30 March 2011

Baby Heart Saga - A Diagnosis

After three doctors and six ultrasounds, we finally received a diagnosis. Before I reveal it, please let me say that I HIGHLY recommend that you DO NOT run off and Google it (or even Wikipedia it). This condition is very "a la carte," and our baby's very mild form does not include nearly everything you will read about on the Internet. Very few cases of the condition are associated with a genetic component, and, although we won't know for sure until birth, it very much appears that our baby has no genetic component. And to be completely honest, I am not strong enough to field questions about random things people read on the Internet. So anyway, the diagnosis is Tetralogy of Fallot. That is what my baby has. Also known as TOF or Tetra.

So, now that I have hopefully deterred you all from accumulating random BS, let me fill you in on the details pertinent to our baby:
S/he has a very mild form of the condition, which is great for long term prognosis. The baby will likely not need surgery right away, though s/he will need to stay at the hospital for 3-7 days after the birth for observation. Surgery will likely come at 4-6 months of age, with 1-2 weeks in the hospital for recovery. The baby may need follow-up surgery every so many years. The doctor said to expect about 3 open heart surgeries by the time the baby is 60 years old. Babies with tetra grow up to lead happy, healthy lives, and can even play (non professional-level) sports, etc. The baby will not be on long-term medication, this condition does not affect any other part of the body, and other than follow-up surgeries, we do not need to worry about short- or long-term complications.

Travel plans...ugh. So, all three Florida doctors have always said "sooner rather than later" and that they would prefer we leave before 36 weeks. But every time we leave an appointment, we have a follow-up scheduled that puts us back another week or two. With only 10 weeks go to, we are running out of "sooner." I would prefer to wait. Oi. We'll talk to the Michigan doctor to see what he says. Hopefully we'll get his name later this week. I would like to make the itinerary this weekend.

Right now all my feelings are very turbulent and I can't really stay on one topic without wandering on detours. I need a day or two to process the information. We are done seeing specialists down here. We have an appointment with our regular obgyn on Thursday to go over everything. Once I can start thinking straight, I'll post about how we're keeping it together.

I didn't mean for my opening paragraph to deter anyone from asking questions about our particular situation, so feel free to ask away.

27 March 2011

Baby Heart Saga - Finding Good News

I feel like my whole world is crumbling down around me and the walls are just being held up with toothpicks. If even a breeze comes, everything left will fall down. Matt and I are trying to replace those toothpicks with 2x4s as quickly as we can. Over the past two days, we have managed to get at least some of our life back in our control.

We have a place to live for the summer! My Grandma owns a 2 bdrm condo in a town, for those of you who know me, in Howell. It For those of you who don't, it is just under an hour from where Matt will work and a half an hour from the hospital (Mott's). Not our ideal commuting time frame, but considering what it does to our budget, it is worth the drive time. We'll have our own bedroom and bathroom, no pet fees, a washer/dryer in the unit, and should there be any emergencies when Matt has the car, another back-up car. We won't have to borrow/buy dishes, pots, pans, a kitchen table, etc. The only thing we do need is a queen sized mattress, and apparently there is a discount mattress store nearby with free delivery that my mom is going to check out for us.

After this next appointment with a specialist (Tuesday afternoon in a town 2.5 hours north of here), we'll, as the doctor said, nail down a game plan. This game plan will include specifics as to exactly when I head north for the summer. In the meantime, we went out and got a storage unit and a few totes yesterday. I am going to start slowly packing up the things we don't need and we'll drive those out to the unit ourselves.

There are only 66 days until my due date.

In terms of restoring my mental sanity...
-My sister-in-law works at the hospital in which Mott's is connected and she told me that there is a hotel built into Mott's for parents whose children are patients. This single bit of news has made me happier than anything else in this entire process.
-At my baby shower, the night before the bad-news ultrasound, a friend of mine (who knew nothing of the baby heart saga), gave me The Sears Library's The Baby Book as a gift. This book has been another huge help. When Friday hit, I felt like I had no control over anything, my whole birth plan was shot, and my baby was in the hands of the doctors. No breastfeeding, back birthing, no mother-infant bonding. But I started reading the book on Saturday, and it really gave me hope. It even has a section in it on "fixing a poor start," or, when medical necessity requires a mother-infant separation post-birth! I cried with the relief I felt upon reading those few pages. It also talks about some technologies that allow the woman to move around during labor while still monitoring the baby's heart. Of course, I still have to the specialists, both in Florida and in Michigan, to see which options are available to me, but at least now I know there are options!

I half feel confident that everything will be okay and half find myself wanting to burst into tears randomly in the middle of whatever I'm doing (and sometimes doing it). Lots of people have called, emailed, Facebooked, you name it, letting us know that they are praying for us, which of course helps. The absolute hardest thing for me to digest is knowing that I will give birth and go home without a baby. Every time I try to buy something for the baby, I feel a bit like what I'm doing is illegal. Like I'm not allowed to prepare, like I'm not a mother. I am trying to find as many ways as I can to prevent that separation from occurring, so you can see why the hotel hospital is a HUGE blessing.

So now we wait until Tuesday afternoon. For ultrasound #6. (Yes, our insurance company can't believe it either). Even though I feel weird about buying baby stuff, ever since we got a confirmed diagnosis, I feel a super-strong protective instinct. Anyway, another 2.5 more days to get through; pray for us.

25 March 2011

More Baby Heart Saga

We have been seeing a number of specialists for a few weeks now, and we finally have a confirmed diagnosis. Our baby has a congenital heart defect, and these defects lead to a particular heart condition.

We are going to see another specialist this Tuesday to determine exactly the extent of the damage and the severity of the condition, but so far the doctors do believe that it is a very mild form. As long as the baby is in the womb, there is very little stress on the baby's heart, therefore, this condition will not really affect the baby until after birth. Shortly after birth, the baby will need heart surgery to correct the problem. Said surgery has a high success rate and a low mortality rate, which is a secret blessing in the midst of a lot of despair. We are not discussing the exact name of the condition until after we have spoken with a specialist. There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet and we don't want to be spreading unnecessary worry; I have even barred myself from Googling it in order to maintain my sanity.

The good news is that the baby appears to be doing quite well otherwise. The other organs look great, the baby is the right length and weight for how far along we are, and I feel a lot of movement throughout the day.

We do not yet know when we will be moving back up to Michigan for the summer (we hope to figure that out next week). We will be giving birth at the University of Michigan's Mott's Children's Hospital, which is ranked #4 in the country for their children's heart program.

For those of you who don't yet know, Matt has a summer internship in Michigan. We will be moving back to Florida for his third and final year of law school in August. We hope to move back to Michigan after he graduates in May of 2012. Also, for the record, we don't know the baby's gender, and my due date is June 2. Sorry this post is so terse. I want all those who have been waiting with anticipation to know the results; I'm just having a hard time dealing.

22 March 2011

The Resources Tab

I added a little section in the menu above called Resources. It it still a work-in-progress, but I figured I'd post it anyway and continue to work on it as time goes on. Anyway, peruse away!

21 March 2011

Fun Things You Only Get To Do When You're Pregnant

-Eat french fries and a frosty at Wendy's at 10am
-Eat an entire pound of strawberries in one sitting
-Eat whatever you want at Christmas, guilt free
-Eat enough food for an army and only gain weight in your uterus
-Take a nap every single day
-Buy new clothes every three months
-Spend the entire day in sweatpants, reading, crafting, watching movies, [insert relaxing activity of choice] without being sick or feeling lazy
-On-demand back rubs
-Thick, shiny hair
-Feel the baby move
-A total, beyond-medical-explanation, 9-month reprieve of your colon disease
-See what you look like with D-cups without paying a dime
-Watch your husband do the worst of the chores while you relax on the couch
-A completely understandable, non-reproachable excuse to leave any boring party/event at any given moment
-Sit in the best, most comfortable chair in the house without argument

19 March 2011

Fresh, Clear, Well-seasoned Perspective

When God gave us this new cross to bear, my perspective on all my old crosses changed drastically. Move to Michigan for one summer? Buy a new car? Piece of cake! The sciatic nerve? I don't blame the baby one bit, I hear it makes a great pillow/punching bag! But in all seriousness, I do look back on our struggles before Thursday and I can't believe how tiny and insignificant they look; how petty they seem to me now. So what if a lease isn't signed by the time we arrive? We'll sign one when we get there, move in when we can, and in the meantime, we have families with spare bedrooms. Not everything in life has to be perfect, and trust me, if this baby is born with a healthy heart, that will be enough perfection to cover us if we end up spending half the summer in someone's basement and the other half paying exorbitant rent in downtown Detroit.

We are still continuing on with our plan to find a place near the courthouse. If there is a heart condition, that will change our plans somewhat extensively in terms of where we will live, etc, but we don't know for sure nor can we plan without certain knowledge. So we just won't sign a lease. My parents will return with there reviews of the places we've sent them, then we'll select our top three complexes. If we find out that the baby's heart is okay, then we can sign stuff in advance. If something is wrong, we start researching complexes halfway between the hospital and the courthouse.

The doctor said that if anything is wrong with the baby's heart, we won't need to worry until after the birth; the baby is perfectly safe within the confines of my womb. So if the only thing I can possibly do to help the baby is make sure my uterus stays a good place to live, then by golly, I will do my best to stay calm. So I'm trying not to worry about the future and my anxiety is gone with regard to the pre-Thursday worries. There are 51 more days until Matt takes the last exam of his 2L year. That is a lot of days; I can most certainly have life ready to go to Michigan in 51 days.

17 March 2011

Baby Heart Saga

Remember back when I was 20 weeks along and the doctor mentioned that she wanted to keep an eye on a few things with the baby? Well, we went back at 28 weeks and found that the 20 week issues had cleared up, but that things were inconclusively fuzzy and we were rescheduled for an appointment today (at 29 weeks) to see a specialist. (This ultrasound was not just on the heart, as I thought it was, but on the baby's entire body).

So, yeah. Everything looked good except maybe the heart. Things were inconclusive again, even after a nearly 1.5 hour ultrasound. Apparently the baby's arm was in the way for a clear heart picture as well, which didn't help matters any. We need to go back again to do a special 1 hour ultrasound this time on just the baby's heart. They'll measure every little thing, listen to the blood pumping, look at things extensively, etc, next Friday.

So, brief overview for those who didn't just read an article on how the heart works. Hearts have two ventricles, one that pumps blood out to the body and the other that receives the "used" blood from the body. The two ventricles never touch one another. The doctor says it appears as though our baby's ventricles are "communicating," i.e. touching. He cannot say definitively until we come back for the special ultrasound, as the nearly 1.5 hours we spent in that dark, hot room today were inconclusive. If the tests next week come back inconclusive as well, we'll be sent 2.5 hours north to St. Petersburg, Florida to see another specialist.

So, yeah, that's where we are today. We would appreciate any and all prayers.

14 March 2011

Apartment Searching and Other Bits

The wedding ring has been found! We are all very excited. We have no idea how it ended up where it ended up, and we still aren't exactly sure how it disappeared since neither the ring nor the chain are broken. But either way, I feel a huge sense of relief.

I am continuing to research apartments in Michigan. I was hoping to have it wrapped up on Friday, but not everyone answered their phones and some didn't call me back over the weekend. My goal is to finish data-mining today, go over the results with Matt tonight, and send a list to my parents, who have graciously agreed to preview the apartments for us. We are going to take their recommendations to sign one sight-unseen. I don't really like doing this (I feel like we're placing extra burdens on my parents and I want to see where I'll be living before I pay lots of money), but we can't possibly try and do everything either me by myself if I go up early, or us together when I am 37 weeks pregnant. While my parents are hunting, I am going to start researching hospitals and doctors. Our goal is to have a Michigan apartment chosen, a doctor selected, and a hospital picked out in the next week and a half. I'll be glad when I can finally turn my attention to some of the other things on our ever-growing to-do list.

In random side news, the wonders of WordPress keeps track of search terms that people use to link to your blog. Humorously, it sited "I hate law review" as being a search term that someone used to find my blog recently. I do hate law review, but I didn't think I spent that much time complaining about it! Either way, I was able to recreate the search and thought I'd post a screen shot for you all to share in the hilarity.
There it is, sixth one down.

11 March 2011

Traveling with (unborn) Baby

As of yesterday, I officially entered the third trimester. We greeted the occasion with a regularly scheduled visit to the doctor. At the appointment, they also did a third ultrasound to determine if some of the questionable areas in the second ultrasound had cleared up. We are happy to report that they did! I am not happy to report that the pictures they did get of the heart were rather fuzzy and so the doctor wants us to go see a specialist to get a fetal echocardiogram (a special ultrasound just for the baby's heart) "just to be sure" that everything is fine. It is supposed to be just precautionary, but I am a bit nervous. When she was doing the ultra sound, I asked the tech if couples ever wanted to know the baby's sex, but the baby was positioned such that she couldn't tell and the expecting couple had to be surprised anyway. She said that she was very determined and would keep searching and trying again until she found out. So I am wondering, why didn't she keep searching until she got a clear picture of the heart? I think I'll find any excuse to worry. Anyway, next Thursday we go see the specialist and then the following Thursday we go back to visit the doctor; now that we are 7 months along, we are on the 2-week doctor visit program.

The other major thing we talked about was the ever-present discussion of traveling. So, to give you all the details very quickly (the old ones and the new ones): The doctor gave us the standard "between 32-34 weeks is best" line with regard to driving to Michigan. She recommends we don't wait any longer than the 36th week, but the earlier the better. I'm not leaving any earlier than our anniversary, and on our anniversary, I'll be 34.5 weeks along. If I left early, my mom would fly down and drive up with me, the cats, our stuff, etc. I would arrive in Michigan shortly after reaching the 35 week mark. Matt would fly up two weeks later. If we left together, I would be 36.5 weeks. We would drive up with the cats, our stuff etc, and I would arrive on the day after I turned 37 weeks.
Very close call.

If I went up ahead of Matt, it would cause a ton of extra stress and money. This is the best we can figure it would work: Matt wouldn't have a car and would therefore need to stay with a friend who lives on campus. We would spend part of our anniversary packing. On the day after our anniversary, I would drop Matt off at class with his suitcase and kiss him goodbye for two weeks. At some point my mom would fly in and I would need to pick her up. I would return to our apartment where Two Men and a Truck would shortly arrive and haul all of our stuff over to a storage unit. Then my mom and I would pack up the car and load in the kitties. Once we got everything cleared out of the apartment, we would head over to the clubhouse, drop off the keys, sign forms, etc, then hit the road. Since it would probably be early evening by now, we would drive as far north as we could by nightfall, making maybe to Tampa, about 3 hours north of Naples, not counting all the time we'd have to stop to eat, go to the bathroom, and stretch because I'm pregnant. Mind you, I said good-bye to Matt at 7:45 that morning.

We really, really want to just wait until the end of Matt's finals. One of the big reasons that our doctor wants us to head up early is to establish care with a new physician. But she seems to think that we won't start looking until the day we enter the state. Little does she know I plan to have a lease signed on an apartment, have sent the doctor a copy of my medical records, and selected a hospital for the delivery well before we leave. So Matt and I decided that we are going to select a doctor and hospital by our next doctor's appointment (in two weeks). We will have already spoken to him/her regarding his/her opinion of taking me on at 37 weeks pregnant. Once we have the opinions of both physicians, we'll be able to make some serious commitments. Of course, in order to pick a hospital, we have to pick an apartment so we'll know where we'll be living. So that's what I'll be doing today: generating a list of apartment leads.

08 March 2011

What is the opposite of a lemon?

Sometimes God throws you softballs. Like when it turns out that the judge Matt will be clerking for over the summer says that Matt can set his own start and end dates. And set his own hours, in case he would like to split his summer with another opportunity. Or when he says that he understands that we're pregnant, has eight kids himself, and is okay with Matt taking off however much time he needs for the birth.

In terms of lemons, however, yesterday I lost my wedding ring. We know that it is somewhere in our apartment, but we don't know. Prayers for its reappearance would be greatly appreciated!

07 March 2011

Pride Tastes Bitter

Pride goeth before a fall. You don't have to be a Christian to know how true that saying is. Although, if you are a Christian, and a better one than I, you probably have a better idea of where it is in the Bible. I just know it's in Proverbs somewhere.

But where does pride go? I think you have to eat it, and I think it tastes like bitterness.

I was proud of my old car. I was proud of how long it lasted and I bragged about how long I planned on it lasting. I'm slowly but surely adjusting to the new car; it's nice to have a car that starts up and runs smoothly. But in a weird way, driving a new car is very humbling. We are just a poor law school family, we are not worthy to drive new cars. Also, it is more stressful to drive a new car; I am filled with fear that we are going to scratch it, or worse, crash it. Car-buying has been a very stressful, and bitter, experience. I guess it has been one more life-experience to chalk up on the road of adulthood.

Having to admit that you can't make it through an entire day with a normal work-load is also very humbling. We did so much running around on Friday and Saturday that by the time Sunday arrived, after more than a full week of non-stop running, I was bone-tired. I am just a few days way from entering the third trimester, and I definitely feel like it. I spent Sunday relaxing, and it was quite pleasant, but I did feel guilty. Why do I need a nap every afternoon in order to make it through the day in one piece? Not every pregnant woman is this wimpy; what kind of wuss am I? I am soooo glad that I am no longer a slave to my old job; I can't imagine trying to balance this life with that one. Although I'm sure I would have found a way, somehow.

Today, however, I am recovering from the taste of bitterness and growing into humility. Yesterday I made a list of everything that was running through my head. Whether I wanted to do it today or next month, it went on the list. This morning I made a daily to-do list off of the master to-do list, so as not to feel overwhelmed by everything. Although blogging wasn't on the list, I think I may add it so I can cross it off and feel like these two posts today are productive. I am breaking down the craziness into manageable chunks and I am fitting them into a schedule that allows me to nap in the afternoons, no matter how lazy it makes me feel.

God is truly providing for us with our Three Big Unknowns. Reading the book I've been mentioning over the last few weeks, Love and War, has done wonders for my, and therefore our, prayer life. I definitely feel like we are following God's Will much more closely now. Before we went out car shopping, Matt and I sat down and had a serious discussion about our finances. We didn't argue or trade short words (not once!) the entire time. We prayed for wisdom and found an excellent way to take care of the car, possible extra medical costs associated with the baby, and also summer moving expenses. We aren't necessarily excited about all the steps (hey, who wants to sell off their assets?), but we do feel blessed to have assets at such a young age. I think right now we're just struggling with the bitterness of swallowing our pride at having to no longer own the investments.

Most major religions (I know for sure Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and most other eastern religions) rank humility very high among necessary attributes to obtain in order to achieve eternal happiness. The universality of that realization speaks volumes to me. I also know that virtue is not a humble person being humble, but a proud person being humble. I am a very proud person, so humility is not an easy lesson for me to learn. I suspect that I will be taking many more bitter pills in my life, I just pray that with each one I grow more virtuous and not bitter.

An Ode to My Car

Ever since I was 12 years old, I was destined to drive a red Ford Contour. My dad bought the car for himself with the intent to pass it along to me at age 16 and buy himself a new vehicle. I eagerly awaited the day when those keys would be in my hands, and just like any other 16-year-old, that car equaled freedom. For four years, every time I saw that red Ford Contour, I pictured autonomy. I only tasted freedom for 4 short months before I was rear-ended and the insurance declared the car totaled.

I was pretty devastated; I felt nervous about driving again and I felt incredibly guilty (although I was not at fault for the accident). We set out to car shopping, perusing mainly pick-up trucks. I'd long wanted one, but every time I test drove one, it felt so large and unwieldy; I was so uncomfortable driving it that I didn't even want to leave the parking lot. I don't remember how long we spent car shopping, but I remember sitting in the driver's seat of a white pickup with my dad in the passenger seat when I finally reached my breaking point. I just wanted my Contour back.

My dad took over the search and found a slightly used red Ford Contour. It was nearly identical to the first one, but had a bigger engine and a spoiler. From the very first moment that I got in that car, it felt right. Just like in Transformers when Sam Witwicky gets into Bumblebee, fate was set. We took the car home and my world was back in order.

I've moved around a lot growing up, but ever since I was 16, that car was there for me. It was the car that I cried in when Matt and I were just a newly dating couple and we broke up. It was the car that I drove to my Prom, my bowling tournaments (yup, I played varsity bowling in high school) when my parents couldn't make it, my high school graduation. It was the car that Matt and I held our ever-so-serious teenage discussions in because we didn't have privacy at home. It was the car that raced me away to college when I couldn't wait to get out. It was the car that brought me back home for weekends when I felt homesick. It was the car that kept me safe when I moved into an apartment on the bad side of town when I was in college. It sat right outside the living room window, where I could see it whenever the curtains were open. It was the car I cried in when I found out that my grandfather died, when I found out that my mom had cancer, and when I found out that I had a colon disease. It was the car that I drove to my college graduation, that I drove to my wedding, and that we took on our honeymoon to the city of Chicago and the mountains of Tennessee. When Matt's car died, it was the reliable car that pulled double-duty and chauffeured us both around. It was the car that we took on road trips to his parents' cabin up north. It was the car that we loaded down and drove to Naples, Florida. When everything was new in our life down south, it was the only thing stable from my past. That car has been in my life longer than any friends. Hell, I had that car longer than I've lived in most cities.

It put in 11 years, 8 for me, and 123,000 miles. I had dreams of it lasting us into Matt's first year at a firm, at which point, we would have a serious enough income to look at something new. But last year, we put more money into the car than the car was actually worth. At that point, we realized that we had a problem on our hands. When the exhaust system needed work, we began to seriously discuss replacing the car. Finally, last week, the transmission started going. The car's deterioration happened very quickly. One week after it started exhibiting symptoms, it took a mile to work up any acceleration and would scarcely go faster than 30 miles an hour. So we traded her in. We battled the dealer into upping his initial $500 offer into $1000. And I turned over her keys.

I never gave her a name, she was always just The Contour. The words, "red Ford Contour" slip from my lips so easily. What do you drive? A red Ford Contour. Which one's yours? That red Ford Contour.This newfangled car we bought better last a good 12 years because I'm telling you what, car shopping is just way too traumatic for me.

05 March 2011

More Updates

At least if life has to be completely crazy, it happens over Spring Break.

The in-laws were in town for a few days this week. It was a lot of fun having more family in town, but I didn't realize how easy it is to run oneself ragged when one is pregnant. I am soooooo tired from being out and about all day every day. The only time we get out and see the tourist-y things is when visitors come. It was even the first time we'd been to the beach in just about forever.

We bought a new car. Last Friday, our old car's transmission started acting up in addition to it's previous unrelated acceleration problems. The car at several points wouldn't leave third gear (it's an automatic), and we limped down the road at 30 miles an hour with our flashers on. The deterioration was very quickly getting worse with each passing day, so the day after our visitors left, we spent all day car hunting. We chose a red 2011 Ford Focus (manual). My dad works for Ford, so we qualify for special pricing, plus Ford is unveiling the new 2012 Focus early, so we got some serious discounts on a 2011. It was actually cheaper to buy a new Focus than a used Fusion, although you can imagine our vast selection in the manual department. We are going out this weekend so that I can brush up on my manual skills. We will be headed into the dealer around 11am in order to finish the paperwork and pick the car up.

We couched planning for Michigan plans over the week since Matt's parents were in town. I am spending today focusing on the car and tomorrow relaxing. But come Monday, I am going to be hitting the pavement again. There is so much to research and plan, details to come.

Gestational diabetes tests on hypoglycemic women is pure torture, I swear. It took me several hours at home to rebound, and it didn't help that this occurred just prior to our spending 8 hours car shopping. On the more positive side, I've been feeling stronger movement, even a few kicks on the outside! Matt is very eager to feel the baby move and has been patiently waiting for the baby to get bigger so he could feel the kicks himself. Hopefully over the course of the next few days, he'll be able to feel one of the kick-boxing sessions our child is so fond of.