Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Four Years Later: Blessed

Four years ago today, our son Zachary was born prematurely. He died one hour and forty-eight minutes later. I think back to that day, to that unimaginable pain, and I remember wondering how I would survive. I have survived.

There are days I still miss him terribly. I dream of what life would be like with him here. There are days I wonder why Zachary's death was necessary, and I hunt to see ways his brief moments on Earth have changed things. Without a doubt, I can say because of Zachary's death, doors have been opened for me to share both my heartache and healing through e-mails, forum discussions, personal connections and a support group I co-lead at our church. Additionally, the physical modifications I underwent following his passing and my openness about them have allowed me to share with other hopeful mothers, and I know of at least a handful of babies who have survived pregnancy and are living because of my willingness to share. Brystol survived pregnancy. Our fifth child -- our FIFTH CHILD -- has a real chance at life because Zachary died.

Undoubtedly, the biggest and most obvious change has been within my own heart. I have learned our time on this Earth is fleeting, and I treasure moments I might have overlooked before. I have learned to trust the Lord in a much much deeper way, and that affords me unexplainable comfort when new hardships arise. In all the pain, in all the questioning, these are the questions that return to me the most: "Why in the world when I ask a question does God have to answer it with Christ? (Because He is the answer.) Why when I ask for direction does God point to Christ? (Because He is the Way.) When I really get down to it, my sole purpose here on this Earth is Christ: to know Him, to love Him, to become more like Him, to tell others about Him." Though my heart's desire was to be a mother to many, through grieving the loss of our son it became clear my purpose on this Earth is to point others to the cross. To my great pleasure, as my focus shifted away from being the mother to many to pointing others toward the cross, I'm suddenly the mother to many with more on the way. Indeed, I have been richly blessed.

"He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD."

Psalm 113:9

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011: Celebrating

Our family had an especially sweet time celebrating Easter with our newest little bunny. The big kids were still excited about dressing up for church and unloading baskets, and Brystol really got in on the fun, enjoying the new toys and "can-nee." We'll need a bigger table to set out baskets next Easter!

Bub, Age 10

Gracie, Age 8

Brystol, 21 months

Elleigh, 6 weeks

Scenes from the Day

Happy Easter
from Our Family to Yours

Easter 2011: Jesus Is Risen!

"Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake,
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven
and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid,
for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said."

Matthew 28:1-6 ESV

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Cancer Journey: The Big Hair Cut

Mom's hair began falling out about a week before her second round of chemo. She'd had her hair cut from longish to quite short in anticipation of this, but we didn't expect it to start falling out so soon. We thought after the second or third round, not the first. Hopefully, this means the chemo is working well.

She told me she was standing outside in the heavy Texas winds and noticed her hair blowing away. She said it felt like she was blowing away. It was time for her hair to come off. When I went to shave her head, it astounded me just how much hair she'd lost in the few days since I'd last seen her in person. Though her hair had been cut short, it was still quite thick at our last visit. When I came over this time, her hair was so thin and large clumps were missing out of the back.

We took a few pictures before the big hair cut, as well as a couple during and after. We all cried during the cut, but I felt a bit better after it was done. Mom has been working hard to adjust. She's learning how to tie and wear scarves.

Nanny with the Kiddos

Mom with her foster sons, Dennis and Matt

Mom and Me

The Big Hairdo

Beautiful Baldie

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Open Adoption and Visiting the Birthparents

We were very apprehensive about moving into an open adoption arrangement. Though we knew the benefits to having access to the birthparents, and though we understand the benefit to their having access to baby, we were very concerned about what that relationship would look like for our family. We were afraid we wouldn't be able to handle the dynamics of the relationships. So far, though, our open adoption arrangement has gone better than expected.

When we initially got Elleigh, we decided to exchange cell phone numbers with the birthmom. She was very sweet and we felt like we'd like to remain in contact with her. Over the month, we've had a number of very pleasant text conversations, and I've been able to send her some pictures of Elleigh over these first few weeks. We've had more contact than we planned, but we also understand she's young and coping with a loss. In light of that, it's been a pleasure to bring her some comfort.

We also offered to meet her when we returned to the agency for our first adoption support group meeting. That meeting was this weekend. We planned to meet her at a restaurant in her home town, but at the last minute, our meeting was moved to the agency. We'd be meeting the birthfather for the first time, and our social worker felt that initial meeting should be done with a worker present to answer questions, facilitate conversation, etc.

We were nervous about meeting the birthfather, but he was very gracious and expressed thanks for our adopting Elleigh. Both he and birthmom cuddled the baby and took pictures with her. Birthfather compared Elleigh to his other children and agreed with us that she looks just like her birthmother. It was awesome to spend some time with both of them. We're hoping to see them both again when we return to the agency for our next meeting in June.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Elleigh at One Month

It's hard to believe, but our little Elleigh is a month old already! She's such a sweet blessing to our family. She's generally quite content, but she loves to eat, and she is very vocal about her need to eat exactly every three hours. Though she's bottle-fed, Elleigh is nowhere close to sleeping through the night. The doctor thinks she'll be sleeping through the night by twelve weeks or so (something about weight gain and development). I'm so tired, I honestly cannot wait.

Elleigh also doesn't love her car seat, and she's been known to complain when she's strapped in for long car rides. Fortunately, my friend Jenny recently shared a car seat swaddle trick, and our car trips are MUCH improved. Besides these two minimal little issues, Elleigh is quite the content little baby. She loves to be swaddled, held, cuddled, or worn in a baby wrap. She's very alert and deeply gazes at the person holding her. Her curls are coming in beautifully. We're still just so excited to have her as a part of our family, and we feel blessed to watch her grow and change.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Itty-Bitty Baby Helper

Brystol loves Elleigh and is a great itty-bitty baby helper!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Our Springtime Surprise -- Baby #5!

I was in New York on April Fools Day, and there I announced our springtime surprise -- Baby #5! I was 11 weeks pregnant at the time, and only a few people commented with a "yeah right." Some friends and family already knew and officially congratulated us, so a couple of days later when I posted a sonogram picture, it was funny to me how many people admitted they thought our announcement was a joke.

It's not a joke -- I'm pregnant. Of all the months to conceive, we conceived right before we adopted a newborn. Of course, we didn't know things would happen as they did. I had a positive urine test (or nine) the weekend before our adoption homestudy on Valentine's Day. We felt concerned about having a homestudy while pregnant, but we decided to move forward since I am so prone to miscarriage. If I stayed pregnant, we planned to announce our news to the agency at the end of the my first trimester, the weekend we attended our first adoption support group meeting. We thought we were on a two- or three-year track for adoption, so even if we went to term and we were blessed with an adoption match, our two littlest would still be a couple of years apart in age. Little did we know we'd be matched with a new little baby just thirty days after our homestudy!

When the agency called about our match, I was eight weeks pregnant at the time. We shared our surprising news and asked if they had any concerns. The social worker said they didn't as long as we didn't. We didn't! We felt having two little ones seven months apart would be no different than having twins. Irish twins! What we didn't really think through was adapting to an up-every-three-hours newborn schedule while tired from pregnancy, or having another sleepless newborn while the elder Irish twin is newly sleeping through the night and beginning to crawl about. It's been interesting to parent a newborn while growing another baby. Needless to say, I could sure use a nap!

As for baby, so far, so good. I've already been rotated between my OB/GYN and my MFM specialist. With supplementation, my progesterone level was fairly stable early on, despite some daily spotting that lasted several weeks. At this point, my cervix looks good and the placenta appears to be developing nicely. I had the nuchal translucency scan to test for Down's Syndrome, and baby seems to be growing well with no disorders. I'll continue seeing each doctor every two weeks until later in the pregnancy when the appointments become more frequent. I'll begin taking the 17P hydroxyprogesterone injections again sometime between 15-17 weeks.

With all of our struggles to either get or stay pregnant, it blows my mind that if all continues going well, James and I will be the parents of FIVE CHILDREN. Insane! We feel so, so blessed. Though life feels very out of control right now with everything else going on, it's been hard to obsess over this pregnancy, and time seems to be flying by -- not that I'm complaining! I'm sure I'll have a "list," but I don't have time for it to be insane. We'll need an even bigger car, so that's at the top of the list. As for home projects, we just need to work on some routine maintenance stuff. At this point, we'd still like to sell this house and move closer to church and friends sometime next year, so I hate to invest a lot of time or money to add a new baby suite upstairs. We'll see -- lots of decisions to make. I need that nap first.

Pregnant me at 11 weeks
(Tired from traipsing about NYC)

Baby #5 at 11 weeks + 3 days

Sunday, April 3, 2011

NYC Girl's Trip: Day Four

Sunday was our final day in New York City, and after three super busy days, we decided to slow way down on Sunday morning. We had breakfast at a nearby luncheonette and we spent the morning strolling through Central Park. We were both just a little bit sad to leave the city, but we were super excited to return to our homes and families. Four fun-filled days was just enough time to see and do all we wanted. New York City was amazing -- I can't wait to return with James and all of the kids!

Breakfast at the New York Luncheonette

Dakota Hotel and Strawberry Fields

Sunday Morning in Central Park

Saturday, April 2, 2011

NYC Girl's Trip: Day Three

Day three in New York City was to be as long and as busy as day two. We began the day with a second trip to Ess-a-Bagel (so delicious!), and though we didn't have a lot of actual sightseeing planned, we had planned a long day of shopping. Between the flea market in Hell's Kitchen and a visit to Chinatown, we hoped to load up on lots of goodies. Lots of things at the flea market were good for admiring, but not so good for carrying home on flights, and Chinatown wasn't the bargain mecca we thought it might be. In the end, we walked away with a few souvenirs and interesting trinkets, but we didn't purchase near as much as we prepared and budgeted for.

We also visited the Carnegie Deli for the biggest Reuben sandwich ever. We spent the afternoon checking out the Guggenheim and exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art (admission for both of us: $10 after one free admission for Bank of America cardholders and one discounted student admission). We returned to Rockefeller Center later in the evening to admire the nighttime skyline from the "Top of the Rock."

Ess-a-Bagel: The Most Delicious Bagels in NYC

Hell's Kitchen Flea Market

Artistry in Chinatown

Sharing a Reuben at Carnegie Deli

The Guggenheim

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rockefeller Center

The Nighttime Skyline from the Top of the Rock

Day Three: Street Scenes

Friday, April 1, 2011

NYC Girl's Trip: Day Two

Day two was long and busy. We got up and out early, and we packed so much into a few drizzly hours. We fueled up at Ess-a-Bagel, a most delicious New York bagel shop. We had everything bagels topped with olive-ladened cream cheese, then we hit the metro for a busy day on the town.

World Trade Center

Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Shopping on 5th Avenue

Times Square

Toys 'R Us in Times Square

Day Two: Street Scenes

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