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

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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I recently posted a picture of my kids making a mess with Play-Doh and captioned it: “Don’t mind the mess, my kids are busy making memories of me yelling at them to clean up their mess.” Obviously, this was in good fun– but it had me thinking. What will my children remember me by during this time of their lives?

Do you worry your kids will remember you by something negative? Be it nagging them to clean their rooms, pick up their dirty socks, or brush their teeth… are these the things that will stick in their brains forever when they think back to age 4, 5, 6 and so forth?

I know the obvious answer to this is, no. But I decided to write out 8 things I hope my children remember me by.

  1. Her life didn’t stop for us, she took us along to enjoy OUR life together: When I was pregnant with Luke, I remember a neighbor of mine in Birmingham who had two very small children. I was still working in the news business and working the evening shift, so I was around every morning until about 1 PM. I remember every single morning that mom waking up and loading up her children to have an adventure. They would go to the library, park, mall. I remember being so inspired by her ability to take her kids with her on daily adventures. I vowed then to do the same. I know many people don’t understand why I take my kids with me to the grocery store, shopping mall or on business errands… but my life doesn’t revolve just around them. It’s important to me that they understand I will do lots of fun things with them, but at the same time, I have a life too. I have things I need to do, and I don’t want to hire a babysitter for those simple things. I want them with me, I want them to learn from our daily outings. My mom worked from home and I would go to the bank, DMV and utility company with her… just like my kids do with me. We can make any errand an adventure!
  2. She had her favorites: Calm down! Let me explain first. I take the time to individually connect with my children so they know they are my favorite. You see, Luke is my favorite big boy and the very best big brother there ever was. Eden is my very favorite girl and the very best sister to her brothers. Adam is my very favorite baby and the very best baby brother. I tell them this. I spend the time to point out amazing qualities each one of them possesses. They like the individual attention, but I also make it a point to let the other children know what makes their sibling so special.
  3. She squeezed us and kissed us multiple times a day: First thing in the morning, each one of my children gets a giant hug and kiss. Throughout the day, I make it a point to set down my phone and give them physical attention. Children need that. They need to feel your love, not just hear the words.
  4. She let us help with everything: I will be the first to tell you, it takes patience. It is so much easier to cook dinner on my own without little ones scampering under my feet, but my daughter loves to cook. She has an apron she pulls out every single afternoon when she knows it’s time to start our meal prep. She looks forward to cracking eggs, grinding meat, and stirring pasta over the stove. YES! She is supervised. Trust me, it would be so much easier to shoo her away, but I want her to develop a love for cooking and I want her to know I will always say ‘yes’ to spending that time with her. Same goes for my older son. He loves helping his dad in the yard, so he is out there once a week pulling weeds and cleaning grass clippings.
  5. She loved to laugh and play: The laughing part is easy. I’m biased, as every mother is, but I think my kids are hilarious tiny humans. The playing part is a bit trickier. My kids are finally getting to an age where they enjoy fun board games and coloring. My sons love sports and my daughter enjoys it when I help her dress her baby dolls. I secretly don’t “love” playing with them every day… but they will never know that.
  6. She was in love with our daddy: Listen, some days I don’t have the energy just like the next person… but it’s so important that our children see my husband and I in a loving, healthy relationship. We speak to one another with love and respect, we spend time with each other away from the children, we have adult conversations while they are around and teach them to not interrupt. It’s important to us they know our relationship matters and takes priority.
  7. She helped others and used her talents to make a difference: Yes, I am a stay at home mom but that doesn’t define me. It also doesn’t mean my life is over for the next 18-20 + years. I write this blog for you. I share my thoughts and experiences to connect with you and hopefully to help others. Even though I live in Suburbia, I want my children to know I utilized my voice and God-given talents every single day of my life. My absolute favorite quote of all time is by Erma Bombeck. (Who also is a personal hero of mine!) “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say: ‘I used everything You gave me.'”  AMEN!
  8. She prayed with us and for us: I pray every single day for my children to grow into amazing humans. I also pray with them. I pray that they live their lives with a loving heart. To be kind and find joy in their day-to-day lives. It is so easy to get wrapped up in things that do not matter. I hope they always stay focused on the important things in life and always love and support one another. And always know how much their mommy loves them.

Shanisty Ireland

Memories in the making…

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I want them to remember most of all their mommy loves them very much. 

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!!!