I can’t believe I’m sitting down to write about spending an ENTIRE MONTH with our new baby girl, Caroline Claire Schultz. It feels like it took us a lifetime to get her and now our time with her is flying by already.
I’m sitting at my dining room table writing this in the early morning with her in her bassinet in the living room. It’s snowing outside and I’m working solely from the light of my laptop as to not wake her. It’s so good to be home with her after spending nearly her entire first month of life in the NICU.
There’s honestly so much to say about this girl, her story, OUR story… a blog post won’t ever be enough – I could truly write a book – but we’ll start here.
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The Struggle Makes The Reward Sweeter
If you’re new to my story, my husband and I struggled with fertility issues and tried for nearly two years to conceive. It was one of the most challenging struggles of my life and was such an emotional rollercoaster that challenged me mentally, emotionally, and physically. You can read our fertility story here.
After the long fertility struggle, we were elated to learn we were expecting TWINS! I’ll never forget the excitement and, if I’m being completely honest, the sheer terror I felt when we got the news. I had always dreamed of having twins and even had twin baby dolls that I was obsessed with as a child. The reality of having twins was scary at first – how would I take care of two babies at once? Was I capable? Would they be healthy? Could we afford it? Etc. Etc. Soon, the fear turned into excitement and I spent much of my time daydreaming about our future as twin parents. You can read our pregnancy announcement here.
I haven’t written about it on the blog although I did share a bit on Instagram that on December 9, 2019, we received the worst news we could have received when we learned at 28 weeks that our son, Cole Kevin Schultz, no longer had a heartbeat. If I thought our fertility struggles were difficult, they were easy in comparison to the devastation of losing a child we already so deeply loved.
Cole’s entire story deserves to be told at some point, but today’s the day for Caroline’s… although hers is so intertwined with his and they will forever be connected. The five weeks between losing Cole and giving birth to Caroline were pretty excruciating when you combine the grief of our loss with the fear for Caroline’s health and wellbeing.
We were monitored almost daily for those five weeks and made several trips to Labor & Delivery triage out of concern for our girl. Fortunately, after some initial unknowns, it became pretty clear that Caroline is a fighter and was doing amazingly well. She joined us on January 14th, 2020 at 11:45 AM weighing 4 lbs, 8 oz. She was 17.9″ long.
Needless to say, our journey to becoming parents was quite difficult… but the moment I heard her tiny little cry while I was on the operating table, I knew I would go through any amount of pain and suffering all over again to get to that moment. It’s an indescribable feeling and I was immediately and permanently changed by it.
Caroline Claire’s First Month
Seriously, what a month it has been! From crazy labor and delivery at 33 weeks to today. It feels like the blink of an eye and a lifetime simultaneously. We spent the majority of Caroline’s first month at the NICU and while it was a challenge, we were SO grateful for her excellent care. We learned so much from the NICU staff and feel so much more equipped to care for her because of all we learned.
Our girl is tough – there’s no doubt about that! She started with an IV, oxygen, feeding tube, etc. and soon dealt with jaundice but it seemed like every day she was hitting a new milestone and getting rid of some tube or equipment.
Most of her time in the NICU was spent with just the feeding tube and learning how to eat. Today, the challenges with taking a bottle are the only ones we face. We have to pay extra attention when we feed her because she forgets to breathe and gets choked easily. I’m pretty much exclusively pumping and bottle feeding her due to the challenges we’ve faced, although I do have to supplement with formula for her to get enough calories and because of my limited supply. I desperately wanted to exclusively breastfeed but that isn’t our journey. Now that we’re home, we’re able to attempt BF twice per day. I’m hopeful that we can make it happen and increase those attempts over time, but ultimately I just want her to be healthy and grow no matter how she gets fed.
How We’re Doing
Honestly, while the time spent in the NICU was difficult… I think all of the challenges we had gone to prior to that made it seem less hard in the moment. I, of course, was still worried about Caroline but I could actually SEE her living and breathing which was a huge relief. I loved knowing that she was attached to monitors 24/7 and we’d know at any moment if she was struggling. I loved that she had a full team of highly competent medical professionals looking out for her and no one needed me to try to interpret what *I* was feeling on the inside to ensure she was OK.
It was pretty tough logistically trying to manage life in the NICU since I was recovering from a C-section and couldn’t drive. Kevin was working still (his leave starts TODAY, YAY!) so he’d drop me off at the hospital in the mornings and I’d stay all day with our girl. I wouldn’t change it and loved staring at her non-stop and learning SO many things from the nurses.
We came home from the hospital after four weeks and the adjustment wasn’t quite as scary as I’d expected. Kevin & I take turns staying up with her because we just don’t quite feel comfortable with no one keeping an eye on her. We’ve gotten into a routine where I sleep from 8 PM to 2 AM and he sleeps from 2 AM to 8 AM and then we try to find a nap time when we can.
Month One Summary
This month has been an absolute whirlwind. Our girl grows and changes daily and I just want to memorize every single thing about her. From her birth to practically jumping out of bed after my surgery when I was told that I’d get to hold her as soon as I could stand up and walk myself to a chair to sit, to her grasping my hand with her tiny little finger when I held her. I want to remember every single moment. I literally took detailed notes in a Google Doc every single day since she was born so I could keep up with all of the special little details that I never want to forget.
A few of my favorite memories from month one:
- Hearing her tiny little cry when she was born. I sobbed and later learned that the entire operating room was full of crying doctors and nurses after hearing my reaction.
- Caroline grasping my finger when she was only a day or two old
- Watching Kevin do kangaroo care for the first time
- My mom spending her birthday in the hospital visiting us and getting to hold Caroline for the first time
- Giving Caroline her first bath (although slightly terrifying too – she’s TINY and SLIPPERY)
- Bringing her home!
- The 30-45 minutes I spend holding her on my chest after each time she eats
A Letter To My Girl
I’ve been singing “You Are My Sunshine” to you nearly every day since you were born multiple times per day. The lyrics really are true. You brighten my life in ways I can’t describe, and my greatest joy is being your mama. Your little smile and the way you grasp my finger when I hold you melts my heart and I hope you never EVER stop looking at me the way you do right now.
You amaze me with your strength, your sweet little smile, your calm and sweet demeanor (we can thank your dad for that), and your cute little face. I am so, so proud of you already.
I hope and pray that you live a long, happy, healthy, adventurous life. I pray that you’ll be kind and generous to others, that you’ll be confidently and unapologetically yourself and pursue the things in life that bring you deep joy, that you’ll always know your mama and daddy are here cheering you on no matter what.
A big part of me wants to freeze time and just stare at your cute little baby face for the rest of my life but the rest of me is so excited for each new day of watching you grow and become the person you were made to be.
I’m so glad you’re my girl.
A Few Of Our Favorite Things
I know many of my mom and mom-to-be friends are looking for product recommendations. Given that we’ve only been home a few days, I don’t have a ton of “tried and true” products yet, but here are the things I already do love:
- Owlet Smart Sock: In the hospital, we were always watching the monitors to check her heart rate and oxygen levels. Especially during her feeds, she’d sometimes have issues and before we were able to read HER queues, we watched the monitors closely. Now, we can tell when she’s dropping just by looking at her but we feel SO much more comfortable having a monitor on her to be safe. We have this version but there’s also this version that comes with a video monitor as well. Much less expensive than getting a separate/different video monitor.
- Water Wipes: Apparently preemie babies have extra sensitive skin. At the hospital, they used dry little cloths and ran warm water over them during diaper changes since any chemicals could be harsh for her. The closest, most natural wipe I could find are these water wipes that are made with 99% water and then fruit extracts.
- Aquaphor Diaper Ointment: At the hospital, we used a medical-grade diaper cream that I LOVED. It didn’t cause any irritation for Caroline and it had no smell and was clear. I HATE regular diaper rash cream that is pasty white and gets everywhere – and I also hate the way it smells. You can find the medical-grade cream here on Amazon, but I also found that this Aquaphor version is pretty similar and less expensive.
- Halo Bassinet: We ended up with several different sleep options for Caroline… a crib, a pack & play, and a bassinet. So far, I haven’t been super impressed with the pack and play (we tried two different options) because it just isn’t that sturdy and seems to sag in the middle. Until she goes into her crib, I feel MUCH more secure with her in the Halo.
- Halo Sleep Sacks: NOBODY has time to be swaddling babies in the middle of the night with a regular swaddle. Halo Sleep Sacks have been so awesome – easy to secure and they keep the baby snug and warm. I love both this style and this style.
- Zipper Pajamas: SO many moms told me before that we wouldn’t want to deal with snaps or buttons in the middle of the night and they were SO RIGHT! Now that we’re home and not dealing with wires attached to her, I love her zipper PJs! I like these – affordable and cute!
By the way… this monthly post was inspired by Jenna Kutcher. I LOVE following her and she’s been sharing monthly posts the first year of her daughter’s life. I’ll likely do the same because I LOVE reading them each month.