Friday, April 29, 2011

Samuel Luke's Birthday--A Story of Hope for National Infertility Awareness Week

This week has been "National Infertility Awareness Week" and April (among other things) is "Infertility Awareness Month." Somehow, a week, or a month doesn't cover it. As a sweet new friend recently told me, "Infertility makes me desperate."

Yep, me too. It has made me desperate for the last 11 and a half years. It still makes me desperate. Even with a beautiful, wonderful, precious baby boy in Heaven and another in my arms on earth, I'm desperate. I mourn what I missed out on for so many years, and mourn what I sadly feel will never be again at my age and with my 'hostile' eggs. Infertility ingrains itself in one's heart and soul, and is like a pair of glasses with which one looks through everything a bit differently. It's grief in a way that many people just don't understand, and when one adds in grief over the loss of a's like a double dagger to the heart.

"Think you beat infertility? Watch this! Bam! A coffin!"

That's how I felt November 29, 2009.

January 4, 2011 brought a new hope. Still needing infertility treatments, God allowed them to be used to give us another miracle. Some salve for the heartache that we've endured--through failed treatments, a failed adoption and the death of our sweet first-born.

One year ago today, my sweet little Samuel Luke was placed back inside of me...8 amazing cells all touched by the hand of God. What a blessing he has been for the last 16 weeks and 3 days. He has brought more joy to our lives than I could have imagined possible, which is no small feat considering we'd been in the darkest days of our lives.

Today I want to remember as much as I can about his birth.

Christmas seemed extended. In fact, if I am honest, the anticipation that so often comes with Christmas and the festivities of the day seemed extended. Luke’s impending arrival carried that anticipation over and past Christmas, to the point that the season really flew by.

Because we’d decided to stay in Annapolis until Luke was born since I’d been having so many contractions, we were really and truly just waiting until Tuesday, January 4. My sister and her family were also staying in Annapolis with us, and we all just enjoyed visiting as we waited. On January 3, the night before Luke was born, John and I watched Virginia Tech lose horribly to in the Orange Bowl. John is known for being a GRUMP when Tech loses, and honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that we were HAVING A BABY the next day, it would have been a really miserable night! Luckily, he realized that things could be much worse, and we spent our last night before Luke was born video-taping my stomach wiggles and entering phone numbers and email addresses into our ipad and telephones so we could update people the next day. I had made the offer to ‘friend’ me on Facebook, or to send me a phone number to receive a text message on my blog and I got over 200 phone numbers/FB friend requests that day!!! Needless to say, we felt extremely supported, prayed for and loved!!

Waiting for the next day to use his onesie!

We had to be at the hospital by 11 the next morning, and after breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we went to the hospital. When we got there, they were getting a room prepared for us and I just remember sitting in the hallway with medical people passing us by and thinking, “Do they know what’s going on in my head right now? Do they know how terrified I am?” John and I just sat on a sofa outside of the room that eventually was mine, and finally a nurse said, “Is the section here?”

I was the section.

My sister-in-law Amy was only about 5 minutes from the hospital when we checked in, and she soon was upstairs with us. I began getting prepped—and more family came: Mom and my sister and her family. It was a pretty light mood—and I think for the first time in this entire pregnancy, I began to breathe and really believe he was going to live. My fear for the several weeks prior to his birth was that he’d be stillborn, and I think one of the most reassuring sounds I’d heard was when the nurse hooked me to the fetal monitor and we heard his heartbeat. I felt like I’d made it, which is sort of surprising to me since we got way past that point with Matthew and he’d still died.

My sister and brother-in-law with John, excited!

Our sweet admitting nurse...

About to lose quite a big belly!

Yes, still having contractions and they hurt!

Dressed in our finest!

From 11:15 to 1:00, the room was a flurry of excitement. My nurse had a hard time getting my IV in, and apologized over and over for how much pain she was causing me. It wasn’t comfortable, by any means, but I remember thinking about how my perspective of pain was so very different with this birth of my second son. Relative, to say the least.

When Dr. Shonekan came, I cried. That was the first time I cried that morning, and I was just so, so glad she was there and would be with us. She had taken her own personal time, as well as having sweet Dr. Polko cover for her in their office, just so she could come up and be with us during the surgery. She wasn’t doing anything officially medical—just there supporting us. Really—what doctor does that???

Mine. What a blessing.

When Dr. Sweeney came in, he was just as jovial! Amy was taking pictures for me of all the stuff going on, and when John and Dr. Sweeney stood near me for a picture, I laughed—they were both standing together like two buddies who’d just caught some great fish or something, and there I was, laying in that bed and all attached to various things just sort of there—if it wasn’t for the fact that I was the one with the baby, I’d almost think I wasn’t even necessary!

When it was time to get wheeled to the OR, I really couldn’t believe it. I’d had some medicine, though I wasn’t really feeling like I had. I wasn’t even nervous—I think I was expecting to be far more nervous when I got into the OR. Once there, though, I really wasn’t that nervous either.

Nope, not that nervous...yet!

The anesthesiologist gave me the spinal block, and I remember him telling me what it would feel like. I worried when it didn’t feel like he’d said, and then all of a sudden, it SO did! They moved me to the table, put the sheet up and started prepping me. Dr. Sweeney and Dr. Morris got ready with their scrubs and John and Dr. Shonekan were at my head just telling me what was going on. Dr. Morris asked several questions that I didn’t have the answer to—and gratefully allowed Dr. Shonekan, who did, to answer.

And then she prayed. She held our hands and she prayed for us all. I will never, ever forget her holding my hand and asking God’s blessing on the delivery and my sweet Luke. She asked for His favor and we were so abundantly given it.

I don’t remember too much of the surgery itself, other than Dr. Morris and Dr. Sweeney were in great moods; banter flew back and forth and every now and then, Dr. Sweeney would peek over the curtain and say, “Howya holding up?” I felt like I was holding up pretty well…and again, not as emotional as I thought I would be. In hindsight, I think I was just hanging on until I was sure we’d hear our baby boy cry.

As Dr. Sweeney looked over the curtain one last time, he told me, “Get ready to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to your son!”

Seconds later, I heard a kitten and wondered who ON EARTH had brought a baby cat in the operating room?!?

Baby Kitty Making His Debut!

Seriously…my son was just born, and going through my head was, “That is SO unsanitary! What if that kitten has germs??? Where has it been? Why is it in here?”

Before I could even ask John, he was gone and Dr. Shonekan took my hand and started crying. She said, “Here he is! He’s beautiful!” and that’s when I realized that the baby kitten was LUKE! (Well, I sort of realized that then…later, in PACU, I would ask all the nurses and doctors how the baby kitten was doing!! Guess medicine affected me more than I thought!)

When they brought him to me, I just couldn’t believe he was real. My eyes told me he was. He felt real. He sounded real.

This is when the tears started...

My heart just still couldn’t believe it though. He was there, healthy and I could hold him and kiss him. Before Luke was born, I thought that when that moment came, I’d be caught up in the emotion of Matthew’s birth mixed with the emotion of Luke’s and I didn’t find that to be true. While I struggled a lot with that for weeks after he was born, there, in that room, I didn’t think of a single thing other than I couldn’t believe he was there and ok…and how extremely grateful I was for it.

Just as we had agreed with Matthew, John and I decided that he was to be with the baby every second. I’d be fine, and was in good hands, but I wanted him with the baby EVERY second. While he went off with Luke, Dr. Morris and Dr. Sweeney stitched me up and Dr. Shonekan just sat up at my head with me, holding my hand, crying as we both thanked God for the miracle of another son in my life. Things get pretty hazy for me right after that, though, because I went into shock. My blood pressure was pretty low and my core body temperature was down several degrees. I guess between the emotion and the anesthesia, my body decided that it needed a little extra TLC, so I didn’t get to hold Luke much more until they’d warmed me up and my blood pressure came up. I remember being EXTREMELY hot, yet them telling me that I was in no way, shape or form hot! I had this paper/plastic blanket that they blew up with hot air on me, and though I couldn’t hold him yet, they brought Luke into the PACU with me.

We are wrapped under that 'cozy' warm blanket!

They told me he was perfectly healthy and fine, and I asked them to take a pulse ox reading. The nurse looked at me like I was nuts and I told her it could save his life and I wanted her to do it. She told me she was only doing it because I asked her to, and I remember thinking that it was attitudes like hers that so many of my friends who have lost babies have had to suffer through and I was just glad I was cognizant enough to insist she do it anyway.

The rest of the afternoon is really a blur…I got up into my room and Luke was in the isolette right beside me, though he was hardly in there because everyone wanted to hold him! He had this sweet little ‘coo’ for most of the day that we thought was precious, until one of the nurses came in to check on me and worried that the ‘coo’ was actually possible respiratory distress. A doctor came and checked, and he was ok, but I remember people thinking she shouldn’t have told me that and me thinking that I was glad she did because that was one thing less I’d worry about! Friends and family visited briefly, and I ‘officially’ met another friend and patient of Dr. Sweeney’s—Talisa. We made sure we got lots and lots of pictures, especially of Luke in his birthday onesie, and Luke seemed to eat okay, considering he was just born!

This surgery hit me quite a bit harder than Matthew’s did. This could in part be because it was my 2nd one in 13 months, but I also think it is because I didn’t have the same chemical protection of grief and shock that I did when Matthew died. I felt more, including the pain, and realize what a major accomplishment it was for me to have gotten out of my bed and walked over to Matthew’s isolette before they flew him to Georgetown. This time, I couldn’t even feel my legs, much less make them move, for a good several hours after Luke was born. It was just another example of how even as Matthew was leaving me for the last time, I wasn’t alone…

So…that’s the story of the day my sweet Baby Kitty was born. John prefers me to call him a Baby Lion or Tiger, but it wasn’t a Baby Lion or Tiger that I first heard in that OR at 1:20 pm…it was a sweet and precious Baby Kitty…and he’s been a joy in our lives ever since.

Our Wonderful Dr. K came to visit on Luke's birthday!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Baby, Happy Mommy!

You know the old adage, "If mama isn't happy, nobody is happy!"?

In our house, as long as Luke is happy, we're happy.

Which means we are pretty happy most of the time!

He is just such a happy boy. 99% of the time, he is smiling. When he wakes up (on his own, not me waking him because he is napping too long or needs to eat), he smiles. Big, huge, toothless grins that make me melt. Even when I wake him up, he may give a pout or two (which is adorable!) but then he's right back to smiling the sweetest little smile! He loves people; he smiles at just about everyone he comes across and he is such a talker! He coos and coos and is just delicious! I love the special smiles he gives to me...they are priceless.

The only time I can pretty much count on fussy is when he is tired (he is VERY good at giving me the cues!) or the occasional diaper change. He is such a joy.

He is definitely finding his voice and I love it! He has this little semi-demanding sound he makes that is quite dramatic. The best part of it though is that it's totally fake, and easy to tell as such because he'll sort of stop and assess what I am doing as he's making the noise. If things are going his way (feeding, being picked up, me waving my hair at him to make him laugh, etc.) he stops. If he thinks they may go his way, he slows down. If they aren't happening, he keeps going, all the while checking me to see what I am doing. The other night, he shrieked (with joy; he was laughing and cooing and having a great time!) and the shriek surprised him. John and I laughed hysterically and he did it again because of our laughing. It was the cutest thing!

He is CONSTANTLY moving! Those little arms and legs move and move and MOVE. Even in his sleep, he moves. He is just like his daddy. Ever sat with someone who could NOT stop their knee from bobbing up and down while sitting? Yeah, that's Luke's daddy, BIG TIME! I think Luke is getting it honestly! It's fun during the day, but not at night when I want him to settle into sleep!

He's sleeping more unswaddled and though that makes it difficult for him to settle down, it's necessary so he can get more used to it. Many, many, many times I'll hear the monitor go off and look and see a sweet baby boy flailing on his side! It's only a matter of time that he goes all the way over to the tummy. Mommy probably has been holding him back from that happening a bit because if I am honest, when he is up, I am either holding him and smooching all over him or he's in his bouncy so I can take pictures. He HATES tummy time, so I have been an indulgent mommy and not forced it as much as I probably should. Nor have I let him lay on his playmat and hang out as much as I should because I just want to hold him and cuddle him and play with him. So, I'm working on giving him more independent time and hoping he'll start to reach for more things and turn a bit more. He's incredibly strong, so I am not as worried as I was before about him turning; now I just have to encourage it more.

Sigh. They grow up so fast.

Today we had a really unique opportunity. Several weeks ago, a representative from Shady Grove called and asked if we would be interested in attending the open house of their new office in Waldorf. Dr. K. told this person about us and she thought we'd be great examples of 'hope'. Well, we certainly were honored, and said we'd love to. Not too long after that, this same kind lady called us and asked if we'd be interested in being interviewed for a local news station (ABC Channel 2 out of Baltimore) for National Infertility Awareness Week (which is next week, btw.) Again, we were honored, and said we'd be glad to.

Today was the day. Luke did fabulously. He wowed everyone and we got to visit with all of our sweet, sweet friends at Shady Grove. Apparently, now the interview is going to be sometime in May, a stand-alone piece about our 'story', and we just are flabbergasted that we'd even be considered for something like that.

That said, I have to say that my boy was just adorable, adorable, adorable and of COURSE, stole the show with how sweet he was. Most of his cooing and smiling and just plain old precious-ness was off-camera, but that was ok...we really were just enjoying being there with Dr. K and just looking back on the last two years. Tears were shed, my sweet Matthew was remembered, and I was asked what gave me the strength to try again after he died.

Though I didn't do it the justice I'd have liked, I first and foremost said, "I have a strong faith in God."

I hope that, if nothing else, comes through.

It will air in May, and we are pretty excited. Humbled, but excited!

We also got to see Dr. Sweeney and brought him some red velvet cupcakes (with the real cream cheese icing, of course!). I will really, really, really miss visiting the people who have taken such amazing care of us when we are in North Carolina.

Luckily, one of my sweet NC friends told me that she'd take good care of me (and Luke). How blessed to know we are loved there as well!

We saw the Easter Bunny today too! Luke seemed to be sort of blase about it...the Easter Bunny looked a little drunk. Guess it's good that Luke was sort of indifferent! I'll scan the picture in's been a loooooong day!

Luke's starting to really use his hands to manipulate things. John said that twice today he saw him actually maneuver to get his froggy paci in his mouth, and though I think daddy may be a *tad* bit generous in the credit he gives Luke, I agree that he's doing that a bit more and more. He's still not really reaching for things, but again, I think that may be because he is handed everything...I need to really give him more independence, I guess. I just love him so.

I bought organic vegetables and rice to prepare for the first foods we will introduce in a couple of weeks. 15 weeks means we are close to that, and though I am sad we are already here, I am excited about making his food and seeing how he does. Dr. Sheth said not to introduce any vegetables until 6 months, but fruits and rice cereal are ok. He suggested apples, pears, bananas and plums. So, mommy will be grinding brown rice for cereal (I'm going hard core!) and pureeing fruits. Hope he likes them! Dr. Sheth also said his growth was fine, though he said it like this, "Don't you worry ONE bit that he's still small! He's fine!"

Well, I wasn't worried BEFORE he said that!!!!!

He's sleeping ok...we average 4-6 hour stretches between feeds, and that's pretty decent I guess. He is a light sleeper--he wakes up nearly like clockwork about every 45 minutes. He quickly (for the most part) settles himself and goes right back to sleep, but MOMMY doesn't! I wake up each time and so while he may be getting decent sleep...I'm still struggling.

I'll take it. Any day. And thank God for it.

Here are some pictures of my sweet boy from this week:

He never just sleeps on my chest. I love this! He had gotten a vaccination, poor boy. He did great though!

"I sure wish they'd let me stay in the bath forever!"

One bright future!!!!

"We LOVE Miss Amy....

...but I'm gonna have to really start thinking about these hats!"
I just love this boy!!!

Miss Amy ROCKS!

So, lemme get this straight...mommy and daddy did WHAT??? You did WHAT??? Maybe I should wait until I am a bit older for this conversation!!!!

Flirting up a STORM with Melody!!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's Crib Time!

Well, it happened! Little Bit was moved into his own room in his own crib this week.

I mentioned last week that I thought it might be time for all of us--mainly me, I guess--to be able to sleep some. I love having him right beside me, and I love having him so close to me, but boy, Luke SURE IS NOISY! He is such a loud little guy when sleeping, or trying to fall asleep, or just naturally stirring...and I have been on hyper-alert to every single noise he makes for the last 13 weeks...Even if he sleeps for a little longer stretch, I don't.

And that's just not good for any of us.

So, I told John I thought we should think about it and before I could blink, Daddy had broken down the bassinet, brought the diaper changing station into Luke's room, and basically cleaned out any evidence of Luke living in our room for the last 13 weeks.

I have been telling Luke all week that I know Daddy loves him, despite the fact that he evacuated him out of our room and into his so darned quickly!!!

Last night was night 5. The first night Luke went for about 4 hours before me going in and feeding him and then again another 4 hours. Not bad. The 2nd night was not so great. The third night was AWESOME! He went to sleep for good at 10:45, woke up at 3:35--fussed for about 5 minutes, went BACK TO SLEEP and I didn't have to get him up and feed him until 5:50!!! He went for SEVEN hours without wanting to eat!!!

The fourth night wasn't as great, but still ok--about 5 hours was his long stretch, and I took it!
Last night?
Ouch. He was inconsolable all night. I was up with him about 15 different times. Not hungry. Not wet/dirty. Just tired and not wanting to sleep for any longer than an hour max.

Needless to say, this morning, he fed at 4:30, and then again at 7:30 and after that 7:30 feeding, I swaddled him, took him into my room with me and we SLEPT for about 2 and a half more hours. Well, he did. I dozed. My main concern was just making sure he had some sleep. Poor guy. He has been his usual happy and jolly self today, so I'm praying last night was a fluke and tonight will be better.

It's not been as hard as I thought it would be. I guess I am slowly acclimating to the fact that he is getting bigger...whether or not I want time to freeze!

According to our measurements (he gets a shot tomorrow at the doctor's, and there will be official measurements there), he is 12 lbs., 2.5 oz. which puts him in the 20th percentile for weight. He was 23.75 inches, which is the 36th percentile for length and his head circumference was 15.75 in., which puts him in the 16th percentile. Not bad for a boy who 3 months ago wasn't even CLOSE to being on any charts! He has definitely grown, and is still going, going, going! Daddy even said he had 'cankles' and he does. Far, far cry from my baby bird! Even though he's gotten so much bigger, when people see him, they always say, "Oooohhhh, a brand new one! He's so little!"

I just laugh and say, "You should have seen him when!" His last visit to the doctor was March 8, and he was 9 lbs., 6 oz. So, considering he's gained 3 pounds in one month and 5 days, I'm cool with the progress!

He is cooing a lot...he even has little squeals of delight, but still no giggling. I feel it coming, though! He went on his first walk outside in the stroller where he was AWAKE, and he seemed to quite enjoy it. I'm looking forward to the great weather and fun stuff to do in it coming up!

He had his first international phone call to our awesome New Zealand relatives via Skype and he was fixated with the screen! (Much as I hate it, he sure does like tv when he gets the chance to watch it. I try not to let him, but he sneaks it in whenever he can!)

He is still gumming with his little fists and I'd swear he was teething, but his gums don't seem to show evidence of that. He CONSTANTLY keeps his fists clenched, and I know if he'd just open his fists, he'd get that thumb in and suck and he'd be sold. Instead, we are still on his paci, though he's not really very dependent upon it. Mostly when he's tired, which is about the only time he really fusses anyway. He's still so mellow and content, even though he is starting to come into his own.

His favorite thing is his little light toy from his play mat. He coos and smiles at that thing for the longest time! It's adorable and I know this is probably where these first giggles I am coveting will come from!

As usual, we are just filled with so much joy having him in our lives. He is precious and we are so blessed. I get overwhelmed some days with just how far we've come. My counselor asked me how my birthday was and I told her it was so-so...we then talked about typical marriage stuff--male/female differences, etc. and she gave me a really strong insight into just how much 'progress' in our healing we have made: A year ago, on my birthday, I was consumed. I was doing our frozen transfer with our little Yellow Fish and John was gone. In spite of being hopeful for successful transfer, I was so overwhelmed with grief and missing Matthew.

This year, I had the 'luxury' of being annoyed with 'normal' things...John being gone on my birthday (again, ha ha!)...him not taking the recycling out when he said he would, not fitting into pre-pregnancy clothes the right way, even though I've lost all my weight...just common, every day things.

Imagine that...fretting over those things being a luxury. But she was right...I'm not consumed anymore. Normal, every day things are more what take place in my daily thought process. Intense and raw grief hurts, so I am grateful for the luxury of having less of that and more routine thoughts.

As always, though, crying on my way home from the post office this afternoon, I'm reminded that I am always remembering Matthew. Hearing Steven Curtis Chapman sing those very words just brought it right back out to the forefront.

Remembering still hurts. Some days it is just less sharp than others.

Here are pictures of my sweet boy from this week. I say thank you to God multiple times a day for the blessing I have in Luke. I just love him so much.

Our sweet friend Miss Nia sent us this and we love it!

Stuffing that little fist in his mouth!!!

"Really? You mean one day some woman is going to make me pick up my dirty clothes? But daddy doesn't have to...."

The many chins of Luke....

"My mom is going to use this for blackmail one day, isn't she?"

"Well, I'm not very happy about that!"

I still LOVE my baths!!!

After bath, we Snuggle Baby and Daddy reads to me...
That daddy is SOOOOOOO silly!

If I am very still, maybe Lola will leave me alone!

So, let me get this straight...blackmail, huh?