Thursday, October 29, 2015

Homeward Bound.

Well, it's been a long time, but once again I promise I have a good reason. On Friday, October 16, 2015 I had just gotten out of the shower and saw that I had missed a call. The voicemail left was from Dr. Beaumont at Helen DeVos and it went something like this. "Jen, this is Dr. Beaumont calling. Please call me back to discuss plans for Roland to come home tomorrow, Becker on Sunday, and Micah on Monday."

Though incredibly excited, I was also very surprised and a little nervous. After all, I've never had infants and most of what I knew about caring for them I had learned in the NICU. I called Andy immediately to share the great, scary, mind blowing, nerve-wracking, well, news anyway. I will never forget his reaction. It is etched into my memory forever. Of course, it was a very easy reaction to remember. Me: "Dr. Beaumont just called to say all three boys may be home by Monday". Andy: "No. No no no no no. No. No. No. No no no no no no no no no. Really? Monday?" I was laughing pretty hard by the end of the call, as his shock pretty well mirrored my own, though he expressed it far more eloquently. You see, there is not a lot of notice at the NICU. Things change quickly. There had been no talk of the boys coming home. We were still expecting their stay to be around seven weeks, certainly not five. There are criteria that must be met prior to discharge. One of these is that the babies be maintaining their own body temperature. They had been taken out of their isolettes over a week before so this milestone was no surprise to us. The other major obstacle to discharge is that the babies take all their feeds by bottle, rather than through their feeding tube, for a full forty eight hours. There had previously been days when one or more of the boys came near the twenty four hour mark, or days when they took a majority by bottle, but never close to the full forty eight. My point is, though we have longed to have the babies home, somehow the call was still a shock.

As I considered last minute preparations for our first son home, I found myself increasingly excited to see our nursery cribs occupied. The following day we had plans with Andy's dad and stepmom who were flying in from Chicago so the four of us headed over to the hospital to visit four babies, and to take one home. It was a wonderful feeling to watch our boy freed of his tube and leads for the last time. Our tiny but fiercely strong and determined boy looked even smaller in contrast to his carseat.

 I marveled again at the fact that the was the baby who was not supposed to survive, the baby that doctor's would have chosen for reduction, was our first little fighter home. Today I can't imagine a world that doesn't include Roland, our mighty Gunslinger.

Roland William
Days in NICU: 38
Birth weight: 2lbs. 8oz.
Discharge weight: 4lbs. 4oz.
Discharge status: Mighty.
This mommy may or may not have mistaken butt cream for lotion and slathered it all over her boy's dry forehead.
So much space for such a little guy.
We had made dinner plans with our guests that night and, after some deliberation, decided to keep them, with the agreement that Roland would stay under the protection of his car seat cover and safe from germs. We went to San Chez, a local Tapas Bistro that has been my favorite restaurant in town since the 90's. The food is consistently good, as is the service, and the atmosphere always feels to me like a gathering of friends. The host was kind enough to put us in an L-shaped booth so that I could put Roland in the corner. Roland didn't make a peep through our whole dinner, though Andy and I peeked into the carseat to check on him roughly every four and a half seconds. It was a great night with family, and I was glad we kept the date. It felt important to me to be able to have the experience of going out with a baby in public. Just one baby, in relative anonymity. I knew that as more babies came home, not only would dinners out become impractical, but our outings as a family would draw attention from people curious about the family with four babies. It was a very normal feeling night, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It was so much fun getting Roland settled, introducing him to his crib, rock and play, bassinet, and the dogs. Putting him to bed each night I would remind him sternly not to get too used to having his own room. It was about to come to an end.

This won't be your own room for long, Little Man!

Doctor Beaumont's prediction that Becker would join us on Sunday proved incorrect, as little Becker had a small setback when he spit up through his nose and required suction. The hospital requires a minimum of five additional days after such an event so he was to have a few more nights in his comfy NICU bed with his favorite nurses catering to his every need.

Monday afternoon Micah reached his forty eight hour mark for bottle feeds. Since it was after discharge hours we were informed that he would spend one last night with Becker and Marin at Helen DeVos and come home Tuesday.

We brought Roland with us to enjoy a visit with Becker and Marin, and soon had both boys loaded into their carseats.

Micah Paul
Days in NICU: 41
Birth weight: 3lbs. 0oz.
Discharge weight: 5lbs. 0oz.
Discharge status: Sweet as pie.
I wish I could describe to you the feeling of putting the boys together for the first time. It was better than amazing. They cuddled up immediately together. We allow them short supervised naps like this, and it seems to be their best sleep of the day.

A few days later the boys had their first doctor's appointment, where they were proclaimed to be in perfect health.

That very Friday it was time for our little Becker to join his brothers. Picking up Roland and Micah had been such happy occasions, but I was surprised to feel sad when picking up Becker. Picking up the other boys, I had left the remaining siblings with each other. This time, I was leaving Marin alone. Marin, of course, had no idea that she was alone, but seeing her by herself, occupying the last of our half of the NICU room tugged at my heart.

Becker Andrew
Days in NICU: 44
Birth weight: 2lbs. 6oz.
Discharge weight: 4lbs. 5oz.
Discharge status: (extremely rare) Midwestern Squeaker Monkey

Our little Monkey was somewhat skeptical about sharing his space.

 Andy was supposed to go out of town for the weekend that day but wanted to cancel when we found out that we would have all three boys home. I put on my brave face and assured him I was up to the task of caring for the trio that weekend. Do I need to tell you that I was not up to the task? The boys chose that first night with Andy gone to be up all night! We had recently moved Roland and Micah to a new schedule that worked better with Andy's office schedule. Becker was not excited about the change and he got the whole crew on board with his protest.

I catch myself referring to Becker as Squeaker because, well, he squeaks. He has a hundred different noises, and most of them involve some form of a squeak. Imagine my surprise when we were ushered into the exam room for his first doctor's appointment and found this picture hanging on the wall.

It has been so fun, though tiring, having the boys home. I love getting to know them. They are each very different in both looks and personality, so I have been able to get to know three individuals, rather than "the boys." But more about that next time.

For now, just know how blessed we are to have these beautiful peanuts home with us, and how much we look forward to Marin Grace joining the party and completing our crew, hopefully very soon.

Love and blessings,

Jen and Andy
Micah, Becker, Roland and Marin

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Month? Already?

How time has flown. It is tough for me to believe that a month has passed already. In some ways it feels like yesterday, but reflecting on their progress it is amazing that they have accomplished so much in such a short time.

Everyone's faces are filling out. Roland has finally lost his old man wrinkles. Their personalities have changed. Micah and Marin were fussy and feisty, Becker and Roland very calm. These days M & M have become the calm ones, either sleeping or looking happily around their tiny world in the NICU. Roland has formed the very strong opinion that the nurses are not giving him enough food, so he begins to voice his displeasure a full hour before his next feeding is due. Becker is generally pretty happy but seems to learn to use his voice a bit more every day. Not only does he cry, but he has a variety of grunts and coo's to go along with his many facial expressions.

Marin Grace, happily snoozing on my lap. Now that they are able to regulate their own body temperatures they don't have to be constantly swaddled. The tops have even been removed from their isolettes.

Roland, sleepy after a diaper and wardrobe change. All the boys still like to sleep with a hand near their face. 

Marin Grace. Remember the white swaddles all the babies were in? MG was the first to outgrow them and move to blanket swaddling. The boys followed quickly behind. This was her first day out of the Dandle Roo swaddle. She didn't seem to mind much.

The nurses keep encouraging me to put a headband on Marin but I'm adamant that it won't happen! She has such girly features already, and those baby headbands always look so tight and uncomfortable to me. I'm sure she'll thank me later.

Becker, with a hand at his face as usual. People lose track of time holding Becker. He's so animated and honestly has a hundred different faces!

Andy enjoying skin to skin (aka Kangaroo Care) time with Micah and Becker. The hospital encourages an hour of this daily as studies have shown that it helps the babies both with their breathing and the release of growth hormones.

And here I am during skin to skin with Roland and Marin. Roland always stays awake for the first few minutes, while Marin Grace snoozes the moment she hits my chest.

Roland snoozing again. This must have been right after a feeding. Can you tell how much fuller his face looks these days? I keep telling him that he's a real boy now!

This was a big weekend for us. By Saturday, Oct. 10, their one month birthday, Marin's breathing had improved so much that she was able to get off her nasal cannula and take her first bottle! Here's her first bottle with Daddy as they both anticipated the Packers going to 5-0 later that day. Go Pack go!

Mr. Micah. His face is filling out too. I think that he and Marin look the most similar, our little M&M's, but they all definitely have their own look. I love watching this guy sleep. 

But it's not all rainbows and puppy dogs here folks. Sometimes boys get fussy. 

So this past Saturday, the babies one month birthday, was also my beloved Grandpa's 90th Birthday. They were celebrating with a party of course, but that party was in Green Bay, nearly seven hours away from home and the peanuts. I sent my RSVP with regrets months ago, but as the date got closer I started having some doubts about not going. Friday night I started really feeling like I should be there, and by Saturday morning I had packed a bag, still not sure if I could go through with it. In the end I gathered my willpower, and by the time I passed Chicago I was pretty sure I wasn't going to turn around. I'm so grateful that I was able to make the trip, and so grateful for Andy for encouraging me to go and for being willing to stay near the babies to ease my mind. The look on my Grandpa's face when he saw me was all I needed to know that I made the right choice. It was a great evening celebrating an incredible man.

Grandpa with all his grandkids. We travelled from Indiana, Michigan 
and Arizona to celebrate with him.

Grandpa and Grandma (also a very young 90) with their kids, my dad at left, and his younger siblings Mark and Mary. Mark and his wife flew in from California to be there.

FAQ # 1,236 - "Do twins run in your family?" Yes, and here they are! My dear Grandma Madeline and her twin Marilyn, bookending their older sister Violet. They have two other sisters who were not able to make the trip. How cute are these ladies?

This was a no gift party, but I couldn't resist printing out a bunch of baby pictures to pass along to grandpa. He sat with me for a long time looking at them over and over. He touched each one so gently, as if he were touching each baby rather than their photo. Finally, he looked up at me and asked softly, "So they're really okay?" "Yes, grandpa" I replied. "They're perfect."

I love this one because it displays so perfectly the tone of the evening. They are such a fun group to be around. My grandparents are some of the most positive people I know and it is so fun to see them still so active.

Micah, 1 month, 4lbs. 4oz.

Becker, 1 month, 3lbs. 10oz.
Remember the footprints cards I told you that Sam made for us? Here they are on the left of each picture. On the right is the footprint taken when they were just a couple hours old. 
Roland, 1 month, 4lbs. 1oz.
Marin Grace, 1 month, 4lbs. 7oz.

This week I caught a little cold, so yesterday I decided to play it safe and stay away from the little ones. Andy picked up the slack and changed a ton of diapers and did some bottle feeding last night as well as skin to skin, so they were in great hands! Since I wasn't able to be with them, I decided to continue preparations for the day they would come home, and finally set up their pack and plays and rock and plays. Baby Central is coming along! It's a good thing too. We could start having babies come home in less than two weeks.

I also got the carseats put in the van. I am beginning to see why so many of my Quad Mom friends have opted for cargo vans rather than mini vans. Even with three rows, it's a tight squeeze and will be a chore to get babies in and out of the third row. No regrets though! The jump from Mazda3 to mini van was big enough. I'm not quite ready to settle into a cargo van. Yet.

I woke up early Saturday morning before leaving for Green Bay, to spend time with the peanuts and to celebrate their one month birthday. I am so proud of them already and all they have accomplished in one short month. These are some incredibly strong and determined tiny people. If you can't tell them apart yet, they are, from left, Micah, Becker, Roland and Marin.

I love this sweet brother moment between Micah and Becker as we got them settled. 
It's so fun to see them interact.

Hey, brother!

After their group picture in the crib, the nurses lined them up on me. A better and more organized mom would have thought to swaddle the babies first so that they would be in a nice neat line, rather than looking like a row of wet rag dolls, flopping in the wind. I am apparently not that mom. Sorry kiddos.

I think you're all caught up now. They continue to grow and change, and we know them a little better each day. We are grateful for them and for each one of you who care about their incredible journey. Blessings multiplied indeed!

Jen and Andy,
Micah, Becker, Roland and Marin