Monday, May 26, 2014

Not Sleeping so That You Can

Ellie addresses the Roman Senate in her toga.

Ellie snoozes with Mom

Dad drools on Ellie

Ellie mobies it up in front of the computer

Dear Ellie,

It's been roughly three weeks since you've come home and taking care of a newborn entails all of the sleeplessness that we anticipated.  We've deduced that some of the vitamins you are taking are making your BAD gas WORSE.  Because you were so premature, your iron was depleted very quickly so we have to add it to your food.  Consequently, 20 hours out of every day, you squirm and fuss and make an expression on your face that seems to say, "ZOMG, I have to poop SO bad."

There is ONE place that you will sleep somewhat soundly, though.  Sadly, that place is neither a crib nor a Rock and Play nor a swing.  It's directly on top of a living, breathing person.  I'm told parents can typically set most babies down to sleep between feedings/changings, at which point they get a little shut eye as well.  No such luxury, in your case.  Every few seconds you'll grunt yourself awake unless the side of your head is burrowed into someone's chest.  I suppose we could let you "grunt it out" but we're worried how your development might be influenced by lack of sleep.  On the upside your mother and I are taking turns with you.  Grandma also steps in at strategic times so that we can take a walk or take a shower.  To further alleviate your sleep issues, we've also discovered the wonders of "wearing your baby."  If we want to free up our hands and get stuff done around our house, we strap you into the Moby Swing.  Other than feeling like I have a large tumor on my chest and looking completely ridiculous, I've rather enjoyed wearing you like an accessory.  I think marsupials are on to something.  I'm somewhat baffled that the rest of us mammals don't have pouches.

Since we've never had another baby, I'm not quite sure we realize the extent to which you are a wierdo.  Still, I've seen a few newborns here and there in my time, and I seem to remember that none of them made horsie sounds or tazmanian devil sounds.  When we change your diaper at night, your nursery sounds eerily like an equine slaughter house.  I assume some of it has to do with when you were on the breathing tube (if you run your tongue along the roof of your mouth, you'll find part of that a rather large indentation still exists to this very day).  The sounds you make change somewhat based on your wakefulness.  For instance, when you are bright eyed and bouncing around on my lap, you sound like an obese man being ruthlessly tickled.

Speaking of wakefulness, you are quite attentive when awake.  We've been tracking your milestones very closely and we never let any of your "active times" go to waste.  We do quiet a bit of sensory stimulation.  Curiously, your eyes at this point are only able to notice objects of pronounced contrast, so we printed out special cards.  We even do special exercises with you like baby pull ups, baby push ups, and "the newborn mile" (that's the distance from the front to the end of the bed).  All the while I shout fitness slogans into your face every time you cry: "No pain, no gain!" or "Don't be a brat!  Burn that fat!"  Your grandmother calls me a slaver driver.  I call it physical therapy.  Either way, for being an anatomically 1 week old baby, you seem to be hitting all of the 0-3 month milestones.  Your eyes are tracking objects, you turn to sounds, and your muscles are very strong (and there are plenty more)!       

We're relieved to see you developing normally so far, but the litany of doctors appointments every week are a reminder of the dangers that still lurk.  So far we've taken multiple trips to the general practitioner, physical therapist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, optometrist... and we may be adding the neurologist and gastroenterologist to the list, soon.  None of them have turned up anything serious, but then again, its very difficult to determine from a newborn's behavior whether they will have troubles later in life.  Every time we see you acting... abnormally... we wonder what it is we might be REALLY seeing.  If a loud noise doesn't startle you, is something wrong with your hearing?  When you make bizarre movements that aren't typical newborn reflexes, are you having a seizure?  When you cry and whine every time we give you a tiny nudge or move you, does that mean you have some sensory hypersensitivity?  I imagine every parent worries about every little irregular thing about their baby, but in your case, we have much bigger reasons to worry.

Your mother and I are trying to tell each other not to dwell too much on these anxieties.  We don't want to wake up one day when you're three years old and realize that the only experiences we have to tell you of those years are ones filled with worry.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Due Date

Dear Ellie,

Yesterday was your due date, and today you were born.  Your mother's contractions really started coming on strong just before midnight.  Given that you were due any day, we were so impetuous and ready to blitz to the hospital that I forgot to fill up EITHER of our cars with gas.  This, of course, after I spent months reassuring your mother that "no one gives birth in the car on the way to the hospital in THIS day and age!"  Fortunately for us, we had just enough gas to get us to about 50 yards of the hospital, at which point we stalled out and I cruised us to the front entrance with the leftover momentum.  Skillz.    

Like just about every birth, there was a lot of waiting.  If we were to judge childbirth by what happens in the movies, we'd expect about one minute of shrieking and then a five second aftermath of laughing and smiling between family members over a (surprisingly not very bloody) baby.  Yeah, that accounts for about 0.1 percent of the experience.  The rest is waiting around.

I exchanged plenty of knowing smiles with the other dads-to-be in the waiting room.  Smiles which expressed anything from "congratulations, bro" to "glad it ain't us, eh?"  Your mother and I made jokes as she paced the hallway of the labor and delivery waiting room.  We made fun of all the women that wailed during labor.  "Was that the baby or the mother?" we'd say.

Your mother wore one of those immodest-by-design, 'get-a-look-everyone!' hospital gowns.  In it, she looked like some kind of pinata ready to burst.  A pinata that was being struck from the INSIDE rather than the outside.  Her midsection looked as though an angry shark was swimming around inside.  She often yelped like she was being eaten from the inside out, too.  And we thought you flailed wildly just halfway through the pregnancy!  

For the most part, though, I can proudly say that your mother was just as stoic in the face of pain as I thought she'd be.  "It's only life's greatest miracle happening for the 100 billionth time," she said with a wincing smile as they slid her into the labor and delivery bed.  "I think I can handle it."  At the height of her contractions, I only saw one tear fall from her eye.  A tear of joy, not pain, that spattered on her tummy.  What a strange place to see her so happy.  Happier than I'd ever seen her in her life.  She'd been waiting so long to meet you.  So had I.  

As is so often the case, the "big" events in our lives never quite end up feeling like we think they will.  I thought that when you finally came out into the world, there would be an "ah ha!" moment where I would suddenly feel like I was a father.  But that didn't happen.  When you appeared, you looked nothing like I thought you would, but still, it felt strangely like I already knew you.  Like I had been a father all along, during all those years of wanting you so badly.  I love you daughter.  Welcome to the world...

...Dear Ellie,

Ever since you were born, every day, I've thought about your due date.  I've wondered about what it would have been like had you been born, as planned, on that day.  What I'd think.  What your mother and I would do.  How I'd feel.  And yesterday, suddenly, there we were.  Your due date.

I think if the me of six months ago were to suddenly peek in on you and I, sitting in our rocking chair, he'd never guess what you'd been through.  He'd see you all wrapped up in a moby sling like a tasty, high calorie baby burrito.  He'd see you passed out on my chest, head tilted to one side.  He'd see you eat like crazy and wail and fuss indignantly the moment we left you alone.  He'd be amazed at how fat you were: in the 15th highest percentile in weight for your length.  He'd see you meeting developmental milestones for babies that are 2 months older than you, tracking objects with your eyes and turning your head curiously at sounds.  Not knowing that you've had months to practice already, he'd wonder how a newborn could possibly have the strength to hold her head up on her own or push herself about with her arms and legs.  He wouldn't see you attached to any wires.  He wouldn't guess that you were 4 months premature.  Instead, he'd assume that you were born yesterday.  He'd believe that you went full term, that we ran out of gas on the way to the hospital, that your mother and I made jokes during her contractions, and that your mother gave birth the usual way.  He'd assume that nothing had gone wrong at all.      

This morning, it felt almost as if that were true.  After all, there is very little about you to remind me that you aren't simply a baby born under normal circumstances.  Our 4 month stint in the hospital seems as though it could be from a story or something I witnessed from afar.  Like it happened in another person's life.  But then, I returned to the first letter that I'd written you and read it again.  In an instant, I was back in postpartum with your mother, sleeplessly wondering whether you'd survive till morning.  I was again coming to visit you at odd hours of the night, not wanting to miss any moment that might be your last.  I was staring fearfully at all of the ways your future may unfold, terrified by how so few of them appeared like the one we now inhabit.  

It's tempting to simply let the past 4 months fade into some fallow corner of my memory, but I don't want those troubling times to be buried so easily.  If I ever let myself forget what happened, I'm not sure that I would watch you as closely as I do now.  Or hold you as tightly.  Or remind myself as often to be kind and gentle and patient.

It's easy to take for granted the things that we've never risked losing.  Because of what we've been through together, I will relish every moment we are together.  For all the pain you have faced, for all the hardships, I will bring to your life ten times the joy.  And ten times the love.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Memories in the Fog

Dear Ellie,

My parents have a few stories to share of my infancy and toddler years, and I've always found them interesting.  I was somewhat of a paradoxical baby, apparently.  I was shy, but smiled a lot.  I used any excuse to laugh, but also to cry.  I preferred to sit all day on my mother's lap, but was adventurous too, mainly because I was borrowing from my twin sister's intrepid spirit (she spends her weekends scaling tall mountains to this day).  Your aunt was technically the "younger twin," but she was bigger and bolder than me and I faithfully followed her into whatever calamity she might take us.  She always lead by example, convincing me that roaches were tasty or that scorpions were good playmates or that a better place for food was on top of our heads instead of in our mouths.  She was the first to climb atop furniture, and I was the first to fall off, usually face first.

I'm told I wasn't a very bratty, although there was one occasion when we were all out at a restaurant and upon tasting the most delicious thing that had ever touched my mouth, your grandparents made the mistake of telling me what this food was called.  I was shrieking for "more pie!" the rest of the night, even while my father hauled me out the door and into the parking lot.      

I always found it odd that I couldn't actually remember any of these incidents, but that's simply the way the young mind works.  For reasons that are not entirely known, babies and toddlers are capable of creating and storing memories in their brains--- and they do--- but those memories are obscured when the mind gets older.  Its these early years that serve as the foundation of the people we become, the core of who we are. Yet ironically, all we have left of our earliest years once we BECOME those people is a few stories from our parents.

I'm a bit sad that my years as an infant aren't as thoroughly available to me as the memories of the rest of my life, even if our memories are ultimately just stories inside our heads anyway.  Still, even with just a few pieces of the puzzle, I can see so clearly glints of the person that I would become.  How interesting it would have been to know in greater detail and with some chronology all of those early memories that were lost.  Like most people, my babyhood is a giant mish mash of oral history, and like all oral histories, the stories change each time they are told.  It's for this reason I want to keep writing you letters, even though you've left the NICU.  Enough letters so that once you are old, you can fill up that vast expanse of space in your past that is so often missing for others.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Black Holes and Baby Universes

Dear Ellie,

Our first few days with you have been wonderfully uneventful.  Your mother and I are both home with you, for the moment, and at night she takes the first shift and me, the early morning.  Eventually, we'll split the week into two halves and I'll take one half while she'll take the other.  For now, it's an unexpected pleasure, having you lay on my chest while the light of dawn sneaks in through cracks in the window shades.  With you here, the hours of the day slip away so quickly.  I'm not sure why some people find caring for a newborn so tedious or unpleasant.  I think it's fun building your muscles.  Stimulating your senses.  And yes, all the diaper changes and feeding and burping.  Taking care of you involves some creative problem solving also (like determining the best way to burp you).  Maybe working with stinky mammals and fish poop for so long has desensitized me or something, but I don't find being pooped and puked on troublesome at all.  Not much, at least.  

That's not to say that you don't have a few challenges.  Like the gas... oh, the gas.  There are so many concussive blasts coming from your butt that it sounds like you're nursery is being shelled.  And it's not that all of the gas is bothering ME, per se.  It bothers you.  It keeps you up constantly, so much so that you barely get a chance to sleep.  I used to be the gassiest person in the house, but now, the teacher has become the pupil.  

You also have some feeding issues, too, though not quite like one might expect.  Let me explain.  The American Pediatrics Association describes numerous kinds of feeding behaviors in babies, and most babies fit a specific profile.  There's the Excited Ineffectives, the Procrastinators, the Resters, the Mouthers, etc.  So what type are you?  You are "The Barracuda."  Yep, most micro-preemies have a problem with eating too little.  You have a problem with eating too much.  When its mealtime, you tear into the bottle like a Barracuda who's convinced it'll be his last meal.  There's so much grunting and growling and slurping that you sound like a pack of hyenas tearing up a carcass.  Now that I think of it, though, you aren't really like an animal at all.  You're more like a little baby black hole.  Anything that gets too close to the event horizon gets sucked in.  Your mouth is a sneaky little hole, too.  It roams around while no one is looking, not just sucking in bottles, but also bibs, shirts, your mother's nipples, MY nipples, and a few times when I was changing your diaper--- shoooom!--- my finger got too close to the gravitational field and was sucked right in.  I suppose its all pretty standard baby behavior, but you've got some rigor behind that head and mouth that I was never expecting from a baby that is technically  negative one week old.

I'm still worried about your long term development, but that's not stopping me from enjoying the process.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Dear Ellie,

Today is your first Mother's Day here at home with us, but it is not the first Mother's Day that Rani has been your mother.  You see, I don't define motherhood as simply having produced a child.  In my opinion, something as important as motherhood can't simply come about by accident.  A mother becomes a mother by virtue of her deeds for her children.  Like all good things, motherhood is created by exertion, and by that standard your mother has been your mother for a long time.  To her, there was no thing that she could do for you that was too small or too trivial.  

Those deeds began while your mother and I were in high school and we decided that we wanted children.  She was very serious about planning for your future and honing her patience.  She carefully cataloged the things that we would do with you and whenever we witnessed something beautiful, she would bookmark that moment in her mind so that one day she could recreate it for you.  Every bit of interesting knowledge was a thing to one day be passed on.

As time went on, she experienced great pain and discomfort for your sake, as well.  She underwent numerous surgeries to preserve her womb and ovaries.  Surgeries, as severe as a c-section, that often left her crippled for weeks.

But it wasn't enough just to have some doctor operate on her body for your sake.  She transformed her lifestyle for years to nourish all of the prospective eggs that might one day be you.  She started a garden to have fresh vegetables, targeting specific items filled with folic acid and beneficial vitamins.  She would spend 12 hours at work, then jog miles and miles late into the night to stay in shape.  She was vigilantly avoiding anything that might be construed as a toxin.  She took prenatal vitamins for years and years and years... just in case any particular month might be the month that you'd be conceived.  In her mind, it wasn't enough for her to just MAKE you.  She needed to give you the highest probability of health and success.

When she lost her Fallopian tubes and couldn't become pregnant by natural means, she forfeited all of the luxuries that money could buy so that she could afford the most expensive fertility treatment.  She never vacationed and never spent money on frivolous things.  As part of her treatment, she willingly stabbed herself in the stomach with a half dozen needles each night to induce egg follicle growth.  At times, her stomach was so bruised we ran out of places to put a needle.  Some of the drugs, which so few IVF patients ever need to use, even caused her skin to blister around the injection site, as though she'd been stuck with a branding iron.

She was endlessly cautious when you were inside of her.  When she went on bed rest, she took no chances and spent weeks "upside down" and in that time never even took a trip to the bathroom.  She fought every premature contraction, her insides boiling from medicine to prevent her from delivering.  At times she even lay in pools of her own blood.  And most remarkably, she fought every feeling of despair and fought every tear, even while knowing that you would certainly come early into this world and perish.  She knew that weeping might rupture or damage the exposed and bulging membranes of your uterine sac.  At night, while on bed rest, she'd bite her pillow and hold her breath so as to hold back a thousand tears.

When you were born, everyone was skeptical that your mother would produce any milk because she wasn't supposed to for another four months, but that didn't stop her.  Even though breast milk is incredibly important for micro-preemies, most women with extremely premature babies fail to produce any.  Many of them are too depressed or too tired or simply don't have the fortitude.  I can't tell you how many women I saw in the NICU simply give up on the effort.  But your mother--- racked by severe stress, sleep deprivation, a cesarean infection, and a raging fever--- awoke every two hours to pump milk for you.  She couldn't visit you while she was feverish, so she played Youtube videos of babies to stimulate her hormones.  At first, there was nothing, and that's usually when so many women just give up.  Rani, on the other hand, doubled her efforts.  She started a spreadsheet to chart her progress and hone her production.  When the milk did start flowing, she subdivided her milk into different bottles to make sure you got the ones with higher fat content.  When it came time to feed you by mouth, your mother relinquished the intimacy of direct breast feeding part of the time for the precision of bottle feeding, so that she could be sure you were getting all of the nourishment that you needed.  

While you were in the NICU, she even did a thing that no other woman was willing to do.  A thing that told me, more than anything, that she was the most worthy of mothers: she refused to indulge in her maternal instincts if it meant they would harm you.  In the weeks after you were born, to touch you was to hurt you.  It could rake your skin or create brain bleeds or cause you pain, but the other women with micro-preemies all indulged in this most fundamental rite, even when it was bad for their child.  But your mother?  She stood by your isolette for weeks without touching you, day in and day out, all the while yearning to stroke your head and hold your hand.  She'd spent years fighting for the moment she could hold you in her arms, and even though you were right there in front of her, she chose to submerge her maternal impulses, all the while unaware of whether you would live or die.  Unaware of whether she was giving up her only chance to hold you, alive.

People often marvel at how lucky they think you were to have endured your extreme prematurity so well when so many of your other NICU neighbors didn't.  From my perspective, though, it had very little to do with luck.  It had to do with motherhood.    

Friday, May 9, 2014

Day 100, Day 1

Dear Ellie,

Yesterday was your 100th day in the NICU... but also your 1st day home.  When you were born 4 months early and I researched all of the scary things that would likely befall you, I thought your homecoming would be a lot different.  Even just a month and a half ago, I thought you'd come home on oxygen and a pulse ox.  I thought you'd struggle with eating and forget to breath.  I thought we'd dangle over you late into the night, checking every 30 seconds to make sure your lips weren't blue.  None of this happened.  Instead, your homecoming unfolded strangely similar to the way I thought it would had you been born full term.  Lot's of full throated crying and sleep deprivation and pride, but very little fear.

You've seen more than 3 months of life already.  You've braved ET tubes and blood transfusions and infections and feeding tubes and chronic lung disease and suffocation and you've brushed with a thousand different species of frailty.  You've endured more pain and hardship than most people would experience in their entire lives.  But the most incredible thing of all?  It all happened before your life was ever supposed to begin.

Your due date is still two weeks away, but I feel as though the lives of all three of us have finally begun.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Window

Dear Ellie,

I often play a little game in my head.  I've been playing it since I was a child.  I'll stop and imagine what I'll be doing at some specific moment in the future.  Sometimes it's a few days ahead or months ahead or years ahead.  And then, when that future moment becomes the present, I'll look back at myself in the past.  It's a peculiar feeling--- that convergence--- when your imagination of the future is filled in with the fleshyness of the present.  At those moments, I feel as though I'm two different people at the same time, and we're staring at each other from across a gulf.  Whenever I look back in this way, it helps remember who I was.  It helps to remind myself not to lose or forget the parts of myself that I value the most.

When your mother and I first came to the hospital late at night almost 4 months ago at 22 weeks of pregnancy, I stopped at a window and looked out.  I wondered what my future would be like, two weeks from then.  Would you be born before viability and die?  Or would we still be waiting, ticking away the days that you remained safe in the womb?  When those two weeks passed, I returned to that same window again.  It was the night after you were born.  I saw my reflection in the window.  It was like peering at some double of myself in the past.  Someone that looked so incredibly different.  The person that was me before he saw your face.  I didn't want to forget that person.  That person that wanted so desperately for you to survive.

The window became a sort of place to continually commune with the past and a future.  I returned to it many times.  One of those times was the night that you nearly suffocated.  That's when I was sure that you were gone.  I looked back at the me that existed the day that you were born.  I wished again to live in that terrible moment of uncertainty.  That moment of immense love and fear when I knew, at least, that you were alive.  I looked into the future, too, trying to imagine a fictitious time when you were still with us.  A future that would turn out to be real, after all.

So here I am today, living in that future.  I look back at the grieving father, and in a way, I feel as though I'm able to comfort him.  To tell him that everything will be fine.  I can feel his relief and joy.  Knowing him in this way makes every day with you filled with relief and joy.  And again, I imagine a time--- a few years in the future--- when the three of us return to the NICU together to show the staff how much you've grown.

At that moment, we'll look into the window together and commune with the people that we were and the people that we will be.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Things We've Seen Change

Dear Ellie,

Be careful what you wish for.  Your mother and I were hoping you'd spend a few more days in the NICU so that we could get over these nasty colds before you came home, but now that we are better, we can't get you out!  The date inches back, day by day.  It was supposed to be Friday, but when Friday came, it was bumped to Monday.  Now that it is Monday, it's been bumped to Wednesday.  There is nothing explicitly wrong with you, except for a few small things here and there.  A few days ago, you needed some "blow by" oxygen when you experienced some reflux.  The likely cause of the reflux episode?  You eat too much.  Most preemies have issues with eating too little, so the staff didn't really bother to give you a "feeding cap" when they took you off of the milk fortifier.  They just let your appetite be the guide, to which your appetite replied, "OM NOM NOM."  The good news is the reflux episode hasn't repeated itself and all of the things that once appeared like problems (your heart rate, for instance) have slowly disappeared.

I don't mind so much that you are still stuck here for the time being.  Since we've been sick the past few weeks, this time will give your mother and I an opportunity to reflect a bit on our stay here.  The three months we've spent in the NICU with you have been dilated in my mind.  It feels like a lengthy chapter of my life has come and gone.

Over these three months, we've called two new places home, yet in all the years your mother and I have lived together, we had only ever lived in two different places until you were born.  It's as though we've suddenly added two mile markers to a long journey that only ever had two before.

We've seen you go from barely over a pound to nearly six.  It typically takes years to watch a child double in size, but we've seen you quadruple it in a fraction of that time.

We've been through more worry and emotional turmoil than the total sum experienced during the previous thirty years of our lives.

It feels as though I just spent four years off at college or that I'm returning from a decade long life overseas.  And why shouldn't I feel that way?  The way that we measure lengthy periods in our minds is with how much has changed in that time.  And so much has changed.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Great Library of Ellie-xandria

Dear Ellie,

Here are all of the books that people bought you for the baby shower!  It's quite a collection, from allegory to farse to farts.  Naturally, though, there is still plenty of room on the shelf to grow!

Friday, May 2, 2014

We're Home!... Without You

Dear Ellie,

We were hoping for a legitimate reason to keep you in the hospital the next few days and, well, it looks like we got our wish.  You had a minor bump during feeding so the doctors gave us the option to keep you there until Monday "just in case" that bump was due to some viral infection you might have caught.  You're probably fine, but given that your mother and I are still sick and wearing face masks, we thought the best course of action was to keep you safe in the hospital.  We've waited around 100 days already, so what's another two or three?

The Seasoned Veteran

Dear Ellie,

Today is the day.  Probably.  Hopefully.  We're at the hospital now.  You need to pass one last test and with luck, you'll be in the car and on your way home in an hour!

We came into the NICU this morning, went to the back, and I saw that you were in a different kind of crib.  I thought this was odd, but I walked up and started cooing at you anyway: "How's my Ellie Bellie Wellie."

"That's not your baby, sir," the nurse said.  Indeed, it wasn't.  Oops.  In fact, you were nowhere to be found.  As it turns out, you were instead in the full term nursery!

Weird.  I mulled that thought over in my head.  You weren't in the NICU anymore.  Indeed, I took a few quick strides out of the NICU, looked through the window of the newborn, full-term nursery, and sure enough there you were, sitting in that place I'd walked by at least a thousand times.  Next to all of the other fatties.  I went in and there was only one nurse watching over 10 babies.  "Just one nurse?" I thought, panic rising in my chest. "What if something goes wrong?"

Then I realized that nothing was going to go wrong.  They weren't going to stop breathing or choke on their food or have their intestines explode.  They were all normal babies.  And you were one of them...  But not really.  Weird again.

You don't quite fit in with the rest of those newborns.  Yes, they are roughly your size and they are gestationally and anatomically the same age as you, but you aren't really a newborn, are you?  You've been in this world three months already.  When I see the "true" newborns glance around the nursery, they look confused as their senses explore an alien landscape.  But you?  You're already a seasoned resident of the outside world.  You look around with a certain kind of familiarity and wisdom.  Your eyes don't flit about wildly, but focus and contemplate before moving on.  Loud sounds and noises don't alarm you or spurn you to cry.

I'd like to say more, but we're off now to give you your final test!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

One Expensive Hotel Stay

Dear Ellie,

You're due to go home tomorrow, but we're in a bit of a conundrum.  Now your mother is sick too and while I'm finally getting better, I still have the sniffles.  The upper respiratory infection took a lot out of both of us, but I can only imagine the impact it would have on you.  You only recently came off of oxygen.  The solution?  We can just keep you in the NICU for a few days longer until one of us is better.  The problem with that solution?  It would cost $2000 a day.  When I first heard that number, it didn't shock me very much.  $2000 a day is a drop in the bucket when compared to all the money we've spent so far to bring you into the world.