Friday, September 30, 2011

Four Months and 2200 Grams

It is so late right now, and I should really get to bed, seeing as my days of getting a full night's rest are numbered, but my mind has been running all day of things I need to write out so here I am.

First of all, September 29, 2011 marks Alicia's 4 month birthday. To think back where we were four months ago to where we are now, it is nothing but astounding.

Four months ago, Linda and I were in our hospital room adjusting to the fact that we were thrust into parenthood in quite the abrupt and unexpected fashion. Four months ago, we were clinging on to every fiber of faith that we had hoping just to get through the first week, counting the days until Alicia was considered out of the "danger zone." Four months ago, Linda hadn't even seen Alicia yet except in photos. Four months ago we were still trying to gain our footing as new parents in the NICU trying to make sense of all the foreign things that our doctors were telling us about our very special daughter. Four months ago Alicia was less than a pound and all skin and bones. Four months ago . . .

Today, we've got a vibrant, thriving 2230-gram bouncing baby girl who by the looks of things is going to live a fantastically extraordinary life. She's got the power to win people's hearts and if all the reports are true, has quite the personality. =) We're so, so very thankful.

By reaching 2230 grams, Alicia has now fully met all the qualifications for discharge - she's breathing beautifully on her own, she's eating on her own, and she weighs over 2200 grams. So the past week has been all about getting the house ready. And for the most part things are all set for Alicia to come home. I've been cleaning and cleaning and cleaning, organizing and cleaning some more. Thankfully, I haven't needed to do it on my own, some really great friends of ours have been helping me to get the house ready for my queen and princess's grand homecoming.

I will be heading down tomorrow evening to meet up with Linda and Alicia. We'll spend the weekend together, and then on Monday, Alicia will be discharged and take her first excursion out into the real world.

It's crazy to think that this little girl is 4 months old yet she's never seen the sun, never breathed "fresh" air, never seen a tree or a bird. She's never been in a car or any other kind of transportation. Her whole life has been confined to two floors of the hospital. Amazing. I can't wait to take Alicia outside and introduce her to the world as we know it. =)

Some of you may be wondering why I wrote, "Monday" earlier and not "Friday." Well, for various reasons, which I won't go into here, after talking to Alicia's attending physician, the decision was made that it would be best if Alicia left on a Monday rather than a Friday. So that's what we're going to do.

There's more to share and write, but it's getting really late, so I'll end it for now. =)

More soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Last Minute Scramble

Why do I always put things off until the last minute?

My night was spent shopping for some last minute items for Alicia's nursery, towels, a changing pad, a mosquito net, a nail clipper, random things for my princess. =) Things are coming together nicely in the house. We're truly preparing for the grand homecoming of Princess Alicia and Queen Linda.

One thing to pray about is for continued protection over Alicia's health. There is a virus going around right now, and many of the kiddies in the SBR are sick because of it. In order to protect Alicia, they've kept her in the incubator, even though at this point, she technically can be out. Today, however, they noticed that she had a bit of a stuffy nose. It isn't confirmed yet if she has a cold, but they did do a mouth culture and a chest X-ray to double check. The X-ray looked normal, so that's a good sign. We'll need to wait until tomorrow to find out the results of the swab. Praying for an all-clear and a for a smooth discharge on Friday.

Crazy thing is that originally the hospital had talked about discharging Alicia today, Monday, September 26. But because Linda is living on her own right now, she asked them if they could delay it a few days until her sister was back so that she could have some help at home.

The plan as of now is to get Alicia out of the hospital, then Linda and Alicia will stay an extra week with her sister before we move them both back to our house. This gives Linda time to adjust to being Alicia's full-time caregiver, and also let's her have some help during that first crucial week while I'm at work. Also, Linda's sister's house is closer to the hospital so in case anything happens, it'll be easier to get back to the hospital from there.

I think I mentioned in a previous entry awhile ago about feeling gipped of the excitement and anticipation of a normal delivery. The beautiful thing is that I think it's being redeemed. I find myself eager with anticipation of bringing our daughter home. I'm eagerly preparing the house, I'm wondering what our life will be like together. It's good!

One request I do have for you loved ones is please be patient with us as we adjust to life with Alicia. We'll need some time to figure out a schedule and also to just get used to being parents before we are ready for any visitors. Also, as much as I would LOVE, LOVE to throw a HUGE lavish celebration and party welcoming Alicia and Linda home. I think that may need to wait for a few months while Alicia gets bigger and stronger and her immune system gets more solid. We've been told several times from doctors and nurses and also other resources that we need to keep Alicia away from enclosed public spaces for awhile to reduce the risk of contracting anything. So, please be patient. We will celebrate, it'll just need to be a little later. So if we aren't sending out invitations right away telling people to come over and meet Alicia, please understand that it's not that we're trying to be rude, but that we're trying to protect her and do what's best for her. The last thing we want is to come this far, get her out of the hospital only to land right back.

We really do want people to meet her, especially since you guys have all been praying for her for so long. But we will need time. So please be patient just for a bit longer!

Thanks friends.

Lots and lots of love.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And the Countdown Begins

The past few days have been quite eventful.

First of all, my beautiful niece, Hope Chang, made her entrance into the world on September 24, 2011 at 10:40 a.m. I went to bed last night with the news that my brother and sister-in-law had checked into the hospital. And I woke up and received the news of her arrival. How may you ask did I receive this news? Facebook, of course! Another example of how Facebook has changed the face of relationships and interactions. =)

I couldn't be prouder to be an uncle. My Chinese name is 愷伯 (Kai Bo). The second character in my name means an uncle of one's father. My parents gave me the second character in my name because as the oldest male in my generation, I would be "大伯" to all of my brother's and cousin's children. Now with Hope's arrival, I have am now officially living up to my name. =)

Hope is the completion of the double portion of blessing the Lord has poured out upon my family. My parents and grandparents have waited a long time to be grandparents and great grandparents respectively. And in one year, they get double the blessing.

You'll remember that actually Alicia was originally due only a couple of weeks before her cousin. Had Alicia been a few weeks late, rather than three months early she and Hope could have been practically twins. =) I love that Alicia and Hope are so close in age. I can only imagine the kind of stuff they're going to get into as they get older. Look out world, the Chang Girls have arrived!

In other news, Alicia got her hearing test done a few days ago. This is a hearing test that all children get right before they're discharged from the hospital. Today we were told that her hearing is normal! Praise the Lord! Another huge sigh of relief. I was reading the preemie book, and for all the things that Alicia went through at birth, the chances of her having hearing problems were actually quite high. But God was gracious. =) Great thing, cause Alicia is going to need her hearing if she's going to be the great musician that she's supposed to be. =) (Says Daddy.) haha.

Well, we realized today during our evening visit that it would be the last time that I would see Alicia before she gets discharged on Friday! So absolutely crazy. I can't believe we've finally reached the end of this journey. And we are now about to step into the crazy, fun, hectic, exciting, nerve-wracking but absolutely rewarding world of full-time parenting! Our lives definitely changed when Alicia was born, but I can only imagine what our lives will become once we actually get her home!

Part of me can't wait to get her home so that I can cuddle her, hold her and play with her whenever I want to. Now that she is more stable, and we are preparing to take her home, Linda and I have been spending more time with her at the hospital, and I am just loving the extra parent-daughter time. Our little girl is truly a darling.

However, I have to admit, that I am a bit wary. I mean, there's so much to learn! I want my girl to thrive, but there are so many facets to that. For years, I've observed parents around me and taken notes on the things that I like and don't like, things that I want to do and things I don't want to do. And now, now, it's all coming to a point. I feel like I only get one chance at this and I don't want to mess it up. =)

Just realizing that a lot of parents must feel the same way, and actually the fact that I'm thinking about these things is a great sign. It means we have a healthy, bouncing baby girl!

I'll keep y'all posted on how things go! I'm sure I'll be contacting many of you for advice soon and very soon.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Moment We've All Been Waiting For

So I got the sweetest, most fantastic bit of news yesterday.

That's right, friends. Alicia, she's a coming home!!! =)

We finally, finally have a date for Alicia's discharge. If all goes smoothly and as planned, Alicia will be out of the hospital on next Friday, September 30 - the day after she turns 4 months old.

It is actually a bit hard to believe that we're finally at this point! For four months, we've patiently waited and endured, hoping and ancitipating this day's arrival. And it's finally here! Of course, this means that we're about to transition into a whole new phase of life, and a whole other journey. Am I excited? You better believe it! But in some odd way, it's like I've been waiting and pushing for this news for so long, it feels more like, it's about time! =)

It's like the many long road trips I've been on in my life - 5 hours, 10 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours. You leave and you drive, and you drive. After hours of nothing but highway, finally you take an exit, and you know your destination is approaching. Then, especially if you're returning to a place you know well, you start to recognize familiar surroundings and your spirit starts to breathe a sigh of relief, we're almost there. Then you finally arrive and it's like all the stuff you've endured for the past several hours - the uncomfortable seats, the lack of facilities, the cramped spaces, the broken AC, etc... - all of it just fades into a distant memory.

We're circling around the block friends! Soon we'll be pulling up to our driveway and starting our new life as a family of three. So exciting, but definitely daunting. It's not someone else's kid we're messing around with anymore. =)

The past few days have been all about preparations. Linda's been spending most of her mornings at the SBR now learning how to care for Alicia. This weekend when I go down, I'll be getting my own training. We'll need to learn basic things like how to change her diaper, how to bathe her, when to give her medicine, how to feed her, how to tell if she's breathing, etc... =) OK, maybe that last one isn't so basic. =) haha. But you get the idea.

The funny thing is that there's been a shift in the way the medical staff talk about Alicia's condition. In the beginning, if you'll remember, it was all about, she's unstable. We need to keep her here. Don't move her. She needs help. Now it's like, she needs to go home. Even if she isn't 2200 grams yet. She needs to go home. It's similar to how many expectant moms at about 37 or 38 weeks switch over from, please stay in, please stay in, to let's get this thing out of me!

Some of you, like we did, might have some concerns about whether or not this is too rushed or too soon. But Alicia's primary doctor has said that Alicia is old enough, big enough and stable enough to do well on her own without a lot of medical care. And also lately there is a virus going around. So she feels that in the long run it will actually be better for us to take Alicia home so she doesn't catch something from the other kids.

In fact, they're most likely going to keep Alicia in her incubator until discharge as a precautionary measure. =)

So the next week will be all about preparations and getting ourselves and our house ready for Alicia's grand homecoming. Lots and lots to prepare, but it'll get done.

I really can't believe we're here. Like I said, we've been on this journey for almost 4 months now. It's kind of crazy to wrap my head around the idea of having her home with us. Seriously? Are we really, really at this point? Can we really have her for our own? It's almost too good to be true.

God is amazing, isn't he? This journey has been insane. I'm a bit overwhelmed at God giving us the opportunity to care for such a precious, precious life. This girl has an powerful destiny here on this Earth, and to be entrusted with raising her is an incredible privilege.

Of course we have our trepidations. Can we really take care of this baby all on our own? I mean, we've never done this 24 hour thing before with any baby, let alone one that was born under such special circumstances. But in the end I'm reminded, God isn't going to bring Alicia this far just to let things fall apart when we take her home. She is going to thrive, and we are going to thrive as a family.

And also, we've got you guys, our cloud of witnesses, our faithful friends, family and prayer warriors. God has used your corporate prayers, love and encouragement to sustain us over this journey. We'd appreciate the continued prayers as we transition into life with our precious daughter.

I look forward to introducing her to many of you very, very soon!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Free At Last

Our dear little girl is finally free of all ties that bind! Today the last of her tubes, her feeding tube, was finally, finally removed! Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!

Yesterday, she was able to take 5 out of 8 feedings by mouth all on her own, so they felt that it was time to time to pull out the last remaining crutch and set her free. Alicia's been making a lot of progress in the eating department and she's getting better and better at sucking, swallowing and breathing. Daddy's so proud of his little girl. =) Another reason they took out the tube was because they also felt that it was obstructing her ability to get a good suck. So now it'll be up to our little girl to eat on her own. No more excess aids to help her. =) And this was only two days after we tried breastfeeding her. Amazing!

Today was her first full day of eating on her own. The nurse Linda spoke with in the evening said that Alicia did really well eating her first meal of the day on her own. The second meal, Linda was there to breastfeed, so Alicia didn't actually finish her whole bottle. By the third meal though, Alicia kind of lost steam. She only at about half of her milk. We think it was because she was too tired. But it's OK. She can try again tomorrow. =)

This is such an exciting time. Our little girl is coming home soon, I can feel it. I really can. It's so nice to be out of the deep and into the shallow, and soon to be coming out of the water. People who have seen Alicia recently have remarked on how much she looks like a normal baby now. Which is so true!

It's like I said before, it's reality catching up with faith. Many, many of you have been praying for us every day for three and a half months. I hope that our journey together has really encouraged you! It's certainly encouraged us.

Our God is a good God. He is a faithful God. His ways are infinitely higher than our ways. While we don't understand everything he does, we trust and we believe that he has his greater purpose in mind, and he has our best in mind.

Let the celebration continue! Our little girl is THRIVING!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And We Have A Latch!

Fantastic news! Linda was able to breastfeed Alicia for a bit today.

Since Alicia's moved up to the SBR she hasn't been eating as well, and so Linda and I were trying to find ways to help her eat better on her own. As we read through some of our resources we came across a possible solution - breastfeeding. According to our resources, breastfeeding is sometimes a lot easier for preemies because they can control the flow of milk. The reason Alicia's been having trouble with the bottle is because she hasn't quite gotten down the suck, swallow and breath coordination yet. With bottles, the milk continues to follow whether or not the child sucks or not, so babies need to learn how to use their tongue to stop the flow of milk so they can breathe or swallow. Imagine someone holding your mouth open and pouring liquid down your throat. You'd get exhausted trying to keep up with the flow. The benefit of breastfeeding is that if the child doesn't suck, the milk stops flowing. This gives them a chance to rest and swallow and breathe, so it's a lot easier to coordinate.

So today when we got to the visiting hours, we decided to approach our nurse about it. When Linda asked the nurse, she was quite obliging and said that she would help us to give it a try during our Kangaroo session today.

Around 11:00 after visiting hours were over, Linda got settled in the recliner and the nurse gently placed Alicia in her arms. After adjusting Alicia's head so that she was in the right position, they began to try feeding her. At first, Alicia seemed quite confused and didn't quite know what to do. The nurse squeezed a bit of milk out for Alicia to taste, and she kept talking to her explaining what this foreign object was that we were placing in her mouth. Unfortunately at this time Alicia was more interested in sleeping than eating, so she didn't really latch on very well. The good news was that she hadn't rejected the experience. According to the nurse, some kids just don't like breastfeeding and will cry when introduced to the breast. But Alicia was OK. She suckled a bit, but went promptly to sleep. So we decided to just let her rest and try again later when she was hungry.

After sleeping deeply for about an hour and a half, Alicia awoke whimpering to be fed. So the nurse came over and we tried again. It took a bit for Alicia to figure out what was going on, but eventually she did latch on and start sucking. It was such a monumental moment. The three of us rejoiced at the sight and sound of Alicia eating. Linda and I both felt such a sense of accomplishment.

The thing is though, Alicia still hasn't learned yet that in breastfeeding she needs to suck in order to get the milk. Linda would squeeze some out by hand and give Alicia a taste, and she'd start sucking. Then Linda would try to let Alicia try to eat on her own, but she'd get tired and stop. Which would also stop the flow, and after a few moments of nothing, Alicia would start complaining because she wasn't getting any milk. So Linda would squeeze some more out and Alicia would once again latch on and start sucking. But when she stopped to rest, again nothing, and she'd cry again. After a few times of this, we could tell she was getting tired, so we decided to switch her back over to the bottle.

I guess this is what they call nipple confusion? But the nurse said that for the first time, what Linda and Alicia were able to accomplish today was actually really good. Alicia latched and suckled, and she didn't reject being fed by Mommy. So we're super thankful.

As I was watching Alicia feed however, the pastor in me couldn't help but think about how today's breastfeeding experience was actually quite a good illustration of how many of us are with God.

Through the whole experience, the three of us surrounded Alicia and encouraged her and cheered her on. She was completely safe. Also, the thing she craved so much, Linda's milk, was right there ready and available to her. All she needed to do a little bit of work and suck, and the milk that she so craved would be flowing down her throat. However, because it wasn't what she was used to, she kept complaining and crying. She wanted the milk, and it was just taking too much effort.

Funny thing is, once she gets used to it, it's going to be second nature. And it's not like we were withholding the good thing from her, we were actually trying to help her to get it in a better way.

I started to wonder how often in my own life did I have a longing or a craving that I keep begging God to fulfill. I cry and complain and I wail asking God to help me. And all the while the solution is right in front of my face, all I need to do is to reach out, put in a little bit of effort and what I long for will be mine. It's not like God is withholding anything from me, but he's trying to teach me to get it in a more permanent and better way. But because I don't get the results that I long for right away, I just give up and go back to wailing and complaining, even though all the while, what I want is right there in front of me.

And I am certain that just as Linda, the nurse and I were surrounding Alicia, the Holy Trinity is also surrounding me as I'm learning and trying. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are encouraging me to keep trying and to go for it, and to not to give up. And yet I get frustrated and give up.

When I first thought of this analogy, I thought that the lesson was for me to keep trying and to never give up. And that is true. If I give up, the prize may never become mine. However, as I think about it some more, the true lesson here is that struggle isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes as we learn how to do things, it's a challenge. But it's that challenge that helps us get stronger and better.

Alicia learning how to eat is a process. Me learning whatever it is I'm trying to learn how to do, that's a process too. Is God cruel and mean for making me work so hard? Are we cruel and mean to try to get Alicia to eat from the breast? Is it easier for Alicia to eat from the bottle? Maybe. But is that what's best for her in the long run? That's debatable.

I believe in the same way that we're trying to help Alicia grow and mature by challenging her to learn how to breastfeed. God does the same with us. He challenges us to grow and mature. He gives us situations that are a bit harder and not as comfortable. However, he doesn't do it out of cruelty but as a desire to help us grow and mature.

And at the same time he provides grace that makes room for our weaknesses and failures. When Alicia gave up on the breast, we didn't say, too bad, no more milk for you. No, we still fed her the rest of her milk through the bottle. In the same way, just because we aren't capable of doing something today, God doesn't say, "OK, too bad. You'll starve." No, he still provides, he still takes care of us. But this doesn't mean he's not going to ask us to try again tomorrow.

So just as my daughter is learning to persevere in eating, I'm also learning how to persevere in many ways. God is a good God, and a good Father. He pushes us so that we will grow, but he also knows how much we can handle. And when we feel like we've had enough, he's right there beside us to comfort and reassure us.

Life lessons from a 3-month-old. Gotta love it.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Alicia has officially broken the 2000 grams mark! Yahoo! She's at 2005 grams today, which is 4lbs. 7 ounces for you Americans. All this after dropping about 60 grams in excess poop yesterday. What an amazing little girl. In celebration of this new milestone here are a few photos I put together of Alicia when she was first born and now. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Going Home

It's an interesting time in our family right now. Towards the end of last year, my grandma had a major stroke which put her in a coma. She's been in that coma for the better part of half a year now and has been on life support for pretty much the entire time.

When Alicia was born, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between my new daughter and my old grandmother. Both were dependent on medical equipment for survival. Both were hooked up to IVs, feeding tubes and ventilators. Both needed round the clock medical care. Both were in ICUs. Both needed medication.

Tonight as I was having dinner with my family, I was struck again by the odd parallels between the two lives, and yet the different destinations both were headed for.

My parents arrived last night from the States. The purpose of their visit is two-fold. One to see and welcome their new granddaughter to the world. And two, to move my grandmother home and prepare for her imminent departure from the world.

As I listened to my dad's conversation with his siblings, I couldn't help but marvel at the timing of it all and the strange parallels that can be drawn between great-grandmother and great-granddaughter.

As I said earlier, both my grandmother and my daughter were on ventilators for quite some time. Both went through a weaning process from the vent in the hopes that they would start breathing on their own. Difference is, as time went on Grandma got weaker and weaker while Alicia got stronger and stronger and is now completely off the vent.

At this point, both still have feeding tubes inside of them, the difference is one is eating better and better on her own, the other may never eat on her own again.

Both at this point have no teeth. One's teeth hasn't grown in yet. The other's teeth fell out year's ago.

Both lives at one point hung in the balance, now one's life signs are more and more steady, and stronger and stronger, the other one is starting to fade bit by bit.

Both at this point are in transition and on the verge of hospital discharge. One's hospital discharge will signify the start of her life, the other's hospital discharge will represent her last few days on Earth and the end of her life.

Needless to say these past few months have been challenging for my family. Many of you have mentioned how impressed you are with Linda and I and our strength and faith. I'd like to direct your attention to my father. Now that's a man of faith. He not only had to deal with his granddaughter (Alicia) being born early, he also needed to handle his son (me) and daughter-in-law (Linda) going through a difficult time, his wife (my mom) adjusting to life with diabetes, and his mom (my grandmother) being in a coma after a debilitating stroke. A lesser man would have crumbled, but not my dad. He's my hero.

You know, one of my grandma's biggest wishes was to be a great-grandmother. And Alicia being her first great-grandchild, I can't help but wonder if somewhere out in the cosmos, God has prepared a special place for great-grandmother and great-grandmother to meet and chat before both move on to their next destinations. I imagine grandma chatting with Alicia passing on her wisdom and insight and handing off the baton of life to our family's next generation. It's as if the oldest member of our family is transferring all that God has given to her upon the newest member of our family. The life she once lived will now be carried on by a new little one whose life has barely just begun.

It is seriously uncanny how one life on Earth is beginning just as the other one is ending but both are heading home. Grandma's moving on to permanent home up in heaven, and Alicia's moving on to her home with Linda and I. The next few weeks should be interesting as our family prepares to welcome and bid farewell to these precious ladies in our family.

Through it all, there is one grand comfort. And it's that though the two lives will cross for only a brief moment here on Earth, by God's grace, they will have all of eternity to get to know each other once we all get over to the other side of Heaven.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Alicia is growing like a champ. She was 1900 grams (4 lbs. 3 oz.) today. And that was after having a 40 gram poopie diaper. Amazing. This is good. This means that she's packing on the meat. Hallelujah.

Another 300 grams and she'll be qualified to be discharged. Go, Alica, you can do it! Of course, discharge is also contingent on a few other issues as well. First, we've got to get her out of the incubator. She's actually technically big enough to shed this plastic shell that's been protecting her for three months. At our hospital once a kid is 1800 grams and steady, then they usually take them out of the box. But, lately there's been a lot of sick babies in the Sick Baby Room (well, duh), but what I mean is that there are a lot of infections flying around, so for her protection doctors have decided it best to keep her in the incubator for a bit longer.

Once she's out of the incubator, Linda and I will start getting some training on how to take care of her once she's at home. Things like bathing, feeding, CPR, etc... Also, Alicia it's ideal if she can eat on her own. Lately, she hasn't been able to take much in by mouth. Probably once again due to the fact that she's adjusting to her new environment.

Step by step we go. Part of me doesn't want to rush her out of the incubator, because once she's out, she'll have to start wearing clothes. And once they put her in clothes, we won't be able to do Kangaroo Care at the hospital anymore. On the flip side, if she never gets out of the incubator, we won't be able to start doing the training and she'll never come home. Also, once she's out, we can hold her whenever we go to visit, and it'll no longer just be two hands through the portholes.

The good news is that Alicia is toward the front of the SBR where they keep the more healthy and steady babies. When we were in the NICU, we were towards the back, that's where they keep the most special needs kids. We were told today that our section of the SBR is considered, "heaven" by the nurses, and the back? Well, that's "hell." I thought it was an interesting choice of words, but basically gives an idea of the struggles some of the other kids might be going through.

Guess it makes sense, you don't want parents and visitors of healthy babies needing to walk through and see all the struggling kids in order to get to their children.

So on the one hand, my heart is at ease knowing that our little Alicia is doing well. =) She really is beautiful friends. I can't wait for you to meet her. On the other hand, my heart aches and wonders at what the other parents are going through with their children.

The nurses really are kept busy in the SBR. The other day I wrote that there were 50 beds in the SBR, actually I think it's closer to 60 beds. And each nurse is in charge of 6 children. Our day nurse today really had her hands full after we finished our Kangaroo Care. No sooner had she put Alicia back into her incubator, when one after the other, the babies started crying for their milk, it was crazy. =)

Definitely understand why this is a "step-down" unit. There was no way that Alicia could have gotten the care that she needed a few weeks ago, in this place. For the most part, kids here are OK, and just awaiting discharge.

We're getting close friends. Babies are going home all around us. Soon, it will be our turn. But before we go, I found out today that we'll have to take a test to make sure that we're fit caretakers of Alicia. =) If only, every parent had to do that before they got to take their kid home. =) haha.

Blessings, friends.

Cleaning Out the Bowels and Our Bank Account

Odd title for a post I know, but it'll make sense in a few minutes. I promise.

So in my last post I mentioned that Alicia hadn't pooped in almost 3 days. Nurses and doctors suspected that she was adjusting to the move and her new surroundings. It's kind of funny how that would affect one's bowel movements, but I guess kids are strange like that.

Well, yesterday morning, we went and she still hadn't pooped, and it was the beginning of day 3 of constipation, which Linda and I were a little concerned about because she used to go like 3 or 4 times a day. But when we spoke to the nurse she didn't seem too concerned. Alicia wasn't bloated or spitting up, so she said that meant that she was digesting well. And said that they'd observe her for the rest of the day, if she still hadn't pooped by the end of the day they would look into doing something.

Well, that night we went back to the SBR and there was good news. She pooped! And according to the night nurse, it was a doozy. It was the day nurse who actually received Alicia's wonderful gift, and well, apparantly it was quite massive and stinky. Makes sense, it's been building up for 2 1/2 days. =)

So that's the whole cleaning out the bowels part.

What about cleaning out our bank account. Well, before I go into the story, I must write a disclaimer, this in no way shape or form is me writing to ask for money. Many, many of you have already blessed us with gifts that will more than cover our costs. I'm only sharing the story because I think it's amusing, and also I am AMAZED once again at God's provision and planning.

So I decided to let Linda do Kangaroo Care yesterday, since I had done it the two days before. While Linda was doing Kangaroo Care, out of curiosity, I decided to go and check how much our hospital bill was up to that point. So I headed downstairs to the registration counter and waited my turn. When I got to the counter, I handed the clerk Alicia's insurance card and asked her to check how much our bill was.

A few clicks later, she looked up and said, "Your bill so far is $57,437NT." I was like, "OK. But how much is our self-pay portion." She looked at me and said, "That is your self-pay portion." You can imagine my shock. Last time I checked a couple of months ago, our self-pay portion was only $1000NT or $2000NT. So I asked her to print out an itemized bill.

Well, there it was in black and white, "$57,437 self pay." I was shocked, that is until I looked over at our total bill. Try and guess how much it is. Just try. I don't think I've ever seen this many numbers on a bill before.

Our total, as of yesterday, was $1,671,288. Yes, you read that right. Over one MILLION dollars. Granted that's Taiwanese Dollars, but still! Keep in mind that we're not out of the hospital yet. So that number is just going to go up. It kind of puts the $57,437 in perspective, eh? Now you understand the whole, "Clearing Out Our Bank Account" part of the title? ;)

I have to say though, one really has to really appreciate, at least I do, the Taiwanese Health Care system. I mean, Alicia's been in the hospital for over three months, and we are paying less than 4% of the entire hospital bill. Seriously!

Her incubator, NICU/SBR stay, her checkups, her surgeries, all covered by insurance. Thank you, Lord! I can only imagine what it would cost us to go through this in the States.

So what exactly is the $50,000? There was some self-pay medication, some supplies like diapers, etc..., and some other minor things. I still need to check with the doctors about which medications they gave to Alicia and why they were so expensive, but still overall, I'm just grateful.

God is truly amazing. Can we all agree on that? I mean, I can't get over it.

We'll see how much our total bill is in the end, but you know what? I'm not worried. Our God is Jehovah-Jireh, the great provider! He has more than supplied our needs in the past and will continue to do so for the rest of eternity.

One verse that he's been reminding Linda and I of over and over again is Matthew 7:11.
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

We cling to that promise, and I hope that you will too. God is a good God. He's a good Father. He loves us more than we could ever imagine or comprehend. Are you living in that truth today?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I know I've written about this before, but last night before, during and after our visit, I was just reminded of it again.

For all the things that we've had to go through with Alicia, we've had it easy compared to some of the other parents. While our journey hasn't been a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination, it could definitely have been a lot worse.

Last night before our visit with Alicia, Linda and I were eating dinner in the lobby of the hotel when we ran into our old friend Kai-Ge's mom. This is one strong woman, I tell you. She's a few years younger than Linda, and she's already got a 5-year-old daughter at home as well as Kai-Ge. Kai-Ge is still in the NICU due to some complications with excess water in his brain.

I remember what it was like to arrive weeks before other children, and to see them graduate one by one. Kai-Ge arrived several months before us in the NICU, and he's still there. It has to get discouraging in some ways, but Kai-Ge's mom is still hanging in there. I can tell that it's hard for her, but she's pressing on.

After our conversation with our friend, Linda and I chatted and we both agreed that we had a lot to be thankful for. There are a whole slew of medical issues that God in his grace preserved us from.

This fact was further emphasized when we entered the SBR for visiting hours. As I was walking to Alicia's bed, one of the babies caught my eye. This child's head was about the size of an adult's, maybe even larger, but still had the body of an infant. When we got to Alicia's bed, I asked Linda if she had noticed the baby next door. "The one with the big head?" she asked me. I nodded. She said she saw him a few days ago. He's got the same problem as Kai-Ge, except his condition has progressed further.

My initial thoughts were wonder at just how far our heads can stretch. But then again thankfulness for God's grace over our precious daughter. Followed by a need to pray for God's peace and grace to rest with this family. I can only imagine what his family must be going through.

Alicia is now officially one day old, adjusted age. Her due date was yesterday, September 10. She is now really very much like any other newborn, just a bit smaller. =) She's improving daily, and we're so thankful.

Now the goal is to just get her nice and plump so that she can be strong enough and healthy enough to come home. Kind of reminds me of all those fairy tales where the witch feeds the children to plump them up. The difference is we're not planning on eating her later. (Gross.) =)

So, we're getting there friends.

Pray for her lungs. She's doing much better in terms of the phlegm. She's not as congested as before, but she's still got some lingering lung disease. Pray for complete healing of that area.

Also, pray that she can gain strength to eat on her own. For some reason, since she's moved up to the SBR she hasn't been able to eat as much on her own. Also, she hasn't pooped in the past 3 days. I think a lot of this has to do with her adjusting to her new environment. The nurses don't seem too concerned, so that's good. Pray that Alicia's bodily functions and eating will regulate soon.

She's still got a good appetite and is eating and digesting well. She's just not eating a lot on her own. But that's OK. She'll grow into it.

Onwards and upwards we go friends.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Finally got to visit Alicia in her new home today. It was nice, but crowded. I felt like a new student in a new classroom on the first day of school. Everything was strange and unfamiliar. I felt kind of out of my element. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually miss the NICU.

For the past few months, I've kept referring to our new home as "the step-down unit" because I really had no idea what this place was called. All I knew was that it was the place that babies went once they graduated from the NICU. Well, I finally decided to do some research and I found out that in our hospital this unit in Chinese is 新生兒中重度病房 (xin sheng er zhong zhong du bing fang), roughly translated it's the Newborn Medium Care Facility or SBR in English.

Now after being in the in the NICU for several months, I've gotten used to the abbreviations being the simplified forms of more complicated terms like, "Neonatal Intensive Care Unit." So naturally, when Linda told me that Alicia is now in the SBR, I thought that the letters probably stood for some complicated Latin terms. Come to find out that not everything in the hospital requires one to carry around a dictionary to understand. SBR simply stands for "Sick Baby Room." Imagine that. Guess whoever was naming the rooms ran out of steam when they got to naming this one. Haha.

So the SBR, well, it's nice in that it gives Linda and I a sense of progress. Alicia is getting better and one step closer to coming home. However, as I said earlier, it takes getting used to.

First off, the place is huge! Where there were maybe about 30 beds in the NICU, there are close to 50 beds in the SBR. Also before in the NICU, the nurse to baby ratio was 1 to 2 or 1 to 3, now it's 1 to 6. So all the personal attention we were used to getting is now more scarce. Both Linda and I noticed that while the nurses in the SBR are very professional and all do a great job, they simply do not have the time to shoot the breeze with you even if it is about your child. Practically, it's just not possible. They've got five other families to attend to. If they stand there and talk to each one for ten minutes, it'll take them an hour just to make their rounds. So pretty much, it's "give the stats and move on." Of course, if we ask questions the nurses are patient to answer them. But if you don't catch them right away, they're off to the next family.

Don't get me wrong, the nurses are still really sweet and caring. They simply have more people to attend to.

But it's all right. We'll keep working on them. =) I'll work my charm and see if we can't get them to warm up a bit. Haha.

Alicia's doing really well. She's 1830 grams today, that's just over 4 pounds. And still breathing really well on her own.

Today when I got to her incubator, she looked different to me. I went down my mental checklist. Does she look longer? No. Chubbier? No. Skinner? No. More defined? No. What is it? Then I realized. It was the cannula. It was gone. She no longer had anything attached to her face or up her nose. It was just her. Well, almost. She's still got the feeding tube down her throat. But I'm sure that'll be out before we know it.

Alicia is truly throwing off all the shackles that held her bound yet sustained her during the early days of her life. Soon, and very soon, I believe she will be completely free. No more wires, no more monitors, no more blindfolds, no more incubator. Just her.

One of the other things I had to adjust to in the SBR was the close quarters. When we were in the NICU, our closest neighbor was maybe three feet from us. Here. They are literally right next to us. I used to have to crane my neck to see the other kids. Now, I look down and whoop there he or she is. Part of me is like, dude, why you all up in our grill. Then I realize, that I'm talking to a newborn, and he probably wouldn't know what it meant to be all up in someone's grill even if he were old enough to talk and understand me. So, I just let it go. =)

Alicia hasn't been eating as well since she's been in the SBR. She used to be able to finish all of her milk on her own. But now she's only drinking 8cc of her 33cc on her own. Don't know what that means, but the nurses don't seem terribly concerned. Slowly, they say, she'll work her way up.

One other odd thing is that downstairs in the NICU she was pooping 6-8 times a day, today, as of visiting hours, she still hadn't pooped yet. Can one of you medical professionals out there explain to me what this means? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Or is it nothing of concern? I think it's only been one day since she last pooped. The nurse said that they're usually not too concerned until it's been three days between bowel movements. Hmm... we'll have to follow up on that I think.

Alicia's little playmates are all coming out one by one now. A few months ago I mentioned Benjamin and Scarlett. Just yesterday, two of my closest friends from high school just gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Abygale. Congrats Steve and Christina. Can't wait to meet her.

On a side note, tomorrow is Alicia's original due date. Can't believe how far we've come. Praise the Lord for his presence, his mercy, his grace and his sustainence.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Waves of Blessing

It's late, and I should probably be heading to bed. But I just needed to sit down and write.

These past few days have been amazing. It feels like I'm on the beach and wave after wave of blessings are crashing against our shore.

First, I got the amazing news yesterday that Alicia was finally graduating out of the NICU. Yesterday, September 6, sometime in the afternoon, Alicia was moved out of the only home she's known and moved upstairs to the step-down less intensive care unit. This is a move that we've been eagerly waiting since the early days of Alicia's life. When we first heard/read about the step-down unit, the concept seemed so far off it felt like a mirage or far off dream- something to imagine but never to be reached. But yesterday when Linda called and gave me the news I practically jumped out of my seat with excitement.

Linda visited Alicia in her new home last night and for both visiting sections today, and Alicia is absolutely thriving. Like her first home in the NICU, she seems to be winning the hearts of nurses in this step-down unit. And she is absolutely just getting bigger and stronger, and closer and closer to coming home.

Earlier today when I called to check up on Alicia, they told me that she's doing well. She got up to 1780 grams (3 lbs. 15 oz.) today. That's almost 4 pounds! It seems like the past couple of days her weight has been snowballing. She gained 80 grams in the last two days. That's just amazing to me.

But wait! We're not done with the good news yet. There's still more.

She's eating better and better and can most of the time finish off all her milk on her own. In fact, yesterday before they moved her up, Alicia partook in one of her favorite hobbies again and pulled out her feeding tube. So the nurses as a "consequence" for her "bad behavior" made her finish all her milk by mouth. Which she did, and then she proceeded to sleep like . . . well a baby. =) And has an appetite. No worries about her not wanting to eat here. She puts up a major stink if she doesn't get fed on time. You nurses better watch out. =)

And here's the icing on top of huge cake of goodness. Linda tonight got to the Alicia's bedside and found her completely off the cannula and breathing on her own! The nurse came over and said, "Mama, are you surprised? She's breathing by herself!" =) Apparently, after observing that Alicia really hates having the cannula, and the fact that most of the time her cannula isn't really in her nose, they decided to let her try breathing on her own without the cannula, and she did really well. So they decided to just take her off the cannula all together. The equipment is still in her incubator with her, just in case. But she's been off for several hours now and doing fine. =)

Seriously, can anyone sense a build up to something, cause I can. It's like you're pushing this huge rock up a hill, and you're struggling and struggling, but you can sense that the pinnacle is coming up soon, and once you get that rock over the hump, gravity and inertia are going to take over. And that gravity and inertia is going to land our little girl at home with us in her own bed, and in our arms.

So friends, can I request that you just double up on the prayers? Let's pray her home! Doctors say another month, but I say she can come home before then! Who's with me?

Of course, if you're going to pray for her to come home, can I also ask that you pray that God would prepare Linda and I, mind, body, soul and spirit to receive our little bundle of joy into our lives?

Our greatest desire is to raise a Godly, loving, healthy princess who honors God and all people she comes in contact with. That's not too hard right? In God all things are possible.

Looking forward to making the grand announcement soon, friends. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hope Deferred

There's a proverb that says, "Hope deferred makes a heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Boy, have I found that to be true.

I'm realizing that I'm in a season of waiting. Actually, it seems that I've been in this season for awhile now. It's not just about waiting for Alicia to come home. It's waiting for relationships to blossom. It's waiting for dreams to be fulfilled. It's waiting for finances to grow. It's waiting.

One major lesson I'm learning is the concept of "delayed gratification". Simple concept, yet so hard to swallow. I, like many in my generation, have been raised on bigger, better, faster, easier. I want things, and I want it now. Microwave, TV, internet, cars, High Speed Rail - everything is about how can I take care of my needs taken care of now? How can I satisfy my cravings now?

But I'm realizing, that at least in my life, that's not how God works. He's often about the process, and not about the results. Sometimes I get an instant answer to my requests. But most of the time, it's wait.

Question is, how good am I waiting and can I endure and press on even when the results seem non-existent or too far off to even seem real?

I am such a kid in someways. If I don't get my way, I get pouty and depressed and start whining. Then I go into my little shell of me, me, me and end up making the lives of those close to me miserable - namely, Linda.

But what's the solution? What do you do, when you've made a decision that you're pretty sure is one of God's will, yet . . . nothing. Or at least nothing that I can see. What do you do when you're working hard, pouring your heart into planting a metaphorical field, and you look around and see dirt. It's been months and months and just dirt with barely a few sprigs poking out. Where's the harvest? Will it come? What if it never comes? Do I keep going? What if I put all of my efforts into something and it doesn't work out? Will I have wasted my time? Should I just quit now?

As I stew on these questions, I am reminded of all the great heroes of faith in the Bible. Each one of them had their own waiting period. King David waited over 20 years after he was anointed king before he actually took the throne. Abraham was 100 years old when his promised son, Isaac, was born. Joseph waited almost two decades before his dreams came true. Moses led the Israelites for almost 40 years in the wilderness. And so on . . . I think sometimes reading these stories, it's easy to skip over the passage of time. Everything is quite condensed in the Bible. But the time is there, and all that waiting, it couldn't have been easy.

So I take heart. God has his time. And he knows us. He knows how much you and I can handle. And I believe, I believe, that as I obey him, as I work hard under his direction, that in time I will reap a harvest. For he has promised countless times in the Bible, that (in my words) if I stick with him, he'll take care of everything.

So I pluck up my courage, and forge ahead friends. Will you join me? What dreams do you have that have yet to come true? What do you hope for that has been deferred from you? What do you crave that hasn't been satisfied? What have you worked for that hasn't born much fruit? Press on. God never promised that the journey would be easy, but he did promise that it will be worth it.

Alicia continues to press on towards the goal of coming home. She gained 41 grams yesterday, and is now 1738 grams (3 lbs. 13 oz.) today. She is really quite adorable and has already won the hearts of many. She absolutely loves being held. When she's in someone's arms, she will sleep and barely stir for anything. When I hold her, I can't help but want to give her the world.

I do wonder, though, what is holding up our transfer to the upstairs step-down unit. I spoke with doctors at another hospital yesterday and they said that at their hospital by 1500 grams most kids can be transferred up. Usually, those that stay behind have problems. But it really seems like Alicia is doing well. She's on the thin cannula, but most of the time, it's not even plugged in to her nose. Why? Because she pulls it out. =) Her eyes, as of yesterday's eye appointment, have improved dramatically. She's eating for the most part on her own. I think it's time to chat to pick the doctors brains and see what they're thinking.

In the meantime, we're thankful that we've been able to build some great relationships with the nurses in our NICU. Thanks for your prayers. Because we're the second longest resident currently in our unit, the nurses are usually pretty lax with us in terms of visiting hours. We often stay beyond our time, and they never ask us to leave. Last week, Linda even got to spend five hours with them in the NICU. So that's a huge blessing.

This morning, when I called to get the daily stats, the nurse was sweet. She was practically giddy when she told me that they took her out in the middle of night and cuddled Alicia as they fed her. She gushed over how cute Alicia is and how they all enjoy holding and cradling her. I'm sure Alicia is eating it up. =)

Well, we keep pressing on. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Long Week

It's been a long week. I left Linda and Alicia Monday morning to go back to work and didn't get back to them until Saturday night. These six days were the longest that I've experienced in a long time. And when I finally was able to get back to be with Linda and Alicia, I literally broke down. I haven't cried at Alicia's incubator since she was first born. And while six days doesn't seem that long to some people, to me it was interminable, and when I finally was able to get back with my family, and hold Alicia, I just started sobbing. And as I did, I felt the weight and stress of the past week melt off my shoulders and disappear. I was "home".

You know, I never really understood the idea how "home is where the heart is" until just now. Even though during the week I live in our house, the "home" that Linda and I have lived in for over a year now, it's not really home. I leave our house, and I'm with my wife and my daughter in the sterile NICU, and somehow, that's "home." I feel rested, and my soul stops striving. The only thing that matters is the three of us being together. Everything else is peripheral.

I saw a commercial on TV last night for one of our local telecom companies. It was an ad for long-distance phone service. The ad showed a mom calling her husband overseas, and while they're on the phone the husband hears the squeak squeak of his daughter's shoes as she walked. He asks his wife what the sound is, and she explains that it's their daughter. She can walk now! I don't know how you interpret that, but to me it means that he probably hasn't seen his daughter in awhile.

Every time I see this commercial, my heart aches a bit. I mean for this to be an ad concept, it must be a something that people can identify with, right. So this tells me that there must be a large majority of families in Taiwan where the father lives separately from his family. And I can't help but think, how do they do it? I mean I can understand the desire to make money and provide for the family, and sometimes the opportunities are just not where your family is. But still, I think I would go crazy. I mean I've had people tell me that I need to be brave, and that many, many families live separate lives. And I guess eventually if I absolutely had to live under this arrangement, I would maybe grow numb to the dull ache of longing for my family. But is that a good thing? I'm not making any judgments here, I just really don't think that's not something that I would want for myself or our family. I mean I barely lasted six days. And if I'm to be honest, I really firmly believe that many of our societies struggles and problems these days is the absence of the parents in the household. We're so busy working and making money that we're not home for our kids. And there's a whole generation of people who have grown up and are growing up without parents. And that can't be good, can it? But that's a whole other issue and maybe I'm just being too sensitive.

Our little Alicia continues to grow and get bigger and stronger each and every day. Her ventilator has finally been removed! Yahoo! I love how things are slowly being cleared off of and away from her. She started her life with IVs and wires and tubes stuck in and to her. Various body parts were connected to machines that monitored her vitals and alerted nurses and doctors when things were wrong. But now as she gets older and more stable, these wires and machines are slowly being removed one by one. First, it was the IVs, then the endotracheal tube, then the blood oxygen monitor, and now the ventilator. Hmm. Just realizing that it's kind of a metaphor of our spiritual walks as we continue to grow stronger in our faith and our relationship with God. As we get stronger and healthier, more and more of the shackles and trappings that held us down get removed and we gain more and more freedom. I look forward to the day when Alicia can shed the incubator, and get rid of the last of her wires and tubes so that I can hold her and squeeze her without worrying that something might get caught or wedged, or that I'm pulling on something that might make her uncomfortable.

Yesterday, Alicia got up to 1665 grams (3.65 grams) and gained another 32 grams to 1697 grams (3.74 lbs) today. And she's eating up to 30cc per feeding now, most of the time on her own! It's truly been amazing to witness the miracle of our daughter growing. I've said it before, God in his grace and wisdom has chosen to let us see with our eyes and feel with our hands something that most people can only imagine and read about. I don't know why he chose to do things in this way, but, I do believe in his goodness and sovereignty, and that he allowed Alicia to come out early for a purpose. As hard as this was, I believe that this is what was best for us. Who knows what would have happened if Alicia was carried to full-term. We might think that that's what is best. But maybe there would have been other issues, worse issues if Alicia had stayed in. Only God knows.

Yesterday, when I got to the NICU, I got to see some pictures that the nurses took for us during the night shift when they usually give Alicia baths. We're never there for this time, so the nurses were sweet to document this time for us. We have some really adorable pictures of Alicia smiling with satisfaction as the nurses carefully bathe her and get her clean. Our little girl really loves bath time. As I was looking through the photos, I saw a bunch of photos of the nurses all take turns cradling and holding Alicia. They really do love her. It's touching to see. One of the nurses I had never seen before. Linda told me that she usually works the night shift and she is often the one given charge over Alicia. The beautiful thing is that this woman is a strong Christian. Hearing that really warmed my heart. God really does take care of the details. He set one of his devoted daughters over Alicia in the middle of the night to be her night watch person. And you know the amazing thing? As I looked at the photo, I couldn't help but notice the uncanny resemblance between this woman and Linda. It could just be her hairstyle, but these two definitely could be sisters. Is God cool or what?

Still not sure how much longer Alicia will need to be in the hospital. She's more and more stable, but we still haven't been moved upstairs yet. And once we move upstairs it might take another few weeks. But I definitely believe that we're getting closer and closer each and every day.

Praise the Lord! Thanks for all the prayers and support friends.

Much love,