The past few weeks have been extremely exciting here!
Isabella got to meet both her Godmother, Sarah, and NICU Bestie For Life, Evelyn (which deserves it’s own post)! I wanted to share some special pictures and moments. We cherish each and every time we can share Bella in person with others.
Before Isabella was born, I asked my two besties, Sarah and Jessica, to be Godmothers to Isabella. For me, that meant that they would support Isabella in her faith journey and always be there for her. To us, it was kind of like asking them to be an auntie.
Since before Bella was here these ladies have loved her and prayed for her. Jessica’s been busy planning a wedding and being a newlywed but has always prayed for Bella and cared for me. Sarah has gone out of her way on so many occasions to bless us with Starbucks, words of encouragement, gifts, and hugs.
Above: Before meeting Bella in person, Sarah got to get a glimpse of her through our glass door in the summer.
So it was super exciting after 7 months that Sarah was able to visit and hold her Goddaughter! Bella loved every second and fell asleep! She immediately felt the love that Sarah had for her. God had hand picked both Jess and Sarah to play a special role in Bella’s life. I’m so thankful for the prayers and support they’ve offered…even without ever setting eyes on Bella in person.
It’s Saturday and Dustin is feeding Bella. I snuck away to write a few quick words on here!
I’m so so happy to share these amazing family photographs with you. As I mentioned in my blog post before, having photos done in the NICU was amazing and special…but I dreamed of family photos outside of the hospital walls! Oh…and having Bella unhooked from all the wires!
I’ll note that in these pictures she’s about 6 months old. The ones from the NICU were taken when she was 14 days old.
Teresa Young of Teresa Young Photography made this dream a reality and came to our home to take photographs of us in our backyard. She was so incredibly flexible. In fact, the day we had scheduled for her to take our photos, Bella’s feeding tube fell out and we had to head to Akron, an hour and a half away. We had to cancel!
So we rescheduled. She came over and was so kind and amazing. She even went for hand sanitizer before I awkwardly needed to ask! (Loving acts that speak to a preemie momma’s soul!) It was so nice to have her meet Bella, since I don’t get to share her with many people. We waited until the last minute to put our coordinated outfits on for fear of Bella vomiting on all of them. This was a great decision since she did in fact throw up all over herself and Dustin right before Teresa walked in the door!
I stressed so much about everything looking “perfect.” In the end I was just thankful that we were alive. And here. And able to take photos. I even considered paying someone to paint our fence (it only got one coat last season)…but that was silly and Teresa assured me she could make the photos look nice in our less-than-perfect backyard. She was right!
Bella was nervous. She really hasn’t been outside much and it was her very first time on a blanket in the grass! It was very humid and I was sweating buckets. My makeup was sweating off! BUT…Teresa did such a great job that when I see these…my eyes don’t immediately go to the imperfections…but to the joy we all have. Even though Bella wouldn’t give us a smile…she looks healthy and relaxed. She also looks very inquisitive.
I’ll be honest…my thoughts did go to her birthmark. (The large red bump on her scalp) I can be a little insecure about it still from time to time. We’re treating it because it was harming her, but we probably would treat it regardless at this point for cosmetic reasons. I’m all for loving yourself as God made you…but this in particular can give her issues down the road and is a quick and mild fix. That all being said, I love it because it’s a part of her and what makes her, her. I’ve grown to accept it as who God’s made her…but know that if there’s a solution that will improve her quality of life…I’m going to take it. Especially if it’s not harming her. My eye does go to the red bump…as I’m sure other’s do, but I’m not sad about it anymore.
As my Grandma said “If that’s the only thing she’s taking out of the NICU with her…we can rejoice” Or as Dustin says lovingly “She’s so beautiful…maybe God put it there to keep her humble.” haha
These photos are what I dreamed of. They’re as “Pinterest Perfect” as they come…but not because they were from a perfect situation. They’re perfect because they represent a warrior in this little one. A dedicated village. A sense of determination and grit and heart. The represent the heart of our God. That he loves us and wants us to grow in Him.
So excuse me while I go cry in a corner with a handful of Hershey Kisses while reflecting on the simplicity and beauty that Teresa captured. Here’s a post on Facebook that I made as soon as I saw the photographs.
“Before Bella was born…before I was pregnant with her…before our miscarriage last year…I filled Pinterest boards with newborn photography. I dreamed of our little family…perfected behind a creative lens. I virtually “shopped” for outfits and themes.
After we lost our first pregnancy I deleted those boards…there wouldn’t be any newborn pictures.
But then we found out months later we were expecting Isabella. My faith in God gave me the courage to embrace hope. Hope that this little soul would be in family photos. Once again I filled inspiration boards…as the months went by they became tailored to a little baby girl 🎀
As much as we can plan, God directs our lives. I hadn’t dreamt that Bella would be born 3 months early and we would spend 110 days in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I never imagined it’d take 60 days for my own mother to touch her…or almost 6 months for these precious precious family photographs.
While in the hospital a photographer took pictures of us when Bella was only 14 days old. Not yet 2lbs…these photos are now so special…even with her wires, no clothing, and cpap on. Yet…I still dreamed and hoped for pictures of our sweet girl free of hospital walls.
The road to these photographs is marked with loss, heart break, confusion, joy, peace, fear, and more. The truth that we are even physically here in these pictures does not fall short on us. We miss our first little one terribly, but are so thankful Bella and I are here. Tears run down my cheeks as I realize my dream of family photos has been honored by our amazing God.
And then, to add that the amazingly talented young women and friend who captured these has children of her own..and one who has/is facing medical challenges…blows me away. Teresa Young was so gracious and flexible. We had to cancel on her because Bella’s gtube fell out. We didn’t have our fence painted or even our own blanket to pose on…but she came to our home and captured these for us…at no charge. She used hand sanitizer without me prompting and understood how fragile Bella was and how she was one of the very first non-family members to meet her. I was sweating buckets and Bella was nervous being near grass for the first time…but it worked. These pictures are so anticipated and treasured. The power of God working through Teresa is incredible. Please, consider getting family photos done. Things don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be your goal weight or have everything figured out. I was terrified Bella would vomit all over. I was worried her birthmark would look weird. (She didn’t and it doesn’t). Whatever is holding you back, don’t let it. You won’t regret it. Consider Teresa Young. She’s amazing. Thank you for creating something priceless for me. And sending them at the perfect time…when there’s fear and uncertainty and nervousness in my heart for my sweet girl.
I’ll just be over here crying…and thinking up ways to display this dream realized in our home.”
It’s easy to curate a perfect image of your life using social media. Heck, since the beginning of time people have been wearing masks and making their lives look better than they really are. I think of the 50s housewife perfectly coiffed with dinner on the table.
BUT there’s a revolution happening. Freedom from having it all together. Women supporting women. Moms admitting that they’re flying by the seat of their pants. It’s empowering and…helps us feel a little less alone in this life.
So…let me take a moment and a pause from the super cute pictures of Bella (that I go through and delete the blurry ones) and the fun updates that include emojis. These things reflect the real me. They’re the real Bella. But they aren’t always the nitty gritty realness that’s born from confidence and courage. So let me share more into our story, Because YOU reach out to me. You tell me this inspires you.
I’m not sure I ever set out to inspire anyone by our story. To be honest I was just looking for friends…someone else who was up at 3am in a hospital room in a new, unknown city…wincing in pain from a major surgery but wanting to focus energy on a 1 1/2lb baby laying under bilirubin lights. What I know is through this sharing I’ve connected with others in a unique way and I’m so thankful for it. So I’ll always be honest with you. I’ll always be positive and confident in the hope of Christ but I’ll always keep things real. So let me begin…
The last 2 days have sucked. I’ve ugly cried more than I have in weeks. I’ve said hurtful things to Dustin. I’ve been angry at myself. My head hurts and I’m exhausted. I’m also on my period which intensifies all of this and makes me feel like a sack of potatoes.
Numerous things have made me feel this way. We found out we have a larger minimum on a huge bill from my hospitalization that we need to move around finances to afford. Last night we realized we accidentally overrode the pictures from our NICU photo shoot (Update: They Have Been Restored!!!!!)
Due to frustrations and frantically trying to locate the pictures we didn’t get to sleep until 2am…so I did the 3-5 and 7-9 shift so Dustin could rest. Today I got calls from the hospital that I mailed in the wrong part of Bella’s medical device for her ph probe, I was on the phone for over 30min fixing a billing issue with our insurance, and I learned our formula is still needing paperwork done before getting mailed to us.
Bella’s gtube is leaking and she’s teething. After beginning her feed this morning I tried to give her meds and the liquid sprayed all over my face and her. She ended up vomiting her whole feed down my chest and hers. I laid in dried vomit for 2hrs so she could rest on my chest with a blanket between us topless after taking my vomit soaked shirt off. My hair’s greasy and my legs are all kinds of hairy (TMI?).
Bella smells like spit up even though we just gave her a bath and her pump has been malfunctioning, throwing us off schedule. My floors are sticky from dripped formula from the pump/pump bags but I don’t have the time to mop them. I’m caught up on laundry but Dustin and I argued last night and said hurtful things because we were sleep deprived and sad over losing the pictures. All in all I feel like a mess.
Gods been speaking to me in the midst of the crazy. He tells me I’m his and he loves Bella and I and Dustin. He says loves worth fighting for and saying I’m sorry is hard but so worth it. Serving each other. Sharing Oreos and pouring coffee keeps us going. Smiling over Bella’s new way she grabs her toes or tries to giggle warms my heart and helps me know this is all worth it. Money will be tight but Gods got all the money in the world and I just need to be still. I try to be childlike in motherhood. I try to rely on the Spirit to guide me. I try to be playful. I try to take one moment at a time. I throw my hands up a lot. I don’t have many answers. All I know is where I end God begins and He’s caring for us.
So today was hard.
Then I got a text from a friend. We’ve been using honest company diapers. They work the best for Bella. She has sensitive skin and they’re the best fit. But they’re pricey. There’s been 3+ friends who said they have them on sale at TJ Maxx. Last time I ran out after Dustin got off work to watch Bella but size 1s were all gone. Today a friend texted me a picture and told me they were there and they’re thinking of us and love us. How thoughtful! In that moment I felt as if God had created this wonderful village around us..even though 99% haven’t met Bella in person.
But then God took it to another level.
This lovely person texted me there were gifts on our porch for us. I was tethered to Bella and couldn’t stop her feed/hold so I waited until Dustin came up to retrieve the items. He explained excitedly as he brought in lots of honest co diapers all in Bella’s size. There was also a Starbucks coffee for me!!! I have been trying to save money so I do cut back on Starbucks or other items…I drink coffee at home (somehow there’s always room in the budget for ice cream though lol) so this was a real treat!!! We both took turns sipping the chocolatey caffeine goodness.
But before then Dustin read a hand written message on the cup out loud in our living room. I believe strongly in the power of our words. Our words give life. Our words are so important. To hear Dustin deliver this message over our family brought me to tears.
In the midst of a hard day, from the handwriting of a special friend, on a coffee cup, Dustin read over the clanking of the feeding pump
“may God fill this day with wonder, joy, and assurance of his presence.”
It seems like just yesterday that we left the NICU at Akron Children’s Hospital. I have very many mixed memories of that place. Some of the scariest times of my life happened behind those walls and some of the happiest.
In the midst of a dark time we did our best to make the NICU home. Years ago I bought an art print that says, “Home is wherever I’m with you.” (Yes, it was bought from Urban Outfitters and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were popular…ok now listening to them on repeat).
Since our marriage, Dustin and I have moved six times. It’s funny to add “NICU” to that list. We spent most nights there but spent 17 at Ronald McDonald House and once a week at home to rest up. I plan on writing a lot more about making the NICU home and our experiences there. In the meantime, enjoy this video I took near the end of our stay. You can tell Bella is much more stable and is even in an open cot!