Sunday, November 28, 2010

Filled with Thanksgiving (and lots of other good stuff)

Here we are on Thanksgiving Day. We are two very grateful people.

On Friday, after we had blueberry pancakes and before I went to work, we were enjoying some lazy cuddle time. Greg was rubbing my belly, waiting for any baby movements and I was thinking of how blessed we are right now.
"Honey, we're going to have a baby.... Can you believe it?" I said.
"I do now," Greg said, laughing and looking at this giant lumpy bump.

It was another one of those little moments that I treasure.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nearly 34 weeks, can you believe it?

Here we are on the eve of 34 weeks and I will say it again, time is passing so quickly. I keep reading that time slows to a crawl near the end of pregnancy, but so far I have not experienced that. In fact, for me it has been the opposite. Maybe that will change when I quit working and have a lot of time on my hands. For now, I'm still waddling around Talbots about 20 hours a week. That changes next week when my hours are trimmed back to about 15 and then after that, well, I'm still undecided. I think I'll be done. Work really wears me out these days!
My nephew Nathan is still hospitalized, still struggling each day with severe pain and most recently, dangerously low levels of sodium. He was moved to the neurology ward and we are waiting to hear if the treatment is working. It is so difficult to be so far from home right now, with Nathan injured and hospitalized and Thanksgiving a couple of days away.
This will not be my first Thanksgiving away from home. At this point, I'm a veteran. The first Thanksgiving dinner I ever cooked was for 22 people. Trial by fire. This year's feast will be relatively easy with only one other couple coming to join us. I had thought about not inviting anyone and just enjoying Turkey Day with Greg since he's not likely to be with us next year during the holidays due to his pending deployment. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how absolutely lonely that would be. So, in the middle of the night last week after one of my many trips to the bathroom, I told Greg to go ahead and invite our friend Anthony and his wife. We have so much to be thankful for this year and it will be nice to have someone here to share in that.
In pregnancy news, well, I am huge. At least, I feel huge. Everyday it seems the lumpy bump continues to stretch (but no stretch marks yet, knock on wood) as this baby continues to grow. I have gained a total of 27 pounds. Yikes. My goal was to stay under 30 pounds but I think that is a bit unrealistic at this point. Maybe I can stay under 35.
Today, I made an appointment to meet with a pediatrician. I have to admit, I feel a bit uncomfortable "interviewing" a doctor but I want to make sure I make a good choice for our son.
Our nursery is pretty much done, except for a few small finishing touches. I love the way it has turned out. I still feel like I have a lot to do to prepare for our little guy, and sometimes my mind can't seem to stop making lists. But I know it will all get done and if not, that's OK too.
With Christmas fast approaching, I feel like I need to go ahead and get all my shopping done just in case this baby decides to arrive early. Plus, who wants to deal with all the crowds and craziness when they are nine months pregnant? Not me!
The heartburn is getting worse with each passing week. Seems like every night I end up sleeping at least a few hours on the couch where I can get the pillows just right and elevate my upper body enough to help alleviate the burn. It is a sad thing when water gives you heartburn.
And, even in all this happy baby joy, that same old dread still lurks, as evidenced by a horrible nightmare that had me crying and screaming in my sleep with Greg trying his best to wake me and convince me it was just a dream. When I finally realized that I was at home, safe and sound in my bed -- I immedately reached for my belly, somewhat unsure if my baby was still there or if the dream was real.
"You're OK," Greg said. "The baby is OK." And, like he knew Mama needed some reasurrance, our baby started to move right on cue. Such is the life of an infertile pregnant woman, I suppose.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An emotional week

I don't want to scare you with the title of this post -- all is well with the baby and with me. We had an good visit with our doctor this week and everything looks good, strong heartbeat, continued growth and all that good stuff.
But, it has been a tremendously difficult week for me and Greg as we found out Sunday night that my 18-year-old nephew, Nathan, (that's him in the picture above when he visited us here in Louisiana over the summer)was in a very serious car accident and was life-flighted to Duke University Hospital for treatment. He is recovering now and is showing signs of improvement, despite a few set backs. But he remains a broken boy with a long road ahead of him.
We got the call on Sunday night as we were eating dinner. Greg talked with my niece and she gave him what little information she had. I knew it was bad news from the tone of Greg's voice and the questions he was asking. My first thought was that my mom was sick again, but Greg mouthed to me "Nathan," and my heart just sunk. I asked "is he OK?" and Greg just shook his head, "no." When he hung up the phone and I heard the words "life flight" I just lost it. I immediately went to our room to pray. It's times like these when being so far away from home is most difficult. There is no fast way to get from Northwest Louisiana to central North Carolina at that time of night. You could drive to Dallas to catch a flight, but the drive alone is about 3 hours. You could hit the road headed east on I-20, but you wouldn't even see the NC state line for about 13 hours and then you'd have another three hours to go. It is just too far. Not to mention the fact that I'm too pregnant to do any flying or driving of that sort.
So all I could do is wrap my nephew up in prayer. I thought of my sister. Nathan is her first born. How on earth was she holding herself together on the drive up to Durham while her son was fighting for his life?
In the hours that followed, the reports came in from texts and calls and I learned that Nathan had bleeding in his brain, a bruised lung, a lacerated liver, a broken wrist and a broken femur. He was unconcious and would remain so because doctors were keeping him sedated.
A neurologist studied scans of Nathan's brain and decided he couldn't allow him to have surgery to repair the broken bones until he was certain of the nature of the brain injury. Another scan in the wee hours of the morning on Monday gave surgeons the all clear. On Monday, Nathan uderwent more than six hours of surgery. We got the good news that he was responding to questions by squeezing the doctor's hand and holding up fingers. Almost my entire family was there that evening in hopes that Nathan would wake up. But, after several hours he was still asleep in the ICU and it was time for everyone to head home. My sister left Nathan's side to tell everyone goodbye and wouldn't you know my nephew woke up and in fear and anger (not understanding where he was or what had happened to him) he managed to pull out his breathing tube, stomach tube and all his IVs, despite the fact that he has a broken wrist on one hand and the other had was restrained to the bed.
Now, this was scary and it's a blessing that he didn't cause himself futher injury, but to an aunt who knows exactly how strong-willed and stubborn and defiant this boy has always been, hearing that he pulled those tubes out was a sign that somewhere in the fog, that hard-headed boy remained in tact.
He's off the ventilator now and physical therapists had him standing up and taking baby steps yesterday. During the night, he suffered from severe headaches which prompted doctors to do more scans of his brain. They can't find the cause of the pain. He's still in much pain, still groggy from all the meds and the trauma. But on Tuesday I got to hear his voice as he responded to my message. "I love you, too," he said. What a beautiful sound!
So if you pray, or think positive thoughts or what have you, please keep my nephew in mind. He is such a special person and there is so much life unfinished.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More photos

You can check out more photos from our maternity session on the photographer's blog here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sneak peek

This is one of the two "sneak peek" photos our photographer posted on Facebook. I am very happy with it and can't wait to see the rest. More "preview" shots should be up on her blog later this week and then in a couple of weeks, she'll have them all ready for viewing.
Until yesterday it had been warm and balmy here in Northwest Louisiana. In fact, temps were still in the 80s on Friday. But, when our picture day rolled around wouldn't you know that it was chilly and rainy. While it wasn't raining while we had our pictures made, it was windy and since we were near the river in downtown Shreveport, that made for a very chilly photo shoot. Our noses were running and my hands were freezing by the time we were done.
Our photographer, who is also pregnant, took a lot of shots in many different locations and we did one wardrobe change. Since she's portfolio building, she was very reasonably priced and will definitely be coming to take our newborn photos. I've already ordered a sweet little hat off Etsy for that specific purpose. And, she is also trying to break into birth photography. So we are going to be talking with our doctor this week about the possibility of having Liz there to capture those first precious moments when we see our son. I wasn't sure about having a relative stranger in there during that time, but Liz has a sweet nature and I think I would be comfortable with her there. Plus, seeing as how no one from my family is likely to be at the birth, it would be wonderful to have someone there taking pictures so that Greg doesn't have to try to do everything himself.
In other news, my dear sweet co-workers gave me a shower after our holiday meeting this morning. They all chipped in together on some great gifts and one lady even crocheted a blanket for the baby. They gave me a bouncy seat that has all the bells and whistles and a storage bin full of all sorts of goodies. I even got these. lol. One of the embroidered burp cloths they gave me says "I'm kind of a big deal," which says so much about how these ladies have been throughout my IVF, my FET and my pregnancy. They genuinely believe this baby is a BIG DEAL! One of the onesies they gave me says "made with love" and when I read it out loud, a co-worker blurted out, "and lots of money." ha ha. We all had a good laugh.
And, of course, they gave the baby a Louisiana State University onesie. That was included specifically for Greg, who is NOT an LSU fan. ha ha.
Though I'm still feeling like I have too much to do and not enough time to do it, I had a nice weekend and I am so grateful to have a faux "family" at work.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lumpy bump

I've spent the last week preparing for and looking forward to having our maternity pictures done today. I took the day off from work so that I wouldn't be rushed and have plenty of time to get ready and then I woke up this morning and guess what, it's raining. Our photographer works in natural light so rain is not good. I'm hoping it will clear up but it's looking pretty rotten out there right now.
I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to wear for the pictures. I have said before that I don't have the cute round belly you think of when you think of pregnant bellies. I have a belly that has always been sort of "segmented" by rolls of fat. Ever since I was in fourth or fifth grade and now these fat layers have merely been pushed up, down and out over the growing belly. So, I spent a large part of the week trying to find some clothes that would make me look like I have a cute round belly not covered in layers of fat. This was a near impossible task and eventually, I decided that this is my body and I'm proud of it for doing as it should -- nurturing this growing baby and preparing to give birth -- and that it is just fine the way it looks. So what if I don't look like everyone else? I look like me and that's that. So I bought or found some clothes in my closet that I like and that I feel good in and so what if the belly looks lumpy. It is lumpy.
I had Greg take a picture of me this week -- 32 weeks -- to send to my family who for some strange reason though they would get weekly pictures of the growing lumpy bump. I think once a month is good enough.

As you can see we painted the stripe in the nursery and I think it turned out really nice. And, the crib is all set up now. There's still a million other things to do before the baby gets here and sometimes it's a little overwhelming to think about.
I am still working and the longer days do really wear me out, but I am hanging in there. Right now, I plan to work through the first couple of weeks of December, but that could change, of course.
Another exciting thing that happened this week is we received our Best Bottom diapering system in the mail from Nicki's Diapers and these diapers are so stinking cute! I probably won't think the same after the little guy gets here and I'm changing and washing a hundred diapers a day but oh my goodness, to see those little diaper shells in all those fun colors -- well, it was just another one of those "can you believe we're actually at this point?" moments.
We had our second class in our child birth prep series and Lunch Lady did a pretty decent job. She didn't say anything too stupid or at least I don't think she did, but then again how would I know? I've never given birth before!
So that's it for this week -- cute diapers, still working, lumpy belly and maternity photos if the sun decides to come out today.
Oh and still no name. But, we're trying out the ones we like by using a different name each day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hope for the weary

I always look forward to Sunday mornings -- that big fat Sunday paper, a cup of coffee (decaf these days of course) and pancakes. Yum.
This morning was no different. We got up early. Greg ventured out into the chil to get the paper from the drive and I made the coffee. We sat down to enjoy our little ritual and like always, I read the lifestyle pages of the paper first while Greg jumped straight to the sports page.
On a page I normally skip over, I found something that I just can't stop thinking about and I thought I'd share it with you, just in case you might be needing a little hope this morning.
Under a title called "Celebrations," was the picture of a sleeping baby, maybe four or five months old. He was wearing an oragne pumpkin hat, an orange Halloween shirt and blue jeans and he was fast asleep on a bale of hay surrounded by pumpkins. The caption read "Hunter S., born to Brian and Kim S. after 16 years of trying, makes his first visit to the pumpkin patch."
Normally, I don't even glance at this page in the paper. It's a hodge podge of submitted photos of school groups, church happenings, celebrity meetings, etc. This morning, the picture of that sleeping baby caught my eye and then I read the caption and I made Greg read it, too.
Sixteen years of trying. Four little words that stopped me right there and made me think about all the pain and heartache they represent and yet, here is this precious boy sleeping on a bale of hay.
I don't know Brian and Kim S., but I admire them for many reasons -- after our 6 years of trying, I'm not sure I would have had the heart to keep going. Obviously, they did for 10 more years until they finally saw their dreams come true. And, obviously, they don't mind sharing their happy news -- even going so far as to submit a picture of their son to the paper for all to see and including those four words "sixteen years of trying." How brave of them.
How many people will see this little photo in the paper and take heart, keep the faith and be reminded that miracles like little Hunter S. do indeed happen?
And then I began to wonder... are these babies (ones born to folks like us who tried fo so long and faced so many obstacles along the way) any more loved than "oops" babies or those who are conceived with ease? I can't say they are. Fertiles are just as enamored with their little miracles as we are with ours. But there is a difference. These babies are special in ways that others aren't. The mere fact that they exist makes them special, for they wouldn't even have exisited if we had lived 20 or 30 years ago. I don't know how Hunter S. was conceived, but I can imagine that after 16 years of trying that my very own Dr. V may have had a hand in his conception.
A photo of a sleeping baby in a pumpkin patch. Four little words that say so much and two very proud parents who wanted to share their joy with their community -- just another simple pleasure found within the pages of a Sunday paper.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A pending goodbye...

Here we are at 31 weeks. Sometimes I feel like I got caught in some sort of fast-forwarded time warp and poof! here I am.
We got some pretty upsetting news this week that most likely Greg will be deploying to Afghanistan for one year sometime next fall. I couldn't help but cry thinking about all that my husband will miss of our son's life during that year he will be gone. What hit me the hardest is that he'll miss our son's first Christmas and his first birthday.
Of course, we're a military family and we know that there's always a chance that something like this can come up. But, we've been married for eight years now and he's never been gone more than six months. Now that we're finally on the verge of being parents after all these years, the orders come down. I might have known it would happen this way.
I guess the blessing is that our son won't remember that his dad was gone for a year. But, my husband will, and it breaks my heart to think about it. And, of course, the prospect of a year without my husband is very daunting.
And, now there's a whole host of things we have to do to prepare for this deployment and many big decisions have to be made. I can't imagine staying here for a year without Greg, being that I don't have any family or close friends here. So, we will have to sell or rent our house and the baby and I will have to move back to NC. And, then when Greg returns, we'll have to move again.
I don't want to sound like I'm whining about this -- this is part of Greg's job, one that he chose for himself and families go through this all the time. We've been very blessed that we haven't had to do it before. But that really doesn't make it any easier and the timing just stinks.
Physically, I'm starting to feel some of the pregnancy associated misery I've heard about from other women. Specifically, I have heartburn at night that sometimes wakes me up so I keep the Tums on my night table and that does seem to help. I've also had some pretty painful leg cramps. I had one in a muscle I didn't even know existed and I've even had them in my feet. Hate it. It's also more difficult to get comfortable at night even with various configurations of pillows. Another new symptom is my least favorite -- many mornings I have a couple of hours of feeling like my heart is beating too fast and I get sort of short of breath. I've talked with my OB about it and he thinks it's just due to the increased blood volume and the upward progression of the uterus.
While telling Dr. Carter about my episodes, he laughed and said -- "You're really feeling pregnant now! But I think you asked for this. I mean, you wrote a few checks for this."
Yes, yes I did. And, I'm not complaining, just explaining!
My weight gain this visit was back within the normal range and our baby's heartbeat was very strong at about 136 bpm. And, our doctor said the baby is growing like a weed. This was NOT news to me!
I swear somedays I can feel him growing. On Monday for instance, I woke up one size and went to bed much larger. All the materninty pants that my niece gave me are starting to fit quite snug (her prepregnancy weight is much less than mine!) so I'm almost certain I'll have to go buy some things in the near future. I hate to spend money on clothes I'm only going to wear for the next two months, but being comfortable is pretty important these days.
We had our epidural class (mandatory at our hospital) and toured the labor and delivery department on Tuesday night. The same "lunch lady" from our breastfeeding class was our tour guide and once again she said many off the wall things but it was nice to get to see the ins and outs of where we'll have the baby.
We start our birth classes tonight and there's no telling what this crazy woman might say.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The history of a shirt

Greg and I celebrated our eighth anniversary on Oct. 12 when we were home in NC. We didn't really get a chance to celebrate what with all the hub-bub surrounding my parents' 50th anniversary party, our baby shower and Greg's dad coming down for a visit.
So, on Saturday night, we went out to eat at a restaurant that I'd been wanting to try.
Here's a picture of us at our table:

We had a nice time, even though the food didn't meet my high expectations. Four years of living in Italy sort of ruins anyone on what passes for Italian food here in the states. It was a time for us to reflect a little on these past years and, for me, the shirt I wore was a constant reminder of how far we have come.

You see I wore this very same shirt on another anniversary. Here's the picture from 2007, when we were celebrating our fifth anniversary and just days away from the start of our very first IVF:

I remember writing a blog post then about our struggle to conceive and our pending IVF. It was the first time I'd ever publically talked about our struggles and I remember saying that instead of a romantic trip to Paris or London, I was getting IVF for my fifth anniversary.

I was so hopeful for that first cycle and today when I read back over that old blog post, I remembered how confident Greg was that it would work. He was constantly saying things like "when the baby is born," or "when your belly gets big." I wasn't sure how to take that confidence back then, as all my sentences of that nature began with that hateful two-letter word, "if."

Eventually, Greg stopped with the "whens" and moved into the realm of "ifs," though he was always more optimistic than I when it came to our chances of actually conceiving.

For me, that fifth anniversary, when we gave each other the "gift" of IVF, has always stood out as a turning point in our lives. After more than two years of trying on our own to achieve a pregnancy and then being told by an Italian urologist that there was abosolutely no chance for natural conception (believe me, not everything sounds prettier in Italian) we had decided to take that big leap into the land of ART. Three years and three IVF cycles later, we finally got our miracle with an FET this past spring. As I type this post, I can feel our son's movements in my belly and I am busy trying to prepare myself for labor and motherhood. This eighth anniversary has brought us nearly full circle -- a circle that will be complete when our son is born.

And that brings us back to the shirt. I remember leaving that shirt at my mom's one time after a visit because I'd been dieting and working out and had lost a lot of weight and the shirt was just too big. Mom called me last year and said she's been cleaning out the room we always stay in and she'd found the shirt. She asked if she could give it to one of my cousins and part of me wanted to say go ahead. But, something inside of me said -- "no keep it. If I ever get pregnant I'll probably be able to wear it."

I'm not sure what made me feel that inkling of hope that day as I talked to my mom on the phone. But, I guess hope really does spring eternal even when we think there is no hope left.

During our dinner on Saturday night. We watched a little girl at a nearby table. She had Down's Syndrome. I told Greg about how I've thought about how our baby could be special like this girl (we opted out of testing) and we talked about how no matter what, we are so blessed by this baby and this pregnancy.

Even if it all ends tomorrow, I feel like it has all been worth it -- all the treatments, all the heartache, all the money -- because this pregnancy has been the happiest time of my life.