Friday, July 22, 2011

Update on Baby Lisbon

I've been feeling physically a lot better this week, but the three L's have set with in a vengeance. I'm lethargic, listless, and, well, lazy. I just want to sleep all day, which totally goes against all my instincts. I'm not really sure what to do about it, though. I've decided to take baby steps. A few paragraphs on my novel here, a load of laundry there, answering an e-mail between naps. It's slow going.

Yesterday I went to my appointment with the nurse midwives. Just a routine visit, but the midwife told me Lisbon was transverse, which was odd, since she's been head down for months. I'd felt that she was in a slightly different position because she wasn't kicking as much when I try to lie on my right side but to have turned completely sideways? That would be unusual for me.

So when I arrived home, I looked up what I could do about her being transverse and began worrying (that seems to be the primary pastime of expectant mothers). I'd been told once before (baby number 4) that my unborn child was breech a few days before delivery, and they'd been absolutely wrong, so my husband told me they were wrong again. He's good about not worrying before it's time to really worry. (Then again, he's not the one with the pregnancy hormones coursing through his body.)

After reading on the Internet, I forced myself to go outside in the pool and stand in the water on my head (well, hands, really). Just a few times. Nothing very long. I didn't feel Lisbon react at all. I think she was taking a nice nap (which is what I wanted to be doing).

Needless to say, today when I went to my appointment at the hospital with Maternal Fetal Medicine for my regular ultrasound, I was interested in what they would say about Lisbon's position. I also told them about the little Hispanic man who'd come up to me in Walmart where my husband and I had gone last Friday night to buy our eight-year-old a birthday present. He asked me what my baby was and when I told him, he said that, no, the baby was a boy and he was never, ever wrong, so I should prepare myself for a boy.

Okay. Never mind that four different women (three ultrasound technicians and a doctor who is a fetal specialist) had told me she was a girl in four separate ultrasound appointments, I was supposed to believe him. My husband laughed, but I didn't find it amusing. (I think pregnancy stole some of my sense of humor.) It was just weird having a total stranger come up and address me so familiarly.

Anyway, the ultrasound (with a technician I hadn't seen before) showed me a healthy 5.1 pound baby girl (emphatically a girl) with her head down, way down. The technician doubted she had ever moved but the doctor said with the ample fluid I had and after having so many children that it was possible. She couldn't say one way or another, but she did say that it was no big deal. If Lisbon did turn the wrong way, she'd turn her back. I guess it's something she does a lot in her profession.

The doctor took a lot of pictures of my daughter's spine. We could see the extra vertebrae, but even she admitted that it no longer seemed to make any difference in the curvature of Lisbon's spine. At every ultrasound, the curve we'd seen originally seemed to be less and less to me and this was confirmation. (Could it be all the extra folic acid I'm taking? You never know.) The doctor said it would be interesting if Lisbon's pediatrician could detect anything odd in her spine after her birth, and she made me promise to come back and tell her because this is the first time she's ever seen an isolated hemivertebrae (usually the condition is NOT isolate and accompanied with multiple birth defects).

Lisbon was doing so well that the doctor skipped the stress test today, and she said we didn't need anymore ultrasounds at all. The spine will definitely not be an issue for the birth or the after care. All we need to worry about now is my age and the weekly stress tests will show if there is any reason to induce labor early. Good news all the way around!

Related Posts:
Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

One day sometime after the ultrasound, I had a horrible thought. I had absolutely no preparations in place for a baby. We’d given everything babywise away long ago. Where we now stood, my little girl would be coming home from the hospital completely nude! Provided they let me leave with her since I didn’t have a car seat.

I rested up for days and finally dragged myself and my seventeen-year-old daughter to the store to pick out a few sleepers. I only had to sit on the floor once or twice to make it through the shopping experience, but I came home with three sleep and play outfits, a dress, socks, a receiving blanket, and a baby blanket. Later my husband grabbed some newborn diapers from Macy’s when he went to buy food. I still need to pick up some white tights, and a long sleeved white shirt for under the dress, but come what may, our daughter will leave the hospital clothed! I should also order a car seat online, but we need a swing, a stroller, and a high chair as well so I want to do it all at once. It’s a little overwhelming.

May and June brought relief from the nausea, and I cracked down, finally able to finish my novel. I was still spending most of the day working from my bed on my laptop. If I did get up, I had to wear support nylons for the varicose and other vein problems in my legs. Exhaustion was a constant battle, and sometimes I'd fall asleep in the middle of a paragraph. But I eventually finished writing Final Call, the third novel third in the Autumn Rain series. First book I ever wrote completely from my bed. Age really does make a huge difference, even for a normally healthy, active person like me.

The end of June finally brought warm weather—a mixed blessing. The heat made my legs swell even more, and I began retaining water as though storing a year supply. I couldn't wear rings, my face was bloated, and I couldn’t be on my feet for more than ten minutes without serious discomfort. Only a big nightgown was comfortable to wear. At the same time, my pool was ready for swimming and in it I found absolute relief! There is nothing for sore legs like floating in water. No pain, and I can barely feel the extra forty pounds. And with all the extra fat and water, I don't have to do anything to stay afloat. I just have to make sure I don't fall asleep while floating. :-)

Now it’s July and more of the same. Except now we’re on a serious countdown for Lisbon to make her appearance, and WE CAN’T WAIT! My eight-year-old kisses my stomach so many times a day, it makes me laugh. The lovely Braxton Hicks contractions have kicked in big time, so my body is also getting ready for Lisbon's debut.

I’m doing okay. Really. You can find me either in bed or on the couch writing or sleeping, making food for my children (I'm so grateful for my microwave!), or floating in the pool. If I get desperate, and no one else can go, I may hobble to the store for milk and something to throw into the oven. More likely I’ll send my husband or daughter. For now, everything else is on hold. And that's okay with me.

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Monday, July 11, 2011

Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis

Less than a week after learning I was expecting, I came down with chronic bronchitis and sinusitis. I spent all of January and February sick and unable to really take anything to alleviate the symptoms because of the pregnancy. No way was I going to risk my baby, not after what I'd been through last year. I kept a close eye on my fever and only took the approved medicine if I absolutely had to.

I rarely left my bed except to use the bathroom. I had to cancel or refuse any speaking engagements. The only good thing about being so ill was that the sickness overshadowed the normal pregnancy nausea, and on the few days I felt a bit better, I was able to finish the remaining two chapters of the novel I had to turn in at the end of January. Only four of my six children lived at home then, and my seventeen-year-old and my fourteen-year-old suspected something, so in February I told them what was going on, and they helped out a lot.

After three months I went in to the midwives and heard the heartbeat. Only then did I tell the younger kids about the baby. I didn’t tell anyone else, and I asked my family to keep the baby a secret until the ultrasound said everything was all right. I didn't want to make an announcement and then have to later report bad new. I did only one speaking engagement for the YW in my own ward, and fortunately I was blessed to make it through. One week I felt well enough to clean my office, a little at a time. Took me three days and my office is really tiny, so you can imagine how that went. I would actually never write there during my pregnancy as I was too ill to actually sit in the chair.

March and April I also spent mostly in bed. I was still fighting the cough, and the nausea became so terrible I only got up to pick up kids from school or to get them food. The couple times I went to the store, I ended up in bed suffering for the next two days. I rarely made it to church and then only part of the meetings. Sometime in April, I learned if I ate breakfast, got the kids off to school, went back to sleep until eleven, and then ate again, I sometimes had a hour or two where I wasn’t feeling like I was going to die. I started writing another book. It was horribly slow going, but it was something to distract me and make me feel like I was contributing at least something to the world.

I told my sister Mary and my mother about the baby shortly before the ultrasound but again asked them not to say anything until we had the results. Unfortunately, the ultrasound dropped a huge bomb: our daughter had a extra vertebra on one side in her lower back. Though there seemed to be no sign of anything else wrong and it wasn't severe, we would need more testing at the hospital (Maternal Fetal Medicine) to determine what that meant.

As we waited for the appointment, I learned that in nearly 89% of babies who have this condition also have some other severe spinal, cranial, or skeletal problem. Many die before the end of the pregnancy. All my fears seemed to be coming true. How could this happen after so much turmoil and stress when we were deciding whether or not to have another child? (See Part 2: The Decision)

My husband gave me a blessing, which promised a healthy baby. I kept repeating to myself the words I’d heard before the pregnancy: “Go forward in faith not in fear.”

Thankfully, after more tests, the specialist said my baby’s hemivertebra was isolated and that she didn’t seem to have any of the hundred syndromes that are usually present. This isolated hemivertebra happens in only 1 out of 4,000 babies. The hemivertebra wouldn’t affect her quality of life, though our daughter may or may not need minor surgery later. What relief!

I had to go back monthly to Maternal Fetal Medicine for additional ultrasounds to keep an eye on the vertebra and because of my age. Every time, it seemed her spine was more and more normal, but that might be just my perception. I have to confess that it has been nice having that wonder female doctor reassure me each time that nothing new has cropped up. Now I have to go weekly to the hospital for fetal stress tests (because of my age, not the vertebra) to make sure Lisbon is still getting what she needs.

So, I was surviving day to day, but I could do that. We were having a baby!

Stay tuned for Part 4 coming soon.

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Part 2: The Decision

Having a baby is always a big decision, but when you already have six children, three of whom are living away from home or will be by the time the baby is born (I have one married daughter, and two children at BYU), and your youngest will be eight before the birth, it is a significantly larger decision. From health to emotional issues, there’s no end of debate.

Early in 2010, we had the surprise of finding out we were expecting. Unplanned. We stepped up to the plate, though, and started changing all our plans for the future. I was so ill I didn’t know how I was going to make it through. I spent all day every day in bed. The entire burden of family fell to my poor husband, who was the epitome of support. I dragged myself from bed only to pick up my children from school (every other week). I couldn’t work on my novels at all. All this only to lose the baby right after reaching three months. I spent nearly another month in bed with the recovery. That was enough to teach anyone a lesson that having a child at my age (no, I’m not confessing exactly what that is) was not wise.

Time wore on and I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby and that perhaps this was God’s way of sending me a message. Life was easy now that I wasn’t ill, but these thoughts persisted. I felt torn between what I had wanted before the pregnancy and what I wanted after (for the baby to have lived). It’s one thing to lose a child you planned for and wanted, and something quite different to lose a child you hadn’t planned on and even to some extent resented. The guilt is far larger and all-encompassing. I talked briefly to my husband, who’d taken the loss of the baby quite hard, but he didn’t think we should try again. He didn’t want A baby, he’d wanted THAT baby. He also never wanted to see me so sick again.

Weeks passed and still I was in limbo. After confessing my turmoil to a friend Anita Stansfield, she advised me to make a decision about whether or not to have a baby and own it as though it was my final decision. Then to wait some weeks as I adjusted to the plan. If I found it wasn’t right after all and I was still in turmoil, I could change my mind. So I decided to have a baby. I’d always wanted five or seven children and had ended up with six, so another baby would give me that odd number I’d wanted. Not to mention fill the loss I was experiencing.

In the weeks that followed, I researched older mothers and babies in an effort to own my decision. Since we were heading to Portugal for a month, I decided to wait until we returned to act on my decision. But the more time passed and the more I read, I realized I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk that something would be wrong with my baby because I was older. I wasn’t so worried about risks to myself—though in hindsight and with what I’ve gone through, that should have been more important to me—but I didn’t want to condemn a child to living with a severe birth defect because I couldn’t control my grief.

I eventually decided that my first decision had been in error. So I made the other choice. Before that last pregnancy, I hadn’t planned on another child, and I’d been happy and content. I could be that way again. It was the wise and responsible thing to do. All my old plans could fall back into place.

Months passed. I finished deadlines, regained all my health. Physically I was doing great. Mentally I was still troubled. The thought of that child, who I imagined was a little girl, never left me. I did more research, and all along I kept taking prenatal vitamins just in case. Eventually, I realized I wouldn’t find peace unless I at least tried to have that child. Still I was afraid of birth defects and of losing another baby. Then one day I was driving in the car and in my head I heard the words, “Go forward in faith not in fear.” Those words pierced me because by this time the only reason I didn’t want to become pregnant was because I was afraid.

More time passed, and though I wasn’t doing much to prevent pregnancy, I still wasn’t expecting. I continued in turmoil, my fear of becoming pregnant and the possible outcome as great as my fear of not getting pregnant. Only when I remembered the words did the fear leave and I felt peace.

So why wasn’t I expecting? In our family we joke that to become pregnant, all we needed to do was to wash our clothes together. Then one day I had a prompting: Talk to your husband. I thought What? What did he have to do with this? Oh, that’s right. He’s the father. I’d started several times over the months to tell him my feelings, but with the trip to Europe followed by a daughter’s wedding, time had always escaped me. So I went to him and recounted everything I’d been thinking and doing.

He looked at me and said, “So, it looks like we're having another baby.”

I reminded him that he’d said he didn’t want another child the last time I’d brought it up. He shrugged and said, “I didn’t know everything you’ve been going through. If you think we should have a baby, let’s do it.”

Oh. Hmm. Okay. I had the sense that he was far more worried about me physically than whether or not to have a child. He’s like that.

Oddly enough, after a week, the desire, the push, the insane turmoil abruptly vanished. I went to my husband and said, “You know. I think I’m okay. I don’t think I need to have a baby after all.”

He laughed and said if that was how I was feeling, that was okay by him.

Yes, you guessed it. I was already expecting. I took a test the day before Christmas 2010 and it was positive. Now we only had to wait to see how it would turn out. Every time the fear returns, I remember the words about fear versus faith, and I push forward. At this point, I am completely living on faith.

Click on Part 3 to read more.

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Friday, July 8, 2011

Part 1: The Secret is Out

I’m not going to make you read a whole page before I blurt it out—I’m going to have a baby next month in August. That’s the secret.

I’m not sure how it became a secret at all. Well, first I wanted to make sure it was really going to happen because last year we had a huge disappointment. I didn’t want the kids upset again, and I didn't want to go through any more "public" mourning. So my husband and I decided to wait three months to see if there was still a strong heartbeat before telling them. Because I was so ill, I did end up having to confide a bit earlier in my middle children (17 & 14), but even that I delayed as long as possible. We waited until the four-month ultrasound before we told the extended family. After that, the secret seemed to take on a life of its own.

It was cold into June, so I wore a jacket whenever I had to drag myself from my bed. No one noticed my growing stomach. It “helped” that I seemed to contract every sickness available to mankind, so I was (still am) in bed most of the day, even after the nausea finally left right before six months (or mostly left). When I reached the mark that the midwife told me my baby really could survive if she had to be born, I realized I could finally tell people.

But after that, well, I was kind of embarrassed. How do you announce to your friends and neighbors that, by the way, you’re going to have a baby next month? Besides, these days many couples my age and younger don’t have more than four children and while some of my peers still have children at home, they are all in high school. My youngest right now is eight and this baby makes number seven, so I kind of feel like the odd-ball out (and maybe even a little greedy). Last year when I was expecting, one man in my neighborhood told us to “keep it on your side of the street.” (I'm sure it was a joke, but is pregnancy a disease?)

I’ve gained forty pounds, some of it water in my legs that makes it difficult to walk, and I also did something to my knee that makes every step torture. I don’t even want to get into the support nylons and the veins problems that prevent me from being on my feet for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Any of you who’ve had more than five or six children might have some inkling as to what I’m talking about.

Last week I was feeling well enough to go to church for part of the time (yay!). It was hot and I didn't wear a coat. Two women noticed my stomach and said something. A few just stared. Surprise! Everyone who has talked to me so far has been really sweet and supportive.

So, yes, I’m having a baby. A little girl. Her name is Lisbon. She never lets me sleep at night, especially if I try to lie on my right side. She hates fireworks, but she likes being rocked—most of the time.

If you’re curious what brought about this momentous decision at this time in my life, continue to Part 2. I have divided this series into four parts:

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon