This morning Max and I took the three little ones to the park at the end of our street. I over estimated my recovery and about half way there started looking like a 90 year old woman, hunched over moving at a snails pace. Karlie hung back with me while Max cruised ahead with Kaitlin and Hank in the stroller. As we held hands and I gingerly walked to the park, Karlie found a dozen dandelions along our path. She picked one and made a wish. She picked another and made another wish. She then looked up and me and asked me if I knew what she wished for. I said, "no, what?" She said, "I wished for baby boy to get all better." I asked her what her second wish was. She replied, " for baby boy to get better." She continued to blow the dandelions and make this same wish at least 10 more times. Each time she closed her eyes and whispered those words. Little heart of gold.There have been so many hearts of gold that we treasure. One of the most humbling things through all of Hank's troubles has been hearing about all the people praying for us. Most of these people we will never get a chance to meet or thank. There have been bible study groups praying, children praying, friends of friends praying, family members close and afar, and our church praying. The outpouring of love and support has made our heart swell with gratitude. There are too many to thank individually, but I wanted to write about one little girl. My sister told me her best friend's daughter had written "Baby Hank" on her forearm. When the mother noticed it, she asked her daughter about it. The little girl replied that she had a habit of rubbing her arm and she thought if she wrote baby Hank on it then she would remember to pray for him every time she rubbed her arm. This sweet little girl prayed for our son all throughout the day. Brings me to tears to think about that child like faith. Little heart of gold.
I read this mural in Hank's room over and over wondering what it meant for us. Was darkness going to win or would our little star make it?
As we walked out of the NICU on Saturday, I was overcome with profound sadness. I know sheer joy should have left me walking on cloud nine, but I had seen so much sorrow and pain during our hours at Hank's bedside that I could not separate them from us.
There is the little baby that was born with only a brain stem. He looked as perfect as Hank. He cried, he sucked, he liked to be cuddled. The nurses all took turns carrying him around because the agony was too much for his parents. He was being discharged to hospice to die. There were too many extremely premature babies to count. One mother had been coming to see her baby for nine weeks and was still there when we left. There was the nurse who herself lost a very premature daughter in that NICU. Every night she came to work, she remembered where her daughter fought for her life and lost. This nurse went back to nursing school just to be a NICU nurse and now after two years of giving it her best was defeated by heartbreak and grief. She was going to stop being a nurse. Hank's neighbor, Andre, appeared to be born very early. All day and all night he would shriek. His parents had his twin sister at home and could only make it in after work from 6-9 p.m.. His cries would pull at my heart. I wanted to hold and comfort him. The nurses tried their best but had numerous babies that needed their attention. Andre would just cry. I don't know if I will ever forget his painful cries.
As we carried our healthy Hank past the rows and rows of very sick babies and terribly sad stories I felt a guilt so heavy. Why were we so blessed and not these other families? Why were we spared the sorrow of losing our son? These are things only God knows, but I am left with the guilt of grace and thankful in a raw and broken way that I have never been.
By God’s grace, your prayers, the amazing medical team in the NICU, and a lot of tears we came home WITH Hank today! It was a rocky 8 days. Hank will need oxygen for a while but other than that is doing perfectly. Thank you all for your support, love, thoughts, and prayers. You all carried us through this frightening and difficult time in our lives. It was so encouraging to hear of complete strangers, family, friends, children, and churches praying for Hank.
Sorry I didn’t get a chance to update yesterday, I know how many of you are checking this daily to see Hank’s progress. It was a miraculous 24 hours and I was at his bedside most of the time, which left me utterly exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. When we left the hospital on Tuesday afternoon Hank was on CPAP, had the arterial line with blood pressure medication, steroids, nutrition through his IV, antibiotics, narcotics to keep him sedated, and numerous probes continuously watching his vital signs.
Before we went to bed the nurse said they were not able to wean him on anything and were going to let him just rest at the settings he was on over night. When we called first thing in the morning she said Hank was “a spirited little guy” and pulled off his CPAP and weaned off the dopamine (the blood pressure medication). The dopamine was the medication that required him to have nothing by mouth and necessitated constant monitoring of his BP through the arterial line in his umbilical artery. The umbilical line prevented us from holding him due to the risk of it pulling out and him bleeding to death.
When I arrived Wednesday morning this is what I saw!
What a difference 24 hours can make with these little guys. The Peds ICU fellow caught me and told me how great he was doing and said they were going to pull the umbilical line that afternoon and that I could then hold him AND breastfeed him! I asked her, “you mean breast-breast, like actually at the breast?” She said, “yep!” They had said he would need to start slowly with tube feeds and advance to bottle and then breast. Breastfeeding can be very tiring for stressed babies. I had my hopes set for the weekend of being able to put him to breast. I began to cry with joy! I was going to hold my baby for the first time in 5 days and get to nurse him.
I wish I had words to describe how glorious it was to hold him. For the first time, I let myself imagine bringing him home. The emotions swept over me like a tidal wave and had to fight from crying too hard as it is rather painful at my incision. He was perfect in every way. His skin so soft, his fingers are long, his toes look like Max’s, he opened one swollen eye and reminded me of Popeye, and he smelled so sweet. He latched on like a tiger and we had a great nursing session. He fell asleep and I felt the best I have in almost a week. Maternal bliss!
I reluctantly shared Hank with Max. I guess he probably should get to hold his son since he has yet to ever hold him. Watching Max hold and comfort Hank will be imprinted on my mind forever. What an amazing day for all of us!
Today is a hard day for us. Today I have to leave without my baby. As I pack my bag I see his blanket that I knit. I see his little booties, his coming home outfit, and his little blue hat. I see the empty car seat. The silence in deafening. I feel numb as I go through the motions of getting ready to go home. I will pump some more milk and leave it in the refrigerator for him. Right now that is all I can do. He is still not taking anything by mouth. He is still sedated. He is still under a blanket of tubes and wires. Precious tubes and wires that are keeping my baby alive. He is in his little manmade womb. But he is alone. He can’t hear my heartbeat or my voice or feel the rhythms of our day. He is just lying there fighting to get better. This will be a long and hard journey for us. I am not good at waiting. I need a plan and there is no such plan. Things change from moment to moment.
My heart is pulled in so many directions today. My girls need me. They have been without routine or mom and dad for days and it is starting to show. They need their mom and dad too, but Hank needs me. Or maybe I need Hank. Either way this is most difficult. I never wanted to know how it felt to go home without a baby. My only comfort is with God’s blessings he will come home one day. While we have been at the hospital three mothers have lost their babies and will never be bringing their babies home.
Our friends and family have been our backbone throughout this time and without them we would not have been able to spend so much time at Hank’s bedside. Thank you all for your love, support and prayers. It is sustaining us through this painful time and Hank is improving. The nurse told me this morning they think he is ready to be extubated today. One tube closer to holding my little Hank.
For Katie’s birthday, Hank decided to give us the first bit of good news we have had in days. On Saturday night, in addition to his respiratory difficulties, he began having trouble maintaining his blood pressure and the docs felt he may be getting septic, which is when the bacteria from the pneumonia in his lungs enters the bloodstream. Sunday morning brought more bad news as Hank was needing 100% oxygen and continued to need more and more blood pressure medication. They gave him another dose of surfactant to help with his lungs. His lab work Sunday at noon showed that the sepsis was affecting the ability of his blood to clot and he was given fresh frozen plasma (a blood product) to try and correct it. By early Sunday evening he was near the maximum blood pressure medication and they were discussing putting in another central IV catheter that entered the right heart to treat with epinephrine. Finally, after continuous trending in the negative direction, late Sunday night he gave us some hope. The surfactant began to take effect and his oxygen requirement began to decrease. The FFP corrected some of his clotting problems and he actually began needing less blood pressure medication. This morning, on Katie’s birthday, we woke up to encouraging news as the oxygen and blood pressure medications continued to be decreased throughout the night. His chest x-ray shows significant improvement this morning too. While this is good news, he is still very sick and has a long way to go. They figure, best case scenario, he still has over a week in the NICU and he has yet to have any breast milk from Katie. We can’t hold him until the arterial line is taken out and only get to change his diaper and take his temperature. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and please continue to pray for Hank and his parents.
It is with a heavy heart that I introduce our son Henry Maxwell who we will call "Hank". He was born April 18th at 1:45 pm. He weighed 6lbs and 2 ounces and was 19 and 1/2 inches long. He started having difficulty breathing shortly after being born and has continued to decline. These pictures are from yesterday when he had a machine to help him breath called CPAP. Unfortunately this was not enough support for Henry and they had to intubate him and put him on a ventilator. They think he has premature lungs that is complicated by pneumonia. Things seem to keep getting worse and he now also has pulmonary hypertension. They have had to add blood pressure medications, central arterial and venous lines and keep him sedated. He is receiving antibiotics and nutrition through his veins. This morning the ventilator was at its maximum capacity. The doctor informed me that little Hank is the NICU's sickest baby right now and they will be watching him very closely. Max and I are very scared and worried. Please pray for Hank and for strength for us. I will update as I can.
This morning when my doctors did the ultrasound to look at the baby's position and check the amniotic fluid level they found that I have zero amniotic fluid. Yep, zip-zero-nadda. This is a problem. It signifies the placenta is not working well and at 37 weeks it is better for him to come out than risk something happening. The doctors will not attempt a version with zero fluid since it would most likely compress the umbilical cord and cause the baby distress and create the need for an emergency cesarean. Normally they would have done it today but there was a scheduling conflict. They agreed to let me go home on bed rest until tomorrow when they can do the cesarean.
It is surreal that tomorrow I am going to be a mommy again. We are very excited and a little caught off guard. I was planning on 2 more weeks! We look forward to introducing Version 4.0 when we get home.
Thank you for all of your prayers, love and support.
Large and not in charge. Tomorrow morning we will go to the hospital for the version. I would be very happy if it worked as it does 65% of the time, but with my history I am thinking I will be in the 35% instead. Please pray for safety of this little guy and that I can be tough as nails.
Nine months may seem like a long enough time to do everything you could imagine to prepare for a new baby, but somehow, time after time I am still frantically trying to finish all my "to-do-lists" in the very last days before they arrive. This time is no different. I just finished his baby blanket. When my water broke with Kaitlin I told Max we couldn't leave until I finished her blanket. Like I said, working on stuff until the last minute! I am happy that at least this time I finished the blanket before he arrived.
With Kaitlin's I did a smaller patchwork style knit in strips and sewed them together. This time I wanted a more rugby look to the blanket (and less sewing). I consider my self a beginner at best. In fact, I can't figure out patterns so I made this up myself. It is really easy. For the first and third strip you cast on 75 stitches an alternate a knit row and then a pearl row. Switch to the 2nd color and do the same for 15 rows. Back to the main color for 15 rows. Repeat until you have the desired amount of stripes and then start with the main color for 75 more rows. The center is just the opposite. Sew the three strips together and crochet a border. It was really fun for me to knit with blue. I have used lots of pinks and purples in the past. Often I would just grin as I knitted. I am trying to work in a matching hat. Guess we will see if he cooks long enough for me to get it done.
I have been watching my sister-in-law, Heather, create beautiful works of art using fondant with her cakes for over a year. I played with the idea of trying one last year for Hailey's birthday but decided I wasn't ready to dive in after getting a few tips from the pro and seeing how involved it would be. Truth be known, I am a bit of a perfectionist and hate failure. I like to watch someone do something before I try it so that it is less likely to be a flop. Well, Heather is the only person I know that uses fondant and she lives in Michigan.
As the occasions and birthdays went by I became ever so curious about this fondant. Hobby Lobby had a 40% off all Wilton products. With Kaitlin's birthday party that same week, I thought I would give it a try. I figured she is two, so if it was a disaster she won't remember, and the party is with extended family and close friends and they can always use something to tease me about, so I went for it!
It was easier and less intimidating than I had thought it would be, fun, and like adult play-doh time. I can see how you could get hooked on fondant. It makes gorgeous cakes and as you are adding your decorations you just have this compulsion to add more. I had to keep reminding myself that sometimes less is more. I used Wilton's buttercream icing recipe. I have to tell you that at first glance it sounded disgusting to me. Half a cup of Crisco, butter and powdered sugar. How could that taste good? I was wrong and got many compliments on the icing.
Kaitlin is too young to really be "into" anything so the inspiration for her cake is her personality. When I thought about her, thoughts of flowers and bright colors came to mind. She is my delicate, little flower. She is quiet and beautiful. She smells nice most of the time! :) I think the air of spring might have played a role too.
Overall, I am pleased with my first try.
*The lovely presentation of the cake.
*How creative you can get with decorating.
*The never ending colors that can be used.
*Nothing beats the clean finish and bright colors.
*It is very time consuming (at least for a novice it was).
*You can't eat the fondant (well, technically it is edible, but it taste terrible) so you have to peel it off. This wrecks the presentation of the actual slices of cake.
*The fondant pulled off a lot of the icing. If you can, slice the cake out of the view of company. Then they wont see you scraping the icing off the inside of the fondant and trying to reapply it to their slice of cake! Although, I think everyone at Kaitlin's party was intrigued. Most had to try a bite of the fondant just to see what it tasted like and were amused as I flailed about trying to put the icing back on.
Here are a few pictures of what was going on while trying to make the cake. Maybe that is why it took so long? When I am an empty nester and have no distractions, I might become a cake lady.
The naked chef came to my rescue.
Kaitlin got into the markers and colored all over herself and the couch.
The three musketeers were ever so happy to help clean up the powder sugar that I spilled all over.
My favorite thing to do in the kitchen is bake! I love making deserts, probably because I enjoy eating them so much. This is my best friend's mom's recipe for strawberry pie and it is sin in a pie pan. It is so sweet and fresh tasting. I am sure the pound of homemade whip cream helped a little, but it truly is wonderful. I recommend it with the warning that it may cause gluttony.
Mrs. D's Famous Strawberry Pie
4 c. fresh strawberries (quartered)
1 baked pie shell crust
1 c. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
3 T. strawberry jello
1 c. cold water
Mix sugar and cornstarch. Add cold water. Heat over med heat until thickened. Add jello and mix. Add strawberries. Pour into baked pie crust (which should be cool) and refrigerate. Top with whipped cream.
I had one heck of a time trying to create a room for Kaitlin that was girly enough and a nursery for Version 4.0 that was boy enough. Since this is our first (and only little boy) I wanted to use blue instead of yellows and greens. The problem was finding girl bedding in blue. I became an internet shopping addict and came up with many wild hairs on how I could make it work. I would hem and haw for a while and then find something new.
One day I cam across the Flyaway bedding by Glenna Jean. It is so sweet with little ladybugs and dragonflies. The best part was that it had just the right blue in it to match his crib set that I really wanted to get. I was ecstatic! That is until I scrolled down to see the price and that it only came in crib size. We had purchased Kaitlin a big girl bed and a crib set wasn't going to work, nor was the $250.00 price.
But I am determined and as hard headed as they come. I searched ebay and won the entire crib set for $25.00! I am sure you are wondering why I would buy a crib set when I just said that wouldn't work. Well, I had another one of those wild hairs. I would use the fabric to create the right size quilt. Max asked me if we couldn't just buy something already made for a toddler bed. He knows how insane I can get and though he would never say it, things don't usually turn out like they have played out in my head. But there was no stopping me, I had won the auction!
BEFOREHere is the crib set I won. It had a nice crib skirt, very small quilt, bumper pad, small pillow and the mobile.
AFTER I pulled the gingham border off the bed skirt and cut the fabric in to squares. I bought some chenille fabric to use for alternating squares. After assembling the squares I sewed on the gingham border, backed it with more chenille, and stuffed it with batting. I took apart the bumper to get more fabric to make a pillow. I used the fluff inside to make our dog Daisy a new bed too. Using the remaining chenille and fabric I made the matching pillow case. For once, something turned out the way I envisioned it to!
Her birthday present from us was a big girl bed and a new bed set. Isn't it great you can get by with utilitarian gifts when they are young? At two we have given each of the girls a new, regular pillow to sleep with. Kaitlin is still very fond of the crib, so the only thing she is using right now is the pillow. Ok, maybe not exactly the vision I had created in my mind of her snuggling down in her sweet little set and telling me that she loves it.Ah, but close enough. :)
Kaitlin is not quite old enough to dictate a menu for the day as we traditionally do for the birthday person, but I did let her tell me what she wanted at each meal. The one constant was "Ju" or juice. Normally she is only allowed one glass of juice a day. She can pick when she wants to drink it, but when it is gone, that is it. For her birthday she got to drink unlimited "ju." She had cranberry ju with her breakfast that consisted of two rounds of cold cereal and then a fried egg and bagel a little later in the morning.
Now lunch was something only a 2 year old would eat. She wanted a peanut butter and jelly with chips. She then put the chips inside her sandwich and munched away. She also ate two tangerines and a string cheese. She enjoyed another glass of ju too.
Since dinner was at the mall, she picked the kid classic, McDonald's happy meal. Glad I didn't have to eat her menu!
Hailey's Brownie Troop went to Build-a-Bear to celebrate their successful cookie sales. Kaitlin got to pick out her first bear for her birthday. Here she is putting in the bear's heart.
Karlie is an old pro at Build-a-Bear, so she gave the rookie a hand at fluffing and washing the bear who's name is "Two."
Kaitlin was so excited as we sang Happy Birthday to her she could hardly sit down.
She got the candles blown out after 2 tries.
After cake and ju, it was time for presents. This was one of her favorites. Both Hailey and Karlie have their own name trains and Kaitlin always wants to play with theirs. She was thrilled to have her very own. It also happens to fit on the Thomas the train tracks. Bonus!
Her birthday party is on Saturday at Chuck E Cheese. I can't wait( did you catch the sarcasm in my voice?). Maybe I will go into labor. HAHA!
Karlie's favorite thing to play right now is Tea Party. Everyday since her birthday we have hosted one if not more tea parties. Yesterday she got her favorite stuffy, "Ellie," all dressed up for tea. As you can see Ellie is a lady and has her purse with her. Karlie had her morning tea party in her room.
The second, afternoon tea party was more sophisticated with tea sandwiches, fruit and vegetables. Ellie had her tights and finest shoes on for this one. I love little girls and their imagination!
If we forgot our troubles as easily as we forget our blessings, how different things would be.
I have been blue about that it looks like Version 4.0 will be born via cesarean. Kaitlin's birth was a very spiritual and moving moment in my life. The recovery of my cesarean births was long and painful where the vaginal birth recovery was less than 2 weeks. It seems daunting to care for 4 kids after a cesarean and I long to have another magical moment. I have been obsessing about it and doing everything ever known to do that could help flip him to head down. I am loosing sleep at night because when ever he enters an active phase I lie there hoping it will be the time that he turns. An hour or two later I have gained nothing but some dark circles under my eyes and he is still cozy in his breech spot.
This Sunday I had one of those "ah-ha moments," where I realized how all my focus and energy has been on his position and I had lost sight of all that is in front of me. I have three beautiful girls who are healthy and the light of my life. I have an amazing husband who loves me as much as I love him. I am about to have a son who by all the screening test is healthy as a horse. I have a cute little house that has everything we need and hundreds of things we don't. We have an abundance of food and water. We have shelter and heat. We have reliable cars. For the moment we can afford to drive them (this may change over the summer with the increase in oil prices). I no longer have to work nights. Max has a job he loves. I have access to health care and get treated like a VIP since I use to work with all the people who care for me. Most importantly, I have a God who loves me and has a plan for my life. It was here I realized that it was time to lay it at his feet and let go of my sense of control over the matter. Since then I have felt renewed, happy and like a ton of bricks have been lifted. If only I could so clearly see and be thankful for all of the blessings I take for granted daily and not let the troubles cloud my vision.
Friend: A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
The Free Dictionary.
Melanie over on Monday through Sunday gave me this award! She has a lovely blog with beautiful pictures and thought provoking posts. Her conviction for God is inspiring. I hope you will visit her.
I would like to pass the award on to Abbie and Lacey. I have become blog buddies with Abbie and get a kick out of her sense of humor. Lacey and I have been friends for years and she is just getting her blog going. They are both friends in every sense of the definition.
1. Kaitlin has the most loving personality. She will gladly climb in almost anyone’s lap who is willing to hold her and is eager to give hugs and kisses.
2. She is a woman of few words but has no problem communicating. Her eyes are very expressive.
3. She is a giant. Only a few pounds separate her and Karlie.
4. She can put her socks and shoes on by herself and dress herself most of the time.
5. She has strong opinions about what she wants to wear. Dresses are a favorite.
6. She loves shoes and babies of all kinds: real and dolls.
7. Every morning she gets in bed with me to snuggle for 15 minutes before we start our day. She likes to press her cheek against mine and nuzzle her little nose against me.
8. She thinks juice should be in the food guide pyramid.
9. Her favorite foods are raisins, oranges, yogurt, cereal (Fruit Loops-what a bad mom!), candy (can you tell she is a third born), eggs, olives, and homemade Mac-n-cheese.
10. Every night when Max gets home they share a couple green olives. After she greets him, she runs to the refrigerator to grab the jar of olives.
11. She has her GrammaNette’s eyes.
12. She is very compassionate and gets concerned when anyone is hurt, sad, crying, in trouble, or yells.
13. She has us completely wrapped around her chubby little pinkie.
Version 4.0 is still breech. For those of you that are not hip to baby lingo, that means he is the wrong way. To be born safely he needs to be head down and he has his head nicely planted in my upper right side, right under my ribs. He has been this way since 24 weeks. Only 9% of babies at this point are still breech and by 40 weeks only 3-4% are.
My first baby, Hailey, was also breech. The doctors attempted to do an external version to turn her. This is a very painful procedure where one doctor grabs the bottom and one doctor grabs the baby’s head and they push as hard as you can handle to try and manually turn the baby. Hailey wouldn’t budge. She sat in the exact same spot this little guy is. I am guessing he won’t budge either. I have two weeks until they attempt to turn him. In the mean time I have been doing every “natural”, non-invasive, old wives tale technique out there. I really don’t want to go through the version again as it left bruises last time. But more than anything I want a chance to have a vaginal delivery.
I have been trying these alternative methods for two weeks and he remains breech, butt☺ at least you will get a good laugh. The first and the most clinically proven method is Moxibustion. This is practiced in China and Italy and some small studies have shown it to have an 80% success rate. Many of my high-risk doctors recommended it. You use a moxa stick and hold the burning moxa stick against the outer side of your pinkie toenail. This is the acupressure point for the uterus. It is suppose to relax the uterus to give the baby more room to move and increase fetal movements. The first few times we did it, I did notice a strange sensation and the baby started moving a lot, but not enough. ☹ Subsequent times only had the effect of nauseating Max and making us smell like marijuana. I can only imagine what our neighbors think. Just picture your pregnant neighbor outside in the freezing cold with her husband holding smoking sticks to her feet, and the strong smell of marijuana lofting from them. My Italian doctor said to take a few days off of the Moxibustion to increase sensitivity and try again. So we will give it another go this weekend. I wish is smelled like lavender or something pleasant.
In the meantime I have been trying out my ironing board. This is the most action my ironing board has seen. It is rather sturdy, although not very comfortable. Twice a day I assume this upside down angled position in hopes of getting his rump out of my pelvis so that he will decide to turn. So far all I have gained out of it is a headache and feeling very short of breath by the end of my self imposed twenty-minute torture session. I have also put the earphones at the “right” end of my tummy and shinned a flashlight there too. Supposedly the baby will move toward the sound and light. Yeah right! I am desperate. Really.
The other tactic I have tried is applying a cold pack to his head. I can only take it so long. If I keep up with this, I might get a spot of frostbite on my belly, but doubtfully will get him to turn.
The last hope I have is the pool. No, I am not going to drown myself. I tried this with Hailey. I am sure the people at the public pool thought my dad was trying to drown me. The goal is to do a headstand in the water as many times or for as long as you can stand it. That is right. Get in a bathing suit, waddle into the water, dive down and have someone hold you legs up in the air for as long as you can hold your breath. This should be fun. Not taking pictures of this one!
The main thing I am doing is praying. I am not praying for God to turn him, although I feel it will take divine intervention. I am praying for God to reconcile my heart. He must be breech for a reason. I have come up with more than a few: that cyst needs to be looked at, his umbilical cord is short, the placenta is bad, the cord is around his neck, God has pity on Max who would be getting a Vasectomy if I don’t get my tubes tied, he really is a 10lb baby and would damage me so that I would have to start wearing depends now instead of in a few years, or he wants to preserve his pretty face because everyone knows C-section babies are always prettier since they don’t have to get all smashed. Anyway. I am praying that God will make me ok with the birth that this little guy needs. Your payers are welcomed too!