Friday, February 13, 2015

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 21

The day of my appointment came.  It happened to land on Abigail's birthday.  I was anxious to know what the situation was with the baby.  The doctor took me back to do an ultrasound.  She was excited for me. As she was doing the ultrasound I heard her excitement fade.  She looked and looked at the scan but said she could not see what she was looking for.  She said if there was anything in there it was not eight weeks along.  She sounded sad.  She said her equipment wasn't as good at the one at the ultrasound place so she gave me a slip to head over there. When I got there it was too full to be seen that day so I made an appointment for the next day. I felt a bit numb as I walked to the car.  I couldn't speak so I didn't even call Aaron. I just kind of felt dull.  It was happening again.
That night was Abby's birthday.  I had planned to take her shopping but after the news the doctor had given me I did not feel like doing anything.  When Aaron came home I explained what happened and he told me he'd take care of Abby.  He went and bought dinner for us and took her shopping.  I laid in bed until they got home and then did my best to put on a brave face for my girl.
In the morning I went into the ultrasound.  The tech was the same one that had not found a heartbeat or growth on the baby earlier that year.  I was just prepared to hear the same thing again.  I had said my prayers that morning and put it in God's hands.  I was ready. Resigned.
The tech started the scan and the first thing she said was, "So the heartbeat is 173 beats per minute."
I must have looked very shocked because the tech looked confused.  "Heartbeat?  Are you serious?" I don't think I've ever felt that many emotions at once. Relief, shock, amazement, love, were just a few.  My whole body shook as I burst into tears. Tears streamed as she assured me that there was a heartbeat.  She asked me if I was okay. So I repeated what the doctor had told me the day before.  She asked who my doctor was and I told her.  She rolled her eyes and commented that it sounded like someone needed some more practice on the ultrasound machine.  I was so relieved.  I watched the heartbeat and listened to it. I hadn't been wrong!  I was very much still pregnant!  I couldn't believe it. I left the office feeling much better. Hooray!  I was 8 weeks pregnant!  And the baby was still there, with a beating heart! 
When I got to the car I called Aaron.  I started with the fact that we had a baby in there!  And we rejoiced together.  Immediately after that he wondered how the doctor had missed that.  I told him I didn't know how I would keep going to her.  She just wasn't very skilled.  We had a couple of other doctors in that practice as well.  It was cheaper for us to use the doctors at Lourdes because they were in the system. I had interactions with another of the doctors that made me think working with him would not be enjoyable.  Then as I was waiting in the ultrasound waiting room that morning I heard one of the other doctors employees talking to another lady about something the other doctor had said about her weight and the weight of others in the office.  None of those things made me think that I'd like to work with either of my other choices. For that day anyway we decided we'd look into someone else to work with.
Two more weeks went by and I didn't want to visit the same doctor again.  My sister Kim invited me to her house and we were talking.  I had not told anyone yet and didn't want to share it with her either.  But as we were talking the subject of having more children came up and she asked me directly. "Are you going to have any more kids?" I kind of stammered through my answer.  I didn't want to lie of course so I said, "Yes."  She looked at me in a knowing way and asked, Are you pregnant? I kind of nodded and told her that I was ten weeks along.  She got excited and I was excited too.  I told her that we weren't telling anyone so she agreed to keep it under wraps.
I told her the story of my doctor and the ultrasound and looked alarmed.  She know my history and knows that that was not going to work.  She urged me to find another doctor.  She insisted I needed a high risk doctor who could handle my complications and case.  I agreed with her.  She told me about Dr. Bahnmiller.  Many of her friends had really liked him.  We looked him up to check if he was covered by my insurance and found that he was.
It didn't take long for Aaron to see that it was important that I see another doctor.  I can't imagine how nervous I would have been if I had stayed with the other doctor.  I made an appointment with Dr. Bahnmiller and immediately felt at ease.  He was not Dr. Fine, who I had always loved and trusted but he was very good.  He was always kind, knowledgeable and helpful.  His staff was awesome, too. I knew it was the right fit.
From then on I went to see Dr. Bahnmiller. One of my first appointments around 12 weeks he told me about some blood tests.  Because I was of advanced maternal age it was recommended that we test the baby for down syndrome and other genetic problems.  I knew that it would not change how I felt about the baby but I've always thought that knowing was better than not knowing so that I have time to prepare. He also told me that one of the tests they could run would have the baby's DNA and of course the DNA would tell us the sex of the baby. Since it was five years since I'd been pregnant with Nathan this was new technology to me.  And it was really exciting!
Now I have to say that I would have been happy with another boy if that is what had come to us.  But there were so many things that made me want to have another girl.  Abby had always wanted a sister.  Having my own sisters I know how amazing that is and I wanted that for her.  There was also all of those dreams and promptings that told us we had a girl out there that was supposed to be a part of our family. We waited to find out what the sex of our baby would be.
We didn't have to wait too long.  On Tyler's birthday, March 18th I had a doctors appointment early in the morning.  They didn't have any test results back yet but told me that they would call when they came in.  I talked to Aaron telling him that I had not found out yet.  Around four oclock that afternoon I got a call from the office.
I was very anxious to hear.  The nurse asked me if I wanted to know and I said yes of course.  She said, are you ready?  And I was dying.  Then she said,  Congratulations, it's a girl!  I think I squealed, and cried out at the same time.  I knelt down by the bed.  I shook as I said, "Are you kidding?" then asked, "are you sure?" She said, yes!  I said "Thank you so much!" We both hung up and I knelt beside my bed as tears flowed and thanked my Heavenly Father for this great blessing.  It was one of those moments that I don't have words for.  There have been so many moments during pregnancy when I have felt very low, almost to the point of despair.  But this moment was as high a moment as I had ever felt. It was such a beautiful moment.
Then I realized that I had a chance to tell Aaron what we were having.  That had never happened before!  He had always been there at the ultrasound when we found out!  So how exciting!  I quickly got things together to run to the store.  It was Tyler's birthday so I had other things to get.  But I was also concocting a surprise for Aaron and the family.  I went to Walmart and bought a black bag with white tissue paper.  I also bought a newborn outfit that was pink and a pink card.  I wrote a note to Aaron that said, "Dear Daddy, You were right! Love, Camille Elizabeth Martin"

It was a fun night with Kim and her kiddos and Emily.  Emily was kind enough to help me with the surprise.  We had cake and ice cream and then right before they had to leave I got out the present.  I had told Ty earlier that the present was actually for Dad and he was understanding.  (We got him something else earlier and he had a birthday party) Aaron was very surprised when I handed it to him.  I think I did well.

This video captured the moment.  Thank you to Emily for taking it for us!

Our baby girl was on the way!  All of our dreams were coming true!  And it was a very, very sweet moment that I will always remember.  Hooray for Camille, Cami, Cammers!


The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 20

 Losing a pregnancy is painful.  So Aaron and I made the decision not to talk about it again for a few months.  We'd just wait.  Sometimes it is better to hold off certain conversations to let time heal a bit of the hurt.  It's just the way it is for us.  So that is what we did.  Life returned to normal. The kids started school.  This was a big deal because Tyler and Abby had homeschooled the previous year.  Now they were both in regular school full time.  It was a huge change for me.  As much as I enjoyed certain aspects of homeschooling it was also really stressful. I never felt caught up and I felt like I was failing to teach my kids what they needed to know.  We worked hard but we prayfully decided that school was the right place for them both.  And having more freedom through the day to get the house in shape added greatly to the peace of our home.  It was lovely.
During this time I took a lot of time to think and pray.  Did I really need to have another baby?  Did I really want to?  Was it worth all the difficulty, the pain, the worry? I really tried to look at it objectively but the fact was that I had felt for many years that we had a daughter somewhere. I used to have dreams that she was there with us.  She looked different at times which made me think that it was possible she was coming by way of adoption.  Aaron felt it, too.  We had a name picked out for her.  We knew just what we were going to call her.  It just didn't seem like things were going to come together.
So the fall months started to fly by and in late October, early November we discussed what to do.  We both agreed our feelings hadn't changed about it and that we felt that we had one more child to bring into the world.  So we decided that if nothing was happening by December that we would talk about it more.
Aaron needed to have a minor surgery at the beginning of December.  It was nothing major but needed to be done.  He'd need a few weeks to recover so he took some time off before Christmas to recuperate. Aaron is a lovely guy most of the time but Aaron in pain is no fun to be around.  It was hard for me to see him in pain and not be able to help at all.  After a few days I was on edge and felt really irritated with him.  Now for most people that is probably normal but for me it really takes a lot.  Unless I'm pregnant. 
I realized that I might need to take a pregnancy test so I ran to the store and bought three.  I always like to do that to take them over time.  I was not surprised to see that the test was positive!  Hooray!  I was excited and I wanted to tell Aaron but he was in a LOT of pain.  So I went down to comfort him and tell him I was sorry for being irritated with him. As we talked I just told him, I know this is really bad timing to tell you this but I'm pregnant.  He was happy but in pain and he said he wished I would have waited until after he'd recovered a bit more before telling him.
We decided that we were not going to tell anyone about the pregnancy.  There was just too much emotion and worry that it would cause.  I especially didn't want my parents to know until I was sure that it was going to work out.  That might sound strange but being that far away made it easier not to tell them.  Just like missionaries don't always tell their folks when things happen in the mission field, it seemed the most kind thing to not make them worry about me until we were absolutely sure that we had nothing to worry about.  It was the first time in my whole life that I did not tell a soul I was pregnant.  Only Aaron and I knew.
I waited much longer to visit the doctor.  I decided that because the majority of my miscarriages happened early on I would wait until I was eight weeks pregnant to go into the doctor.  I prayed every morning and always turned the pregnancy over to God.  I just said if you want this baby to be a part of our family, I am here and willing to bring it into the world.  I put all of it in his Hands.  It was a very peaceful feeling.  I was feeling sick and nauseated most of the time so I knew that was a good sign.  I made an appointment for my eighth week and let the time go by. I wondered how it would go but had faith that if it was to be, it would be.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 19

Those of you that have read this blog in the past will remember that our journey to and through mother and fatherhood has not always be easy.  So some of you might be curious to know how, why and when we decided that we would add just one more treasured child to the Martin Family.
This is the story of Camille Elizabeth Martin.

After the birth of Nathan, my husband and I decided that we would put off discussing more children for a while.  Our lives were very busy.  And a bit stressful.  Nathan was a dreamy little baby.  Our older children loved him and we were happy being a family of five.  For quite a few years I just put the idea of giving birth again on my shelf of never gonna happen dreams and enjoyed my family.  The idea of having another baby was a very dear and precious dream but pregnancy was not. I loved my little crew and we had so many great times together as a family of five.

There were some great changes happening, too.  Aaron decided to work on his CPA exam.  Having worked in financial planning for many years he was hoping to expand into someday using his accounting knowledge to help his clients with their accounting needs as well.  A few things happened that put us on a different path and it has been a huge blessing for our family.

Aaron was able to pass all of the levels of the CPA exam on his own.  Anyone that has taken that test can tell you how challenging that is to do.  Aaron decided that in order to provide more for his family he would look for work as a CPA somewhere.  That along with his MBA in Finance opened doors for him that would not have been otherwise and he started working in Healthcare Finance. 

This allowed us to stabilize our income and brought newfound peace to a sometimes difficult earning situation.  It was heavenly for me to know that we had a consistent income that we could count on.  It really helped Aaron as well.  Life improved in many ways.  Aaron's job in Spokane was good.  It was a lot of hours.  I spent my days homeschooling Abby and taking care of the other children while Aaron toiled away for long hours. 

Aaron started looking for a job that would be less hours than the job in Spokane and because Spokane has only a few jobs in healthcare finance we looked in other areas in Washington State.  We didn't tell many people that we were doing this but we traveled to a few interviews and Aaron was offered a good job in Pasco, Washington at Lourdes Medical Center.  We moved to West Pasco, Washington in July 2012. 

After moving to Pasco our life really changed.  Aaron's job was perfect for our family.  Great hours, great benefits, nice co-workers.  It was very nice.  It was during this time that we started to discuss adding a girl to our family. 

I knew that getting pregnant again might be difficult and perhaps dangerous for my health.  So we discussed other options.  Adopting a baby or fostering to adopt were both considered carefully.  We researched both and although there were many children in need of homes, we decided that it was not what we were supposed to do.  I did not feel like it was the right thing for our family.  After quite a few months we decided to find out if I could or should be pregnant again. 

Aaron came to me one day and asked how I felt about having a baby.  At that point it was a scary prospect.  I had been on bedrest with Nathan for a long time and I knew how busy I was at home with my three growing children.  Complications are always expected in my pregnancies.  I was afraid to try again.  Afraid to ask for one more miracle.  But I knew that the only way to know was to ask in prayer if it was something that I should do.  I spent a tear-filled night praying to know what we should do and if we should try again.  I decided that I wanted to know more before I jumped in.

I called my previous doctor and had him send the medical records to a new provider.  I spoke to him at length about our desire to have another baby and like always he was understanding and supportive.  He told me that I knew the risks from my previous pregnancies but with close monitoring he felt that I could carry another child.  This of course was great news to me!  But it was also worrisome.  Now I'd really have to decide.

I went to see a new doctor that had just started at Lourdes.  She was kind but not as experienced as my former doctor.  I told her my history.  She recommended that I not get pregnant again but if I wanted to have another baby she would help me through it. After careful consideration and prayer we decided to try again. Just a month later I found out I was pregnant. It was a bit overwhelming to have it happen that quickly.  I was nervous and anxious about the whole thing.  It felt unlike other times I had been pregnant.  I was constantly worried.  I was not myself. 

Just a few weeks into the pregnancy I found out that the pregnancy had already ended.  Although I had no outward signs the fetus had not grown beyond six or seven weeks.  It was a missed miscarriage.  I would have to have a D&C. We scheduled the D&C for the next week because we were going out of town.  It was sad and very hard.

We traveled to Utah to be with my family as my parents left for their three year mission to Moscow Russia where my dad would serve as a mission president.  It was exciting to know that they would fulfill one of their dreams to serve a mission together but also sad because we would miss them so much.  The night before they went into the MTC, I asked my dad for a priesthood blessing.  There were many things shared with me that I will always remember.  But one of the things I was blessed with was that I would be able to do things that I had never done before.  It was very special, especially since I will not see my dad until he returns in 2016.  It was very comforting that even though I was unsure of the future or if we'd be able to carry another child my father and my Heavenly Father loved me.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 18

The prospect of having more children after the difficulties with Tyler and Abby's births was a difficult one to face.  When Tyler was 2 and Abby was 5 it seemed to be the right time to start thinking about having more.  Abby started Kindergarten in the fall of 2008.  She had developed well and really enjoyed school.  There were little things that concerned us.  Her class only met for half the day so her school day wasn't long.  Her teacher didn't always inform us when she would disrupt the class and unfortunately it seemed to be more often than not that she would interrupt. Not in a destructive or mean way but she had a difficult time staying on task and focusing on the work at hand.  I wasn't greatly concerned because she was young and learning more all the time.  We made it all the way through Kindergarten with glowing reports of her progress in school.  She loves to learn and we were happy with her progress.  She started reading and very quickly excelled in her class.  It was great to see her succeed and to have the chance to get to learn with her.  She loved her teacher and her classmates.  As a full-time mom, I looked forward to first grade when she could be in school for a whole six hours a day!  :) 
This time was very good for us.  Tyler was growing and doing very well.  Abby loved school and her activities.  I was busy with working as a Primary President in my ward and loving that calling.  It took up time but was also really rewarding, giving me the opportunity to work with the children at church and wonderful teachers and counselors.
I had been feeling that the time was right to have another baby.  Aaron and I have always been in sync when that decision has been made but because of my other experiences with my pregnancies I was worried that there would be problems.  Feeling that we needed to add to our family and feeling the help of our Heavenly Father in that decision made all the difference for me.  I was reminded that he was with us and that there would be something wonderful at the end.
I made it through the first three or four months with no problem.  I was careful with what I ate and went about daily life busily driving Abby back and forth to school and keeping up with the household chores.  Even with all of the problems that we have had being pregnant is a great time for me.  I don't get really sick mostly just tired.  After a few months my blood pressure began to rise to the point that Dr. Fine had me take blood pressure medication and put me on partial bed rest.  He encouraged me not to put any strain on myself and to bring my schedule to only necessary activities.  I knew that it meant that I would have a difficult time keeping up with my calling.  I had amazing counselors and I'm sure that they could have taken up the reigns with no problem but I felt better knowing that someone else would have the responsibility while I went through that time.  It was hard not to get to continue with a calling that I enjoyed so much.
On February 13th, Aaron's dad passed away suddenly.  It was a difficult time for all of us.  Abby and I had seen him two days before at the store and hadn't known that anything was wrong.  It was hard to explain to the kids that he was gone and that he wouldn't be back.  We decided during that time that if our baby was a boy we would name him after Mel.  Mel didn't really like his first name Melvin much so we decided instead to use his middle name Richard as a remembrance. 
In April or May Aaron came to me with the idea that we should move into a house of our own.  We had been renting for a while.  I was hesitant to move while on partial bed rest but Aaron assured me that it would take just a little time to get everything in place and then we would be able to move a few months before the baby was born and have everything ready by the time he got home.  So we went in search of houses in our area to buy in our price range.  We found the one we liked and bid on it and started the paperwork at the first of May.  Being first time homebuyers we didn't realize the amount of time it would take for everything done and it took until the middle of July to have everything go through.
My blood pressure threatened to turn into preeclampsia and Dr. Fine ordered strict bed rest at my regular doctors visit.  I was at 35 weeks like I had been with Tyler so I knew that he was not in great danger but I hoped beyond hope that I could make it all the way to 38 weeks.  That was the day that we found out the closing date of our house!  I was on strict bed rest and I had almost my whole house to pack!  Yikes!
Fortunately, my very good friends were there for me. Many in the ward (particularly my friend Heather Paris) had been on watch asking me all the time when I needed help from the ward.  It was great to have so many people concerned with my well being.  When the time came they were ready with a coalition of friends and ward members to come to my house.  Not only did they come with boxes they were ready to pack and clean and they made me lay down on the couch the whole time and just direct them to what needed to be done.  My mom and sister-in-law helped with the kids so we could get everything prepared.  In just two days they had the new house cleaned and my house packed up to move to the new house.  Then other family members and friends helped Aaron move everything into the new house for our first night there. That night I remember laying down in my bed with all of my things around me and thanking God for the blessing of people that were willing to help us.  I don't know what we would have done without their love and support.
Every week that went by was a blessing once again but there were no problems.  I was able to stay down most of the time so my blood pressure stayed down and I was in all other ways healthy.  I was always cautiously optimistic that I would be able to carry full term but I waited for the other shoe to drop.  I just expected for there to be problems.  But thankfully no problems came our way.
On August 11, 2009 I delivered Nathan Richard Martin a full-term 7 pound 10 ounce fully grown baby boy!  The mood in that operating room was nothing like my two previous c-sections.  Everyone was laughing and talking to each other, cracking jokes and having fun.  Dr. Fine told them about my two previous pregnancies and one of the nurses piped up with, "This is what having a full-term non complicated delivery feels like!"  That made me smile and then it made me cry.  After Nathan was born they brought him to me, no need for oxygen.  I got to see him and kiss his head before Aaron went with him to the nursery.  When they left I laid there and silently cried for joy that we had made it so far with a healthy boy!  One of the nurses noticed that I was crying and asked me if I was okay.  I told her that I was and added, "I'm not used to this!"  The surgical team all laughed and got me ready to go back to my room to recover. 
It was the oddest, most peaceful feeling to have them bring Nathan into the room.  I was almost overwhelmed with the simple joy of it.  No need for doctors and nurses and constant care for him.  He was ready for just me and his daddy.  I was oblivious to pain or discomfort it was just Nathan and I, cuddling, nursing, just us together.  No need for bottles or feeding tubes or IV's or ventilators.  No need for care times when I could stay only a few minutes. It was beautiful just as every birth should be.  A healthy baby, a mom and a dad. Who knew something so simple could bring such joy?
That night was magical for me.  It might sound silly but I did not put him down all night.  I held him in my arms and on my chest.  I didn't sleep very soundly but I didn't care.  It was just the two of us hanging out.  I watched him while he slept counted all of his fingers and toes.  Watched him make all kinds of faces while he slept.  Beautiful baby boy.  After all those nights and days in the hospital with Abby and Ty this experience was like heaven on earth.  I finally had the chance to experience something "normal" and I savored every single minute.  We stayed for a few days and had many come to rejoice with us, including my entire book club, friends, and family.
The day came when it was time to go home.  And we did.  Without discharge classes or apnea tests.  We drove home slowly.  Joyfully.  Together.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 17

Every pregnant lady knows this drill.  You walk into your doctor's office and get your blood pressure taken and they test your urine.  Do you know why this is a necessary occurrence for all pregnant ladies?  I didn't until my 34 week of pregnancy with my second child.  I had been on partial bed rest for quite a few weeks because my blood pressure had been higher than normal.  I had always had normal blood pressure up until this time so I didn't think anything of it.  I had not been anywhere near 34 weeks pregnant with Abby so this stage of pregnancy was totally new to me.  Abby was at my mom's house hanging out with Grandma.  She had just turned 3 years old in January.  She was a beautiful, sweet and vibrant girl and anxiously awaiting her baby brother's birth.  We were all very excited!

I had started to swell quite a bit.  Another rather normal symptom of pregnancy.  I kept off my feet as much as possible but I had a busy three-year-old to take care of.  I cut down on my sodium intake and hoped for the best.  At my 34 week appointment I went into see Dr. Fine.  I had been experiencing mild headaches for days and felt very, very tired all of which I attributed to being so far along in my pregnancy. 

When I walked into the back of the office they took my blood pressure and urine sample.  I can't remember the number for my blood pressure but it was very high for me and I was surprised.  Dr. Fine's nurse Jody took me in to lay down.  After at least ten minutes of laying on my left side, she took my blood pressure again.  It was a little lower but still really high.  She went back to find Dr. Fine and he came in. 
Dr. Fine is always really calm and has a way of breaking news to me that I can take pretty well.  He told me that with the high blood pressure and the amount of protein in the urine I would need to be admitted to the hospital so they could monitor the amount of protein and my blood pressure.  When there is protein in the urine it indicates that the kidneys are not able to function very well.  Higher levels of protein in the urine indicate that the kidneys are starting to shut down. 
I realized it was serious when he told me I wouldn't even be able to go home to change my clothes or pack anything.  He asked me about headaches and I told him that I had a few through the week.  Also I had occasionally and more regularly seen stars when I stood up. He looked grim and said they would monitor me but I needed to prepare to have my baby a little early.  Under the circumstances I took that pretty well.  I knew what having an early baby was like and even if I needed to have the baby that day I knew that 34 weeks was not anything like 28 weeks.  Jody gave me a big hug and told me that she was sorry this was happening.  She is always so kind to me.  Dr. Fine told me he would be up to see me soon.

I went to drive my car around to the other side of the hospital and park where there was overnight parking.  I called my mom and told her what was going on.  She told me that Abby was welcome to stay with her until we knew what was happening.  Then I called Aaron and for the first time broke down in tears and told him that they were admitting me.  He told me not to worry and that he would be by as soon as he could. 

I was in the hospital for four days.  I wasn't allowed out of bed except to go to the bathroom and sleep was hard because I was in bed all day.  Even with all of that my blood pressure continued to rise.  They took it hourly day and night.  I couldn't eat very much because at any time my blood pressure could spike and they would need to deliver the baby by c-section.  I tried to keep my spirits up but I felt sad and sick because I couldn't be home and waiting the rest of the time.  I was happy to get that far but sad not to get all the way to the end.  They pumped me full of fluid to keep me hydrated.  I felt like I shouldn't be exhausted but I was. I have never felt so sick in my life.

Finally on March 17th my blood pressure was still very high and the amount of protein that I was spilling was a lot higher than when I had come in.  Dr. Fine came to see me and sat down on my bed to tell me that I would need to deliver in the morning.  He also told me that he would be transferring me to Deaconess so that I could deliver there.  They had been giving me steroids to aid the development of Tyler's lungs but there were still possibilities of problems because he would be delivered via c-section.  The birthing process aids babies born naturally to be prepared to breathe on their own.  C-section babies tend to have more difficulties with breathing after birth because of this.  I was very grateful that Dr. Fine had the caring and forethought to have us moved up there.  He knew that if there were problems Tyler I would be transferred to either Sacred Heart or Deaconess for NICU care.  This way we would not be separated. 

That night was particularly difficult for me.  Aaron had stayed home to be with Abby for one more night and I was alone with my thoughts.  I felt very lonely and was worried for the baby.  I worried that he would have to stay in the hospital.  You would think that having Abby in the hospital would have prepared me to leave another one in the hospital and maybe it did to a certain extent.  I still did not want to deliver early and was more worried about him than I was about myself.  I was still very down and talked with my dad on the phone that night.  He talked with me and prayed with me and made it easier for me to sleep. 

We traveled in the ambulance to Deaconess the next morning and went directly to the delivery room.  Just as it had been with Abby the room was quiet and full of anticipation.  It was not nearly as tense for me because I felt very strongly that he would be okay but it was still a relief to hear him cry.  Aaron left with him to go to the NICU.  We knew the drill and he was able to follow him back with no problem. 

I was taken to my room to recover.  With preeclampsia delivering the baby is supposed to immediately make the blood pressure go down.  This didn't happen for me.  My blood pressure stayed elevated.  I was in a haze and felt huge and puffy.  In reality, I was huge and puffy.  They gave me Magnesium Sulfate which I would like to dub "liquid torture".  The nurse warned me that I was going to feel horrible for a while but that it would help bring my blood pressure down.  She was not kidding.  I have never felt so sick in my life.  I really felt like I was going to die.  They kept the lights in my room low and visitors were not allowed to stay.  Everyone came and left except for Aaron and a nurse who sat beside me until I was stable. 

The only highlight of this time was Aaron coming in with pictures of Tyler.  He looked awesome and I couldn't wait to see him.  He weighed exactly 5 pounds and was having some breathing issues but otherwise he was doing well.  Again, nothing nearly as alarming as Abby's situation but still not anywhere near a normal birth.  I had come into the hospital with a cold and my tendency for breathing problems made this worse.  The nurse kept having to remind me to take deep breaths.  I remember looking over at the monitor and remembering all the numbers from our time in the NICU with Abby what each of them meant.  I watched my oxygen saturation dip down in the low nineties and high eighties.  It was odd to be on the other end of the monitor.  I was fascinated by that and had to remind myself to breathe deeply and when that didn't work well I had to do breathing treatments to get my numbers up.

One of the side effects of the magnesium sulfate was constant sweating and feeling unbelievably hot and prickly all over.  This combined with a plastic bed gave me a giant rash that itched like nothing I had ever had before.  My whole body itched from the inside out and I couldn't do anything about it.  I felt shaky and sick.  I didn't have a clear thought in my head for quite a long time.  I felt very weak and very out of it.  I kept my eyes closed and tried to sleep.

Slowly through the day and night my numbers improved.  They took my blood pressure so often that they didn't even take the cuff off of me and sleep was not easy.  I don't remember seeing Tyler that day except in the pictures. I wasn't well enough to get up out of bed to do it anyway.  Details of that time are very spotty for me.  I remember only waking up periodically to see Aaron studying diligently in the corner and the occasional nurse that came to check on me.  Later that night I remember telling someone about the rash that I had and their surprise at how bad it was.  Aaron left for a little while to have dinner and four nurses came to help me get clean. It was a little painful for me but it felt so nice to be cooled down and to have my hair washed that I didn't care.  It had been about a week since I could get up out of bed and I'm sure I looked pretty terrible.  Nurses are amazing like that. They helped me so much that night.  I felt pretty helpless because I had just had a c-section and was sick enough that moving was difficult but they took really good care of me. They gave me a new bed with clean sheets and clean clothes to change into and I felt much better. 

I started to feel better as my blood pressure went down.  I don't remember how long it took for it to get back to normal but it took longer than it was supposed to.  Dr. Fine was off for a day and his partner Dr. Brasch came to see me.  I remember that he came in and told me that I needed to buck up and get better or he would not let me see my baby the next day and that I needed to work harder at getting well. I'm sure this was meant to be encouraging but at the time it was infuriating.  I am rarely openly ticked at people but I gave him some saucy words in return.  What more did he want me to do? It's not like I was forcing my blood pressure up at will.  I'm sure he was trying to tick me off so I would fight a little more but I was seriously done.  I wanted Dr. Fine back.  Don't mess with a mommy in pain, mister. 

Finally they moved me out of the recovery room and I was in my own room.  My blood pressure was normalizing and I was able to get up and walk.  I had wanted to see Tyler all night but hadn't been with it enough to worry.  Aaron went to every care time and gave me updates to how he was doing.  It was late afternoon and I was able to visit Tyler.  He had needed the ventilator for part of the night but when I saw him he was on a nose cannula and doing very well.  He had frequent central apnea episodes that were the main concern but was otherwise doing well.  He was so much bigger than Abby which was such a relief and I fell in love with him instantly.  I didn't get to stay very long because I was still weak.

The only other side effect of that really high blood pressure was some eye damage.  I had a few blank spots in my vision.  It was very strange because I could see everything clearly but there were white spots where there was nothing but white.  It was odd for me but it went away after about three months.  It was a relief to know that it was not permanent. 

Abby came to see me with her Grandma and Grandpa Martin and we were able to show her pictures of her brother.  She was so cute and wanted to see him.  I was able to go home after four days in the hospital and recover.  Leaving Tyler in the hospital was heart wrenching but easier because I knew that he would not be there as long as Abby had been.  I tried to make a joke about it by saying that I needed the nurses to get him on a schedule before we brought him home.  It did give me time to heal before he came home but obviously I would have preferred for him to come home with us. 

Tyler was doing well and his experience in the NICU was much shorter than Abby's.  It was nice to be there with him and feed him.  It was also cool to visit with the doctors and nurses once again.  He was transferred over to the feeding and growing nursery after just a few days.  He didn't have the problems with getting tired that Abby did and he could take a bottle and breast feed with no problem.  He was still having central apnea spells which prevented him from going home but he was ready to come home in every other way.  They told us to plan on him being there for at least a week and they slowly added on more time. Every time that he would be scheduled to go home the next day he would have another apnea spell and have to stay longer. It was a process that we were used to but it was still difficult because life was on hold again and we wanted things to return to normal. 

Finally everything was ready to go.  I had been scheduled to deliver him at 38 weeks on the 7th of April.  That was the day that we brought him home from the hospital.  We celebrated and took pictures with Abby, Aaron and Tyler all decked out in their Husky clothes.  We were a whole family again and Abby had a new brother that we all adored.  Our wish of more children had come true and I was so grateful to be with them.  Through those dark nights in the hospital I had pondered what life would be like for my little family if I were not to survive and the prospect was not one that I wanted to consider.  It was the closest to death that I have ever felt in my life and I knew more than ever that I was where I wanted to be doing what I wanted to do and now I had two beautiful children to teach and help.  It was a blessing for me and I was fully aware of God's help once again in my life to bring me through a difficult personal trial.  I knew that he was aware of me on those dark nights when I was alone and I received the comfort that I needed through those prayers and I was very grateful for that.   My new life with them was just beginning and a new spirit of reassurance and happiness entered my heart.  I knew that there would be challenges ahead but with my family around me, I felt I could do anything.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 16

As days turned into months and months into years Abby grew quickly and well.  She started out in the 2nd percentile for her age at birth.  For months she remained steadily growing at the 2nd percentile curve on the growth chart steadily gaining a little bit of growth in percentage until around her third birthday.  She was finally up in the 1oth percentile in weight and height.  It was awesome!  She used a bottle a little longer than most babies until she was about 13 or 14 months.  She was followed closely to watch her growth and they gave me recommendations that I wasn't sure of like adding butter to her food and giving her only whole milk.  I felt strongly that she would continue to catch up by herself so I listened to what they suggested but did not put butter in her food.  I also educated myself by reading studies about premature babies and obesity later in life and I decided that I also felt like as long as she was a healthy eater and was getting consistent meals that eventually everything would work out. 

Around her first birthday, Aaron and I started to discuss having more children.  We both wanted more kids and felt that it was important for our family to give Abby a sibling and also what God wanted us to do.  We had been reassured that what had happened with Abby was unlikely to happen again.  Through a lot of prayer and reassurance we started to try again to have a baby.  I became pregnant and miscarried that baby at about seven weeks.  It was very difficult for me.  With my first miscarriage I had not been able to see the heartbeat.  With this baby I was there for an ultrasound early on and saw the heartbeat.  At the second ultrasound at about seven weeks the heartbeat was not there.  It is an emotional and trying experience to miscarry but I took a lot of solace in the fact that I had Abby and could try again.  It took me a few months to prepare myself for another try. 

There was a lot going on at the time.  Aaron had finished under grad and we moved to Kennewick, Washington so that he could open a store for his dad's window business.  In the fall of 2004 I found out that I was pregnant once again and as always was thrilled with the prospect of pregnancy and a new baby.  Dr. Fine gave me a referral to Dr. Cates in Richland.  He specialized in high-risk pregnancies.  I went in early for blood tests and ultrasounds.  It was during this time that we discussed Abby's birth and talked about the possibility that I didn't have a Protein S deficiency.  It was interesting to me to hear this and I asked if he had another explanation for me.  He said he didn't have one but in looking at my protein levels from that time they were not particularly low for a pregnant lady.  Apparently Protein S is naturally reduced by the body during pregnancy and he shared studies with me regarding it all.  He agreed that I had been given the correct course of treatment and that Abby's birth had been necessary to save her life.  But it also raised more questions in my mind for future pregnancies.

I lost this second pregnancy at eight weeks gestation.  Again, I had been to the doctor early and seen the baby's heartbeat.  It was very discouraging and disheartening when I began to bleed and lost the baby.  It felt like I was broken and I was frustrated and sad.  I again found solace in Abby.  She was growing well and doing well and I decided that I needed to wait a little while to try again.  It is hard to explain such feelings and I'm not sure I can do them justice.  The kind of loss that is associated with miscarriage is hard to explain and to deal with at times.  I found a lot of comfort in the fact that I could get pregnant but staying pregnant seemed to elude me.  I had faith but I was weary of the losses and I felt that we weren't receiving the promised blessings of another child.  It was a very sad time for me.

We moved back to Spokane shortly after this and Aaron began a new job with Washington Mutual.  It was a good time for us.  Abby was delightful.  So cute and smart.  She learned how to talk and was really good at singing songs with me.  She also was great at entertaining herself and making messes like any two-year-old.  She loved to watch Dragon Tales.  My days were spent being her mom, taking care of the household chores and doing church callings.  I was happy to see her doing so well. 

In the summer of 2005 I found out that I was expecting again.  I was excited but apprehensive about whether or not this pregnancy would last.  I was happy to be able to go back to Dr. Fine and his staff.  It felt so nice to be back with people who I didn't have to explain things to and who knew what had happened with Abby and my two miscarriages.  They were so understanding and supportive of us.  I began the same order of blood tests and ultrasounds as I had previously.  When a pregnancy is healthy those numbers should double every 48 hours.  With my two miscarriages we had started to see problems with the pregnancy in the sixth and seventh week.  Our families were supportive of this process and it was nice to have people who cared.  We didn't tell many people that we were pregnant because we had learned from sad experience that it is more difficult to deal with miscarriage when too many people know.  

Another development that occurred during this time was having my sister Kim see Dr. Fine.  Kim had a baby the year before with Dr. Fine as her doctor and he knew her history.  It helped him to see that there might be a connection with the problems that I was having also.  It involved low progesterone levels during the early part of the pregnancy.  He gave me progesterone to take to see if it might help stave off a possible miscarriage.  After the first blood test my pregnancy hormones were rising but at the second blood test Dr. Fine called me very concerned.  He told me that my number wasn't lowering but it was not rising as quickly as he would have liked and that I should prepare myself to lose another pregnancy.

When I got off the phone I immediately went to my room and knelt by the bed.  The two previous losses had been so hard that I couldn't fathom a third.  I poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father and told him that if he ever wanted me to have another baby that I needed to keep this pregnancy.  I was just too weary for anymore loss.  That night, my dad and Aaron gave me a blessing and I was assured through that blessing that he would be okay and that he would be healthy and strong but not without challenges.  My dad kept referring to the baby as he or him and we questioned him afterward to see if he had felt that it would be a boy.  He joked, saying that he wasn't going to guarantee it but that they were the words he was told to use. I felt the Spirit confirm that and I had no doubt that this baby inside would survive.   Blood tests confirmed that things were going well again and I told Dr. Fine about the blessing and prayers that we had said.  He is a man of faith and was happy that he had been wrong. 

I felt very good through most of my pregnancy.  Abby was into everything at that point so I was constantly running after her.  Luckily, we lived in a small apartment with little furniture so she had plenty of room to run around in.  Every day at about three o'clock in the afternoon I would fall asleep for a little while.  I was never exactly sure when it would happen but I prepared for it by making sure that she was fed and safe before I laid down.  I was determined to be as healthy as possible during this time so after the first few months of pregnancy when I felt the danger of miscarriage had past I would go to the mall to walk around and get exercise.  Most days I was really tired. 

Our days were good.  Time went by quickly and every minute, week and month that went by felt like a gift.  The 28th week passed quietly and I breathed a sigh of relief. As did the 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd.  At the 34th week a new challenge would be presented that would make this pregnancy a different test for our family and especially for me.  I was in for another teaching experience but this time it was me that would have the challenge.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 15

Abby at 6 months
It might be helpful at this point to explain how you characterize the age of a premature baby.  Unlike a newborn who is born on time it would be inaccurate to expect a three months premature baby to do the same things that a fully grown newborn can do. There would never be a way for that baby to "catch up".  This is called adjusted age vs. chronological age.  So in adjusted age Abby's newborn status would not start until she was 3 months old, she would be considered 3 months old when she was 6 months old, 6 months old at 9 months old and so forth.  For development purposes this is how they determine her adjusted age. They stop this practice once the baby reaches 2 years old.  Most babies, "catch up" by this time and track pretty well developmentally with kids their own chronological age. 

Abby continued to develop well.  She was assessed for any problems and was followed closely for the first two years to ensure that she had the proper intervention if needed.  We had awesome people in our corner including occupational and physical therapists, dietitians, doctors and nurses. We were happy to see that there were not huge difficulties for her developmentally. 

Many times with such small babies there are problems with development.  One of Abby's issues was heightened muscle tone that made her stiff and super strong.  Abby's abdominal muscles would be the envy of any super athlete.  We would do exercises with her legs and arms to straighten them out.  We used to laugh at the way she would sleep.  She would sleep on her back with her hands out in front of her stiffly up in the air like Frankenstein's monster.  Over time and with exercises, this tendency lessened and her overall flexibility improved.  

One of the other side effects from months in the NICU was that because her head was constantly put to the side her head was elongated.  This we slowly improved by cushioning her head so that she could look straight forward while sleeping.  This improved the shape of her head immensely and now her head is beautifully shaped. Thank goodness for Occupational and Physical Therapists!

Abby is a determined kid.  On the day she turned 6 months old she rolled over for the first time not just one way but both ways.  First from her belly to her back and then from her back to her tummy.  She started standing up next to the couch when she was about 8 months old.  She was still so little that it was a funny sight to see a baby that was just about 10 pounds standing up next to the couch.  She was really strong. 

Tummy time seemed to be particularly uncomfortable early on I would assume because of the tube in her tummy.  She would get very mad when we would put her on her tummy.  Once she started turning over she solved that problem quickly by turning over on her back.  She still wanted to be able to move around so she solved that by turning to her back and scooting around the floor by pushing her legs and arching her back and for a long time this is how she moved across the carpet.  She learned to crawl by the time she was 10 months.  She has always been determined to do her thing, her way and this was no exception although there were times I wished she could see where she was going so she didn't hurt herself by running into the couch or the TV stand. This also gave her a very attractive bald spot on the back of her head.   

Abby at 5 months old

Abby hating her tummy time!  :)  We made her do it everyday anyway!
Abby at 8 months.  Standing on the stairs!  :)
Her eyes were good most of the time but at other times they wandered substantially.  One of the dangers of not treating a wandering eye is that the good eye will become too dominant and make the weaker eye eventually go blind if left untreated.  She hated the patches and would always try to pull them off so we had to resort to some eye drops that helped dilate her eyes.  
Her first surgery did a lot to help her see.  She was always a smiley baby but after her eye surgery she was really able to interact better with us.  It was a marvelous thing!
She is wearing 0-3 month clothes here.  They finally fit!  :)
Abby standing with Daddy's support at about 7 months.  All of her clothes were too big for a long time.

Abby was so small that preemie clothes didn't fit her for a long time.  In the hospital she didn't wear clothes for a long time because nothing was small enough.  She had blankets that she was wrapped up in and a warming bed so that she was nice and warm.  By the time she got out of the hospital, she weighed just 5 lbs 6 oz.  Huge compared to what she had started out as but still very small for a normal baby.  Finding clothes for her was difficult at first but we slowly collected them during her months in the hospital.  We also had two baby showers for her and we received many outfits.  She was still in size 6-9 months when she was a year old so each of her clothes got plenty of wear.  What a little cutie pie!
The months flew by once Abby was home and there were many changes in store for us.  We were so happy to have our girl home and it was time to think about growing our family again.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 14

Home was everything we had hoped for and more.  It was also challenging.  When you bring a baby like Abby home you worry about every little thing.  You sometimes wish for monitors so you can see that she is doing okay.  Luckily, we had purchased a co-sleeper which is a bed that attaches directly to our bed and is level with our sleeping surface so if in the night I became worried about her I could reach over and feel her breathe in and out without disturbing her.  Sometimes while Aaron slept I would watch her in the semi-darkness and see her little face as she slept and my heart would feel joy. 

Abby and I woke up frequently for feedings but the mixture of breast milk and formula sustained her through the night most of the time.  It might sound odd but I actually slept better with Abby home.  Night time was the hardest time for me while she was in the hospital.   Life got into a daily routine of feedings, appointments, and the daily work around the house.  One good thing about all those months in the hospital was that Abby was already on a very consistent schedule.  Any mom will tell you how nice it is when you know when to expect your baby to be hungry. 
Abby's meal being warmed up and Abby isn't happy!  You can see how big the preemie clothes still were on her.

We were assigned a home health nurse and also a dietitian.  The nurse was very helpful but we determined together that the dietitian could monitor her eating because there was a lot of repetitive care.  The nurse commented that she wasn't used to working with parents like us and it made me sad to think of the babies like Abby with moms who were less diligent in their care.  I had seen some of those moms in the NICU.  I was grateful to be able to stay home with Abby and take care of her needs. 

Our dietitian was great.  She came weekly to weigh Abby and take her measurements and talk about how her eating was going.  We also went to the Feeding Clinic up near Sacred Heart to see if they could aid Abby's efforts with the bottle.  She was still not taking her bottles but liked to breastfeed.  She was getting stronger and continued to gain weight.  We worked together to help her grow.  There were times that the issue of breastfeeding became difficult.  I felt that because Abby was more able to do it that we needed to continue doing it no matter how much milk she was actually getting.  I felt that she was getting a good amount of milk and I would always make sure she also did the bottle for a few feedings a day.  It might be hard to believe that a baby can't figure out how to use a bottle correctly but that is what was happening.  It was like the part of her brain that could do that hadn't turned on yet.  

Abby and Daddy snoozing together.  Ahh, the joys of home!
Later that summer we attended the Martin Family reunion for the first time.  It was fun getting to know all of the family and we had a great time showing Abby off.  Up until that point she was still not taking a full feeding by bottle and she was 7 months old.  Can you imagine how long we would have been in the hospital if we had chosen not to do the surgery?  At the reunion it was like a switch turned on in Abby's brain.  I fed her from the bottle and she took the whole feeding by mouth.  I was sitting with Aaron at the time and we were so excited.  We waited for the next feeding and she did it again!  Our baby could eat!  Hooray!  

She still needed the tube sometimes when she was tired but she soon became able to take all of her meals by mouth.  It is amazing how something that is so easy for everyone else had been her biggest obstacle.  The dietitian found that she was growing steadily so she was getting enough from bottle and breast and we no longer needed to use the tube in her tummy and we no longer needed weekly visits from the dietitian.  It was a relief to claim a little bit more time.  In November, we were able to take her in to have the tube removed and she has been eating well and growing steadily ever since.  

The only other issues medically that Abby has had since being discharged from the NICU is a problem with her eyes.  As she developed, her eyes began to cross and wander (amblyopia and strabismus). We patched her eyes to strengthen the muscles in them.  Dr. Christina Nye is her eye doctor and determined that she was in need of eye surgery to adjust the muscles in her eyes and straighten her eyes out. Abby has so far had surgery three times to correct this, one when she was eleven months old, another around two and another when she was five.  After the months in the hospital these outpatient surgeries have felt routine and hardly worth mentioning.  She continues to see Dr. Nye every 4-6 months and has good vision in both of her eyes with glasses.  Both amblyopia and strabismus can happen to all kids and are not necessarily the result of being premature. 
Before eye surgery.  Her eye would wander all around.  It was a wonder she could see! 

Questions from others were sometimes very hard.  It was hard to explain the things that she was going through.  In the early days home visiting the store was sometimes problematic.  People would come up to us and see how tiny she was and ask the standard question, "Wow, she's tiny, how old is she?"  At first I would answer with four months or five months but I found that answering that way led to questions and long conversations with total strangers.  It was nice to tell her story but sometimes when you are in a hurry it can be a little cumbersome.  I would usually answer with her adjusted age if it was someone that I didn't know.  With others that I knew it was good to be able to share her story.

Our first family picture in December 2003.  Abby's eyes are much straighter.  She is wearing a dress that is for 6-9 month old.  She is 11 months old. 

After all this time has passed no one just meeting Abby suspects that any of these events took place.  Sometimes they wonder about her behavior and I do my best to explain these circumstances of her birth and development to them.  There is rarely time to share her whole story and to explain just how amazing she is.  I hope in some way that these words that I have written about her will serve to help others understand Abby better.   These experiences have made her who she is today.  I realize all the time that I have a lot to learn from her and I am so grateful that I get to do that every day.