Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adeleine's NICU Story: Part 3

Keep all hands and arms inside the rollercoaster.

Part 3: Weeks 1-3

Miss Adeleine surprised everyone and sailed through her first few days. She showed no signs of being in an infected womb, all her bloodwork was good. After only 11 hours she was off the ventilator and breathing with the help of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask over her nose and supplemental oxygen. Her lungs, though strong for her age, were still
immature. Everything was immature really. She still needed to finish 13 weeks of growing OUTSIDE my body. The NICU tries to replicate the womb environment as much as possible by swaddling them in a little sleeping bag and keeping a blanket over her incubator to block out the sound and light.

Adeleine with her CPAP mask on

They send you home with a video that tells you what preemies like in terms of touching  - not the feet, no stroking or patting, yes to still hands cupping their body - but Adeleine didn't seem to like any of it. When I would touch her she would cringe or get stressed out further, so I'd spend most days just staring at her through the plexiglass windows talking to her and waiting for her next diaper change so we could interact. She did enjoy the kangaroo care (skin on skin contact) and snuggling or just being held in our arms, so we did that as often as we could, which was never often enough for us.

It was in that first week that I learned about the A's & B's of prematurity.  Apnea and Bradycardia. Apnea is when preemies forget to breathe. They just stop. When this happens alarms ring and the nurses give the baby a second or two to remember and if she doesn't they stimulate her by tapping her on the back. Bradycardia is when the heart rate slows. If stimulation doesn't work in this case, they begin resuscitation. A's & B's are typical of prematurity but still extremely scary. Bells ring all the time. Babies are forgetting to breathe all around you in the NICU, some are being resuscitated right infront of their crying mothers.  Luckily for me, Adeleine chose the night shifts to bottom out and get resuscitated, so I never witnessed this. I did witness lots of little A's & B's and in her first few weeks it seemed like they were happening all the time. The nurses would come over and give her a little rub on the back and I'd be holding my breath thinking "C'mon Adeleine, breathe" and watching those monitors until her numbers came back up. Sometimes I was the one to rub her back. I was likely a bit too vigorous, but dammit it worked.

I began pumping immediately and had very little milk the first few days, but the nurses treated it like gold (they often called it liquid gold) and when I would show up all proud of myself with my tiny little syringe of 2ml of milk they would get all excited.  My milk finally came in after 5 days and I continued on the schedule of pumping every 2 hours, saving and labeling my milk for her and delivering it to the NICU.

At 7 days her brain scan results came in. The nurse said they were good. We asked to speak with Adeleine's doctor and she gave us more details. Adeleine's brain was perfect. No bleeds. No injury. Perfectly normal. They will check it again when she is a month old.  So, one milestone down, but still many more to go.

Adeleine had dropped to 1lb 8oz in her first week. She started off too small and got smaller. It was frightening to see. Her arms and legs were like red skeletons. She had absolutely no fat on her, just too much skin over bones. She looked like she would break. She was receiving nutrition through an IV and after my milk came in they started introducing it to her system every few hours through the tube in her mouth that ran down to her stomach.  She started off with just a ml or two every two hours and then it was 3ml and then 4 and it would climb and climb and climb and I remember being so proud of her and calling home to the in-laws proclaiming "She's at 9ml! 9!" and then 13 and then 18 and then 23 (well that was several weeks later). Her main goal was to gain weight and she would struggle with this for most of her NICU journey. She joined the 1kg club (remember she was born at 970g) on September 9th when she was just over two weeks old.  We were so proud! I have the ribbon they posted on her incubator taped to her bedroom wall.

Around this time they moved her out of the back room of the NICU to the front room. "Closer to the door!" the nurses would say. We were so excited. This meant that she was more stable and didn't have to be in the back room with the sickest babies any longer - yay! It's funny how something silly like a room change can make parents feel so much better. At that point, we'd take what we could get. Our family was struggling to adjust to this new world of the NICU and the new routine: get up, Andrew goes to work, I drop Liam off at daycare, go home if I'm sick (which I was quite alot for the first 8 weeks) or go to the NICU and see Adeleine, pick up Liam at daycare, come home, eat dinner, Andrew or I go back to the NICU for a few hours before going to bed. Repeat.

I was a bit of a zombie during this time, running on autopilot. Hardly any sleep, totally stressed out, hormones re-balancing, blood curdling fears, I was pretty much a mess. But, mess or not, Adeleine needed her mommy and I desperately needed her, so we repeated the daily routine and went to bed thankful for another day together.

*Please note that this blog is not medical advice. It is simply our story.*

Next Post
Part 4: Dealing

Previous Posts
Part 2: The First 24 hours
Part 1: Labour & Delivery

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