First Semester Done!

I was completely remiss in not including this in the earlier post. Last week also marked O’s first completed semester of school!

On Thursday, they were able to throw out the uniform to wear PJs, had a pizza day for lunch, and watched the Polar Express as a school.

In a topic to be discussed at length on the Daddyblog in due time, food is an issue at the school a lot. A lot. Every classmates’ birthday includes cupcakes or something. Every competition in the school is topped off with a pizza or ice cream party. It’s crazy period, not to mention when your child is allergic to dairy, eggs, and anything else ever thought to be included in a food prize. Olivia has not had as much junk in her life until she started school.

::breathe:: I’ll save the rant for the Daddyblog.

Anyhow, since she couldn’t eat the pizza that was being provided, I swung by Austin’s Pizza to pick up one for us to split.

My name is "Togo Guy".
My name is “Togo Guy”.

It was my first time to eat lunch at school with one of the kiddos, so sat on the old elementary school lunch tables… you know, the ones with the connected circle seats with a table that folds up for easy moving, surrounded by 5 and 6 year olds discussing the philosophical aspects of the Polar Express and how it impacted the societal mores of that era.

Nom nom nom.
Nom nom nom.

It is fun to see Olivia navigate the still-present desire for Dad while trying to be cool with the kids at school. Only 25 more semesters to go before high school graduation.

The Internal Clock

Life moves forward toward Christmas. The twins have matured to being released from their required every-three-hour feeding schedule, allowing them to sleep in and eat-on-demand. Generally, this has been nice. Direct breastfeeding (DBF in my acquired NICU language) has replaced EBM (expressed breast milk, e.g. pumped and “nippled” to them in a bottle) as their primary source of food with V pumping to keep her supply up.

Our fridge is full of milk and we may actually use all of the space in our deep freezer for once.

The twins have also shifted their schedule a bit. Before, we’d wake them every three hours to eat and they would generally sleep between feedings. Now, they have their own schedule of being awake for a decent amount of time, which happens so far to be in the middle of the night.

V has been handling this like a champ, taking a nap from, roughly, 8 am to 11 am, to make it through the rest of the day. While I hate sleep and will fight it until the end of time, once I’m asleep, I want to stay asleep. I’ve been trying to get 4-5 hours a night, but it has been broken up by moments of everyone (seemingly, older girls included) being up multiple times in the night. The waking up for a bit every hour or so has been hard on me, personally.

Lastly, they’re on the borderline between premie clothes and diapers and newborn sizes. We’re finding some of the premie outfits are too small for them! At first, they swam inside all of them.

With the older girls, we gave them their primary present from us this weekend—tickets to Disney Live at the Frank Erwin Center. Grandpa and I took Olivia, Catalina, and Teresa to see Sophia, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and the rest of the Disney gang this weekend.

For the first time since the twins were born, I joined Grandma and Grandpa with the girls at Kerbey Lane, our usual after Mass breakfast stop. Prior, I’d take the girls to Mass to help keep the peace and let the in-laws take the girls since they’d do anything to get those pancakes.

We haven’t taken the twins out of the house, save a doctor’s appointment and lab tests yet. As much as Vanessa would like to have them make Christmas Mass, we’re hesitant to have them around the expected larger crowd. Perhaps the Sunday following for the Feast of the Holy Family.

Until next time, thanks as always for your continued prayers and support. It really does take a village and we live in a great one.

Graduation, Tree, and Twins

First, my nephew Zach graduated from UNT over the weekend. We couldn’t make it, but the university provided a livestream. Congrats!

The day the twins were born, we were planning on getting down the Advent and Christmas decorations and starting that. Obviously, that was delayed a bit until yesterday and today.

The twins are still being twins. Dorothy’s bilirubin is still on the high end, but doc just wants to keep it monitored for now. They’re mostly still on a stable schedule, which is bringing down the family’s sleeping average down quite a bit. Still in premie diapers and we learned that “premie” sized clothes vary in an incredible amount. From outfits that are just about to be too small to ones that they are absolutely swimming within, there seems to be no standard, even within the same brand, for what this size represents.

That said, time for another feeding round!

Home Life

You’d think bringing the 3rd and 4th little sister home, we would have it figured out on how to balance the older siblings with the new arrivals. We’re still working on it, apparently. Everyone has been home for going on 48 hours now.

Yesterday, V and I both blanked and sent O to school without her gym/dance bag leading to a call from the school because O was nervous and anxious about whether she was supposed to go to dance or wait for someone to pick her up. Not only that, it took us forever to get out of the door, so O earned her first tardy of her academic career.

Today, everyone was on time, but partly thanks to Grandma randomly showing up at 7 am :-). It takes a village.

The twins had their first post-NICU check-up with, you guessed it, the pedi concerned about Dorothy’s yellowish tone. We’re awaiting a phone call from the clinic’s lab. [Update: Her levels are right at the upper-limit, so have to take her in for a new draw tomorrow morning.] Ana’s second round of phototherapy in the NICU really knocked the bilirubin count out, so somewhat wished they matched orders for Dorothy to knock them down on her, even if they were just within the normal bounds.

We’re getting closer to a sustainable schedule for the next couple of weeks—the length of time the docs want us to continue the regular feedings every three hours, so we’re not completely zombies.

Lastly, bath day! Third bath and first ones at home.

Day 11: Eviction


Plenty I could say, none of it matters at this exact moment. We’re home and beginning the second half of the marathon, as Marion put it, tackling premies at home without a NICU nurse bedside all night and able to take care of the 2 am feedings.

Day 10: Normalcy

Medically, Ana’s bilirubin is back within the expected levels so no one is under the lights again. Dorothy’s crept up a little, but thinking she’ll be able to self-regulate. At this point, we’re looking at a couple of days to ensure stability and then, perhaps, home.

I relieved my in-laws at the house to put some normalcy. It’s truly amazing and humbling that they swung into action, took care of everything at the house with the three older girls with little direction from us, allowing us to fully focus on the twins and Vanessa.

I confess, it is odd to be in a quiet house without any heart rate monitors, pages over the intercom, and the rest of the random noises of being at the hospital virtually 24 hours a day for over a week.

I have the feeling the house won’t be quiet for long.

Day 9: Just Gotta Run

A mixed day, which is the norm now. Ana experienced the “bilirubin rebound”, as it is known in these parts, where after a day of successful phototherapy, her levels spike back up once she’s off the lights. She’s back under the lights.

Dorothy was incredibly sleepy/lethargic today. The working thought from the team is that she did so well yesterday that she’s just simply tired. They’ll run labs again to check her bilirubin levels overnight as high levels can make kiddos sleep, though she was in the green last night.

On the plus side, they were allowed to increase their feeding and given a minimum, which they generally met. Even with the possible negatives, they’re still optimistic for discharge pretty soon. They had the majority of their pre-discharge tests, lacking the “car seat study”, when they put the kids in their carseats for 90 minutes while still on the monitors to ensure, frankly, they’ll stay alive if riding in the car (e.g. their angle within the seat doesn’t cause them too much effort to breathe or whatever else). They previously passed their hearing screen, but apparently, may need to do it again for reason I don’t know due to some of the bilirubin eradication efforts.

Beyond the medical fun, two things of note on this Sunday. First, I ran the Decker Challenge Half Marathon. Long ago, I signed up for the Austin Distance Challenge, which consists of a number of runs (a 8k, a 10-mile, this run, another half, a 30k, and finishing with the Austin Marathon) with a decent break for the holiday season. I was really banking on the kids not coming until after today!

To complete the challenge, you have to run in all of the races. No exceptions. Since they’re doing well, I took a few hours off. It was painful—not running at all since Thanksgiving and eating nothing but hospital cafeteria food and take-out in a week—but finished it!

Later today, Fr. Bill, our pastor at St. Ignatius, stopped by in the midst of his day of Masses, baptisms, and cooking dinner for his fellow priestly housemates. It was a very nice visit. Fr. Bill announced at our usual 7:30 a.m. Mass that the twins were here. When he said “their names are Dorothy…and… and…”, Olivia yelled “Ana!” from the back. We’re not that social at Mass, but we’ve naturally found a good community at that particular time and, well, we stand out a lot :-).

A special shout out to Kathryn Whitaker who gave the twins their first stuffed animals—the owls seen in the pictures above with Fr. Bill. The owls are required to live in biohazard bags to be allowed in their beds!

All in all, not a bad day. We’re much more aware of the Texas two-step of the progress in the NICU. Tomorrow, we’re going to shift the schedule to put me at home half-time so the older girls remember me and to give my in-laws a break. They’ve done an amazing job taking care of the three older girls far longer than any of us expected.

Day 8: Roller Coaster & Gratitude

Quick update for tonight: The roller coaster continues.

After yesterday’s emotional setback, today was good. Labs came back good. Girls’ weights are doing well. Temperature regulation is going well.

It’s almost as if yesterday didn’t happen and we’re cautiously optimistic that we’re playing the short game again.

Thank you all for your support and prayers.

We’re lucky—the girls have been easy patients for the NICU and, quite frankly, we’ve never had a reason to seriously worry regarding their outcome. A lot of NICU experiences aren’t so pleasant. I’ve had a niece born at 2 pounds, 13 ounces 17 years ago and a nephew who stopped breathing extremely young—both earned them helicopter rides. One is doing great in high school, the other graduates from college next weekend—both were in danger of never coming home. We’ve had friends lose their little ones or their day of setbacks included learning that an emergency surgery with a handful of follow-up operations was the only chance of maybe saving them.

We’re blessed by the community that we’re in. All of you all sharing your experiences, prayers, time, food has been amazing. I truly feel for the parents here whose spouses can’t take the paternity leave I’m able to take, who are relatively new to the city, don’t know many/any people and don’t have the steady flow of text messages of support, offering of food and/or babysitting, the first time parents having their little ones in the NICU and freaking out over the extraordinary aspects of the NICU and the ordinary aspects of new parenthood, those who don’t have grandparents who are able to drop everything to become mom and dad to older siblings for a week and have to juggle everything themselves.

I owe a number of y’all return text messages and, don’t worry, we’ll ask for more help soon. 🙂 The idea of having seven of us at home, aiming to maintain a 90-minute feeding routine every three hours to ensure their weight, keep three meals in the other five, getting everyone to school on time in clean clothes with the hair attempted to be fixed is, well, in some ways, more intimidating than the NICU (now that we know we’re not in serious danger).

In short, today was a good day. Thank you for helping make it so.

Day 7: The Day of Setbacks

Today was a hard day.

The day started with the girls having another bath and their bedding changed. The purple and pink blanket trick to tell them apart is no more.

Ana was sleeping with her arm over her face reminding me a picture we took of Olivia around the same age that is extremely slow to find on the hospital wireless.

During rounds, the neonatologist prepped us concerning Dorothy. While Ana had been eating up to her allowed amount and started ever-so-slightly gaining weight, Dorothy hadn’t been eating up nor stopped her initial weight loss. If she didn’t make some gains in the next 24 hours, they would add a feeding tube to send milk straight to her stomach.

Ugh. Damn it.

Alright, that’s fine. If it helps her bulk up and turn the corner, sure thing.

Later in the day, V and I took off for a couple of hours to swap out dirty clothes for clean ones and take a shower. After a frustrating experience between insurance and a vendor trying to get a quality breast pump that could support our needs when, in a first, the insurance company telling me they covered something when the vendor said insurance wouldn’t. I should defer all insurance conversations until after we’re out of NICU.

We head back to the hospital to find…

What? They were cleared from bilirubin checks? Labs weren’t being sent off anymore. It had only been a couple of hours since we left without jaundice being on the table to phototherapy?

Their nurse noticed their coloration was deteriorating and requested the neonatologist confirm and request labs. Sure enough, their bilirubin levels were high enough to merit intervention, including VISOR-style stickies.

The day ranged from the doctor suggesting we wouldn’t be here when he returned on Monday to our nurse telling us we’ll see him next Thursday when he’s next on duty.

We’re emotionally drained after today.