Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time is a Gift!

It goes by so fast! How many time do we hear those words? It's true.... time does go by too fast. I'm watching Grant this morning as he's playing outside, exploring, climbing and investigating new things, remembering when he was born and thinking this day was so far away. I even sometimes hoped for the day when he would start walking or talking and now know I should have cherished those early days more. As a first time mommy it's hard to know how precious that first baby is, the time that you have to spend with him.

I woke up this morning with thankfulness in my heart for the family that God has blessed me with. I'm always quick to call it my family... my children but really it's God's family and children. How precious, amazing, unique and sweet they are. The love that they have for life, their siblings and parents is a gift. At the end of the day when I rub Natalie's little head and find it covered in who knows what because of the kisses that were shared with her from Grant and Olivia, that is a gift. Waking up in the middle of the night with Olivia closely pressed by my side, snoring loudly, is a gift. Watching Grant as he finds the courage to meet and talk to new friends, reflecting back on the days when he struggled to learn words, very sweet feeling. Our days go by ridiculously too fast and most of the time are filled with things that can wait or things that shouldn't worry our hearts. Thankful for the sunshine this morning and reminder from God on how sweet these children are.

A while ago I read a book by John Piper called, Don't Waste this Life, a very convicting book about how we're spending our time and about taking real look at what our priorities and focus's are. Something that I should read more often to renew my own convictions about what I'm spending my time on.

What a sweet gift of time we have today! Thank you Lord for the children and husband you have blessed this life with.

Trying to get her to show off her smile... :) She was trying to get the camera!

Olivia Rose
6 Months Old
Her and Natalie look so much alike.

This is Grant when he was two months old.
Here's Grant when he was six weeks old!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Joy Filled Days

I never knew I could feel such joy for my family until now! I used to pray that God would give me an overwhelming amount of joy in what I do. My prayers have been answered above and beyond what I've ever asked for or dreamed of.

Olivia still asks me each night, "Mommy, who is staying the night tonight?" She used to ask me this same question every single night before I would tuck her in while Natalie was in the NICU. She knew that once she went to bed mommy and daddy would leave for the hospital and someone would be here to watch her and Grant while we were gone. I can now happily tell her that her mommy and daddy are! She sweetly replies, "Thank you mommy!" We don't realize just how hard this journey is for our children. I prayed every single day that God would give them resilience as we took one day at a time not knowing how long this road would be. We asked a lot of them over 3 1/2 months and they were amazingly strong and patient. I'm thankful we are all under one roof at last.

We often walk into our bedroom to see Grant and Olivia just sitting by Natalie's bed starring at her, not touching or talking, just looking at her.

They love helping with feeding her, making sure she has her pacifier, throwing away her diapers and covering her with hugs and kisses.

Leaving the NICU was hard and wonderful. How do you say goodbye to people who have become your family and who have saved your child's life? To a staff that was strong when we were weak and to friends that we looked forward to seeing every single day? Thank goodness for visits! The NICU experience was the best thing that has ever happened to our family because it taught us how lucky we are and gave us a glimpse at how big God is and how mighty His hands are. We were able to see and continue to see miracles every day. Life is sweet and precious and this has given us a whole new attitude about changing diapers (even dirty ones), waking up in the middle of night, seeing life sprinkled around every inch of our house just after I've spent the day cleaning, being exhausted often and realizing that it's been five days since I've taken a shower! :) We can do all of this with smiles on our faces and hearts filled with joy. I wasn't always able to say this, I'm thankful that God has opened my eyes and heart to how wonderful this is. They say don't ever pray for patience... I have been praying for patience for several years and God has shown me how to have patience in His plan and that I really don't control anything. If I can just take a deep breath, remember His truth (His plan is perfect) I will find that life is sweet even in the darkest hour and when you don't know what tomorrow looks like I can have faith in knowing that as long as I trust in God I will find comfort, strength, peace and joy. I laugh as I look over these past five years and think I must be pretty dang stubborn because God continues to test my faith and I'm thankful because through each test I am humbled.

Nurse Cheryl getting Natalie ready for her car seat study.

Saying good bye to some of the day nurses. Wish that they were all there!

Saying good bye to Yvette, the director of the NICU.

Sweet Melanie was our discharge nurse! The first time she was Natalie's nurse was on our discharge day!

Exiting the NICU for the last time!!

Saying goodbye to Brittanie.

Getting my hospital tag removed.

Saying goodbye to Dr. Wong! We wish that we were able to say goodbye to all of them.

All buckled up and ready to go home, it's a little bright outside.

Since being home we have seen two of the three specialists for Natalie so far, there is no concern with her vision, her blood pressure is still under control and we will see the cardiologist on 9/24. She's an amazing eater both by bottle and with nursing, she's a good sleeper (can sleep through anything, thank you NICU), loves to be held, loves to smile and rolled over for the first time last week. Grant has his first day of Kindergarten and Olivia her first day of Pre-K last week. Watching them both go off to school was hard. While holding tiny Natalie I was thinking about when they were born and it's amazing how fast this time has gone by.

Grant lost his first tooth. 8/26/10.

Olivia's First Day of Preschool!

Grant's First Day of Kindergarten!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Buckle up friends, it's going to be a long ride...

Just when you think that you have everything figured out you start to go a little crazy. When Natalie was born we would hear the term "NICU Roller Coaster" often, we're going to be on a roller coaster of emotions for a while. That couldn't be more true.

Today is Natalie's 100th day in the NICU which I am overwhelmingly grateful for, she has lived one hundred strong and healthy days. It has also been one hundred long, hard days, each day filled with a deep longing of wanting to bring her home. It's hard tucking your baby into bed each night somewhere other than your home. It's hard leaving her lying awake in her bed and even when she's sleeping you know that eventually she will be awake and you wonder if she's lonely. I pray that she will always feel the loving, strong and warm hands of God and that she does not wonder where I am.

Today, driving to the hospital I started day dreaming, what if when I get to her bed there is a sign hanging on the wall that says, "I get to come home today." I mean she's gained weight two days in a row and her blood pressure is down so she should come home!! Makes sense to me. :) Her blood pressure isn't as low as they would like it to be and she's having trouble digesting her food. Seems like every doctor is working their best to make sure that she's comfortable.

Today I was reading The Power of a Praying Wife mostly focusing on Mike and how to pray for him, hence the title. :) Well, God had different plans for what I would take from todays reading. I am in chapter 13 which is titled, His Trials. There I read the following (this is long, sorry):

Whether it feels like it or not, when we serve God, His love attends every moment of our lives-even the toughest, loneliest, most painful and desperate. He is always there in our midst, working things out for good when we pray and look to Him to do so.... His purpose for our trials is often to bring us humbly before Him to experience a breaking in our inner, independent, self-sufficient selves, and grow us up into compassionate, patient, spiritually strong, God-glorifying people. He uses these situations to teach us how to trust that He loves and cares for us enough to get us through the tough times..... Prayer, Lord, You alone know the depth of the burden we carry. God, You are the refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). You have invited us to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). I come before Your throne and ask for grace. Strengthen our hearts for this battle and give us patience to wait on You (Psalm 27:1-4). Build us up so that no matter what happens we will be able to stand strong through it. Help us to always be "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer" (Romans 12:12) Give us endurance to run the race and not give up.... I pray that we will look to You to be our "refuge until these calamities have passed by" (Psalm 57:1). May we learn to wait on You because "those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31). I pray that we will find our strength in You and as we cry out to You, You will hear us and save us out of our troubles (Psalm 34:6).

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

During this time we've been able to meet other parents that are going through this experience and hear about their baby's good and bad days. Right now there are two families that are heavy on my heart, these families are faced with uncertainty and it breaks my heart that they're having to go through this. It's hard to sit and write about things that are troubling my days when I know that there are situations far more troubling than my own. Praying that God will provide these families with peace, strength, hope and comfort.

Happy 100 Days Natalie Grace!! You are a miracle and we are so proud of you baby girl. Amazing Grace!

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's a cozy place to be, just you and me.

Natalie Grace is 6lbs. today!! I had a moment with her the other day (I say the other day thinking it may have been yesterday but then think no... wasn't yesterday, oh well, the other day works) while I was rocking her. I had an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for her and found myself saying out loud, "I am so thankful for you." I cried tears of joy while holding this sweet miracle that morning. Mornings there are sometimes the best part of the my day because it's quiet and sometimes I'm the only mommy there, every nurse is sitting quietly next to a baby charting and all I can hear is the radio playing in the background and see the sunshine pouring through the windows. It's just me and this amazing gift, no phones ringing, no TV noise, bills stacked on the counter, dishes to do, laundry to fold... nope not this morning. This morning it's just me and you kiddo. Periodically Hey, Soul Sister by Train is playing while I'm rocking her and we rock out in our NICU Suite!! :)

I don't know friends, this place is getting pretty cozy, we may never leave!! ;)

I can see and feel God working in my heart, healing my aching pain of needing Natalie to come home right now. There is still work that needs to be done, still molding that needs to happen. God is molding and shaping us for a purpose that is unknown to me right now, what an amazing adventure we are on. Prayers are being answered every day.

Dear Lord, I pray that you would continue to fill our hearts with joy, help us to focus on spending quality time with each other, our children, our family and our friends. May you remind us to keep our eyes, hearts and minds focused on you rather than our circumstance, please guard our hearts.

A few verses that have touched our hearts:

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Family of Strangers

I find myself wondering about other babies in the NICU, how they're doing and hoping they're each okay. There are many moments where you can feel a great sense of urgency from the staff as they rush to help a baby in need. Even though you have no idea about what's going on you can see that it's scary and leave praying that this baby will be okay. It's feels as though you are part of a family even though most are strangers we all share a common bond.

There is a sweet, very tiny, baby in the bed where Natalie used to be. Yesterday, while holding Natalie, this baby's alarms start beeping and his nurse immediately asks another nurse to call RT (respiratory therapist) who does not answer his phone. Seconds later the RT comes running around the corner, and three doctors are soon at this sweet baby's bed along with two nurses all working very quickly, calmly and quietly together to bring this baby back to a stable condition. I hear one of them say grab the orange bag, look over thinking what's the orange bag, to find out it's labeled very boldly "Emergency". This sweetness quickly becomes stable and after several minutes of standing over him just to make sure he remains this way each of the nurses/doctors and RT continue on to get back to what they were doing. While there tonight, I look over again to find one doctor, three nurses and two RT's standing over this sweet baby. Not sure what was going on but I worry about this sweet baby. He weighs 1lbs. 11oz and has been there for a while, not sure what he weighed at birth.

Mike was there the other night with Natalie and the nurses were preparing three isolette bed's (what Natalie was first in) all next to each other because there is a mommy pregnant with triplets and having contractions, she is 26 week along. That was a couple of days ago and so far no babies in any of the beds, praise the Lord.

We have had the chance to meet other families that are going through this NICU experience and a lot of the families we have not met but we find ourselves hoping and praying that each of them are okay.

More commonly though we find ourselves celebrating how well so many of the babies are doing. While feeding Natalie one night we overheard one of the nurses saying that it was almost time for a very special moment. There is a sweet baby that was going to meet his big sister for the very first time. Each of the nurses wanted to share this moment with the family, you could hear their anticipation and excitement.

Hearing the discharge video being played to the parents of a baby that has been there for a while or walking up to the NICU with parents who are bringing in their car seat because they are bringing one of their babies home. Hearing about all of the different firsts that happen, seeing father's coming too and from the NICU bursting with excitement to see their babies, big sisters and brothers touching their new sibling for the first time after weeks of waiting, nurses jumping and celebrating with parents over precious milestones, random hospital staff members asking about how your baby is doing because they've somehow heard your story. Mommy's who are exhausted, carrying at least three bags hauling butt to hold their babies, having multiple nurses stop by to see how your baby is doing, stories being shared of struggles and praises. All of these moments are special and common... the NICU is the hardest experience we have ever gone through so far but it's also the best.

Here I am a parent of a baby in the NICU, imagine what the doctors, nurses and therapists are thinking about when they're away from work, not sure if this is the kind of job you can leave at work. It takes a special person to work in the NICU.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Day That Changed Everything :)

Natalie Grace Fagan was born at 26wk 4dys gestation on April 26th, 2010 at 8:36am. She weighed 1lbs. 13oz. and was 13 Inches long. Being so tiny put her into the micro-preemie category, which I had never heard of until that day. During my pregnancy with Natalie we traveled to CA in Feb. 2010 for my mom's wedding. While we were there I started spotting and having mild contractions. When returning home I had a routine doctors appointment where they did blood work for Spina Bifida, came back with high levels of protein so I was sent to the perinatologist just to make sure everything was okay with her spine. Her spine was just fine but they were also finding a few cyst in her brain, her bowels were dark colored and there was a bright spot in her heart. They also found that I had an abnormal placenta and diagnosed it as Circumvallate Placenta. Rather than lying flat against my uterus my placenta curved upwards which increased my chances of placental abruption, preeclampsia and IUGR. Around the beginning of April I started having pretty regular contraction, still mild but often. So I started taking it easy and being careful to not over do anything. Seeing the perinatalogist once a month to monitor her progress. At 12am on April 26th I started having severe lower back pains and contractions along with a sensation to push. Thinking all of this would pass over time I tried walking it off and resting to see if that would help. At 2AM I started bleeding and we rushed to the ER. The sweet ER nurse had to push me in a wheelchair what seemed like five miles to Labor and Delivery. They immediately did an ultrasound and found that she was just fine but I did in fact have placental abruption. I received a steroid shot and they put me on magnesium sulfate to stop the contractions. I was told that I'd be in the hospital until she was born which wasn't supposed to be until July 29th. They continued to monitor Natalie and I while I rested but around 7:50am they did not like what they were seeing. I started praying that God would give our nurse wisdom on what to do because I knew she was making the decision on whether or not to deliver Natalie. It was way too soon to have this baby, that is all I could think about. As soon as I finished my short prayer our nurses entire face changed and I asked her what she was thinking. She said, "I think we're having a baby." She walked out of the room to call my doctor and saw that she had just walked into the hospital to do her rounds. My doctor came in, looked everything over, looked at my tear-filled face and said we're having this baby right now. The chances of her surviving outside of you are greater than her surviving inside of you. That was at 8:03AM. I was inside of the OR room at 8:16Am and she was delivered by emergency c-section at 8:36AM. They immediately wheeled her off to the NICU, all I could see was a pile of blankets fly past me and daddy quickly following behind them. I then stated experiencing panic attacks it felt like I wasn't getting any air, my mouth was so dry from all of the medication I had been given. I kept asking for water, all I needed was water but after surgery you can't have anything. I eventually received some ice chips, which helped. It took about two hours to recover from the panic attack.

Once in the postpartum room I was surrounded by friends, church members and family and we all just started to pray, that's all that we knew to do. It felt like everything was out of control and all I could do was count on God to see us through such a scary and uncertain time. Peace filled our room and hasn't left our hearts since. We know that she is going to be just fine and have comfort in God's plan for our family.

Today is July 11th, 2010 she now weighs 5lbs. 11oz. and is almost 18 Inches long. She has a healthy heart, lungs and brain. She is learning how to bottle feed and will be able to come home. God is truly amazing and has shown us mercy through this experience. She was named after the song Amazing Grace and this has been an amazing journey. We have seen so many miracles performed and are continuing to witness miracles through conversations, God's provision, seeing how strong Grant and Olivia have been through this experience, outpouring of prayers, support, encouragement, meals, financial help and friendships. Also, witnessing the progress that Natalie has made each minute of every day. We have been given a new perspective on how fragile and precious life is.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

This should be interesting....

Totally don't know how to blog, what the heck is a gadget?? We'll see how successful I am at this. While I was selecting my template I selected this background because I was thinking that the grass was cute. Come to find out there are dandelions on this background which is what we're decorating Natalie's nursery in.... I love it!

So, this coming Monday (the 12th) it will be week 12 in the NICU with sweet Natalie Grace. This past week has put me in a slump. It's hard to watch all of the babies around you get discharged and not have an idea of when it will be your turn. I am excited for these parents but anxiously awaiting our turn. There was a day this week where I overheard the mom next to us sharing with her friend about how their baby will be going home that next day, she was excited about how well his feedings were going and about the abundance of breast milk she has. I think that her baby was in the NICU for five days which for them I'm sure was hard, they don't know any different. All I could do was cry because I'm not having this same experience right now. Natalie's nurse was by my side during this moment and she just held me, encouraged me and shared tears with me. Four other nurses quickly came to help in encouraging me as well. It's pretty awesome how God has placed these women and men in our lives to help us along in this journey. I shared with my nurse that day that it's no fun being neighbors with the bed for short NICU stay babies. For some reason bed number 13 has a quick turn-around time. She laughed and said that she'll move Natalie over to number 13 after the current resident gets discharged. Just an idea... maybe the overnighter's should have their own private section of the NICU so the longtimers don't have to witness how quick their stay was.