AHA! A Hands On Adventure Children’s Museum

When I was a feature reporter for a local news station, I used to spend hours perusing websites and newspapers and magazines for people, places and events to feature. On one of my regular “story idea hunts” I came across news of AHA! A Hands On Adventure Children’s Museum grand re-opening.
The museum, geared toward kids under 8 years old, had just relocated from one location in Lancaster, OH to another.

I’d never been to the first museum, but their new one – located near River Valley Mall – is fantastic.

Continue reading “AHA! A Hands On Adventure Children’s Museum”

How I Find Time To Read

51648200-FDA3-447D-A7DC-156896472B8AEvery year, I say I’m going to “read more books”….and this year I’M DOING IT!

Yes, after not losing weight, not being nicer, not being more organized, not staying on top of laundry, not blogging more (ironic), I am actually doing something I set out to do at the beginning of this year. I wanted to read 12 books in 2018. It’s August and I’ve already blown past that goal.

How did I do it? Me, with a baby, husband, job(s), pages of excuses, and an addiction to social media?

It’s simple: I made it a priority.

Continue reading “How I Find Time To Read”

The Peanuts Celebration at Kings Island

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When I heard that Kings Island was having a Peanuts Celebration, I couldn’t wait to go with my husband and 10-month-old.

The Kings Island press release about the weeks long celebration said in part:

In addition to being able to interact with Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang in the award-winning Planet Snoopy kids’ area, during the PEANUTS™ Celebration you can find them all around in the park, for new character experiences, meet and greets, new whimsical shows, photo ops and deliciously themed treats.

This was perfect! Continue reading “The Peanuts Celebration at Kings Island”

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It’s A Great Nursery, Charlie Brown

Amanda Estep Photography

One of the rooms, I was excited to decorate was my son’s nursery. I loved the idea of having a cute little space just for him. What I quickly realized is that the space is for my husband and I too. We do a lot of diaper changes, feeding, reading, and rocking him to sleep in that room.

After much debate, we chose the Charlie Brown/Snoopy/Peanuts Gang theme because both of us love the characters and we thought it was refreshingly baby-appropriate. One of our favorite holiday activities includes watching Charlie Brown holiday movies. We can’t wait until our son is big enough to recognize the characters on TV.

When we embarked on this project, to our surprise, Charlie Brown stuff is hard to find! I’m guessing it would’ve been easier around the time The Peanuts Movie was in theaters. Right now, procuring decor for the nursery has become somewhat of a game to us and whenever we DO find something, we buy it because we feel it’s a rare occurrence.

Between things we’ve found and gifts others have purchased for us, I think we’ve got almost everything we need for the nursery.

Check it out!   Continue reading “It’s A Great Nursery, Charlie Brown”

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September 23rd

2017-09-23-eda87b861a7f925400311f0ce1e21c13Today is September 23rd. It’s my original due date. The one I got from the doctor when he confirmed my pregnancy.

My son was born on July 21st.

For weeks I struggled between being SO upset that my son was born early – thus subjected to six weeks in the NICU and the possibility of a lifetime of consequences – and being SO thankful that he is here and presumably doing very well.

Last night as I scooped my squirmy baby out of his bassinet and he snuggled against my chest, fast asleep, I decided to let it go.

All of it. Continue reading “September 23rd”

September 23rd

September 23rd. I wrote this date in my calendar nine months ago.

After two years of trying, we were finally pregnant. The IUI procedure worked. I should’ve known it would. The first one failed, but this one was different. It was New Years Day. A Sunday morning. We did the first part, went to Bob Evans, did the second part then went to church.  We were 45 minutes late, but we were there. And I remember laying my hands on my stomach and praying to God that I would get pregnant this time.

And I did.

I found out on January 16th. It was Martin Luther King day. A Monday morning. I wasn’t supposed to take the test until Tuesday, but I’m off on Mondays and I was home alone with no plans. The night before I felt cramps and I told my husband, “I think I’m about to start my period”.  The next morning, I was watching This Is Us on DVR or on Hulu, I can’t remember. But I do remember tearing up. That show will make anyone cry but this wasn’t a crying scene. The doctor told her she was pregnant…with triplets. Jack dealt with the news so perfectly, I cried.

When the show went off, I realized I hadn’t started my period yet. So I went to Walmart. I bought tampons and a pregnancy test. Optimism and pessimism in the same shopping cart.

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My hopes were high but I was realistic. They were sold out of the cheap tests, perhaps I had bought them all the month before. So I bought the two of the expensive ones. I went home, went straight into the guest bathroom, spread two tests on the counter, deposited my fluids in a cup and proceeded to test the first stick.  The instructions were somewhat confusing. I put the first test down in frustration after I realized I was inadvertently reading the instructions for the second test. I picked up the second test and did that one correctly. While the second test was in the cup, I glanced at the read out on the first. Pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the second test. Pregnant.

I left the house in a daze, headed to Meijer down the street to buy a third test, a card for my husband to tell him the news, a Baby Names Book and What to Expect When You’re Expecting book. This shopping cart was ALL optimism. When I got home, I took the third test. Pregnant.

I waited all day to tell my husband. I work in news. I’m a TV reporter and I’ve told some great stories, but this was the greatest news I ever had the pleasure of sharing.

When I finally got in to see the fertility doctor, he confirmed my pregnancy and told me my due date was September 23rd. The day after my mom’s birthday.

I knew I wanted to have my baby at OSU Wexner Medical Center. And it turned out, September 23rd was an Ohio State Football home game. They were playing UNLV. My late father’s alma mater. My Buckeye baby was going to be born at OSU the same day the University was playing his late grandfather’s alma mater. That was the beginning of expectations.

Throughout the pregnancy, I had a thousand more expectations. Lots of imagination. This dream of having a baby was coming true as I was finally pregnant. I hadn’t really considered the pregnancy part in all my praying to have a child. But once I saw “pregnant” on the stick(s), my imagination went berserk. I had it all planned out. I even knew the hairstyle I wanted when I had the baby: box braids.

I mentally planned the entire Summer leading up to September 23rd.

My baby was born July 21st. I was 30 weeks and 6 days pregnant (or 30+6 as I heard it repeated over and over while he was in the NICU).

I hadn’t planned it this way at all. I never considered I would have my baby early. I asked God why He would let this happen.

I struggled between being so upset that I didn’t carry my baby to term and being so thankful that he is okay.

My Birth Story

September 23rd. I wrote this date in my calendar nine months ago.

After two years of trying, we were finally pregnant. The IUI procedure worked. I should’ve known it would. The first one failed, but this one was different. It was New Years Day. A Sunday morning. We did the first part, went to Bob Evans, did the second part then went to church.  We were 45 minutes late, but we were there. And I remember laying my hands on my stomach and praying to God that I would get pregnant this time.

And I did.

I found out on January 16th. It was Martin Luther King day. A Monday morning. I wasn’t supposed to take the test until Tuesday, but I’m off on Mondays and I was home alone with no plans. The night before I felt cramps and I told my husband, “I think I’m about to start my period”.  The next morning, I was watching This Is Us on DVR or on Hulu, I can’t remember. But I do remember tearing up. That show will make anyone cry but this wasn’t a crying scene. The doctor told her she was pregnant…with triplets. And I cried. When the show went off I realized I hadn’t started my period yet. So I went to Walmart. I bought tampons and a pregnancy test. Optimism and pessimism in the same shopping cart. My hopes were high but I was realistic. They were sold out of the cheap tests, perhaps I had bought them all the month before. So I bought the two of the expensive ones. I went home, went straight into the guest bathroom, spread two tests on the counter, deposited my fluids in a cup and proceeded to test the first stick.  The instructions were somewhat confusing. I put the first test down in frustration after I realized I was inadvertently reading the instructions for the second test. I picked up the second test and did that one correctly. While the second test was in the cup, I glanced at the read out on the first. Pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the second test. Pregnant. I left the house in a daze, headed to Meijer down the street to buy a third test, a card for my husband to tell him the news, a Baby Names Book and What to Expect When You’re Expecting book. This shopping cart was ALL optimism. When I got home, I took the third test. Pregnant.

I waited all day to tell my husband. I work in news. I’m a TV reporter and I’ve told some great stories, but this was the greatest news I ever had the pleasure of sharing.

When I finally got in to see the fertility doctor, he confirmed my pregnancy and told me my due date was September 23rd. The day after my mom’s birthday.

I knew I wanted to have my baby at OSU Wexner Medical Center. And it turned out, September 23rd was an Ohio State Football home game. They were playing UNLV. My late father’s alma mater. My Buckeye baby was going to be born at OSU the same day the University was playing his late grandfather’s alma mater. That was the beginning of expectations.

Throughout the pregnancy, I had a thousand more expectations. Lots of imagination. This dream of having a baby was coming true as I was finally pregnant. I hadn’t really considered the pregnancy part in all my praying to have a child. But once I saw “pregnant” on the stick(s), my imagination went berserk. I had it all planned out. I even knew the hairstyle I wanted when I had the baby: box braids.

I mentally planned the entire Summer leading up to September 23rd. I planned to work until the last possible day and I wondered if my water would break at work.

Looking back, the first inkling I had that something was wrong came around 20 weeks. My anatomy scan showed a fibroid blocking where the baby was supposed to come out. The doctor told me a c-section was likely. “We’ll monitor it,” she told me. “We’ll do another scan at 28 weeks.” I could barely keep the tears in until I got to the elevator. When I got home, I cried and cried. I didn’t even know I didn’t want a c-section until that moment. C-section felt too “planned” – even for a planner like me.  I don’t want to pick a day/time to have my baby, I thought to myself.

Eight weeks later, back for another scan. Good news. Bad news. Good news: the fibroid was no longer blocking the birth canal. Bad news: I was 1 centimeter dilated. I didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound like a good thing. The doctor sent me to labor and delivery for an overnight stay and a steroid shot. Overkill, I thought. Overkill, my husband agreed.

I’ll never forget the doctor at the hospital saying, “We just want to get you to 32 weeks.” 32 weeks? I’m going to 40. “I’m not due until September 23rd.” I kept telling everyone who would listen.

I didn’t take the modified bed rest thing seriously. I was off for a few days then back to work, back in heels and back to my chaotic life.

Two weeks later, I started having contractions. I didn’t know they were contractions at first. I just knew I was in pain. Then I noticed the pain went away. Then I noticed it came back. Went away. Came back. Went away. Came back.

“We just want to get you to 32 weeks.” I can still SEE the doctor saying that to me. It’s just Braxton Hicks, I told myself and everyone else. I contracted through the morning at work, through a meeting at church, through taping an announcement video ofr my church. Finally, I decided, I need to go home and lay down. Earlier, I told a friend I was having Braxton Hicks and described my pain. Later, she told me she knew it wasn’t Braxton Hicks but didn’t want to alarm me. Instead she told me to count to see how far apart my contractions are and to call my doctor. “I’m off tomorrow,” I told her. “I don’t want to spend the night in the hospital again.”

By the time I got home, I was in excruciating pain. Only for a few minutes, then it would go away and then it would come back. Every five minutes. My family was visiting from Atlanta. I encouraged them to go to church without me. I called the midwives I was working with and told the nurse what was happening. A midwife called me back a few moments later and told me to go to the hospital. I texted my husband and told him. He was on his way back in town from a business trip. He walked through the door. I was pacing around the house. “I need to go to the hospital.” I told him.

“We just want to get you to 32 weeks.”

In my closet, my husband approached me pensively. “Do you want to bring your stuff to the hospital just in case?” I snapped, “No. I’m not having this baby this weekend, so I’m not bringing anything. I will wear this to the hospital, put on their gown, put this back on and go home.” I was crying. He let it go. I went to the hospital with nothing.

The presence of rain doesn’t depend upon whether or not you have an umbrella.

At the hospital, I wished I’d gotten a Brazilian wax. They checked me SO much. Wednesday, I contracted all night. Thursday, I got stronger medicine. My friend whom I’ve been close with since middle school had her baby a floor above me. Welcome to the world Naomi! Thursday night, I got another ultrasound. Baby looked great. Fluid still in place. Still dilated one centimeter. I got more pain meds and a Benadryl to help me sleep. I settled in for the night, happy to hear I could go home tomorrow. At midnight, my water broke.

“I think I peed on myself,” I tell the nurse as water pooled around my feet. “That’s amniotic fluid.” She responded.

At this point, my husband had joined me in the river of Denial. I can be somewhat of a know-it-all so who can blame him? “I googled it.” He said, sounding just like me. “You’ll probably be on bedrest.” He told me. I repeated this to the nurse. “I’ll be on bedrest for a couple of weeks.” She didn’t hesitate. “Honey, we’re taking you to Labor and Delivery. You’re having this baby now.”

That was July 21st.

Drugged up on Benadryl, yet realizing what was happening, I couldn’t even react. My husband called my mom who had went back to my house for the night and told her to come back to the hospital.

A doctor and a nurse came to talk to me. A specialist from the NICU came to talk to me. The midwife I had been seeing throughout my pregnancy came to talk to me. I got an epidural while still having contractions. I had a hot spot which meant more pain meds.

Just before 6am, I had my baby. On July 21st.

I was 30+6. More than two months away from September 23rd.

Sometimes I still can’t believe it.

After they layed the baby on my chest, Joe cut the cord, then the army of doctors and nurses (who I later learned were from the NICU) cleaned him up. I got one more look before they took him away.

After six tumultuous weeks in the NICU, my son finally came home on September 1st.

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7 Essentials For NICU Baby At Home

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When my son was born nearly ten weeks early, I had next to nothing prepared for his arrival. This is mainly because he came the DAY before my baby shower and I didn’t want to buy stuff before then, but also because I am basically a professional procrastinator.  Honestly, if it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done.

For once, my procrastination ended up somewhat working out in my favor because, after spending six weeks with him in the NICU, I had a much better idea of what I needed for him when he finally got to come home.

These are essentials not only for NICU babies but for those whose babies are full term as well.
[Writer’s Note: This post is not sponsored in any way. I’m just writing a blog about stuff that I’ve liked and it’s a shame I even have to include this disclaimer but blogging for fun is not what it used to be!]

Continue reading “7 Essentials For NICU Baby At Home”

Dear NICU Moms: It’s Okay To Stop Pumping

I’m a NICU mom. I quit pumping…and you can too.

When I was pregnant, several people asked me if I planned to breastfeed. My answer was always the same: “I will definitely try.”

I actually read on a blog recently someone saying they didn’t like when people say they will “try”. The writer felt that was a ridiculous statement because everyone can breastfeed.

I’m here to say, that is 100% not true.

When my son was born more than 9 weeks early, I really wanted to provide breastmilk for him because he was a “preemie”. Physically “breastfeeding” him wasn’t logistically possible as he hadn’t yet learned to swallow, suck and breathe (apparently, they learn that in the womb around 34 weeks), so he was taking all of his “feeds” through a feeding tube.

A nurse (or a lactation consultant, I really can’t remember as I was still pretty shell-shocked about having my baby early) rolled in a breast pump machine, breast pump kit, syringe and labels. She patiently demonstrated just how to use the machine. Nothing was coming out now, but she assured me my milk would “come in” in a few days. In the meantime however, I was to pump around the clock every 2-3 hours.

The next day, a lactation consultant visited my hospital room. I told her I still hadn’t gotten anything – including colostrum – so she showed me how to hand express. I was shocked when liquid slowly oozed out of my boobs! It’s really happening, I thought to myself. I figured a few drops in my syringe that day was just a precursor to the mountains of bottles I would be filling up as soon as my milk came in.

After being discharged from the hospital two days later, I went to Babies R Us and rented the exact same machine they had in the hospital.

I continued to pump around the clock and continued to get nothing. And I don’t mean the “nothing” that people say they’re getting when they’re actually getting about 2 ounces. I was literally getting NOTHING. Not even a drop.

A week in to this, I began to panic.

Because I was sitting in the NICU for 10-12 hours a day, I talked to a lot of nurses and lactation consultants. I endured the innocent “do you have any milk, Mom?” question over and over again. I wanted to scream, if I HAD milk, don’t you think I would give it to you??

The lactation consultants and nurses suggested I keep trying. “Drink water.” “Eat oatmeal.” “Do lots of skin-to-skin with your baby.” “Look at pictures and videos of him while you’re pumping.” Tried it. Tried it. Tried it. Tried it. Still nothing!

I began to up the ante. I put a heating pad across my chest. I tried harder hand expressing. I bought fenugreek pills and Yogi tea.

For all my efforts, I got one to five mls on a good day. Yes MILLILETERS. And, yes I was pumping around the clock – even waking up in the middle of the night to pump.

One night, around about 4am, I had a breakdown.

Exhausted and bone-dry, I cried.

My husband seeing my dedication to pumping and my anguish with the results suggested I stop.

“But he needs my breastmilk!” I explained through tears. Our son was trapped in a hospital, surrounded by strangers and struggling to thrive outside of the womb. All I had to do was come through on my ONE JOB: provide breastmilk.

My husband, the ever-present voice of reason even in the midst of the most trying time of our lives said simply, “He’s not getting your breastmilk anyway. You’re just putting yourself through torture.” Or something like that. I can’t really remember exactly what he said because I was crying and delirious.

The next day, I talked to my son’s neonatologist and dietician. They both assured me that he would be fine on formula, so that night, I quit pumping cold turkey. I got the best night’s sleep I’d had in weeks and with the stress of the NICU, I needed that sleep for me and my baby.

And you know what? My boobs never filled up and never felt sore. It was as though I had never tried breastfeeding at all.

At times, I still feel bad about not being able to breastfeed my baby. Stirring up that weird powder stuff sometimes causes me a twinge of pain. At least once a day, while feeding my son with a bottle, I say out loud to my husband “I wish I was breastfeeding our son”.

And like so many things I’ve had to make my peace with since my preterm labor — no baby shower, no maternity photos, no Fresh48 photos, no “big and pregnant” stage, no last ten weeks of my pregnancy, no fun “going into labor” moments — I’ve had to struggle to make my peace with the fact that I’m not a mom who breastfeeds.

Eventually, I returned the pump to the store, placed all the breastfeeding pump accessories in a box, and put away my handsfree pumping bra, maternity bras, maternity camis and sweaters and the nursing covers I had invested in. The disappointment and dejection I felt while doing this is hard to put into words. I didn’t even know I wanted to breastfeed so bad until the realization hit me that this was not an option for me.

It’s one thing to DECIDE not to breastfeed, but knowing my body failed my son (again) is tough to take.

What makes it harder are the constant (real or imagined!) reminders of all of the benefits of breastfeeding (and breast milk in general!) from boosting his immune system and going easy on his digestion system to healing his chapped lips and treating diaper rash, and I just feel defeated. [Seriously, I googled “how to treat a newborn’s dry lips” and the first result was “use your breastmilk”. I wanted to throw my phone across the room!]

In those moments, I continue to remind myself that there are millions of babies in the world and a solid percentage of them are not fed breastmilk for a myriad of reasons. That’s what formula is for: women who don’t breastfeed – either because they can’t or they don’t want to. My son will be 100% fine.

And when people ask if I’m breastfeeding, I’ll just say no and not let anyone make me feel bad about it. I gave it my best effort, failed and moved on. And you can too!

Finally Leaving the NICU!

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Six weeks ago, I left the hospital in tears after having my baby early and then leaving him behind in the NICU. Today, I am the happiest I have ever been!

After 42 days and 11 hours, 3,000 miles traveling back and forth, $184 in discounted parking, $196 in cafeteria food, probably 400 hours spent sitting at his bedside, an ocean of tears, plus watching baby after baby around us being discharged home, Alexander was finally released from the hospital today.

I am SO thankful for the prayers, the support and the skilled & caring Nationwide Children’s Hospital NICU team at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who got us to this point. God is so good!!

My baby is FINALLY home. #SeptemberToRemember ❤️

Happy Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month!

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Baby Countdown Is On! 10 Weeks

baby countdownI feel like I’ve been pregnant forever.

Mainly because I found out in January, so I’ve been pregnant the whole year! But now I’m getting into the home stretch: I have just 10 weeks left!

When I was in college, we were on an academic quarter calendar and each quarter was 10 weeks long. In some ways they seemed long, but in reality, those weeks went by in a flash.

So basically, just like I had one quarter of Psychology 101 or Journalism 133, I’ve got one more quarter of Baby Prep 101 left! And that FREAKS ME OUT! I have 10 weeks left to get ready for the baby.

I still have so much to do! And what if he comes early? I may have only 8 or 9 weeks left. Literally, only God knows.

I am so excited….and only feeling slightly overwhelmed.

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Baby Boy Nursery Ideas

Now that we know what we’re having, it’s time to start thinking about the nursery.

The previous owners of our house had a little girl and they painted her bedroom pink. We immediately decided to leave the pink in hopes that we would eventually get pregnant – and then we would have a 50/50 chance of having a girl.

Well, we’re having a BOY, so bye-bye pink room!

Our little girl theme would’ve been pink princess. I know, so cliche, but I loved the idea of pink, lace and tiaras everywhere. I hadn’t thought too much about what I would want the boy theme to be so I went to Pinterest for inspiration…and found A LOT! We narrowed it down to a few. Continue reading “Baby Boy Nursery Ideas”