To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Yesterday was a little different for me. The first entire day of no family members here. The first thing I did after waking up to pump, was go right back to sleep. Exciting, isn't it? Truth be told I most likely over-did it yesterday with my activity, but it all started with a morning nap.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself since I didn't have any family to share tasks with. I folded the towels Brent brought upstairs, I put my laundry away, I filled out Haley's month of March on the "My First Year" calendar we bought, I put an ultrasound picture in one of the frames we got as a gift, I cleaned off our dining table, I did the dishes, I put Haley's blankets in her closet, and I sat and knit. Our neighbors from across the street came over to drop off a gift (it was so sweet of them) and I received a package via UPS from some family in Oregon. It was a busy day! But it felt....weird. Being home alone, without Haley, just doesn't really feel right.

At 3:30 I got a ride to the NICU and sat and kangaroo-cared my little girl for about an hour. Kangaroo care is the absolute best. Holding my baby, right up against me, is an experience I can't really explain. She fits right inside my shirt, and just snuggles. Her little hands move and tickle my skin. I can feel her breathing. I can bend down and kiss her any time I feel like it (which happens to be quite a lot). It's a bonding experience I don't take lightly. We can't sit far from her isolette, because she's hooked up to a few monitors and an IV and we can't pull on them too tightly. So we sit there, in the rocking chair, just the two of us. Sometimes I talk to her, sometimes I hum, sometimes I even sing. She squeaks occasionally, or sighs, but mostly she just sleeps. Sometimes I start singing "You Are My Sunshine" but I have yet to make it through that song without crying. I sang it to her while I was pregnant, and now that she's here it's all I can do to choke out the words.

Brent came to the NICU after he was done with work and sat with his girls for a bit before we had to head home. We had some friends from church bringing us dinner and had to make sure we were there to get it. (It was delicious, by the way!)

We headed to bath time last night, and it was my turn to bathe her. Brent and I take turns every night for who gets to give her the bath and change her diaper. Last night was me. She was fast asleep when we got there, but once we started the bath she woke up. Those eyes - those big eyes! We love it when she looks at us and is so alert. I got her all bathed and it was time to change her diaper. Two words: PREEMIE BLOWOUT. It was the cutest, smallest, biggest poop you've ever seen!! Brent was thankful that it was on my watch and not his. Poops are very exciting for us, because it means she's digesting and processing her feedings. And they don't even stink yet! I got her diaper changed and it was time to hold and cuddle her.

Brent wrapped her in her swaddling blanket (he's really good at the whole swaddling thing!) and the nurse handed Brent the syringe that would hold her 14 mils of food. 14 mils!! He held the syringe until it emptied into her gavage tube, and held and rocked her until she fell asleep. I love watching him hold her and talk to her. He's so in love with her, and it just makes me weak in the knees to watch him fawn over Haley. It just about brings me to tears to hear him tell her he loves her or to hear him say things like, "I can't wait until she comes home."

We kissed her good night and tucked her back in to her isolette. She is doing so great, and we love her so stinkin' much. We have no idea when we'll be able to bring her home, but we don't anticipate it being anything past her original due date. Hopefully sooner, but it's all up to her at this point.

Some specific things to pray for: That Haley would begin to suckle, and be able to suckle, swallow, and breathe simultaneously in due time. That she would continue to gain weight appropriately and reach the milestones to move her to a crib, and to bring her that much closer to coming home. That Brent and I would be prepared to bring her home when the time comes and that we can be the parents God has called us to be - that we can keep her safe and healthy, and give her a great start to life here at home. Thank you all for your prayers and your support!

Monday, March 29, 2010

One Week, One Day, One Blessing At A Time

Yesterday our little Haley was one week old. It's already been an entire week! I went to church yesterday and of course was emotional during certain songs, and upon seeing friends who wanted to check on me and see how we were all doing. It was overwhelming and encouraging all at once. I was recounting the events and cannot believe how far we've come in one week.

One week ago, my liver was malfunctioning, my kidneys were failing, I had fluid on my lungs, my blood pressure was getting higher and higher, my edema was severe, and my baby girl was not receiving the blood or nourishment she needed in utero. We were both physically disadvantaged, and she needed to be delivered - seven weeks (and one day) premature.

Despite all of that, I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl. And she is absolutely thriving!

Yesterday Haley had a very big day. Her feedings were increased to 7 mils!! She was held by her Gramma Sandy, her Grampa Gary, her Grandad Greg, and her Grandma Paula. She was given a suppository - and she had some good poops!! She will probably kill me in about 14 years for posting that. But it was exhilarating news in our household yesterday! At 9:00 last night, her feedings were increased to 9 mils. She will be packing on the pounds in no time!

Speaking of pounds, last night at bath time, we weighed her once again. Our little Haley was half a smidge shy of three pounds. THREE POUNDS!! She's gaining steadily, praise God! Four pounds is the really crucial milestone weight, so we are anxiously awaiting her healthy arrival at that mark.

We also noticed last night at bath time, they have moved her gavage (feeding tube) from her mouth to her nose. This is EXCELLENT as now she can start working on suckling and swallowing, and hopefully be able to feed by suckling soon!! She will suckle on bottles, and then we will transition to nursing, but this is all very exciting and very encouraging.

My parents left this morning and it was sad to see them go. They have been such a blessing over this last week, and have taken care of us far beyond what we imagined or expected - they really went above and beyond. We will miss having them around and look forward to seeing them again once we bring Haley home. We love you, Mom and Dad!

I'm just bursting at the seams with excitement for how well Haley is doing, and how gracious God has been in protecting her and providing for her. She has captured my heart, Brent's heart, and has caused us both to lean fully on God's provision and strength - something we needed an extra "push" to do. Our little miracle - our Haley Laine - changing lives one blessing at a time!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quick Update

I have experienced God several times in my life. I have never witnessed or experienced a miracle on this level, however. Just when you think you have God all figured out (and why do we do that to ourselves, by the way?) He comes back with this powerful, majestic intervention that we cannot begin to fathom or understand. Haley is that miracle!

Yesterday she was back under the billy lights but was also consuming 1 1/2 mls (milliliters) of food every three hours. This was a big step considering the concern they had previously. Brent and I went to give her a bath last night and Grampa and Gramma (my parents) watched from the NICU window. Once again she did a fabulous job while we bathed her and then went right to sleep afterwards.

This morning I had Brent call the NICU to get an update on her. They had removed her from the billy lights .... AND they had increased her food intake to 3 mls! She is so far digesting her food and not developing any sort of bowel loop. We hope she can keep it up!!

The four of us (Brent, myself, Grampa and Gramma) got ready and ate an early lunch before heading to the hospital. Today was a big day - Grampa and Gramma got to hold Haley! We swaddled her up in some awesome swaddling blankets (Thanks, Amy!) and they each took turns holding her for about 20 minutes. She was so tiny in their arms. They are completely smitten with her (honestly, who wouldn't be?) and it was so sweet to see them be able to hold her and fawn over her. It almost brought me to tears just to see it.

I had a lot of energy today - or at least I thought I did. We went to run a couple of errands after the NICU visit and I pretty much crashed and burned right away. Brent brought me home so I could pump and then I fell asleep and took a loooong nap. When I woke up, my mom and dad treated us to dinner (Lonestar was absolutely delicious tonight!). Brent and I left and headed to give Haley her bath. I walked up to her isolette and she was sleeping. I said, "Hi Princess" and immediately she opened her eyes and looked at me. Her night nurse said, "Oh sure, she wakes up for you - she slept through her entire assessment!" It was such a precious moment. We prepped ourselves and the isolette and the bath was under way. Once again, Brent did a fantastic job, and changed her diaper like a pro! He's such a good daddy! He held her for a while, and then I was able to do kangaroo care.

We are so crazy about this little girl, and so proud - if I can use that word - of the progress she continues to make. God has done some miraculous and amazing things, and I hope the nurses in the NICU don't tire of me saying, "Praise God!" because really, there just isn't anything more suitable to say.

Haley continues to improve, continues to hold a very special place in our hearts, and continues to be a living, breathing testimony to the miraculous powers of her Maker.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two Days Worth of Updates!

Wednesday was a bit of a roller coaster day. I woke up very emotional, knowing I had to leave the hospital and had to leave my little girl. I cried. Then I cried some more. Doctor H came in to examine me and asked, “Ready to go home today?” I choked out a “No…”
“No? You want to stay an extra night?” She was going to check out the insurance, but yes, it was an option, all things considered. I started to feel a tinge better, but didn’t want to get my hopes up, just in case.

I ordered my breakfast and got myself somewhat situated before heading to the NICU to see Haley. The nurse told me she’d had a good night, but they had pulled residual from her tummy tube (meaning she wasn’t digesting her food, and there was concern.) They had postponed her feeding and were waiting for the doctor to do his rounds to determine the next step from there. I cuddled my hands on her, trying not to get overly emotional, and just prayed that she’d be okay.

Later on, Mom and Dad came over and Dad and I scrubbed in to go see Haley again. Dr. J was in there and came over to give us an update. She was doing fine, he had put her back on a feeding, and they were going to keep an eye on how she processed her food. She’s still receiving “food” and nourishment through her PICC line (to which Dr. J made a joke saying, “This is just like food you and I eat. Salads, McDonalds burgers, donuts….” I gotta love this doctor!), it was just her digestive process in her tummy that was under watch. They were still monitoring her billirubin levels and they were “about the same” as they had been the day before. Overall assessment, however, was that Haley was doing really well. Mommy, on the other hand, was having a hard time pulling herself together.

The nurse had to do some assessments and I had to walk around – post surgery style – so we walked around to the NICU window. I watched the nurse pull more residual from Haley’s belly. I watched the nurse put the syringe of food away. “Dammit.” One step back. Baby’s having residual in their tummy can develop into a very serious issue, where their intestines and bowels can become incredibly infected and require surgery. Surgery which isn’t performed here – we would have to go to the Cities if it were an issue. I just wanted my little girl to be able to eat, and be okay.

We walked back to the room and I ordered myself some lunch. Mom and Dad treated themselves to the hospital cafeteria. In the meantime it was determined I was in fact able to stay another night at the hospital. Hallelujah! I needed to be with my little girl one more night. When my parents came back upstairs, I gave them a shopping list and told them I was going to pump, shower, and take a nap. They left, I pumped, and fell immediately asleep. I woke up about two hours later when Brent called. I got up and got in the shower and tried to muster up some energy.

I went across to NICU to deliver my latest “production” and spend time with Haley. She had a splint on her arm – which upon seeing, immediately broke my heart. The nurse came over and I asked “Has Haley eaten today?” “No….no, she still had residual, so we pulled her feeding schedule.” More heartbreak. “Why is there a splint on her arm?” “Her PICC line was getting irritated because she was moving around so we tried to stabilize her arm to keep it from bending and making her PICC line inflamed.” More heartbreak. I just rested my hands on her little body, as she was sleeping, with her eyes covered by the little mask to protect them from the billy lights. Brent arrived and scrubbed in to spend some time with his girls. I tried to be strong and focus on how good she was doing, and was grateful to have one more night across the hall from her.

Around 8:30, Brent and I went back to the NICU to give Haley her bath. I walked in and saw they had the lights off, and her eye protector mask was off. She was wide-eyed looking all around. I immediately felt a sense of relief. “Hi, Sweetie!” I opened the isolette and cuddled her with my hands as she stretched and looked at me. Brent came alongside and we oooh’ed and ahhh’ed over her. The nurse got us all set up and we got started bathing our little girl.

We had an absolute blast. Haley did so well – she just let me wash her and dry her and do whatever I needed to, to get her little body clean. She didn’t fuss a single time. Brent was right there and combed her hair, help get her weighed, and held his daughter in his hands at every opportune moment. We were both having such a great time bonding with Haley and with each other. We wrapped things up and had to put her little eye mask back on, turn on her billy lights, and say goodnight. I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t stop smiling and felt so at peace with her strength and progress. This extra night in the hospital was exactly what I needed – both physically to recover from the cesarean, and emotionally to have that positive experience with Haley before having to go home without her. God blessed me immensely with that extra night. He gives the most awesome gifts!

I woke up early on Thursday feeling great. And soaked. This milk thing – what a trip! I pumped, showered, and ordered breakfast and pain meds. The nurse came in to check my vitals and commented on how nice I looked (I was wearing jeans and a real shirt rather than the last week’s outfit of sweats and a t-shirt). Doctor H came in and asked how I was feeling – and I told her the truth. “Fantastic!” I walked across the hall in my role as the milk woman, and saw Haley just briefly enough to see she was under the blue lights.

Mom and Dad came to the hospital with some items I had requested from home, and I showed them I had grouped all my belongings together, so we could just grab and go when the time came. On Thursdays from 10 to 11, the NICU has “grand rounds” where the nurses, doctors, dietitians, case workers, lactation specialists, etc. all gather in the NICU and review each case. I had forgotten this and tried to go in and see Haley but was stopped by one of the nurses who assured me she would call my room as soon as they wrapped up. I went to the window where my parents were and peeked in on Haley. There was another mother of a NICU baby there at the window with her husband. She was being discharged as well and was really having a hard time with it. I put my arm around her – I so knew what she was going through. We stood there at the window, teary eyed and quiet, each watching our babies. I went back to the room to wait for that phone call from the NICU nurse. About 20 minutes later, it came. Grand rounds were finished, and I was free to see Haley.

I walked across the hall, scrubbed in, gowned up, and walked to her isolette. The billy lights were GONE. She was awake! She was mask-free! She could look all around, just like she loves to. That was incredible. The next thing I noticed – her oxygen mask was gone! The little firecracker was fully breathing on her own. I anxiously waited for a nurse to come by – this would be my first opportunity to give Haley kangaroo care in two days. I could hardly contain myself.

The nurse placed her in my shirt and I sat in the rocking chair and held her. Mom and Dad were watching from the window, trying to take flash-free photos. Dr. J came over and gave me another update. He was so proud of Haley for not needing oxygen. Her billirubin levels were back in the normal range, but they would check them again the next few days just to stay sure. There was a chance she would need the lights again, but not today. She is still gaining weight, as she’s getting nourishment through her PICC line, but she won’t be eating “mommy’s milk” for the next couple of days, until they can get a good grasp on what’s going on with her bowel loop. She's still progressing and they're keeping a very close eye on her. Praise God, praise God, and praise God!

I waved to the window that one of my parents could come in. Mom darted back to scrub in. She ooooh’ed and ahhhh’ed over her tiny little granddaughter as Haley slept against my chest. Before too long there was a labor and delivery nurse telling me that I needed to check out of my room ASAP as they just had three new admits. I had a nurse help me put Haley back in the isolette, and headed to the room to grab my things and go. The discharge nurse was going over my paperwork with me, and I was trying to wave Mom and Dad to get my things out and meet me at the car. I knew how important it was to get the room available ASAP – I had been an emergency admit, and didn’t have to wait for my room, so didn’t want someone else to have to wait either. Especially since I had been granted the extra night to recover.

The discharge nurse walked me down to the car, and we loaded up and headed to meet Brent for lunch. Everything happened so fast – and I realized as I reached across my body to fasten my seat belt, it had been over four hours since I last pumped. All I could say was “OW!”

This is already the longest blog ever, so I’ll skip the boring parts of the afternoon and tell you that Brent and I went back to give Haley her bath. This time Brent did the bathing, and he was fantastic! He is such a great daddy! We were able to swaddle her and hold her for quite a while. I loved watching Brent’s face as he looked at his daughter. It’s so precious to see him fall so in love with her.

We came home and I realized I hadn’t even peeked in to see the nursery! I walked inside and saw the dresser, the crib, the little bookshelf, all the baby accessories, and I started to cry. It looked great, but Haley was missing. I wasn’t sad, necessarily, but more anticipating the day we get to bring her home. She is receiving amazing care in the NICU and she is doing so well – I imagine it will be sooner rather than later that we get to enjoy her in her nursery.

The day was filled with an overwhelming sense of God’s presence, and how many lives he has touched through the miracle of Haley. She is a little answer to hundreds of prayers, and a blessing to so many. I was just so humbled by God’s grace today, in so many different ways. It took a 2 lb. 12 oz. 15 inch miracle for me to see how far, how wide, how long, and how deep the love of God reigns. He is so much bigger than I ever could have fathomed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Haley is doing so well! Yesterday they moved her from the open bed to the "isolette", which is supposed to be more comforting to the baby as it better resembles a womb. You've all seen one - it's the plastic dome with the hand-holes in the sides to reach in through. They had told us she would be moved to one, but it still surprised me when it was yesterday. While in the isolette she needs to be under the billirubin lights ("Billy Lights" as they say) to keep jaundice under control. This also means she can't be held as often or for as long. Do you hear that? That's my heart breaking a little bit...

When I saw her yesterday after she had been moved to the isolette, it was a bit overwhelming. It looked a lot scarier than it really is. She has to wear protective "glasses" over her eyes so she doesn't over-expose them to the billy lights. It's as if she has her own private tanning bed. It made me sad to know she couldn't just open her eyes and look around as she has been doing. It also made me sad to know I couldn't just lean down and give her a kiss. I can only touch her with my hands, unless I happen to stop by at the right time and can give her about 30 minutes from under the lights. While all of it really is good news for her and her health, I couldn't help but get choked up about seeing her in that plastic tent. Yesterday I got almost 40 minutes of kangaroo care time, and when the nurse helped me put her back in the isolette she said, "Awe, her hand left a little indentation on your chest." It was the sweetest "sleep mark" I've ever had. Much cuter than when a pillow leaves lines on your face.

They turned her oxygen down again and she is weaning off of it faster than they anticipated. Usually they turn oxygen down to wean once every several days or so - yesterday they turned it down twice in one day! She only has one or two settings left to possibly be on. I went in last night to help bathe and change her, and she pulled her oxygen tube out from her nose - twice. The nurse laughed and said, "Sometimes they wean themselves...." She had also pulled out the tube in her mouth that went to her stomach. She is a little ornery about the tubes, but who can blame her?

The nurse turned off the billy lights and took off her eye protectors. I watched and helped her bathe Haley. Bath time is not a favorite for little Haley. I reached in and held her tiny little hand and she looked at me and stopped fussing. The nurse said, "See? Mommy's right here for you, you're okay." I couldn't talk, but I wanted to repeat exactly what the nurse had said. Instead I just let tears fall because my little girl is so stinking precious and stopped fussing for mommy. After bath time, I took the tiny diaper - really, the smallest diaper I've ever seen - and laid it underneath her while I removed the dirty diaper. She had peed - is it weird that I thought her dirty diaper was incredibly adorable? I cleaned her off and put the clean diaper on her and she didn't fuss a single bit. The nurse had me take her temperature under her arm, and I said, "Oh she won't like this will she?" "No, none of them do." was the nurse's reply. I laid the thermometer under her arm, placed my free hand over her, and she laid there as still as could be. Not one single squeak. She just turned to watch me, and put her hand on my finger. Instead of fussing, she pulled out her oxygen tube from her nose again. Those tubes don't stand a chance against her strong little grip!

I loved every second of helping. She watched me the entire time, even though I'm not positive she can actually see me. Those big eyes were locked on mommy, and I couldn't have thought it sweeter. I kept telling her how good she was doing and how much I loved her. She squeaked in reply. I love her squeaks. Squeaky Squeakerton. We got her cleaned and weighed and the nurse ran assessments. She had actually gone up in weight from yesterday - around 10 grams. I hope she stays on the gaining upswing! She still is right around 2 pounds 12 ounces, but I imagine soon enough she'll be over 3 pounds.....then 4.....grow, Haley, grow!

We put her eye protectors back on and got her re-situated under the billy lights. I sat in a chair and they lowered the isolette. I cupped my hands over her and held her for about twenty more minutes until it was time for the nurses to report and for me to pump again. I told Haley I loved her and that I would be back to tell her goodnight.

My parents had arrived in town and Brent took them and introduced them to their granddaughter (while I pumped) earlier in the evening. When they left the hospital before I went to bathe Haley, they took most of the stuff from my room, since I'll be discharged today. I can't tell you how grateful I am to have them here and to have their help while I recover from surgery (I'm doing good - trying to stay on top of the pain, but doing good). But most of me wishes I was still sick and not improving so I could stay in the hospital longer and only be right across the hall from my little miracle - not across town.

I did go back in after pumping and tell her goodnight and snuggle my hands on her for a bit. She smiled as she slept - it was the cutest thing I have ever seen. She has such long feet, too. I couldn't stop touching them, or her tiny little toes. I can't wait for the day she's kicking off booties, and grabbing her toes.

I pretty much haven't stopped crying since about 9:45 last night, save the four hours of sleep I got. Haley is getting amazing care, and she's doing amazingly well - and I know all of this, and praise God for it. I just want to be with my baby. And yes, I can come visit any time and for hours at a time if I want....but still. I get to go home and she doesn't quite yet. It's going to be a long few weeks for me.

I've thought about going back to work - at least part time - while she's still in the NICU. That way I can take more time after she is released to come home. If you could pray for a decision in that regard, and that if I do go back to work, I can handle the circumstances of having a semi-normal life while my daughter works to build one....that would be swell.

So late this morning when they give me the a-ok and boot my butt out of here, it's going to be the hardest thing I've ever had to do. And I'm going to cry a lot. I would appreciate your prayers for strength and peace - that I can pull myself together. And keep praying for little Haley's incredible strength and improvements - she has blown me away with how fantastic she's doing. And with how stinking adorable she is. My little squeaker.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My first 2:00 a.m. feeding. So I'm awake now, and thought I would try to give another update.

Every hour that goes by, I am noticing a marked improvement in my health and am surprised at how sick I really was. I had no idea how sick I was, until I realized later how much better I feel now. Sometimes weird things happen in pregnancy. Mine was fine - textbook - until about a month ago, when things started to turn. I'm even more surprised, though, with how strong our little girl is. We got to witness her bath time (which she is not a fan of), and she was trying to stand! No kidding! It was the coolest, most amazing thing. She is one tough little cookie.

Hearing her fuss and cry is just the sweetest thing. She's a little squeaker. Barely audible, but full of purpose. Her eyes are so big, and she just looks around, taking everything in. She can't see but for an inch or two in front of her, but that doesn't inhibit her curiosity. I've found myself lost in those eyes already.

We had lots of visitors yesterday, and Brent was the cutest proud father I've ever seen, passing out chocolate cigars. We got to show her off through the nursery window to several people. In between visitors, I had to pump - which is an entirely different life experience all together. The great news is, I have been able to fuel Haley's tummy as a result! She gets 3 mils of colostrum every 3 hours. And I get to sit in my room and panic every time I hear a knock on the door - for fear a non-nurse individual is going to walk in and see the not-so-glamorous sight of surgery-recovering Val trying to pump as modestly as possible. Which is another lesson I've learned about this whole birthing thing - there is no more modesty.

Brent got to hold - as in actually cuddle and cradle - his baby girl for the first time yesterday. Prior to that he'd only been able to touch her. Seeing my husband hold his teeny daughter in his arms is just the most beautiful thing I can think to see. The look on his face when he held her for the first time is something I hope I never forget. He is going to be one heck of a daddy. Which is not at all surprising, considering how fantastic of a husband he is.

I had my first kangaroo care snuggle session with Haley. They propped her right in my shirt, directly against my skin. It was magic. I cannot even tell you. Feeling her little hand squeeze my neck, feeling her breathe against me, knowing that she very well knew she was in her mommy's care for that moment - I cried twice. I did I'm not gonna lie. But honestly, the fact that I cry all the time over everything should really no longer be a surprise to anyone.

She has only dropped 3/4 of an oz in weight thus far. She's kept all of her food in, she did fantastic when they administered her picc line, and she fussed (by literally putting her foot down!) to protest bath time. She's peed, she's pooped, and she's just been a little firecracker. The diapers they use - oh my goodness. So small! And it's still too big for her! I am going to take one home and put it in her baby book - a fresh one, of course, not used.

God has blessed Brent and me in ways that we cannot even comprehend. We are still reeling from this entire experience, and from the outpouring of love and support we've received from everyone - even people we don't know! We weren't expecting a March baby. We weren't expecting a medically urgent cesarean delivery. We weren't expecting any of this. But more so, we forgot to expect that regardless of any event, God would still be in control. The evidence of His hand and His care and His provision is enough to just humble me to a pile of unworthiness! He has "delivered" this family in ways that only He could do. Every time I see my little Haley, I just stop to think, "Thank you, God, that you would care enough for us to bless us in this way."

Monday, March 22, 2010

She's Here!

I really wanted to blog yesterday's events, but with all the chaos and being drugged up, I couldn't muster up any energy to type. My labs came back yesterday morning worse than they had been. My levels were nowhere near normal. The ultrasound showed no significant improvement in the amniotic fluid levels or the diastolic pressure, that had been displayed on Friday. The doctor made the call - I was only getting sicker and baby had to come. I had started to feel really sick Saturday night, but hoped it was just from being in bed. Turns out I was feeling sick because my body was making me sick.

The nurse came in to prep me and tell me they would take me back in the next hour or two. I was so distraught. And so excited. And so emotional. I would have to think on what was going to happen for the next hour or two.

Then more nurses came in, the anesthesiologist came in, and they had me prepped and wheeled back to the OR in about 20 minutes time. I went from being worried about having too much time to think about it, to not having any time to think about it. I think it's better it happened that way. I was overcome with all sorts of emotions. They wheeled my bed down the hallway and all I could see were ceiling tiles and lights. I kept picturing a medical drama television show. Once in the OR, they administered the spinal. That was uncomfortable but not near as bad as I thought, and it took no time at all to take effect. Everyone was explaining things to me, checking on me, and trying to get me more relaxed. Brent came in the room and sat at my head - all dolled up in his "bunny suit", operating hair cover, and mask. I could only see his eyes, and was so appreciative he was there to hold my hand.

They started the surgery and so many things were racing through my mind. Within 8 minutes of the first incision, she was out. Doctor H held her up so we could see - and little Haley Laine Kleppen started screaming and hollering and fussing - it was the greatest sound I could have ever heard. They got her cleaned up and showed her to me one last time before they took her to the NICU. I was in the OR for another 30 minutes being stitched and cleaned.

When I was being wheeled back to the room, there was a whole crew of nurses and staff who were outside the NICU wanting to get a peek at our little girl, and waiting to make sure I was alright. Everyone here was so excited for us. They do this every day, and yet they were still excited and concerned for us. It was incredible.

Haley was 2 pounds, 12 ounces, 15 inches long. She needs minimal respiratory assistance...she only has oxygen tubes in her nose - just like her mommy right now. They were talking about giving her a PIC line today so she could receive more concentrated nutrients since her IV spot is a bit inflamed. She's doing so well, and I can't hardly believe Brent and I have a little girl! A beautiful baby girl, with a full head of hair that looks like it will be curly!

Almost eight hours after she was born, I finally was able to show my strength from recovering from surgery and the spinal, and they wheeled me to the NICU. I got to hold my baby girl. She's so small, but honestly she is bigger than I pictured. She held my finger and made the cutest little faces, trying to get her tongue around the tube they have down her to keep air out of her tummy. I cannot even tell you what it was like to finally spend time with her and hold her and kiss her and tell her I love her. I know she heard me because she has these cute big ears!

When I came back to the room after holding Haley, I slept - solid - for hours and hours. Between the adrenaline crash, the meds, and the events of the day, I couldn't do much more than sleep. I am hooked up to Oxygen now, but they unhooked me from the IV and I'm starting to feel a little more like myself.

This post is a bit random, and I apologize - I just can't stay focused enough to follow an orderly chain of events. Haley is doing great, we are encouraged, and God's hand has been at work in this entire situation. We had hundreds and hundreds of people praying for us and supporting us, and it has been an exhilarating and humbling experience. This little girl is something special - I am just thanking God for His care and provisions and for our little Haley Laine.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Yesterday it turns out my platelet levels were low, which is concerning. After I found that out, and found out my protein was a tish high in my urine (ew, why do I share things like this?), I realized my labs from yesterday were not in fact as "fine" as I originally thought. If they weren't fine again today, they would most likely have us deliver, as I wouldn't be the most suitable host for our baby girl any longer. I was suspicious, though no one could confirm, that today would be a very busy day for us. I just knew that March 20th would be our daughter's birthday.

I wanted to be sure to shower yesterday in case they wouldn't let me before the c-section. I finally got word around 5:00 last night I could shower, sitting down, and for only 5 minutes. I had to scrub fast. I've never lathered so many creams so quickly! Shampoo, conditioner, soap, and face wash, washing, rinsing, and repeating. It was an intense 5 minutes, but it was a m a z i n g. What a difference a shower makes!! Though having to shower while sitting down, and in such short a time frame, is a heck of a workout!

Later in the evening I was getting really uncomfortable. I was having lots of braxton hicks contractions and they were pretty intense. My night nurse came in and gave me some Tylenol, and offered to rub my back. She didn't have to ask me twice - I gave consent to that right away!! My chest was tightening as well, and a respiratory therapist came by to give me a breathing machine I am to use every one to two hours to help that.

I slept pretty well last night and was woken up twice to check my vitals. I heard the night nurse say, "Val, your blood pressure is great!" to which I gave a sleepy "good...!" reply. And then I dozed off again. Come to find out, she wasn't just saying that. During the night my blood pressure was 115/59. DID YOU SEE THOSE NUMBERS?! Thank you, God!

This morning I was woken up so I could have my blood drawn for labs and prepare for the ultrasound. I was a little groggy, but this morning's blood draw went a lot faster and was far less painful than yesterday's. They were actually able to find an arm vein instead of having to draw from my hand - thanks to being taken off the IV yesterday and swelling going down. We waited a little longer for the ultrasound, but it was well worth it. Baby Girl's amniotic fluid had actually slightly increased, and the umbilical cord diastolic pressure had improved. When my labs came back, the protein level was less than yesterday, and my platelets had gone back to the normal range. We were good to go for another day of being pregnant! Hallelujah! I was able to order breakfast (after being off food and liquids from midnight) and it was an amazing feeling. Fantastic news all the way around, and another day for our baby to bake in my belly. I was on cloud nine!

We got more pictures during the ultrasound, but Baby Girl was fast asleep. They couldn't wake her, and though she stirred a bit, she was OUT! They wanted to monitor her breathing after the second steroid shot, but she wasn't budging today. Her little lips were pouted, and her eyes were closed, and she just looked so sweet curled up in her awkward position!

Another worker from NICU came by with some information, encouragement, items to keep me busy (sane) while on bed rest, and Subway sandwiches (and cookies) for lunch! I mean really, this place is awesome! I took the pickles off my sandwich, but for the first time in my life, I left cucumbers on. I have to say it wasn't terrible. Look how adventurous I am from this hospital bed!

I was happy and motivated enough to knit today, and even paid some bills online. Just a fantastic feeling of a day. We had more visitors today, and Brent met an entire crew of friends at the house, who were ready to assist clean things up and prep the nursery. I cannot even tell you how overwhelmed we've been with the sheer outpouring of support and the eagerness of others to help and encourage us. It's so beyond our wildest dreams - never have we felt so loved, or so humbled, or been so appreciative!!

Earlier this evening there was a bit of a stress moment for me. They've been monitoring me and baby very closely every day throughout the day. Apparently her heartbeat wasn't varying enough - it was staying too steady. Which, I just learned today, is abnormal for babies. There was a doctor consult, but they determined both baby and I are okay for the night, and they don't need to deliver based on that information. It could be, especially since she's still active, but was so sleepy earlier, that today is just a lazy day for her. We've both been through a lot in the last couple of days as it is, so it's excusable. They'll monitor us both again and it's back to waiting and wondering based on the information from tomorrow's labs and ultrasound.

I was able to take another five minute shower tonight, and bonus - put real clothes on! Well, real as in other than the bare-butt hospital gown. I have some stretchy cotton shorts, and one of Brent's t-shirts. But everything that gives me more of a sense of normalcy is absolutely incredible. I feel so much better in "clothes" and with washed hair!!

Your prayers are being heard, and Brent and I are so touched and moved by everyone's genuine and compassionate concern. This entire experience has been a real eye opener for us for so many reasons! God has been so good to us, and no matter what happens, we know our little girl is in His ever-loving hands. We are just trusting Him and relying on Him to do His work in this situation.

Today's been a fantastic day - we're hoping to make it until Monday - 33 weeks!! On Tuesday, my doctor will be back from Haiti. Every day she stays in my belly is another miracle day - and we'll take all of them we can get!

Friday, March 19, 2010


What a whirlwind. Yesterday I showed up for the ultrasound. Brent borrowed a coworker's car to meet me at the hospital, since his is still out of commission. We were called back in no time and set up to see our baby girl. (Who is definitely a girl, by the way - we saw the whole thing!) She was playing with her toes in front of her face so we didn't get to see her as well or as much as we would've liked. She was breathing, though, which was a great sign. Already practicing on pumping those lungs, which becomes a huge part of her story.

The tech moved on to check the umbilical cord blood flow and the amniotic fluid. I'm no degree-holding tech, but I suspected what she was marking as "fluid" was entirely too little. There were lots of colors in the umbilical cord reading and I assumed that was good news. When she was finished she told us she was going to call the doctor because the doctor might want to take a look at the ultrasound. I turned to Brent and commented about the fluid being low. I went on to say, "We'll most likely have her early." Of course I was thinking four or five weeks away yet.

We headed upstairs and were called back by the nurse, Nikki. I adore Nikki. I had lost another 2 pounds - since the day before - so was feeling pretty awesome. Blood pressure was lower than it had been as well, in he 130s over 80s. Brent and I were both pretty optimistic at that point. My doctor was boarding a plane to Haiti. Remember the one post where I loved her so much and kudos to her for being an advocate for Haiti? I really could've used her yesterday, so wasn't so thrilled about the Haiti thing. "Dr. Waffler" as Brent has (not so) affectionately deemed her, came in for the consult. The diastolic pressure from the placenta to the baby is somehow restricted, and baby is small. Two weeks smaller than she should be size-wise. The amniotic fluid is very low. Through her smile and encouraging tone she said, "So we're going to recommend admission to the hospital."

Wait. What? Today? Now?

I can't tell you what I was thinking, because I don't even know. Through choking back tears and trying to piece it together in my mind I asked, "So what you're saying is, I'm going to have this baby this weekend?" Most likely, yes.

But she's only 32 1/2 weeks. She'll be premature. We don't have anything ready. I'm not ready. She's not ready. Will she be okay? When? How? WHY?

Brent had to leave to go back to work to return the borrowed car and tell them he wouldn't be in for a while. Doctor checked me out and the next thing I knew, I was being wheeled to a hospital holding room, being hooked up to monitors, and asked to put on the lovely bare-butt gown. I was crying, but not hard. I just couldn't believe - or understand - how this was all happening. The nurse was unloading pertinent information to me and I was nodding, but only hearing bits and pieces. She stopped at one point and said, "You will only retain about 10% of what I'm saying. Don't worry. Ask later. You've just had a bombshell dropped on you." I nodded again. Indeed - a bombshell. Could I have done anything differently? Is it my fault? Will she be able to stay in there for any while longer? I just came in for an ultrasound....this is not at all what we were expecting.

Brent came in to the room - I've never been happier to see him. They were trying to get an IV in me, and after six (painful) attempts, one finally took. The NICU nurse came in to tell us what to expect and answer any questions. Everyone had the same sentiment - "You're at 32 weeks, she'll be fine. Girls do better than boys. She'll be fine." I heard them say it. Every nurse has said it, the doctors have said it, and I've heard them. And I've repeated it. But I'm still scared to death.

I got a steroid shot yesterday to help Baby Girl's lungs develop. I'll receive another one today. The fact that she was already breathing in my uterus was a fantastic sign. The steroids will only help her develop at this point, and she'll be better able to breathe on her own, sooner, so they tell me.

Brent asked what items I needed from home. I told him, "I don't know, I haven't gotten that far in the book yet...." We came up with a list, but he is making trip #2 today. When I said we didn't have anything ready, I wasn't kidding.

They drew labs this morning and took another ultrasound. My labs came back fine and the ultrasound was fair - about the same as yesterday. The good news is, is wasn't worse. Another new doctor, Doctor H, came in today and told me she would be very surprised if I would hold her for another week - and that most likely I would deliver, by c-section, sometime this weekend.

Today is Friday. This is like - the weekend. This is it. Brent and I are going to have a baby girl. Within a few days. A few hours. Few.

Brent posted his very first blog ever regarding the experience we've had. I just love my husband so much - I can't even tell you. Even though I've scolded him twice for talking to me when I'm trying to concentrate - I wouldn't want anyone else here bothering me. I'm crazy about this baby girl's daddy.

The prayers, love, and support we've received have been overwhelming. It's incredible to me when we feel so isolated and so alone, we're just consumed by an outpouring of offers and encouragement. We can't tell you how much that has helped us in these last 24 hours.

Please continue to pray for Baby Girl and for her continued strength and health. The fact that she's moving her lungs already is a great sign, considering the circumstances. She's a tough little one. I'm hanging in there, and feeling a little better about things the more encouragement and information we receive. The hospital food isn't so bad. The view is great. And I've come to realize the best thing about this is, my God is bigger than my tiny baby. He's bigger than this hospital. And He's bigger than my worries or my fears. My God is in control, and though I would give anything to grab those reigns, I absolutely entrust Him to do an amazing work in our family, and in our baby.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Checkin In For Check Ups

So ever since the episode of House where the blogger goes in and they think she's dying of cancer, needs a heart valve transplant, and has to blog about everything and everyone - I kind of feel weird for having a blog. I'll get over it, though. In the next ten seconds.

Last week was a rough one. Rougher than I cared to admit. Work was bad - really bad - as far as my stress level and sanity were concerned. I had to let go of some resentment (on my part) and stupidity (on the part of others, of course) in order to just get through the week. And I see it getting worse before it gets better, but the good news is God gave me a great sense of peace about it all - and simply because I asked Him to. He's so awesome like that.

I had a routine doctor's appointment last week. At least I thought it was routine. She was concerned with my blood pressure and weight gain. 146/85 was completely above and beyond what my blood pressure has been the previous 30 weeks. (120s over 60s/70s) Plus - apparently gaining 12 pounds in three weeks is not cool. What? I'm pregnant! Isn't that the only given? Gaining weight? Yes - but apparently not 12 pounds in three weeks. She didn't smile once - because this was serious - and if I didn't cut salt and sodium from my diet, things were going to get worse and I could very well end up on bed rest. Gulp.

I left - totally frazzled. I was in tears the rest of the day. Fragile and sensitive about everything. Crap. I talked with my boss about the possibility of bed rest, and needing to change some things around at work. He was so supportive about the whole deal - and even let me cry in front of him. The conversation started something like,
"So you need to talk to me about your health issues?"
"Yes. Do you care if I cry?"
"No, go ahead."
commence tears
And he was cool with it. Phew.

For the last week, I have been such a good girl. Making everything from scratch, cooking myself, not going through a single drive-thru, etc. And it has been HARD. You can't tell a pizza-addict that she cannot have pizza three times a week. I mean really. Little Caesar's isn't the best pizza in the world, but it's inexpensive, and it's two blocks away. I can't even have a whiff of it now, or I swell up to eight times my size. I digress. Today was check-in day to have my weight and blood pressure re-evaluated.

After a brief stint in the waiting room, I was called back by a spunky, cute nurse who I've never seen before. I weighed in. Drum roll, please. I WAS DOWN FOUR POUNDS! 4! Think of all the extra water I've been carrying, to where changing my diet makes me drop 4 pounds of excess water/swelling, at 32 weeks pregnant. Unbelievable! I was excited - and knew my blood pressure was going to be awesome too. I relaxed for a few minutes, and the nurse came back and put the cuff on my arm.

148/97. Higher than last time. And I had even been having a good day at work. Insert heavy sigh here.

I went downstairs to have blood drawn and pee in the infamous cup. The latter is getting harder and harder the farther along I'm getting. Soon enough I'll have to put the cup on the floor, stand above it, shake my hips and hope for the best. (I kid. I tease. I probably won't try that.)

Doc called me later this afternoon. I got - I mean had - to step out of a conference call meeting to take her call. One of the labs came back abnormal. The good news is the rest were fine, and I don't have toxemia. Yet. The abnormality is "nonspecific" - so it could be one of any number of things that's quirky. It could be something as simple as my carpal tunnel affecting my blood pressure levels. (My fingers are tingling as I type.) I could just have "gestational hypertension".

Tomorrow I head back for an ultrasound to check the baby's growth and my amniotic fluid levels. Friday I head back for more lab work and a non-stress test (where you just lay around forever and they monitor the baby's heart rate, movement, etc.) Mom reminded me that tests are to rule things out - not to confirm worst cases. So we're ruling out that I'm being a bad mom. First and foremost. Phew!

I don't know what it all means. I don't know what will happen over the next 7 weeks, and I don't know when I started to love raisins so much. Is God trying to get my attention? Probably. Why am I refusing to give it to Him? Cause I get scared....what? I do. Is that backwards? Completely. So pray for me, please?

I go to the doc again tomorrow - and I get to see my baby girl, and get to have my husband (my wonderful, amazing husband) alongside me. Friday I go back so they can rule out all the stuff that isn't in fact wrong. Tuesday I go back again for them to tell me how awesome I'm doing. It's all good.

And I will continue to enjoy raisins in the meantime. While I pretend it's pepperoni pizza.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Trip To Wyoming Part II

Read here to catch up on Part I. Go on, I'll wait.

Once we made it to Mom and Dad's house, we were greeted at the door by Dad, who had just gotten home from work seconds before we pulled in to the driveway. After exchanging a quick hug, I made my way to the bathroom. Big surprise there.

We sat and visited for a while before Brent headed downstairs to test out the guest bed and take a snooze. He had worn himself out from making a wrong turn and being yelled at, after all. Mom soon came home from work and started to make us dinner, after I had not-so-modestly hinted I was starving and was going to start gnawing on the sofa if I didn't get food soon. It was a fantastic dinner - steaks, red potatoes, beans, and some yummy bread. And I of course had to drink a lot, because when you pee so often, you get thirsty. And when you drink so often, you pee a lot. It's a vicious cycle.

It wasn't too long after dinner, that the swelling in my feet and ankles started to become uncomfortable. This had been a new development - I had been dealing with the occasional puffiness for about two or three weeks prior to this trip, but this swelling was new. I attributed it to the change in elevation and the long day of travel. Then I went to sleep.

Day 2 was the big day of the shower! We went to lunch at a pizza joint in town. I hadn't eaten that pizza in years, and for some reason when you go a long time without having it, it becomes the best pizza you've ever tasted. And Mom said "Let there be pepperoni and black olives" and it was so. And Val saw that it was good. And ate it all.

Dad and Brent got to work installing a new water heater, and Mom and I headed to the baby shower. My mom can't talk and drive at the same time. I wanted to drive, but she wouldn't let me. So we cruised to my friend T's house. Very Slowly. While she talked. When we arrived at T's house, I walked inside and was warmly greeted by some friends who had already arrived. Let me tell you - this was a fantastic baby shower. I have amazing friends, who are far too good to me, and far too much fun to be around. My friend, Dd, had made this cake and cupcakes:

Are those not gorgeous? Not to mention, they tasted absolutely marvelous. We played the melted-candy-in-the-diaper game, and Mom had a few shrieks to share over how much she "enjoyed" sticking her nose into that kind of "business".....

I was absolutely spoiled with amazing gifts, and some hysterical laughter. It was such a good time, and I was so excited to see everyone who was able to make it. It ended all too soon, and Mom and I headed back with a full car and an extra person. T had found herself invited to dinner with us! But she wasn't hungry because she had been eating Dd's cake, and the other goodies from the awesome spread at the shower. I, however, will eat whether I'm hungry or not. I read in a book once, "Even if you're not hungry, the baby is." So who cares that I had been eating for three hours and I wasn't hungry - the baby must have been. I was just being a good mom.

T will tell you that dinner with my family is quite the experience. Mostly Dad and I crack jokes at the other's expense, and somewhere in the mix I tell Mom she's out of line, she tells me the same about something else, and Brent sits and shakes his head. It's actually a lot of fun if you can handle the word "whatever" and the phrase "oh shut up, Valerie." I can hear it now....

Then before we knew it, the day had come for Brent and I to return to North Dakota. I never usually look forward to those days when we have to leave and come back. I did miss the cats, though. The trip home always takes longer than the trip to Wyoming. We tend to take our time and are not near as concerned about making quick stops, but more leisurely ones. By the time we got home, I was outright exhausted and my feet were killing me. Granted, I hadn't been on them hardly all day, but reclining in a car seat doesn't provide them with the most ideal circulation either. Come to find out. So when we got unloaded and in to the house, I took my shoes and socks off and saw this:

Now, considering my feet are very bony and narrow, this was quite a shock. I laughed when I saw them because they looked ridiculous. I had a doctor's appointment the next day and figured I might as well show the doctor what my feet were capable of.

Brent commented to the doctor that he couldn't believe his wife (me) had taken before and after photos of her feet. I said, "Are you kidding me? These are going in her baby book." And I'm serious, even if I have to insert a special page, she will be able to look back and see the feet she has to look forward to one day. The doctor, after checking my blood pressure, lab results, and mashing on my legs, said everything was fine, by the way.

Now, however, my hands are falling asleep and this past Thursday when I got home from Bible Study, I saw THIS:

And I almost pooed my pants. Do you see my ankle? No you don't. BECAUSE IT DISAPPEARED. I had no idea that the swelling was that bad. I mean I knew I was uncomfortable....but are you serious? I texted the photo to my husband, my friend A, and my sister. I'm pretty sure Brent fainted because he never texted back. A asked, "What happened to your ankle?" and I told her my leg swallowed it. Sis told me that it was absolutely the worst cankle she had ever seen. I agreed.

So once again I talked to the OB personnel and once again was given more or less a sympathetic pat on the shoulder with a "there, have a lot of fluid in your body...." I have put - in writing - that I really enjoy being pregnant. I will put - in writing - right now - that I'm over that. This swelling, numb hands and fingers, puffy face, and uncomfortableness is for the birds. Give me a screaming baby already.

And I really miss Wyoming.