Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We're bad bloggers!

Lots of fun stuff going on around here. Just no time to write it all down. Over Memorial day Tim went on his annunal fishing trip with buddy Scott and Stella and I went to Ohio to visit. Had a wonderful time, but somehow most of the pictures ended up on other peoples cameras. The day after I got back from the Memorial day trip, I was off to Orlando for work. Tim and Stella flew down to Ft. Meyers the following Friday and I joined them in visiting with Stan and Karen. Stella did not enjoy the flights and the people around her enjoyed them even less. Soooo glad we're not getting on another plane with her any time soon! So much more to say about the trip and what we've been up to since then, but I know you're really here for the pictures :-)

With Cousin Sami (my cousin Scott's oldest daughter)

With Grandmary's Jamie.  She's still little . . .

On Sanibel Island

First Dip in the Water!

She loved the pool!

Baby Butt!  The cutest ever :-)

Grandpa Stan and Grandma Karen

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy 4 Months!

Stella is four months old today!  It's been nothing but great joy watching her grow and develop.  She's now reaching for things and holding on.  She found my chest hair the other day, OUCH, so I'm keeping my shirt on around her for awhile.
Her four month doctor's appointment is this coming Monday so we'll find out her official weight and length but she's about 12-13 pounds according to our rough calculations using our home scale.  I swear there are mornings I look at her and she's grown a lot overnight.  Her head control is outstanding as she will hold her head up, looking around when we raise her above us in a Superman hold.  She's still not a huge fan of holding her head up during tummy time but she's getting much better at it, holding it up for longer stretches before she decides it's not much fun and starts to fuss.
I've been able to get substitute teaching jobs about 2 or 3 times a week so that's good for me to get out into the world and deal with other people's kids.  I've taught from 12th graders in High School all the way down to Kindergartners in gym class.  The gym class was total chaos but loads of fun.  That same day I had some 1st and 2nd graders and could really tell the developmental difference between just those three years.  The second graders could concentrate more on throwing and hitting a big cushy softball with a padded bat and the kindergartners just wanted to run around chasing the balls as I threw them around the gym.
I've confirmed my desire to teach high schoolers instead of elementary students and middle schoolers would be much more of a handful but I've found I can connect with them better than anticipated so I won't rule a job teaching middle schoolers.

Here's a couple of pictures I took today.  I put her in the MSU onesie and she looked too boyish so I added the pink pants for girl power.

Stella's happy to be 4 month's old

Stella looking and grabbing a hanging toy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Back to Work!

In my head I've written several insightful, witty and fun to read accounts of going back to work. The reason that you haven't read any of them is that Mommy has no spare time! That's right, I finally understand why parents of small children fall off the face of the earth and only resurface years later when the kids are ready to move out of the house. I finally understand why no one cleans their own house any longer. The dirt is out of control here. When I look around, I don't want to spend any time cleaning because everything is too far gone I don't know where to start. In fact, I am writing this now so I have an excuse not to tidy the living room.

I've been back to work for about 3 weeks now. I don't hate it, but don't love it either. Don't worry, the love will come back. It's just that the transition takes a lot of energy and it will take time. Work has been good, not too crazy and my co-workers and manager have been helpful as I get my head back in the game. I am enjoying working with them again. I didn't miss working, but I did miss my co-workers.

I also took my first trip for work last week -- I was gone for 2 nights and parts of three days. It went OK. I wasn't too overcome with sadness or guilt and Tim and Stella did fine too. I think it was a bit more work for Tim than he imagined, but we all survived. I missed cuddling with my girl, especially at night when I was falling asleep in the hotel room, but the testing went well and I learned a lot. Again with those great co-workers!

Lots of fun this weekend: Some of it involved beer. Not too shabby! Met the yoga moms (from my prenatal yoga class) at the Bell's beer garden (http://www.bellsbeer.com/cafe.html) mid day on Friday. We hung out and exchanged baby stories while sitting on a picnic blanket under some trees. Fab weather and all the babies were super cute and well behaved. Loved sharing cloth diapering tips while drinking beer. The vibe at Bell's is always fun and, during the day, wonderfully kid and family friendly. A couple of us were having so much fun we called our hubbies, they came down and we shared dinner on the aforementioned picnic blanket. Super relaxing and a wonderful afternoon to spend with my beautiful baby after missing her for 2+ days.

Saturday was the March of Dimes March for Babies. It was damp to start, but the sun came out and we had a good day. We raised $240! My original, modest, goal was $100. It was amazing to hear (actually read on the backs of T-shirts) the stories of some of the most challenged preemies. Some were so terribly early and teeny tiny (less than 2 pounds) it is a wonder that they survived at all. Many folks were walking in honor of the ones who didn't survive. I am forever grateful that Stella was a garden variety preemie. The things she had to learn were pretty standard and she benefited so very much from all the work that has been done for preemies. It was a big deal, but we were so much better off than a lot of the babies in the NICU. Praise God! After the march we celebrated the wedding of our friends Erin and Julie who were married in VT almost 2 months ago. I am continually reminded of the importance of our communities of connection and how we all depend on the networks we build. Tim and I have been blessed with the family and friends who surrounded us in our marriage and life and our new foray into parenthood. I am honored to be part of that 'village' for other people as they begin their journeys. The best part of that is as you are added to the community for other people and families, they are added to yours and the circle of support and love just keeps growing!

Will try to take more pics of the snugglebuggle over the next few days -- I know that's the only reason why some of you tune in here.  She's growing like a weed -- longer and heavier every day.  She'll be 4 months old on Thursday.  Can't believe that we've had her that long, it only feels like it's been a few weeks.  We'll be to the docs on the 10th for a check up and shots.  She'll still be small for a 4 month old, but feels pretty good to us! 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Uncle Josh and Aunt Allison

Good times in Michigan this weekend! Uncle Josh and Aunt Allison visited to meet Stella. Mom & Dan and Katie (with doggie Jake in tow) all descended on the Kirk household for a fabulous weekend.

Uncle Josh thought Stella was pretty cute and was glad to know she really existed, not just in pictures. Aunt Allison was a natural and did a great job holding and feeding Stella. She even got a lesson in cloth diapering. Between Grandma Mary Lou and the aunts, Mom and Dad didn’t have to do much except the late night/early morning feedings. No one wanted to do those – wonder why?

We ate at a couple of really good restaurants. Mom and Dan even tried Indian food – and seemed to like it OK. We also visited the Kalamazoo Nature center and talked to the bee keeper as he explained how the hive at the nature center works. The hive is set up inside Plexiglas so we could see all the activity. We even saw the queen lay eggs while her court circled around her. We saw bees with pollen on their legs dance out the directions for other bees and asked lots and lots of questions. Well, Allison and I asked lots of questions. The rest took a couple of quick looks and then wandered around. The rest of the time was spent hanging out and catching up. Tim made a wonderful meal on Sunday and Grandpa Kirk and Uncle Bill joined us for the grub. We also squeezed in a trip to Bell’s downtown while Grandma watched Stella. Now Joshy and Allison are on their way back to DC. I miss my little brother already!

We missed having Grandpa Tom and Grandma Judi with us. Dad’s hip replacement surgery has been a terrible ordeal for him and for Judi. He’s still in the hospital recovering from the second surgery and is having a really difficult time. The surgeries themselves were difficult, but the worst has been the neurological issues that he’s having due to reactions to the anesthesia. He had to have a second surgery because he dislocated his hip multiple times after the first surgery. The whole saga began on March 1st, and still continues!

Josh, Allison, Katie, Stella and I made a video for Judi and Dad – we just have to figure out how to post and/send so that Judi can play if for Dad in the hospital.
Bonus Pic:  Cloth diapers drying on the line!  Reusable and drying using wind & sun power :-)

Easter Fun!

Easter Sunday was a beautiful day, if a bit chilly. Still, that meant that Stella could wear the beautiful wooly lambie coat that Grandma Judi had gotten her over her cute little Easter dress and sweater (a Target find -- nothin' but the best for our princess :-). First thing in the morning, she opened the Easter basket Grandma Mary Lou had given her. Mommy was more excited about this than she was. She got finger puppets from the Big Bunny and books full of fun stories-- I'm sure she'll be more interested in them as she gets older.

Stella behaved beautifully at church and everyone ohhed and ahhhed over how beautiful she looked in her coat, dress and fuzzy bunny slippers (from my friend Jen and her daughter Anna -- passing along things that Anna has outgrown). But, the real excitement began just as we got home. Stella let us know that she was quite hungry. After all, celebrating the resurrection is hard work! As Daddy fed her, Mommy was tidying up in her room. Daddy rushed in saying, "I think she pooped." As Mommy stepped in to change the dirty diaper, Daddy realized that not only had she pooped in her disposable diaper, she had blow it out! The bloomers were soaked, the dress too, and -- look at the big spot on Daddy's pants! And, as he retraced his steps, whoops, there were some spots on the floor too! It's a good thing we are used to dealing with dog and cat spots on the rug; we had just the stuff to clean it off. A short soak and some Shout! took care of the clothing, and soon everything was good as new. The moral of this story is that cloth diapers are much better at containing big poopies. And that Stella apparently doesn't like to dress up!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pictures & More Pictures

Nap time with Daddy.  Wonder who's enjoying it more?

The silliest paci keeper ever.  The flower almost hides her whole face.

I call the look in the pink her "game face."  Her headband slipped down so it looks like a sweat band.  Wonder if she's going to play basketball or tennis?  She also seems to like it when Daddy gives her a bath more than when Mommy does.  Look at her smile here!

These pics were taken when the last of the snow was on the ground.  The whole family was hiking at Asylum Lake.  Note the good use of Aunt Katie's gift of the Baby Bjorn.  We are using it alot these days.

There she grows!

Stella has outgrown almost all of her newborn clothing and is into her 0-3 and 3 months clothes! The 3 months are a little big (as in the pic above). She's right around 9 1/2 pounds. More than double her birth weight.

We've also been tracking her development. It's a bit tricky because we look at her as her corrected age, and reference that in the books or on-line. Add to that the fact all those references seem to be less than definitive and I'm not terribly sure just what she's supposed to be able to do right now. They say things like "your baby might" or "most babies are able to" or my favorite, "every baby is an individual." Right now Stella is almost at her actual age in some areas. She will hold her head up on her own almost all of the time. She can also get her head up to a 45-degree angle when in tummy time and pushes up with her hands. She usually favors one side or the other, but will push up with both arms. She can also get most of one side of her body up in the air. Not close enough to flip over, but I can see how it will lead to that. Today she showed me how she will follow an object with her eyes and by moving her head -- both from right to left and up and down. R to L is stronger than the up and down. She loves looking at herself in the mirror and will watch mom and dad very intently. She also recognizes us by looking at us when we talk to her, even if the other is holding her. Where I think she's a bit behind is that she doesn't smile much socially. She'll smile at us when we talk to her, but doesn't smile at other people. Today, however, she surprised herself with a burp and it caused her to break out into a big, real smile. She also isn't vocalizing as much as the books say she should for her corrected age. She will make some aahhh, aahhh sounds and plenty of grunting/groaning/squeaking sounds as well as crying. Occasionally she'll make a gaaah sound from the back of her throat, but she doesn't make many other sounds and hasn't tried any other consonant sounds.

I'm sure it will all come with time . . . like any new parent I'm concerned and her preemieness (new word!) adds another layer to it all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Getting poked by needles is not fun!

Oops -- thought I had posted this but only saved the draft.  I'm sure all of you out there were dying to know what she weighs and how she handled her shots :-)

Stella had her 2 month doctor's appointment on March 8th. We saw Dr. Gibson (church friend) and Stella passed with flying colors. She weighs 8 lb 11 oz and is 20.5 in long! Almost double her birth weight, and aproximately 50th percentile for her corrected age. (Corrected age = age she would be had she been full term. We should count milestones by her corrected age, not her actual age until she is about 1 year old.) She's not as far along with milestones as a 2 month old baby would be, but she is doing some things more than a 2-3 week old baby would do. We have definitely noticed how much she's filled out, even since we took pictures at Valentine's day (approximately when she would have been due).

She also got her 2 mo. vaccines. 3 shots and one oral. She's really worn out and fussy this afternoon, but daddy is doing a good job of soothing her and helping her be as relaxed as possible.  Lately she's been all over the place with sleeping and awake times as well as the amounts she's eating.  So, anything is possible tonight! 

Monday, March 8, 2010


Stella doing tummy time on floor, Bea getting an up close sniff

Mom and Stella on first outing, walk with Bea and Dad on Portage bike trail.

Stella and Bea

Cousin Steffanie holding Stella.

Stella @ 2 Months

Stella turned 2 months old on March 6th. The semi-self imposed quarantine is now lifted and we can take Stella out in public! We celebrated this weekend by going out to eat 3 times, going to church with her for the first time and having a Kirk family party at our house. Good times we had by all (including the Princess) and Tim and I were ready to crash at 8 pm last night.

Aunt Katie arrived Friday evening so we went out to eat the first time that evening. On Saturday, Katie and I went to our local nail salon. I had a much needed pedicure -- not being able to reach my feet for a few months and the winter had left my tootsies looking quite rough -- and Katie had a mani. Stella went with us and got lots of compliments. The owners of the salon have a preemie of their own. She is 9 months now, and was born 6 weeks early -- just like Stella. It was great to talk to someone who had been through a similar experience and see that her daughter was doing well. They have experienced a few delays in developmental milestones, but they work out to be on time when adjusted for the prematurity. Katie and I took Stella to Noodles and Co. for lunch. It's a big kid lunch place on Saturdays, so we felt like we were in good company. We ate out again Saturday night -- just for the novelty of taking Stella out and being able to eat together without someone at home to watch the baby.

Sunday was Stella's first church service at Chapel Hill. She slept through most of it and liked the music. The only time she really woke up was when the drums started in on a song and startled her. When we went up to take communion, Tim held her and demonstrated his mastery of baby holding by using one arm to hold her and the other to take the bread and dip it in the juice. Everyone was excited to see her and welcome her to the family. We sat with Auntie Joanie and she helped by holding Stella when she was a bit restless.

Then it was on to home and hosting Tim's dad, Uncle Bob, sister Teri and BIL Mike, niece Steffanie, step-sister Sue and BIL Keith and their two boys Nick and Zach. Razzy chicken and cheezy potatoes were enjoyed along with pineapple upside down cake and flour-less chocolate cake for dessert. It was great to see everyone and mom and dad got a break as Stella was passed around from relative to relative. Amazing weekend, but is it any wonder that we were ready to drop by Sunday evening?

Harvey Karp is a genius

. . . and Tim is pretty darn smart too. Stella has been increasingly restless and crying more often. I actually say she is 'yelling' because it's not as much crying as it is vocalizing that she's not happy about something. I wouldn't say she was colicky, yet, but it was getting darn close! In a funny serendipitous turn of events, we had borrowed a DVD of "The Happiest Baby on the Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp the same day my mom (Grandma Mary Lou) called to say she had found this DVD and thought it could really help.

And help it did! Tim and I watched it that same night. Stella was on my lap and was mildly fussy. I followed along with the techniques on the DVD and she hushed exactly like the babies on the TV. Amazing! One of the keys is harsh sounding background/white noise. Our Sleep Sheep doesn't get loud enough. So Tim downloaded a white noise track onto his iPod and put it on repeat. The swaddling, the swinging and the white noise have worked wonders for Stella's sleeping. We also combine these with the swing when she's really fractious and she calms right down. We're working to get Stella to sleep longer during the night and these techniques have really come in handy.

We watched a lot of videos at the hospital in the NICU about caring for your baby -- I really think this one should be added to the list. He's also written a book, so I'm going to request it from the library and see what else he has to say. Take a look at his website if you want to know more: http://www.happiestbaby.com/.

Friday, February 26, 2010

More of the good stuff -- pics of lovely Stella

She was really alert today in the middle of the day, so I took some great pics. Don't you think she looks like Tim in these photos? I love the raised eyebrow look. It's one of my faves. I know I'm biased, but seriously, isn't she the cutest baby of all time?

Cardiologist Update

Good news! Stella's hear murmur is a common one that is often found in preemies. It's a pulmonary something-or-other. Can't quite remember exactly what the doctor said (unusual for me, I know). Essentially, the blood leaves the heart and the vessel splits in two to feed blood to each lung. The angle of that split is acute and this causes turbulence in the blood flow and the murmur. The murmur doesn't affect the functionality of her heart. As Stella grows, the angle will change and the turbulence and the murmur should go away. Doc said that she'll most likely outgrow it by the time she's 6 months old. Our pediatricians will monitor her and unless something else comes up, that's all we need to do.

They did an exam, an EKG and an echo of her heart. She was really good for all of them, especially the echo where she needed to lie still for over 30 minutes. We did have to take one break when the technician was pushing the ultrasound probe into her stomach and Stella didn't like it, but overall it went really well. She's such a trooper.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Doctor Visits

Stella had her second RSV vaccine shot last Friday. RSV is a respiratory virus that most everyone has already been exposed to and usually causes only mild cold like symptoms, but can be very dangerous to preemies and babies with other risk factors. Stella will get one shot every 28-31 days through April. Very expensive -- almost $1000 per dose. We are "lucky" in that we've met our family out of pocket deductible for the year (in February!) and won't even have to pay our co-insurance on it.

During the appointment for the shot, the doctor heard what he thinks could be a small heart murmur. It was very faint, and only detectable because she was so very still when he was examining her. He also said it could be a murmur in the vessels around the heart or in the lungs. So we see the pediatric cardiologist on Friday to check it all out. It's likely to be nothing -- we hope -- but we definitely need to have it checked.

In related info, we got the EOB for Stella's NICU stay. The initial charge to the insurance for the 20 day stay was over $69,000! The negotiated/allowable amount was more than $24,000. Thank God that we actually have insurance. Even with the insurance, you can see why we've met our out of pocket max. Of course, they never show the patient the whole breakdown of the charges, and during the stay we had no idea what it was all costing. (That is a huge part of the health care problem this country is facing!) Add that to the cost of giving birth and this was one heck of a way to start the year. I'm also contesting some of the charges as the amounts we owe are being calculated differently than they told me they would calculate them. I'll post more on that when/if I have the whole story and if I have any energy left to write about it. The whole process with my HR group and the insurance has been hellish and I've had to work very, very hard to even understand what I needed to to after Stella's birth.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Adventures in the Great Outdoors

You would never know it by today's weather, but we've had some great February sunshine in MI the last few days, and I was actually able to take advantage of it!

On Saturday, I bundled up Stella and took her for a walk in her stroller -- for the very first time. First, I had to prove to her daddy that she was going to be warm enough. It was 40 + degrees outside and really sunny and I dressed her in layers. After the diaper, we put on a onesie followed by a fleece outfit that had a hood pulled up over a hat. She had on socks and then mittens (that will fit much better next winter, but did the trick). I put down one blanket under her and covered her up with another. Once that was all accomplished, Tim seemed satisfied, so we set off. We only went around the block as I had to avoid those neighbors that I know don't shovel their sidewalks. Stella seemed to enjoy it, and slept most of the time. I had to be careful to adjust the shade so no sun was on her face as she didn't enjoy the light interrupting her nap!

On Sunday, Tim was skiing, so I took it up a notch and included Bea in the mix. It was a bit windy so this time Stella was in my Moby wrap (tucked in a baby carrier next to my body) and I put my coat on over her and zipped it up. I'm sure people who saw me wondered just what was wrong with me that I looked so misshapen with a strange, uneven lump on my chest! We had a blast, and walked for about 30 minutes. Stella slept again and Bea enjoyed being out of the house -- as did I!

Before Stella was born, I had daydreams about all the walks we'd take in the balmy spring air and the adventures we'd have. I imagined walking to the custard stand and treating myself and the dog to ice cream. I also imagined walking to the Tea/Chocolate shop and stopping for a latte and a treat. Since I'll likely be back at work before the weather cooperates, we'll have to do with short walks in the winter sunshine. I'm still looking forward to hikes and picnics this summer with Tim, Bea and Stella.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Belated Valentine's Day!

It's been a while that I've posted so apologies for that. I'm well suited for the third shift now as staying up all night is no problem for me. Unfortunately it's time to start getting Stella to sleep some more during the night and attempt to get on some type of wake/feed/sleep schedule. She's starting to sleep for 3 to 4 hours at times so there's some hope of feeding her at 3am and me going to sleep for Sarah to wake up around 7am to feed Stella at that time.

Her official due date was this past Saturday and she's gotten a lot bigger since she was born. She's somwhere between 6 & 7 pounds now and she finally is gaining some baby fat. The width of her back used to fit right in the palm of my hand when I held her on my knee for burping but now she's taking up all of my palm and most of the length of my fingers. She's gained some body width!

Burping is still a challenge with her and sometimes she gets uncomfortable with gas. We've changed to a formula that isn't so milk based as for a time there Stella was just an uncomfortable, gassy mess. We tried some antigas, which seemed to help but it wasn't the magic potion we hoped for. That's when we decided to try the new formula. She's much less gassy, more alert and just plain happier now.

Her exit strategy for pooping is still sporadic but somewhat every other day so the concern over that is pretty much over.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

World Class Talent!

Every parent wants their child to be unique and have special talents that help define them as individuals. Tim would really love Stella to be a pianist and I, of course, want to instill a love of reading. We anxiously watch her every day . . . what will her first accomplishments be?

I'm happy (?) to report that Stella definitely has a future in baby-milk-spitting contests! In fact, she might be a world class talent. Yesterday she spit up her entire meal in only two spits. One went the length of her body and managed to soak the bib, her clothes and the changing table cover. How's that for excellent aim? Now we just have to find the contests and get her registered. She's sure to be in the money in no time :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010


First Bath (she liked most of it).

Grandpa Douglas holding Stella for the first time.

Grandpa Kirk came to visit.

The View from Mom's arms.

Doctor Visit #2

I made my first "new mom" call to the pediatrician's office yesterday. Stella hadn't had a bowel movement for over 48 hours and I was concerned -- was that normal? It's definitely different than what we saw in the hospital. The nurse asked me a couple of questions and then decided that they wanted to see her. They don't take any risks with such small babies.

It was all fine in the end, she is just an "infrequent pooper." How's that for a diagnosis?! The doc said they are fine with babies going 5-7 days without a bm, if the last one was soft and loose. I'm not sure where they are supposed to put 5 days worth of poop, but can't imagine what that diaper would look like! She still hasn't gone, so I may be able to report out on that in a few days :-)

The best news is that she weighed 5 lb 10 oz. A gain of 8 oz in less than a week! (How much of that do you suppose is the poop she's storing up?) She is definitely plumper and filling out more. She's been eating more, and can also be more cranky. That may be a side affect of filling up with poop. The doc suggested she would get crankier and crankier until she let it all out and then would be more mellow for a while. Oh the adventures of parenting! I'm sure I'll post more on baby poop than I ever thought I would.

Thanks Aunt Katie!

Thanks to Aunt Katie, Tim and I got to go on our first Date Night post Stella. Katie was here last weekend and started to understand the Stella system and feel more comfortable. So on Saturday, she finished up a feeding by changing a diaper and doing the cuddling time while Tim and I put on nice clothes and went to dinner. It was a success! No phone calls were made (I did put the cell phone on the table at the restaurant, just in case) and Katie had some great bonding time with Stella. Apparently she was wide awake and being very cute during the cuddling.

We received a letter from a local restaurant (Erbelli's) congratulating us on the birth of our child and offering a free pizza, cheesy bread and pop. No strings attached, just come on in and let other people know if you had a good time -- what a cool way to promote the restaurant. We love Erbelli's and they have just redone their Portage restaurant and started serving alcohol, so off we went.

I told Tim that we had to have just one topic of conversation that didn't include Stella. He looked at me like I was crazy! What did we have to talk about that didn't somehow link to her? Getting pregnant, staying pregnant, preparing for her birth, and all the events that have followed have consumed almost all of our energy for the past year. Could we even talk about anything else? Luckily, there were TVs and I saw something about the upcoming winter Olympics, so we talked about that. It reminded me of when Tim and I were first dating and getting to know each other. I learned which events are my husband's favorite and why he likes the winter Olympics. I felt connected to him in a way that I haven't for a long time, so it was definitely a wonderful evening.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The First Doctor Visit

Just after giving birth, the nurse asked us Tim if we had chosen a pediatrician. That decision seems to be a big one and fell, of course, into the category of "we have plenty of time for that." Luckily, in passing, I had asked our friends Cara and Matt how they chose their pediatrician. They were very happy with their choice -- a local practice where one of the doctors is a member of our church. I mentioned this briefly to Tim and he had the presence of mind after the birth to remember the conversation. I had to remember the name of the practice for him but we could at least answer one question that evening!

I think our choice is going to be a good one. Even though they weren't actively involved in Stella's care in the NICU, we met several of the doctors at the hospital when they were on rounds and we met another on Thursday when Stella went in for her very first check up. Dr. Lemmen pronounced Stella healthy and beautiful. She also said that we shouldn't take Stella out in public until she had passed the 2 month mark and to limit her visitors, especially not letting small children touch her. Stella's immune system still isn't completely developed so we have to be very careful. She weighed 5 lb 2 oz and was 18 1/4 inches long. So exciting that she's passed the 5 pound mark!

She'll go in next Thursday for another check up. If everything is OK then, we'll be on the regular well baby schedule (2 mo, 4 mo, 6 mo, etc). No special visits needed:-) Next week we'll see Dr. Gibson, our fellow Chapel Hill member and I'm excited to see how much she thinks Stella has changed since she saw her in the hospital.

Stella has had another good day of eating and Mom and Dad are learning when she is really hungry and when she is just fussing. We also have another hamper full of laundry as she is really good at spitting up. She's still a bit too small for the smallest of the cloth diapers, so we're using disposables until she grows enough. Hopefully that will be soon so we don't have to spend too much money on Pampers.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Home Sweet Home

It's been a full day for Stella being home and I woke up at 3:30 this afternoon after being up all night until Sarah took over this morning at 7.
Sarah had a fantastic idea that is working wonders for Stella's burping.
Part of the development for a new baby is called tummy time.  The baby is placed on the floor face down while someone is constantly watching it.  That makes the baby want to raise it's head and try to push on with it's arms.  The end result is muscle development that will come into play later when crawling starts to happen.
Anyway...Sarah did some tummy time with Stella today and found that burps come out quite nicely during tummy time so Sarah did that during her feedings today and Stella's eating volume skyrocketed.  A normal good feeding is about 40ml.  Today, Stella has had two 60ml feedings with a 30 ml "snack" in between.
She's waking herself up about every three hours so that's an excellent sign.
Our dog Beatrice met Stella today as she's was going crazy since yesterday, knowing that something was up.

Stella in livng room with mom.

Stella saying "no more pictures"

Bea watching Stella

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


After 20 days in the NICU, Stella is finally home! Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!!!!! She began eating more yesterday later in the afternoon and by the end of the 24 hr period had eaten 382 ml. 72 more than she had eaten the day before and the most she'd eaten in one 24 hour period to date. The evening before she weighed just 4 grams short of 5 pounds.

Stella tends to swallow a lot of air while eating and is very hard to burp. You can tell when she needs to burp. She squinches up her face, holds her breath and turns red. Then she will either do crunches or arch her back or both in sucession. Anything to try and get that air bubble out. When the burp does come, it isn't very lady like! The 3rd grade boys will be quite impressed with her prowess if she can still burp like that then. No matter how you burp her, on your shoulder, on her stomach, half sitting up, tummy rubs, back rubs, it just takes a long time to get the air out. Daddy had a great idea and brought some of the Dr. Brown's bottles in yesterday afternoon. We thought that the new bottles (thank you mom and Ivonne for so thoughtfully providing them) might help to reduce the air she swallows. It didn't make it go away, but definitely helped. Daddy gets kudos for a great idea!

At home, we have her in her crib in her half decorated room. I hope to finish it off sometime over the next few weeks. Tim is taking the night shift to help her get on a good schedule so we decided that our room should be baby free. Hopefully he won't need to stay on midnights for more than a few days. I am again very thankful that he isn't working full time and has a flexible schedule. It will make the transition to home go much more smoothly.

Will post picture when I get them off the camera!

Monday, January 25, 2010

19 Days and Counting . . .

19 days in the hole. OK, the NICU is not exactly prison, but we're anxious to bring Stella home and be a family in our house. She, however, seems perfectly content where she is. She's hit all the milestones she needs to, except for one: She's a poky eater and doesn't like to wake up to eat.

Since removing her feeding tube, she's eaten less food than she should. She's still gaining weight, but not as robustly and, as the nurse says, "her intake is less than optimal." She starts out eating like a champ and then loses interest. She's still awake, but just wants to roll the nipple around in her mouth, not actually suck. It's frustrating for us because we know she knows what she needs to do, she's just not really interested!

Please keep praying for us as we wait this out. Just like everything else up to this point, Stella will do this on her own time. Parenting is full of challenges and I'm sure we'll look back on this one and laugh at the time when our only concern was that she wasn't eating. You can remind me of this when she is 16 and we're butting heads!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Goodby Isolet, hello home!

Stella is continuing to do remarkably well. She's now out of the isolet and into a small, open "crib". She's now regulating her own body tempurature so that's why she's out of the isolet. She also managed to pull out her gastro feeding tube yesterday, not once but twice so the nurses took that as a sign that she was quite done with it, thank you very much. So no more gastro tube stuck to her face.
Wait, that's not all! She's been so stable all of her sticky probes have been removed from her as well so she's totally clear of any wires or tubes. That's my girl!!
What this all means is STELLA'S COMING HOME!!! (wait...my eyes are leaking a bit....)
Stella just has to eat all of her meals (by that I mean suck the bottle dry) and maintain her body temp for the next day or two and she'll be cleared to come on home.
We are ready for her at the house so come on baby, you can do it!

Stella in "Crib"

Isolet in Background

Proud mama knitting

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two Weeks Old and Growing

Sarah put Stella's birth story below so if you haven't had a chance to read it, scroll on down or click to the left.

Stella is a very stable premie baby, as the doctors and nurses tell us.  She's gone from full blown monitoring to just heart rate and respiration monitoring while she's in the isolet.  That means Sarah and I can unplug her wires when we bring her out to hold.  She still has her gastro tube in so we have to keep track of that along with the three sticky probe wires used for the above monitoring but we can actually walk around the room with her now.

As of last night, Wednesday, her weight was up to 7lbs10oz so she's above her birthwieght and climbing.  Her isolet temp is down to 80.1 degrees and she's holding her own temp at 98.6 so the nurses will slowly continue to crank down the isolet temp to about 75.  When she's stable at 75 they'll move her to a small little crib so she'll be maintaining her own temp at room tempurature.  Once she's done that for two days she'll have passed that test.

Her food intake has leveled at 45ml per feeding, as much as her little stomache will hold.  She's taking food from the bottle and gets just over half of it down before she tires out and we have to give the rest to her through the gastro tube.  Once she sucks down all of her food on her own for a couple of days, she passes that test.

When those two remaining tests are mastered, she'll be ready to come home!  She's showing improvements in both every day so it won't be long now until we have the little darling in our home.
We are just about ready for her as I am touching up the nursery room paint today and Sarah will paint some cool graphics on the walls.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One Week Old and Already a Move to New Digs

Stella has graduated to the Step Down Nursery on the third floor. We moved there yesterday evening, a week after she was born. There was another baby that moved at the same time and there was some initial confusion from the nursing staff on room assignments. Stella had a window upstairs in the NICU so her nurse and I wanted a room with a window in the nursery. Her initial room assignment was an interior room without a window so after a bit of negotiating, Stella got another room with a view.

She's up to 45ml and holding her temp nicely. I got to kangaroo with her for a good three hours last night, listening to classical music again, and we both enjoyed that immensely.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stella's Birth Story

Warning: Childbirth details ahead! (I will try to keep it as PG as possible :-)

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 6-8 pm: Oh, the irony of it all. During what was supposed to be the first of three birthing classes, I became very uncomfortable and was in pain. I couldn't find a way to sit where I felt OK when the "cramping" was happening. All of this was occurred while we discussed the stages of labor and what labor pains feel like. I compared what I was feeling to what the instructor said and felt confident that I wasn't in labor. The joke was on me, of course!

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 8:45 am: I had the same cramping pains after class and all through the night, plus some spotting in the morning, so I called the doctor's office as soon as they opened. By that time I was already at work because we were doing some testing in the pilot plant and I was supposed to be learning a new process. The doctor wanted me to come in for a check, just to be on the safe side.

I saw the OB at noon, and she sent me to the Labor and Deliver triage because I was slightly dilated and they wanted to see if my "cramps" were contractions. Which, of course, they were. They got an IV going, gave me several shots and some oral meds and seemed to slow the contractions. Dr. Lomax (the most senior doctor in the practice) was on call and kept telling me that to be where I was I had to have been feeling these pains for a long time. I'm still not sure I believe him, but that doesn't change the outcome.

At 4 pm we had an ultrasound where Tim and I were ecstatic to find out we were having a girl. After 3 other ultrasounds where she refused to let us know her gender, we were making plans to share our good news with family and friends. They decided to keep me overnight, even though the contractions had slowed, just to be sure that they could monitor me closely.

By 6:30 pm, I was in a room and eating dinner. They assigned me to a high risk pregnancy nurse (not a Labor and Delivery nurse) and I was settling in for the night. Except that the contractions seemed to pick up in intensity. The monitor wasn't reading them correctly because they had me laying on my side, so I had Tim start to record them on paper. They were 2-3 minutes apart! (We knew from our first class that that meant something was up for sure.)

At 7 pm, Nurse Nancy (from the triage area) came in to check on me before she went home at the end of her shift. She noticed that I wasn't doing very well and had them change me to a labor and delivery nurse. She also decided to do an exam. I was 5 cm dilated. She called Dr. Lomax and gently let us know that it was very likely that I'd be delivering our little girl yet that evening. I made sure that she told Dr. Lomax that I wanted an epidural -- that seemed rather important as I got farther along! I also had a few minutes to freak out and be scared because we knew the baby wasn't very big yet, and then another contraction came and I had to focus. Nurse Joan took over for the evening shift and began to set up for the birth. She told Tim not to worry, we had plenty of time, but that she liked to get everything in place far in advance. Looking back, she was probably rushing to get everything together, but she was playing it cool for our sakes!

Around 7:30 pm (here is where things get a bit blurry to me as I wasn't paying much attention to the clock at this point!), Joan mentioned that the next thing I needed to tell her was when I felt like I needed to have a bowel movement. "Oh, I already felt that a couple of contractions ago", was my answer. Remember, we've only learned one way of breathing from the one class and I have no idea that I'm about ready to push! During the next contraction Nurse Joan insisted that I not push and taught me to breathe with little huffing breaths to resist pushing. When that was over I asked why I couldn't push when I wanted to so badly. She said "you are only 8 cm dilated" which made sense to me, not enough room to get baby out yet. And then she said "and your doctor isn't here yet." Well, who needs him, I thought? Let's get this show on the road!

Soon after that Dr. Lomax and the anesthesiologist showed up and soon the room was filled with people. Dr. Lomax was brought up to speed and in between contractions (still not letting me push) the anesthesiologist laid out my options for pain relief. Too little time for an epidural, but the spinal meant that if I had to have a C-section, I'd have to go all the way under. How was I supposed to make that sort of decision in the minute I had between contractions? Finally decided for the spinal as things were incredibly painful.

8:00 pm: My labor is complete and I'm fully dilated, so Dr. Lomax and Nurse Joan are letting me push. The only problem, I don't know to hold my breath with the push. So, they correct me and I get down to business. Dr. Lomax decides that there isn't even enough time for the spinal block and that we can push this baby out real quick. Tim can see the head of baby, and keeps telling me how cool it all is. There is no rest between the contractions, one starts as soon as the other ends. They've put me on oxygen and it's all I can do to release one breath, gulp another and push as hard as I possibly can. Dr. Lomax is cheering me on, and with one last push, Stella gushes out. It is 8:09 pm. There is a moment of complete silence, which I know isn't right. So, I ask if she is OK. Her umbilical cord was very short and ruptured as she was born. Dr. Lomax was a rock star and clamped it off really quickly so she didn't lose too much blood. Her hemoglobin levels were OK after birth so she didn't suffer because of it.

Someone asks Tim what her name is. He looks at me and says, "Stella?" We haven't really discussed the names on our list. We only knew she was going to be a girl 4 hours earlier! "Stella" I agree and there she is, our little Stella Suzanne.

I realize that the room is full of people, and there is a NICU team working on Stella. She is 4 lb 6.9 oz and 17.5 inches long. She scores an 8 on her Apgar after 1 minute and a 9 after 5 minutes. They bring her over to me all bundled up and with a silly little hat on. The nurse explains that they are taking her to the NICU and that she is breathing on her own and doing well. Tim goes with her to help her get settled. Meanwhile, Dr. Lomax is trying to stitch me up. The quick birth meant that my body didn't really get ready for her to pass through the birth canal and there is some damage to repair. The adrenaline rush has left me shaky and I can't keep my legs from trembling. They decide all would go better in the OR, and I will finally get that spinal block. All in all, the OR stitching takes as long as the birthing process and I am finally in recovery at 11pm.

Feeling returns to my legs and I get to go see Stella in the NICU by 1 am. While in recovery, Tim rejoins me and we make calls to family and friends, letting them know the exciting news. Their reactions range from incredulous to ecstatic. Stella Suzanne has arrived!

Three Steps Forward, half step back

Stella is still progressing nicely. She was taken of the IV, no longer has the blue rubi light glowing on her and she's up to 40ml each feeding. Those are the three steps forward. The half step back was her body temp got down to 95.5 for a short while so the nurse brought in the heat lamp and shone it on her, added some warm blankets and turned up the temp in the isolet. Those actions got Stella's temp back up to 98.2 and stable so she's back to having the tempurature probe stuck on her for the time being. I was with her until 9 last night and her temp stayed stable but I didn't get the chance to hold her on my chest as I wanted her to stay in the isolet and keep a stable temp. The exact cause of the temp drop is unknown but best guess is with all of the three changes done to her, Stella needed some time to adjust so no big worries, just a half step back.

Sarah and Stella in the Isolet

Stella's Room

Stella with no IV poked into her leg.

Stella under the heat lamp.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stella the Sophisticate

Stella enjoyed the tunes coming from my iPod today while laying on my chest for a good three hours.  I grabbed all of Sarah's classical CD's and made a playlist out of them so Stella was snoozing to Chopin, breathing to Beethoven and moving to Mozart.
Before doing so I asked the Ped doctor if it was ok to have Stella listen to music and he said yes, actually there's a person who goes around the NICU and plays music to the little tykes.
Since there are no headphones the size of Stella's head, and I wouldn't put headphones on her directly anyway, I put my headphones around my neck so she could hear the tunes through my chest as she lay there.

The Dr. upped Stella's food intake to 30ml, from 20, so another day of food increases which is right on track to her development.  She's doing better on maintiaining her own temperature so that probe was taken off her little foot and the temp in her incubator was turned down.

I forgot to charge the batteries for my camera so I didn't get any photos yesterday.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Glowing Stella

Stella has graduated to 20ml per feeding so she's progressing very well on that front.
One development that's gotten worse is she really looked closer to an oompalumpa today and her biliruben levels indicated it was time for her to be treated with the light. A few days of this light therapy and she'll be none worse for the wear.

Saturday was a busy day for Stella with family members coming in from all over to visit. Grandpa and Grandma Douglas, Grandma and Grandpa Cross along with Aunt Teri and Uncle Mike all came by to shower Stella with their love.