Friday, August 31, 2012

Life As We Know It

It's been hectic lately, so I apologize for the delayed updates!  I'll be making up for it now though :)  Here are a few of my "this is my life now" moments...
  • Doctor calls about Leah and while talking to him 3 babies are crying in the background and Maggie is vomiting on the carpet
  • Someone else calls from the hospital and Caroline is crying in the background.  Lady says she'll let me go because she can hear all of them crying.  I say "Oh, that's just one"
  • If I had a nickel every time someone told me "Bless your heart" we'd have the babies' college covered!
  • Playing our new favorite game: 'Guess Which One is Crying'- bonus points if more than one is crying and you can distinguish between them.  I must say I'm pretty good at this one!  Of course, I am here all the time.  Several volunteers have really got it down too.
  • People's reactions to us during our morning walks: driving slowly and staring, full on stopping in the middle of the street to stare, pointing while driving by, stopping to ask questions and make comments.  Some examples: "Whoa triplets", "Bless your heart", "How many babies you got?", "Are you the lady with the 6 babies?", "Need a nanny?  I'm available this Sunday."  And of course there are the "Congratulations" and "aw what cute babies".  And, no, I did not take the random lady up on her nanny offer.  
And now to answer some FAQ's...

How did you assign names to babies (apparently I never blogged this before- opps!)?

We did it based on birth weight: Big Benjamin, Average Andrew, Little Levi, Colossal Caroline, Average Allison, and Little Leah

What vehicle will you use?  When will you get it?

We've ordered a Nissan NV 12 passenger van.  It arrived on time earlier this month, but they sold it to someone else.  So, we are waiting until mid- September for our re-ordered van.  In the mean time I do have a large SUV loaner.  Our stroller will fit on the back of the van on a hitch- kinda like a bike rack.

How much sleep do you get?

Not much!  I typically get 3-4 hours of sleep a night.  I get slightly more if the babies are being sweet little angels or a fantastic friend stays the night to help.  Dave helps on weekend nights- I let him sleep during the week since he needs to be coherent at work, but he does get up for the 2am feeding.  Although he has "accidentally" slept through it several times :)  We do have regularly scheduled overnight helpers 4 nights a week!  A couple others who do so randomly.

How many volunteers do you have and what do they do?

Everyday is different.  Some days I have a ton of help and other days require more multitasking :) I decided to do our volunteer calendar as open signup.  I was worried if I did set specific shifts people wouldn't sign up if they could only come for an hour or two, and I'll take any help during feeding hours!  So everyday has 6 slots to fill and people sign up and say what time(s) they'll be here.  Some come all day, some stay overnight, some come just for a feeding, some a few hours- so far it's working out.  As for what they do- all kinds of things!! Mostly feeding and entertaining babies.  During nap times someone's always on 'pacifier duty'.  Overnight volunteers take one or both of the night shifts.  We all help with the feedings, but shift work requires responding to crying babies.  It is so nice to get a break from that!  House cleaning, laundry, errands, and yard work are also involved as needed.  I have people who clean, do yard maintenance, and baby laundry on a regular basis which is the best!!  I have a white board as you walk in with lists of Things To Do and Things To Buy that people can check out without me having to remember what to delegate.   I also have a meal sign up 3 days a week.  People have been very generous with the food; we've gotten so much I'm able to feed the volunteers who are here at meal times as well.  

What does a typical day look like?

I like to think it's not as chaotic as people expect.  It is very structured and organized, but can be crazy when all are crying (or 'the chorus' as we call it)- especially right before feedings.  The babies are on 4 hour feedings- 6, 10, 2.  We've been implementing the eat, play, sleep thing for awhile now and some days are better than others.  The babies really do take turns on who has a fussy day and who sleeps well.  For a typical schedule... we do 6am feeding, get babies dressed for the day, and I eat breakfast.  Then I load up the stroller and take babies and Maggie for a walk for about an hour.  They're pretty sweaty from the stroller after the walk, so we do tummy time to air out their backs and work on their back and neck muscles.  The 10am feeding quickly approaches and is usually when my first volunteers show up.  We feed then 'play' until they start looking sleepy and we put them in their cribs for midday nap.  During this nap time we eat lunch and I usually shower and take a short nap or get other tasks done- unless the babies are cranky!  Repeat for 2pm feeding.  The babies are always fussy between 4:30-6pm.  We do baths every other night and start these at 5:30.  If we're not bathing, we still get them ready for bed before 6pm.  We feed at 6 then put them down for bed when they start fading.  Once they're down it's bottle making time!  We make all the bottles at once for the next 24 hours.  This is usually all done between 7:30-8pm.  The babies sleep really well between 8-10, so after bottles we eat dinner and do whatever we want until 10pm.  After 10pm and 2am feedings we hope they sleep well until the next feeding so we can sleep!

How is Maggie with the babies?

She does very well with them!  Her barking does not wake them up.  The main problem is that she licks them too much and we have to push her away.  She actually walks better with the stroller than just her on her own.  When one is crying she does go up to them and lick them- so sweet!  She gets plenty of attention herself too; she has learned to bark at volunteers to get extra treats.

Other random notes:

My rules...  only change diapers at feeding times unless it's poopy or they've peed through it and are completely soaked and no rocking babies to sleep and wash hands all the time.

The babies are so cute in the morning- they are happy and smiling and ready for the day!

The number of babies fed per person varies on how many people are there- if just 2 of us then 1 feeds 3 and 1 feeds 2.  I've gotten many volunteers comfortable feeding 2 babies, but only Dave and I feed 3 at once.  There are several techniques for feeding 2 at once: both in boppies, one in a boppy one in a lap, both in lap, or using bouncy seat instead of boppy.

Once Allison came home we started using the crockpot to warm bottles.  We turn it on low about 45 min before a feed, put all the bottles in 10 min before and they're all done at once- it's great!  We do leave it on all night long because remembering to turn it on at 1am- I don't think so.

I have officially started to wean from pumping.  The hospital told me to stop bringing breast milk because they had too much and I'm out of storage room at home, so after 4 months it's being shut down.  Sure is easier to feed babies without pumping at the same time.

I have the BEST friends, family, and volunteers anyone could ask for.  I am so blessed and I know it!  Everyday I thank God for my babies and all the people He's put in my life who make the day by day possible.  I don't expect anyone to help us and it amazes me that our volunteers give up their free time to come 'play baby'.

Feeding Caroline while burping Levi

Pumping while feeding Allison and Levi

Going for a walk

The 6 (minus 1)

4 month stats

I thought this time around I'd break it up by baby.  Let's go in birth order...

Andrew Noah

Also known as "Charm" and "Andy Man".  He is such a flirt with his smiles, coos, and sideways glances.  He was also the first to bust out the Perkins Pout; I was not ready for that one this early.  Andrew has no patience; he goes from calm and happy to kicking and screaming within seconds.  He will stay quite content just by looking around which is nice.  He's the easiest one to burp and definitely sucks down his bottle.  He loves being benchpressed too.  Andrew's 4 month height and weight were 23 in (2nd %ile) and 12 lb 2.5 oz (6th %ile).

Benjamin Luke

Also known as "Ben", "Cheeks", "Big Poppa", and "Benny Boo".  He's my chubster weighing in at 12 lb 6.5 oz (8th %ile) and 21 in (0 %ile).  He probably gets the most comments on being cute, but I think it's because people can't resist a baby with chubby cheeks.  He also smiles and coos a ton and has one dimple.  He stays the most content with looking around and is starting to grab at dangling objects on the play mats.  He hates tummy time and fusses the entire time; due to this, he is the worst at lifting his head and pre-crawling motions.  The back of his head is also kinda flat.  He's a good eater and races Andrew at every feeding.  

Caroline Grace

Also known as "Gassy Girl" and I do sing Sweet Caroline to her and call her Princess Caroline sometimes.  Dave calls her his 'nemesis'.  She was my long lean girl, but has grown a big belly in the last couple weeks.  She's at 10lb 12 oz (3.8%ile) and 21 in (0%ile).  She is still dainty, but can toot and burp like a man.  She smiles and coos, but on her own terms.  She likes being on her belly and is the best at supported sitting.  She has some strong lungs too.  She almost always stops crying once she gets some attention.  Caroline hangs with the big boys on the eating front too.

Leah Michelle

Also known as "Leah Peah".  These days Dave sees Leah after work and I go on the weekends.  She was moved to the Level 2 NICU a couple weeks ago which means she's stable.  We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on her though.  She is officially on full breast milk and bolus feedings.  She even got her first bottle today and took a full ounce.  Now she just has to keep it up so she can come home!  She weighs 7 lb 5.5 oz and I'm not sure on her height.  She loves her swing and her pacifier and being held.  She isn't smiling or cooing, but has started to make some eye contact.  

Allison Kate

Also known as "Alli", "Allikins", "Alli Kate", and "Miss Priss."  She still needs her formula mixed separately for higher calories.  She's weighing in at 8lb 4oz (0 %ile) and 20 in (0%ile).  Her eating has improved dramatically, but she still isn't as quick as her siblings or eating as much.  This girl can smile though!  She dishes out some big ones and looks like she has something to say.  She's a mover too; always scooting around, popping up on her side, and kicking herself over the boppy pillow.  She likes the bouncy seat the most and her tummy time.  She has started physical therapy with ECI.

Levi Thomas

Also known as "Little Man" and "Chico".  He's still my tiny baby even though he's made some major growing gains.  He's at 7 lb 4.5 oz (0%ile) and 19 in (0%ile).  He actually has a little fat on his body now!  He finally got on reflux medicine which has made a world of difference with his eating and sleeping.  I think he'll gain weight faster now.  He is so alert and makes more facial expressions than all the others combined.  He is very serious, always furrowing his brow.  He fights his sleep like no other; I think it's because he doesn't want to miss anything.  Levi also scoots a lot and moves a lot like Allison.    He loves motion and being held;  I think he's already spoiled.  Levi also gets physical therapy with ECI.

I honestly can't believe they're 4 months old already!  They amaze me and I thank God everyday for my little miracles.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Allison is home

Last Thursday our little finicky eater graduated from the NICU!  I had to put my foot down with the doctors who wanted to move her to another building with new nurses (she didn't eat for new people and I was concerned she'd stay in the NICU longer in a new place), and it paid off.  She has proven to have the most diva potential thus far; she is the pokiest eater and feeding her is as much work as feeding two at once.  With her eating issues, her weight gain has been slower than the doctors would like, so I also have to mix her formula separately so it has more calories in it- like I said, diva potential.  She did well at her discharge check up with the pediatrician.  She weighs 7 lbs 5.5 oz and is in newborn size clothes and diapers.  Still has red hair too :)

Allison ready to go! 
Once Allison came home, Leah was moved to the main NICU of TCH where she can easily been seen by the specialists she needs.  It is very different than the Pavilion- dark, crowded, no privacy; we're still getting used to it.  She has made good progress this first week of August.  She has doubled her amount of breast milk and has started being introduced to a bottle.  She still has quite a ways to go, but at least we're moving forward.  She is just over 6lbs and borderline between preemie and newborn sizes.  I hate that she's in the hospital all alone and I don't get to visit her often, but that's how it goes with sextuplets.  Levi finally reached 6 lbs!  Such a little guy.  He will be having surgery on his hernias in a couple months; it was fun going to his doctor appointment with just one baby and no one paying attention to us.  My favorite was the nurse's face when she asked "How many siblings does he have?"  "Five."

Leah enjoying her music
The other 3 are doing well.  Their current weights are: Andrew = 10 lb 10 oz, Benjamin = 10 lbs 5 oz, and Caroline = 9 lb 2 oz.  They are becoming more fun to play with as they look at you and objects and I believe I've gotten a few real smiles!

Before my parents left we started "schedule bootcamp"  where we changed their eating times and began training the babies to be on the 'eat, play, sleep' cycle.  The first few days were rough, but it has slowly gotten better.  The nights have been much more peaceful; they still have their moments of course, but go down easier and stay asleep longer.  We're still eating every 4 hours because Levi and Allison can't go any longer than that, but we stimulate them as little as possible at 10pm and 2am.  All the babies have been enjoying our morning walks- I take the 6 seater stroller and Maggie around the neighborhood.  We do get some double takes!

Another schedule we've been working on is the volunteer calendar.  I'll admit I was anxious about enough people signing up, or coming once and never returning.  I can't believe how our friends, family, and neighbors have stepped up!  It's only been a couple weeks, but we've had plenty of help (and food!) and I've been able to catch up with some old friends and make some new friends too.  Saying thank you does not do these people justice- especially the ones who come everyday and even spend the night!
Rainbow of bottles- a volunteer helps me make these every evening
Many people I know were convinced that once I mailed into formula and diaper companies that they would come to our rescue- no such luck.  I'm getting the same deals people with twins get: Similac is sending 18 cases of free formula (should last us a month since Allison and Leah won't be using it) and Pampers sent some coupons and half were for a $1 or 2 off = lame.  There were some coupons for free diapers, so it was worth the stamp.
The 5 (starting with P1 and going clockwise: Ben, Caroline, Andrew, Allison, Levi w/puppy)