October 18, 2012

The Greatest Gift...

Some how life always has a way of slowing you down, but never has this been more true than this last year.  Here I am 6 months later with the long overdue introduction of our gorgeous rainbow!

Our precious Izabella Luna was born on April 18th at 1:26 am!  My induction began on April 16th at 8am and moved very, very slowly since I was trying to do as little Pitocin as possible.  I talked my OB in to allowing me to be induced with only the folly bulb and no additional medication because I didn’t want to be tied to an IV pole or relive the memories that came along with the device.  It became evident that wasn't going to work by late Monday night, but they gave me until morning to continue to try other methods to dilate my cervix.  So my husband and I walked the halls ALL NIGHT LONG!  I tried homeopathies, foot massages, squats and dancing, but I just didn't have the energy to keep it up for very long.

The progress I had made with the folly bulb never progressed further, so they ended up having to break my waters Tuesday afternoon and begin the Pitocin drip.  Unfortunately once my waters were broken she began dropping quickly, but as Sprout dropped she rotated her head so she was facing my left thigh, and the further she dropped the more significant the pain became.  By late Tuesday evening the pain was so bad that I couldn't lay on my side with out excruciating sharp pains.  After a few hours of trying everything under the sun to manage the pain without any relief, the urge to push became incredibly strong.  I had been laboring for nearly 36 hours, but my cervix was stagnating around 6 - 7cm, so my OB, Doula, and nurse were all telling me not to push.  Sprout, on the other hand, had other ideas and the more I tried not to push the worse the pain became! 

At this point the OB began making noises about me possibly needing a c-section due to Sprout's head presentation, my exhaustion and the lack of progression - I was terribly upset!!  I really wanted to have Sprout as naturally as possible with a vaginal birth, but my body didn't seem to want to cooperate.  The urge to push had become completely uncontrollable and my emotions erupted!  I knew I wasn't dialed enough (according to my OB and nurse), but my body and Sprout were saying, “PUSH!”  Each time I pushed a little I mentally broke down more and more because I started feeling like I was, once again, failing my babies!  My body wasn't cooperating properly and I was risking my second daughter by allowing my body to push when I knew I shouldn't!

Luckily we had an incredible birth team by our side!  Sprout’s team consisted of two Baby Loss Mommas; our awesome Doula and a wonderful supporter who leads our Prenatal Loss Support Group with a background as a Labor & Delivery nurse for 25+ years, as well as a great nurse who also took care of me the night before and after Stella's birth.  These women helped me through my entire labor, comforting, listening, supporting, encouraging me and helping me ask the important questions so I could feel in control and know everything that could be done was being done.  With out them during those extremely difficult hours with the OB talking about c-sections, the physical and emotional pain overwhelming me and the lack of progress I think I would have regretfully thrown in the towel and allowed the OB to do what ever she felt best.  We feel truly blessed to have had such a fantastic team help safely bring Izabella in to the World!

With all the information available to us we finally decided to go with an epidural (something I thought I would never do!) around 10:30 pm on April 17th, which was Stella’s original due date back in 2010.  It brought immediate relief and the plan was for me to relax and rest for about an hour and see what kind of changes had been made before continuing laboring.  I wasn't looking for a way out of the pain, just needed a break, both emotionally and physically.  As soon as the epidural was on board my OB checked me and suddenly I had dilated all the way to a 10 and was ready to begin pushing!  She asked if I wanted to go a head and rest like previously planned and I responded, "No way!  I'd like for this baby to be born today!"  The OB left the room to get ready and said she would be back in 15 minutes so we could begin, but while she was gone my BP dropped dangerously and that along with the contractions was making Sprout's heart rate jump.  I'm still kind of unclear, and so is my husband, exactly what all took place during this time, but he told me afterwards he seriously thought I might die and was worried about our little girl, too!  The Anesthesiologist came back and began rapidly working with my nurse.  We later learned she gave me a dose of epinephrine to increasing my BP and heart rate, but that also negatively affected Sprout so there was some tension going on and a lot of intense monitoring.  My OB came back in to learn of this situation and expressed her desire to go ahead and deliver as quickly as possible and then address my BP issues once my baby was safe, but the Anesthesiologist wasn't willing to risk my condition by postponing my treatment.  We spent another 45 minutes with them tracking my BP and Izabella's heart rate before they felt I was in the clear and we could begin pushing.  Once I finally was cleared to begin pushing it really didn't seem like it took too terribly long for Izabella to be delivered and her placed directly on my chest for the much anticipated kangaroo time!  After her nuzzling around my chest, being wiped down and her cord stopped pulsing Trey got to cut the cord and she began nursing like a little champ! 

We came home from the hospital on a Friday evening and began to learn more about each other and get on a schedule.  Luckily my Mom spent the weekend at our house and took care of laundry, making us food and allowed us to nap in between feedings.  After a few sleepless nights Izabella started adjusting and we learned a few tricks to help her sleep better. Thankfully this pattern has continued and wasn't just some fluke - Momma loves her sleep!

The love, joy and happiness Izabella has brought back to our lives is greater than words could possibly describe!  After loosing Stella I never thought I would be able to laugh or smile again with out it being faked, but Iza keeps me smiling and laughing like I couldn't have imagined.  While Stella will always be our first born and will be loved and missed forever, her baby sister has patched and stitched my shattered heart.  Izabella is a true blessing in our lives and a gift from the brightest stars above!
"'Rainbow Babies' is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope." ~ Anonymous

July 15, 2012

Udder Complications...

Just when I thought Iza and I were getting the hang of breastfeeding along comes a set back.  And, in my typical fashion, it couldn’t just be a small bump in the road!  No, we are talking about a massive sinkhole we’re still trying to climb our way out of!

After Iza had her two month vaccines she became incredibly sleepy, so she wasn’t eating very well.  Each time she would wake up she was cranky, so I would try to feed her only to have her fall in to a deep sleep on the breast within the first minutes.  I continued trying to get her to eat each time she would wake, but wasn’t having much luck and as a result I realized later that evening I was developing a clogged milk duct.  I began pumping as soon as I realized the problem and was working to prevent it from moving forward to mastitis as best as I could, but the clog became worse with in the next 12 hours.  

My right breast slowly turned hard as a rock in one large area and became red.  The telltale signs of the beast called mastitis.  But I didn’t have a fever and still felt fairly well considering the pain in my breast that felt like it weighed 20 pounds.  After a couple of days trying to work the clog out with warm compresses, massaging, acupuncture, pumping and frequent feedings (as in every 2 hours whenever possible) it still hadn’t bugged, so I went to see my OB.  She took one look at it, felt the warmth radiating out from the lump and told me that it was bound to turn in to mastitis soon and once I got a fever I would feel like I had been run over by a truck, so she prescribed me a round of strong antibiotics to go ahead and start now so I could avoid that awful feeling and to continue all the things I had been doing to work the dried milk clog out. 

Well the idea of taking antibiotics proactively before a fever set in just didn’t seem jive with me.  Especially when I considered how poorly my body reacts to them and the concerns I had over possibly developing yeast and giving Iza thrush and how her little belly would fair with the drugs.  So we filled the script to have them on hand, but still felt that with persistence I might be able to work the clog out before my breast became infected.  WRONG!!  After a week and a half since all the trouble began I spiked a fever of 100.4*, suffered cold chills, my head began feeling cloudy and I couldn’t think straight, so I began taking the pills as quickly as I could fill my glass of water. 

Unfortunately over the course of the following week on antibiotics, along with all the other measures I was taking to move the milk out of my system, nothing improved.  In fact at times my breast seemed harder, tenderer and I could see visible bruising.    My breast had gotten so firm that the shape became distorted and nearly two weeks in to the ordeal Iza decided the breast wasn’t fit to nurse off of any more.  I just wanted to cry!  Scratch that, I *DID* cry!!  I desperately reached out to the Lactation Consultants for help.  We did a feeding and weight to see how much milk Iza was able to consume from each breast during a typical feeding.  It turned out there was so much internal swelling the milk wasn’t able to escape and poor little Iza wasn’t able to get the food she needed.  Our baby girl had lost almost a pound in the two weeks I was battling against this massive clog!  We had to begin supplementing each feeding with an additional 2 oz of previously pumped breast milk.  They assured me I was doing all the right things to resolve the clog and mastitis, but also encouraged me to contact my OB for a follow up since after nearly a week of antibiotics I hadn’t improved and I might have an abscess.  I quickly became depressed feeling like I had once again failed my daughters and my body was failing me when all I wanted to do was provide Iza with the proper nutrition she needed.   A feeling all too familiar as a Baby Loss Momma and one I hoped to never experience again once my Rainbow was born safely.

A couple of days later I spoke with my OB’s nurse and explained all of my concerns and that I felt like after nearly three weeks of treatment the lump should have resolved. She called back after she spoke with my OB and had scheduled me for an ultrasound the following morning.  Low and behold I had an abscess the size of a large grapefruit!  After having the ultrasound I had to wait for the Dr. to review the images before I could leave.  She came in after the procedure and asked me a couple of questions while having the tech check a couple of additional things to get a better idea of the size and then went to call my OB while I waited.  The Dr. came back with instructions from my OB to come to her office immediately for us to discuss a plan. Since we had Iza with us we needed to change and feed her before heading to the office, but as we were unloading my OB's nurse met us out at the car and told us we were to go to the surgical center down the street. She didn't know what the plan was, but knew they were waiting for me.

I arrived (while Trey stayed outside trying to soothe a restless Iza) only to discover I'm in the wrong place and should be at the other surgical center next door (!!??). I filled out tons of paperwork and was then told that the Dr. I was going to see is finishing up for the day, so I would now be seeing a different Dr., but she was still tied up in surgery at the hospital and wasn't expected back until 1:45 - did I want to wait, leave and come back or reschedule? I asked the receptionist if she knew what was going to happen today and I was assured it was most likely going to be a consult only and if any procedure was to be done it would be scheduled for a later date. We went to lunch and called Trey's parents to see if they were back home and available to watch Iza while we went back to my appointment. Thank God they were able to take care of her for a few hours and thankfully I had been prepared with bottles of pumped breast milk to leave with them! Once we got back we had to wait an hour to see the Dr.   The nurse took us to an exam room and had me change in to one of those glamorous paper shirts while we waited for the Dr. to come in, but the nurse quickly reappeared and moved us to the procedure room.  At this point panic and anxiety began to set in my bones! 

The Dr. didn't even look at the files the imaging place sent with us, but had me hop on the table and she began slicing, dicing and draining me! It honestly felt like she was working on me for at least an hour.  She said she was cutting close to the areola and was trying to minimize scarring, so I told her I wasn’t as concerned about scarring as I was about my ability to continue breastfeeding, or at least pumping.  The pocket of infection was so large she had to expand the cut, widen the incision and go deeper to allow it all to drain out. By the time she was finished cutting my wound ended up being about two inches long and nearly three inches deep!  The gunk coming out of me was so nasty Trey started to get sick to his stomach and weak in the knees!  The incision is left open to drain and heal from the inside out, which will take about 2 - 3 weeks.  He's been cleaning and packing my wound with gauze several times a day and should taper down as the infection shrinks and it begins to heal. She changed my antibiotic to augmentin, put me on oxycodone and told me there is the chance it might reoccur.  If that happens I'm to call her immediately and she'll admit me to the hospital for IV antibiotics and take me to the operating room for a more extensive draining.

The abscess was very large, deep and very nasty pocket of infection!!   We've changed the wound dressing several times now and have spend last weekend desperately trying to figure out how to pump the breast, so I can keep my milk supply and empty the breast so the mastitis doesn't spread and cause more problems and pain.  The wound is so close to the areola that I can't get a tight seal with the breast pump and if I try to hand express it feels like I'm pushing stuff out of the wound.  Not pleasant!  This has caused me a TON of anxiety, stress, depression and many, many tears of worry and failure.  Luckily Trey has been great about pressing the Lactation Consultants to help come up with a solution and they were able to find a smaller sized pump flange that seems to be helping.  The only problem now is that each time I pump the wound is also being compressed causing it to open and close and all the fluid is leaking out of the wound and all over me.  Gross!  Trust me, I know!  The wound continues to fill up with milk and make an awful mess as I soak through one bandage after another, but hopefully we've been able to catch it in time so my breast won't dry up!  It’s been a horrible freakin' ordeal!!! 

We’ve since gone to one of my follow ups with the surgeon to check on my healing and learned that while the wound looked good there was an additional complication and appeared to be another lump down low.  I had thought it was in a place she had previously checked with a needle aspiration and decided it was a small abscess that would dry up with the antibiotic, so I hadn’t been overly worried.  However once she began looking at it she said the area she had been inspecting previously was more to the side of my breast and this was something different, so she wanted to take three biopsy samples to be safe.  I couldn’t help but feel like life was kicking me in the face!  Or, in this case, kicking me in the breast!  Even though she numbed the area it hurt like a bitch all the way across the back of my breast and to the wound on the other side.  I even experienced nerve tingling in my nipple an hour later and that really had me freaked out!   

So in the time we’ve waited for the biopsy results to come back we’ve continued to care for the wound and sought more help from the Lactation Consultants (we’ve become regulars at the WNC Breastfeeding Center).  For now they have me working on building up my milk supply in the left breast by feeding and pumping as much as possible during the day and maintaining a supply on the right by pumping a few times daily.  We can’t do much else at this point because it would be disastrous to increase the supply to both breasts since my right one will continue to be very limited in its use until it’s healed completely.  Once it’s healed and Iza is able to return to the breast I’ll go back to have them help me build up my supply on the right as much as possible.  Unfortunately, as much as it pains me, I now realize this may never have the flow it had before and after all this pain and anguish I may still be limited to feeding solely off the left.  At the rate we are supplementing each feeding we are quickly running out of our stock piled milk supply and it’s breaking my heart!

Yesterday I finally received the biopsy results and learned the smaller lump is a benign Lactating Adenoma (http://www.breast-cancer.ca/type/lactating-adenoma.htm).  Over time it should shrink up or at the very least not increase in size and I was told that it doesn’t increase my chances of developing breast cancer.  That is a huge relief!  I guess you could say it’s the silver lining in an otherwise cloudy situation.  I’ll continue my weekly check ups with the surgeon until the abscess wound is healed completely and I will continue doing everything with in my power to continue breastfeeding my sweet little Rainbow for as long as humanly possible.

Thankfully my husband has been a wonderful supporter during this entire fiasco!  With out his help, both with keeping my wound properly dressed and figuring out how to adapt the breast pump to work around my wound, I would have never lasted this long and still be stuck at the bottom of the sinkhole.  Trey also lent his artistic abilities and sketched my boobie, so I could share the extent of the damage and how traumatic this ordeal has been.  

Abscess incision and small biopsy entry point

Please send us tons of milky wishes for the coming week!  And if you’ve happened to suffer a breast abscess in the past I would be very interested in hearing how you were able to manage breast feeding and finally resolving the abscess, so please feel free to speak up.

July 9, 2012

Woeful Negligence...

I admit it!  I've been extremely negligent in keeping this blog updated on all the happenings.  I'm not proud of this, but I do feel as though I've had some pretty good excuses.  Life with our precious Rainbow has been so fulfilling, exhausting, challenging and sweet that I never seem to be able to find the time to hear myself think any more, let alone write those thoughts down.  I keep saying, "We'll get in to a smooth routine and I'll be able to pick my blog back up", but those days haven't arrived yet.  In fact, I seem to be finding myself with new challenges each week, but they're all worth it when I see my girls sweet smile. 

So I ask a favor of all of those who may actually read the words I write ~ Please bear with me!  My goal is to pick back up with my writings, both current as well as fill in some of the blanks over the last few months.  Lots of wonderful things have happened and I'd love to share them with you all! 

Until next time,

May 15, 2012

Mother’s Day Flop…

Another Mother’s Day has passed leaving nothing but tears, pain, bitterness and disappointment behind.  I, like many others, would have thought this Mother’s Day would have been extra special and full of new memories shared with my darling daughter, Izabella, but sadly that isn’t what happened.

Last year was my first Mother’s Day, though my first born daughter, Stella, was no longer with us.  It was an extremely painful day, not only because she wasn’t in my arms, but because no one recognized me as a Mother or tried to make the day special in any way.  After I had a complete melt down and spent most of the afternoon crying in bed my husband decided maybe he should do something for me after all, so the next day he wrote me several Mother’s Day notes and bought me a beautiful pair of dragonfly earnings from our daughter, Stella.  While it was nice to receive some recognition he missed the whole point and that everything losses some of the meaning when I have to explain and beg for the right to be called and celebrated as a Mother. 

Well even though I’m truly blessed to be holding my precious Izabella in my arms this year, things weren’t any different.  No Mother’s Day plans, no gift, no recognition!  Let me say that it’s NOT about the gifts, it’s about being seen and treated as a Mother!  I would have loved to receive a gift straight from the heart, something to memorialize this extra special moment in time with Izabella, a special photo or her footprints with a loving message and date.  But no, I’ve got nothing to look back at fondly and smile when I think of my first Mother’s Day with Izabella. 

In fact, this year the only message my husband took the time to write was posted to my Facebook wall.  Nothing long lasting and memorable there!  Of course he only wrote that after I told him how hurt one of my Baby Loss Momma friends who also recently had her Rainbow was to be receiving messages from family and friends wishing them a “Happy First Mother’s Day”.  Totally dismissing that she was already a Mother!  I, like most Baby Loss Mommas, completely understood this kind of hurt because it’s something we’re faced with all the time.  So I mentioned this to my husband because it’s a pain I share and I guess he then felt a little motivation to write me a public Happy Mother’s Day wish.  But really I didn’t need his words, I needed and was longing for his action!  To recognize me as a Mother!  By not doing so the message I’ve received is that, once again, he doesn’t view me as a Mother.  He doesn’t see me as the Mother to Stella, and even now that we are both caring for Izabella day in and day out, he doesn’t consider me to be her Mother.  I guess that means I’m doing a pretty shitty job at this Motherhood gig?  Needless to say it leaves me full of hurt and pain! 

*** Disclaimer ~ Yes, I know I should just count my blessings to have Izabella in my arms rather than being faced with another child held only in my heart.  And trust me, I feel very blessed!  I know there are so many women, Mother’s in their own rights, who have not had the same good fortune as we have to welcome a Rainbow Baby in to their lives and so many who continue to struggle with infertility issues.  I don’t wish to cause any of them pain by appearing ungrateful for the greatest gift I have ever received, Izabella!  I just wish to make long lasting memories with my daughter since I know first hand how precious her life is and that documenting these memories is the only way to hold on to them forever. 

Oh, and I should also share that my husband decided to make me a batch of gluten free cherry chocolate chip cookies as a belated Mother’s Day gift!  Not exactly what I had in mind, but I’ll take it! 

March 29, 2012

Remembering the best damn puppy mill survivor ever...

Sadly a month has passed since we had to say good-bye to our beloved furry man.  As anyone who has lost a beloved, whether it be their baby or their special pet, knows it's a very difficult, painful and lonely road to travel.  For me it has once again brought forward all the feelings of grief experienced with the loss of Stella, so instead of grieving the loss of Smeags, who I know in the end was very fortunate, I'm stuck experiencing the emotions of loosing my daughter as well.  I suspect this is how my emotional heart will respond to all future losses, so I better figure out a way to navigate this new treacherous path!

I would like to share my loving tribute to the one, and the only, Smeagol with you all...

Smeags rescued September 2005

Who could have ever imagined the impact one French Bulldog, rescued from a nasty rabbit hutch in the far back of a North Carolina puppy mill, could have on our lives?  Not I!  Smeagol came in to our lives silently, sick, weak and reclusive.  He was mostly bald with elephant skin sagging from his legs from his chronic demodectic mange, his eyes goopy and scared from years of untreated corneal ulcers, broken and worn stubs in place of teeth, toenails growing in to his chubby little paw pads, a bad case of heart worms, collapsed wrists and a very painful looking swayback.  He looked so horribly disfigured and frightening his original foster Mom named him Smeagol, since he looked like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. 

We nursed Smeags back to health, and as he recovered more and more of his unique and charming personality began to reveal itself.  Smeags found his voice and wasn’t about to be silenced ever again in his life!  Once he began to bond with us, he realized he no longer liked to be left alone, and would caterwaul if he couldn’t find one of us.  If we didn’t come back quickly enough, he would stomp his little legs and release a protest pee in the floor somewhere (his unique form of pay back).  He learned the joys of wallering on his back, whether it be in a dog bed, human bed or in the grass.
He never met a sunbeam that didn’t have his name written all over it and was well versed at seeking them out through out the day.  He always enjoyed sleeping in a comfy bed, but none compared to the luxurious and peaceful sleep he had while riding in the snoozy seat.  Smeags was the most laid back and easy going dog you could imagine (until it was meal time).  He kept us on our toes, made us smile daily and had us all wrapped around his fat little paws.

Smeagol was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November of 2010, but luckily his medication allowed him to hold steady.  During that time he became mostly deaf and nearly blind, but he was still quite a character.  He gave us a few scares where his back legs would go weak and he would suddenly develop a green snotty nose, but with a little medication and a couple of days, he would bounce back like we had imagined the whole episode.  He still enjoyed all the important activities in life: special laser treatments, his favorite foods, car rides, wallering and belly rubs. 

On Tuesday, February 28th, our precious Smeagol took a drastic turn for the worse.  His body just seemed to give out on him from the night before.  He could no longer stand, much less walk.  He had no desire to eat (not even cheese or banana) or drink and only wanted to sleep.  We took him to the vet’s office, where he was loved by everyone, and Dr. Shearer felt his nervous system was shutting down and he was giving us a clear indication that it was his time to go.  We held and hugged him tightly while we cried.  He wasn’t in any pain, and loved the attention, but he just wanted to sleep forever.  So we kissed Smeags good-bye and sent him on his peaceful journey to the Rainbow Bridge.
Smeagol’s story has touched the hearts of many from around the World.  He was often considered an unofficial mascot of the fight against puppy mills in the French Bulldog community as well as for the French Bulldog Rescue Network.  Though he will never be forgotten, and will always be loved, his larger than life presence will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him!
Rest in peace, SmeagUms!  You were truly one of a kind!

Love always,
Maw, Paw, Starr, Willow and QBert




March 9, 2012

The loss of a family member

Once again our family has been touched by death.  I guess I should feel relieved and be grateful that we’ve been able to keep all our family members for the last 13+ months.  After all I know some people who are faced with tragedy after tragedy and feel as though their lives are damned.  


My husband’s Grandmother passed away on February 21st after a sudden series of events leading to her falling and breaking her hip.  Her body needed to be stabilized before they could safely perform surgery to repair the break, but he body was never fully able to recover from the surgery.  She previously had always enjoyed good health and her independence, but that changed shortly after her 92nd birthday  Still, Louise, managed to pack a whole lot of life in and continued to do fairly well with her condition until the last year.  


Louise’s death caught me off guard.  Not so much because she passed away, but more by how it affected me personally.  I’ve known Louise since sometime around 1991, but got to know her better during 1992 when my then boyfriend, his family and I traveled together that Summer.  Louise and I were roommates on two trips that year, so we quickly got to know each other.  Being faced with Louise’s death brought forward all the painful feelings I had experienced deep in my soul when we lost our daughter, Stella.  Yes, I’ve dealt with Stella’s death and continue to work through this life changing tragedy, but once the raw emotions hit I felt like I was being flooded by a tidal wave of feelings.  Suddenly it was like I wasn’t just being faced with one death, but a life time of deaths and loss all compounded together!  I’ve done enough grief work to know that this isn’t an uncommon feeling, or I might have gotten so depressed that I would have felt myself going crazy.  But understanding why I was having these feelings didn’t really help me cope.


Trey spoke during his Grandmother’s service, and if I hadn’t already been feeling the weight of Stella’s passing on my heart, his words brought pain deep in to my soul.  I’ll share an excerpt of Trey’s writings below:

Grandmother’s Eulogy

Death is a mysterious gift.  It brings loved ones together, by separating them from the ones they love.  We’ve all been brought together today because of our love for my Grandmother, and all those whose lives she’s touched.  Her passing is a gift.  Just as her life was a gift.  No one wants to think about their own mortality, but we all know we’re not getting out of this thing alive.  A death in the family is just another wake up call, reminding us that we only have a short while on this Earth.  The amount of time we have here can never be known, and death is nature’s way of reminding us not to squander the time that we have.

My Grandmother was fortunate.  She spent 94 years here, most of which were spent in good health.  My wife and I had a daughter, Stella Grace, who was not so fortunate.  She was born on my Grandmother’s 92nd birthday, and only lived for an hour and 47 minutes.  It’s amazing how many lives were touched by our little girl, despite her short life.  One can only wonder how many lives my Grandmother touched in her 94 years.  And I can assure you that both will continue to touch lives long after they’re gone.  I know that every December 23rd our family will be celebrating the lives of two very special women.

So, if you’re sad, be sad.  But don’t forget to be grateful.  Be grateful for this gift of Life we’ve all been given.  It’s so precious.  I owe my life, at least in part, to my Grandmother.  Had it not been for the birth of my Grandmother, my Mother would not be here today.  Had it not been for my Mother, I would not be here today.  And if I were not here today, my wife would not be carrying, what promises to be the most precious child to ever walk this Earth.  Though I may be a bit biased.
Las Vegas conference trip with Louise ~ 2009

Rest in peace, Louise!  You’ve touched the lives of many people!  Hope you're winning big at the slot machines in the sky!

March 6, 2012

I Survived the Holiday Season!

***This entry was written back in January, but due to the chaos of constant pregnancy monitoring and daily life got in the way of posting this blog previously***

Since mid November of 2010 I’ve been dreading this holiday season.  That’s a whole lotta time to anticipate and fear the worst!  Since we learned about Stella’s declining health just before Thanksgiving in 2010 the holiday season started off on a very sad and depressing note and as we progressed closer to Christmas we were faced with nothing but bad news.  There was no holiday spirit in our house, no joy, no looking forward to future holidays with our little girl.  I was surrounded by a cold, bleak sadness deep to my core.  I tried to focus on the positive, that Stella was still with me, and have hope for my daughter’s future.  I tired to pretend to be in to Christmas by putting up our tree, but the darkness was too much for me to overcome and the fake holiday spirit weighed down on me even more.  My husband finally took over and placed lights on the tree while I sat on the couch watching and choking back tears. 

Then, out of no where, I got sick a week before Christmas.  Stella’s life was no longer in theoretical danger, it was about to come crashing to an end!  I was hospitalized the Monday before Christmas with HELLP syndrome and told Stella was too young and too small to survive and my health was in imminent danger with out her delivery.  If you’ve never found yourself in this situation it’s hard to imagine the willingness to die for your child’s survival, but I was assured her chances of her surviving with my rapidly declining health were slim to none and we would likely both be lost.  From that moment on there was no Christmas!  I spent the week in the hospital desperately praying for a miracle and both proud and tortured by Stella’s will to hold on to my womb with her tiny little being.  She held on for nearly 50 hours while the Doctors did everything they could think of to induce her birth.  She didn’t want to come out in to the World.  She knew it was too early to be born and wanted to stay safely inside my womb, but my body failed her. 

I was released from the hospital on Christmas Day in the middle of a huge snow storm.  The roads were in horrible conditions making the half hour drive a very tense and tedious hour and a half.  Once finally safe back home all I wanted to do was camp out on the couch in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and cry, but the half decorated Christmas tree was staring back at me as a reminder of the day and we had all been robbed on any sense of normalcy, happiness or joy.  After my break down Trey stepped in again and threw a few decorations on the tree, hung our empty stockings from the mantle and moved the boxes of Christmas decorations that had been stacked in the living room laying in waiting.  He made a Christmas dinner with the groceries he ran out to get on Christmas Eve when we learned of the impending snow and we tried to take back a little piece of the Christmas we had lost along with Stella. 

We spent the rest of the week dealing with the funeral home, writing an obituary for our baby, cancelling OB appointments and planned a small memorial service for Stella on New Years Day.  All the while I was left wondering how I would ever survive the year, 2011, that lay before me?  More importantly, did I even want to?

Now that we have finally kissed 2011 good-bye and welcomed 2012 I guess it’s safe to say I survived!  It was tough in so many ways.  Some I hadn’t even anticipated being so difficult.  For the most part I think I survived mostly by allowing the currents to take me where ever they chose.  I didn’t fight the drowning sensations of having no control, but I also tried not to imagine where the flow was going to take me.  Maybe I just didn’t care where I ended up, so I had no vested interest one way or the other?  Of course it really wasn’t that simple.  We had become involved in twice monthly Perinatal Loss Support Groups as well as deeply involved in our volunteer work with the March of Dimes, so those both gave me a little direction to help steer my course.

My blasé attitude was forced to take the back burner in August once we learned I was carrying Stella’s tiny sibling.  No longer caring where I may end up or what may happen in my future was no longer an option.  After all now I had to consider the future of this growing being inside of me and could no longer just throw in the towel if I didn’t feel like being part of society on any given day.  But, you may be surprised to learn just how difficult it is to carry a baby after having to say a final good-bye to a previous baby.  Some people seem to think getting pregnant after a loss is such a wonderful blessing that the Mother should be floating around on cloud 9 with a perm grin tattooed to her face.  Oh, how I wish it was that simple! 

In many ways experiencing a subsequent pregnancy after a loss is like placing yourself in front of a firing squad every day and giving them the power to determine your faith with a coin toss.  Will today be the end of this baby’s future?  You begin to live every day faced with fear.  You can no longer hold that blind optimism that YOUR baby will grow to be perfectly healthy and get to enjoy the future you had planned.  Once you’ve had it ripped out from under you once you can never gain it back!  Had I fully understood this I may have planned the timing of this pregnancy out a little differently, but then maybe it’s one of those situations where you think you have a firm grasp on how difficult the situation will be only to discovers it’s far more traumatizing than you could have ever imagined?

Regardless, being pregnant with Sprout along almost the exact time schedule as with her big sister Stella really made our first holiday season a unique challenge!  We grieved for what we had lost.  I ached to have Stella with me for her 1st Christmas. I wanted to erase the painful memories of the Christmas and New Years Day from the year before.  But at the same time I was torn by knowing Sprout was with me and if we got incredibly lucky she would be with us for the next holiday season as we celebrate Stella’s 2nd Angelversary.  It was a big if and it felt like a shot in the dark, but it was the only joy I could find to hold on to.  We’ve been blessed to be able to hold on to Sprout thus far and she’s helped guide me through so that I can say, “I survived the holiday season!”