Her little body, so skinny and tiny, connected to lots of wires and monitors. Oh the monitors!!! They go off all of the time and you freak out for the first 100 times before you really learn they are sensitive and go off if it isn't properly attached, etc.
The first visit to the NICU as a parent... you don't know how to feel. It's very overwhelming, but you feel like you have to pretend you know what you are doing. But you don't. I remember being scared of changing her diaper. Scared of changing a diaper?!?! Yes. What an odd thought now.
I got to hold my little girl all swaddled up in a hospital blanket. I felt so overwhelmed, but again.. sad and scared.
Every visit to the NICU during my post pardum, my visit got a little longer and a little better. I was taking her temperature and changing her diapers. Feeling more and more like a mother.
The nurses sit near by the babies and depending on how fragile the babies are-- there are more or less nurses around. The nurses are your best friends and you grow attached. They are the ones that are mothering your baby. Feeding them, holding them, bathing them, changing their diapers and talking to them. Some nurses are better than some though.
Being discharged from the hospital was one of the hardest times of my life-- ever... I didn't want to leave my daughter at the hospital and go home.
Soon after being discharged from the hospital- I received a frantic call that Ava was in trouble and I had to go back to the hospital to release her to go to Kaiser Oakland via ambulance. Her intestants were either blocked or twisted and she needed to have surgery since she wasn't processing my milk (from her feeding tube, she was too tiny to breastfeed) and wasn't having bowel movements. Watching her being put onto a stretcher and wheeled out of the NICU, was and still is one of the hardest moments of my life. My gut wrenched. My eyes were so swollen from sobbing. I couldn't stop crying. Surgery?! Surgery for a little baby, born at 32 weeks and only four days old??? That's not fair. I was thinking "WHY ME??!! WHY US?????!!!!!"
My family is awesome. When talking about family, I am talking about all of our friends and my co-workers and Martin's co-workers. They came through the next day for us and with us. Everyone was praying, texting, calling, bringing us food, visiting with us, supporting us and loving us.
Thank the Lord. The surgical doctor that operates on little babies at the Kaiser in Oakland waited a few days to see if her little body would work out the kinks of whatever was going. Ava did not have surgery. Her intestants worked themselves out and she started to tolerate more feedings and high doses of milk.
Lucky us! I just (I mean I REALLY JUST found this video while looking for photos). It's short and sweet, but makes me smile. And tear up.
One moment in the Kaiser in Oakland-- there was a Kodak moment. My grandparents came and visited Ava a couple of days after she was transferred there. My Grandpa came in and put her hands onto Ava's incubator and he prayed for her. He prayed so beautifully and so powerfully for her little body to pull through ... to gain strength .. and to survive. And thank God... she did.
The hospital becomes your other home. You are there as often as you'd like. We slept at home, Martin went to work and I would go and visit Ava once in the morning and then we'd both come back after he got off of work. The best part about being at the hospital a lot is when late at night- you get awesome parking. Like front row parking-- especially at Kaiser in Walnut Creek. THAT is unheard of!
Another thing about being at the hospital a lot-- is your brain connects the smell of the antibacterial soap to the love of your baby. Writing that sounds really weird. But it does. When you do not have your baby with you and she/he is at the hospital. The smells of the hospital are your remembrance when you go home. When you first enter the NICU you are required to wash/scrub your hands. And when you touch your baby-- you put on the antibacterial soap. So when I go to Kaiser and walk by one of the antibacterial soap dispensers-- I take some and smell my hands and think of Ava when she was a baby.
Ava was transferred back to Walnut Creek Kaiser and was discharged five weeks after being born. She was the tiniest baby ever to be discharged from the NICU in Walnut Creek per her discharging nurse. Babies are required to have continuous and successful feedings, have normal bowel movements pass the car seat test (which the baby is placed in for a few hours and if there aren't any issues- they pass), and be at least five pounds. She weighed 4 pounds 6 ounces when we took her home.
Being a parent of a preemie is nothing like you've ever experienced, unless you've gone through it. Just like having any other issue with a child or going through a divorce or driving through a rainbow. No one knows how it feels or how it felt unless they've gone through it. When you know someone that has had or has recently had a preemie- you feel connected to them in unexplainable ways.
This two entries of my blog are entitled '32 weeks is a big deal' because being born at 32 weeks or 33 weeks are two very different things. Born at 32 weeks means that a baby will be very tiny, but will most likely make it. But it also means that there are mandatory programs set up for babies born under 32 weeks like physical therapy, eye doctor appointments, follow-up NICU appointments, etc. to make sure they are on track and stay on track. Ava is on track. All of her milestones have been met either 'on time' or at her 'adjusted age.'
I just know that we are so extremely proud of Ava. She entered this world in a very dramatic way... a very fragile way and she has exceeded many of our expectations. She is social, has excellent eye sight, can scream really loud, ride a bike with training wheels, count to 10 in English and Spanish, is courteous of others, is an excellent big sister, lover of animals, catches on quickly to words and phrases, etc. Many times I hear myself saying out loud "preemie wwwhhhhattttttt." She is amazing!
For some reason I can't post all of the photos I want to.. maybe too many videos? I will post in another post.