Monday, November 29, 2010

Can't see the Christmas forest...for the Tree

First off, let me just say that I've never been one for the over-commercialization of Christmas and all of the silliness that surrounds what's really an important holiday in the Christian calendar.  With that being said, I absolutely love the fact and am quite thankful that our house can hold this OBSCENELY large tree.



'Tis the season for Christmas Cards ...

I absolutley love, love, love to give and receive Christmas cards. Each year, I run out to the mailbox everyday in the week or two before Christmas in hopes of finding new cards sent to our family. Then, I race back inside, tear open the packaging (seriously, it's like a squirrel opens our mail) and read the contents. Then, I ceremoniously display each beloved card by taping it to the door frame between our kitchen and living room.  At the end of every holiday season, I carefully remove the tape and place the cards in a Ziploc bag, where they wait until the next year where they're graduated from the doorway to a special spot on our Christmas tree.Check back later tonight for pictures and more about this year's tree. I really enjoy looking back through the cards we've received over the years as we put up our tree. This year was no different!

I especially love photo cards. For the past few years, Casey and I have sent out photo cards to all our family and friends. This year, we were very much looking forward to the requiste "cute baby" holiday cards that were sure to come once our new addition arrived.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Thursday ...

This year because of our quarantine, we weren't able to travel back west to see our families for Thanksgiving. As such, it was just Casey, my sister Courtney, Beatrice Kate and I for Thanksgiving dinner.

The weekend was great from start to finish. Wednesday we finally received approval from our insurance company for Beatrice Kate's Synagis injection. This will help protect her from coming down with severe RSV this winter (hopefully) and lessen her chances of a return to the hospital. I think it's important to note that when Beatrice Kate recieved the shot, it was not a toy or silly faces that lessened her reaction to the injection. No, it was the sight of her beloved Blue Hat, Green Hat  book that instantly made her forget all about receiving the shot and put a smile on her face. That child is certianly made of our DNA!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday ...

The Raleigh Christmas Parade (Collins Family edition) in pictures ...










Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our little routine ...

After the initial trauma of leaving Beatrice Kate in the NICU for the first time, Casey and I began to develop a little routine each night once we got home from the hospital. I've mentioned several times that I can be quite obsessive about things and how order and structure are coping mechanisms for me. So, it should come as no great shocker that I insisted on a 'schedule' of events to unfold each night, in the same order, the same way every, single evening.

Now, before you all start thinking that it's just me- let me justify saying all this by telling you that Casey is the exact same way about certain things. NC State sporting events for one. In fact, I've seen him spend an entire football game standing in a doorway with his hands in his pockets or on his head, or in motion to his ear/face/mouth/etc. just because State made a good play or scored a point. The boy is nothing if not superstitious.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One more thing...

Today's Living Social Deal (kind of like Groupon) is for Babiology. Babiology is a store in Five Points (in Raleigh) that has a lot of great cloth diapering stuff (and you know how much I love cloth diapering!) and they consign baby clothes- which are practically brand new and are always really, really nice things...

So, if you're in the market for a cheap deal ($20 for $50 worth of stuff) on cool stuff for your babe or looking for a neat Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus gift for a new mom you know (hint, hint)- check out this link to buy the deal.

NICU Nurses: The good, the bad and the incredible ...

Remember how I said that the NICU has a way of turning complete strangers into friends and nurses and doctors into your family? Well, it's true. The strongest relationships you will form while your baby is in the hospital (or when you're in the hospital, too!) is the bond with their nurses.

The nurses who are good (which is far and away, most nurses we've encountered) are really, really good. Some have this sixth sense, superhuman ability to care for, comfort and treat the tiniest of babies (and their parents).

Meal Plan Monday (Thanksgiving edition) ...


This week, we've had a visitor staying at our house- my sister Courtney! I will have to admit that I thought cooking for three would be the same as cooking for two. Boy, was I wrong. Because of our quarantine this winter, I usually only go grocery shopping once a week (on Fridays when Casey gets home from work). This week, I've been to the store no less than 4 times to get "filler" things for lunches, breakfasts, etc. I guess I never realized how much I just pick and choose from whatever we have in the fridge each day vs. having a structured meal at the proper times.

Anyway... here's what's on the menu this week until Thursday when, of course, we'll all put ourselves into a turkey-coma:

Friday, November 19, 2010

How to help a family with a child in the NICU (and somethings NOT to do) ...

 First, for anyone who cares- the link to our WRAL News article is here.

Anyway, back to the good stuff...
Having a baby early or one that's born with medical needs is (obviously) very stressful in and of itself. Unfortunately, life in the "outside world" doesn't come to a halt because your child is sick.

In addition to worrying about whether your baby will live, you also have to worry about the everyday, mundane things of your life. Things as simple as taking a shower or finding food each day become insurmountable tasks and quickly take a back seat to life in the NICU.

We simply could not have survived the six weeks Beatrice Kate was hospitalized without help from our family, church family and friends. It's a simple as that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pipe up for Preemies (and a not-so-Wordless Wednesday) ...

Beatrice Kate, in all her 993g glory, born March 12 (11 weeks premature)
It's here! National Prematurity Awareness Day is today, November 17. Today is the day that we, The Raleigh Collins (all three of us) join hundreds of other bloggers in the fight for preemies. As parents of a former micro-preemie and miracle, this day gives us good reason to speak out for a cause near and dear to our hearts- babies born too soon.

Throughout the month of November, we have been blogging about our journey through the NICU. We hope that our story and perspectives can help give other families facing a similar adventure a sense of community and hope. Yes, having a premature baby is life-changing; but isn't simply having any baby life-changing? Our experiences in the NICU were filled with highs and lows. From the outside looking in, life in the NICU seems like the Doldrums. But in reality, it's a place where miracles and modern science intersect. A place where complete strangers become friends and nurses and doctors become part of your family as they diligently work to make your child stronger, healthier, ready to come for you.

To other NICU parents, we want you to know that you are not alone. Catch up on our story:

Why was Beatrice Kate premature? Read about our preeclampsia diagnosis here and here.
How long were we at UNC Women's Hospital before she was born? Find out here and here.
What was the delivery like? Read about it here and here.
What about meeting Beatrice Kate for the first time? You'll find that here and here.
What's with all the hospital terms? Find a vocabulary list here.
 
Prematurity is a growing trend among births in the U.S. and that's why supporting organizations like March of Dimes is so important. Through their research, education and advocacy someday- prematurity will be soooooo last season.

One last thing...who ever said that premature babies born small, stay small clearly hasn't seen our "small" miracle recently:
Yea, there's nothing skinny about those cheeks

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

...and at last, we meet

Nine hundred and ninety-three grams.  Thirty-five point zero-two-seven ounces.  For your reference, the following items weigh more than Beatrice Kate did at birth: 1) a whole beef tenderloin from a small grass-fed cow; 2) the liver of an average human; 3) a medium-to-large bunch of bananas; 4) two bicycle wheels; 5) a newborn Newfoundland puppy.   I don’t know that there’s any way to prepare first time parents for the NICU, but I hope that by the end of this reading, you’ll understand a little bit about it, and maybe you’ll be able to better relate to any new parents you might know who are experiencing a similar situation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meal Plan Monday (finally!) ...

We've been having computer problems today (meaning, we can't actually use our ocmputer today) so our Meal Plan is a little late. But, as they say, "Better late than never" so here we go:

Friday: Salsa Chicken tacos (easiest recipe ever: take frozen chicken, place in your crock pot, dump a jar of salsa on top and forget about it until dinner time. Voila! Shred chicken and serve.)

Saturday: We had a heavy late brunch so for dinner we just did leftovers and snacks (very domestic of me, I know)
Sunday: Linguine (free Butoni pasta from HT Super Doubles last week!) and meat sauce, peanut butter cookies for dessert (and they were YUMMY)
Monday: Roasted Pork Loin with raspberry reduction and edamame on the side
Tuesday: Butternut squash soup and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches (inspired, in part, by the fact that Beatrice Kate will begin dining on butternut squash later this week! My baby is growing up so fast!)
Wednesday: Ropa Vieja from the crockpot
Thursday: Not totally sure yet, but probably oven roasted chicken with broccoli and light cheese sauce

As always, you can probably find more creative and tastier ideas from other bloggers by visiting Org Junkie's Meal Plan Monday post.

Don't forget: National Prematurity Awareness Day is this week (Wednesday to be exact!) to be sure to check back to our blog as we continue our NICU Journey or visit www.marchofdimes.org for more information about how you can help join the fight for preemies!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'll take that medical degree now, please...

Before we get too heavily into the NICU part of our NICU journey, Casey and I thought it best to do a "vocabulary" lesson on NICU terms. Now, let me preface this list by saying: We are not doctors, nurses or any sort of medical professional- we just play one on the interwebs. So, don't go writing us when we inevitably get a definition wrong; or screw up a term. It'll happen; trust me.

Let's start with the biggies first...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Love at first sight ...

So here’s the thing that sucks most about having a premature infant because of preeclampsia: The 24 long hours you have to recover before seeing your baby after she’s born. 

Yes, you read that right. I had to wait 24 hours before I could lay eyes on my daughter.

Immediately after she was born, Beatrice Kate was whisked away to the NICU to be examined by the doctors and get the help she needed to breathe. Immediately after I delivered her, I was whisked back to a recovery room, given a shot of morphine and re-hooked to the Magnesium Sulfate. Because the risk of a seizure is still very great, preeclampsia patients are given another 24 hour course of the drug to continue lowering the blood pressure. During that time I would be confined to a bed and closely monitored every thirty minutes. Oh, and I still wasn’t allowed to eat. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Go Time...

Sorry for the delay in posting – things got busy and I’m not the type of writer who can just crank out material.  Ask Ashley how bad my verbal storytelling is.  Let’s just say that it’s a good thing that I wasn’t the one entrusted with the oral traditions of the South in the time before blogging.  Anyways, please read on for my perspective on our birth, and comment if you'd like - we're curious to see who’s out there…

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meal Plan Monday ...

It's time for Meal Plan Monday! Don't worry- Casey's NICU Journey blog post will be up later today. We haven't forgotten, we've just been out of town this weekend and didn't have a chance to post on Friday.

Harris Teeter had amazing deals this week so most of the ingredients for this week's menu came from there or Trader Joe's. Also, like I said, we were out of town from Friday to Sunday night, so we ate out once and had dinners with family on Saturday and Sunday.

Anyway, let's get down to it...
Friday: Five Guy's Hamburgers (for free thanks to coupons Casey picked up at a charity golf tournament)
Saturday: Surprise birthday party for my mother- BBQ sandwiches, yum!
Sunday: Bakes spaghetti at Mom's (and a Starbuck's coffee on the road back home!)
Monday: Spicy beef stir-fry with carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers and onion. We had this two weeks ago- but after all the non-veggies we had this weekend, Hubs and I both were craving something veggie-centric.
Tuesday: Oven-roasted whole chicken with veggies from the freezer (cooked of course). We were supposed to have this last week; but in the mayhem of making a three tiered birthday cake it got lost in the chocolate butter creme. So, we'll have it this week.
Wednesday: Chili (Cold nights just beg for a good pot of chili, don't they?)
Thursday: Homemade pizza with leftover veggies, pepperoni and whatever else we feel like adding in the moment.

That's it! Of course, for better other ideas, you can visit Org Junkie for a giant list of other Meal Plans. And, like I said earlier, Casey's version of our Labor and Delivery part of the NICU story should be up later today or tonight.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lots of Labor, Very Little Delivery


So there I was, being wheeled down into the Labor and Delivery Department (L&D) while my husband frantically packed some of my things from our antepardum suite. When I got situated in the room, Casey came barreling in with a backpack filled with: several books to read (including a copy of The Bradley Method, which clearly wasn’t going to happen), a newspaper (for the crosswords…if you know my husband, you know he had a bit of an addiction), a container of sushi (he hadn’t finished lunch yet) and 20 or so Hershey’s Kisses and Mint Life Savers. 

I knew that we were in for a long process- I just didn’t know at the time exactly how long that would be. 

Waiting...

At the end of this post I hope that you, the reader, will be able to answer three questions:  1) What’s the best part about Chapel Hill? 2) How many different kinds of hospital food could I eat (should I eat) at UNC Hospital? 3) If I’m staying with my wife in a hospital room, what kind of furniture should I be on the lookout for?  If you can understand why these questions are important to a husband and father-to-be, then we should go have a beer and compare notes.  I also want to express that of all the “chapters” in our immediate ante- and post-partum book, this was the worst one for me.  You’ll notice that I describe some things in great detail, and some things get glazed over with barely a mention.  I can’t say why it’s like this, except to say that I had “tunnel vision” in a time of what was really, intense emotional and mental pressure.  Of course, some of it was my own doing, but read on.  Actually let's go ahead and state that the answer to Question 1 is NOT their damn basketball team.

A really great article about preeclampsia ...

March of Dimes must be reading our blog (ha!) and have posted this great article about Preeclampsia. Unfortunately however, some women (like me) don't fall into any of the "risk" categories for developing it.

That's why organizations like March of Dimes are so important. They're conducting research that could one day tell us why preeclampsia strikes and how we can prevent it!

Check out the article here. Visit March of Dimes to join the fight against prematurity here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (a story in pictures about first solids) ...


 

                                  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Admitted ...


I had never been a patient in the hospital. Aside from having my tonsils removed in the third-grade, I had never even been beyond the visitor sections of one. I’ve never broken my arm, had my appendix removed or anything like that. In general, I’ve been in pretty good health my entire life. 

So, when I was first admitted to UNC Women’s Hospital, I was actually a little ok with it. After the initial shock and dismay that the first hospital rendered, I was pleasantly surprised at how calm and collected the UNC nurses and doctors were. They said things like “weekly ultrasounds” and “when you’re discharged in a few days, you’ll probably be on strict bed rest”. 15 hours earlier, we were being told that we may not last long enough to receive the two steroid shots a day apart.

These words gave us something that the first hospital stripped away: hope. Hope that maybe we could just carry our baby to near full-term. More importantly, hope that even if we didn’t- our baby would still be ok. As one doctor put it, “You’re practically full-term to us anyway”. I knew I wasn’t, but it was such a comfort to hear that we were in knowing hands.

Anyway, being admitted to the hospital was a small relief for me. I wouldn’t have to answer my Blackberry (it was hidden from me anyway and the email function was disabled), I didn’t have to deal with work stressors, I didn’t have to cook or clean my house, deal with our dogs (which I hadn’t done since I found out I was pregnant anyway) or do any of the other mundane daily tasks my life usually demanded. I would finally be able to relax and for once- simply concentrate on being pregnant. They even had people come in every day to ask what I wanted to order for my meals! It was like staying in a hotel (of course, a very, very expensive hotel). This novelty quickly wore off.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bad Part First

It’s difficult to summon the emotions that I felt as an expectant father back in late February 2010.  It’s not that I don’t remember what I felt, or even if I felt different than many new fathers would feel, regardless of the situations surrounding your wife’s first pregnancy.  I wrote most everything down about who was there with us, who took care of the house, who made us food, and what doctors and nurses cared for us.  It’s more of the fact that the speed at which life was happening in the days surrounding the end of a pregnancy and birth of new life were nothing more than incredibly warped.  In fact, I couldn’t even say that “one minute, time sped up, and another, time slowed down,” because there was no “one minute.”  I can’t give a play-by-play because the more pertinent unit of measurement was just one fixed point:  the point in time at which my daughter came into this world, leaving her quiet sanctuary and joining the rest of us in our less-than-serene world.  For my engineering mind, the rate of change at which time passes lost all meaning and thus, by the end of my recounting of our little journey, I’ll propose my own Theory of Relativity.  So if you're interested, click the link below, and let's get started.

The Diagnosis

Catch up on our story: Read the preface here

Let's start from the very, very beginning...
*Warning: these will be quite long posts!*

At 20 weeks, I took a business trip to London with my doctor’s blessing. After a long, overnight flight, I arrived at my hotel and noticed that my feet had swollen a little. Hmm, I thought, that’s weird; but I attributed it to the cabin pressure. Fast forward a week- after being caught in the worst snowstorm in 25 years, I get back to the States and go in for a regular check-up.  My feet were still terribly swollen, but again, I assumed it was due to the traveling and English salty diet.  

We were excited for this check-up because we were finally going to see 4-D images of our baby, who at this point, we just KNEW was a boy. Being the stubborn little baby that it was, we never saw a clear image of its face but just seeing their little hands and their little feet—we were in love.