thing, but either way, smart little girl. =) The nurse was wondering if maybe Alicia was a bit insecure, and that’s why she always likes to have someone watching her. Linda thought about it and told her, that it’s more likely that both she and I like to interact with people, and Alicia has probably inherited that from us. Haha… so young and already loves the spotlight. I think we’re going to need to watch out for that.

And all y’all uncles and aunties, don’t you be spoiling our little girl. =) Haha. I know the temptation, but you just be careful. =)

As far as the stats go. Alicia is up to 1026 grams today! Soon and very soon, we’ll get to get her off that ventilator and we’ll get to bring her home. At about 1200 grams, they think she’ll be strong enough to get off the ventilator, so we pray for that weight to come quickly. Then at about 1500 grams if everything is stable and she’s eating and breathing on her own then she can move to the step-down unit upstairs. Then when she’s over 2000 grams and everything is going well, we’ll get to take her home. When all of this started, that day seemed so distant, it felt nearly non-existant. But now we can see it as if we’re in a plane circling for a landing looking at the city down below us. We can see the destination, but we’ve still got sometime before we arrive. But we will get there we will.

Her breathing is doing better and better. Today, I saw that her settings were down to about 25% - 30% oxygen when she’s eating. I asked the nurses what her normal settings are like, and she said that she can breathe pretty well at about 21%-25% oxygen. Now we just have to get the other vent setting down, the frequency of vent puffs. Right now she’s getting about 15 puffs/minute by vent. We want to get down to where she can breathe on her own as much as possible.

In other news, the twin boy who’s sister had passed away, is doing really well! He’s actually graduated from our NICU and is now upstairs in the step-down unit. We look forward to the day when we can also move up. But in the meantime we just stay thankful for each day that we do have with our sweet girl.

As always thanks for all of your prayers and love. We appreciate all of you!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Day for Celebration

My heart is so full right now. It's been an amazing day of milestones, and it's only half over!

First milestone, Alicia is 2 months old today. Man, do they grow quickly. I'll admit that going through it, sometimes it does feel like time is crawling, but when I look back, I can't imagine that it's already been two months! We've made it two months, and the journey has barely begun.

Second milestone, Alicia has finally, FINALLY, broken 1000!!! Yahoo! She's 1006 grams today. Bigger and bigger each day. I'm so so thankful. The bigger she gets, the more strength she'll have to be able to breathe on her own, and the more mature her organs and muscles will be. And the sooner we can bring her home.

Third and greatest milestone of all, Linda got to hold Alicia for the first time today! After her morning visit with Alicia, the nurse asked Linda if she would want to hold Alicia. And of course, Linda jumped at the chance. So the nurse told her to just hang behind a bit after visiting time, and once the other parents had cleared out, they'd let Linda hold her. I wish I was there to see it, but just hearing Linda tell me about it, I felt my tears welling. Linda said that they were pretty quick about disconnecting the vent, pulling her out, reconnecting the vent and wrapping her up, and then placing her in Linda's arms. Alicia was asleep when they took her out. But as Linda held her, she opened her eyes and started looking around even smiled a bit. Linda said that it was, naturally, an amazing experience -- so different than just touching her and looking at her with a plastic barrier limiting your interactions. As I listened to Linda tell me about this precious moment, my heart ached to wrap my daughter in my arms, to hold her and touch her and have her be close to me. My time will come soon, I'm sure.

There's also lots to pray about today.

1. Alicia is still on the vent now after two months. The good news is her vent settings are pretty low. However, she still has a bit of trouble when she's eating, but she's getting better. Also, she's still not strong enough yet to breath on her own. Doctor said this should improve as she packs some meat on her bones. The bigger she gets the stronger she should get as well. They've tried setting the vent to manual, and letting Alicia try to breathe on her own. And she's able to do it for a few minutes, but then it ends up being too taxing on her. So the doctor says she needs to be on the vent for a bit longer. She's guessing that maybe by about 1200 grams she should be stronger and be able to breathe better on her own. Let's pray that it'll happen sooner than that.

2. She's still got a lot of mucus that they need to clear out intermittently. But again, nothing to worry too much about. We pray that this will clear up soon.

3. Doctors have done a brain scan, and she's still got the lesions in her brain. However, after observing her movements and muscles, the great news is that they think she's developing pretty well. They'll definitely need to keep checking up on her and have the physical therapist do follow up examinations to check on her development as she grows. Pray for her muscles and physical development.

4. Alicia had an eye appointment earlier this week. They doctor found some abnormal blood vessel growth near her iris, most likely caused by her extensive use of the oxygen. At first, when her ROP was only at level 1, they only did eye exams once every couple of weeks. Now, with this new growth, they'll be doing exams every week. Right now, they're using some medicinal eye drops to stunt the growth. But these drops have limited effectiveness. Pray that her eyes would develop healthy and strong.

5. We've asked when we might be able to do Kangaroo Care (getting to hold Alicia skin to skin for extended periods of time). Kangaroo Care has proven to be extremely beneficial for children and parents. Doctor says that she needs to be a bit bigger. Of course, my natural instinct and desire is to do it as soon as possible. In fact, some hospitals do let parents do it even if the kid is on the ventilator. But at our hospital, they want her to be off the ventilator. So we just trust the doctors. My sense is that once we can start doing this, Alicia will grow in leaps and bounds. Pray with us that this can happen soon and very soon.

I believe the main thing right now is to get her bigger and stronger. She's eating up at 17cc per feeding now. So that's great. I feel like all the things she's struggling with right now will resolve themselves as she gets bigger. Once she's bigger, she can breathe better on her own. When she can do that, she can get off the ventilator. Then she won't need to use the oxygen that is so damaging to her body, which will hopefully stop the abnormal blood vessel growth in her eyes and clear up the mucus. Then we can do Kangaroo care and that will hopefully help her and us to bond even more and then she can grow even faster and stronger.

So BIGGEST prayer, that she will be stronger and stronger!

I'll be going down to see my girls tonight. I can't wait to see them and give them both HUGE HUGS.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Faith and Righteousness

I’ve started working again. I have to admit, while I hate the idea of being away from Linda and Alicia, it is good to get back to a routine and to be productive again.

Any of you who have been following this blog know that during my weeks off, one of my greatest struggles was trying to be productive with my time. I struggled with wanting to do things and to be accomplished, but not having the energy or motivation to do it. I felt like I was being lazy, yet I really couldn’t get myself to do anything worthwhile.

I think a lot of my struggle comes from a few things. The first thing is my desire to provide for my family. As the head of my household, I do feel the responsibility of providing is on my shoulders. This doesn’t mean that it’s solely on my shoulders, as in Linda can’t work or earn money. But the choice came down to Linda or I working, I believe that it should be me. Of course, there are other ways to earn money too, but I won’t get into that here. My point is, I had two months off, and instead of being thankful for the rest, I felt guilty. I felt like I wasn’t doing my part to provide. But as I write this, I feel God gently stirring my heart saying, that to provide for a family is so much more than just making money. Wow. Epiphany.

The second part of my struggle comes from my desire to do great things.

We have chapel every morning where I work. And on Monday mornings, chapel is a time to prepare for the week’s work and also to update everyone on company business. Yesterday, they showed a trailer for a new theme park they are building in China. The theme park is based on a series of books created by Davy Liu, a Christian animator who used to work for Disney. Davy has written and illustrated a series of children’s books based on stories from the Bible like Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Moses and the Red Sea, etc… These books tell these Bible stories from the perspective of various animals that were a part of these events. It’s really interesting stuff. I really admire Davy, because he’s taken the talent that God has given to him and he’s making something great out of it. All this to say that, when I saw the trailer for the theme park, something bubbled up in me and I started thinking again, “When will it be my turn?” And again I struggled. Wondering if my time will never come, because I’ve wasted too much of my time in the past.

My Daddy God is so sweet. This morning, even though I wasn’t actively seeking to find the answer to my struggle, he gave me the answer. Over the past few days, I've been reading about Abraham, one of the great characters of Biblical history. I’ve read this story, many times, but today as I was reading, one line jumped out at me. Genesis 15:16 – “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

God had given Abraham, or Abram, as he was called at that time, a series of promises. And after some discussion with the Lord, Abram believed that what God said would happen, would happen.

Now the reason this verse jumped out at me was because God immediately brought to mind another passage in the Bible. Matthew 6:31-34 – "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Did you see it? “Do not worry about these things. But seek first his kingdom and his RIGHTEOUSNESS. Again, I’ve read this verse more times than I can count, and I’ve always wondered, well, great, but what is his righteousness? How can I seek something, if I don’t know what it is? I always thought righteousness was simply to do good, to do right. But now I realize, that there’s more than that. Abram believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness.

So if I put these two verses together, it seems that God is simply asking us to believe. He wants us to believe that his promises will be true, this is righteousness.

Now this isn't to say that I can just sit on my butt, and just believe that good things will happen and it will. But it does mean that I shouldn't worry. That I keep walking with the Lord, and following him, believing in his promises and his goodness and he will take care of the rest. I feel like I'm probably repeating myself, but it was just something that God showed me this morning once again in a new way, so I thought I'd share.

About Alicia, exciting news! She as of last night's weighing is 998 grams! She's probably over 1000 grams by now! Yahoo! She's getting closer and closer to being able to get out of that incubator, and we're getting closer and closer to being able to hold her. Now we just have to get her off that ventilator.

Please pray for that. We're praying that we can hold her by August 8 - Taiwanese Father's Day! =) Another thing to pray about is her eyes. Her ROP is still at level 1, but the doctor saw a potential problem with her eyes. They didn't elaborate on it, other than to say that it was probably nothing to worry about, but they're going to do a followup appointment next week to see how she's doing. Pray that if there's a problem, that it would go away, whatever it may be.

Soon and very soon our family will be together back home once again. I believe. I believe! We keep moving forward in faith. In a way, that's all we really can do. =)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pounds vs. Grams

Having lived most of my life in America, I'm definitely more used to talking about weight in terms of pounds and ounces. You tell me a baby weighs 9lbs 5oz and immediately, I can be like, "WOW that's a huge baby!" Not so much with grams and kilograms. But I have to admit, using the metric system to track Alicia's weight definitely makes things a whole lot more exciting. =)

Case in point. Alicia weighed in at 956 grams as of last night--a 30-gram increase from the night before. Thirty grams! Definitely more exciting than saying she weighed in at 2.1 lbs gaining .06 lbs. Haha.

Anyway, no matter how you measure it, Alicia's getting bigger! And we are so thankful. She's been averaging around 20 grams a day. So if she keeps this up, she should break 1000 in a few more days. That'll be a day to celebrate.

Not only is she gaining weight, but she's also breathing better and better. Today during both of our visits she was able to breathe air that has about a 25% saturation and still maintain her blood oxygen levels at about 96-98%. Unfortunately, she was only able to keep it up for a few minutes before her oxygen levels dropped and they had to raise the saturation again. But the great news is that even when they did raise it, the highest saturation they needed to use was about 40% oxygen. This is a huge improvement from the past. In the past she needed about 50%-60% oxygen on a regular basis. Room air is 21% oxygen, so the more efficient her body can get at pulling oxygen from lower saturations the better.

She had one episode of apnea (where she forgot to breathe) today right before evening visiting time. When we got in there, the nurse was working on waking her up and getting her blood oxygen levels back to standard. The good news is that these apneas are fewer and farther between. For the most part she's breathing pretty well on her own. Sometimes she might get uncomfortable and tense up and hold her breath. During these times, naturally her oxygen levels drop. But thankfully, once she settles down she's usually fine.

Speaking of being uncomfortable, our little girl is getting stronger and stronger. Today during our morning visit, she was pretty active, moving her arms and legs quite a bit. Suddenly, she reached up to her mouth, wrapped her hands around her "lollipop" and yanked it out. It was really cute. She was obviously done sucking and didn't want it anymore. Funny thing is she was writhing about a bit before pulling out the lollipop. I guess she was trying to get comfortable. Once she yanked it out, she settled down and went straight to sleep.

Our little girl, so full of life and vigor. It's really great to see.

It's also great to see how much the nurses all coo over Alicia. She definitely is a favorite in the NICU. In the past when I delivered milk or diapers outside of visiting hours, I'd always have to say, "This is for bed 13." The other night before they opened their doors for us, a couple of off-duty nurses walked out of the NICU, and for some reason, one of them was saying, "Aleesa, Aleesa" over and over in the intonation they use whenever they're trying to wake Alicia up. I smiled at them and asked if something was up with Alicia. The nurse kind of looked at me embarrassed as if I had caught them in a private joke. So it made me wonder if the nurses all know Alicia by name by now. So as an experiment this morning when I dropped off some milk, I told the nurse who greeted me, "This is for Alicia." Without batting an eye, she said, "OK. I'll take care of it." Nice. =) I like it that they know our daughter by name and not just a number.

Oh, and by the way, "Aleesa" is not a typo. That is how all the nurses, doctors and other mothers who know us refer to our daughter. =) I guess the "SHA" sound is a bit hard for Chinese speakers. We don't mind. Aleesa is kind of cute. Linda was saying, maybe Alicia will grow up and think that that's her name, and we'll have to correct her when she's older. Haha.

Our little girl, continues to get bigger and stronger. Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. And our little girl's strength definitely continues to rise.

Thanks for all of the prayers, love and support. Please keep them coming!

In other news, I will be going back to work on Monday. Again my workplace is pretty far from where Linda and Alicia are right now. So that means that during the week, I'll be separated from my girls. Pray for us as we adjust to this transition. Pray for Linda as she adjusts to needing to be more self-sufficient. During this time while I've been with her, I've been able to help her with a lot of things. But now that I'll be away, she'll have more on her hands. So pray that God would help her to be able to arrange and plan accordingly.

Prayer requests:

1. Pray for Alicia's growth. Pray that she'll be able to come home soon.

2. Pray for patience as we wait on the Lord. This time in the NICU, I think is harder on Linda and I than it is on Alicia. She probably won't remember her time in the incubator. But for us, parents, it's definitely a journey of faith each and every day. So pray that we can continue to find the joy as we walk through this time.

3. Pray that Alicia will be protected physically, emotionally and spiritually from any and all trauma that may result from this time. Pray that God would continue to affirm her as his child. Thus far, Alicia has been at peace for most of our visits. She doesn't cry a lot or get fussy like the other kids. I think this is definitely God's blessing upon her.

4. Pray for the doctors and nurses as they continue to take care of Alicia. Pray for even more favor and that they would fall in love with our little princess as we have.

Thanks, friends!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Doctors and Weatherpeople

I got up pretty early this morning, so had some time to do some channel surfing. As I was flipping through the channels, I came across several weather reports. As I was watching it struck me as interesting that these forecasts are news. Everyone knows that they aren't always completely accurate, but after hearing these reports or reading them in the newspaper, how do we usually talk about the weather? It's going to be hot on Thursday. It's going to rain all weak. A storm is coming. We've all somehow become clairvoyant. =)

Predictions somehow become fact. But why? Weatherpeople don't have ESP, they can't predict the future, no more than the average person. But based on science and what they know of weather patterns, they can predict what probably will happen. But are they always 100% right on? No.

So what's my point? Well, on the way back from the hospital today, I realized that there is a link between doctors and weatherpeople. Well, several links actually. First, both doctors and weatherpeople are scientists. They study science and use their knowledge to better the lives of others. Second, neither doctors nor weatherpeople are psychic, yet very often, they are called upon to predict the future. And how do they predict the future, they base it on research and what has happened in the past.

The work that doctors and weatherpeople do are very important. Because of their knowledge and research, they can often circumvent or warn people about catastrophes. They can help people prepare for and perhaps even avoid tragedy.

But I think one thing I realized today, is that as knoweldgeable and professional as doctors are, they are not God. They can only tell us what might happen based on what they've seen in the past. And thankfully, our doctors are good about explaining to us. They tell us they can't really predict exactly what will happen with Alicia, because each child is different.

So I've been learning the key to our time in the NICU is that whenever doctors deliver bad news about what may or may not be in the future, to take it as direction on how to pray. I think my problem comes when I start receiving eveything they say as fact and as a definite determination of what Alicia's future will hold. Only God really knows. So we keep trusting in him.

And Alicia is continuing to do so well! She's up to 926 grams (2.04 pounds)today. She slept for most of our visit this morning, which is good. She can save her energy for getting bigger and stronger. Her nurse this morning was really chatty, which we like. She told us that all the nurses think that Alicia is the prettiest girl in our NICU. =) heehee. She kept cooing over Alicia's big eyes, long fingers and legs. She thinks she might be a heartbreaker in the future. Haha. We'll have to watch out for that.

Thanks for all of your prayers, friends. Keep them coming! Alicia will come home to be with us soon and very soon and that's not just a forecast. This is the truth!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Unseen Miracles

The other day as we were leaving the NICU, we got into a conversation with one of the other moms. We've been getting to know this mom, because she's one of the few that have been with us since Alicia moved in.

The conversation started off like many others that we've had with our fellow NICU patrons. "How's your baby today? Has he/she gained any weight? Are they breathing on their own, etc..." Over the course of our conversation, we got to talking about the delivery of our children. We told her that Alicia was delivered by C-section. When she heard this, the mom responded unexpectedly, "That's good." I was thinking, "Good? Really? Why?" Before I could ask my question, she explained that her son, was actually a twin. She had delivered both of her children vaginally, and because premature babies' heads are really fragile, her older child - a daughter, suffered tremendous head trauma during delivery and had died a few days later. Doctors say that the brother has his sister to thank for him being alive today. Because she came first, she opened up the birth canal and loosened it for him to come out, so it wasn't as traumatic for him.

We had no idea. This whole time we thought this mother's son was a singleton like us, but come to find out, she not only had to deal with the trauma of having a preemie, she and her husband also had to deal with the death of a child. Wow. Talk about needing strength.

Hearing this story made me think of two things.

First, scars. Linda endured the discomfort of a C-section and the resulting pain and scar of the surgery in order to bring Alicia into this world. It was a decision that we had to make quickly in order to save the life of our baby. And while, we are completely happy and grateful that we made this decision, Linda will forever have a scar as a permanent reminder of what it cost to bring our dear daughter into the world. There was a time when I wished that Linda could have delivered vaginally, so she would have to have this scar. But after hearing this story, I'm glad we did the C-section. The C-section saved Alicia's head from being squashed in the birth canal. And since I'm not the one that has the scar, it might seem insensitive of me to say so, but I think Linda would agree that having a scar is a small price to pay for our daughter to be alive and well. Made me think of the suffering our Lord, Jesus Christ, had to endure, and the resulting scars that he still has that are a reminder of the price he paid to give us life and freedom. Amazing.

Second, it was a tremendous reminder again of God's faithfulness and protection over us. For all the challenges we've had to face, things could definitely have been a lot worse. There are many, many things that could have gone wrong that didn't - things we know of, and things we don't know of. Made me think of how often in our lives, God has protected us from things or prevented certain things from happening and we just aren't aware of them. How many unseen miracles occur in our daily lives that we just don't know about? Countless I'm sure. Car accidents avoided, potential illnesses thwarted, hours of work saved from oblivion. Yet how often do we stop to thank him for his inconspicuous aid? I would venture to guess, not very often. Some of us spend a lot of time wondering, "Where was God in all of this?" I think if we ask him, and if take the time to really examine our lives, we'll see that there were many things that could have happened that didn't. Things that could have been completely damaging to us that were diverted. Sometimes the things we don't have are as much of a blessing as things that we do get.

God is amazing.

As for us, we continue to give thanks for every day we have with Alicia. I think we forget sometimes that our days are not promised to us. The fact that we're alive, and that she's alive. We give thanks.

Great news! She's broken the 900 mark! Yahoo! She's up to 910 grams today a 14 gram increase from yesterday. For those of you more attuned to pounds, that's 2.1 pounds! She's over two pounds. Now that's a cause for celebration!

When all of this started and we heard that she'd need to be over 1000 grams to get out of her incubator, I felt like that number was so far off, it might as well have been in the stratosphere. But that day is getting closer and closer. In fact, if she continues growing at the rate that she has, then she'll probably reach the 1000 mark in about a week! So exciting!

Now we just need to get her breathing on track, and we're good to go! =)

Day by day we move forward friends! Thanks for staying with us and walking with us and celebrating each milestone along the way!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If Looks Could Kill . . .

Our little girl. So small, so young, yet so full of personality already.

Linda and I both had business to tend to, so we were unable to make it in to see Alicia this morning. This was the first time when neither Linda nor I was there to be with Alicia since she was born. We asked Linda's cousin to go visit Alicia for us so she wasn't all alone. But man, you'd think a child this small wouldn't know the difference. But, oh, Alicia knew.

Earlier this morning, Linda called the NICU to check up on Alicia. The nurse who spoke to her told her that Alicia had her eyes open at the start of visiting hours in anticipation of our arrival. She kept waiting and waiting and we didn't show up. Finally, the nurse realized we probably wouldn't make it, so she went over and told her that we weren't going to be coming today, and she finally closed her eyes and went to sleep.

As if that weren't adorable enough, tonight when we made it back to see her, she once again had her eyes open waiting for us. Now, it could have been my imagination, but Alicia gave us this gut-wrenching look like, "Where have you been? I've been waiting all day for you!" My heart got all twisted up in knots seeing my girl give me that look. (I think I'm in trouble. She's got me wrapped around her little tiny pinky.) We apologized and apologized and told her we didn't want to be away from her, but we had to take care of some things. She just kept looking at us like we had totally let her down. Eventually, after singing some songs and just holding her in our hands, she settled down and went to sleep. Hopefully all is forgiven. =)

Such a personality at such a young age already.

We also saw Licia perform a new trick tonight. When we got to her bed, she was lying on her stomach. Suddenly, she stretched her legs and raised her butt in the air in an inverted V. We were quite impressed. She has a lot of strength in her legs. She did this at least 4 or 5 times during our short time with her tonight. Good sign, I think. She's got good muscle strength! Praise the Lord.

As for the stats:

She's 896 grams today, dropping down two grams from yesterday's 898. We had hoped that she'd break the 900 mark today, but that's OK! Tomorrow is a new day! =) Our little girl is definitely getting bigger and bigger and healthier and healthier. We're so happy. =)

We asked about her eyes today, and since her last checkup about two weeks ago was good, the doctor felt that he could probably just come back every few weeks instead of every week for a checkup. So her next checkup will probably be next week sometime. We're thankful for good news in this department.

She's still getting shots of EPO to help her produce red blood cells. I think she'll have two more of these shots over the next two weeks and then she'll be good. Thus far, she's been doing well in the anemia department and hasn't had to have any blood tests or blood transfusions, so another great improvement.

Breathing continues to get better and better. She's having fewer and fewer apnea spells and her vent settings are lower and lower. So that's great news. I hope soon she can be off the vent for good, and then we can maybe start holding her.

She still continues to eat and digest well. The girl goes through a pack of 40 diapers in about a week. Crazy! But that's a good sign. She's not collecting anything in her body.

The physical therapist will probably come back in a week or two to do a followup on Alicia and see how she's doing. From what we can tell, it seems like she's got pretty good muscle control, and she's pretty strong. So we pray that that will continue!

Thanks for praying everyone. Please continue! Your prayers are definitely making a huge impact.

If you wouldn't mind continuing to also pray for the babies around us as well. Pray that the Lord would minister to the parents and to their kids. And that they would all come to know him through their time in the NICU.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bigger and Better

Alicia is getting bigger! Yesterday, she was at 856 grams, today she's up to 872 grams. That's the kind of good news that makes a daddy happy. We pray for more and more growth! If she keeps this up, she'll be up to 1000 grams in about a week. Yahoo! One thousand grams is about 2.2 pounds. Still tiny, but drastic improvement over where she began. She's also eating more now, she's up to 16cc per feeding, and the good news is that she's been doing well with the digestion, so they stopped using the machine to regulate the speed of ingestion. You'll remember she was having trouble with her air intake when she was eating. Her stomach would bloat and press on her lungs. So to keep it so her stomach wouldn't get too bloated, they started to use a machine to control how much milk would go in at one time. Well, she's been doing really well with the eating and breathing, so they decided to try and feed her without the machine, and she's been holding pretty steady! That is great.

Also, since the incident with the tube going down the wrong pipe, they've been able to use lower vent settings for her. Before she was averaging about 40% oxygen and when she had trouble, they'd raise it to about 60% oxygen. But now her average is about 30% oxygen or lower, and when they raise it, if at all, they go up to about 40%. This is great progress! Remember room air is about 21% oxygen, so once she can get efficient at pulling air from 21% oxygen saturation, then she can come off the vent. So we are making progress friends!

One thing to begin to pray about is for her to be able to develop the sucking and swallowing muscles and coordination. Right now, she's got a tube that deposits the milk directly into her stomach. When she's older and more stable, they'll want to do some breast feeding and see if she can start sucking and swallowing on her own. So we pray that she can develop those muscles well.

She's definitely a strong little girl. One of the nurses told us that one time when Alicia was lying prone, she actually pressed her palms into her bed and pushed her upper body up and turned her head to face the opposite direction. Quite the feat for such a little one. =) We pray for more strength and more growth. Of course, without any tubes and wires being pulled out.

I definitely look forward to the day when we won't have to worry about tubes or wires and we can just focus on loving our little girl. And I believe that day is getting closer and closer each day.

Thank you for all of your prayers, support and encouragement, it's been a huge blessing to us. In the midst of God growing Alicia and developing her body. He's also been growing Linda and I and developing us as well.

One huge lesson for me is to learn to let go. To drop all expectations that others and myself have placed on me. And just take it one day at a time. I've had to learn and still am learning about giving myself grace to not have it all together and to even risk disappointing others and myself.

I think I've always been one to perform. I thrive on the praises of others and am crushed when I get even the hint of dissatisfaction or disappointment from someone. I hate letting people down, so sometimes I kill myself and go out of my way to do what's expected of me. There's something in me that desires to be the model student, Christian, brother, husband, son, friend, father, co-worker, partner, employee, teacher, actor, dancer... you fill in the blank.

And I definitely believe this is one of my strengths. People have said, "Campbell, you're reliable. You're on time. You're hardworking. I can always depend on you." And definitely, that is a great thing. However, I think there comes a point when I can overdo it. And definitely, I'm learning, that there are times when I need to just drop the ball, and that it's OK.

I don't have to have it all together. What an epiphany.

And amazingly, when I don't have it all together and I can be open about that, I believe that people respond to that.

You see the lie is that in order to be an effective witness, in order to be respected, I need to appear all put together.

Like the day after Alicia's tube mishap, we were waiting outside the NICU and one of the mom's asked how Alicia was doing. We told her what happened with the tube. And added the comment, "It really scared us." Another woman, who is a grandma of one of the other kids, chimed in and said, "Oh, don't worrry! Just keep praying. I'm a Buddhist and I pray and it really works." When I heard that, I had a moment of feeling disappointment with myself. I felt like, I was being a bad witness for Christ, and that I hadn't been faithful to show the strength and confidence that our Heavenly had been given to us. I felt embarrassed cause as a believer, I felt like I should have been the one to encourage her and to bear witness to the power of our Heavenly Father. But the more I thought about it, I felt like, it was OK. I was being real. And I feel like our witness isn't in pretending like nothing ever affects us and we are drones with no emotions. Our witness is by being who God has created us to be and demonstrating his love through our words and actions. And in our weakness, he is strong.

Many of the parents like to talk about "believing in your child." You need to have faith in your children that they are strong and that they can make it. And while, yes, we do believe Alicia is going to make it, we know that the power comes from above. That the power Alicia has to grow comes from our Heavenly Father. We believe that her getting healthier and healthier is not a result of us believing in her, but a miracle of God's grace and mercy.

So maybe our greater witness is to show that when we are weak he is strong! So maybe I need to learn to be like Paul and boast about my weaknesses instead of trying to hide them and appear perfect.

This isn't to say that I just completely let go and just say, "Well, that's just the way I am." No, I think God never desires for us to stay stagnant. No, we continue to improve and to grow in the areas that God reveals to us. But I think there's a balance. We walk with God and let him show us where we can improve. And then we ask him to give us the power to improve. For true change can only come from a relationship with him as he molds us and changes us into more of the person he desires for us to be.

Prayer requests:

1. As usual pray for Alicia's breathing. She's doing better and better. We pray that she can be off the ventilator by the end of the week! That would be fantastic.

2. Pray for her digestion. Now that she no longer has the machine to regulate the speed of ingestion, her feeding times are shorter and faster. Pray that her stomach can continue to take in the food, process it and use the nutrition to build up her body.

3. Soon I will need to be going back to work. Unfortunately, this will probably need to happen before Alicia is out of the hospital. Pray for the transition time and for Linda and I as we adjust to the new schedule. Also, my workplace is quite a ways from Alicia's hospital and where Linda is staying. So I will only be able to see them on the weekends, unless the situation changes. So pray for God's direction and grace to work out the logistics. Pray for Linda and my relationship as we will be separated physically for awhile and that we can continue to support each other even over the distance.

4. Pray for God's presence and peace to rest and reside in and about our family. Pray that his Spirit would encamp about Alicia's incubator and also that he would send angels to guard over her. She's getting older and more aware, so we pray that God would instill in her a sense of confidence and strength. That she would know that she is loved and adored. Also, the NICU has been quite busy lately. We've had two new neighbors move in just in these past two days. So with new neighbors brings more activity, more alarms, more noise. So pray for Alicia to find peace and quiet in the midst of the hustle and bustle.

5. Pray for Alicia's muscle development. As I mentioned before, pray for her sucking and swallowing. Pray for her arms and legs, which apparantly are pretty strong already, but we pray for more. We pray for coordination and grace. We pray for healthy and timely development of all motor skills.

6. Pray that God would give us wisdom and prepare us for when Alicia does get to come home with us. Pray that God would give us patience as we wait for that beautiful day. Also, pray that we would have peace as we wait for the important milestones in between. Pray that God would lead us to great resources and just give us his supernatural wisdom on how to provide a great environment for Alicia to grow up. We definitely want to be careful with where we bring her, what we do with her, etc... but we don't want to coddle her and be overprotective. That won't be helpful for her development.

Thanks, everyone!

I hope you're all well!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Defeated or Sure-footed

I nearly lost it last night.

We were in the NICU and Alicia had another one of her episodes. Her oxygen levels dropped, her heartrate slowed, and I just couldn't deal with it anymore. Usually, when Alicia goes through one of her moments, I'm standing right next to the doctors and nurses eyeing their every move. Last night, I didn't have the strength. I pulled up a chair, sat down and just stared. I don't remember what I was staring at, but I remember I just stared.

I think I just felt defeated and deflated. I felt beat down and stripped of all power. We had been making all this progress and then one small thing sets her back. I started to feel completely frustrated and I just couldn't take it anymore. I just wish that my daughter could breathe on her own! I don't want her to be so dependant on these machines. When will she breathe on her own? When?

The pressure is so intense sometimes. And what's frustrating is that there's nothing I can do about it in and of myself. And truth is I think sometimes I can forget how stressful this situation is. On the surface our lives seem pretty easy. We go to the hospital twice a day, other than that we're just hanging out at home. What's so exhausting about that?

But truth is, it is exhausting. It's exhausting trying to stay brave. It's exhausting trying to be strong and stable. It's exhausting not to get discouraged when my daughter has been in the NICU for a month and a half and we don't know when she will get out.

Imagine running on a treadmill and not being able to get off. The numbers on the machine tell you that you've run the equivalent of five miles or six miles, but physically, you're still in the same place. It can be defeating.

Then add on to the fact that I don't really know how to rest. I give myself pressure, saying I need to do this and I need to do that. I mean, why not use my time wisely. Take this opportunity while someone's watching my daughter to do some extra stuff. What I forget is, that our daughter is not just at the babysitter. She's in intensive care. INTENSIVE care. Why would I think that our situation is any less intense?

But for some inexplicable reason, I do forget, and I try to take on more and then end up crashing, like last night.

Thankfully, God has given me an amazing wife. Linda was my lifesaver last night. There were some logistical things that I had to take care of, but I just didn't have the strength to deal with anything or anyone. So Linda sprung into action. Here she is she's just carried a child for 6 months, gave birth no more than two months ago, expending a lot of energy every few hours pumping milk, and she still has the strength to carry her husband's burdens when he collapses and melts.

I seriously felt like a little child last night. I had nothing left to give. I got home from the hospital and literally just prostrated myself on the floor because I was so spent. Linda just coddled me, let me vent, and just encouraged me to rest.

Rest. Such a simple word, yet so hard to do. Physically, I've been resting. But what I've realized is that I have not been resting in my soul. My soul has been striving and struggling. I've been working myself into a frenzy, trying to make everything work and juggle a hundred balls. But yesterday, I came face to face with my limitations.

Linda said it best last night, when she said that she feels like we've been treading water. We've been kicking and kicking, moving our legs as fast as we could to stay afloat. But what God really wants us to do is just float. Just let go, stop kicking, and float.

But honestly, I don't know how to do that just yet. I am fighting within me to retain any amount of control that I can grasp onto. It's like I've moved into the passenger seat of the car, and just like Carrie Underwood sings, I've let Jesus take the wheel. But, even though he's driving, I'm still sitting there telling him where to go or what to do, screaming, "Watch out! Be careful!" every time I see danger. I haven't given him complete control. It's so hard to just sit there and say nothing, and do nothing. I'm trying to retain whatever power I can have, but truth is in this situation I am completely impotent.

I can go and see Alicia every day. I can hold her and sing to her and talk to her. I know these things make a difference for her. But beyond that, there's not much I can do. I am powerless.

I am powerless to revive my daughter when her vital signs plummet. I can't be with her throughout the day to comfort her when she's pricked by needles, or scared.
And as a man, I naturally want to run away from a situation that makes me feel powerless. I want to feel useful. I want to demonstrate my virility, but there's really nothing I can do. So I just want to escape, except there is no escape here.

And something else that's frustrating? Even if I could runaway, I wouldn't want to runaway. The thought of going back to work and leaving my wife and child is hard to accept. Right now Alicia is in a hospital far from home, so when I go back to work, it means that I'll only be able to see her on the weekends. And I know that she's in good hands. Linda will go see her every day twice a day, the nurses and doctors all will take good care of her. But not being able to see her myself, somehow I feel like I'm being neglectful and negligent.

God is really stripping me down to the bare bones and it's really hard to take.

The good news, this isn't the end of the journey. He never strips down without building back up. He never empties without filling to overflowing. So I just surrender. I pray that through this time, as it says in Ephesians, that God would give us the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know him better.

I admit it, I am a man, and in and of myself I am powerless. But in and through the Holy Spirit we will get through this and we will soar.

It's like it says in the book of Isaiah, "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

And in one of my favorite Bible passages Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him.

So we wait. We wait on the Lord. He knows exactly the amount of time that Alicia needs to be in hospital. He knows the exact date of her discharge. He knows the road ahead and he will be our guide. We wait. And as we wait, he will renew our strength. We will mount up on wings like eagles. We will run and not grow weary; we will walk and not faint. He will lift us out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he will set our feet on a rock and give us a firm place to stand.

Our family will make it through this and we will thrive. We will go from being defeated to sure-footed! He has promised!

Prayer requests:

1. Pray for Alicia's breathing. The good news is that after they reinserted the vent tube, Alicia has been able to breathe well on lower vent settings than she's had in the past. This is good. Problem is she still has a lot of mucus buildup and so sometimes this makes it hard for her to take in air. So please pray that the mucus would dissipate.

2. Other than that, she's doing well. After three days of no weight gain, she's gained 16 grams today. She's up to 836 grams now. Thank God, for that.

3. She continues to eat well. She's up to eating 15cc right now which is a good amount for her.

4. After her episode two nights ago, she was pretty lethargic yesterday. We're guessing the situation with the tube really exhausted her. Today when we went to see her, she was sleeping for most of the time. But the nurse said that her vigor is back and that she does move around a lot when she's awake. Pray that God continues to give her energy to keep growing and stay active.

5. Pray for peace and strength for Linda and I. This journey really is exhausting. I really don't know how people go through this without God.

Thanks, everyone!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

That Sinking Feeling

We had quite the scare during our visit with Alicia tonight.

We got to the NICU a little late tonight. On our way up in the elevator, we figured they must have started visiting hours already, since it was well past 7:00 by the time we even got into the hospital building. But when we got up to the NICU, to our surprise the doors were still closed and parents were still waiting outside. Usually this means that one of the kids is needing treatment and the doctors need a bit more time to work on him or her. While we were waiting, a nurse came out and told us that they would be delaying visiting hours for five minutes, because they were in fact working on a kid.

Finally, after a few minutes they opened the doors and let us enter. We scrubbed our hands, put on our aprons and face masks and went over to our incubator.

The visit started out normal enough, Alicia had her eyes open waiting for us. We spoke to her and told her how much we loved her. But we noticed a couple of things that were off. First, her oxygen level was set at 100%, which usually means that she was having trouble breathing. Second, she wasn't eating. Most of the time our visits coincide with feeding times so when we get there, Alicia usually has a nice tube of milk slowly being fed into her body. But this time, no milk, and no tube.

When we asked the nurses about this, she explained that Alicia had been having problems breathing today and her oxygen levels were unstable, so doctors wanted to draw some blood to do some tests to see if there was a problem. So the doctor decided to let Alicia skip this one meal.

Linda, as any mother would be, was concerned about Alicia skipping the meal, so she kept asking more questions and even asked the nurse if she could have the doctor come over so she could discuss it more with her.

Well, good thing she did. Before the doctor could come over, Alicia's alarms started sounding. Her blood oxygen levels took a nosedive and her heartrate started to drop pretty quickly. After a month and a half in the NICU, I've become accustomed to Alicia's occasional dips and drops. In fact, she had a couple just in our time with her this evening. Usually what happens is that the levels drop, and either she'll start breathing and pick up the levels herself, or the nurses would come over and help. But for some reason, this time when the levels dropped, they just kept dropping.

The doctors and nurses went through the typical routine, when the alarms go off, they raised Alicia's oxygen levels on the ventilator and then gave a few extra pumps of air. But that didn't seem to help, so they moved on to bagging. Which means using a special resuscitation bag to gently push air into her lungs. In the past, this is all that it's taken to get Alicia back on track. Today, however after what seemed like an eternity, Alicia wasn't getting any better. In fact, when I looked at Alicia, she had turned really dark, almost black - a clear sign she was in distress.

By now visiting hours were over, but there was no way we were leaving, not while they were still trying to resuscitate our daughter. Knowing this, the nurses asked us gently if we wouldn't mind waiting outside while they worked on Alicia. Reluctantly, Linda and I grabbed our stuff and went outside.

Time couldn’t have moved any slower. I don’t even know how long we were out there. The 10 or 15 minutes we were probably waiting, felt like an hour at least. All sorts of thoughts went through my head as we stood there. It was as if our own lives were kind of hung in the balance the way Alicia's was at that moment. My inner dialog went back and forth between wondering if this was it, if Alicia was on her way back to heaven and reminding myself of the promises that God had given us about Alicia. I prepared myself for the worst and even pictured the doctors coming over and telling us that there was nothing more they could do and that Alicia was gone. But almost as immediately as that thought came another one replaced it and said that that didn’t make sense. People have been prophesying about Alicia from even before she was born. They’ve spoken words that we believe are from God. People have said that she has a powerful destiny here on Earth. And that Alicia shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord. In fact, Linda spoke this verse out loud to me while we were waiting. I knew in my spirit that Alicia was going to be fine, but I still couldn’t help but be shaken a bit by the interminable waiting.

Later, as I compared notes with Linda, she admitted too that she had a moment of surrender, a moment when she had to release control of Alicia’s life and give her back to our Heavenly Father. She told him, “Daddy, I really, really want Alicia. But if you are going to take her back then I surrender.” My woman. Amazing. While we were waiting, Linda and I tried to pray, but no words were coming. We said a few words, but to me, nothing felt adequate. We finally resorted, as we often do when there are no words, to praying in tongues.

I seriously, couldn’t stand still. I needed to know what was happening, but when I looked in through the glass doors, I couldn’t see what they were doing. So I’d try to sit. But after a few seconds of that, I was back on my feet. I felt like a caged lion. Just then a door opened and a man in a white coat wheeled in an X-ray machine and walked straight over to Alicia’s incubator. I thought, “OK. Good. If they’re doing an X-ray that must mean that she’s alive and they have fixed whatever was wrong.” So I calmed down a bit, but since there still wasn't any news, I was still pretty wound up.

Eventually, a nurse came out and told us that they had patched Alicia up, and that we could go in and see in her a few minutes. After hearing that I let out a huge audible sigh of relief. Our girl was OK.

Once we were back inside, one of our favorite doctors, Dr. Lin was there. She’d been on rotation in the upstairs nursery, but they had called her down to help out with this situation. She explained that the reason Alicia was having trouble breathing, and the reason their resuscitation wasn’t working was because her air tube had somehow been dislodged from her trachea and ended up in her esophagus. So instead of the air going to her lungs, it was getting pumped into her stomach. Once they got the tube back in the right place, she was good as new.

She said that they had been wondering what the problem was, because earlier in the day, she was actually doing really well with her breathing, but for some reason when it got to the evening her oxygen levels were really unsteady. Now they know why. They also told us, that Alicia was actually the cause of the delay in visiting hours today. She was the kid they had been working on. Her oxygen levels had dropped just before visiting hours, which explains the 100% oxygen setting on the vent.

When we asked how the tube could have gotten dislodged, they explained that her wind pipe is actually pretty short, so if she moves around too much, the tube can easily get pulled out or dislocated. I have my own suspicions. See, our little girl is getting bigger and more aware. And she, like any normal person, does not like having a tube down her throat.

In the past, Alicia hasn't done too much with the tube down her throat. She's maybe casually put her hand on it and grabbed it. But in the past she didn't have enough strength to really do any damage. Well, yesterday, when we got into the NICU, the first thing I saw was Alicia actually struggling like I’d never seen her struggle before, deliberately trying to pull out her tube. And when I tried to move her hand away from the tube, she actually fought against me. I’d never seen her do that before. Before it was always a casual grasping of the tube, that I thought was completely innocent. Just grabbing on to it, cause it was there. But yesterday, no, she wasn't just grabbing on, she was actually pulling. My little girl has got some fight in her. =)

So here’s my theory, Alicia in her attemps to pull out her tube, actually succeeded part of the way, and somehow, when the tube went back in, it went back down the wrong passage way into her stomach, instead of the lungs.

Anyway, the nice consolation after going through this trauma, was that we got to spend a bit more time with Alicia tonight. She was absolutely adorable when we went back in, all wide-eyed and innocent, looking at the doctors wondering what was going on. She has been so alert these past few days during our visits. I really feel that she’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s great to see.

She’s also breathing better and better...when the tube is in the right place. Earlier this morning, they tried taking her off the ventilator to see how she would do. Unfortunately, it was still a bit of a struggle for her, so they felt it would be better to leave her on for just a bit longer. The good news is that she’s really getting really good at catching herself when her oxygen levels drop. In the past, whenever her oxygen levels dropped, nurses would have to come over and give her some extra pumps from the vent or raise her oxygen levels. But over the past few days, when her levels drop she’s able to get herself back on track without any help, again when her tube in is in the right place. So that’s definitely improvement.

Her body is also getting more and more efficient at pulling oxygen from lower and lower oxygen saturation. Before she might have needed air that was 60% oxygen. But now she can do well on 30% oxygen. Regular room air is 21% oxygen, so when she can do well at that setting, she can get off the ventilator.

We just continue to pray for more growth and more improvement. Doctors did an X-ray on her tonight, and everything looks OK. They had originally worried that she might have a pneumothorax again, but the X-ray showed that everything was normal. So we’re thankful.

Tonight was hard. I’m not going to lie. As much faith as we have in our Heavenly Father, it’s hard not to get shaken a bit when something like this happens. We believe Alicia is going to thrive and grow and be a beautiful child. The challenge is to hang onto this faith when the circumstances seem to say otherwise. Seeing your daughter with doctors and nurses surrounding her, trying to get her to breathe again, it’s hard not to imagine the worst. Thankfully, Linda and I had each other. More importantly, we had the Lord. Because we walk with the Lord, though we were shaken, our lives do not come crumbling down. As it says in the Bible, we might have stumbled but we did not fall because the Lord upheld us with his hand.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The Bible says that God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles. Why? So that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Well, in the past month and a half, God has truly, truly been our source of comfort. Knowing that he's in control and that Alicia's life is in his hands that brings us comfort. Knowing that God is good and God is love. That brings us comfort. But as the Bible says, comfort is not just for ourselves, he comforts us so that we can be his hands and feet and comfort others.

The other night during our evening visit with Alicia, I noticed a new father in our little section of the NICU. I had noticed that his daughter had moved in the day before, but this was my first time seeing the dad. Sometimes while I'm in the NICU, I like to look around and observe the other families. Well, as I lifted my head and looked over at this new dad, I noticed his head was bowed, his hands were folded, his eyes were closed - he was praying.

Later, after saying goodbye to Alicia, we left the NICU. As we turned the corner to go to the elevator, I saw this new dad sitting by himself in a corner, eyes all red, tears streaming down his face, broken. It reminded me a lot of the first few times that I visited Alicia in the NICU. We asked the dad if we could pray for him, and he said sure. So I sat down next to him, placed my hand on his shoulder and in my broken Chinese, began to pray. After the prayer, we sat and talked with the dad for a bit and asked him about his daughter. She was born at 38 weeks, so unlike most of the other kids in the NICU she wasn't a preemie. She was in there because she had a problem with her intestines and needed surgery. As I was sitting there talking to the man, I realized, it's never easy seeing your kid in intensive care. OK, it's never easy seeing any loved ones in intensive care. So what if he doesn't need to face the same problems and questions that we have to face. He's got his own set of problems. And honestly, any time in the NICU is really hard to take when your kid's life is in the balance.

Added to his stress was that his wife had lost a lot of blood during the delivery, so she was laid up in bed for a few days. We talked with him some more and just encouraged him. And God allowed us to use our story to give him hope. We told him about Alicia. And he asked how old she was when she came out, we said, 25 weeks. And he asked, how much did she weigh? Was she about 1000 grams? Linda and I looked at each other and smiled. "No," we told him, "She was only 654 grams." You should have seen the shock on his face. We told him that we understood his pain and his anxiety. It's hard to see your child connected to wires, and to hear the news that they need surgery, it's hard to take. But we assured him that the doctors at our hospital were seasoned and would take good care of his daughter. We also told him that if our daughter could survive, then there was definitely lots of hope for his little girl as well. His spirits seemed to lift somewhat after our conversation. Praise God. He asked us what church we went to, and we told him that we went to a church in Taipei. He said that he hadn't been to church in a long time. He's been wanting to take his wife, but his wife hasn't been interested. I turned to him and said, "Well, when your wife doesn't want to listen to you, talk to God and ask him to speak to her. It works." =) Linda agreed, and said that often as I'm asking God to talk to her, she's doing the same with him about me.

After telling him that we would continue to pray for him and his family and that we would ask our friends to do the same, we said our goodbyes and told him that we would see him in the morning.

I have no doubt that his daughter is going to be fine. We did see him the next morning and his daughter made it through the surgery well. She's still in the NICU recovering, but I have no doubt that soon enough she'll be moved "upstairs" and on her way home.

God really gave my spirit a boost through this experience. I mean it's been something I've known from the beginning, that God is allowing us to go through this experience so we can be a comfort and blessing to others. Granted, we would have been perfectly happy not to have to be a comfort and blessing to others in this area, we understand God's plans are higher than ours.

So for those of you who pray, please pray for Mr. Lu, his wife and his daughter. This is their second child, I believe, so they've got another child at home that he's got to take care of as well. Not easy. But I believe God will bring them through. Pray that God would also use this chance to woo them back to himself.

Linda and I are doing well. We are seeing more and more of the light at the end of the tunnel. Alicia is doing better and better. We definitely are nowhere near the end of the journey whatsoever, but the hope is brighter and brighter that we'll be able to take our daughter home.

Alicia has gained a good amount of weight over the past week. She dropped two grams yesterday, but that's fine. The nurses say that sometimes one poopie diaper can mean the difference of 20 grams. So, no biggie. We're sure she'll gain it back in no time. She truly is adorable and continues to delight us with her funny expressions and movements.

The physical therapist (PT) came and took a look at her yesterday and said that everything looks pretty good. She's got good muscle tone and good control over her limbs. One of her shoulders and hips are a bit weaker but at this point they're not too concerned. The PT thinks it could be from the way that she's been lying. She hasn't has as much opportunity to exercise that part of her body. He recommended that the nurses change up her position more often. There is a potential that the weakness is a result of the brain damage, but it's not conclusive. They'll need to do followup with her as she gets older in order to make any clear assessment. It looks like we'll need to visit the doctors every few months or so during Alicia's first few years. With preemies, the earlier they catch developmental problems the better. There are exercises and things we can do to help her develop stronger muscles. So you could pray for that too. Pray for her muscle development to continue to get stronger and stronger. And any damage of the brain to be healed and restored.

Her breathing is getting better and better. I believe, but I'll need to confirm, that at this point other than when she's eating she does well with the vent set at 21% oxygen. Regular room air is 21% oxygen, so if she can continue to get enough oxygen from this vent setting, then she can come off the ventilator soon. The main problem right now comes when she eats and when she has mucus. When she eats, her oxygen levels are still unsteady, but as I said previously, even in her unsteadiness she's able to recover with less and less help and lower and lower settings. She's getting better at taking in the air herself. When she does breathe, she can get enough oxygen on her own. The problem comes that for some reason she forgets to breathe when she's eating. Maybe too much going on at once, or she gets to comfortable and just sleeps too deeply. She also continues to collect a lot of mucus, but again that's normal for kids her age. They don't know how to clear it out themselves, so we just pray once again for things to develop quickly, so she can breathe better on her own.

Doctors are pretty optimistic about Alicia's outlook. Even the doom and gloom doctors say that she's doing pretty well. Oh, I forgot to mention that when the PT was examining Alicia, her oxygen levels and heart rate held steady, which is a great thing. Preemies don't like too much stimulation, so when they're moved around too much, they can stop breathing or their heartrates will drop or go really high. But hers held steady which the PT was actually pleasantly surprised about, so praise God! =)

Onward! I've been hearing from many people that you read this blog faithfully. That's a huge encouragement. I'm glad that we can stay connected with friends and family this way. Please don't hesitate to write us e-mails or call us. We would love to hear from you.

Prayer request summary:

1. Muscle development. That she would be strong, well coordinated, and able to control her body well.

2. Brain development. Brain damage would be eliminated and healed. Brain would mature and start controlling the bodily functions that need to be controlled.

3. Lung development. Clear out the mucus. And also be able to get efficient at taking in air.

4. Physical development. Pray that she can eat, and take in the calories and get physically bigger and stronger.

5. Emotional/Mental development. Pray against trauma from this time in the NICU and that she would grow up confident and strong. Pray that she would be smart and intelligent.

6. Sensory development. Pray that her senses would develop well. Our bodies are truly complex and many things need to work together well for us to function in this world. Pray that everything would be sharp and clear. And pray against overstimulation. She doesn't like that. =)

Thanks friends!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Her Smile and Pressing On

We experienced one of the most beautiful things last night. We saw Alicia smile for the first time. It was adorable. I tried to get some pictures of it, but I was so excited, I only got a few blurry shots. Our little girl, so precious.

Our little girl seriously has this way of just winning hearts. One of the nurses told us today that when she saw her smiling for the first time, she called some of the nurses over and they were all crowding around Alicia's incubator just watching her. I love it.

Alicia is also filling out more and more, which is really great to see. She's up to 798 grams today, up from 784 grams yesterday and 770 grams the day before. She's averaging about 14 grams a day. If she keeps growing at this rate, in two more weeks she'll break the 1000 gram mark. (1000 grams = 1 kilo = 2.2 lbs) Her chest has smoothed out a lot and is no longer concave and her limbs continue to get thicker. She continues to move around a lot and can even lift her head a bit now. We're really delighted at her progress.

Her breathing is getting stronger. She's still on the ventilator, but the settings today were pretty low. We pray and ask the Lord to get the ventilator settings lower and lower and to quickly get her weaned off it as soon as possible. She still has some trouble breathing when she eats but she's getting better at keeping her oxygen levels up with less and less help from the ventilator. Our little girl is growing up. =)

Definitely, I'm learning as I said in my last post, it's all relative. Alicia fluctuates up and down and what I'm finding is that as long as her fluctuations remain within a certain range, the doctors aren't too concerned.

Today, during our morning visit, the nurses greeted all the parents informing us that some of the incubators have been moved so to check the posted list. Alicia wasn't on the list. And I thought, of course, she wouldn't be. She's still small. There's no reason to move her. =) But now Alicia has a bunch of new neighbors. Several new kiddies were born in the past few days and have moved into the NICU, making our little section of the ICU packed with activity. All of these kiddos came out at a later gestational age, so they are much bigger than Alicia, and will probably move out of the NICU sooner. And even though it seems like we're being left behind, it's OK. We trust in God's timing. The important thing is that our little girl is getting healthier and stronger each day and we're thankful for that.

I'll be honest, though, it's hard not to compare. Seeing other kids coming in and out, here one day and then gone the next, I have to wonder when it will be our turn. It seems like kids are transitioning in and out every week, yet we are still in the same spot. As I was thinking about it just now, I was like, why does this situation seem so familiar? People coming and going, but us still in the same place, doing the "same thing." And then I realized that our time in Taiwan has been very much like this. Taiwan is a very transitional place, especially for foreign friends like ours. People come and go, friends are in and out of our lives. We're constantly meeting new friends and saying see you later to old ones. And for years we've asked God when it's time for us to go. When do we get to go "home"? And his answer has always been, "Not yet." Meanwhile, we've got friends who were here before us, leaving and moving back. We've got friends who came after us, packing up and leaving. And there's a constant flow of new people moving in. Everyone else seems to be moving on, but us.

But then I look at reality and I realize, we're not in the same place. Perhaps physically we're in the same spot - in Taiwan, in incubator number 13. Outwardly things may appear to be the same, but nothing is the same. We are making progress, slowly and steadily. Great news with Alicia is that she will come home, we will eventually move out of incubator number 13. As for going home to the U.S., I don't know if that will ever happen. But that's OK, we've kind of made a new home here in Taiwan. And again, things are completely different than when we first arrived. Alicia too is very different and her condition is leaps and bounds ahead of when she first arrived in this world. So we thank God that even though it seems like we're "stuck" that he's still working. And that even though it seems like nothing has changed, the truth is everything is always changing all around us.

So I want to encourage those of you out there reading this who feel like, "Where is my miracle?" When do I get to move on?" Maybe all of your friends are getting married, having kids, getting on with their lives, but you're still single with no prospects. Maybe all of your peers are finding their callings and gaining success in their careers, but you're still lost and trying to figure yourself out. Maybe you're still living at home, wondering when it will be your time to get out into the world on your own. God has his timing. And just because it doesn't look like anything is changing, that doesn't mean that God isn't working. And that doesn't mean that things aren't moving forward.

Our job? We stay faithful. We continue to do the things that God calls us to do, and press on day by day. We continue to pray. We continue to trust. But we stay faithful. For Linda and I, it's faithfully going to the hospital every day, twice a day. It's praying for our little girl. For Linda, faithfully expressing the milk for Alicia to drink. For me, to faithfully write this blog and to keep connected with everyone. For you, it may be to be faithful in a job that you hate, doing the best that you can and offering your all for God. Or it may be about maintaining your relationships, and learning to enjoy the phase of life that God has placed you in right now.

You may ask, "What if my day never comes?" "What if I never get that promotion?" "What if I never find my true calling?" "What if I never find my Prince Charming/Cinderella?"

Let me ask you a question? Are you being faithful with what you have been given? Are you listening to God and walking with him day by day, every moment? Are you commiting yourself to remain righteous and pure? If yes, then let me remind you of a few of God's promises to us.

"You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." Matthew 25:23
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11
"The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands get stronger and stronger." Job 17:9
"Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your hearts desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you." Psalm 37:3-5
"Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough." Psalm 37: 18-19
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
"Seek first the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." Matthew 6:33

And many, many, many more.

I can't promise you that if you follow God that you will find the man/woman of your dreams, or that you will be wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. But I can promise you that God is a God of his word. He does what he says.

Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"

Take care of your business and God will take care of you. Do what he's called you to do. Be faithful with what he's given to you, and he will take care of the rest. As I like to say, "Do your best and give God the rest."

But, what if I've messed up and haven't done what I should have done? "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Come back to him. No sin is too big, or too bad to be forgiven. No one is too messed up to be loved and purified.

It's up to you. Are you going to keep living the way that you want to and do whatever you want to? Or are you willing to give up control to the all-mighty, all-knowing, all-powerful God? There is a caveat though. God is not in the business of doing things "our way." As the Bible says, "[God's] ways are higher than [our] ways, and [his] thoughts are higher than [our] thoughts." He is capable of doing far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. But will we trust him enough to let go and go for the ride?

I'll tell you, life with God is never what you expect it to be, but you won't be disappointed.

Prayer requests:
1. Continue to pray for Alicia's breathing. She's making improvements each and every day. She still struggles when she eats. But even in her struggling she's needing less and less help. Thank the Lord for the healing he has done and continues to do in her lungs. Thank God for the report that is to come that her lungs are completely healed from any damage. Pray that God would put protect Alicia's lungs so that it will remain healthy and whole.

2. Pray for her overall development. Again all of the "struggles" Alicia has right now are categorized as issues of prematurity. They should be and will be resolved once she's older and more developed.

3. No news yet of her brain and the damage. We are trusting that it is healed and God has performed a miracle. Pray that the wiring of her nervous system would take place well and that Alicia's motor skills and cognitive functions would be healthy and strong.

4. We praise God that her eyes are healthy. She's got mild ROP, but that will take care of itself once she's a bit older.

5. A team of physical therapists will come and look at Alicia next week. They will recommend some exercises for us to do with Alicia to help her muscles to develop healthy and strong.

6. Pray for our relationships with the doctors, nurses and other NICU folks. Pray that we can be salt and light in that place. Pray that the doctors and nurses would have wisdom and take great care in handling Alicia. Pray that all of their efforts would bless Alicia and help her get healthier each day.

7. Pray for our families and that we can continue to have God's peace reign in and amongst us.

8. Pray that God would give us wisdom to know how to train Alicia up in the way that she should go. Our sense is that God has a powerful and important destiny for Alicia here on Earth. Pray that we would have the wisdom to direct her on that journey to its discovery and fulfillment.

9. Pray for Linda and I to continue to grow in our love for one another. The husband/wife relationship is truly the foundation for a solid family and confident children. Linda and I have really been enjoying our time together and we are so thankful for one another. God couldn't have given me a better partner and best friend. I am a blessed man.

10. Pray that our family can be united and be at home starting our new life together as soon as God sees fit. Pray that Alicia would grow physically and become independant of any need for medical assistance to survive. Pray that as she grows and develops that she would thrive! Pray that she would be full of intelligence, full of wisdom. Pray that her senses would be very keen. Pray that she would have strong lungs and a strong heart. Pray that she would be well-coordinated, well-spoken, and well-equipped. Pray that she would be full of grace, full of beauty, full of character and strength. Pray that she would be expressive, and playful, loving and generous. Pray that she would flourish!

Thanks everyone! Much love and peace.


Friday, July 8, 2011


It's been a good couple of good days. Had a few emotional moments, but overall not bad. Praise the Lord.

Today, after our morning visit, we ran into a dad of one of the newer babies in our NICU, and as is our custom with all other NICU parents we asked how his kid was doing. He said his kid was doing well. He was off the ventilator and they're talking about moving him "upstairs" soon. Right then, another pair of new NICU parents came out whom the other father recognized, and they struck up a conversation about the couple's kid, who was born only a few days ago. He also was doing well. Never needed the ventilator and was moving "upstairs" today. Hearing this news the other dad congratulated the couple and said, "You'll probably be able to take him home in a few days." The other father expressed his doubts saying that it might be a little longer than that.

As we stepped into the elevator to head down to the first floor and go our separate ways, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. This "upstairs" that we often hear about in our NICU is not a catchphrase for Heaven or the afterlife, but a step down unit for the kiddies that are doing well enough to graduate from needing intensive care. It's the intermediary stop between the NICU and home. Getting to go "upstairs" is another step to closer to being discharged. But it's something that we've needed to put out of our mind for the time being. Because for us this "upstairs" is currently as illusive for us as our next trip home to the states. (It might be awhile.)

I wonder if for these new parents their days in the NICU seem as much of an eternity as it is for us. I wonder if the first father hearing that the second father's child was moving "upstairs" maybe felt a little bad that his kid wasn't moving up sooner. I mean I don't know, this is all in my head. But I do wonder, because I know if I were him I might feel a little bit of that twinge of longing for my child to get better sooner. I mean I already do, so I can only imagine. For these parents, their kids were older when they came out. They were able to "bake" a bit longer in the oven and were more "done" when they entered the world. So they progress quicker through the NICU. But I can't help but think that for them any amount of time is not fast enough for them to be able to take their bundle home. I mean that's how I would feel if I were them. But to me, as I was listening to their conversation I was like, wow they're so "lucky." I would give anything to be able to have Alicia be healthy and come home with us sooner rather than later. They're looking at a couple of days, maybe weeks, we're looking at months. They most likely won't have to deal with the fears, struggles and anxieties that we've had to face with the PDA, BPD, ROP and a whole slew of other abbreviations that I don't even want to think about. =) Made me think, "It's all pretty relative, eh?"

I mean, I'm sitting here thinking that our days in the NICU are interminable, but I'm sure there are parents out there who maybe never even got more than a few minutes or a few hours with their kid, and for them they'd give anything to be in our shoes to be able to touch, talk, and see their children alive. It's all relative.

Of course our one constant is our Heavenly Father. He is our stabilizer. He knows it all and has it all under control. He knows the exact date when Alicia will get to move "upstairs." And believe me when I say she is going to move upstairs. Because as I've said before, God has promised that she will LIVE and tell of his wonderful works. He also knows the exact day when we'll be able to take her home. So we wait in anticipation for that triumphant day to arrive.

I wish this race were more of a sprint, than a marathon. I wish that we could have given her a few more weeks or even days before she came out, so that she could have come out stronger and more prepared. But you know what, once again, it's all relative. I mean if she hadn't come out, we'd still be waiting to bring her home with us wouldn't we? Well, I mean, technically, she'd be at home with us inside of Linda, but still, we wouldn't be able to hold her and touch her and speak to her the way we do. And again, our Daddy knew. Alicia's birthdate was a surprise to us, but not to him. He had all the days of her life written in his book before she was even a blip on the sonogram.

So Daddy knows it all. He really does. And that gives me comfort. It also reminds me not to compare. The preemie book warned us not to compare how our baby is doing with other babies, because each baby is truly different and really, comparing just drags you down. I mean you've got these people coming in and out every week, while we're still there in the same spot. Bed 13, in the back. It's like Alicia came out earlier but then is kind of "falling behind." But you know what? Slow and steady wins the race right? =)

And Alicia really is slowly but steadily growing and getting better. Her weight is up to 770 grams today - a 14 gram increase from yesterday. She continues to get cuter and cuter each day, even the nurses say so. They think now that she's got a bit more meat on her she's even cuter than when she first arrived. And she loves to do these cute little poses. I couldn't stop taking pictures today.

Her breathing is about the same. She still forgets to breathe and has trouble getting enough air when she eats. But we spoke to a doctor today about that, and she says that Alicia is still pretty young, so that it makes sense that she's still got these issues. They'll keep observing. By 35 weeks or 36 weeks adjusted age (Alicia is 31 weeks this week) her brain should be developed enough that it can better control her breathing. If at that time she's still having problems, then that might be an indication of more severe problems. At this point it's what they call AOP (Apnea of Prematurity). Apnea (forgetting to breathe) caused by prematurity. So nothing too much to worry about.

There's not too much else to report. Oh, they are going to have a team of physical therapists come and look at Alicia sometime in the next few days. They're going to give her a check up and see what kind of exercises they can recommend to help her muscles develop and not get stiff. This is a good sign. It means that she's stable, otherwise they wouldn't be taking this next step. So we look forward to learning what we can do to help our daughter develop better and better.

Prayer requests:

1. Continue to pray for her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development. We went to a class earlier this week about various struggles preemies have as they get older and the kind of the therapy that is done. Pray that Alicia will continue to develop well and thrive.

2. Pray for wisdom for the doctors and nurses as they take care of Alicia. We pray for the best care for her and that all the care will further Alicia down the road to complete healing and health.

3. Pray that God would give us wisdom to filter out things that are said to us. Some people over the past couple of days have told us things out of their love and concern for us that were actually more of a burden than a help. Pray that God would help us to receive their love but then to be able to filter out anything that is not of him.

4. Pray for all of our loved ones. I have a sense that we are not alone in having to deal with the stress of this situation. And I know that the enemy would love for nothing more than to take the stress and use it to destroy, disrupt and disturb our family. But we come against that in the name of Jesus Christ. Pray for God's peace and comfort to reign.

Thanks everyone. Oh, and just a note of clarification in case there was any confusion or miscommunication. I had previously posted and asked for people to pray for our finances. Please do not read that as a cue to donate money. We have never, nor are we now asking for money or donations. Please just pray. Our God is not only Jehovah Rapha, our great healer, but he is also Jehova Jireh, our provider. He is and will continue to take good care of us.

Much love,