Uncategorized

Fetal Therapy Surgery

Before beginning this post, I want to clear up one of the biggest misconceptions I have been asked about before and since surgery… “so, she’s all better, right?” People want definite answers, and I get that being someone who has always had difficulty with the grey area. Spina Bifida is not one for providing “definite.” First, the surgery does not FIX spina bifida. Her SB defect will NEVER go away. She was born with it. The surgery is simply to REPAIR her back in hopes that it will help prevent any further damage to her spine. Any damage done before (or during) surgery is done. You can’t repair spinal nerves. Although it’s extremely exciting that our baby girl has shown continuous movement, it doesn’t guarantee she’ll be walking independently because we aren’t able to tell yet what kind of sensation she has in her legs. If you’ve ever had an epidural, you may find it easier to understand. As the medication is wearing off, you begin to be able to move your lower half but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to walk. Think of it like that. So as AMAZING as this surgery has been – and we still remain hopeful that she WILL walk independently – we truly wont know the extent of her condition until she’s about two years old or at least a year when they should begin to show signs of walking.

After closing in on three weeks post-surgery, I have finally gotten my thoughts together enough to tell the story that many people are so curious about… and to also clear up a lot of misconceptions about fetal therapy. This will most likely be a long post as I will try to give as much specific detail as possible about my experience.

Tuesday, January 9th – 

Around 10pm Darius and I said goodbye to his mom and drove over to the hospital. My doctors wanted me admitted the night before so they could begin what they needed to do as early as possible the next morning.

We entered the labor and delivery unit and Darius was told to wait in the waiting area while I completed registration and paperwork. I don’t know why my husband wasn’t allowed with me but that’s a tiny pebble compared to the rest of this. After paperwork, they took me back to the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit) to get myself settled. At this point, I had been under the impression the whole time that I could stay in my clothes and we were just sleeping in a room designated just for me for the night and that all medical related things wouldn’t begin until the next morning. I was wrong. I had to change into a hospital gown (but I made sure to keep my sweatpants on 😉 ) and they began an IV (which took two nurses – I have very stubborn veins). As the IV issue was happening, a resident anesthesiologist came in. I can’t remember his name but he was going over the type of anesthesia I would be receiving the next day. He told me I would be getting an epidural… and that was it… and that I would be under “twilight” but awake the whole time. Shocked, I informed him that was NOT what I was told at all. His reply – “oh, well maybe not, I won’t be in your surgery anyway.” Cool dude. Way to make me think I will be awake for the entire 5-6 hours of this.

I was beginning to get the impression that I would remain in this little curtained off room with another woman across from me all night by myself until one nurse informed me that my doctor said I needed my OWN room. Angels came down from heaven and began to sing at this point. I mean looking back, it would’t be a huge deal if I had to sleep alone, but we had planned for Darius to stay with me because we didn’t know what time anything started the next day, and I was incredibly anxious and wanted my husband with me. After moved to my own room, Darius was allowed back and we began to settle down to sleep.

Wednesday, January 10th – 

At 4:30am the same anesthesiologist from the night before came in my room to administer my epidural. This part was easy for me as I had to get TWO epidurals when I was in labor with Lincoln. They started the epidural with saline to keep the line open.

At 6am they began to start the epidural a little more and at this point put in my catheter which was super uncomfortable to be able to feel. After this, my legs obviously began to go numb a bit although I could still walk. I felt like I was wasted in high heels trying to make it to the bathroom each time… which was also fun because they measured my urine each and every time I went. The purpose was to see how hydrated I was so they could determine how much fluids I needed. Magnesium was started shortly after this and I had already heard all the horrible symptoms I would be feeling. Magnesium is used to relax the uterus and stop contractions from happening. It is supposed to make you feel sick, like you have the flu or a hangover. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything past midnight because they don’t want. you to have anything in your system to throw up. I actually had no initial reaction to the magnesium and didn’t feel any different… but just wait until after surgery.

My doctors had their “huddle” at 8:30am and wanted to begin at 9:00am. And boy, there they were in my room at 8:50 ready to take me to the OR. I gave Darius a kiss, and cried the whole way to the room. Fear had officially set in. I was awake for the entire prepping of me in the OR. They did this because they want the baby under anesthesia for as little time as possible. They started by moving me as a group from the bed to the table, to which I informed them that if they messed this up or showed any signs of me being a giant whale I wouldn’t eat for the rest of my pregnancy (haha). I received an IV in my left hand from an amazing anesthesiologist who did it in what felt like 10 seconds. Then, in my right hand I received an IV into my artery to monitor my blood pressure. Instead of a cuff which takes several seconds to register, this would provide them with my blood pressure every time my heart beat. It wasn’t painful because they numbed the area with a needle first, but it took about 10 minutes to administer so I could tell it would have totally SUCKED without the numbing medicine. I was given oxygen through my nose, not a mask. My legs went into stirrups which just made me feel soooooooooooooo cute and dainty and they began scrubbing, aka cleaning, me from the stomach all the way down. The anesthesiologist began poking me with something sharp all over to see what I could still feel, and although I told her I could still feel it completely (but not as sharp) each time, she didn’t seem too worried so I guess it was okay that I could still feel some stuff.

The curtain went up in front of my face around 9:40am and my two amazing doctors, Dr. Miller and Dr. Baschat began pressing very hard on my hip bones to determine the best entry point. The whole time my anesthesiologists are asking me about my favorite vacation and favorite drink to where we get into a very nice conversation about margaritas. My favorite nurse Megan yells for a “time out” around 9:45am. If you haven’t been awake in surgery this is when they yell out all your information to all the doctors and nurses. My guess is they do this to reconfirm why you’re there in case anyone happens to be in the wrong surgery… could you imagine?!

“This is Rachael Cross, 29 year old, female. Blood type A-. She’s here for fetal surgery for spina bifida myelomeningocele. We believe starting on the L4. We have blood prepared for both her and the baby in case of transfusion.”  So weird to hear my story being yelled out as if I’m not there.

At 9:50am I was told to lean by head back as far as I could (they would be intubating me), and a mask went over my face. Two deep breaths later, I was OUT.

An incision was made from hip bone to hip bone – about 12 inches long. My uterus was removed – but remained attached inside of me. A big misconception is people think my uterus was like taken across the room or something. No, they place it on top of my stomach. Although this surgery was laparoscopic, that portion could only be done on the uterus. They still had to open my up and remove my uterus to do the laparoscopic part of surgery. Under ultrasound guidance, two ports the size of a pencil eraser were placed on the uterus. The ports were stitched into place and these ports are where instruments would be inserted to correct the lesion. Half of the amniotic fluid was removed and very carefully measured. Then, the same amount of gas was slowly pumped into the uterus to hold the shape of the uterus. Then, surgery was performed. The lesion was opened up and the spinal nerves that were inside the sac immediately collapsed back into the spine. Then, collagen was placed on top of her back and four stitches were used to close her spine. I was told our baby girl had the largest lesion they’ve worked on so far but surprisingly, with the last baby who at that point had the largest lesion, they received the best results. She had her legs crossed and one arm tucked under her butt. She was very difficult to position and each time would roll out of that position. To fix this, they titled the bed backwards so my head was closer to the ground to help keep her in place. She received a shot in the thigh to help “paralyze” her and keep her from feeling any pain. The surgery took roughly five hours and at 3:30pm, Darius received news that I was being stitched up and would be moved to the PACU.

My amazing doctors were able to take pictures of the baby inside of me throughout surgery. We were able to see her little legs, feet, hands and most importantly the lesion that started this whole journey! They may seem a little squeamish to you, but they are amazing to us and part of her story!

IMG013
This is her back facing you. The large bubble is the spina bifida defect before repair. You can see her little arms on both sides.
IMG014
This is Dr. Ahn, our neurosurgeon, opening up the lesion. The “bubble” immediately collapsed and the nerves fell back into her back.
IMG018
This white patch is the collagen used to cover the opening.
IMG019
Here is her back repaired with four stitches. As she continues to grow, this won’t look as bad or as gross.
IMG002
Her ADORABLE feet, hand and tiny butt.
IMG006
Another photo of the sac before repair.. and her little butt and foot.

In the photos, anything that is grey and “curly” looking is the umbilical cord. Anything grey and “veiny” looking is the placenta.

I do not remember the tube in my throat being pulled out, but I do remember being told to wake up. I can only imagine the nasty face I had when they woke me up. It was like I was thinking, “I am so tired, why the hell are you waking me up?!” But then I registered where I was and immediately felt pain on my left side. I was groggy and couldn’t see right and also very disoriented. I remember being asked if I wanted to see Darius. He told me we had the same conversation for about an hour. He said it went something like this.

“I love you.” “I love you too.”

Pause.

“I missed you.” “I missed you too.”

Pause.

“Aren’t you glad you don’t have to find a new wife?” “Yes baby I am glad.”

Repeat 15 minutes later.

I was put on a NST (non-stress test) to monitor the baby’s heart rate for about two hours. She was doing so, so well. They were also monitoring my contractions. Anytime you mess with the uterus, it will begin to contract. I had about 7 total contractions while still on the magnesium. I remember my entire mouth being so dry. Between being intubated and the anesthesia and magnesium, my lips were literally sticking to my teeth. I couldn’t talk right and my voice was hoarse. I felt like my entire mouth was coated in sand. A nurse let me have some ice chips and it was probably the greatest gift I had ever been given. I can’t even begin to explain how awesome ice chips were in that moment. Shortly after, I was allowed to start taking sips of water which was the next best thing that’s ever happened to me.

I had to remain in the PACU until I had feeling in both legs again and I could move them, but my right leg was super stubborn and not responding. Thankfully, I had one nurse who, after four hours of being in there, finally allowed me to be moved to my own room with Darius.

Shortly after arriving to my new room, I told Darius an my nurse that I wasn’t feeling very well. I told them I felt like I may throw up. Keep in mind, I was totally still sedated and numb. I could barely talk let alone move my body. Those two began moving at the speed of sloth because right after I said that… here it was…. vomit, all over myself. I couldn’t move! So four times in a row just vomiting all over myself. It was HORRIBLE. And then, they had to rotate me to help clean me off! I was no help and I physically couldn’t be! I could hardly feel anything let alone sit up or help take off my hospital gown. I still feel bad about that but I’m hoping at some point in my marriage that when I tell Darius I think I will throw up that he really knows that means, I AM going to throw up NOW.

Thursday, January 11th – 

Thursday was a bit of a blur. I was lucky to remain out of pain thanks to my epidural and  my oxycodon. A lot of people ask if it was safe for the baby for me to be taking oxycodon. Well, ideally, no. But I was given this medication by my VERY knowledgeable doctors and surgeons. It’s not a drug you’d want to be taking for no reason at all, but under circumstances like mine, it was perfectly fine. I remained on oxycodon for about a week until only being on Tylenol.

We had our first ultrasound that day to check on the baby and it was so amazing. It was amazing to see that she was fine, it was like nothing had happened. But then, the obvious showed up. Her lesion on her back was GONE and it was like she never had it to begin with. She was also still moving her toes which was so exciting for us.

IMG_1559.JPG
Day after surgery – still slightly high as a kite here.

Friday, January 12th –

MY FIRST DAY WALKING! This was the BEST day! I had the best nurse who insisted I get the F out of bed and I couldn’t wait! My mom went down to get some lunch and when she came back I was sitting in a chair! I felt so proud of myself and being able to get up and stretch is something I will NEVER take for granted.

We had another ultrasound and everything remained awesome and. the same… and at this point in the game, the same is how we like things.

I will continue to have weekly ultrasounds until she is born. They are hoping over time to see two things:

  1. That her hips, legs, ankles and. toes continue to move.
  2. That her cerebellum changes from what they call a “banana” shape to a “figure 8.” This will show that the cerebellum is returning to its normal position. This will happen, if it does, way later in pregnancy. It will be a slow process. But watching the cerebellum is one of the big things that will help determine her need for a shunt after birth (the big thing we are trying to avoid).

    qQ%omu8EQIy2+kZnuNTJkA.jpg
    DATE NIGHT aka watching Netflix in the hospital bed together. Not gonna lie – kinda felt like the old couple in The Notebook here.

Monday, January 15th 

DISCHARGE DAY! I was sent home on Monday and it was the BEST feeling in the world. I can never thank enough the amazing nurses and doctors and surgeons at Johns Hopkins but there is no better feeling than your own bed… and being at home with your sweet baby.

 

I was placed on two weeks moderate bedrest after surgery. They wanted me up and walking here and there, but mostly laying down and resting throughout the day. Now going into my third week of recovery, I had permission to begin driving and trying to live a normal life again… including picking up Lincoln. Yesterday was Darius’s first day back to work and being alone with Lincoln was much more difficult than I had imagined. My organs are literally moving back to place and healing and that has recently taken the biggest toll on me. The pain is excruciating and sitting up is very painful because that pushes everything together.  I am SO thankful for Darius and his people at work for being so understanding during this time and giving him the time off so he can help me heal and take care of Lincoln without disrupting his routine. I am hoping that within the next two weeks I will be back to my old self… except with a much larger belly!

Thank you to EVERYONE – family, friends, strangers near and far that have reached out or helped myself and my family during this time. You will never know how much we appreciated every single gesture.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

1 in 2,000

Out of every 2,000 births, one birth will result in spina bifida. One in two thousand. Those are the odds that it could be me.

When we discussed trying again for another baby, defects never crossed my mind. Why would they? I had already gotten my miscarriage “out of the way” and then followed it up with a very healthy baby boy. I completed all the optional trimester screenings and always had fantastic results. With this pregnancy, why would it be any different?

In fact, it wasn’t different. Everything was going smoothly. I felt “better” the first 15 weeks than I did with Lincoln – I was mostly nauseous with vomiting here and there. With Lincoln, it was multiple times a day, every day, for 16 weeks. Something in my gut told me it was a girl – based solely on the fact that it was all so different. I completed all my screenings. First trimester at 12 weeks for Downs Syndrome – came back negative. Then again at 18 weeks for Spina Bifida and other defects. I got the phone call about three days later from the nurse letting me know my results came back negative, my screenings were normal – in fact VERY normal was the term used. She had an optimism in her voice, I’ll never forget that. It was as though she was thinking, “I just love delivering good news!” But to be honest, I KNEW my results would come back negative. I have a normal baby at home. I do normal things. I remember hanging up with a smile on my face and a “got that off my list” demeanor. I was ready for my 20 week anatomy scan and thrilled for our gender reveal.

Spina Bifida blood testing is only 80% accurate – leaving 20% for a false reading. False negatives are extremely rare, especially with blood work. In fact, when completing my hours of research I was only able to come across ONE case of someone sharing a false negative story.

If I become very honest here, I always knew something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it and it was far more of a worry than just hoping there was a heartbeat. I knew that something just wasn’t right. There was honestly no reason to think this – except that my gut was telling me so.

Friday, December 15th 

The day of our 20 week anatomy scan I was overly nervous and anxious. I felt sick to my stomach. Darius told me I was this way with Lincoln and I smiled and nodded, but I knew it was different. The screening started out great, everything was normal and the weight of anxiety was beginning to lift. And then, there it was. “That must be her tailbone” I thought to myself. And right as I went to ask, to confirm my thoughts, the ultrasound technician says, “I want to recommend you see Maternal Fetal Medicine. See this bump right here? This is a fluid filled sac, often associated with spina bifida.”

Crickets.

At first thought, “I knew it.” Not that I knew it was spina bifida – but that my gut was correct. Next thought, “get me out of here!” I wanted to run. Third thought, “Get this baby out of me!” I wanted it over with. Lastly, “What the hell is spina bifida?! It must not be THAT bad because she surely doesn’t seem to be too worried.” Darius proceeded with a lot of questions, most of which I can’t remember, but I do remember the tech playing it real cool, keeping the calm. She told us it may just be a cyst. “A cyst?! I can totally deal with that!”

But then, she continued to spend a lot of time focusing on the brain – not saying anything, which really bothered me. We had this tech with Lincoln and she was always so honest, except with Lincoln there weren’t any problems. About an hour later she finishes up, prints our photos, places the gender photo in the envelope, and says she’s going to go meet with Linda… the nurse practitioner.

At this point, there weren’t any tears. Darius and I were holding hands and just staring off wondering WTF just happened. Did she seriously just walk out like none of this news was something bad? We meet with Linda who blatantly, and rudely informs us that YES our baby has spina bifida, YES she has fluid in her brain and she does not know how we will sleep over the weekend but they already have an appointment for us with Maternal Fetal Medicine on Monday at 2… oh, and to “have a blast” at our gender reveal the next day. That entire encounter lasted around 3 minutes.

ENJOY OUR DAY TOMORROW!? Is she KIDDING?! I wanted to RUN from my life, from my body, from this baby. I wanted OUT! We went from hearing a cyst, to then spina bifida, to then fluid buildup in her brain!

Doctors and scientists believe, although uncertain, the leading cause of spina bifida is lack of folic acid. I do not understand why doctors do not recommend that ALL women be taking a prenatal months before conception because they SHOULD. If I had known this, maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation.

As I try to always remain honest, this part I’m about to say may disappoint, sicken, or shock people. But you aren’t in my shoes and you don’t have a right to tell me how to feel.

I wanted to terminate. We wanted to terminate. We thought our child was going to be born a vegetable. For Darius and I, that is not a life we would want our child to live. What kind of life is that and how would that be fair to Lincoln? I did not want to become best friends with nurses and doctors. I did not want to drown in debt from medical bills. I know there are so many different opinions on termination and what fulfilled life looks like for a child, and I respect those who disagree with me. In fact, I was always against termination … until a situation like ours presented itself. It forced me to see all sides and really analyze the situation closely. So again, while I continue to respect the decisions of others, I hope our thoughts and decisions can continue to be respected.

60% of parents who find out their child will be born with spina bifida terminate. Which is one of the leading reasons why there is not yet a cure. Because there are hardly any patients to help find a cure. Sixty percent. 

Saturday, December 16th

Our gender reveal. We decided to continue with the gender reveal party in hopes it would give us something to look forward to. Honestly, it was anything but. Darius and I were sad and not really present. We tried hard to put on smiles but all we could think about is whats wrong with the baby and if we were going to even keep it. Through my research on spina bifida the night before I had learned that it is more common in girls. So, when that puff of powder showed up as pink, I was ecstatic to have the girl I had always wanted but also devastated because it just proved more that it was, most likely, spina bifida.

Monday, December 18th 

Our meeting with the doctors at maternal fetal medicine (MFM) was nothing like we had hoped. We spent the whole weekend crying, researching, praying and searching for any positive outcome or story. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much positive news from the internet. The ultrasound tech and doctor were able to confirm that yes, the baby did in fact have spina bifida. It was the worst case, myelomeningocele (milo-my-ninja-seal), but also the most common. Worse news came – the nerves were exposed and not covered by skin, leaving them open to more damage from the amniotic fluid and bumping up against the uterus. After a two hour ultrasound, we met with a genetic counselor who gave us options and introduced us to fetal surgery. We agreed that we wanted to take steps to fix the problem before considering termination. The next day I went back to MFM for an amniocentesis, where they stick a long, skinny needle through my stomach into my uterus to draw out amniotic fluid. They would test this fluid to make sure the baby didn’t have any additional chromosomal defects.

Over the next week-

After the amnio, we were sent to Johns Hopkins a couple days later where we had a four hour appointment, including yet another ultrasound to confirm the same findings. They were able to tell us more specifically where on the baby’s back the lesion started and ended. We discussed what this meant for her leg movement, bowel and bladder control and brain function. We met with the neurosurgeon who discussed what surgery would look like for myself and the baby.

Spina Bifida effects a baby in two drastic ways. One, the spinal cord is not finished so this has effects on walking, leg numbness, bowel and bladder control, hip movement and more. But the worst part is its effect on the brain. Because the nerves are exposed, they are tugging down on the rest of the spine which is connected to the brain. The cerebellum is then pulled down into the neck, or spine, causing fluid in the brain to buildup because it has no where to go. Typically, patients who do not undergo fetal surgery will be in surgery hours after birth not only to repair their spine but to receive a shunt in the brain which allows the fluid to move freely. Shunts cause lots of problems over a lifetime and are the leading cause to death in spina bifida patients. They clog, get infected, break, fall out of place and often need repair, which means multiple brain surgeries.

The fetal surgery through Johns Hopkins is new, and yet to be FDA approved. This surgery is done laparoscopically which means I will receive a c-section, and tiny instruments will be used to make holes in my uterus and correct the baby open spine. By performing this surgery, the cerebellum should naturally return to its place allowing fluid to move freely. This surgery will increase her chances of walking independently from 40% to 80% and reduce the chance of her needing a shunt drastically. If for some reason during surgery they are not able to do what they need laparoscopically, they will remove the baby from the uterus to perform surgery on her back that way. In the spina bifida world, this is known as being twice born.

In the past 2.5 weeks we have seen countless doctors and I have been stuck with more needles than I’d like to in my lifetime. And more is to come. We are aware that no matter what, when the baby is born she will be spending time in the NICU. We are aware that her life will be different, and so will ours. But, we now feel hopeful… and a little bit of excitement. Although our current focus is on having a successful, “easy” surgery, we are looking forward to adding a little girl to our family. We have had the best family and friends lift us up in support and prayer. We have had time to grieve the “normal” baby that we had thought we would have and learn to love the new normal. We have found an enormous strength in our marriage and bond with one another. We have found a whole new meaning to unconditional love.

In the next couple weeks (and through the remainder of my pregnancy), we will be spending a ton of time at Johns Hopkins. I will be going back to many meetings with my doctors, the NICU and the anesthesia team. I will be receiving steroid shots to help her lungs mature faster in case they need to deliver. And on January 10th, baby girl and I will undergo a surgery that could improve her life in such a dramatic way. We ask for prayers, support and if you have questions please ask. We don’t need pity or sympathy as we have already moved past that and are now seeking positive thoughts only. 🙂

So, why am I sharing? Because I love to blog, and I love to be open and honest. I have been very closed off about this for the past few weeks but I also understand that as time moves on eventually people will find out. Whether its in May when she’s born or for whatever other reason. I want people to know her story, our story, and for anyone else out there currently in the grieving phase to know there is hope, there are options and your child will NOT be a vegetable. In fact, typically, there is nothing wrong with the intellect of children born with spina bifida. Their lives will be different and more challenging without a doubt, but with supportive families and an amazing team of doctors I feel assured there is NOTHING they won’t be able to do.

 

 

 

Baby

Monthly Must-Haves | 3-6 Months

If you’re reading this post, that means your little one is now approaching or in the 3-6 month phase. Or, you are just wildly obsessed with baby things OR maybe it’s just that you actually enjoy reading my blog no matter what the topic. Anyway, this post will capture the top six items I found to be crucial when having Lincoln during the 3-6 month period. I still don’t know why they put together months like that, in huge chunks, because there is such a drastic difference between a three month old and a six month old – but it is what it is. Here we go…

Everything you need to know about cloth diapering

 

  1. Johnson + Johnson Hand and Face Wipes – I LOVE these little guys and buy them in bulk! They come in handy with literally anything baby related. They are good for getting boogers, snot, wiping hands and face off, and even can be used as a back up diaper wipe if you run out. They are cheap and absolutely essential.
  2. Baby Einstein Neighborhood Symphony Activity Jumper – My mom bought this for Lincoln when he was three months old. It was PERFECT to have at that time. It comes with a bunch of activities that you can swap in and out, tethers, and a swivel seat for them to rotate (once they figure that out as they get older). It bounces and changes height position four times! Lincoln absolutely loved it and it gave me comfort to know he was safe as I quickly showered.. or did whatever I needed to do.
  3. Chicco Stack 3 in 1 Highchair – This highchair was a gift from a students parents that I had. It wasn’t the one I originally had on my registry – it’s BETTER. This highchair is trendy, cute, and transforms in multiple ways! The back of the seat reclines into several positions and the tray has several clip in positions as well. It comes with a clear tray over the regular tray for easy dishwashing or cleaning. The fabric is easy to wipe down and food/drinks wipe off super nicely! The highchair eventually transforms into a booster seat and you can also detach the highchair portion from its base and strap it onto a regular chair. My only complaint – it is a bit bulky and doesn’t fold up – but other than that we love it!
  4. Ergo 360 Baby Carrier with Infant Insert – This baby carrier was a lifesaver! I had two carriers, a wrap and the Ergo. I could not for the life of me, even with the direction pamphlet and youtube tutorials, figure out how to wear the wrap! It just wasn’t for me and Lincoln looked so uncomfortable in it. I am hoping to master the wrap with our next baby, but the Ergo was all around amazing. Darius LOVED wearing it and actually wore it way more than I did. What’s great about it is that it grows with baby! The infant insert is essential when you have a newborn because it helps prop them up and give them the necessary support. We have ours in the grey color and love it! Only complaint – it’s a bit pricey, and a little difficult to put on (you get used to it) but overall worth it.
  5. Babyganics Shampoo and Body Wash – I posted before about using Babyganics products and we love their stuff so much! I love that harsh chemicals are not used and everything is safe and gentle for baby. We use their shampoo and body wash and found it to be awesome! We love that it has the nice foaming pump and doesn’t burn his eyes when some gets on his face. Also, the best part, is that it doesn’t leave soapy water behind! This equals a nice, quick rinse off for baby! I do wish it had a stronger “baby” smell.
  6. Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder – My girlfriend from work got me these and they weren’t even on my registry. I had never even thought about a teething baby. But thank God she knew what she was doing. This is the only type of teether to ever calm down Lincoln. The mesh is safe and gentle for baby to chew on. The latch is baby proof, so there is no way baby is opening the feeder to get to the food. I usually stuff a frozen piece of fruit in there, like a peach, hand it to him and he sucks on it till it’s gone! I also love that it’s practically mess free and doesn’t leave your house sticky! Also, it’s dishwasher safe! WIN!

Looking for must-haves for previous ages? Check out my previous posts…

0-3 Months

Newborn

Baby Lincoln

Lincoln at 10 Months

I remember when I first started a blog, I wanted to do it as a sort of online diary for Lincoln. So, one day when he’s older he can see how his mom documented the pregnancy, and the first year month by month. And, let’s be honest here, I epically failed at that. During the pregnancy, going through sixteen weeks of sickness made me put my blog completely on the back burner. Once having Lincoln, taking the roller coaster of postpartum depression, having a newborn, and then heading back to work caused the same thing to happen – my blog just wasn’t a priority. But now that it’s summer, that I’ve become a SAHM, my blog is a huge priority in my life once again! And I am thrilled about that.

With all that being said, let’s dive into what Lincoln was like at 10 months.

I think I remember saying somewhere around him turning six months that it was my favorite age. Well, it just keeps getting better. Lincoln is crawling FAST all over the place, he cruises on furniture, and plays so well independently. His favorite toys are balls and he throws them all over the house and chases after them.

He is eating like a grown man already – his favorites include chicken nuggets, yogurt, cheese (he IS MY child), raspberries, strawberries and banana. We offer him tons of other options, basically everything we eat. He had his first introduction with a donut and dives face first into my soft serve when we go out to get it.

Lincoln says “uh oh” “mama” “dada” and I keep trying to teach him to be gentle so he will mimic the word gentle, and I can tell he’s trying to say it, but he really only gets the final sound.

Next Saturday, Lincoln will be 11 months old and I CANNOT believe it. Where did my baby go? Time really does fly. Darius is already considering asking Lincoln to start paying rent soon. Kids these days, solely reliable on their parents.

Motherhood

To the Perfect Mom

If you have been reading my blog(s) for a while now, you know I always aim to be honest. Even if that means not appealing to all the different groups out there. Well, today is another one of those posts.

More often then not as I scroll through social media, I see the mom shaming and the mom bashing. I see the hashtags, the photos of your little one, the photos of you being perfect. I see the Facebook groups you are a part of, the posts that you share and the comments you make. I see it all.

Now let me just say this, although I have used my blog to express a lot of truth about my rocky journey into motherhood, I also hold a lot back. Why? Because I feel shame. I feel shame because of those moms.

The ones with their very, very clear expressions about how their child should sleep – co-sleeping, bed sharing, anti-cry-it-out. The ones faithful to the boob – the exclusively breastfeeding, the “I don’t care when my child weans”, the “baby led weaning”. The ones who don’t need a wink of sleep but complain about their exhaustion. The ones who are against store bought purees, against non-organic options. #ebf #breastfeeding #anticio #babyledweaning #noformulahere #nastypurees #illsleepwhenimdead

I could go on and on. Let me say this – I HEAR YOU. WE hear you! WE – the ones who don’t meet your expectations as a mother yet we don’t have expectations for you. The ones who had a very painful, rough start to motherhood, who didn’t feel adequate from just hours after our baby’s birth. The ones who hated pumping at work and looked forward to the day that their baby was weaned. We are the ones who had to use formula and breastmilk because breastfeeding wasn’t working out as society had made it to be. We are the ones who don’t have time for, or maybe just aren’t interested in making homemade baby food. We buy Gerber’s purees and on a good day, I buy the organic kind. We are the ones who can’t always afford organic so we settle for the generic version. The ones who go through CIO here and there, maybe consistently, maybe not, because sleep helps us be better mothers. We. Hear. You.

In fact, on Thursday Lincoln had a donut for lunch. A donut. And Monday at baby story time at the library, he threw his first actual meltdown. He screamed and cried the entire time. I knew he was tired because he missed his morning nap but we were there at the library so we were going to make it through that session. And when I got home, I gave him a nice warm bottle of FORMULA and laid him in his crib. In his crib, he cried for a bit and I WALKED AWAY. I had to. I needed a break. He had been on a crazy episode for well over an hour. I have a right to walk away. And ten minutes later, I went back in and rocked him and he fell right asleep. Guess what? When he woke up, he was happy to see me. And my pediatrician reassured me that his brain isn’t in stress or feeling neglected because he has to cry by himself sometimes. He told me this because I told him about all the crazy articles you share. I’m not neglecting my child.

So please, stop with the hashtags, the article sharing and the hurtful comments that indicate you are a much better mother than the rest of us. Because at the end of it all, one day your child will be eating leftover French fries off the floor of the car, or licking mud, or eating Domino’s pizza from a friends house. And our kids will be in the same classes and they won’t be discussing the time their mom let them cry at 10 months old or how their mom is better because she never, ever let their mouth touch a puree pouch. No. They’ll be talking about the latest TV show, movie, sports, toy, or maybe classroom drama.

In the end, after these couple of baby years are over, none of this stuff really matters. We are all equal. And all I have ever cared about all along, from day one, is that my baby (and yours) is happy, well fed and has parents that love him dearly.

Motherhood

Being a SAHM

This is one of those posts that I have been a little hesitant to write only because I feel like there are so many mixed feelings,  misconceptions and stigmas associated with being a stay at home mom. Let me start by mentioning that being a stay at home mom has always been something that I have wanted to do and have seen myself doing. I absolutely love teaching, but I also really love my child. Once Lincoln was born, I knew that my time with teaching was coming to an end.

I do not find myself to be a lazy person or someone who does not want to work. In fact, raising Lincoln, being home with him and taking care of my family is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had – but also, by far, the most rewarding. The topic of me leaving teaching began way before Darius and I had a baby. His mother was a SAHM for most of his life and he really enjoyed having her around and looking back, he really appreciates all she did. When I mentioned wanting to leave work one day, he was ecstatic about it. So, trying to convince my husband one way or another wasn’t something I had to do. In fact, Darius was pushing me to quit my job. Right before giving birth to Lincoln, Darius was promoted to Tech Sergeant which is quite a nice pay raise. It was then that everything just fell into place. We were going to make it work. We knew it would be tight and we also knew it would not be easy, but this is what was best for our child and our family.

It hurts my soul when I hear the jokes and comments made about women who chose to stay at home with their babes. What do they do all day? They must get to sleep in. How lazy are they. Maybe they just don’t want to work? The house BETTER be cleaned and dinner BETTER be made. It’s two steps back for women. Luckily- none of these have come my way yet, but I’ve heard them before, even from those who knew this was the direction I wanted to choose. So, let me go ahead and clear up some things –

What do I do all day? In my short amount of time being home with Lincoln full-time, I am the least bored I have ever been. My day is 24/7 but really it starts about 6am when he wakes up. We go downstairs and play for an hour before breakfast. I make him breakfast, unload the dishwasher, feed him, pack lunch for Darius (because it saves us money). I make myself and Darius breakfast, clean up breakfast while Lincoln watches Bubble Guppies, get Lincoln dressed for the day and then we play some more. We practice walking, talking and following commands. By 9am, it’s time for his first nap. Sometimes I nap too (usually when he was up a lot the night before) and that’s okay with me. Other times, I do a chore like fold the laundry, vacuum, whatever. I will even try to do an in home workout. By 10:30-11 he’s up and we head off to the library, run errands, go to the commissary or whatever I need to do so it won’t be done on the weekends during our family time. By 1:00 to 2:00 it’s time for nap #2. During this time I either work on other chores or I take some time for myself and just watch TV and hang out. The afternoon nap is much shorter so I take what I can get. Once he’s up, we will either go exploring some more, maybe a play date or some time in the pool. Darius is usually home by 5 and I start preparing dinner around 4:30. After dinner, Darius cleans up (holy crap yes Darius helps!), we get Lincoln a bath and Lincoln is in bed by 6:30. I load the dishwasher, run it, and Darius and I get to hang out until around 10 when I go to bed. It’s a long day and not all days are easy or even the same. Sometimes I don’t get anything done and sometimes naps are skipped or things come up.

Do I want to work? Of course I do! Leaving work was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my entire life. But you know what, Lincoln is only this little once and in the blink of an eye he will be in pre-school, so I am soaking it up while I can. I am also looking for part-time work to help bring in some cash for my family.

I bet the house is always clean and food is always cooked. LOL. My house may appear to be cleaned. Yes, after every day the toys are picked up and put away and for the most part I don’t have piles of dust floating around. But, our bedroom is always the last to get attention, I have piles of shit in the guest room looking for a home, we have crumbs on the floor constantly and something in the kitchen is always sticky. So, no. And we do manage to always have food cooked because eating out randomly is no longer an option for us. Everything is budgeted for and because providing leftovers and cooking is cheaper for us, I make sure we use all the food we buy. If we want to eat out one day, it’s already in the budget and planned for.

Being a SAHM is one step back for women. WHATEVER. That all boils down to personal beliefs. I am NOT a feminist and I DO enjoy a “traditional” lifestyle. Again, I have always wanted to be home to raise my kids. It’s easier on me. I was not the best at juggling career and motherhood and family. This is what I wanted. I don’t believe I am causing a step back in women’s rights, I am just doing what I WANT TO DO because that is also my right.

I hope that this was able to clear up my perceptions of being a SAHM and maybe even misconceptions for those out there who believe it’s wildly a day off every day of the year… because it actuality, it’s the exact opposite. If you’re a SAHM, leave a comment below on what made you decide to take the leap!

xoxo!

Baby

Monthly Must-Haves | 0-3 Months

My goal is to get out all of the must-have baby items by age. Some of them aren’t as exciting as others, but I promise that we everything I mention to be a necessity. Included after each item is the link in case you want to shop it for yourself and your little!

Delete Vector Mask

  1. Triple Paste Diaper Rash Ointment – Let’s face it – diaper rash is a pain in the ass (see what I did there?) and your poor little babe will most likely experience this at some point. As a new mom, I figured Desitin was the way to go but I was so wrong. Triple Paste is on the expensive side but it is SO WORTH IT! I am talking diaper rash that clears up in a day, people!
  2. Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym  – This mat was a lifesaver when it came to Lincoln being immobile. For the first several months he didn’t really do much but I felt bad when I wasn’t holding him. The mat allowed him to interact, play, grasp, grab, swat, pull and play with the little animals and toys that dangle from it. The lights and music can be set to a motion sensor so they only go off when your little babe swats or makes movement. Similar here.
  3. Boon Lawn Countertop Drying Rack (this one is similar) – I know this looks totally ridiculous – and trust me, I thought spending $25 on this sucker was – but I heard it was a necessity and I sure do agree. This drying rack allows for easy placement of ANY bottles or bottle parts. It even comes with cute little accessory pieces (which we have bought) to hang bottle nipples from or whatever! It’s also easy to clean and throw in the dishwasher!
  4. Aveeno Baby Calming Comfort Moisturizing Lotion, Lavender and Vanilla – We actually went through quite a few lotions with Lincoln. Some of them didn’t clear up dry skin at all. Then, he got a little patch of eczema on his chest and our daycare provider at the time recommended Aveeno. We have loved it. It’s soft, gentle and I just love the smell. We apply it all over – including his hair and face – and he’s never bothered!
  5. Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Sling N Seat Tub  – At first you may think this tub is a little much and I went back and forth about what kind of tub to put on my registry. There were so much cute, smaller ones out there, but I knew those wouldn’t last for the long haul. This tub comes with a sling to place baby in as a newborn. Once they can kind of sit up on their own, there’s a seat insert that helps them to sit up. After that, you can remove the seat and they can sit up in the tub all on their own. The baby can even lay back and there is a little soft head rest for them. The tub even comes with a cute little water strainer toy AND a water bottle (with squirt holes in the lid) which is Darius’ favorite!  He loves to use it to squirt water on Lincoln’s back and to help rinse his head off. This tub is AMAZING!
  6. Babyganics Dish Dazzler Foaming Dish and Bottle Soap –   After coming home from work every day and washing two pumping bottles, pumping parts and then two milk bottles and all the parts to those – I was OVER IT. This foaming dish soap by Babyganics definitely doesn’t make the task easier but I really love the soap. It’s gentle on your hands (trust me, I know) and foams up REALLY well. The most awesome part is it doesn’t leave tons of extra bubbles around (I know because we have also used their baby shampoo with Lincoln) so it makes for easy cleaning and clean up! I also appreciate that their products are safe and not filled with dangerous chemicals!

So there it is! A short list of the things I remember so well and remember using again and again. I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to comment below with things you believe are must-haves for your little (or you)!

Motherhood

Marriage + Motherhood

Ahh.. marriage and motherhood. A post I have been writing off and on for quite some time now. A topic that is tricky to discuss as each couples situation is unique and different. How I feel and have evolved to this new life can be dramatically different than the next. But, here it goes – all my thoughts, feelings and advice on being a newlywed and adjusting to motherhood.

A month into our marriage, Darius and I found out I was pregnant with our rainbow baby, Jordan. When I started going through the miscarriage, I didn’t know it, and my body was going through postpartum depression and crashing hormones. this caused a huge strain on our relationship because dealing with the loss of the baby and not knowing how to handle my feelings, I just was not available. All in all, the challenge brought us together and though it took weeks to realize what was happening, we were able to do our best to make a plan for ‘next time’.

During pregnancy with Lincoln, we were living the dream. We had bought our first home, we were in the middle of fixing everything up, nesting and creating the perfect life for our little man. I was incredibly sick for 16 weeks and although that was f***ing horrible, having Darius as my support system was so meaningful. It wasn’t until after giving birth to Lincoln, the next day precisely, that shit.got.real.

Having a baby and struggling with anxiety and postpartum depression simultaneously really throws a wrench into your love life. Being that I don’t adjust well with change, after bringing Lincoln home I remember two things: 1. Apologizing to Gus for ruining his life and 2.  Texting Liz asking how the hell to get out of this nightmare (of having a baby). I wanted my husband back, my quiet life back and I definitely didn’t want Darius to love Lincoln more than me. Looking back and even in the moment, I knew all of this was irrational. I knew it wasn’t normal. When bringing Lincoln home I envisioned us being madly in love, taking care of our baby in unison and suffering through sleep loss like a champ. In turn, it was absolutely nothing of the sort.

Having a newborn, and now a 9 month old meant a lot of adjustment for our relationship. At first, my hormones weighed heavily on us. I cried all the time. I needed Darius and Lincoln needed me and Darius was taking care of all of us. He had to drop his math class to pick up the slack of me being a hormonal mess. I cried all the time. It was like he was actually taking care of two babies instead of one. Once that passed and I received help, the new adjustment was what would be our new normal? 

There were many times that our conversations were minimal, and dinners consisted of shoving a luke warm dinner down our throats. Many times we didn’t speak about anything significant and neither of us really knew what was going on in the others life. We weren’t making one another or our relationship a priority. That was something that needed to change. A lot of times there were arguments – about who to change Lincoln, who fed him the most, who was the most tired, who works the hardest, who does the most in the house… I could go on and on. And sometimes it felt like this has to be the end, although we both absolutely knew it wasn’t.

Things didn’t get “better” right away. And it really wasn’t even that things had to get better, we just had to adjust to the way life was and accept that’s how it would be. It wasn’t like we had some drawn out, silent treatment or screaming argument. We slowly started have more open conversation. It happened in places like the car, in the kitchen when making dinner, on the phone on the way home from work. We would talk about how we were feeling, how we read an article about our marriage coming first, we would reminisce about how life is now and how it used to be. We made more time for each other and allowed for family to help out in order to give us a break. We began to be okay with not being at Lincoln’s side 24/7. We know that in order to have a happy, healthy family we need a happy, healthy marriage. And we need to nurture that marriage and be supportive of one another.

Nine months postpartum I finally feel like we are in one of the best places we have ever been in our entire marriage. I feel more that we are the best of friends than I did two years ago. I feel I have a partner who truly values me, who respects me as a wife, mother and friend. I have someone who knows me inside and out and who will always have my back.

So, my advice to you out there who has the newborn? Life isn’t over. It’s just beginning. And what you’ve done is beautiful and fantastic. And you may be sore, you may be exhausted, you may be wanting to give up. Those feelings are valid. But, as time always does, it heals all things. You will get back to yourself. You will begin to find a new normal in this crazy, hectic life of mommy hood. But, it is imperative that your marriage is nurtured and that your independence is nurtured. Make time for yourself and one another. Your baby will never forget having happy, committed parents – and will never remember the one time you left him with the grandparents for two hours.

Baby Lincoln

Lincoln at 9 Months

Lincoln recently (and by recently I mean basically a month ago) turned 9 months! 9 months ago my life changed in an insane way – I became a mommy! The ride has been a long, wild one but my goodness, I wouldn’t change a thing. Seeing Lincoln grow and transform from a newborn to a little baby boy has been incredible.

In turning 9 months, Lincoln started to do the following:

-crawl – like reallyyyyy crawl and reallyyyyy fast – the second he sees the gate open to the kitchen he bolts for it.

-eat people food – he’s finally shown a huge interest in the food we are eating and loves to chow down

-finding his voice – between screaming, shouting, hollering – it’s getting loud around here

-pulling up on furniture – Lincoln went from crawling to pulling up in a matter of days. he is cruising all over and I can’t remember the time when he was immobile.

-big boy bath – he has been evicted from the infant bath and now sits up in the tub like a regular kid *excuse me while I go sob*

-trying to talk – like REALLY trying to talk. he is always making a noise of some sort.

-curiosity – this one has to be one of my favorites. to see his little self explore, pick things up, throw things, chase things, eat things, taste things – it’s just so cute!

To check up on Lincoln’s past monthly updates, check this out!

Baby

Monthly Must-Haves | Newborn

Being a first-time mom, my baby registry was filled with EVERYTHING. I mean, it’s absurd actually how much stuff was on that registry. And granted, a lot of it was put to great use, but there are only a handful of things that I considered a must-have. These items are based off of my personal opinion alone, but, many other moms recommend these items to me as their must-haves as well. So, enjoy!

unnamed

  1. Fisher-Price Auto Rock ‘n Play Sleeper – This rock ‘n play was a LIFE SAVER when it came to getting Lincoln to sleep. As a new mom, I figured my baby would love being swaddled and sleep peacefully in his bassinet. WRONG. Lincoln not only hated being swaddled, but his bassinet was so big, he didn’t feel protected. The auto rock ‘n play is the way to go! You can set timers on it, and it plays a variety of music/sleep sounds! He used this sucker for 3 months!
  2. SwaddleMe Slumber Buddies Soother – My mother in law bought this for Lincoln about two months ago and I WISH we had it sooner! This sweet little elephant plays 5 different sounds, has 3 timer options and sets a starry scene on the ceiling with light options of red, blue or green (or it will alternate on its own). It’s much better than a mobile (which we never had) and Lincoln loves staring at the lights on the ceiling!
  3. aden + anais Muslin Swaddle – Lincoln never liked being swaddled, so we didn’t use these sweet blankies as a swaddle. But, they sure did come in handy! Lincoln loved them as a light blankie (he was born in August) and they are super soft and cozy. We also used them to play down on play mats, the rock ‘n play and his swing so in case he were to spit up, we just had to throw the blanket in the washer!
  4. Dr. Brown’s Bottles – From the get-go, Lincoln and I had trouble with breastfeeding. He started on formula as a supplement the day he was born. Thank goodness for Dr. Brown’s bottles! We truly never had an issue with colic or with him being overly gassy. They do have a lot of parts, but we feel they were totally worth it!
  5. Boppy Nursing Pillow + Positioner – This nursing pillow was a lifesaver! We brought it with us to the hospital and it was so nice to have as I adjusted to nursing. I used it constantly once he came home from the hospital to help with feedings, and he enjoyed laying on his side on it tucked against my chest. As he grew older, he would lay down on it and drink a bottle, or lay with his belly on it and do a little tummy time! We just put it away when he turned six months!
  6. Fisher-Price My Little Snugapuppy Cradle ‘n Swing – At first, Lincoln hated this swing. But about a week or two into him being a newborn, it became a backup to our rock ‘n play. He loved swinging in the swing with its side-to-side motion. It plays a variety of songs, the mobile moves and you can set the rocking motion to however fast you want it! He still uses it today – at 9 months and 20 pounds!