Let me just begin this with saying, I am not affiliated with CareCredit or Walmart. I genuinely just want to share something that works for me.
When we first found out that our little embabies stuck, my intimate thought was preparedness. How much will we need of each item, and the double it for two! Diapers, wipes, formula and bottles all became top priority.
We started with diapers. Around the same time I had gotten pregnant, CareCredit rolled out the ability to purchase health and wellness items at Walmart and Sam’s Club. As someone who was working on rebuilding my credit, and this being the only credit card I had I found my niche. CareCredit has the ability to pay for most infant items. So every other week, I’d stop in at Walmart and buy a box of diapers and a box of wipes. Then, I’d make a payment on my card keeping the balance to a minimum. Did this help me? Heck yeah! Not only did I see my credit score raise steadily but I built up a stockpile.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stock up on much anything else due to bed rest and the boys coming early. However, what I was able to stock up on is coming in handy! We have lots of diapers and wipes, and when you’re wiping the butts of two you know you need them!
What’s next? I’m going to continue stockpiling every once in a while, but I’m also keeping the balance low for upcoming dental appointments for my oldest. Additionally, the boys will have alternate needs in the upcoming months and we will bend to those needs.
One of the many questions we’ve received is how we came how we came up with the boys names. We’re here to tell ya, grab the tissues this could get emotional. Before we begin, if you don’t already know all of my kids are named in ABC order. Andi, Bree and Caidence! The boys are named after three men who were important in our lives. Each man played a different role for us but, each man left this life too soon.
Dax Ramon Ruiz
Dax was Dax. He was the one name we never hesitated on, because it was just suiting. He had to be a “D” and so, he was. Fun fact, it wasn’t until we were looking for another name that we found this also aligned with Zoram’s Star Trek addiction. Dax in Star Trek is a deity. Dax means Leader and so far in his life that’s been true! Dax’s middle name is a passed down name to honor one of the three people we wished to honor. Ramon is Zoram’s dads name. He passed in Zoram’s childhood. We honor him by utilizing his name as Dax’s middle name, but more importantly we pass to our children the many life lessons Ramon taught Zoram growing up.
Emrick Keith Ruiz
Emrick. Let’s be honest, the name Emrick was decided on the operating table. But, we spent all morning getting names thrown at us in every which way. We had people to honor, and we knew the middle name long before we knew the first name. And let’s also be honest, thanks husband for the dig because I wouldn’t have been happy if he didn’t start with an “E” HA! Both of us liked Emerson, but we couldn’t give poor Emrick two middle names.. so he became Emrick. Emrick means Immortal. Em for Emerson. Rick for Rick Butler, an amazing man that treated Zoram like his own. I was lucky to meet Rick on a few occasions. Both he and Julie welcomed me from day one with Zoram. And although I wasn’t able to create our own memories I heard and still hear all the memories from Zoram. He is again another man we wanted to honor by passing down not only his name but the foundation he gave to Zoram unto our own children.
The final name, and the most important to me is Keith. For those of you who know me, you know this is my Dad’s name. The man who raised me to be well, me. The sarcastic, dark humored, strong willed me. When he passed in 2017, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Hell, 2017 was the worst year of my life by far. But, we all made it through. If he were here, he’d be crazy about his grandsons… all three of them, just like he was crazy about his granddaughters. The love he gave to his entire family will be the legacy that we instill in the boys. Love without limits, love without an end.
Emrick and Dax carry on three names of three strong men whom we miss, whom we love and whom we’ve learned from. The boys will grow knowing who they were named after. We will speak their names as if they were still living. We will tell stories both happy and sad. We will not let them be forgotten.
Yesterday I posted about taking one step forward in life, only to take three steps back. It was the day before that where everything seemed to take a turn.
That morning, I woke up to a pleasant email supporting my leave for the boys. It seemed like life finally came full circle and I could relax a little. I could relax enough to know I could stay home and wait for the boys to come home from NICU before returning to work. What a relief, right?! Wrong…
Even though I didn’t get a whole lot done during the day, I loaded up the kids around 3:15 and headed to drop them off with my mom so I could go see the boys. If you’re not from Tucson, you’re not familiar with our lovely under construction road Ajo. This road is extremely narrow, and with the many businesses, homes and apartment complexes on either side of the roadway it makes for a lot of close calls every day and many, many accidents. Unfortunately, that day was not my day. The car in front of me began braking, so I braked with ample distance. But then unfortunately the car in front of me was slamming on their brakes which caused me to slam on mine and skid right into it. Is it a huge deal? No. Heck no, we have insurance for a reason right? But, it was enough to frustrate me. It was enough to feel like I took two steps back.
Needless to say the cars in the shop, and Zoram drove me to see the boys. Unfortunately, Zoram is sick and is unable to see the boys. After the boys, I came home and received a letter from the physicians group that’s treating the boys. Fun fact, although the boys are in the NICU, the physicians treating them are not employed by the hospital but rather an outside group. That group is of course not contracted with our health insurance. Here’s the next step back. I called our insurance, the good news is it should all be covered. It’s still irritating, it’s still going to take a lot of appeals, phone calls and frustration.
The point of this post isn’t to just moan and complain. In fact, it’s a reminder. Life isn’t always easy. Hell, 99% of the time life is freaking hard. Make the most of the little wins. Our little win is the boys making it back to their birth weights. Our little win is our boys making progress every day. Our little win is the safety of all of our kids.
You have to take the good with the bad, the happy with the sad and just keep moving forward.
One more thing… I just want to emphasize the importance of communication with your significant other or spouse. Without Zoram, i don’t know how I’d be able to get through all of this. He’s able to calm me when I’m frustrated, he’s able to recognize when I just need space. We’re a team and despite the troubles we’re faced with, we know everything will turn out just fine. Now to just figure out how all the kids will fit in the Armada. #MomProblems
I know I’ve been talking a ton about the NICU but, the NICU is what our lives revolve around for now. So, I’m not sorry. If I don’t write it out, I’ll hold it in and that’s not good for any of us. So, here it goes… another fun fact about NICU…
The NICU whether you’re there feeding, holding, changing babies…the NICU whether you’re home trying to spend time with your older children…the NICU regardless of your babies age, gender or how sick they are… leaves you feeling extremely guilty.
NICU guilt is so real. You feel guilty for being there. You feel guilty for not being home. You feel guilty for the hundreds of pictures you’re taking because then where are the pictures of your older children? You feel guilty just napping. I feel guilty for almost everything I do these days. Hell, I even made it through my first day of not visiting the boys and that, that was ridiculously hard.
Yesterday, what I felt most guilty about was the boys simply being born. I feel guilty that my body failed them. That I couldn’t hold them inside even for just two more weeks. Are they doing great? YES! But, if I had just held them in for two more weeks maybe, just maybe, we could have gone home without a NICU stay. I had heard so many stories from co-workers, I had read all of these articles online about making it to just 34 weeks. And I couldn’t do that. The guilt kicked in pretty damn hard this morning when the nurse offered to take our first “family” photo. We aren’t a complete family in this picture. Not to mention the pure exhaustion that shows all over our faces. Am I grateful we have a memory? Of course I am! I just don’t want to show the girls because they’re struggling too.
Now, before you start commenting and giving me advice let’s talk about something. The guilt I’m feeling is so similar to grief. It comes in waves, crashing in to me. I drown for a few minutes and then I come back to the surface, bury it back down and continue on with my day. Grief hits me the same way, especially when it comes to my dad. Like grief, you can tell a person, “I’m so sorry, I know how you feel, let me know if you need anything”. However, none of that helps. I’m not asking for help because right now, I have it covered. I’m not asking for sympathy, I just want to get this out so I’m not constantly drowning. And most of all, every person who has either experienced life in the NICU or that of having a child who has experienced sickness such as cancer, experiences this differently. Kindly, we don’t know how we each feel but, hell yes we can relate.
If you’re a new to NICU mom, here’s a few things I like to do to relieve the guilt.
Call Any Time. The NICU is full of nurses and doctors who completely understand that you can’t be there 24/7. They don’t mind when you call, they’re happy to answer questions and they’re there around the clock. If you feel too guilty, give them a call!
Take All The Pictures. Take the damn picture! This journey is unique, and documenting it..the good, the bad and the ugly is beneficial.
Find An Outlet. For me, my outlet is this blog. I get to keep a digital notebook so to speak about our boys journey. This is my way of letting it all out, to complete strangers, to family, to friends, to anyone reading this right now.
Rest. I know, I know. I’m contradicting myself. I rest… I promise I do. But, between pumping, insomnia and my girls there’s almost no time to sleep. However, rest is essential to your well being. Rest mama. Trust and believe you’re baby is in the best hands.
There’s no better feeling than knowing that eventually my boys will be home, until then I’m going to ride out all of this guilt. I’m going to use this blog as my outlet. I’m going to spend time with my girls (thank you fall break!) and I’m going to enjoy my boys in the evening this week. The guilt may come every single day, but my mom strength is year round!
It’s been one week. One week of back and forth visits to the NICU. One week of juggling two out of three girls at home, while still getting daily visits in with boys. One week of spending thirty-ish dollars every other day just to have gas to go up to see the boys. It’s been one hell of a week! This week brought a newfound appreciation, and let me tell you it’s a big one.
As most of you know our story, the story of Zoram and I, began way way back in preschool. However, we didn’t actually start dating until our best friends got married. It was an instant click for both of us, but he would tell me “just friends”. Just friends turned into a dinner date, and well..it’s all love birds and kissy faces from there. Zoram took in all three of my girls as his own. He didn’t miss a beat. It was a huge sigh of relief as I was a single parent, and I wasn’t sure what my future held. Heck, even my parents liked him and that was a huge deal!
When my dad passed, Zoram still didn’t miss a beat. He was there constantly helping to make sure we didn’t need anything, picking up the girls, going back and forth to yet another hospital.
When I decided to sell my house, when our future home was uncertain and we didn’t exactly know what to do.. he still stood there.
When we decided I needed a car to go back and forth to pick up the kids, he quickly allowed me to pick out something I could drive, save gas, and he could easily fix.
You guys get the concept right? He’s been a non-stop support system. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when it came to our boys. But, it was. It was a huge surprise that during my c-section he chose to stay while I got stitched up instead of following the boys. It was a huge surprise that he stayed by my side and did whatever I asked. It was a huge surprise that he went home to take care of the girls instead of staying at the hospital so we didn’t have to stress. It was a huge surprise that he made sure I was fine after leaving the hospital, and every day since.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate my husband. He has a whole new role in our family, a role that I wasn’t sure how he’d take on…and he surpassed all of my expectations. When we talk about the NICU taking a toll on parents, but not many people talk about the changed relationship between the parents. No, we don’t talk much about the NICU. It’s an almost unspoken conversation, except for the updates. But, the little things he does is a conversation we have daily. It’s those little things that make my heart flourish.
The truth is, he’s never gonna read this… and though I can write it out in multiple words, speaking the appreciation is hard. However, maybe another NICU parent will read this some day, maybe they’ll understand because they’re going through it too.