It’s Prematurity Awareness Day!!

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I have blogged about Emma’s journey before, so I don’t really want to retell the whole story. We will never know just why Emma was born prematurely. The nurse at her birth thought it might have been an infection, but where that came from she didn’t know. My doctor said that is the blanket answer. Often it’s contributed to an infection, but the cause is really unknown. I do know this, God allowed it. For whatever reason, God chose us to go down this path.

Little Emma a day or two after she was born.

Little Emma a day or two after she was born. The pink cloth on the right side of the picture was her scent cloth. We slept with it and put it in her bed so she could get accustomed to us.

Any baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature. According to the March of Dimes, 1 out of 9 births is a premature birth. Micro preemies are babies born before week 32 (some stats say week 30). Chances of survival for a baby born at Emma’s gestation is 55%-70%. Just 10-15 years ago the chances of survival were much, much lower. Of babies born this early, only 30%-40% will develop normally without any major health issues or concerns. These babies are born purple. Their skin is transparent so you see the blood vessels underneath. Emma has a very high pain tolerance. I’m convinced it is because of all the poking and prodding she endured those first 89 days of life. I assumed all preemies were visited by their parents. Sadly, I learned that some preemies are already in state custody and NICU nurses are the only contact some of them have.

Eyes wide open

Eyes wide open

love those baby feet and teeny toes

love those baby feet and teeny toes

It is a scary thing to have a baby at 26 weeks and not know how things are going to go.  I remember one of the nurses warning us we would have a couple of good days and then a bad day. She was right. The first couple of days looked promising and then “Wham!” here came our bad day. That pattern continued for weeks. I’ll never forget the day the Nurse Practitioner, Gina, came in with the worse case scenarios. Possibilities included vision loss, hearing loss, developmental delays, neurological disorders, cerebral palsy, and the list went on. If I had no God in which to put my trust, that conversation would have been very bleak. I realized after that she was just doing her job. Unfortunately, they have to do that. But I appreciated the way she talked to us and explained things and let us ask questions. Gina became a sweet friend during our NICU stay. This is great considering how we first met. The day after I was released I went to Emma’s room. When I asked if I could just go on in she said yes and asked if I was Emma’s grandma. (If I had a dollar for every time I was asked that!!)  I remember one day she came in, sat down, and we just talked. Some of it was about Emma, some about our journey through infertility, part of the conversation was about her and her health journey, but always about how God is good. She always made time for us even after we graduated from the NICU.

Believe it or not, Emma was was almost 5 months old in this picture. She still probably only weighed around 8 lbs.

Believe it or not, Emma was was almost 5 months old in this picture. She still probably only weighed around 8 lbs. Photo by Krystal Inman Photography

I love our NICU nurses. They are fabulous. It still amazes me how these people can work 12 hour shifts on what I would consider a high stress level job. I never heard anyone complain. I never heard any of them gripe about another nurse. They answered our questions and were patient. We were there a lot so we had a lot of questions. They were very professional, but they were so personable. We had 24 access to our nurses. We could live in her room if we wanted. We could call any hour of the day or night and check on Emma. They always answered and were always happy to tell us how our baby was doing. Though we did have excellent doctors, Dr. Siddiqui being one of my favorites, it was the nurses who watched over Emma every day. They got to know her. Once she was able to cry, they learned she only cried when she was dirty. One of her nurses made Emma her first hair bow. They made a nameplate for her bed. They called her by name.

One of Emma's first bows. Thanks, Nurse Tiffany!

One of Emma’s first bows. Thanks, Nurse Tiffany!

Emma in her glass bed, just like Sleeping Beauty.

Emma in her glass bed, just like Sleeping Beauty.

Those nurses are my heroes. If I started to list them by name, I know I’d forget someone. But every single nurse that took care of our precious baby has a hand in the beauty she is today. Many of these nurses still keep in touch with us, and I always want Emma to know how these angels were used by God to accomplish a purpose.

Emma being silly playing in the dog's crate.

Emma being silly playing in the dog’s crate.

Our vivacious Emma will be 3 in January. It is often hard to believe that she went through all she went through. We have had the privilege of having awesome speech and physical therapists working with her to help her along.  We are almost caught up on every level, and I’m praying by the time we start kindergarten, she’ll be right on grade level. We have purchased a preemie baby doll to give Emma a point of reference when she gets older. (www.weebundles.com)  I want her to see just how tiny she was and what a miracle she has been.

This doll was made to be the exact length and weight as Emma when she was born.

This doll was made to be the exact length and weight as Emma when she was born.

If you know of a family that has a preemie, go visit them, even if you don’t get to see their precious blessing. The parents need a short break, a diversion. Take them a meal (we found out the hard way we weren’t supposed to eat in our room. Oops!) or get them a gift card to a restaurant close by. Take them a Starbucks card. We had one right across the street. Send them a fuel card. They will spend lots of time traveling to the hospital, even if they live in the same town. Above all, pray for them. Pray for the baby, the parents, the siblings if there are any, and especially the doctors and nurses. No matter what the medical community will tell them, God is sovereign. I am so thankful that through it all, God is in control, and especially grateful that God saw fit to bring Emma through.

Physical therapy time!

Physical therapy time!

Giving us last minute instructions before we graduate.

Giving us last minute instructions before we graduate.

Even the nurse manager kept tabs on little Emma.

Even the nurse manager kept tabs on little Emma.

We loved the entire medical staff.

We loved the entire medical staff.

One of the fabulous nurses at St. John Tulsa

One of the fabulous nurses at St. John Tulsa

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Third time’s a charm.

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This is the story of baby #3. I will admit, Courtney’s story seems very average, very boring. It was a regular pregnancy, just like thousands of others each year. After she was born I remember one of my first doctors in Florida telling me: “I don’t think you’ll ever get pregnant, but even if you do, you’ll never be able to carry a baby full term.” To me she is still a miracle, as all babies are.

I have to be transparent here. When I found out I was pregnant a third time, just a year after Emma was born, I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with joy at first. PLEASE don’t misunderstand me here. I was not angry I was pregnant. I was not in despair. I was nervous. I was scared. You have to remember, we spent 15 years on Infertility Road. 15. Quite a few of those years were spent in testings, medications, doctor appointments, disappointments, etc… And then, years after “giving up,” our first pregnancy happened. That pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Then Emma came along. What a journey that was (and still is to some degree.)  My biggest battles are in my mind. I don’t really struggle with outward vices, but I struggle sometimes keeping my thoughts captive. “I’m so old!” “What if this one ends in miscarriage?” “What if this one is a micro-preemie and things don’t go as well?” “What if…” “What if…” Once I settled in my mind and heart that God was in control, I knew we could face another miscarriage. My husband and I could face another micro-preemie. God had a plan, whatever it was. If Sarah and Abraham could have a baby at 90 and 100 respectively, I could certainly trust him when I was 41.

My first doctor appointment with Courtney’s pregnancy was a memorable one. My doctor’s new nurse was in the room with me doing all the preliminaries when she said, “I have to commend you.” I, looking confused, answered, “Why is that?” Her response was, “I just had to write down your age. Wow!” Haha! Geriatric pregnancy at its finest. My doctor did decide to take some extra precautions due to my history and age. He said the majority of his practice is spent trying to calm pregnant women down, but he was going to tell me just the opposite. “If anything doesn’t seem right, ANYTHING, you call immediately. Don’t wait. We don’t want to take any chances.” (He obviously knows me well. With all I’ve been through, I have to be dying before I call a doctor. I don’t usually freak out at the little things.) At week 22 I started taking a shot every week. It was supposed to help prolong the pregnancy. Normally it starts around week 24, but due to my history, the doctor started early. My doctor’s philosophy: “We want to do what we can humanly speaking, but God is in control.” So every Friday for fourteen weeks I went in to see Deidre. (Yes, one of the nurses has the same name, she just pronounces it wrong.)

My due date was December 5th, but my doctor had scheduled a c-section for December 2. (He told us if I went all the way to my due date she’d be at least a 9 lb baby)  He wanted to schedule it for the week of Thanksgiving, but the schedule at the hospital was full. I was not excited at the prospect of spending Thanksgiving Day in the hospital. Dr. Collins told me they had a real good Thanksgiving meal at the hospital, but that didn’t change my mind. Regardless, my hospital bags, as well as suitcases for the girls, were packed at week 25. I kept switching out outfits for Courtney. Once we passed week 32, I took out the preemie outfit and put in the newborn. When we found out about week 37 that she could possibly be a 9 lb + baby, I took out the newborn clothes and packed 0-3 months. I figured it wasn’t too early to start the whole I-don’t-know-what-to-wear routine. She is a girl after all.

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Her she is right after she was born. All 8.5 pounds of her. The nurses added her bow. She was such a chunky little thing.

Tuesday, November 26 was our Thanksgiving service at church. After church we went home, got the girls in bed, and went downstairs to watch TV while I finished working on Courtney’s stocking. Knowing my husband had the day off the next day and we had no plans, we figured we could stay up late watching a movie. If I remember right, we went to bed just after 1 am. At 3 am, two short hours after going to bed, my water broke and off we went. We called MeMaw (the girls have an adopted gramma here in town) and told her we were on our way. We dropped off the girls (who never went back to sleep), went to the hospital, and waited. My husband is the greatest because he fed me ice chips every time I had a contraction. I swear it made it better. It was probably all in my mind, but hey, whatever works. I love modern medicine and was able to get an epidural at 5 pm.  I’ll skip the unnecessary details, but sweet Courtney Elizabeth was born via c-section at 10:33 pm, Wednesday, November 27. (They made a room for me even though they were supposed to be full that week). She weighed in at a whopping 8 pounds 8.5 ounces. (Remember, my only other live birth was under 2 pounds. 8 1/2 pounds is huge!) There is no denying she belongs to me. She is the spitting image of her momma!

Ready to go home! Look at those boots! My friend Kari made them. I have the matching hat, but it covered up all that hair.

Ready to go home! Look at those grey crocheted boots! My friend Kari made them. I have the matching hat, but it covered up all that hair.

As you have probably figured out, we spent Thanksgiving at the hospital. I did have the hospital lunch, or at least part of it. We had some sweet friends bring up some meals, so we had home cooking after all. Courtney’s birthday will fall on Thanksgiving Day every 5 years I think. This year is one of those years. On the advice of a friend who finds herself in the same position, Courtney will not have pumpkin pie as her birthday cake.

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Courtney with Dr. Collins

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Courtney’s first Sunday at church. Black dress with white polka dots, white sweater, and a black and white striped bow that’s bigger than her head.

At her 9 month check up, her pediatrician made the comment, “She is too easy. That’s not fair.” Then she laughed and added, “But after all you’ve been through, I’d say you’ve paid your dues.” Courtney is now 11 months old and just over 22 pounds. (Lydia didn’t even weigh that much when we brought her home at 14 months.) She is right on target for everything. I have to remind myself that she is not a genius. When she started crawling I thought, “Oh wow! This is so early.” When she started pulling up on furniture I thought, “She is so advanced!” When she first said “Mama” I just knew she was the smartest kid ever. Not really. I just have to remind myself that Lydia was 14 months when we brought her home. We know nothing of when she started doing everything. Emma was developmentally delayed, so she was at least 4 months behind on everything. Courtney is not a genius. Not that we know of right now. She is developing right on schedule. She is a perfectly normal baby and I am one perfectly blessed mommy.

I never dreamed all those years ago when we first got our diagnosis of PCOS that we would be where we are today, but I am so thankful: thankful for God’s blessings, thankful for God’s timing, and thankful God is ultimately in control. I have no idea why God has directed our paths in this way, but I know I wouldn’t change anything. I have three beautiful blessings that I wouldn’t trade for the world, even if I will be drawing social security by the time the last one graduates from high school.

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My 3 beauties all pretty in pink.

 

Home Sweet Home

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Last Wednesday I met my radiation oncologist at the hospital and swallowed my little radioactive pill. My husband dropped me off at our church’s missions house and I spent 2 1/2 days in seclusion. 52 hours, 9 movies (I think), 2 mini-series, 1 church project, 8 Classical Conversations/home school projects, and 1 case of bottled water later, my sweet family picked me up. Hugs and kisses all around! It’s good to be home. I missed my couch, my chair, my bed, my girlies, my husband, my sudoku puzzle book (I forgot to take it with me), and not necessarily in that order. I did, however, get to spend over 3 uninterrupted hours on the phone. (My girls can ignore me ALL day until my phone rings. They think it is their “now is the time to ask mom lots of questions” alarm.)

My family had decided we would celebrate my recovery and return to the general population. I thought we were just going to dinner. We headed downtown to eat at Hideaway Pizza. After being seated, one of the managers came over with a balloon bouquet and my favorite gift bag (thanks, Huntington Fine Jewelers). My hubby had already dropped off the balloons earlier in the day and had packed the gift bag in the diaper bag. He’s sneaky that way. Our waiter came to the table and said, “Wow! Are we celebrating a birthday?” My hubby explained I just finished my treatment for cancer and we were celebrating. Our waiter was so kind and seemed genuinely excited for the news as he offered his congratulations. Lydia, my oldest, enjoyed explaining the significance of the pink, purple, and teal balloons. I did not realize that those are the colors for thyroid cancer. (I know, I know, there is a color for everything. But it is less annoying when those colors become personal.) That also explains why I was presented with pink, purple, and teal beads for my Pandora bracelet. Such a sweet gesture on the part of my family. Not only to buy me a gift, but to put that much thought into it.

We ordered our meal and just enjoyed being together as a family. I have very funny girlies and, oh, how I had missed them! I was filled in on all that I had missed: Emma’s new words, Lydia’s art camp, and how they passed the time with daddy.  Lydia also informed me that they had a fun evening planned, complete with DJ’s Southern Snow (our favorite snocones) and a trip for the girls to the splash pad. I was all in. Toward the end of our meal, our waiter walked up to our table and had some news. “The party that left a few minutes ago, table 75? They overheard what you were celebrating and they paid for your meal.” Unknown to us, they had written a note to their waitress to get our check so they could pay for it! What a blessing! I really wish I knew who they were so we could thank them, but yet, that’s probably exactly why we didn’t find out until they left. I think the greatest satisfaction comes from doing a good deed and not getting public recognition for it.

Yesterday, I had a full body scan and scan of my neck. My oncologist called yesterday afternoon and said everything looked good and he would see me in 6 months. It’s good to know the cancer hadn’t spread and everything is going as it should. I am one blessed woman and God has been good to me. I recently had someone tell me, “You have missed out on so much because of the choices you have made.” And maybe I have missed out on some things, but they pale in comparison to what I would have missed had I not made those choices.

I close with words that have been playing in my brain all week.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

“Be Still, My Soul”

Author: Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752, cento
Translated by: Jane Borthwick, 1855
Titled: “Stille, mein Wille”
Composer: Jean Sibelius, b. 1865, arr.
Tune: “Finlandia”

Kiss me, I’m radioactive

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I met my radiation oncologist this past Tuesday. He was very encouraged from my surgery. Even though the nodule on the right side showed signs of cancer, the left side did not! My oncologist likes to wait until thyroid levels are at 35 to administer the radioactive iodine (RAI) and sometimes it can take up to 6 weeks post surgery. This is called a thyroid ablation and it is to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue. We did blood work last Tuesday to check my levels and we had scheduled to do blood work every two weeks until I reached the desired level. I was hoping to be where I needed to be before the middle of August (we have plans to get away for a couple of days before school starts back up). They do a scan of my thyroid a week after the RAI is administered to make sure everything is going as planned. About a month after that, I will do another scan to ensure all of the thyroid tissue is gone. My oncologist gave me a 99.9% chance of the cancer never returning. He smiled as he told me, “You are a cancer survivor!” Sweet words to my ears.

I am very blessed in that I have not been too tired so far on this thyroid-less journey. There have been two Saturdays that I had to rest quite a bit, but really, it hasn’t been all that bad. I’ve tried really hard to keep my husband from staying home from work, but this last week he decided he wanted to spend a little more time around the house to help me out. He called a friend of his to fill the pulpit this coming Sunday so he could concentrate on being home and not have to study in the office every day. This would allow him to help out with the girls and he could still study from home during naps. (The girls naps and mine.)

Caution: radioactive materials

Caution: radioactive materials

Monday morning the oncologist called. He had scheduled my appointment to take the RAI and he had scheduled it for this Wednesday! I will meet him at the hospital Wednesday morning and I get to swallow that little pill that is encased in a glass vial encased in a lead pipe. (This dosage is about 60 times higher than the dosage I took when they found the nodule to begin with.) I have to be away from my hubby and girlies for 48 hours, so I am blessed to be able to stay in the church missions house for two days. I have already gotten things ready for my stay (I feel like a doomsday prepper) by stocking it with: easy foods so I don’t have to use the cook ware, disposable plates and plastic ware so I don’t have to use the regular dishes, old towels that I can just toss when I’m done, and lots of projects to keep me busy. Did I mention the chick flicks? The missions house doesn’t get regular TV, so I’m taking the wii to hook up for the use of dvds and Netflix. I will really be suffering. (Don’t get me wrong. If I was a betting woman, I’d bet by Wednesday night I’ll be calling my hubby lamenting the fact of how bored I am.)

My husband on the other hand will have sole responsibility of three girlies. By himself. Alone. With no safety net. I don’t know that he’s ever had all 3 together by himself for more than a few hours. So I’m sure by Friday night he will be ready for his wonderful wife to come home so he can stop watching Doc McStuffins and Little Einsteins. (Andy Griffith is thrown in there, too, but he doesn’t seem to mind those. I blame Bro. Ted.) And I expect him to gravel at my feet and realize I really do wear a Wonder Woman cape to get through the days. Ha! Seriously, he acknowledges being a mommy is a hard job. He says often he is glad God made him a man. I have no doubt he will be just fine. He is a fabulous daddy and his girlies adore him. He will have everything under control. And if things get too rough, he can always call Memaw. She’s always up to the challenge.

After I got off the phone with the oncologist I had to laugh. Isn’t that just like God? Here my husband really felt like he needed to arrange his schedule to accommodate me and asked someone to fill the pulpit to help make that happen (knowing he may have to do that again once I had my treatment). Yet God knew the whole time that I would have my treatment the same week every single thing had been arranged! That may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me that is huge. Not only that, but by the time we go out of town for a couple of days, I will have been on my thyroid replacement meds for almost 3 weeks. Plus, all of this is done before school and Classical Conversations start back up. And before Choral Society resumes its regular season. I love how God is in the details. No problem is too big and no detail is too small.

So if you think about it, would you pray that this RAI will do everything it is supposed to and that the subsequent yearly visits are just routine? And pray for the hubster. His schedule will be much more hectic than mine the rest of this week.

Thyroid surgery number 2

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Last Monday, June 30th, I had my second thyroid surgery. They took out the left side of my thyroid, so now I am thyroidless. (I was really hoping that the thyroid weighed somewhere around 25 pounds, but alas, no.)

The original plan was to do an outpatient surgery, but I bled more this time and they had to install a drainage tube. I had the pleasure of staying overnight again. I was a little more alert this time after getting out of recovery. My husband was there for the surgery, but he had to leave at noon to take our church kids to camp. So I spent most of the day sleeping, flipping channels on the TV, and dining on chicken broth and jello.

I met with my surgeon yesterday. He said the incision looks good and the swelling and puffiness above the incision should go away in a couple of weeks. He’s confident that he got everything and that I should be fine from here on out. He has now referred me to an oncologist that I will see every year and a radiation oncologist. The radiation oncologist is the one to administer the RAI (radioactive iodine) and that appointment is next Tuesday. Unfortunately, my husband is out of town that day, so I will be going by myself. But I’m a big girl. I can handle it. If you know me, you know I am just a little bit independent at times. I am starting to write down questions to ask the oncologist so I can make sure I know what all is going on and what to expect. I need to write stuff down or I know I will forget something.  When you try researching on your own on the internet, you get all sorts of stuff to muddle through. I’ve read that I have to be away from my girls anywhere from 2-7 days. My doctor doesn’t think it will be a whole week, but that’s a question for my oncologist. (I finally gave up looking online. It can get depressing.)

Since the hubby was gone last Wednesday, we had a guest preacher. He preached on Psalm 121. What a great reminder of the God I serve. The creator of the world is my God. He created all that there is and He created me. The God who created the billions of stars cares about little me. He is my helper and my keeper. He will not suffer my foot to be moved. Psalm 37:23-24 states “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” I may stumble, but the Lord is there picking me up, protecting me, establishing my goings. Verse 4 of Psalm 121 tells me that “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Nothing takes God by surprise. I usually sleep 7-8 hours at night. Do you realize how much can happen in 7-8 hours? Yet, my God does not sleep, He is never caught off guard, and He watches over me day and night.

My cancer is no problem for my God. I may never know this side of glory why He has chosen me to travel down this road, but I know He is beside me every step of the way. I will trust in Him and follow His leading.

 

Surprise! 2011 was a banner year.

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So far my husband and I have experienced infertility, adoption, and a miscarriage. When we lost our first baby in June 2011, we had no idea what God would do next.

In August of 2011, we found out we were expecting again. I told my husband, “Go figure. 15 years and nothing. Then I get pregnant twice in less than six months.” 🙂 We went to the doctor and sure enough, I was pregnant. Our due date this time was April 28th. I was still 39, but by the time this baby would get here I would be 40 years old. 40 years old having my first baby. God sure has a sense of humor. I think the medical community calls this a geriatric pregnancy. Some call it crazy.

This pregnancy went really well. I got past week 11 and that took a load off of my mind. Then I got past the first trimester and I started to breathe a little easier. They say your chances of miscarriage really decrease if you get past week 13. Right before Christmas we found out we were having a girl. More pink, more froo froo, and more hair bows! I was starting to look pregnant and not just like I had too many burgers the night before.

In the middle of January, I got really sick. I had a bad case of the flu (we think) and was sick from Sunday evening until Wednesday. Thursday I felt well enough to paint Lydia’s bedroom, although I was having some sore muscle pain on my side. I called my best friend who suggested it might be from throwing up for 2 days. She also suggested if it got worse, to call my doctor. About 2pm I decided I needed a nap. When I woke up around 4, I was still having this weird pain. It wasn’t very strong, just annoying. And it wasn’t constant. It would happen about every 8-10 minutes and last about 10 seconds. Yes, I timed it. My doctor’s office closes at noon on Thursdays, so I called my sweet friend again and she suggested going to the ER if it continued to get worse. I told my husband about 6:00 pm that we should probably go to the ER and get this checked out. The worst thing they could say was that it was gas or something and send me home. He was not very excited about sitting in the ER for hours to find out it was gas, but he humored me.

There is an advantage to being pregnant. When we got to the ER and they saw I was pregnant, they took me straight back to labor and delivery. No waiting room for me. Nope. Pregnant women about to enter their third trimester are special. 🙂 I didn’t even have to walk, they wheeled me back there in a wheelchair. They hooked me up to some machines and told us I was in labor. Ummmmm. Excuse me? I am only 26 weeks along. I can’t be in labor. Besides, don’t you watch TV and movies? Women in active labor are screaming and writhing in pain. I was not in labor. The nurses hooked me up to something like magnesium to slow down the labor and monitored me for a little while. Once they felt I was stable, they transported me to Tulsa. Bartlesville is not equipped for babies born earlier than 34 weeks, so I got to ride in the not-so-comfortable-and-not-so-fast ambulance 40 minutes south to Tulsa.

At one point on our ride I asked the ambulance attendant guy when this magnesium stuff was supposed to kick in.  He looked puzzled. “The contractions aren’t lessening?” “Nope.” Instead of lessening, the pain was getting stronger. He nervously answered, “We’ll be there in about 10 minutes.” During this time, my husband was following along behind us in the car. Unknown to me, he had already started calling people and asking them to pray for whatever was going to happen that evening. I was in the ambulance praying God would intervene so that by the time I got to Tulsa I could say, oops, false alarm. But, regardless, I had this unexplainable peace that everything was going to be okay. I had no idea what condition this baby would be in, or if she would even survive, but I knew God was in control. Again, nothing happens to us that God does not allow.

I arrived at St. John in Tulsa at 9:00 pm. and was wheeled (this time on a stretcher) straight to labor and delivery. They checked all my vitals and told us we would have a baby sometime that evening. Ummmm. No, I was only 26 weeks along and we hadn’t agreed on her name!! Right after 9:30 the doctor I was sent to see said I had a couple of hours yet, so she went into a c-section. I would ask for an epidural, but the nurse would say she was waiting on my labs to come back. It wasn’t a problem, she said, I had plenty of time. Just before 10:00pm I told my husband something wasn’t right. The room at this point was empty so he went into the hallway for help. The nurse came in to check things out and then went back for reinforcements. In less than 1 minute my room was full of nurses and doctors. Our tiny little bundle was born at 10:01 pm weighing 1lb and 14 oz. and was 13 1/2 inches long. (and I never got my epidural. Do you hear the Wonder Woman music playing? HA!) She was small, skinny, purple, and looked like an alien, but she was one of the most beautiful things I had seen.

Teeny, tiny baby. The nurse is holding the tube up so she can breathe. They were in the middle of intubating her.

Teeny, tiny baby. The nurse is holding the tube up so she can breathe. They were in the middle of intubating her.

She couldn’t cry because her lungs weren’t fully developed. We quickly decided on a name (I won!) and little Emma LeeAnne was brought over to me. I didn’t get to hold her as the NICU doctor quickly brought her over, let me get a glimpse, then whisked her away to the NICU. A couple of hours later, Brian reminded me I was only 39. I had her before I was 40!

Here she is. All purple, all covered in cords and cables and stickers and all beautiful. She still has a scar from one of her stickers holding a cord in place. It's her tickle button.

Here she is. All purple, all covered in cords and cables and stickers and all beautiful. She still has a scar from one of her stickers holding a cord in place. It’s her tickle button.

The first few weeks were touch and go. Emma would have a couple good days and then take a big step backward. I will never forget the day the nurse practitioner came in and gave us the worst-case scenarios. Pretty scary stuff. But we continued to place Emma in God’s hands, the best place she could be. It was very hard for me. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to do something to make everything better and ensure Emma would survive. But I couldn’t. I firmly believe God places us in situations that require us to rely on Him for our strength. I couldn’t do it on my own, but I knew Someone who could. I don’t like the phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  If we could handle it on our own, we wouldn’t need the Lord. I believe God gives us just enough to make us turn to Him and not rely on our own strength.

We spent 89 days in the NICU at St. John in Tulsa. I have to say we had the absolute best medical staff you could ask for. We absolutely loved our nurses and nurse practitioner. (We loved the doctors, too, but the nurses saw her and took care of her every day.) They took care of our sweet baby like she was their own. The first day I got to hold her was February 14th, almost a month after she was born. The day before our nurse found out I hadn’t held her yet. At this point Emma was intubated and she was so tiny, there was very little room for movement with her equipment. I received a phone call at home the morning of Valentine’s Day and was told Dr. Siddiqui wanted to arrange it so I could kangaroo with her. (Kangarooing is holding your baby skin on skin. It helps them feel the rhythm of momma’s heartbeat and many believe this is the first step to them really starting to grow and develop.) He told the nurses to tell me Happy Valentine’s Day. It was quite the task to get her moved out of her bed and into my arms, but I was told I could hold her as long as she would tolerate it. So we took advantage of it. I know we were there together for at least an hour.

February 14th. The first day I got to hold this precious gift. (Laying her head on your shoulder is still her favorite position.)

February 14th. The first day I got to hold this precious gift. (Laying her head on your shoulder is still her favorite position.)

Those 89 days were an adventure. She had numerous brain scans, pic lines, and lumbar punctures (spinal taps). She developed pneumonia at one point, so she had scans for her lungs for a while. She had countless bradycardia episodes and some tachycardia episodes (those usually happened when she was mad at the nurses.) She developed retinopathy, so she had a pediatric ophthamologist come visit often. She had a grade 3 brain bleed, and up until the week before she was discharged, the neurologist wanted to put in a shunt. But God held Emma in His arms and protected her from any major permanent side effects.

Lydia meeting Emma for the first time. Looking at her baby sister through the open nicu nurses window.

Lydia meeting Emma for the first time. Looking at her baby sister through the open nicu nurses window.

We finally got to take her home April 17th. Lydia didn’t even get to meet her until the day before we brought her home. Emma was born in the middle of RSV season, so no one under the age of 18 was allowed in the NICU. Lydia only got to see her via facetime on our phones. The first day she met her was through the nicu window.

In her car seat ready to go home. Big bow on her head and heart monitor on her body.

In her car seat ready to go home. Big bow on her head and heart monitor on her body.

She was 3 months old and weighed 6 pounds the day we took her home. They never did install a shunt. She went home hooked up to a heart monitor and wore that until June.

 

She is now a very happy, healthy, and funny two year old. She wears glasses due to a weak eye muscle and ankle braces because her ankles turn in slightly when she walks. Both situations we hope and pray are temporary.

Emma playing in the church nursery. The smile on her face says it all.

Emma playing in the church nursery. The smile on her face says it all.

She is still a little behind in her speech, but I have no doubt that she will catch up. To us, she is a miracle.  It has been said that preemies usually are caught up by the time they are two. Our physical therapist told us that they are rewriting the book on micropreemies, that they should be caught up by the age four. We have great physical and speech therapists working with her to ensure that happens.

We may never know why God allowed this to happen. But believe me when I say Emma is worth every second of every minute. I can’t wait to tell her her story when she gets older. We even ordered a doll that is her exact birth weight and length so she can see just how tiny she was. I hope she realizes what an absolute miracle she is. And we are blessed to be her mommy and daddy.

Lydia and Emma coloring Easter Eggs.

Lydia and Emma coloring Easter Eggs.

Pathology Report Findings

Standard

This past Monday, June 16th, I had my thyroid surgery. The doctor removed the nodule and the right half of my thyroid. He said I did really well, which is good to know, because all I remember is “We’re going to put this oxygen mask on for right now and then (insert Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice here) blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, wah….” Then I was waking up in recovery. I had already warned my husband that if any embarrassing videos showed up anywhere in cyberspace, he’d pay dearly. They decided to keep me overnight. I wasn’t real thrilled about that until I got to my room and couldn’t keep my eyes open. The only reason I woke up at all is because of the blasted automatic blood pressure taker thingy. It went off every 15 minutes. Pretty annoying if I do say so myself. My fabulous hubby stayed with me all day. At least I think he did. He said he did. I was pretty out of it.

I have this great little incision at the base of my neck being held together with surgical tape strips. Strips I am not supposed to take off. My husband says at first glance it looks like some piece of chunky jewelry. Ha! I can even make surgical tape look good. The doctor told me to use lots of sunscreen if I go out in the sun. He said it would scar kind of funny if I don’t. So I have decided to stay out of the sun for awhile. I don’t need permanent chunky jewelry.

After removing the nodule, they did a second biopsy. My surgeon called Thursday afternoon with the pathology report. The biopsy did indeed show signs of follicular carcinoma, or cancer. It is the second most common form of thyroid cancer. Success rate is about 90%. So now the plan is to go back in on the 30th and take out the other half of my thyroid. My doctor said the next procedure will be even easier and the surgery should be outpatient. Yippee! No automatic blood pressure taker thingy! Once that is done I get to take some radioactive iodine that is supposed to “kill” everything off. Rumor has it that I will have to stay away from my family for a day or two, but I’ll have to confirm that with my doctor. Going through airport security is pretty much out as well. Last thing I need is to be detained by Jack Bauer or Homeland Security for setting off radiation detectors. After about 6 weeks he will start me on some medication, but in the mean time I will feel “very sluggish.” I was also told to be prepared to be dumb for the next 6 weeks. I’m excited about this. I’ve used mommy brain as an excuse for about 2 years, and it will be nice to have a new excuse.

I’m doing okay with all of this. I keep telling myself, “Thousands of people before me have been down this road.” And, of course, it could be worse. I try not to complain about my health issues. They are what they are. No matter where I am, there is always someone who wishes their medical situations were as “easy” as mine.

This morning, as I was playing offertory, I realized what I was playing. I started smiling as I sang the words in my head:

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.