Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What happens when your baby looks like someone else?

As you can see, my blogging has slowed way, way down. That's because the boss of my new job, Sammy, is very demanding. She runs a tight ship. But I love it. And I love her. I am so unbelievably happy to be at home raising her, waking up with her, getting covered in spit up, and being screamed at. It's all worth it 110%. Being a mother is a billion times more amazing than I had even imagined. And trust me, I had high hopes of what it would be like!

I had a realization I wanted to write about today in case anyone is thinking about embryo adoption and may be facing some of the same fears I did in the beginning. I'm not promising you'll feel the same way I do once you hopefully find success, but I just feel compelled to write a little bit about how those fears ended up turning out in my reality.

When we first starting dipping our toes into exploring embryo adoption, I was overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation. We were faced with the decision of using anonymously donated embryos, or by doing it openly and knowing our children's genetic family. We felt strongly that having an open adoption with was right for our family.  But of course, naturally all of that came with some fears too.  I feared that I might someday look at my baby and not see my eyes, my nose, or my husbands ears, and I would feel sad. I worried that I might feel like I was sharing my baby with another family. Or I would feel that he/she was not really ours and we had only borrowed her from someone else.

If you're reading this and it sounds like things you've secretly wondered or are currently wondering, you're not alone.

These worries were much relieved once our situation with our two donor families became real. We knew how amazing they were before and during pregnancy and were proud to have them in our lives. But still I sometimes wondered about those initial fears would feel once I had a baby in my arms. How might I actually feel when I looked at my baby and she looked like someone else? Yesterday, I had a moment that helped answer that for me.

Sammy smiled and she looked exactly like her genetic mother. Her eyes and lips lit up and came together in a way that was an uncanny resemblance of Libby. Libby is beautiful, and so is Sammy.

But there was no sadness. There was no jealousy.

Instead, I looked into what looked so much like Libby's face and was filled with gratitude for the genetic family who made this possible for us. I was reminded of the incredible journey that brought us to this special little girl. Children do not belong to anyone. And they are all borrowed, in a way. They are their own special spirits that are entrusted to us from God for our short time on earth. And God placed Sammy in our lives with a purpose. He has taught me to always feel thankful in this little girl's smile and remember the selfless act of her genetic mother that not only gave Sammy the opportunity for life, but also finally made us a family. It reminds me of how beautiful Sammy truly is, and not just in her looks alone. I adore that she looks like her genetic family because it's a forever reminder of all of the love that went into bringing her here and how much we love those who had a part in it. And you know what's weird? She looks a lot like us too. It's like she's the perfect blend of all of us.

I wouldn't change a thing.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

I landed my dream job.

I'm now a stay at home mom! After our crazy battle with infertility and loss, it feels surreal to write that.

We weren't having any luck finding a nanny for Sammy. So I think it may have been God's way of nudging us to make the decision for me to stay home with her.  Yesterday, I took Sammy into the office to meet my coworkers and while I was there, I met with my boss and gave him my resignation. I've worked in IT in the financial sector pretty much my entire adult life and accomplished quite a bit. But I'm so excited for this new job title and responsibility. Financially, it is going to mean lots of changes. But that's totally okay. I am so grateful to Kevin who is a hardworking and loving father so we can have this incredible opportunity.

I am so blessed.

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's about time I got around to update

Sammy is already two months old! Where has time gone?

I freaking love being a mom. And not just any mom, but SAMMY'S mom. She is just incredible. I never knew I could love someone like this. I can say without a doubt that all of the heartache and pain to get to this point made the moments now that much sweeter. Who knows if I would have appreciated motherhood this much if it hadn't been so hard to achieve? Even the moments where she's screaming bloody murder in my ear are appreciated and my heart is so full. I wouldn't trade any of our journey to get here because if any of it were different, these moments may not be exactly what they are right now.

Breastfeeding is still going well....well, well-ish. I think there will always be ups and downs, as with anything else in life. She has reflux which has made for a lot of spit up and struggling while trying to nurse. So she's gaining weight not as quickly as I'd like. I'm seeing some reflux improvement in the past few days so I'm hoping her weight gain will pick up a little bit, but otherwise everything is great. I've already stored about 20oz of milk in the freezer. Sometimes I'll open the freezer door just to look at it. It's been a hard road and I'm weird but like seeing the stash as one of the many tangible payoffs to the effort put into it.

We have a new pediatrician that we will be meeting with for the first time today and I'm strangely excited. Maybe it's because it's an excuse to get out of the house. Or maybe it's because I have so many questions I'm eager for her to answer. Maybe it's because shes not only a pedi, but also a certified lactation consultant. Or maybe it's because she's just up the street from us. Fingers crossed she works out because it almost seems too good to be true on paper! Anyway, we're going to the pedi today at 2pm and she will be getting her first big round of two month vaccines. I'm a little nervous watching her get poked like that but I know it's for the best. There's a tiny bit of mommy anxiety going on over here, I can't wait until it's over so I can snuggle her and comfort her and make it all better.

Overall, things are going great. We're are following into a fairly successful routine. And ironically enough, going through the VLCAD feeding schedule her first month of life kind of set us up for that anyway. So I've found the silver lining in that hellish ordeal. She slept almost seven hours straight the other night!

One thing that surprises me is that I've really gotten into babywearing. Aside from the joy it brings me to have her right on my body, it's so dang convenient to have her on me out and about while my hands are free. Also, people tend to want to touch her less while we are in public as opposed to if she were in her carrier. I have a Sakura Bloom Ring sling, a baby k-tan (which is too big and I need to figure out how to exchange it for a size smaller) and I just ordered a Lillebaby All Seasons which should come this week or next.

Look how happy she is snuggled up in the ring sling. Well, that makes two of us!

She's cooing, smiling, and positively responding to me and Kevin when she's approached and in a happy mood. It's so heart melting. I have also started reading to her. We sit and read newborn black and white baby books pretty much every day. Who knows how much she actually cares about it this early on? But so what? She is engaged, happy, and I feel like I'm setting the foundation for her to enjoy all of the reading that she and I will be doing together as she grows. It's been one of the things I've looked forward to most as I dreamed of being a mother. That, and making soapy mohawks on her head in the bathtub. And lucky for us, she has enough hair for me to do that already!

For the past few weeks, I've been trying to get some family photos of the three of us with my own camera and remote control. Unfortunately, total fail. Each time either Sammy wasn't happy or the remote control wasn't working right. So I finally gave up and hired another photographer/friend and she took these beautiful photos that I'll share here!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I have been so, so busy.

I am finally settling into "normal" life as a mom with a new baby. It's incredible being a mom and now that I finally have this VLCAD thing not looming overhead, I'm able to really savor it! I still can't believe how horrifying that first month of her life was for me. It really was one of the hardest things I've been through, facing a life threatening illness of someone I loved so much and had prayed so hard for. I can barely even think about it because it hurt so much!

I'm so glad she's okay and I'm happy to be busy with her even though it means my blog posts will likely suffer a little bit!

What am I up to other than the obvious things related to caring for a sweet little baby?

Well, I've been working recently on trying to find a nanny for when I go back to work near the end of October. I barely want to even type that because it makes it feel real and I still am sad thinking about leaving her at home. I hope we find someone we feel great about because it's really hard to trust someone with something so precious to us.

I've also been busy trying to get my photography business up and running which involves filing for all of the proper licenses, paying fees, building websites, etc. I usually try to do this during Sammy naps and surprisingly have made some good headway here!

I'm also dealing with some genetic issues myself. I swear, genetic testing has been so prevalent in our lives lately and it's back again, only this time for me. For those of you who know my story, my mom died of colon cancer at a young age and all of her three adult children, including myself, have had colon polyps at young ages. Doctors agree that there's likely something hereditary going on and I've been going through testing with an oncologist and genetic counselor to try to figure it out. I was tested for a single genetic disorder in 2012 that came back as negative. But this time, they did an incredibly extensive panel that will test for all kinds of uterine, breast, ovarian, and colon cancer disorders. It will be scary if/when I learn that I have a disorder that leads to a much higher risk of cancer. But at the same time, knowledge is power so hopefully I can do something to avoid it. I'll get the results on November 21 and am trying to put it out of my mind a little bit until then.

Okay - happy news! Breastfeeding is going so well. Finally! It was so hard in the beginning. Both Sammy and I had a terrible case of thrush that we believe I got from the antibiotics given to me after the c-section in the hospital. Breastfeeding started out painful and got worse and worse until it was nearly unbearable. I'd cry. I eventually had to exclusively pump. I had no reference point and figured breastfeeding was that painful for everyone. Little did I know, it isn't. Once we found out what was going on, my OB, pediatrician, and I declared war on it and after a couple of weeks of multiple therapies it went away. All the while I also was worried about VLCAD and under a lot of stress which I'm sure impacted my supply too. In fact, if she had turned out to have VLCAD, I would have been told to stop breastfeeding anyway. So there were many times I considered giving up. But I didn't and I'm glad. Once all of those crazy hurdles were behind me, operation exclusive-breastfeeding was 100% underway. I've been nursing and pumping like crazy and I am excited to report that the past three days/nights that Sammy has been 100% breastfed with no more formula supplementation. And I am even getting enough to start build a stash. I could not be more happy about this achievement considering everything I had going against me! I can't help but pat myself on the back for what I feel like is a huge accomplishment.

And I'm not sure if it's related or not, but she started sleeping through the night (5 hours) the first night she was exclusively breastfed and did it a second time last night. Yippee! I'm well rested!

Sammy just started smiling and cooing in response to our silly antics this week and it makes my heart melt. I'll leave you with a picture of her toothless grin.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sammy's genetic origins

We found out a few weeks ago through elective DNA testing that Sammy came from Libby's embryo batch. Sammy is beautiful and an uncanny reflection of her genetic family. I am saddened about the tragedy they've endured with the loss of their beautiful daughter and I'll never understand why such horrific things happen to the most amazing people. They have been heros to us and we wouldn't have our little girl if it wasn't for their selflessness. We hope that as Sammy grows she will have a wonderful balance of "nature vs nurture" and will demonstrate some of the incredible traits of her genetic parents. I am having a hard time putting into words how I feel about our gratitude to them because words truly cannot express it properly. Not even in a fraction of a sense.

Of course, getting the genetic news about Sammy's genetic origins was bittersweet because we know that she could only come from one batch and the not the other. And in this case, it meant she is not from Vicky's embryo batch. That also means that all of Vicky's embryos are gone forever. But despite this, we've made a wonderful friend of Vicky over the past couple of years and she will always be family to us. If there's one thing that embryo adoption teaches us it is that genetics don't make a family, love does. Friends are the family we choose. And remember  - we have angel babies in heaven that are genetically related to her little boy.

I wanted to post this update because it's an important piece of our story. We love both of our donor families and now move forward with the mystery solved of Sammy's genetic origins.

We are so grateful for embryo adoption and love our little snowflake more than anything else in this world.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The news we've been waiting for...

We finally heard back from the genetic test and Sammy does NOT have VLCAD. I cannot begin to tell you how relieved and happy I am! Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers.

And today is my birthday. Best birthday present ever! I am over the moon!

Now I just hope we have an uneventful life for the next little while!

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm an idiot.

Kevin went back to work on Wednesday which leaves me alone in my thoughts most of the day and night. It's left me a lot of time to worry about these VLCAD results, and even worse, to research it online. Libby, being the incredibly strong and amazing mother she is, gave me a pep talk the day we got the initial screening results and told me to stay off the internet. I should have listened to her. I am so mad at myself. I couldn't resist. I was looking for reassurance somehow, as if the internet can give that to me as I wait tirelessly for Sammy's results.

I'm an idiot, but I've been reading about it. A lot.

Up until recently, I was somewhat reassured that Sammy's second newborn screen came back normal. But yesterday I learned on multiple studies that a second screen for a VLCAD patient typically does come back as normal as the levels normalize. So the second screen being normal means nothing. And the fact her actual blood panel came up as slightly abnormal is worrisome to me. Big time. I don't have access to talk to the geneticist himself so all of my questions are unanswered and I'm going positively insane. He won't give us his take on the blood panel because he's waiting for the DNA test results which are more definitive. And even though we thought we'd get those results this week, we haven't.

I also know that because of the inability for a baby with VLCAD to break down very-long-chain fatty acids, commonly found in breast milk, breastfeeding could be harming her as we wait. And I'm working so, so hard at getting breastfeeding to work out for her. If she doesn't have it and I give up breastfeeding (which I'm not planning to, but I can see how someone might) and we find out she doesn't have it, we missed out on the benefits of breastfeeding. But if she does have it and has too many of the fats her body can't process, it can lead to organ failure or a metabolic crisis. It's incredibly hard to walk the line not knowing what the reality is. It's enough to make my head spin.

All of the 'normal' newborn things have me second guessing. She has reflux, irritability, some days sleeps a lot and some days doesn't sleep as much. To anyone else, they'd chalk it up as normal baby stuff. But I always go to the "Is this a sign of VLCAD?" first and foremost. It's maddening, more than anything I've ever been through in my life. Miscarriages included.

It's all I can think about and I really am worried sick. I'm having a really really hard time with it right now. I'm praying we get the results soon and they show she's 100% clear of this - not even a carrier. I guess even being a carrier can manifest symptoms in scary ways.

I'm just feeling broken watching her every move and wondering and worrying what is lurking beneath her seemingly healthy self. I can't imagine losing this little girl to a life-threatening disease like this. I haven't been able to truly enjoy this incredible experience because of this black cloud hanging above me.

I thank God Kevin will be here this weekend so I can be distracted once again. Being alone in my thoughts with access to Dr Google is clearly a bad thing!

And for those of you who may be wondering, we did get the results for the DNA test that tells us which genetic family Sammy is from and have told both of our donor families. I want to respect the families involved so that they can tell their families about it before posting here. But once I know it's okay, I will write about it.

Thanks for hearing me today and please continue to pray that her test results come soon and they are a resounding negative and this is over once and for all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Not what I expected when I opened the door

Sammy has had some gas and reflux symptoms so while we wait to see the pedi on Tuesday, I ordered some gripe water off of Amazon to try to help her out. I knew it was out for delivery yesterday and when the mailman came to deliver it, I was eager to try it out. I had also been trying out my Sakura Bloom ring sling and have been wearing Sammy around the house. So when the doorbell rang, I happened to have her on me already and it made it really easy to get up to go to the door.

I could see through the window that the mailman had left the package and was no longer there. So I opened the front door when something came flying at me missing me by inches. YES, FLYING. And it landed on the tile entryway.

It was a baby snake. 

It took me a couple of seconds to realize what had happened. At first, I thought it was a restaurant delivery menu been tucked into the crease of our door. But menus don't start slithering toward your dining room.

Cue complete and utter freak out.

Kevin was still sleeping and I had the baby strapped to me in the sling. I didn't want to go near it, but I also couldn't let it out of my sight to somehow allow it to slither into an unknown part of the house leaving us to wonder what and where it was. I was way too vulnerable so I just started yelling for Kevin. Luckily he heard me and came running in to see this snake which had perched itself into the corner of the entry hall.  Imagine his surprise!

He wasn't sure if it was a baby rattlesnake either because they can be hard to identify when they are small. But he was able to safely get it into a plastic pitcher with a shoe and cover it so it was safely contained while we tried to identify it. If it was a rattlesnake, it meant we probably had a nest somewhere and that would be really bad!

After posting this photo to Facebook and ultimately calling a local snake guy who actually answered his phone on a Sunday morning, we identified it was a harmless Yellow Belly Racer snake. And Kevin was able to release it into a field behind out house.

We think it climbed the door to make it's way into a wreath that I have hanging that sometimes birds hang out in. Because this thing didn't slither in on the ground, it came flying in from the air!

For someone who hasn't left the house in a while except for pediatrician and OB appointments, it was quite the adventure. I'm a little nervous about going through the door for fear of what might fly at me next! You know what they say - don't mess with Texas! ;-)

And PS, the ring sling was great. Sammy slept through the whole thing!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Finally, the birth story with pictures

I've been so crazy busy I haven't had a chance to type up the birth story. I know that as time passes, I'll forget more and more about it so I want to get it down while I can. Here goes.

I had been dealing with mild pre-eclampsia for a week or two and finally after a L&D scare over the weekend, so my OB and MFM decided I would be delivering a week early via scheduled c-section. I got the call on Monday, July 21, 2014 to be prepared for a July 22, 7am delivery. The nurse was so sweet and ended the call with "you're going to have your baby in your arms tomorrow!" I hung up and cried tears of joy.

I made a few phone calls to my work, to the dog daycare, family, etc, to get all of my affairs in order. We dropped the dog off later that evening and Kevin and I laid in bed in awe telling one another that our lives would be forever changed the following day. We set our alarms for 3:45am because we had to arrive at the hospital at 4:45am.

I laid in bed feeling like a kid does waiting for Christmas morning - well, that times a million.  I knew that the following day would be magical and there was no way I could get a wink of sleep leading up to it. So I decided I'd go out into the family room and watch TV. We had to "wake up" (but I couldn't sleep lol) at 3:45am and I only had about four hours to kill.

I watched some guilty reality shows, some Top Chef reruns, and around 2:45am I went to the restroom only to realize my underwear was soaked. Huh? Pregnant ladies are known for having bladder accidents, but this was a lot. Then, more gushes came. It took a minute to register, but it finally hit me - my water broke.  What in the world are the odds of that just an hour before we were supposed to get up for the hospital anyway? It wasn't at all like I expected it to be. I didn't feel a pop, a large gush, I just happened to notice I was all wet and had to put it all together in my head.

I woke Kevin up and said "you'll never believe this, but my water broke. So let's get this show on the road a little earlier than planned. I'm sure contractions are coming." He couldn't believe it! He jumped out of bed, took a quick shower and we got all of my packed bags in the car and headed to the hospital. By the time we got there, I was already feeling some contractions and speed bumps in the parking lot hurt. A lot.

When we arrived to L&D we told them I had a planned c-section but we there just a bit early due to my water breaking. All of the nurses stopped what they were doing and laughed. They couldn't believe the timing either!

I was put into a pre-op bed and monitors were strapped on me. Contractions were coming every seven minutes or so. They tried to get an IV placed in my arm, but due to my deep veins they ran into issues. I'm not normally a fainter and have had plenty of blood draws and needle pricks in my life, but I passed out twice (horrible, horrible feeling) when the third try they finally got the IV in. Thank goodness.

I was running on no sleep and tried to rest a bit before everything picked up around 6:30am. I had a myriad of people come in and introduce themselves to me, but honestly, I can't remember much of who because of how tired and how uncomfortable I was. But finally a few minutes later, they said it was time to go to the OR. Kevin put his surgery outfit on, had a big smile on his face, and I was taken into the operating room and was told he'd follow shortly thereafter.

They had me step up onto the operating table and lean forward so the anesthesiologist could insert the spinal. I actually was more nervous about this moment than the surgery itself. But with his careful instruction, this was a breeze. I only felt a pinch as the pain numbing medication went in. I've had fertility treatments hurt more than that! Once it was in, they had me flip my legs onto the table where I felt this warmth come over them. It was welcomed because I was starting to feel a little chilly. During this whole time, I was barely speaking. They asked if I was okay, and I was. I was more than okay. I was just in utter shock. That's the best word I can use to describe it. I was in shock that our little girl was about to be born and the emotions were overwhelming. It was overwhelming and sacred.

I laid on the table taking in all of the emotions, sounds, and sights around me and Kevin came in. He held my hand.  I could feel them taping me with drapes.

Most of what happens next is a blur - out of sheer emotion I can't remember it, but it still brings tears to my eyes. After some really hefty tugging, pulling, and pushing, I heard the doctor say "wow, she's big!" and a few seconds later I heard her cry.

I don't know why her cry surprised me, but it did. I get that babies cry at birth, but for some reason I didn't register that would be happening. But hearing it was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.

Kevin said "that's our little girl! that's our little girl!" We both cried for this moment we waited for our whole lives. The doctor held her over the curtain where I saw her open her big eyes and look down at me!

She was quickly taken about 10 feet away to the warming table where Kevin followed. I could see her little hands and legs kicking.

She quickly grasped Kevin's finger and held on tight.

They cleaned her up, bundled her, and brought her over for me to see again.

We were taken into recovery where I finally got to hold her and look at her. And I haven't stopped looking at her since.