My favorite items for baby #2

We are in that phase of life where many friends have recently had a baby, or are expecting a baby. Preparing for the second baby is in many ways easier, because you have the essential baby gear and feel like you kind of know to expect. However that second baby can feel like exponentially more work since you have a toddler to chase around (definitely not a linear relationship). I thought I’d share some items we found to be the most helpful during the transition from one child to two.

baby2items

1. Nursery camera – we use this in lieu of a video baby monitor. We have a baby monitor we use for sound and temperature, then we use this Foscam to see what they are up to in their cribs. There’s an app you download onto your smartphone and can access from anywhere. Of course, we use it a lot at home, but it’s also nice to be able to see if they are napping while we are at work.

2. Baby Carrier – two words: hands free. Grocery shopping, family walks, playing at the park, getting through the airport, etc. I like the Boba 4G because it is super comfy, comes with an infant insert and sunshade, has handy pockets, and even has a little strap that snaps to secure your diaper ba

3.  Backpack diaper bag – because you will need both arms for wrangling infant car seats, holding toddler’s hand, etc. Bonus points for one that’s not ugly. I used to clip my diaper bag onto the cart/stroller, but found with a sit and stand stroller (see #6 below) that the diaper bag would hit Noah in the face if I clipped it on the handlebar. So having a bag that could convert to a backpack became a must. I love this Petunia Pickle Bottom bag more than words can say. It doesn’t show dirt, has a pretty quilted texture, and holds a ton of stuff. The backpack straps slip inside a pocket when not in use so it just looks like a cute tote bag. It stands up by itself when you set it down. I could go on and on.

4. Baby swing – Because you won’t have the time or energy to carry baby #2 around all hours of the day. A swing will free up your arms (see a theme here?). We would swaddle Harper and put her in the swing with a pacifier when she would get fussy. It usually helped her fall asleep, and we would then turn it off to save batteries and also give her more restful sleep. Lifesaver.

5.  Sit ‘n Stand stroller – this Joovy stroller is the lightest double stroller on the market. It has a Universal car seat adapter so you can plop the infant car seat right in it. Your older child will love being able to sit, stand, and hop on and off when they want. The back bench also converts to a seat if you just want a tandem double stroller. When the baby gets older you can snap on the snack tray in place of the car seat adapter. The huge canopy  and parent console are also convenient. Not to mention it’s also a total bargain for a double stroller.

6. White noise machine – I could quote Happiest Baby on the Block and talk about the benefits of white noise to recreate the womb for a newborn, but the reality is you need to mask noise while baby sleeps. This isn’t always easy when you have a toddler running wild through the house. The Dohme white sound machine is nice because instead of playing a recording on a loop, it just sounds like a fan. You can adjust it to be louder or softer.

Honorable mentions: We have used this sleep book as a guide with both kids, who now both nap well and sleep soundly at night (*knock on wood*). I also got good use out of my nursing cover since we were out and about a lot more with the second baby. And I know the Boppy pillow makes it onto every baby gear list out there, but for good reason. What can’t you use that thing for?

I hope this list can be of some use to mamas out there expecting their second baby. And for mamas of more than one I’d love to hear: what items you found most helpful?

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Preemie essentials (for bringing home baby)

Bringing home your preemie is exciting but nerve-wracking. After spending all that time watching the NICU monitors alerting every episode of bradycardia and apnea, you feel a bit anxious about “unhooking” your baby. The important thing I kept reminding myself was that they would not be sending my baby home if she wasn’t fully capable of breathing by herself and regulating her own heartbeat. Here are some of the things we found most helpful in the first weeks at home with Harper.

preemie essentials top ten must have items1. I mentioned Dr. Brown’s bottles in my NICU essentials post. It was what our nurses recommended for reducing reflux, and Harper never did have an issue with reflux or spitting up. 4oz bottles will be plenty big in the beginning. Harper started on a preemie nipple when she was first learning to take a bottle, but by the time she was discharged she had graduated to a level 1 nipple..

2. You will likely need to fortify bottles if you had a preemie, even if you are breastfeeding. We used Similac Neosure (there is also Enfamil or whatever your doctor recommends).

3. A multivitamin with iron was recommended to us by our NICU docs and pediatrician. Preemies don’t have enough stores of certain vitamins and minerals like a full term infant, and therefore need a daily multivitamin.

4. Dr. Brown bottle warmer. This is my absolute favorite bottle warmer. It’s digital, which makes it super easy to set an accurate time to warm different volumes of milk. We’ve tried the Munchkin brand as well, but it doesn’t compare to this one.

5. Microwave sterilizer – so awesome and easy to use. We use it to sterilize bottles, pump parts, pacifiers, teething toys, etc. Keeping germs at bay is essential with a preemie, especially in those early weeks at home.

6. Angelcare monitor. Honestly any baby monitor will do, but due to the aforementioned apprehension we wanted this one to alert us if she were to stop breathing.

7. Breastmilk storage bags. If you are breastfeeding, it may take quite some time for your preemie to catch up to your supply. This means you will need to freeze and store a lot of milk. My favorite are the Lansinoh because they freeze relatively flat. (I found the Medela bags to be bulky, even after removing all the air.) The thinner, flatter Lansinoh bags stacked well in a drawer (a shoe box also works well) in the freezer. I put my newest milk in the back which makes it easy to take the older milk from the front.

8. Hand sanitizer. Baby is leaving the safety bubble of the NICU, and entering the real world. It’s ok to ask well meaning friends and family to sanitize their hands before touching or holding your babe. They know what you’ve been through and they won’t be offended.

9. Preemie sized diapers. Our developmental therapists said it was important to have the appropriate size diaper so you don’t spread their hip bones. For many preemies being discharged, even newborn diapers may be too big.

10. Swaddleme infant wrap. Preemies get used to being swaddled in the NICU to give them that snug feeling of being in the womb. A SwaddleMe or Halo sleep sack works well.  We preferred the SwaddleMe in the warmer summer months because it was thinner cotton and didn’t seem quite as warm. They also run a little small, so Harper fit well in the small/medium size even though she was only 6.5lbs when we brought her home.

Other thoughts:
There were a lot of doctor’s appointments in the early weeks at home. Because Harper came home on oxygen, it was a bit bulky lugging around her oxygen tank, a diaper bag, and car seat. Having a stroller that the car seat snaps into made it easier to get from the car to the doctor’s office (especially with a toddler also in tow). Also, people love babies. Rightly so – they are precious! I never thought I’d be that mom that didn’t want people touching her baby, but with a preemie susceptible to germs, you just can’t be too careful. I found a car seat canopy to be helpful in discouraging any unwanted contact, and as an added bonus, shielding Harper from unexpected coughs and sneezes. Before bringing Harper home I also stocked up on saline spray, mylecon, and baby Tylenol in addition to the other baby hygiene essentials.

I felt anything but prepared to care for my sweet baby girl without the aid of our wonderful nurses and doctors. However, we made it through the transition (by the grace of God!), and each week got a little easier. My goal is not to give advice, but to share our experience in hopes that it may be helpful. I was certainly grateful to everyone who shared their NICU story with us during this time!

* You can find my NICU essentials post here.

NICU essentials

Having a baby in the NICU was something we were not at all prepared for. I’ve been approached by friends with loved ones in similar situations and asked if there were any items I found useful while Harper was in the hospital. I rounded up the things I thought were helpful to serve as a reference. Having a baby in the NICU is tough, but having these things can at least make you feel a bit more comfortable during this time.

NICU top ten essentials must haves

1. It was several weeks before Harper was able to start breastfeeding, and even then she didn’t take much milk. The first thing I did after being discharged from the hospital (besides going to see my baby girl) was rent a hospital grade pump. It was recommended by my lactation consultant to establish and keep up my supply while exclusively pumping. I used a Medela Symphony. They had some available for use at the hospital, but I needed one to keep at home as well. I already owned a Medela Pump in Style, which I kept in Harper’s cubicle at the hospital to make pumping a little more convenient (that way I didn’t need to worry if all the hospital pumps were in use). The hospital where I delivered and the NICU both supplied me with extra pump accessories. This is so important because it cuts back on how many times you have to wash and sterilize the pump parts.

2. Since I was hooking myself up to my pump every few hours, making it as easy as possible was imperative (for my sanity). By using this Easy Expressions bustier, I was able to use my hands to surf the web, check my social media, read, write thank yous, etc. Being able to do something to pass the time made pumping *slightly* more palatable. By the way, I got mine in white so I could bleach the milk stains out of it.

3. Harper didn’t start bottle feeding until about the last week she was there, and the NICU provided her first bottle. However, they recommended Dr. Brown’s bottles with a preemie flow nipple. Preemies are more prone to reflux, and Dr. Brown’s bottles are good for reducing that as much as possible. We had used Avent bottles with Noah (and use them now with Harper), but in the beginning, the Dr. Browns bottle were great. Even if you plan on exclusively feeding your baby breastmilk, you will still need to fortify some of the breastmilk with formula and give it by bottle.

4. A cooler bag with an ice pack is a must-have for transporting breastmilk from home to the hospital. The NICU provided a decent-sized Medela one, but having a cute one makes it a little more enjoyable, plus it can double as a lunchbag or daycare bottle bag later. As far as milk storage goes, the NICU provided me with small plastic bottles called snappies to store my milk in, along with labels to record the date and time. Preemies don’t need much milk compared to what you are pumping, so make use of the NICU’s freezer to store it. I ended up donating quite a bit of mine to Mother’s Milk Bank since there was no way Harper could use it all before it expired.

5. Sterilizing pump parts is a must. I quickly learned how important being sanitary was to protect a vulnerable preemie from germs and sickness. I washed and sterilized my pump parts after every use. At home I used my Avent microwave steam sterilizer (super easy to use), but when on the go I used a Medela microwave steam bag. The NICU provided a couple of the Medela bags, and they are reusable up to 20 times.

6. I checked out several books about preemies from my local library, and found The Preemie Primer to be the most helpful one. The author, Jennifer Gunter, is an OB-GYN who delivered her triplets at 22 and 26 weeks, and gives a lot of insight to the healthcare system and explains a lot about the health and development of a preemie.

7. Between the frequent pumping, practicing nursing, and the kangaroo care, being comfortable is a must. These Basic Stella nursing bras are so comfy, and easy to slip on and off for pumping. These Be Maternity camisoles from Target were awesome for kangaroo care. I would actually lay Harper on my chest and then pull the camisole over her to keep her warm and snug. As an added bonus, they are really smooth to the touch, which made infant massage a lot easier during her developmental therapy sessions.. I had three from my maternity wardrobe, and always kept one at the hospital.

8. A journal or notebook was handy to have. I kept a daily log of Harper’s progress, including weight gain and other milestones. I also used it to jot down other thoughts and record her birth story while it was still fresh in my memory.

9. It was awhile before Harper could wear preemie clothing. They had little kimono style jackets they would put on her. This was due in part to her small size and also because she had to have a stable temperature before she could wear clothes. The NICU had a lot of preemie outfits, but I also brought a few from home because I was excited to dress my little girl. Ideally the clothing should have snaps and open feet to accommodate all the leads and the pulse-ox on baby’s foot. I also didn’t like slipping anything over her head because we had to remove her oxygen cannula each time. Hats help keep baby warm (plus they’re super cute). Toward the end of Harper’s stay they started using sleep sacks instead of all the NICU bedding. I got Harper a preemie sized Halo swaddle sleep sack to use at home. Swaddling helps give preemies containment that makes them feel safe, and keeps their limbs in a more flexed position at midline, like they would have been in utero.

10. Staying hydrated is a must when nursing, and the NICU only allowed closed/covered drink containers. They also had an ice and water machine, which I made good use of, but I would take my favorite cocktail of ginger ale and cranberry juice in an insulated tumbler.

I’ll discuss some other points worth considering as well. Before you can bring baby home, you will need to have an appropriate car seat. If your baby is very small, you may need to buy one with a very small weight limit. We already had a Graco Snugride 35 car seat that we used for Noah (accommodating 5-35lbs). Fortunately Harper fit in it just fine and passed her car seat challenge (90 minutes in the car seat with stable oxygen and heart rate)  – she was about 6.5 lbs when she came home, but they send babies home much smaller than that. For extremely little babies you may need to get a special car bed.

If your baby is born during flu season, be sure to inquire about Synagis shots to protect against RSV. They may be covered by insurance depending on birthweight and other risk factors. Also ask your hospital social worker about Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is a government program that provides assistance to some at risk babies. They will send you a monthly check while your baby is in the hospital, but the biggest benefit is that if your baby qualifies for SSI, then he/she may also get Medicaid benefits, depending on what state you’re in (which can help reduce costs tremendously even if you have private insurance). Also ask your social worker if your baby qualifies for the Early Intervention program. This is a free program for at risk babies through age three which will provide access to occupational therapists, physical/developmental therapists, and other professionals.

Other practical points to consider: having meals prepared for you, childcare (if there are older siblings) while you are at the hospital, professional house cleaning service, car detailing service, are all extremely helpful. Gift cards to restaurants nearby the hospital also came in handy. Don’t be afraid to accept help when people offer, as difficult as it may be to swallow your pride.

If you are going to have a lengthy stay, some pictures or simple decorations around the baby’s cubicle can add a personal touch and make it feel less sterile. Our nurses did a great job of making cute little signs with Harper’s handprints and footprints. I also kept a few granola bars in my bag along with my wallet, because you never know when you will become ravenously hungry or if you may need to stay at the hospital longer than anticipated. Usually a snack would get me by, but I ate my fair share of meals in the cafeteria there as well.

I hope this is useful advice for anyone going through a NICU experience or who has a loved one in that situation. Please don’t hesitate to comment or contact me if you have any other questions! I’m working on another post to share the most helpful items we had in the early days at home with Harper.

* Update: You can find my Preemie essentials post here.

Harper’s nursery reveal

I have finally finished Harper’s room, six months after her arrival and three months after her due date. I mentioned before that this nursery represented so much more to me than just a place for Harper to sleep. Nothing about Harper’s premature birth was the exciting, blissful experience I had anticipated when we found out we were welcoming a second child. After going into labor and unexpectedly delivering at 27 weeks, life was a bit chaotic. Creating a beautiful nursery became the one thing I felt could still turn out as planned. After visiting my baby girl in the NICU, I would come home and paint (and paint, and paint), plan, and work on things to create a lovely room for her to come home to. It was my therapy. But enough with the dramatic introduction. Let’s get to the pictures.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nurserysuddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

It took me forever to decide on colors for the nursery, but once I came across this fabric and this inspiration room on Pinterest, I fell in love. The crib skirt fabric is Caitlin Wilson’s Fleur Chinoise, and it set the tone for the whole room. I custom-ordered the crib skirt, changing pad cover, and pillow cover from Sally Jensen Interiors on Etsy.

The wall colors are Benjamin Moore Classic Gray and Dove White. Painting the stripes was a little daunting on our textured walls, but I followed this tutorial I found on Pinterest and it turned out great! My best friend Amanda was a huge help for this project.

The crib was a Craigslist find. Noah was still using his crib, and didn’t seem close to being ready for a big boy bed yet. (In fact, he still loves his crib!) I didn’t want to drop hundreds of dollars on another crib, but knew I wanted a Jenny Lind style. After a few weeks of hunting, I found this one for a steal on Craigslist. It was a dark wood finish, and I painted it white.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

The Harper sign over the crib was a baby gift from my parents. It came as unfinished plywood, so I painted the edges a shimmery champagne color with Martha Stewart craft paint and painted the front mint green with leftover paint from the dresser.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

A small table next to the crib holds a humidifier and the baby monitor. It was an espresso wood finish, and I repainted it white and gave the legs that gold-dipped style using the same champagne craft paint I used on the sign.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

The dresser was also found on Craigslist. I knew I wanted a French Provincial style and it took me about a month to find one that was the right size and in my price range. It came in a beige and gold color, so I painted it with Olympic’s Sweet Pea to tie it in with the crib skirt (update: I posted the tutorial here). The hardware is original, and I left it untouched. The mirror was a clearance find at TJ Maxx a few years ago. It had black distressed edges, so I painted it white. The changing pad cover was custom ordered on Etsy. The rocking horse to the right of the dresser was a $3 garage sale find. It was wood and fairly beat up. My mom repainted it white and mint.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nurserysuddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

Vintage looking wall hooks are a fun way to display some of Harper’s adorable outfits. I have to admit that shopping for baby girl clothing is so much fun! The framed typewriter print says “You’re just my type,” and the other one says “And the child grew and became strong in spirit.”

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

I wanted a capiz shell chandelier from West Elm, but it was a bit pricey for me. I found one on Amazon that looked similar but fit the space better with smaller dimensions. The upholstered rocking chair is from Walmart. It used to be in Noah’s room where it had a denim slipcover. I re-slipcovered it in beige to stick with the color scheme. It has been used for many nursing sessions and bedtime stories, and is sure to see many more. The personalized pink chevron blanket was a gift from Blake’s coworkers. It has Harper’s first and middle name embroidered on it. The side table was painted white and gold and holds a few BabyLit books. I have to admit that Harper is still sleeping in her swing or Pack ‘n Play in our room for now, so once she moves up here I will put her white noise machine on this table.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

Wall shelves feature a few accessories. The flowers add a pop of color. The alarm clock is cute, but functional, since it is the only clock in the room. I painted a gold dipped paper machet letter H. The sheep stuffed animal was a gift from a friend that somehow ended up in Harper’s NICU cubicle. That little sheep stayed in the hospital with her until she was discharged. It holds a special significance now. The print says, “Being yourself is the prettiest thing you can be.”

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nurserysuddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nurseryI saw this closet on Pinterest and loved the design. I drafted up a similar design, and my dad brought it to life by building the shelves and installing the clothing rods. I removed the sliding doors and replaced them with curtains. It makes it feel more like a boutique and less like a closet with all Harper’s cute clothes and accessories on display.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nurseryThe top shelf has a glass canister full of Harper’s headbands, some board books, and a lamb that was given to Noah by Blake’s parents. the second shelf displays Harper’s birth announcement and a favorite pair of baby shoes. The mommy penguin wearing her baby penguin in her pouch is reminiscent of all the hours of kangaroo care (skin-to-skin time) that Harper got in the hospital. I would literally wear her inside my stretchy camisoles for hours at a time. I felt very much like an actual kangaroo.

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

And what would a nursery be without a precious baby?

suddenlyinspired.com || harper's nursery

There are a few finishing touches I’d like to add to the room. I’m thinking of adding some pom pom trim (white? mint? hot pink?) to the window and closet curtains as well as a mobile over the changing table. We also need to install a Foscam to spy on Harper. Overall though, I am very happy with how the room turned out. I just feel so grateful for the nursery and the healthy baby girl who gets to sleep in it.

Source List

Paint colors: Benjamin Moore Classic Gray and Dove White
Jenny Lind Crib: Craigslist (similar here)
Harper sign over crib: Etsy (kygracedesigns, sweetheart script font)
Crib skirt, pillow, and changing pad cover: Etsy (Sally Jensen Interiors)
Rocking chair and slipcover: Walmart (also found on Amazon) (formerly in Noah’s nursery)
Pink chevron blanket: Pottery Barn Kids
White ruffle pillow: Target
Curtains for window and closet: Ikea Lenda style
Faux sheepskin rug: Home Decorator’s Collection (bought on discount from Amazon)
French Provincial dresser: Craigslist (painted Olympic’s Sweet Pea)
Round mirror over dresser: TJ Maxx clearance a few years ago, painted white
Rocking horse: garage sale find, repainted
Picture frames: all from Ikea
Art work: found here, here, and here
Wall Shelves: Target
Alarm clock: Amazon
White baskets: Target (Room Essentials Y-weave style)
White wall hooks: Etsy (DiamondInTheRust)
Mint flower pot/vase: Ikea
Flowers: Michaels
BabyLit Books: Amazon
Side tables: From a set of three nesting tables on clearance at Lowes a few years ago, painted white and metallic champagne (with Martha Stewart craft paint)
Capiz shell chandelier: Amazon

Harper’s birth story

On February 21st I was 27 weeks, 3 days pregnant. It had been a blissfully easy, healthy pregnancy. No morning sickness. Good energy levels. My OB sung my praises for eating right and keeping up with my regular exercise routine. I was truly enjoying being pregnant this second time around. I woke up that morning around 5am concerned that I hadn’t felt the baby move all night. I started counting kicks, and finally felt a series of kicks from 6-6:30am. I dismissed my concern as being a neurotic pregnant woman, and got up and got ready for work.

We had a lunch meeting with one of our contact lens reps that day. At lunch I started noticing a lack of fetal movement again. I called my OB’s office and was seen that afternoon at 3:15pm. They performed a fetal non-stress test. Everything came out normal. The baby was moving again, I wasn’t having any contractions, and I was due back for my 28 week visit in five days. Not much could happen before then, right? Wrong.

That evening at 7:04pm I started having contractions. They were brief at first, but each contraction became progressively longer and more intense. They started happening every 5 minutes. Then they were every 3. After about 20 minutes, I called my OB’s office again and spoke to the doctor on call. She said it was “probably nothing” but she would go ahead and meet me at the hospital where they would likely give me something to “calm my uterus down.” Blake was concerned. I rarely complain about how I feel, so he knew something was up. We called our neighbor to come stay with Noah (who was already in bed) and Blake drove me to Parker Adventist Hospital. The trip there only took about 15 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. My contractions were coming every few minutes and getting stronger and more intense. Something was wrong. This wasn’t normal, and we were both nervous.We got to the hospital just before 8pm. Blake dropped me off at the door, and I checked in while he parked the car. I was shown to a triage room to gown up and leave a urine sample. By the time I got out of the bathroom Blake was already in the room waiting. His belt had just broken and he was trying to see if he could fix it. He couldn’t.

A few minutes later, a nurse came in. She wanted to swab my cervix to do a fetal fibronectin lab. She went to swab my cervix, but couldn’t find it. She hustled out of the room, and the OB came in with her a few moments later. The OB took a look and then her expression turned grim. “Oh, man. You’re already 7cm dilated,” she said. “Can you stop the labor?” I asked. “We’ll do what we can to slow it down,” she assured me. I tried to hold back tears. “Will my baby be ok?” The OB looked uncertain and said, “We’re going to do what we can to help.” This was not the answer I wanted to hear. My thoughts quickly turned to what the future was going to look like for our family. Would we be able to handle the loss of this child? And if this baby lived, would she be normal? Visions of a special needs child in a wheelchair flashed through my mind. “Oh God. Please let everything be ok,” I prayed silently but fervently. When I could finally bring myself to look at Blake, it broke my heart. His face was white. He looked as frightened as I felt. “Call my mom. Ask her to pray,” I told him.

From that point forward it was a blur. There was a nurse giving me a steroid shot in my backside. “This is to speed up the baby’s lung development,” they told me. They inverted my bed so my head was below my feet to take the pressure of my cervix. Then they put an IV line in and inserted a catheter (an empty bladder puts less pressure on the uterus). They gave me magnesium (“To protect the baby’s brain”) and antibiotics (since I tested positive for Group B Strep in my last pregnancy) intravenously. They dimmed the lights to help me relax. They offered me an epidural at some point in there. “Will it slow down my labor?” I asked. “No, not at this point,” they replied. So I declined it, thinking to myself, “If for some reason this baby doesn’t make it, I want to feel the pain of birth before I feel the pain of loss.” For about 20 minutes my contractions lessened in intensity and came less frequently. This all had happened while we were still in the triage room. My OB sat by the bed and told me that if I were to deliver sometime in the next four days, my baby would have to be transferred to the NICU at University hospital. Parker didn’t take babies younger than 28 weeks. She noted that my contractions had let up and wondered if I could be transferred to University. I told her there wouldn’t be enough time. My contractions started picking up again. This time they were incredibly painful. I told my OB and the nurses, they had me roll onto my left side to help me relax. Blake had been holding my hand for quite sometime at this point, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. They tried talking me through it, but then I felt the baby moving down the birth canal. “The baby’s coming! I can feel her coming!” I told everyone.

When the doctor felt the baby’s head, she knew I was serious. A team of about eight nurses seemed to appear out of thin air. Because we were still in the triage room, they had to roll me down the hall to a delivery room. I was feeling the need to push but they instructed me to wait. They got my bed in position and dimmed the lights again. They had no sooner brought my bed up (I was still inverted) and got my feet into the stirrups when I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I gave one big push, and out came the baby. Harper Elizabeth was born at 10:04pm, completely contained in her amniotic sac. We would later learn that this was very rare, especially in a natural birth (“The first time I’ve seen it in my 13 years of practice,” a neonatal nurse practitioner told us). To be born inside the unbroken amniotic sac is called an en caul birth. Throughout history in many cultures, being born en caul was a sign that the child was destined for greatness.

Harper cried when she was born. I took this as a sign that she would be ok. I didn’t even get to see her up close for several minutes. As soon as she was born, they whisked her away and started working on her. She weighed 1163 grams (2lb 9oz) and was 15 inches long. A nurse came and asked for Blake’s cell phone to snap a picture before she was intubated. Her APGAR score at birth was 6, and at five minutes it was 8. This was remarkable, as she wasn’t intubated until 7 minutes of life. They say Denver babies never make a perfect 10 due to the altitude.

2-21-14 Harper's first picture

After some time, they rolled Harper’s bassinet over to my bedside. “Would you like to touch her? You can touch her before we take her to the NICU,” a nurse offered. I reached over and touched her tiny little hand. Blake touched her too. Blake went with her to the NICU, at my insistence. Suddenly the room was empty and quiet. The room was dark, as no one had turned the lights back up, and I was just sitting there alone and scared. I was too numb to cry or truly feel the depth of all the emotions in my heart at that moment. I suddenly had a case of shivers, even though I wasn’t cold. I was still in shock.

At some point during the whole process Blake had managed to notify our family, some of our church friends, and our workplaces. Blake’s parents were already on their way to take care of Noah and relieve our neighbor. My parents were coming first thing next morning (they had just driven back to Steamboat from Denver earlier that day). My friend Grace had texted to ask if everything was ok. I called her back and told her what happened. As soon as she found out Harper was being transferred and Blake was going with her, she told me she was coming to stay with me that night. I didn’t want to inconvenience my dear friend (who happened to be 9 months pregnant at that time), and insisted I was fine to be alone. But I wasn’t. I didn’t know it at the time, but I really needed her that night. It was the scariest night of my life, and I’m so glad she was there.

After awhile, maybe 30 minutes or so, a nurse came in to get me cleaned up. Blake came back as well. I found it surprisingly easy to walk to the bathroom without an epidural. She got me changed, and took me in a wheelchair to the NICU with Blake. They wheeled me up to Harper’s bedside. I got to touch her again and look at her tiny little body beneath all the tubes and wires. The neonatologist came and talked to us. He mentioned surfactant and a ventilator and said some other things I was too shell-shocked to remember. The nurse who wheeled me in offered to take me to my room, but I wanted to wait until the transport team came for Harper. I didn’t know if that would be the last time I would get to see my baby girl.

2-21-14 seeing Harper in Parker NICU 2-21-14 Harper Parker NICU

After about half an hour, they took me to my room where Grace was waiting for me. Blake got Harper’s birth certificate paperwork filled out while we waited for Harper to be transferred.

2-22-14 birth certificate 2

Eventually the transport team stopped by my room so I could say one last goodbye to her through the plastic box, and then they were off. Blake also left to head to University and make sure Harper would be ok. By this time it was about 1:00am. I asked for a pump. There was little to do besides wait to be discharged. And pump. Grace and I talked, and she comforted me with stories of preemies she knew about who were now happy and healthy children. She told me that Harper’s weight was promising and that a recent lecture she had attended had said babies with a weight like Harper’s were very unlikely to develop retinopathy of prematurity. We tried to get some sleep, but I was texting Blake and pumping and ended up getting very little rest. Bless Grace’s heart, she parked her 37-weeks pregnant self on the terribly uncomfortable sleeper sofa and was a reassuring presence to me all night. She even brought me snacks, slippers, and a robe.

2-22-14 waiting to be discharged

The next morning my OB came back in to check on me. She could tell I was anxious to get out of there and see my baby, so she got my discharge paperwork started. Grace and I ordered breakfast. Blake was back at the NICU seeing Harper, but was coming to pick me up afterward. A lady came by to do a hearing screening and looked confused. “Where’s the baby?” she asked. She looked embarrassed and murmured something apologetic after I explained what happened. Grace spent all morning on the telephone hunting down a Medela Symphony pump for me. Blake came and gave us an update on Harper. They were able to take her off her ventilator and transition her to CPAP. She got a second dose of surfactant that morning. She was on a 9-1-5 care schedule, and we would be able to make it to her 1:00 cares after being discharged. Finally, around 11:00am the nurse was ready to walk us out.

Being discharged from the hospital without a baby was difficult. I had somehow managed to keep it together up until that point, but when we started walking down the hall to leave, I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face. Not two years prior, I was leaving that same hospital with a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Now walking out without my new daughter, feeling so uncertain about her future, just reminded me of how different the situation was this time.  The grief hit me like a ton of bricks.

Thus began our 60 day NICU journey, which is another story in itself. They never did find a reason for my preterm labor. The pathology labs on my placenta and umbilical cord, and a post-partum ultrasound showed nothing abnormal. All I can say is that we had an amazing support system throughout all of this. I don’t know what we would have done without everyone’s kindness and prayers. God was faithful to see us through this difficult time and keep our baby girl healthy. It’s still too fresh in my memory to look back on this time without stirring up some raw emotions, but one day I will be able to share this story with Harper about her dramatic entry into the world and her remarkable start in life, and we will marvel at how far she’s come.

 

 

Tomorrow

Now begins our new adventure. The start of life at home for Harper. Tomorrow we get to bring our baby girl home after 60 days in the NICU. Even though she will be home in our arms a month earlier than her due date, it has been two months too long. All at once we are feeling impatient to get her home, but unprepared to have her home. It’s a complex mix of emotions. We have been waiting for this moment for what seems like a lifetime (her lifetime at least), and yet now that it’s happening we don’t feel quite ready. After seeing a highly trained team of neonatologists, NICU nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists give round the clock medical care to our baby, who are we to take her home?

It feels like a graduation. It’s a moment we’ve been eagerly awaiting for so long, but now that it’s here we feel nervous, excited, and sad. Nervous about what happens next. Nervous about Harper’s future and our skills as parents. Excited for the moment we’ve been longing for since our daughter was born. Excited to finally be at home with both our kids instead of having to split our time between them. Excited to get on with life and leave this frightening experience behind us. Sad to leave behind the nurses and therapists that became part of our daily life. Sad that things are changing just when we got used to them. Sad that this isn’t the jubilant homecoming of the healthy full term baby we had expected, but instead bringing home a baby with fragile lungs and immune system who will still need to be on oxygen for several weeks.

These thoughts have been running through our minds the past few days. Slowly, the anxiety is melting away and being replaced by eager anticipation. A friend of mine posted a quote on Facebook the day I went into labor. It stuck with me.

“Sometimes the happiest ending isn’t the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.” – Shauna Niequist

This may not be the ending we had imagined for ourselves when we found out we were expecting baby #2, but it’s a beautiful ending nonetheless. God has been at work in our lives and in our hearts throughout this journey. This has been a humbling experience that has truly taught us to put our daughter’s life in his hands. We can look forward to tomorrow with peace in our hearts.

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Noah’s Nursery Reveal

The nursery has been 85% finished for quite some time, but I’ve been wanting to add a few finishing touches before sharing it with everyone. You know, preferably before Noah graduates high school. The final touches involved hanging shelves and installing bamboo blinds, which with my dad’s help finally got done today *happy dance*. So without further ado, here is the room I lovingly decorated and put together for my little guy.

Here is the view from the door when you first walk in. The curtains are the Lenda style from Ikea. I sewed on the navy blue stripes with fabric from Joanne’s. The bamboo blinds are from Home Depot and really work well to darken the room for naptime. The art collage over the crib was something I had a lot of fun putting together. The crib was purchased with my Christmas bonus money the year before last (while I was still pregnant). I’m sad that since we lowered the crib mattress, the navy and white polka dot crib skirt I made had to be removed. Right now the drawer beneath the crib holds extra blankets and bedding. The chocolate faux-leather ottoman beneath the window was a steal from Ross {I’m thinking it was only about $40} and although it is currently empty, it will be used for extra storage eventually. The faux-sheepskin is from Ikea.

baby boy modern nursery navy blue white striped curtains, white wood crib, art collage over crib, sheepskin flotaki, chocolate ottoman, denim dorel slipcover rocking chair, gray walls

The changing table/dresser is immediately to the left of the door. It was a Craigslist find of yore. I love the mid-century lines and the way the white and wood ties in with the crib. It was a bit small for our master bedroom, but it is the perfect size for the nursery. {We’ve since replaced it with a larger Hemnes dresser from Ikea in our room.} The scrapbook paper mobile hanging above the changing pad was something I made awhile back to give Noah something to look at while he gets his diaper changed.

baby boy nursery, mid century dresser, ikea eckby shelves, scrapbook paper mobile, globe owl framed art, gray walls

We are currently only use four drawers out of the six. The top left holds pajamas and socks. The top right holds Noah’s cloth diapers. The middle left drawer has all his pants and jeans. The middle right drawer holds onesies. All the rest of his clothes are hanging in the closet.
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The closet is on the wall adjacent to the door on the right. I hung a homemade bunting to add some color. All his shirts and sweaters are hanging up. The white baskets on the upper shelf hold shoes, burp cloths, extra bibs, etc. The left side of the closet is still pretty empty, but there is a plastic set of drawers that holds extra disposable diapers and wipes.

baby boy nursery closet, colorful DIY fabric bunting

The rocking chair in the corner was a birthday gift from my parents. It has a durable denim slipcover. I love it! The adorable owl pillow was a birthday gift from a sweet friend. The lamb skin was a baby shower gift from my mother-in-law. It’s specially made for babies and is machine washable. Noah enjoys it.
baby boy nursery - navy blue white striped curtains, bamboo blinds, colorful fabric bunting over closet, denim blue slipcover dorel rocking chair, yellow chevron owl pillow, faux leather chocolate ottoman

Here is the view standing in front of the window looking toward the changing table. The diaper pail and trashcan tuck in nicely beneath the shelves.

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The shelves to the right of the dresser are from Ikea. I chose the Eckby style because I loved the nickel finish on the brackets, and the shelves could be cut to length to fit the space perfectly.

The top shelf holds storage boxes {Kassett from Ikea} to hold cards and mementos. The globe is there because I have always loved globes, but also because I want Noah to know the world is a small place. I don’t want him to be afraid of travel and new experiences. Also, I really suck at geography and I want my child to have a better understanding of the lay of the land. Seriously…up until a few months ago I thought the state of Maine was a peninsula {Blake tells me I shouldn’t admit that publicly}. And don’t ask me where the state of Wisconsin is. I’m really not sure.

The middle shelf has a picture of my Papa Lou; the frame was a gift one of my co-workers gave me. Papa Lou hated that picture because he said he looked like a “sloppy sailor,” but I have always loved it. He had a successful Navy career {surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, among many other accomplishments} and retired as a Commander. He passed away three years ago, but my family and I will always be proud of his service. The cute little “NOAH” train was a Christmas gift from Blake’s Uncle Mike and Aunt Roberta. The white resin owl statue is from Home Goods.

The basket on the bottom shelf holds some books. There is a white shadow box frame that has a piece of framed scrapbook paper until I can find something better to go in it. There is also a Broncos piggy bank. We want Noah to be a saver. And a Broncos fan {that’s a given}.

baby boy nursery shelves - vintage photo frame, modern globe

Here’s a few more gratuitous shots:
DSC_0908art collage over crib close up NOAH letters

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All in all, I’m pretty happy with how the nursery turned out. There are still a few things I want to add, like some hooks on the wall to the right of the closet for holding a little backpack and jackets. But for now I’m very happy with how it looks!

Source List:
Wall color – Silver Screen by Behr from Home Depot
Bamboo blinds – Home Depot
Curtains – Lenda from Ikea (navy blue stripes sewn on)
Floor Flotaki (sheepskin) – Ikea
Crib – Walmart
Dresser – Craigslist
Changing pad and cover – Babies R Us
Mirror over changing table – Ikea
Shelves – Eckby from Ikea
Globe – Amazon
Broncos piggy bank – our local Walmart
Rocking chair and slipcover – Dorel from Walmart
Owl pillow – Etsy store whimsysweetwhimsy
Picture frames over crib – assorted frames from Target
NOAH letters over crib – hand painted by a family member
Clock – not sure, already had
Lamp – not sure, already had

Nursery progress: DIY striped curtain makeover

Noah’s nursery is making some slow but steady progress. I managed to give the ole white Ikea curtains a face-lift by sewing broad navy blue stripes on them. These Ikea curtains have been moving around a bit. I have two sets: one has always been in the gray guest bedroom (which is now in the process of becoming the nursery) and the other set that used to be in the dining room has been moved to the second taupe guest bedroom.

The plain white Lenda curtains from Ikea

After shopping around for nursery curtains, there wasn’t anything out there that really appealed to me, so I decided to make them myself. Then began the hunt for fabric. I couldn’t find any patterns that I liked for a reasonable price. JoAnn’s had some cute fabric in the interior design section that ran about $50 a yard ($35 after the 40% discount coupon). Since I needed 5 yards, this came out to more than I was willing to spend.

It was much cheaper to transform the curtains I already had. I toyed with the idea of doing a moroccan stencil pattern with fabric paint, but the stencils ran about $40. Instead I opted to go with navy blue stripes. All I had to buy was the navy blue fabric (about $3 a yard and I bought 3.25 yards) for just over $10.

I cut the fabric length in half, which left me with strips about 7-8 inches wider than the curtain width. I wanted the stripes to be about 12 inches wide, so I cut 14.5 inch sections out of the fabric (because it was about 44 inches wide, so I just cut it into thirds). Then I ironed the edges (fold, iron, fold iron…for each edge) and pinned them on curtains, leaving 12 inches from top and bottom edge as well as 12 inches between the fabric stripes. After sewing the stripes on, I was left with the excess fabric hanging over each side. I trimmed the extra fabric so it only stuck out a few inches on each side, folded the fabric under, then pinned ironed it to the back side of the curtain. It was labor intensive – several hours of measuring, cutting, ironing, pinning, and sewing. I had a lot of second thoughts about my DIY stripes throughout the process, especially when the sewing machine acted up on me a few times. Poor Blake tried to stay out of my way as I became an increasingly grumpy pregnant woman on a mission. Finally, after working on them most of the day, I completed them around 11pm.

Measuring fabric before cutting

Arranging stripes on curtain before pinning and sewing (after folding and ironing edges)

Finished nursery curtains

Back side of curtains

Not bad for $11, right? It was worth the effort – we both really like the way they turned out. We plan on getting some bamboo blinds, both pretty and functional, to keep the baby’s sleeping quarters nice and dark when we need it. We may even line the curtains with blackout fabric in addition to blinds just to make it extra dark.

As part of my nesting process, I’ve been in mad list-making mode. I’m already a list lover, but pregnancy has inspired me to put a special notebook in my nightstand just to contain all my lists. I couldn’t keep track of all there was to do if I didn’t have my handy dandy notebook. Plus there is nothing more satisfying than crossing an item off a to-do list, right?

Here’s a few of the biggies we’ve gotten done:

  • Registered for the hospital
  • Attended childbirth classes
  • Attended breastfeeding class
  • Filled out our birth plan (they gave us a blank one at our childbirth class)
  • Started cooking and freezing meals (we only have about 3 or 4 stashed away so far)
  • Interviewed and chose a pediatrician (I spoke to about three, and the final decision was not an easy task!)
  • Installed the car seat
  • Semi-packed the hospital bag (a few last minute toiletry items need to be added like glasses and face lotion)
  • Washed and put away all the baby clothes, blankets, towels, burp cloths, etc.
  • Set up a changing station and bassinet in our bedroom (where baby will sleep for at least a few months before we move him to nursery)
  • Figured out the baby monitor
  • Assembled and figured out the stroller
  • Ordered the rocking chair (a birthday gift from my sweet parents)

We still plenty of items yet to do, but the list is slowly shrinking:

  • Buy more cloth diapers
  • Cook and freeze more meals
  • Finish making nursery mobile
  • Hang nursery art
  • Pick up rocking chair
  • Buy rocking chair slipcover and ottoman
  • Finish sending out thank you cards
  • (and many more items pertaining to nursery decor)

Then I have many more ongoing lists. Like things to do post-partum, for example:

  • Eat sushi
  • Eat a big deli sandwich
  • Sleep on my back
  • Send out baby announcements
  • Etc, etc (the list goes on and on)

I’ve divided my trusty little notebook into different sections to categorize all the lists. It’s pure madness…and I love it.