Archive for October 2021

Raina's Birth Story, Part 2

October 23, 2021


August 2021
When we left off we had just found out we were 22 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. Everything had checked out ok on the ultrasound and my bloodwork and we were sent on our way with instructions to return in four weeks for my glucose test. We set up an ultrasound appointment for our anatomy scan for two days after the glucose appointment. I wouldn't make it to that ultrasound appointment. Those four weeks were... interesting. They started out fine. I felt tired and achy, nothing out of the normal for a woman in her second trimester. I helped out at Jacob's summer camp in the morning until it got too hot and I had to rest at home. I went back to work to prepare for the upcoming school year, and then the year started. That first week back to school I felt AWFUL. I must have looked it too because I got comment after comment about how miserable I looked and how I wasn't going to make it until November. (little did they know just how right they were) By the time my 26 week glucose test appointment rolled around four weeks later I was barely sleeping. I'd prop myself up with a dozen pillows and sleep for an hour before getting too uncomfortable and moving to our rocking chair. Dan would cocoon me in there with another dozen pillows and blankets and I would try to sleep sitting up. I'd get maybe an hour. Rinse, repeat, all night long. My back ached, my ribs ached, I felt generally ill. I could hardly stand up long enough to cook Jacob dinner and I had to make him push the cart at Trader Joes one day becuase I physically couldn't do it. I couldn't remember ever feeling so awful with Jacob, but maybe I had just blocked it out. After all, it was seven years ago. I voiced my concerns to my midwife and she suggested magnesium supplements, an abdominal support band, plenty of fluids, all things I was already doing. I was beyond miserable and felt like surely I was dying. Little did I know, I slowly was. 

August 17, 2021. The Doctor's Office
I went to school that Tuesday morning like normal. Dan met us in the parking lot after school because Jacob forgot his tablet and we had my lengthy glucose appointment. He gave Jacob his tablet, kissed me goodbye, and we went on our way. Neither of us expecting anything out of the normal to happen that day. My appointment started off normal enough. I got Jacob settled with his tablet, I drank the glucose, I had a telehealth appointment with my midwife who was unable to come into the office (likely a Covid exposure) and then the nurses tried to take my blood. It took three of them and four attempts, but they finally got what they needed. I expressed how awful I had been feeling. They said my vitals (including blood pressure) checked out ok and to keep hydrated and rest as much as possible. They'd let me know about the glucose results. I never did find out those results... I got Jacob settled on a couch in the lobby and then checked out. Right before we left I thought I ought to use the bathroom real quick because my bladder wasn't holding up too well this pregnancy and we were heading to cub scouts after. When I went to wipe, the toilet paper was pink. I had never had any spotting with Jacob or this pregnancy so I was immediately alarmed. I let the desk staff know what happened and the nurses assured me that as long as it wasn't bright red blood, I was fine. As they were explaning this to me I felt what I can only describe as a gushing feeling. I excused myself to the bathroom where I found bright red blood everywhere. I came back out, panicked and explained. One of the practices Obgyn's overheard me and suggested we go back to the ultrasound room to take a look. I was the last appointment of the day and my visit was telehealth with my midwife so there really was no reason for this doctor to still be there, but by some miracle he was. We grabbed Jacob and went back to the ultrasound room. The same room where I saw our tiny daughter on the screen for the first time four weeks ago. I sat Jacob in a chair and prayed he'd be too engrossed in his game on his tablet to notice what was going on. They had me change into a gown and I cringed when I sat down on the exam table, as it too was now covered in blood. The doctor studied the ultrasound for a while and then said that he thought he saw something, that it might just be a low lying placenta, but he wasn't sure. He wanted me to go to the hospital to get checked out, stay overnight for monitoring and then mentioned that I'd probably be put on bedrest for a week or two to make sure the bleeding stopped. They gave me the choice of two hospitals, but strongly suggested I go the closer of the two. I asked if I had time to go home first and get my things, they said not to. I figured it wasn't a big deal, I could survive one night without my things. I took Jacob to the  car where I thankfully found a towel to sit on and then sent a bunch of texts. I told Dan I was being sent to the hospital and he should come home from work. I text my mom, then our cub scout leaders to let them know Jacob wasn't going to make it that night. Weeks later I would find his cub scout uniform and struggle to even remember why it was in the car. I drove to the hospital ten minutes away and my father in law met me there to take Jacob. 

August 17, 2021. The ER
Once Jacob left I tried to walk into the ER as calmly as I could. I was stopped at a desk and told to change my mask and fill out a Covid questionaire. The receptionist had several other people to help first and told me I could take a seat until my turn if I liked. I declined, too afaid I'd leave blood all over the seat. Once it was my turn and they were satisfied with my answers they sent me in to the ER. I waited in line to check in and prayed I wouldn't drip blood all over the floor. Once I was checked in and my license was checked and entered into the system they called over a security guard who walked me down to triage. 

August 17, 2021. Triage
In Triage I was given a bed and a gown and told to change. I expressed concern about all of the blood and was told not to worry about getting it on the gown or the bed. (why was I even worried about that?) Once I was changed I laid down on the bed and tried to take some deep breaths to calm down. Dan called, he was at the hospital but they wouldn't let him in unless I was going to deliver, Covid rules. He said he'd wait in the parking lot. I prayed I wouldn't have to deliver. 26 weeks was way too early. I text my team leader at school and my principal and told them I wouldn't be in the next day. And then I heard the lullaby. Does your hospital play a lullaby every time a baby is born? I never gave it a second thought before, but lying in Triage bleeding everywhere not knowing if I was going to have to deliver, or if I even could safely deliver and then hearing that lullaby and knowing someone else had safely delivered their baby was too much. I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my face. I heard it a total of three times in Triage and once in recovery and my anxiety grew each time. To this day I can't hear it without tearing up. Things started to pick up in triage. They put in an IV, which again took several nurses and several pokes. They took numerous vials of blood and sent them to the lab. An ultrasound technician came in and did an ultrasound. I knew by her constant searching that it wasn't good. She explained that the placenta had started to detach and that I had a blood clot the size of the baby and the placenta themselves. I asked nervously if she thought I would have to deliver and she said she didn't know, it would be up to the doctor. Bloodwork results started to come back from the lab and they weren't good. My blood pressure which had been on the high side of normal at my appointment a few hours ago had skyrocketed into dangerous territory. Noticably missing from the labwork was my platelet count. No one could tell me if I'd have to deliver, the doctor would decide. But the doctor wouldn't come in until all the labs were complete. A nurse came in and and I winced as they put in a catheter. Then another came in and I screamed as they put a steroid shot in my thigh. They explained it was for the baby's lungs and I started to feel an impending sense of doom that I was going to have to deliver that night. They finally got the doctor in and explained that the platelet count was taking so long because there were so few that they were having to hand count them. The doctor came in and talked to me about what was happening. He explained Pre-eclampsia, Hellp syndrome, and what an abruptured placenta was. He said we were going to have to do an emergency c-section right away. I tried to stay calm and just nodded. An anesthesiologist came in and explained the procedure to me. He explained an epidural and a spinal but then let me know there was a good chance they'd have to put me under general anesthesia if my platelets were too low. I thought that I would probably prefer that. I wasn't sure I could handle a spinal and being awake and knowing that there was emergency surgery going on on the other side of a curtain. I wasn't sure my heart would make it if she didn't survive. Then a neonatologist came in, and explained to me how sick I was and how sick my baby was going to be once delivered. I'll never forget her taking my hands, looking me in the eye and quietly explaining "If we don't deliver, neither of you are going to make it through the night." 

August 17, 2021. The OR
Finally they let Dan in and gave him a gown and hair cover to put on. I'm not actually sure why as he was never let into the operating room. They told me I needed to take off any jewelry or risk getting burns. My rings had been cut off weeks before but I still had in my earrings which had locking backs like screws. My numb hands struggled to get them out for a long time and I started to panic, but we did eventually get them out and into a little bag. Neither Dan nor I remembers what happened to that little bag but it didn't go with us and the diamond earrings he got me for Christmas were never seen again. They wheeled us down to the operating room where they gave Dan a seat out in the hall. I can only assume they feared our daughter might not survive delivery and thus didn't want him in there. The room was sterile and cold and they helped me move from the triage bed onto the operating table. Then the anesthesiologist explained that he was going to take off my Covid mask and put on the anesthesia mask. I could feel someone shaving my lower stomach and pubic bone, and then, nothing. Raina was born at 9:22 pm, weighing 1 pound, 15 oz. and measuring 13 inches long. She was a fighter. 

August 17, 2021. Recovery 
I remember waking up slowly, and being afraid to open my eyes. I heard voices and didn't want them to know I was awake. I didn't know if our daughter had survived delivery and was afraid for them to tell me. I coughed and it hurt and then everyone knew I was awake. Dan told me right away that Raina was in the NICU, that he had gone with her when they admitted her and that he had declined to cut the cord. He said that she was tiny, but hooked up to machines and doing ok. Phone calls were made to family and I was finally allowed to have some ice chips for my throat which ached from being intubated. It made me cough, which made my incision and stomach burn so I took as many ice chips as they'd let me as often as they'd let me. They showed me how to press a pillow to my stomach to help with the pain of coughing, sneezing, or laughing. I heard the lullaby again and while I could barely talk, tears fell silently down my face. At some point they decided I was awake enough and they rolled my bed down to an individual recovery room. It had no windows and they kept the lights and tv off. They said my blood pressure was still really high and that lights and noise could increase it. We tried to rest. Someone was constantly checking on me and taking vitals, but we tried to rest. At some point, might have been hours later, might have been the next morning (time meant nothing in a dark room) they started trying to get me to move a bit. First they just had me roll onto my side so they could change my bedding and gown and give me a sponge bath. Both Dan and a nurse helped me and it was still nearly impossible from the pain. I never realized before how much you use your abdominal muscles for absolutely everything. Later they tried to get me to sit up and I'm not sure I've ever felt pain like that. Eventually the next day they were satisfied with my embarassing attempts to sit up and they helped me into a wheelchair and moved us down to a regulary maternity room. 

August 18, 2021. The Maternity Wing
They got us settled into the room to rest and I couldn't help but notice our room was missing the standard bassinette that all the other rooms had. It made the room feel bigger and emptier than it should. Before leaving the recovery room they had taken out the catheter which meant I now had to go through the agonizing work of sitting up, getting out of bed and walking everytime I needed to go to the bathroom. I then had to walk again and get back into bed which was somehow even harder than getting out of bed. I couldn't do any step of that process on my own. Bless Dan who helped me just about every hour, all night long. The next day, after some food and vitals they brought me a breast pump and helped me try to get comfortable enough to use it. (impossible!) We got a tiny bit of colostrum and Dan helped me into a wheelchair to take it down the hall to our baby. 

August 18, 2021. The NICU
Being wheeled into the NICU was a little unnerving. I remembered it vaguely from Jacob's few days there for Jaundice, but it looked different. Or maybe my memories are just hazy. I remember entering a different way, so maybe it's been remodeled since. There are machines everywhere and one of them is almost always beeping. I used hand sanitizer on my hands since I still had an IV, and dan scrubbed in. We gave the colostrum to our nurse and then Dan pushed me over to her little isolette. I was afraid to look in, she was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. The nurse said we could reach in and touch her, but both Dan and I were afraid she was too fragile for that and chose not to. I sat there for the longest time, just watching her, watching all of her machines that she was hooked up to. I marvelled at the fact that she had been in my stomach just hours before, and that somehow, even 14 weeks early, she had made it out and survived. The nurses called her feisty and we knew that would serve her well in the days ahead.

We spent a grand total of six days in the hospital and all the days were pretty much the same. We'd try to rest in our room, even though it was quiet enough to hear all the babies in the other rooms crying. While all the other moms were probably wishing their babies would stop crying, we were wishing ours was with us doing so. I'd pump every few hours and we'd take it down and visit our baby. Every few hours someone would come in and take my blood pressure and temperature, check my incision scar. At least once a day or night my blood pressure would sky rocket again so we couldn't be discharged the next day. Finally on the sixth day things were under control enough that we were given discharge papers. We visited our baby in the NICU one last time and then left the hospital empty handed. It is without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever had to do. We've visited her every day since and she continues to grow and get stronger. She's up to 5 1/2 pounds and we're hoping that if she starts taking bottles better that we can have her home for Thanksgiving. 

Our little miracle babe, conceived against all odds. 
Our little chameleon, hiding out for 22 weeks undetected. 
Our little warrior, fighting for her life at just 26 weeks. 
Our little grand finale, making absolutely sure she's the last of her kind. 
We love her so. 

Kids Christmas Guide 2021

October 21, 2021

 Jacob's turn! This list includes some of his personal favorites that have stood the test of time as well as some new things from this years wishlist. I'm stumped on stocking stuffers for him, so send them my way if you've got ideas! 

ONE // Jacob's favorite gift ever, his Nintendo Switch. Throw a few games in with it so they have something to play on their new favorite toy! 

TWO // We try to always gift a board game or two so we have something to play as a family as the day winds down. We'll be sticking close to home this year and not travelling with a newborn so we may gift a few! This Disney one based off their Jungle Cruise ride looks fun! Astro Trash is another favorite from last year!

THREE // Do your kids go through water bottles like mine does? Stainless steel is a must when I'm looking for water bottles. Jacob's due for a new one and I know he'll love the masks on this one as we are currently superhero obsessed. 

FOUR // Every kid needs a classic set of Walkie Talkies at some point during their childhood, right?

FIVE // Dad's favorite thing to do is take Jacob fishing and gear makes a great gift! A fishing pole and tackle box filled with accessories like bobbers and extra fishing line and your little fisherman is ready to go!  

SIX // A new Cat Kid Comic Club book (among Jacob's favorites!) is coming out just in time for the holidays. Grab the first one too if you don't already have it, and a blank comic book so your kids can dream up their own comics. 

SEVEN // I always, always, always gift new PJs and slippers for the cozy winter months. These dog slippers were too cute to resist and the Jammies are super soft. They work for boys or girls but I also love these glittery ones for girls! 

Happy shopping friends! 

Baby girl's first Christmas

 You know I've just been dying to write this post right? I can't believe I get to write my first gift guide for girls! First Christmases are a little challenging (or easy peasy depending on how you look at it) because baby probably doesn't actually need much and won't know what's going on. If you've got older kids you may need gifts to keep up appearances in the Santa department. Necessities and toys they can grow into are always winners in my book. 

One // Sit-Me-Up Floor seat: Depending on how old baby is, this may fall into the "grow into" category. There are several different patterns to choose from and I love that it comes with attached toys. 
Two // Cat teether: Firmly in the necessities category as your little darling will be cutting teeth soon if she isn't already. Also comes in other versions: a green or khaki bear, a khaki dog, or a gray koala. 
Three // Koala Stacker: A cute wildlife take on a classic toy. I love that it's wood instead of plastic. 
Four // Fill and Dump Picnic Basket: It's actually quite amusing how long a simple fill and dump toy can entertain a baby. Gund makes several styles, but I love this little picnic basket with the cute food. 
Five // Wrist Rattles: Also comes in a Monkey and Elephant version
Six // Pre-spoons: Another necessity, perfect for little hands just starting to figure out this eating thing. 
Seven // Think Big, Little One: A board book to grow with your girl, full of empowering messages. 
Eight // Baby Animal Collection: We are huge fans of Cuddle and Kind and their dolls that are hand knit in Peru. Their pint size baby collection dolls are too cute for smaller hands. Each doll purchase provides meals for five kids in need. 
Nine // Rainbow Stacker: Also comes in a blue colorway. Made out of soft sillicone, it can serve as toy, teether, or shelf decoration. 
Ten // Bow Headbands: Just the perfect size for little heads. They come in a couple different colorways. 
Eleven // Swan Rocker: This will probably be one of Ray's birthday gifts in August, but if you have an older baby this would be such a sweet present under the tree with a huge bow. Also comes as a set with a stuffed animal. 
Twelve // Wool Hat: Also love this sweet gingham version from Target. Can't resist those cute poms on the top of a little head. Would look so cute with a little sweater like this one
Thirteen // Pull Toy Fox: A classic. Every baby needs a pull toy. 

Hope this round up gives you a few ideas and that you have fun putting together gifts for your little ones! Happy shopping friends, XO.

Raina's Birth Story, Part 1

October 6, 2021
Raina's birth story actually begins seven years ago, if you can believe that. I can recall vividly sitting in my Obgyn's office late July, 2014. A newborn Jacob was at my feet in his carrier. He asked me about birth control options. I told him confidently that I didn't need it. It had taken four years and quite a few fertility treatments to get pregnant with Jacob. We couldn't get pregnant on our own, and I didn't need to waste money preventing something that wasn't going to happen anyways. And for seven years, I was correct. 

 Fast forward to spring 2021
It's the end of the school year. We've been teaching both in-person and virtually all year. I am EXHAUSTED. But it's the end of the school year and aren't we all exhausted? I can't be the only one who goes home from school and naps for several hours. I go on two strenuous weekend camping trainings and can barely keep my eyes open all weekend. I start to develop swelling in my hands and slowly carpal tunnel pain starts to build until it's unbearable and I'm wearing wrist braces and taking pain killers around the clock. Surely it's just from being on the computer so much. I haven't had a menstral cycle since November, but I have pcos and often go months without. We spring break in Longboat Key, Jacob starts tennis and soccer, we celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary, Easter comes and goes. I'm nearly done with my first trimester of pregnancy, and I suspect nothing.
Fast forward to June 2021
 We've celebrated Jacob's 7th birthday at the beach and headed to Michigan for the summer. I am still exhausted but I'm determined to make the summer fun for Jacob. We take him to the Great Wolf Lodge in Ohio as a belated birthday trip. We go on adventures in the morning - we hit the farmers market, the splash pad, the petting farm, the pool, the flower farm and more. And then I can't help but nap for several hours in the afternoons. I wake up feeling like I've been run over by a truck and I'm ready to cut both hands off to get away from the carpal tunnel pain. I make a mental note to call and schedule a doctor's appointment with an orthopedic doctor when I get back to Florida.

Fast forward to July 2021
We're headed to the lake with my whole family for the week. I'm super excited for Jacob to have his younger cousin to play with for the week because maybe he won't depend on me so much to entertain him. We boat, we cherry pick, we swim and hike and do all the Northern Michigan things. My hands are still swelling and my stomach has started to feel funny too. I get random lower abdominal pains when I move certain ways. Maybe I'm just getting old. I remember that jolly ranchers made my stomach feel better when pregnant with Jacob, so I buy a few bags and keep them on me. Peanut butter crackers seem to settle my stomach too, so I make sure to keep them in stock. Dan arrives part way through the week and I give voice to my concerns. My feet start to join my hands in the swelling department and he mentions off hand that maybe I'm pregnant. I think it's not possible. Both my sister and sister in law are pregnant. There's no way I am too. I still haven't had a menstral cycle since November, maybe I'm going through early menopause. I look up menopause symptoms, and I have quite a few. Ignoring the fact that many are also pregnancy symptoms, I'm convinced it's menopause.

July 15, 2021 
Dan and I head into the charming little town (Frankfort!) near lake Michigan so I can show him around the downtown area. We take Jacob with us. We window shop and buy a few books, including one that reminds us of the lake house, grab lunch and ice cream. We make plans to visit the brewery that night after taking maternity photos of my sister at the beach. Then Dan and Jacob wander into a toy shop and I pop into the pharmacy next door. I grab a two pack of pregnancy tests for $22. Yikes for small town prices! If we're going to the brewery that night then I should just make sure I'm not pregnant. I hide the tests from Jacob and we head back to the lake house where I immediately take one. At first, nothing shows up and I feel like I've taken a faulty test. I take the test back to our room and set it near the window where two lines immediately appear. I'm in shock, but in the back of my head I remind myself what I've read about menopause - it can rarely cause false positives on pregnancy tests. This is probably the case. I shove the test in my pocket and ask Dan if he wants to take a walk. We wander down to the lake and sit on the dock with Jacob and I show him the test. He's happy, but in disbelief also I think. It's worth noting that Dan has always been more positive that I about us someday getting pregnant on our own. We ditch our plans to visit the brewery and just visit the beach to take photos of my sister. Leaving the beach Dan, Jacob and I stop at the little grocery store under the guise of getting road trip snacks for the trip home. I stock up on Jolly ranchers, peanut butter crackers, and prenatal vitamins, just in case. We leave the lake the next day (but not before I take the second test and again see two lines) and drive back to my parents house. We debate baby names on the way back, just in case. We're settled on a girl name, Raina, but more undecided on boys names - we add Asher, Finn, and Joshua to our tentative list. We both agree it would be easier if it was a girl, and then we'd already be set on a name. We stop outside Lansing for lunch and I excuse myself to go outside and call my obgyn. I explain the entire situation and request an appointment to figure out what is going on. They initially tell me they can't see me until August, then notice a last minute cancellation in four days after the weekend. I take it and then return to lunch. We drive the rest of the way back to Detroit, prep for my sisters baby shower, throw her shower the next day, and then return home to Florida.

 July 19, 2021 
It's Monday morning and I'm a stressed out mess. We get Jacob packed for his first day of cub scout summer camp and he heads out the door with Dan to get dropped off. I sit in the quiet house for a few minutes, my mind racing, before I work up the courage to drive myself to the obgyn's office for my appointment. Dan's going to meet me there after drop off, but I feel twice as nervous walking in without him. What if it really is just menopause and all of these pregnancy hopes are just in my head? Dan can't find the drop off point and I'm frantically trying to call and text with him but not getting hardly any reception in the office to help him. If nothing else it takes my mind off things. I get lead back to a room where I'm given a urine pregnancy test and a form to answer a bunch of questions. The test comes back positive, like the two home tests, so I'm asked to change into a gown and lead to another room with an ultrasound machine. The doctor starts the ultrasound and as soon as the wand is on my belly I feel that funny feeling in my stomach again. The same one I'd been feeling since the beginning of the week at the lake. She asks if I felt that and I nod. And then I hear it. I recognize it instantly from ultrasounds with Jacob. There's a heartbeat. A loud, strong heartbeat and I start to cry. She shows me our baby and then after my go ahead tells me it's a girl. Somewhere along the line I start to take a video (with permission) because Dan hasn't made it yet and I know he'll want to see our daughter. Our daughter. We have a daughter. The midwife starts to take some measurements and then tells me I look to be about 22 weeks along. I ask her to repeat herself thinking surely I heard her wrong. 22 weeks. This baby is more than halfway cooked. I've been pregnant since February and had no idea. She prints some sonogram photos for me, gives me a bunch of information and then sends me on my way with another appointment in four weeks to take my glucose test. I meet Dan in the parking lot and we sit in my car and marvel at the photos and videos. We have a daughter. We tell our families we're expecting a baby girl in November and then head into a nearby restaurant to get some lunch, over the moon excited.

to be continued...