Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

Braden started wearing clothes last night and he is already making fashion statements in the NICU. He has several preemie outfits (thank you Gammy and Aunt Kelly) and even though they swallow him, he looks darn cute and given he just hit 3 lbs he will hopefully grow into them. The doctors are allowing clothing and blanket swaddling because his IV was removed and he needs to start to learn how to regulate his body temperature, which can take weeks to master and is a critical check box before babies leave the NICU. They do this by putting them in clothes just as they would wear outside the isolette and weening the temperature inside down more and more until it is off and he is in room air temperature without the support of the warming isolette.

Below are a few pics where daddy tried to catch his best angle... as you can see Braden loves to try to pull his cannula out of his nose and frankly he had enough of the daddy paparazzi by the 10th picture :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Baby Divided

Many of you know my husband is an Aggie and I am a Longhorn... well so do the nurses, and sweet nurse Lilly made him a hat to reflect the family conflict.

Braden is doing well. Funny how poops become milestones you celebrate. I am loving being a mother and overwhelmed by how amazing Braden is and how much he changes each day. Crazy to think he was supposed to be cooking another 9 weeks!! Still a tiny guy at 2 pounds 14 ounces... but hopefully growing more each day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Progress and Plateaus

Merry Christmas to everyone! We had a great day with family and then a wonderful night with Braden. I got to do an hour long hold with him and feel him squirm to find a comfortable position while I felt his body expand and collapse as he breathed against my chest.

Braden is doing well and we are in more of a plateau phase at this point. He is 31 weeks gestational age and 22 days old. He made such wonderful progress these first few weeks and at this point the milestones are much longer and slower to show results.

On the up side Braden started feeding through a tube last week and has made solid progress in terms of volume as he went from 1cc to 22cc every three hours. Feeding is a long process and this is a great start, even if he is spitting up :) He also had his PIC line removed which means he is off IV support in terms of nutrition and getting his support through this feeding tube which includes breast milk (yes I am on the every 3 hour pump schedule), and additional vitamins.

The doctors have reassured us this is all expected with preemies and we need to exercise patience as we hope to cross the next several milestones. These markers include Braden continuing to tolerate his feedings as volume increases, meaning he keeps them down; moving his oxygen support towards 21% (room air); and reducing the flow through his nasal cannula. They also want to see his red blood cell count come up and are attempting to do this via medication in order to avoid another blood transfusion.

Braden is a popular guy in the NICU and we love that the nurses fight to care for him. We are also so thankful and blessed that our ante partum nurses, maternal fetal specialist Dr. DeStefano, and OBGYN Dr. Neyman all continue to take an interest in Braden by stopping by to check in on him.

He is surrounded by love and we need every ounce, thank you and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

3rd Time is the Charm and a Visit From Santa

Well I am being discharged from the hospital for the third time. Hopefully third time is the charm and this is the last time! I am leaving without a clear diagnosis of what exactly was the issue but hopefully they hit me with enough to get me through this recovery!

Baby Braden is doing well. He has had a good run these last few weeks and while he continues to do well, he has had a tough past few days in terms of progress, which is normal for preemies, but still hard to deal with as a parent. Another reminder that progress is a positive but this is a long road ahead and ups and downs will happen.

Braden also got a visit from Santa. While he was a 140 pound guy in a suit with a questionable choice of glasses, it made for a memorable picture.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Misbehaving - an endearing term my doctor uses when she sees me these days. I went home last Friday on a strong, wipe your system out, antibiotic. Now I sit, back in the hospital, attempting to understand what on earth is happening to my body after spiking a 102 fever yesterday.

While there is no conclusive diagnoses yet, the hypothesis they are hoping to prove out would mean the antibiotics worked so well they wiped out too much of my good bacteria and I have a new infection in my intestines. They are running tests to confirm tonight and with treatment I could only be in here a few more days. If that is not the case there is likely still something looming from the original infection and treating it could be a little trickier and take a little longer.

Readmission to the hospital was much easier, I mean we are pros after all :) We initially went to ER and after being told it was a 4-6 hour wait we opted to go home and work with the doctors from there. My wonderful OB got me directly admitted to post partum which was a blessing since I spiked a fever again in the middle of the night, resulting in the start of another round of antibiotics.

This situation has become really frustrating and even a little scary as far as my health is concerned but the doctors are outstanding and absolutely committed to figuring things out. I guess I can stop claiming I never get sick :) I am also likely to remain in isolation during my stay here so no visitors and no trips to see Braden, which is the hardest part since all I think about is holding him.

More importantly though is how Braden continues to progress and continues to have his doctors and nurses in awe of how far he has come in the last 2 weeks. He is putting on weight as began feedings a few days ago and is taking to them well. It is amazing to see his features change each day. He also completed his medication to close the valve between his heart and lungs. While the valve improved significantly it is not completely closed and doctors hope it will improve over the next few weeks without medication.

Hopefully this will be a short stay and I can get home for the holidays. Thank you to everyone for your help and prayers. This journey continues to have some bumps but we are determined to get healthy and work towards bringing Braden home in a few months.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Clean Shaven for the Holidays

Julia was discharged from the hospital (again) on Friday evening with an antibiotic prescription that the infectious disease specialist referred to as a "carpet bomb for every bacteria in your body". It had to be special ordered by the pharmacy, if that gives you any idea. With the infection hopefully behind us now, Julia is feeling better but is still recovering from the surgery and 6 weeks of bed rest.

Braden has also made incredible progress. While he will likely be in the NICU well into February, we're constantly reminded of how far he's come from those first 48 hours. The doctors began feeding Braden yesterday, and he is responding well. Most of his nutrition is still coming intravenously, but he took 8mL of milk today as well through a feeding tube. The plan is to increase the volume of his feedings while weening him off the IV nutrition support. This will continue for several weeks until he is ready to suckle.

It's amazing to watch Braden grow and develop before our eyes. He has dusty blond hair and dark eyes (both susceptible to change, of course) and his facial features mature on literally a daily basis. With Braden's features changing and evolving so rapidly, we decided it was time for Brian to follow suit. After 6 weeks of "Growth for Braden", the mustache has served its purpose and long worn out its welcome. The support from the campaign has been amazing, and we'd like to document it for Braden to share with him as he gets older (and for future blackmail material!). Please email Brian before and after pics. Here are his:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kangaroo Hold

Well if you are familiar with the title of the blog then you probably figured we got to hold Braden tonight for the first time. The kangaroo hold is skin on skin in order to improve the health of baby and the connection to the mother, often used in premature babies.

It is a moment I have thought about for a long time and one that lived up to all I expected. Brian and I both held him for a few moments and enjoyed watching him sleep. He looked so peaceful in our arms and even felt comfortable enough to let out a few toots :)

This moment was possible because Braden had some huge milestones in the past 2 days including coming off respirator support. This means he is breathing on his own with the support of an oxygen line should he get short of breath.

Braden was also having trouble with his tummy and they worried there could be anatomical complications. Turns out is it just reflux and hopefully can be cleared with adjusting his position or medicine.

Today certainly marks a big step in the right direction. Largest obstacle now is getting the valve between the heart and lungs to close, a common issue with preemies that can usually be remedied with ibuprofen, however if unsuccessful, surgery is still a possibility.

We continue to live hour by hour and day by day. There are still lots of tests and steps in the future to cross but today is the kind of day to smile, not cry, and we hope there are many more moving forward.

p.s. For those of you awaiting an update on the stache growth campaign... Brian will be blogging on that soon but get your pictures ready and send them our way if you have not already.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Daddy's Wishful Thinking

Braden with his daddy's Aggie ring. Don't worry all you Longhorns... while we do not have many clothes yet, Aunt Jen already got him a UT outfit. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hospital Chaos

So I decided someone could easily write books about stays in the hospital. My most recent chapter would be about my re admittance.

As most of you heard I was home 6 hours when I spiked a fever and Brian and I rushed to the ER at 2 AM. Again I picked a really convenient time to get sick :). Upon arrival we witnessed an "exchange" between Labor and Delivery and ER about who should take me. ER finally gave and as my fever climbed they got me situated. Apparently once you are discharged your slate is wiped clean and you start over... totally illogical since I had been there 6 weeks and gone only 6 hours.

Then I got transferred to a very logical (sarcasm) place... the Cardio Pulmonary Specialty Unit. Needless to say my nurse looked at me as if I had 3 heads and was completely clueless as to how to take care of a postpartum patient. The experience was less than pleasant for the next 12 hours and after being forgotten for 5 hours, no hot water, and told if I expect to be nurtured I am in the wrong place... Brian raised hell and we got moved to postpartum... where we should have been all along!

Settled in here and doing fine. Found out I have a bacteria in my blood, don't everyone rush to visit now :). It is actually not contagious at all, just very dangerous to me for obvious reasons. I am being treated and hopefully re-released in a few days. Braden is doing well but the list of obstacles is always looming. Today he will have a few procedures including a spinal tap and threading an IV to a main artery. Not simple, but necessary to determine so things to give him the best care.

We are taking pictures today via disposable camera when they do some of the standard bathing and changing. Stay tuned for pictures later.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Julia Readmitted; Braden Getting Better

The last 24 hours have seemed like an eternity. Julia was discharged last night at around 7pm, and finally saw home after nearly 7 weeks in the hospital. We were met at the house by friends who brought an amazing steak dinner, and walked into a living room that had been decorated for Christmas by a group of our best friends. Unfortunately, the stay home was brief. Julia woke up at 1:30am with a fever and chills, and after talking to our doctor, we decided to head back to the hospital. The likely culprit: the same bacterial infection that had triggered labor 5 days before. There was some confusion at the hospital about whether we should go to Labor & Delivery or the ER, since she was no longer pregnant but likely still suffering from postpartum-related issues. They ultimately decided to send us to the ER and rolled us into triage. By 5am, we were admitted into a room in the general care area of the hospital. The confusion hasn't subsided, as the nurses here don't understand why a patient still recovering from a a complicated C Section is not in postpartum. We're just hoping the fever breaks soon, and that there are no further complications. Maybe the most challenging part is that NICU policy prevents parents from seeing their babies until you've been fever free for at least 24 hours. Julia is of course antsy to see Braden, and not being able to do so has been emotionally draining (as if we need that drain to be any bigger).

After Julia was settled into the room around 5am, Brian walked down to the NICU to check on Braden. There had not been much change from the night before. Five sleepless hours later, we got a call from the neonatologist. It's always nerve-racking when we first hear from Braden's doctor, but this time she had good news! Julia mentioned a few days ago on a previous blog post that Braden had been trying to pull of the "sunglasses" that are protecting his eyes from the bili lamp. Well, last night Braden decided to pull out the tube going from the ventilator to his lungs. I'm sure it set off all kinds of alarms, but to the nurse's surprise, Braden started to breath on his own! They closely monitored him for a while, and decided to keep the ventilator and nitric support off. He's now on a device called a Si-PAP, which gives him a little extra oxygen, but he's doing the breathing himself rather than relying on a machine. This is absolutely incredible considering that only 2 days ago the doctors said they expected Braden to be on the oscillation ventilator for another 2 weeks. He is truly a fighter like mom and dad, and all of our prayers are being heard and answered. Keep them coming.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Every Little Bit Counts

Today Braden is doing a little better. After heading south quickly in the first 24 hours, the doctors were finally able to stabilize him with a very aggressive combination of machine and medicine support. He has pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in his lungs) which prevents blood from reaching the lungs and carrying oxygen to the rest of his body. Since stabilizing him, the doctors have been gradually weening him off of both the machines and medicines. He still has a long way to go, and will likely require breathing assistance for several weeks. The doctors also have to manage the aggressive treatment with caution as many of the things they are doing could lead to permanent damage to Braden. While these developments move Braden in the right direction, doctors are quick to remind us that he has a long way to go and is still in very critical condition.

Braden is watched closely by a nurse assigned to him 1:1 where in addition to all the important medicines and machines she monitors, she is also usually adjusting Braden's hospital sunglasses that he tries to take off constantly, even though they are there to protect him from his lights. Braden got to meet Poppa Godley today which was a nice treat for him since his middle name, William, is in Poppa's honor. He is also showing an interest in our voices and touch. When they let us open the window for a few moments to talk to him, sometimes he reaches out his hand in the direction of our sound or attempts to grip a finger that they let us place, but not move, on top of his hand.

Brian and I have aged about 40 years in the past 3 days but are definitely feeling some relief in the fact the situation is moving in a better direction. We feel every prayer coming through as does Braden. We have faith our little guy is going to continue to fight and pull through these hurdles.

p.s. As many of you know, we have made life long friends with another patient and her husband. They hit 32 weeks today and we could not be more elated that they check off another milestone on their journey. She is set to deliver December 21st and we ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers along with Braden.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Long Road Ahead

Well chapter 1 shifted to chapter 2 quickly and it is apparent the road ahead is going to be just as long if not longer than the previous. It is another situation where being here awhile is actually an expected, and rather better scenario for Braden.

He is on day 2 in the NICU and in the doctors exact words he is in extremely critical condition with an uncertain outcome. This is obviously an extremely scary situation for us as parents and another reminder we are all in for a long journey. I wish I could sum up one issue with Braden, but at this point the list is quite extensive from high blood pressure, to lung development, to infection, etc. This is another hour by hour situation and getting through the next few days is critical, as will be the next several weeks.

We are so thankful again to the unconditional support from all of you. It is nothing short of priceless to get your emails, texts, and word-of-mouth well wishes. We have been running one of our dearest friends Jennifer "Whatever/Whenever" Brown around town helping us with things and many of you following the blog have been instrumental in helping us get through this, thank you.

This is the best way to stay tuned in to the progression of Braden. We will likely be here through the weekend before heading home early next week once Julia has fully recovered from surgery. Braden is taking things day by day and is certain to be here weeks if not months.

Love to you all and please keep the prayers coming.

Betts Family

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Braden Needs Your Prayers

Braden William Betts was born this afternoon at 2:18pm. He was 2lbs 9oz and 14.7in long - quite a bit bigger than we had expected. Julia started showing signs of an infection this morning, and after various tests, the doctors decided to perform a C Section. It was the eve of gestational week 28 (12 weeks early).

Julia is recovering now in Post-Partum, and will be fine. Her temperature has already come down from this morning after antibiotics and other meds. After Braden was born, I was able to follow him and the doctors to the Neonatal ICU (NICU) while the doctors wrapped things up with mom. Braden has developed a case of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). It's not uncommon for extremely premature babies like Braden, but he will likely be very sick for the next several days. He will be in the NICU for a minimum of 7 weeks.

He is in great hands with the doctors here, and will benefit greatly from all of the support and prayers that you all continue to offer. We are not yet ready for visitors, but will keep you updated here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

5 Weeks Here, 4 Weeks of 'Stache

Anybody remember the old '80s tv show "Magnum P.I."? Tom Selleck played a private investigator who lived a posh lifestyle in Hawaii, drove a red Ferrari, owned a Doberman Pinscher, and sported a mustache that drew the envy of the dudes and attention of the ladies. Well, at least I've got the Doberman and 'stache. Today marked 5 weeks since we checked into the hospital and the 4th week of "Growth for Braden". If Braden stays on course, I'll be asking for some mustache wax for Christmas!

We found out last week that Braden is already an Aggie fan. While his heartbeat was being monitored, Julia mentioned that he had not been as active as normal (the doctors like to see "accelerations" in the heart rate above baseline). Half-joking, I told Julia that I thought the Aggie War Hymn would get Braden excited and kicking. Sure enough, as I started singing "Hullaballoo, Caneck, Caneck" Braden's heart rate spiked from 145 to 175 and stayed there through "Saw Varsity's Horns Off". Certain it was a fluke, Julia tried to prove that Braden was just excited by the singing rather than the song itself. As she started "Texas Fight", Braden's heart rate dipped. Startled, Julia stopped singing and Braden's pulse came back up to normal.

Guess we'll have to paint the nursery maroon and white....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Farewell to a Friend

Many of you keeping up on the blog or coming by for a visit are aware of the fondness I have for my regular night nurse Joanne and my deep sadness that tonight is her last night before she returns home and to her husband in Africa. I feel confident I speak for all her patients when I say how unique and wonderful she is as a nurse and I want to share with all of you how she affected the lives of me, Brian and Braden as well as how she continues to affect the lives of mothers and children in some of the most impoverished areas of the world.
I have said a few times a big part of this journey is mental/emotional, and unlike anyone else, the nurses are with you 24/7 during this process. As expected the nights can at times be the toughest, and the nurses you encounter affect your ability to cope with those moments. Throughout many of the "normal" nights here Joanne took the time to get to know us and helped pass the time exchanging stories about our families and life journeys. Even more critical was how Joanne has been here for me during some of the scarier moments, whether it be a scare with vitals, or just nightmares, she offered a calming energy that eased me through to get to a better place.

But my tough moments pale in comparison to what Joanne will do once she returns to Africa where she spends her time working on a non-profit she started, African Mothers Health Initiative. Due to the local environment, access to technology, and healthcare costs, the mortality rate of both infants and their mothers is extremely high after birth. Joanne's non-profit works hard to better the chances of survival by primarily raising money to supply formula as well as doctors and nurses to these families. For example, right now they have one nurse covering 82 babies via bicycle transportation and they desperately need funds for more staff as well as a better vehicle in order to quickly provide more care.

There are few, if any, organizations like the African Mothers Health Initiative, addressing these specific problems and due to the impact Joanne has had on us over the last 34 days, we felt compelled to raise awareness of this situation in Africa with all of you and hope you will take a moment to visit their site and learn more about the cause.

Thank you for letting me share a little about Joanne, as she is a person leaving a permanent fingerprint on me and my family. Braden is doing great. We are only 4 days from another huge milestone of 28 weeks!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post Thanksgiving Video

We had to sweat it out (me and Braden), but UT pulled it out. Here is some video before the game finished. Daddy was not a happy camper so post-game video was not an option :)

Thanksgiving in the Hospital

Traitor :)

Tide Turns

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a good appointment with the specialist yesterday as my amniotic fluid levels went up some from last week. This is good for Braden as it creates more room for him to be comfortable and grow. He seems to be fond of laying feet first so send us lots of thoughts of back flips so he turns head down. He is an estimated 1lb 12oz, but growing by the day!

Enjoying today with the family. We will be watching the UT vs. A&M game later... I am saving my wheelchair ride in the case things go south and I might need to retreat to the room of our friends Missy and Russ, huge UT fans.

Here 30 days so far, 50 to go. I have a home-made calendar, courtesy of the Gretlein girls, counting us down to the huge milestone of 28 weeks right around the corner!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Police (Sort of) Incident

So last night was my first run in with the hospital law.

It started with the delivery of a minifridge from Home Depot, courtesy of Rosanna (thank you!). Around 2:30 p.m., I got a call from Labor and Delivery (L&D) that a fridge arrived there in my name and they had no idea where I was since I was actually in Ante Partum. After they worked to track me down for 3 hours (not sure why it was so hard), she called me to tell me the fridge was on the way to maintenance and should be up shortly once they gave it the ok.

Around 5:30 p.m. Brian arrived and I mentioned the fridge was supposedly here but had not made it to the room. So he took action, spent the next hour with L&D who apparently had no idea who I was or what fridge I was talking about. Then we were told maintenance did have the fridge and it would be in my room in 20 minutes...

Brian went home because Tiff was staying with me and 3 hours later, no fridge, more calls, and then enters Wanda. She had a black puffy coat, walkie on her shoulder, badges galore, and a notebook. Needless to say this is a set up to let you know, she looked very legit. As she proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about people and time frames I began to get slightly nervous that all this ruckus was over a mini fridge. She even checked my nurse's ID, when of the three people in the room, she looked the most legit!

I then thought it only made sense to call Brian and have him talk to the Wanda. I video conferenced him in and after a short exchange of words with Wanda I turned him around to talk to me and the first this out of his mouth was, "Jules, you told me the police were there, that woman is only a security guard." I was mortified as Wanda's ego was obviously bruised and I quickly proceeded to find the small x in the video conference window to silence my oh so subtle husband. :)

A few moments later Wanda proudly returned to tell me the fridge was found and I was allowed to use it if I accepted responsibility of all potential damages to the hospital including potential fires, power outages, and of course, freon spills. Need I remind all of you, this is a mini fridge, not an industrial freezer.

Needless to say we are taking on the risk and the fridge is staying!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Visits from Kiddos

Lots of special visitors over the past few weeks including some special little cuties. Braden enjoyed meeting his future prospective girlfriends :) Enjoy our video clips below.

Tickle Monster - Starring Lanie Shapiro

Sisters Sharing - Starring Sierra and Lyla Gretlien

Does this backpack fit me? - Starring Addison Hopkins

First Crush - Starring Trinity Webster

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Just What The Doctor Ordered

Today has been a great day full of firsts as well as some uplifting visits and laughter that were just what the doctor ordered.

- First wheelchair ride outside, got to see my dog Daisy! I realized there is really not much else to see around the hospital... Daisy was somewhat freaked out by the chair but made friends quickly with some people more on her level.

- First visit to the NICU to see all the other preemies and meet nursing staff. They won't let you see any babies but it was nice to get acquainted with our next stop. Hopefully our stay there is a shorter timeframe than this one.

- First time I tried to download video from my new camcorder... and failed miserably...

The next set of firsts are gifts from Lil G and Laura with special guest appearance from my "W" girl Jen:
- First Chia Pet, video to come later of Laura applying seeds because well, she is good at everything :)
First Snuggie, I mean how could I turn it down, it is Longhorn pattern and so soft, even if it is made for a 600 pound 7 foot tall person.
- First set of rainbow socks to keep me warm. And of course lots of candy and some sporting magazines (they know me too well).
-First time Lil G felt a baby kick courtesy of Braden!

Speaking of the little guy, he and mom are doing better. He is back to his active self and showing off on the monitor. Countdown to 28 weeks sits at 13 days and then we celebrate and move on to the big goal of 34!

Finally, for those anxiously awaiting... she's baaaaaaaaaaack. Nurse Becky is in the building. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ups and Downs

As of 15 minutes ago I am officially 26 weeks :) Definitely feeling the highs and lows of the experience as we go. It is true when they say things can really change day to day.

The appointment with the specialist tonight showed my amniotic fluid levels were lower relative to last week, but still a positive that I have some. They also tried to get a weight estimate but Braden was being rather uncooperative and elusive so she said we could try again next week.

These past few days have been harder as I sit here each day and anxiously await each moment of reinforcement he is doing fine and find myself frustrated when he seems to not move as much or my body shows signs of inconsistency. Braden goes on monitor a few times a day and everything shows he is still in there happy as a clam, which is all that matters. I just have to remind myself this is just as much a mental/emotional test at times as it is physical. While I wish I could do more as his mom, I have to rest assured I am doing all I can. So we remain positive and the nurses doctors are quick to remind us not to get discouraged as this process will have its ups and downs.

Thank you all again for your emails, comments, visits, meals, and other creative distractions. You all are doing more than you know to pull us through this and your support and prayer is felt each and every day.

Julia, Brian, and Braden

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Forgetful Nurse

Before you all get excited, no this post is not about Nurse Becky :) I have not had her since the last post, however my time may be limited as shifts will change up as nurses come and go later this month.

The past few nights I have had a sweet, but forgetful nurse. In terms of bedside manner she is just fine, however her ability to remember who I am and what meds I am taking is not so much consistent. She comes in each night with her documentation on each person, anxiously flipping through her charts and asking me detailed questions obviously intended for other patients at least a few times before stumbling across the correct info. Often she will ask if I am taking certain meds I could not even tell you the pronunciation of and I kindly remind her I just need my prenatal and iron pills. The other night she came in to give me an ambien and while she did not give me a Nurse B lecture, she walked in with the ambien, scanned my ID tags, then immediately forgot if she had given me the pill or not.

When I got this nurse for a second night I told her I would just call her when I needed things and remind her what those things were. She smiled with relief and said how wonderful that would be as it is hard to keep us all straight and she often forgets what she is doing. Now if this was my first night or so, this would be unsettling, but since this is my 21st day here I have my routine down, I am less worried.

Probably the funniest moment was during the Aggie vs. OU fball game. Guests drinking is not technically condoned, but in an effort to be somewhat normal on a Sat. night, and as the score became a little too much, our friendly neighbors came over with some beverages to numb Brian's pain. Brian was also suffering from a cough that night and asked the forgetful nurse what she thought it might be. she came back with a flashlight and tongue depressor and as she approached Brain to say "aaaaaa" we could all see the determination on his face to actually comply without breathing out his less than innocent breath on the nurse. He managed to go unbusted but there were some entertaining close calls as the guys tried to hide their beers from the nurse as she navigated throughout the room. We finally decided the shower was the best place to stash things... that is until I forgot about it and asked the cleaning lady to clean the shower the next day. Fortunately all she did was pull back the curtain, blush, and say she would come back tomorrow. What can I say, obviously I do not make the best accomplice.

Braden and I are doing well. He has started more alien roll-like movements and seems to be happy as can be. Another big check up on Thursday as we near another milestone of 28 weeks on December 4th! Who's counting though right? :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I have to have some fun at my husband's expense for a moment. Below is a picture of our clothing inventory up here at the hospital. Exhibit A on the left is my inventory, exhibit B on the right is Brian's inventory.

The first time my sweet husband brought me clean clothes, it was the same 4 shirts I had worn the previous 4 days, which seemed very practical to him because they were clean and ready to go already. However, changing clothes is one of the few things I get to alter about my surroundings and becomes quite an event when you are in the same room and bed 24/7. So when the next round of clothes was due to come tonight I insisted he video conference me into my closet at home to pick things out.

After a tortured 5 minutes of entertaining me, and thanks to modern computer technology, I have 11 new shirts and 3 pairs of pants on the way! My husband is the best!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lucky 7

25 weeks today!! Had a great visit with the doctor last night and my amniotic fluid levels are currently at 7cm which is a great step up from where we started closer to 2cm. What this means is that I still have a rupture and am losing fluid, but the baby continues to produce fluid during development and these numbers indicate he is making it on pace, if not a little faster (show off), than I was losing over the last week. This can change week to week for a variety of reasons and I am still at risk for infection, but this week we are thrilled to have lucky 7 to sit on.

Normal pregnancies do not get to see their baby on ultrasound like this so often and it is a welcome sight as we get a weekly "Braden Viewing" to see how he is progressing. In addition to fluid checks, we also got to see his eyes moving around as well as his ribs expand as he practices breathing. Needless to say it is breathtaking.

I have told some of you how much we can feel your thoughts and prayers. It has filled me with a strength and calmness in order to let go of the fear and uncertainty I cannot control and instead focus on having faith and remaining positive which has a direct impact on Braden.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 'Stache - Week 1

Julia beat me to the punch...

I find myself explaining or apologizing to random strangers for the ridiculousness that is growing on my face. It's a total "tweener stache" - not full enough to be taken seriously, but clearly more than just a day's stubble. It's the kind of thing that causes moms to walk their kids to the other side of the street. I'm not a creep - I promise. But rarely do I get the opportunity to explain before folks divert their gaze or avoid eye contact all together.

The "Growth for Braden" campaign has picked up some serious support, though. I've got confirmation on at least 7 other sporters of the stache, and even have a handful of female participants. Ladies, just realize that there is nothing cool about "mom muttonchops", no such thing as a "girly goatee", and a "feminine fu manchu" is an oxymoron. Husbands, don't blame me.

Why Is Everyone Staring At Me?

Most of you are aware Brian is growing a mustache for as long as Braden is in the womb. Well I don't think he quite thought about the fact that most people he encounters are not aware of his purpose.

He has had people avoid eye contact during conversation or avoid him all together. It might be throwing people off that he has a head of silver hair and his mustache is growing in solid black. However he is having fun with it, even went to a rap concert last night. For those of you who have joined in be sure to post your updated stache progress here.

Braden also wonders why we are staring at him. He went into an alien like rolling motion today during the monitoring. He manages to focus in on exactly where they monitor is on my belly and then begins to kick at it or roll away from it. It is quite entertaining. Needless to say all the activity is good. We have another big check up tomorrow night with the specialist and are hoping for continued good news.

My night nurse as of late is wonderful and only here a few more weeks before she returns to her husband in Ghana. As you can expect you get quite attached to the nurses here as they spend so much time with you through this process. For those who have inquired about nurse Becky... I have only seen her in the hallways. Trust me, you will know if I get her again :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Is That What I Ordered?

Well if I have not already expressed my deepest thanks for the lunches and dinners, let me do that again and give you a taste of our lovely cafeteria cuisine. Below are examples of what was ordered versus what actually showed up based off patient experiences.

Ordered: Whole wheat dinner roll
Actual: Piece of standard wheat bread (I mean call a spade a spade, just list it on the menu as bread!)

Ordered: Chicken Salad Sandwich
Actual: Bread with some sort of turkey substitute soaked in some sort of juice (Man I miss my Maria/Sodexho)

Ordered: Penne pasta
Actual: Noodles (ok yea technically penne pasta, but really?)

Ordered: Caesar Salad
Actual: Lettuce with Ranch dressing

Ordered: Corn
Actual: Corn (had to throw this in... for those who know me, they know I love corn, despite the fact it lacks much nutritional value)

This is only based off a handful or orders and while I am poking some fun I must say the breakfast is great. However, still a little creepy that they end every call with, "We hope you are always satisfied." I admire the ambition, but seriously, it is still hospital food :)

Braden and I are doing great. Options and odds get better with each day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Plus 1 and a Bed

Braden continues to do great and as the nurses and doctors like to say, we are really boring, which is a good thing. Today is 24 weeks plus 1 which gets us a little closer to our first mid-milestone of 25 weeks. After talking to the doctors the odds get better for his development and survival at 25 weeks but as we keep saying, 28 is the big target :)

As you might have read I moved rooms a few days ago and with it came a new bed. It was amazing how after being in a certain bed for just a week I got so used to the feel, buttons, maneuvering in and out of it, etc. So when they moved me to a new, seemingly upgraded bed... it became more frustrating for me than I imagined. Buttons were in different places, bed adjustments worked differently, my prime real estate of a desk on wheels did not easily push and pull from the bed. My visible frustration threw Brian off but after 2 days of trying to adjust when I calmly explained to Brian (maybe not real calmly) "THIS IS ALL I HAVE!" , our sweet night nurse Joanne swooped in and swapped me out.

Thanks also to the wonderful visitors throughout the day Friday. I will not disclose some of the topics of conversation to protect the innocent, but you know who you are and I have not laughed that hard since I got here... thanks :)

Full day of football watching ahead of us!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Steady As He Goes

Had a great visit from the specialist tonight. My amniotic fluid levels are still very low, but stable from a week ago which is a great thing as Braden continues his lung development this next week.

Still very early along and critical we keep him cozy and content for many more weeks. Biggest risk continues to be an infection which unfortunately comes on for no particular reason with no warning and would give us no option but to go into delivery.

But based on what Braden showed us tonight if he has anything to say about it he is staying put. We got to watch him squirm around and even got a zoom in of his face as he sucked and swallowed. Doctor said he even stuck his tongue out at us, which figures... as I have expected all along he is likely in there wondering what the fuss is all about out here. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A for Intent, F for Execution

Today was another good day for Braden. Strong heartbeat, kicks, even more hiccups. Tomorrow is a big day with the doctors as we get a significant update on Branden's progress as well as mine as we fend off infection and labor while trying to grow Braden. Fingers crossed...

For the latest on the bed rest events, Daddy had a rough go of making me comfortable last night. My back has been the biggest issue and for some reason they cannot give you heating pads (probably a nurse Becky rule). However, they show you how to "make" them where you basically heat up a wet towel and wrap it in a water proof blanket. Well Brian got a crash course from the nurse and decided to try for himself.

He walked in very proud of his experiment and placed it behind me as I enjoyed the relief. That was until about 15 minutes later when I noticed I was not only warm, but soaked. Brian looked perplexed and did not actually believe me until I exposed the evidence which included the soaked heat pad, my soaked backside, and my now soaked bed. All of this would have been much funnier but it was 11:30 p.m., I had just popped an ambien, and oh yea, the only place I was allowed to be 24/7 was now soaked.

Needless to say I found humor in watching Brian use a blow dryer for the next 20 minutes and next thing you know I was back to my usual spot and we were sound asleep :)

We had a wonderful visit with the Brown's who brought one of my favs, Pappadeaux! I was finally convinced to give up the wonderful outpouring of offers for food to a care calendar so look for that info soon and feel free to still contact me or Brian direct for any other swing by visits.

Love to you all,
Julia and Braden

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Growth for Braden

It's important you know this is Brian posting today. You'll understand why that's relevant as you read on...

Today was a good day for Mom and baby Braden. No news for Braden, which is exactly what we're hoping for every day. Mom actually got some excitement in the day when the nurses agreed to let her change rooms. Our previous room had a wonderful view of the hospital lobby. Seriously...the window was to the inside of the hospital. You don't realize how the sun helps regulate your sleep schedule until you go 5 days without seeing it. The new room has a great view of the adjacent building 50 feet away, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. It'll sure be nice in the morning to have sunlight in the window.

As you know, time is the best medicine for Braden now. The longer he stays put, the more he grows. It's an incredible miracle - this week alone, his weight will increase 20%. You all are helping keep our spirits up, and we're doing everything we can to make the best of our situation. In that vein and in support of my son, I'm officially starting the "Growth for Braden" campaign. I will not be shaving my mustache until Braden is born. As he grows, so will my 'stache. If things go well, I'll be looking like Tom Selleck in the delivery room. If you feel so moved, feel free to join in!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hiccups, Showers, and New Friends

Today was a good day. Braden was a soccer player/boxer during his monitoring sessions today. He even got a case of the hiccups, twice, during the heart rate checks. We put him on camera tonight and his heart rate picked up to almost 170 immediately as his daddy hit record. What a ham and he is still in the womb :)

Big event is permission and priveledge to shower. I can even look past how the set up of bars, chairs and emergency fall cords make me feel like I am 80 years old. Added to the fact the shower head is missing a screw or so and does not stay on you unless held manually. Think I am going to file a complaint? Ha, yea right, I am happy with any event outside of bed rest.

We also met a couple down the hall today who came in at 23 weeks and are just at 27 weeks now. It was nice to exchange stories about our experiences, share tips on comfy positions, and even exchange laughs about nurse Becky. :) Does not hurt they are also huge Longhorn fans so I have company to watch the game, she has wheelchair priveledges!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fast Forward?

So far today has been a day of no change, which is good. Had more discussions with various doctors about the continued risks and dangers of how going into labor risks my health and Braden's health. Then there are the tough discussions about what is means this early along once he potentially out and fighting to survive. Your mind can become blurry with the details and decisions of ifs, maybes, statitically, likely, and mostly uncertainty. However as we keep saying, each passing day is a positive, adding to each week which is a milestone.

The doctors are arming us with all the scenarios possible, but as expected the decisions in those scenarios pose many risks at this point and it has been tough emotionally to wrap our heads around things when it is all a matter of many circumstances at the time.

Given what they have said I have gathered a fast forward button of at least 1-2 weeks would be ideal, but since my ability to do that is limited :) I continue to sit/lay tight and do what I can to keep this baby from coming!

Physical therapy is coming tomorrow to advise on how I can position and move around to keep my body healthy. I even get to work up to a wheelchair ride around the hospital some time in the future!

Again thank you for all the thoughts, prayers, visits, stories, yummy foods. :) I appreciate them all as the time can tend to move slowly and we hopefully have a long way to go!

I will keep you all posted on my exciting adventures, however my biggest moving highlight was being able to sit on the couch while they changed my sheets, small thrills :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nurse Becky

ok, so this might come off wrong, so let me start this out by sending love and respect to all my nurses out there... but holy moly we just had the most intense nurse experience of my stay. Let me instroduce, Nurse Becky. She entered the room and proceeded to tell me all about why she was late what she does, how she does it, why she does it, etc. etc. etc. I mean down to the detail of what a stool softener is and how it works.

All I needed were my scheduled meds, vital check and monitoring which usually takes about 10-15 minutes. Well not Nurse Becky...
-she asked me everything about my body from checking my nail beds down to my last weight, which I had checked 5 weeks ago so not sure how that adds accuracy.
-during my monitor she made me lay in a still position with my arms over my head so my arms would stay out of her way.
-she would not take her eyes off me until she saw me take my prenatel vitamin because she was not allowed to leave me alone with meds...
-when I asked he for an ambien, which many patients take for obvious reasons, she lectured me that I could become addicted and should be careful, seriously? Of course I realize that but cut me some slack for a few days!
-then she asked why my leg pumps were off (they help with circulation on bed rest) and I told her I just turned them off recently (totally allowed) and she then told me how I was putting myself at risk for blood clots which could quickly travel to my heart and instantly kill me.

Of course I am grateful for her detail, but the intesity/lectures were a bit much. Brian cracked up when she left and said have fun with her during your 3a.m. vital check.

p.s. Braden is doing great. He is cozy in the womb probably still wondering what all the fuss is about.

p.p.s. Thanks for the Halloween comments, highly entertaining :)

Trick or Treat

Braden is still cooking along and if I had to guess by his activity this morning he wants to be a soccer player for Halloween. Good heart rate, good activity, momma is doing fine so all is still well on the keep Braden in campaign for now. We did have some more tough conversations with doctors yesterday about risks to me and Braden long term if I went into delivery in the next week ... not a position we want to be in so at this point week 24 is good, but week 25 is better and 28 and beyond is best. One thing is for sure, these doctors and nurses are amazing and I am in the best place sitting right here.

Speaking of sitting her... we are definitely on a mission to make this bed more comfortable for me. Some nurses claim they are tempurpedic... I am suspicious... others claim they are like sleeping on concrete... sounds more accurate :) I am also working on a calendar for visitors which I really look forward to in order to break up the day.

Please let me know what you all are doing for Halloween or what you are dressing up as. All I have is a view of the hospital lobby so the entertainment factor of people watching in limited. I need some non-hospital updates to take my mind off things.

Love you all, we all feel your prayers and appreciate the support!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Working Toward Milestone #2

Today we met with the maternal fetal medicine doctor for the second time since checking in at St. David's - North Austin. She measured the amount of amniotic fluid in the womb and confirmed that Julia was continuing to retain some of the fluid (that's good). We had crossed our first milestone of making it through the first 48 hours without developing an infection. Our next milestone is to keep Braden in the womb to week 24 - next Friday. This next week is a critical time in which Braden's lungs go through an important developmental stage which will give him a better chance outside. We're ultimately working to get beyond 28 weeks, which studies have shown gives the baby a much better prospect at survival and long-term health. We are still in an incredibly vulnerable position, but the longer we're here, the better the prognosis gets. We truly believe that your prayers are helping all 3 of us, so keep them coming.

As we move through this challenge, we'll continue to provide updates here regularly.

Information Overload

By the time we finally turned in for bed at the end of the night Thursday, we had both been awake for 62 of the past 65 hours. We were exhausted, stressed, and scared. Nurses were in and out of the room every couple of hours, and we were scrambling to get updates to our family and friends. Through all of this, we were still trying to get our heads around everything that was happening. We met with 5 different doctors, including our OB, a maternal fetal medicine specialist, and a neonatologist, that gave us more insight into our situation and the spectrum of possible scenarios and outcomes. Braden's heartbeat and movement was normal. Despite the rupture, Julia was retaining some amniotic fluid and Braden was continuing to produce new fluid. It's not uncommon that PROM patients lose all amniotic fluid. The fact the Julia was retaining some fluid would reduce the risk of infection and distress and would help Braden's lungs develop as long as he stayed in the womb.

The doctors reiterated the significance of the first 48 hours from rupture. About 50% of PROM infection cases occur within the first 48 hours. At bedtime Thursday, we were at 44 hours and in the final countdown for our first big milestone.

Black Wednesday

Through the first 22 weeks of her pregnancy, Julia was incredibly fortunate. She never had to deal with morning sickness, and we had a healthy baby boy progressing right on schedule. We had picked up the crib and started to make progress toward arranging our baby room. Just a week earlier, we had decided on a name: Braden William Betts.

Then the bomb dropped. At 3:30 am on Wednesday October 28th, Julia woke me up with a look of terror. Her water had broken. We rushed to the hospital where they confirmed the diagnosis (Premature Rupture of Membranes [PROM]) and checked her into the hospital. She was 22 weeks and 5 days pregnant; Braden wasn't due until February 26th - 4 months away!

The next 12 hours were a whirlwind of information: descriptions of the condition, implications, statistics, etc. The scariest thing was the uncertainty. Julia could go into labor at any minute, in which case the odds would not be good for baby Braden. In the best case scenario, Braden would continue to grow in utero for as long as possible - up to week 34, at which point the OB would induce. The tradeoff: Julia would be on bed rest until delivery. If you did the math, the "best case scenario" was that Julia would be in the hospital on bed rest for 2.5 months! The biggest early risk was infection, as a primary function of the "bag of water" is to protect the baby and mother from bacteria. The first 48 hours would be critical.