Saturday, October 25, 2008

Project Nursery Part 3

We're hoping Gabrielle will be home sometime in the next few weeks which means I really need to finish the girls' nursery. DH and I tackled some of it last week so now there are just some little things left to do. I have to wash all of the sheets and the changing pad covers and we're missing the curtains and some art for the walls but overall, I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out.

I didn't really have a theme for the room but I wanted a fun, funky space that would grow with the girls so I used a lot of bright colors and went with sleek modern furniture.

The cribs are Oeuf Classic and I had the bedding custom made by Oh Petit Bebe. I cannot rave enough about the work Sara did. For two bumpers, two crib skirts and a reversible comforter, I paid $210, which is way more than I would have spent had I bought two sets at a store and because I bought the fabric, it's exactly what I wanted. Here's a close up of the fabrics I picked -- the floral is for the bumpers, the polka dot for the crib skirts and the embroidered linen will be for the curtains which my mother is generously making for us.

The quality of the bedding from Oh Petit Bebe is terrific and Sara was super easy to work with. She makes everything from fitted sheets to Boppy covers and I highly recommend her if you're looking to have something custom made.

Our glider is by Monte and I absolutely love it! It's so comfortable and the microfiber will be easy to clean. The floor tiles are Toy Poodle by Flor in Fluffy Fuschia, Lala Lime, Zozo Yellow, Lush Lilac, Toto Teal and Fifi Orange. DH and I love floor tiles because you can create a unique look for your space and if one gets stained or ruined you can replace it with another. We have them in our dining room, office and entry hall too.

Our dresser/changing table is Babi Italia Scandi from Babies R Us. I like that it has drawers and a cabinet with shelving -- that means room for lots of goodies!

I've been looking everywhere for a bright lacquered mirror to go over the changing table. I finally found an antique frame that I'm going to paint and use with a mirror instead. The style is similar to this one but it will either be a bright teal or lilac.

Here's some of the artwork we've hung in the room so far. I had a wall quote -- Precious ones so small and sweet, dancing in on angels' feet, straight from heaven's brightest star, what miracles you truly are. -- screen printed onto two canvases by Etsy member GeeZees. Stephanie did a phenomenal job and she has tons of other great stuff in her shop.

And I found this adorable piece by Etsy seller thehomespunraven which I think is perfect for twins girls.
We also put this wall decal of a colorful tree up next to the cribs. Quite a few sites carry it but we got ours from Land of Nod.

Last but not least, I saw these butterflies at Pottery Barn Kids and loved the idea of them but wasn't crazy about the patterns so I found an Etsy seller who made a bunch for me to match the nursery. They're going to go on the wall with the tree and the canvases. I'm hoping to put them up tomorrow and will post pics then.

So that's Gabrielle & Alaina's nursery so far. I can't wait until the girls are home to enjoy it!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting Bigger By the Day

Since her surgery, Alaina has been fed via TPN, which is intravenous, since her intestines needed to heal. On Saturday, the doctors decided to start giving her nourishment through a feeding tube again. She started out getting .5 cc's of Pedialyte every hour and on Sunday they started her on formula and breast milk. Since she lost so much of her small intestine, the challenge is to see how much of the milk she's getting she's able to digest. Alaina will continue to get TPN until the doctors see that her small intestine is working properly and she's getting enough nutrients from the milk to sustain her so it feels a bit like we're back where we were three weeks ago hoping she'll tolerate her feeds. It's going to be long process but hopefully the small intestine she has left will be able to do its job. In the meantime, the TPN is obviously agreeing with her because Alaina now weighs 3 pounds 1 ounce. The surgeon calls TPN "steak in a bag" which is right up the alley of any child of DH's! And milk is doing Gabrielle's body good -- she was up to 2 pounds 14.5 ounces today. Her skinny little chicken legs are finally filling in!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Daddy's Girls

Yesterday was Gabrielle and Alaina's five week birthday and boy did they celebrate! First, the girls put on their best duds aka their very first outfits. Here's Alaina loving her heart ensemble:

And here's Gaby in her little ducky dress. We took this after she got put back in her Isolette so she's not very happy...

Then the girls got to snuggle with daddy. Seeing these little bundles in DH's arms was such an amazing moment. They're so small, he doesn't even need two hands to hold them!

Alaina was mesmerized by daddy.

And Gabrielle was so excited to be with daddy that we had to put her CPAP back on!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Who Needs CPAP?

Gabrielle and Alaina don't -- at least not all the time! The nurses at Columbia started weaning Alaina off of her CPAP for a few hours a day earlier this week and yesterday, it was Gaby's turn. She's on CPAP for three hours, then off for another three and she did really well. She loves not having the big tubes attached to her head -- when I went to see her yesterday morning, she had pulled them off herself!

They still have the velcro mustaches on but here are some pictures of our CPAP-free cuties.



I used to think the girls looked exactly alike but now that we get a better look at their faces, I can see the differences. Alaina looks more like her daddy -- she had a darker complexion and DH's eyes -- while Gabrielle is starting to look more like me -- she's more fair and has a longer face. It's so amazing getting to know these little girls!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gabrielle Gets Sprung

Gabrielle had her first excursion out of the Isolette yesterday and she loved it! She had to keep her CPAP on, but Gaby was wide awake and totally alert while she cuddled with her mommy. We had to shut the lights off so they didn't hurt her eyes so this video is a little dark, but you'll get a better peak at Gabrielle's pretty little face.

When we put her back to bed, I got to take a quick picture of her without the CPAP on. She's such a cutie if I do say so myself!

Not one to be outdone by her big sister, Alaina showed off a new trick yesterday. In the past week, she's become addicted to her binky and would to cry until someone gave it to her. Now she does something new...

And her new trick obviously works on mommy -- here she is just seconds later.

So yesterday was a great day and Gabrielle and Alaina are looking forward to cuddling with their daddy this weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Girls in Action

It's been a while since I posted any video of Gabrielle and Alaina so here are two clips. Even though the girls don't do all that much at this age (they're 32 weeks gestation which is basically -8 weeks old based on their due date), you definitely get a sense of their personalities from just these one minute clips. Little miss Gabrielle is my mellow baby (except when someone wants her to do something she doesn't want to, like lay on her back!). She literally spends her days sleeping and growing, which is what she would be doing in the womb right now. Here she is trying to stay awake while she eats her dinner.

Meanwhile, Alaina is the drama queen. She's always squirming, wriggling and letting you know what's on her mind. She spends a lot of her day with her eyes wide open trying to take everything in. I filmed her yesterday with her CPAP off and you can tell how happy she is to be free of all of the gear. Without her hat on, you can see the crazy haircut she has thanks to all of the IV's the doctors had to put in her head (she still has her PICC line on her right side).

The girls are growing like crazy now. Gabrielle is up to 21 cc's of milk per feeding and weighs 2 pounds 10.32 ounces. Alaina is on TPN again and it obviously agrees with her because she's up to 2 pounds 11.73 ounces. At the rate they're gaining, the girls could break the three pound mark in the next few days!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Big Day for Gaby & Alaina!

Boy, are we long overdue for a day like this one!

Nonna and I went to visit Gabrielle this morning and she was doing really well. She's kept all of her feeds down, is back up to 18 cc's of milk and even though she missed a bunch of meals this week, she weighs 1140 grams (which is 2 pounds 8.21 ounces)! She spends almost her entire day sleeping on her belly (which is why she gains weight easily -- she's not doing anything to burn any calories!) but I managed to snap a few pictures of her with her pretty eyes open.

When we went to visit Alaina, her new nurse (who I love and it has nothing to do with the fact that we have the same name!) had given her a baby makeover. She'd had a bath and the tube that was going into her mouth had been moved to her nose so her chin was free of tape for the first time. Alaina looked like a new baby! She's been breathing so well that the nurse also decided to give her breaks from her CPAP. She spent an hour breathing on her own before we got there and since she didn't have any episodes, the nurse said it would be fine for me to hold her. I've been waiting for this day since we got the positive pregnancy test way back in April! First, Alaina got dressed in her first outfit:

Then I got to snuggle with my little munchkin for the first time.

And here's Alaina finding her fingers:

Alaina loved her first excursion out of the Isolette. She didn't cry once and breathed on her own without any issues. You would never know she had major surgery 10 days ago that we weren't sure she'd make it through.

So that was our exciting day! Alaina can't wait for her daddy to hold her and we're hoping we'll be able to cuddle Gabrielle very soon too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Things Are Looking Up

For tonight anyway. Gabrielle's X-ray came back clean again. The doctors think that after a day of holding her feeds, starting her back at 20 cc's may have been too much and caused her to throw up. They started feeding her again at noon with 15 cc's and so far, she hasn't had any issues. Let's hope we don't have another incident tonight like we've had the last two!

Meanwhile, her little sister had a great day. A new attending physician is on this week and after examining Alaina she said she couldn't believe how active she is and how good she looks considering the surgery she's been through. The surgeons agree that she's making impressive progress and she may be transfered back down to where Gaby is to start feeding and fatten up before her next surgery. I'm sure Gabrielle would be very happy to have her sister with her again!

I Spoke Too Soon....

Gabrielle threw up her feed again last night. Her doctors are doing another set of X-rays now and we hope to have news around noon. I don't know how much more of this roller coaster ride we can take.

Another Scare

Every morning, we call to check on the girls. At 6:00 am, we call Alaina's nurse to make sure nothing changed over night and we check in again around 9:00 after the nurses change shifts to get her blood work results before we head up to see her. Around the same time, we call St. Vincent's to get check in on Gabrielle as well.

Yesterday morning, Alaina got two good reports which is always a huge relief, but when we called to check on Gaby, the doctor told us that after her midnight feeding, her belly started looking a little distended, which is a sign of NEC. They did an X-ray and it looked clear but they were holding her feedings just to be safe. Gabrielle contracting NEC too is our worst nightmare. Normally we would go to Columbia to spend the day with Alaina and see Gaby on our way home, but our routine went out the window and we immediately headed down to St. Vincents to talk to the doctors.

When we got there, the head neonatologist assured us that Gabrielle was fine. She showed us the X-ray of her intestines which looked nothing like Alaina's had, and said that if Gaby had been any other baby, they wouldn't have even been worried about NEC, but because of what we'd been through, they were being extra cautious. She told us that all of her blood work looked perfect and when we looked at Gabrielle's belly, it seemed fine. The doctors wanted to give her a blood transfusion because she was slightly anemic, which is normal for preemies, and after that, they were going to start her feeds again. In the end, poor Gaby missed a whole day's worth of milk because we're all so paranoid she's going to get sick like Alaina did, but at this point, I know it's better safe than sorry.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

28 Days Later....

The girls are four weeks old today! Gabrielle will be celebrating by moving up to 20 cc's of milk per feeding (she's getting more than 5 ounces a day now!) and hopefully Alaina will mark this milestone by having another good day.

When we went to visit Gaby last night, we found out that she's got some exciting things on the horizon. She'll be 32 weeks gestational age on Tuesday and sometime between 33 and 34 weeks, she'll be weaned off her CPAP and start bottle feeding. Around the same time, the doctors at Columbia will start feeding Alaina milk which she's so ready for judging by how much rooting she's doing. I know all parents say time flies and it's certainly true -- our little munchkins are growing up so fast!

Friday, October 10, 2008

One Week Later

Yesterday morning marked a week since we were told that Alaina had developed NEC. We were terrified to hear it but I assumed at this point she'd be through 7 days of antibiotics and on her way to feeling better. I never in my wildest dreams imagined my little girl would have undergone a surgery to remove two pieces of her intestines. But here we are and thankfully, she's doing well.

Alaina spent most of yesterday sleeping peacefully and it was so quiet in her room (no alarms going off!) that her daddy and I actually napped with her. You'd never know by looking at her that she's had major gastrointestinal surgery and the doctors and surgeons are very happy with her progress. We're hoping that they'll start feeding her milk soon (she's on TPN now) and Alaina is obviously ready for it - she's constantly rooting, which means she's making sucking motions with her mouth looking for a nipple. Feeding her milk will get her stomach and intestines working again and help her gain weight. The surgeon wants her to be double the weight she is now before the second surgery to reconnect her intestines. We're thinking that will happen in 8 weeks or so. By then, the girls will be full gestation so, God willing, Gabrielle will already be home. We're hoping Alaina will be home for Christmas but I think that may be optimistic.

We're getting into a routine now that Alaina seems to be stabilizing. We spend the day with her and if her last blood work comes back looking good, we go to visit Gabrielle. Last night, we got to St. Vincent's in time to see her being weighed. The nurse stripped her down and took her CPAP off so DH and I got to see Gaby's face for the first time since I can remember. She's so adorable! The little diva wasn't happy about being naked and moved around and let everyone know it with some angry screams and we couldn't help but laugh. It looks like Gabrielle's ritual of spending the day napping is paying off -- she's up to 2 pound 6 ounces! Since she doesn't burn many calories during the day, this little one should keep gaining weight at a good pace. We asked the doctor when she'd be off the CPAP and she said it could happen when she reaches 33 weeks gestational age which is less than two weeks from now. Gabrielle will be very happy once that comes off!

So that makes three good days in a row. I have a feeling the doctors are starting to think DH and I are nuts because we keep asking questions looking for the bad that no one's telling us but it seems like Gabrielle and Alaina are doing everything they should be. The last week has been the most draining we've ever had but I'm hoping the really bad days are finally behind us.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Another Good Day

Wow. This is the earliest we've been home in I don't know how long. I'm almost afraid to write about the day in fear of jinxing it.

I'll start with Gabrielle since she's been getting short shrift lately. She had lots of visitors today. Grandma and Bubbe spent time with her this morning and DH and I went to see her before we came home. I may be crazy but I swear she's grown in the two days since we last saw her! She had her eyes open and checked her mommy and daddy out. I used to think Gaby and Alaina looked exactly alike but they're starting to develop looks of their own now. They both have their daddy's nose but their face shapes and eyes are changing. I can't wait until we see them with their CPAPs off so we can get a full view of their sweet little faces!

So our little Gabrielle is turning into a bit of a diva. She really likes to spend the day on her tummy with her head facing left. When the nurses try to turn her head the other way to prevent her from getting a flat spot on one side, she gets upset. She cries when she has to lay on her back and swats at the nurses' hands when they do something she doesn't like (taking her temperature, for example). I guess we shouldn't be surprised -- this is the same baby who forced her way out of the womb at 27 weeks. When she wants something, she makes sure she gets it!

Meanwhile, Alaina had another good day. Like I said, I don't want to jinx anything but I can't remember the last time we went 24 hours without any sort of scare. So here we are, home at a decent hour, looking forward to eating a meal that doesn't start with the question "For here or to go?" and hoping to get a good night's sleep. I'm praying that when we call to check in on the girls, our good luck will continue....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

Alaina had what we thought was a good day yesterday -- her glucose and platelet levels were up and she was awake and alert -- but last night turned out to be hell. We left the hospital confident that she was doing well but when we got home and called to check on her, she'd done a 180. Her glucose levels were frighteningly low and her platelets had dropped again. In the course of one hour, we went from ecstatic over her progress to terrified about this setback. We've used the roller coaster analogy a lot but there's no better way to describe the super highs and extreme lows we've been going through.

Thankfully, today was a great day. When we called to check on Alaina early this morning, she had stabilized again. When we got to the hospital, we saw that the doctors had gotten a PICC line in which was a huge relief (ironic considering how excited we were to have her original one come out last week!). Alaina had 3 IV lines in when we left the night before which were used to give her everything she needed -- nutrition, medicine, blood transfusions, fluids and more. The problem with IV's is that they sometimes need to be moved and she was running out of places for them to go. With the PICC line in, the IV's are less important. Her new PICC line goes from the right side of her head down to her heart via a vein. In order to put it in, the doctors had to shave the right side of her head. They had already shaved the left side of her head to for an IV so she now has a baby mohawk. It's very cute and quite punk rock!

We spoke to the neonatalogist this morning and she's very happy with Alaina's progress. She assured us that the fluctuating platelet and glucose levels are normal considering what she's been through which made us feel much better. She's been breathing so well that the doctor took her off the ventilator and put her back on CPAP. Alaina's surgeon also came to check on her and said she's doing beautifully. His goal now is to fatten her up so they can do the second surgery to reattach the pieces of her small intestine that are left. So while she's still in critical condition, little Alaina is doing remarkably well considering what she went through just 72 hours ago.

And we can't forget about Gabrielle. Grandma spent the morning with her and said that she had a lazy day lounging on her tummy. She had to have her ears cleaned, which she didn't enjoy, but she's eating like a champ and her doctors say she's doing great.

We know the roller coaster ride isn't anywhere near over and there will be probably be plenty more lows along the way, but we'll take this high while we can.

Monday, October 6, 2008

46 Hours and Counting

I never imagined 46 hours could feel like a month but it certainly can. Yesterday was rough. Alaina's platelet count was still low even though she'd gotten multiple transfusions and out of nowhere, her glucose levels fell. The doctors started giving her what they call pushes of glucose, which are basically straight doses of sugar to boost her levels, but the number wasn't going up. To test the glucose level, the nurse pricks her heel, puts a drop of blood on a test strip and uses a monitor to get the glucose reading. It all takes about 3 minutes. By the end of the day, we started to feel badly for Alaina's nurse because every time she took a reading, DH, my mom and I would sit there with bated breath waiting to hear the result and when the nurse would tell us it was the same or had fallen, it was a huge disappointment. Glucose is extremely important to all of the vital organs and if they aren't receiving the amount they need, they'll start to break down protein and other elements to replace it with. But no one could figure out why the glucose she was being given wasn't increasing her levels. Leave it to little Alaina to become a medical mystery.

Finally at around 7:00, we got some good news from her nurse practitioner. Alaina's platelet levels doubled! They were also going to take her next glucose level from a vein in her leg instead of pricking her heel in case the blood in her heels wasn't giving an accurate reading. We all piled into her room and waited while the NP tried to find a vein to draw blood from. If I were editing one of my shows, I would have added heartbeat sound effects to show how slowly it felt like time was moving. Sure enough, when her reading came back it was 77, which is perfect. To say we were relieved would be the biggest understatement ever!

By midnight, she was doing well enough that we felt okay about going home to get a few hours sleep instead of spending another night on the couches in the NICU conference room. Alaina had gotten some morphine for her pain so she was sedated but when she heard us say goodnight, she kicked her little legs and opened her beautiful eyes as if to tell us not to worry.

This morning, her glucose is a little low again and her platelets are down but the doctors say that's normal since they stopped the transfusions and pushes yesterday after her levels came up. I really hope today will be a good day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

One Day Down....

It's been 26 hours since Alaina got out of surgery and even though she's still in extremely critical condition, she's doing as well as she can be. She was stable all night and her vital signs -- temperature, heart rate, breathing, urinary output, etc. -- are all strong. She's moving around and opens her eyes occasionally so she's alert and active. The two biggest concerns right now are that she has an infection that needs to be treated and that her platelet count (which helps her blood clot) is low. The infection is being addressed with a bunch of really strong antibiotics and her white blood cell count is coming up which is a good sign that the antibiotics are working. A platelet deficiency is normal after surgery since the body is using a lot of them while trying to heal itself so she's been getting platelet transfusions. Her count is now coming up and we're hoping her little body will start to produce them on its own very soon.

DH and I have been with Alaina at Columbia pretty much non-stop since she was transferred there Friday night. Having two babies in NICU's 150 blocks apart isn't going to be easy. My mother came down yesterday and spent some time with Gabrielle so she wouldn't be lonely and DH's mom will be here later this week. Gaby had shown some potential symptoms of NEC a few days ago and the doctors had stopped her feeds and started running X-rays to make sure she didn't have it. So far, everything looks good and she started back on milk yesterday. We stopped in to see her today and she was enjoying a post-lunch nap on her belly and everyone at St. Vincent's is keeping a close eye on her while we're with Alaina.

We're relieved that Alaina seems to be showing signs of improvement but we know there's a long road ahead. We count every hour that goes by and pray that her condition will continue to improve with each one.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

An Update

It's been the longest 24 hours of our lives (even longer than the night the girls were born which is saying something) but I wanted to post a quick update. I'm posting this from my iPhone so I won't go into too much detail.

Around 7:00 last night, Alaina was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian. Her X-rays and blood work hadn't changed which had her surgeon concerned. The pediatric anesthesiologist at St. Vincents was out for the Jewish holiday so if she was going to need surgery - which was looking more likely - the doctor wanted her with his team (her surgeon is the chief of pediatric surgery at Columbia, which is a top rated children's hospital in New York and the country so we knew she'd be in good hands). We were told early this morning - on the girls' three week birthday - that even though her intestines hadn't perforated, Alaina's condition hadn't improved so they were going to operate to find out what kind of damage the NEC had caused. She was in surgery for an hour and stayed stable throughout. When they got a look at her bowels, they found two areas of her small intestine that had gangrene and had to be removed. The rest of her intestines look healthy and the doctors think they got everything.

Right now, Alaina is in critical condition and we're hoping to see some progress in the next 72 hours. She still has quite a few hurdles ahead of her but our little girl is proving to be one heck of a fighter. Thank you so much for all of your prayers - she is a very lucky baby to have so many people pulling for her.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Lowest Low Yet

We got a call yesterday morning that Alaina has necrotizing enterocolitis (aka NEC). Basically, NEC is a very serious gastrointestinal disease where infection or inflammation can cause damage to, or even the destruction of, the intestines. She's in critical condition and we are hoping and praying that her intestines won't perforate which would require surgery. She's on antibiotics to deal with any infections (we found out today that she has an E. Coli infection but we're hoping the antibiotics will take care of it) and the doctors have her intubated so she doesn't have to work as hard to breathe. She has X-rays taken every 4-6 hours to make sure there are no perforations in her intestines and surgeons are on stand by just in case. The good news is that even though Alaina is in critical condition, she's been stable since yesterday but all we can do now is take it hour by hour.

As if that wasn't enough, Gabrielle starting throwing up yesterday too so the doctors stopped her feeds and started X-raying her to make sure she hasn't contracted NEC as well. So far, her X-rays have been clear but she's being fed via IV now just to be safe. The infection she had earlier this week seems to be under control and we're hoping she'll stay NEC-free and will be back to getting milk very soon.

So that's the latest. We'll post updates here when we can and we thank you in advance for any prayers and good thoughts you can spare for Alaina and Gabrielle.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Playing Dress Up

While I was shopping before they were born, I saw so many cute Halloween costumes for newborns but I never imagined the girls would be here by October 31st. But since Gabrielle and Alaina decided to make an early arrival, I think dressing up is in order!

I found these adorable little costumes that are perfect for preemies in the NICU -- they're hats with bibs so they won't interfere with any of the wires the girls have on -- but I can't decide which ones to choose. That's where you come in! The six options are below and there's a poll to the left of this post where you can cast your votes for the two costumes you think we should get for Gabrielle and Alaina. Can't wait to see which ones win!







Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Roller Coaster Continues

We found out last night that Gabrielle has an infection. The doctors had seen some abnormalities in her blood work last Thursday and put her on antibiotics as a precautionary measure. Yesterday, they got the results of the cultures they did on her and it turns out she has a bacterial infection. The good news is that it seems to be sensitive to one of the antibiotics she was given and her most recent cultures have been negative. The bad news is that to keep other babies in the NICU from getting the infection, Gaby had to be moved away from Alaina and into a special section with another baby who had the same infection. She'll be there for the next 14 days until the course of antibiotics she's on is finished.

The doctors are confident that the medicine she's on will take care of the infection and she had a spinal tap last night to make sure there weren't any signs of meningitis. Her fluid was clear so that's a really good sign and when Jan and I went to visit her this morning, she looked great and was very alert. We even thought we detected a smile on her face, although the nurse said it could just be gas. We spoke with the head neonatalogist who assured us that Gabrielle is doing wonderfully -- her blood work looks great, her temperature is perfect, she's eating well, etc. -- so we're hoping that the antibiotics will do the job and the infection will be gone for good. And the roller coaster ride continues....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gabrielle's PICC Line is Out!

We are so relieved. Thanks for all of the prayers, good vibes and crossed fingers.

We got a great report on both girls tonight. The neonatologist is really happy with how well they're eating -- she said most babies are a lot bigger when they eat as well as Gabrielle and Alaina do. It's probably because DH tells them they're getting chicken fingers and Snickers....

A Ride on the Roller Coaster

Since the day the Gabrielle and Alaina were born, the doctors and nurses in the NICU have been telling us to be prepared for a roller coaster ride while the girls are there, meaning that there will be lots of highs and lows along the way. Luckily, we've had mostly highs so far and everyone is overjoyed by their progress, but yesterday we got our first taste of a low.

I went in for my morning visit expecting both Gabrielle and Alaina to be PICC line free and hoping I'd get the chance to hold them. Sure enough, Alaina's PICC line had come out and she was obviously enjoying having her arm free. But Gaby's line was still in. After we left Sunday night, she threw up her 6 o'clock feeding. One of the biggest risks the girls face right now is a condition called Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), which is a gastrointestinal disease where infection or inflammation can cause damage to, or even the destruction of, their intestines. If the girls don't keep their feedings down, the doctors' main concern is making sure NEC isn't the reason why. After she got sick, Gaby's next four feedings were held until X-rays could be taken of her belly to make sure she didn't have NEC. The good news is by the time I arrived at 11:00 yesterday, they had ruled it out and started her feedings again with 10 cc's of milk, but now she has to tolerate 15 cc's again before the PICC line can come out. Even though this was a really small setback, it was still draining.

Jan and I went for our night visit and were happy to hear that Gaby had done well with her feedings and was up to 12 cc's, and the doctor was confident that her PICC line would come out overnight. But we had a new issue to deal with -- Alaina had thrown up her 3:00 feed and the X-ray technician was on his way down so they could check her for NEC. We watched as our little 2 pound baby was X-rayed and waited for the results to come back. During the wait, the doctor showed us Gabrielle's X-rays from earlier in the day. It turned out that the reason she had gotten sick was that her O.G. didn't go all the way down to her stomach so when she was being fed, the food couldn't make it where it needed to go. It wasn't her fault she had gotten sick and there wasn't anything wrong with her -- her feeding tube just wasn't in properly. She missed four feedings and her PICC line was still in because of something silly like that. Poor baby!

A few minutes later, Alaina's films came back and lo and behold -- her O.G. wasn't in her stomach either! Our girls love to pull at their wires and tubing (I had seen Alaina pull her O.G. almost all of the way out of her mouth earlier in the day) and now that they've both had vomiting incidents from the O.G. not being in place, I'm sure the nurses will be checking them much more closely from here on out.

So that was our day yesterday. In the end, both Gabrielle and Alaina were fine but the fear that comes along with any little setback, even something as simple as vomiting, is tortuous. The roller coaster analogy is right on.

One perk that came out of the crazy day was that little Alaina needed to be cleaned up while we were there and we got to see her pretty little face without all of the tubes and tape she normally has on. Here are some pictures:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Diapers & Feedings & Temperatures, Oh My!

During our visits yesterday, DH and I got to change the girls' diapers, feed them and take their temperatures for the first time. I know, this probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but when your babies are in the NICU and you can't do "normal" parental tasks, even the littlest things are milestones.

The girls still have their central lines in so we can't pick them up, but when I went for my afternoon visit, Gaby's nurse decided that she was stable enough for me to help with her care (each of the girls has a different nurse and some let the parents be more hands on than others). First, I changed her tiny little diaper. The NICU has preemie sized diapers for the girls but even those are too big on them right now. We're going to take a few of them home with us for their baby books so when they're older, they'll see just how little they were. Next, I helped take her temperature, which was perfect, and then I got to give her her milk. She drank all of it and then proceeded to wail for the next five minutes until we put her back on her tummy with her pacifier which finally lulled her to sleep. When DH and I went to visit the girls later that evening, I took care of Gabrielle again and daddy got to feed Miss Alaina. It was a great day.

We also got really good reports on their feedings. Gabrielle is getting 5 cc's of milk a day and Alaina is getting 4. They've been tolerating the milk really well and if they continue to keep it down, they'll get 1 cc raises every 12 hours. That would mean they could have their PIC lines removed in the next week or two and we'll finally be able to hold our little ones! Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tummy time all around

When we went to visit the girls yesterday, both were lounging on their tummies. It's so cute to see them in this position! And they seem to love it. This is the calmest Alaina's been -- she's usually flailing her legs all over the place -- but tummy time agrees with her.

Gabrielle got to spend her second day on her tummy and did her best Maggie Simpson impression by sucking on her little pacifier:

Gaby's nurse shut her phototherapy lights off for a bit so we could peek at her with her eye coverings off. Her little face is so sweet!

We got great updates on both girls yesterday. They're both being fed milk through the tubes they have in their mouths. If they were still in the womb, they would be swallowing amniotic fluid which would kick start their digestive systems so the goal is to do the same with the milk now. They started out getting 1 cc of milk at each feeding and each time they keep it down, their feeding amount gets increased. Last night, Gabrielle was getting 3 cc's and Alaina was getting 2. Once they can tolerate enough milk at each feeding, the lines the have in their arms, which give them supplemental feedings, can come out. When those lines are removed, we'll be able to hold the girls outside of their Isolettes. Since they were taken straight to the NICU after they were delivered, we haven't been able to do more than touch them in the Isolettes yet. So keep up the eating, little ones. We can't wait for the day we'll be able to hold you in our arms!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gabrielle & Alaina's Birth Announcement

With the girls in the NICU, I need something to occupy my time in between visits and I've been reading so many posts about Scrapblog that I decided to give it a try.

We started telling people about the girls late last week once their progress reports kept comng back positive but there was no way we could call everybody so I figured I'd try to create a birth announcment we could send out. Here are the three pages I put together and when I e-mailed the link to our friends and family, they played to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I'm pretty happy with the result if I do say so myself!

Project Nursery Part Deux

Now that the girls are here, we're making more progress on the nursery. I have to catch up on taking photos of the new additions to the room but here were the next steps we tackled.

Once the closet was done, we moved on to the flooring. My vision for the nursery was to create a room that's bright, cheerful and modern. It took me forever to find the perfect carpet (DH was appalled by how many samples I ordered!) but once I saw these floor tiles, I knew we'd found the winner.

The floor tiles are from Flor and they are terrific. We have them in different colors and styles throughout our apartment -- in the entryway, the dining room and the office -- and they're perfect for children since if one gets dirty, we can just replace that tile with another. The style I chose for the nursery is Toy Poodle and we got them in canary, fuschia, teal, lime, orange and lilac.

Here's our four-legged child, Fiona, helping us lay the tiles:

After we got the flooring done, the cribs arrived. We chose the Oeuf Classic cribs for the girls and ordered them from Buy Buy Baby with their multiple discount and using a coupon. I've loved this modern style for a while and they convert into the cutest toddler beds.

And of course Fiona had to check to make sure they were sturdy enough for the girls.

So that's the latest from Project Nursery. I'll post our new dresser and the fabrics for the bedding later this week. We're working hard to get it finished so everything will be ready when Gabrielle and Alaina get to come home!

Oh, and one more note. I'm planning to put a quote on the wall above the cribs. I've listed three options in my blog poll but for some odd reason, I can't get them to show the whole quotes so I'm going to list them here:

1. Of all the stars we wished upon, the brightest one has brought us you.

2. We had each other and then we had you and now we have everything.

3. Precious ones, so small and sweet, dancing in on angels' feet, straight from heaven's brightest star, what miracles you truly are.

Please cast a vote!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gabrielle & Alaina are one week old!

Yesterday was the girls' one week birthday and they had a wonderful day. Alaina kept her milk down for the first time and we got to turn off her phototherapy lights for a bit and see her little eyes open. Gabrielle had her first taste of tummy time in her Isolette and spent the day sucking on her purple pacifier. It's so funny to see them developing their own personalities even at this young age. Alaina is the dramatic one, which shouldn't really surprise us considering she spent so much time kicking her sister in the head while they were in the womb. She cries whenever her diaper is dirty and once it's changed, immediately poops or pees and cries for it to be changed again. Meanwhile, Gaby is totally chill and happy to kick back and relax. Both girls are doing so well that it's hard to believe that just a week ago we had no idea whether they'd even make it.

I had my own milestone yesterday when I FINALLY saw some milk after pumping. I was starting to think that after 7 days and no results that I might not have any milk supply, but I woke up yesterday with some drops on my nipples. Sure enough, my first pump of the day was a good one and the rest weren't bad either. DH was so cute -- he was cheering my boobs on every time I pumped, and we were so excited to bring the milk with us to the NICU. Knowing that the girls were starting to get milk was hard when I wasn't producing any so I was so relieved that things seemed to finally be working. But by nighttime, my supply was waning again and so far today, I've had little to nothing. A good friend of mine is an LC and she said that even though the Medela PIS is the best pump you can buy, with preemies I should really be renting a hospital grade pump. So that's our plan for tomorrow -- trying to rent a Medela Symphony so that I can hopefully get my milk flowing again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm a Mommy!

Yes, you read that right. The girls arrived at 27 weeks and 4 days. We had no signs that they were coming early and yet here I am, less than a week later, a mommy. Life works in mysterious ways.

Let's rewind to Friday, September 12th. I'd been having some back pain in the days before but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary for a pregnant lady. DH and I spent that night at Newborn CPR class. At one point, when we were talking about car seats and the instructor made a joke that DH and I should get ours installed sooner rather than later because we might be delivering soon, we laughed, having no idea what was in store for us later that night. After class, we grabbed some McDonald's for dinner (which DH insists is what started everything!), watched some TV and went to bed by 10:00 which was pretty typical for me and my big belly. At around 10:30, I woke up feeling like I'd peed. This sensation wasn't all that surprising since I've been feeling leaky, for lack of a better word, for weeks now, but something about it worried me. I headed into the bathroom and the water continued to flow. After a few minutes, I called DH in and we paged my OB. By the time he called back, the water was pink tinged and we got dressed and headed to L&D. There didn’t seem to be any cabs coming so our doorman, who was heading home after his shift, drove us. With the night starting off like something out of a bad sitcom with the doorman rushing us off to the hospital, I should have known more craziness was coming!

We walked into L&D a little after 11:00 pm having a sense of déjà vu since we had just taken our hospital tour the weekend before. Luckily, we had also submitted all of our pre-admission papers that day so that was all taken care of. They checked me in, got me changed and immediately took an ultrasound which showed that Baby A's water was broken and she didn't have much fluid left. Baby B was looking fine and the residents assured me that the fact I wasn't having contractions was good and that we should be able to hold off labor. I got a huge and painful steroid shot after that for the girls' lungs and they started magnesium to keep labor at bay. Afterwards, the nurse asked me was what my birth plan was. I had been joking for weeks with friends that my birth plan was drugs, drugs and more drugs so I told her my only request was an epidural and that the rest was up to my doctors. Famous last words…

My OB arrived and reiterated what we had been hearing -- that we would do everything we could to hold off labor while administering steroid shots to make sure the girls’ lungs were as mature as possible when we finally delivered. He said it could be hours, days or even weeks but seemed confident enough that it would be more than hours to have me transferred into a room with a window. Quite a few mommies on my pregnancy boards had been on hospital bed rest after their water broke, so the idea of being there for a few days or weeks didn’t seems that implausible. I figured I’d be able to relax and catch up on some of my soap operas. How bad could it be?

At this point, DH and I had to laugh a little about where we were. Our plans for the weekend had included packing my hospital bag (I figured I’d have it done really early!), finishing the baby shower thank you’s (if we still owe you one, it’s coming, I swear!) and finally picking names for the girls. Considering what was going on, we decided it made sense to make a choice. So after weeks of debate, we picked names in less than five minutes. I guess sometimes you just need to focus!

Around 2:00 am, I started feeling terrible pains in my back. As I mentioned before, I had been having back pain for about a week – I’d actually just started wearing a maternity belt contraption that day hoping it would help – but this was different. The nurse confirmed that what I was feeling were contractions and said not to worry. By 2:30, they were coming less than five minutes apart and I was in excruciating pain. She told me to breathe through them and most importantly not to push. Here was the thing – I had no idea how to breathe! DH and I hadn’t taken childbirth classes (it was way too early and honestly, we were so sure the girls would arrive via c-section that learning breathing techniques was never high on our list of priorities). I have no pain tolerance whatsoever – I’m not kidding, I cannot stand any sort of discomfort – so the contractions were pushing me over the edge. DH was amazing at keeping me focused and breathing considering I was writhing off the table and desperately trying to pull my oxygen mask off. I was squeezing his hand as hard as possible like I had seen people do in movies but even that wasn’t making me feel better. I could feel tons of pressure in my groin so I had my legs crossed as tightly as possible to make sure I wasn’t pushing but I was sure something was coming. The doctors hadn’t checked to see if I was dilated any earlier because with Baby A’s water broken, they were concerned about introducing germs into the birth canal, but now they decided they had to look based on the frequency of the contractions. Sure enough, Baby A’s head was right there. A little after 3:00 am, they told me she was coming and it was time to push. I asked if I could have an epidural now and they laughed that she was almost out and there was no time for that now. They told me to start pushing and I asked what that meant so the nurse coached me and DH through it. There were no stirrups so I had one leg on DH’s shoulder (things happened so fast, he wasn’t even in scrubs!) and another on the nurse’s. After a few of what I was told were good pushes, Gabrielle Victoria was born at 2:33 am. DH saw her wriggling around and we heard her make a few gurgling noises before she was whisked off to the NICU. All I knew at that point was that she was alive and unbelievably, I was a mommy!

After Gabrielle was born, everyone’s attention turned to Baby B. My OB arrived – oh, did I mention that he missed Gaby’s birth? As far as I can tell, a bunch of residents and interns delivered her. It was like something out of Grey’s Anatomy – “Where’s Dr. Montgomery-Shepard?” “This baby’s not waiting for the doctor! She’s coming now!” It ended up being fine, and when my OB showed up, I told him he missed all of the fun. Looking at Baby B on the ultrasound, she still had a full sac of fluid and was looking good so the doctor’s were debating whether it made sense to hold off on delivering her. Because she was breech and her umbilical cord was what was presenting, they were concerned that if I did go into labor again, she would head down the birth canal cord first so the decision was made to deliver Baby B via c-section. I had always joked that my biggest birth nightmare was having both a vaginal and a c-section but at this point, I was honestly relieved. I was so exhausted from Gabrielle’s birth and the idea of doing it again – possibly without pain killers – terrified me. I was whisked off to the operating room where I got my spinal and was prepped for surgery. It seemed like there were 100 people bustling around but no sign of DH. He finally arrived dressed in what looked like a white paper Hazmat suit (it even had a collar – what I would have given for a camera!) and things got underway. There was a lot of pulling and tugging but other than that I couldn’t feel a thing which was just fine with me. Alaina Marie arrived at 4:33 am and we heard her crying before she headed down to the NICU to join her sister. It took another hour to get me stitched up – they hadn’t removed Gabrielle’s placenta after the vaginal birth and the doctors cracked up when I confirmed they had removed both before they closed me – and then I was wheeled into recovery.

One of the NICU doctors met us there and told us that both girls weighed a little more than two pound each and were breathing on their own which was a huge relief for babies their age. Whether they would be able to continue was a big concern but the fact that things started off so well was good. The doctor explained that the first 72 hours were going to be critical in terms of determining their lung strength, identifying any potential brain bleeds and keeping infection at bay. Based on their breathing, they were cautiously optimistic but only time would tell. She took DH down to see the girls and I made him promise to take pictures. When he came back, he was visibly shaken. The girls were really tiny, very swollen and hooked up to tons of wires and monitors and I think when he saw them, the seriousness of the situation finally set in. Everything had happened so fast up to that point – just six hours before, we had been in bed – that we really hadn’t been able to think about what everything meant. We hadn’t had time to ask any questions but now that’s all we had.

I spent a few hours in recovery and we decided while we were there that until we had a better idea of how the girls were doing, we didn’t want to share the news with anyone other than our parents and siblings. It was just too much for us to make a big announcement when we weren’t sure what was going to happen. DH called his mom around 6:00 am and caught her so off guard, she had to call back an hour later to make sure she heard everything right. Meanwhile, my parents were in Italy on a three-week vacation for their 40th anniversary. We had joked when my mother sent us every contact number under the sun that we’d never need them, but little did we know! We left messages everywhere and waited to hear back. At around 7:00 am, I was moved into a private room – ironically, the one we had looked at during our hospital tour the week before – and DH ran home to check on our kitty and get the things we might need for the next few days.

I finally got to see the girls later that night. DH wheeled me down to the NICU where Gabrielle was in an open bassinet. She had been having some breathing issues so they had intubated her during the day but it was already out. I couldn’t get over how tiny she was! But even being so small, she had 10 perfect toes, ten perfect fingers, little fingernails and eyebrows and a full head of wavy brown hair. She was wriggling around and even though her eyes were covered up, she seemed totally aware. I couldn’t believe this was the same baby we’d seen just a week before on the ultrasound and now here she was. The whole situation was still so surreal! Alaina’s isolette was nearby and other than being enclosed, she had the same wires and IV’s as her sister. Like Gabrielle, Alaina was fidgeting around, waving her hands and her legs, like she was happy to have more room than she did in the womb. She had a full head of hair like her sister and long long little legs. At the ultrasound the week before, Alaina was clearly kicking Gabrielle in the head so we teased her that she chased her sister out early. Seeing the girls was so emotional – we had waited for them for so long and even though they arrived early, having them there was a dream come true. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement.

The next few days went by in a bit of a blur. DH’s mom and stepdad came down on Sunday to meet the girls and my parents got in from Italy on Monday. The girls’ middle names are for their grandmothers – Victoria for DH’s mom and Marie for mine – so seeing them meet their namesakes was pretty amazing. We counted down the hours everyday (waiting to pass that 72 hour mark was torture!) and continued to get good updates from the NICU doctors. In fact, I think the girls surprised everyone with how well they did. On Monday, Alaina managed to pull her IV out of her hand so they had to restrain her arms. The staff said they’d never seen a preemie at that age have the strength or coordination to do anything like that. That night, she managed to get her toe looped around the feeding tube that was going through her umbilical cord and she tried to yank that out too! So by the end of day three, she had baby restraints on both her arms and legs. We found the whole thing funny and extremely encouraging but it looks like we’re going to have our hands full with that one. She’s already a baby Houdini.

We’ve had great progress reports on the girls all week and the doctors are starting to be more and more positive with us. They spent the first few days really trying to manage expectations, which based on how critical and precarious things were makes total sense, but now they see things looking up. Both girls had brain scans and showed no sign of bleeds, which is great. They’re both on CPAP, which basically delivers air into their noses, and they’re getting room air at this point, which is excellent. Earlier this week, they had scans of their hearts done to check for openings that normally close in full term babies during birth. Alaina’s had closed on its own but Gabrielle’s was still slightly open. They gave her some medicine to close it up and her scan yesterday showed that it was almost gone so now we’re going to wait and see if it will go away without any more treatment. Since their hearts and brains look great, they’ve pulled the intravenous lines out of their belly buttons and put a PIC line into each girl (this is a central catheter that can deliver any medicine or fluids they need) and they started getting 1 ML each of milk yesterday through a feeding tube which will hopefully kick start their digestive systems to start working. And they’re pooing and peeing like champs and are really active. All of these are fantastic signs and the head of the NICU said we couldn’t ask for anything more at this point. That being said, we know the girls have a long road ahead – they expect that they’ll be there for at least 10-12 weeks – and while we’ve had lots of highs these first few days, we’re prepared for the lows that will eventually be coming. But knowing they’ve made it through this critical time with flying colors helps immensely.

I was discharged on Wednesday and am resting at home. Considering I had both a vaginal birth and a c-section combined with the fact that we’ve been through the emotional wringer all week, I have to say I’m feeling really well. The hospital is 7 blocks from our apartment and I walked there and back to visit the girls this morning. I’ve been trying to pump since the girls were born on Saturday and finally got a small result today so hopefully my body is kicking into gear. Ironically, I had appointments with both my MFM and my OB today for my 28 week check ups. I never would have guessed I’d be home pumping when I made those appointments!

So that’s the latest from here. Thank you to everyone who has been sending us well wishes and prayers. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful people who care about all of us. I’ll post more pictures later but here are two for now. Here's a picture of Gabrielle at 3 days old:

And here's Alaina at 3 days old. Notice the gauze on her legs and arms? That's how she was restrained from pulling out her wires. She could still move around but she couldn't wreak any havoc!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Project Nursery is Underway!

So while I haven't been blogging for the past few months, I have been busy decorating the girls' nursery. We have two spare bedrooms on the lower level of our apartment and up until now, we've been using one as a guest room and the second as a den. Since we have a pull out sofa in the den (which we've been told by our guests is very comfortable!), we decided that would become our playroom/guest room and we'd make the current guest room the nursery. Here's a picture of the room before:

Our first step toward transforming the guest room into baby central was to have the closet done. We have California Closets in our bedroom but decided to use Elfa for the girls' room and we are so happy with the result! We were able to customize everything and the system is adjustable so if after the girls arrive, we decide we need different storage options, we can easily change it up. Here's a picture of the closet before:

And here it is after:

We cannot rave enough about Elfa. The closet holds so much more now that it did before. Here's the proof (excuse the mess -- we're still organizing all of our wonderful shower gifts!):

We're using the drawers for the little things like socks and hats....

And bibs. Here are two of my favorite that we got at our shower.

So that's the closet transformation. More Project Nursery updates to come!