Tuesday, May 29, 2012

may 29th- three weeks old

Sweet Sweet Valentina update: So after our epic weight gain (which ultimately was a fluke) we lost about 60 grams... BUT! This is totally fine, as the 101 gram weight gain was as I expected... not a complete fluke, but was the result of slowly gaining weight for 2 days, the nurse weighing Vivi late in the day, and literally being full of milk... she takes about 100 ml of milk everyday, and I was present during the diaper change.... it was empty.... So while I'd like to believe my breast milk is the super-juice of all super-juices and makes preemie babies grow 100 grams a day, the reality is that it's just the normal super-juice of mama's milk... heh heh.... 

So where we are today: Today Valentina is 853 grams (1.88 lbs) which is awesome.... Slow & steady wins the race... She is finally off her antibiotics from her blood infection and skin infection, though she is still using the cream for her skin. I know I am probably repeating myself for the thousandth time, but supposedly both types of infections are normal for preemies in incubators. And while I start to panic at the thought of my precious little heart having "infections" I am reassured that everything is ok, and normal typical etc... So I am happy to report that the blood work is fine, the cream is working, and today, Vivi had a sonogram of her head... Her brain is developing perfectly, nothing to report, the doctors said everything looks just fine. The only thing that is causing Mama and Papa to panic a little bit is that her oxygen levels were up today... meaning she needed some extra help breathing today... My poor little baby... Yesterday when we were with Vivi, she slept SO WELL almost all day! She woke up several times, only to pick up her head, move around a bit, and then back to sleep... Oh she is so cute... The weight gain, as tiny as it may be in the grand scheme of the concept of "weight gain" makes a big difference on such a tiny little doll... And today she has a little bit of that "under chin" ... certainly not a double chin, but there is now a little bit of meat under there.... and her cheeks are filling out... Oh so sweet.... OK... Enough gushing... I will post photos tomorrow.... Victor has the cutest pic on his phone from today.. ♥ ♥ ♥ 

As always, thank you for your love and prayers, rain dances and cosmic energy... all in all, today was a good day.

♥ grow baby grow ♥

may 27th... woah!

Valentina: ok... seriously family & friends... you are not going to believe this.. our tiny thumbelina has a bit of a cold, she needs a cream for her skin to treat a sort of skin infection as a result of incubator life, and her blood infection should be clear in the next 36 hours... and while all this is relatively "normal" (though still makes me hysterical and is no comfort to any preemie parent...) Valentina Lee weighed in yesterday afternoon at a whopping 886 grams!!!! (1.95 pounds!!!) SHE GAINED 101 GRAMS IN A DAY!!! we need to actually SLOW our growing progress, or she can burst open those precious heart canals that we worked so heard to close!!! SOO!! miss vivi, listen to yr mama now: slow & steady baby: 35 grams a day is perfect... we dont need to be so competitive sweetheart!!! ♥ ♥ no more infections... focus on that, babybean!! ♥ grow baby grow ♥ 

may 26th

Valentina update: yesterday, she was 780 grams!!! AMAZING BABY!!! I am off to the hospital now, so another update later tonight.... BUT!! I have finally updated my blog, with a summary of my whole hospital ordeal... More coming asap... Please, love and prayers that we make it to 1 kilo asap!! The bigger, the stronger, the better... ♥ grow baby grow ♥

Saturday, May 26, 2012


happily snuggled

waking up... 

SO MAADD the nurse woke me up for a diaper change and a nose and mouth vacuuming (cleaning)

it's FROSTY without my diaper!!!  NOT HAPPY!

still mad....

fussing a little bit, but settling down...

mama i wanna snuggle yoouuuuuu

i love my mama

hello my name is valentina castro

may 23rd

Valentina Lee Castro is now 720 grams (1.58 lbs)! We are 6 grams short of our birthweight! Her heart is strong, her lungs are getting stronger every day and she is responding well to antibiotics for a minor blood infection... Her diapers are full (again, a huge victory) and is not yet a fan of the tiny doll-sized pacifier the nurse tried to give her the the other day... Every day we are amazed at how much we can possibly love such a tiny thing... Vivi is only 15 days old, but we already love her more than life itself, she is the center of our world. Thank you all again and again, for the prayers love and well wishes, may the graces of the universe help our baby grow into a happy healthy chubby-cheeked baby, ready to come home to us as soon as she is ready!! ♥ grow baby grow ♥

from daddy vic..

Like if she didn't trust no one in this world, she doesn't asked to be born earlier, she doesn't know if she's gonna make it, she doesn't know what's going on...but i know that i already love her more than anything in this world, and i ask every day for her to survive this and have a portion of what we call quality of life. I wonder how's gonna be the quality of life of this little princess, but please be strong little squirrel. I friends and family, my name is VALENTINA because i need to be strong, LEE because of my mom Jacqui Castro and CASTRO because of my dad, Valentina Lee Castro i am and I need your help on asking the world to have a good one this time. Please world, please. I promise i'll not eat to many candies, i promise.

vivi's first photo...  very red and a little scary... made her mama cry...  

may 22nd

Yesterday, Miss Valentina gave her mama the best birthday present ever- she now weighs 710 grams, 35 more grams than Sunday... a HUGE increase for such a tiny peanut!! The nurse was so surprised, that she weighed her three times, just to be sure! Daddy Victor changed her diaper, and she had a nice and calm Sunday night, and a calm and stable day, all day Monday. Let's hope for a few more grams today, and that we continue to be happy, stable, calm... and that our minor blood infection is gone in a few days... Thank you all for the birthday love and wishes!! Today, Vivi is two weeks old: lets see what our tiny miracle shows us! ♥ ♥

may 21st- my 24th birthday. (again.)

Sunday update: Baby Valentina is 675 grams... not a huge weight gain, but headed in the right direction, so we are happy enough for today. The doctors found a blood infection Saturday afternoon, which was caught very early and is already being treated... Scary, but a nurse commented today that of all the micro-preemies she has seen over the years, Vivi is the strongest and most resilient... Maybe she says this to all the parents, but it was a comfort to hear... Vivi had a nicely soiled diaper, I am proud to report, which means her digestive tract is handling Mama's milk beautifully, another tiny miracle. Our tiny sweetheart slept all day during our visit today, which gave Victor and I time together to just sit and appreciate our tiny baby, and I am praying for another little miracle, that Valentina has a nice healthy weight gain tomorrow, and responds well to all her treatments.. Thats what Mama wants for her birthday, nothing else, Vivi... just her healthy baby... ♥

may 19th

Yesterday, our tiny Valentina turned ten days old! Weighing in at 670 grams (1.47 lbs) she is stable, infection-free, breathing better every day, and taking her milk like a champ. It was reconfirmed via cardio-sonogram: her heart was successfully treated, and is perfect! I was given the best two hours of our lives: I was able to hold Vivi against my bare chest, while she snuggled and slept like the tiny dream that she is!! Added bonus to our amazing daily miracle: both Victor AND my dad noted that I am recovering from my hospital stay, noticing the post-op swelling and steroid-induced "Hulk" look is gone, that I "look like our Jacqui again." AND I had a great hair-day. Even my hair is recovering. . . . :) 

Thank you ALL again and again and again for all of your prayers, well wishes, good vibes, good karma, endless love and support, and of course, all your sweet emails that make my cry ♥. It truly means the world to Victor and me, to have such a huge support system, all pulling cosmic strings around the universe, for our little baby girl... Keep it up, I beg you!! Slow and steady, Valentina, until you are good and ready to come home to us, a chubby, healthy perfect baby that we can all love and hug and kiss and squeeze!! ♥ ♥ ♥

may 16th

Our precious Thumbellina- Valentina weighs 643 grams today, thirty more than yesterday! She no longer has an internal, invasive ventilator, just a tiny oxygen mask over her nose with a mini-pump to keep her breathing normalized... She now enjoys the freedom to stick out her tongue and can cry tiny kitten "mews..." We are blessed with no longer needing antibiotics, Vivi is presently infection-free... lets keep our fingers crossed we stay that way!! Her belly is beginning to take my milk successfully. Today was a good day.. ♥ grow baby grow ♥ 

may 14th

Today our little sweetheart Valentina will have a cardio-sonogram to see if the steroids she has been taking the last three days have worked to close the valves of her heart... The doctors we spoke to last night for our evening check-in were optimistic... We are ready for our first miracle. ♥

may 11th

On Tuesday, May 8th at 8 something in the morning, Valentina Lee Castro was born with less than 700 grams and can fit into my two hands. Our little Vivi is tiny and beautiful and each day she miraculously survives. Vivi enjoys holding my fingertip while I read to her, has long legs that she enjoys kicking when Daddy Victor tickles her, curls into tiny yoga positions and likes to lounge about her little incubator. 

Right now our first true hurdle is her heart: for the first time in my life, I am begging for the mercy of God and the Universe... for the steroids she began taking today, to work, and Vivi's heart valves close accordingly, and that with no further complications and infections, her heart may grow stronger over the next few days (and beyond!). Monday morning we will have another sonogram of her heart, to see if the treatment works. With a strong heart, comes healthy lungs, brain, circulatory system, and a fattening little baby. 

Never before in my life have I needed to believe in miracles. Please pray for one, for Vivi. ♥

may 7th

hi family and friends... just sending you a quick thank you message for all the love and well wishes.... as many of you know, ive been in the hospital with severe, early onset pre.eclampisa and HELLP syndrome... two major pregnancy complications... i was in the ICU for the last 3 days, and have finally been moved to pre.maternity ward where every boring, passing day is a huge victory for both me and baby. baby is happy and safe inside (though she is super tiny) so we are doing everything we can to keep me stable, so baby can keep growing safe and sound... as of now, baby is less than one kilo, but is swimming away and well oxygenated and enjoys kicking the fetal monitor when the doctors and nurses attempt to listen to the heartbeat. victor is by my side 24 hours, and i am truly blessed to have such a supportive wonderful and amazing husband who lets me cry when i need to, lotions my suddenly feet, brushes my hair and sneaks me a bite of corn muffin when i need it. baby is almost 28 weeks, please keep us in yr hearts and keep your fingers crossed that by some miracle, this little peanut will stay inside for as long as possible.

Pre-Eclampsia & Baby Valentina

I know it has been some time since my last update...  But as many of you already know, I have a REALLY good excuse... 

Tuesday, May 1st, I had this horrible heartburn...  Or so I thought...  I went to bed relatively early, as I wasn't really feeling well, and I had this pain in my chest that just wouldn't quit.  Ok, that sounds really bad, let me rephrase...  I had "intense heartburn" at the base of my ribcage, right smack in the center of my chest, kinda in that boney spot right between my awesome cans.  (I feel weird typing out to my blogging readers a serious reference to my breasts...  But maybe I should be most accurate and serious with this post, as it could be read by another pregnant woman and potentially save her life and/ or the life of her child...)

SO.  I ate some Rennie (the Portuguese equivalent of Tums), and tossed and turned and whimpered and cried a little, until about 4 AM, when I finally fell asleep.  My alarm goes off at 7:15 AM, I get up to get Bianca ready for school, life continues, business as usual.  

Wednesday, a normal day...

Thursday, May 3rd, around 9 pm...  I don't remember why it was so ate, but I was trying to make a late dinner, I knew I was hungry, felt starving in fact... I was cutting up some melon slices and inhaling it as I was cutting it up, I was so hungry... My hands were trembling and I had a flash from my baby emails, maybe I was having a low blood sugar attack of some sort, mental note:  must-reread those emails!  I was in bed by 9:30, crawling around in pain, the "heartburn" in my chest had returned with a vengeance...  (By the way, I never had any stomach acid in my throat, so I did realize this wasn't the typical "heartburn" I was normally complaining about...)  My stomach hurt a little, so I sat on the toilet thinking maybe I needed a BM (though throughout my pregnancy, I never had the common pregnancy problem of constipation... lucky girl...  :/  )  It wasn't a "normal, healthy" poop, but before I was even ready to contemplate if and how "heartburn,"upset stomach and pooping were related to pregnancy issues, I threw up right in the garbage can in front of me.  Several times.  Half naked, sitting on the toilet, chest pain and puking, I got dressed and told Vic I had to go to the hospital.  I was in so much pain in my chest, I didn't even care if I was about ti cost us one night in the ER, plus expenses, and the most-likely result was an ER doctor telling me I am an idiot and probably giving me a dose of hospital grade Pepto Bismol.  Vic called our insurance company to find the nearest hospital that would treat me at 27 weeks pregnant.  (Portuguese public vs. private hospitals are in this weird transitional phase... it's horrendous, a rant for another day...)  The nurse on the phone via insurance company hotline (???!!! what???!!!)  asked me (via Vic's translation) a list of symptoms and it was determined to put me to bed with some crackers, sipping plain tea with sugar.  Vic hung up the phone and off we went to Hospital da Luz, in Lisbon.  I threw up out the door several times at the bridge toll booth line of traffic (at 11 pm??!) and cried the whole way there...

Once I finally was in a doctor's exam room, maybe 11:30, midnight? I was given an exam, and put into a bed with an IV of something, fluids, etc., I have no idea...  Victor dove BACK home, to pick up my forgotten medical records (my entire pregnancy is recorded in my Green Book... this is a Portuguese thing...) and dropped Bianca off at Grandma Alda's house for the night.  I don't really remember this part too well (the first of several in this whole ordeal.....) but the two doctors treating me came into my room to tell me that I had pre-eclampsia and probably HELLP syndrome and that my baby would have to be delivered via emergency c-section within the next few days, MAX.  Naturally, I start crying, and I am prepped to be transported to another hospital, better equipped for my situation.  Once Victor arrives, not only to the doctors explain that they cannot handle the delivery of such a tiny preemie baby, but because my insurance doesn't cover my pregnancy (it would only cover me after 12 months of being insured, and I would have to wait until November for pregnancy- related insurance coverage...).  Oh, and by the way, it my situation would cost an additional 85,000 euros, by the time our baby would be out of the hospital, IF baby survives...  (And if I survive, for that matter.)  They tell my husband that he wife is dying.  Actually used the words, "your wife is dying" with Baby's placenta still inside of me.  O. M. G.

So I took a trip in an ambulance to another hospital, Hospital da Santa Maria... 5 minutes away.  Several HUNDRED euros Vic had to pay for a 5 minute transport.  He asked why he couldn't take me himself, as it was literally right down the road, and maybe this is when they said that I was dying...  Like I said before, this was all news to me later on, maybe they didn't even tell me that I could die if the baby wasn't delivered ASAP, who knows... Victor maybe, but he doesn't really want to talk about it too much right now...  nor do I blame him.  I think he was in a worse state of shock than I was the first few days.

Hospital da Santa Maria is a massive, massive university hospital.  While it is by no means fancy in the least, it does provide excellent medical care, with some of the best doctors in the country working there.  It is a public hospital which is now my home away from home for the next several months (with luck, I say only several months... *sigh*)                                   

So I was admitted to the 6th floor, the emergency pregnancy-related floor... I don't remember anything else of Thursday night.  Friday, I had doctors and nurses in my room all day, I was put on all kinds of gnarly steroids, and from what Victor tells me, I may have been stabilized, keeping Baby inside of me (the longer the better, right down to the minutes that baby stays inside...) but I began my transformation into The Hulk.  I blew up.  And it's a good thing I couldn't get out of bed and see myself in a mirror, as pictures from these days in the hospital, I don't even recognize myself.

Friday, May 4th.  I kept waiting until they would take me away to take my baby out of me.  When I wasn't knocked out, I was torturing myself with the "What Ifs" of everything I could have done wrong in this pregnancy to develop pre-eclampsia, the What Ifs of what could go wrong, the overwhelming guilt of what could happen to my baby, long-term, and of course the soul searching, soul-suck of What Did I Do to deserve this mental plague...  I had an ultrasound Friday, mid-morning, when I was stable, pain-free and convinced this whole thing was a HUGE mistake.  They kept asking me if my due date was wrong.  My baby was measuring only about 24 weeks, and I was supposedly near the end of my 27th week.  Naturally, this sends me reeling... At this point during the sonogram, I finally asked the sex of the baby.  I was devastated that Victor wasn't with me, (poor man was catching a few hours of sleep at home after the First Worst Night of His Life.  Vic and I had said time and again, we don't care if it's a boy or a girl, we just want a healthy baby.  Realizing my life was in jeopardy, my baby was even worse off, and not only could I die in the next few days?  Hours?  But I could lose my baby too?  I asked... It's a girl.  My tiny, tiny baby is a girl.  The doctors said this was best, because for some reason, girls are more resilient preemies than boys.  I could care less what anyone was saying to me... I just wanted my baby to stay safe, inside of me.  Even if I was at such risk.....   

I had a happy, healthy, easy, breezy pregnancy, or so I thought.  The first 24 weeks, apparently.  After that, literally 2 weeks after my healthy perfect sonogram at 21 weeks, things started to go bad.  When I went for my early April update (actually I think it was April 16th) my blood pressure was up, (but not alarmingly up...) and I gained 5 kilos in a month.  Which was weird, unexpected but hey, I'm pregnant.  You have to gain weight, at some point, right?  I didn't SEEM that much bigger, though I was exhausted.  The recommendation was to cut salt out of my diet for a week and come back for another BP reading.  And blood exams, to make sure everything was ok.  Which I had an appointment for, ironically, May 4th.  FML.

So I developed pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome (still too upset to really read too much about this stuff) and nearly died.  I was in the pregnancy ICU care until Monday, May 7th, when I was deemed stable enough to move to the pre-baby maternity floor.  Victor pretty much lived at the hospital with me during this time, spending some 16-20 hours a day with me.  Because it was the ICU, there were no set visiting hours, and he held my hand, calmed me down, told me I was beautiful (even though from pictures I now know he was just remembering how beautiful I am when I am not pumped full of baby-saving, baby-maturing hormones and steroids..............)  Victor snuck me bites of food, and even convinced the nurses and doctors a strawberry ice pop would be ok.  It was THE MOST AMAZING ice pop in the history of ice pops.  Four days with nothing but sips of water and IV fluids, that ice pop was incredible.  That was maybe Sunday though... we are up to Monday evening...  So Monday night, Victor finds me in another ward, the pre-baby maternity ward.  (You like how they call and tell the Next Of Kin?) I wasn't allowed my cell phone, so I couldn't even keep him updated, not like I was in much of a condition to text.... )

Monday night...  I was fed (!!) dinner, and off Victor went home, to finally have a semi-decent night's sleep... His wife was for all intensive purposes, out of the woods, so to speak, I was stable, baby was stable.  He went food shopping for me, as it was clear I'd be in the hospital for awhile longer, as the only goal at this point was to keep baby inside of me.  The only "cure" for eclampsia is to deliver the placenta. There is no known cause, and this is the only "cure."  The placenta that gives my baby life, was literally sucking the life out of me.

The "heartburn" came back Monday night.  I whimpered, cried, tried to pee, tried to poop, I walked, I tried to sleep.  The night nurses called the doctor in eventually.  She said I had a "stomach ache."

The pain, it turns out, was not heartburn at all.  It was my liver and kidneys being compromised, going into failure.  Thus the whole "dying" bit.  This is why you die from eclampsia.  The body is working so hard to keep baby healthy and growing, it takes more than the mother's body can handle.  

I was given some more IV fluids, I don't remember what...  I was given a liquid heartburn reliever type medicine.  It wasn't until around 4 AM when I was throwing up bile and the nurses were looking at me commenting in Portuguese that I was white as a ghost (my language skills have improved significantly after this experience) did they decide I was headed back to the ICU.

Tuesday, May 8th. 
I was prepped for an emergency c-section.  Dr. Nuno said it couldn't wait any longer.  I was crying, begging them to stop, telling them I felt better, please don't take my baby.  For the first time in at least 15 years, I was praying, crying, begging the heavens to make it all stop, make my baby safe.  Keep her safely inside me.  All I could think about was how tiny she is, it's too early.  All the things I did wrong in my LIFE and still not deserve this suffering.  I kept asking to call Victor.  Where's Victor.  Where is Victor.  Vic. Vic. Don't take my baby out.  My baby is better, my chest doesn't hurt anymore.  

I woke up later that afternoon in the most comfortable bed in my life.  Victor sat there.  (Was he there when I woke up?)  He was livid.  He had a huge bag of food, as the night before, I was eating real food again, I was stable, I was staying in the hospital for awhile, just fine.  I remember kept telling him not to be mad, that everything was fine.  

Valentina Lee Castro was born Tuesday, May 8th, 2012, at 8:16 AM in Lisbon, Portugal.  She weighed in at 726 grams (1.6 lbs).  Her gestational age was 27 weeks 6 days.  

Victor didn't find out that his wife had emergency surgery and his child was born 13 weeks premature (plus the 3 week tax due to the eclampsia) until 1:30 in the afternoon.  No one called him.  The OR staff had the ICU send a FAX to the pre-maternity ward where I was the night before.  No one bothered.  My medical care was excellent, all things considered.  The DETAILS of this hospital SUCK a big one sometimes...  MORE on this later...

Baby Vivi is tiny.  So, so so tiny.  But she is my baby.  And she is fighting for her life, one day at a time.  I don't have the energy to relive this ordeal again right now, I am crying all over again thinking about these scary horrible days...  

I am now a Preemie Mama.  I am at the NICU every day.  I wasn't allowed to see my baby until Friday, as I had all these wires and tubes still attached to ME, including a central line thingy in my neck, as all the blood that was taken in the first few days literally blew all the veins in arms and hands and wrists.    Once I was finally released from the hospital, I looked like the worst junky ever.  It is now May 26th, and my left arm is STILL all shades of purple, brown and tan, the result of a nurse poking my vein in an attempt to draw blood, poking the artery and not pressing it hard enough/ long enough for the vein to clot and the artery leaked.  It still hurts like hell.  And I sent my dad pictures... he has assured me that there is no long term damage, its just painful and ugly.  

My parents couldn't handle this whole ordeal from the other side of the ocean... They flew out two weeks ago now and it has been such a stress-reliever, just having the comfort of my mama and papa here with Vic and me... Now that I'm out of the hospital, Victor and I see baby Vivi every day.  We spend as much time as we can with her, but it never feels long enough.  My first days in the hospital after she was born (but before I could get out of my hospital bed and see her) I would lay there and just sob... For all of the reasons previously stated, but mostly because I had this ache in my heart: all I want, even now, still, nearly three weeks later, is to hold my child, feel her sleep on my chest.  

Victor Castro has been my anchor through all of this horrific experience.  I never thought I would think of the birth of my first child as horrific, but it was, and it was even worse for Vic, as I was unconscious or drugged for some of the worst parts.  He has been with me every moment of every day in the hospital, sparing me just how much this has hurt him.  He has let my overwhelming range of emotions wash over him, letting me be angry hen I needed it, comforting me when I cry, helping me out of bed when I literally can't get up, waiting endless hours while I pump breast milk for our tiny heart...  Thank you Vic...  How can I ever explain just how much I love you?    

my recovery has been... slow.  Physically, I am better.  My c-section incision still hurts, but it's getting better day by day.  But my head... I feel robbed... cheated out of so many pregnancy experiences.  I never felt Valentina kick me the way women describe.  I felt her swimming and moving, but I never got kicked.  Now I know why... she was still too small, due to the eclampsia...  I never got the huge belly.  My bellybutton never popped.  I was strangely looking forward to that, too, oddly enough.  I never really "felt" super pregnant, I never filled out my new maternity clothes.  The craving were minimal, mere excuses to drink orange soda.  Speaking of which, the guiltoverwhelming guilt I still feel, like I did something to cause the eclampsia, or what I did to deserve this... No one can convince me otherwise, and my head knows this is true, there is no reason, scientifically speaking, to explain why...  but my heart aches for Valentina to grow, to be strong in her incubator, to be HEALTHY, to please, dear God, help her grow into a healthy perfect baby... please don't let her suffer any long-term damage or have any health problems...  my innocent baby doesn't deserve that...  My heart aches that I did something to cause my eclampsia.  That feeling may never go away.  I feel like there is nothing more important in this world, than how many grams our tiny baby weighs today, if her breathing monitor is working correctly, how many milligrams of milk she is consuming today, how did she sleep last night... 

I will write more about this, I'm sure, but for now, here are my Facebook updates about our tiny, precious heart's miraculous progress, day by day...

our tiny heart growing stronger day by day

Ps.  the new name of this blog... Valentina Lee:  Grow Baby Grow.