catching meteorites: a photo journal for the nicu parent

At his birth, we were given the option to let him die or try to resuscitate him because he came so incredibly early. I now know that this isn’t an option offered to most parents in our shoes. Quality of life is measured by how few complications a child will have outside of the womb. Choosing life for a micropreemie was great risk to our hearts being broken, but we more than anything wanted to love him on this earth. We wanted Isaac to know that his story was important. And we wanted everyone else to know that he had existed.

I have been told on multiple occasions by friends and strangers that I am brave for sharing my story. However, I don’t feel it was out of courage that led me to share my story with Isaac.

It was out of defiance.

Shortly after Isaac was born, I realized there was nothing but clinical or linear checklists revolved around the NICU experience. While I wanted to understand what doctors were telling me about Isaac’s status, what I really wanted and needed was something to help me process what I was seeing and feeling on the day to day in the NICU. I wanted a clean and simple way to explain Isaac’s story to him one day, but also to those who had a lack of understanding of what the NICU experience is all about.

My pregnancy journal suddenly became obsolete and was a painful reminder of not only an incomplete pregnancy, but also an introduction to parenthood that was not “normal”. Instead of the comfort of seeing Isaac surrounded by sunlight and stuffed animals and loving parents, I had to witness his upbringing with machines, wires, and tubes.

This was his first home and as bleak as it was, I did not want to forget what we went through in an attempt to bring him home with us. I needed something that took my mind off of trying to meet the milestones (even though that was important to me). Instead I wanted to focus on us being present with Isaac in his world. There was nothing in the market at the time that was a NICU equivalent of a regular baby book, and if there was, it had a lot of the goal oriented prompts that I was not looking for. I wanted something that would display our story in a powerfully unique way.

So, I decided to write and design my own.

I wanted to make a book that was broad enough to address the collective path of NICU parents despite their individual circumstances, but I wanted the book to act as a thoughtful guide through a parent’s experience in the NICU.


This book is filled with not only space to take notes, note achievements, and track a NICU baby’s weekly progress, but I wrote twenty-one prompts (ten photo prompts and eleven writing prompts) to help parents gain a new perspective on their NICU experience. I wanted there to be a map of more general landmarks achieved in the NICU rather than an overwhelming checklist of milestones that often become blinders to the bigger picture of just loving and enjoying the time with one’s child. We came up with a constellation map that corresponds with a few landmarks that most families will come across, without it feeling too linear.

Right now, I am trying to decide on which cover color to go with: a midnight blue or an onyx black linen cover. I knew I didn’t want a standard vinyl binder, but something more luxe and personal. As a NICU parent, we were inundated with folders and pamphlets that felt clinical and disconnected from our story. I searched for almost two years to find the right manufacturer and finally came across the company that created Artifact Uprising’s baby book!

We had Isaac’s doctor look it over the first draft of the book, and he was ecstatic to have it in the NICU. So we started applying for grants as well as reaching out for support from family and friends, doctors and nurses, and past NICU families. We are hoping to go into production by March 15th of this year so that we can start distributing what we hope to be a blessing to many an invitation for other families to one day share their experience with those around them.

This week, I would like to invite you to give, even if it is just $5 to our GoFundMe page and ask you to consider sharing this with anyone you know, especially former NICU families! If everyone Keith and I know gives $5 and then invites the people you know to give $5, I know we could meet our goal quickly!

Thank you so much for hearing our story and for your continued support!






project layout: guest room

my sister is going to kill me for this.

i don't know how many times i have changed the layout of this room, sure that all the furniture was finally in its right spot. if it was just me moving around a queen size bed in an 11x10 foot room, i would care less about my indecision on the flow of the room. but i know my sister has changed the layout for me at least three times, keith once. so i feel horrible for having to say that it needs to be rearranged again.

this time, i have been more intentional. i measured the room and the furniture that i want in it. i scoured the internet looking for a layout tool that would help me visualize where everything needed to go. i ended up doing a free seven day trial with smart draw. it took me a bit to figure out how everything worked (i am sure they have some sort of help tool, but i was too impatient for all of that). this is what it currently looks like.

after about an hour of trying to get all the measurements right for the room, this is what i came up with.

guest room floor plan

i am not sure if this will get done before baby arrives (actually i am sure this won't get done before baby arrives),  but i am glad i sat down to do this so that i feel good about this end result. i think my biggest concern with doing this layout, was that i didn't think there would be enough room to walk around the bed. yes it will definitely be snug, but then again, its not for long term residence. now to hone in on the aesthetics. stay tuned.

Aesthetics: Nursery

I am determined to finish this room before the end of this month. with the possibility of baby coming in just three weeks because of my cerclage removal, I don’t really have a choice now. My sister has taken a break from driving all over the state, so i won’t see her until the end of the month. That means, it is taking me longer to lead this nursery out of its current war zone into a treaty of peace. Thankfully, our house church agreed to spend the last sunday of the month trying to tidy up our house, in case baby decides to come early.

anyway, while the nursery remains under construction, i thought i would share my inspiration for the space. I should have done this before my room layout post, but at the time I hadn't figured out what was going to work and what would not. the biggest question i still get is how can you decorate a nursery without knowing the gender?

really? in 2018? yes, i am judging you.

while black, white, and grey are the common defaults to most gender neutral rooms, i decided to play more with the idea of the type of vibe or environment i wanted. i like geometric shapes mixed with organic lines and materials. i enjoy indoor plants, natural woods, and woven materials. i like lounging on the floor (insert bean bag chairs from my youth).

black arm chair

i wish i could have found a chair like this, but my ikea poang rocking chair with a black leather cushion will give the same impression. i actually found the frame and one of their less attractive cushions in the as is section last year. with the help of my sister and some higher management, i was able to get the frame only and then my mother-in-law purchased the cushion for me. i highly suggest a chair that can be cleaned easily. who knows what kind of stains this baby will produce.

house plants

i love house plants. i just seem to kill them after six months. i tried to have a fiddle fig in the nursery, but i think because i purchased it while it was out in the elements, it eventually got moved outside because of so many little mites feeding off of its leaves. so far my succulents and pathos have managed to survive, but do not grow very tall, so i am looking for some snake plants that are pretty low maintenance.

bohemian nursery
shibori lounger.jpg

as far as textiles go, i have been in love with mudcloth and shibori fabric for about five or six years now, but up until recently, i couldn't find a supplier. now the cloth is everywhere and people are charging nonsense for them. i did happen to snag a mudcloth pillowcase from mackenzie bryant co. on etsy, but hope to get some floor pillows in this indigo print.

magnoliamacrame.jpg

i have been on hiatus from making macrame for almost six months because of the physical toll it would take on my body during pregnancy. however, i have been wanting to make a special piece for the nursery that presented the concept of a rainbow baby. having done something similar to this, i am excited to at least try to spend the last few weeks before this cerclage comes out trying to make something similar.

pillow fort curtains

still haven't settled on a rug yet but i will like it to stay on the lighter, less saturated side since a lot of my bigger furniture is very dark.

citzenry rug

the vibe is structured yet airy, and I get to pull in other neutrals that don't always involve the black and white. i am sure i won't be able to find or afford most of what you see here, but at least i am less restricted by one gender color. plus, there is less for me paint once the baby outgrows this room.

 

 

Shibori lounger / etsy

Rainbow macrame / magnolia

plants / dos ombre

Curtains / target

rug / the citizenry

Nursery / tuula vintage

My Pregnancy Bullet Journal

While the last seven months have been ridden with fear, guilt, discouragement and list of other things that make me the perfect candidate for depression, I knew I needed to find some simple tasks to focus on to help take my mind off the excruciating wait time.

I was basically on modified bedrest, due to the fact that I had to continually limit my activity to 30 minutes per task because of fatigue and because my body was reacting to the mild stress of standing for longer than that. That meant quitting my part-time job as a barista, and taking some vacay time away from macrame orders.

I will admit, at first I was bored out of my mind, and depression quickly set in. It was definitely a mixture of grief over losing Isaac, PPD, anxiety of this new pregnancy, and depression birthed out of isolation in being on some form of bed rest. There is really no use in pretending to be fine while buried under all of that, and I have conceded to being “overcome” as the band Live put it. I will say, it is less of me battling depression now, and  more of learning how to live with it until I can seamlessly walk out of it.

In hindsight, there are many ways in which I keep my sanity while on modified bed rest, but I will save those for future posts. Today, I wanted to share how creating my own pregnancy journal helps me at least stay afloat for the remainder of this pregnancy as I walk through my depression.

With my last pregnancy journal, I found it to be hard to document my thoughts, my day to day discoveries and tasks, as well as keeping it all organized. I wanted a birds eye view of my daily and monthly habits like water intake, vitamin intake, symptoms. What was also hard about this journal was that when Isaac was born, I suddenly had all these empty pages that no longer related to my situation and when he died, it further magnified the incompletion of my pregnancy and journey toward motherhood.

I love the customizable feature of the Bullet Journal system. Yes, I had to lay everything out myself, but when you aren’t working and are on some form of activity restriction, this method helps the time blow by fast! I got to decide what I wanted in it, how I wanted to organize it, and the best part is that I set it up once a month. Which means that God-forbid this child decides to come early, I can easily change my future layouts to fit my current situation.

There are so many tutorials on how to set up a bullet journal on youtube, but very few if any on pregnancy, so it took me a while to collect my thoughts of what I wanted in my journal. but after a few days of looking at tutorials to familiarize myself with the basic setup and making a list of what i wanted to document, i was ready to go. below i will walk through sort of the bones of everything.

table of contents

this is here so i can easily search for my collections each time i open up my journal. every time i make a new page i document it here. no other explanation needed.

bulletjournalindex

future log

my calendar year starts from the month of conception and documents the next twelve months. here i put all of my future appointments or important dates i want to remember. i will eventually migrate these to my monthly and weekly lists, but this is a great space when i don't have anywhere to place this information yet.

bulletjournalfuturelog

collections

i am breaking my journal into three sections, one for each trimester. within those sections i house my collections: categorized lists that i want to document throughout my pregnancy. this is where my thoughts stay organized as far as things for me to do, or important landmarks in my pregnancy. i come and add items to these areas rather than lists being speckled throughout my journal.

third trimester
bulletjournalcollections.JPG

monthly log

my monthly log houses several things which i have modified a few times throughout this pregnancy as i have found more efficient ways of logging. it contains my appointments and events for the month, a place for weekly medical notes, weekly log, habit trackers, and journal entries.

bulletjournalmonthlylog
bullet journal trackers

during the week, i log my activities whether pregnancy related or not, and at the end of the week i journal my thoughts about my pregnancy. i found i had a lot to say considering i am still sorting through all my grief, but i just needed one day where i process my emotions.

bullet journal weekly log

so that's the basic overview of my pregnancy bullet journal. like i said, there isn't much out there yet for pregnancy with this system in mind, so i hope it helps some crafty mama out there. If you would like to see how I set up my bujo on a monthly basis, let me know in the comment section below!


none of the items listed below were sponsored

lemome a5 dotted journal / amazon

90s themed baby shower

I cannot believe I am only a two days away from the shower! and i know that anything can happen from now until saturday, especially since i was in triage again last night for having contractions, but I am praying that I make it and have enough energy to fully enjoy myself. for now its feet up, and online shopping from here on out. anyway, today i am sharing my inspiration. I will have pictures of how how everything turned out next week!

Baby Shower Mood Board.jpg

The conversation with my friend Jeannette went a little something like this:

Me: I think I want a nineties themed baby shower.

Jeannette: Done.

No questions. Just all in. She did proceed to send me a picture of Baby Sesame Street characters to see how nineties I wanted to go. I quickly sent her my pinterest board to resolve that issue. I am not a huge fan of baby showers in general. I could barely get through my bridal and bachelorette showers without squirming from all of the attention. Opening up presents in front of guests eagerly awaiting for you to approve of their gifts over everyone else’s. Gag me with a spoon.

Since my shower fell a week after my birthday, I wanted the shower to be a tad more sophisticated with gentle nods to the nineties. I remember making tons of mixtapes with my sister as a kid, watching endless game shows on Nickelodeon and prime time television. Slap bracelets and Tiger electronics. TLC and Lauryn Hill. Keith Haring doodles and Doc Marten boots. Cropped tops and baggy bottoms. I could go on.

Most of the posts and images I researched online were how to make a kitschy 90’s themed party, which is not what i wanted. I wanted to be far more subtle than that without losing the references. If i were in the nineties planning a party, i wouldn’t decorate a party with novelty items, because they wouldn’t be novelty back then. So i just tried to remember as much as i possibly could about the nineties (early nineties because the fashion was way cooler) and give them a salute.

decor & design

The few design elements i remember of the early nineties were actually birthed in the late eighties and carried over into the nineties. I remember Keith Haring’s more kid friendly illustrations on advertisements and tv. I found an illustration of his devoted to pregnant mothers and a floating baby. I decided to use that motif for my mixtape invitations.

cassette tape invitations
source

Memphis style art was the backdrop of Saved by the Bell’s intro and a lot of the set design. Geometric patterns mixed with abstract shapes or grids. Bash Party Goods has cute options for Memphis style revival decor. I got their plates and napkins in fairly neutral colors so that they wouldn’t clash with any other decor items.

Since baby K is our rainbow baby, I wanted to make sure I had some colorful elements at the shower. I didn’t want to spend too much attention on streamers or balloons, but wanted to subtly pay tribute to this concept.

Food

Looking back on what was popular to eat back in the nineties, i am really glad my mum did not succumb to most of our requests for processed food. Still I wanted to serve some faves at the party, but almost everything that was a popular kid food was drowning in sugar.

I decided to do a grown up version of bagel bites for that something savory since I was having the shower around brunch time, and sweet pastries including my friend’s take on Christina Torsi’s cake truffles, and some mixtape shaped sugar cookies.

Also in the mix, were some mocktail recipes inspired by kid drinks popular in the nineties:
sunny d, yoohoo, and hawaiian punch. There will be a mixology station for guests to mix their drinks.

Activites

I am staying away from the more traditional baby shower games and opting for a mashup of family food meets double dare meets legends of the hidden temple since I watched these shows religiously as a kid. My dad will be the game show host (he really wanted to be apart of the shower somehow and i couldn’t say no to his adorable request plus he is not afraid to be goofy).

Finally, for the photobooth, I combed the internet looking for nineties shows promo materials, and almost all of them had the cast in front of a plain white or solid colored background. I purchased a backdrop paper roll and borrowed equipment from friends. I am not sure if I want props yet for the guests to use, but for now I will be sticking with just the backdrop.

 

Project Layout: Nursery

My main concern has been the nursery, because practically it just needs to get done. I have been “working” on this nursery ever since Isaac died. It was part of my need to complete some part of my former pregnancy. I got distracted along the way and slowly it became the isle of  unfinished projects.

 this was the nursery about a month after we buried isaac.

 this was the nursery about a month after we buried isaac.

Being pregnant with a cerclage and receiving shots of hormones that make me extra fatigued and nauseous have limited my ability to actually spend a lot of time in this room. Thankfully, my little sister offered to come down once a month on weekends to help me tackle my endless nesting list. It helps that my sister works on the design team at her local Ikea, so we took a trip to my Ikea store and she helped me pick out  a few items that would aid in organization and displaying items around the room.

Keith and I spent the previous weekend organizing the dresser, cleaning out the closet, and building the storage bench (here). My task this week has been to figure out where everything else will go. My second biggest problem area has been how to fill the wall space. I didn’t want a ton of stuff on every wall so I was going to have to be extremely intentional with what went into that room. I also wasn't trying to give this room a "baby" feel. If I was going to be spending everyday in here, this needed to feel like a retreat (I already want to be in this room over my bedroom). Here are some things I did to keep the process manageable.

the furniture layout i finally settled on after adding the bench to the nursery.

the furniture layout i finally settled on after adding the bench to the nursery.

First, I knew I wanted the main colors to be neutral (blacks, whites, beiges, and browns). I know minimalism has a tendency to be creeping on these colors lately, but I felt it anchored me and the room. And it can really give you the ability to bring natural materials into the space. All of my main furniture--crib, seating, dresser--revolved around these colors. Shortly after Isaac’s birth, I was sweetly gifted with the major items from family and people in our past and present communities. All of it happened to be Ikea so I thought, why not stick with it. I snagged a deep wine colored rug from there (seriously I could fall asleep on that rug) and slowly began to develop a theme for the room. Boho Africana (or Wakanda Forever now that I have seen Black Panther).

childrens book
circus postcards

Next, Ashante and I began categorizing all the objects in the room by color. It was easy to see what our dominant color palette was. Greens, Yellows, Blues, Oranges, and the neutrals. This included pillows, books, small decor items, frames, artwork, linens, toys. Everything that was going to be on a wall, shelf, or displayed on a piece of furniture. With everything grouped by color, I could also see the variety of textures I was working with, what I had too much of or too little of. Seriously, doing this helped my pregnancy brain so much.

wall shelf
nursery ikea crib

Lastly, my sister sketched out different layouts for each wall of the stuff I knew I wanted up. Once I decided on something, she began drilling everything into place. Window shades went up (still trying to find the perfect curtains for the main window), shelves mounted and art framed. I don’t want to dive into my decor on this post since its not quite done yet, but I am already really pleased with how far the room has come over just two days.

still have another side of the room to work on, so Keep a lookout for my progress!
what are your best tips for decorating a nursery?

Styling My Home with Domino

I have been searching for this book for about eight months since I first stumbled across it in Barnes and Noble. I didn’t remember the title. I didn’t even remember what the cover of the book looked like. I just remember sitting in Barnes and Noble trying to soak in all the helpful tips that this book had to offer.

When I started getting serious about streamlining our home style, I scoured the internet for months looking for this book. I looked at every digital preview like I was Prince Charming looking for Cinderella. With no success, I decided to stop off at a BN and just see what I could find.

Sitting coyly in the Home and Garden section, dressed in pink and floral was Domino: Your Guide to a Stylish Home. I had no idea if this foot fit the slipper, but it was the one book not dressed like all the rest. As I flipped through the pages, I was pleasantly surprised that this was what I had been looking for!

domino style guide.jpg

I had a basic understanding of aesthetics. The one room in our house that looks the most unified currently is our living room. After Isaac’s funeral, I finally got Keith to buy a new couch. Our old one was his grandfather’s and although I loved its charm, it had met its demise by a toddler who refused to wear protection while taking her potty breaks on our couch. Once the old couch was removed, I saw that our dominant color weren’t marigolds and greens, but muted blues and wines.

our old couch. may she rest in golden bliss.
the beginnings of something new

The book features a guide for each decor item such lighting, mirrors, artwork, wall paint, etc and showcases beautiful pictures of styled rooms and tips from everyday designers. So far, Domino has given me basic styling tools for my weak areas like choosing frames and mixing textures and patterns, while validating the things I do know like what shape coffee table works best with a sectional.

dominobook.jpg

I am so looking forward to working on this home once baby comes, but for now I will just work on the nursery.