How I simplified my life with a planner!

As D and I continue to figure out how to be adults, we know that really understanding our finances and managing them is key. I am very active on Pinterest and it is my go-to resource for ideas for everything from recipes, decorating and style to budgeting and life organization. After searching ways to budget, get ahead of finances and run a home smoothly (since I was new to this stay at home mom job) one thing kept popping up in all of my searches. Daily planners. I started looking into them and the creative side of me loved seeing that these days planners are so much more than calendars. They are basically weekly scrapbooks where you organize your life.

I did a lot of research on the best planners that would meet our needs as a family. I didn’t want a planner for our daily/monthly lives, activities and appointments and then something else for budgeting. I wanted something that did it all, something that I could tweak and adjust to meet our families specific needs. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the Create 365 Happy Planner! Below is a picture of my planner. This company hit the nail on the head for customize-able planners, let me tell you. There are 12 month planners, 18 month planners, big ones, small ones, expansion kits for things like budgeting or school work, more stickers than you could ever imagine and even charms and shaped paperclips. Honestly, it takes an insane amount of self control for me not to go completely overboard with all the extras you can get.

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Because one of the main focuses of this planner is to help our family set a good budget and get ahead financially, buying the extras wasn’t practical. I bought an 18 month large planner, the budgeting expansion pack and a pack of cute little post-its. I already have stickers, pens and washi tape on hand because of my scrap booking so I saved some money there. Though I do want to get highlighters, that’s also not a need but a want and not necessary right now. The budgeting expansion pack adds a bit of bulk so I only kept July-January 2019 in my planner and put the rest safely in a bag in my craft closet to use when the time comes. I figure for life planning and budgeting purposes, 6 months at a time is plenty. The budget pack also comes with additional monthly views that are not marked or numbered which is nice. I went back and forth about whether or not to use the extra monthly views or to just keep everything in one place and eventually decided I wanted the extra space. I wanted to have a place where I could turn and clearly see our expenses for the month and what bills were due on what days. This is the first full month of using the budgeting pack and so far I really like it. The only thing I’m not so good at is keeping up with the expense tracker, I need to make that a part of my evening routine as well as mark the days of the week where I didn’t spend any money. Lets be honest, that deserves to be celebrated because it is no easy task. I have a hard time managing my spending, especially with little things like Jack in the Box iced coffees which is my current Achilles heel. They’re just so tasty! But those little purchases add up really quickly and can take a big chunk out of the budget so I need to hold myself accountable and the planner is a fun way to do that.

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I think this budget review page is going to be particularly helpful in pointing out areas that need work and helping me reflect on the month and how I can improve our finances. I get wrapped up just waiting on that next paycheck and I think this will help me be more conscious about what is going on with our money.

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The expense tracker is another great way to focus on the details of my spending. I also like that it has the columns to track where the money came from (debit/credit/cash) and whether it was a need or want. Again, this will be helpful when reflecting on areas to improve upon for the next month. The hard part for me will be keeping up with it.

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In addition to budgeting, I use it to keep track of our appointments, play dates and plans with friends and family. I also use it to write down little tasks and reminders. For example, I remind myself to make blogging a priority which is difficult with a 10 month old who refuses to sleep. He happens to be fussing in his crib as I write this, fighting his afternoon nap with all his might and calling for his “Dada” to save him. Not today Henry, dada is at work and mama needs you to nap! If there were a expansion pack for getting my kid to sleep I would definitely buy that.

In conclusion, if you’re like me and have a hard time remembering appointments, bills, automatic payments and just basically struggle with adulting, check out the Happy Planner. If you’re budget conscious, do what I did. Wait for a sale and just buy the basics, you can splurge later. If your only goal is organization and fun, then go nuts! I guarantee you they will have plenty that meets your needs and matches your style. I got my planner and accessories from Hobby Lobby when they were having a sale of 50% off planners and supplies. For my planner, budget pack and post-its, I paid a little less than $40 which I thought was pretty good. I’ll post an update after I have been using the budgeting pack for a few months and let you know how it is working out for our family.

Thank you for reading!
~M

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Battle for the boob – My fight to breastfeed my son.

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and I thought that created a great opportunity to talk about my personal experience with breastfeeding and some of the things that helped me through it. I want to start by saying just because it’s natural does NOT mean it’s easy. I’m going to repeat it because I feel like we as women don’t talk about how difficult breastfeeding can be, we just feel pressured to do it. JUST BECAUSE IT’S NATURAL DOES NOT MEAN IT’S EASY! *Whew* Okay, lets get started.

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When I got pregnant I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. It’s the healthiest option and I know formula is expensive so it was also my way of saving us a significant amount of money each month (easily $100+ a month from the very beginning). I also liked the idea of not having to pack bottles around and breastfeeding meant I always had his food with me, no matter what. I had been around breastfeeding so it wasn’t a foreign concept for me. I read about it and took the breastfeeding class offered by the hospital I was going to give birth at, I prepared as much as possible and didn’t think I would have any issues.

Enter reality.

As I’ve covered in my previous posts, my pregnancy and delivery were far from typical. Henry, being so little and also “early term” meant he had an under developed sucking reflex. It was difficult for him to get anything once I got him latched on. When we realized his blood sugar was critically low, formula was introduced to get some calories in his system after not really eating at all the night he was born. The nurses assured me that I would still be able to breast feed, this was just to make sure he had some food in his belly to try and stabilize his blood sugar. I was trying not to feel discouraged but it was hard. The lactation consultant that was supposed to be working in that hospital that weekend had called in sick and even though my nurses and the nurses in the NICU were trying to help, I was still having a hard time. Everyone was giving me different information and contradicting each other. I felt like in my hormonal and exhausted state, I was left to sift through all the information I was being given by all these different people and see what was right for us.

I continued to try to nurse him every feeding but neither of us were happy about it. Henry’s latch was really shallow because of an upper lip tie and his small size and his sucking reflex wasn’t strong enough to transfer enough milk to satiate him. I pumped after every nursing session to be able to add some liquid gold to the bottles of formula he was taking. We tried different holds and positions, we tried with a pillow and without, we tried the SNS feeding system and nothing seemed to help. I desperately wanted to have that connection with my baby and even more so, I wanted him to have the best nutrients possible for the battle his little body was fighting within itself. I felt like I had failed him when it wasn’t working. I can’t tell you how many times I cried over those first few days as we tried and tried to nurse.

On the 3rd day is when Henry was transferred to the higher level NICU and there I FINALLY got some help. They set me up with a lactation consultant that very same evening and she was wonderful. She was so encouraging and hopeful that we would make this happen for both Henry and I. I cried again, but this time with a smile on my face. She gave me a hospital grade pump to use for 6 months and showed me how to use it as well as gave me a pumping schedule to encourage my milk to come in and my body to produce more. She worked with Henry and I on positioning and showed me how to help him get a deeper latch which made nursing more comfortable. We had the same routine every feeding, I would nurse for 15 minutes and then D would bottle feed him some previously pumped milk while I went and pumped for the next feeding. We did this for weeks, even at home. It was so much easier to try and relax and nurse at home and I finally felt like we would have some success.

Those first several months were awful. I was in horrible pain every time I nursed. I finally went to see an outside IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and she happened to be one of the best in Northern California. I had seen several LC’s through the hospital and all I was ever told was to just “keep trying” and “it will get better”. In addition to struggling with latch, I also struggled with supply. Henry and I had an uphill battle for sure. When I saw the IBCLC she did a visual exam and immediately told me I had thrush and that it was one of the worst cases she had ever seen. No one else was able to diagnose it, everyone else just told me to keep trying. The best way I can describe the pain I was feeling is that it felt like someone was holding lighters up to my nipples. ALL. THE. TIME. I cried from pain every time I nursed Henry. I dreaded it. She showed me how to fix his latch more effectively, suggested some supplements to help my supply and told me to email my doctor right away about getting medication for the thrush that Henry and I both had. THANK THE LORD! I took the medication as well as applied diluted grapefruit seed extract on my nipples after each nursing session and washed my clothes with hydrogen peroxide added to the wash to help kill the bacteria. After 2 weeks I felt so much better. I was pumping enough to give Henry strictly breast milk and he was finally latching better too.

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Henry is now 10 months old and he no longer gets bottles, his milk is straight from the tap. Nursing is still a struggle for me at times, even 10 months into it. He still gets lazy with his latch and I still get pretty sore some times but we’re making it work. Finally my stubbornness has paid off! If Henry didn’t have the struggles he did in the beginning I doubt I would have pushed through all the pain, it was almost unbearable. I dreaded it every time he got hungry, but I am proud of how far we’ve come. I needed to know that I could do this, I needed to know that my body is capable of sustaining his life. I believe successfully nursing has been one of the most healing experiences I’ve had since we lost Jackson. It restored my faith in my body.

I believe wholeheartedly that it is the absolute best thing to give a baby and that although formula is an option, it will never be as good for babies as breast milk. It really is liquid gold and if you doubt that, I suggest reading about the benefits of breast milk. That being said, I know that breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. Some women can’t due to things like health issues and low supply. Some women can’t because the struggle in the beginning to figure things out is just too much in their already delicate state. For some women the pressure to breastfeed negatively impacts their relationship with their baby. So even though breast is best from a nutritional standpoint, it’s more important to figure out what works for your unique situation and for your family. I think that we, as women and as a society, put an incredible amount of pressure on women to breast feed their babies and I think that can have a reverse effect. We need to be accepting, understanding and loving to each other and less judgemental of each others parenting choices. Perhaps, if we create a safe place where women can come and feel accepted they would be more open about the struggles that they are having. If we offered judgement free advice and support instead of the standard “Keep trying, it will get better”, more women would be successful. If I had just “kept trying” it wouldn’t have gotten better.

As always, please feel free to   comment or send me a message with your own stories or any questions.

Have a wonderful day!
~M

Disneyland!

Disneyland has been a big part of mind and D’s relationship from the beginning. When we were friends, our mutual love of Disneyland was one of the first things we bonded over. This is where D and I have gone on several vacations together, D proposed to me in the most magical and perfect way, and now we were getting ready to take our baby boy! We had been planning this trip since shortly after finding out we were expecting and we were so so excited to share it with Henry.

Now, Henry was a fussy and difficult baby so there was also a certain level of anxiety along with the excitement. Anxiety about staying in a hotel with people just on the other side of the wall, anxiety about how he would be waiting in line, about how he would do on the rides he was able to go on… Not to mention the drive! We live about 6 hours north of Disneyland and a drive like that with a 4 month old was slightly scary. The plan was to leave around 4am so that I could nurse him, load him in the car and then hopefully get about halfway there before needing to stop and feed him again. Let me tell you, that kid was a CHAMP! He slept for about 3 1/2 hours before I got nervous about him going a while without eating (left over anxiety from his hyperinsulinemea and the fear of dropping blood sugar) so we pulled off at the next stop, we all ate and back on the road we went. Not a peep from Henry the whole ride! We got to our hotel, checked in and changed Henry from his jammies to his first Disney outfit of the trip. Have I mentioned Disneyland is a big deal for us? Because it is and Henry was equipped with adorable Disney outfits for the whole trip. Another fun fact about me as a mom, I figure with everything that I had to go through to get Henry into this world, I deserve to dress him up in cute clothes as often as I want. I don’t care if the outfit lasts 5 minutes because he is the spit up king, he’s going to look cute!

So, with our little boy dressed and ready to go, we headed for the park. A key item for my survival as a nursing mom was my big water bottle full of ice water. I had it filled and attached to our stroller the whole time. You can get free cups of ice water at all Disney restaurants and some of the food carts that offer soft drinks. It can save a lot of money if water is your main beverage of choice, which for me it is. Another great thing about Disneyland is they let you bring snacks into the parks. When I was pregnant that was especially important because if I got even slightly hungry, I felt sick almost immediately. Again, as a nursing mom that came in handy as well. I like to pack snacks that give me a lot of bang for my buck, such as packs of nuts, granola bars and, my personal favorite, fruit and chia seed KIND bars. They come in a variety pack and I got a big box of them at Costco right before our trip. The chia seeds provide fatty acids as well as keeping you full for longer, that in addition to the fruit make it a healthy snack choice that holds you over for a while. I also like to grab the Costco muffins and bring them as our breakfasts each day. Not the healthiest option, but when you’re walking miles and miles in a day the carbs count less and its a meal that will hold me over for a while which then cuts our meal costs pretty significantly. Anything to save money in Disneyland!

Henry LOVED being in the parks. He was taking in all the sights, sounds and smells and our fussy, difficult baby seemed right at home. We enjoyed the park with my family that first day and D and I couldn’t believe how happy Henry was. Clearly he knew at even a very young age, Disneyland is part of our lives. We got to the hotel that evening and laid Henry down for bed in his pack-n-play, an unfamiliar sleeping environment since he sleeps in a bassinet next to me at home, but he settled right in and slept ALL NIGHT LONG! I was floored! Henry doing so well that first day really helped ease my anxiety moving forward. I was able to enjoy myself and enjoy watching my baby experience something that I have loved since childhood, something that is significant to D and I as well as to our families. It meant so much to me.

While day one involved a lot of nervousness on my part, adjusting to a slower pace in the park for D and I, learning to navigate the parks with a stroller and letting go of our worries while leaving the stroller parked, by day 3 we felt like pros. We learned that taking things slow meant really seeing more of the park and seeing it through our sons eyes which was an amazing experience. We also learned that walking the park with a stroller involves equal parts courtesy and aggression. You may think that’s a strange combination but when you’re faced with walking up main street during fireworks you’re going to need to let some people in front of you but also give a little “nudge” to those that aren’t paying attention or respecting the fact that you aren’t as agile as someone without a stroller. When parking your stroller, use common sense. Tuck your diaper bag underneath and bring your wallet on the ride with you. Remember that security in Disney parks is top notch and also that people are there to have a magical experience with those they love, as a general rule they aren’t there looking to pilfer from strollers. Trust that your stuff will be okay and enjoy the ride.

D and I are currently planning our next trip to Disneyland which will be to celebrate Jackson and Henry’s birthday. I am even more excited for this trip than the first one. Our little boy will be a year old and likely walking by then, though probably not gracefully. He will be able to really interact with his surroundings and take in the experience more. I cannot wait! I already have a couple of outfits planned, of course. After the year we have had, our little family deserves to celebrate. We are going to celebrate Henry, our happy and healthy boy who has already overcome so much in his short life. We are going to celebrate us, our marriage and our relationship for the new depths it’s reached over this difficult year. We are also going to celebrate Jackson, our noble watchman and the missing piece of our family. It’s going to be a wonderful trip, I already know it.

If anyone has any other tips and tricks for visiting Disneyland as a pregnant or nursing mom, please send them my way! I’m always on the hunt for anything that will make our Disney adventures even more magical.

Thank you for reading!

Until next time,
~M

The early days at home

I don’t know about other new parents, but when it was finally time to load our baby up in the car and take him home I really didn’t feel qualified. There was a level of disbelief that we were going to be allowed to bring him home. Not just because we had been waiting 17 long days for this, but because it just didn’t seem like we should be trusted with such a precious life. We aren’t responsible or mature enough! What were they thinking?! But there we were, packed up and headed home.

D had taken the rest of the month of October off for paternity leave, not anticipating spending so much of it at the hospital. We came home on the 22nd so D only had a week and a half home with us before having to go back to work. Looking back there were a couple of blessings that came with our NICU stay. As new parents we had nurses everywhere that were happy to help us and show us their tricks for diapering and soothing our fussy baby, they also had him on a pretty strict schedule because of his blood sugar issues. A big difference with us and normal new parents adjusting to being home was we had to take Henry’s blood sugar every 6 hours and keep track of it as well as give him his medication. Now, in case it wasn’t obvious, babies don’t like being stuck in their heel with needles several times a day and another little known fact, moms don’t like making their babies scream and bleed several times a day. That was harder than the lack of sleep for me. I dreaded every heel prick.

Blood sugar readings aside, Henry was a normal newborn with quite the set of lungs and a pretty serious aversion to sleeping at night. His schedule stuck to some degree for a few weeks but of course, sleeping at night was the first thing to go. I was still struggling with supply and pumping around the clock, sometimes in place of nursing to offer a bottle and also after nursing so when Henry woke up in the middle of the night to eat I would nurse him for up to 45 minutes sometimes, burp him and get him back to bed and then have to pump to try and increase my supply. This meant every time Henry woke up (every 2-3 hours) I was awake for up to an hour and a half, so I was only getting between 30 minutes to an hour and a half of sleep at a time. I was EXHAUSTED! D started taking the first wake up of the night and feeding Henry a bottle so I was only waking up to pump and could be back to sleep in 30 minutes. That helped a lot, not only with sleep but also with the pain I was in from breastfeeding.

Everyone will warn you about how exhausting it is adjusting to this new but temporary normal way of life. I thought I knew how tired I would be, I was wrong. So as much as you can, just mentally prepare yourself for a serious lack of sleep. Maybe you will be blessed with an excellent sleeper from the start, but as they say “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”! Personally, I never knew a 15 minute shower could feel like a vacation but it definitely can.

My advice to new parents bringing home a baby is to have easy meals already in the freezer and ready to go with instructions right on the top so anyone can help you with making dinners happen, have lots of snack foods like protein bars, string cheese, crackers, anything easy to grab that has some protein and fat, have a few flats of bottled water (again, easy to grab and go) and also get stocked up on things like toilet paper, paper towels and even paper plates because you won’t feel like doing the dishes, trust me. If you have friends and family around like we were fortunate enough to have, don’t be afraid to ask for help with some house cleaning while YOU cuddle YOUR baby. You might have people that come in that feel entitled to time with your baby, that will offer to hold the baby while you do the less appealing chores around your house. I encourage you to remember that it’s your baby and if you don’t want to give it up to someone else so they can “help” by cuddling your sleeping baby so you can glove up and do dishes, don’t allow them to pressure you into that kind of help. You’re the one that has to be there when your baby is screaming in the middle of the night (or sometimes throughout the day too), you deserve to relish in those beautiful moments of sleeping baby bliss more than anyone else. Don’t be bullied into giving those moments up. Also, a baby swing saved our lives, I cannot recommend them enough! When D and I tried everything to get him to sleep and to comfort him and nothing worked, the swing did. It was a sad sad day when he outgrew it.

Invest in some comfy, nursing friendly jammies, prepare to have just enough energy and clarity of mind to keep everyone happy and fed and know that that is enough. The first time I felt like I had a good mom day Henry was several weeks old. It didn’t happen on day one for me, or even in the first week. I felt like I was suddenly given the most important job in the world with no instructions, no training and no idea what the hell I was doing. Eventually, I figured it out and you know what happened as soon as I felt like I might be getting the hang of things? Henry switched the script and he still does every time I think I know what’s going on. Parenthood is an extremely difficult and demanding occupation but when people tell you that it’s worth it, it really is. I can’t imagine being anything other than D’s wife and Henry’s mom now. And this is coming from someone who went their whole life without ever wanting kids, until my blue eyed, sweet, handsome, loving husband entered my life. I feel like that gives me some extra credibility when I say it’s worth it 😉

~M

Our unexpected stay

After the ups and downs of my labor and delivery experience, I just stared at my sweet Henry that first night. Barely sleeping a wink between staring at his perfect little face and trying to get him to nurse. By morning we still hadn’t had a successful nursing session. At only 5lbs 10oz and a little early, Henry was small and his sucking reflex was underdeveloped. Just one of the many breastfeeding struggles we encountered.

The morning nurse came in to check on us and she helped me work on getting Henry to latch. He was too tired to work at nursing and when the nurse took him to give him a quick check, she noticed he was jittery. I had never had a baby before so I was unaware that the movements he was making were not normal. She listened to Henry’s heart and lungs, checked him physically and then took his blood sugar. He had an extremely low reading at only 9. We were told the normal blood sugar range for a baby his age and size is 80-100. She gave him a bottle of formula right away which he willingly ate and then she rechecked his sugars and they were up to around 40, not great but much better. An hour or so later, his sugars were checked again and had a reading of 19. Henry wasn’t regulating his blood sugar properly and he needed to be admitted into the NICU. At this point he still wasn’t latching on to my breast and I desperately wanted to see a lactation consultant. Unfortunately, the LC on schedule for that weekend had called in sick. The nurses helped some but it seemed like each one was giving me different advice. I was frustrated, heartbroken and very concerned about my baby.

We made the phone calls to our families and let them know what was going on. As you can imagine, after everything we had just gone through and after losing Jackson, I was an emotional wreck. Pediatricians came and went. I wasn’t confident in any of them. They hooked him up to an IV that basically added sugar into his body since Henry wasn’t maintaining a high enough level. His sugars were checked every hour and if they were at a good level, the dosage on the IV was lowered. If his sugar was lower the next hour, they would bump his IV up again. He was on a roller coaster of ups and downs, as were D and I. Over the next two and a half days different pediatricians came in who were also consulting neonatologists and by the time Sunday afternoon had rolled around Henry’s IV was maxed out and still not improving. The pediatrician that was on duty said that Henry needed to be transferred to a level 2 NICU, that they were not equipped to help him there. This was the last thing D and I wanted to hear. I had Henry Thursday night, it was Sunday afternoon. We were supposed to be home with our boy, not talking about transferring our son to a higher level facility.

The transport came and we packed up our room as fast as possible (a little mishap with me misplacing the car keys about had me in hysterics) and we were on our way to the level 2 facility 30 miles away. Seeing my sweet baby boy loaded up into the incubator and leaving to be put in the ambulance, on his way to another hospital was horrible. His first car ride was supposed to be in our car, tucked into his car seat with D driving and me sitting next to him. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I just kept thinking “Haven’t we been through enough, God? Why is this happening? He’s supposed to be healthy! We’re supposed to be at home, bonding as a family, not in the hospital still!”. Despite how difficult my pregnancy had been, despite losing Jackson, I hadn’t felt anger towards God until this point. I felt hopeless, I felt like my body had failed Jackson and had now failed Henry because he wasn’t able to nurse from me and because clearly something wasn’t right internally. The day he was transferred to the level 2 NICU was one of the darkest for me personally.

By the time D and I had arrived the nurses already had Henry unloaded and were assessing him, going over his charts and determining a plan of action with the neonatologist. The difference between the two facilities, besides more advanced equipment and being larger and busier, was that there were neonatalogists on staff instead of pediatricians. While at the first NICU we felt overwhelmed and like our son had a serious illness, at the second facility the staff was very casual about it and for the first time D and I felt like everything would be okay. They gave Henry an umbilical line so that they could administer the IV more efficiently, something the previous NICU was not equipped to do. The umbilical line made it more difficult to hold Henry, especially since D and I were already nervous because of how small he was, but we managed. This hospital had Lactation Consultants on staff around the clock and finally, Sunday night, I was able to meet with someone. She was very encouraging, promised me that they would help me with everything I needed and she gave me a hospital grade pump to use so that while Henry was learning to suck I could pump after nursing him and still provide him with that liquid gold.

Not only was this hospital bigger but it was also busier which meant they did not have a room for D and I to stay in so we could be with Henry around the clock. Leaving him that first night was incredibly difficult for both of us. My baby was only 3 days old, I wasn’t supposed to be leaving him yet but we had no choice. My aunt and uncle were able to get us a room at a nearby hotel for the first few nights so that we could stay close. That morning we were back there by 8am and met with his doctor who was a fantastic man that D and I both liked immediately. He was confident but not arrogant, he was kind and he was gentle with Henry. We asked him how long he felt our stay would be and how many cases like Henry’s he had seen. He told D and I that he had treated many cases like Henry’s and though his case was one of the more severe that they’ve seen, he was confident that our stay would be relatively short, “two to three weeks most likely” he said. D and I were thinking it would be a week, tops, so this was hard for us to hear. Every day as we drove back and forth, spending at least 12-18 hours in uncomfortable chairs next to our baby’s hospital bed, we reminded ourselves that he was in the best hands.

Over the next couple of weeks we experienced the ups and downs of trying to navigate what we now knew was hyperinsulinemia. We worked with an endocrinologist as well as the neonatologists to ease Henry off of the medication that was helping him regulate his blood sugar. The point was to get him to a dose that D and I could administer at home. This was a long and slow process that was finished off by a fasting test. If his body could regulate its blood sugar at a safe level for 6 hours without eating, he could come home. D and I anxiously awaited the day for the fast to arrive. We didn’t know exactly when it would happen, but we knew it was soon since his dosage was continually dropping. When we walked into the hospital on Sunday, October 22nd, one day after my due date and after 17 days in the NICU, we were told it was fasting day. D and I couldn’t believe it. We were so excited and anxious at the same time, this could be the day we bring our baby home! We called our families and friends, asked for some extra prayers and the fast began. They took a blood sugar reading at the beginning to see where he was at and they would take one every hour for 6 hours and as long as his sugars stayed above 60, he could come home. Hours 1-3 were a breeze, but then at hour 4 Henry had a reading of 62, very close to the threshold that would cause the whole thing to end and we would have to wait a couple of days before trying again. We paced, held hands, prayed… Amazingly, Henry slept most of the time which made me feel better. Knowing your baby is hungry and having him be upset and being unable to help is awful. Luckily he only had a fussy moment once. The next blood sugar reading was in….70! His little body had regulated itself! That was such an encouraging moment. Our favorite nurse was on duty and she was the one to do the last blood draw. I’m sure she felt no pressure at all as D and I stared at her, studying her every move and anxiously awaiting the results. It felt like the little machine was taking forever to give us results. The nurse was reassuring us, letting us know that even if he didn’t pass today, he would be home soon. He was getting stronger and doing better.

*Beeeeeeep* The results were in… 91! We were going to take our baby home! after 17 long and exhausting days in the NICU, we were taking our baby home. I ran to Target to get a couple of things we needed before bringing him home and then practically ran down the hallway with the diaper bag on my shoulder and car seat that had been sitting, empty in my car for weeks, hanging on my arm. Phone calls were made to family and friends, my parents were hosting a birthday party for my grandpa and when I called my mom and shared the news that our baby was coming home, she put me on speaker phone and my whole family cheered. Our nurses made sure we had everything we needed, gave us emergency numbers and words of encouragement and we were on our way. D was carrying our son down to the car and loading him up for the first time. I was crying, he was crying, Henry was sleeping. Over the next week we just stayed huddled up in our house, just the 3 of us, cuddling each other and enjoying holding Henry without any wires or tubes coming off of his little body.

Over the next few weeks we took Henry’s blood sugars, administered his medication and tracked everything. We met with the endocrinologist who looked over our records and was happy to say that Henry was doing incredibly well. They determined that this was a transient case of hyperinsulinemia, which meant it’s not something he would struggle with for the rest of his life. That was music to our ears as we had both been very concerned about what this meant for his long term health. Henry is now over 9 months old and has been off medication completely for about 7 months. He is learning and developing right on track and is the absolute love of our lives. Our NICU days seem like a lifetime again and I am also happy to report that my anger towards God subsided rather quickly and He and I have been on good terms ever since 🙂

I am so thankful for my amazing husband and wonderful family and friends. They were instrumental in getting us through that difficult time. As always, if anyone has any questions or wants to share their story, I would love to hear it.

Thank you for reading ANOTHER lengthy post 🙂

~M

The long awaited arrival

One of my very good friends is going to be having her baby any time now and this got me thinking about my birthing experience with Henry and I wanted to write about it.

When I was 32 weeks pregnant, one of my doctors had told me that my cervix was very short and that I would be having Henry very soon. They gave me the steroid shots to help his lungs develop so that he would have an easier time, as he was likely going to be arriving early.

Fast forward 5 weeks and I was STILL pregnant. I had spent 5 weeks thinking it would happen any day, paying extra attention to every twitch, every kick and every contraction. Every appointment we heard the same thing, I wasn’t dilating and my sliver of a cervix was holding tight. I was SO ready to have Henry in my arms where I knew he was safe. I wanted to cuddle him and squish his cheeks and kiss him all over! I went into an appointment at 37 weeks and 3 days and again was told it looked like it would still be a while. The next morning, I was laying in bed around 6am and thought I had peed my pants… I had heard this happens towards the end of pregnancy and thought maybe I was just too relaxed in bed. Lol. So I got up, showered and continued on with my day. I had periodic contractions but nothing consistent and nothing strong or painful. Several hours, 4 pairs of pants and one walk with my mom later and she had told me that it was quite possible my water had broken. During our walk I had some more contractions but again, nothing painful or consistent.

After we got back to my house my mom told me that I needed to let my husband know what was happening. I still wasn’t convinced I hadn’t just been wandering around, peeing my pants a little bit here and there. Clearly I was in denial. Lol. So I sent D a text, just a casual “Hi love, I hope your day is going well. I just got back from a walk with my mom. Also, looks like maybe my water broke. I feel fine though.” In a matter of minutes my phone was ringing. D was none too pleased with my casual demeanor and I still hear about how he couldn’t believe I slipped something so important in at the end of a text. Again, clearly I was in denial! He told his manager what was going on and rushed home. In the mean time I had called labor and delivery and they asked me a series of questions then asked me to come in at my earliest convenience with a bag packed, just in case.

D took a quick shower when he got home, we loaded the car and were on our way. They initially saw me in triage where they checked on Henry’s heartbeat and took my vitals and then tested to see if my water had broken. After a few minutes the verdict was in…my water broke. We were officially there for the long haul and we were admitted and in our room less than an hour later. D and I were nervous but we had so many nurses and doctors coming and going to get us situated that we didn’t have time to focus on that…yet. After some monitoring, it was clear that even though my water had broken, I was not in active labor. Because we didn’t know whose water had broken, Jackson or Henry’s it was important that labor get started to reduce the risk of infection to Henry and myself. That’s when the doctor started talking to me about different induction options. I had also done my own research so that I could make a more informed decision. The foley bulb was what I had wanted to do, but that wasn’t an option for my because I wasn’t contracting enough for it to be effective. Wanting to avoid being hooked up to an IV, we went with a pill option. That started around 6:30pm and was given to me at certain time intervals. Oh. My. Goodness. That was the night from hell.

I was having contractions all night long, my lower back was killing me and I could not get comfortable. I remember looking over to D asleep on the couch and SO wishing we could trade places! I let him sleep through my night of contractions because I knew I needed him to be 100% there and present with me when the real labor was going down. The next morning we walked the halls constantly, I was continually checked for progress and it was very slow going. Our families came and visited us periodically, my mom especially was wanting to be there for us and made herself available.

The pill wasn’t cutting it so later that morning they started the pitocin drip. I was pacing around my hospital room in my very stylish hospital gown (enter sarcasm here) and non slip socks, feeling nauseous, in pain and anxious. Once the drip started my nausea increased. I don’t know if it was due to the induction, the pain or everything combined but I hated it. At one point I was laying in bed and my husbands entire family (6 people) were all hanging out in the room. I could feel the nausea getting worse, I knew what was coming and tried to get my husbands attention to no avail. I remember shoving past him to get to the bathroom where I didn’t quite make it to the toilet before getting sick. Nothing like throwing up halfway on the bathroom floor and halfway in the toilet, wearing my glamorous gown with my butt hanging out with my in-laws right outside the door. Not one of my favorite moments of the day.  Neither was walking out of the bathroom and having them all still sitting there, staring at me. Note to my readers: if a woman is in labor and feeling sick, do NOT occupy her husbands attention entirely and get the hell OUT of the room if she throws up. I was blessed with amazing nurses during my time at the hospital and my favorite nurse was happy to kick everyone out of the room after that incident.

As my labor progressed throughout the day and contractions became stronger and closer together, my cervix refused to dilate. After nearly 24 hours of labor I was only at 4cm. I was trying to do the breathing exercises I had read about, I tried not to fight my contractions and just go with them, but I think that knowing the end result was having to say my final goodbye to Jackson, my body fought it. Of course there was the light that is my Henry to come, but that didn’t make the goodbye any easier. After hearing I was only at 4cm, having not slept in almost 48 hours and knowing that the risk to Henry was increasing, I decided to get an epidural and see if that helped. I was incredibly nervous about it, the idea of a needle going into my spine was not appealing at all. But after talking with my husband and my mom, I was ready to do it.

The epidural went very smoothly. I had it placed around 5pm and fell asleep almost immediately. It may have been the best nap of my life, no joke. It was glorious. The doctor woke me up 3 hours later to see how I was progressing. In the 3 hours I was asleep I had dilated to 10cm and before I knew it, it was time to deliver Jackson. The fact that he was the presenting twin was a gift from God. He was delivered at 8:45pm, wrapped with love by the nurse in a beautiful blanket my mom made him and D and I held him, told him how much we love him and cried together. I will never forget holding my sweet little Jackson for those 15 minutes before it was time to start pushing again. D and I were able to give him our full attention which wouldn’t have been the case if I hadn’t gotten the epidural and if he hadn’t been the presenting twin. God’s hand was in all of this and I am so very thankful.

At 9pm it was time to start pushing Henry on out. My labor was hard on Henry, he was early, he was small and he had already been through a lot. I remember hearing the heart monitor slow down when a contraction came and I pushed. I tried a few times and he just wasn’t coming out. The doctor told me that he was in distress and I needed to get him out now, if he didn’t come soon they were either going to suction him out or have to do an emergency c-section. I was not having any of that, my baby needed me and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to take care of him just like I had done all along.

Now, D and I had discussed the fact that he was NOT to look. I didn’t want a mirror, I didn’t want to see and I definitely didn’t want D to see. In my opinion, the only one that needs to see that are the people paid to do so. I’ve seen birthing videos and even though it’s a miracle and “beautiful” it is not visually beautiful…in my opinion. So there I was, pushing with all my might trying to get my baby out and into the world. I mean I was pushing like I have never pushed before. It was like something primal took over and I was in the zone…until I hear the nurse who is holding my right leg ask D if he wanted to look because Henry was crowning. That snapped me back to reality. I remember thinking “Oh, PLEASE don’t look!!” and I turned my head to see D looking and then immediately turning away saying it was beautiful. The expression on his face said otherwise though. The next thing you know, POP! Henry was born. D said that he only caught a glimps of him as he shot out into the doctors hand. I love hearing D tell that part of the story though, it’s hilarious.

They immediately put Henry on my chest where we did skin to skin for at least an hour. The nurse came back in to help D put a diaper on Henry and then he enjoyed his own hour of skin to skin with our perfect, tiny baby boy (not even 6lbs!) tucked into his button up shirt. Our families then came in and gave us all love and then left us to our first night as parents. I think I spent most of the night just staring at Henry. I couldn’t believe how precious he was. I also couldn’t believe how in love with him I was already. My whole experience with the hospital staff during those two days was spectacular. I know that God hand picked each and every person He put in our path during that time. We are so blessed, then and now.

~M

PS: I forgot to mention this earlier, but Henry was born during Thursday night football when the Patriots beat the Buccaneers. He was born a Patriots fan!

Sink or swim

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I had mentioned in my post regarding the loss of our baby Jackson that I would do a separate post on how my marriage has changed as we continue to work through the loss of Jackson. D and I had been married for a month when we found out I was pregnant and just 6 months when we lost Jackson. Although we weren’t strangers to adversity, we had never been through any storm like what we walked into that day at the doctors office. When we got the news about Jackson we basically had two choices, sink and drift apart or swim through this together.

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Communication has always been one of the strongest aspects of our relationship and I know that without strong communication it would have been difficult to navigate our grief together. Although no one around us really understands the pain we have been going through but each other, we still only understand part of each others grief. D will never know the heartbreak as a mother losing her baby, just as I will never know the heartbreak of a father losing his baby. During this season of our lives, we have had to be aware of the importance of grieving together as well as allowing each other to grieve in their own way separately. Having the strength to let the other person process however that needs to happen. As well as having the confidence in our relationship that if one person needs the other, we will be able to communicate that need and it will be met. I don’t try to understand what D felt that day because I know I never will. I do know that one of the most difficult things for him as my husband was that he couldn’t protect me from this. He couldn’t save me from the pain I was feeling and for a while, he felt like he had let me down. I sobbed for hours in his arms and he would just hold me, kiss me and tell me he loved me. Sometimes silent tears would fall from his face, but his priority was supporting me through my pain. I have told him that was the best thing he could have done for me, I never felt as comforted and safe as I did when he was holding me.

Initially we slept a lot. I didn’t want to be awake to feel the pain and neither did D. And then we talked a lot. I mean A LOT. We each confessed our fears for Henry as we moved forward, how our dreams and visions of our family had suddenly changed, we talked about why this had happened to us and we each had our own feelings about that as well. We promised to always vocalize our needs during this season, whether we needed space or comfort. I think that is one of the best ways that we navigate this together.
Losing Jackson changed our lives forever in many ways. Strengthening our marriage is one of the positive things that came from this. After weathering this storm together we are closer and stronger than before and I am so thankful for the man that God has blessed me with. He is my happily ever after.

~M

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