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)

Dear Luke, 

You are the one who made me a mother 6 years ago today. I can say with complete honesty, it is my favorite job and greatest adventure. 

Now, where do I begin with you? 

Luke, you are a very very special child. Of course, all mothers think that about their children…but there is something truly unique about you. There is not a jealous bone in your body. Sure, you rival with your sister as siblings tend to do, but at the end of the day you just want to make her happy. Sometimes you get in trouble for doing something for her, it makes you cry and you’ll say to me: “Mommy, I was just trying to make Eden happy.” You would fall on a sword for her and it makes my mama heart melt. 

You don’t like being the center of attention, but oftentimes you are. You are loud, and hilarious. The imaginary games you come up with amaze me. You and your siblings have a basement full of toys, but you’d rather create a scavenger hunt for your brother and sister or battle it out on a board game. Gosh, do you L O V E board games. 

Speaking of games, sports are your passion. Since this letter is a way to brag on you, son… you’re pretty darn good at them too. You started hockey this year. Your favorite sports are still golf, baseball, hockey and soccer, but if we’re being completely honest there isn’t a sport you don’t enjoy. 

Some mornings you wake up before me and rewatch Alabama football games or the Golf Channel. You love Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar. Matt gave you a high-five once… you like to remind us of this fun fact often. 

Luke, you are smart. You learned to read this year in Kindergarten, and you have mastered math. You are obsessed with math. If I’m being completely honest here, I don’t enjoy math so you are going to need to be patient with me. You like to tell me 43+2 is 45, but also 44+1 is 45 and also 40+5 is 45. It amazes you that so many numbers can have the same solution. Santa brought you an additional and subtraction calculator for Christmas, you take it everywhere with you. 

Luke, you love learning about the human body. You had a hospital stay at Nationwide Children’s earlier this fall for your respiratory issues, and actually really enjoyed your stay. You asked the doctors and nurses 5,938 questions and wanted to absorb every single moment there. You recently hit your hand on the table by accident and said to me: “Mommy, did you know that I just hit my hand and I could see the blue blood in my veins? It’s actually always red, but it looks blue. Did you know the blood is working hard to circulate back to my heart.” My jaw dropped, you want to become a doctor at Children’s Hospital and I don’t doubt you for one second. 

Luke, you are so caring and inclusive of your friends. Your teacher shared a story with me this school year that made me cry. At the end of the day you like to have the class sit in a circle to play “rock, paper, scissors” once you lose you like to pick a friend who is being a good listener. This child is usually one who hasn’t been included in many activities for the day. It’s important to you that everyone is included. You are extremely sensitive to that.

We watched Prancer this holiday season. A simple 80s flick about a girl and Santa’s reindeer. You came over to me and told me you wanted to shut the movie off. I asked why? You told me you didn’t like the way the little girl was disrespecting her father. As I mentioned… extremely sensitive.  

Luke, you love to make people laugh. You adore your sister and brother. You love listening to music and dancing. You love Star Wars and LEGOs. You love the Columbus Blue Jackets. You love learning about geography and historical figures. You love eating at Bibibop and you think the Rusty Bucket is the nicest restaurant in the world.

I can’t believe you are 6, but I also love that you are 6. You are learning and growing and becoming such a wonderful young man. I could sit here and write a complete novel with stories and accomplishments, but I know it would continue to embarrass you. 

Luke, you are the greatest leader and set such a remarkable example for your siblings. You make us so proud. You make us so happy. You made us a mommy & daddy, and for that we are forever grateful. 

Happy 6th Birthday, Luke Myers.

Love, 

Mom

Dear Adam,

You turned 2 years old this month, and in typical 3rd child fashion… my birthday letter to you is coming a few weeks late, but that doesn’t reflect my heart.

Adam, you are saving lives. You have impacted more people in your two short years on earth than most people have in a lifetime. You don’t even realize it yet, but one day you will. I hope you are grateful for the work we’re doing.

Adam, we almost lost you during your sixth week with us. You tested positive with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) — a virus none of us had ever heard of before. But you were a fighter and survived with flying colors. I know this is your story to tell, but Adam your mom and dad are so passionate about helping others any way we can so we’ve made it our mission to share our family’s story… your story, in hopes of saving others.

Adam, you are the sweetest. You have the calmest and gentlest disposition. You are perfectly content sitting on our laps and observing the room around you. You are so cuddly, in fact, you can’t fall asleep without touching someone. You are constantly giving us hugs and kisses and we love you for that.

Adam, you adore your sister and look up to your brother. You want to do everything they do. You play sports and board games with Luke and you are patient enough to play “house” with Eden. She calls you her “puppy” and you crawl around on the floor with your tongue hanging out. She loves you more than you love her at this age. She wants to cuddle you and smother you with kisses… you don’t always allow her.

Adam, you look so much like your daddy with your big brown eyes. You also have his temperament, which I’m thankful for.

Your current loves are Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse, balls, cars and trucks. You also are obsessed with the Baby Shark song. Doo doo doo doo doooooo. Your love for Baby Shark has evolved to all sea creatures. When we go to the zoo, the aquarium is your favorite part…you could spend hours observing fish.

Your little personality is really starting to shine. We can’t wait to see what this next year brings you!

Adam, when I found out I was pregnant with you I prayed for a boy. I really wanted Luke to have a baby brother. You have filled our lives with so much joy, love and laughter. We couldn’t imagine our lives without you.

Thank you for being such an inspiration. Thank you for not giving up in the hospital when it would have been so easy to stop breathing. I thank God everyday for you and for the healthy air in your lungs.

Happy 2nd birthday, Adam.

Love,

Mommy

 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Adam!

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“You have your hands full.” Five words I hear almost daily. From the post man. From the grocery store cashier. From a passer-by at the park. I always look down at my entourage and say, “Sure do. Full hands. Full heart.”

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, our son was only 8 months old. I was a little embarrassed. “How did THIS happen?” They warned me not to drink the water. But there I was standing in our kitchen, with a baby on my hip and a pee stick in my hand.

There was no Pinterest-y type announcement. No “surprise, honey! We’re going to be blessed with another child.” I legit waved that pee stick in the air and went, “What the hell are we gonna do now?!” We had just put our house on the market, I had accepted a new job in a new state, annnnnd we’re going to have a baby 16 months after our son was born. Brilliant.

When our daughter came into our lives, everything changed. I no longer wanted to work full time. I wanted to take a lesser role or stay home. Partially because I was so in love with my kids, partially because they were a ton of work.

Guys, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I like and I strongly dislike having my 3 kids so close in age. Here are the 10 reasons why:

1. Playing: 

Like: they play so well together. Since the older two are practically Irish twins, they have the same interests and enjoy the same things.

Dislike: because they are practically Irish Twins they fight and cry and whine like cats in heat.

2. Milestones:

Like: they reach milestones at the same time.

Dislike: because they reach said milestones at the same time, I’ve been changing diapers for half a decade.

3. Vacations and trips

Like: They all 3 enjoy the same activities while we’re out of town. So we don’t have one kid going here and another kid staying in.

Dislike: They’re still at an age where travel (especially in the car) is hella hard. I mean REALLY hard.

4. I have an excuse and “me” time

Like: I now have a legitimate reason for canceling plans. Or skipping things. Or going to bed at 8:00. I’m not saying I enjoy canceling plans, in fact, even with 3 small children I rarely do cancel….but when I do, people understand.

Dislike: I don’t have much free time. Scratch that, I don’t have any free time. Sure I get a girl’s night out with my mom to get our nails done or a dinner with friends, but it’s few and far between.

5. Shopping and outings

Like: Weird as it may seem, I actually really enjoy shopping with them because it’s hilarious. They talk about the most random things and I truly believe taking them on these outings helps them with manners, behavior, and socialization with adults beyond mom and dad.

Dislike: One tantrum can ruin an entire afternoon’s plans. 5 trips to the public restroom is enough to send me to the loony bin. Shopping with them is fun, adventurous and stressful at the same time. If I have a glass of wine at 4:00 after an all day outing, do not judge me.

6. School

Like: my older two are only a year apart, so they’ll enjoy preschool, elementary, middle and high school together. My first-born and third child are 3 years apart, so when my oldest is a senior, my youngest will be a freshman…which is kind of cool.

Dislike: fast forward 20 years and we’ll have 3 kids in college at the same time. So long retirement!

7. Their Friends

Like: they may have the same friends in school, or at least siblings of the same friends.

Dislike: sleepovers and drama. I’m already terrified for those awkward middle school years when my oldest’s friends may have a crush on my daughter, or vice verse. Can I just take an extended trip to the beach during middle school?!

8. Sleep schedules

Like: they’re on the same sleep schedules. My older 2 don’t nap, but they go to bed at the same time. My oldest wakes up every morning at 7 on the dot, but he does his own thing in the morning and doesn’t wake anyone up. Which is AWESOME.

Dislike: Buuuuut, it’s taken us 5 years to get here. I haven’t slept in 5 years. On the same subject, I also haven’t gone to the bathroom or showered alone since October. True story.

9. Built-in Best Friends

Like: I didn’t have siblings, so my friends and cousins were the closest things I had to a brother or sister. My kids have each other. Through thick and thin.

Dislike: I’ve been warned they won’t always love each other like they do. I know these moments of being best friends may be fleeting, but I can honestly say for now they love each other with all of their hearts and it literally melts mine.

10. Speaking of My Heart… 

Love: I never in a million years thought my heart could grow at such a rapid rate for these little rug rats. They stress me out, they exhaust me, they stretch my patience to limits I didn’t know existed. And just when I think I can’t possibly take anymore, the sun rises and I find a million new reasons why I love them like I do.

Enough said.

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