Sunday, April 17, 2016

March for Babies 2016

We had a very successful 2016 March For Babies walk this past weekend!!! First and foremost - THANK YOU for sharing our page and for donating! Together, so far, we have raised just under $700!! If you didn't donate and want to, it's not too late! Click the "March for Babies, March of Dimes" icon you see on the right of the screen and then on the orange "Donate" button.
This was one of our smallest teams to walk but we still had a blast! I felt like we had a lot working against us this year but we prevailed! First of all, I was super worried about our ability to complete the 5 mile walk. The quads, now 7 and all just a tad shy of 50lbs are getting too big and heavy for the infamous choo-choo wagon. I knew they wouldn't be able to walk the 5 miles all on foot and I knew we wouldn't be able to pull them the entire way either! Keeping with tradition, we committed to doing it one way or another!  My anxiety about completeing the walk with all of the kids intensified when Bret called from work on Friday afternoon and told me he had been hit with the stomach bug that has plagued so many in our area. I could not believe it. After discussing the situation over with Bethany and our other team members, we decided we would still march on without Bret, again, making it happen one way or another! Lastly, North Texas had some very damaging hail storms last week and the weather radar showed possibilities of more storms on Saturday for the Dallas area, because of this, just over half of our walkers opted to play it safe and stay home.
The 18 of us who walked were armed with a couple dozen umbrellas, panchos and ziplock bags and we were prepared to get wet. Despite the dark clouds that filled the sky, not a drop of rain fell during the walk!

Our little Quadlings... Kylee, Korbin, Baxlyn and Brody
I absolutely loved our shirts this year! Special thanks to Amy Horton for bringing my idea to life and to Prosper Marketing for graciously donating our shirts so that we can walk in style!
7 of the 12 kiddos who walked/rode!
Broman. Ugh, this sweet, talkative guy!
Alright yall, if you know Kylee, you know this is HUGE! She's made big progress with characters over the past few months! Mention the name "Chuck E Cheese" and she'll run for the hills, but she's making progress ;)
Luke, bless his heart. I think he had the best set up in his cute little wagon!
The Pemberton Family, seriously one of the sweetest families I know! We are so happy they're committed to walk with us each year in honor of our quads and their 5 year old triplet girls born at 30 weeks...
Not having any other option, we brought our 5 car choo-choo along so that the kids would have the ability to ride as they needed. At any given time we would have 2-4 kiddos loaded down in it and it actually wasn't that bad. Don't get me wrong there were plenty times I could be seen covered in sweat panting like a dog, bit it wasn't AS BAD as I had imagined! I was reallllllly hoping all the pulling would pay off and I'd wake up with buns of steel the morning after, but nope!
  The kids did PHENOMENAL! Thankfully, they all walked (and ran!) a lot more than I had imagined they would. We didn't have any tears or complaining from any of them. Brody & Kylee, who struggle a bit physically, had to have walked a good 2+ miles. Kylee was limping towards the end but she didn't complain one time and did a great job at keeping up. Seriously, I couldn't be more proud! We walked along side a grandpa at one point and he told me "you know, I've been watching you guys at the walk since you started when they were babies, it's just amazing to see them and how far they've come each year."
The littles lined up during one of our snack breaks...
Baxlyn holding the quads' Path of Hope sign...
Reagan and Cyndi - Thanks for participating, pretty ladies!
I love seeing all of the Path of Hope signs that are displayed throughout the 5 mile walk. Seeing signs in honor of babies like my own and other survivors as well as signs that are in memory of angel babies is a great reminder of why we walk each year. 
This sign in particular, stopped me in my tracks...
I stopped and showed the kids I had with me at that point during the walk and explained to them that THIS is why we walk. It's hard to tell the size of premature babies in pictures but when an infant is lying in the palm of his mother's hand, there's no question as to just how tiny they're born sometimes. My own babies may have a handful of challenges, they may be weaker than many, they may walk slow...but they're here to walk. For that I am so thankful.

It was right about noon that our team crossed the finish line together. We were very close, if not last to finish but we finished! Thank you to all who walked. Thank you for all who were unable to walk but supported our team in other ways. Thank you to all who read my daily status updates on facebook asking for support and didn't unfriend me! Thank you to all who shared our fundraising page and to those of you who donated to this cause that is so close to my heart. Together, we all had a hand in making a difference and helped get one step closer to being able to give all babies a healthy start at life!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Prematurity - Our Journey, Our Battle, Our Victory. {Written by Jamie Stephens}

I've spent the last 6 months watching some of our best friends travel their own NICU journey after delivering their precious twins, four (yes, four) months premature. Thank you, Jamie and Tye, for giving us a mere glimpse of your journey and giving raise awareness about prematurity. You and your miracle boys have inspired so many and I know will continue to do so for years to come!

"My husband and I were beyond excited when we found out after several years of fertility treatment we were finally pregnant with not just one but two boys. How exciting to be having twins! All the sonograms watching our boys move and squirm in my belly were amazing to watch as we went to one doctor appointment after the next. From the beginning doctors mentioned this thing called preeclampsia and said I posed a risk caring twins and from an IVF conception. I brushed it off and thought that could never happen to me, I am doing everything I am supposed to be doing (no caffeine, no raw fish, etc.). Then like most women my feet started swelling pretty significantly, something in my gut told me I should tell my doctor, so I did. They said to come in for a routine lab check and protein level check then to see them back in a week. That next week is one I will never forget, the doctor read my chart and told me I need to pack a bag and go up to Baylor Labor and Delivery because I was about to be admitted. At this point I was only barely 23 weeks pregnant; I was just starting to feel my little boys move inside my giant belly. I called my husband and just lost it, this thing they called preeclampsia had hit me early on and I needed to be under careful supervision and bed rest until I delivered. At the hospital I was under constant blood pressure monitoring and protein level checks, and when they were not getting under control they decided to move me to Medical Center of Plano, a level III NICU because I was still only 23.5 weeks.

My first night at the hospital, the head NICU doctor came to talk to us and basically said I needed to make it to 24 weeks if we wanted any chance of our boys surviving after birth. So that was my goal. My boys were delivered at just 24 weeks and 5 days old on one of the scariest days of my life. My sister, Lacie, made us take a picture on our way to the delivery, I was crying and scared and did not want to take it! But ultimately glad she made me. The anesthesiologist got the “margarita shot” ready in case I wanted to be knocked out after they were born. Trevor was born first and came out screaming for such tiny lungs and then out came Sebastian with his faint little cry. I remember asking my husband if they were ok and he said he watched them get hooked up to the machines and they were doing great, they even wheeled my tiny boys to see me in their incubator before being whisked off to the NICU, our next home for six months. Because of my “condition” I was on a magnesium drip and couldn’t see my boys until the next day. That’s right, after my brisk look into their beautiful eyes on delivery day; I didn’t see my boys for another 24 hours.
Born less than 2lbs, my boys were hooked up to high frequency ventilators, or oscillators, that made their tiny bodies vibrate. They had monitors stuck to their fragile skin, diapers the size of the palm of your hand, and PIC lines in their umbilical cord. The doctors and nurses would describe everything happening, the tests being run, and their percentage of oxygen they were requiring to breathe. I went from knowing hardly any medical terms to being overwhelmed with knowledge of the life saving measures being taken daily to keep our babies alive. They were so little that I was afraid the tiniest of touch would hurt them; all my husband and I wanted to do was look at our precious little babies lying in their incubator. Then soon after that I did my first diaper change through the arm holes of the incubator, was told to lift their hips and not their legs because of how fragile they were. 
Then we starting celebrating milestones most parents couldn’t even imagine. Feeding breast milk through a small syringe down a tiny little feeding tube to their stomach was how we fed our newly born babies. I still watch the video of the first time we dipped a tiny sponge the size of a Q-tip into my milk and Sebastian sucked it from the sponge to start the process of him learning how to suck, swallow, and breathe. Every night they would weigh them and the first night they asked us to hold Trevor up while they weighed him was pure happiness. Finally after over a week I could hold my baby, but only lift him a few inches off the bed and for only a brief moment. These small little moments are what got us through, and the small moments eventually turned to larger ones.
We watched Sebastian go from an oscillator, to ventilator, to CPAP, nasal cannula, to no oxygen requirements, back to nasal cannula, then off for good! Trevor, my fighter, wasn’t as lucky and developed a bad infection that led to having NEC, a common prematurity based disease, and eventually a surgery when he was only weighing 3lbs. It was a long hard recovery for Trevor and eventually led to three surgeries and an eye procedure on his tiny little eyes. If you met my Trevor now you would never know unless you looked at the scars he wears all over his body.
Sebastian had his own battles with prematurity, as well as his victories. We celebrated him moving from an incubator to an open bed/crib, taking his first bottle, and fighting bad reflux and bradycardia. As a result, his discharge date changed four times because he would keep having slowed heart rate and low oxygen spikes. When he finally was discharged it was such a happy moment to be able take one of our sweet boys home, his stay lasted 123 days but the struggle was not over as we still had one baby boy awaiting the next surgery in the NICU. How amazing it is for these surgeons, doctors and nurses to provide the care they do for such tiny babies. While Sebastian was at home, Trevor remained in NICU and so our time was constantly split. What got us through was knowing what amazing care was being provided by his nurse “buddies” who would watch over him every shift and became his blue mommies. After Trevor’s final surgery he basically was required to be able to consistently take a full bottle each feed and boy was this a struggle. But our Trevor fought and still to this day continues to fight and has overcome so much. He has had more surgeries in his life time then my husband and I have ever had, let alone the average person/baby.
We welcomed Sebastian home after 123 days in the NICU...
Trevor's NICU journey was 196 days long and we were finally able to welcome him home on April 6th!
Their NICU journey and premature birth has left permanent marks on their bodies; tape scars, surgical scars, IV sticks, you name it but has also made our family so strong. Without the expert care from the NICU staff our babies would not be here with us, and for that we are forever grateful. March of Dimes supports the research and understanding of prematurity and its many causes, along with aiding in the breakthrough lifesaving procedures being carried out by neonatal doctors across the country. Please, help us raise awareness of premature birth and its many causes and effects."
-Jamie Stephens

To learn more about the March of Dimes and their mission you can visit their website here.  If you feel led to donate on behalf of Sebastian and Trevor or the special kids in your own life, you can do so safely and securely by clicking here.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Suds & Salvation

It all started with a melted crayon in the dryer. Some of you who are Facebook friends with me may remember a few weeks ago me desperately seeking advice on how to save a load full of (brand new) clothes that had been stained bright orange thanks to a crayon getting stuck in the dryer vent.
It was an unusual evening in several ways. It was a Sunday evening, Bret wasn't home, the quads who are typically in bed around 6:30pm on a school night were up late...etc. After tucking them away in their beds I proceeded back to my mom-duties and went to finish up the laundry only to find an entire load ruined. Long story short, Kylee's favorite garage-sale-find lovey was a part of the catastrophe and she was NOT about to go to bed without knowing it was going to survive.
Before I knew it, it was hours past their bedtime and the girls and I sat on the laundry room floor talking while I scrubbed, soaked and scrubbed some more. Baxlyn, who I could tell has reallllly been paying attention in Kids Church lately and beginning to truly understand what Jesus did for us all on the cross, brought up salvation. After some lengthy discussion she told me "Mommy, I'm ready to ask Jesus into my heart!" She and I prayed and she did just that! Immediately afterwards she exclaimed "I'll get bath-eh-tized TOMORROW!" We held off for a few weeks and this morning, she finally got baptized with some of our closest friends and family there to witness!

For those of you who know Miss B personally, you know she is generally a shy, quiet little girl who doesn't like to draw attention to herself. In crowded, busy situations, you can usually find her tucked away under my arm or fighting for my lap. To my surprise, she never, not once, was anxious about being baptized in a room full of people. This little girl knew what she wanted and the idea of everyone watching her didn't phase her a bit. I was also seven years old when I was baptized in the same church, in the same baptismal that she was!

My Sweet Baxlyn,
It's been obvious from day one that God has a special and unique plan for your life. Your daddy and I are beyond thrilled that you made the decision to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and we pray that you will continue to seek His will for your life as you grow! We love you and are so so proud of you!
Love, Mom
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
"If you declare with your mouth "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." Romans 10:9-10

Thursday, April 7, 2016

It's Time For.......

I'm a little late to say the very least but here goes! We have just over ONE WEEK before our March for Babies 2016 Dallas walk!
For those of you who may not know, the March of Dimes has led the way to discover the genetic causes of birth defects, to promote newborn screening, and to educate medical professionals and the public about best practices for healthy pregnancy.

After decades of increases, the rate of premature birth in the United States has now been on a steady decline for the last several years thanks to the research funded by the March of Dimes. This decline – to 9.6 percent today – has saved thousands of babies from being born too soon. Despite this progress, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year... four of those babies belong to us which is why we are so passionate about helping make a difference!

Here is the question. How can YOU help? I've got THREE ways that each and every one of you can help us make a difference...

1) Donate. Yup, we are asking for your money. Plain and simple, without funding, these studies can't be done and we can't continue to help save babies like our very own. Please don't think that because you cannot give a large donation you shouldn't at all. Even $5 can help this great cause!

2) Walk with us! If you are local and are interested in joining us, let me know!

3) SHARE! Now this one everyone can do! Share this page on Facebook with your friends and family to help raise awareness. Prematurity, birth defects and infant mortality affect so many people and often changes lives forever.

Here is the link to our 2016 Team Page. Here you can register to walk, learn more about the mission of the March of Dimes and donate safely & securely.

Stay tuned! Lots coming your way including my first Guest Blogger - eeek!

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