Monday, November 9, 2015

Anchored Hope Project - We need you to make this work

On May 4th, 2015, our lives were forever changed by the early arrival of our 4th child and only son, Anchor Joel. Born at 26 weeks (3 1/2 months early) at 1 lb 15 oz, we knew our journey home was going to be a long, hard one. But one thing we never lost was HOPE. Every minute, hour and day were overwhelming and isolating. 

While we were there, we knew we needed to connect to other families who had or were in the NICU but didn't know who or how. That's where the idea of Anchored Hope came from... to create a community of families who understand the exhaustion and joy that come from meeting their bundles of joy way too early. We have started a 
 page to connect with these families but we also want to give support in a physical way too. That's where the idea of 'Hope baskets' came... and 
​the nudge from above is 
something we simply cannot ignore. There were so many things I wish I had as soon as Anchor was born but because of his unexpected delivery, we were not prepared or able to even think straight for a couple of weeks.

In the Hope baskets, we would like to include the following....

Calendar/journal - I knew writing down our thoughts and feelings were important but I simply felt overwhelmed by the amount of information we were given every 6 hours when our baby was assessed. By having a journal, I was able to record everything about Anchor but also our prayers and praises that day. This journal and calendar will be a treasure forever that we'll be able to share with our son someday.

Blanket - Although the hospital provides them for you, it made me feel like I was able to have a say in his comfort
​ w
hen we asked to use our own blanket that was new and so soft for his delicate little body. Since these precious ones are so very tiny and unable to wear clothing for weeks or even months, having a soft blanket really makes it feel like you're able to 'dress up' your baby even though it's only 
​covering the mattress your preemie sleeps on

Grow Buddy - If there is ONE thing I regret about our time in the NICU with Anchor Joel, it is that we didn't take his weekly photo with a stuffed animal to record his growth. Scentsy has the sweetest, softest stuffed animals called buddies that would be perfect for a 'grow buddy.' They would be the perfect toy to grow up with and look back to see how big the child is now compared to how tiny they were then. Also, with the buddy, a vanilla scent pak because the smell of vanilla is so calming to the parents and would be a comforting scent memory from the time in the NICU (as opposed to the smell of hand sanitizer!) One of our doctors also told us that the scent of vanilla, helps prevent apnea spells in infants.... so vanilla it is!

Baby Name on Banner - Our sweet friend handmade a precious banner with Anchors name on it 
 we hung it in his room. Spending eighty four days in the NICU, his private room really was his first nursery. Personalizing our space really made the room feel more cozy
​ and special​
. All the nurses and doctors, therapists and even janitors, loved hanging out in Anchors room. One little banner hanging from our babies isolette, lifted the spirits of not only us, his parents, but the spirits of anyone who walked into his room.
​ We want that same comfort for other NICU families too.​

Book - Sometimes you just want to do
​ the 'normal' thing and read your precious little one a book. We were given two books that are now memorized and hold a special place in our hearts. These could also help aid in the comfort of a preemie baby's sibling that is able to come visit.

Extras - Spending hours a day, every day of the week, for weeks on end, at the hospital, it's vital to have quarters in your pocket, gift cards to local restaurants, coffee cards and other cards/money on hand for when you need food, drink or a date with your spouse.

Mini Photo Sessions - Our dear and talented friend is a photographer who has volunteered her services to take babies first photos for these families. What a perfect and sentimental finish to our baskets that we pray breathe hope into families whose world has been forever changed. 

In order to make all of this happen, we need your help; it's bigger than we can do on our own. This project has been weighing on our hearts for some time, and it's our prayer that you will help make this a reality for our extended stay, NICU families here in Missoula Montana. It's our goal to have the first 24 Hope baskets ready to be delivered by November 17th: World Prematurity Day (Wear your purple! We will be!). With your help, we can make this our goal ​delivery day! 

​Thanks so much for continuing to pray for our growing boy, praying for our Anchored Hope baskets and giving if you are able. 

3 ways to give: 

1. Donate money here at our YouCaring. link or simply send your donation to on PayPal. Please ​use the 'send money to family and friends' option so we can avoid processing fees on PayPal. If you can give $5, $10 or even $20 each month, your continuous giving will make this project thrive for months and hopefully years to come. 

​2. If you'd rather donate goodies for the basket, we have made an Amazon Wish List specific for our Hope baskets. Click this link,, and please send the following items to 11294 Stella Blue Dr, Lolo MT 59847. 

​3. Whether you are a Scentsy consultant or are a loyal customer to a consultant, please send a buddy of your choice with a Simply Vanilla scent pak to 11294 Stella Blue Dr, Lolo MT 59847. You can also order online at and choose the BUDDIES FOR BABIES party or click this link, to order your buddy. All benefits and commissions from this party sale will go toward more buddies for the premature babies at the hospital Anchor was born, well cared for and loved. 

​Hope baskets are not a one time giving. It's our dream to send a dozen baskets to our local neonatal intensive care unit ​every month. This will take a village to complete... we need you. 

​Thanks for considering and please let us know if you have any questions at all.​

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Anchored Hope... (when the need to give is more than you can handle)

You know when you get that overwhelming feeling of you HAVE to do it? That's where we are at right now. Actually, that's where we have been since before we came home with our little guy back in July.

There was a sense of isolation that I just couldn't shake. Joel felt it too. It wasn't for lack of calls and messages. Nor the lack of prayer or even food. Our family, church, friends, coworkers were amazing. We felt such love and support in the beginning and though it trickled after the weeks went on, we knew we were well prayed for and thought of often.

The neonatologists, nurses, therapists, actually everyone at Community Medical Center's NICU department were incredible. They made us feel welcomed and at home. They listened to our concerns and shared theirs as well. We felt like family (still do!) and loved completely. That wasn't the kind of isolation we felt either.

It's almost impossible to explain. It wasn't that we felt slighted or forgotten by God either. We knew He was with us and everything that happened in the days leading up to Anchor's birth and even the weeks after were all according to His plans. We were and are living the life He designed for us and honestly, we've never felt closer to Our Savior than we have since then. We truthfully never asked why... but what's next. We felt and still feel the overwhelming grace by God in all circumstances.

I didn't know then what it was we were feeling isolated from until a couple months ago. The strong sense of empty came from not being in community with other families that were currently or have went through a long term NICU stay because of a premature baby. I know there are many... MANY babies born early and need a few days in the care of these special doctors and nurses. Walking out of the hospital without your baby is one of the worst things imaginable and too many of you have had to do that for some reason or another. But walking through the hospital doors 252 times without your baby in your arms is heartbreaking. You just want to talk with someone who feels the same thing. Someone who truly knows what that emptiness feels like. How buckling up in your car and seeing a vacant back seat brings you to tears, sometimes uncontrollable, nearly every time. How waiting for the doctor to come in and give you your babies daily report would make you weak in the knees.

To be very honest, in my previous healthy births of our three daughters, I never gave one thought of the NICU. I never really knew what it meant even when other friends had their babies in the NICU for weeks. I never understood what that looked like... what that felt like. I didn't give it a second thought and for those friends who experienced this; and for that I am absolutely sorrow filled and sorry. I was not a good friend. I didn't understand.

The NICU was our second home for 84 days this summer. From May 4th until July 26th, we spent most of our days there, in Anchor's room, learning his care and holding him every chance we got; waiting for his daily schedule of tests and therapies, getting through one hour at a time and gradually being able to breathe easier as the days went on. Being exhausted but full of hope.... and lonely.

The way our NICU is set up is genius. There are private rooms for each baby and also rooms for sets of twins and triplets, so you have privacy to talk with your doctors and nurses, hold your baby, cry, laugh, pray, read, sing and cry some more. I loved that when I had to pump every 2 hours, I could do that comfortably. I loved that when we had family visit, we could have a quiet conversation. I loved that we could have our little family in there together before Avin would get too rambunctious and not share that space or time with anyone else.

But, the one downside to having private rooms, is that the only rare moments to meet other families with babies in the NICU, was walking through the hallway (we were in the first room so we barely saw other babies or families) or when we were waiting in line to wash our hands and arms upon entering the NICU. We needed a tribe. We needed people to talk with about everything.

Fortunately, we had a precious nurse who sat and cried with us and shared her journey with us as she was once in the same shoes as us. Until that moment, we didn't know anyone who would understand our feelings. Tiffany, you are an angel. Thank you.

We knew we needed to reach out and share our story. We knew we had to let others in our room... in our hearts. We met the sweetest couple who had the tiniest little girl who had lungs of a champ down the hall. We met the sincerest newlywed couple who had a little warrior that was proving God's amazing work. We said goodbye for now and congrats to two little girls who had grown big and strong and headed home with their families after several weeks of living the NICU life. Before we were discharged in July, we met an adorable couple with twin girls who were fighting like crazy and showing God's grace every hour.

The conversations we had with these families helped shape what is about to come. We need each other. We need to know that we are not alone and so does every family that has an extended stay, waiting for their precious child's daily report. We need to show them we care and most of all because we were there.

That's where Anchored Hope came from. Joel and I have spent several nights praying and planning what this looks like. We don't know exactly how it will work but we know it's what we need to do.

But first things first. If you are a NICU family in the Missoula area or spent many days in the the NICU in Missoula, we have created a facebook parent support group today. Please search 'Missoula NICU Parents' and add yourself. If you know of anyone who fits this group, please share this info. We need each other. We need to share our ups and downs, praise and prayer requests, during and beyond the NICU. We need this community. We need each other who understand each other.

But there is still more to come.....

To be continued......