Thursday, May 27, 2010

One Month

Today our precious fourth child is celebrating, well- we're celebrating for her, one month living out in the big world and in our arms.

One month ago, this sweet little girl-

was born after 35 weeks of, well, craziness. We're thrilled to be celebrating her one month birthday today... and to think, her due date is still days away. 

Here we are one month ago...

It's hard to believe that we've had her in our arms for a whole month.
Here are some pictures of what's been going on in the Manley house. 

Thanks Auntie Kelli for this fun toy! It is hilarious how happy and content she is looking at herself in the mirror. She waves her arms all around and grunts like crazy... it is hours of entertainment. 

Our attempt at a family photo. 

While her belly and legs are chunking out, she still has skinny little bird arms! 
'Look Miranda, I sleep just like Elijah...' 

...and then I have to cry about it.

Tummy time on mommy. This is one of my most favorite things in the world. It's honestly how we spend most of our day. I'm thankful she seems to understand the difference between nighttime and daytime. She is very content to sleep in her crib at night, but when the sun is shining and 8 am rolls around, she's ready to be out of the crib and does not want to be put down all day. I don't blame her, it's much more fun to sleep on someone than to be all alone in her crib. 

I don't get much done during the day, but really, what does that matter? Dishes can wait, who needs to pee anyway and soon... she won't be this small and cuddly. 

This is the bouncy chair that I had such mixed emotions about bringing home from my parent's house. We put Hannah in it for the first time a couple of nights ago. She really seemed to like it. 

I thought boys were the only ones who can create fountains, but I was wrong. Chris got it the other night ... it was too funny and I just had to run for the camera to capture the moment. 

He wasn't upset at all... and with a face like this...
it's hard not to love on her. 

This afternoon, Chris was able to take a half day from work and we all went out on the town. By 'on the town' I mean Chick-fil-a for lunch, a super cute baby store where we bought her a Moby wrap, and Target... oh and the grocery store too. We had a great day. It was the longest we've been out with her, complete with a diaper change and breastfeeding in the car in various parking lots around town. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two Maes

There has been so much change in my family the past month... it's hard to know where to start. 

If you remember, my dad was admitted to the hospital the weekend before Hannah was born. He had a couple of procedures that week to stabilize his rapid heartbeat and was discharged the same day I was. He is doing well at home now. We're still not sure why he has these episodes of SVT, but I think his cardiologists are working on a permanent solution to keep his heart rate normalized.  

The next week, my granddad had an accident at home and ended up in the hospital with severe bleeding from his bladder. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer a while back, but all his doctors agreed that surgery to remove the tumors was not advisable for a man of his age (he's 90). He was able to come home after a few days of monitoring in the hospital and a blood transfusion. 

A few days after he was discharged, his wife, my grandmom, suffered a major stroke. She was quickly transported to the hospital in my town and underwent testing and monitoring to discover how much damage was done from the stroke. It was then that they discovered that she also had a heart attack. 
The doctors were not encouraging about her situation and advised my dad to have her family come to the hospital to say their goodbyes. 
Because Hannah Mae was only 2 weeks old at the time, we hadn't traveled to my grandparent's house for them to meet their great-granddaughter yet. The day after she had the stroke, we packed up Hannah Mae and took her to the hospital for their meeting and our goodbye. 
This is my grandmom, Johnnie Mae, meeting her great-granddaughter for the first time. 

Grandmom had not been able to open her eyes that morning, but when we got to the room she was blinking and struggling to keep her eyes open. She was able to see Hannah Mae and even held up her hand to hold her. 

It's been an up and down roller-coaster of a ride since she was admitted to the hospital, but she (stubborn woman that she is) fought hard to 'get better' as she says. She was discharged from ICU and able to leave the hospital. She's in a nursing home now and is undergoing rehab to work on her speech and swallowing. Her entire left side is paralyzed and she has weakness in her right side. Because of where the stroke affected her brain, she also does not fully understand her condition. All the doctors are unable to tell us what rehab will be able to accomplish and how much she will recover. 

Her husband, who also suffered from a stroke more than 10 years ago, has not yet been able to see her and he also does not understand the extent of her condition. 

As you can imagine, life has been difficult and such an emotional roller-coaster for our family. My heart aches for my dad who has watched his dad struggle so much after his stroke and now he is watching his mom struggle. Could you please pray for my family? My parents, who are carrying the stress and burden of major decisions about the care of my grandparents, and please pray that however long both my grandparents are here with us- that life will be gentle and they will find comfort and peace. 

I am so so thankful that the two Maes were able to meet and although Hannah Mae will not remember her great-grandmom, at least my grandmom was able to see and touch and hold her. We are thankful for these memories and pictures.
My grandmom said while holding out her hand to 'hold' Hannah that it felt different this be a great-grandmom. She already has four great-grandchildren by my cousins. When the nurse asked her how many great-grandchildren she had, she responded six.
And Owen, she said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Leaving normal

After writing such a vulnerable and telling post, coming back here is hard. But I do feel safe here and I can't thank you enough for that.

Thank you for the support and love and prayers. Thank you for getting me. I was really very seriously surprised by all the emotions of the past three weeks. I didn't expect to feel most of what I've struggling with, but thanks to you and some very close friends IRL I'm beginning to see that it is only natural to struggle with these things. I think Tonya said it best when she said that I'm dealing with normal postpartum emotions but not a normal postpartum situation.

Truthfully, I just don't know what normal is anymore. Normal went out the window when we buried our first child, our Owen.

I've been seeing my real need to rest at Jesus' feet and trust in God's sovereignty and not just that but his goodness too. It's weird... I thought I recognized this need before, but having Hannah Mae, our first child at home, has made me realize even more how deep this need goes.

Thankfully, from an emotional standpoint, I've been feeling more even-keeled and less 'I could explode or dissolve into a puddle at any moment', but I know those feelings aren't gone forever- it's just something that I will have to continually take to the Lord. Praise God- he always sticks close to us.

Hannah Mae went back to the doctor last Wednesday for a weight check and she was 4 lbs 11 oz!!! That means she gained 9 oz in 9 days! We were so happy to see the number on the scale... praise God! We've really been struggling with breast-feeding, but maybe just maybe we've come to a turning point this week. I had been pumping and giving her a bottle mostly since coming home from the hospital, but I still didn't feel like she was getting enough. I'm so encouraged to see that she is gaining and is now 5 oz over her birth weight.

Breast-feeding a preemie (even though she wasn't all that premature) and a very small baby at that is hard. Whoever said that breast-feeding is the most natural thing in the world hasn't struggled to breast-feed. It's hard, not to mention painful! But really, I don't have that much to complain about.
Because she was (and still is) so small, I can't let her go without eating in order to make her latch and at first, I couldn't let her try longer than 10 minutes. We've been trying to make her work for her bottle though. We made her open her mouth wide before she could have it so she would see that she has to do this while breast-feeding. Dr. Brown's preemie bottles have been great in transitioning over from mostly bottle to solely breast-feeding. It seems to be working because since last Monday we've been almost exclusively breast-feeding (we've had some setbacks- it seems at times that she would just rather have the bottle). I still worry that she's not getting enough. I wish I had a mL/oz gauge for breast-feeding... wouldn't that be nice?

As I look back into the fog of the past two weeks, I can very clearly see how gracious the Lord has been to us. We have so so very much to be thankful for.

Oh, and as a BIG side note, we found out on Monday that Chris was awarded the full tuition scholarship and we will be attending seminary tuition free! Isn't that amazing?! We are thrilled and so thankful to God for his provision.
Now we only have to cover our living expenses for the next three years...

Just a couple of pictures... one from Mother's day after we took our first walk with Hannah Mae (outside the womb)... isn't she a doll?

After spending nearly a week with us, my mom told me that we don't know how spoiled we are with Hannah. I don't have any experience with newborns outside of Hannah, so I couldn't say, but she is a pretty content little girl. She rarely cries outside of diaper/clothing changes. She sleeps well in the night and doesn't mind sleeping in her crib, even though everyone told me I was spoiling her in the hospital because I hardly put her down. I'm seeing more and more of her personality as she squeals this high pitched girly squeal when she's unhappy. Getting ready for the doctor last Wednesday, she let me know that she was not in the mood to be put down, so instead of taking a shower I held her while I strategically used some of her baby wipes...

and I've always heard about projectile poop, but wasn't quite sure if I believed people when they told me. Last week on my first day without Chris or my mom at home with me, during her first diaper change after Chris left- she got me. I just had to laugh at the timing of it all. I'm not so fond of the yellow poop stain on my comforter, but overall it was pretty hilarious. 

Hannah and I spend a lot of time skin to skin. When friends drop by unexpectedly, I almost always have to apologize for Hannah's lack of clothes. We love to cuddle! In the hospital, she would scream and cry if you tried to take her off my chest for anything... and unless she's asleep when I put her down she still does that now. It's a good thing it's spring and not the middle of winter or I would probably be accused of neglect. Honestly, most of her clothes don't fit her yet anyway, so it's a win-win.

This is our new favorite picture of Hannah...

Leaving normal, and by God's grace- embracing the life we've been given.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The whole story (sort of)

I think I need to write this. I've been forcing it to the back of my brain for the past 11 days, but I know I need to deal with it. It's effecting me more than I probably realize and I hope that this helps.

The last few weeks before Hannah's birth, I had been burdened by a lot of worry and fear. I couldn't shake the feeling of something being wrong. I think I wrote about it here a few days before she was born.

I went to the hospital on the Saturday before Hannah Mae was born because her movements felt different to me. She was still passing her kick counts, but the forcefulness and strength seemed different. It was like she was tired and groggy all the time. Chris and I had a big day of nesting planned, but after breakfast I decided that it wasn't worth the worry so we went in for a NST at L&D. She looked great and produced a good strip (there were a few variables, but her recovery was good). My doctor came to the hospital for a delivery and stopped in to check on us. I think the look on my face said it all and after talking for a bit he said that he was beginning to think that delivering her at 36 weeks might be best for everyone. We were shocked, but pretty excited. He felt my belly and decided to do an ultrasound to check her positioning. She was breech. All this time she had been head down and we just had to laugh that the little squirt had turned the week before delivery. He said that her movements probably felt different because she had turned and told me to come back again the next day for another NST.

Sunday's NST showed her still doing well but she did have more variables and I think I saw concern on the nurse's face when she told me (but I could be making this up... there was definitely concern on my face and in my heart). My doctor told me to call the high risk doctor in the morning to make an appointment to get his opinion on delivering her at 36 weeks.

Monday was ... I can't even find the right word to describe Monday. I emailed a few friends and asked them to pray because we were going to decide when to deliver Hannah Mae. I was pretty freaked out, but honestly couldn't begin to imagine what would actually happen at that appointment.

My mom was in town because my dad had been admitted to the hospital on Saturday morning with arterial flutter, so she came with me to the appointment. I don't know what I would have done if I had been alone. Chris couldn't come with me and I honestly thought that if he came then something definitely would be wrong (what kind of logic is this? very very screwed up logic, not to mention theology).

The ultrasound tech checked all her measurements and as I've have quite a number of ultrasounds, I've learned to look at the week that her head, tummy, arms and legs measure and can get a sense of what's going on from my very limited knowledge. I knew something was wrong from the beginning. One weird thing was that she had turned and was now head down again (the little stinker!). Her overall growth was now below the 10th percentile and she was mostly measuring around 31-33 weeks. There was increased  pressure in her brain which was an indicator that she was having to work too hard to get what she needed from the placenta.
The high risk doctor came in and checked her over and got a really concerned look on his face. He spent a good 5 minutes looking over my history and hemmed and hawed over everything in my chart. At this point, I was crying and feeling completely broken. It was happening again. My baby was struggling to get what she needed, just like Owen.

The doctor told us to come with him to his office and we'd call my doctor to consult over when to deliver. All this time, I hadn't been able to look over at my mom. I knew that once I did, I wouldn't be able to hold the sobs back. I got off the table and my mom took me in her arms and told me I was doing so well... and that's when I lost it. I almost collapsed in the hallway. I haven't been been that out of control (outside of when they told us Owen had died) in public and as embarrassed as I was, I couldn't stop the sobs or the words coming out of mouth. I can't do this again is all I could say.

Both my doctors decided that the risk of something happening in the span of a few days wasn't worth it the benefit of her lungs getting a few more days of maturity. We needed to deliver her now. For the first time, I saw compassion and empathy in the eyes of the high risk doctor (whom I not so lovingly have called 'Dr. Poor Bedside Manner'). He mentioned the words 'recurrent' and 'growth restriction'. Three words I would pay to never hear again- but there they are and there is no denying that something was happening to cause her growth restriction. And that the same thing happened to Owen. I think I remember the high risk doctor mentioning something about the placenta, but I was so distraught so there's no telling what all he said.
I hope to have some answers one day. I hope to get a bigger picture of how and why my body has now twice caused my babies to have growth restriction.

I could seriously punch a hole in the wall.

We are overjoyed OVERJOYED that Hannah Mae is alive and healthy, living on the outside where we can hold her and stare at her perfection and hear her unbelievably girly squeal. But I won't lie and say that the past two weeks have been easy. Her birth wasn't what I expected... I didn't think (I feared it every day) but I honestly didn't believe that we would be staring at the same situation that caused Owen to die. I feel... I don't know what I feel... but the emotions of the past two weeks have been hard to process.

I'm on cloud nine that she's in our arms. I'm exhausted by her sweet newborn perfection. I'm exhausted from an emergency c-section (this is a whole different story) and recovery. I'm pissed that my baby girl could have died. I'm crazy with hormones and postpartum emotions. I'm frustrated that my body AGAIN couldn't provide for my baby. I'm crazy in love with this little girl and terrified all at the same time.
I am struggling fiercely with not guarding my heart against her because I'm afraid of losing her. I'm dealing with all the feelings of incompetency and insecurity of a first time mom BUT I'm not a first time mom and I'm pissed that I don't know what I'm doing. I'm so angry that Owen isn't the first baby I'll care for. I feel robbed.
And about all the negative crap I'm feeling- I'm completely burdened with guilt over.

Why can't I just enjoy my sweet Hannah Mae? This is what I've been waiting for and I feel so guilty that there's so much crap swirling around in my head. I feel like a failure. I feel unworthy and ungrateful.

I know I'm safe and secure in the Lord Jesus- this is what my ever steady husband tells me everyday, but I don't feel safe. I feel crazy.

And I feel SO bad that this post is so negative. I'm sure this is not what everyone is expecting and for that, I'm sorry. Thank you all for praying for us and for covering Hannah Mae with prayer. The Lord is faithful and even though life is not what we expect and sometimes not what we ask for, He is still loving and faithful. You have pointed me to Jesus and his love more than I can say. Thank you.

I didn't want to publish this right before Mother's day but my hands and mind keep coming back here to write and I just need to post it.

I will remember all your precious children tomorrow as I remember mine... the ones we can't see or hold as well as the ones we have in our arms.

Friday, May 7, 2010

So many things

I knew, well, I can't exactly say I knew, but I expected that bringing home our sweet Hannah would bring up a lot of emotions and things that I had no idea were hiding in my heart. One thing I knew would remain is fear. Fear and worry have been a constant battle since Owen's death and they continue to be something I struggle with even with Hannah's joyous birth and her 10 day birthday today.
I worry about her weight, her temperature, her color, her poop, breastfeeding, her sleeping habits, her feisty little habit of rolling to one side during sleep and just about anything else you could think to worry about. I fear losing her.

There are also some things, ugly and dark things, that I had no idea were hiding inside me that have come out since bringing our first child home. I don't think I can articulate them well today and I don't know if I want to. I'm embarrassed and ashamed and burdened with guilt over them. I am struggling with so many things that I didn't think I would ever struggle with and honestly, I thought I was above them. I was so prideful.

I'm not sure if I'm making any sense, but the main point I guess is that I need Jesus today just as much as I did when I carried this little girl in my womb.

There really isn't a good way to transition, but isn't that just like joy and sorrow? They coexist, side by side.
Because you asked and because she's the cutest little baby girl in the whole world- here are some pictures from our first week home.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Where I ramble and post a ridiculous amount of pictures


Everything feels so surreal. Like a dream, a fantastic dream... something different than you thought but still absolutely wonderful and completely perfect.

Chris made me promise that I wouldn't stay on here long trying to articulate everything I'm thinking and feeling. It would take hours. Probably a whole day. I'm not very good at napping during the day... there's so much to love about having her home with us and I want to enjoy it all, so when you sleep no more than 2 hours at a time at night (ah, 2 hours), there's little more precious than resting with our baby girl. Speaking of, she's sleeping right next to me, all swaddled and cozy. Pink perfection, so much like her big brother. I'm so glad you all can see it too. She's her own person for sure, and she also looks so much like him. A smaller version if you can believe it. Even though she weighed more at birth, his measurements were still bigger than hers.

We've been home since Friday afternoon. She got to come home with us!!!! I think we were all pretty shocked when they told us how well she was doing and how even for a 35 weeker, how strong and healthy and feisty she was- wirey is what her pediatrician called her.
We are so so thankful and I think a part of me is still in shock, trying to process that she's here and home with us and that, even with all the craziness surrounding her birth, she's so healthy and strong.

I don't think I can do into detail right now about everything that proceeded her birth, but let's just say, it was crazy and scary and weird and not how I thought things would happen. But it was God's providence that she would be born on April 27 and that she would turn transverse and need to be born through c-section (she always did love her mommy hammock).

Around lunchtime Tuesday afternoon, I was laboring through some not fun pitocin contractions (making some progress) when my doctor comes to check me and he feels what he thinks is a head with an arm right at my cervix. Not a fun or good way to deliver. He checks with an ultrasound and she has completely flipped (in just under a day) from being head down to being very transverse with her little butt and feet at my cervix. Right away he orders a c-section and things go very fast from there.
The c-section was not an experience I enjoyed at all or would ever voluntarily do, but I am so thankful for the advance in technology and medicine that allows us to deliver this way.

In labor, before we knew she had turned sideways. 

The family getting to see Miss Hannah in all her glory. Apparently it was quite a show.

Getting my first good look at my little girl. After the section, Hannah Mae went straight to the NICU where the nurses (sort of) argued over where to check her over- the special care nursery or the regular one and thankfully, she didn't need the NICU and was able to come and see me about 2 hours after her birth. It was the longest 2 hours ever, but since I was kind of out of it, I didn't realize until later really how long it was until I got to hold her. Her Papa was with her the whole time, so I knew she was in good hands. 

Seriously, if can believe this, my dad was admitted to the hospital on Saturday morning due to arterial flutter and had to have a procedure done the day I gave birth to Hannah Mae. His sweet sweet nurses snuck him over to see her on her birthday and all three of us were actually discharged on the same day! He's doing great, by the way.

My first outfit! 

Sweet little Elijah and Hannah Mae... precious Lovenox babies.

Going home!!!!

Finally at home... enjoying our sweet family time. 

Her first doctor's visit. Yay for a great report! She has only lost one ounce since leaving the hospital and is doing really well. She's now 4 lbs 2 ounces and is slowly learning how to breastfeed. I've been pumping and giving her a bottle as well as trying to encourage breastfeeding. So far, I think she's doing really great even though we don't always have success. 

I can't thank you all enough for all the prayers and encouragement you've given us. It means more than I can say and if I could say it- it still wouldn't be enough. Thank you so much.

Praise God, he is faithful.