Our New Normal: Unrealized Expectations & Second Chances

There were babies everywhere: babies in carriers, babies riding in shopping carts, and babies being held by their moms. It seemed that no matter which way I looked, I saw a baby…except when I looked down at my empty arms.

I took a deep breath and tried not to have a breakdown inside the Target. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and the store was packed with families on their way to fun adventures. I was sitting on the bench next to the pharmacy wearing my pajamas, wondering if I had enough strength to make it through the rest of the day.

“Are you feeling okay?” my husband asked, walking up with my just-filled prescriptions for pain relievers. After my C-section on Thursday morning, the wiser choice probably would have been waiting in the car. I looked at him with tear-filled eyes. What was going to happen to our little family?

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It seemed unreal that three days earlier, I woke up (26 weeks pregnant) and headed to work. Any Hallmark employee can tell you that the month of June means madness in the backroom as boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments arrive from the warehouse for Ornament Premiere. There were three of us working that night, and I was getting as much work done sitting down in the back as possible. I had a pain in my back that would not go away.

My friend and co-worker Lexie was also pregnant (with her third baby), so she tried to reassure me that everything I was feeling was completely normal. Back pain and pregnancy go together like peanut butter and jelly. Around 6:30 p.m., Adam stopped by on his way home from work, and he was concerned by the fact that I couldn’t make it through a sentence without wincing in pain. “Call the doctor, Melissa,” he said, as he walked toward the door. “I’ll see you at home.”

The on-call doctor for my OB practice agreed with Lexie. “It’s sounds like dehydration–drink a lot of water and put your feet up. The pain should stop, but if it doesn’t–feel free to come by the hospital and we’ll check everything out.”

By 10:30 p.m., I was home in my jammies with a gigantic cup full of ice water. The pain seemed to be getting worse, and I finally admitted that we needed to go visit Labor & Delivery. Confident that I was over-reacting and would be sent home immediately, I brought absolutely nothing with me–not a book, not a change of clothes, not even my contact case and back-up glasses.

Which brought me back to our unexpected trip to Target that Saturday morning: sitting on a bench in my pajamas, no longer pregnant.

Our precious baby had been born on Thursday morning, 14 weeks too early, weighing just one pound and 8 ounces. A transport team for the children’s hospital waited on standby for Adeline’s delivery–less than two hours old, our girl was going to take her first ambulance ride to the closest level IV NICU, 30 minutes away.

Adam’s words echoed in my mind. Was I feeling okay? The feelings were hard to distinguish. “Can we just go, please?” I begged from my spot on the bench, aching for a second chance to see our daughter.

He gently led me to our car and drove silently to our daughter’s new home, Children’s Mercy Hospital. He found a spot in the parking garage, settled me into a borrowed wheelchair from the lobby, and pushed me down the hallway to the far set of elevators next to the cafeteria. The bright colors and cheerful decorations seemed at war with my level of despair. This was not what I had planned for our girl.

Her real bedroom was ready for her at home–a brand-new crib, an antique changing table/dresser from Adam’s childhood, piles of tiny pink outfits neatly folded in baskets, a pair of too-big shoes that she might never get to wear…

Instead, our precious daughter was curled up in a temperature-controlled isolette, surrounded by machines and medical personnel who worked tirelessly to keep our baby alive.

Adam wheeled me up Adeline’s bedside and together, we stepped forward into our New Normal.

Our New Normal: A Prematurity Story from Lone Star Signers | Unmet Expectations & Second Chances

When I walked into the NICU and saw Addie’s tiny feet, I broke down as I realized she might never have a chance to wear these shoes that were waiting for her at home.

Our 26-weeker miracle recently celebrated her seventh birthday. Today’s post is just bits and pieces of our 135 day NICU journey, inspired by the recent launch of Kayla Aimee’s new book Anchored. You can read more about Kayla Aimee and her book in this previous post. Thank you for reading!

Your turn: I’d love to hear about unmet expectations in your life–how have you been able to celebrate second chances?

Finding Hope: Adeline’s Story


June 16, 2008

For those of you who haven’t yet heard, Adam and I became parents on Thursday morning. We were 26 weeks pregnant with our little girl, and I started having regular, intensifying pain on Wednesday night. We checked into the hospital around 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday and the nurses quickly confirmed that I was indeed having contractions. They tried to slow the contractions down throughout the night, but by 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, I was very uncomfortable. It turns out that I was completely dilated and just had a very quick labor. A sonogram revealed that Addie was not in a head-down position and there would not be enough time to turn her.
We had an emergency c-section, and Adeline Laurel Droegemueller joined us at 8:44 a.m. She weighed 1.5 pounds at birth and measured 13 inches long. A transport team from our local children’s hospital was standing by, and our little girl was checked out completely before being moved to their NICU. Other than being tiny, she is healthy and beautiful! She just needs time to grow, so she will be staying at the children’s hospital for quite a while. She is in excellent hands and she can have unlimited visits by her parents, so she is surrounded by everything she needs! 
We are head over heels for our little girl; we love to watch her wiggle her toes, and hear her tiny cry, and watch her breathe on her own. She is such a gift from God, and we know that all of this is part of His plan.
Thanks to each and every one of you who have called, e-mailed, and prayed. Your support means the world to us!
Melissa, Adam, and Adeline

And so began our story, our “New Normal” in which our precious daughter began her life 14 weeks too early. Even seven years later, I cannot quite believe that we survived those 135 days in the NICU–both of us working full-time and spending every other awake moment by Addie’s isolette. I am amazed by Addie’s tenacity, the miracles of modern medicine, and the HOPE that has anchored our family’s story.

One of my favorite bloggers, Kayla Aimee, is about to release her first book called Anchored. KA is a gifted storyteller, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that reading about their NICU experience helped me work through my deep-seated layers of emotions. I’ve read the first chapter of her book, and now you can too–by clicking here and signing up to become an Anchored insider. I truly believe that this book is going to be a powerful read for ALL of us, and I cannot wait to dive in to the rest of the story.


Interested in pre-ordering the book? I’d be honored for you to use my affiliate link, which helps support the blog at no additional cost to you!

Disclosure: I am excited and honored to be part of the Anchored Launch Team. I received a preview copy of the first chapter of this book to read, but have not received any additional compensation. All opinions are my own.

Eye Appointments for Little Kids: Our Story

We’ve been visiting a pediatric ophthalmologist for over six years, and people often ask me what the eye exam process is like for young children.

(Brief backstory: Addie was born at 26 weeks and had Retinopathy of Prematurity while in the NICU, losing most of her peripheral vision when she was just a few months old. Since her laser treatment in September of 2008, we have had regular follow-ups with our doctors to ensure the disease has not spread–which, thankfully, it has not.)

Addie got her first pair of glasses when she was 13 months old, due to having one near-sighted eye and one far-sighted eye. Isn’t she cute?!

Eye Appointments for Little Kids: Our Story (glasses, patching, and more) from Lone Star SignersShe also wore a self-adhesive patch on her stronger right eye for a few hours each day for nearly two years (4 years old until her sixth birthday), and it worked! Her left eye is now nearly as strong as her right eye, so we’re taking a one-year break from patching. (Her six-month check-up showed no regression.)

Our younger (full-term) daughter has been tagging along to big sister’s appointments since she was an infant. She had her first official eye exam before her first birthday and several casual follow-ups at the end of each of Addie’s eye appointments. Our pediatrician first noticed a subtle crossing, which was originally thought to be due to wide-set eyes, but two years later, her left eye still turns in. After unsuccessfully patching, we will now be trying a pair of bifocal glasses to train her left eye to focus and work together with the right eye.

After six years of eye appointments, here are my top 5 helpful tips:
1) Schedule an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist before your baby’s first birthday. These doctors are highly trained (at least five years past medical school) and can catch vision problems early.
2) Add your child to your vision insurance when they are born. You may not need it, but glasses for little ones are expensive (to the tune of $300) and it hurts to pay out of pocket. (FYI: Our ophthalmology appointments fall under medical insurance, not vision.)
3) Expect to sit with your young child and help the doctor through the exam. Kate is now three and can do the exam independently.
4) A great ophthalmology team will be quick, efficient, and fun. I am constantly amazed at the “bag of tricks” (light up toys, stickers, 3D glasses, and more) that keep my girls giggling all the way through. Addie (6) can now read letters from a chart, but Kate had a special chart with symbols (tree, horse, cake) to identify. Ask for specific recommendations from your pediatrician, friends, and anyone you see with a child in glasses. More than likely, you’ll start to hear the same name over and over again.
5) Pack snacks and activities. If your child’s eyes are dilated, the appointment could take up to two hours. The wait goes a lot faster if you’re over-prepared.

We love our ophthalmology team, and we actually pay out of pocket to visit them up to four times a year. Check with your insurance provider and consider choosing a Health Savings Account to allow you to see the best doctor in town. Your child’s vision is worth it!

Signing Success Story #8 | San Antonio * Baby Signing

A couple of times each month, we like to feature the success stories of San Antonio’s littlest signers. Today, I thought it would be fun to share the story of the little girl who is the inspiration behind what we do here at Lone Star Signers.

Child’s name and age:
Adeline (5 years old)

When and why did you start signing with your child?

Addie was 18 months old (15 months adjusted) when we started signing with her. Born 14 weeks too early, she faced several developmental delays the first few years of her life, including speech. Her fabulous speech therapist recommended that we try American Sign Language as a way to bridge her to verbal communication.

Signing Success Story #8: Adeline (26-week preemie)

* How has signing made a difference in your family?

When we started signing with Adeline over four years ago, I don’t think we could have guessed how that decision would impact our family, equipping other parents to communicate with their young children! Signing Time was one of the best parts of our day–we learned new signs together while laughing and singing. And the best part was that it worked!

Within a few months, she was speaking and signing. By the end of the year, she no longer qualified for speech therapy, and when she was evaluated by the school district on her 3rd birthday, her speech skills were two years ahead of her actual age.

Today, Addie is a very chatty extravert who still loves signing!

Addie-5 years
* What would you tell a friend interested in signing with their child?

Young children WANT to communicate with their family, but often lack the verbal skills to do so. There are absolutely no negatives to using sign language, but there are countless benefits! If you put in the time to learn the signs and use them consistently at home, you will be amazed.

Addie went from being non-verbal at 18 months to reading words at 3.5! I have no doubt that Signing Time fits her learning style perfectly and has equipped her for early learning success.

* Do you have a favorite Signing Time product?
We have several DVDs on permanent rotation around here. Our younger daughter Kate still loves Baby Signing Time and we all love our new Rachel and the Treeschoolers digital episodes!
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