TAGS 4 TOTS started from a need. A need to protect my nephew born with a heart defect. Grew with the premature birth of my niece and nephew and became my lifelong mission with the birth of my own preemies.
7 years ago, my family gathered around the delivery room awaiting the birth of the first grandchild (my nephew). After an easy pregnancy and a normal delivery Carter was born and quickly rushed out of the room to be monitored due to breathing rapidly. Come to find out he had a hole in his heart. A VSD (hole in the bottom chamber of the heart). We were told that it was common and most clear up on their own. The following week Carter continued to have labored breathing and was having difficulty gaining weight. He went in for an echo and EKG and they said his hole was a decent size and that they would monitor him before deciding if he needed to have surgery. He had weekly echocardiograms until he was four months old. My sister-in-law was told that once he reached 11 lbs he would have open heart surgery.
She was told not to let him get sick due to his already difficult breathing. Can you imagine if the doctor told you your son's life was in jeopardy if they got sick? As a family, we were devastated. We rallied behind them giving all the love and support we could. I wanted to do something that would take some stress off of my sister-in-law and brother. That is when I created a sign that would hang on his car seat that said "...please ask mommy and wash your hands or use sanitizer before touching me."
Finally when he was five months old he was at the proper weigh and at the hospital the day before the surgery they found a second hold in his heart, an ASD ( a hole in the upper chamber of the heart). The next day he had surgery and they were able to successfully repair both holes and he is a healthy 7 year old boy!
My sister introduced me to Etsy and Pinterest and suggested that I start to sell them there. Tags 4 Tots was started!
3 years ago my same sister-in-law and brother welcomed twins! A little girl named Anna and a boy named Brooks. They were born a couple weeks premature and weighed in a little over 4 lbs. Little Brooks just got a cold from someone and his temperature dropped instead of raising (which is a symptom of your body going septic from an infection). Thankfully, he got the proper care and is now a healthy 4 year old! That was the inspiration behind the "I'm a Preemie, your germs are too big for me" sign. Soon after that, I was introduced to the term of Micro Preemie (a baby born before 26 weeks) and was asked to create a tag especially for them.
In 2015 I was blessed to marry the love of my life. His name is Josh. He is my best friend. We dated for 6 years before we got married. He has been there for me every step of the way. He watched it go from a hobby making the signs all by hand in my apartment to a great after-work job that gave me some spending money. He even got me a duplex printer (prints on both sides) for my birthday one year. Not going to lie, secretly I wasn't too happy with that. It did wind up saving me a lot of time.
My husband and I didn't have any trouble getting pregnant and my pregnancy was a normal one. Only had morning sickness but no symptoms of anything ever being wrong. After a little back pain and multiple trips to the ER one night, we welcomed our Son Harrison 10 weeks early. It was a traumatic birth. (You can read the story here). I was angry. Angry with God. Angry that I didn't get to take my baby home from the hospital with me. Angry that we had to sit there and watch his heart rate drop and his breathing stop. It was a rough time in our life. I was making signs for Preemies about not touching and then God decided to give me my own preemie. I think God gave me my preemie to give me more of a connection to my customers. I've been there. I know how you are feeling. It is hard but you will get through it.
I stayed by my son pretty much all day for our 70 day NICU stay. I enjoyed taking pictures of him, holding him, feeding him and writing down every single weight checks. That is when I thought about Milestone cards to celebrate all the little milestones he was accomplishing. His NICU stay inspired our milestone cards. I wished I would have had them for all his milestones.
Our son was so awesome that around when he was 10 months old we thought it would be a great time to try for another! Once again, we were blessed to get pregnant pretty fast. It was early, but we planned on telling our family at Christmas. I set up a little photoshoot where he was sitting with a santa hat naked with his butt to the camera and a chalkboard sign that said that he had ask Santa for a brother or sister. Unfortunately, not long after I took that photo we lost the baby. At the time we did not mention this to anyone. We waited a month and tried again. Luckily after a couple of tries we were pregnant again! Everything was going good and Harrison's 1st birthday party was coming up. We went with a dinosaur theme because he loved this dinosaur toy. I found a t-shirt that said "We're hoping its a dinosaur" That was going to be the way we told our family. We had another setback when I lost the baby again. Ironically it happened on Harrison's first birthday. This time I was really devastated. I had plans for this baby, we had names we liked and there was a future we saw. We are blessed to go to a Catholic hospital that values life and they buried our fetus, our child in their cemetery. I was devastated, still am. I got this necklace as a way of keeping my babies with me at all time. It has really helped me get through it. I purchased it off of Etsy.
We waited a couple months after that and I prayed to God to give us the child that we have been praying for. Once again we got pregnant pretty easy when we started trying but I started bleeding a couple weeks in. I just knew I was going to loose this one too. I went in had some blood work done to confirm that I was pregnant and then had a really early ultrasound. I knew instantly what I saw. Two sacks! It felt as though God was giving me my two babies back that we lost. As we do not have any natural twins on my side of the family we were pretty shocked. They say that your chances of having twins after a miscarriage is increased. A funny thing is, I remember praying to God when I was pregnant with my first baby to have God show me how many babies I was going to have. He clearly showed me 3. I truly believed that I was pregnant with triplets with my first one that I was shocked when they said there was only 1 in there. Turns out I need to be more specific in my prayers and ask how many babies am I going to have now, lol.
This time around I was really nervous about having preemies again. My doctor put me on the Makena shot which is supposed to help with preterm labor. It has not been proven effective with twins but we gave it a chance.
My water broke with the girls when I was 34 weeks. It is amazing to see the difference between 30 and 34 weeks. The things we had to worry about with Harrison we never had with the Girls. It was still a long NICU stay for us but now we had the NICU milestone cards to pass the time with.
Meanwhile, Tags4Tots was slowly growing. With the birth of the twins, my husband suggested that I quit my job and try and build up the business. I just love how much he believes in me.
This is an update that I have put off writing because it would make it to real. On July 16, 2018 we got the worst news parents could ever receive, "Harrison has leukemia." Our perfect world crashed that day. He was diagnosed with High Risk B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. You can read the entire diagnosis story here. We wake up every day and we fight. We fight to get back the life our rambunctious 2 year old had. Your continued prayers are needed and much appreciated!
Now, Tags4Tots can be found in the US, Canada, UK and Australia! I love connecting with other mommas out there with the need to protect their little one from unwanted illnesses. Thank you for supporting my small business! It means a lot to me.
I believe that God has a purpose for your pain. A reason for your struggles and a reward for your faithfulness. Don't Give Up!