Friday, December 17, 2010

Brady's Due Date

Today is Brady's due date, and yesterday was 3 months from when he was born. I have been wondering how I would feel today, and it's actually been a good day. I feel very at peace with the situation. Paul and I are going to go visit Brady tomorrow and read another chapter or 2 from the book. It will be really nice to visit him again, but I know it will be emotional. I still talk to him every night before I go to bed and thank him for being such a blessing in my life. 2010 really was a great year because I got to have Brady. Even though the pregnancy didn't end like I would have wanted, I am so thankful that I had him in my life. I wouldn't change anything we did at all.

We are now trying to get pregnant again, and we are looking forward to another pregnancy. We are hoping it happens quickly, but only God knows when it will happen, so we will just enjoy trying and hope for the best. I know it might be an emotional and tough process, but I think I am actually handling it a lot better this time around, so I'm thankful for that and I attribute that to Brady's influence on me. He has been so good for me in so many ways. What a little miracle :)

I am really looking forward to the Christmas holiday. I actually don't think it will be upsetting like I was originally afraid of. Brady has 2 ornaments, one from me and Paul and one from Elise, which is super sweet. We will be getting him a stocking too. I think it will be really nice to think about him on Christmas and be thankful that we knew him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Epiphany

I am currently reading, and almost finished with, a book called Broken Open that someone so thoughtfully loaned me. It's a book about using the hard times in your life to open yourself to change and connect with your soul. Throughout reading the book, the author has helped me to understand the feelings I am going through and to continue to move forward with the changes I have started. It has been very enlightening, especially this morning when I had a bit of an epiphany.

The author spoke about her resistance to change and how she is finally able to find peace when she stops resisting a certain change she is going through and instead embraces and accepts it. She says that even though she has gone through the "Phoenix Process" many times (which is the process of being broken open by some event or circumstance), she is still resistant when another one comes upon her, and she isn't able to move forward and find a way to be happy with the change until she recognizes it and stops fighting it. She says that we all experience death throughout our lives as little deaths - things that are coming to an end in our lives. She encourages the reader to analyze what is currently dying in our life right now and to address it as a Phoenix Process.

So, this morning, as I was reading about her experience with changes brought on by menopause, I realized that I have been fighting the death of my childhood innocence. I grew up pretty sheltered. I was very happy and didn't go through a lot of hard experiences. I always thought I could do everything and have everything I wanted. That mindset continued in college and through my 20s. However, when I hit 30, something changed. I began to understand my and other's mortality, as I think many people start to do in their 30s, and I started doubting my ability to get everything I want and losing confidence in myself. This has upset me because I thought we were supposed to get more confident as we get older and wiser!

But now I realize that I have always been confident because of my childhood innocence. Now my childhood innocence is dying, and I'm realizing all of the depression and hard experiences that people have to go through in life. I have been fighting this death because I like my innocence (because it makes me happy), but I realized this morning that its death is inevitable, and it will probably make me a better mother to my future children if I accept it and learn from it and choose to be happy in life despite all of the tragedies that occur. I need to be aware of all that life can bring, both the unbelievable joy and the unrelenting sadness, so that I can have a more rich and joyful life and so I can help my kids with whatever they may encounter.

It's hard to really find joy when you haven't also encountered sadness. As many people know, there is great value in opposites (poor and rich, happy and sad) because it's very difficult to truly appreciate and value the good things in life without experiencing some of the bad things. The author encourages us to live life open to all experiences, to accept that things are going to change and sometimes in ways we don't want, and that it's not about what we want to accomplish or gain in life that is important, rather it's about just living life as it comes and finding the joy in the unknown and unexpected changes and loving our family and friends.

These lessons are completely against my nature of planning and goal setting and wanting control. But I can't control life. I can control some things, but I can't control everything, especially what happened with Brady and what will happen with trying to have kids. So I will try to remember each day to let life come as it will, to enjoy what I do have and have faith that I will get what I want eventually. I know deep down that Paul and I will have kids one day. I can feel it. Sometimes the feeling is so strong I am amazed by it. The only thing I don't know, and that I can't control, is how we get those kids. So I will trust in God to lead me down the right path and eventually we will have children. In the meantime, we will enjoy what we have already, because one of the things I can control is how I view the world and my life and how I react to every experience I have.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A new perspective

This week I am taking a new perspective on life. I had some wonderful and supportive friends tell me about a book called "The Secret" last Friday night, so I started reading it this week. I also listened to my friends' advice about thinking positively and knowing that I deserve what I really want in life, all I have to do is think and feel positively about it. So this weekend, I had a much better attitude and felt a lot happier.

On Sunday, I even visited a friend from high school who just had a baby 4-5 weeks ago. I was a little anxious about seeing her baby, but I really wanted to see her and meet her baby, even if it upset me. I was actually able to hold her baby for a while and not get upset at all! He actually reminded me of how much I want a baby, and holding him renewed my confidence that I will one day be blessed with a baby, somehow someday.

I then started reading The Secret on Monday morning and continued reading it this morning, and I feel even better about things. I'm really trying to focus on the absolute fact that I will eventually be blessed with children, I just don't know how or when it will happen. Of course, as many of you know, not knowing the details and having to wait for something I really want has always been hard for me. So I have to work really hard at being patient and just enjoying the journey, rather than trying to jump to the end goal. I know plenty of people have told me this, but I just wasn't ready to listen until now.

So now I will focus on being happy, but I will also listen to my gut and do whatever I feel I should do in order to help us realize our goal of having children, but I won't force it. So we are going to try naturally for several months, but if I need to take progesterone and/or Femara to help us along, I will do that. I am also going to get an HSG to make sure my fallopian tubes aren't blocked, which I didn't do earlier this year since we decided to do IVF. Even if I don't have any major blockages, the HSG may clear up any minor blockages I have and has been shown to help increase fertility over the next few months after it has been done.

I think I also need to come up with some kind of special object that will remind me to relax and think happy, positive thoughts whenever I see it because I know that sometimes I will regress and slip back into feeling anxious or impatient, which will detract from my happiness. So I will have to figure out what that object should be, so that it's really obvious to me to help me snap out of it :)

I'm looking forward to finishing The Secret and also watching the DVD that goes with the book because I think they will really help me create my positive thoughts and feelings, so that they resonate with me deep down. I need to practice, so that it becomes habitual. I really like what the book says about thinking positively: it says to think about everything with love. I'm going to try to do that from now on. It may not be easy at first, but I know I can change my outlook with practice and determination. I love you all! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wishing this was easier

Every week, Monday is hard. I don't know why. Maybe it's because Brady was buried on a Monday. Maybe it's because I'm getting back into the work week and I'm working from home alone with not many distractions. I just don't know, but it just seems to be the pattern. Then each day seems to get a little better, but today has been a step back. I am having such trouble dealing with this still.

Of course, I'm still grieving Brady and miss him so much. But I'm also thinking about the future and starting to try to conceive again, and that's bringing up feelings of anxiety because the process was so difficult the first time. But we really want to try again right away because we want a child so badly, so we don't want to wait. I know I went through this anxiety last time we were trying, but it seems worse this time, and I think it's because I'm more vulnerable because I'm still grieving Brady, so I'm not able to combat the anxiety as much as I could before.

I think I'm also having feelings of worthlessness. My responsibilities in my job just don't seem that important, which is hard to deal with because I've been working on the same project team for so long and I used to feel a lot more important than I do now. But I was fine with this transition when I had motherhood to look forward to. Now I don't have a child to take care of, so I'm feel unimportant at work and at home. Apparently, feeling needed and important seems to be really crucial to my wellbeing. I'm just realizing this today, and it just adds to all the feelings I've been experiencing over the past several weeks.

This past Monday, Paul and I went to visit Brady's grave because they finally got his marker installed. It was really nice to go see him, even though I talk to him every night. Paul read another chapter from the book he was reading to Brady before he was born. It was really special, but also really hard and emotional.

My emotions also go berserk when I talk to or see friends with babies or who are pregnant. I want to be happy for them so badly, and I am happy for them, but it also hurts my heart because they have what I want. So I put myself through the ringer, so that I can spend time with these friends because I want to spend time with them and hear about their babies because my friends mean the world to me, but it's still hard and I never know how hard it's going to be until I put myself through it because I feel different each time.

One of the hardest things about this is the unknown. Will we ever get to have a baby? How much will we be able to fight to have one until we decide to stop trying and try to adopt instead? When I was going through IVF in the Spring, I didn't think I'd be able to go through it more than a few times because it's so emotional, but I know I won't be able to make that decision until we are actually in the situation. We have 3 frozen embryos, so if we aren't able to get pregnant naturally, we can transfer those, if they thaw without any issues, and not all of them will most likely. And if those don't work, we have to decide if we're going to go through the whole process again.

I just want to be pregnant again :( To have that connection again. In my first trimester, I complained about the nausea and exhaustion, but once we found out about Brady's condition, I tried to cherish every day with him. Now that I'm not pregnant anymore, I miss it more than I imagined I could because I don't have that connection to him anymore. If he was here with me and I could hold him in my arms, I wouldn't miss the pregnancy, but since that was my only connection to him, I really miss it.

I want more than anything to be a mother of a living child - I know I will always be Brady's mother but it's so hard to feel like a mother without a child to take care of. I am so ready to give this unbelievable amount of love that I have in my heart to a child and to give all of myself to take care of a child. I should have been granted this gift in a month and a half when Brady was due, but now I don't know when I it will be granted to me, and that is the hardest part. I am not a patient person, and this is definitely the hardest test of patience I've ever had to go through.

Every day I pray for the strength and patience to get through this grieving and waiting period without too much sadness and anxiety. I just hope it gets better and not worse...only time will tell.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A week of relaxation

This past week, Paul and I went to Sonoma Valley to relax and spend some quality time together alone and away from home. It was really good to get away. We spent Saturday night and Sunday day in San Francisco - touring Alcatraz and doing a sailing tour on the San Francisco bay - and then we drove to Sonoma Valley late Sunday afternoon. Our hotel was perfect. The room was large and comfortable - we had a nice bed, a nice tv with a dvd player, and a patio that had a view of the hotel's beautiful gardens, which were surrounded by the hotel, so it was really peaceful. It also had a pool and hot tub, which were nicely decorated with gardens too. It was the perfect place to get away. We spent the entire week in Sonoma Valley, wine tasting and just spending some peaceful time together - it was perfect.

I thought I was doing pretty well last week because I didn't really cry much while we were there. I had one big breakdown in the city park downtown when we went to their farmer's market on Tuesday evening and there were kids and pregnant women everywhere - it was just too much for me. I seem to get really upset around kids and pregnant women I don't know, but I'm fine around my friend's kids and pregnant friends, which is such a blessing. I would hate it if I got upset every time I was around my friends' kids or my pregnant friends. But anytime I'm around kids for a long time in public, I get upset. It happened on the plane rides too.

But otherwise, I was feeling pretty good in Sonoma, except for the constant headaches I have had for the past 2 weeks (I think I am clenching my teeth at night because of the strain on my body, mind, and emotions - hopefully that will stop after a little more time of grieving). Since we've been home though, I've been crying more. It's still only 2-3 times a day and it doesn't last very long, but it's definitely more often than in Sonoma. But I think that's good. I don't necessarily think I was repressing my feelings in Sonoma, but I was allowing myself to be distracted, and because I wasn't thinking about it, I wasn't allowing myself to get upset. I think it's good for me to face every day life and the things that are going to make me upset, so that I can cry and let out my grief.

Sometimes it feels so unreal that all this happened, and I can't even believe that I used to be pregnant for 6 months and went through labor and birth. And sometimes I feel like I have this hole in my heart that is so empty, I don't know if it will ever fill back in. It's just so bizarre the range of emotions I go through throughout the day. Sometimes I just don't know how I'm supposed to feel or act.

Last night, Paul and I watched "We Are Marshall", which is about the Marshall football team disaster in 1971. It was a very sad movie, and of course it was much sadder for me and Paul because it was all about how the football team (and others) died in a plane crash and how the town grieved afterwards, so we cried a lot. But I think it was good for me because I got to see how many people may grieve in a situation when they have experienced extreme loss. It was nice to see that there are all different types of ways to grieve, and you just have to figure out what works for you at each point in the grieving process.

So I'm just trying to let myself feel whatever I need to feel at each point in the day and let myself cry when I need to. I'm hoping that will eventually get the teeth clenching to stop, so that the headaches go away. On a positive note, my blood pressure is going down (130s/90), and the doctor said as long as I stay below 140/90, I shouldn't need to go on medicine, and that hopefully it will continue to go down over the next few weeks. I'm also exercising again and it feels really good. I am continuing to work on Brady's scrap book and collage photo frame, which I'm going to hang up in our upstairs hallway. We haven't gotten a chance to upload the video of the burial service yet, but I promise we will! Working on all of this really helps too. I really want to get some pictures of Brady up around the house, so that I can look at him each day, and I know that eventually looking at his pictures will bring me joy instead of sadness.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Grieving and healing

This week was somewhat better than last week, but still pretty hard. Paul had to go into the office to work, so our friend Steve came to stay with us, so that I wouldn't have to be alone during the day. What a relief. This week would have been so much harder to get through if I had had to do it alone. Steve really kept me distracted and from feeling so alone, and that was so critical for me this week.

In order to get through the week, I kept myself very busy. I ran a lot of errands, one of which included buying a pair of jeans since none of my old pants fit yet and the weather is getting cool enough to wear pants (and yes, Steve was nice enough to come with me to buy jeans :)). Another errand I had to do was to take my matron of honor dress (for my sister's wedding) to a seamstress to get it taken in because it is a maternity dress, and I'm not pregnant anymore :( That was really hard and made Wednesday a very sad day. After that appointment, I watched movies the rest of the day to try to make myself feel better.

I also spent a lot of time planning and putting together Brady's scrap book. Before we buried Brady with the journal I was writing letters to him in, I scanned the journal so that I would have a digital copy of it, since I wanted to put the original in his casket with him. So I printed out the pages of the scanned journal on nice paper and put them into the scrap book. I also printed out all the pictures we took of Brady and started putting those in the scrap book. There are a lot of pictures, so I still have a lot left to put in the book, but I'm really excited with the progress I have made. I'm really looking forward to finishing the book when we get back from our vacation.

Tomorrow we are flying into San Francisco and spending the night there. On Sunday we will go on a couple of tours in San Fran and then we will drive out to Sonoma. Monday - Friday we will go wine tasting throughout Sonoma Valley, and then we fly back home on Saturday. We're really looking forward to having a relaxing time in a beautiful setting with delicious wine and food. I think it will really help to get away and spend some quality time together. We have definitely missed each other this week, and I think that has made it a little harder to heal.

It's so weird for me to be able to do things now that I wasn't able to do when I was pregnant. This morning I was throwing the ball for Macho and I was able to bend over and pick up the ball easily, which I wasn't able to do at the end of my pregnancy. I'm also able to eat cold deli meat, eat canned tuna, stand in front of the microwave when it's running, and drink alcohol now, all of which I wasn't able to do when I was pregnant. It's so sad and weird for me to be able to do these things all of a sudden now and yet I don't have the benefit of taking care of a baby. That really leaves me feeling empty sometimes.

But I'm trying to remember that I still have so much to be thankful for and happy about in my life, like Paul, my family, my friends, my job, and so much more. And I also need to remember that I will have children one day - that this is just a delay and I need to be patient. On Wednesday, one of the movies I watched was Rudy. While watching it, it struck me that his dream was so important to him that he never gave up, no matter how many times he got rejected and no matter how many people told him he couldn't do it. My dream is to have children, and I have never wanted something so much in my entire life. So I need to be patient and persistent, and eventually I will realize my dream. It will just take time, and if I want it this badly, I just need to keep trying until I get it.

So in the meantime, I will be happy with the life I have and will look forward to the children I will have in the future. But I will also let myself be sad and grieve when I think about how much I miss Brady because that is normal and natural. I just won't let that sadness take over my attitude about life in general. So I ask all of you to help me remember the joy I have in life, because you are my friends and family from whom I derive so much of the joy and happiness I have in life. Love you all.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Grieving Brady

This week has had a lot of ups and downs. I have never lost someone close to me before, so I didn't know what to expect in terms of how I would feel and how I would grieve. And now that I'm going through it, I'm still unsure about what to expect each day and how I'm supposed to feel. Each day, I try to keep myself busy, so that I don't think about Brady too much, but then I wonder if I should be thinking about him more to make sure I'm not holding my feelings in and preventing myself from grieving and healing. When I do get upset (which is usually about 2-3 times a day), I struggle with how long I should allow myself to be upset and when I need to just let it go. I know there is no right answer, because even someone else who has been through this exact situation (like many of the women on the Trisomy 13 website) will need a different grieving process in order to get through it.

The reason I am struggling is because I'm trying to figure out what the best grieving process is for me. I want to think about Brady each day, but every time I really think about him, I get upset. And I just don't know how much crying I should allow myself to do. The reasons I get upset range from missing Brady so much to also being upset that our dreams of becoming parents have now been delayed for another year. But, as I mentioned before, I promised Brady that I would try to focus on enjoying life and all that we have and not focus on what we don't have, so I get upset with myself for having a pity party that I don't have a baby to take care of yet. But at the same time, I'm upset because I miss Brady, so I should be able to cry about that. It's such a confusing mix of emotions and I have such trouble figuring them out and dealing with them each day. But I think it is getting slightly easier each day, so I'm trying to focus on that positive and hopeful thought.

Another weird situation I encountered this weekend was on Saturday when we did a lot of socializing. Throughout the day, I was drinking, but when I started to feel like I was getting buzzed, I would start drinking water because I really am not ready to be drunk yet and I don't really want to get drunk (or have the resulting hangover). Despite this, I had a really good time with all the friends we spent time with. However, when I went to bed Saturday night, I got really upset because even though I had a lot of fun, I don't really want that kind of life right now because I am so ready to have a baby to take care of, and I really want to take care of Brady. So that was a strange mix of emotions to go through, and I'm trying to just focus on the fact that I had a great time with great friends, and I have a wonderful life and wonderful friends, so I shouldn't be getting so upset.

Every night before bed, I pray and then I talk to Brady, and that always gets me emotional. I also get emotional about 1-2 times during the day. But thankfully, my emotional spells only last for about 10-30 minutes, so I'm spending the majority of the day either happy or at least not upset. Most of the day, I waiver between sad, so-so, and happy, and I never know when the mood is going to change. I guess that is pretty good at this point, since it's only been a week and a half since Brady was born. Sometimes I can't believe it's been that long.

Paul has been handling this situation much better than I have, and I think there are 2 reasons for that. Paul is a more realistic person than I am, so when we first got Brady's diagnosis a couple of months ago, Paul grieved a lot and then came to accept the fact that Brady would ultimately not make it. Because I decided to be hopeful instead of accepting, I am now having to go through the acceptance part, and he already did that, so after he had his initial grieving period the week after Brady was born, he is now already in the acceptance stage. The other reason I think it's a little easier for him to move on is because he wasn't pregnant, so he hadn't made changes to his life yet in anticipation of the baby, like I had. Part of what's hard about this situation is that I'm no longer pregnant and I also don't have a baby to take care of. I had already stopped drinking and started going to bed earlier, etc, and now I don't have to change my life anymore, so going back to how we used to live is a big change for me emotionally and mentally.

But I'm so thankful that Paul is so strong because he has been so integral to my healing. He is always here to listen to me and comfort me when I am upset or just need to talk. He doesn't judge me and he is completely supportive of how I need to grieve and heal. I couldn't ask for a better man to share my life with. He is so loving and wonderful, and that helps me with grieving and healing.

We have decided to take a week long vacation (starting next Saturday) to Sonoma Valley with a one day stop in San Francisco. We are looking forward to being able to get away from home, so that we can focus on spending quality time together in a relaxing and beautiful setting and enjoy good food and wine. Getting away from home will really help us to let go of all the stresses that we still feel while at home, so that we can focus on our grieving, healing, and just being together alone.

We want to thank all our neighbors who are cooking dinners for us. I can't tell you how much we appreciate this and how much it is needed. I spend the majority of my days either trying to get the house in order, or planning our much needed vacation, or planning the scrap book I'm going to make for Brady, or grieving. If I had to worry about what to cook for dinner, it would stress me out and just be too much for me to handle emotionally, especially since it's really hard for me to go out to the store these days. We feel so fortunate to have such wonderful friends to take care of us and support us and pray for us.

And we want to thank everyone who sent cards/emails/texts and plants/flowers/other gifts. It is so heartwarming to know that we have so many wonderful people praying for us and supporting us in this difficult time. Your support doesn't lessen the pain of losing Brady, but it really does help us remember how lucky we are and what a wonderful life we have, which helps us focus on being happy, and that is so important to our healing. We love getting your messages that ask how we're doing or that just let us know you're thinking of us, so keep them coming. And we will reach out to you when we are able to. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort for us to reach out, but we will do so when we can.

Take care and God bless you all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brady's burial

Yesterday we buried Brady. I thought it was going to be really hard and devastating, but it ended up being really nice. It went exactly how we wanted it to go, and that was really special for us. We only had close family at the service because we wanted it to be really intimate and we felt that we might have trouble speaking honestly and openly if we had more people there.

We started the service with Paul's dad (who is a minister) speaking about Brady and what God's purpose for his life was and how Brady touched so many of us and what he taught us. It was really nice. Next, my sister Jenny read a poem called "When God Calls Little Children". It was really sweet. After the poem, we had everyone write a letter to Brady and then they all read their letters aloud. Everyone had written such wonderfully sweet things to him. We are going to put the letters in a scrap book for Brady, so that we always have them and can read them to him again and again.

Paul's letter was particularly wonderful. He spoke about all the things he had wanted to do with Brady and teach Brady. It was so touching. After Paul read his letter, I spoke. I didn't read my letter because I had written so many letters to Brady already. Instead, I wanted to talk about what Brady had taught me and what I had promised him. He taught me unconditional love, and I promised him that I would show love to my family and friends more because love is the most important thing in life. Brady also taught me not to take life for granted and to find joy in every day. I found so much joy in every day that I spent with Brady while he was in my womb and after he was born, and I will continue to try to find joy in every day from now on because we never know what life is going to throw our way at any moment.

He also taught me to appreciate everything we have. Sometimes we tend to focus on what we don't have and want to get rather than appreciating what we do have, so we need to spend more time enjoying what we do have already. Brady also taught me how to be strong during hardships. Before this situation occurred, I'm sure that I never would have thought I could make it through something like this. But when it's happening, you just find the strength to get through it. This situation has definitely made me stronger personally, and it has made my and Paul's relationship stronger, and I am so thankful for that.

I am eternally grateful to have been chosen to be Brady's mother. At times I feel a little cheated that I never got to meet him and care for him and really feel like a mother, but I am grateful that God took him before he could feel any pain. I care much more about Brady not feeling any pain than my selfish wishes, so I am at peace with how everything happened.

I then read a poem sent to me by a woman I have been in contact with from the Trisomy 13 website that was absolutely perfect and beautiful. After that, we walked to Brady's grave site and Paul's dad said some closing words. Each of us then released a balloon for Brady. It was really nice and turned out so perfectly.

Of course, the entire service I was crying so much, but it was a good cry and not a devastating cry. I felt like I got some really good closure from the service and I feel really at peace with it. I can now focus on putting together Brady's scrap book and finding places to put all of these wonderful plants that you all have sent us, so that we can keep them around the house to remind us of Brady every day.

Thank you all for your kind words and support. We truly appreciate everything you all have done for us. We feel so incredibly fortunate to have such wonderful family and friends because we know that you all will help us get through the tough times and celebrate the good times.

We videotaped the entire service for 2 reasons. One is because my Mom and Dad weren't able to make it to the service because my Dad had to go to the hospital yesterday morning because of leg weakness, so we wanted to make sure they got to see the service. Please pray for my Dad that the doctors can figure out what is wrong and he can get the treatment he needs to get better. The second reason is so that we could share the burial service with all of you, since we didn't have you participate in person. We will send out a link to the video once we've put it together, but here is a web album of all the pictures we have taken:

Love you all.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brady's birth and passing

On Wednesday, September 15th, I went to my doctor appointment in the morning. When they took my blood pressure, it was 160/100. When I spoke with the doctor, she said that this high of a blood pressure is just too severe to ignore and it most likely indicates severe preeclampsia. They took my blood and urine to do some tests, but my doctor said that even if those tests come back normal, this high of blood pressure is too unsafe because it could cause me to seizure. I had no idea it could be this bad. So they had me go to a room in the Labor & Delivery section of the hospital so that they could monitor my blood pressure every 15 minutes, like they did last Saturday.

During this time, my blood pressure kept climbing into the 170s and 180s! I think it even hit 190 at one point. One of the labor & delivery doctors came in and said that this meant I would have to be induced, which I had already figured out. We discussed monitoring Brady during the induction, but because he was so small (under 500 grams), there would be no way to keep him alive even if we did a c-section to try to get him to be born alive. Since we want future children and we didn't want to introduce additional risk to me, we had already decided against a c-section this early in the pregnancy because we knew that Brady wouldn't be able to make it even if he was born alive because there wouldn't even be a tube small enough to fit down his throat. So we decided against monitoring him during labor because I didn't want to know if he had passed anyway. That would have just made it harder to get through the labor process.

They took me to a delivery room and gave me a little lunch, since I was starving, but I ended up not being able to eat much because I was so anxious. After that, they hooked me up to an IV to give me fluids to keep me hydrated and to give me magnesium sulfate (aka mag) to keep me from having seizures during the labor process, since my blood pressure would continue to stay high and possibly go higher during that time. The mag sucks. It makes you feel hot, nauseous, and completely groggy and out of it. They gave me 3 big doses really quickly, which made me really hot, so I had to keep fanning myself with a piece of paper to keep from overheating. After that, I didn't feel too badly, at least at first. After those 3 initial doses, they slowly kept giving me the mag during the entire labor process, so I was always on it. They also gave me something to start the induction process, which they said could take 24-36 hours at least, so I was expecting to be in this for a long while and I was not looking forward it.

Soon after I got those first 3 doses, Paul got to the hospital with all of our stuff (he had to go home from work to get all our stuff before coming to the hospital, so he wasn't able to get there right away). Then we started the waiting game. My blood pressure was being taken every 30 minutes, and it was staying pretty high (150s-160s). Because of the mag, I wasn't really in the mood to play backgammon or watch tv, so we just listened to some soothing music (Enya and Moby) and talked a little bit. Various doctors came to check on me and talk to me about the process, including an anesthesiologist to discuss the epidural, which I definitely wanted (I don't know how people do natural births!). Because I was on mag and could possibly have a seizure, I wasn't allowed to eat, so that sucked (you know how I love to eat and get so ornery when I'm hungry). All I could do was eat ice chips and drink a little water.

Paul was so wonderful through this entire process. He continually got me ice chips or anything else I needed without hesitation. He never complained about anything, even when I would wake him out of sleep to get something for me. He was so incredibly supportive, loving, and appreciative of what I was going through for Brady. I could not ask for a better husband nor a better person to have gone through this with. I can't imagine having to go through this without him. He is my savior.

Originally, they had said that I was going to get doses of the induction medicine every 4 hours (not Pitocin to start the labor, but something else to actually get my cervix to soften and dilate, which normally happens naturally over the course of several weeks in a normal pregnancy, and we were trying to condense that down to a day or so). So I got another pill of that 4 hours after the first one, but then they decided to give me 3 more pills an hour later. I think they had decided to speed up the process because my blood pressure was staying so high and they were concerned for my health. At one point during this time, I started feeling nauseous from the mag, so they gave me some Zofran, which worked great. I also started feeling very crampy and in pain, so they gave me morphine, which was awesome (never had that before, but it worked great!).

Paul's parents and sister got to the hospital around 8:00 or so. My parents were driving down from Ohio because they had been out of town all weekend, so they had a while to go yet. My sister was coming the next morning, since labor was supposed to take so long. Around 9:00, I started feeling a lot of pain, so I asked for my epidural. The anesthesiologist was a little busy with other patients (apparently there were a lot of women giving birth that night), so I had to wait a little while, and I was in agony! That was so incredibly painful. And I wasn't even dilated yet! But I guess it was because I had so much of that medicine that was trying to dilate me.

Finally the anesthesiologist came in and I got the epidural. It was so awesome. I finally felt so much better; although, I was still pretty hot from the mag, so I was freezing every out because I got them to turn down the room temperature so much. But they didn't mind :) Paul's parents and sister went back to our house to sleep, since the process was supposed to continue to go slowly. My parents got there around 2:00 and hung out for a bit, but then started going back to our house to get some sleep before the big day. But then around 2:30 AM, I was dilated about 4 cm. They gave me another 3 pills of the medicine and said they would come back to check on me in an hour. Around 3:00 AM, I was all of a sudden in major pain (even with the epidural!), so we called the nurse into the room. She checked my status and I was already dilated 10 cm! The pain was caused from the pressure of my water, so she broke my water and I felt SO much better.

After my water broke, my contractions slowed down. My parents came back to the hospital and Paul's parents and sister came too. They all hung out for a while and we all fell asleep waiting for something to happen. The nurse had told me to let her know when I started feeling a lot more pressure, but the contractions continued to stay pretty moderate and only occur every 7 minutes. Finally, around 5:15 AM, the nurse came back in and said we were going to try to deliver since my contractions really hadn't started progressing any more. Everyone left the room and we got ready to deliver.

I couldn't believe it was about to happen. I was hoping Brady was going to be alive, so that I could meet him briefly, but I was pretty sure he had already passed at that point. I only had to do 2 pushes and Brady was out because he was so small. He was born at 5:33 AM on September 16th weighing only 1 lb and measuring 11 1/4" in length. It was totally surreal and felt anticlimactic because it was so quick, but I was thankful that it was so easy and pretty painless. The nurse handed him to me immediately and I finally got to meet him. The nurse checked his heartbeat and confirmed that he had already passed.

Seeing Brady for the first time was amazing. During the pregnancy, I had fears that his deformities would make him a little scary looking, but he was so beautiful and cute. And he looked so much like Paul, it was amazing. He had Paul's nose and super blond eyebrows. And his face had the same shape as Paul's, with the cheeks and mouth just like Paul's. Even the shape of his head was like Paul's. It was awesome. I was so happy, but so sad at the same time. It was heartbreaking holding my baby boy but not truly getting to meet him. However, I know that God is taking care of him, and I know that God took him early in the labor process to keep him from feeling any more pain. And for that, I am so thankful.

After the birth, we took lots of pictures and videos. Everyone got to hold him and take a picture with him. And I got to sleep with him on my chest. It was so great. I wanted to spend so much time with him. It was really special. When everyone left, Paul and I got to spend more time with Brady by ourselves, and that was really special too. Eventually, we got moved to another room with a more comfortable bed. I tried to sleep some, but that was hard to do with all the monitoring they were doing and the discomfort I was feeling. We also had to have them take Brady during the day because he was starting to not do so well, and that was really hard to let him go. I really didn't want to be without him at all, but I knew it was better if he was taken away so that he didn't get any worse. Our parents came back later that night, but they didn't stay long because I was so groggy and not feeling well from the mag (that stuff SUCKS!).

Throughout the night I wasn't able to sleep very well because I was being monitored every hour and because I felt so awful. My blood pressure was still high and I was retaining a lot of water. Finally, around 3:00 AM, the water started draining and my blood pressure started going down. At 5:30 AM, they took me off the mag and I was allowed to eat; although, I couldn't really eat since I hadn't eaten anything for almost 2 days. I ate some crackers, but that was all I could get down. I tried to rest some more, but I still felt pretty bad. They gave me some Percocet and Motrin for my discomfort and that really helped, but I think the Percocet also made me really groggy because I was still pretty tired and out of it for most of the day.

Later in the morning, Paul helped me shower (I couldn't walk or stand very steadily because I was so weak) and that helped me feel a little better. We spoke with the hospital chaplain and he really helped us to figure out how we would want to memorialize Brady, not only now, but also in the future. It was really nice. Everyone at UNC hospital was awesome...the nurses were always helpful and nice and smiling, the doctors were always concerned and helpful, and everyone else we encountered was so nice. I will definitely be going to UNC again for my future pregnancies.

Throughout the day, I was able to eat a little more and walk around a little more. We were really missing Brady, so we had the nurse bring him back so that we could spend the afternoon with him. Our parents came back after lunch and we took more pictures and hung out with Brady. It was really nice. After our parents left, we spent more time with Brady. Paul read him another chapter from the book we had been reading him while I was pregnant, and we talked to him some more. We finally had to say goodbye, so that the funeral home could come pick him up. That was really hard to do. We did not want to say goodbye to him, but we knew we had to.

We decided that we wanted to go home that day (Friday), so we finally got discharged that night. Leaving the hospital and going home was really hard without Brady. We felt so empty leaving without him and knowing that we wouldn't ever be able to be with him. I also felt like I had been cheated out of really being a mother and feared that I would forget the feeling of holding him and knowing he was our baby. The overload of all these different emotions was so overwhelming and hard to deal with, but Paul and I talked through them and he helped me deal with them. That night, I slept better than I had in the hospital, but I still didn't sleep very well. In the morning, I cried a lot because I didn't have Brady to care for when I woke up. It was a really hard realization being home and not having him to take care of. But Paul and I comforted each other and that really helped. I am so lucky to have him.

Saturday went pretty well. Paul's friend brought us breakfast, which was so nice, and that helped bring us some sense of normalcy. In the early afternoon, we went to the cemetery to finalize the plans for Brady's burial. It didn't take long because we had already done all the preparations in advance, and we were so thankful for that. It would have been so much harder to get through if we hadn't done that. We realized that God had really led us through the pregnancy the entire way and had made it as painless as possible for us. All the ultrasounds and doctor appointments I had were timed so perfectly to allow us to get the information we needed at the right times in order to allow us to make decisions and preparations when we needed to. I am really happy with how everything went, how much time we got to spend with Brady and the way in which we were able to grieve and handle everything.

Saturday afternoon, we tried to focus on normal life for a while, so we watched some football and tried not to focus too much on our grief. Saturday afternoon, one of Paul's coworkers dropped off food and some friends dropped off some plants. It was really nice. Our parents also got some plants for the burial, and I printed out some pictures for the burial service.

Sunday morning started off better than Saturday morning, but then it got hard again. Paul and I spent the morning preparing for the burial service. During the service, we are going to have each family member write a letter to Brady, and that letter is going to go in the scrap book we are making for Brady. So we were preparing the paper with the pictures for the letters. After lunch, Paul and I went to the funeral home to say our final goodbyes to Brady and place things in his casket...the journal I have been writing letters to him in, his clothes, a VT football, a stuffed dog, a stuffed VT Hokie bird, some flowers, and a few other items. We took more pictures and then Paul read another chapter of the book to him. We talked to him some more and then we said our final goodbyes. It was really hard to say goodbye to him, but it was really good closure for us. Again, we did not want to leave him but knew we had to. We couldn't believe it was really the last time we were going to see him.

In the afternoon, we did more preparations for the burial service and then took a break and watched some football and hung out with our family. After dinner, we printed out pictures of Brady to put on a couple of poster boards for the service and made a song play list to play during the service. We also prepared the speeches we are going to make tomorrow. So it was an emotional day for us.

Tomorrow we bury Brady and say our goodbyes as a family. We know it's going to be so hard for us and we aren't really ready for this to all be over, but it's time. The last few days have made me realize how hard the next several months are going to be. I think this entire year is going to be hard, but each day will be easier than the previous day. I promised Brady I would try to find joy in every day and continue living life and loving those around me. Brady taught me so much about strength and love and remembering to not take life for granted and appreciate everything I have in life, like family and friends, and to make sure to always try to find the joy in life and be a better person, friend, spouse, and family member. Brady touched so many of your lives, and I feel like that is such a miracle and I'm so thankful for that.

I thank you all for all the love and support you have shown us and I look forward to spending time with you as I try to move on and learn to live with this pain. I understand God's purpose for Brady's life and I completely accept it, but it still brings me pain because I miss him so much and wish he was here with me. I have so much unconditional love for him and wish he was here for me to give it to him in person, but I know he is looking down on me and is taken care of in heaven and no longer knows any pain. So I am at peace with it.

I will get stronger and happier one day at a time. And I will always think of Brady and talk to him and keep his memory alive and joyful.

Here is a picture of our beautiful baby boy Brady.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brady seems to be growing!

The past few days have been much better since I changed my attitude. I'm a lot happier and feeling more positive. I'm still trying not to think about the future and just take one day at a time, and that's definitely helping. I measured myself yesterday and I was 38.5" and then I measured again today and I was 39"! I didn't really eat a bunch of bad food yesterday, so hopefully that's Brady growing and not me just getting fatter! LOL! But I really do think Brady is growing because my belly looks even more prominent than it did last week, and I'm SO excited about that! Brady needs to keep growing, so any change in my belly is exciting for me. Plus, it seems like Brady's movements are sometimes getting a little more pronounced, which means that he's getting stronger! I keep hoping for more of those every day.

Tomorrow I go back to the doctor for a regular check-up. Since I don't have any symptoms of preeclampsia (such as a pain in the upper right side of my body, persistent headaches, excessive swelling in my face and hands, and vision blurring), I am hoping that means that I still don't have it. I assume that tomorrow they will do another urine test (not the 24-hour one, just the regular one) and possibly a blood test (maybe only if the urine has protein in it again), but we will see. I'm anticipating that my blood pressure will still be really high, since it was consistently high for 2 hours on Saturday, but I don't think that's a problem as long as I don't develop preeclampsia.

So, please pray that I continue to stay healthy and don't develop preeclampsia, and please pray that Brady continues growing. Every day that I wake up and hear his heartbeat is another day we've made it. Here's to hoping for a good morning tomorrow morning :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good news today

This morning I went to UNC hospital to drop off my 24-hour urine sample (by the way, a 24-hour urine test means that I collect my urine in a jug at home for 24 hours and then they test it - super fun :)). I thought they were just going to take my urine and then take my blood pressure and I would be on my way. Boy was I wrong! They put me in a room and hooked me up to the blood pressure machine to take it every 15 minutes. They also took blood to test that for any signs of preeclampsia because my blood pressure was still really high (157/87) and they were unsure if the lab would run my urine analysis because it was the weekend.

I ended up being there for 2 hours waiting for the results, and during that time, my blood pressure was moving around in the high range. At the end, it even got up to 157/102! And I felt like I was relaxed, so I didn't think it was because I was stressed or anxious. So I figured I would definitely have at least mild preeclampsia. But the doctor came in and said that my urine analysis and blood results came back as normal! The protein in my urine was at 208 mg, and the threshold for mild preeclampsia is 300 mg, so I guess it's possible I could eventually develop preeclampsia, but I don't have it yet, so that's really great. My next appointment is this Wednesday morning, during which I assume they will possibly test my blood and urine again if my blood pressure is high just to make sure things haven't progressed negatively. We'll see.

I must admit, when I got the results this morning, I wasn't sure how to feel. I should have been super happy and excited, but honestly I wasn't sure how I felt. Sometimes I feel like I just want some kind of definite result, even if it is negative, so that we aren't constantly in this limbo, unsure of what's going to happen, but then I feel like a horrible person for thinking that because that would mean that it's over for Brady, and that's not good! This limbo and constant yo-yo of emotions and thoughts is really starting to wear on me and Paul. Every time I go to the doctor or get test results, my emotions run wild. It just absolutely sucks. And I feel like I'm getting worse at handling it, maybe because it's been going on for so long now (almost 2 months!) and because I'm now going to the doctor more often, so my emotions are being thrown for a loop more often. And now I'm starting to go to the doctor even more often, so it's only going to get worse!

So all day I've been feeling sorry for myself and having trouble being happy and positive. But I don't want to feel that way! Thankfully, tonight I spoke with a friend and I was giving her some advice, and after I got off the phone with her, I realized that I need to take my own advice. I need to realize that this is just a temporary hardship that Paul, Brady, and I are going through, but we will get through it and end up okay, whatever the outcome may be. If Brady lives, we will be so happy and feel so blessed to have him and take care of him. If he doesn't make it, he will be taken care of because he will be with God, and Paul and I will mourn him and get past the loss and find ways to remember him with happiness instead of sadness. This situation is just temporary and there are so many other things that I need to remember to be thankful for.

So, as I've mentioned before, I am going to continue trying to focus on each day as it comes and recognize the great moments of each day and be thankful for them. I know this won't always be easy, so I will try to go easy on myself when I slip up, but I'm going to try really hard not to let myself get down. The one thing that I still need to figure out is how to set my expectations appropriately for each doctor appointment, so that I'm not so greatly affected by what happens at the appointment. Changing my expectations to expect the worst did not seem to help my reaction to a doctor appointment because today I was expecting the worst and the best outcome actually occurred, and instead of being happy, I was confused and still upset, which sucked! I realized that the only thing that has been constant throughout this situation has been the unexpected. So, here is my new approach. From now on, each day, I will expect to be surprised. I will expect the unexpected. I feel like there are still so many things that could happen that I don't even know about, so I can't expect them, and I don't want to. I don't want to expect the best and be devastated, and I hate trying to expect the worst, so I will just expect the unexpected. Let's hope that works better! I'll let you know on Wednesday :)

By the way, if you don't want to have to check the blog for my updates, you can click the "Follow" button, so that you get an email each time I update the blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Today is a better day

Thankfully, I'm feeling much better today than yesterday. Yesterday was really rough on me. I think it's because I am trying to stay hopeful, but also because I feel like I'm trying to prepare myself for one situation (like Brady passing in the womb because of the reversed end-diastolic flow issue), but I don't see other situations coming (like the preeclampsia). I guess I should have seen that as a possibility, but since I took my blood pressure this past weekend at the grocery store and it wasn't too high, I figured I was okay. I guess I just need to prepare myself each time I go to the doctor that something else could be wrong, even though I don't know what that something else could be.

At this point, I'm still not sure how to feel. I still feel a little hopeful that things could turn out okay, but we're also trying to prepare for the worst, so we might start making more plans for Brady's funeral. With how often I have to go to the doctor now, I want to start preparing myself more for the worst outcome because I can't keep doing this yo-yo between hope and despair. If I still have some hope but I also assume the worst, maybe that will help me deal with this situation better. So, in preparation for getting back the 24-hour urine sample results, I will hope that everything is actually okay, but I will assume the worst, that I already am in or close to the severe range of preeclampsia and may need to deliver Brady next week. That way, if it is that bad, I can just accept it and deal with it without falling apart too much, and if it ends up being okay, then I can be relieved and happy. That seems like a better coping strategy, so let's hope it works!

In the meantime, I am going through people's suggestions for memorializing Brady and figuring out what we want to do. Hopefully that will help me feel close to him but not get too overly upset. Who knows. For now, I'm just happy it's a better day.

I decided to do another bump picture. Not too much change. I was 151 lbs at the doctor yesterday, so I've gained about 20 lbs so far. Not too bad. If I continued the remaining 14 weeks of the pregnancy and gained about 1 lb a week, the total would be about 34 lbs, which is in the normal range. So hopefully I won't have too much trouble getting the weight off afterwards! We'll see :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Things just keep getting worse

Well, I had another OB appointment this morning, and my blood pressure was really high again (153/90), and this time I had protein in my urine (2+). The protein is a really bad sign because it could mean that I have preeclampsia. For those of you who don't know what preeclampsia is, it's basically a condition where the body is having some kind of bad interaction with the placenta. Typically it doesn't occur until later in the third trimester (I start the third trimester tomorrow - 26 weeks along), but it's not really surprising in my case because of Brady having Trisomy 13. Since Brady has T-13, the placenta isn't quite made right, and since it's malfunctioning now (as we saw from the last appointment when we found out that the blood is flowing backwards when Brady's heart relaxes, which is called Reversed End-Diastolic Flow), my body is probably starting to react to that even more.

Preeclampsia can cause all kinds of issues - kidney failure, blood platelet counts dropping, liver problems, and even neurologic problems like seizures, which can cause permanent damage. There are some treatments, but the only real treatment is to deliver the baby. In a normal pregnancy, they might try to hold off on delivering the baby until further along in the pregnancy, but since Brady has a low chance of survival anyway, that wouldn't really be the right course of action for me because it would be too much risk to my health.

So, tomorrow I get to do a 24-hour urine sample again - I already had to do one early in the pregnancy because of high blood pressure, which is good because now they have a baseline against which to compare these new results. If the protein in my urine is above 300 mg, that means I have preeclampsia. If the protein level is below 3 g, then the preeclampsia is mild, but if it's 3 g or more, then the preeclampsia is severe. If it's mild, then I will start getting blood tests twice a week to monitor other effects, such as kidney and liver issues and blood platelet counts, and if any of those go past a certain threshold, then I will have to deliver Brady early. If the preeclampsia is already severe, then I assume I will have to deliver him as early as Monday. I will find out the results of the 24-hour urine test this Saturday or Sunday. If I have to deliver him because of preeclampsia, they will give me magnesium sulfate intravenously during labor to prevent any issues from occurring. Apparently, the magnesium sulfate makes you feel like you've been run over by a truck, so 24-36 hours of feeling like that during labor will not be fun.

You'd think after getting bad news at every appointment, I would start to expect it, but since I'm focusing so much on being hopeful, I don't expect it. So this is another upsetting day. At this point, I have no idea what I'm supposed to feel. It's getting to the point where hope just doesn't seem to be realistic anymore, but maybe I just need to be hopeful about something different. Maybe if we have to deliver early because of the preeclampsia, that will allow us to meet Brady alive; whereas, if we didn't deliver early, he might pass away in the womb. Who knows.

It's getting harder to get through each day not knowing what's going to happen, but I'm still trying to focus on the good things each day. I guess that's why when something goes badly (like the Virginia Tech game Monday night), I get abnormally upset, because I'm trying so hard to have something good to focus on. And I guess it doesn't help that I'm sleeping worse these days, from having crazy dreams and having to get up to pee more often. I thought that was because I'm getting bigger now, but maybe it's the preeclampsia, I don't know. I guess we'll write this off as a bad day and hope for a better day tomorrow. Pray for strength.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hope is prevailing

Yesterday and today have been much better than Monday and Tuesday. I am doing a lot better now that I am focusing on hope for Brady again. Some may think it's futile to be hopeful in a situation like this, but only God knows what he has in store for Brady, so I should be hopeful for the best because we've already planned for the worst, so now I want to live on hope.

Paul and I decided last night that we are not going to plan for Brady's memorial right now. If it happens, we want to plan his memorial while we are in the grieving state of mind because only then will we really know how we feel and what we want to do to remember him. I feel really good about this decision. We've done the initial planning with the funeral home and cemetary, and we are gathering ideas for memorializing him, so if it does happen, we will be prepared to make the final decisions without having to do all the research we have already done. So please keep sending your ideas. We really appreciate your contributions and we look forward to you sending your ideas. We will just wait to make any final decisions until it happens.

So now my plan is to just focus on Brady and regular every day life. I want to focus on having fun and being in a positive, happy state of mind for Brady. If I am stressed or unhappy, he will feel so effects, and I don't want that. So that means I will probably be doing a lot of pretending that this situation isn't happening because it really doesn't do any good to keep thinking about it when there is really nothing I can do at this point. I will continue going to my regular OB appointments, but I don't think we will do any more tests on Brady until I am much further along because doing additional tests will only help us for after he is born, so we'll probably wait on those until I am closer to my due date.

I really appreciate everyone's texts, emails, and blog comments checking on us. It is so touching how much you all care for us and support us. We love you all.

Here is the 3D ultrasound picture of Brady from Monday. It's kind of freaky looking, but kind of cool too. You can see his arm up in front of his face (he wasn't happy about the ultrasound). I think that's his eye socket above and to the left of his arm, and you can see his chin and I think part of his mouth below his arm. To the right of his face is placenta material or something, so that's why that looks weird. Just wanted you to see our little man!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trying for hope

The visit to the funeral home and cemetary today was pretty awful. At the funeral home, we had to pick out a casket and flowers, and talk about some of the basics of how the service will work. We then went to the cemetary to pick out a grave site and head stone and discuss the basics of how all that will work. It was terrible. I just couldn't believe we were there planning our son's funeral. And, at each place, when it came to talk about payment, I just couldn't even put down a deposit because that meant that we had accepted that Brady is definitely not going to make it, and I just can't accept that yet. I feel like I still have to have hope for him because it just feels wrong to give up on him while he is still alive. He's my son and giving up on him now is like giving up on someone who is dying of a terminal illness. Sometimes those people beat the odds and miraculously live, at least longer than the doctors estimate, and I have to think that there is a chance that Brady could do that too, even if it is the slightest chance. How do you give up on someone that you love with all your heart? I can't do that to him.

What is difficult is trying to plan for Brady's funeral while still remaining hopeful. I want to spend some time planning for his funeral just in case it does happen because I want to make it so very special for him because he deserves to be memorialized and celebrated the best way we possibly can. But planning for the worst outcome also makes it hard to be hopeful, so I know that my emotions will be on a roller coaster as we make these plans, but I'm okay with that because Brady deserves it. So if you have any ideas on good ways to celebrate him and memorialize him, please let us know what they are.

So, despite the time at the funeral home and cemetary this morning, today was a little better than yesterday. I did break down once this afternoon, but it didn't last too long. I'm trying to stay positive and happy and strong for Brady, so that he doesn't feel any additional stress. I still want to give him the best chance possible. Every one of his movements that I feel is a wonderful gift that puts a huge smile on my face, so I look forward to those every day. He seems to be the most active when I eat, so I look forward to my meals even more than before :)

I want to touch on one more thing that I haven't spoken about enough before. Paul is the best husband and man that I know and I thank God that He put Paul on earth for me every day. He is compassionate, empathic, emotional, and strong. He has been so incredibly strong for me throughout this entire experience, even when he is feeling upset and vulnerable. He has taken care of things when I haven't been able to, and he constantly gives me love and support. He has also been such a wonderful father to Brady, reading to him almost every night and talking to him and kissing him. I could not ask for a better husband, and I couldn't imagine going through this without him. I just hope that I have given him the love and support that he has needed as well, and that I will continue to do so because he deserves it. I love him so much.

Please pray for me and Paul to have the strength and hope we need to get through this, and please pray for Brady that he will continue to be able to fight his condition, despite the negative news we received yesterday. None of us know what God's plan is for Brady, and I do not want to give up and assume that God's plan is to take Brady soon. If that is God's plan, I will accept it, but if not, I want to continue to hope and pray that Brady will make it through this.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another bad appointment

Well, today didn't go well like I had hoped. We had the ultrasound this morning to see how Brady is doing. He wasn't moving around much, like I had suspected since I haven't felt him move much in the past week or so. His brain and kidneys were looking good, but he is now measuring 20 weeks, which is 4 weeks behind. 5 weeks ago, he was only 2 weeks behind, so he is falling further behind in size. We found out that the reason for this is because the blood is flowing backwards out of the placenta when Brady's heart relaxes (from pumping), but it's still supposed to be flowing forwards during that time, so he is not only getting fewer nutrients due to the single umbilical artery, but also because the blood isn't always flowing towards him. This signals that the placenta is starting to malfunction, and the doctors think that Brady may only have 2-4 weeks left before he passes.

This was a major blow to me because I have been trying to be so hopeful since we found out about Brady's condition. Paul has been expecting this all along, so he is taking it a little better than I am, but it's still hard for him. So now we are trying to finish our plans for Brady's death. Tomorrow we are going to meet with a funeral home and cemetary to discuss our plans for his burial. We also ordered some Hokie clothes for him to wear when he is born and to be buried in. Now we just need to figure out what we want to bury with him in his casket and what we want to do at his burial service.

This is so surreal for me. I've been trying to be so hopeful this entire time that I haven't really allowed myself to fully accept that this outcome was the most likely one. Now that it's almost 100% definite that he will pass before being born, it's so hard for me to deal with. I'm trying so hard to continue focusing on spending time with Brady while he is alive and to take one day at a time, while still trying to plan for future events so that we are prepared when it happens. After he passes, I will have to give birth to him, and that will be the most difficult and awful thing I have ever had to do (and hopefully will ever have to do).

So now it's just a waiting game. One day, I will wake up and use the fetal heart monitor and find out that Brady is no longer with us. Until that day, I will try my best to cherish the time I have with him and find the good times in every day. I will just have to accept that this was God's plan for Brady and that he has fulfilled God's mission and is ready to be taken to heaven to wait for me and Paul to join him. I know how much he has already changed my and Paul's life, and I like to think that he has had a positive impact on your lives as well. Please pray for us to have the strength to come through this stronger than we were before. Thank you all for your support and love.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Positive thoughts

This week hasn't been as bad as I expected, thankfully. I have been really busy with work and that has helped keep my mind off of the impending doctor appointments. I continue to try to just focus on each day as it comes and enjoy the happy moments of the day. I have felt Brady less often this week, but I'm wondering if that's because of his positioning because when I check his heartbeat, he is always moving around even though I can't feel him. He is still sitting super low, so that might also contribute to not being able to feel him as often. But he was definitely kicking last night during story time, so he must really be enjoying that!! Paul is getting even better at his story reading and wants to focus on getting even better at making the story more dramatic and realistic :) He'll be a pro by the time Brady is born!!

Thanks to a few friends, I have a couple of bins of maternity clothes that I can wear, so I won't have to buy many at all! But I am going to buy some maternity jeans this weekend. I think jeans are the one piece of clothing that is really personal in terms of fit and style, and it's so nice to have a really great pair of jeans that make you feel good, so I will definitely splurge on those. Otherwise, I think I might be doing pretty well with clothes.

I also finally finished my baby registry! I am also reading baby books now that I'm past the midway point of the pregnancy. It's really nice to focus on how I'm going to take care of Brady when he is born instead of thinking about how well or poorly he is doing now and what might happen. It really helps me to be hopeful and just go through life and make plans as though he is going to be fine, because maybe he will be!! I don't even think I can wrap my head around the other alternative, so what's the point in thinking that way, right? So, I am looking forward to buying a few special outfits for Brady to wear on the day of his birth, attending my baby showers, and decorating his room. One of the things I really want to splurge on is decorating his room, so we've picked out a cute bedroom set and I'm going to try and decorate everything really cute to match it. And we'll have our painter paint the walls and maybe do something really cute with that. I can't wait! Of course, Brady will be sleeping in our room for the first several months, but he still needs a cute room, right?!?! :) I think focusing on decorating his room will really help my mood too, and it will be fun!

So that's the update for now. I will be 24 weeks along tomorrow. 2 more weeks until I start the third trimester! I just saw my best friend this weekend who is around 38 weeks along and she was totally popping, but her belly was just this little ball in front of her. It was so cute! She's having a little boy too, so Brady will have a friend close in age :) Paul can't wait for me to be popping like that too, and I'm looking forward to it too. The more I grow, the more Brady shows me he is growing, so I love it!

Thank you all for the loving thoughts, notes, and prayers. You are keeping us hopeful and positive during all this!! So keep them coming! :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rough week ahead

This past weekend was so much fun visiting our friends in Virginia Beach who we hadn't seen in 8 years! It was really great to hang out with them and their kids. We had such a great time. And when we got home last night, I printed out more landscape pictures from some of our past vacations to hang in the hallway, which I was really happy about getting done. Tonight we will hang them and print out VT landscapes for the collage frame for our bar room. It will be nice to get some more decorating done in the house.

However, even with all this good stuff, I'm starting to have periods of depression and sadness. On the drive home yesterday, I started crying because of thinking about Brady and the uncertainties we are facing. Spending time with our friends' kids this weekend was so much fun, I think it made me think about how different it's going to be with Brady and the possibility of not having that time with Brady. And I'm getting upset again today too. I hate feeling this way. I like it much better when I'm feeling happy and positive.

I think I'm starting to have these feelings because we'll be going back to those doctor appointments next Monday, and I always seem to start having negative thoughts a week before an appointment. I'm really afraid of what we are going to see in the ultrasound and fetal echo. I'm so excited to see Brady, but I'm afraid of what the doctors are going to say. Part of me doesn't want to keep getting these updates for fear that they will show us that Brady is doing worse than we think or hope, and I know that the only way I am getting through this pregnancy is because of the hope that I have for him. So if we get more bad news about him, it will really chip away at that hope and make it harder to get through the next 4 months. But at the same time, I want to be prepared. I guess we'll see how next Monday goes and then make decisions about how often we want to get updates from there. I know that these prenatal tests aren't conclusive because they are limited in what they can see, but it's still hard to get the results. Hopefully the cardiologist will say that his heart condition isn't that bad, but I guess we'll see next Monday.

Please pray for me and Paul to have the strength to handle whatever news we get next week and remain hopeful despite any negative information we receive from the doctors. And please pray for Brady that he is able to fight and beat the odds.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bump Watch - 8/20/2010

Today I am 23 weeks pregnant! It's crazy to think that in 3 weeks I'll be in my third trimester. This trimester is definitely going faster than the first. I am measuring 38" around my belly now, so I've gained another half inch since last week, which is a good sign. I am feeling Brady kick a lot more often now and with more strength. Paul and I can even see his pokes from the outside sometimes, which was really cool for him to see!

I am feeling much better after this week. I got to catch up on my sleep and on chores around the house. I also got to exercise one day, which was great! I am starting to feel more uncomfortable now sometimes when sitting in certain positions, but it's not too bad yet. I ordered a body pillow for sleeping, so I'm excited to get that!

I've really gotten good at focusing on each day as it comes and the good things about that day, rather than worrying about the future. This change in attitude is good for me overall, so I have Brady to thank for that! :) This weekend we are going to Virginia Beach to visit some friends. It will be our last trip out of town until Jenny's wedding in October, so it will be nice to take a break from traveling. College Football season starts in 2 weeks. Can't wait!

Monday, August 16, 2010

What a crazy week it has been

The weekend in Boston with my sister (Jenny) and Mom for Jenny's bachelorette party and bridal shower was really fun but definitely exhausting for a pregnant girl :) On Saturday, we went to lunch, then hung out in the afternoon, then went to a late dinner. After dinner, the other girls took Jenny out for some dancing and drinking while I went back to the hotel room to sleep. I made it until 10:00, which I thought was pretty good :)

Unfortunately, during the day my Mom found out that her Dad was in the ICU, so she ended up having to leave a day early in order to go home and then go to Ohio on Sunday to see him. He ended up passing away on Sunday before she was able to see him, but thankfully she had seen him just a few weeks before that and had spoken with him on Saturday, so she felt like she had been able to say goodbye. But it was still hard for her. Despite going through that, she remained strong and took care of all the stuff that needed to be taken care of to get ready for his funeral and start figuring out what to do with his house.

My Mom is such a strong woman and I like to think that she has passed that strength on to me. In difficult times, she will take the time to break down and get upset, but when needed, she is able to push that aside and take care of things. I really admire that and I hope that I'm able to do that for my children when they go through hard times, and I hope that I am doing that well for Brady now, because he needs optimism and love even in the womb, so I don't want to focus on too much negativity or sadness.

So, on Monday, I came home from Boston and worked Monday afternoon and Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, we went to our next OB appointment. Before the appointment, we met with Lisa (the social worker who is working with us on scheduling appointments and just basically figuring out how to get through all this) to take a tour of UNC Woman's Hospital. It was super nice. We got to see one of the delivery rooms, which was so nice. The rooms are really large and completely private, with a private bathroom. They have a couch to sleep on, tv, music, and what looks like a fairly comfortable bed. There is even a little area for the baby to sleep with a warmer over it, so that Brady can be in the room with me, unless he has to go to the NICU.

When we were in the room, we discussed how we want delivery to go, and Lisa said that we could make decisions such as whether we want the blinds up or down, what music we want on, if we want Brady to be cleaned up before given to us or if we want him put directly in my arms after he's delivered. So many things to think about! I had no idea! But I'm so thankful that I have Lisa to bring those things up and help us make those decisions. We then went to see where we would prep for a c-section, if that becomes needed.

After the tour, we met with our OB. I had my blood pressure taken, and it was still a little high (134/84), but still much lower than it had been at the beginning of my pregnancy, and it hasn't increased since the last appointment. They now want me to take my blood pressure once a week to make sure it doesn't increase drastically in between OB appointments, since I'm a little more at risk for preeclampsia because of Brady's single umbilical artery in the placenta. They also weighed me and I was 148 lbs, so I only gained 3 lbs since my last visit 4 weeks ago. Hopefully that just means that Brady is growing but I'm not ;)

We then spoke with the doctor about our plan for delivering Brady. We had decided that we wanted a scheduled c-section to reduce the strain on Brady during delivery, so that he would have the best chance possible of survival and minimal trauma to his spinal sac (from the spina bifida). We were told that in a typical pregnancy, if the baby is in distress and it is determined that he will do better outside of the womb, they will induce labor or do a c-section before full term in order to get the baby out of that situation. However, with a T-13 baby, they would not recommend that because the baby has a much lower chance of survival.

Paul and I hadn't really discussed if we would want to get him out early if he was in distress yet, so we talked about a c-section and the doctor said that having a c-section before full term would be risky because the uterus isn't wide enough to do a horizontal incision, so they would have to do the old school vertical incision. With the current horizontal incision, there is approximately a 1 in 200 or 1 in 400 chance of rupture in a future pregnancy, which is pretty low. With the vertical incision, there is a 10% chance of rupture, so my doctor said that she would not do one for me. Paul and I agreed that it would be too risky, so we decided against do a pre-full term c-section.

We then discussed the possibility of a scheduled c-section for full-term delivery. The doctor asked the reason we wanted to do that, and we said we wanted to give Brady the best chance of survival and minimize additional injury. She said that the research on spina bifida requiring c-section to reduce injury is inconclusive because the test case groups have been very small and they haven't really been followed up on, which seemed to agree with what I have seen so far on that topic on the web. She said that the doctors at UNC had just reviewed that research that week in order to update their policies on spina bifida babies in general and they had decided to do vaginal births instead of c-sections because the research is inconclusive. So for our situation, she recommends the same course of action, but that we would monitor Brady closely and if he goes into distress, we will do a c-section.

Paul and I feel comfortable with that plan, so we are happy we were able to discuss it with the doctor. Many T-13 babies have gone through a vaginal birth just fine, so we feel that it makes sense to see if Brady will be able to handle it, and if not, we can then do a c-section on the spot. We feel comfortable that the doctors and nurses are good enough that they will take care of Brady if he isn't doing well at any point (there is a central station where they can monitor me and the baby even when they aren't in the delivery room).

After the appointment was over, we made follow-up appointments for August 30th to get another ultrasound, a fetal echo, and meet with the neonatologist. The fetal echo is a type of ultrasound that is able to target the heart and get a more accurate picture of the structure of it. After the echo, we will meet with the cardiologist to ask him questions about what he sees. The neonatologist is a doctor who focuses on the care of infants, especially ones that are ill or premature. I think they run the NICU and manage the neonatal nurses. He will be able to answer questions about the care that Brady will receive after he is born and the possibility of various surgeries (for the heart and spina bifida) after Brady is born. So August 30th will be a very long day, but we figured we would just get everything over with at the same time.

After the appointment, we got on a plane to Ohio for my Grandpa's funeral. The viewing was Wednesday night, and that went fine. The funeral was Thursday morning, and that was a little difficult for me because it made me think about the bad possibility of Brady not making it, so I was really glad that Paul was with me to support me through that. We got home super late Thursday night, so Friday was a little rough. The weekend was also tiring because we had a lot of errands to run and chores around the house, but I got to go to a concert with some friends on Sunday night, and that was really nice because it got me out of the house and having fun and not focusing on this situation. Brady seemed to like the music :)

I have really begun to wear a lot of maternity clothes now because of my growing belly, so that's a little weird to transition to. Brady is sitting really low, so it's just not comfortable trying to fit into regular shorts anymore, even with the belly bands or rubber bands.

I continue to use the fetal heart monitor every day and it continues to give me peace. I'm still unsure about the "movements" I am feeling, but I gotta think they are Brady since I never felt these kinds of movements before I was pregnant and they are so random that they don't seem to correlate with anything else (like gas :)). According to one of my books, Brady is supposed to double his weight in the next 4 weeks, so I'm really hoping that means I will start to feel more substantial movements by then. I'm really interested to see how big he has gotten at my next ultrasound. I really hope he has started to catch up and isn't further behind, but we'll see.

I still have my moments of breaking down, but they pass pretty quickly thankfully. They usually occur when I am stressed about something else or just plain tired, so that is pretty normal. Otherwise, I just try to focus on enjoying each day and connecting with Brady. Paul is continuing to read to him every day, which is really nice, and he talks to him and kisses him. It's really nice that he's connecting with Brady too.

Thank you all for your continued support through all this. We really appreciate it and are so grateful we have such wonderful family and friends. This situation would be much harder without you.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kristie's Bump Watch

Today I am 21 weeks along. Each week that goes by gives me more hope for Brady. He is going strong and likes to move around a lot. Last night I got a massage and it felt wonderful. I'm going to have to go more often to get these knots out of my back :) Hopefully the massage increased my blood flow to Brady, so that he gets more nutrients! There's really no change in the bump this week or in my waist size, but that doesn't mean he's not growing. Who knows how all that works in there!

Today I leave for Boston to visit my sister for her bachelorette party and bridal shower. It's Brady's first time on the plane, so I'm hoping that he takes it well. It's also his first time meeting his Aunt Jenny, so I am very excited! It will be a lot of fun and really nice to spend time with my sister. It's been too long.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's amazing what a heartbeat can do

Today has been another great day so far. Hearing Brady's heartbeat again this morning was so wonderful. It just makes me so happy and increases my hope for him. I really want to stay positive and hopeful for him because I feel like that will help him to fight this! It is just so amazing how much more hopeful and happy I am today knowing that Brady is alive and kicking :)

I'm really starting to think the muscle twitches I keep feeling in my lower abdomen are him. I felt one right after Paul kissed Brady goodbye this morning, and I'm feeling them more and more often recently. I love the feeling that I might actually be feeling him finally! I can't wait for him to get bigger, so that I can feel him with even more certainty and frequency.

He's still sitting really low in my abdomen. I hope that doesn't mean he's not growing, but since I gained an inch last week, I'm hoping that means he is growing just fine. Hopefully I will gain another inch in the next couple of weeks. I really want to see some progress there, but I guess I will see some progress next Wednesday when I go to my OB appointment and get weighed. I'm really hoping I've gained the 4 pounds that I was supposed to have gained in the past 4 weeks.

This week I'm also feeling a lot more energetic because my chest cold is FINALLY over! It was holding onto me for 3 weeks, and that really made me feel run down. So this week I started exercising again and it felt GREAT! I tried going back to swimming yesterday morning, but it just didn't feel as good as it did earlier this summer, so this morning I road my exercise bike and did a few light weight lifting exercises, and that felt SO GOOD!

I am so excited to have my energy back and be able to work out again. I really missed it, and I think that run down feeling was making it harder to deal with this situation. I'm going to keep up the exercise to help my body be in the best condition for Brady to grow and thrive. My focus is to keep Brady's environment in prime condition, so that he has the best chance possible.

Every time I think about him, I smile. So, please think of him often and smile and pray for him :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We have a heartbeat!

Yesterday I ordered a fetal doppler on the web to rent, so that I could check on Brady each day. FedEx just dropped it off and I checked for Brady's heartbeat and found it!! YAY!!! And I timed his beats and his heartbeat is 140 beats/minute, which is consistent with what his heartbeat has been at previous doctor appointments. This makes me SO happy! Now when I talk to him every day, I will know that he's alive and listening to me. That is such a huge gift for me. Every day that he is alive gives me more hope for his future and helps keep me connected to him. I am so thankful that this doppler worked and I was able to get it so easily. Hopefully I will be more at peace now.

The next step in this process is to plan for Brady's death, which is going to be extremely hard. We need to look at our options and determine what we want to do (burial or cremation? if burial, where in the area?), so that we are prepared if it happens. This will cause me the most trouble in keeping up my hope, so please pray for us that we have the strength to get through it, so that we can move on to planning for his treatments, which will be much easier and give us hope that he will live.

Every day is a struggle, but we are trying to stay positive and remain hopeful. Thank you to everyone for all your support and love through all of this. We love you!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Brady update - 8/1/2010

As you saw, last week was actually a pretty good week. I kept myself really busy with work and other things, and that really helped keep me positive and hopeful. I also felt like I was getting a little bigger, so that made me even more hopeful that Brady is growing. It was weird, sometimes I would just feel really full or stretch in my abdomen, like I could feel him pushing on me to make room for him. I still don't know if I have felt his movements or not, but occasionally I do feel some muscle twitching in that area. I'd like to think that it's him, but I just don't know for certain.

On Friday afternoon, the woman from the UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health (Lisa) called me. She told me about all the things they are going to do for us. She said that if Brady doesn't make it, we can plan for mementos, pictures, handprints/footprints, and other special things to make the day of his birth more special. She suggested we buy a couple of special outfits and bring them to th hospital to take pictures in them. She also said that they have a professional photographer that will take pictures for free for babies that aren't going to make it long. The company is called "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep". After hearing all this, I felt so relieved that they understood what we want and will take care of us. I feel so fortunate that we found this group to work with. She also said that their chaplain (Daryl) will be able to help us figure out burial arrangements, so that we can have that planned ahead of time, in case Brady doesn't make it.

She set up an OB appointment for me for August 11th. At that time, we will be able to register with the hospital and we will be given a primary OB that we will meet with every time, so that he/she can get to know us and take care of us. After that appointment, she said that we can tour the hospital. I mentioned that I'd like to meet with Daryl as soon as possible because Brady could go at any time, so she is going to try to get us an appointment to meet with him after the OB appointment as well. At one point, she said something like "if Brady doesn't have a heartbeat at the OB appointment...". It didn't seem to affect me much during the conversation, but it's something that has haunted me since.

She said that at later OB appointments, she can set up appointments for us to meet with the neonatologist, pediatrician, labor and delivery nurses, pediatric cardiologist, and pediatric neurosurgeon. I was really glad to hear that she had thought of all those people that we need to meet with and will help set up those appointments.

After the phone call, I was feeling very good about the situation. I feel like we are in very good hands and will be taken care of well.

Friday night before bed though, I started having negative thoughts. For some reason, I just started wondering if Brady is going to have a heartbeat at our next OB appointment and thinking that he might not. I started to cry some, but had to stop myself to go to sleep. These are the first negative thoughts I have had in a week, and they were devastating. I don't want to feel this way, so I hoped that I would feel better the next day. Last night, I started having the same thoughts but earlier in the night this time. I started talking about them with Paul and he tried to comfort me. He then read to Brady, and that lifted my spirits some, but again before bed, I started to think negative thoughts again and started crying again.

And as I'm writing this blog entry, I'm crying too. I knew I would have bad moments mixed in with the good, but since Friday night, they seem to be getting worse and more frequent. I'm just so afraid that something has gone wrong already. The worst part is not knowing. If I knew he was okay, then of course I would continue to feel hopeful and positive. If I knew he was gone, then I could begin to grieve. This limbo is really hard, so today we're going to look into getting a heartbeat monitor (like the one the OB uses to find Brady's heartbeat), so that I can check on him every morning. That will help me to get through these days between OB appointments, especially since I haven't felt him move yet, so I can't tell when he has stopped moving.

I continue to pray that God will help us get through this and be here for us. I don't know what God's plan is for Brady, so I pray that he will be with us eventually, but if that's not in God's plan, then it's not going to happen. So what I need to pray for the most is the strength to get through whatever does happen, whether it be Brady's death or caring for him after his birth. Both are going to require a lot of strength, so that's what I pray for the most.

Sometimes, it doesn't feel like this is really happening. I'm just going through the motions of planning and I try not to think about what could happen, so that I don't fall apart. I know it's a coping mechanism, but at least it's productive. And sometimes, I can't believe this is happening. After all we went through to get pregnant, now we have a good chance of losing him, yet we have no idea when or if it will happen. The ambiguity of the situation is probably the worst, but I just don't want to give him up. Partly for selfish reasons, because I want to keep my baby, but partly because I want him to have life, for himself.

I better stop here. I need to try to stop thinking about this, so that I can go on with life today. Otherwise, I'll cry all day :) Please pray for us and Brady. We need it. Thank you for your love and support. We really appreciate all the emails, texts, phone calls, cards, and other offers of support. It means more than you know.