NICU life, lessons from the NICU

3.24.2016

Six months out from our NICU stay, we are in a good place. Sleep deprived, but in a good place. And after thinking about it, I've decided to share some lessons we learned from the NICU. (To read about our experience there in 2015, read Part I, Part 2, Part 3).


A NICU stay, no matter how long, is hard. But the longer it is, the harder it gets.

When I was first there, a couple of parents were SOOOO ready to take their (first) child home. I would smile knowingly and behind their backs chuckle at them. "If only they knew. It's just as hard at home, but you have no help." Which is true. And not true. It's difficult when you finally get a baby home - finding your new normal again, figuring life out. But there was a point (maybe 6 weeks in?) where I went from "He's better off here" to GET US THE HECK OUT OF HERE almost overnight. Then I understood where those parents were coming from. And, I humbly admitted to myself that I was wrong. (Happens to the best of us.)

If there is a chance baby might come early, have a name picked out early. There was so much pressure to name our little one!

Holding your preemie guy for the first time is SO good.




















There is not enough to be said for how much skin-to-skin time benefits everyone involved!



















No doctor is perfect. You are the one who knows your child best, if you are there, you make the decisions with them.

Doctors don't always agree with each other! There is much, much less agreement in the medical community than I thought. You can always ask for another opinion.

If at first your pediatrician doesn't satisfy, try another one.

If you want to exclusively breastfeed your preemie, it is possible. (Maybe not for everyone, no judgement! But it was my number one desire and it happened!) The lactation consultants were some of my favorite people. Not only did they support my desire to breastfeed but they also supported me in other decisions. They were my biggest help! And because there were less of them in rotation, I saw them more often and got to know them more readily. They were amazing, they answered a million and a half questions, and were my biggest support.

Did I say already that I love lactation consultants?!

NICU life: Part 3

3.23.2016

(See Part 1 and Part 2)

But we prevailed. Between countless trips to the hospital and back, playdates, prayers, grandparents' help, giftcards, hugs, texts, phone calls... we made it. We were all a little worse for the wear, but we did it.

We had lots of highs and lows during our stay.

Getting to hold him was the highlight of the first week. Then we picked out and finally agreed on a good name! He was in the incubator for a very long month until he was transferred to the crib - crib day was awesome! When you can freely pick up your baby and change his diapers free of the plastic box? SO good. One still has to fight the accursed wires ... but still good.


























I loved putting "real" clothing on him the first time although the aforementioned wires made those cute pants a little difficult. (Preemie size clothing only works well if your child isn't in the hospital.) After the third head ultrasound, when he was deemed brain bleed free - I could've jumped for joy! That was a good NICU day.

One of the best? Watching this girl hold her baby brother for the first time. She waited THIRTY days! And proceeded to surprise us by snuggling with him for an entire hour.



















BUT, I hated leaving my girl every day. It's really hard to have a four year old in the NICU when we needed to be quiet or when she needed to go to the bathroom during a pumping/feeding/holding session. It was hard to stay the night (again, leaving home and getting poor sleep) to try to nurse and just have Little Mister decide he was tooooo tiiiired to even attempt a latch.

Days filled with non-medically trained parents (us) trying to figure out what was best for our little guy because even all the "experts" have vastly differing opinions. Fighting with his new pediatrician - whom I thought was a good choice for us, and instead found that this was very wrong. Experiencing extreme reflux that had I not known what it was I might've thought he was seizing. It was so scary. Furious at a nurse for not even realizing a spell had happened until it *might* have been too late.

And that's just a few snippets of our experience. I can't even begin to explain the emotional rollercoaster the NICU affords. It is an experience like no other. We were grateful for his care and his subsequent health but in no way did I like being there.




















The best day overall? Day 64. Going home day!!

NICU life, part 2

3.22.2016

(Part I here)

He was tiny and beautiful when they pulled him away from me in the delivery room, but the first time I saw him in the NICU all I could do was sob and say I was sorry. And I was. From the deepest part of me, I was so sorry. My body had failed him and what should have been effortless to him in the next 8-10 weeks was now the fight of his life.

He was still beautiful. And surprisingly strong looking.

But so alone and vulnerable.


















Come to find out, the percentage of water than makes up a baby's body in gestation gradually decreases by 40 weeks. So at 30 weeks there was water in his body to lose. In a matter of just a few hours I came back up to the NICU room to find my strong looking boy had shrunk to a preemie. He was even more impossibly tiny!

Over the next hours and days we became familiar with many new medical terms. CPAP, vent, desat, surfactant, PDA, apnea, brady, bili, brain bleed, residual, etc. At first it was overwhelming. Running on very little sleep does not help one's brain work any better. But after tons of questions and lots of patient answers we soon were experts.

For several days we couldn't see his face because of the CPAP machine and the mask protecting his eyes from the blue bili light. We were only supposed to touch him with firm but gentle pressure. No stroking his crazy soft skin or holding him.

Everything in me protested this. No matter how thankful I was for his life or for his care, it still felt so wrong.

Having your newborn in a plastic box hooked up to a million wires is so unnatural. It was impossible to be with him 24/7 so leaving him at all felt wrong. I climbed into the car to go home for the first time and burst out crying. Oddly enough, I didn't want him with us in his current state but he should've been safe and warm inside me not an incubator. Instead, I was empty.


















Having his life decided and dictated by someone other than us as his parents was difficult to swallow. Strangers, albeit with knowledge and even care, were making major decisions for him. If we weren't there, we wouldn't be involved!

And one of the hardest parts was having another child at home. No matter what I did, I was away from one child. It's something no mother wants - to feel like you have to choose one child over another. My daughter is not clingy in general but we struggled so much those 9 weeks. Going from mommy home all the time to just a couple hours a day was very difficult for her. And for me! I wanted to be there for both of them and I just couldn't. It was an impossible task. And it was truly awful.

(Part 3 here)

NICU life, Part I

3.21.2016

It's a sudden thing, pre-term labor. At least for me it is. I'd spent eleven long weeks on bedrest in 2010 for preterm labor only to be induced 5 weeks after that because I didn't actually go into active labor! I'd had a few contractions this second time around and I even went to the hospital once, but the day she put me on bedrest (at 30 weeks), I expected to be...

...on bedrest.


Even in my wildest dreams (even the hormone induced pregnancy kind - ifyouknowwhatImean) I never thought within a matter of hours we would be racing to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning only to find out that our son was indeed on the way and there was nothing we could do about it. Nothing, except push his tiny life into the world and face this unexpected and shocking reality.


Pre-term labor and NICU life is a beast, friends. You want to be happy that your son is alive and stable but the grief of a pregnancy ended too soon, a 3.5 pound child dependent on machines to care for him, and your body unable to keep giving him what he needed most is overwhelming. The dreams of your seconds old son being laid on your chest, nursing him immediately, and the normalcy of simply "rooming in" quickly disappear. What's left is you, alone, pumping every three hours wondering if you would get the call in time if something did go wrong upstairs and what exactly went wrong to get you there in the first place? I didn't sleep for two days straight - the adrenaline was just too powerful. So there was lots of time to think. Too much, in fact.


























"Why is there a stranger changing my baby's diapers? It should be me."

 I wasn't there for his first bath or when his cord stump fell off.

We couldn't hold him and barely could touch him for fear of overstimulation.

Babies should be held and kissed. Their impossibly soft hands and feet caressed. Their newborn scent drank in deeply. But for us, there was nothing. Nothing except my wheezy Medela. My baby should've still been kicking inside me but instead his tiny lungs were working so hard to do what they shouldn't have had to.

It was the hot middle of summer. He wasn't due until fall.

(See Part 2 here.)

On writing.

2.14.2016

In her book Carry on Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton writes, 
"If anywhere in your soul, you feel the desire to write, please write. Write as a gift to yourself and others. Everyone has a story to tell. Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the right words. It's just about noticing who you are and noticing life and sharing what you notice. When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone.

If you feel something calling you to dance or write or paint of sing, please refuse to worry about whether you are good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself."

***

Well, okay then. 
In the middle of hyper almost kindergarteners and poopy diapers, I'll try.


Superhero Birthday Party

9.24.2015

My sister is a great party thrower - it helps she is awesome with a budget AND that my brother-in-law is an artist. :-) In August, they threw a super fun superhero party for their newly turned three year old complete with custom photo background, games, party decor, costumes, superhero food and a Spiderman cake.

Here are some ideas: (credit for photos, hard work and ideas all goes to them.)











 


Happy birthday sweet boy!

third trimester - bump update

7.12.2015

I've made it to 28 weeks with no full-time bedrest yet. It's looking like I'm not going to make it out without some though - we'll see. Better a healthy baby with bedrest than one that comes too early! Third trimester cheers!


hanging copper planters

6.12.2015

Okay, I lied last post. I did work on a home project, but only because it was a very inspiring anniversary gift.

Jeremy and I celebrated 7 years last month (woot!), and we always do a spin on the traditional gift for each other, partly because it helps spur our creativity and partly because it's just fun. The seven year traditional anniversary gift is copper.

So, I might have convinced him to purchase some 3.5" copper half spheres for me to make into air plant planters. (I've really wanted air plants for awhile, so perfect timing.) THEN Inspiration struck. It struck like it hasn't in quite a while. Remember the far-off-and-away post explaining my living room dilemma?

(like from 2 years ago? okay, maybe only one. Still, I'm sure you remember. *eye roll* Or not.)

Where I couldn't decide what to put here? In that annoying space left from my off-center living room shelves? AHHH! A year later my creative brain has pulled through, thankyouverymuch.

I was limiting my imaginings to something I could hang on the wall - instead I came up with something to hang from the upper shelf. YES! And voilà


While copper isn't cheap, the rest of the items to complete the project were pretty simple:

- 3 copper half spheres
- suede lace
- cup hooks
- air plants (found here

Super simple process: I knotted 3 pieces of suede lace - all approximately the same size for one planter - at the top and bottom. Each one I made slightly different lengths on purpose. Install cup hooks, slide in half spheres and hang! And that's that! 

(I know my shelves need some summer styling love. Anyone want to come help? I'm so out of it.) 



Don't expect too much more in this realm, but I did have to share.

Interested in air plants? Check out this tutorial from the girls at A Beautiful Mess to find out more! They are pretty cool!

Only one project in the works lately...

5.17.2015

If you've missed me (all 3 of you!), you probably already know the fancy project I've been working on for the last 4 months.

Actually, "mild hyperemesis" is not fancy in any way, but I've been busy trying to do anything I can to help things along in our home. Thanks to lots of friends, play dates, meals and family we survived the worst of it and now we are on to *hopefully* better days. My creative brain has been broken and may only now being revived, but without much extra energy to do any more than is absolutely necessary (read: take care of my child, eat, cook, laundry, etc.), most of my pretty projects are on hold.

But I am halfway through and there is a tiny BOY growing in my belly! I am thankful and excited (albeit nervous - who knows what to do with a boy?!).

Here is a fun comparison of bellies at 20 weeks. I feel enormous compared to the first time around, but seeing the picture doesn't do that feeling any justice. ha!


I finally started back to teaching my piano students (no one fired me, yay!) last week and while I am struggling with fatigue due to pregnancy insomnia and more motion sickness than I had with the girl, I am doing well.

A final note: for the pray-ers in my life, I went into preterm labor with my sweet girl at 24 weeks and was on complete bedrest from week 25-36 with her. This pregnancy has been totally different, but my body may end up doing the same thing. Or, it may not. We are watching things closely with my doctor, but I ask that you pray we don't have to weather almost 3 months of bedrest with an energetic 4 year old this summer ... or with an already weakened prego either. It would be awesome to be able to keep up my strength until October 1.

I'll pop in and out of here in the next few months, but for now, the blog is on hold. I know the world will not be the same without it - ha!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

12.16.2014

... in our home, at least. Outside? Not so much...

(*** still waiting for some snow ***)

It's been quiet over here for some time and will probably remain so unless I pop over for an Arkansas room makeover or have a sudden burst of inspiration.


My lumberjack "cut" down a tree after we searched for a locally grown tree and were sorely disappointed with the selection and outrageous prices. Instead, we settled on an imported Fraiser fur that I've always wanted and Love.

It's perfect.


(Thrifted vintage pom-pom tablecloth turned tree skirt!! Love it!)


A couple of poster-board-and old sheet music (and feathers and lace) trees and we're in business.

My parents have an enormous holly tree that we snagged several branches from to spruce up the faux foliage I have. 



 And I used Heat-n-Bond for the first time on this Christmas pillow cover and it is amazing stuff. Highly recommend!

I used fabric scraps for the cover and deer silhouette, yarn I had lying around for the tassels and bam! Cutest pillow in my house. Well, at least for now. And the bonus is that I can just take the cover off when I'm finished and store that flat in my Christmas box instead of an entire pillow. Genius, I know.


Merry Christmas to you!!

cat in the hat inspired PARTY IN A BOX

10.24.2014

Party in a box inspired by these shoes...

And my sister. Happy Birthday Jenn!














***everything except the striped napkins (Target) came from Hobby Lobby and my stash.

a new niece!

9.05.2014

We got some newborn snuggles in over Labor Day weekend! My brother and his wife just had their first daughter and she is tiny and soft and sweet.






new babies FTW! ;-)

DIY: Wall Sprinkles + Free Word Art

9.01.2014

While I wait to help my parents decorate their new retirement home (next month!), I'm slowly making changes to live well in our space here in Kansas.

I painted two walls in our bedroom, but wanted to make another statement wall opposite. Except no more paint, please.


Enter ... metallic contact paper! (find here) I originally wanted 2" polka dots, but my circle cutter just made a mess with the adhesive on the contact paper. So, plan B was 2" squares that I randomly placed across the wall in about 20 minutes.

It's fun and easily remove-able when I'm done. (Plus, it would make a fun statement wall for renters who can't paint their walls.)

I also made a little word art to finish up my typewriter vignette. I thought about putting it on the wall, but it seemed just right propped up behind my little Brother Valiant.


(I can't sell the print, because the colored banner and one of the fonts is for personal use only, but if you want this pdf in a different color, I can send you a copy for free!! Just leave a comment and I'll contact you.)