Dear Ella Brooks,
You may never read this. Or if you do, it may be years from now and you may have heard the same story over and over again throughout your life. How much you were wanted, prayed for, and loved, long before you were even conceived. The journey your parents went through to get them to you. The herds of friends and family members who prayed alongside your mom & dad, sharing tears of sorrow, and then of joy when we finally learned of you. It might bring a smile to your face as you recite it by memory as a child, and it might be cliche to hear in your teenage years, and it might bring tears to your eyes as an adult, if and when you are blessed with a child of your own. But there's more to it, that your mom will never tell you. So I'll say it now, and I'll probably say it a million times again as you're growing up - your mom is awesome.
Your mom is a lot of things to a lot of people. She's called "best friend" by quite a few. But I feel like I'm a bit of an authority on the matter, since I've known her for more than half my life at this point. We've been through A LOT (you don't get to ask questions) and it has strengthened our friendship in so many ways. As teenagers, we spent hours together, finding fun in the most mundane tasks. As college students and young adults, we drank way too much and soaked up every second of the time we were able to spend together. As 20-somethings, we stood by each other as we got married and the visits got further between but all the more meaningful (and we probably still drank too much). All the while, your mom has been the one to tell it like it is. She has always been real with me, even when it was hard for me to hear. She can talk me down or build me up. She will snap me back to reality while never letting me lose hope. She keeps me accountable in my walk with Christ, in my marriage, in my friendships and my relationships with family. She was a voice of experience when I was a naive 15 year old, many years ago when we met, and now she's a voice of reason when I need her most.
Your mom has stood by me through every step of my motherhood journey. She was the first person to find out I was pregnant. She was the only non-family member I called to say I was in labor, and she was at the hospital (4 hours away!) within a few hours of London Claire's birth. She was an obvious choice for Godmother, and I knew she would be an incredible mother someday. I didn't know what that journey would look like for her, or how long it would take, or how many bumps in the road there would be. I wouldn't wish all that on my worst enemy, but I know she and your dad have found a way to use those trials and tribulations to make themselves, and their marriage, and their faith in God even stronger.
Motherhood is the one thing we have not yet been able to truly share, and while I cannot wait for your arrival for so many reasons, I cannot wait for your mom to really experience all that it has to offer. She is going to handle this transition as beautifully and as seamlessly as she has all the others she's been faced with in her 32 years. She is going to rise with grace and courage, and hopefully I'll be there to pick her up when she's feeling less than perfect. Go easy on her, because I promise you one day you'll realize just how awesome your mom is, and you'll thank God that He chose her for you. I know she thanks Him every day that He picked you for her.
I cannot wait to meet you Ella Brooks, and I cannot wait to see my best friend as your mom.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Oy. Just when I think our months can't get any crazier, they do. Eleven has probably been Winston's worst month since his first month. We've had a lot of health issues but so far everything seems to be minor and for that, we are so very grateful.
Eating: poor Winston ended up in the ER, then transferred and admitted, then referred to a pediatric GI specialist. So, we took him down to a liquid diet (almond milk + breast milk) for about a week to let his GI system reset. We discovered that the blood in his stools was from me, not him, so we have since fully weaned from breastfeeding [more on that later]. We are reintroducing one food at a time, starting with white potato - so far so good. It's been really really hard, as he doesn't really like the almond milk (especially if we try to give it to him cold) and he wanted table food so bad. Lots of crying and not a lot of sleep. But I am confident things will get better and this is for the best for both of us.
Sleeping: he's had a really hard time going down at night since we went to the liquid diet. Lots of crying no matter what we do. But once he's really down, he's sleeping normally (until around 6am) and still taking two naps, many of which are in the car.
Activity: he walks everywhere, unless he's wearing shoes, in which case he acts like his feet are cemented to the floor. Winston is signing more & please, says more, mama, dada, ball, bottle, dog, bye, and waves, claps, gives kisses and hugs, and throws the ball. He had an IV in his right hand and was still throwing the ball with his left hand around the hospital hallway! He is starting to watch a little TV (a blessing with all these procedures) and likes things with music. He dances when he hears a song he likes, or claps along. He's a climber so we have to watch him constantly.
First: X-ray, hospital stay, IV and ambulance ride. He had four teeth with a few more close behind.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
This morning, the sky was red when you woke up (late for you but still earlier than I'd like). I was instantly reminded of the phrase my dad taught us growing up:
"Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning."
It was the perfect symbolism for our day; the calm before the storm. Before anyone else in the house was up and the chaos of a busy day took over, we had a few quiet moments in the orange light of your nursery, rocking and nursing. I know these days are numbered, and that they'll be done soon. I know that I will miss them. I know I'm doing what's best for you but it doesn't make me any less nostalgic for these days, these moments, these special times of just me and you.
Today will be hard for both of us. You'll forget the pain but I won't. Please know that everything we are doing is our feeble attempt to take care of you the best way we know how. I'm so thankful God gave you to us and I pray every day for Him to help me be a good steward of such a precious gift.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." [Isaiah 43:2]
The past 48+ hours have been a bit ... overwhelming, I guess you could say? Emotional? Stressful? Busy, for sure. I'm not sure what the right word is. But I know the word that keeps coming up in my head.
I am so thankful I serve a God who has had my precious son in the palm of His hand long before he was ever on this earth. I am so thankful that He is a merciful, HEALING, comforting God who forgives me even when I forget to trust Him in all things. I am so thankful for our family's health, despite all we are going through right now. Because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our Lord has a plan for Winston's life and He is going to use all of this to glorify His mighty name.
Let me start from the beginning. The very beginning. I'll try to condense but feel free to skim over some of these early details.
When I was in labor with our second child, my water broke in the hospital and they noticed there was meconium in the water, so they brought in the special care nursery team. A second bag of water broke, which was clear, so they decided Winston was fine and wouldn't need any extra monitoring. I am so thankful that he had not swallowed meconium and we were able to achieve most of our birth wishes for after delivery. Delivery went well and he nursed immediately. By day two, I noticed "lipstick nipple" and had some pretty intense pain, more than what would be normal for early breastfeeding days. I kept urging the staff that he had a tongue tie, but nothing could be seen as an issue. Five days later, my nipples were bleeding and the pain of his latch brought tears to my eyes. They clipped his tongue in the pediatrician's office, but it offered me no relief. By two weeks, he was still losing weight and we added a number of tools to our breastfeeding arsenal: a hospital grade pump, bottles, nipple shields, Dr. Jack Newman's All-Purpose Nipple Ointment, a feeding syringe, an ENT (and subsequent second tongue clip with the additional lip clip), the rock 'n play sleeper, a medicine cup, reflux meds (zantac and then rantidine) ... I'm sure I'm missing a few details, but you get the picture. It wasn't pretty. I'm so thankful I had friends and professionals who took my concerns seriously and offered us ways to make breastfeeding successful. Months later, Winston was gaining weight fine but my nipples still bled off & on so I had his tongue clipped a third time in case it might help with the pain [spoiler alert: it didn't]. I eliminated dairy, then reintroduced, then eliminated again, then started reintroducing, then did a full / strict elimination. I've carried around dirty diapers in ziplock bags, I've swabbed poop into fecal sample cups, I've cleaned blow-outs off my clothes, Winston's clothes, our couch, our carpet, his sheets, his changing table, his floor, the rocking chair, the carseat, the stroller, the pack n play, the rock n play, the jumperoo, the ergo, and just about everything else he's touched. I'm thankful for other friends who have had to eliminate dairy and offered suggestions, altered meals, and helped however they could.
Fast forward to this past Sunday, June 21. Winston is 11+ months old. He has had blood in his stool off and on as a result, we're told, of the dairy sensitivity. They've always warned me that black, coffee-ground stool is a big warning sign ... and wouldn't you know what I found while changing his diaper sunday afternoon?! So we ended up in the Emergency Room for 7 hours before being transported to a larger hospital with better children's capabilities, where we were admitted for a day. I'm thankful Winston had two more stools like that at the hospital, so there was no question of what was happening, and they were able to get clear and concise cultures done.
I'm not saying this to complain, but rather to shed light on what we've been through. Maybe so I can provide some advice or solidarity to another mom who might be going down a similar road. Maybe so I can make Winston feel guilty about all he's put us through in 15 years (kidding). Maybe it's just to provide myself a reminder of all we've overcome in case the weaning hormones get me feeling guilty about our breastfeeding journey coming to an end. Either way, we've been through a lot together, but I'm so incredibly thankful for our journey over the past almost-year. I have so much to be thankful for.
- Against all odds, we have never had to supplement with formula or donor milk. I'm so thankful for my commitment and conviction to nurse my children and for my God-given ability to produce enough milk for them even when Winston was not able to transfer it from the breast.
- There is a wealth of knowledge (through websites, support groups, and other moms) regarding dairy elimination and every other issue we've faced. I have plenty of places to turn if I have questions, need suggestions, or just need support and hugs and to know we'll get through it.
- There is a wealth of dairy-free alternatives to foods I like, and they're mostly affordable. Sure, I miss sour cream and alfredo sauce, but I've gotten accustomed to coconut milk ice cream and almond milk creamer and even goat's milk brie cheese.
- Winston's "scary" diapers happened Sunday, not Saturday (London's 3rd birthday / party). They happened when I was the one who was changing him, as someone else may not have known it was a red flag. They happened while we were at home, rather than on one of our many summer trips. They also happened during the summer, while Ben's dad is off work and able to stay with London so we could both stay in the hospital overnight with Winston.
- I spoke with a thorough, concerned after-hours nurse, who instructed me to go to the ER despite no other symptoms. We met thorough, concerned nurses and a doctor who didn't discount the severity of his symptoms, despite his overall healthy appearance. We were transferred and admitted to ensure that his symptoms were addressed and safely monitored. We were scheduled with a Pediatric GI specialist the day after being discharged from the hospital, had our appointment bumped up even earlier due to cancellations, and got scheduled for the scan he needs within two days.
- All of the possible diagnoses that have been discussed are NOT scary! They are fixable issues. Some are hard, some require immediate action, some may be long-term. But no one has used any scary words like "cancer" or "autoimmune" or even "chronic". Whatever is ailing my sweet boy, the medical staff that's caring for him is confident that they can get to the bottom of it and fix it.
- Finally, and most importantly - truly - is Winston's demeanor. He baffled every doctor who observed him with how happy and healthy he is. Despite all the blood in his stool, his blood levels are fine, he's not anemic, he needed no transfusions or IVs, his white blood count is not elevated and he has no fever. He smiled and flirted with everyone who came into his room, even minutes after being stuck 5x with needles. What we keep hearing is a possible diagnosis, followed by, "but he's too happy / healthy / gaining weight too well / developing normally for that issue". What an unbelievable blessing, am I right?
So here we are. After blood work, labs, stool samples, cultures, a chest & belly x-ray, and a lot of poking and prodding ... we still don't really know what's going on with Winston. We have a plan:
- Today, we began a liquid-only diet for the next 7 days (breast milk and introducing almond milk, with the hope to be at least mostly weaned from nursing within a week). I am so thankful he is tolerating half-and-half breast milk and almond milk already!
- On Thursday he'll have a scan for Meckel's Diverticulum. His GI and regular pediatrician don't think it's Meckel's, but they want to rule it out and I'm in agreement on that procedure. I do feel he has some symptoms consistent with that diagnosis but I am praying with faith that if he has Meckel's, there will be no question about it on the results of the scan, so we can treat it appropriately.
- After one week, we'll begin introducing one food at a time for a week at a time until we can determine what the problem foods are. We may never know, as his gut could mature or at least calm down enough in this break to be able to tolerate whatever foods were previously causing him issues. That would be ok with me, although hard to swallow, because it means we wouldn't have to restrict his diet after the elimination period is over.
Right now I'm praying for answers. I'm praying that God shows the doctor a clear answer for Winston's diagnosis, that there is no question about what the problem is, and that the solution is quick and complete. His current diagnosis is FPIES and something within me is not comfortable with that diagnosis, so I'm praying we find a diagnosis that leaves no room for doubt or question. I'm also praying that, through whatever else comes our way, Winston remains his happy self and I remain thankful.
Thank you to those who have been supportive on our journey so far. Through your prayers, texts & phone calls, and all who have offered to help in someway (especially my friend Jess who brought me a grocery bag of dairy-free goodies to the hospital - with two kids in tow, no less!), we have felt so loved and we have gotten through this mostly unscathed. We have an amazing village to help with London when we both need and want to be with Winston. It's terrifying to see your baby getting put into an ambulance or taken for x-rays, but much less so when you have the comfort of knowing your big girl is being well cared for. I'm also very appreciative of all the advice and experience that's been offered so far regarding Winston's struggles - please keep it coming! And please please join me in praying for our sweet baby, for his complete healing.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Double digits, which means we are that much closer to Win's first birthday and not having a baby anymore :( I think I've subconsciously been putting this off because it just means I'm admitting to all the growing up he's been doing. That, and all the traveling we've been doing [charleston // OBX // orlando] hasn't allowed much time for blogging.
Sleeping: two naps is our goal but it rarely works out that way. He went from screaming nonstop every time we got in the car, to sleeping every time we get in the car - certainly a preferred alternative but it makes it tough to get out of the house and//or adhere to his nap schedule. I strive for a 9:00am nap [sometimes earlier if he doesn't go back to sleep after his 5:45am feeding] and a 1:30pm nap to line up with London's. Having their naps sync up is pretty much the best thing ever.
Night time, still not ideal in my mind. He goes to bed around 7 and rarely makes it much past 5:30am before waking and desperately needing to nurse. It's not terrible, but I have a hard time starting my day at 5:30. The days when he quietly falls back to sleep after a feeding & diaper change are the best days!
Eating: we are still EBF, nursing at least 5x most days. I'm trying to cut back a little but he's not having it. Winston, hear this: you will never know the sacrifices I have gone through to keep you off formula. You will never know the pain one person's nipples can endure to give their child only the best. You won't understand the physical longing I have to ignore when I decline cheese, just to keep you happy. But your future wife might. And if she does, I hope she tells you to call me and thank me right then :) in seriousness, my boy is healthy and smart and the happiest kid around, and that is worth 10 months of throbbing nipples.
As for table food, he really likes chicken, broccoli, peas, berries, puffs, purées, applesauce, okra, craisins and water from a sippy cup. In one overnight [16h] away from me he consumes 25+oz of breastmilk - dude can eat. After 3+ weeks of diarrhea / blood in his stool we are back to a very strict no-dairy // whey // casein diet :(
Activity: here's the real reason I've been putting off this update - I have to actually put it in writing that my little man is walking :( he's so grown up! He started taking 1-3 steps about a month ago, and just this week he's walking across the room. It's awesome to see how proud he is of himself, and yet still doesn't mind being carried or worn in the carrier - very different from London that way, once she took steps she was off and running!
He likes the pool, splashing in any water, throwing things and walking - though still prefers the speed of crawling. He says mama, dada, buh buh (bubbles, ball or bye bye), waves & smiles & laughs all the time. He says "mo mo mo" for more and claps any time we say "yay". And his first top (third tooth total) broke through last night - so you can imagine how much sleep I'm getting while Ben is in Colorado (read: not much).
Clothing: 18m rompers & onesies, 12m everything else. Looks like I'm going to have to invest in some "real" shoes soon.
Firsts: first trip to the outer banks! He wasn't a huge fan and honestly, I was content to keep him in the shade - my poor pale pumpkin! First trip to Florida, first graduation attended (my cousin tori was the salutation of her hs!), first steps, first Popsicle taste (I made them with Dutch chocolate almond milk, he loved them!), first time meeting uncle rich & aunt Becky, uncle pat, aunt Amy & uncle David, great Grammie, and cousin heather. First time strawberry picking (he loves them as much as his sister!), first time in a convertible car seat (he's done great!), first trip to DISNEY WORLD!! (He loved the dumbo waiting area and the tomorrowland people mover).
Measurements: He's over 21lbs and still growing & gaining well despite 4w of expelling everything he's bringing in. Oh, and the spit up has slowed down quite a lot, praise be!
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Since becoming a mother, I have seen countless articles, photos, and even friends' posts about how sexy guys are as dads. Good dads, to be fair - the ones that braid hair and baby wear and vacuum up ground in Cheerios. The ones that play catch in the yard after working hard all day to provide for their family. The ones who get up in the middle of those first few nights with a newborn to change diapers. I get it, it's hot. My husband is one of those dads and I couldn't love him more for it.
But where's the love for moms?! Where's the article that goes viral in support of the mom bod? Where's the praise for the strong biceps from carrying a toddler on one hip and an infant on the other, or $200 worth of groceries in one trip, or that damn 20lb baby car seat? Where's the Instagram post gushing over a mom's toned calves from chasing her three year old on the playground, or pushing a full Target cart at Olympic speeds, or running up and down the stairs 16 times every morning because WHERE ARE YOUR F-ING SHOES?!
Sure, our breasts aren't as perky as they were in college, but is that any less attractive that a poochy "dad gut"? Isn't it beautiful that we sometimes skip the gym in favor of giving baths, pouring cereal, and volunteering at the school? Seriously, where's the love for all these beautiful moms??? I'm not talking about what goes on within my home - my husband rarely, maybe never, let's a day go by without telling me in some way that he thinks I'm beautiful. But you know who posts articles & blogs about loving their post partum bodies and praising the late nights, early mornings, and day-in/day-out beauty in what moms are doing? Other moms. We have to keep validating ourselves, that we are still beautiful. A different kind of sexy, but sexy nonetheless. I'm waiting for the day when a blog post about the "mom bod" [written by a man, or better yet, a young childless woman!] spreads like wildfire in my newsfeed. But until that day comes, let me say it for you - you are sexy. You are sexier than the extra skin on your belly or the messy bun you've perfected on day three of not washing your hair. You are hot regardless of how many times you've been to the gym this week. Being a mom, a good mom, is beautiful. YOU. ARE. BEAUTIFUL.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Winston's 9th monthday was spent driving back from Virginia. I feel like we do that a lot these days! He was a trooper as we drove from Raleigh to New Jersey to Virginia and back to Raleigh. If I'm counting correctly, he's been to eight states so far with at least one more coming soon (NC // VA // MD // NJ // NY // PA // SC // FL).
Sleeping: I'm relatively sure this child will never consistently STTN. Most nights he sleeps 7pm-5am and then cries until I give up and nurse him. He's been starting his day much too early for my liking, and subsequently so has his sister. Still taking 3 naps some days but occasionally just two. He's a chronic car Napper!
Eating: big fan of waffles & pancakes, fruit, frozen fruits // veggies. Chicken, refried beans, all sorts of baby snacks // pouches. Scrambled eggs, too. Nursing is still going well, although he is ... Ahem, exploring with his new teeth.
Activity: he's starting to stand by himself a little more and gets so excited that he even tried to take a step once or twice today. No balance, though, bless his heart. He likes the walking toy and often falls to his knees but bounces back up without missing a beat. He loves waving and dancing! He also is notorious for pulling the outlet protectors out of the wall, so let's hope that means he's going to be an electrical engineer.
Clothing: still hanging tough with 12 months and hopefully will for a little while because he has a ton. I'm rarely putting him in onesies these days because he has so many cute "dressier" things. He is so long in the torso than one piece outfits are challenging, which is unfortunate because I love shorts rompers. Shorts & Pants can still be anywhere from 6m - 12m.
Firsts: [second] tooth popped through this past weekend; first trip to NY / NJ; first zoo [the Bronx]; met his cousin Lou for the first time [she was 3w]; he per a baby chick at NC State Farm days: first Easter [I put graham cracker goldfish in his eggs]; first long car trip - from NC to NJ. He had his "even Steven" day and has officially been "out" longer than he was "in". He also got to really play at Marbles for the first time!
Measurements: At his 9m appointment, he was 40th % height and weight and 90% head, ha!! Must give the perception he's bigger than he is, because people make comments about his size all the time. He's at 20lb 6oz and I feel every bit of it lugging him around.