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Monday, October 29, 2007

Henry the Tyrant

Now Aunt Libby's begging for pictures. Hey, as long as you all keep asking, we're more than happy to oblige!

We had lots of visitors this weekend: Grandma Iris, Grandpa Jay, Great Aunt Linda, Great Grandma Emma, Cousin Katy and San Francisco friends Phil and Mary. Henry slept through all the excitement, but was pretty cute nonetheless so we'll forgive him.

Things are still going well here at home. It's easy to forget the whole NICU ordeal when you look at this rosy and increasingly chubby little guy. We visit the pediatrician tomorrow morning and are fully expecting Henry to cross the seven-pound mark at his weigh-in. He's like the size of a normal, full-term baby now, still more than a week short of his due date!

There is one slight issue, though. Since coming home Henry has caught on to the fact that we're much bigger softies than his old night nurses at the NICU, and he's taking advantage of it. He's decided he prefers to not sleep at night unless someone's holding him or keeping his pacifier in his mouth. In fact, he's so forceful about the whole thing, we've started calling him our little tyrant. He even has this funny little laughing noise that goes along with it, as if to say, "Silly parents, I run this household. You will sleep when I permit you to sleep. Now change me!"

So, we're tired. Really, really tired. And it thrills us to have something completely normal about which to complain.

Hanging out on Daddy's shoulder

Snoozing in the Moses basket, where you can find him most days
Thinking serious baby thoughts while resting with Grandma Iris

Wearing his baby toupee, which gives him confidence!

Sleeping like an angel -- why can't we make him do this at night?

Spending time with two of his biggest fans
Naptime with Grandpa Jay

Friday, October 26, 2007

Daily dose of Henry

We hear Grandpa Hank gets the shakes if we don't post new pictures after a couple of days. So for his benefit, here's the latest. :)

Waving hello to his fans

First walk!

Tummy time

The happy family -- with a very tired-looking mommy

Playing with Grandpa Jay

Playing with Grandma Iris

Chillin' out in his crib

Life can be soooo difficult sometimes!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life at home

Wearing the sneaks he got from Grandma MA. With his shirt like a cape he looks like a super hero! Henry Jay to the rescue! The kung-fu crime-fighting baby!
Playtime on his blanket from Aunt Libby

Hanging out in the indispensable Moses basket (thank you, Grandma and Grandpa O!)
Doing his best impression of Uncle Pete -- sleeping with his mouth open (jeez, why does Mommy look so tired?)
Sleeping through the spectacular sunset here in Chicago tonight
Helping Daddy do his work
Attempting tummy time

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Sept. 12, 2007, weighing 4 lbs., 13 oz.

Oct. 21, 2007, weighing 6 lbs., 8 oz.

Exactly six weeks to the day of my water breaking, at 37 weeks and two days gestation, Henry Jay has come home. HOME! As in, no wires, no monitors, no medical personnel -- just hanging out with mom and dad, fussing, sleeping, messing his diapers and eating every few hours like your average newborn. Only we -- and you readers -- know just how un-average his beginning was.

Henry made sure he stretched out those brady episodes just long enough to join the preemie parade to the new hospital yesterday morning. Parents weren't allowed to accompany the babies during the move, so we met up with Henry in his new "pod" after everyone was settled later in the afternoon.

(By the way, the new hospital is so incredibly nice! No expense was spared -- absolute night and day from the run-down facility where we've had the bulk of our obstetric adventures.)

The plan was to hang out with Henry until the brady countdown was officially over at 5 p.m. Then, we would "room in" with him overnight, to test our parenting skills within the comforts of the hospital before going it alone.

The brady countdown ended uneventfully and we breathed a sigh of relief. That should have been the end of it. However, per hospital protocol, Henry had to stay on the monitor until our room was ready. And wouldn't you know it, about half an hour later, the little stinker had a brady. It was very brief and during feeding, which the doctors don't normally count -- I think his milk went down the wrong pipe as he was gulping too fast. But nonetheless, it brought about a tense few minutes as we feared the doctors would restart the clock. In the end, they didn't; they trust we're watching him closely during feeding and would know if something were wrong. Game still on.

A couple hours later, Henry finally got to ditch the wires and our nurse wheeled him into our room. We were the first to ever stay in it, and it was spectacular! A corner suite with one side facing the lake and the other facing Oprah's condo and the John Hancock building.

The night went by pretty quietly. From 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., Henry only woke up three times to eat and have his diaper changed. I can't say that we got any real sleep, though. When you're used to the constant reassurance of a monitor, it's hard to go cold turkey. We slept with a dim light on so I could quickly check Henry's color if I got nervous in the middle of the night.

The nurse came back for us at 7 a.m. We took advantage of our high-priced babysitters one last time to grab coffee and take a quick walk. Then we returned to the nursery for our discharge instructions and Henry's final NICU check-up. The doctors said he looked great, and around noon we were permitted to wheel him out for good -- this time in his new stroller.

So far, things are going great here in Andersonville. We even managed to get a few hours of sleep last night -- with the lights off this time. Chris is working from home this week and I'm still on maternity leave, so we have four hands available at all times. And since he's still a little guy, Henry doesn't fuss much; just a few protest cries when he's hungry or uncomfortable and that's about it.

The new thing, however, is that he's constantly awake! At the hospital he pretty much slept 24-7, except for feeding time and a few moments before and after. In the past day at home, he's been wide-eyed and alert for much longer stretches.

That's it for now. If anyone out there would like to catch the action in person, please stop by! Because Henry is more prone to illness, we probably won't be taking him out much, but we would love visitors. (Just don't be offended if we hose you down with hand sanitizer upon entry -- the NICU experience has turned us into complete germaphobes.)

See you all soon!

Ali, Chris & Henry

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Takin' it to the streets (maybe)

Tonight Henry passed the car seat test required of all preemies, which tested his ability to breathe and keep his heart rate up while sitting in his car seat for an hour. This means he is officially allowed to ride in a car -- you know, just in case he decides to permanently eschew certain things that may share a name with the current quarterback of the New England Patriots or rather large, cheesy '70s sitcom families, resulting in him being discharged in, say, two more days.


Of course, we've watched several other families get this far, only to have the five-day clock restarted following a buzzer beater -- including one family who arrived car seat in hand to take their child home, only to have him brady that very hour. So our hopes are not up, per se. And it goes without saying, we only want Henry to make the trip home with us when he's ready. But clearly, things are moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Because we know the real reason you visit this site...

... we'll shut up and share some HJ photos from the last few days.

Henry at 36 weeks

He's over six pounds now and really beginning to look like a full termer!

The new development today is that Henry is allowed to eat "ad lib" now, meaning he sets the schedule instead of us. When he was smaller, it was important for him to eat a set amount every three hours so that he gained weight consistently. Now that he's a little older, we'll let him tell us when he's hungry and how much he wants, just as you'd do with a full-term baby.

The docs decided to make this change because it's clear he has much more energy for eating now. He wakes up and fusses when he's hungry (rather than us having to rouse him) and wants to eat everything in sight -- his hands, his blanket, the air ... you name it. I think there's a major growth spurt around the corner!

Monday, October 15, 2007

They say it's *really* nice there

After all that talk about it being "okay" with me if we had to transfer to the new hospital, I'll admit I was getting kind of excited about the possibility of bringing our baby home before the move. But alas, it was not to be. Henry had a bit of a meltdown this afternoon -- a prolonged oxygen desaturation and then, just for kicks, a brady. The docs are going to look at a few outside possibilities for why he's still having these episodes (anemia, reflux), but the most likely scenario is that he's still just a wimpy white boy preemie. (That's not a derogatory comment, by the way -- studies have shown that white boys fare the worst in the NICU. Just our luck!)

So now the earliest we would take him home would be Saturday, but frankly, we're not getting our hopes up. These episodes are highly unnerving, and we certainly don't want to be left alone with him before he's 110% grown out of them.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dag nabbit

Henry bradied this morning. It had been three days, which is the longest he's ever gone. Hopefully we've seen the last of these evil bradys. As of right now, discharge will be Friday morning -- five days from this morning's event. If he has another one this week, he'll be making the move to the new hospital early Saturday morning. If not, he'll be making the move home. (Man, does this kid love suspense!) So please, think "no brady" thoughts for Henry this week. We appreciate it!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Oh, Henry

Well, the good news is we've gone 48 hours without a brady. And, our little man continues to gobble his meals (as much as one can gobble a bottle) and weighs nearly six pounds. Plus, he's really stinking cute. So he has that going for him.

The not-so-good news is that his breathing has become a little unstable in the past few days. He gets into this mode where he doesn't take consistent deep breaths, and it causes his oxygen level to drop momentarily. It's probably just a matter of him being tired, but it's frustrating to see a regression after so many steps in the right direction.

So the million-dollar question remains: When will we get to take him home? Our hospital is shutting down a week from today and moving everyone (including women in labor!) to a new hospital down the block. We knew it would be close, but it's looking now like Henry will be making the move with all his little NICU buddies. And that's okay. After everything that's happened to us at the current hospital -- four hospital stays, two surgeries, the loss of our first baby, the trying NICU experience -- it's kind of poetic. We'll put the difficult times behind us and start fresh with nothing but happy memories at the new hospital. The change will do us good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Look Ma, no tubes!

Ladies and Gentlemen...

...we have ourselves a tube-free baby! Can you believe how gorgeous that little face is without the mustache of surgical tape?

HJ hasn't needed his feeding tube since midday Monday, so they took it out this afternoon. Of course, the moment it was gone, the little stinker tried to sleep through his 3 p.m. feeding. But Grandma Iris and I cheered him on and he eventually rallied and took it like a man. Let's hope we've turned this corner for good!

Now that he's mastered feeding by mouth, the brady-free countdown has officially begun. After going all yesterday without one, he had one last night and then again this afternoon. So, the homecoming will be at least another five days from today -- and likely more than that. Thankfully, we've yet to see a NICU patient who's walking or talking, so we have faith he WILL grow out of these episodes eventually.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Wanted: Cap and Gown, Preemie Size

We're getting closer, dear readers. I arrived at the hospital tonight to the news that Henry would be "graduating" to the 15th floor "stepdown" nursery once he finished his dinner. That's big news and a big graduation! The 15th floor is filled with the babies who are close to being sent home. Henry now has a little nook where we can get some more privacy with him, away from the noise and bustle of the NICU downstairs. Now, he gets to kick back next to a window with a view of lake Michigan!

So why did Henry graduate to the 15th floor? He's taken his last eight meals by mouth! That's 24 hours, so we're halfway to the 48 hour mark when we can check it off altogether. If all goes well, the tube in his nose will be removed tomorrow, and Henry will be down to one pesky item keeping him in the hospital. Yup, the bradys -- those brief little episodes where his heart rate drops. He didn't have any bradys today (fingers crossed), so we feel he's definitely turning a corner. Plus, the tube that runs from his nose down to his stomach may be responsible for causing him some discomfort and indigestion. Removing it could, theoretically, remove an irritant that may be partially responsible for his bradys. We're not doctors -- this is just a theory Ali and I have -- but if our hunch is correct, Henry's next graduation is coming soon and we'll be playing "Pomp and Circumstance" all the way from the hospital to Andersonville.

So take a good look at these photos of Henry with his tube in his nose; they may be the last of the sort. Yay!!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

That's One Clean Baby!

We had the pleasure of giving Henry his first bath today. We couldn't tell if he loved it, but he certainly didn't hate it -- he hardly fussed at all. Instead, much like when we burp him, he succumbed and tolerated it. And it was such a thrill for us to interact with him while he was almost completely unencumbered. No tubes save the one in his nose; otherwise, all his sensors and monitors were removed for bath time.

We dipped him in his little yellow tub and Ali washed him up -- even behind his little ears -- while I dutifully managed the camera, his favorite nurse Andrea guiding us through the whole process.

After we scrubbed his body down we took him out, dried him off and then attended to cleaning his little blond hairs. As you can see, Henry also did his part by keeping his pacifier in his mouth with his free hand.Then we placed him, in all his cleanliness, in his crib to bundle him up, smelling like only sweet little babies can. And just before we completed bath time, he promptly undid all of our efforts -- "soiling" his bed before we were able to get a diaper on him.

Oh well!

We love that little rascal just the same.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Baby Steps

Hi everyone. Here's a photo of Henry holding hands with his Mommy right before one his big meals today. Henry continues to take baby steps forward and he is making progress -- his meals are getting bigger and so is he! He's up to 5 lbs., 7 oz., and more of his meals are given by mouth than through that tube in his nose.

Though he continues to still have a couple of his exciting little brady episodes everyday, we remain confident that they will dissipate over time as he continues to get bigger, stronger, and more mature.

While he spends most of his time napping and conserving his energy, it's always fun when he perks up every three hours to get his vitals checked and enjoy a meal. That's when we get to see him wave his arms around, try to pull the cord from his nose and of course, toot with no regard for who may be is in his presence.

Love to everyone! Especially his newest cousin Kaitlin!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Happy three weeks, Henry!

Henry is three weeks old today! He sure has come a long way in these three weeks, and so have his parents. The rollercoaster is starting to even out a little, and we're so incredibly grateful for it.

Master Ohlhoff is down to just two major milestones he needs to complete before discharge. First of all, feeding: he needs to take all his meals by bottle or breast for 48 hours straight. Right now, he's eating about 60% of the time by mouth; the rest is served directly to his tummy via that tube through his nose. He's clearly headed in the right direction, and we expect he'll have this one in the bag within a week or two.

Two, he needs to learn to keep his heart beating consistently. That may sound scary, but it's par for the course when you're a preemie. Bradycardia episodes -- affectionately known as "bradys" -- are when the heartrate drops suddenly, the result of some sort of mix-up in the premature brain. Henry still has a couple of these episodes a day, and every time he has one, he buys himself another five days in the NICU. Research has shown that if a baby can go five days without having an episode, he or she has sufficiently matured to where it's no longer a concern.

The drag about bradys is that they can seriously elongate the NICU stay, since the clock starts over each time there's an episode. Already, we've seen several other families tortured by this preemie reality; they show up thinking they get to take their baby home, only to be told that baby had another brady and will be staying five more days. Brutal! So suffice it to say, we're crossing our fingers that Henry figures this one out sooner than later.