Friday, February 22, 2013

The Stitch that Changed Our Lives

WARNING:  If you're squeamish when it comes to learning about the female anatomy, read no further.  I promise not to gross you out, though.


The finish line is in sight and we'll soon be welcoming another little boy into our home.  I feel great, although I'm really starting to slow down.  Keeping up with a busy little 3 year old and caring for a handicapped 6 year old isn't as easy as it used to be!

So what happened to us that has allowed me to carry two babies to full term?  It wasn't long ago that we lost a baby during my second trimester, and of course had so much trouble (and failed at) keeping Natalie from being born too early.

Some may know what happened, but for those who don''s the story:

Our first child, Cheryl Lori, was born on November 3rd, 2005, when I was approximately 17 weeks pregnant.  I hadn't had any troubles up until that was a typical, happy pregnancy.  On that day, my cervix dilated to 10 centimeters, painlessly.  The weight of the baby caused my cervix to fail.  My doctor at the time, Dr. Madland, attempted to place what is called a cerclage at the bottom of my cervix to try to pull the cervix shut, but it was too late.  There was no cervix left to stitch, and I gave birth to our little girl, who was far too tiny to survive outside of my womb.  She was an absolutely perfect little human being.

That's when we learned what my condition was called: incompetent cervix.

At the time, we thought the answer to my condition was simple...during the following pregnancy, Dr. Madland would place a cerclage at the bottom of my cervix at about 14 weeks into the pregnancy, past the critical first trimester, but before the baby could be big enough to put too much pressure on my cervix.  The cerclage would then be removed right before my due date, and I could have a normal delivery.

And so when we found out I was pregnant again, we were elated and couldn't wait to have the cerclage in place.  Four weeks after the cerclage, at an ultrasound appointment, we were shocked to learn that my cervix was failing once again.  The cervix is shaped like a cylinder, and my cervix had flattened out into a pancake, with just the small stitch holding on for dear life.  That's when I was placed on bed rest. For ten weeks, I barely moved.  It was torture sitting there, thinking of all of the things that could go wrong.  We were so excited when we passed 24 weeks, which is considered the gestational age at which a baby can be born and survive (along with a boatload of medical assistance).  The further I got into the pregnancy, the better we felt.  But, it all came to an end at about 28 weeks, when labor couldn't be put off any longer, and Natalie was born.  You all know her story!  It's an amazing one!

The truth is, it was a traumatic year for us.  As incredibly blessed as we were to witness the survival of our daughter, it took a toll on us emotionally and physically.  Natalie was a difficult baby to handle for the first year, as her seizure activity wasn't yet diagnosed.  Having any more children just wasn't in the picture for us, so we really just gave up on believing we would have another child.

About a year and a half later, some research by my mother-in-law led me in the direction of what's called a transabdominal cerclage.  Instead of placing the stitch at the bottom of my cervix, I would have it placed at the top of my cervix, through a small incision in my abdomen.  The stitch would then stay there forever, and from my research, it sounded like it would take any future babies to full term...a true miracle for us.

The problem is, there are very few doctors who can perform this skilled procedure.  After consulting a group of women online, who have the same problem, we came up with two doctors whom we could trust, Dr. Davis at a hospital in New Jersey, and Dr. Haney, at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  After two very long phone consults, we decided to go with Dr. Haney, for a variety of reasons.  I felt like we were in good hands either way, but I had a great feeling about Dr. Haney.

Two or three months later, after sorting out insurance issues and quitting my job at KX, Perry and I flew to Chicago and prepared for the procedure.  Little did we know how much this tiny piece of material, called mersilene, could change our lives.  The procedure didn't take long at all, and I was assured that all went well.  Dr. Haney was amazing...the nursing staff at the hospital, not so much.  We were happy to leave.  I was in a lot of pain for the first few days, but after that, life went back to normal.

A couple of months later, we found out we were pregnant with Calvin.  It was the easiest pregnancy ever.  I couldn't believe how amazing it could be to be up and about until the last day, and take a baby home with us on the day I was discharged from the hospital.

The only drawback to having the TAC is that I'm relegated to C-sections, since my cervix won't open anymore.  It's a tiny price to pay to have a full term baby.  What's interesting to me is that Calvin's due date was actually November 10th, 2009.  When you schedule a C-section, you schedule it for 39 weeks.  That put us at November 3rd, exactly four years to the day that our first baby was born.  What an amazing blessing, and a wonderful way to turn an awful day into a day of celebration.

So, now that I've rambled on enough about how amazing this TAC is, I wanted to share with you a news story that features Dr. Haney.  He's a miracle worker in our eyes, and I'm so glad God brought him into our lives.

There you have it...the story of my once incompetent, but now strong as steel cervix.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Natalie's Room

It's been well over a year since we moved back into our house, and I'm just now finishing Natalie's room.  In fact, her room is technically the first room to really be "finished."  It's amazing how little you get done when you have little ones who constantly demand your attention.  It's also amazing how much you want to get done when you're just weeks from giving birth to another little one!

Natalie is six years old now, which means I really wanted to transition her room from little girl to big girl.  I love how it has turned out!  It's not a huge bedroom, but it's cozy, pretty and just how I imagined it to be when we moved in.  I painted the headboard on her wall a long time ago to add a little something whimsical.
The final touch was adding the most beautiful pink houndstooth drapes.  It adds so much to the room!  These drapes belonged to one of my very best friends, Abby, for a long time.  They were made by her incredibly talented mother, Shelley, who passed away about a year and half ago...far too early in life.  I'm honored to have those drapes hanging in Natalie's room!

The picture collage includes the pretty picture of a pink grand piano, given to Natalie by her Great Grandma Vivian.  I'm in love with it.  One of the little projects I have left is to put an "N" at the top left of the collage.  I also want to replace the handles to her dresser, but those are projects that aren't priority at this point.
Grandpa Terry made the pretty wall shelf for her very first bedroom (nursery).  It's now overflowing with special items we've collected for her over the years.  Next to it is a wall hanging that holds all of Natalie's pretty little bows, which was made by her auntie, Brittany.
The little rainbow-colored bear...what are those bears called?, I can't remember...watched over our tiny little Natalie in her Minneapolis NICU bed.  It was there in the worst of times, and now it watches over her while she sleeps!  The little porcelain box on the middle shelf to the left has a little ballerina slipper on top.  Inside that box is the key to the little box her big sister, Cheryl Lori, was buried in.  A part of her sister is always with her!
 Here is a better view of the beautiful drapes:  
A view with the curtains open.
We recently just installed a new closet system in her closet...I heart organization.

We actually increased the size of her room by about three feet in the "renovation."  I really wanted to make sure her room was more accessible in the years to come, so we put her doorway at an angle.  
It's all about the small details...which is something Abby wrote in a card along with a gift of the pretty finials in the following picture.  

I found the chandelier online at The Land of Nod.  It's the perfect size for her room.  

The precious moments picture was made by my former co-worker at KX.  I still can't believe she was only 2 pounds, 4 ounces at birth.  The baby I'm carrying now is already twice the size of Natalie at birth.  

And finally, the picture in the center includes the beautiful blanket made by Abby, along with a pillow made by Abby's mother.  The pillow was part of crib bedding and window covering made by Shelley.  I'm almost sad we're not having a baby girl so we could reuse that beautiful bedding.  At least the pillow will always be a part of her room.

So, that's it for Natalie's room.  Next up is the boys' room, which is nearly complete.  The due date must not be far away!