Thursday, May 24, 2012

{ In Which I Have a Birthday }

I know it was over a month ago...but I never got around to posting pictures. And it was a really fun day, thanks to Mr. Mike. And this weekend we're heading to Vashon Island for a little "babymoon," so I shan't be posting for a few days, and then Tuesday is our first appointment at Children's Hospital, so really, if I don't post something before we leave on Friday, it's going to be more than a week before a new post.

I think all that self-justification for a post about my month-old birthday was for me, not you...


Mike planned a lovely, laid-back Saturday, just the two of us, doing some of my favorite things: waterfronts, exploring, gelato, flowers, new adventures in Seattle--of course without letting me know any of it in advance. And God blessed us with a gorgeously sunny day to boot!

We started off with coffee from Caffe Appasionato, the loveliest coffee shop I think I've ever seen, and then meandered over to the Fishermen's Terminal in the Ballard {Wallingford? sorta north Queen Anne?} neighborhood of Seattle. I'd never been there before. We walked out on the docks, admiring the boats and yachts.

I think this zippy little red number was Mike's favorite

Ohhhh, look, I don't look pregnant at all!!

BAM!!! Triplets, anyone?!
I swear it's the jacket...

Mike took me to the dearest little shop called Nellie's that serves toast with jam and cheese. Yum!!

Flowers at Pike Place Market

Gelato...need I say more?
I got raspberry and lemon, Mike got mango and coconut.

We ended the day at Arnie's, enjoying a delicious dinner as the sun set over the water. It was an idyllic day.

Even if it was in honor of my last "young" birthday. ;-)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

{ When you ditch the morning routine... }

One morning this week, on a whim, I ditched my normal routine and headed out the door as soon as Mike had left for work. The weather has been gorgeous lately, which is another way of saying that if you try to find a parking spot at the nearby beach during prime afternoon/evening hours, you can't. It's impossible. You could drive in circles for hours looking for an empty spot, or you could give up and park a few blocks up the hill. In general, by the time it's both (a) afternoon, and (b) hot, my hips feel far too pregnant to park up the hill and haul myself down to the beach and back up.

Plan B: Go first thing in the morning. Pack up Bible and journal and pen. Score a prime parking spot {because there are only four other cars in the whole lot} facing the water. Stay in car because it's bitter cold with that vigorous spring breeze blowing in off the Sound. Read Romans. Watch the people: walkers and bird-watchers and garbage-gatherers and dog-walkers and newspaper-readers. Read some stories from The Jesus Storybook Bible out loud to Lainie. Brave the cold to walk down the beach for a few minutes and take photos. Decide I should do this more often.

Friday, May 18, 2012

{ First Mother's Day }

For all your prayers, love, and kind words...thank you. It means so much to us. The past two weeks have been a wild ride, and the outpouring of support we've experienced since finding out about Lainie's hernia has been overwhelming. We feel our days dripping with grace, even during the hard moments. Our church family and Bible study group have surrounded us with prayer and friendship. Friends who have walked this road of "I have a child [or baby] hospitalized with a serious medical condition" are right beside us. Our midwives have been so supportive and helpful, offering information and advice and letting us know we're still free to ask them any questions we have, though we are no longer technically their clients. It makes me so sad to leave their practice. I really hope that in the future, they can deliver at least one of our babies. Their care has always been exemplary, but I can't even begin to tell you how impressed we are with how the midwives and their staff have handled everything from the first ultrasound inkling of "something might be wrong." They are awesome. Our doulas {yes we have two, one for the birth and one to encapsulate the placenta...formerly I was afraid to tell people I'm planning to ingest my placenta in powdered-pill-form, but now that is the least of my worries} are amazing, going above and beyond the call of duty to help us formulate a new birth plan, connect us with resources, and in general giving me the guts not give up entirely on having as natural a birth as possible, given our circumstances.

God is good. We can't get away from that fact...and we don't want to.

In lighter news, here are some photos from Mother's Day. We went to church in the morning, then had brunch with Mike's family. His sister took these photos, providing incontrovertible evidence that the man I married is a ham, in the best possible sense of the word. He's going to be such a fun dad!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

{ Update on Elaina }

I don't know about you, but I never expect to be one of those people. You know, the people who are suddenly faced with really unexpected or really sucky or really hard things, smack in the face: suddenly nose-to-nose with scary and ugly and hard in real life. No rewind. No clicking away from a blog or news article. No hanging up the phone. No promising to pray for the sudden catastrophe in someone else's life. This is my life now. I've never been one of those people, never thought I would be.

It has taken me awhile to get to the point where I can view the last week and a half more through the lens of miraculous, overwhelming, grace-filled mercy from God, rather than being blindsided by a frightening, completely unexpected, heartbreaking diagnosis for our baby girl. Maybe heartbreaking is too strong a word. I know it broke my heart.

I'm one of those crazy people who started researching babies and birth and maternity care providers long before we were ready to start a family. I started taking prenatal vitamins, like, a year ago, just to be safe. And Elaina's 19-week ultrasound was completely, perfectly normal: Fingers and toes and organs all being beautifully knit together. Other than a lot of nausea, it's been a pretty textbook pregnancy.

Before losing my job last November, I was a cardiac sonographer {specialist who uses ultrasound to look at people's hearts} for five years. I know a lot of people in the ultrasound industry. When I was 13 or 14 weeks pregnant, one of my college classmates told me about an opportunity to get a free ultrasound. She works for an ultrasound manufacturing company and they are always in need of "models" {read: anybody who's willing} to test new ultrasound systems. We decided to wait because at that point, babies just look like little aliens and it can be kind of freaky. Life got busy, I forgot for a few months, and then a couple weeks ago she emailed me and we set up a time for the ultrasound.

We went in on Friday of last week, just a few days after deciding that Miss Peanut's name is Elaina. I was 30 weeks pregnant; we had one birth class left to go; and after a completely normal ultrasound in February, we were expecting nothing more than to enjoy seeing our daughter swim around. Instead, we discovered a mass in Lainie's chest. Otherwise she appeared perfectly healthy. We left with heavy hearts, knowing that we needed to contact our midwife on Monday and get an "official" ultrasound.

It was a really weird weekend...with a deep, unspoken undercurrent that something big is "off." I did some online research on chest masses, but quickly realized that was a bad idea and stopped. We decided to tell our families and close friends so they could pray. We kept doing the normal things we'd planned: garage sales, replacing the brakes on my car, Sunday afternoon at Babies 'R' Us and Ikea to buy baby stuff. If that isn't bizarre: Our first-ever trip to Babies 'R' Us, choosing a carseat and stroller and evaluating crib mattresses, and this nagging cloud always overhead that there's something wrong with our baby's chest...something we would not have known about had I not had ultrasound connections, had we not made the time to get this ultrasound "just for fun"...

We got in for an official ultrasound on Monday afternoon. The doctor was pretty confident that the mass was a harmless cystic structure--nothing to worry about, sometimes they even disappear before birth. Mike and I were ecstatic. Even if it didn't disappear and our baby eventually needed surgery to remove it, that was not a big deal compared to some of the other things it could have been. We could do this. This was really, really good news.

Tuesday morning, one of the midwives called me. She had asked another doctor to look at the ultrasound, and this doctor thought the mass might indicate a diaphragmatic hernia--a hole in the diaphragm {the muscle separating abdomen from chest} that lets abdominal organs go up into the chest. She wanted to schedule us for another ultrasound at a high-risk pregnancy clinic. Of course I said yes. Then I called Mike, told him, and cried. Wednesday morning my ladies' Bible study prayed for us. I'd barely gotten home when the high-risk clinic called to schedule the ultrasound and a consult with a perinatologist for the next morning at 8 AM. That was a relief--I'd expected a long wait to get in.
I prepared an arsenal of questions for the perinatologist: technical questions, anatomical questions, everything. Retrospectively, I think I wanted to convince her that the mass wasn't a diaphragmatic hernia. When she came in the consultation room after the ultrasound and gently told us to forget everything the other doctor had said about a cyst, that this is definitely a hernia--BAM.

We are those people.

No longer
low-risk pregnancy
healthy baby
birth center
home a few hours after birth

Now we are
follow-up ultrasounds
fetal echo
cardiology consultation
surgery consultation
perinatology consultation
delivery at the university hospital
Children's Hospital
"you might be able to touch her after she's born, if she's stable enough"
surgery on my newborn
weeks in the NICU
a host of possible complications, some long-term

There are still so many things we won't know until our slew of tests and consultations at Children's Hospital two weeks from now. Even then, I know that many of our questions are of the "we won't know 'til she's born" variety: Can we hold her? Will she definitely need respiratory support? How often do these babies need long-term help breathing? Have long-term gastrointestinal problems? Will she be able to learn how to nurse and swallow? How soon will they do surgery? How long will she probably have to stay at the hospital?

Here is what we do know. The diaphragm, the sheetlike muscle that separates abdominal cavity from chest cavity and is vital for breathing, forms in the second month. A diaphragmatic hernia occurs when there is a hole in the muscle and abdominal organs move into the chest. This compromises lung development and, because the diaphragm functions in breathing and has a hole in it, breathing is affected. The hernia must be surgically repaired as soon after birth as possible.

In Lainie's case, the hole is probably small, because no abdominal organs were seen in the chest at her 19-week ultrasound. That is actually a good thing. Even now, only part of her stomach and a tiny bit of intestines are in her chest--with larger hernias the liver, spleen, entire stomach, and bowels may be in the chest. Her left lung is compressed because of this, but her heart is only shifted a tiny bit from where it should be. Again--good. And everything else about her is perfectly normal: swallowing, suckling, moving, practice breathing. At this point, the perinatologist described this as a "best case hernia." She will be closely monitored, of course, because things can change.

Slowly, my perspective is shifting. There is still grief, a lot of grief. I don't want my tiny, fresh, new little baby to be cut open. I don't want to be separated from her. I don't want her to need machines to help her breathe. I don't know what life will look like after she's born, short- or long-term. Part of me wants her to stay inside, safe and cozy, because everything is fine as long as she's there. It's when she comes out and has to breath on her own that all hell breaks loose {at least that's what it seems like to me}.

But I'm beginning to see God's incredible grace woven throughout this story:

If you have a normal ultrasound at 18-20 weeks, you don't normally get another one. There's no need.

Yet I just happen to have a friend who got us an ultrasound at 30 weeks, "just for fun."

If Lainie, with an undetected diaphragmatic hernia and resultant underdeveloped lungs, had been born outside a hospital that could give her advanced respiratory support, the outcome could have been really bad.

Yet our midwife asked a perinatologist for a second opinion, even though the doctor who interpreted the ultrasound was quite certain the mass was a harmless cyst.

The fact that this was found and correctly diagnosed, period? A miracle.

The fact that we live less than 25 miles from nationally-recognized hospitals that care for 15-20 babies with diaphragmatic hernias per year? We don't have to drive for hours, or move, in order for Lainie to get top-notch care.

The fact that this is a small hernia and doesn't appear to be negatively impacting her other organ systems? Praise the Lord!!

That's what Mike kept saying as we drove home, fresh with the diagnosis: "Praise the Lord that this was found! Praise the Lord that _______ wanted to do the free ultrasound for you! Praise the Lord that we didn't do the ultrasound earlier, before the hernia showed up! Praise the Lord that this is fixable! Praise the Lord that this is a 'good' hernia!"

Yes, praise the Lord.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

{ Baby Dear }

Dear Miss Peanut,

It was sometime in March when a friend told me about a dream where she felt God revealed to her the name and gender of her first child {she's getting married later this year}. Your daddy and I have talked about baby names at least since we got married. At that time, in March, we had known you are a girl for over a month, and still we couldn't decide between two or three front-runners.

I thought, "Huh. Wouldn't that be convenient--if God told Mike in a vision what Peanut's name should be. After all, He already knows her by name!"

I spent the next few days doing something I hadn't done much before: praying earnestly about your name. We had discussed names a lot, but we hadn't spent much time praying about them {at least I hadn't}. Almost immediately, the Lord impressed on my spirit that I should let your daddy pick your name. I prayed about it for a few more days, then I thought about it, then I prayed some more...all without telling him what I was doing. I was a little scared. There are a few names that we both really like and kept coming back to, but part of me was afraid that if I told him he could name you, carte blanche, you'd end up with a name like Prunella or Oona Moona. Not because I think your father has horrible taste in names--he doesn't--or because I thought he was out to ruin your life--he isn't--or because I thought he'd be ornery and choose a name I hate--I knew he wouldn't. I'm just kind of a control freak.

Finally I told your daddy that I was putting the decision of what to name you entirely in his hands. At first, he thought I was joking. I convinced him I was serious, and then...I did nothing. For what seemed like a loooooooong time but what was in reality about a month. No nagging. No suggesting. No "hurry up and name her!"

And then, on the last Sunday in April, we were sitting in the atrium at church during the second service, and I asked him if he'd decided what to name you.

He said, "I'm 90% sure."
I said, "Like, we-can-tell-people-90%, or you-aren't-sure-yet-90%?"
He said, "Like we-can-tell-people-90%."
Or something like that...I don't remember exactly, I have pregnancy brain!

Elaina Rae.

That's you!!

Elaina is a name I've liked for ages; it's one we've both been fond of and talked about for years. It means light, torch, or bright. Ray was my grandpa's name, my dad's dad, and it means wise protection. We really like how the two sound together--and oh, the nicknames! Lainie Rae, Ellie Rae...I just want to eat you up!

After so many months of calling you Peanut, it feels weird to refer to you as Elaina or Lainie. Your daddy still calls you Peanut most of the time. We'll adjust, I'm sure!

And now, with what's unfolded over the last few days, I'm really glad that we have a name for you. Last week, we found out that there is a mass in your chest and the doctors aren't sure what it is. Absolutely everything else about you--every single thing--looks perfectly normal, right down to your swallowing and your frequent practice breathing. We are praying for you, Lainie Rae, and so are lots of other people: That this is nothing serious, just a harmless little anomaly that doesn't impact you negatively at all, or that Jesus takes it away entirely before you're born. Tomorrow we get to take another peek at you and hopefully figure out what exactly this mass is.

So you just keep growing away in there, take lots of naps, and maybe tomorrow morning you can turn belly-side-up so we can see your chest a little better.

We love you, Elaina Rae Peanut!

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
  Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
~ Psalm 139:13-16

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

{ Pretties }

On the agenda for this afternoon:

:: Swoon over ranunculuses {ranunculi?}

:: Thank Jesus and Mike that the blinds and curtains and valance are back in their proper spots, hung up in the living room!!

:: Work on baby far I'm a big fan of registering online, it's much less stressful than registering in stores. And with Amazon wish lists, you can add items from anywhere on the internet!

:: Make The Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes and bacon-wrapped meatloaf for dinner with friends tonight...yum yum!

:: Resist temptation to eat ice cream casserole right now. It's the first time I've made it {Chelle's recipe} and it is seriously a pregnant woman's dream!

:: Go to the bathroom approximately every 17 minutes.

:: Thank Jesus for sunshine.

:: Drink red raspberry leaf tea.

:: Remember that I am eternally grateful to be married to a very smart man, who fixed my computer when it temporarily died of a very bad virus, but he was able to save all my stuff and my laptop, thus enabling me to take these pictures and write this post. Love you honey!

I'd better get started on that meatloaf...