What’s In A Name?

I’ve often heard that naming a child is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make. For Andy & I it was a bit comical at times but, in the end, our son’s name came pretty easily.

Shortly after we found out we were pregnant, folks started asking “what names are y’all considering?”. To be honest, we weren’t. We were in the very beginning of our 2nd trimester and were enjoying just “expecting” our 1st child. We hadn’t found out whether baby Szapacs would be a boy or a girl yet (although if you asked Andy, my father, his father, or my brother they already knew- it was a boy) and I struggled with not wanting to place a definitive name on a soul I knew so little about.

As we begun to plan Baby’s nursery and learn about products other moms & dads couldn’t live without, the name discussion was never far from our minds.

I ordered a few baby name books and, each night as we sat in bed, I would read a list of names from one of the books out loud and Andy would say “yes” or “no” depending on his initial reaction. This method really got us nowhere (on a side note: if you know someone looking for baby name books I’ll happily contribute our gently used ones to their cause.).

I have always been a proponent of family names myself. Knowing you were named in memory/honor of someone who has come before, to me, is a special thing. Andy & I joked that most of my family names (Doug, Jack, Lester) wouldn’t fit well with Szapacs. Andy also had some strict guidelines as to the syllable flow of a name. (Next time you see Andy just ask him).

I remember the day we learned we were having a boy very vividly. We spent the day telling friends and family our good news (and yes, telling all the men they were right). That evening as we were winding down our day, I stood in our closet, turned to Andy, and said “Nicholas Christopher. Think about it.”. No matter what other names we came across, nothing stuck with us like Nicholas Christopher. And so, it was.

Nicholas Christopher is a named after 2 important men in our lives.

1st, Nicholas comes from Andy’s Uncle Nick. There are only a rare few folks in Andy’s life that, at the mention of their name, bring tears to his eyes. Uncle Nick is one of those people. Uncle Nick was a 2nd father to Andy seeing him through scouts, teaching him to hunt and fish and that nothing feels better than a hard days work. Uncle Nick rarely missed an event in Andy’s life- he even drove Andy to Penn State one year and helped him move into school. Uncle Nick has meant a lot to both of us – most recently he was was even our proud ring bearer at our wedding.

Now, Christopher. Christopher comes from Phil Christopher – my dad. Phil isn’t just dad to me -he is one of the best kinds of dads around- a dad who didn’t have to be. My father passed away when Parker (my brother) and I were young. Phil married my mom and became dad to a melodramatic, headstrong, girly-girl (me, of course). He sat through countless dance recitals and competitions, taught me to drive, showed me what “hard work” really meant, and is the reason I am a solid businesswoman today. (Yes, he also sat through many a dramatic “my world is going to end if I can’t have/do/be allowed this one little thing” tantrums but I prefer to skim over those parts.) Over 20 years later, he stills loves me as his own. Having him walk me down the aisle and dance on the dock at the lake with me on my wedding day are memories I will never forget.

A dear friend from work wrote me a few weeks back and reminded me that the reason we were put on this earth was the love and serve others. Amen. Nick and Phil embody her words and our thoughts – and are the perfect names for our son.

World Prematurity Day

IMG_1283.JPG

Today is World Prematurity Day. (Don’t worry if you didn’t know there was a “World Prematurity Day” -neither did I!)

The day brings awareness to the fact that each year, 15 million babies are born premature and each year, over 1 million do not survive. As a new mom (and recent inductee into the preemie-parent club) these numbers do not shock me (but they do sadden me).

While Andy & I know that Nicholas’ early birthday could not have been diagnosed or prevented any earlier than it was, we understand some early birthdays can be prevented.

If you would, take a few moments today to join us in giving thanks for the blessing that is our son Nicholas and praying for others who are on the same journey we are.

Week 6 – Weight Gains & More on The Art of Trying to Be Patient

3 pounds. 3 whole glorious, wonderful pounds. Nicholas hit another Szapacs family set milestone when he weighed in Sunday evening. We were ecstatic (and, of course Andy & I celebrated with a fist bump!)

Nicholas got his 1st out of state visitor this week – Aunt Carmen (my step-sister) came into town for an all too brief but appreciated visit. Aunt Carmen arrived Saturday from NC and spent a day and a half with us visiting Nicholas in the hospital (and soaking in some SW Florida sun!). Thanks for coming, Carmen!

On Sunday, Nicholas was still breathing on his own with only pressure support from the CPAP machine. His oxygen levels and heart rate were fine but his respiratory rates were high. And when I say “high” I mean “holy cow, that’s high.”. His respiratory rate should have been no more than 70 breaths per minute (bpm) but he was at 140 bpm at points throughout the day. As Andy and I sat with him and watched him breathing like someone who couldn’t catch their breath after running a marathon, we grew concerned.

After talking with the nurses about reasons for his high rates they explained that after he had been breathing on his own for 4 days he might be “getting stressed and tired” and diagnosed him with tachypnea. Its pronounced “ta-kip-ne-ah” and simply means someone who is a quick, shallow breather. (On a side note, the vast vocabulary I have picked up since being in the NICU should win me a spot in the scrabble world championships.)

One of the ways to help combat Nicholas’ tachypnea would be to increase the oxygen pressure on the CPAP machine and, if that didn’t work, we would have to consider the option of going back on the NAVA ventilator (which we didn’t want – we’re trying to remove tubes not put more in!)

All of this tachypnea chatter got me thinking. I remembered a day a few weeks back when he was having trouble breathing. The respiratory therapists thought having me hold him may help with his breathing. I held him for 2 hours and his rates did normalize. I didn’t want to hold him this time because his temperature was low (another sign of stress) so instead, I chose to read to him to see if it would help. I sat and read “Winnie The Pooh” for over an hour. Nicholas was alert the entire time looking around, smiling, and holding my hand while we read. As we continued to read, his respiratory rate came down within the “normal” range and, I’m amazed to say, he stayed within normal range all night long.

Over the next few days, we patiently waited tried to be patient as we watched his respiratory rate slowly even out. We pulled out our old mantra of “deep breaths, buddy, deep breaths” and sat with him day in and day out doing everything we could to help him breathe better. We continued to work with the team of occupational therapists learning new techniques to help with diaphragm muscle recall, and even sat by his bed and over exaggerated our own breathing cycles for him (a lot of deep breaths make for lightheaded parents!).

By Friday, he was beginning to show signs of progress and looking much more confident breathing. He was also showing a bit more weight gain- by Saturday night he weighed 3 pounds 6 ounces! We know that with every ounce gained more and more of his breathing will become easier and more natural so we are thankful for every ounce.

On Thursday, Nicholas got a sweet surprise. My cousin Jordan flew down to spend 4 days with us. And, let me tell you what a God-send she was for us (especially me!). I had missed her greatly since being in FL and having her here provided another piece of home that I miss.

She spent much of her time here with us traveling back and forth to the Children’s hospital and hanging with us for hours on end in the NICU without so much of a “Gee, isn’t there anything else to do in Fort Myers besides tour the NICU?” ever being uttered.

She also provided a nice distraction from our routine – she was the reason I took my first boat ride since being down here (with my own health issues and spending time with Nicholas I haven’t had much desire or energy to do much else – especially go out on the boat). We spent one morning on the boat as a family sightseeing the area from the water, putted around in the Gulf Of Mexico, and even got up close and personal with a pod of dolphins. It was a good morning together as a family. Thank you for coming, Jordan- we all love you very very much!

Week 5 – Infections, CPAP, and Occupational Therapy

Andy had to be back in NC for a few days this week. Its a hard adjustment for me when he has to travel home because what little normalcy I have here unravels (and trust me, there isn’t a lot of ‘normal’ to begin with!). Not to mention, the timing of this trip wasn’t ideal – we were in the midst of a blood transfusion ending and an infection beginning.

On Sunday, as I headed to the NICU, I learned that the blood transfusion was a success but that Nicholas’ blood work was showing signs of an infection in his bloodstream – the type of infection was yet to be determined. Dr. Sultan began Nicholas on a round of antibiotics that would last a minimum of 3 days until he could learn more about the infection and hopefully nip it in the bud before it go out of hand. We spent the next 4 days having chest x-rays and blood draws every morning to monitor the infection until Dr. Abril (our primary physician who was now back!) was confident the infection had cleared. On Wednesday evening Nicholas received his last dose of antibiotics. Dr. Abril wanted to leave his IV in for a few days to make sure the infection didn’t need anymore attention but, on Thursday morning, Nicholas managed to kick the IV out himself. Fortunately, the infection was gone and we didn’t need another IV put in. Nicholas got his way – no more IV.

On Monday, I met with the team of NICU “occupational therapists” for the 1st time. They. Are. Simply. Amazing. Through touch and massage they are able to help with muscle recall that otherwise premature babies would be missing out on since most of their muscle recall happens in the womb. I could see the difference in Nicholas almost immediately. He became more alert to our touch and voices and less resistant to medical touches (ie – blood draws, suctioning, measuring his growth). I’m thankful for their non invasive ways of helping Nicholas adjust and grow to life outside of the womb. We get to see them 3-4 times a week while in the NICU and I think both Nicholas and I look forward to their visits.

Nicholas remained on the NAVA ventilator at the beginning of the week. He was maintaining his breathing much better than he had been in the past few weeks. On Monday, I began to hear murmurings that he might be strong enough to take him off of the ventilator and move him to bubble CPAP. This would be a large step for us as he was still small – weighing on 2 pounds 12 ounces. Bubble CPAP is a machine that allows Nicholas to breathe completely on his own and provides constant oxygen pressure support to help strengthen his own breathing patterns.

On Wednesday evening as my dad & I left the NICU and were headed home for the night, I received a phone call from the NICU. Jovita, our primary nurse (more on Jovita later),  explained that Nicholas had successfully pulled his ventilator tube out of his throat and mouth for the 5th time that day and so, Dr. Abril decided to take the hint from Nicholas that he didn’t want to be on the ventilator anymore and moved him to Bubble CPAP. Just like that, one of Andy and my BIG goals was being accomplished. I understood the next few hours would be touch and go – if he didn’t take to CPAP well, he would go back onto the ventilator (and the tube would have to go back in). None of us, Nicholas included, wanted that tube back in. Thankfully, Nicholas did just fine on CPAP. The respiratory therapy team removed any sign of a ventilator from his area in the NICU and we moved forward on the CPAP machine.

Andy made his way back to Florida on Thursday evening – just in time to see Nicholas end his 1st successful day on the CPAP machine, and see our him  with one less tube and no more IVs. During our bedtime routine that evening Andy got to witness Nicholas’ 1st weight gain all week – we were now up to 2 pound 14 ounces. That was a huge gain for us considering at the beginning of the week he was NPO (no food) during his transfusion and was also on antibiotics for 4 days.

We spent much of the weekend watching Nicholas succeed on the Bubble CPAP machine and becoming more & more alert than he had been in weeks past. We know he cannot see us clearly right now but it is simply amazing to watch him follow our voices when we talk, read, and sing to him. We continue to work with him through the massage and touch tools that the occupational therapists have shared with us and are happy to see his responses growing stronger.

1 month old

1 month old. Wow. It has flown by. I’d like life to slow down (but our time in the NICU could hurry up a bit!).

This past month hasn’t been easy. Not at all. It has been full of long days that leave Andy & I exhausted from the emotional roller coaster. We have laughed. We have cried. We have fist-bumped. We have prayed.

We are thankful. All 3 of us have come a long way in the past month and are stronger for it. Nicholas, although still small, grows more & more fierce everyday. As “Uncle Parker” put it one day: “This kid is a Moore. He will kick and punch and claw his way out. He will not be beaten.”.

We still have a journey in front of us but today, we celebrate just being “1”. We sang the happy birthday song more times than I care to admit. We read and we cuddled. It was a good day.

IMG_0027.JPG

IMG_0023.JPG

IMG_0026.JPG

Week 4 – Hurry Up & Wait … (& Our 3rd Transfusion)

This week was much of a “hurry up and wait” week for the 3 of us. Nicholas remained on the non-invasive NAVA ventilator. At the beginning of the week, he was receiving moderate support from the NAVA and was breathing comfortably at 36% oxygen. (To give you a comparison on what Nicholas was breathing versus what you and I breath – room air that you & I breathe is 21% oxygen).

Nicholas needed to get stronger breathing on his own so that his ventilator support could decrease and so that he could begin to breathe on less oxygen until he was breathing the 21% oxygen levels you & I breathe. We spent much of the week repeating our mantra “Deep breaths, buddy.”, as Nicholas was pushed to breathe on less oxygen. It was, for the most part, a quiet week for us. The doctors’ orders rarely changed all week long – Dr. Singh & Dr. Abril maintained the same thoughts each day: “Let’s keep him on the NAVA ventilator and see what he can do”.

But, come Saturday evening that all took a change. While on a short break from the NICU for dinner with mom & dad, I received a phone call from the NICU to prepare us for what we would be walking into upon our return. Nicholas’ blood work from earlier that day showed a decrease in his hemoglobin counts – he would need another blood transfusion immediately. They were going to start prepping for the transfusion right then and would be starting as soon as blood arrived.

Upon the news, we quickly left the restaurant and got back to the NICU (Andy finished his dinner in the car on the way back to the NICU). Once at the NICU we found them preparing to start running IVs. I was happy they hadn’t placed the IVs yet so I could be there to hold him as they searched for 2 places in his arms to set IVs (one for the transfusion and one for the fluids he would need while being transfused). After an hour and a half, the IVs were in and the transfusion began. Andy & I were an exhausted mess but Nicholas never cried – he just slept through the whole ordeal.

The transfusion ran for 4 hours overnight. As much as we wanted to stay until the transfusion was complete, we had to get home to get Andy packed as he had a flight to catch early Sunday morning back home to NC for a few days. I will admit that even though we weren’t there, we called and checked in all night with the nurses and, as a result, didn’t get much sleep anyways.

The next day, as Andy headed to the airport and I headed into the hospital, I was greeted by one of the neonatologists, Dr. Sultan. He was there to explain to me that when they tested Nicholas that morning to see if his hemoglobin count had risen (which it had – the transfusion was successful) that he did find an elevated count that led him to believe he might have contracted an infection. So, we began week 5 with several days of antiobiotics to kick any infection he may have (more on this to come).

During all of this, we find ourselves looking for reasons to laugh and places/situations that bring us comfort. Wednesday night brought us that:

While on a brief break from the NICU, Andy and I had dinner at a local bar- Bayside Grille. It’s one of those places that has lots of “regulars”, good food (nothing to fru-fru), and happy hour specials that make all of this dining out a bit easier to digest.On this particular night when we arrived, there was what sounded like a polka band set up and “rocking out” as (I guess) polka bands do. I wasn’t particularly in the mood for a band; a quick dinner so we could get back to the NICU was the top item on my menu. But, as my mother likes to tell me often “Adjust, darlin’. Adjust.”.

As the band played on though, a familiar tune started up. Andy caught it before I did and said, “Listen- do you know what song that is?”. I tried to slow my mind from its constant state of worried analysis to hear what song was being played.
As the song began to come into focus, the whole bar began to join in on the band’s fun singing “You Are My Sunshine.” It was such a sight watching large men drinking draft beers, singing, laughing, and enjoying the lullaby we sing to sweet Nicholas each night. It warmed our hearts and gave us the boost we needed right when we needed it.

Happy Halloween!

Today, we celebrated Nicholas’ 1st Halloween by “dressing” up as a pumpkin (since he is unable to wear clothes yet, a pumpkin hat was all the costume we could adorn), spending the afternoon bundled up in my arms and being doted on for his pumpkin cuteness by the nurses Norma, Catherine, and respiratory therapists Kim and Sarah. He had a good day with lots of sleep, little crying, and a solid weight gain – he is now 2 pounds 10 ounces.

Nicholas’ nurses also made his 1st Halloween craft with him – ghost feet. I’ve included a few photos of Nicholas and hist “art project” below. For some of you this may be the 1st photos of Nicholas you have seen – enjoy! (I’ve also included a photo of Nicholas in one of the hats his great-great Aunt “Ruby” crocheted for him. In our family we know that love is an action verb and we are so thankful she made Nicholas several hats and his 1st teddy bear!)

pumpkin

Nicholas “dressed up” as a pumpkin. 

artproject

Nicholas’ art project he made with the nurses. 

hat

Nicholas in one of the hats his great-great Aunt “Ruby” made for him.

Week 3- PICC lines, IVs, De-Sats, & More Lessons in Patience

This week was a hard adjustment for me. On Sunday, Andy left to travel back home to NC for the week. He was needed back at the office for a few days, and our home & dogs needed some attention. His time back in NC meant Nicholas and I were 1:1 most of the time in the NICU. Thank goodness for my mom & dad who were on hand everyday to get me to the hospital, have dinner with me, and help with our bedtime routine in Andy’s absence.

When the nurses learned Andy would be away for a few days they gave us a great idea that we tried (and loved!) and would recommend to everyone in our situation in the future. When mommy or daddy can’t be at the bedside, FaceTime is a great resource. Each night my dad would get Andy on FaceTime and place him face down on the isolette so he could watch and hear everything that went on during our bedtime routine. While he wasn’t physically there with us he was able to ask questions, hear the latest vitals, and cheer me on during diaper duty.

We started this week much the way we ended week 2- on the NIV NAVA – a less invasive breathing support system, and on some meds and IV fluids to help Nicholas gain weight through nutrition support.

During much if the week, Nicholas struggled to breathe. A lot. We went from worrying about bradys to focusing on “de-sats” or “desaturations”. A de-sat occurs when a baby forgets to, or cannot, breathe and his oxygen saturation level drops quickly and without warning. As Nicholas was learning to breathe with less assistance than he received while on the oscillator (which essentially breathed for him before) he struggled to breathe with strength and consistency. His breaths would be quick and shallow and when you looked at him it almost appeared as though he was winded from running a race. I spent much time by his bedside watching his saturation levels go up and down and every time the alarm would ring I would find myself saying “Just take a deep breath, buddy. Deep breath.”.

Nicholas did begin to respond more and more to us this week than he had in the past. He began regularly opening both of his eyes at the same time. While I know he cannot see anyone or anything with clarity just yet, it’s wonderful to see his eyes open and look around.

On Monday, one of our doctors, Dr. Singh began to ween Nicholas from the IV fluids while he continued to increase his feeding amounts. As he continued to hold his feelings down without trouble, it was time to begin pulling him off the IVs and let Nicholas and the breast milk work together on their own. By Wednesday morning, Nicholas was pulled off all IV fluids and placed on a multivitamin he takes through he feeding tube during one of his afternoon feedings each day.

By Thursday morning, we hit another milestone for Nicholas – he had his PICC line removed. This meant the doctors saw no more need for large blood draws or for medicines that would need to be administered through his PICC line. I was happy to be able to say good bye to the PICC line machine that hung by his head and to the large lines that ran through and around his left arm.

Even though we made strides in removing more equipment from Nicholas’ care, he was still struggling to breathe. He remained on a medium level of support on the ventilator and had increased trouble breathing during each touch time and simple diaper change he experienced. The doctors continued to offer more support through increased oxygen and experimenting with his position to find him the most comfortable position.

During this entire week, I got to practice the fine art of trying to be patient. And I say “try” because it wasn’t easy for me. Each day I would come in to the NICU to see not much had changed in his support levels. I would spend much of the days and nights watching him struggling to breathe and repeating my mantra “Deep breaths, buddy, deep breaths.”.

Andy arrived back into Florida Thursday evening about dinner time. It had been a long day of work and travel for him but I was happy to have my husband back. He got to see Nicholas without his PICC line and see him continuing to open his eyes and look around and squeak out a smile. He quickly joined in on my never ending mantra “deep breaths” with me though as he saw our son struggle to breathe.

One of the most amazing things to witness (this week in particular) was Nicholas’ smile. Even though he was struggling to breathe and had some tough days, he has a way of flashing a smile that just says “give me some time. It will get better.”. That smile helped us through much of the week and the weekend as he continued to learn to breathe.

Thankful for….. Angela

In our post about Nicholas’ birth story, I mentioned what a blessing a nurse named Angela was. Since I have a few moments, I wanted to write about Angela. While I’m confident she knows how terribly thankful Andy & I are for her, I feel it important to write a bit about what an integral part she was in Nicholas’ birth if for no other reason than to save the story here for Nicholas. I want him to know that before he even appeared on October 5th he experienced selfless love and caring from a complete and total stranger – who we are now thrilled to think of as a friend.

Angela was the charge nurse on duty on Golisano Children’s Hospital when I was transported early Sunday evening. As Andy, my mom, and my dad can attest, she took charge as soon as the ambulance arrived. The original plan when I was transferred was to stabilize me on mag bags for 24-48 hours and pump Nicholas & I with steroids to help aid his growth before he was delivered. As they were trying to stabilize me, Nicholas’ heartbeat faded away.

Angela worked for a few minutes to find his heart rate and once she couldn’t find anything other than a faint heart rate under 90 bpm, she went into emergency mode. With her calm but authoritative demeanor she told her team to call OR and let them know we were on our way. She had doctors and anesthesiologists paged within seconds. On our way out the door she turned to Andy and said “Dad, follow me. Keep up.” As Andy puts it, they were all running and pushing my bed to the OR. Angela put Andy in a waiting room outside of the OR and went in with me. She never left my side, giving me encouragement while commanding orders of others around her to keep everyone as stable as we could until Dr. Brown could arrive. She was the last person I remember seeing until I woke up from the c-section. She made sure I was comfortable after surgery and made arrangements for us to go up and meet Nicholas. She gave us privacy when we requested it and support when we needed it most that night.

The days following Nicholas’ birth, she would go visit “that cute Szapacs baby” (she was one of the only nurses who didn’t need a lesson in how to pronounce our last name) and would even stop by our hospital room to give us updates on Nicholas and to see if we needed anything. And, all of this care was after we were transferred off her hall and were given to another set of nurses. She was, and continues to be, a blessing for us.

Week 2 – Arterial Lines, Another Transfusion, & The Terrifying Brady

Nicholas and I both started our 2nd week in the hospital – Nicholas took it in stride much better than I did. I was tired, uncomfortable, and while I was happy to only be 1 floor away from him, I was ready to be out from under the constant “attention” of nurses and doctors. I was beyond tired of being poked and prodded for testing. And I knew Andy was ready to go sleep in a real bed. Finally, the trauma surgeons and my OBGYN agreed I could go home on Tuesday evening. I don’t know who was happier – me that I got away from IVs and testing or Andy that we were finally able to sleep in a big bed.

Nicholas continued to make progress in the NICU. On Monday, he had his arterial line (and line that ran from his umbilical cord into his chest) removed. This line was helpful as a source in pulling blood when the doctors needed it but, as Nicholas grew and they decided that he was strong enough to come off the oscillator/ventilator and move to a less invasive “NAVA” ventilator, he no longer needed the arterial line. Removing the arterial line and moving him to the NAVA were steps in the right direction for Nicholas – it meant less invasive support and care for him and also meant we could now hold our son.

On Monday afternoon, Andy and I headed to the NICU where our nurses let us hold Nicholas for the 1st time. What a great afternoon that was. As we held his small frame against our bodies, the connection was instant. His head perched by my heart and his hands grasping my skin was a magical feeling and one that only a parent can know (I now understand the “only a parent could….” sayings).

On Wednesday, Nicholas began to have difficulty breathing and managing his heart rate with the support of the NAVA. Andy & I experienced our 1st (of several to come) “bradys” or “bradycardias” – when the heart rate dips low suddenly and without much warning. The doctors and nurses told us these were normal and to be expected in growing, premature babies.

But, when your child experiences a brady, it is simply terrifying. Alarms go off, nurses come quickly, and there is nothing you can do. As much as it may be “normal”, it is terrifying. There is no other word that describes the feeling during those times for us. Andy & I didn’t sleep too much during the following days as Nicholas began to experience bradys with frequency. Our conversations with nurses typically started out with “How many bradys have we experienced in the past XX hours?”.

On Thursday, after running some tests, the doctors decided to give Nicholas another blood transfusion to help aid him in his growth and decreasing brady episdoes. After his transfusion and a visit by the respiratory therapist to clean out his throat and nasal cavities, it was like we had our old Nicholas back. He quickly stopped experiencing bradys with the frequency he had been and we all began to rest a bit easier.

By Saturday, we had another hit another milestone. During our bedtime routine (more on that below), Nicholas was weighed and he hit 2 pounds. 2 pounds was such a milestone for all of us. The nurses laughed when they witnessed Andy & I fist bump at the 2 pound weigh-in. Andy & I set small milestones for ourselves and Nicholas so we find reason to celebrate a victory (no matter how small) each day. 2 pounds was one of our victories.

Nicholas spent much of his 2nd week easily taking to his feedings which were increasing each and every day by the doctors. Nicholas took all the increases in stride, eating whatever he was given with no tummy troubles or after effects. At the end of week 2, he was eating 18 ml every 3 hours or 144 ml every day. When you think about how small Nicholas’ frame is, that is a lot of food for such a little baby. I like to think his healthy appetite is proof of his roots: the Moore men always liked to eat. And, the Szapacs men were bred on meat & potatoes. With eaters on both sides of your family, you’re bound to grow up enjoying food.

A bit on our bedtime routine: Bedtime is an important time for us to bond with Nicholas. We spend the time at night working with the nurses to check his temperature, read his vitals, change his diapers, and feed him. We also weigh him each night and measure his belly for growth (Andy looks forward to weigh-ins everyday – he even has an excel document he completes each night to track and chart his feedings vs. his weight – I simply love my engineer husband for being able to remain analytical  in such a hectic time) . At bedtime we also change his bedding and his “heart”. We have several sets of bedding that we rotate through. We sleep with his clean bedding every night and take in that bedding the following day for him to sleep on that night. His “hearts” are simple pieces of fabric that have been sewn into heart shapes by volunteers at the hospital that we also wear on our bodies to help transfer smell to Nicholas. They are placed under his head and neck as a pillow each night. While he is in the NICU, we know that he can bond via smell with us which is why we sleep with his bedding. Even though he isn’t at home, we want him to know what home (and mom  & dad smell like). It has helped his bonding with us already.

(I try to make sure his hearts match his bedding as best I can each day – sometimes he is a color coordinated dream and sometimes his bedding takes on a shabby chic feel. Andy chuckles at me fussing over his bedding but it is one of the only things I can control right now. And, in a time of uncontrolled chaos, I’ll cherish what little control I have over Nicholas’ comfort.).

We also end each day with Nicholas singing our song “You are my sunshine”, ( I sang this song to him while he was in utero so it seems natural to continue to sing it now) and saying our prayers. Bedtime prayers seem like the most fitting way to leave our son each night in the care of the nurses of the NICU and it makes our travel home a bit easier. The hardest thing I do as a mother every night is leave my son at the NICU but knowing he has bedding that smells like home, and that he hears mom & dad singing and praying with him before he falls asleep with a full belly makes my time away at night a bit easier. Not much easier, but every bit helps.