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Never Alone

So this isn’t what I would’ve ever planned to post after taking over a year off from blogging but as I’ve learned many times over, plans aren’t promises.

I know this post may qualify as oversharing but when you experience a life-threatening event that results in a devastating loss you feel a burden to speak up so others walking that journey know they are never alone.

On October 23rd I found out I was pregnant with number two. It wasn’t a total surprise yet I was dealing with a range of emotions. I did not feel “over” our challenges with Mae’s first year. I did not feel strong enough to go another year (or more) without sleeping. I was terrified of postpartum depression finding its way back into my life and all of these concerns left me feeling numb. I can see clearly now it was fear.

Dave and I discussed it and as the weeks passed I began to release my fears and put my complete faith and trust in God’s perfect timing. We shared the news with family members and began to get excited. I was already nagging Dave to get the baby gear out of the attic and making a list of names. I had no morning sickness this time and had been staying active so I was looking forward to a more energetic pregnancy. We had also timed it perfectly with wedding season so I could easily take four months off.

On November 23, nine weeks into my pregnancy, I started to bleed. I called our midwife who suggested I go in for an ultrasound since I had not yet had one.  So I called Dave and together we went in. I was wearing this. The ultrasound tech’s stoic expression and complete silence confirmed my fears. I asked if she was able to share her findings and she quietly said “there’s nothing there”. Empty.

When we discussed the results with the midwife she assumed that I had miscarried very early without noticing and that the bleeding was simply a period. To be safe, she ordered a blood test to make sure my pregnancy hormone levels were decreasing. They were not. She gave it two more days and tested again. At this point she did express concern over the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy but said it was rare, and especially this far along. I began to get concerned because I had a wedding the next day and I knew from a friend’s experience that ectopic pregnancies were dangerous. When we received the results the levels had gone down so we took that as a green light to proceed with business as usual.

God’s hand of protection was so miraculously on me that weekend yet I still felt like I was in a bit of a twilight zone. I was confused about what had happened, was happening, or would be. A stranger stopped me at church and asked if I was pregnant. I didn’t know how to answer her.

Monday morning, November 30th, I was supposed to drive to Miami for a meeting and a shoot but thankfully they were cancelled. Mae went to the sitter and I began my day with a phone call with a friend. As we were talking I started to feel extremely hot, nauseous and dizzy. There was intense internal pressure in my abdomen and I knew something was wrong. I could not get in touch with my family but I did speak to my midwife who ordered me to go to the ER immediately. By the grace of God, I was able to reach my dear friend who had experienced this same exact thing three years ago. She was at my house within ten minutes rushing me to the hospital. I was wearing this.

Over the next few hours, both of my parents, my mother-in-law and my husband arrived at the hospital. Amidst the flurry of activity and fearful faces of my family members, I was given the sweetest sense of peace. The pain had intensified significantly due to the internal bleeding but I distinctly remember lying still for the internal ultrasound and praying, “Lord, I don’t know what’s going to happen or why but you do and I am assured that is the absolute best for me”. I was never alone.

They diagnosed me with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and began prepping me for emergency surgery. They took me down the same hallway through which we brought Mae home. The sky was the same shade of blue. I smiled at the thought that both of my babies went home through the same hallway. Never alone.

Those moments before surgery were so precious to me. The nurses gave my family a few moments to pray and the words shared during that time will stay in my heart forever. The sense of God’s peace was so present, I never felt alone.

After surgery, I woke up to my mom and dad praying over me and Dave right next to them. My mom left to stay the night with Mae and Dave and I were left to stay in the hospital overnight. Once he was sleeping, I began doing research and realized for the first time how close to death I was, how many miracles had transpired to keep me alive, and that the likelihood of future pregnancies had been impacted. It was a lot to take in, but the peace of God never left my side.

In the weeks that followed, my village wrapped their loving arms around me in ways I would have never expected. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my life. I felt as if this experience gave me the chance to trust again. It was incredibly painful but somehow, for it, I was incredibly grateful.

So I dried all of the flowers we received and asked my dear friend Kat if she would photograph our little ceremony to say goodbye to our baby and thank God for the life we shared. These images are so rich with meaning as they share my journey of being emptied but never alone.Bye Bye Baby-1Bye Bye Baby-2Bye Bye Baby-3Bye Bye Baby-4Bye Bye Baby-5Bye Bye Baby-6Bye Bye Baby-7Bye Bye Baby-9Bye Bye Baby-10

Laura Murray - Thank you for sharing — I am so sorry for your loss. I have never had an ectopic pregnancy, but I have had 2 miscarriages. It is scary how dangerous of a situation you were in, but someone sure was looking out for you!

Looking at those photos, while beautiful, made me feel a pang of sadness and remember the babies that I lost as well. I still grieve for them. What a special way to honor your baby.

Sending lots and lots of love your way.February 3, 2016 – 4:44 pm

Laura Nelson - thanks for sharing this and these images, they are so powerful and bring out so many emotions in myself. Most of all I’m so glad you are ok and that in something so painful to go through you’ve come out stronger! Its always amazing to me to look back on a situation that was not according you our plan and see how God has his ways and that he is always for us 🙂February 3, 2016 – 5:55 pm

Peggy - I understand your loss. I, too, have had two miscarriages. So glad you had family and God with you. Truly touching photos of your sweet ceremony…know we love you, Dave, and Mae.. Though we don’t always understand God’s plan, we can be strengthened by His faithfulness.February 3, 2016 – 10:31 pm

Savannah - I read this post after your sister shared it on Facebook. She is one of my friends from college. It’s so beautiful and mirrors my own situation in many ways. I lost a baby at 19 weeks in November. I found out at a routine ultrasound and 2 days later had to have a c section due to placenta previa. I can’t honestly say I’ve never felt the presence of Jesus so heavily surrounding me. Not to mention my family all coming into town to help with my kids and our church family supporting us so lovingly. Your mantra of Never Alone really echos in my still aching heart. What got me about your post though is when you said “both my babies went home through the same hallway”. I had 3 other babies at the hospital and it was such a difficult thing for me to reconcile the wonderful memories I have of that baby floor with the heartbreaking ones I have from November. It’s so bittersweet. I had never thought about it that way before. Thank you.February 4, 2016 – 1:13 pm

Anna - you are such an amazing mama! God’s got you, girl.March 15, 2016 – 3:46 pm

One

We made it.

I realize that I’m clearly stating the obvious here but there were days, too many, that I really wasn’t sure we would. It’s safe to say that pretty much nothing went the way I was expecting it to over the past year. Some of which I have found explanations for and some of which I may never understand this side of Heaven. Sure, it took more patience, strength, prayers and tears than I thought I had in me. But we made it.

So this isn’t going to be the sappy “my-how-time-flies” one-year blog post that you’ll see circulating facebook. I wish it was. But my desire is to give a little hope to the new moms in the thick of it, feeling like they’re drowning and wondering why they aren’t experiencing the warm fuzzies like everyone else.

So to that mom:

You can do this. You are doing this. You are doing an incredible job. I know it feels thankless and that all of your endless sacrificing is accomplishing absolutely nothing. I know that you think your prayers are hitting the ceiling. I know you feel like you will never be you again. You are empty, tired, hungry, and maybe (probably) even smelly. I know it’s not fair. I know you did everything right. I know you’d give everything to fix the problem, or even just identify it. I know you’d do anything for them. I know you have held nothing back. God knows it too. He planned this. I don’t know why. You don’t either. I know you wonder how “she” does it while knowing exactly how. God planned that for her too. He hasn’t left you, ever.

You’ll see.

When they smile with no teeth, or two teeth. When they giggle. When they run away from you wobbling side to side. On the rare night they fall asleep in your arms (or maybe just in their crib without crying). When they reach for you. When they say “mama”, when they dance, when they splash, and when they are sitting in their high chair surrounded by loved ones singing “Happy Birthday”, You’ll see.

You’ll see then how the depth of your love for them is just a tiny glimpse of God’s love for us. And if we would give all of ourselves for them, how much more so would He for us.

This stuff is hard, but you aren’t alone. He is here and so am I. Because we made it. And so will you.

So here’s to year one. The year that challenged and strengthened me more than any other and to the beautiful little girl who opened my heart to depths I never would’ve known otherwise. My Mae.

 

 

Mae’s Homemade Goat Milk Baby Formula

Homemade Goat Milk Formula01

Well if you have been around here long enough you know that my pretty little baby has given her mama quite a run for her money.

From nursing issues, to digestive issues, temperamental issues and just the general what-the-heck-is-happening issues, these past ten months have not been what I thought they would be. Instead of snuggling in bed all day smelling one another and being intoxicated by the sheer bliss of our bond like I’d expected; we spent most days battling more challenges that I can even wrap my head around.

BUT it is getting better. So much better. We have been able to pinpoint many of the factors contributing to Mae’s challenges and as a result we can begin to fix them.

One of our most recent major breakthroughs was this homemade formula.

I’d heard about it since Mae was five-weeks old but always thought it was a bit too unconventional and worried that putting her health and development into the hands of an online formula recipe was rather risky.

But after nursing, pumping, and multiple kinds of commercial formula failed, I was left with this or soy. SO we did soy. And it worked. But everything I read about it sent chills down my spine so I kept digging.

I consulted a well-known doc via twitter, a nutritionist, a local holistic doctor and our awesome naturally-minded chiropractor and they all pointed me here.

So I took that as the go-ahead to give it a shot. Wouldn’t you know it, Mae’s sleep and mood improved dramatically. This stuff is seriously magic.

It does take a bit of an investment to get going and seems overwhelming at first but now I can have a 2-day batch ready in less time than it takes to drive to Whole Foods and buy her formula there. There are some bulk-prep tips for combining some of the ingredients ahead of time that I am anxious to make it even more cost and time effective.

But here is the best part, it is nutritionally on par with breast milk. Also, it’s so much cheaper than commercial formula. Seeing how much it has improved our quality of life, I am just bummed I didn’t start it sooner.

Mae’s recipe is actually a combination of two of them based on what I have found to work well for her.

Adapted from the Weston A Price Website:

Ingredients
This makes about 36oz but I always double it to last us two days since her intake is pretty high.

Homemade Goat-Whey (make this the night before)

Place 2 quarts of Goat yogurt in a mesh strainer lined with a cheesecloth set over a bowl. Cover with a plate and leave at room temperature overnight. The whey will drip out into the bowl. Place whey in clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator. Makes about 5 cups. (The leftover yogurt in the strainer is delicious with honey!!)

Instructions

  • Put 2 cups filtered water into a pyrex measuring pitcher and remove 2 tablespoons (that will give you 1-7/8 cups water).
  • Pour about half of the water into a pan and place on a medium flame.
  • Add the gelatin and lactose to the pan and let dissolve, stirring occasionally.
  • When the gelatin and lactose are dissolved, remove from heat and add the remaining water to cool the mixture.
  • Stir in the coconut oil until melted.
  • Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients into a blender.
  • Add the water mixture and blend about three seconds.
  • Place in glass bottles or a glass jug and refrigerate.
  • Before giving to baby, warm bottles by placing in hot water or a bottle warmer. NEVER warm bottles in a microwave oven.

For questions, this group is a wonderful resource for moms wanting to try this recipe.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional and I am by no means qualified to advise you on health/nutritional issues for your child. I recommend you consult your pediatrician before determining if this recipe is right for your baby. Also, it is illegal for raw milk to be sold for human consumption so goat dairies will require you to sign a waiver indicating you have been made aware that it is intended for pets only.

 

Kirsten - My first child was similar. People always thought it was colic, but I knew he was just too AWARE. From the second he was born he had an opinion about everything…while it seemed that other babies I looked at were in some kind of dream state :). Just wanted to say that I think it’s a sign of intelligence…(at least that’s what I told myself when I was losing it!). He is now 8 and so smart and much much easier to reason with 😉 Hang in there!November 20, 2014 – 7:20 pm

SEE Sessions with Jessica Sloane

 See-Facebook

Join designer & stylist, Jessica Sloane, and myself, for a comprehensive experience in the art of seeing.

February 10 – 11 at The Cordelle in Nashville, Tennessee

Our objective for SEE sessions is to help you, as designers, stylists and photographers, to intricately explore how to approach a wedding both aesthetically and relationally to create a final product that is unique to each client and artist.

During Day One, we will be sharing our experience and perspective on: finding your voice as an artist, discovering inspiration, client interaction, building & creating opportunities, storytelling and timeline management. We will review photography techniques for composition, posing and lighting. We’ll also give tips on shooting and styling for getting published.

Day two will include a fully styled wedding editorial shoot where attendees can observe, participate, practice and receive feedback from the instructors. There will be a Q&A at the end of the day to ensure that each attendee walks away with a renewed sense of inspiration and direction in their role as an artist.

Seating in limited, to enroll, visit SeeSessions.com

 

 

 

Tips For Flying With a Baby

Must-haves-for-flying

According to yesterday’s instagram commentary, it looks like there are some mamas out there in need of some tips for flying the friendly skies with a baby in tow.

I am getting kind-of hazy on exactly how many flights Mae has been on in her (nearly) eight months here but Dave counted nine and that sounds about right. Which is funny, considering my first flight was at 12 and only 45 minutes long. Oh how times have changed.

So although I will never claim to be an expert on anything mommy-wise, I have learned a few tricks to keeping the experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible. But before take-off, let me preface all of this by saying that if Mae has shown me anything, it is that what works for one baby may not work for another, so the best tip is to consider your little one’s temperament when making travel preparations.

Here’s what has worked for us:

Mae’s Must-Haves

  • Stroller/Car-Seat combo: The basic reason for this is obvious but beyond that, this set up comes in handy because it serves as a handy-dandy cart for piling things on through the airport and also saves you from needing to rent a car seat at your destination. I have even heard of some airlines letting you use the car seat on the plane if there are seats available.
  • Baby Carrier: This little number has been a lifesaver. It lets me wear Mae anyway she wants while ensuring she is still in a safe carrying position. It’s really amazing in airports because I can pop her in there when we get out of the car, check-in, wear her right through security and all the way onto the plane. All while having my hands free for baggage etc…
  • Change of clothes (for baby and mama) because no one wants to wear bodily fluids any longer than they need to.
  • Small Toys – cram as many of those gems into the diaper bag as you can. These crinkle books roll up and fit great in ours. If your baby is teething, Small Sophie is always a hit.
  • Hand Sanitizer – because ew. you never even know.
  • Shoes that won’t fall off, we are currently digging these
  • We also bring this lovee on every flight, just for good luck.

If you formula feed: pack enough in your carry-on for your trip door-to-door and then double it in the event that you miss a flight and get stuck spending the night (and the next day) in an airport. It happens. We also bring our own water in a insulated bottle so we know that it’s clean and the right temperature. They always hand-check it at security but I’d rather that than the alternatives. This little guy is great for having the formula pre-measured out to save you counting scoops or spilling that pricey powder.

If you exclusively pump: You are my hero. I highly recommend getting a hand-pump and checking your electric pump in your suitcase. It breaks down and fits great into a ziploc in your diaper bag. If you are carrying milk on, I found it worked best to get it as cold as possible without being frozen because then you don’t have to worry about it thawing and you have a few days to use it rather than just 24 hours. Also, don’t worry about security, they are legally not allowed to prevent you from taking milk.

If you nurse: Lucky Ducky.

We did the math and figured that unless you are traveling somewhere very remote, it is cheaper to buy dipes, wipes and baby food upon reaching your destination than using up your precious carry-on or checked bag space for these items. BUT be sure use the formula rule above and make sure you have more than enough in the diaper bag to get you to where you are going.

Before you go:
-If you are anything like me, your memory disappeared in the delivery room and is still missing. This means you probably need to make a list of what to pack for baby (and yourself – let’s be honest). Up until our last trip I was using a notepad but writing out the same items every time was getting old so I searched and found a free app called TripList. It has lists already loaded that you can use or you can create your own. It saves them so you can reuse and modify them for each trip. It even categorizes them and has a few other bells and whistles I haven’t really played with yet. I am sure there are others that work well too or there’s always the notepad.

-Make a copy of the baby’s birth certificate. If you didn’t purchase a ticket for them, the airline may require you to prove that they are under two years of age to fly as a lap child.

-Nowadays, airlines are starting to charge to print your boarding pass at the airport so I would go ahead and check in and print that puppy ahead of time to save the hassle when your hands are full.

At the airport:
-At Check-in, ask the attendant if they can go ahead and give you the gate-check tags for your stroller and car seat (get one for each). If not, you can get them at the gate but it’s an extra step and aint nobody got time for that.

-At Security, you may get lucky and find yourself in an expedited line. Either way, here is what we have found works best:

  • If the baby is not already in the carrier, pop them in there and wear them through.
  • Pull the car seat off and put it upside down on the belt
  • Stroller goes over next to the scanner (by the glass gate) they roll it through and swab it
  • Milk/water gets hand-checked
  • Diaper bag/shoes/etc into bin

-At the gate, if you haven’t gotten your car seat and stroller tagged yet you will need to do that. Otherwise, just ask when they board families traveling with small children because it is usually very early in the boarding process.

-I always make sure to have a clean diaper on Mae before we board/take off because I know it will be at least 30-45 minutes before I get another opportunity to change her. That’s along time in dirty diaper land.

-On the plane, we have found that sitting in the last row works well for several reasons. One, its the loudest which helps soothe and/or drown out a crying baby. Two, it allows you more opportunities to get up and move around if you need to (when the fasten seat belt light is off of course) and three, you are the most likely to have an extra seat open to use for diaper changes, play space etc…

In the air:
– I always try to plan Mae’s feedings with take-off but even if it doesn’t work that way it’s not a bad idea to have something for your little one to suck on to help release pressure in their ears.

-This is where each baby’s temperament really comes into play. Some of you have babies that will nurse, snuggle and sleep. Mae would much rather make friends with every flight attendant and passenger in a two row radius. So I let her interact with as many of them as she wants. I would let her do just about anything to keep the peace on a plane. If she gets bored/fussy we whip out a toy at a time and pass her back and forth amongst ourselves. We have managed to get her to nap a couple of times in-flight but it takes a near act of God and a sleeper hold.

On the ground:
– We pop her right back into the carrier and replay the whole thing in reverse!

I hope some of this helps and I would love to hear what has worked well for you!!

Just for fun, here’s a little clip from a recent flight.