Monday, December 5, 2016

our boys

December 13 was marked in the calendar. a scheduled c-section at 35 weeks on the dot. I couldn't help but think "that's a little optimistic" when our doctor gave us that date, but we were shooting for it nonetheless.

Well, our boys had other plans. They decided to choose their own birthdate, and I went into labor early morning on Saturday, November 26, 2016. John got me to the hospital in record time and I was in the OR 4.5 hours later.

We met our sons, Ivan John, William Lloyd, and Harrison Kenneth, at 11:28am, 11:29am, and 11:31am respectively. Ivan weighed in at 4 lbs 7 oz; William at 5 pounds even; and Harrison at 3 pounds 15 oz.

We are so overjoyed and blessed by their good health and impressive birth weights. Ivan and Harrison required a little help with their breathing from CPAP for just one day, but have been on room air like their brother William ever since.

All three are making steady gains as we allow ourselves to daydream about having them home with us. Our dear Ivan has been having some issues with feedings, getting fussy and looking very distressed and breaking mama's heart. We covet your prayers as the NICU doctors make adjustments and work to find a good balance that leaves him feeling more comfortable.

The outpouring of love from our family, friends, and community has left us speechless. We are so grateful to God for the amazing people He has placed in our lives and the lives of our sons, including a top notch NICU team.

Thank you thank you thank you for your gifts, meals, prayers, and overall love and support. It takes a village, am I right?

Friday, October 7, 2016

thank God and Boost

here we are at 25 weeks. the internet tells me this is a huge milestone because of the 'viability' of our boys. yes, they are tiny, but they are strong and beautifully formed and (with the help of the NICU) could survive being born this early. of course that is not our goal or our hope at this time, but it does make mama feel a little better knowing that life outside of the womb is now officially doable. (my goal is to carry the boys to at least 33 weeks.)

at the 24 week ultrasound we found that baby A (I can't wait to tell y'all their names) had an increase in amniotic fluid in his sac. he's always had more than his brothers, but this jump was enough to cause some concern. the increase in fluid could be nothing or it could be a huge problem - only time would tell. my mom and I (can't wait till J is in Michigan with us) were briefed on the treatment option that may be necessary if the fluid kept rising or if any of the babies showed distress because of the high fluid level, and the bi-weekly ultrasounds were changed to weekly. monitoring is key, and I am happy to oblige. I happen to love seeing those little buggers as much as possible anyways. my mom and I both noted that there was not a hint of worry or concern in my midwife's voice as she discussed baby A's fluid levels or the possibility of having fluid tapped at some point. I cannot sing the praises of my MFM office more, you guys. we left feeling calm, cautious, and confident in both God's sovereignty and the badass-ness of our medical team.

week 25 rolled around and it was time for another ultrasound. this was yesterday. my sister joined me this time (love my family), and the ultrasound tech immediately went to work measuring the largest pocket of fluid in baby A's sac. sighs of relief and "thank you, Jesus" could be heard down every hall of the doctors' office. Baby A's fluid was back down to where it had been resting stably for the many weeks prior, and his brothers' fluid levels were just as consistent as ever. strong heartbeats, visible bladders, and strong blood flow were noted for each of our sons.

since our TTTS scare at 18 weeks, I have been chugging Boost like it's going off the market. I'm sure their stock has sky rocketed and Amazon is wondering why they are shipping 24 packs to Michigan every two weeks. drinking a high protein supplement is one of the things the TTTS Foundation instructs mamas to do when TTTS is a concern. even though we've been told by my MFM that there are no signs of TTTS on our radar, I haven't let up on my Boost-chugging.

and so, with this good news carrying us up to cloud 9 we say: thank God and thank Boost.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

TTTS

there is a lot of ground to cover because it has been quite some time since I last wrote. instead of one, long blog post, I think I will write a few semi-long posts. starting with the heavy hitter first. 

TTTS or twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, or in our case, triplet-to-triplet. TTTS is a scary, serious, and sometimes fatal syndrome that can occur when two or more babies share a placenta. per my MFM (maternal fetal medicine) doctor, it occurs in about 15% of cases with twins and comparable statistics with triplets. because of the shared placenta, there is shared blood flow. TTTS is when, due to no fault of his own, one baby starts "stealing" from another (or two other) babes. this is detrimental to all babies involved. both too much blood flow (to the recipient babe) and not enough blood flow (to the donor babe(s)) can cause heart failure and other fatal health issues. signs of TTTS are: size of babies and amniotic fluid levels in the babies' sacs. these are the two markers that we pay special attention to at our bi-weekly ultrasounds.

at 18 weeks I had a routine ultrasound. at this point ultrasounds and doctor appointments were becoming common place, so I got cocky and went to this one alone. it was in the middle of the day, and John had work obligations, but neither of us gave it a second thought that I would handle this one solo.

the MFM office I was going to in North Carolina is in a time of transition. one of the doctors had retired, so there was a series of locums coming in to cover for a couple weeks at a time. we had had good luck with each of the locums we had seen before, but this day was different. 

the doctor walked in after my ultrasound and got right to the point. in a blur of words, I managed to pick up on the fact that she was extremely concerned about TTTS. the phrase "your children dying" was used way too many times (any amount of times over 0 is too many times; this chick probably said it 5-10 times), and the overall theme was DOOM AND GLOOM. she briefly mentioned the two types of treatment for TTTS, but said "I'm not aware of any hospital in the country that would do it on triplets." She also assured me that there was "nothing I could do to prevent this or help in any way."

I rushed home after the appointment and fell apart in my husband's arms. I felt hopeless, confused, lost, angry. we had done our research on TTTS early in my pregnancy and knew the basics, but never expected a conversation with a doctor about TTTS to go SO poorly. 

John got straight to work doing as much research as possible. it took one google search for him to find a list of over 200 hospitals who do the laser ablation surgery (the primary treatment for TTTS) on triplets, one of which is in Ann Arbor, just 2 hours from where we will be living in Michigan. this was our first clue that perhaps the doctor didn't know what the heck she was talking about. 

I found the TTTS Foundation online and immediately started printing out their checklists and articles and e-mailed the founder of the Foundation. I heard back from her within an hour in an e-mail where she offered love, support, information, and prayers. she sent me an evidence-based article showing the positive impact that drinking 3-4 Boosts or Ensures a day and horizontal rest can have on fending off TTTS. you better believe that John was at the grocery store within minutes stocking up on Boost while I laid on the couch continuing our research.

it was a hellish two weeks until our next appointment. our prayer warriors were in full force, and I was guzzling Boost like it was going out of style. 

at our 20 week appointment John had the checklist of things to look for from the TTTS Foundation out as we paid special attention to the weights of our boys and the amount of fluid each had in his sac. after the ultrasound we were fortunate to meet with the primary doctor in our office, not a locum. and boy oh boy was she amazing. she took at least an hour to sit with us and explain every aspect of the ultrasound and the health of our boys. she drew a chart showing the different measurements from 18 weeks compared to the measurements at 20 weeks and impressed on us the importance of STABILITY. if the measurements remain stable, we have reason to rejoice. and at 20 weeks, every measurement was stable. and so we rejoiced.

leaving that appointment we were filled with hope. I have since moved to Michigan and had my first appointment with my new MFM this week at 22 weeks. my beautiful mom and sister sat through the 2 hour ultrasound and the 1 hour meeting with the doctor with me as we scribbled notes while receiving yet another great report. this one was even better than we could have hoped for. 

my new doctor, Dr C we'll call him, is a dream. he is down to earth, straight forward, kind, compassionate, and super smart. long story short, he doesn't really see any signs of TTTS at all and is very impressed with the boys and with me and how well we are doing. if the boys weren't in utero I'm sure they would have been grinning like an idiot just like I was. you hear that boys? we're doing great! we are kicking butt at this whole high risk pregnancy thing. gloom and doom doctor can suck it.

of course TTTS remains a concern until these little men are born, but we are feeling equipped with information, a stellar team, and treatment options if need be. as if in celebration, the boys have started moving and kicking like crazy.  

each kick makes me grin like an idiot as I daydream about having these little boys in my arms. I thank God for His faithfulness, His provision, His sovereignty. He had us in His hands all along and will never stop ordaining our steps in His great wisdom. can't wait to teach my little guys all about this great God who knit them perfectly together in my womb. 

"It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

14 weeks

how far along? 14 weeks with 3 little gifts.

maternity clothes? oh yes, especially in the pants department. loose dresses are a favorite. waist bands are not my friend.
quality of sleep: when not interrupted by bathroom breaks, very good. dreams are vivid and can be quite strange, however, which can leave me feeling a little disconcerted when I wake.
best moment this week: going public! such a relief to have this (huge) secret out in the open. the love and support have been amazing.
gender: too soon to tell, but we are eagerly awaiting this discovery.
movement: can't wait. 3 active babes - what will that even feel like?
food cravings/aversions: my PB&J obsession from the first trimester is long gone. still gulping down gallons of apple juice. cereal is always sure to please. and I can't get enough red meat. oh, and yesterday after work I snacked on alternating bites of dill pickle and peach slices, ha!
how’s mama? energy is up, praise the Lord. nausea and vomiting took a few days off, but I am back to my routine morning throw up. 
what i am looking forward to: finding out gender. moving back to Michigan to share this joyous burden with our families.
fruit/veggie comparison: I have 3 little lemons in there.

weight gain/loss: working hard on gaining! not an easy task with the regular vomiting + food aversions + the belly that already feels filled to the brim.
 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

three heartbeats

our journey to triplets was not an easy one, which is fitting seeing as how not-easy life with triplets is bound to be (pregnancy already is the opposite of easy).

it was almost 2 years ago that I told my rheumatologist, the beloved Dr. J, that I wanted to be a mom. after a series of instructions on what meds to stop, what meds to wean, and when I'd be in the "safe zone," the process had officially begun. I thought those 3 months while waiting for my body to rid myself of the toxic meds were long, but I had no idea what laid ahead.

month after month of negative pregnancy tests with no apparent reason until a joyous day last September when I finally saw two lines on that dang stick. FINALLY. it was an early morning pee, so poor John got woken up my a giddy wife at 6:30 in the morning while on vacation in Michigan. I believe his exact words were "Shit just got real" and I think that means he was excited. FINALLY. the weeks ticked by as we prepared for our move to North Carolina and kept this happy secret close to our hearts. we prepared to tell our friends and family the news right before moving so we could do it in person, albeit a little early. FINALLY.

then came the pink streak on the toilet paper in late October. I think I knew immediately. a trip to the emergency department and an ultrasound at 9 weeks 2 days showed a 6 week old babe with no heart beat.

no one tells you how incredibly painful miscarrying is. seemingly never ending waves of pain that caused me to yell out "I just need a break, God, please!" as I lie sweating and screaming on my parents' living room floor. as my sister said, all of the labor pains and none of the resulting joy. what a cruel joke. what a sickening pain. what a life-altering blow.

on a walk around my parents' neighborhood a well-meaning neighbor told me not to "do anything stupid." evidently I looked like I was about to off myself.

in late November we suffered another loss, that of my sweet and special niece. another life-altering blow. the story of Ellie is not mine to tell, but I will say that she changed all who knew her. the absence of her still leaves me feeling gutted.

in early April we suffered yet another loss, that of my larger than life dad. the glue that held our family together. the hits just kept on coming. seemingly never ending waves of pain that once again caused me to yell out "I just need a break, God, please!"

my dad was the best grandpa. my siblings could regale you with hours of stories of how my dad stepped up to the plate, lightened the mood, provided words of wisdom, and did it all in the name and love of Jesus. one of the most heartbreaking realizations I had in the hours following his death was that he would never meet my children and that they would never meet him. what a horrible loss. he was the best grandpa and the best father.

and then, still in a heavy haze of grief, the two lines showed up on the dang stick again. and then on another stick. and then a stick that clearly said 'Pregnant' on a little digital screen for good measure. this time there was no secret to keep. I called my mom, my sister, and my brother immediately and told them the news. if we lost this baby too, I wanted them with me every step of the way this time.

a call to my doc resulted in a 6 week ultrasound. what were we going to see? what does a fetal heat beat even look like? we hadn't made it this far last time; this was uncharted territory, and I was an unhealthy mix of excited and terrified.

so that's what a 6 week old baby looks like! that's what a heart beat looks! I must be a quick learner because even through my tears of joy I spotted baby #2 pretty quickly. I shot a look at John and asked "Do you see that? That's your fault, you know" (twins run in his family). OK, we're having twins! this is happening!

the ultrasound tech said something about taking a look at my ovaries and suddenly I wished I wasn't such a quick learner. and that's when shit actually got real. baby #3. [insert legs shaking uncontrollably, John turning white as a sheet, ultrasound techs rushing a garbage can to said pale husband, and probably a string of expletives because that's how I usually roll but honestly don't remember much of what followed.] three heartbeats.

another ultrasound tech to confirm, my doc to re-confirm, and there we are. parents of triplets. the subtitle of our pregnancy announcement is definitely: Be careful what you wish for.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

good news!

well I did not see that coming, but I experienced a FIRST last week.  for the first time since diagnosis one year ago, I received GOOD news regarding my rheumatoid arthritis.  this kind of thing only happens in fairy tales!  so you could say I'm pretty much feeling like a Disney princess right now.

I went in for a regular check up with Dr. J, and he did is his regular check up moves, and I couldn't help but notice the lack of pain where there is usually lots of it.  then Dr. J casually slipped "I think we've done it" into the conversation.  say what?  back that truck up, Dr. J.  

I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say the conversation was a happy and hopeful one.  we need blood work to confirm, but it's looking like we've showed RA who is boss.  and it's me.  well, mostly Dr. J, but also a little me because I'm the one who has to take all the pills and all the shots.  and while I'll never be free of RA, I sure do look forward to the day when it's an afterthought, not a dominating, debilitating, and defining presence in my life.

so now all I have to say is YAHOOOO!

if this disease has taught me anything, it's that the unexpected and disappointing can always be right around the corner, so I haven't started planning a remission party quite yet.  but more importantly, God's  faithfulness, sovereignty, and provision have been so evident in my life as I stumble along this path before me.  even when I'm not looking for Him, he's there.  what a comfort, what a joy.  and more than anything, I will celebrate this gift of good news that HE has given me.

// the over-use of caps lock and exclamation points in this post will not be apologized for.  




Wednesday, April 2, 2014

anniversary

I've always been one who enjoys anniversaries. Who doesn't love a reason to celebrate? Of course I was that over zealous girlfriend who pointed out the mark of every month John and I had been together - happy 51 month anniversary, honey!

But today marks the one year anniversary of my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, and I am not reaching for the champagne or planning a special night out. This anniversary is not something I feel even the slightest inclination to celebrate. RA hasn't done anything in the past year to make me feel lovey dovey. In fact, I'm still very angry at this disease that has become my lifelong companion.

So while I may not be picking up a greeting card while I'm out today, I am pausing to reflect. And that reflection has led to more feelings of gratitude than I expected. Instead to falling into a bitter rut that, I have to admit, I often feel very justified in, I am reminded of God's faithfulness and provision through it all.

This is not an easy road, but we were never promised easy. What I've come to realize in this past year is that I have a choice: I can be a whining, negative person whose favorite pastime is to complain about this plight I've been given to endure, or I can use this platform I've been given to be a light and I can rest assured that I do not walk alone.

I have been promised a plan that God Himself has ordained. How absolutely amazing is that? And yes, RA is part of it, as crazy as that seems to me some (most) days. This was not a fluke, an accident, a cruel joke. He knows the plans He has for me, and those plans involve hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). My heart is pounding as I read that passage again. What comfort! What a gift! What a challenge to rest in that even in times of struggle.

So here's to the next year, you crazy disease. I have high hopes for finding a medication regimen that makes you an afterthought and for finally making Dr. J laugh at one of my jokes.