01 September 2015

so here's what happened (ivy's birth story)

This post has been months in the making. But the whole thing of actually having a baby to care for every day makes it tough to sit down and write. I've been asked frequently what "happened." It seemed like Ivy was suddenly introduced on Facebook as being early and tiny. So here's what happened...

At 30 weeks, the ultrasound indicated that baby was small. Like really small. Like in the 3rd percentile. So we were referred to a specialist in Dallas. We saw him a few times. He concurred that baby was small, but seemed healthy. We/she/I was diagnosed with IUGR--Intrauterine Growth Retardation. Most often it's an issue with the placenta. The doctor's felt like this was a placenta issue, and not another underlying issue that caused baby to stop growing. He predicted that at 30 weeks she weighed about 3 pounds.

We had goals. Make it to 31 weeks. Then 34. Then 37. We had two ultrasounds each week to make sure no other issues popped up. At 31 weeks, my blood pressure (which was perfect the entire pregnancy) went up a little. I tested for preeclampsia. The results were better than good. The doctor decided that my blood pressure was just a bit high during pregnancy. A little over a week later, I did another test, and the results were still good. I had an ultrasound at the end of my 34th week and my blood pressure was still high. The doctor told me to come in the following Monday, just to make sure things were OK.

That weekend I had a baby shower. Then my parents and my in-laws came over that Sunday to help us get things in place and the nursery put together. And are we ever glad that happened! On Monday afternoon, my doctor sent me to the hospital to do a third test for preeclampsia and to monitor the baby overnight. I rushed home to get a bag packed and reported to the hospital. I got my bracelet, put on my gown and cried as they blew a vein inserting the I.V. I'd just started week 35 and expected to be sent home on bed rest if my results showed preeclampsia. No big deal. I'd just binge watch a million series on Netflix.

My results came back on Tuesday evening. I had severe preeclampsia. Like so bad they weren't releasing me from the hospital. Because baby was tiny, she would need a NICU. I would need to transfer hospitals. I had to wait about an hour for the ambulance, so I pleaded with the nurse to let me shower, even though I needed to be in bed. She agreed to it, if I did it super quickly. I did. And then I rode ONE BLOCK in an ambulance to the hospital with a NICU. Oh. my. word. You truly can see each hospital from the other; they are SO close.

Once I got there and was set up in my room, my doctor came to see me. She let me know that they would deliver the baby at 4pm the next day. Knowing that I'd be on magnesium for 24 hours after the delivery (to treat preeclampsia), I absolutely hated the thought of waiting hours and hours to get that 24 hours started. I cried and begged her to move it up. The operating room was booked all day until then, so there was no flexibility.

Thankfully, Jeremy stayed with me that night. At 4am--less than six hours after I'd arrived in my room--three nurses bolted into the room, turned on all the lights and said, "It's go time!" Baby's heart rate decelerated three times. That's enough to getcha into the operating room sooner! They prepped me for the C-section in my room and on the way to the OR. (Side note: when we toured the hospital during our birthing class, the OR was freezing. But when your baby is headed to the NICU, it's heated!) Jeremy called our parents, and then came into the OR once things were ready to go.

At 5:05am, our sweet baby girl was born, wrapped up in her umbilical cord. She weighed 2 pounds, 14 ounces and was 15 inches long. Such a tiny thing! The NICU team did their preliminary checks, and then brought her to see us. It was my one glance for 24 hours. We were separated. She was in the NICU; I was being treated with magnesium. Neither of us were stable enough to visit the other. Of all the pain I experienced with surgery, the emotional pain of separation was the worst of all. For the most part, my mom stayed with me while Jeremy stayed with the baby. (She still wasn't named at this point!) I saw pictures, but she was under the bili lights, so I never really saw her.

At 5am the next morning--after firing one of my nurses for being awful and mean--I woke up sick. Two nurses came in, turned off the magnesium and morphine, and told me that it was time to shower, and then meet my baby. They did most of the work getting me ready to go, but I was willing to do most anything to get to my girl. The wheelchair ride down the long halls to the NICU was quiet. Once I got into her dark little room, I was able to touch her through the isolette while she was sleeping. The nurse shared when we'd be able to hold her. Because of the bilirubin therapy, we'd only be able to hold her for about 15 minutes a few times a day. It was excruciating, but some was better than none.

We were able to get some rest and food once in my swanky new room. (Which happened to cost more than any hotel we've ever stayed in.) At the appropriate time, we made it back down to the NICU. And then we talked names. We'd had it narrowed down to just a few. I'd hoped that when I saw her again, something would click, but it was still difficult. We both decided that we loved Ivy Beatrix. She had a name.

Dollar used for size perspective. She was so teeny tiny!
(Come to think of it, it may have taken an extra day to choose a name. The days definitely run together!)

(I just remember the clerk being SUPER put out with me for not having a name until Friday. Apparently that's unacceptable, and every other baby born on Wednesday had a name.)

(That didn't make it happen any faster.)

So that's how her story began. I'll share more about our 19 days in the NICU and her amazing progress. (Preview: she has some chunky thighs!)

06 November 2014

knit together: a family photo, education & anticipation

Wow! Thank you so much for your excitement for us and sharing in our news!

For the life of me, I cannot remember to take pictures. Even when we're on vacation, by the end of our time away there are minimal pictures as compared to the first few days away. I'm hoping that changes when we have a baby. Surely it will. We actually did have photos taken recently, but haven't received those yet. So here's a snapshot of us; it's one of my favorites:

Other than a cat and a dog, this is our family. We're anxiously awaiting children and look forward to our lives being completely different. 

Since we aren't parents yet, we absolutely have lots to learn about parenting. Of course, we'll read books as needed, but I think most can agree that learning this skill requires doing. But there is the component that involves incorporating adoption into life. We know that we don't want to have "the talk" at some point in the life of a child where we reveal that they are adopted. This will be something that our child knows from a very early age. There is a chance that this child will have a different ethnic or racial background, so they would notice differences early in life. Our plan for sharing with our child(ren) about adoption is to provide age-appropriate books. Eventually, we'll strive to have open conversation about the birth family, with hopes that they'll know adoption isn't something to push under a rug and ignore. We want them to be proud of both of their families.

We were exhausted after our home study with the information that we learned. We haven't gone into adoption blindly. Our church has created a culture of adoption, and we have several friends who have adopted; I have family members who are adopted. But there were things our social worker shared that we hadn't considered. For instance, we knew that bonding with an adopted child will be different. They've spent nine months (hopefully) in a different environment. Bonding with baby is essential for any parent, but critical for adoptive parents. We were told that for the first few months of life, all needs must be met by us: feeding, putting down to sleep, holding, changing diapers. Although others can give a little squeeze, passing baby around a circle of visitors so that they can hold him/her isn't something we'll be able to do. We had no clue. It sounds like we'll be pretty busy for the first few months!

We've also learned that positive adoption language is critical so that children know that there is more than one way to grow a family. We want to honor our child and their birth family. Here are some examples:

Real/Natural Parents
Birth parents; birth mother/father
Children of your own
Biological children
Adopted child
My child, child
Was adopted
Is adopted
Born to unmarried parents
Give up for adoption
Placed for adoption
Bi-racial family
Trans-racial family

Another component of education is for those around us--our families and friends who will have an impact on our child's life. The above language will be critical for our circles of influence. We'll work to correct phrases so that there's no shame associated with adoption. 

We also want those who aren't as familiar with adoption to understand the call to adoption we have from Christ. If adoption makes you unsettled, or if you've never truly considered the heart of adoption, I'd love for you to listen to John Piper's sermon called Adoption: The Heart of the Gospel

I think it's safe to say that there's anticipation whenever a child will join a family, whether through pregnancy or adoption. Of course, this is no exception. Like a pregnancy, there's lots of waiting involved in adoption. Currently, we're anticipating our home study to be complete and a start to fundraising. (Side note: we have a fundraising opportunity that's fun for us--or at least me. That'll come in the next couple of weeks!) It seems like once those hurdles are cleared, then things will be easier. But then we'll start the process of being matched with a birth mom. I know, I KNOW that will be nerve-wracking for us. 

We know that we want to wait well. We want to anticipate our child joining us, but not be anxious or filled with worry. We trust that because this process has been Spirit-led that this season will be one of growing in Him, through the waiting. 

Thank you again for following along this journey with us. We're so grateful to have such a broad support system. We're so thankful to Him to grow our family in this way. We'd love your prayers while we're in the learning and the growing and the waiting.

03 November 2014

knit together

Hi, friends. I have some news to share. Actually, we have some big news to share:

(As a reminder: Jeremy proposed while we played LIFE, so we figured it was totally appropriate to announce this part of our life using the game.)

(Full disclosure: the square really says, "Adopt Twins." You'll see my finger is strategically placed. Not that we can't or won't adopt twins. But we didn't want mislead you.)

(Even fuller disclosure: our sweet friend, Michelle, took these pictures for us one Friday evening. There are a couple with our faces actually in the picture--perfectly off-set for text to be added, but for some reason I didn't see any need to brush my hair. There was a need. And Photoshop can only do so much. Therefore, you have a picture with our fingers.)

November is Adoption Awareness Month, and we're so excited to share about our growing family. We signed our papers with a consultant agency close to two months ago, and we're in full swing with all things adoption. This month on Instagram is a campaign called #knittogetherbyadoption. As part of this, there a daily topics. I'm hoping to share throughout the month, detailing our process and sharing about why adoption is important to us. Since a couple of days have already passed, I'll combine a few topics. And probably would, any way, since posting daily isn't likely.

I can't remember a time in my life when I haven't been impacted by adoption. I have friends who are adopted and friends who have adopted. I've worked with orphans and with children in foster care. In fact, adoption is so important to me that it was a topic on our first date. I knew that I couldn't marry someone who wasn't open to adoption, so there was no need to move to a second date if we didn't share this conviction. Since our first date was going so well, I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that Jeremy is fully supportive of adoption.

For both of us, adoption is important. We believe that if those in the church proclaim to be pro-life, then they must also be pro-adoption. The first cannot be a reality if the second isn't offered. Jeremy and I feel a calling to step in and help birth parents who sacrificially place their child for adoption. We know that others aren't called to adopt, but there are other ways to participate in an adoption: praying for a family, running errands for a new adoptive mom, cooking dinner for the family, participating in a fundraiser.

For us, adoption has always been part of our plan. We're excited that it's now a reality.

This was huge for us. We'd talked about adoption since our first date, seven years ago. The first decision we made was that we would pursue a domestic, infant adoption. If you're unaware, there are hundreds of adoption agencies. It was a little difficult to know if we were making the best decision. Because I follow several adoption advocates and adoptive parents via Instagram and blogs, I was somewhat familiar with adoption consultant agencies, so I began researching these.

We decided that a consultant agency would be the best fit for us. Rather than applying with one agency, a consultant agency works with multiple agencies and dozens of attorneys. Basically, they have more birth moms and there's often less waiting time. I contacted the first consultant agency, but I felt that the communication from the agency was lacking. I waited several days between sending an email and receiving a reply. I decided to Google "adoption consultants."

The first or second result was for Christian Adoption Consultants. I did a little research on their website and decided to request more information. Y'all. Within an hour, their Texas consultant CALLED me. Like on my phone. I decided that this would be the consultant agency for us. We submitted our paperwork and initial payment. We've emailed back and forth, and a phone call is always an option. I feel like I'm not navigating this huge process alone. (And just to clarify, I'm not doing this alone; Jeremy is by my side. But my strength is paperwork and organization, so it makes sense that this part of the process is "mine.")

So that's our plunge into adoption. We're super excited. And we love that our family and friends are excited, too. We love hearing, "Congratulations!" just as we would if announcing a pregnancy. We love hearing about how adoption has impacted even more than we'd realized. So, if you have a story, please share. If you have a question, please ask. I'm excited to blog about this over the next month.

02 May 2014

a little too fluffy: an intro

If you're one of the ten or so long-time readers of my blog, you know that posts the last year have been spotty, at best. I've struggled with knowing what I want to post and living a relatively boring life. I'm guessing you don't want to know about how much I love Downton Abbey after binge-watching almost every episode since January. (I have four to go in the fourth season, so no spoilers, puh-lease.) Or about how my husband and our BFFs made me watch all of the Harry Potter movies in a six month period and I LOVED THEM so much. Basically, I love television and movies. That's not great blog content.

And here's the deal: I don't take pictures. Of course, sitting on the couch watching television for how ever many hours we've done is a bit boring. But the real reason is that I don't like myself in pictures. Since getting married, I've put on some happy weight. In fact, I put on way too much. We have approximately 12 pictures of years 2-4 of our adventures. And we do some fun stuff! I mean, we have scenery, but none of us. Because I don't want to be in them. I haven't wanted to look at me.

I'd had enough of that so mid-December, I joined Weight Watchers. I'd done it before, and it worked. I lost weight over the entire holiday season. Which is nuts. Then I lost weight over Valentine's Day and my birthday. I enjoyed all of these, but had so much more control over food. And believe me, I ate. I keep Trader Joe's Cookie Butter in my pantry, so I'm not surviving on dry chicken and broccoli. I'm not that person!

Now that spring is here (or not since it's chilly again), and I've been doing this for five months, my motivation is lagging a  bit. And I desperately want to shed another ten pounds before our summer vacation in mid-June. So this week on Instagram, I saw the call to join A Little Too Fluffy. It's a little weight loss competition.

Y'all. This is totally out of character for me. But it isn't the first thing I've done this year that qualifies as such. Which is probably why I joined--I have a bit more confidence. But still, it makes me nervous! I lose weight suuu-per slowly. It's frustrating sometimes, but I've learned it's the way my body works. So, the likelihood of me taking home any dollars at the end is pretty dang low. Also, it's really a challenge for me to be honest about these things. Although I'm a (neglectful) blogger, I'm reserved and a low-discloser. Maybe this is what I need, though, to make sure I'm actually IN pictures this summer, documenting a fun trip.

A Little Too Fluffy starts today. It runs for six weeks. We weigh in on Friday mornings. I'll do all of my weigh-ins as part of my Weight Watchers meeting. As of today, I've lost just over 20 pounds! I'm really happy with that number. Honestly, I thought about doing something to tip the scales in my favor and make it look like I weighed more today. But I didn't! In fact, I was so excited about my weight loss this week that I wanted to go as soon as I weighed at home!

My plan is to post about this journey a couple of times each week. But I'll for sure be posting pictures on Instagram. Even if you're not part of the actual group, consider joining along.

Here are my goals for this week:
1. Eat whole, unprocessed foods. (Any Weight Watcher knows the ease of pre-packaged stuff! Our farmer's market opens tomorrow. I plan to be there early!)

2. Workout three times.

3. Try a new recipe.

05 March 2014

ash wednesday & lent

My first exposure to the liturgical calendar was in college when I worked at our family business. The girls in the kitchen were all Catholic. They all made a sacrifice for Lent, and since we were friends, they assumed that I would make a sacrifice, as well. And I did. I liked the idea, plus we were friends. Since college I've given up something for Lent each year, including Diet Coke, chocolate, cheese, Facebook, desserts and television.

(Then there was the one time I gave up hitting my snooze button. It sounded like a good idea based on the success my friend, Betsy, had the year before. For me? Major fail. Major.)

A few years ago, I began working at an Episcopal school. For the first several months I really struggled through the weekly chapel services. It was just so different than anything I'd grown up with. Things were read. Prayers were spoken aloud, together. There was a prayer for everything. For this girl who couldn't successfully get through a responsive reading at the back of the Baptist Hymnal, it was very different. Plus reading prayers seemed quite impersonal and lacking in meaning. But then? Chapel became easier. I looked forward to it. I started to really love the readings by verse, as well as speaking prayers that are spoken by so many others in the Episcopal church who pray the same thing on the same day. The liturgy went from odd to okay to more-than-okay to meaningful and powerful.

As much as I began to enjoy chapel services, it took me about three years to walk forward on Ash Wednesday for black ashes to be smeared into the shape of a cross on my forehead. That year, the bishop began his homily. And the Lord began to do a work in my heart. Here's an excerpt of what he shared:
Why ashes? They are a sign of repentance, of sorrow and remorse for sins, of the elements from which we are composed and to which our bodies shall return. They are a way of getting in touch with our basic humanness. Ashes are messy. Sin is messy. The cross was messy. The flogging and the thorns were messy. ... We cannot hide our identity. The ashes mark us. The universal Christian mark of baptism is not always a visible sign, but until we wash the ashes off, our Ash Wednesday worship visibly marks us as Christian. Christians ought always to be visible ambassadors for Christ--acts of love, justice, and kindness should make us continually visible.
That homily, that day marked the first time I had ashes smeared on my forehead. It was and is and outward symbol that I am sinful and messy. I like the idea of acknowledging that, of confessing that. 

I walked away from the service this morning with ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead. It caught some by surprise who didn't attend the service. It actually caught me by surprise the first time I saw myself in the mirror. The ashes were dark and imposing, even though my hair covered a portion of the cross. 

This is the first year in a long time that I hadn't decided what to sacrifice for Lent. I stopped drinking Diet Coke in January, so that's out. I've been quite disciplined in my nutrition lately, so that seems too easy. Of course I could give up social media, but that seems so cliche. I prayed about it throughout the day. The one question I continued to dwell on throughout the day is: how will I wake up different on Resurrection Sunday?

This is the first time I won't sacrifice something, rather I'll add a spiritual discipline. On Easter I want to wake up knowing Christ more, loving Him more, hoping to be more Christ-like. Though this has been accomplished over the past few years by sacrifice during Lent, over the next 40+ days, I'll focus on my relationship with Christ. I'll be more structured than simply reading my bible passage for the day. I'll read and journal, pray and meditate on the Word. If you don't typically observe Lent, this is an easy, non-scary way to jump in. Here are a few resources that you might find useful: Journey to the Cross, The Gospel CoalitionShe Reads TruthAnn VoskampPraying Lent, Creighton University.

"Lent isn't about forfeiting stuff as much as it is about spiritual formation."
--Ann Voskamp

04 March 2014

march goals

In January, I set out with the goal of being diligent. It is my one word for the year. Mainly because I like to resort to lazy. I can't think of anything I enjoy more than sitting on my couch, watching television for hours on end. I mean, I like doing other things, but binge-watching a series on a weekend is my favorite thing ever. This is only an issue because of everything else in life. We like to have friends and meals and clean clothes and clean sheets and a picked up house. On top of that, there's a job that makes me do things like get dressed every day. 

I've been super focused on nutrition the past couple of months. So of course I feel that everything else is crumbling because of the planning and cooking and cleaning. On Saturday, I was overwhelmed at the thought of every cabinet and drawer and closet that needs to be sorted. I'm at the point where I'm just tired of STUFF being in my house. I feel certain I'm not the only one who does this, right? So I started what I'll call the Everything-Must-Go Purge of Spring 2014. And you know that means things look worse. Because in a purge, things get much, much worse before they get better. Now there are piles in the floor of my bedroom and living room. And the great debate begins: donate or garage sale. Because I could use some cash for new flooring. But it's just so much work. Hashtag: first world problems.

In March, I'll be working through the Great Purge. Here are some other things I'd like to do, remaining diligent throughout:

1. read three books
2. walk the azalea trail
3. see Veronica Mars (the movie)
4. purge 200 items

03 March 2014

the day we all hoped for

Today, March 3, is a snow/ice day in east Texas. Again, in March. Cuh-razy. You should know that all winter we hoped for an unplanned day off--a snow/ice day--but it never happened. It snowed/iced to the north, south, east and west, but never in Tyler. It was so very disappointing. Every almost snow/ice day I wanted to throw a tantrum when I had to dry my hair, put on my makeup and get dressed.

To say that I'm excited is an understatement. I've had two cups of coffee and have a second pot brewing. I'm currently watching kelly & michael in my pajamas, under a blanket, hair pulled on top of my head, my sweet puppy snuggled close. I just tossed some steel cut oats on top of the ice for the birds so that they don't starve today. And I tried to take a picture to share, but it looks less than spectacular.

Side note: my computer has been dying a very slow death. It's about nine years old. And it's a Dell, so it's lived about 7.5 years longer than life expectancy. Apparently it's the most sturdy Dell on the planet because I can't break it, even when I try. [Not that I've tried...if my husband reads this.] Currently the sound is on mute, but there's static-y noise coming through the speakers, so as I type it sounds like Morse code or that something--or someone--is trying to communicate with me through a dying Dell computer. I'm not sure who that would be, but they like to communicate mostly through the keys on the right side of the keyboard. 

During the snow/ice storm last night, the lights flickered a few times and the cable went out for about 20 minutes. Which. Oh my word! The Oscars were on. Now, I've only seen two of the nominated movies: Gravity and Despicable Me 2, but I love the Oscars. And I didn't want to miss Ellen hosting. Thankfully, we were spared.

Today, I'm catching up on the DVR and continuing the Great Purge of 2014 that I started on Saturday. I'll drink lots of coffee. And make sure the birds have plenty of food.