Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Day in the Life

With so many little ups and downs in the NICU, it's hard to easily summarize a day. Today was no exception...

2:30 am: My alarm goes off, time to pump. Oh, what fun. Getting up to feed a baby is sooooo much better than waking up to an alarm clock.

6:30 am: Pump again, this time while entertaining Eleanora with stories and songs. When I'm done she happily cries, "All done, milp (milk)!"

7:30 am: Ben and I say "bye-byes" to Eleanora (who after day 2 stopped crying every time we left) and wave to her and Aunt Na-Na (Natalie) as we drive to the hospital.

7:45 am: Greet our beautiful baby boy who is sleeping soundly. His nurse tells us he had a good night and is still on a 1/4 liter of oxygen at about 30% saturation (we breathe 21%).

7:50 am: We wake Samuel by unwrapping him and begining his "cares" which includes changing his diaper (a poopapalooza- all systems are a-go in that department), and taking his temperature. Our nurse then listens to his heart and lungs, feels his belly, and checks his soft spot. She then pulls the curtains in our little corner of the room we share with three other babies and leaves us.

8:00 am: Navigating the wires and tubes, I pick up Sammy and settle into the rocking chair next to his isolette. We stare into each other's eyes for a moment, then he licks his lips and promptly falls asleep with one arm draped over his face. Try as I might, I cannot convince the little stinker to wake up and eat. Boo.

8:15 am: Our nurse pokes her head in and asks the now perfunctory question, "is he eating?". Because the answer (as usual) is no, she warms the stored milk for his tube feeding.

8:20 am: Nurse returns with warmed milk (40 ml) in a syringe which is attached to Samuel's feeding tube. I hold the syringe with one hand and Sam with the other watching the milk flow into the tube that runs from his nose into his stomach.

8:45 am: Samuel's feed has finished flowing from the syringe into his NG tube. I disconnect the syringe and snuggle in for my favorite part of the day...kangaroo care. This is basically skin to skin contact and has proven health benefits for preemies and does wonders for my mental health. Samuel and I kick back in the rocker under a blanket and settle in for a nice mid-morning nap.

10:00 am: Ben wakes me up to let me know it's time to pump again. While I snoozed, he was working diligently on his laptop from an adjacent chair, trying to keep up with his piles of schoolwork and research. Oh, and he's also ordered me breakfast from the hospital cafeteria (a free service provided to parents of NICU babies). He is amazing. He takes such fantastic care of me and our kids, keeps us focused and calm, and guides us with his quiet wisdom when I'm sure I am losing my mind. There is no way I could survive this ordeal without him.

10:45 am: After pumping, grabbing some coffee from the Ronald McDonald House living room (I will no longer mock McDonalds, their free coffee has saved me from the horrors of hospital tar-laden coffee. Thank you Ronald!), and chowing down on my not-too-bad breakfast of yogurt parfait and granola, I head back to Samuel's room. While I was gone, Samuel's nurse turned his oxygen down to 25% because his oxygen saturation rate looked so good.

10:55 am: We start "cares" again. Diaper change, temp check, the usual drill (for the record, Ben does the temp, under Sam's armpit, and I change Sam's diaper. Not a particularly fair trade, but I refer you to the above paragraph about how fantastic Ben is). We again attempt nursing, to which Sam responds with tightly closed lips and eyes and falls fast asleep. Tube feed again.

11:15 am: Samuel's oxygen saturation monitor keeps alarming. The nurse watches for a bit, then decides to turn his oxygen back up to 31%. Boo. I move Samuel to an upright position for more kangaroo care.

11:30 am: Ben is called for rounds with the doctors. No changes are made to his care. Ben asks about continuing to wean his oxygen %. The attending physician tells him we have some time to play with that since he's not very close to going home. Another boo.

11:45 am: I continue to do kangaroo care with Samuel, this time reading aloud to him softly from the book I'm devouring right now, "Reading Lolita in Tehran". He and I are both enthralled. We also listen to the playlist of classical music researched and approved by our musical guru, Aunt Natalie.

12:15 pm: Ben heads home to spend a little time with Eleanora, put her down for her nap, and get some more work done.

12:30 pm: Our nurse informs us that Samuel will be moved from an isolette to an open-air bassinet. He hasn't really needed the isolette for a couple of weeks since he has been maintaining his body temperature successfully. The giant isolette is rolled out and a teeny-tiny bassinet is rolled in (the kind full-term infants are kept in!). We take down the pictures of us and Eleanora as well as the picture she drew for him and attach it to his new bed. We have much more space in our tiny corner of the world.

1:00 pm: Time to pump again. Oh, so very fun.

1:30 pm: I eat my hospital-provided lunch of a grilled chicken sandwich and fruit.

1:45 pm: Cares, attempted nursing (same result as last time), and snuggling.

2:45 pm: I leave the hospital to head home, passing the Sam-watch baton on to Ben who has returned for the early evening shift.

3:00 pm: I arrive home to squeals of, "Hi Mommy!!!!" from sweet Eleanora. We play, read some books and have a snack.

4:00 pm: Time to head to the dairy farm, and I am the cow. Moo.

4:30 - 7:00 pm: With Natalie's amazing help, I get a few things done around the house, feed Eleanora dinner, get her into the tub and pump (again).

7:15 pm: Ben arrives home from the hospital. He reads Eleanora her bedtime stories.

7:30 pm: I spend a couple of extra minutes rocking and humming to Eleanora (who hums along, so sweet).

7:40 pm: Natalie and I hit the door running to get to the hospital before Samuel's 8:00 pm feeding. We make it just in time.

8:00 pm: Another failed attempt at nursing, but very successful snugglefest. Natalie and I spend a long time admiring our sweet, handsome little guy.

9:15 pm: After about a hundred kisses and tearful I love yous, Natalie and I tuck Sammy in and head home. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave my baby behind each night. I play out crazy scenarios in my head where I grab Samuel and hit the door running.

9:30 pm: We are home. As I sit on the couch talking with Ben, I imagine Samuel sleeping softly in the bassinet in our room, instead of miles away in the hospital.

10:00 pm: Time to pump one last time for the day.

10:45 pm: I lay in bed, wondering what tomorrow will bring.

This is a pretty typical day for us these past few weeks. We've settled into a pretty consistent routine, but there's nothing routine about having a baby in the hospital. We just take it one day at a time, hoping for more forward progress than setbacks.


Anonymous said...

I am amazed by your strength Kara and Ben. But then, maybe not as I have become your prayer warrior and you are getting throught this by the grace of God. Much love to you both.

Aunt Laurie

Mark and Jenn said...

Sounds like some long, long days. Praise God for endurance, coffee, a great husband, modern medicine, a live-in caretaker who you love to pieces, and a sweet little boy who is making it! Keep persevering. We're praying.

Megan said...

I agree with Jenn, sounds like some long days. I don't know how, but you guys have somehow managed to orchestrate an amazing balance of time with each other and with both your kids. You guys are doing a fabulous job. I'll pray the Lord will give you strength to continue!

Anonymous said...

Go, Hoffmans, go!!! You are both amazing! I am so glad that you have settled into a "routine" of sorts though I know it is not the one you imagined when you thought of dear Samuel's arrival. Kara, if I know you at all, I know that it breaks your heart every night to leave your baby at the hospital. I am so sorry that you have to go through that. Know that we continue to pray for Samuel's strength and growth. And many prayers for the doctor's wisdom and care of your precious son. Love you all, Kami