books, fall, and scarves

I know it’s just the beginning of August, but I crave fall. My favorite season seems that much farther away since we moved deeper south. Still, I can sense a change in the air, a shortening of days; the casting of shadows lengthens, and the morning feels a bit cooler (well, maybe that’s just wishful thinking). The boys and I are already reading Halloween books; I’m thinking of spicy breads and beverages, and in the morning I add an extra dash of cinnamon to our oatmeal. I’m soooo ready for the coziness of autumn!Read More »

Panaway, My Gateway

I’m familiar with essential oil blends, but I mostly have experience with single oils, such as lavender and rosemary. Panaway is one of those oils I didn’t have a way to compare with other oils. The first time I massaged it on my husband I thought it smelled like something my brothers used after football practice. I didn’t really touch it for a few days after using it, not that I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t what I needed at the time.Read More »

Masks

I used to make myself up everyday. I was in my twenties, and I had a great deal of self expression, which is good, but what was truly at play was a need to put on a mask so that people wouldn’t see the real me, the vulnerable and insecure me. I was a contradiction, I wanted to be seen and hide. I thought my self worth was wrapped in how I looked and what I did for others. All in an effort to like me.Read More »

Lessons

We all begin somewhere. Not one of us is born knowing everything or anything. I watched Quinn write the beginning letters of our names, having to instruct and guide him with proper placement. As an adult, it took me a long time to realize that what I didn’t know could be learned, and what I did know could be unlearned. That there is no shame in having to find the answers or ask for help.Read More »

Under the Pecan Tree

We walk every morning in our new town.

One of the delights about our neighborhood are the abundant pecan trees,

Which Quinn requests every time we go.

We scour the ground on Tuskeena Street, under the shade of the pecan trees.

We look for the lightest colored shells, they usually give us the sweetest nuts.

We smash them under our shoe. Quinn brings his heel down, shoes flashing green.

The nut rolls, I bring it back to him.

He tries again, it’s almost pulverized. We check to see if it’s a good nut.

My little boy, so young, has already learned about bitterness.

“This looks like a good nut, Mommy.”

It was, plump, sweet, giving.

We stand there, sharing the moment.

I see the early Autumn sun shining on him, his brother. There’s a cool breeze.

I am reminded of these moments with the women in my life.

My memory is of picking black berries with my grandmother,

Watching her tat with strings pulled from grain bags.

Walking out to the field so that she can dig up thistles. She had her own personal vendetta against them.

They were as prickly as she was.

My mom gave me an appreciation of old things, antiques, historic sites, experiences.

We gardened together.

I remember her diligently taking care of me while I was sick.

She showed me what love is.

Imperfectly.

I look at my son’s darkening hair in the sun, his blond locks long cut off.

I have a thought that I am creating a memory for my children. For Quinn.

He, too, will look back on this with fondness.

He, too, will say my mother loved me.

Imperfectly.

Feeling the Feels

I’m in a postpartum body riding the proverbial emotional roller coaster. I have hormones dancing around that I never experienced, creating emotions on a level never felt before. I realized upon returning from the hospital that I am in new territory when I felt a multitude of emotions…all…at…the…same…time. I never realized until I sent myself to therapy 10 years ago that having multiple emotions was even a possibility. Honestly, I had no idea what I was feeling back then, except sadness and a lot of yuck. In those days, if someone asked me what I was feeling I couldn’t do anything except blink at them, fumble for an answer, and inevitably give them a dishonest answer. In reality I was miserable, depressed, and full of anxiety. I was a hot mess.  Now I have tools in my toolbox that can help me navigate life. Lately they have been scattered and hard to find in the dark, when the nighttime delirium takes hold. I don’t do it perfectly, but I do it with as much grace as I can muster. I make mistakes, I fall back on old patterns and habits, but I catch myself and try it all over again. It’s a good thing I’m prepared for this.

I’m navigating new territory. I have a son and it’s astonishing how much I have fallen in love with him. He cracked open my heart and let in all the light of this world…and all its vulnerabilities. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the multitude of emotions that I feel after bringing him into this world and witnessing his life, in fact, I hope I never will. His life, and my experience as his mother, is too profound, too sacred and holy to just chalk it up to mere experience. This is Life. It’s beautiful. It’s messy, and I’m not just talking about the spit up that flows down my chest after nursing Quinn.

As I adjust to motherhood with the late night feedings, the diaper changes with the pee and the poo, the crying, the coos, the laundry, the smiles, his bright eyes, and the new schedule,  I am also adjusting to new emotions. As I experience these hormones I am feeling BIG feels. I feel pressure to do it “right” because I don’t want to mess up my kid, I feel joy and delight, I feel sadness that over 2 months have passed and how such a short amount of time has quickly gone by, I feel frustration when I have to do laundry (i.e. cloth diapers) and Quinn needs me (i.e. is crying) because though he needs fresh nappies, his care is most important. I have to set my face and keep it together for this little guy who is also feeling the feels. We are both on a learning curve here. The difference is that I have been in Life longer than Quinn and, with Calvin’s help, we have to educate him on Life and all its curve balls.

I’ve already learned a lot on our brief journey, mostly that babies are in two words…very frustrated. For instance, Quinn fights his sleep and it’s painful to watch knowing that if he just gave in to the drowsiness he would become comfortable. All we can do is find what will soothe him whether it is swaying, singing and humming–his favorite songs are You Are My Sunshine and Greensleeves–changing his diaper, gently bopping him up and down…you get the picture. When those things don’t work, I try to take the cue that maybe he just needs to cry. Being a parent takes huge amounts of empathy for these little people in tiny bodies who have such BIG feelings. When I remember that I don’t like it when people try to keep me from feeling, because they are uncomfortable with my emotions, I pause and just hold on to Quinn. I tell him I know it’s hard and frustrating. I ask him what can I do and just love him through his anger, frustration, and sadness. It’s heartbreaking. There are times I feel like I’m not doing enough for him, that I’m doing it wrong, and if I could just find that magic combination of comfort, all will be okay.

But I realize that Quinn is already teaching me that if I remember to do the same self soothing, I will be able to teach him by example. It is very important he learn coping skills, you see, Quinn has a double whammy of alcoholism and addiction that runs on both sides of his family and it runs deep. One of the most important tools we can give him is that of being able to identify and cope with his feelings in a healthy manner.

One night he was fighting his sleep and managed to calm down. As we were looking into each others eyes a Peter Gabriel song started to play, The Book of Love. Though this song is about the love of a couple, I heard it through the eyes of my little boy and I cried over its tenderness and simplicity. This is all Quinn wants now, to be loved, to be read to, to have me sing to him, to have this moment. In exchange, he is my gift of a love so immense my body can hardly contain it. Through him I see so much beauty in the world. And it’s terrifying, it’s just so…BIG.

We went to church for the second time this week. He started fighting his sleep and wanted to nurse. I self-consciously stepped out to take care of him. I sat in a chair in the hallway and nursed. Since this is my first time nursing in public, I felt out-of-place and had all these questions running through my head. The monologue went something like this:

I shouldn’t be here, I need to be in a room, I vaguely remember a nursery, or was it a nursing room? I’m all confused. Quinn calmed down, so I straightened myself up and he got fussy again. His little head tilted back, his eyes red and slightly closed. I shuffle, I hum, I walk around, he calms down, he sleeps, he wakes back up again, he cries, I step outside, and we do some more of the same. I start to sing to him, “it’s okay, it’s alright, just fall to sleep, I’ve got you tight.” He eventually does fall to sleep as I’m slowly walking the parking lot. While I’m doing this I start thinking crazy thoughts:  I feel so alone, I don’t belong here, maybe we should just go, I need to get Calvin, but how do I get him with a crying Quinn in my arms, maybe I shouldn’t come back, it’s too soon, he’s too little, wait…what are you thinking? What other place is more perfect to nurse than in a church?! What more perfect place for a baby?! I know the people of this church. They are happy to have us here, to welcome little Quinn, they prayed for us, brought us food, and communion, they love us…I eventually beat back the demons that created the insecurity and self-doubt.

I realized while I was out there that this is another example of how my life has changed. I felt a loss since I couldn’t hear Pastor Amy’s sermon, but then I realized that just being there was enough. We are on holy ground, we are in a place where the messy is welcome and understood. Quinn and I made it in time for communion and his blessing. I see now that God was there with us, helping us through our feels. To reflect the words I sing to my son, God tells us, “It’s okay, it’s alright, release it to me, I’ve got you tight.”

We have some difficult days, but under it all it’s still beautiful and wonderful. Just remember to find the joy in the mess. It’s there.

Quinn’s Birth Story: “Officer, my wife is in labor”

We have a baby! A beautiful, funny, adorable, smart, 6 week old baby boy. I can still hardly believe it. For those who know me or who have read my blog this has been quite a journey as I wrote in an update regarding the experiences I had in my high risk pregnancy. Quinn’s due date was December 20th and at 25 weeks I was put on bed rest. Our goal was to make it, at least, to December 5th and we made it to the 4th at 37 weeks and 5 days. Not bad considering the odds.

Before I get into the details of Quinn’s birth, I need to provide a back story. I had many concerns going into labor. After I wrote my last entry I developed hypertension. My blood pressure was consistently high, especially when I would get up and move around. Of course, their concern was preeclampsia. Of all the concerns we had this one scared me the most, well, not as much as when I thought I was going to lose Quinn. I feared having a stroke and being unable to care for Quinn, thereby adding one more responsibility to Calvin’s already heavy load. I feared needing a c-section in order to save my life and that of our baby. I feared not having the stamina to make it through the labor as I had been on my back for 3 months and just walking through the hospital to get to the doctor’s office winded me and left my legs feeling like they could give away at any moment. Given this and the cervical issues and umbilical cord functioning properly, we had a lot on our minds. Imagine what it would be like to have this running through your head when you had nothing to do but lay down and ponder the what ifs. Fortunately I had work, insane amounts of TV, knitting, hanging out with the fuzzies, and just chilling with my baby boy. I could not have done this without the support of family, friends, and the prayers of my church. I must have been on 3 different prayer lists–St. John’s Lutheran, my Aunt Dottie-Dot’s prayer group, and my grandmother in-law’s church prayer group. This left me humbled by the care and concern of so many people who didn’t know me. Specifically a woman at my church who crocheted a prayer shawl.

The Prayer Shawl
The Prayer Shawl

This shawl, given as a gift at a church baby shower, was my greatest source of comfort through this experience. I kept it with me at all times and it is still with me now. I look at it and immediately feel comforted by its presence. The prayers that went into its creation were intended for my pregnancy and for Quinn’s safe arrival. I saw this as  a conduit for all the prayers and well wishes of our concerned friends and family. When I felt fear, I pulled this over my belly and prayed for protection and peace. I am ever grateful to the woman who so thoughtfully and lovingly created this for us, not even really knowing who I am–we’ve met once and only saw each other in passing. Today it hangs above my head, draped over the bed post, ever-present, ever providing the feeling of safety and peace as we navigate through the joy, uncertainty, and anxiety of caring for a newborn as first time parents. As I look at it, I am reminded that all will be okay.

I mentioned in my earlier post that we took a Bradley Method birth class taught by my best friend, Gracie. In this class we learned about the stages of childbirth, how to write a birth plan, relaxation methods, exercises (which I couldn’t practice), and what to look for in terms of unnecessary procedures. I walked away feeling better informed and equipped for Quinn’s birth. This class was also the only time, aside from my doctors visits, that I was out of the house. We were fortunate to attend this class with 5 absolutely hilarious couples. I am grateful for the opportunity I had with them on our journey.

Despite all of this education, as with most knowledge, it’s in the practice that makes a difference. Fortunately, given the experience with my pregnancy, I didn’t expect that the labor would go exactly as the birth class taught me. Good thing too.

Calvin and I don’t lead a boring life. Or perhaps I should say, life with Calvin is never boring. When we found out that I was pregnant, Calvin decided it was time to start restoring our 1920 Queen Anne cottage. Basically, he started nesting. We thought that if we started early that we would be done in time before the baby arrived. Remember the statement in my earlier post–We had a plan. Yeah, we laugh now.

It all began when he started picking at a piece of our wall that was chipped. We always thought that the walls were plaster painted in an effort to cover cracks. For some reason whoever painted the walls thought it would be a great idea to give them a popcorn texture. It was awful. It had to go. It was this one little chip that Calvin started picking, like a scab, that started it all. We discovered salvageable plaster walls under 4 layers of wall paper. Then Calvin ditched the wallpaper removal in favor of tearing out the drop ceiling.

Calvin removing the ceiling
Calvin removing the ceiling.

That’s when we hired our contractor to finish the walls and install a new ceiling. We refinanced the house to complete the kitchen and bathroom renovation and had hardwood floors installed. In case you were wondering, I was on bed rest at the time of the floor installation. This is when I practiced my meditation and relaxation–I can’t believe I could actually fall asleep to the sound of compressors and nail guns while I listened to my relaxation app and the Reiki channel on Pandora. I was able to keep calm at a time of great disturbance. These are tools I used during labor.

I give you this back story because that’s why I was in a hotel room on December 4th when I went into labor. We had no plumbing during the bathroom renovation and that just wont do, especially when there is a pregnant lady in the house.

I woke up around 5:00am feeling a slight cramp, but it didn’t last long and I went back to sleep. Calvin had to get up early that day to get to work and I mentioned it to him. He went on about his day. The cramps continued at 7:30 and what was just a slight feeling started to develop a pattern. I walked around, drank some water, and took a shower just to see if they would pass. They didn’t and before I called Calvin to tell him to drop his day, I called our doula, Marva, just to see if there was something to this. The contractions were coming at about 7 minutes apart and lasted about 2 minutes. I told her that I would give her a call when I needed her, thinking that we had time. She told me to go ahead and call Calvin.

I called Calvin around 10:00am and told him that he should drop his day, I’m in labor. So, Calvin’s next task wasn’t to rush over by my side, he had to pack our bags. Yes, that’s right folks, we were unprepared. Aside from a few supplies, our bags were not packed and in the car despite the risk of preterm labor. Marva found this hilarious. In our defense, I’m laid up for 3 months and Calvin works 2 jobs, go figure. I had planned to pack the weekend that I was off bed rest, but Quinn had different plans.

As I’m moaning and breathing, waiting for Calvin to arrive, I hear the cleaning crew in the hallway slowly making their rounds. I wondered if they could hear me and suddenly felt like I was in a movie, but this was my reality…I am in labor in a Best Western hotel.

Calvin arrives and he’s calm, which is exactly what I needed. Before he arrived I texted Marva that I needed her. The contractions were getting intense and closer together. She was going to be at the hotel in an hour. By the time Calvin arrived my contractions were about 30 seconds and about 1-2 minutes apart. They were also nothing like what was described to me in class, with a slow build up, peak, and then descent. It was straight to the peak and coming on strong. He called Marva and we all decided it was time to get to the hospital. We packed up our stuff and headed out the door. Calvin made his mark, literally an X, on the check out sheet as I head outside to the car. Farewell Best Western, you will always be remembered.

Calvin calls Dr. Brabson’s office as we drive out to the interstate and they called the hospital to let them know we were on the way. I’m having contractions all the way down the interstate and it was just as I was coming down the peak of one that Calvin says, “we’re getting pulled over.” Just to let you know, he was only going 75 and if you live in Knoxville you know that is slow compared to the people who make their commute at 80+mph. He pulls over and rolls down the window, sticks his head out and says, “Officer, my wife is in labor.” I’ve just completed a contraction and my hand is to my head. I hear a pause, look to the side and see a burly officer with a gray mustache slowly lean over to look in the car to see if there is any truth to this statement. What he saw must have been convincing because he asked Calvin where we were heading. I thought, how nice, he’s probably going to escort us. Calvin told him Tennova, which was at the next exit and the motorcycle cop told him to get out of here. No escort. Bummer, that would have added a little more excitement to the story.

We arrived at the hospital around 11:30 . Calvin parks right in front of the doors and brings me up to triage. He had to leave to register with the hospital, for the second time, and move the car. I was alone. It was the most alone I had ever felt during this experience, except for the 2 couples that were in there with me. Their presence made me aware that I am still in reality. I kept my eyes closed and kept breathing my slow breaths, but what got me through it were the moans. Ladies, if you are ever in labor keep them low, deep, and strong. That’s the way to do it. If you scream like a banshee, it makes it worse for you and more painful. Keep it primal.

Marva showed up and I was so happy. She got right to work providing her peace and comfort. She showed up just in time because while I’m in triage I’m getting asked all kinds of questions. Something I’m not interested in doing while I’m trying to concentrate and keep relaxed while my muscles are doing things they have never done before. It was while I was in triage that I started saying Hail Mary’s, calling on my Catholic roots to get me through a mother’s pain. This prayer has always been my go to for comfort.

They checked my cervix, of all the things that I could experience in this labor, that was probably the most painful. I didn’t want to do it again. I was measured at 4cm and 80% effaced. Time to get into a room. I thought I was going to be given a wheel chair, but they made me walk. The contractions were coming on quick. Just as I was coming off a contraction a nurse said we could go when I was done. I had one right after to which she said we would have to move quick. So, here I am trying to walk, breathe, and relax as I’m being lead through hallways to get to our room. I had a contraction as I was walking and I didn’t lean up against a wall, I just kept walking, determined to get into the room and bring our son into the world.

We got to the room around 12:15. If you haven’t noticed, this is a fast labor and I’m being checked in during the majority of it with questions that I probably answered 3 times by 3 different nurses. It’s while this is going on and the labor and deliver nurse assigned to us can’t stop talking…loudly, that I realize they need our birth plan. One of the items I request is that I labor in a peaceful environment with little discussion. I’m breathing out in a loud voice while I have the chance, “Please, be quiet!” I had my voice and I was determined to have the birth experience I wanted. Calvin had to leave me to get the birth plan. I could focus now on what needed to be done.

This was a true test of being able to handle a situation with grace and adjust my expectations to fit the changes that inevitably occur. I wanted to labor in water. This is a natural pain reliever as the buoyancy releases pressure and provides warmth for the muscles and body. It never happened. The labor was progressing too quickly. It worked out okay because it turned out my best friend through the labor was a yoga ball the hospital provided. That is where I spent the remainder of 1st stage labor and where I experienced transition. Marva and Calvin both took turns, one in front of me as I draped my arms around them, and one behind me as they massaged my back. Marva spent a great deal of time kneeling in front of me. I hugged her neck, breathed and moaned through the contractions. There was a time that I felt such love for her and wanted to tell her but, I did not. It is the one thing that I regret, not expressing that love for her as she assisted me through my labor, bearing my weight and reminding me to be in a calm place of cool waters.

As I was laboring on the ball, my water broke and the nurse said they needed to check my cervix again, I said no. She told me that they had to know when to get the doctor in to deliver the baby. It wasn’t long that the midwife, Blair, showed up. I was so happy to see her. She stayed with me through my labor, monitoring my blood pressure, and Quinn, all while offering gentle support and encouragement. Blair checked my cervix, I didn’t feel anything, and she gave the go ahead to start pushing.

We moved to the bed, and I labored and pushed on my hands and knees, actually, I hugged the yoga ball while holding Calvin and Marva’s hands. They were my lifeline through this. Calvin was my strength, ever present, stroking my back, offering words of encouragement. Silently with me, protecting us. I remember being so hot and a fan was brought in to keep me cool. Marva put a cool cloth on my head. I gripped their hands and they did not complain. With every contraction Marva whispered words of encouragement, reminding me of the themes that I experienced during my pregnancy that helped me through a difficult time: thankfulness and gratitude. With every contraction she would say, “thankful” to which I would repeat, “thankful.” It was during the most intense contractions when she would say, “grateful” to which I would roar, “graaaatfuuullll!” She knew just what to say, she was so intuitive to me and my experience. When I was pushing, my body in control and I was just following, she would remind me of our son, “Quinn” she would whisper, to which I would repeat, “Quinn.”

Quinn…

I pushed for 1 hour and Quinn was born at 2:59pm.

Quinn!
Quinn!

He weighed 6.14 lbs. and was 21 inches in length. Healthy. Beautiful.

This was the most amazing, loving, beautiful experience I have ever had in my life. It was also fun. I know it must seem strange that labor could be fun, but it was something in the depth of my experience, that as I passed through the Veil I thought, “this is fun.” I was trusting my body, and following it through the most natural thing anyone could ever do, give birth to the life of a child. I can say that I did get the birth that I wanted and despite the labor walk and talking nurse, my experience and care at the hospital was wonderful. It was more than I ever hoped for. I firmly believe that our success was possible by the education through our birth class, the right care provider, our doula, and my supportive husband. I hope that more women get to have that kind of experience.

Now our days are spent bonding with our little boy. Part of the daily discussion includes poopie diapers, rejoicing when we capture boogies, and watching in awe as we see all the developmental changes that Quinn is sharing with us. I spend my maternity leave wearing muslin swaddles as scarfs, wearing our little one, nursing, napping, and just enjoying our time together. Our new normal, though anxious and stressful at times, has been amazing and so beautiful. I continue to remind myself, when things are overwhelming, to continue to carry through with grace and be thankful and grateful for this moment and the moments to come.

To end, here a few photos of our precious little boy, but first, here is a photo of me with my team. The two people who helped me make it happen: Calvin and Marva.

Me, Marva, Quinn, and Calvin. My team.
Me, Marva, Quinn, and Calvin. My team.

Thank you for helping me bring Quinn into this world. I love you both, so much.

Feets!

Baby Wearing Daddy
I Adore Mommy
Booties I Knit for Quinn. Have to add in something about Knitting.

With our OB, Dr. Brabson.

Family

Oh, and the renovation is almost complete.

The Pregnant Whovie

In mid-April my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child due December 20th. Finally, something that I had longed for was a reality! I thought for sure that it we would be one of the many people who struggle with fertility. At the age of 37 I’m what is considered pregnant at a mature age and by that alone “high risk”. I thought that it would take us months to get pregnant and behold my joy at finding out that it wasn’t that difficult.

My pregnancy has been wonderful, I was extremely tired at the beginning, had little queasiness, but other than that, no problems. I have taken to it very well. I can even see why women, such as my mother, want to have lots and lots of babies. It really is an incredible experience. I’ve heard people say that ad infinitum, not fully understanding what they mean. I am amazed at what my body can do and what it is made to do. That it just knows to create these chemicals and bring together cells that create this little person that responds to stimuli, kicks, turns, and hiccups. I don’t feel like I have an alien residing within, I feel like I have a baby within that I am creating.

In my excitement I started knitting a baby blanket right off. I didn’t know at the time if we were going to have a boy or a girl, so I went to our local yarn shop and purchased Cascade’s 60 Quick Baby Blankets and Cascade 220 superwash yarn. I unintentionally deviated from the pattern as there was a problem with the book. I even tracked down the designer, who was not given proper credit for her work, to ask for guidance. Ravelry is a wonderful resource.  I also chose colors that could be gender neutral. The name of the pattern is Pumpkin Patch by Lisa Hoffman. Here’s a pic (for the trained and untrained eye you will see a mistake that I just had to let go of):

My deviated baby blanket.
My deviated baby blanket.

It would seem I chose my colors wisely. My intuition was screaming that we were going to have a little boy. Mama’s intuition was right and he certainly wasn’t bashful in announcing the news to his parents. Whoa, BOY!

This is when we have the experience of couples needing to compromise. Calvin is the 4th in his line and he always said he wanted to name his son, should we have one, Lewis Calvin Chappelle V. I’m not a fan of Lewis. It’s a fine, noble name, but just not my favorite and calling him Calvin would be a little confusing with two in the household. We researched what families do in these situations and found a site that gave us options. We found a name that we knew fit our baby boy, Quinn. Aside from the Latin for five, this is also an Irish name and means “intelligence”, “wisdom”, “counsel”, and our reason for choosing, “estate of the fifth son”. Perfect.

With Quinn’s name in place we forged forward into the realm of pregnancy. We were smooth sailing, then the whole “high risk” thing started entering the equation.

Before I get into that I want to tell you about my philosophy going into my pregnancy. I always knew that I wanted to do this naturally. No drugs and all that. I knew I was going to take a Bradley Method birth class with my husband and get informed about my rights as a patient. Part of what started this was knowing enough about myself that if I were to get an epidural and not feel the lower half of my body, we would have a mama in the full throes of an all out panic attack. Not a pretty picture and certainly not a healthy experience for mama and baby. That is what made my mind up for me. I also knew that the choice I made was in the best interest of our baby. I knew that I wanted with my whole being to have the experience of an un-medicated labor and delivery. I wanted to be part of the process of pain, of working to bring a child into this world, and of pushing him out, making me part of such a primal dance that has been taking place with women for thousands of years. I wanted this for me, my husband, and for our baby. Not because I thought I’d get any gold medals or that it would make me better than other mama’s. I want it because of the precious gift of having him placed on my chest, feeling that chemical mix of hormones coursing through my body, and smelling his little head after working for him, for his life.

I knew with regard to my doctors visits that I wanted limited ultrasounds. I am not the person who needs to see my child in 3D. I like surprises. I had no intention of having the first or second trimester screenings. I did not get pregnant to have an abortion, so what if we found out we were having a baby with downs syndrome? We would still love him.

I had a plan…yeah, I know. It’s okay to laugh.

When I was presented with my first trimester screen, I declined. When I was surprised that I had a second trimester screen, I just went with it despite my hesitancy. A few weeks later I received a call from the doctor’s office. They found that with my age that I had a 1 in 103 chance of having a baby with downs syndrome. It was recommended that I take a Non Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) which analyzes cell-free fetal DNA circulating in maternal blood. It has an over 99% accuracy rate. The best part is the non invasive aspect which means no amniocentesis. I wouldn’t have that procedure anyway due to risk of miscarriage.

I went to the High Risk office and took the test. My results were not able to be processed. Something might have been wrong with the tube. I went in again and had the same results. I didn’t have enough fetal DNA in my blood stream. Evidently this happens in 1% of tests. My husband and I decided to give up. Baby had a scan, his body was fine and the measurements were consistent with the weight and size of a baby at 17 weeks gestation. While the shenanigans with my blood work are taking place we are dealing with more troubling news.

Here’s the part where we get really intimate with my cervix. If you don’t want to know, stop reading here.

It’s amazing how you can not give a thought to certain parts of your anatomy and why they exist. I never really thought about the function of a cervix except that I had to get it checked out once a year to be sure there wasn’t any funny business going on that could lead to cancer. Who knew it’s what protects our son from the outside world and from blessing us with his presence too soon.

During the visit where my blood was drawn for the NIPT test they measured my cervical length at 3.7cm. That is very normal. When I went into my next appointment 2 weeks later my cervical length had dropped to 2.6cm. They told me they wanted to see me every 2 weeks for monitoring. We were handling this fine. I would just tell myself that we need more information. Keep calm.

I went in 2 weeks later and it measured at 2.25. I was put on progesterone treatments. There is debate on whether this is useful, but it wouldn’t hurt, so we went with that plan. They started taking a swab for a Ffn test (Fetal Fibronectin http://m.ffntest.com/index.html). This gives us a 2 week window to tell us if we will go into preterm labor. The cervix, when preparing for labor, will release chemicals that can be detected in this test. It has a 95% accuracy, that means there is a 5% chance that I could go into labor. Those are pretty good odds. The test has been negative so far at 31 weeks. I took this every 2 weeks and it’s what I held on through out this experience. It is the test gets me through the evenings when my mind starts to wander into the “what if” zone.

Two weeks later on August 27, I was at 2.1cm, but the Ffn still came back negative. Two weeks later on September 10 my cervical length dropped to .5cm. I was officially scared, but the Ffn was still negative. I was put on indefinite bed rest at 25 weeks. I had to come in the next day, a Tuesday, and the length had increased to .99cm. We were excited to see the improvement. I went back in on a Friday and it had shortened to .3cm. I was officially terrified. This was the first time I cried in the office. The midwife I met with was so kind, reassuring, and gentle. They sent me over to the women’s pavilion where I was to begin steroid shots. His lungs were at that point developed, but if born prematurely he would have difficultly breathing. The steroids help them develop faster. They also put me on nifedipine, a blood pressure medicine that is shown to stop contractions that could be contributing to the shortening. I still felt hope, though difficult at times. We knew that if he were born at this point, that his chance of surviving was very high and that he would have to stay in the NICU.

We did have some fun in this. Quinn decided at 26 weeks that he wanted to get a different view of his world and turned breech. Normally, I would not be very concerned about this since under “normal” circumstances he would have time to turn. We didn’t have that luxury. For one week it was my mission to spin a baby. I had a handy wedge pillow that I inverted myself on and played Mozart on my pelvis in the hopes he would turn back head down. It worked! To this day he is still head down and we hope he stays there.

Here I am at 31.5 weeks and he is still with me. Every day I am pregnant is a victory. It has been a roller coaster, especially for my husband. He’s concerned about us and he is someone who likes to be helpful, to fix things, but he can’t fix this. He has been an incredible support and despite his busy work load, has been there with us step by step. When he is scared, I comfort him; when I get scared, he comforts me.

Just as we were getting used to this schedule and seeing a pattern, the pregnancy gods decided to throw something else in this experience to make it a little more interesting. My doppler readings were high. This means that the umbilical cord blood flow was high, which means that the cord was working hard to get nutrients and blood to Quinn. Thankfully, his brain doppler was normal. The doctor decided not to focus so much on my wayward cervix since it has stabilized, and instead focus on this turn of events. I have been going to the office twice a week for ultrasounds to test the cord blood flow. We had the great news that we were back in the normal range as of the 21st of October, but these things can change. We are holding to the hope that we have stabilized in both areas.  What’s more, the doctor said that if we make it to 36 weeks we can discuss removing medications and restrictions so that I don’t go over term. The reality of how close this is sent excitement through us and joy at what we have accomplished. We’re in the home stretch!

Through this we had such an incredible support group with family, friends, neighbors, and our church. I am one of the fortunate women who works for a supportive association that has allowed me to continue working from home. Not many women have that and I am very thankful for them and my staff for being there to keep things running.

The sequel will discuss the emotional side of this experience and what I have learned. Having been in this frightening situation, it is my hope that someone in a similar situation might stumble upon this blog and realize there is hope and that it will be okay. The internet is a pretty scary place for people in our situation. It’s easy to become hysterical reading some of the forums. I don’t recommend it.

I have felt such incredible love and kindness. For a girl who has a life time struggle with not feeling important, the people in my life helped me feel like I do matter. Thank you.