prematurity

Emerson is TWO today!

Oh how time flies! I cannot believe we are already celebrating Emerson turning two today. As you probably guessed, I am in full reflective mode remembering everything that happened on this day and leading up to it.

I’ll never forget the look in the doctor’s eyes after seeing the doppler ultrasound, which I had been having everyday for a week (while on bed rest in the hospital) to view the blood flow through the umbilical cord. The issue was that there were times when the blood was flowing away from Emerson, which put him at a very high risk of being stillborn.

On August 7, 2017, I’d had enough. The look in the doctor’s eye and her telling me that she truly did not know what condition Emerson would be in completely broke my heart. I was so emotional with many thoughts racing through my mind… feeling completely helpless. I said to my husband, “I just want this to be over”. I was tired of being in what felt like a holding pattern and I just wanted to know exactly what we would be dealing with one way or the other. Well, God definitely listens because maybe an hour or so after I spoke those words, my obstetrician came in saying she would need to do an emergency C-section due to my liver enzymes increasing (this is one of the signs of preeclampsia). I was relieved and scared all at the same time. Immediately, I started praying (yet again). I had never had a major surgery in my life and my greatest fear was that my child would be born with no mother.

Now, two years later, I have the most incredible testimony to share, and I truly hope that it helps and inspires others. I tell people all the time that I live with a miracle and it is so amazing. I cannot thank God enough for that. Everything Emerson does or says is so special to us because in the back of our mind we always see that 1 pound baby who was the size of my husband’s hand and stayed in the hospital for 191 days. Emerson’s life is emphatic proof of God’s mercy and grace. I am so thankful for him and beyond excited to celebrate him turning two! 💜

prematurity

Our New Normal

It is human nature for us to want to be “normal” or have what is considered to be a “normal” experience when it comes to having children. What’s interesting about the idea of wanting to be “normal” or fit-in is that every individual has their own idea of what “normal” looks like.

I always say that we have not had a typical experience when it comes to parenthood and child-rearing. It isn’t typical for babies to be born early and live in the hospital for 191 days, although, premature birth is actually more common than you might think. Regardless, one of the primary lessons I learned and concepts I still lean into is the idea of having a “new normal”.

I will never forget the conversation I had with a friend from college who had the experience of being a NICU mom and she said to me “you will find your new normal”. She explained that our new normal would likely change fairly often given our circumstances, and she was completely right.

Right now, we are adjusting to our new normal, which is a place that I had not ever even thought about us being at: Emerson is walking. No, Emerson is running! Also, talking more and being off the ventilator during the day. I never truly allowed myself to think about this day coming mostly because I made it a point to live in the moment of whatever our new normal was at the time. Here’s how the stages of our new normals have gone for us:

  1. Adjusting to life in the NICU, visiting Emerson each day while pumping exclusively
  2. Going back to work while Emerson was in the NICU and still visiting him everyday
  3. Transferring Emerson to the PICU and adjusting to a different hospital and different staff
  4. Transitioning Emerson home with a trach, g-tube, and ventilator after 6-months of being in the hospital

And now here we are at the stage where we are needing to baby-proof outlets and cabinet doors. I cannot explain how blessed I feel to be adjusting to this new normal. My heart smiles every time I see him running around playing or getting excited to see his favorite show. He has been able to have experiences that I never even imagined when he was in the hospital, like going on field trips with his daycare. We will even be taking him to his first live show to see Paw Patrol next weekend!

I guess I am saying all of this to say to my fellow NICU moms and dads, embrace your new normal and understand that it will change periodically. Continue to be totally present in the moment of whatever normal you are in. Time feels like it moves so slow when you’re a NICU family, but eventually, you look back and can’t believe you or your child has come so far. Stay encouraged. 💜

Father’s Day, Holidays, NICU Life, prematurity

Happy Father’s Day

A whole month has passed… wow. Time and I have not been the best of friends lately with me feeling like there just haven’t been enough hours in the day. With that being said, I can’t believe we are already at mid-June and celebrating Father’s Day!

This day is special for so many reasons. I get to honor my grandfather, the man who raised me and gave me so much throughout my life. I owe so much of my success to him. I also get to sit and reflect on my husband. The man who has been the leader of our family displaying the most beautiful vision of unconditional love I have ever seen between a man and child.

We always hear about NICU moms, but I feel like I don’t necessarily hear as much about NICU dads. NICU dads go through just as much and can be just as traumatized as moms are. It is so different for them because their nature is to “fix it” and you’re literally in a place where you must sit, watch, wait, and ride the rollercoaster of emotions. I am blessed that my husband found a way to channel whatever nervous/worrying energy he must have had into positive ways to help and support his family.

Here are three ways he did that:

  1. Always showed up to the hospital and was just as involved as I was in our son’s medical issues
  2. Supported my breast pumping journey by being my cheerleader and making sure we had dinner on nights where I was just too tired to even think about food
  3. Constantly reminded me that we were doing the best we could and our son was going to make it through

I am so grateful that Emerson was blessed with Jeff as his dad. He is always there, encouraging him, helping him learn new things, and still very involved with his medical care. I am beyond blessed to have him as my partner. Everything we have gone through has made us closer. I could not imagine being on this journey with anyone else.

To my husband: Thanks for being the amazing father and husband you are. Emerson and I love you and cannot wait to celebrate you today!

To all the dads out there: Enjoy your day, and have a Happy Father’s Day!

To the NICU dads: I wish you a Happy Father’s Day, and I encourage you to continue leading and strengthening your families. You are making an important impact, and you are amazing!

prematurity

Family Visits

When you live away from family, nothing makes life seem more “normal” or like “everything is all right” than having family in town to visit. I think the reason is because you are reminded truly of who you are, all the strength you have, and that there’s an army of people who love you, want the best for you, and will travel to the ends of the earth with you if necessary.

During Emerson’s NICU stay we were visited by a number of family members (at different times, of course). These visits were so special to me because they gave me a chance to do a few things:

  1. Show off my cute baby like all new, proud moms do (lol).
  2. Help our families really understand what we were going through.
  3. Be loved on.

When there’s a new baby in the family, it’s so natural to want your closest family around to be introduced and start to love on them. NICU life makes that part very different. Fortunately for us, the NICU at St. Joseph’s Womens Hospital has a separate room for each baby allowing privacy and visits from whomever the parents would like. They ensure everyone follows the proper protocol of washing their hands upon entering, and as a parent, you know all the protocols anyway, so it’s pretty easy to direct your close family and friends on what they need to do to safely see your baby.

These visits were invaluable because I think it helped make our situation even more real to our families. It’s one thing to hear it over the phone and completely different to experience it in person. Even today, with Emerson being home, our lives are still vastly different in comparison to a family that had a full term baby. Every time we FaceTime or they come to visit, they get a peek into our life. It shows them how far Emerson has come and how our little family is thriving in the midst of all the doctor’s visits, prescription refills, daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, nurse’s updates, case manager updates, medical procedures, and more.

Right now, our cousins are in town, and it does my heart so incredibly good to not only see them and their kids, but seeing how excited the kids are to see Emerson and Emerson’s bright, smiley-faced reaction to seeing them. Watching them play makes my heart smile. They are his big cousins and they love him so much.

To the families who may be experiencing NICU life right now, if you haven’t already, consider having some family around. My suggestion would be a few people at a time to not overwhelm you, and allow them the opportunity to love on you. Also, help them better understand what you’re going through and what will be most helpful for you in such a high-stress, rollercoaster of a time.

To our families and close friends, thank you for continuing to love on us. Words will never be able to express how much it truly means to us. 💜