I have to say, one of my favorite things to do is holding Alicia.
When I hold her, life becomes a whole lot simpler. It's not about deadlines, bills, mortgages, careers, health problems, etc... It's just about our family. Me, Linda and Alicia just being together.
Most of the time when we hold Alicia there is an initial few seconds when she deals with the shock of being pulled out of her incubator. But once we all get settled and everything calms down, Alicia just falls into this deep and peaceful sleep. These times when we get to hold her rarely does her oxygen levels drop, rarely does she cringe or get tense. She's just completely content just resting in Mommy or Daddy's arms.
I got back to the family on Thursday night after almost a full week of work. I rushed straight to the hospital from the High Speed Rail Station. Because I got held up at work, I was a little late getting to the hospital. And on my way to the hospital I was a bit anxious, but I felt God tell me not to worry, and that the nurses would give me grace to stay a bit longer. Well, not only did they let us stay a bit longer. They let us stay nearly an hour afterwards to hold and snuggle with our daughter.
In fact, over the past few days, the nurses have been really accommodating in this area. After each of our three sessions the past two days, one of the nurses has always asked us if we wanted to hold Alicia. And even though she's still a bit small for Kangaroo Care, they still let us hold her for quite a long time. I feel like the nurses are really rooting for our family and really rooting for us to be able to do Kangaroo as soon as possible.
For those of you who are a bit unclear about what Kangaroo Care is, it's a method for holding a baby involving skin to skin contact for an extended period of time. It's recommended for newborns, and especially premature kiddies, because it's been shown to have a large host of health benefits. Studies have shown that preemies who do Kangaroo Care tend to thrive and heal better and faster than those that don't.
At our hospital, their usual policy is to do Kangaroo Care only after the kid is breathing well on his/her own and off the ventilator. At that time, doctors feel that they are stable enough to handle the jostling and handling involved with taking them out of the incubator and placing them with the parents.
Thankfully, since Alicia's broke the 1000 grams mark, the nurses have been really sweet in giving us time to hold Alicia. It takes a small amount of effort to get her out of the incubator because the nurses need to disconnect the ventilator and wrap her in a towel, and then place her in our arms. And then she's got to make sure that the vent tube is adjusted in a position that doesn't pull at or dislodge the tube in Alicia's body. But thankfully, the nurses have been really sweet and proactive about asking us if we want to hold her.
While we still look forward to the day when we can do Kangaroo Care, we're thankful for this intermittent step. It's definitely a blessing, and privilege that we don't take lightly.
The other day one of the doctors saw us holding Alicia, and she said, "Well, since you've already taken her out, you might as well do Kangaroo Care." One of the nurses responded by saying, "We've been waiting for you to say those exact words." I guess all the nurses really hope for us to be able to do Kangaroo Care. Unfortunately the doctor isn't our attending physician, so she said, "Well, I can't make calls like that." Well, we pray.
I believe that once we can do Kangaroo Care, Alicia will improve by leaps and bounds.
She's been doing well in terms of her breathing. Yesterday, for the first time, I saw her breathe 21% oxygen (same as regular room air) and hold pretty steady. Today, she continued to do the same except when she was feeding. However, the amazing thing is previously when she was feeding, she'd need her vent to be set at 30% oxygen or higher. Today, she only needed about 25% oxygen. And then when we were about to leave, she had settled back down, so they were able to turn her back to 21% oxygen, and she breathed really well. So that's a vast improvement.
The one thing she still struggles with is breathing on her own. She's getting efficient at getting enough oxygen from lower oxygen saturation. But she's still not breathing enough on her own to pull her off the vent. The vent right now is still helping her take 15 breaths a minute. One reason for this is that her muscles may not be strong enough to maintain her breathing on her own yet. But that's OK. We keep praying and believing that she's going to get stronger and stronger and soon she will be breathing well on her own without help from the vent.
Alicia is also growing and getting bigger and bigger. After a week of not seeing her, I definitely saw a huge difference in size. That's a great praise. Trouble is doctors want her to grow more. And so do we. She grew 6 grams from yesterday to today. Ideally, she'd be growing 15-30 grams a day. Doctors are trying to figure out where her calories may be going. I think once they figure out this mystery and fix it, Alicia will take off. The bigger she is, the stronger she will be, and the more she'll be able to do things on her own. The more she can do things on her own, the sooner she can come home.
One thing that Linda and I are suspecting is that while she was born at 25 weeks, she may be more like a 24-weeker. We remember while Linda was still pregnant, that Alicia was measuring a little smaller than other kids of the same gestational age, which may explain why she was much smaller than other kids who were born at the same week as she. Keep in mind that gestational age is all estimated since no one really knows exactly when she was conceived.
Some good news is that Alicia's neighbor who was born on the same night as she was has graduated! He was also a 25-weeker, but weighed about 100 grams more than Alicia when he was born. In the beginning, he had some trouble with infection, but recovered from that quickly, and has been on the up and up since then. A couple of days ago, after pulling out his own tube accidentally, the doctors and nurses decided to see if he could breathe on his own, and he did really well! From there they went on to letting the mom do Kangaroo Care, and then today we got the news that he's strong and stable enough to move to the step down unit upstairs!
We're sad to see them go, but so happy that they're getting ready to go home! At the same time, our heart longs for our own day when we can go home. I hope that we will follow soon and very soon.
Also, please be praying for Alicia's other neighbor, Kai Ge. He's had some more complications these past few days and has been reintubated, meaning he's back on the vent. He also will probably need another round of surgeries over the next few days. He's already had several surgeries in his short lifetime, and originally he was doing really well and getting better and better. But somehow he got an infection and now he's back on the vent. We've been talking with his mom these past few days. And it's really hard on her and her husband. They've been in our NICU longer than any other current residents and they had hoped that they'd be going home soon. But with these new developments it looks like their stay may be prolonged a bit longer.
Thanks friends for all of your support and prayers.
Please pray for Linda and I. We're getting pretty tired of the battle. For the most part, we're still happy and content. But we are ready for all of this to be over and for life to get back to normal. Well, as normal as life can be with a newborn. =)
I feel all over the place right now. I'm not really sad or depressed, but at the same time I am very weary. I just want everything to be simple. It just feels like everything takes effort nowadays. I don't know if that makes any sense. Our spirits are good, we still laugh and smile and enjoy each other's company, but at the same time we wouldn't mind if God would create and instant miracle and heal Alicia right now.
I'm not really making sense. My mind is pretty tired. I feel like I need a vacation. Haha.
Anyway, thanks everyone.
Lots of love.