Tuesday, March 31, 2009

0 to 62 in 29 Minutes!!!

Derrick came up with the title for this post. It's based on Penelope's performance tonight! We were so proud of her. Not only did she finish within her 30 minute time limit for the first time (because always before they've let her go five minutes over to finish), but she actually killed the bottle in 29 minutes. Her secret? Unadulterated baby rage!

We walked in just as her nurse was fixing her tube (which she had ripped out). She was screaming bloody murder, but her voice sounded all raspy. Becky said, "I hope I didn't put it down her trachea instead of her esophagus. I've never done that before!" That's why they listen to make sure they've placed it correctly. She eventually got it fixed, but I felt really bad for her that we'd walked in exactly at that moment since that's really not the first impression you want to make as a nurse. Apparently, the babies usually scream when they have their tubes replaced anyway, more because of anger than pain.

On the plus side, though, that really woke her up! She did such an amazing job with the bottle because she was totally awake. And about five minutes before she finished she let out this amazingly loud toot that everybody heard even way across the room. Everyone was very impressed and started laughing and saying, "Well, you're a big girl now, Penelope!"

After the feed, I held her for a long time. At first I held her out in front of me. My camera was sitting behind me and it made a clicking noise and turned itself off, and she started staring at it suspiciously. She would look at it and then at me, big blue eyes flitting back and forth--like, Don't look now, Mom, but I think I see that one-eyed guy who's been stalking me.

Then I put her up on my shoulder and she kept squirming and thrashing and literally moved all the way across my entire body like a fish out of water. I thought something was wrong with her, so I moved her down and held her out again, but, actually, she was just trying to look at my face.

Her leads keep falling off all the time--this morning Marissa was calling her the Teflon Baby--so the monitor kept alarming and going APNEA!!!!!, and all the nurses would run over only to see that she was awake and looking at me and breathing away.

She's gotten so big--7 pounds, 8 ounces!--and she's getting more interested in making eye contact and looking at colors. She used to look only at the kitty, but now she sometimes chooses to look instead at the colorful picture Grayson drew for her with markers, hanging on the other side of her crib.

What a big girl!

Ironically, after all Becky's difficulty with the feeding tube, Penelope ended up not needing any food gavaged. Becky had actually said to her, "If you'd take your bottle, we wouldn't need this." Maybe she took that to heart. Or maybe (more likely) it was the famous Rayburn stubborness. As Derrick vocalized, "I'll show you, you mean lady. I'm going to drink all the milk! And I won't save any for you to put in your tube!" So there!

Milk Drunk

Penelope worked with the speech pathologist today and almost finished her entire bottle. She took all but five--amazing considering she was totally asleep when we got there and for most of the beginning of the half hour.
All the little tricks that used to wake her up--like vestibular rocking--now put her to sleep because now she's 38 weeks. Even when Christine burped her, the burping soothed her which is pretty amazing since it was kind of intense. In fact, the monitor registered every little thump on the back as a heart beat, so it was going crazy, saying her heart rate was 297 bpm. Penelope, meanwhile, was looking totally mellow like, Oh good, time for my massage.
Christine is going to talk to the doctors and see if she can get her orders changed so they feed her when she shows feeding cues.
After she finished eating, she had a very satisfied look on her face, and Jodie, her nurse today, said she was milk drunk!

Penelope's Unbirthday

It seems like half my cousins were born in March--I know because I keep dully noting their birthdays to myself as I date and time the milk and yet neglecting to tell any of them happy birthday. I was mentioning to Mom the other day that I've not said, "Happy Birthday," to three cousins now, and she was like, "Four! Kellen's birthday was the 16th!" And I was like, "What!!!??" I guess I didn't know because he wasn't programmed into our early warning birthday alarm system (i.e. Grandma--I can still hear her now: "Susie, now we've got to go get something for Matty's birthday! Don't forget, Sarah, it's almost Danny's birthday! James, now you know we've got to send something to Davey for his birthday"--as if my Grandpa were some unrelenting Draconian Scrooge, bent on refusing to acknowledge the birthdays of his grandchildren.)

(For some reason, I'm now thinking of the time we were all driving out to California, taking one of Grandpa's "short cuts." He was trying to figure out what was smeared on the windshield and Mom offered, "I think you hit a grasshopper." Sitting next to me, Grandma piped up furiously, "James, you big jerk! You just have to run over all the grasshoppers!"--like he was deliberately mowing them down in some power-crazed killing spree.

And now I'm thinking of the time when I was in seventh grade and we lived in Chattanooga. Grandpa was driving me home from school and decided to try a new route to see if it might be a short cut. (It was not.) At length, I tactfully hinted, "Do you know I've been in the car now for over two hours?" "Don't seem like it, does it?" he replied with a fond grin, cheerfully oblivious to my impatience.)

I've been thinking of my grandpa because like me, he was in the April birthday club. So many of us used to have April birthdays: me, Grandpa, Uncle Jim, Uncle Bob--and now I'm the sole survivor of that group. I was really excited for Penelope to be born April 12, to bolster our waning numbers. But she wanted to be born in January like Daddy and Grayson...and Jackson...and Adam (Jackson's dad), and a whole other slew of cousins whose birthdays I wasn't even thinking about because I was so preoccupied.

But 1/2 is a cool birthday. And she still gets the numerologically nifty treat of turning 40 weeks old on Easter Sunday--you know, ending 40 days of Lent.

Anyway, we have to go see her now--but happy belated birthday to Matthew, Dan, Kellen, Dave...oh, and Aunt B! Not to mention all the relatives whose March birthdays my grandma didn't buy cards for--like everyone on my Dad's side and all of Derrick's family.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Stinky Ballerina

Penelope has the cutest outfit on today. The onesie has little ballet slippers for feet. When we got there, her nurse told us her feeding was at 12:30, so we thought they'd moved it since we were always late. (But as it turns out, this particular nurse was just confused.) Anyway, she wasn't going to get the bottle ready till 12:30, so we warmed her up by doing her spine curl exercises she used to have to do, and she passed this explosive cloud of gas. "Oh, Penelope!" I said. "Nothing that stinky should come out of a ballerina!"
Corinna wandered by and joked, "That's why they moved her across the hall."

I think passing the gas helped her to eat a little better, though. She took 52 today at noon, all but twelve of her feed. She's such a good girl! I wish she could come home.

PS The opthamologist's name is Dr. Lockheart

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"When I was a duck when I was three months old..."

When I was about eight and Merry was about three, Mom and Dad used to take us for walks in the park in the evening. We'd walk around the duck pond and through the trees, and lots of times, we'd tell anecdotes. Well, I guess Merry got tired of not having as many memories to contribute. After a while, she started to tell us anecdotes of her own. They'd always start, "When I was a duck, when I was three months old..." and then she'd go on to tell us all about the misadventures she'd had with the other ducks back before we'd met her.

Well, Penelope will be three months old in a few days, and tonight, she looked almost exactly like this crazy duck we saw on our picnic with Grayson yesterday. I have pictures of both the duck and Penelope with her post-bath hair, so I can prove it.

Penelope's Visitors

Penelope is 38 weeks old today and weighs 7 pounds, 5 ounces--my birth weight. Her Grandma and Grandpa came to visit her, and her big brother actually got to touch her for once! Grayson seemed to enjoy stroking her hair. He said it was very soft and commented that Jack had not had any hair. I am really starting to want to take her home!

A Total Non Sequitur

After I pumped at 4:15, it took me a long time to fall asleep again. Then the sun came in the window, and I thought, Oh no! I didn't even fall asleep again at all! I should have tried to go to sleep right away! I shouldn't have wasted so much time at that party with Helen Mirren and the muppet!

That was a really bizarre dream, too. I may blog about it after we visit Penelope (who now weighs 7 pounds, 3.9 ounces. We haven't heard last night's weight yet.)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Penelope's Performance

Penelope was certainly wound up tonight. I think part of the reason she became so spirited was that I was telling a long, theatrical anecdote to Barb, her nurse, while Derrick held her. (I mean that he held Penelope, of course, not Barb. The NICU staff is friendly, but not quite that friendly.)

Penelope was making all these animated faces and squirming manically, as if to say, "I will now act out the highlights of Mommy's story by performing an intepretive dance." I really do think it was the lively, amusing story that inspired her act because she was incredibly sleepy after eating and only started to perk up later.

I had a hard time capturing her cuteness on film because she was moving too quickly. Plus, then the batteries died.

She may only take about half her feeds, but she's certainly a little social butterfly. She's like the kid in elementary school who can never finish her worksheets because she's always talking to her neighbors too much. She's so responsive--particularly to me.

Earlier, while she was still eating I was telling Barb another long story. I was saying in an emotionally charged voice, "It was horrible!" Suddenly, I heard Derrick saying, "What's wrong, baby girl?" Penelope was making disconcerted little cries. I turned and looked at her, and she was staring right at me with huge eyes. She had to look sideways to look at me, so she was clearly responding to my voice of distress.

I stopped the story for a minute to tell her, "It's okay, Penelope. See? Mommy's happy." Then she looked happy, too, and went back to eating.

Normally I don't spend so much time talking to the nurse, but Barb really seemed to want to hear my stories. (I kept trying to give her ways out.) I think it gets lonely over there because there are only two nurses in that overflow NICU and for a while the other nurse had gone to lunch. I'd be like, "Well...it's a long story. Seriously. It's long." And she'd reply, "Well, I have a long time."

It was probably nice for Derrick to get to hold Penelope for once without me attempting to sit in his lap, too. And Penelope also seemed to enjoy the lively, upbeat conversation. She was still dancing around when we put her back in bed--and then, of course, she quickly became deeply interested in the high contrast face of her friend the kitty.

I told Barb, "I think she enjoyed the conversation, too." She replied, "Well, I know she used to enjoy it when you would read to her," because for a long time, I'd read poetry every night when it was Derrick's turn to kangaroo.

Really, she enjoyed that even before she was born. About eighteen weeks, I started reading her My Little Golden Book about God every night. I suddenly got really taken with that one. I used to have it as a child and never particularly thought much of it, but it gave me a lot of comfort when I was pregnant. For one thing, the illustrations by Eloise Wilkin looked the way I imagined Penelope.

Also, the book ends, "God whispers to each one of us in our hearts, 'Do not fear. I am here. And I love you, my dear. Close your eyes and sleep tight. And tomorrow will be bright. All is well, dear child. Good night."

The first time I read it to her, I found that sentiment so reassuring that I then read her that story every night. It was a nice reminder that God is on my side because I have kind of a low level of paranoia all the time, and I always worry that I'm being tested, or that I'm supposed to do something or learn something--always the fear that if I did something wrong something would happen to my baby. It was nice to take a step back, take a deep breath, and be comforted by a child-like faith I used to take for granted.

She always enjoyed the story then. She would squirm and kick and sometimes "lump up" to visit when I read it. Usually, I could find a part of her so I could "pet" her while we read the story. I assumed she liked that because it got so that when I would start to read the story, she would "lump up"--i.e., her butt or her head would stick out, and I would "pet" her.

In fact, the day she was born, I was so nervous about that pinkish discharge that I went upstairs to take a nap and relax. Everyone had been trying to reassure me, so I had convinced myself that it was nothing, and I needed to go to sleep and relax so that I would get some perspective. I lay down in bed and read Penelope her story, and she wiggled around and lumped up, so I was reassured that she was okay, and I went to sleep thinking everything was okay. But then I woke up and had to go to the bathroom and found more discharge. I also thought she was moving maybe a little more than usual, and now I realize that some of this supposed "movement" was probably contractions coming at irregular intervals.

Anyway, she's very social. Too bad I didn't read her Our Little Golden Book of How to Eat every night. Perhaps that would have made an impression.

Grayson's Secret

Grayson is so sweet! We decided to take him for a picnic in the park by my mom's house after my 5:30 pumping. To speed things along, we went through the KFC drive-thru and picked up some crispy strips. While Derrick was ordering, Grayson and I were doing our best to be quiet, as per his request. It wasn't easy because the guy taking the order kept calling Derrick "ma'am" by mistake (since he couldn't see us). The first time he did it, Grayson widened his eyes.

Finally, I whispered, "He's just mixed up because the sound isn't great and he can't see us." But then he did it like 500 more times, and I really thought Grayson was going to explode. He was giggling so hard, trying his best to be quiet.

I whispered, "I'm sure when he sees us, he'll figure it out."

We pulled up after Derrick had finished ordering, but we still weren't at the window yet. During this time, Grayson role-played the conversation between Derrick and the drive-thru guy, based on the discovery scene that was bound to unfold when he could actually see us.

Then, after trying out several different surprised reactions, he suddenly said, "What if he still calls him ma'am?"

This was quite hilarious to us since Derrick has a goatee (though less funny to Derrick, I think). I said, "Hmm, maybe he looks like his mother." Grayson thought that was incredibly funny.

Anyway, the guy's real reaction was not nearly as TV worthy as Grayson's performances of it. But we got our food, went to the park, fed the ducks, and all that jazz. Grayson was running around pretending to be a train. Derrick kept trying to get him to sit still long enough to eat. He would stuff potato wedges in his mouth, but he was less good about eating the chicken. But just when he ran out of steam, he decided he had to go to the bathroom. The bathrooms were all the way across the park, so Derrick had to carry Grayson's chicken. The whole walk back to the car, he kept trying to encourage him to eat some more, but the train had to stay on schedule.

When we got in the car, Grayson and I got in before Derrick, who was fiddling with something. Grayson confided, "You know, I really didn't like the flavor of that chicken, but I didn't realize that until after I tasted it."

I said, "Oh, well. Next time you'll know to order something different."

He said, "Yeah."

Derrick got in the car, asking, "What're y'all talking about?"

"Don't tell him!" Grayson said in what was meant to be a low whisper. Derrick heard that, of course, so Grayson said, "I was just telling her a secret."

I piped up, "Yeah, of course, you know I can't keep a secret. It was something about how that KFC guy called us while you were out there and invited us to a party--as long as we bring our cute friend the bearded lady."

Grayson smiled. Soundlessly, he mouthed to me, "Good job!" and gave me the thumbs up sign.

Then once Derrick was distracted by driving, Grayson leaned forward and whispered into my ear. "Really, I mean it, Sarah. That was a good job. You must have had training."

I thought that was so sweet and considerate of him, trying to spare Derrick's feelings so he wouldn't cause him any distress, particularly because Derrick was so aggravated that Grayson was running around too much to eat. Instead of explaining and risking hurting his feelings, he just let him think that he was being a maniac.

We're about to go see Penelope now. At noon, the nurse was mixed up and thought we were coming at five, so we didn't get to give her a bottle since she was already gavaging. That turned out to be a happy mistake since I then got to hold her for over an hour, which both of us very much enjoyed (judging by her frequent smiles).

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Scarlet Retina

That opthamologist cracks me up. When we got to the overflow NICU, it was so dark that I wondered if they'd moved all the babies across the hall again. But then I saw the eye doctor lurking around. I can never remember his name. I thought I saw him sign something with a long N-ny first name. I was deciding between Nicholas and Nathaniel. Then I thought I heard someone call him Dr. Hawthorne. But surely his name is not Nathaniel Hawthorne! Maybe Derrick remembers.

Anyway, he's so funny. While he was filling out his report, he started to muse about what he would do for his April Fool's joke this year. He said his favorite was when he stormed into his office and yelled, "That's it! I'm sick of this blankety-blanking practice! I quit! Right now! I'm going to live on my ranch! Cancel my patients!" Then he slammed the door and stormed out. He said, "The funny thing is I did that one two years in a row--and I got them both times!" This year, he's considering coming down with the "flu."

He said Penelope had some stage 1 retinopathy in her right eye, but that it was already getting better on its own. It wasn't even there two weeks ago, and now it's already getting better. He's going to check her again in a week, just to make sure, but he seemed far more concerned about his April Fool's prank (possibly by design. I'm pretty sure his, "Oh, I'm getting senile," routine is meant to put parents at ease). But he says you don't even do anything corrective until Stage 3, and it looks like Penelope's eye is already healing itself as it grows, anyway.

Her eyes were really red today, especially the corners of her right iris. (But I couldn't call the post The Scarlet Iris because that sounds too much like "The Scarlet Ibis" and not enough like The Scarlet Letter. I didn't want to lose my Hawthorne joke.) He said the exam can cause minor hemorraging, but that the drops numb the eye completely and are the same ones used on him for his cataract surgery.

In other news, when we first walked in, I asked Alyssa, Penelope's nurse today, if she had pooped. Her eyes got so big I thought maybe she's had a run-in with Dr. What'shisface. "Ohhh yes," she said emphatically. I mentioned that she hadn't gone for two days, and she assured me, "Well, she more than made up for that this morning!"

New Pictures

I just wanted everyone to know that I've add some more pictures to Penelope's web album, which you can find here.

Pumping Pressure

Not to sound melodramatic, but my breasts have gone crazy! Suddenly, they've decided to hide all their milk. Don't get me wrong. They're still producing milk--more than ever, actually. They have just taken the whimsical (to put it politely) notion not to share this milk with me. I was blaming blocked ducts, but it's more complicated than that. The reason my ducts are blocked is because my nipples are bruised. In my zeal to produce enough milk, I think I left the suction on the pump turned up too high for too long. So now, I have bruising around the nipples, causing swelling, causing milk not to come out, causing it to back up, causing the ducts to become blocked. It is really a mess. I'll start to pump. I'll pump for like fifteen minutes, and I'll have like 10 mls each side. Then I'll stop, massage hot water into my breasts in the shower, start again, and in ten minutes, I've suddenly produced more like 35 a side. It's weird, because Bessie was originally the one with the problem but in the time that I've tried to sort it out, the usually reliable Bossy has started acting up, too. And now I think she's hiding even more milk than Bessie.

(And yes. I just realized in explaining this that it has become second nature to me to refer to my left and right breast as Bossy and Bessie respectively. And yes, I do think they have personalities. And sometimes I talk to them. So this is probably a clear sign for all of us that I have finally snapped--just kidding. At least they don't answer me. (Of course, I interpret that as pouting--kidding, again.))

Anyway, I'm currently typing this with an ice pack on my left breast. I'm about to switch sides in a minute. I'm not sure if it is helping the breast at all, but it is turning my armpit numb, so at least it's doing something.

Penelope still has not pooped. I'm trying to get them to change the feeds from 31, 31 to two parts milk and one part formula. Mary Lou was in the overflow NICU today--even though she was not technically Penelope's nurse--so I talked with her a long time. She seems to think the formula is completely safe.

I got kind of freaked out after talking to Valerie the past couple of nights. She was telling me about how she remembers when they started the donor milk bank. (If babies under 35 weeks don't have enough milk, they give them donor milk, not formula.) She said they switched to donor milk because they were losing too many babies. I guess if they don't pass the formula, it sits in their guts and rots and gives them nec, which stands for somethingorother necrotitis or something. You caught me. I don't know the technical term, but basically, it makes them sick until they die of gut rot. On the other hand, breastmilk is all human, so if they don't pass that, it just reabsorbs and doesn't cause any harm.

Of course, Penelope is almost 38 weeks old, so she's really old enough to be full term now. There should be no problem with having her feeding supplemented with Neosure. All of the other babies have the same thing and most of them are doing quite well.

If only my little quackopotomus would eat she could come home! She took 47 mls tonight, but then she fell asleep. She's awfully cute, though. It's hard to get too frustrated with her.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Whopping 7 Pounder!

I just made Derrick call the NICU, and we learned that Penelope now weighs 7 pounds, 1.1 ounces!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Socializing with the Kitty

Christine gave Penelope her bottle again today, and eventually she took the whole thing. Towards the end, though, she got less focused. She started to suck the nipple as though it were a pacifier. Then she figured out a way to spit it out this crazy way. Once Christine took it out, she made the craziest happy face at her. Christine said, "Yes, I would like to be social with you, too, but we have to drink our milk right now."

She explained to me, "She keeps showing all these social cues."

"Like what?" I asked.

She explained that when she makes the little, "OOooh," face with her lips, that's an invitation to talk more. "Basically," she said, "it's her way of saying, 'I would like to socialize with you.' It usually means she wants you to talk to her."

"Really?" I said, realizing something, "because that's the same face she makes at her kitty."

Mary Lou was wandering by just then, and I showed her a picture of Penelope trying to socialize with the kitty.

When I held her, I noticed that she only makes those little "oooh" mouths at people--not, for example, when she gazes up at the lines on the ceiling or tracks movement in the distance. So apparently, the kitty has enough of a face to encourage her.

Derrick and I were joking, "Oh, why won't you play with me, kitty? I know if I keep inviting you long enough, you'll eventually be my friend."

By the way, the nipple turned out to have gotten messed up somehow. As soon as we replaced it, she polished off the bottle. They have her on half milk, half formula now, and so far she is tolerating it. Strangely, at my 9:20 pumping, I made 101 mls, my highest total ever! Of course, at the time I was watching Jimmy Fallon bottle feed some bear cubs on Hulu, and they did remind me of Penelope, particularly the way she growls at us when we get milk all over her face.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Penelope's Admirers

Every time we're in the NICU, various nurses constantly come over to talk to Penelope. I feel like I'm raising the heir to the throne or something. If they start bringing gifts, I'll know things are headed in that direction. I was joking today that she'll be so bored when she goes home where she can't receive the adoration of her coterie of admirers.

I had a blocked duct in my right breast this morning, which sent me into what can best be described as a fit. I started desatting and all my alarms were going off. It just made me mad because my 9:20 pumping was down by 15 mls, and it was all because of that one breast. I seem to have fixed it now, however. When we go back to our own house, I'll have to come over and use my parents' shower every time I have a blocked duct since we don't have a shower massage in ours.

After finishing three bottles for us this weekend, Penelope was pretty tired out yesterday. We had trouble waking her both times. Then today, I think I found out the reason why. She had a little growth spurt. After spending a couple of days hanging out at 6,9.7, she shot up to 6 pounds, 14 ounces! Margaret said they weighed her twice because it was such an impressive leap. She also told me not to stress out about the milk because they can always make up the difference with formula since she's already getting a teaspoon of Neosure as a fortifier and has no problem digesting it. I was thinking about it in the shower this morning. The Neosure has more calories, so all the babies gain weight faster when they put them on it. No wonder, then, that Penelope has had such a growth spurt that I can't keep up.

I've been listening around and I've realized that I'm the only one I'm aware of with a young premie who is still exclusively producing all the breast milk. All of the others are either using half formula or they're younger than 35 weeks and using donor milk to supplement. So I guess I need to chill out a little. They say my supply will go up when I get to do more direct breast feeding.

One of Penelope's neighbors might be going home soon because he's nippling almost all his feeds, but he also eats much less than she does because he only weighs 4 and a half pounds (and they feed them based on an equation involving their weight).

She's such a cutie, though. She is incredibly social. And she started off really strong with the bottle today. Lisa, the physical therapist, was really working on her eating readyness behaviors today. She said she did jaw massage and bringing hands to midline exercises. We'll have to see exactly what she did because Penelope really did well at the beginning until she fell asleep. (Incidentally, she did finish 47 mls, which is just about the amount the other baby takes when he finishes.) She's just growing too fast for her own good!

She was really sweet while I was holding her afterwards. She was so, so sleepy, but she tried so hard to pull her eyes open and look at me. She's such a sweet girl.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Speech Pathologist

Today we met with Christine, the speech pathologist, who thinks Penelope has turned a corner. She's noticed an improvement in her sucking. She says we've done a good job of incorporating the new feeding strategies, and that we no longer have to stimulate the jaw because she's working it herself. Now we're supposed to concentrate on ways to get her ready to eat, like not overstimulating her and encouraging her to bring her hands midline.

After Christine left, I held Penelope in my arms and talked to her while she made cute little faces at me. Three separate people today have told me how social Penelope is. She's not always the most focused eater, but she does love to look at people, cuddle, and coo.

Mommy Can't Compete With the Kitty

Mommy: I hope Penelope won't be too sad I have to go while she's still awake. Good-bye, sweetheart.

Penelope: I'm sorry, Mommy. I can't talk to you right now. I have to keep an eye on this kitty.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another Bottle Down

Penelope completely finished both bottles we gave her today, the one at noon and the one at nine! (I think she also finished making another diaper, but she fell asleep just before we left, so we didn't change it.) What a big, good girl! She was so awake again tonight. I'm so proud of her.


Penelope finished her whole bottle today! And she's taking 60 mls, so that was a huge accomplishment. When we finished scrubbing in about 12:15, Rachael was already feeding her. She looked so big! I couldn't believe it! She was wearing the little dress Chris had picked out for her last night, and Rachael had her sitting up, unwrapped on her lap. I couldn't believe how grown up she looked. (Plus, in a fit of annoyance, Penelope had ripped out her feeding tube, so she just looked like any other baby.)

Rachael handed her over to Derrick, and when she finished her bottle, he passed her over to me. She stayed wide awake the whole time. I think we're going to go get her a car seat later this afternoon. (Apparently, too, just before we got there she treated Rachael to one of her extra special diapers.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Big Girl!

Penelope now weighs 6 pounds, 9.9 ounces. That's triple her birth weight! (Over triple, actually. She weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces at birth.) Tonight at 11:42, she'll be 11 weeks old. And Sunday, she'll be 37 weeks. She's so big and so beautiful. I cried tonight holding her, thinking of how much she's been through, and how grateful I am I still have her. I whispered to her, "I love you so much, Penelope. Do you know that?" And this huge grin spread across her little face. I was remembering, too, how happy I was when I first saw her ultrasound video. I used to watch it all the time. I called it "The Kicky Show."


Today, Daddy and I had to contain and neutralize another DMD (diaper of mass destruction--Derrick's acronym). We tried to feed Penelope for half an hour, and she only took like ten mls. I asked Nancy, the charge nurse, if she had to stop since her time was up. She was about to say yes when she noticed how pathetic her performance had been and decided we should coax her to take a little more. Nancy took over and immediately noticed two things: 1) The nipple was defective 2)Her diaper was very full and stinky.

Of course, we noticed point #2 ourselves since she had filled the diaper during our bottle feeding attempt. She said, "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to eat, either, if I were that smelly." So we took a break to change her diaper.


The moment I unsnapped her, all of her leads simultaneously fell off her skin--as if she'd removed them herself using some kind of telekentic power that people with probes stuck to their skin in movies usually seem to have. Then, as soon as I undid her onesie, I could see her poop through the diaper (which is not supposed to be transparent). Gingerly, I slid a clean diaper beneath the dirty one. Then I opened her up. There are just no words for what was in that diaper. Think Munch's painting The Scream (like that's how you would react if you saw it).

Because there was so much, I couldn't clean her up without removing the dirty diaper, and, consequently, getting poop all over the clean diaper. She had it stuck everywhere, in all her little chubby crevices, and in some places where poop is really not supposed to go. I had to wipe so much I worried it would chafe, so I smeared some A&D on her, prompting her to pee spontaneously all over my hands--twice (like in two spurts). I was thinking I was pretty clever at this point because I'd managed to anticipate all her little tricks and contain that spontaneous pee in the second diaper. But I had underestimated my poopy little friend.

Once she was finally clean and dry, I handed Derrick the second dirty diaper and proceded to get out a third. Just as I lifted up her bottom to slip it underneath, Penelope started to pee again!! The diaper was nowhere near her butt, so I tried to lift her up, but all that did was get pee all over me, and then it still managed to get pee all over her outfit and blankets. Nancy was the only one in the overflow NICU, so after she fixed all the probes she couldn't go back across the hall and get her another outfit. We started to put her in a crazy robe, but then Adria came back and found her a little pink thing.

Penelope's expression through all of this was priceless, ranging from curious to gleeful, hyper alert by the end. Of course, it was all I could do not to become a human diaper at this point, so I couldn't get any pictures documemting this EDE (Extreme Diaper Event--Derrick again). By then she was so awake that we tried to feed her again, and she ended up taking 35.

Penelope Plays Possum

We stopped to have several conversations in the hospital tonight, delaying our arrival in the NICU. When we got there, Penelope was mad and fussy. Chris was in the middle of changing her diaper, so I took over, but she didn't make it very easy. She was furious and had no patience for my coddling. So we thought, Oh good! She's really awake!
But then as soon as Derrick started trying to give her the bottle, she fell asleep in like two minutes. We joked that she was just playing her little trick on us again, and right away, she flashed us this devilish, sneaky little grin. (But, really, she probably smiled not because she's an evil genius but because she could tell from our tone we were laughing and joking.) She continued to seem sleepier and sleepier. The lactation consultant taught us the trick of "pumping the baby," i.e. stimulating her to suck by moving her arm up and down. This usually works, but if you try to pump her when she's too tired, she stiffens her arm and starts quacking at you. Pretty soon, she looked dead asleep. As soon as we took the bottle away for good, however, she almost instantly perked right up. Her big, blue eyes popped open and she gave us this look like, What's up guys? Great to see you! Then she started rooting around, then just sticking out her tongue and looking forlorn. She always seems to want the bottle once it's not there any more. Crazy giraffe!

**One Additional note:  I (dad) have updated the web album with several more pictures since it's been quite some time since the last update.  Tonights pictures are not yet available, but I hope to have them up soon.**

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Well, Penelope sure isn't constipated today! We were pretty sure while we were holding her that she'd filled a diaper since the smell wasn't dissipating. At the end of her feed, I decided to change her before we left.

I have to say two things: 1) I am in total awe of that girl's ability to poop 2) Man does Neosure do strange, strange things!

The poop was everywhere, all over the lower half of her. Just when I finally finished wiping her clean and disposing of the hideous diaper, Penelope started to poop again. It went everywhere! Fortunately, I had a clean diaper waiting underneath the dirty one. Unfortunately, she was pooping so much, it was exploding all over the place, and I had to get a third diaper and try to stick it sideways under the other one to keep her entire bed from turning into Three Mile Island. Meanwhile, because she was straining, she also spit up some milk all over her shirt. Lynn ran back across the hall to get her a new outfit.

Derrick kept wetting more and more wipes, and I kept yelling for more. He was saying, "Wipe her heel! Her heel. Look at her heel! No her heel! Now look at your thumb. No your other thumb. See? It's on her heel, and now it's on your hand."

Finally, I was like,"Ohhh...her heel!"

He was like, "I've been telling you and telling you."

I said, "Oh, I thought you meant the heel of her butt," and immediately realized when I heard this out loud that butts don't have heels (even though her adorable little butt cheek sort of resembles one of my adult sized heels).

Meanwhile, Heidi, who'd come from across the hall to get some frozen milk, was cracking up. "You guys are too funny!" she said. "I wish I had a video camera right now so I could show this to other people. It's like you two are performing a rehearsed comedy routine!"

In the end, it was pretty hilarious, I suppose.

So constipation problem solved!

They also had to reband us today becayse Penelope's ankle bracelet got lost. Our NICU bracelets had rotted off from scrubbing in so much, but we have new ones now.

In less cheery news, I'd been scared I was getting a cold since I've been stopped up and "sinusy" since Saturday morning. Then I thought maybe it was allergies since a cold front came in last Thursday. But then I thought of something else that had come in late Friday night--Kitty. I now have a sneaking suspicion I'm allergic to cats. That would totally explain so many things--why I was always sick with tonsilitis and respiratory infections when I lived with my parents during grad school, why I kept getting congested and home and feeling better when I got to school while I was pregnant, why I haven't been stuffy since Penelope's been born (because we've been staying at Mom's house, and she no longer has cats). It may not have been a hormone shift that made my rhinitis of pregnancy go away right before she was born. It may have been that for the holidays, Mom came over and steam cleaned my rugs and vaccuumed the furniture and we spent most of Christmas at her place where there are no longer any cats because Wacko disappeared and Duchess died.

Anyway, it's time for my nap!

The Crazy Giraffe Devours Her Milk and Drinks in Her Surroundings

Following Penelope's new care plan for bottle feeding isn't easy. As Lisa warned us, when we sit her upright, let her take only three sucks and then pull the nipple out to force her to swallow and breathe, she tends to spit milk out all over her face half the time. Lisa did tell us that she would be even "less organized at first," but, ultimately, this technique will break the bad habit of letting gravity draw the milk back into her mouth and down her throat for her.

This milk dribbling ought to be more frustrating than it is. You'd think we'd get fed up with her antics, but she's simply so adorable that that's impossible. The first time milk got all over her mouth, she licked her lips and smacked them together looking oh so pleasantly surprised, like, Milk, mmm! Where did that come from? Yum! Her eyes got really wide and delighted, as if she wanted to tell us, Hey, did you guys know about all this yummy milk all over my mouth? Mmm mmmmm!

She was unusually awake, alert, and curious tonight. When we walked in, we found her happily and curiously looking around. When Derrick sits her up to burp her, she's supposed to let her head and neck fall limply forward as he supports her jaw with a cupped hand and pats her on the back. But tonight she held her own head totally erect and turned it from side to side, having a good look around the place. When rooting, she was making all these crazy faces at Derrick with her big blue eyes and long, enthusiastic giraffe tongue. The lighting in there is much better for pictures than across the hall, but her face blurred too much when she moved. At one point, he gently rocked forward in the glider, and her eyes grew absolutely enormous and astonished, like she wanted to tell us, Whoa! Did you guys see that? The entire room just moved!

She's really a cutie! She stayed awake for an hour and a half--longer, really, because she was still wide awake when we left!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sucking for Dummies

They moved Penelope across the hall again. We wouldn't have known except that we ran into Lisa, the physical therapist. While we scrubbed in, she explained the new care plan that the speech pathologist left. Apparently, Penelope has developed bad eating habits. When she sucks, she doesn't move her jaw in and out enough, so she doesn't get a really good draw on the milk. When she's encouraged to do this through cheek and jaw stimulation, she gets so much more milk than she's expecting that she has trouble breathing and swallowing. There's no physical defect or problem. She just needs to be retrained. This is apparently really common in micropremies who are born a month or more before they ever eat by mouth. The speech pathologist is now on vacation. Lisa told us, "She said when she gets back on Monday, she will make Penelope high priority, if she's still here." I would be shocked if Penelope gets it together and nipples all her feeds before Monday, but it's still encouraging to hear people talking this way. Evidentally, there is nothing wrong with her physically. She just needs to relearn her sucking skills.

On Sunday, she'll be 37 weeks, and they consider that close enough to full term to count as term. What happened to that other baby is still so disturbing to all of us, but, of course, we don't know his whole medical situation. I do know, from periodic chats with his mom, that he struggled a lot more than Penelope, and he had only been off his cannula for about a week. She's been off at least a month, I think. If we can just help her learn to eat, she'll be able to go home with us. I found out that she pooped three times last night, too. And her weight is up to 6 pounds, 5 ounces.

Penelope Sucks...and sucks...and sucks

Penelope was very awake once again tonight. When we got there, she was furious. I couldn't even take her temperature because she was so upset, thrashing around and crying. She never likes the thermometer, but she seemed even more upset than usual. Then, after a few minutes, Derrick noticed that she was lying on her pacifier, which must have been uncomfortable. After we moved it, she was still fussy, but probably because she was hungry. She seemed pretty eager to take the bottle. She drank about 30 mls before her time was up. Then we held her during the rest of her feed. John gave it to her over thirty minutes (even though it was less than half of a full feed), so we were there a very long time. For the last twenty minutes or so, she sucked intently on her pacifier. She was such a cutie. She looks so intent when she sucks. Then when it falls out, she flails around and sticks out her giraffe tongue at you.
In sadder news, that other baby did die of organ failure. Nobody knows quite why it happened, or why it happened so suddenly. They've scheduled an autopsy, but it's so heartbreakingly sad. I can't imagine spending 13 weeks coming to the NICU and thinking my baby will be home within a week, and then having something like that happen. I just hope and pray it doesn't happen to us. It's so scary, and I'm terribly sad for them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Penelope!!

My little sweetie was so cute today. Her nurse Alanna (or possibly LaJuana--she introduced herself to Derrick on the phone, and I didn't see her name tag when we went up) seemed very taken with her, too, and announced that she was in love with her.

The speech therapist apparently comes to help them with their sucking skills. She managed to get Penelope to take her whole bottle by stimulating her cheeks and jaw. Apparently, that tired her out, and she slept until her next assessment. So when we showed up, she was wide awake--more alert than we'd seen her in some time, in fact. For once, she didn't seem horribly gassy and constipated, so maybe she is tolerating her Neosure fortifier better. When Derrick put her on my chest, she lifted her head up, craning to see my face. She did this many, many times. And even after she settled down, she kept her eyes open, looking up at me for almost half an hour. She even talked to me a little bit. She's so adorable. We tried to get some pictures of her, but the lighting wasn't very good for that behind the curtain.

She's taking 56 mls now. I hope I can keep up! I should have been at that level by now, but my period always makes my totals a little lower, regrettably. All the schedule changes didn't help, either!

Scary Times

Penelope was very cute today, but we think that the other baby did not make it. We're not sure. We've been talking to a friend of ours, another NICU mom, who texted the other mom and did not hear back. His bed is missing. Either they were able to get him stable enough to move him into the back isolation room, or he's just not here any more. This is all very distressing. They've been here thirteen weeks, and they thought he might go home this week.

Our friend's mom is a nurse, and they've been trying to figure out what happened based on what we know. Yesterday, we thought he had some kind of infection, but it is sounding more like organ failure. Of course, the nurses are not allowed to give us any information. His parents were definitely there at midnight (when we saw them) and eight (when she saw them). We think their car is still in the parking lot, but the baby is missing, and we just don't know what happened for sure. It is very scary.

A First

We finally saw Penelope at midnight last night. She was looking very cute in a little green onesie and seemed unaffected by everything that was going on.

Derrick just talked to her nurse this morning. Apparently, the speech therapist saw her, and gave her a bottle, and Penelope took the whole bottle for the first time ever! They dropped her back from four times a day to three, so maybe she's more rested. We're going back to our old schedule, so we're going up at noon.