Saturday, October 30, 2004

Mommy & Me Time

I'm still getting the hang of this whole motherhood thing and I'm sure it's going to take a long, long time but I've already learned one thing for certain: Nothing compares to holding your baby.

On Thursday, I got to hold Will "skin to skin" as they call it in preemie circles. Apparently, research shows that holding a premature baby directly to your chest helps him breathe better and lowers his heart rate. And get this: a mom's breasts also help regulate the baby's body temperature so he's not too hot or too cold. Aside from producing milk (which the nurses call "white gold" for preemies), who knew breasts were so powerful?

Will and I spent a good hour just cuddling together on Thursday. It was the first time I got to rest my hand against his back and rub my chin against his tiny, fuzzy head for any significant period of time. And it was incredible. I sang him songs (Madonna circa 1980s and songs from my sixth grade choir classes. Sorry, Will) and told him about how one day we'd carve pumpkins together, blow bubbles, and eat tacos. He snoozed the entire time (and tooted once) and I almost drifted off with him. It was amazing.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Baby's Got Back

Among his many attributes, Will has a fine tush. Normally, we hate it when parents yammer on and on about their children's behinds. It seems a tad unseemly.

But it's tough with our little supermodel. Seriously: Just look at that butt and tell us you don't want to wax poetic or compose a symphony in its honor.

Will had a good day today. His mother will update the blog later about their special afternoon.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

One step back

We knew there'd be days like this.

After all the excitement of the Red Sox victory, Will had a crummy day Thursday. He's back on the ventilator, where he'll remain for a week or two.

He'd done well during his day and a half on the C-PAP (the tubes in his nose), but eventually he had to work too hard and gave up. The doctors think the issue isn't necessarily his lungs, but secretions that build up in his throat and block air flow.

It's the second time in a week Will has gone off the ventilator, onto the C-PAP and back again. It's a not uncommon cycle among preemies, but still a slight cause for concern.

While disappointing, the episode conforms to the two-steps forward, one back pattern we're learning so well. Yesterday afternoon, Will looked great. He had some color (unlike his parents.) He was breathing easy. He'd gained a few ounces (also like his parents), and we caught ourselves daydreaming about a time he could come home.

When we returned that night in our fruitless quest to hear the Sox final out, Will seemed to labor a bit more. By the time we saw him early Thursday afternoon, he was practically translucent (like his Dad) and clearly uncomfortable.

Nobody wants to walk into their son's room and see a gaggle of nurses and doctors adjusting tubes and trying to appear calm while they're scurrying around a portable X-Ray machine, but this is probably the best for Will now.

It's still OK to daydream. The new plan is to try to plump him up with increased feedings and hope the third time's a charm. There's not much else we can do.

Other news on the little guy front: His platelet count, which was such an issue last week, is increasing on its own and doctors think it may have worked itself out. His skeleton X-rays show no abnormalities, other tests have come back fine, and Dr. Batton's hunch is we probably won't know for a few years what -- if anything -- is wrong with him.

For that, we're happy. Except for his breathing, things seem to still be pointing in the right direction, however fuzzily it may appear sometime.

We knew this would be a long process with lots of detours and setbacks, and we knew patience would be tantamount. But it's true what they say. No matter how much you try, no one can really prepare for any of this stuff.

If you can, keep the tiny dude in your hearts today.

Semi-Sweet Victory

As she so often does, Maureen said it best: "I feel like we're in one of those bank robbery movies when everything goes wrong."

Like those caper flicks, we'd thought of everything.

We received clearance from Beaumont doctors to bring in a radio so Will could hear the final out of the Sox's World Series victory, something Joel has waited 34 years to hear. We left St. Clair Shores in the fifth inning and arrived at Beaumont by the seventh. We had a fancy bottle of champagne hidden in our backpack. We had fresh batteries for the radio.

We had everything, except a radio signal.

We watched a few innings in the family waiting room. Not smart. By 10:30 p.m., the tears in hospital waiting rooms aren't usually for millionaires trying to reverse a make-believe curse.

By 11, we were in Will's room with the radio. By 11:10, we realized we'd be lucky to pick up a weather signal, much less a baseball game. By 11:15, we were trying to find a security guard to buzz us out of the NeoNatal Intensive Care to watch the final inning of the World Series. By 11:30, we were back in the waiting room. We'd missed the entire inning, and walked in just as the Sox were celebrating.

We settled for a whispered kiss and message to Will that we were together when miracles happened, faith perservered and long-shots became sure things.

We know the folly of pinning life-and-death hopes to entertaining distractions, but we're happy that we can tell Will in 10 years or so we were together when the Sox won the World Series, even if -- like so much in life -- things hardly worked out as planned.

And lately, we've felt so much better about making long-range plans.

Will is doing well. He's up to 2 pounds, 12 ounces, back on the C-PAP breathing tube through his nose, and seems to have really taken to his feedings. A full skeletal X-ray this week revealed no abnormalities.

We pulled into the driveway about 12:10 and popped the champagne by 12:12. Maureen was in rare form.

"I have a son and the Red Sox won the World Series. Who's life am I leading?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

It's almost party time

Get your sleep now, Will

For Wednesday, we'll be hoot-hoot-hollering it up at the Neo-Natal ICU. You'll sip mother's milk. Your mother and I will uncork champagne that we've saved for a year. The nurses will shush us. Your neighbors will cry. But we won't care. Together, we'll toast your remarkable life and the Sox victory in the World Series.

Maybe this is all making sense now. Maybe you just really wanted to see a Sox victory in your lifetime.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Feeding has commenced

Good news.

After a surplus of mother's milk banned us from the hospital deep-freeze and forced a frenzied rearranging of frozen dinners and peas in our freezer to accommodate mini bottles, Will began feeding on Monday.

A tube takes the milk into his stomach. It's an encouraging sign, but one we're careful not to get too excited about. Preemies have underdeveloped stomachs, so it's not unusual for them to go on and off feeding tubes repeatedly before getting it right.

Going on and off respirators also isn't uncommon. After breathing through tubes in his nose for a few days last week, Will went back on a respirator Thursday. He's responded well. The oxygen they're pumping into him is basically the same stuff we breathe, not the inflated levels he was receiving last week. Doctors are planning on returning him to nose tubes (C-PAP) tomorrow morning.

Bottom line: Will is heading in the right direction.

Now, onto the really important news: Kindly Dr. Daniel Batton, the head of neonatology, has heard Joel's pleas and allowed us to bring in a small radio or battery-operated TV so Will can hear the final out when the Red Sox win the World Series.

We know the risks of flouting fate by making such arrangements, but we're that confident (foolhardy?)

Nursery rhymes

Maybe it's all the talk of curds and whey, songs of sixpence or farmers in the dell, but the thought occurred to me while reading Mother Goose to Will: This stuff doesn't make much sense.

Oh sure. The sing-songy rhythms are soothing. Some punchlines are funny, like George Porgie running from the boys or the maid in the meadow telling the flirtatious traveler to take a hike. But a lot of them are as relevant as reading random telephone numbers.

So we're writing our own. Here's a link to one I wrote that my brother, Steve, illustrated.


Here's another one we're working on:
The Greedy Milkman
There once was a greedy milkman
Whose wife needed a face lift
Her morning eyes stayed awake all day
If you catch my subtle drift

And so the greedy milkman
Hatched a sinister scheme
He doubled the price of cheese
And quadrupled it for cream

Such inflated prices
For stuff like bagels and lox
Gave his wife cheek tucks
And weekly shots of Botox

But nothing lasts forever
And soon clients got the hint
Now the milkman’s customers
Are all lactose intolerant

Poor greedy milkman
The Botox is all gone
And now your wife’s face sags
Worse than Michael Jackson

Monday, October 25, 2004

Meet the Kurth family. Posted by Hello

Daily updates

Want to eradicate cliches from your vocabulary? Don't have a sick child in ICU. Because all of a sudden, a whole lot seem to apply.

Will's progress is a marathon, not a sprint. We're taking one day at a time. Success is measured in weeks and months, not days and minutes. Things are out of our hands. Will's a little fighter. Good things always come in small packages. All cats are gray in the dark (except Jack.)

Ten days after his tumultuous birth, Will is doing fine, his parents are a little less shell-shocked and the numbing reality that this is going to be a long process is setting in.

Some days are good. Some days are so-so. Most days, nothing much changes. Will's oxygen levels may go up or down, so too his carbon dioxide or his platelettes. Tests show he has a complete set of chromosones, but may still have a genetic condion that may not reveal itself until he grows older.

On the whole, Will has much in common with Boca Raton retirees: What he wants most in life is to lie around, puff on his oxygen straw and be left alone. Rumor has it he also likes good deals on breakfast buffets. Like the Bermuda shorts set, Will comes about it honestly: He wouldn't be doing a lot of goo-goo ga'ing right now if he was still in the womb.

That's what we have to remember. For all the worries, long hours, lousy hospital food and sheer panic whenever the phone rings after 9 PM, we're thankful for a gift few others have: Bonus time with our son. It's amazing how therapeutic a simple hand on his tiny back can be or how easy it is to spend an hour in amazement watching a tiny chest breathe softly.

We're also thankful for everyone's support and interest. We'll try to post updates, anecdotes, observations, nursery rhymes and other silliness regularly in this space.

The book is "Momma, Do You Love Me?" The answer: But of course. Posted by Hello

Maureen holds Will for the first time. Few things in life can compare. Posted by Hello

Link for photos

We'll try to save some storage space by keeping most photos at Ofoto.com


Sign in using my ID, jtkurth@msn.com
The password is lazyboy

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Unleashed upon the world


Life is sometimes funny. One minute, you're arguing about lunch. The next, you're in an operating room undergoing what surgeons euphemistically call "Not an Emergency C-Section, but one we better do pretty quick."

So it is that we unleash upon the world Will Henry Kurth, a 2 pound, 6 ounce, 14-inch dynamo of spunk that's already made his parents proud, humbled and terrified.

He was born at 12:05 PM Friday, October 15, about 24 hours after a routine ultrasound at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak turned into every parents' nightmare. Technicians alleviated our worries and found no signs of placenta previa (a condition when the placenta blocks the cervix), but instead discovered that our son was dangerously small. At 32 weeks, Will is about the size of a 28-week old.

There was some hope the C-section could be delayed by a few weeks or even days, but overnight tests showed Will's heartbeat plummeting severely.

Sign #1 that you're not leaving for lunch anytime soon: The head of High-Risk Obstetrics hands you a business card, pulls a curtain and begins drawing diagrams.

Sign #2: A nurse throws Joel hospital scrubs and says there's no guarantee there'll be a C-Section soon, but he might want to put them on just in case.

We'd planned on naming our firstborn Henry, but opted for Will because we think he has -- and needs -- a strong one. We're not exaggerating or being melodramatic by saying the next few days were some of the most harrowing of our life. At one point, a nurse told us to "brace ourselves" for his death.

Will is doing better, but could remain in Intensive Care for a few months. Doctors don't know why he's so small, but fear he may have a genetic condition that could make his life challenging. Or maybe not. He could be fine and perfectly proportioned, as at least half premature babies are. Many tests are in our future, but so far, easy answers are elusive. We may just have to wait to see how he develops.

But those are future worries. Today, Maureen and I got to hold our son for the first time, listen to him whimper and see him turn bright red with rage like his mother. We've already fallen deeply in love and are so proud of our son that it sometimes hurts. He has beautiful strawberry blond hair, long eyelashes and a chest like Michael Phelps. So far, his hobbies are sleeping, kicking and opening one eye for a moment, then shutting it.

We're sure there are many more sleepless nights, tears, triumphs and setbacks ahead, but we're trying to handle them with humor, love and -- this is a new one for us -- patience.

Many of you already know about Will's arrival, and we thank you for your support, thoughts and prayers. We are lucky to have you as friends, and him as a son.