It is IUGR Awareness Day!


Eight months ago, I had never heard of IUGR. In fact, when my sister-in-law had to be induced before her due date because of a failing placenta, I am ashamed to say I thought the doctors were wrong. “Why would you take a baby early who isn’t growing well? Shouldn’t she stay in longer?”

Well, things have changed – a lot! I have learned about as much as I, a layperson and mom of an IUGR baby, can learn in the past eight months, ever since Theodore was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction. In honor of this day, to celebrate these strong babies and remember those who we have lost, here are ten things you should know about IUGR:

  1. IUGR refers to a condition in which an unborn baby is smaller than it should be because it is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb. A baby who is “just small” is called Small for Gestation Age (SGA). The difference is an IUGR baby should have been bigger, but something intervened (infection, injury, genetic condition, bad placenta, poor nutrition from mom, etc.). An SGA baby is just a small baby. Both are usually smaller than ninety percent of babies their age. (More on the confusion over these terms here. Sometimes they are used interchangeably, but they are not the same.)
  2. IUGR is common for twins, and mothers with certain health conditions or lifestyles. However, there are TONS of possible causes and most moms never know what caused their baby’s IUGR. Sometimes, nature just fails and the placenta wasn’t healthy; importantly: it is no one’s fault.
  3. For those of us who do not know what caused our IUGR, we worry a lot about whether this will happen if and when we have more babies. There is a lot of conflicting data on it, but it certainly can happen. Which is scary.
  4. Many of us find out about IUGR during pregnancy, by going to all our regular prenatal appointments and through ultrasounds. Some of us do not find out until delivery. Which is why it is super important to go to all your doctor’s appointments when you are pregnant. Important.
  5. If you know someone who may have IUGR, please be supportive and helpful. It is not helpful to try to convince the person there is no problem, the doctor’s do not know what they are talking about, and the ultrasound was probably wrong. These could be true, but when you hear there could be something wrong with your baby, you have to be extremely cautious and careful. Supportive and helpful things are assisting the person in getting the nursery ready early, supplying preemie size diapers and clothes, coming with her to her many doctor’s appointments, and lending her food and help if she on bedrest.

29103580_10205023656706854_5369735055075877304_n6.  So an IUGR baby is small – so what? Like just about all health conditions, the outcomes for IUGR babies cover a broad range. Some babies are born perfectly healthy and go home right away with no problem. Some babies are lost to the condition. Some babies have some catching up to do in the size department, but are otherwise perfectly healthy. Some babies have on-going complications and require medications, hormones, or therapy to help them grow and overcome other issues.

7.  We are pretty sensitive about our IUGR baby’s size, because he or she can be small for several months to several years. So if you ever see a baby and are shocked at his or her size, please don’t ask if the mom feeds her baby. Please don’t joke that she must be wrong about the baby’s age. Just say how cute he or she is. We don’t mind hearing that, ever.

8.  IUGR babies are usually delivered earlier than their due date. Some because there is an emergency. Some go into labor early on their own. But some of us have to be induced a few weeks early because the statistical risk of still birth increases after 37 weeks for IUGR babies. Basically, our baby is probably starving inside our bodies, and at 37 weeks he or she is healthy enough to probably be fine outside (with medical help, usually), and will even thrive because he can get lots of clean oxygen and nutrients outside. On the other hand, leaving the baby inside until the due date or later could cause significant injury to the baby, or loss.

9.  Many of us have c-sections. Again, either because of an emergency or because the baby is too small to handle labor. Not all of us, but many of us. Personally, I do not see my induction and c-section as a failure or that I’m not “woman enough.” I am incredibly proud of what God allowed me to do: bring my son into this world. It is not my fault my baby was tiny. It was not my fault his little body could not tolerate labor. I am truly grateful that my baby is safe and healthy and I am, too. Was it my first choice? No. But every mom, whether unconscious during delivery or having a medication-free birth, does the same thing in labor: she is doing everything she can to get her baby here safe and sound.

10.  Finally, though they are small, IUGR babies are tough. They are tiny warriors that do incredible things. They may not all make it, but they are all fighters, through and through. And we are crazy proud of them.


How to Buy Your Very Own Home

It has been exactly two months since Massimo and I bought our first ever house!! Needless to say, this was a dream come true for us. A dream we worked hard to realize. Like most adult things, houses do not just land in your lap. You have got to work for it. With a lot of grit, sacrifice, and reliance on God’s direction, we got our keys and finally have a place to call our own.

Owning your own home is not for everyone. Much like a college education, it is something that is quintessentially “adult,” but that does not mean it will fit in everyone’s lifestyle. For us, we knew we wanted a house as soon as we could afford it. We wanted the space, independence, stability, and opportunity for investment. For these reasons, we lived below our means in the four and a half years we lived on our own. We lived in small apartments that cost less. We saved aggressively and often. We had our eyes on the prize and got there just in the time we needed.

If you know a house is something you want someday, or if you even may want a house someday, there are things you can and should do now to help. Follow these steps for the smoothest, fastest path to home ownership!


House hunting involves a lot of flashlights and imagination.

If you want a house ever: Maybe next year? Maybe in five years? This is what you should do if a house is ever on the horizon.

1. Get organized.

In the mortgage application process, your lender will request lots and lots of paperwork from you, some from several years in the past. They may also need explanations of things like credit or income history. Later on, when you are running your own house, you should know where to find your insurance declaration and how much your last fuel bill was at the drop of a hat. It is a great idea to get in the habit of being organized now: you can get those documents to the bank in a jiffy when the time comes, and your life will be less complicated in general.

I have several binders with tabs to keep track of all our important documents: a binder for tax returns and all supporting documents from the last five years, a binder with paystubs, IRA paperwork, and other financial records in another, and a binder of bills (electric, cable, health insurance) in another. Some records I just keep digitally. And be careful: just because you signed up for electronic billing or statements, you should keep them all saved on your hard drive or cloud as well because some companies only allow you to access the last 12 or 24 months on their systems.

2. Become budget people.

You will need a budget to save up for a house, to determine how much house you can afford, and to actually run that house. There is no better time than right now to start a zero-based budget and stick to it. Make adjustments every quarter or six months, and honestly track your spending. Like tracking weight loss, it does no one any good to falsely report your spending to make yourself feel better.

We keep track of all our budgets in excel or Google spreadsheets. It’s great because I can update digital versions wherever I am, and make graphs to show progress. I have written about budgeting and the app I like before – check it out.


3. Start to imagine your home.

So, you want a house someday? What kind? How big? Where? These are critical questions to consider if you ever want a home. Buying a three-story colonial in California is a really different process than buying a modular home in North Carolina. Some goals take longer to achieve, and having your eye on a particular type of prize can help you stay focused and get yourself in order for when the time comes.

If you want a house within the next two years: We are ready. This is what we want, and we want it soon. Let’s do this!

1. Get a separate savings account.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to separate your savings from your spending money. It prevents you from accidentally dipping into money that is allocated for something else. It makes you feel like you have less money to spend, because you don’t see your growing savings account every time you pay a bill. It makes you really consider and slow down to access that money. It will take you 2-3 days to transfer your savings money to a place you can spend it, so you have time to think. Fun cheap or free says you should have 7 bank accounts for your family. I cannot manage that many, but I do have at least 4. My favorite place to save money is Sallie Mae Money Market (I have written about them before and their interest rates have risen since then.) This account has no fees, no minimum, and you can open it online right now. There is no excuse for co-minging savings and spending money – go do it now.


2. Save like it is a bill.

When you make your updated budget to get down to hard-core saving, determine how much you can realistically put aside every month. And then add a little to it. We make ambitious budgets that force us to find extra income and say no to extras. You do not need to do that, but commit to saving so much it scares you. In our case, we ended up saving approximately the same amount as our rent, so we were essentially paying two rents every month. Then set up automatic withdrawals to your separate savings account (like you already have, per #1, above). Every month, you will be forced to make sure there is enough money for that automatic withdrawal just like you make sure there is enough money to pay all your other bills. Pay yourself first, and do not think of it as an extra.

This changed everything in the way we saved for our house. At first, I was only putting aside whatever we had “left” as “bonus” money after paying all our other bills. By setting up automatic withdrawals, I was forced to treat this budget item just like rent and student loans. I owed myself that money. I did pause the automatic savings for a couple of months when we really needed to (like when we took time off of work when Theodore was born), but we also added extras to this account when we had a bonus or tax refund.

3. Start your must-haves checklist and scan the internet for listings.

Remember the idea of a house you started in the first section? Refine that list. Look at options available in your potential price range and location. Think about why you want a house and what it needs to do for you. Our list focused on our family and my husband’s job. We knew we wanted kids, and that my husband wanted to run his guitar shop out of our home. These two requirements set the list for us. From there, we started looking on and, and  set up automatic searches based on our preferences. We were inspired and encouraged to find options that fit our list, and reviewed them together. We also learned what things we did not want by looking at these options.

4. Keep your job.

When applying for a mortgage, your lender is going to want to see at least 24 months’ history at your current job. Obviously, some circumstances are not in your control and you may have to change jobs. But if you are considering it and can have some say, try to get in a job you like and keep it at least two years before you want to buy. It will simplify the process and make you a lower risk for your lender.

If you want a house in the next six months: We have been saving, we are getting tired of this apartment, and we have a baby on the way. We see the finish line!


1. Find a realtor.

Get a recommendation from someone you trust and hire him or her. You may not know this, but in Connecticut, in most cases the seller pays both realtors out of his proceeds. You probably will not have to pay him or her, but you get the benefits of having a realtor. The realtor can help you decide if a price is right and how to frame your offer. She can get you into houses for tours, has access to the official property listings, and refers you to everyone you need: inspectors, banks, attorneys, etc. They also help coordinate and organize all the dirty details towards the closing. Realtors are very helpful.

2. Find a lender.

It is very helpful to go to a lender first, give them your basic financial information, and get a prequalification for a loan. This will give you a very good idea of your ideal home price. You can also learn about other types of loans besides a traditional mortgage, such as construction or renovation loans. They can help you have confidence in how much any given house would cost you, and a prequalification letter can strengthen your offer if there are multiple parties looking at the same property.

A tip when talking to your lender: let him or her know exactly how much money you have to spend. They may look at your bank account and see $20,000.00, but be honest and tell them you want to keep $6,000.00 after this house purchase as an emergency savings account or to help pay moving expenses. They really, really need you to be honest and it makes every thing easier to be on the same page.

3. Keep looking online and reviewing those automatic searches.

Your realtor is great, but she may not see something you happen to. In my experience, it works well when both you and your realtor are looking for places. The more properties you review together (either in person or online), the more you both know about what you want in a house. Both Zillow and have automatic searches that send you emails with new properties which fit your specific needs: location, price, etc.


4. Save like never before.

You have been working hard and scraping and saving and you finally have enough for your down payment. Guess what? It’s not enough. In Connecticut, where I have closed dozens of mortgages and just purchased my own home, there are plenty of extras. There are loan and inspection costs – about $1,000.00. There are closing costs – add at least $7,500.00 to your down payment. There are also moving costs, which vary depending on how far you are going. There are also things you will have to and want to buy for your first home: curtains, rugs, smoke detectors, a snow shovel. In this final stretch, eat out at little as possible, get side gigs, and move in with relatives to save even more if you have to.

Pro tip: with most mortgages, the first payment is not due the first month you are there. We purchased December 16, and our first payment was not due until February 1 – they build in a whole month where you have no mortgage payment and possibly no rent. Use this month to your advantage, but be prepared anyway!


It’s our’s!

People always ask me: how much do I need to save for a down payment? To save the most money in the long run, you will want to put down 20% of the purchase price. This will pretty much guarantee that you do not need to pay private mortgage insurance. But 20% is a lot of money, and that may sound insurmountable to you. So keep a few things in mind. (1) If you are a veteran, you may qualify for a house with a 0% down payment. I do not recommend it, but it is possible. (2) There are basically five types of mortgages: 3%, 3.5%, 5%, 10% and 20% down. They each have pros and cons, and different fees attached to each one. My advise is this: shoot for 5% or even 10% down (plus extra for closing costs and some in reserve for your extra savings), and you will be very well-positioned to buy.

And you do not need to have all of that to start looking. It will take a while to find the right place, so start shopping now. For us, it was seven months between touring our first house and moving into our very own home. For most people, it takes even longer.

Happy home-buying! I hope you found this advise helpful and that you can implement some of these tips to become a home-owner in no time at all! It is a big, big dream, but if you want to own your own place some day, I say go for it! It took us about two years of hard-core saving to buy our house – a blink of an eye in the long run. And now we have this adorable, perfect home in which to raise our family and run our businesses. Truly, a worth-while sacrifice.

-D. E. Barbi Bee

Beware of falling fire extinguishers

On Wednesday morning, my biggest concern was the weather. There was a messy snow-sleet-freezing rain event predicted for that afternoon, which would be just about the worst when I was due to travel to Niantic for an emergency probate hearing.

Little did I know the precipitation would not be the most significant object falling from the sky. Instead of watching the weather reports, I should have been watching out for falling fire extinguishers.

It was already an unexpectedly hectic morning, since I forgot my pump parts at home and had to go there to pump during lunch. Then I went straight to the gas station to fill up before making my way out of town. I left myself over an hour to take a thirty-five minute trip, because I was anticipating a slick ride.

After filling up the car, I leaned into the driver’s seat to get my phone. I always took it with me to take a picture of my check after pumping gas, to keep a sort of “receipt” on hand. With my phone in hand and put my foot back on what I thought was the ground and instead stumbled backwards off the edge of the raised area of cement around the pump kiosk.

While clearly *not* gracefully falling backwards into the cramped, filthy space between the pump and the steel post beside it, I somehow either hit or instinctively grabbed at the massive fire extinguisher hanging in a bright red encasement on the steel post. The red plastic broke, and just after my butt hit the ground, a deep and heavy “clang” hit my head.

I thought the roof was caving in, but I soon realized the fire extinguisher – ever at the ready to aid in an inferno emergency – had eagerly lunged from it’s post and came crashing down on my skull during it’s very brief escape,  which quickly ended with a slight roll and then a halt in the parking lot behind me.

It is difficult to explain the sound of a fire extinguisher hitting your own head, but imagine the sound of a mostly empty 55-gallon steel oil drum hitting a concrete floor. Very close to that. And shockingly loud.

After conducting an assessment of life’s basic functions, and suddenly realizing no one was asking me if I was okay, I looked around to see no one was there. All the cars around me were abandoned, and I was in odd position of deciding what to do next. Cry? Try not to, dear. Yell? I think I can get up. Call Massimo? Not now.

Let me try getting up.

I did, and after a brief near-breakdown leaning over my front seat, I made my way inside, if for no other reason than to inform the clerk she should pick up the fire extinguisher before someone hits it with their car.

I did not exactly know what to say when I got inside. I was upset, dirty, and beginning to shake from the adrenaline. I opened my mouth. “I don’t… I’m not sure how to put this…. The fire extinguisher fell on my head.”

The staff took a moment to register what I said, and then rushed to give me a seat and I asked for ice for my head. They gave me water, which helped me stop shaking.

After a while the pain came, but I realized this was not nearly as bad as it could have been. I had no blood. Did not lose consciousness. I wasn’t feeling concussed. And other than the facts that I had left myself ample time to get to court and now I would be late, and my black pants and coat were filthy, I was mostly absolutely fine.

Banged up, but fine.

My co-worker drove me to court because at that point I was concerned my condition could change and I would rather not be behind the wheel when that happened. Everyone continued to ask and question, and practically force me to go to the hospital to get checked out but by the next morning, the only evidence of the accident was the bruise on my thigh. My head was completely painless.

Other than being extremely happy and thankful I did not get seriously – or even minorly – injured in this odd episode, the other strange experience to come from the falling fire extinguisher is that it was the first time I got hurt as an attorney. And people are weird about attorneys getting hurt.

Most assume attorneys are litigious folks – who can and will sue at the drop of a hat, and drag it out, for that matter, and make your life miserable! But, in my experience, most attorneys are the opposite. Maybe it’s something about how doctors make the worst patients, and caregivers look out for themselves last: with all the litigation around me, the last thing I want to and have time to worry about is a lawsuit of my own!

Maybe it’s because I see the ugly side of litigation. I love my job, but it is hard, and litigation is hard and exhausting and long, and even if you win you never really “win.” All that to say, I know how difficult litigation can be, and even though I am a lawyer myself – or perhaps because I am a lawyer myself – I do not have any interest in being a party in a lawsuit.

I also know the reality. People threaten to sue all the time, in the heat of an argument, anticipating the sweet judgment they receive imminently will release their feelings and make the other party feel the weight of their wrong. But those are hot-headed feelings. They go away (or at least they should), and I know that litigation takes a long time. I know it takes trips to court. And letters. And decisions. And discovery. And phone calls. And meetings. And in the end, their insurance company pays out and lawyers take their bit and your insurance company takes what is their’s and you get what is left. And those feelings you started with are a distant memory. And the other party you were so eager to get to feel how wrong and evil and bad they were didn’t even pay anything.

Now, to be fair, in my case I would have had no choice but to demand compensation for my medical bills, because with my insurance plan, they could be tens of thousand of dollars out of pocket if I had a true injury. But I have no interest in going to doctors, getting tests, getting treatment, paying bills, and demanding compensation. I have no interest in suing anyone. I have no interest in stressing anyone out. I have no interest in getting hurt!

There is a time and a place to sue. There are strategic and necessary and justified reasons to go to court. There is a way to go through litigation with as little pain as possible. There is a reason for the judicial system and for my job, or else I would not be here!

But this, thankfully, was not one of those times. It was an accident. I am literally fine, and we can all move on with our lives.

– D. E. Barbi Bee

Favorite of the Moment: thredUP

I saw the ads and thought to myself: “90% off top brands? There must be a catch,” and moved on.


But then my cousin sent me a referral to use the site (by the way, referrals to friends get you each $10.00 credit when the friend places her first order. But watch out – the credit does expire!), so I knew it had some credibility because my very intelligent cousin could not have been swindled.

So I dove in, and it is my new and irreplaceable source for clothing! I have already placed several orders with thredUP, and the completely online store came into my life at the most perfect time: as a new mom, I have no interest in packing up myself and my son to spend hours shopping in a brick-and-mortar only to find limited styles and high prices! Online is the only kind of shopping there is, as far as I’m concerned.

So here it is, broken down for you. Here’s the skinny on the self-proclaimed Largest Online Thrift Store and Consignment Store: the good, the bad, and the 100% my opinion.

THredup main

What is it?

I’ll tell you what it is not first. ThredUP is not Wish (an app that sells clothes, electronics, makeup, and accessories at apparently deep, deep discounts because they are actually Chinese knock-offs.). I was afraid that is what it was at first, because their claims seemed too good to be true. But it is not.

ThredUP is an online thrift and consignment shop: they sell clothes, shoes, and accessories for women, children, and babies at discounts way below their retail price. You can even get a “clean out” bag to send them your own unwanted items to add to their stock.

I cannot vouch for the authentication techniques for their designer and luxury brand goods (I know that is very important to collectors, I just don’t really go there), but I can tell you that this site sells actual, brand-name clothing at great discounts. And although it is called a “thrift shop,” not all items are used. Some items are brand-new, and labeled as “new with tags.” If you sell items on their site, you either get paid when you give them your unwanted items, or on consignment, receiving a commission when they sell.

LL Bean shirts

The Goods

My favorite feature is the user interface.  The first time I used it I exclaimed to my husband how nice it was to see a site actually built for the on-line experience! Most e-commerce sites started as in-person stores, and build a site after to go along with it. This is the opposite. It is so easy to add filters, see comparable sizes, and even similar brands. The best feature is that you can save your size and brand preferences, and when you search they automatically filter the results for your size every time! You can turn this off, and see all results, too. But, man, what a wonderful feature.

Another cool feature is the Dressing Room, where they give you recommendations based on your favorite brands and past purchases. They even save all your past orders and show you them in “My Closet,” which also has items similar to or that can be worn with the pieces you already bought.

Can we talk for a minute about their prices? I do not go around buying clothes brand-new, but if I did, I would be saving hundreds on my clothes every time I buy them through thredUP instead. Pretty much everything I get is less than $20.00. I love that I always know I am getting a good deal, instead of hunting through the clearance sections of my favorite stores. And I have never, ever had an issue with their quality. Every piece comes perfectly clean, not stretched out, and feels brand-new. They also almost always have some kind of sale going on, and you can usually get great discount codes in your email inbox.

I love shopping at thrift stores, because they save me money, they are good for the environment, and they are full of unique pieces that aren’t in every window at the mall. But the problem with going to Goodwill and others is the endless searching through racks and racks to try to find something from a good brand. I just don’t have that kind of time right now. With thredUP, I can search for specific brands (L.L. Bean, Ann Taylor, Calvin Klein, Anthropologie), or something I need in particular (a white button-down shirt, a black shift dress, a floral romper) and save tons of time from both going to a store and searching through the racks.


The Less Goods

There is always, of course, room for improvement. One thing you may not be used to with thredUP is the way the items are presented. Clothes are put on a mannequin and photographed very well, but it is not the same fit and presentation as when a brand photographs it on models. ThredUP adds thousands of items everyday, and you can imagine that when they are trying to post inventory so quickly, they don’t have time for custom photoshoots. So sometimes the shirts are ill-fitted on the mannequin, or the dresses haven’t been steamed thoroughly. It is just something to get used to, but it never affects how the item looks in my hands.

Something else to be aware of is that they don’t have Amazon’s two-day shipping. In fact, their shipping takes a little while. It is strange how quickly I have become accustomed to free two-day shipping, when catalog orders used to take four weeks to get to your door! ThredUP isn’t that bad, my most recent order will probably take about ten days to arrive from when I placed my order. These things are not coming from China, so it is not months, but it also not Amazon Prime fast. Just be aware when placing your order for a special event.

You can’t let items linger in your cart for days. Because everything is one-of-a-kind, you can’t put something in your cart to leave it and think about it for a few days. In fact, the site only promises to reserve something for your cart for 24 hours. So you can save it, but after that period someone else could snag it. It makes sense in a thrift shop, but it is a habit I have with other sites I can’t really do on this one.

How to make the most out of thredUP

  1. Use discount codes. They often offer 20% percent off, or free shipping. But you can sign up for emails and wait for a 40% off deal! They come around often, so just be patient.
  2. Know the brands you like and your size in that brand. Every item has detailed measurements so you can check the fit, but it is best to know your size ahead of the purchase, to avoid any fit issues (There are free returns within 14 days with most items, for store credit.). While I love discovering new brands, I also love snagging items from labels I know and trust. That is the beauty of thredUP.
  3. Be aware of what the “savings” numbers mean. Every item has a thredUP price and a strike-through estimated retail price. They also compare the two and tell you how much you are saving from retail. Just be aware that although I have never seen any estimated retail price that didn’t seem accurate to me, they are just estimates of a comparable item from that brand, they may not necessarily be what the original retail price was.
  4. Look at the Condition. Every items has a condition description, in addition to the measurements and fabric. I have never had an issue with the condition of items I have bought, but you can get something that “looks brand new,” “is brand new with tags,” or “has minor signs of wear,” among other descriptions.
  5. Buy special items. ThredUP is not where you should buy your plain black socks and white tank tops. It is where you should buy maternity clothes, a dress to go to your roommate’s wedding, and a fleece pullover.

I hope you enjoy the frugal, high-end options available at thredUP and all it has to offer! I am a big fan, as you can tell, and love helping you save money!

Happy Thrifting!

D. E. Barbi Bee

On 2017

If I had to sum up 2017 in two words, the words that instantly come to mind are “Stewardship” and “Blessings.”

When I look back on this year, I cannot stop thinking, “There is simply no reason in all the world that I deserve what I have received.” Grace and mercy do not even begin to describe what the Lord has given us.

This time last year, Massimo and I stood together, arms over each other’s shoulders, looking ahead to the great grey abyss. We saw everything and nothing. We imagined what may lie beyond the fog, and feared for it and longed for it: the great mystery of the unknown. And we held each close and looked each other in the eye and said, “Let’s go.” We cannot do anything on our own, great or hard. We nodded to the Father and said, “Okay. What is there?”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Eph. 3:20-21

2016 was a year of preparation. We grew and learned and planned for what would come next. It was not a wasted year by any means, but a year of little change and uncertainty in our own lives, while we saved and dreamed of 2017.

When 2017 started with a positive pregnancy test, we knew it would be a different sort of year. Blissfully overjoyed, we attempted to ignore the ever-mounting list of things over which we had no control, but needed figured out.

Would this baby be healthy?

How are we going to pay for health care?

How will we care for this baby?

Will I work? Will Massimo? How much time can we take for maternity and paternity leave?

What car will we drive?

Where will we live?

When will Massimo start his guitar business?

How on earth will we afford all of this?

After all the questions, came blessing after blessing. Maternity leave was determined with my ever-gracious boss. Health care was covered for the baby and I. I was perfectly healthy throughout the pregnancy, and for 75% of the time time, the baby was, too. A car was found and purchased. Our landlord allowed us to have a month-to-month lease as we searched for a house. And, last month, we shockingly moved into our very first home. (It is really, truly our’s and we can’t believe it.)

We even got cherries on top of it all. In May we learned my dear cousin and best friend was expecting her first child. Another dear friend from church welcomed her fourth child the same month, and my brother and sister in law not only had their first child, but came up to the United States for six months to let us enjoy their presence!

Despite all our many, many blessings, there were still ever-present uncertainties. Months where we didn’t know where the money would come from. Shocking news when we learned our unborn baby was not growing well and we would have to keep an extra-close eye on him. Having to pay out of our savings for an unexpected tax bill. Searching and wishing for the perfect house, but facing fruitless searches time after time.

Which is why the other word for 2017 is stewardship. Not a very popular topic, I know. It is not one we throw around often. “I hope you have a very healthy new year, and can be good stewards of your blessings!” No exactly.

But it was a theme we continued to return to time after time. When things got tight – time, money, emotions – we pledged that we would be ever-diligent in our stewardship over these resources. When resources are abundant, we are cursed with not considering that they are truly in limited supply. It is a gift to be required to consider the value of what we are using. We knew our needs, and we continuously asked God to direct our resources to meet our needs.

The good thing is, when there is little and his has to stretch far, you are forced to ask God where to put it and to make a feast out of a few loaves of bread and fish. Somehow, miraculously, truly, Massimo worked full-time all year. We went on a trip to Vermont to celebrate four amazing years of marriage. We spent days and weekends with our families and friends around camp fires, swimming pools, feasts, and birthday cakes. Massimo finished his second guitar. We bought a house and still have an emergency savings account. Despite the failure in our health insurance system leading to Massimo not having health insurance all year, his body was protected and he did not need it. We had full bellies and bursting closets and our tanks are on FULL.

I will end my reflection on this year with a small illustration of the themes of this year. Early in my pregnancy, before I even went to the doctor, the Lord revealed to me to be a good steward and celebrate the blessing of the small person presumably growing inside me. Early in a pregnancy, one is all-to aware of the high risk of miscarriage, and fears the worst. Most women even delay telling anyone about her pregnancy because there is such a high risk that it will end tragically.

While wrestling these fears, God revealed to me that there was no use in worrying, and that by pinning my hopes on passing a certain week of gestation without bad news, I would only be disappointed. He told me that even if my baby did not survive, I should celebrate its life now, while he or she is alive. That may be, after all, all I have with this unborn child. This lesson – to celebrate blessings in the moment and cast cares to another day – became even more valuable when, months later, we learned we had a high risk of losing our unborn child, despite being well past the first trimester “danger zone.”

Thanks to God working on my heart and gracefully teaching me a lesson I would need ever more months later, I was able to look over my pregnancy as a steward- a mother to this unborn baby despite the lack of control and uncertainty. Being a steward means caring for what you have for the benefit of someone else – in my case, our Heavenly Father. It doesn’t mean you have complete control over it; all it means is that you have to do the best with what you have, and leave it up to God to honor your obedience. Not does it mean everything will work out sunshine and roses. Obedience is, after all, a reward in and of itself.

D.E. Barbi Bee


On breastfeeding

I never understood why some women choose to breastfeed their children until beyond the child’s learning to walk, talk, and – in some cases – read. But over the past several months of my own new hobby (nursing my son), I have started to appreciate where they are coming from.


Massimo feeding newborn Theodore with a bottle of donor milk.


I always assumed the question of when to stop breastfeeding would be answered for me: when my body or my child stopped nursing. I had heard so many perils and stories of bodies not producing enough milk, or babies not being able to latch, that I went into it with a very, “If it works, it works,” attitude. I tried not to get my hopes up, and was advised to set small goals when starting out with nursing.

I decided I wanted to try, for many reasons, chiefly the health of the baby and myself and saving money. I decided I would at least try for as long as I was home with him, and then when it came to going back to work we would see.

When I gave birth to a 4 pound, 10 ounce baby boy via c-section, he was too small and weak to eat on his own. I did not get to hold him skin-to-skin and attempt nursing right away, as all the experts advised to do to help aid in milk production. I did not get to see him at all for thirteen hours after he was born, let alone hold him. (When I finally did hold him, skin-to-skin, it greatly helped his breathing rate improve, and my own mood, as well.)


We held Theodore skin-to-skin as much as we could, wrapped in warmed blankets. We always had to get him back to his crib soon, though, because being moved and held was exhausting for our tiny warrior.

From my room, what felt like miles from my son, within hours after he was born I was hand-expressing milk for my boy. My husband rushed every exhausting vile of milk to the NICU to be fed to Theodore. At first, he was fed exclusively via nasogastric intubation. For the first few feedings, the doctors had to act so quickly he was fed formula. When they were able to consult with me, we signed up for donor milk to be given to him while I worked to get my own milk to come in. He was given just 15 mL of milk every three hours, which increased by 5 mL every day. Every three hours, the doctors woke him up by taking his temperature, changing his diaper, checking his bilirubin level, blood sugar, and pulling a syringe up through his NG tube to make sure it was still in his stomach and measure how much food from his last feed was still left un-digested.

The feedings started with my milk, then donor milk to complete the total amount needed. They started by giving him a bottle, but when he fell asleep and was impossible to wake up again, whatever was left in the bottle was fed through his NG tube. The feedings couldn’t take longer than thirty minutes, or else he would be burning more calories trying to eat than he was getting with the food he consumed.


After his bottle feeds, whatever he could not finish was fed through his NG tube. We called him our “foie gras baby” because we felt like we were force feeding him. But it helped him maintain his blood sugar and not lose too much weight.

For my part, I was on a race against the clock to get my milk to come in before the donor milk program ended. The milk was only intended as a bridge – just three or four days to get us through to my milk supply meeting his needs. Hot wash-clothes, massages, and brutal work earned me a few drops – literally – at every feeding for the first day. Many times I did not see single drop. I was extremely discouraged and hurt. I knew it wasn’t the end of the world to give him formula, but I worried about his little body having to work any harder than it needed to, and knew formula was harder to break down. I was determined to make this work.

I was set up with a pump and ran the pump for ten minutes every three hours – day and night. During the day, Massimo and I went to the NICU to change Theo’s diapers and feed him. After his feeding was done, we held him for some time before letting him get back to his crib to sleep. Then I would pump. The first time I actually had any measurable amount of milk pumped was when I was holding him during my pumping session. It was an extremely difficult maneuver, but it paid off! Just a half a day before we would be cut off from donor milk, I finally was pumping enough milk to meet his feeding requirements! I was indescribably relieved and overjoyed. For the first time in days I felt like something was actually working.


This corner of the NICU was our home for what felt like forever. The nurses gave us tons of space to spread out and leave things there. You can’t see him, but Theo is tucked under that blanket on Massimo’s chest.

By the time we left the hospital, I was pumping more than twice what Theodore was eating. He was not yet breastfeeding, so we were in an exhausting bottle feed-then-pump cycle. It was not until he was three weeks old that we could finally stop reheating bottles of milk and he was officially nursing full-time!


At five months, Theodore weighed about 14 pounds and smiles like crazy! He is a far cry from the warrior in the NICU.

Fast forward to Theodore being five months old: I still nurse him four or five times while I am at home, and he has two bottles of pumped milk while I am at work. I pump twice a day while at work, and have a freezer at home with more than 1,100 ounces of milk to prove it! (It is absurd to remember that we used to measure his feeds in milliliters and now measure them in ounces!) I estimate the value of all that milk to be approximately $700 dollars! His feedings take less than 15 minutes now.

It is impossible to appreciate how far this little boy has come in just five months – and how much things have changed in my life. At first, there were several days I was sure this breastfeeding thing was going to fail. He needed food, and I didn’t have it. I was trying to come to terms with it but I stubbornly couldn’t let it go.

Around 3 months old, I was afraid his nursing days were over. Theodore did not have much of an appetite and people told me he could be rejecting nursing in favor of the easier bottles. The doctors told me not to worry, but I could feel the weight of this thing being taken from me. I know it will end, some time soon, in fact. But I was not yet ready for it to be taken, ended on terms other than my own.

But he bounced back and now, although easily distracted, Theodore seems perfectly content to switch between bottles and nursing without missing a beat.

So now I am in this awkward predicament of having to chose where to take us next. When will I cut back how many pumping sessions I have a day? It would certainly free up my time and make court less stressful if I had to pump only once instead of twice. I would not be sad to say good-bye to pumping in my car in the corners of parking lots and washing countless bottles daily. When will I cut back pumping entirely? When will I stop nursing entirely?

As I said in the outset of this now lengthy post, I now appreciate where women are coming from when they breastfeed for four or five years. I am not interested in doing that myself, but it does take away the awkward, difficult decision of when to stop. You get so comfortable, so resigned and conformed to breastfeeding, that it becomes hard to remember not breastfeeding. My clothes are nursing-friendly. My schedule revolves around Theodore’s, as well as my diet. You get so comfortable, in fact, that it becomes strangely scary to go back to your old world; the previously solely-known becomes somehow unknown.

For now, I know only two things for sure: 1. I cannot pass judgment on any women who chooses to or not to breastfeed, on any woman who nurses, pumps, formula feeds, or any mix of them, nor for how long she decides or is forced to decide to do any of these things. And 2. I am extremely grateful that, like most elements of my journey into motherhood, I have had the burden of choice when it comes to breastfeeding. It is a burden I did not expect, but one I accept with honor.

I anticipate continuing to slowly transition out of breastfeeding, much less abruptly than over more time than I transitioned into it. I have a special privilege in this circumstance. And to all the other mothers out there who faced their own expectations to try to do the very best for her children, please be kind to yourself and to the other mothers who are trying to do the exact same thing.

D. E. Barbi Bee

But I’m okay, really.

This morning, Theodore threw up on me, twice.

Plus when he spit up last night, that’s three times in less than twelve hours. That is a new record for him. I don’t know if he is sick, or if it’s just a coincidence, but I will henceforth be carrying a change of clothes with me because “Baby Puke” is, shockingly, *not* the new Chanel No. 5.

I was slightly later to work than usual. My leg is damp with the 2 ounces of Tide To Go I scrubbed into my black pants. That baby’s biological scent just lingers in my hair and sweater. And on top of it all, I am worried about my baby. I’m at the office, but my heart wishes I was snuggling my baby and making sure he is not uncomfortable. I know he will get sick, eventually, but I would not mind putting it off as long as possible.

That was my morning. But I’m okay, really. Because I have my son. And he is well. And we are well.

In Ohio right now there is a mother and father facing the first morning after their five day-old daughter died.

One of the surprising by-products of receiving the diagnosis of Intrauterine Growth Restriction during my pregnancy with Theodore was joining a Facebook group with other IUGR parents. Before the diagnosis, I had never heard of IUGR, let alone what life could look like due to this condition.

In the group, parents ask questions and tell their stories. I learned of the myriad of outcomes from IUGR, and that no two babies are the same. I learned why it is often safest to remove a baby slightly early from the womb, and how incredibly strong tiny babies can be. I learned how incredibly strong parents can be, even in the most difficult circumstances. We pray for each other, suggest questions to ask our doctors and tests that should be requested, tell each other to hope for the best and be patient, and cry for each other when it’s just too much.

I have also seen pictures and heard stories of babies so small and fragile, they should not be here. Intrauterine growth restriction causes a baby to not reach his or her growth potential. So instead of just being “a small baby” or, “an early baby,” they are developmentally and physically retarded behind their gestational age.

The effect of this condition is that by looking at these babies, it is like taking a look inside the womb, to a place we never or rarely otherwise would be.

My son was born three weeks early. Not technically a “preemie” (at 37 weeks, he is called “early term”), so people are generally surprised at his size and complications. I tell them that although he was only three weeks early, he was the size of a baby six weeks early.

In the IUGR Facebook group, there are mothers whose children were born two weeks early, but the size of a baby eight weeks early. Five days ago, a mother gave birth to a beautiful baby girl ten weeks early, but the size of a baby fifteen weeks early.

She was beautiful.

She was like nothing I had ever seen before.

The lines on the palms of her hands.

She had dark hair.

I imagined all the babies who go full-term and whose mothers never see their baby so small and early in his development. I imagined all the mothers who see a line on the pregnancy test, or the blurry gray shapes on the ultrasound machine and never see the skin and eyes and fingers and toes.

But we have seen them. IUGR and preemie moms have to wait longer to have their cute, pudgy babies so many people crave. We have to wait a little longer to see smiles and strength and visual tracking and rolls.

But we have seen things other mothers have never seen. We have seen life before the laws recognize life. We have seen breath when others see a “lump of cells.” We have literally watched our babies develop in the harsh, heavy world to learn what other babies get to do inside. We have seen incredible things the animations on pregnancy apps cannot show.

Heartbroken, this beautiful little girl suffered brain bleeds in her short life and there was no hope for her. Her parents held her in their arms and watched the angels take her away last night.

This is a gift. There is a reason. But I’m sobbing for them all the same.

My son, my hefty, happy son is two and half months old. Every once in a while I forget how we could have lost him, how small he was, how hard it was. But then I remember and I look at him and just thank God.

This morning, Theodore threw up on me, twice. Plus last night. The smell is there, I was late to work.

But I’m okay, really.

To Remember

Family in NICU

Read through the early books of the Bible and take note of every time God commands Israel to remember what he has done for it: he even goes so far as to establish holidays, laws, and physical markers to help His people remember what the Lord has done and how he provided for and protected his nation.

We, too, ought to remember and share what the Lord has done for us.

The purpose of this post is not so much to tell a narrative of how my son, Theodore, came into this world. Rather, it is to provide a list for me to remember – and for my readers to also remember – what the Lord has done for my family in the most difficult week of my life.

When I was 31 weeks and 2 days pregnant with our son, the first gift we received in this unexpected scenario was the gift of information: while undergoing a level two ultrasound for a kidney issue we had found with our unborn baby, we happen to discover that the baby was not growing well. He was measuring about three weeks behind where he should have been, and his estimated size was in the 5th percentile. We were diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction and I officially had a high-risk pregnancy. We found out about his diagnosis purely by God’s grace – we were not looking for it, and I do not believe we would have found it until he was  born or until there was an emergency had we not gone in for that ultrasound that day.

[Intrauterine growth restriction (“IUGR”, for short) is a very rare (about 3% of all pregnancies) and potentially very dangerous condition in which an unborn baby is not attaining its growth potential for some unknown reason. It is found when a baby is measuring less than 10th percentile for its gestational age. There are literally hundreds of possible causes, but a common cause is an issue with the placenta and how it is providing nutrients to the baby.]

With our gift of information, we also received the gift of preparedness – not that we could anticipate exactly what would happen, but we were given the gift of being told to expect the unexpected. For example, when we received the diagnosis, I asked the doctor if they were just being overly cautious, or if I needed to get the nursery ready early. She told me to get the nursery ready early; which was excellent advice because I literally finished it the day before going to the hospital. It was extremely stressful not knowing if, at any one of my twice weekly appointments, I would be sent to the hospital to deliver my baby immediately, but it did help me get ready for the day when I got sent to the hospital 24 hours before we expected, and when I did not have a chance to go back to the office to wrap anything up, but went straight to the hospital from the courthouse instead.

Similarly, although I doubt there is any such thing as a “normal” birth, Theodore’s unusual delivery was covered by the gift of safety. Induction was painful, labor was long and exhausting, the monitors were itchy and tight, and the c-section recovery was deliriously difficult. But those 22 hours from when the induction was started Monday night, to when we met our son safely Tuesday evening were filled with an incredible medical team who did everything they could to keep he and I from harm. When we started labor, the nurses and doctors asked us if had a birth plan. I told them all that my birth plan was to get my baby here safely, and to keep me safe as well. Maybe they wanted more direction than that, but it was how I had always imagined I would handle labor, and particularly after being branded with a “high-risk”label. We prayed our doctors would know what to do, and that we could trust them every step of the way. When we were told the baby would not handle labor going on much longer, and that he could face serious danger if I didn’t have a c-section, we knew we were in the best hands and that God would keep us safe. And that is exactly what he did.

When I learned that our baby would come early and be small, I was afraid at how he would look. I was afraid he would be so small and scrawny that I would not find him beautiful or lovable, and that I would be scared to touch or hold him. When he was born, at only 4 pounds, 10 ounces, I was given the gift of love. Although I look back now and see how thin and small he was, at the time I felt no fear, and instead was filled with love for what I saw as the most beautiful boy in the world. Holding him was not frightening (although difficult) – but lovely and warm. I loved him from the moment I saw him, and was shocked at how beautiful he was.

Upon his birth, we learned that Theodore was given the surprising gift of “the good IUGR.” At all our growth scans since being diagnosed, we were told he had symmetrical IUGR – that is, his head, torso, arms, and femurs were all measuring at roughly the same percentile. There are two kinds of IUGR: asymmetrical and symmetrical, each with their own typical causes. With symmetrical, it is more likely there is a chromosomal abnormality or infection; asymmetrical means it is more likely a placenta issue, and the fetus kicks into “survival mode”, and concentrates development and nutrients to the brain because that is most essential. Before he was born, although I knew it was unlikely, I feared that he would have a long-term disability from whatever was causing his growth restriction. I even feared we would lose him to a trisomy abnormality. I prayed he would not have any such complication. The doctors were prepared to test him for several viruses when he was born to try to determine what caused his growth restriction, but when they measured him they found he has asymmetrical IUGR instead! Although his length was only 15th percentile, and weight was only 3rd percentile, his head was measuring at 45th percentile, which means while his body was small, God had protected his brain and had developed it well. It also meant they did not even have to test for the viruses because they new it was probably a placenta issue.

During our week in the hospital, we were given the unexpected gift of togetherness. Even though Theodore had to stay in the special care nursery and could not stay in our room with us, I prayed to God before he was born that we would not have to leave him in the hospital while we were sent home. I could not stand the thought of being even a 15 minute drive from my son – I needed to be with him as much as I could and prayed that God would give us that mercy. Sure enough, to our surprise, the hospital let us stay as boarders in a room just next to the nursery after I was discharged. We got to stay there as long as Theodore was a patient, at no cost to us. We were given a place that we could sleep, and shower, and a mini fridge to keep our food. And we were given the opportunity to go and see our son for every feeding, and to give him my milk for every meal. I was most thankful that I did not have to go home to an empty bassinet.

Since coming home with our 4 pound, 6 ounce warrior, Theo has been given the gift of growth. We have prayed and prayed that he would grow and thrive outside the womb, where the environment meant to protect him and help him develop instead progressively failed him. In his first week home, he grew to an astonishing 5 pounds, 3 ounces. One more week home – where we challenged him further by transitioning him from bottle-feeding to nursing – and he grew another 11 ounces. At one day past his due date, he was nearly 6 pounds. The doctor was practically speechless, and what was going to be a stressful schedule of weekly weigh-ins and adjustments as we watched for every ounce of gain instantly turned into, “Forget all of that – just come for his regular appointments! He is thriving.”

As Theodore grows and Massimo and I tell him over and over the story of the miracle of his birth and homecoming, I want him to know that none of it would have been possible without our gracious community. From my and my husband’s bosses, who, as small business owners did not have to even give us time off to welcome our child, but instead gave us both paid time off to care for each other and focus on our family; to the best nurses in the world, who loved and cared for our baby tirelessly while we could not be with him, but also never let him forget who his parents were, and supported us like their own family by making two clueless, sleepless first-time parents feel like every decision they made was the perfect choice; to our friends from near and far, especially the other compassionate NICU moms and those from our churches and town, who answered our questions, prayed for us, cheered us on, provided meals and funds to fill our bellies so we could focus on filling Theo’s; to our parents and siblings, who cleaned and stocked our home, brought us food, washed our laundry, clothed and diapered our little man, and wrapped our family with loving, joyful arms.

I do not want to leave the impression that these weeks have been full of nothing but sunshine and roses – other details of becoming parents include plenty of tears, desperate prayers, and throwing our arms up in confusion and frustration. But what could have torn us apart, what could have broken us and beaten us down to have to be built back up has instead brought us one of the richest times in our marriage. I look back on what we have already been through, and I can’t believe what we have had to plow up to sow new seeds. Delirious, the one thing I know is that must have worked extremely hard – though often unconsciously so – because we three are stronger than ever, and overflowing with gratitude as we remember how God made us this way.

-D. E. Barbi Bee

It’s complicated

Actually, the technical term is “High Risk,” as in this mom just joined the honorable ranks of having a high risk pregnancy. It’s a title I have no interest in earning.

I am the fourth of eight children, so I have spent a fair share on my life around pregnant women, and women sharing their epic tales of bringing these little miracles into the world. For my mother and the majority of her family (a large sample size, encompassing some thirty-odd grandchildren), babies came late and babies were hefty. “Bos babies” we called them – usually in the 9-10 pound range. And generally healthy, which we always acknowledged as a blessing from the Lord.

My pregnancy began very normal and very healthy. Baby has always been measuring well, and apart from a small concern over dilated kidneys, everything was going swimmingly. I felt amazing (still do), and wondered what all the fuss was about over how awful pregnancy can be. I never got sick my whole pregnancy, and sleep was harder for my husband than for me.

Given how things were going, and my family history, I fully expected a huge, late baby, just like my mom had. I was just shy of 10 pounds at birth, and my husband was just over 8. My biggest concern was whether or not the doctors would let me go beyond 41 weeks and wait for spontaneous labor. I registered for larger clothes, assuming the baby would never even squeeze in newborn clothes and would fly through to 3-month outfits. I completely ignored my due date and just assumed I would go well beyond, attempting to prepare myself for that “home stretch” I had always been warned about.

For that reason, when 31 weeks rolled around, I presumed I had ten weeks left – at least. I saved all the baby prepping for the very end, assuming I would have tons of time on my hands waiting around and would need something to occupy myself. I had no baby stuff, no baby furniture, the car isn’t ready, I’ve taken no classes, and the bag isn’t packed. I had time, and I was pacing myself. My baby shower was anticipated to be late in August, three weeks before my due date – later than usual, but August was a busy time for my family and it was most convenient.

Thursday, July 13, all that changed dramatically.

By the grace of God alone, we happened to schedule a Level II ultrasound for July 13. As I mentioned, the baby’s kidneys had been very *slightly* dilated consistently since our 19-week anatomy scan. At that time, the doctor said that dilation could have been a marker for down’s syndrome, but thought it was unlikely. After prayer and consideration, we decided the test for down’s syndrome was too risky, and it wouldn’t change anything for us. We decided to put off any special testing and just monitor it.

We had gotten a number of follow-up ultrasounds, and the dilation remained consistent. The doctor recommended at that point it was more likely to be a slight blockage, and suggested we simply take a closer to look to determine if we should consult with a pediatric urologist about care after birth. Worst case (and least likely) scenario, there was some kind of blockage and the baby would have to have surgery to relieve it.

At that point, we felt like we were not acting out of fear, and rather felt clear-headed going in to get the Level II ultrasound. We felt that it would be wise to meet the specialist now, so we could see if we are comfortable with him or her in the event the baby needed treatment.

The truth is, God had been guiding us and leading us ever since the 19 week scan to get to this appointment, because what we learned there was a total coincidence and we would not have found it if we got the Level II after the initial 19 week scan, or if we had taken any different course of action.

On July 13, we sat down and the doctor took all her measurements: kidneys, heart, spine, umbilical chord, blood flow, amniotic fluid levels, head, torso, femur, arms – everything. We came into her office and sat down for her report.

The good news is, the kidneys are very very slightly dilated, and it is something she is not worried about. It is a very common occurrence, and will simply be checked on again once the baby is born; they usually clear themselves up. She didn’t even find it necessary to refer to us a specialist because she found the possibility of requiring surgery was so remote. We were relieved, and it was what we expected. We we still relieved.

But then the meeting wasn’t over. She informed us the baby was measuring smaller than she would like. She double-checked that I had my due date correct: September 12. She informed us that the head, femur, and torso size were all measuring in the 5th percentile for its gestational age (I was 31 weeks, 2 days; baby was measuring at about 29 weeks, 4 days). She advised us that any time the baby measures less than the 10th percentile, that’s a red flag. And this is a problem.

It could indicate the baby is not getting sufficient nutrients from the placenta, so the baby needs to be watched very closely from here on out because a placenta problem increases the risk of stillbirth. Her recommendation is daily fetal kick monitoring, and twice-weekly nonstress tests, along with weekly ultrasounds.

Needless to say, we were overwhelmed.

I had my regular doctor’s appointment scheduled for the very next afternoon, and wanted to make sure she got the report in time to discuss this all with me then. When I went in to meet with her, I was very much hoping for advise along the lines of “This is a precaution/ it’s very common/we could be wrong/we are just being careful.” That is not what happened.

She told me my baby has been diagnosed with symmetrical intrauterine growth restriction: in layman’s terms, the baby is not growing well and they don’t know why. (My cousin Hannah – RN extraordinaire – says, “You have a crappy placenta and a small baby.”) It’s very rare and very serious.

I asked my questions and got my answers:

  1. Why is this happening? What can I do to help? Answer: We don’t know and there is nothing you can do because you didn’t do anything wrong. You eat right, moderately exercise, don’t smoke or do drugs. Not even bedrest or changing your diet would do anything. You have gained 30 pounds already this pregnancy – you are not malnourished! It’s just not getting where it needs to go.
  2. Could you just have my due date wrong? Answer: I’m confident with the due date. The first two measurements at 10 weeks and 19 weeks are the most accurate calculation of that due date, and the baby was measuring within just a few days of what we set then based on your last cycle. The due date is not off, and certainly not by this much. Similarly, although there is always a margin of error in ultrasounds, a margin this significant is not the culprit. There is something going on.
  3. Are we just being careful here, or do I need to make sure the nursery is ready early? Answer: You need to make sure the nursery is ready early. And you should move up that baby shower.

That afternoon, we decided to start steroid injections to encourage lung development in the event I would have to deliver early. I walked across the street to the hospital and monitored the baby with a nonstress test and took my first shot. The next shot was administered 24 hours later. I got my aggressive schedule of appointments, scheduled all the way through September 8, but my being pregnant still on September 8 was a long shot at best.

In a matter of 24 hours, my whole life had gotten turned upside-down. I hardly knew how to feel, but I felt everything. I still do.

I went from fully expecting a late, fat baby to hoping I get a live baby. The doctor set a target date for me to keep the baby inside until I can hit 37 weeks – August 22. The first milestone before that is 34 weeks – the date at which I can still deliver at my local hospital instead of UCONN. But even before that, every day, and every hour, the baby is inside, presumably growing but certainly moving – is a miracle and I am grateful for every one. Every kick, I tell the baby it’s doing a great job and encourage it. I have no idea if this is sane or not but it’s all I have.

In a matter of a couple of days, my family has already come together with helping hands to prepare for this baby which apparently could make an appearance at any time. My mother and sister-in-law – a new mother herself – cleaned and prepared the dresser for the baby and gathered up the smallest clothes they have (my niece Luciana – a little miracle, too – has already outgrown some things!). My father and brother worked on my new car to get it ready. My other sisters took me out to dinner, and then went and bought newborn clothes for our little miracle. I had nothing small enough for an early, small baby.

My boss has also been insanely supportive. Word-for-word his email to me after I gave him latest update was “You and the baby come first, no exceptions.” I have friends and family praying for us and offering us any support we need. Can God bless us anymore?

My goals at this point are to focus on gratitude, balance, and taking things one day at a time. Every day the baby is in there, we are doing better. I am two days shy of 32 weeks. We are already SO much farther than SO many premature babies who end up doing SO well. We live in an area with some of the best medical facilities in the world, and in a time when babies born well before this point are brought up healthy and well. We have amazing doctors in whom I have great confidence; the OB who discovered the problem and my regular OB were calling and texting each other all day to make a plan for me and discuss my test results. It is very reassuring to have a team on my side.

Then there is the miracle and God’s timing in all of this, and the fact we discovered it at all. Normally, we would not have had a growth ultrasound at this point. The only reason we were there that day is because of what turned out to be an inconsequential kidney question, which we did not address earlier. If we hadn’t learned about this problem now, we would not have nearly as many options as we do at this point and who knows what emergencies we would find ourselves in. God has already been guiding us and leading us to this place, and he is still in control now. We get to check the baby all the time, and get to hopefully see problems before they get out of hand.

The other good news is that I am perfectly healthy. I have no signs of pre-eclampsia (something that could accompany or cause IUGR), and no diabetes. There is no immediate risk to me, and that means time is on our side. Until the baby starts showing signs of distress, or the growth drops off, the baby is safe in there and I am in no danger. That is fantastic.

I woke up at 3:00 am this morning and couldn’t sleep until after 4:30. I wait to feel every kick and every squirm. I had heartburn and was grateful for it: hopefully it means the baby is growing enough to interfere with my digestion! I am probably one of the few pregnant women who wishes she had more stretch marks, and longs for the scale to rise. The irony is, whenever I told people my September due date,  they would always sigh and say, “Oh you have to make it through the SUMMER! That’s rough.” Now, I wish I had it rough. I am completely serious. This pregnancy has been so easy on me and I am so small; I am not swollen or uncomfortable. Other than the anxiety this is causing me, sleep is not a problem at all. At first I thought everyone was just being very negative and it bothered me; now I find myself hoping they are right.

It is very strange what a few hours and a few doctors appointments do to your perspective.

The last piece of my mental strategy is balance. It is very easy to go to extremes with a “high risk” label and news such as this. On the one hand, I could be cavalier and just deny there is anything to be worried about. But every medical professional I have consulted with advises me I am not going to carry to m, and the steps we are taking are responsible and reasonable and the best things to do. I don’t want to take the shots, turn my house and my job upside down to try to get ready for this baby early, and spend hours upon hours in doctors appointments. I don’t want an early induction or c-section. I wanted a totally different situation, but that will not be best for the baby and there are reasonable things to do in response to this news.

On the other hand, I could become obsessed. I find myself already shutting down the search browsers to hunt for more information. I cannot dwell. It does no good and I need balance. It is no good for my marriage and it is no good for my health. I want to maintain – for now – as much normalcy as possible. I asked Massimo that we not give up the other hobbies, appointments, and events we have already scheduled, out of a hyper-focus on the “what if” in our heads all the time. We are going to go to work Monday morning, and leave in the evening. He is at a hunting course today to work towards getting certification for his first bow hunting season this fall. He finished his guitar Friday. I am going to plan on going to my friend’s bridal shower next weekend. I am going to make grocery shopping lists and go on dates and try to maintain my sanity as long as I can. The unknown is the hardest part, but clearing my schedule won’t change that.

At this point, I am emotional and worried. But trying to stick with my plan: gratitude, balance, taking things step by step. I appreciate prayers, and offering this little one to God is all I have. The more I consider the miracles of his timing, and his creation inside me, the more my heart is overwhelmed by his mercy. I am mostly telling this story to ask for prayer, and to explain if I seem out of it. Also, to explain why I might suddenly drop off the face of the planet. It is not personal, and the network of prayer and love the Internet provides will be greatly appreciated every step of this journey.

Keep Baby Barbi in prayer. Thank you.

How I Built a Professional Maternity Wardrobe Without Breaking the Bank

In the first several weeks and months of my pregnancy, I was so anxious to know the baby was growing well, that any weight gain and hint of a baby belly was a welcome discovery. Sure, my clothes fit a little tighter and my key professional pieces got less comfortable every time I wore them, but that was exactly what was supposed to happen.

Now in my sixth month, there are only a few non-maternity articles still in rotation (including my suit I bought when I first became an attorney, and before I lost twenty pounds of “Bar Exam Weight”; it is 2017: what’s old is new again!). Every day, getting dressed is a new challenge; it is hardly even useful to lay out an outfit the night before, because if baby decides to flip overnight, it may not fit any more!

Desperately searching the great Internet Library for wardrobe ideas, I was disappointed that most maternity wardrobe advice fell into two categories: (1) Wear leggings, t-shirts,a and elastics on your jeans all the time; or (2) Spend all your money on a completely new wardrobe you will use for the next ten months!

We all want to look like Amal Clooney, but what is a young professional to do? I have to look grown-up and put together, but I am not interested in investing hundreds or even thousands into clothes I will only wear for the next six months! Couple my budget constraints with the fact that many clothing lines simply do not offer enough options for female attorneys in general, let alone specific maternity wear, I had to get creative. Although I still have a lot of growing to do, I have already learned a few tips and tricks you might find helpful when building your professional maternity wardrobe, while staying within a reasonable budget.


You can be surprised by the versatility of some non-maternity items in your closet – or someone else’s! This open blazer looks sharp without putting pressure on your ever-growing torso by foregoing a button closure. Via Kohl’s.

1. Accept hand-me-downs with gratitude.

I have the joy and pleasure of having a close friend who’s pregnancy slightly overlapped with my own. She just had her baby girl two weeks ago, and has been graciously sharing her maternity clothes with me as she outgrows them or simply doesn’t have a use for them any more. She was especially helpful because she worked in an office during her first pregnancy, so she supplied my first pairs of dress pants and blouses for the office. Even though some pieces I may not find useful because of fit, style, or the particular season, many of her hand-me-downs have helped fill critical gaps in my wardrobe and saved the day when I was waiting for purchased clothes to arrive in the mail! I have been so blessed by her generosity and look forward to the day when I will get to pay it forward by sharing my clothes with someone else.


2. Shop at home first, and then slowly.

In my experience it is a good idea to wait and see what you will need as you go along, rather than filling the online (or real) shopping cart as soon as the test turns blue. In fact, when I looked in my own closet first, I found at least a half-dozen shirts that will work well during every month of pregnancy, two skirts that will probably fit up until the end, and a couple of pairs of leggings that will be well-worn during this period. After I bought my first round of maternity clothes and wore them for a couple of months, I began to notice where there were gaps in my collection. In my first maternity haul, I focused on dresses, thinking they would be a versatile all-in-one outfits. However, after a few weeks of, “Getting dressed would be so much easier if I just had a pencil skirt,” I knew buying that one piece would go far! I realized that although my work dresses were helpful, I needed a few more bottoms so I could mix and match for even more outfits. If I bought too many dresses at first, I would have wasted money on things that did not turn out to be as useful as I thought.


Stores like Target and Old Navy update their collections often with each season, so check back frequently for styles that go on sale. This slightly less summary top may not be what you want at a barbecue, but it is perfectly work appropriate in your air conditioned office! Via Target.

3. Sales Sales Sales – have I mentioned Sales?

I am not one to pay full price for anything, anyway, but that is especially true when shopping for what will turn out to be – let’s face it – a temporary wardrobe. I know I will continue to wear these after the baby comes for several months, but ultimately I will look funny in pleated shirts and ruched dresses. My go-to place has been Old Navy, but I have also gotten a few pieces from H&M. Old Navy has insane sales and you can practically steal clothes with the deals and discounts they always send to your inbox. I don’t usually like Old Navy for key articles because they are not known to endure for the long-haul, but that is perfect when I am only looking for clothes to last me six months or so! So far, I have spent about two hundred dollars in total on maternity clothes, which has gotten me:

  • two court-appropriate work dresses
  • three slightly less dressy but work-appropriate dresses
  • black dress pants
  • black pencil skirt
  • floral printed t-shirt
  • maternity tankini top
  • sleeveless plain top
  • sleeveless patterned top
  • wireless bra

Twelve items for two hundred dollars means each item cost an average of sixteen dollars. Am I a genius, or what?


You cannot go wrong with a little black dress – especially this one, which has a button opening to assist in nursing. Via Old Navy.

4. Get the most wear out of every purchase. 

For professional women like me, our “around the house/running errands/weekend” clothes are the exception, not the rule. Maternity jeans, leggings, and flowy sweaters are not going to cut it in court, closings, and client meetings – as comfortable as they may be! It is a challenge, but I have to resist the comfy, casual maternity clothes that are so easy to find. Instead, when at home and on the weekend, I have opted to wear the things I already have (even though they might not fit the best), hand-me-downs, and the few articles I bought that work well for both the office and home.


This is exactly the kind of dress that is casual enough for a throw-on and go Saturday, but I can also wear with the right accessories and cardigan at the office. Via Old Navy.

A couple of dresses I bought are casual enough that they can be worn to my sister’s birthday party, and then dressed up with accessories and a blazer for the office. It is worth it to me to spend money on the pieces I will wear from 9-5 every day, and then hack it for the rest of the time.


The mandarin collar on this top is just enough to make it interesting, and the bright color exudes confidence and sophistication. Via H&M

5. Style is in the details: collar, color, and cut.

The most polished look one can wear is a tailored suit, but there is no way I am spending hundreds on a dry-clean only suit, which – if tailored properly – will not even last me through my pregnancy! I needed to switch to stretchier fabrics, but remain polished. How does one fake the tailored look? The details: collars, colors, and cut. A collar or bow on even the loosest-fitting shirt looks instantly more groomed. You will be surprised by the casual brands that still carry shirts with a mandarin collar, a lower-maintenance version of the traditional. If your tops don’t have a collar, add the structure with an open blazer (even a non-maternity one without buttons will provide the collar effect with comfort).


A shirt like this will take you far, with it’s classic look and color, even without a blazer. This is all-cotton, although it is a denim weave, providing additional structure. Via Target.

As for colors, I like to stick with solid black on the bottom and a bold shirt. This not only makes the shirt more memorable (making it easier to re-wear the bottom even the next day), but the contrast adds a bold confidence. I like sophisticated patterns like stripes or large floral. Otherwise, I tend towards colors that are timeless and serious: maroon, white, and light blue are appropriate for every season.


This bold print makes the outfit interesting, even without heavy jewelry. A solid pant or skirt and white or light blue cardigan complete the look. Via Old Navy.


Just like your non-maternity wardrobe, you will need basics to mix and match. I prefer a boot-cut to the slim ankle, because my ankles already tended to be too large for them before pregnancy. Via Gap.

Finally, cut. It is shocking to me that anyone would design a short maternity dress. As if I want one more thing to worry about while navigating pregnancy, let’s add, “Don’t flash everyone!” to the mix. This is something to be particularly aware of when buying from budget brands: they tend to take short-cuts (literally) on length. I do not buy dresses that are described as hitting “above the knee.” I similarly do no buy maxi-style dresses online, because if they are not quite long enough, they look too juvenile.

As for body-con versus empire waist, it depends on how loose the particular dress or shirt is made. I cannot wear a spandex bandage to court, but a billowy sack would also not send the right message. My favorite professional look has been somewhere in-between: an empire waist, but a slightly more fitted skirt. It provides a nod to my pre-maternity favorite (pencil skirt), without being too stuffy or tight. The fabric is key here: a jersey cotton is not going to give you the structure that a polyester blend can.


This is a fantastically bold color and the cut is perfect: just long enough. The detail at the waist makes it slightly more fitted, without being shockingly tight. Via Old Navy.