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 :)