Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day, Year Two

Today was the first day of our second year of homeschooling -- a school year we weren't sure would happen. While we initially thought we would reevaluate our decision to homeschool at the end of each school year, we had such a successful year last year that James and I decided on homeschooling the kids until middle school, reevaluating at that time.

About a week and a half ago, though, Gracie decided she wanted to go back to public school. We felt conflicted because all the reasons we decided to homeschool still applied, while Gracie's reasons for returning to public school seemed petty -- buying a new plaid skirt, hanging out with friends, taking her lunch somewhere. (Big things to a seven-year-old, but still.) Her reasons weren't enough to immediately enroll her, still, it was clear she had some need for more, so as a family, we began praying for direction.

Long story short (is that even possible for me?!), after much discussion and consideration, and after plenteous phone calls and e-mails, we were able to miraculously get into a homeschool co-op that several people we know participate in. At the co-op, the kids will take classes based on their interests, they'll have teachers and a place to hang out with friends in a classroom setting, and they'll get the whole school experience while we still get all the advantages of homeschooling. For the kids to participate in the co-op, I'll have to serve -- in the newborn nursery with my own baby. Could it get better than that?

The co-op doesn't open for two more weeks, but we began core classes at home today. The kids enjoyed reviewing topics from last year and looking through this year's 3rd grade texts. Even Brystol was cooperative, waking to nurse at natural breaks in the day. We did have some challenges, but overall, the day went on far better than I could have hoped it would.

Here's hoping for many more days like this one...

The Kidlets

Gracie, Age 7
Bub, Age 8
Brystol, One Month

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Last weekend and this weekend, we spent time with friends celebrating the miracle God has done for our family in Brystol. These precious people loved on us, prayed for us, and showered us with the most wonderful gifts. (We had another fun shower during the pregnancy thrown by church friends and our community group, but I didn't take my camera and don't have any digital images to blog. Anyone care to share?)

Last weekend, my friend Marcie threw together an impromptu shower for us when James was suddenly scheduled to work in Tulsa and the kids and I tagged along. It was great to see a few Oklahoma friends and some family at the last minute, and we were spared from making the rounds. (James was on camera duty, and yet, there are very few pictures of the friends who came by. Oh well. You know who you are.)

This weekend, Brystol and I celebrated with many of our local friends. These are the friends who rallied around us during each and every one of our losses. They sat with us in the hospital as we waited for sad endings, they planned a memorial service, they brought meals and sent cards and flowers. These are the friends who prayed for us and walked with us all along our reproductive journey, during high times and low. This shower was such an amazing blessing as several of these ladies were planning a baby shower for us when I was pregnant for Zachary. To have them plan a shower for my take-home baby was amazing. It truly meant so much.

It has been so incredible to share our joy with those who have walked through such dark times with us. God has blessed us all...

Brystol, Four Weeks Old

Friday, August 21, 2009

An Afternoon at the Arboretum

As part of our summer finale, all three kids (!) and I joined friends for a beautiful afternoon at the Dallas Arboretum. This was a first for each of us, and despite the heat, we had a lovely day together.

The gardens were dotted with Storybook Playhouses -- art installations based on popular children's literature. The kids enjoyed climbing on and exploring the playscapes, and we all enjoyed the plant life a great deal. I believe we'll be returning quite soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bits and Pieces

Brystol, Three Weeks Old
A Photo Collection of Baby Bits and Pieces

Chubby Cheeks

Tiny Mouth

Bright Eyes

Exquisite Ears

Downy Hair

Kissable Neck

Delicate Fingers

Strong Arms

Lithe Body

Long Legs

Beautiful Feet

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Psalm 139:13-14a NIV

Ribbons and Bows

Brystol, Three Weeks Old

On Three...

Prepare for a bit of a photo overload. My personal photographer Amy came by for a visit and took a million precious pictures of our new little subject -- sweet Baby Brystol at three weeks. (If we're technical, the pictures were taken a couple of days before she was three weeks old, but I'm not picky.)

Brystol loves to sleep with her arm behind her head, her left arm in particular. I remember watching her so often on ultrasounds with her arms all around her head or her face, and it's funny to me to watch her doing the very same thing out in the big world. I wonder if she will always prefer sleeping this way.

(With that little smirk, she looks like she's fake sleeping in this picture.)

A sweet bracelet from my friend Lisa

Finding Fingers

The Monkey Face

Beautiful Baby

Mommy's Girl

Though Brystol is a beauty and a treasure, these first three weeks with baby have been very challenging for us all. We anticipated sleepless nights, nursing challenges, and overall family growing pains, but certainly not to the extent that we've felt them. It didn't help that I started out as the walking wounded or that Brystol doubled as the incredible shrinking baby -- those things would have been challenging enough on their own. What we didn't anticipate was just how hard all the sleepless nights (and days) would be, or how difficult nursing (and pumping and supplementing) every 2-3 hours around the clock would be, or just how painful the transition from little sister and big brother to big sister and bigger brother would be. Even our dog is out of whack! I think it would be fair to say that we're surviving. We're happily just getting by and we wouldn't change a thing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sweet Things

Sweet things come in blue plaid packages.

"B" for Brystol on soft pink knit.

Staying warm will be stylish all autumn long.

Thank you, Gayle and JB

Thursday, August 6, 2009

At Two Weeks

Two weeks with a new baby in the house go by so much faster than two weeks waiting for baby, and the "2ww" (the "two-week wait" -- the two week span of time between ovulation and implantation) wondering if you've conceived a baby doesn't even feel like the same passage of time at all.

Brystol is now 2 weeks old and she's changed so much. She's obviously thinner -- she weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces at birth, she dropped to 6 lbs. 10, and is now right back around 7 pounds. To get her back to birth weight and beyond, we're both nursing and supplementing with expressed milk using a Medela starter supplemental nursing system. I'm hoping to eliminate all supplemental technology within the next couple of weeks, but my plans are contingent upon her rate of growth. She's growing, she's putting on weight and going in the right direction, it's just not a quick process.

Brystol has more periods of alertness than she did initially. We love looking into her beautiful eyes. They're still that standard grey-blue color of the newborn, but I think they'll be brown in the end. Her hair is thinning a bit in the front, and every once in a while, I think I see a hint of red. (It's very red in these pictures!) James is concerned Brystol will be the only red-headed Filipino in the world, but that's what he gets for marrying a girl of German/Irish descent -- the risk of red-headed kids who tan well. She's lost the squeaky cry of a newborn baby and now has a robust howl. And speaking of lost, she lost her umbilical cord stump and found her big girl belly button. Her buttoned little tummy looks so cute!

Tummy Time with Dad

Not Feeling Photogenic

Big Girl Belly Button

Sleeping Sweetly

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


After the c-section, I seemed to bounce back right away. I had surgery at 8:00 that morning and was up and moving around later that afternoon. I stayed on the IV for 24 hours and received pain medicine through the fluid. The next day, Friday, I switched to oral pain meds and took them on a fairly regular schedule, but I was still up and around. I even considered going home earlier than planned. I decided to stay so we'd have round-the-clock access to the lactation nurses in the hospital.

On Saturday, the nurses began stretching the time between doses of pain medicine, and by evening, I began experiencing increasing pain around the c-section incision. All the nurses and the doctor said my incision looked good and attributed my increasing pain to my mobility. They suggested some rest and I began calling for the medicine a bit more frequently. By Sunday morning, the incision was quite sore. My OB rounded with me that day and said the pain was probably related to skin that had begun growing around the edges of the staples. He ordered the staple removal that day, but as the day progressed, my incision pain was bypassed by a terrible headache. My nurse again suggested rest and insisted that I delay or cancel visitors and take a nap instead. I tried resting, but the headache grew increasingly worse.

After being observed by two nurses and meeting with the anesthesiologist, it was determined that I was experiencing a spinal headache. Evidently, the many spinal attempts made by the CRNA left a wound that wasn't sealing or healing properly. To correct the issue, I had to have a blood patch administered. James and Brystol stayed in the hospital room while I was wheeled back to L&D. There, the anesthesiologist and another CRNA worked together -- the doctor administered a local anesthesia and probed around my spine until he found the wound. Despite the local, I felt a throb with each push. Meanwhile, the CRNA prepared a sterile field on my hand and withdrew a vial of blood. When the doctor found the right location, he injected the sterile blood into the location in my spine. Literally, after only a few minutes, the intense headache was completely gone. I had a "hangover headache" for the rest of the evening, but overall, I felt so much better.

The incision, however, it still hurt like crazy! The nurse tried to dismiss the pain, suggesting I rest instead of having the staples removed, but as the evening progressed, I could no longer bear the pain. The nurse came in with her little bag of tools and said the staple removal would feel similar to eyebrow plucking. She couldn't have been more wrong. The removal was so much more painful than leaving them in place, but it was something that had to be done. I did feel relief once it was over.

The nurse was puzzled by all the pain, but she again just said the skin had begun growing over the edges. Perhaps that was the answer. The next morning, I had my final check by the rounding doctor and my lovely incision was complimented once again. The paperwork for discharge was submitted, and by lunchtime, I was on my way home.

We arrived home and began to settle in, and within a few minutes, a hungry baby needed nursing and I sat down to care for her. As I reached across my body to grab a pillow to my left, I felt an unzipping way down low. Instantly, my lap was warm with blood and fluid. I pressed my hand to the wound, not fully understanding what had happened, and began to call for James who was in the shower. James took the baby from my arms and called the doctor to find out what we should do. Marcie examined the opening -- my frantic mind imagined her looking for body parts. I felt relief when she told me she just saw an opening on my surgery scar -- not intestines spilling out.

The nurse at the doctor's office told us to come in right away, so after twenty tumultuous minutes at home, we were off again. The doctor said I must have developed a hematoma -- a collection of fluid and blood -- behind the incision. The pressure of the hematoma combined with me turning across my body caused the incision to open up. He mashed around on it and forced it to drain some, then sent me home with instructions to let it keep draining. I was to come back two days later to have it packed.

By Wednesday, the draining slowed. I went in to have the wound packed and discovered the plan was to have the wound packed two to three times each day. Home health care would have to be ordered and healing was projected to take 4-6 weeks. Since a nurse likely wouldn't be in my home by that night, I scheduled a time to come back to the office the next morning. When I arrived that Thursday morning, the office nurse told me they were having complications arranging my home health care with an agency and hospital admission was necessary. They were hopeful I'd be in and out in a short amount of time, but my freedom was contingent upon what the hospital care coordinator could work out before the end of business on Friday. One-week-old Brystol and I checked back into the postpartum wing for wound care.

The nurses on the wing were surprisingly so excited to have me back. Most of them had never dealt with wound care and were excited for the opportunity to do something new. The nurse educator came in and taught them about equipment, wound cleansers and skin prep products, then directed three nurses as they packed the wound with a wet-to-dry dressing (which is essentially a 4x4 gauze soaked in sterile water, then packed into the wound using a long cotton tipped applicator).

They packed the wound three more times before midday Friday, and at that time, a wound care nurse came in to examine my wound and make her recommendation. She observed that the zealous postpartum nurses packed my wound so well that they opened up two three-inch long tunnels underneath the side portions of the incisions -- the portions that appeared to be completely healed. Essentially, the entire c-section incision housed a hematoma -- no part of it was healing as well as we thought.

Because of the tunnels, the wound care nurse recommended a Wound Vac, which is just that -- a vacuum for wounds. I have the ActiVac in particular. The Wound Vac is apparently a wonderful contraption. Because it both wicks (or rather, sucks) away drainage and provides negative pressure on the edges of a wound, it speeds healing time quite dramatically. Instead of healing taking a minimum of four to six weeks, and potentially more, healing with a Wound Vac could take four weeks or less.

The wound care nurse packed my abdomen with the Wound Vac sponges, the care coordinator found a home health care agency to care for me after my release from the hospital, and a KCI nurse delivered a portable unit to my hospital room. I was set to go home by dinnertime.

At this point, the plan for care includes dressing changes in my home every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Other than that, I just wear a gurgly vacuum that slurps all day and all night. As for the vacuum, it's cumbersome, it's uncomfortable, and wearing a constant contraption is not at all what I had in mind for my postpartum days.

In many ways, I feel trapped and burdened by this vacuum, both physically and emotionally. In other ways, I'm grateful for the burden -- it causes me sit and be still, it forces me to do less and to rely more, and it makes me very happy that I was so intent on plowing through "The List" while I was free to lift my arms above my head and bend at the waist (both of which I am now not allowed to do). Despite this new challenge, I'm so grateful that I'm bearing this physical burden and not Brystol. Overall, we're both healthy, and have much to be thankful for. I have been given grace enough for this, and even this -- this too shall pass.

Sporting the ActiVac

"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me,
all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest...
Let me teach you,
because I am humble and gentle at heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.'"

Matthew 11:28-29

Bright Eyes

Brystol, though still very sleepy most of the time, has had some wonderful moments of alertness lately. We all get so excited when she rouses from her slumber to look around for a while. Her bright eyes are so lovely! If I were her, though, I'd keep my eyes mostly shut too. Looking out at the four of us gathered around her is surely rather disturbing. Here she is at ten days old.

Waking Up

Finding Her Hands

Who Are These People?

Bright Eyes

Pretty Girl

Big Yawn


Winding Down

All Done!

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