Happy First Birthday to Jack and Lilly!

By Kate Morrow

Jack and Lilly Morrow, born at 28 weeks gestation, turned one year old on September 14, 2018. 

Dear Jack and Lilly,

I will always remember your birthday as the scariest, yet best day of my life. You came into this world in a whirlwind and have been strong, courageous, and brave since day one. You have been through more in a year than most have been through in a lifetime. I am absolutely honored to be your Mommy and as I reflect on this day, I am filled with nothing but pride and joy.

You have changed me so much this past year and in ways I never expected. On your birthday last year when you were born at 28 weeks, I couldn’t understand why this happened to our family. I asked God “Why” so many times. Why did this happen to me? Ashamed, I spent a lot of this past year continuing to ask why and jealous of others who had such a joyous entrance into motherhood— beautiful and snuggling their babies in their hospital beds. I couldn’t get those happy images I longed for out of my head.

But, as you grew, I grew, too. I started to understand, accept, and love our beautiful story. I found reason and purpose— word by word, line by line, page by page. As our story came together, I realized it is the most beautiful story I have ever read.

Today, I confidently now know God gave me you for a reason. He gave me you and our experience to build me. To strengthen me. To make me a rock solid, warrior. You taught me what it means to be strong and courageous. It is this courage that has helped me become the best version of myself possible.

Your courage has given me strength to be brave so much this year when I really needed it. It gave me strength to keep going on our darkest, loneliest days during the NICU and isolation. It gave me strength to resign from a ten-year career and know that a career doesn’t define you. It taught me how to take a leap of faith and not be consumed by what others thought. It taught me to be brave for those around us and how to bring others joy and make them smile when I was absolutely losing it inside

Your birth story gave me purpose. For the first time in my 33 years of life, I have found my calling and I am using our experience to help others. To advocate for women and babies in our situation. To make a difference. To empower others. I feel absolutely alive when I talk about our story and see that it brings others joys and comfort.

Our experience has shown me what an amazing world we live in. The amount of friends, family, and even strangers who came together to pray for us, love us, encourage us, care for you, and just hug us was humbling. I still continue to be in awe by the love that surrounded us. I am so grateful for each and every single person—for sharing with us and allowing me to overshare somedays. I couldn’t have gotten through this year without our village. I could spend every minute of every day thanking them and it wouldn’t be enough. It taught me to take refuge in family. I have a deeper love and connection with all of our family, especially your Daddy. He continues to amaze me. Your strength and courage definitely comes from him.

You have made me realize I cannot plan. I used to be a worrier, full of anxiety and full of creating perfect plans. I’ve learned this past year life can be messy. It goes unexpected. I have learned to go with the flow and I have never been happier.

But most of all, your courage taught me how to be strong when we lost your Poppy and my Daddy. You are absolute miracles. Science only does so much and then there is God. Your medical success is God’s work. You are living testimony that there is a wonderful Father in Heaven and because of this, I know, without a doubt, that Poppy is resting gently in His arms and watching over us.

The day you came into this world so early, your birthday, I accepted that I could potentially become a Mommy to children with disabilities, special needs, or ultimately a Mommy to two angel children in Heaven. It was also this day that I committed myself to making sure I did everything in my power to help you become the best version of yourselves possible, whatever that version may be. Because, darlings, no one is perfect. You have exceeded my expectations in every single way possible.

I no longer ask God why. Instead, I thank God daily for writing the most beautiful story ever— a story I could have never written myself. A story that I would not change for the world. Our story.

You are everything I ever wanted. Everything I ever dreamed. The best book I have ever read.IMG_1537-1

I love you. I love our story.

And most of all, I love being your Mommy.

Happy Birthday, Jack and Lilly!

Love,
Mommy

 

When Birds Make Plans

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Kate:

By Kate Morrow

It was my very last day of maternity leave and I was determined to make the most of it, soaking up every last minute with my twins Jack and Lilly. I had big plans of reading books, snuggling, taking a walk in the stroller to the park, visiting daddy at work and more. And then I heard it. “Tweet, tweet.”

Our scruffy, lovable Beagle, Atticus, who has a personality large than life just went outside and I forgot to close the door. I shut it quickly thinking I heard the bird from outside. I continued to hear, “Tweet, tweet.” And that’s when I realized…

A bird had flown into the house.

He was thrashing about. Atticus was chasing him. It was absolute chaos. Frightened and panicked, I quickly threw everything into the car, babies in tow, and was prepared to drive up the interstate to my in-laws rather than dealing with the bird. I quickly realized, it’s true—

You make plans, God makes other plans.

You see, this has been the metaphor of my life for the past year.

I planned to get pregnant. A year and three rounds of Clomid later, we were finally expecting.

I planned to have a baby. A six week ultrasound revealed we were expecting twins.

I planned on a normal, healthy pregnancy. I went into pre-term labor at 24 weeks and spent 4 weeks on bedrest.

 I planned to keep my babies inside of my womb as long as I could. I went into for-real-this-time labor and delivered them at 28 weeks, 3 days gestation and we spent 76 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

I planned to live a life as normal as possible when we were discharged. We were discharged a week before the worst influenza season in history and instead spent 120 days in medical isolation.

I planned to return to work. I instead had to resign from my ten-year career to keep my babies at home and safe through the winter.

I planned a countdown out of isolation and breaking free to our finally happy, normal life.  My father unexpectedly passed away at 68 years old just 17 days before isolation would have been complete.

This past year has been hard and tougher in ways than I ever thought possible. It was dark. It was a lonely journey. It was the year that almost broke me. Yet, it was also the year that also defined me. It was the year that I saw more life and death than I ever thought possible and the year that filled me with purpose. It was the year I grew up in more ways than I ever thought possible.

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The only constant during these times was the persistent urge and calling to do more. To help people. To encourage women like me. To make a difference for babies like Jack and Lilly. To leave a legacy. And that’s exactly what I am doing.

I didn’t plan for this, but I have never been happier or more fulfilled.

And I cannot wait to tell you more about it.

Growing Babies Breaks Momma’s Heart

By Ashley Whisonant

My youngest child, Gray, was born a happy little guy. I had such a smooth delivery with him. I would even venture to say it was easy.

We are coming close to his fourth birthday in the next two weeks. I have mixed emotions about my baby becoming even more of a big boy. He is dying to grow up and do all the things his six year old brother does. I am getting less and less snuggles from him and more independence. It makes me both happy and sad to see him grow up.

gray

The quote that really stands out is, “Babies don’t keep.”

I will hold onto my baby as long as he lets me.

The 21st Century Baby Book

By: Brady Evans

My child’s baby book is actually an email account. When I was pregnant with him I secured his name as an account with my email provider and began writing him short notes. Now, 18 months since his day of birth, I imagine his inbox is filled with hundreds of short notes, images, and videos documenting his life.

Letters to my son

That’s what this world has become.  Paper baby books aren’t a thing much anymore, I imagine It wasn’t much of a thing even in my infancy. My book is only partially filled out from my days as a baby. We all organize and live by our phones, so it made so much sense to me to be able to document milestones and memorable events via my phone rather than sitting down and filling in the blanks on some printed template. What if I want to share things that there are no spaces for in the book? What if there are spaces in the book for things I don’t know?

Letters to my son

I haven’t yet imagined the day when I will give him the credentials to sign into the email account. And it may be painful – after all, the account is filled with memories from loved ones who may have passed on by that time. And when I give him the credentials he may not even care to sit down and take the time to read through the overstuffed inbox. But I know when he’s in my situation – hopefully with a child of his own on the way – he’ll wonder about his childhood and this is the perfect way for us to document it.

Letters to my son

Cloth Diapers

It is Sunday again so that means that it is laundry day. Doing laundry on the weekends is not novel to most families. It is a time for many mothers to catch up and do load after load after load in between the other tasks of grocery shopping, cleaning, and spending time together as a family. In between my loads of work clothes, toddler clothes, and casual clothes, though, I have another type of laundry going on.

Cloth diapers

Diaper laundry. A lot of people are surprised when they find out I cloth diaper. Some older people, somewhat familiar with the idea from generations past, ask if I have a diaper service. Hm. We can hardly get delivery pizza out in Gilbert, SC let alone diaper pick up and drop off.

I decided to cloth diaper my son when I was pregnant. It took a lot of convincing on the part of my husband to get him on board. Why would we do something so gross when disposable diapers are readily available? How could we dare wash bodily fluids in the same washing machine as our clothes? Are we really going to invest $300 in a stash of cloth diapers when we could just put some diapers on our registry and go from there?

Cloth diapers

So why was I so insistent on cloth diapering? First – it isn’t that crazy of a thing. Many of our parents and certainly our grandparents did it. Second – cloth diapers have come a long way. They aren’t the “plastic pants” of generations past.

Over the span of 2.5 years of diapering, these diapers are estimated to save us $1800-$2200 with an initial investment of only a few hundred dollars. They can be reused for subsequent children as well.

They are better for the environment. It has been estimated that it takes 250 years for a disposable diaper to decompose!

They are adorable.

Some people try to mention that I’m wasting water by rinsing and then washing the diapers. All they have to do is look into how much water is used in the making of disposables.

About washing them in my washing machine – if any parent thinks they’ll never be washing vomit or poop clothes in their washing machine at home they are sadly mistaken! And while we’re talking about poop clothes – in 16 months all of our “blow out” diapers have been disposable we’ve been using while traveling. We love how dependable our cloth diapers are.

cloth diapers

Having this cloth diaper chore probably adds 45 minutes to my week of “stuff to do.” The rewards are worth it, though. I feel good about doing another thing to help the environment, I’m never rushing to the store because we’re out of diapers, I’m not spending any money on diapers, and I can do less laundry on days where we let the diaper be our “pants” because they are so cute!

cloth diapers

If you are interested in cloth diapers, don’t be intimidated. They are easier than one would think! Here are some resources:

http://theartofsimple.net/cloth-diapering/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64os5I4_Z9Q

Baby Sign Language

By: Brady Evans

Did you know that babies can do sign language? They can communicate with sign language well before they can with words.

baby sign language

We started signing with Benjamin when he was just a few months old – right when we felt he could focus on our hands and mouth. We’d say the words out loud and give him the hand motions and then feel like fools for doing so. And then one day, when he was about six months old, he gave us the “milk” sign while nursing. That’s when we knew this was going to be a great thing. A 6-month-old with a specific communication for his hunger!? Amazing.

Our caregivers and I used Babysignlanguage.com for signs. These signs are simplified versions of American Sign Language. There are videos and cards you can use with your child but we never took that route. We just say the word and use the sign. Now at 13 months old, Benjamin signs “milk,” “eat,” “more,” and “wait.”

It truly is an amazing experience having a child that purposefully asks for what he desires instead of screaming out of frustration. You don’t need to worry about using signs inhibiting language development. My child has 4 distinct verbal words at 13 months old in addition to his signs. Signing simply enhances the language we use. It really is a fun and rewarding way to interact with your baby.

For more information, read these articles from BabyCenter and psych central.

Turning One

By: Brady Evans

They all say “they grow up so fast” but you really don’t know it until it happens to you. The 37 weeks I was pregnant were the longest days of my life. I was like a kid watching the clock on Christmas Eve for all those days: wishing, worrying, and wondering about all that was to come. And now – in two short weeks – my baby will be 1.

Turning one

I am so, so sad about my baby turning 1. I am not sure why. Maybe because I’m fairly certain this will be my only baby and each experience I have with him is the first and the last I’ll have as a mother. I know he can’t stay a baby forever nor do I want him to. But I am sad that he is that much closer to not needing me. Not lighting up when I pick him up for daycare (I see those 4-year-olds who are grumpy with mom and dad picking them up).  Not being his favorite person ever (I swear he smiles so hard at me he’s bound to break his mouth). I know he loves me now more than he’ll ever love me. He’ll only love me less from here on out – and he’s got to love me less so that he can love others more, and I understand that, but it is hard. And I guess that’s what I am scared to lose – I will love him more and more and he will love me less and less. How selfish is that? One day I’ll pick him up and hold him, put him down because he’s gotten awfully heavy, and never pick him up again.

I am also so, so excited about my baby turning 1. It is amazing watching him learn. He uses sign language, understands tons of words we say to him, and calls his father by “dada.” (Yes, it is some crime against mothers that he knows and recognizes many words and “mom” is not one of them. I’ll get over it.) I can’t wait until he tells me he loves me. Until I watch in pride at his first sporting event or theater production. We have so many more joyous memories to come than we’ve already had and that’s exciting.

baby smiling

Man. Love hurts.

eleven months