Friday, June 27, 2014

update on Brielle: a crazy week with a hope-filled ending

Well, what a week this has turned out to be!

What's even more amazing is that God already knew what this week would look like for us, what the outcome would be, and He paved the way ahead...

Last Tuesday, I (Charisma) had my wisdom teeth removed as scheduled (fun times, yay). Jonathan was off for the week as planned to help with the kids and give me time to recover. So thankful for his care over our family!

Saturday (June 21st) was the first day I started to feel normal enough to venture out, so we ran some errands, took the kids to the library, and had a late lunch at CiCis pizza.

At 2pm, we were waiting in line to pay for our pizza, when Brielle had her first "event". I call it that because I had witnessed similar episodes so it didn't immediately alarm me.
This past Spring, she has had a handful of what I call, "absence seizures", or "spacing out episodes", where she would kind of tense up, get a little jittery and look really focused, as if she is trying to pass gas or something. But her arms and legs would still move as normal, and she would still make eye contact. After doing some research and discussing it with her doctor, none of us were concerned about them immediately.

However, the episode last Saturday was different. She completely stiffened, including extremities. Her eyes were glossy and unable to make eye contact, her breathing slowed or stopped for about a minute, and afterwards she was so lethargic, she fell asleep. I tried to feed her because food has always been a major motivator for her (ha!), but she wanted nothing but sleep. I woke her up 15 minutes later and she ate normally and seemed herself again. I assumed because it was past nap time that maybe she was just extra tired. I'm not sure if at that point I realized that it was a more serious seizure, or if I chalked it up to just another spacing out episode.

Once we got home, the kids went down for naps, and Brielle slept for about 2.5 hours, which is normal. A little bit after I got her up, at 6pm, she had another seizure. Then at 7:45, 8:45, 10:00, and the last one sometime around midnight (after we got to the ER).

Once we realized there was a pattern and they were happening frequently, we called a local friend (who was a nurse) for advice, and while we were on the phone, she had her most severe seizure. Even though she never had convulsions, she seized long enough (maybe 1.5 minutes) that her lips starting turning purple, eyes started rolling back in her head, and for a moment got floppy and almost lost consciousness. That was a terrifying moment as I considered doing CPR and calling 911. However, she came back to us and we realized this was very serious, and if the trend continues, we may only have about 45 minutes to get to the hospital, so we immediately drove to the ER.

Now, I need to pause the story here to thank God for our church family, Sovereign Grace. Not only did we have tons of people praying for our daughter, but we had Mike & Alan show up at the ER right along with us, and people calling the ER to inform them that we were coming.
Pastor Billy not only called and checked in on us several times, but spent the majority of the night awake because of his concern for Brielle, praying for her, and at 4am SHOWED UP at the hospital to be with us and pray with us. I have never met such a compassionate and spiritually-sensitive pastor who is that in-tune to people's needs. He blessed us so much by caring so deeply during a difficult moment, and ACTING selflessly in response. Thank you Billy!

It was providential that we were in the ER on Saturday night, because by Sunday morning we probably had a dozen churches across the US praying for her during their morning services, not to mention hundreds of individuals all across the states and even internationally! We had messages coming in all weekend long offering help, including quite a few who offered to take care of our son while we were with Brielle.

Brielle was a champ, enduring the countless nurses and doctors poking and prodding her all weekend. While at the ER, she had a CT Scan and blood tests. Exhausting their resources, they felt she should get transferred to a children's hospital in Lubbock, that also had a neurologist.

I (Charisma) rode with Brielle in the Ambulance transferring service while Jonathan went back home to be with Judah and give him some stability and normalcy for a while. We figured there wasn't much use in both of us sitting in a hospital for possibly days, unless an emergency arose and then of course he would come up. And we didn't want our son bouncing from house to house not knowing where his parents were.

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Side Note:
Now both my son and daughter have exciting stories to tell about their hospital stays! I was life flighted by helicopter just hours before Judah was born, now Brielle has her own story about riding in an ambulance! (We had the option of taking a jet, but didn't feel the urgency to go that route.)
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At the hospital, Brielle had another round of bloodwork, an EEG (both 1 hour and overnight), and EKG. Every single test came back negative... she is the healthiest 'sick' little girl I know, apparently ;)

No more seizures to speak of (almost a week later), and she has been her normal sweet self, which we are so grateful for. We don't have the answers yet, but we are thankful to God for...

- the caring and thoroughness of the staff at both hospitals, and the ambulance team
- the timing of Jonathan already being off work for the week, and his boss who did his best to try and get him an extra day off
- that I was mostly recovered from my wisdom teeth surgery, and able to be with Brielle and take care of her
- everyone's prayers, and those that went out of their way to help us in practical ways, like watching Judah, money, food, encouragement, visiting at the hospital, etc.


So remember how I told you that God was paving the way? Aside from things already mentioned about the timing... would you believe that He also orchestrated the financial side of it? And His care for Brielle's other developmental needs?


When Jonathan checked the mail on Monday (Brielle and I were still in Lubbock), there was a completely unexpected check for a significant amount in there from a family member. It was sent "just because", before Brielle's first seizure had even occurred! THAT, my friends, is how God cares for His children (and possibly shows off a little ;)

Also, another providential blessing... had Brielle not had those seizures, it may have been months (if ever) before we would see a neurologist or any specialized doctors for her developmental delays. Dare I say, I am thankful she had the seizures (though I certainly wouldn't want her to have another!), if that means we now may find out the cause of her other problems! Whether or not the seizures are related, we don't know... but we are now connected to doctors that might be able to find the answers, or at least a hopeful direction.

What's to come is still unclear. She has been given a clean bill of health, though there's always a chance she could have another seizure because we just don't know. Praise God, though, that she is considered low risk for repeat seizures and does NOT need to be on any medication!

Right now, we are pursuing genetic testing. We also will be making appointments with a developmental pediatrician here in town, as well as a follow up with the neurologist in Lubbock.

Keep praying! This sweet girl has stolen our hearts (and the hearts of all her doctors and nurses I might add)! She is a precious gift from God that we do not take for granted. It certainly isn't fun to be venturing down this unknown road with her, trying to find ways to help her thrive and grow and develop the way she should, but we are thankful for health, life, and a sweet spirit in her. I know she's in good hands... because they are HIS hands.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

He is faithful: an update on Brielle's developmental journey

It's been several weeks now since Brielle has started therapy, and she seems to be responding well to everything. She sees three, soon to be four, different therapists (thankfully in-home and state-sponsored so practically free!) twice a month for different parts of her development. It's a bit daunting to think about all these appointments and to go through this process for an unknown length of time (yet again), but we've gotten positive feedback already and her therapists are optimistic.
Mostly we've been focusing on gross motor / physical therapy, but she also has fine motor / occupational therapy, skills / general overall therapy with her case manager, and will eventually include speech therapy as well. We are focusing on everything from core and muscle strengthening exercises, to hands-and-knees time, spoon self-feeding, more interactive play, as well as sitting more stably and transitioning into a sitting position.
This is bringing back a lot of memories from Judah's growth, and if you've had a normal-developing baby, most of those things just "happen", or transition so quickly you don't even notice them. With both our kids, even the littlest achievement is something to celebrate! But I will be honest in saying she has already fallen more "behind" than Judah ever was, and it seems a bit more slow-going too. However, her therapists have commented that she seems to have all the motivation and ability necessary to grow and reach her developmental goals. All they've been able to see as the problem is having "low tone" in her muscles. In just three weeks, we can already tell she is a little bit stronger and has more endurance during her exercises. She also seems *almost* ready to pull into sitting independently. So that is progress, though excruciatingly slow progress. But we will celebrate every success and know God has His hand on her little body and mind. He has a perfect plan for her, each and every day!

In other related news, we have sent in the paperwork and are waiting to get our appointment scheduled with the developmental pediatric neurologist. Although we aren't expecting any grand diagnosis or answer to the problem, we are hopeful she may have some insight or direction for Brielle.

Aside from our normally fairly healthy diet (about 50-75% organic, with lots of fruits and veggies), we have also removed most wheat, per doctor's suggestion. This tiny 18lb girl can EAT! To this day, I still have not seen her "limit". She must have two hollow legs and two hollow arms! ;)
We've actually been enjoying trying new and creative wheat-free recipes! I don't know if it's been helping or not, but I'm sure it can't hurt.

On a more personal level, it has been difficult to not play the comparison game, or the blame game, as Brielle's mother. The couldawouldashoulda thoughts creep in, and I know that A) there is a slim chance, if any, that I could have done something different to prevent anything that may or may not have contributed to her delays; and B) even if I DID do something (or not do something), there is nothing I can do to change that, so why worry?

I fight the urge to compare Brielle with other children her age (and much younger), who are passing her up developmentally. I desperately want to share in their parents' joy (and I do, but maybe not completely wholeheartedly if I were to be honest) when another child starts crawling, or walking, saying their first words, clapping and waving... my heart aches to see my daughter do all those things. My heart longs to hear her say "mama" and wave and smile and run to me.

Sometimes I just feel like we're stuck. Forever circling in a holding pattern (oh here I go with the airplane terms... yep, a pilot's wife...), wondering when we'll finally get somewhere. It's hard not to feel defeated or depleted, frustrated, hopeless, or overwhelmed. It's hard not to feel jealous of others or angry at ourselves, or worse, blame God as if somehow He is punishing us or just messing with us.

Sometimes I just want to cry out, "Really God? Again? Why are you doing this again? And why don't we have answers? Why do we have to go through this? Why are you doing this to her? Why can't we have a normal life, normal children, normal problems?"

Seriously, it's sounds ridiculous when I actually write that. It also sounds incredibly self-serving and selfish and whiney. Sigh.

I keep going back to what I know to be true. Relying on God and His security in knowing that He is sovereign and good and cares deeply for my precious daughter. He has not forgotten her, and He has a perfect plan in mind for her. It really is a faith trust season of life right now.

Just like with her brother Judah while in the NICU, I was surprised at how much our STRUGGLES were a testimony and encouragement to other people.
Isn't it supposed to be our successes and strength and accomplishments that encourage the most? Or is it seeing Jesus' faithfulness in the midst of the storm and struggle? I think the latter.

He is faithful.




Monday, May 19, 2014

a prayer for our daughter

I'm sorry for the lack of writing over the past year. Having two kids and moving across the country I suppose is enough excuse for not blogging... I'm lucky to get a shower in, let alone sit down and write or journal!

The reason for this entry is to ask for prayer and give an update on what news is happening in the Tack Family.

No, I'm not pregnant, for those who I'm sure are curious ;)

I added Brielle's birth story to our blog today, to remind myself of how BIG our God really is, and how He remained in control of every detail of my pregnancy and delivery last Christmas 2012.

Just because Brielle is now outside the womb, does not mean He is any less concerned about the details of our lives and how He cares for His precious creation, specifically, our daughter.

We adore Brielle! She is a precious gift from God. She lights up our life with her sweet smiles and bright demeanor, and occasional spunky attitude.

Brielle has shown exceptional health, with no major concerns from day one, aside from typical colic, sniffles, and teething, etc.
However, we started noticing around 9-12 months that she failed to reach significant developmental milestones as she grew. She mastered rolling over, got her first teeth, etc. at six months... but then didn't seem interested in continuing on from there. At first, we assumed she was just slow or lazy (and with our experiences with Judah, we didn't want to overreact, so we gave her time), but after a while, red flags started to go up that there was something else amiss. No sitting up, pulling up, crawling, talking, walking, etc.

Brielle is now almost 17 months old, and severely behind in many areas developmentally. She lands on the chart at about an 8-10 month level in most areas, and is considered "severely globally developmentally delayed" for "unknown reasons". She is also fairly small, weighing about 18lbs. But that's not necessarily a concern, seeing as we are small people too. This was quite the shock to us, however, seeing as how everything went picture-perfect with her birth (full term and natural) and no major illnesses to speak of. Of course, with her brother being so premature, we expected delays from him. He spent 3 years in physical and speech therapy before he was fairly "caught up". (Now we can't stop him!). But no indication that Brielle would seem to have similar issues! I always imagined she would be quick to reach milestones, in effort to keep up with her brother.

We have seen numerous doctors and currently have her enrolled with physical therapy (and speech & occupational therapy will come soon too). We also are in process of seeing a developmental pediatric neurologist. Yet, so far no doctors have given her a specific diagnosis as to WHY she has so many delays. However, the good news is, every doctor has assured us that they see no signs of major intellectual disabilities, such as retardation, downs syndrome, autism, etc. We are hoping to avoid any expensive testing that could very well be inconclusive, and that the answers will be clear and easily-resolved.

She is still happy and healthy, bright and content, and we just love her to pieces. We are doing all we can to encourage her in her development, and praying that God will continue to direct her path and give us the wisdom to help her grow and thrive. We know He has a perfect plan, and that He cares for her immensely more than we ever could. Please pray with us as we walk down this road with our daughter!


How the Lord orchestrated the birth of Brielle Julianne Tack

Jonathan and I quickly realized how much of this birth story was really about how the Lord answered prayer after prayer the entire way through my pregnancy, and specifically through labor and delivery. This is not my birth story, this is God’s birth story for our little girl. All of your prayers played a key role in this story, too! A true and precious gift to us. I hope you will be encouraged by our testimony to His goodness.

In case you need the back story to why Brielle’s birth is so different and exciting for me, read about our son Judah’s birth story http://the-tacks.blogspot.com/2010/10/road-to-judah-emmaus-our-birth-story.html (which is a miracle in itself!), and also http://the-tacks.blogspot.com/2011/03/rite-of-passage.html about my feelings of being ‘cheated’ out of the birth that I desired.

Many of you know how strongly I desired to delivery naturally via VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) this pregnancy. I wanted nothing to do with a repeat cesarean or a medicated birth, which I am convinced can often lead to a downward cycle of unnecessary medical interventions.
Doctors and other well-meaning people warned me of the ‘dangers’ of having a VBAC, throwing out numbers and statistics and telling me not to get my hopes up. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I’d carry my baby to full term, so it was hard to focus on the end when you’ve grown accustomed to just hoping to make it to the next day and next week in your pregnancy. However, it was difficult to not let those fears consume me. I had to constantly renew my mind with positive stories, statistics, and information about natural birth.

Fortunately, this little girl stayed in until 39 weeks and 1 day. A stark contrast to her brother’s mere 25 weeks and 5 days. Now I was getting nervous she wouldn’t come out, I would go overdue, and be pressured to have a cesarean (because induction was not an option due to increased risk of uterine rupture). I quickly started shifting gears mentally from “stay in baby” to, “come out baby!” at around the 36-37 week mark.

We semi-selfishly prayed that we would have her before the end of the year. We didn’t want to have to meet a new insurance deductible if she arrived after January 1st. Pregnancies for us are already expensive! And I didn’t want to have to fight doctors to let me go to 42 weeks before scheduling a c-section.

To help prepare and/or encourage labor, I started drinking red raspberry leaf tea almost daily, as well as taking baths almost every night (mostly due to difficulty sleeping). We had intercourse several times after 36 weeks, after the cerclage was removed and the doctors took me off any restrictions.

The night I went into labor we also had intercourse and I took a bath at about 11pm before going to bed. I slept well for about 3 hours, then woke up around 3am feeling like I had some constipation so I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet for a while trying to pass a bowel movement when I realized my ‘gas pains’ were forming a pattern and quickly became intense enough that I started timing them. After about 15 minutes I realized that my ‘gas pains’ were 2-3 minutes apart! Holy moly I think I’m in labor! I woke up Jonathan at around 3:30am and calmly told him, “I don’t want to panic but I am pretty sure I'm in labor and contractions are really close together so we probably need to leave soon”. I was already getting to the point where I had to stop whatever I was doing and breathe through contractions as we were packing the car. I was very unprepared emotionally for labor to get so intense immediately. I was certain I would labor at home for a while, and expected a few false alarms. For me to wake up out of a dead sleep and be in active labor was a bit of a shock and it was hard for me to transition mentally into managing pain and breathing techniques.
We called the hospital, a bit concerned that we should even make the 45 minute drive. We had switched hospitals/practices at around 33 weeks so I could deliver with a midwife, and so we could financially save hundreds of dollars by not being charged an hourly ‘doctor standby fee’ during labor. That meant a longer drive outside of town, as opposed to the ten-minute drive to our local hospital. We took the risk of making the drive, praying the whole way that we would make it in time. All I kept thinking about was stories (including one from my friend, on the same day our son Judah was born) about delivering on the side of the road or in the car!

With it being Christmas Eve morning, many of our ‘standby babysitters’ were out of town, so we reluctantly had to take our son Judah with us, praying that someone would come available while we waited for Jonathan’s mom, Mary, to drive up from North Carolina, expecting to arrive at about 10am.

We made it to the hospital at about 5:30am and the midwife on call, Mary, arrived within minutes of my arrival. She immediately read over my birth plan and chatted with me. Another small answer to prayer… this hospital/practice was much more open to birth plans than the other one. I was never questioned or belittled when noting my preferences (minus a random insensitive nurse), and they honored every one of them for both the baby and myself.

Shortly after arriving, they hooked me up to a monitor. Another thing I was really hoping for was being about to walk around and be mobile during labor. Being a VBAC, I was required to be consistently monitored, which I understood… but the hospital was being stricter on VBAC patients for some reason, not even allowing them to use the wireless telemetry unit. I was warned by the midwives that it may not be available to me. I fully expected to have to negotiate and be a difficult patient in attempt to have more freedoms during labor.
When I asked if I could move around a bit more, even though the nurse sounded crabby, no one said a word in opposition as they switched me over to the ONLY telemetry unit the hospital owned!
Ironically, contractions were getting a bit more intense, and I had little time to even know what positions felt better than others, so I just leaned over the bed most of the time and breathed through them. I had no desire to walk, squat, or stand. I ended up not even wanting/needing wireless monitoring.
When Mary checked me after being admitted, I was already 7.5cm and 100% effaced! I couldn’t believe I was already that far along. Jonathan held half-asleep and confused Judah while she rubbed my back through contractions, which is exactly what I needed and felt good. She was very ‘hands-off’ and respectful about my labor, gently offering suggestions and being present and available, but not wanting to take over in any way. Out of the four midwives available, I am certain the Lord picked the one that fit my personality and needs the best. My only experiences of hospital staff in the past has usually been one of intrusiveness, so to have someone come in that is there to assist me personally, and direct gently and patiently was a breath of fresh air.

Thankfully, our friend, Mary, who was on our babysitter call list returned my call at about 7am and graciously offered to drive down and pick up Judah. We were starting to get concerned that he would be with us for all of my labor, and a few nurses started telling us, “you know he can’t be here during delivery”, as if we had a choice in the matter!
From the time I arrived at the hospital, until I started pushing, time seemed to blur together. It certainly didn’t feel like I was in labor for over 2 hours before I started pushing.
I labored on hands and knees on the bed for quite a while, moaning through the contractions the way I had been reading and learning from birthing classes and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It did help during that phase. Not once during labor did I even think about the risk of uterine rupture or the possibility of having a c-section. I had peace that there would be no complications. I reminded myself often to breathe deep to make sure the baby was getting enough oxygen, too.
At one point a nurse asked me THE stupid question, “on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain right now?” and I replied, “I would prefer not to answer that!” Several people chuckled and my midwife said, “yeah we don’t like that question around here.”
After that two hour period, I was on my back for most of the rest of labor and delivery, which I was certain would be the last position I’d ever choose, but I was getting tired and no other position felt comfortable, even though they would have allowed me to push/deliver the baby in any position I wanted. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, and in my mind I often was frantically searching for that ‘happy place’ I could go to in order to manage pain better. Like I said earlier, I was not mentally prepared to progress so quickly, and therefore was not handling contractions as effectively as I think I could have.
At one point, shortly before the pushing phase, I started losing energy and I told the midwife I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this. She responded with, “That’s called transition.” I immediately perked up and regained motivation, realizing I was nearing the finish line, and Mary could see the end was near.
After dealing with an anterior lip in the cervix, which Mary graciously (yet painfully) helped resolve, she told me I could start pushing. Now, in my mind, pushing meant the baby was almost here, ready to crown, and I just had to give a good 10-20 minutes of pushing or so in order to deliver the baby. I was not mentally prepared to push longer than that. I’m not sure why I had that in my mind. I guess the way everyone kept encouraging me with ‘you’re doing great, she’s almost here, you’re so close’… made me think she was really just on the verge of being born. Though I am thankful for the way Jonathan and Mary did keep my morale up with that encouragement, it really was the motivation I needed to keep going.
About 20 minutes in to my pushing, Jonathan had to take Judah down to be picked up by Mary…
Side note: By the way, did you notice a trend there? How sweet and ironic that on Christmas Eve, three very key people present to help with our daughter’s arrival were named Mary.

While Jonathan was away for that 10-minute period, I got very nervous I would deliver the baby without him. Some of the nurses thought I slowed down just to make sure he made it back in time. But little did I know it would be another 30 minutes or so before she was born. When he returned, I started losing concentration and control. I found myself, after pushing through two contractions, losing control on the third contraction. Not breathing right, not pushing well, feeling panicky, and losing motivation, screaming in pain instead of using low guttural groans.

Meanwhile, Jonathan was completely fascinated with the experience. He watched the baby progressing, he kept a cool washcloth available for me, and Mary made sure to keep him involved. He was a wonderful labor partner, even though for the majority of the time there was little he could do to help. Mary coached me on how to push most effectively, which I really appreciate. They noticed that my best progress in bringing the baby down further was pushing three times and then taking the last bit of energy from the contraction and pushing a fourth time. Once they told me how much progress that was doing, it motivated me to put all my effort into that fourth push each time.

The only annoyance I had while pushing was (and this might be TMI), I would poop a little quite frequently during pushes, and the nurse EVERY.SINGLE.TIME would make me raise my butt off the bed to change the pad under me. I could have cared less if I was sitting on or near a little bit of poop to be honest. She was using my precious recovery time in between contractions to make me change the bed pad. I was getting really annoyed with that.

Finally, at 9:01am, I made those last pushes as our baby girl entered the world.

Brielle Julianne Tack joined our family, weighing 6lbs 15oz, 18” long, and 13” head. I’ve already thanked her several times for being a small baby, hah!

As they immediately put her to my chest to bond for a while, I honestly could only think about how much relief it was, physically speaking, to be done with pushing and labor. She was HERE. It wasn’t extremely emotional but it was extremely satisfying and I felt full of gratitude.
Jonathan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, then I delivered the placenta in two pushes. I wasn’t sure I’d want to see the placenta, but she showed it to us and we were both fascinated by it!
I had a few second-degree superficial tears that needed stitching, and some hemorrhoids, but otherwise no complications. One of the most uncomfortable things was when they would push on my stomach to check for blood clotting.

This was truly a story of emotional healing and redemption for me personally. For all that I missed with my firstborn, I feel the Lord gave me this precious gift with our daughter's birth. As intense as it was, it all happened with such fluidity and calm, that it could only have happened by careful orchestration from our Creator. People ask me if I got the birth I hoped for, and if things happened according to my birth plan. I can honestly say it was above and beyond my expectations. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday for Brielle. The timing, the people involved, the emotional and physical encouragement I received, and especially and most importantly, the outcome of health for everyone and a successful VBAC.
I take no credit, but glorify God for His gift to us, just hours before we celebrate His most precious gift that He gave us by sending His Son, Jesus, that Christmas Day. I also have a whole new outlook and respect for Mary delivering that baby in a stinky stable all by herself. Major props to her! ;)

Meaning of her name:
Brielle is the feminine form of the name Gabriel, one of the angels in the Bible, which means “God is my Might”. Julianne means “Youthful” and “Full of Grace”, and is taken from several family members names: Julia after my Great-Aunt Dorothy Julia, and Ann after Jonathan’s mother’s mother, Ann, and Jonathan’s mother, Mary Annette.

Friday, September 7, 2012

An uncommon pregnancy

This is a raw and honest mix of thoughts right now. It's long, it rambles and jumps around, but I hope in the end you will be encouraged in some way. I don't want to to paint a 'proper' and rosy picture of my emotions and experiences, but I do hope you see God's hand through it all.


If you were to take a peek in my world at 23 weeks pregnant with my firstborn two years ago (almost to the day, actually), things at first glance would look awfully familiar to what you would see right now. Hello bedrest, hello weekly progesterone shots.
However, the Lord has been faithful to our prayers for a distinct change in my second pregnancy. Though things on the outside look pretty much the same - plus the addition of a little guy running around the house, and a tornado of toys in the living room - there is one very important detail that is different. No longer are we fearing from day-to-day if our little one will stay put inside the womb. At this point in my first pregnancy, I had no cerclage (cervical stitch), no experience or education, and was dilated at 1cm with no idea when things would change. Thank the LORD that I had my weekly check up on the morning I started going into labor (which I was completely oblivious to, mind you). 25 weeks and 5 days into my pregnancy, and all of a sudden I was 3cm dilated with mild contractions. After a whirlwind of helicopter rides, monitors, fearful discussions and decisions, and some hurried desperate prayers, my tiny son was born via c-section that evening.

Being only two weeks from that mark again, you would think I would be fearful again. But miracles happen daily in my life these days it seems. Our check-ups have all been 'uneventful', with no surprises or concerns. And much to our awe, my cervix has fully lengthened to 37mm (the lowest it got was 25mm about a month ago)! The trends have certainly changed, and I can't help but laugh that God, perhaps, is showing off - you might even hear Him saying, "see, I am ALWAYS in control. I was with your son, and I am with your daughter!" God is predictably unpredictable in the way He shows Himself. He showed Himself in many ways through our son's preemie journey, and now He is showing Himself through this pregnancy.
He is so faithful, through difficult trials, sorrows, frustrations, and also through miracles both big and small, surprising joys, and when things are going well. We are trusting this baby and pregnancy in His hands, regardless of what happens. But we have faith that our little girl will be healthy and full term this time!

I joke with my doctors and friends that two weeks from now I will be in uncharted territory again. It will be a first-time pregnancy experience once I hit 26 weeks. People have warned me of the miseries of going full-term, and how uncomfortable and anxious you get at the end... but I usually respond, "If I get to 40 weeks, I will be happily miserable!" I would take that kind of misery over an early birth full of unknowns and endless hospital visits ANY DAY.

Even though this is my second pregnancy, I have no idea what contractions, or even Braxton Hicks contractions, feel like. I have never taken a birthing class, gone through labor, or enjoyed those first bonding moments with my newborn fresh out of the womb.
I don't even know what it's like to truly 'enjoy' being pregnant, and am admitting I sometimes get jealous of that woman who walks (or waddles) around with a glow on her face and a beautiful round belly, as she carries on her daily life with her biggest concerns being what color to paint the nursery, and if she can tie her own shoes.
I've concluded that I don't handle pregnancy well. I'm miserably sick the first 3 months, then tolerably uncomfortable for a short window of time where I feel like leaving the house and smiling again, and then comes the drama of bedrest and doctors appointments, not knowing from week-to-week what we will find.
I find myself saying things like, "why did I want to go through this again? How did I forget so quickly how awful morning sickness feels all.day.long? I'm so tired of feeling this way." and just wanting to be done, but reminding myself to try and enjoy it. I've held on to the thought that, "this, too, shall pass", and my hope lies in the fact that pregnancy doesn't last forever. Whew! I've gained sympathy for those who are terminally or acutely sick, those who lay in hospitals and nursing homes for weeks and months unending. I have to remind myself that it could ALWAYS be worse.
I don't want pity, for this is where God has me, and I have learned countless lessons through these moments. Really.
I find it funny when people ask how I'm feeling on bedrest. The answer is, "I feel fine!" and that's what's so frustrating. I KNOW I need to be here to care for the baby, but I "feel" normal, so it's hard to remember that I'm sitting here for a reason. I'm not sick, I'm not hurt, I'm just... waiting. I've learned to be patient, with myself. I've learned to accept help, which is hard for the control-freak in me. I've learned to humble myself and admit that I can't do this alone. I've learned a lot about myself, and where I find my worth. Not making my family meals and caring for the house makes me feel useless. Can I just BE a wife and a mom without DOING wife and mom things? How can I show my love and appreciation? 'Thank you' seems so inadequate. How can I contribute? With my attitudes and words alone... and boy, that takes work (especially when you're already pregnant and hormonal). I've learned self-control, to NOT get up and do a load of laundry when I know I am technically capable of doing so. I've learned that I am NOT in control, and that is a good thing, because it allows me to rest with the peace that comes from God, who IS in control. But it's not always easy.
...Just for the record, bed rest is not all its cracked up to be. It is not restful, nor is it all that productive. No, I don't have all the time in the world to read books because books make me sleepy when on bedrest. If I read, I fall asleep, and if I fall asleep, I won't sleep at night. Being up at all hours of the night (and not being able to walk around and do things) is NOT fun. At least this time I have my son to keep me entertained (and ocassionally annoyed) ;)

Ok, ranting of self-pity aside, I do know it's hard to see the forest through the trees. The end result will be a beautiful one. We're having a baby! And in the grand scheme of things, a not-so-fun pregnancy, a few months of bedrest... it's such a short time in our lives. We can learn to see the beauty in small things. Like the generosity and servant-heartedness of my family and friends. Having time to reflect on the Lord. Getting ultrasounds and pictures of our healthy little girl frequently. Watching my son grow into the little man he is becoming, with his silly antics and contemplative personality. Being grateful for a supportive husband, who selflessly picks up the slack without so much as a complaint or grumble. He is truly a blessing to me. I am blessed.

And one look into that precious little girl's face on her birth day, and I'm sure I will say, "that was SO worth it."

And you know what's ironic about all this? You know what I call God's sense of humor? The miracle of pregnancy amnesia. Give it a few weeks, months, perhaps a few years... and I will have forgotten all the silly little annoying things I had to go through. I will consider it pure joy, I will look back and remember only the best memories, and then I will say, "let's have another one!"
So THAT'S how God ensured we would be fruitful and multiply... sneaky ;)







Monday, May 14, 2012

reflections on the first weeks of pregnancy with baby #2


-morning sickness hit hard literally the day after I took the test, though I'm managing it a bit better than my last pregnancy. hoping it ends quickly so I can function again.
-it never ceases to amaze me how much one tiny little pea-sized baby can affect my bladder so dramatically.
-cravings are also in full swing, and are similar to my last pregnancy: anything mexican, watermelon, chips & dip, waffles, and ice cream cake to name a few ;)
-I fully expected to be thrown on bed rest or given all sorts of restrictions right away, but so far I've been told to treat this pregnancy as normal, and I will just be monitored more closely. There may be some adjustments made in the second trimester, but I am SO THANKFUL I can still take care of my son, travel, and do everything I normally do (while still being cautious of course).
-I think judah suspects things are changing, but the true test will come after the baby is here. I predict some jealousy and obvious adjustments, but I think in time he will become an loving and protective big brother :)
-judah and baby will be 26 months apart, though they were conceived exactly two years and two weeks apart ;) ...that was unplanned but sort of cool how God worked that out!
-we get to see the baby on Wednesday! I've never had an early ultrasound, so I am excited and hope we can hear a strong heartbeat, and witness such a tiny miracle of life :)
-incredibly blessed and thankful for God growing our family, and we're trusting in Him for a healthy full-term pregnancy and a safe labor/delivery in His perfect timing! please be praying with us that things go a bit smoother and less traumatic this time around. we would love to ease into being a family of four without complications. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My cloth diapering journey...

I've been meaning to write all this down because I've had people ask about cloth diapering in the past. There seems to be so much information I find important to share that it's not a simple two sentence answer.
I want to start by saying this is just my experience. You will get a completely different opinion from every other person who does cloth diapering. This is what makes it challenging but also unique and exciting! It's something we can get passionate about (or at least feel good about). For me, I decided to cloth diaper because it seemed the most economical decision and I felt like I was doing our family and baby some good by saving money and keeping my little guy's bum in good health.
It's easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning when you're doing preliminary research, but once you get some hands-on experience -- and lots of it ;) -- it will soon feel more natural and comfortable as you get settled in a routine and find what works for you and your baby. I hope this information is a good jumping-off point for your journey into cloth diapering! I'm still a bit of a newbie and learning little by little as I go, but if anyone has more questions, I'll do what I can to help!



Basic Reasons to Cloth Diaper
  • Saves money: if you average $40+/month on disposables, times 12 months, times 3 years, that's almost $1500. Average conservative cost to completelycloth diaper from 0-3+ age: $250-$350
  • Using average of 20-25 cloth diapers total for 3 years, or throwing out 150+ diapers each month... that's a lot of diapers NOT in a landfill
  • Cloth is much easier on the skin - little to no diaper rash (especially those with sensitive skin).
  • Yes, you will do a few more loads of laundry a week, but it's not a huge cost for extra water and electric. *Maybe* $5-$10/month if you do 2-3 loads a week.


Types of diapers
All-in-one - these are no-fuss diapers. no inserts or pockets, just a diaper all ready to go. the downside to these are they aren't very customizable to your needs, and take a long time to dry.
All-in-twos (covers and inserts separately) - there's the cover, which contains the wetness, and then the insert, which absorbs everything. you can also use disposable inserts or prefolds with most covers. this is the most customizable and requires less folding/stuffing like with the pockets. these also tend to dry the fastest.
Pockets - this is a diaper with a lining that has a pocket where you slip the insert inside. this is probably the easiest system for beginners (or dads/babysitters), because you can stuff them ahead of time so they're ready to go. they are also customizable so you can add a 'doubler' (a second smaller insert) for heavy wetters or overnight. you pull out the inserts for washing so they dry faster.
Prefolds - this is the 'old school' diapering with the square cloth you fold around the baby. you can use the rubber elastic pants or the more modern covers. most people use a 'snappi' to hold the cloth together (much safer than a 'safety pin'). some people love this system and it is probably the cheapest route if you're on a tight budget.

Closures:
Snaps
Velcro ('hook and loop')

Sizes:
One size: usually fits birth-3 years (though it's hard to find cloth diapers that fit really well on a tiny newborn). I usually get one-size because I feel it's less hassle and probably a bit cheaper in the end, but sometimes it's hard to get a good fit.
Multiple sizes: depending on the brand, you'll have two to three different sized diapers, usually by weight. (for example, Thirsties has a size one: 6-18lbs and size two: 18-28lbs - those aren't the exact weights but you get the idea) you'll get a better fit, spend a little less per diaper, but won't get quiet as much use once the baby outgrows that size, so you'll have to buy more over the three-year span (but if you plan to have more kids may be worth buying because they'll last longer).

NEWBORNS: From experience, I'd recommend doing either a one-size cover and insert or a small-sized pocket diaper for newborns if you plan to start with cloth right away (one-sized pockets and all-in-ones are likely to be too bulky). Some brands offer a lower rise setting for the umbilical cord too. However, I did disposables for a while just for convenience and because you're changing so frequently... with a newborn the last thing you want to think about is more laundry ;)


Brands I've used
Fuzzibuns - Pocket diaper - A bit expensive so wait for a sale if you can (or buy used). nice features are adjustable/replaceable gussets (elastic around the legs). good for skinny-legged or small babies. also super soft and trim.
Econobums - Cover and pre fold - The most inexpensive cover I've found that works really well. if you're on a budget I recommend these to start if you want to do covers and inserts separate. the covers are really trim. the prefold inserts are pretty bulky, though. I hardly ever used them. I'd recommend either just buying the covers only and buying inserts somewhere else, or cutting down the prefolds and sewing them so they're smaller. Wait for a B1G1 sale and they're $5 each with free shipping at www.cottonbabies.com
Bumgenius - Pocket - Hold up well over time. velcro tends to get worn after 3-4 years of constant use. very soft and absorbent. this is a good brand if you like pockets.
Kawaii - Pocket - Great for the cost, inexpensive. it's a good starter if you want to try pockets. they are a bit bulky and tend to leak if left on for overnight or heavy-wetting.
Flip - Cover - I just have a few used ones. They are comfortable and trim.
Grovia - Cover - I just have a few used ones. These are also comfortable and trim.
Thirsties - Cover - These are my new favorites because of the inner additional gussets around the leg. the only brand I've found with that feature, which helps with leaks. they are trim and the velcro holds well over time, not too expensive either.

Some other brands I've heard good reviews from: Charlie Banana, Rocky Mountain Diapers, gDiapers, Bummis, Kissaluvs, Happy Heiny

There are a ton of different brands as well as homemade ones. I would steer away from homemade for now only because they are usually more expensive and may not hold up well over time.
some brands come with guarantees (as long as you use them properly - read the fine print).



Washing diapers
You can find a lot of instructions of washing your diapers online. These tips have helped me:
  • Hot water rinses before and after washing
  • A small amount (a few tablespoons at most) of free-and-clear (no perfumes or dyes) detergent or cloth-diaper-specific detergent
  • Sunshine! It's true that line-drying in the sun will actual reduce smells and stains!
  • Baking soda, occasionally
  • White vinegar, occasionally
  • I like the Rockin' Green ammonia-bouncer "Funk Rock" for when the diapers build up an ammonia smell on occasion. It's a bit expensive but really does work.
  • Strip them before first use and as-needed (for smells, leaking, etc) - "stripping" is basically adding a little dawn dish soap (teaspoon at most) and then rinse rinse rinse in hot water until the soap bubbles are gone. http://www.zany-zebra.com/stripping-cloth-diapers.shtml or http://www.ehow.com/how_2225268_cloth-diapers-rid-stink-leaks.html
What I do is put all my dirty diapers in a lidded pail, with a pail liner (a waterproof bag that stretches around pail). some people like to soak them immediately and wash more frequently, but I usually only do about two loads a week. If the diaper is soiled, I have a diaper sprayer hose attached to the toilet, and I spray off the poo into the toilet. some people just use rubber gloves and wash off in the toilet water. either way works, but I love the sprayer!!



Other accessories and tips I've found useful
  • Coconut oil - When diaper rash does surface, be careful not to use mainstream diaper cream. it will cause build-up and leaking in your diapers. I use organic coconut oil (from the grocery store)... that's it! it clears up in just a few days. Coconut oil is great for many other things - skin, hygiene, cooking, and yes, even for intimacy ;)
  • Diaper Sprayer - check ratings before buying - some are cheaply made. I have a bum genius sprayer that was used when I got it, so it's been working for about 5 years with just a minor leak that was fixed easily.
  • Wet bags / pail liners - Great for travel and containing the diapers without a mess. www.planetwise.com is a good brand.
  • Cloth wipes - I go back and forth between using these. it doesn't add much to the laundry when I do, but it's nice to just wipe and toss disposables, too. withcloth wipes (I made my own by cutting up fleece/flannel fabric from goodwill clothing), I mix a solution of water with a spoonful of baby wash and a spoonful of baby oil, but water works fine by itself, too. change out the water once a week or so to keep it fresh. I keep mine in the little squirt bottle they give you at the hospital for postpartum needs... but a little spray bottle from the travel section of walmart or target would work too. you can either put a stack of wipes in an old plastic wipes tub and pour the solution over them so they are already wet, or spray as you need them.
  • Disposable diaper inserts - if you're interested in more of a 'hybrid' diapering system, some people use these when they travel or if they have a busy lifestyle. it can make clean up a little easier and less laundry to do, or if you're not ready to commit to full-time cloth diapering this could be a happy medium.
  • Drying rack - I have one that folds up- you can also find them used. there's quite a variety out there. you *can* dry diapers on low heat in the dryer, but I like to think they'll last longer and work better by line drying (and it doesn't have to be outside) - keep in mind that you can dry inserts on low heat in the dryer.
  • Rubber gloves - For prepping diapers to wash - pulling out inserts, etc. Or, if you don't have a sprayer, rinsing them off in the toilet.


Buying diapers
sometimes even websites like zulily will have a deal on cloth diapers


Harrisonburg and surrounding area retailers:
Simple Little Baby - Harrisonburg
Abbys Lane - Manassas
On the Turtles Back - Harrisonburg
Sugar Snap Consignment - Charlottesville
Nature's Child - Charlottesville
Queen City Diapers (Diapering Service) - Staunton


  • there are TONS of websites out there... these are just the ones I used most frequently.
  • "like" different cloth diaper stores on Facebook and wait for sales! it could save you quite a bit if you're patient :) *cottonbabies often has free shipping, B1G1 free, or buy 4 get 1 free on certain brands.
  • don't forget to check www.retailmenot.com for any promo codes to make it an even better deal.
  • find a local cloth diaper store or retailer so you can see things in person and talk with someone who is familiar with the different brands and has a lot of experience. if you don't have one local, I'd encourage you to visit a mom or two to see her routine and explore her 'stash' of diapers to get an idea of what you like best. You're welcome to visit and change Judah's diaper any time! ;) haha!


Helpful websites for troubleshooting and more info


My best advice is to remember that:
  • every family's needs are different. what works for one family may not work for another. a lot of factors can change the type of diapers you use. travel, babysitters, dads ;), daycare, housing arrangements, etc.
  • every baby is different, too! and it is likely they will change and grow and you'll have to adjust your diapering habits with them. one brand/style may work for a newborn, but not work well 3 months later. legs get skinnier as they start crawling, etc.
  • try a variety of brands and styles before committing to anything. it's ok to start of slowly and use disposables too for a while until you find something you like. what you think you might like may not work at all... I discovered I liked covers and inserts separately, even though I thought for sure I'd like pockets best. I have quite a few different brands I've tried. some I like more than others, some work better during the day than overnight.
  • cost does make a difference when buying diapers, but you CAN cloth diaper on a budget. buy used/pre-loved or 'seconds' (minor manufacture defects), borrow, buy a 'trial' pack to see what you like and return what you don't. buying used or borrowing will also give you an idea of what the diaper would look like after some wear and tear. it can show you its 'true colors' of whether or not they're worth investing in.