Reality Check

Holy cow, today at work I was working on our weekly newsletter and I was writing about our many holiday donation drives at our campuses. As I was typing the “wish list” for the drives, I was humbled. New or used blankets, shirts for women and men, coats, canned food, new and used toys, volleyballs.

The requests are so simple, yet receiving something from the list could make the recipients holiday.

Scanning that list, I felt like the richest person in the world – rich in life, not monetarily. Some of the used toys will go to adults with brain injuries. I am so thankful that I am healthy and that everyone I know is healthy. Most of all, I am thankful that my precious baby is perfectly healthy. She had one heck of a journey since she was born 3 months early and had to overcome a serious lung condition while in the hospital (and after Googling the condition the other day,  and looking at the odds of survival, I’m more aware than ever of her warrior spirit).

Back to the list, COATS. Can you imagine NEEDING a coat. Not needing a new one. Not needing a more fashionable one. Just NEEDING a coat. For the sole purpose of keeping warm. Can you imagine that there are people who don’t have homes? I mean, yes, I know that poverty, and hunger, and homelessness exist, but during the holidays, looking at lists for much needed donations, it really is a reality check. I wanted to run out the door and go buy everything on the list before even finishing typing the list! I wanted to go hug my family and friends for being amazing and for everything they all do for us and one another. I wanted to go build homes so no one has to live outside. I seriously can’t imagine that kind of hardship. I also want to make a concerted effort to do more for others year round, not just at the holidays.

Toys for Tots has always been an important organization to me. My dad grew up incredibly  poor and never received a gift until he began dating my mom – which was after he graduated HS. Literally, he got no presents growing up. Kids are smart and can reason through some things, so they may be able to understand on some level that their family can’t afford designer jeans, but Santa is MAGIC. Santa doesn’t have an issue providing gifts – he visits millions of kids around the world. So, I cringe at the thought of a child going without presents, because they must think that Santa – this magical man who visits all of the their friends – must hate them. So while toys aren’t the most important thing in life, I can’t deal with the thought of a kid not having a gift because there’s not a logical reason to explain why Santa would visit some kids, but not the less fortunate kids. Ugh.

With everything my daughter experienced, helping other families in the NICU has become very important to me. I’m passionate about preemies! My daughter is the 2017 Charleston March of Dimes March for Babies ambassador, and we’re proud to help support their mission and help other babies born too soon, but we want to do even more!

It’s tough to think about all the people in need and not be able to help everyone. As much as it stinks, I guess it’s most realistic to pick one or two things and work hard to help in those areas. But, as I go through my day, I am going to make an effort to be my best, be continuously thankful for the life I have, thankful for my health and the health of my family, thankful for all of the amazing family, friends and pets in my world, and look for opportunities to help others.

Songs That Take Me Back!

Have you ever listened to a song and (in your mind) been magically transported to somewhere from your past? That happens to me pretty regularly! It never ceases to amaze me. It also cracks me up because a) when I hear songs in daily life, I never know which ones are ultimately going to end up on the sound track of life, and b) some of the songs that do end up on the list are really weird!

I like music, and I tend to binge listen to a song when I love it. I’ll listen to the same song on repeat for a full day, but overall music is not something that’s very important to me. I’m more of a TV girl – especially when Teen Mom OG, The Royals, Jane the Virgin, King of Queens, or Vanderpump Rules is on… Anyway, even though I’m not someone who’s obsessed with music, some songs make permanent imprints on my life!

I thought it’d be fun to share some of the songs on the soundtrack of my life (so far). Here are the ones I thought of off the top of my head:

  • Old Man River & They Call the Wind Maria – my mom singing to me when I was little, or my mom having me sing those songs while I was in the bathtub.
  • You Are My Special Angel by Bobby Vinton – riding home with my mom on weekends.
  • Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino – riding in the car with my dad, usually to or from my Aunt Stella’s.
  • What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong – Daddy and I danced to this at my wedding.
  • Turn the Page by Metallica – I love this, and it was the one song that Brian requested the DJ play at our wedding. I was so surprised he thought of it!
  • 5’Oclock World by the Vogues & the Smurf’s toothbrush song – playing records at my dad’s house.
  • Once Bitten Twice Shy by Great White & What it Takes by Aerosmith, the Color Me Badd tape – being in Diane’s basement, hanging out with Caleigh.
  • Unskinny Bop by Poison – being in Diane’s kitchen and seeing the video for the first time ever. Poison became one of my favorite bands.
  • Walk Like and Egyptian by the Bangles – calling the 909 phone number with Georgi to hear recorded phone calls with the members of the Bangles.
  • Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi – the talent show with Georgi.
  • Wild Side by Motley Crüe – the 3rd grade talent show where one of the kids played this song while trying to break boards using karate & also now it reminds me of my wedding – it was our entrance song (instrumental part only!).
  • I Touch Myself by the Divinyls – hanging out with my cousin, Laurie. We thought that song was so weird and hysterical.
  • Love Shack by the B52s – same as above!
  • The Barney theme song – watching the TV show a bajillion times with Caleigh.
  • The Wheels on the Bus – sitting on Caleigh’s front stoop singing this as the cars went by.
  • Into the Groove by Madonna – 8th grade talent show with LeeAnn.
  • Comedown by Bush – being on the bus on the way to school in 9th grade.
  • Push by Matchbox 20 – getting ready for school in 9th grade.
  • Barely Breathing by Duncan Sheik/One Headlight by the Wallflowers – driving around with Laurie, talking about hoping to find boyfriends.
  • Rock Me Amadeus by Falco/ 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton/Mickey by Toni Basil – driving around in the car with Dawn. For 9-5, I remember Dawn “playing piano” on my dashboard, right where the airbag was located! I kept thinking it was going to pop out one day!
  • Shimmer by Fuel – Dawn and I loved this song and could listen to it repeatedly. I remember wanting this to be the only song played at the prom!
  • Talk Dirty to Me by Poison – one of my first dates with Brian. He’s also a Poison fan and this song came on and I was like, whoa, are you trying to send me some kind of message?!? He was horrified! 😀
  • I Hear a Symphony by the Supremes – working at the car wash with Rob.
  • Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer – Watching She’s All That with Brian. I think it was on some sort of anniversary or other special occasion.
  • Bye Bye Bye by N’Sync – being at the prom with a guy I worked with at the car wash.
  • Everywhere by Michelle Branch – spilling my drink on my dress pants on the way to my internship in college.
  • Any Britney song (but particularly the early ones) – driving around with Caleigh in the summertime. We were particularly inspired by Britney’s abs, so we had a laminated pic of her stomach that we kept in my car to reference when we were feeling weak and wanted to hit a fast food drive through! Hilarious!
  • Behind These Hazel Eyes by Kelly Clarkson – driving to work at the Venetian.
  • Crawling in the Dark by Hoobastank – feeling like I hadn’t found my place in life when I was working in news. I knew I wanted to do TV, but wasn’t loving news! It’s way too negative most of the time!
  • Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds – This was playing right when  I got in the car after my last day at the TV station. It just seemed ironic!
  • Cold by Crossfade – working at the Venetian – being in the back bar server’s area.
  • California Love by 2pac – being at the gym in Vegas
  • Lindsey Stirling songs – Ashley loves her, so I think of Ashley whenever I hear Lindsey’s songs.
  • Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band – working at the beach resort.
  • Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen – being obsessed with this song.
  • Sweet Child O’ Mine – Reminds me of my wedding – this was our first dance song. It now also reminds me of Kennedy.
  • Best Song Ever by One Direction – driving in my car by myself, not believing that I’m probably too “old” to like a boy band as much as I do!
  • Eye of the Tiger by Survivor and Fight Song by Rachel Platten – makes me think of Kennedy. I feel like Eye of the Tiger is her song. She’s the strongest, toughest girl I know! Similarly, Caleigh said that when she hears Fight Song she thinks of Kennedy, so now when I hear that song I think of Caleigh saying it’s a good fit for Kennedy.
  • Reba theme song – Kennedy loves this song and she’ll snap her head right around to watch/hear, it doesn’t matter what she was doing before that – when this song is on, her world belongs to that song.

I’m sure there are a million more, but I can’t think of them right now!

 

The NICU is hard – Even 9 Months After Discharge!

Holy cow, guys, the NICU is hard! My daughter is doing amazingly well, and turns 1 soon. She is also going to be the March of Dimes ambassador for the Charleston March for Babies in 2017. To help promote the event, there will be a video to share Kennedy’s story.

A few days ago, we shot an interview with one of her doctors in. the. same. room. where she was. That was completely unplanned. We knew we were shooting in one of the NICU nurseries, but had no idea it’d be in her module. We walked in and I just started crying!!! I was staring at the spot where I spent weeks and weeks of my life.

My emotional response caught me totally off guard. As I said, my daughter is doing amazingly well, and I was there for a HAPPY reason! Before we got there I was so excited to see everyone, but once we got there I was a mess (but I was still super excited to see everyone!). That’s the thing about the NICU, you really just don’t know what’s next – even after you’re gone, apparently! If we would’ve been in the location where she was when she had the lung condition, I probably would’ve lost my mind! It’s just so crazy how you don’t think that things will effect you one year later, and particularly when they’re positive things. I guess when things are happening you’re just taking everything one day at a time, and when you’re on the other side of it, it can be overwhelming.

I’m thrilled to be one of the NICU success stories! Kennedy’s story is amazing, and to look back at everything that’s happened over the last year, it’s mind blowing. This little girl went from being 12 weeks early and on a ventilator for a long period of time, to leaving the hospital on her due date and breathing on her own, to being almost one year old and on track with her birth age  – and has been for several months (which her Early Interventionist has said is statistically pretty unheard of). Kennedy’s the strongest person I know – quite literally now, I’ve never seen another baby with actual muscles. I am pretty sure that I need to get in shape before she forms thoughts that she’ll remember because otherwise she’s going to be putting me through some kind of 5am bootcamp to keep up with her!

Back to the NICU to celebrate Kennedy’s birthday, my husband and I made 5 care packages for NICU babies who will be born on her birthday this year. It’s nothing big and it’s nothing super exciting, just a few helpful things and a birthday card for the new baby from our family. But, 1 of the 5 packages had a more significant gift in it – it’ll hopefully go to a baby who is born in her birth hour! I’m hoping to find her closest birthday twin. 🙂 I’d love to chat with her birthday twin’s family and be there to lend an ear when the NICU gets tough or scary. Something about being in that environment changes you forever. For real.

The NICU that she was in is really interesting. There are two main sections, and each section has 2 rows that face each other. On each row, you’ll have about 8 babies (I’m happy that I’m far enough removed that it’s no longer a vivid picture burned into my mind). So you have at least 16 babies in very close quarters. It can be loud. It can be scary. It can be amazing. It can be touching. Because of HIPAA, obviously no one from the hospital can tell you anything about anyone other than your own baby (and let’s face it, you’re so wrapped up in your own concern for your baby that the stress of the rest of the babies would set you over the edge!), but because you’re in super close proximity to the other babies, you sometimes hear words or treatments or can see their isolette and it’s really challenging to not compare.

For example, in our case, there was a baby who was older than Kennedy, born earlier than her, and who was already in the hospital for quite some time when we arrived. This baby was a warrior. She had a tough road, but she was kicking butt, until one day when she suddenly got sick (or had some kind of emergency – again, because of HIPAA, we have no idea what went on.), and went back on a ventilator, had all kinds of other interventions, and from what I gather, didn’t make it (although I don’t know for sure because we were transferred to a different floor). When we were next to that baby (as in, an IV pole and a rocking chair away, literally), it was tough to not worry. We were like, oh my gosh, she was fine, and now she’s back on the ventilator and now she has this and that! What if that happens to our baby???? But, we had to constantly remind ourselves that we didn’t know the story. We had no idea what that baby’s medical concerns were, and that we couldn’t compare. It can definitely be a mind game with yourself.

The NICU is the sweetest and saddest place in the whole world. Miracles happen every single day because of amazing doctors and nurses who dedicate their lives to these newborns, babies who are beyond strong and are doing amazing things well before they should be living in the real world, and of course with the help of some technology. But really, it’s the people – the medical team and the babies who are all special people who do extraordinary things everyday. I think it’s impossible to be in that environment and not leave with at least some positive memory… I guess maybe it does make sense to be emotional. After this last visit, I know that those feelings will be with me forever. I am so thankful that we met everyone we did, and that they all played a part in making sure Kennedy was healthy, happy and got home with us where she belonged. I am also thankful that Kennedy will never remember her days in the hospital, but that she will never know a time when those people (who have now become friends) weren’t in her life.

Kennedy’s Story

I knew my whole life that I wanted to have a baby, and ideally a little girl. Growing up my best friend, Caleigh, and I would always play “babies.” In our make believe world (which included “Babyland”) there weren’t ever husbands, it was just us and our babies. I had a Baby Shivers doll named Misti, and she had a Cabbage Patch Kid named Tina.

Literally, having a baby girl was always part of my plan, which began around age 4. Fast forward about 30 years, my husband and I were ready to have a baby.

We are both essentially only children (we each have a half brother, but neither of us grew up with our brothers, so we and our brothers all grew up as only children), and knew we wanted to have an only child too, and we were both totally hoping for a girl.

We started stalking ovulation kit readings, pregnancy tests, the whole deal. Month one I had a chemical pregnancy, month two I didn’t pregnant, and then month three, success – I was pregnant! We didn’t want to tell anyone until 12 weeks, and we had a few ultrasounds before that point. Unfortunately, that baby wasn’t to be. I had a miscarriage and a D&C at 10 weeks. That was beyond depressing and sad. Lots of people want to tell you things like “at least it happened now and not later,” etc., but that doesn’t make you feel any better. No matter when a miscarriage happens, it’s a big deal to the people experiencing it.

Doctors told me to wait a few months to try again, and when it was time to start trying again, we had success on the first month! And that’s where Kennedy’s story begins.

Because of the chemical pregnancy and then the miscarriage, I had my first ultrasound at 6 weeks, and the peanut had a heartbeat!!!!! We went back at 8 weeks, and things were still awesome! I was soooo desperate to get past the 10 week mark. There was a constant fear that something would happen again, which would be devastating. Thankfully things kept clicking along perfectly. Once we got past the critical 12-week mark, I couldn’t wait to find out who was inside!!

I accepted that I could have a boy or a girl… until the ultrasound tech said during the 12-week appt that my baby’s “nub” looked horizontal. A horizontal nub means a girl! I’m not a fan of wives tales, but the Nub Theory is actually based in some anatomical science, so I was pretty pumped that it looked like my dream was coming true! There was no way I could wait until the 20-week ultrasound, so I made an appt at a local ultrasound facility and found out our baby was a GIRL!! Brian and I were both ecstatic, and so were our families when we shared the awesome news.

Things kept going along as planned… until the 24 week appt. when my blood pressure got nuts. I ended up spending the night in the hospital. I totally thought I was going to go to the hospital, get some tests and leave. Then they handed me a gown and told me I was being admitted.

Long story short, from that point on, I started seeing a high-risk doctor several times a week, taking medication, and also continuing to see my regular ob about once every week or so. No matter how much medication or which type of medications I took, my blood pressure crept up and up. It was regularly around 170/100+, and finally got to 176/112 or so, and I had to go to the hospital. I went to the hospital where I planned to deliver, and this time I was like, okay, I’m going to go, spend the night, and then go back to my high risk doctor on Monday. Nope. They did keep me overnight, but then they told me my lab work was high, I had preeclampsia, I was delivering the baby that morning, and they sent me to a different hospital to have the baby.

I was on Magnesium (totally necessary, but also a totally miserable experience), put in the ambulance, and transported to the other hospital. The NICU doctors came down to talk to us, gave us the 24-27 week pamphlet of what to expect, and we were ready to become parents (well, as ready as you can be at 27 weeks). To our surprise, the amazing doctors ended up stabilizing me and sending me to antepartum. Those high risk doctors thought they could get me to 37 weeks – they weren’t sure if that meant I’d get to go home, be on bed rest, stay in the hospital the whole time, etc. The plan changed daily as my blood work continued to deteriorate. One the 4th or 5th day my blood work was super crazy again (my mom said at one point my blood pressure was 190+/100+! I ended up with severe preeclampsia or early HELLP Syndrome (I was pretty out of it because of the Magnesium… I had 3 24-hour drips of it – and Brian said the doctor said I either had HELLP already or it was right at that point.).

A quick c-section at 27 weeks 6 days resulted in our perfect little Kennedy! She cried when she came out, opened her eyes, pooped, grabbed my husband’s finger, and was only on c-pap. Who could ask for more!!!

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She spent 12 weeks and 1 day in the hospital and went home on her due date! She had a tough road at the beginning. After her initial delivery room success, she ended up developing a serious lung condition in one of her lungs (it’s a condition that most often effects both lungs, and treating a unilateral case can be more challenging because baby equipment is too tiny to treat lungs independently – so what you do to one lung, you do to both, and in a case like hers, that meant a constant dance between improvement in one lung and harming the other). Thankfully that resolved when she was about 4 weeks old, but we still need to be cautious even now about avoiding sickness since preemie lungs are already weaker than full term babies, and a preemie with a lung issue is even more sensitive.

We found out the day that she went home that when she had the lung condition, she was the sickest baby in the NICU. I’m so glad we didn’t know that when it was happening! The NICU is a roller coaster that you can’t prepare for – and there are days that feel like 5 years, but somehow you get through (I’m still not sure how, but you do).

Her doctors and nurses were FANTASTIC!!! I really couldn’t ask for a better team. They were so incredible, constantly working to ensure she recovered and keeping Brian and I from losing our minds with fear.

Fast forward to now and we’re very close to Kennedy’s one year birthday!!!! Preemies typically take about 2 years to catch up developmentally to their peers, but Kennedy is (and has been for several months) almost exactly on track with her birth age. Her early interventionist said it’s mind blowing, and she’s never seen a preemie like her!

Kennedy is the light of our life. We can’t believe we are so lucky to have her. We have the most perfect human in the world as far as we’re concerned. I don’t know what she’s going to do when she grows up, but I know it’s going to be epic. That girl is a fighter. She’s tougher (and cooler) than anyone I’ve ever met.

There are many other things that happened between Kennedy’s birth day and now, but those are stories for another day.

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