Wednesday, April 23, 2014

// N I C U d i a r i e s : J E S S 'S S T O R Y //

Thank you, Jess, for sharing your story with us.  She points out right away that all babies are miracles. I completely agree with that and would add that babies are also resilient. I think it is a great testimony to the resiliency of babies, and human life, that despite such a risky situation little Juliette was born in such great health! 

NICUdiaries is place that celebrates the progress made by babies who have had a rough start to life.
 Anyone is welcome to share their story here. 
If you have a story you'd like to share feel free to email me
The views expressed are those of the guest writers
 and do not necessarily reflect of the views of  k n i t o n e y a r n o v e r. 

Juliet came into the world like a firecracker, despite everyone's best efforts to stop her.  I feel like our NICU journey starts at the moment we found out I was pregnant, although we would have never imagined this would be our story.

She is literally a miracle from conception (as all babies are). My first pregnancy had been a breeze. I felt amazing and had none of the normal pregnancy induced side effects like morning sickness.  In December 2012 after an easy labor and delivery I gave birth to a 41 week, 8lb 3oz clone of my husband, Jaslyn Jean. We were smitten.  Since I was exclusively breast feeding, I chose to use a Paragaurd IUD as birth control.  My plan was to leave it in until Jaslyn was about 18 months old and then we would try for baby #2. 

Fast forward to October 2013.  Jaslyn was 10 months old and I was working full time and finishing my doctorate in nursing.  I was unnaturally tired and just generally felt poorly, but I had a new baby and crazy stress and responsibilities, so I wasn't concerned. My mom kept telling me I needed to take a pregnancy test, but I kept reassuring her the Paragaurd was one of the most effective forms of birth control and there was no way I was pregnant. Plus, I was still exclusively nursing Jaslyn and we had to use some fertility medication to even conceive her -- there was no way I had randomly gotten pregnant with all of those things working against a baby.

My mom finally convinces me to take a test, which is positive, but a pregnancy is impossible because I have this very very effective form of birth control.  I go to my OB, who also thinks the test was likely a false positive or maybe I have a tubal pregnancy.  We immediately go for an ultrasound which reveals....

One healthy, viable, 10 week old fetus.  Say what?!?!

Since my doctor had never had this happen to a patient, we did not really know what to expect.  I went to WVU to see a high risk perinatologist, who tried to remove the IUD but was unsuccessful.  Somewhere in the course of 3-4 days the IUD had moved from my cervix to the top of my uterus, above the baby.  And there it remained for the remainder of the pregnancy.

My pregnancy progressed mostly as normal with no major compilations through 7 months. There was a risk that the IUD would move closer to the cervix as the pregnancy progressed and that premature labor might be a risk.  There were lots of women, however, who had delivered fullterm babies with an IUD.  I felt terrible though. Constantly tired. Horrible hip and back pain.  Nausea and vomiting. Nothing like my first babe. The Sunday of my 30th week, I started having contractions. Over the next few days I made multiple trips to the labor and delivery unit but was always sent home and advised to continue bedrest.  On Wednesday, my third trip to L&D ended with my water breaking and me being transferred by ambulance 2.5 hours from home to a large hospital with a NICU. From Wednesday to Saturday the doctors worked to keep my baby from being born. On Saturday morning, they could do no more, and after a wild unmedicated labor, Juliet Todd Wooten made her way into this mad, mad, world. 

Juliet was admitted to the NICU for prematurity alone.  By the grace of God she did not suffer any complications from the delivery or have any major medical problems.  At just 31 weeks, she weighed 4 lbs 1.5oz and required no ventilation or oxygenation.  For the first three days of her life she received IV fluid and prophylactic antibiotics.  She was also under a bili light for jaundice for days 1-4.  My baby was 4 days old before I ever got to hold her.  She sat in her little incubator with her tiny Ray-Bans and basked in the warmth and stillness.  She did not cry. 

I cried.  I cried all day for at least the first week.  I was scared.  Even if she was healthy, no one was holding her, comforting her.  What if she was distressed but the nurses were too busy to go to her.  How could I stay by her side and still continue to take care of my 15 month old at home? I was tired, so tired. 

I feel like the NICU experience is just like a job.  You have a baby, and instead of resting, starting maternity leave, snuggling with your new little one surrounded by all those you love, you get up and go to work.  You and the baby both.  Your baby works hard to grow. Learns to suck, swallow, and breathe.  You wake up the morning after your labor, pack your breast pump, and head to the office.  You sit there and stare at her, only taking breaks to pump and pee.  You leave at night, without the baby that brought you there, lie sleepless in a strange bed, waking every 3 hours to pump, and then do it all again the next day.  I struggled with how often I should be at her bedside.  The doctors told us we couldn’t be with her all the time.  We needed to take time for ourselves and our other daughter.  I needed to heal from my crazy birth experience.  But every time I left the nurse said “When are you coming back?”  I know they meant nothing by it but I felt so accountable.  So guilty for being outside the hospital walls while she was within. 

And in the end, we are the lucky ones.  The lucky ones whose baby was strong from the start.  We needed no interventions during our stay in the NICU.  No oxygen, no medications. A single tiny feeding tube in baby’s nose until she could take a bottle.   The doctors were impressed with Juliet’s will.  The nurses called her a firecracker and joked that she thought she was full-term baby from the start.  We stayed for exactly 3 weeks and took home a 5 lb 8oz baby girl.  Having the healthiest baby in the unit makes you hyper aware of the families around you who aren’t as lucky.  But it doesn’t make you feel any better about your situation. It’s still unnatural.  All wrong.  Absolutely heartbreaking.

We had amazing care in the NICU and couldn’t be more grateful for the doctors and nurses who cared for our little love. We had the best in the worst situation.   If I could say anything to the parents who have yet to go on this journey it would be this:  Nothing prepares you for the NICU.  No one understands how you feel or what you are going through except for those parents who have been there before you.  Don’t read all the books about preemies, they will just scare you.  Try to sleep.  Let others do as much as they can for you while you focus on your baby.  Cry it out.  It isn’t fair and that’s your right.  Get mad.  Its natural. Pray.  But know that your baby is where they need to be.  The NICU staff will take excellent care of your baby. Your time there is an eternity and an instant.  Take pictures every day because they grow and change so fast.  Before you know it, you’ll be telling your story…

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

// H O W T O S T A Y H O M E //

In case my last blog post left you feeling like being a stay-at-home-mom was like living in a black hole of diapers and kids that won't nap, I wanted to reassure you that it's not that bad. It's actually really great! It's great not having to get up and get ready right away in the morning. It's great hanging out with a super cute baby. It's great to see when your baby hits a milestone for the first time. For all the times Johnny is difficult, there are about 100 times he is very sweet, or cuddly, or funny and is making me laugh. 

In addition to the pure joy a baby brings, there are a few very key things that make being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) a bit easier.  These are the ones that I have found to be the life savers:


1. A programmable coffee maker. It's 7am. You were up 2, 3, maybe 4 times during the night with your sweet bundle, and it just hurts to get out of bed. But then you remember, you (or your very thoughtful husband) got the coffee ready the night before and now it's waiting for you, fresh, hot, and ready for consumption. And all of a sudden getting out of bed doesn't seem so bad. This was not me this morning because we forgot to get the coffee ready last night. So I had to go down to a freezing kitchen (why still so cold, MN?) this morning and then sit there and wait for my coffee to finish brewing. I know, I know, #firstworldproblems 

2. A smartphone. I have written most of this post on my smartphone because my baby loves the computer and I can't use it in front of him or he has conniption fits trying to get to it. He used to feel the same way about my phone and I had to hide that from him as well, but he's over it now, moved on to bigger and better things. 

The smartphone is something I feel slightly conflicted about. Being home all day can get lonely, so things like Facebook and Instagram become means of socialization, windows to the outside world. I also keep books on my phone and apps for reading scripture and doing the Liturgy of the Hours. But I  don't want to be always on my phone. I also don't want Johnny to see me always on my phone. I would like him to see me reading books, actual paper books. I know that E-readers are the future, or even the present? I know that they are super convenient. But the part of me that should have been born 100 years ago loves holding a book made of paper, feeling the pages, writing notes in the margin with a pencil. And I want Johnny to love books. I also want him to be creative and imaginative. I want to engaged him while we're home together. So I try to keep the phone usage to a minimum unless Johnny is happily playing with some toys, or if he has fallen asleep. Smartphones are great for when you've got a sleeping babe in your arms who will wake up if you try to put him down. 

3. Good hygiene products. I know it's a big stereotype that SAHMs never shower, but for this mama, it is pretty true. Some moms I know are great about showering on a daily basis. For me however, it is very difficult. I would either have to get up at 6 each day, (not going to happen) or shower before bed (I hate doing that, what a complete waste of first-day clean hair). So I shower on the weekends and I usually get up early on Wednesdays for a midweek shower. What do I do all the days in between? I use this deodorant from Weleda. Get it discounted at Vitacost It's great and it literally smells like a gin and tonic, so it's like happy hour all day long. Kind of.  I also use this really great dry shampoo.  My sister, who happens to be my hair stylist, introduced me to this a while back and it is hands down my favorite hair care product.  Just brush your hair, spray it in, do a little back-combing, and you'll look like you came straight from the beauty parlor. If these two things aren't getting the job done I put on some lipstick. It's hard not to feel put together whilst wearing lipstick. 

4. Mamas' Groups. I believe that whatever it is you are doing in life, you need a good support system.  I think women need to support each other; and I think moms especially need to support each other.  It doesn't replace the support we get from our husbands or parents. But there's something very special about the fellowship of women who are raising their children together. I am very blessed  to have so many great moms in my circle of friends who I get to do life with and be encouraged by. Hearing their experiences makes me feel like I'm not in this alone. They've been there, done that. Or are currently doing it. Teething, diaper rash, introducing solids, problems with sleep, even if no one has a good solution just being heard and hearing someone say, "Yes, we have gone through that", makes mothering feel more normal and much more doable.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

// S W I N G S & S T I L L N E S S //

This was going to be a post with photos from Johnny's first trip to the park and time spent as a family, but as I was thinking it over in my head it started turning into something else. Everyday this week I have attempted to go through pictures and put this post together but it has not been possible due to a certain little man who is now mobile. Johnny goes bananas whenever he sees the computer or the camera and won't rest until he can sink his teeth into one of them. I simply can't use them unless he is sleeping. Over and over I find myself getting so frustrated with how little I am able to do while being home with Johnny.

I have chosen to be a stay-at-home-mom. You all know that I want to do this and have wanted it for many years. And I love it.  But at the same time, it is a sacrifice to stay home with a baby. I am a multi-tasker.  I like to get things done, keep the house clean, stay on top of laundry, make good meals, and do creative and meaningful projects. But some days all I can claim to have accomplished is reheating leftovers and walking Johnny up and down the hallway a billion times. And to be perfectly honest, it just doesn't always feel that fulfilling

Lately I have been thinking about some plans and projects I would like to accomplish. But at the same time I have been feeling like I am entering a season of life where I will be putting many of my ambitions aside and making my family my ambition. Not because I am dutifully putting aside ambitions for motherhood, but because my ambitions will be waiting for me, ready to be dusted off, when the time is right.  But motherhood is here, it's now, this is my shot.  My child, who is my blood, is here and I am all he wants and I get to shape him into the man he will become. And as cliche as it sounds, I know this time of him as baby is so fleeting.

So I am officially letting myself off the hook. I don't need to be productive every minute of the day. The house does not need to be immaculate. I don't need to be the greatest blogger on the www. But I do need to be present for my child's life.

In the past I have been known to be discontent with my situation in life. When I was single I just wanted to be married.  When I was married I just wanted to be a mother. Now I'm a mother and I just start a business? To create art? I'm not even sure. But I think when the Lord said, "be still and know that I am God" He's also saying to me "Be content with where I have placed you."


Last weekend was beautiful. The sun was shining, it was warm outside, so we did the only logical thing to do, put some champagne in a water bottle (left over from brunch)(and no, we don't always have champagne with brunch) and take a family walk. Johnny and I have been walking almost everyday, but it was do nice to go with Alex. We decided to go to the nearby park and see if Johnny was ready for the baby swing. Turns out he was!

We had some great family time and pictures to prove it. Some day when Johnny is grown we'll look back and remember when....

Monday, April 7, 2014

// N I C U d i a r i e s: C A I L A 'S S T O R Y //

This week I am sharing Caila's story. She mentioned something that really hit home with me; it's the "pangs of guilt" for not realizing sooner that something is wrong. Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back all the warning signs seem so obvious. It still breaks my heart that Johnny went a day and a half in discomfort before we knew anything was wrong with him.  It's easy to be too self-critical as a mother, when some things are just out of our control. The important thing is to know that now our babies are strong and healthy and beautiful.  


The story of Levi's delivery is pretty uneventful, especially in a blog series about the NICU, so I'll make the first part brief. I didn't know I was in labor until I went to my OB for my regular check-up and she informed me that I was 5 cm dilated. It was 11 days before  my due date, so I was surprised but relieved because the doctors were predicting that Levi would be 10+ pounds. My OB told me that I had time to drive home and get my bag (which was packed, thank God!) and pick up my husband, Dave, from work. If Dave were telling this story, he'd be sure to mention that I was doing household chores and stopping for coffee before we went in to Labor and Delivery. I was not going to labor with a caffeine headache! Once we got to the hospital, we watched How I Met Your Mother and Arrested Development on Netflix and my friend Elizabeth came over to bring us food and moral support. I distinctly remember thinking that labor was boring, until, of course, it stopped being boring. Then I neglected all my ideologies about natural birth and got an epidural. Women who give birth without drugs are probably superhuman, but I was happy and telling stories between pushes. All said and done, I labored for about 24 hours and pushed for 25 minutes before I met my beautiful baby boy. Levi Muir was 8 lbs, 6.6 oz (way less than was predicted!) and absolutely perfect!

I was eager to try and nurse him as soon as possible, but he had his little mouth clenched shut and his eyes squeezed closed. In hindsight, that was the first sign that something was wrong, but I had read that babies don't always nurse easily right away and the nurse assured me we'd try again after some skin-to-skin time. Eventually they moved Levi and I out of the room in which I delivered into another room. That's standard, but I still don't understand why. When we got to our new room, some nurses came in to check on us. One of them was a respiratory specialist and looked at my purple, grunting baby and asked how long ago he was born. Apparently he should have gotten the hang of breathing by that point. Before I knew it, there was a flurry of activity in our room. It still brings on pangs of guilt to think about the nurses and specialists crowded around Levi because I was too exhausted to be paying much attention. They took Levi down to the NICU and my husband accompanied him while I dozed in and out of sleep. We were supposed to Skype with my parents that evening and it barely occurred to me that Levi might not be back before our conversation.

As I reflect back, it seems like the uncertain waiting was the hardest part of this ordeal. They determined that something was going on with his lungs and the NICU manager came in to give us a free parking pass for the hospital ramp that was good for two weeks. TWO WEEKS?! There wasn't a chance we'd have to wait that long to bring him home! Then we learned there was fluid in his lungs and they were going to give him rounds of antibiotics for the next 7 days. I thought if I could just make it through those days, this all would be over. But, NICU staff seem to be notoriously tight-lipped about giving a timeframe and ours just got longer and longer.

At first Levi was sedated because he was a big, strong boy and they were afraid he might pop a lung if he cried too much. We also weren't allowed to hold him for days. It was excruciating to see our boy all drugged and sleepy, and all I could do was touch him with my hands and whisper to him. It's hard to look at my big, lively, wide-eyed boy and remember that sad, sleepy baby. We rarely even saw his eyes open the first few days of his life. His blood oxygen levels were low, so he was hooked up to a CPAP for oxygen, a pick line for IV fluids and lipids, a gavache tube in his mouth, he had an umbilical line so they could draw blood easily, and heart rate monitors. After I was discharged from the hospital Dave went back to work so he could save his vacation time for Levi's homecoming. So, I'd get up every morning and try to take care of my tired, post-partum body and rush into the hospital as fast as I could get there. I'd spend all day standing by Levi's little plexi-glass box and pumping breast milk on the monotonous schedule of a NICU mom. I'd agonize over how much oxygen was flowing through that CPAP, desperate to see it drop from 100% to 26% - room oxygen level. When Dave got off work, I'd go to pick him up, we'd grab some dinner and head back to the hospital until about 11:00. I'd cry every time we left sweet Levi alone for the night. It felt so wrong to leave him there alone. One night I sobbed and told Dave how it just didn't make sense to be away from my baby; he'd been a part of my body for as long as he'd existed and now I was without him. A mom without her baby is the most unnatural thing in the world.

Once Levi's 7 days of antibiotics were done, Dave and I felt confident that he was coming home soon. But the hospital was slow to wean him from IV fluids to milk. Soon agonizing over the CPAP oxygen level was replaced by agonizing over the level of IV fluids as compared to his milk feedings. As any grace-filled Christian should, I'd curse the doctors' names who gave my baby meager milk feedings and then watched the hungry boy fuss and suck his pacifier for the next 2.5 hours. I'd curse their names as they adjusted their timelines for Levi's hospital stay to be longer and longer. I cursed their names when I had to ask for my 2 week parking pass to be renewed. And every once in awhile, at my best moments or the times God felt near, I'd thank God for those stupid, slow doctors who were working so hard to ensure I brought home a healthy baby.

Exactly one week before Levi was discharged, I spiked a fever of 103.7 during the night accompanied by chills that left me shivering under multiple down blankets even though it was a 100-degree July in Los Angeles. The next day, Dave rushed me to urgent care and I cried and begged him to just drop me off so Levi didn't have to be alone. I felt like he expected us to come and the thought of him waiting with the nurses made me so sad. Long story short: I spent a long day in urgent care alone, had a hard-to-diagnose case of mastitis, and couldn't go to the NICU for two days. Mostly, it was my body starting to give out under the stress.

In that last week, we watched the machines used less and turned off. Levi steadily switched from gavache tube feedings to eating orally. He started smiling at the nurses and Dave and I. Finally, FINALLY, 19 days after he was born we got to bring him home.

We are so blessed that he's grown to be big, strong and happy. Even though it's only been 8 months, our NICU days seem like a distant memory. Levi is army crawling around our house like a mad man and pulling himself up on anything he can reach. He's outgoing and social, ticklish everywhere, and smiles all the time. We keep pictures of those NICU days on display at our house; it feels disingenuous to try to forget the pain, but ungrateful not to admire the progress.

Friday, April 4, 2014

// 7 Q U I C K T A K E S: V O L. 4 //

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for some Quick Takes

I was on spring break from teaching this week; and it just wouldn't be spring break in Minnesota without a blizzard. But despite the massive dumping of snow we received last night I have managed to have an enjoyable week off. 

My number 1 goal for my spring break was to release myself from feeling like I needed to "get stuff done". No students were coming over, so there was no pressure to keep things presentable. So beside things that actually needed to get done- washing diapers, making dinner, cleaning up after dinner- I ignored chores and let the house go. This was hard for my clean-freak personality to do, but it was good. (Tomorrow I'm going to have an awesome cleaning day!)

Back in January when we were in the hospital with Johnny for two weeks a very dear group of friends got both Alex and I gift certificates to go get a massage. I finally used mine this week. And as you might suspect, it was heavenly. This was the third time in my life I have gotten a professional massage, but now after having a baby I appreciate so much more. Motherhood is not easy on the body. First there's the 9 months of carrying- which for me was 9 months of fatigue and about 5 months of major discomfort. Then there's the whole delivery process.  I won't expound on this, I think you know what I'm talking about. Then there's the never ending squatting, bending, and hunching that is caring for a baby. I think every mother should get a massage at some point during their baby's first year. That one hour of pampering really goes a long way.

So thank you to my great friends for the massage. I hope to be able to give one to another mother some day. 

I had a very hip experience this week. My little sister took me to her favorite place in the Twin Cities. Marvel Bar. It was definitely the coolest place I have ever been and I felt very out of my element. I don't go out very often, and I don't ever go to bars.  I go to restaurants and sometimes sit in the bar section, but I never to just-bars. And this was -just- a bar.  As in there's no food on the menu. Only drinks. This is new for me.

Anyway, Marvel Bar is like a speak easy. There are no signs, no advertising, no indication whatsoever from the outside that it exists. You have to go with someone who's already been there to find it. I have no idea how the very first patrons ever found it. You go around to the back of a bunch of other businesses, down a flight of stairs to the basement level, through an unmarked door, down a bare hallway, and through another unmarked door, and into....the coolest (Nordic-retro, we decided) place I've ever been. The drinks were fantastic. The atmosphere was very mellow and understated. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

I have no pictures, because cell phone use is discouraged there and I definitely didn't want to commit any faux pas. I also am not linking to any info because I feel like that would ruin the anonymity of it all.  You just have to go find it for yourself

Picture from outside of Marvel

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I have been posting a bunch of these:


I apologize. And I can explain. It all started because I was entering a really great giveaway. I know I won't win, I never win things. But these boards (made with the Polyvore app) are way too much fun to create. This really surprised me because it seems a little like Pinterest and I really don't get what the big deal is about Pinterest. But I can't get enough of Polyvore. I think it reminds me of putting together displays when I used to work for this great local shop called Patina. Anyway, it's great new time waster and I've limited myself to one a day

I made this soup recipe this week from one of my favorite recipe blogs, 101 Cookbooks.  I love it because it's super easy, it literally has 5 ingredients, and it's super delicious. I roast the quash in the morning and then I don't need to think about it again until about 15 minutes before we want to eat. Make some buttered sourdough toast to go with it and it will become your new favorite. I promise.

Speaking of food, my coffee had been tasting weird all week.  It was really getting me down because I so look forward to my morning coffee each day. I often think about it when I'm falling asleep at night. And day after day it was disappointing me. I thought maybe it was because I was eating grapefruit right before pouring my first mug. Then I tried cleaning out the carafe really well. Still  tasted bad.  I was starting to get worried, because the last time coffee tasted bad to me I was pregnant with Johnny....

Then on Wednesday I noticed that I had mistakenly bought fat free half & half! Now we are happily restored with the real stuff and my coffee is once again the solace and comfort I need it to be when I first wake up.

Johnny LOVES being outside. It's very sweet to see.  We've been going for walks everyday the weather permits.  I realized that Johnny has spent most of his life thus far inside.  Poor cooped-up little guy.  Being outside is such a great new sensation.  The other day we were walking into a store from the parking lot and it was raining a little.  I thought the rain on his face would bother him, but instead he started laughing.  I think he's really going to enjoy spring! if it ever comes.


For more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary

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