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

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.


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.

Targeting Faux Pas

Back In Style- Joss Stone

Today, we were informed by the nurses that we should get the nursery ready for our daughter’s return. Their reasoning behind this was that Gracie was taking the bottles on her own and continued doing so with little effort.  She hasn’t accelerated her weight, but has lost five grams. Her heatlh condition has been pretty much on par. Having someone tell you that your daughter may be coming home is a lot like hitting you with a bat. Thoughts and emotions flow through you effortlessly. This was the case with Ashleigh as she panicked over the news.  I told her to calm down and recollect herself as we will make sure the finishing touches are put in place.

The nurse from the previous night gave her a bath and parted her hair while giving her a mohawk in the middle. Gracie had a faux hawk like a Jersey Shore character. Being able to style an infant’s hair is so much fun at this age because they arent able to define their individual style as of yet.  However embarassing these moments may be for Gracie, they are memorable for us.  Right now hairstyling is fun instead of being a daily tedious chore.

At home, the nursery has been completed since New Year’s eve.  Right after we were informed of Gracie’s potential arrival, we went to Target and began to shop. At first, Ashleigh was going to purchase things, but I just suggested that we create a registry and let Ashleigh use a scanner gun. As I set things up at the customer service desk, Ashleigh went and looked for items.  She grabbed a cart and made her way up to the front where I was.  She already had a semi-full cart. It contained outlet covers on clearance. She left the cart and made her way up to me as I approached the customer service desk. The service rep handed me a welcome reusable tote filled with coupons and samples. She then programmed the IR gun and haned it over to us. Ashleigh went to retrieve her cart and it was missing.  I was upset over my missing clearance merchandise. We slowly began our creation of a  baby registry at Target. Ashleigh had previously researched Target.com products and knew exactly which products she wanted to add to her registry from home.

Ashleigh felt ashamed for wanting to register after the birth of Gracie, because it is usually a social faux pas. However, I insisted that Ashleigh partake in the some of the fun in receiving gifts for Gracie. It was a right of motherhood to experience showers and such from coworkers, family members and friends.  Gracie’s progress was a well deserved celebration. When Gracie was first born, Ashleigh was teeter tottering between having and not having registries. I suggested she do it, but I didn’t want to pressure her, because it was the least of our concerns at that exact moment.

I did strongly urge that if she was to have a registry then to make sure that all the products she purchased were multifaceted and durable. I encouraged reading multiple reviews and price comparisons with coupon code usage. I personally think that new parents overextend themselves when buying baby items resulting in dead plastic. Dead plastic refers to infant toys and products which sit and gather dust.

The most highly argued product on the registry was the diaper genie. It is essentially a diaper pail on steroids, because it promises to eliminate smell from soiled diapers. It seemed that after extensively reading reviews from different retailers, people either loved it or hated it. My argument was that it took up unnecessary space while not remaining cost effective against used grocery bags.

Although this isn’t the only disagreement Ashleigh and I had, it will be one of the most memorable ones because Gracie’s soiled diaper will be our registries’ litmus test for our planning efficacy.

First Impressions

More than Anyone- Gavin Degraw
My sisters and my mother were getting antsy to see Gracie. The antsiest one of them all was my mother. We had to make sure Gracie was calm, alert and in a good mood that morning because we didn’t want my family members to have the wrong first impression about Gracie’s status. Gracie is slowly improving, but still remained a fragile baby. 

For some odd reason, I ended up catching a cold prior to my family’s arrival. I refused to enter the NICU, although  I showed no symptoms of a fever. It wasn’t something I wanted to give  to staff members or the NICU’s patients.

In order to comply with the “three by bedside” rule, I had to create some sort of visitation schedule . In the morning, we called to check on Gracie’s progress and  were the recipients of the greatest news ever. Gracie took a complete feeding via bottle without her vitals dropping. The nurse observed that Gracie had discovered that she has a mouth and had been experimenting with sticking her hands, blankets and parts of her onesies in there. The nurse washed and saved the bottle for us as a trophy. I wondered if one could bronze a bottle. Gracie’s weight is now 3 lbs 2 ozs.  

With the good news, Ashleigh decided to go down around 9 AM, and I would meet her with the family around 11 PM.  We weren’t able to  leave the house until around 11:30 AM.  As soon as we left, I called the NICU to pass the news onto Ashleigh.

When we arrived, I allowed my older sister and my mother to visit Gracie first and my sisters would rotate in and out.  I allowed my mother to spend about an hour and forty-five minutes with Gracie, because my mother and sisters live in New York and she only visits once a year for about a week. Gracie is her first grandchild.

As I waited in the sky walk and attempted to rotate people in and out on a schedule,  my older sister exited with the finished bottle. It was in a plastic bag with a label, date and time stamped. The bottle was given to us and would be one of Gracie’s  biggest trophies. Gracie couldn’t have made me a prouder parent.  It was a great present from Gracie to us and belongs on her mantle. It’s funny how we look at baby bottles with a simplistic interpretation, but us it was a significant milestone, nipple and all.  It proved that Gracie was indeed earning her “feeders and growers”  classification.

My older sister informed me of how my mother reacted in the NICU.  Before her arrival, I asked my mother to buy a book to read to Gracie in the NICU. She didn’t fully understand my request. As my mother walked closer and closer to Gracie, she kept repeating “Gwacie, Gwacie, Gwacie” louder and louder to the point where she may have been shouting at her through the isolette. I knew my mother was going to be excited, but not this excited. Prior to her entry into the NICU, I tried to explain to her that reading her a book was better for her now than touching her because her most developed sense is sound and smell. Voice recognition is vital for her brain development. My mother chose not to read instead she just held and stroked Gracie’s legs. The nurse had to step in to tell her that stroking isn’t a pleasant experience for Gracie.

As much as I wanted my mother involved in Gracie’s life, I also wanted her to understand that Gracie could be overstimulated. As hard as the joy and excitement was to contain, I understood my mother’s emotions because this is all too new for her at an accelerated pace. The NICU is an intimidating environment which brings out both fear and love for first time visitors.


Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Since we couldn’t bring Gracie home for Christmas, the NICU decided to bring Christmas to all of the preemies. This was the first time in 25 years that snow was falling on Christmas in the particular region we live in. This wintry weather was unusual for this area during this season. The weather was bad which translated into very few parents being in the NICU. This is because this hospital serves a rural population. When we left the house the roads were in bad condition because the amount of precipitation was unexpected.

We were told on Christmas Eve that Santa would be arriving around 8:30 AM. We arrived right at 8:30 and all of the babies had a Christmas setup. Every NICU baby was stuffed inside a large red stocking with “Merry Christmas” written across it it. Every preemie also had a red woven hat with a little white ball on top. Suprisingly, Gracie was up and relaxed.

We found out that one of the nurses actually sponsored this event with her own money and a local school helped with personal Christmas cards. The spirit of good will always exerts itself in the most unlikely of all places. It was unsettling to me that this nurse will not get a thank you or a card of some sort from the majority of the parents. I do know that she will do this year after year because it’s the right thing to do.

We originally bought a newborn sized red dress and white hair bow for Gracie to wear for Christmas with the possibility of it being reused again for Valentine’s Day. When we got into the NICU, Ashleigh was determined to make the outfit fit on Graice and all within the stocking.  We knew that the dress was going to be large on her. The nurses congregated around our isolette as we took pictures of Gracie.

 Gracie was in a good mood for about 2 minutes and got tired and cranky over us flipping her and putting her in different positions. I was really surprised at how well Gracie tolerated this shifting and moving.  Her isolette had a white blanket with a red and green border and we took pictures of her elevated on a pillow  and on Ashleigh’s bare chest.

Santa eventually made his way around and he was followed by a female assitant elf dressed in full elf gear with a brace on the left knee and little girl elves in full gear handing out candy canes. . Santa went from isolette to isolette with one elf pumping hand sanitizer before and after each personal picture.  He took pictures with the all the staff members.  One of the NICU nurses asssisted santa with the cords and the handling of the babies. As Santa approached us, Gracie was just getting gavaged so he had to go to the critical care NICU ward and then make the trip back. We eventually saved the best for last and that was Gracie. 

All I wanted for Christman this year was for Gracie’s health to improve. We left the NICU and were behind the head  elf with the knee brace  and her daughter and I asked if I could help with her things. She agreed and carried her  things out to her RAV4 in the slick and snowy environment. I thanked her and wished her a Merry Christmas. On our drive home I opened up Gracie’s stocking and it was filled with a bunch of helpful and creative goodies.

At home, we had my sisters and my mother waiting to celebrate Christmas with us.  Ashleigh and I went to work in the kitchen to prepare them breakfast. I asked them to help me on Christams eve with the wrapping of the presents. On theirs, I just stuck a bow or placed them in bags with tissue paper. I didn’t have much time to wrap other presents, so I basically stuck bows on all of my presents to everyone.  However, I did ask my sisters to help me in wrapping some of the presents to other family members and our mother. I attemped to wrap my niece’s moon sand present and failed twice. I desperately wanted to just put it in a bag and throw some tissue paper on it, but none of the bags would fit. The wrapping of  gifts symbolized my laissez faire approach towards this year’s Christmas.

We failed to decorate the interior or exterior of the house. This was also the first year we have never put up the Christmas tree or Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Our spirit of Christmas was poured into an isolette twenty seven miles away.


Five for Fighting The Riddle

One of the most important functions we can do for our children is to promote literacy. Literacy is a transitional skill used for all learning and communication in a civilized society. I have always believed it as an important skill which needs to be developed and nurtured as early as possible to answer life’s greatest riddles.  Today, we read a book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library collection titled  A House that Jack Built  which we purchased through a used book store. Although I signed Gracie up for this program within the first week she was born, I was extremely eager to see the caliber of books this program provided.  

My research on the program led me to believe that it is an early childhood literacy program which provides a free book  every month from birth up to the age of five. The program started as a rural project in East TN and now included most of North America and the United Kingdom.  The first book everyone receives is The Little Engine that Could and the last book is Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come.  We followed A House that Jack Built with A Badger’s Meal. Both books kept me on my toes because they were lengthy and forced the reader to recall previous events through memorization and symbols which is rare in most children’s books.

Ashleigh held Gracie as I stumbled with recalling specific events within each book. Both seemed to laugh at me as I was trying to read and recall certain events and symbols. We followed up the reading with the changing of the diaper. Surprisingly, diaper changing can be a comfortable routine with enough repetitive exposure. My diapers are more symmetrical and no longer sag as much; the entire process take no longer than one minute. Gracie smiles at me sometimes when I wipe her and I wonder what she is thinking about.  Ashleigh wanted to sing lullabies and after the first two we had to look up lyrics for other ones on the internet via Google. That was pretty funny and embarrassing.

The joys of parenthood also include nursery furniture shopping. Some people go with room packages, while others such as us want to make it as clean, contemporary and transitional  as possible. We as a couple decided to shop for Gracie’s dresser. Although this is a not a huge spectacle of any sort for a normal family, it is a huge ordeal for my wife and I because she is an avid HGTV watcher. I am usually in the same room as she watches these shows. On behalf of all husbands/significant others,  I would like to curse this channel to eternal damnation.

To my wife, furniture should not only serve a function, but create ambiance in the house. This is because she is a firm believer in finding contemporary pieces which have traditional accents. This helps in balancing between modern and classic.  Prior to physically shopping for Gracie’s furniture, we explored all online outlets and catalogues in an effort to hunt down the perfect dresser. This was a huge task because this dresser was to serve as a changing table, storage, and an accent piece of Gracie’s room. It was so huge that Ashleigh opened up the box of crib parts  to grab a side piece of the railing  and carried it around from furniture store to furniture store. We physically went and left each physical brick and mortar furniture store with disappointment.

 We were left with one option and it was a factory direct warehouse.  The factory furniture warehouse was were we found multiple pieces which best matched Gracie’s crib. The piece I originally found was tucked away in a corner and we became worried about it being too large for the room. We asked for other pieces and were led to a piece which was a miniaturized version.  Ashleigh examined the piece by imagining uses for the open shelf space along with drawer space and imagined putting things into them.  She measured the height and wanted to know how well it would fit a changing pad with a baby in it. We took measurements of the piece and went back home to to look for a changing pad which would fit via online retailers.

An SUV, cross over or minivan is a must have with kids because it transports people, family, items and space. Since Gracie’s birth we have utilized our full-sized suv to it’s full capacity to haul large pieces and loads to and from storage along with large furniture pieces. A must have is also a leather interior to resist stains and wear.

If things went well we would come back the next day and purchase the transitional dresser. One major cornerstone of the nursery was within grasp on our path towards the nursery’s completion.