Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kuylen's Special Day - 4 years

There was a time when I thought I couldn't possibly continue to breathe - couldn't fathom the idea of loosing a child. Then I held you, and I knew that with your strength, I could do even the unthinkable.

I feel lucky to have had our triplets at a time when mothering is an important aspect of care. I feel lucky that I was able to have those moments with all of them - but especially Kuylen.

I found some pictures recently. I was looking through some "early days" albums and happened upon the day we told our sweet Kuylen goodbye. I remember feeling so distraught - nothing short of absolutely broken. It was 5 days after a most horrific surgery...5 days after...I felt as if my pregnancy hadn't ended - but was continuing outside the very womb that had both carried these babies and kept them safe -but also attacked them. Each time I walked into that NICU and peered into the isolettes with countless machines breathing for these babies- keeping them alive...each time, I felt as if I was standing there naked (and not in a super cute - like pin up sort of way - more like a documentary "this is so wrong" kind of way just in case there was any question).

I wanted to badly to break down and scream, to ask why, to make the biggest most spectacular scene...instead, I was silent. In my heart, I didn't have anything left but shock, horror, and desperate pleading that we somehow, some way would be able to snuggle these babies and take each home. They were (and are) perfect to me. I also believed wholly (and still do) that the luxury of a "break down" just didn't exist. I was to be strong, stoic, think, memorize, manage. Emotions could happen later. Now was a time for decision, action, presence.

This shows in the pictures. I have absolutely no expression on my face. I am hollow but focused; quietly broken...then I held him.

Though my expression didn't change, my heart did. I felt his weight in my arms, his warmth as it left, his strength as it stayed.

I remember the doctor taking me aside. He said, "You are making the right decision." I nodded. He added, "You can do this however you like - sit with him as long as you want. I only insist that you hold him. You must hold him."

I thought it was an odd request...then realized quickly that I was terrified. Of course I wanted to hold him...sort of...I mean what difference would it make? I had failed. Before even starting, I had failed miserably as a mother. My internal dialogue was beyond scarring. But this wasn't about me, I reminded myself. I was about him. He needed to be held, and I would hold him. That was that.

So, I held him. I held his tiny hand. It was the beginning of an exhale - one that took my pain from absolutely intolerable to the very tip top of manageable. I turned off the alarms, they turned off the lights. In a room full of people, no one existed. I focused. I needed to really look at him - really see his face. I touched his swollen feet, his velvet cheek, his tiny nose. He was at peace, and gave me strength. He still does today.

I really believed I couldn't survive the loss of a child - but in those last few moments, I realized I didn't have to. He's still here with us, in our hearts. He taught me to be present. For the rest of their hospital days, Mary Louise and David had a different momma - no less intense and quite possibly manically meddling (yeah - I know) -but with the most divine intentions. I would offer those babies everything I had. I would allow my body to heal, I would be present, I would revel in the most mundane and typical moments. I would choose to be better and to do better for them. We would be together always - even if Kuylen wasn't seen. We would learn and grow together.

Not a day goes by with out kisses, hugs and "I love you's". Not a moment goes by that we don't remember our Kuylen, thank him for watching over us and for staying just long enough to make his point.

Happy 4th Special Day Kuylen Stafford.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

David Goes to the Cardiologist

One morning, Mommy, Mary Louise, David and Baby Everett woke with the sun. Mommy had everyone's clothing laid on the pew at the bottom of the stairs and readied each child for the day as they reached the bottom floor of the house.

"Where are we going?" Mary Louise asked excitedly. She was thrilled Mommy had a "beautiful" dress waiting for her. 

"David has an appointment with the cardiologist this morning," answered Mommy.

"What's a batty-yaya-dust," asked David. He looked a little concerned. "Do I have to get a shot?" he added.

"No, no shots today sweet pea," Mommy smiled, "just a few stickers on your chest and a little jelly on your tummy so the doctor can see how your heart is working."

"STICKERS?!" exclaimed David. "I gonna get jelly on my belly dus yike you Mommy when Evie lived in YOUR tummy?" He remembered the times he tagged along with Mommy for ultrasounds while she was pregnant with Everett. Jelly on his belly seemed like a great idea; and stickers were just the needed cherry on top of his special day Sunday!

After a bit of a struggle to clean and dress, Mommy and The Littles set off to the doctor.

David and Mary Louise insisted they wear their super hero capes and masks into the appointment. Mommy obliged. After all, she really did believe they were super heroes and figured looking the part was quite appropriate.

Mommy checked David in at the front desk. She wore Everett in a carrier on her back while Mary Louise stood in pink and purple and David in blue and red satin hero garb just behind her.

"OH MY GOODNESS!!!! You had ANOTHER baby?!" Exclaimed the receptionist. "Are you crazy?!"

"No, just lucky," smiled Mommy as her little heroes looked on - each peering from behind one of her legs.

The receptionist smiled back and nodded. "This one is ok though right?" she pushed.

"They're all doing very well," answered Mommy in a bit of a flat tone as she encouraged her crew to take seats in the half crowded waiting room.

"I have to go to the bathroom!" Mary Louise whined as soon as they'd sat down.

Mommy sighed as they all stumbled over capes toward the little corner rest room and Everett blindly grabbed for anything - usually Mary Louise's hair.

A nurse called David's name while the bathroom shuffle occurred. Mommy hurried everyone on, checking quickly behind to make sure no hero pieces stood stranded in the wake of LeBlanc Littles.

Once in the back of the clinic, David was placed gently on a table. Blood pressure was taken, changes were made to his chart, a 12 lead EKG was done. David and Mary Louise thought that was just about the most amazing thing ever! (Mommy just thanked her lucky stars they'd changed their minds about all those tests with age.)

They were asked to move to an exam room to wait for the doctor.

Mommy read books and conducted a game of "I Spy" while dancing around with Everett. The doctor walked in with a smile.

"Oh my! Don't you take breaks?" he nodded in Everett's direction.

Mommy sighed again, "yes, 3 years," she said, managing a smile but knowing her mild annoyance was only partially hidden by a feeble smile and exhaustion.

"How's he been doing - growing I see?" The doctor had turned his attention to David. David played with his stethoscope.

A few questions and a quick exam revealed nothing remarkable. It was time for the ultrasound. Everett was getting restless.

The tech was busy so the doctor decided to run the tests himself. Mommy said a silent but heartfelt thank you once more for his speed, accuracy, and wonderful bedside manner with the kids. All awkward comments aside, she knew in her heart that he had saved those beating in the chests of her oldest children.  He was one of many who took time away from his family so that he could give her the gift of hers. For that type of generosity, there were no words.

David behaved beautifully during his ultrasound. He was visibly nervous, but said, "Mommy? I am brave!" while squeezing her hand.

He wouldn't answer any direct questions asked by his doctor, but goodness knows the man tried to befriend the super hero.

Instead, Mary Louise answered eagerly each time a question was asked. The doctor laughed. Mommy smiled.

Mommy and her entourage went back to the exam room to wait for the doctor to review the ultrasound findings.

A few minutes later, the doctor came in with a smile. He brought with him his all too familiar copied drawing of a heart to use as a visual. "He's fine, " he said as he sat down and looked Mommy directly in the eye.

He stopped, became a little more serious, and said, "you know, I remember exactly where they were in the NICU. I know where his bed was. I still see tiny...his heart is perfect. I don't need to see him again."

A smile slowly crept back across his face.

Mommy took in David's results for a moment and repeated them softly, "he's done? discharged?"

"Perfect!" nodded the doctor looking as if he too felt this was a rather profound moment. He marveled at David throwing paper at Mary Louise for a minute longer. All of the kids were very restless and ready to leave. "I'll see their neonatologist today. I'm going to tell him. His heart is perfect. It's amazing."

Mommy couldn't help but beam as she herded her own party of chaos out the door. She snuggled with David in the parking lot for just a few minutes before quickly calling Daddy to share the news..."

"David was discharged! His heart is perfect!!" she squealed into the phone when she got in touch with him.

It was a good day.

*******oh good grief. I started this post way back on the 3rd and lost track of...everything. Done now - and the news is no less exciting!!******


Modeling Debut (sort of)

On a whim, I decided to plop the kids' pictures in the running for the Parent Magazine photo contest. I've never done anything like that before - typically, I sort of think this sort of thing is a little outlandish? - but saw the link, for a split second thought it might be fun and opted to "go for it". Why not?

Here are the voting links for each of the kiddos:

You can vote once daily and they will rank weekly for 12 weeks I think. At the end, there will be 3 judging rounds ending in 5 semi finalists who go to New York for a photo shoot. One of them will end up on the cover of the magazine.

Of course it's a long shot - but would be amazing to see one of our little miracles gracing news stands no?


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rose Physical Therapy Group

After 4 years of blogging, I've rarely mentioned names or businesses. Though we've had our fair share of odd moments, questionable advice and flat out disagreements at time, we've been incredibly lucky in finding providers and a wonderful support team. Brent and I have worked very hard to tweak care plans, and seek out second, third, and fourth opinions when we see fit.

We may be a little crazy, but it's certainly paid off.

My sweet peas, I would do anything for them, go any distance...

For care, we travel when necessary - and sometimes, it has been. It's rare to find a relatively rural town with every specialist needed for a micro preemie.

Thankfully, we did have a nice therapy facility here when Mary Louise and David needed multiple sessions during the week. Traveling hours on end for that would have simply been next to impossible for us.

So, when parents ask who we turned to here in town, I tell them with a smile. It feels good to be able to recommend a caring, reliable, organized facility that is not only capable, but willing to help navigate lengthy insurance policies.

We researched our only 2 options here knowing our children needed a little boost with their speech...but also, that they may need other therapies in the future.

Though speech ended up being the only thing we needed, physical therapy was a very real possibility for quite some time.

My brother, Damon, married Claire last summer.

Claire is a physical therapist. She was able to watch David's toe walking and posture for a time (on vacation no less) and recommend a pediatric orthopedist in our area (they live in D.C.) who was not only SUPER qualified to offer an opinion on David's development, but his personality just fit with our family. (You may have noticed by now that I rarely "gush" over bedside manner. This guy. was. spot. on. - as in both of the "big kids" LOVED him and Brent and I instantly trusted his opinion and plan of care.)

Enter: massive thank you to Claire for reading us as a family, and David as a fit throwing toddler AND following up with me to make sure I was able to navigate the recommended system with ease.

She has a masters in Special Education with specialties in Early Intervention. Not only is she McKenzie certified, she is the only McKenzie certified physical therapist in the D.C. area.

Congratulations to Claire and Damon for recently taking the plunge and opening their own business!!!:

Rose Physical Therapy Group:

I love their one on one approach to patient care and I wish that I had round the clock access via personal email to our care providers (because if you check her site, Claire gives you her contact information and believes if you are having an issue, it should be addressed now - not later) (ummm remember Mary Louise at Urgent Care and the ER?? because we *couldn't*get in to see her booked or closed pedi? - how about if I could have just called the MD for a round of steroids to keep her from progressing or emailed the already taken chest xray to someone who knows what Mary Louise looks like on a typical day?)

Rose PT has a fabulous facility that will accommodate any need. Their website is wonderfully easy to navigate (and shows a full list of treatments - including aquatic therapy and alleviation of pregnancy related pain!!).

All of this to say that I'm excited such a place exists - even if it's not within our reach geographically, it's offering honest and personal care to others in need.

oh and P.S. - that lengthy insurance policy? yeah. she can and will help you navigate that booger as well.

Very best wishes Damon and Claire!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Weekend Travels

Brent's 20th high school reunion was on Saturday night. In New Orleans. My goodness, it took some planning...

But I'll tell you about that in a minute. We completed a little project before we left:

Old 6 pane windows? Perfect, easy to change frames for the kids' art work (good call Daddy)! Mary Louise and David just beam when I put their beautiful pictures on display. This was so fun, easy and super cheap. I'll put their easel in front of the windows and art supplies on shelving Brent is building (sweet Brent has been hard at work each weekend completing a list of projects).

Back to the trip...

We'd planned (mistake - always a mistake to plan here! ha!) to have Mary Louise and David's eyes checked Friday and attend the reunion Saturday. Their doctor's office called to let us know something had come up causing our appointments to be cancelled. After a bit of hemming and hawing (it means we'll have to make another trip in that direction quite quickly as their eyes need checking after 3 months in glasses), we decided to go for "it" and make it a fun weekend for all.

I pulled favors from a neighbor: who watched our house, cat and picked up mail, Uncle Kyle who watched the dogs in Houma, Mere and Pops for offering loving arms and energy during our trip to the zoo and Mommom and Uncle Sean who baby sat the 3 sweet LeBlanc kids while Brent and I enjoyed the most child free time we've had...since having kids probably. (We did sneak away overnight a couple of years ago for a wedding.)

We had a lovely time. First we went to Houma for 2 nights.

We played in the grass:

This play may or may not have included a few test tastes of leaves:

We found sticks to conduct imaginary orchestras:

I love how much these sweet babies enjoy music...

We had dance time...lots of dance time:

We went to the Houma library - which is all sorts of amazing:

Chalk board tables:

Tiny doors:

and ships to snuggle into with a great book:

and I'm pretty sure Everett's favorite part was the bubble wall:

But the big kids loved that too:

Then we went swimming!!!

The big kids tried their new puddle jumpers -which worked beautifully! David jumped in (away from the wall!!) more times than I can count. Mary Louise was nervous at first, but warmed eventually and tried floating, put her face in, kicked around, etc. Everett took about 30 minutes to relax - but eventually did and enjoyed floating on his back with his head on my shoulder. He almost went to sleep at one point! Not bad for a first time!

We went to the YMCA. I spent more hours, days, months, years there was second only to school. Home was easily third in usurping time. I competed in US swimming for 7 years and did high school swimming for 5. Looking around there: the smells, the water, the people - it was wonderful, nostalgic, full circle.

I love simple, happy, busy days - the kind that the kids end up bleary eyed and relax into their pillows with sweet smiles on their faces...

On Saturday, we left Houma for New Orleans. Mommom was with us and we met Sean, Mere and Pops at the entrance to the zoo. It. was. packed. The day was stunning and people came out in droves.

I'm so glad we had so many adults to keep track of our fast dash kids!

Sweet girl loves that Easter dress and asks to wear it almost daily.

David said he was going to taste the tree...Mary Louise thought that was just hilarious. Momma just said, "please don't lick the tree David." (Pretty sure I didn't ever expect to have to say that...ever)

I tried to get a group picture. bahahaha!

Seriously. The 1 year old cooperated best?!

(He does adore his Pops time...I dare say almost as much as Pops enjoys his E time!)
Flowers in her hair:

Climbing trees:

We made our way to the hotel for the evening with just enough time to clean up and change clothes. We got a room across the street from the reunion venue just in case things went south with the baby sitting (namely, with Everett as it was during his evening nursing / whiny time). I'm pretty sure I check in 3 times...minimum. But it was a wonderful night.

Brent and I were "those people" - oh yes. first ones there by about 30 minutes. But we used the time wisely: sat in a corner and had a fabulous visit with each other. We had such a good time that we didn't even notice the room fill with guests! ha!

The next morning, we took a ride on the street car. I may have mentioned that David LOVES trains. He was beyond excited to ride on a "real train" (close enough).

My sweet little snuggle munch was just fine in his carrier:

We rode until the last stop and decided to get off at the Museum of art for a look around the sculpture garden.

Playing games:

Squishy face was happy:

Mary Louise and David asked lots of why to those people have dirt in their laps?

(Mommom said it was because they'd been sitting too long)
Everett and I found a sweet meditation spot:

and had a nice sit down chat:

We walked back to wait for the street car and played until one came by:

Ummm...someone got a little hungry and thirsty while waiting...I'm not naming any names though...

*cough* everyone - ha - but that's a cute pic anyhow!

We went back to the hotel to get the car and check out. On our way to grab some lunch with Sean, Mommom and I went to a fabulous store: Lush. If you've never had a bath made fabulous courtesy of Lush products, I am sad sad sad for you...not really - but the products are 9 kinds of fabulous. no exaggeration.

So while we dashed in, Brent took the kids around the block and met us a while later. The staff at Lush saw our wee ones and immediately set to work with product demonstrations - letting the kids take part - so the grown ups could shop! Mary Louise and David are STILL talking about the bath bombs and bubble bars they tried!

When we left there, (are you tired yet??), Brent took us around the corner to a fire station that was open and selling NOFD shirts. Yes. They gave us an out door tour and let the kids climb in the trucks. If you're keeping track, that makes 3 separate fire departments that have now allowed us to invade their space - happily.

To our "big kids", (David in particular), these impromptu tours NEVER get old!

So proud of my sweet peas!

The funny thing was that the fire station was here:

I stood in that very spot 5 years ago and smiled for Brent after his last reunion. We had no kids, I was working at the charity hospital much has happened...tons of happy...and quite a bit of garbage too...the "new" cans seem appropriate - ha.

We met Sean for lunch and headed home - exhausted, full, happy. We spent an extra night at Mommom's to recoup and made our way back to Lake Charles on Monday morning.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Everett's 1st Birthday

April 10th, 2012 was truly an uneasy day.  I was due to head out of town that morning and was up around 5am.  Heather was up also with some sharp pains that had her absolutly miserable.  After going back and forth with her for 3 hours, she finally felt bad enough to let me take her to the doctor to get checked.  Before we went to the hospital, I had to go to CVS and get diapers for the big kids and drop them off at a friends house.  Flashers on, we high tailed it to Womens and Childrens Hospital.  The closer we got the louder and more unpleasent Heather became.  I pulled into the Emergency Entrance, ran in and grab a wheel chair.  I rushed Heather upstairs straight to the Labor and Delivery.  Heather, our nurse for the triplets was happy to see us until she realized we weren't there to reminise.  She put Heather in a room and began a check. I ran down stairs to move the car from the emergency exit and ran back upstairs.  As I got to the room, a team of nurses and doctors were wheeling Heather down the hall to the operating room to deliver Everett.  They threw some scrubs at me, and said they would come get me once she was stable.  5 minutes later a nurse came in to tell me I had a little boy.  I was happy that everyone was okay, but still confused as to what happened, and a little upset that I wasn't in on the delivery.   I ran to the NICU, because Heather always said no matter what, stay with the baby.  I sat there with tears in my eyes, looking at this little miracle baby, and worrying how Heather was.  Nurses keep going into the OR to check on her and give me reports.  Everett decided he wanted to be born on April 10th, and ruptured Heather's uterus.  It is truly a miracle that both Everett and Heather are here with us today, and both are doing terrific. Words cannot explain the feelings I had that day, or how happy I am today to be your father.

Everett, you are a JOY to be around.  Your smile warms my heart, and your laugh melts it.  You have a special gift for easing people's minds.  You are just perfect.  Daddy Loves You!  Watching you interact and learn from Mary Louise and David is a pleasure to watch and be part of.  You seem to figure things out very quickly, and learn from watching in a short teaching session.  You will soon be walking all over the house and terrorizing your brother and sister.  I look forward to watching you continue to grow and learn.  You teach me everyday to smile more, be calm, and take more time for family.

Everett, Thank You & HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY!!!

Everett Baily turns 1!!

Hard to believe this sweet thing:

Will be one in the morning!

My dear boy, I would change everything about your birth - but nothing about you...

Your presence puts me at ease. You are my constant breath of fresh air. I'm amazed at how in tune you are with your surroundings - especially with people. I hope you keep your precious gift in the forefront always.

I love your snuggles, your giggles and your drool. I live to watch you explore different textures and tastes. Seeing you learn from Mary Louise and David is one of the most amazing and beautiful dances I've ever witnessed.

We are all so very proud of you and forever grateful for our time together.

Happy happy birthday my baby boy!!


P.S. Everett took his first steps yesterday!!! 48 hours before his first birthday!! he's also been having a ball "talking" - learning new sounds and words everyday!