These past few days I have just been struck with wonder and amazement at how far we've come.
Over the past week our NICU has become packed with new residents. There are several pairs of twins and some singletons, all weighing in under 700 grams. Tiny, tiny little ones. In our time at the NICU we've seen dozens of kids and families come in and out, but I think as Alicia gets bigger and stronger, and the gap between her condition and others gets wider and wider the more aware I become of just how much the Lord has done.
As I look at our chubby little girl, and then I look around at her new neighbors, I can't help but be filled with a sense of gratitude. I look at these tiny little bodies, all skin and bones, and then I look at our girl who is filling out quite well, and it just amazes me how far we've come and I can't help but revel in God's faithfulness these past three months.
These past three months have really gone by in a blur, and yet it's amazing how quickly the sight of these new little lives transports me back to those early days when Alicia weighed barely over a pound .
It seemed like just yesterday when we ourselves arrived in the NICU, teary, wide-eyed and anxious. Hanging on our doctors and nurses' every word, listening for every glimmer of hope that our little girl was going to be OK, and being struck deeply in the heart each time the prognosis was slightly negative.
I see the little droplets of water on the inside of the new babies' incubators and I am reminded of my first few days with tiny Alicia trying to take pictures of her, but getting frustrated because the condensation was preventing me from getting a good angle.
I look around at the new parents and recognize in their faces the same agonizing fears that Linda and I experienced when we first set foot in the NICU. I see them huddled in front of their children's incubators having hushed conversations with doctors and I can only imagine the stress and anxiety that must be floating through their minds and hearts.
I see a nurse sitting in front of one of the incubators, one hand on the ventilator, one hand inside the incubator trying to resuscitate a little person who has just forgotten to breathe and I am reminded of how not too long ago, Linda and I often had to step aside during our visits so that a nurse could step in and revive Alicia after she had another apnea spell.
I hear the beeps of the monitor, and I instinctively want to take my eyes off Alicia and check her monitor to make sure that her oxygen is at a good level only to remember half-second later that Alicia no longer has a monitor that beeps and that she's breathing well enough that for the most part her oxygen levels are holding steady at 100%.
It feels strange to hear parents around us having the same conversations with their children that we ourselves had with Alicia not but two weeks ago. Conversations where we remind, even pleaded with our daughter to breathe and to focus on growing healthy and strong. Conversations where we assured her of our love and that she was doing great.
We hear questions coming from the parents that we ourselves have asked, and we hear the nurses give answers that only now am I realizing must be things that they say over and over and over again.
I look at these little ones whose skin is so translucent that you can see the color of the blood flowing beneath, and I marvel at how our little girl is now chubby and rosy-cheeked. I rejoice at how she has really filled out and lost a lot of her excess body hair so that she looks more and more like a regular, healthy baby, and not so much like some skinny alien monkey.
Two great pieces of news today is that Alicia has broken 1500 grams. She weighed in at 1508 grams today! Praise the Lord! =) Also, what's even better is that she's eating on her own!
Before last night, Alicia was taking in all of her milk through a feeding tube. Yesterday, they tried to feed her with a bottle just to see how well she'd do, and she loved it! The first time they fed her this way, the nurse said she liked it but she was really confused. She didn't quite know what to do with this strange liquid that was passing through her mouth for the first time. The second time they fed her, she took the milk in like a pro. They were able to feed her up to 18cc, and she wanted more, but the nurse saw that she was panting and exerting a lot energy, so she decided it'd be better to give the rest of her milk through the tube.
This evening when we got to the NICU, there was an empty milk bottle on top of her incubator. I thought that the nurse had just forgotten to put it away after feeding her, so I moved it. But the nurse came rushing over and said, "Daddy! That bottle is precious! It's Alicia's victory bottle. She drank that bottle all by herself today!" Yahoo! Alicia drank all 27cc of her milk all by herself from a bottle. That's HUGE!
The nurse said that they did have to stop in between because she got a little tired from the exertion, but that Alicia loved drinking the milk on her own, and when they stopped in between, she seemed eager to drink more. Also, a couple of nurses told us that Alicia seemed more well-behaved today after having switched to the bottle-feeding. Haha. Another encouraging thing is that originally they tried Alicia on a special nipple for preemies. It's a softer nipple and I think it regulates the flow of the milk. Alicia didn't really like that nipple, so they tried her on a nipple for regular babies, and she loved it!
For those of you who have been following our journey, you'll remember that one of the requirements of her being able to go home is that she needs to be able to take all of her feedings by mouth. So this is definitely a huge step in the right direction.
Alicia just gets cuter and cuter each and every day. And I just love, love my kangaroo time with her. It just feels so right to hold her in my arms, on my chest and to just have her sleep there completely at peace. It really amazes me how well she rests that way. She barely stirs when she's in my arms. Tonight after the evening visit, the nurses let us hold Alicia again. We didn't do Kangaroo time, but we did cradle her in our arms for about 30 min. I loved it. I loved looking at our daughter's round cheeks and smooth white-skin and just soaking in the wonder of this little gift that the Lord has given to us. I can't wait for the day when all the extra trappings - the tubes, wires, blindfold, and head wrap - are all removed, and we can finally see the fullness of the beauty our Lord has created in our daughter.
We're getting there friends. We really are! =) Keep praying.