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Hey Boo

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Hope you have a spooktacular day!

My little family and I are heading up the pumpkin patch! Babies & pumpkins. Is there anything cuter? Don’t think so . . . Unless you add a fuzzy puppy to the mix.  

Oh, and we’re also going for the . . . Apple cider donuts! You may not know this, but I kinda have a thing for all-things donut.

Wish the weather felt a little more fally. It’s supposed to reach 80ºF. Ugh . . . Sadly, I had to ditch my plans of bundling up in an oversized sweater. *Le sigh*

No doubt we’ll still have a gourd time.

No matter what your plans are for tonight, have fun and stay safe! And if you plan to eat, drink, & be scary, don’t boos it up too much!!

Peace,

Y

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Note to Self

Sweetest

Oh hey there.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know you anymore.

You catch me off guard at times. Some morning I can’t help but ask, “Who is that strange lady staring back at me in the mirror? Dark circles. Frizzy hair with day-old braids. Is that spit-up or toothpaste on her pajama top? Or both?”

She seems so foreign. A stranger.

So much has changed over the last seven months. In truth, the change has happened steadily for well over a year. Funny how growing a human can do that.

I know that I am not always the most mindful or appreciative of you. In fact, often times I get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to thank you for all the amazing things you do.

It’s so easy to focus on:

The way pre-bump tops don’t fit quite like they used to . . . I never imagined v-necks could look so revealing!! *Horrified yelp* So this is why so many women are desperately seeking a good running bra! *Covers eyes*

Or . . .

Two words: *Whispers* Mom pooch . . . I swear this stomach used to be flat. No really. There was a 12 pack there. Okay, that’s a lie. But it was flatish. I promise. Wanna see pictures?

Or . . .

The seemingly permanent dark under-eye circles. Nope, not rocking a new grungy, smeared eyeliner look. And it’s not day-old makeup either. Should I say it is?

Or . . .

These jiggly, wiggly, loosey-goosey joints. Snap! Crackle! Pop! has become like a private symphony. Standing up from playing on the floor with little man? Snap! Crackle! Pop! Bending over to pick up the toy baby J has thrown 297 times in 30 seconds? Snap! Crackle! Pop! It certainly makes running a whole new experience.

Or . . .

The hundred other small changes this new—used?—mom body is shouting from the rooftops . . .

But I want you to know that I do see beyond all the newness. And differences and all, I still love the skin I’m in. Change can be scary, but isn’t staying the same scarier? Who wants to be stagnant? Not I! I am not an amoeba-growing pond of sludge.

And you wanna know something? You’ve actually opened my eyes to some truly amazing stuff!

Like . . .

The miracle of life! Duh. Sure, I knew growing a tiny human was incredible . . . But it’s so different to experience it first hand. To be honest, I’d always been wary about pregnancy. Call it an aversion even . . . I just didn’t believe it could really be all that. I mean, women have been bearers of life since, well the beginning of mankind, right? How unique could my pregnancy be? I mean, really . . . But oh boy was I wrong! Looking back, I am so, so happy I savored each moment and every change.

And the biggest shift has come from deep within. You have taught me to be worlds more gentle with myself. No really. I know it may not always feel that way. I can still be more critical than I’d like to admit. Still, I now know the importance of taking care of myself, so that I can take care of my little man. Sure, I still don’t rest, eat, or practice self-care as much as I should most days, but I’m learning my limits. I know when I can push myself a little further, spread myself a teensy bit thiner, and when it’s best to throw in the towel. Before I have a complete mental physical emotional break.

More than anything, I want to give you a huge thumbs up. A pat on the back. To say, “You’re doing great!” Maybe even gift you a hang in there, baby cat poster. You know the one. And shower you with loads of other uber cheesy and embarrassingly cliché affirmations.

You’re not perfect. No one ever is. But you’re giving it your best, and that’s what counts.

L o v e,

Y

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Monday Mantra

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It’s funny how Mondays are still Mondays when you work from home.

You’d think that being able to build your own schedule would eliminate the weekday versus weekend feel, but nope! At least not for me.

On the flip side, little man and I are back home, and all is well in the universe. The past week away was a blast, but there really is nothing like sleeping in your own bed. Not to mention, mini dude needed Dad cuddles, and I needed to be near my love.

On a not-so-fun note, baby boy caught his first cold. Snot so fun for either of us. Can you say, no sleep for days? Just when I thought those under-eye circles couldn’t get any darker . . . I was wrong! Our hidden blessings have been: he hasn’t run even the slightest fever—raises hands in hallelujah praise—and has been the happiest baby in existence.

Monday blues. Vacation hangover. Sick germs.

Looking to leave them all behind with a pretty little poem.

Peace,

Y

 

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Stop: Adventure Time!

Sometimes what your soul really needs is a little adventure to break up the monotony of the day-to-day.

This week we’re having some drywall work done at home. Two words: dust & noise! Not the best environment for a little.

So, the mini dude and I are hopping state lines to stay with family until the work is complete.

Six days of grandma and grandpa cuddles for the little man!

This will be his second road trip. Fingers, toes, arms, and legs crossed all goes well!

Peace,

Y

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Surviving the NICU

You’ve imagined this moment time and time again. The moment you finally get to meet the tiny human that’s taken up residence in your ever expanding belly. Or perhaps you are like me, and couldn’t fathom what that moment would be like, but the thought sent electric butterflies pulsing through you from head to toe.

Either way, what you never dreamed of was seeing your beautiful little bean helplessly swimming in wires and tubes, and hooked up to monitor after monitor.

Welcome to the #NICUlife.

Nothing can possibly prepare you for the reality that is the NICU. It is the exclusive club that you never wanted to join.

But believe it or not new mama . . . You will make it through.

This too shall pass.

Yes, this seems too simple of a statement. Too cliche of a phrase. Not enough.

And the truth is that it is not enough. No motivational quote will ever be enough.

But, as with all challenging seasons of life, you simply have to put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

How?

Though I am no medical expert, I am the proud mama of a NICU graduate. I stood right where you stand. And it’s scary as heck. But you, like I, will get through this.

Though it really doesn’t feel like much to impart on a fellow NICU mom (or dad), here are the things that got me through our NICU stay.

Take one day at a time. 
I had as uncomplicated of a pregnancy as you can have. Every prenatal check-up was met with an A+ report card, a pat on the back, and a witty joke about how good I was at being pregnant. There wasn’t a single red flag, so the thought that our mini dude would make his debut six weeks early had never once crossed our minds.

I still remember that feeling of utter helplessness when my husband and I talked with our son’s NICU doctor for the first time. We hadn’t prepared for the possibility that we wouldn’t be bringing our peanut home within a day or two.

Three to six weeks.

The exact timeframe was entirely dependent upon his progress.

He would call the NICU home until he was healthy enough to leave it and his entourage of doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists behind.

It sounded like a prison sentence.

My heart couldn’t comprehend how to function without him. So . . . I cried. I cried an awful lot. And often. And even when the tears began to slow,  there was always another waterfall of tears just waiting to burst free. Remember that scene in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, where Alice cries a literal pool of tears that sweeps her up like a flash flood? It felt something like that.

But, even through the mess and blur of tears, I resolved to get up, get dressed, and greet each new sunrise as a welcomed blessing. One more tally mark that ticked closer to the day, even though his doctors couldn’t give us an exact discharge date.

Approaching each day separately helped keep me grounded and in the moment, instead of living in the anxiety of what tomorrow might bring.

Ask questions.
In fact, ask all the questions. As many as you need to understand. As many as it takes to wrap your mind around your baby’s condition. You simply can’t ask too many.

For me, each opportunity to get an update from my little guy’s doctor was an opportunity to take notes. Weight. Height. Feedings. How much he was able to drink from the bottle versus how much had to be gavaged. The number of IVs he was on, and what each was for. Apnea. Bradycardia. O2 saturation levels. CPAP. PDA . . . The NICU had its own language, and I hungered to learn it inside and out.

I kept detailed notes of everything on my phone. Then, when I wasn’t completely consumed by simply staring at him, I’d spend hours reading through online medical journals and reputable medical resources. The more I learned, the more at ease I felt. Even though everything was entirely out of my control, knowing brought a shred of peace to my mind.

Now, I am not saying you need to be as meticulous of a note taker as I was. In fact, the medical jargon can easily become overwhelming. A simple daily update may be more than enough for you, and that is okay too.

Your level of inquisitiveness is just enough.

Have a safety net. And use it! 
Big or small. One person. Or many. You. Need. Support.

You do not have to go through this alone. Better put: You should not face this alone.

Don’t worry, you won’t burden anyone by reaching out for help. And no, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Humans were not made to go through life alone.

So reach out. No favor is too big or too small.

Can’t face the NICU wing alone? Need someone to: walk the dog, load the dishwasher, make dinner, bring you lunch, thrown in a load of laundry . . . or help with one of the many other mundane tasks that now seems too daunting to stay on top of?

Just ask.

Maybe your mini human arrived before you were able to finish his or her nursery. Or perhaps you have other small humans to care for, and are now quickly descending into madness wondering how to divide your time between home and hospital.

Make a call. Send a text.

It’s possible that doing chores is exactly what keeps you grounded, and what you really need is a friendly face to chat with.

Grab a cup of coffee and set up a virtual video date with a friend or relative.

And be vocal.

If you are anything like me, you might feel too consumed by it all to reach out. Between sleep deprivation and stress, you may not even remember you have the option to make a call or send a text. That’s okay too. Just make sure that your family and friends knows this about you. Designate someone close to check up on you ever few days.

And with all this said, there will be times that you want to be left alone, and that is okay too.

Have respect.
For the NICU doctors and nurses, the occupational therapists and lactation consultants, and the baby cuddlers. Side note: Which is seriously the sweetest volunteer opportunity ever! The hospital staff are all there because they genuinely care for the health and wellbeing of all their squishy, miniature tenants.

Have respect for the other NICU parents. Your baby’s stay may be longer or shorter than that of his neighbor. His health better or worse.

Offer grace to the family crying or talking loudly in the next bay. Every infant’s condition is unique, and every person copes with stress in different ways.

Try not to judge the mother that visits for an hour compared to your all-day visits. Her child’s stay may be longer than her maternity leave or allowed time off. She also might have other children or family members to take care of.

Each petite bundle has a different story, and so does each family.

Have respect.

Foster seeds of lasting love.
I remember how foreign the word mom felt after my little dude was born.

My body had spent 34 weeks growing and nurturing this teeny tiny being . . . Yet there he was, a mess of wires, tubes, monitors, and out of cuddling reach, encased in an isolette.

During his first week, he had to undergo phototherapy for jaundice, and could only be taken out and held for 30 minutes at a time, every three hours. Even after graduating from the isolette, holding him came with a bundle of wires, and an anxiety-inducing array of beeps and alarms . . . And at the end of each day, I had to leave him and go home. More than anything, I felt like a visitor. Not a mom.

Still, none of this stopped me from bonding with him in every way I could.

From diaper changes and taking his temperature, to cuddling and just staring at him, training my eyes to memorize every itty bitty feature of his. I lived and breathed baby every single second I was able to.

Don’t be afraid to love on your tiny human. Hold his itty bitty hand. Snuggle, snuggle, and then snuggle some more! With the doctor’s okay, of course.

And don’t underestimate the power of smell. One simple, but surprisingly great way to bond is through the use of a lovie. You can buy one or make your own. Simply take two small swatches of super soft fabric. A 2”x2” flannel square (or other shape) works perfectly. Place one under baby’s head, and wear the other next to skin (I wore mine inside my nursing bra). Trade the swatches each day. It gives your babe the chance to become familiar with your personal scent, and you get to enjoy the intoxicating smell of your little one.

I received a pair of lovies inside my NICU care package, provided by the March of Dimes. To be honest, I wouldn’t have known what to do with them had it not been for my hospital’s lactation consultant.

Leaving the hospital each day caused me a near physical pain. Every cell in my body ached. Laying that small cloth on my pillow each night and breathing in his beautiful baby smell helped ease it just a bit. Admittedly, it always brought on fresh tears . . . But it also made me feel more connected to him. I imagined him sleeping soundly, breathing in my scent. Slowly becoming familiar with his momma. Me.

Capture those precious moments.
Along with cozying up to my baby-scented lovie each night, I loved scrolling through pictures and videos of my mini peanut that I’d taken throughout the day.

My heart melted over his teensy fingers and toes. I’d study his itty bitty features and stare in awe at how my picture collection documented a gradual progression of milestones. Graduating from the CPAP ventilator. The sudden absence of one IV and then the other . . . Over the days and weeks, while he was still so, so small, he’d made leaps and bounds of progress.

Looking through his photos brought tears to my eyes and an ache to my heart, but it also made me feel closer to him.

At the time, he wasn’t strong enough to breastfeed, so I was exclusively pumping. I truly believe that feeling connected to him helped preserve (and even boosted) my milk supply.

Now that he is a chunky-thighed, healthy little seven-month-old squirt, I still love looking back and seeing just how far he’s come.

Take time for you.
Go outside.
Get sunlight.
Read a book.
Read 10 books.
Play a game on your phone.
Eat! Breastfeeding or not, you need your strength.
Call someone.
Call several somebodies.
Pray.
Go to church.
Meditate.
Whatever you need to do to feel a bit more human. Do it.

Cry when you need to cry.
Postpartum hormones are no joke! Add a NICU stay to already fragile emotions, and it’s easy to feel like you could spend days upon days bawling.

And the reality is that you might do just that.

And that is perfectly okay.

There is nothing wrong with needing to cry it out. Not a shred of weakness in it.

Cry when you need to cry. As often as you need to, and for as long as you need to.

***

Nothing written or spoken will ever be enough. There is no magic mantra. No enlightened phrase that will make this season of life easier.

But you will get through this.

Hang in there mama.

Peace,

Y

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Embracing The Mess!

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This mom thing is no joke.

Some moms got it all goin’ on . . . But I will be the first to admit that I am no such mom. Not I. And it’s not for a lack of trying. I fought it tooth and nail for the first several months, until I realized that it’s okay if chores don’t get done on the exact day I planned to get them done on.

Sometimes Often times, I live out of my laundry basket. The dishes don’t always get loaded in the dishwasher nightly. And sometimes I stay up way too late after my little has gone to bed, just so that I can tackle the housework.

And that’s okay.

I’m still getting a hang of this parenting thing here. We—because it’s new for both my husband and I—are still getting a hang of this parenting thing.

I won’t ever regret trading laundry for extra time cuddle time with my little man. And he sure won’t look back and wish mom had spent more time mopping and less time playing outside or going on walks with him.

I am embracing the mess that is this season of life!

Peace,

Y

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Dear Jameson

Maybe I’m anticipating that one day you’ll ask me about the day you were born. Perhaps I just want to write it down, so that years from now when my memory is hazy I can savor all the little details again and again.

So, here it goes . . .

At about 2:45 am, on Friday, March 10, 2017, I was startled awake. Had I just wet my pants in my sleep? This would have been extremely embarrassing had I not been 34 weeks (and 3 days) pregnant. As I was, the first thought that crossed my mind was how nearly every pregnancy article I’d read warned that a woman should readily expect to wet herself at least once during pregnancy. It seemed to be something very matter of fact that was bound to happen. As it hadn’t yet happened to me, I figured this was my moment. So, I got up and went to the bathroom.

A slight nagging thought crossed my mind, which I immediately pushed away and crawled right back into bed. But the thought only crept back in, and my mind shifted to the possibility of preterm labor . . . Did my water break? Was that possible? I was still six weeks away from my due date. Mentally paging through my pregnancy file, I tried recalling every tidbit I’d read about it. Supposedly it was unmistakable. So the membrane couldn’t have ruptured if I had any doubt, right? Overcome with a wave of confusion, I turned to my dear and trusted friend, Google.

As luck would have it, nothing I found really seemed to fit my situation. The more and more I searched, the more unfocused my mind became. So . . . I did the only other thing I could think to do. I prayed. For clarity. For guidance. For strength. And although I wasn’t struck with a sudden ‘aha’ or light bulb moment, a warm calm washed over me. I still had no clue what the very near future was going to bring, and that was okay. I knew that everything was going to be alright.

As I lay in bed, a dull ache began to radiate throughout my lower back. Warning sign number two, although I didn’t know it then. I’d spent over an hour walking earlier that day, and thought I’d just overdone it. At that point in my pregnancy, sciatic nerve pain was as common as breathing. Physically and now mentally exhausted, I decided to try and go back to sleep. A completely pointless move, as my backache only began to intensify.

At about 3:15 am, the real magic began. The pain came abruptly. Sharp and electric. A piercing in my lumbar spine. And as suddenly as it came on, the pain subsided. At this point, I was on high alert. More than anything though, I was hopelessly confused. Why was this backache so much more intense than any other backache? Had I pulled a muscle? Was this labor? Did my water break? True labor pain wasn’t isolated to only the lower back, right?

The cycle of pain, relief, and mentally chewing it all over continued for another 15 minutes before I finally decided to wake your Dad. Just in case.

So, as gently and calmly as I could, I woke him up. He immediately consulted with Google, just as I had. By then, I’d been up for 45 minutes and it was clear that I wasn’t going back to sleep. On a whim, I opened my contraction tracking app and began recording each peak and fall of pain. For some reason, I thought it the perfect time to put together my hospital bag -something that was on my to-do list anyway- and realized that the task required doing a bit of laundry. Meanwhile, the pain grew more acute. When Dad realized that I was doubling over on my knees with each peak -a detail I for some crazy reason didn’t realize- he called the hospital. It must have been between 4:30 am and 4:45 am. As expected, the hospital advised us to come in. I was still in a state of confusion and disbelief, so I continued to try and pack. Again, a futile endeavor, as the pain was increasing in severity and I was getting absolutely nothing done. Dad took charge as this point and firmly let me know that we had to go. Now. Reluctantly, I pulled on sweats, grabbed what I had managed to pack, and we were off.

I remember very little of the car ride. My contractions were right on top of each other, and had sky rocketed in intensity. That ride from Henderson to Centennial felt both speedy and like an eternity.

We pulled into the hospital parking lot at roughly 5:30 am. Once on the L & D floor, I was swept into triage. I don’t think the triage nurse initially thought I was really in labor, as she said something along the lines of, “We’ll have to do an exam, and get a hold of your doctor. IF you are ACTUALLY in labor, he’ll likely want to stop it since you’re only 34 weeks.” So this is what false labor feels like? How awful! But at least I get to go home and sleep it off. 

Nausea began to wash over me. I was riding a wave of sickness and crazy-insane pain. I numbly changed into a hospital gown, left my specimen sample for the nurse, and awaited the exam. She ran a test to confirm whether my water had broken. Negative. We were later told that this was likely a false negative. In the moment though, I felt relieved . . . Until the nurse performed a pelvic exam. She immediately called for another triage nurse, stating that we were going to need a room. I will never forgot your Dad’s reaction.

Dad: Does that mean baby’s coming soon? . . .
Triage Nurse: Oh yes. Baby’s coming now.”

Turns out I was 9 cm dilated.

And just like that, a switch flipped on in my mind. We were having a baby. Today.

From here my timeline gets hazier and hazier. I remember being wheeled to a room. No recollection of being IV’d or hooked up to the various monitors. Something I’d for sure remember any other day. 

Then . . . Pain. Searing. Hot. White. And all in my lumbar spine. I was dead certain that any second I’d hear the loud crack of my spine snapping in half. The nurses insisted I remain on my back, sparking pain so excruciating that I threw up. Only then was I allowed to reposition myself.

I remember begging for pain relief. They offered an epidural, reminding me of my natural birth plan, and letting me know that this option required sitting still for 10 minutes. I didn’t want an epidural. Period. But wasn’t there anything they could offer to take the edge off the pain? One of the many, many nurses crammed into my L & D room informed me that narcotics were not an option when delivering a premature baby.

It was then that I hit a wall. I couldn’t do this. The pain was too much. This Everest of a wall wasn’t fear based. It was more a logical acceptance on my part that I physically could not complete the task at hand. Not today at least. You would just have to defy all natural laws and stay safely and securely in place until my due date. End of story.

Then . . . Blur . . .

I think the mind flips a switch to primal mode in the last moments before birth. The insane, unstoppable urge to push overtook every muscle in my body. I felt I could have run a full 26.2 miles in less time, although I was told it took only four or five rounds. After what felt like a ten lifetimes, I heard you for there very first time.

7:41 am.

Your cry cut through the thick haze. Somehow both delicate and strong. Saying hello to this world for the very first time.

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The rest is a merry-go-round blur. The NICU team. Tubes. Wires. Doctors and nurses. I held you for mere seconds before you were whisked away to the NICU. I had to wait what felt like an eternity to see you again . . . But that is a story for another day.

On Friday, March 10, 2017, at 7:41 am all 4 pounds 10 ounces and 17 inches of you came into this crazy, rad world, making me a mom . . . And the happiest lady this world has ever seen.

It seems silly to end simply with love. Love alone just doesn’t capture it! But I have a feeling no word this language has to offer ever will, so I offer a combination of two classic closings.

Love(× ∞) + XOXO,

Mom