Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One Year, 12 Months, 365 Days.

We have been in Gillette now for an entire year.  It almost doesn't seem possible that so much time has passed, until I glance over at my now 5 month old Gracie.  Life is good.  It's not perfect, but I am constantly reminded that God is in control and has purpose in all things.  All things. 

I knew a year ago that this was definitely God's plan for us, and I'm still certain of that.  I'm so grateful for the friends that loved us so well in Harrisonburg.  While I still refer to Virginia as "home," I also refer to Gillette as "home."  One of the most difficult things about the move was watching Noah struggle in the beginning.  He doesn't adjust to new things very well, (he's an introvert like his dad), so it was painful to see him so upset in new situations.  But now he has friends.  Good friends.  Friends to build legos with, to play superheroes with, and to giggle about poop with.  Chloe has friends too, but that's never been something she has struggled with (quite the social butterfly that one is). 

I can say I have friends here now too.  When we first moved here everyone I met was a potential friend, but if I'm honest, I was primarily concerned with finding friends for my sweet struggling boy.  I also knew that the adjustment from working-mom to stay-at-home-mom would be difficult and that I needed to get involved in things outside my house (for my sake and for the kids).  I'm grateful to Angie, for being the first one to come to my house for a playdate, and for being my first friend here.  For Jessica, Jennifer and Theresa, who found me on fb after meeting me briefly at the first MOPS meeting I went to.  For Jessica (again), who read a blog post I wrote and invited me to a bi-monthly book study/playgroup and to visit her church as well.  For Josey, who asked me some intentional questions when I first met her and later that night invited me to come to the Bible Study that would be starting the following week.  For Josey (again) and Bethany, who let an outsider join them for some playdates and whose kids I just love.  God used all of you ladies to make my first few months here much easier and happier than they could have been.  I am blessed to know each of you and grateful that you reached out to me even though I know how busy you already were. 

I am also so grateful not only for the job that Matt has, but the people he works with and for.  Bruce and Maryann have been so welcoming, even hosting us at their house for our first Thanksgiving.  Everyone else at the store is always so happy to see us when we stop by.  Brenda and her son helped us unload the moving truck.  Lisa babysat the kids a couple of times and organized an amazing baby shower along with Janae for Grace.  We feel incredibly blessed and well cared for by the Marshall Jewelry family.

Aside from Noah's adjustment period, the other difficult aspect of the move has been finding a church.  We spent the better part of this year going to different churches and really missing our Covenant family back home.  I was excited to visit churches at first, but then I was sort of in mourning for the loss of Cov Pres.  We have felt firmly called to be at Living Rock for the past several months now, and are so grateful to be able to call a church here, "home."  We're glad to be in a homegroup again and for the excitement of getting to know our new church family. 

One year in and things are good, because God is good.  He is intentional and is so kind to us when we don't even begin to deserve it.   

This sinner doesn't do a very good job of keeping up with old friends like I should.  But I also know that my sweet friends that I miss so dearly back on the East Coast will always be my sweet friends.  Our cups of coffee or skype sessions may be few and far between, but you have impacted my life in amazing ways and I am so grateful for each of you.  And though I may only say it occasionally on a cute picture of your kids on fb, I miss you.  I really do.  I miss late nights outside of Bravos, or just in my living room.  I miss standing in the kitchen while our kids run around us and the husband tend the grill.  I miss watching your kids grow up with my own eyes.  I miss giving them hugs and knowing firmly that they'd be lifelong friends.  I miss beach weekends and sitting up on the roof or outside on the porch swing.  I miss road trips and loud music and staying up way too late.  I miss getting to go to all the showers and weddings.  So many good, happy memories to keep.  So thankful for them.  For you. 

God is good. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Goodbye Summer

July and August have been a blur.  In the best way possible, but still, a blur.  By early to mid July I was feeling pretty good.  I don't quite remember when I felt fully recovered, but I know it's been a while now.  I'm so grateful for all the help we were given and all the prayers as well.  We've been having fun figuring out this family of five in all journeys, there are ups and downs.  Mostly, we're loving it.

We have been very busy with visitors in the last couple of months.  First my dad, then Aunt Linda, Uncle Les and Joelle.  My sister came in August and our dear friends the Lookabills were just here last week.  Matt's mom is coming next week and my mom a few weeks after that.  Phew.  Quite the revolving door we've had.

Here's a quick glimpse of what the past couple of months have been like.  
 Dad's visit over the 4th.  I was still recovering a bit, but Matt, Dad and the kids did get to go to Devil's Tower.  Also lots of lego time.
 Gracie's bath time is a family event. The kids pull up chairs as soon as they hear me say the word. 
 Chloe is still a very proud big sister.  She adores Gracie...and has a hard time leaving her alone.
 Matt bought a weed-eater that came with a leaf blower.  Noah thinks he's pretty hot stuff when he takes care of the lawn with his daddy. 
Grace was about a month old here.  And yes, Noah really needed a haircut... we gave him one.  Matt and I tried to convince him to keep the mohawk, but he didn't like it. 
It was so good to see some Valentine family...and they showed up in perfect time to let Matt and me actually go out on a date for our anniversary!  (after the kids were in bed - but still, very exciting)
Emma and Grace - Such sweet easy babies.
Smores on their first night here...the kids were a little weary of the fire.  
Naomi and Chloe are two peas in a pod.  Oh boy!  The boys were too busy playing to want to let me get a good picture of them.

The kids really exhausted Aunt Rachel - but we saw a lot and had a great time!

Grace has gotten so expressive...the best is when she smiles like this for Noah or Chloe.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Who do you think Gracie looks like?

One of the most common questions we've gotten since having Grace is, "who does she look like?" What do you think? Below are pictures of each kid at around 2 weeks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A New Sister

Matt and I have joked in the past months that Noah and Chloe were more excited about meeting Grace than we were.  The day that Matt's parents arrived in town, Noah kept telling us to "leave so you can get Baby Grace out."  We've been home for 3 full days now and the excitement over Grace's arrival has not waned.  The kids were excited to see Matt and me when we got home...but they were over the moon to finally see Grace.   
Noah, dutiful big brother that he is, immediately started telling us what Grace wanted.  He brought her some toys, told us that she wanted her hat off, etc.  He thinks he knows exactly what she wants at all times and is super helpful.
Chloe couldn't take her eyes off of Grace.  She kept giggling and saying, "Baby Grace is so tiny," or "Baby Grace is so funny!" 
Aside from Noah leaving to get her toys, neither kid wanted to be further than a foot from her since we walked in the door.  Unfortunately, Grace was a little hungry and overstimulated at this first meeting.  Her crying didn't upset the kids at all though, they just wanted to hug her and love on her. 
These are from our first full day home.  Grace has adapted beautifully to being patted, hugged, held and constantly having Noah and Chloe in her face. 
About twice every hour I have a conversation with the kids that goes something like this:
N: Can I hold Baby Grace?
N: No me first...
And on and on.  If one of them is otherwise distracted, or I ask them to wait for some reason, they will continue to ask to hold her until I give up.  It's very sweet.  And a little tiring.

I thought the thing the kids would have the hardest time with was the time I have to spend with Grace.  But they really don't seem to be jealous at all.  They adore her.  The hardest thing for them so far has more to do with my limited capabilities while I'm recovering.  Please continue to pray for a quick recovery for me, and a gentle transition for all of us as this family of five settles into a new normal. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Naomi Grace Valentine, The Birth Story

Wednesday, June 6 at 11:32 AM we welcomed sweet Naomi Grace into the world.  She weighed in at 7lbs, 2oz and was 18 inches long.  A two pound difference may not seem like a lot after a few years, but for us it is a startling difference.  She's so tiny and amazingly sweet...she already has us wrapped around her teeny little fingers. 
For those of you that are interested, the details of the birth are coming up next.  (That means lots of using the word uterus for those of you that would rather stop now, or skip to the pictures).

Okay, so I guess I'll start with last week, which was supposed to be when all of this would happen.  Matt's parents flew in on Sunday and we (Matt and I) left town midday Tuesday to go to Denver (we left the kids with their Mimi and Papa).  The amnio ended up showing that Grace's lungs weren't quite ready.  The doctor said we had about a 10% chance of her needing a ventilator and an additional 10% chance that she could have respiratory issues later on if we delivered that day.  Since I was doing so well (no bleeding, contractions, etc) we all agreed that it would be best to wait.  Our doctor wanted to wait a full week, which meant that Matt's parents wouldn't be able to meet sweet Grace when she came (sniff, sniff).  My mom was able to change her flight to come a day early and stay a day late, so she ended up being on kid duty while Matt and I went back to Denver. 
We arrived at the hospital around 8am on Wednesday and finished up the typical pre-surgery paperwork etc.  We were happy to find out that Matt would be allowed in the OR with me until Grace entered the world, then he would follow her up to the nursery and stay with her while they finished me up.  You know you're a "fun case" when they have med students observing and assisting with your care.  Matt said that there were about 16 people in the OR in total, also an indicator that you're a "fun case."  The surgery went well and they had Grace out fairly quickly.  They held her up so I could see her (from about 8 feet away), but then didn't actually bring her over to me to see up close and snuggle with.  Luckily, the anesthesiologist I had noticed and insisted they bring her back down to the OR so I could get some snuggles in.  Matt said he could tell I was doped up since I was kissing her face which had not yet been cleaned off sufficiently for him to kiss it (haha).  I'm so thankful for those snuggles and Dr.  Aubrey from Ireland who made sure I got them in.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was almost a full 3 hours from her birth until I got to see her again, so those snuggles really counted.

The rest of the surgery was sort of a blur.  They did end up giving me 2 units of blood during surgery and I could hear the Dr and one of the other Drs in his practice that was helping him discussing whether of not the uterus was salvageable.  I'm pretty sure that if I had been anywhere else, I wouldn't still have a uterus now.  Even his colleague told me later that she was chicken and would have just taken it out (which made me even more glad that I had the Dr that I had).  Apparently my uterus was attached to the muscle wall, so even a hysterectomy would have been "a little tricky,"  but I'm just glad it wasn't necessary.  I was with it enough to complement the other Dr on her pearls, so I was obviously in good spirits.  And can I say, I really did like that one of my drs was wearing pearls so I could see just made me smile.

After my time in recovery I got to go back to my room and meet Grace again.  She was in the nursery having something done, so Matt went to get her as soon as I got back.  She was asleep and just looked so peaceful (and SO much like Matt).  For the next couple of hours they checked on me a lot and closely monitored my blood loss.  They decided to give me 2 more units of blood, plus plateletes and FFP (plasma).  I'm suddenly SO grateful for all the regular blood donors out there and am glad that I made an effort to be one myself.  Seriously, go donate blood people.  Okay, so the bleeding was bad enough that my doctor decided I needed another procedure.  I was sent to the Interventional Radiology Department for a procedure that sounded really complicated.  When we found out this was going to happen, I had already successfully nursed Grace one time.  Her nurse asked me (just in case they needed to feed her "again") whether I would prefer formula or donor breastmilk.  I don't think I had actually cried about the pregnancy complications a single time until that nurse asked me that.  I heard the word "again" and just lost it.  Apparently since I was in surgery a long time, and Grace was on the smaller side, they pretty much insisted (Matt did rally for me, but submitted to their advice) on feeding her before I got back to her from the initial surgery.  Oh my heart, I was seriously disturbed by this.  Poor Matt, I had been through so much at that point and lost it completely...I know that it just killed him to see me so upset.  Anyway, we agreed that if she needed it, they could do the donor breastmilk, but Matt was going to hold them off as long as possible. 

Grace and Me after my 2nd procedure.
So when I left for the next procedure, I had only spent about 3 hours with Grace (if that).  I was sort of rushed there...but then they didn't start the procedure for practically a full hour after I got there.  They were prepping, etc, but I just kept thinking that I wish I was with Grace and nursing her.  So they put a "catheter" into my uterus and inserted a bunch of "contrast" into it so they could see where the trouble areas were.  They then inserted some sort of foam into the "bad spots" to stop the bleeding.  The instructions were given to me very clearly, but several days later and that's the best way I can describe it.  It was sort of a staged process, cause they had to insert the contrast, then look, then put foam in where necessary, etc.  And all this was through a catheter, so there was a lot of screen watching inbetween the steps.  So it ended up taking much longer than we had hoped, but the IR doctor said it went really well.  And then he said that because of the contrast they inserted, I wouldn't be able to nurse Grace for 24 hours.   So the breakdown I had earlier was nothing compared to the breakdown when I heard "24 hours."  I knew that it was necessary, but I was sort of sobbing...uncontrollably. 

Matt giving Gracie a bottle.
Just like her brother...this girl likes to eat!
They continued to monitor my bleeding closely and were very pleased with how much it slowed down.  Thursday morning my doctor said that it would be very unlikely at that point for me to end up needing the hysterectomy (YAY!).  Around lunchtime on Thursday the goal was for me to actually get up out of bed, walk to the bathroom, and then maybe even get a shower in a little later.  I made it to the toilet alright, but almost fainted (while sitting).  Matt and the nurse got me back to the bed fine, and they put me on oxygen.  Aside from watching my bleeding they were also watching my oxygen saturation, since I was having a harder time breathing than usual.  They ended up deciding to give me 2 more units of blood (for a total of 6) that evening. 

Gracie at 2 days old.  So beautiful!
I woke up feeling SO much better on Friday morning.  Yay again for blood!  We were able to move from the 3rd floor up to the 11th floor, the "Mom & Baby" floor and to a room a third the size of our original one.  I was able to finally get a shower and started feeling much more human.  It was pretty much normal recovery from that point on, with one little blip.  On Saturday around noon a HUGE clot came out.  So huge that the nurse took it down to the 3rd floor (from 11th) so the dr on call  who was about to enter surgery could see it.  We started joking that I had another baby.  In all honesty, when I first saw it I breifly thought that it may have actually been my uterus...until I realized it didn't hurt at that couldn't have been it.  They did check my blood levels again and started me on antibiotics and some meds that would basically stop the bleeding, but those were mostly precautionary.  I had had so little bleeding since the IR procedure that they thought it had just been pooling for a while and it was not new bleeding.  That was all confirmed, so it was nothing to worry about, just a little startling to see.  I really just wanted to leave the staff with something to talk about. 

Ready to go home on Sunday.
So that's pretty much it.  Grace adapted beautifully to nursing again and my milk had actually come in by the time we left the hospital (since we ended up staying for 5 days).  She was discharged at 7lbs, .25oz, so she was already back up to close to her birth weight due to the extra milk and the long stay.  She's doing great and is such a peaceful baby.  She slept the entire drive hope except for the 2 times we stopped so I could change her diaper and nurse her.  I was actually doing great before we left Denver but the drive home in high winds sort of shook me up.  I'm feeling better now that I've gotten the Rx for the strong meds filled, but still can't be on my feet for long or do much more than sit around.  I'm taking full advantage of my one week of full time help so that I'll be ready for it to be over on Saturday.  Thanks for anyone that takes the time to read all of this, please continue to pray for a speedy recovery for me and for Noah and Chloe to adjust well.  They're in love with Grace, but dont' like that I can't do everything for them that I could before.  Pictures of them meeting Grace coming up next...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Grace is Almost Here...

I think one of the reasons I haven't been blogging so much about this is that I've been trying hard not to overthink it.  But on May 30th, Grace will be in my arms.  Noah, Chloe and Grace, three kids that God has entrusted to Matt and myself to raise.  Quite honestly, it can be pretty daunting to think about.  I'm far from perfect as a mother of when you toss an extra kid in the mix...I just have no idea what to expect.  And then I'm reminded that raising these kids is God's plan for me.  This is my ministry.  My life.  And He will equip Matt and me to do it.  And we will mess up.  It may not be "okay" all the time, but we'll be forgiven and by His grace, we'll learn.  By His grace, we will raise these sweet little creations to know and love their Savior.


Grace.  She certainly is a gift from every way.  We found out back in March that I have placenta accreta.  The specialist in Denver said it was a milder case and thought we'd probably be fine to deliver here in Gillette.  My doctor here isn't worried about the surgery, she's worried about not having good enough access to blood supplies in case I do have excessive blood loss during the surgery.  Because of that, we'll be delivering in Denver (per the recommendation of my Dr here).  I guess it sounds a little scary, but the danger that is caused by this type of complication is much, much more severe when it's discovered during delivery.  The fact that this is known, and that the doctor and hospital will be well prepared for it is good.  Aside from the risk of blood loss, I do also have the risk of ending up with a hysterectomy.  The doctor thinks that it's not a definite, so I'm praying that it is not necessary.  Aside from the hormonal roller-coaster that would send me on, it would also extend my recovery period (and I'll have 3 littles at home).  Please pray that the "hyst" as the dr so lovingly called it, is not necessary.  Either way, we are done.  The risk of similar and possibly worse complications with another pregnancy is high...and just not worth it.  Matt and I are fine with this (yes, really), but again, pray against the hysterectomy...because I may not be as fine with it if I'm on that hormonal roller coaster. 

So we leave tomorrow for Denver.  We're planning on leaving after lunch, so we aren't rushed.  Okay, yes.  So I have plenty of time for Target, Old Navy and Chic-fil-a.  Give a girl a break, I've gone through almost this entire pregnancy without my worldly preggo-comforts.  I can practically taste the milkshake now...
Sorry, easily distracted over here.
We'll be staying at a hotel pretty close to the hospital (St. Luke's Presbyterian) so that we can get there easily on Wed morning.  I'll have an amniosentisis at 8am to make sure Grace's lungs are fully matured.  Assuming they are, the c-section is scheduled for 10am.   That's mountain time people, so know that the earliest Matt would get anything posted or texted will probably be closer to 1pm east coast time.  People keep asking what the plan is if the amnio doesn't give us the results we need.  Ummm, that's not happening.  My original due date was 10 days earlier, so while I'll technically be at 37.5 weeks, I consider myself more like somewhere between 37.5 and 39 weeks.  And if you've seen my belly lately, you know this girl has got to be ready to come out. 
The earliest we'd leave Denver will be Friday, but it will just depend on what ends up happening during surgery and how I'm recovering.  I really want to get home as quickly as possible, so I'm praying that we can leave no later than Saturday.

Noah and Chloe will be staying here at the house with Matt's parents.  They arrived on Sunday and ever since they've gotten here Noah keeps telling me I need to hurry up and go get Gracie out.  I'm not sure if he's more excited to meet Grace, or to have the undivided attention of his Mimi and Papa.  Probably a little of both.  I'm not at all worried about him while we're gone, but I am a little anxious about leaving Chloe.  I'm so glad she gets to be here at our house, with Noah and with her Mimi and Papa...but this will be her first night away from me.  Yes, I know that's ridiculous, but it's just the way it is, so that's another reason I really hope to get back from Denver as soon as possible.  I have to say that I'm incredibly spoiled when it comes to my in-laws.  They're pretty amazing and I'm just so glad that they could be here for N & C and to help out afterwards for a few days.

Thank you so much friends for praying for me and my family through this.  We're grateful for every prayer and kind word and trust our loving God that we're in His hands. 

And now I need to be getting ready for bed...but I think I need a snack first. FOUR!!

Noah turned 4 on April 4th.  In some ways it's hard to believe that so much time has passed since he was a sweet little baby.  But he also says things that seem so grown up sometimes it almost seems like he should really be 5.  He's a kid now...not a baby, not a toddler, a KID.  (Elisa - You warned me this would happen when he turned 3...and you were right...and it's c.r.a.z.y.)  And a pretty darn awesome kid at that.

Noah at 2 weeks old
He requested a dinosaur cake (thank goodness since I had the pan) and picked the colors himself.  The purple part was actually him being sweet to Chloe...since that's her favorite color (seriously, he is THE best big brother EVER). 
Noah was sad that his Virginia friends and family couldn't come to his party.  But, I'm so glad that by the time his birthday rolled around he felt like he had friends here.  He is still so shy when he first meets people, and gets overwhelmed in situations with a lot of people, so it was a sort of slow process at first.  When we first moved I think this was the hardest thing for him and for me.  But praise God for all his little friends (and for their mommies that are my friends)!
Noah has gotten into superheroes of late.  Very into superheroes.  He talks about them and pretends that he's a superhero often.  Right now The Hulk is his favorite, "because he's the strongest."  He also decided that since he's 4, and a "big kid" he needs to learn to write.  It amazes me...he'll sit at the table for over an hour working on writing letters.  He'll make me grocery lists and make birthday cards for his friends (regardless of when their birthday is).  He can't really write words yet, so he just writes a bunch of letters and tells me what they say.  His patience and persistence really impresses me.  He has also started drawing more intentional pictures.  Drawing people, superheroes (of course), animals, etc.  He has pretty much stopped taking naps altogether, so he has lots of quiet big boy time that he uses to practice all his new big boy skills.  He frequently asks me if whatever he is working on at the time is something that Luke and Micah (his older cousins) can do. He does get frustrated with himself if he can't do something the way he wants to right away (he gets that from Matt).  He just expects so much of himself. He has gotten much better at being patient and has realized that practicing is a necessity (thank goodness since at first he would start crying if his "A" didn't look just like mine...).  I just love watching him grow up and learn.  

Noah makes me smile and laugh a thousand times a day.  He is such a gift and I'm so grateful for the loving God that created him and blessed me so much by letting me be his mom.  My heart is full.