May 21, 2012

Preggo Update

I finally added a pregnancy ticker to our sidebar! 8 weeks, 4 days today. Very exciting. Here is a picture of the budding baby:

I was convinced I was having twins because I'm already showing and stretching out my non-maternity tops, but there is only one bean in there! Everyone says you show sooner with your second. I broke down and bought a maternity bathing suit because I knew I would need it this summer as I'm not one to bare my pregnant belly. Pre-pregnancy I was excited to wear my favorite bathing suit this summer (thanks to some awesome pilates), but I have made peace with the maternity bathing suit. Back to the baby. Check out my patient number on the ultrasound: 7777. Seven is a very symbolic number in scripture, meaning both perfection and completion. I don't know if God is speaking through this or not, as I didn't particularly feel the Holy Spirit on it, but I do think it's pretty cool. He has been speaking to me about redemption, though, and I believe he has good things in store for this delivery. Different things. We shall see.

It's true that we are going to see a doctor in Atlanta this time around. Crazy, I know. We didn't expect it to be that way, but it's where we felt God lead us. Without going into the nitty gritty, this delivery is very important. It sets the path for future pregnancies- what and how many I may be able to have. If we have another c-section, it will be c-sections from then on out,  bringing with them compounding risk and a possible limit to the number of children we can have. If I have a normal delivery, I will be in good position to have more children that way with little risk and no restrictions on number. It's a moment of truth, you could say.

When I mentioned to various health care professionals (nurses, mid-levels) around here that I wanted to try a VBAC this time (vaginal birth after Cesarean) I was met with unenthusiastic response. I assumed it was because VBACS are very dangerous, and I wasn't about to try something risky just because it's what I wanted. Ben and I looked at the medical research, risk factors, as well as the most recent recommendations from the American College of OB/GYNs. We weighed the information and found that the risks in VBAC, though serious, are actually very small. We concluded that the risks and disadvantages of multiple c-sections (which is major surgery) were not worth it for us. The College recommends that women be counseled on VBACs and not be discouraged from going that route. I have no risk factors for uterine rupture (the biggest risk with a VBAC). Yet when we talked to offices and hospitals, we found that most doctors are either not willing to do them or have little to no experience with them. It made me very sad that we had such limited options. I could tell you a more about it, but the video below describes things better than I could.

We most likely won't be here when I deliver in December, so we decided to pick a doctor based on prayer and what we felt most comfortable with instead of location. We initially wanted to go the family doctor route and thought we found a great one in Greenville (near my in-laws) who came highly recommended, but then we found out he doesn't do c-sections or VBACs. Back to the drawing board. We thought about trying a doctor in Columbia, but then I randomly came across a women saying she was travelling from here to Atlanta to see a guy named Dr. Tate who is an expert in high risk pregnancies and VBACs. I emailed him and asked if he took travelling patients. He said he has patients from both Carolinas and Tennessee, so yes, he would take me. We had a feeling he was 'the one'.

"Doc T" lives only 15 minutes from my step-sister in Atlanta, which has been a huge blessing because we stayed with her for our first appointment. I didn't really know what to expect, but we had such a wonderful experience. This man is like no one I've met before. One minute with him and you realize how incredibly intelligent he is that it's almost intimidating (especially after seeing the Yale med school degree and Emory professorship stuff on his wall), but he emanates this humility and compassion that is truly rare. He spent a long time with us, going over every detail of my history, filling in the blanks himself, and walking us step-by-step through my c-section report. He talked about each step and how he handles that kind of situation, what he looks for, etc...... we were impressed with the complexity of thought he puts into his deliveries. He gave me an official name for Anna's small size yet not a preemie: IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction), and he said I would be getting my glucose test early because of it. He ended in explaining to us each uterine rupture he has seen and the circumstances surrounding each one. I think there were less than eight- two were from women who were overweight and waited until they were 10cm dilated before coming in, three women were on their eighth or ninth pregnancy and didn't rupture at the scar site, suggesting it would have happened whether they had a prior c-section or not. He considered me a good candidate for a VBAC. He does ~150 of them a year. That is amazing, seeing as I couldn't find a doctor in town who did one or two a year! But beyond the statistics and experience and all that stuff, we had this peace about him. You could tell he devoted every fiber of his being to this profession, to serving women. He sees it as his life calling, and when I asked him when he plans to retire (he's 68), he responded, "What else would I do?" This is what he lives for, and you can tell it when you talk to him. Finally, when he found out about Anna's leg, his response was the most compassionate, appropriate, encouraging one I've ever received from anyone in the health care field. It was so touching that I almost started crying right there. Ha ha....

Our choice to see Dr. Tate is not because we think doctors in our town aren't "good enough". Until I've spent 8 years of grueling education and working long hours delivering babies, I would never pass judgment on a doctor or his abilities or motivations. I believe most people do what they think is best for their patients, with integrity, and are deserving of admiration and respect. We just feel like Dr. Tate is the one for us, for this situation. We feel safest trying a VBAC with him. We believe his experience with VBACs puts him in a better position to anticipate complications. Does it guarantee I will have a successful one? No. I could have another C-section. I could end up not even making it to his office in time to deliver. Who knows. All we can do is follow God's lead and trust him. All deliveries come with their risks. Mine just happens to have a little more than usual, whether I have a VBAC or a C-section.

We came across this little PBS spot on Dr. Tate and it describes things much better than I can:

God, my baby is in your hands.

May 20, 2012

Allergies and more allergies

Since it's one of the big things we are dealing with right now, I thought I would give an allergy update. As you know, Anna was diagnosed with food allergies back in January. She showed major reactions to milk, eggs and peanuts. We have been avoiding those foods, and also trying to figure out what is triggering her eczema breakouts. We haven't been so lucky with that, despite my Inspector Gadget detective skills. We did switch allergists to the wife of one of Ben's preceptors, and that was a great move. She gave us some tips and did some more testing, but we still haven't nailed down those problem foods. Thankfully the eczema, while frustrating and painful for Anna, isn't life-threatening.

The initial allergies, however... are another story. It has been quite the experience. I recently realized that I have been living in a sort of denial... trying to 'get by' without a plan until Anna grows out of her allergies. Problem is, she hasn't grown out of them. They've actually gotten worse. Whereas before she would break out in a red rash if she touched anything with milk in it, now she will break out in hives and a rash with just a hint of milk contact. I don't know what would happen if she actually ingested milk, and I don't want to find out. If we kiss her after having a bowl of cereal, she will even get a hive on her little face! When she some cooked eggs for the first time since being tested (long story), she reacted so badly that Ben was on his way to the ER... until she vomited and things turned around. Scary a million times over.

It's constantly on my mind because Anna always has to eat. Three meals a day. And everywhere we go, there is food. Honestly, I think without the milk allergy we could manage fairly easily. But do you have any idea how many foods have milk in them? Saltine crackers, hamburger buns, Goldfish crackers, some deli meats, frozen meatballs, on and on. After becoming an avid label reader, I am convinced that wheat and milk allergies are by far the most difficult to live with. Because they are in everything!

At home, I have been cooking what we would normally have for dinner and then trying to make an alternate version for Anna. If that's not possible, I feed her something else. But it's not working. I either feel stressed out when cooking a million things, or I forget and add the cheese and then kick myself, or I end up feeding her the same foods over and over again. I decided that I can't keep living in this survival mode, waiting for her to grow out of the allergies. I have to come up with a better plan.

Ben and I love us some dairy. We're not ready to give it up. But I am ready to start making dairy and egg free dinners. As sad as it is to say goodbye to cream soups, egg salad, pastas, Italian food, everything with cheese, etc. it is just too stressful to continue with what we have been doing. So I scoured my recipes and came up with a few that Anna can eat. I found about 15, and thought I would try rotating these dinners. That way everyone gets a healthy meal, and I don't have to worry about what to feed Anna. Ben and I can still enjoy milk, yogurt, and cheese throughout the day. I will miss the variety but whatever, I can deal with it. This is what I came up with:

Black beans cakes with (soy) yogurt and lime dressing
Lemon-baked chicken, green beans, and potatoes
Pork and snap pea kebabs
Homemade chicken noodle soup
Mexican bean burritos
Pork tenderloin with black eyed pea and avocado salsa
Baked salmon
Turkey chili
Homemade chicken nuggets
Shrimp and feta bowtie pasta (sans feta for Anna)
Reuben sandwiches
BBQ chicken wings
Spaghetti and meatballs
Keilbasa with peppers and onions

I typically only make one side dish. It's almost always a vegetable. Occasionally I will throw in a starch like rice or bread, but Anna can't eat most breads anyway. Sides will be chosen from one of the following: salad, lima beans, zucchini, squash, green beans, sweet corn, fruit, broccoli, peas (not for Anna), sweet potato, roasted potatoes, Asian coleslaw.

Not too exciting, I know... but hey, it is what it is. I started this week and it has been nice to not have the question,  'what to feed Anna?' consuming so much space in my brain.

I've simplified eating at home, but going out is still a struggle. I take food for Anna whenever we go out. I can't expect people to make a milk-egg-nut free dinner, and I feel rude asking to check the labels on something before I give it to her. On the other hand, it's sort of life or death, so I'm not willing to risk it and give her something that she could react to. It's a major pain to pack food wherever we go, but I'm thankful that at least she isn't aware enough to protest when she doesn't get the cake at the kids' birthday party. When she's two, I'm not sure what I'll do.

I also have to be really careful when I leave her places. At Mother's Day Out, they all eat at the same table. Sounds harmless, but all it takes is for Anna to grab one crumb of some other kids' food, and bam! She has a reaction. Or for her to pick up a leftover cracker off the floor at the church nursery... you get the idea. It's a bit of a stressful existence. I think it's kind of ironic that I rarely think about her leg these days, but I think about her allergies on a constant  basis! I'm seriously thinking that if she doesn't grow out of them soon, I will be pre-schooling or homeschooling until she does. That may sound drastic, but it's something I think about. Don't judge until you've been there! It's easy to say don't stress yourself out worrying, but when you know one bite of food could be standing between your child having an anaphlyactic reaction, you start to feel it (I do carry an epi-pen with me like the allergist instructed, but it's not much comfort). You don't want to stress out, but when you are at a play date and there are little bits of cheese all over the table and floor, it's hard not to get stressed out. "How can i keep Anna safe without looking like a neurotic freak?" often crosses my mind. I find that a lot of people don't understand allergies- they don't get how serious they can be for some kids. That it's not a matter of compromise, having a bite to be polite, or one practice round of eating the wrong thing, but rather it's black and white. One exposure and it's a reaction, potentially a life-threatening one. For example, once I had casually mentioned to a mom that Anna was really allergic to peanuts. Thirty minutes later, she brought out a peanut butter sandwich to her son, who them tried to rub his fingers all over Anna. I had to practically yank her away and explain very seriously about her allergies and remove her from the peanut butter scene. Awkward.

You never think you will be 'that mom', but here I am- THAT mom! Ahhh....!!

I think this qualifies as a rant.

May 19, 2012


Here are some pictures from this past week. First we celebrated graduation (3 months early) with the rest of the college, and then we took a short trip to Athens to see some friends we hadn't seen in years. I meant to take picture while we were there, but didn't think of it until we were hanging out at the botanical gardens (where we got married). Oh well. After a few days in Athens we continued on to Atlanta to see my step-sister and for my first doctors appointment, which went very well. We got to see Bean #2's little heart and make a game plan for this pregnancy. Official due date: December 27.

May 1, 2012

Who Says?

Let me give a caveat and say that I typically do not listen to teeny bopper singers. I couldn't recognize a Justin Bieber song if my life depended on it. Well, ok I do love me some Taylor Swift but she is in her twenties and I didn't listen to her before her Fearless album so that doesn't count. Plus it's not like her audience is limited to the Teen Choice Awards. Anyway, this song by Selena Gomez came on in one of my workout classes way back when and I loved the message and upbeat vibe.

Today I was making dinner and Anna was doing what she usually does, which is sitting on the floor next to my leg (despite the abundant toys in the room a few feet away :) This song came on my ipod speaker and it made me think of her and everything we've been through, including some news we've been faced with regarding the healing of her leg, leaving us unsure about whether she can have a 'normal' looking prosthesis. In the midst of all the questions, I felt a surge of happiness, and I swept her up and danced around the kitchen. And I could honestly look at her and say, "Who says you're not perfect? Who says?" She thought it was funny and giggled plenty.

It was a special moment. This is the kind of song I would have related to back when I was a teen, and I hope to instill that message in Anna... that she's worth it, that she's beautiful, and that appearances and looking like everyone else are so overrated.

Here's the video- I think it's kind of fun. I apologize if this song was, like, a way overplayed one from a few years ago (I don't listen to the radio remember?). I do think it's a little ironic that Selena is singing about how she's no beauty queen, yet she looks like a beauty queen. Oh well :)

Anna, you've got every right to a beautiful life.