Tuesday, November 8, 2011

World Prematurity Day: How You Can Help

November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and November 17 marks World Prematurity Day. Did you know that in the United States, 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely? World-wide, an estimated 13 million babies are born too soon. With statistic like these, chances are you will know somebody who delivers a premature baby in your lifetime. It may be a family member, or a friend of a friend. Maybe its one of your Facebook acquaintances or a co-worker. No matter who it is, I can almost guarantee that the parents are dealing with feelings of fear and helplessness. But as helpless as these parents may feel, I can assure you that as a friend, family member, aquaintance or even a complete stranger, there is something that YOU can do to help preemie parents in their time of need. Below are some suggestions:

Cook meals that can be frozen and reheated. Parents that have a child in the NICU literally have not a moment to spare, as most of their free time is spent at the hospital. Being able to come home late, heat up dinner and crash makes life a little easier. Any household chores you can do for a family with a preemie is great too, whether its cutting their grass or doing a load of laundry.

If the family has other children, offer to babysit. Lain and I did not have to worry about this issue, as Lea was our first. But I can only imagine that having other children with one in the hospital can make you absolutely nuts; especially since children are not allowed to visit the NICU.

Be supportive, but not overly positive. Although the phrase "It's going to be okay," seems to be the go-to saying to make a preemie parent feel better, I can attest to the fact that this phrase always sent a tinge of frustration through me. You don't really know that all will be okay, although we know that is what you hope for. Instead, I'd suggest something like, "Hey, this situation sucks, but I want you to know that you have my support, and that I've been praying for God to keep your baby healthy." Acknowledging what the parents are going through and their fears for their baby, and praying that their fears are lifted is the most helpful thing you can do.

Do your homework. The more knowledgeable you are about prematurity, the more you can easily communicate with and understand when a preemie parent gives an update. There are tons of fabulous resources for you to learn more about preemies. Click here for a list of resources.

Let us vent. Sometimes, as preemie parents, we'll just want to talk. cry. yell. whatever... Just be there to listen, even if we repeat ourselves. Believe me, it helps.

Inquire about visitation. If the parents want visitors, make sure to plan your visit in advance. Just "showing up" can take away valuable time that the parents are spending with their child, as no more than two people are allowed in the NICU at a time. Don't forget, while our baby may be tiny, we are still very proud parents, and we want to show our little bundle off just like any other parent... we just need a head's up!

If you can knit, sew or just like to shop, you can donate preemie clothing, hats and booties to your local NICU, and the nurses will give them out. I will never forget one day walking in to see Lea, my eyes swollen and red, my heart heavy.... and finding two beautiful, doll-sized dresses that had been hand made by a very generous seamstress. Trying those dresses on my girl was a step towards normalacy. It completely brightened my day, and I remember leaving with a smile on my face.

 Gifts, cards and words of encouragement are always welcome. When Lea was in the NICU, we had loads of support from friends and family. Gifts were literally left at our doorstep for Lea. Its funny how a tiny pair of shoes, or a sweet picture frame can really lift your spirits as a preemie parent. And even more-so, knowing that people care helps you feel a little less isolated. Anything that lets the parents know that they have your support helps!

Send a NICU care package. Hand sanitizer and moisturizer, snacks for long hospital visits, restaurant gift cards, journals, and disposable cameras to be left at the baby's bedside are all great suggestions to include in your package.

Let us be germ freaks. Yes, germ freaks. If we ask if your hands are clean, don't be offended. And if you're a smoker, don't be surprised if you're not invited for a visit. We are looking out for what is best for our child -- you understand.

If you are a preemie parent, use the knowledge and wisdom gained during your baby's stay in the NICU to help others. I have been blessed to meet some amazing preemie mothers through my experience. There is no better feeling than being able to relate to another preemie parent; we share a very special bond.

And lastly, simply pray. Prayer is a biggie. Praying for these families is probably the most beneficial act you can do for them. God has His way of bringing comfort to those in distress.

So if ever you find yourself able to help out a parent of a premature baby, I hope you find this list helpful. Know that any small gesture is greatly appreciated and never forgotten.

"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, 
one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."
- Audrey Hepburn

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Giveaway! - Personalized Graphic Plaque

Thanks to my crack-like addiction to pinterest.com, I have been inspired to get crafty. Below are a few projects I've been working on lately. These are graphic plaques... made with my own graphics and a block of wood.

Lea's footprints
Now the fun part... here's the chance for you to win one of these bad boys... with your own quote, baby's footprints, or anything else you'd like to see on a 5 x 7 wooden plaque. It will be completely customized for you. And instead of just opening up this contest for preemie parents, I'm going to include ALL parents.

How to Enter

 Step 1:
"Like" us on facebook or become a follower of our blog. If you've already done this, move on to step 2.

Step 2:
Preemie Parents - Comment with a quote, bible verse or any bit of advice that either helped you get through the NICU experience, or is currently helping you cope.

All Other Parents - Comment with your parenting "mantra," or a saying that you've heard that applies to your parenting style.

PLEASE COMMENT WITH YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS, OR A LINK TO YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT SO THAT I CAN GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU IF YOU WIN. (If you don't want to leave your contact info, just be sure to check back on November 4th to see if you've won.)


Step 3:
I will randomly pick one preemie parent and one non-preemie parent winner. Once your design is finalized and your plaque is produced, I'll ship it to you. Good luck!

And the winners are...


#2 - Shawnte (Preemie Momma) & #5 - Elizabeth
Congrats ladies!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

28 Acts of Kindness :)

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.
~Amelia Earhart

 I recently came across a blog entry where a Mom chose to do 35 random(ish) acts of kindness for her 35th birthday. Genius! So for my 28th birthday this year, I planned to do the same.

Now I know this is a blog for Lea, but believe me, this all ties together. I have decided that in order to ensure that she grows up to be a loving, compassionate and contributing member of society, I must lead by example. I want to be the best role model I can be for my girl, so I dedicated myself to committing these 28 random (and some not so random) acts of kindness by the time my birthday came.

Aside from setting a good example, I also wanted a way to show God how thankful I am for all that he has blessed me with. What better way to show my thanks to Him than to do a few good deeds for His children? So with that... I set out to do some good. Below are my 28 acts of kindness:

1. Mailed a handwritten note of gratitude to someone that has touched my life.

2. Donated blood. Student nurse = OUCH.

3. Left a large tip for my server at a restaurant. We could tell it was his first day, bless his heart. He was hustling... he totally deserved it.

4. Left a stack of books I was done reading at a coffee shop for customers to read.

5. Left some quarters in a vending machine for a thirsty passer-by.

6. Left a gift card outside of a coffee house for someone to find and purchase them-self a cup of coffee.

7. Brought some home-made cookies to my co-workers. Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies to be exact. YUM!

8. Paid for the person behind me in the drive-thru. I actually got to watch this one go down in my rear-view mirror, and it was really fun seeing the guy smile as the woman handed him my "Random act of Kindness" card and told him his meal (and his friend's meal) was paid for. He waved at me with a big grin... it was too cute. 

Lea and our new tree.
9. Planted a tree in our front yard. Yes, this counts! Trees help control the climate, filter the air and help to beautify the Earth. Therefore planting a tree is my way of giving back to the environment AND my community. Thanks to my sweet hubby for doing the majority of the work! Lea loves her tree -- I think she's going to be a botanist when she grows up.

10. Created a T-shirt design (free of charge) for a group walking in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. 

11. Pledged a donation for a child participating in a Boosterthon Fun Run. The Fun Run helps to raise money for the child's school while teaching students about fitness, leadership and character.

12. Gave away a $25 coupon at Gymboree to a woman in the check-out line. I cannot STAND to waste a good coupon, so this act might have been just as satisfying to me as it was for the woman I gave the coupon to. (hehe) She had a pile of clothes, and walked away with a bill $25 less that it would have been :) Side note: Yesterday as I was standing in line to check out at Victoria's Secret, a woman handed me a $10 off coupon she wasn't using. Tell me karma's not real!

13. Gave away a massage appointment to someone who could use it more than I could.

14. A day of no road rage / riding people's butts / honking. Yes, I admit it. I can be quite the agressive driver. However, I have made a valiant effort in driving more cautiously and less aggressively. The ride to and from work has become much more pleasant because of it. Plus, I don't want Lea picking up on that habit.

15. Brought sweets to the fire department. They were very thankful, and Lea even got to sit in the fire truck.

16. Cleaned out my closet and donated a bunch of clothes, shoes and purses to Goodwill.

17. Smiled at people. How simple, right? This act of kindness is awesome, because it instantly changes a person's mood. Lea is really good about smiling at everyone she passes, and she is already learning that giving a smile will more than likely get one in return.

18. Adopted a soldier. Adoptaussoldier.org is an awesome website, where they link you up with a soldier stationed overseas. I mailed my soldier a care package filled with everything from soap to socks to double-stuffed oreos, as well as a thank you card expressing my gratitude for his service to our country. I definitely plan to continue to send care packages until he is home. Also, the website recently had an influx of soldiers sign up, so if you are interested in adopting a soldier, now's the time!

19. / 20. Got my truck washed by a group of kids raising money for their church. They did such a great job, I also donated some extra funds for a round of snowballs.

21. Gave a meal to a homeless person.

22. Brought a bucket of candy and popcorn to the nurses on the Labor and Delivery floor where I delivered. When Lea was in the hospital, we constantly brought treats to our NICU nurses... but I neglected to ever bring anything to the nurses that took care of me after my delivery. Here's making up for lost time! 

23. Made a donation to help fund a surgery for a dog that had been rescued from an abusive home. (All of the money has been raised, and he'll have the surgery he needs to begin a new chapter in his life with a new, loving owner.) 

24. Brought a bag full of baby food and formula to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

25. Dropped off some dog/cat treats and a ton of plastic grocery bags for "poop-scoopin" at ARNO (Animal Rescue of New Orleans).

As you can imagine, doing 28 random/non-random acts of kindness takes a lot of thought, and as I neared number 28, it got harder and harder to think of kind things I could do. I kept my eyes open for opportunities... but I saw none, so I prayed. I asked God that if there were someone is this world who could use my help in any way, to please guide me to them.

I'm not sure why I still get surprised when God answers one of my prayers in such a blatant and obvious way... I know He hears me, and I have full faith is His actions, but when I ask, and he delivers almost immediately, it never ceases to amaze me.

On the same day that I prayed for someone to help, I got a facebook message from a friend who has a friend who is soon going to be delivering a preemie at the very same hospital Lea stayed, and that she could use someone to talk to that's been through the same thing. If there is one thing I KNOW I can do in this world, it is to give support to a preemie mother in need. So with that, my number 26 was cake.

26. Befriended a fellow preemie mother-to-be. 

27. Donated to Kidd's Kids. This is something I regretfully have never done until now. For those of you who are not Kidd Kraddick listeners, Kidd and his team take a large group of chronically and terminally ill children and their families to Disney World every year, all expenses paid. The trip is funded mostly by listener donations. To find out more about Kidd's Kids, click here.

And finally...

28. My final act will have to wait until this coming Saturday, but Lain, Lea and I will be participating in "Skip for Tripp 5k run/walk," benefiting Tripp Roth. Most people I know are well aware of Tripp's story, but if you're not, you must go here to learn about this miraculous boy and his saint of a mother. And let me just say, acts of kindness aside, I would do anything, at any time if it meant I was doing something to help that sweet little drummer boy.

So there it is: 28 acts of kindness for my 28th birthday.

And to my Lea, I look forward to the day that we can read this blog entry together and plan your very first acts of kindness adventure. I love you, and thank you for making me want to be the best person I can be.

My sweet family 10-9-11

To download a FREE printable sheet of the Random Acts of Kindness tags I made and attached to my gifts, please click here!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life is Sweet...

My happy girl :)
Its been a couple of months now since my last post--mostly due to the fact that Lea keeps me quite busy! But after a few requests for an update, I'm happy to say Lea is continuing to grow, thrive and bring so much joy to our lives. Being a mom has been the most amazing experience so far, and I know there is so much more to come!

Lea's current age is 6 1/2 months, while her adjusted age (or the age she'd be if she had come on her due date) is 4 months old. She has been seeing an Early Steps therapist for almost a month now, and I can really tell a difference in her strength and fine motor skills. Her therapist sings songs with her like "Wheels on the Bus," uses finger puppets and assists Lea with tummy time that helps her strengthen her little body. She loves to stand (with a little support) and Lain and I joke that she'll probably skip crawling all together and just start walking one day. Lea also recently underwent a neurological exam that is routine for all premature babies. Everything went great, and Lea is perfect. (Like we didn't already know that ;)

Oh, and girlfriend is officially chunky! Lea's got a double chin, wrist rolls and fat little thighs that I have to pinch every time I see them. My ten pound, fourteen ounce girl loves to eat, and she is slowly but surely getting the hang of eating off of a spoon, although she still prefers her bottle. And she LOVES watermelon! Now we're just waiting for those tiny feet to catch up, so she can start wearing all of her cute shoes!

Lea and Uncle Jarad in Nashville

 As you preemie parents know, the NICU experience will make you very aware of germs. Hand sanitizer ruled my life the first few months that Lea was home. Now with flu season out of the way, we've increasingly become less "germ-o-phobic," and have ventured out to lots of fun places like the zoo, the aquarium and even took a vacation to Nashville, TN to visit Uncle Jarad which included her very first airplane ride.

Thanks to everyone for all of the prayers and support over these past six months. We are so blessed to have such amazing friends and family in our lives. I hope Lea's story can give hope to other preemie parents out there. I will never forget the times I sat in the NICU, not even able to hold Lea, not able to hear her cry... I want parents who are going through this same thing to know that they are not alone. God is waiting to listen, and ready to comfort you. Reach out to Him and he will get you and your family through it.

Lots of love,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Free Atlast!

Today Lea had her four month (and one week) check-up. So many wonderful things to tell! First off, her current weight is 8 lbs., 2 oz.! That's nearly five times her birth weight. She is still below the third percentile in size, but she is steadily growing -- and that's what's most important.

Last time you'll ever see those wires!

Also, the doctor gave said we can FINALLY take her off the apnea monitor. I cannot explain to you how excited I am about this. Lea is finally free! I am so happy that now when I pick up my girl, I don't have to worry about any stupid wires getting tangled or pulled out. Now Lea won't have any red marks under those sweet little arms, and overall she'll be much more comfortable.

With all the excitement, though, does come some anxiety. Lea has never slept without being attached to her monitor. Although that machine has been a severe pain-in-the-butt, it has given us peace of mind at night when we're asleep. Luckily, I've learned an invaluable lesson over the past few months: PRAYER CONQUERS ALL. So tonight, I will be praying that God watches over Lea as she sleeps wire-free for the first time.

Goodbye monitor!

The doctor also said we can start giving Lea solid food -- so we're going to try some cereal later this evening. Time is flying by. Is my little eight pound baby really about to try solid food??? Amazing. My tiny girl continues to thrive in every way. I am so proud of her, and all that she has accomplished in her short time on this Earth. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Four Months... My, How Time Flies.

Today, Lea is four months old! You'd never know it by looking at her. In fact, she could easily pass for a baby that was born yesterday. She fits comfortably in all her newborn clothes now, although there's still a little room for growth. Her preemie sized socks, however, slip right off of her tiny, narrow feet.

4 months old
Anytime we go places, people will comment, "Oh a brand NEW baby!" Most often I just nod and go along with it, avoiding a long explanation. Plus, it's fun to let them think that I am a this freak of nature who managed to lose all her prego-pounds in a matter of days. Ha!

Preemies have two different ages: a chronological age, which is how old the child actually is, and a gestational age, or the age she would be if she'd been born on her due date. During the first two years, Lea's development will likely be more on track with her gestational age, which today marks six weeks and two days. She'll catch up soon enough!

Lea at her first crawfish boil - 4/30/11

Lately, my little muffin is enjoying lots of tummy time. She likes to lift her little wobbly head and look around. She also loves the water during bath time. I think we may have a future swimmer on our hands! Lea is finally sleeping peacefully through the WHOLE night! Ahhhhh... gotta love it. She's beginning to give us some social smiles, and we've also gotten a few tiny chuckles. Baby girl can now suck down a four ounce bottle like its nobody's business. Her favorite song is Keri Hilson's "Pretty Girl Rock," which when I sing it to her, I usually get a crooked little smile in return. She loves visitors, so if you haven't already, (and you're not sick, of course) come by and meet our girl!

Life is good. God is great. I couldn't ask for a better life with my beautiful little family.

2 Corinthians 9:15 - "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Cousin's Love

My twelve year old cousin Joe recently had an assignment in school to write a descriptive essay on any subject of his choosing. He chose to write about Lea. Below is the most beautiful piece of writing I've ever read.

            She was scarcely half as long as a thumb and they gave her the name of “Thumbelina,” or Tiny, because she was so small. A walnut-shell, elegantly polished, served her for a cradle; her bed was formed of blue violet-leaves, with a rose-leaf for a counterpane.”  According to Hans Christian Andersen, Thumbelina is the baby daughter born to a woman who desperately wanted a child.  The woman planted a tiny seed and overnight, a beautiful flower, much like a tulip grew.  Inside the tulip was a little girl, no bigger than a thumb.  Her name was, Thumbelina.  This year, God blessed our family with our own, Thumba-Lea.  I knew from the instant Lea was born that I would love her forever and ever.
            Lea Celeste Gorman was born on January 4, 2011.  She was eleven weeks early and weighed only one pound, fourteen ounces and was 13 inches long.  Lea weighed about as much as a can of chicken noodle soup, or a walkie talkie and was only an inch longer than the ruler I use in math class.   Her hands and feet were the size of my own thumbs.    She was a tiny, itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, buddle of love from the moment she was born.  She was bigger than a thumb, and she didn’t sleep in a walnut shell, but she was our Thumba-Lea.
              Micro-preemie babies are very susceptible to germs; especially the kind of germs active boys like me can carry.  For Lea’s sake, it was best for me not visit her while she was in the hospital growing.  That didn’t stop me from praying for her every day!  Each day I asked God to watch over my tiny, little cousin and keep her safe until I could finally meet her and hold her.  After 64 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and weighing a whopping four pounds, fifteen ounces, Lea was finally ready to go home!  Princess Thumba-Lea chose the most extravagant holiday in New Orleans, Mardi Gras, as her day to go home.  Proud parents, Jessica and Lain didn’t have a King Cake this Mardi Gras Day, but they certainly “got the baby!”  Now I could finally see her, hold her, touch her sweet, soft skin, breath in that fabulous baby smell, sing to her, and look into her crystal blue eyes and let her know that Joe Joe would ALWAYS be there for her!  I was counting down the days until I got to meet her, it was better than Christmas!
Lea & Joe

lea4.jpg            April 21, 2011 was one of the best days of my life.  My favorite cousin, Jessica knocked on my front door and said, “Hey Joe, are you ready to go see Lea?”  Ready? Of course I was ready! Even though Jessica only lives about ten minutes from my house, the car ride to her house took forever.  All I could think of was that gentle, sweet baby lying in my arms.  We pulled up to the house, and I knew she was inside.  Excitement filled my body, I had chills all over me, I was scared, nervous, and anxious.  What if she cried when I held her?  What if she didn’t feel comfortable in my arms?  I threw off my seatbelt, and bolted inside.  There she was, the most beautiful, precious, baby I had ever seen.  She was like an angel, her soft little face glowed.  I stared at her, and my eyes filled with tears.  Thumba-Lea was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen in my life.  The room was still, the only sound I could hear was Lea cooing.  My Aunt Nancie gently laid her in my arms, I was in heaven!  I stared at her petite, little face, and was instantly captured by her sweet innocence.  Lea was perfect, and I was totally in love.
            While most kids would want to spend a day off from school playing outside, or lounging in front of the television, I spent the day with the most amazing gift God has ever given someone.  I cradled Lea in my arms, I sang to her, and caressed her delicate, cottony skin.  As I sat there, gazing at her, her little eyes fluttered like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.  She opened one eye, and then the other, our eyes locked, and I whispered to her, “Hi, I’m your cousin, Joseph.”  She blinked a few times as if to focus, then raised the left corner of her perfect little mouth, then the right, and smiled at me.  In that instant, Thumba-Lea captured my heart forever.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lea Unplugged

Happy Easter!

Today we came one step closer to normalcy. Lea spent all day wire-free, unattached to her heart monitor. We decided to give it a try since we'd be in church, and the machine tends to ring its deafening alarm any time we are out in public. Also, I can't lie... I went from loving to despising this monitor over the past few weeks. I'd seriously like to beat it up, like the scene in Office Space where they go to town on the the fax machine with a baseball bat. At first, having it gave us piece of mind. But after countless ear-splitting false alarms that wake you out of dead sleep, tripping over wires and lugging around all this extra baggage, we decided we needed a break. I think Lea did too. She was noticeably more comfortable today without the thick band that is usually wrapped around her torso quite snugly, which often chafed and reddened her sensitive baby skin.

First Easter - 2011

My little muffin did great without her monitor. And surprisingly, Mommy did as well. Aside from the couple of times I woke her out of a dead sleep just to make sure she was still breathing, I felt pretty comfortable having her "unplugged," although I NEVER once took my eyes off of her. At church this morning, we also had the pastor pray over Lea that God would keep her safe in this new transition. That most definitely helped to put my mind at ease.

It felt so good to carry Lea (and only Lea) in my arms today. No wires to hold up off the floor as I walked... no heavy monitor to carry on my shoulder. Just me and Lea - as it should be. Tonight the monitor will go back on. We're not quite to the point where she can sleep without it. Hopefully that day is coming soon that the doctor says it can be removed for good. Until then, we'll just be unplugged during the day!

1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tiny Dancer

Last night, Lea enjoyed her very first concert. She squealed with delight and kicked her feat to the Black Eyed Peas. She is so amazing. Enjoy :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Donate to Graham's Foundation to help preemie parents!

While Lea was still in the NICU, I came upon an amazing resource for micro-preemie parents: Graham's Foundation. If you are a preemie parent, I urge you to visit this site!

Graham's Foundation is a non-profit founded in 2009 by Jennifer and Nick Hall in memory of their son, Graham. Its mission is to offer both practical and emotional support to parents of micro-preemie babies. The foundation supports the parents by sending care packages to them during their journey in the NICU. Also, the foundation’s website provides a place for parents to share their stories and find support, which I found most helpful as a preemie parent.

I recently had the opportunity to join this amazing team as the Director of Graphic Design. I'm so proud to be a part of such a fantastic cause!


Graham's Foundation has partnered with Pampers to  help them launch their year-long Little Miracle Missions by deliverying more than 30,000 care packages this week to all the Level 3 NICUs in the US and Canada. Not only that, but Pampers is generously matching all donations collected for Graham's for the next 90 days, up to $20,000!

I urge you to donate to this cause! Even the smallest donations count! If you have a preemie, you know that the smallest gestures of kindness make such a big impact on your state of mind. Being isolated in an NICU day in and day out while visiting your baby can make you feel so alone. I can assure you that every parent that receives one of these care packages will have their spirits lifted, and will know that people out there like you care. Thank you for your generosity and compassion in advance!

Click here to make your donation

Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Small Step to Sleepy Time, One Giant Step to Normalacy

Let me just start by saying I think I may have the loudest child ever.

Hehe, okay maybe not EVER, but wow... how can someone so tiny be SO LOUD!? And when I say loud, I mean she grunts and groans at super-high decibels. Since she is on specialized preemie formula that is packed with iron and fiber, my poor munchkin is constantly constipated. (And yes, we've tried water, prune juice, Karo syrup, gas drops... etc.) Therefore, she is constantly working on her next movement if you catch my drift.

After twenty-four days of alternating night duty with Lain, as we took turns sleeping on the sofa with Lea in her bassinet, swing or bouncy chair in the living room grunting away... we finally decided that last night would be the night that she'd sleep in her big girl crib for the very first time.

 Prior to taking our girl home from the NICU, I vowed that I'd never let her out of my sight once she was home. I had a picture-perfect vision of her sleeping soundly in her bassinet that we had set up in our bedroom. The nurses smirked as I'd tell them that I planned to have her sleeping in our room for at least six months. I lasted twenty-four days. And I guess half of those days don't count, because those were my nights to sleep. (Thanks Lain!)

So back to the crib...

I was very hesitant on letting her sleep in a room alone. She is still on a breathing monitor, and even though I could probably hear this machine's obnoxiously loud alarm all the way from down the street, I am a VERY heavy sleeper, and I worried that if she and her machine were down the hall in another room, I may not hear it. Plus, she looks so tiny in that big ol' crib! For a little peace of mind, we set up our video monitor - which turned out to be so unnecessary. Not only could I hear every grunt, groan and movement coming from down the hall since I left her bedroom door open, the sounds were now magnified as they were reproduced by the monitor. All night long, I could hear her, as well as the 2-second delayed echo courtesy of the video monitor. It may have been the loudest night yet - I was just too exhausted to do anything about it.

Even through all of the noise, I was able to get some much needed rest. Most of all, my mind is now able to rest easy knowing that we are just that much closer to feeling normal again. All in all, Lea's first night in her own room was a success. I even caught her smiling up at her mobile this morning as I peeked in to check on her. I'm so proud of her! As she gets bigger, I hope she grows to love her room. Its a pretty cool room I have to say! It is even equipped with her very own IPod and speaker dock - so far she likes listening to Bob Marley and John Mayer.

Tonight, we'll forgo the monitor completely. Lea's got this...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Baby, You're A Firework

Lea met her biggest fan today: Grace.

Twelve years ago, my cousin Grace was born at 25 weeks, and weighed 1 lb., 11 oz. She is such a special girl... brave, strong, smart as a whip, and of course, baby crazy! So the minute she found out I was pregnant, she has been dying to meet Lea. After several unsuccessful attempts at feeling Lea kick while still in my belly, and then a very long wait while she recovered in the NICU, Grace was finally able to meet our girl today for the first time. She squealed with excitement at the first sight of Lea - it was so cute!

Lea and Grace already share a special bond. They were both micro-preemies, and they share the same fighting spirit and undeniable strength. Grace spent hours today holding Lea, singing to her and gushing over how cute she is! Lea is so lucky to have Grace in her life. She will definitely serve as a wonderful role model down the road - and a GREAT babysitter too! ;)

Below is a video of Grace singing "Firework" by Katie Perry... an anthem that is more than fitting for the both of them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Preemie Timeline Giveaway!!!

Since I am a graphic designer, I wanted to show my appreciation to the NICU team in a creative way upon our discharge. One of the gifts I left for the staff was a personalized timeline that I designed documenting Lea's stay. Here is an image below... it is 22 in. x 4 in. in size.

Needless to say, the nurses loved it, and it now hangs on the wall in the NICU. How gratifying for them to see Lea's progress from beginning to end, since they were all so dedicated to my little munchkin.

Now, I'd like to make one for you!


To enter Thumba-Lea's very first giveaway, do the following steps:

1. Become a follower of www.thumba-lea.blogspot.com and/or click here to like us on Facebook!

2. Comment underneath this blog entry with your baby's name, birth weight and current status. Also, if you have a blog, post that as well!

How it works:

The winner will be chosen at random, and will be notified on Monday, March 28, 2011. The timeline will be mailed to the address you provide after notification.

I will use the color scheme/pattern/pictures/text of your choosing, so we'll work together via e-mail to create the perfect timeline depicting your little one's progress. I will send you an online proof for your approval before mailing it.

If your little one is still in the NICU, we'll wait to create the timeline once you have all the pictures you want to include, no matter how long it takes.

If your preemie is already home, that's fine too! We'll just change up the text/design and make it something special that can be framed in your baby's nursery!

In the end, it will be your design! I will personalize it in any way you choose.

Good luck to all who enter!

****** UPDATE******

Congratulations to Ceara Spear, mommy to two precious baby boys, Nolan and Logan. Ceara was chosen at random to win a custom preemie timeline. Check out her blog at http://micropreemiemomma.blogspot.com/!

Thank you to everyone who entered! God bless!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Homecoming Fit For a Princess

After 64 long days in the NICU, Lea finally came home today weighing a whopping 4 pounds and 15 ounces and at the gestational age of 38 weeks and 4 days. In true princess fashion, she chose to arrive home on the most extravagant holiday in New Orleans, Mardi Gras! While others crowded the streets to watch the parades this "Fat Tuesday," we proudly paraded our baby girl home for the first time in nine weeks. The term "I got the baby!" had a completely different meaning this holiday. No Mardi Gras has ever been so memorable.

Happy Mardi Gras! 4 lbs, 15 oz

We'd like to thank everyone who has said prayers, sent well-wishes and gifts, cooked us meals and supported us through this amazing journey. You have no idea how much each of your kind words and thoughtful gestures helped us cope. I have been blessed to have witnessed the beauty in others and the power of God. Because of this experience, I am forever changed. My family is forever stronger. My faith is as strong as its ever been.

As I sit here typing this, Lea is wrapped up in her moby wrap, against my chest skin-to-skin. She no longer has to listen to the loud dings of monitors. Even better, I no longer have to fall asleep at night wondering if she's crying or if she's fast asleep. Tonight, for the first night, she will sleep in the bassinet that has sat empty for the past few weeks beside my bed. Now I can watch her fall asleep, and comfort her if she cries. Although she is still hooked up to a breathing monitor, life finally feels normal. We are finally a family, and we're ready to begin our new journey!

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!
View a slide show of Lea's time spent in the NICU here

On our way home...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

There's been a slight change of plans, and Lea will not be coming home tomorrow like we were expecting.

When my phone rang this morning, I eagerly answered knowing it was the doctor calling to go over  last minute details for tonight's "rooming in." Instead, she broke the news that our plans had changed. This morning, after her feeding, Lea had a severe bradycardia spell. Bradycardia is when one's heart rate drops below 100. Her heart rate is typically around 160 beats per minute. She had dropped down to 50 and stopped breathing. As scary as this sounds, a simple pat to the back or rub of the foot is enough to bring the heart rate back up most of the time. Tonight, Lea will undergo a 12 hour pneumogram (sleep study) to determine the cause of the bradycardia.

If you've ever been a NICU parent, or know someone who has, you know the phrase "two steps forward, one step back," all too well. It is the fluctuating pace at which preemies grow and develop. Each "step back," has made me a patient person, and each "step forward," has made me an thankful person. And each little step in between has helped me to rediscover my faith in God and the power of prayer. My husband and I have gained WAY too much strength, patience and trust in the Lord throughout this entire experience to even be slightly disheartened by the news that we received today. We surrendered this situation to God weeks and weeks ago. It is out of our hands. Lain and I are just here for the journey.

I can't help but be thankful that this bradycardia spell did not wait to occur once we had her home. We've had our infant CPR training, and we are fully aware of the signs of a bradycardia or apnea spell, but this happening at home would have been MUCH scarier than it happening while she is still in the NICU hooked up to monitors. In the hospital, Lea is surrounded by tons of highly skilled nurses who love her to death and care for her like she is their own. We are so lucky for that.

 Thinking back on our experience this far, its as if we've been running a marathon. And with the finish line finally in sight, we've tripped and fallen. We've watched other NICU parents cross that finish line over and over throughout out stay... and with each baby that leaves the unit, we get more and more anxious. However, this is no race. We are prepared to continue to be patient until the time is right to bring our girl home. We will just continue to pray and remain faithful in the Lord. He has a plan, after all.

"Count all these trials as joy for the testing of your faith produces patience" - James 1:2 (Thank you Rosie Oswald for sharing this incredibly perfect and inspiring verse.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

News of a Homecoming

Today we finally got confirmation of Lea's homecoming! This Friday, Lain, Lea and myself will "room in" the hospital overnight. Then on Saturday, we'll FINALLY be taking our baby girl home!

I cannot explain to you the relief, excitement and pure joy that is running through me right now. I can't remember ever feeling like this. Just picturing Lea lying in her own crib, with not a single wire attached to her is making me smile as I type this. Now, we will experience the things people sometimes warn you about when having a baby:

"You can't just pick up and go anymore... You can't go out to eat... or see a movie... It's a twenty four hour job..."

All of these things once sounded so scary and binding to me. Now, there's nothing I want more. I look forward to spending my days and nights at home with my beautiful family. It doesn't get better than that. Life is REALLY about to start now, and I couldn't be more ready!

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4: 6-7

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

Lea's feeding tube was put back in last night. And let me just say, this is not a set-back. It's just another valuable lesson in patience.

Her tiny little body got a little too tired with all those bottle feedings she was getting. Instead of eight bottles, she will have six today; this will give her a little break from all that work. When a preemie drinks from a bottle, it is comparable to you or I running for miles at a time. That will wear you out! Can you imagine feeling that depleted every time you ate? Eight times a day??

My sweet hubby and baby girl :)

In a few days Lea should work her way back up to eight bottle feedings a day. Once she can handle consuming eight bottles per day for a couple of days back to back, we will be able to take our girl home! All we can do right now is just wait, practice patience and keep praying. Lea will let us know when she is ready.

To any preemie parents reading this, I think it is important for you to know that there will always be "lessons in patience" when waiting for your little one to get well and come home. My wish for you is that you allow these lessons to help you grow into a stronger and more spiritual person that you previously were. And this goes for anyone who is battling impatience: Pray for patience -- He is listening.

"Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. but to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience." - Unknown

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Look Ma! No Tubes!!

Today Lea's feeding tube was removed, and I got to see that sweet little face without any tubes or tape for the first time -- and how SWEET it is! The doctor said we'll probably be going home very soon. Keep Lea in your prayers. We are so close!

Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Beautiful Gift...

Below is a beautiful charm that I received this weekend at Lea's baby shower. I wanted to share, because its such a unique and thoughtful gift for a new mom!

Lea's footprints are imprinted on one side of the charm, and my favorite bible verse on the other. The charm was created by the very talented Kimmie Blake, and you can visit her site at www.KimmieBlake.com.

If you are looking for a personalized and one-of-a-kind gift for someone special, consider checking out Kimmie's site! Like she states on her site, " If you can dream it, she can make it."

Thanks to Emily and Alex for the beautiful gift! Its so nice to carry a little piece of Lea around with me every day! xoxo