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Truett’s CHD Story (part 3)

August 14, 2020

Today marks a year from Truett’s heart surgery. I don’t really know where the last year went – both the longest and shortest time – but some days when I think back, I still feel like our time in Michigan was just yesterday. Something about the one year mark feels monumental, like I’ve been marching toward this date and these memories for months and now, as I sit here today thinking back on last year, I feel ready to let a lot of those feelings and hard memories go.

The days between our arrival and Michigan and the three full days between our arrival and Truett’s surgery day felt like four of the very longest of our lives. I remember it was light outside when I woke from my brief sleep, and when I looked out the window over the forest of threes my first thought was “where am I? Is this a dream?”

Joe and I remarked often that it was so strange how we could do so little during the day and yet the days flew by at the same time. Each morning we made an attempt at showering and putting ourselves together for the day – Joe often went on a long run around the University of Michigan Campus – and I washed my hair, got dressed and put on makeup. All attempts at biding the time and helping ourselves to feel more normal I think.

Our days were a blur, sitting in the small space behind Truett’s bed in the PCTU bay and the window, waiting for Truett’s doctors and care teams to make morning rounds so we could get updated on Truett’s status, learning as much of the lingo as we could, asking our nurses 1,000 questions, and doing whatever small acts we could to make Truett feel comforted and cared for. While his status made it such that we couldn’t hold him, I spent a lot of time sitting by his bedside, stroking and holding his hand. To this day, Truett has always been comforted by me holding his hand and sometimes I think that might be why.

I had anticipated that based on Truett’s status and severe illness, that once we arrived in Michigan they would send him to surgery right away, but what I learned was that it was actually better for him to wait a number of days if possible. When Truett started to go downhill, his heart started to get taxed from the experience of working so hard to pump blood through his narrow aorta, causing a host of issues. So the care team worked hard to find the right combination of medicines (so many medications) to help keep him stable and allow his heart to rest and recover before surgery.

What I learned over the days that we waited was that the upper half of his body was getting adequate blood flow, while the lower half was not because of his coarctation. So any medication they gave him to help increase blood flow and pressures to the lower half needed to be balanced because that would push the upper half too high. Through it all, and all the medications, and all the fear we felt as parents seeing our sweet, new little baby in such a horrible state – vented and sedated, puffy from all the medications – we felt such a sense of peace and calm knowing we were in THE best hands at The University of Michigan. Every nurse, every doctor, even down to the people working at the floor desk or janitorial duties were kind and thoughtful and took time to ask how our child was doing. It’s an amazing place, that’s for sure, and one we hope to take Truett back to some day.

We got the news on Tuesday late in the day that we got bumped up to surgery on Wednesday instead of Thursday. It was a welcome relief, because during the time between our arrival and surgery, Truett was never “improving” or “getting better” – he was just not getting worse. I hadn’t been able to hold Truett since we were in Sioux Falls, but a hospital policy was that all parents be able to hold their babies before surgery. Through a lot of maneuvering through cords, a ventilator, and wires and sitting just so in a chair, Joe and I were able to hold Truett before surgery. I remember holding him and just weeping – feeling the weight of the emotions of the last three days and the fear about his surgery, knowing there was no other way forward for our sweet boy

The time between when they wheeled Truett away until we got to see him again were agonizing. I think any parent who has given their child up to a major surgery can attest to that fact. Our pastor had flown all the way from Iowa to spend time in prayer with us – truly one of the kindest and most humbling acts – and my Aunt Gwen flew in from Florida as well as my sister, Ashley, from Pennsylvania. Having them there with us in the waiting room while we waited for updates was so helpful to keep our mind off what was going on. Every hour or two a dedicated nurse would come and give us updates on how the surgery was going. I remember searching her face as she approached us each time for indications on how things were going, desperate for answers.

After six LONG hours, we got the update that his surgery was a success. Truett’s amazing surgeon, Dr. Si, came to talk with us about an hour later. He said that Truett’s narrowing was, indeed, very severe and was a “pinhole sized opening” at it’s narrowest spot. By being able to go through his back for the surgery, they were able to avoid putting him on bypass and instead – in their words they clamped the blood flow off, cut the narrowing out and “sewed really really fast” – something that to this day just astounds me.

I remember seeing Truett for the first time after surgery and my first observation was how peaceful he was. His little body was no longer struggling to breathe, no longer tense. He was steady and calm and my first thought was “He’s whole now.”

Once we were able to see Truett back in his room, the next four hours were also nerve wracking as we waited to see Truett move all four limbs to signal there wasn’t neurological/spinal cord damage. Thankfully, he came out of surgery well and the following day was doing so well he was able to be taken off his ventilator, making it possible for us to hold him for longer periods of time – something you can bet I took full advantage of. I think I spent most of that first day of him off the ventilator just snuggling him and marveling at his sweet face and refusing to move even when my arms were so numb I thought they were going to fall off. Nothing else mattered in those moments beside holding my sweet boy.

The days following surgery went by much faster than those leading up to surgery. Two days after surgery, Truett was doing so well that he got moved to the step-down floor, a floor with much much less intensive care that meant Joe and I had a lot more to do than before! We learned about how to give Truett a bath with his incision – still a very strange way to give a baby a bath – and our biggest hurdle was figuring out feedings since Truett had gone nearly a week without traditional food.

I was so thankful for some sweet momma friends that I got connected with who had babies who experienced the same journey and were able to encourage me to advocate for myself + Truett and our hope to continue breastfeeding as we worked toward more normal feeds. Once Truett woke up a bit more post surgery, it was clear that he was MAD about wanting to eat. Sweet boy always has been hungry! 😉

While our well-intentioned nutritionist came in with a plan to fortify breastmilk and bottle feed to get Truett the calories he needed post surgery, I was thankful for a nurse practitioner who helped advocate for what we both agreed was best – that Truett just needed to resume normal breastfeeding if possible. There were a good handful of difficult feedings and tears along the way, but we kept at it and he quickly figured it out.

A mere FIVE days after heart surgery, Truett was discharged to go home. Our days in Michigan have forever changed our family and had the biggest impact on me. While our return to home was really only the beginning of my own journey over the last year – one filled with lots of residual effects of trauma and plenty to process and heal from – Joe and I will forever hold those days in Michigan close to our heart. It was a time where we saw God walk alongside us in a thousand different ways and where we surrendered any illusion we had of control over our children’s lives.

A big thank you to YOU all who also walked alongside us as we processed and worked through the last year. Thank you for praying with us and for us, for allowing me my own space and time to process and for loving our sweet Truett and celebrating his milestones along with us.

Madison

Family

Back to School Supplies

August 6, 2020

We are headed back to school later this month. Collins will be in 3-year-old preschool and Ainsley is starting her first year of Elementary school as a kindergartener! Where does the time go?!

In Iowa, we are going to be starting the school year with in-person instruction. I know that “back to school” may look different for different families based on where you live, but regardless if you are homeschooling, virtual schooling or attending in-person classes with modifications, I hope that you’re able to feel a little bit of excitement about what the year has in store.

We have been shopping + stocking up for the year ahead. And while I’m certainly NOT an expert, I’ve been consulting friends who are more seasoned about their favorite gear for back to school as well as relying on my tried and true favorites from the last couple years of preschool.

Backpack // Pottery Barn Kids Backpack
The girls both got Pottery Barn Backpacks this year. Collins is in the smaller size and Ainsley has the larger size to accommodate her snow gear and lunch box. They come in the cutest colors and patterns around! Even Collins’s choice of a Paw Patrol backpack was done in a classy way.

Water Bottle //
Ainsley’s school requirement is to have a clear water bottle, but many clear water bottles are made with questionable ingredients and cheap plastic that can leak toxins into your kiddos water. We got a couple to try out – this glass option with a sleeve from Amazon as well as this plastic one from Camelback which is made of plastic that is BPA, BPF and BPS free plastic.

If you don’t have a requirement for a clear bottle, our favorite brands are Takeya and Hydroflask.

Lunch Box // Lands End
While Ainsley’s backpack came with a lunch box from Pottery Barn, her lunch box isn’t able to go into the washing machine. So! A friend recommended Lands End lunch bags for easy care + cleaning.

Labels // Name Bubbles
A full disclaimer that I haven’t used these yet, but I’m assured they are the easiest and cutest way to label things that your kids take to school to ensure that you get them back. I bought the variety pack for Ainsley and Collins to label school supplies, backpacks, snow gear, etc.

Shoes
Our favorite shoes for back to school have been Plae brand shoes for the last couple years. They are easy for kids to put on, wash and wear super well, and look cute and stylish! Our favorites are this style and this style.

We also got the girls each a pair of New Balance tennis shoes and a pair from Pediped! Pediped is a new-to-me brand but came highly recommended for baby shoes and after loving Truett’s shoes so much, I also snagged a pair for the girls for this school year!

What other items are you grabbing for making back-to-school a little easier this year? Anything else this first-time Kindergarten momma needs to know about?

Madison

Family

Kids in Glasses

July 27, 2020

Hi Friends! Today I’m talking all about kids in glasses. Six months ago, I had ZERO experience with kids in glasses and now six months later I have two of my three kids rocking glasses.

I hope this post can be helpful if you find yourself navigating the world of glasses on little kiddos, both practically speaking and as you process the emotions associated with your child getting glasses.

EARLY INTERVENTION
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post about Truett’s eyes and eye issues. If you want to read a bit more about that, you can do so HERE (saved in my IG story highlights under “Truett’s Eyes”. Basically, my biggest advise to parents with kids of all ages is that if you suspect an eye issue of any sort and at any age, don’t delay in getting in to a specialist. Pediatric ophthalmologists are VERY hard to get into and often have a long waiting list. It took us 3 months to get into see one for Truett, so be your kiddo’s best advocate in that regard.

With all things eyes, early intervention is key for helping treat eye issues. Getting a pair of glasses early on can prevent a host of issues down the road as your kiddo may start to accommodate if one eye is stronger than the other – which is what was happening for Ainsley. We took her in for her pre-kindergarten vision screening at our local eye doctor, thinking she had great vision, only to find out that one of her eyes was a lot stronger than the other. If left untreated for too long, one of her eyes would have likely started to become amblyopic (aka lazy). We’re thankful for early intervention and the gift of glasses!

EMOTIONS + GLASSES
Because Truett’s eyes were so obviously not working well together, I had less sadness about him getting glasses. I was just excited to help him see better because his eyes were obviously crossing most of the time. But with Ainsley, it took me by such surprise that she needed glasses, and I’ll admit that I dealt with quite a bit of sadness. Sad that she needed glasses, worried going into Kindergarten that kids would see her as just “the kid with glasses” instead of Ainsley. I think any time one of your kiddos has something “different” from the norm it elicits feelings as a parent.

I have a few friends who have younger kids in glasses, so I was already aware that glasses have come a LONG way for kids over the last few decades. There are SO many options! Actually, a friend of mine was an original fan + advocate of Jonas Paul and their affordable and trendy frames for kids.

I bought quite a few pairs of glasses for Ainsley – a pair from our local eye doctor, three pairs from Jonas Paul, and another pair from another eye glasses retailer online that sells multiple brands. Ainsley has a wider nasal bridge and a petite face, so finding a good fit for her was a challenge! After two months of wearing different types and styles of glasses, I found that for us, we absolutely have to go with glasses that have nose pads. Ainsley MUCH prefers the comfort of nose-pad glasses and I like that they stay put much better than frames without nose pads.

OUR FAMILY’S TOP PICKS
Our Favorite Glasses for Truett: Miraflex baby frames
*Tip: These things are amazing! They have been stretched and tossed around and chewed on and still look great + fit well. Make sure to bind them up each night with the band that comes enclosed to help them keep their shape over time.

Our Favorite Glasses for Ainsley: Jonas Paul “The Sophie”
*Bonus: We added the “Blue Light Blocking” option to her lenses since she does spend some time on the iPad and I know some parents are considering this going into fall with virtual learning!


*FULL DISCLOSURE: I bought two pairs of Jonas Paul glasses for Ainsley with my own money, but after posting about their glasses on social media they offered to send me one more pair. I took them up on the offer and was very thankful to do so since the pair they sent me was the pair with nose pads. I was not compensated for this post, but always love to share transparently with you all! 🙂

Family, Fashion

Holiday Gift Guide #1 / For Her

November 6, 2019

I’m getting ahead of the game this year and doing my holiday shopping early. And while I’m doing that shopping, I wanted to make sure to get ahead of the gift guides and provide you with some of my favorite gifts for different people in your life.

First up? My gift guide for the woman in your life – be it a friend, your mom, sister, mother-in-law, etc. Basically the list below is me rounding up my favorite of favorite items in the last year and recommending them to you. You can rest assured that I’ve put my hands on every single item listed below and use + love each item on the regular.

Cuyana Baby Alpaca Square Edged Cape
I was gifted this beautiful cape/wrap on a Beautycounter trip in January and it’s completely dreamy! Soft, high quality, and so versatile. My mom has been hinting that she wants one for herself.

Cuyana Leather Travel Case Set
I don’t personally own a set of these – but I’ve gifted at least a dozen of them to people both on my Beautycounter team and for previous holidays. I gave a set to my mom last year and she loves them. Bonus? You can personalize them and high end cosmetics travel cases are something I think most people are reluctant to buy for themselves.

KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker
Joe gifted this to me last Christmas and I use it every single day! I LOVE sparkling water and my habit of buying cans of sparkling water was getting expensive. This is a more eco and budget-friendly way of enjoying sparkling water at home. The canisters of CO2 can be exchanged at Walmart, Target and other retailers for a fraction of the cost.

Mini Lip Gloss Vault
For the makeup lover in your life! The colors in this lip gloss vault are to die for, and nearly all of them are universally flattering. I was shocked at how many of the colors I ended up loving – which is saying something for a neutral lip color gal like myself.

Rothy’s Chelsea Bootie
These have quickly become my go-to mom shoes. I slip them on nearly every day for preschool drop-off and pick-up. They are SO comfortable and versatile and I’m already eyeing another pair.

Everlane Cashmere Crew
The most classic Christmas gift choice around is a cashmere sweater, right? I love this sweater from Everlane. I’ve had a couple of their cashmere crews over the last few years in different colors.

Everlane Link Stitch Pullover
I recently purchased this and love it! I sized up to a medium for a more roomy fit and it’s quickly become the sweater I reach for most often.

Eye Sparklers Palette
The holidays are the perfect time to add a hint of sparkle to your eye makeup, and this little 4-pan palette is a fun way to to do so. It would make a fantastic stocking stuffer!

When Less Becomes More by Emily Ley
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually read this book yet, but I’ve read Emily’s other books and loved them and am equally excited to read this one. I think her books would all make fantastic gifts to any time-crunched momma trying to prioritize what matters.

Risen Motherhood (book) by Laura Wifler and Emily Jensen
I love my friends at Risen Motherhood and am so encouraged by their recently-released book named after their popular podcast. I can’t think of a better encouragement and gift to mommas in your life than to help bring them closer to the heart of Jesus as they mother their kiddos.

Fawn Design Original Diaper Bag
I have this diaper bag and got it before Collins was born. It’s my absolute FAVORITE. It’s roomy enough to tote around all the things you need for baby + toddler + other kiddos but it’s cute enough that it doesn’t scream “diaper bag!” Meaning that when I travel for work I still take this bag with me because I love it that much.

Family, Pregnancy

Truett Joseph: A Birth Story

September 11, 2019

Hello, friends! It’s been a WHILE hasn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without posting to the blog since the very beginning of blogging, but then again I’ve never had a month like the month of August. From the beginning, I’ve always had a goal in this space of sharing transparently, but also not blogging before I’ve had time to process what I’m blogging about. So in that spirit, I’ve had to take some time away before I was ready to share both Truett’s birth story AND the month following and subsequent heart surgery.

It wasn’t until I looked back at photos to use for this blog post that I realized what a haunting feeling it is to look back at photos of yourself before something monumental and traumatic took place. I scrolled through the photos of our time in the hospital after Truett’s birth and I shudder a little – knowing what those smiling, happy faces would have to endure, thinking about the lurking and serious heart defect that was waiting to surface in our seemingly perfectly healthy baby.

Whew. It’s a lot, friends. A lot to process over the last month and a lot that I’ll continue to process in the months to come. But what I do know is this: We are so incredibly thankful for Truett’s life and I want to make sure that the beauty of his birth isn’t overshadowed by the events soon after. So, with that said, here is our sweet Truett’s birth story….

Truett’s birth story began two days before he was born. On Wednesday, July 31st I went in for a regularly scheduled 38-week OB appointment. I had been feeling great but definitely having some signs that baby wasn’t too far off from coming. At my appointment our OB checked me and discovered that I was already 5 cm dilated and about 80% effaced. Honestly, I didn’t even know you could walk around that far along and not be in active labor! Because of how far progressed I was and how quickly Collins came once active labor started, paired with the fact that I already had two kiddos and a husband who works about 30 minutes away, our doctor said it was entirely reasonable to put an induction on the calendar for Friday. Initially, I declined, but as I went home and talked with Joe, we both preferred the idea of a more controlled timeline for Truett’s birth.

We made a plan for me to come in on Friday to be induced and started planning everything else around that – including childcare for the girls, getting bags packed, etc. I had SUCH a wonderful induction experience with Collins, which actually gave me quite a bit of fear surrounding this birth because I thought there was no way another induction could go quite so well. but I felt peace in our decision to put a date on the calendar for this baby to be born.

When I checked in on Friday I was having some occasional Braxton Hicks contractions but nothing regular or painful. It turns out I was already 6 cm and 90% and was STILL not in active labor which was even crazier to me – it also made me feel very affirmed in our choice to induce because there is no way I would have made it much longer without going into labor.

After being monitored for about 30 minutes, our doctor came in around 8:30 am and broke my water. Our hope was that breaking my water would be the only intervention needed to move things along. Our doula arrived shortly after and she started us on some exercises and movements to get baby into an ideal position for labor. We also started doing some abdominal lift and tuck exercises timed out with each contraction to help get my contractions more regular so I could make progress.

We spent the next couple hours walking inside and outside the hospital – since I was negative for Group B this time around I didn’t need an IV or any antibiotics but they did have me checking back about every 45 minuets to monitor baby. From about 8:30 until 10:40 I could tell I was having regular contractions that were starting to become more noticeable but I was not in any intense pain up until that point.

I specifically remember looking at the clock at 10:50 – while standing in the refreshment area of the labor and delivery wing – and saying, “Oh shit, that one hurt!” Joe has a photo of me at that point still smiling, but it was a serious effort to put a smile on my face as things were getting more and more painful. I returned to the room to be monitored around 11 and after that I felt certain I was ready to stay in the room and quit walking the halls.

At 11:20 I moved from being monitored on the bed to the ball and tried bouncing on the ball as a way to distract from the intense pain of each contraction. Our doula pressed on my back and Joe held my hand. As I had mentally prepared for labor before it began, I wanted to be “in my head” through the pain if at all possible, which for me meant focusing intensely on my breath and making it through each individual contraction. I had listened to my labor and delivery podcast a LOT on runs, walks, and through workouts in the months leading up to labor and delivery. When my run was hard and I wanted to quit, I used those times to think forward to delivery when I was going to be experiencing intense pain and tried to mentally prepare for those moments. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but I truly think using that time in advance of labor to mentally prepare helped tremendously when the time came to have Truett. Even though the pain was intense, I felt calm and focused.

This is also a good time to note that one distinct difference in this labor from others is how comforted I felt by Joe’s presence and support. I don’t mean to say I didn’t feel that way in previous deliveries, but Joe’s presence was especially comforting to me during Truett’s birth – through hand holding and back rubbing and just being near. I remember telling everyone around this point that, “Everyone should marry a man like Joe Hofmeyer.” I mean it 100%.

Around 11:35 I got into the tub. It was really hot and felt so good as I labored through some really intense contractions. Both with Collins and Truett’s birth, the tub toward the end of labor helped make transition bearable!

I got out of the tub around noon and slowly made my way to the bed through the next few contractions. At 12:08 I was checked again and my doctor informed me I was complete and could push whenever I felt ready. In the weeks leading up to labor, our doula had talked to us about the benefit of waiting for your body to be truly ready before pushing – using your own body’s cues rather than when you were told to push. Even though I was complete, I didn’t yet feel ready to push. I waited about 10 minutes until my body felt ready and in the matter of about two contractions Truett made his arrival at 12:22 pm weighing 9 lbs. 1 oz!

Truly, I couldn’t have asked for a better birth. I think the experience this time around taught me that there is no “ideal” birth. Each one of my births has been different and yet perfect for that particular point in time and life, and in many ways having such a wonderful beginning with Truett – including great bonding and breastfeeding – helped fortify this momma’s heart for what was to come in the weeks ahead.

One of the big mercies in Truett’s delivery was the fact that despite Truett being my biggest baby by over a pound, I had just a tiny little tear and very little blood loss. My recovery compared to the girls was SO much easier and better, and there were countless times that I thanked God for my recovery being so great because it was one less thing to think and worry about as we prepared for Truett’s heart surgery.

Thank you, Jesus, for the life and gift of Truett Joseph, whose life is a gift I am now exceptionally thankful for.