Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finding out Baby's Gender

I had a regular prenatal visit with Dr. B on Monday (Yay - for hearing baby #5's heartbeat again!) and we were talking about my upcoming amniocentesis. She asked if we were going to find out the baby's gender. I was kind of dumbfounded at first. I know they use amnios for a ton of diagnostic stuff, but I had completely forgotten that they would be able to definitively find out baby's gender with it as well.

I told her "Yes!"

Finding out this baby's gender is something that Paul and I have talked about long before this baby was even conceived. When I was pregnant with Ethan and going through the start of my divorce, I decided to find out what I was having because at that point I needed as much stability in my life as possible. But with both Elijah and Felicity we chose to wait to have a delivery surprise.

I was quite content with Elijah to be surprised (and I was!), but with Felicity, I was kind of hoping we'd find out before she was born. Paul was pretty adamant about not finding out. He relished his role in Elijah's birth of being the one to announce, "It's a boy!" I knew he was looking forward to that with Felicity's birth too. Unfortunately due to the circumstances of her birth he didn't have the opportunity to do so.

Fairly soon after Felicity died I told Paul it was something we needed to talk about. I laid out my feelings on the subject. I felt it would be very important for us and especially for our boys to bond with this baby by name while still in the womb. With Felicity, it felt like we met her and said goodbye to her in the same day, even though I carried her for 9+ months. The next time I wanted us to cherish the baby as a specific person for as long as possible, even if we knew something was wrong and the baby wouldn't live.

So at my urging, Paul has agreed to find out this baby's gender. I know he's excited to know even if he won't get to make an announcement at baby's birth. We're working on names now. I want names that capture how much we want this baby and how much we're trusting God no matter what happens. I want this baby to have a name that is a legacy to him or her.

With my amnio just 9 days away and results (according to Dr. B) taking a week or so, we should be able to name this baby soon! Ethan is thrilled that we'll be able to find out. It's something very concrete for him especially since we've tried to be very honest with the boys about not knowing if this baby will live with us or live in Heaven. I just can't tell him that everything will be alright when I don't know for sure. Hopefully he sees us trusting in God and can do so also.

How about you all? Did you find out baby's gender or wait and why?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Fertility Story

There once was a little girl who hoped that someday she would be a mommy. She loved and played with children whenever she had the chance and babysat frequently. She grew up (a little) and went to college to become a teacher so that she could continue working with children.

Right after college the girl got married and soon after that moved hundreds of miles from her family. She and her husband had decided to wait a while to have their own children so she began taking birth control pills to keep from getting pregnant before they were "ready."

A couple years into their marriage, the urge to have a baby really hit her. So they decided to go off the pill and begin trying to conceive. Months went by. Her cycles were incredibly long, often making her think she was pregnant when she was not. Eventually she had a ruptured ovarian cyst and had to go to the ER. She was referred to a doctor who put her on drugs to make her ovulate. After three months, she was elated to find out she was pregnant.

On the way home from her first OB visit, her husband told her he wasn't happy. He thought they should separate.

The girl was devastated. How could this be happening? They tried counseling, but her husband was unmoved. He said he had never loved her and that it was God's will that they divorce. Less than three months after finding out she was pregnant, they were separated. The girl finished out the teaching year and then moved back to her home state to live with her parents and raise her soon-to-be-born son.

It was a very emotional time for the girl, a time that caused her to depend on God in ways she never had before. She found great joy in the arrival of her son. She was now a woman.

The woman and her son grew together, with much support and love around them. When her son was 8 months old, her divorce was finalized. The woman didn't know if she'd ever get married again or have more children. She poured her all into mothering her child.

A couple years went by and just when the woman found herself accepting her singleness, a man came into her life. He also knew the pain of a divorce. They had know each other for awhile when finally the man asked the woman on a date.

A little less than a year later, they were happily married. The man and woman agreed they should wait awhile to have children. The woman did not go back on the pill although they tried other methods. Three months later they had a baby on the way. They were thrilled! The woman desperately wanted another baby, a sibling for her son and the man was excited to welcome his first child into the world.

Their son was born a few weeks shy of their first anniversary and the family was happy. They knew they wanted more children, but felt that it would be best to wait a couple of years. This time they did not use any birth control. The woman was breastfeeding and that helped to delay the return of her fertility for over a year. During that time the man learned a lot about God's vision for the family. He began to share with the woman what he was learning. At first the woman wasn't sure she liked what she was hearing. She liked being in control of when the next pregnancy would happen. And considering that her husband was quite a bit older than herself, she worried about having too many children and then having something happen to her husband. Who would take care of them then?

When their son was 16 months old, they were expecting again and again they were thrilled! They had been learning more about God's design for the family and were excited for their family to grow.

Sadly though, their daughter was born into the arms of Jesus. It was (and continues to be) an incredibly difficult time for their family. It was during the grief that the woman was able to fully accept that God is in control of their family. He is the author of life and death. The woman then realized that she wanted as many babies as God wanted them to have. She is still learning this as they lost another baby a few months later. They learned a method of family planning that helps couples achieve or avoid pregnancy and they used this so the woman could get healthy after the loss of their second baby. And then they used the method to get pregnant again.

God is continuing to work on this family as they have learned that baby #5 could potentially get very sick or even die before he or she is born. They are also facing the fact that if they have more babies, each one also has a chance of being very sick. They wonder why this is happening to them? Does God want them to stop having children? Does God want them to trust Him in ALL things, including having more children? They are scared and hopeful. They have many decisions to make, but will seek God's will in all of them.


This post was written, not to judge anyone for their methods of family planning, but rather to tell you of the journey we've been on. It's been a long, hard journey! But God is faithful. The method I wrote of at the end is called the Creighton Model of Family Planning. We are relatively new to it, but have been very pleased with it. It is a simple and very effective method of achieving or avoiding pregnancy. It can also be used to diagnose and help a variety of women's health issues including infertility, PMS, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian disease, repetitive miscarriage, hormonal abnormalities, postpartum depression and others. To find out more, visit their site HERE


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Two, but Almost Three

Elijah is at such a fun and challenging age. He will be three at the end of August and lately I've been remembering that three was more difficult with Ethan than two was. (Of course Ethan also had a lot going on that year with Paul and I marrying, having to move, and adjusting to Paul as "Daddy")

Anyway, while tantrums are more frequent these days, Elijah is also the one to make us laugh often with his two-year-old-isms.

The other day it was cloudy when we woke up and Elijah went to the window and said, "God turnded the sun off, Mom."

Whenever he and Ethan do any sort of imaginative play, Elijah always lowers his voice and speaks deeply.

I was talking with my mom on the phone the other day while Elijah was eating breakfast and he got upset because he wanted to talk to her too. I told him he had to wait until he was done eating and then he could call "Gamma" back. Well, when he called her, Papa answered and Elijah fell on the floor in a sobbing heap because it wasn't Gramma. (He ADORES Papa, but it was just one of those things that set him off). I couldn't help but laughing when I figured out why he was upset.

I would love to just bottle up his two year old cuteness - as witnessed in this video below. Sorry for my repeating all his answers but it's habit (and may help clarify what he's saying).

AND BY THE WAY - my doctor's appointment yesterday went well. I was a wreck until Dr. B found baby's heartbeat. What a blessing to hear such a beautiful sound! Amniocentesis is in 3 weeks - THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS!


Monday, July 13, 2009

"How are you doing?"

This is a question I keep hearing a lot lately as we've shared the news of baby #5 with family and friends. It is still such a loaded question, but I'm learning to deal with it. Do people mean pregnancy-wise, in relation to grief, or how we feel about this antigen/antibody issue?

So, how am I doing, you ask?

I'm doing okay.

Pregnancy-wise, this time around hasn't been as hard as Elijah or Felicity's pregnancies. The progesterone shots that Paul gives me twice a week helps a lot with the nausea and overall first trimester ickiness. It's a catch 22 though. Any pregnancy symptom, however uncomfortable, is a relief. When I'm feeling good I start to worry that something has happened to this baby. I have an appointment on Friday afternoon with Dr. B. I'm praying she will be able to easily find a heartbeat. That will be such a relief. Thankfully Paul will be with me if she can't.

I'm still so concerned I'm going to lose this baby! It's on my mind constantly so I'm trying to quote verses about not being afraid and not worrying. Before I lost Jeremiah, I hoped that he would be born, but in my heart of hearts I was prepared for a miscarriage. I was constantly checking to see if I was spotting or bleeding. I'm farther along with this baby, going on 12 weeks, but I think it's going to be a fear I deal with most of this pregnancy. I see so much suffering now in the world. It's always been there but it wasn't real to me until I was a part of it.

As for the antigen/antibody issue, I feel like I'm preparing myself for the news that this baby has the antigen. I know God can do anything, but I think it's easier for me to assume the worst than to hope for the best and be disappointed. Does that make sense?

I keep reminding myself how special this baby is regardless of the length of his/her life. I'm hoping to be able to give this baby a name that captures how thankful we are for him/her no matter what happens. Life begins at conception, not when baby is born!

So did I answer your question?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Blonde Boy is 7!

Happy Birthday, Ethan!
To the boy who made me a Mommy - I can't believe you're seven years old! Where did the time go? I'm so proud of all you're learning and doing. Keep trusting in Jesus to help you and guide you. You are one special boy and we love you!
(Ethan's birthday was actually Wednesday, but when I went to upload a bunch of cute baby pictures that I had scanned, I couldn't find them anywhere on my computer. So yesterday I tried to upload this picture and Blogger wouldn't let me. Better late than never!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Appointment Update

Thanks everyone for your prayers!

I was quite emotional going into the appointment after trying to decide whether to check yes or no on the survey sheet they gave me as to whether or not I "have emotional concerns or need counseling." AUGH! I just put a question mark. That along with the multiple bulletin boards in the waiting room with hundreds of pictures of beautiful, healthy, smiling babies made me start to tear up.

I was able to get control of myself until I had to tell the nurse who saw us first about Felicity. It's just so hard and I don't always know how people are going to react - whether they'll be gentle or brush it off like it's nothing.

After that we spent quite of a bit of time talking with the resident doctor. She went over most everything with us and answered what questions we had before we met with the doctor. Here's the low-down:

Paul has antigen c in his chromosomes which he most likely passed to Felicity. Our blood mixed at some point (probably during her birth) and my body produced an antibody to it - meaning my body wants to fight off any red blood cells with antigen c in them. We need to determine whether the baby also carries this antigen. This will be done with an amniocentesis (a needle inserted into my uterus to withdraw amniotic fluid) on August 7th. They need to wait until I am 15 weeks along to do it.

If the baby does not carry this antigen (a 50% chance), then all will be fine and this pregnancy can proceed normally. However if the baby does carry this antigen, I will be closely followed via special ultrasounds to see if the baby is developing anemia (a 65% chance). They will do this by watching an artery in the baby's brain to see how quickly the blood is being pumped. An anemic baby's heart will have to pump blood much more quickly than a healthy baby. These ultrasounds would happen every week most likely.

Then if baby develops anemia, a cordocentesis will be done (taking blood from the umbilical cord which involves baby being sedated for the procedure) to test baby's iron level. This will determine the need for blood transfusions which could happen every 2-3 weeks or more often in the beginning. If baby is not doing well, an early induction will be considered.

It was very helpful to get the big picture and to know a little of what the future holds. The doctors were VERY nice and really answered all the questions we had. We will also see a genetic counselor on August 7 as this antibody issue could affect every baby from here on out. Elijah is not affected by this thankfully. Usually the first child in these cases is not a carrier.

Please continue to pray! While having an amniocentesis is not unusual, it does carry risks of infection and miscarriage. But by doing this we will know for sure whether or not this baby is at risk and can proceed accordingly. If you've had one, I'd be interested to hear about your experience.

We may also have the opportunity to be a part of a trial at a hospital in Milwaukee that is testing baby's blood type through mom's blood. This is routinely done in Europe but due to federal regulations and lack of studies in the US, it is not considered as conclusive as amniocentesis yet. It has great promise though because it is completely non-invasive, unlike amnios. Being a part of it could give us more information as well as help set standards for moms in the future dealing with these types of issues. We are waiting to hear more information about if from the doctor.

Thanks again for all your support! It is such an encouragement to us! Ethan often reads your comments over my shoulder and it is having an impact on him, knowing that so many care and are praying.

PAUL- please correct me in my comments if I missed anything or got any info. wrong. Love you, Babe!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Dear Felicity,

I can't believe it's been 9 months since you went to be with Jesus! I woke up this morning at exactly the same time you were born, sweet girl! I climbed into bed with Elijah to cuddle with him for a few minutes and so wished you were with us. Both your brothers would've LOVED snuggling with you! Ethan tries to get Elijah to snuggle with him, but Elijah usually won't have anything to do with it.

We so miss you! Some days are easier than others. Some days I can imagine how happy your life is in Heaven and other days, I just want to hold you again so badly that I feel like my heart is breaking with the pain. It's so hard trying to imagine what you would look like and be like right now. Would you be crawling and into everything? Or would you be a late crawler like your brothers, still content being in one place? I wonder so many things about you!

And oh, I miss all the things I didn't get to do with you! I miss smiling down at you while you nurse. I miss dressing you in cute little girl clothes, with little bows in your hair. I miss giving you baths. You and Elijah would've had so much fun in the tub together! I miss carrying you in the sling, having you close enough to kiss and love on whenever I wanted to. I miss seeing you greet your daddy when he comes home from work, with a smile on your face meant only for him! I miss singing you "your song." I miss seeing your brothers playing with you and making you laugh! I miss having you reach for me to pick you up.

Oh, precious one! Knowing how happy you are helps mama deal with her sadness, but I know the ache will never completely go away - until Heaven! I can't wait, Felicity! Not a day goes by that I don't think of you and miss you!

Love you forever,

Friday, July 3, 2009

Please Pray for Baby #5

Yes, we are expecting another baby - we're hoping that this baby will join our family in January. I am 10 weeks and we were actually planning on waiting awhile longer to share this happy news, but unfortunately circumstances that have developed are creating the need for much prayer. This baby's story actually starts back in February.

Most of you know that I was pregnant back then with baby #4. I went to see my doctor at the beginning of Feb. where they took my blood and confirmed the pregnancy and so forth. Then on February 22, baby #4 (whom we named Jeremiah) went to Heaven to be with Felicity.

Shortly thereafter I received a weird letter in the mail from the University of Minnesota blood bank. It stated that my blood had tested positive for an antibody to red blood cells known as anti-c. The letter stated, "This does not indicate any problem with your personal health, but is important for future blood transfusions." It included a card that I needed to carry with me.

I didn't quite understand it all, but it didn't seem like I needed to do anything other than carry the card with me and let my doctor, Dr. M, know the next time I saw her. Dr. M actually called and left a message saying how sorry she was about my miscarriage and how she would be willing to talk with me at anytime. She never mentioned the antibody issue nor said that I should call her back. Since I was quite an emotional wreck at the time, I never returned that call.

Fast forward a couple of months to April when I received another letter from my doctor stating that she was going to be leaving my clinic in June to practice elsewhere. I felt this was confirmation that when I got pregnant again, I should go ahead and start going to a Christian, pro-life clinic where I could receive progesterone therapy if my levels were indeed low.

Then on May 24, we found out baby #5 was coming! We were thrilled and scared. Our main fears were (and are) another miscarriage or a repeat cord accident. I know I've shared before that repeat cord accidents are extremely rare, but I've since learned the opposite. In fact, there is a doctor in Louisiana who practices solely with parents of stillborn babies to prevent repeat cord accidents.

The next day I began going to the Christian, pro-life clinic for progesterone therapy as I found out that my levels were indeed low. I hadn't yet transferred my records to the new clinic as they didn't need to see me again for OB care until I was 12 weeks. Then on June 1, I got a voicemail from Dr. M saying that it was her last day at the clinic and she wanted to check in with me to make sure I was okay. Again, it was an emotional day and I just couldn't call her back. I figured I could write her a note letting her know I was okay at a later date. But then she called back two more times that day, finally stating in her message that she needed to talk to me THAT DAY about the antibody issue. So I called her back.

She told me that this antibody issue is serious in relation to pregnancy - that it can lead to anemia in the baby and that she had referred me to Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of MN. She just never really said how serious so I kind of pushed it out of my mind after briefly talking with Paul about it. I mentioned it to my midwife who started doing her own research. She called us back, told us what she had found out, and told us that we really needed to follow up on this SOON!

Well, the drama didn't end there. During all this, Maternal Fetal Medicine had called my clinic back saying they didn't want to schedule an appointment with us until both Paul and I had blood work done at our own clinic. Unfortunately, because Dr. M had now left the clinic, both the referral and the order for blood work needed to be reordered by another doctor. So I had to go to the clinic and start all over.

So I saw the first doctor with an available appointment and of course, had to tell her the whole long complicated story. Dr. B was really nice and didn't get all weirded out by my homebirth experiences- she actually had some positive things to say about homebirths. She ordered an ultrasound for me that day as they were still waiting to hear back from Maternal Fetal Medicine about what blood tests to run. She figured it would be best to make sure this pregnancy was progressing normally (aka "viable") before doing all the blood work.

I was so nervous going into the ultrasound appointment. I had to go the hospital where we found out Felicity had indeed died and being there is always stressful for me. Not to mention the last ultrasound I had there confirmed that Jeremiah was gone. Thankfully Paul was able to meet me there. The baby looked great! Heartbeat was good and we could even see some little arm buds. What a relief! The due date corresponded well with my calculations.

Over the course of the next week we both had our blood work done and found out we both have this antibody. The most likely explanation to all this is that Felicity carried this antibody and when she died, her placenta must have partially separated before birth and our blood mixed.

So now we have an appointment with Maternal Fetal Medicine this coming Tuesday, July 7th. Oddly enough it's at the same hospital where seven years to the day I was laboring to deliver Ethan into the world. (His birthday is July 8th!) I've spent a lot of time talking with my midwife who has done a ton of research for us and also much time online researching myself. I don't understand much of the medical lingo but this is the synopsis.

This antibody can cause my body to see the baby's red blood cells as foreign and destroy them, thus causing anemia. This can lead to a condition called Hemolytic Disease of the Fetus or Newborn. It can range from moderate to severe. It can cause stillbirth, heart failure due to fluid collecting in baby's body, or severe jaundice. Treatment can be as involved as intrauterine blood transfusions during pregnancy or nothing may need to be done other than careful monitoring of baby's growth. There may also be a need for an early induction before fluid collects in baby's organs.

I am assuming that this pregnancy (and all pregnancies from here on out) will be closely monitored. I am hoping to find out a lot more at our appointment on Tuesday.

We DESPERATELY want this baby! I have given this little one back to God many times so far, but I'm praying that God's will is that this baby will join our family! Please pray for a healthy little one, peace during periods of waiting, and wisdom to make wise choices.