A special place

As soon as we found out that baby # 4 was a boy, I knew I had to make our only daughter’s room something special. We were in the process of making a bedroom out of our bonus room – forming the “teen cave” {I will dedicate a separate post to his cool hangout} and were tossing the idea around of switching rooms for Madeleine & Wyatt.

Madeleine has begged for a bunk bed for years, and now I wanted her to have one for Wyatt to sleep with her occasionally so we would have a spare room when my mother in law came to visit. Her current room wasn’t big enough for the twin-over-full size I wanted for her, so we decided to move her into Jason’s old room as it is the biggest of the bedrooms. The transformation from a dark, blue room to this was AMAZING! Her room is easily my favorite in the whole house!

Perhaps my favorite spot in our entire house is the hanging swing in Madeleine’s room. This took a LOT of convincing to the hubs that we could make it work! So far, it has not fallen from the ceiling 🙂 The swing is incredibly comfy (especially stuffed with these cute pillows also from Target!) and fun. It is also Oliver’s favorite spot! Whenever he is fussy, I go swing in her room and he instantly becomes happy!

Chair was so reasonably priced from Pier1
Pillows are all from Target of course!

I love all the details on her bookshelf {also from the Ava Regency collection from Pottery Barn Kids}. Also, what Southern girl doesn’t have monograms all over her room?! Madeleine loves collecting little things so these baskets from AtHome hide all her random American Girl doll items, LOL dolls, Shopkins, etc.

Notice that gorgeous rose painting? That is an original piece from the high school collection of Thad Walton…aka Madeleine’s dad (and my fabulous husband!). I think it is so special to have a piece of his artwork displayed in her room.

This beautiful flush mount chandelier is also from Pottery Barn Kids and truly transforms the room. This room had a dark ceiling fan and along with the wallpaper, are the two most impactful changes we made! I had been eyeing the “Rissa Chandelier” for months but it was just too big for the ceiling height. One day while perusing the PBK website, I noticed they added a flush mount version and I immediately bought it! It was like PBK read my mind!

Now, let’s talk about this amazing wallpaper. Who hasn’t pinned the Project Nursery Jolie wallpaper? My dear friend, Allison, from The Paper House Collection made all my dreams come true with this much more affordable version! The wall paper cost me less than $250, so the biggest expense was the labor to prime and paint the walls and install the wall paper. If you are handy at painting, you could achieve this look including wall paper installation for around $500!!

Madeleine loved twirling in her dress from Amazon… it was less than $15!

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Is he breathing?

Oliver wearing his Owlet Sock

Postpartum Anxiety & OCD

Postpartum Anxiety and OCD is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed postpartum disorder {according to PSI}… and I could not agree more.

After I had our 3rd baby, Wyatt, I had terrible anxiety at the hospital. I tried to shake it off, but I didn’t have that overwhelming feeling of love and happiness that I had after I gave birth to Jason and Madeleine. I told the nurse I didn’t feel “right” and was having anxiety, and she suggested I shower and take a walk. My feelings were brushed off, and I felt horrible feeling this way so I tried my best to power through and ignore my inner turmoil.

Terrified

When we got home from the hospital, my husband went to grab dinner for us and left me and the baby at home. That is the first time I knew something wasn’t right. I was absolutely, 100% TERRIFIED to be left alone with my baby! I had two babies before him, how could I be scared to be by myself? I knew what I was doing – I’m a seasoned mom! The feeling was truly overwhelming and when I say terrifying, I can’t quite express the heaviness of how I felt in words.

Anxiety

If you have never experienced anxiety before, I will try and explain how it feels. TERRIBLE. There ya go. AWFUL. Once you have anxiety, you then begin to have anxiety about.the.anxiety. It is such a cruel disease! Anxiety truly snowballs.

Now, here I am with my 3rd baby, completely overwhelmed being a (newly) stay at home mom of 3 kids and I am feeling terrible, but didn’t know exactly what was going on. I wish I had called my OB/GYN on day 1 but stupidly I tried to power through and waited until my 6 week follow up.

What started as being afraid to be alone with my baby turned into being afraid of walking around holding him near steps, or the railing on the second floor. Next, I became incredible fearful of driving. I was TERRIFIED I would somehow get in an accident or run off the road. That turned into being afraid to even leave the house or go anywhere in public. You can see where I’m heading with this.

Obsessive, Compulsive. Irrational Fears

The anxiety started spiraling out of control when it spread to me worrying about ALL my children. Before bed time at night, I would get up and check on all 3 kids OBSESSIVELY. And yes I mean obsessively. I had to give each of them a kiss a certain amount of times, go back and check on them a certain amount of times, then jump back out of bed to check on them again. 

Wyatt was sleeping in our room and I was terrified to have him anywhere close to the bed, in case a pillow fell on him (and precisely 1 million other bad scenarios that could happen). I’d wake up sweating in the middle of the night, laying my hand on his chest to make sure he was breathing. IT WAS AWFUL. The baby would sleep but I could not. 

I finally had my 6 week appointment and mentioned to my doctor that I was having irrational fears. She immediately knew that wasn’t like me (she was my same doctor I had with Madeleine and I never had any of this). She prescribed me medication and got me a referral to talk to a psychologist to get this figured out ASAP. God bless this sweet woman for taking something I said ever so lightly in conversation so seriously and not letting me shake it off as something I will get over on my own.

Please. Get help. NOW

I remember being in the waiting area of the doctor’s office by myself with Wyatt, feeling just completely and utterly terrified. I had nothing to be afraid of. Looking back, I feel silly for having felt that way but now I know it wasn’t because of ME, it was because of this awful thing called ANXIETY. If you are having any symptoms of anxiety, having intrusive thoughts or compulsive behavior, call your doctor NOW. Do not wait. Get the medication. Get help NOW. Postpartum anxiety and OCD is hardly talked about and I had never heard of it before I had it myself. It can happen at any time. I am happy to report that I did not have the same experience after my most recent birth (baby #4, Oliver). 

The Owlet monitor saved my sanity

The Owlet Sock is so cute and doesn’t bother the baby at all!

While my symptoms were much, much bigger, I truly wish I had the Owlet monitor I have now for Oliver. I don’t worry at all at night about his breathing. I don’t get up and check on him, or try to zoom in on the baby monitor to see if he’s breathing. I have complete and utter peace of mind over his health. The Owlet sock tracks heart and oxygen levels that you can see on your phone. It also has a base station which glows green to reassure you baby is okay but will notify you if heart rate and oxygen levels leave preset zones.

TODAY it is ON SALE!!! This is huge. I purchased the sock originally for $299 and it is on sale today for $219.99!!  I truly can’t recommend this enough for any parent. In fact, I was at Target yesterday shopping their Black Friday sales and chatted with a new mom, encouraging her to buy the Owlet monitor!

Oliver wearing his Owlet monitor

{I make a small commission if you click on my links provided here. Thank you for your support! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.} 

November 23, 2015


Wow. Three years ago today. I vividly remember driving to the hospital with Jason in the front seat. We pulled up to the stoplight at Park & Woodlawn, just a few minutes away from Levine’s at this point, and I look over and he started rolling in and out of consciousness. I frantically grabbed my phone and dialed 911, but didn’t press “call”  because I knew I could get him there faster than an ambulance could get to me.

Hydrocephalus is a scary, incurable disease that can only be treated by brain surgery. Defined by the Mayo Clinic as “the buildup of fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain.” This excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain, which can be deadly and cause irreversible brain damage.

Let’s hit rewind here.

Jason was born on January 21, 2005 relatively “healthy”. He was born missing nearly 50% of his brain due to a cyst doctors originally diagnosed as Schizencephaly. Fortunately, Jason suffered no seizures and was able to come home from the hospital after a few short days. Levine Children’s hospital didn’t exist back in 2005, so our neurologist in Charlotte referred us to a specialist at UNC Chapel Hill who had experience in the extremely rare brain anomaly Jason was diagnosed with. The neurologist in Chapel Hill changed Jason’s diagnosis after an MRI to a Porencephalic cyst, which is also an extremely rare brain anomaly according to NINDS.

As a result of his cyst, Jason has Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy. He lacks complete control over the left side of his body, but with lots of therapy and determination on his part, he has gained significant use of it and continues to improve every day.

Fast forward 10 years

Jason has lived a relatively healthy life. A few years earlier, he developed sporadic vomiting episodes, but his doctors were unable to pinpoint the issue.  MRIs were negative, showing no material signs of swelling or hydrocephalus — common with porencephaly, but typically occurring at a very young age. His vomiting continued for well over a year, and we had no answers.  It was an extremely frustrating and helpless time in our lives. Nothing in this world is worse than seeing your child like this, and having no explanation. Our stress and anxiety were at an all time high, traveling back and forth to Chapel Hill.

In March 2015, he was at his worst. He was still vomiting, but also developed phantom leg pain and was completely lethargic.  Our pediatrician was stumped and could come up with no other explanation other than it must be neurological. We traveled back to UNC and his neurologist decided to admit him, as this was the fastest way for him to get an MRI and the help he needed.

Hydrocephalus

After nearly a week in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) at UNC Children’s Hospital, he was finally diagnosed with hydrocephalus and an underwent an emergency shunt procedure.  

What is a shunt?

“Shunts have been used to treat hydrocephalus for more than 50 years. The devices allow excess cerebrospinal fluid to drain to another area of the body.” {medtronic.com}

A shunt is an external medical device placed inside the noncommunicating ventricle to drain the excess fluid. In Jason’s case, his shunt was a VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt and it went from his brain into his belly.

While we were relieved to have clarity, Jason’s relief was short-lived. Within weeks, we were back in the ER on a regular basis with the same symptoms as before. With the strain of travel to Chapel Hill, and with specialized resources now available through Levine Children’s Hospital, we transferred his care to local pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Wait.

3 years ago today Jason had his last shunt surgery. I wish I could say this was the end of his journey, but it was not. This also was short lived.

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Rare Diagnosis

“IT’S A BOY!”

“It’s a boy!” the ultrasound technician exclaimed during our appointment. She then proceeded to quietly go through the routine exam of all the body parts. She kept looking at his head and taking lots of pictures, not speaking a word of what was going on. She left the room and returned with the doctor who took the reigns.

After what seemed like forever, they finally told us what they suspected.

There was a cyst on my baby’s brain.

There was something seriously wrong with my baby who just a few weeks ago I didn’t want, then suddenly decided I couldn’t live without. My heart sunk. I was in immediate tears. I could barely breathe. The doctor tried to provide comforting words to me that these types of cysts often go away. However, I knew at that moment something was really wrong. I already had mother’s intuition.

It felt like months before our appointment with our specialists, Dr. Courtney Stephenson and Dr. Thomas Stubbs. I remember my mom and my boyfriend at the time complaining about how loudly and often I was sighing. The emotions on my 17 year old heart were literally too much for me to bear.

Our appointment was the next week at CMC Main in the Women’s Institute. Anxiety ridden, I sit on the table and we begin the ultrasound. My sweet mom and my DAD came to the appointment. {Guys, I’ve never seen my dad take off work for really anything. This shows you how amazing my parents are – truly gifts from God}. The technician performs an ultrasound and then goes to get the doctor.  Now, Dr. Stubbs began to use the ultrasound machine but soon called in his newest doctor from NYC, Dr. Courtney Stephenson, who specializes in cysts. It wasn’t looking good. More ultrasounds. Why have 3 people had this wand up my lady parts?! It was hurting, uncomfortable and I was sick with anxiety.

Finally, we receive a diagnosis that it is indeed a cyst, and it won’t be going away. My sweet baby was diagnosed with schizencephaly. Schizen – what?! The doctors start saying things like “incompatible with life” “failure to thrive” and “2nd trimester termination”. My dad stands up and has me and my boyfriend leave the room. Here we are again, my parents are taking the weight as much as they can off my shoulders to put it on theirs. Several minutes pass while we awkwardly wait in the hallway, confused, anxious, sad, every emotion you can name I was experiencing.

God is testing my decision. My heart. I am basically told to not have this baby because he won’t have a decent quality of life.

Schizencephaly is an “extremely rare” brain condition as defined by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. How could this have happened to my baby? Is it because I didn’t want him? Because I didn’t take care of myself during the early stages of pregnancy? My doctors assured me there was nothing I could have done to have caused this as it happened very early on in pregnancy, before I would have ever known I was pregnant. Still, the guilt lay heavy on my heart.

The conversation of that day ended with me firmly stating we are having this baby, I have already chosen life once and I am not ever going back on that. We set up our next appointment for further tests.

Stress takes its toll

The next few weeks were a whirlwind. I had more ultrasounds, NSTs (non stress tests) twice weekly, and an amniocentesis performed to check for genetic abnormalities. After every test that was performed I had terrible anxiety waiting for the results. The stress my body was under finally took a toll on my baby and my amniotic fluid dropped. I was put on bed rest until the fluid levels increased or I had the baby.

This is when having a twin brother comes in handy {thanks, Mike!} – he brought me home all my homework and kept me up to date on my class work. 

Choose life

I see many people complain that Catholics are against abortion, but not for helping those who have babies. This could not have been further from the truth for me. My Catholic school and community was amazing and supportive of me – if there were judgmental people and looks, my parents, friends, and advocates at the school did a damn good job keeping them away from me. My teachers did all they could to keep me on schedule to graduate in all my honors and AP classes… I am forever grateful for their extra help and support. {Please, if you are reading this and scared of being pregnant, REACH OUT! I will help you. I will guide you to the right places for support. Choose life}

I had sweet family members, friends, and neighbors throw baby showers for me. The love and support being thrown my way was so incredible! My parents continued to show up and take me to every appointment. My dad had {and still has!} an incredibly demanding job that requires a ton of travel and time yet he made it to most of my appointments.

Inspiration

My amazing doctor, Dr. Courtney Stephenson, was such an inspiration and positive role model for me throughout my entire pregnancy. She was so encouraging and supportive, and seeing her as a working mom was very inspiring. After I had Jason, she strongly encouraged me to pursue a career in medicine. I shadowed her in her clinic for a few days, and she even had me shadow her during a c-section! During the c-section, I actually fainted and decided after that medicine just wasn’t going to be in the cards for me, ha! Truly, her support of me personally was so influential. I’ve recently had the opportunity to give back and help her, but I’ll share that another day 🙂

 God’s Miracle

The time was drawing near! Dr. Stephenson gave me a deadline on when she would deliver the baby if he did not come on his own. Fortunately for me, Jason decided to arrive early.  My mom, sister, brother (and his friend) along with my boyfriend at the time were all there at the hospital with me. I remember being in labor vomiting up pizza and my friends were calling because they wanted to come over… it’s so funny now to me!! My dad was in NYC to receive an award for a big promotion he received, but he hopped on a plane back to Charlotte to make it to the birth.

Dr. Stephenson gave instructions to her staff to page her when I went into labor. Although she was not on call the night I gave birth, she left her kids and came to the hospital to deliver Jason anyways. This woman works all.the.time. Yet she still came back to work when she didn’t have to. I’ll never forget how much better I felt and more at peace when she came in the room.

I was in the high risk room with a special isolette that Jason would be whisked away to right after he was born. The doctors still weren’t sure what was going to happen upon delivery – would he breathe on his own? Would he have seizures? There were so many unknowns. We had all the specialists from the NICU in the room to take care of him at a moment’s notice.

On January 21, 2005 at 10:43pm Jason Tyler was born into this world. By nothing short of a miracle from God, he came out breathing with APGAR scores of 9 at each check. To say everyone was stunned would be an understatement. He was still taken back for more testing (CT scan, EEG, EKG, etc) but nothing was unusual so he required NO extended hospitalization and we were able to go home with him after just a few days!

Just the beginning

This is just the beginning of our story. Life with a special needs kid is complicated, exhausting, and never-ending. I look back on pictures of sweet baby J and remember how innocent I was! I had no real idea of the struggles that were ahead… 

{Stay tuned for more posts}

How I got here

I firmly believe that who I am today is the primary result of having my first child when I was 18 years old. This is a story of how I got to where I am and who I am today…

It is so painful to reflect on the months leading up to the birth of my first born, Jason. I’ve never shared this story publicly and most people who know me don’t know the background behind his birth.

Shame. Embarrassment. Guilt. Regret.

All words I feel thinking about this story. It hurts my heart and makes me physically sick to think there was EVER a time in my life I did not want to have a child. {This is why I firmly believe God gave me my son when he did and in the circumstances}

I was 17 years old. In a terrible, unhealthy relationship with an older boy from another school. My parents were shocked and displeased in my choice of a boyfriend, as was my twin brother. From the outside, I had it all going for me! A smart, pretty and popular blonde cheerleader. Nominated by my class Freshman & Sophomore years to Homecoming Court. Teachers loved me; I took honors and AP classes. I’m still not sure why I stayed in that unhealthy relationship, but I know it was all part of God’s plan.

For months, I denied to myself that I could be pregnant. That just could never happen to me! Finally, I confided in my best friend at the time and pregnancy tests confirmed it. I was sick. I was in CATHOLIC SCHOOL! I couldn’t be pregnant. It literally felt like my world and life was over. I wanted to go to California for college, or Chapel Hill!

I thought there was only one option – I could not have this baby.

I still can’t go into all the details, but by the Grace of God and some wonderful angels disguised as friends, my parents found out what happened. They swooped in and wrapped me up in their arms, assuring me they would love and support me through whatever decision I wanted to make.

I’ll never forget when God made it clear to my brain (it was already in my heart) that this baby was here to stay. My sister had come home from college when she heard what was going on and we went shopping to Bath & Body works. When we got home, I could feel my sweet baby moving. I put my hand on my stomach. She looked me in the eyes and promised me that it would be OKAY if I had this baby.  Mom & Dad would help, she would help – we would get through this together. I cried, and she went to tell my parents.

A few days later and my mom had called her OB/GYN and scheduled me an appointment. My mom drove me there, supportive the whole time. She never ONCE made me feel bad or questioned my poor choices. I cannot thank her enough for how loving and supportive she was of me.

I went in for the ultrasound to find out the gender and we were so excited to find out! During the ultrasound, our excitement quickly turned to fear as the technician found something that didn’t look right on the ultrasound, and we’d have to see a specialist in a few days to find out more… how could this happen?!

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my bookend boys today