Making Memories with Millie

Making Memories with Millie

Time is a thief; last week we celebrated Millie’s half birthday! She wore a pretty, smocked dress, attended church, and we ate dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. Whenever we take her out, people are so complimentary of her behavior and beauty. She’s achieving every developmental milestone; reaching and grabbing, laughing, visually following, drinking from a glass, intentionally rolling over, sitting independently, etc. Needless to say, I’m a very proud mama.

We didn’t take Millie out of the house for her first three months of life, with the exception of her pediatric appointments. She was born six weeks early and during flu season, so we didn’t want to take any chances. Eighteen years ago, my baby brother was hospitalized and placed in a medically induced coma due to severe RSV; time stood still, my family was terrified, but by the grace of God, my brother lived through it. Needless to say, I did everything possible to guard my sweet angel from germs; masks were bought and worn, guests were limited, flu shots were mandatory, and hand sanitizer was within reach.

When we decided to venture out with Millie, we quickly learned that getting ourselves and the baby ready was not for the faint of heart. It took many tries before we made it out of the house on time and clean. Our first attempt failed miserably; Millie blew out a diaper worse than she ever had before; poop was up to her belly button and smeared all over her back. How did it get in her hair?! Thankfully, we had some wiggle room in our schedule for a quick bath, got her dressed in a new outfit, and cue chunky spit up – all over herself and me. We decided to stay home and try again another day. Our first successful outing was to church. My husband and I are musicians on the worship team so a family member graciously watches Millie whenever we are serving the Lord. I have still not utilized our church’s nursery. Our church has a beautiful nursing room where I am able to feed Millie and still hear the sermon; it’s comfortable and I’ve met many other wonderful moms there. On Mothers Day, Millie made it through an entire church service for the first time! What a gift!

Can’t we agree that taking pictures for Easter, at the mall, with an oversized rabbit is just weird? What do you even say to him once you’re on his lap? Feeling some societal pressure, I dressed Millie with a carrot headband for a quick pic with the bunny. The people manning the stand were very informative and patient when I asked questions; “Do you delete the pictures after we order? Can we drape a blanket over the bunny’s lap so she doesn’t have to touch the costume?” As we stood in line, enclosed by velvet ropes, I observed the children and their parents interacting with the rabbit; kids were crying as their parents were bribing for smiles. I quickly realized that the bunny pictures weren’t for us; I unclipped the velvet rope and left the line.

At Macy’s, I let my MIL push Millie in the stroller. Due to the amount of clothes draped over the front and her purse clipped to the handle, not to mention the diaper bag, the stroller tipped over from the weight imbalance. This startled Millie and woke her from her sleep. Luckily, she was still strapped into her car seat, which clips into the stroller, or she may have come flying out! You should have seen the faces of the women shopping around us; jaws on the floor. I froze. Who’s stroller was that? Once I realized that it was my child that was screaming, I grabbed her out of the seat and held her close; I spoke to her softly and she calmed down. Accidents happen and it was brushed off with a laugh; Praise God, she wasn’t hurt.

We are Columbus Zoo members and Millie has had two grand adventures there! On her first trip, she spent time with Gam (my mom) and saw the colorful flamingos, playful tiger cubs, an elephant, and a rhino! She loved looking at all the people. My mom took Millie into the gift shop where she smiled her no-tooth, heart wrenching grin at a stuffed tiger. Of course we came home with the tiger. Her second trip to the zoo was with my husband and me. We took her into the petting zoo; none of us touched the animals however, she got to experience them much closer than ever before. Millie was so intrigued by the goats! We spent time at the aquarium where she could watch the fish swim; it was the perfect place to nurse her as it was dark and air-conditioned. We will be going on many more zoo adventures!

My big sister, from Delta Phi Epsilon, married her soulmate! We were thrilled when the invitation read “3”. We didn’t want to interrupt the ceremony with a crying baby, so we joined the festivities at the reception and we were surprised to see so many other babies there. The golf course club house was beautifully decorated and there were many vegan options for us to eat. Mille was an angel; she curiously looked around and chewed on her Sophie Giraffe. When she needed changed, I was astonished to find that there was no changing table in the women’s restroom. I asked a staff member where I could change her, I wasn’t about to squat on the floor with my floor-length dress, and she informed me that the venue is currently being renovated but that she could set up a table for us in the women’s locker room. As I was leaving the locker room with a freshly changed baby, we ran into the blushing bride! We had an intimate moment together before rejoining the party. We were also able to return to that room numerous times during the evening to change and nurse in private.

We raised more than five hundred dollars for the March of Dimes and participated in their three mile walk for awareness! The weather was not what we had expected – cold and windy so I decided to wear to Millie, facing me, and she slept the entire walk. Carrying 15lbs while walking a brisk, three miles wasn’t easy however, neither is having a preterm baby. We walked among family, friends, NICU nurses, and strangers who bonded together for a worthy cause. I so appreciate everyone who helped to support us and the March of Dimes!

Millie has been to church, the doctors, the zoo, her Papa’s, two restaurants, a vintage market, downtown, her daddy’s work, my work, the mall, two stores, the photographers, friends’ house’s, and a wedding! We are preparing for a trip to see her grandparents in Virginia next month. See, I don’t keep her in a bubble!

Raising and Rupturing

Raising and Rupturing

Just when I thought that labor was the end of doubled over pain, cue ruptured ovarian cyst.

I delivered my beautiful baby, naturally. I dilated quicker than expected and therefore could not receive an epidural. People have asked, “What does natural, childbirth feel like?” Well, have you ever been set on fire? Labor was long, exhausting, and painful but I knew that when it was all over, I’d be able to hold my precious baby. I love my daughter and I’m so grateful that she is here and healthy however, the birthing experience is not something I look back on and smile.

Fast forward 14 weeks and I started back to work. For the sanity of my family, we maintain a strict, daily schedule. My Wednesday was interrupted when I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my abdomen. I gasped, grabbed my gut, and leaned forward. Appendicitis? Cold sweats, dizziness, nausea – the pain wasn’t going away. I had to stop teaching, I didn’t want to pass out in front of my students! All too soon I found myself laying in a hospital bed, wearing a stylish gown, with my post-traumatic-delivery-anxiety triggered.

After I told the nurse that my left arm was best for IV insertion, she persisted to dig around in my right arm, fishing for a vein. Why?! She switched arms and the IV went right in. I told her so. The saline flush had a skunky smell and the IV fluid made me feel cold. The pain meds were inserted and I immediately felt delirious. I was given additional meds to help subdue the nausea that the pain medication caused. With both medications administered, I couldn’t help but to worry about what was being filtered into my breastmilk. The doctor thought it would be safest if I’d “pump and dump” for the next 24 hours. This was an issue – My body does not create excess milk and while working full time, my storage isn’t built. I knew with this hospitalization, we’d go though everything I had stored.

I was wheeled into the CT scanning room and was given an iodine-contrast through my IV. My body felt warm for thirty seconds as the contrast entered my blood stream; my throat, bladder, and ears especially. Unfortunately, this was another med that one probably shouldn’t breast feed on. I was instructed to lay still as the scan took place; it didn’t take long, but the stillness allowed my mind to wonder about scary what-if’s. Once the scan was complete, I was wheeled back into my room and instructed to drink lots of water to flush the contrast from my kidneys.

I had dozed off waiting for the CT results. Wow did it feel nice to sleep without a baby next to me. All too soon, I was woken up by the doctor with the results of the scan. Due to the amount of fluid in my abdominal cavity, he could conclude that I had a 2-3cm ovarian cyst rupture. He informed me that this is not uncommon 6-12 months after pregnancy, due hormone irregularities. Apparently, cysts occur often during ovulation but they don’t always burst nor cause horrific pain. Naturally, I wanted to know how to prevent the cysts in the future and he gave me two options; get on birth control to stop ovulation or get a hysterectomy. What?! I’m not ready to kiss my reproductive years goodbye! I also was not about to start taking birth control pills – hormone altering, cancer causing, weight gaining, mood swinging “birth control” pills. As grateful as I was to not need my appendix removed, the possibility of painful ovulation every month concerned my husband and me.

Now, it’s just a waiting game; will the cysts return? Will they continue after I finish breastfeeding? It’s possible that if the cyst is 7cm or larger, it could twist my ovaries during rupture and cut off my blood flow to my reproductive parts – terrifying! The heating pad helped, so did hot tea and the fetal position however, dealing with that intense pain every month will significantly decrease my quality of life. The doctors don’t know the future anymore than I do, and in the meantime, I will be diligently praying big. Go away rupturing cysts; I have a life to live and a baby to raise!

March for Millie

March for Millie

https://www.marchforbabies.org/team/MarchingforMillie

The cashier asks, “Would you like to round up your total to the nearest dollar for charity?” I do it every time – mainly because I’m a sucker for even numbers. I’m that person at the gas station whose goal is to land on .00 exactly; I digress. My husband and I agreed years ago, that we will would always donate to children and veterans, in need; it’s also tax deductible and it feels good to give what we can. We’ve been monetarily giving to the March of Dimes for four years, never thinking that it would be us experiencing unlikely circumstances during childbirth. In November, I was induced six weeks early due to pre-eclampsia and my daughter was born premature. I developed severe symptoms, including a heart murmur, while my newborn was living in this world weighing a mere 4.8lbs.

Did you know that prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality? I didn’t. I’m educating myself now, knowing that my chances of having another preterm delivery are heightened because of the pre-eclampsia with Millie. The March of Dimes has become a movement promoting healthy babies and moms and they raise money to help spread awareness of birthing difficulties, to better prenatal care, and to research deliveries in the U.S. #thecarewomendeserve

Next month, we will be walking 3 miles representing Team Millie with the March of Dimes. I am excited to be in the presence of so many others who’ve shared similar birth experiences. Millie will be with us, sporting a purple headband. I’m so proud of her, and our family. At Mill’s four month doctors appointment, we found out that she is in the 50th percentile for height and weight, not including her adjusted age! It’s looking like our growth struggles are behind us, praise God. For any mother living minute by minute, I’m praying for you; the tiniest of sparks can become the strongest flame – you’ve got this!

If you would like to have more information about the event or would like to donate to the March of Dimes, check out my team page: https://www.marchforbabies.org/team/MarchingforMillie

Next time the cashier asks you if you want to donate, do it. Support your community and help make this world that we all live in, a better place. I will walk for babies!

Will you?

Getting to Know Millie

Getting to Know Millie

At four months, Millie is enjoying life differently than before; she can see further, manipulate her hands better, and vocalize her needs. The more she develops, the more human she becomes (she’s always been human) but she has flourished with independence and she’s growing her own personality. The first precious smile we received from Millie was a product of gurgling gas and now, she’s smiling at our smiles, different toys, and the sunshine. Her facial expressions, interest, and focus inform me of how she is feeling and it’s a joy learning along with her.

Millie was born premature, so during the first month of her life we weren’t concerned with playtime, we were in survival mode. Our days included making sure she had dirtied the appropriate amount of diapers, that she was feeding every three hours, and that her breathing wasn’t labored. She would last ten minutes in the stroller before crying. She had a difficult time getting her eyes to focus so she frequently went cross-eyed. Car rides were no fun; she hated them.

At two months, Millie began to take notice of dark and light contrast; we would show her different black and white patterns which kept her attention. She also was drawn to the color red and the lights on the Christmas tree. She enjoyed about thirty seconds of tummy-time; she would turn over onto her back if we kept her down for the full minute. Millie liked sitting in her bouncer seat but she did not enjoy the five-point harness in her swing. Car rides were still the worst.

At three months, Millie was enjoying walks more than she had before; on a nice, winter afternoon, we walked for almost two hours. She was fascinated by the woodland creature mobile hanging in her crib; the otter, the fox, and the owl move around to Brahm’s Lullaby above her head. When eating dinner at the table, we sat Millie up in her high chair. She would watch us eat and interject a coo or two into the conversation. Have I mentioned how much this baby hates being in the car?

My sweet love is now four months old and I know for certain that time is a thief. She is loving chomping down on anything that she can get her mouth on. She smiles anytime she catches her reflection in the mirror. She snuggles with her Cuddle + Kind dolls. Millie thinks my hair is a toy and pulls on it with all her might. With some assistance, she is enjoying sitting in her skiphop saucer. Millie loves pulling on her teething links and holding her Oball. The car seat is no longer her worst enemy. Everyday she learns something new; she amazes me. I keep thinking, if I could just freeze time, but then I’d miss out on her adorable five-month adventures.

Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave

As a full-time, public elementary school music teacher, I received six weeks of paid maternity leave by using my accumulated sick time. Preeclampsia caused me to deliver preterm and just six weeks later, I would not have been prepared to leave my premature angel for work. Any mother would agree that six weeks is a ridiculously limited amount of time to bond with a newborn. For those mothers who have to rely on outside childcare after six weeks, I am so sorry; I will pray for your continued bonding, physical and mental health, and safety. Fortunately, I was able to take additional time off using FMLA. This time off of work was unpaid however, my husband and I had monetarily saved. In total, I had fourteen weeks off of work for maternity leave and I still wished that I could have taken more time. Whether you have six weeks or six months, the time you’ll spend with your newborn is priceless. The fourth trimester is a blur but before I completely forget, due to juggling work and infancy, here’s some thoughts of my time on maternity leave.

After we were discharged from the hospital, my body was recovering from the trauma of birth; breastfeeding was a learning curve, my blood pressure was regulating after the high levels due to pre-e, and I was profusely sweating out all the excess fluid that my body was retaining. While all of this was occurring, I was also bonding with my fragile, four pound newborn. It’s difficult for me to look back on the first month because I feel guilty – there’s so much growing that she did that I just slept through; I’d nap on the couch with Netflix on. There were so many moments that I forget due to sheer exhaustion. My advice for any new mom is to tape your eyes open – of course I’m kidding! I encourage you to take so many pictures and journal as often as you can; you never get that precious time again and so much of it can become lost in the exhausted haze of motherhood.

I was so grateful to have an overwhelming outpour of help from my family and friends during this time. Having a meal-train was extremely helpful; we had prepared meals for a week! My mom stayed with us the first two weeks after Millie was born. Everything was new; I didn’t know that I was supposed to log every diaper change by time and contents, I didn’t know what cluster feeding was or how to handle it, and I had never given a newborn a bath before. Having an additional person to help clean pump parts, make dinner, take a nighttime shift, run a load of laundry, etc., was so helpful. My mom successfully raised three children and was there whenever I asked, “Is this normal?”. My husband was allotted no paternity leave; he had to use his vacation time for my hospital stay, so he was incredibly grateful for the support from my mom as well. Thanks, mom.

It was traumatic getting Millie’s blood tested when managing her jaundice level. As I held my daughter in my arms, she was pricked in the heel of her foot and then milked of her blood, which of course made Millie cry and her tears broke my heart in two. My mom was there with me so I didn’t have to experience that alone. Pumping was difficult for me in the beginning. I truly thought that I’d have more comfortably with the pump than breastfeeding however, it felt impersonal and I had a hard time doing it. My mom would stay up with me and care for Millie while I pumped to increase my milk supply. Those late night talks of motherhood and watching my mother bond with my little one; I hope to never forget those moments.

My mother returned home and my mother-in-law came to stay with us. For the first month of Millie’s life, I was never alone with her. Some people may read this and think, wow – this woman is crazy however, I was relieved having someone else there with me. It was more eyes on my preemie, someone to watch her while I showered or napped, and it was socialization when I couldn’t leave the house (I was terrified that I would bring home germs that would put Millie back in the hospital.)

I loved taking Millie for walks when the weather was fair. I loved holding her tight, rocking her, having skin-to-skin time, and resting my cheek upon her cheek. I think my heart skipped a beat every time my husband would speak to her. I didn’t completely despise changing her diapers like I thought I would. I enjoyed online shopping while breastfeeding – maybe a little too much. I watched her grow from a thin four to a chunky twelve pounds. Listening to her sigh, smelling her head, seeing her smile – there’s nothing else like it. I feel so incredibly blessed to be Millie’s mother. Even though my maternity leave is over, I am grateful for the time that I had and I cherish my moments with her now, even more.

Laboring Love

Laboring Love

It’s very appropriately called “labor” but some things made it just 0.014x better…

  • My mom drove in from out of town and brought me my favorite childhood stuffed-animal, Max Goof. I didn’t even know that she kept him! It was such a special gift that momentarily took my mind off of the labor ahead.
  • Due to preeclampsia, I was in the hospital for three days before giving birth. I was not able to eat, should an emergency cesarean become necessary. I was able to sip water and eat ice-chips. Yay. My grandmother brought me in a box of Luigi’s Italian Ice and my taste buds had a party! My nurse put my name on the box and kept it in the freezer; I was able to eat cherry and lemon Italian ice as much as I wanted.
  • My husband asked the nurse, “Can she get something to help her sleep? There’s a lot of extra noise in here.” I was given an Ambien and I slept better than I had in months! It was the best “push present” that any pregnant wife could’ve asked for.
  •  I adore my family and friends however, answering all their texts and calls while trying to focus on the task at hand, was not at the top of my priority list. I was incredibly grateful that my husband had my phone and kept everyone informed.
  • The same hospital gowns that people die in, are given to you to wear when you birth your baby. Ew. I bought a Gownies set from Baby Be Mine and I’m so glad that I did. I was happy with how they fit and felt, they smelled like home, and I liked how I looked!
  • There can be a lot of smells permeating in a hospital. When we were admitted into the labor and delivery room, we used our humidifier with drops of on-guard oil; cleaning the air. Next, we used balance to help with the atmosphere of the birthing space. So many nurses complimented us on our use of essential oils. One nurse, who wasn’t even mine, came into the room because she smelled a “spa aroma” from the hall!
  • My sister flew in from out of town for the birth. She braided my hair for me before I went into active labor. She also took videos on her phone, before and after Millie was born. At the time, it seemed pretty silly. Now that Millie is three months old, we cherish those videos. Our conversations, the doctor checks, how small she was, and the sound of her cry, won’t be forgotten.
  • Water-proof mascara and chapstick.
  • Hospital resources – use them. I used many snap-ice cold packs on the back of my neck, forehead, and in my underwear after giving birth; these are way better than a wet washcloth. The supplied water jug is still my best friend – if you are planning to breastfeed, this will become your lifeline. The large, mesh underwear – no shame, I packed ten pairs to take home and wore them for the next two weeks. The huge pads. During recovery, the hospital provided a plastic squirt bottle that could spray warm water after using the bathroom; trust me, you don’t want to be using toilet paper down there for a while. I received a bottle for every bathroom in my house. Another relief was witch-hazel pads. I made some of my own once I was home and added some lavender oil for extra soothing.
  • Because we were sent to the hospital at 34 weeks, my house had not been properly cleaned for a new baby. My family cleaned my house until it sparkled while I was in the hospital. It was such a relief knowing I was bringing the baby into a clean home.

No doubt — giving birth is laborious, but there is not a mom out there who doesn’t recognize it as a labor of love.

What made labor 0.014x better for you?

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

“Did you have a difficult day at work?” not what you want to hear from your nurse after taking your blood pressure. Teaching elementary music is never a breeze however, that day in particular, was fine. (Meaning my blood pressure had no business being 149/99.) She told me to relax, take a couple deep breaths, and she’d try to take it again – of course by then I was freaking out; why was my blood pressure so high?! My doctor came in and told me that they found traces of protein in my urine, I had significant swelling in my legs and ankles, and that I had gained too much weight since my last visit. Preeclampsia. I had heard of it but I never thought that it was something that I would suffer from. So many thoughts were racing around in my head; Isn’t preeclampsia super rare? Don’t you have to be obese to have it? Has anyone in my family ever had preeclampsia? What’s going to happen to my baby? What’s going to happen to me? AH! My head was pounding; yet another symptom of preeclampsia.

The nursery was completed before the end of my first trimester and our hospital bags had been packed by the end of the second. My extreme nesting and “over preparedness” made my friends laugh and annoyed my husband however, it turned out to be a blessing considering we were on our way to the hospital during week 34 of my pregnancy. 160/114 was my blood pressure reading in triage. Those numbers were too high and the doctor was concerned that I would seize. I was admitted into labor and delivery and the high-risk doctor gave the orders; the only way to stop the preeclampsia symptoms was to deliver the baby. The delivery-plan that I took so much time creating was now thrown out the window.

Because the baby was going to be born early, I was given two steroid shots in my theigh to help her lungs develop. The incredibly nice NICU doctor had come in to verbally prepare us for the worst; I was devastated hearing that after delivery, I may have to leave the hospital without my baby. I felt so guilty and defeated; my body was failing her. To keep my blood pressure down, I was given magnesium through my wrist IV. The nurse told me that I would be extremely weak on this medicine and I may experience flu-like symptoms. I had to be catheterized (That wasn’t pleasant.) because I was not able to get out of bed while on the mag. How was I supposed to move through my contractions if I was immobile on this medication? Having the catheter in was awful – I felt like I had to pee constantly; there was no relief. Worser still, the swelling that I experienced was unfathomable. I was scalding hot; I thought my skin was going to burst open like an overcooked hot dog. I had a splitting headache that would not quit. I asked my nurse, “How am I supposed to deliver this baby, the hardest thing that my body has ever experienced, when I am so weak and can’t move?” She simply said, “You’ll do it.”

I was given two rounds of cervidil; a cervix ripening insert. During this time, I was getting checked for dilation frequently – let me tell you, that starts to feel incredibly uncomfortable too; raw, like pulling out a dry tampon. I didn’t dilate on the cervidil however, the doctor wasn’t surprised because here we were, six weeks before the baby was supposed to arrive and my body was not responding. We started miso through the night, another induction insert, which dilated me to 1cm and “a wiggle”. My husband and I prayed with such intensity; we were so conflicted – happy that our baby was coming however, we knew there was a rough road ahead. During another dilation check, my water broke all over the nurse’s arm. The water was warm and there was a lot of it. I was so relieved that it broke on its own; talks of ballooning and other induction mechanisms terrified me. After my water broke, I was given pitocin, level 10 and the real contractions began.

During my pregnancy, My husband and I took a labor course where the midwife explained the pain during active labor. She instructed that if you could power through seven centimeters of dilation, you were two hours away from seeing your baby – no pain medicine needed. I wanted to try to deliver my baby without pain medication. During my contractions I just kept thinking, when the pain gets worse, I will ask for the epidural. I focused “down”; that might not make a lot of sense but visualizing what was happening internally, helped. I reminded myself of positive affirmations; “My body is capable and strong. I’m choosing to be calm and confident during my baby’s birth.” We had a humidifier in the room, releasing essential oils (dōTERRA’s balance). I listened to my birthing playlist, which consisted of instrumental Christian music (After All These Years – Bethel Music). Ice chips. Even though my body was weak from the magnesium, I was still able to move around in the bed to position myself through the contractions; on my side, grabbing the bed frame, leaning over, etc. After two hours of active labor, I felt a burning like I had never felt before. Was I on fire? I began to shake uncontrollably. It felt like my butt cheeks were being ripped apart and I wanted to literally crawl out of my skin. I knew the Lord had not forsaken me however, I knew something was happening and I was terrified. I wanted that epidural – NOW!

The nurse said, “Let’s hope that you’re more than three centimeters dilated.” as she checked my cervix. She turned around and got on the phone; my husband was yelling, “What’s wrong, what’s going on?!” The nurse was calling the doctor as I was more than 9cm dilated and it was time to push. The bed raised up, the catheter came out, and the doctor came in with a shield and goggles on. It became clear that I was not getting any pain medicine. The contractions were so long, I couldn’t possibly push that long! How could I focus on pushing when my body was set on fire?The shaking continued and it’s possible that I blacked out on occasion. My first push wasn’t nearly long enough – I could feel the baby’s body in the birth canal. During my second push, the baby had come down and went back up; I know this not only because the doctor told me, but because when you don’t have any numbing medicine, you feel everything. I just knew that my legs had ripped from my hips. The third push happened in slow motion; baby’s head, shoulders, hips; I felt it all. The doctor placed a wide-eyed, powder-blue baby upon my chest. She started to cry, I told her, “happy birthday”, and my husband cut the umbilical cord. Everything else didn’t matter; the after-birth, the cramping and discomfort, the stitching – Amelia Jane was born and the earth stood still.