Keith's Story

June 28, 1998

Dear Baby,

You have inspired me to write the story of our pregnancy because I felt you move inside me for the first time two nights ago. I will write about that in a minute. First, I want to bring you up to date on what has happened so far.

I found out I was pregnant on April 14, 1998. I was about two weeks late for my period, but I have never been that consistent so I didn't think anything of it. I started getting what I thought was PMS. I have had this in the past and the symptoms are similar. My breasts were sore. I was irritable and clumsy. Then I started peeing every 20 minutes. That is definitely not a symptom of PMS.

So, on Tuesday, April 14, I purchased a home pregnancy test. It was positive almost immediately. The first thing that went through my head was: I can't believe what I thought would never happen, has happened. I've always assumed I was sterile. I had Scarlet Fever when I was two and I've heard that can make a person sterile. Anyway, once I got over the shock, I was thrilled and so happy. I was also very nervous and scared. I've never done this before, you know.

I took a Picture of the test so that you could share in the moment I first knew about you.

I couldn't wait to tell your dad. We were having company over that evening, so I had to wait. I wanted to tell him while we were alone. I told him just after we went to bed. We had lain down and said our goodnights. Your dad had thrown his arm over his eyes, so I knew he would be asleep soon (He can fall asleep in seconds). I lay close to him and whispered in his ear, "I'm pregnant." His arm snapped down, he looked me in the eye and said, "Really?" I said, yeah and he hugged me so tight. I could tell he was very happy and excited. I told him I still had the test if he wanted to see it. He got up and studied it for a long time. Then, he came back to bed and held me tight.

I'm not going to go into detail about other people's reactions. Most were very positive and full of congratulations. But, a few were negative. One seemed downright malicious. All you have to know is that overall you are a very welcome addition to this family.

I haven't had any morning sickness. I feel very lucky. I have been queasy a few times. My digestion has also slowed down, so I'm uncomfortable sometimes and gassy. I've also had some bad headaches. Only two so bad that I had to take something for them. I don't know if this is a symptom, but I've been sneezing a lot. Like, 8-10 times a day. I had some cramping and spotting in the early weeks, nothing to worry about. Every time I sneeze or cough, I have to hold my gut or the ligaments that support the uterus hurt really bad.

My first OB/GYN appointment was on Friday, June 5th. I saw only the nurse, Danielle. She took my medical history. I saw the doctor, Laura Davidson, on Tuesday, June 9th. Your dad went with me. I felt very comfortable with Dr. Davidson. She is very friendly and gentle. She tried to listen to your heartbeat with a Doptone. But, she couldn't find it. So, she suggested we have an ultrasound. We agreed. This is the day we first saw you. It was absolutely amazing. I am so glad that your dad was there. We saw your face. We saw your arms and legs wiggle around. I could barely breathe because I was so overwhelmed. Dr. Davidson gave us a Polaroid of you.

I got a sore throat on the 23rd. I thought I was getting a cold, but I didn't. Since then though, I get a sore throat every night while I sleep. It goes away a few hours after I get up. Also since then, I've been sleeping pretty badly. Mostly because I'm dreaming all night long. Busy dreams, too.

I got my first Maternity clothes on the 26th. I feel really comfy now. The night of the 26th, I was laying in bed reading when I felt a poke. Poke, poke?Poke, poke, poke?Poke. I lay quiet for a long time trying to convince myself that what I was feeling wasn't gas. After a lot of poking, I was sure and I called your dad in to feel my tummy. He put his hand on me and you poke-poked for him. His eyes lit up.

We haven't come up with a name for you yet. Your dad has this great idea to let you pick your name. He wants to have 12 names (one for each hour) and whatever hour you are born, that will be your name.

July 7, 1998

Dear Baby,

We just got back from a doctor's appointment. We heard your heartbeat. 146 beats per minute. Your drummer father claims it was 150 beats per minute.

I've felt some more movement from you. Mostly pushes followed by pressure. But, also a few boxing matches. That's what I call them. Because it feels like you are hitting a punching bag.

I've had some foot cramps in the night. Last night, the ligaments on the right of my uterus cramped. There was this hard little knot that hurt so bad, but it loosened up pretty soon.

July 8, 1998

Dear Baby,

Your Grampa Jack gave us a fill-in-the-blanks calendar for your first year. This is our first present for you.

Your dad thinks I should include more stuff that is going on in our lives. Instead of just stuff that is related to the pregnancy.

When I found out I was pregnant, we didn't have any medical insurance on me. I was worried that they would deny me coverage because I thought you would be considered a pre-existing condition. Later I found out they can't legally do that anymore. It wasn't a big deal to get it. But, it's important that we have it. The average uncomplicated pregnancy and hospital birth costs $6,000.

Our finances are tight right now because your dad's company is going out of business. They haven't had a big project for about six months. Only small ones that kept them going month by month. He and his business partner, Bill Norris, decided to call it quits and look for work individually. Your dad has quite a few promising leads for contract work. I am very optimistic that he will find something that he can be happy with.

Last evening your grampa, your dad and I spent a few hours moving the business from the office to our garage. It was hot and tiring work. When we were finished, your dad and I went swimming in this great swimming hole that we found a couple of weeks ago. The moon was almost full and the water was warm. It was very nice. The swimming hole is about a quarter mile or so from the house. I'm hoping that you will spend a lot of hot summer days down there.

We don't have a working car that can seat all three of us right now. Just a two-seater MGB convertible. We have a car that needs engine work that has a back seat, but your dad is hoping the money will start coming in again soon, so we can get a nice comfy Jeep Cherokee.

July 21, 1998

Dear Baby,

I got really sick two weeks ago. I had a stomach flu or something similar. I was throwing up and my whole body ached and I would alternate between fevers and chills. I went to the doctor and she gave me Zofran which took care of the nausea and vomiting. In the middle of all this I got a kidney infection. My left kidney felt like a rock in my side. I'm on antibiotics for that now. I was worried about you while I was sick. I was afraid you weren't getting enough nutrients, that my fevers were cooking you and that we were both dehydrated. The Zofran allowed me to keep fluids down, so that took care of the dehydration. Dr. Davidson was going to send me to the hospital for an IV if that hadn't worked. And Tylenol helped me keep my fevers down. I think you're okay in there. You aren't very active, yet. I don't know if that means you are a mellow baby, it's to soon to feel much or that you're not doing okay. This is a very worrisome business.

It's been very hot for about a month. High 90s and low 100s. I don't do very well in the heat and to make it worse, air-conditioning gives me a headache. I'm really going to lose weight after you are born. I think if I am thinner, I will handle the heat better.

There was an earthquake here early this morning at about 2AM. It registered 4.5 on the Richter Scale. Your dad found seismographs on-line. It was interesting to see the distant places that registered it. Like, Berkeley and Marin. Earthquakes aren't common here. At first, we weren't sure what it was. It was so short and hard that I thought it could have been a sonic boom. At first, I was scared. But, your dad makes me feel safe and secure. He is steady and calm and I'm glad I can rely on that.

August 8, 1998

Dear Baby,

We had another ultrasound last Wednesday. You are growing fine. This is reassuring because I was worried my illness would stunt your growth. You had the hiccups while we were looking at you. I couldn't feel them, though. The doctor showed us you have a bladder and two kidneys. Your umbilical cord is properly attached, so none of your insides are on the outside. Your head and abdomen circumferences confirmed your gestational age. We saw both your hands and both your feet. I couldn't make out any toes, but I saw all your fingers. Dr. Davidson also pointed out your butt to us. We got more pictures. One of your face, you're kind of looking down, one of the bottom of your foot and one of your spine, ribs and profile. It is much easier to identify parts when the picture is moving. The stills are hard to make out.

Your dad and I went on a picnic and went swimming yesterday with your Grandpa Jack, Merill, Travis, Laina, David, and a baby, Summer, that Merill is taking care of. We went to Whiskeytown Lake. The day was hot but the water was really cold. We had a lot of fun. Next summer, you can go with us.

We love you a lot and are really getting impatient to meet you.

August 22, 1998

Dear Keith Daniel,

I guess you were impatient to meet us, too, because you are here.

Let me start with the first contraction I felt -

At 9:00 AM on Wednesday, August 19, a strong cramp woke me up. It felt like heavy menstrual cramps. For the next three hours I had more and more cramps each hour, building up to about 15 per hour. At noon there was some blood on my toilet tissue, so I called the doctor's office. It turns out that Dr. Davidson is on vacation this week so I spoke to the nurse. The nurse told me to go to bed and not worry unless there was more blood. I got into bed and the cramps/contractions either lessened in strength or went away because I was able to sleep for about three hours.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening I continued to have cramps. I could usually walk them off or make them stop by changing position, which is a good indication that they are false contractions.

Your dad and I went to bed about 11:00 PM and things started accelerating. The contractions started to hurt and I had to do a lot of position changes to find a way to handle them.

At midnight your dad called the doctor. He was connected with Dr. Davidson's partner, Dr. Mooney. Dr. Mooney said at that gestational age the baby is not viable and there is nothing he could do. (We would like to know now what he expected us to do. There was something obviously wrong and I couldn't just give birth to you at home.) He said if there is blood flow heavier than a period then we should go in to the emergency room.

About 1:00 AM, I told your dad that there was more blood. The contractions continued. We called the emergency room around 1:30 AM. The triage nurse said to come on in. By the time we were on our way, the contractions were about 2 minutes apart. When we got to the hospital, at 1:45 AM, they took us right up to the maternity ward (The Baby Place). The nurse, Julie, checked me and I was 4 cm. dilated. That's when I knew it was real. In my head I was screaming, "NO". I almost started crying, but something in me knew that that would take all of my strength, so I made myself stop. They also checked my underwear and there was evidence that my water had broke. So, there was no stopping this.

I was hooked up to an IV and a fetal monitor. Your heart beat was very strong through the whole thing.

August 24, 1998

Dr. Mooney arrived around 2:15 AM. He had them give me a shot (I don't know what of) to lessen the strength of the contractions. This drug lasted about an hour. Meanwhile, he gave me an ultrasound to find out what position you were in. You were head down. He made a call to UC Davis, where they have doctors with more experience in this kind of thing. They told him that a Caesarian Section was not necessary because you were in the proper position to be born. I'm very glad of this because it would have meant a much longer recover for me and maybe more complications for you.

Around 2:30 AM, they started wheeling in equipment to take care of you with after you were born. A pediatrician, a respiration specialist, and one other person (I don't know their specific job) showed up to make sure you were ok.

I was given some medicines for you. They gave me a steroid shot in each hip. The steroid shots were to help your lungs mature. I was also given some antibiotics. This went through my IV. The nurse made it go in really fast so that it would get to you quickly. It made my arm sting like crazy. At one point it hurt worse than the contractions. The antibiotic was to help you in case you had any infections.

Now let me tell you about my contractions. They were coming about 2 minutes apart. (I was just sitting here trying to think how to describe the contractions. What 'they' say is true. I don't remember the pain.) Anyway, I was breathing really hard, grunting and moaning, and gripping the railings on the bed. Your dad kept trying to remind me to breathe, but he didn't really know what to do to help. Of course, we hadn't gotten to the childbirth classes. But, he was a wonderful comfort to me. The nurse, Julie, started to coach me. When a contraction would start she would tell me how to breathe and do it with me so I could keep the rhythm. I was surprised how effective it was when my was breathing right.

Next they transformed the bed. The bottom portion was removed and foot rests were raised. Bright, focused lights were turned on. I was checked a few times to see how dilated I was. When I got around 8 cm, Dr. Mooney told me I could push when I was ready. I didn't have to go all the way to 10 cm because you were so small. By this time, I did feel the urge to push. It felt like I was holding in a bowel movement. But, the pediatrician was talking to the UC Davis people, so I was told to breathe through the contractions until he got back. This was really difficult. Again, I'm really glad that Julie was there. Finally, he got back. I was told I could start pushing. On the first two pushes, I didn't know what I was doing and they were very ineffective. Also, Dr. Mooney was telling me to push for a long time after I wanted to which really made it hurt. After the second one, he told me that every sound I made and every breath I let out was taking away from the push. On the next contraction, I concentrated and put everything into the push. I screamed at the end of it. (Your dad tells me I started to freak-out, too. I was shaking my head back and forth and pretty much panicking. But, Julie said my name a few times and made me focus again. I don't remember this.) Dr. Mooney was pulling down on my perineum and, boy, did that hurt. I could feel you moving down the birth canal, but I couldn't push anymore. So, I stopped and waited for the next contraction. It came and I pushed and you came out in a gush of amniotic fluid at 4:32 AM. Up to that point my eyes had been shut. Just as you came out I opened them and saw the gush hit the doctor in the chest. Luckily, he was wearing his scrubs. The next thing I remember is your dad saying, "You have a boy." I sat up and looked over where they were working on you. You looked so tiny, but you were beet red, which means you were getting oxygen. Your dad says that you came out blue. The doctors bagged you and were trying to get a tube into your lungs. The first try went into your stomach, but they got it in. I know they had to work quickly, but they seemed to treat you so roughly. I wanted to take you and hold you gently.

Now came the third stage, delivering the placenta. I do remember this pain. Dr. Mooney was pushing on my stomach trying to dislodge the placenta. He'd push and wait, push and wait. Finally he told me to push again. I had to push almost as hard on the placenta as I did on you.

After another 15 minutes, they took you away, cleaned me up and put the bed back together.

At 7:00 AM, a woman brought in some papers for me to sign to get you into the NICU at Mercy Medical Center. While I was doing that they brought you in so we could look at you before you went over. You were in this huge machine. It was five feet high and about five feet long. There were bottles of oxygen and all this equipment around you. They had you piled in blankets so we could see only a little of your head and I think a leg.

After you had gone, we tried to get some sleep.

August 26, 1998

On Thursday, your dad and I mostly just lay around and tried to get some sleep. Which wasn't easy because the nurses checked on me frequently. I got to take a shower (felt wonderful). A couple of times the nurse pushed on my stomach and I gushed blood. This is normal, but it felt really gross.

I started pumping my breasts on Thursday so I will have milk to feed you when you are ready for it.

Dr. Jain called several times to update us on your condition. And Dr. Mooney checked on me a couple of times and explained a misunderstanding about the advice he gave us. After I had talked to the nurse, she told him about my call. When he asked her how far along I was, she read off my file that I was 22 weeks along, which I was at my last appointment, two weeks ago. So, when we called at midnight, Dr. Mooney thought I was not as far along as I was. That was why he told us there was nothing they could do for a baby that young.

August 28, 1998

Dear Keith,

I was released from the hospital Friday morning, the 21st. Your dad and I went home to take showers then we went to the hospital for our first visit with you. To get into the NICU, we had to call on a phone that is outside the door and they buzzed us in. The first thing we did was scrub and wash up to our elbows and put gowns on. I was really scared going into the room where you were. They pointed us in your direction and we went over to you. I couldn't help but cry. You were hooked up to so many things. This wasn't the soft comfy beginning I had imagined for you.

After we spent a little time with you, we were updated on your condition. We were told that the hole in your heart was still open and you were on medication to help close it (This is observed with an ultrasound). You also had an ultrasound of your head and it showed that there was no blood on your brain. You had some jaundice so you were under UV lights. You were wearing eye coverings to protect your eyes.

Your primary nurse's name is Terri. I think I'm really going to like her. She is very attentive and gentle. She lifted your plastic cover so we could touch you.

We took a lot of pictures of you. We want to keep a record of your growth and improvement.

Friday evening your potassium levels went dangerously high, so you were given a complete blood exchange. They tried to call us for permission for this, but the line was busy. Your dad set up two phone lines so this will never happen again. They went ahead without our permission, which I'm grateful for.

On Saturday, the 22nd, they told us the hole in your heart was smaller and you had no blood on the brain again. You were still under the UV lights.

Terri is encouraging us to interact with you and care for you more. Today, she let me change your diaper. The diapers are so tiny, but they are still to big for you.

On Sunday, the 23rd, your Great Uncle Brent and a man from his church came and blessed you and prayed for you.

The hole in your heart was virtually closed and you were taken off the medicine for that. Still no blood on your brain and you were taken off the medication that stabilizes your blood pressure. You were still under the UV lights.

Your dad got to change your diaper today.

We were there when Terri was turning you from your back to your stomach. We helped to do that. This was about a 15 minute ordeal. All of your wires have to be moved to the other side and the tubes have to be placed properly so you are comfortable. Then, they let us rub your entire body with a greasy lotion. That was really nice. It let me know that you are not quite as fragile as you look.

Dr. Jain talked to us for awhile. So far she has been very cautious about getting our hopes up regarding your chances for survival, but today she said her gut feeling was that you were going to make it.

Just before we were ready to leave your Grandpa Jack showed up. I left the room so that he could come in (You are allowed only two visitors at a time). He brought his video camera and taped you for all the people who can't visit. He cried a little, which is totally understandable. You are shockingly small.

Monday, the 24th, the hole in your heart was open again so they put you back on the medication for that. Your color is much better and the jaundice is going away so you are under the UV light only part time.

We met a new nurse. His name is Doug. He seems to be less hands-on and more business-like. But, I think he is ok.

After our visit with you we went to DeMercurio's for dinner. The nurses at Redding Medical Center gave us a gift certificate for a free dinner for two. The food was good, but the atmosphere was a little to formal (stiff) for me.

Tuesday, the 25th, Dr. Geddy (your second doctor) and Larry Licker (a social worker) sat and talked with us for about an hour. Dr. Geddy brought us up to date on your condition and told us some of the complications that we might expect. So far your brain is fine because you have had no bleeding. He said we should expect some learning delays, though. You will have some eye damage. They can't tell how much yet because your eyes are still fused. You will probably have respiratory problems, including asthma. The worst thing he had to report on was your intestines. If they don't start functioning properly, they could die and parts of them would have to be removed.

Your white blood cell count is very high, so they think you might have an infection. They have started you on antibiotics for bacterial, fungal, and yeast infections. Cultures are being grown to find out exactly what you have.

You have a new nurse again today. Her name is Sally.

Your jaundice is all gone and you are no longer under the UV lights. You still have your eye patches in the daytime because it is so bright.

Today they gave you a blood transfusion. Every now and again they will do this because they take so much out of you for doing tests.

I started a newsletter/announcement to send to all of our friends and relatives. We scanned some of the pictures of you and are including them on the newsletter.

On Wednesday, the 26th, we were there for the night shift and met another nurse. Her name was Karen.

After you were turned onto your stomach, you were forgetting to breathe a lot. Karen kept having to stimulate you. It was kind of scary to watch your heart rate and oxygen levels drop. She gave you some meds that are supposed to help you to remember to breath.

You were still forgetting to breathe when we left, so I decided to check on you later. When I called, Karen said you were still having problems. I suggested that she turn you over onto your back. She said Dr. Geddy had been in and done that and turned your ventilator up.

Thursday, the 27th- HAPPY ONE WEEK BIRTHDAY!!

We took more pictures of you today. You look so much better than you did last week.

There was no sign of infection in the cultures. So no infection in my little guy.

Terri and I were moving you onto your side. She had to remove a piece of tape that was on you. It had been on to long and was really stuck. As she pulled it gently off, you frowned really hard, balled up your fists and shook them back and forth. I felt so bad. I knew you were crying. You calmed right down after the tape was off. When we got you rolled over, the ear that had been down was folded over. It looked like a new-born puppy ear.

Most of the time we were there, Terri was having to adjust you and your oxygen levels a lot. You just couldn't get comfortable and you would breathe too much or not enough. She was very busy with you.

Which brings us to today.

Nothing new to report really, except that you look great. Your color is good and you were comfortable all the time we were there.

When I touch the top of your head, you raise your eyebrows really high. It is very cute. You flex your toes a lot.

We met the mom (Mallory) of another baby (Colin) that was your weight and age when he was born. He is almost three months now. She talked to us about their experiences and she showed us a picture book of his progress. It was very encouraging. After we were done talking, Terri whispered something to her. Then, Mallory said that bringing in cookies wouldn't hurt. We all laughed. I am making Apple Braid Bread for them.

I'm starting to experience "let-down" in my breasts every three hours. It feels like a pull towards my nipples and then my nipples itch like crazy. Then, I know it is time to pump. I don't even have to watch the clock anymore.

We sent out some announcements today. We'll send more tomorrow.

August 29, 1998

Dear Keith,

You looked wonderful today. You were pink instead of brown. We found out later that it was because you had had a transfusion, but for whatever reason you looked much better.

You were breathing on your own for most of the time we were there and your oxygen levels stayed consistent.

Dr. Geddy told us that you had gained three ounces. You looked a little swollen. Your belly was big and your leg with the PICC line looked puffy. Tomorrow if you still look swollen, I'm going to ask if you could be retaining fluids.

Today, you had a frowny day even though you looked comfortable. I think the humidifier was blowing too directly on you.

We could see your face quite well because the ventilator tube was on one side of your mouth instead of in the middle. You're a cute kid.

The nurses really loved the bread I made them. It felt good to give something to the people who are giving you so much.

There were two new babies in NICU. You are no longer the new kid on the block. But, you are still the smallest.

Terri pointed out that you had peed, but she didn't change your diaper. She walked away. So, I got up and changed it all by myself. I think that is what she intended. You also passed some meconium. Terri and Dr. Geddy both made a big deal about this. I think it's because it means your bowels are kind of working.

When the shift change came at 6:30 PM, we got up to go. Terri asked if we wanted her to lift off your house so we could kiss you goodbye. Of course, we said yes. We both touched you and said our good-byes. She said to go ahead and kiss your hand. I didn't know she meant it literally. We both did. Your skin felt so soft on my lips.

It's very hard to leave you every day.

August 31, 1998

Dear Keith,

You've had visitors. Yesterday, your Great-grandmother Audrey came to see you. She is your dad's grandma. Also, your great-aunt Gail and second cousin Lee met you. They were all amazed at how precious and tiny you are. We brought them by in the early afternoon and then we all went out to lunch together. Your dad and I went back to the NICU that evening to spend some more time with you. We hadn't planned on it, but after dinner we just said, "Let's go back." We can never get enough of you.

Today, your great-uncle Bert visited and your great-grandma peeked in to say goodbye. They live over on the coast and had to go back home.

You were turned around in your bed today. Up 'til now your head faced us, now it is away from us. I changed your diaper and your dad rubbed you with Aquaphor (that's the greasy lotion). You held our fingers in your hands for a long time. I think you liked doing that. I saw you yawn a couple of times. It was very cute.

The doctor's say the hole in your heart is getting smaller. They expect to start you on breast milk tomorrow. I hope so. I think that will be really good for you.

It was very hot today. I heard it got up to 112 degrees. That sets a new record.

September 2, 1998

Dear Keith,

When we got to the NICU on the 1st, they were moving the catheter from your right foot to your left foot. It was suggested that we not watch. The procedure took about an hour, so we waited in the cafeteria.

You were given the breast milk on the night of the 31st. Your intestines didn't tolerate it. When we saw you on the 1st, your belly was swollen and bluish. This worried me, but Dr. Jain assured us that it wasn't too serious.

I was coping pretty well with all of this. I was upset and worried because it bothers me to think that you are in pain and I can't do anything about it. But, I realize all that is being done is in your best interest. I mention how I was coping because I ended up crying. I took a look at your chart to see your weight change. While I was looking, a nurse told me I couldn't look at your chart. I had to get permission from Medical Records. That was the last straw. You're my son. Those are your charts. I should be able to look at them. It just seemed so unfair and I couldn't help but cry. I'm going to talk to Dr. Jain about this. If they have something to hide, I definitely want to know about it.

Today, was much better. Your belly was less distended and less blue. Your ventilator settings are much lower and you are breathing regularly on your own.

Your PICC line was moved from your foot to your arm because they needed a bigger line to put a higher concentration sugar solution into. I wish they had known they were going to need this before they stuck your left foot.

You were bundled up in a snuggly and had an earmuff on to block out sound. Each nurse has there own style. Gail was your nurse today (she is nice enough, but I don't think she is gentle enough. And I don't feel she really sees you as a person that she should be considerate to). We never know what position we will find you in. Your dad made the comment that you had a high forehead. I said, "A very high forehead." He said, "His forehead goes all the way down to his butt." :-)

Mallory told us that she left some of Collin's preemie clothes for you to wear. That was very nice of her. I will leave them for the next baby also.

Collin gets to go home soon. I'm glad for his folks, but jealous that we have such a long wait.

We love to sit with you and watch you sleep.

Your daddy and I were talking about you opening your eyes. It shouldn't be too much longer before this happens. We're really looking forward to this. Then, you'll really know when we are there.

Your grandpa Jerry and grandma Carol sent you a receiving blanket and a brush and comb set. The blankie is very soft. I want to use it when we Kangaroo you.

Your dad has a job and he actually has two other jobs lined up. The one he has is an hourly, work-as-much-as-you-want kind of thing. The other two are a six-month project and a two-month project. So, he will have plenty of options to choose from.

I love you so much. I'm so happy that you are doing well. I'm really looking forward to being your mom. I want to play with you and teach you things. I want to find out what you are interested in and what you love. Stay well and grow strong, my beautiful boy.

September 3, 1998

Dear Keith,

I have found a support group (a message board/newsgroup) for preemie parents. So far, it seems like a good place. Nice people with a lot of experience and information.

Today was another not-so-good day for me. Gail was your nurse again (I was really hoping Terri would be). You were all bundled up and had eyepatches on again (It felt like a little bit of regression). I'm not sure you like this. I think you like to wiggle. I don't know. And this ruined picture day. We couldn't see you hardly at all. I wanted pictures of how great your skin looks. Oh, well, maybe next week. You also had on ONE earmuff. This seems so stupid. It doesn't block the sound and it just puts more adhesive on your skin.

When Gail changed your diaper, you got upset. Everything she did just made you madder and madder. You were actually purple. And when she was waiting to see if you would calm down, she was moving your plastic hood around which was moving your vent tube which just bothered you more. I don't think she was paying attention at all. Your heart rate went up to 195. It took you a long time to settle.

I feel so useless. I want to hold you so bad. Why did this happen to you?

September 4, 1998

Dear Keith,

Well, I guess we are on the rollercoaster because today was great. You gave me the most marvelous birthday present. You opened your right eye today! It's like you just woke up from a long nap and now we can visit for real.

When we got there today, there was a doctor doing an ultrasound on your chest. We got to watch that. It was very interesting. He was able to give us the good news that your PDA is so small that he called it insignificant.

Your nurse today was Molly. She was nice and attentive, but not very gentle.

Your dad laid his hand on your back for a long time. I think you enjoyed it. Your heart rate and O2 saturation stayed very regular. Your dad says he really enjoyed doing that, it made him very emotional. He can't wait to hold you for real.

September 7 ,1998

Dear Keith,

You had more visitors this weekend. On Saturday your Aunt Brenda and Uncle Carson came to see you. They are your dad's sister and her fiancé. On Sunday you met your great-aunt Patsy and second cousins Debbie and Mike. Patsy's son, Alan, really wanted to see you, too. But, he is too young to come into the NICU. He was a preemie, also.

You are still doing really great. Although, on Sunday you stopped breathing on your own. You were doing more of your own breathing today. You are having trouble balancing your fluids, too. You gained 5 oz. of fluid weight since yesterday. This is putting a strain on your heart, it is having to work a lot harder and your heart rate is in the 190s. You had another chest ultrasound and it showed that the PDA is open a little bit. This is also because of the fluid retention.

Both of your eyes are open now. You open them quite wide when the light is not too bright. When we got to the NICU today, you were fussing and frowning. I put my finger on your foot and said hello. You calmed right down and looked at me. I hope you know when I am there. I hope I am a comfort to you.

You had another transfusion today. Your PICC line is coming out so they will have to fix that. They first told us that a PICC line was useful because it could stay in place for about 30 days and they wouldn't have to be sticking you so much. The first one lasted 12 days and you've had three in the last week or so.

You have a sore on your side from tape adhesive. Yesterday, it looked like it would definitely leave a scar. Doug cleaned it today and it looks good. I don't think it will scar. If it does it will be very slight.

Everyone has been thrilled with the newsletter. I thought I would be sending the updates only to immediate family, but everyone wants one. Your grandparents have been sharing it with friends. Everyone is always amazed at how small you are. You'll show them and grow up to be a big boy.

I love you. The highlight of my day is my visit with you.

September 8, 1998

Dear Keith,

Dr. Geddy gave us a very good report today. He told us you had another head ultrasound yesterday. You have no blood on your brain but there was some slight swelling on one of the ventricles. This was probably because you were retaining fluids. Your lungs are doing good, not great, but good enough. The fluids also enlarged one side of your heart, but Dr. Geddy didn't seem concerned with this. He said the biggest concern right now is your bowels. In your x-rays, he can see a mass in your intestines. He thinks it's just hair. You just need to poop and they can start feeding you again. You are tolerating the IV nutrients very well and they are giving you enough that you should be able to grow now.

We asked him when we could start Kangaroo care. He said with preemies your size, he likes to wait until just before you would be taken off the ventilator. You will have gained some weight by then and your nervous system will be better able to tolerate all the stimulation. I figure that will be about two to three more weeks. I can't wait. I think it will do all three of us a lot of good.

September 10, 1998

Dear Keith,

You've been doing very well the last two days. But, you have been high maintenance. You've been keeping the nurses on their toes adjusting your oxygen levels. One minute your sats are really low and they turn up the oxygen. Then, five minutes later you are too high so they turn the O2 down. Up and down, up and down. Then, other times, your sats are too high and you are already on room oxygen and there is no where to go.

We asked Dr. Geddy when your eyes will be checked for ROP. He said they will do that when you are about 8 weeks old.

Your dad and I have been touching you a lot. Rubbing your head and holding your feet. This might have something to do with you being high maintenance. We might be over stimulating you.

You got a card from your great-aunt Kay and one from your second cousin Sherri. I am saving everything that you get so you can see it when you are older.

Well, I don't have much to write because you are doing so good. Nothing bad or exciting to report. I'm so grateful for this.

September 11, 1998

Dear Keith,

Boy, it was a madhouse in the NICU today. Four new babies! Only one of them is on a ventilator, but the other three are all crying. You were being disturbed by this. You did some of your own crying, silently, of course. If the babies are going to be there for awhile, I think they will put you in an isolette where it won't be so noisy.

You are still doing great. You are breathing very regular again.

September 14, 1998

Dear Keith,

The last few days have been pretty good. Your ventilator settings come down every day. The swelling in your belly is coming down. It is mostly swollen just on the left side now. You are getting antibiotics to help with that. You've gained 2 ounces. The doctor's think it is real weight because you are peeing enough.

This may just be a mother's wishful thinking, but when I got to the NICU today, I leaned over and said hello to you and then I touched your head and I swear you smiled. The corner of your mouth and the corner of your eye went up (the other side was hidden by the tape on the vent). You did it again a little later when I was talking to you. You stretched really big and then smiled.

We had a few scary episodes today. Three times your heart rate went below 100 and your O2 saturation went very low, once below 50 for over a minute. Dr. Jain was there and we told her this was the first time we had seen this happen to you. She was surprised. So, this must have happened before and if it was really serious they would have told us about it. I'll try not to worry.

Your dad and I bought you some science experiment books. We know we are getting ahead of ourselves, but I don't think this is any worse then people buying their baby sports equipment.

September 17, 1998

Dear Keith,

Two days ago, you had been given morphine for pain. This slowed down all your systems. Your vent settings were very high. You were not moving. The sore on your side looked very bad. It had opened and bled after you had been moved. It was very depressing.

It's hard for me to be in the NICU on days like these. I stay as long as I can because I believe you know when we are there and we are some comfort to you. But, still I feel helpless and useless. I am ashamed that I don't speak up for you. It was decided that you should have another transfusion, but everyone just kept talking about it and not doing anything. I know it was not a life threatening situation, but I can't stand it when a course of action is determined and not immediately acted on. Your dad did ask when you would get the blood. We were told it would be within a couple of hours.

Yesterday, a plastic surgeon came to see you and the sore on your side. He said to leave it alone and not put any more antibiotic cream on it. The sore has a big scab on it, but over all it looks better.

Diane, your nurse last night, told us they aren't going to give you morphine again. It just shut you down too much. There is another pain killer called Versed that doesn't affect you in a bad way.

Today, I had my follow-up appointment with Dr. Davidson. She says I'm fine. All my insides are back where they should be and are the right size.

We took pictures of you again today. I can't believe that four whole weeks have gone by! I hope the next 8 - 12 weeks goes as fast and as smoothly.

For the last week and a half, I've been trying to confirm that you were added to my insurance. It got a little messed up because the form that adds you on was sent with the premium payment. That is sent to the Southern California office and then they send the paperwork back up to the northern office. All of which takes processing and mail time. The 30-day deadline (a newborn infant is on his mother's insurance for 30 days) was approaching so two days ago I faxed the forms to the N. Cal office. And finally, today when I called, you were added on, with only one day to spare.

September 20, 1998

Dear Keith,


I baked a birthday cake. I won't say for you because it's not like you got to eat any of it. I also made you a shirt. Your dad and I put the shirt on you and took pictures. Someday, you can look at that shirt and say, "I can't believe I was ever that small." All of this was for us, of course. It was probably just more poking and prodding for you. Your dad got to pick you all the way up when we put the shirt on, while I slid it under you.

While we were watching you, I noticed a strange movement in your belly. It looked like a wave starting near your belly button and moving to the left. This happened several times. Then there was a different pattern. The only way I can describe it is 'bloop, bloop, bloop'. I think and hope this means your bowels are moving.

Your eyes are tracking a lot better. When you here a sound you look in the direction it came from. Sometimes, you look me in the eyes, but I don't know if you know I'm different from all the other visual input that you get.

A couple of days ago, Dr. Jain told us that we are good parents. She said most parents are extremists, either one way or the other. Either they don't visit and don't want to know anything or they are in the NICU all the time, want to know when every little change happens and boss around the nurses. She said we were good because we come enough to keep contact and we ask enough to keep informed and educate ourselves on the outside. I don't know if that makes me a good mom. I just know that I need/want to be with you at least once a day and I need/want to know enough about what is going on with you so I don't have to worry needlessly.

September 21, 1998

Dear Keith,

I started scanning the photos for the second newsletter tonight. While I was doing that I got to thinking about you. I don't think of you as a baby. You don't look like a typical baby. Because you have very little fat, your proportions look more like an adult. And you can't make any sounds, so I've never heard you cry like a baby does. I think my perception of you will really change once you get off the ventilator. By then you will have gained quite a bit of weight and you will be able to cry and gurgle and coo and sigh.

September 24, 1998

Dear Keith,

Yesterday Dr. Geddy asked us if we had seen any activity in your intestines. We told him what we had seen a few days ago. He said he had seen movement also and that was very good. Since there is movement now, they are definitely waiting for you to poop. Dr. Geddy is considering the possibility that you have a physical blockage that will require surgery. The section of blockage will be cut away and then your intestines will be reconnected. But, since you are stable and not in any danger, it is still just sit and wait.

Today, Dr. G told us that he is pretty sure that you will need the surgery. If you do, you will be sent to San Francisco. I asked him why you would be sent there instead of Sacramento. He said the doctors in S.F. are considered some of the best in the world. They even do surgery on fetuses. You will be flown down. I don't know how long you will be away or if we will be able to visit you there. I feel confident that you will be in good hands.

Your heart rate was very high this afternoon, but you were quite inactive. Your dad commented about this to Sandi (your nurse today). She said you might be too hot because they were using a new adhesive on your temperature sensor and it might not be registering properly. So she took your temp and it was too high. She made some adjustments and you were starting to cool down and liven up by the time we left. It's good that we come every day. I think we know you well enough that we notice when things are wrong sooner then someone who sees you only a couple of days a week.

Ed Note: Keith died two days later, we intend to write about it, just haven't yet.