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And over a year later...

I thought we were done. I had always envisioned four kids. It seemed like the perfect number. But then I actually started having kids and being pregnant wasn't the problem, delivery was.

With my first delivery, she was breech. They did three external versions (turning the baby from the outside... OUCH!) and after the third time they induced me. I was induced on a Wednesday and never dilated past 2 centimeters. On Saturday we decided it was time to do a c-section. I was terrified. I wanted to deliver as naturally as possible. This was the opposite of my plan. But at the end of the day I wanted to do what was best for my baby. I remember hearing her cry for the first time and MY WHOLE WORLD got flipped upside down in that instant and my heart was never, ever the same. I had always wanted to be a mom. I knew a mother's love was strong. But until that moment I had no clue how natural, how overwhelming and all encompassing that love would be. It rocked me to my core. Recovery was rough. Mostly because I did it from the NICU. She only spent mere minutes in the room with us before she was rushed to the special care nursery for blood sugar issues. She was also tiny. At 5 lbs. 3 oz. they were concerned why she was so small at full term. They also found her bilirubin level to be high. They ran tests. So many tests. And they couldn't figure out what was wrong. They transferred her from the special care nursery to the local children's hospital NICU. I couldn't leave her. She was mine and I just couldn't leave her alone in that big, loud, cold hospital. So I spent the next week on a very uncomfortable recliner trying to heal as they ran more tests. Finally it was time to go home. They found out she had Alpha-1 Anti-Trypson Deficiency. She had to have home care visits and lots of follow up appointments. She was so little, she still is. This experience was so difficult as a first time mom. It was so opposite from everything I thought it would be. And the post-partum emotions were so overwhelming. I cried so much. I felt overwhelmed, I felt tired, I felt grateful, I felt love, and it really was ALL THE FEELS all the time. We got through it and I loved being a mom, but it was harder than I ever expected. And it felt lonely going from a full time job to a stay at home mom. But she was my little peanut and I loved her more than I could even comprehend and that made everything worth it.

21 months later and I was pregnant again and just 4 weeks away from my due date. I started having intense contractions... something I had never naturally had with my first pregnancy. They were coming hard and fast and it took me an hour to pack a small bag of essentials because I would have to stop and breathe through each of the contractions. I got to the hospital, got admitted and they tried to stop my contractions. I was freezing cold. They kept piling warm blankets on me and I was so cold, I was shaking uncontrollably. I felt sick to my stomach. The medicine didn't stop my contractions, the pain just moved to my back. They didn't want to do a c-section. It was too early. There were risks. But I was clearly not okay to go home. So they got me back to the operating room to get me prepped for a c-section. They played music. It helped keep my calm. Everyone seemed so happy and relaxed, it helped me to relax. They got to work and as they opened me up they realized I had A LOT of internal bleeding due to the placenta being detached. So much internal bleeding it had turned my uterus purple. They wanted to take pictures... it was VERY rare. They were glad they didn't send me home. I was too. I probably would have died, and so would my baby. I was waiting for his cry. Only I didn't hear it. They were working on him. Some babies need a little help when they get here, they said. It seemed like forever and still no cry. I was panicking inside. Screaming inside for him to be ok. And luckily there it was... he started to cry. Finally. And my heart once again felt that overwhelming love and connection and gratitude for our lives and for this little love that was mine. He was only 5 lbs. 5 oz. but he was also 4 weeks early. They took him straight to the NICU and put him on a ventilator. It would be several days before he would come off the ventilator and I would get to hold him in my arms. I could do this. I had a NICU baby before and I knew what to expect. I knew he would be well cared for. I knew he would eventually come home even though it felt like forever. And my recovery was substantially harder this time. I lost a lot of blood. I needed blood transfusions. I was light headed all the time. My incision pain was worse than the first time. My doctor was pushing fluid out of my incision at my follow up appointment. There was lots of bruising under my incision. It hurt. He came home after two weeks and we survived. It was crazy, but we survived. I didn't think my delivery would be worse than my first experience, but it was. In so many ways it was worse. It couldn't get worse than this though.

Andrew in the NICU

At 2 months he ended up back in the hospital with adenovirus. He had to come home on oxygen and have breathing treatments. But we got through it and he got better. Today, you would never know he had such a rough little start to life. He is loud, and tough as nails and full of so much energy it is exhausting.

Two and a half years later I was at work. It was morning. I felt sick. A rush of nausea came and as quickly as it came, it left. MORNING SICKNESS flashed in my mind. Whaaaaa. No. Well, maybe. I ran to grab a pregnancy test. I came back to work, ran into the bathroom, took the test and waited. Holy crap. We were pregnant. I. was. shocked. I walked out of the bathroom and was so shocked I couldn't have pretended even if I wanted to. I had a smile on my face and a look of shock, one I couldn't hide, and everyone knew as soon as they looked at me. We were going to have another baby. But then a month later I started to bleed. Oh no. That's not normal. I've never had bleeding during a pregnancy. Not even a drop. I went to the doctor. They ran tests. I had an ultrasound. They couldn't see anything. Hmmm. Weird, because my pregnancy hormone kept going up. More blood tests in the following weeks and ultrasounds... nothing still and it kept going up. They had me go to the emergency room to administer Methotrexate. A low dose chemo drug, that should flush everything out. That SHOULD do the trick. But it didn't do the trick and my pregnancy hormone wasn't dropping fast enough. It wasn't going up, but it wasn't dropping either.

I was at work. A busy night working events. The pain hit me like a punch to my gut. I was doubled over in pain. Oh no. That's not supposed to happen. I called the nurse. She said to go straight to the ER. They did blood tests and another ultrasound...

Ectopic pregnancy that ruptured my tube. I went straight back for surgery. I still remember being in a bed, they rolled it down the hall and stopped and asked me to count down from 10. I think I got to 8 and everything went dark.

I woke up and had so many questions. The doctor was long gone and my husband could only answer a few questions. I lost my tube. I would need a week to recover and then I would start to feel better.

I felt awful. Mostly because I still was in pain from three small incisions and having my tube burst, but now I had not only the physical pain but the emotional pain as well. It was worse. So much worse than my previous two c-sections. I talked to my doctor. I COULD still get pregnant but the question was did I want to. Every experience felt worse than the last and I wasn't prepared for something worse than this. Could I endure it if it worse the next time? My doctor told me it was up to me, but considering my past deliveries and ectopic she probably wouldn't advise it. It would come with considerably more risks.

We waited. I figured time would help me figure out if we wanted more kids. After my ectopic, the last thing I wanted was to get pregnant again but maybe I would feel differently in a year or two. I decided I would need time. We would need time. Time heals wounds and I definitely needed to heal both physically and emotionally.

A year later I found out I had Hoshimoto's Disease. Hoshimoto's is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid. This causes your thyroid to basically under produce hormones and can even sometimes over produce your thyroid hormones and the symptoms I experienced were all over the board. Sometimes I was gaining weight, other times I was losing weight, I would feel fatigued, I would have joint and muscle aches, I would get puffy randomly, and I would feel depressed and self-conscious. It's also common to have difficulty getting pregnant.

But did I want to be pregnant again? Now I had three crazy pregnancy experiences plus an auto immune disease to consider.

The years came and went and my two kids were getting older, more independent and my youngest was going to start Kindergarten in a year. We could see the future and it looked nice. It wasn't the family I thought we would have by now, but it was us and it was good. I waited for an ah-ha moment to feel strongly one way or the other but it never came and time was chugging along. I decided if I didn't feel strongly that we should, maybe we shouldn't. There would be considerable risks and Hoshimoto's could complicate things. I talked to my hubby and he felt the same. So we made a choice. This would be our family.

It's funny how even though we decided our family was complete and whole and we were good with where we were at... we still mourned the fact that we were done. I remember shedding tears for what we would never have again. No more baby snuggles, baby giggles. or baby smells. It was a relief in a small way because all those sleepless nights and potty training and poop smeared on the walls (yes, Andrew had a phase of smearing poop on the walls during his afternoon nap... byyyyeeeeee). But I also didn't have a chance to cherish those things either and know this would be the last time I would be doing this, because at the time I thought I would be doing it all again. I felt grateful for the two beautiful kids we had and felt lucky we had them. It stung even though it was a conscious choice we were making. But that sting started to dull and eventually we were at peace with the decision completely.

We were ready to move on and embrace our life as a family of four. So ready in fact, the hubby got the snip snip. Only it wasn't quick or painless. He might have set a world record for how much time it took... 3 hours. They nicked an artery, made a large incision and at the end he had to be wheeled out to the car in a wheelchair. It was a nightmare. But we woke up the next day and moved on with life. Andrew was starting Kindergarten in the fall and in a year I could go back to work if I wanted and have time to get some things done and it was exciting to think of all the things that were on the horizon.

Only the horizon I was looking at was not the horizon I would be meeting in the future because just when you think you have it figured out, life reminds you that you have NO CLUE.

Speaking of no clue, it was around the first of June and guess who had no idea she was late. This girl. And then one day... two weeks late, it hit me. Um, did I miss something? Wait, let me go back and calculate. Whhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Crap. And one digital pregnancy test later and the word stared up at me like a semi truck headed straight at me with no escape. The hubby was going to FREAK. Not little freak, BIG freak. 3 hours of cutting into his man-business for nothing kind of freak. And freak he did. Understandably so, we were all in shock. This was not part of the plan. But as we were going to find out again plans change...

You know what will make you feel old? Six years in between pregnancies will make you feel old. (I'm sure the Hoshimoto's was a contributing factor as well.) But this pregnancy was so difficult. I was sick so much more often. I ached and hurt constantly and the bigger I got, the worse it got. With my first two pregnancies I LOVED being pregnant. This time I could not wait to be done with being pregnant and time seemed to go by SO slowly. I turned 35 while pregnant, so it was considered a geriatric pregnancy... seriously that's what they call it as if you don't already feel old enough. I was high risk, so I had extra ultrasounds, and blood work and stress tests. And my doctor was worried the baby would come early. 39 weeks was my scheduled c-section date.

In November we were eating dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. We finished up dinner and headed out to the parking lot. Halfway to the car my heart suddenly jerked into an arrhythmia. I have had a heart arrhythmia since I was a teenager but this was the first one I had during this pregnancy. My hubby and I drove separately but I told him not to leave me in case it didn't stop. They usually last a minute or two. This was going on 5, then 10 then 15 minutes. I told him to start driving me home and if it didn't stop by the time we passed the hospital we would stop. By the time we got to the hospital it had been going for a good 45 minutes. My heart was racing hard and fast.

We got to the emergency room and got checked in. By the time I got back to a room and got all hooked up it had been going for almost 2 hours. The nurse got me hooked up to monitors and as soon as she saw how fast it was beating she ran out to grab the ER doctor. 250 bpm. Wow. The labor & delivery nurses came to check on baby and she seemed to be unaffected by what was happening with my heart. That was good. She was safe and this wasn't harming her. But it was still scary.

The doctors tried to help me stop the arrhythmia with some exercises but they didn't work. We were going to have to do something else. If I wasn't pregnant they would just shock my heart back into its normal rhythm, but that wasn't an option. The next step would be giving me medicine that would reset my heart beat. I would feel a 10 second rush and then it would be done. It was the craziest rush and they had to remind me to keep breathing through it, because it feels like you might die... but you don't. It worked, my heart rate was back to normal, the arrhythmia stopped. I followed up with my cardiologist and we scheduled a procedure for the summer, after I was recovered from my c-section, that would cause the arrhythmias to stop completely. Now to get ready for our surprise baby.

For the first time ever, I woke up, showered and headed to the hospital on my scheduled date. It felt weird to show up and take our time getting prepped and ready for surgery. They wheeled me in and started getting to work. They asked if I wanted to watch (through a mirror). Um heck to the no. I don't get grossed out by blood or anything, but I don't need to see me being cut into and my insides out of my body, thanks though. I was nervous. Everything was going well and I was excited for her to get here and have my body back, but I also knew based on past experience it could change in a second and anything could happen.

Before I knew it, she was here and I was waiting to see if she would cry immediately and she did. She was so perfect. They weighed her and she was 6 lbs. 6 oz. My biggest baby so far but still not huge. So far everything was going as planned which was a weird feeling but it also was a great feeling. I was loving every minute. I was determined to walk as soon as possible and to walk often so I could go home as soon as possible. And it felt so good to get my old body back that I was determined to help my body heal as quickly as possible. I was admitted on Friday morning and I wanted to go home on Sunday.

Everything was going well but she was looking jaundice and so they put her under the lights in a bed next to me. I was hoping the lights would work quickly so we could got home. And for the most part they did work. We were going home on Monday. I felt really good. I mean yes I was recovering from a c-section but my pain was minimal and I felt really good considering. I had NEVER gone straight home with a baby and it felt surreal but AMAZING!

I was supposed to follow up with the pediatrician in two days and when we went in for her appointment everything looked good. We did repeat blood work and left to go get breakfast at Chick-fil-A. We were sitting there eating breakfast and got a call. It was a call that I never expected. The labs came back and her bilirubin was up, like a lot. We needed to take her straight to the hospital and have her admitted. Tears stung my eyes and I tried to keep my voice steady as my joy at having my baby home with me came crashing down.

My feelings were all over the place. We had been here before, but this time I thought it would be different. I knew what to expect with a baby in the hospital and I knew it wouldn't last forever but it was always hard. Combine my postpartum emotions with my body that was needing to heal and it took hardly anything to bring me to tears. I also had overwhelming gratitude for her. She almost didn't happen. We made the decision to be done and here she was and she was more than I could have hoped for and imagined, she was perfect. It was like there was an insane connection and I knew her and she knew me. More than just a bond with your baby. I felt more confident and sure and it was so natural it was hard to imagine life without her ever existed. It was a lot. But we cleaned up breakfast and went straight over to the hospital.

We got to the hospital and got her checked in, and once again got her down to a diaper and under the lights. They did more blood work and her levels were all over the place. They explained that her bilirubin went way up and they needed it to come down because if it gets too high it can cause brain damage. Wow. This seemed serious. They sent off culture samples to look for an infection. It took time and waiting was excruciating. They almost hoped it was an infection, because that would be easy, they could treat an infection. I stayed with her the first night, but we had two other kids at home and the last week was already hard on them. As much as they like sleeping over at grandma's or nana's or having just dad home, it was hard to have routine disrupted and mom gone so much.

It was hard on everybody, but the kids got spoiled. The hospital had an awesome play room, they got slushies, coloring books, toys. They welcomed our family, were so accommodating, asked how we were doing. Were in this with us and wanted the best for us.

We slept at home to help the kids keep up routine as much as possible. They called us at 1am in the morning and asked if the had consent to do a spinal tap. It was hard to imagine her little body all alone when going through something like that. I tried to sleep. I was woken up by my husband sobbing and shaking. I know, I thought. I feel the same way.

I got a call while we were in the hospital visiting Ella. It was my dad. He called to tell me my grandpa had passed away. It was easy to cry, the flood gates were already wide open. I was mostly sad because he never got to see her.

The next night they called at 1am and asked if they could do a blood transfusion. They thought it might help, since the blood levels were still all over the place. I hated the thought, but knew they would only do it if they really thought she needed it.

Then they told us they needed to transfer her to the NICU. They had done all they could for her here. The NICU has more resources, a hemotology specialist, better lights to bring down her biliruben levels. We headed via ambulance to the NICU.

Her blood was hemolyzing very rapidly and they didn't know why. They got her under lights and settled into the NICU. It was different in the NICU. More rules, shared rooms, only a couple people in a time, washing from the elbow down, one chair.

Her biliruben levels went down significantly in 24 hours under the more powerful lights. Finally... some good news. We were going in the right direction. They also gave her another blood transfusion. They were hopeful that this would be the thing to help her blood normalize and slow down the hymolisis so her body could catch up. And it did. She would be able to come home. We would follow up with hematology and they would tell us that in looking at her blood now it looks COMPLETELY different than it did when they first looked at it. It was a MIRACLE. She was a MIRACLE. And every single day I feel blessed by her surprise arrival into our family.

Is this how I pictured any of this? No. I had to go through some really difficult things to get here. But because of it all it's made me appreciate all that my body has been through to get to this point. I'm grateful that each of my kids is healthy and thriving even though they all overcame health challenges at birth. I'm so thankful for each of their lives because it could have turned out so differently for any one of them and for me.