Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: The Eagle has landed!

Got a little curve ball this week.  The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) pulled a fast one on us.  We had resigned ourselves to waiting the weekend to bring Anne Marie home on Monday when our pediatrician would be back from her vacation.  We knew we had one more hurdle to jump and that was the rooming in.  That’s where you stay the night in a room alone with the baby and any equipment they may be going home with.  It’s to make sure you can handle the events and the equipment in the middle of the night should the alarm go off.  In our case that meant dealing with a heart monitor.

By all accounts this thing was a nightmare generator.  Apparently it would go off all the time and 99.9% of the alarms would be false.  Plus the alarm could wake the dead.  We were told that by experienced parents and doctors alike.  I relayed this info to the technician charged with teaching us how to use the monitor and her reply was simply: operator error.  You know, one or two people tell me the thing is a piece of junk and I might buy the operator error excuse.  But when several people, including two of the doctors who are recommending we go home with one tell me the thing isn’t great, well the operator error excuse losses a little steam.

We were going to get the chance to test the theory.  Wednesday morning we got the call, “can you room in tonight, it looks like Anne Marie may be released tomorrow?  Will that work for you?”

Yes and yes.

We quick like packed some stuff, got Grammy to cover Frank for the night, and we were on our way for what just might be, finally, the last trip to the NICU we will ever make. Even if AM gets sick now we’re off to Children’s Hospital in downtown Knoxville.

The hang up, as it turns out, was her eating.  One doctor had concerns over the amount she was taking.  She was just getting the bare minimum required per 12 hour shift. Hmmm, just doing the minimum eh?  Just enough to get by, is she?  What do you know, I guess she’s my kid after all.  Better cancel that afternoon slot on Maury Povich’s Who’s the baby’s daddy? episode.

Anyway, Anne Marie didn’t sleep during the night, hence the Povich joke – I’m fried – but she ate like a pig all night.  So that was the last thing keeping her there.  Consequently, she’s not there anymore.  She’s here.  And by here I mean not there.  She’s home. Photographic evidence below.  But the monitor performed like a champ, no false alarms, no alarms at for that matter, and that’s always good.  The rest of the rooming in, well lets just say that is an exercise in futility.

I was skeptical before doing it and now I really have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish.  We got zero sleep, but not because of the kid or the monitor.  The whole freaking room is loud.  It’s like every item in there has a volume knob and they are all set to “stun”.  The paper towel dispenser sounds like a assembly line robotic arm, the flushing toilet sounds like a jet engine.  You couldn’t even turn over in bed because the mattress made the sound of 1000 rusty gates opening all at once very slowly.  Then we get Ma and Pa Kettle next door, also rooming in, and they decide that 2am was a good time for the airing of grievances.  As loud as it got in the hall I thought for sure they would quickly move on to the feats of strength.  So again not really sure what the sleep deprivation therapy was supposed to accomplish but I think we missed the mark a wee tad.

I have tried, over the course of a few postings, to convey the bonds and relationships that we have been building with some of the staff in the NICU.  It was a tearful goodbye as you might imagine.  We have been seeing these people every day, sometimes twice a day, for the past four months.  You don’t just walk away from that without shedding a few tears.

A lot of the staff, nurse, docs, admin, came by and said some very glowing things about Anne Marie and some nice stuff about us too.  Well it was mostly about Tracy, but I’m married to her so I get lumped in by default.  It will be very weird not to drive to the hospital every day.  Here’s hoping a lot of them can make it to AM’s first birthday.

Once the van was loaded and the tears had dried, almost, it was time to head home.  We were on our own for the first time.  Again very surreal driving away.  Might take us a few days to get our legs back underneath us.  But as we pulled in Frank came running out to meet his sister.  As usual he rose to the occasion.  “She’s so cute.” “That’s Anne Marie!” came out of his mouth the first time he saw her face to face.  This kid, he is going to be a problem down the road.  I can feel it.  Nobody says the right thing at the right time, all the time, unless they’re plotting something.

Here is Frank getting to see and hold his sister for the first time, keeping her warm in her swing, and offering her a binker, albeit with a little more force than is commonly necessary, but he got the job done, binker-wise.  I have no picture or video of it but he also sang her a song that he made up himself.  It was the requisite amount of cuteness and adorableness, I can assure you.

Actual first contact. We told you she was real Frank.

Got to stay warm – the old man likes it freezing in here.

I said take the binker! I’m the big brother now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We really weren’t sure what Frank would do. Turns out he wants to hold her, feed her, burp her, which he did, take a nap with her, etc…  Frank even started to offer her his toys.  Not just any toys mind you, but his cars from the movie Cars 2.  And not just any cars from Cars 2, but Francesco Bernoulli, the open wheel Formula One race car. Crap I don’t even get to play with Bacesco, as Frank calls him, and I take Frank to the golf course, to the pool, make him pizza and what not. Here he is, having never seen his sister face to face and he’s already giving her Bacesco!?

I mean, she really hasn’t earned it if we get down to brass tax.  Well yeah she survived death defying odds after being born 3 1/2 months early and all but I’m not sure that warrants getting Bacesco.  She didn’t even appreciate it.  She just crapped her diaper.  Them’s fightin words, or ya know, fightin noises, on the streets of my home town.

But sharing his stuff?  Already?  This dynamic I am not prepared for.  And I’m feeling like I got a little chooched because I barely get to play with Jeff Gorvette when we play cars and she got Bacesco.  Put it this way, if there is a Cars 3 sequel, Gorvette buys the farm in the opening credits or shortly thereafter, that’s how unimportant he is.  If Frank offers her any Thomas Train above the stature of, say, Skarloey, we will throw down.

Regardless of that little game within a game Frank is pretty jazzed to see his sister finally.  He held her for a second time and she started to cry.  “I’m all done with Anne Marie.”  Yeah that didn’t take long.

Do what you will with Frank, for he is already poisoned by KY Blue, but I belong to the Power T and Rocky Top!

Yeah great, can we go already?

Finally rid of us.

Seeing the sun and breathing outdoor air for the first time ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As most of you know, we did leave someone behind.  Anne Marie and Linda Claire started this together.  No doubt they’ll see each other again.  Hopefully a long time from now.

If your heart desires, donations can be made to:

In Memory of Linda Claire Linardo

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center c/o Office of Development

2121 Medical Center Way, Suite 110, Knoxville TN, 37920

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: The Final Countdown

Hard to believe, but we have arrived at the moment of truth.  Today we start the process to bring our daughter home.  March 22nd seems like forever ago, but it’s really only been four months.  A lot has happened in that time.

A life has come and gone, leaving us to forever wonder why it had to be that way.

Linda Clare 22 March 2012

A 1 pound 9 ounce daughter survived being born three and a half months early and an unfortunate incident where she received an adult dose of muscle relaxer meant for Cerebral Palsy patients instead of her heart medication, not once but twice. The constant pursuit of knowledge, determination to heal, and confidence of a great nurse and a young doctor were the only things standing between life and death for Anne Marie.  No insurance policy can repay that debt.

Parents learned a new phrase – one step forward, two steps back.  It’s the mantra of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and for good reason.

A mother returned to her job, into a new position, and completed all the training necessary to be qualified in her new endeavor.  A father is 3 weeks into giving up a ten year addiction to Diet Coke, eat better and workout again in an attempt to be in good health when, at the age of 59 and 62 respectively, his son and daughter will graduate high-school.  A son finished his first year of pre-school, had his third birthday, and started his first summer vacation.  A brother got a new bedroom and big boy furniture, and that freaking bean-bag chair.  He learned a new sentence – “Mommy and daddy are going to the hospital to see Anne Marie!”  He’s about to see his sister face to face for the first time ever.

A Grammy prepped, put on the market, and sold her house, moving from Lexington Kentucky to Knoxville Tennessee only to find, purchase and prep her new house.  A NICU held a fundraiser and picked up a cool $1 million American, in a effort to enhance the already superb treatment they offer to premature babies.

Relationships have been forged, lifelong possibly, hopefully.  Some of the faces in the crowd at Anne Marie’s 1st birthday party will be familiar to some but not all.  Anne Marie will know them, no doubt.  Those faces were some of the first she ever saw and she’s been seeing them morning, noon and night, for the past four months.  They’ll never admit it but they are the people who literally saved her life in general and specifically on several occasions.

So today we get training on the heart monitor Anne Marie will have to wear for a few months. Hopefully it’s just a few months.  The condition that has kept her in the NICU past her due date, the heart rate drops caused by forgetting to breathe, have all but disappeared.  Her last “event” was  four days ago.  We had hoped to avoid the monitor all together but just about everyone thinks it’s better to err on the side of caution.  After everything that has happened it is very hard to argue with that logic.

Once the training with monitor is complete, we will get a date to “room in.”  That’s where you stay overnight in a room at the hospital alone with Anne Marie.  The object is for the staff to see if we can handle the monitor and Anne Marie on our own.  Will we be able to respond properly when the monitor alarm goes off and she has an “event”.  I was against this at first, but since she is coming home with equipment I’d rather get a day to learn it with the nursing staff a hallway away with their own monitor watching Anne Marie’s vitals.

Normally after the rooming in you get discharged the next day and take the baby home. However our pediatrician is off for this week so we may have to wait until Monday to bust her out.  The staff would prefer that we take her to our pediatrician a day or two after we take her home.  Could be a Friday escape but not likely.  Either way, barring anything out of the ordinary, she will be home in less than a week.

Here is how she feels about that.

You just refuse to cut those nose hairs, don’t ya pop?

I haven’t been updating her stats because her weight has not been much a concern for a while. But the little porker is almost 9 pounds.  I have no doubt she will pass Frank in weight by this time next year, or sooner.  Tracy and I really have no idea what to expect in bringing Anne Marie home, but Frank, hell he has absolutely no clue what is about to happen to him.  A few presents have arrived at the door for Anne Marie, Frank thought they were for him.

And so it begins…

 

 

 

Here are a few shots of what should be one of our last visits to her hospital room.  Facial expression interpreted by me.

 

Nice camera – you putz!

Little help bro, dropped my binker.

 

Aye matey, be a good feller and get me a wee dram of scotch will ya. Arrgh!

I said no flash photography you half a dope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok dad, I’m bored. Can I go home now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, AM, yes you can.

 

Off Topic: Frank’s Place T-shirt give-a-way #4

It’s time for another t-shirt give a way at Frank’s place.  T-shirt give a way #3 winners were a little stretched out.  Tracy, (another Tracy not my wife), who blogs at makingthetrek, won in May for guessing the item Anne Marie was wearing that indicated she had grown very big.  Dave Welty and his entire prayer group, 12 faithful men in all, won in late June for just about praying Anne Marie out of the NICU.  Plus Dave has been giving me some inside info to help me get my book published.  And his daughter, a good friend of Frank’s Place, asked me to.  And yeah, there was bias involved in that selection – sue me.

We have used a few different formats to pick winners.  This month is a newer format still.  Randomness.  I gave Frank a list of the people who follow and comment here at Frank’s place and he randomly selected 4 lucky winners.  He may have just been reaching for some M&Ms or as he calls them “nems”.  Either way his sugar induced shakes caused his hand to land on 4 winners.  As I have said before this is not some dumb reality show that creates a stupid crescendo only to go to commercial right before announcing the big thing.  We get right to it.  The winners are as follows:

From Indiana by way of Buffalo – Mike Muhleisen! Congrats Mike.  You might remember Mike from his comments to the post Wealth redistribution and the cookie exchange explained…by Frank.  Probably not.  Congrats anyway.  Send me your shipping address and shirt size to franknfran0967@gmail.com

From Fresno California – Shirley Stein!  Shirley still wears the uniform of the USAF, serving full time in the Fresno Air National Guard.  Size and shipping address to franknfran0967@gmail.com

From the middle of nowhere Tennessee – Zona Ash!  Zona, a friend of Frank’s Place and frequent commenter, is retired from the United States Air Force after a 20yr career.   Size and shipping address to franknfran0967@gmail.com

And from right here in Knoxvegas, Knoxville’s favorite daughter Laurie Halsey!  For the longest time I thought I was alone in my love of Little House on the Prairie and all things Walnut Grove until I met Laurie.  I would hazard a guess that we are the only two in Knoxville who can converse equally on politics and the adventures of Ma and Pa Ingalls.  If you don’t know who they are or where Walnut Grove is you’re probably a communist.

Congratulations to all the winners.  Please send me a shirt size and for you out of towner’s send a shipping address to franknfran0967@gmail.com.

Take a look at the shirt and new logo below.

Frank’s Place T-shirt

To be eleigible you must be either a member of Frank’s Place by submitting your e-mail in the space provided under Get It Fresh Off The Belt! or be a frequent commenter.  Get your name on the list somehow.  Don’t miss out!

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Eight ain’t enough!

Pounds that is.  Yep, my little one pound nine ounce baby girl is an eight pounder.  8 pounds 5 ounces to be exact.  She’s taping at 20.5 inches although she gets weighed every night, she only gets measured Sunday nights so she may be longer than that as I type this. But yeah 8 pounds.  She’s a porker, a butterball, wider than she is tall.  She has more chins than a Chinese phone book.  You know cause a lot of Chinese are skinny and are nam… eh, …no, nothing.  Is this thing on?  Man, that joke killed in Peoria.

Anyway, here is the latest picture of Fatty McFatterton.  Not me you rubes, the kid.

Hey pop, might be time for a new nose hair trimmer.

Length isn’t what we’re after.  Apparently neither is weight.  We really got fixated on what we thought was the big number, her weight.  It’s important no doubt, but her weight, or lack there of, was not keeping her in the NICU.

The day they were born I got to the delivery prep room just in time for the Chief Resident to tell me they were coming.  My first response was, “hey bro, they can’t come today.  The last ultra-sound estimated them to be a pound and a half give or take.  This can’t be good.”  His reply was quick and unfaltering, “it’s not the weight, it’s lung development.  You’d be surprised at how little a baby can weigh and survive if their lungs are developed.”   Guy was sharp.  He was dealing with all this while his own wife was set to deliver their first child not a day or two later. Unfortunately for us he hit that nail right on the head.  They were both 1 pound 12 ounces at birth, but Anne Marie had lungs and Linda Claire didn’t.  As sad as it all is, it’s not much more complicated than that.

Anne Marie was 12 inches long the day she was born.  She looked tiny because she was tiny.  So naturally we wanted her to gain weight, get bigger.  Heavier meant healthier in our minds.  To some extent that was and is true but there is this small matter of breathing.

She breathes fine and has been off the oxygen for a few weeks now, maybe a month.  Can’t clearly remember back that far.  But when she is breathing, she’s the best breather we know.  The problem is she doesn’t always remember to do it; breathe that is.  When she stops breathing her heart rate slows to a crawl.  This can be problematic.  When it happens you have to get her attention.  The best method is to pat her on the chest.  Once you do that she starts to breathe again and the heart rate goes back up and all is well. Seems crazy at first, but like anything you settle into your new normal.

So now the big discussion is not her weight, but her breathing.  We may be bringing her home this week with a heart rate monitor and bidding farewell to sleep for a few months. The other possibility is she stays “in” for another week to see if she outgrows this as the heart rate drops are down to one or two a day as compared to 14 a day not too long ago.

She will outgrow it eventually, I however would prefer her to stay another month if it means coming home with no equipment.  Everyone involved has run a good race, Anne Marie included and we’re dying to have her home and Frank talks about her every day. But now is the time to finish strong and break the tape in good form, not sprint to the finish and stumble across the line.

I’m going to get belted for this next shot, but I happen to think this is a beautiful picture of Tracy.  Plus the kid looks like she’s reading.  I guess we’ll need another bean bag chair.

Reading with mom. All dad does is sleep.

Stylin even in her sleep.

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Crazy stuff my kid says

I’m not sure how much longer I can repeat some of the crazy stuff Frank says.  If this batch is any indication, tonight could be the final installment.  It’s getting crazier and a little more embarrassing.  With his sister coming home from the hospital soon, it’s likely to be epic.  He also goes back to school in August.  No telling what notes will be waiting for me when I pick him up every day.

Beanbag – gate

Quick Judas update.  The little chooch has not laid a butt-cheek in that freaking beanbag chair since he stabbed me in the back.  Go two posts back and read Anche Tu Francesco for the back story, or should I say stab me in the back story.  What do you want from me people, jokes are free.  You want pro quality humor, hit the tip jar and I’ll up my game.

Anyway here are the latest musings from my three year old.

Your not too fat daddy – you’re too old!  Yeah thanks Frank.  This after I turned down his offer of a doughnut telling him I was too fat.  He patted my belly as he said it.

He did it all by himself daddy!  Watching Tiger Woods hit a putt during the US Open.

I’m very strong.  After carrying in a UPS package from the porch.

Don’t run in the street daddy or a car will hit you in the face!    Again with the fat jokes.  First it was “you’re the biggest daddy” and now this.  I mean how big do you have to be for a car to hit you in the face?  The emphasis on his face while lecturing me made this more funny than it sounds.

Daddy, Daddy! It’s going into my pants!  Me: What is Frank?  My poop!  Great Frank, congratulations.

Frank at 4am “Hello, helloooooo!” while peeking out from his bedroom.  Me barely lifting my head from the pillow in response: What do you want Frank!  His reply betrayed his irritation and matched my volume: “You get crackers for my mouth!”  Me: delusional – staggering downstairs and chuckling to myself to get crackers for his mouth.

I feel like a princess.  He threw out this little gem while coming out of the bathroom after his bath.  He had taken the hooded towel off his head and wrapped it around his chest much like a women would do.  God help me.

Speaking of his chest:

These are my mountains.  He educated my on this bit of anatomy while taking off his swim shirt and pointing to his chest after getting back from the pool.  I had no response then.  I have no response now.

She’s so cute!  The kid is a charmer.  He seems able to pull off the perfect sound bite with accompanying expression for these situation.  He has yet to see his sister face to face.  So far he’s seen her through the glass of the intensive care unit about a month ago and this moment, when he saw her on Skype.

His sister is coming home soon.  I shudder to think what he’ll say then.

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Feeding tubes are for six pounders!

OK so the kid has decided she doesn’t like the feeding tube.  We thought she had gotten over this pulling out of tubes business a while ago.  She went on a tear a month after she was born and literally pulled out whatever tube they put down her throat.  Ventilator, stomach gas exhaust tube, feeding tube, you name it; if it was down her throat she pulled it out.  After she pulled out the ventilator for about the fifth time the docs said leave it out.  That’s how she came off oxygen assisted breathing, not because it was a pre-ordained time in the development of a preemie, nope, she decided it was time and just kept yanking it out.  Same with the gas exhaust tube.  But then she sort of calmed down with all this yanking of tubes.  Of course she no longer had the ventilator and exhaust tube to yank anyway.  The feeding tube was a different matter.

I mean, she still pulled it out but it had to go back in.  The nurses looped it down her nose instead of through her mouth and that seemed to pacify her for a while anyway.  As I’ve said countless times already I’m sure, preemies can’t miss meals and if she won’t wake up to eat or gets too tired to take the bottle, the formula goes in the feeding tube.  If you have ever smelled the stuff then you might ask for the feeding tube anyway, as it bypasses the taste buds.  But in the words of her 3 year old brother Frank, Anne Marie can’t like the feeding tube.

Here’s a shot post tube pulling.

Yeah – suck it feeding tube!

No Frank, no she can’t like it.  Which is probably why she has gone back to pulling it out.  About two weeks ago she pulled it out and it got to stay out through one feeding I think.  I posted a picture on FB and forgot to mention the tube would be going back in.  Folk thought she had passed another milestone.  She didn’t then but now it appears she may have.  She yanked the tube out Friday or Saturday night I think.  Trust me, when I tell you the days all run together now, they really do that’s not my usual exaggeration.  Anyway, out it came one of those nights and like the ventilator the docs said “screw it, leave it out.”

She has taken the bottle or the boob ever since, and taking close to 3 ounces at a feeding, that’s about 90cc for y’all in the business.  That doesn’t sound like much but we started at not very much so this is huge.  If she can keep this pace up Frank may be seeing his little sister face to face for the first time next week.  She is still having heart rate issues at random times, although the events are occurring less, they are more severe when they do happen.  That’s the big hurdle right now.  But I’ll put my money on a kid that can pull long tubes out of her belly and through her nose and not cry about it.  She’s tougher than Frank already.  Poor kid, he has no idea what’s coming.

The statistical update is as follows: 7 pounds 9 ounces and 20 inches long and to her mothers delight hanging on to her blonde hair and blue eyes.

That is bigger than Frank was when he came home.  She’s not much smaller than Frank is now.  Poor kid.

Hey is that dinner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Anche Tu Francesco?

Really Frank?  You turned so quickly.

Anche Tu Francesco is, of course, the Italian phrase for You too Frank?  I knew Tracy was against me, but not you.  I thought at worst, with Anne Marie coming home soon that it would be two against two, but now it appears I will outnumbered three to one.

At the moment of truth Frank came up short, well short.  It’s uphill sledding for me from now on.

See, we moved Frank into his new room so Anne Marie could have the nursery when she comes home.  I re-painted, did a built-in shelving thing in the closet, steamed cleaned the carpet, refurbished a dresser Tracy had when she was a kid, and hung a valance with little airplane finials.  In the midst of moving Frank’s stuff over to the new room a heated debate broke out between me and Tracy over placement of said stuff.  This is where Frank cut me to the quick, put it right in my back and twisted.

Refurbished Dresser – one of the puzzle pieces

His new room was big enough that we could move all his stuff in and also get his Thomas Trains in there.  This would free up some serious space in the bonus room.  To do that, the spacing of his furniture would be important.  The bed was set, the issue was over the dresser and, god help me, a bean bag chair.  I won the debate over the dresser placement, I think.  Tracy always reserves the right to revisit and recant when she doesn’t get her way. But the bean bag chair was in a spot that would have used up a lot of Thomas Train space.  So I objected.

I threw down a good argument with sound reasoning and logic, to include spacial orientation, etc..  I went one question too far.

Why does he need his bean bag chair in here, I say.  Tracy: He needs a place to sit and read.  Me: What?! accompanied by corresponding eye roll that screamed He won’t sit there and read, he probably won’t even sit in in period.

Enter the traitor.

Mere minutes into the resulting discussion, his royal highness walks in and sits in the beanbag chair.  Then the little #$^^# goes across the room and sprints, jumps, and lands gracefully onto/into his beanbag chair.  Wait it gets better.  While Tracy is barely trying to stifle an “I told you so” grin, Frank gets out of the beanbag chair and grabs a book from his nightstand.  He saunters over to his beanbag chair, sits down and starts to read!  HE CAN”T EVEN READ!!!

Tracy was not even stifling laughs now.  It was full on gloat time.

It was a crushing blow.  Most blindside attacks usually are.  I was staggered from the impact thus unable to get off a retort, mean spirited or otherwise.

At what point does argument destroying logic become pointless if the little _____ is going to just scuttle the whole thing with an act of treason?  The way I see it I have two choices.  I can just give up, accept my fate of being always outnumbered, always on defense or I can step up, adapt, and overcome my little Judas.  I’m usually way too lazy to step up.

The bean bag of shame – my waterloo

This could be problematic.

Sleep tight little Judas.

Treason makes you tired.