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.

 

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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.

Just Call Me Sarah (continuing down infertility road)

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Hopefully by now you have read our story about Lydia and her miracle adoption. God’s hand is all over her story. Even our case worker said, “I have never seen a case go this quickly and this smoothly. I just can’t explain it.” I can! It was God’s timing and for whatever reason, He orchestrated the whole process to go like it did. I personally believe it is so that neither I nor my husband can claim any credit. Only God can do what He did.

Fast forward to 2010, two years after Lydia’s adoption was finalized. I had weighed in at my heaviest weight ever. At ?xx lbs (did you really expect me to admit to it?) I was tired and sluggish. With PCOS, the heavier you are the more complications can develop. I was tired of being tired and knew I had to do something about it before my health got worse. A friend encouraged me to start Weight Watchers, so I started that journey in late summer of 2010. By the end of April 2011, I had lost 49 lbs! I felt good and my body was starting to get back to normal.

The first week of May I had a funny feeling, so without telling my husband, I bought a pregnancy test. Mind you, I have bought tons of these and always with the same result, though I hadn’t bought one in years. I always threatened to just use a stick from the back yard. The result would have been the same! May 6th, 2011, just a couple of weeks before our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband was getting ready to walk out the door to go to work. He was getting his keys when I walked into the bedroom. “Honey, you need to sit down.” says I. “I have to get to work!” says he. I start laughing, which makes him more annoyed. “Deidre. What?!? I have to get to work!” (Did I mention he is the only one on staff at the church and we lived across the parking lot at this point?) With each question I laugh even more. The more I laugh, the more he gets annoyed. “Will you just spit it out?!?!”

“I’m pregnant.” The look on my husband’s face was priceless. I so wish I had a camera at that exact moment. Surprise!! When he finally came to, he said, “But you’re old!!” (I had just turned 39.) Needless to say we were both in shock. I now have a new perspective on Sarah and how the Bible said, “Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old…?” Been there. Lol…out loud.  I found a little place here in town that did pregnancy tests and, yep, I was pregnant. We called and told just a few people, told our mothers on Mother’s Day, then we told our church that night. (My husband started out so serious, I think some people thought he was tendering his resignation.) Needless to say, word spread of this old lady being pregnant for the first time. I found a doctor and we started down pregnancy road. Our due date? January 8th.

We started picking out names, looking at bedding, and dreaming about the first of January and our miracle baby. We were very excited. I remember telling a friend of mine, “I can’t imagine God allowing me to get pregnant after all these years only to take the baby. I’m sure everything will be fine. But, God is sovereign and can do what He sees fit.” Little did I know then that my conversation would be put to the test.

The middle of June (17-18) we had a Purposeful Parenting Seminar scheduled at the church. I got up that Friday morning and started baking and getting things ready. Late in the morning, I started bleeding. I called the doctor and the nurse said as long as it didn’t get worse I was fine. (I was trying not to be a hypochondriac. Ain’t nobody got time for that!) We got to the church, starting talking with the pastor doing the seminar, and only one parent came. After that parent was done speaking with the pastor, we went out for ice cream. Unfortunately, things did get worse, and on our way home I told my husband we needed to get to the hospital. We spent the next 6-7 hours in the ER. A very long 6-7 hours.  I remember how compassionate the doctor on call was, how sweet the nurse was, and how they blew a vein in my left arm. (I had the bruise for over a week to prove it.) I also remember John Bishop’s chorus ringing through my ears that night. “God is good and God is right. God is good both day and night.” That’s actually all of the song I could remember, but it was enough.

I remember these dates because the day you find out you’re pregnant is a big deal. Plus, we found out Mother’s Day weekend and miscarried Father’s Day weekend. Were we sad? Yes. Were we disappointed? Absolutely. Were we in despair? No. Years before this we had given our fertility (and lack thereof) to the Lord. Our lives were in His hands. So are the lives of our children.

II Corinthians 1:4 states, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  To those of you who reached out to me after those events, Thank You! Many of you have been through what we experienced and your testimony was a blessing to both of us. You lived out II Corinthians 1 and encouraged me to do the same. I may never know why God chose to take this baby, but I need to learn from it. The only way to be an encouragement to someone going through trials is to respond correctly through mine.