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.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The First Week

Sunday, Haley was 5 weeks old. One week ago today, we brought her home from the hospital. It has been a roller coaster journey - one you all have prayed through with us. This last week has been challenging, but blessed, and we are so, so, SO happy to have our little girl home.

Brent and I are tired, but not any more tired than we were having to traffic across town to spend time with our baby. The bonus is we get to nap with her now! We are staying on her schedule of feeding her every three hours. Brent and I won't be able to keep up the shift work on the midnight, 3 a.m., and 6 a.m. feedings much longer. Thankfully, the pediatrician has given us the go-ahead to wait five hours at night, or until Haley wakes us up, to feed her. Whichever comes first. We'll probably start with waiting four hours - and graduate ourselves from there. We'll get this feeding schedule down and it will work for all of us. And we will be happy and never fuss. I just know it. (How many of you are ready to smack me upside the head with a reality check now?)

We've been snippy with each other, Brent and I. I don't know what his problem is. (just typing that sentence made me laugh so hard....) I kid. We've both been a little on-edge lately, and sometimes our sensitivity-meters are off-kilter. We've had little spats, but nothing that can't be overlooked with the help of a few swear words and fine wine. Again - I kid. (about the swearing and the far they haven't helped.)

I don't know where this sense-of-humor has been hiding, but I'm cracking myself up here. How many of my relatives are embarrassed by that last paragraph? Show of hands! It's okay - you'll get used to my kind of crazy. And you'll still be embarrassed that we share pieces of the same DNA. Ok, ok, back to the week we've had.....

It has been a stressful week for me because at times I felt like when I wasn't taking care of Haley, feeding her, changing her diaper, soothing her, etc., I was pumping. If I wasn't doing either of those things, I was napping. Nothing else. Baby, pumping, napping. Our house wasn't getting cleaned, our laundry wasn't getting washed, our groceries weren't getting cooked - nothing productive was taking place, with the exception of me pumping between 8 and 12 ounces AT A TIME. I am a breast milk factory. And it's exhausting. A while ago, Brent and I bought a deep-freeze to store the bottles of milk I was pumping. The deep freeze is chock-full of bottled milk. And it does. not. stop. I can't go anywhere, or if I do it can't be for too long, because I need to come home and pump. At this rate, Haley will be having breast milk on her cereal when she's 15. I don't know how to keep up with myself! It's ridiculous how much and how often I'm pumping. But, it's also pretty awesome that I can take care of Haley in that way, and that she hasn't required any supplementation at all.

Brent and I have also had some laugh-out-loud when he was trying to entertain Haley with his "Baby Go" app on his Blackberry. Every button you push, the phone makes a noise, or says a letter or number, etc. Brent was pushing and pushing buttons and his phone was making all sorts of noises for quite some time. Finally Brent says to Haley, "Daddy can't figure out how to unlock this application." I laughed pretty hard at that one. Or the statement I made after Haley had a little bit of spittle that rolled right off her bib, "This bib isn't very observant." Yes, I said observant. I meant absorbent, but I was apparently running on intellectual fumes. Yesterday Brent and I had a couple of exchanges that left us both laughing. And of course there was the confession of my husband, who tried to weigh our daughter on our kitchen scale by putting her in a 13 x 9 baking dish!! I'm afraid to take him grocery shopping now, for fear he'll try to weigh her in the produce scale. He's all about getting her weight - right down to the ounce! We're losing our minds, and its hilarious.

We're still required to try to focus and keep up with outside-world responsibilities. We had Haley's first doctor appointment (as you've seen me reference) and it went really well. Our little girl is growing, growing, growing. At the pediatrician's office, she weighed in at 5 lbs 2 oz. She's already over 5 pounds!! I can't hardly believe it. She looks like a different baby than when she first made her appearance five weeks ago. She is healthy, happy, and so adorable. Even if she does want to stay up and party after her midnight feeding....

So as we wind down one week and begin another in the rest of our lives, I'll summarize by saying it's been great. Yes I'm tired, yes I'm cranky when my husband can't read my mind and do what I want him to do without me having to verbalize anything, but this is awesome. Earlier today while I was in my recliner eating the last of the Haagen Dazs strawberry ice cream and listening to my Enya Pandora Radio station, Haley was asleep on my chest. As the sun was shining brightly and the birds were singing loudly outside, I snuggled on my little girl and thought, "It can't get any better than this. Thank you, Lord."

So there you have it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some sleep to catch up on....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We're Home!!

Brent and I went to the NICU Monday at lunchtime, fully expecting to sign some papers and take our baby home with us. We received word, however, that Haley failed her scan. According to the report that was faxed to the doctor, Haley's oxygen levels dropped while she slept and it was cause enough to put her on a monitor, which required us to stay the night at the hospital with her and go through some training.

I have to admit, it was a pretty deflating moment. No one anticipated any hang ups and everyone thought we'd be out by Monday night. I'm not convinced the scan was done right - but that's just me being a tish bitter. It was a different feeling in the room as we went through training on the monitor and talking about what we needed to get from home before heading back to the hospital for the night. I tried not to get upset about it - but trying only got me so far. I was still upset. For days I had been preparing for Monday being the big day. And then it wasn't. It sucked.

Brent and I settled in to our hospital room which happened to be the same room I stayed in when I was admitted nearly five weeks ago. That was weird, but comforting at the same time. This time, our baby was in there with us. (Yay for that!)

I didn't go to sleep when I first got tired - which was a mistake. I stayed up for Haley's midnight feeding and didn't get to bed until about 1:00. 3:00 I slept through my phone alarm, but Brent got up and got Haley's bottle from the nurse. I woke up at 6 and Brent fed Haley again while I pumped. Then we gathered all our things, and got ourselves ready to go.

We had been told the night before that we could leave whenever we wanted in the morning. Come to find out, however, that was not the case. We left 3 1/2 hours after I wanted to leave, and I was getting frustrated. But - whatever - I still got to go home with my baby! Looking at her, listening to her, cuddling with her - all of that melted away my frustrations.

On the car-ride home, I sat in the back seat with Haley. I was nervous...and overly-aware of every pothole, crack, or disturbance of the street. I think Brent was a little nervous too, but I doubt he'll say so. We were a little snippy to each other in the car. Just a little, though. We came home and it was kind of like, "Ok! Now what?" We all took turns sleeping, and I had to go to my 2nd post-op appointment. It was strange turning right at the elevator to go to the clinic instead of left to go to the NICU. (I'm just about golden, by the way - everything checks out health-wise for me!)

The first night with Haley here at home was exciting. Every grunt, groan, or squeak she made, I was up and peering over the side of the bassinet to make sure she was ok. I think four, out of the 2308570437250 times I got up, she needed her pacifier. Every other time, it was simply a noise and nothing more. Brent fed her at midnight, and I fed her at 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. Haley decided to be wide awake and super cute between 3:00 and 4:30. Brent woke at one point and said, "Is she fussy?" "No....she just has a lot to tell us." And I hung on every squeak. She definitely has a captive audience. I would be more captive if it were not between 3 and 5 a.m., however.

I had told Brent the night before that I wanted to be up and showered before he headed to work. About forty minutes before he was supposed to leave for work he woke me up and said, "Do you want to get up and shower?" "mmmpfh!" I replied, which translated to, "No, please just let me sleep for the next ten years." I put Haley next to me in bed (don't tell on me, because I know we're not supposed to do that) and Brent caught a picture. We slept that way until she woke me up to let me know it was time to feed her again. Right on schedule - she is a particular one, this little Haley!

I changed her diaper and fed her and she was wide awake again, so I listened to her tell me all about the mysteries of life while The Bonnie Hunt show was on the t.v. When she fell back asleep I put her in the bassinet, grabbed a baby monitor, and headed downstairs to do some laundry. Those baby monitors are wonderful investments. Thank you to the people who gave us ours!! (By the way, thank you cards will be on their way for every gift we've's just been tricky sitting down to write them out and get them in the mail. Your gift has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated - I promise!)

Hubs came home shortly after noon. He napped with his daughter and I ate lunch, took a shower (finally) and got ready for a different follow up appointment. So many of those this week! Once again Brent and I barely, only slightly, got snippy with each other. I think if I had gotten a nap, it wouldn't have happened. We headed off and I noticed - when I have a baby to worry about in my backseat, my road rage totally disappears. I was so focused and so determined on our drive, I didn't say one harsh thing about another person's lack of driving abilities. Wow!

We had some company tonight for a little bit - one couple came by to bring Haley a gift and another friend stopped by to pick up an item she had left here. Last night we had two people stop by to bring us dinner. So Haley has had a few visitors already! And she has been a gracious hostess. Last night she peed all over herself in front of one guest, soaked her mama with breastmilk in front of another, and tonight she did her cute little cry for our friend L. The entertainment is just invaluable.

So here we are - home, and loving it. This little girl may have turned our lives upside-down....twice....but I don't think Brent or I would have it any other way. Now if we could just get past the snippyness - nothing a bazillion more naps won't cure.

Please continue to pray that Haley can continue to grow and gain weight (she was 4lbs 8.2 oz today!!), and that Brent and I would have the wisdom and resources to be the parents God has called us to be. Please also continue to pray for our dear friends who went in to preterm labor with twins - so far the labor has been postponed and the twins are healthy - praise God on both those counts! Those babies need to stay in their mom for quite some time yet, so your prayers for all involved in that situation are well worth the moments you spend saying them!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Final Countdown

Thursday night, Haley hit the magic weight of 1800 grams (1832 to be exact), which translates to 4 lbs! The nurse told us they would begin weaning her from her isolette and if she could maintain her temperature, they would move her to a crib. This is a process that takes about 18-24 hours, and they wouldn't start on it most likely until after 11 p.m. Brent and I were so excited that our little girl has been growing and gaining weight, and that she had finally reached the 4 pound mark!!

Friday I went in for her 9 a.m. feeding. Haley was in a crib. I'm no good at quick math, (any math, really, no matter the speed) but I knew it had been less than 12 hours, let alone 18 to 24!! My baby was movin' on up!! In a onsie, a sleeper, two blankets, and a hat, she was laying in her cocoon of warmth that symbolizes she is one step closer to coming home.

I have been exhausted these past couple of days and after I fed Haley in the afternoon, I nearly fell asleep holding her. I came home to snuggle up on my bed and take a much needed motherly snooze. In the meantime we had another meal brought to us. This meal thing has been a tremendous blessing. To everyone who has participated in that, not only are you fabulous in your choice and preparation of our cuisines, but your sheer desire to help us in this service is amazing. Thank you!!

Last night we went in for Haley's bath time. She had gained even more weight and was far cuter than when I was there a few hours before. She just tips the charts on this cuteness thing. She has been doing great with her temperatures, which is a move in the right direction!!

Dr. M came in - he was on shift last night instead of Dr. J. Dr. M is quite a character. I assure you Haley will never have another doctor like him, because I find it hard to believe there is another doctor like him! He's brilliant, but odd. So very odd. And random! But generally hysterical. Just his own character for sure.

In a most serious, straight-to-business fashion, he wheeled over to us in the office chair and grabbed Haley's charts. He put his reading glasses on and says to Brent and me, "I hate to tell you this.....but it looks like we're making your baby better."

HA!! Chalk one up to Dr. M, because that made me laugh.

As we were talking I asked him what it would entail from our end to bring her home. He started laughing and said he has six kids, and it will entail 18 years of worrying, wondering where your car is, and not getting any sleep. That wasn't what I meant, but he knew that. He then told us to just bring Haley some clothes, a car seat, and cash to pay the hospital bill. A big suitcase of cash. It just so happens I left my bank-robbing days behind when I gave my life to Jesus......I hope he likes pennies. That's about all I can fill a suitcase with. A small suitcase.

Last night Haley's nurse was going to try to get her picture taken, her hearing test done, and her car seat tolerance test done. The only thing left after those is her scan, which will be Sunday night. This scan is a far more sensitive piece of equipment than what she's on now, and will detect her heart rate and breathing, checking for abnormalities or bouts of apnea, etc. Once the results of the scan come back on Monday, Brent and I will either have to room-in in the hospital that night to learn how to use and live with the equipment they'll send her home on, or they'll just send her home free of equipment! Our baby is coming home!!

I chose to forego Haley's 9 a.m. feeding this morning so I could take advantage of sleeping in on a Saturday one last time. Of course I have been awake since 7:30. But since I didn't get to sleep until after midnight last night, I will be taking a mid-morning nap. As soon as this blog gets posted.

While I am filled with excitement over the progress and health of my baby girl, I need to ask you for more prayer. Dear friends of ours went into preterm labor (24 weeks gestation) with twins. Mom will be in the hospital for a very long time, as the doctors work to stave off infection and keep her from delivering, as long as possible. As in any preterm situation - every day Mom stays pregnant is a good day!! Please pray there will be no infection, please pray Mom gets to stay pregnant for several more weeks, and please pray for her health and sanity as she sits in a hospital room waiting from day-to-day to discover the ever-changing fate of her babies. We want these twins to develop in utero, and have strong hearts, lungs, and brains when they birth. I pray their story can be as miraculous as Haley's, if not more so!!

Thank you, everyone, for keeping tabs on Haley's progress, and for joining with us in prayer over these last 4+ weeks. We've been on an amazing journey, and God has been so gracious and ever-present!! Now I need to get my morning nap in, and wake Brent up so he can get the nursery painted. We have two days left!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My arms are killing me.

I am having a major case of writer's block. I am so drained and so....whatever else (see what I mean?!)....that I just can't compose anything beyond a third-grade reading level. So bear with me.

This weekend, Haley did amazing. She is up to breastfeeding twice a day, and taking her bottle for every feeding. Sometimes she gets worn out - but she is a little pro at this suckling thing. She still can't swallow and breathe at the same time, but she is very, very close. She's got this eating thing down. Also - she gained weight! Hallelujah! As of last night, she is 3 pounds 12 ounces - one pound more than she was at birth three weeks ago!

The nurses and doctors are very optimistic that she'll be home sooner rather than later. I would imagine within the next two weeks for sure. Provided she can get her weight above four pounds, can wean herself from her isolette (regulate her temperature and stay warm enough without having a constant heated environment), and can finish her feedings - she'll be golden. Since she has been such a rockstar, we anticipate that she'll of course do all of those things!! And soon!!

My arms are so raw from having to scrub in every time we go see her. Raw. The soap is just eating away at my skin. I put lotion on so many times during the day, and still, my skin is about to flake away to expose my bone and muscle. That's right - pure, solid muscle. (flexes) But the lotion burns my skin now because my arms are so chapped. Ouch.

We can't wait to get Haley home. Not only because I won't have to scrub with harsh soap for three minutes at a time every time I go to touch her, but because we'll be able to establish a routine (that doesn't involve driving across town) and just get to be parents. Parents to our adorable, cuddly, tiny baby girl.

I would love to post more pictures - but we have temporarily misplaced the camera, and therefore have not taken photos since Easter. Whoops.

Some specific prayer requests!! That Haley would gain the appropriate amount of weight, and be able to meet the doctor's requirements in order to be discharged from the NICU. That Brent and I would have things ready for Haley's arrival at home (the nursery, the baby laundry, that we would have all the required equipment and accessories, etc.). That Haley would remain healthy once we bring her home, and that we will be conscientious parents in keeping her that way. That we haven't bitten off more than we can chew with hosting a Redhawk player this season. (Donnie Smith is coming back! He was our boy the first season we were a host family, and he went away, but now he's back, and we love him - he's like family. In fact, he has already volunteered for diaper duty. We weren't going to host this year, but then he called....blah blah blah.) That God is glorified through this entire situation - He has worked a marvelous miracle in little Haley!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sometimes You're The Windshield

Sometimes you're the bug.

I feel like the bug these last couple of days. Yesterday was a bad day. Today was a good day but I'm so exhausted, I cried just as much as if it were a bad day. When does the hormonal mood swing thing go away, by the way? That's so pregnant of me, and I'm not pregnant anymore.

I'm not pregnant anymore. But I'm supposed to be. For 4 1/2 more weeks even. Today I was scheduled to have a pregnancy check-up appointment. I had them booked out to today. Then after today I would have been going once a week, instead of every other week. Would have.

Now, I make trips to the NICU two, three, sometimes four times a day. I don't sleep when, or how, I should. Sometimes I can't sleep, other times I just choose to go to the NICU instead of nap. I forget to eat. I know, I can't hardly believe that either. I pump every time I turn around. And washing those daggum cones..... I hate those cones.

I'm so tired. I'm so pissed (today) that I have to leave her at the hospital. Other times I'm so glad she's there, receiving such great care from the NICU staff. I go back and forth being scared about having her home and wondering what it will be like to not have her heart or oxygen monitored. I think I don't get sleep now....I will spend all my time staring at her, making sure she's breathing!

I was so tired after attempting to breastfeed her tonight, and giving her some kangaroo care, that I couldn't stay awake long enough to stay there and give her her bath. The first night in two weeks I haven't been there for her bath time. I had to leave so I could come home and eat something and get my butt in bed. I didn't want to leave her. I never want to leave her.

These are the days I have when I break down and Brent just grabs me and holds me and lets me cry. I was so busy being strong and adjusting to everything being new, that I didn't have time to wonder about the what-ifs or be frustrated with the situation, or let myself think for more than two minutes about everything that's gone on these last three weeks.

I probably shouldn't be working. I'm still in some pain (but it's manageable and it's not severe ever, I promise), and I get so daggum tired. But every hour I'm not at work is an hour they count against my FMLA leave, which is one more hour I DON'T get to spend with Haley at home once she's finally discharged. I just can't stand giving up any more time than I absolutely have to. So I go to work.

This isn't the blog you were expecting, I'm sure. It just sucks. And it's hard. I'm not complaining, I'm just being real here. My daughter is getting excellent care, making excellent progress and meeting fantastic milestones. At the end of the day when it's all said and done, however, this is the most taxing, exhausting life-experience I have ever been through.

Here's hoping tomorrow will be more of a "windshield" sort of day.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Haley has been doing amazing. And have I mentioned how adorable she is? Because if I haven't - well, you don't have to take my word for it. See for yourself:

I could just stare at this picture all day! She's so adorable! And Brent and I made her! I didn't think our kids would be THAT cute. I mean, I knew we'd have cute kids, but seriously! THAT cute!

Where was I? Oh yeah - drooling over adorableness....

Occupational Therapy began working with Haley late last week to get her to suckle on a bottle - trying to get her to learn her skills of suckling, swallowing, and breathing all at the same time. She took a little here, a little there, but this weekend, she did amazing. She took 18 mils (of her 32 mil feeding) on Saturday morning. Saturday evening she took about 11 mils. Sunday morning she took 18 mils again, and Sunday night she took 23 mils! This morning I headed in to meet with OT and go over some bottle-feeding tips, and she took 28 mils! Our little girl is a rock-star! She is doing so fantastic with the suckling, that they've bumped her up to 4 bottle feeding attempts per day, and want me to start putting her "to breast" - which is different from actually breastfeeding, but it is a definite step in that direction. She also burped like a big girl this morning! Made her mommy proud! I can assure you, they were the cutest little burps you've ever heard.

Haley now weighs 3 1/2 lbs, and continues to gain weight and process all her feedings. The other milestones the nurses mentioned were regulating her body temperature and her breathing. Her breathing had a tendency to get pretty fast (tachycardic, I believe is the term they used), but has regulated itself and is no longer of real concern. She has started to maintain a warmer temperature while in her isolette with it on "air temp", which is fantastic news. They removed her from TPN (the fats/lipids feeding) late Friday night, and yesterday afternoon, removed her PICC line from her arm!! The only tube she has now is her gavage feeding tube, and of course is hooked up to heart and oxygen monitors. She has moved from "intensive care" to "intermediate care" which is definitely encouraging news for us.

They did discover a slight heart murmur in Haley, but said it is very common for preemies (as their cardiovascular system undergoes tremendous change after they're born), and they're confident she'll outgrow it, possibly even before she's discharged. Apparently my husband had a heart murmur as a babe child as well. I learn something new about my man all the time!

As I understand it, once she reaches about 4 pounds (a little less than 8 ounces to go!) and it is confirmed her body temperature has regulated, she'll be weaned from her isolette to a crib. Then it's only a matter of time before she's deemed healthy and strong enough to come home!

I haven't blogged since last week, because it was just a hard few days for me. Once I finally had a chance to breathe, we had some "scares" and they got the best of me. I finally broke down and cried (and God bless my dear, sweet husband for being intuitive enough to grab me and hold me when he figured I needed it, and just letting me sob on his shoulder until I got it all out...) and we had our "why me/us" moments. It was pretty overwhelming at times, but truthfully, Haley has done so well and the NICU staff has done an excellent job taking care of our little sweetpea. And we are one happy family because of their hard work, and Haley's amazing progress.

We had a great time on Easter Sunday, dressing her in her very first Easter outfit (dress from Baby Depot, hat made by yours truly), showing her the goodies of her Easter basket, bottle feeding her, burping her, getting lost in her complete cuteness... it really put a different spin on celebrating the miracle of a risen Savior. God's miracles are shining in an entirely brighter light for me these days - glory be!

Also! I have returned to work part-time, in the hopes I can still bank up enough maternity leave to take for when Haley comes home from the NICU. The doctor's orders are for me to have a substantial break between hours at work, so I take a trip to visit Haley and hold my little girl. Today was my first day back - and I'm exhausted, but I hope to get the hang of the new routine by the end of the week. It was good to have a sense of "normalcy", but my "normal" has completely shifted - so what once was normal is no longer normal! Keep that in your prayers, though, and that the time will fall into place once Haley is discharged.

Okay. I think that's it so far! Exciting stuff going on!