Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pregnancy, Part 4 - A Letter to Larkin

Dear Larkin,

My pregnancy with you was terrifying. We rode the roller coaster together, and I did everything I could to keep you safe. I loved feeling you grow, watching my belly roll and wave as you did your acrobatics. Daddy both loved – and was terrified – to touch my stomach when you got to moving. I think he’s seen the movie Aliens one time too many!

Actually, one of my favorite parts of pregnancy was seeing how it changed your daddy. For nine months, he turned into a big softie. He worried about you non-stop. Every time I would bend over to pick something up or tie my shoe, he’d yell “DON’T SQUISH THE BABY!” I was constantly reassuring him that my body was DESIGNED to keep you safe and un-squished, but he didn’t want to take any chances. But he never lost his crazy sense of humor. He just barely survived the last few weeks of my pregnancy, when he took to making “BOING” sound effects whenever I walked in the room.

Sweet boy, I loved our time when it was just the two of us. Just me, laying in bed, feeling you move. I loved talking to you, and playing you music (every single day, I played John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy. It fit us perfectly, especially the line that had long been my life motto: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”). I loved watching the cats freak out when you kicked them through my stomach. I loved dreaming about what you would look like and who you’d grow up to be.

Daddy and I chose your name very carefully. We named you Larkin, my maiden name. You have an amazing family, little boy. Standing behind you are several generations of Godly men and women – in particular, your grandpa. My dad is a strong, stoic man who is rich in the spirit and you would do well to learn much from him. I loved giving you my family name, and I hope you always feel pride in the strength it carries.

As for your middle name, I always knew if I had a son, I wanted to name him David, after the Psalmist. Larkin, study the story of David. Hold it close to you always. He was just a boy, small and timid and teased by those bigger than him - but God did amazing things through him. He was just a man, weak and wounded and full of sin – but God redeemed him, and still called him “a man after my own heart”. Remember this – you can never fall too far. You can never run so far that God cannot find you, cannot fix you, cannot SAVE you.

Larkin means ‘fierce’. You are strong. You are a fighter, have been since conception! David means beloved. And, oh, my son, you are LOVED! Even before you were born – you were LOVED. Before you took your first breath – you were PRAYED for. You were wonderfully and fearfully made, knit together in my womb by a God who loves you desperately. Never, ever forget that.

Even though you were a surprise to me and daddy, you were no accident. In the beginning, when I held you, I looked through my tears and told daddy, “God knew what we were missing before we knew we were missing anything at all.”

You are my gift. You are my blessing. You are worth every minute of worry, every second of struggle. You are my miracle.

To the moon… and back,

Mommy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pregnancy, Part 3

The story of my pregnancy, continued from previous days.

Once we had hit a safer time period and my restrictions had been slightly relaxed, I had three beautiful baby showers. The first one was thrown by my best friend, Amy. She gave us a beautiful, relaxed shower at one of our favorite hangouts, Byzantios. Several friends came to catch up and celebrate with us.




Then I had my church shower. It was truly beautiful. I was surrounded by Godly women, many of who had taught me in Sunday school when I was a baby. These women had been praying for Larkin since the beginning, and it was wonderful to celebrate with them. (It was amazing. I have been prayed for many times in my life, through sickness and struggle and pain. But to know your child is being prayed for – it is the most amazing feeling in the world!)




Then my precious sorority sisters threw me a shower. Amber, Devon and Mina put together a great party at the house (between the continued contractions and the impending due date, I wasn’t moving much at all by this point, even with the relaxed restrictions!). Besides getting to catch up with my sisters, the girls put together a onesie decorating. We got some adorable onesies for Larkin!






The showers marked a very happy time in my pregnancy. I had been so scared up until then. I was trying desperately to distance myself from my little one to protect my heart in case of the worst. It didn’t work, by the way. I was madly in love with him! But I was trying my best. I became wildly superstitious, refusing to buy anything for him, putting the brakes on my plan for a blog to document the pregnancy, just doing whatever I could to build a wall.

But finally, I had reached a level of safety. If Larkin was born at that point, he’d survive. He might need some time in the NICU, it might be tough, but he had a chance. And being surrounded by all these women, being overwhelmed with their gifts and their blessings – I knew my boy has loved, and I knew he was safe.



After the showers, I was desperate to surround myself in baby goodness. Jonathan and I build the crib and changing station (well, Jonathan built them while I sat on the floor and dictated) and we put together Larkin’s nursery – which was actually just his side of our bedroom since our place is so tiny!






And then it was time to wait. The contractions were growing more painful as the baby got bigger – actually, EVERYTHING was more painful! Sleep was awkward and sporadic, eating was uncomfortable, walking was… well, I waddled. Jonathan started working from home to help me, and because we were preparing for our arrival at any moment. We washed all his precious little clothes, installed his car seat, folded his blankets and built his swing. And waited... and waited… and waited.

And then… there he was.

*******

The reverse blessing I wrote for my church baby shower:

I’m standing here today to celebrate a baby boy that is being born against over whelming odds. This child that grows within me is a testament to the faithfulness and the power of God.

When I was 14 years old, a doctor delivered some difficult news. Due to several problems with my reproductive system, I was informed that there would be very little chance I would be able to conceive naturally, if at all. As I got older, my complications increased, and multiple other doctors confirmed the original diagnosis. As an adopted child, I never particularly worried about the inability to have children of my own. I knew that, just as my family found me, there were multitudes of ways to start a family.

Then I met Jonathan. Before we became engaged, I explained the likelihood that we would not be able to have children. He offered his unconditional support, but for the first time, the concept bothered me. I was deeply in love with this man, and longed to see what our babies would look like. We went on, started our life together, and just knew that (in the distant future) we’d start a family one way or another.

My biblical namesake is, of course, Sarah – the wife of Abraham. Anyone who is known as much for her impatience as she is for her faith is someone to whom I can relate. Now, of course, we have even more in common. All her life, Sarah longed for a baby. Like me, men said it was impossible. But God made her a promise. Like me, Sarah said “not now”. But God, in His perfect wisdom, gave both of us the desires of our heart in His own timing.

So now I’m overjoyed to be here celebrating both the miracle of this baby and the faithfulness of God. I look around the room and see women who held me as a baby. You taught me to pat the Bible, and reminded me to learn my memory verse. I see the women who encouraged me through adolescence, who held my hand during summer camps, who wrote me beautiful words of encouragement at my baptism and for my high school and college graduation, and who bowed their heads in prayer as I went through surgeries, illnesses, and various life tribulations. I see the women who grew up beside me. The ones who share my deepest secrets, who stood beside me in the darkest times, who shared deserts and clothes and zipped me into my wedding dress. I see a family made strong not through blood and genetics, but through love and in Christ.

And now, my love for each of you has grown immeasurably deeper. Over the last eight months, many of you have lifted your voices up in prayer on behalf of my son. No prayer has ever meant so much. This pregnancy has been fraught with complications and trials. Moments of panic and frightening test results. But at every scary turn, you have joined us in petitions to God to protect and perfect this child.

And as I stand here, nearing full term with a healthy little boy who is preparing to make his way into this world, I thank you. From the bottom of my happy heart, I praise your faithfulness. I cherish your love. I worship the God who brought each of you into my life. Thank you all for everything you’ve done for me, and everything you’ve done for my family. God bless you.

*******

One final pregnancy update to follow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pregnancy, Part 2

The story of my pregnancy, continued from yesterday.

As soon as the happy news settled, it started to look like maybe the rest of my pregnancy would proceed smoothly. And then, it started. I was wrapping up the work day one afternoon, having just started my 20th week of pregnancy. All the sudden, I felt a cramping pain. Then another a few minutes later. They kept coming, as I tried to talk normally to the new hire and prayed for the last few minutes of the work day to hurry. I headed out to the car and called my doctor. He wasn’t sure if they were muscle spasms or contractions, and told me to take some Tylenol, and wait until morning. If they hadn’t stopped, I needed to come in first thing.

The next morning, I called in to work and we rushed to the doctor’s office. He confirmed that I was in preterm labor for no apparent reason. I was monitored and medicated, then sat down by the doctor. He was honest – at 20 weeks, our baby would not survive if labor progressed to birth at this point. 24 weeks is the absolute minimum age of viability, and even then survival was unlikely. If he did survive, he would spend at least five months in the NICU, and would most likely suffer lifelong health repercussions. However, he reassured us, there was no guarantee that preterm labor would lead to premature birth.

After the medication slowed the contractions, I was sent home with a prescription to take multiple times a day and instructions to remain on bed rest. Our goals were set a step at a time – first, do our best to get to 24 weeks. Then just to build one week on another, and do our best to A) keep me pregnant and B) out of the hospital.

It was an overwhelmingly helpless feeling. I was furious with my body, and felt it was failing at the one job it was truly created for. My first job as a mother was to bring my baby healthfully to term, and I wasn’t doing so well. I spent hours on Google, googling things no pregnant woman should Google. If I delivered RIGHT NOW, what would he look like? What health problems would he face? What is the actual percentage of his chance of survival? Things looked grim.

The medication they gave me helped slow but not stop the contractions. Luckily, I was not dilating or showing any other signs of impeding labor. We had several rush trips to the hospital for monitoring when the contractions would come too fast and regular, but each week brought us closer to the goal. There is some argument over whether bed rest is a necessary practice. I’m not a doctor, but I can say that for all the miserable downsides, it was worth every minute in bed to keep my son safe for one more day.

Of course, I was very lucky to have an amazing support system. Jonathan became an excellent cook, and waited on me very sweetly. My precious family kept me company during the day while Jonathan was at work, helped keep us fed, drove me to a hundred doctor’s appointments, and did a million thing to tend to mommy, daddy and baby. And several of my friends stepped up beautifully, driving all the way out to Sugar Land to bring cookies and books and blessed rainbows and sunshines of company!

I read a million books (I averaged about one every two days), slept a lot, and just relaxed with my baby. Although that time was stressful, I feel like my period of bed rest was a blessing. Yes, I lost my job, my muscle tone, and almost my mind. But I spent every minute of every day bonding uninterrupted with my son. I lay in that bed and watched my stomach wave and roll and knew he was growing bigger and stronger. Before he was born, I was his MOTHER. And while that may be true of any mother, I felt like the time separated from the world gave me what I needed to make it real. Every day, I would talk to him, I’d tell him how he was being prayed for, and how much fun we’d have once he was out – but that he needed to stay put for now (I promised him that months in the hospital would be no party!).

Towards the end of the pregnancy, my nurse flipped the switch on the ultrasound machine and gave us a glimpse of our baby in 3D. It was amazing – we could clearly see that Larkin had my fat cheeks and no chin (of course, that ended up being about all he had of mine!). And, of course, he was absolutely beautiful.



The rest of the story will continue tomorrow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pregnancy, Part 1

Many people have asked me why (as a writer and long time blogger) I didn’t start this blog during my pregnancy. The truth is pretty complicated. In many ways, I regret not keeping a daily journal of the pregnancy days. It was a truly magical time, and I adored the feeling of my little boy growing inside me. But it was also a terrifying and uncertain time.

The truth is that my pregnancy was astoundingly complicated. For starters, it was the pregnancy that wasn’t “supposed” to be. When I was 14, I was told I wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally due to several health issues. At that time, I also started taking birth control to control the symptoms of those health concerns. In other words: infertility confirmed by multiple doctors, plus 13 years of daily birth control pills.

And then:

Only two of the four tests actually taken


To be honest, my initial reaction was that it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The American economy was in a state of depression, and Jonathan and I had been switching back and forth between periods of unemployment. In fact, Jonathan had only recently been laid off and was currently attempting to start an advertising agency. Money was tight, to say the least.

But once the initial shock wore off, I was completely ecstatic. I was adopted, and had always hoped that God would bless me with a biological child. Although I couldn’t be happier with my family, I’d always had that human longing to see myself reflected in another person. Plus, I longed to see what a mix of myself and Jonathan would look like. I quickly realized that my life-long motto was just proving true: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Once I discovered the pregnancy (I took three tests at home, and still made a doctor’s appointment to have it confirmed!) I had the typical early pregnancy jitters. I was terrified that I’d be given such an amazing gift, only to lose it. And then, in the second month of my pregnancy, I started spotting.

We rushed to the doctor, and an ultrasound confirmed that our little one was okay. Oh my, I could never describe the feeling when I first heard the ‘whoosh woosh’ of my baby’s heart beat. It was the most amazing sound I’d ever heard. And luckily, it was perfect – not just to my ears, but to the doctor’s. However, they couldn’t find an answer for the bleeding and couldn’t get it to stop. So I was put on limited mobility (and unlimited prayer!) and sent on to just wait and see.

Our first ultrasound. I had never believed in love at first sight before.


Then in April, the bleeding finally stopped. However, a week later, I received a call from my doctor after hours. “I don’t want you to panic…” Too late! Turns out my routine birth defect testing showed elevated levels for spina bifida. My doctor knew I’d be panicking, and didn’t want to delay my stress. He had already made me an appointment for the next day to come in for a level 2 ultrasound to check on the baby’s health.

The ultrasound looked good, but the doctor admitted it was honestly too early to tell if there would be a problem. We made an appointment for the following month to check on the baby’s development. I was slightly reassured by the ultrasound, but I was in an other-worldly state of panic. It seemed like a nightmare, having medical staff discuss viability and our “option to terminate”. I was utterly horrified. I wanted to hit everyone who said that phrase. THIS WAS MY BABY! MY MIRACLE! It was hands down the most awful 24 hours of my life.

Our follow up ultrasound again showed a perfectly healthy baby. It was speculated that the spotting I’d been having had increased the numbers falsely. Although we all breathed a sigh of relief, we made appointments to continue the level 2 ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy to watch for any risk factors.

Look at that beautiful spine!


And at the next appointment, when I was only 18 weeks along, we found out:


We were having a boy! The doctor assured us it was clear as day, although we couldn’t tell at all (Larkin’s ultrasounds were never very clear – the kid NEVER sat still!). Jonathan and I were overjoyed to share the news with friends and family. My mom immediately went out and started shopping! We had already decided to name the baby Larkin whether he was a boy or girl, but now Larkin David was confirmed.

And with all that madness... that was only the beginning! Our story will continue tomorrow (or the next, baby permitting!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

365 Days

Today, exactly one year ago today, Jonathan and I were having dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. We had almost finished eating, when I remembered we needed to run to Walgreens to pick up my birth control pill refill. I mentioned it to him, then went back to my dinner. But my brain had started turning... now that I thought about it, I had never started this month. In fact, I was a week late. But surely not...

Jonathan shrugged it off, but I couldn't get the thought out of my mind. Finally, he suggested we buy a pregnancy test on the way home, just to put my mind at ease. I rushed the rest of the dinner, and bought a two pack of tests. I went straight to the bathroom, and as soon as the pee hit the stick:



My first thought was "WAIT! I'M SUPPOSED TO HAVE TWO MINUTES!" Jonathan laughed, I panicked. Three tests later, and there was no denying it. We were a family of three. I was a mommy.

It's been a crazy year, full of anxiety and joy, fear and anticipation, aches, pains and pure love. I've faced some of the worst days of my life, and lived the best. That was our last dinner as a childless couple. My last moment as a non-mother. It was the moment that changed all future moments.

It's been a year of Larkin, and it's been a beautiful year indeed!

I'd like to observe this anniversary by blogging the details of my pregnancy. For various reasons, I didn't record them publicly at the time, but I'd like to add them to the record. So if you're interested, I'll be posting my story over the next few days.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Four Months Old

Little man,

Four months. I am astounded. Our time together is truly like the wind. Every moment is golden, because they just fly by. This letter may not be very long, because I have a feeling that (even though I just laid you down for bed) you will awaken soon. You greeted four months with a bang – first hitting that brutal growth spurt, and then coming down with your first cold. And it’s quite a doozy! Poor little guy. You are a major snot monster and your little coughs just shred mama’s heart. Then to top it off, you got two immunization shots today. Let’s just say you’re having a rough time of it.

But the doctor gave you two thumbs up other than the cold. You now weigh 15 lbs, and feel every ounce of it while I walk the floor with you. You’ve grown five whole inches since birth, and look like you’re going to have my long legs and big feet. Daddy was so proud to show the doctor how well you’re standing (with assistance!). Doctor was very impressed, and said you are developing beautifully. He even commented on that big, beautiful smile you’ve taken to flashing at everyone.



Lately, you’ve become a major mama’s boy. You’ll coo and smile at everyone who catches your eye, but you mostly only want me to hold you. You’re going to have to work on that, young man – you’re starting to hurt your daddy’s feelings! Of course, I don’t mind too much. You love to snuggle, but I’m already starting to see glimpses of the independent, on-the-run little boy you’re soon to become, so I’ll take all the love I can get before you’re far too busy for that stuff.

This has been a busy month for you. I started attending a ladies bible class on Tuesdays, and you’ve started going to the nursery at church. The first week, I waited every minute for the call that you needed me but it never came. When I went to pick you up, I heard you giggling and flirting from down the hall. The ladies were loathe to turn you over, exclaiming about that happy smile and sweet personality.



You’ve almost completely outgrown the pterodactyl shriek that has served as your laugh. Daddy has squeaked out a few true laughs from you, but I’m surprised by just how much I miss that squawk of pure joy.

Ah, how right I was. You just started crying in your crib so it’s snuggle time for now.

To the moon… and back,

Mommy