What’s Inside My Emergency Hospital Bag

Sometimes emergencies happen and, when you’re a family with medically complex issues, inpatient hospital stays are something you need to prepare for. No one wants their child to catch a cold and end up in the hospital for a week but it does happen (it’s happened three for us) and a little preparation can help that impromptu trip more comfortable. 

That’s why I pack an Emergency Hospital Bag. I leave the bag hanging, ready to grab, in the event I need to call an ambulance or hop in the car for a trip to our Children’s Hospital. It’s sort of like a diaper bag but for parents and kiddos. After we get home (and I’ve showered, slept, and Netflixed … priorities 😉 ) I re-stock the bag, getting it ready for the next unplanned hospital visit. 

Today, I’m sharing what’s inside my emergency bag — I promise, I’ve used this bag several times and I’m always so thankful to have it on hand!

Necessities:

Clothes: I have one change of clothes for myself and Uriah. For myself, I like to take modest, relaxed pj type clothes so that I can have something decent to wear while I wash the outfit I came with. I also keep a spare headscarf. For Uriah, I keep a couple onesies with pants, one pj zip up, socks, bibs, and burp cloths on hand.

Toiletries: Travel size deodorant, toothbrush and paste, Tylenol (for the inevitable headaches that come with exhaustion, stress, and busyness), chapstick and lotion. (The hospital air is SO dry! You’ll be happy you brought it!)

$5 and meal vouchers: When your little one catches a cold and a minor sickness turns into an ambulance ride, increased ventilator settings, and multiple IV pricks you won’t have time to eat let alone keep tabs on your checking account. I keep $5 in my bag because sometimes you really, REALLY need a cafeteria Dr. Pepper and burger and a freebie $5 snack can be the pick-me-up you need. 

I also tuck away spare meal vouchers and use these throughout the stay. What is a meal voucher? It is happiness for the inpatient mom or dad who can’t leave their little one. Ask to see your floor’s social worker and request meal vouchers (which they often do for families who live more than 30 miles from the hospital).  

(And don’t be embarrassed. I know it feels like a hand-out but, sweet person, it’s not. You and/or your insurance are paying oodles and many hospitals are happy to offer meals. It’s super beneficial because you’re able to call a meal in and not leave your little. Just ask. 🙂 )

Comfort Items: 

Think happy, time-passing things. In my bag I have a magazine, a few toys for Uriah, my sleeping eye mask, a book I’ve been meaning to read, and peanut butter crackers.

For Christmas, D gave me a beautiful thermos and coffee cup set; it was one of my favorite gifts since he knows how much coffee comforts me during stressful times. I’ll plan on filling it up at the Ronald McDonald room and sipping on it throughout the day.

I’ve also got a handwritten note with Scripture a friend gave me when we began our NICU journey — it always encourages!

You could also throw in: slippers, a cozy blanket, earphones, travel size laundry soap, adult coloring books and pencils, travel size games (I’ve got BananaGram) sleeping mask, stationary, chocolate, phone charger, and your Bible.  

The key is to keep your bag light yet packed full of goodies that will make your hospital stay more comfortable. 

Whenever I get a chance to pack for a long hospital stay I bring along my diffuser (with Thieves and Lavender essential oils), extra outfits for Uriah, several of Uriah’s favorite toys and books, and I’m hoping to purchase a small french press one of these days. Goodbye nasty hospital coffee! Ha! 

But life is unpredictable so having a light, prepared, on-hand Emergency Bag gives peace of mind. Sometimes, making life easier requires just a little effort and preplanning but it’s absolutely worth it!

Tell me — are you a medically complex family? How do you prepare for unexpected hospital stays? What is in your Emergency Bag? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Happy packing!

Frannie

My Advice to New Trach Parents

My heart goes out to parents with children who have a tracheostomy and/or rely on a ventilator for airway. We’re currently in the middle of that adventure and though there are some hard and taxing days I wouldn’t change my son being able to breath safely and well for anything!

Here are 5 bits of encouragement and trach life hacks we’ve learned along the way.

1) It will get better … but it’s going to be a hard road for a while.

For a lot of parents, a tracheostomy is a last resort we pray never comes and when it does we expect immediate relief.

But sweet parent, it might not happen that way. I’ve found it’s very common for children to struggle immensely after getting their trach. It’s a whole new ball game from intubation.

Our son experienced multiple blue spells and codes during the first few weeks after the tracheostomy. There was one day when I literally said goodbye because the issues where so mysterious and complex; they were talking about giving him paralyzers so his body would relax and get his carbon dioxide back into safe numbers. It was horrible.

Here’s what needed changed: vent settings especially the PEEP needed raised, frequent suctioning, and most importantly, our son needed a longer trach.

That day I thought we were losing Uriah? It was the same day ENT finally did a scope, discovered he needed a longer trach, and it proved to be the “magic” we needed to give Uriah some relief; the trach wasn’t long enough to keep his bronchial open (TBM).

Of course, every child is unique and each reason for a tracheostomy is different. I’m just sharing what helped us overcome those hard, early days of #trachlife.

2) Listen to the doctors … but listen to your gut most of all.

You will come to know your child best; doctors specialize in medicine and diagnosis’ while you specialize in your child. We highly respect our medical team’s opinions but I’ve discovered that no one knows our son like we do!

I have woken up in the middle of the night, listened to the way Uriah was breathing, and known he was coming down with a sickness before it ever presented itself.

Your gut, instincts, and advocacy are vital in how well your child thrives.

And all the good doctors will tell you so!

3) Learn to go solo

When we first came home from the NICU, trach and tie changes were a two person job that involved sweat, nervous anxiety, and preparation.

Only when Uriah showed us he was stable and only when we were comfortable did we learn to change trachs solo. (If your child does not tolerate trach changes then do not make things worse by going solo!)

But if your child is stable, tolerates changes well, and you have a game plan in mind, it’s a good skill to master. Things happen and you might be by yourself when you need to do a sudden, unplanned trach or tie change.

My tips?

  • Practice changing the ties while someone is close by in case you need help.
  • Always have your new trach, ties, padding, wipes, and other tools ready and laid out on something sterile and clean before you start.
  • Train your child to sit still. It won’t happen immediately but eventually you’ll learn. You know how hard wrestling a toddler is to change a diaper? Imagine trying to put a piece of important plastic back into their tiny neck while they try to escape!

4) Suction, saline, and tie padding

You’ll learn the words and all the tricks associated with them! Here are a few tips our NICU nurses and fellow #TrachParents taught me.

  • Do not suction too deep, it will cause irritation, damage, bleeding, and soreness.
  • But don’t be afraid to suction! Your little one needs to breathe and that means suctioning until the goop is gone (or do a trach change). One trick is to squeeze a few droplets from a saline bullet into the trach to help clear any plugs that may have formed. But caution! Only a few droplets and suction immediately as you don’t want to drown your little!
  • It’s very common for the sensitive skin beneath the trach ties to break down, turn red, and even open into sores! Thankfully, Uriah has never had an issue with that and I think it’s partly due to being faithful in changing his ties and keeping clean, dry padding underneath. We used to use Mepilex to wick away moisture but now we use 4×4 Split Sponges cut in half and love it.

5) Nursing can be helpful … but do what’s best for your family.

Some NICUs will give you the option for home nursing; most likely, your child will qualify for so many hours a month and you can choose to use the hours in the day or nighttime hours depending on the availability of nurses.

And while some parents need nursing (because their child is unstable or highly care intensive) know that you do have the choice.

We chose not to have nursing and it was the best decision for our family. We’re a introverted couple who enjoy family time; we never felt comfortable with the idea of someone being in our home while we were sleeping or working. There were too many variables for us to consider nursing an option. (We did try nursing for about 2 months after being home for 5 but it ended up not working out and that’s okay! Our nurse was awesome but due to some insurance issues we moved on)

So, how do we do it without nursing?

  • We take “night shifts” when I am responsible for any weekday night alarms or cares that need addressed and my husband is responsible for weekend nights.
  • I learned how to drive solo by taking it slow, knowing my route, keeping the suction in the passenger seat while hooked up to Uriah in the back, and learning how to listen for secretions. I only drive solo when running errands in town; I’ve never attempted a long-distance drive.
  • Create a routine that works for your family! Find ways to move your child around, give them sensory input, play, and activities! Once you find your routine life gets so much easier.
  • If your child tolerates it, try using a baby carrier! It’s super fun; the only issue is that the vent and equipment can be cumbersome and super heavy. It’s possible to buy backpack straps for your ventilator and a smaller, more portable suction.
  • Organize, organize, organize! Once you find a place for all of the medical supplies life get’s so much easier!
  • We use a small utility cart from Sam’s Club to carry all of Uriah’s home medical equipment (vent, suction, pulse ox, water bag and heater, Ambubag, and feeding pump). It’s much easier to move then the large vent stand your DME will set you up with.
  • Order a medical grade stroller from whoever supplies your therapy services. I cried when I originally ordered Uriah’s Zippy Stroller (because it looked medical and I wanted something normal for once!). But I couldn’t live without his stroller — it keeps his back aligned and in good posture, it’s super sturdy and holds all his equipment, and I can take it anywhere because the wheels are large. It is heavy and bulky but worth it! (If you cannot order a medical grade stroller then try a double stroller!)

Trust me, it will get easier. You’ll need time to find out what works best for your family.

That’s it! Please, remember that I am not a medical professional so always consult your medical team. I’m just a mama who wants to share what has made our trach life so much easier!

Please let me know how you and your little one are doing? Trach life is challenging and sometimes scary but learning from each other helps lighten the load!

Happy adventuring!

Frannie

Looking at your Husband with Confident Eyes

A wife confident in her husband is a blessing!

A few friends of mine have an excellent ability — they look at their husbands with confident, supportive eyes. Everyone in the room can tell she’s on his side, she’s got his back. Their confidence makes the woman more beautiful and the man more respected.

There isn’t anything truly remarkable about these men except that their uniquely themselves. One is a bit eccentric and brilliant, the other smart and savvy. But the confidence and enjoyment these women have beautifies and exemplifies these ordinary men.

Me? Not so much. Honestly, I like to stay in the background and nurse my quirky wallflower nature.

Then, I married an entertainer. It took me a looooooooooooong time to understand that entertaining was one of Dalton’s innate, God-given longings and purposes. He loves bringing laughter to people he feels close to; it energizes and gives purpose to his day.

By the time we married, I had some resemblances to a sour, prickly old maid you read about in classic literature. I have a sense of humor but it’s simple, childlike, and mischievous. The prickly side of my nature looks down and picks apart colorful, witty humor and shies away from anything that draws too much attention.

There are other gifts and talents I didn’t fully appreciate — his ability to lead, his love for weight lifting, his gift for making the hard choices and following thru, his fondness of spontaneous dancing and jumping into rivers, or his deep appreciation for abstract, theological discussion.

Do you know what a poo-poo attitude does to a person? It shrinks them. Holding back from joining in another person’s joy belittles and discourages them. Ultimately, it breaks down trust and friendship.

Not having confidence in your husband’s personality and nature builds barriers of distrust and walls of shame.

No one wants their personality, thought process, humor, or enjoyments belittled.

That’s why I choose to recognize that the differences in our personality as good. I choose to have confidence in the uniqueness of my man and encourage you to do the same. Let’s appreciate the handiwork and creativity of God by accepting and appreciating the natures of our men.

Let's have confidence and enjoyment in our husbands @ AuthenticVirtue.com

Romans 12 encourages us to love without hypocrisy (no eye rolls or shaking of the head) and to honor and have great affection for each other — this includes our men! How we respond to the personalities and interests of our hubby’s reflects the love of Christ. It’s that important.

If there are areas in your husbands personality or nature that are not all they could be, pray for your man. Communicate your thoughts and talk over what you are seeing. My hubby always says he needs to know what I’m thinking, even if he disagrees, so that he make the best decisions possible.

But, for a lot of our husbands, having confidence in who they are will be a life-spring and freedom badly needed and highly rewarded.

Tell me — what aspect of your partner’s nature do you find different from your own and how do you respond to that? I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers to happier husbands and happier marriages!

Frannie

Three Benefits to Postponing Your Honeymoon

Here are 3 of my favorite reasons to wait to go on your honeymoon!

With weddings coming up this year I want to revisit an old favorite of mine and talk about the honeymoon! Traditionally, honeymooners travel far from home the day of or after their wedding; they spend hours in splendor basking in the joys of marriage.

It’s an amazing time to bond and grow in intimacy with your new spouse.

We went a different route. After being (unexpectedly) unemployed for several months, my husband had just begun a new job three months before our wedding. It wasn’t possible to take time off and, in all honesty, neither of us had money to travel.

But, boy, did we have a honeymoon.

In preparation for our marriage, Dalton scrubbed, painted, and cleaned our rental from top to bottom; after our wedding, I hopped into his white truck and we drove three hours northwest to our home.

And just like countless couples before us, Dalton carried me over the threshold and our honeymoon at home began.

After eleven months of marriage and lots of saving, we flew to Las Vegas for 10 days. Our honeymoon away from home bought and paid for out of pocket. 

There are several benefits for waiting to go on your honeymoon but here are three of my favorite. Let me know what you think!

1. You enjoy each other without pressure

Traveling naturally creates stress. Flying (or driving), checking in, and finding your way around a new environment can cause new couples stress.

For Dalton and I, two very happy introverts, there is no place like home. We settled into each other (and our marriage) without the stress and pressure of the outside world. Since I was new to our city, Dalton took me to places he knew I would want to visit and explore. He spent the first few weeks making my time extra special. It was wonderful.

2. You know each other

There’s a learning curve when getting to know your spouse. You haven’t learned each other’s spending habits or been humbled by their bravery and courage when unanswered prayers and broken dreams happen.

You don’t know each other yet but you will.

For us, it was worth putting off an official honeymoon. We know and love each other far better then when we first said “I do” which made our first vacation together that much sweeter.

3. You will enjoy your trip better

God designed marriage to be a beautiful, creative, sexual adventure for you and your spouse and it’s His will that you want for marriage to begin that amazing adventure.

Of course, each couple is different but, for me, it was important to give myself time. I can’t imagine how stressful it would have been for me if we were honeymooning in the tropics and every moment was filled with an activity.

Of course, I know it’s totally possible to plan a beautiful honeymoon and not be roped into all the activities offered. (Think cozy AirBnB in the mountains or beach resort). But for me, it would have been stressful. I loved knowing that at anytime we could go explore our new town and then safely retire back to our cozy, little home and into my man’s strong arms. Physical intimacy (and getting used to it) requires time and I am thankful for the space and freedom not being on a honeymoon offered.

What do you think? Let me know if you waited for your honeymoon or if you loved your getaway! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Also, check out Sheila’s To Love, Honor, and Vaccuum where she published this post!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

Self-doubt in Motherhood

A sweet but vague truth has been spinning inside my mind and, to help put it all together, I’m going to try and put the thoughts into words …

That guilt you’re feeling (the mommy guilt) … it’s a lie.

The fears you have about your child’s development and people skills … they’re a lie.

Any doubt or anxiety plaguing you about your child or your ability to mother … all lies.

Being introspective, I wrestle terribly with self-doubt, fear, and guilt over my role as mother and how my little will turn out. I put value on doing well which means any sign of delay, struggle, or failure sinks me to my knees.

Currently, one struggle of mine is learning how to handle Uriah’s tantrums since he isn’t yet able to communicate with many words. As we walk through these (wonderful!) toddler years, I’m seeing a sweet independence develop within Uriah; we’re learning how to help him deal with those emotions constructively and Biblically.

When a melt down happens or Uriah is unusually fussy, the enemy whispers lies into my heart — if you were a better mom he’d be able to communicate better; if you had only spent more one-on-one time with him today he wouldn’t be throwing a fit; if you don’t respond well this time you’ll train his character poorly and he’ll always be rebellious …

I could go on and on describing the daily onslaught of lies I hear about my role as mother. I’m sure you can too.

But, sweet mama, let’s listen to truth. Let’s identify the anxious, condemning thoughts for exactly what they are — lies meant to tear you down and make you less effective as a mom.

Then, fling your burdens, gaze at Christ, and focus on the truth He has spoken over you

You are God’s workmanship created for good works that God has ordained

Mama, you have been called to be your Little’s mother. God created you to help them grow into people who love and do good. You are called, so you have been equipped.

You are a new creature in Christ which means old habits of fear, anxiety, and condemnation are over

God will help you guide your children’s character towards godliness. Because you yourself are learning and growing into the image of Christ you’ll be able to gently guide your own children.

And remember, you are never alone

God promises that “because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.”

If you are feeling conviction about your parenting or priorities, repent and move on. But the next time you feel crippled by self-doubt, worry, or guilt remember Whose you are and Who is living in you.

You’re not alone, mama. We have been called and chosen for this role — let’s believe that truth and cling to it!

Happy weekending!

Frannie