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

When Life Knocks the Saint Right Out of You // Coffee Series

Coffee With You Series

There’s a lot of feelings that happen when your life is turned upside down. For me, I’ve definitely become more acquainted with fear, anxiety, and anger from being in the NICU. There’s just something about not being in control of your child’s well-being that knocks the saint right out of you.

And guess what, that’s exactly what I needed.

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Songs for the Christian Mom in the NICU

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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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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!

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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

Resting after Surgery // Our NICU Journey

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It’s a quiet, early morning at our Ronald McDonald House. I’ve found my way into the large kitchen and brewed a pot of hot coffee. This is my quiet time to reflect on all that life has involved. I’m sitting by the lumpy, lit Christmas tree reading Psalms 9 by the twinkling lights.

We’ve made it. Uriah is 19 days old today and it feels like we’ve made it. His shunt, meant to drain the build up of cerebral fluid, was successfully placed yesterday afternoon and already his head has decreased in size by .9 . I’ve been told that children who are old enough to speak often say their heads feel better the day of surgery. I imagine Uriah may be feeling some of the benefits of the decreased pressure. (This makes my mommy-heart want to weep with joy!)

We’ve made it. We’ve walked through premature rupture of membranes, bed rest, infection, a placental tear, and a labor/c-section that wasn’t typical. We’ve made it through 19 days of intubation, iv lines, a TE Fistula surgery, a newly placed NG feeding tube, and now, finally, the shunt placement.

And all I want to do in my quiet, coffee-filled, Christmas tree lit spare moment is cry and laugh and sing and cry some more.

God has been amazingly, wonderfully here and good. “I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will show forth all thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee; I will sing praise unto thy name, O thou most High. When my enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at they presence. For thou hast maintained my right and my cause …” Psalms 9 

We still have a journey ahead of us. Shunts fail and get infected; they need to be replaced and sometimes frequently. Uriah’s still recovering from pneumonia-like illness and his little right lung is still healing from being mucous-filled and occasionally collapses. We have no idea what amount of damage was caused by the pressure build-up and we have no idea how much his brain will “fluff”.” (Although we have very high hopes and have been given a good prognosis). And along with the recovery from the CF build-up our little one may face difficulties reaching milestones since he was born early.

But all of that can wait. All of those unknowns can be faced one step at a time. Because today our little boy has less pressure in his head than ever before. Today, our little one has conquered his last foreseen surgery (although realistically there may be more). But for today, we’ve made it. Today we get to focus purely on recovery and growth and feedings and milestones and being weaned from the ventilator. Today, the sun is shining brighter than it has all week and my heart feels lighter than it has in a long while.

Thank You, Father, for caring for us. Thank You for giving us such a brave, strong, sweet little boy. Thank You for his Hydrocephalus and for his pneumonia and for his TE Fistula. They are things I wish I could take away and never make him face but they are things You have been Victor and Healer in and You are wise in all that You send to us. Thank You for caring for us through other people; thank You for the financial gifts, encouraging cards, and sweet messages and visits you’ve sent us through friends and family and strangers. We have never been without and we have never seen You fail and I trust You in this journey.  

What journey are you facing today? Are you at the beginning, middle, or end? Have you seen God carry you through or are you in a waiting phase? Comment below — I’d love to be able to pray for you.

Love, blessings, and coffee (and a chocolate cupcake) 😉 ,

Frannie