Monday, May 8, 2017

Empty in every way

"I feel empty. I'm empty in every way!" I'll never forget shouting these words at my husband through a flood of tears as he did his best to comfort me. I was inconsolable. As I look back at those nights without my HunnyBee, I feel a twinge of shame and guilt. As a person of faith, who really believes there is an almighty God who loves me, I rarely reflected that during those days. I had so many emotions, but was mostly filled with fear, hurt, and anger. I'll admit that I felt a lot of guilt, which manifested as anger with myself. How could I be so selfish to bring another baby in this world knowing my body doesn't handle pregnancy well? Did I jinx things because I prayed for my last trimester pregnancy pains to end quickly? I managed to make the situation my fault.

I pumped every night so I could bring my baby breastmilk. I felt like it was the least I could do for him. My husband and I woke up every 3 hours, though neither of us were ever really sleeping. I remember pumping in the wee morning hours one day, listening to the snore of my husband who just couldn't stay up any longer. I sat there, alone. No baby in belly. No baby at home. No one to talk to. Pumping milk that barely flowed because it's just a machine. I can't describe the emptiness I felt that night, but something happened! Maybe it was out of habit, but I started talking to God in my mind. I just asked why? What's the purpose in this? Then I asked God to fill me up. After that I had no words for God, but music has always been there for me when I couldn't speak. Tasha Cobbs gave me words:

"Fill me up God. Fill me up God. Fill me up.
Fill me up until I overflow. I wanna run over. I wanna run over"

Things started to change. The first change was my baby being taken out of the Isolete and being placed in a regular bassinet. For us, that was a huge sign of progress because he could now control his own body temperature and we had more easy access to touch and hold him.

Despite struggling to latch for nursing, our HunnyBee was able to nurse using a nipple shield. Another sign of progress that brought me a sense of peace.

When we got the news that HunnyBee was coming home on April 4th, I was in a very different emotional and spiritual space than I had been for about a month, but a bunch of new fears crept in...

Monday, April 24, 2017

"The first night is the hardest"

Tomorrow marks 1 month since my HunnyBee made his arrival and those 10 long days in the NICU almost seem like a lifetime ago. However, I promised to share, especially because I want to encourage DiversAble Models out there to be fighters and to always do what you know is best.

2 hours after my boy was born and we had just been transferred to our recovery room, the nurse came in to check my vitals. I was in pretty stable condition. At 35 weeks gestation, the hospital checks things on babies they normally don't check for, thank God. In the delivery room, HunnyBee's sugar level was tested and was at 38. I didn't know how to interpret this number at the time, but I was encouraged to breastfeed him as soon as I could. I tried, but because breastfeeding is quite the mission for me (another post for another time), I wasn't very successful. Back in the recovery room, my boy's sugar had gone from 38 to 24 and I saw the nurse race to get one of the doctors. His face looked panicked, he ran to make a call (I believe he was a resident and called the attending physician). He raced into my room, picked up the baby and said he had to be rushed to the NICU. He said his sugar was way too low and this could cause seizures. Though surrounded by my family, I lost it. I started crying as I sat in the hospital bed feeling more helpless than I had in a long time. The doctor held my little one out to my face so I could kiss him and then swept him away, promising to return and explain everything.

It seemed like hours had passed by the time the doctor returned, but when he did, he explained that a normal sugar level for a newborn is above 50! He said the NICU is one of the best and that I could visit and/or call any time. By this time, visiting hours for my family had ended and the doctor said I should wait until morning before visiting my son. All I remember of that night are the feelings of shock, anxiety, and emptiness.

I was up most of the night and decided to get out of bed and into my chair to go downstairs to the NICU as soon as the nurse did her morning rounds. Everything hurt! I felt pain all over my body, especially my pelvis and my back, where the epidural had been. I had bruises and marks everywhere from the countless attempts doctors made to get an IV in me and/or draw blood. However, I also had a determination and strength in me that I can only attribute to my Lord. My husband pushed me downstairs to these 2 huge double doors. We had to ring a bell and be buzzed in. As we entered, I noticed the space was decorated and there was effort made on the staff's part to make the area look more cheerful and least in the waiting room. We approached the front desk and after showing our hospital bracelets, we were guided through another door, where the atmosphere went from cute and child-friendly to the sterile and cold space I had come to expect in hospitals. My boy was in Room 2, apparently where the "moderately" sick babies go. As we approached that room, my heart raced and I had no idea what to expect...

We entered and our baby was the first one near the door in a room filled with about 18 little ones. He was in an Isolete, or what my husband soon deemed "The Box." I again broke down in tears as I spoke to my baby through the window we could open on his box. I remember feeling angry as I began to notice the tubes and IV he was attached to. As someone who is an incredibly difficult stick, I just kept imagining my fragile little boy screaming in pain without me there the previous night. Although he seemed peaceful, I was anything but. We were greeted by his nurse and I will admit, all the staff were pretty kind and understanding. I was able to hold my baby by laying him on his nursing pillow. I felt a little more at ease with his warm, soft body against me.

I was scheduled to go home the next day. It was the most confused feeling I had, wanting to roll as fast as possible out of that hospital, to rest and get back to my Little Bear, yet having an innate desire, almost need, to stay and care for my HunnyBee. I went to the NICU and stayed until my discharge papers were ready and then I cried. I remember my son's nurse that day hugging me, a genuine hug filled with compassion, and promising to take care of him. I was heartbroken leaving. I remember being in a daze and all I kept feeling was empty. I got home, and though I was actually happy to see my Little Bear, I couldn't help feeling disconnected from him. I felt disconnected from everything and everyone. As I was leaving the NICU that day with tears streaming down my cheeks, the charge nurse looked right at me and said, "The first night is the hardest." She wasn't kidding!

Since this post is already quite long, I'll end here, but will post more on my 10 day journey as soon as possible!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Behind the Scenes

The last month or so has been a whirlwind, filled with, pain, sadness, and many emotions in between. If you've been following my Facebook posts, you've been on the journey with me, but when I started writing about my pregnancy, I really wanted to focus on the uniqueness of having a baby as a person with Diverse Abilities. This post is intended to get back to that focus, which obviously includes the emotion, but can't ignore the more practical things.

At 32 weeks and 5 days gestation, I had a regular appointment scheduled with my high risk OB/GYN. That morning I woke up not feeling well and had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for over a week. That all to familiar heavy feeling in my pelvis, the one that caused me hip pain that never went away during my first pregnancy, was back with a vengeance. I went to my appointment and she decided to do an internal pelvic exam. I was only 1 cm dilated, but the baby's head was a bit low and my doctor felt I should go to the hospital to be on the safe side. I wasn't surprised, as I am small in stature and my first boy started to outgrow my body around the same time. Although I was upset at the idea of having to go into the hospital, I did.

By the time I got there, about 25 minutes later, I started having more regular contractions and had dilated to 2-3cm. The poking and prodding began. Probably because of the limited use of my arms, my veins are very hard to get. They are small and tend to roll. I immediately requested that an anesthesiologist be called, as they often have better luck drawing blood and getting an IV in me. Like most nurses, my nurse insisted she was skilled and promised to only attempt to get the IV in if she was confident in the vein. As usual, she tried and failed, at which point, the anesthesiologist was called and met with success. I was then taken to the Labor & Delivery section of the hospital where I quickly learned that the plan was to stop any possibility of me going into labor that day. Through the IV I was given Magnesium, which is supposed to slow the contractions. It did make my eyes feel like they were out of focus, but the contractions continued. I was then told that since the IV didn't work, I would need to begin taking a pill that is usually used to manage high blood pressure, but would also slow my contractions. Since this pill needed to be taken multiple times over 48 hours, I knew I had to stay in the hospital for a few days. After the 48 hour treatment, my contractions had slowed to one every hour or so. Though still uncomfortable, it was manageable and since I wasn't dilating any more, the contractions were considered Braxton-Hicks again and I was sent home.

At 34 weeks and 5 days, I went back to my regularly scheduled OB/GYN appointment knowing I would ask her to do another internal exam because my contractions had been going on since leaving the hospital. She checked my cervix and I had dilated to 3-4cm. I told her I didn't want to go to the hospital again unless she believed I was in labor. She felt I could go in that day, but understood my desire and agreed I could go home with the promise that I would get to the hospital as soon as anything changed. My husband asked for her prediction on when I may go into active labor and she said she wouldn't be surprised if I gave birth that week. She was clearly on her doctor game!

The day I became 35 weeks pregnant, 2 days after my appointment,  I started having uncomfortable contractions around 1:30am. Now I'll admit, I'm sensitive to pain,but I was uncomfortable enough that I couldn't sleep for almost 3 hours. I was in bed trying to convince myself that what I was feeling was in my head. That I was just having more Braxton-Hicks contractions. I doubted myself because I didn't want to be doubted by others. I didn't want to have a big hospital ordeal again to just be sent home and told that I wasn't really in labor. I didn't want to force my husband out of bed and to sleep uncomfortably in the hospital for several nights for no reason. I didn't want to leave my 3 year old with his limited understanding of why mommy and daddy kept disappearing. I doubted myself, but my husband didn't doubt me!

At 4:00am that morning, I told my husband my doubts and fears and he told me he trusted me. He said I'm so often right about my body that he believed I was in labor if I did. We called my father-in-law to watch #LittleBear and took an Uber to the hospital. We arrived around 5:30am, after getting ready and waiting for my father-in-law to arrive. When examined, I was 4-5 cm dilated and considered to be in active labor. The next 12 hours are a blur of needle sticks, painful contractions, doctors, nurses, and pushes. I do remember a major difference between #HunnyBee's delivery process vs. #LittleBear. The difference was that the hospital staff, doctors and nurses, were much more willing to listen to me and trust my judgement. Maybe they looked through my record and realized things would have been much easier the first time around had they listened, or maybe they were just so nervous that they decided to trust me because I know my body. Either way, I said I need my water broken, and they listened. I said no central line through my neck because I could push and wouldn't need a c-section and they listened. I said I'm super sensitive to the epidural meds and they monitored me closely. In fact, unlike the first time, they actually had 2 nurses in the room with me at all times. I have to add here that my L&D nurses were quite amazing!

The takeaway is that you need to know your body, trust yourself, and don't be afraid to advocate!! This holds true for everyone, but is especially important for people with Diverse Abilities. I went into the hospital this time with an authority over my body and my baby that I didn't have the first time around. Often times, doctors try to make it seem like you have to accept the treatment they offer, but you don't! As long as you are capable, you have the right to refuse any treatment. Don't be bullied!!

There's obviously more to follow the story, but this is all for today. My next post will pick up with my experience as a DiversAble mother with a baby in the NICU.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tick Tock....

When will he arrive?? We're taking your very best guess!
As many of you may know, I went into pre-labor a few weeks ago, but doctors were able to give me several medications to slow things down. Since being released from the hospital, I have had contractions about every hour! This is apparently not considered labor yet, so I've been hanging in, trying to rest, and trying not to cave into this cabin fever craze. Upon leaving the hospital, I was 2-3cm dilated and 80% effaced (sorry if that's TMI).
Today I visited my OB/GYN and she did an exam. If it were up to her, she would have re-admitted me today as I am now close to 4cm dilated and at 0 station (meaning HunnyBee has settled into my pelvis and will soon start his descent). I requested to return home and promised to get myself to the hospital as soon as my contractions are 15 minutes apart (much lengthier time than most women, but the drs need the time to get me prepped). Though she scheduled me for another appointment next week, she said she wouldn't be surprised if I delivered within the week.
There it is! I'm basically a ticking baby machine and can go in at any moment. The HunnyBee adventure continues and I thank you for your continued love and support!

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Clock is Ticking

It's been a while since I posted here, especially with a baby update, but I'm finally sneaking in a few minutes! Believe it or not, I'm well into my 3rd trimester. I'll be 32 weeks in just a few hours and I'm definitely feeling it. There have been quite a few obstacles along the way.

My veins are worse than that of an infant! I've had doctors who have been in the business for years poke and prod with no success. Any medical professionals reading this may be thinking, "I'm a pediatric nurse. I could totally get blood from you." However, many have tried, multiple times, and have failed. I travel on a train about 30-45 minutes to get to the one clinic where the one nurse who can draw my blood works. I've had to go back and forth between my high-risk OB and my primary care physician's office to find out what tests need to be done, then to draw the blood for said tests. I'm very blessed to say that all my test results have been clean!!

However, the discomfort and pain I'm all too familiar with from my first pregnancy have returned with a vengeance. The pain in my hips and pelvis started much earlier this time. I started having Braxton-Hicks contractions last week, along with pressure in my pelvis. I cried thinking I may be in very pre-term labor, but God prevailed again. I was not dilated. What about that pelvic pressure I had? Well, it's my boy's head!! He is head down and pretty low in my pelvis. The time of his arrival is near.

After much consideration, I decided to throw my own Baby Sprinkle. I'll admit, I had no idea a such thing existed, but having a small shower, a sprinkle, seemed like a good idea. Once again, I've been overwhelmed at how blessed I am. A celebration that I thought might give me a few clothes and diapers for my HunnyBee turned into me getting a new car seat, a baby swing, lots of clothes, diapers, wipes, baby wraps + much more. I'm so grateful for my village <3

I went to my doctor's appointment yesterday feeling quite anxious about the pending delivery. My HunnyBee is already 4lbs 10oz and growing fast! He is in the 65th percentile for weight, another chubby little man :) I flat out told the doctor about my anxiety regarding the delivery, but she already had a plan. I'll go in next week and after that my doctor will do weekly pelvic exams. I'm not excited about the discomfort of the exams, but this will give us an early notice of when I start dilating, so I can go to the hospital early. This will give my birthing team at the hospital enough time to get in my IVs and my epidural. If, by some miracle, I make it to 39 weeks, we will induce labor so that the process is as controlled as we can make it. As someone who is a planner, having this plan really set my heart at ease.

That's the baby update for now! I have lots of other exciting updates to share, but I'll save those for another day.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Adopt KEEN New York

I know, I know. Everyone wants a baby update...maybe a few more ultrasound pictures? I promise all that mushy gushy stuff is coming. However, I must once again depart from a baby update to share something I'm very passionate about.

Please do not mistake this for a political post. It isn't! I made the decision early on not to get involved in the talk. This is not because I don't care. I understand decisions are being made that personally affect me and my family. It's not because I have nothing to say. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm quite opinionated. I made the decision not to get caught up in the talk because I genuinely believe actions speak louder than words. I've chosen to continue living my life daily in a way in which my actions positively impact lives. When you bring together all the positive imprints on someone's life, that leads to real change, to transformation!

If you follow my social media, I shared a video earlier today that explained "The Magic of KEEN." (See the video HERE). Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) is a national volunteer based non-profit organization, providing young people with Diverse Abilities with FREE sports and recreation activities. KEEN is also where I work. At this time, I am the only employee of KEEN New York and week after week I get to meet dozens of volunteers who dedicate their time to empowering DiversAble youth. Despite insane traffic, despite crowds of people, today was no different. Volunteers from throughout the 5 boroughs traveled to the East 54th Street Recreation Center to meet our young children and give them a place where they could enjoy being kids. Today, approximately 20 parents were given the opportunity to take a breather, grab a cup of coffee/tea, run an errand, and watch their child smile. Today, lives were positively impacted, maybe transformed, because we did more than just talk...we acted!

For 2017, I've chosen to "adopt" KEEN New York as my charity. If you've journeyed with me for at least a few years, you know I never stay somewhere, especially a job, if it doesn't align with my worldview. This doesn't mean it has to be a faith-based organization, or that their politics must agree with mine. This to me means, I never stay somewhere that prohibits me from doing the work, or living the life, I believe God is calling me to. I have chosen to support this organization with my time, and some finances, because I believe in the work we do. I have heard first-hand accounts of lives changed. I have witnessed the transformations in young people. Here's just one example:

Tonight I'm offering you the opportunity to join me in making real, lasting change. I'm asking you to consider doing more than writing your opinions on Facebook or Twitter. I'm challenging you to go beyond the letter writing, the protesting, the marching. I don't ask this of you because I'm against any of it, nor do I ask because I think it's wrong. I pose this challenge to you because I believe that YOU can make a meaningful impact today! YOU can leave a positive impact now! YOU can ensure the success of our young, diverse youth beyond our current political climate! YOU can act today!

Here are the ways you can act:

  1. Volunteer - Come out and experience the magic of KEEN for yourself! If you're interested in giving your time, please contact me.
  2. Spread The Word - Whether you share my post or mention it to a friend, give your network the opportunity to make real change too!
  3. Donate - There are several ways you can financially support the work we do:
                   a) Submit a direct tax-deductible donation on our website
                   b) Shop through Amazon Smile and be sure to select KEEN New York as your charity
                   c) Support one of my small businesses by placing an order and 5% of all proceeds
                       will go directly to KEEN New York*
Won't you join me and adopt KEEN New York this year? 

*Please contact me directly to submit an order that will go to KEEN New York

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Set Our Hearts on Fire

There are updates I want to share, like Ezra's nursery theme, but as this is my last post for 2016, I prayed about sharing something a bit more impactful. Today my Chloe + Isabel team leader shared a story I found to be very thought provoking and empowering. As I pondered this story I'm about to share, I kept hearing this "small voice" telling me to think deeper about it. Here is the story:

Two physicians late in years...we'll call them Charles + Isadore, old friends from medical school, were visiting at Charles house one winter evening. Isadore had retired several years prior. Charles was still treating patients. 
As they were catching up, Isadore asked Charles how he could still be working after all these years.
Charles asked Isadore to try and blow out the candle on the table. Isadore did this with minimal effort. Charles then asked Isadore to blow out the fire in the fireplace. Isadore laughed, tried, but of course could not.
Charles said to Isadore..."When your passion for what you are doing is like that of a candle, it can easily be blown out with the winds of life. When your passion is that of a fire, it withstands these winds. That is how I feel about helping my patients."

That's good, right? As I said, I've been thinking about this story and kept feeling like there was something more for me to get out of it. This got me to thinking about my faith. Those of you who have followed my journey throughout the last few years, or if you just know my heart, know that I am a Christian. I'll be honest, writing that feels so awkward because the very label has so much meaning to so many different people. Some are inspired and encouraged to find a sister in Christ. Others are cautious, fearing my judgement. Still others are completely turned off and no longer view me as a person worth their time. Either way, the truth remains that I wholeheartedly believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah and will return again. I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior many years ago and I am not ashamed of that.

I started playing with the above story and decided that a few substitutions were in order to give me peace about the "deeper meaning" I've been compelled to find in it. My version reads as follows:

Two church goers late in years...we'll call them Charles + Isadore, old friends from school, were visiting at Charles' house one winter evening. Isadore had left the church several years prior. Charles was still an active member.
As they were catching up, Isadore asked Charles how he could still be such a devoted follower of Christ after all these years. Charles asked Isadore to try and blow out the candle on the table. Isadore did this with minimal effort. Charles then asked Isadore to blow out the fire in the fireplace. Isadore laughed, tried, but of course could not. 
Charles said to Isadore..."When your faith in Christ is like that of a candle, it can easily be blown out with the winds of life. When your faith is that of a fire, it withstands these winds. That is how I feel about helping my Savior."

My businesses, my blog, my jobs, and my personal life are all centered on my faith. There are times I fear my faith might be like a candle, but there's always a burning ember that reignites and restarts the fireplace within my soul. My prayer for everyone, now and always, is that you will find (if you haven't already) The Spark that will set your spirit ablaze!