Brody’s Birth Story

Of all of my kids, Brody definitely has the longest and most eventful birth story. Life has been absolutely crazy the last few months, which is why it has taken me this long to write it all down. Having a baby during the global pandemic and all the restrictions that came with it made the birthing and hospital experience SO much harder and more isolating. The whole experience was very emotionally traumatic for me, so I’ve somewhat avoided reliving it as well. However, it’s important for me to know how far we’ve come, and to remember how blessed we are that it all turned out okay. Brace yourself, because this is a long story…

Since this was my third pregnancy, and since I went early with both of my other kids, I truly thought I would deliver this baby early as well, especially with how I was feeling physically. Between my pelvic and lower back pain, constant Braxton Hicks contractions, and carpal tunnel syndrome, I was SO ready to give birth. I was 3 centimeters dilated starting at 36 weeks, so I was almost certain he would come soon. When it didn’t happen in April, I just prayed that this baby wouldn’t share a birthday with Braxton. I really wanted my boys to have their own birthdays, and God answered that prayer as another day went by with no start of labor. After his birthday, I was ready anytime….but nothing changed.

Ryan worked a string of night shifts before he was officially on paternity leave, so I was somewhat grateful that we didn’t have to wake the kids in the middle of the night for my mom to drive me to the hospital to meet Ryan. On Mother’s Day evening, I was having contractions that actually seemed somewhat consistent. I tracked them for a few hours, and they were also getting more intense. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, and I definitely didn’t want to go to the hospital, just to be told it was false labor and be sent home. However, around 11pm, we were pretty convinced that this was the real deal. I remember labor pain, and this was it. So we drove to the hospital with our overnight bags and masks ready. Ryan wasn’t allowed to go to triage with me, he could only join me once I was admitted. He hung out in the emergency department with his colleagues until he heard from me. I was having very intense contractions while having to fill out all my paperwork by myself. It seemed like forever when I finally got to the triage room, only to find out that I was still at 3 centimeters. I had to sit in the triage room for an hour, and when they came back to check me, if I had made any progress, they would admit me, if not, they would send me home. An hour later of sitting and staring at my monitors alone (my phone was about to die so I couldn’t entertain myself on it), they came back to check me and I was still at 3 centimeters, so they sent me home. I was so surprised and disappointed that this was false labor. My contractions had felt so real and were perfectly 3-4 minutes apart, so I couldn’t believe it wasn’t real. I was so sad because I had convinced myself that I would get to meet my baby that night.

A few more days go by, and we got to the point where we had to set up an induction date…something I’d never had to do before. We set up an induction for midnight on my due date, May 17. The hospital required all women who would be admitted to L&D to be tested for COVID-19, so I had to go through the drive-through at the hospital to be tested. It was a very unpleasant experience, and luckily I was negative.

Sunday, May 17

Finally the night had come…induction night! I was so happy that I didn’t have to go through the triage system again, and it was such a relief that Ryan was able to come right up to the L&D floor with me. When we entered the hospital, the staff had to go through their COVID screening questions. The staff member asking Ryan the questions must have been tired because she forgot what to say, so Ryan said it for her! She looked surprised that he knew the speech and he just replied with, “I work here too!”

We got up to our room and got things started right away. I was still 3 centimeters dilated, so they said things should progress quickly. They gave me Pitocin, and I let that get going for a couple hours before I asked for my epidural. The epidural took longer than I remembered, and at one point I became very dizzy and thought I might pass out, but that feeling passed and the rest of the process went smoothly and kicked in pretty quickly. They left us alone for a few hours, and I tried to rest…but of course I was too anxious and uncomfortable to rest. I nodded off for 15 minutes at a time here and there, but really didn’t rest much. A few hours later, they came in to check me, and I had only progressed to 4 centimeters. They decided to go ahead and break my water to help speed things along. They broke my water, and left us alone again. About an hour later, I was feeling SO much pressure…like, ready-to-push pressure. I called the nurse back in to check me, and I was at 9.5 centimeters! So in just one hour, I progressed over 5 centimeters! The nurse said she would come back in about an hour and we should be ready. Well, 20 minutes later, I could tell it was time to start pushing, and I couldn’t wait any longer so I called the nurse in again. I was indeed at 10 centimeters and ready to push. My epidural was still working so I wasn’t in horrible pain, but I could still feel ALL the pressure. My OB came in, along with the baby nurses. The pushing process was as quick and easy as that process could be, with the exception of having to wear a mask while laboring, and my sweet baby boy was born within 10 minutes of when I started pushing. Brody Ryan Matthews was born at 10:24am weighing 7 pounds, 14 oz and 21 inches long. He was born face up, which often causes a lot of back pain during the end of pregnancy (makes sense). Right when he was born, he received an Apgar (appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration) score of 9, which is almost perfect. My baby boy was perfect. They placed him right on top of me, and Ryan and I just admired our new baby for the longest time. Since we weren’t able to have any visitors because of COVID-19, we knew my mom and the kids wouldn’t be able to come visit us in the hospital, so we called them through FaceTime right away so the kids could meet their new brother. They were in awe and fell in love with him instantly, even through FaceTime. Already, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on him, and we reassured them we would be home the next day or two as long as everything went well, which we fully expected it would.

BrodyStory-justborn2BrodyStory-justborn1

BrodyStory-meetingsibs

I hadn’t eaten anything since before I was admitted and I was starving, so we ordered lunch and then were taken to our postpartum room. My epidural was almost worn off by then, except for in my right leg, which was still completely numb, so I still couldn’t stand up at all. Transport took me in a wheelchair, and then tried to awkwardly start helping me into the bed when Ryan just scooped me up effortlessly and placed me in the bed. We rested, took turns holding Brody and continued to FaceTime our family in Indiana and spent most of the evening in baby bliss. Brody had his first bath and passed his hearing screening with flying colors. Then the nurse gave us some news that we weren’t expecting. His blood results determined that he was Coombs positive. His blood type was B positive, and mine was O negative, and apparently these two blood types don’t get along. I thought that receiving the Rhogam shot during my pregnancy would prevent these types of issues, but apparently they don’t prevent all issues. First, the opposite Rh factor can cause problems, and there is also an ABO incompatibility that can occur, where my O blood made antibodies against my baby’s B blood. This caused his blood to hemolyze, or break down his red blood cells and release bilirubin, causing jaundice. High bilirubin levels in a newborn can be very dangerous if left untreated, possibly causing brain damage. I didn’t really understand the severity of it at the time, because I heard that newborns are jaundice quite often, and it usually just goes away on its own. The nurse said if his bilirubin level isn’t better by morning, we might not be able to go home yet. Again, I assumed it would all be fine, and I didn’t worry too much about it. In the mean time, Brody was nursing well, or so I thought. I knew that it takes a few days for a mother’s milk to come in, but in the mean time, they are getting colostrum. The nurse told us that it’s normal for newborns to lose some weight after birth, but we had to really watch Brody’s weight because it was getting a little too low for comfort. Again, I didn’t think much of it. I knew that this was the norm, and both of my other kids had to have multiple weight checks at their pediatrician after being discharged, so I assumed this would be the case for Brody as well.

BrodyStory-momdad

Monday, May 18

The next day was supposed to be discharge day. Brody was scheduled for his circumcision that morning, then after being monitored for a few hours, we were supposed to be able to go home. Dr. Venable was the neonatologist who came in to exam Brody and do his circumcision. Right away, we loved this doctor, because she was very good at explaining things and very compassionate as well. His circumcision went great, and he was supposed to have one more blood draw and weight check to determine if we could go home. In the mean time, Brody was insanely sleepy from his circumcision, and he wouldn’t nurse well. The lactation specialist said this is normal after a procedure, and suggested hand expressing some colostrum to supplement until he woke up better to nurse on his own. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but hand-expressing a liquid the consistency of honey with carpal tunnel hands is not fun nor easy.  A couple hours later, Dr. Venable told us she was concerned not only about Brody’s bilirubin level, but also his weight loss. At this point, he had lost 10% of his birth weight, which is more than she felt comfortable with, so she suggested supplementing, either by pumping or with formula. We would supplement for 2 feedings and see where we were at with his weight. I really didn’t want to resort to formula yet, so I tried pumping first. My milk still wasn’t fully in yet, so he got a bit more colostrum. For the next feeding, Dr. Venable highly suggested trying formula, but she definitely did not push it. She told me that she has seen this situation many times and even if he had to take formula now doesn’t mean he always would, and if I keep pumping, he could eventually go back to exclusive breastfeeding once things were better. We took her advice to give him the best chance.

Shortly after, he had another bili and weight check, and Dr. Venable came back with some bad news. Brody’s bilirubin needed to be 9 or less, and it had increased to 11, AND his weight loss was now at 11%, so they couldn’t discharge him. I was so bummed, mainly because I knew how excited the kids were to meet their brother, and now they would have to wait even longer to meet him. The doctor hated having to give us this news, and she felt terrible, but she helped us come up with the next step for Brody to get him home soon. He would spend the rest of the day and night doing phototherapy, or bili lights. Normally, our bodies get rid of bilirubin by pooping. Phototherapy helps make bilirubin water soluable, so it can be released by peeing as well. We also had to make sure that Brody was eating enough to not only help his weight, but help him pee and poop more to get rid of the bilirubin.  So that night, Brody had to be under the bili lights until he needed to eat. After nursing, Ryan would feed him formula while I pumped so I wouldn’t lose any progress on my milk supply. He had a bili check that night and his level had gone down, so the phototherapy was working! They decided to stop phototherapy to see if his bilirubin level rebounded.

IMG_2141

Tuesday, May 19

The next morning, we were hopeful for better news. Brody had been peeing a lot and pooping some, so I was hopeful that with supplementing, he was getting enough to eat now, which should help both his weight and his bilirubin level. At this point, I was still a patient as well, but I was supposed to be discharged on this day. If I was discharged, but Brody wasn’t, I would have to stay to be there with him, but Ryan would have to leave. Because of COVID-19, women who were admitted to L&D could have just one support person. Once I was discharged, that support person could no longer be there. Knowing this, I was SO anxious and praying so hard that Brody would be better and we could all go home. When Dr. Venable walked in our room, I could tell by the look in her eyes that she did not have good news. Brody and I had to stay, Ryan had to leave. I was an absolute emotional mess. I was only 2 days postpartum, and now my husband had to leave and I had to deal with the physical and emotional stress of caring for my newborn alone, without being allowed to leave the hospital room. The good news at least was that with supplementing, Brody’s weight was getting better. His bilirubin, however, was not. It continued to spike to scary levels for his little body to handle. We would have to continue formula supplementing simply to increase his output in hopes of his bilirubin dropping. Again, Dr. Venable felt terrible. She is a mom herself, so she understood how difficult this was for us. She even tried to think of ideas on how to keep me admitted to the hospital so that Ryan could stay, but we learned that regardless of being discharged or not, the current policy was that my 1 visitor could stay with me for up to 48 hours only. The nurse that was on staff that day said Ryan could stay with me until shift change at 7pm, so Ryan spent the time leading up to him having to leave trying to console me and convince me that I was strong enough to handle this, which I definitely did not feel that I was. This was a very emotionally low evening for me, and I couldn’t stop crying. However, I also knew that it was probably good for Ryan to get home to our other kids to be the extra help and calming support they needed.

That night was a rough one. Brody was under bili lights again, and every 2.5 hours I would have to nurse him, put him back under the lights to formula feed him, change his diaper, then pump to keep up my milk supply. By the time I completed all of this, I would have maybe 30-45 minutes to rest and then do it all over again. And whenever I did have a small stretch of potential sleep, the temperature censors on the phototherapy machine would act up and beep loudly, so the nurse had to continuously come back in and fix it. The nurses weren’t as helpful as I had hoped since Ryan wasn’t there, but to be honest, I didn’t want them in my room much since I had to wear a mask when someone else was in my room.

BrodyStory-openeyes

Wednesday, May 20

The next day, I was completely sleep deprived. I was surviving on about 2 hours of sleep from the last few days. This definitely didn’t help my emotions, which were a complete roller coaster. I cried all. the. time. Especially when I would talk to, or even think about Kinsie and Brax. I missed them so much, and I was so sad that they hadn’t gotten to meet Brody yet. I was also freaking out because at this point, we were moving out of the state in 10 days, and here I was stuck in a hospital room for who knows how long. I was also worried about my little Brody. During my days at the hospital, I learned more about bilirubin levels than I ever cared to know. Dr. Venable continued to be extremely kind and supportive, while teaching me about bilirubin and the treatment threshold in a way that I could understand. I knew that Brody would eventually get better. Eventually, his body would figure this all out and his red blood cells would stop breaking down…we just didn’t know when that would happen. Not much changed with his progress. He continued to be under the bili lights, his levels would slightly drop, they would take him off the lights, and his level would spike again. Each day drug on so slowly. I felt like a caged animal because I literally couldn’t go anywhere, and I had lived on terrible hospital food for several days now. I was up at all hours of the night and would be starving at 3am and was out of the snacks I packed in my hospital bag. Ryan called me on this day to see how I was doing, and then he told me to look out the window. Ryan, my mom, and the kids were outside my window with signs waving at us. I was bawling! I was so happy to see them, and it made me and Brody feel so loved. They couldn’t stay long because Brax had his school’s drive-through parade soon, which I was sad that I was missing. My mom recorded the entire thing for me so I could at least watch Brax see his teachers again.

BrodyStory-windowvisitors

IMG_2182

Again, the rest of that day was a blur. I remember more bili lights and more bili checks. I remember Ryan talking on speaker phone to Dr. Venable asking her to make sure the nurses helped me more since I was sleep deprived. I remember my milk coming in…intensely. I was grateful for this, but also in a lot of pain from engorgement. Luckily now I didn’t have to supplement with formula anymore, but now I was supplementing with breast milk. Dr. Venable came into my room that evening before she left and gave me some encouragement. She wasn’t going to be working the next day, so she wanted to let me know which doctor would be on shift, and that she had informed this doctor how important it was to try to get us home. Before she left my room, she saw my tattoo that says “It is well.” She saw her opportunity and told me that my tattoo is very timely for our current circumstances. She reminded me that God is with me, He will never leave me, and it will all be well in the end. I was so grateful for Dr. Venable, and I later looked her up on Facebook and found out she’s a pastor’s wife! I contacted her a few days later and let her know how grateful I was for her medical and spiritual guidance throughout this difficult process.

Thursday, May 21

The previous night was more of the same. Bili lights, nursing, pumping, supplementing, no sleep, bili checks, repeat. This was the day that I was really aiming to be home, because Kinsie had her drive-through Kindergarten graduation at noon and I REALLY wanted to be there with her, but sadly I was not hopeful that it would happen. Brody’s most recent bili check was at 4am that morning, and it was 12.4, which wasn’t as low as they were hoping, so that pretty much meant we were there to stay a while longer. I knew the drill. I was used to it at this point. I was emotionally numb to it. Once I knew for sure that we were staying, I asked Ryan to bring me more clothes and some snacks. He also snuck me in a breakfast chicken burrito from Chick-fil-A to give me a break from the hospital food. He wasn’t allowed to come up to the room, but he dressed somewhat nicely so he looked “official” to see just how far he could get into the hospital before someone stopped him. I think he got as far as the elevator on the postpartum floor, and then a nurse took over and brought the stuff to my room. When I opened the bag, I also found a sweet, encouraging note signed by him, the kids, and my mom.

IMG_2625

There was a new doctor that day, Dr. Andrews, who was also very kind and empathetic, and clearly had a thorough explanation of our experience so far from Dr. Venable. At this point, Brody’s levels were only maintaining from phototherapy, they weren’t even dropping much anymore. She gave me a few options for that day… Option #1 increase the amount of lights on him and check his level again around 2pm…if his level decreases enough, we could take him off and check for his rebound level. If his rate of rise was low enough, we could potentially be discharged that night. Option #2 Increase the lights and keep him under for another 24 hours to drive his level down as much as possible. After discussing it with Ryan, we decided to go with option #1. In the mean time, Kinsie had her drive-through graduation. Ryan attached his Go-Pro camera to Kinsie’s side of the car so he could record the whole thing. Of course, as I watched, I bawled like a baby. It was so precious, and I was so sad that I couldn’t be there, but I loved seeing her sweet smile as she saw her Kindergarten teacher cheering for her and saying the sweetest goodbye.

IMG_2202IMG_2167

After his next check, his levels finally dropped some (12.4 to 11.2), so they decided to take him off the lights and see what happens. The plan was to check his level again around 7pm, and if his level went up less than 1 point, we could go home. This was such a long few hours, but I spent the entire time holding my sweet boy. Since he spent most of his time under the lights, I took any opportunity I could to hold him. I could barely eat dinner, and I could barely even pay attention to an episode of Parks and Recreation. To be honest, I wasn’t very hopeful. Every time I had been hopeful before, I was let down. I was fully expecting bad news, but the idea of possibly getting out of that hospital that night was so nice to think about.

IMG_2176

I knew that shift change was also at 7pm, so I waited a good 15 minutes  after 7pm before calling for the nurse to see if they would take him for his check soon. Of course I ended up with a nurse who had taken 3 months off to do research and this was her first shift back so her login for the computer system wasn’t working. She finally came in about 30 minutes later to take him for his check, and then again, we waited for what seemed like forever, but was probably more like 45 minutes. I don’t think the nurse understood just how important this check was to us and how much we’d been through at this point, because she finally walked in nonchalantly saying, “Ok I’ve got your discharge paperwork!” I didn’t understand at first, then I finally said, “We’re going home!?!?” And again, as if it were no big deal, she responded with, “Yep, his level was 11.9.” And cue the happy tears! We were finally coming home! I called Ryan right away and he was out the door immediately to come pick us up. It was around 9:30pm at this point, so I knew the kids would be in bed, but I could surprise them in the morning. I can’t even explain the feeling I had as I had FINALLY been let out of that hospital room. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days. I was so happy to see Ryan, and he had made a “Coming Home” playlist for me on Spotify while he was waiting. I couldn’t wait to be in my own house (even though it was a disaster from moving prep), sleep in my own bed and see my other two kids in the morning.

BrodyStory-dischargehospital

Friday, May 22

We didn’t sleep much that night, but that was ok. I was still so happy to be home and couldn’t wait to hug my other babies. When the kids started to wake up, Ryan went to go get them from their rooms and told them he had a surprise. He brought them out to the living room, and then I walked in from the kitchen with Brody! They were SO excited. We hugged for a long time, and I didn’t want to let them go. They took turns holding and admiring Brody. Unfortunately it couldn’t last too long because I had to take Brody back to the hospital for another bili check that morning.

BrodyStory-signsBrodyStory-dadandkidsBrodyStory-bigsisandbro

We went in that morning for his bili check, and it was at 13.8. We knew it was likely to rise, but it was still rising at a rate that we really had to watch closely. They sent us home and asked us to come back again the next day. When we got home, we didn’t get much done. We all sat around and loved and admired our sweet Brody boy.

BrodyStory-sibs1BrodyStory-sibs3BrodyStory-sibs2

Saturday, May 23

Again, we had to go back in to the hospital for yet another bili check. Each time we went in, I was super nervous. We knew at some point, his level should start dropping, we just didn’t know when. I basically had the newborn bilirubin treatment level chart memorized, so each time we went in, we had an idea of what level we needed to stay under to avoid readmission and more treatment. During this check, his level went up to 17. This definitely wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Even though his level was continuing to rise and somewhat quickly, the doctor told me she wasn’t going to admit us just yet, but asked that I start supplementing with formula again. We knew he was getting enough of my milk since his weight was good and he had plenty of wet and dirty diapers, but she simply wanted to maximize his output to flush out the bilirubin. We bought some formula on the way home, and I was super bummed and anxious that this still wasn’t over.

As the day went on, we tried to balance our time packing and spending time with Brody. Later in the afternoon, I noticed he seemed really sleepy…more than usual. When it was time to feed him, he wouldn’t wake up enough to eat. We tried undressing him, jostling him, changing his diaper…nothing woke him enough to nurse. Right away I was worried, especially because his skin tone seemed even more yellow than it had previously. Ryan prepared a bottle of formula to see if he would take that just to give him something, and he took it, but never really woke up. Afterwards, he called the hospital and told them what was going on, and they suggested going to the NICU at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Again, I was very worried, but I knew he would get the best care at this hospital. Ryan knew how scary this all was for me, and he had worked many shifts at the children’s hospital emergency department, so he calmly explained to me what they were going to do with Brody when we got there. He said when babies come in with a fever or are lethargic, the doctors have to be extra cautious and prepare for a possible infection. They receive a whole work up, usually including labs, a possible lumbar puncture, antibiotics, etc. He wanted to prepare me ahead of time so I would know what to expect. We knew that Ryan wouldn’t be able to come in with us because of the COVID-19 guidelines. We also knew that we would more than likely be admitted and be staying overnight. I packed a bag and Ryan drove us to the hospital. We had to check in through the emergency department, but since Ryan had called ahead, they let us skip the ED and took us straight to the NICU, which was good so we could avoid sick kids.

When we got up to the NICU, I was so overwhelmed. There were about 10 nurses and/or doctors in our room doing different things to Brody. All of this craziness finally woke him up, and he was screaming like I had never heard him scream before. This was so hard to hear, but also somewhat reassuring since he had been so lethargic earlier. With how Brody was responding, the doctor felt better about things and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t an infection, and he definitely wasn’t septic. They still did lots of labs, but were luckily able to skip the lumbar puncture and antibiotics. Since he was wide awake now and very hungry, they let me nurse him, and he did so much better than earlier. This was also very reassuring. They did a bili check, and also had to test him for COVID-19. This was standard for NICU patients, but I knew how unpleasant the testing experience was, and it killed me to watch my week-old baby have to go through it as well. His bili level came back at 19…scary high. This explains why he was acting the way he was earlier at home. The plan was the same as it was before we left the hospital at UAMS…more phototherapy. Ryan had created a group text called “Prayers for Brody” with both of our families, but left me out of it since I already had enough to deal with. That way, I could just update him, and then he would update our families. Our night in the NICU was long, but I was in a better head space here. Brody was almost a week old, so I knew that his little body should be figuring this thing out soon, and I also knew we did the right thing by bringing him in. Luckily, the NICU didn’t have quite as strict of rules as they did at UAMS. I didn’t have to wear a mask in my own room, and I was allowed to leave the room to go get food or coffee. This was HUGE for my mental health. Ryan was even able to bring me dinner once, and I went out to the car to eat it with him. It also helped that the NICU staff was so compassionate and kind and really loved on Brody and me during our stay, which is what we both needed. That night, I slept on the very uncomfortable cot next to Brody’s little bed, and I slept like a rock. I’d wake up when it was time to feed him, but then I slept so hard in between feedings. I was so unbelievably exhausted and my body needed sleep so badly.

BrodyStory-bililights

BrodyStory-NICUonesie

They checked his level around 10pm, and it had dropped to 17.5. Another bili check at 5am was at 15.5, so it was definitely dropping. They continued him on the lights and we decided to check him again about 7 hours later and see if we could take him off the lights and check for his rebound. In the meantime, I was able to give Ryan a code to watch Brody on the baby cam they had set up in his room. He set it up on the big screen in our house so they could all watch him at home!

BrodyStory-Brodyvision

The next bili check was around noon and this one would determine if we would turn the lights off. The results came back at 14, which was a good drop! He got to come out from under the lights and get retested around 7pm. The doctor said if he stays under 16, we could go home. Again, I spent most of that afternoon snuggling with Brody. At one point, the nurse even came in and said she knows I must be exhausted and I could take a nap if I wanted, but I didn’t want to put him down.

BrodyStory-NICU2

During the last hour or so, I started to get really anxious and pessimistic. I didn’t think the results would be good, and I really really didn’t want to spend another night in the hospital. I talked to Ryan for a while so he could try to talk me down and help me find some hope in the current situation. Again, Brody’s bili check was scheduled right at shift change, which is always a chaotic time. The nurse that took over was very nice, but she was older and slower. She came in and talked to me about random things like my hometown and how she had a friend from there and they would always go out to eat at O’Charley’s when she would visit. Again, she was super nice…but I really didn’t have the mental capacity for small talk at that moment. After a while, she came in with GOOD NEWS!! Brody’s level was at 15.1! I was so happy and relieved, but also still a little worried since we had to be rechecked in the morning, and there was a chance his level could continue to rise like it did before. However, I relished in the moment and was so happy to see Ryan again, and to see the kids in the morning.

BrodyStory-NICU

The next morning, we went in for yet another bili check. I was super nervous, and fully expected another rise. Every time I brought him in for another check and was waiting for lab results, I researched everything I possibly could about bilirubin levels, ABO incompatibility, hematocrit levels, you name it. Not that it actually helped, but I needed something to keep my mind busy. A doctor came out to inform me of the results, which made me nervous, because usually when it was good news, a nurse told me, and when it was bad news, a doctor told me. HOWEVER, this doctor had the best news I had heard in over a week in store for me. Brody’s bilirubin level DROPPED to 13.3! This was the first time that his level ever dropped without treatment! This was HUGE because now this meant that his blood was most likely done breaking down those red blood cells and his bilirubin level should continue to drop…making it no longer be an issue! HALLELUJAH!

The next day we had Brody’s newborn checkup at the pediatrician’s office. Side note: we scheduled this appointment about 6 times, and continued to have to cancel because we hadn’t been discharged from the hospital yet. We couldn’t get in with our normal pediatrician, so we saw another doctor, and he was wonderful. We had to give him all the hospital paperwork and give him the rundown on everything that Brody had gone through so far, and he was supposed to get one more bili check to make sure that his level continued to drop. They did the lab, but wouldn’t have the results right away. Brody did great at his appointment, and even gained weight since birth! The doctor personally called me later in the afternoon with more wonderful news…Brody’s bilirubin level was 11.7. We were FINALLY out of the woods! For the first time since Brody was born, I could finally take a deep, full breath and get a good night’s rest (as good as you can with a newborn anyway!)

So now, we could finally fully enjoy being a family of five. The kids loved on Brody more than ever and were so grateful that all of this was now behind us. Now, we could move on to the next major life event…moving across the country in 5 days! The kids and I would be moving to Indiana while Ryan stayed in Arkansas to finish his last month of residency.

BrodyStory-home

BrodyStory-family

The last few months have just been a series of challenging events. Between the pandemic, losing both my grandma and my dog, having a baby with hyperbiliunemia, and then moving…there is only one explanation on how I made it through all of it…GOD. There is no way I could have gotten through all of these major life changes and stressors without God carrying me through it. I also have to give a lot of credit to my mom…she went through the fire with us. She was the one packing up the majority of the house while I was in the hospital, while taking care of my kids and having to explain to them why their mommy and brother couldn’t come home yet. We literally couldn’t have gotten through all of this without her love, help and support. I also have to give a major shout out to my amazing husband. Just thinking about how amazing Ryan was through all of this makes me cry. He was my rock, and always knew how to calm me down and help me mentally push through. He was also there for the kids when they needed him, as well as being a wonderful doctor, always trying to learn and understand more so he could help make the best decisions for Brody. God knew exactly what kind of man I needed in my life, and he blessed me beyond what I deserve with him. Finally, I need to give some credit to my sweet little Brody. He was an absolute champ throughout all of this. He spent the majority of his first week of life almost naked under bright lights with a mask on, and was basically a pin cushion from all the blood they drew from his tiny little body. Even though I hated watching him being poked and prodded all week, he handled it better than most adults ever could, and I know he is already stronger from this experience.

IMG_2494

I’m still somewhat experiencing a level of PTSD from everything that happened. Reliving it all through this post was tough, and took me several days, not only because I don’t have much free time, but also because it was too much on me emotionally to go through it all again in one sitting. However, I also look back and realize just how much we’ve been through in a few short weeks, and how much stronger we all became as individuals, as well as a family. I am now much more aware that all of this was in God’s hands the whole time, not my own. He knew that I needed this reminder, as well as this weight lifted off of me, and I am so grateful for that.

IMG_2573IMG_2376IMG_2405IMG_2576

Even though having a baby and being in the hospital for a week in the middle of a global pandemic was one of the hardest experiences of my life, I wouldn’t trade my Brody Ryan for anything in the world. This is part of his story now, and we will never forget it.

DSC_0046

One Crazy May

The last few months have been absolute insanity. And when I think that things can’t possibly get any crazier, they do. May turned out to be extremely exhausting and emotional, but also amazing since our sweet baby boy was born!

Here is a recap of our crazy month…

Brax’s 4th Birthday

Our boy Brax turned 4 this month!! Even before the pandemic, we knew that his birthday would have to be low-key because we knew that I would either be super pregnant, or have a newborn. Luckily we had a beautiful day to work with, so we filled our sweet boy’s day with lots of fun right from home!

Braxbirthday-3

My sister and her family wanted to surprise Brax with donuts in the morning, so they called and ordered them at a nearby donut shop and my mom picked them up. He loved the surprise from his aunt, uncle and cousins!

Brax-birthdaydonuts

Brax was thrilled to get a new bike for his birthday from us! He spent a good portion of his day practicing riding it. We also had a picnic lunch in our front yard, a water balloon fight with Daddy, and sprinkler and pool fun.

Braxbirthday-activities

After we came inside, we ordered his favorite dinner, pizza. After pizza, we called our families for a Zoom birthday song and cake. He loved getting to see everyone even though they all couldn’t be there.

Braxbirthday-4

Even though we never left the house, our boy seemed to have a great 4th birthday! And I was thrilled that Brax would still have his own birthday…I was genuinely nervous that the baby would come that day. Luckily (and surprisingly), he didn’t come for another couple weeks!

Braxbirthday-1

While we packed…

We had a LOT of work to do before we moved at the end of the month. My mom started packing whenever she could, and I spent half the month as a beached whale who could hardly roll over, so the most I could help was sitting with my mom and telling her what to pack and where. It was super frustrating because I felt useless. Anyway, one of the hardest parts about packing is entertaining your kids. They are usually good about entertaining themselves, but when they are watching you pack all of their toys, it often causes some issues! They spent some time dressing up, making forts, and drawing lots and lots of pictures. Kinsie recently discovered a YouTube Channel that teaches you how to draw hundreds of different animals and characters. She spent countless hours drawing during the moving process!

insideactivities

It rained a lot this May, but we would still try to get the kids outside whenever we could so they wouldn’t kill each other. They came up with obstacle courses, random games, and drew lots of PinkFong creations with sidewalk chalk.

ChalkPics

Lots of walks trying to help get baby out…

I had been physically miserable for quite some time at this point. I was shocked that the baby hadn’t come sooner based on how I felt. I was so desperate to get him out, and tried to do whatever I could to help the process…mainly lots and lots of walks. We obviously couldn’t take long walks because my feet would get too swollen, but we took as many short walks as we could. One of our favorite walks was at a different lake in our town, closer to the kids’ school. There’s a giant swan that lives at that lake, so the kids call it “Swan Lake.” It was a beautiful walk with lots of wildlife, including the swan, a family of ducks, turtles, and fish. The kids loved it and could have spent hours following the duck family!

SwanWalk

We also walked around the lake by our house. We always looked for wildlife to keep the kids entertained. During one of our walks, Ryan found a speckled king snake and PICKED IT UP. He is crazy. This particular type of snake is docile, and he had a good hold of it and Kinsie even touched it. Later on this same walk, we found a turtle, which Kinsie fell in love with and would have taken home if we let her!

CritterWalk

We did the swan lake walk on Mother’s Day as well. Ryan was off for paternity leave at this point, so he was able to join us for a Subway picnic and more wildlife watching. This was the first Mother’s Day that I’ve gotten to spend with my mom since we moved here. I not only loved spending Mother’s Day with her, but I was beyond grateful for the time she spent with us in Arkansas. She was absolutely crucial to us this month with everything that went down and I am so blessed to have her love and support.

MothersDayWalk

Last Day of School…Quarantine Style

Obviously the kids’ school year did not end the way we expected it to end, and we all had our moments of grief with this fact. However, I am so impressed with my kids on how they handled everything. They were still excited to take “Last Day of School” pictures. I always love seeing how much they’ve grown during a school year!

Kinsie-firstlastdayBrax-firstlastday

Graduations and End of Year Parades

Since the pandemic caused all school and events to be cancelled, Kinsie’s school decided to have a drive-through Kindergarten graduation ceremony. It was SO precious and she got her certificates and got to say goodbye to her teacher. Brax’s school also had a drive-through farewell parade. Unfortunately, I was not able to be there because I was still in the hospital with the baby (I’ll tell the whole story in his birth story coming soon), but Ryan and my mom recorded both events and took pictures for me.

Brax-paradeKindergrad

Here is the video Ryan took with his Go-Pro of Kinsie’s graduation

 

Introducing Brody Ryan Matthews!

The biggest and most anticipated event of our month…the birth of our precious baby boy, Brody Ryan Matthews. He was born on May 17 at 10:24am. He was 7 lbs, 14 oz. and 21 inches long. He is the absolute sweetest baby and we are all so obsessed with him. We ended up spending about a week in the hospital due to high bilirubin levels, which I will explain in full detail in his upcoming birth story. Luckily now, he is doing much better and we’ve enjoyed welcoming him home into our family!

Brodybirth

Siblings

Familyof5

Lots of love for Brody

Brody only got to live in Arkansas for about 2 weeks before we moved. While we continued packing our house, the kids spent most of their time fighting over who got to hold Brody. The love playing with him on his playmat and reading lots of books to him!

Brodyfun

Brody’s First Walk

Before we moved, I really wanted to take Brody on a walk around our favorite park. Even though he slept the whole time, we all enjoyed our first and last walk at our park as a family of five.

FamilyWalk

Brody’s First Bath

Kinsie was thrilled to get to help with Brody’s first sponge bath!

BrodyBath

Moving Day!

Brody and I were only home for about a week before we had to load up the moving trucks and hit the road to Indiana! My dad and Ryan’s parents came down to help us load up and drive. It was a crazy, exhausting, busy few days but we made it! Ryan even drove one of the UHAUL trucks, helped us get settled, then flew back down to Little Rock to finish out his month. This definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to finish our time in Arkansas, but we are already planning a trip in the future to come back and visit our friends and our favorite places.

KidsUHAUL

MovingDay

My mom helped drive with me and my kids. It took us about 12 hours since we had to stop every few hours to feed the baby. He did amazing on his first road trip!

DrivingtoIN

RV’s for MD’s

Since we had to be out of our house on May 30 and Ryan still had to finish his contract, he needed a place to live for the month of June. He thought about staying with a friend, but most of his closest friends had new babies, and he didn’t want to impose on a family or cause potential exposure. My friend told me about a Facebook group called “RV’s for MD’s” where people who own RV’s offer to let frontline workers live in their RV so they don’t expose their families to the coronavirus. I joined the group and we were able to find the nicest family in Little Rock who had a huge, full-sized RV. They made dure the RV was clean and fully-stocked and they even gave us a baby gift! We worked it out to park it at the RV Park in downtown Little Rock right by the river. It is such a neat program and we were so grateful that Ryan had a safe place to live!

RVforMD

May was exhausting, and I’m glad it is over. However, it will be a month I will never forget for the rest of my life because I had a baby and moved across the country within 2 weeks! The kids and I are staying with my parents for the month of June, then when Ryan is finished, he’ll come to Indiana and we will live in a rental house while our house is being built. Things are still crazy trying to get settled and dealing with 2 kids and a newborn, but I am just so grateful for a healthy baby and the fact that we are closer to home!

Stay tuned for Brody’s full birth story and more summer fun in the upcoming months!

Here is our May 1 Second Everyday…enjoy!