Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Aptitude of Parents

“It is not the strength of the man’s muscles that beats the other man; it is the strength of the man’s mind that over-came him” – Anonymous


Ain’t No Mountain High Enough- Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Today, Ashleigh met with the physical/speech therapist who told us that because of Gracie’s prematurity and level two brain hemorrhaging that more than likely Gracie will need orthopedic inserts for walking, walking assistance or wheelchair because of the effect of the bleeding on the part of the brain which assists in the processes of gross motor skills. We were told that excessive bleeding in the brain could force us to have a delay in gross motor skills development similar to that of a down syndrome infant. Gross motor skills are responsible for large muscle group coordination which work together for tasks such as walking, sitting, kicking and throwing a ball.  In a normal infant, the muscle groups usually develop from top to bottom meaning that a baby can control their head first to track objects and as they progress the motor skills below their head develop.  How quickly Gracie’s gross motor skills develop will result from her gains in muscle tone and strength.  Gross motor skills are the underlying foundation for fine  motor skills such as writing, sitting in an erect position and participating in a classroom setting. All which could  hinder Gracie’s classroom performance.

 As of right now, Gracie is still in an incubator, but in due time she will be on an activity mat, wrestling, singing, building, crawling  or playing tug of war with me. We have two years to come from behind and not one day will be wasted. Her life will become my version of Cinderella because everyone likes to watch a come from behind victory.

Personally, I am getting tired of these worst case scenarios everyone presents to us, because it is always so negative. Most of these specialists make judgements based upon statistics and research, but it amazes me how  they never use outliers. I refuse to believe that they haven’t come across some amazing recoveries.  As Ashleigh delivers this bit of heart wrenching news, I recall the only piece of  evidence of overcoming adverse odds. It came from Ashleigh’s favorite neonatologist after Gracie had her PDA surgery. He mentioned to me that out of 100 babies of Gracie’s gestational age, he has only see five as energetic or active as Gracie under full sedation. This makes me wonder exactly what Gracie has in store for me in the near future.

The physical therapist, however, did mention that things were promising because Gracie was so active with her wailing arms and legs kicking out of the swaddle. She wanted us to swaddle while making sure her legs were up to her chest but to also lift Gracie’s back while changing her diaper to develop back muscles and strengthen her trunk. It’s like us strengthening our core, but in preemie form.  Pushing her legs up to her chest strengthens her leg muscles which I couldn’t understand, because from day one she was kicking everything and everyone away from her legs. It takes us twenty minutes to swaddle her tightly and 5 minutes for her to punch and kick out of the swaddle. Which is followed by her yawning and stretching as a sign of complete satisfaction. I warned her that when she comes home there is something called a swaddler which she shouldn’t be able to kick out of. I am determined to have the last laugh.

 The kicking and flailing reminds Ashleigh of what it felt like when she was pregnant. Gracie hates things which cover her legs up. She also has some of the strongest calf muscles on an infant I have ever seen in my life. They are toned and deserve to be in one of those Skechers tone ups commercials.

All we can do now is infant massage in which we rub her muscles down with baby lotion to make Gracie aware that they are there and to stimulate them. Muscles are a lot like God-given talents, they can easily be forgotten and wasted when not utilized to their full potential during our short lifetimes.

Sanguine

” Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong.” – Peter T. Mcintyre


Five for Fighting- The Riddle

Today, they announced that they were going to take steps in weaning her off from the liquid caffeine used to jump-start her central nervous system. This order was passed down from the same neonatologist who was adamant about pulling Gracie off the ventilator. You have to admire this doctor’s aggressiveness in order to trust him.  He wasn’t wrong about the ventilator and we have no reason to not trust him this go around. After all, he is a pro at what he does and I have watched him work on a weekend with a stained waffle knit shirt and some jeans  in a room full of critical care preemies with billilights and staff members tripping and falling over each other trying to deliver test results to him.  He is a doctor who realized and knew his potential and purpose in this world.

During this time, he not once became stressed or flustered due to his calm and cool demeanor. He always wore a smile and listened to the people around him and is open for discussion and suggestions, when a better alternative is presented to him he tells them to go for it. Being able to have that much faith in your team when it comes to dealing with delicate lives is his progressive approach. The approach is fueled by confidence in his experience along with his staff’s. Although initially I had more confidence in Gracie than anyone when she was first-born, he has always said that Gracie was the star of the NICU because she was the smallest.

This neonatologist has become a man whom Ashleigh admires when it comes to the health of Gracie and  in my opinion between him and Ashleigh’s favorite doctor, they are the one- two punch of the NICU when it comes to saving and preserving  preemie lives. There are certainly not enough thank you’s in the world we could ever give these two men. 

Caffeine is used in the NICU as a stimulant; it is also a diuretic. The coffee I drink every morning is rich in antioxidants, but in this case it is Gracie’s lifeline for breathing. Taking away her caffeine can carry serious repercussions such as her forgetting to breathe on her own. I have never witnessed this in real life, but I know that I do not want it to be showcased to me by Gracie. Unfortunately, Ashleigh witnessed this several times while Gracie was being weaned from the ventilator. In this case, the theory is once they pull her off the caffeine, her body’s programming will kick in and get her lungs to work on their own. Now, we only have to have a little faith in Gracie’s fragile body. During these times you can only wonder the power of the human spirit.

The fear is that she may forget because the programming isn’t there. If that happens, then she will be more than likely re-intubated. Intubation for a baby is not only traumatic, but the word painful doesn’t cover it. You wonder as a parent if she will have enough strength to recover and keep fighting or will she just quit. intubation also creates long-term damage in the larynx or the human voice box along with asymmetrical palates. Mentally and emotionally it would also mean that we were backpedaling on progress.  I hope that in Gracie’s interest we will never have to revisit intubation ever again.

It has become harder and harder for us to see who she has become and instead always see her as the small fragile being she once was. From day one, they always tell you that she will always be behind in size and development until the age of two. From that point on, it will be up to us for her to catch up with the rest of her peers. I welcome the challenge because raising a normal  baby right now would be so much less of a challenge.

I now understand why “preemie mother syndrome” is such a hard habit to kick. It is just like that Subaru commercial where the father sees his little daughter in the driver’s seat as she prepares to drive off.  You can never escape the initial impression a child leaves on you no matter how hard you try to wipe it off.

A Disconnected Digital Divide


The Way You Make Me Feel- Michael Jackson

A good friend of Ashleigh’s arrived in the NICU to visit Gracie for the second time. The first time was when Gracie was born and  this time she was going to be in for a shock. We arrived early so we could change Gracie’s diaper. It never ceases to amaze me how much a diaper can hold.  Shocked and awed would be an understatement to her immediate reaction. This  was because she walked in on Gracie sucking on a paci like it was her last meal. There is just something rewarding about being able to hear your daughter suck on a paci while she is still in the incubator. It is a sign of development and progress, even if the entire NICU can hear her suck on her glorious paci.

Ashleigh’s friend brought in her husband’s Canon Rebel. Personally, I am a huge Nikon fan, but to each their own. The Canon had a high-powered zoom lens which was a little too much for the job. I later learned that her and her husband were out on a date night and he was sitting in the car playing with the Ipad. The Ipad was birthday present to her from her dad.

The husband offered to spend quality time with her on her birthday thinking that it would be a fantastic idea and present. I broke out into a hysterical laughter in the NICU.  It was funny to me because there is an inside joke that Ashleigh’s friend married the male version of Ashleigh and Ashleigh married the male form of Ashleigh’s friend. The offer to spend more quality time on a birthday is what Ashleigh would give me as I would attempt to return the present.  She shared with us how technology has played a role of infidelity within their relationship.

We joke constantly that the Ipad has become her boyfriend like her husband’s laptop is like his girlfriend in bed. One night her husband left his laptop at work and instantaneously became frustrated when he came home. Ashleigh’s friend immediately offered her laptop to him. He thanked her and went straight to bed without even touching it.

In my opinion, technology should never complicate human relationships. Ashleigh and I cherish technology, but we don’t attempt to personify it. However,  I can completely relate on how technology can diminish the purpose of building human relationships.  I am just as guilty as anyone, because I grew up and demanded this kind of technology. I usually am able to recognize the point of technology saturation, because I understand the importance of having a human connection with both friends and family.  Technology is only a medium and not a replacement for human interaction. To me “lol” is just not the same as a real laugh or a smile when it shows itself from across the room, table or couch. An instant bellowing of laughter can’t be replaced with characters or a delayed freeze frame.  Technology can’t capture the precise moment when an individual’s body language begins to unfold itself during an intense conversation. Having a conversation with your child from a hotel room from hundreds of miles away on webcam will never bring the same comfort as being there in that instant moment with her.

I already accepted that Gracie will be the type of daughter who will demand my complete and undivided attention, and I am willing to give it to her. She may never remember these moments,  but she will always cherish the meaning behind them. Those are the small bonding moments which technology can never duplicate or replicate.  ‘This will be  something I have to share with Gracie at a later point through teachable moments. 

The friend’s husband didn’t want to come in because he gets uncomfortable with babies, especially sick children.  The friend recently had a baby as well and he was extremely cautious about coming around his own daughter. I can completely relate because I refused to enter her hospital room when she had her daughter;  instead I paced patiently outside her room like a Swiss Guard. It didn’t help the situation either when I heard that she had some complications during her birth which almost killed her. Needless to say, I have never done well with hospitals, but all fears in life have to be confronted somehow and Gracie has done just that. New mothers and their babies no longer make me feel uncomfortable or wary.

Watching Ashleigh’s friend getting distracted with every alarm and baby in the room was like watching a hawk stare down its prey. She immediately was drawn to the meth baby who was breaking out into a hysterical cry. But, at the same time she had the innate desire to hold every baby in the NICU, possibly nursing and also regaining the desire to have another baby.

The friend was having issues using her Canon because of the technical issues. I had to find a way to manage to learn the ins and outs of the Canon UI system in under a minute.

Ash and her friend peered into the incubator and stared at Gracie’s foot which looked crooked. The friend immediately told her that all of her kids (3) came out bowlegged and the latest one had a mullet when she exited the womb.

Since we last met her family her son has become a male chauvinist. They do not encourage this kind of behavior, but it has become a part of who he is characterwise and it is impossible to alter.   The daughter has outgrown the kissing daddy stage.  So now the daddy is attempting to train his newborn to give daddy sugars. All of which can’t be influenced digitally.

Being Isolated


Talking to the Moon- Bruno Mars

Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone. -Paul Johannes Tillich

Being placed in solitary confinement is one of the hardest things to experience in the NICU.  Today all three triplets were diagnosed with MRSA and have been placed in an isolation room.

MRSA is a strain of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (Staph). It is extremely common in humans because it lives on skin and within the nasal passages of people.  MRSA identifies the strains which don’t respond with most of the antibiotics used to deal with staph.

The infection can begin by entering a cut, sore, catheter or breathing tube. Which is the case for the triplets. Infections can be as small as a pimple or serious as heart, lung, blood, or bone.

This kind of infection becomes serious when the immune system is weak, which is the case with these  triplets. The two main types of infections come from healthcare and community. The healthcare type pertains to individuals who have been hospitalized or had an invasive procedure. In the community type, the infection pertains to individuals who share equipment or personal items such as razors or children in daycare facilities.

Staph causes red, swollen and painful areas around the skin which may later lead to puss or drainage, fever, skin abscess, or warmth around the area. Serious infections include chest pains, fever, fatigue, aches, and shortness of breath.  All of these can be destructive on a preemie’s immune system.

Gracie had a mild form of staph, but with Ashleigh’s close monitoring and daily demands of skin culture tests, they were able to catch it early and treat it. The problem with skin tests is that most of the time it will always come back positive because it is a natural occurrence on our skin. Other tests include, drainage, blood and urine. The first line of defense is to attack it with drugs, however, if it gets worse than IVs must be inserted, intubation, and possibly dialysis.

 
The preemies are experiencing the battles with the IVS and intubation together as a sisterhood.  Our experience with that room has always been unorthodox because it’s usually where the sickest of all babies are placed. Gracie was in there for recovery after her PDA surgery. Something about not being able to gauge your  infant’s progress against other preemies forces you to entertain crazy thoughts and illusions. I can only imagine how the parents of the triplets  handled the news.
 
Meanwhile, doctors and nurses are dressed in fulled protective gear when entering and while they are working on theses triplets or making observations. MRSA is like the adult killer version of cooties in the hospitals. Staff members do not take it lightly nor will they take any chances. If it isn’t contained, it spreads like a three alarm fire. It is interesting to view each doctor and resident’s body language as they approach the room. Some just stand outside to write their reports, while others suit up and fill the reports while they are in there.
 
The parents seemed to be less worried about the protective gear, but for the first time the mother has the chance to spend time with all of her daughters in the same room. Previously, she had one in the critical section, one in isolation and one in the feeders and growers section. The MRSA one prevented her from effectively bonding with her while being with the other two due to fear of transmission.
 
We now were the ones on the outside looking into that same isolated room. Gracie’s bottle consumption has come to grind. She has lost some weight and everyone is confused on why that is the case.  The staff is examining potential causes and will continue to monitor the situation.
 
I couldn’t help but to wonder at this point in the triplets mother’s heart what she was going through while watching two out of three daughters grow and heal while hope continues to slip with one.
 
Being in a confined room and what seemed as an empty room due to the lack of outside stimuli i.e. voices, alarms, or human interactions creates an unhealthy state of mind. In the confinement room, you are stuck with a nurse and family members,  if they are there. In that kind of  environment, loneliness forces you to entertain some negative illogical and irrational thoughts. 
 
Even with such a  short experience with loneliness, I now understand how it can lead people to entertain irrational and illogical thoughts and still be able to justify the decisions.

Emotional Tides


Adele- Cold Shoulder

Sometimes the word frustration doesn’t cover what happens inside the NICU walls. Tonight was one of those nights. The only thing worse than a preemie parent is one which  is more than a leisurely drive away. A mother’s emotions can create a tsunami within a vacuum.

As we were sitting there visiting Gracie, there was a couple from Kentucky who were just admitted with a preemie diagonally from us.  This was their fourth child, but their first preemie and she was placed on billilights.  When they announced the number of kids, I immediately went into shock.

The nurses were running around and it took awhile before we were greeted by Gracie’s; she wanted to tell us that Gracie had low poop production through the day. However, upon opening up the incubator, the novel scent slammed us like a heaping pile of raw garbage.  Gag reflexes kicked in and we held our breath while changing her diaper.

On our side, there was a young blonde nurse who just received a transferred phone call from a disgruntled mother wanting to take her baby home asap. This nurse had previously taken care of Gracie and I knew of her capabilities. The mother was frustrated and I could tell the young nurse was just as frustrated with attempting to explain to this mother that they were doing everything possible to fatten the baby up enough to go home. However, the mother was unable to comprehend that there were also a billion of other factors in determining whether or not their baby would be discharged.  This mother chose the wrong period of her life to apply selective hearing. Other issues included temperature control, the need for diuretics, continuous and consistent nipple-feeding and immune development along with the complexity of medication support, consistent weight gain and vital stability. The nurse was hit with a barrage of feeding questions of why they were gavaging the baby rather than nipplefeeding her. She attempted to explain but the mother made her promise that she would nipplefeed as much as she could. The nurse was doing her best, but she was clearly exhausted with the short sightedness of the mother.

I could tell that this mother was an out of towner who was stressed, hormonal and couldn’t quite comprehend the difficulty of her new infant. I admired the nurse for staying with the mother on the phone that long, because I would have hung up five minutes into the conversation. I wished she was able to share our realization  that you can not push the pace of feeding beyond tolerance and that you have to take what the baby gives you. All we can do is watch, observe, record and respond to our children.

I commend the mother for wanting her baby to be home and the desire to be a good parent. But all of this had nothing to do with the nurse as she kept trying to defend her actions and listen to a conversation about feeding a baby. Nurses usually tend to three or four babies and feed them accordingly within the doctor’s guidelines.  This wasn’t the nurse’s first rodeo. When the nurse got off the phone, she went and put on a feeding gown and started a feeding while an overwhelming amount of spillover tension from the conversation.

As I sat there patiently absorbing my surroundings,  I realized this one of the NICU’s busier nights. The meth baby in isolation was crying hysterically above and beyond colic. Gracie’s nurse was assigned to her as well. Babies were being moved around by nurses and the ratio of nurses to babies grew from 3 to 1 to 4 to 1 during a twelve-hour shift. Handling one is a handful, but handling four in twelve hours is pure chaos to me.

 We finished bonding with Gracie and were the last parents there; we picked up and left and the nurses started winding things down by turning off the fluorescents overhead. As the tides of frustration were receding, the drawback of silence was finally  encroaching upon the night shift.

Day After New Years

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The Call- Regina Spektor

Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.  ~Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest”

A lot of occurrences in our lives are relived through memories. Memories become still photographs captured at moments because of our inability to remember specific days. A photograph can stimulate a thought, emotion or even a conversation.  Throughout this entire journey, I have collected my thoughts with notes and photographs.

This was the case today because “Poppy” got to see Gracie in her new and improved condition. This was a new year and he deserved to replace his previous memory of Gracie.  When Poppy first met Gracie, she was as heavy as a small bag of rice and almost as long as a sub sandwich. Her eyes remained fused shut.  I remembered that day clearly, because he uncomfortably stood there watching all of the tubes, machines and bilirubin lights supporting Gracie while grimacing in his own emotions. He wouldn’t touch her and suffered at the sight that Gracie was fighting for her life with every mechanical breath.

Today was a different day. There are no lights, minimal tubes and the annoying sound of pumps, shrieks and sirens have been reduced to mostly silence. Gracie was still in an incubator, but she was wide awake and moving.

We decided to let Ashleigh’s mom hold Gracie for the first time today. When she entered our NICU section, I immediately suspected that Grammie dressed up for this event as she wore a purple, black and white checkered collared shirt with some jeans. On a usual day you will catch her with a faded outdated sweatshirt and jeans. She is and will always remain an individual who is willing to sacrifice glamour for comfort.

Grammie has been patient and deserves to be formally acquainted with her open-eyed grand-daughter. I know that this day marks one of her happiest days in her life because it’s an opportunity she will cherish for the rest of her life. Gracie has yet to comprehend the meaning of love, but I suspect that Grammie’s love will not only be bold, but also everlasting.  She has stuck with Gracie from day one and always believed that she would somehow survive this process through the skin of her teeth. As her own sort of sacrifice she  refused to get her hair cut until Gracie came home, despite it driving her nuts.

Gracie’s first act while being in her grandmother’s arms was to develop a load in her diaper. Grammie later commented on how the novel scent lingers in the nostrils for multiple hours.  One of her many assigned nicknames to Gracie is “fat piglet.” 

Poppy is an old school kind of guy who graduated from UT and works in the telecommunications industry. At any given day you will see him sporting some sort of orange UT memorabilia. He is also old school when it comes to film. He loves using 35 mm rolls of film and has been almost reluctant to transfer over to the digital age with full editing power.  We gave him a digital camera for one of his recent birthdays and occasionally we see him whipping it out on special occasions along with his 35 mm camera. Today was one of those occasions by capturing Grammie’s moment (The 35 mm pic is above). 

Until last year, he was always known as the family photographer capturing still photographs of family engagements and storing them physically. However, I have transitioned into this role and have utilized the convenience and processing power of digital photography to ensure that all of our memories will never dull, fade or become lost in some box.

At the end of the days we wished  to forget, sometimes memories are just what we need to cheer us up.

Hats


Corinne Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On

Back  in college, I was a hat fanatic. It wasn’t until I was married when I was forced to give up all hats. Today, I would be lucky to find a hat in my house. However, I like most parents wear a bunch of figurative hats.

On a daily basis I get pounded with questions of when Gracie will finally get to come home.  This is when I put on my “Ambassador for Gracie” hat. For us to even get an idea of when Gracie will be discharged is a lot like waiting for your car to be repaired by a mechanic named Buddy or asking a contractor about when a home improvement project will be completed. Their answers are usually vague and undefined.

In order for Gracie to be discharged she will have to take all of her bottles, which currently she is  taking  75 percent of her bottles.  The first bottle of today exhausted Gracie out by the end. Feeding has become a labor intensive and strenuous activity for Gracie because of her dependency on oxygen, underdeveloped lungs and heart.  This is an example of my medical student hat.

In addition, Gracie will have to be able to withstand the car seat test. This just means that Gracie will have to be able to sit and maintain her body temperature for the duration of the car ride from the hospital to our home which is about forty-five minutes. Ashleigh took the time, energy and money to invest in a top-notch preemie friendly travel system for Gracie which included a lot of head and neck padding for support. Ashleigh is almost completely prepped for Gracie’s homecoming. This is my attempt at wearing a supportive husband hat.

As much as I would love to see her not be so tired from feeding, I understand that feeding is vital for her development. Gavaging her milk would be much easier, but she needs to work just a little harder to master the act of self dependency.  I wish I could relieve some of this burden for her, but I can not because this is part of her growing pains.  I know that I am not the only one feeling this because her surrogate mothers in the NICU  struggle with watching Gracie exhaust herself with the bottle. Some nurses gavage her following  feeding because of the taxing effect of being nipplefed consecutive bottles. They want as much as we do for Gracie to progress on her own schedule. Having the ability to consume your own food has become a privileged, not a God-given right in my book. This is an example of me in a guardian hat.

Feeding a baby is a fortifying bonding relationship between parent and child. It’s when a parent and child can physically and emotionally nurture one another while developing an instant quiet connection for those 10-30 minutes. Gracie’s loud sucking, big eyes and release of gases can make anyone laugh at any time. Watching your child suffer through this process negates all of the nurturing or comedic qualities.  This is an example of my nurturer hat.

The discussion to release Gracie will again occur if Gracie can continue to take all of her bottles by nipple in the duration of a 48 hour period. However, I suspect that because of her prematurity that there are other factors in determining her discharge date. There are still too many health and medication concerns with Gracie before she is released.

Currently the physical therapist is working with Gracie daily to lay on her left side more because her head is now oddly shaped. It is also the side where Gracie had the PDA surgery and I can relate to Gracie’s pain on that side. It’s amazing how these small trinkets of behavior will develop over time and progress into adolescents and into adulthood. The physical therapist warned us that at this point Gracie’s first hat may be a helmet to help mold her head because of her deep hatred for laying on her left side. I was just getting used to my daughter’s hypnotizing beauty and now we have to consider a helmet to diminish it. This is an example of the restless father hat.

At this point I not only envy full term babies, but also the ease of how their parents can approach them with what seems like minimal care taking effort compared to what we will have to endure. This is me wearing a  hat of envy.

It seems like we all wear hats which come in different shapes and sizes, but all serve the same purpose.

Black Eyed Peas

Meet Me Halfway Black Eyed Peas

Most people celebrate the New Year with resolutions, festivities and beverages of choice. We celebrated it with a party and a tall glass fo guilt. As the clock struck twelve on New Year’s Eve,  I asked for and  received resolutions from a variety of friends.  In my opinion, most resolutions are like junk stocks,  few are worth the commitment and others are easily forgotten.  Personally,  I didn’t have any, instead I wished that the New  Year would  bring Grace home . We spent the morning of New Year’s day with Gracie in the NICU as my mother-in- law meticulously prepped for the New Year’s party at our house and for the viewing of Gracie’s room.

We spent New Year’s Eve overworked with me having to take apart a crib while reassembling it again. Previously during the Christmas holidays my sisters, wife and mother attempted to put the crib together as a bonding project. My mother observed and pointed out the potential hazards of the crib. They soon realized that certain pieces weren’t matching up and the crib was lopsided.  I laughed and attempted to salvage the situation, but gave up in their presence. I revisited the crib on New Year’s eve and realized that I had to start from step one. As I took the crib apart I accidentally nicked and scratched certain pieces of the finish inadvertently. Of course, Ashleigh had to comment on those mistakes. I didn’t care because it didn’t destroy the functionality of the crib. All I knew was that Gracie’s room had to be up and ready to show on New Year’s day.

The funny thing about Gracie’s room is that most of the stuff that we have bought was shipped from online retail outlets. For about two  brief months I believe the UPS and FedEx deliverers were my best friends as I continued to hear large diesel engines roar on my street along with squeaky brakes and the opening and slamming of their metal doors. All of this was followed by door knocks and the deafening thud sound of boxes thrown onto my porch on a daily basis.  

Each individual addition to Gracie’s room was meant to be functional, yet simple. The larger pieces were kept elegant and maintained the furniture themes of the house.  We are sure that sooner or later Gracie will change the room to match her personality. We knew that for now that Gracie would be sleeping in our room for a couple of months before being introduced into her own bedroom. For now her nursery is just for show and a holding area for her daily supplies.

One of the hardest things about being working NICU parents is that every time a social event is scheduled, we feel guilty for not being by Gracie’s bedside. The emotional baggage that one carries with a parent when they are away from their NICU baby sits with you like a heavy lunch. We realize that we are constantly torn between the NICU, family and friends. It isn’t long before you realize that there isn’t enough of you to go around and you desperately try to meet everyone half way. All of the relationships outside of the immediate family are immediately placed on pause or reduced speed.  I can only hope that when Gracie comes home things will begin to return to a degree of normalcy.

Traditionally our family celebrates the New Year by providing a feast composed of baked chicken,  macaroni and cheese, ribs, cabbage, black-eyed peas, pinto beans and collard greens.  The symbolism behind consuming black-eyed peas is for prosperity and originated from the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana. I ate some, but the prosperity I was searching for wasn’t tied to material wealth. It was for Gracie to make prosperous gains healthwise,  enough to make it home.  Although,  it was great to see and hang out with family members, I also knew that this would probably be the last time they will be allowed in our house for at least two months due to Gracie’s anticipated homecoming.

Throughout this process as I looked around in the NICU at the caliber of parents of most preemie babies I realized how blessed I was to have a stable home, a committed extended family, the importance of friends,  being educated, employed, and well minded. The New Year  taught me that material wealth will do little to protect against emotional adversity.  The outcome of emotional adversity will always be determined by how one weathers the multiple storm fronts.

Gracie will hopefully one day realize how blessed she is to be part of such a tight close-knit family filled with kisses, hugs, laughter and endless love. She has never asked for this, but has earned and deserves every bit of it. Gracie has done more than meet us halfway.