Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A strange feeling

Lately, I've rediscovered a feeling that has been absent from my life for the past fifteen months. It certainly isn't boredom, but it is something akin; for lack of a better word, I'll call it "relaxed". Relaxed is something that you feel when there are no immediate crises to be dealt with: no deadlines at work, no emergencies at home, and most importantly, no children straddling the line that separates life and death. It took a little getting used to, but it's kind of nice to have an hour at the end of the day when there is nothing that requires my immediate attention.

If you hadn't guessed by now, Bryce is doing great. He's an ounce shy of 13 lbs., and continues to delight the whole family with his burgeoning personality. He rolls over in both directions (tummy time rarely lasts more than a few seconds for this kid), and usually has one or two periods a day during which he coos at Mommy or Daddy for several minutes. We have a few check-ups on the calendar in January, but the general consensus in our house is that Bryce has become not only a relatively easy baby to care for, but a seemingly normal one as well.

He does still get winded very easily, which is something that we're eager to ask about at our first NICU follow-up appointment next month. Also, we've tried to wean him to two bottles of fortified milk per day, rather than his usual three, on two separate 72-hour trial runs, but he was unusually cranky and didn't gain any weight both times, so we're pretty sure he still needs the extra calories. With those minor exceptions, Bryce at 3.5 months could be easily mistaken for Logan at 3.5 months in terms of temperament, development and looks!

The entire family is eagerly anticipating the dawn of a new year which will almost certainly be an improvement on the last. As John Hambrock put it, 2009 was a dud (click the link to read the comic, which is especially appropriate since Logan was born in 2006).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

St. Nicu

This is great. I'm not sure who to credit it to -- just saw it floating round the Net.


Twas the night before Christmas, and in each isolette
Little creatures were squirming and getting all set;
Machinery sat by their bedsides with care,
In hopes that good breathing skills soon would be there.

Day shifters were home all snug in their beds,
As visions of overtime danced in their heads;
While preemies on ventilators, and some on CPAP,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap...

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
The residents woke up to see what was the matter.
Away from the sink I flew like a jet
To make sure all was well at my baby's isolette.

Some bilirubin lights with their powerful glow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to babies below,
When, there before my wondering eyes, it would seem,
Was an oversized stroller and a medical team.
With a handful of needles with which they could stick you,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nicu.

More rapid than eagles his specialists came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Nurses! Now, Residents! Now, Neonatologists!
On, Social Workers! On, Respiratory and Occupational Therapists!
From the front of the unit! To the end of the hall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

Up to each baby's cribside they flew,
With the stroller full of toys, and St. Nicu too.
And then, in a twinkling, they stopped at each bed
And tucked in the babies and got them all fed.

As I looked at my baby, and was turning around,
Down our aisle St. Nicu came with a bound.
He was dressed in red scrubs, and I could instantly tell
That his clothes had an obvious hospital smell;

A bag of stuffed animals was flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
A little red pen he held tight in his teeth,
And a stethoscope encircled his neck like a wreath.

He was chubby and plump, with a few extra pounds,
And I laughed when I saw him there doing his rounds.
A turn of his clipboard and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke few words, but came straight to my side,
And running down his face was a tear he had cried.

And laying his hand on the back of my head,
He gave me a nod, and slowly he said:
"Each night you come here you're aware of the danger,
But your baby is loved by the One in the manger."

Then the medical team gave a thumbs-up and smiled
And St. Nicu placed an animal next to my child.
But I heard him exclaim, as they rolled out of sight,
"Merry Christmas, tiny baby, and have a wonderful night!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Christmas tree? Check.
Presents? Check.
Stockings? Check.
Christmas dinner? Check.
Plenty of snow (with more on the way)? Check.

The only thing we're missing is you! Christmas won't be the same without all our family and friends, but we're confident that a small sacrifice this year will pay big dividends down the road. We hope that you all have a joyful and relaxing holiday; you'll be in our thoughts!

Bryce is doing terrific. He's delighted us a few more times with his laughter, and does his best to share his opinions with us (see video above). He's also really taken a liking to his big brother. Bryce practically demands to sit in his Bumbo whenever he's awake so that he can watch Logan play with his toys, which I'd argue is further evidence of good vision.

His recovery from surgery was quicker and easier than we'd imagined possible. Other than flat weight gain for the week, he hasn't shown any sign that he was in the slightest distress since we brought him home from the hospital. We took the dressings off his incisions this morning, and they look great; you can barely see the scar from the inguinal hernia (above his right leg), and his belly button appears to be healing up nicely too. With a little bit of luck, we won't have to go back to the hospital until he gets his cleft palate fixed next September.

I don't think Santa usually brings presents to thirty-year-olds, but we'd be willing to trade all the rest for a pair of healthy boys in 2010!

Monday, December 21, 2009


As life whirled around us, our hearts fluttering erratically, her tiny eyes bored into mine. "Don't cry, Daddy," they said. "This is how angels are made."

Twenty-six words. Twenty-six days. Neither were sufficient, but life's that way sometimes. Six months have passed since the day we lost our daughter. It seems a strange thing to commemorate, yet as painful as it is, it was the only moment we were given. Life moves on, Princess, but we won't forget.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A fan of the Black Eyed Peas

Turn up your speakers! The video is a bit bouncy, and the best part is over in the first five seconds, but the sound of Bryce laughing is like ambrosia for my soul.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ahh, to be young again

I picked up Christie and Bryce from the hospital this morning, and unless you pull up his shirt, you wouldn't even know that he had surgery. This evening, I was changing his diaper and I was shocked to discover that the incision has already faded to a light pink. It takes me longer to recover from a hangnail!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Live from the operating room

LAST UPDATE, 8PM: Our baby boy is on the mend. He briefly woke up at 4:30 pm and guzzled an entire bottle before promptly falling back asleep. About two hours later, we were greeted with the typical wide eyes and goofy grin, so we knew he was going to be just fine. The doctor stopped by at 7:30 and said he's more or less clear to go, but they couldn't start the discharge process before 10:30 (because the protocol says so). Christie was already falling asleep, so we decided the two of them will stay the night. They've already weaned Bryce to infant Tylenol, and he seems perfectly happy; the doc says he should be "back to normal" by tomorrow. That kid is made of tough stuff.

UPDATE, 2PM: Bryce is still extremely lethargic, and he's as enthusiastic about eating as Christie is about sleeping in a bed that is literally eighteen inches wide. The nurse actually called the anesthesiologist, because they expected him to be more responsive by now and he's been arching his back in a way that suggests he's not terribly comfortable. The doc was surprised that he could feel anything after the spinal, but he prescribed a shot of morphine, and now Bryce's out cold. His sluggishness is nothing to worry about, but it does mean we won't be leaving this broom closet before 10PM this evening. After looking at the mean incision just below his tummy, I'm willing to cut the kid a little slack.

Luckily, Bryce slept until minutes before the surgery

X marks the spot -- you can't be too careful

Reassuring Mom and Dad with some pre-surgery smiles

Happy to be back in Mommy's arms

Morphine dreams

UPDATE, 11AM: Our little champ is out of surgery and back in Mama's arms! The surgery lasted about an hour, and he spent roughly the same amount of time in recovery. Christie and I were vacillating about whether to go through with the surgery right up to the minute that the OR nurse gently pried him from Christie's protective embrace, so we were somewhat relieved when the surgeon told us afterward that we definitely made the right decision. He said that Bryce had a "huge hernia" on the right side, and that he could "fit his thumb through it."

The anesthesiologist told us that Bryce would be receiving a spinal block (kind of like an epidural) for pain, and that he might need a little bit of narcotic as well. Given his history of apnea, Christie and I were squirming anxiously in our waiting room seats alongside a dozen other antsy parents. I've never thought of my wife as a particularly swift person, but when the nurse came 'round the corner with Bryce in tow, I think she may have crossed the intervening space faster than Usain Bolt.

The drugs must be doing their job, because Bryce is still sleeping soundly, despite the fact that he hasn't eaten since 2AM. Thankfully, he is breathing on his own (no vent!), and his vitals are great. The doctor said that they want to keep him for observation for at least 12 hours, but he did so well that they might release us later tonight. We're currently cooling our heels in recovery room limbo until a room becomes available; I'll post some pictures when we get settled later in the day.

ORIGINAL, 5AM: Well, more likely the OR waiting room, but I will try to post updates throughout the day. My first question for the doctor is: "Who decides that all children's surgeries should happen at 7AM?!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Three months later

The first few weeks were a little rocky, but Bryce has risen to the challenge of life outside the NICU, and we are thrilled with how well he's been doing. For those who are keeping score at home, here's the quarterly rundown.

Feeding/Growth: Bryce has continued to thrive on the breastmilk and Elecare diet. He's doubled his weight since he came home (12.1 lbs today!), and his length has been increasing steadily (22" long). He's still on a mix of nursing/bottling (typically 4/3), and he almost always finishes an entire 4 oz. bottle of 24-calorie-per-ounce fortified breastmilk. His feeding problems are minor and steadily diminishing, though he still aspirates (chokes) an average of 1-2 times with every meal. He's still quite small for his adjusted age, but if you put him in a lineup with other three-month-olds, I don't think most people would finger him as a preemie.

Neurological: We think that Bryce is maturing, but since he can't communicate, gauging his progress is more art than science. The doctors ask us questions like "Does he recognize Mom and Dad?" or "Does he reach for things?", and we typically answer yes. However, as I lamented in an earlier post, it's hard to know whether those smiles for Daddy are actually a consequence of my presence, or simply a little bit of gas. That being said, he is more engaged with the world around him now. He's using his hands a lot more, he seems more excited when people interact with him, and I swear that he even laughed at me a few nights ago! Also, his pediatrician and therapists assure us that he's on the right track, so we're cautiously optimistic that any developmental delays will be on the mild end of the spectrum.

Ears: I'm not really sure what to think about Bryce's ears. There is no doubt that he can hear, but he failed three hearing tests before he finally passed one, so either the tests are about as reliable as Logan's electronic toys, or we're going to eventually learn that his hearing is functional but not quite perfect. We know that the cleft palate, which will eventually be repaired, can affect hearing, so we're hopeful that he'll outgrow any current problems.

Eyes: Yet another "wait and see." He has at least decent vision, which he regularly uses to charm Mommy, Daddy and even extended family by mirroring their smiles. He will track interesting toys in all directions, and even turns his head to follow especially exciting moving objects (big brother Logan, usually). We have noticed a few peculiarities with his eyes: one pupil is noticeably smaller than the other (just like Daddy!), and the corners of his eyes are very dark (consequence of the laser surgery?). More news on this early in the new year.

Lungs: Bryce's respiratory system has quickly risen to the top of the list of things that keep me awake at night, although in truth he's probably doing better than most babies who have their premature lungs ravaged by mechanical ventilation for six weeks. It's the reason why we'll be spending the holidays at home for the first time ever, and also the reason why I'm hesitant to take Logan out in public. I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog knows that Bryce has been diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease (also known as Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia), but it wasn't until the past few weeks that the damage became apparent to a medical layman such as myself. Recently, Bryce has become a lot more active: he enjoys sitting up and even standing. However, when he exerts himself, it doesn't take long before he starts panting and wheezing in a way that reminds me of an overweight smoker at the top of a long flight of stairs. The doctor listened to him this morning and said that we shouldn't worry as long as these episodes don't last several minutes, but I'm still a little concerned about what the future will hold, and I'm downright terrified of what might happen if he should catch pneumonia or RSV. If you're interested, the mother of a darling 3-yr-old micro-preemie recently wrote a fabulous piece on life with CLD/BPD; I highly recommend it.

He passed his pre-op appointment today with flying colors, so Bryce will be having surgery to repair his inguinal and umbilical hernias at the crack of dawn on Wednesday. Christie and I are both more than a little anxious, but we're trying hard to remind ourselves that he's conquered much more at a much younger age, and that we're entrusting him to some very capable hands. If you have any positive energy to spare, please keep Bryce in your thoughts and prayers on the 16th!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feeling feisty

Apparently, Bryce and Ralph (Logan's teddy bear) are not friends.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In his own words

Hi, this is Bryce. You'll have to pardon my Mommy and Daddy; they get a little emotional sometimes. Don't worry, I know what needs to get done, and I'm a real 'git r done' kind of guy. All those fancy pants doctors are always running around preaching doom and gloom, scaring my parents with whoppers like "Bryce can't hear!", and "Bryce can't see!", and even "Bryce's brain isn't growing!" HAH! We'll see about that.

Did you know that I weigh 11.6 pounds today? All that growing makes a guy mighty hungry, so I've been drinking 4 ounces of milk every 3 hours! I inherited a sensitive tummy from my Mommy, and sometimes I get a little cranky from all the rumbling and grumbling that goes on in there. On really bad days, I spit up a little bit of milk, and it goes through a hole in the top of my mouth and comes out my nose! That is not fun.

My Mommy is really nice. She rocks me when I can't sleep, and even gives me baby massages! We play lots of games; one of my favorites is hitting balls in the Bumbo. I can't quite sit up straight yet, and holding my head up tires me out, but I love to watch those balls roll around!

I like my Daddy too. He helps me stand up so that I can see everything that's going on around me. My legs are strong enough to support me, but I need Daddy's help to balance. Sometimes, I start breathing really hard when Daddy is playing with me, and he gets a little worried, but I don't think he should fret. Standing up is a lot of work for such a little guy!

I recently learned a fun new game. Mommy & Daddy think I've "discovered my hands." Pssht. As if I didn't know they were there. When Daddy's feeding me, I like to knock the bottle out of his hands when he's not paying attention. He doesn't think it's funny, but I think it's hilarious! One time, when Mommy was watching, I bopped myself right in the forehead with my hand, just to get a laugh out of her!

You know what I don't like? Cold wipes. My parents have this perfectly good wipe warmer in my bedroom, but every time I make a mess in my pants, they reach for those disposable wipe packages. It's bad enough that I have to suffer the indignity of someone else wiping my bum; you'd think they could at least use the warm wipes! It's almost like they're too lazy to walk up the stairs. What's up with that?

I have a big surgery coming up soon. On Wednesday the 16th, I'll be having my hernias repaired at Children's Hospital. I'm a little scared that they're going to put that nasty tube down my throat again, but the doctor says they're going to take real good care of me. I get to stay overnight with Mommy in my very own room at the hospital! I wonder if they'll have a TV with that Cars movie my brother loves so much. I like to sneak a peek at that one when Mommy and Daddy think I'm sleeping in the swing. SHHH! Don't tell.

Bye Bye!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Was that a coo or a squeak?

When our older son Logan was born, Christie and I started religiously reading "Your Baby's First Year - week by week", and when the first year came to an end, we moved on to the next book in the series. Each week, we spent part of an evening learning about the behavior that would be expected from a "normal" child of that age, then set about convincing ourselves that our son fit into that category. Any time we discovered that, for instance, most 14-month-olds know six words, whereas Logan only knew five, we'd spend the next few weeks working to correct the shortcoming that we almost always attributed to our negligent parenting. Around his second birthday, I must've subconsciously arrived at the realization that this was a manifestation of ridiculous over-parenting, because I can't remember the last time I picked up one of those books, but I'm completely convinced that Logan couldn't possibly be a more normal 3-year-old.

Now that I'm an "experienced" parent, you'd think that I could relax and enjoy the mostly happy days of the past two months with Bryce. In spite of his unthinkably early arrival and all that it entailed, he seems to be doing great now. All of the doctors keep telling us that he looks awesome and that he's right on target for his adjusted age. However, I still find myself beset with anxiety; I really want to believe that he's going to beat the odds, but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Did he really follow that toy with his eyes, or was it a fluke? Was he reaching for the ball, or just flailing his arms around? Was that a coo, or just a squeak?

In this case, the Internet is as much curse as blessing. I've had the opportunity to connect with dozens of other micro-preemie parents, and though this has been a great boon for my sanity, it also means that I've heard all too many stories about seemingly normal infancies followed by significant feeding and developmental issues in toddlerhood. The inevitably of some prematurity-related challenges seems to be a universal belief amongst those who've been down this road; as one parent so eloquently put it, "one simply can’t be exposed to extrauterine life at that gestation and not be marked for life from it."

So, every time we're told that he's passed another test or hit another milestone, I find myself wondering, if not this, then... what?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Name that baby

Three photos of Logan and three photos of Bryce -- I wonder if the facial recognition feature in iPhoto could tell them apart. :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The promise of the future

The linked article contains some interesting information about Bryce's lung condition and some promising research into its prevention and treatment. I was bummed to hear CLD/BPD baby lungs described as the "lungs of a 50-year-old smoker", but "healing juice" that "regenerates dead cells" sounds pretty darn good.

Research suggests stem cells could help lung development in preemies

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Living the dream

Ok, maybe it's not the typical baby dream, but it's definitely the micro-preemie parent dream! Bryce had a great six-month check-up on Friday; his official measurements are:
  • Weight: 10.8 lbs. (10-25% for his adjusted age of 2.5 months)
  • Length: 21.25" (still < 3%)
  • Head size: 40 cm (25-50%)
As you can see, he's still exceeding expectations with respect to weight gain and head size, but he probably won't be an all-star center for the Timberwolves. Bryce's pediatrician stepped through a chart with different developmental milestones, and in five of the six areas (all but social skills), he's behaving like a 3-4 month old baby. The doctor also said that he sees a lot of babies, and he's convinced that Bryce is a winner both physiologically and neurologically.

We did have a bit of drama (of course), but the doctor is convinced that it's going to turn out to be a false alarm. When Bryce's pediatrician reviewed his head ultrasound from a couple weeks back, he noticed that the relative amount of fluid between his brain and his skull has increased slightly. This could be an early sign that his brain isn't growing properly, but given how well he's doing developmentally, it's much more likely a sign that Bryce is subjected to way too many tests.

I'll end on a high note -- for the first time since he came home, I can say that we have *no* doctor appointments next week! This is one dream I hope we never wake up from.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks



Happy six-month birthday Bryce and Chloe! On this day in May, you made your debut in this world in spectacular fashion. When we met, you couldn't greet us with so much as a whimper because of the breathing tube that was hastily forced down your throat, and your tiny hands were hardly the size of my thumbnail. I had read that a preemie's head can be as small as a lemon, and I remember standing at your isolettes thinking, "A lemon? God, I wish their heads were the size of a lemon. They're closer to the size of a golf ball." We were surrounded by doctors, none of whom could tell us whether you'd survive the next hour, and we knew that, even in the best case, we'd spend the next eight years worrying about the long-term effects of your prematurity. And yet, none of that mattered. We were irrevocably bonded to you at 11:30 AM on that fine spring day, and your Mommy and I both agreed that we were going to do everything in our power to provide you with a chance to enjoy that which we've come to appreciate so deeply: life. We've never regretted that decision for even one minute, and I know that we never will. Love you, Squeaker. Love you, Princess.

It is oddly fitting that the twins' half-year birthday happened to fall on Thanksgiving, because it is an event which has redefined how I experience life in ways that I am profoundly grateful for. Yes, 2009 has been a year of great heartache and anxiety for our family. Do I wish things would've turned out differently? Absolutely. However, I think it sometimes takes an event of this magnitude to strip away all the noise and reveal the fundamental joys of human existence. It certainly has given me a much deeper appreciation for many aspects of my life, and I'm especially grateful for the people in my life who give each day meaning.

Today, I'd like to extend a special thanks to a few of those who've touched our lives in unexpected or profound ways during the past six months. This list is by no means exhaustive, so I hope no one will feel overlooked. We're very grateful for each and every card, e-mail, visit, gift and other kindness, no matter how great or small.

Thank you, Paul, for not giving up on our little girl, even after the writing was on the wall. Those fifteen minutes were priceless.

Thank you, Sally, for always going the extra mile for Bryce.

Thank you, to those special NICU nurses, for patiently fielding calls from two very anxious parents and for caring about (as well as for) our little ones.

Thank you, Chuck, for always being there with a smile and a prayer.

Thank you, Rachel, for shielding us from that mountain of paperwork and those insufferable insurance people.

Thank you, Poozie, for spending enough time at our house to qualify as a voter in Anoka county. Logan is blessed to have a Nana who loves him so much.

Thank you, Logan's babysitting crew, for providing a loving and stable home for him while we were away.

Thank you, Sarah V., for your dedication to Logan. You were much more than just a babysitter to him.

Thank you, ARCC, for honoring Chloe with a charity book drive. We were deeply touched by the gesture.

Thank you, Ryan @ Mueller-Bies, for handling a delicate matter so admirably. You're a credit to your profession.

Thank you, Grandma Marlene, for ensuring that our fridge is always well stocked with delicious homemade food. When I offer Logan Kraft Mac N' Cheese, he now says "No, Gamma Mac N' Cheese".

Thank you, Grandpa Duane, for taking such an active interest in learning about the twins and their care.

Thank you, Grandma S., for your kind words of wisdom and support.

Thank you, Logan, for being the heart of this family.

Thank you, Chloe, for brightening our lives with your presence, then and now.

Thank you, Bryce, for tenaciously defying the odds. Every time they told us to expect the worst, you showed us that we should never count you out. Keep up the good work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday fun-day

Logan's congestion cleared up overnight, and he didn't develop any other obvious symptoms, so the Department of Small Baby Security has downgraded the germ threat level to yellow. Other than that, it's been a pretty quiet weekend; in fact, Logan and I even managed to talk Mommy in to leaving Bryce with us while she took a long overdue break to go to a movie. It might not sound like much, but I'd say that's a strong indicator of how well Bryce's doing.

We only have *one* doctor appointment next week -- woohoo! Enjoy the pics/vids.

Bryce has mixed feelings about saying hi to his friends on the Internet

Bryce LOVES the Playskool Swing N' Score baseball

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Weekly Roundup

They say life imitates art, and I know medical dramas are all the rage, but I never expected to be living one! Fortunately, the daily ups and downs have been fairly minor lately, and I'd say the week as a whole was more or less a wash.

Bryce is still healthy, but Logan sounds like he's coming down with a cold, and even if we were both home every day, I can't imagine how we're going to be able to keep his germs from spreading throughout the house. Ironically, we're fairly sure he picked it up at the doctor's office; Bryce had an appointment on Wednesday, and Logan was crawling up the walls in a waiting room filled with sick kids. C'est la vie.

Bryce's speech/feeding therapist had some especially encouraging things to say about his development after observing all the smiling and cooing he does when people interact with him. However, his tremendous growth spurt seems to be petering out; after several weeks of gaining an average of 1.5 oz. per day, he's dropped to about 0.5 oz per day this week. That's not terrible, but given our fear of future growth/feeding issues, we liked it a lot better when he was in the right-hand tail of the preemie growth bell curve.

The biggest medical news of the week is that Bryce passed a hearing test in both ears! I guess the old cliche is wrong; for Bryce, the fourth time's the charm. As a consequence, they've decided to cancel his ABR hearing test for the time being, which is especially good because they have to anesthetize infants for the ABR.

Finally, I wanted to let everyone (but especially our preemie parent followers) know about a documentary, called Little Man, which was on Showtime (and is available from Netflix). The movie is about a one pound 25-weeker, named Nicholas, who had an especially turbulent entry into this world. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say I recommend the movie, but it did evoke smiles and tears from both Christie and I. A great deal of time is dedicated to the ethical and family dilemmas associated with micro-preemies, and I found it hard to get through the first twenty five minutes. Though Nicholas had a longer and tougher NICU stay than Bryce, most of the medicine looked all too familiar. It's definitely not date-night material, as this micro-preemie Mommy doesn't pull any punches, but if you're interested in a realistic documentary of the challenges of NICU life and raising a micro-preemie at home, I'm guessing this movie is one of a kind.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fight for preemies

10 pounds today! It might not sound like much, but that's an eight-fold increase over the past six months. How many people do you know who've managed such a feat? Better yet, Bryce seems happy and healthy, he's right on track (developmentally) for a two-month-old and he hasn't been giving his parents too much grief.

The past few days have been very uneventful, but today is Prematurity Awareness Day, so I wanted to make everyone aware that this preemie is doing great! Also, I'd like to dedicate this "fight for preemies" post to the real fighters who spend their days on the front lines for these kids, and to recognize how lucky we are.

It certainly didn't have to be this way. Six months ago today, Christie and I were sitting in a hospital room, still reeling from a dramatic shift in our reality. When you look at Bryce today, it's hard to believe that on May 17th, we were in the process of having frank discussions with doctors about whether they would provide "intensive care" or "hospice care" for our children.

Although we instantly recoiled at the idea of doing anything less than everything we could for Chloe and Bryce, the doctors were right to broach this very sensitive subject. Even the staunchest believer in the sanctity of life must weigh their desire to fight for their child against the likelihood of a positive outcome, and the odds against the twins were disheartening. Based on studies published in top medical journals which tracked micro-preemie outcomes through the first year, I calculated the following statistics for Bryce and Chloe when they were born:
  • Survival rate: 40%
  • Survival w/o moderate-severe disability: 10%
It's easy to lose hope when you look at those numbers. Given where we started, there was only a 19% chance that we'd leave the NICU with even one healthy baby. It would've been very easy, perhaps even rational, to write Bryce and Chloe off as a lost cause. And yet, when we decided we were "all in", the folks at UMMC (and subsequently at Children's) fully committed their time and energy to helping our babies for no more remuneration than they'd receive if they adopted a specialty where the success rate is much higher than 40%.

Like that of many micro-preemies, Bryce and Chloe's story has taken many tragic turns; Christie and I still struggle with the loss of our little princess. However, it is also a story of hope and courage. Hope, in the form of two naive and overwrought parents who just wanted to give their children a chance at life, and courage, in the form of everyone who fought to make that dream a reality. I challenge anyone to look at that smiling face and tell me it was a poor decision.

So, I wanted to take this opportunity, once again, to thank all the doctors, nurses, scientists, therapists and others who truly fight for preemies every day. These folks take one look at those statistics, and in spite of the heartache they're almost sure to endure, say "to heck with that -- let's save those babies."

Friday, November 13, 2009

A sigh of relief

Bryce met with the last of his new specialists today, and I'm pleased to say that in spite of the inauspicious date, we ended the week on a high note. His pediatric pulmonologist (lungs) said that he is doing fantastic, and mostly confirmed what we already knew. Bryce does have Chronic Lung Disease, a scarring of the lung tissue which is practically inevitable in extremely premature babies that need long-term ventilation. However, he's been off oxygen for more than two months, he hasn't had any apnea spells since he left the hospital, and the doc said that his lungs sound great. His CLD is the biggest factor in our fear of respiratory infection, and the pulmonologist advised us to continue to be extremely careful through the end of April (*sigh*), but he's optimistic that Bryce will be one of the kids who'll outgrow this condition. The doctor also said that he no longer needs three of his medications, including the dreaded salts that precipitate most of his choking episodes, so by early next week he'll only be taking the pink stuff all kids love: amoxicillin.

The only bittersweet news of the day is that they're going to take away our security blanket! Despite the inconvenience, Christie and I find a great deal of comfort in knowing that Bryce's apnea monitor will emit a shriek that would wake the dead if he should stop breathing in the wee hours of the night. However, he hasn't had any alarms in three weeks, and none of his alarms to date have been serious, so the pulmonologist said it's time to give it back. He wanted to take it today, but one look at Christie's panic-stricken expression prompted him to give us an additional two weeks to "get used to the idea."

This mildly upsetting new development was swept from our minds shortly thereafter when the pediatrician called with some eagerly anticipated results. Bryce's head ultrasound, which was taken yesterday morning, was completely clean: no brain swelling, no extra fluid on the brain, and no enlarged ventricles! All said, it was a fantastic Friday the 13th for our mighty mite.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Germs: 1, Sonneks: 1

And we'd be perfectly content to leave it at that. Yesterday was a bit rough, as I did end up with a low-grade fever and some intestinal distress, but all that's left this afternoon is the cough. During the past 48 hours, I've had most of the symptoms of the flu, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I've heard it described. Perhaps I'd built up a partial immunity from the vaccine shot I received a week ago, or maybe it's just a cold. More importantly, it's been nearly three days since I started feeling out of sorts, and no one else in the house is sick yet.

Bryce has been at home with us for exactly two months today, and when you consider that period as a whole, he's doing remarkably well. One of the county nurses came to check up on him yesterday, and he's currently measuring 21.25" long and weighs 9.5 lbs. For his adjusted age of 2 months, he's moved up on the growth charts from the "< 3 percentile" to "5-10 percentile" with respect to his weight. Given his rocky start and how common it is for micro-preemies to have growth/feeding issues, I'd say that's cause to celebrate! His lungs are still clear as a bell, and we've had naught but false alarms on the apnea monitor for at least two weeks.

Some of you may have noticed that I added a little "Fight for Preemies" badge to the blog sidebar. This campaign is sponsored by the March of Dimes as part of Prematurity Awareness Month, and its goal is to raise awareness of the high cost and growing prevalence of premature birth. At first blush, it seems silly to think that blogging about our experience with prematurity can have any meaningful effect on the more general predicament. Also, I felt a bit foolish supporting such a campaign; although premature birth is a problem that has become near and dear to my heart, I recognize that there are many ills in the world (hunger, cancer, heart disease, war, etc) that have a much broader impact on humanity.

However, after further consideration, I realized that unlike these other crises, prematurity wasn't even on my radar until it happened to us. I literally had no idea that preterm birth was as common as it is (50,000 micro-preemies per year in the U.S.), nor that they had the medical technology to save these tiny babies' lives. If, by telling our little miracles' stories, we're able to make others aware of the problem, that sounds like a pretty good first step toward making prematurity a priority on the national agenda. I know I'm biased, but I'm fairly confident that the overwhelming majority of people would agree that it warrants far more attention than some of the "crises" currently being addressed by Congress (steroids in baseball, anyone?).

With that in mind, Christie and I consented to a feature story on our terrific twosome on the website A fellow micro-preemie parent is a writer for the site, and she asked if she could use Bryce and Chloe's story as one of her Prematurity Awareness Month profile stories. If you're reading this, everything in the article is probably old news, but check it out if you've got a free minute!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Germs: 1, Sonneks: 0

Despite assiduously following the CDC recommendations, the germs have struck the first blow in the war to keep Bryce healthy. I woke up this morning with a mild sore throat and a tickle in my lungs, which I attributed to the very dry air in our house. By early afternoon, I'd developed an uncomfortable pressure in my lungs that was making it impossible to work, so I went to Walgreens, bought two jumbo packs of face masks and some Halls, then locked myself in our basement. During the past few hours, I've developed a cough that feels like it's tearing my lungs apart, a splitting headache and (worst of all) a gnawing fear that I'm going to be responsible for Bryce's re-hospitalization.

Fortunately, our lower level is a walkout with a bathroom and a futon, so I only really need to head upstairs when I want to eat. Also, our families have already selflessly volunteered to step in for me at home during the next few evenings, so I only feel moderately awful about leaving Christie to deal with the kids alone. Right now, I'm just desperately hoping that no one else has already caught the bug, and that my immune system can squash it in short order.

So far, life is carrying on happy as can be without me. As you can see in the attached video, Bryce is doing so well that he seems to have evoked a bit of sibling rivalry in his big brother. I'm sure it won't be the last time.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Show and tell

Well, more show than tell. Enjoy!

Raking leaves in the backyard with my big brother

Mommy, Daddy and Me

I've been working on beefing up these cheeks! (9.25 lbs)

Snug as a bug in a rug -- the only way I sleep

Look how strong I am! I can almost sit up with a little help from my Bumbo!

Melting Mommy's Heart

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A ray of sunshine

I sometimes feel like I'm the stormcrow, constantly heralding the arrival of more troubling news. Bryce must have sensed my disquiet, because he put on quite a show for the occupational therapist (OT) today, and I could hardly wait to share the good, and only good, tidings.

After Bryce's trouble at the audiologist on Monday, Christie asked me if I'd ever heard him coo. I pointed out that he squeaks (kind of like a grunt), but I couldn't recall a time that I'd ever heard him coo. She was concerned that Bryce's language skills weren't developing because he couldn't hear, and my answer only intensified her concern. Since then, we've both been anxiously trying to prove to ourselves that he does respond to our voices and the sounds of the world around him.

Thus, I'm pleased (and relieved) to announce that he was cooing up a storm for the OT this morning. He didn't stop there, though. With a little coaxing, he grabbed some toys on his own, brought one up to his mouth and even rolled over twice! I'm also happy to report that sanity prevailed at Logan's H1N1 vaccination appointment this morning, as Christie had no trouble convincing the nurse that she ought to be poked as well.

I regularly try to remind myself that Bryce's journey will be different, that I can't expect that he'll be a typical newborn; really, I can't expect anything. Rather than lamenting the challenges he faces, I should be celebrating every moment that he's here with us, because in a different time or place, that simply wouldn't be the case. In reality, when you're dealing with the fear of illness or disability, it's easy to lose sight of the miracle of his life. Days like today certainly don't hurt. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What you don't know can hurt you

We're starting to develop a bit of a love-hate relationship with the medical profession. Yes, they did save our son's life, and they gave us an opportunity to meet our daughter, for which we are eternally grateful. However, it seems like we can't set foot in any kind of medical facility without learning at least one disconcerting new fact about Bryce. Thus far, most of his challenges are not life threatening, and we've met many amongst our friends and family who've shared comforting stories about overcoming similar challenges, but that's not the point. It's not the hernias, or the reflux, or the cleft palate, or his potential sensory shortcomings or any of the other stuff that kills me: it's the fact that he has to overcome all of them, and that the only reasonable expectation is that the list will continue to grow. It's like death by a thousand little disappointments.

So, on to the new facts of today. Bryce had his appointment with the pediatric opthamologist this morning, and the news gradually progressed from encouragingly good to uncomfortable-feeling-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach scary. First, they checked his vision using a number of simple tests. As expected, he had no trouble tracking toys that light up, but I was pleasantly surprised when he repeatedly followed a striped square embedded within a larger, solid rectangle. This was the first time I've witnessed visual behavior from Bryce that convinced me that he can see more than just light; those little eyes actually work!

Next, they did a test to determine how good his visual acuity is. The doctor said that Bryce is quite near-sighted, and that if he was going to school they would definitely fit him with glasses. However, his vision is good enough that it won't hamper his development as an infant, so no baby glasses for this kid!

It was at this point that the news started taking a turn for the worse. The opthamologist explained to us that Bryce's optic nerves are unusually pale. This could mean that the capillaries (small blood vessels) in the optic nerve haven't fully developed yet, or it could mean that the optic nerve was damaged (or didn't develop correctly) due to his early arrival. Since the optic nerve is essentially the signal wire between the eyes and the brain, you can imagine how a "frayed" optic nerve could cause all kinds of problems.

Finally, we get to the real scary stuff. Our readers may have noticed that Bryce holds his eyes wide open, almost as if he's just been startled, in many of the pictures. What you may not know, however, is that this isn't just a consequence of the camera flash; his eyes are usually like that when he's awake. The opthamologist noticed this behavior, and casually dropped the morning's bombshell: perpetually wide eyes is often a sign of increased intracranial pressure (i.e., brain swelling). As many of you know, we were deeply worried about this due to Bryce's intraventricular hemorrhage; however, his hemorrhage resolved very quickly, and all of his subsequent ultrasounds looked great. Nevertheless, the doctor recommended that we schedule another ultrasound of the ventricles to look for swelling as soon as possible. Never a dull moment in the life of a micro-preemie (nor his emotionally-battered parents).

Thankfully, everyone is still healthy, and I'm busy manufacturing H1N1 antibodies after (finally) scoring a vaccine at the U. I know it's just the placebo effect, but I already feel healthier. :) We managed to get Logan scheduled for vaccination too, but we're still fighting to get Christie classified as "high risk." Though it's barely begun, I've never been so eager for a "season" (cold & flu) to be over with.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Can you hear me now?

Well, we certainly didn't see that one coming! Today's appointment with the otlaryngologist (also known as Ear-Nose-Throat, or ENT, specialists) was the second in his spate of specialist meet and greets, and we expected it to be so uneventful that I opted to skip this one. The primary purpose of the visit was to evaluate his cleft palate, and though we're occasionally jolted awake by a heart-wrenching wail accompanied by milk dribbling out his nose, Bryce's reflux issues seem to be relatively minor.

You can imagine my surprise when I heard a catch in Christie's voice as she called with the post-appointment report. As predicted, the doctor wasn't concerned with the feeding-related aspects of the cleft palate, especially given how well (just shy of nine pounds!) Bryce has been doing. However, what we didn't know is that there are a number of ear problems which are commonly associated with a cleft palate. I wasn't there to get all the details, but as I understand it a cleft palate can cause (temporary or permanent) hearing loss due to fluid build-up or problems with pressure equalization, and the very fact that he has a cleft palate makes it more likely that he has a congenital defect of the ear, since the two develop at the same time.

The ENT repeated Bryce's newborn hearing exam, and this time he failed in both ears. So, they conducted another test (called the OAE) that measures how well his ear drums respond to sound, and the results were marginal; he didn't completely fail, but it was a D- at best. The doctor recommended that we schedule yet another test, called the ABR, at the hospital, which will allow them to measure his neurological response to sound. As I've said before, we know that he can hear to some degree, but I suppose that the ability to hear a pot dropped on a tile floor doesn't necessarily imply the ability to hear Mama's affectionate whispers. Unfortunately, the ENT warned us that it's unlikely we'll be able to get an appointment for the new test before 2010, so we won't have any more answers for a while.

Typical preemie drama aside, our little man is doing awesome. He's still sleeping for long stretches at night and he's starting to look downright chunky. If we can make it through the remaining appointments without any more curveballs, I'd say things are looking up for the Sonnek family.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back under the knife

Though he's sixty times younger than his old man, Bryce will have been on the operating table just as many times in a few short weeks. That's hardly the kind of precociousness I'd hoped for in my children, but I do find some solace in the fact that he's had fewer, and less dangerous, surgeries than your average micro-preemie.

Unlike his previous laser surgery, this time he really will be under the knife. We visited the pediatric urologist at Children's Hospital today, and he recommended that Bryce's inguinal hernia be fixed before the end of the year. It's not an immediate danger, but they almost never close on their own, and it could abruptly become an emergency situation if his bowel gets incarcerated (trapped outside the abdominal wall). As predicted, the surgeon is also going to fix his umbilical hernia as long as he's poking around in there.

The good news is that this surgery is not terribly dangerous. The doctor told us that inguinal hernia repair is an outpatient procedure for most people, but with preemies everything is more complicated. For Bryce, the biggest concerns are anesthesia-induced apnea and infection. At Children's, they mitigate the risk of the former by "employing the best pediatric anesthesiologists in town" and mandating a hospital stay of at least one night following surgery. As far as infection is concerned, they generally don't use surgical knives that have fallen on the floor (unless it has been less than five seconds, of course). ;-P

Someone must've tipped Bryce off about Santa's naughty and nice lists, because he's still doing everything he can to work his way on to the latter. His growth has been incredible (8 lb, 10 oz today), and he's even started smiling at Mommy, Daddy and big brother Logan. His typical night time routine is to eat at 10pm, sleep quietly until 2:30am, eat again, then sleep until 7:30am; what more could a parent of a six-week-old ask for? He really seems to have turned the corner, and you'll hear no complaints from us about that. I still have to be pretty quick with the camera to catch those smiles, but I've included a few of his goofy grins with this post, along with a movie that shows how great his eyes are doing. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy days, quiet nights

Every once in a while, I pause to reflect on some aspect of my life and realize that I'm very content with the status quo. This past week with Bryce has definitely been one of those times. He's healthier than he's ever been and his temperament changed almost overnight from fussy, impossible-to-please little tyrant to happiest baby on the block. For the past few nights, he's slept for 9 hours with only a single feeding break in the middle! I still find myself lying awake at night on occasion, but it's the more easily banished fears of what may come (or ghosts of the past) that keep me up, rather than quandaries of the present. If only we knew how to keep him this happy and healthy. :)

We bid farewell to one specialist this week, but we added two more; I suppose that's progress of a sort. Bryce's retinologist said that his eyes have fully recovered from the laser surgery and that his retinas look "awesome," so our little champ has officially beaten retinopathy of prematurity. She referred us to a pediatric opthamologist, which is one of several big events looming on the horizon. In early November, the opthamologist is going to test how well Bryce can see to determine whether he needs baby glasses. Between now and then, we've got important appointments with a urologist to check on his hernias, a pulmonologist to evaluate his lung condition and an otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat doctor) to check on his cleft palate. That's three too many opportunities for our peace and harmony to be disturbed by some complication that we're blissfully ignorant of, but if Bryce's luck holds we should be able to cross a few more names off his list of caregivers in two weeks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween fever

The Halloween season is in full swing, and the malls aren't the only ones peddling fear. As if the mass hysteria surrounding the economy weren't enough, virtually every media outlet, medical facility and educational institution has been broadcasting regular updates on the H1N1 death toll ticker. Notifying the public about a health threat is certainly a laudable endeavor, but how exactly do I benefit from daily updates on the number of children who have fallen victim to the flu? To make matters worse, the majority of these stories attempt to reassure their readers by pointing out that most of the young victims had "underlying health conditions", as if their loss is somehow less painful due to the fact that life dealt them a rotten hand to begin with. As the father of one of these medically-challenged kids, I can assure you that we harbor the same hopes and dreams for Bryce as we do for our more robust child. My heart goes out to all the parents who've lost a child to this or any other illness, especially those whose grief has been marginalized due to the circumstances of their child's birth.

Fortunately, we don't have any spooky news to report from the Sonnek household. Everyone is healthy, and Bryce continues to exceed expectations. In fact, he's officially outgrown his newborn diapers and outfits, as he cracked the eight pound mark this afternoon, and he's looking better with each passing day! Hopefully, we're done with all of the preemie tricks for a while, and now we can just enjoy the treat (a healthy baby boy) that we've been anxiously awaiting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The times, they are a changin'

For the past few days, Christie has been struggling to articulate the reason why she feels Bryce is maturing, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. I was skeptical earlier in the week, but after spending the weekend at home with him, I've started to notice a number of exciting changes as well. First and foremost, he'll finally sleep without being held constantly. During the day, it's usually only an hour or so, but he's been sleeping soundly for 3 or even 4 hour stretches at night. He still dislikes the crib, but his papasan bouncer chair and swing have quickly become new favorites in the Sonnek household.

Mealtime has become a lot less stressful, too. The hour-long, anxiety-ridden feedings of the past have gradually transitioned into twenty-minute affairs in which choking is the exception rather than the rule. He hit 7 lb., 12 oz. (Logan's birth weight!) this morning, and doesn't seem like he's planning to slow down any time soon. Finally, Bryce is more engaged with the world around him. If he's resting on my lap, he definitely prefers sitting upright, so that he can see what's happening around him, to lying flat, and certain toys consistently arouse his interest.

I've included a short video clip of this morning's Tummy Time below. Not too exciting, but he sure does have a lot of energy for a one-month-old!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Packing on the pounds

After a few disconcerting days of zero growth, we decided to try bumping up Bryce's fortified milk volumes from 60 ml to 75 ml, and he has responded in a big way! He's roughly seven and a half pounds today, which is an average growth rate of 1.5 ounces/day (nearly a four-fold increase!) over the past five days. His length is up to 19.75", and his head circumference has increased to 36.5 cm. Bryce's pediatrician was very pleased with our burgeoning boy at this afternoon's check-up, and we were equally pleased to hear him described by a doctor as a "very healthy-looking baby."

Of course, it would be very un-preemie-like to have a several-day period with only good news, and the last five days were no exception. On Sunday, Christie was a bit panicked after finding a rather large lump in Bryce's private area. After a few minutes on Google, I decided that Bryce had either the world's largest testicle or an inguinal hernia. Fortunately, the lump didn't seem to be causing him any pain, and the fact that it went away after several hours pretty much ruled out the first theory. When I explained what we'd seen to Bryce's pediatrician, he said that I'd described a textbook case of an inguinal hernia, and suggested that we contact a pediatric urologist sooner rather than later, since this type of hernia rarely resolves without surgical assistance. So, Bryce will likely undergo the second surgery of his life sometime before the end of the year. I'd like to say that I hope it will be his last, but that's so unrealistic that I'll settle for hoping that it is quick and painless.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bryce in a nutshell

As of tomorrow, Bryce has been home for an entire month! The past thirty days have been far from easy, but it beats daily trips to the hospital, and we're definitely in a better place now than in mid-September. Our confidence in the hard decisions we made back in May grows with every added ounce, and it keeps getting easier to imagine the day when our lives will no longer be defined by Bryce's prematurity.

Since I know most of you have only been able to follow Bryce's progress through the tidbits I add to the blog, I thought it would be worthwhile (and fun) to post a summary of Bryce's current status. Call it an 'Introduction to Bryce', if you will. :)

Size: Bryce currently weighs 3215 grams, or just over 7 lb., 1 oz. In the past, his length and head circumference have been in line with his weight, but he hasn't been measured since shortly after discharge. One month ago, he weighed almost exactly one pound less, so his average growth rate is slightly less than half of the desired ounce per day. Even for his adjusted age, he's very small -- below the 5th percentile on the growth charts. We're hoping that the Elecare-fortified milk will continue to help with this, but feeding/nutrition is one of Bryce's major challenges.

Eyes: We thought this was going to be Bryce's Achilles heel, but thanks to his outstanding retinologist, Bryce is looking (pun intended) really good. Some of the medical studies that I read back in August suggested that as many as 94% of babies with Bryce's condition end up legally blind, but he appears to have beaten the odds once again. He probably won't be a fighter pilot, since the laser surgery which saved his sight destroyed his peripheral vision, but it sounds like he'll eventually walk, run and possibly even drive down the street unassisted.

Ears: Bryce failed a hearing test in his right ear, and we know that high-frequency ventilators can cause hearing loss, but we also know that these tests are notoriously unreliable. More importantly, there's no doubt that Bryce can hear with at least one of his ears, so we're doing pretty good in this department.

Heart: As far as we know, this baby is solid gold. Other than his PDA, which closed without surgery, Bryce hasn't exhibited any cardiac trouble.

Lungs: Bryce was on a ventilator for the first six weeks of his life, and received oxygen supplementation through a nasal cannula for the next eight weeks, but he has been breathing without any support since late-August. Mechanical ventilation almost always damages the fragile air sacs in extremely premature lungs, resulting in a build-up of scar tissue called Chronic Lung Disease (CLD), which makes breathing more difficult. We've been told that Bryce breathes much faster than your average baby (probably because he gets less oxygen with each breath), but every medical professional who has listened to his lungs has said they sound "crystal clear", which is definitely a good sign. Despite this, the same medical professionals have repeatedly warned us that if Bryce catches the flu, pneumonia, or certain types of colds, we can expect that he'll be re-hospitalized, and that he'll be in real danger of meeting his sister sooner rather than later. If you needed any further proof that I'm not just being dramatic, we recently learned that the insurance company is paying more than $1000/mo for Bryce to get a monthly shot which may protect against a type of cold called RSV, and we all know that insurance providers aren't particularly eager to part with their money for treatment that isn't absolutely necessary. We spend a lot more time dealing with his feeding issues, but respiratory infection causes us the most consternation.

Brain: I tried to save the best for last. Bryce had a grade 2 intra-ventricular hemorrhage when he was born, but it resolved very quickly, and he's passed all of his subsequent tests with flying colors. Bryce's caregivers have been impressed with his reflexes and behaviors, and he seems to be right on track for a one-month old baby. We won't have all the answers until Bryce is at least 8 years old, and it wouldn't be surprising if he has some developmental issues down the road, but so far he's doing great.

Thanks again to everyone who has played a role in our little miracle's fantastic journey. On the day he was born, I watched as the NICU team whisked our baby boy away, and I'm somewhat ashamed to say that my first thought upon seeing him was, "there is no way he's going to leave this operating room." 138 days later, he's sleeping peacefully on my living room floor, and I know we never would have made it through without the support of hundreds of family, friends and even total strangers. So, whether you threaded an ultra-thin IV line into Bryce's tiny arm, or watched over Logan, or picked up our slack at work, or said a prayer for Bryce on Sunday, or any of the myriad other kindnesses that have made this story possible -- thank you. I doubt we'll ever be able to repay you all, but I want you to know that your contribution is deeply appreciated.

For giggles, I posted three pictures below: the first is Bryce at one-month actual age, the next is Bryce at one-month corrected age, and the last is Logan when he was one-month old!

P.S. For those who are wondering, Logan was around 10 lbs. at a month.