Day 9….

Saturday afternoon came and we had some family that had come visit.  I was still on the magnesium drip due to my blood pressure and that meant I was still tied to the bed.  I was losing my mind not being able to see my daughter.  My nerves were shot.  I was hormonal and emotional.  It had been over 12 hours since delivery and I was about to lose it.  Thankfully my sweet husband could tell I was about to lose it and helped curb some family and give me some space.

Not long after, the nurse said she would wheel me up there on the Mag drip to see June Parker! Ahhhh!!!  I was so excited.  She was just waiting for folks to come back from breaks and we were waiting on more family to arrive.  Of course they arrived and we visited for 5-10 minutes when the time had come–I was getting to go see my daughter!

The walk (ride) to the NICU elevator took forever and I’ll never forget that first check-in at the NICU desk.  Lew was explaining the process and how everything worked and that once we got into the Unit, we’d have to stop and thoroughly wash our hands each time. I was still hooked to multiple IV’s and still in a hospital gown so Lew and our nurse helped me stand, get scrubbed up and seating without flashing anyone (as far as I know!)

We didn’t have to walk too far to nursery 5 where June was initially placed.  There was quite a bit of space between each of the spots for babies and my heart was racing as I was wheeled down this wide hallway-esque of a nursery to this plastic box–also known as an isolette–where she had spent the first almost 13 hours without her mama.

The first photo was taken at 3:38pm on Saturday, February 13th, almost 14 hours to the minute after she was born.  IMG_1362

I can’t really describe the impact of seeing her that first time.  It was overwhelming love and overwhelming terror and overwhelming questions.  Her nurse that day, Kim, was a fellow redhead and was so helpful as it was time for her care and I was able to change her diaper.  You can tell where she gets her “sweet and spicy” moniker from here.  And just how tiny she was.

And my favorite part.  Our first family photo and announcement of June’s arrival

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Happy early Valentine’s Day from our family of three to yours!!! Welcoming June Parker Cracraft-born at 1:37 am on February 13th. Weighing 2.2 lbs and 14.3 in. We are grateful for Gods provision-Mom and baby are doing great! #juneparker

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Day 8…

Day 8: 12 days to go.  Things are starting to get real here folks.  Don’t say you were not warned.  🙂 Please know that parts of our story are sad but they are not to invoke your sympathy.  This is just us being real and sharing what is far too common with parents of preemies with a NICU stay. I’m sure you may have questions–feel free to comment or message me with them.  I’m happy to share about each phase of our journey and hope that it brings some light and hope to someone’s life.

On Saturday after bits of sleep here and there and Lew going to check on June and more Facetime visits I was getting antsy.  It had been not yet 12 hours since June was born and I hadn’t laid my own eyes on her. All my expectations of childbirth, a natural labor with a doula, skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, went out the window.  Now, let’s be honest–most expectations for Mamas go out the window in the birthing experience at some level–it’s just preparation for parenthood.  But I was never expecting not to hold my child–much less see her–for hours upon hours.

Lew was out of the room when my nurse wheeled in the hospital grade breast pump, a huge plastic bag full of pump parts and a brown bucket that was something akin to what my mom used as a dishpan growing up. Our nurse (whose name I cannot remember for the life of me) explained pumping and it’s importance for a NICU baby.  She also explained that not only was she a nurse, but a lactation consultant and that she was going to help me.

So here I am, trying to figure out how to make this thing work with some stranger getting super close for comfort and get this “liquid gold” for my baby that was all so important for her development as it was one of the best things I could do for her at this time. No pressure. Sheesh.

It was then that two friends showed up at the exact same time.   They knocked on the door and the nurse seemed hesitant to let them in but I couldn’t have been more pleased to see their faces–regardless of my state.  What our nurse didn’t know is these were the friends who showed up at my doorstep the day after my Mom died with coffee and my favorite Panera bagels.  The friends who’ve been there themselves with a baby on the breast and trying to figure it out. The friends who can walk in when you are in a…compromising state…and you are just so glad to see another person that is there with a warm smile, you shed a tear and don’t think twice about what is actually happening.

At some point Lew showed back up and we continued on our merry way. This began our journey of feeding our growing girl.  Pumping round the clock 8 times a day.  Hands becoming raw from washing pump parts 8 times a day. Carting in milk from home to the NICU every single day. Crying over spilt milk. Crying over milk accidentally left in the car. Wondering if my supply would ever be normal. Wondering if I’d ever get to actually breastfeed my daughter.  So many of these cries and wonderings of my heart were answered very tenderly.

And then the day we brought June home, we also brought home a ton of milk for our freezer at home.  This is a portion of the supply pumped that wasn’t used while June was in the unit.

But feeding our daughter, worrying about her weight from then until today still remains a very sensitive spot.  And it’s a spot so many moms of preemies and moms of many babies with health issues hold very close to our hearts.  There’s something tied to your identity as a mom and as a provider on how your baby is growing.  I think that’s part of why the “Breast is best” campaign drudges up so many issues and tender spots in women when there are already so many tender spots (thanks, hormones).

And again, we are 56% of the way toward our fundraising goal for March of Dimes.  March of Dimes helps with education and prenatal education and awareness for moms to understand the importance of breastmilk in a premature baby. Your donation can help with this education.  

Day 7…

The next sequence of events is hit or miss.  I remember Lewie leaving to go to the NICU and I got several examinations before heading back to my room in Labor & Delivery.  Right as I was being wheeled back into my room I received the Facetime call from Lewie showing me our beautiful girl.  He had met with the nurse practitioner on call who had admitted her and asked a lot of questions about our family–what our jobs were, if we were married, where we were from, etc.

The staff at the NICU is amazing and already had a name card for her that was at the end of her isolette (this is after they added her first and middle name).

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She was sleeping and very calm.  We showed this to her tonight at dinner and she just smiled and kept saying baby.  Our sweet and spicy girl.

I was still on a magnesium drip that night well into the next day so I couldn’t leave to go see her which was one of the most painful things and still one of the most heartbreaking memories. Not being able to even lay eyes on my daughter for quite some time was incredibly, incredibly difficult.

 

Day 6…

After June Parker was taken up to NICU and I was sewn up and taken into post-op, I saw Lew spring into caretaker extraordinaire. I wasn’t surprised, as I’d literally seen this for the first 9 years of our life together. The minute the nurses confirmed I was stable, he wanted to go up to be with June. He didn’t want her to be alone.

This was a decision that we never imagined having to make after labor & delivery. We knew that even in a “typical” birth scenario, we wanted it to be just us in the room during labor but now it was 2am and there was no one there with us. This was just the first of many decisions as a parent you must make. Marriage and parenting is the most sacrificial love one can show toward another person. It shines a light on just how selfish as humans we can be. And if I’m being honest (which is the entire point of sharing our story)–of course I didn’t want her to be alone, but there was a part of me that was still scared about my own health and I didn’t want to be alone either.

Thank goodness Lew had the mindfulness to grab both our cell phones as we went into the OR so he left with a nurse who took him up to the NICU and handed me my phone and as I was being wheeled back into my room in labor and delivery, I got the best Facetime call ever….

Moral of the story–marry someone who is willing to leave you in order to care for the tiny, the broken, the vulnerable. That is true love.

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Day 5…

So funny story about my time on the operating table. Once our baby girl arrived, we agreed that our name could not be more fitting–June Parker. June in honor of my mother’s birth month and Parker in honor of of Lew’s best friend Michael Parker. They both fought a lot in their lives and our little babe had already proven she had too. After some intervention to ensure June Parker was breathing okay and didn’t need to be intubated, Lew was invited over to see her as they continued working on her (and where he snapped the pic I shared yesterday–which we’ve not shared publicly before).

After returning to my side, Dr. C continued to work on me and I started to feel a little pressure. Nothing more than what felt like someone pushing on my stomach from time to time. I turned to my right and asked the anesthesiologist if it was true that Redheads needed more drugs for numbing. He asked if I was okay and feeling anything and I said just some pressure. He looked over at Lew (who as a nurse was always intrigued by these conversations as well) and said, “well, I think that’s an old wives tale, however, Ketamine is a derivative of PCP, so I think you should start feeling better soon.” To which at that point, my entire body relaxed. 

Someone asked about my smile in the last photo. I can’t quite pin how and why other than I knew I was a mother. My expectations had been thrashed, but I still had a daughter. One that I could not wait to meet. This was my first glance of her…

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Day 4…

What are you having for dinner tonight? It’s been a crazy week so I grabbed a Little Ceasar’s and Breadsticks on the way home on Friday. Less than $10 #winning.

Faith–why are you talking about your dinner plans? Stay with me…let’s continue our story.

So Lew was changing into scrubs while I was being wheeled to the OR. I thank God Every. Single. Day, my OB Dr. Cunningham was on call that weekend. We were moving quick and they had planned to do the Epidural in the Room with me leaning on Lew, but there were lots of C-sections that night and so we needed to get to the OR stat to ensure the health of me and babe. Lew was still changing when it was time for the Epidural so Dr. C had me lean into her and pretend she was Lew while the Anesthesiologist gave the Epi. We had met him on Friday night. Part of procedure when they come down to introduce themselves. He said he knew when leaving he’d be seeing us again.

The C-section began and I had Lew on one side and the Anesthesiologist on the other. It was so weird to not feel what was happening but hear it. I could barely see Dr. C’s head on brief occasion. Lew did not let go of my hand–talking me through calmly trying to somewhat distract me from being fearful but reminding me how excited we were to become parents and how proud he was of me. We kept reviewing the names we had settled on in that cabin in the mountains of TN a few weeks prior. We had a girl name, but still uncertain on a boy. We never imagined becoming parents 9 weeks early, but here we were. I actually got a bit excited on the table.

I knew we were getting close and all of a sudden, I felt some tugging and then heard Dr. Cunningham say, “someone better get this girl a pizza!”

Girl. We had a girl. A 2 lb. 2 oz baby girl.

So….that pizza we had on Friday. $10. I could have easily eaten some leftovers from home tonight and donated that to March of Dimes. Will you consider giving your Pizza budget for next week? A few $10 donations could REALLY make a difference! 

www.marchforbabies.org/juneparker

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Day 3…

After being admitted and trying to get some sleep the first night in the hospital with no ear plugs for me and Lew sleeping in the guest chair, we woke up Friday for an ultrasound. I was NPO so no food or drink. Our tech was the same one who had performed the 20 week ultrasound so we were comforted by that. Lew was being the rockstar that he is and trying to keep the mood light. However, it didn’t take long that she became quiet. “Babe is much smaller than we would like. 2 pounds or so. A 31 week baby should be well over 3 pounds.” My heart raced as my stomach dropped to the ground. What if it wasn’t the car accident? What if I drank too much caffeine? Did something I shouldn’t before knowing I was pregnant? Took Advil instead of Tylenol one day by mistake?

Lew and I talked and prayed and I put on a worship station on Spotify while Lew took a moment to get some food. He never once ate in front of me while I was NPO. While he was gone and I was trying to relax and put aside the headache I felt coming on, our nurse came over to talk to me. I had wanted a natural birth–no medication or epidural. That would not be possible as it would be too traumatic for babe. She reassured me that the Docs were amazing and knowing exactly when was the right time to take babe–not a minute too soon or too late. However, my expectations were being shattered. I was having mini contractions and babe’s heart rate was dropping each time. I didn’t even notice at first–I never even felt them. But then I would notice as a slew of nurses would come in to check on me and babe every time.

At 11am, I was given the first of two steroid shots to help babe’s lungs develop so that whenever we did deliver via C-section, the lungs would be strong and hopefully we could avoid a ventilator.

I had a few visitors throughout that day. Life long friends who brought me hair-ties, chapstick, a head massager and conversation. Balm to my soul. I was put on a magnesium drip to help to slow down the contractions and everything else. I didn’t get out of bed. We settled in for bed early–since I couldn’t eat or drink and we didn’t have much with us. My head was throbbing by this point so I had a washcloth across my eyes, ear plugs in (thanks to a gift from friends) and an oxygen mask on my face as they wanted me to get extra overnight.
At 11pm, I was awakened by nurses that Dr. C wanted to go ahead and give the second steroid shot. I was confused, but I knew instantly that things weren’t looking good as it had only been 12 hours, not 24.

I was scared. I really wanted my Mom. And I knew that she was with me in spirit, but I was still scared. Lew rushed over and didn’t let go of my hands until he was in scrubs. Not the ones he wore to work, but the ones for the Operating Room…

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Day 2…

How did we get here? So that car accident on Christmas day did some serious damage to the umbilical cord. While the placenta was in tact and all was well after having the Dr. Hansen (head of department and high-risk OB–grateful she was on call!) examine me in Triage at UK right after the accident, my blood pressure was still a tad elevated.

I did a 24 hour test of my urine to be screened for pre-eclampsia and it came back normal. A week later I had a follow up with my amazing OB-Dr. Cunningham. It was a Thursday. I had coffee with a fellow expecting friend and coworker Sarah that morning and then lunch with my BFF Cherlynn who showed me my baby shower invites. Lew had come in so we could go to our OB appointment, then dinner and our parenting class. Date night–baby style.

I went in and my BP was 172/110. I was immediately sent to Triage for overnight observation. I remember Dr. C saying–you’re fine–babies are born all the time at 31 weeks. I had not packed a bag. I didn’t have a toothbrush. Once we arrived at Triage, I was terrified as they did all this paperwork to admit me in case baby came early. We hadn’t found out the sex of the baby and I was overcome with so many emotions. So much was unknown and uncertain.

Thankfully we had just returned from our Babymoon the week before and settled on a girl name. Little did we know we would be glad we did…31824290_10100136474686943_4992132701088645120_n

Our Story–20 day countdown to March for Babies

I’ve often thought how I’ve not shared a lot of the details of our story with June Parker and all that occurred leading up to, during and after her birth at 31 weeks and 58 day stay in the NICU at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

I’ve often thought about sharing. I’ve read birth stories of my friends and wanted to share, but I never could. Maybe part of me was nervous to put all of my brokenness on display.  Perhaps some of it was not wanting to seem as if we were wanting attention knowing that our story ended so much more favorably than some do. I also wasn’t ready. There is a lot of grief, trauma and PTSD that can occur in situations like ours and I have been healing through that over the past two years.

But now it’s time.  I want to share our story of hope and courage and grit with others as a reminder and beacon of light.  I pray that our willingness to be open will shed some light on what might be going on behind closed doors if you know of someone who has an extended NICU stay and has dealt with the follow up of a premature infant.

We are excited to lead Team JPC at the Greater Bluegrass March for Babies on May 20th.  We are currently have met about 52% of our fundraising goal and would love you to consider donating.

I’m sharing daily on our fundraising page on Facebook as well as Instagram stories, but decided to share here as well so that I’ll have a documented account of our journey.

I’m excited to share our story with you and hope you will hold it with tenderness and share it with someone who may need our words. 50898397-E7F3-48E8-97FF-DB5DF30FE6EB