Last night Abe took me to an amazing steakhouse for a birthday dinner. My sister babysat Gemma and had a great time. Anna, my sister, is a nurse so I knew Gemma was in good hands. Before we left, I wanted just one family picture so here we are- just missing he dogs. We'll get one with them for Christmas! It was wonderful to cuddle in a cozy booth with Abe and remember why we decided to be together in the first place. We toasted our couplehood first and our parenthood second. We ate rare steak and sipped red wine and just basked in each other's presence. I love that man something fierce! Then, on the way home, in true romantic fashion, we stopped at the store for diapers and wipes... ahhh what a night!
Today we got a delivery of a bed wedge to elevate one side of Gemma's crib mattress, a Danny Sling to prevent her from rolling down to the end of the crib, and now she's taking a nap all by herself in her crib.
So where does the sad Mama come in? Well, since she's so refluxy, and aspirates thin liquids, our doctor recommended that Gemma sleep inclined and in a Danny Sling. So, now she has to sleep in her crib at night. I've gotten used to her sleeping in her bassinet right next to me. I could just sit up and stare at her if I needed to see her. I could scoop her up if she was crying and cuddle her on my chest if she was having a hard time going to sleep. Now, I have to sleep in a separate room and it's breaking my heart. My little girl, so small, in that big crib... I may have to spend a few nights in the leather recliner in her room just to ease myself into this transition. I'm sure she'll be fine, but me? Not so much.
If I'm this worked up over her using her own bed in the nursery that I envisioned her sleeping in for months, what on earth am I going to be like when she has her first tooth, gets on the bus to Kindergarten, graduates High School, gets married, has her own baby!? Oh my aching heart... it's all too much. Thank God, she's got a long way to go before I'm zipping her up in her wedding gown or watching her get on the school bus. God knew what He was doing when He started us out as babies.
I'm loving her right now- cuddling with her, feeding her, talking to her, kissing her little cheeks. She is the best birthday present I've ever gotten! And I've gotten some good ones... a house, a dog...
Abe and I are going out for my birthday tomorrow night just the two of us. I'm so excited. We are going for delicious steak and wine dinner. I have missed my one on one time with him. I know that we are parents now but we were a couple first and he's the love of my life- I am dying to reconnect with him. We are both looking forward to spending a little time together that is not punctuated with spit up, crying Gemma, barking dogs, or dishes piled in the sink.
Life is good, God is good. We are so hopeful that God will heal Gemma completely and she'll be on her way to normal foods/liquids soon. She's worth every odd medical thing- bed wedges and slings, and every late night feeding. I'm re-evaluating my life right now, realizing that pleasing others is not what is the most important calling in my life. The People Pleaser in me is fighting that, but is freed by that statement at the same time. My priority is raising my daughter, loving my husband, and honoring God. All else can wait- dirty dishes included.
Today is Gemma's 3 week birthday. She's already changed so much and is doing really well. Her reflux meds seem to be making a difference and nebbing her is getting much easier. Here are some photos of her as she looks today at 3 weeks old!
Wow, I can't believe that she was IN my stomach 3 weeks ago. That's just bizarre! God really works in miraculous ways to go from giving birth just a short time ago and now to raising a little human!
This is just a glimpse of our nighttime routine. I can't resist how cute her little nebulizer is. The little turtle face just cracks me up. If we can give her this while she's sleeping, that's ideal. If she wakes up, she usually cries because she's hungry and that breaks my heart! The reflux meds seem to be making a bit of a difference- in fact, she slept for almost 5 hours straight last night after cluster feeding. It was wonderful and we are both feeling better today than yesterday.
I published her birth story but since I started it a long time ago, it posted before all the other posts. If you are interested in reading that, it's dated October 9th. Enjoy!
I continue to thicken everything and we are getting some more medical equipment delivered- a bed wedge and a danny sling to help her sleep more upright and keep the reflux in her tummy, where it belongs. She's precious and such a trooper- this is what she's doing right now...
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
This will be a quick one- Gemma is asleep, temporarily, in her bouncy seat next to me. We've come up with a new plan with our pediatrician and the clinicians we've seen at Children's. I will continue thickening all her feeds, whether breast milk in a bottle or formula with rice cereal. I am going to taper off pumping. I have like zero time during the day to pump as it is since her feedings take so long so I'm going to only pump as I can and give her at least one bottle a day of breast milk. Every little bit helps.
Our doctor is trying to get our insurance company to approve Prevacid for Gemma as a reflux med. Since standard of care says we need to use Zantac first(which is a thin liquid that she can aspirate) we have a bunch of hoops to jump through to get Prevacid approved. Also, the doctor wants to put Gemma on Pulmocort (an inhaled steroid) to keep her airway calm and clear through flu season. The primary concern is any little bug can cause major infection since she already has fluid in her lungs and an irritated airway.
So, we are on house arrest. Sorry to those of you who want to come and visit- we have been told to limit her contact with people outside Abe and I. Also, anyone who even has a shadow of a cold has to steer clear completely. That means my plans of taking my girl Christmas shopping with me are definitely off the table for now. No church, no grocery shopping, no errands unless we are driving through. I'm bummed that I'm bound to the house, especially since the house is such a disaster, it stresses me out to look around. However, keeping Gemma healthy is my primary focus and we'll camp out here until she is healed.
Please join us in praying for complete healing of her airway, so there is no aspiration and complete healing of her reflux. Please pray she is healed by the next appointment we have in 6 weeks- if not way sooner! Please pray she has zero ZERO negative side affects from any of the meds we decide to put her on- especially the Pulmocort. I know God is able and this could be so much worse but it's hard seeing your baby in pain, gagging, unable to breathe or eat. Thankfully, we are able to get enough in to her that she is gaining weight- not as much as we would like but I'm working on it! As of right now, she sleeps on my chest inclined so that her reflux doesn't bother her so much. She sleeps pretty well, me on the other hand... not so much.
It's amazing how much I love this little girl and how overwhelmed I am. Pray for peace and patience for me- wisdom for Abe and I as we continue to navigate unknown situations- and guidance for all of our many doctors who continue to give Gemma wonderful care!
The Lord is faithful. This is the child we prayed for and I know He made her for Abe and I to parent. She is God's precious jewel and our beloved daughter. My heart swells to bursting when I look at her. When I have a spare moment, I promise I will take a picture or two.
Until then, picture her wrapped snugly and sleeping soundly... for now. Her tiny left hand is folded in her blanket and her right arm is sticking straight out. She is breathing smoothly, the tiny hairs on her head pulsing with her heartbeat in her soft spot. She's breathtaking...
Psalm 119:41 May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;
I have been meaning to update the blog before this but due to the insane week and a half we've had, I haven't had time. I have started to write Gemma's birth story but had to put that on hold.
First of all, we are all fine. Gemma continues to amaze us, enchant us, and challenge us. She's beautiful and we absolutely adore her. We've had a wild week and have been in and out of hospitals, clinics, and offices with our girl making sure she's okay.
When we were in the hospital, Gemma really never nursed. I saw multiple lactation specialists and no one could get us nursing. She would never latch and stay on. Because of this, or so we thought, she was super fussy and would nurse for hours on end without really getting any nutrition. Her pediatrician sent us home with directions to monitor her "output" so to speak and if she went 24 hours without a messy diaper or her urine continued to be concentrated, that we might have to supplement. I was in so much pain from nursing that I decided to pump for a day and feed her by bottle. She fed off the bottle fine but did some interesting gagging at the end of her feedings. She would stop breathing, turn red, white around her lips and gag. It didn't last long but long enough to startle me and her. I noticed that when she was 3 days old, she wasn't stooling like she should have so I called the pediatrician and asked how much to supplement with. We then started adding formula to her bottles of breast milk. She was instantly a different child. She was full! She slept, she pooped, she smiled. She still gagged occasionally but I thought that it was just a normal thing.
On Sunday, when Gemma was 4 days old, I had a home care nurse come visit to work with us on breast feeding. I didn't realize how important breastfeeding was to me until it wasn't working for us. Jayne, the nurse and lactation specialist, was wonderful. She worked with us for over an hour and thought that Gemma had a dysfunctional suck. She told me that this could be due to Gemma's little nose being squished during pregnancy/labor/delivery and to talk to our ped about it. So, I continued to pump and feed with the formula supplement.
On Monday, 5 days old, we went back to the pediatrician for her first appointment and she had gotten back up to her birth weight! This was amazing! Our pediatrician was still noticing the squished nose that Gemma had and thought we should get it checked out for a possible deviated septum so she called Midwest ENT and off we went for our first specialist appointment. At the ENT, they looked at her nose, telescoped it to make sure that all the bone growth was normal and gave us the all clear. The bones in her nose look normal and the cartilege at the tip will hopefully straighten out. (It's so minor, if it doesn't, it's barely noticeable anyway.) So, we ruled out that her nose had anything to do with the breast feeding issues.
Back to the pediatrician on Tuesday for a breast feeding consultation with the doctor. She watched me feed her and then watched her bottle feed. When I described some of the gagging stuff that I had seen with Gemma, the doctor thought she might have reflux. She also wanted to make sure that her swallow and suck were normal so she made appointments for us to get a swallow study and Upper GI done at Children's Hospital on Wednesday (one week old).
Off we went to that study- keep in mind, this whole time my hormones are OUT OF CONTROL. I cry at the drop of a hat, am so overwhelmed with all the pumping, feeding, watching her stooling patterns that I'm wound just about as tight as a top! So, we bottle feed her Barium at the swallow study and the Speech Clinician notices right away that Gemma is aspirating her liquids- she said mild to moderate. She adjusted the thickness of the Barium and the type of bottle nipple until Gemma was taking liquid just into her stomach. After that, we did the Upper GI study. I was praying the whole time that they would not have to put a feeding tube in her. I can't handle her being in pain. Immediately, they noticed she was refluxing (sending stomach contents and acid back into her esophagus- they said it was class 3 or grade 3 which means it reaches the back of her throat.) Because they saw this right away, they didn't need to do the feeding tube. Thank You God.
From there, the speech clinicians came up with a plan to thicken all of Gemma's liquids. I add something called Simply Thick to breastmilk bottles. I am supposed to add rice cereal to formula bottles if I use them but I can't get the ratio right yet. As of right now, breast feeding is off the table. Breast milk on it's own is too thin and because she has such a strong suck, she's taking too much in and aspirating it.
When I spoke to a speech person who is also a lactation specialist, she thinks that all this started because she aspirated my breast milk in the hospital. She said that babies are smart and Gemma must have made the connection that "whoa, that went down the wrong way, I'm not doing that again" and now she just quits whenever she's put to the breast. Tricia, that speech/lactation person, thinks that had we not found this early, Gemma would have stopped taking food from the bottle too. She also could be the kid who gets pneumonia or RSV due to the fluids already in her lungs.
I knew that having a newborn was a lot of work, I am under no illusions about that. But I expected difficult breastfeeding, late nights etc. not hospital visits, boxes of hospital grade food thickeners and multiple follow up appointments. Our pediatrician has been great and pointed out to me that I need to just enjoy Gemma. It's so hard to sit back and just soak her in when all I've been doing is dealing with her eating. I've set a plan for her feeding and will continue to pump and do 1/2 breast milk 1/2 formula bottles that are thickened for her feedings. I don't know how long I'll pump, it makes me pretty uncomfortable, nauseous and hormonal. I'm hoping that goes away. It's so important to give her the nutrients and immunity from my breast milk. Especially at this time of the year.
We've asked all our friends and family members to stay away if they have any illness (cold or otherwise) since it could be a much more serious complication for Gemma and people have been really respectful. I just want to be a hermit with her. I would be totally fine not seeing anyone until she's 6 months old. I love taking naps with her on my chest, watching her smile in her sleep and singing to her.
Once we get the reflux medicated, she should also feel much better. She's really uncomfortable at night and whenever she's awake. She constantly wants something dripping down her throat so she'd eat until she exploded, suck on anything, or just cry herself to exhaustion so she doesn't have to feel the reflux. Poor little honey.
Like I said at the beginning, we are all fine. She's healthy and will most likely grow out of the aspiration and the reflux. One clinician said that she had no doubt in her mind that she could get us breast feeding in 6 weeks. I will believe it when I see it since she aspirates and is in pain whenever I breast feed her now.
Thanks for all the congratulations and well wishes. We do LOVE LOVE LOVE her and can't imagine a more amazing gift than her presence in our family. It feels as though she's always been here and yet just arrived. I know that God has chosen Abe and I as Gemma's parents and I'm honored and overwhelmed to make decisions that will have her best at heart. I love being her mama.
I will post her birth story as soon as I can write it and if you'd like to see more pictures of her, please go to ciderpressstudios.blogspot.com and check out the newborn pictures the incredibly talented Julie Feldman did last weekend.
1 Samuel 1:27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.
Here is the story of our little girl's arrival. Better late than never- pardon the choppy writing, I did a lot of this with a newborn in my arms. Typing one-handed is never ideal!
In my previous posts, I already updated that I had developed pregnancy induced hypertension. I was not experiencing pre-eclampsia nor eclampsia, but my doctor was concerned that if I stayed pregnant too much longer or was too active, I could easily develop these much more serious complications. I went in to the doctor and was put on bedrest for a week. When I went for my 39 week appointment, my doctor checked my blood pressure and made the decision to induce me. Since I have some other super minor medical issues having to do with my heart, I really wanted my doctor to deliver her. She set the induction up for Tuesday night. I would receive something called Cervidil on Tuesday night to "ripen my cervix" (gross) and then I would start pitocin up in the morning on Wednesday. My doctor said that I would deliver on Wednesday and she'd be on call so I would be sure to have her deliver me.
Abe and I got everything ready and headed to the hospital on Tuesday night at 7:00. I was admitted and given Cervidil at 8:50pm. That was NOT FUN. Quite painful for something that wasn't supposed to do much other than get me ready for Pitocin. I had been praying that the Cervidil would send me into labor and I wouldn't need Pitocin. I had heard horror stories about how intense the contractions can be with Pitocin and was scared. I was having contractions but not feeling them very strongly. The nurse, Mary, who was AWESOME and took such good care of me on her shift told me that it would for sure not happen that night but that we could call Abe back in if he went home. She noticed that some of the contractions were getting a bit painful and offered me a sleeping medication called Vistrol (I have not idea if I'm spelling that right). It's an antihistamine like Benadryl and just makes you tired. So, after discussing this with Abe, we decided that he should go home and sleep in our bed so he was well rested for the following day. We also decided that I would take the sleeping med and hopefully get some sleep for all the hard work coming my way the next day.
I took the Vistrol at 11:30pm and my contractions were getting more painful. They had not checked me in awhile and offered me some morphine to help with the pain while I waited to be far enough along to get an epidural if I chose. My new nurse, Cindy, said that if I was having break through pain by 12:30am or 1:00am, pain that was not allowing me to sleep, that I could get morphine and that would help. I barely made it to 12:30 before I asked for the morphine. I got the morphine at about 12:50 and waited for some sort of relief.
Much to my surprise, my water broke at 1:05am. Immediately, I asked if I should call my husband. Cindy said "no, let's check and see where you are and we'll go from there." She checked me, my contractions were getting really really painful, and I was at a 4. She removed the Cervidil. I was having terrible back labor and asked her when I could get the epidural. She said when I was at a 4 or a 5 would be an ideal time. I said, "Okay, I'd like the epidural now and can you tell the anesthesiologist to run?" She laughed and said she'd get things going as quickly as she could. She hustled to get my IV in and then Dr. Shiner would come in and do the epidural (I know that's not how he spells his last name but that's how it's pronounced). All the nurses said he was the best and I was so lucky to have him do my epidural. He came rolling in and I shouted, yes shouted, "Hallelujah!" I'm sure he gets that all the time. He quickly got the epidural in and I felt so much better. Since I was having bad back labor, Cindy put my leg up on a table to try to get Gemma to turn. By this point, I was at a 6- it was about 2:40 in the morning. Still I didn't call Abe- we still didn't think things would move that quickly. Then, at 4:00am, Cindy checked me again, after having me roll over and prop my other leg up to get Gemma to keep turning. I was at a 9+ and she said to call Abe. Thus far, I had been laboring all alone- or with Cindy. So, I called him. This was our conversation.
I had to call him twice, he didn't answer the first time.
"Hello?" Super sleepy voice.
"Hi honey, you need to come to the hospital now." Super sleepy voice.
"Oh, okay. I'll hop in the shower and be there in a little bit."
"No, no, no, no, no... I'm at a 9+ and I'm going to start pushing when I'm at a 10. You need to get here NOW. No shower."
"Hurry, honey... I already have my epidural and everything."
Abe got to the hospital at about 4:50am and Cindy had me "labor down". She said that I was at a 10 and since it was important for me to have my doctor deliver me, due to my hypertension and heart condition I should just let the contractions bring the baby down naturally without pushing.
I did that for about a half hour and started pushing at around 5:30. Apparently, I was a good pusher because she thought I'd push for about an hour and then Dr. Syal would be there to deliver Gemma. The on-call ob changed at 6:30 or 7:00am. So, I pushed and pushed and she moved down well.. too well. At about 7:00, Dr. Syal still wasn't there and I could feel that I HAD to push. The nurses called the ob residents and two young fresh faced residents came strolling in. One knew my brother from college and they proceeded to just chat with me. I was so tired that I thought I was going to pass out. I did between contractions- just feel asleep. The resident held Gemma inside me until Dr. Syal got there and the nurses just kept telling me to breathe through the contractions. I kept apologizing, and saying, "I'm so sorry, I'm trying so hard not to push.. I'm so sorry." 30 minutes later, Dr. Syal came rushing in, threw her purse and coat on the floor and jumped into her scrubs. She asked if I'd like a mirror, to which I responded in no uncertain terms "NO!!" She told me I'd need a bit of an episiotomy and did that and two pushes later, Gemma was born. Dr. Syal let the resident deliver her and the nurses handed her right to me.
She was screaming, all mushed up- I'm sure from being held in a tight spot for at least a half hour, and all puffy. I expected this cosmic, all-consuming love to hit me right away but it didn't. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience- she was a stranger, and mine and totally helpless and I couldn't connect right away. I was expecting Abe and I to burst in to tears simultaneously and neither one of us did. I cry every time a baby is born on tv, what was going on?!
We spent a few minutes just holding her and then I let them weigh her. Everyone thought I'd have an 8 or 8.5lb baby and she was way too small for that. I knew that she wasn't that big- sure enough, 7lbs 4oz and 19" long. Her head was 13.5" and she was perfect. She had these long thin fingers and long thing feet. Her little nose was mushed and bent and she had this beautiful little red mouth. Abe gave her a bath when my mom and dad got there. I tried to have my mom take pictures but she couldn't figure out my camera so I asked her to give it to me. There I was, taking pictures from my hospital bed of my husband bathing our daughter about an hour and a half after I had given birth. The nurses just laughed at me.
After that, we didn't have any visitors that day except my sister and brother-in-law who were going out of town the next day. I was so tired I thought I was going to die. I hadn't slept the night before we went to the hospital and thought I'd get a good night's sleep on the Cervidil (Wrong.) so I had been up for over 48 hours. I was delirious. The next couple of days passed in a blur. Abe stayed overnight with me the first night and then went home the next night. Gemma never really nursed. She would latch, unlatch, cry, arch, gag, and then do it all again. I met with every lactation specialist in the hospital and none of us could get her nursing. The other posts have more info about what happened after that.
We went home on October 8th and I was still feeling like she was a stranger- I knew that I loved her but it was still a very foreign concept to me. I couldn't believe I was a mom. I was still waiting for that magical moment of connection with her.
The next morning, I got up with her to change her and as I placed her on her changing table, it happened. I was absolutely flooded. Overcome. Invaded by the sweet presence of my little girl. I looked at her, tears pouring down my cheeks and fell in love. There it was. That cosmic, unexplainable, magical, divine, all-consuming connection between mama and daughter just hit me. I looked at her and said, "Hey my beautiful girl, do you know how much your mama loves you? So much, precious Gemma, there are no words- I love you, I love you, I love you."
I'm so thankful that my labor and delivery was quick and smooth. That's what I had prayed for. I prayed for a fast and uncomplicated labor and delivery, an easy recovery and a healthy baby and mama. God has been so faithful. Her health is an ever-changing condition but right now she's healthy. We are doing everything in our power to keep people away from her and protect her little lungs. What a gift she is!