Saturday, March 30, 2013

Colton Samuel | Month Two at a Glance

::   Month Two was boring.
::   ::   Wants to snuggle all day long
::   ::   ::   Can hold his head up
::   ::   Loves to support his own weight when mommy and daddy hold him
::   His eyes will probably remain a beautiful shade of blue
::   ::   Enjoys watching his expressions in the mirror that hangs on his playmat.
::   ::   ::   Smiles more all the time but rarely for the camera
::   ::   Weighed in at 13 pounds, 8 ounces at 8 weeks old

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

And They Lived Happily Ever After

It was five years ago today that the shy blond girl humored the obnoxious goofball soldier boy by accepting his facebook friend request. Before she could even realize what was happening he had become her absolute best friend. Two months later on a serene lakeside with rain gently falling as the setting sun painted the clouds in gold and crimson, he professed a love so great that he did not wish to spend his life without her. She said yes, he gave her his name and together they have made a life, a love and a family that grows sweeter every day as best friends and lovers.

I didn't believe in fairy tales and happily-ever-afters until that silly soldier boy insisted I accept his friend request and then made me fall in love with him.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Colton's Story--the Facebook Edition

 January 30, 9:30PM
Colton Samuel born tonight at 6:29. A chubby 8 pounds, 7 ounces, 21 1/2 inches long. We're so happy!!!
::  ::  :: 

January 30, 10:45PM
Not sure how one is supposed to sleep with this much chubby cuteness to snuggle
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January 31, 1:00AM
Single ladies, word of warning: finding a guy who always makes you laugh is over rated... At least after delivering said-man's child.

::  ::  ::

February 1, 1:45PM
Our sweet little Colton is very sick. His lungs aren't working as they should and tests and x rays have so far been inconclusive. Your prayers for our precious bundle's healing as well as wisdom for us and the medical staff means so much to us.
::  ::  ::
February 2, 12:30AM
As sad as he looks, it is so good to see him resting finally. That's his biggest need right now. He most likely has pneumonia and it can take as long as 4 days (48 hours from now) to see noticeable improvement with the antibiotics.
 ::  ::  ::
February 2, 9:00AM
No parent ever wants to see their child leave in one of these, but for Colton it actually put our minds at ease. He was transferred to Rochester this morning after his conditioned took a turn for the worse at 3am. They're optimistic of a swift recovery.
 ::  ::  ::
February 2, 11:00AM
This February drive to Rochester is major de ja vu of 14 years ago when my baby sister was born there. Happy Birthday, Tabby! ♥
::  ::  ::
February 2, 5:45PM
Just want everyone to know that Colton is like a brand new baby. I'll try to adequately update more later. We can't have our phones on while with him, so I apologize to those who have called, texted or otherwise waited for updates. We're not ignoring you. Thanks so much for all your prayers. Keep them coming... Colton is going to be well soon! :)
::  ::  ::
February 2, 8:30PM
So this is the last shot I took of Colton this evening before saying goodbye and heading to a hotel where I think I will FINALLY be able to sleep knowing my little man is in good and fully capable hands. A completely different baby than the one I had in my arms this morning who was struggling so bad.

To recap, I was awakened at around 3:30 by the pediatrician saying that Colton had taken a turn for the worse and he felt they needed to transfer. As gut-wrenching as it was to hear that he was worse, it was also a relief to know that he was finally going to get the care he needed so bad and that I had really begun to want for him yesterday. Andy and I rushed immediately to his side only to find about every nurse on staff trying to get him to relax enough to not exhaust himself. The only thing that calmed him was me holding him, but even that wasn't offering him as much relief as he so desperately needed in the 2 hour wait for the transfer. As soon as the Rochester pediatric team marched in the doors it became a completely different atmosphere. In no time they had him calmed, assessed, and a plan in motion, all the while keeping us informed. They sedated him and put him on a respirator to give him a break and ensure a safe 2 hour drive to Rochester on very icy roads. By the time Andy and I got to Rochester (about 2 hours after Colton had arrived), the baby sprawled out contentedly in his bed the same way his big brother sleeps was a complete night and day difference than the baby I had in my arms just hours earlier. AND he was already off of the respirator (which we aren't to be too concerned should they have to put it back on--it isn't as bad as it sounds as it will help his lungs heal quicker if he is wearing himself out). As soon as he heard our voices his eyes opened and he turned his face to us and listened intently. That little inquisitive face of his gets me every time. The nurse commented on how much his numbers were improving just with us being with him. When we got there they were giving him 40% oxygen, and when we left he was down to 26% and his respirations were looking better by the time we left (of course, this fluctuates a lot and all his bad turns have come about during the night, however I think it might be safe to hope that we don't have to fear that with the expert hands he's in now). They not only "let" me hold him, but they encouraged it.

It was so comforting to be introduced to the people working with him--a NICU pediatrician who specializes in preemies (who always have lung problems) and who also happened to be one of Tabby's doctors, a resident doctor, a nurse practitioner, a respiratory therapist not to mention all the competent nurses.... and you know they're all the best of the best considering this is Mayo Clinic Rochester we're talking about. They all gathered around and explained what they're seeing in Colton and how they think it's pnuemonia but it is very treatable and he will be just fine probably by this time next week. They're looking at a possible date of Wednesday (at the very earliest) for going home. The respiratory therapist also thinks the reason we're seeing such a huge improvement so quickly is because as he was removing the respirator Colton was able to cough out a lot of the fluid he had in his lungs.

So that's where things are at. I'm hoping and praying that they will be able to get him off the CPAP soon and we can start working on nursing. For now though I'm going to go to bed and sleep better than I have in a long time.
::  ::  ::

February 3, 4:00AM

I think my heart will need an hour or two to calm down from being woken up by Colton's pediatrician for the second night in a row, around the same time that Colton's condition has worsened in every night of his life so far. But the first words out of her mouth were, "Colton is doing great...." And then she went on to explain the nature of her call. He is doing so well they took him off c-pap and on to a regular oxygen canula to see how he does. They may have to switch him back but for now he's doing very well..... JUST VERY HUNGRY and they want to get some breast milk in his tummy!!! And she just wondered how I would prefer they go about doing that. So we decided on going with a stomach tube for now and providing he's still doing good oxygen-wise, we will start breast feeding when I get there in the morning. Oh my, last time I felt this euphoric was the moment I held that little boy in my arms for the first time. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer (and the incredible medical staff here in Rochester :)) and I wish I could tell you how overwhelmingly grateful to each and every one of the hundreds of people who have upheld our little baby in prayer. Thank you SO MUCH. Your continued prayers are so appreciated. ♥
::  ::  ::
February 3, 8:30AM
Colton is sleeping and happily breathing room air all on his own!
::  ::  ::
February 3, 7:00 PM
Content after a good first time nursing
::  ::  ::
February 3, 10:30PM
Day four of this little man's life and he had all the pretty nurses gushing over his chubby adorable-ness. We all had a fantastic day. Colton spent the entire day completely off oxygen. He slept a lot and is still breathing a bit hard but his numbers remained fantastic all day. We even got to close the day out with a very successful nursing. Do you have any idea how happy I am??? Jimmy finally got to hold him and it was pretty adorable--just as had been previously predicted :). When Colton was awake, he was very interactive. We got to become more acquainted with his completely cute little personality. He kept smiling.... and so did his mamma! Oh my, I can't stand how cute he is!!
::  ::  ::
February 4, 10:45PM
Colton's day 5 update is boring, and that's because like yesterday, he's continuing to improve! He nurses, he gets very mad if someone were to suggest that a pacifier is just as good as what mom has for him, he smiles at mom and dad, he keeps the nurses busy with non-life threatening things like continually having to change his bedding and clothes because he likes to pee... Yes, he's getting better every day. Tomorrow's plan is to primarily nurse. We are so thrilled! In other news, we are now out of our cheap allergy-inducing hotel and set up at the Ronald McDonald House, just walking distance from our baby. And let me just say, the Ronald McDonald House is an incredible charity. We truly feel like we have a very comfortable, beautiful home away from home here. Thanks so much for the continued thoughts and prayers. We sure feel your support. ♥
::  ::  :: 
February 5, 9:30AM
Phone call of the morning at the earliest possible hour of convenience by a desperate nurse: "is there any way you could get here early? Colton does not want his feeding tube. He wants his mom." :) 
::  ::  ::
 February 5, 4:00PM
Milk coma-ness
::  ::  ::
February 5, 10:20PM
Basically the only thing I did today was sit and stare at my own perfect real live baby doll... And nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse. :) He has such a little personality that has me and all the nurses wrapped right around his little finger and pinky toe. Tonight as he was waking up from a very deep milk coma I started talking to him and he peeped at me with one eye and shyly smiled. His smiles got bigger the more he woke up and the more I talked to him. The nurse from last night came by and was telling me what a little trouble maker he was for her. I happened to glance down at him in my arms and there he sat grinning away at his own mischief.
The update for tonight is he will most likely have his feeding tube removed tomorrow. It hasn't been used since this morning and they are giving him bottles when I am not there, so providing he doesn't wear himself out with this new form of food consumption he will have no need for that cord. The even better piece of news is that the official plan is now to be discharged and headed home Thursday morning. His last round of antibiotics is tomorrow night and after that we're in the home stretch. Literally. Providing, of course, there are no unforeseen complications that arise.
While staring at my precious, healthy bundle I couldn't help but once again feel overwhelmingly grateful for the hundreds of prayers that have been lifted up on this little man's behalf. I wish I could find a way to adequately express just how grateful I am to each and every one of you.
 ::  ::  ::
February 6, 9:30AM
Look who doesn't have a feeding tube!
::  ::  ::

February 6, 8:30PM
I love how he crossed his eyes and waved at the camera.... He's a stinker just like his dad.
::  ::  ::
February 6, 9:00PM
ONE WEEK OLD!! And what a week it has been. Accomplishments for the day: No more feeding tube, voracious appetite, increase in weight gain, and plenty of smiles for his mommy and daddy. He gets so happy when I get there in the mornings, it is so adorable. One of the nurses told me, "he sure loves his mommy." Yep, I knew that. :) Tonight he receives his last round of antibiotics at 10 which means his IV gets to then come out, and even better, it means we will be discharged after rounds in the morning and a final assessment. We are so happy and indeed so blessed.
::  ::  ::
February 6, 9:00PM
We told him he gets to go home to Jimmy tomorrow. :)
::  ::  ::
February 7, 1:45PM
Homeward bound

Friday, March 1, 2013

Surrounded by Mercy, Protected by Prayer

I have a blank screen before me that I intend to fill with the details of the birth of Colton Samuel, yet I'm muddled by the task of sorting my own thoughts and knowing where to begin. In my mind, there is so much more to the story than the story itself that I feel I could write a book; one birth experience where nothing particularly unusual happened, and the subsequent week of hospitals and fears and melt downs and grace. Indeed, little Colton's arrival taught me so much more about myself, about patience, about mercy, about perspective, but mostly... About faith. This will be long and messy, but pardon me while I one-handedly sort my thoughts out on this virtual sheet of paper.

Little Colton's arrival threw me for so many loops I'm still a bit of a tangled mess. I thought I would maybe be dilated to 1 at my 37-week appointment, but nope: I was dilated to 4. I thought I knew what real labor felt like and I would never go to the hospital needlessly, but nope: I did the whole false labor thing. I thought I would never consider my midwife's suggestion throughout my pregnancy of rupturing my water at 39 weeks to ensure a safe delivery in the hospital instead of a snowy roadside given my history, but nope: at 39 weeks and 1 day I was requesting it. I didn't think I would get my dream water birth experience, but yep: I did. I thought he would be 7 pounds, 8 ounces (okay, so I might have put a little too much stock in some of my vivid pregnancy dreams), but nope: he was 8 pounds, 7 ounces. I thought with all my healthy diet habits and extra vitamins I would surely have a perfectly healthy baby home within the mandatory 48 hours, but nope: his little lungs would work so hard to maintain his oxygen levels he would be in Special Care and NICU for 8 days immediately following his birth. I thought that I was in control, but nope: I was not.

At 1pm on January 30th I had my water broke. Being over 39 weeks pregnant, dilated to 6, baby at -2 station, a ridiculously fast labor history, a forecast of winter weather advisories, the midwife we loved being on call, a night of heavy labor activity and still feeling crampy, it became apparent that this was the wise thing to do.

My memory of time is a bit skewed of that day, but according to photo time stamps and a contraction app on my phone, by 5pm I was in active labor with hard contractions every 2 minutes or less. Laboring in water was indeed everything it's cracked up to be. The pain management was incredible.

My husband was my sweet anchor throughout. I squeezed the life out of his poor hands. He was so awesome--Except for the point when he asked if it was time for him to play Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". Being mid-contraction my nurse voiced my opinion stating that if he dared she would give him a ring of fire. I tried not to laugh as I focused on breathing my way through that contraction.

My midwife couldn't have been more perfect. I so appreciated how she trusted me and my body to bring my baby into the world without telling me how to breathe, when to or not to push. She completely let me do it my way and I had the birth experience I spent my entire pregnancy fantasizing of but never imagined I would get. I will love her forever for that!

At 6:29 PM little Colton was loudly yelling his protest in my arms and I was completely enthralled with this new little person to love. I couldn't believe that I just did that. All by myself. 
And oh my gosh, what a chunk he was!! 8 pounds, 7 ounces, 21 1/2 inches long, and chubby. I could tell he was going to be bigger than Jimmy was (even though there was only a 4 day gestational difference), but not by nearly two pounds!! I would become so grateful that my baby had all this extra chunkiness to help pull him through the long week ahead.

In the hours immediately following Colton's birth, the nurses were becoming more and more concerned with his signs of respiratory distress. What I thought were normal little newborn squeaks and grunts spelled difficulty breathing to them. They explained that he was breathing against something which was that little extra "umph" he put into each breath which was concerning. With his color being good and his oxygen levels remaining just high enough to indicate he was probably fine they decided to simply monitor him every hour. As the night wore on his respirations began to increase. You see, they expect a newborn to be at about 30-60 breaths-per-minute, but Colton was beginning to pant as high as 130 while his oxygen levels were dipping lower and lower. They ordered labs and a chest x-ray. The x-ray came back questionable so the pediatrician had him admitted to Special Care.

The pediatrician explained that it could be any number of things--Group B Strep, immature lungs, transient tachypnea (TTN--retained fetal lung fluid), pneumonia, etc. He said it would take follow-up lab work to adequately determine his condition, but in the likelihood of it being infection he wanted to get him started on antibiotics immediately. I sat shaking in my chair, the after-pains of childbirth now replaced by overwhelming shock and worry for my fragile newborn son. This wasn't supposed to be happening to him! This only happens to other peoples' children! This was not in my plans! I didn't pack for this! I watched as an oxygen dome was placed over his head and he was hooked up to monitors. I thought I would suffocate when I heard his painful cries as the IV was inserted. A dull sense of guilt set in. I thought surely this was my fault, and I second-guessed every decision and choice I had made over the last 40 weeks.

We spent the first night of his life restlessly dozing in uncomfortable recliners right next to his bed. He seemed so uncomfortable and I just wanted to hold him and somehow make him all better. I wished I could have him back in my womb where he was safe and secure and close to me. I was so grateful when the shift change brought about a perfect, knowledgeable, motherly angel of a nurse. She got him situated to be so much more comfortable and set his oxygen up with a nasal canula. She was even able to reduce his oxygen to simply room air and his numbers were staying favorable. She constantly explained exactly what they were doing, what was going on and what sort of things they wanted to see. She got me set up with a breast pump and then she offered to let me hold my baby. Oh my, how I loved her! His numbers greatly improved while I cuddled his chubby little self close to me.

Colton was incredibly responsive to his mommy and daddy's voices. It was so obvious he loved to have us near and talking to him, and he especially loved to be held. He made it so hard for me to ever leave his side or to concede to putting him back in his uncomfortable bed. I snapped this photo with my phone and in the days to come I would often look back at this photo believing that somehow someday I would have my precious, alert and content baby boy back.

It seemed we were constantly getting conflicting information from the pediatricians and nurses. The first pediatrician was fairly certain it was infection judging by the slightly elevated CRP (C-reactive protein) in his blood work, the next pediatrician on call was unconcerned by the fact that his CRP levels were getting higher and was pretty confident it was "simply" TTN combined with under-developed lungs. Every x-ray and lab draw were yielding inconclusive results. They kept telling us not to worry, even though they didn't know what was wrong he really was going to be just fine.

Jimmy got to come and meet his little brother, but it was brief, and of course not the initial meeting everyone had anticipated throughout the entire pregnancy. Little Colton in a tangle of wires and hoses and tubes in his heated bed, and Jimmy peeking at him from the height of his daddy's arms. Poor Jimmy was so confused. His clear joy just to be with his mom and dad sent pangs to my heart. I missed him so bad and I wanted to be with him too. Watching his happy curly blond self leave with his grandma initiated my first meltdown of the whole ordeal.

That night I went to Colton's room to kiss him goodnight before I went to get some much-needed sleep. I found him to be struggling. They had his oxygen turned up, yet his respirations were very high while his blood oxygen level remained low. I couldn't stand to leave him like that so I asked to do kangaroo care with him. They got us both comfortably situated and observed his numbers as he snuggled up on my chest. They were impressed so they left us to doze and snuggle together for hours. It felt so good to have that closeness until even that got to be too much for him and I had to return him to his bed.. 

When I got up after a couple hours of sleep the following morning, I felt hopeful that I would find my baby much improved. I went straight to his bed and felt my optimism fade into heart-wrenching worry. He was not better. I tried to choke back tears as I informed my husband that Colton was in fact worse. They were changing his oxygen to CPAP--a stronger, more-pressurized form of oxygen. The nurse informed us that his CRP was higher, then the pediatrician again brushed it off as not an indication of anything (granted, he was still receiving antibiotics in the event of an infection). We were so confused.

Colton was clearly miserable. The CPAP set-up was awkward and clumsy, constantly slipping out of place and forcing his head to stay in one position. His bed was a mess of wires and hoses and everything was tangled. Simple tasks like changing his diaper required more than one pair of hands. We were scared, frustrated and worried sick. We put out a request for prayer on facebook and immediately were overwhelmed with the response. Hundreds of people were lifting our baby up in prayer, they were sharing our story and asking their churches to pray too. The support we felt was a source of strength as we walked this journey. 

Our moms came and stayed with us that day and helped us sort out our thoughts and questions. It seemed to us that he would do better if he were receiving a higher level of care. We asked the pediatrician to get a second opinion on Colton's condition and treatment. She contacted Rochester's elite Mayo clinic and was assured that they were treating our baby's condition as they should be, however, should anything change for the worse they felt it would best if he were transferred there.

At 4am I was awakened by the (new on-call) pediatrician stating that Colton was worse and he felt it was time to transfer. My husband and I rushed to Colton's room to find every available nurse at his bed trying to stabilize him. He was crying and so tense. It would take 2 hours for the Rochester pediatric team to arrive and while I stood there with his little hand wrapped around my finger trying to soothe him with my voice one of the nurses (bless her!) suggested that "maybe his mom should hold him." A tall office chair was wheeled behind me while they adjusted his chords and placed him in my arms. He instantly became calmer, though he still intermittently cried and struggled hard. I knew it was very serious with the way the doctor kept coming in, soberly observing him and the monitors and asking the nurses to let him know immediately of any changes. He was concerned Colton was becoming too exhausted to breathe on his own. Everyone seemed so helpless as each countless minute dragged by.

And then Rochester arrived. Their entrance could not have been any more enhanced by trumpets sounding and white doves flying out in slow motion. They came in with such a presence that spelled nothing short of relief for us. In no time Colton was calmed, assessed, and a treatment plan for the 2-hour trip on icy roads made. They were confident, detailed and very friendly. They were very confident of a swift recovery and return to complete health. It felt like we were putting our baby in the care of the most dedicated guardian angels God ever created. 

They sedated Colton and got him on a respirator. We kissed his brave, sweet and still little self goodbye and they whisked him off. Before we left to gather our things and head off to Rochester, my husband gratefully shook the pediatrician's hand and expressed our gratitude for wisely making that call for our baby.

On our way to Rochester feeling like the weight of the last several days was finally lifted, I had my final hormonal, severely sleep-deprived melt down. Andy asked if I was okay. "Yes," I sniffled, "Our baby is in an ambulance on his way to Rochester and I'm crying because I miss Jimmy!" It felt good to have tears finally unrelated to fear for my sick and helpless infant. 

When we arrived to the children's hospital in Rochester, we were met by incredibly kind staff and they showed us into his tiny room. The baby lying all sprawled out on the bed was a completely different baby than the struggling one I had in my arms just hours ago. For the first time in his life he actually looked comfortable. He was off the respirator already, on a more mild form of CPAP and the numbers on the monitor so much more improved. They sat us down and the pediatrician, resident doctor, nurse practitioner, respiratory therapist and registered nurses explained to us what they thought his diagnosis was, how quickly we could expect to see even more improvement, when they might be able to introduce nursing and when he would likely be home. With his x-ray up on the screen they told us they were pretty confident it was pneumonia, especially considering his elevated CRP. They said that there's no reason they can explain why he has it, but every once in awhile this happens to perfectly healthy full term babies. Relief washed over me as I finally received closure that this was not my fault. The respiratory therapist said that the reason we already see such a dramatic improvement could be because the respirator giving him a little break helped bring his energy back. Also, when the respirator was removed Colton coughed up an incredible amount of fluid which made it easier now for him to breathe.

I may have had to brush a tear or two away when the sweetest nurse in the world put my baby in my arms and assured me I could hold him anytime I wanted to. She said he was already significantly improving just with us being there and she continued to turn his oxygen down throughout the rest of the day.

In the days that followed we were wow'd over and over again as we watched him return to complete health. The nurses loved having such a big, cuddly baby in their care (all the other babies in his nursery were preemies). They were always so careful to keep him comfortable and he was never left to cry alone. I actually felt okay to leave him at night because I knew he was going to get the tender loving care he needed! They took almost as much joy in each little improvement as we did. 

It was overwhelming to see how prayer was answered. We got to come home as soon as his antibiotic treatment was complete--February 7. We are eternally grateful for Rochester's Children's Hospital and the love and care Colton received there. And I really wish there was a way I could adequately express my gratitude for every prayer offered on our behalf. 

For this child we prayed and God heard our prayer and answered.