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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

She's Here!


Hey everybody, it's Chuck. Just wanted to let you know that Lily Rae is here! Mom and baby are doing well.

Lily Rae
Born September 21, 2010 at 12:27 PM
8 lbs 10.5 oz (3.9 kg)
19.5 inches (49.53 cm)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Different Path?

I love the way that pictures have a way of telling stories. They capture a moment in time and later are there to remind you of people and places and events.

Here are two pictures of my husband and me, taken two and a half years apart. When we had the more recent one taken, I couldn't help but remember the older one and where we were then. There are a lot of similarities between the two images. They were taken by the same person at the very same park. Of course, they both feature the same two people, walking hand-in-hand down a sidewalk.




But they are also very different. The people are the same, but the view is different. You can't really tell this from the pictures, but they're walking on a different path of the very same sidewalk. Perhaps the most obvious change, though, is the season.

It is winter in the first one. While the picture itself doesn't make me feel sad at all, the landscape is a bit dreary. The trees and grass don't look very vibrant. As the subjects, my husband and I seem far away, like we're walking down a quite a long path. There is as much sidewalk in front of us as there is behind us. Besides that, there's a curve and a tree up ahead and you can't quite see beyond that. You can't see our faces or expressions, but it's clear that we are looking at each other as we're walking along together.

This picture was taken as part of a photo shoot for our Christmas cards that year. It was December of 2007 and it was a fairly happy time for us, yet we were certainly still in the midst of a long trial. We were getting ready to take a trip to Florida and then return home and get ready for the holidays. It had been eleven months since my last miscarriage (number six), and the following month I would be having surgery with my new RE to look for scar tissue and any other new problems. It was the only thing we knew to do next but at least we had a plan. We had no idea what might be up ahead. We had covered a lot of ground on our infertility journey but we were still walking, still moving forward. Together.

The second picture is quite different. The first thing I notice are the colors. Everything is bright and green and alive. It was summertime, and take my word for it, it was hot outside. You can see our expressions in this picture and can tell that we are happy. We are still walking together even though the scenery and the seasons aren't the same. The path even looks much shorter...

Of course, that's a matter of perspective. As I mentioned before, it's the same park and the same sidewalk, just a different view and a different angle. That's the point I'm trying to make here. This pregnancy, this place where we are now, is not an entirely new path; it's just a different part of the same road we've been walking for many years. It is the sum of everything we went through to get here. Oh, I do wish sometimes that we could have been simply placed right here! If we could have just by-passed all the years of hurt and loss and taken a much easier way, surely it would have been so much better. But that's not the path we were meant to take, I guess. And frankly, if it had been, I know it would look and feel entirely different and not nearly as meaningful to us as it does now.

I want to say thank you. I'm so grateful for those of you who haven't written me off as just another pregnant woman. Thank you for considering our path -- the whole thing, every step -- to getting this far and for continuing to offer your support, prayers, and friendship. I realize that you could stumble upon this blog and see the pregnancy ticker at the top and decide that you're not interested in sticking around. But many of you do, and many of you send me messages and tell me that my story gives you hope. Thank you for encouraging me to keep writing about it, as I've learned that having a successful pregnancy doesn't erase everything else I've experienced. While it certainly brings joy and some sense of victory and healing, it doesn't entirely take away the pain of miscarriage. That will always be part of my story now. Just like any time you lose a loved one, you don't want to erase their existence! You keep their memory alive and are thankful that you had the time with them that you did, even though their absence leaves an ache. It will always be there when I look back, and really, that's okay. My babies are part of me and always will be in my heart. Fortunately there are and will be good memories as we continue on this path, especially as we finally bring our baby home.

Next week at this time, she'll be here. Finally, one of the tiny seeds of hope that was planted along this path will get to bloom.


I can't wait to share it with you. Thank you for your constant prayers for us and for baby Lily!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Counting Down

At Thursday's appointment we had the ultrasound first before seeing the doctor. I was surprised that on the short drive over, I felt some of those same nerves that I always associate with ultrasound visits. Even at this stage the familiar worries return. I think I'll always be that way when it comes to ultrasounds. I guess old habits do die hard.

Anyway, baby Lily looked so great! The tech took her time doing all of the necessary measurements, and we got good looks at her brain, heart, and kidneys. The amniotic fluid level was good, as well as the blood flow around the cord. It was interesting to see that she is in the position that I suspected - head down, body along the left side of my belly, and feet tucked just below my ribs on my right side. We were not expecting to leave with a few new snapshots of our girl, but we did get another profile shot (2D) and a pretty good pic of her face in 3D! I've added the two new images to the ultrasound photo link in the sidebar if you'd like to check them out. Maybe this sounds strange, but I still don't have a clear picture in my head of what she actually looks like. As many peeks as we've had, I guess nothing will compare to actually seeing her face to face.

So, you probably remember that the point of this ultrasound was to try to determine the baby's size. Based on the measurements, they think she weighs 7 pounds, 13 ounces! That was Thursday, so at that time she still had 12 days of growing to do before her scheduled delivery day. We are pretty certain that she'll be more than 8 pounds at birth. It was a huge relief simply to see that she is continuing to do well. I feel like a broken record when I say this, but it still boggles my mind that we could be this far along with a healthy pregnancy. I think after going through multiple losses you begin to train yourself to think that it could never happen inside your womb, but I believe that every day of her existence has been nothing short of a miracle. As of today we are 38 weeks pregnant and 14 days away from the official due date. Incredible!

Next we saw Dr. R for the weekly visit. She went over all of the ultrasound images, measurements, and charts, and said the baby is looking really good. She also determined that she did not think it was necessary to move the delivery to an earlier date. We are still shooting for September 21! The baby's chest circumference was in the 90th percentile and her other measurements were in the 80th. The doctor certainly acknowledged that Lily has grown fairly quickly in the last few weeks, but was confident that waiting until 39 weeks will be best for her. Lily could decide otherwise! After the exam, though, she said things are still firm and closed and the baby has not dropped, so nothing major has started happening. I do have contractions every day and sometimes quite a few in the evenings, but they have not been regular enough to cause us to make any phone calls to nurses or family members just yet!

We are using this weekend to relax at home and get caught up on laundry, grocery shopping, and house cleaning. After this one, we have only one more weekend until her arrival! We are in awe every day and it doesn't take much for us to get teary-eyed when we think of all of it: the long, bumpy road behind us, our babies in heaven, God's faithfulness through hard times, and our overwhelming joy as we prepare to meet our sweet baby girl in just ten short days!

This is a little chalkboard sign that my dear husband made a few weeks ago for us to use as a countdown calendar. He drew the birdie on it and he updates it for me every morning! :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Updates and Q&A

This week's OB visit was a bit more eventful than usual. Let me start by saying that everything is fine with baby and me! Things are still moving along very well. It was my 36-week visit, and week 37 is just around the corner.

I also wanted to take a minute to address a few questions that you've asked in the comments on the last couple of posts. I'll cover those in just a minute, but first here's how the appointment went:

I knew going into the visit that it was the week for my group B strep test and that the doctor would also begin checking my cervix this week. First, the nurse did the routine checks of my urine (still clear and free of protein), blood pressure (still nice and low at 122/60), and weight (+2 lbs). Dr R came in and we chatted about how close we are to the big event. I told her I was doing fine besides the lack of sleep and general third-trimester aches and pains!

Next, she measured my belly. Now, every other time that I've been to the OB, this measurement has been "right on target" with where it should be. This time, though, she commented about how the baby's size had really increased. This was not a surprise to me; I've noticed that in the last two weeks it suddenly looks like I'm (unsuccessfully) trying to hide a watermelon under my shirt. The doctor mentioned that we will have an ultrasound at our visit next week so we can check her size. We are excited about getting a peek at our girl again! That hasn't happened since week 22, so it will be really great to see her again at this stage.

During the exam the doctor found that my cervix is still pretty firm and is still closed, and the baby seems to be in a head-down position. After we talked about the apparent spike in her size, she asked me if the baby had been active that day. I explained that she had moved around for most of the night before, but on the day of the visit she had so far been pretty calm. I'd felt her move a little bit that morning but not too much since then (my appointment was late in the afternoon). She said we'd do a quick non-stress test just to be sure that everything was fine.

Surprisingly, I really wasn't terrified; I was just eager for some reassurance. Pretty soon I actually enjoyed being hooked up to the monitor and listening to Lily's heartbeat. (We do still have the doppler at home but we've never used it for that chunk of time before!) The great thing was that it didn't take very long for me to identify some activity from the baby about 6 different times. We could hear her heart rate increasing when this would happen, which is normal. It was also interesting to see the monitor tracking my contractions. I had at least half a dozen of them while I was hooked up, but they were not incredibly strong and not at all regular. The doctor said there were probably so many because she had just stirred things up by checking my cervix during the exam.

(As a side note: One of the nurses who was checking in on us while I was on the monitor was looking at my info, I guess to see if this was our first baby. She declared out loud that yes, this was our first "real baby." Because of my concern for Lily at the time, I resisted the urge to explain to her that ALL of the babies I've carried are REAL. They certainly weren't fake or imaginary!!!)

So, all of that is just to say that Lily is doing fine! Our "little" girl may not be very little anymore, but we will check on that when I go back Thursday of next week. The doctor hinted that there certainly is a possibility, though, that we may end up moving the C-section to an earlier date. She may arrive a bit sooner than we expected, folks!

Now for the Q&A part:
Jennie is new to my blog and recently asked if we conceived Lily on our own. I haven't talked about this in a while and thought now might be a good time to revisit it and give a brief explanation. I feel like it's misleading to answer either a simple yes or no to this question! What happened was that we did our first-ever timed cycle with fertility drugs in early December of last year. All six of our previous pregnancies were achieved on our own. Although we were under the care of doctors for the last four, we had not needed or used any methods of ART. Getting pregnant had not been our problem up until the three years after our last miscarriage in 2007. My cycles had become irregular and I had started missing periods altogether, so we decided on the new approach to guarantee ovulation. So in late November of 2009 I took a round of Clomid, had the follicle ultrasound and trigger shot, and we had our first IUI in December, which resulted in a negative.

We decided to try again with the very next cycle, except my doctor wanted to try Femara this time instead of Clomid. I started taking it the last week of December and we returned home from our holiday travels for the follicle scan. We had a great looking 29 mm follicle that seemed to be our best chance, so we had the Ovidrel (trigger shot) and were planning to return for our second IUI on January 2. Soon after that, we learned that there would be no doctor available on that day due to the holiday schedule, and our IUI was canceled. We were crushed! We felt like we had the perfect set-up and it was now going to be wasted just because it was the day after New Year's. To top it off, we were spending the week away from home and didn't have a whole lot of confidence in our opportunities to try on our own for a pregnancy. I remember how devastated and angry I felt about the whole thing, but a few weeks later I was reminded that the Lord doesn't need our planning or timing to be right for Him to take action! We discovered on January 20 that we had indeed gotten pregnant "on our own."

I hesitate to say it was completely on our own because we were doing a timed cycle with the help of Femara and Ovidrel, but Lily was technically conceived the old-fashioned way. Thanks for the question, Jennie, and thank you for reading the blog and offering your support. I'm sorry to hear of your own struggle with infertility and will be praying that you will find answers soon.

The second question was asked by both Birdie and Kathryn on my last post. They wondered why we are having Lily via a scheduled C-section. The reason we made this decision along with our doctor a few months back is because of the surgery I had on my uterus back in 2005 to remove a septum. Because the surgery was performed five years ago by a different doctor (and not even our current specialist), the OB had some concerns about the possibility of a rupture of the uterus if I went through regular labor. It's not that she was convinced that it would happen simply because I'd had a septum removed; it's more because there is really no way for her to know how thin the area might be or if the strength of my uterus was in any way compromised because of that surgery. This isn't something they can go back and look at via ultrasound, so we just decided that the safest way to go for both Lily and me was to do a scheduled C-section. After talking it over with our doctor on a few occasions, my husband and I were both completely at peace with and confident about this decision. We totally trust that this OB has our best interests in mind and wouldn't suggest major surgery unless she found it to be necessary or the safest plan for our specific situation.

So, as it stands now, we are scheduled for a C-section at noon on Tuesday, September 21. I may have new information next week after our next appointment and ultrasound to check the baby's size. If I do go into labor before our scheduled time, we will still have a C-section.

Thanks for the questions, guys! I wanted to address them in a post since I'm never sure if people will get my responses in the comments. I appreciate that you continue to follow my story on this blog. Thanks so much for your continued support and prayers as we get ready to bring this baby home in the next few weeks!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September

There are countless difficult things about going through recurrent pregnancy loss. One of them, and one that I always struggled with the most, was simply not knowing.

I can't count how many sleepless nights I spent wrestling with that very thing. How many more times will I get a positive pregnancy test and yet not bring home a baby? How many more times will we have to helplessly turn those little lives over to the Lord and let them go when we aren't ready? Will we ever be able to figure out why my body can't grow a baby, and if so, will it be something we can overcome or will we finally hit that brick wall (whether emotionally or medically) that means The End?

I used to beg the Lord to just show me a glimpse; to just let me know if it would happen one day. Please, Lord, just give me a picture of the future so I will know and be able to deal with it! If we were going to be parents someday, I wanted to know so I could keep on going and working toward that day. If we weren't, I wanted to be able to seek healing and move ahead with that knowledge. But He never did see fit to reveal that to me, of course. That was something I had to accept. I had to learn to find peace and move forward without knowing. And that is so hard sometimes -- the Not Knowing.

Another thing that is so very difficult is the waiting. This experience is chock full of hours, days, weeks, months, and years of waiting. If I didn't learn anything else at all, I certainly had to learn to wait. I waited for appointments, for test results, for proof that my babies were still alive, for my body to heal after a miscarriage, for my heart to begin to heal as I grieved, for the right time to try again after a loss... and I could go on and on. Lots and lots and lots of waiting.

And now here we are. September 2010.

September is here and I'm nine months pregnant. This is the month we've been waiting for since January. And we didn't know it, but it's the month we've been waiting for since we boarded this roller coaster in 2001. We had no way of knowing it then, but it's the month we've hoped and prayed for since our first positive pregnancy test in May of 2002.

May of 2002 to September of 2010. That has been the full gestational period of this dream of ours. Finally the Not Knowing and the Waiting will be wrapped up in just three more weeks. I have no idea if it marks the end of our journey with infertility and miscarriage. There's still some uncertainty about the future of our fertility, of course. I still don't know what the future holds, but for now I'm trying not to look beyond 20 days from now when our baby girl will be here.

Knowing the date is surreal. My due date is September 25, but we will see her on or before September 21. That's the scheduled date of the C-section: noon on September 21, unless she surprises us by coming sooner. We are counting down the days and there are only 20 left at the most! I have a visit with the OB tomorrow and I will see her only two more times before the big day. We are in the home stretch! I wake up every day knowing that Lily could come at any time now.

As we enter the final few weeks I find myself becoming more and more emotional. For the last couple of days it doesn't take much for me to have to wipe away tears. I may very well cry for the next 20 days and for a few months after that! My husband and I both feel overwhelmed and overcome with these days that we are living in now and the event that is finally on the horizon. I hope he won't mind me mentioning it, but he told me last weekend after we toured the hospital where Lily will be born that he had been fighting back tears. I had been so focused on the tour and asking my questions that I hadn't even noticed. We are both so grateful and so ready to meet this little one face to face. I think we got so accustomed to handling the grief and loss that now we are trying to figure out how to equip ourselves to deal with happiness, as crazy as that sounds!

Even as I write this now I realize how each day is full of happy news and sad news, of so many ups and downs in this life that we all face. Just today I cried tears of joy as I read blogs and saw the wonderful news of positive pregnancy tests and good ultrasound visits. A few hours later I heard that one of my most precious real-life friends had a miscarriage over the weekend, and I cried tears of sorrow for her and for her baby. Please, please keep this dear friend of mine in your prayers during this time.

And please know that even as we get ready to welcome our miracle girl, we are praying for those of you who may still be struggling with those familiar feelings of waiting and not knowing.


"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." Psalm 126:5-6