Our Baby’s Name

… is Rowan John!

I have been waiting months to spill the beans on, well, all of this. We chose not to go public on social media during my pregnancy out of a desire for privacy and because this pregnancy was fraught with complications and uncertainty; I was also working through a lot of my fears and wasn’t ready to discuss. Feel free to read all of the previous posts for a play by play.

Rowan is my maternal great-grandmother’s maiden name. They pronounced it (ROW-an; rhymes with cow-an… which is made up I know). We are going with ROH-un (as in “row your boat”). A rowan tree is a hardy variety that can grow in many different climates and environments. Rowan as a name typically means red-haired one because the rowan tree yields bright red berries. It has ancient associations with protection from witchcraft and healing properties. It also ties in nicely with the Bible passage we have been praying over him for his life.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

We have been praying that, like what they have seen on every ultrasound, he would have a strong heart both physically and spiritually, that he would find favor with God and man, and that he would use this favor to advocate for the marginalized and love others deeply.

His middle name, John, is also Chris’s middle name. Our Rowan John will be the 4th generation of a first son with the middle name John. We hope our families will join us in giving our child a beautiful foundation and support as he grows up, and we are proud to incorporate that connection through his name.

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Epilogue (or Perhaps Prologue)

Since my last post, so much has happened!

My placenta previa cleared entirely the Monday after the last post! I was released from the high risk doctor and considered a “normal” pregnancy cleared for a vaginal delivery. I was cleared from modified bed rest, but not for work, so I continued getting ready for baby and willing him to show up when he was ready.

I had a suspicion that he would show up between 37-38 weeks, but I also kept telling him that I was waiting on him, and if he was feeling crowded (because I sure was!), he knew how to get out!

Honestly, it was the best 3ish weeks of pregnancy because it was a break in the storm of concern, issues, and struggling to trust (rinse, wash, repeat). It was also very strange because part of me expected something else to happen, and the whole thing seemed abstract. Although I spent a lot of time seeing my son on ultrasound, hearing his heartbeat, and feeling SO MANY kicks and rolls, there were still days I felt as though I was faking the whole thing!

I had so many beautiful days just reflecting on God’s faithfulness and how glad I was for this whole experience. I was still a bit nervous about how our little man was going to arrive, but I had an incredible amount of peace about it!

I’ll work on the birth story later as I’m still processing the whole thing and am not sure I want to share ALL THE THINGS on the Internet, but it was challenging, unexpected, and yet another opportunity to have faith rewarded in the form of our beautiful son.

Fearless

Today we went to a childbirth basics class in the morning, and since no one else wanted a hospital tour (and we have already seen the labor rooms!), the kind nurse teaching the class put gowns on us and let us see what an operating room looked like.

It was such a relief! I’ve had anxiety about a possible c-section most of this pregnancy. On top of hearing I’d almost certainly need one and other “doom and gloom” warnings from my doctors about what could happen over the course of my pregnancy, I felt like today was the resolution to my fear of the unknown.

I’ve been worried about how cold the operating room might be or what it looks like; I’ve been worried about panicking on the table or en route; I’ve worried about recovery; basically, I’ve been worried about all the details for which I am not responsible.

But when we walked in and stood at the door, I realized how focused and small my fear had made my perception of the situation. It was just a room. Yes, there was equipment, but it wasn’t scary at all. This is just a short chapter of my life; why let fear blind me to all the good I have already been given?

I am incredibly grateful that God gave me these past few months to grapple with my fears and need for control and subconscious “counting” towards grace. My baby is healthy. The majority of my complications were revealed early in the pregnancy, allowing me time to not be surprised and do some work on how I perceived the situation. Many people don’t know about their complications or a change of plans until the end; I’ve seen the uncertainty of the resolution the whole way, and I don’t think that’s a mistake. Each new obstacle is an opportunity to grow and let God carry me when I feel I can’t make it.

This child is supposed to be here; I don’t think I would have lost the first pregnancy if it had not been this way. I survived most of the first trimester while Chris was away, despite my fears of another loss. It may have taken 28 weeks, but the fibroid no one thought would move, moved; all of the possible complications from that fibroid haven’t happened. The one hospital stay for complications that I was warned would probably happen a few more times before delivery has not happened, and I’m now at a much safer place if I were to deliver early.

There is one last complication left that could could make delivery interesting, but even that was to a lesser degree at my last appointment, and although I am still praying and asking for what I would prefer… I’m finding that I’m also okay with it.

I have seen the room; it’s not that bad. However God wants this child to arrive will be how he arrives.

In the meantime, I’m cherishing this time to prepare. We installed the car seat today (a great exercise in marital communication), talked about our plan, and I noticed my husband put popsicles on the grocery list in preparation for labor 🙂 My heart is full and my soul is peaceful.

Just a Snapshot of Now

I am on modified bed rest, so my sleeping schedule has changed. It can take me 3-4 hours in bed to fall asleep (!!!!). I sleep best in the morning.

Chris wakes up at 5 (sometimes earlier), and before he leaves, he puts the comforter over me because he knows I sleep hot but wake up cold. He kisses me and says goodbye before heading to the gym. I love this so much.

I wake up between 7 and 8. I go to the bathroom, check my blood sugar, and make myself some kind of breakfast. Popular choices are 2 scrambled eggs with whatever greens or onion leftovers we have, avocado toast, low sugar oatmeal packets in the microwave, fresh fruit, protein of some kind.

Then it’s devotions and breakfast, clean up, TV or other projects, sometimes an errand or a short and slow walk around the block, and it’s lunch! It has been lovely meeting Chris for coffee a couple of times and just catching up.

After lunch, I typically rest, even if I can’t sleep. I’ll play games or read up on pregnancy or have TV on just for some noise company. I’m always excited about checking the mail or organizing my schedule.

Chris comes home at varying times, and even though he’s been working all day, he cooks me dinner, sometimes even just handing me my plate. We spend time together, eat, and before you know it, it’s bedtime.

These days all sort of blend together, but I’m trying to be present in the moment and remember this later when things get chaotic. I have a beautiful life, for which I am grateful ❤

34 Weeks and Counting!

I am so excited we hit that 33 week goal and are moving on! The next few weeks will be a little nuts as we aren’t quite sure when/how he will arrive, but I think that’s what happens to most first time parents.

I have another OB appointment tomorrow, and then I’ll have one last growth scan on the 12th which will determine if my placenta has moved out of the way enough to attempt a vaginal birth (you know, or if my baby is sitting transverse or something like that hahaha, but seriously I’m praying he’s not), or if we will need to schedule a c-section.

Let’s make some lists, because lists are fun!

5 things we are doing now to prepare for baby boy:

  • Washing ALL OF THE BABY THINGS! Clothes, blankets, sterilizing things, etc.
  • Taking minimal classes! We did the American Red Cross online certification for child/infant/adult first aid/CPR/AED. We have both been certified repeatedly, but Chris hadn’t done infants before, and I haven’t been infant certified since being a camp counselor. The online version is great if you have been certified before; if not, do the in person training! We also signed up for a one-day childbirth basics class through our hospital, but it was canceled last minute yesterday (Saturday). We may see if they offer the baby boot camp class soon as it covers more newborn care.
  • Repacking the hospital bag (this was done super early after I came home from the hospital at 28 weeks as I was determined to be prepared after that).
  • Figuring out what purchases still need to be made and what we’ll wait on due to the  likelihood of relocating somewhere by the end of the year.
  • Trying to read enough information to have an informed opinion on all things related to birth and newborn care. There is so much we don’t know! Ahhhh!

 

5 shows I’ve been watching or rewatching (because modified bed rest):

  • Game of Thrones (rewatch; debating on reading the books)
  • ER- never watched this one before. It’s on Hulu!
  • Gilmore Girls (rewatch)
  • Master Chef Junior- because who doesn’t like Gordon Ramsey being nice to kids?
  • The Resident- new medical show. Yes, I have a problem. I also like Grey’s, Chicago Med., and The Good Doctor).

 

10 foods/snacks I enjoy on my diet for borderline GD:

  • Parmesan Crisps- they are chips of cheese! See salad toppings aisle.
  • Dark chocolate- we’re talking 70%+ is my favorite after-dinner treat
  • Cheese sticks
  • apples with peanut or almond butter
  • Nuts. Lots of nuts.
  • Unwich- turkey, mayo, and veggies, all wrapped in cheese instead of carbs.
  • 1/2 PB & J… because it’s a classic
  • Veggie Straws! I can have a lot of these for very few carbs
  • Justin’s Almond Butter/whole wheat pretzel snacks
  • Plain unsweetened Greek yogurt with fresh fruit in it.

 

5 Beverages I drink now:

  • Protein shakes: Premier protein, Atkins protein, Svelte Coffee protein, and occasionally Syntha-6 protein (what I drank when I was weight training 5 days/week pre-pregnancy)
  • Toasted Coconut and Almond Milk from Kalifa farms; delicious!
  • Iced Tea! I like citrus green tea, or teas with lemon and ginger brewed strongly and poured over ice.
  • Natural Calm Magnesium- always great for immune and digestive health, as well as general calm (recommended by OB early on)
  • half caff or decaf coffee. I didn’t have any until the end of the 2nd trimester. I am of the opinion that one cup a day won’t kill me.

Shifting Identities

This is the beginning of week 5 of modified bed rest.

I suppose I should be grateful that for a bad situation, things are going well, but at the moment, I’m sad about this season. I really miss my job and my students. I miss interacting with people on a daily basis. I miss being able to do things for myself. I miss being allowed to walk quickly or go to the gym or even shop at the store.

I am grateful my students have a great sub., but that doesn’t make me any happier at home. I am grateful for the friends who have spent time with me, called to check in, or otherwise made contact, but I miss when I just saw a lot of them each day

Honestly, pregnancy was nothing like I expected. It’s rough to start off motherhood with a miscarriage followed by a complicated pregnancy. And even knowing that there are so many things going right that could have gone downhill earlier or been much worse, it doesn’t change mourning the loss of a regular pregnancy.

This experience has also challenged me so much. I have learned to have peace over things out of my control (or how to accept my feelings, allow them to be felt, but not overwhelming). I have learned that life is a gamble, and you can’t really predict what will happen.

What is also interesting is I’m realizing all the friends I don’t make contact with on a regular basis because work and life tend to get busy, and being on the other side, where all of my friends are busy but I am not, this saddens me. Why are we so busy?

But I keep telling myself that this isn’t forever. I have 7 or fewer weeks left of being pregnant, and I am so so incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity, and that so far, God has been watching out for baby and me in ways we can’t begin to comprehend. And even when this short phase of life is over, a new one will begin in a dramatic way (hopefully all good) that will be incomprehensibly different than life as we know it now.

So although I mourn the difference, and I perhaps have begun shifting toward motherhood sooner than expected, I am curious to see what this new part of me will be like.

Love Only Multiplies…

Today is February 14th. I can’t say I’ve had a great track record with this greeting card-driven holiday, but I’ve always had love, and for the past 7 years, I’ve enjoyed spending simple and sweet Valentine’s Days with Chris Topher.

Today is also our first baby’s due date, and I am exactly 32 weeks pregnant with our second.

I have many mixed feelings, but as much as I love the baby in my womb and the one who only spent a few days with me, I am convinced that love doesn’t diminish; it only multiplies.

Love is beautiful and rugged and difficult and glorious. Love exists, even when we can’t see it. I am so grateful that God’s love is not dependent on my ability to see it or understand it; it is perfect and unchanging.

On Monday, I went to the high risk doctor again. Despite the weight I lost in the hospital, baby looked great, was head down, and instead of measuring 2 weeks ahead, went back to measuring on schedule. What surprised everyone at the office was that my large fibroid, the 9x9x8 cm growth that has been present since before I conceived and obstructive to birth since its first viewing… has completely moved up and away so that it is no longer in the way! It was in such a different place that the ultrasound tech had to go back and look at the last ultrasound just to see what she was looking for!

Part of me wonders if that big move triggered the contractions/bleeding in January (because the fibroid had been low at my January 15th appointment and in a different place on January 19th when I was hospitalized). I’m going to ask my OB next week, but regardless, this shift, after 28 weeks of no change, was a huge answer to prayer. Family, friends, and I all prayed for this to happen, even when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.

What I also find noteworthy is that this didn’t happen until I stopped just praying for it to move; I began to pray that my baby would arrive when and how God chose for it to arrive, even if it wasn’t what I thought I wanted (although I did still tell Him exactly what I wanted, just in case).

And don’t worry, I still have plenty to pray for! The placenta is still in the way, but it has been downgraded from a complete previa to a marginal posterior previa. It’s still too close for a safe vaginal birth, and I may still have trouble with it, but even this still holds hope. My high risk doctor thinks it has the potential move in the next few weeks.

I am praying that it does (because it would help for a safer delivery and I would like to avoid a c-section if possible), but I am also very much at peace if it doesn’t or if my wiggly child decides to flip again right before birth. God is sovereign, He has a plan, and all of the things we worry about are on purpose, even if we never get to see that purpose.

This pregnancy has already grown me in so many ways, and although it is scary sometimes and tests my patience and my trust, I am excited to continue to see His story unfold in my life.

Faith

July 17th, 2017

As I turn my thoughts toward motherhood, I am struck by the impermanence of this world. I am reminded, day by day, just how little control we have over life. It is shocking to me then, that people could see how delicate the threads of life are, and not search for the One who holds us together.

Have you ever searched obituaries for people with the same birth date and year as yourself? This was on a Reddit thread, and I couldn’t help but try it myself. Many people my age passed away in their early twenties, while I, for some unfathomable reason, am advancing in age.

There’s so much that can go wrong; you have to be the winning sperm to be yourself, free from chromosomal abnormalities in order to thrive. You have to perilously attach when you are so small, and then, even if you do manage to grow, you could be stillborn, contract a disease, die in your sleep, have failing organs… and this is just the first year after birth. Additionally, that birth could kill your mother. And if you both survive, you could be smothered or contract cancer. You could die by accidental self-strangulation, suffocation, drowning, traumatic injury… the list goes on and on. You could be perfectly healthy, have all of your affairs in order, eat right, live well, and still be struck by a drunk driver or an errant bullet in your own front yard.

Life is not guaranteed.

In this modern world of medical interventions, endless conveniences, and ceaseless strivings, it is easy to forget about survival, love, and what family and propagation means.

Right now, they’re saying that if you really care about the environment, you won’t have kids.

But I think what is difficult to accept is the perspective of eternity. I pray every day for my husband’s well-being and that I might have more time with him because I know that not even another day is guaranteed. I pray that if I die, I won’t traumatize hundreds of students by my passing. I pray that if I have another miscarriage, it won’t negatively impact those around me. Nothing in life is guaranteed… and yet, nothing worth having in life is possible without risk.

Each day we make choices, hoping that they are the right ones, making peace with the ones that are not.

Each day we can hope for what the future holds, strive for it even, but revel in the peace that is trusting that God has already seen the end of the story, and regardless of outcome, He was there.

He is here. He promises to get me through all of it.

It is with this benediction that I can move forward. It is with this promise I am offered a lifeline for when I find it impossible to keep kicking my legs.

It is with this notion, I realize that I must finally be still and trust more than I ever have with what little I have.  This is faith.

A Week Ago Today…

I woke up at 5 AM, same as usual. We were going to go to the gym. It had been a typical stressful week for me; I failed both my gestational diabetes tests by a little bit on Monday and Tuesday and had just figured out how to use a glucometer.

Then there was the voting fiasco for Colors Day at school. I was tired, but not exhausted, but all of that changed when I got up to go to the bathroom. There was some old blood in my underwear. I called for Chris and we decided to call and ask someone. He couldn’t get ahold of my doctor’s office, so I called my insurance nurse line, and as I was on the phone, there was more blood, fresh blood.

We had to go in.

We had known with my low-lying placenta that this could be a thing; that I could wake up to 1-2 cups (!!) of blood and things might not be lost. Luckily, it wasn’t that much, but it was enough to be concerning. I was 28 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

In the ER, they changed my clothes, took my vitals, and hooked me up to monitors while they waited on ultrasound to arrive. Apparently I was having contractions 1-2 minutes apart and had no idea. Eventually ultrasound arrived, and although the baby looked great, the fibroid had migrated upward, and my cervix was still nice and long and unchanged, my placenta previa was complete; the placenta was over the cervix entirely. I heard varying opinions on why I had started bleeding; the bleeding caused contractions or the contractions caused bleeding (clearly a chicken and egg scenario), but what was clear was that I was going to be admitted for 48 hours to try and stop the contractions.

They admitted me, gave me a steroid shot for baby’s lungs just in case, and immediately started the high doses of intravenous magnesium. It was awful. The catheter was awful. Just as they suggested, it felt like I was getting the flu. I wasn’t comfortable enough to sleep, I felt hot, loopy, and gross. The only encouragement was that slowly over the course of the day, the contractions slowed down.

My friends from school sent me flowers. Chris was there most of the day, and friends stopped in around dinner to check in on me. I wasn’t allowed to eat while having contractions, so I subsisted on ice chips and popsicles, watching TV because my eyes couldn’t focus well enough to read.

Chris stayed with me that night and suffered through the repeated vitals checks and all the beeping when the machines malfunctioned from my attempts to sleep and I had to call the nurse to reset them. He was supposed to have left Friday at noon to go see his brother before speaking at a conference. He canceled his flights and opted to drive out to Atlanta on Monday so he’d have the flexibility of being able to drive back whenever needed. I felt so awful about it, but he told me to stop apologizing.

I slept fitfully Friday night. The night nurse was awesome and even switched my IV when it was hurting me at 3 AM. Apparently it was the magnesium and my bony arms. I slept a little more after that.

Early in the morning on Saturday, I felt particularly crummy. I was having a hard time catching my breath, feeling dizzy and nauseous and drugged. I couldn’t sleep because it felt like my muscles were crushing themselves, and I had pain in the middle of my upper back. I only felt comfortable sitting up, so I tried to wait it out for about 45 minutes. Chris was still sleeping, and I knew shift change was soon, so I thought they’d be there soon.

I finally called the nurse. She was amazing. My friend who works as a nurse in the same unit came to visit me at the end of my shift about that time too. Apparently she was worried because I didn’t seem like myself and wasn’t making sense to her. They temporarily stopped my magnesium and went to get ahold of the doctor. My vitals still looked great, but it was clear that I was struggling, so they suspected magnesium toxicity and decided to be proactive and do my bloodwork before the doctor arrived. My friend was hesitant about leaving, but I told her to go home to her kid and some rest and that Chris would stay. They also gave me the second steroid shot at that point.

I did not have magnesium toxicity, but the doctor said that if I wasn’t contracting, I didn’t need to be on the magnesium (apparently 48 hours is standard treatment, but I was taken off of it before the 24 hour mark). They kept monitoring me, and I felt so much better in a couple of hours. I was still having random contractions, maybe one per hour, but nothing to even notify the doctor about. They started letting me eat, so I had meals to look forward to. I passed quite a bit of old blood which freaked me out, but I was assured that it was okay because it was old and was to be expected. I was again glad I had gone in.

I sent Chris home that night because I was feeling better and I wanted him to get some sleep. Sunday was pretty uneventful. They took off more of my monitors and the catheter so I could shower. I was told we’d go to monitoring once per shift. Baby was a champ every time, usually finding the monitor so he could kick it before running away. His other favorite move was using the monitors as a hiccup microphone. It was comforting to hear him all the time and feel good that he was still there and still active.

I wondered what would happen when they did let me go home, although no one had a clear answer of what or when: just wait and see.

Monday morning Chris stopped by before picking up the rental and leaving for Atlanta. We still didn’t know what was going to happen with me, but I had a ride lined up to take me home and another friend to stay the night just in case I’d be by myself while Chris was gone.

My OB stopped in and finally gave me some answers: No more gym. No more work. No more being alone overnight in case of emergency. I was being placed on modified bed rest until delivery. I told her we weren’t sure about Chris’s planned research trip out of the country, but that we had friends and family lined up to stay with me. She said that was okay. She wanted to talk to the high risk doctor about putting me on medication prophylactically to prevent contractions. I said okay.

A couple of hours later, they decided no medication for now, and discharged me.

 

I have been scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, and optimistic in turns since then. I know all the positives: each day he stays in saves 3 in the NICU, I’m lucky it was caught early, it’s better to be home than in the hospital, everything else looks great, he’s measuring ahead, so that is on our side….

But I’m also trying to see what God wants to reveal through these disappointments. Are we being saved from greater heartache? Is Chris putting off his research trip saving us somehow? Will better opportunities be presented for him? Why is it better that I will be on unpaid leave longer than I wanted? Maybe I’ll avoid the flu?

It’s impossible to really speculate. I’m so worried that this will hurt us, but I don’t know why God would bring us this far only to fail. I’m trusting that the answer is there, regardless of my knowledge or ability to see it. Trust. Trust. Trust. That is all I’m hearing.

We picked out a life verse for our boy:

Psalm 1:1-3

1Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

We have been praying that he would have a long and beautiful life, that he would find favor with God and man, and that he would use this favor to positively advocate for the marginalized. We pray that just like his physical heart has always been strong, he would be strong in spirit, a protector to many.

I hope he’s all those things and handsome for all the trouble so far! Maybe he’ll be an incredibly wonderful child because he’s getting the rough part over with now.

When I’m Scared

I feel like a ticking time bomb.

It’s too late to change anything. This baby is growing which means things could change.

I am attempting to do what I do with everything: get all the information and rationalize.

I am trying to reconcile why God made the first miscarriage so early and complete that we couldn’t see this mass because I never got an ultrasound.

I am wondering how long it will be before something terrible happens: I lose the baby, it is born too early, its growth and development are restricted, I bleed out in labor or c-section.

In the grand scheme of things, I know none of this matters, but the pain in between now and eternity seems unfathomable.

And yet, even knowing all these things, I find myself at the feet of my Creator, begging Him to love me and spare my child if it is at all possible. What terrifies me is that I know I don’t deserve any favor; I deserve pain and separation. But God has promised forgiveness, redemption, and a right relationship with Him.

I have nothing else.