Tuesday, February 22, 2011

As Beauty Grows

A week and a half ago, I saw a perinatologist again for my monthly check-up.  I loved watching Beauty move around and seeing her little hands, feet, profile, and heart.  My favorite moment, however, was when I got to see her in 3D for the very first time.  What a beauty she is indeed!  It's a strange moment when you get a glimpse of your baby's face who is in still in your womb.  Seeing her turn her head toward me almost felt like being let in on a tremendous secret or like opening a birthday present early.  Surely I'm not supposed to be able to see her little face already!  But of course it was wonderful.  Here are some photos from the appointment.

The perinatologist, who I hadn't seen before, told me that she has one minor concern about Beauty.  She says it's a small thing but something they want to keep their eye on nonetheless.   At my 17 week ultrasound, Beauty's abdomen was measuring in the 32nd percentile.  At my 21 week ultrasound, it measured in the 12th percentile.  She said they don't like to see downward trends, so they will be keeping a close watch to see what happens as I progress.  The normal range is from the 5th - 95th percentile, so she is still measuring within normal limits, but the decrease is minorly concerning.  I have not spent much time worrying about this.  Obviously I would rather they have zero concerns, but this seems like a "victim of technology" kind of worry.  The vast majority of people don't even have ultrasounds at weeks 17 and 21 to compare measurements, so for me to sweat about it seems kind of silly.  In fact, I completely forgot to tell anyone other than Bryan about it for a full week.  So, clearly I'm not worked up about this concern.  I do hope that in two and half weeks I will get encouraging news, and I covet prayers for Beauty's health, of course.

I have spent much of the past week in bed with back problems.  I've had a finicky back since junior high, and in 9th grade I had two 14-inch nickel rods put in my back for scoliosis.  I live with constant shoulder and neck pain, but sometimes my lower back acts up, and then I end up in bed.  I think it's been ten years since the last time it really happened.   The time in bed has been trying for me (and the whole family!), and I have new sympathy for moms who end up on bedrest.  I can't even imagine!  I am so grateful that my bedridden time was due to my back and not my pregnancy.  

As I laid in bed, I found myself thinking a lot about Samuel.  I was sore from being in bed all the time and not being able to vary my position much, and I couldn't help but think about Samuel who spent his entire life in bed.  He wasn't rocked or cuddled or swayed.  He wasn't hugged or held.  He simply had to lie there for 31 days.  Most nurses didn't spend much energy trying to shift his position, so his head was pretty misshaped.  And in the last ten days of his life, he was so sick they couldn't even angle him, so he laid flat on his back the whole time.  He developed bed sores on his back and neck from lying in the same position and from the oscillator (a kind of breathing machine that caused his body to vibrate constantly so he had continual friction between his skin and the blankets beneath him).  They were open wounds, and a special nurse from wound care came every few days to address them.  But eventually he was too sick to move him at all, so we couldn't even look at them and attend to them. 

It's hard to remember those things about my baby son.  I prefer to remember how much we loved him or the absolute joy we felt when he opened his eyes and looked at us or the hours we spent reading The Chronicles of Narnia out loud to him.  But the ugly memories creep up too sometimes, and I can't turn away from them in volitional forgetfulness.  I have to remember all of it -- the good moments and even the worst moments.  It's all part of his life, and it's all part of our story, and I don't want to ignore the painful stuff just because it's hard.  The hard stuff is real too, and it shapes us, and hopefully it changes us and deepens us and draws us closer to Jesus. 

As my belly continues to grow, and as Beauty's movements get more and more pronounced, I find myself thinking of and remembering Samuel more and more.  I miss having that sweet boy safe in my tummy.  I miss being his safe, growing place.  I miss his kicks and nudges and the way I already loved him so much after learning about his heart.  I miss that little life who is no longer in me.  Just last night Joel prayed, "Help Samuel to have a good time in Heaven" and though I know it's already true, I found myself echoing Joel.  "Yes, Lord, give Samuel the fullness of life he didn't get on earth."  Though I miss my baby boy all the time, I know he's full of joy with Jesus, and I couldn't ask for anything more.  And in these days with Beauty safe in my womb, I rejoice in her life, her kicks, her squirms, and the hope of a life spent cuddling, hugging, holding, and kissing my sweet daughter.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Absolutely Beautiful"

Yesterday Bryan and I headed to Dr. Videlefsky's office for our first real information about Beauty's heart.  It's the appointment I have been anticipating since October 15th when I found out I was pregnant.  We were both nervous on our way down, but we were calm and eager to learn something about our coming daughter's heart. 

Dr. V was Samuel's amazing pediatric cardiologist, and we first saw him when I was 20 weeks pregnant with Samuel.  I saw him monthly throughout my pregnancy, and then we saw a good deal of him at Northside and Egleston once Samuel arrived.  He was always full of genuine kindness, compassion, gentleness, and humiilty.  We liked him from the start, and our admiration only grew throughout Samuel's life and since.  Since Samuel's death, we have seen him twice.  He came to the funeral, which was incredibly kind of him, and we visited him for Samuel's birthday, taking tins of cookies and our thanks.  I was looking forward to seeing him again, the face I associate with Samuel more than almost any other.  And I was hoping that this time he would have good news for us.

It was a little strange to be back in his office again, to be a patient once more in a pediatric cardiologist's suite.  And being there brought back a lot of memories for me and Bryan.  We both washed our hands while we were there, and Bryan was struck by the smell of the soap.  Once I smelled my hands, I realized it was the exact soap that Egleston uses, and both of us were flooded with memories.  Since we washed our hands endlessly while at the hospital, we perpetually smelled like that soap during Samuel's life, and it's impossible for us to separate the smell from our son and his life at the hospital.  When we were leaving and were in the underground parking garage, I moved my hand in front of my face and got a strong whiff of the soap.  My stomach turned immediately, and I got the shivers that accompany a bad association.  I couldn't help but feel like we were leaving our Samuel once again, that we were headed home to sleep for the night and knew our baby was sick as could be upstairs, and who knew what would happen in the night.  Leaving Samuel was always the worst for us.  We had to tear ourselves away every night, and I even felt that way leaving his side to go eat a meal or run to the bathroom.  Bryan and I, though especially Bryan, were surprised by how much our trip to Dr. V's churned up.

Once we got in to the echo room, and the tech, Michelle, started the echo of Beauty's heart, I was ready to know if everything was alright.  Michelle said Beauty was cooperating beautifully, and she was able to get every picture she needed without any trouble, something Bryan and I had prayed for.  After twenty minutes or so of looking and taking pictures, she went to get Dr. V.  Dr. Videlefsky had already popped his head in and greeted us and told us how glad he was to see us and how he hoped he would be able to give us good news.  When he came in to look at the pictures, he talked us through everything he saw -- four strong chambers, no holes in the ventricular wall, normally related great vessels, etc, etc.  In my mind I was ticking possible problems off of a list.  Once he went through all the pictures, he said, "She is absolutely beautiful, absolutely perfect.  There is nothing questionable about her heart.  Her heart is absolutely normal."  I had tears streaming down my face.  He went on to say that you can never be 100%, but he saw nothing to cause him any concern whatsoever, he could see everything he needed to see, and there was nothing to even rouse a question in his mind.  There is no reason for us to see him again during my pregnancy unless I feel anxious and want him to take another look, which he would be glad to do.  He also said he will look at Beauty and do an echo of her heart once she is born just to be extra safe, but that he is confident she has a healthy heart.  He delivered this news with conviction, confidence, and a definite sense of absolute.  It was more than I even knew to hope for.

I was teary during his whole delivery and kept wiping away my tears.  I worked hard not to turn into a blubbering idiot, at which I succeeded.  :)  Bryan sat beside me, squeezing my hand and being misty-eyed.  We were overjoyed.  And it was evident to us that Dr. V was nearly as thrilled to finally be able to give us good news as we were to receive it.  We walked out praising Jesus for answering our prayer. 

We are both a little overwhelmed by the good and hopeful news.  We know God gets all the credit and glory for it, and we are humbled by His kindness.  But the truth is, He would be no less good if we had gotten bad news yesterday.  He would be no less worthy of our praise and thanks and bowed hearts.  He has been good through the valley, and He will be good on the mountain top as well.  He is King of both our sorrow and our joy.  And I am speechless with thanks for who He is -- and for this daughter of ours, kicking me as I type.

So, now comes the joy of planning for Beauty without the constant question of "will she..."  I am sure there will still be some "will she" questions, like will she have healthy lungs?  will she really have a perfectly healthy heart?  and will she really grow up in this house with us all taking care of her and holding her and loving her?  But the frequency of those questions will diminish.  And we can get her room ready and carseat bought and worn out baby items replaced and her name picked without the nagging fear that it is all pointless.  So, thank you, Jesus, for our baby girl and for her health.  We are overwhelmed with gratitude and anticipation.  Thank you!

20 weeks pregnant