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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Are we REALLY planning a Baby Shower?!

It has been my dream for years to plan my baby shower.  With every pregnancy that I've ever had, I've always counted the weeks on the calendar to see when I would be between 28-32 weeks so I could figure out the perfect date for my baby shower.  Unfortunately I never made it far enough to even bring up the topic with my family.  And with Riley, we were just starting to talk about the baby shower when we lost her.  Since losing Riley, the thought of my baby shower has had nothing really to do with gifts.  It has always been about being able to celebrate making it to the third trimester and carrying a miracle inside me that we would one day hold in our arms.  I've never been able to celebrate that kind of happiness before.

It is an almost surreal feeling to be planning my baby shower this time around.  It is exciting and at the same time very scary.  I'm 21 weeks pregnant but lost my first daughter between 23-24 weeks.  After finding out about the cord issue during our last ultrasound, I've been holding my breath wondering when our world is going to get turned upset down again.  Yet at the same time there is a little voice that I hear that tells me "I've got this for you my child. Do not worry.  There is hope."  And hearing all of the stories that I did last week from other mommies whose babies had cord insertions has given me a sense of peace and confidence that as long as we monitor Baby M closely, he or she will be healthy and happy and born alive.  Even if it means that we have an early c-section and our baby has to stay in the NICU for a couple weeks, and even if I am not the first person to hold our miracle...I will be happy and will praise God that I still get to hold our child and get to watch our child grow.  Anything is better than burying another baby, so I've come to accept that even if the birth is not the way I have planned in my mind that it should be after all we've been through, I am going to be okay with whatever we have to do to make sure this baby of ours gets to live a long life with us as its parents. 

Of course the perfect theme for my baby shower could only be Rainbows.  I feel like it is only right to pay tribute to our struggles and to celebrate our Rainbow Baby.  After work on Friday I went to my mom's house where we shared ideas that we both have to make this the perfect shower.  And after we ate dinner we made a late night shopping trip to Walmart where we started picking up some of the supplies we need.  We've made a lot of progress so far....almost all the decorations have been purchased, the food list has been made, and my invitations are printed out.  Over the next two weeks we need to finalize my baby registries, cut and send out the invites, and order the cake and balloons. 

As I've said in some of my previous posts, we will be doing a gender reveal at the baby shower! So for all of you wondering when you will get to know if Baby M is a boy or girl, I promise that I will post about the gender on May 17th following my baby shower:) Only 6.5 more weeks!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Real Importance of an Anatomy Scan

Most people look forward to their 20 week ultrasound because they are excited to find out the gender of their baby.  Most people don't consider the real importance of the 20 week ultrasound, or what is also called the Anatomy Scan.  Unless you've lost a baby during pregnancy or have had a baby with congenital birth defects, you are blinded to the fact that things can start to go horribly wrong at the anatomy scan.  As a parent who has lost a baby during pregnancy or who has given birth to a baby with birth defects, they know that during the anatomy scan it is far more important to look at all of the baby's organs, the placenta, and the umbilical cord than it is to look at the baby's genitalia. It is important to know if the brain is developing normally, if there are 4 chambers to the heart, if the kidneys are normal size, if the bladder if full, if the placenta has good blood flow and is in the correct location, and if the umbilical cord has all the arteries it needs and if it is located in the correct spot. 

So with that said-today we have reached 20 weeks with Baby M and today we had our anatomy scan.  We did not find out the gender of our baby today.  It was not important to us to know that today.  We know Baby M is either a boy or a girl! And we know we already love our baby boy or girl, whichever it is:)

Here is the scoop with Baby M:
  • Measuring 20 weeks exactly
  • Weighing 11 ounces
  • Heart rate of 148 bpm
  • Heart has 4 chambers!
  • Brain has 2 hemispheres and is developing normally
  • Kidneys looked normal
  • Bladder was full like they want to see
  • Placenta is still blocking most of my cervix and is "low lying"
  • Umbilical cord has an insertion-it is not attached to the middle of the placenta like it should be
And Here is a picture of our little gymnist practicing yoga in the womb:

And Here is a profile picture of Baby M:

All in all, we got a pretty good report from the anatomy scan.  Baby M is growing strong and healthy.  The concerns at this point have to do with the placenta and the umbilical cord.  Due to the placenta blocking my cervix, there is a chance I may end up having a c-section.  But we also have plenty of time, hopefully, to see if the placenta moves out of the way.  It has moved just slightly since our last ultrasound 4 weeks ago.  The umbilical cord insertion is more of a concern.  The doctor informed me that when the umbilical cord does not attach in the middle of the placenta (cord insertion) it can lead to Interuterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) in the baby.  Right now Baby M is just slightly ahead of schedule with his or her size so that is a relief for the time being.  Due to our first daughter having IUGR and being stillborn between 23-24 weeks with the cord wrapped around her neck and with the cord being thinned where it was attached to the placenta, and then learning about the cord insertion today with this pregnancy, the doctor would like to do ultrasounds every 3 weeks instead of every 4 as we had originally planned. We just need to keep a close eye on Baby M's growth and the location of that dang placenta. 

If anyone has had experienced with umbilical cord insertions, I would love to hear your stories and encouragement.  This is obviously a very scary time for us as we approach the next big milestone in this pregnancy (making it to 24 weeks).  It is just scary to know that everything appeared fine with Riley at our 20 week ultrasound, or if it wasn't fine we were never told of any issues, and then 3-4 weeks later she stopped growing and was delivered as an angel baby instead of a living baby.  The fear of losing this baby is just as strong now as it was during the first trimester while I was having bleeding issues. 

Our next ultrasound will be on Thursday, April 16th.  We could certainly use your prayers during this time as we continue to learn to trust God and his promises to us.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Better to be Safe than Sorry

We've done a lot of things differently this pregnancy.  It's cost us a Sh*t ton of money to have done things the way we have this time around. But so far....the money has been well spent.  This is the second time in FIVE pregnancies that I have been in the second trimester.  Over the course of the past three years we have learned so much about my genetic make-up and body that it has allowed us to try to piece together what MAY have been causing our recurrent losses.  There really isn't any one thing that we can sit back and say "AH HA....that's it" so we were not comfortable only treating one issue this time like we had tried with past pregnancies and past procedures.  This time, we decided that if there was even a remote possibility that something the doctors found through blood work or testing could be a factor in our previous losses and could cause an additional miscarriage or stillbirth-we were going to treat it. 

That led us to our decision to use donor eggs, free of chromosome issues.  It also led us to an autoimmune treatment protocol involving Intralipid Infusions, Prednisone, Lovenox injections, and Metformin with repeated blood work every 4 weeks throughout the first trimester.  I stopped the Intralipid Infusions at 13 weeks and stopped Prednisone at 14 weeks but will continue the Lovenox and Metformin throughout my pregnancy because I have multiple genetic factors that can cause blood clots.  I thought I was finished with the blood draws when I had my last one done 5 weeks ago.  However, Dr. Braverman, our Reproductive Immunologist from New York, emailed me yesterday stating he has seen some "upward trends" that he wants to "keep an eye on" and would like me to repeat his panel of blood tests at least once more, if not every 4 weeks the remainder of this pregnancy. He also said that my treatment has been effective and everything is fine right now.

At first I was a little upset, because this panel of blood tests cost $500 out of pocket every time we have it done.  And I thought, well if my labs have shown that the immune treatment I had been on was being effective, why do we have to keep doing this and spending all this money.  But then again, I thought to myself....I stopped the main two medications for this treatment protocol 4-5 weeks ago and we truly honestly don't have a clear answer as to why Riley was stillborn 7 years ago and it very well may have been due to untreated autoimmune issues.  I started to think about how I would feel if we didn't continue to monitor my autoimmune levels and this baby ended up being stillborn too.  Once I started to think "it's better to be safe than sorry," the price tag of the blood work really didn't matter.  I remember how a couple weeks ago I was really anxious about stopping half of the autoimmune treatment and no longer monitoring my blood work with Dr. Braverman because of having a second trimester loss in the past.  So I think it's wise to see where all my autoimmune levels are standing now that I am taking minimal medication compared to what I took throughout the first trimester. 

When you've experienced as much loss as we have, it makes you cautious and determined to do everything you need to do to have a living baby and prevent another baby from dying in you.  Sometimes the doctors around here may think we have gone overboard with how cautious we are being this time around, but I have also found some really good doctors who just get it.  They know that, if anything, it gives us the peace of mind in being able to say "We did everything we could."  I'd rather be safe than sorry any day.  I could not live with myself if I didn't listen to my gut feelings one more time and had to experience one more loss because of it. 

Next week I will get the blood work done that Dr. Braverman is ordering again.  And the following week we have our anatomy scan for Baby M.  So far everything has been progressing normally the past couple of weeks.  Baby M's heart beat is easy to detect on the home doppler now and sounds like absolute music to my ears every time I hear it.  We have made it to 18 weeks and some days Baby M is really active while others Baby M seems pretty lazy and chilled out. My belly has continued to grow and I find maternity pants to be so much better than trying to squeeze into my regular pants!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! We get to celebrate one little niece turning 4 and one little nephew turning 3! I'm excited to spend time with my husbands family this weekend and see his mom and sister who I don't think I've seen since Christmas! A lot sure has changed since then:)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Don't Forget to Live

A couple months before Alex and I got married we went to Vegas.  While we were there, we were suckered into buying a Time Share (after they dropped the price by over $16,000 because we kept saying no).  Our thought process at that time was that we wanted to be able to take our children on at least one vacation every year.  Between the points we earn and the bonus vacation weeks we get every year...we really could go on three! Unfortunately, we didn't anticipate we were going to have thousands upon thousands in medical expenses between failed natural pregnancies and fertility treatments.  Who anticipates that when they get married?! Most people assume they are going to get pregnant on their honeymoon unless they are still on birth control.  I remember thinking fact, I remember peacing out at the end of our reception by telling our friends we were going to go make a baby.  Well-that didn't happen.  And 7 months later the baby we thought was going to be blessing us with a one year anniversary gift ended up being miscarried.  And 9 months after that we had another miscarriage.  And 5 months after that we had a failed IVF cycle.  And then finally 9 months later we were blessed with our successful egg donor IVF cycle.  $50,000 and 2.5 years later of trying to conceive our rainbow baby....we FINALLY think our rainbow baby is on its way.  

Along the journey of trying to start a family, it is easy to forget to live life.  It's easy to say "we don't have the money," "what if I'm pregnant by then," "we can't plan too far ahead because we don't know when we will get to have our baby."  It's easy to place the priority on trying to make a baby...and it's easy to get sucked into living in misery while you watch the months and years pass by as your dream of becoming parents seems to get further and further away.  Learning to still enjoy life is hard when creating a family and fulfilling your dream of being a mother and father to a precious little baby doesn't come easy.  

Sometimes I like to think someone up there in the great big sky knew our journey wasn't going to be easy.  And that person knew if we didn't buy our Time Share before we got married we would have never been able to go on vacations.  We wouldn't be able to get away from our stressful life to enjoy each other.  We wouldn't have been able to squeeze out the extra money it takes to afford a 5-7 day vacation.  

Fortunately for us we made an investment in taking vacations before we learned what married life was going to have in store for us.  Since owning our Time Share, we have been able to go to Virginia for our 1 year anniversary, on a cruise for my 27th birthday, to New York City for our 2nd anniversary (and to see a fertility specialist), and to Tennessee this past week.  We have a vacation planned in May 2016 to go to the Dominican Republic as well.  I am very thankful we have something that forces us to take time away to simply enjoy life together.  

At the beginning of this year we had more points, bonus weeks, and vacation certificates than we knew what to do with.  We decided we wanted to go on a vacation before Baby M comes in August (or maybe July) but I didn't want to be out of the state after 20 weeks in case something happens to go wrong again. Even though I am pregnant now and all seems to be going well, with my pregnancy history it is still easy to find reasons why we can't go certain places or do certain things and travel a certain ways.  We came up with a simple trip to the Pigeon Forge, TN area...a 6 hour drive and somewhere my husband has always wanted to see.  Our trip was planned March 1-8th because next weekend we have our niece and nephew's birthday parties...and after that I will be 20 weeks.  

March 1st is typically a sad day for me.  It's the day we said hello and good-bye to our first daughter, Riley Grace, 7 years ago.  This year I had moments of flashbacks to that day just like I do every year. And I cried....just like I do every year.  But it was nice to be able to get away during a time that is normally consumed with thoughts of what went wrong and memories of burying our daughter.  It was also nice to be able to spend time with my sister and niece who spent three nights with us to celebrate my niece's big 5th birthday.  I'm glad they was the first time my niece has been on vacation and has been outside of Ohio, and the first time my sister has taken a vacation in probably two years.  They both deserved the time away from work, school, and the cold weather.  I've been preaching to my sister for years that she needs to take her daughter on vacation and needs to use her time off work for an actual vacation instead of going out with her friends here and there.  Making memories with family is the most special gift we can give each other so I am glad we were able to make memories with the two most important people in my life.  

Here's some of the memories we made together: 

March 2, 2015-Raegan's 5th Birthday 

March 3, 2015-Exploring the Smokey Mountains

March 3, 2015- Fun in the Arcade Photobooth

March 4, 2015-Raegan's 1st time on a Go-Cart! 

March 4, 2015-Raegan and Ashley at Dick's Last Resort in Gatlinburg 

March 4, 2015-Raegan at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg 

While in Tennessee we enjoyed swimming, exploring the mountains, watching the Dixie Stampede, playing in an arcade, riding go-carts (I even took a few laps around the track), walking the streets of Gatlinburg, taste-testing wine (Alex only) and moonshine (Alex and Ashley), viewing the sharks and penguins at the aquarium, shopping, and one day of total relaxation with watching movies.  The weather was beautiful on Tuesday and Wednesday but started to get bad on Thursday.  We checked out and went home on Friday instead of today because it was just as warm if not warmer back in Ohio over the weekend and I was really wanting to go to my friend's baby shower yesterday.  Plus I was ready to get home to my doppler to check for Baby M's heartbeat since I hadn't been feeling much of any movement this week.  Fortunately I found the heart beat right away and it was strong and steady.  Baby M must have thought he or she was on vacation/relaxation mode too! My husband was ready to get home and get back to work on our house projects since the past couple of weekends have been spent getting our other house (rental property) together so we could put it on the market this week.  He's made a lot of progress on the bathroom-walls are painted and everything is finally prepped to begin tiling this week! The five days away were just what we needed to regain motivation to get this house ready for Baby M and to rock the last half of this pregnancy!