Parenting is Hard and Holy Work

We’ve officially been home from the NICU for 74 days. Having Uriah safe and in our own little nest has been more exciting and more fun than ever expected. I love having him to kiss and hold and read to at any moment of the day. I love watching his developing milestones take place on my own living room floor. And I adore the moments I catch him smiling because he’s happy in his home.

But motherhood is a lot more than I ever thought it would be. About once a week I find myself having a mini-anxiety session where I ponder the question all mothers do … am I doing enough? On top of that, I fancy having a child who requires special cares multiplies our fear that we are failing our little people.

Eventually, that worry snowballs into a once a month cry-fest where I turn to my husband’s strong chest and sob tears that have to come out. Stuttering cries fill our small bedroom because what if Uriah doesn’t develop properly because of me? Because, as all special need parents know, playtime isn’t just playtime any more; it’s physical and occupational therapy. Eating isn’t about getting your baby to latch or getting them to like all their food groups; it’s about watching for silent aspiration and pneumonia. And every time you run out of the house for thirty seconds to drop the garbage into the bin you run back in because what if your baby’s ventilator disconnected from the trach. It’s rereading the Resuscitation Instructions once a week so you’re as prepared as possible for something to go wrong with your medically complex child. It’s greedily counting the medical supplies shipped to your home once a month and then going to the store to buy all the regular things your ordinary yet not so ordinary baby needs.

It’s so much and sometimes I feel like I don’t measure up.

Mom, if you ever feel this way, I know. I feel all the feels with you. Parenting is responsibility. And special cares or not, it is hard.

The beautiful thing is that this hard thing we’re doing? It’s a God thing. Children are gifts from God; they’re not add-ons to your already full life. They’re not the next step in life. And they are never mistakes. God’s Word makes it clear that our babies are fearfully and wonderfully made and rewards. And if God is in it it is holy. And all that hardness? It’s meant to make you more holy.

So, that baby who is fussing, or that toddler who is out of control, or that teenager who lives a busy and sometimes wildly confusing life, they’re all God things. (He’s also there for all the one’s taking care of an ailing spouse or family member.) It’s holy, hard work but that means God will be in it.

I cannot tell you the times I have seen God come in an lift my weary heart. He did it from the very beginning, during my misdiagnosed miscarriage, through the very scary first trimester, when my water broke at 24 weeks, during my 63 days on hospitalized bed rest, and during the 7 months Uriah lived in the NICU. God showed up and personally walked us through the hardest season we have endured.

And He’s here. God is still walking me through the nights when I feel like I simply didn’t measure up. He’s here, ready to bear my burden and give me grace, on the days when I’m afraid I didn’t do enough.

He’s here and He is more than enough. 

Sweet friend, I know. I know that this blog post isn’t going to fix the anxiety-filled nights or worried-filled days. I know that you can enter the morning feeling like Wonder Woman and go to bed feeling like a stinking pile of failure.

Despite how you feel, I want to encourage you to embrace the truth — that this hard work you’re doing? God will walk you through it if you let Him. And He will let the hard work be holy work if we let Him work in us.

I’d love to hear about your experiences of parenthood? Tell me your stories! I love hearing from you? 

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

Making Memories in the NICU

Crafting good moments in the NICU can be hard. When pregnant you prepare for all the normal, beautiful things a healthy pregnancy brings. You decorate the nursery, stock up on diapers, and prepare your home for baby’s arrival. Special memories happen every moment — from the time you bring your little one home every moment is a new memory and something you’ll cherish forever.

But what happens when you don’t get to bring your baby home? What if days, weeks, and months trickle by while your little one fights for life in the hospital? For most families, making memories at home just happens but for many NICU parents, memories feel a lot more like PTSD.

We’ve been in the NICU for (almost) 5 months. It wasn’t until Uriah was 2 months old that I realized I had been unconsciously holding back on making memories. Thoughts like, I’ll be a real mom when I am solely in charge of my Uriah’s care and we’ll do special things when we’re out of this place in back in the real world silently affected my behavior.

I mean, how do you make memories when you can’t even pick up your baby because he’s in an incubator, with a breathing tube, and a picc line iv? How do you create special moments when you’re always surrounded by staff, always hearing loud alarms, and always afraid for your little one’s life? How do you make the moments between morphine drips, infections, and surgeries fun?

Sweet parent, if you’re in a similar situation, it can feel trivial and too hard to focus on making memories with your little one. You may feel like waiting to get home before you start creating special moments; you may even be too afraid to do special things with your child until you know, for sure, if he or she is even coming home.

I know. I’ve been there.

But, at some point in your NICU-parent career, you’ll wake up and realize that this is your story. This moment in the NICU is as much a part of your motherhood as anything to come. Your baby will never again be a baby. He will grow up, one month at a time, and you’ll look back and wonder where your tiny, darling preemie went.

I know. I’m there. (I mean, how did I become a parent to a fourteen pound, babbling baby boy?)

So, how do NICU parents make special memories when life is anything but perfect?

With intention. It’s very easy to let hours slip by when you spend most of your time in a hospital. Right now, my life revolves around pumping, arriving at the hospital, grabbing a cup of coffee, meeting with doctors, playing with Uriah, physical therapy, changing diapers, putting Uriah to bed, pumping, eating lunch, giving Uriah a bath, trach tie changes, playtime and therapy, naptime, pumping, and going back to the Ronald McDonald House.

When I am not purposeful, those hours fly by. Sometimes, I literally cannot remember what kept me busy all day and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I am so tired.

I am purposing to be intentional. I’m going to slow down. Here’s to really playing with my little boy instead of worrying about whether or not we’re meeting milestones. Here’s to reading him his favorite book and taking the time to really give Dr. Seuss the drama he deserves. Here’s to holding the pacifier patiently, changing the diapers endlessly, and making trach changes as fun as they can be.

Because, Mom, this is your moment. This is your motherhood. And you’ll never get these days back. Here are some specific ways to make memories when your child is in the NICU:

  • Read dramatically to your child … and watch their facial expressions
  • Forget milestones … celebrate every victory
  • Really take in your child … admire her gummy grin, cherish his sparkling eyes, enjoy her tiny, perfect feet
  • Take pictures … really good ones where you see more of the baby than wires, if possible
  • Sing nursery rhymes … do the hand motions of Itsy Bitsy Spider and Patty Cake
  • Learn how to maneuver around the tubes and wires so you can pick up your little one yourself … or enjoy simply resting your hands on your preemie and feeling they’re warmth
  • Decorate your baby’s area … make a Likes and Dislikes poster for the staff … scrapbook pictures … draw a nametag and hang it on baby’s incubator
  • Take time to meet other NICU parents … really listen to their stories … really pray for them when you think of their stories
  • Do things for your baby with your spouse, if possible
  • Offer to bring your nurse a glass of ice water … or a $.25 Laffy Taffy
  • Create a schedule your baby can get used to around the staff’s schedule
  • Forget milestones (oh, did I say that already? That’s because this is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby).

These are just a few ideas that have helped us make memories. Yes, I can’t wait to get home. But more than that, I want to make these days special for Uriah. I want to be able to look back on these days and say, Yea, those days were hard but we sure had a few good moments, didn’t we? 

Talking about making the most of our moments why don’t you hop over to my new friend Stephanie’s blog, The Vintage Modern Wife. She has a brilliant, beautiful post about creating a sensory filled Easter for her little one. I think she has some EXCELLENT ideas for making this Easter special, especially if you have a little on in the hospital.

NICU parents, what are some ways you have made special memories while in the hospital? Are there any budget-friendly, space-friendly ideas you could share with us? I’d love to hear!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

Songs for the Christian Mom in the NICU

AuthenticVirtue.com

 

It’s laundry day at the Ronald McDonald House and, while I wait for my load to finish drying, I thought I’d share some of the songs that have inspired, encouraged, and helped me over the last several months when my waters broke at 24 weeks, the 6 weeks of bed rest in hospital, and now on our NICU journey.

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