Home Sweet Home.

big brother

beauty

going home

paci

Bubby + Evie

what is this?

hello world

going home from the NICU

last stats

sleepy head

going home

bright eyes

holding my Evie

We are home.

We are in awe.

We are in love.

We are exhausted.

But more than anything we are wonderstruck, with more thanks than we know how to give.

She is ours.

NICU Days

I underestimated how stressful the NICU experience can be with another living child.

It just is.

We know we probably won’t have to do this much longer, but each day feels so misplaced. No matter where I am – home or the hospital – I feel split. Incomplete. And like I’m letting one of my children down.

I’m sure these feelings are normal for NICU moms and dads, but this is new territory for me.

bubbie

My heart breaks the most for Bubby. His little world is being rocked to the core right now. We brought him up the hospital today, thinking he really needed to be with us. And he did, and he does but after a few hours he was just ready to jump out of his skin. He isn’t himself these days, and really… I can’t blame him.

On a brighter note, he got the chance to see his baby sister again. He was so excited about it too!

NICU and big brother

NICU and big brother

NICU and big brother

We are anxious to be at home, with both our babies.

Evie is doing beautifully. She is now able to bottle feed, and is holding her feedings down like a champ. We are so proud of baby girl. Her IV came out today, and really all we are waiting on now is the EKG on Monday. Her heart rate dropped the night she was born, and even though the EKG they did on her heart that night came back normal, they wanted to give it another week before releasing her. Since then, her heart has been doing beautifully.

evie

Pete asked me the other day if I missed being pregnant with her. I miss parts of pregnancy, but the truth is she is so much more amazing on the outside. Of course:)

I just received these photos from our photographer, Beth, which were taken 10 days before I went into labor. So glad we have these to look back on…

baby bump
baby bump

You Don’t Think Premature Birth Can Happen To You

until it does.

And your world is jolted onto this rocky pavement, without the slightest concern for your emotional well-being.

And you learn terms like NEC and bilirubin.

And you learn what all the noises mean when the machine keeping your baby alive goes nuts.

And you spend hours next to the tiny soul you carried for months, unable to touch them because they are just not old enough to handle the stimulation.

And you never give thought to the fact that you just had a baby, and no one is congratulating you on their arrival until some time has passed. Were they less of a gift? You are left to wonder on the etiquette of congratulating new parents to a NICU baby.

And you hold the tears until you reach the milk bank, alone. You hate this time apart from your baby, but you know you need this time as much as she needs your milk.

And you watch for and celebrate good oxygen and saturation levels. Your television is replaced with the monitor carrying those significant numbers, that can send your world crashing at any moment.

And with the flurry of the doctors, nurses, medications, frequent and constantly changing updates you are robbed of a normal newborn stage with your child.

And you long to pick her up, take her home and swaddle her for the rest of your life. A part of you still believes you are really all she needs, because at one time you were.

And you wonder if anyone in the whole world has ever gone through this.

And your heart breaks into a million pieces. For the mamas and daddies of NICU babies, for the grandparents and siblings. But most for the precious babies who are undergoing more medical intervention than most people will experience in their lifetime.

And your new hero is not a basketball star, a celebrity or even the noble peace prize winner… but the preemie you were chosen to carry, the preemie who fights like a champion and rocks your world like nothing else.

If it happened to you, you are never quite the same.

:::

November 17th is World Prematurity Day.

Serendipity.

This post should really be called 73,245,412 Reasons Why I Love Texas Children’s Hospital.

A few weeks ago I got an email from a coordinator I work with quite a bit at Texas Children’s on special projects. She asked me if I would share Jenna with a group of clinicians one afternoon to better the end-of-life care they deliver for families at Texas Children’s. I don’t even think I had to stop and think about my answer. I zipped her an email with a hasty reply,”Yes! I would be honored to!!”

About a week later Amy texted me that she had some awesome news.

I waitied (impatiently) for her to get off of work to tell me already.

When she finally called me she told me that she was invited to share her daughter Nevaeh… with another mama named Fran.

The hospital had no idea we even knew each other!

Coincidence? I think not. We all found lucky pennies this afternoon too while walking back to the car. So crazy. The entire afternoon was divinely orchestrated and just thinking about it sends chills over me.

I think having Amy there definitely calmed my nerves, and helped me to focus on not only sharing Jenna’s story but delivering our story in a way that it could benefit families enduring the loss of a baby in the future.

I pretty much love her hospital. Had to brag on them a bit tonight.

Us taking a pic by Nevaeh’s artwork on display (the painting with the fish!). According to Nevaeh this is what fish in Hawaii look like:)

Wall of Hope

It was an honor… to be a part of this. I kid you not- there were hours and hours and hours late into the night perfecting each portrait and making edits over the span of the past 6+ months.

But this past Tuesday – to see the work in fruition and how it touched the families made it all worth it. More than worth it.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you it was bittersweet – the entire project.

I mean the whole idea is to give hope to NICU families that there are indeed happy endings in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Happy endings. Babies that come home. Babies that survive.

If you aren’t familiar with the Wall of Hope, each portrait was a picture of a NICU graduate. It had a picture of them in the NICU, and a picture of them today. It had their story, written by their parents, their birth weight, their time spent in the NICU and the things they love and enjoy today.

In one word, this wall is powerful. I couldn’t get over the presence of it. And to top it off, each child’s parents picked a word to represent their NICU journey – which was cut out of wood and hand painted by the kids themselves.

This project is and has been amazing!!!

Reading their stories, seeing their pictures and them watching the kids glow at seeing themselves on the wall was a magical experience. To be a part of my daughter’s hospital this way. We hope to continue to add to this beautiful wall too. There will sadly always be families that need just a little bit of hope.

Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Everywhere

I feel like my brain, my life, my heart is kind of all over the place. Happy, sad, rejoicing, thankful, heartbroken and just dying to get the to beach one more time this summer. So… this post is kind of a reflection of that (minus the beach craving).

If I was honest, I would tell you I’ve wondered a lot (more than I’d like to admit) if she will be the only girl I ever have.

Is it alright to admit that thought makes my heart a little sad? Nothing will thrill me more than to bring home a healthy baby – boy or girl – but I feel like I missing something amazing by not getting to raise a girl with all the glitter and excitement that little girls tend to be surrounded by.

At the end of the day, I miss the daughter I had for a while.

If I was honest, I’d tell you something about Joseph becoming increasingly independent makes me starve for this little baby to be here even faster. To have a little one to nurture and hold a while. While Joseph loves to cuddle, these days he is good with just a brief hug and then he is ready to conquer the world with books, puzzles and toys all day long. He never tires :)

And if I was completely honest, I’d tell you this blog has changed drastically this year – in content and in quantity – and I am 100% okay with that. I read this post and this post recently and I felt like I was nodding in total agreement the entire time. I don’t write as often, but only because I want to come here when I truly have something to say. Even though at the end of the day (and in twenty years) this will just be a collection of random thoughts by another twenty seven year old mama + wife.

And if we were sitting on the couch, spilling our hearts over cold lemonade and chocolate chip cookies, I’d share that tomorrow couldn’t come fast enough. Tomorrow something big and amazing happens. You might remember, or you might not but I’ve mentioned a time or two that I was working on a project at Jenna’s hospital called The Wall of Hope, for the NICU floor.

Tomorrow, my friends, it goes live. Finally!!! :) There will be this little ceremony, a real unveiling. I have been working for months and months and months on this project with a few other team members, and it will all be worth it tomorrow! Just thinking about how powerful this wall of hope will be for families in the NICU brings tears to my eyes, because I know it would have done so much for us. I hope to share pictures as soon as humanly possible! :) I can’t tell you how much of an honor it is to be a part of her hospital this way. No words, just tears of joy and gratitude.

Later this week, to celebrate the new look and theme of my subway art shop, I will be hosting a giveaway right here on my blog. I am so thrilled with the way it turned out! Be sure to visit by clicking on the link below.

-shop-

Clean + Fresh

I can breathe again!!! I am so happy with the way the new look turned out. I hope everything is a little easier to find. I also changed the way I am doing sponsorships, ultimately decided I still want to keep them, just simplified. So be sure to email me if you’re interested in sponsoring :)

fran@smallbirdstudiosDOTcom

In other news, if you have a moment be sure to check out my first post on Preemie Babies 101 today. I am honored to be a part of Hand to Hold‘s new blog for Preemie parents, and just have a full heart that I can share our journey with Jenna there. They are doing a wonderful job at including all aspects of the NICU experience, including bereavement and palliative care. Click here to read my post on Father’s Day.

More soon :)

Xo

The Other Day

… it felt like yesterday.

I was alone in the truck, retreating from so many mixed emotions that flooded my soul after the NICU volunteer meeting.

Don’t think for a second I don’t want to be a part of it. I knew there would be days like this.

But I also haven’t had a day like this in a long, long time.

There is a sacredness in tears.

I really believe that.

It somehow unites the world with the expression of your heart.

It is healing.

But so draining.

Last night I got 2 text messages and one message on facebook about three different heart-wrentching situations.

Everyday there is somebody whose world is being rocked to the core.

Saying goodbye to their teenage soon, battling a possible life-threatening disease, experiencing an extremely difficult pregnancy situation.

Life is hard.

My heart hurts for the people that I love. This world doesn’t make sense.

As I drove home, looking like a crazy woman with a pitiful display of mascara-stained cheeks, there was a whisper that only Heaven could give.

She is alive.

She is alive and well.

As much as this separation from her hurts, that helped me. To remember that even though we visit her at the grave, she is NOT there.

She is long gone. Far from pain, hurt and questions.

And if she could tell me one thing, I believe it would be just that.

I’m alive mama. Don’t cry.

linking up with Tesha.

Lists

My heart is about to explode. I feel like I’m thinking in lists these days.

Long lists. Grocery lists. To-do lists. People to call/ email/ Skype-with lists.

Lists that don’t make much sense.

Lists that only make sense to me.

Lists that have no structure, but a clear plan (again, to me).

Lists that are simply put- organized chaos.

There is so much on my heart.

God is waaay too good to this girl, because I have a handful of amazing friends that are genuinely concerned for my well-being, telling me to take a little time away.

I’m thinking a road trip somewhere to a sandy beach is in order once Still Standing Magazine launches! Any takers? ;)

I’m not sure if it’s stress, or joy or a mixture of just so much going on in our world, but I can cry at the drop of a hat.

It’s ridonkulous.

On the bright side (and there IS a bright side… thank God!) our meeting this past week at Texas Children’s for the NICU was amazing. I don’t know how much I can disclose here, but the changes that will hopefully be implemented to make the stay of the NICU babies and their families will be nothing short of amazing. I’m still so humbled to even be a part of it. Aside from that frizz ball on top of my head, I love my badge!!!!

On Sunday afternoon I met up with a group of gorgeous women – all in h-twown, all bloggers just like me! For once I felt normal in my hometown! ;)

No seriously, it was great to meet Lindsay in person, and so many other beautiful ladies. Lindsay and I swapped ads for a while before we accidentally found out we were both in h-town (thanks to the annoying Linkedin emails being sent from me to the whole world)! ;)

Hope your Monday is gentle on you friends xxxx

linking up here + here

ps- I will be auctioning off some of my subway art pieces on the facebook page later today :)

Raffle anybody?

I hate asking for $$$. I almost titled this post just that. But instead of asking for your donations toward my loser skills at fundraising I owe my bestie all the credit for this raffle idea, which makes it so much more fun!

For every $1 you donate to our walk, gets you one entry to win any piece (even a photo transfer) of your choice from my shop!

Click here the image below to donate. Every dollar counts :) I will get an email every time a donation is received so I will be keeping track of entries that way.

ps – If you are walking for March of Dimes and interested in using one of my pieces as a raffle item let me know, I can offer you a discount price on one!

Plan B

The red and blue lights silently bounced through the room, and the beeping alarms were a constant reminder of just how critical she was. The saturation levels flashed nonstop, tempting us into a pit of despair.

Whenever we go back to a hospital room and I hear those beeping noises, I always think back to those days. That, and the smell of that green hospital soap.

By this time we had placed the MP3 player inside her incubator to hopefully silence some of the racket going on in that depressing place.

I pecked away at my HP laptop which rested on one of the mobile NICU nurse desk stations and Pete was wrapped up in one of the Left Behind series books. He read through them quickly those days. I was convinced it was possible to find a miracle cure like the dad on Lorenzo’s Oil did, so I steered clear of negative stories and did TONS of research.

The doctors came in a flurry, dripping with frustration. They always had important papers in their hands, that had almost no words on them, just charts. As they spoke they pointed at the chart. “We are going to have to try Y medication, because the X meds are just not having the affect we hoped they would have.” The distance they maintained from being emotionally attached to such a small life always amazed me. I don’t blame them at all, but I honestly don’t know how they did/ do their job.

“Okay… where do we go from here?” almost without hesitation Pete and I were ready for the next thing to try to get her well.

We could tell by the looks on their faces (though we never verbalized it) that the list of ‘things to try’ was getting shorter and shorter.

I can’t remember what medicine they suggested to try next but I learned a lesson that day.

“We can try this new medication, but you must know that there is a chance she will suffer brain damage… permanent scarred tissue in her lungs… blindness…”

The list literally went on.

By this time we had heard this speech about 3 times. “This one has a side effect too?” How much more could we risk?

“Every medication has a side effect.” the doctors were almost surprised at my ignorance. “Every single one.

They say healing takes time. And in most cases it does. You know – with a scraped knee, a c-section scar, or even a lung transplant.

But often healing becomes confused with having no pain at all, and no side effects anymore. Healing is not erasing what happened, but rather learning to LIVE with it.

Healing in and of itself is a pure indicator that something devastating has happened. Something painful, maybe even life-threatening.

Healing – with time – becomes possible, but always always leaves a scar.

On the first flight home from Blissdom (yes, I had an ah-maaazing time!) I don’t know why but tears began fall. Even after the conference, and meeting some seriously inspiring women… I still want my Plan A.

Plan B is not and never will be my first choice.

I want my little girl. I don’t want pity, or tears. I don’t even care if other people remember her anymore. Because too many times I’ve been disappointed by my expectations of others. I just want her.

Knowing that plan A is impossible, I rest in hope today. Hope that her story is breaking down this taboo, and shortening the gap between child loss and support. One in four pregnancies end in a loss – whether it is early on or shortly after birth. My hope is that her story, our blog – is making a small ripple effect to reach out to someone today.

I am going to make the most of my Plan B.

Filled

Back in December our meeting for the NICU volunteer group got rescheduled at the last minute via a quick phone call while I was standing in the speedy checkout line at Wal-mart. Sorry guys, after publishing my post about ‘today’s the day‘ I felt kinda silly (and dumb) telling you ‘ahem… nevermind! It’s not gonna happen for another month… heehee’.

So I waited for the meeting to happen and BOY did it happen. :)

Oh wow. Well, let’s rewind.

Last Wednesday I left my son with my husband and well- it broke my heart because I see his little face every waking moment but it’s good for him to get in some Daddy time. Turns out he did really well without me.

I spent an hour in traffic, ran a few stoplights and was about 10 minutes late.

I bustled into the right conference room after peeking into the wrong one filled with doctors in scrubs. Oh boy.

 

I knew I was in the right place when I saw normal dressed people though and smiling faces. The minute I sat down it was my turn for introduction. And then it began.

We talked about the group, the projects on the way, and different things concerning the hospital.

The meeting went along just fine and someone said something about needing a photoshop person.

Oooooohhhhh!!!!!!! Pick me! Pick me! Pick me! I was thinking, secretly hoping no one would volunteer for this :) My heart wanted to BURST. No one was speaking up at this point. My heart was jumping up and down (do hearts DO that?) I slipped my head over the table past the person next to me to see the person asking the photoshop question. “Did you say photoshop?”

“YES!!!!”

“I’d LOVE to help!!!! So… sorry… What’s this for again? I was busy looking at the paper being passed around. Is this for that (pointing to the paper) – the Wall of Hope???”

“YES!!!!”

{insert inside happy dance}

The Wall of Hope is a project to inspire hope for new parents of NICU babies. It’s downright beautiful. Honestly throughout the interview process I had heard of this project being underway but I was under the impression that it was done.

It isn’t.

And I am COMPLETELY honored and giddy to be a part of it. The project will be sharing NICU graduates from the hospital – their NICU baby picture, and a picture of them today.

To say that this isn’t a little hard to do would be a lie, but I can’t describe how full my cup feels just being a part of this.

On the way home I was in disbelief, overcome with gratitude, tears, happiness and sorrow – all in a single moment. But it was perfect. I was once again reminded of the beautiful dance of grief and joy. The very likeliness that these two could coexist in a single heart without breaking it completely. Sometimes life is beautiful.

I started thinking of how long I’d been trying to be a part of her hospital, and everything God has brought into my life between then and now.

All the blogs, the beautiful supportive blog friends, some of which I’ve had the honor to meet in real life.

The opportunity to design blogs for these families experiencing loss. The opportunity to learn photoshop at all.

I started realizing that just maybe this has been my ‘training ground’.

I needed time.

Time to write. Time to cry. Time to process and experience all the aspects of grief for the first time.

Time to learn to live with this.

Time to accept the good days and leave that guilt behind.

Time to embrace the sadness.

Time to allow healing.

Just time.

It didn’t feel right NOT being at the hospital after leaving with empty arms, and I know she isn’t there today. But it was her home for a little while, and for that reason it means the world to be active. Give back. Offer hope, because God knows we needed it when we were there.

Photobucket

Today’s the Day

Today’s the day I’ve waited for, prayed for, hoped for for 2+ years. Today’s a good day, it just has to be. :)

To say I am nervous is the understatement of the century. But I’m bleeding with excitement. I have absolutely no idea what to expect tonight at our first meeting for the NICU volunteer group. I got an email about a painting project they’re working on in the New Year for something called “The Wall of Hope” (more on this later)… can you imagine my excitement!!!!!!!!

I will share anything I am able to share here, in case you want to carry the ideas into hospitals groups in your own area.

Other than that life is full of love, work, and everything in between.

My little man says ‘no’, he laughs when he farts and he adores his mama more than anything else in the world. I can’t really ask for more out of life :)

Jenna’s deep red rose bushes make me smile… they just look Christmasey…

You might find this last image sad, and it is… but still beautiful. Dana and I discovered this butterfly wing in my backyard one afternoon while we were out there with Bubby. There is something about butterflies lately…

We were talking about butterflies on a walk and Bubby just blurts out the word “butterfly” (best he could) like it was no. big. DEAL! And then… if you visit any Target, Hobby Lobby or Wal-mart… there are seriously so many butterfly ornaments to choose from.

It might just be a coincidence, and then again it might be a sweet glimpse of that other world as our hearts ache to hold them again this Christmas…

If you wish to take part in our Christmas Card + Ornament exchange there is still time. Just click here for details :)

Xo

she rocks. Nikki from ‘Caps from Collins’

You might call me crazy, but I’m addicted to finding blogs. Reading inspiring stories. Gawking over pretty pictures of things I’ll probably never ever make on Pinterest, but the true highlight of being a blog designer and a work-from-home artist is coming across people making a difference.

Meet Nikki from Caps from Collins. She handmakes sweet baby caps for NICU babies and donates some to NILMDTS as well. AAAAMAZINGNESS.

In her own words…

Collins was born on May 18, 2011– our second son and the baby to complete our family.  The pregnancy was perfect and he was delivered at 9 lbs 1 oz of chubby perfection.However, he soon went into distress and passed from a lung condition that is undetectable before birth.  The first time I held him was as he was passing peacefully away on May 19.  The nurse placed him in my arms and put this little blue hat on him.  I really was not happy with that hat, it was scratchy and not pretty, and made my husband get the cute hat I brought for Collins.

I left the hospital empty handed and shattered-hearted. 

I was able to have Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photos made– and one of the photographers is one of my great friends.  I believe I was the closest loss she had ever photographed.

In the few weeks that followed, I thought about that ugly hat that was in the memory box. It was handmade, and I really did appreciate it, even if it was aesthetically pleasing to me. I was just thankful for that extra memory– that little scrap that touched my living son.

I decided I wanted to make hats, but I had zero skills in that area.  I wandered the local craft store one day and found a loom– easy enough, I thought!  And it WAS!  I loved it. With every loop of the thread, I felt my son.  Soon, I learned to crochet, too, and the “Caps from Collins” was born.  My mother and I are the main hatmakers and I have the help of my darling friend Ashley as well as our husbands!  Other friends have contributed hats and yarn and love and prayers.  We’ve sent hats to our NICU here as well as a NICU in Georgia.  In addition, I provide hats to multiple NILMDTS photographers at no charge.  I know how much a little hat can mean, well, because each one means another memory to me.


We’re not some charity or organization– just some folks, making hats, in honor of one special little boy.  So far, we’ve given away nearly 300 items, and we make more each day.

Please show Nikki some love by visiting her facebook page & blog.

Be sure to share this post with your friends to spread the word about Caps from Collins, and the beautiful work she is doing!

XO!

ps- a little birdie told me Nikki is hosting a giveaway on her blog… :)

Celebrating NICU Nurses

Did you know today’s NICU Nurse Day? What a beautiful profession.

It truly is a calling. After watching these women watch over Jenna, I marveled at their patience, dedication and love for these precious babies under their care.

But you wanna know what I really loved about them?

When they looked at Jenna they didn’t see a premature, tiny 1 pounder.

They acted as if there were no haunting statistics that might send our world crashing at any moment.

They saw my baby. They talked about her with me without hesitation. They marveled at the little movements she would make.

They recognized my NEED to change her diaper, hold her hand, mother has as much as humanly possible through an incubator.

It brings me to tears.

They cared. They totally deserve a day. :)