Today you turned six months old. My how you have grown. Just a few days ago, the doctor weighed you at more than 12 pounds. That means you are catching up to babies who were born after nine months in their mothers. You do not need extra formula any more, just mom's milk. And you are outgrowing all of the nice newborn clothes our friends and family bought for you.
We could not have been happier. Or so we thought.
Three days ago, while I was strapping you into your car seat, you smiled at me. I smiled back. Your smile grew bigger and bigger. I laughed. And then you giggled. It was your first laugh. Your mother was by the car and heard it. She came running back into the house. I laughed again, and so did you. I decided that was the best sound I have ever heard.
Soon, though, things will change around the house.
Your mother is going back to work in two days, and she feels like it is too soon. Most people our age want things to speed up -- traffic, lines, the Internet, and so on. We are happy to take our time with you, however. You don't need your teeth yet. You don't need to eat solid food yet. You don't need to be out of diapers, or sitting up, or crawling around, or anything else other than being who you are right now.
This is hard for adults, to be right here right now. We often think about other places and other times. We think about past or the future. We think about home while we are at work, or work while we are at home. I think about all the chores that have to be done. A lot.
You have a way of bring us back to here and now, for which I will always be grateful.
I have only taken off one or two days since you were born two-and-a-half months early. That way your mother could be with you as long as possible. On the day your mother goes back to work, I will be taking two weeks to spend with you. And then, just before Christmas, my mother will come to spend three whole months taking care of you during the day while your mother and I both work. Thankfully, we will always be close by and should get to see you at lunch time several days a week.
Well, it is late. You and mom are asleep. I have not written nearly as much as I would have liked to these past few months. I will try better. But know, no matter what, you are always in my heart.
We've had you home for nine days. I wanted to write to you sooner, but the time has gone by faster than I expected. We have celebrated a lot of firsts so far:
Those shots today seemed to make you fuss whenever mom tried to put you down, so she held you almost the entire day. I sent her to bed a few hours ago after she started getting one of her bad headaches. She needs more sleep, which means we have to be less concerned about all the noises you make all day. Everyone says they're normal, so we have to trust you are not suffering some malady or episode if we are to rest at all.
Regardless, you are doing very well at home. For the record, you are now 5lbs 15oz and 18 inches long, which is just what the doctors wanted to see. Of course, you are just what we want to see. And I am happy, so very happy, to have you with us at home just looking up at me while I finish typing this to you. Thank you. You do not know it yet, but this right now is the best gift in the whole world.
I'm sitting in the hallway outside the NiCU as your mother and my mother prepare to feed you. I have a bad sore throat and cannot come near you right now without a face mask and plenty of extra hand washing.
So far, you are doing everything you need to do in order to come home. You are finishing all your meals. You are gaining weight. And for three days in a row you haven't stopped breathing even once. Two more days of progress and your doctors might let us take you home. Almost seven weeks have passed since you were born, and we are excited to have you finally with us for a night.
Except for brief moments, you haven't traveled more than a couple feet from your isolette or been free from the wires that monitor your heart rate, oxygen saturation or respiratory rate. You've been weighed daily, had blood drawn regularly and been watched over viligently by some of the best nurses in the world.
All that will soon change. At first I couldn't wait for all the monitoring and testing to end. Now I have to prepare for the time when we won't have machines to tell us how you are doing.
We've been told that "Everything will fall into place" and "You'll know what to do when the time comes." Perhaps. But so little about your arrival has been expected, and I've been on guard for so long, that it may not be easy for me to believe things will settle into a routine.
But, you know what? I'm watchIng you through the glass. Your mom is changing you diaper. I can hear my mom telling any nurse who walks by how wonderful you are. You are squirming around, making faces, and -- well, here is your mom picking you up to show me a big, beautiful girl who looks very ready to come home.
You make everything better, Sloan. Thank you.
Our one-month-old daughter, born 10 weeks early, takes matters
into her own hands. She's gaining weight, needing less oxygen, and
handling a pacifier on her own. This video may bore the world, but I
could watch it all day.
I tried editing this video on the iPhone for the first time and discovered by accident that once you trim a movie you can't revert back. (Something the iPhone OS 3.1 should remedy.) My wife has given me strict instructions not to delete a second of video no matter how much is filmed or how bad the shot is.
The scene I cut, apparently, is Sloan counting to 10 in Mandarin.
The care package was addressed to "Jennifer Sloan Holbrook," which is a name your mother uses on Facebook so old friends and classmates can find her using the last name she had when she was born. My guess is the nice people at the foundation heard about you from a connection there.
Your mom has many connections helping us today.
Friends have brought us dinners so we did not have to worry about cooking. They drove your mother to visit you when she was still healing from her surgery. They offered to help move furniture or paint walls so we can build you a nursery. Your grandparents are visiting from far away just to look at you. All of this makes things easier for us and better for you.
Why are so many people so kind to us?
You do not have to look any further than your mother. She has many, many friends. They care about her not just because she is smart and fun, or because she treats others the way she wants to be treated. Your mother celebrates the happiness of everyone around her. When they suffer her compassion is deep and real. And her heart is never so full that she cannot find room for another friend.
(My mother has the same qualities, which is one reason I love them both so very much.)
One day you will disagree with your mother. You may think she is being too strict, or stingy, or smothering, or something else. When that happens, if you can, come back and read this note. The kindness so many people are showing us today is helping make a better world for you.
I'm watching you sleep in your isolette. You look very peaceful on your back, resting your head on your right hand. Sometimes, though not now, you put one or both hands behind your head, just looking around to take everything in. I love that about you.
You had a big day today. Your mother fed you for the first time from a bottle. You weighed in at 1510 grams, which is another solid gain. A few more weeks like this and ... well, I don't want to get ahead of myself.
I learned the other day that your doctors called you a "micropreemie." The state of California considers you, at least temporarily, "disabled." Later, when we're allowed to take you home, we'll get visits from a social worker because you'll be an "at-risk infant."
These are standard labels to classify your care. But I want you to know that they are not you. As you grow up, schools may label you as someone with "special needs" or "gifted." Other kids may label you with nicknames because of your size, eyesight or some other difference. Adults may label you because it's easier for them if you fit into their understanding of the world.
Just remember that you are filled with infinite possibilities, and no one can predict with certainty your measure or contributions in life.
Your nurses and doctors help me remeber this fact, too. They won't predict when we can remove your nasal cannula or feeding tube. They won't give me an estimate of when you can come home. And each time I ask if some issue or report is "normal," the reply never includes a simple yes or no.
Instead, I sit by your isolette. A monitor beeps out stats. Yours are good for the moment. Other babies fuss and cry. But you, with your hand on your cheek, are sleeping after a big day with your mom.
I am happy.
We leave you each night in the care of kind and gentle nurses. It is hard for us to go when you are awake, but we know you need time to sleep and grow. You have a good home for now in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center. In addition to all the nurses and doctors, each preterm baby there has a case worker. Yours was kind enough to write us a progress report on June 23. I'm saving it here so our family and friends can learn more about how you're doing. They are so kind to us, but we can't always write or call them with updates about you. I want you to know that, next to your health and own happiness, keeping friends and family in your heart is more important than anything else in the world.
Held my daughter for the first time on a few hours ago. Definitely the best gift Father's Day gift I have ever received. Okay, it was my first Father's Day. Still, my daughter is practically glowing with pride for her dad.
(The bili light is a phototherapy tool to treat newborn jaundice, called hyperbilirubinemia, which was a symptom of Sloan's early delivery. It's working.)
Your mom is resting right now in a part of the hospital called "Mother/Baby." This is where both moms and newborns recover from the hard work of birth together. Moms learn how to feed their babies, change their diapers, and hold them tight to keep them safe and make them happy.
I hear baby noises in the other rooms. I see families hugging happy dads in hallways. The smell of talcum powder floats from somewhere. New parents are kissing their babies and stroking their faces. After a day or two, they pack everything up and go home together.
But you and your mom aren't in the same room. The two of you have only been together a few times so far. Your doctors say that stroking your cheek or playing with your fingers will hurt you right now. Everyone congratulates us on your arrival, but the timing seems a bit off.
Your mom's friends and family didn't have time to throw her a baby shower. She didn't have time to build a nursery. She didn't get to see her belly grow big like other moms. And, even though it's not her fault, she feels as if she did something wrong because you couldn't stay inside her even one more day.
Despite all of this, last night your mom saw that I was very tired. She told me to go home and sleep in our bed.
I was sad to leave her alone for the night. I dropped off a small bottle of her milk for you at the NICU and said goodnight. As I bent down to kiss the glass of your isolette, you opened your eyes a bit and reached out with your tiny, tiny hand. I didn't want to leave you alone with all the wires and tubes and monitors and scary beeping noises, but I promised your mom I would get some rest and I know your nurses take good care of you.
So I left the hospital and went home. I even left our wonderful dog overnight at a kennel.
But I couldn't sleep. Instead, I thought about everything you and your mom did not get to have. I decided to play some music, hoping it might make me feel better. I played your mom's favorite song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. It always makes her cry and smile at the same time.
I played a song John Lennon wrote to his son, explaining that "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." And I played a song by The Rolling Stones called "You Can't Always Get What You Want," where they reminded me that if I try, I might just get what I need.
That's all I remember before falling asleep.
It's morning, now. The sun is shining through the blinds. The time is later than I wanted, but I feel better now.
See, you're going to grow. Your mom will get her shower. The nursery will be built. In time, we'll get to kiss your face and play with your fingers and put you in a stroller to take you home and get to do everything else parents get to do.
And there won't be a single day for the rest of my life that I won't look in the mirror and see the luckiest husband and father in the whole wide world. Because with you and your mom, I have everything I need.
I can't wait for you to meet your mother. She's recovering in the ICU. You're in the NICU, tucked in an isolette, with lots of doctors and nurses to make sure you're comfortable (and me, too -- it's kind of overwhelming to see all the monitors, tubes, and wires all over the two of you).
You came into our lives a couple of months early, and —- to be honest -- we weren't really prepared. We don't even have a name for you yet. Maybe once mom gets to see you in person she'll like what I have in mind.
I named this place "Betterness" a long time ago, not truly sure what the name was supposed to mean. An ironic commentary on life? Storage for the stuff that I found interesting? Thinking aloud to understand myself? Perhaps. But after today, I think I have a much better idea. I'll write more about this soon.
Meanwhile, stay warm, be nice to your nurses, and get ready for a big, wonderful life. I'll see you in the morning.
Matt Haughey blogged on buying his 4-year-old a new swing set, and used the opportunity to warn against wasting money on self-described social media gurus: