21 June 2008

An Early Arrival

Annika Stefanie was born at 1:14 am on Tuesday, June 17, after a day-long but unsuccessful attempt to delay her birth. She was 3 pounds, 3 oz. and 17 inches long. Despite her early arrival, at 31 weeks’ gestation, Annika is doing very well. Her APGAR tests were 9/10/10…amazing for a preemie. She is breathing on her own with no need for extra oxygen or a respirator. She’s receiving nutrients intravenously and formula/breast milk through a small stomach tube, but can also suck well and will get more and more nutrition by mouth as she gets bigger and stronger. For the foreseeable future, she’ll stay in the Kaiserslautern hospital’s Kinder Klinik (NICU), until she’s big and healthy enough to come home.

Annika was also born with a cleft lip, which will be corrected with cosmetic surgery sometime in the next year. Luckily, the cleft only affected the soft tissue of the lip, and did not include the palate (the bony part of the top of the mouth). So the defect is only a cosmetic issue, not one that impairs the working of her mouth.

We think she’s beautiful, anyway.

I’m doing well, after an eventful c-section and recovery that, ahem, “challenged” the doctors. The senior doctor on call did a stellar job in saving my uterus, and my life, with little of the loss of blood that caused my very hard and slow recovery from Katrina’s birth. The medicine that effected this minor miracle unfortunately had the side effect of bronchial spasms, so I spent the twelve hours or so after Annika’s birth clutching my poor midsection, coughing, and trying to breathe. It gave me a whole new sympathy for people with asthma.

Once the coughing abated, though, I’ve recovered pretty well…I’m surprised at how well I do feel, compared to my state after Katrina was born. It does help that I’ve been through it before and know what to expect (for example, the copious crying for no apparent reason arrived right on time, about 24 hours after the birth. Sniff.) As I write this, it is Friday night, and the doctor said I could go home on Saturday if I continue to feel well tomorrow.

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine had a button on her backpack that said “Why Be Normal?” When you’re a kid, normal is boring. Average is a dirty word. Believe me, though, that in this situation, being normal, average, and boring is a good thing. One does not want to be interesting to a doctor. If your doctor thinks your case is average, or perhaps ignores you a bit, be grateful. Interesting cases are hard cases. I can’t wait to get back home and be uninteresting again.

Katrina is doing as well as could be expected with the upheaval of our lives the past few days. She spent two nights with friends of ours who have a little girl the same age. She had a lot of fun but very little sleep, which all of us are paying for at the moment, especially my poor harried husband. The biggest issue for her right now is that she can’t see her new sister; children are not allowed in the NICU. So we’re trying to make do with pictures, but it is hard for her to wait outside with Papa while Mama spends time with the baby (and vice-versa). Grandma was able to get an earlier flight than originally planned and arrived this morning, which will make the mix of taking care of Katrina at home and Annika in the NICU much easier. Plus, another person to give Katrina much-needed attention while my husband and I are more distracted than usual will, we hope, make the transition to “big sister” a bit easier for her.

This could get very long if I include the million and one little stories and details of the last five days. I’ll try to include some in the upcoming days and weeks, as well as keep you updated on Annika’s progress. Right now we’re just so grateful that our little one has arrived safely and is in capable hands. Nothing like a miniature baby to remind us of both the fragility and strength of life. Though she looks impossibly fragile right now, our Annika has already proven her strength.

Thanks be to God for his marvelous gifts.


Anonymous said...

She is so beautiful a true Angel from God. Katrina is going to be the best big sister for her.

wendy said...

Jennifer (and J and K), Annika is so beautiful and I look forward to meeting her when she gets home. I'd love to bring you dinner this week and I'll be in touch to arrange it.
Congrats on the birth of your beautiful new daughter.
Much Love,
Wendy B

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Jennifer! Annika is adorable. I'm so happy that she's doing well and is in capable hands. I'll definitely check your blog for updates. I wish I were still there to help out, but thank you so much for including me.

Jennifer Dempsey

Dave said...

Congratulations, indeed! I'm so happy that you and the baby are doing so well - I was really worried when I heard you'd entered labor. Sounds like German healthcare ain't so bad.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, all.

Dave, German healthcare can be very good. As we found when we got to the hospital, though, it is a two-tiered system (more like three or more tiers, actually)...there's one standard of care if you have just the government "insurance", and then there's a higher standard if you have private insurance (and, we suspect, levels according to how much private insurance you have). I mean to write a bit more about this at some point. I found it interesting, especially with all of the talk of universal health covereage in the U.S.