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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.

hospital bag haul

Some weeks ago, while at my obgyn appointment, my doctor and i were talking about how close i was getting to the end. I mentioned how i was just now starting to back my hospital bag given the fact that my ditch the stitch day was in five weeks. She replied, “yes, girl. once the cerclage comes out, anything can happen.”

Eeek.

While it seemed so far away at the time, i knew that keith and i would blow through our weekends like it was black jack. After two trips to triage that left us uncertain if we would be coming back home the same night, I needed to get myself organized. That meant finally allowing myself to sink into the reality that I needed to start packing my hospital bag. Currently, I am part of an incompetent cervix group on facebook, and i found that most women who suffered from this condition multiple times said that they have had their bags packed since week twenty.

Clearly i was more optimistic of my chances than i originally thought.

I, or rather keith got me this cute weekender bag from target’s new line, universal thread. It is big enough for labor and deliver gear as well as going home gear. I picked up a 6 piece luggage organizer off of amazon, so that if i asked keith for something he could easily find it without destroying the order of my contents.

Keeping it pretty basic, i used the largest organizer for my going home outfit and shoes, nursing bra, nigh gown, flip flops, and a pair of socks. The disposable underwear they supply at the hospital works for me, so I didn't pack any. I topped it off with a small toiletries bag and two of the laundry bag pouches, a small one for my electronic cords, and the other for my dirty clothes. That's it.

Baby K's diaper bag I got as shower gift from Skip Hop. In it I used the smallest organizer for baby clothes, swaddle, isaac's receiving blanket, and lanolin (because the lactation specialist failed to mention how vital this could be when breastfeeding; I was hurting for days while pumping for isaac). I also stuffed by iPad, camera, and a folder with copies of insurance and birth plan in them.

Thankfully, we live less than ten minutes from our hospital, so that is why i am able to keep things pretty minimal. For those of you who have experienced a full term pregnancy, is there anything i am missing? Anything i can do without?


Universal thread weekender bag / target
M-jump luggage storage bags / amazon
Universal thread sandals / target
Embroidered kimono / cato
Universal thread dress / target
Gilligan & O’Malley nightgown / target
iloveSIA nursing bras / amazon
SkipHop leather diaper bag in Caramel / target

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