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!!! ( 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.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stella Day Two

Stella is doing spectacular!  She's eating 6mm of milk each feeding already.  She started with 4mm so going to six on day two is a great sign.  Stella's exit pipes are working, both front and back, as we found out today at the 12 noon diaper changing.  That's another good sign.  The ambient temperature in her isolet is down a bit and she's maintining her body tempurature so that's another good sign.
I was able to have kangaroo time with her today and it was one of the best three hours I've spent in my life.  My baby girl naked but a diaper laying on my bare chest with my button down flannel shirt wrapped around the little tyke to keep her warm.  We were both in bliss.  Sarah is being discharged today so we should be home later this evening.
Thank you all for your comments, keep 'em coming.  I'm going to print them out and save them so Stella can read them later in life and see how many great people were rooting her on.
Daddy Kirk

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Welcome Stella Suzanne Kirk to the World!!!

Stella Suzanne Kirk was born yesterday, 1-6-2010, at 8:09 PM weighing in at 4 pounds 7 ounces.
She's doing fine, breathing on her own and even had some breast milk today.
Please post a comment and welcome Stella to our friends and family.

The Proud Parents and Stella

First Feeding today.

Mom changing first diaper
(notice size of mom's hand compared to Stella)

Holding Dad's finger
(notice size of dad's hand compared to Stella)

Stella saying "Hello World"