Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hospital News

Random Bits of Information I know You Are All Dying to Hear...

(I don't pretend that people leave my site up all day long hitting refresh constantly to read my latest post as soon as it is uploaded. But that is pretty much what I am doing with my emails...'cause, you know, I don't really have anything better to do! So feel free to email me often!)

* We have managed to lose the cell phone charger we had here. We still have one at home, but that isn't helping us too much right now and my phone is just about dead. Perhaps we lost it in one of the eight moves we've had!

* In going online to Verizon to find the closest store so that we could buy another charger, I realized that we are WAY over our minutes. Oops. This has never been a problem before, but we're using them a whole lot more now. So we decided to just go ahead and upgrade my phone (I was due anyway) and see about changing our plan a bit. We will need more minutes over the next few months anyway. Matt is at Verizon now trying to work it all out. Does this stress me out a bit? Yes. :)

* We met with the social worker today, who was absolutely wonderful. I hope we get to continue to work with her throughout Abby's hospital stay as well. She is going to be very helpful with some of the paperwork we are dealing with right now. Plus, she acknowledged my need for Caleb right away. I liked her immediately! :)

* I am now officially on flat back bedrest. This means that I need to be laying on my back (or my side) at all times. Yes, that includes eating, which is quite comical! I still have bathroom privileges though, so I'm going to follow the rules as to avoid doing anything that will jeopardize that!

* The highlight of my day is my shower and clean clothes. Seriously people, don't underestimate the power of cleanliness. Plus, those 10 minutes (besides the occasional potty break) are the only time I'm vertical.

* I got a seriously encouraging email today that made my day and just made me that much more thankful that God is allowing us to choose joy in all of this.

* One plus to being here as long as I have been (in comparison with most LD patients) is that we are making lots of friends on the staff! Everybody knows us and they don't even stop Matt anymore to sign in.

* Hulu rocks my world. I have become addicted to Boston Med, a reality show about the 3 big Boston hospitals. It's a little bit soap opera, a little bit ER, and majorly entertaining. Thanks for the recommendation, Amy!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 11:36 AM, EDT

Take It From an Expert

Now that I'm a professional patient, I wanted to impart my knowledge on those of you who may not be afforded the same experiences as me. I'm always trying to help out the less fortunate, you know... :)

* Eat whenever you can, whatever you can. Don't worry about gorging yourself, especially if your food status is questionable. Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be hungry. You may not get a chance to fill your belly before you're NPO again.

* You are at the mercy of the nurses, so be nice to them. Use your manners and try not to bug them too much. Showing an interest in them will go a long way.

* Take a shower whenever you are given an opportunity, even if you don't really feel like it. Don't underestimate the power of cleanliness.

* When you are unable to get out of bed even for the bathroom (meaning you have to use a bedpan), don't give up the last little bit of dignity you have. Ask the nurses to give you a little privacy and don't let anyone come in until you're done. They may not think it's that big of a deal, but it will keep a tiny bit of normalcy in your life.

* Always thank the "dietary staff" for bringing you your meals and don't complain about what you get. They could spit in your food, you know.

* As soon as you are allowed, start wearing your own clothes. You won't flash the nurses and it will make you feel a bit more normal. Unless you like the freedom of the breezy gown. Then, by all means...

* Hospital time is not real time. When they tell you they will do a procedure first thing in the morning, that means approximately 11 a.m. (Refer to the food statement above for what you should do to combat the hunger of NPO)

* If you are NPO but can have ice chips, ask for them often and don't feel bad about it. It's your only luxury!

* When you are NPO and can no longer have even ice chips, they can give you the little lemon swabs. Pretending these are lollipops makes them take better. Use your imagination. Ask if they have any frozen--they may not, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Frozen ones are WAY better! (Can you tell I have been NPO a lot?!)

* Humor the physical therapists who come to help keep your legs from wasting away to nothing. Remind yourself that although you've done stretches like this since you were 5, they are just trying to do their job. Plus, they give you Silly Putty to keep, which will entertain your other child.

* Pack your belongings compactly so that it will be easy to move rooms. We've gotten pretty good at packing up and condensing our stuff. Add professional mover to my resume.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 4:30 PM, EDT

Here's a glimpse into my world. You can only truly appreciate this if you've been on hospital bedrest or know (and visited) someone who has been.

Right now, I'd be thankful for this kind of bed rest!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fabulous News!!

I get my fluid levels checked by sonogram every morning and the last two days, my levels have been holding! They have stayed in a range of 20-22 since my last reduction, which is very good news. Each morning means another day she has to grow and develop, and it's nearly October now!

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for us. We are feeling your love! Keep praying that the fluid levels continue to hold!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Simple Pleasures

After a night and most of the day in the IMC, I finally moved into a room again. This is on the step-down unit, and it is their biggest room! There are some nice shelves and several big counters, as well as a metal shelving unit and a carved out space in the wall to put stuff as well. There's lots of floor space for visitors! It's not nearly as cramped as some of the other rooms had been. Plus, the shower is a little more normal (fiberglass as opposed to the nasty tile--but I'm still wearing flip flops!) and there are towel racks! I know, I know, it's the simple things in life. None of the other bathrooms have had towel racks though.

Here's hoping I don't go into labor again and have to leave! This is my incentive not to dilate anymore. If only I had control over that...


I love etymology. I guess it’s the language girl in me who gets excited about all of the compound words in German, but I really enjoy the meaning behind the word. That’s why I love teaching Latin and Green roots! (Weird? Perhaps!)

So it comes to no surprise that Matt and I know and love the meaning behind our children’s names. Caleb means bold and Matthew means God’s gift. It’s a strong name for a strong-willed little boy!

Abigail has been my choice since at least age 16. I have always loved the name, although I had no idea of the meaning when I was but a young whippersnapper dreaming of the future children I would have (and the future husband too!)

We had already researched the meaning of Abby’s name, but this recent turn of events has seriously shed new light on the meaning behind the name. It certainly isn’t a coincidence—God is wayyyy too cool for that!

Abigail: God is Joy

Elizabeth: Consecrated to God

Seriously, could there be a more perfect name for this girl?! Abigail means God is joy! And that’s what Matt and I have been striving to do throughout this whole ordeal—choose joy! By choosing joy, we are choosing Abigail: choosing that she remain protected in my belly for as long as possible, choosing that she receive the top notch care she deserves, choosing that she be born in a wonderful hospital with an awesome NICU.

And then let’s look at her middle name: Elizabeth means consecrated to God. Have you ever really thought about the definition of consecrated? I know what the word means, but wanted to hear the true definition. I’m a sucker for words. Consecrated means, “To dedicate solemnly to a service or goal” ( Isn’t that awesome?! We know that God has an amazing plan for Abby and have been floored by the number of people that have heard our story so far. We’re dedicating this girl to God!

We decided while we have been in the hospital to add a little bit more to our girl’s name—as if it isn’t already long enough! (My mom keeps saying it is going to take her forever to learn how to write out her name!)

So without further adieu, here is Abby’s full name:

Abigail Elizabeth Joy Leach

I think you know why we chose Joy for a second middle name. It may border on redundancy, but we never want her to forget that not only did we choose joy in the circumstances surrounding her birth, but that she was/is/will be a joy to us! I don’t want people to think we are moaning and groaning about our situation. We LOVE our daughter and have found so many little ways that we can enjoy her now. She has quite a personality, and I’m going to embrace that!

So that’s her name. She’s got a lot to live up to: a joy who is consecrated to God. Based on what I know about Abby so far, I think she just might be stubborn enough to do it.

Hospital Drama

There are a lot of little things that are helping to make my stay more bearable. Here's a list:

* My own pillow: 2 feet of tempurpedic softness

* Wearing my own comfy clothes as opposed to the hospital breezy gown.

* Visitors!! It gives me a little connection to the outside world. If you visit, come prepared to make me laugh. That is a requirement. :)

* Taking a shower. I take one whenever I can. You never know when you'll get the next one!

* Eating, for the same reason! I enjoy every meal to the fullest!

* Playing with Abby. She is such a little firecracker. Dr. Dobson is going to need to write me a book to teach me how to deal with her, I am afraid!

* Pictures and Caleb's artwork decorating my wall. We pilfered a roll of surgical tape to hang them.

Saturday evening, I started contracting heavily again and dilated a bit more. When all was said and done, I was 3 cm dilated before they were able to stop it. They checked my fluid levels and they were higher than they had been Friday afternoon.

It was back on the Mag for me and then the talk of another reduction started. Matt wasn’t back to the hospital yet, this was all happening very fast, I was concerned that decisions were being made without Dr. H, and I wasn't happy that they were going to reduce me at night. Dr. H was pretty adamant that any reductions be done during the daytime when there were more NICU doctors who were certified in nasal intubation in case labor couldn’t be stopped.

Long story short, we decided to wait until Sunday morning to do the reduction. The Mag was keeping me from contracting, so there was no immediate danger. It was done around 11:00 with no major complications—except a jar breaking—so I was back in my room relatively quickly.

The new plan? They’re going to check my fluid levels every morning via sonogram. It does not appear that Abby is swallowing very much at all anymore (which is an indication of more problems when she is born), so my fluid levels are just increasing very quickly. When they hit a certain number, I will be reduced again. The reason we’re doing daily sonograms in the morning is so that we can do any procedures during the day time. We’re hoping this buys us at least a little bit of time, although it’s not without its own risks. Today's scan shows that my numbers are holding steady--yay!!!!

In other news: my favorite sister organized an attempted surprise visit by three of my dear friends yesterday (Saturday’s “excitement” kind of spoiled the surprise), which was SO wonderful! It was nice to be able to joke and laugh a bit. Thanks for visiting, ladies!

Apparently, part of my new job description is to be a human pin cushion. Can I get paid for each needle stick? I lost count at 20.

Saturday, a not-so-experienced nurse tore up my veins three times without success. One of the spots still aches. Yesterday, the nurse tried twice before calling in “the best,” who tried in my hand only to hit a nerve and send shooting pains in my hand. I begged her to stop because I was seriously done at that point. They came back later and finally got a blood draw, although it wasn’t an easy one. There have been rumors of needing to do another blood draw today. Yay..

The Hospital by the Numbers

1-One week since I’ve seen the outside and felt the breeze on my face.

2-Two wonderful med students who brightened my day

3-Three times I’ve seen my boy since I’ve been here

4-Four special visitors I had on Sunday who made me smile

5-Five times my meal has been wrong (but I deal with it)

6-Six is the highest dose of Magnesium Sulfate I’ve been on to stop my labor

7-Seven rooms I’ve been in as of Sunday night

8-Eight of Kelly’s muffins I devoured after being NPO this last time

9-Nine needles I have had stuck in me in the last two days

10-Ten pictures we’ve gotten of our beautiful girl since we’ve been here


I’m going to attempt to paint a picture for you of my night last night in the IMC (Intermediate Care Unit). While this sounds like a top notch facility, it is in truth merely a bunch of beds with curtains around them. Like I said before, think of the WWII era hospitals. It’s their overflow unit for when they are slammed, like last night. It appears that these girls are just here for the night for observation…no one else seems to be a “resident” like me.

So sit back, close your eyes (oh wait, then you can’t read it) and enjoy the show.

As you lay down on your oh-so-comfortable birthing bed that is really not made for overnight sleeping and turn off the three inch television, you will truly begin to realize the amount of loud vomiting coming from the “room” to your left. In between retching, this girl’s throaty cough is nonstop.

Perhaps you are able to drift off to lala land for a few minutes. This is not for long, because the nurse turns on the overhead lights every time she checks someone’s vitals. Naturally, vital checks can’t be done all at the same time. Oh no! These must be done on the patients at differing intervals throughout the night so as to give the nurses a bit of a break.

When your “room” is right next to the bathroom like mine and the environmentally unconscious patients continually leave the light on after using it, additional light is shed onto your precious three feet of living space. At least this way you can scan your “room” to make sure nothing has been stolen.

Of course, sleeping is simply not an option when the girl who seems to be able to go to the bathroom on her own needs help with something every time she is in there. Instead of pulling the handy red nurse cord that has been installed in all hospital bathrooms, this girl chooses to scream, “Help Me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the top of her lungs as if the toilet is attacking her bum. This happened at least four times overnight.

Throw in there my own vital checks and the apparent need to do a fetal monitor at 2 a.m. (this has never been done in the middle of the night before…) and I can pretty safely say that last night was not a good night’s sleep. When I’m on the Mag, I expect it. I just wish that when I’m not, I could catch up a bit! Here’s hoping some rooms become available this morning and I will not have to sleep in here again tonight.

***I hope you enjoy my humor. I worry that sometimes my tone doesn’t come through, but then I remind myself that it’s my blog and if people take something the wrong way, they can just stop reading! For myself though, I like writing things in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh!

Caring Bridge

I have started a Caring Bridge website that is accessible using the hospital server. Caring Bridge is a nonprofit organization that gives families with medical problems an opportunity to keep friends and family updated on the condition. We'll use this now before Abby is born and after to update people on her condition. Since I've been having to ask my super-busy sister to post everything I've blogged so far, I've decided she deserves a break!

While the Caring Bridge site isn't quite as pretty or personalized as my blog, it will certain do just fine! I may post here from time to time while I'm in the hospital if I use my dad's server, but the bulk of the posts will be at the Caring Bridge website.

Go to to continue reading the same tongue-in-cheek types of posts you have been enjoying! :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

This Sounds Familiar

Note:  Thanks to my favorite sister for posting for me!  I've been sending them to her to post for me.  You can thank her for the updates.  :)  My parents are here tonight, so I'm posting using my dad's server.  Yay!  Blogging makes me happy!

I went back to get another sonogram today to check my fluid levels. Welp, they’re back up.

*sigh* Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

The reduction didn’t last us nearly as long as we’d hoped. Sooooo, I’m here for the weekend, will be rescanned on Monday, and then have another reduction if it’s increased anymore. If history repeats itself, it will be!

This little girl is so stubborn with everything else. Why can’t she just stubbornly swallow? I told her I would give her a brownie if she did. They’re the brownies my favorite sister made, and they’re GOOD. I don’t share with just anyone.

The bright side of this: I already know the procedure and the doctor who will do it, so there won’t be any surprises. Hopefully it will go quicker because the bottles will work this time! Also, getting another reduction means going back to the LD floor with the wonderful nurses I love (even though it means going back on the Mag without being able to use the bathroom or eat). Plus (most importantly to Matt), we get a TV in those rooms. Look, I’m trying to think positively here!!

Probably the most positive thing I can say is that Monday means another week that Abby has had to grow. Every day means that her lungs are just that much more developed. I will do my job to the best of my ability!

Now I must go. My parents are bringing me crab soup from Chesapeake Grille and I am excited!! I’m pretty sure it will be better than the tepid cream of mushroom soup that was served for lunch yesterday. Just an idea.

10 Things I Thought I'd Never Say....

•Oh, it’s just another blood draw. No big deal.

•This hospital food is amazing.

•How about in that spot? You haven’t poked there today.

•I lost count at 20 needles.

•Matt, don’t tell me how to pee!

•Sure, you can check my dilation too. My cervix must be really interesting.

•What day is this? I have no idea.

•I slept continuously from 11-6, and it was amazing!

•Oh man, I just peed on my gown.

•Do you think somebody will feed Caleb lunch? Should we ask them?

•Yes, you can scrub in to observe the amnio reduction. Just don’t touch my needle!

Venodynes are of the Devil

If you’ve ever been in the hospital unable to get out of bed, you have inevitably had Venodynes. They are the lovely calf cuffs that inflate every minute or so to “massage” your legs and keep you from getting blood clots.

Now, I understand their importance. I certainly don’t need blood clots on top of everything else. But do they have to be so obnoxious?! Seriously, how do they expect you to sleep when huge balloons are constantly inflating and deflating around your legs, nearly cutting off the circulation to your feet and causing sweat to drip down your calves??? One of my many doctors said she’s going to make a mesh version of them that’s more breathable and less obnoxious. I told her if she got me the materials, I’d make them for her while I’m just sitting here!

So last night in short fit of rage while Matt was in the bathroom (and not around to stop me), I tore off the hated cuffs and chucked them across the room. When Matt came out to see what the commotion was about, I wouldn’t tell him. He figured it out though, but didn’t make me put them back on. I think he knew better than to mess with me at that point.

The nurse and I have come to a compromise: I will wear the cuffs most of the day in exchange for the compression stockings at night. Normally, you don’t need the cuffs during the day if your legs are moving a bit, but this gets me out of wearing them at night. I’ll take the deal!

So yeah, as I type, the Venodynes are inflating every minute or so, feeling every bit as obnoxious as they did last night. But at least I’m not trying to sleep.

I Miss My Boy

I really miss Caleb. The first few days were filled with so much “excitement” that there was too much going on for me to dwell on it. Now that we are more or less just sitting here, I have a lot more time to think about how much I really do miss him. I love talking to him on the phone and have enjoyed his visits, but it’s not the same. I know he’s been well taken care of by my sister and my mother-in-law, but I wish I was there to tuck him in at night and to make his dinner. I know that when I do get home, things will still be very different because I will be confined to my bed, but at least we can cuddle together and watch cartoons.

I love you, Caleb-Boy. I enjoy your phone hugs, but I would rather have a real one! I’ll see you soon!

In Case You Ever Have to Have an Amnio Reduction....

….Which you probably won’t, because only 1-2% of pregnancies even have excess fluid and even fewer have to have an amnio reduction…

Shall I label myself special?!

An amniocentesis itself is very common. That’s when they draw out a small sample for genetic testing or to see if the lungs of a baby are developed enough to be delivered early. This is really quick and relatively painless. The difference is that they are taking out a lot (nearly a liter of mine) of fluid and the needle is in for a much longer time. The fluid goes into a vacuum-sealed jar through tubing that is kind of like an IV tube.

Because an amnio reduction is done so infrequently, those eager-beaver med students were begging us to scrub in. Our med student friend Lindsay was post-call, so she was home sleeping, but I’m sure she was disappointed that she missed the action.

One by one, three med students and one nursing student came in and asked if we would mind if they scrubbed in and observed the procedure. My answer to every one of them was, “Of course! Just don’t touch my needle!”

Matt got all dressed in his lovely sterile garb (complete with bonnet and mask—we should have gotten a picture!) and we headed down to the OR. They had him wait outside just while I got settled on the table and got my belly painted that lovely mustard yellow color of iodine.

They brought Matt in and gave him a seat right by my head. There was no curtain as I’d hoped there would be. This meant that I could and would see everything they were doing. Since I’d already told the doctors I did not need or want the play-by-play of what they were doing, this bothered me a bit. So I did what anybody would do--took off my glasses and shut my eyes!! They remained shut for the duration of the procedure, so I honestly can’t tell you the size of the needle. Ask Matt. J

Speaking of Matt, he was wonderful throughout the procedure. The whole thing freaked me out a bit, and he just kept whispering how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. Isn’t he a good guy?!

As soon as they started, I started to feel nauseous. This was certainly because of my nerves, but telling myself that didn’t make the nausea go away. They gave me some oxygen through a mask, which definitely helped.

The only complication during the procedure was when the vacuum bottles weren’t working properly. This meant that the doctor had to draw the fluid out with a syringe…you can imagine how long that was taking!! One of the med students, Andrea, took off running to go get another bottle. She came back panting with one in hand—my hero! Once the collection bottles were working, it all went much quicker. They were able to take out nearly a liter of fluid, and my levels went from 35 to 20!!! That is a majorly awesome difference.

So they’re hoping that the reduction of fluid buys us at least two weeks. We may have to do another reduction at that time. The semi-good news is that Abby is still swallowing some at this point. She’s not going at the rate she should be, but she’s got some in her belly. Keep it up, girl!

Singing in the Shower

I had not taken a real shower since Sunday morning. If I’d known it would be my last for a while, I would have taken a longer one and savored it a bit! (For the record, I have done sponge baths since then!)

Well, today, one of my many doctors came to tell me the good news: I had bathroom privileges again!! I high-tailed it to the shower before she changed her mind. She was laughing!!

I took the most indulgent shower I’ve taken since my sophomore year of college when I spent 8 days on the Bay with Outward Bound and hadn’t showered. It was heavenly.

My hair is now washed and dried and I am thoroughly clean. They bought themselves another week with me here by giving me that good news!

I have never been so thankful for a shower and I’ll never take it for granted again.

A New Job Description

I am a planner. Have you noticed? I clean for a week before we have company, making a daily list of chores to get done before our guests arrive. I start thinking about Caleb’s birthday party in July (his birthday is in January). I like having all of my Christmas presents wrapped by Halloween.

So this whole ordeal—not so much in my plan! But you know what? That’s okay!!! Seriously, it’s okay!

I know, I know, you think that’s the Magnesium talking, right? Nooooooo, I’m not even on that anymore. The only liquids I’m getting now are water and grape juice.

It seriously is okay though. The Bible tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:1-3). And that has just been my mantra throughout. I’m choosing joy.

Believe me people, I can’t explain it. I’m a worrier at heart and I still do worry about all of this. But God has just given me a peace that honestly transcends all understanding. I am going to love my daughter no matter what her issues. If she is in the NICU for 6 weeks, then I will cuddle her and learn how to feed and take care of her so that she will know she is loved. If she requires multiple surgeries, I will change the dressing, wash her face, and hold her hand through all of the pain. If God chooses for her to be born earlier than we would like, I will learn how to take care of her feeding tube and do kangaroo care. Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it. (I say “I” a lot because I’m the one writing…but my amazing husband will be right beside me the entire time. He’s incredible like that.)

So now that I’m on bed rest and no longer teaching, what is my job? What’s my purpose? I’ve been a teacher since day one, and it’s in my blood. Now what?

Well, I have a new job description. Now, my job is to take care of Abby by eating well and moving around minimally as to allow her to grow for as long as possible. I’m going to go to all of my appointments, get the blood work done that I need, and continue to educate myself so that I can be prepared for her arrival. This will mean letting go of control of many aspects of my life: Caleb, the house, teaching, etc. But I can do it!!

But Matt and I have recognized that we have another job right now. We have the opportunity to encourage so many people: the eager med students who are so sweet and compassionate, the nurses who work tirelessly, the housekeeping staff whose job is often thankless, the doctors whose expertise is amazing…the list goes on and on. There are SO many people here in this hospital who could use some encouragement! So that is what we’ve been trying to do. After all, our life’s mission statement is the same as Camp Wabanna’s: “To live a life that points others toward the love of Jesus Christ.” We could mope and groan about our situation, but what good would that do? Why not be an encouragement?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thankful Thursday

I like doing Thankful Thursdays because it helps me to focus on everything I have instead of what I do not. But this week, boy do I have a lot for which to be thankful!! I don’t even know where to begin.

  • I am overwhelmed with how wonderful our care at UMD-B has been. We have had nothing but a fabulous experience here and we know we were in very competent hands. Our nurses and doctors went above and beyond the call of duty to get to know us, calm our fears, and take care of my girl. If there was ever any doubt about whether or not this was a good hospital choice, those thoughts have vanished. I think what Matt and I loved most of all was how everyone treats Abby as a person…because she is!!! I’m not going to start in on a debate, but there is a true little person inside of you from the moment of conception and I am not going to act like she doesn’t exist yet. Her picture is hanging up on our bulletin board and we show everybody who comes in. We talk to her, play with her, chastise her when she doesn’t behave (like when she runs away from the fetal heart monitor and causes my nurses angst!), and tell her how much we love her. The staff has done the same, and we love it. Our daughter exists and matters, and I love when people acknowledge that.
  • The love we have felt from our families and friends has been amazing. Tons of people have texted, called, emailed, and sent messages to let us know that they are praying for us. This is not taken lightly by us, and we have felt totally wrapped in love. It is so much easier to choose joy when you know that so many people are thinking of you! Among the people who have come along side of us to help out: My sister and my mother-in-law have taken turns caring for Caleb and bringing him up here so that we can visit. My parents have been up to visit just about every day, bring us clothes and other things we need, and take care of sweet Becky-Dog. My amazing 5th grade team and principal have stepped in to help my sub and create lesson plans for my class in my absence. My aunt and grandmother took charge of creating an awesome thank you basket of snacks for the nursing and hospital staff on the LD floor. The church and youth staff have worked together to cover everything so that Matt could stay with me. Everyone has just been amazing. Thank you!!!!!
  • Now I’m going to brag on my husband a bit. He’s pretty great to begin with, but he has seriously been amazing during this. Matt has truly proven his love for me in the way he has cared for me. I won’t go into details, but some of what he has had to do has not been pretty! J Plus, he has been incredibly sweet and encouraging throughout the ordeal. During my amnio reduction, he held my hand and whispered how proud he was of me throughout the entire nerve-wracking procedure. He has been such a blessing to me and I don’t know what I would have done without him. He is my rock. I tear up when I think about how awesome he has been through all of this.
  • Lastly, I am so incredibly thankful for my baby girl Abigail. If nothing else, she has brought a lot of excitement into our lives thus far! She will not be a dull child, that’s for sure. I want her to know how much she is wanted and loved by us and that we are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure she is healthy and safe. I’m a proud momma showing off my pictures of my beautiful baby, and I am falling more in love with her every day. I cannot WAIT to see what God is going to do in her life. I’m pretty certain it’s going to be incredible!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not all Med Students are Bad

We have a good friend who is now a third year resident, so we understand the need for people to learn. After all, knowledge comes with experience, right? However, I am not interested in having them learn procedures on me or my daughter. My amnio reduction was going to be done by the wonderful Dr. H, but there would be no way I would have even considered it if they had told me a resident would be doing it.

As I mentioned before, we were quite the entertainment for the med students that were on the floor. Cool, go check out room 2! The baby has a rare syndrome AND the mom is in preterm labor! Neato!

Matt keeps being reminded of the show Scrubs, so we chuckle whenever one of them pops their head in. Can I see her now? Huh? Can I? Please?

We really haven’t minded….although it will probably get a bit old after she’s born and the doctors are using her to teach from. (They just don’t see too much of her syndrome, so I understand it’s kind of interesting to show a real live patient with it.) We just think it’s funny.

However, one med student named Lindsay really made an impression on us. She came in during the early morning hours on Monday when I was incredibly drugged up on the Mag and was so sweet. I’m actually surprised I remember her then, but I do.

She popped in again later after being sent by her superior to try for a third time to get me to sign the amnio reduction papers. I was as polite to her as I had always been, but I explained (for the third time) that this was a risky procedure and I really wanted to talk to Dr. H himself before I signed anything. She was the first one to acknowledge that and agree that it would be really good for me to talk to him.

Low and behold, she got in contact with him and relayed my message! (Of course, then it was put on hold because the contractions were stopping, which was a good thing!)

This awesome girl came back again to tell me that they were going to hold off on the amnio for now and mentioned that now that the amnio was delayed, she’d work on allowing me to start eating again!

Do you know that Lindsay came back within 10 minutes with the attending and that other doctor took all of the credit for allowing me to eat? I knew the truth though, and I thanked Lindsay for taking care of it.

This morning in our new room, she popped in again to see how things were going. I really like her and I hope that she considers choosing OB as her field. She seems to be very pro-patient and I hope she doesn’t lose sight of that. If she comes in again, I’m going to be sure to thank her for the compassion she’s shown me. After all, everyone could use a little encouragement, and she really has been very kind!

Ready, Set, Go!

The amnio is scheduled for 9:00 (which is now), although I'm learning that hospital time is not necessarily real time.  Dr. H came in this morning to talk to me about the procedure and made me feel very safe and secure.  He has a calming affect on me.  I thrive on structure, so the structures he builds into everything makes me feel so much better. 

In a nutshell, if I do go into labor as a result of the amnio, the entire team will be on hand to take her if needed.  This will be done in a controlled setting as opposed to an emergency situation--always a good thing!  In fact, the amnio will be set up for a C-section, just in case.

I've said it a million times...I love Dr. H!

So, here we's hoping that this buys us some time and that we do not meet Abby today! 

In other news:  Glee last night was pretty funny.  My nurse chose me because she heard that I was watching it.  :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Still Choosing Joy

Choosing joy is a continual choice.  It has been hard at times over the last few days, but I have been working hard at it.  Overall, I've been in a good mood.

Just a quick update (not fancy at all because I'm in a hurry!).  My fluid levels are even higher than they have been, so the amnio reduction will be tomorrow morning.  Please pray.  I'm a bit nervous about it, but I know I'm in good hands!  They are supposed to be taking at least a liter fluid...yikes!  We took pictures of my belly so that we could compare afterwards.  I am thinking I'll lose a few pounds!

I'm using my dad's server, so this might be my last post for a while.  I don't understand why blogger is blocked!!  UGH!

Second Verse, Same as the First!

Well, I thought I was in the clear. The contractions had stopped all night and I was feeling really good. We figured we’d go home today. And then they started again. I was promptly hooked up to the monitor to confirm that I was indeed having them, then pretty much immediately sent right back upstairs to LD.

So, here I am again. We’re back with our nurse Jen, who is very kind and personable. She drew some blood and is sending it out again. I can’t eat, but I’m not back on the Mag again…yet. Hopefully that is a thing of the past!

Our dreams of heading home to our own beds tonight are pretty much dashed, it would appear. Sadness.

At least Matt got to take a shower in our room downstairs before we got moved up here again! (There aren’t showers in the LD rooms because most people don’t stay here very long—just long enough to have their babies before they are moved downstairs.)

A Meal Fit for a...Vegetarian?

So, I’m a vegetarian. I have been for almost 17 years. I don’t eat beef, pork, or chicken (or any of the weird meats like lamb, venison, or dog…).

I’m probably the most low-key vegetarian you’ll ever meet. At age 12 when I proposed this diet to my mother, she agreed to it on two conditions:

1. You need to be healthy

2. We’re not making you a bunch of special food

I learned quickly to not be picky…and I’m really not! I eat pretty much anything except meat. I have preferences, but I’m not a picky eater.

I asked for a vegetarian meal tonight for dinner at the hospital, and I was given one:



Mixed peas and carrots

A piece of white bread


I like yogurt and granola. I like peas and carrots. I even like white bread, although I prefer whole wheat. But the combination is admittedly odd. Peas, carrots, granola, and yogurt.


It gave us a good laugh today, which we needed. So thanks, cafeteria workers! Thanks!

A Blur

Throughout the night, I was hooked up to a variety of machines: fetal heart monitor, contractions monitor, blood pressure, pulse odometer, IV drips, etc. People came in and out constantly to check my dilation, check my breathing, see if we needed anything…it was constant chaos. We were the medical students’ entertainment for the night. Abigail was quite the spectacle and they all wanted to see if the pregnant lady was going to continue to dilate. Add Abby’s medical problems on top of preterm labor and it made for quite a case study for these young scholars. They can look at me all they want, but they’re not going to touch me!

Dr. H, our wonderful perinatologist, never made it in to see us. He was reviewing my charts though and conferring with the other doctors about what we should do. Three different eager med students came to me with the release forms to be signed for the amnio reduction, a very serious procedure that is not without its risks. Three different med students turned away a bit dejected when I informed them all that I would not be signing any release forms until I talked to Dr. H. It’s not that we weren’t going to do the procedure; it’s that this was a major decision and we wanted to talk to our specialist who would be the one performing it! I wasn’t going to just sign my life away without knowing the risks and benefits involved. The third med student, a sweet girl named Lindsay, finally seemed to understand my point and relayed the message to Dr. H. Thanks Lindsay! Nobody else came to try to get us to sign release forms, so somebody got the memo.  Label me the pain…but I don’t do anything without understanding it first!

As I alluded to in a previous post, the Magnesium Sulfate (Mag to the nurses—don’t I sound knowledgeable?!) made me slightly loopy. I slurred my words, had trouble making coherent thoughts, and couldn’t move a muscle. It was a muscle relaxer to the 9th degree.

The worst part was the double vision. As more Mag got into my system, I could no longer focus on anything. All of the doctors coming in to talk to me were moving around the room (but not really), and I had to resort to covering up one eye to even be able to look at them clearly…never mind that nothing in my brain was clear at this point.

I do feel like I have a pretty good memory of the 18 hours I was on Mag, but it is kind of a blur. I had to have someone move me at all on the bed, which made for very uncomfortable sleeping. Naturally, I couldn’t go to the bathroom…there were other “lovely” ways they took care of that. Of course, that was quite entertaining to Caleb!! He was disappointed when they took it out!

At one point in the early morning, a burly chief resident came in, flicked on the lights without as much as a watch-your-eyes, and gruffly told me that he needed to check my lungs so I had to roll over.

Uh, yeah. Okay. Easier said than done.

He just stood there while I fumbled, so Matt helped me roll over. I really am starting to understand the helplessness of paraplegics, because I seriously couldn’t move. I wanted to move. I told my legs to move. But I couldn’t move. It was crazy.

At some point in the morning, my chest really started to hurt. If you have asthma, you understand that something-heavy-resting-on-your-chest kind of a pain that makes it hard to get on top of your breath. They had me take my inhaler a total of three times over the course of an hour or so, but it wasn’t getting better. They decided to check my blood to examine the Magnesium levels to see if I was becoming toxic. Before the report came back, the doctor gave the order to cut the drip to see if that improved my symptoms. Low and behold, it did!

Almost immediately, I began to feel a lot less loopy and more coherent. My chest stopped hurting, I could take normal breaths, and my eyes were no longer rolling in the back of my head. My vision was slowly going back to normal. Yay! Problem solved!

When the report came back, I was indeed over the levels I should be—and they had decreased my dose since I had been there.

Of course, cutting the Mag meant that my contractions might start back up again. Save a few irregular over the course of a few hours, they didn’t!! This was a major milestone, because it meant:

1. I didn’t need the Mag anymore!!

2. An amnio reduction wasn’t currently necessary (not saying it won’t be in the future, but we are safe for the time being)

3. Food!!! I could finally eat, after over 24 hours of nothing but ice chips (and those were cut off after midnight because of the amnio scheduled for this morning)

4. I could lose some of the many cords that were attached to me, allowing me to be more mobile.

5. We were able to move to a step-down unit where there is a lot less monitoring (and a lot more sleeping!!)

6. This is one more step to getting home and into my own comfy bed!

So, that’s where we are now. We’re hanging out in a step-down unit for the night, watching How I Met Your Mother on the internet (the teeny little TV costs $5 a day to rent!), and trying to figure out how to survive without Facebook or Blogger.

Yes, my blogging friends and stalkers, both are blocked by the University’s server. I understand not wanting nurses and less-eager med students frolicking around on these kinds of sites, but this is a patient server. How in the world am I supposed to survive an extended NICU stay with Abby without being able to blog about it?!?


Julie and the Magnificient Helicopter Ride

I have always thought riding on a helicopter would be really cool. I envisioned checking out the ant cars below, oohing and ahhing over the sites, and maybe snapping some great pictures of a gorgeous sunset.

Well, I can cross this one off the bucket list. Been there, done that. And it really wasn’t all that cool!

Things happened really quickly when the helicopter crew got there. The flight nurse and medic were very sweet and reassuring. I felt very safe in their hands, and their knowledge was obvious as they skillfully switched over my IVs, drips, and other lines. We were ready to go in just a few minutes, when I was wheeled out to a parade of waving nurses calling, “Good luck!”

We were the talk of the town at CMH! This was more excitement than they usually see in a month!

As we headed out to the landing pad, I saw my nephew right out the door—with Caleb close behind. I immediately burst into tears (I’d kept it together quite well until then!) and Matt scooped him up so that he could give me a hug goodbye. Caleb thought it was quite a thrill for me to go for a ride on the yellow helicopter and didn’t appear worried at all, but Sara got teary-eyed. The flight nurse remarked that even she teared up at all of that emotion!

Loading me on the chopper was quite an adventure in itself. I never really thought about where the patient is put on the helicopter, but it’s actually right up in the cock pit. My feet were next to the pilot. In my situation, this would make for an interesting on-board delivery!

My arm was literally right next to the door (I had to pull it up so that the door would shut!) and there was a shelf right over my head hanging down low. I felt a little bit claustrophobic, which is not normally me. It wasn’t anything for me to panic over, given the situation, so I just took lots of deep breaths! They put a head set on me to block out some of the noise and hooked me up to a variety of machines, and then we were preparing to take off.

The take off was the worst part because even though I knew I was locked in, strapped in, and secure, I felt like I was rolling forward. Once we got to a high enough altitude to be level, I felt better. It wasn’t exactly an enjoyable ride, but I didn’t feel nauseous or anything.

Given the stress of the situation, I was having continual contractions at this point. They never stopped the entire time I was on the helicopter, which increased my nervousness about having the pilot deliver Abigail if she slipped out! I crossed my legs a bit tighter. 

There was a lot of praying going on during that flight. I didn’t know what God had in store for Abigail at that point, but I knew that my life and hers was in His hands. The song “I Have a Maker” was constantly playing in my mind and I even mouthed the words a bit to myself.

Even with all of this going through my already stressed-out brain, do you know what I kept wishing? (Get ready to laugh…)

I wish I had my new camera and could sit up more, because I could get some beautiful views of the skyline! This is incredible!

Next time, for sure.

After about a 20 minute ride to UMD-B, we landed. We had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for another chopper to take off, but the sweet medic sat next to me and held my hand, telling me that no matter what happened, we were in a great place now for Abigail. I seriously did feel much calmer just knowing that her specialists were right inside those doors. If she popped out right here on the chopper, she would be given excellent care in the NICU!

I was rushed inside, where they did in-take again and assessed my situation. I was a bit more dilated, which was even more cause for concern. In my groggy state, I met my wonderful nurse named Tracy. She could sympathize with my situation because she had been on Magnesium Sulfate with two of her three children. I liked her immediately! She was knowledgeable, did a good job with the IV that they had to redo because CMH’s was too small for the amount of fluid going into me, and cared about us as people during this stressful situation. Thanks Tracy!

Gotta Love IVs

I hate IVs. Well, let me rephrase that. I hate needles. Surprised? Not if you’ve been reading this for a while! So the fact that I have had about a million and four needles during Abigail’s pregnancy is rather ironic. Just a bit.

Soooo….on to this weekend’s adventure. After we decided to go to CMH, they took me quickly and set me up to the fetal heart and contractions monitors. Yep, lots of hard contractions. I immediately gave them, upon intake, the paper I took the time to type up with the names and phone numbers of all of my doctors and my medical information.

They were quite appreciative of this, by the way. Yay for planning ahead and being organized!

The nurse started an IV rather easily and they gave me a shot to stop the contractions. “This usually does the trick,” they said. Ha ha ha…they obviously do not know Abby. Her middle name is trouble.

20 minutes went by and they’re not slowing. In fact, they seem to be more intense. They gave me another dose and assured me that most people stop having them in two doses.

My labs came back and showed I had a UTI (not sure how??), so they had to give me another IV with an antibiotic. This one didn’t go in so easily. First try in my right hand….hurt like the DEVIL! Shooting pains went up my fingers! Second try in my right wrist…nope. Didn’t get it. At this point, I looked at the girl and suggested she get someone else. She’d already gone past my you get one chance rule. Another woman came in and was able to get a weak vein in my left wrist. It wasn’t great and it was small, but it was in.

The doctor on call had been conferring with the doctor at UMD-B and was told to give me Magnesium Sulfate. She warned me that this is nasty stuff that will probably do weird things to me, which is why they try to avoid giving it to patients.

Yep, sure did.

But more on that later. MUCH more!

When the contractions still didn’t stop, it was decided that I was going to be transported to UMD-B…but by ambulance, or by helicopter? Well, the doctor checked to see if I was starting to dilate, and I was.

Alrighty, then. By helicopter, it is!

The Decision

Disclaimer:  All of these posts are written in past tense because we cannot access blogger from the hospital's server.  I am using my dad's laptop with his own portable internet connection to bipass the system.  :)

Contractions are constant in this pregnancy. I can pretty much ignore them, although sometimes they get a bit harder than others. Usually getting in the bath tub helps them to subside.

Sunday morning, I was at my parents’ house before church because our internet wasn’t working. I was having a bunch of contractions, but drank a lot of water to try to get rid of them. I headed on to church, trying to ignore those nagging pains.

Strangely, something is different just kept running through my head. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew that something would happen today.

During church, something definitely changed. I went from being able to ignore the high, annoying contractions to losing my breath on the low, long ones. These were different. I started timing them, but Matt told me to stop because I was stressing myself out. I know my body and just had a feeling that something was different this time.

After church, Matt planted me in a chair and asked our friend Steven to follow us home so that he could bring Matt back to get his car—so that I wouldn’t have to drive. Matt felt like these contractions were brought on by stress and that I would feel better once I got home.

About halfway to our house, the contractions were coming hard and I made the decision. I wanted to go to CMH. If nothing else, they could tell me to go home and stop worrying.

That’s not what they said at all!

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm a Percentage

I researched high levels of amniotic fluid this weekend (along with some info about steroid shots, just to educate myself on what they actually do besides just help the lungs mature), and I found that only 1-2% of pregnant women have excessive amniotic fluid.  Pretty crazy!!  Since only 1 in 8,000 babies have Abby's condition, we're both pretty "special," you could say.  I'd prefer to be average in this situation.

My new OB said that anyone with increased levels of fluid has to do the 3-hour gestational diabetes test because that is a warning sign of diabetes, and I just about died laughing at the irony of it all.  Remember this post?  And this one? 

If only gestational diabetes was the worst of my worries these days.  I'm sorry that I complained so much about it!

Thankfully, she conferred with my perinatologist, who said that they know why my fluid levels are up and that the normal 1-hour test will be fine for me.  Thank you, Dr. H!! 

Coincidentally, both of my new doctors are Dr. H, but my OB's is a silent H.  Confusing?  Possibly.

I will be going on Thursday to a local blood lab to get the 1-hour test done.  This had to be delayed a bit because the steroid shots will increase the blood sugar until it's out of your system.  The end of this week should be fine though. 

And no, I won't be eating any eclaires this time.  I've learned my lesson well!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Drool Camera: CHECK!!

I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D90, and I am totally and utterly in love.  I had no idea what I was missing.  The shutter speed alone is enough to make it worth it, but there is so much more I can do with a DSLR than my (wonderful) point-and-shoot.  I played last night after Caleb went to bed and my battery was fully charged, but I was just messing around a bit trying to learn my way around.

We chose a Nikon because I already had a wonderful Nikon Cool Pix S80, which I adore.  It takes great pictures, but is not a SLR.  By continuing with Nikon, we already have a leg up on at least some of the buttons and controls!  There are a LOT more buttons on this one, obviously, but we're not starting from scratch.

Happy everything to Matt and me for the next two years...yeah, it was that kind of purchase!

So now, if Abby does come early, she will be wonderfully photographed! 

Don't get any ideas, Abby. We want you to stay in as long as possible. 

A Work in Progress

Realistically, we really don't have to have Abby's room done by the time she is born.  We know she's not coming home after the usual 2-3 day stay in the hospital.  When she does finally come home, she'll be in bassinett right by our bed (with me never getting any sleep because I'm constantly checking to see that she is breathing properly!)  We put Caleb right in his room after coming home from the hospital, but everything is a little different with this special girl.

However, the planner in me can't stand the idea of Abby not having a pretty room to call her own from the very beginning--even if she is not sleeping in it!  So, last week we set up the crib and moved the furniture around.  While the accessories that I've ordered aren't here yet, her room is certainly livable. 

I got her entire crib set, curtains, lamp, etc. off of Ebay for $35!!

Caleb picked out the prairie dog especially for Abby.  He wants to take it to her when she is born.

The color on this is terrible, even after editing, but you can at least see the curtain and the chair.  I bought that chair from the church yard sale when I was in high school.  It has been in a variety of places serving a variety of functions over the years!

The dresser and shelf

Close-up of the lamp

We have also ordered a totally cute handpainted wooden wall hanging of her name with a floral scene around it, as well as three handpainted flower pegs to hang on the wall.  These are being custom made by a person on Etsy with the colors and patterns I want.  She sent me a picture of the first one pre-varnish, and it is totally what I want!  Yes, I could easily do these myself...but I am all about avoiding extra stress right now.  It really wasn't that much to have her do it, and then they are mailed to me ready to be hung up!

I will post pictures of the decorations as soon as they come and are hung up.  Blog-stalker Lara was asking for nursery pictures, so I figured I'd better put some up. :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New Sonogram Pictures

Although we've been getting sonograms done every month, I haven't been posting the pictures.  This is because, honestly, I don't want people analyzing my daughter!  We look at them and compare them to last month to observe the growth, but I don't necessarily need other people pointing out her defects. It's just my own comfort level, I suppose.  We save them all though, and I am quickly filling up a photo album with the many pictures we get (I might have to start a second one now that we're going every week!).  

Thursday's appointments definitely delivered some not-so-great news, but we were encouraged by the sonogram pictures.  For the first time, Abby has a defined chin!!!  This is exciting for us because we haven't been able to see anything up until now.  While our perinatologist cautioned us that this is just because she's getting bigger (as to avoid false hope), it made us feel better to finally see something below her bottom lip.

So, I've decided to share these with you!  All of our sonographers have been wonderful (as specialized as they are, it's nice to see that they still recognize these "patients" as babies and are willing to play a bit to get us some fun pictures in addition to the medical shots they need).  Abby was, thankfully, much more cooperative this time than she has been in the past.  It only took about 20 minutes to get what we needed, as opposed to the hour+ we have been spending trying to get her to lift her head from her favorite tucked-down position!

She's got my nose!

Can you see her chin?  This is the best shot of it, I think.  There has never been anything between her bottom lip and her throat, so this was very encouraging to us. 

She has hair!!  You could see it a lot more on the live feed, but the sonographer was really impressed with the amount she had already.  You can see a bit on the left side of her head.

Will you all please leave me alone?

Contemplating being difficult again...but she saved it all for the nurse who was trying to monitor her heart beat on the fetal monitor. The poor nurse finally had to just hold the monitor and follow her as she swished back and forth.  All that fluid makes for some fun swimming!  :)

Dear God, please keep me in here until 38 weeks!

My thumb sucker!  Caleb never did, so it will be interesting to see if she does.


So dainty! 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Great Idea

Have you read this article about the shootings at Hopkins?  The guy was apparently angry at the doctor for the way he was caring for the man's mother.  So he not only shot the doctor, but he shot and killed his mother and himself!  If he was upset with the way his mother was being treated, did he really think that killing her would be better?!?  Great idea, crazy man.  Great idea.

Did I mention that we were at a hospital very close to Hopkins?  I'm glad we didn't know about it at the time!  I would have been even more freaked out in the not-so-nice part of the city!

Thoughts Going Through My Mind (not quite a stream of consciousness post)

*  I tell my kids that watching TV or playing on the computer stimulates your brain and is the worst thing you can do right before bed or when you can't sleep.  And what am I doing at 3:30 a.m.?

*  The idea of my water breaking at school is a little disconcerning for me.  Family life will be starting a bit early in my classroom, I'm afraid.  Nothing like a real live lesson to get the discussion going...

*  I wrote a "labor plan" last night, for lack of a better term.  It has all of the important doctors' phone numbers, my drug allergies, medicines I take, and the plan of action if I do go into labor.  Obviously, Matt and I know what to do...but if I am at school and things are happening quickly, I want to be able to just hand them that paper and say that all of the information they need is on there.  Plus, it's much easier for even Matt and I to have all of the important numbers in one place.  I will make multiple copies of this to have at school, in my purse, in both cars, etc.  I put in bold print I need to deliver at UMD!!  Based on their track record, I'm a bit fearful that my local hospital will take too long to "assess the situation" and it will be too late for me to be medivaced.  We are really trying to avoid having Abigail and I in two different places, not to mention the concerns I have about them trying to intubate her.  I'm trying not to dwell on that because what will happen will happen.  Here's hoping Dr. S is on call and will take care of things for me!! 

*  I really love blogging.  It is my release.  When I have all of these notes in my binder from the various doctors and everything is swimming around in my head, blogging about the information helps to comprehend it better.  Kind of like coding the text?!?  (My kids would be so proud!)

*  Matt and I are so thankful for the love and support that is being shown to us.  We've gotten so many offers to help with Caleb and people just letting us know they are praying for us.  It's awesome! 

*  My nails are quite long and strong.  Thank you, copious amounts of vitamin D and calcium!!  (Interestingly enough, my kidney stones have been at bay.  I was a bit concerned that the increase of calcium would trigger more, but it hasn't!)  Yep, knocking on wood right now.

This Song...

...makes me cry on a good day!

I first learned this song in college (I learned lots of songs in college, apparently!), and it is such a beautiful reminder.  We sang this in church the Sunday after we first learned of Abigail's diagnosis, which was difficult for me.  But, the song is very true! 

I'm not crazy about the Power Point that goes along with it, but it was the best version I could find.  There are a lot of people who record themselves on Youtube who just shouldn't!  :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Choosing Joy

I went to college with a guy named Spencer who lost his little boy shortly after birth almost two years ago.  I have had the privilege to get to know his wife Stacy through her wonderful blog.  She is an amazing, transparent writer.  Though we have yet to meet in person, I feel like I have known her forever!

In one of our conversations, I asked Stacy how she was able to deal with strangers saying how excited she must be about having a baby, and how she got through the day-to-day stuff when she knew how much was going on inside her body. 

Her reply was that she decided that she was going to choose joy daily--sometimes by minute.  She realized that if God had given her the job of carrying this little boy for nine months, then she was going to do it with as much joy and thankfulness as she could muster.  And she did!!

I was really challenged by that statement.  Over the summer when things were just developing, I struggled with the whole why us? question.  After all, I take a million vitamins, eat healthy foods, don't drink or smoke, and even avoid non-pasturized cheese while I'm pregnant!  We're good parents who will love our children and strive to raise them well! Why us? 

I realized, after talking with Stacy and having a wrestling session with God, that I don't have the right to ask that question.  My job is to carry Abby for as long as I can, to love her unconditionally, and to do what is best for her.  While I can be (and am) worried sick about her, I don't have the right to question God.

So what is my alternative?  To choose joy.  And I do.  Well, I try to.  Some days, I am more joyous than others.  I still have my moments, and some days aren't without tears.  But I can honestly say that this change in mindset has helped me to truly enjoy this pregancy--to love playing little poke/kick games with Abby in the bath tub, to laugh at my hugeness in the mirror, to smile when Caleb talks to her in his high-pitched voice, to pray over this girl non-stop, to decorate her room in the oh-so-cute purple and green floral pattern I found, to talk to her like the real little person she is. 

I even have a little reminder on my desk at school that just has two words:

Choose Joy!

I'm certainly not perfect at it, and I still haven't quite gotten my incessant worrying under control, but I'm getting there.  God has given me the peace to be able to choose joy. 

So, yeah.  That's my heart tonight.  A bit of transparency from me, even though it was harder to choose joy today with our latest news than it has been the last month or so.  Tomorrow is the next day of our new normal, and another opportunity to make the choice.  :)

Abigail's Journey: Sooner Than Later

Another round of appointments, another round of developments.  This girl is a real problem child.  She will be going into immediate time-out when she is born for all of the trouble she's causing.  :)

As I silently suspected, my amniotic fluid levels have gone up.  I haven't blogged about it in hopes that it wouldn't be true, but my gaining 12 pounds this month made me suspicious.  We were warned about increasing fluid levels and that they are an indication of a more serious problem, so this did not surprise us too much.  In Abby's situation, an increase in fluid levels means she is no longer swallowing the way she should.  This is because her neck muscles aren't developing properly as a result of the small jaw.  If there was any question as to where we should deliver, that decision was made for us today.  (We'd already made that decision ourselves though!)

I've also been having lots of contractions, and they decided to hook me up to a fetal monitior for half an hour to see what was going on.  Yep, lots of contractions!  These, coupled with the increase in the amount of fluid, point to a concern for pre-term labor.  Basically, as the fluid levels increase, my body won't be able to hold it all and my water will break. I'm currently not dialated, but in my doctor's words, "We need to prepare for her to come now." 

What's the plan of action?  Well, I got a steroid shot for lung development today and will get the second one tomorrow.  They are time sensitive, which means having to leave work for a little while, but at least I don't have to truck up to UMD!  If I make it another two weeks, I will have another round of steroid shots.  If I don't go into labor on my own and am planned, it will be no later than 38 weeks.  We're praying that she stays in there as long as possible.  Thankfully, she measured 3 lb 1 oz today, which is awesome!!  She's a good size if she does end up coming sooner than later.

Our perinatologist is setting up a meeting with the neonatologist so that we can all sit down as a team and decide how we are going to continue.  There are some intubation concerns that come along with a baby with a small jaw being premature on top of it, so he wants to make sure we have an experienced doctor present during my delivery with this specific kind of intubation.  There is now absolutely no question as to whether or not she will be in the NICU.  The length is to be determined, but she will go straight there for observation, at the least.  I am so thankful for Dr. H's caution and planning!  He truly makes me feel much more at peace because he's so proactive.

We will now be having weekly sonograms and fetal monitorings at UMD.  At this point, I am not going to be put on bed rest.  When the fluid levels are high, my water will break when it's ready, regardless of whether I'm on bed rest or not.  I might as well work while I can and save my leave for the time being!

I met with an OB at my new practice today and was fortunate enough to really like her!!  In a practice of 20 doctors, 10 midwives, and several CRNPs, it's amazing that we liked the first one we saw.  We're sticking with her and praying that she is the one to deliver me.  If I go into labor early, it will be luck of the draw.  If it's planned, I'm going to try to schedule her.  She is super sweet, soft-spoken, and very willing to defer to the perinatologist we're working with when it comes to my case.  In fact, she called him while I was there to get some more information on my case.  I like when doctors are willing to work closely with each other in the best interest of the patient instead of just thinking they can do it on their own.  She only needs to see me every-other-week because Abby is the real problem here.  Trouble maker... :)

I think that's all of today's developments.  Who knows what next week will bring?!  We did get some great pictures.  It's amazing the difference a month can make in development.  I guess one benefit of all of these sonograms is getting to see our baby develop step by step!  That, and continued confirmation that it is indeed a girl.  :)

Prayer requests for this week:
*  My fluid levels stay where they are and do not increase anymore.  The higher they are on a little person like me, the bigger my risk.
*  I am able to carry Abby all the way to 38 weeks!!  No preterm labor, please!
*  Her neck development continues to progress.
*  We will be delivered by the doctor we like.  That will have a very calming affect on me in a very stressful situation.  This hometown girl needs familiarity!
*  Matt and I will digest these new developments.  It's a lot to take in.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

I haven't done this for a while.  I'm watching Survivor and they separated the young from the old.  Young = under 30.  Old = 30 or older.  It made me just a little bit sad that I would be one of the oldest "young" people in the tribe if I were on the show.  Yikes!  I have been having tons of Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Most aren't painful, although some really kind of are.  I have them pretty much every evening.  I keep telling my body that it doesn't need to practice so much because it has already been through labor once.  It's not listening to me.  Yep, there's another one. Yay.  I have another round of appointments tomorrow.  I can't believe it's been 2 months since we found out about Abigail's condition.  What a whirlwind!  I have a sonogram first and we're hoping to get some information from the doctor we like.  I have gained a lot of weight this month while eating very well (lots of fruits and veggies for snacks, avoiding ice cream and sweet treats, choosing a 100 calorie pack if necessary, drinking lots of water, etc.) and I'm a bit concerned about my amniotic fluid levels.  We'll find out tomorrow.  I have been battling FMLA and insurance in the last week, but I think I have wrapped my brain around it now and have a pretty good understanding of it.  My allergies have been bothering me the last few days (ragweed) and I've been doing my sinus rinse to try to avoid getting truly sick.  I do not need that.  We will also be having an OB appointment tomorrow and I'm hoping to get a date for Abigail's birth!  I really need to have a "going out" day for FMLA, and I need to know for my own piece of mind as well.  I'm hoping to get on the calendar.  After our two UMD appointments, I will be heading back to my primary care provider to get my flu shot.  Matt is getting one too!  In case you have missed all of my other warnings, if you want to visit Abigail in the hospital, you must have a flu shot.  No one will be allowed in the NICU without one.  That's just the rule--probably more strict because of flu season, but still it's better safe than sorry.  I hate to say it, but I doubt if anyone without a flu shot is going to see Abby for a while even after we get home.  She will be very susceptable to illnesses and with her breathing problems, she really can't afford to be sick.  Soooooo, get a flu shot!!  I am watching Survivor after having paused it for the first half an hour, but I keep forgetting to fast forward through the commercials.  Ooops.  That kind of defeats the purpose of pausing it.  I always feel better after doing the stream of consciousness.  I treat it like a mind dump and it seems like my head is clearer afterwards.  Maybe I'll be able to fall asleep earlier tonight!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Attention All MD State Troopers and Various County Police Officers...

...this post is for you! 

I have recently added an additional item of worry to my already long list regarding this pregnancy.

What if I go into labor before my scheduled date and we have to drive all the way to Baltimore and we get pulled over by a police officer for speeding?!?!?

Seriously, this is very concerning to me.  Getting pulled over just might be enough to push me over the edge and send me plummetting to a pit of utter despair. 

That, or I'll cry incessantly. 

The latter is more probable. 

Okay, it's a given.

I called my oh-so-knowledgeable brother-in-law (who happens to be a state trooper) and asked him what I should do in this situation.  His response was that Matt is always late, so speeding shouldn't be an issue for him.  :)  This did rouse a chuckle out of me, but I needed an answer.  This was really important!!!  (kind of like having nail clippers before Caleb was born was really important, but that's another story!) 

Soooo, he finally suggested two things:

1.  If we get pulled over, explain the situation to the police officer.  If we do still happen to get a ticket, go to the judge with the birth certificate and state my case.

2.  Post a blog for all of the police officers of Maryland to see so that they will be aware of the situation and not pull our van over for speeding if they see us between our house and Baltimore.

#2 is officially taken care of.  Thanks for the advice, Bruce.  This should definitely take care of my worry.  You're such a problem solver!


Maybe I should ask him his thoughts on how to grow a jaw!

Nightmare on Decatur Street

No, this has nothing to do with violence.  I have just been describing the FMLA stuff as a nightmare and that title came into my brain.

I met with the FMLA gurus today and got loads of answers (as many as I could at this point in this "adventure.")  In a nutshell, as long as I have paid leave, I have a job.  I can also work out some sort of part-time situation as needed to get me through the rest of the year (while taking leave without pay for the time when I'm not working) and not have to do a leave of absence.  Then, FMLA will kick in again at the beginning of next school year if I need it to.  I'm hoping I don't! 

The meeting was quite informative and the women were very compassionate.  I remember the paperwork I did with Caleb being so simple and easy!  Ha!!!  Not this time!  I will be constantly faxing information to the Human Resources department to update my situation.  But, it's not as grim as I feared. 

I am realizing just how much God has truly been taking care of us in this situation.  I have people who want to give me leave, the Human Resources deparment has been really helpful and understanding, my principal is working with me to do whatever she can, and we have tons of family and friends to support us. We're very blessed.  :)

Matt and I were filling out forms for Caleb's preschool and came to the question that asked, "Who is allowed to pick up your child?"  For now, we wrote the obvious (both of us and Amy).  Come November, we joked that we will update that statement with whoever he's willing to go with.  :)  The poor guy is never going to know who is picking him up!

Alright, enough ramblings.  Now I see that my title truly has nothing to do with this post at all.  Except that FMLA is a nightmare. 

If You Want Me to

This is a song that came out while I was in college, and I've always loved it.  Recently, I've been singing it to myself a lot. 

My favorite part is, "It may not be the way I would have chosen when you lead me through a world that's not my home.  But you never said it would be easy.  You only said I'd never go alone."


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just Another Day in Paradise

One of our favorite (cheap) Friday night activities in the summer is the farmer's market at North Beach.  This week, Caleb made friends with one of the sellers and they gave him his own tiny little apple to munch!  We bought some too, and they're delicious! 

The highlight is visiting the classic cars.  A nice man let Caleb sit in his and get a picture.

Caleb enjoys playing on the ship and splashing in the water.  His shorts got soaked, but he had fun!

Randomly, we ran into the Adam Leaches (as they like to be called!) and the boys played together a bit.

Of course, I had to get a few sunset pictures!

Budweiser isn't all bad...

I really love this commercial.  It was aired right after 9/11 and only aired once so as not to get any financial benefit from it.  It's beautiful!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Our meeting went pretty well today. We discussed a lot of information and there are still a lot of unknowns about Abby's condition. There is much more genetic testing to be done...not that it will necessarily change Abby's care, but knowing exactly what she has may help them to treat certain aspects of her syndromes in the future.

However, we are encouraged by the doctors' attitude toward Abby's future and we believe that she will have lots of time to really change the world!! :) They believe that she is beating the odds, and so do we. Abby doesn't know the statistics, and we're not going to be the ones to tell her!

We also discussed Abby's future surgeries and the need for an excellent orthopedic surgeon. Thankfully, there is a world-renowned spinal specialist at Hopkins that UMMC is highly recommending! I'm so thankful that we live within driving distance to so many wonderful hospitals!

We were told today that by choosing the trach for Abby, we chose to give her life. They said that when we made that choice, they knew that we were "all-in" and they were too! While it's going to be a long, hard road, this "choice" was a no-brainer for us and the alternative never even entered our minds. While no one really wants a trach for their child, we know that it was the best and only option for Abby.

Matt and I talked tonight about how we kind of feel like we are in an episode of House or something. Stuff like this doesn't happen in real life. Gene mutation and extensive genetic testing is only done on TV. Titanium ribs are only created in sci-fi movies! House diagnoses these strange syndromes that have only 60 diagnosed cases! But alas, this is our world! Crrrrrrrrrrazy!

Anyway, thanks so much for praying for us today (well, and every day!) Things went better than we expected and we left feeling very hopeful for the future!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010 9:26 PM, EST

We Are Not Alone!!

After playing communication-tag for a few days, I was able to talk on the phone for over an hour with Reagan. She is the mom of Piper Jane, who also has Cerebro Costo Mandibular Syndrome! In case you've forgotten (I sure haven't!), this is an extremely rare syndrome. While we're not exactly sure how many children there are living with it today, Reagan knows of 5. We do know that there are about 60 confirmed cases since 1960, when it was discovered.

Yep, it's that rare!

What makes talking to Reagan so cool is that Piper and Abby are very similar. They have a lot of the same problems, the same patterns in utero, and most of the same types of treatment thus far. Abby is the most like Piper of the others with CCMS that Reagan has talked to. She's actually the only other one with a trach, which I find a bit surprising given the airway problems that go along with the syndrome.

Reagan was a wonderful encouragement in so many ways:

1. Piper is an adorable 3 1/2 year old who is able to get around with a walker, which gives me great hope for Abby's development.

2. She assured me that things do get better!

3. We are able to get a glimpse at what life might be like for Abby in the future. (Every child is different, of course, but this is as close as we're going to get to lighting our path a bit!)

4. Reagan can empathize with me in a way that literally no one else can! She knows what we're going through!

I'm pretty sure this is the beginning of a friendship that will have very strong ties! I'm so thankful that I found Reagan! If you would like to check out her blog, please go to

In other news: Abby had a great day today! She was in a good mood and so was I...I got to hold her for the better part of the day, and I gave her a bath!! (Yes, I know this is a mundane task in a parent's life and that most of you do not find that thrilling. However, in the NICU, you eagerly take whatever "Mom Jobs" you can get!!!) I also changed many stinky diapers, but I have a feeling even fewer of you would find the excitement in that. :)

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Thursday, November 11, 2010 8:33 AM, EST

Some of you have been asking for new photos. I would LOVE to show them to you, but Caring Bridge's photo uploader is kind of a pain. All of my picture files are too big, even when I lower the size of them in my editing software. Soooo, I posted a bunch on Blogger for you to enjoy. They are also on Facebook, if you are a friend. (If you're not, add me!)