This Time Last Year: Learning About Hydrocephalus

September 8th, 2016 I drove to our high-risk specialist for a twenty-two week check up on Uriah. I remember feeling pretty good about our appointment; it had been at least four weeks since my last emergency room visit where I lost blood and thought, for the third or fourth time, I was miscarrying. Although, to be honest, we had had so many difficult issues in my pregnancy that getting an ultrasound always made me feel slightly uneasy — like, today might be the day I again learn something is wrong.

But we were doing okay; my subchorionic hematomas were disappearing, my misdiagnosed miscarriage was beginning to be a past memory, and we had a closet full of little girl dresses for our daughter. (Since we had been told it was a girl a few weeks prior).

I settled onto the little recliner and let the technician wave her ultrasound wand over my growing belly; we chatted but I could tell something was wrong. Small tears trickled down her face as she tried to remain professional. A sinking feeling settled in but we pushed through the exam. When I told her we we’re expecting a girl and asked for a confirmation I got to experience one of those funny moments when I’m told, “No, it’s a boy; see here?” I laughed to myself because, why shouldn’t the gender be wrong; it had already been a chaotic first pregnancy why not add a little comedy to it? I imagined naming him Isaac for laughter since it was too silly not to laugh.

She left and it took an abnormally long time for our doctor to appear. Again, the sinking feeling filled me. I had seen tears, hadn’t I? Eventually, the specialist arrived and, by the look of his face, I knew I could ask confidently, “Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” He asked me how knew and I commented on his very sweet but teary-eyed tech. He nodded, I asked to get off the recliner and sit in a real chair. Bad news shouldn’t be received while reclining.

Your little boy has a condition called Hydrocephalus. His brain is being compressed. His femurs and thigh bones are measuring short. This often goes hand-in-hand with trisomies. Like Down Syndrome? Yes, or Trisomy 13 or 18; both are incompatible with life. You’re son will need to be born in a specialized NICU by c-section; I recommended delivering early in a hospital in St. Louis. 

What do we do now?

There a number of tests we could take to rule out the possibilities of trisomies but I’ll be honest, they run a risk to the baby and premature labor. I won’t even offer a termination because I think you won’t accept one. You mean an abortion? No, we wouldn’t considerate that. We’ll need to do weekly ultrasounds to keep track of the baby’s head circumference and growth.

I’m not really sure what happened after that; I know I thanked him for his kindness and confidence in our God Who believed all life deserved to be born. I also told him to thank the teary-eyed tech for being so kind.

I scheduled the next appointment, walked to the car, unpeeled a banana and began to cry over that messy breakfast. I cried and I cried. I wanted to call Dalton but he was working and I hate giving him bad news over the phone. I wanted to call Mom but knew I wanted to talk to Dalton before anyone else. So, I called my wonderful friend and husband. The good news is that you’re having a son. The bad news is that there are some problems with his brain and bones. Maybe a Trisomy like Down Syndrome. Can you come home?

The day proceeded slowly; I cried while I drove home. Cried over how unfair it was to receive more bad news. Tears over the thought that my precious baby could be suffering that moment. Fear of the c-section and grief of losing the home birth we wanted. Tears because what did this mean for our little boy? What did a compressed brain mean for his future? What did a Trisomy mean? Could we really be one of those families who experience a child born incompatible with life?

The rest of the afternoon was spent at home with Dalton, who is an amazing comforter. I remember our land-lord showing up to do some painting in the house and Dalton asking him to come back later, we just got some bad news, he said. We chuckled over the gender mix up and ate ice cream, exhaustion filling our hearts.

I talked with our parents; telling them about the dubious medical diagnosis. Mom and Dad worked with some wonderful friends who had a precious daughter with the same diagnosis. They quickly called them and received the amazing love and understanding and practical advice you get from someone who has been in your shoes. Mom and Dad called back and told me about the connection and repeated the hope our friends had given.

And then I went to bed. The day had ended and we had survived. This precious baby boy with difficulties was still growing, still miraculous, and still ours. I’d spend the next few weeks re-writing my new birth plan to include a c-section and NICU two hours away; I’d google Hydrocephalus and then wish I hadn’t. I’d feel moments of pity and grief. I would write this blog post and we would begin to receive countless prayers and love from our friends and family. I would connect with a private Facebook group specifically for those with Hydrocephalus and I would be embraced by an amazing community. I would write this post 8 days after our ultrasound sharing all the blessings God was sending our way.

Little did I know my water would break in 10 days.

It’s amazing to be one year from this event; it feels like yesterday. Maybe that’s because our live’s went on a 9 month pause?

Yet, if given the chance, I would change none of it. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I still cringe when I think of the memories. And yes, I wish I could make easier on Uriah.

But look at this precious baby. Look at what God has done in his little life. Look at the joy, the fun, the sweetness, and the miracles he has given us. 

I imagine that this time next year the bad memories will hurt a little less and the new ones, the memories we make this year, will be closer to the surface. I want Uriah’s first library visit to be the memory I think of this time next year. I want to remember the friends we’ve grown closer too and the family too. I want to reflect on how adorable and healthy Uriah is and how blessed we are.

I hope my reflecting over the past isn’t turning into a broken record for you, sweet readers. I process life through words and writing and, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the hurt broken dreams bring. So I’m sorry if my reflection bores you; but this is how I work through life’s experiences. This is how I ponder God’s hand and how I move on from the pain and rejoice in the midst of it. I admit I’m still learning to get over the hurts and difficulties  but I thank God for His perfect will and plan for our lives — including all of the pain He’s helped us walk through.

With love, blessings, and coffee, 

Frannie

Welcome Home // The End of Our 218 Days in the NICU

Hello, sweet, sweet peoples!

It has been far too long. There’s been a lot going on (not to mention a laptop needing a repair shop). Most wonderfully, we are home! After 63 days of hospitalized bedrest and 218 days in the NICU (281 all together!) the Duncan #partyof3 finally made it home.

We were discharged from St. Louis Children’s Hospital June 26th; we’ve been home a grand total of 42 days. It is absolutely glorious! Forty-two days to begin adjusting to having a baby at home. Forty-two mornings waking up to being in the same house, in our own beds, and forty-two nights of baths, snuggling, and enjoying every moment together at last.

Here are some pictures of our days together! (Click on them for a larger view) 🙂

We are so thankful to be home. Uriah’s life has been a full adventure and God has been exceedingly good to us! Sometimes, as I rock Uriah to sleep, I ponder the events of the last 10 months. From the moment my water broke at 24 weeks (and even beyond that!) all the way to Uriah being born and having multiple surgeries, close calls, and the difficulties living 2 hours way from home God has been present, loving us and preparing us every step of the way.

There is still a lot of growth and development we are working on but Uriah is making amazing progress! He just weaned off his oxygen (woohoo!) and we will begin discussing ventilator weans at his next appointment. His g-button has healed nicely and we do weekly tastings of thickened milk; sadly, it’s still not safe for him to eat by mouth (due to silent aspiration) but, Lord willing, we will get there. These things just take time, patience, and hard work. 🙂 His VP shunt seems to be working perfectly! We had his 6 month shunt anniversary in May; it’s often said that if a shunt lasts 6 months it is a good possibility it will work for quite a time. Below is a comparison of his first MRI (on the far right) taken at birth, to an MRI done after the shunt was placed (middle), and the most current MRI (far left). See the amazing difference in those white areas of the brain? That is the brain’s ventricles shrinking as the brain expands and the excess cerebral fluid drains away. What a blessing!

As far as personality and development Uriah is absolutely wonderful! He has the sweetest, funnest personality ever. He loves to chew on everything, stick his tongue on Mom and Dad when we kiss him, talk around his trach, roll on the floor, play with his toys, and listen to music and Mommy read. He loves snuggling with his bear-bear (a grey, silky bear and blanket) before bed and then he sleeps a full 8 hours (usually). He’s always happy to wake up and start the day — a true beam of sunshine in our lives!

 

Some things we are looking forward to? Starting weekly physical therapy visits! 🙂 Uriah loves to roll around but before he can start crawling he needs more muscle development in his neck, core, and arms and tummy time plus therapy will really help! We’re also excited for his highchair which should be arriving this week! I can’t wait for him to have a special place to sit with a tray! And, one day, we’ll feel more comfortable taking Uriah on trips so we can go visit our family. That will be exciting!

There’s so much more to share but I’ll hold off till a later day; I can’t wait to begin writing again. Being home is, for me, such a special time and I adore the mundane, daily tasks I get to accomplish. Cooking, baking, decorating, cleaning … it all has a new meaning after being away since last September. 🙂 I’m sure one day I’ll grow tired of the never-ending tasks but for now I savor them and squeeze them in between the moments of play, snuggling, and work with Uriah.

In the mean time, thank you all for your love, prayers, and friendship. I so appreciate your being patient with my lack of commenting. Our laptop is currently out of commission but once repaired I hope to be back in this community again. Until then!

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie

Songs for the Christian Mom in the NICU

AuthenticVirtue.com

 

It’s laundry day at the Ronald McDonald House and, while I wait for my load to finish drying, I thought I’d share some of the songs that have inspired, encouraged, and helped me over the last several months when my waters broke at 24 weeks, the 6 weeks of bed rest in hospital, and now on our NICU journey.

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Hello, Mommyhood. Goodbye, Perfection. (NICU Style)

A 2 minute read about embracing mommyhood and releasing fear @ AuthenticVirtue.com

It’s an interesting thing being a first time mom. Even more interesting is learning how to care for your first child in the confines of NICU walls. Between the breathing tubes, alarms, flashing lights, and wires there is a beautiful, tiny, precious soul yearning for your love, care, and touch.

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Baby Update: 37 Days Old and Growing!

 

Hello, sweet people!

Uriah is now 37 days old! What a beautiful thing it has been to have him in our lives! There have been several exciting blessings over the last few weeks and I’ll share them below!

AuthenticVirtue.com

Here I am holding Uriah for the first time when he was 3 weeks old. What a special, delightful moment. So special!

Here we are at 28 days old when Uriah got his breathing tube out! This was a glorious day! Just the day before I had asked the doctor for a best case scenario of when the tube would come out and she had replied a week. The next morning we walked in to him being extubated! 😀 Since then I have heard him make lots of grunts and squeaks and one cry (he couldn’t make sounds while intubated). (Isn’t this picture adorable! He makes the cutest face when he looks at us! His forehead wrinkles are to die for!)

Uriah celebrated his first Christmas wearing clothes for the very first time! How stylish! 😉

Eyes wide open! We love it when our little boy is wake; he’s so fun! He is starting to wake up before meal times and occasionally sucks on his hand and thumb! He is eating 68 mils every three hours! Woohoo!!

Some other exciting news:

  • Uriah is no longer intubated or on CPAP; his breathing support is simply a flowing, humidified oxygen which is being weaned as he is able to tolerate it
  • He is holding his own temperature and may be moved to a real crib soon!
  • A speech therapist has begun meeting Uriah as we begin “swallow therapy.” Right now he gets all of his meals through an NG tube but we dip a paci into milk and let him practice sucking (which he seems to really like!). We hope to get a swallow study done this week which will tell us how well he is able to suck, swallow, and breath.
  • Uriah is more active than ever! This is day 5 or 6 of being totally morphine free (required for his surgeries) and we really think he enjoys not being sedated. And we sure love watching him move, stretch, and interact more often!
  • Last week, Uriah had a pretty serious blood acid issue which mystified the doctors. He wasn’t responding to a large dose of medicine they had given him to correct the high levels which led the doctors to believe he had a metabolic disorder; ultrasounds were taken of his kidneys and liver while genetics were requested. Yet, none of the specialists could find a reason for him to be referred to them; his kidneys and liver did not seem to be involved and the geneticist felt he didn’t have the right symptoms for a gene issue. The high dose of ineffective medicine upset his tummy and led to him being dehydrated so a new medicine was chosen. We thank the Lord that he began to show improvement and now his levels have remained normal for the last 3 days! We still do not know what caused the issue but we are blessed it has disappeared!
  • Uriah has the sweetest personality! He is so content, patient, interested, and sweet. He rarely cries even during hard things like heel pricks for blood draws. He works really hard at focusing on our faces and lifts his eyebrows when he is interested in something.
  • Our little 5 weeker (who should technically still be in my tummy at 38 weeks!) is now 6 pounds and a few ounces.
  • Uriah’s shunt seems to be working really well. The incision site has healed nicely and his head has stabilized, not loosing fluid too fast or too slow.

Thank you for all of the love, prayers, and sweet words you have sent to us! We are blessed and loved. God is so good!

I want to start blogging again but, to be honest, I have no idea what to write. I feel like I’m still in survival mode and all I can think about is Uriah, snuggling with Dalton, being with my family, going home, and coffee. Oh, and sweets. I’ve got a huge addiction to sweets I’m trying to master. And also Netflix. I’m sort of addicted to Call the Midwives and Lost again. I keep feeling like I have to figure out who I am … I’m a mom now but I’m not able to do all the mommy stuff one would normally do. I’m not busy changing diapers and breastfeeding; I have to wait to do all of that. I’m too tired to think spiritual thoughts other than mere whispers to the Lord. I haven’t made a homemade dinner in ages and haven’t been home since my water broke in September. Maybe I’m going through my mid-life crisis as I am turning 27 in a few weeks and am realizing that I am closer to 30 than 20. The beautiful thing is that it’s okay that I am changing; I just need to be able to go with the flow. 😉

Anyway, I love and appreciate each of you. Thank you for following our journey and blessing us along the way. God is a good, good Father and we have seen Him work so much good in our lives through this difficult time.

Love, blessings, and coffee,

Frannie