Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Good To Be Home

It's now been one week, and as I suspected, I'm not only thrilled, but life is a hell of a lot easier with a new baby in my own home.

Travel back in time 8 days to our flight home from Fort Lauderdale. The morning began very early with our friend Aaron, who graciously came by our "home" at 7am before his work day started to help us return his friend's borrowed cradle before taking us to the airport. We'd slept a cumulative, oh, I don't know, 6 hours over the past couple of nights, but that didn't matter when the alarm sounded at 5:30 that morning for me to pump one last time in that space.

After staring at the car seat cluelessly before getting some much needed assistance loading Dylan in, we were off to the races. We've never arrived so early for a flight in our lives, but there we were, almost 3 hours in advance - for a flight delayed 1-1/2 hours. God damned San Francisco weather.

Meanwhile, the pumping continued - in the airport. I got a portable one for milking on-the-go, like the cow that I've become - not like in a fat way - just in a fluids way. Anyway, the pump went out on me when I briefly lost one of the parts in Gate C23. I almost had a nervous breakdown in a bathroom stall where I tried to fix it, as I envisioned my engorged boobs exploding on the plane. It was only by the grace of God that I discovered the only thing standing between me and a pain-free bosom was a stupid little sticker Medela actually considers to be a real part. Thankfully, I had extras of these.

When it came time to board the plane, we encountered the usual dipshits who line up before their section is called. Tell me, if you are not traveling with small children, do not need a wheelchair, and are not part of the airline's elite travel club with a membership of 3 people, why the f*** are you in line? GET OUT OF MY WAY.

Thankfully, once on board, things became remarkably perfect. Dylan flew like a champ, not having a single meltdown. We fed him on takeoff, landing, and once in the middle - and changed him twice. We each watched a movie and napped very (very) briefly. It was oddly the shortest 6-hour flight I've ever experienced (even in spite of the flight attendant who forced me into conversation while waiting for the restroom about her broken acrylic nail and its relative comparison to our past 2 months in Florida - no, really).

My sister picked us up from SFO, and upon walking into our house, we were greeted by my niece, brother-in-law and the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. As we made our way back to the nursery, we saw that furniture had been delivered and headway was being made on setting everything up.

Over the next few days, my sister was nothing short of spectacular as she ran errands, cooked dinners, cleaned the house, and did absolutely anything we asked her to do. This allowed Brad and me to focus on taking care of Dylan and settling into the semblance of a routine with him - and Moby (who was a bit stand-offish when we first arrived, but now loves to hang out in Dylan's room on the rug he seems to think was purchased for him, and lick his "brother's" head)!

I find myself in a situation probably foreign to most new moms - stress-free and well-rested, certainly relative to the past few weeks. Brad and I have worked out a system whereby we switch off the middle of the night and early morning feedings. Dylan is happy with the milk, whatever the source. And I am happy to be pumping only once each day now! (Thank you, Day One lactation consultant.)

We've pounded the pavement pretty much every day - since here, pedestrians can actually walk without fear of being struck by a car. People marvel at the fact that I am already out and about with my little baby - and I tell them they just don't know how easy this really is. Meanwhile, it is true that there seemingly are never enough hours in the day to do all that we need to do. But I look forward to the next day, knowing that we can spend it however we'd like - namely, outside of a hospital.

Indeed, it's good to be home.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The First Night

Last night marked our first with Dylan - and it did not disappoint.

First, it was hilarious that I had to ride out of the hospital with Dylan in a wheelchair upon discharge. I couldn't have imagined I'd have to do this since I didn't deliver there, and the only patient was my son. But apparently, it's a liability issue - they can't risk you walking with your baby. Coincidentally, however, they can risk you being run over in your wheelchair while holding the baby.

Since we're staying across the street from the hospital in their NICU housing, rather than wheeling me to a car and ensuring Dylan's safe delivery into a car seat, they wheeled me to the doorstep of our "home." But unfortunately, there is no crosswalk connecting it to the NICU. Now sure, on my own, I've been jay-walking across, either in broad daylight or the still of the night. But in this instance, I expected to cross safely at the corner light - not to be run across the middle during rush hour like Usain Bolt. Oh well, I suppose that's consistent with Florida's general disregard for basic road safety, including a lack of motorcycle helmet laws and a seemingly "you may or you may not" attitude towards babies in car seats (we've seen an awful lot of babies and small children ridin' dirty Britney style).

Upon entering our room last night post-discharge, it occurred to me that we have a baby - like, for real. And no one else is taking care of him. In theory, this should scare the crap out of me - but I find myself strangely calm in this permanent scenario. Sort of.

It's too bad "calm" doesn't equate to "sleep." I'd always assumed that my lack of sleep would be the result of the baby screaming and crying all night. On the contrary. Dylan, as the nurses and doctors at the hospital pointed out, is (at least for now) a really calm, easy-going baby. He's chill under stress (of which he endured a lot), and his fussing amounts to some mild notes of irritation. The things that bother him are consistent annoyances - such as taking his temperature and changing his diaper (maybe that's why he tried to crap all over me last week). Otherwise, he's pretty good about waking up every 3 hours as the doctors say we should like him to, and it's really no big deal - even in this fourth of strange environments for him (Mount Sinai NICU, 2 different NICU areas at Joe DiMaggio, and now our temporary housing).

So why then, did I not sleep a lick until 7:00 this morning?


With every sound he made during the night, I thought, "Oh my God, are you choking?" With every passing moment of silence, I feared, "You're not breathing!" I was up out of bed, right next to his borrowed, pink cradle, staring and listening for sounds of healthy life at least 10-15 times, like a deranged lunatic. Blurry eyed, I was struck by the illusion that he was rolling farther to one side of the cradle, soon to suffocate on its edge. Then I observed his head position obsessively, concerned that his chin was resting on his chest and cutting off his breath.

Damn those monitors at the hospital for sounding every cue of life - now the only monitor I have is my instinct, which has run wild with self-inflicted drama.

Hopefully, I'll fair a little bit better tonight, knowing that he made it safely under our watch. And this time tomorrow, the only monitor I'll be cognizant of is the one installed in his nursery - at home.

At long last.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We're Leaving...On a Jet Plane...

...We don't know when we'll be back again...

I'm not sure there's much to this post aside from...


Assuming all stays the course, Dylan will be cleared for discharge tomorrow. Yes, we already have plane tickets in hand. We'll be returning to San Francisco on Friday, to give ourselves a couple of days to settle in with Dylan outside of a hospital. Meanwhile, my sister, brother-in-law and niece are driving up from LA tomorrow with Moby! Many thanks to them, the Presners and the Minniears, with whom Moby lived a true leisureman's lifestyle for 2 months. How we will replicate 2-hour day hikes, I have no idea, but we'll do our best to accommodate his needs.

So naturally, having been here at Joe DiMaggio for 3 weeks, we're doing everything necessary for discharge in this single day (despite having tried in vain to get some of this stuff done a week ago). And once he is discharged tomorrow, he's all ours until we leave on Friday. Please note that we will continue to stay across the street from the hospital, just in case - and it's not Dylan I'm worried about, by the way.

But really, we feel comfortable with him, and the real challenge is now behind us, of course! Sure, it won't be necessarily awesome living in a double occupancy hotel room, packing up all of the additional things we've had to procure on this trip and getting to the airport 3 hours early Friday morning - but it will get us home - and that's all that matters at this point. Will things be perfect when we get there? Not even close. We will just barely have nursery furniture, if we're lucky (mind you, we ordered this at the end of August). Boxes belonging to Dylan are strewn all over the house. The collection of mail will be scary. And our alarm system may or may not work, considering that it was apparently set off by "sunlight" or "a giant bug" the other day (but that's what Moby is for).

So wish us luck over the next few days as we gather our lives and begin to look (fondly?) upon this journey as a distant memory, never to be forgotten!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ice Cream, Vodka and...Breast Milk

The following words were actually uttered to us today:

"If he keeps this up, you guys could be home by the end of the week."

Dylan, please keep this up.

And by "this," I mean eating 45 cc's. After 24 hours straight of 40 cc intakes, he was raised to the next (possibly final) threshold. The PICC line in his head (much less invasive than it looked) was removed early this morning, and he's only on a 2 mL/hr TPN drip (it started out at more than 12 mL/hr). Even this is likely to be dropped completely tomorrow.

I'm really beginning to think in terms of heading home, now. So in the saga that is my breast milk production, we've been researching how to get my product back to California. Currently, I produce significantly more milk than Dylan consumes - roughly 600 cc's pumped daily, only 360 of which he is now fed. Bear in mind that his consumption is up significantly over the past couple of weeks, and I am a supply side economist's dream. In the meantime, I've been storing my vast quantities of milk in the NICU freezer, and God only knows how much is there - but suffice it to say - A LOT. So it looks like I'll be Fed-Ex'ing the harvest home on dry ice in multiple coolers, since breast milk keeps for basically an eternity and can be used for future feedings when my boob is not available (not that he has quite taken to that yet - baby steps). Where we're going to store all of this when we get home, I don't know. The lactation consultant seems to think that a deep freezer will do the trick - because you know, San Francisco homes are so spacious as to accommodate such a thing. I mean, we'll just toss the giant meat container in our garage...or shed...or...oh, wait...we don't have any of these things. Oh well, looks like the milk will have to find a home next to the ice cream and vodka in our freezer drawer.

Keeping the promise we made to ourselves Friday night, we hit up Chili's tonight for dinner (last night we were at a friend's house for football, featuring lasagna and other assorted delights - thank you!). Tell me, when did the serving sizes at Chili's get bigger? I'm not sure when I was there last, but I immediately recognized the increased plate size - not to mention, Brad's dish featured what had to be an entire can of black beans (lucky me). The dessert - Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie - had also doubled in size, up from a square to a rectangle (and apparently packing more calories than a rack of the chain's baby back ribs). Even the 600 calories I'm burning each day from pumping can't save me from this gluttony. At least I'm moving about normally now so I can burn those extra 50 calories walking to and from the hospital each day.

Still on the agenda before this journey ends - a mani/pedi/eyebrow wax in Broward County. Recommendations welcome.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Projectile Friday

The time was approximately 5:10 pm this afternoon.

It all began innocently enough with "touch time," which is when we have the opportunity to take Dylan's temperature, clean him up a bit and change his diaper. We've been very careful on this last bit, having been warned by many about the spraying mantis. So as we've done every single time, I prepared his new diaper perfectly, ready and waiting to be slid under him as I wiped him clean and lubed him up with vaseline. Then suddenly, like a drive-by I turned to toss the dirty diaper on the scale (they like to weigh the damage)...the front flap of his clean diaper fell down to unleash the rat-tat-tat-tat of his precision-like piss.

"AAAGGGGHHHH, NO, NO!!" I screamed, desperately but futilely attempting to stop the rain with my eyes.

Then came the final insult.

He projectile shat all over his crib.


Grainy mustard slid down the glass onto his blanket, leaking onto the nurse's stethoscope.

Stunned, Brad and I stood at the scene of the damage. Then, in walked the nurse.

"Oh good," I thought. "She's seen this a million times. It's no big deal."

Cut to nurse:

(Reeling back)
"OH CHRIST! Dana, the parents in 10 have an explosion, can you take Greene in Room 8 RIGHT NOW?!?!"

Oh well, I guess poo is gross, no matter who you are. But on a positive note, the day's outfit was totally unsoiled.

After that little scene, Dylan's schedule was completely thrown off base. Already exhausted by another round of tests today to prove his slow feeding is the result of age and a fickle palate, and not a congenital or surgical problem, he was now an hour behind for dinner - and thus, so were we. With this being the first night we had to fend totally for ourselves (my mom flew back to LA yesterday, when the NICU hosted a holiday dinner for all current and former patients and families), we found ourselves lost in the cuisine of Hollywood, FL.

So we went to T.G.I. Friday's.

I'd been to a T.G.I. Friday's more recently than I'd been to an IHOP, but not much. And like IHOP, I had some fond memories of T.G.I. Friday's - most notably, their always-on-point Roy Rogers and inexpensive yet satisfying baby back ribs.

When we sat down, my eyes watered as I began reading page 1 of the 10-page "menu." The dishes all sounded the same by the time I reached page 5. How many Cajun Jack Daniels delights can there possibly be?! Flipping forwards and backwards, I finally settled on a "Fan Favorite" (no, seriously) - the Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Pasta.

Unashamed, I was hoovering my way through the pasta (Brad foolishly ordered some sort of pecan-crusted salmon with rice and vegetables - WHATever) when we noticed a group of 4 big dudes walk in. One was clad in a tshirt that read, "The Rules Do Not Apply To Me." The rules of fashion? No, they do not.

Shortly behind them entered a group of 6 women draped in the Forever 21 clearance rack. One of them modeled a shirt proclaiming, "Never Say Never." Sure, I guess enough beers can create magic for anyone.

Groups of men and women like this flowed into the joint for the next 20 minutes. Apparently, they were all at Friday's for the same birthday party - perhaps for "Never Say Never," but we're not totally sure. What we are sure of is that they'd hired a "professional" photographer to capture the event. Read: someone's cousin Ray-Ray.

They flaunted their goods, including gold-plated man bracelets and donkey tail hair weaves, and posed for the camera in every way imaginable - solos, all the men, all the ladies, liquor shots - you name it. Ray-Ray got every precious moment - and so did we, as we devoured our Brownie Explosion.

Next door to Friday's sit the two other restaurants comprising the perfect date night trifecta - Chili's and Red Lobster. And if we're feeling a little saucy, there's a Hooter's down the road.

Guess where we'll be tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tell Me, What Is a Lingonberry?

I'd always wondered what a lingonberry was. And now I know, it's not just a mythical berry grown in the kitchens of IHOP. It's a real fruit!

On Sunday morning, I indulged in one of my favorite breakfasts of all time - IHOP Swedish Lingonberry Crepes. Apparently, they're authentic! It had been years since I'd stepped foot inside an IHOP, but upon seeing one on our first drive "home" from Joe DiMaggio Hospital, I knew it was time to put an end to the chain pancake drought. And it did not disappoint - from the food to the service to the other patrons.

Take note of the customer, dining with her extended family of 8, who sent her food back at least 5 times because it wasn't "dry enough." Excuse me, but if you don't want butter or oil anywhere near your food, IHOP is probably not a great choice. When asked by the staff upon leaving if everything wound up being okay, she responded, "No - but what can I do?" I'll tell you what you can do - not eat at IHOP!!

Then there was the man who made every meal on the IHOP menu a personal heart attack creation. I'm pretty sure by the time he was done ordering, he had added caramel sauce and whipped cream to bacon and hash browns, cooked in extra butter. To each his own.

In the past couple of days since that trip, we've been pretty singularly focused on coming home. We certainly do not want to push Dylan, but this past week was frustrating because the Neo-Natologist on call seemed to have some very...unusual...ideas for his course of treatment that seemed to hint at an inexplicable desire for our family to remain in Florida. The goal, of course, is to keep working up his bottle feeding while diminishing and ultimately eliminating his IVs. Well, she was very resistant to increasing his bottle feedings, and when she did, actually increased his IV intake. I'm no doctor, but it seems like common sense not to stuff the boy, else he's going to have a harder time eating. This is also the same doc who scared us after his feeding test by suggesting he'd need to wait 6 weeks before flying - then attempted to pick us up off the floor by saying, "You can always drive back - I've done it in 2-1/2 days - although he can't stay in a car seat for too long." Thanks.

Apparently, we weren't the only ones to question the Neo. The nurses subtly questioned her approach, and this week's on-call Neo dramatically changed course, dropping his IVs and increasing his feedings. He is now on trajectory to increase feedings every 12 hours by 5 cc's, which is fantastic. He's at 30 now, and the goal is to get him to 45-50 for 48 hours straight. Thus, the bull in me says let's get on a plane home next Monday. Of course, we'll have a better idea over the next couple of days. But we need to come home soon if for no reason other than the fact that my mom is heading back to LA on Thursday, and we can't survive that long without her.

Today, we enjoyed lunch with Brad's Uncle Jack - delayed after last week's bout with infection. It was definitely a treat to discover good Mexican food in Florida (I've always been skeptical) - even if the waitress did originally mistake a Roy Rogers for a Shirley Temple. All was forgiven by the time I took that first bite of fried ice cream. Thank you, Uncle Jack!

California, here we come...please...right? Right??

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Eat, Pump, Feed

Today marked a very strong turning point for Dylan (and us). First, he was moved to a pretty, open crib and is now dressed daily in stylish outfits! But even more momentous, Brad and I were finally able to get Dylan to feed with us as well as he has fed with the nurses.

It was a little frustrating for the past few days to hear that Dylan had taken so many cc's in so (relatively) few minutes with each nurse...and then when we'd get there, he'd lazily hold the bottle in his mouth and go to sleep. I suppose I should be happy he's so relaxed with us, but we ain't gettin' outta Florida like that.

So today, we decided to stop listening to every single nurse's individual piece of advice, and start doing what feels right to us - easier said than done. When you have no idea what the hell you're doing with a baby - much less a newborn - and even much less a preemie...well, that's a scary notion.

But on that note, there's been no better place to learn what to do with your baby than a NICU, let me tell you! I already know so much more than I ever did - and you should see Brad work a diaper now - wow.

Meanwhile, in the adventures of pumping, I've discovered something frightening and seemingly impossible. I am hungrier now than ever before. The breast pump is challenging my metabolism to a wrestling match in my stomach, and it's wearing me out. This is why you have to keep taking vitamins after the delivery - otherwise, you'd die.

It goes something like this every day:

-Pump at 7am
-Go back to sleep
-Pump whenever I wake up next
-Eat breakfast
-Go to the hospital (realize I should have eaten breakfast again)
-I'm starving
-Eat a man-sized meal
-Leave the hospital
-I'm hungry, eat again
-It's dinner, time to eat like a man again
-Go back to the hospital
-Bedtime snack

Wish Dylan, me and our household budget luck with all the feeding.