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Almost two

19 May

My little J is turning two in a few days, and I realized perhaps that’s why I’ve been a bit more emotional and thin-skinned lately. I’ve been thinking back to two years ago, when I was in the hospital for pre-e. I feel a strange longing for those days spent being watched carefully, sleeping in the hospital bed, ordering meals to my room. Of course it was hard in many ways, but the hard bits fade. The edges blur slightly and you look back and think, it wasn’t so bad.

I even do that with J’s days in the hospital. Sometimes I miss them. Should I feel guilty for that? I don’t miss her being sick or struggling or the sheer agony of the days before and after her surgery, but I kind of miss living there sometimes, which blows my mind. We were practically kicking the door down to get out of there. Yet every time we were admitted for short inpatient stays after the big one, it felt like coming home.

Now, on the almost eve of her second birthday, I am itching to go back and remember the day. I took her birth story post down long ago because of the pictures coming up in image search engines and it all made us nervous. Still, the story is a good one. I get requests for it. So I’m bringing the text of the story back, in case you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me. If not, skip to the bottom for an update on how she’s doing.

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Turtle’s Birth Story

This is the most surreal blog post I’ve ever written. Turtle is here, you guys. Let me start at the beginning.

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On Monday they ordered more labs to check in on the state of my pre-eclampsia, including bloodwork and another 24-hr urine collection. On Tuesday, I knew my OB would be on call and stopping by sometime in the morning. DH had been leaving the hospital room around 6:45 am to get to work but I asked him to stay this day to hear what she had to say. By 9 am he was getting antsy to get to work and finally decided to leave, even though we had asked our nurse to page Dr. Caring and let her know we were waiting to meet with her.

As he’s heading out the door, our nurse says, Dr. C on the floor and consulting with Dr. Kind’s practice. She would be by soon. So he came back and waited. And I’m so glad he did because she came in and basically said, how do you feel about delivering today? I was 36w3d at that point and my pre-eclampsia seemed to be getting a little bit worse. My blood pressure readings were creeping up and one of the liver indicators in my bloodwork had made a jump. She didn’t want to wait and then have to have an emergency c-section. With Turtle’s condition, we needed to be able to plan ahead a little bit and coordinate with Children’s. So Tuesday, May 21st it would be!

We had about six hours to get ready, which included flying DH’s mom up from the DC area and making all sorts of arrangements. I was a ball of anxiety in these hours, really anxious about everything to do with the surgery. I was trying to live in the moment as much as possible but I’m afraid most of this time is a blur. I did take notice of every one of Turtle’s movements and told myself this was one of the last times I’d ever feel him move inside of me.

Eventually they got me up to labor and delivery and started prepping me for surgery (including the super fun hunt for a place to put an IV in my tiny veins). We planned for DH to be with me during the birth, then he’d go with Turtle to the NICU for stabilization, and eventually over to Children’s. At that point, my mom would come into the OR to be with me for the rest of the surgery. This was an accommodation on the hospital’s part but oh my god, no one knew how important that ended up being.

After they got my spinal in (horrible feeling, I cried), they laid me down and I tried not to think about my naked lower half splayed open for all to see while they catheterized, sterilized, and did god-knows-what-else to me. I was so glad it was my own OB doing the surgery, someone I trusted implicitly and knew well. I kept getting nauseous and the anesthesiologist kept having to fix that. I tried to just focus on a spot on the ceiling and couldn’t help but think how much courage this was requiring and how much of an equal sacrifice a c-section is.

Finally, it was time and they allowed DH to come in and sit by my head behind the curtain. I felt lots of tugging and pulling all over but nothing hurt. I think I remember hearing that they could see the baby. Then more tugging and pulling. Then something about how the baby came out peeing. Then these words that changed my life, “Is it a girl or a boy?”

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DH and I met eyes immediately in confusion and, frankly, terror. What did they mean, is it a girl or a boy? Of course it was a boy! We had a MaterniT21 test! We saw boy bits on an ultrasound! Was there some sort of scary ambiguous gender thing going on? It seemed to take forever. The anesthesiologist kept saying, congratulations, we’re just confirming if it’s a boy or a girl. Meanwhile, DH and I are frantic, trying to wrap our heads around the fact that it could possibly be a girl.

We hear some faint cries from the other side of the room and after an eternity, a nurse in yellow scrubs comes over to say, it’s definitely a girl. WHAT! Then she asked DH if he wanted to see her and he was like, um yes! Off he went and off my mind went spinning. At some point, a NICU resident came over to tell me something about meconium, getting a tube in her stomach… I honestly couldn’t even listen, all I could think was, TURTLE IS A GIRL!

They wheeled her over for me to see but she was far away in an isolette and I could barely view her. Then she was gone, DH was gone, and they went to fetch my mom. When she came in, she was all smiles and the nurse told me she hadn’t told her anything yet. I’m sure she was babbling on about something but I just met her eyes and said, “Mom. It’s a GIRL.”

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Everyone in the OR, especially my OB, is shocked. We’re all trying to figure out how this could happen. My OB is getting her office on the phone to call Dr. Kind’s office, get ultrasound records and the MaterniT21 test results. She’s resolved to get to the bottom of this. Meanwhile, my mind is still spinning.

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Here’s what I know in recovery: she’s a girl. She’s on her way to Children’s. She looks good. She weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz., same as me, but I was late and she was way early. She scored 8 and 9 on her Apgar. She was born at 3:24 pm on May 21st, 2013. She’s a she.

Then I’m throwing up and they’re starting my 24-hour magnesium sulfate treatment to prevent seizures and the nurse is being amazing and putting ice cold washcloths on my face and I can’t really think about anything. I hear she’s in surgery around 5 and out around 7. I hear she did well. DH calls me and says the NICU nurse wants to talk with me. She tells me Turtle did so well in surgery and the surgeon is really pleased with her results. Her belly was big enough to fit all of the bowel back in and close up nicely. She has a lot of healthy bowel. BUT. There are two blockages (atresias) that will need to be fixed with a subsequent surgery in 6-8 weeks. It’s my worst nightmare and a dream come true all at the same time.

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The past few days have been intense. I’ve been so occupied by my own recovery that I haven’t been able to really miss her or fret about her. The magnesium treatment is not at all fun and essentially knocks you out for 24 hours. Still, I was determined to see her on Wednesday, so as soon as my 24 hours were up, my nurse and parents started trying to get my to a place where I could be wheeled across the street to Children’s to see her. The pain and discomfort I felt as soon as I stood up required every ounce of determination I had to make it to the bathroom. I had to, otherwise I could not have gone. They packed me in the chair, catheter and all, popped some Per.cosset and even though I felt like hell and was really only about halfway with it, I got there. I saw her. I touched her that day for the first time. All I could do was reach into her isolette and stroke her head and cheeks but I did it.

The next day, yesterday, was a little bit better and with DH’s loving help I was able to shower and see her again, and finally hold her and fall in love. By this time, everyone was on our case about the name. It was hard to say goodbye to the perfect boy name we had for a boy Turtle (we’re still not revealing it and might save it for the unknown future). It felt like saying goodbye to the son we had been bonding with and envisioning since December.

We were determined to name her ASAP though. It just felt like she NEEDED a name, we couldn’t keep calling her “baby girl.” So yesterday we pow-wowed over lunch while the grandmas watched over her at Children’s and narrowed it down to three names (first and middle, all different). I felt strongly about one, DH loved another, so we compromised and went with the third, which we both loved.

Blog world, I’m so proud to introduce you to my darling daughter. Our wild, unpredictable little girl.

I’ll likely still call her Turtle on here for now but wanted to share her name because I’m oh so proud of her.

In terms of the gastroschisis, all of her bowel was able to be placed back in her belly on her birth day. She came through the surgery like a champ and the surgeons, like I said, were so pleased with the result. However, we’re still looking at another 6 weeks or more until they can get in there to repair the blocked portions of bowel, and then possibly another 6 weeks or more after that until she can leave the hospital. It’s a long haul but I feel surprisingly okay with all of it. And just so, so lucky to have our precious little girl here with us after EVERYTHING. Infertility, IVF, vanishing twin, early bleeding, gastroschisis, breech position, pre-eclampsia, no one ever said it would be easy and it wasn’t but she is a miracle and she is here.

ps. She is 100% a girl. A strong, feisty, pulling her tubes out girl. They confirmed her uterus and ovaries in surgery just to make sure. The MaterniT21 mix up is being blamed on the vanishing twin. The ultrasound showing us “boy parts” was early, around 14 weeks, when a mix up can easily occur. After that, we couldn’t see anything due to the gastroschisis. And that, my friends, is how even the best of modern medicine and 30+ ultrasounds can miss the fact that you’re having a girl, not a boy.

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And now, she is almost two years old. She is walking, running, climbing, sliding, balancing, kicking, dancing, even doing yoga with me. And she has more words than I can count and is starting to pay attention to pronunciation. (Big Bird is now just Big Bird, “dede” no longer.) She’s stringing little phrases together. Counting, “one thumb, TWO thumbs!” (She very much loves having two thumbs.) Like most little girls, she is equal parts sass and love. But she’s friendlier than most and generally loves life. Doing things. Being outside! It’s all the best thing ever.

On the medical side, we are still challenged by her bacterial overgrowth. But she did get her g-tube out a few weeks ago! That was a victory, for sure. But it won’t feel complete until she has surgery to close the hole, which doesn’t seem to want to close on its own. It’s more of a procedure than a full surgery, but it does require general anesthesia so a part of me is already nervous about it.

Still, as the months continue to roll by, and the person she is continues to emerge, all the pain and anxiety described above gets minimized. Which is good and natural, but some days, like today, you want to hang on. And remember. And fist bump your former self and your husband and your baby and everyone because, we are the lucky ones who survived and thrived. And I won’t ever forget that.

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A birthday moment.

4 Jun

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It hit me as we were singing “happy birthday” to her that holy crap, this baby is one whole year old. I felt myself tear up but then it was time for cake cutting and passing plates and no time to be weepy. Thank goodness for bright sunshine and sunglasses.

The real breakdown moment came on her actual birthday. A quiet day just spent hanging out at home as usual, other than lunch with Daddy on his lunch break and cake after dinner. I went upstairs to get her up and that day, because of a mix up with Children’s and our infusion company (blah blah boring story), anyways, that day she was already disconnected from her pumps (which is usually something I do when I go up to get her but DH had done with the early morning bottle).

So for once, I got to just scoop her right out of the crib and into my arms and say “happy birthday, sweet baby,” and boom, breakdown. Because this baby I almost didn’t get, that almost didn’t stick, that had a complicated gestation and birth and 101 days in the hospital and still with the medical interventions and tubes in her body and SHE’S ONE. Holy crap.

We did it. We made it. It’s not over but it’s HUGE. I was just overcome in that moment with all the feelings. Pride, in her, in us. Joy. Relief. So much relief. So I held her close and really wept into her shoulder for a good five minutes. And then she smiled at me and we went on with her birthday.

I’m sharing more photos and stories from her birthday party today on my other blog but just wanted to share that with you all. I knew you’d understand.

And, one.

21 May

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?

My baby is one today. A year ago, I was sitting in my room at the hospital, reeling from my OB’s news that she was planning to deliver our baby boy that day, because my preeclampsia was escalating and they needed time to plan the transfer to Children’s. He would be going almost immediately into surgery, we knew that much.

In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

But as we know, it didn’t turn out quite as we planned. He was a she. A gorgeous, happy, resilient, amazing little she. The she I had dreamed of. A year ago, at this very moment, I didn’t know what was in store for me. Hours upon days upon weeks to spend waiting in the hospital. Learning a new language, a new family, a new life.

I look back with nostalgia for that time just before we became a family of three, and sadness for what the me of a year ago had in store in the months ahead. The angst and tears and Everest of worry I know she will go through, and endless runs to Starbucks. And walks in the garden. And laps around the floor, Juniper in her Baby Bjorn, and me wheeling her pumps alongside us.

How about love?
Measure in love.

How do I measure the past year? Not in the giant pile of batteries that have powered her pumps, powered her, in fact. Not in syringes, dressing changes, IV bags, sterile gloves, doctor’s appointments, x-rays, surgeries, meds, none of that. All that is part of our story and our reality still, and I appreciate it all, but it’s not what matters.

I measure the year in how much she has grown and blossomed. How she has thrived. How she has overcome. And I measure it in how much I’ve grown and thrived and overcome, and my husband too. I measure it in how much love and closeness we have. The utter joy we feel when we’re all together. The rightness and the destiny of it.

Needless to say, it’s been a hell of year. The absolute most trying of my life. And the absolute BEST.

Here’s to ONE. And two, and three, and four, and five, and the lifetime.

Here’s to her. I love her beyond measure or comprehension.

Starry starry nursery

28 Apr

Our nursery is (finally!) just about done. While there are a few little things we might like to add, they’re not essential to its completeness and we’re not stressing over them. Anyways, without further adieu, here is Turtle’s starry nursery!

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First off, let me just say, this was truly a labor of love on both my and DH’s parts. As we did when we designed our office, we really came together as a team to express our shared design aesthetic which tends to be an eclectic mix of modern and antique, new and collected. Putting together this room (THE room) will always remain a highlight of my pregnancy.

Let’s rewind a minute and take a look at the before pic of what was our guest room:

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As you can see, we were pretty much working with a blank slate. I never wanted to decorate this room very much because like so many infertiles, I always hoped it would become a baby’s room. When I finally allowed myself to admit that this pregnancy looked like it would be sticking around, we started making plans for this room.

Choosing a paint color. We went with Benjamin Moore's "Constellation," ironically.

Choosing a paint color. We went with Benjamin Moore’s “Constellation,” ironically.

Painting complete, DH did an awesome job!

Painting complete, DH did an awesome job!

Now we knew we wanted to incorporate wallpaper in some way. I was thinking one wall of wallpaper with the others painted. We originally liked the look of this wallpaper but when the sample came, it really looked nothing like it does on that website (the stars were all holographic and tacky looking, which is crazy considering the price of that paper). So then I started poking around some more and that’s when I found Ralph Lauren’s navy blue constellation wallpaper and we both fell in love. When the sample came, we realized it would look so much better on the ceiling than on the wall. The little white stars even glow in the dark for 30 minutes after you turn the lights off!

My Dad came up to help DH put up the wallpaper - quite the  bonding experience for those two!

My Dad came up to help DH put up the wallpaper – quite the bonding experience for those two!

Back to the finished product… here’s the crib corner with the mobile hung up. For the crib, we went with the babyletto Hudson 3 in 1 Convertible Crib in gray. It’s a nod to the Oeuf Sparrow crib at about half the price. The mobile is from Etsy. The color block curtains are from Land of Nod.

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Here’s his dresser/changing table corner, which is the Nyvoll from Ikea. After college I swore I’d never buy Ikea furniture again but, do you know how expensive dressers are? We really liked the look of this one and the price was so affordable. I love the white lacquer drawers and the fact that they’re slam-proof. We plan to keep diapers, wipes and other essentials in the upper left drawer.

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The lamp goes perfectly with the dresser and was such a steal from CB2. The astronaut print is kind of a long story but we bought it from a friend’s antique store. It’s actually a print on thick, quite warped, cardboard (believed to be from Grissom‘s memorial service) that my engineer husband had to rig up a fancy framing for. Anyways, it had just been floating aimlessly around the house but once we started putting this room together, we knew it had to be in here.

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Opposite the crib, we have the chair and bookshelf corner. The chair we agonized over forever, it was one of the last things we bought. We ended up not getting a rocker because we couldn’t see ourselves using it once Turtle outgrows the baby years and didn’t want to fork over so much for a semi-temporary piece of furniture. Instead we found this chair at West Elm that worked so well stylistically. It’s actually a recliner and SO super comfortable.

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The bookshelf is new, from Ikea. The star we recycled from our office (originally $5 from Home Goods!). The canvas baskets on the shelf are from The Container Store. If I have time and energy before he comes, I’d like to get the polar bear print framed and hung, and we’d also like a small side table (been eying this one in bronze) and either a floor lamp or a small lamp to go on top of the shelf (I love this one). And, I suppose the chair could use a throw blanket and pillow too but we’ll just have to see if I get around to those things.

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A couple of other little details to share… these are the beautiful beanbag bookends one of my dear friends got for our shower. They fit so well in the room! She said she got them from Etsy.

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This is a little antique Turtle figurine that DH bought me ages ago for some holiday or anniversary. I never really appreciated it until recently!

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And this is the first thing we ever bought for Turtle, a little bicycle onesie. It symbolizes our embracing the pregnancy and is a nod to DH’s love of bikes (he builds them in his spare time).

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So that’s our little nursery! It’s bittersweet in a way because I know Turtle won’t get to come home and enjoy it for quite some time but going in there reminds me that he will be coming home, that there’s more to our story than surgery and a hospital stay, and that life will go on.

Dear Turtle

16 Feb

Dear Turtle,

Today, I am 23 weeks pregnant with you in my belly. Daddy and I tried for a long time to have a baby so every week is getting more and more exciting for us.

This morning I SAW you move for the first time ever. Your kicks were feeling so strong I decided to lift up my shirt and check it out. And then – boop! You kicked me again and I saw my belly jump. I love every time I feel you move or kick me. A wave of relief and joy washes over me every time, knowing that you’re still growing and playing around in there. Keep it up!

For Valentine’s Day last week, your grandparents, my parents, sent you some gifts. One gift was a bib from the Paula Dean store in Savannah, Georgia. Paula Dean is a famous Southern chef and the bib says, “Feed me, ya’ll!” We think it’s the cutest thing. Pops also sent us a CD of classical music to play for you. I think you are just starting to hear, so I’m going to try playing some of the music for you soon.

Yesterday, I think we finally found the lady who will be taking care of you during the day while Mama and Daddy are at work. We looked long and hard to find this lady because we wanted to find just the perfect person for you to spend your early years with. Her name is Sue and she lives near the water and she has a big shaggy black dog.

You’ll be used to dogs of course because our Ava can’t wait to meet you. We are pretty sure she knows you’re coming because she’s been acting very differently since Mama got pregnant with you. She has been one of the greatest joys in our lives as we’ve waited for you. Everyone who meets her says she’s the sweetest, calmest, best behaved doggie they’ve ever met. We can’t wait to see you grow up with her and know she will take the best care of you.

We also have a cat you’ll meet, Milo. He is so funny. He loves to talk to us and to the birds outside. He is obsessed with Ava and will cry by the window every time she’s outside. Sometimes, he bites us. But he is so gentle with Ava, we think he’ll be just as gentle with you. Last night he wanted to cuddle with me but my belly is getting too big. So he curled up on the arm of the sofa and rested his head on my arm.

When you’re first born, we’ll be spending a lot of time in the hospital. You’ll be receiving the best care from the best doctors and nurses and though Mama and Daddy will worry, we know you’re a strong and brave little boy who will overcome everything. Mama may not be around to kiss and hold you very much right after you’re born, because I’ll be in a different hospital than you. You’re going to one of the most special hospitals in all the world, built just for babies and children! Even though I won’t be there very much, I’ll be thinking of you constantly and my love will be all around you, always. And Daddy will be there to hold your hand until I get there.

But let’s not worry about that for now. Our job right now is to stay healthy and keep growing! And even though I am counting down the days until I get to meet you, I want you to stay inside my belly and keep growing as long as you can.

All my love,Mama

Things I want to remember

26 Dec

I’ve been living this pregnancy with one eye closed. Waiting anxiously for the next blow to fall. And blows there have been.

Too often I’ve let feelings of fear, anxiety, and guilt override the overwhelming joy of finally being pregnant after such a long journey. I have some regret over this but at the same time, I know it’s only natural, given what we’ve been through.

But I want to remember the wonderful moments too. There have been many of those, even just in these past few days at home with our families.

Like telling my uncle on the phone yesterday, whom I rarely get to see, that we’re finally expecting. Even though we rarely talk, he intuitively knew of our struggles. He approached telling me that his grandson, younger than me, was expecting a baby a few years ago with such sensitivity, it was touching and so appreciated. And maybe he just knew when we spoke yesterday that this would finally be the year we’d have that news to share too, because he even asked about it. His joy was palpable. He joked, I always knew I was a great uncle but I guess this makes it official. I think he had been waiting to say that for a very long time.

Like discovering that my Dad goes on babycenter.com to track where the baby is in its growth, and that he likes to look a few weeks ahead.

Like talking with both my parents about our meeting at Children’s, all the information we’ve gathered so far, and feeling like they’re truly in this with us. Making plans as a family for how we will survive 8-12 weeks in the hospital.

Like receiving lots of beautiful maternity clothes for Christmas from my mother, and being told when I put them on that I look beautiful. Like deciding to embrace my burgeoning bump instead of thinking it’s “too big” for where I’m at and that I “just look fat.”

Or like revealing the gender, a secret we’ve kept quiet for the past two weeks, to our families. Yes – we know the gender! And I’ve been dying to tell you that but my cousin reads this blog and I wanted her to be totally surprised on Christmas Eve. I’ll tell the full story and reveal it to you very soon. But it was a perfect moment, just as we hoped for.

Of course my struggles with nausea, constantly needing to pee during the night, round ligament pain, and a new symptom of occasionally feeling the awful need to pass out after coming up stairs or while in the shower, have not abated for the holiday but that’s okay.

There’s so much good and wonderful here and I am so thankful.

We found each other in the dark

2 Aug

I found this song today and was instantly, deeply, in love with the lyrics. Side story: DH and I’s first kiss was in the dark. It was a moment of spontaneous, electric magic that coursed throughout both of our young bodies as teenagers, that I will never, ever forget.

He should be home in about four short hours. I don’t think my heart could wait any longer.

City and Colour – We Found Each Other in the Dark

I heard the church bells from afar,
But we found each other in the dark.
And when the smoke does finally pass
We will rise above all the ash.

Cause we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live
We’re gonna live, we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live
We’re gonna live, we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live
At last.

So bright, the flames burned in our hearts,
That we found each other in the dark.
Like beasts out in the wilderness
We are fighting to survive and convalesce.

But we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live
We’re gonna live, we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live
We’re gonna live, we’re gonna live, we’re gonna live
Like the rest.

Through the black starless water,
And the cold lonely air.
On the rock restless seas,
The vessel in deep disrepair.
And I swore they started singing,
But then oh, rejoice!
I can still hear your voice.

Then I heard the church bells from afar
But we found each other in the dark.