Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Months

Our baby Alicia is 10 months old today. 10 months! That's over 3/4 of a year. Amazing. And for the past six months, we've been enjoying, celebrating, at times enduring the life we saw by faith during those first few trying months in the hospital.

I think more than anything this experience with Alicia has deepened Linda and my faith, and shown us what it truly means to live a life of faith. I think the best description I've ever heard of faith is seeing something in the future as if it had already happened. In other words, having a memory of something that has yet to happen. And that truly was what Linda and I experienced during the first third of Alicia's young life.

During our residency in the hospital, though the prognosis was often otherwise,  Linda and I would see glimpses in our minds of the day when we would hold Alicia, hear her cry, see her smile, play with her. Things that we now do on a daily basis. This is no credit to us. I know that we were purely thriving on God's grace and the prayers of all you saints.

Prior to becoming a father, I would often hear people tell me that once you become a parent, you get truly a deeper grasp of the Heavenly Father's love for us. And I think I've always accepted this to be true cognitively, but it's not until these last 10 months, that I've truly begun to understand in my heart just how true this statement is.

A few examples. I don't know whether it's because we've got a kid in the house and they tend to carry germs more easily, but I've had several minor colds in the past few months. Prior to Alicia I'd get sick maybe at most once a year, now in the past 10 months, I think I've caught about 3 colds. During the previous cold, Alicia had also been sick. And that was misery for her and for us too. Because of her sore throat, it hurt for her to eat. And so though she was hungry, she would turn her head away, cry and flail her arms in an attempt to keep the bottle away from her. Poor girl. Thankfully, with some medicine she was feeling better within a few days, just in time for a couple of her teeth to start popping in. Causing a whole new round of hunger coupled with refusal to eat. But I digress.

Over the past few days, my throat has started to feel funny again, but so far, it seems that I'm the only one infected. Praise the Lord. The other day, while I was washing dishes, I started thinking how grateful I was that I was the only one who seemed to be uncomfortable. In fact, I thought, if it came down to it, I would take on any cold, any sickness, if it meant that my baby girl could be healthy and enjoy her life. Then the though occurred to me, this, on a much small scale, must be how God felt when he sent Jesus to this Earth to die for us. He would rather suffer, than have us suffer. He would pay any price so we could have life, and have life to the full. Amazing.

One other example. Babies are constantly changing. When Alicia was first born, her looks were still developing so it wasn't really clear whether she looked more like me or Linda. We pieced together that she definitely has Linda's eyes and my nose, but the rest of it wasn't so clear. Well, over the past few months, Alicia has truly been morphing into a mini-me. Which could perhaps be chalked up to this father's overgrown imagination if it weren't for the fact that nearly every person Alicia meets comments on the fact.

And if I'll be honest, every time I hear someone say, "She looks just her father." My heart swells. She is mine. She bears my image. And once again, I can't help but think about our Heavenly Father, and why he made it a point to tell us that we were also made in his image.

One day, I was holding Alicia in my arms and just staring down at her and saw a cuter, more feminine version of my face staring back at me. I saw a reflection of myself in this little girl, and my love for her just expanded. Not because of some narcissistic love for myself, but because I realized this is truly my daughter.

And I can't help but wonder if that's how God feels when he looks at us. He sees a reflection of himself in us, a mark that we are truly his children, created to belong to him, as a part of him. Also, I can't help but think how the Father's heart must swell each time one of his children is recognized as his. Each time someone acknowledges that one his children bears his image and is just like him. It's no wonder that he is constantly working to transform us so that we can be more and more Christ-like each and every day, so that we can be his ambassadors in this dark world. So we can be Christians - little Christs for those who have never seen or don't know God.

I have just only begun this journey of fatherhood, and while definitely trying at times, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Alicia is truly a treasure, and I think I will never stop taking pleasure in showing her off to the world. =) She's our little sunbeam. She carries a bit of both Linda and I in her, and I cannot wait to see the kind of woman she develops into. But in the meantime, I will cherish each moment I have with her. I will cradle her as often as I can, and relish in the moments when she nestles with total abandon in my chest. I know these days will pass by in a blur. Soon she will be too big, and too "grown up" to nestle. But you know what, no matter how grown she gets, she will forever be my princess. My precious girl.

Happy 10 months, baby girl. Daddy loves you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good Results

Alicia is asleep. My heart is at rest as well. Today has been a good day. Thank you for praying with us, friends. Your love has been received and we carry it dear to our hearts.

Campbell and I took Alicia to the hospital today to hear about the results of several tests. I was so glad that Campbell could come with us since this appointment was pretty important. I didn't want to face Alicia's doctor alone. (A clarification: Follow up appointments for a preemie are crucial in determining how well she is doing and growing. The follow up appointments happen at six months, one year, one and a half year and two years old.) Two weeks ago, Alicia had her six months development evaluation. She also had a hearing test and a brain scan. We found out the results of all these tests today. 

The results are:
Alicia is doing well. 

1. When Alicia was born, she had experienced a bit of brain trauma. Most preemies born that early would more likely to have some kind of brain trauma. Because of this, her motor skills may or may not be affected. So far, her limbs are not overly stiff or limp. So this is GOOD. 

2. She is quite strong. Her neck support is excellent. She can hold herself up well when she is on her tummy. 

3. She is quite responsive and social. She is pretty vocal. There are many times I know she's talking but I can't understand her language yet although her facial expressions are very telling of her feelings. She loves having people around. She is not shy; actually she is very fascinated with people's faces. She loves to smile and one of my most favorite thing to do is to make her laugh-which to her mama's great joy--she does often.

4. Her hearing is normal.

5. Her brain scan shows the same white matter in the brain like before. So that's good. Her pediatrician says everything looks OK and stable. She says we don't need to do another brain scan in a long long time.  :) 

There are some area that needs improvement.

1. Her size. Her weight and height are below average. Of course, this is compared to babies at 6 months. So definitely, she is a lot smaller. That's OK. But the thing is she lost a bit of weight this month. Dr. Chang (her pediatrician) is not worried though. Alicia has been teething this month and hasn't been eating well. So she says just try our best to feed her and give her more solids. 

2. Her motor skills. Ever since her development evaluation, Campbell and I have been daily helping Alicia practice grasping toys and playing with them. And she is making great improvements already. She's been grasping her toys and chewing on them like a champ. :) According to Dr. Chang, at six months, babies should be able to grasp and hold toys and switch the toy from one hand to another. Alicia hasn't gotten to this level yet.

3. Her left hand is noticeably weaker than her right hand. This is probably due to the brain trauma. We just need to help her exercise her left hand more. We will also go see a physical therapist who will help her as well.

4. She hasn't quite master the skill of rolling over. She has rolled over a few times but it happens sporadically. So we've been helping her flip over every day. She's getting better though. She can flip to her side on her own and she is quite the little mover already. For example, I lay her down vertically and the next thing I know, she's already horizontal on the bed. 

A very possible reason to why there is this delay to her development is simply because she is still quite small. So her strength may not be as strong and her hands may not be as big to comfortable grasp the toys. But she's getting there. 

There was a few times throughout the hospital visit today where I felt like I have not taken care of Alicia well. I questioned whether I am adequate. In fact, I felt very inadequate. Campbell could tell and told me to stop beating myself up. I just felt like I should have fed her better or tried feeding her more solids this past month. I was disheartened to find that her weight was down. I voiced my heart to Dr. Chang who so tenderly reminded me that Alicia has already made such remarkable leaps of growth. I need to be patient with myself as much as I need to be trusting and patient with Alicia's growth. 

I shook off the discouragement and thanked the Lord for His faithfulness. Praise God that He got us through these weeks of tests and evaluation. Thank Daddy God that we know how we can parent and help Alicia. It was a great day at the hospital. Campbell and I walked out of Mackay Hospital with a joyful heart. 

And tonight after dinner, I bought two books for myself. One is a baby food cookbook and another is great book about baby's development and health. Both books are in Chinese. I am looking forward in improving my mama's skills as well as my Chinese. This mama is growing up with her daughter. 

Family and friends, thank you for your prayers and love. Thank you for walking with us not just today but throughout our journey. What an adventure it has been already. Even though many people still make comments about how small Alicia is. My heart swells looking at how BIG she is already. She is doing so well. Campbell and I are so proud of her. We go from glory to glory, strength to strength. Because God is with us, each day gets better and our strength only gets stronger. 

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
    your faithfulness in the evening" Psalm 92:1,2