I haven't blogged very much about this last pregnancy...mostly because it's been absolutely crazy! But we have seen God's hand in so many ways. So I'll go back to the end of April, when all the craziness started...(and we didn't share the first part of this ordeal with very many, so if you didn't know, don't be offended)
We found out at 20 weeks that we were having a GIRL! Anna was so excited she could hardly contain herself!! FINALLY a sister! At my next appointment soon after that sonogram, my doctor (and dear, dear friend) discussed whether or not to do the genetic testing (just a blood test to check for genetic defects like spina bifida and chromosomal defects like Downs). From my point of view, it didn't matter if the baby had any of those conditions-it wouldn't change anything for us. From her perspective, it would be good to know since we live in a rural setting with Wichita being the closest critical care hospital available...it would be good to know ahead of time if we needed to make different plans for delivery, etc. as far as things medical were concerned. That made total sense to me, so I agreed to having the blood tests done. Later that week, I got a call from her. My test results for Downs had come back with a slightly elevated risk. And by slightly, I mean like just barely elevated. But it was still elevated and warranted a closer look. I didn't handle it very well. Mostly I was just shocked because I wasn't expecting the call to be about that. And I also knew enough about Downs to know that there can be some pretty serious physical problems that can come with it. My doctor recommended that I see a high risk OB in Wichita for further testing. The first step was to get a Level II Ultrasound. That would tell us if there were any defects visible to indicate Downs, like the baby's heart, etc. The worst part was we had to wait for a couple weeks for that appointment! Surprisingly, Aaron was very calm about the whole thing! Usually he's the one to worry incessantly and I'm the one to say "It's all going to be okay. God is in control and He knows what He's doing." This time, it was the other way around.
Finally, the day of our appointment came and we sat on pins and needles throughout the ultrasound. It was lovely to see our baby swimming around and moving so much! I never cease to be amazed at watching such a miracle. After the ultrasound, we waited for the doctor. Her PA came in and told us that the ultrasound did not show any signs of the baby having Downs. There were several options-a new blood test that most insurance wouldn't cover, an amniocentesis, or termination. I was horrified that killing a baby was even an option-there wasn't even anything close to conclusive that she even had Downs (and even if she did, so what?!). So disgusting that that's even an option. Anyway, we opted not to have any more testing done. I told her that our only concern was if we would need to deliver in Wichita instead of Lyons to be close to a NICU. She said we could come back in a couple of months when it's common for defects to develop in Downs babies and do another ultrasound and go from there. We were both confident that there was nothing wrong with the baby, so from then on we really didn't give it much more thought. I questioned the whole time why God would allow this when there was pretty clearly nothing wrong with the baby. Yes, it challenged my faith but really God? You couldn't have done it in a less scary way?! But, as usual, God knew what He was doing. He was using this to keep our baby safe...
August comes and I go back to Wichita by myself for the follow up. Aaron couldn't get off work and I told him it was fine if he wasn't there. A good friend was keeping the kids. All I was expecting was an ultrasound and the doctor to tell me everything looked fine and I would be on my way. During the ultrasound, I noticed that the tech was looking at the heart quite a bit. To me, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary-the heart itself looked completely normal. I wasn't really alarmed as I knew the heart was the main thing they would be checking out anyway. So off I go to see the doctor. When the PA came in, she was oddly excited and I was confused by her excitement. She said "It's amazing that we even caught this on the ultrasound, but your baby has SVT!" She explained that SVT means supraventricular tachycardia-a very fast heartbeat (200-260 beats per minute, where as a normal range is 120-160). A valve that is open before birth (and automatically closes at birth) was causing the problem. One of the flaps on that particular valve was a little looser than the rest and and it would flop up and hit the heart wall. That would irritate her heart and cause an arrhythmia, which would then kick her heart into SVT. If the baby was in SVT for an extended period, it could cause some serious damage. So, I was sent over to the hospital to be admitted for monitoring. If the baby was having more than 20 minutes of SVT, I would have to be put on medication to slow her heart down. I called Aaron with the surprising development and he drove to Wichita. He stayed with me for a the afternoon and evening, and then went back home to get the kids. Hospitals are not the place to go for sleep!! And this baby did NOT like having those monitors strapped around her space! I had to stay for 24 hours and in that time, she was only in SVT for 7 minutes total. Good news! No medication. But this also meant the baby would need some very close monitoring. The main thing they were worried about was the baby developing Non-immune Hydrops-fluid building up under her skin, around her organs-due to the SVT. It was set up for me to have ultrasounds twice a week. Thankfully one of them could be done in Lyons, but the other had to be in Wichita. It wasn't long after that hospital stay that the baby was caught in SVT during an ultrasound. They put me on the monitor there in the office and she kept going in and out of it pretty consistently. Back to the hospital I went! This time she was in SVT quite a bit and the doctor said I would have to be put on medication. So I had an EKG done and a heart ultrasound to make sure my heart was healthy enough to handle the meds (they would lower my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as the baby's). I was started on the meds and would have to stay in the hospital to be monitored (both the baby and I) for 3-5 days. Thankfully the lowest dosage of the mildest drug worked to keep the baby out of SVT! After 3 days, I was released. The downside is that the side effects for me were very miserable. My blood pressure dropped to the 80s/40s sometimes and rarely got over 100/50. It hovered in the 90s/50s most of the time. I have a low resting heart rate as it is, so I was just tired like I've never felt before in my life. And that's saying a lot because I've had mono like 10 times! I continued with the weekly ultrasounds and the baby continued to stay out of SVT. One development was that her right kidney was enlarged, but they didn't seem too concerned about it. The doctor said it was probably just from a kinked ureter that would firm up after birth and be fine. But another thing to keep an eye on.
September came and the ultrasounds started showing that my amniotic fluid was decreasing. That's normal for the end of a pregnancy, but I lost a lot of fluid with Anna (which is why she was 3 weeks early) so it was something to keep an eye on. Every week for my Wichita ultrasound, I never knew if I would end up back in the hospital so I always packed bags and everyone came with me. It was emotionally draining as well as physically tiring to make all these trips to Wichita. But like I told Anna when she complained about having to go every week, we should be thankful that there are doctors and hospitals available to us that are equipped to take extra special care of me and the baby. All the doctors and I decided that it would probably be best if I delivered in Wichita, just in case the baby would need any special care after birth. I was really bummed that Stacy wouldn't be delivering the baby, but we both knew it was the best decision.
During these weeks, we were blessed by so many people. Mom came down and helped with the kids so I could rest more. Friends provided meals so I didn't have to cook (which was an incredible blessing because we had been eating out waaaay too much because I didn't have the energy to cook. Which meant we all just didn't feel as good as normal not eating a balanced, healthy diet!).
All of these ultrasounds were called Biophysical Profiles (BPP) with a scoring system. The doctors really want to see an 8 out of 8. There were several "sections" with scores, the amniotic fluid level being one of them. You could either get a 0 or a 2 score. Three weeks before my scheduled c-section at my Lyons BPP, the radiologist gave me a 0 on the fluid score. My doctor here called me around 4:30 that afternoon about it. After consulting with the doctors in Wichita, they decided it would be best for me to go to Wichita to the hospital and have another ultrasound done. If my fluid was, in fact, that low they would deliver me right away. If it was just a discrepancy in reading the ultrasound (a lot with the fluid can depend on how the baby is laying), then I would go back home. My doctor also suggested that from then on, I simply get all the BPPs done in Wichita since I would be delivering there. And with different techs and different machines, it would be very likely that I would continue to get differing readings. Anyway, I was quite certain that I would be delivering that evening. It was 3 weeks early, just like Anna was with low fluid. God's hand was again evident in the little details. My ultrasound had been at 1pm, but for whatever reason, Stacy didn't get the results until 4:30 and then she had to consult with the Wichita doctors. Mom and Dad were already on their way down for the weekend so I called them right away while I waited to hear back from Stacy. They had stopped for gas exactly where they would need to turn off to head toward Wichita instead of here. So they waited for me to hear back from Stacy. They basically got to the hospital at the same time we did! Labor & Delivery was a complete zoo and the admit desk was quite confused on what to do with me! Stacy made some calls and they finally got me checked in. I was finally taken down for the ultrasound and my fluid level, although very low, was still within the acceptable range. The doctor there wanted to keep me overnight to check it again in the morning. Thankfully I did not have to be strapped to monitors all night, but I still didn't get a lot of sleep. Honestly, I was so miserable that I was really disappointed I wouldn't be delivering that night. It ended up being well after lunch the next day before I finally got the next ultrasound. It showed my fluid was at the same level, so back home we went. I told a friend that I was REALLY tired of leaving maternity wards still pregnant!!! But truly, I was so thankful that the baby was healthy.
Mom and Dad stayed for a few days (Dad working like crazy to finish up the renovation) and then went home, planning to come back a couple days before the scheduled c-section. I continued to get both BPPs done in Wichita for the next 2 weeks.
Monday, the 22nd, was my last one since the c-section was scheduled for Wednesday. As always, everyone came with me and all the bags were packed. I had no expectation of things being different than the BPP done 3 days before. I even had Aaron drive his car so he could go right back to work because Isaac had an appointment with his cardiologist afterward and then I really needed to stop and get some groceries. By now, I was getting pretty good at reading the ultrasound as she was doing it. I knew what the requirements were and I noticed that I wasn't meeting them. She measured my fluid at least 5 times and each time 3 of the 4 pockets had zero fluid. Once again, God had His hand in things. Mom was already headed down to be here for Wednesday and once again, she was just to the turn off for heading to Wichita instead of Sterling when I called her. Since I had eaten lunch before we left, the nurse told me they would probably make me wait around 8 hours, which meant the delivery would be around 8pm that evening. Plenty of time for Mom to get to the hospital so she could watch the kids. It took a while to get admitted and then we went through the 3 million questions from 5 different people. After I got into the room and into a gown, the nurse came in and said, "So you're scheduled for a c-section at 5?" I told her I had no idea...I hadn't been told what time. Another nurse came in and said the doctor had another one scheduled for 5 so mine would probably be closer to 6. Mom made it in plenty of time and the kids were VERY anxiously awaiting the arrival of the baby! They had no idea that it would be quite a while before they would get to meet her!!
"Why are you still here Mom? Go have the baby already!!!"
Mom snuck out to go to the bathroom and all of the sudden in comes a nurse and says, "Let's go. It's your turn!" I was just hoping Mom would get back before they wheeled me out! I definitely didn't want to go in there by myself! She made it back just in time! Aaron had decided about a month before this that he wanted to go in with me this time (Mom had gone all the other times). He was determined...said this was his last chance. So he got suited up and away they wheeled me! The kids were jumping with joy!! They had no idea it was going to be so long before they got to meet their new sister.
After a little bit of a rough start, Aaron made it through everything just fine. :) He was surprised at how quickly they got her out and how long it took to sew me back up (it didn't help that they also did a tubal ligation...that added some time onto it). She was squalling as soon as she hit the air! She cried a lot more than any of the other kids. A good sign that she was healthy! It felt like it took FOREVER for them to finally hand her over to me!!!
She did NOT like any of this cleaning up and checking out business!
She looks just like all the other kids! As our neighbor said, "She looks like a Wallman!"
She was letting everyone know that she was not very happy about this new environment!
And then she realized that she could stretch that leg out as far as she wanted. She pretty much had that leg up in the air until they swaddled her up!
FINALLY!! It felt like an eternity, but as soon as I held her, everything else faded away. She just laid there looking at me.
I haven't told you her name, have I?! We had a few picked out, but we just couldn't decide on one. As soon as we saw her, we both knew. Grace Elizabeth. Grace was my great-grandmother's name and Elizabeth is both of my grandmothers' middle names (as well as a great-grandmother's middle name and an aunt and a cousin!). She weighed 7 lbs. 10 oz. and was just 18" long. She seemed so tiny!!
It seemed to take them a very long time to finish up. Before they could finish, Grace was already starting to holler to be fed. The nurse had told Mom and the kids that they could stay for just a few minutes when we got back to the room and then would need to leave so I could do skin-to-skin with the baby and nurse her. I knew that would be really hard for the kids to leave, but soon enough they could hold her all they wanted! But since it took so long and she was screaming as it was, they basically just got to peek at her as they wheeled me back into the room. I felt bad, but I knew none of them would enjoy the time if she was just screaming and hungry (a sign of things to come!!).
When they did get to come back in, you've never seen 3 prouder big brothers and sister!!
Exercising her lungs quite vigorously and Anna couldn't care less!
Isaac absolutely loved holding Grace.
I was a bit surprised that no one mentioned anything about checking her heart or anything. Obviously they listened to her heart after delivery, but I was expecting an ultrasound at least. Not that I was complaining! I got to keep her right next to me as much as I wanted.
Look at that squishy face!
But then Tuesday morning the pediatrician came in and asked about Grace's heart. I told her what had been going on before birth. She said it would be best if Grace was sent down to the Special Care Unit-SCU- (a step down from NICU) for observation since they wouldn't be able to tell if she was having SVT just by looking at her (unless she was in it for 30+ minutes). I should have known it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier. Aaron went with them when they took her down to SCU. I had asked the nurse early that morning to take the catheter out because I was ready to get up and move. I'm so glad I did, because now I would be able to go down to see Grace right away. They brought me a wheelchair and when Aaron came back, he took me down. She was already hooked up to the monitors and under a warming lamp, but the nurse let me hold her right away. The neonatologist came in a while later and talked to us. Of course there was always the chance that she would continue having SVT and everything that would bring along with it (treatments, etc). They had ordered an ultrasound and a consult with a cardiologist, but he wanted her to be on the monitors for 4-5 days. UGH. What made it so hard was that I was still in a room upstairs (there was nowhere suitable enough for me to sleep in her room having just had a c-section) and the nurses still needed to be checking on me and giving me my meds (iron, still taking the heart meds because I had to wean off of them, and Tylenol) and no food was allowed in the SCU. Thankfully, siblings were allowed if they were up to date on all immunizations. I just had to have our clinic fax their records to the hospital. The cardiologist came after the ultrasound and told us that the valve that had been open before birth (and causing the SVT) was almost completely closed. She wasn't worried about it at all. Grace's heart looked great, but she agreed that we needed to keep her on the monitors for a few days. After a day or two in SCU, I asked the nurse if the monitoring was going to be accurate when Grace was still getting the heart meds through breastmilk since I had to wean off of it. She seemed surprised and said she would ask the doctor. He didn't know I was still taking it, so he consulted with a pharmacist and other doctors. They decided that the amount she was getting now, compared to what she had been getting before birth, was so minimal that it would't effect the monitoring.
This happened a lot! Thankfully the wires weren't too intrusive and the kids could all easily hold Grace, even while she was on the monitors.
Anna picked out a "Baby's First Bible" for Grace and she stood by her crib and read to her every day.
It was incredibly exhausting going back and forth between my room and Grace's room, and not having anywhere very comfortable to sit while in there (certainly nowhere to lay down!). But I wasn't about to just go back to my room and take naps. I didn't want to leave Grace unless I had to. I got dismissed from my room on Wednesday, but thankfully we were allowed to stay in Grace's room. And praise the Lord, they allowed me to have a cot to sleep on! Aaron got the "couch". Neither one of us got good sleep, but at least we got to stay with Grace.
Only a couple days old and already winking! ;)
The sign on Grace's crib (with her name and weight, etc) had a baby Minnie Mouse on it, so Anna also picked out a little Minnie Mouse for Grace.
And just like Anna, Grace loves her pacifier!
There was a limit of 4 people at a time that could be in the room, but depending on who was at the front desk, sometimes all the kids and Papa and Binga could be in there. It was pretty boring for the kids. There was no TV and not a whole lot of room to do much. Anna was happy to just hold Grace all the time. The boys brought back some cars to play with. They really were very well behaved, considering the circumstances! It was a very long week for all of us.
Grace had a couple of dry diapers and I never felt like she was nursing very well. A lactation consultant came to see if she could help. She said Grace has what they call a "snake tongue"-a very short tongue. That was making it hard for her to nurse. Since she'd had a couple of dry diapers that had the nurses very worried. The doctor gave her a specific amount she had to eat at each feeding. I had already been pumping, so I kept trying to nurse but I also just started feeding her bottles I had pumped. I didn't want ANYTHING to keep us there even longer so I decided to just keep pumping and we would work on nursing when we got home. She was also jaundiced quite a bit, so to keep her off the lights I needed to make sure she was eating enough. Not ideal, but at least she was still getting breastmilk. And we did skin to skin every day, too.
And just like Anna, she likes to sleep with her hands by her face-just like we saw in so many sonograms!
After 3 days in the SCU, I realized that no one had ever checked on her kidneys again, either. I was pretty sure her dry diapers were just dehydration from that first day and a half of not really getting much from nursing. But I also wanted her kidneys checked. They did a renal ultrasound and it showed that her right kidney was a stage 2, but the doctor wasn't too concerned about it. All she wanted was a follow up in a month!
FINALLY, 6 days later we got to go home!!! (and I realize that there are SO many other families who have to stay 10x longer. It was hard because Grace was really a perfectly healthy baby.) She never had any SVT the whole 6 days. They sent us home with a tiny stethoscope and instructions on how to watch for external signs of SVT and what to do if she did have an episode that she didn't come out of. The doctor said it would take at least 6 hours of sustained SVT to do any damage. He went through what she would act like and different ways to try and break her out of it (none of which were very pleasant). When he finished, he said, "You seem very calm about all this!" I told him, "Well, we're very good friends with our doctor at home and she lives just down the alley from us. And my mom is a nurse and she'll be staying with us for a couple weeks, so I think I'm covered!" :)
The big kids were SO glad to have everyone home and together! It was especially hard on Isaac. He really wanted to stay with Mom and Dad at the hospital!!
Papa left in such a hurry (he was north of home for work and he really wanted to be there when she was born) that he forgot to get his glasses!! All he had to wear for the whole week were his prescription sunglasses!! He got some pretty strange looks. He said the first thing he did when he got home was put his glasses on! He surprised us and painted the living room walls for us (they had been orange, which I never really liked but we didn't have time to paint it when we moved in). Imagine trying to do that at night while wearing sunglasses! Crazy man.
On one of the trips back and forth, Binga and the boys stopped at Carriage Crossing and the boys picked out this hat for Grace. Adorable!!!
Everyone held their breath when Rhys held the baby. She did great!! She loved it and was so gentle. She's ready to be a big sister! ;)
Papa and his girls (who have him wrapped tightly around their little fingers!).
Always reading to her. She even read to Grace before she was born!
Here is Grace, literally surrounded by love...a quilt handmade just for her, a blanket made for Anna passed on to her, and a blanket crocheted for Anna passed on to her (I'm pretty sure she'll be getting one of her own!).
Couldn't resist this headband :)
One morning, Isaac was up early. Aaron was about ready to leave for work and I needed to pump, but Grace wanted to be held. Guess who got to be my helper? He is surprisingly good with Grace! He loves holding her. Such a proud big brother!
Her first trip to Gambinos :)
Grandma Mary finally got to meet her namesake at the HHR Ranch Rodeo! :)
Tiny little ballerina
It hasn't taken her long to start devouring her bottles! She's up to eating 4-5 oz every 3-4 hours now (at almost 3 weeks old). That seems like a huge jump from the 2-3 oz she had been eating!! (we found out that she is not tongue-tied, but she does have a very short tongue so nursing is very challenging. We're still trying, but she gets most of her milk from bottles. Good thing I pump well!)
Napping in the same bassinet all of her siblings did, as well as her Mama and uncles and their cousins! She sleeps through just about anything, which is a very good thing because it is not quiet around here!!
That pink stethoscope is a constant reminder to me of God's care over our precious baby. Had I not gotten elevated test results from the Downs test...or even further back, if I had chosen not to even had that test done...we never would have known about Grace's SVT. I never felt any different when she was in an episode-she never was different...didn't move more or less. I never would have had another sonogram after the 20 week gender reveal. There could have been so much damage done to Grace's tiny little body in the last 2 months of pregnancy had those test results not been what they were. As scary as those weeks were between finding out the test results and having the ultrasound done, I can see now God's plan for it all. He was simply taking care of my baby. What a mighty God we serve! How sovereign and gracious and good He is. All the more reason her name is so fitting...Grace-unmerited favor/blessing from God.
We could not have survived that week in the hospital without all the help from family, especially our parents. Mom and Dad did so much driving back and forth and taking care of the big kids, not to mention all the cleaning and work they did at the house (it was so refreshing to come home to such a clean house!!). And Aaron's parents were there to help, too. Anna got to spend a night with them. A couple of nights Mom, Dad, and the kids were able to stay at my brother's house in town, too (until one of their kids got sick) which was a huge blessing for Mom and Dad not having to drive back and forth so much. So many little and big things that our family did to help and make the week a little easier for us. THANK YOU! We are so blessed.