Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Father's Story

It wasn't that long ago that Jodi and I woke up to go to the hospital for the birth of Olivia.  It was snowing that morning, not the kind of snow that shuts down airports or makes you stock up on bottled water and batteries, but the kind of snow that reminds you of childhood.  Waking up and hoping school would be cancelled so that you could sled down the hills behind your house, putting on your gloves and boots for the first time, or that magical snow on Christmas morning.   I woke up this morning to that same snow and realized that for the rest of my life that first magical snow of the year will always remind me of my sweet little girl.

In the months leading up to Olivia's birth, many of my friends who were fathers said, "This is going to change your life.  Nothing will ever be the same."  One even said, "I know what you are thinking, everyone keeps telling you that your life is going to change, but you don't think it is going to change that much.  Well, I used to think the same thing, and life does change THAT much."  I smiled and said, "Yeah, that is what everyone has said."  Not thinking that life would really change that much.  Well, they were all right.  My life will never be the same.  Having a girl didn't help matters.  Of course I have no frame of reference by having a son, but it only took a matter of seconds to realize that Olivia had me wrapped around her little finger.  There are even some photos to prove it.

The first few days in the NICU were a little bit of a blur.  Olivia was transferred so quickly, and the first surgery came so soon, that I hardly had time to think about what was going on.  I was thankful that the hospital relaxed their visitor policy that first day so that my mom could come back to the NICU with me or else I would have been a complete wreck.  But as soon as Jodi came in the door, my mom had to leave.  Jodi still required a lot of rest, so most of the first few days I was alone with Olivia.  The nurses kept me sane, explaining all of the devices, tests, and people.  Being an engineer, I found some small solice in the numbers.

The numbers didn't change that much over the course of the next few days.  That was a small gift in itself from Olivia.  It got me to stop focusing on the machines and start focusing more on my baby girl.  I began to appreciate the small things.  The way she would squirm just a little when you rubbed her back, the way she would grab on to our fingers when we touched her hands, and the ticklish spot she had on the right side of her belly.  See Olivia gave me memories in those 9 1/2 days that I will be able to hold on to for the rest of my life.

I would sit by her bed and allow myself to dream about what a remarkable little girl we had.  All of the surgeries and procedures Olivia went through only to keep squirming when we touched her back, grab our fingers, and shake just a little when we tickled her stomach.  Olivia kept surprising us every day, and kept us dreaming.  Jodi and I go back and look at the support we received from our families and friends, and realize that there were a lot of people out there dreaming for Olivia too.

Olivia was surrounded with love.  Jodi and I know that.  Her family and friends from afar sent her love and prayers constantly. Jodi and I thank you for that.  The outpouring we were shown is a testament to the love that Olivia had.  We thank you all for your support and generosity, and hope that you too can continue to dream with us for Olivia. We know that there is a special little angel now, looking out for all of us.

As I finish writing this post (it has taken me most of the day), I look out the window and I can see that it is snowing.  That means I get to dream of my sweet Olivia, again.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thank You

I'm not sure how I am supposed to begin this post except to say thank you. Thank you to our family, our friends, our doctors, our amazing nurses, and most importantly thank you Olivia!

My baby girl is now in heaven and I was so fortunate to be her mommy. Adam and I have been blessed to have Olivia Elizabeth in our life for 9 1/2 days! She went to heaven at 8:44pm Wednesday night. Although it was not easy to let her go, Adam and I both knew it was the right decision and we thank Olivia for that.

Even though our story has not been what we hoped or dreamed for our baby girl, it has been an honor to know and love her. Olivia taught me so much in the short time I had with her and I know her daddy feels the same way. Olivia taught me what it means to love so much it hurts, to be patient, more caring and hopefully become a better person. In short, she is and always will be my miracle.

Adam and I know that Olivia will continue to bless her mommy and daddy along with all of you who have loved her and followed her story. We thank you for your continued love, support and prayers. I know Olivia has touched many lives and will continue to live on in all of us.

A lot of people have been asking how they can help honor Olivia and if we will have a memorial or service. To be honest, Adam and I are unsure what our plans are, but we know Olivia will continue to guide us in the right direction during this difficult time. As soon as we know what feels right, we will let you know. For now, enjoy pictures of our beautiful angel Olivia and remember to take time to slow down and love your families this holiday season.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Day of Firsts

Friday was a day of firsts for Olivia and her family. We already knew that obviously Olivia would be our first child and my parents' first grandchild, but there were more firsts on Friday as well.

Adam got to change his first diaper! YOu may ask yourself..."Self, how would Adam get to be almost 32 years old and never change a diaper?" Well the answer is very simple, planning ahead. In the past if I have been in a room with a baby that has just eaten, I leave. If I smell gas in a room, and know for a fact it wasn't me, I leave. If someone asks, "Adam do you want to change the diaper?", I leave. See, a very simple strategy. Well that worked for me until Friday night.

The nurse tending to Olivia found out that I had never changed a diaper, so she was bound and determined to make sure that I would before the end of the day. After some routine tests, it was time to change the diaper, and I had no escape route. So I pleasantly changed a diaper that wasn't even soiled, but I did it.

It was a little tricky navigating all of the extra wires and tubes, and I only made one mistake. I accidentally pulled out the catheter. The wire had been taped down when I started, and came unstuck by the time these fat fingers were done. The result, Olivia's first bikini wax!

This week Olivia also got her first haircut. It was not exactly even, but it did the trick for her surgery. And in taking after her father, Olivia has a little bit of hair on her earlobes. Sorry to April and Rebecca, but she got her first ear rub from her daddy.

(We do have pictures of all of the above, but have not had the computer and the camera in the same room long enough to get them downloaded.)

Jodi and I appreciate the following from everyone on our family's status. Olivia loves the attention and appreciates all of the support. It would be remiss if I did not give you a quick update as well. This weekend has been a challenge for Olivia. In addition to the spina bifida and hydrocephalous, Olivia has had some problems with regulating fluids and establishing a stable breathing rhythm. The doctors have said that this could be a permanent condition or a side effect of a week full of surgeries. We pray that it is the latter.

Jodi and I have been extemely appreciative of the calls, emails, and texts. We are sorry that we cannot respond to you all individually, but are spending as much time as possible with Olivia. We continue to ask for your prayers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sorry, but this will have to be a short post today. I know a lot of your are looking for updates, and I wanted to make sure that we got something out for you all.

Olivia successfully made it through her shunt placement surgery yesterday. The doctor said that everything is working great and the fluid pressure is being removed from the brain. Within a matter of hours we could start to see signs of improvement and Olivia gripped Jodi's finger for the first time. Jodi even noticed that Olivia had her father's long eyelashes. At first, I didn't realize that would be a big deal, but all of the nurses assured me that it would be "critical".

Speaking of nurses, you are truly the hearts and compassion of our country's hospitals. The compassion and care that we have been shown has touched our hearts in unexplainable ways. There is no way that we could feel as comfortable as we do without their sincereity.

Olivia still has a long road ahead. Our goals for the next few days will be to reduce her dependence on the respirator, show a little more spunk, and open her eyes for the first time.

We will continue to update the post as we can when new news comes.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. Jodi and I have been touched by the outpouring of support.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Olivia Elizabeth Burns

On December 7, 2009 around 8:44 am, Olivia Elizabeth Burns was born(8lbs 3 oz and over 19 inches long). She arrived with the first snow fall of the year and has filled our hearts with more love than Adam and I could have imagined.

The day began early arriving at the hospital at 6:00 am. I had to get checked in, prepped for surgery and by 8:00 I was preparing for Baby B's arrival! My doctors and nurses were amazing through the C section and Adam and I were both shocked when they announced that Baby B was in fact "A GIRL"! Olivia Elizabeth was then moved to the infant room to be stabilized while the doctors finished with me. Adam was also able to make the big announcement to the family that Baby B was in fact a girl! I could hear the family scream with delight all the way in the OR! It was one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced and I know Adam feels the same way.

After the BIG announcement, Adam and I, along with both sets of our parents, were able to see Olivia before she went to over to Riley Children's Hospital. Olivia was baptised and we were able to squeeze her hand and blow her many kisses before she was transported to Riley. Adam was able to accompany her with his family while my family stayed with me, as I mentioned before, we are extremely blessed with amazing family support!

Without going into too much more detail, Olivia had surgery on Monday afternoon to close the lesion on her back and to relieve some of the fluid on her brain. On Thursday, she will have another surgery to insert a shunt which will continue to reduce the fluid on her brain.

We feel so blessed to have Olivia as our daughter and love her more than she can even imagine. I think she already has daddy wrapped around her finger (and probably mommy too). Our bundle of joy has not had the easiest entry into the world, but we know that God is watching over her and has big plans for her future.

Please continue to keep Olivia in your prayers and thank you for all the love and support sent our way!