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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Last night was so much fun. I let 4 children run around the house while I sat and talked to other adults until after 9pm. I tried to convince Brent that it isn't so hard to handle multiple children..."See honey, I'm doing it now." He didn't agree. He said that I wasn't doing anything except letting kids run wild. He's still not convinced (nowhere close!) that we should have another baby in this lifetime. I will keep trying.




Benjamin had a great time being the big kid of the bunch. He was happy to have the other two take him on (at the same time) in wrestling. He was also happy to sit quietly and take care of the baby. He is such a good boy. My only problem with him is that he is growing up MUCH to fast.

I am happy that my sister, her son and my dad here for a week. Kathy will watch Samantha, Benjamin will go to soccer camp and dad will take Benjamin to camp. Then I will get to see everyone as soon as I get home from work each day. I LOVE having my family visit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Independence

I can't beleive how early it starts! It started with small things...wanting to stand up all day after seeing another baby cruising. Getting mad when she couldn't sit up to play with her toys one day. But it has continued. Samantha thinks she is big enough to do whatever she wants on her own. She is only 6 months old, and can't say it in words, but she is definitely telling us through actions and body language "NO! I DO IT!"

Last night it was bad, she would not drink from her bottle unless she was not only holding it, but she also had to pick it up from the table herself. If she didn't, she wanted nothing to do with it. The problem is, she can't quite get it to her mouth in a manner that will allow her to drink the milk. But as soon as Brent tried to help a little, she let go and turned her head away. She was getting grouchy because she was hungry, but she still wouldn't drink. It took two hours, she was almost asleep before she finally drank the bottle.

I expected this in a couple of years. I had no idea that it starts so soon. I am thinking that we will not need to foster a sense of independence with this child. Instead we will be chasing after her as she constantly does things that we think she is not yet big enough for. How is it possible that after only 6 months, I should be sad that my baby is growing up so quickly. If I think about it too much, I am afraid.

January - coming home

I was released from the hospital on 1/12. I went home with a catheter still in place to be sure that my bladder had plenty of time to heal. It was scheduled to be removed on 1/21/08. I guess they don’t see something like that very often, because when I cam back to visit Samantha, some of the NICU nurses asked Samantha’s nurse “Is that mom STILL in the hospital?”

1/12/08 was also the first day that Samantha was strong enough to take ALL of her feedings by bottle rather than having half or more by tube. And she pulled her feeding tube out halfway through the day, prompting her nurse to tell her that she had better take all of her bottles that day so that she wouldn’t have to re-insert the tube. That afternoon her doctor said that she would be able to go home on Tuesday, 1/15. It was very hard to go home without her, but at least we knew a date for her to come home. And it turns out that being home for a couple days without her was very good for my body to continue healing.

On Monday night, I was SOOOO nervous about taking Samantha home. I had become dependent on having her hooked up to monitors to watch her heart rate and her breathing, and I was terrified that I wouldn’t do as good a job of taking care of her as the nurses had. All of the nurses were very re-assuring, though and told us that we would be just fine. The hospital does have a very cool program for NICU parents called rooming in. So Monday night, Brent and I spent the night in a parent room just outside the NICU and Samantha stayed with us. She was off all of her monitors, but the nurse still checked in with us a couple times during the night and was just a few steps away down the hall, and we could also call from our room. That went a long way toward boosting our confidence. I wonder, do parents who have their baby with them from day one feel so inadequate at the thought of taking their sweetheart home? Or is that a special feeling for NICU parents? Perhaps someday I will be able to answer that question. Or will I not have a true answer because of my previous experience? I may never know that answer.

Something funny happened while we were at the hospital the night before Samantha’s homecoming. I ran into an old friend. Kim had called for someone to prepare Samantha’s security leg band that prevents her from being taken from the hospital. She didn’t need one prior to that since the NICU is secure, but the parent room was just outside the NICU, no longer secure. Anyway, the lady who prepares the bands came into the room and spoke to Kim. As she left, I turned to Kim and asked if the lady’s name is Kathryn. Kim answered yes and I told her that I went to high school with Kathryn and that we were on the swim team together. She called Kathryn back and asked what high school she went to. When she answered San Angelo Central, I came out and told her my maiden name. We hugged and spent a fun few minutes catching up. That was really cool!

Brent only had one day of vacation before his anniversary date at work, January 21, so he took off 1/8/08, but then had to go back to work. So even though he stayed with me on Monday night in the parent room, he had to leave at 5am to go back to work. His mom came to pick me and Samantha up at the hospital later that morning. By the time we were finished with everything there, it was already time for my OB/GYN appointment, so we went straight from the hospital to my doctor’s office. Brent met us there, so he was able to be with me as we took Samantha home for the first time. That made me very happy because I wanted us to all come home as a family, and I got my wish. And so we had a new beginning as a family of three all together for the first time.

January - in the hospital

Brent went with Samantha to the NICU as soon as she was delivered and she started out with a few problems...being on a CPAP machine, oxygen and a feeding tube. I stayed in the OR with my doctors for a couple more hours. It seems that, once again, I had things going on with my body that the doctors don’t normally see. My colon rectal doctor was in the room “just in case” because of my having a problem a couple of years prior in which my small intestine was adhered to my uterus. There was nothing that he had to take care of this time, so he just stayed near my head and was my cheerleader during the procedure, asking me “How are you doing kiddo?” and telling the anesthesiologist when I needed more stuff in my IV. They did have to call an urologist to come and take care of a little problem. You see, this time, my bladder was completely adhered to my uterus from top to bottom (That would explain those emergency room and doctor visits earlier in my pregnancy.) and my OB had to cut through my bladder to get the baby out. Fun, fun! The urologist later commented that he had never seen anything like that before. That didn’t faze me at all, though. I am used to doctors saying things like that to me. What I don’t often hear is that something is completely normal. Poor Brent had no idea what was going on. He kept going back and forth from the NICU to my room, expecting to see me there. All my nurse could tell him was that she didn’t know of any complications. So he just had lots of time to worry before they were finally finished stitching me up and he was able to find out what happened.

Once I got back to my room, I kept bugging my nurse about being able to see Samantha, but I was still on the magnesium and could not even get out of bed while I was still on it. I continued to stay very high risk – I even had my own one on one nurse - until Tuesday evening when I finally got off the magnesium. Sometime on Tuesday, a lactation consultant came to see me and show me how to use a pump so that I could pump milk for Samantha, but I really don’t remember anything about her visit, other than the fact that I told her that I would not remember anything she said and that she replied that was OK and she would send someone to see me again the next day. I also very vaguely remember having Patsy and Lezley come to visit me. Apparently they were both there for quite some time, but honestly, I barely even remember that they were there at all.

I thought that I would get to see Samantha once I was off the magnesium, but I was moved from L&D to post partum and my new nurses would not let me go yet. By the time I got to go see her on Wednesday at lunch time, she only had the feeding tube. I cried on the way to see her when the lactation consultant asked me if this was the first time I would see her. Once I got to her pod, her nurse put her into my arms and suddenly it was like there was no one else anywhere around. The entire world was reduced to just the two of us. What an amazing experience holding your child for the first time is! She looked so tiny to us, but one of her nurses kept saying that she was four times the size of her other baby. I guess it is all about perspective.

In the NICU Samantha had “touch times” at 2:30, 5:30, 8:30, and 11:30 am and pm. This is a set of times when she would be held, have her temp taken, be diapered and fed. My favorite time to go see her was for her 5:30am touch time. The NICU was practically deserted at that time of day with basically just the nurses there and usually everything seemed to be quiet with the babies at that time as well. I would attempt to nurse her, then either feed her as much of her bottle as she could take herself then hold her as she received the rest by gavage, or just hold her while she was gavage fed. I would sing to her and not be worried that I was disturbing anyone else. It was such a peaceful time each day. The strange thing about the NICU is that time seems to move so differently there. I would feel like I had just arrived, but in reality would be there for a couple of hours. I quickly learned to save a piece of fruit and some yogurt from one of my meals to take with me down there to tide me over until I got back to my room and ordered breakfast. I didn’t know until after Samantha was released that I was not supposed to have any food or drink other than water in the NICU, and her nurses never said anything to me. I read the rules after she came home with us and I was sorting through papers. Oops!

Samantha’s nurses were fantastic! She had the same day nurse from Wednesday until Sunday, her name was Andrea. All of the nurses watched out for me and my health, but Andrea was especially vigilant. She paid attention to how I looked and sounded and reminded me to go take my blood pressure medicine. She also told me several times that I needed to be sure to take time to rest, that I would not help my baby if I wore myself out by trying to be in the NICU all of the time. She reminded me that if I didn’t make sure that I took care of myself, I would not be able to care for my baby. It was hard advice to take, but it was good advice, and I am grateful to her for it. Brittany was Samantha’s night nurse for most of the week, and she was great, too. As were Gracy, Kim, Becky and Dru. You could not ask for better people to take care of your child.

I don’t know how I managed this, but I didn’t think about taking pictures of the NICU staff or Samantha’s pod until the night before she was to go home. So we only have pictures of Kim and Brittany. I don’t really know why I didn’t think to take pictures sooner. I think that is the only time in my life that I have not been jumping in to take pictures. That was so unlike me. We had the camera there, and we took pictures of Samantha and of her visitors, why not her caregivers? I guess because it was too scary before that…we didn’t have answers, we didn’t know when she would come home…once we did, we wanted to be sure to remember what had taken place. Before that, we would like to forget that our baby didn’t enter the world the same as most babies. And taking pictures would just make it more real and unforgettable…if that is even possible.

Monday, July 21, 2008

the birth story

As I stated in my inaugural post, the biggest reason fo my having a blog is to get some of my journaling done and have it all in the same place so that I can find it later. So that means that I need to go back and journal some of the last several months, I have started working on that in a word document and quickly realized that it will be WAAAAAYYYY too much for one post, so this post will be the beginning (sort of, since technically the beginning was sometime last year) and I will continue to add a few more about the first six months as time permits. This is your fair warning that if you wouldn't be interested in reading my scrapbooks, you won't be interested in this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

It has been an exciting and sometimes scary time. It started with me calling my OB from my in-laws house on Christmas Eve when I lost my mucus plug. After asking me questions about what else was happening physically, the doctor asked where I was (b/c he was going to have me come in to the office) and then after finding out I was 2.5 hours away, his next question was if there was a hospital nearby and if they have an OB unit. But then he re-assured me that losing the plug did not mean that labor was imminent and told me to call him back if anything else happened.

Nothing else happened and I went to my regular check-up on Friday, 1/4/08. The nurse came in and took my vital signs, then left the room and came back in looking very serious. She told me to lie down on my left side for 10 minutes and that she would come back in to take my blood pressure again. She came back in and didn’t look any happier with the result. Then my normally extremely jovial doctor came in with a very serious look on his face and didn’t make any jokes at all and took my blood pressure. He felt my abdomen and looked very surprised and told me that I do not have a small baby. In fact he was estimating six pounds…and I wasn’t due until 2/13! He then told me that I was on bed rest for the weekend and that I was to come back on Monday morning. He said that the bed rest meant lying in bed except to eat or to use the restroom. He also said that I shouldn’t be surprised if I had the baby in the next week. I told him that was NOT happening b/c it was too early. He didn’t say anything else. I did get permission to go to my baby shower the next day since it was only 5 minutes from my house and I promised to only stay for 2 hours and to sit with my feet up the whole time.

You would think that being on bed rest would mean that you would feel very well rested. That is SOOO not the case! In fact I was more exhausted than I had been at any other point in my pregnancy. Of course, some of that may have been due to the elevated blood pressure, but lying in bed for 2 days is most definitely NOT relaxing. I was very sick of it just by Saturday morning. And I had to keep it up until Monday morning.

It was definitely a relief to get out of the house to go to my baby shower. I felt so rude at the baby shower, walking in and immediately sitting down rather than mingling with everyone…but they all understood and were very nice to me. And it was great to be out of the house and seeing so many of my friends and family.

After the shower, Kathy and my mom brought everything into my room and starting sorting for me. We made a list of things that I didn’t have yet that would be necessary right after the baby was born, and they took my checkbook and went shopping for me. Then they organized a whole lot in the baby’s room and got some stuff set up for me. Thank goodness they were there to do that for me, because I would have been unable to do it myself for quite some time.

I went back to the doctor on Monday and my bp was even higher. 180/112. I knew that was bad, but I didn’t know until about 6 weeks later that I was at a very high risk of having a stroke because of that. So the doctor told me to go home, pack a bag and go to the hospital where I would be under observation, get some blood work done and possibly spend the night. Of course, I was so na├»ve (although I like to call it being optimistic) that I thought I would be going home by the next day. My family took me to the hospital, but then had to leave to go back to San Angelo. Kathy had to pick up Benjamin from the friends house who had already kept him for an extra day and dad had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. After they left at about 2pm, I slept until Brent got there after work.

At some point, I can’t remember if it was before or after my OB got here, Mike Collodi came to visit. He commented that we got the low end of the minister pool. I don’t think so, we appreciated him being there. Especially since he kept Brent company while I continued to snooze off and on.

When the doctor came that afternoon and saw the result of my blood work, he said that I had bad liver enzyme levels and that meant I actually had preeclampsia, not just high blood pressure. He asked how I felt about having the baby that night. I just looked at him and said, “You’re kidding, right?” He didn’t say anything and I told him that I couldn’t have the baby yet, it was too soon. He didn’t answer but then started asking about when I last had anything solid to eat and when I last had liquids. Then he told me that he would call my colon rectal doctor who would need to be in the operating room just in case and as long as that doctor was available, we would have the baby at 9pm.

The rest of the day was a huge blur…probably due to the yucky magnesium sulfate they put in my IV as a seizure preventative. I could feel it going through my veins when they started it in my IV. It felt like there was fire inside my body and spreading all over. I said that I wanted to sit in a bathtub of ice…and I really meant it. I still ask Brent questions about what happened that day and the next because I just couldn’t remember anything it seemed. Our sweet baby girl joined us via emergency C-section on Monday, 1/7/08 at 9:31pm weighing 5 lbs 13 oz and measuring 18 inches. And she was 5 weeks early!! She didn’t have a name because Brent and I had not agreed on one yet. Neither of us liked the other person’s top choices, so she didn’t have a first name until sometime on Tuesday, and we didn’t decide on her middle name until Wednesday evening…after the medical records person called and said that she had to submit the information to the state so we had to have a name by 8:30 the next morning. We did finally agree on Samantha Grace and now we can’t imagine her being anyone else. We chose her middle name because God showed us His grace in bringing her into our lives.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dreaming of reunion

For those who don't already know, Brent and I had in vitro done in order to have our sweet baby girl. 14 eggs were harvested, 11 were fertilized and started growing, 2 were transferred into my body, and Samantha is the only one who survived.

Sometimes I think about those 9 other babies who didn't even have a chance. I look forward to meeting them in heaven. Sometimes I think of the one other one that was transferred with Samantha. Those thoughts are generally sad, grieving for the baby that was inside of me but didn't live.

On the way home from church one Sunday, I started talking to Brent about thinking about that one other baby. I told him that for 4 weeks, I wondered about and dreamed of my 2 babies that I might be carrying. Those 4 weeks of wondering were enough for me to mourn the baby who didn't survive. I can't imagnie what someone who loses a baby further along feels like. Or how awful it would be to lose my child after I have been able to hold her in my arms. My heart goes out to those who have had to endure, and are still enduring that kind of loss.

Brent asked me if I ever think of the other nine babies. I told him that I do, but that it is different than thinking about the one who was transferred into my body with Samantha. The other nine died before they were real possibilities in my mind, so although I think about them and wonder about them, I don't really mourn them like I do the one.

We were silent for a little while and then I asked him if he ever thinks about the other babies. He said that he does, but that he thinks about all 10 of them together. I asked what he thinks about them, and he started telling me about a dream that he had.

He said that he was walking along somewhere, and there was a large group of kids, all about 10 years old running toward him. As they were running toward him, he realized that they were our children, and he knew their names. He started calling out their names and made it through the first three names before he woke himself up calling them out loud.

What a wonderful gift that God gave us by allowing my husband to dream of our reunion to come. And to show us in that dream that He loves and cares for our children, enough to name them and that he loves us enough to show us that we will all be together someday. And so we continue to look forward to that reunion in a place where there will be no tears, only joy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

6 months

I realize that this is a week late, but it is better late than never.

As of July 7, we have had the privilege of being parents to Samantha Grace for 6 months. After 6 years of an interminable cycle of hoping, dreaming, praying, wishing, waiting, crying, not understanding, giving up, accepting, not accepting, praying more and beginning all over again, we finally welcomed our sweet baby girl into the world. And now 6 months have flown by. It hardly seems possible.

During this time, we have seen and done a lot. We have come a long way and Samantha has come even farther. She was forced to come into the world 5 weeks before she was due, 4 weeks earlier than we had planned, due to my having dangerously high blood pressure and bad liver function levels. She was born 1/7/08 at 9:31pm, weighing 5lbs 13 oz and measuring 18 inches long.

She spent 9 days in the NICU, coming home 4 weeks before the day we were told to expect her home. She has struggled with eating issues but we have wonderful doctors who work with us to be sure that she has the right medications and routines. She has been a challenging baby with her eating issues and the pain surrounding that, but the medications have helped a lot. It has been at least a couple of months since she has screamed because she was hungry but hurt too much to eat. Other than when she is hurting, she is a very happy baby. I’m so grateful, because her infectious smile and pleasant personality have made the challenges easier to bear. She still does not nurse very well, often refusing to completely, but she does nurse consistently every morning, giving me some of that aspect of the special relationship between a mother and child.

Samantha smiles all the time and will laugh occasionally. Usually when her daddy is playing with her, but once in a while when she sees me walk into the room. She loves to sit up and stand up, although she is not able to do either on her own yet. She can stay sitting for a few moments on her own once we help her up. So far she has made it as long as 14 seconds. She rolls over from back to tummy and tummy to back. She gets around on the floor by rolling to her side, then scooting her legs, rolling to her side again, and scooting again until she gets to where she wants to be. She is eating baby food and loves all of her vegetables but does not like her fruit at all. Perhaps that is the result of all the veggies I ate while I was pregnant, although I also ate fruit…so, who knows? 

She is a wonderful blessing in our lives and we can’t imagine life without her. Whatever did we do before? At this point I don’t really remember what life before Samantha was like. I look forward to continuing on this journey of growth and discovery with my little family.

Happy half birthday, Samantha!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Disappointment

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Yes, we have all heard that, but do we really listen? Today we learned that really is pretty good advice. Brent and I have been getting excited about some possibilities in our life while still waiting to hear if it would become reality, and today we found out that it isn’t going to work out. At least not at this time, and possibly not ever.

Someday, we may understand a reason. But for now we are left with the disappointment of broken dreams. Maybe this is why God tells us through His word that we should not worry about tomorrow. Then we would have all the nice surprises with fewer disappointments. We are not very good about being patient and waiting for God. This is something on which we really need to work.

So, for now, we will regroup and refocus. While we continue on our journey of learning to wait, we are so thankful for the blessings He has already given us. We have each other, we have a beautiful daughter, we have loving extended families and we have wonderful friends. And we trust that the plans God has for us are good.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jumping on the Bandwagon

OK, so it's taken me forever. I never really saw the point before. But now I get it - or at least I get MY reasons. Yes, after reading numerous blogs written by my friends, I have finally started my own. So why, you ask, am I finally taking the plunge after holding out for so long?

There are several reasons. One is that all my friends are doing it. OK, OK, that's not really the reason...but it sounded good...at least for a laugh.

A real reason is that since getting ready for and having a baby, I haven't had time to scrapbook in what seems like forever. This is a way for me to be sure to get some of my journaling down, and have it all in the same place. And have that place be somewhere that I can actually find when I go to work on the scrapbooks again.

A second reason is so that I can better communicate with family and friends who live farther away. All I have to do is tell them about my blog and they can come see pics and find out what has been going on. Yeah!!! If I forget to call, and I do that a LOT lately, there is still somewhere that they can see what is going on in our world.

There is a third reason, but I'll save that for another day. You'll just have to keep coming back to find out what it might be. Hehe...nothing like a mystery to pique your interest, huh?

So, after making the decision, I came up with a dilemna. What do I call my blog? Many of my friends have cool titles that are an alliteration with their last name...the Hullett Horde, Ferren Family News, Growing up Garner. The only one I could come up with for our last name was The Grelle Gazette...and that made me think of deer like animals running around all over. That was not the image I was shooting for.

So then I thought of some other blog names that are a description or sort of a play on words...Marooned in Austin, A Texan Down Under, Inky Rubber. But I just couldn't come up with anything that seemed right for our family.

So then I thought about why I am writing this blog. As I already mentioned, I want to keep up with journaling for my scrapbooks because I am so busy with my blessings right now, that I dont have time for that hobby. And thus my title was born "A Life So Blessed."