Four Days

Has the suspense of my absence been killing you? I’m sure it has. i’m sure you’ve been able to think of nothing else.

Let me bring you up to speed…

Shortly after my last post Dr. R released me from the hospital. I was allowed to go home on modified bed rest. I didn’t have to literally stay in bed, but I wasn’t allowed to do much more than make myself a sandwhich for lunch, rotate between the recliner and the couch, and attend my biweekly doctor appointment. I couldn’t complain though, because I was so glad to be home. So glad, in fact, that I didn’t want to do anything that reminded me of my stay in the hospital–including updating my blog.

I was allowed to spend Thanksgiving Day out with my family. While I loved having a reason to wear pants without a drawstring, I realized that day how much bed rest had set me back. I was completely overwhelmed by all the people, food, and conversation. Despite feeling absolutely ragged at the end of the day, I was so thankful to be able to see my family and get some fresh air.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, after reviewing my improving lab work, Dr. B released me to go back to work. I was really looking forward to having a routine again. AND the more time I work before the baby arrives, the more time I’ll be saving for my maternity leave.

I’ve been back at work for three weeks–just long enough to take on a few projects and tie up some lose ends from before my stint in the hospital.

Tomorrow is my last day of work. I’m anticipating that this weekend will be partially filled with things we won’t get to do for a while after Beckett arrives (like eat at fancy restaurants and take naps) and will partially be filled with preparation for his arrival (like laundry and vacuuming).

We are scheduled to go to the hospital on Monday for my induction. The plan is to have some medicine over night that will prepare my body for labor, then work on having this baby bright and early on Tuesday.

At my exam last week, Dr. R told me that my body is already in a really great place for indcution–2 centimeters dialated and 50 percent effaced. This is GREAT news, consider this is my first full-term pregnancy and we are inducing early. If my body wasn’t already starting to prepare, the chance of C-Section would be pretty high.

I have my last exam before delivery this afternoon. Part of me is hoping that she will just tell me to go straight to the hospital. The other part of me really wants to eat at Osaka one last time.

Either way, meeting Beckett is right around the corner–four days at the very most.

As John can attest, I have been very emotional this week, not sure how to prepare for such a monumental life change. As we were in the hospital, we are praying that whatever happens, we will come through it with a happy, healthy baby.

Prayers of thanksgiving that we’ve made it this far and prayers of protection for a safe and easy delivery!

Week 35. Can't wait to meet him.

Week 35. Can’t wait to meet him.

32 Weeks: Home

I think everyone thought that by 32 weeks we would have met Beckett and set up camp in the NICU. Praise God that’s not the case.

Last night I was released to come home on bed rest. I honestly didn’t think I would be leaving that hospital without having a baby.

While I am home, I’ll be going to the doctor’s office for monitoring and lab work about twice a week. I’m also on medication to help lower my liver enzymes, and I am monitoring my own blood pressure during the day.

Obviously, I’m glad to be home, but I feel like the diagnosis of Cholestasis of Pregnancy comes with some added worries about the effects this condition could have on Beckett. Cholestasis is linked to increased risk of Sudden Fetal Demise. While Dr. R assured me that the chances of this happening are still very low, it’s a legitimate concern. I’m trying not to dwell on it, but I think it will be in the back of my mind until delivery.

With that in mind, Dr. R said she won’t let my pregnancy go further than 37, which is technically full term. So, our modified due date is on or around December 18—just five weeks away! Hopefully, we’ll have Beckett home for Christmas.

Looks like I’ll be spending the next five weeks online shopping for Beckett’s first Christmas!

Mystery Solved!

The last of my crazy, rare labs came back today. And of course, this last test is the one that explains everything that’s been happening in my body for the past 20 days.

It’s called a Bile Acids test. Lovely, right? It measures the amount of the different chemicals produced by the liver. I’m not certain what a “normal” reading is, but Dr. B told me that my results showed bile acid amounts twice as high as they should be, which means my official diagnosis (finally) is Cholestasis of Pregnancy.

Last week Dr. B mentioned that she was really just waiting on this test to rule out Cholestasis because I wasn’t displaying the most common symptom of the condition—sever itching.

Over the weekend, I started feeling like I had fleas. I’ve been scratching my forearms, shins, and calves raw. I really thought that it might just be the power of suggestion, which I know I’m insanely susceptible to.

Nope. Cholestasis. And the itching is getting worse.

Dr. B called me in my hospital room as soon as the test came back and immediately started me on Actigall, a synthetic form of a bile acid naturally produced by the gall bladder. It’s typically used to treat gallstones, but has been effective for treating Cholestasis as well.

From what I’ve researched, Actigall usually take at least three days to have any affect, including subduing the itching. Dr. B sounded hopeful that if my body reacted well to the medication, I’d be able to continue my bed rest at home as long as I committed to coming in for lab work and fetal monitoring three times a week.

Because my phone conversation with Dr. B was over the phone and relatively brief, I still have several questions, like “How may this condition affect Beckett?” “Is early delivery still on the horizon?” “Will I be able to go back to work between now and the time I deliver?”

I’ll definitely update when I know more. But for now, I am saying prayers of thanksgiving because we finally know what we’re up against!

Also to come—picture from my baby shower! So much fun!

For now, dote over this picture from my ultrasound today. It’s the first face picture we’ve seen of Beckett since 19 weeks!

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No Such Thing as Coincidence

As many of you may know, my dad passed away very suddenly when I saw ten years old. At the funeral, the cantor sang a popular Catholic hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings.”

He will raise you up on eagle’s wings

Bear you on the breath of dawn

Make you to shine like the sun

And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

Beautiful sentiments, but for the past 16 years I have associated this song with my dad’s passing. I know what number the song is in the hymnal book. When I see that number on the board in the beginning of Mass, I truly can’t concentrate on anything other than preparing myself to hear it (usually after Communion). Even with nearly an hour of preparation, there hasn’t been one single time that I haven’t had to leave the church when the choir begins the sing it.

So, imagine the self restraint I had to muster when, after receiving the Eucharist the first day I was in the hospital, Sister starts in on an a cappella rendition of the hymn. Not only was I hospitalized for the first time in my entire life, but now I have a nun standing over my bed singing the song I most closely associate with death. After I thanked her for visiting me and she stepped out of the room, I had my first real cry since being admitted.

This series of events became a daily ritual—Eucharist, “On Eagle’s Wings,” breakdown.

I don’t believe in coincidence. So, the longer this went on, the more theories I had about what I was supposed to be gleaning from it, most of which are too dark or paranoid to detail here.

Last weekend one of my best friends and her mother came to visit me. Among tons of other goodies, they brought me a daily devotional book entirely based on Psalms 91. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not as familiar with the Bible as a good Catholic girl should be. Turns out, the lyrics of “On Eagle’s Wings” are basically a rephrasing of Psalms 91. (Told you—no such thing as coincidence.)

1You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,

who abide in the shade of the Almighty,

2Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress,

my God in whom I trust.”

3He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare,

from the destroying plague,

4He will shelter you with his pinions,

and under his wings you may take refuge;

his faithfulness is a protecting shield.

5You shall not fear the terror of the night

nor the arrow that flies by day,

6Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,

nor the plague that ravages at noon.

7Though a thousand fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand,

near you it shall not come.

8You need simply watch;

the punishment of the wicked you will see.

9Because you have the Lord for your refuge

and have made the Most High your stronghold,

10No evil shall befall you,

no affliction come near your tent.

11For he commands his angels with regard to you,

to guard you wherever you go.

12With their hands they shall support you,

lest you strike your foot against a stone…

The more I’ve meditated on these words, the more I understand that this song is not about death or even what happens after death. It’s about the wonderful ways God blesses us when we trust Him.

It seems so simple. Just trust that everything will happen as God intends it…But I’m a planner. I like to know what my day is going to look like. I like to know when things will happen. I like to have control over myself and my surroundings.

Hospital life is NOT like that. From the little things, like what’s for lunch, to the bigger issues, like when I’ll be going home, nothing is in my immediate control. And sometimes in the hospital, that lack of control makes the small things seem so much bigger. I’ll admit it—I’ve cried over hospital food recently.

So, over the past week I’ve been really trying to just trust that everything will happen the way it’s supposed to. I’m not very good at it, but I’m trying. I’ve even stopped crying after Sister sings “On Eagle’s Wings.” I’m almost starting to find strength in the song. Almost because it takes more than a week to retrain your brain about something that’s been such a strong stigma for so many years. But I’m getting there.

I’m trying to trust that this experience as something that will make our little family closer, stronger, and more faithful.

Thank you again for all the prayers that have been pouring in (and up)! Keep them coming, please! I think they might be working, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I’ll have more updates about all the fun lab results and tests soon!

31 Weeks

When I was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago, I don’t think anyone thought I would still be here and still be pregnant today. But I am, and although I’d like to be almost anywhere else, the fact that Beckett has been given this opportunity to grow means everything.

I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t been very active during the last two weeks or because Beckett is growing like a weed, but I feel like my tummy is twice as big and twice as heavy as it was last week. I’ve never been so happy to be carrying extra weight!

Aside from my counting to each week marker, my days are really running together—sleep, labs, ultrasounds, doctors, nurses, naps, gluten-free bread. It’s all a blur, which is making documenting my time in here more difficult.

Also, as if the make the waiting a little more unbearable, it seems that the doctors and whatever is going on in my body are engaged in some kind of biological standoff. We’re all just waiting for something to happen—for me to get deathly ill or for my liver to say, “Just kidding guys. Carry on with your lives.” I’m sure this is my impatience talking, but at this point, either outcome would be fine with me as long as we have an answer at the end.

The doctors agree that there’s about a 50/50 chance of us actually figuring out what’s going on. I know I’m being seen by some of the best, most well-read, experienced OBs and specialists in the area. If they’re unsure they’ll ever know what’s happening here, I’m starting to wonder why I’m here at all.

I’ve been granted a little bit more leeway as far as being able to get up and walk around. The doctors aren’t holding my breakfast anymore. And I’ve been moved back to a normal antepartum room. I think they are testing my body to see if the bed rest has been staving off an immanent illness.

My blood pressure has been higher since I’ve been more active. That, coupled with the fact that they’re still not certain if this is a pregnancy-induced condition, makes them uncomfortable with me going home any time soon. I feel like I was pretty naïve to get my hopes up, but I’ve found it’s easier to be here when I think of this as something that will help keep Beckett safe and healthy.

Also, I have time to watch Wendy Williams now.

Because I’ll be here a while longer, I’ve taken some pictures of some of a few things make me smile.

Enjoy! And continued prayers please!

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St. Francis of Assisi

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Yummy gluten-free meal John made. Grilled chicken, roasted red potatoes, and gluten-free mac and cheese.

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Beautiful green leaves on my walk outside.

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Beard hat I made for B.

Today I Heard the “H” Word.

The last 24 hours have been the best since I was admitted to the hospital 12 days ago.

Yesterday, family and friends visited and brought me lots of wonderful things to lift my spirits. Even one of my dear friends who lives in Kentucky dropped by as a surprise!! I can’t tell you just how much all that love and support means. It’s keeping me sane! (Barely!)

Aside from all the visiting and goodies, I also received some tremendous news from Dr. B. My liver enzymes have been in a holding pattern for the past three days. They’ve fluctuated a bit from morning to afternoon, but overall we’re in the same place we were Friday morning. Dr. B thinks this may be a sign that whatever disease process is working away in my system is subsiding.

She’s decreased my lab work to every 24 hours, is allowing me to go on two 20 minute walks a day, and even mentioned the “H” Word: HOME!

I’m still on the gluten-free diet, and she would like to consult a GI specialist I make sure there’s not something dangerous she’s overlooking. But, she said in the coming week, if my lab results maintain or even improve, I may be returning to a normal antepartum room or even continuing bed rest at home.

The idea of returning home to sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, and spend time with my kitties is so overwhelming that my mind literally won’t let me meditate on it for more than a few seconds at a time. I don’t want to get my hopes up because there are still a lot of “ifs.” Even just a few days ago, the idea of going home was distant and abstract. The fact that Dr. B, who was the most adamant about me staying here until I deliver, even uttered the word “home” is giving me the energy and stability I need to sustain myself here a little while longer.

We are placing this situation in God’s hands and pray that He gives us and our medical team the patience and wisdom to handle it all with grace. Thank you again for all your prayers and support!

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of The Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I trust. [Psalm 91]

Cottage Cheese and Tomatoes

Last night, I went to bed absolutely exhausted, but feeling peace about the decision we made to put off delivery for at least one more day.

I woke up this morning, like usual, to the knock of an early-morning lab tech at my door. Because so much rides on these test now, there was no chance of me going back to sleep. I laid there in the dark trying to maintain the calm that I had felt last night.

When Dr. B arrived, rather than starting in on the numbers and analysis that I’m used to hearing, she just looked at me and said, “I have an odd-ball theory.”

For the past few days, my liver enzymes have been slightly lower in the morning than in the afternoon—a bit of a one step forward/two steps back scenario. The only considerable difference that coincides with this trend is my eating habits. As I described in the last post, I have been fasting for most of the day in case my lab work comes back indicating something monumental.

So, Dr. B has proposed testing out a gluten-free diet for the next couple of days to see if this may have any affect on my liver enzymes—the only factor still highlighted as worrisome. She said that some people have unusual food allergies that don’t present themselves in the typical ways, like rashes or sour stomachs. It seems like a bit of a long shot to me (and a pretty simplistic, considering the other hoops we’ve jumped through the past 11 days), but at this point, I’m open to try anything.

Although, I wish I would have asked what a gluten-free diet entailed before I committed to it. And I also wish I would have never complained about the hospital food before today.

My nurse just brought me my first gluten-free meal: cottage cheese and tomatoes with a slice of American cheese, and some orange Jell-o.

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That is not a meal, people. Not for a pregnant lady who has been fasting since midnight last night. Those preformed, precooked, thin, rubbery hamburgers are looking really good about now.

All jokes aside, I know this is a tiny sacrifice in the long process it’s become to make sure both Beckett and I are healthy.

But if this diet works, everyone is going to feel really stupid, right?

Love is Patient.

I haven’t updated in a few days for a couple reasons. Firstly, I’ve been inundated with lab work and have been out of my room half the time for ultrasounds. Secondly, I thought we may be at a breaking point with my lab results and I didn’t want to include everyone on the emotional roller coaster we’ve been riding for the past 48 hours.

After 24 hours of steroids, my liver enzymes continued to increase, so Dr. B decided to discontinue that treatment. It’s not for nothing though; my body’s reaction to the steroids almost definitely rules out any kind of Auto-Immune Disease.

While there are still a few VERY rare and peculiar infections and diseases that might explain my increasing liver enzymes (Google “Hepatitis E,” if you’d really like to know how hard they’re searching for a diagnosis), the two main explanations still in the running are Atypical Preeclampsia and Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy. Although I’m not sure that any of the five doctors I’ve visited with are entirely convinced of either diagnosis. My liver enzymes are continuing to increase at a steady rate, but at this moment, it does not seem to affect any other chemistry in my body and I’m still feeling fine (albeit a little worn out).

Because my condition is turning out to be such a medical conundrum, Dr. B has stepped up my monitoring—I’m now doing blood work every 12 hours, having my vitals taken every two hours, and Beckett is monitored three times a day for an hour each time.

Based on the trends on my lab results, I am reaching a point where women usually start to get sick and other components—like blood clotting factors—begin to diminish. But for whatever reason, I’m still hanging in here.

Until recently, we’ve been thinking of delivery as something that will happen when I begin to feel sick or when my lab results take a dramatic turn for the worse. Until last night, we were thinking of this journey as a day-by-day experience.  We are now literally working on an hour-by-hour evaluation cycle.

Knowing that I’m coming to the brink of what may be safe for my health and my sanity, the doctors have given us the option to choose to deliver whenever we feel like we’ve had enough. After a long 24 hours of contemplation, John and I have decided to hold out a little bit longer to give Beckett as much time to develop as possible.

I know John is worried about my health. In fact, if this decision was entirely up to him, Beckett would have been born today. But I can’t imagine delivering without a doctor unequivocally telling me “It’s time.” I would feel like I was robbing Beckett of his chances to be as big and strong as he can be. I know it would be such a huge relief to just make the decision to deliver and not have this huge life-changing event hanging over our heads. But I can’t justify delivering my son at 30 weeks without knowing for sure that whatever is going on in my body would be remedied by him being born. And I can’t justify having him just so that we don’t have to deal with this grueling hour-to-hour way-of-life anymore.

Today on my wheelchair ride, my mom took me by the nursery to see the new babies. The ones in the window looked so pink and plump. I can’t trade Beckett’s chances to be one of those plump, pink babies for my selfish desire to be finished with all the tests and tubes and monitors.

So, we’re continuing on with as much precaution as possible. My days now start at about 6 a.m. when the lab tech comes to collect blood for my morning tests. My breakfast is held until my lab results come back—in case I have to deliver right away. I wait around until my results are in and the doctor on call comes to review the findings. When they say it doesn’t have to be today, I eat breakfast. Then I can only have water until 2 p.m. when the lab tech comes back around for the second round of test. I wait again to hear my results and for the doctors to decide whether we’re at the point of delivery. When they say it doesn’t have to be today, I eat dinner. Then nothing to eat or drink after midnight and we start all over again.

I can honestly say this is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I am exhausted in every way thinkable, and even in ways I didn’t know existed. But this will all be worth it.

Love is patient. [1 Corinthians 13:4]

Happy Halloween!

John and I joked that if Beckett came today, we’d call him Frankenstein. Well, John was joking, but I think I would have really done it. He is still pretty adamant about being the one to sign off on the birth certificate. That’s probably for the best.

The good news is that at this moment, it doesn’t look like we’re having a Frankenstein! Several lab results came back yesterday indicating that I don’t have any kind of liver infection—Toxoplasmosis, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), etc. This also means that the cause of my (still) increasing liver enzymes and proteinuria have been narrowed down to about three conditions. Atypical Preeclampsia is still in the running (along with its sub-condition HELLP), as is Acute Fatty Liver, and Autoimmune Disease.

Dr. B told me that if I researched any of these conditions, I would scare myself. I’ve had to really distract myself to not do so. I’m a researcher and like to learn for myself, so it’s been pretty difficult. That being said, the links I provided above may not be SUPER informational, as I didn’t really read the pages.

The better news is that two of the three (preeclampsia/HELLP and fatty liver) have a distinct and definite cure: delivery the baby. Not the best option right now, but at least it’s not something that would follow me after pregnancy.

The autoimmune tests should be back within the day. I think both Dr. R and Dr. B think that this option is a long shot, but at this point I understand that they’re trying to rule out everything they can. As Dr. B said, it’d be a shame to deliver a 30-week-old baby if that may not be the cure for the mother’s health.

As a bit of a test, they’ve started me on regular steroid injections through my IV port. The idea is that the steroids will quell, and may even temporarily reverse, my increasing liver enzymes. The way it was explained to me is this: If your ankle is inflamed, the doctor could give you steroids to help the inflammation. Because the liver enzymes indicate potential liver inflammation (even though my liver ultrasound last week was fine), the steroids could help. As an added benefit, the medication also helps Beckett’s lung development.

I am receiving these steroid doses every 12 hours for the next 48 hours, but results could be evident within 24 hours of my first injection (about 5:30 p.m.). The side effects of the steroids include increased energy levels (check), increased appetite (check), and mild swelling (not yet, thank God). As a precaution, I had John take my wedding ring home. I feel so naked.

Reading between the lines, I understand that if the steroids don’t affect my liver enzymes, we will probably be looking at delivering within the week. No one has explicitly said this, but I think that’s where the conversation is headed.

The best news is that Beckett is astounding the doctors and nurses with his tests and monitoring. As I mentioned, I was moved the Labor and Delivery yesterday to monitor B more closely. Since then, he passed both his biophysical profile ultrasound (they measure the amniotic fluid, as well as his development and movement) and all his heart tone monitoring like a champ! I’m still scheduled to be on the monitors for an hour three times a day, but that’s a far cry from monitoring constantly from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., which was the original plan.

Incidentally, I’m pretty bummed that I’ve missed Halloween three years in a row! I don’t have much ghoulishness to offer this year other than a look at all the machines and tubes and yucky stuff that I’ve encountered in the hospital this week. Enjoy!

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I call these my cuffs. They squeeze my legs so I don’t get bloodclots from bedrest.

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I inherited these crappy veins from Memaw.

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My veins “blow.” What a charming term.

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the monitors on my tummy that track B’s heart tones.

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My IV where I get my steroids.

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All the machines that beep and scream and tell us if we’re healthy.

30 Weeks!

It’s official. Even though the nurses and doctors have been calling Becket a 30-week-old, today is the actual 30-week marker! While the medical staff has told me to breathe a sigh of relief, my eyes are already set on our next big milestone: 32 weeks. I found a really great article that outlines the week-by-week developments in premature babies: click here.

I have a sneaking suspicion we may not make it much further though. As I type, I am sitting in a room in the Labor and Delivery ward, hooked up to a fetal heart rate monitor, a contraction monitor, and a blood pressure cuff. Don’t worry just yet! I am not actively laboring or delivering. Dr. R decided to move me to this end of the floor for closer monitoring after a bit of a scare yesterday.

Yesterday morning, I woke up with what seemed like a hangover headache. I thought my head hurt because I had slept very heavily (re: at all) for the first time during my hospital stay. But the longer I was awake, the worst the headache became. It peaked in the afternoon–I had to take some pain medication and lay with an ice pack on my eyes.

If I had been at home with this headache, I would have taken some Tylenol, gone to bed, and not thought anything of it. However, headaches can be a symptom of preeclampsia, an indication of possible brain swelling, so I’m glad Dr. R is taking it so seriously.

Still no definitive news. Still waiting on lab results. Still enduring sticks and pokes and jabs and squeezes, and that’s not counting the feisty Baby B, who has been super active the past couple days.

I’m beginning to read like a broken record, but I really can’t thank everyone enough for the wonderful words of encouragement and the constant prayers. We know prayer works and we know God is keeping us safe. We pray that whatever happens in the coming days and weeks only helps us the grow in Him and bring us closer together as a happy, healthy family.