• Allie and Ryan

    Allie & Ryan

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    Allie & Ryan

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    Allie & Ryan

  • Ryan and Allie 4

    Allie & Ryan

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    Allie & Ryan

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Life in the NICU

For twenty days our little man lived in the NICU. Being he was nearly six weeks early he still had some growing to do, particularly his heart and lungs. He would have "Brady episodes" where his heart rate and oxygen saturation levels would drop... he usually came out of them on his own but a few were bad enough he had to be stimulated (patted on the back for minor and given oxygen for major) since he started to turn dusky from lack of oxygen. Until he could go five days without a Brady (preterm) or three days post term (37 weeks gestation timeframe), we were staying. Ryan and I were fortunate enough that for the first week of his life we had the option to "room in" at the Naval Hospital. Basically by day four I was discharged but they had extra space so we were allowed to just stay in the room we were in until it was needed again. Since it was the fourth of July long weekend the hospital was pretty deserted. On the day Will turned a week old the hospital got busy again and we sadly had to go home. The staff gave us the option to stay at the Fisher House, but we knew if we had to get in the car and drive regardless we might as well be at home. Fortunately we don't live that far from base so coming back and forth was not too difficult.

My schedule would be to wake up at 8am to get to the hospital by his 9am feeding. I would stay usually through his noon feeding for sure but some days even through his 3pm feeding depending on what I needed to do that day, grabbing a lunch in the galley or cafe. I would do all his changings and feedings and help with his vitals when I was at the hospital. I would usually then go run errands or just go home and eat dinner and shower before returning to the hospital for his 9pm feedings. Some nights I'd stay until close to midnight, others I'd go home by 10:30, and we'd repeat the next day. Ryan, depending on his schedule, would usually come with me at the night feeding and hang out for awhile, or he'd stop by in the late afternoon depending on his schedule with classes and other things.
We tried to make his room and bed personalized and comfortable even if he didn't know the difference. The Lil Man bib we were given was perfect for showing off his nickname that has stuck from birth! Even the nurses and doctors were calling him that. The flag was given to us at his baby shower as "baby's first flag" and we had to bring that in with us for the fourth of July! The blanket he is laying on in the above photo is actually one the NICU gave us that volunteers donated for the babies... he ended up with two nice little blankets and a hat.

Being in the NICU is extremely difficult. It is not natural to leave your baby and walk away and then drive away knowing they are left behind. Don't get me wrong, his doctors and nurses were truly fantastic and I am so grateful for all of them, but it broke my heart every time I left my baby. I cried on more than one occasion, and I am sure post partum hormones did not help matters. I also tried to breastfeed for twelve days and sadly we couldn't make it work. Since I had a breast reduction there was always the risk I wouldn't be able to, but my supply just never fully came in. He was only allowed to breastfeed twice a day as it would exhaust him and burn calories so I had to pump the other feedings and I would never get more than a few milliliters... and the longer that went on the more likely it was that it just wouldn't improve. So at twelve days we had to throw in the towel, but at least he got something from me! That added stress did not help for awhile, that's for sure.

It isn't easy to see your baby hooked up to a mess of tubes and wires either. A feeding tube, sensors that tracked his heart rate, oxygen saturation, and respiratory rate were just some of the many things our little man was hooked up to. He also at different points had an IV and had to be under the UV lights because of his bili score (jaundice). They also tried giving him caffeine to help stimulate his heart as well as vitamin D in his feedings.

The days he had to be under the lights were the worst for me. He could only be held at feeding times for half an hour and then had to be put back... no extra mommy snuggles. By the time he ate and burped our half an hour was nearly over. Add in the fact mommy, daddy, and other people all want to hold him and there isn't much time! He also had to wear a mask over his eyes that he absolutely hated.

This photo above was taken on the day I left the hospital to go home when he was a week old. It was my last little snuggle before I had to get in the car and drive away and I think I cried from the first moment I held him until we got in to our house. Even with both our moms there I still had to go in the shower and cry as it was just an awful feeling. Seeing the "Welcome Baby Will" banner over our fireplace and the nursery all set and Will being across town was just so wrong for me.

Our growly man had a personality from the start though. He loved to be held and snuggled and he hated having his blood pressure or temperature taken. We jokingly said he would be the first case of baby hypertension because when he got mad his heart rate would jump into the 180s or even 200s!

Once his feeding tube was removed he looked like a different baby! He took to bottle feeding like a champ and began to look more and more like his daddy every day. To go home all feedings had to be done by mouth so this was a big step in the right direction for him!

To get sent home he had to pass a few tests, including his hearing test. I think he looked like an adorable little funkmaster DJ with the headphones and hat on, but that's just me! He passed with flying colors.

On Sunday we were able to give our little guy a bath for the first time (for us, not him). Since his umbilical cord was still on we had to just lay down pads and wash him from a bucket with no immersing, but it worked really well and he seemed ok with it! His cord came off the next day naturally, so he is good to go for future baths!

The other big test he had to pass was his car seat test. He had to sit in his car seat for an hour and a half without having a Brady. He nearly failed at first because within the first half an hour he was trying so hard to poop he gave himself a small Brady! Luckily the nurses knew why and didn't count it as a full Brady since he was awake and alert and it was under ten seconds... the Bradys in his sleep were much more worrisome. He did restart his test and do nearly two hours in the seat but he passed!

Today we were able to bring our Little Man home, one day shy of him being three weeks old. I know our NICU stay was not as long or difficult as some families, but it still was not easy for sure. I am so glad that at this moment my husband is giving our son a bottle in his room just so I could update my blog for a few moments. I am lucky we fight over who gets to hold him and snuggle him. I am lucky my son is healthy. I am lucky he is finally home.

Let the chaos officially begin! Our lives as we knew them will never be the same.

Friday, July 1, 2016

James William

 So baby Will came early at 34 weeks 5 days and took us all by surprise!

On Tuesday night my husband and I got ready for bed and as I went to hop up into our bed I thought I started to wet myself! I quickly ran into the bathroom and my husband jokingly ask if my water broke. I laughed it off thinking I just had to go to the bathroom and was alright. So we go to sleep and I start feeling some small cramps. It's around ten pm and I could not get comfortable. They started getting worse and worse until about ten thirty when my husband got annoyed and said we were going to go to the hospital. I still had two days of work planned and knew it was too early, I couldn't possibly be in labor! It had to be another false alarm like I had at 31 weeks. 

I told him I was fine but he started throwing things in to a duffle bag asking me what to pack. I had no idea but the cramps started getting worse and worse. I began timing them and they were happening every three to four minutes and lasting thirty to ninety seconds. We ran around like crazy and by the time we got in the car I was yelling every time it hit. 

I had called ahead to labor and delivery and by the time I got in to triage at 11pm I was having contractions almost every two minutes lasting a minute. They looked and told me my water broke already and I'd feel a rush of fluid. Then they mentioned I was already at 6 cm. 

They immediately moved me to a delivery room and I couldn't get off the bed, so they wheeled me there and switched me. I instantly got nauseous and ended up throwing up as soon as they gave me a bag. 

Mind you in five and a half weeks early. I didn't take any Lamaze classes (all scheduled over the next month!) and they were telling me I was too far along for pain meds. Every contraction I was screaming my head off as they told me to "breath out like I was blowing out a candle" and to "control it". Easier said than done. 

My mom was in NJ visiting my grandparents and couldn't get there in time, she was supposed to be my coach/doula! So my husband and I were winging it. He did great but I was in so much pain. The birthing ball didn't help nor did any other position besides being on my back. And for good reason. By midnight I was fully at ten centimeters. I got from six to ten in half an hour and there fully in less than two hours!

The doctors originally thought with how fast I was progressing I couldn't do pain meds but once I hit ten centimeters I was only at +1 or so and stalled. So I agreed (slash begged) for an epidural. There was a student anesthesiologist so it took them a few contractions to get it going but once it did I was in heaven. HUGE amazing difference. I actually managed to nap for two hours or so and relax a bit. 

Once the epidural kicked in I felt fabulous. As you can see by the picture I sent my mom to prove I was ok!

Around 5:30am the doctors said we'd start trying to push. Apparently my pelvis is narrow and our Bean got stuck by my public bone and was not having an easy time. They kept mentioning a c section but he'd get a little closer and then pause again. I could feel my contractions even with the epidural so the doctors were willing to let me keep trying but he kept turtling. 

Finally after three hours plus of pushing James William (aka Will) came into the world at 8:49am. He was blue and quiet and we all held our breath until I heard him cry. My husband got to quickly cut the cord and they whisked him away. I briefly got to hold him for five seconds before they rushed him go the NICU. I sent my husband with him while I passed my placenta and got sewn up. I had a second degree tear but otherwise was ok. 

It took awhile for me to get cleaned up, have the epidural wear off, and go up to a regular room. All the while I kept waiting to see my son! Finally after five hours I got to go to the NICU and see him. 
He's perfect. 

He will have to stay in the NICU for awhile since he keeps having "Brady episodes" where his heart rate and oxygen saturation drops. He has to go five days without an episode to go home and he's having about ten a day right now. His bili score was also high so he is under the UV light to help his jaundice. We're also waiting on his blood work to come back and make sure his thyroid is normal. 

I'm still in the hospital and luckily get to see Will often. I'm trying to pump and breastfeed and the kid is a champ so far. 
My mom arrived yesterday to help and my husband is a superstar with him too. 

I can't wait until we can all go home (even though our nursery is still completely in boxes and not ready) but it may be awhile still. 

Thank you for all the prayers and support sent via social media or text or calls. We are all feeling the love so very much and will do our best to keep people updated.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

North Carolina Baby Shower

This past weekend, June 18th, we had our local baby shower with our friends and my immediate family. Our friends Mark and Kayla generously offered to open their home to us and host and they did an amazing job! Kayla seriously put together a baby shower our of Pinterest with the help of her mom and my mom and I was blown away. Sadly we had a few last minute cancellations and a lot of my family couldn't travel down because of it being Father's Day weekend, but the crowd we had was wonderful and I am so thankful to all those who were able to be there and celebrate with us.
Bean's nursery is safari themed because of my love of giraffes and that was the theme of our shower! Welcome to the Jungle greeted us when we came in, plus tons of food (twigs, cheetah tails, elephant snacks, zebra cakes...), a blue candy bar for making your own goody bag (with my mom's famous Chocolate Covered Oreos) and a cargo table for presents!

The "watering hole" had jungle juice (not the same kind I had in college I promise), desserts were zebra cakes and tiger tails, plus Ka the sandwich snake! How cool right?!?
Sorry for my shaky editing, but now we are revealing our Bean's chosen name, James William, aka Will. Men in my husband's family go by their middle names, him included, so baby Will is going to follow that tradition. James is after Ryan's grandfather (who went by his middle name Doug and told him, "Son, never name a kid Doug.") who passed away in the first year we were married and was like a father to him. William is after my dad (who is really my stepdad) since I always regretted not having him legally adopt me and this is my small tribute to him.
So baby Will it is! With a small cameo by Jeffrey the Giraffe on the bottom left there.

Ryan and I were once again blown away by everyone's generosity! Our cargo table was definitely full!

Our party guests... at the top is our best friend Donna, in the middle are my coworkers Jennie, her husband Kevin, and Lauren, and on the bottom is my husband's former Master Sergeant and his wife.
The top picture here are our hosts, Mark and Kayla, and my brother Stefan, and of course the bottom is my brother and my mom. Looking at these photos I can see how huge I have gotten as I am nearing the end of my pregnancy and we still have at least 7 weeks to go before full term! Yikes!

Between both our showers we know this baby is so incredibly loved and we are one blessed family. Thank you to everyone who came to either of our showers, sent a gift, or sent us love from afar! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Monday, June 20, 2016

South Carolina Baby Shower

Last weekend, the 11th, Ryan and I made our way to South Carolina as his family were throwing our Bean a baby shower. We left Friday afternoon and made our way south, arriving in time for a lovely BBQ dinner with his mom, sister, and grandmother. Saturday afternoon was our shower and man did our little guy get spoiled! His mom's neighbor Christi hosted the shower for us and the guests included lots of family and friends from the neighborhood.

As you can see there were lots of tiny outfits gifted that I could not contain my excitement about. So. Tiny.

It seemed like everyone had a great time and we really enjoyed getting to see family and friends that we don't get to visit with as often as we like!

Plus they made me a fun hat with all the ribbons! Bean got first wear in the belly though.

The rest of Saturday we lazed around, eating leftovers and just spending time together. I get tired pretty easily these days so lying on the couch and going to bed early is fine in my book!

Sunday we took some pictures together before packing up the jeep on the hottest day of the year thus far, easily over 100 degrees and horribly humid. I did not envy my husband wrangling the crib into the car and was not disappointed when he turned down my offer to help!

We channeled our inner Zoolander a bit too.

Our Bean is definitely one lucky baby and he isn't even here yet! So much love. The next time we see our South Carolina family will probably be when the baby is born, so only a few more weeks!

Unfortunately we did encounter some car trouble on the way home. We were driving in the middle of nowhere South Carolina when suddenly our Jeep turned off while we were going 55 on the highway! Luckily we were able to stop ok, but remember me mentioning it was the hottest day of the year thus far? 100 degrees plus, middle of nowhere, fields, closed store, closed church, and a random hospital unit that I had to walk to at least once to use the bathroom. I was afraid to drink too much as it was a hike and we were waiting on the tow truck. After nearly two hours we somehow got the Jeep started again and just went on our way, calling AAA to cancel the tow (another ordeal in itself!). Our 4.5 hour drive ended up taking nearly 7 hours and man was I glad to get home. I was a sweaty, uncomfortable mess for sure! The joys of pregnancy!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Carrie's Wedding

The weekend before Memorial Day one of my closest friends Carrie got married. She was our neighbor when we lived in Alexandria VA as newlyweds and even after Ryan and I moved to North Carolina we all managed to stay in touch. I was extremely touched when she asked me to be her bridesmaid... and then momentarily panicked a week after I accepted when I realized I was pregnant! I called her up immediately and she laughed saying I would be one of two! Another bridesmaid was also pregnant and two weeks ahead of me and she was glad to have both of us if we were up for it. It was a little disconcerting trying to pick out the right size for a bridesmaid dress from afar and guessing on sizes and not wanting to alter until the last minute, but my dress fit and all was well!

Even though Carrie and her now husband Pete still live in Alexandria, Pete's family is actually from my home state of New Jersey, and that was where the wedding was to take place! Double score! Ryan and I drove up a day early (and had our engine overheat on 95 in Virginia causing a 9.5 hour drive to take 11 hours thanks to full on DC rush hour after we fixed the car) to try and spend some time with Babci and Poppy. Friday we drove "down the shore" as we NJ-ians say for the rehearsal and dinner in Pete's hometown. It was great getting to know the other bridesmaids better and of course the families of the bride and groom. The bride and groom gifted all the bridal party a hotel for the night, which was lovely, and we had a small, impromptu bachelorette party at the wine bar across the street  after the dinner. It was a quiet night though as we all had to be up early the next morning.
The top picture is the bay down the street from our hotel the night of the rehearsal, and those smudges on the horizon are actually of the New York City skyline. It was much more visible with the naked eye! In the morning the bridesmaids and bride all got up early and drove over to a nearby salon to do our hair and make up. The husbands all slept in knowing they didn't have to be at the venue (an hour and a half away) until the afternoon. We assembly lined through the salon getting our hair set, make up done, then hair pinned up... I thought it was great and felt extremely pampered. Especially when the matron of honor ran to the bagel shop for us! I got a sandwich called "the bomber" that the groom, Pete, told us about the night before; pork roll, egg and cheese with hashbrowns mixed in with the egg on a hard roll. Heaven! Pete's family also treated the bride and her bridesmaids to a limo ride to get us to the venue. Party animals we were everyone had maybe one mimosa (made with seltzer for us pregnant ladies) and then slept most of the way! At one point Carrie and I were the only ones awake in the limo! But we made it to the venue with plenty of time to spare and got checked in to our rooms. She got married at the Inn at Millrace Pond, a gorgeous venue with lots of historical buildings and it was so lovely!

We had some time for lunch and to relax before we went to the bridal cottage to all get ready. By that point all the men arrived and photographs started and we just all prayed the predicted rain would continue to hold out! It was cool but not cold and the sky was gray, but we were super hopeful the outdoor ceremony could go on! Carrie looked stunning in her dress and made us all cry as we helped her get ready. She had more gifts for us, touching letters and Alex and Ani bracelets with our initials, that seriously almost made me ruin my mascara. The groom, getting ready in another building, got a pretty great gift too... a motorcycle Carrie had picked out with the help of his brothers! I think I got Ryan a Taylor Swift CD (as a joke) and a binder of the emails we sent back and forth while he was deployed!

Unfortunately during the set up the catering truck delivering the tables and chairs backed in to our car and put a hole in our bumper! It was minor and mostly cosmetic, but the guy drove off without leaving a note or anything! Luckily there were witnesses so we filed a report and plan on getting it fixed since they were so dishonest about it. We tried to keep it from the bride, but she did find out, and considering there were one or two more issues with them we know she was not a happy camper! I felt bad adding to that stress for sure!
But luckily for us the rain held out and we had the ceremony outside. Ryan shocked me by taking a lot of pictures which he usually never does. I was the second reader during the ceremony (and I will not share those pictures as my mouth is open horribly in nearly every one!) and I was very honored she even asked. The ceremony was beautiful and it quickly rolled into the cocktail hour with pictures. The large meeting house in the background served as the cocktail hour headquarters but it was inside and outside. There was a massive tent set up for the reception and the rain held out until we all got inside! It was perfect.
I actually forgot to take pictures during the dinner and reception, we just had a fantastic time and I didn't bother. I danced and ate delicious food and Ryan and I literally stood guard in front of the sweetheart table so the bride and groom could eat! I don't know why people think the instant the bride and groom sit down it is time to go shanghai them, but don't! Most people at weddings are either already married or have been to at least one wedding, you should know how this works! It should not take a Marine and a pregnant lady threatening to belly bump you out of the way so the poor couple can eat! I was also on bustle duty as those darn things never want to hold up. Luckily the matron of honor was prepared with tape, pins and a sewing kit. Why make gorgeous gowns with big trains that are literally held up by a piece of thread?! My gown did it at my wedding too, as have most of the brides I encountered!

After the reception died down we went back to our rooms in the converted mill (over 200 years old!) with intent of going to the after party, but Ryan got horribly sick from something so we just called it a night. I was swollen and exhausted to boot so I spent the night in sweats trying to make Ryan keep something down. Poor guy. Been there! He was perfectly fine in the morning thankfully. We had a big wedding breakfast and then wandered the trails on the property for awhile.

We met my aunt and her boyfriend for lunch later that afternoon and it was so good to catch up with them! She is my biological father's sister and I honestly haven't seen her since my own wedding but we talk often. She and my other aunt and cousins chipped in and got a lot of things off our registry (our entire bedding set and bumpers) and she had lots of baby things from work (a diaper bag, outfits, bibs, blankets, stuffed animals and ultrasound frames) that she also surprised us with. We were so touched!

After we went back to my Babci and Poppy's house and spent the rest of Sunday and the morning Monday with them before we had to drive back. Ryan set up cable in the back room and helped shift furniture and do things that a big, strapping Marine in his 20s can handle with ease that made me so thankful for him. Anything he was asked he jumped to it instantly. We also went and visited my brother and niece that evening and she is getting so big!
Poppy seemed to be getting around a bit better since Christmas but is still more frail than I like seeing him. We got out his piano and harmonica though and he lit up! He said he hadn't played in ages and he did really well with them both. Ryan even learned a bit while we were there. Poppy learned and played both completely by ear so it is impressive to see at 93 for sure. Babci doesn't look anywhere near 90 and she was going up and down the stairs and cooking dinner (chicken popperkosh!) and refusing help left right and center. I did pick out a beautiful knit blanket for our Bean that Babci made that I cannot wait to wrap the little guy in.

Once again, these trips are entirely too short and Ryan and I had to drive back Monday to get to work Tuesday. It was a shorter drive back, only about the expected 9.5/10 hours, but it still was not fun to do seven months pregnant! I hope once the baby is born we can do another quick trip so Bean can meet his great grandparents! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spring Adventures

Now that the weather is warming up finally in Eastern North Carolina our family gets to do some of the outdoor things we love... like strawberry picking at Mike's Farm. Nothing like a sun warmed berry right off the vine and eleven pounds of your favorite fruit to make a weekend wonderful.

Plus, did I mention the chocolate cake? They are famous for the ten layer cake and I can see why. It literally melted in my mouth. My husband went for the chocolate ice cream, but I will not regret that cake. I hope we meet again very soon.

Plus, warmer weather at the coast means days at the beach. Sure, sporting a bump in a maternity swim suit is a little different than any other summer, but it is still awesome to read a book in a chair on the sand as your crazy husband goes into the frigid ocean.

Rylie had a better time than any of us, swimming and running to her heart's content. She came home that evening a very sleepy, happy Dup Dup.

Soon our trips to the beach will be very different, with sand toys and tents and bags of things, but for now we will continue on as we do every summer since we have lived here. One bag, two chairs, an umbrella and a good book or two until our load gets a little bigger... we cannot wait!