Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Update with our Birthing Plans

After a whirlwind last week, we're getting some plans in place and feeling a little more settled with our "game plan".

With the 34-week confirmation that my placenta was still covering my cervix, we decided to work with an OB at our local hospital to plan a cesarean birth in the event that the placenta doesn't move in the finals weeks of pregnancy.  We had an appointment planned last Monday (35 weeks) with the midwife at the local women's health center. (Even while planning a home birth, we do some prenatal care with her because 1. if a hospital birth becomes necessary, we have records and a contact there, 2. she is 7 minutes from us, as opposed to an hour drive to see my home birth midwife, so it's more convenient when we're just going for routine appointments, and 3. I really like her a lot!)  We talked to her extensively about our desires and concerns and who we wanted to put together for our "dream team" (I had an OB, anesthesiologist, and pediatrician all picked out in my mind.)  She wanted us to see the OB right away to start making plans and present our requests for the not-so-common-here technique of a "natural cesarean".  The OB happened to have an appointment open that afternoon, so we made plans to come back and talk to her.  I felt good and like things were falling into place.

About 32 seconds into our appointment, the OB told us that her biggest concern with our birth plans was the pediatrician.  So before our appointment, she had caught him and talked about our case.  He informed her that since our baby has a known heart-defect, they didn't want the liability of caring for and releasing him from the hospital.  And that if we did give birth here in Burlington, they would call in the neonatal response unit from the University of Iowa hospital to pick him up and airlift him to Iowa City.  And that's when I wanted to throw myself on the floor and have a tantrum.  I had this all figured out!  After several tough days of digesting placenta previa and Tetralogy of Fallot diagnoses, I had found peace with my plan!  The more rational part of me though, along with some extremely practical HypnoBirthing techniques to calm myself, smiled, thanked her for her time, and told her that if they were going to toss my baby onto a helicopter shortly after birth and take him to Iowa City, then I would just go up there to birth my child.

So Monday night I was a bit of a mess.  I felt overwhelmed and unprepared to navigate such a large hospital where I don't have relationships with care providers.  A place where, unlike here in town, I don't know the OB nurses, a fabulous anesthesiologist, and an OB and pediatricians that I know respect my choices, even when we disagree.  I had a good cry, did a whole lot of praying, and resolved to put on my big girl pants and move forward.

I spent the next couple days getting records transferred and trying to get an appointment with an OB at the University Hospital.  I wanted to get in within the week, and I wanted to see a female.  And that left me all of one option among the dozens of doctors up there.  And if I ever needed proof that God has this thing, our appointment Thursday afternoon provided that for us.

I wasn't sure how I would be received by the random OB with whom I had been given a time slot. I was walking in the door with a journal article about the technique I wanted used to birth my baby and a long list of questions/opinions about procedures before and after the birth.  Not everyone has an appreciation for assertive patients.  :)  She walked in, introduced herself, told me she had read through my records and was familiar with my situation, and then said, "So here's the punchline: I went ahead and got you scheduled for a c-section on Monday."  And then I proceeded to talk. A lot.  About my understanding of the preference to deliver at 36 weeks with placenta previa.  About my rejection of evicting my child with a known heart defect from the womb over a month early.  About my previous birth experiences and my preferences for this time around.  About my desire to give this little guy the best possible birth experience and strongest start that I possibly can.  And I was calm, and I held it all together, and I was polite and rational.  Eric was a great support and helped me to remember the things he and I had talked about needing to discuss with her.

And then really awesome discussion followed.  And at some point in there, the doctor was visibly fighting back tears.  She got it.  She understood me, my disappointment, and the challenge of trying to do the best thing for my baby.  And while she presented the medical view, she very strongly respected the research I had done and my opinions.  She reiterated several times that this was my baby and my birth and, while she is there to present the best evidence and medical opinion she has, it ultimately it is my choice and they will do whatever they can to accommodate my requests.

She ended up giving us well over an hour of her time.  She was in and out several times to consult with other people and make phone calls. At the end of the appointment, we walked away with these agreements:

-We have scheduled the cesarean birth for September 2 (38 weeks 1 day) with the hope and prayer that placenta moves and I can cancel it.  :)

-We will meet weekly and keep watching my placenta for movement (ultrasound) and confirm baby remains happy and strong (non-stress test.)

-She is arranging for me to meet with someone from neonatology to discuss my expectations of a healthy baby at birth and my intention to keep him with me and out of the NICU, regardless of the fact that he has a congenital heart defect diagnosis that will require checking out in the days after his birth.

-She is going to have the scheduled operating OB stop by at our next appointment so we can present my preferences for the birth.

-My appointment is Thursday this week.

-Meanwhile, if I begin to experience any bleeding or signs of labor, I am to go to my local hospital right away to be checked out and then head up to Iowa City if there is time.

I got started on writing my official birth preferences to have everything on paper and make communication easier for everyone involved.  And after all that, I am at peace.  It's a peace that I know only God can give.  I trust that however everything shakes out, it will be right for me, this little boy, and our family.  I am so appreciative for all of the prayers, and I hope you will keep them coming.

Besides praying that, if it would be His will, the placenta would move, for healing of our little man's heart, and for general peace and health, I would ask that you also remember the girls.  I had already talked to Gabriela and Lilian about how everything will be fine, but baby brother has a hole in his heart and he's going to born at the hospital now instead of at home so that the doctors can help fix it.  They expressed some disappointment that they wouldn't get to witness it like they did Makayla's birth, but otherwise they haven't said too much. (Although Gabriela did tell me that she heard me say that baby boy is going to go on a helicopter ride to Iowa City and she wanted to know 1. why, and 2. if she could go too!)  All of the out of town appointments and birth is going to mean we are away from the girls more than we intended and that, along with Gabriela just starting school and welcoming a new sibling, is kind of a lot all at once.  Gabi has mentioned our little guy's heart and the hospital in all of her prayers the last week, so even though she isn't talking about it a lot, I know it's on her mind.

We are so thankful for a God who cares and for family and friends who pray for us and support us both emotionally and with the physical needs of our family.  I appreciate all the notes, texts, calls, emails, and messages letting me know that we are in your thoughts and prayers and, even though I have not acknowledged each of them individually, please know that it means so much to me and has brought me so much comfort.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Prayer Request for Our Little Guy's Heart and Birth

This picture captures the moment that most stands out in my mind when I think about Makayla’s birth.  It was so awesome.  She was born gently in a birthing tub, in our home, with Eric and the big girls there with me (along with my midwife, assistant, doula, and two dear friends helping to look after the girls and take photographs.)  I have never felt so surrounded by love and have never experienced so much love for all the people around me, as I did in that moment.  Being in labor and giving birth is, by far, my favorite thing to do.  I often tell people, in complete honesty, that if I could wake up and birth every single day, I would.  Really, seriously, I would.  I have no idea what I’d do with all those babies…but I love bringing new life from my body just that much.

While all three births have been great experiences and completely unmedicated and intervention-free, Makayla’s was definitely my favorite birth.  Being at home where I could curl up in my own bed with my baby and no one coming in every time I doze off to take my vitals or ask to mess with my baby was fabulous!  And I have SO been looking forward to that calm, safe beginning again for my baby, myself, and my family.  (Both Gabriela and Lilian have such good thoughts and memories from the day Makayla was born! And I think Eric liked leaving all the running around and getting somewhere to everyone else this time.)

When I had some bleeding at 19 weeks with this pregnancy and we discovered, through ultrasound, that my placenta was positioned over the cervix, I wasn't overly concerned.  Somewhere around 15% of pregnancies have some degree of placenta previa at 20 weeks.  That drops to less than 1% by full term.  The placenta pretty much always migrates up as the uterus expands.  I've taken several steps as prescribed by my Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (Western medicine says there is nothing to be done but wait and see) to help ensure it moves (herbs, acupuncture, diet changes, plenty of rest, and yoga), and I've been sure it would do just that.

So at 34 weeks when we went back in to check on the position of the placenta, I was both shocked and disappointed that it was still just barely covering the entire cervix.  You can’t too very well have the placenta (baby’s life-line) come out before baby.  And so the safest way for baby to be born with a complete previa is via Cesarean birth before you go into labor on your own.  The placenta still could move, and we would certainly look at it again before anyone starts slicing me open, but the likelihood of that happening is declining.

The other piece of news we received last Thursday, at that 34 week appointment, was that our little guy has Tetrology of Fallot.  It is a congenital heart defect consisting of 1. ventricular septal defect (for him, a  large hole in his heart between the ventricles), 2. overriding aorta (the main artery in a less than optimal position), and 3. pulmonary stenosis (in his case, this seems to be very a very mild narrowing of the right ventricle outflow tract.)  It will basically cause some blood to bypass the lungs and mix with the oxygenated blood being transported through his body, reducing his oxygen levels.  While this doesn't generally pose a risk to newborns, which have relatively low oxygen needs, as he grows and becomes more active, it is a serious problem.  The expectation is that he will require open heart surgery around 4-6 months to correct the malformations and afterwards he would be expected to lead a normal life with little-no restrictions.

That second piece of news complicates the first though.  OBs recommend a c-section at 36 weeks with complete placenta previa to minimize the risk of the cervix opening underneath the placenta and causing a major hemorrhage.  (Side note: Given that none of our babies have come before 40 weeks, we aren't comfortable with and would not consent to extracting this kid 1+ month early, regardless of the recommendation.)  Meanwhile, under normal pregnancy conditions, the pediatric cardiologist would prefer a spontaneous vaginal birth so that baby gets the strongest, largest start and doesn't have the breathing difficulties that so much more often accompany a non-labor Cesearean and/or pre-term babies.  Ultimately, since we’re the ones with the most at stake here, Eric and I have to look at all the evidence and decide where our comfort level is and at what point we feel the risks/benefits are most balanced. 

The big picture: the prognosis of placenta previa and Tetralogy of Fallot are both good in this day and age.  While both would have most likely lead to death of baby (the heart condition not right away, but eventually) and quite possibly mother 200 years ago, current medical technology has lessened the risks considerably.  

But the thought of my baby coming to me through major abdominal surgery (not to mention recovering from said surgery with four children 5 and under) is hard to wrap my mind around.  And then throw in open heart surgery with a 7-14 day hospital stay for my infant son and it all seems a little overwhelming. 
The reality check: I know other people suffer with much more.  I have friends dealing with infertility who would LOVE to be told, “you will have a baby, but he will need to be born via c-section.”  I have friends and family who have received terminal diagnoses and lost babies and others with children who will have life-long challenges and limitations, and “we’ll do a surgery at 4-6 months and after that all should be fine” would be the best news of their life.  And I do feel selfish and ungrateful at times to sit with the feelings that I have surrounding my situation.  But I also accept my emotions while praying for strength and serenity in all things.

I am incredibly thankful for the life I have, for the children God has entrusted in my care, for easy and uneventful previous births, and for this sweet little boy who will soon join our crazy family on the outside world.  We will handle whatever comes our way.  But I would be ecstatic if this placenta would slide a few inches up and over to open the path for baby.  And if God would see fit to stitch up our little one’s heart on His own, I can think of no greater miracle in my life.  I know He is in control.  He will give me, Eric, and the girls the strength to do what needs to be done.  And I know He answers prayers.  So if you would like to join me and my family in praying for this little guy and his birth, we would be most appreciative.

We have an appointment tomorrow afternoon with an obstetrician to start talking about the birth plans.  I'll update soon with more information.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ooh la la! Indeed

The thought of international travel alone with two children under the age of three causes me some anxiety. But there is apparently something magical about airports and planes with Gabriela and Lililan. They seriously morph into little angels with no desire other than to behave and do as I ask.

And this is why I am pleased to announce that we will be selling our home and moving into an airplane.

Just kidding. I think.

The trip over was quite smooth, except for the last 30 minutes or so.

It was our first time ever flying out of Peoria, and I love that airport now. Cedar Rapids and Moline are fine, but the free parking (right up close!) may have won my heart. Combine that with security personnel who did not open every little pouch of Plum Organics Baby Food (best snacks EVER as far as my kids are concerned...sucking pureed fruits and veggies from a pouch = great happiness) to test them for explosives, and I may never fly from anywhere else again! Not that I'm against airports preventing people from boarding with explosives, but I do take issue with opening sealed food pouches which then must be eaten OR REFRIGERATED. (Which is what has happened on previous flights!)

The girls were amazing on both the flight to Dallas and then to Paris. They each had a snack on our first flight and then took their afternoon naps. Once in Dallas, we made a mad dash for the children's play area for an hour before making our way to our gate.

Gabs has been especially pumped about this trip. She is finally old enough to be able to look forward to future events and she completely understood the whole concept of flying this time. Sitting on the plane, she kept telling me she wanted to "voa no ceu!" (fly in the sky). Earlier in the week, when I was telling her about all the fun things we were going to do on this trip, she nodded and agreed it would be a good time. And then she excitedly added, "E Bobbi vai ao vaso na aviao!" (And Bobbi is going to use the toilet on a plane!") So we made sure we did plenty of that too. I think I lost count after a dozen potty trips in the air. As a side note, Mamae does not share her enthusiasm for airplane lavatories.

Our flight to Paris was not without some excitement, lucky none that involved my offspring. An older gentleman starting having heart-attack symptoms a few hours into the flight. When the flight crew asked for any doctor on board to come to the back of the plane, I glanced at the map and noticed we were on the edge of the North America continent, about to begin the journey over the Atlantic. I knew at that point we would probably be landing soon.  Who decides to fly over the ocean for several hours with a possibly seriously ill passenger and no place to land?!?

The plane made a U-turn and after a while, we landed in Stephenville, Newfoundland, Canada where we were met by an ambulance and the gentleman was taken off the plane.  He seemed to be doing alright, and I overheard the doctor say he suspected his problems were actually related to dehydration.  I made a little tent over the girls with blankets, so the lights coming on wouldn't awake them.  Everyone who passed by during our 2+ hour stop got a kick out of them snoozing away through the whole ordeal - which all went down just a few rows behind us. 

Turns out, it's a little tricky landing a commercial airliner at a random airport.  We were going to land at an American Airlines-affiliated location, but they had freezing rain and ice.  So we re-routed elsewhere.  After the detour and an impending second take-off, we were going to need more fuel to make it to Paris.  After a fuel tanker finally arrived sometime about 2 am local time at an airport which was not open at the time, the captain had to figure out a way to pay the guy.  It was apparently a complicated situation involving AA corporate and someone reading off credit card numbers to the captain to relay to people on the ground.  All in all, we were 4 hours late arriving in Paris.  Which actually was great for my little people, since they got a solid 8 hours of sleep between supper and breakfast.  I, on the other hand, did not.  But as any mother will tell you, it is much better for mama to miss sleep than babies to lack sleep!

I knew all along that the trickiest part of the trip would be from baggage claim to the hotel in Paris.  Eric would be tied up at his conference, so I would have to drag my sleep-deprived self, two children, two backpacks, two rolling carry-ons, two carseats, a stroller, and 1 large checked bag all the way through the airport to our hotel - which was located within a different terminal from where we were arriving.  Luckily, I had a plan: LUGGAGE CART!  And was happily greeted by may happy rows of carts at the baggage claim.  It was still a little awkward, since I had to push the very over loaded cart, with Lilian attached to my body, manage Gabriela, and still drag an item or two behind me...but the seas of people parted and we managed just fine.

Unfortunately, our trip to the other terminal required getting on the train, there was no walkway.  And luggage carts are not allowed.  UGH! 

There was neither time nor space to be photographing my solution, so I will try to describe it as best I can:
I put Lilian in her carseat and had it strapped to one of the rolling carry-ons (thank you Travelling Toddler strap!). 
I had my backpack on and made Gabriela carry hers on her back.
I used a luggage strap to attach the second rolling carry-on (with 2nd carseat attached) to the large checked bag.
Then I laid the folded stroller over the top of the train I just created.
I pushed Lilian's set-up with one hand in front of me and pulled the long train (of suitcases, carseat, and stroller) behind me with the other hand, and had Gabs grab hold to a piece of something somewhere, so she wouldn't be lost in the shuffle.

We made it into the elevator and down to the platform with some ease, although graceful it was not!

The train was sitting there when we arrived, so I chose a less-crowded car and started to enter it.


And then I am pretty sure I uttered something people often refer to as French.

I still had my long train of luggage to drag on, which wasn't going to fit straight in, and I needed to locate my eldest child to make sure her body wasn't about to be crushed by slamming train doors. As I half debated stepping back off and waiting for the next train, I imagined Lilian sitting in her carseat getting stuck inside and me standing helpless on the platform as the train sped away.  At that moment, a guy from inside the train quickly pulled Gabriela from the doorway inside the car.  Both kids on the train, I was definitely committed now.  So I nearly knocked down a couple folks as I, ever so not gracefully, pulled and twisted and shoved and got the rest of our belongings inside with us.  I also found out that the doors will, indeed, re-open when they hit a solid object.

My hair no doubt a mess, my entire body more than a little sweaty, and my teeth in dire need of a good brushing after our 21-hour journey from home to Paris, I spent the next two stops trying to ignore the combination of pity and disgust coming from the French passengers around me with their scarves, fancy boots, and perfectly arranged hair. 

At our stop, someone grabbed Gabriela's hand to lead her off and as I was maneuvering all our other stuff off, a middle-aged man grabbed the luggage train to try to help me.  And it would have been a great help.  Except he did not understand the finer intricacies of moving 150+ pounds of stuff with a suitcase on wheels.  He attempted to get the whole thing to rise up on the suitcase's wheels by yanking on the handle with the sort of force required when moving 150 pounds of stuff.

Problem was, suitcases (as I have learned from lots of travel with heavy loads) need a gentle touch.  They are not made to withstand the sort of abusive weights I make them carry.  You must speak nicely to them and never. ever. yank.

Or else you end up holding the handle of the suitcase in your hand.  And only the handle.

He felt badly, but obviously had other more pressing personal matters to attend to in the airport (like catching a plane or something.)  So I took the no-longer-attached-to-my-suitcase handle from him, assured him we were fine, and sent him on his way.

We eventually made it into the hotel lobby thanks to Gabriela's ability to push the stroller along for me (without even being able to see over the top!) and the kind assistance of a young Frenchman who helped us along the last 300 feet of the journey.

As I wheeled into the hotel lobby, Lilian lost it.  For the first time on the trip, Lilian decided she was tired, hungry, and in need of a diaper change.  And was none too happy about it.  She wailed as I left my heap of stuff, including kids behind me and walked to the reception desk.  Where the two Ibis employees surveyed the situation, turn around, and walked away. 

I think my French was getting better by the minute, as I am pretty sure I muttered some under my breath.

I waited over 5 minutes before they returned.  It was a long 5-minutes with Lilian crying, Gabriela petting her and saying, "It's okay, Yay-Yay, you're okay", and I tried to pretend that I didn't know the two short little curly-headed blond people 15 feet behind me.

No luggage cart, no bellhop, no one willing to help me haul my little motley crew to the elevator across the lobby, we hobbled along on our own.  Upon the reaching the 8th floor, I tossed everything out of the elevator and walked down the hall with the girls and a few of our bags.  My plan was to put the girls safely in the room and run back down the hall to grab the rest of our stuff.

What I didn't consider was that Lilian, who was still crying, would really freak out when I locked her in a strange place and walked away during the height of her distress.  Which would cause great distress for her sister.  Who would open up the door for her poor little begging sister.

As I came back around the corner with our bags approximately 14.3 seconds after I had shut the hotel door behind me, I was met by a member of the housekeeping staff exiting a room.  Her eyes got big at the sight in the hallway:

-Lilian running wildly down the hall in the opposite direction (which happened to be towards an open stairway)screaming, "MAMAAAAAAEEEE, MAMAAAAAAEEE" while bumping into walls in her tired, teary-eyed stupor.

-Gabriela running towards me yelling, "MAMAE, LILIAN SAIU!!!  NO YAY-YAY!  MAMAE!!!" (Mommy, Lilian got out! No Lilian! Mommy!"

-Me running down the hall dragging suitcases and carseats and yelling to Lilian that I am coming and to stop and not go to the stairs.

The poor little lady's shocked expression summed up my feelings exactly as she exclaimed, "OOH LA LA!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Jet Set

If I lived hundreds of years ago, I totally would have been a nomad. While I've got nothing against "roots", picking up and going and a frequent change of scenery brings me much joy! In fact, if it weren't that whole part about the frozen tundra of a land bridge (we all know I hate the cold), I like to think that I'd been with those folks who (according to the Bering Strait Theory) decided to wander on over to the Americas and see what there is to see over there. Of course, I also like to research the heck out of trips...Lonely Planet didn't exist back then, did it? Hmmm, maybe I wouldn't have been so adventurous without a guide book.

But I digress...

The point is, I like to go and see and do. Travel excites me. And it's been too long! I haven't been anywhere in months.

While Eric has been all over creation here lately with work, I've been at home chasing our "chillins". But that's about change. Woohoo!

We leave in just a couple hours to head to Chicago for the weekend. Eric was invited to a Patent Banquet his company puts on for everyone who has gotten a patent issued during the last year. So we get to get all fancied up and enjoy dinner and drinks while the girls stay with friends there in the area.

We'll spend the rest of the weekend playing in Chicago before Eric flies out for Italy on Sunday afternoon.

The girls and I will return home and begin preparing for our big journey!

Next week, Gabriela, Lilian, and I will fly over and meet Eric in Paris, where he will be for an expo. After Papai is done with all his European work-stuff, he's going to take some vacation and we're going to play.

We're renting a car and driving down through France and into Spain. We'll stop in Barcelona before continuing down the Mediterranean coast to Valencia, where Eric's youngest sister has been studying abroad this semester. We'll hang out there a few days and then fly over to Ibiza, a small island off the coast of Spain. A few days at the beach there and then we'll head back to the mainland and start out return drive back to Paris.

When we get home, it's going to be May.

And that means summer will be upon us.

And we have lots of fun stuff planned for this summer too.

And I am a very, very happy person!

(I've just got to get through the flying internationally with two children by myself thing first. I know they'll do fine - they always do - but that doesn't change the fact that I get a little anxious at the thought of being outnumbered by my little people in airports and on planes and in a foreign land for many, many hours! Y'all pray for me!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Disappointed, But GREATLY Blessed!

Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. -Philippians 4: 4-9

These verses from Paul's letter to the Philippians have given me motivation and comfort on numerous occasions in life. And I once again found myself turning to these words and striving to apply them daily over the last week.

Eric and I were ecstatic to learn on March 11 that we would be adding a new baby to our family sometime around Thanksgiving this year. We began talking about birthing plans, discussing rearranging rooms, and wondering if we'd have a third girl or our very first boy. We were planning to make the big announcement to family and friends the first week of May after enjoying it being our own little secret for a while.

And we really were excited for a little more time to pass so we could tell Gabriela and Lilian. Lilian is ALL ABOUT babies these days. She spends her days toting around dolls, shushing them to sleep, and wrapping them in blankets. Gabriela has taken to telling us regularly that she wants a "nene pequeno" (little baby) at our house. And when we get to spend time with the babies of our family and friends, the girls are absolutely in heaven! (The baby, not so much usually...ha!)

So when I woke up Saturday, March 24 with heavy bleeding, our hearts ached. I called and chatted with the on-call nurse from my midwife's office. I knew what was happening and that at 6 weeks pregnant there was nothing to do but wait and see...but I needed to hear it from someone else, I guess. She suggested I plan on coming in Monday.

After a physically and emotionally exhausting weekend (which included doula-ing at a beautiful birth into the wee hours of Sunday morning), Eric and I went in to see my midwife (who I had just been working with Saturday night) on Monday morning. When she walked in, she crossed the room and wrapped me up in a hug, saying, "I'm so sorry, Emily" followed by, "You had quite a rough the day Saturday, now didn't you! Though I never would have known it."

My midwife was fabulous, as always: super encouraging and supportive. I spent the next couple days a little sleepy and a little sad, but overall I was blessed with an incredible amount of peace. On Wednesday Eric was scheduled to leave on an 8-day trip to India. He wanted to stay, but I encouraged him to go.

Thursday afternoon I got a phone call from my midwife. I had taken in the tissue I passed on Saturday, and she had received the report from pathology: molar pregnancy.

At first, that prognosis seemed to make the loss a little easier. Due to a rare (1 in 1000 chance) doubling up of DNA at the time of fertilization, instead of a baby forming, an abnormal group of cells developed creating what's called a "mole".

But the more information I got about molar pregnancies, the more concerning it became. A D&C (surgery to clean out the lining of the uterus) is almost always indicated to be certain to remove all the abnormal cells. In 15-25% of cases, chemotherapy is recommended because the abnormal cells persist and can spread into the lungs and other organs. A hysterectomy is not uncommon after a molar pregnancy (though normally not a first step unless the woman wants to be done having children.) In most cases, doctors need to monitor the woman's hormone levels (hcg, specifically) for 6-12 months to ensure the cells do not re-present themselves. And in order to be able to monitor hcg levels, the woman must not become pregnant during that time.

I went from being relieved that I hadn't in actuality lost a baby to disappointed that I would have to delay having another child plus a little nervous about the other health complications that could arise. Surgery. Chemotherapy. Not exactly things you are expecting to be thinking about when you decide to add to your family!

My midwife asked me to come in Monday, April 2 to check my hcg level (through a blood test)and do an ultrasound. Those two things would help us determine the next step. Eric was prepared to come home early, as if a D&C was necessary we would need to do it right away.

I dropped the girls off at daycare so they could play for a couple hours, and I headed to my appointment this morning. The nurse checked my hcg level first and had me wait to see my midwife.

My hcg levels were untraceable! After a normal, uncomplicated miscarriage (as if there is such a thing!), it normally takes a few weeks for your hcg levels to drop to zero. With a molar pregnancy, it usually takes weeks to months. My hcg level dropped to normal, non-pregnant status in a week! My body did what it needed to do, and it did it quickly! No doubt, The Great Physician helped my body to heal!

After also consulting with one of the obstetricians in the office (and checking additional references), we came to the conclusion that there was no need for further testing. There is no reason to avoid future pregnancy for any amount of time. My body is perfect. Okay well, there is a dimple (or two or three) on my thighs, my arms stand in need of toning, and there's an inch or so to pinch on my belly...but from a functional standpoint, PERFECT. hehehe

There's no denying that the entire experience was difficult. It was hard for me to talk about (so I mostly didn't). But it has given me greater empathy for people who deal with difficult pregnancies or losses so much greater than what I went through (which in hindsight seems so trivial). And having my husband half a world away when what I wanted most was his embrace was tough. But I felt God's presence. I know the peace I had in my soul was coming from Him. And there is no doubt that having two bubbly fun little girls keeping me busy and entertained helped.

One of the sweetest moments of the last 9 days occurred on the day it all began. I had just taken a mid-day shower to help me relax a bit. After getting dressed, I got a little overwhelmed and, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I dropped to my knees in my room to pray. Gabriela walked in, tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Whatcha doin', Mamae?" Without looking up, I told her that I was asking God for help. Without hesitation, my sweet girl got on her knees right beside me, folded her hands, and said, "Bobbi vai razar tambem." (Gabi's going to pray too.) As if I wasn't crying enough already!!! (Oh my gosh, I can't even sit here and think about the moment without tears!) She remained right beside me while I silently prayed and when I whispered, "Amen", she said the same, and then gave a great big hug. I am so often at a loss for the right thing to say or do when someone is hurting, yet my almost-three-year-old knew exactly what my heart needed!

If it is His will, we'll hopefully be making that baby announcement later this year (as if enough of you haven't been suspecting and anticipating it for months now...hehehe) Meanwhile, I'm counting down the days until my hubby gets home (3 more days until Thursday!), enjoying this fabulous weather playing outside with the girls, and thanking God for all the many blessings in my life!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Making Mommyhood a Little Easier

You know the old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child"? Well, I'm not sure about that. I am certain though that a village helps keep a mama functioning at full capacity.
Back in September or so, one of my stay-at-home mommy friends suggested a girl's night out for dinner. So a few of us girls got gussied up and put on clothes that we normally can't wear (you know, the stuff we don't want covered in boogers or milk), left the kiddos with their fathers, and we had a lovely supper. We had some wine, we had lots of laughs, we actually were able to finish a conversation without telling anyone to sit down, take someone potty, or stop a little person from slinging their food across the table. It was AMAZING! We decided it must be a monthly ritual. We weren't sure how the hubbies would feel about it. But I guess seeing how we came home happy and refreshed and how that worked out to their advantage...well, they haven't complained a bit (or at least mine hasn't!)
Then about the end of January, as the gloomy days of winter were really settling upon us, one of the mommies had the most fabulous idea: we should meet once a week in one another's homes for coffee and a playdate. Having as many as 10 children all under the age of 4 in one house (sometimes your own) might seem a little crazy. And it usually is. But to sip on coffee and chat with several other mommies (even while chasing after kids and breaking up the occasional toy battle) does very good things for morale. Tuesday mornings are a highlight of my week. Gabriela and Lilian absolutely LOVE getting to play with their friends. And I love getting to visit with other mommies who understand the joys and challenges of spending all day, every day with little people who make big messes and tend to need a lot of things wiped.
The high for today is supposed to be in the 80's (highest temp of the year, so far). So this morning, the girls and I went to a local park with two of the other mommies from our Tuesday morning group. Our five kiddos played and ran and giggled and squealed. As I basked in the sunshine and chatted with my friends, I said a little thank you prayer for these women in my life that have made my (and my children's) winter so much brighter!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sometimes Life Requires a Plan B

And sometimes even on Valentine's Day.

I have always had a thing for Valentine's Day. Since 3rd grade, I pretty much always made sure to have a boyfriend, or later in life, a date, on February 14. As lame as it sounds: 1. I've always wanted the fairytale. 2. I'm a sucker for romantic. 3. I like hearts and flowers and red and pink.

Post-kids, Valentine's Day has a little bit of a different look, but it is still fun to celebrate with all my loves.

Since the 14th was on a Tuesday this year, we decided to really celebrate with the girls the weekend before. That way, Papai could enjoy an entire day of love with us too!

We woke up and had some family cuddle time before I made heart shaped Belgium waffles topped with chopped strawberries and whipped cream. Eric cooked up some sausage and formed it into a heart (sort of). After that we gave the girls their presents: a percussion instrument set to share and a pair of sunglasses for each of them.

Most of the rest of the day was spent making music, dancing, and lookin' cool in the new shades. We stayed in our pajamas until almost lunchtime and just had a jolly good time together. (There were only a few moments throughout the day that I questioned our sanity for buying the children a drum and other loud toys...fostering musical talent be danged! I like QUIET!...but no, really, I wanted them to have a chance to make music since I am so seriously deficient in that department! And they do LOVE it!)

A couple days later, as the real Valentine's Day rolled around, we decided to avoid the hassle of a sitter and fancy meal on such a busy day. Instead, we decided to opt for all going out for Mexican food (a family favorite - both girls are obsessed with salsa, they eat so much of it when we go out) and then making a fun dessert together after the kiddos were in bed.

But...as has been happening an awful lot the last several months, Eric got stuck in the office. He was hoping to be home by 5:00 or 5:30. I think I held out until about 6:45 at which point the girls were starving, starting to get tired, and beginning to frazzle their mama's nerves (who had been pretty excited about a nice evening on Valentine's Day). Not having planned to cook supper, I had nothing ready or thawed out. So I grabbed a frozen pizza and threw it in the oven. Eric got home right about the time I started cutting it up...

Extremely apologetic and a little annoyed with his job, he joined us for our special V-Day dinner...it was, after all, rising crust frozen pizza (ooooooohhhh-aaaaaaaaawwww . . . special, no?) I tried to hide my own disappointment, and got Gabriela pumped up to have Eric open his presents from me (shiatsu neck massager - since his neck is always bothering him, some new shirts, and a special Year of Romance package I created with an envelope to open each month of the year with special "date" suggestions for us - it was really fun to make!) He pulled out some presents for me too (some cute new clothes and coffee he knew I'd like.)

We finally put the monkeys to bed, a little past their bedtime, and then he inquired as to what kind of dessert I wanted to make with him. Exhausted from an extra-long day with the girls (plus an extra little one I babysat for a friend that day) and a smidgen pouty from not having things go as planned, I suggested he just go get the ice cream from the freezer and two spoons. We collapsed on the couch and ate ice cream out of the container.

My 13-year-old version of me would have been most disappointed. (To his credit, I should add that Eric had shown up unannounced at lunchtime and brought me a bouquet of roses and a card.) And admittedly, the 30-year-old version of me really doesn't like it when plans fall through. Which seems silly since the plan was nothing stellar; it was just our local Mexican restaurant. But getting significantly less time with my sweetie on the Day of Sweeties made me sad, I guess.

But, you know what? Life happens. I'm blessed to have a hard working husband with a job that supports our family so that I can stay home with our children. He totally adores me and tells me I'm beautiful even when my hair is in a messy ponytail and I'm looking completely grungy and not even a little bit cute. We have a nice house, reliable vehicles, and even some fun toys. I have two gorgeous girls that make everyday exciting and full of laughter and joy. We have a wonderful family and some awesome friends. And you know, I AM living out that fairytale I always wanted.

I just didn't know that sometimes my fairytale would involve frozen pizza on Valentine's Day. But aren't the surprises in the story what make life fun?!?

And let's be honest. After getting to spend last year's Valentine's Day on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, I think we all saw the disappointment coming this year! hahaha