It’s been two years since our family was forever changed by Respiratory Syncial Virus (RSV). Two years since I spent 5 days at Nationwide Children’s Hospital clutching to a little boy who was fighting for his life. Two years since I went through every single emotion a mother could possibly experience: anger, guilt, fear, confusion, desperation. Two years since I vowed to myself, and my child that I would do everything in my power to prevent other families from experiencing what we did.

Let’s travel back to December 2016 when our youngest son, Adam, was only six weeks old. (The asterisks I place throughout this article symbolize annotations that I will later explain.)

Like many families, Adam had older siblings who were in preschool. My oldest son, Luke was 3-years old when he came home around Thanksgiving with a nasty cough. He ran a low grade fever, and when I took him to the pediatrician’s office I was told he had a virus and it would pass.

Well, it did pass… down to his younger sister Eden (2-years old). It hit Eden a little harder than Luke. She ran a fever for several days and had vomiting with her congestion. I remember specifically asking about Adam at the pediatrician’s office and I was told to keep breastfeeding him and isolate him as much as possible*1.

Now, I want to put this into perspective for people who are not parents or perhaps have been far from the toddler/baby age. I have a newborn baby and a 3 and a 2-year old who are very sick and want nothing but their mommy. I am sleep deprived and worn to the core from cleaning blowouts, vomit, phlegm. I’m also trying to not to adjust to the new family dynamics of three children. I’m not making excuses, simply trying to paint the picture of a mother trying to survive. I did everything in my power to protect Adam, I need to constantly remind myself of that, because 2-years later… I still feel the guilt.

Adam was diagnosed with RSV at 6 weeks old. He tested positive at the doctor’s office. “Mrs. Ireland, your son has RSV, take him home and watch him.”*2 I stared at the tech, I had never heard of RSV before.

After a long 24 hours at home, Adam wasn’t improving so I rushed him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where we spent 5 terrifying days. I watched my baby fight for his life and felt every single emotion imaginable*3.

Fast forward to today, Adam fully recovered and is a perfectly happy and healthy 2-year old child. He’s full of life and personality. But that’s not the reason why I’m here today. I’m revisiting this scary time of our lives to share what I wish I would have known and what I’ve since learned about RSV.

What I wish I would have known:

  1. *Isolate him as much as possible: When I was at the pediatrician’s office with my older two children, I wish they would have offered more information about possible viruses (like RSV) that could pose a real danger to Adam during that period of time.
  2. * Take him home and watch him: When Adam tested positive for RSV, I was told to go home and watch him. At the time, I had no idea what I was supposed to be watching. There was no explanation. They didn’t show me examples of labored, belly breathing or what a child in distress looks like. There were no visuals, and no real examples provided. I wish I would have known what to watch for. I wish I would have known a trip to the hospital was more than likely in our future. I wish I would have known it wouldn’t be a quick trip to the hospital. I wish I would have known that RSV spikes by day 5-7. I wish I would have known the cough would linger for several weeks, perhaps months. I realize this is not the case for every RSV parent, but my reality was filled with lots of holes.
  3. * Feeling every emotion imaginable: I felt a tremendous amount of fear, anxiety, desperation and guilt with Adam’s diagnosis. How did we go from having a slight cough to being hooked up to machines and oxygen and fighting for our lives in a matter of hours? How did my baby almost lose his life to a virus I had never even heard or before? There was also a small sense of relief when we finally checked into the hospital. Relief that my child was finally going to get the professional help he desperately needed. I tried to go online and look for resources, support groups, ANYTHING…but there was nothing. That’s part of the reason why I’m here today.

What I’ve learned about RSV 2 years later:

  • Since our bout with the Really Scary Virus, I’ve connected with so many wonderful people in the medical community. My journey began with the researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where Adam spent 5 days. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital are working to help develop a vaccine to prevent RSV infections. The team’s research is so promising they have received a $6.75 million grant from The National Institutes of Health. If successful, the vaccine will save the lives of infants and children throughout the world, preventing more than 57,000 hospitalizations and over 2 million medical visits for infants and children each year. There are many other medical institutes, like the research team at The Ohio State University and The University of South Florida that is also working hard to develop an RSV vaccine.
  • I’ve spent some time in Washington, DC connecting with some incredible people at The National Coalition for Infant Health. We are working together to form a sub-coalition for RSV parents. I’m hoping more parents will join our fight to raise awareness for this virus. We can’t do it alone, and if our coalition gets enough traction, we hope to speak with legislators to gain support for this cause. Super exciting!!
  • I’ve connected with a pharmaceutical company that is VERY close to having an RSV vaccine on the market later this year. The vaccine would be administered to pregnant mothers during their 30th week of pregnancy, and the hope is the antibodies would be passed along to the baby through the placenta protecting the child for the first 6 months of life from RSV. This is the most vulnerable time frame, so this could be a huge win. YAY!
  • Currently, the only preventative measure on the market is an FDA-approved prescription, made up of virus-fighting antibodies called Synagis. My child did not receive Synagis, as he was born full-term but I have heard from other RSV parents you have to qualify and the prescription is very expensive. Synagis is not a vaccine, but rather a booster to help protect high-risk infants.
  • RSV can strike anyone! RSV is not a prejudicial virus and it has a potentially deadly effect on anyone despite education, demographics, region, religion, socioeconomic class. In fact, RSV is the #1 cause of hospitalizations for children under the age of 2 in the United States. It is the 2nd leading cause of death for infants worldwide, behind malaria. RSV is real. I am not offering these facts to scare you, I am offering them so you are aware and understand how quickly the virus can manifest in your community.
  • You are NOT alone! I receive messages weekly from RSV parents sharing their stories, their frustrations, their fears. It’s a scary virus that no one should have to experience alone. My hope for the coalition is we can create a solid resource for parents to find answers and support. In the meantime, I am not a medical professional but I am here for moral support and I can help answer any questions you may have. You can always send me a DM on Instagram @shanistyireland or send an email to hello@shesbecomingdomestic.com.

Because no one should have to endure this Really Scary Virus, alone.

Adam at 6 weeks old with RSV.

My original blog post can be viewed here: https://shesbecomingdomestic.com/2017/01/17/rsv-changed-the-way-i-parent/

Other places you can learn about our story:

Today Show, Scary Mommy, Motherly, CBS News, US News and World Report.

Podcasts and other videos:

Alliance for Patient Access 

National Coalition for Infant Health Summit

A new baby is such an exciting time for the entire family. My older two children were 3 and 2 years old when Adam was born, so while they may not have fully understood the entire pregnancy journey… they were thrilled to have a new sibling coming home from the hospital!

Adam was born full-term and weighed a whopping 9 lbs. 8 oz. at birth. We thought everything with him was perfectly normal, until he was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) at 6 weeks old.

It was a terrifying time for our entire family as Adam was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital for several days. He was hooked up to breathing machines and oxygen as he fought for his little life.

During that time, Luke and Eden didn’t visit him at the hospital. We made that decision because we knew Adam would be coming home soon and seeing him in the hospital would be such a difficult thing to explain to them. I fully understand that is not reality for all families, as the older children will spend a lot of time in the ICU or NICU.

Many of the questions we were faced with: Why is our baby brother in the hospital again? What’s wrong with him? When will he come home? When can we hold him again? Am I as important as the baby?

I wish there was a simple way to explain what was happening to Adam, but my husband and I had to rely on simple conversation to try to answer their questions to our best ability.

I recently attended a summit with the National Coalition for Infant Health in Washington, DC where parents, physicians, researchers and other advocates gathered to discuss all aspects of infant health. A lot of the conversations spotlighted preemies and what life is like in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

It’s at this summit that I learned about a wonderful organization that is working hard on providing resources for families, teachers and parenting professions. Platypus Media‘s goals are relatively simple. They are educating adults and children about the world around them. They publish books that foster warmth, closeness, literacy, curiosity, and an openness to other cultures. Specifically, they have two products to support siblings of children in the NICU–both are coloring books, a format that keeps young kids involved while they learn. One of the coloring books my children love: Come Home Soon Baby Brother/Sister!

The coloring book does a fantastic job explaining to older siblings why their baby brother or sister is in the NICU. The short story follows an older sibling’s journey at the hospital as he explains to the reader what is happening to his baby brother/sister. The child then encourages the reader to draw a picture of him/her for the baby at the NICU. It challenges the reader to think outside of the box and focus on the health and safety of their baby sibling. It’s also important for the older children to know they are just as important and just as loved as the sick baby, even though mom and dad are spending a lot of time at the hospital.

I really wish I had these coloring books when Adam was in the ICU at Children’s Hospital. Even though the books focus on the NICU, I think they are extremely valuable resources for any family with a small child in the hospital.

You can purchase any of Platypus’s Books on their website, here! They are also available in Spanish.

*The post is sponsored by Platypus Media. All opinions are my own.*

Come Home Soon, Baby Brother! (Platypus Media)

Truth time. The last two New Year’s Resolutions/promises I’ve made to myself is better self-care. I am not insinuating that I’m a particularly unhealthy person, but I truly believe we can always strive to be better when it comes to self-care. Especially, moms!

Admittedly, my dental health has taken a backseat … for years. I’m cringing even typing these words. I won’t bore you with the excuses: kids, insurance, timing, moves, yadda yadda. But the truth is, my dental health hasn’t been a top priority for me. My kids dental health has for sure, but not mine.

Last summer, the kids and I went in for a regular check-up and x-rays at Dental Reflections Dublin. We were greeted with the friendliest staff and Dr. Rudi As-Sanie is simply the sweetest. The remarkable thing about this practice… I didn’t have to feel embarrassed or guilty for not visiting a dentist in quite a few years. They didn’t judge me for letting my flossing lapse, they were genuinely interested and ready to help me take control of my dental health again.

After some x-rays showed I needed a crown (yow!) and a deep cleaning, I said my good-byes and left. Honestly, I thought I would leave the crown waiting for a bit while we focused on other expenses for the kids. I know, I know.

But Dr. As-Sanie emailed me personally asking me to come back and have the procedures done. She said it was important to take care of my health, especially as a mom. She gets it… she has little ones of her own! That’s where I decided right then and there to go back.

During the last few months, I have had an incredible deep cleaning experience and left with my very first Sonic Care tooth brush. I AM OB-SESSED!!!! Yes, yes, yes! I already can tell a difference in my teeth. I’ve also had the crown procedure completed without pain, which is huge.

Needless to say, I am extremely happy with my new dental office and look forward to many years with Dr. As-Sanie for myself, and my entire family.

IF YOU ARE LOCAL TO THE COLUMBUS AREA, AND IN NEED OF A NEW DENTIST… MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH DENTAL REFLECTIONS DUBLIN TODAY. TELL THEM HOW YOU HEARD ABOUT THEM AND RECEIVE 20% OFF YOUR FIRST DENTAL CLEANING UP TO $1000!

True story. I needed a crown, but Dr. As-Sanie did an amazing job!

Dr. As-Sanie explaining my procedure with real time technology. So cool!

Dr. As-Sanie and her husband.

*This post is sponsored by Dental Reflections Dublin. All opinions are MY OWN.*

If we’re being completely honest here, I haven’t really worked out or focused on my health in over a year. That is, unless you count chasing children as cardio. Sure, I eat pretty healthy. We indulge in Chick Fil A on occasion just like the next yoga pants, messy bun wearing mom in suburbia, but we aren’t frequent fliers. I implement fruit and veggies in my weekly meal planning, and I try really hard to drink water over wine…but my health has not been a priority.

I just don’t have time for it.

Finding the time has been the hardest hurdle for me, and I’m sure so many moms can relate! Between juggling work, schedules, school, activities, meals, events, and writing I hardly have time to shower let alone workout.

Last week, that all changed.

My sister-in-law has been living with us this summer while she’s still in nursing school, and we made it a goal to start running together. But like life, summer got really busy and it went to the wayside. Until last week when I put on my tennis shoes and walked out the door.

I ran two miles my first time out, which ended up kind of being a mistake considering I hadn’t run in probably 8 months. I was sore, but in a good way. I felt better about myself just getting a decent sweat in.

Five days later, I’ve run every consecutive day since. I’m not sore anymore and I can tell my lungs are strengthening. I want to eat healthier foods and drink more water and less wine………..

Here are some simple ways I try to stay healthy in the rat race of life serving as a chaos coordinator…. AKA, mom of 3.

  • Drink 24 oz. of water BEFORE my first cup of coffee. This is a hard one, but it’s crucial. Did you know your body is incredibly dehydrated when you wake up from a night’s sleep? Drinking water will fire up your metabolism, help your body flush out toxins, give your brain fuel, and it may even make you eat less.
  • Kids Yoga. Stick with me here. There is a show on Amazon Prime called Cosmic Kids Yoga. If you have small children, I HIGHLY recommend it. Not only does it calm your children from the craziness of the day (we typically turn it on around 2) but I enjoy it. I’m not a yogi, I wish I was….. next fitness goal…. but until then, Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great outlet to get my blood flowing and muscles stretched.
  • Fitness watch. I have the Apple Watch, only because my husband can’t wear it in his current job. I know they are pricy and I’m not endorsing you to spend a lot of money…but if you have the means, it’s life changing. Really, it is. I am ultra aware of my steps and “closing my rings” — it’s kind of become a healthy obsession. My fitness goals are pretty standard, honestly, I don’t think I ever changed the factory settings on them…but the sheer gratification of “closing a ring” is one of the things I look forward to the most. I also feel extremely disappointed when I don’t get anywhere near my goal, like when I have to sit in a meeting all day. Oy.
  • Real foods. Look, I have three kids under the age of 6 so I know how easy it is to give them goldfish and french fries on the road. I try really, really hard to pack their lunches every single day. We are a family on-the-go: from the park to the zoo to the fair to the pool to the local shopping center, we have something lined up on our agenda daily. It’s easier, healthier AND cheaper to pack lunches. I have the ability to select the real foods, such as carrots, cucumbers, grapes. And skip on the chicken nuggets and fries. I purchased bento boxes from Target and they have been a life saver. I have linked the ones we have here!
  • Put on your shoes and GO! Listen, I know this is going to sound ridiculous but lacing up your tennis shoes is half the battle. Whether it’s heading to the gym, hip hop class, going for a run or a brisk walk… lace up your tennis shoes and walk out the front door! 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour later you’re guaranteed to feel so much better.

Things I’ve noticed since starting my workout routine:

  • More energy
  • Happier
  • Eating healthier
  • Drinking more water
  • Drinking less wine… kidding… but not really
  • Sleeping more soundly
  • Skin is brighter (probably from more water)

Hurdles!

  • Holding myself accountable. How do you keep yourself motivated? What drives you to workout? Comment below, I’d love to hear your tips!!!

I recently decided to make a list of ways I de-stress and pamper myself. Sure, I’d love a spa day just like the next person…but that’s just not always a reality. I pulled out a sheet of paper and I wrote at the top: WAYS I TREAT MYSELF and then I set my pen down and walked away.

Truth be told, I don’t really treat myself often. I should. We all should! But the reality is a huge amount of us actually don’t, because we don’t have the time or bandwidth after a long day of work, laundry, cooking and butt wiping. When I’m finished with the day, I kind of want to curl up in a ball or stare at the wall. I kid. But not really. Anyway…

I refuse to make excuses anymore! Here are 7 ways to treat yo-self at home fo FREE!

  1. Take a bath. This is a given and the easiest way I treat myself. Often times I have an audience of three and a husband who wants to sit down and chat *eye-roll*. But sometimes I simply lock them out and enjoy a relaxing bubble bath.
  2. Go for a walk. We go on walks daily, sometimes twice a day. Not only is it great exercise, but it’s also great to get some fresh air and get the kids out of the house.
  3. Listen to a podcast or watch Netflix. Admittedly, I don’t get an opportunity to watch very much television…but I like listening to Podcasts. I’d love to hear what ones are your favorites! I’m currently working on one with one of my best friends. Stay tuned for that shiz…
  4. Reconnect with a friend. Sometimes just reaching out with a simple text to a long-lost friend is a great way to refocus your life. As you catch up with the person it’s helpful to see how great everything in your life really is…. even when it feels as though it isn’t.
  5. Declutter. Dudes, I realize this one isn’t for everyone…but sometimes, when I declutter an area of the home I instantly feel a sense of relief.
  6. Music. If you know me, you know my love for Bob Dylan. Everyone has a favorite artist…. crank up those tunes and get lost in the lyrics.
  7. Write. Or if you don’t enjoy writing, find a creative outlet and own it. Writing is a great way to de-stress your life, hence why you are reading these words.

No matter what strikes you, find a way to pamper yourself. Because, dangit…you freaking deserve it, mama!

Cheers! xx

Treat yo self

Every once in awhile I score a bath without an audience.

Treat yo-self

Pampering yourself while juggling it all isn’t for the birds.