Sunday, March 25, 2012

E is 3

Happy 3rd Birthday to our little girl!  

Our little E is 3!  We love you and miss you every day Ella.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Parents of Preemies Day

Another nonprofit helping preemies called Graham's Foundation is hosting a Parents of Preemies Day today March 23rd. 

Here are some helpful tips they posted on their website to say and do for parents of a preemie:

10 Things to Say to the Parents of Preemies
1. Congratulations! Your baby is beautiful!
2. You're stronger than you know, and your baby is strong like you.
3. If you'd like someone to be there with you in the NICU, I'd be happy to just sit with you.
4. Can I see a picture?
5. When can I come and visit him/her?
6. After this experience, your bond with your baby is going to be so strong.
7. Prematurity is not your fault and it's really unfair.
8. What can I do during cold and flu season to keep your family safe?
9. Cry if you need to; I can be strong for you when you need to take a break.
10. You're a great mom! / You're a great dad!

10 Things to Do for the Parents of Preemies
1. Go food shopping and then cook and freeze a couple (or a lot) of meals that are easy to reheat.
2. Look after a preemie parent's other children so she or he can spend that much more time in the NICU.
3. Visit the new parents and their preemie as soon as the time is right – and focus on the baby, not the equipment.
4. Reschedule a NICU or home visit when you know you've been exposed to germs but aren't feeling sick (especially during flu and RSV season).
5. Help them get to and from the hospital when transportation is an issue.
6. Walk the dog, feed the cat, mow the lawn… anything that gives a preemie parent less to do at home.
7. Just listen. Parents of premature babies may have thoughts or feelings you don't understand; you don't have to 'get it'.
8. Give a gift their baby can use right now – premature babies who aren't ready for clothes can often wear specially sized hats.
9. Be understanding when the mom or dad of a preemie doesn't have a lot of time for you, even if you've been missing them for weeks or months.
10. Request a Graham's Foundation NICU care package on their behalf by visiting the Graham’s Foundation website.......or from Ella's Halo!

They posted on their website some very interesting facts about preemies as well:

Nearly 13 million babies, or about 10% of total worldwide births, are born prematurely each year. Nearly one million infants die each year as a result of pre-term birth, or about 28% of all deaths that occur within the first month of life.

The roller coaster ride your baby takes while in the NICU gives parents emotional distress, and physical exhaustion.  I will never forget having spent 83 days in the NICU with Ella.  It is definitely a world all of it its own and no one can fully describe it to you unless you too have been a parent of a preemie in the NICU.  When a baby is born premature, parents and families find them in a whole different world faced with life and death decisions, uncertain futures for their baby and family, unknown medical issues, and a level of stress you have never felt before.

That is why we spend so much time trying to help NICUs here in the Twin Cities have small comforts of home for these parents and try to make the journey a little more bearable.  We understand all too well what it is like to be a parent of a preemie.

Today, March 23rd Ella's Halo helps to recognize the courage and commitment parents of premature babies have for their little miracles.   

And today and everyday we are proud to be parents to our sweet preemie Ella. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Springing Ahead

Image Via Here

I am not really sure where this past few months have gone. The sun is warm, the snow is gone and we are hitting record highs.  It sure feels like spring is here to stay!  So I thought I should spring ahead and get caught up on my blog, pushing forward with Ella's Halo and take advantage of the change in the air. 

February and March tend to be really busy months for us.  We have birthdays, anniversaries and preparing for bowling.  Things have just flown by the past two months. And before we know it will already be May 12th and we will be hosting another Ella's Halo Bowling for Babies event. 

I can't believe in 5 days our little girl will be three years old.  Where did those years go!?  It just feels like yesterday and our little girl made her quick and surprise arrival into our lives. Little did I know how much she would change our lives in her short time with us.  We are planning to spend the day together and to remember Ella on Sunday.  I am actually looking forward to her birthday this year and spending the day with her daddy.  I guess over time we are just thankful that we were lucky enough to have had her in our lives and her birthday becomes more of a celebration with each passing year.

In just two months we will be hosting our 3rd Annual Bowling for Babies event on May 12th at Park Tavern.  I can't believe this will be the 3rd year of bowling.  It is such a fun event with tons of families who come out and all help raise awareness and money for our cause.  It is so amazing what we have been able to do these past three years with Ella's Halo  and we are so excited about what is to come in the future too.  Just this year we donated 175 blankets thanks to the help of Plymouth Creek Elementary School, we also donated 785 books to NICUs, and already have donated 200 welcome bags.  It has been a busy first part of the year donating so many items to the NICU and we know with bowling this spring, sponsoring Children's Baby Steps in June, the rest of the year will be just as busy.

So those are just a few things that have been taking up our time lately.  I am looking forward to enjoy this beautiful weather, getting outside in the sunshine, and gearing up for another busy year of Ella's Halo.  Springing Ahead to Fun!

Monday, March 5, 2012

March Feature Family

At the beginning of each month Ella's Halo will have a NICU family tell their story about life in the NICU with their baby. Our hope is that by featuring different families others will have a better understanding of the difficult, roller-coaster ride many face when their baby is in the NICU. Ella's Halo created the Feature Family series, if you are interested in sharing your story, please email us at to share your NICU story and to be a future Feature Family.
**Sorry, our post is a couple of days late this month.  We have been busy planning Bowling for Babies and March 1st got away from us.

This sweet mother contacted us at Ella's Halo and told us she loved the real stories that our families write for our feature family stories.  So I asked her to write her own story and share it with us.  Little did I know that her older daughter had enjoyed some of the books Ella's Halo donated while her little sister Emma was in the NICU.  So glad we are helping not only babies and families but siblings too. 

Emma Michael
Written by Rebecca Michael
Former NICU Mommy

In February 2011, my husband and I found out I was pregnant! After suffering a miscarriage in the fall, we were excited to be expecting again. We anticipated an easy pregnancy, as our older daughter Madilyn had been full term with an easy labor.

During the first trimester I’d had some spotting, but ultrasounds confirmed that baby was growing perfectly. Around 18 weeks the spotting was more frequent and heavy, but weekly visits to the doctor and numerous ultrasounds never revealed any issues. Baby was always healthy, great sized, and kicking and there wasn’t an obvious source of bleeding. We agreed with the doctor that it was probably just going to be a bit of a nuisance through the rest of the pregnancy. No big deal, right?

At 22 weeks and 3 days, I woke up at 2am in a wet bed – my water had broken. We headed for the hospital and then I was taken by ambulance to UMMC Riverside because I was still at such an early gestation and they had a Level III NICU that would be better equipped to handle whatever the future would bring. The first 24 hours in the Antepartum unit were a whirlwind. I wasn’t in active labor (no contractions, no dilation) and all test results came back negative for any infections. So, the plan was to STAY on hospital bedrest with close monitoring to keep Baby in until the 23-week mark: before 23 weeks, they can’t perform any life-saving measures as the baby would just be too small. So we waited and prayed that I could make it 4 more days to that 23-week mark!

At 23 weeks and 1 day, I started having contractions. After an ultrasound they determined that I no longer had any amniotic fluid; Baby was in distress and also breech. They started to prep me for a C-Section but as that was happening Emma had other plans. She was welcomed into the world after one quick push, 15 minutes after my husband sent an email to his work letting them know he wouldn’t be there that day. James followed our 1 pound, 6 ounce baby girl to the NICU and the journey began.

There were SO many ups and downs during our 133-day stay – we managed to avoid most of the major problems that micropreemies typically encounter, but Emma was intubated for 6 weeks, had meningitis, developed a blood clot right above her heart, and also received injections into her eyes for ROP. At one point, she had a “line” (IVs, Arterial line, PICC line) in every extremity, including her head! We made it through the first 24 hours, then the first 72 hours, then the first week and first month. We slept with the phone next to our bed every night, hoping it wouldn’t ring with bad news. Life was such a whirlwind of worry, trying to find out everything we could about anything affecting Emma, pumping milk every few hours, keeping our families in the loop, and attempting to maintain some normalcy for Madilyn. Our doctors and nurses were amazing and took so much time explaining to us everything that was happening to Emma and teaching us how to care for her. After waiting a month to finally hold her, daily Kangaroo Care time was such a blessing.

While Emma was in the NICU, Madilyn and both sets of grandparents spent a lot of time in the waiting room. Madilyn LOVED reading all the books donated by Ella’s Halo and especially liked showing the pictures to her baby sister when she could be crib-side!

Emma came home the week of Thanksgiving (exactly 19 weeks after she was born) and we certainly have a LOT to be thankful for. The NICU experience is not one you ever expect to take and being there for so long gives a great appreciation for life. We saw many families whose stay there didn’t end as positively as ours, and we’re so appreciative of Ella’s Halo and their work to make the NICU more comfortable and warm in a less-than-ideal situation for every family. You are amazing!