Did you know you're not suppose to take a newborn to a high altitude town? I didn't and by the time I booked the trip, I started to wonder if we'd have to leave Trax at home. He was two months old and I was curious what his altitude sickness would be like.
I did a little research and babies under three months old, don't have strong enough lungs to combat high elevations. However, a quick call to my doctor assured me that as long as we made our way to Estes slowly and slept at a hotel under 8,000 feet, he'd be just fine. With that info, we hit the road to Colorado.
After juggling the NICU for 20 days and bringing our new baby home, we were ready for a weekend away. The apartment was closing in on us and I barely traveled when I was pregnant. A tiny road trip was exactly what our hearts needed.
Despite having piles of homework, we went anyway. If I waited until I had nothing to do, I'd be traveling a lot less. When I work on an assignment or two, then go out and see the city, I'm 10x more grateful for the experience. I've been doing this for a few years now and it helps me travel during the week frequently, when hotel rates are much lower! If you wanna read about how I save on travel, check out this post.
It was November, so it was little chilly. The air felt great though. My bones felt the cold and it was nice to breathe without thinking, "Will Trax ever get out of this hospital?" The drive was about eight hours and Trax was an angel. He loves the car. It's likely he slept the whole time, lol! The process of getting hot water from gas stations for his food, was actually a lot easier than I imagined too. He is the perfect lil travel buddy!
I did quite the research, before we picked a hotel. I wanted something that would be safe for Trax, but also have breakfast. There are so many choices in Estes! Normally, I narrow down my options by ratings on Hotels.com. When I saw Hotel Estes, it just screamed "mountain hotel." The price came out to be around $115 a night with tax! Which was pretty dang good because I was in love with this place.
I'm a firm believer that there will be a place to stay in your price range, if you put effort in looking. Decide what you're willing to sacrifice and what items are a necessity for each vacation. If you plan on spending most of your time out on the town or walking trails, why do you need a $300 hotel?
Hotel Estes was perfect. I mostly loved it for its cozy outdoor space you see above and the fact that they had a separate room for the shower. I was able to do my hair in the morning by the sink/mirror and make Trax's bottle, all while Trey showered. It worked insanely well.
The rest of the room was covered in wood, even the dresser for the tv and desk beside it. The log cabin feel was totally there. It made the time I spent doing homework bearable and cozy. To top it off, they had some pretty great coffee and we could see the mountains right outside our door :)
lake estes trail
This spot was the first we ventured to. It was such a nice open area right next to Lake Estes. I'd been in Estes ten years prior and I never remembered a lake, so that was fun to fall upon. The trail would be great for a morning walk. Plus, it was paved!
I spent most of my time here taking photos of the houses on cliffs. It was sweet because this trail was only a couple minutes from our hotel. Next time I'd love to walk down to the fishing pier and see what it's like. You can also take this trail all the way downtown to the riverwalk.
casa grande mexican restaurant
As you can imagine, it's a little harder to get out the door and to dinner with a baby, lol. However, we did manage to make it down to the riverwalk and find us some dope mexican food. It was busy and we did wait quite a bit for our food, but Casa Grande was pretty dang delicious. I ordered a breakfast burrito because I LOVE chorizo and they serve these things all day, so why not? I had a strawberry margarita too and it was fire.
Trax was quiet and chill the whole time, praise Jesus! We found this place when we were walking along the riverwalk. It was chilly, but this restaurant had big glass windows that overlooked the riverfront. I'm not sure I would advise walking this at night, but it was beautiful nonetheless. It just became a little creepy, but that was our fault going out at dark. By the time Trax is fed, the sun is usually down and we haven't started getting ourselves ready yet, lol. All in all, Casa Grande was a warm place to smash some chips and relax after writing papers most of the afternoon.
rocky mountain national park
Now, for our favorite part of the trip. Rocky Mountain National Park. While we were in Estes, we hit this park three times. Once around sunset, sunrise and mid morning. Every time was a sweet dream. There was snow on the trees. Lakes glimmered half frozen. The cold was tolerable and our lil newborn slept in the backseat for every turn.
Most of the time when you go to a national park before sunrise or after sunset, you get in free. I always forget about this perk and it's become a fun surprise. This doesn't happen at every park, but it's worth checking out before you pay the fee!
If you plan on hitting three parks over the course of a year, it might be smart to invest in an America the Beautiful pass. I bought mine at Grand Teton for $80, but you can also snag one online for $90. Concerning Rocky Mountain, a one day pass is $25 and a seven day pass is $35.
So, if you were to visit three parks in 2020 for $105 total ($35 each), ultimately an America the Beautiful pass would be cheaper. This pass gets you into every national park! While we were in Estes, we only paid once to get in, which was around mid morning.
Ugh, driving around this park was the best. We couldn't get out much because we had Trax, but Trey and I took turns wandering around outside. One of my favorite stops was Sprague Lake. It had a wooden bridges, towering pine trees, and snow covered peaks bordering the lake. The first time, I saw it at sunset and it melted my heart. Also, the walk up to the lake is just as pretty as the lake itself. Something straight out of a movie. Did I mention there is little hiking involved? There's a parking lot right next to the lake.
As we made our way back to Nebraska, we stopped in Julesburg, where they have one of the "Welcome to Colorado" signs. Back in 2017, Trey and I went to Colorado with a group of friends to see Juicy J. At the time we were just best friends, but somehow ended up dancing together at the concert. On the way home, we rode in separate cars and texted each other songs to listen to.
A few people were saying how Trey totally liked me and I just didn't see it, lol. We'd been hanging out since middle school and even dated once in 7th grade. He seemed like his standards were through the roof, so I never really thought we'd end up together. Although that night, I decided to ask him anyway if he liked me. His response was, "Yeah kinda, I guess." Now Trey's pretty subtle, so this was something. Weeks later we were dating and talking about what we thought of each other all those years.
In 2017, we stopped at the Colorado sign too. We grabbed Subway and took a few pictures. A couple months ago when we went to Julesburg again, I cracked out the camera. We pulled Trax out of the car seat and took turns holding him next to the sign. The sky was clear and blue and there was a little chill in the air. Then we cleared the trash out of the truck, buckled the baby in, and Trey walked around a bit to stretch his back.
We wound up sitting in the grass talking about Trax's latest freak out. I stood up, turned around, and Trey said, "You know what would make this trip better?"
Pulls out the prettiest freakin ring I've ever seen. "If we were engaged."
For almost an hour I didn't tell anyone. I stared at my ring, played my favorite love songs, and thought about how cool it was that Trey proposed in the place where it all started.
This trip was such a sweet way to end 2019. It's so nice to think about now during all the crazy virus stuff. I hope y'all are staying safe and making the most of these cozy family days. You're gonna remember this weird spring season forever. What do you want to remember it for?
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I feel like I have a pretty unpopular opinion: I love c-sections. Throughout my pregnancy, I kinda just hoped for one. I didn't have to breathe a certain way. I didn't have to push. I didn't have to feel this so called "ring of fire."
I might sound insane, but I'd rather be knocked up with drugs and cut open. Plus, in Grey's Anatomy, it always looked like the more enjoyable route, lol. Anyway, the epidural felt like heaven and hearing Trax cry was the best thing ever. However, nothing could've prepared us for the next 20 days.
why he was admitted
He was five weeks early, so we knew we had a couple hoops to jump through. Although, the following days so many nurses said, "Oh he won't be in there long" or "He'll be out in a few days." Initially, they weren't wrong. Trax could breathe on his own and that was a big relief. In the beginning, he just needed help eating. The first two days, he used a feeding tube and when I was able to make milk, we were able to give him that.
Babies who are delivered earlier than 36 weeks, are automatically admitted to the NICU. Trax was 35, so after the c-section, he was taken down to the third floor, while I recovered on the fifth floor. My floor was pretty quiet for the most part, there were only a few new babies bonding with their mommas.
At first, it was a little lonely recovering without my sweet baby next to me. I would walk to the floor kitchen and see moms wheeling theirs around next to them. However, for being 35 weeks, Trax was fairly healthy and this is what I clung onto.
what the nicu is like
The nice part too, was that we were able to visit Trax quite a bit. In the beginning, they wanted him to sleep as much as possible, so he could continue growing. However, at every care time, we could come down and help feed him. Care times are when the NICU staff would normally change and feed him. This happens every three hours and at the same time everyday, to help Trax establish a routine.
When I was recovering, it didn't feel great to walk all the way down there. However, moving around that soon is probably what helped me heal so fast. After the c-section, I didn't feel terrible. I threw up a couple times, but then I was just like filled to the brim with joy. Yes, my baby was here! But moreso, I really didn't like being pregnant. I felt so restricted and could barely control how I spoke to people. It broke me.
Once Trax was out, I felt like a new girl. I maybe slept two hours total that night because I was so stoked to feel tiny again. It's crazy too, because I never imagined I'd be the person who cared that much. I think there is a difference though, in girls who are trying to get pregnant and those that are unplanned. I had nine months to prepare myself for body changes and somehow it wasn't enough.
In a sense, I don't think you can completely be ready for the mental journey pregnancy takes you through. I was used to praying about speaking nicely and not having to work hard at it. When I got pregnant, I could feel every negative attribute bubbling inside me and it was incredibly hard to dial down any emotion. So when that c-section happened, I was over the moon. If you're curious about my delivery story, you can read it here.
recovering from the c-section
That being said, that happiness carried me through the first week of Trax being in the NICU. In total, I stayed in my hospital room four days for recovery. It was difficult to sit up and my staples were a little creepy, but I was on a high so I was pretty thankful for how everything turned out. On day four, I had the option to move down to Trax's room and sleep there.
It was a little overwhelming. Before I went to see Trax that morning I asked the nurse when I had to be out of my room, so I could have everything together. She told me, "Oh no worries, take your time." When Trey and I were done with Trax, we went back up to my room and a new nurse was waiting for me on that floor.
She told me that someone had already collected most of my things and asked if I was ready to leave. I was caught totally off guard and she said there wasn't any hurry as she stood behind me while I packed the rest of my stuff, lol! Then another nurse helped us awkwardly push a cart outside to put stuff in Trey's car. Had a little cry that day in his car, as I was clutching three vases of flowers.
Back at the apartment, I unpacked my dirty laundry and shoved in some new outfits. I then filled my backpack with granola bars, textbooks, and the tiniest baby clothes we had. Once at the NICU, we pulled the single bed down from the wall and pushed my stuff in the corner. It was just a few days, right?
I decided I would stay because it felt time efficient. I needed to catch up on homework and driving home, would just cut into my free time. This way, I'd be there every three hours and could feed him during the night.
a glimpse at my day
A normal day would go like this: Change and try to feed Trax at 7:30 am. This meant spending an hour getting him to eat from a bottle. Once we tried for an hour, they'd give him the rest through a feeding tube. Around 9:00 I'd pump and be done around 10:00, because you have to wash, then store everything. From 10:00 to 10:30, I usually tried to sleep.
At 10:30, we'd do it again. Usually, I skipped pumping once a day, so I could run home and shower. They had a shower there on a different floor, but I found showering at our apartment to be the most peaceful part of my day. Most of the time, I only had a few extra minutes to drive thru somewhere and eat. The hospital food wasn't terrible, but once I had it for four days straight, I was kinda over it. That being said, my heart was a lil sad because I finally had my body back and couldn't eat how I wanted.
I knew this season wouldn't last forever, but as the days drug on, it only felt like we were moving backwards. My teachers were so sweet about my situation and gave me an extension, but I was still fighting each day to find an hour to do homework. When I would find the time, there would be someone new wanting to visit or doctors stopping in for rounds. Don't get me wrong, it's a dream watching every person you care about meet your little preemie, but it was tough making time for it.
new challenges arose
As Trax started to eat better, our hope grew wild. That was the main priority and the problem was close to solved. Although, the minute we praised his progress, we were met with five new issues he'd have to overcome before he could leave. He needed to stabilize his body temp and move out of his glass warming chamber, called an isolate. He needed to maintain a decent oxygen level, which dinged every second it declined. Little by little, I accepted that we would be here awhile.
Devos and Trey's goofy face made the circumstances 10x better. Since he had back surgery not long before and there was only a single bed, there was really no reason for him to stay. He'd come up and help feed Trax multiple times a day. It was so thoughtful and it gave me a chance to shower or catch up on a meal I missed. Lol, it was odd to begin raising a baby within the walls of a hospital, but it had its perks. I asked Trey to write a few words about his experience and this is what he sent:
"September 2019 was the worst/best month of my life. The goal was to heal and recover from my first back surgery before Trax came in October. Obviously that did not go as planned, so we had to adjust. The NICU was a very new experience for myself and Logan. We never even began to think about having him early, so the NICU was never in our concern. Throughout the 20 days I know Logan and I learned a lot about each other, and also got to see how to take care of our little guy. Through the beeping monitors and cords taped to Trax, September 9th was still the best day of my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything."
Since Trax was our first, it was nice to have nurses showing us how to do everything and know it was the best way. They were quick to include us and help us make the best of the situation. I even had a few nurses that didn't wake me up and fed Trax in the middle of the night for me. They were such sweet souls.
first night away from trax
On day 20, it sounded like we were still two weeks out. I missed my cozy sheets at home and sipping on coffee while chatting with T. At this point, the drive to and from the hospital were a blur. I remember mostly staring at the trees. There were so many trees. I would only play two songs too. Pouring and Gone Girl by Iann Dior. T showed me him and I never felt like playing anything else.
Day 21 came and I felt miserable when I woke up. I instantly got so nervous, I'm sleeping with a floor full of tiny babies. I fed Trax and went out to grab some medicine, hoping it was a minor thing. After a few hours I felt wrecked, so I tried to sleep it off at our apartment. Trey thankfully was able to stop by and feed Trax a few times. I made the decision to stay home overnight and see if I felt better in the morning. Most of the night I felt so bad for not being at the hospital.
It was around 7am when I got there the next morning. It was bizarre, one night at home magically made me feel stronger than ever and ready to help Trax do whatever to come home. As I walked into the NICU, our nurse popped up out of her chair. "Do you happen to have the car seat with you?!" I for real thought she was joking. The doctors were just saying how far he had to go. She told me to call Trey and I didn't believe it. There was a chance we could take him home!
To go home, Trax had to sit in his car seat for two hours without his oxygen level dropping too low. For the first couple minutes, Trey and I just stared at him, the monitor beeping on and off. If he was able to get his oxygen level back up within 30 seconds on his own, it wouldn't count against him. The nurse said it'd be best to leave during this time, so we wouldn't be stressed out glued to the monitor. After a bit, we decided to drive downtown to Bruegger's Bagels to kill time.
We knew if we got there and he was back in the crib, he didn't pass the test. As we walked in the room, his little body was still propped up in the car seat. Once the two hours was up, the nurse had to have a supervisor review the report, to see if he was strong enough to leave. After a while, she came back in smiling. We could take him home.
the drive home
Our days of hospital coffee and borrowed onesies were over. We collected our things as quickly as possible and made our way for the car. Since we'd been there awhile, we had both cars there. A nurse checked Trax's car seat and they were off. I picked up his new vitamins and met them at the apartment. It was the dirtiest it had ever been, but our lil boy was finally home, for good.
AH, it's done. The story is told. This took forever to write, but it felt healing. Thanks for stopping by to read about my lil family. Still bizarre to hold Trax without thinking about the five cords that used to be attached to him. We are so lucky.
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Most of my NICU photos were taken by my talented friend E. Beth. If you love her natural photography as much as I do, check out her stuff here!
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