Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Post of the Year

Like everyone else on New Years Eve, I'm reflecting on the past year. From all of the posts on Facebook, it seems everyone can't wait to say good bye to 2013 and start 2014. I feel the complete opposite. 2013 was the best year of my life and I'm sad that time is moving so quickly!

Cooper amazes me every day with all of the new things he learns to do, and I am so proud when he shows development, but I don't want him to grow so quickly. I went through Cooper's clothes today, and packed up some of the smaller newborn clothes and it made me really sad. I know it's ridiculous and I do want my child to grow and thrive, but it still makes me sad that he's not going to be my baby forever.

On a happier note, here are some of the things Cooper has amazed us with lately:

He smiles all the time. All we have to do is talk to him or smile at him and he cracks a smile. Such a sweetie!

We've heard a few giggles. He really cracks up in his sleep, but I've gotten a few awake chuckles as well.

He tells very long stories. He gets on a roll jabbering and really shows off the facial expressions. He will furrow his brow and sound concerned, then raise his eyebrows and sound excited, then smile and squeal. It is so funny to listen to him!

He is going through a phase where he really dislikes tummy time, but he loves sitting or standing supported. He has such great head control. In fact people in public comment on how strong he is. I think it's because he is still so little that by size he looks like he's only about a month old. We have to explain that he's actually about 3 months adjusted age.

He is starting to reach out for items and actually grab them with his hands now. He usually doesn't hang on for very long, but he tries!

Cooper is teething again. I've heard in babies this young, they will have some discomfort but then the teeth recede back into the gum. He had a week that was fine, but the last few days he's been acting a little uncomfortable again. Lots of drooling, he loves when I rub his gums, and he really gnaws on his fists. I feel a spot on his gums that is elevated and hard, and it looks like possibly a tooth trying to break through. I would still be surprised if it does anytime soon. Most likely it will recede again.

Cooper gets his synagis shot on Thursday so I'll have a weight update them. For now here is a fun photo of him. We keep trying to put him on Diesel's back, but he just won't let him ride. We finally got Diesel to stand still with a peanut butter spoon bribe.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorite Things Friday - Baby Christmas Presents

Cooper's adjusted age will be 3 months on Christmas, so we didn't feel the need to buy tons of gifts this year. It's also hard to find toys for babies under 6 months. Here are the items we ended up getting. 

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol DVD ($5) We are starting a new tradition of getting a new Christmas movie every year on Christmas Eve. I found this gem on sale at Shopko.

2. Carter's Microfleece Pajamas ($8) Since we got married, Jake and I have been giving each other pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. Cooper's are red with moose. I bought them a month ago and got the 3 month size, so they are probably going to be pretty big on him! 

3. Infantino Textured Multi Ball Set ($10) Babies love balls and the different textures will be fun for his curious mind. 

4. Mamas and Papas Tummy Time Interactive Toy ($30) We have a tummy time mat that we like but I think this bolster will work great when he is a little older since it has lots of things to grab and play with. When I was a child, my parents always had one gift unwrapped on Christmas morning that was considered the gift from Santa. Since this one was impossible to wrap, it's the Santa gift this year. 

5. Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Seashorse ($13) Is getting tough to get Cooper to nap during the day unless I'm holding him. He can be exhausted but as soon as he feels me put him down he wakes up and fights the sleep. This toy has a soft glow and plays quiet music for 5 minutes then turns off on its own. I found this on sale at Herbergers and ended up giving it to him that same day. So far he seems to like it and it does seem to put him back to sleep when he is put down. 

As for his stocking, I found a few items that we will need in the next few months. A set of plastic links, a brush and comb set, mesh pacifiers for fruit, and more teethers. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

5 Months Old

Yesterday was Cooper's 5 month birthday! He's getting so big. He hasn't been weighed in a couple of weeks, but I'm guessing he may be 9 lbs by now! Isn't he getting so chunky?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Favorite Things Friday - Skincare

I have always had dry skin, but the pregnancy made it so much worse. I had to find new, ultra moisturizing skin care products and these are the ones that I've stuck with, in the order that I usually use them. 
1. Lancome Creme Mousse Comfort face wash ($25) This is most definitely the one product I couldn't live without. I tried going back to cheaper drug store brands after Cooper was born but ultimately went running back to the department store for this one! 
2. Neutrogena Body Oil ($8) I still have yet to find a body wash that is enough moisturizing, so I end up using this oil after my showers before I dry off. If has a nice subtle scent. 
3. Lancome Tonique Confort toner ($25) Toner is great right after face wash to get a squeaky clean feeding. This one is made especially for dry skin. 
4. Lancome Genefique Eye eye cream ($62) I got this eye cream as a sample when I bought my first tube of Lancome face wash and really love how soft and supple it makes the skin around my eyes. It is definitely a splurge but I bought a jar almost a year ago and still have a lot in it, so it lasts forever! 
5. Lancome Bienfait Aqua Vital face moisturizer ($45) Another product that lasts forever! It doesn't take much to cover your face, but if I skip this step, I regret it later in the day! 
6. Jergens Skin Firming lotion ($8) I can't say I notice it firming, but it is very moisturizing.
7. Covergirl Tinted Moisturizer ($7) One face moisturizer just isn't enough, so I use this tinted moisturizer instead of a foundation. It has very light coverage, moisturizes, and has sunscreen built in. This is hard to find in stores. Walmart never has it, Walgreens rarely has it, the grocery store sometimes has it. The last time I found it I stocked up!   

Monday, December 9, 2013

Early December Update

The last two weeks have been pretty tame. We are settled back in at home and getting on a schedule. Last week was bitter cold in Montana, 5 days in a row that didn't even get into the positives, so Cooper and I have been staying in the warm house. Cooper is almost 5 months old, 10 weeks adjusted. In some ways he is still much like a newborn, in others he is developing very well.

Cooper still eats every two hours during the day. I continue to give him more in his bottle, adding a few mLs every few days, and he always eats it all then two hours later is hungry again. He's a little piggy! We are still nursing a few times a day. I let him eat as long as he wants and it's usually between 1 hour to an hour and a half. Sometimes he wants a bottle 30 minutes later. I'm trying to keep myself positive but it is getting frustrating when it takes so much time. We will continue working on it as I'm hoping that he gets stronger and quicker. My ultimate goal is to just stop pumping! I'm still adding to the stock pile of frozen breast milk so if I get to the point that I give up on breast feeding, I can stop pumping and still feed Cooper bottles from the stock pile for quite a few months.

Cooper still likes tummy time, but I think he likes playing on his back even more. He kicks and swings his arms around and gets so excited to interact with me. He also loves to sit up. I think he really likes to look around and sitting up is the best way to look around. We support his back, but he holds his head up all on his own. He is such a smiley baby! We are to the point that all I have to do is look at him and smile and he breaks out a huge grin. He does a little grunting chuckle sound, lots of squeals...and I swear one time he did a full on giggle! He loves when I sing! He is starting to figure out his hands. He usually just brings them to his mouth, but one time he grabbed my finger and took it to his mouth. I catch him really looking at things, studying them. He loves mobiles. When I put Cooper in his crib, he looks up at his animal mobile and smiles like they are his friends. It is so cute!

He is sleeping in his crib every night. I give him his last bottle sometime around 9 then put him in his crib. Sometimes he is already asleep, sometimes he's wide awake. If he's awake sometimes he is content to watch his mobile and fall asleep on his own, sometimes he needs his pacifier. When I get up in the middle of the night to pump, I wake him up for a bottle. There have been a few nights that I slept right through my alarms and Cooper sleeps on through the night. If I let him, he would sleep more than 8 hours, but the pediatrician recommends waking him at about 5 hours since he is still small for his adjusted age.

Last week, Cooper got another synagis shot. He was weighed and was 8lbs 11oz. He is still in newborn size clothes, but we finally started using size 1 diapers. Let me just say that we absolutely love our pediatrician, her nurse, and the immunization nurse. Any time I have a question, I am able to call the nurse on her personal office phone. If she doesn't answer right away, I always get a call back within an hour. I know they are very busy and have lots of other patients, but they all remember us and remember Cooper's health history.

I have been working on a weekly cleaning schedule and now that Cooper is able to spend more of his awake time entertaining himself, I'm able to get more chores done. Still not as much as I would like to get done, but enough for now. Jake's mom will be here in a couple of weeks and I know she will be glad to entertain Cooper so I'm planning to get some big organizing projects done. I'll end this post with another adorable picture of Cooper. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

8 Pounds

We've had a great week! We drove to Seattle last Monday. We made the trip in one day and Coop was a great traveler, but we felt horrible that he was stuck in that car seat for so long so we made a lot of stops to let him stretch, which made the trip extra long!

On Tuesday, the first appointment was a video swallow study. They had me feed Cooper a bottle of this white liquid that shows on an x-ray. It was really cool to see exactly how he swallows! When he first started, they said he takes too many sucks before swallowing, so the liquid was pooling in the back of his throat and close to going into his lungs, so he was "micro asperating." Luckily as he ate he got into a rhythm and no longer had that issue. They cleared him to continue oral feeding. We just have to pace him in the beginning. And by the way, that white liquid was still very bright when Cooper spit it up all over Jake's shirt later that day!

Then we met with the feeding therapist that we saw the last time we were in Seattle. She observed him breast feeding. I have been nursing a few times a day, but it seems like he is always still hungry after 30 minutes and everyone tells me to stop him at 30 minutes so he doesn't burn too many calories. I also have to pump afterward, so I know he's not getting as much out as he could be. Then he acts hungry again at just 1 hour instead of his usual 2 hours. The therapist gave me some tips on positioning to help him get better latch to be more productive. I'm trying to be consistent with it, but when he gets hungry it is just easier to grab a bottle. I keep reminding myself that once we get the breastfeeding down, I can quit pumping. It's going to be a hard transition, but it's going to be so worth it!

Cooper had his bronchoscopy early Wednesday morning. The doctor came in for a pre-op and was pleasantly surprised that he could not hear Cooper breathing. No wheezing or squeaking! Sure enough, when he came to tell us the results he said Cooper's airway looks very good. He did not feel the scarring needed to be cut, but he did do a small balloon dilation just because it was convenient. He does not think Cooper will need another bronchoscopy!

He said that Cooper was having some trouble breathing while coming out of the anesthesia, so they had him on oxygen and were going to keep him overnight. A few hours after the operation, he was admitted to a room and they almost immediately took him of the oxygen and he did fine. I stayed bedside that night and he was allowed to leave the next morning. We took two days to make the trip home and made it here Friday night.

This weekend Cooper has been acting a little off. He had a little bit of a cough, but that seems to have gone away. He also seems pretty clingy. We have always been able to put Cooper in his bouncer or swing and he will either fall asleep or entertain himself by looking up and the bees on the mobile. Now he watches me walk away and starts crying. Not an I'm hungry cry, not a mad cry, not a sleepy cry, but a "bottom lip sticking out" sad cry. I'm hoping he is just going through a phase.

We went to the pediatrician this morning to fill her in on all of the results in Seattle. She agreed that he is probably just a little clingy because he's getting over the upset in his schedule cause by the trip and that he may have had a slight cold as well. She said once he feels better and gets back into a schedule, he will probably go back to how he was before. When he was weighed this morning he was 8 lbs 0.5 oz! Woo hoo! She also commented that he is getting chunky legs!

Even though he's been a little out of sorts, he has really developed a personality. He smiles so much now. All I have to do is sing or talk in a silly voice and he gives a big dimpled smile! He's still doing great with tummy time and story time. It's great that he can actually focus on the pictures now. He has discovered his hands. He grabs at everything now, like his ears or his feet or our fingers or my hair! Sometimes he takes his pacifier,  but sometimes he gags on it or spits it out. I'm going that means it won't be too tough to wean him from it soon! Most of all, I think he loves it when Jake and I talk to him. The other day, Jake was making a train sound and told Cooper to say "woo woo" then Cooper did a quiet little "who." I know it was a fluke, but it was so cute!

My goal this week is to finish Cooper's birth announcement. I designed it back in September, but with him being readmitted for a few weeks in Sept/Oct, I've had to change the wording a bit, and now I'm just trying to get a decent photo of him to use on it.

Here is the photo of him while waiting for the operating last Wednesday. They had him in a tiny hospital gown... so cute!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

4 Months Old

Can you believe it?  Cooper hit 4 months on Thursday!

We've had a great week. We started out the week with another visit to the feeding therapist. She gave us the green light to start breastfeeding 3 times a day. I still have to start him off using the breast shield, then a few minutes after he gets organized I can slip it off and he usually is able to relatch. We still have a lot of work to get transitioned to full time breast feeding, but we are on the right track!

On Thursday, we saw the pediatrician for the 4 month well baby check up. Cooper was 7 lbs 6 oz and 19.5 in long. The nurse said both measurements are at 0%, which didn't concern me because I assumed that was compared to full term 4 month olds, then she said that it was actually only compared to other 4 month olds that were also born at 29 weeks. So even for a preemie he's still tiny. The doctor said that she is not concerned because he is consistently gaining. He should still catch up in a year or so.

Cooper also got his 4 month shots that day. I definitely noticed a difference later that day. Poor guy just wanted to cuddle all day. I took advantage and held him most of the day. He was back to normal yesterday.

Our Quality Life Concepts consultant came by that day and gave me tons of ideas for interacting with Cooper. It's nice to have lots of ideas instead of doing the same songs or games over and over again. When I get a chance I'll try to type them all up to share.

I love how Cooper acts right now. He is such a great baby! He smiles when we talk to him, and especially when I sing to him. He is getting so strong and holds his head steady when we hold him in a sitting or standing position. He amazes me everyday! I'm proud of him, but still kind of sad that he's not going to be my little baby very long.

Cooper has his follow up appointments in Seattle next week. We will be leaving early Monday morning and hope to be home next weekend. We have some great habits going right now so I'm really hoping being away from home doesn't mess those up! Cooper can be put in bed awake and will fall asleep on his own. He also sleeps 5 hours at night, then another 3 after that. He eats every 2 hours during the day, so he definitely has his days and nights straight. I'm so pleased with how well he has taken to this night sleeping arrangement so I'm really hoping the long car trip and possible hospital admittance doesn't mess that up!

Here is a picture before going to the pediatrician on Thursday. Then the picture of Cooper on the day he left Benefis, at about 4 lbs and 2 months old. Big difference! I promise he does usually like being in his car seat, just not in either of these photos!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

16 Weeks Old - 6 Week Adjusted Age

Cooper was 16 weeks actual age on Sunday, and just hit 6 weeks adjusted age today. I keep telling Jake that I wish we could freeze time. I just love exactly how Cooper is right now! He has just started to really interact with us. He looks at us, smiles when we talk to him, and has been rolling over too! He started rolling from belly to back last week and I thought it was just a fluke, but now anytime I put him down for tummy time he flips right over. Either he really wants to be on his back, or he's just showing off!  A lot has happened since my last Cooper update!

Last week I met our Quality Life Concepts consultant. This is a statewide program (although there are similar programs throughout the country) available for high risk children who might need a little extra help to be sure they are developing as expected. Cooper instantly qualified because of his prematurity. Our consultant visits every couple of weeks and we discuss any concerns Jake and I have. Then she finds resources to address those concerns. We don't really have any worries right now so she is just gathering a list of activities we can do to interact with Cooper. She is also getting me in contact with the La Leche league and other mom groups so I can get out of the house more.

I really enjoy being at home with Cooper, but I do miss socializing. I look forward to Cooper's appointments just so I have a reason to get out of the house. I want to keep Cooper home to keep him healthy, but I'm getting bored. Well, not really bored, I have plenty of chores to stay busy, I just feel like I'm missing out on being social.

On Friday, I took Cooper to the pediatrician to get Synagis, the RSV shot. Not all babies get this shot as it is over $1000 pre shot! RSV in a healthy, full term baby is just like a cold, but in a preemie it can be very serious. Cooper will get the shot once a month throughout the winter and spring. It does not make him immune to RSV, but will lessen the severity if he does get sick.

To figure out his disagree they had to weigh him. 6 lbs 11 oz! Seriously!  I can't believe how big he is getting! He is growing like a weed now! That was on Friday, so I'm sure he must be over 7 lbs by now. The home health nurse comes tomorrow to weigh him so that what I'm hoping for. Newborn clothes are still big, but he's not swimming in them anymore.

Yesterday, Cooper had a hearing screening. He had failed while still in the NICU, but they told us his ear canal was probably just too small for the test. I was not concerned at all because he responds to our voices and startles at loud noises. Sure enough, he passed yesterday! He will need a follow up in April but he's doing great now!

We were working with a feeding therapist when we were in Seattle and she wanted us to only do half of his feeding with a bottle and finish the feeding through the tube. She also didn't want me to breastfeed other than dry nursing after pumping to keep him practicing. We weren't going to see her again until we go back to Seattle later this month. He has been doing so well eating from the bottle that I've actually been letting him take the whole feeding orally. He has been showing no signs of asperating so I went with my mother's intuition that tells me he ready to get rid of that dang NG tube. The pediatrician set us up with a feeding therapist here in town and we got to see her this morning. She said he looks great and to continue feeding him full feeds by bottle. She is also a lactation therapist and seems as eager as me to get him back to breastfeeding.

I so look forward to the day I can STOP pumping! I can't wait until I can wake up with Cooper, feed him, and go back to sleep when Cooper does. Now, I have to get up before Cooper to warm up his bottle, then when Cooper goes back to sleep I still have to pump, then prep the expressed milk for the next bottle, and wash the bottle and pump parts. Which means each time I wake up with Cooper, I will be awake an extra hour after he goes back to bed. I can't wait to JUST breastfeed! And I can't imagine all the extra time I will have during the day too! I'm so glad to at least have a plan to get to that point!

Here's a cute picture of father and son. We have been getting lots of Christmas catalogs in the mail, so Jake and Cooper were looking at one together.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


We said goodbye to one of our best friends today.

Campbell was a very unique dog and had some pretty tough health problems, but he had a great spirit and was a tough fighter. He was the sweetest little guy and loved to cuddle! He loved squeaky toys and went spastic as soon as he heard the squeak. Campbell didn't have much time to get to know Cooper, but I know he was instantly protective of him. I'll always remember his goofy ear that always flipped the wrong way and made him look so stinkin' cute!
Goodbye sweet Cam...we love you!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

14 Weeks Old

On Sunday, Cooper was 14 weeks old, but tomorrow marks 1 month past his due date, so his corrected age is 1 month old. I absolutely love being home with him!

I now see that I'm not going to be able to blog as often as I did when he was in the hospital.The is just no free time. When he's awake, I'm busy feeding or cuddling or playing with him. When he sleeps, I do household chores. My new goal is to do an update blog at least once a week.

Last Thursday, the home health nurse weighed Cooper and he was 5lbs 7.5 oz. She came back today and he is 5 lbs 14.5 oz. 7 oz gain in a week! He was also 17.75 inches long. This week, Cooper also transitioned from preemie to newborn clothes and diapers!

An interesting note, Cooper is 14 weeks old and we have yet to buy any diapers! They were supplied while he was in the hospital, and we recieved a few packs at the baby shower.

Another interesting note, Cooper has brown eyes already. We were pretty sure he would develop brown eyes because Jake's are brown and mine were brown when I was a kid. I'm just surprised they changed so fast!

Today, the rest of Jake squadron came home from the deployment, which means Jake's hunting buddy is home. As soon as Jake finishes his online class this weekend, they will head out for a hunting trip. He may be gone about a week, so Cooper and I have big plans to organize the basement.

Jake sold the couches from the basement last month, so now we have a nice empty room. I think that means I should set up the sewing desk and cutting table that used to be in the craft room that is now the guest room. No more sewing at the kitchen table! 

Isn't he so cute in his bear towel!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Home Again/ 3 Months Old

Cooper was discharged from Seattle Children's Hospital on Thursday. We will be going back in November for another bronch, a swallow study, and meeting with a nutritionist. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House one more night, and left Seattle Friday morning. We stopped in Post Falls Idaho to visit Cabelas and stay the night.

Saturday morning, we got on the interstate and didn't even make it a mile before a tire blew out. The G8 doesn't have a spare tire, just a patch and pump kit, but the tire was completely shredded and not salvageable. We got a tow, bought a new tire and 2 hours later were back on the road.

On the trip home we got a call from a worker at the Ronald McDonald House. A child staying there was diagnosed with chicken pox so there is a chance we may have been exposed. Jake and I had chicken pox as kids, but Cooper is too young for the shot. We are hoping he was not exposed since he only spent one night there. Chicken pox is very dangerous in babies, especially ones as tiny as Coop.

It is great to be home again! I think Cooper is happy too! No one waking him up to unwrap him and listen to his lungs, or squeeze his leg with a blood pressure cuff, or stick his heels for blood, or poke him all over to get an IV in. What a relief!

Yesterday was Cooper's 3 month birthday! I can't believe how fast time is going by. He was 5 lbs 4 oz at the pediatrician's office today. I'm glad he's gaining weight, but I'm sad he's growing up. I just love exactly how he is right now.

I think we are pretty lucky that he is so easy to care for. He falls asleep right away in the car, so the long trip home was pretty smooth. This morning he slept in his bouncer long enough for me to take a shower, fix my hair, and sort laundry before leaving for his ped appointment. The only time he's not so easy is in the middle of the night. He likes to sleep all day and party all night. That's kind of expected with a newborn though. I'm surprisingly not that tired during the day. I guess new moms adjust to bring very little sleep. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bronch #2

Cooper has been recovering from his hernia surgery perfectly! In fact, yesterday morning we had plans to get discharged today. We had trained on using the NG tube, lined up a feeding pump rental in Great Falls, and learned how to do a gravity feed through the tube for the ride home. We also set up appointments for the end of the month to come back for another bronchoscopy with ENT and a swallow study with OT/PT. Everything was done and we were ready.

Then yesterday afternoon, ENT decided they wanted to get a second look at Cooper's throat before he goes home. So they scheduled him for his second bronchoscopy this afternoon. When OT/PT found out we were staying a couple more days, they scheduled his swallow study for Friday. We're pretty bummed about staying longer, but hoping that this means we won't have to come back as soon for the follow ups. Maybe next month instead of this month. His bronchoscopy looked pretty good. The scarring is coming back but they did anticipate that and hopefully as he gets bigger the scar will be less significant. He is still breathing great!

Everyone tells us how great this hospital is, but honestly, I would give anything to be back at Benefis right now. I won't use this blog to vent my frustrations, but being at a large "learning" hospital makes me truly appreciate the consistency and empathy we got at Benefis.

Here's our cutie in recovery from his bronch.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

12 Weeks

I'm way behind on bogging. I fully intended to blog on Friday, but it was a pretty busy day. Then I intended to blog yesterday but we spent the entire day working on Jake's homework.

No joke... the ENTIRE day! This week he had his usual weekly conference posts due, but also has the midterm paper due this evening. We hadn't even started on the paper until yesterday. We both researched and typed away all day yesterday and most of today, but it's finally done! He probably wouldn't have signed up for an accelerated 8 week online course if he'd known we were going to be away from home. We're halfway done with political science, and once this course is done he will only need to take public speaking to be done with his associates degree!

So on with the Cooper update. Cooper had his hernia surgery Friday morning. He did so well! They did not want to have to intubate him again, so the plan was to give him an epidural. If he was still squirmy, they would give him a sedative to sleep. If he was still moving, they planned to completely put him under with anesthesia, which would mean he would probably need the breathing tube. The surgeon came to talk to us after and told us he was completely surprised that the epidural worked perfectly and Cooper slept on his own, without needing anything extra! He said the entire surgery couldn't have gone any better! Cooper had Tylenol for the pain for the first day, but yesterday at about noon we decided to not give it to him to see how he does and he has been happy without it.

He does still have a feeding tube. OT/PT has been working with him to make sure he is not asperating while eating. Depending on how long this therapy takes, we may be here for another couple of weeks or they may send him home with a feeding tube. I am so ready for him to just be off all support, but if he needs it and it means we can go home sooner, it is worth it. The feeding tube will be more convenient than the oxygen was as the feeding tube can be capped off and disconnected from the pump, so most of the time he will be easily mobile.

Today Cooper is 12 weeks old. I'll try to update as we find out the plans, but as of now they don't really have a plan. They want to set up a feeding plan and make sure he is gaining on his own, then we will go from there. 

It's so great to have Jake in Seattle with us! He got here on Tuesday and I think he's making up for the two weeks they were apart. He always steals him from me to hold him or feed him. He's a good daddy! 

Monday, September 30, 2013

For the caregivers at Benefis

A couple other Montana babies have been flown here in the past week so Nurse Practitioner B and nurse L who were on the flight crews were able to come by Cooper's room to see him. It was so great to see familiar faces and reminded me that the blog is the only way his caregivers from Benefis get to see his progress and photos.

At about midnight they took off his cannula and he has been doing great breathing on his own! I just love his cute little nose!

Friday, September 27, 2013


Cooper was extubated yesterday and it seems like the stridor is gone for now!  He was put on high flow with the intent to try room air today, but he had a pretty rough night with frequent bradycardia and a few desats.

His heart rate has been low all morning,  80-90, but the doctor feels certain this is because of the high doses of the medicine he was given to control the swelling from his ENT operation. Once that medicine wears off he should get back to his baseline heart rate of 140-150.

As of now, we are just waiting for his hernia surgery. He is on the schedule for next Friday, October 4th. The plan is to wean him off respiratory support again, then when he goes to the OR, they may do a spinal anesthesia so he will not have to be intubate again.

He had really chunked up in the last week. Last night he was 4 lbs 12 oz. Compared to other 40 weekers that's 0.03%. He's still a little guy.

The Ronald McDonald House is going to work out great! It's about a 10 minute walk from my room to Cooper's NICU room. It's nice to get outside too. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Due Date

Today, September 25th, was a significant date from the very first OB appointment. Today was Cooper's due date! Instead, we've had Cooper for over 10 weeks. I barely even remember being pregnant!

Today is also significant in that Cooper had his first major operation. He did well and is coming out of the anesthesia just fine. It's great to have some answers and solutions figured out.

He had a rigid brochoscopy. This allowed the doctors to see past his vocal cords to look for scarring. Luckily, everything past his vocal cords, including his lungs, look great! The doctor did see three things at the vocal cord that concerned him.

1. Major sign of reflux that was causing the vocal cords to be inflamed. We had already started treating Cooper for reflux with a wedge, but now Cooper will be on reflux medicine.

2. One of the vocal cords had a cyst. This was a quick fix as they were able to 'pop' it right then.

3. The vocal cords did have some scarring built up, probably from his intubations. They used a special balloon to open up the airway that was blocked by the scarring. They have also given Cooper a shot that is supposed to help prevent the build up of the scarring.

Here's the before and after of his vocal cords. Much more open so hopefully it will be easier for him to breathe!

The doctor told me that it is very possible that he might need to have this operation done 1 or 2 more times before they get the airway to stay open. He even said we might need to come back as soon as 3-4 weeks for the second one. He also told me the other options if this does not work, but they involve surgery to add more cartilage to make the opening larger, or a tracheostomy, so we are really hoping this works! He did say that a tracheostomy would be the absolute last resort.

This operation caused temporary swelling so Cooper was brought back with a breathing tube in. Seems kind of counter productive since a breathing tube caused the scaring, but the swelling should go down and his airway should be more open than before. Depending on how he does tonight, they may extubate him tomorrow. I'm hoping he goes right back to room air since he did so well off respiratory support the last couple of days.

I got a call from the Ronald McDonald House and get to check in tomorrow! It's a small room with twin beds but has a private bathroom so I'm stoked! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Things are slowly getting better. Cooper pooped yesterday! He is now being fed every 3 hours, but now we are starting to see signs of reflux again so instead of getting his feeds over 20 minutes, they are going to deliver his feeds over a continuous drip. He will be getting 10mL an hour, so 30 every 3 hours. He was 4 lbs 11 oz last night, but he is still on IV fluids and still looks a little puffy.

Cooper's hernia is still easily reduced and they plan to do the surgery to close the hole so it will not be an issue anymore. Possibly by the end of this week, but the doctors are now concerned about another issue. Cooper has stridor, which is loud, labored breathing. We noticed the stridor a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't know what it was called or even that it was an issue.

They seem concerned about it so ENT came by yesterday to view his throat with a scope through his nose. It was so cool to see! The only abnormality they could see was that his vocal chords are not opening as far as they would expect but that his level of stridor wouldn't be caused by that unless his vocal chords were hardly opening at all. They believe the issue is below the vocal chords. To see that, ENT will do an operation tomorrow morning where they will put Cooper under anesthesia, align his airway, and use a rigid scope through the vocal chords.

They expect to possibly see scarring from having multiple intubations, which may be partially blocking his airway. If so they can use a laser or balloon to open his airway at that time. While I don't want Cooper to have any issues, I am hoping that they find scarring and can fix it right away so we will have an answer and a solution so he can get back to normal.

Since he will be put under, the doctors are considering doing the hernia surgery at the same time. No word on a decision yet, but I'm hoping they just get it all done at once!

On a very happy note, since Cooper has kept his apnea and bradycardia very minimal and doesn't have any episodes of low blood oxygen, they decided to take him off all respiratory support yesterday evening. He had only one bradycardia last night, but kept his blood oxygen up so he is still on room air with no respiratory assistance! Yay!

I am still in a sleeper room in the hospital, but since Cooper is stable and no longer needs the critical care of the NICU, he will probably be moving to a regular room in the medical or surgical unit. Once he is out of the NICU I won't be eligible for a sleeper room anymore. I'm hoping to get a call back from the Ronald McDonald House. They are full so I'm on the waiting list.

Again, thank you for all the prayers! I'll keep updating as things progress.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rough Times

Yesterday was incredibly hard. Cooper did not seem to be feeling any better. He was still on the ventilator, did not have any bowel movements, and his face got so puffy he didn't even look like my little boy anymore. He looked like he was just miserable.

Thankfully today is going much better. He is still incredibly puffy, but when I spoke to him this morning he cracked his eyes open and moved his eyes toward me. It was so wonderful to see him alert. He was extubated at about 10 this morning and I think he was instantly happier!

Soon after, I was able to hold him and offer him a pacifier. I really needed to hold him. It helped improve my attitude and outlook compared to yesterday. He had his eyes wide open (as open as he could get them with the puffiness) and moved his eyes toward each person who came in the room and spoke. No doubt he is feeling so much better!

We still have quite a road ahead of us. He cannot be fed until he has a BM, but he has had some very good toots so I hope it happens soon! If he gets back to normal and shows that he is up to it, they will do the elective hernia surgery at the end of next week to close the opening and ensure that the hernia does not cause issues again. This is best case scenario. If he does not get back to normal, things will be pushed back later.

Thank you everyone for the prayers. It is so great to have so many people who care about little Cooper!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ambulance and Jet Plane

Wow... The last 24 hours have been crazy!

All day yesterday, Cooper was very lethargic, started getting paler, and was not eating much. He was acting so out of sorts that we decided to take him to the emergency room around 9pm. After a couple of hours in the ER, and a visit from Nurse S, Dr D from the NICU decided to re admit him to the NICU find out what was bothering Cooper.

Cooper's right testicle was much firmer than usual and the doctor suspected a hernia. A hernia is more common in preemies because there is a small opening where sometimes a section of intestines will slip into the testes. This can obstruct the normal passage of bowel. I could not remember Cooper's last BM, but it was sometime Tuesday night. An ultrasound at about midnight confirmed a hernia so they called for the surgeon who could correct it. Once it became clear that we were going to be back in the NICU for a few days, I ran home to get all of my pump accessories.

Jake called me while I was at home and told me that the surgeon was out of town and they were waiting for a jet to take Cooper to Seattle Children's Hospital. One additional passenger could ride with him so I quickly packed a bag and rushed back to the hospital.

At about 2:30am we were in an ambulance on our way to the airport. First time in an ambulance for both Cooper and me. By 3am we were in a tiny jet on our way to Seattle. Again first time for me in a jet and first time for Cooper in any airplane. He did fairly well on the ride and I was actually able to get a short nap before we landed at 4:30am.

The first hour in Seattle was incredibly hectic. At one point he had 12 people in his room. 3 nurses, a nurse practitioner, 2 RTs, a resident, a fellow, 3 surgeons, and an x ray tech waiting outside the door. I had to sit in the hall and wait. It was pretty tough on me. He had apnea quite a few times so they decided to intubate him. He also had a vacuum tube to try to reduce some of the air in his tummy.

At about 6:30am, one of the surgeons was successful in reducing the hernia back in with his finger. They had to paralyze him to get the area relaxed, but it is so great that it was reduced without surgery!

As of right now, we are just waiting to see if he passes some of the air or has a BM. If he does, that means his intestines are getting back to normal. If not, that means a part of his intestines may have been injured from the hernia. If they suspect an injury, surgery will be needed to remove that section. If all goes well, he will still have surgery to fix the hernia by closing the hole so it can't happen again, but since that is elective surgery they would wait until he is feeling better.

They have just decided that Cooper needs a transfusion. This will help him get oxygen throughout his body better and will ensure that he has extra blood before his upcoming surgery. He will be transfused this evening. He has had good results from transfusions before, so hopefully this helps him perk up.

Cooper looks like he is miserable. He is so pale and puny and everytime someone touches him he pauses his breathing. I feel like the apnea is because of pain but I try not to think about that. My heart just breaks when he looks like he is in pain or distressed.

This hospital has sleeping rooms for parents. The room is tiny with only a bed, tv, and electrical outlets, but there are showers down the hall. I'm eligible for the Ronald McDonald House and called today to get my name on the list. I'm hoping to move in there because it is more like an extended stay hotel room.

At this time we aren't sure if Jake will join us in Seattle. We are hoping that after the surgery they send him back to Great Falls for recovery because then they will fly us back. If he does his recovery here, they will discharge him and not send him back to the hospital in Great Falls which means no flight. Jake would have to come pick us up and drive us home and I really don't want to put Cooper through such a long road trip.

So there you have it. 24 hours and so much has happened. It is crazy how fast a preemie can go from good to bad. Nurse S, the flight nurse, snapped this picture of Cooper on the jet. Look at those big eyes!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coming Home/ 2 Months Old/ 9 Weeks Old

Yep,  we've been a little busy this past week. Here's what we've been up to.
Last Tuesday night I stayed the night at the hospital in Cooper's room. They call it rooming in. The nurses didn't come in for cares but were available in case I had any questions. It was kind of a trial run.
On Wednesday, Cooper had his circumcision and that afternoon we packed up and came home... with Cooper!
Thursday morning we met the pediatrician on base and Jake and I got our flu shots.
Cooper turned two months on Saturday and 9 week on Sunday!
Monday, we traveled to Missoula, 3 hours away, for Cooper's eye exam. His eyes developed just how they should and look just like a full term baby's eyes should look!
Other than those outings, we have just been hanging out at home. I'm just so happy. Life is so good!

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's Happening!

Nurse S confirmed with me that Cooper is going home Wednesday! In preparation for the great escape I started filling out paperwork, the nurse set up our first appointment with the pediatrician on base, Dr G, and Cooper got his 2 month immunizations. I stayed in the room for his shots but didn't watch. I could certainly hear though! Really he did pretty good. One big cry when they poked him, then he just stuck out his bottom lip. I commented to the nurse that he got over it pretty quick and she said that he's been through much worse. I guess a couple quick pokes is better than IVs or drawing blood. Dr R will be here on Wednesday and he is the only neonatal Dr that preforms circumcisions, so we got lucky that he will get to have it done before going home. Now that we have a date, we just wait. 

8 Weeks

Cooper was 8 weeks old yesterday. No big changes, we are just waiting to take him home.

There are 4 different neonatal doctors that rotate working at the NICU. The last doc, Dr K, is the one who told us we would count down from his last bradycardia, which puts us at taking him home Tuesday. She also ordered the oxygen machine and told us Cooper would be going home on oxygen.

Dr P is our doctor now and she really wants to get Cooper off oxygen before he goes home. Nurse L tried him off respiratory support late Saturday night and he did well, but wore out and had to be put back on a very low flow, only 1/32 L. It sounds like Dr P would like to keep Cooper another week or so until they can try him without oxygen again.

The NICU got lots of new babies this weekend and is almost full. I'm hopng that might give Dr P more reason to send Cooper home on Tuesday. If she doesn't, Dr R takes her place on Wednesday and the nurse feels certain that he will change the orders and send Cooper home on oxygen.

It's funny how different the 4 doctors are. I know that they all have Cooper's best interests in mind, and I appreciate them all. But I can tell some of them are more cautious, and some push the babies a little more. It is common for a doctor to write orders, then another doc
tor to come in a few days later and change everything. While I do want to do whatever is best for Cooper, I also want to get him home as soon as possible.

In other news, Cooper is slowly gaining. He's up to 3 lbs 15 oz. Jake did go hunting on opening day but didn't have any luck. He scouted out the same area he hunted in last year and saw some nice Elk. Last year there were only two other campers in that area, but this year it was packed. It also poured rain most of the weekend. I'm sure he will go out and try again.

I'm not counting on Cooper coming home Tuesday or Wednesday. Just hoping! I'm done watching the traning videos and am deep cleaning 1 room in the house each day. The car seat base is installed in the car and I think we are as ready as we'll ever be. Bring it on!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Getting Ahead of Ourselves

As I wrote in the last post, Cooper went off all respiratory support on Monday. It did not last long though. He is such an eager eater that he sometimes forgets to breathe which causes bradycardia (low heart rate.) He had several episodes of bradycardia on Monday that required stimulating to start breathing again, so they put the nasal cannula back in with a flow of 1L. The constant flow helps keep the airway open and helps remind him to breathe. It has since been bumped down to 1/4L. They tell me that some preemies need that constant flow for 3-6 months, some even longer. The doctor feels that Cooper may be one of those babies that needs that extra help. If respiratory support is the only thing keeping him at the hospital, they will send him home on oxygen. The good thing about home oxygen is that he would also have to be on a monitor. The monitor would alarm any time he drops his heart rate, so I would know immediately. I think it will give me peace of mind, so I won't feel the need to check if he's breathing every 5 minutes. 

Nurse J moved Cooper into an open bassinet on Wednesday and has been regulating his own temperature perfectly. He is also doing great with eating. He has taken to breast feeding so well! And he switches back and forth from breast to bottle with no issues. When I am not at the hospital, the nurse feeds him by bottle, but when I'm here I breast feed him. He acts like an old pro. He latches on perfectly and usually nurses a full 30 minutes. Most of the time he doesn't even want to stop at 30 minutes. I call him my little piggy. We have found that if we let him nurse longer than 30 minutes, he gets too full and throws up. He is alert for longer periods of time and is very social. I think he would love to be held all the time, and sometimes throws a fit when I put him in his bassinet, but I am determined to start good habits now, like falling asleep in bed, not in mom's arms. We still have plenty of time to cuddle while he is awake. 

With Cooper eating all of his milk by mouth and regulating his own temperature, he is pretty much ready to go home. On Tuesday the nurse told me to bring in his car seat for inspection, watch the required training videos, and make sure the house is ready, because he might go home soon. Yesterday morning Nurse S told me that that Dr K had ordered the home oxygen equipment with the thought that Cooper might go home this weekend! I brought the car seat in, finished organizing the nursery, and took home some of the books and blankets we had stored in Cooper's NICU room. I even picked out the outfits I want him to wear for the hospital photo and for going home. 

I may have gotten a little ahead off myself. This morning Cooper had two bradycardia episodes. The doctor decided not to send him home until 5 days after his last bradycardia episode that requires simulation, so it looks like he is here until at least Tuesday. He has also lost weight the last couple of days (down to 3 lbs 12 oz) and they would really like to see him gain consistently before going home. I'm okay with that, a few days more isn't too long in the grand scheme of things, plus this gives me more time to deep clean the house. I think someone must have told Cooper that Saturday is opening day for archery season. Jake has plans to camp out tomorrow night and hunt first thing Saturday. Maybe Cooper is delaying his trip home so his dad can hunt this weekend. 

Here is a photo of Cooper's new bed, the open bassinet. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

So Proud

Cooper has had a fantastic day, and we didn't even see it coming!

When I walked onto Cooper's room this morning, I went to his isolette to greet him as I normally do. I thought to myself "he sure looks good today!" Then the custodian, E, popped her head in the door and said he must be happy that he lost a machine. I turned around and noticed his respiratory machine for the high flow cannula was gone. Then I turned back to Cooper and noticed the nose cannula was gone!

I think I got so used to Cooper having a cannula in his nose that I didn't even notice it anymore. I learned to look past it to see his beautiful face. Therefor, I didn't even notice it was gone! He sure does look handsome without it though!

He has been keeping his temp up and they will possibly lift the top of his isolette tomorrow. So now he is off all respiratory support and regulating his own temperature. The only other thing he needs to do to be able to go home is eating all of his feedings by mouth, whether bottle or breast.

We were offering Cooper bottle or breast 3 times a day after cares. Dr K changed that today so we are able to offer bottle or breast on demand. Because of this change I was able to nurse 3 times so far today. I thought he might last a few minutes then we would have to supplement with gavage feeding through the tube, but he has done so good! The last two times he has nursed he did the full 15 minutes on each side that the nurses recommend, so we let him go without any supplementing. He it's acting like a pro!

I don't want to get ahead of myself, but if he keeps this up we may go home very soon! Nurse T told us today that he's almost ready. We (Jake and Maggie) are almost ready too. His car seat will be delivered tomorrow and the nursery is set up. We just need a bookcase to hold all of his books and to hang some things on the walls. It is move in ready though.
It's so crazy to look back to just a week ago. Last Sunday night was a scary, sad night. Today was a perfect, happy day. He has come so far in just a week. I think everyday I see him looking more and more like a full term newborn, now he is acting like one too. Life is good!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

7 Weeks Old

Cooper is 7 weeks old today (36 weeks gestational age.) He just continues to amaze me.
Today we tried nuzzling and he latched on right away, and nursed for about 30 minutes. It's hard to tell how much he ate, but we estimated almost an ounce. I just couldn't believe how well he stayed awake!

This evening we tried a bottle and he downed the whole thing in about 20 minutes. He is a great burper. Sometimes all I have to do is hold him upright and it comes right up!
He was lowered down to the high flow nose cannula at 3L yesterday. This afternoon the nurse bumped it down to 2L and so far he's doing great!

We've learned a few things about his personality lately. I thought he was a morning person like me, but he is morphing into his dad. Anytime we wake him up for cares he is a grumpy guy and growls at us like a bear. Jake too is grumpy and "growls" when I try to wake him up.

Once he is awake, he doesn't seem like he wants to go to sleep. Even when he works really hard on eating and gets exhausted, he tries to hold his eyes open. I think he might be one if those kids that fights sleep.

We joke that he is doing so well because he is trying to make up for lost time. That is done with me. Keep making mama proud Super Cooper!

This cute little baby yawn was after his bottle while trying to stay awake.

Friday, August 30, 2013

4 Pounds!

We have a 4 pounder! Afer that scare last weekend he took off and gained weight consistently. Dr D decided that since his tests came back negative for infection, to start him on eating again. It took him less than 48 hours to get back up to full feeding, so the nurse took out his IV last night.  He did great with a bottle yesterday, and we tried nuzzling this morning, but he was too tired to latch on. Dr D wanted to discontinue his reflux medicine unless he starts showing signs of reflux again. He has had some spit ups and drops in heart rate after eating, but I'm not sure if it's bad enough that he will need the medicine again.

As for breathing, they did bump him down to CPAP, and he is doing well. Nurse practitioner B told me that if a baby is still on respiratory support by 36 weeks gestational, they are labeled as having chronic lung disease. He has been on 21% oxygen (room air) since birth and has only needed the support of pressure to keep his airways open, so she does not believe he will have any long term issues, but that label goes to all babies on support after 36 weeks regardless of what type of respiratory support. Some of the nurses have been hinting that it is possible he may go home on oxygen. I'm hoping that he outgrows it, but if not I would rather have him home on oxygen then to stay in the hospital longer.

I feel like I can see an end in sight for our hospital stay. We just need to get him in an open crib, hopefully off respiratory support, and staying awake long enough to eat his full feeds by mouth instead of by feeding tube. Keep it up Cooper!

Don't you just love how precious a sleeping baby looks.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Much better

Thank you so much to everyone who is praying for Cooper. Today he is much better. The transfusion was just what he needed as he is breathing much better now.

His tests are all coming back better but they still believe he has some kind of infection going on. That means at least five days of antibiotics and at least five days with no food.
He is still pretty fussy which I believe probably has to do with hunger. The nurse did decide to swaddle him to help sooth him. He loves to be swaddled! After two weeks of clothes and swaddling, he was very unhappy about being naked all day yesterday.

Since we can't practice nuzzling, today we are just cuddling. Look how cute he is with his skin all pink again.

6 Weeks Old

I'm late posting for Cooper's 6 week birthday because it was an incredibly emotional day.  Cooper had a great day on Saturday, but when downhill fast.

As I was getting ready to leave the hospital at 9 pm on Saturday night, Cooper had a bad episode of not breathing and dropping his heart rate. I assumed it was because I fed him a bottle at 5 and he got a bath at 8, so he was probably just tired. Plus he had a history of doing that while being fed through the feeding tube because of the reflux. Once he stabilized I went home, thinking everything was fine. Nurse A even lifted the top off his isolette since he had been relating his temp so well. 

My phone was ringing at 1:30 in the middle of the night. A phone call at that time of night is not good news. Sure enough, Cooper had been having trouble breathing so Dr K decided to put him back on the CPAP. They ran some tests and were pretty sure he had an infection so they also started him on antibiotics. Which meant he got an IV in his foot.

Later that morning I got another call telling me that they had ceased his feedings and were only going to do cares every 4 hours because anyone someone touched him for a temp check or diaper change he would stop breathing and drop his heart rate. The nurse had already had to force his breathing with a oxygen mask twice that morning. That meant I wouldn't be able to hold him.

During the day the nurse and doctor tried to be optimistic, but he just didn't seem any better. The CPAP alone wasn't enough so they added a rate to the pressure. His blood work came back a little worse each time and Dr K finally made the decision that Cooper needs another blood transfusion.

The evening was so hard on all of us. They had to draw more blood to send to get the blood transfusion prepared. Then they needed to give him another IV so he could get the blood and medicine simultaneously. I'm not sure how many times they stuck him because I couldn't watch, but it took a long time and he had marks on each arm and his free foot and two on his head. They finally got an IV to work on his head, my last favorite spot.

He had a lot of air in his belly so they inserted a vacuum tube to help relieve some of the pressure. At that point I was wondering just how much more could go wrong.

The worst part was that Cooper was miserable and let us know it. There is nothing worse that hearing him cry but knowing that he had to go through that pain to get the care that he needs. It was so scary we just couldn't leave him.

Once they finally were done doing everything he needed, he still wouldn't calm down. He just lay in bed crying like he was in pain. Around 1 am the nurses could tell I was having a hard time, so they let me hold him. It still took him a while to settle, but once he did he slept for 2 hours. I started to doze off a few times but then he would move or make a noise and I would be wide awake again. I finally had to ask the nurses to put him away so Jake and I could come home to get some sleep.

I'm home, pumping now, then going to bed. This has been an incredibly draining day. Emotionally and physically. I'm not usually an emotional person and the few times I do get upset enough to cry, I don't do it in front of other people. I couldn't hold it in today. I broke down in front of Jake this morning and in front of the nurses this evening. Nurse L wasn't even our nurse tonight but made a point to come in to give me a hug. I sure do love our NICU nurses. I'm going to try to get some sleep and pray that tomorrow is a better day.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Little Man is Getting Big!

Wow...4 days since I posted last. I have to get better about keeping the blog updated. I know there are at least a few of you out there that look forward to hearing about Cooper!
He is doing very well. He had a bit of a struggle in the middle of the week. He was having lots of episodes of bradycardia and some spit up. Dr P decided it might be reflux and started him on meds Thursday morning. He has only had three doses so far but I believe it is helping.

He is doing okay with eating by bottle. He does not eat much before getting tired and falling asleep but that is normal for a baby that is only 35 weeks gestational age.

We also practice nuzzling at least once a day and I think he's doing great. He knows exactly how to latch on and does great for just a few minutes, then starts to drift off to sleep. The trick is going to be for him to figure out to continue sucking. Right now he sucks for a few seconds and takes a break for about 30 seconds, then repeats.

I have noticed a major improvement though. He used to suck, then take a break to breathe. Now he had figured out how to breathe while sucking!  Yay Cooper!

Last night he was 3 lbs 7 oz, gaining weight everyday! Sometime he only gains a few grams, but at least it is a gain everyday! Just last night I realized that he almost looks like a full term newborn. He is still much smaller than full term babies, but he is chunking up. He has chipmunk cheeks and a Buddha belly, even his chicken legs are getting a little thicker!
I'll end this update with a picture of my little man. He is such a sweetie and I am so in love with him.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nuzzling and Nippling

Cooper continues to get stronger and bigger everyday. He is now 3 lbs 5 oz! His bed is set to 27 Celsius, the lowest setting they go to, and they continue to lower his settings on the high flow nose cannula. He had his last dose of caffeine today. He had been on caffeine since birth to help him remember to breathe but since he is breathing so strongly we are going to see if he can do without the caffeine.

The biggest accomplishment in the past day involves feeding. He had been nuzzling and nippling. I didn't realize those were different things so here is what the nurses mean when they say those words. Nuzzling is skin to skin with mom and practicing latching on. Nippling is being fed from a bottle. We have had some success nuzzling, but the nurses say that preemies tend to do better with the bottle and once they strengthen the sucking muscle they do better at breast feeding.

He started nippling last night and will be offered his bottle twice a day. Last night he started sucking right away, then stopped to take some so breaths then back to sucking. That is exactly what they want him to do at his age. He ended up drinking 5 mL from the bottle, then got tired, so the nurse completed his feeding through the feeding tube. This morning he reacted the same and again got 5 mL. They are not concerned with the amount he gets at this time, more concerned about letting him suck, swallow, and breathe altogether. He has a ways to go, but he's still doing great for his age.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Catch Up

I just realized I fell behind on my Cooper updates. He actually had quite a few steps forward this week!

He got his picc line out on Monday! He now has nothing inserted in his skin. All of his monitors are stuck on his skin, nothing puncturing it. This greatly reduces the risk of infection. Big step!

On Thursday, they switched him from CPAP to high flow. This is administered through the same nose cannula, but with different settings. They have already been able to bump his settings down and if they continue to lower it and he tolerates it, he may be weaned from all respiratory help soon.

Oh Thursday morning he had his first eye exam. The nurse practitioner, B, that administered the exam was very pleased with what she saw and says that there are no signs of problems yet. He will still have eye exams every week just to be sure no problems develop.

He has continued to wear clothes and be swaddled all week and has been maintaining his temperature very well. The nurse says they may lift the top of his isolette tomorrow and if he still does well he might move to an open crib! Yay!

He is back to full feeds and they started to add a human milk fortifier to bring my milk up to 24 calories per ounce. Without the fortifier it would only be 20 calories per ounce so those extra calories should help him gain weight more consistently. He hovers around 3 lbs, last night at 3 lbs 1oz. He also started vitamins this morning and did not like it! He dropped his heart rate right away but the nurses say that is normal until they get used to the vitamins.

He is doing great with his pacifier so we have also had some practice sessions for breast feeding and while he is still not ready he is showing that he knows what to do. It is hard work for a baby this small to suck, swallow, and breathe all at the same time and he gets very tired during our practice sessions. He is right on track for his gestational age of 34 weeks. Milk flows more easily from a bottle so he will be offered a bottle in the next few days to get the suck, swallow, and breathe down while strengthening his sucking reflex.

I think that is all of his updates. Listing them all together shows just how great this week was. He had that set back weeks ago so it seems like he's making up for lost time now! I promise to try to update more often this week.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back To Work

I recently made the decision to go back to work while Cooper is in the NICU. The nurses say with babies that stay long term, it is common for moms to work so they can take off again when baby comes home. 

Luckily, my boss and supervisor have been amazing. We worked it out so I'm working part time, only about 4 hours a day. I'll get up early and get ready for work, then get to the hospital by 8 am for hands on time with Cooper. Then go to work from about 11-3, the perfect time to help cover lunches. Then back to the hospital to hang out with Coop before his 5 pm cares.

The only wrench in the plan is pumping. I know they will give me a break to pump, I just need to do trials the first few days to see when is the best time. Today is going to be my first day back so wish me luck. Here's hoping it all comes back to me quickly!

Coop is doing well this morning. He got eye drops to dialate his eyes because he has his first eye exam today. Hopefully his eyes are developing like they should and he won't have any long term issues.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One Month Old

I can't believe Cooper is a month old already! He weighs 2 lbs 15 oz.

My friend Micah took some professional photos of Cooper today. I can't wait to see them and share them! For now here is a photo I snapped today.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cooper's NICU Room

We are so lucky to have Cooper staying at Benefis here in Great Falls. The staff is absolutely fantastic but what really sets this NICU apart is that each baby has his own room. Usually a NICU is one large room with rows of isolettes or cribs. I think if we did not have a seperate room I would not be as comfortable here and would not stay and visit as long as I do.

Here is a tour of Cooper's room.

The door to the hall. We have the end room so it has an angled doorway and is a little larger than the other rooms. Some of the nurses call it the "king's suite"

To the right of the door is Cooper and all of his accessories. The isolette, monitors, IV pumps, and respiratory equipment.
To the right of Cooper is a little nook by the window. This is the perfect place to pump because the view from the door is blocked by the isolette.

On the wall opposite the isolette is the bench. The bench is so not comfortable for sitting, but it's great for napping! The cabinets and drawers built in to the bench are for family storage so I brought all of Cooper's preemie clothes and some blankets to keep here.

To the right of the bench is the sink area, then back to the door.
Isn't it great? Thankfully it doesn't feel so much like a hospital. It's our second home for a couple of months!


So we have been planning to put new carpet in the living room this fall. The carpet didn't look too bad, but it's been in the house since before we moved in and we did potty train two puppies in this house. Since Jake is home earlier than expected he decided to get a head start and pull the old carpet up.

He thought he would find plywood but surprise...hardwood. Now he is going to take on the task of sanding and staining the hardwood. Hopefully we will have photos of the finished product soon!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Four Weeks Old

Cooper is still doing very well. We had another small but exciting step forward today. Cooper got to wear clothes for the first time! We put him in a sleeper (the smallest preemie sleeper we have) then swaddled him for cuddle time with Jake.

Cooper was in Jake's arms for almost 3 hours and his temperature stayed up so the nurse turned the bed to manual temp then left Cooper clothed and swaddled and covered him with a fleece blanket and left him to test to see how well he can maintain his own temperature.

I think he enjoys being swaddled. He seems to be sleeping heavier and doesn't drop his blood oxygen level as often. Hopefully this becomes his new norm!

Cooper weighs 3 lbs 1 oz tonight and is 15.5 inches long! Look how cute he is in his giraffe sleeper. It says Little Man...my nickname for him. We have to keep his left arm out of the sleeve until he gets the IV out.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Another Good Day

Everyone keeps telling me that having a baby in the NICU is like being on a rollercoaster... Lots of ups and downs. After a week of downs it's so nice to have a couple days of ups!

We had a few small changes today. Minor but still positive changes. Cooper has been going up on his feedings 1mL every 6 hours but since he is doing so well digesting it, they have bumped it up to adding 1mL every 3 hours. His full feeds will be when he gets to 24mL which he should be up to in just a week or so. They also took off the blanket covering his isolette this morning. Now we can see him all the time. His weight last night was 2lbs 14oz... so close to 3lbs!!!

Cooper is still has the nasal cannula but has been on NIPPV (non invasive positive pressure ventilation) which delivers oxygen at a set pressure and rate to breathe for him. If he continues to do well today, they may switch him to the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which delivers pressurized oxygen to keep his lungs and airways open, but does not breathe for him.

Every nurse, doctor, or respiratory therapist who comes in his room comments on how much better be looks and how great he is doing. And I got so many comments on the photo I posted on Facebook yesterday of everyone saying how good he looks.  It is so great to see how many people he has watching him and rooting him on. Thanks for all the support!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Happy Boy

Before and after photos...what's the difference?

Yay! They extubated Cooper's breathing tube today and now he's back on the nasal cannula. Dr R was hesitant to make this step since Cooper did not do well with the extubation they tried on Saturday but Nurse C advocated for us and convinced the Doc that Cooper was ready. I'm so glad she did because I think he is loving it! He is doing great keeping his heart rate and oxygen level up. The few times he dropped his heart rate he instantly brought it back up on his own. Finally a step forward! 

Other than that no big changes. They are slowly giving him more milk, up to 5 mL every 3 hours. He also seems more alert today than he has been in a couple of weeks. Go Cooper!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No Steps Forward Or Steps Back

Cooper got his blood transfusion on Sunday. It wasn't too hard on me. I just know it was something that had to be done so now we move on. By the time I left the NICU on Sunday he was already nice and pink! Yesterday he seemed to feel a lot better. He was feisty during his cares moving around a lot. By the evening, though, he was wiped out. They started feeding him a small amount of milk again yesterday and he is digesting it well. He gained 20 grams yesterday bringing him up to 2 lbs 11 oz. Yet again we're getting close to 3 lbs! Hopefully this time he continues to gain instead of dropping weight.

Yesterday, the doctor was hopeful that they could try to take out Cooper's breathing tube again. He would go straight to the nose cannula, but we would all prefer the cannula over the breathing tube. It would be much less invasive as it only blows air into his nose instead of directly into his lungs. This would give him a chance to show us if he's ready to breathe on his own again. Sadly, he did not have a very good night last night. He dropped his blood oxygen level often, so he will be on that tube at least a couple more days.

I was so hoping to get rid of that tube. I'm pretty sure Cooper hates it. It makes him gag and anytime the nurses have to clean it out I can tell by his face that he is crying, but the tube blocks his vocal cords. It makes me feel so helpless when I can tell he is crying but I can't hold him or comfort him. And I have to let the nurses continue to do things that I know cause him discomfort because I know it's good for him in the long run.

As I keep saying, I know it will just take time for all of his issues to get sorted out. I just wish time would go by a little faster so he can get healthy and come home where he belongs.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Three Weeks Old

Cooper is three weeks old today (32 weeks gestational) but I am not in a celebratory mood. When I got to the NICU this morning the nurse was working on putting in another IV. She explained that Cooper needs a blood transfusion and that the blood would clot in the picc line so an IV is needed just for the blood transfusion.

A blood transfusion?! I was so hoping we could make it through this NICU stay without needing to give Cooper blood, but his red blood cell level is way down today. The nurse got the IV in, then took a blood sample for the lab to test to find out his blood type, then they will find a match in the bank and prep it, so it looks like it will still be a couple of hours. We were hoping that if this ever came up we might be able to donate our own blood or use blood from another family member, but as it is he needs the blood now and there isn't time for that.

I did a little research just now about blood transfusions. I skipped all of the information about risks because this has to be done and I would rather not worry about the bad that could happen. I did read that anemia is actually very common in preemies and the symptoms include tiring easily, not gaining weight well, and having difficulty breathing. That sounds exactly like what Coop has been like for the past week. I also found out that blood transfusions are fairly common for preemies as young as Cooper. I read lots of comments from other preemie moms that said the babies do so well after getting blood. I'm hoping that this is just what he needs to start having some steps forward. I can't wait to see his skin looking rosy instead of ghost white.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Love Hate Relationship

Or should I say hate hate relationship. I hate pumping. Let me explain just a few of the many reasons I hate pumping. Pumping is so unnatural. Pumping takes up so much time. Pumping just plain hurts!

First off, pumping is unnatural. Yes breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, but pumping is a whole different experience. With breastfeeding you get to see the immediate effect on your child and probably the most enjoyable thing about breastfeeding is that you get to bond with your child. With pumping there is no bonding, only hate for this annoying machine that you feel is sucking the life out of you. A breast pump can really make you feel used.

Secondly, pumping takes so much time. I try to pump every three hours. Each time I pump I take 5-10 minutes to set up, 20-30 minutes to pump, and 10-15 minutes to clean up and sterilize the accessories. And sometimes an extra 5 minutes somewhere in there to have a private melt down when something goes wrong (such as overflowing one of the containers and realizing I have a lap full of milk...yep I get distracted and it's happened multiple times!) So after almost an hour of the process I only have two hours before I have to turn around and do it all again! I have to schedule everything around making sure I am near my pump at the right time.

And last, pumping hurts! After I get everything hooked up, I dread turning the machine on because I know the first 30 seconds will be hell. I find myself holding my breath at first until the feeling finally goes numb, then it's not so bad. Maybe I'm a wimp, but I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone. Thank goodness it is short lived.

After all of that, here's why I pump. Pumping my milk is the best thing I can do for Cooper. On days when he's not doing well and I can't hold him or even get to touch him much, I feel helpless like there is nothing I can do to help him. On those days it feels like pumping is the only thing I can control. Did you know that when a mother gives birth early, her body knows to formulate the milk specifically for the needs of a preemie. That means my milk is made special for Cooper and is far more beneficial to him than formula would be. Therefore I put up with my hatred toward my pump and will continue this madness for as long as he needs.

Now, for any poor soul that is in the same situation as me and has to pump instead of breastfeed, here are a few tips I've picked up in the last few weeks.

Don't worry if you don't think you are producing enough milk. If you keep at it, all of a sudden you will notice that you are able to fill the container every time (and sometimes overfill it too!) Seriously, I don't even remember when my milk finally came in, I was only producing a few drops each time and then all of a sudden it was plentiful!

Get some lanoline cream. Before I started using it I could hardly even put clothes on for fear of rubbing them and having intense pain. While I do still have pain when I first start the pump, I believe the lanoline is helping.

Also invest in the Belmama & Cherub shower hug. It's a super soft cloth that wraps around your chest during a shower. It protects the sensitive nipples from the spray of water. I tried holding a hand towel over them for the first week, but this is so much better to have both hands free! 

Get the Nuk ultra thin breast pads. I tried other disposables and I tried reusable, then my sister in law sent me the Nuk ones and I love them so much more. They seem to be the most breathable so you don't get that sweaty smell underneath. TMI? Too late!

Once you get to the point where you are pumping more than 2 oz per session, start separating the milk into more than one bag. I was packaging up to 6 ounces together in one large bag for two weeks before a nurse finally explained to me that once they thaw out a bag it must be used within 24 hours. Even when Cooper was on full feeds he wasn't using near that much each day. So separate it into smaller bags so they don't have extra left over that they have to throw out.

Last, check to see if your insurance will pay for a pump rental. That way you can use a hospital grade pump instead of a cheaper less effective pump from the store. Our insurance is paying the rental fee for a hospital grade pump as long as Cooper is in the NICU.

And... It's time to pump again.