Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where's Penelope?

So Penelope relocated yet again. She was in the overflow NICU with two sets of twins, but those other four children all went home today, so they had to move her back across the hall into the main room again because it wouldn't work to have her over there all by herself. Too bad in a way. I was starting to like the overflow NICU--except that the eerie squealing from the circumcision room next door could get to you after a while.

The main NICU was insanely busy tonight. Yesterday, Marissa pushed Penelope's feeding times back half an hour, so we arrived at nine, but her nurse was nowhere to be seen. She ended up getting her feed started 40 minutes late. Meanwhile, Penelope was more awake than I've ever seen her, squirming and looking around with an attentive and curious gaze. She was probably wondering where her food was.

When Derrick finally got to hold her--though her feeding was still not started--she immediately stuck her tongue all the way out like a giraffe. After a couple of seconds, she started to look around like, Okay, where is that bottle? I think I'm ready for it this time. After a few more seconds, this expression of forlorn melancholy crept into her eyes.

Derrick vocalized, "Oh, they're not going to give it to me now. I knew I should have eaten when I had the chance!"

Such forlorn little eyes!

Penelope's Generous Grandparents

This afternoon Penelope's Nanny and Papa Harley and Grandma and Grandpa Jett helped Mommy and Daddy get all kinds of stuff to make her nursery more complete. We ended up getting her a cherry wood crib and dresser/changing table, a bassinet, a swing, and a wallpaper border that matches her bedding. The whole thing was kind of a fiasco--for a minute there, I thought Penelope would get home before we did--but in the end, we were very happy with the ways things worked out.

I had originally planned to get either white or light wood furniture since the walls are a lime sherbet/sea greenish color and the bedding is pink. We found a gorgeous looking white stained steel crib, but the matching changing table didn't double as a dresser, so we scowered the store for white dressers. Finally, I found one I loved in blond that--according to its tag--also came in white. But the white version had been discontinued. In fact, virtually everything on the floor had been discontinued. It was all very confusing, especially because there were so many of us and Mom kept finding things we weren't looking for and calling me over to see them. She found a beautiful wardrobe, but I'd have to get a ladder to change her on top of that, and then she'd probably bump her nose on the ceiling and not be very happy with me.

Penelope's lucky to have two sets of generous grandparents, though, because now she'll have a beautiful room!

In other news, she now weighs 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Margaret was her nurse today and encouraged us to try another bottle and also to watch the baby instead of the monitor. She actually turned the monitor around so I couldn't see it. Penelope didn't do too badly.

(In fact, she did better at it than I did. My inability to follow simple directions about bottle holding gave me nightmarish flashbacks about failing my volleyball skills test--with a 42--back in the seventh grade. For some reason, I thought you had to keep your fingers rigid while setting the ball. But at least nobody turns blue if you set the volleyball wrong--although my poor fingers did get kind of purple.)

Anyway, Penelope is much smarter than I am--too smart for her own good, I think. She took about 10 ml before becoming totally apathetic. Besides pretending to be asleep, she'll also do this thing where she'll slide her eyes over in your direction and be like...suck...twenty second pause...suck...eyes close...suck...two minute pause...eyes open, seeming to say, I'm too cool to be bothered with this silly bottle game, Mommy. Then just when you're about to take the bottle away...suck....

Crazy little baby! If she would just learn to eat, I bet they'd let her come home!

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Milk

Penelope was dead asleep when we came in tonight, but she hadn't tried a bottle all day, so the nurse insisted we give her one. She actually did pretty well for the limited time she was awake. Unfortunately, she fell asleep with milk in her mouth, and I think she inhaled some of it. We were having a hard time finding a position that let her keep her sats up as Derrick held her. Finally, Derrick mentioned that he thought some milk had gotten into her lungs. They suctioned her, and she was immediately fine. I also found out they gave her a little suppository this afternoon, so she finally pooped with a little help.

Babies R Us

Yesterday afternoon, Derrick and I walked through Babies R Us to update our registry in person. (When I tried to do it online, I only seemed capable of picking out ten million bibs!) I am really excited at the prospect of buying cute little girl clothes. Nobody has cuter clothes than tiny little girls. I also had lots of fun looking through the books and toys. It's harder to know about some of the other stuff. We can't really pick out a car seat until they measure her when she's about to go home. That way, we know what size to buy. I really enjoyed looking at all the cute little baby girl stuff, though.

In other news, Penelope's putting on the pounds--or the ounces, anyway. She's up to 4 pounds, 11 ounces! (I think it was actually 11.something, but I can't remember.) Of course, she also hasn't pooped for two days, but hopefully, that will change soon. Marissa said her belly is still soft, just full, so everything is okay, but she does need to poop soon. While I was holding her this morning, she was very sleepy and looked quite serene in my arms--except when the baby in the next room would start squealing. He made these horrible screaming squeals for a long, long time. Based on snatches we overheard, we think he was being circumsized. Every time he would scream, Penelope's face would scrunch up and look upset like she was about to cry, but if I would stroke her hair and tell her, "Penelope's safe with Mommy," her features would relax again.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Penelope's Visitors

This morning the parking lot we normally use was blocked off with cones. We didn't know why but assumed it had to do with construction. Then tonight, that area was being used for valet parking for the grand opening gala for the new part of the hospital.

We were complaining to one another about not being able to park when we walked inside and just happened to walk right into Dr. Burger, our doctor from the Texas Fertility Center, dressed for a gala. Right away she came over and gave us a hug and asked about Penelope. When we said we were on the way up to visit her, she asked if she could go up and see her, too. We weren't sure because technically, it's only supposed to be grandparents and the people on our list, but I thought that since she's a doctor, we might as well bring her up and see what they said.

We ran into Bridget, one of the nurse practitioners in the hallway, and she said it was okay to bring Dr. Burger inside. As promised last night, Penelope is in the overflow NICU across the hall now. It's quiet over there.

Dr. Burger said it was really nice to see her because she doesn't often get to see the end results of the babies she helps to start. She added modestly, "Not that I did much in your case," which is very far from true. I mean, yes, we did conceive naturally the month we weren't technically trying, but I don't think I would have made it through the first trimester sane without lots of help from her and her nurse Kellye. I e-mailed Kellye about fifty thousand times a day for answers and general reassurance. And I had Dr. Burger paged after hours a couple of times when I was worried about some inexplicable bleeding I was having, and after that she even brought me back into the office for a second transvaginal ultrasound, to reassure me that the baby was still alive. I mean, an ob-gyn doesn't really see you until eight weeks, and by then I'd had three ultrasounds already, progesterone suppositories, and weekly blood tests monitoring my hormone levels. So they really contributed a great deal to Penelope's development (not to mention my emotional well-being). Besides, I might not have been able to conceive if I hadn't had the hysteroscopy/polypectomy that Dr. Burger performed last April. Even though the polyps she found were really small, removing them dramatically reduced the intensity of my menstrual cycles.

But anyway, she got to meet Penelope tonight, and we were really glad we'd bumped into her. Penelope gets lots of visitors in there because that's where they keep the frozen milk. Rachael stopped by to admire her tonight as well, and she got to see Mary Lou this morning.

Dr. Mills also stopped by this morning and told Penelope "hello."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Big Girl

We were five minutes later than usual getting to the NICU today, and when we got there, Trish was holding Penelope, who looked mad. "She was fussy," she explained, "and wouldn't go to sleep." I thought about what Valerie had said--how they look around and act up when the parents don't show up. She was also a little hot, and there is lots more stimulus in there than she's used to.

Penelope seemed very happy to see me. She started out on my shoulder, but she managed to finagle herself in between my breast and my armpit, and then later shifted herself until she ended up in the middle of my chest, in kangarooing position. She seemed very happy--except once when I started talking to the nurse for too long and she started quacking. But she satted in the 90s pretty much the whole time and then eventually fell deep asleep.

We found out from her chart that she weighed 4 pounds, 8.4 ounces and that she took 18 ml by bottle.

Tonight we were in for another surprise. They're most likely moving her again, across the hall into the overflow NICU, which is where they send babies right before they come home. Really, all she has to do is learn to eat. She could be coming home within the next few weeks. She was wide awake the whole time we were there tonight and very curious.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Popular Penelope

I would be very surprised if Penelope is deaf in her right ear because she was lying with her left ear pressed into Derrick's shirt, and I softly said something to her, and she opened her eyes and looked over at me. And the thing is, we'd just gotten situated, and she didn't know where I was yet, and I wasn't moving around when I talked. So it seems to me that she would have had to have heard me to know where to look. Linda, who has been her nurse for the past several nights, strongly agreed when I noted, "She's very responsive." Apparently, though, lots of babies need to retest, so we'll see. I'm actually too inept spacially to realize right away which ear was up, so I didn't do it as a test, but Derrick noticed, too, and thought the same thing. Of course, we could be wrong.

In other news, Penelope seems very popular, and you can tell all the nurses are happy for her success. Rachael, in particular seemed very delighted last night. She came in just to coo, "Look who's a big girl! Out on the floor!" (Incidentally, Penelope looked at her, too, but she did move at the same time, so I'm not sure that counts.)

The floor is a much nicer place at night. Instead of construction noise, they were quietly playing Magic 95.5 soft rock on the radio. She also sits right by the nurses' station, so she can hear them talking in the background, which is a good thing.

I took a few pictures, which show Penelope's progressive acknowledgement and suspicion of the camera. I felt much better after seeing her. She's such a cutie!

New Digs

Lots of changes met us today when we walked into the NICU. First of all, they moved Penelope's bed out into the main room. She's now right next to the nurses' desk. Unfortunately, this means lots more construction noise, but they say it doesn't usually bother the babies that much. And this way, she's very close to all of them in case she needs them. Nancy, the charge nurse, explained to us that she's bigger now and no longer critical, so that's a good thing. She's very stable and still off her cannula. (And, of course, they need the room for very critical babies.) I think she thought I was worried because they moved her. But we'd been expecting that.

Actually, I was concerned about all the stuff that was going on. For one thing, we arrived in the middle of her hearing test and just after the physical therapist had been there. The physical therapist had left instructions for how we ought to do things. She told us some simple physical therapy we can do for her at different times to make sure all her muscle groups are getting worked. They had me hold her up on my shoulder today because they want to encourage her to lift and turn her head. (This seems weird because earlier she was lifting and turning her head all the time, and it always seemed to bother them.) She was totally dead asleep today, though. We're also supposed to push her legs up to her tummy when we change her diaper to work those muscles. We actually got to chat with the physical therapist after a few minutes, and our talk cleared up a lot of concerns I have. Nothing is actually wrong. They just want to give us a care plan for her to make sure we're involved.

The hearing test is another story. The tester explained what she was doing about thirty times, but somehow, I wasn't really comprehending. I think just all the new stuff was kind of overwhelming to me. They hooked up some probes to her body and her head and then they test each ear for the brain response to certain sounds. Her left ear passed the test right away, but her right ear never did. The tester told us that she gets two more chances to pass. If she doesn't pass after being tested three times, we'll have to be referred to an audiologist.

Some reasons for not passing include: noise in the testing area, fluid on the ear, baby movement, and hearing loss. Derrick said he and Grayson both had ear fluid build up, and it certainly was noisy while she was being tested because of the construction noise on the other side of the wall. (By the way, when that started up again while I was holding her, Penelope definitely started and got really grumpy in response to the noise, so she must hear at least out of the one ear.)

I get a little worried because Derrick tells me he had 80 percent hearing loss when he was little because of some problems with the connectors in his ears (?). I think that's right. He apparently had surgery just after Grayson was born to try to help improve his hearing. He was saying that that particular problem wouldn't be detected by the type of test they were using, but he does think it's highly likely there's fluid build up. Anyway, she gets tested two more times before we have any cause for concern or alarm.

And she definitely hears out of the one ear because she's very responsive to sound when we talk to her. The physical therapist had even told us earlier that she responds with the proper cues when sung a lullabye. I mean, it's quite obvious that she hears us. I hadn't considered the possibility that she may be hearing us out of only one ear.

Lately, I've been very upset and feeling like I never get to see her. I felt like I barely got to see her today, but that wasn't really true. I held her for over an hour. It may be that yesterday, I bared my breast and got her to suck on the nipple a little bit. I'm starting to wonder if maybe that triggered some kind of physiological where's-my-baby-? response because now I'm feeling very anxious like I barely ever get to see her, but the amount of time we spend with her has not changed.

I need to watch it because I started to feel sad about it while I was holding her and started crying, and as soon as I did, Penelope started crying. She had been totally tranquil up to that point, so I guess she could sense that I was unhappy, even though she was asleep. That made me realize I need to be careful how moody I allow myself to become while she is around.

She weighs 4 pounds, 7.8 ounces now!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bottle Feeding

I've decided that instead of attempting to give Penelope the bottle one time a day, we should let the nurses do it for a while. That way, they can do it at their discretion, when she's most awake. I'm just concerned that it cuts too much into kangarooing time and needlessly stresses her out at the beginning of it. Valerie, her nurse tonight, seemed to think that was reasonable. She says that normally the nurses are the ones who give them the one bottle a day when they're this young.

Derrick attempted to bottle feed her tonight. She absolutely would not cooperate. She made the most hideous faces at us and put her hands in front of her face. It worried me a little because she wasn't just sleepy as usual. She was actively hostile, and I don't want her to get nipple aversion. She hasn't behaved that way before, so the problem may have been that she was trying to poop. She did seem to be straining a lot, and at one point, she bit down on the nipple and would not let go. Derrick had a really hard time getting it out of her mouth. We stopped after just ten minutes, and she really didn't take much of anything. But another thing was, Valerie had already started her feeding, and she stopped it and put some in a bottle, so there was already something in her stomach. Maybe she wasn't hungry, or maybe she was mad because the lights were shining in her eyes. (We had to have them on because we needed to watch the color in her face.) Either way, she was really not wanting to have anything to do with that bottle.

We didn't push the bottle feeding, so she didn't have any significant desats during that time, but then while Derrick was kangarooing her, she had a pretty significant brady. I noticed it right away and told him to start rubbing her back. A lot of times if we see the heart rate dropping and act right away, it doesn't drop that much, but this time we got all the way down to 59. Sally even came back because she was watching the monitor on the desk. (Valerie was with some parents who were rooming in.) She did recover. Good thing. I mean, what do they do? She's not wearing the cannula any more. They can't turn up her oxygen. The heart rate drop may have had something to do with the bottle feeding.

I hope they don't have to put her back on the cannula, but they might. Valerie didn't seem to like that she was satting in the 80s, but that's pretty normal for her. I mean, other than the brady, she didn't behave any differently than when she was on the cannula, and I think the bottle feeding attempt prompted the brady.

I really prefer to spend the time kangarooing her because she loves that so much, and I worry that this new way will condition her to feel anxious when she sees me.

Valerie told us something interesting, though. She says that when the parents have regular schedules, when they don't show up for some reason and miss a visit, the babies start to look around for them and get upset. I thought that was very interesting. I really think right now Penelope needs the kangarooing more than she needs me to try to get her to take a bottle. They say most of them can't really take one until 34 weeks, anyway. To me, it makes the most sense to allow the nurses to give her one while she's more awake (which, apparently more often at 8:30).


We walked into Penelope's room today, and Suzanne asked us, "Notice anything different?"

At 8:40 this morning, they took off her cannula. Last night the nurse practitioner had mentioned possibly lowering it to .5, but they just completely removed it. And she was satting 98. I think she's happy to have it out of her nose, personally. She seemed pretty pleased. And the whole time I held her, she satted so well that her alarm never once went off. She looked so angelic, but the pose did not lend itself to photos for a web album since they suggested I take my breast out so she could use it for a pacifer.

Penelope seemed confused by the breast. We decided to wait to bottle feed her until this evening. She seemed very happy to see me, but the breast itself seemed to make her suspicious and confused. She did fall asleep and suck for about thirty seconds, but them she snapped awake and looked freaked out and disoriented. Still, I was pleased because I was scared it might hurt because of all the pumping, but it did not.

Hopefully, she'll get to stay off the cannula for good. Penelope Cruz won an Oscar last night, so the Calpurnia Caesar in me is taking that as an auspicious sign.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Penelope and Polyphemos

No, that's not my latest crazy idea for a sibling name. I just think Penelope's aversion to my camera is kind of amusing. Maybe it's because it has such a big lens, but she definitely regards it with plenty of suspicion when she notices it approaching. She'll always snap her eyes shut, like, "Oh no! That cyclops has tracked me down again! I'd better play dead until he leaves." For that reason, Derrick has to be kind of sneaky about taking her picture, because if she sees the camera, she gives it funny looks or closes her eyes completely. After a second, she'll peak one open to see if it's still there.

Jackie was her nurse today and suggested that we try to wake her up a bit before we attempted to bottle feed her. She picked her up and went through all these theatrics trying to rouse her. Meanwhile, Penelope's response hovered somewhere between hibernating bear and coma patient.

She let me hold her and try to wake her while she talked to another nurse over by the door. I took off her hat and rubbed her hair upwards and said softly, "Penelope." Almost immediately, her eyes popped open, and she looked completely alert and focused on my face and smiled. I know it's just a reflex, but it's still very cute when she does that. Then she looked up and saw Derrick and said--in a really loud voice--"AAAA AAAA AAA AAAAAA AAAAA!" (Five separate words, not a continuous noise.) It wasn't an upset noise. In fact, she looked totally happy. She probably thought, "Aha! It's those people who come and make happy noises at me. Well, I think I've figured out your little game! Try this on for size."

"My goodness!" Jackie said from the doorway. "Well I don't know what you did to get her so awake."

"I just stroked her hair like the developmental therapist showed me," I said.

Jackie came over and Penelope rolled her eyes upward to look up at her attentively. "Well, she sure is awake isn't she?"

Then she brought the bottle over, and Penelope was like, Goodnight!--right back to comatose bear mode. I tried to feed her for a few minutes. She did not seem very jazzed. In fact, she seemed decidedly asleep. We decided to stop.

Jackie returned and had other ideas. "Has she been tooting a lot?" she asked. Because she was swaddled, I hadn't noticed, but the smell was definitely suspicious. She decided to give it a try and managed to get her to take 10 ml with lots of coaxing (though I think a lot of this dribbled back to us).

Once again, as soon as it was time to feed the usual way (through the nose tube) and I was holding her, Penelope woke up again.

She now weighs 4 pounds, 6.4 ounces, but Jackie suspects that this will go down a bit when she poops (which I'm pretty sure happened while I was holding her).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Wily Quackopotamus

For some reason, I've started calling Penelope "quackopotamus." She makes these cute little quacking noises all the time--kind of like a duck and nothing at all like a hippopotomus. I wrote a little poem about it. Derrick's been teasing me because I want her to know her name is Penelope, so I am careful to avoid calling her Penny when I talk to her. Quackopotamus is a much better thing to call her, of course.

I got to try to bottle feed her myself tonight. She did much better than usual, though she still drank almost nothing. She didn't have any significant heart drops or desats, though. And even though she was inconsistent about sucking, she was quite amenable to taking the nipple into her mouth, and we even saw some bubbles to show she was drinking a bit as she stared up into my eyes. And then she fell asleep.

We did everything we could to wake her up, but it was like she was in a coma. We tapped the bottle, we leaned her forward and patted her on the back--basically we tried everything short of sticking dynamite in her ears. She had absolutely no intention of waking up. She looked like Homer Simpson snorring and drooling.

Then as soon as we put the bottle away, she opened up her eyes and grinned up at me, like, "Surprise, Mommy! Haha! I tricked you!" (She flashes those reflexive smiles at us all the time lately, the cutie.) Since she has no idea that eating makes you full, she probably thought she was awfully clever for dodging such a tedious chore.

In fairness to her, though, after we'd been kangarooing a couple of minutes, she fell deep asleep again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Penelope Loves Mommy!

Penelope did much better with the bottle. Well, I mean, she didn't really drink much, but she also didn't have heart rate drops and turn blue like yesterday, which is good enough for me. She seemed confused throughout the bottle feeding attempt, but so happy when we got to kangaroo. I said to her, "Mommy loves Penelope. She's so proud of her," and she flashed me the hugest grin I've ever seen. She smiled many, many times. They're just reflexive smiles that happen sometimes when you stroke her hair. Still, it happens because the stroking is a pleasant sensation that makes her face happy, at any rate. She stayed awake longer than usual, almost forty minutes. I tried to soothe her so she would sleep, but she seemed really determined to look up at me as long as possible today.

She was so confused by the bottle. Every time, she looks at me like, "What is it you want me to do, Mommy?" I tried to explain it to her while we were kangarooing, even though I know she has no idea what I'm talking about. I figured it couldn't hurt to explain to her that she has to suck, swallow and breathe, and when she can do that, she can come home. After all, I told her to try to gain weight so she could sleep in an open crib, and to try to remember to breathe so we can get rid of the cannula she seems to despise so much, and she's done both of those things. (She's still on the cannula, but it's down to 1.) I was also trying to teach her that she's Penelope and I'm Mommy, and if she wants me, she can say, "Mama." Derrick pointed out that she's a bit young to start talking, but lots of times when I make question noises at her, she makes answer noises back at me. I figure it's good practice, just like getting her used to the feel of the bottle and the taste of the milk.

Her mouth is trying to figure out what to do. I watched it practicing while we kangarooed. She kept moving her lips, sucking the air, making all kinds of faces involving repositioning her lips. It's like she has no idea what she's supposed to be doing, but she knows she's supposed to be doing something. She went through all of the faces that she makes. Derrick caught lots of smiles and one pouty, frowny face that she's starting making at us lately when we try to change her diaper.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Penelope is sleeping in an open crib now and seems to be holding her temperature, but they still have her isolette in the room for 24 hours, just in case. She was doing really well--until Marissa had to stick her heel to draw blood. It took quite a while. They need more blood to do that than I'd realized. She cried and cried. She still has a delicate cry, but her little tongue flails around and her whole face turns red. Then she settled down and was fine again--until Marissa tried to give her the bottle.

At first, she was doing so well. I think she was enjoying it, although she seemed confused. She'd lie there in Marissa's arms and suck the bottle and look over at me. She always seemed to open her eyes just after I took her picture. She took about 5 ml. But then the time came for her to swallow. Suck and breathe I think she's just about got down, but throw swallow into the mix, and it's a whole new ballgame. She started to brady, then desat, and it took a long time to get her stabalized.

Later, though, when I was kangarooing her, she did well again, poor little Penelope!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


So we didn't get to give Penelope a bottle this evening yet again. Tammy and John were her nurses, and when we came in, John informed us that he'd just put drops in her eyes because the eye doctor was coming soon to give her an exam. He thought we should probably wait until after the exam to kangaroo. I asked what the eye exam was for. He explained that when developing babies are exposed to elevated oxygen levels for prolonged periods, they can develop too many veins in their eyes. "What would happen then?" I asked. "If it's not caught early enough, blindness," he replied.

I know she's not blind now because of how intently she stares at that kitty picture. I mean, she could hear my voice and look at my face, but the kitty picture just hangs there silently, and it's one of her favorite things to look at. Actually, she was looking at me when I started talking to her after John left. Then Tammy told me that her eyes were dilated from the drops, so she probably wouldn't open them--except she already had. I felt like kind of a jerk for coaxing her into opening her eyes.

We decided to wait in the cafeteria downstairs until 9:30. They didn't know when exactly the eye doctor was coming, but they said the exam would be quick--just not the kind of thing we could be in there to watch. We figured if he didn't come by 9:30, we'd just go ahead and tell her a quick good night and wait until tomorrow to kangaroo.

While we were waiting downstairs, I texted Mom to let her know we were putting off bottle feeding until the morning. Then I told Derrick all the new baby names I've been thinking about since we settled on Penelope--for future siblings, I mean. The dynamic changes with a new name in the mix. We'll now have Grayson and Penelope to consider when choosing good names. I said, "I think we have another girl, we should pick something that goes with Penelope." He suggested almost immediately, "How about Isabelope?"

At 9:35, we went back upstairs. On the way back into the NICU, Derrick pulled out his phone and explained, "I'm just answering a text from Aimee." A few minutes later, my phone buzzed, too, and I figured it was Mom texting me back. When we arrived at the NICU, things were pretty busy because they were getting a new baby. Rachael showed up about that time, so they must have needed more nurses.

John told us the eye doctor had just finished his exam. "How does he do the exam?" I asked him. I'd been imagining a big E, and then I realized there was no way Penelope could do that type of exam. (Or maybe that's why some premies are diagnosed blind--they fail to identify any of the letters on the eye chart.) His reply was horrifying. He said that the opthamologist uses special clips to force her eyes open, then uses a tool to pop her eyeball out a bit so that he can look at the back of it. How bloodcurdlingly hideous to imagine! We were both so glad that we hadn't asked for details until after the test had already been done!

When I opened Penelope's isolette to take her out so Derrick could kangaroo, I saw that her eyes were all red and puffy. Tammy later came in and told us that she "sailed through" the test of the right eye, but then when she realized he was going to do both eyes, she started to cry. She added, however, that she didn't desat. She just cried and carried on. By the time we saw her, she was quiet again, but she had no intention of opening her eyes. As soon as I took her out, she started satting in the 90s (still on room air--which, of course, is best for her eyes). She stayed in the 90s except for one brief exception.

At one point, the eye doctor meandered into the room and without introducing himself just started talking to us. He was a charmingly eccentric man--who broke off into a meditation on how old he had grown while chatting about eye exams for premies--but as soon as Penelope heard his voice, her sats dropped from 94 to 81 and her eyebrows went way, way up! She was probably thinking, Oh no! The pokey man is here again! Don't let that maniac near my eyes! Poor baby!

He told us, though, that her eyes looked good. He has to check her every two weeks for a while, though, just in case. He said he likes to check frequently to make sure he catches any potential problems early. He actually rambled about all kinds of other things, too. He was really a character. He told us that when we visit his office, if little snot-nosed kids try to touch Penelope, we can wait in the kitchen. The one thing he didn't tell us was his name. He seems like a very good opthamologist, though. We both really liked him (though I'm not sure Penelope shared our warm feelings).

Tomorrow morning at 11:30, she really will try a bottle (hopefully). Dr. McCormack may be happy about the delay. She joked this morning, "Oh, well, you can wait until tomorrow morning. I'll be back then--just kidding tonight is fine." I think she's excited about it, too.

Oh, and in other news, Penelope pooped finally. Tammy told me Adria recorded a huge blow out at 2:30. I'm pretty sure she had already gotten started on that while I was holding her this afternoon. Tammy said Adria reported that the beginning of the stool was hard and compact--which is so weird because she eats the same thing at every feeding. I'm just glad she got that out of her system.

Oh, and one more thing, John told us that after her bath tonight, they're probably going to put her into an open crib.

On our way out of the NICU, Derrick reminded me, "Didn't you get a text from your mom? What does it say?"

I checked my phone to discover that the text was actually from Derrick, (who, in fact, had been writing to me and not to Aimee) putting in another plug for the name Isabelope.


Petting Penelope

Penelope did so well when I kangarooed this afternoon. She satted in the 90s almost the entire time, and she was on room air. We actually managed to get there at 11:3o today for once (we're usually 10 minutes late). Dr. McCormack said last night that Penelope could try a bottle at 11:30 today, but somehow that order didn't get written down. Adria told us, "Hmm. Well the nurse practitioner hasn't seen her yet today. When she does, maybe you can do it tonight?" The nurse practitioner did write the order for us to try a bottle tonight at 8:30. She also lowered Penelope's cannula setting from 1.5 to 1. "They haven't done it yet because she's been going up and down on sats the last couple of days, but I say that's just who she is. She's on room air, so she's coming down." I think she also upped her feeds to 37 ml, but I can't remember for sure.

Funnily enough, about thirty minutes later, Dr. McCormack showed up in street clothes, poked her head around the door and asked eagerly, "How did she do?" At least now the NICU staff won't just think I'm crazy and hallucinating doctor's orders.

Penelope has not pooped very much for two days. She did, apparently have a small stool at 2:30 am, but that's way down from her normal 600 "blow outs" per day. I think she might have gone while we were kangarooing. At one point, she was definitely trying, and, anyway, something was going on down there.

The cutest thing she did, though: While I was stroking the front of her head, she started stroking the back of her head, her strokes in synch with mine.

"Aw," I said to her, "are you petting Penelope, too?" She's so sweet.

Her hair is getting really long. A coupled of days ago, Derrick said, "By the time she comes home, she'll already need a hair cut," but then he remembered that she's a girl.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I worried about Penelope all afternoon today because when we came in to kangaroo she was sound asleep and barely stirred the entire time we were there. She also bradyed a couple of times and when I rubbed her back, it didn't wake her up. She just always seems more frail to me when she's asleep. She is still very tiny and delicate, but it's easy to forget when she's alert. Marissa was saying that it's hard to believe she's four pounds because she still looks small. It is probably because a) she is also rather long and b) she is only 32 weeks, so her head is still pretty small.

To my pleasant surprise, when we came in this evening, we found her wide awake and staring intently at the kitty on her ceiling. She really loves to look at that kitty. She'll be disappointed when they move her to an open crib. We'll have to get her a mobile.

The most exciting news, though, is that Dr. McCormack came in to chat with us while we were there and decided that Penelope can try her first bottle tomorrow at 11:30. The nurse will have to give it to her the first time, and she may not be able to handle it yet, but I'm excited to see her try!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Four Pound Penelope

Guess who weighs four pounds? (Context clues kind of give it away.) It's Penelope! When we came in to kangaroo this evening, Chrystal told us she was up to 4 pounds 0.7 ounces! That's a very exciting number. If she stays at that weight, they should be able to put her into an open crib, which she should enjoy, though she will miss her kitty. That's definitely her favorite picture by far.

I forgot my poetry book tonight, so I read The Saggy, Baggy Elephant and part of Pinocchio while Derrick kangarooed. Sleeping didn't happen right away, maybe because it was bright in the next room. Penelope decided she would prefer to lift her head off Derrick's chest and have a look around instead. She did that several times, but her sats stayed really good, and she was on room air!

Odysseus and his lesser-known first wife, Cannula

Hmm, well I see that Derrick posted my sonnet. Notably, he did not also post my second sonnet. (Advice: If you're writing a Petrarchan sonnet and need four a rhymes, do not end the first line with the word cannula.)

I decided to write Penelope a sonnet cycle because on Valentine's Day, I was reading her various sixteenth century English sonnets and thought that if Philip Sidney could write Astrophel and Stella to Lady Penelope Rich, I could certainly crank out a few sonnets for little Penelope Rayburn.

I've been writing her various poems since she was born, actually, because the name Penelope scans really nicely. After thinking about it, I realized that Homer probably thought so, too, which is why he didn't give Odysesseus's wife some difficult name like Cannula (though that actually scans well, too. It just doesn't rhyme with much).

(By the way, I read once that Sidney included 108 sonnets in Astrophel and Stella because Penelope in the Odyssey supposedly had 108 suitors. I found that out a long time ago and thought it was so cool, its coolness lessened only by the annoying fact that I was supposed to be researching something completely different.)

We've been reading poetry together every night while Derrick kangaroos, which all of us enjoy, even Penelope. She likes to hear my voice, and she typically raises her eyebrows curiously if I stop reading.

I felt kind of bad today because when we got there to kangaroo this afternoon, she was obviously exhausted. Jackie had just changed out her isolette. Even though she was satting well, she seemed really tired and her eyes didn't want to focus. They kept trying to close. Yet while I held her, she still kept insisting on forcing her eyes open, so she could look at me. They would close for a few seconds, and then she'd force them open again, like she was making sure I was still there or something. Of course, in a way, that she wants to see me so much is enormously gratifying and reassuring, but I felt bad for her because I could tell she was sleepy. At one point, I told her, "It's okay, sweetheart, you can go to sleep. Mommy isn't going anywhere," which, of course, only made her try to look at me more because then I was talking to her.

That's kind of a lie, though, I realize, because from her point of view, I do go away every time she falls asleep because she always falls asleep while we kangaroo and usually stays asleep even after we put her back and leave, so by the time she does wake up, I'm gone. I'm pretty sure babies don't think like that, but I still look forward to when we get to take her home because I know she'll be so glad to come with us!

Mommy's Muse!

Penelope has been on "room air" all of last night and this morning.  She stayed on room air our entire time kangarooing early this afternoon.  Later as we were leaving we happened to run into the Nurse practitioner who was on duty today (unfortunately I never can remember her name...bad me) and she also said that Penelope was doing very well.  She also said that, if Penelope continues to do as well for the rest of the day, that she would lower Penny's cannula volume again (down to 1.o liter this time).

She got mad again this afternoon at her head placement.  We moved her head so she faced the other side and she immediately calmed down.  She has, obviously, begun her Mommy and Daddy training program.  She's pleased to say that we are doing really well!

Little Penelope also seems to moonlight as Mommy's muse.  Sarah wrote a sonnet for Penelope and shared it with me.  I think it is really a beautiful poem and feel it should be shared (Sarah of course would never post this on her I'm being sneaky and posting it now):

Your first nurse was Terpsichore, I think.
She taught you how to dance, before your eyes
had learned the look of light.  So my surprise—
when you burst forth from me and took a drink
of mortal air and then within a blink
upon that air, you came to rhapsodize
by playing keys unseen to others' eyes
so scoring more than most can do with ink—
was natural.    Who taught you to compose?
What other Muse's tricks are up your sleeves
(so tiny they could clothe a sparrow's wing)?
Were you trained by Euterpe before the close
Of womb time?  For my bent ear well perceives
that now, my sweet Penelope, you sing!
--February 16, 2009 11:11 am

I really think (as I said before) that this is a beautiful poem!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


That's Penelope's weight. This morning we heard that she'd dropped from 3-13 to 3-11.5, but this evening she was back up to 3-14.8. She's creeping closer and closer to the 4 pound mark. When she hits 1800 grams, she can sleep in an open crib.

She had another surprise for us this morning. Because she's down to 1.5 liters on her cannula, she's now able to fit a narrower feeding tube into one of her nostrils. This is much nicer for her because it tends to fall out less, and it frees up her mouth, making it easier for her to suck her fingers or pacifier. This will help with the nippling they'll probably start later this week.

We're supposed to encourage her to "self-comfort" by sucking her fingers, and she was taking a stab at it today. She almost got her fingers inside her mouth several times, but just when she'd poke them against her opening lips, she'd fall back into a deep sleep.

She seems to be adjusting well to all the changes. When Derrick and I came in this morning, she was satting 100 on room air. This was especially surprising when as we prepared to change her diaper, Derrick noticed that she'd pulled the cannula to the side so that the right prong was in her left nostril with her feeding tube, leaving the right nostril entirely free. She seemed pretty pleased with herself, and when he fixed the cannula, she immediately threw a huge fit and cried and cried.

She was more vocal than usual today. Normally, she's not a big crier, but today, every few minutes she would let out horrible squealing cries as if she were in agony. It was alarming (and strange because she was satting in the 90s, and we couldn't see anything wrong with her). Finally, the fourth time she had one these horrific crying spells, she lifted up her own head and with much clumsy effort turned it so she'd face the other side. Only then did we see that the cannula tube had been pressing tightly against her ear as she lay on my chest, making a very pronounced indentation in her ear lobe that probably hurt quite a bit. After that, all the periodic crying stopped. We felt relieved--and stupid (as Penelope no doubt thought we were since she'd been complaining about the tube for fifteen minutes to no avail until she finally got so frustrated with us she had to fix it herself)!

As soon as she'd turned her head, she seemed very peaceful and happy for the duration of our time together. At one point, she decided to chat with me. I asked, "Do you know how much I love you, Penelope?" She replied, "Bah bah bah bah bah," in a conversational tone, her cadence suggesting that she meant this in answer to my question. It was the sweetest thing. For the first time really, it seemed that she was deliberately attempting to make noises that matched the ones I was making at her in tone and volume. We liked that much better than the screaming!

In other news, we let Grayson unwrap one of his Christmas presents today. Derrick's parents came up and brought him the Hot Wheels cars they got him for Christmas. We were supposed to be celebrating Christmas with him the weekend after New Year's. Derrick's parents were planning to come up that Saturday morning. But Penelope surprised us all by getting the jump on them and coming Friday night, spoiling all our best laid plans. So all of Grayson's Christmas presents are still sitting wrapped in our living room (except one) even though Derrick has taken down (and I think chopped up) the tree.

We brought T-Rex Rampage (a Hot Wheels Playset built around the concept of a huge dinosaur destroying a parking garage) over to Mom's house and let him unwrap it.

"I don't get it," he told me, as we took the various pieces out of the box.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"This doesn't make sense to me," he replied, "because dinosaurs are extinct."

I have to put the milk I just pumped into the freezer!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Obviously Mom and Grayson are having a good time. We got home from kangarooing about twenty minutes ago, and he's still in there playing with her. Earlier he asked me, "Sarah, can we play with the Noah's Ark?" I wasn't sure what he meant, so he said, "You know, the Mummy game."

Ah, yes. Then I remembered that he calls my mother's little nativity scene the Noah's ark (I guess because of all the animals). She took a wooden stable from a creche she's had since I was little and filled it with the pieces of the Playmobile nativity I bought her for her birthday a few years ago. Why we still have the nativity scene up on Valentine's Day is only slightly less mysterious than why there is an evil mummy in Bethlehem. At first I was very puzzled about how he got in there, but then I noticed that Mom had set up a little area for the mummy playset figures on the side, so I am guessing they represent the Flight into Egypt.

So in between my evening pumpings, we played this elaborate game that involved all the villagers (including the Virgin Mary holding a Viking sword) following their king (i.e. one of the Magi) to lure the evil Mummy out of the cave, so the giant (Grayson) could knock him out with one of his "awesome punches." I mainly played an overzealous (and clumsy) camel carrying a bomb. This is what Grayson calls The Noah's Ark game. (That should confuse lots of people next time he goes to Vacation Bible School.)

In other news, this has been a great Valentine's Day so far. Derrick surprised me by having a dozen roses delivered, quite beatiful ones, arranged with baby's breath. He told me this morning that he'd forgotten about Valentine's Day, and I'd believed him because our schedule has been sort of packed lately, but apparently this was all a clever ruse.

At the NICU they gave every baby a Valentine's Day board book to take home, and they also made photo Valentines of all the babies for the parents and hung them up by the beds. Penelope is in a smaller incubator now, and it makes her look bigger. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she is bigger. She was up to 3 pounds, 13 ounces as of last night. She's holding her own temperature, so when she gains another three ounces, they will probably put her in an open crib.

I got so furious this morning because despite my careful efforts to maintain an exact pumping schedule, I didn't get up at 3:00 when my alarm went off, but I thought I did. Later, I asked myself in my sleep, "Was I supposed to be doing something? Did I get up and pump?" "Yes, you already did that," my wily brain assured me soothingly. I thought, "Did I really? Did I really move the pump over and get all that stuff set up?" "Yes you did," my brain lied sweetly. I believed it until it added, too clever for its own good, "Remember, that zebra was there." At that, I woke up in a panic and discovered it was 5:50. But I pumped then and kept the rest of the day's pumpings on schedule, and so far production hasn't decreased. I was really mad at myself, though. In fact, I just finished my last pumping after typing that sentence, and I'm actually up by 4 ml for the day (not much but it is an increase).

We have both been really tired lately. Tonight while kangarooing Penelope, Derrick kept falling asleep. Oddly enough, she only desatted when I stopped reading. I worry now about overstimulating her, so I stop periodically to give her a rest. But every time I stopped reading, her oxygen saturation would go from like 92 to like 80 in a blink. As soon as I'd start again, it would shoot back up. (So apparently, Penelope enjoys Shakespeare's Sonnets. It may be that she and I have such similar taste in literature because she responds well to some unintentional clue about my feelings in my voice.) Lisa, the developmental therapist, told us that when Penelope raises her eyebrows high, she's either trying to see us or to hear us. She always kept doing that when the reading would stop, so I'd always start reading again. That soothed her. (Unfortunately, it soothed Derrick, too.) She'd also raise her eyebrows when Derrick would nod off and his chin would tilt down, like, Who is this giant, and why is he falling on my head? I probably would have been suspicious, too. (The way they were sitting, though, it didn't really matter if he dozed for a few seconds.)

I keep thinking I was going to write something else, but I'll go to bed for now because I get few chances to sleep.

Penelope's Crazy Notions

Penelope seems to be of the opinion that she no longer needs her cannula, but the monitors tell us a different story. She's gotten pretty adept at surreptitiously sliding a hand under one side of it and ripping it out. Whenever I push it back into place, she gives me a dirty look like, "Mommy, don't you understand? I'm trying to get that thing to stop poking me in the nose. Quit helping it!"

Last night while Derrick was holding her, the cannula made a weird noise, and she started to desat. Then she started bradying, and I didn't know how to get her to stop. Then her nurse came in, and she stabalized almost immediately. She turned up her oxygen, but weaned her all the way back down fairly quickly. She noted, "Well, she looks very happy now." "Maybe she just wanted attention," I suggested. I'd been so surprised when she starting bradying because she usually does so well when we kangaroo. Then we found out this had been her first episode since the tenth. We were really surprised and pleased. We had just assumed she had episodes when we weren't there.

Things then went pretty smoothly until Penelope decided it was a good idea to rip out her feeding tube. I had to go and get the nurse while Derrick held the tube. (We couldn't get her to let go of it, but we didn't want her to yank it all the way out of her throat completely.) After that little fiasco, Penelope settled down and went to sleep on Daddy's chest. At a couple of points, Daddy almost went to sleep, too.

Oh, I forgot! It was so funny. After the nurse got her positioned on Derrick's chest at the beginning of the kangarooing session, she got her milk ready to dispense in the big feeding syringe, and then the three of us stood around chatting for a couple of minutes. All of a sudden, breaking her complete silence, Penelope yelled, "BLAH!!!!" at the top of her lungs. It was really loud. I think you might have been able to hear it outside the room (if you were right by the doorway). It sounded like a duck exploding, like someone inexplicably yelling quack but (even more inexplicably) getting all of the consonants wrong. That was all she said, but it got her point across quite nicely.

The nurse noted, "Maybe she is hungry." I said, "Yeah, she's telling us, enough of this chit chat. It's time for my dinner!" She's gotten so vocal lately.

When we get back from kangarooing, I will write about all the Valentine's Day stuff!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Our Baby's Getting Bigger

Penelope had a new nurse today, Jackie. We hadn't met her before because she's been on vacation. She told us, "I'm starting to think you have the most popular baby in the NICU. Everybody seems to want her, and everybody keeps coming back to see her." The nurse practitioner also stopped by and we told her that we'd finally chosen a pediatrician, Dr. Nichols, who Grayson sees (and so do Dr. McCormack's kids). They both seemed to think that was a great choice. "Oh, Jill Nichols!" said the nurse practitioner. "She's a fantastic doctor and a wonderful person!" "And she has great shoes!" Jackie added.

Jackie also told us how much Penelope looked like us (our picture is in her incubator). She said she thought the resemblance was unusually strong, especially for a NICU baby. We also chatted with Mary Lou who seemed disappointed not to have Penelope today. As we were leaving, Jackie asked us if we had plans for Valentine's Day. I said, "Actually, my stepson is coming over to spend the night." Then we told her a little anecdote. Yesterday, Grayson apparently told Aimee that when he's president, he's going to start a school to teach teenagers how to kiss.

Mary Lou piped up, "I wouldn't be surprised if Grayson becomes president--or a doctor!" She was very impressed before with all his medical knowledge.

Oh, and Penelope now weighs three pounds, twelve ounces!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Understimulating Penelope

We talked with the physical therapist again today. She encouraged Derrick to take Penelope out of her little house so I could kangaroo her. She cautioned us against overstimulating her, pointing out that every sense needs time to adjust because her brain is just getting used to processing sensory data. I was stroking her hair and we were all talking and the room was fairly bright and we were lying skin-to-skin. I started to get kind of nervous about overstimulating her, so I stopped stroking her hair.

About ten seconds later she started desatting, and her heart rate went way up. She started to make discontented noises, and then she started to cry and grab at my skin. Lisa suggested we get totally quiet. That just made Penelope noisier and her heart rate shot up. I suddenly thought, "Maybe she's mad because I stopped stroking her hair." I gazed down at her and was met with a very expressive, irate face that seemed to say, "Why did you do that, Mommy? I would never stop petting you!" As soon as I started stroking her hair again, her heart rate normalized, her sats went up and she went back to staring contentedly into my eyes. She seems to like to see, hear, and feel me all at the same time. She doesn't appear to realize that this overstimulates her.

She's gotten so cute. Everyone thinks so (at least, that's what they tell us). She's much more interactive with everyone now. I mean, she's more vocal and her eyes actively look around and focus on things for longer periods of time. She loves to look at her kitty picture they taped in there. She also likes to look at me. If it is possible, she prefers to look at me over other options, which is very flattering. Rachael said last night that once her cannula comes off she'll be able to go around and visit people in the NICU at bath time, just for a little variety. I think she'll like that.

One really cute thing she does is touch me when I touch her. Sometimes, when she desats, I rub her back, and she responds by rubbing my chest with her fingers. I'm pretty sure it's some kind of reflex, although when I stopped stroking her hair one of the things she was doing was digging her fingers into my skin until I started stroking again. Her eyes are so expressive now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Penelope is now up to three pounds, 11 ounces! It's so amazing and cute. She now starts satting high when we come in before kangarooing, as if she knows what's about to happen. She was in the lower 80s and suddenly jumped into the 90s while we were there getting ready to kangaroo her. She definitely enjoys her time. Rachael weighed her while we were there, and we were amazed at how much her weight had increased.

Meanwhile I'm slightly freaked out. When I thought I was having a period, everything seemed normal, but now that I know I'm not having one, I can't figure out what is happening or why. I guess maybe because she did a pelvic and pushed on my uterus that could have made the bleeding increase. You're supposed to call if you soak a pad in an hour. But I'm not sure how they define soak. This seems exactly like the second day of a period to me. I even feel bloated and vaguely weak and...I don't know. Just a weird feeling. I'm very confused by this, and whether it's a period or not, I hope the bleeding lightens up tomorrow instead of continuing to get heavier. It's become mildly alarming, and if it's not a period, I don't know why it's happening so suddenly this way or what I have done to make it happen.

I'm trying to concentrate on how adorable Penelope is, but since we've gotten home, I've felt sort of panicked and unsettled and worried about what's going on. I wish it would stop.

Six Weeks Later...

I went in for my six week check up today. Everything looks fine, although the nurse who first brought me back seemed a little confused. She asked, "Was your baby 7 pounds 8 ounces or 8 pounds 5 ounces?" Then she said, "You had placental abruption, right--didn't you start bleeding a lot in the office?" Maybe she had someone else's file. She also had the name wrong of the person who had first seen me when I came in that Friday. It was actually getting kind of funny.

Dr. Mills told us that the tests on the placenta came back normal and said that in future pregnancies, I would probably need progesterone shots as a precaution. She said she didn't think inadequate cervix was the problem. The cervix had looked short to the ultrasound tech because it was already dilated. Apparently, she goes in and checks on Penelope all the time, which is nice to know.

She said I probably won't have periods while breast feeding--which is a little weird because it seems to me I started one yesterday. She said it was probably the tail end of post partum bleeding that can last frtom 6-8 weeks. The thing is, I haven't been bleeding at all, outside of occasional light spotting after pumping for almost two weeks, and suddenly yesterday, I started bleeding again, and it is acting just like a period. So I am confused.

She also explained why she had to make a vertical cut on my uterus. We didn't really understand, so she drew us a picture to make it more clear. Because Penelope was so early, my uterus still wasn't that big. So between its small size and Penelope's orientation and position, she had to make a vertical cut to get her out safely. So next time, I will have to have the baby removed before labor starts because the incision scar is on a place that will stretch with contractions and might open. But she said it would still be safe to have 4-5 children.

We are about to go see Penelope now!

Forced Relaxation

Today Penelope was really mad when Derrick and I took her temperature and changed her diaper. I mean, she was furious and determined to cry and thrash around and make ugly faces at us. Then we remembered what the developmental therapist told us and started to stroke her hair downward to soothe her. You could see that it relaxed her in spite of herself. At first she seemed really furious that it was relaxing her, and you could see in her face that she was fighting against it. Then suddenly, she was totally peaceful and serene. She gazed up at the kitty picture on her ceiling for a few seconds, and then when I started talking to her, she turned and looked at me and gazed at me intently the entire time I was talking to her. At one point, she even smiled (though that's a reflex).

Mary Lou said, "She must like to hear Mommy and Daddy." She was satting 100. But then she closed her eyes, so I stopped stroking and suddenly she got this weird confused look on her face like, Wait a minute! I was mad! You tricked me! More crying and thrashing. This pattern repeated several times.

Mary Lou suspected that she might have been hungry.

She did really well the whole time I kangarooed her, satting so high that Mary Lou had to turn down her oxygen twice until she was on room air--pretty impressive because they lowered her cannula to 2 this morning. They also upped her feeds to 34 ml. But I have been making more milk. This morning I got 60 ml at 3:30 and 75 at 8:30 and 30 at 10:30. And I just got 45 at 1:30! The new schedule that allows me to get more than four hours of sleep is really helping!

(We had to buy some new connectors for the pump, though, because the suction was all messed up this morning, and it wasn't the pump or the hoses.)

Penelope now weighs 3 and a half pounds! Maybe late next week they'll be able to try her on a bottle!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Little Giraffe and the Penelephant Party

I got the best idea while I was kangarooing Penelope today. Her birthday is January 2, so of course, we'll celebrate that day every year. But that's awfully close to Christmas, and, besides, when she turns one, she'll developmentally be fourteen weeks behind that. So I thought we'd have another celebration when she comes home from the hospital in March or April. Thinking of her stuffed Horton doll, I thought we'd call it the Penelphant Party. Later, as we have more kids, we could just start calling it the Elephant Party. That way, it wouldn't seem that Penelope unfairly got two birthdays.

We could all dress up like elephants--with ears and trunks made of paper or something--and have elephant foods--i.e. doughnuts on a paper towel holder that's made to look like a trunk. We'd also have Cheetos and call them "trunks" since Grayson doesn't like doughnuts. We could even make pancakes that looked like elephants--you know, two extras for the ears, blueberries for the eyes, and bacon for the nose. (I've been thinking up elephant themed things all morning.) We could watch "elephanty" movies all day--like Dumbo and Horton Hears a Who. I thought maybe at some point we could get a moon bounce because elephants always tromp around a lot and make the ground shake. And we could have a white elephant gift exchange. It seems like a really fun idea to me. Derrick took things a step further and suggested we have an animal themed party every month (but I'm not sure I can think up enough animal themed foods).

In other news, last night I was calling Penelope a giraffe because she was stretching her neck up and opening her eyes really wide, trying to see Derrick as he was kangarooing her. When we came in to kangaroo today, the developmental therapist was there. (They sometimes call her "developmental" sometimes "occupational" sometimes "physical," but they're all the same person.) Her name is Lisa. She works with Penelope on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Usually she comes before her assessment, but today she came after, so she was still there when we arrived to kangaroo. She said Penelope is doing really well and so far shows no signs of any developmental problems. She doesn't have any atrophy, she bends all the right ways, her reflexes and distress signals are correct. She also responds appropriately to music and high-contrast images.

She told us that you rub her hair from her head down to relax her and you rub up to arouse her (in case she falls asleep while bottle feeding, for example). When we got there she was showing Penelope a black and white picture of a kitty cat, and Penelope liked to look at it. Lisa said she doesn't like it to move yet, but when she holds it still, she will focus on it and look at it for a long time. She also told us that Penelope is probably ready for some gentle rocking or swaying, maybe five to ten times when we hold her. She also told us to make sure we stretch her legs out when we change her diaper. But she's looking great so far, no problems at all.

They're probably going to try to start giving her one bottle a day next week when she will be thirty-two weeks. Jason, one of the nurse practitioners, called today to say that she was fine and he wasn't making any changes yet since she still seems to need her cannula set at 2.5. He probably wondered what was going on because I had just pumped and dropped my cellphone into the basin of bottle parts before I could say, "Hello." Yesterday, I was getting very frustrated with the pumping. I've been doing nine times a day, but that seemed to make the numbers go down slightly instead of up slightly. Last night I decided to go back to eight times a day and to rework the times around our new, double-kangarooing schedule. That worked much better. Pumping extra times is good, but sleep deprivation will actually hurt your supply, so it's a tricky balance.

Oh yeah, and her weight is still 3 pounds, 7 ounces, but it went up a tad bit in grams.

I'm going to take a quick nap now!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fun with Mommy and Daddy

Yesterday afternoon's kangarooing went much better than Saturday's session. Penelope seemed much more comfortable, satted well the entire time (on relatively low oxygen) and was wide awake, trying to look up at me as I talked to her. (In some ways, the kangarooing position is frustrating because her head is so close to mine that I can't really look down at her well. Her head is much smaller, though, so she may be able to look up. (One website that sends me e-mail updates about my pregnancy each week helpfully informed me that the baby can turn her head from side to side now. She certainly can. She's been doing that for weeks!)

Derrick got some great pictures of her, I think. I mean, some are a little blurry because we don't use the flash if she's awake (or really most of the time). But she's very alert in all of them. It's tricky to catch her with her eyes open because the camera makes her suspicious. I don't know if this is actually the case, but it looks like she's trying to pretend to sleep until it goes away because when she sees it, she closes her eyes. Then after a few seconds, she slowly opens one, and then if it's there, she shuts the eye again immediately, but if it's gone she opens both eyes. This may be a coincidince--or Penelope may be part possum. (She does have sharp little finger nails!)

At the end of our time together, Nancy, the nurse practitioner, came in to look at Penelope's chart. Later that evening, during Derrick's kangarooing session, she ducked back in and noticed that Penelope's cannula was still set on 3. "Hmm," she said. "I thought I'd lowered that to 2.5. I must not have written the order." So she went over and lowered it herself. Penelope continued satting in the 90s. She's doing so well!

I'm supposed to be sleeping right now, so I'll do that, but I thought I'd mention my crazy dream because it's so strange. Penelope was grown up, and she was sitting at a kitchen table interviewing Richard Mulligan. He told her, "I think the character Harry Westin on Empty Nest was the sexiest character I've ever played." She seemed surprised. "What makes you say that?" she asked, clearly skeptical. He replied, "Most people don't know this, but Harry's hobby was photographing stray dogs who had wandered into amusement park rides." She said, "I don't see what's so sexy about that." He seemed miffed and demanded indignantly, "Do you want me to get the photographs?" That was it. Why do I have these crazy dreams? I think it may be because we watched the BAFTAs last night and someone else Mulligan had died.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


The nurse today suggested that one reason Penelope may be moving her head around on my chest so much is because she knows she is about to be fed and is looking for a breast instinctively. She pointed out that she is showing hunger signs--i.e., sucking and chewing her hand--because the nurse starts her feeding either just before or just after I start kangarooing.

Poor Penelope

I've been looking at Penelope in my blog entry from yesterday. She looks so sad in that picture. I hope she feels better today. I still don't know what was wrong, though judging from the way she kept squirming and straining, I really think it was gas or something. She was good for Derrick last night, though she was apnic one time.

According to the monitor, she stopped breathing once when I was holding her, too, but I am not convinced. I had my hand under the blanket, directly on her back, and I never felt her stop breathing. I think the lead was just messed up because the heart one was having sporadic problems picking up the whole time. Maybe she just wasn't in a good position.

Penelope's cannula slipped out last night when we were talking to our new friend Brad, a very friendly guy who works with a friend of ours and who also has a baby in the NICU. He told us that the very sick baby might have been transferred to another hospital. He says one of the nurses suggested that when he asked. I guess they do have to transfer them sometimes. (Hopefully that's not the neonatal equivalent of saying, "The baby went to go live on a farm in the country.") So it seems that perhaps that poor baby is okay, after all.

Penny always seems to have the most problems when we start to talk to somebody else. Maybe she just likes attention. (Most definitely she does not like the cannula.)

By the way, Velma told us last night she gained another ounce and is now 16 1/4 inches long (up from 13.5 at birth)!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Daddy's Buddy and Daddy's Angel

Penelope's big brother got to see her again this afternoon. Sarah and I took him to see Coraline this afternoon and as soon as we got out of the movie he asked, "Can I go see Penny?" I wasn't about to deprive a big brother from seeing his little sister so I told him "of course" and off we went.

We dropped Sarah off at her mom and dad's but not before Grayson actually got to see the pumping machine itself. We showed him how it was put together and how the machine created the vacuum to get the milk out. He was suitably impressed.

As we drove up to the hospital Grayson and I somehow got on the subject of teachers and I told him that Sarah was a teacher. He was very surprised...which was surprising in turn since she and I have both had that conversation with him. I guess he just has a different perspective now that he's in school. Anyway, he became somewhat distressed as asked, "Who will look after Penny then?"

I told him that Sarah would and he said, "But she's a teacher. She won't be able to stay home." I had to explain that she was taking some time off this year and that she would be at home to watch over her. Once I got that across he was satisfied.

I told Grayson that we would have to scrub in again and that they would probably have to take his temperature (this elicited an "Aw man, really?!"). He seemed a bit concerned that he might not be able to remember how I showed him to scrub in the first time, so I just told him to watch me and do what I did since I had to scrub in as well. He watched very closely and tried very hard. He did a really good job.

Back in Penelope's room, Grayson's curiosity was pretty evenly split between the monitors and Penelope. He said kind of wistfully once, "I wish I could open the doors and touch her." He did seem to understand that he couldn't and wasn't upset about just seemed to be a statement of fact. Penelope has a great big brother.

Siblings are limited to ten minutes so we had to leave fairly soon. As Sarah indicated in her last blog, we stopped and pick up food. Grayson's time was finished off by eating dinner and watching some old coyote and road runner cartoons.

As grumpy as Penelope was this afternoon, she was serene this evening when we came back up for my kangarooing time. I held her for nearly an hour and a half and she only had one desat and that was because her cannula had come out of her nose. She was sound asleep nearly the entire time. She was definitely comfortable (maybe Daddy is just soft!) this evening making her occasionally cute noises (Sarah's's wonderful to have her lay on your chest and listen to her input during our conversations).

Penelope really enjoys listening to her mommy read poetry to us. She was so peaceful and seemed so happy to just lay on her daddy's chest. Her little fingers would curl occasionally and she would make little soft noises every now and then. I'd pat her or just rub her back a little and she would relax almost immediately. It was altogether a wonderful day!

Grumpy Pants

That title refers to Penelope. She just could not seem to get comfortable today while I was kangarooing her. She's doing well, though, overall. Her weight is up to 3 pounds, 5 ounces, and her cannula setting is down to 3. At first when Derrick set her on my chest (Terri is the nurse today, and she likes us to help get her out), she was doing fine, satting really high, in fact.

But about five minutes later, she decided that she was uncomfortable and just never could seem to enjoy herself completely. I think, honestly, that she was either gassy or trying to poop because she just would not quit scrunching and squirming all the time.

She did look very cute in her lavender onesie, though. Derrick took a couple of pictures, I think, but I haven't downloaded them yet, and he has the camera right now. Grayson is up at the hospital again, visiting his we-really-mean-little sister for the second time. Mary Lou told us earlier that he's welcome to color a picture for her that we can put up in her incubator. We mentioned that to him in the car, and he seemed to like the idea.

I'm not with them because after kangarooing, we took Grayson to see Coraline (a good but extremely creepy animated feature in 3D). Derrick had to drop me off to pump, get Grayson, get me, and then after the movie drop me off to pump, and...oh, they just got back. Oh, and they brought food!

I will write more in a second and talk about Grayson's reaction to the breast pump. (He wanted to see it, so I showed him how it worked, but not while I was actually pumping, of course.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Penelope's Poetic Preferences

We just got back from another long kangarooing session. Derrick got to hold Penelope for about an hour and a half, and the whole time, I read poetry aloud to her. The results were fascinating. Based on how she sats and how much she grumbles, Penelope prefers Romantic poetry, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Dylan Thomas. She does not care for Robert Louis Stevenson, strongly dislikes Ogden Nash and A.A. Milne and will not abide Lewis Carroll under any circumstances. In general, humorous poems make her very cranky. She likes sonorous poems with long lines and distinguishable meter, which makes sense since she's listening entirely for cadence and not at all for content. At one point, I stopped reading for a minute because Derrick and I got off on a tangent, and she started quacking at us like she does, complaining incessantly until I started again. Before long we put Penelope--and, at moments, Daddy--to sleep.

I borrowed my mom's Classic Poems to Read Aloud paperback. What an eclectic collection! It includes "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Slyvia Plath's "Mushrooms," excerpts from the Bible, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and fortunately tons of Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Byron, Blake, et al.

"Do Premies Dream in Iambic Pentameter?" I can't decide if that should be my new dissertation topic or some kind of cartoon sequel to Blade Runner. Either way, all three of us had a lovely evening.