I was completely overwhelmed with the thought that we'd be in the NICU for two weeks. Going into preterm labor at 27 weeks and staying 5 days in the hospital was absolutely awful and I was dreading having to do it all over again. To my surprise, staying at Cook Children's wasn't as terrible as I had anticipated. Unlike most NICU's, at Cooks each baby has their own separate room. In the room you have a recliner and a couch that doubles as a small bed. The one rule that we really couldn't stand was that you could not be in the couch bed together... Josh and I took turns switching from recliner to couch bed for 8 days, it definitely took its toll on us.
Callie's nurses were wonderful. We got used to the shift changes and after a couple of days the nurses only came in to check her vitals and make some changes if need be. We had everything else under control. Callie progressed quickly. She went from being on the vent to a bubble C-pap machine. Soon she was taken completely off of all machines to see how she was doing. Unfortunately after about an hour she was struggling again so they put a cannula in her nose to keep a steady flow of oxygen going to her lungs. They ordered an x-ray to check and see how things were going and saw that her left lung was still very underdeveloped. Their plan was to keep her on oxygen until it matured. While we were there Callie also developed jaundice and had to lay under the bilirubin lights for a full day/night. She looked adorable in her little sunnies, but the hardest part was not being able to take her out and hold her.
Once her levels dropped down to a safe number they gave me the go ahead to try and nurse her. Up until this point they had her on IV's and had just started giving her my breast milk via feeding tube. I was so eager to breast feed because it really made me feel needed, and for the first time I was feeling like her mom. It's so difficult to feel like a parent when you're having to ask someone to hold your child, you have to clear things with other people and you aren't the one getting to make decisions for your baby. That was one of the toughest things for Josh and me. Our first go at nursing was pretty good. Callie was tired and latched once but then wanted to sleep. They put the feeding tube back in and said I could try again at the next feeding. Three hours later she was latched and feeding like a champ! I am so proud of her and was so relieved knowing that I was making enough milk to keep her sustained.
Days really blurred together. We were blessed to have family and friends visiting everyday but the visitation rules in the NICU are very strict and limited us to having two family members in the room at a time which made it difficult to see everyone. As time went on we were able to hold Callie whenever we wanted and before we knew it they were preparing to take her completely off of breath support. It is nerve wrecking as a mom when you want your baby to be healthy and there is a lingering chance that they'll take her off and she will start suffering again. We wanted to see progress but at the same time we knew that being there was the best thing for her. On the seventh day of being there she was completely off of IV's, monitors and breath support. It was incredible to see her beautiful face without tubes down her nose and throat. The next morning, after having passed the car seat test (that's a whole other story...) and being checked out by her doctor they cleared her to go home. It was one of the happiest moments for us. She got down to 4 lbs 12 oz while in the hospital but was slowly gaining weight back and starting to grow.
Coming home with our baby girl was so incredible. We walked her around the house and showed her everything we could think of, we were finally home and able to start our life as a family.
Grandpa holding Callie for the first time
Right before leaving to go home!
Grandma holding Callie for the first time
In this one you can really see how Jaundice she was
First time to be held by Aunt Melanie
First time being held by her Popi (or Big Daddy as he is called)
First time being held by Uncle Tony
Kangaroo care with Daddy
First time being held by her Grandma
Right after her first bath
Callie's first bottle
Her stat screen that we never took our eyes off of
Under the bilirubin lights
Bubble C-pap machine
My first Kangaroo Care session with miss Callie