Thursday, April 10, 2014

Firstborn's Birth Story

Today is Firstborn's birthday!  He was born at the "turn of the century", in the year 2000, so he is now 14 years old.  I haven't posted any of my birth stories so I'd better start with his.  Warning, this post is long and involves lots of newborn pictures and a NICU stay at the end.  It also took me a while to finish because all of these pics are before the digital camera era.  Which means, they all had to be gathered and scanned in!  But totally worth it in the end.  We did not get a digital camera until Christmas 2004, so all baby pictures before that are on actual film.

First pregnancy pic...and we
didn't even know we were expecting!
Doug and I had only been married six months when we found out we were expecting Firstborn.  My cycle had been late and I took a pregnancy test, which came back negative, and then my cycle started the next day.  That month I found myself battling weird "all day" sickness, which I wrote off as a stomach ulcer and was popping antacids like crazy at work.  My boss was out and I was really busy at work that summer, putting in tons of overtime.  I figured the stomach issues and extreme exhaustion were just stress related and things would calm down as soon as my work settled.  Three weeks later the light bulb moment came when Doug and I went to the movies one evening with a friend and he absolutely insisted that we swing by the Krispie Kreme that had just opened down the road.  When we opened the door the smell of the frying food about did me in.  I almost lost it right there and had to go back outside.  I realized there was no way an ulcer would have issues with the smell of food.

I was glad I had a spare pregnancy test from the month before and took it the next morning.  It turned surprisingly fast, I now know why they make those test results so easy to read because I was in such shock that I just kept looking from the test to the box and back again, rereading the results.  I happened to have an appointment set up for that morning with my OB/GYN and when I told him he just said "congratulations"!  I asked if he was going to run his own test and he replied "no, those tests are pretty reliable" (right, well my first one was not), but I guess false positives are pretty rare.  I told Doug that evening while we were on our way to buy his books for his next semester working on his MBA.  We were waiting in the drive-thru at McDonald's, and he casually asked how my doctor appointment had went.  I said, "well, I'm pregnant" and he thought I was joking!  I actually had to show him all the pregnancy pamphlets the doctor had given me before it sunk in for him.  Shocked, but happy.  He then said next time I should probably take him out somewhere a bit fancier than McD's before dropping something like that on him, haha!

Celebrating our 1st anniversary
5 months along with Firstborn
We excitedly told both our families, who were supper thrilled because he would be the first grandchild on both sides.  A week later I found myself in the E.R. when I started hemorrhaging.  We were blessed that the bleeding stopped and during the ultrasound we got to see his heartbeat!  Come to find out, I was not four weeks pregnant, but 9 1/2 weeks along.  My due date got moved from May 12 to April 19th.  That was one of the quickest months of pregnancy I've ever endured!

The rest of Firstborn's pregnancy was pretty textbook.  I remember feeling him move for the first time when we were driving up to visit Doug's brother and soon-to-be-wife, who were taking their engagement pictures that weekend.  We found out he was a boy at his 18 week ultrasound, which the snobby nurse thought we shouldn't be at because we were only "14 weeks along" according to my charts (which of course were inaccurate due to having two cycles while pregnant).  I tried to explain the charts were wrong and she rolled her eyes at me but said since I was there I might as well have the ultrasound.  Then she exclaimed "oh, you really are 18 and 1/2 weeks!"  Like I would lie about something like that?

9 months pregnant with Firstborn
A week before his birth I woke up around 4 a.m. on a Monday morning with contractions that I realized were coming every 20 minutes.  I had been dilated to a 3 at that weeks doctor's appointment and my due date was still over two weeks away.  After stupidly laying awake timing them I decided to get up and get ready for work to see if they went away.  They did, right after I ate breakfast (drat), so I had to go in to work.  The following Monday morning the same thing happened, my due date was 10 days away, and this time I decided to go back to sleep.  I figured the contractions would wake me up if they got serious and if not I didn't want to go to work tired again.  As I got up to get ready for work they got stronger and were still timeable, so I called in to say I *might* be in labor and stayed home.  I sent Doug in to his office, we lived about 45 min. away from the hospital.  Doug worked in the city and his office was not far from the hospital.  The contractions were not that strong and about 20 minutes apart, so I called my mom and sister to come stay with me.  At this point, I was still thinking that the contractions would eventually go away again and I didn't want us both to miss work over nothing.  I puttered around the house, packed my bag and the baby's bag (no, I'm a procrastinator and hadn't done that yet).  My sister Julie showed up first and she went on a walk around the neighborhood with me to see if I could get the contractions to pick up a bit.  This turned out to be a bad idea, halfway around the block I became exhausted and then had to walk uphill to get back home!  I rested a bit and started feeling better.  My mom and her friend Connie showed up and decided to work on the nursery decorating while Julie and I timed contractions.  They were starting to get distracting now, I had to walk and breathe through them, but still not too painful.  They mostly just felt like strong menstrual cramps.  My labor crew needed lunch and wanted to order Steak-Out and I didn't feel like eating at all.  After lunch they resumed trying to finish the nursery and I found that my attitude had started to change and their small talk was becoming annoying.  When Mom asked me a question and I snapped at her that I didn't care about the nursery they realized it was time to leave for the hospital.  Connie wished me luck while Julie and Mom loaded me into Julie's new mustang which she threatened me with bodily harm if my water broke in her car!  I sat on trashbags and towels, just in case.

After epidural!
We called Doug en route and he met us at the hospital.  I was still a bit disillusioned and thinking they would send me home because the contractions were not all that painful.  They were intense, and I had to concentrate through them, but not like what I was expecting.  When they checked me I was shocked to discover I was already 6 cent. dilated!  Doug asked the nurse what that meant, and she said, "well that means she's having the baby".  He asked if there was a chance we would be sent home and she just laughed and said "no way, not without the baby".

I remember I walked up to Labor and Delivery instead of riding in the wheelchair, pulling the stupid I.V. bag with me (should have lied about how much water I had drank that day).  Another doctor checked me and pronounced me at 7 cent.  He then asked if he could break my water...what?!  The nurses had called my doctor and apparently he had a "dinner engagement" (his words, not mine) that evening and if I wanted him to do the delivery I would need to have my water broken.  This was to be the worse decision we made, in the future I would never again consent to having my water broken because of it.  I trusted my doctor so I told them to go ahead and holy cow!!  Contractions got a whole h*ll of a lot more painful when the water barrier was taken away.  (Knowing my body as I do now, I imagine it sent me straight into transition too).  All of a sudden the contractions were overwhelming and I couldn't walk around at all because I was now gushing fluid and tied to the bed by the I.V. line.  It wasn't long (maybe three back to back to back contractions) before I was begging for pain relief.  The anesthesiologist arrived and had me lie on my left side, Doug was in front of me holding my hand while I was trying to hold onto my sanity and I remember I was panting and whispering to him (or God, maybe) to help me.  He responded "I am helping you" (not wise) because I then lost it and started yelling at him "YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME...IT STILL HURTS AND YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME"!!  I must have looked possessed because all the color drained from his face and he looked over my shoulder at the nurse who yelled at him to "tell her to breathe"!   So he got right in my face and yelled BREATHE!!  It must have worked because I remember giving him a really dirty look but started doing the he he he breathing thru my teeth.  The anesthesiologist told me it would probably take about 10 contractions for the epidural to kick in (TEN...on all that is holy, I couldn't imagine surviving three more, let alone ten)!!  {This is no longer the case, now the epidurals kick in almost immediately, they must have changed the formula}  Finally, blessedly, it started to work, but I was not totally pain free.  The anesthesiologist decided the pain was from my full bladder (stupid I.V. fluids) but the nurse was nowhere to be found.  Since the anesthesiologist couldn't leave until I was comfortable she decided to give me another dose of the epidural, right as my nurse walked in.  Again, not good, because now I was totally numb from the waist down.  When my doctor arrived and came to check me 10 minutes later I was fully dilated and could feel nothing to push so he decided to let me lay there and he'd be back in an hour to check me.

An hour later (still at a 10) I had enough feeling back to push and Firstborn was born 20 minutes later, at 7:20 in the evening, weighing in at 8 lbs., 1 oz.  He inhaled a bit of fluid so the pediatric doctors worked on him off to the side while the doctor stitched up a minor tear on me.  When I finally got to hold him he seemed really tired and his head and face were pretty swollen from being in the birth canal for so long.  I couldn't get him to nurse, he kept falling asleep on me.  Doug went with Firstborn to the nursery for all the stuff they needed to do while I was rolled up to my new room and given a sponge bath because I still could not feel my legs!

They brought me something to eat, and now I really was famished and inhaled my food.  It was getting late, so my parents and sister congratulated me again and headed home.  Nurses were coming in and out checking on me (legs were still numb, but the epidural was finally starting to wear off).  I started asking them for my baby.  When were they bringing the baby back from the nursery?  Doug was back, the details are a bit fuzzy, but I believe my sister or Dad went to relieve him at the nursery so he could come back and eat and they never brought Firstborn out of the nursery, so they eventually came back to the room.  Every nurse that came through said she would check and the baby should be back any minute and then she would never return to the room.  It had now been a couple hours, and Doug was about to go back to the nursery when the pediatric cardiologist walked in.  He told us that Firstborn was in the N.I.C.U., that he had been born with a heart condition, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which basically means his heart was misfiring and that it was beating twice as fast as it should.  We were also told the normal protocol the hospital does to correct SVT did not work on Firstborn.  We were then told that they injected him with a drug to stop his heart and then injected him with another one to restart it to fix the issue.  (If you're, they didn't inform us before this was done...we were too young and shell shocked to inquire about this at the time).  Considering you have to sign all kinds of forms for your child to be circumcised, you would have thought that stopping his heart would have required consent on our part.  To this day, I think something slipped through the cracks at the hospital on that one and that is why it took so long for someone to come in and tell us what was going on.  We now had a newborn in the N.I.C.U. and the next few days at the hospital and weeks at home were quite a blur.  I didn't have time to dwell on what had happened, I only had time to deal with whatever was right in front of me.
Firstborn in the N.I.C.U.
Doug wheeled me into the N.I.C.U. to see our son (still couldn't walk, going on four hours later, thank you extra epidural dose).  He looked so helpless with all the wires and tubes.  The doctors needed to monitor him for awhile to make sure his heart was o.k.  He spent three days in the N.I.C.U. and I spent the time walking the long hallways between my room and him to take him pumped colostrum/milk and hold his hand.  I would try to nurse him, which was always an adventure because we would have to get all the wires positioned so I could hold him and then he would occasionally knock his heart monitor off.  Which would then set off a loud alarm that the nurse would come over and adjust and reset until he knocked it off again.  There were lots of alarms going off all the time in the N.I.C.U., I wondered how the nurses could tell which ones were important and which ones were not.  I guess they get used to it.  The nurses would tell me that he would always quite down when I was near and he heard my voice.  I couldn't really tell a difference but they swore they could.

The day he was to be discharged the N.I.C.U. nurses gave me lessons on how to listen to his heartbeat to make sure it was falling in a certain range.  Firstborn was sent home on Digoxin, which is a heart medicine.  If I overdosed him, it would stop his heart (no pressure on the new mom).  The meds would help prevent the SVT from returning, but it was important that his heartbeat was in a normal range before I gave it to him.  Doug and I decided that I would be the only one to administer it, since they had trained me and that way we wouldn't accidentally give him two doses.  Every morning I would check his heartbeat with a stethoscope (still have it, the kids were playing with it the other day) and then give him the meds.  He was weaned off by 6 months old.  Although the doctors told us his tachycardia could someday return, we have been blessed.  Firstborn has not had another episode since the day he was born.

Home at last!
Leaving the hospital with him was so surreal.  Here I was, 26 years old, doped up on painkillers, with a three day old baby, heart medicine, some ready made formula from the N.I.C.U. (my milk still hadn't come in) and a stethoscope.  We were such newbies we had to have the hospital transport girl help us adjust his carseat!  I felt like we better sprint out of the hospital before someone realized we had no idea what we were doing.

Although the ending was a bit dramatic I still look back on his labor and consider it one of my more "textbook" labors.  For a first timer, the labor and delivery were not that long.  It really only got painful after they broke my water and I was already at a 7 by then.  I would have a doula and an epidural free delivery for my second labor.  Firstborn's labor taught me a lot about what kind of delivery I wanted, what kind of things were hospital policy and what kind of things you have choices about.  Our first baby was also our most difficult, he had terrible colic and cried all night for weeks on end.  I went back to work six weeks later and felt a bit guilty because I was actually happy to be at work and away from the crying baby for a few hours.  He was one of those high maintenance, need to be nursed and held all the time types...our first babysitter actually quit because of it!

I'm happy to report Firstborn (and his parents) survived his colic and today (his birthday) he is now a normal 14 year old young man.  We are blessed indeed that God decided to give Doug and I the extreme honor of being his parents.  If I had his delivery to do over again, knowing what I know now, I would definitely choose to leave my water intact.  Everything turned out all right in the end, and for that I am grateful.  Here are some more pictures from the hospital and our first week home...
My Mom & Dad with Firstborn

My Mom in the N.I.C.U.

My grandmother

One of our first family shots!

Connie & daughter Mel
visiting the N.I.C.U.

My sister Julie

Me and newborn Firstborn

Saturday, April 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Spring is Coming!!

1.  Spring has arrived in the Midwest, as announced by The Weather Channel this week...
Could be worse
This was the forecast for Thursday.  We were fortunate that the tornado warnings went just north and south of where we live, this time.  While laying in bed that evening listening to the weather radio I debated whether or not to get up and clean out the basement closet, aka the "tornado shelter".  Remember that posts I did last year where I bragged about the nice and organized closet.  Well, it so doesn't look that way now.  We would have to move stuff out just to fit everyone in it.  Then I decided the tornado threat wasn't enough to warrant me getting out of bed (or I was just.too.tired to deal with it).  We ended up not using it that day, so one point scored for procrastination!

BTW, after the winter we've had I think I'll take tornado sirens over blizzards and ice storms.

2.  Firstborn's biology class got to dissect frogs this week!  He's been looking forward to it all year...
Sorry for blurry picture!
3.  I was happy this was the last scheduled dissection for the year.  On those lab days we need to get there 1/2 hour early.  This means the little ones need to get up earlier too, which doesn't always work out as well.  While Firstborn was in class I took Princess and Toddler Boy to their classroom early to play...
Building block towers

And knocking them down!!

Parachute time

Princess has ballet at the same time as Firstborn's biology class.  Since we were there early the kids got to play with the blocks.  I think her favorite part of ballet is the end, when her teacher brings out the parachute.

4.  Spring is also when they baby chickens, ducks and turkeys arrive at the local Rural King.

They had a zillion of them!  The kids were happy to see them.  They are super cute (and quite smelly).  They would love to talk me into buying some one day.  If we didn't live in town I might consider it.

While we were there Soccer Boy used up one of his gift certificates he got from Aunt Julie for Christmas and bought this...
Don't worry, it only shoots pellets

He's been having fun target shooting in the backyard.  Doug and I have been constantly reminding him that it could possibly put someone's eye out so be careful.  So far, so good.  Rural King was running a 50% off sale, so he was thrilled to get it.  Game Boy wants us to go back and get him one too.  Jury is still out on whether he is mature enough to have one.  When I'm on the fence about something like this I usually defer to Doug's judgement.  Besides being a male himself, he also grew up in a family of boys.  I figure he's in a better position to decide about the safety risks of such things.

5.  On the homeschooling front, we're still plugging along.  All those snow days enabled us to get a bit ahead so it sort of feels like we're in the downward slide into the end of the year.  Firstborn starts high school next year and I think I have most of the curriculum stuff planned out.  They have some sales going on and so I'm hoping to get it purchased soon.  I've been working on getting schedules set up for next year.  It's so nice going into the busy summer months with things somewhat mapped out.  I've been praying about switching to an "all year" school year plan.  In practice, we already do something like that now.  We typically have some math to finish up and we continue reading all summer.  I would continue to do history and science on a 9 month schedule because those subjects are partially done with our homeschool group.  But I would put the rest of our homeschool on a year round schedule with weeks off spaced throughout the year.  I haven't gotten it all nailed down yet and we're still looking at our options.  I'll have to plan a follow up post when I get it all figured out.

6.  Speaking of schooling, look who was caught working on his brother's math homework this week...
So studious...except the paper is
upside down!

Caught red handed with a red pencil!

7.  I'll finish off my spring Quick Takes with a picture of Princess, who is already getting ready for the sunny weather!!

Have a great week and click over to Jen at Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The baby I didn't give birth

Warning, this is going to be a long post.  This time of year is full of birthdays for our family, we have four in March in our immediate family.  The end of February this year marked the ten year anniversary of our #3 baby, who we lost to miscarriage at 10 weeks.  I was reading Ana's post on her pregnancy loss with their third child and I realized that I have never publicly written about our miscarriage, as it happened way before I started this blog.  Ana's post touched me, I wish I would have had something like that to read when I was going thru my experience and I thought maybe this post could serve two purposes.  One, that it would serve as a memorial to our child who we did not get to meet on this side of heaven but who is still fondly remembered.  Two, that it may help encourage others who are currently on that sad journey that nobody asks for or expects to happen when you see the two lines appear on a pregnancy tests.
Positive test from my 3rd pregnancy!
We conceived our third baby during the Christmas season, 2003.  We were using NFP and charting, and it is the only pregnancy I've had that I remember the exact night I became pregnant.  I realize this comes off as sort of strange, but the act itself was different, it felt more sacred and blessed.  I can still recall where we were, what we talked about, and the feeling of being spiritually connected to Doug.

I belonged to a MOPS group at the time, and one of my best friends in the group had found out she was expecting and was planning on doing a "cracker basket" announcement at our next meeting in January.  When someone in the group found out she was pregnant she announced it by pulling a wrapped saltines crackers out of a basket.  They were wrapped in pink or blue ribbons to place bets on the gender of the new baby.  The day before the meeting I told her I "thought" I was pregnant, I was having all the signs (morning sickness, breast pain, extreme exhaustion) but I had taken a pregnancy test that morning and it came back negative.  This is not surprising, I am notorious for not turning those things.  Every pregnancy I have ever had I first do a negative test and then must wait a few days and retest to get the positive.  I am eternally grateful they sell those things in two packs!  She asked if I had used one of those new tests that supposedly predict 5 days before you're late.  What??  I didn't know those existed.  She insisted I run out and get one and retest the following morning so we could make our announcements together.  I did, and this time the test actually took!!  Thank God I wasn't going crazy and I actually WAS pregnant, according to my charts the due date would be Sept. 11, 2004.  I know for most of the United States that would be considered the worse due date to have but our family is a bit different.  My sister was born on that day, and to me, growing up, that was a special day to celebrate.  I was not upset that my baby could potentially share a birthday with my beloved sister.

Doug and I couldn't wait to share the news and we got to tell both our families at my second son's 2nd birthday party that weekend.  Excitement from everyone, it was fun.  I was starting to feel pretty terrible, this pregnancy was certainly rougher from the start.  My "morning" sickness quickly turned into an "all day long" sickness.  I never threw up, but was constantly nauseous.  It was debilitating, plus I couldn't manage to eat anything.  My hunger response was totally gone, I didn't even crave some of my favorite foods.  I had to force myself to eat.  This did not help my energy levels, which took a nosedive.  I was a stay at home mom to two very active boys (age 3 and 2).  I found myself in survival mode praying that 12 weeks would see an end to the upset stomach.
Happy 2nd birthday Soccer Boy

Make a wish...

Doug with Soccer Boy, Firstborn
and our niece

To make matters worse, a couple weeks into this my kids caught a terrible stomach flu virus.  It was one of the really bad ones going around, the type where you still feel nauseous even after you throw up, along with terrible gas pain.  Firstborn got it first, he was vomiting and having diarrhea and high temps for days.  Then our two year old started throwing up one night.  His fever went up and he was suffering terribly.  In the middle of the night/early morning I remember kneeling by his bed and asking God to heal him.  I remember asking God to take it away from him and give it to me, on condition that the baby stays safe.  Amazingly, that prayer was granted.  Soccer Boy's fever went down immediately after that.  He stopped throwing up and within the hour he was sleeping peacefully.  I, however, was getting sick.  The better he looked the worse I felt.  I started running a fever and vomiting soon after.  Throwing up while pregnant is no fun because your stomach is locked stationary.  I was thankful that our two year old was not suffering anymore.  I was six weeks pregnant.

We all got over the flu and went with my sister's family and my mom to see Sesame Street Live.  The kids had a blast.

Our family of four (expecting #3)

Sesame Street Live

Enjoying the cotton candy!

Firstborn(3 yrs), Soccer Boy (2) and cousin (2)

The terrible "all day" sickness continued.  My mom watched the kids while I headed to my 8 week checkup, where my doctor tried listening for the heartbeat.  He couldn't find it, but considering I wasn't that far along he wasn't concerned.  He decided to do an ultrasound to see if he could spot it.  I always loved ultrasounds, I was excited to see the baby and to check for twins (my family has a strong history).  Especially since I had been so sick and fatigued with this pregnancy, I thought it might be a possibility.  He didn't have the internal one so he had to try and do the wand on the stomach and it was pretty blurry, he still couldn't find a heartbeat or see the baby very well.  He decided to set me up an appointment with the hospital for the next day for a better ultrasound image.  I was not concerned, I was excited about another ultrasound because this time I could make sure Doug went with me to see it.  I had just recently changed over to this pro-life doctor and I was surprised by the in office ultrasound.  We had not been able to find the heartbeat with Firstborn with my previous doctor and he hadn't done an ultrasound.  He had just said you often can't hear the baby's heartbeat before 10 weeks and we would try again the following month.

Already showing
at 8 weeks...
Doug took off work the next day and Mom watched the kids so we could head to the hospital.  They didn't even try to do the stomach ultrasound, at 8 weeks they opted for the internal wand.  We were excited to see the baby on the screen, the tech kept asking me how far along I was, when was my last cycle?  I couldn't remember the cycle date, but I knew I was 8 weeks along.  She said the baby looked about 6 weeks, that didn't seem right.  My NFP charts couldn't be that far off.  There was no heartbeat, but that develops at 6 weeks.  She went to get the doctor.  He was an older gentleman, and had the worse bedside manner.  He came in and looked at the monitor and said "the fetus is measuring 6 weeks" and I asked when we should see the heartbeat.  He said "at 6 weeks there is a heartbeat 100% of the time".  Doug and I (and the tech) just looked at him and then he said "the fetus is dead, you'll miscarry within the week".  Then without one more word he took off his gloves, got up and walked out of the room.  That was it, nothing more.  I was shell shocked, I didn't even see it coming, totally blindsided.  I remember Doug hugging me and telling me "I'm sorry" and the tech apologizing also.  She stepped out and I got dressed, still in zombie mode.  It didn't seem right, I felt so pregnant.  I talked to my doctor from that office, the tech had called to give him the results and he asked to speak with me.  He apologized and told me he was sorry and gave me my options.  I could have a D & C, his office didn't do them but he could refer me to someone.  Or I could just wait and let it happen naturally.  That seemed the right way to go, he said to call if I changed my mind.  I didn't start crying until we were driving home.

Now the waiting game began.  When my family and friends found out what had happened I was surprised at how many woman came out of the woodwork and told me their stories.  It seems miscarriage was much more common than I knew.  Women just don't talk about it, which makes it seem like a dirty secret.  I spoke to friends I had known for many years and I didn't even know.  Some had miscarried at home and others had gone to the hospital.  Everyone I knew was praying for us.  I was still feeling so bad, my body was still pregnant, even if the baby was dead.  I didn't miscarry that week so we went in for another ultrasound.  We were hoping that the first had been wrong but that was not the case.  There was more blood built up in the womb, it seems my body was still fighting for the baby.  The doctors started throwing around words like "missed abortion", and we started considering a D & C.  I started to be concerned about hemorrhaging, I was home by myself all day with two little ones.  What if something went wrong or I passed out?  I had heard that it could be painful, like labor pains.  Did I want to risk being by myself with two little ones when that happened?  I wasn't sure...

Another week passed.  Doug and I were struggling emotionally.  He started grieving the baby the minute he heard at the ultrasound but I was stuck.  I just couldn't grieve a dead baby while I was still carrying their body inside of me.  As long as I was pregnant there was still hope, God could still turn this around.  I was already showing, 10 weeks along at this point.  The doctor ordered another blood test that showed my pregnancy hormone levels were indeed dropping.  I was starting to go stir crazy sitting at home (still sick) just waiting for something to happen.  I couldn't go anywhere, definitely couldn't drive.  That weekend we went to my folks house and I opted to attend a woman's meeting at my church that afternoon, just to get out of the house.  I remember they prayed for me and the baby.  Then I started feeling really weird and I told mom we better leave, something wasn't right.  I felt better back at her house, I had planned on attending a funeral visitation that evening for a family friend.  After what happened I didn't feel up to it so Doug stayed with me at their house.  The boys were playing and he was taking a nap on the couch when I started having the most painful cramps I had ever experienced.  Doubled over in the bathroom, it was bad, really bad.  I don't recall labor hurting that much.  I hadn't started bleeding yet, I begged God to make it stop.  I was cursing myself for not opting for the hospital route.  Miraculously, God answered my prayer and the cramping suddenly stopped.  I asked Doug to take us home.  That was a Sunday night, on Monday morning I called my doctor to get the referral.  I met with that doctor that afternoon and he set my D & C up for the next morning, Tuesday, February 24, 2004.  It had been over a month since my baby had died and over two weeks since we had found out.  I remember being terrified that the cramping would start again, but it did not.  I asked the doctor what would happen to my baby's remains and he told me that they would be incinerated, which at the time I figured was the best option.  I wasn't Catholic, I wasn't sure if the hospital would release the remains to me (if they were even big enough to see), or what I would do with them if I had them.  What were the burial procedures for something like that?  I had no idea.  I now know there are better options.  Mary over at Better than Eden has a great post on miscarriage options, so I'm linking you over there.  Our local Catholic hospital does a yearly burial for miscarriages.  I wish the doctor who did my procedure would have been more informed.

I couldn't eat or drink anything the day of the procedure and I was scheduled for 1:00 pm.  I didn't go to the hospital, it was done at a hospital extension clinic a few blocks away (oddly enough, located right next door to my kids pediatrician's office).  Mom babysat so Doug could take me.  We sat in the waiting room for a really long time before they called me back, and Doug was not allowed to go in with me.  They gave me a few minutes to change into my gown and I recall looking at and rubbing my pregnant stomach and talking to my baby, saying goodbye.  Saying I was sorry I wasn't strong enough to do this on my own at home, feeling guilty for being there.  The irony that I was going to go through an "abortion" procedure wasn't lost on me.  The only difference between my experience and theirs was my baby had already died.  Of course, I was crying and bless them, the hospital nurses were so kind.  They knew we had really wanted this baby, they knew I didn't want to do this.  They told me they were sorry I had to go through this, they were gentle with me.  Well, as gentle as they could be.  It still took two nurses and one doctor to stick me 8 times to get the I.V. in place (stupid veins).  I had the bruises to prove it.  They knocked me out, so the next thing I remember is waking up in recovery with Doug beside me.  I wasn't in pain, but feeling pretty groggy.  They had me stay there for about 1/2 hour and then we were allowed to leave.

I remember feeling so empty when we left the clinic, like it was so wrong that we were leaving our baby there and driving away.  I wanted to go back and claim their body, which I told myself was crazy, what would I do with it?  I asked Doug to stop by St. Louis Bread Co. to get me something to eat.  It was now going on 4 or 5:00 and I still hadn't eaten or drank anything that day.  I wish I could say the morning sickness went away immediately but it did not.  I was still sick for about a week more, until the hormones could completely clear my system.  Also, I thought that the D & C would "clean me out" but I would be wrong on that point too.  My period the next month was incredibly heavy and difficult, they only remove the baby during that procedure.  I had strong cramping and clots, it was shocking.  Maybe TMI, but I'm putting it in here for the benefit of others who may choose this route.  I wish I had known what to expect.

When I look at the calendar, my baby died on the same day that I had the stomach flu.  I have met other moms who miscarried like I did and could pinpoint the timing to their stomach flu.  So I'm always careful during the first trimester to keep my kids a bit more sheltered so they don't bring a flu bug home.  My experience makes me more vigilant to keep my kids away from other families when we get sick.  Who knows who you expose to illness?  I'm hyper vigilant about not taking my kids to nurseries and such if I think they're sick.  I tend to error on the side of caution on this one.  Also, I don't give my kids live vaccines when I'm pregnant.  I just figure, why risk it?  I save those for when I'm not pregnant.

I'm thankful for a doctor who does early ultrasounds.  The outcome wouldn't have changed, but at least I knew.  I knew that my baby had died, and I could be prepared.  I knew that it was probably the illness that caused their death and it has kept me from second guessing everything I did or didn't do during that time.  Six months later I found myself in the same scenario with the same pro-life doctor.  Eight weeks pregnant with our fourth child and we couldn't hear a heartbeat.  I had decided ahead of time if that happened I didn't want to do an ultrasound and relive everything.  Bless him, the doctor insisted on it.  He said "I refuse to let you worry about this for a month, I promise you this will be ok."  You know doctors don't make promises, God was speaking directly to me through him that day.  I thought I was going to be sick when he turned out the lights to start the ultrasound, but I was blessed to see Game Boy's heartbeat that day.  I held it together long enough to get into the car in the parking lot and then I cried.  It was like finding out I was pregnant all over again because I had not been able to connect with that pregnancy because of the fear.  We didn't tell anyone until I was four months along.

Our third child taught me a lot about myself, and continues to teach me to this day.  I am a pro-life advocate and I do pray for the unborn and their mothers.  On occasion I have prayed at the abortion clinic and have seen the young women leaving after an abortion.  I have a connection to them on that level, because at least physically we have shared that experience.  I know that they didn't want to have the abortion, nobody wants to have an abortion.  They chose it because they felt scared and trapped, that it was the best option, maybe the only option, they had.  I pray for healing for them.

We do not know if our child is a boy or a girl, so we haven't named him/her yet.  I guess we'll get to do that in heaven.  When I became Catholic there is the whole doctrine of "communion of saints".  How wonderful that I can have a relationship with my baby even now!  That he or she can pray with us and for us and that they are still a part of our family.  It's a glorious thing, to know they are already spending time with Jesus and waiting for us.  Although I believe they do time differently in heaven, in earth time February marked 10 years.  Happy 10th heavenly birthday to the child I had the privilege of carrying only 10 weeks, but who still remains in my heart.

Your Mom

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This is 40

Today is my birthday!!  I was born a bit after midnight on this day in 1974, so that makes me 40 years old.  I'm going to link up with Hallie at Moxie Wife for my Five Favorite things about this stage in my life...

1.  My Marriage

Engagement Picture, 1998
Since I'm linking this to Hallie's blog, I'm going to start with this one.  Doug and I were talking the other day about how much we are enjoying this stage of our relationship.  Not that we don't ever have disagreements or even get into some ugly fights now and then, with hurtful words and accusations.  (I did mention somewhere along the way that we were both born the oldest children?  That probably explains a lot, we're still working on sainthood here at our house).  However, we both acknowledge that we've mellowed over our 15 years of marriage.  Looking back, I can see how God has used Doug in my life to mold me, I am a better person today because of his influence on me.

We know each other so much more deeply now.  I met Doug when I was 14 years old and we were friends for years before we started dating.  As our friendship grew I was able to guess how he would feel about a given situation.  But now I can also understand why he holds that opinion.  Even if my feelings on the same subject are completely opposite from him.  Over the years I've gotten better and better at putting myself in his shoes and seeing things from his perspective.  It is second nature to me now, nobody knows me better than him and I couldn't imagine being married to anyone else.

2.  Having older kids

Oldest & Youngest
I didn't really see this one coming.  When you're in the mommy trenches of babies and toddlers it's enough to just survive the day.  Now that I have some older helpers I can be a bit more reflective about my life as a mom.  I am truly enjoying the relationship I have with my older children.  I get a front row seat as they start to think about ideas and concepts and develop their own opinion on the world.  I realize how short the time really is and how fast kids really do grow.  It seems like just yesterday that Firstborn was Toddler Boy's age and it also seems like an eternity ago.  On the practical side, this helps me with my patience with the little ones.  I can know from experience that potty training is just a stage and that the baby who nurses all day long will one day wean.  In addition, my little ones benefit from having older siblings.  Their life is richer from having that relationship with an older brother or sister.  The older ones benefit from it too.  It warms my heart to see the older kids naturally help pour drinks for the younger ones without being asked, or sit down to read them a children's book.  They are more empathetic because of their little siblings.  Of course they have the typical sibling rivalry but they truly do enjoy each other too.

I should mention it really is nice that the older ones are picking up bigger responsibilities around the house.  I pretty much never feed the dog or take out the recycling (unless my kids are at camp).  Then I had to write notes to myself to feed the dog so I didn't forget!  Doug taught them how to mow the grass last year.  They can load dishwashers and do their chores without my supervision.  Now that Firstborn is babysitting age I can even run to get milk at the store/pay a bill/return a video or library book without dragging everyone with me.  #heaven

3.  Health

I expected my health to decline by the time I hit this age.  When you're in your teens and twentys you can pull all nighters and eat Cheez Its and a can of soda for lunch and not really feel any different.  Not so now, I would say that train left the station around the time I hit 30.  The up side of this is that I can do something about it.  It's not because of my age that I can't pull all nighters, it's because humans are designed to need sleep.  I understand my body better, with age has come experience and wisdom.  When I'm following a paleo diet and exercising I can feel better now and have more energy than I did 20 years ago.  It's my choices that dictate my health, not my age alone.

4.  Finances

Anna Maria Island, 2013
When we were a younger family we were so busy.  I decided to stay home after Soccer Boy was born so Doug picked up a second job over weekends to help make ends meet.  He was also finishing his master's degree.  I felt like me and the kids were constantly sacrificing our time with Doug to his work or school.  When you are just starting out you don't have a lot of vacation or sick days either (especially if you use them up with the birth of each child).  You don't have a very big paycheck.  Financially, it's not like we've "arrived" and are living large.  We have more children to support and things do cost more now (like groceries and cell phones).  However my husband now has more seniority at his job and is not going back to school anytime soon.  So he has more vacation days available and can take longer lunch hours if he needs them (like today, we're meeting for lunch for my birthday).  Our budget is not as tight as it used to be because 1) Doug makes more money now, and 2) we've spent the hard early years of our marriage "trimming off the fat".  We got used to eating at home instead of eating out, we didn't even have cable at our first house, and we didn't miss it.  We just recently upgraded to smartphones.  We don't go on a big vacation every year.  Not that there is anything wrong with any of these things, but you have to choose what is important to you and your family, what you value.  You choose where to budget your money.  We spend money on what we really value and we let go of the rest.

5.  Appreciation and Wisdom

Bubbles, the good things in life!
My birthday has made me introspective.  When my three year old wakes up and just wants to be cuddled for a few minutes each morning I can set aside whatever I'm doing because I appreciate that this time is short.  It's easier to live in the moment of each and every day.  It's easier not to blog for months at a time, or not read that book I've been waiting for because I'm living life in the present day.  I truly value each day I'm given.  The wisdom you gain over the years is priceless.  Oprah said that "50 is the new 40", I wonder what will be going on in my life in ten years.  Maybe I'll be a grandmother by then, who knows.

Bottom line...I'm getting better at realizing what to major on and what to minor on in all areas of life.  My relationship with Christ is growing deeper, my marriage is growing sweeter and my kids are growing up.  It's all good and it's all the way it's supposed to be, may God grant me more of His mercy and goodness for my coming years.

So this is what 40 looks like...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Valentine's Day

Still playing post catch-up from February.  My mom watched the kids so Doug and I could go out the weekend before V-Day, so we did lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant and a movie.  I had just come off my Whole30 challenge so the food was especially yummy.  We saw Monuments Men, which I thought was really good (but I'm a history fan).  I can't wait for it to come out on video so I can rent it for Firstborn because he's enjoys documentaries on WWI and WWII.

We picked up some candy for the kids, and drink cups with stuffed animals and balloons for the younger ones.
It's Friday - she's still wearing her
ballet leotard
I've been drinking coffee out of these every morning!

The following day we babysat for friends so they could enjoy an afternoon out.  They have three kids and one is a year old, at one point I put a video on in my bedroom for Princess and her friend so I could clean and entertain the younger ones.  I kept checking on the girls in my bedroom.  Every time I looked in on them they were sitting in the same place intently watching their princess video.  A few hours later my friends came and picked up their kids and we rushed to get ready to head to church services that evening.  When I went to put on my wedding ring (which had been sitting on my dresser) it wasn't where I had left it (uh oh)...

Me:  Have you seen my ring?
Princess:  Yes
Me:  Where?
Princess:  (insert 3 yr old friend's name) had it.
Me:  (alarmed) Do you know where she put it?
Princess:  No, why don't you ask her?

Of course, they had just left 5 minutes before!!  I immediately called my friend and asked her to ask her daughter if she knew the whereabouts of the missing ring.  Lucky for me, she did remember, she had basically put it back and it had fallen behind the T.V. on the dresser.  Crisis averted, ha!

Hope everyone had a fantastic Valentine's Day filled with lots of love.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Homeschoolers Don't Get "Snow Days"

1.  This time last year, we were enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  We had a hard time getting all the homeschooling finished because we kept taking time off to enjoy the outside weather.  We just knew it was going to turn cold again, but it never did.  When the spring came around I was a bit disappointed that we didn't have many snow days.  After this winter, I take it all back!  I think I would rather have the warm winter over the bitterly cold one that we had this year.  Technically, we're still having it...they've predicted another ice storm for our area starting this weekend!

2.  So what have we been doing while the below zero temps have kept us indoors?  We went roller skating.
Princess learned to skate this year
Older boys rockin their in-lines
Toddler Boy loves the arcade games
Game Boy spends 1/2 his time in wheels and 1/2 out
Of course, there are snacks too!

Our local skating rink has a "homeschool day" set up once a month.  All the area homeschoolers come one afternoon a month so the kids get to hang with their friends from the group.  I pretty much stay off wheels while we're there.  I spend my time visiting with the other moms and chasing Toddler Boy around the arcade and snack area.

3.  The month of January I did a Whole30 paleo diet and lost 22 lbs. in the process.  I'm just impressed I didn't die, I live for carbs.  My weight had been slowly creeping up again and I felt like I needed to do something extreme to shake up my system.  I'll dedicate a whole post to it soon, but overall I felt better and didn't crave the carbs once I totally stopped eating them.

4.  I chose the month of January to do the Whole30 challenge because birthday season at our house is in March.  Since becoming Catholic, the Lenten season has always been a bit tricky.  Almost all of our family's birthdays fall during Lent, this year 4 out of 7 occur during a time when we're supposed to be not celebrating.  What we normally do is hold our big party on a Sunday, with cake and presents from their grandparents.  On their actual birthday they get birthday presents from mom and dad and we make their favorite meal or go out to a restaurant of their choice.  Sometimes we do kid parties, but not every year.  It is difficult for us to do kid parties because their friends are not segregated into age groups.  They share many of their friends, so the same friends would be coming to a party at our house every weekend for a month.

5.  Princess is about to lose her first tooth!  One of her bottom teeth is loose and she keeps messing with it and eating apples hoping to get it out.  She is super, super excited about the tooth fairy leaving her something.  Our family has not done well in the fairy department in the past, our fairy tends to sleep in or arrives a few days late.  This time, I plan on being prepared.  I'll have Doug bring home some one dollar coins from the bank for our "tooth fairy stash".

6.  I just wrote in my last post about how Doug is never, ever sick.  However, this week he caught the stomach flu so he has been home recuperating for the last couple days.  I tried to keep the normal homeschool day schedule up as much as possible while he was here.  The first day off he was basically quarantined to our bedroom but yesterday he was back to the land of the living.  We didn't get the lessons going until 10:30 that morning and he was surprised that we could get it all done (we did skip some writing lessons because Doug wanted me to run out with him for a quick shopping trip).  Had we not done that all the lessons would have been finished before supper.  When we start late we tend to do schooling up until 5:00pm.  If we have something going on in the afternoon we'll get up early and get all the lessons done before lunch (or right after, sometimes we have to go until 1:00 or 1:30).  The flexibility is one of the things I love about this lifestyle.  Being available to take care of sick loved ones is also one of the things I love about being a homemaker.  The last couple of days have been really busy and somewhat stressful.  Sometimes I need a reminder as to why I choose this and what a gift it really is to be able to stay home with my family.

Still in the box!
7.  I'm got a new kindle in the mail yesterday!!  Happy, happy days!  My kindle fire stopped charging on me, this is the third time this has happened.  Every time I have called amazon customer service and they have replaced my kindle.  Last time they were supposed to send me a second generation but something in the order form got mixed up and they sent me a replacement first generation.  I didn't know the difference and when I called them two days ago they apologized for the mix up and are now sending me the correct kindle.  I am not particularly happy about the charging issues with the first generation kindle fires but I am happy with amazon's customer service.  I've always been able to get right through to someone and they've always been polite and quick.  Every time I get a new kindle I say I'm not going to let the kids use it and then eventually I cave and let them play games/watch videos.  At that point the device ceases to be mine because the kids keep using up the battery.

8.  Bonus take...I just came across this video on Facebook and thought I would share.  Frozen's "Let It Go", a mommy version:

I'm off to play with the new device...check out more 7 Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary!!