Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tony Randall and Jack Klugman Eat your Heart Out

What happens when two men with nothing in common are forced to live together?

I hate to get all Neil Simon on your behind, but that is all I can think of when I see my two boys. The big news is that Alexander has grown out of his Boy in the Plastic Bubble phase and is ready to cohabit with his brother. Thusly:

The babies are still in the NICU. They are still on feeding tubes, but we are able to do more with them now. By that, I mean, they are allowing us to change dirty diapers. You see, it is apparently a privilege to get a diaper full of butt-pudding. They are so proud of this, they often load up the babies with suppository laxatives when they know I am planning on paying a visit.

Marcy has also been able to hold them at the same time, which just seems like an accident waiting to happen. I'll just show you the picture and let you decide on how you'll explain it to the nice pit bull at Child Protective Services.

We have also been able to give them a bath. This is a very nice thing. It is called a swaddle bath because you actually drop them, blanket and all into the warm water so that they are never "loose" and feeling insecure.

We still don't know when they are coming home, but until they do we are helping to ensure that they remain clean and dry and *shudder* poop free.

Friday, January 16, 2009

If This Vans a Rockin'....

Our history with cars is not the greatest. We bought a powder blue 1992 Lincoln Town Car the day after the September 11th 2001 attacks in New York. (The event with the twin towers had nothing to do with buying a new car other than the fact that our only other car died as I was making my way home that day.)

We have driven that car virtually into the pavement over the past seven some-odd years. Lately, it has shown signs that it was ready, like an aging Stallion, to be led into a field and put out of its misery and perhaps ground into a food source for other farm animals.

I have not gone to a car dealership and tried to secure financing for a new minivan (which is what we need to transport our expanded family) for several reasons:
  1. I knew that minivans were much more expensive than we could afford.
  2. I felt that with a the flagging economy, financing would be harder to secure.
  3. I had a sneaking suspicion that when I told the car sales guy that I had no down payment and could only afford a certain low amount per month, he or she would laugh so hard, they might hurt themselves and I could did not want a busted gut injury on my conscience.
Monday, as I attempted to drive to the train station, I noticed that the Town Car was riding a little low. A light came on the dashboard that read Air Susp. I think that every warning light that could go on in that car has gone off at least once in front of my nervous eyes, but this one was new. Before I knew what was happening, I hit a small bump in the road and it felt like the back end of the car was going to bounce off of the road. At the same moment, the trunk locking mechanism broke off and the trunk lid slammed into the back windshield. (This was not entirely shocking as I had the trunk lock broken over a year ago and had it reattached with string and duct tape. This kind of ingenuity has been a part of my family for years. I still hear stories of my forefathers who came west in wagons held together largely with butcher's twine, electrician's tape and dreams.)

I decided on Monday that it was time to seek out options. I had heard of leasing before and according to the radio spots, it could cost half the monthly payments of buying. So, I popped over the website for D&M Auto Leasing and got hooked up with a man named Jay. I emailed a list of my laughably unrealistic requirements and my even more laughable trade-in. After a couple of emails and a couple of phone conversations, Jay found me a minivan to purchase. Even more incredible, he found me financing to fit my needs. Today, he drove over our new van right to our door, we signed all of the paperwork he needed and he drove off in the Town Car, presumable to find a big enough gun to shoot it with.

Here it is, the new van:

It is a 2008 Chevrolet Uplander. It can seat 7. It has a built in DVD player that the kids can watch from the back seat. It even has these nifty wireless headphones that they use to hear the sound without it bothering us in the front seats. Here are the kids doing just that:

I was even able to coax Marcy out into camera range to try it on for size:

Even the cat wants to go for a ride:

Okay, maybe not.

Praise the Lord for helping us find a vehicle that fit our needs. As always, He has provided just as we needed it.

It was the easiest car buying experience of my life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baby Steps

Marcy and I have learned a lot about human development in the past couple of weeks since the boys were born. Here are a few things I thought you all might find interesting.
  • Babies are single minded developers. Their little bodies are so small and the available energy needed for development is so rare that their bodies will only use the energy to develop a single system at a time. If they are having heart trouble, for example, their bodies will work on that system before moving on to “less essential” systems like stomach and bowels.
  • 40 weeks isn’t just a random number. The complex systems put in place by God truly are miraculous and they take time to develop. Babies really do need every second of those 40 weeks to get ready to exist in the outside world. Our babies were born at 32 weeks meaning that there are sill 8 weeks of development that need to occur in their bodies and minds before they are truly ready to begin the process of growth and development as babies.
  • Weight doesn’t matter. You might think that the babies small size and weight are a factor but they really aren’t important in and of themselves. An underweight baby can still go home with Mommy and Daddy as long as they reach certain developmental goals.
  • Time is the hardest thing to give. As parents, your instincts tell you that babies need human contact and nurturing. This is true of a fully developed baby. Fully developed babies like to be rocked and cuddled and sang to. Preemie babies don’t have those same needs. What they need most is sleep. That means that right now the best thing for us to do is not be with the babies most of the time and that separation can be hard.

In the NICU, there is the critical area where the babies are watched over by a nurse at all times. When the babies become a little more stable, they are moved to another area in the NICU called Baby Steps. In this area, one nurse might look after four or five babies at a time. Thursday, we received word that the boys had been moved to Baby Steps. This is certainly progress.

When Can They Come Home?

This is the number one question that I get asked and the one I simply do not have an answer to. What I can tell you is the plan for the boys. As soon as they meet these goals we will have a better understanding of when they will be coming home.

Body Temperature: Alexander still does not have enough body fat and muscle to keep him warm. His body temperature is still too low. He is currently sleeping in what they call an “isolet” which is this plastic aquarium like structure that is heated to keep his body temperature up. Until he can maintain his own body temperature, he cannot come home.

Food: This is the biggest struggle right now. Before they teach the babies how to drink milk from a bottle, they have to make sure that the babies’ stomachs can digest the milk and that their renal and digestive systems are all in working order. To do this, they are administering food through a tube that runs directly into the stomach. Once some food is given, they reverse the process and find out how much of the milk they put in is still sitting there. This tells them how well the babies are handling the feeds.

Neither one of the boys seems to be progressing well down this path. They are both on what is called "continuous feeds", which is where the milk is delivered in a constant drip into the stomach over a continuous period of time (like four hours at a time). This is not ideal, but it provides the food necessary to the body while allowing the system to digest a little at a time as it finishes developing.

Anthony had a setback this past weekend. His stomach slowed down on digesting his milk and it starting coming back up his esophagus (they call it “reflux”). This caused his throat to instinctively close off to keep him from aspirating the milk and he would just quit breathing for stretches of time. This causes his oxygen levels and heart rate to drop off suddenly (to the alarm of his Mother). For this reason, he is back on oxygen until they can get the feed levels right.

The goal, obviously, is for the babies to be able to take a large amount of milk at one time and be able to process it completely before the next feeding. Once the babies can do this, they will start “nippling” which means they will feed them through a tube while giving them a nipple to suck on. This will teach them the connection between a nipple and a full belly. Once they are nippling well, then comes the time when they will be drinking from a bottle only. Once they are able to drink at least eight ounces of milk a day from a bottle and keep it down, they will be just about ready to come home.

Wait and Pray

So, that is where we are. We go and see the babies every day. There are a few hours a day that the babies have “touch time”. This is the time, in between stretches of well needed sleep, that the babies can be picked up, held, have their diapers changed, etc. We visit during these touch times and do as much as we can to feel like part of the process.

The truth is that there is nothing we can do at this point but pray and wait patiently as their little bodies develop one little baby step at time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

They're Heeeere....

Time Flies

You know how on movies, they make big jumps in time simply by fading out and then fading in with some kind of text hoving over the screen that says something like: Four Years Later...

Same thing happened here. You see, Marcy was hospitalized before Thanksgiving and has been languishing in the hospital room ever since. It was the most boring two months ever and therefore not worth our valuable blogging time. So, last time we spoke, it was Halloween, right? Okay, go ahead and fade out the camera.

Two Months Later...

Marcy was told when the babies were a mere 27 weeks in "the oven" that she was in danger of going into labor if she was not careful. So she was careful and held onto those little suckers for another five weeks.

The major problem rested with the baby that the doctor's had dubbed "Baby A". We later named him Alexander Wayne. Alexander had a problem with his umbilical cord. Apparently an umbilical cord has two veins and an artery. One of his two veins was blocked and therefore restricting the blood flow from Mommy. This caused several problems: One was that his placenta was wearing out much faster than his brother's. Another problem was that his growth was slowing down considerably. By the time he was born, he weighed only 2 lbs, 11 oz compared with his bigger brother "Baby B" which we named Anthony Shane.

At 32 and a half weeks gestation, Marcy went into active labor and the decision was made to let the babies be born. A Cesarean was scheduled for that night and on the evening of December 23rd, two new Bryant boys entered the world.


The babies are, as of this writing, still residents of Medical Center of Plano in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (or just NICU for the hip and funky). Anthony was on a ventilator for the first couple of days but is off now and breathing on his own.

Alexander, although smaller, seems to be in better shape at birth. He came out with his dukes raised and his lungs filled and screaming. He never had to go on the ventilator at all and is breathing just fine on his own.

They are also both now off of their IVs. The only tubes they have now are the ones that are placing the milk into their bellies. Once their little stomachs can handle the milk, we will begin trying to help them learn how to suck on a bottle while still breathing (which is a pretty tough trick for a little baby to learn and is one of the last instincts to develop). But in recent days we have been able to hold them a few times. They are so tiny and perfect. Enjoy the images:

Me holding Alexander

Maw Maw holding Anthony

Marcy holding Alexander

Granddad holding Alexander

By the way, I am sorry for not updating the Blog sooner, but I will try and do better in the future. No promises though. I think I am going to be pretty busy...