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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Learning to eat & other trials of a preemie

Tyler, Tanner, Lauren & Hannah are now 6 weeks old and almost 35 weeks gestation.  And man oh man, are literally getting bigger by the day!  Many of you may have already seen this picture, but first let me start by the highlight of my last week--- all four together again since July 17, 2012!
Tanner, Lauren, Tyler & Hannah all snuggled in mommy's arms!

Here are some of their celebrations and challenges at the moment:

 Lauren has a new nick-name in the NICU:  Laid-Back Lauren.  She is such a sweetie!  Lauren is truly that, very laid back and quiet and sweet.  She loves to sleep and will sleep often, but when she is awake she is a low-fuss kinda lady.  Even when she is hungry, she definitely gives us cues she is but also can wait her turn if need be.
Lauren very rarely sets off any of her alarms, so she is laid-back in this way, too!  We like babies that don't alarm often!!!

Feeding wise, Lauren is really getting the hang of bottle and breastfeeding!The suck, swallow, breathe reflex takes a while to master, but she seems to get the hang of it quickly with both a bottle and when I try to nurse her.  What a smart girl we have!  She is not able to take a full bottle yet (it is very tiring for them!), but every day is a new day!

Sleepy Lauren! (love the chubby double chin she's getting!!!)

Aunt Wendy & Uncle Todd visiting with Lauren

My sweet Lauren & I!
Nursing like a champ!
Lauren now weighs 3 # 13 oz... when she gets to be 4 pounds, her top can come off her isolette and if she can regulate her body temperature, she can then upgrade to a regular crib!   (and be that much closer to coming home, if her feeds continue going so well!)
Beautiful Lauren!

Lauren & Tyler cuddling with mommy
Tyler may still be the smallest, but don't tell him that!  He did go back on CPAP for a few days last week, but since then he has had little to no problems with his oxygen.  He has some alarms here and there, but that is pretty normal for preemies.

"Hi, mom!"

Tyler seems to be very curious with a great demeanor
Tyler now weighs 3# 7 oz.  Quite the weight gain since his birth weight of 1# 14 oz!!!!

sooooo... very.... sleepy!
He still is much smaller than his siblings, but don't let his small size fool you.  He is one determined dude who is keeping up and even surpassing some of his siblings with his ability to learn how to suck, swallow and breathe!

He is taking bottles but has not finished a whole one yet either.  Like Lauren, he also has had some good success with breastfeeding and his little eyes are always taking in his environment.  He is a thinker, and a handsome & curious little cutie!

Tyler getting a bath.  He's not a big fan (typical boy!)

Besides helping with feedings and changing diapers & taking temps, I also give the kids a sponge bath twice a week.  I have done this three times now, but that's 12 sponge baths--- I already feel very well equipped and have a system down for "bath day"!

All clean & alert, mom!  Now I'm ready to eat!
Tyler looks a LOT like Tanner, just smaller (I know, I know, they're identical... but it still amazes me!)  Side by side they don't look exactly identical but there is a full pound difference between the two.  However, when I looked at some of Tanner's pictures from a few weeks ago, I was struck by just how similar they look!

Tanner a few weeks old

Tyler & Tanner at 6 weeks old- I think Tyler look like Tanner's picture above

Tyler trying to pull out Tanner's gavage feeding tube
Tanner is getting so big and strong!

My handsome little man Tanner!

Tanner snuggling with grandma
Tanner is now 4# 6 oz, and has officially taken the lead as our champion eater.  Yesterday when I got to the hospital the nurse informed me he took a full bottle.  The first to do so!

Then today, I was informed he had 3 more overnight and 2 today so far!  What a big boy he is!  He has not really had a successful breastfeed so far, but no worries!  In order to "graduate" from the nicu, babies need to show they can take full feeds consistently.  That means quantifiable results, which a bottle can easily tell.  Maybe he will be the first to go home?  He just needs to stop the alarms!

Tanner getting a sponge bath- "Whatchya doing with that washcloth, mom?"

All nice & clean!

 Tanner is one verbal boy.  He often is squirming and grunting as he sleeps and when awake.  He certainly lets you know he is there!  Sometimes I think it might be reflux, but other times I think it's a ploy to get a good snuggle with mommy or a nurse!  He seems to have a little more alarms than Lauren & Tyler, and sometimes his respiration's are a little fast.  However, as soon as he is in my arms, all his stats look wonderful on the monitor and he snuggles in quietly.  Jenna was and is such an active baby, she never much had time for cuddling.  Maybe my Tanner will be the cuddlebug!
Tanner (and the others) are SO much more alert this week than before!
Our sleeping boys- one pound (16 oz) difference is a lot when they are so teeny!

 Last but not least, our beautiful biggest baby Hannah!  She is now a big whopping 4# 10 oz and does not look like a preemie to me at all any more! (but my comparison is skewed a little ;-))

Our beautiful Hannah girl!

sleeping beauty
 As you can see, Hannah is still on oxygen.  She was on a high flow until Sunday, and so she could not begin breast or bottle feeding until it went to a low flow because of fear of aspirations.  So, because of this, she has had the least amount of practice feeding thus far.  But now we are starting.  :-)
I have a feeling she will be a rock star once she gets going!

Like Tanner, Hannah can be a squeaky and grunty sleeper, too, but not nearly as much as her brother!

Mom + baby girls

Hannah is on the left, Lauren on the right.  Although it looks like Lauren is bigger, she isn't, it's just the camera angle;-)
Out of all the kids, Hannah gets the award for the most alarms due to some decreases in heart rate, respiration or oxygen.  This is not an award we want to encourage!  She rarely has any bradys, so the alarms are not too concerning but still something she needs to resolve before she can even think of going home!
Cuddling with my beauties!
 Hannah still has a spunky personality, and has no problems vocalizing her needs.  However, she also seems very content and happy for the most part.  Much of her discomfort had to do with the CPAP apparatus, and since being off, even though she still has a nasal cannula, she has been a much happier girl!

Last but not least, our biggest sweetie and proud big sister Jenna is doing PHENOMENAL.  She loves to visit the babies, and is so very helpful at home and with us.  She will be such a great helper when the babies get home--God created her with such a sweet, loving and kind heart!

Dancin' in the front yard :-)

Jenna snuggling with dad & Tyler when he was on CPAP for a couple days last week.
Our Beautiful Jenna Joy!

    As for how our family is doing, we really are doing so well.  People are being very generous with their time, money and resources.  Many have helped make meals for us so I can maximize my time with 4 babies in the NICU and a family at home, which has been beyond helpful!!!  So many people we know and don't know have been donating great baby clothes and items.  Friends & family have been so generous with baby gifts for the little ones, and most importantly, dare I say hundreds and hundreds of people have been praying for our babies and our family through this journey.

We are so richly blessed by these things, and I can attest to how graciously God is answering those prayers.  The babies are healthy and growing like they should-- Praises to God!  Our marriage & family is staying strong- Praises to God!  We have a roof over our heads, our needs are met beyond what we would imagine, and we have close family and friend support- Praises to God!

I find that I simply cannot plan ahead.  I use to, & I will again some day (hopefully!).  But for right now, God is not equipping me to do this.  But that's OK.  When I try to plan ahead, I get anxious and fearful and forget to trust God.  I also get really selfish and start feeling entitled, which I sorely am not.  Right now I feel God's presence very closely (probably because I am so dependent on Him right now!).  He clearly asks me to trust him daily for what I need.  "Do not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34) .  So I do.  Or, I try to.  God is good.  He is allowing me to go day by day, step by step with no anxiety or fear.  In faith I am taking it one day at a time and 100% of the time God has helped us get through the day victoriously.

Don't get me wrong, I am still so flawed and so in need of His work in my life.  But praise to His holy name, God is at work in our circumstances.  And He will continue to be.  And so because of this, we are doing really, really well and are really, really richly blessed!

Thanks everyone for your continued prayers and support.  I will try to update again soon!