Saturday, November 5, 2016

The New Normal

Mira has been home for a little over a month and here is what I've learned. Motherhood is more than just a two- or three-hour NICU visit where she eats on cue, burps on demand, falls asleep right after, smiles lovingly up at me while I read her stories, waits patiently for diaper changes and feedings, rarely cries, the poop stays in the diaper and our physical travel distance is a two-square-foot area. I am her doctor, nurse, oxygen monitor, thermometer, bottle maker, bather, swing, burp cloth and diaper.

Despite all of this, I've also learned that I'm graced for this. That Mira was made especially for me. That she's all mine and that I'd rather be here in this moment - being poop, pee and puke attacked by her - than anywhere else in the world.

But I have to be honest. The love I feel for her after this month together took me by surprise. When Mira was first born, the connection wasn't instant. The day I had her, I never heard her cry, I never held her, we didn't stare lovingly into each other's eyes or have that baby-on-the-chest photo moment. Now I always had the urge to care for her, to make sure she's ok and the responsibility to advocate for her. But the reality is, in the beginning, I felt more like a taskmaster than a mother. Pump for Mira. Check. Visit Mira everyday. Check. Prepare the house for Mira. Check. Talk to her doctors and nurses. Check. Research the things I didn't understand and ask all the right questions. Check. Arrange things with the insurance. Check. Take BP meds. Check. Make sure she had her necessities. Check. Keep my family and friends updated on her well-being. Check. Check. Check.

It took me a few weeks to fall in love with her. And that felt like the most beautiful feeling ever. But, as I've learned this past month, that was "puppy love" and this is the real thing. She's the most beautiful, precious and strong baby I've ever met. She looks at me with all the love in the world and looks for me when I'm not in her direct line of sight. I'm her person. And that she needs me as much as I need her. I love her with my whole heart and there's no turning back.

Before I go (she's starting to stir), here are a few things I'm proud of since Mira has been home:
  • She's almost 8 pounds and 19 inches long. That might not sound like a lot but she was born just under 2 pounds and around 14 inches. She's HUGE to me!
  • Most of the health problems she was born with and struggled with in the NICU are gone. She's doing amazingly well, it's almost like she was never in the NICU fighting for her life for three months.
  • I've kept her alive without the help of a team of nurses and host of machines.
  • I've stuck with cloth diapering through the thick and thin (pun intended). It is absolutely not as scary as I thought it would be and I'm glad I did it despite naysayers.
  • Always following my instincts - as you know everyone has advice and that can be daunting. But I don't know any human being in the world better than I know Mira. And my approach to being her mom is to make decisions based on what I know about her and what's comfortable for me.
Here are a few things I'm working on:
  • Mira's reflux is real. It's likely due to a combination of having a feeding tube down her throat for three months, being a preemie and just being a newborn. We take it feeding by feeding and have tried several formulas, feeding positions and a host of other things. So we continue to work on finding a place where she's as comfortable as possible.
  • Letting go - I'm hard on my husband because he doesn't care for her the way I would. But I have to be ok to let him parent in his own way knowing that his way isn't harming her. I'm trying ya'll!
Thanks for your support and prayers. I hope another month won't pass between the next post.

Good morning beautiful!

Talk about bliss.  

Somebody put on real clothes to go to the doctor, how cute is this little baby?

Somebody didn't get the memo that she's too young to hold her own bottle. 

3 a.m. mommy and baby shenanigans!

Cloth diaper booty!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

87 Days

"Ms. Wise, Mira is doing great. Let's talk about rooming in and getting her home." Those were the words I've been waiting to hear since July 8, yet I was immediately overcome with anxiety.

In the NICU world, "rooming in" is a one- (or two-) night stand that parents have with their babies before going home. You stay overnight at the hospital essentially parenting your baby with very little help from the nurses. When we thought Mira was going to need oxygen at home, our rooming in experience was going to include learning how to work the tank, get the oxygen levels right, monitoring her pulse and oxygen levels, etc. Thank God for my little trooper, we don't need oxygen.

But I digress. So I get the call on Saturday afternoon that we need to talk about a going home plan and that doctors want me to room in with Mira on Sunday night. If all goes well, she will be released on Monday. It all felt like too much too soon (one would think I should have been prepared since this is really all I've ever wanted). But before I tell you how it all went, I'll give you an update on Mira from "head to toe" as her doctor would say:

  • She was born at 1 lb, 14 oz, she left the NICU at 5 lbs, 10 oz - what a plumpster!
  • She came home about nine days before her original due date...she would have been born next Wednesday had she held on a little longer.
  • Remember that hole in her heart? Well, according to the last scan of her heart, that pesky hole is almost gone. I believe the words the doctor used were "so small they can't measure it." All the prayers from all over the place worked and I really appreciate it.
  • Mira got her groin hernias repaired which, oddly enough, helped her breath better.
  • She had a hemorrhage on her brain that dissolved and is no longer present 
  • She passed her hearing test with flying colors (she's going to need those ears with a mama like me)
  • She did well getting all of her immunizations (no major setbacks)
  • Lungs are doing well, still developing though
  • She's struggling with lots of reflux these days, but we hope it will resolve itself
Ok, now, about rooming in and coming home. I roomed in with Mira on Sunday night (she struggled with her reflux and finding a comfortable spot and I miraculously did not sleep through her 3 and 6 a.m. feedings). And on Monday, October 3 around 4:30 p.m. Mira was released from the NICU. After 87 days of ups and downs, uncertainty, tears, lots of love, resilience, perseverance, mothering on 10, loneliness and joy, my little baby sweetness came home to fill our house with the same love she's filled our hearts with. Her going away was so beautiful as several of her nurses gave her gifts and rallied around her (literally) when she was leaving. 

Now that the NICU experience is all over, I am relieved. But, admittedly, I'm also scared and anxious. I want to be the best mom to her I can. I want to make all the best decisions for her and I want her to thrive. I also feel victorious. I feel victory over my natural instinct to control and plan. I feel victory because I surrendered to God's plan and tapped into the grace he gave me to be Mira's mom. Victorious because my only job was to stand by her side and I nailed it.

For every single person who called, text, prayed, sent gifts, words of encouragement, told me their NICU stories, gave advice, read this blog, checked in and loved my baby, I want to say thank you. Thank you soooo much. I could not have gone through my life's biggest challenge and greatest joy without it.

I'll continue to blog here as I keep loving and raising Mira. Thanks for your support and prayers.

Ok, so YES this dress is a bit much! And I think Mira is embarassed that her mom made such a big deal of her ride home.

Proud parents of a little miracle...we made it home!

Monday, October 3, 2016


I've never held Mira without cords attached. And it's not something I focus on or need a pity party about. But when I was told that she might have to go home on oxygen, it gave me pause. We have tried to ween her off oxygen twice and it just didn't go well.

And all the cords have been necessary. It's what's kept us in the know about how things are working on the inside of her precious little body. So I am up for doing whatever she needs to have done but I couldn't help be a little selfish about not wanting that thing in particular.

As a mom, you probably lay your baby down, change diapers and clothes without making special concessions not to snap her heart monitor lead or oxygen cord inside her jumper. Or once you've changed that diaper, you pick the baby up and carry them to the kitchen in your arms while making their bottle. That's not been our reality thus far and, if we go home with oxygen, it won't likely be our reality for many months.

So I prayed. Not too hard and really only asked God once to not let that happen. To please make Mira strong enough to ween off oxygen before we discharge. Because, much like everything else with Mira, there's what I want and there's what God has already done. And my way to cope these days is just to go with the flow. If she needs oxygen, she needs oxygen, we can make that work.

Well, looks like I might have said that prayer within earshot of Mira. Last week, she had surgery to fix hernias in her groin area. One of the nurses causally mentioned that sometimes babies have trouble breathing when they have hernias because inhaling too deeply is painful. It felt like an epiphany but we would see the next day when they took her off the oxygen. They took off her oxygen and one hour without it turned into two turned into 12 turned into 48.

We are now four days out and she's still breathing on her own like a BOSS. If all continues to go well, it looks like I might be able to experience life with Mira untethered. For some, that might seem like a simple request. For me, it means everything. 

Thanks for your support and prayers (and so sorry for the delay with this post).

Mira is all smiles after she had her first meal post-surgery. She was realllll H-ANGRY before this picture.

Mira a few hours after they removed her oxygen...sleeping like an angel.

Friday, September 16, 2016

It's Not Your Fault

Mira came four days after my water broke prematurely (ironically, it was late night on July 4th, Independence Day). And, to date, we're still not sure why it broke or what caused it. There are a number of reasons that a mom goes into early labor - from infections to stress and overexertion. Heck, I was even told that something as random and abstract as changes in atmospheric pressure can lead to pre-term birth.

From the beginning, Mira has always been determined to be here. She somehow found her way into my uterus when I'd always been told that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for that to happen. And around my 18th week, I had surgery to "sew her in" (it's called a cerclage) because my cervix was too short to hold to term. By the time I had the surgery, she was damn near on her way out and after I was put on a light form of bed rest and told to take it easy (read: sit your ass down somewhere Kim!) All that coupled with the fact that on every sonogram, except one, Mira was always face down, head down toward the exit. Seems like she was always ready for her debut. I thank God that she waited until after 24 weeks when babies are typically considered viable.

But, all of this didn't stop me from racking my brain during the days leading up to her birth about what I could have done to cause her to come early. Did I not rest enough? Did I work too much? Not get enough sleep? Stress about home life too much? Should I not have taken that shopping trip to the San Marcos outlets? Was it too hot in my friend's house where I'd spent the 4th? Or did I let that infection go on too long before I called my doctor? It broke my heart to think I'd done something to put my baby in harm's way.

Fast forward to today. At the place where I take the puppies for their haircuts, there's a young man who cuts Coco's hair. He loves her, she loves him and he loves us both. He'd been asking the front desk ladies about me and the baby for the past few weeks. So I saw him today. He gave me a hug and the first words out of his mouth were "It's not your fault!" I was so stunned. He went on to tell me that he has a friend with three kids, two of which were preemies. And her doctors were so clear that there's nothing she did to cause her babies to come early. That sometimes, it just happens. And, in that moment, I was freed from something that I didn't even know I still held on to. It would have been nice to have those doctors and not the hot mess parade of characters at my hospital who, everyday, were trying to pin everything from diabetes to hypertension on me as an explanation for how I got there.

Truth is, no matter all the tests I'm sure I was charged for while in the hospital, we'll never know. And I'm actually ok with that. At this point, it's moot. She's here, however she got here, and I wouldn't have it any other way. To every mom out there who might be beating herself up about the "why's" and "what-ifs" of having a baby before time, it's not your fault. Everyone has a story and a start. And that's all ultimately determined by God. So embrace it and be present so you can tell your baby the awesome and unique story of how their lives began.

Thanks for your support and prayers.

Our first time doing "Kangaroo Care" - skin-to-skin interaction between parents and baby. I cried...DUH! I think here she was a little over 2 pounds. 

Mira shouting "Hallelujah" when she was finally able to get that CPAP off (see above picture for what the CPAP looks like).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Choice to Parent

Today I was told by one of the nurses that I get an "A+ for attendance" and thumbs up for being so involved with Mira's care. I could pat myself on the back about what a great mom I am that I have seen Mira every single day since she's been born (minus three days when I went back in the hospital). And give parents who haven't an F. Or I could credit my smarts for my ability to engage with the doctors and nurses when it comes to decisions about my baby's health.

But then that would be giving myself all the credit and God none. And for taking my blessings for granted. I am blessed that at the beginning of the year God led me to quit my job to freelance - Mira unforeseen. And that's caused me to have a more flexible schedule than most people. Or that I have a car to get back and forth. Or gas money. Or I live 20 minutes away. Or a great support system who also visit Mira. Or that I don't have other small children at home. Or have been taught to ask questions until I understand. Or that I have no problem questioning authority. These might seem simple but are real issues. I got a reality check when I overheard a mom say that she would have to come back to visit her twins preemies in a couple weeks when she got money to ride the bus to the hospital. It broke my heart.

Pile all these things on and parenting a baby in the NICU can really be a challenge. Through this experience, I've learned that half the battle with parenting is just showing up. Being present. That it really is a choice. And not always an easy one. While I'm lucky enough to show up everyday, I also admire the mom who's baby is next to Mira who calls at least once every couple hours to check in on her baby during each of my visits. It seems like she's moving and generally has life happening caring for her other children. But her concern shows and she's making her presence known to the care team. Even if you have no clue what to say to the doctors, nurses or your baby, be present and proactive.

It's easy to feel disconnected from your baby when it's in an incubator and you feel like the nurses have a better handle on caring for them than you. It's also easy to assume your baby needs more from the medical staff than you. That couldn't be further from the truth. Just showing up, talking, touching, checking in, calling, caring can make a difference. And if there are times where you have to choose what's going on outside the NICU over parenting your preemie, don't let the guilt consume you.

I think I visit Mira so much because, the truth is, I don't want to miss anything. I want to be the one to tell the story of her when she gets old enough to want to hear it. I want her to know when she started wearing clothes or when she started drinking from a bottle or about her growth and some of the ups and downs she had at the beginning of her life. I want to paint a full picture for her, from the time she was conceived and how she came into this world. I want to be able to fill in all the gaps for her until she has memories of her own.

Each day I make it to see Mira is a day that I'm making a choice. And if there is a time that I am not able to see her, my call to check in or sending her love from wherever I am will be no worse a choice. But just as long as I'm present, then I'm doing my best. And I thank God for all the small obstacles he's cleared out of the way of me being able to parent Mira and develop a beautiful bond with her from the beginning.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

One of my favorite pictures. We both looked pretty smitten with each other. 

Caption this: "I was counting sheep on my fingers and accidentally dozed off!"

Mira is pretty much the most stylish baby in the NICU! #PreemieGoals

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pressing the Reset Button

The last couple days have been a bit rollercoaster-y. From on the inside and the outside of the NICU. As you might recall, I asked God for some movement for Mira. And almost as soon as I hit publish on the blog, I called and was told that she had been moved to the "B" side. WOO HOO, right? soon as I thanked God for the movement, my mom-stincts told me that she's not ready yet. Earlier that day, I'd had a conversation with the doctor that the hole in Mira's heart is giving her some breathing and weight gain issues. The fluid in her lungs I'd discovered the other day is actually a by-product of the hole and has caused her little heart to enlarge because it's working too hard. That she might have to have surgery to fix the hole. She also has a very common hernia in her groin which will have to be remedied with a minor surgery before she leaves.

So, I walked away from the visit feeling a little deflated. Mostly because it feels like we had taken three steps forward then two steps back. So you can imagine that I was surprised at the fact that they'd moved her, with her heart and breathing issues, over to the side where babies need a little less attention. Immediately, I said "Be careful what you ask for Kim." When I visited her, I was having some trepidation because her oxygen levels were still not staying stable and she was breathing very quickly. Like all the other times, I asked God to handle it, spent time with her and went home.

Later that night, my mama visited Mira after work and just so happened to be there when the doctor came in around 4 a.m. to check on her. He had been reviewing her chart and x-rays and was concerned about her heart. He made some tweaks to her meds, ordered her to be moved back over the "A" side in the morning and vowed to talk to her care team to come up with a plan for moving forward. It all was the perfect lesson from God, a smack down if you will. I could hear his voice saying, "Do you want her to move or do you want her to move when she's ready?"

Since then, we've had constant conversations, millions of questions and daily check-ins with the doctors on her condition, their approach to treating her with the hope of avoiding surgery and the goal of resetting her back to where she was before this issue cropped up.

Meanwhile, outside of the NICU, I continue to struggle with constantly swelling ankles and blood pressure issues - both that developed after Mira's birth. Although I have a family history of blood pressure, I've never had it or taken medicine for it. So to accept an actual diagnosis and medicine has been hard for me. But after today's doctor's appointment, I just need to shut up, take the meds and get on with it. Plus, when you have a baby in the NICU, it's hard to actually let your body rest after having a baby because of the constant need to shuttle back and forth to the NICU from day one. So I'm trying to remember that my body is still recovering from giving birth.

Overall, it looks like both Mira and I are hitting the reset button. She's trying to get back to the point where she has dry lungs and can try bottle feeding and weening off oxygen again. And mommy is getting her head back in the game and (reluctantly) continuing on those blood press meds. With my need to advocate for Mira's care around this new issue, I got my steam back. There's nothing like needing to fight for your baby that puts the wind back in your sails. Perhaps I just needed a few minutes to regroup and prepare for the last leg of our time in the NICU. And I also understand that sometimes when we're going too fast and things are a little out of control, God pulls us back to square one in order for us to be able to move forward the right way.

Today, my little baby sweetness is 35 weeks and Friday she turns two months old (side note: I have no damn clue how to count her age. She turned eight weeks last Friday but was born on July 8 so September 8 seems to be officially when she turns two months. At this point, I'll just celebrate both since she deserves all the celebration she can get).

Thanks for your prayers and support.

The day that Mira was completely off her oxygen (she only has a feeding tube in her nose)

Oh happy day! Mira was thrilled to be off her oxygen. We are praying for her to get back here and go even further until she's home. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

The NICU Shuffle

Since her birth, Mira has been in the same bed space. On the "A" side, in the middle of the room on the left. Meanwhile, she's had at least 10 little "friends" come and go during her eight weeks there. And each time one of them leaves, it makes me feel some kinda way. Truth is, it makes me jealous. Granted, I don't know why or for how long those other babies need to be in the NICU, whether they are going home or just to the "B" side or how well or not they are. All I know is they are making moves and we are still in bed space 22.

We probably have about six more weeks to go because Mira's recent setback means she needs to pace herself a bit. And, truth is, I'm starting to lose my steam. I can drive to the hospital, park and walk to the NICU with my eyes closed. I can count three minutes in my head without using the timer as I scrub my arms from fingertip to elbow. Everybody knows my name and I know theirs. I know their schedules and half of their stories. My arms are starting to get intolerant of the scrub soap. And I've even stopped pumping as much now that she's on all formula. Feels like there's no use stressing myself out for a few drops when I could be at the hospital caring for her instead.

Don't get me wrong, I love seeing Mira everyday (lately, it's been twice a day). Once I'm there, it's heaven. Holding her in my arms is the best thing on earth and she really is the sweetest baby. But getting up the energy to go through the process of getting there is wearing me down. Add that on top of the fact that I haven't worked in two months and money is getting lower than I'd like, and the anxiety of wanting her to come home hits me hard. I'm having to say double the prayers these days to keep things together, so this blog has really helped.

I'm keeping things in perspective these days by trying to look at all the ups and downs as a part of the journey. From the minute I knew she'd be a preemie, I viewed this as the longest car ride home ever with a pit stop in the NICU. And for the most part, I've taken a hands off approach in terms of trying to do anything more than just be there for her and be her mom-vocate. I don't rush her nor expect her to go faster than she can and just try to roll with the punches. And we've had a million important milestones to celebrate which keeps me feeling like we're moving in the right direction. So when I see other babies rolling out of her room, I try to remind myself that we are all there for different reasons and seasons and it's just their time to move on.

I know these are not things I can control. And I'm not even trying to as is my nature. Rather they are things that I need to endure. So that's what I'm asking God for these days - the strength and energy to endure and to keep the pace of the situation. And I'd appreciate you praying the same for me. Because now that I'm a mom, I know that slowing down isn't an option. It could mean the difference between picking up on a problem with Mira and not.

So, this week, Mira's room is full again. And no matter how things shuffle around, I am trusting God for favor that we will one day soon leave bed space 22 for our next adventure. And that he will give me the grace and strength for whatever challenges and triumphs await us there.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

Meet me at bedspace's going DOWN! I just love this little Strawberry Shortcake blanket. 

This is Mira's drawer full of books. I can be found beside her bed every night, reading her any one of these jewels. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to her little library.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Child Support

An old friend visited Mira the other day. And I was touched. But, these days, that's actually not such a rare feeling. And THAT'S touching. When most people hear the words "child support," I'm sure it brings up visions of division, mandates and general negativity. But, for me, I wouldn't be eight weeks in and of sound mind if not for "child support." That is, the love, prayers and help from everyone (literally EVERYONE) I've come in contact with.

As a woman who's lived most of my life for myself and by myself, asking for and accepting help has been a challenge. It has always humbled me when someone steps up and does something for me unsolicited and unexpected. So it goes without saying that all the love God has heaped upon me through other people feels overwhelming and surreal.

I have dozens of "child support" stories from the very beginning. Here are just a few of the most touching ones:
  • I have family members who work in the NICU (one's a nurse and one is a respiratory therapist). The support and information they provided in the days before I had Mira proved to be calming, perspective changing and gave me a peace of mind. 
  • A couple days after I was discharged from the hospital, I visited Mira. I walked into her room where I met a nurse I hadn't seen before. She told me that she helped deliver Mira and that "your baby chose me and I knew I had to take care of her." She told me that she had requested to be Mira's primary nurse and, whenever she worked, would be taking care of Mira until she goes home. 
  • I read to Mira every night. And, whenever possible, I insert her name into the stories. My mama heard me doing this one night and took it upon herself to get books made that included Mira as part of the story. So now I get to read books where Mira is the main character and it's just beautiful. 
  • A woman at the hospital delivered an edible arrangement to my room in the days before I had Mira. From that point, every time I see her, she gives me encouragement, hugs and assistance with navigating the financial components of my situation. 
  • I ended up back in the hospital a few days after Mira was born. During that time, I wasn't able to see Mira. When I returned after being discharged, everyone in the NICU knew I was sick and welcomed me back, asked how I was doing and told me they took care of my baby while I was away. Her main nurse even read books to her every night I was gone because she knew I'd want her to have a bedtime story. And to this day, every nurse who's ever cared for her, somehow drops by her bed on their shift to see how she's doing. 
  • All the testimonies - from strangers to people I know. From the woman on the phone at the insurance company to people close to me that I'd never known had NICU stories. Every single one of them has made me feel encouraged, calm and not alone.
  • I have a beautiful group of friends and a great family. Every single person has stepped up with prayers, gifts, food, texts, calls and the list of humbling acts of kindness goes on. The thing that has touched me most are the prayers. We can feel them all.
I pray that you have a support system as strong and wonderful as I have discovered mine to be. And if you find yourself alone, know that everyone in the NICU is cheering for you. Partner with them in the care of your child because their first priority is to see your baby healthy and heading home.

Another thing - don't keep your situation to yourself. The amount of care and the call for prayers that people put out when they know you have a baby in the NICU is unreal, touching and very much needed to get you through the tough times.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

My biggest support. Couldn't do any of this without my mama!

Cool books that mama had made for Mira and such a fun story. She got them from (that's the name of the website). 


The night after Mira was born, I couldn't sleep. I had so many things going through my mind and I was reeling a little from how my life had changed overnight. As I lay awake, I decided to go down to visit her in the NICU. Plus, I needed to get up and walk around to help begin the healing process for my C-section.

As I walked very slowly to the NICU around midnight, I saw a mom being wheeled out of labor and delivery with her baby in her arms. I turned to congratulate her and as I turned back to continue on my journey, I nearly collapsed into tears. I gripped the hand rail and sobbed all the way to the NICU door, as I cried out to God "I can't hold my baby, I can't care for her, I can't do anything for her." I just felt helpless. And, as I've now learned, helpless is the worst feeling in the world for a mother.

By the time I made it to the door of the NICU, I had gotten myself together but still felt sad. What I didn't know is that God had a surprise in store for me behind those doors. When I walked in, Mira's nurse informed me that she was monitoring her vitals and if all still looked good in a couple hours that she would be feeding her milk for the first time. She then went on to say, "If you're still here, do you want to feed her?" My mind was blown at the thought of feeding my baby. I mean how serendipitous that I was in the NICU at the exact time that she would be eating for the first time. A couple hours passed and I was actually able to get some sleep next to her bedside. When it was time to feed Mira, the nurse blew my mind again by asking, "Do you want to change her diaper first?" Of course, the tears came. I cried as I changed her diaper and then fed her 1mL of milk through her tube via a syringe.

For every mother or father out there who is feeling helpless, believe me when I say that you can still parent your baby through the holes of their incubator. I know it might seem like an impossibility but, as God taught me one late night in the NICU, every little bit counts. Over these past eight weeks, I've learned parenting through presence is more than enough. Just because they are not physically with you, they still need all the things a baby needs. My advice is to get into a routine - I found out when the nurse typically changes her diaper or does her "cares" (the assessment done at each shift change) and made that my typical visiting time. That way, I can create a routine for Mira and also make sure that I am able to do some of the things for her that I'd be doing if she was home with me. Don't let the feelings of helplessness keep you from doing what comes natural. Every touch and encounter makes a difference.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

Mira before being fed for the first time.

Me holding Mira for the first time. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Milking for Mira

My pre-NICU vision of feeding Mira included her on a Boppy, us in a glider in her nursery, staring lovingly into each other's eyes while she sucked from my breasts as they gushed milk. It also included her breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and not using pacifiers.  Here's the reality: me, sitting on the side of my bed every three hours, staring disgustedly at a yellow hospital-grade pump, with a handsfree pumping bra with a bottle protruding from each of two very sore nipples as they sucked less than one milliliter from each. I mean, the pump is pretty awesome but it's not Mira. And my body knows it. All this while my baby is laid up in the NICU drinking someone else's breast milk (now she's on formula) and learning to suck with a pacifier.

It goes without saying that "Milking for Mira" has been a bit of a bust. I was blessed with my first drops of milk just five days after she was born (on my birthday, no less). The next day I pumped a full ounce (32 mL) and thought I was off to the races. Well, that was before eclampsia. A few days after I had Mira, I ended up back in the hospital because I was nauseous, vomiting and my blood pressure was high - a condition called eclampsia. That meant, no food or energy to pump for four days. Which meant my body got the cue that we didn't want more milk and shut down on me. 

It took me one week of pumping nearly every three hours to get even a drop. Pair that with me trying everything that I could...all at once...and it made for a stressful and anxiety-provoking situation. I tried eating oatmeal every morning, massaging my breasts before pumps, Mother's Tea, Gatorade, taking a prescription med called Reglan, drinking milk, eating salads, and taking fenugreek pills and prenatal vitamins. You name it and I've tried it. Oh and then my milk all of a sudden went away again. That's when I "hit the bottle" - yes, I drank beer (it's a thing, I'm not just being a lush, I promise).

And then I got perspective. It took for one of the doctors to tell me that they are not looking for me to "nourish or completely feed" Mira, yet they see whatever milk I produce as "medicine" for her. That it's specially made for her and includes antibodies that are healing to her, so any little bit helps. I had been holding myself hostage in my house, pumping all day and visiting Mira at night only to arrive with sometimes less than half an ounce of milk. Most times, it was only enough for one of her eight daily feedings. 

And I almost gave up. Until I was told that even 5 mL is enough and useful. It helped me accept the news that she would have to ween off donor breast milk to formula as it was needed to help her grow. It helped me encourage her to suck on her pacifier so that she would learn how to suck a bottle and maybe even my breast later (she's both eating from a bottle and has tried latching to my breast). Most importantly, it helped me feel less guilt during the times I would have to leave my house and miss a pumping session. It also helped me be ok with calling the whole thing off for a day if my nipples were too sore or it was stressing me out too much. In short, I chilled the hell out.

If you are around people who pressure you, whether it's your family or the folks in the NICU, tell them to step off. Beware, everyone is going to ask you about your milk. Don't be afraid to tell people you don't want to talk about it if it feels like too much pressure. Everyone's body is different and you should do what works for you. If you can't produce enough milk for your baby, it's ok. The truth is, it's a double-edged sword. NICU moms don't have the pressure that if we don't produce milk that our babies will starve. They give our babies either donated breast milk or formula from the start. But we also have the challenge of not having our babies there to help us keep our supply going and have to put in extra work.

So take some pressure off if you're not producing as much as your baby needs. Milking like a cow just isn't for everyone (side note: tonight some young mom who just had her baby last week brought in like four bottles full of milk and I laughed to myself thinking of how lucky she is to have those young, perky breasts while my old ones are barely putting out two puffs of powdered milk for Mira! LOL). Make sure to take advantage of the lactation consultants, whether in the NICU, the WIC office or in labor and delivery in the hospital. Read as much as you can about how to stimulate production, but don't let it overwhelm you. Take people's advice, but not too many people. Do one thing at a time to really find out what works for you. And most importantly, if you're not producing, try to "milk for medicine" like I am now doing. A little bit helps a whole lot.

I hope this helps. Thanks for your prayers and support. 

My milk on July 14 from one breast and one pump...I was WINNING!

And now my baby sweetness is drinking from a bottle!

Patiently Learning Patience

My name is Kim and I'm an "impatient-a-holic!" I have a lead foot, road rage, don't like to repeat myself, easily annoyed with people and things that waste my time, don't suffer fools well and just have an overall need to keep it moving (thus the reason I prefer basketball to football).

Well, that's until Mira came along. When you're pregnant, you have a certain vision of how bringing home the baby will be - caring for her, cuddling, feeding, bonding, touching, kissing, just everything. So when my water ruptured prematurely in the early morning hours of July 5, it also ruptured the vision I'd had of the kind of mom I would be. That's when I realized that God must be determined to teach me patience once and for all.

I stayed in the hospital for four days before Mira was born. In that time, I had to lay in uncomfortable positions to keep my fetal monitor on round-the-clock, deal with medical residents playing "doctor" on us for grades and giggles, suffer through blood pressure checks and IV changes every 3 to 4 hours, and stay in the bed 24/7. And the night before Mira was born, I had been transferred to the ante-partum section of the hospital, which was where women go who are "gonna be here awhile."

So you can just imagine the conversations God and I were having throughout and the barrage of questions I had for Him. First, "Why?" Then, "How?" Lastly, "What?" Why this, why me, why now? How am I going to parent a baby that I can't hold and how am I going to afford this all? And what lesson are you trying to teach me? That's when it hit me. PATIENCE! I realized that I would need to couple it with my faith to get through this new phase of life that God has laid before me. Because faith divorced from patience is a recipe for frustration and anxiety.

I didn't see or touch Mira until 12 hours after I had her, I didn't hold her in my arms and against my skin for two weeks, I didn't bathe her for three weeks or kiss her face for four weeks. God sure does know how to teach you a lesson the hard way. Yet I am grateful for this baby, the way and time she decided to be born, these delays, this time and these life lessons.

If you find yourself in the NICU, just know that there's nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do to make the time go by any faster so check your impatience at the door. You can't rush your baby's healing or progress, and Lord knows the timeline is really up to your baby and God. Learn patience if you didn't have it before. Because no matter if your baby's stay is a day, a week or a month (or more), whether or not it feels like eternity or torture or a time of helplessness is all up to your ability to marry your patience with faith.

Side note: These days I dream of kidnapping Mira to take her home, but it's fleeting. LOL I called my mama the other day to see if she would drive the get away car...she agreed. LOL You will have those feelings. I keep mine at bay through prayer, talking and reading to Mira and taking naps while I'm holding my baby in the NICU.

I hope this helps and thanks for your prayers and support.

Started from the bottom... we here!

Mind Over Medicine

Because I just came up with the idea for this blog last night, I'm writing this first post out of order. But don't worry, I promise to go backwards if you'll let me get this one out since it's so fresh in my mind. Before I proceed, I'll do quick introductions. I'm Kimberly and on July 8, I gave birth to my baby sweetness, Mira, about 14 weeks early.

At this point, we have been in the NICU for almost eight weeks. And while I am much better at speaking NICU-ese now than I was a few weeks ago, I am not a doctor or nurse. But I am a mom (still feels weird to say that). And I know what I know about my child. I see Mira every day. I study her face, her hands, her feet, the rise and fall of her chest, know her pee and poop patterns, when her boogers need to be suctioned and it goes on.

The inspiration for this post comes from a feeling I've had in my gut for the past few days. I believe that Mira is a having a set back. And it's so subtle, that I think noone is noticing but me since I'm the constant in her life. Mira was born with a hole in her heart that causes her to have a heart murmur. And as long as she continues breathing well and passing other milestones, we pretend the hole isn't there in hopes it will get smaller or disappear altogether as she gets older.

And she's been doing well with her breathing, even one day being able to come completely off her oxygen. When I visited her that day, I noticed her breathing was labored and asked the nurses to watch her. Later that day, they'd put her back on her oxygen - no biggie, we tried. Since then, I've noticed that her breathing is labored, that one of her little feet was swollen after cuddle time, that her breathing is "gravel-y" and that her little belly button looks poked out. I've inquired about each of these signs with her nurses, more curious than convicted. And I was told by each of them that it's nothing to worry about or some other medical explanation of why it might be happening or why my hunch isn't founded.

But after tonight, I'm now convicted. As I was staring at her face, I noticed that it's starting to swell. I have a suspicion that she has fluid gathering in her lungs (this happened when she was younger) that's causing her breathing to be labored. It can be remedied with a round of medication and shouldn't set her back too much. Her care team is made up of really reasonable and receptive people, so I shouldn't have to fight too much to get them to check it out. But the mama bear in me will be ready just in case.

Moral of the story is it's ok to follow your "mom-stinct" over science because sometimes it really is mind over medicine. While the nurses and doctors see your baby everyday, you are just as much a part of the care team as they are. And you are just as likely to notice that something is happening, if not moreso. While you might not know the medical term for what's happening or what exactly IS happening, say something. And if the feeling in your gut won't go away, push if you have to and don't worry about seeming like the crazy lady who nitpicks over every thing. More than being your baby's mom, you're the #1 advocate for her health.

So, wish me luck, I talk to her doctor tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers and support.

****UPDATE: It was exactly what I thought it was. By the time I made it there in the morning, the doctor had already prescribed meds to get the fluid off her and out of her lungs. Mom-stincts prevail again! BOOM!

Mommy and Mira just cuddling in the NICU.