Monday, October 06, 2014

Nica News & Details!

So, exciting news:

I (TJ) have recently accepted a position with an organization called Palmetto Medical Initiative as the Regional Director for Central America, and will be moving with Holly and the kiddos to Managua, Nicaragua in the coming months! I know… crazy, right?!

But, then again, you’re probably not too surprised… ‘cause you know us better than that.

Many of you will know that I’ve just finished a Master’s in International Development from Eastern University. It was a great experience and prepared me well to be involved in lots of different kinds of developing-world ministries. The organization I will be working for, PMI (Palmetto Medical Initiative), is an innovative, faith-based non-profit dedicated to developing excellent, sustainable primary medical care in impoverished communities all over the world. Though I’m no doctor or nurse, I have seen countless times how access to medical care changes the life of a person and the future of an entire community. My role with PMI will be to oversee the establishment, sustainability, and expansion of their programs and medical clinics in Nicaragua and eventually, into the rest of Central America.

I have really enjoyed my work coordinating mission teams and teaching with Lipscomb University in Nashville. Although Holly and I will really, really miss our friends and family, this new position is a great opportunity to use our passion for Latin America and experience in developing communities to help PMI achieve a lasting impact for the Kingdom of God.

As for the family, we are thrilled about jumping into this new adventure together. Holly has already investigated the availability of Dr. Pepper in Managua, and TJ is pumped to try the Nicaraguan version of Cheetos. The kids are learning to say NIC-A-WAGWA, and are giddy at the idea that everyone there will talk like Dora and Diego.

OK. Here’s the timeline: I will move down November 5th to get set up. During that time, Holly and the kids will have a blast in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Both sets of grandparents live there, and with so many hands eager to help with the kiddos, it's Holly's personal version of Disneyland. I will come back for the holidays, then we'll all move to Nicaragua in January. 

We’ll have a guest room at our house in Managua, and Nicaragua has awesome beaches just a short drive from us. Come on down and learn how to surf with me! Or, just be there to laugh at/with me as I try. PMI has regular volunteer medical/mission trips to supplement the clinic’s work in community outreach, and I’d love for some of you to join up and serve with us at some point. You don't even have to fly. You just drive south… and keep on going. And going.

It's really tough to leave Nashville after nine great years of being surrounded by friends and family. But this is exactly the type of opportunity and ministry we have been preparing and praying for. And we will stay in touch. We can FaceTime! Skype! Viber! (Or, whatever the cool kids are into these days.)

Anyway - love you guys. How many breakfasts and coffees and lunches and dinners and church services and memories can we fit into the next 30 days? Let’s see.


TJ and Holly

Monday, August 08, 2011

Welcome, Ian Thomas! Welcome, Isla Jane!

{begin note from 2014} We are currently in the process of moving from Nashville to Nicaragua, and it's going really well. I started to post an update about that, but... it totally bugs me that the previous blog post was a few days before the twins were born, in 2011. I feel like I can't tell this story without telling that story, first. And the story of the day they were born - how do you capture something so... everything, all at once? So I've never written it out, and it kind of became this blog-juggernaut. So without further ado, I'll just write what I remember. {end note from 2014}
Ian & Isla's original due date was October 6th. On July 28th, at my 28 week ultrasound, my doctor noticed that Ian's umbilical cord might be decreasing in function. He sent me over to the maternal-fetal specialists for their opinion, and they agreed that it was worth keeping a close eye on. So I was admitted to the hospital, but not on bedrest or in labor - they just monitored the babies' heartbeats twice a day, and did an ultrasound every 3-4 days. 

The day I was admitted to the hospital, we also bought a house and sold a house and started a two week kitchen/bath remodel on our new house. TJ had just started working in the missions department at Lipscomb, and he came to the hospital every day after work. We would eat dinner together, and look at pictures of how the remodel was going, and listen to the babies heartbeats, and enjoy our view of downtown Nashville, and chat with the awesome staff at Baptist Hospital - it was just a really sweet time. TJ had a place to stay, since our house was under construction, and we rested much easier knowing that I was in the hospital, and help was right there if we needed it. I had a blast during the days, going through lots of lovely baby gifts, and watching Glee on Netflix, and writing thank you notes, and planning for our new life in our new home with our new babies. 

When I was admitted to the hospital, they gave me steroid shots to help the babies' lungs develop in case they came early. Then our goal was to make it to 30 weeks. Once we made it 30 weeks, our next goal was 32 weeks, and then 34. At 34 weeks, they were definitely going to go ahead and deliver the babies. All of the babies' tests and monitoring were going so well, the doctors began to wonder if the problem with Ian's umbilical cord was actually there, or just something they couldn't see clearly with the machines. So we were sort of in this Baptist Hospital induced bliss, where we never really expected the babies to arrive for several more weeks.

On Monday morning, August 8th, Dr. Bellardo came in for his rounds at 7am. (HOW are doctors so awesome and dedicated? I had no idea they did hospital rounds before office hours.) He said I was at 31 weeks, everything was going well, and we were hopefully on track to deliver the babies at 34 weeks - towards the end of August. I usually went right back to sleep until 9 or 10 am, then showered around noon - basically just did whatever I wanted. But for some reason, I decided to go ahead and start my day. I took a shower, put on clean clothes (read: pajamas), and waited for them to take me for my scheduled ultrasound that morning.

My ultrasound went really well. I loved talking with the ultrasound techs, and seeing the babies move around. We could see that Isla had hair, but they couldn't tell if Ian had any (spoiler alert: he did not). I remember the ultrasound tech saying she was going to let the maternal-fetal specialist know about one of the measurements she was taking, but that it shouldn't be a big deal. She wheeled me back down to my room, and I started working on my thank you notes again. I had missed a call from TJ - he was in an off-campus meeting all day, and his phone didn't get good reception in the room he was in. I texted him to let him know that the ultrasound went well, and they weren't seeing signs of low function in Ian's umbilical cord. I texted him at 10:53am. (Spoiler alert #2: the babies would be born about an hour later.)

As soon as I sent the text, a nurse walked back into my room and said the doctor wanted to have a look at the ultrasound herself. The wheeled me back down to ultrasound, and Dr. Graves (my very favorite of the maternal-fetal specialists) rechecked the readings. She said that it was nothing to be alarmed or concerned about, but she did feel like Ian's umbilical cord function was truly beginning to decrease. She thought it best to deliver the babies that day, even though I was only at 31 weeks, 4 days. I had a hard time processing what she was saying - I think she said, "Today's the day you're going to become a mom," or something like that. All I could think to ask was, "What day is it?" I knew it was around my brother's birthday - August 9th - and I was wondering if the twins would be born the same day. When they said it was August 8th, I just remember thinking, "I guess they won't have the same birthday as Bret." I have noooooo idea why these were the thoughts that popped into my head.

I remember Dr. Graves saying that the babies would be born that day, but it was not an emergency - it would probably be later that afternoon, or early evening. So I should let TJ know to be on his way, but to be sure and tell him not to speed. They wheeled me back down to my room, and told the nurses the big news. I remember wanting to ask if the babies would be okay, but I was afraid they would only be able to give me a vague answer, and I just couldn't stand to hear that.

I called TJ once or twice, and he didn't answer. I think I put on some makeup (???) while I waited for him to call me back. I didn't hear back from TJ right away - he was at that all day meeting, so it didn't concern me too much. I gave Moriah Farmer a call, since she was on campus at Lipscomb, and near where TJ's meeting was being held. I didn't get ahold of her either, so I called Julie Woodroof, the admin for the missions department. (And dear friend, and wife of Tim, whom I'd worked on staff with at Otter Creek.) I told her the babies were going to be born that day, and asked if she could phone the message to TJ. Julie said she'd drive over and let TJ know right away. I said that absolutely was not necessary. She said it absolutely was.

As I hung up the phone, a literal swarm of people streamed into my room. At least 8 nurses and techs and anesthesiologists and I have no idea who else. They said that they were taking me to deliver the babies right away. I said, "Oh, no - Dr. Graves said it wouldn't be for several hours." And they said, "It's happening now." I was maybe a little bit confused about why it was all happening so quickly, but... it was all happening so quickly I didn't have time to think about it! The medical team was absolutely amazing, and they worked together all at once. They got me into an OR gown, started an IV in one hand, explained procedures and had me sign consents with the other hand, tugged compression stockings onto my legs, and wheeled me out of my room in a matter of minutes. They kept asking where my husband was, which I thought was weird. I kept thinking... "He's on his way. He'll be here. They would never deliver the babies without the father being here - that only happens in the movies." Just as we rolled up to the OR, and it really started to sink in that this was really happening now, I sent a quick text to TJ. I had a second of panic where I thought, "Ohmygosh what if he doesn't make it in time"? And then I saw him running down the hallway towards me, and I knew everything was going to be okay.

Except I had not read one THING about pregnancy or delivering babies or C-sections. I know most people read a ton about all of that stuff, but it just felt really overwhelming to me. There is just so much information out there, and I didn't want to go down a lot of worst-case-scenario routes. So it made more sense to me to take everything a day at a time. And I thought I had a LOT more time before the babies were born. (And probably I was in a teeny-tiny bit of denial that two tiny humans were about to join our family. From the moment we found out we were expecting twins, everything felt very surreal.)

I was really afraid they would start the C-section while I could still feel everything, because they seemed in such a hurry to get the babies out. They did whatever procedure they do numb you for a C-section. I was afraid that it would hurt, but it really didn't. And then all of the sudden I was on the operating table, and TJ was in scrubs, standing right beside me. Dr. Bellardo was there, and rolled something across my belly to see if I was numb yet. I'm pretty sure I said very emphatically that I could still feel it - I have NO idea why I was so scared that they were going to start before I was numb. Dr. Bellardo told me a little bit about what they were going to do, but mostly I just remember him directing the nurses. 

I still wanted to ask if the babies would be okay, but I was too afraid I would hear a vague answer. So I just tried to prepare myself that maybe they wouldn't cry right away, but that necessarily didn't mean that they wouldn't grow to be healthy. We knew the babies were about 3lbs each, which is not micropreemie, but is still 2 months early. We had done a tour of the NICU with a Baptist multiples class a few weeks before, so I felt great about the care they were about to receive.

The babies were delivered very quickly - Baby A, Ian, at 12:04pm. He cried - a tiny, loud, absolutely infuriated and pathetic cry. Baby B, Isla, born in the same minute - 12:04pm. She cried - a tiny, loud, absolutely infuriated and pathetic cry. They were here, and breathing, and our world shifted around us. So fast and surreal and beautiful and absolute, I think we're still trying to wrap our heads around it.

The nurses held Ian up to my face so I could see him for a second, and a quick kiss. Same thing for Isla - a quick peek, and a quick kiss. We don't have any pictures of those first moments, just a video.


TJ went with the babies to the NICU, and he said it was an incredible thing, to watch the teams of doctors and nurses assess and care for these brand-new beings. I went to recovery for a few hours, and TJ would come in and show me pictures and videos of the twins. I was absolutely reeling from what had just happened, and trying to process that I wasn't going to finish season 2 of Glee that day, after all. I was still numb, and shaking. And there was someone else in recovery, on the other side of the curtain from me. She had her baby with her, and I remember thinking, "I know I should probably feel jealous that she's getting to hold her baby, and I don't know when I'll get to hold mine. But I'm shaking uncontrollably, and I don't feel that great, so I'm really glad someone else is taking good care of them right now. I'll just focus on trying to stop shaking, and moving to my room, when it comes time."

After a few hours, they moved me to my room, and wheeled the bed into the NICU so I could see the babies on the way. There were so many people around, and I felt so out of it. And the babies were so tiny, with lots of tubes and wires. I didn't really feel scared - by now we knew the babies were stable. I just felt sort of disconnected from it all. The nurses told me I could reach over and touch the babies, and I did. I remember thinking it should feel very momentous, but I just felt sooooo out of it. They wheeled me up to my room, and I slept for about 12 hours. 

Around midnight, TJ and I were able to go back down to the NICU, and see the babies again. It was really calm, and sweet. We knew the twins' nurse, Meggie Bumpus - she had been a part of the college group at Otter Creek while TJ was the young adults minister there. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see Ian & Isla sleeping peacefully in the NICU, and to know that someone we knew was going to take extra-extra special care of them. It was a lovely first visit with our marvelous son and captivating daughter.

Our families arrived around midnight, as well - they drove in from Oklahoma as soon as they heard the babies were on the way. I think they stopped in to see me, but I don't remember it clearly. I remember thinking, "I know who these people are, and I know they are important to me, and something important has just happened, but I reallllly need to go back to sleep. I think our families got to see the babies that night, but I'm not sure.

TJ's sister, Mickey, was also there when the babies were born. And Blake and Moriah. And Janet Crothers. They were in the waiting room, and (I think) they decorated our room with "Happy Birthday" banners for the twins. I never got to seem them that day, but TJ did. And I think they were able to see the babies, too.

The next morning - Tuesday, August 9th - I felt MUCH better. I was still in a wheelchair most of the day, but was able to take a shower and get dressed. We celebrated with our families, and visited the babies several times. And I tried to wrap my mind around our new normal. I remember a lactation consultant stopped by, and briefly showed me how to use the pump, and said I would need to pump every 3 hours. I remember thinking, "There is no way I will have time for that. I have way too much to do. That is crazy to think that someone could do that every 3 hours." Little did I know... I would indeed have to make time for that! And I was about to start factoring the eating/sleeping needs of two tiny humans in to allllll of my minutes, not just every 3 hours. I definitely couldn't have imagined how much I would enjoy that. The constancy is relentless, but... mostly, I revelled in the newborn days/daze.

It was about a week before we were able to hold the babies, but that never felt super-devastating to me. It all just felt very gradual and right, and we learned to care for them well from the beginning. The NICU nurses NEVER made us feel like we didn't know what we were doing. And we could visit as often and as long as we wanted, which was wonderful. Knowing that Ian and Isla were doing well, and healthy, and just needed a few weeks to grow stronger was a great joy. I'd heard so many people talk about how difficult it can be to have a baby in the NICU, but we had a wonderful experience. We were so very thankful that Ian and Isla were with us, and healthy, and had access to such great care - there just wasn't any room for sadness. It was also awesome for me to have a few weeks to recover, and get moved in to our house before we brought them home.

We loved getting to know Ian & Isla as they grew stronger in the NICU - holding them, and changing their diapers, and giving them baths - learning to swaddle them, and doing bottle feeds, and eventually even dressing them in real clothes. We loved visits from friends, and the special blankets from Carol Reese, and the name banner above their beds from Moriah. Every little milestone was sweet and somehow a surprise. And then one day... it was time to take them home

We walked out of the doors of Baptist Hospital on Friday, September 2, 2011 as a family of four. (They had tried to tell me earlier that week that the twins were almost ready to go home, but it was Labor Day weekend. And I thought, "Oh, there's no way they'll send them home over the weekend - it's a holiday weekend." I just... had no idea.) We strapped our tiny kiddos into their carseats, and drove down West End to Panera. TJ got me a cinnamon crunch bagel with hazelnut cream cheese, and a Dr. Pepper. And we toasted the safe arrival and homecoming of our favorite-people-ever. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011


Oh, no. Amanda Mankin, what have you done?! Now we REALLY can't wait to meet these baby twins. Is this really what life looks like as we wait for Ian & Isla to join our family?!

(Thanks to TJ McCloud for the sweet surprise-happy-2nd-trimester-Twins-shirt. And Summer Millican for the super-hot maternity capris. Oh! And Linda Zelnik for the manicure/pedicure gift card! And Kara Graves for hanging out at their pool while I worked on my tan! And Elijah Norman for coining the phrase "baby twins!" And Ian & Isla for being so cute! And most of all, to Amanda Mankin, for making a pregnant-with-twins gal look glamorous.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Hotel Baptist

So what have the cutest yet-to-be-born babies on the planet been up to this week? Just hanging out at the hospital, kicking away, passing all their tests with flying colors and showing off their sweet profiles in ultrasounds.

We've been at Baptist for a week, and everything is going better than expected. I'm 31 weeks along, and showing no signs of preterm labor. The doctors continue to monitor the twins' growth, and keep a close eye on Ian's umbilical cord function. They didn't expect it to improve, but it has, and the doctors are very pleased. We'll still be in the hospital until delivery, which will likely be between Aug 11-25. The babies will need some time in the NICU - maybe 2-4 weeks.

The thing is... we can't help feeling thrilled and incredibly grateful. We are so thankful the doctors caught this umbilical cord issue. And we couldn't be in a more comfortable, competent hospital. I keep thinking I'm on a cruise (minus the laying out by the pool, plus fetal heartrate monitors and consults from excellent doctors). I can't believe how very dedicated the doctors and nurses are to caring for us, and monitoring the babies closely so they have time to mature in utero. Access to this level of healthcare is truly humbling.

We're also amassing quite a library of ultrasound pics, and we love looking at them. I'll see if I can post a few from the hospital... (You are not even going to be able to stand it. They are so cute!)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

By the way...

... we're having twins! And they shall be called: Ian & Isla. Ian Thomas, and Isla (eye-lah) Jane. They're due mid-September, but it looks like they'll make their debut a few weeks early, due to an issue with Ian's umbilical cord.

We met with several doctors today, and received lots of good news! I have also ordered lots of delicious food from room service (room service!) and am starting to think I will never want to leave the hospital.

The doctors have noticed an issue with baby Ian's umbilical cord. It's attached in a difficult place - at the edge of the placenta, instead of in the middle. It doesn't seem to be functioning as well as it should. He's still growing, and within a normal size range, so all they can do is keep an eye on his heartrate, blood flow, and growth. So that's why I'm in the hospital - so they can monitor those vitals. I feel great, and the babies are doing great!

Ian is (almost) 3 pounds, and Isla is 3.5. I'm at 30.5 weeks, and the doctors would like to make it 32 weeks, if Ian continues to do well. At 34 weeks (Aug 25), they will definitely deliver the babies. Making it to those milestones would reduce the amount of support they would need from the NICU.

The ultrasound from today looked better than yesterday, which was unexpected, and great news. They may still keep me here for monitoring until delivery. That seems to be the option my doctor is most in favor of, unless he sees dramatic improvement in Ian's umbilical cord function. Dr. Bellardo is consulting with the maternal-fetal group who specializes in cord issues, so we have an excellent team of doctors and nurses taking care of us!

We really are doing well - I feel great, and have tons of books, movies, paint/tile/fabric samples & baby registries to keep me busy. I'm at Baptist, and visitors are totally welcome - just call or text before you come - they take me for ultrasounds often, and I wouldn't want to miss you! TJ might need some help getting the nursery ready, or maybe an easy meal or two. Just call or text him if you're in the mood for manual labor...

We are so excited to meet these sweet babies that we're already in love with. And we're excited to introduce them to all of you! Thank you for you love, thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Headed to the DR/Haiti

Friends and Family,

My former mission team, Manna Global Ministries, has opened a supply chain from Santo Domingo to Port-Au Prince, supplying materials, and food to 200 or so church members now fed and sheltered out of Sonlight Children’s Home. They are also supplying medical triage units that they have set up in the area of PaP under the direction of Brad Gautney.

They have supplies right now, but not enough reliable, trustworthy personnel to drive them over the border into Haiti, since the trucks/cargo are priceless right now. It is a fourteen hour trip from Santo Domingo and back. The borders are open, and are easily crossable right now, which is not always the case, and won’t be for long, so they want to take full advantage of the opportunity to get as many supplies as possible into Haiti.

Because of this time-sensitive situation, they have asked me and my former teammate Cory Lamb to fly in tomorrow and make supply trips, relieving the few people they have right now who can drive the truck, speak Spanish and basic Kreyol, and negotiate the culture/graft/craziness that getting this stuff across the Border could represent.

I plan to leave at 6:30 am tomorrow, Jan. 20th and meet Cory in Puerto Plata, where we will join the Manna team and head to Santo Domingo to begin making three or four trips to Haiti and back. I plan on returning Thursday, Jan. 28th.

Please pray for safety for myself and the rest of the Manna Team as we rush to try and get these crucial supplies to the people who need them most.

For information and updates, check my blog,, or follow @tjmccloud on Twitter. I’m not sure how accessible cell coverage will be, but will try to keep everyone in the loop.

If you would like to help financially with my travel expenses, contact

Thank you all for your support for me and for the people of Hispaniola,

TJ McCloud

cell: (615)479-1772

"The World can't stand what It can't own, and It can't own you 'cause you did not have a home" - Rich Mullins

Friday, October 24, 2008

Three letter word: J O B S !!!!

While we obviously haven't been working hard on our blogs lately, we are working hard; as we are now both officialy gainfully employed! (cue cheering and applause)

With just a few weeks of being stateside under our belts, we have both landed jobs that we are really excited about.

Holly is working at Catholic Charities, and is a Care Coordinator for the Bridges to Care program. Basically, she helps uninsured patients get connected with clinics and doctors who will bill on a sliding scale. It's a great program and Catholic Charities has an amazing track record for service to underserved communities. She is working in a mostly hispanic area of town, where she gets to use her Spanish all the time. Perfect, huh?

I (TJ) have been hired as the Young Adult and Spiritual Development Minister at the Otter Creek Church. Basically, I'll be working with our College, Singles, and Young Married's groups.I am really passionate about getting people connected to a church body during these three key transitional times. We are also really excited to be working for OtterCreek, where we were members before we left,and one of the churches that supported us so well while we were in the Dominican.

Life is still pretty topsy-turvy, as we get used to being in the flow of American style worklife, and look for a place to live (rent? buy? pitch a tent?). We miss our friends (the little and the big ones) in the Dominican, and we haven't gotten used to the cold weather, but we love being near our Nashville friends, and are already looking forward to our first Thanksgiving with family in two years!