Sunday, April 29, 2012


We're really starting to see some progress with Veronica's motor skills.  For a while I felt like the progress was slow; but not anymore.  She is rolling from back to tummy now and is reaching forward - almost as though she is trying to crawl.  A physical therapist came out a few weeks ago with our usual occupational therapist and both were impressed with what they saw.  The PT estimated that she may begin crawling in about two months or so.  Physical therapy will  be starting this week and she will have it twice a month.  The OT services have been discontinued for now but will be available if any issues come up in the future.  The wonderful thing about our county's early intervention program is that Veronica is automatically eligible for services until she is 3-years-old - whether she needs the services or not. 

We're so proud of her new skills! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Veronica! (Part 2)

For a while I had wondered how I would feel on Veronica's birthday.  I wondered if I would really want to celebrate one of the most difficult days of my life.  I was fairly certain it would be a hard day, but when the day finally arrived, all I wanted to do was celebrate.  Did I think about the trauma of that day one year earlier?  Of course.  Did I shed a few tears?  Sure.  But those moments were overshadowed by the realization of how far Veronica has come.  We feel so blessed that she is doing as well as she is.  And it has been wonderful to celebrate her progress this year as she has reached new milestones.  

On her birthday, it was important for me to return to the place where it all started.  I took Veronica back to the NICU for a quick visit.  I was so proud to be able to show her off and to report how well she is doing.  And it was great seeing some of the nurses - they will always have a special place in our hearts.  I wish I had taken more photos but for part of our visit, my camera was buried under about 40 boxes of Girl Scout cookies which were donated by Liesl's Girl Scout troop.  

At Veronica's doctor's appointment earlier in the day she weighed in at exactly 19 lbs - 15 times more than she weighed on the day she was born!  Wow, what a year!  

Beverly, Vivan and Cynthia - three of our favorite NICU nurses.

Out to dinner.

Opening presents.

We surprised our older children with a Wii but
Veronica seemed pretty happy about it as well.

With big brother, Linus.

With Applejack. (We have quite the assortment
of My Little Ponies in our house.)

A little tired from all of the celebrating.

Getting ready for cake.

Happy Birthday!

Notice there are only 5.  Poor Josephine fell asleep in the car ride
home from dinner and missed presents and cake.

Looks interesting....


This feels awesome!

Playing with her new bath toys.

All clean.

Ready for bed.

If you took the time to look through all of the photos above, you may (or may not!) be interested in seeing a cute video that Liesl took while Veronica was eating her birthday cake  - she actually waved!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Veronica!

Veronica is off to the doctor today for her 1st year physical and then we're heading back to the NICU for a visit.  Here are some cute pictures to start your day.

Happy Birthday, Veronica! We can't believe it's been a year.  We have been so blessed to have you in our lives.

And one from April 18, 2011.....1 lb, 4 oz.

Veronica's Birth - April 18, 2011

In the middle of the night of April 18, 2011, while still on hospital bed rest, I went to the bathroom and felt something unusual when I wiped.  I immediately thought that it was a prolapsed cord.  The doctors told me I was at higher risk for a cord prolapse since there was very little amniotic fluid left.  I called the nurse and within seconds a nurse and two doctors were in my room.   Jenny, my nurse, immediately put the fetal monitor to my belly.  The baby's heart rate was stable which of course was  a huge relief but when they checked me, instead of finding a prolapsed cord they found Veronica’s foot.   The attending physician was called and there was mention of needing to do an immediate c-section but ultimately they decided there wasn't enough time.  I called Andrew at home and told him that the baby was coming.   Fortunately, my father had arrived to our home just hours earlier so Andrew was able to leave rather quickly without having to worry about our other five children.  After my call to Andrew, I was wheeled to labor and delivery and hooked up to an IV within seconds.  There were several nurses in the room, a medical student, a resident, the chief resident and the attending OB/GYN.  Two doctors and two nurses from the NICU were there as well.   Just minutes later, after three pushes, Veronica was born at 1:55am.  I was told that she cried, but I don’t remember hearing it.  Initially I didn’t see her as she was whisked half way across the room so the NICU staff could stabilize her.  I remember asking the OB staff if she was a boy or a girl, but I was told that I needed to wait.  It was as if they didn’t know.  I don’t know how long I waited before they let me see her.  The OB doctors asked that the NICU staff bring her over to me before they took her away.  I can barely remember what I saw.   Clearly she was small, like no baby I had ever seen.  Moments later she was gone and our 119 day NICU Journey had just begun.....    

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bed Rest - April 17, 2011

One year ago today, I was on my sixth day of hospital bed rest.  I was actually feeling rather well and fairly confident that we had at least a few more days, if not weeks, before the baby would be born.  As much as I would have preferred to be at home, living my life, I knew that wasn't an option.  I had accepted the fact that there was no alternative and tried to make the best of it.  I'll even admit, there were a few moments when I actually enjoyed the quiet - I could read, use the computer, watch a movie - without any interruptions. With five kids at home, it was nearly impossible to do anything uninterrupted. 

The narrative below is from an email I sent to our family members that morning giving them an update.  I had no idea Veronica would be born less than 20 hours later.

Hello all,

Just wanted to give an update on where we stand.  I'm still at the hospital but I feel remarkably well, minus the usual pregnancy complaints.  My vital signs are monitored every few hours and the baby's heart rate is monitored twice a day.  I've been on antibiotics since I got here as presumably the cause of all of this was some sort of infection in my uterus.  And since my water has broken, we're at much higher risk for infection. 

We're basically in a situation where we are just watching, waiting and praying.  As soon as it appears that I am in labor or an infection is brewing, the plan will be for the baby to be delivered, most likely via c-section.  I am currently 24 weeks and 3 days.  The next milestone we are aiming for is 28 weeks (May 12) and then 32 weeks (June 9).  My doctor said that if I happen to make it to 34 weeks, which would be miraculous, they would have to deliver at that time, since the risks for keeping the baby in would outweigh the risks of delivering 6 weeks early.  So given our current situation, the ideal is that we have the baby in June.

Once the baby is born, he/she will be immediately taken to the NICU where he will stay until he can breath well, maintain his heartbeat without oxygen, maintain a normal temperature and feed well by mouth.  We are expecting that this will be until baby is considered term, which would be in early August - so there will be a lot going back and forth to and from the hospital.  The NICU staff have been checking in with us and I took a brief tour of the NICU yesterday.  This is all obviously unfamiliar territory but I am confident that this baby will receive the highest level of care. 

Andrew has been amazing holding down the fort at home.  The offers of support have been unending and will certainly assist us in the months ahead.   The kids have been troopers as well.  I'm hanging in there and keeping myself occupied with my laptop, books, movies, etc.  Andrew brought the kids in on Thursday and will be bringing them again today.  The visits are short given our space constraints but they certainly brighten my day.

Thanks for all of the prayers and support!


Sadly, I think these are my only photos of me pregnant with Veronica.

Here I am reading one of the many dozen cards I received  from the students of St. Patrick's.   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Preterm Labor - April 12, 2011

One year ago today was when it all started.  On April 12, 2011, I was admitted to the George Washington University Hospital in preterm labor.  My membranes had ruptured prematurely (PRROM), I was contracting and was already several centimeters dilated.  I was only 23 weeks pregnant at the time.   That day was one of the scariest days of my life.  The night before while I was working my usual shift (3:00pm - 1:30am), I wasn’t feeling well.  One minute I was a sweating, the next minute I was freezing.  I had one of the nurses at my office check my temperature but it was normal.  I just didn't feel right and I couldn't really figure out what was going on.  I called a 24 hour obstetrics line through my health insurance company and spoke with a nurse.  She told me to drink fluids and get lots of rest.  The nurse suggested that I might be coming down with something.  But something to me just didn’t seem right.
I went to bed that night around 2:00am, completely exhausted and still not feeling quite right.  Two hours later, I woke up when I felt something leaking.  I was so tired at that point that it didn’t really occur to me that it was amniotic fluid.  I changed my clothes and immediately went back to bed.  I woke up again around 6:00am, feeling even worse.  I took my temperature and found that it was over 100 degrees.  Shortly after that, I began having contractions.  I finally called my OB’s office but it took about 20 – 30 minutes for a call back.  When I described what was happening, I was told that I should come in to the hospital.  In the meantime, Andrew was getting ready to leave for work with our two oldest children.  I called our good friend Maria who graciously agreed to come to our house to watch our three youngest. 
When Maria arrived, I began my trip into DC to the hospital.  It was pouring rain and the middle of rush hour - a very bad combination in the DC Metropolitan area.  Normally the drive to the hospital would take about 30 minutes, but on this day it took twice as long.  During the drive, my contractions became stronger and more frequent.  And the majority of the drive was on a road with no shoulder.   So there I was, driving my car in bumper to bumper traffic, in labor and virtually no place to pull over.  It was horrible and terribly frightening.  I contemplated calling 911 but then I thought to myself, I'm having contractions but I'm not having the baby, not today.  After all, I was only 23 weeks pregnant.   
When I arrived at the hospital, I got out of the car and handed my car keys to the valet attendant.  A moment after that, there was a gush of fluid and I knew immediately that my water had broken.   As I walked into the hospital, crying and scared, a security guard smiled at me and excitedly said “It’s time? Go right on up!”   I remember sobbing on the elevator which was full of people and a woman patting me on the back and asking if I was okay.     
When I arrived to the labor and delivery section of the hospital, I called Andrew in tears to tell him my water had broken and then was immediately taken to a delivery room.  I asked the nurse what would happen next since my water had broken, she replied by telling me that I would have to let the doctors answer that question.  Minutes later a doctor came in and I had an ultrasound which confirmed that there was very little amniotic fluid left.  I was hooked up to an IV and eventually given medication to stop the contractions.  I was also given a steroid shot to help mature the baby’s lungs.   The OB told me that a neonatologist would come and talk to me about delivering a baby at 23 weeks.  When the nurse heard this, she suggested to me that I really listen to what the doctor said so that I would know what our options were.  I replied by telling her that I am Catholic and that we didn’t have any options.  She clarified and said we might just want to let nature take its course and hold our baby instead of utilizing medical intervention.   An anesthesiologist came and spoke with me in the event that delivery was imminent and I signed the consent form for a c-section.  Andrew arrived at some point during this time.   When we spoke with the NICU fellow, she gave us the statistics and the possible outcomes for a 23 weeker.  The outcomes were grim, as 24 weeks is usually considered the age of viability.  I remember hearing that if our baby lived, he/she could be blind, deaf, have cerebral palsy or other significant impairments.  The doctor said that at some point we would need to make a decision about whether or not we would want them to resuscitate our baby.   We were told that if the baby weighed more than 500 grams, his or her chances of survival would be much higher.  We had an ultrasound where they estimated the baby to weigh just over 500 grams.  For us, there was never a question.  If Veronica had been born that day, she would have been resuscitated.  But who knows what her outcome would have been.

 I spent the night in labor and delivery but was moved to an ante-partum room the following day.  At that point, we no longer felt that the birth was imminent.  It was time to start the waiting game.    Our initial goal was to make it to 24 weeks, which at that point, was only two days away.  After that, we would aim for 28 weeks and then 32.  We knew that every day, every extra hour was a blessing.   I started doing some research on micro preemies.   But I am not sure I could have fully prepared myself for what lay ahead. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter 2012

Easter was the first day we went to Sunday Mass together as a family - all eight of us.  It was so nice to finally be able to do this, and without much worry since we are at the end of RSV season.  When we were there, I couldn't help but reflect on how far we had come since last Easter.  Last Easter Sunday, Veronica was on her 6th day of life.  She had developed an infection which prompted the doctor to contact us in the middle of the night.  It was a difficult day to say the lease and I really had no interest in celebrating.  Looking back now, I think how very blessed we are that she survived, knowing that it all could have turned out so differently.  So this Easter felt even more special in a way.  It was a wonderful celebration.  Happy Easter!!  

Confession - this photo was taken a few weeks before Easter but it was so cute, I had to post!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

We Have a Roller!

Veronica is finally rolling on a more consistent basis now.  She's been doing so for a little while now but I just haven't taken the time to update the blog.  And I could never see, to get it on video.  The funny thing is, after all of these months of trying to get her to roll, now that she actually does it, she makes it look so easy.  Next we need her to roll from her back to her belly.  The occupational therapist still comes once a month but this month she will bring along a physical therapist to assess how Veronica is doing from a PT's standpoint. 

In other Veronica news, she has been dealing with a horrible cough and significant congestion for the last week and a half.  I took her to the doctor last week where she was swabbed for RSV, which thankfully  turned out to be negative.  We were given another prescription for albuterol (which she was given in the fall when she had bronchiolitis) along with pulmicort which is a steroid that is supposed to decrease inflammation in the lungs.  Since then we have been giving her nebulizer treatments around the clock.  Needless to say, our sleep has been quite disrupted.  Hopefully we are nearing the end.  It hasn't been fun for any of us.  Veronica has been a champ though and has maintained her happy disposition. 

By the way, at her doctor's visit last week she weighed in at 18 lbs, 10 oz.  19 lbs, here we come!