5 of my Favorite Instagram Accounts

Right now, I’ve got five favorite Instagram accounts that I look forward to seeing every morning during my coffee time. Somewhere in between Uriah waking up and quiet time with my Lord, I take time to catch up with these lovely people and am never disappointed. 

Kristy Wicks 

Kristy’s account is a daily joy to me. It’s all about home, decor, and family. Her style is slightly upscale from my shabby-chic cottage theme but I love her generous spirit and happy, contentment that splashes through her gorgeous site. 

That Mama Hen

Ah, me. Angel is a sweet friend of mine who makes my heart so happy every time she posts. Her work centers around motherhood but incorporates a lot of themes from conquering ovarian cancer, Christian life, and adorable farm-styled decor. 

The Bethkes

Alyssa and Jeff Bethke really shine in inspiring and encouraging families to look to Jesus and follow Him. I really love their fun, candid pictures and their deep, faith-rooted conversations they have in their posts and comments. I’ve just started listening to their podcast if that tells you how much I care for their work. 

Beating 50% (Audrey + Jeremy Roloff)

I’m pretty much a fan of all of Audrey’s accounts but I’m an even bigger fan of her faith and effort to encourage women to remember the always more that is available to them in Christ. They also have an amazing heart for marriages which I love since that is my number one passion! 

Anna Rendell 

So, Anna’s work is basically my favorite because it is honest, funny, and totally down-to-earth when it comes to motherhood. My favorite part of the week is when she shares #RealMomConfessions which tend to round-up several women who are happy to share their mishaps and find they’re not alone. She just published a new devotional and I can’t wait to get my hands on it one day. 

Do you ever stumble across someone and just know that they are speaking life into your world? I love social media because it connects us to tribes we ordinarily would never come across — people who bring us joy, inspiration, and encouragement. Who do you follow? Drop their name below and I’ll visit them! And check out my Instagram for daily doses of cuteness. 😉

Love, blessings, and coffee, 

Frannie

Making Sense of our Medically-Complex Adventure

Every once in a while I get to see the why’s behind our story. Last week, Uriah had a difficult 4 days following an intense and lengthy bronchoscopy. What was supposed to be same-day surgery became a 3 day PICU admission, a manual bagging, low SATS, three trach plugs, steroids for inflammation, and exhaustive hours spent watching my amazing active boy sleep restlessly and his SATS dance higher than I like.

He’s still recovering from his intense procedure but he is recovering and that is a blessing.

But, as a parent watching her child struggle, there are moments when I wonder why. Why us? Why does Uriah have to struggle? Why the difficulties? Why, why, why?

Tonight, as I cried my little cry, I looked at the stars and saw my favorite constellation … Orion. Long ago, when I was a teen and life felt so big, God so mysterious, and my purpose meaningless I made a pact that whenever I saw Orion I would choose to remember that the same God Who created those stars and has kept them in their place for centuries is the same God Who made and loves me.

And some 10 + years later those same stars greeted me on a night when I wondered why. Why does my son have to work so hard for everything? Why does a simple procedure have to become a threatening, code blue situation? How in the world do normal families function … what is it like to not have to worry about ventilator heaters, trach plugs, suctioning, oxygen SATS, tube feeds, and milestones? Why, why, why?

But then I remembered Uriah’s strength. I remembered his smiles, the silly toothy grins he gives us. My mind wandered over his latest milestone accomplishments — tummy crawling, scooting, saying Momma and Dadda, pursing his lips to whistle, a Swallow Study that showed no primary aspiration, sitting with almost no assistance. These are amazing things for a little boy like Uriah; he is literally a crawling, talking, smiling, scooting, happy miracle and every day, every accomplishment, makes those hard times worthwhile.

Then, there are the random emails I get from young mothers going through PPROM, miscarriages, and extreme fear in their pregnancies. These are the emails thanking me for reminding their authors that God is good, caring, and there in their troubles. These are the emails that make sense of my misdiagnosed miscarriage and all the other horrible aspects of my pregnancy.

And after a few moments reflecting on all this I am reminded, once again, that all life makes sense if I am thankful. And I have SO much to be glad for! For an amazing son who loves me, loves his Daddy, and loves life. For a husband who loves his family with everything in him. For milestones that doctors said would never come. For a home to keep and make memories in.

Though I still wish I could snap my fingers and help Uriah be completely healthy and free from support I am so thankful for where we are at. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t change a thing  because this life we are living is worth every hardship. I know those sentences conflict with each other but it is true … our life would never be this special, this unique, and this bonding if I could change it.

How do you make sense of the hard things in your life? Are there any special ways God reveals Himself in the mess?

 

Frannie

Straight from the Heart: What Got Me Through January

AuthenticVirtue.com

Hello sweet friends,

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything that is truly productive. That just isn’t my stage in life right now. Instead of inspiring lists, print-ables, or blog posts helpful in any sense I am craving simplicity. I cannot really offer genuine advice in the form of a blog post; instead, I’m diving deep into the hygge feeling of healing and recovering. Authentic Virtue might one day be a source of written encouragement but for now it needs to be a place of simple welcome, peace, and rest.

There is a level of PTSD that comes with 3 months of bed bound living in a hospital and then 7 months away from home in a NICU environment.  There is stress that comes with g-tube changes, watching over ventilator settings, and colds that turn into pneumonia that turn into hospital admissions.

I’m not complaining. I love my life. I love the privilege of learning how to sanitize trachs and blend foods; I love it because it means I have my son and he is doing so well and thriving perfectly. So many of my other NICU moms do not get that privilege and their loss has shown me how much I have to be grateful for.

I’m doing what I need to do … removing the self-made pressure I assigned myself for this blog. Hello rest, good bye stress. I know you won’t mind, sweet friends. We’ve always been a community of encouragement.

Do you want to know what helped me through January? What little blessings God sent my during the cold winter month?

Little blessing #1:

My husband. For my birthday Dalton gifted me with every Sunday of January being a “responsibility free” day.  We already do a great job helping each other care for Uriah. But this gift was a huge blessing — I was able to do whatever I liked over the last several Sundays including extra naps, trips to the library, and simply being “let off the hook” for the normal responsibilities that are mine those days.

By the way, have I told you how amazing Dalton is?

Little blessing #2:

This big boy has been blessing my socks off. Between his increasing smiles, ability to sit in his Bumbo unassisted, his growing love for tickles and mommy play, His words momma and dadda, and his newfound love for traveling, I am loving these days. Oh, the 6 teeth smile also wins my heart every time too.

Little Blessing #3:

Coffee … coffee … coffee. I never seem to finish my cup so there’s no guilt about making a new one! (Hides blushing face in palms!)

Little Blessing #4:

I don’t browse blogs or Pinterest like I used to but these favorites continue to fill my heart with encouragement and joy.

Grace Lee Cottage

Shy County Gal 

Button Willow Chronicles

Whatever Is Lovely

Wiishu

I’ve also been loving my Hygge Facebook group, getting back-on-track with our budget and my house cleaning projects, lots of candles, and a new Bible study my wonderful friend Amy and I are doing together.

What has been bringing you rest and refreshment this winter? I would love to know! <3 Leave me a comment if you can!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

This Time Last Year: Learning About Hydrocephalus

September 8th, 2016 I drove to our high-risk specialist for a twenty-two week check up on Uriah. I remember feeling pretty good about our appointment; it had been at least four weeks since my last emergency room visit where I lost blood and thought, for the third or fourth time, I was miscarrying. Although, to be honest, we had had so many difficult issues in my pregnancy that getting an ultrasound always made me feel slightly uneasy — like, today might be the day I again learn something is wrong.

But we were doing okay; my subchorionic hematomas were disappearing, my misdiagnosed miscarriage was beginning to be a past memory, and we had a closet full of little girl dresses for our daughter. (Since we had been told it was a girl a few weeks prior).

I settled onto the little recliner and let the technician wave her ultrasound wand over my growing belly; we chatted but I could tell something was wrong. Small tears trickled down her face as she tried to remain professional. A sinking feeling settled in but we pushed through the exam. When I told her we we’re expecting a girl and asked for a confirmation I got to experience one of those funny moments when I’m told, “No, it’s a boy; see here?” I laughed to myself because, why shouldn’t the gender be wrong; it had already been a chaotic first pregnancy why not add a little comedy to it? I imagined naming him Isaac for laughter since it was too silly not to laugh.

She left and it took an abnormally long time for our doctor to appear. Again, the sinking feeling filled me. I had seen tears, hadn’t I? Eventually, the specialist arrived and, by the look of his face, I knew I could ask confidently, “Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” He asked me how knew and I commented on his very sweet but teary-eyed tech. He nodded, I asked to get off the recliner and sit in a real chair. Bad news shouldn’t be received while reclining.

Your little boy has a condition called Hydrocephalus. His brain is being compressed. His femurs and thigh bones are measuring short. This often goes hand-in-hand with trisomies. Like Down Syndrome? Yes, or Trisomy 13 or 18; both are incompatible with life. You’re son will need to be born in a specialized NICU by c-section; I recommended delivering early in a hospital in St. Louis. 

What do we do now?

There a number of tests we could take to rule out the possibilities of trisomies but I’ll be honest, they run a risk to the baby and premature labor. I won’t even offer a termination because I think you won’t accept one. You mean an abortion? No, we wouldn’t considerate that. We’ll need to do weekly ultrasounds to keep track of the baby’s head circumference and growth.

I’m not really sure what happened after that; I know I thanked him for his kindness and confidence in our God Who believed all life deserved to be born. I also told him to thank the teary-eyed tech for being so kind.

I scheduled the next appointment, walked to the car, unpeeled a banana and began to cry over that messy breakfast. I cried and I cried. I wanted to call Dalton but he was working and I hate giving him bad news over the phone. I wanted to call Mom but knew I wanted to talk to Dalton before anyone else. So, I called my wonderful friend and husband. The good news is that you’re having a son. The bad news is that there are some problems with his brain and bones. Maybe a Trisomy like Down Syndrome. Can you come home?

The day proceeded slowly; I cried while I drove home. Cried over how unfair it was to receive more bad news. Tears over the thought that my precious baby could be suffering that moment. Fear of the c-section and grief of losing the home birth we wanted. Tears because what did this mean for our little boy? What did a compressed brain mean for his future? What did a Trisomy mean? Could we really be one of those families who experience a child born incompatible with life?

The rest of the afternoon was spent at home with Dalton, who is an amazing comforter. I remember our land-lord showing up to do some painting in the house and Dalton asking him to come back later, we just got some bad news, he said. We chuckled over the gender mix up and ate ice cream, exhaustion filling our hearts.

I talked with our parents; telling them about the dubious medical diagnosis. Mom and Dad worked with some wonderful friends who had a precious daughter with the same diagnosis. They quickly called them and received the amazing love and understanding and practical advice you get from someone who has been in your shoes. Mom and Dad called back and told me about the connection and repeated the hope our friends had given.

And then I went to bed. The day had ended and we had survived. This precious baby boy with difficulties was still growing, still miraculous, and still ours. I’d spend the next few weeks re-writing my new birth plan to include a c-section and NICU two hours away; I’d google Hydrocephalus and then wish I hadn’t. I’d feel moments of pity and grief. I would write this blog post and we would begin to receive countless prayers and love from our friends and family. I would connect with a private Facebook group specifically for those with Hydrocephalus and I would be embraced by an amazing community. I would write this post 8 days after our ultrasound sharing all the blessings God was sending our way.

Little did I know my water would break in 10 days.

It’s amazing to be one year from this event; it feels like yesterday. Maybe that’s because our live’s went on a 9 month pause?

Yet, if given the chance, I would change none of it. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I still cringe when I think of the memories. And yes, I wish I could make easier on Uriah.

But look at this precious baby. Look at what God has done in his little life. Look at the joy, the fun, the sweetness, and the miracles he has given us. 

I imagine that this time next year the bad memories will hurt a little less and the new ones, the memories we make this year, will be closer to the surface. I want Uriah’s first library visit to be the memory I think of this time next year. I want to remember the friends we’ve grown closer too and the family too. I want to reflect on how adorable and healthy Uriah is and how blessed we are.

I hope my reflecting over the past isn’t turning into a broken record for you, sweet readers. I process life through words and writing and, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the hurt broken dreams bring. So I’m sorry if my reflection bores you; but this is how I work through life’s experiences. This is how I ponder God’s hand and how I move on from the pain and rejoice in the midst of it. I admit I’m still learning to get over the hurts and difficulties  but I thank God for His perfect will and plan for our lives — including all of the pain He’s helped us walk through.

With love, blessings, and coffee, 

Frannie

Welcome Home // The End of Our 218 Days in the NICU

Hello, sweet, sweet peoples!

It has been far too long. There’s been a lot going on (not to mention a laptop needing a repair shop). Most wonderfully, we are home! After 63 days of hospitalized bedrest and 218 days in the NICU (281 all together!) the Duncan #partyof3 finally made it home.

We were discharged from St. Louis Children’s Hospital June 26th; we’ve been home a grand total of 42 days. It is absolutely glorious! Forty-two days to begin adjusting to having a baby at home. Forty-two mornings waking up to being in the same house, in our own beds, and forty-two nights of baths, snuggling, and enjoying every moment together at last.

Here are some pictures of our days together! (Click on them for a larger view) 🙂

We are so thankful to be home. Uriah’s life has been a full adventure and God has been exceedingly good to us! Sometimes, as I rock Uriah to sleep, I ponder the events of the last 10 months. From the moment my water broke at 24 weeks (and even beyond that!) all the way to Uriah being born and having multiple surgeries, close calls, and the difficulties living 2 hours way from home God has been present, loving us and preparing us every step of the way.

There is still a lot of growth and development we are working on but Uriah is making amazing progress! He just weaned off his oxygen (woohoo!) and we will begin discussing ventilator weans at his next appointment. His g-button has healed nicely and we do weekly tastings of thickened milk; sadly, it’s still not safe for him to eat by mouth (due to silent aspiration) but, Lord willing, we will get there. These things just take time, patience, and hard work. 🙂 His VP shunt seems to be working perfectly! We had his 6 month shunt anniversary in May; it’s often said that if a shunt lasts 6 months it is a good possibility it will work for quite a time. Below is a comparison of his first MRI (on the far right) taken at birth, to an MRI done after the shunt was placed (middle), and the most current MRI (far left). See the amazing difference in those white areas of the brain? That is the brain’s ventricles shrinking as the brain expands and the excess cerebral fluid drains away. What a blessing!

As far as personality and development Uriah is absolutely wonderful! He has the sweetest, funnest personality ever. He loves to chew on everything, stick his tongue on Mom and Dad when we kiss him, talk around his trach, roll on the floor, play with his toys, and listen to music and Mommy read. He loves snuggling with his bear-bear (a grey, silky bear and blanket) before bed and then he sleeps a full 8 hours (usually). He’s always happy to wake up and start the day — a true beam of sunshine in our lives!

 

Some things we are looking forward to? Starting weekly physical therapy visits! 🙂 Uriah loves to roll around but before he can start crawling he needs more muscle development in his neck, core, and arms and tummy time plus therapy will really help! We’re also excited for his highchair which should be arriving this week! I can’t wait for him to have a special place to sit with a tray! And, one day, we’ll feel more comfortable taking Uriah on trips so we can go visit our family. That will be exciting!

There’s so much more to share but I’ll hold off till a later day; I can’t wait to begin writing again. Being home is, for me, such a special time and I adore the mundane, daily tasks I get to accomplish. Cooking, baking, decorating, cleaning … it all has a new meaning after being away since last September. 🙂 I’m sure one day I’ll grow tired of the never-ending tasks but for now I savor them and squeeze them in between the moments of play, snuggling, and work with Uriah.

In the mean time, thank you all for your love, prayers, and friendship. I so appreciate your being patient with my lack of commenting. Our laptop is currently out of commission but once repaired I hope to be back in this community again. Until then!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie