What I wish I had known

I’m sure every mama that’s made it to her 36th week of pregnancy remembers the GBS test. It’s hard to forget a Q-tip swab to your bum. I did it with each pregnancy, and all 3 times I tested positive. Every time I was told “it’s no big deal, you’ll receive 2 rounds of antibiotics during labor and you’ll be fine!” And for most people, it is no big deal. Until it’s your baby that becomes ill with Group Beta Strep, and you’re left wishing you had known more beforehand.

Approximately 1 in 4 healthy women carry the GBS bacteria, and show no symptoms of it (APA). However, if passed to a newborn baby, it can be fatal. It can be seen as sepsis, meningitis, pneumonia, or many other fatal symptoms (CDC).

For our sweet baby, the first symptom was her breathing. She was in our hospital room with us for 4 hours before a nurse came in and noticed that her undertones were more grey than pink. In the blink of an eye, a rapid response team of atleast 8 people were in our hospital room, and were rushing out with my baby just as quickly. Her oxygen saturation was at 40%. She was given morphine, intubated, hooked up to numerous monitors and was on IV fluids. It was terrifying.


Her bed was at an incline to open up her lungs, so that they could fill with oxygen. We couldn’t hold her. We could rest our hand on her, but couldn’t rub or stroke because it would over stimulate her. We celebrated when she graduated from being intubated to being on the oxygen cannula. She spent days learning how to breathe. I cried tears of joy when her cannula was removed and she was breathing on her own. Feedings were a whole new struggle. Her body was so exhausted from fighting the infection that she couldn’t stay awake for an entire feeding. I tried nursing, nursing with a shield, and pumping and offering her a bottle. We would celebrate the few mL that she ate by mouth, and finish off each feeding with her feeding tube. It was the most mentally exhausting time I had ever experienced, and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. 


The day we brought her home was a day full of many conflicting emotions. I was so ready to be able to hold my baby girl without needing a nurse’s permission. I couldn’t wait for my daughter’s to meet their new sister without the fear of bumping her tubes and monitors. But I was terrified. I would no longer be able to look at a monitor and see her oxygen saturation, blood pressure and heart rate. At home, there were no monitors to go off if she had another oxygen desaturation. And the scary fact was that if a nurse hadn’t noticed her color was off, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to notice.

She’s been home for almost 6 months now. She’s incredibly happy, beautiful and thriving. But to this day she’s still feeling he effects of her time in the hospital. Her body cannot digest the proteins found in dairy, eggs or soy, due to the antibiotics wiping out her gut flora.


I wish I would have known a year ago, what I know today about GBS. Testing positive for GBS is not a fate set in stone. There are numerous things you can do from home to get rid of it, such as:

  • Taking a probiotic daily, or eating a diet rich in probiotics, with fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc.
  • Taking vitamin C daily
  • Taking garlic capsules or eating raw garlic daily
  • Ingesting unfiltered Apple cider vinegar

And furthermore, testing negative for GBS at 36 weeks does not mean that you won’t have it at the time of delivery. For many people, GBS is not a big deal. But when it’s your baby, it really is.

I wish I could go back and not relied on antibiotics to protect my baby. I wish I had taken matters into my own hands, so that maybe I could have spent her first days of life snuggling and kissing on my sweet newborn, rather than watching a monitor and jumping at every alarm. I wish that my daughters could have met their sister for the first time and greeted her with hugs and cuddles, instead of watching her lay in an inclined bed. But I can’t. But I can talk about what I do know now, and hope that it helps another mama to protect their baby, so that they CAN spend their first days loving on their sweet new baby.

*since posting, I’ve been asked a couple times if I’m meaning to say that I wish I had not received the antibiotics. My answer is no. Without antibiotics, 1 in 200 babies whose mothers test positive for GBS are affected by it as well. When a mother received antibiotics, that number goes down drastically to 1/4000. If I could go back, I would still receive antibiotics. But that would not have been my only regime to protect my baby. I wish I had done everything I could from home so I was not reliant on only antibiotics.*

❤️

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3:12 am

When the sun is still sleeping and I hear “mama” from down the hall, I can tell you what I’ll find before I open the door.

A sleepy, dough eyed little girl, sitting straight up in bed, needing nothing more than the warm embrace of her mama.

At preschool drop off, Addison takes off with her buddies before I can even finish zipping her jacket. Leaving the park is like a game of tug-o-war with Elliette, who can move her little feet surprisingly fast when she wants to run away from me. I can’t name the last time I’ve used a public restroom without my little escape artists attempting to unlock the door or wiggle their way under the stall door. And a trip to any grandparents’ house always ends in puppy dog eyes asking “can I spend the night?” 

But when it’s 3:12 am and the wind starts rattling the windows, the neighbor hurriedly drags their garbage cans down the lengthy driveway, or the teens down the street race by with their radio cranked up, interrupting the dreams of princess dresses and fairy wings, there’s nothing more than a mama’s safe squeeze and slow, synchronized heart beat to find that comfort to drift off again.

To the one that made me a mom;

To the one that first made me a mom,

Thank you. Thank you for blessing me with your tiny presence, and becoming my entire world. Thank you for opening up the world of motherhood to me, long before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Thank you for guiding me along the way. Your first day on earth was my first day as a mother. Thank you for growing with me, and loving me through the many trials and errors, and knowing that all along I was doing the best I could for you. Thank you for bouncing on my knees for hours as I hashed out homework assignments, only to get them in second before the deadline. Thank you for celebrating as we finished each final together, with Gossip Girl marathons and ice cream. Thank you for taking up 3/4 of the bed, so it didn’t feel so empty when daddy was working on the road for months. Thank you for placing your sweet hands on my cheeks and telling me “it’s ok, mommy”, on the days when I felt nothing would ever be ok again. Thank you for sharing me when you were no longer the baby of the family, a though forever my baby in my heart. Thank you for making me a mommy.

It takes a village 

If you were to stroll down any given kindergarten hallway, you may find a wall that reads “FAMILY” in large, die cut letters. Below you may find thumb tacked master pieces drawn by the school’s 5 year olds. Stick figure drawings of a mom, dad, siblings, and maybe even a super cool sun in the top left corner, sporting some slick sunglasses. In the mind of a 5 year old, that’s “family”. It’s only now that I’m a mother that I realize my family portrait should have filled that 8.5 x 11 sheet ten times over. Now that I’m a mother, I truly realize it takes much more than a mother and father to raise children, it takes a village, and I could never do it on my own. 


My children are very blessed. They have a wonderful, loving, supportive “village” that would go to the end of the world for their happiness and well being. These are the people that have brought my sweet girls up to be the beautiful, free spirited souls that they are today. Nana instilled a love of books from a young age, and enjoys Octonauts and toy trains just as much as my babies do. 

Tutu introduced the love of cooking and shoes, which would explain my 2 year old struts around in and apron and princess heels. And if Addison asks you “you count, I hide?” 12 times within the first minute of meeting, uncle Coleden is to thank for getting her hooked on hide and seek. Their love of birds, blueberries and the Beattles was contributed by Papa, and now just listening to In My Life puts Ellie right to sleep. Cappy provides the lawn mower rides and does nothing short of shower them in gifts every time he’s home. When it’s time for movies, snacks and snuggles, nana is the go to girl. Yes, my girls have TWO nanas! They are very fortunate. Auntie Brooke knows just how to get them wild and wound up, especially right before bed time!! But my 2 year old is now better at soccer than I am, so what can I say? Grandma Pammy and Lumber Jack embedded their appreciation for quads rides, barn cats and the great outdoors. A trip to their house is always a treat!

If I were asked now to draw my family, these are the people you would see. Our village. The ones that helped bring up bird watching, book loving, wild, cuddly, gourmet chefs that I am lucky enough to call my children. And for this village, I am forever thankful.



Let them be little.

As a first time mom, I was always ready for the next thing. By the time Addison was wearing 3 month clothes, I was bringing down the 6-9 months and putting them in the dresser. By the time she was crawling, I was ready for her to stand. We were so excited to take her to the children’s museum, and she couldn’t even walk at that time! As a first time mom, I was so excited to experience every age and every phase, that I was always looking forward to what was coming next instead of realizing what I had right in front of me, a beautiful little girl that was learning and growing every day.

Now Addison is 2 years old and I can’t even believe it. This time around, I appreciate every moment. I don’t know whether or not we will have more babies, so my little Ellie Button may be the smallest baby I will ever have again, and she is growing bigger every day. 

This time around, I’m in no hurry for her to start solid foods, because once she starts eating solids she will be eating them for the rest of her life. So I enjoy her nursing while I can. I’m in no hurry for her to crawl. Once she starts crawling, she will never sit still in my arms again! So I enjoy the snuggles before she’s big enough to crawl away from me. And I’m in no hurry for Addison to potty train. For now, I’m happy with her helping her baby dolls use the potty. Once she’s using the toilet, she will be doing in in her own for the rest of her life (I hope!). When the girls start kindergarten, they will be in school for the next 13+ years of their life. So I’m in no hurry to put them in school. When they’re in school, they’ll have to brush their hair and wear matching shoes every day. So if Addison would rather not have her hair brushed, and wants to wear a pink shoe and a brown shoe, I’m going to let her, because she’s little. And if she wants to splash those mis matched shoes in the puddles, heck I’ll splash right with her! Because that’s what you do when you’re little.

Before I know it, Ellie will be a toddler, running around in princess dresses like Addison is now. In the blink of an eye, they will be in school, and wanting to spend time with their friends and at sleep overs. Some day my baby girls will be in the big world on their own, and maybe even give me grand babies some day! And part of me can’t wait for all of it, to see the little women they grow up to be, but for now I’m going to enjoy every moment and let them be little.

  

Two under two.

There are 2 tones that I would hear a lot when I would tell people that I had 2 children under the age of 2. There’s the “damn girl, haven’t you heard of birth control” tone, and then there’s the “oh honey, let me pour you another drink” tone. This is because, at least in my case, having 2 under 2 means having 2 children in diapers, 2 children that are still nursing, 2 children that need to be held and snuggled to fall asleep, 2 children that wake up throughout the night, 2 children that would rather be carried than walk. And I’ll admit, it’s exhausting. But having 2 under 2 is so much more than that.

Growing up, my step brother was 1 month older than me, and my step sister 16 months older. And it was awesome. We were thick as thieves. We would put on plays and puppet shows for our parents together. We would have “garage sales” where we would go to each other’s rooms and buy each other’s junk with nickels and dimes. In elementary school, my sister would sing me to sleep and in high school she would yell at me for taking her clothes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Zack and I always knew that we wanted a sibling for Addison that was close in age. Elliette was born 3 weeks before Addison turned 2, and we could not have planned it any better. 

When I found out we were having a second girl, my mind started running wild planning the shared birthday parties, dance classes they could take together, and how to decorate a little girls’ room for them to share.  But having 2 girls less than 2 years apart is so much more than that too.

As excited as I was, there were times when I would worry. I loved addison so much, how could I ever possibly love anything in this world as much as I loved her? I worried that I wouldn’t have enough time and attention for both her and Elliette. I worried that I was forcing her to grow up too fast, and that she wouldn’t be my baby anymore.

 I remember looking at Addison sleeping the night before I went into labor, and thinking about how small she was. She was my little baby. I couldn’t imagine bringing home a human smaller than her. 

Two nights after than, we welcomed our 7lb 9oz Elliette Poppy into the world. Addison was in awe. “piggies!!” Was Addison’s first reaction to her baby sister, when she realized that her baby sister came with baby toes! It was then that I started to realize how grown my toddler was. Her little fingers and little toes were much bigger than the 10 little fingers and 10 little toes I had counted over and over in the hospital, almost 2 years before.

  
In the 4 months since then, I’ve realized that having 2 under 2 isn’t about the shared birthday parties or dance classes. It’s about your toddler sharing her princess dresses with her baby sister. The same dresses she will wear for 48 hours straight and still freak out if you even think about taking it off of her. It’s about the mornings when the first thing out of Addison’s mouth is “baby sister!” and telling her “baby sister is sleeping honey” and yet somehow, 3 minutes later Ellie is awake because Addison wanted to give her a gentle kiss. It’s about watching them nap together and having to wipe away tears because there is literally nothing in this world more heart warming than the love that the two of them have for each other. And in those moments, I laugh at myself for ever worrying that I wouldn’t have enough love for the two of them. Because in those moments I know that the love I had for Addison didn’t shrink, but my heart grew when I became the mother of 2 under 2.

   
   

Coming home.

For 2 years, I was a single mother with a husband. That doesn’t sound right, does it? Kinda like saying “my husband is coming to visit!” But that was my life. My husband would be gone for months at a time, and not even be home long enough to spend the time unpacking before he would leave again. 

My husband is a hard working man. He would do anything to provide for us. Even if that meant working on the road, thousands of miles from your family. It meant missing first steps, first birthdays, and the first broken bone. 

When people would ask what state he was in, I would reply “somewhere East”. Living in southwest Washington, I couldn’t really be wrong. I couldn’t always keep track. Every day it was somewhere new, a different hotel in a different town that wasn’t ours. He switched companies a couple times, all with the promise of more time spent home, and yet he would be needed in Houston before he was done in Charleston and there was no time to come home.

Meanwhile Addison was growing up, learning new things every day, and realizing that her daddy was never home. From the day she was born, Zack would sing the song “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” to her, and when he was away she would listen to that song on repeat. We face timed every chance we got, but it didn’t make up for the absence of her daddy.

When Zack was home it was better than Christmas, both for Addison and myself. It was like the two of them would pick up right where they left off, like they were never apart. We would make the most of every second we had together, because when it was time to leave again, we never knew how long it would be for. Addison began to understand when he was leaving again. Saying goodbye was so hard on her that zack began booking his flights early in the morning, before she would wake up. But the mornings were hard when she would go through the house opening doors, calling “daddy, daddy”.

  
When I became pregnant with Elliette, I really started to question whether this was a lifestyle that I wanted to live anymore. I was afraid Zack would miss Elliette’s birth, and all her firsts as well. I was afraid we would live this lifestyle forever, and that he would have to say “take lots of pictures for me” before every dance recital or first day of school. 

Not to mention our marriage! When would we ever have time to be husband and wife? Our relationship consisted of him leaving a voicemail every morning before work, so that I could wake up to his voice, and face timing when he got off work. Occasionally he would stay up until after Addison went to bed so that just him and I could talk, but with a time zone difference, working a 12 hour shift that day, and looking forward to a 12 hour shift early the next morning, these calls were few and far between. We made the most of his time home, but those days went by all too quickly.

My pregnancy with Elliette was difficult and high risk. I had a sub chorionic hematoma, meaning she could arrive at any time, even months early. This terrified me. At that point, I had come to terms with the fact that I would be in the delivery room alone when the day would come. I just hoped he would make it home within the same day. 

We got ahead on bills so that zack could take off the maximum amount of time his company would allow. But 4 weeks just didn’t seem like enough. At 34 weeks pregnant, I was in a hit and run car accident and was in and out of the hospital after that. Zack was anxious to come home, but we both knew that every day he spent home before Elliette was born, meant one less day spent with her before he had to leave again. Then one night, when I had once again ended up in triage, Zack bought a flight home without my permission. I was so upset. I was afraid it wasn’t time yet, and he would waste all his time off before Elliette was born.

He landed back in Portland on a Tuesday afternoon. Thursday morning, my water broke and we had a beautiful little girl the next night. I don’t know how he knew that it was time, but he did and I’m so grateful. He was there through my 33 hours of labor and emergency C-section, and he was there to hold our baby girl when she was born. I don’t know that I would have made it through those days without him.

 
    
 
We were still in the hospital when Zack called his boss and said he wasn’t coming back. He had missed so much of Addison’s firsts, and was not about to make the same mistake with Elliette. He had worked so hard to make sure that Addison would never go without, yet she was going without something that meant so much more than any material item.. Her daddy. At the time, we didn’t have a plan for work. But he wouldn’t miss any more birthdays, Halloweens or first words. Daddy was coming home for good.