Journal

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

Y’all! I cannot believe it! We are on track to go home NEXT WEEK! Next Monday is the day that is set to walk out of the hospital with my baby in my arms after 13 weeks in the NICU! After 90 goodbyes, I FINALLY won’t have to do that anymore. 

Now, all of this depends on if Anna can keep her feeds up all on her own. So far, she’s been doing well. For the last 3 days she’s been taking all/most of her bottles. Starting tomorrow, they will allow her to eat on demand for 48 hours. She has to gain weight during that time in order to pass. If she can do that, then her feeding tube will come out and they’ll watch her for an additional 48 hours. If she can make it, then we’re FREE!

Anna will be going home on oxygen, but we don’t care. We just want her with us. 

Please pray for her to do well with all her feedings for the next 4 days. And pray for us as we hectically run around preparing all the things to drive back to Texas.

If all works out, I should be sleeping in my own bed next Friday night for the first time since before Thanksgiving!
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Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

Well, it appears that all my excitement about the possibility of going home soon and Anna’s great progress was a bit premature. All morning, while I was at the hospital yesterday, all the nurse and I did was talk about discharge. We talked about bringing Anna’s car seat in for her car seat test. We talked about getting debriefed so we knew what to expect once we were home. We talked about the possibility of going home on oxygen. Our entire conversation revolved around one word...HOME. I was thrilled. But it was short-lived because only a few hours later, Anna’s feeding tube was put back in and her oxygen support was turned back up. She was just too tuckered out to keep working so hard. It was just too much too fast. 

At first, I was devestated. All I want in the world is to have my girl home with her family. But I know we can’t rush this. She’s not even 37 weeks yet. The fact that she was doing all those things was almost unheard of. Our girl likes to be an over achiever! But her body just couldn’t keep up with her eagerness. 

So, the plan is to give her a break over the weekend and try again more slowly next week. She’ll only be fed via feeding tube for the next few days and then next week we’ll slowly introduce the bottle again. Hopefully this will get her back on track and we can start thinking about her homecoming once again. 

Please pray for Anna to get the rest she needs this weekend. Pray that it is restorative for her and that she’ll be fully ready to get back to oral feeds next week. Pray that she continues moving forward and that we can set a date to come home! And pray for my mama heart. I always miss her and I always hate leaving her. I’m ready to close this chapter and move on to the next one. Thanks for walking through this with us!

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

Has it been a minute since I last posted, or what?? I apologize that I am not the greatest at regular updates. I have learned, about myself, during this time that overwhelming situations tend to shut down every absolutely non-essential thing in my life to help me cope and survive the big stuff...so sorry things have been so inconsistent! 

Anyway...this post is going to be a doozy (our God is SO faithful), so hold on to your hats, folks!

Ok, let’s pick up where we left off. Last time I wrote an update, Anna had just turned 9 weeks old. She weighed about 4 1/2 pounds and she had been taken off of the CPAP machine and was breathing on 3 liters of oxygen. 

This week Anna is 11 weeks old. She weighs almost 6 pounds and she’s only on .1 liters of oxygen! That is POINT one, people! That is literally the absolute lowest amount she can be on ever. 

Over the course of the last two weeks Anna has also begun taking all her feeds by bottle. She was doing so well that they removed her feeding tube yesterday! Now she is on a 48 hour watch to see if she continues to gain weight. So far, so good. Yesterday she gained 20 grams so she’s on the right track! 

We are still working on nursing (I’m determined not to give up!). Nursing is a lot harder than bottle feeding and her nurse compared it to running a marathon just for celery. She has to expend so much energy just to get a small amount. So, I’ve been in contact with another NICU mom who was able to successfully breastfeed her son (who is now 5 years old, by the way) and she has been SO encouraging! I will continue to offer Anna the breast and we will practice, and it is my hope that one day soon it will just “click” for her. Until then, her food is coming via bottle, and that’s ok because that is what will get us outta here!

So when exactly will we be “outta here?” Great question! We...still don’t know. BUT, there is an entire team working behind the scenes to get us all set up with the O2 we would need if Anna needs to go home on oxygen. If the decision is made that she will need the O2, she could be discharged in as little as a few days! An alternative plan, that would keep us here a bit longer but would eliminate all the toting of oxygen tanks, is to take her off O2 completely and watch and see how she does. Usually, doctors will do this anyway just to check and see if we can avoid the home O2 route. Since she was just weaned to .1 liters of O2 today, they are going to give her a couple days to adjust and then see if she can tolerate coming off all together. 

Lastly, she’ll need to pass her car seat test, but no one has any concerns on that front (yay!). 

Look at all the prayers God has answered in the last 2 weeks, y’all! He is SO faithful and He has been sustaining my little family every step of the way. He’s pretty much the best ever, am I right?

So what else has gone on this last couple of weeks? Grandma and Grandpa got to hold Anna for the first time (see adorable pics for that). She had to be on less that 2 liters of O2 for anyone other than mom and dad to hold her. Mommy and daddy have begun participating in meal time by bottle feeding. Also, Anna was moved out of the small baby unit and into the regular NICU. She now has a room with a giant window and all the natural light one would ever want. It’s been nice. She shares her room with a little boy named Payton. He’s been a great roommate and we like singing and reading to him too. 

So...the hour has come, prayer warriors, for what I feel is our biggest prayer request yet....

Please join me and ask our powerful, faithful God to give Anna’s lungs that last boost they need to take deep, healthy, strong breaths and COME OF OXYGEN FOR GOOD! Ask Him to send us home without any O2 and a baby perfectly capable of breathing on her own. If that doesn’t happen, God is still good, and we will adjust, but that is my specific request. 

Here’s to (hopefully) only about a week left in the hospital! 

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

No more CPAP! Goodbye! So long! Farewell! This week Jacob and I walked into Anna’s room to find that her bubble CPAP machine was gone. Girl was only on it for just under a week! That’s AMAZING y’all! All her nurses say she is exceeding expectations, and that is just fine by me. Now she’s just on 3 liters of oxygen via nasal cannula. Her little lungs sure are working!

Today she is 9 weeks old (34 weeks gestation). Because she has hit 34 weeks she is now old enough to move out of the small baby unit...we’re just waiting for a free bed in the regular NICU. To us, the regular NICU hallway is like the promised land. It’s one step closer to the door outta here! 

Another small step forward...Anna now weighs 4 1/2 pounds and is holding her own body temperature well enough that she has graduated from her incubator to a crib. It’s funny because now she looks tiny all over again. That crib is only about the size of a bassinet, but it looks huge compared to her incubator. 

So what’s left? Anna is old enough to start nursing/bottle feeding, but she’s not quite ready. She needs to be on less than 2 liters of oxygen before she can practice sucking, swallowing, and breathing, otherwise she could aspirate her milk...and we definitely do not need that. After her O2 needs have decreased and she has learned how to eat, then she’ll need to pass a car seat test where they’ll put her in a car seat for 90 minutes. She can’t have any apneas (where she stops breathing) or any bradies (where her heart rate slows to less than 80 beats per minute) during that time in order to pass. 

I’m secretly hoping that we can accomplish all these things in the next 4 weeks. We’re ready to have our baby girl with us. I have had to put her back in her bed and leave her in the hospital 64 times. 64. It breaks my heart every time and I always dread the next day when I’ll have to do it again. I long for the day that is the LAST day I’ll have to do that. The day that means the next day she’ll be coming home with us. The hardest part about it is we still don’t know when that day is. It all depends on her and how she handles these next big steps. 

So, how can you pray?

ANNA - pray that she can be weaned off her oxygen support and can just begin breathing room air all on her own. Pray this happens soon so I can begin nursing her. Pray she learns how to do that quickly and that she’s a pro at it! 

EVELYN - pray for good health for her. She seems a little off to me today and I’m nervous she might be catching a bug. Only time will tell, but I’m hoping it’s nothing. Also pray with me that God will prepare her heart to not be an only child anymore. I don’t ever want her to feel ignored or less loved by us when Anna finally does get to come home. 

JACOB - Jacob goes back to work on March 2nd. He will be working remotely from Illinois, but I know it’ll feel weird to him to jump back in after 3 months off. Pray that he’s able to dive right back in and that he is able to focus and do his job well. I’m sure it’s going to be hard for him to keep his mind on his work when all of this stuff is still going on with his family. 

KALYN - pray against fear of the unknown for me. I keep having anxiety over Anna coming home on oxygen. The thing is, we don’t know if she’ll even have to yet. I just REALLY don’t want to have to deal with all that outside the hospital. I want to be able to snuggle my baby girl without all the wires. I want to be able to look at her and see her entire face completely free of stickers, a feeding tube, and a nasal cannula. I don’t want to have to lug around the extra equipment. There’s a lot of fear wrapped up in that for me. So pray that Anna doesn’t need that stuff, but also pray that if she does that the Lord will prepare and equip me for that. 

Thank you for walking with us. Thank you for interceding for us. Thank you for loving us!

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

I apologize that it's been a full 10 days since I last posted an update! Mainly it's because there hasn't really been much to update on. Anna is doing very well. She's holding steady on the bubble CPAP machine and just growing. Her blood work has been coming back clear and she's been handling her feeds well.

Some minor updates...

Anna now weighs 3 lbs 11 oz...that's almost 4 pounds y'all! She has officially doubled her birth weight, so that is AWESOME! 

Her eye exam went really well! Thank you for praying! The results were that her eyes were "immature, zone 2." Basically what that means is that the blood vessels in her eyes have grown into zone 2 (wherever that is...all I know is that they label zones from the back of the eye to the front of the eye) and that her eyes are still immature, which is exactly where they should be because they are still developing. She will have an eye exam every 2 weeks now to keep checking on her vision progress until her eyes are fully mature.

Probably the biggest update has to do with breastfeeding. One of my biggest goals for Anna is to be able to nurse her. I had a wonderful nursing relationship with Evelyn and so desire to have that with Anna as well. She is not big enough to nurse yet, but she is allowed to "practice." Without going into too much detail, basically I position her where she would be if she were going to nurse and let her just get used to it and explore. The amazing thing is that she has latched, on her own, 3 different times now. That is INCREDIBLE for a 32 week old baby! Usually they don't develop their sucking reflex until about 34 weeks, so the fact that she is already latching is awesome! The nurses are super impressed with her and think that she'll catch on to nursing very quickly when the time comes (hopefully in the next 3-4 weeks).

Other than that, she's just growing, and that is great for her. We've just been visiting her every day and soaking up the cuddles. I spend lots of time reading and singing to her. I will admit that I am growing weary of how long this is taking. I had a small breakdown this week. I just want this part of our journey to be over. I want to take my baby home. I want to GO home to Texas. I miss my bed. I miss my house. I miss my old life. I am incredibly grateful for my family and the hospitality they have shown, but I'm just so ready to get back to normal. I hate having to leave Anna every day. I snuggle her for as long as I can, but I always have to put her back in her bed and walk away, and that kills me...every. single. time. 

PRAYER REQUESTS:

Jacob - This is more of a praise rather than a request...Jacob's job has been incredibly generous. He originally got 4 weeks paid leave. When that was over (at the beginning of January), they extended his leave until March 2nd...and are still paying him! Isn't that amazing?? They have been so kind to us during this time. Once March 2nd hits, he is allowed to work remotely from Illinois. Praise God with us for that! 

Kalyn - As you read above, I feel I'm running out of patience. A word that has been popping up in my head lately is "resilience." I've been asking God for that. I feel like I need Him to pick me up and give me the energy to keep pressing forward. I don't just want to trudge to the finish line...I want to persevere with hope and enthusiasm. I don't want to just survive this season, I want to thrive in the midst of it. Pray that God would help me to do that. 

Evelyn - She's doing well. Not much changes for her as she has no concept of time. She has enjoyed getting out and playing in the snow as well as a couple trips to the Discovery Center. So far, other than her weird bout with Roseola, she has been healthy. Pray that God continues to keep her that way.

Anna - Praise God that she has been doing so well! As you may notice in some of the pictures, her head is beginning to look a bit skinny. That's because she primarily spends time on her sides and tummy, causing her to lay on the sides of her head. She lays this way because these positions cause her to need the least amount of oxygen support. They always need to increase her oxygen when she's lying on her back. They have told us that it's like this for most babies, and they don't really get comfortable on their back till they're a bit older. However, this is causing her head to start to take a funny shape. Pray that she is able to tolerate her back better so that she can spend more time in that position for the sake of her head. Also pray that the nurses can wean her oxygen support. As soon as she can hold her own at room air (21% oxygen...she currently bounces anywhere from 23% to 32%) then she can come off the CPAP machine and move to litered O2. She'll need to be off CPAP in order to start feeding from breast or bottle as well.

That's about it for now. Enjoy some pics of our family!

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

Today was a GREAT day! Did you read that right? TODAY WAS A GREAT DAY!! I love being able to say that! In fact, it's been a great week. We have so much to be thankful for. I don't even know where to start!

So the last few days have actually been pretty much uneventful (up until to day that is...but we'll get to that in a minute). Anna didn't have really any changes to much of anything. Her respiratory support remained the same, but stable. She was slowly gaining weight. She was still tolerating her food. It was kind of just a week of "grow and wait." However, this week I got to start holding her again after my "hold ban" from when Evelyn had Roseola. We were reunited and boy did it feel so good! I couldn't wait to get to snuggle my sweet girl again, and having her back in my arms just brought the two of us so much peace. She snuggled right up under my neck and promptly fell asleep...and there we sat, just us two, for almost 3 hours. It was the best.

Anna did have her eye exam this week (11:30 on Saturday night to be exact). The results came back really positive (can I get an amen??)! Basically, the exam showed that the blood vessels in her eye have grown into "zone 2" (don't ask me where in the eye that is...I have no idea) but that they are still immature...and that is exactly what we wanted to hear at this point. She is at 31 weeks gestation, and so her eyes should still be immature. The vessels are growing at the rate they should, so as of right now, her eyesight is right on track. Do we serve a good God or what?? Thank you SO much to all of you who have been praying specifically over that eye exam. Both Jacob and I had some anxiety around it and we are glad that it is over and everything is doing well. She will have more eye exams every two weeks until she gets closer to her due date and her eyes are mature just so the doctor can keep an eye on how everything is growing.

So let's fast forward to today...well actually...a couple of days ago...I'm getting ahead of myself haha! A few days ago Jacob called the hospital for an update on Anna before we went in. We started doing this just so we're not surprised by anything when we get there. He was told that her respiratory support had improved slightly and that the respiratory therapist was able to wean Anna's vent settings just a little bit. She has been doing excellent when it comes to oxygen support. Her O2 levels got as low as 25% this week (we breathe 21% at room air) so that was amazing. What was weaned was the amount of pressure the ventilator was puffing into her lungs, meaning that her body would need to do its part to keep her lungs inflated when they need to be. Jacob asked the doctor how long he thought she'd be on the ventilator and he was told that it would be quite some time yet...you don't want to rush these things.

Ok...NOW fast forward to today! I had an inkling that Anna might be able to wear clothes for the first time today. She needed to be 3 lbs 5 oz in order to wear clothes (that is when her body can start attempting to regulate its own temperature). Yesterday she weighed 3 lbs 4.2 oz, so I had figured if she gained weight then she'd be in the clear for her first outfit. I washed all of the outfits she has (all, except one, of which were given to us by friends and family...thank you!) and packed them up in a bag to take. Well, on the way to the hospital I missed a phone call from her nurse. The voicemail told me that I should bring some clothes with me to the hospital when I visited today. Way ahead of you sister! 

We walked into Anna's room and boy was she mad! I haven't heard her cry that much yet. Wasn't that disturbing, you ask? No! It was encouraging! With each cry I could hear just how strong her lungs had gotten. Crying is good for her. It transfers air and strengthens her little lungs. She was all grumpy because she had pulled her own feeding tube out and her nurse decided to feed it back down her nose instead of into her mouth in an effort to keep her from pulling it out again. Who wouldn't cry getting a tube shoved through their nose, down their throat, and into their stomach, am I right? Anyway, Jacob bathed her this time (she cried the whole time for him, but not when I did it...but that's beside the point, right? ;) ). Then the magical moment came! After she was all clean and lotioned up, we got to dress her in her first outfit! It was great, and I soaked in every second. Then she was all swaddled up and I got to hold her cradle style for the first time in her little life. I got to gaze at her sweet face and let her look up into mine. I stared and stared at her. I wanted to memorize every single detail of her tiny little face. Now, I have seen her before, obviously. I go visit her and hold her every day. But this was different. This was me cuddling my tiny daughter into my body and marveling at how perfectly the Lord made her. She may be small, but she is perfect. Every feature crafted so carefully by our amazing God...eyes that can see (all be it limited at the moment), ears that can hear, a nose that is breathing, a little mouth that is learning how to suck, tiny fuzzy hair that is growing. She's just perfect.

Now, here is the most surprising part. To our untrained eyes, everything in her room looked the same. Her monitor was still reading all her vital signs, her bed was still being heated, and her she was still hooked up to the ventilator next to her bed. However, something WAS different. The nurse told us that even though she was still hooked up to the ventilator, they had turned the vent settings off and changed them to CPAP settings. What does this mean? It means that Anna was no longer receiving forced puffs of air into her lungs. It means that every breath she was taking she was doing completely on her own!!! And she was doing AWESOME! I didn't even notice! Now, she is still receiving oxygen and gentle stimulations to remind her to take breaths, but she is breathing on. her. own. WHAT?? Jacob and I were SHOCKED! Weren't we JUST told like 2 days ago that she would be on the ventilator for quite a bit longer? Well, not my girl! She has a big God on her side helping her each and every day. By tomorrow morning, that ventilator should be moved out of her room to be replaced by a bubble CPAP machine. I can't tell you exactly how this machine works (I am seriously medically illiterate, no matter how hard I try), but from what I can understand it will not breathe for Anna, she will do the breathing. But it will create small bubbles in a container of water. When the bubbles pop, those tiny "pops" will cause just enough pressure to go through her nasal cannula to remind her to breathe. It is the second lowest form of respiratory support (the next step down is just straight up oxygen and nothing else). This is AMAZING y'all! I am still just over the moon thinking about it as I write.

Anyway, Anna is doing so well and I attribute that completely to God. He has sustained her little life so far, and will continue to do so. She turned 6 weeks old today, and we are so proud of how far she has come. 

So what are we looking at in the coming days/weeks? Well, now that Anna has accomplished clothing and CPAP, we will probably go back into a time of just growing and waiting. We asked her nurse today, based on how she has been trending, is there a more accurate timeline they can give us as to when she'll be discharged. Originally we were told to expect her to be released around her due date (which was March 21st). Today we were told probably the beginning of April. I was a little discouraged at that, but it's just because she was born so early. She still has a long way to go and many other goals to accomplish. The next few things we'll be looking at in the coming weeks are for her to get off the CPAP machine. In the next month or so, I will be able to begin to try to nurse her (I've been told this is literally the most frustrating thing out of everything she has accomplished so far). I'm praying that she'll take to eating on her own like a champ (please pray that with me!). She will also need to pass a car seat test where she will be put in an infant car seat for a few hours during which she cannot stop breathing or have her heart rate drop or she'll fail the test. This is especially important for her because we were informed that we will not be allowed to fly back to Texas with her. We will have to drive...and that trip will take a few days with a newborn and an almost 2 year old. 

So...what should you pray for?

ANNA: Praise God with us for how well she is doing with her breathing! That is just so unexpected and a sweet gift from the Lord. Begin to ask God to help her continue to get off any kind of respiratory support in the coming weeks/months. Pray that she'll continue to pass her eye exams. Pray that God will prepare her to begin nursing and that she will take right to it.

KALYN: I have been super anxious about nursing her. I just want it to work out SO badly. Evelyn and I had a great nursing relationship, and I want the same for Anna and I (plus I HATE pumping). Please pray for my heart, that I will trust God with the whole situation and just give it over to Him. Ask him to prepare me for whatever happens and to give me peace in whichever direction Anna learning to eat goes (bottle or breast). Also, please continue asking God to give me supernatural energy. I feel quite sleep deprived and don't feel like I have a spare minute to catch up on sleep. For the little sleep I do get, ask God to make those times SUPER restful and regenerative.

EVELYN: Ev has decided to stop sleeping through the night, and on top of that she has been waking up SUPER early. For the last week or so she's been waking up 2-3 times during the night. We aren't sure why. Sometimes she just wants some water. Sometimes she literally just seems super awake and just wants to "chat" with mommy or daddy. And she's been getting up for the day sometimes as early as 4:30 :(. Pray that God will touch her little body and help her sleep well, for her sake AND her parents' sake!

JACOB: Jacob is recovering from a cold. Pray that God heals him completely. Also pray for supernatural energy for him as well. He's just as tired as I am. Pray that the two of us would work well together as a team and allow the other one to try and catch up on some rest when they need to.

That's all for now. As always, enjoy some pictures and video!

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

Yesterday was probably one of the best days since Anna was born. There weren't many changes on her end. Her ventilator settings are remaining steady, her weight is still hovering around 3 lbs, and her feedings have remained the same. BUT...yesterday she got her first tub bath AND Jacob and I got to participate! It was so wonderful and it filled me heart so much!

It's funny because Anna has seemed like she's been getting so big (she turned 5 weeks old yesterday), but then we put her in the tub and she looked like a teeny tiny runt! This was just the thing I needed since I haven't been able to hold her for almost a week. Bathing my daughter was another one of those things that felt "normal." While it was a little bit different than I would've done at home, it was mostly the same...still soap and water and a good lotion massage afterward. We also got to see her with all of the wires off of her and for a split second they took out her nasal cannula to clean her face and give her some new tape. For a split second, it was almost as if we weren't in the middle of this challenging season. It was almost like things were the way they should be.

Her nurse was even so sweet to make Anna some headbands! Now, instead of looking like a wrinkly little old man, she looks like a wrinkly little old grandma, haha! But in all seriousness, she looked just perfect to me. Her hair dried all sticky up and fuzzy, her skin was free of leftover adhesive, and she got all bundled up nice and cozy. The only thing missing was some cuddle time, but that's coming TOMORROW! Today is the last day of my "holding ban," and I am MORE than ready to soak up all the snuggles with my tiny girl. If it weren't for having to pump, eat, and use the bathroom, I'd park it in that recliner and hold her all day long.

Prayer requests:
JACOB: He has been feeling under the weather for the last 24 hours. Nothing serious, just a small cold, but please pray that he feels better quickly. I know he would enjoy some snuggles with Anna as well.

KALYN: same as yesterday, just pray for supernatural energy. I'm always feeling worn down. I haven't had a full night's sleep in 7 weeks, and I probably won't for a LONG time. Please ask God to help me adjust to this and still wake feeling rested.

EVELYN: she is doing well. She spends her days having dance parties in the living room, playing with her toys, and watching cartoons. I'm sure she is feeling a little stir crazy from being in the house all the time. It's just cold outside and we're doing our best to keep her from catching the flu. Pray that she remains content and healthy.

ANNA: She's still holding steady. Please pray that the nurses are able to start weaning her ventilator settings so that she can progress to a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure...this is the little cup that bubbles and helps remind her to breathe...it is less support than she is currently on). Also, next week she has her first eye exam to determine how her eyesight is doing. Apparently it is a pretty traumatic test with lots of lights shining right in her eyes and lots of tools to poke and prod her eyeballs to get a good look at what is growing behind them. It's a fairly short test, but every nurse I've spoken to has told me to stay away until it's over (apparently it's harder on parents than on babies...they'll forget, but the parents will remember). I've been told each baby screams bloody murder the entire time, but once it's over they're fine. This test will show us if the blood vessels in her eyes are growing at an appropriate rate. If they grow too fast, it can cause her to go blind. So this test is very important. Please pray that she handles the test well and that everything looks good.

Thanks for your prayers and encouraging words. Enjoy a small video of what bath time was like. :)

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

This morning my husband, Jacob, and I sat in church and I just couldn't focus. My heart felt so heavy and sad. I was missing my girl something fierce! I tried to pay attention, but the entire morning I felt like I could burst into tears at any minute. It's been 4 days since I held my sweet baby, and I still have 3 more to go. When I'm away from her, I feel like a piece of me is missing. When I'm at the hospital, I look at her longingly through the plastic walls of her bed and wish she was in my arms.

We weren't able to make it in to see her yesterday. The weather was crummy and it was snowing most of the day. We opted to stay at the house and go in the next day. On the plus side, we got a lot of sweet time in with Evelyn, and that was much needed as well. Having two kids in two different places takes a huge toll on my heart. I want to be with both of them. I am ready for us all to be together and for this season to be over. 

After church, Jacob and I went and got some lunch and then headed over to see Anna. Although I still couldn't hold her, I did stretch on some gloves and touch her sweet head. She held onto my finger and looked right at me. It's like she immediately can sense my presence when I walk into her room. My heart simultaneously breaks and fills with joy. It's hard to describe. I was able to give her some more breastmilk on her paci again. You can watch on the video. By the time we finally got around to taking the video she was slowing down and falling asleep, and for me it was comforting. I thought of how one day nursing will be comforting to her and she will be full and content and drift off to sleep in my arms. "Paci feeding" is non-nutritive for her, meaning that she doesn't get enough milk to have any calories, but the little bit she does get gives her a taste and helps coat the inside of her mouth (which is super beneficial for her tongue and gums and kills lots of germs).

Other than that, not much to update. She is hanging steady on the ventilator with the nasal cannula. Her oxygen requirements haven't really gone up or down. She has gained and lost weight this week, keeping her hovering right around 3 lbs. Her antibiotics are done and the E. Coli is gone. She did need another blood transfusion yesterday, but that went well. So all in all, she's mostly just growing. She turned 30 weeks gestation yesterday, and will be 5 weeks outside the womb tomorrow. She's making progress, it's just very slow going. Still...progress is progress.

Thank you to each of you who have followed our story, helped us out, and prayed for us. We ask that you continue praying for our family. Here are some prayer requests:

JACOB & I: pray for us to get some rest. We are both weary and tired a lot of the time. It is a lot going back and forth from the hospital and still having the energy to run around with Evelyn when we are at the house. We are both sleep deprived (me from pumping during the night and him from me waking him up while pumping...despite my best efforts at being quiet haha!). Pray that when we do close our eyes that God supernaturally recharges us and gives us the energy we need.

EVELYN: Praise God with us that she is all better from her bout of Roseola! She has regained her appetite and is back to her SUPER busy little self. Pray for her while Jacob and I are away from her. Thankfully, she is little and won't remember this season, but it's still hard for me when she gets upset when we leave her to go see Anna. She doesn't understand. Overall she's doing well, but she has her moments.

ANNA: Thank the Lord with us that she hasn't had any major setbacks recently. Ask Him to protect her and keep moving her forward. The next big thing we're waiting for is for her to get off the ventilator and move to what is called a CPAP. It is basically a cup of water that bubbles and helps remind her to breathe. She isn't ready for such a small amount of support yet, but we're praying that she will be soon.

Thanks again, we love you all!

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

Today I was eager to get to the hospital. After such a great day yesterday I wanted to practice more “paci feeding” with Anna. Plus I just love snuggling that girl. Skin to skin contact really is an amazing thing that God created between a mother and her child. Did you know that when a mother is holding her baby on her chest skin to skin that the baby’s heart rate and respiratory rates stabilize, oxygen saturation rates improve, baby’s body temperature regulates, and baby can better conserve calories to grow and gain weight? Did you also know that a mother’s breasts can change temperature based on the body temperature of her baby to either warm up or cool off her child? Amazing right? Needless to say, I try to hold Anna as much as I can. The benefits for her are awesome, and not only that, but I benefit too. I stress less, my heart rate slows and calms, and holding her close to me helps my milk production. 

Well, today, in my eagerness to get to the hospital to hold my sweet daughter, I was wrestling with myself. I knew I had something I needed to mention to the nurse, but selfishly, I didn’t want to. You see, this week Evelyn caught Roseola. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a highly contagious virus that usually children under two years old catch. Symptoms are usually a high fever for a few days followed by a rash on their chest, stomach and back. I knew Ev wasn’t feeling well earlier this week. She had a fever but literally nothing else. No vomiting, no diarrhea, no runny nose, no coughing...NOTHING. Still, I took her to urgent care a couple days ago because I knew she was feeling crummy and wanted to rule out an ear infection. The doctor checked her ears and those were fine. She was tested for strep...negative. At that time, she hadn’t developed a rash, so we were sent home and told to let whatever it was run its course. I think you can see where this is going...

Well, I wrestled on my way to the hospital, because I knew I needed to mention it to the nurse, but selfishly, I didn’t want to because I was afraid it would mean that I couldn’t hold Anna. On the other hand, I wanted Anna to be protected, but I just miss her so much all the time that I cherish every second she’s in my arms. 

When I got to the hospital I told the nurse I suspected Evelyn had Roseola. She went to ask the doctor if I could still hold Anna, and as I suspected...the answer was no. And not only that, but I can’t hold her for 10 whole days from the date that Evelyn first started showing symptoms. For me, that means I can’t cuddle her till next Wednesday. I was so heartbroken. I cried and Anna’s nurse just stayed with me and let me cry. Have I mentioned how amazing her team of nurses is? She felt so bad for me. She did everything to try and make it possible for me to still hold my girl. She asked if I could shower at the hospital and then put on a gown to hold Anna...answer was no. She asked if I scrubbed and sanitized my hands really well could I at least touch Anna through the doors to her bed...answer was no, I’d have to wear gloves. I commend her for trying. 

So, today I pulled a chair up to my daughter’s bed, opened the tiny door, and sang worship songs to her through my tears. I read her some scripture from Psalms, prayed over her, closed the door and left with mascara lines running down my face. 

It was a hard day for me. It’s horrible to have two babies that need you and have them be in different places. I know it’s what’s best for Anna, but it doesn’t make it any easier. However, I’m trying to see this as a way to spend more time with Ev. When I’m with Anna, I miss her. But when I’m with Evelyn, I miss Anna. I just can’t wait to have my girls together! 

I found the following excerpt from another mama who has twin boys in the NICU somewhere else. She titles this “The Prayer of a NICU Mama.” I resonate so much with what she wrote I thought I’d share (I changed the plurals to singulars so it fit for Anna). 

 “The Prayer of the NICU Mama”

God, can You kiss my baby “good morning”? Can You let her see you? Feel Your touch? Can You put Your hand on her head and whisper in her ear how much you love her? I’m not asking for miracles this morning, I’m just asking that You give her company when I can’t. Love on her when I can’t. Sing to her when I can’t. It’s a lovely thought, thinking your voice calms her even better than mine does. It takes so much pressure off of me, it gives me peace.



•••



I often wonder if she’s laying there wondering where I’ve been. I wonder if she wakes up in the middle of the night, gives out a cry, and gets confused at the new stranger that approaches her to adjust her tube or take her temperature. Does she miss me? I hope not. I hope You are giving her love in those moments so my absence goes unnoticed.



•••



I’m praying that my daughter has a good day today. I pray that she can make it a full day of breathing without having any episodes. I’m praying that she can spend an entire day of rest and happiness. I think she deserves such a day. I’m praying that when I finally finish all of my hundreds of errands and responsibilities this morning, I can rush up to my daughter and provide a sanctuary for her. 



•••



Thank you for this responsibility of being Anna’s Mama. Allow me to give myself grace for my shortcomings. Help me to celebrate my daughter’s victories and not focus on her setbacks. Give us all supernatural rest when we are finally able to close our eyes and find sleep. Recharge us. I have so much to get done this morning God, please take this shift until I can get there. Fill my absence. 

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

After having my first daughter, Evelyn, completely naturally and having no complications, having Anna in the NICU really reveals how much I’m missing out on. Things never feel “normal.” She’s not with me all the time. I’m pumping around the clock to provide milk for her, and it is harsh and mechanical as opposed to nursing, which is snuggly and warm. We aren’t at home. Anna’s nursery is sitting empty at our house; only the walls are painted and the curtains are hung, but that’s only thanks to my mom who came to visit in October and did those tasks for me. Anna isn’t able to wear clothes yet. She is being fed via feeding tube. The list goes on and on. None of those things are “normal” when it comes to having a new baby. 

But then yesterday happened, and I got my first taste of “normal” in her tiny life. Yesterday I went to the hospital by myself to hold her. Jacob has to return to Texas for a couple of days to take care of some things for work and I was bummed he couldn’t be there with me. I got to her room and got all ready to do some skin to skin snuggling! I noticed that she had a tiny pacifier in her bed. I asked the nurse if she had taken it and was told they hadn’t really tried yet. I asked her if I could try. My motives behind trying were actually medical for Anna, not for her comfort. Because Anna had a tube down her throat for so long, her jaw has been growing for the last month with her mouth wide open. She needs a chin strap to help hold her mouth closed to retrain her muscles. However, she’s a stubborn girl and doesn’t really like to have her mouth forced shut. Due to that, she loses a lot of ventilator pressure through her mouth, causing her oxygen level to dip and all her alarms to go off. So my thought was, “If she’ll keep a pacifier in her mouth, then maybe it’ll help some of that pressure from escaping.” 

We sat down in the chair. Anna was snuggled in on my chest and I put the pacifier up to her lips and just kind of rested it there. To my surprise she took it almost immediately and began sucking on it! This may not seem like a big deal, but y’all...this is a BIG deal! This is the first step to her being able to eat on her own! The nurse was pretty surprised and ran to go get some of my breastmilk. We put a few drops on the paci and have it to her and she sucked them off! We did this a few more times and I could’ve jumped for joy. I was so excited! Something finally felt normal. My daughter sucked on a pacifier at less than 30 weeks gestation. Something a normal, full-term baby would do. 

I took a deep breath and fully soaked in that moment. How good is God, y’all? He was so sweet to give a moment like that to my daughter and me. It was encouraging to my heart and restful for my soul. I only wish Jacob was there with me to see it.

In other news, Anna is only one ounce away from 3 pounds! She has grown so much! She turned 4 weeks old this past Monday. Her infection is clearing up well and her IV should be able to come out tomorrow. She was scanned for a brain bleed yesterday (this happens once a month) and that came back all clear, praise the Lord! Overall, she’s doing well. Please pray with us for God to continue strengthening her lungs and see some pics below!

Journal entry by Kalyn Branch

As I was thinking about what to title this site, the idea of waiting wouldn't leave my mind. That's what we're doing every single day in this situation, aren't we? Waiting on test results, waiting on updates, waiting to hold our daughter, waiting to be able to feed her for the first time, waiting to dress her in clothes for the first time, waiting for her to breathe on her own, waiting to take her home.

The thing about waiting is that it's never easy. Waiting usually means we're in a situation where we didn't get things our way. We wanted something immediately, but it didn't happen, and now here we are. In our case, we want our daughter to be strong and healthy and ready to go home, but the simple truth of the matter is...she's not. She won't be for a long time, and that's no one's fault. So what do we do while we wait for that perfect day when the doctor looks at us and says, "Today is the day! You can bring your daughter home"? We hope. We cling to the promises and goodness of God and we hunker down for the long haul knowing that He is with us every single step of the way.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word "qavah" meant "to wait, to look for, to hope, to expect." It was used to reference God's people waiting for Him to move or to act. They actively looked for signs of Him moving. They put their hope in the promises He made to them.

Psalm 25:5 - "Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For you I wait all the day."

Lamentations 3:25 - "The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him."

Psalm 27:14 - " Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD."

In all these verses (and there are many more) you can see the activity of the one waiting. In Psalm 25, the person is learning from the Lord as they wait. In Lamentations 3, the person is seeking after the Lord as they wait. In Psalm 27, the person is instructed to "be strong and let your heart take courage" while they are waiting. They aren't just sitting around. They are actively, expectantly, hopefully waiting.

That is how I want to wait for Anna to come home. I want to look for God to do big things during her NICU stay. I want to learn more about His character and His heart through this experience. I want to take courage in Him during the moments where my heart is so afraid that I feel like it will fail.

Hence the title, "The Hopeful Wait." This site will be a place for us to keep you updated on Anna's progress. You'll be able to see pictures and videos and read stories of what we're going through. You'll learn about ways you can help us and pray for us during this time. Thank you for joining us in this season of hopefully waiting.

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Anna’s Story

Site created on January 8, 2020

Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.

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