Thursday, 23 February 2012

Epiphany in the Bath...

Sadie absolutely loves to take a "baff".  Each day she starts asking for one when she wakes up and is continually told, "when daddy comes home, after supper."  Her love for baths makes taking one very difficult, she either tries to jump in with me or plays in the water until half of it is on the bathroom floor.  As a result, I've started to take a bath in the evening so I can be alone and enjoy them.  The only bad part about it, is the quiet, it allows me to focus on everything that is ahead for Hope and my heart breaks for her.

Tonight as I lay in the bath I was overwhelmed by the thought that I was sitting in a massive amount of clean drinking water.  All over the world there are people dying for clean drinking water, and multiple times a week, I sit in mass amounts of it to relax.  I was suddenly struck by how blessed we are, how truly lucky we are to live in North America.  I realized that it doesn't make sense to feel sorry for Hope.  Yes, she will have a difficult life at times and will experience pain that some of us never will.  Yet, she still has it so much better than most of the world.

Hope will be born in a hospital, that is not even an option for so many other babies.  Babies are dying all around the world each day because of poor birthing conditions and the lack of prenatal care for the mothers.  ( Hope is going to receive the best medical care available, for free!  She will be vaccinated against numerous deadly diseases and will receive proper nutrition and clean water from the beginning.  Even in the womb she is blessed, I never go hungry, I'm taking vitamins and receiving prenatal care.  It's so easy to forget that we are the minority, we live in most peoples dream world.  Most importantly, Hope is being born into a safe and healthy home that loves God.  She will have the opportunity, from the start, to hear how much God loves her and wants her to love him too.

We want to raise our daughters with the awareness of how blessed they are.  We want our girls to get involved in things and support the efforts that are being made to make changes.  I sat in the tub and was overwhelmed with thankfulness for all the missionaries and humanitarian groups that are out in the world making a difference and bridging the gap.  I was challenged once again to focus on all the gifts that God has given us and not to allow the difficult things to get all the attention.

Just thought I would remind you all today, you are so blessed, be thankful!

A Whole Pound!!

Yesterday I went for another ultrasound, it's hard to believe a baby could need so many.  We got some great news at the ultrasound, Hope has gained a whole pound in the last two weeks!  The doctor was quite surprised as babies with HLHS tend to slow down their growth in the third trimester.  Hope is almost 4.5 pounds and is getting closer to a healthy weight for surgery.  We still have a month to go, we should be able to get her even bigger!

Every time we have an ultrasound or echo, we're always taken into a consultation room after to meet the doctor.  You would think that I would be used to this process and be able to relax.  Each time I walk down the hallway I get a terrible feeling as I think back to the first ultrasound that revealed Hope's heart condition.  Thankfully, we've been getting more positive news lately!

They booked another echo on Hope's heart for two weeks from now.  They want to look at her aorta and re-check the ASD to be sure there is still no narrowing taking place.  Thank you for praying for our little girl, it helped her gain a whole pound.  Please continue to pray that her aorta would grow at least a mm to make her a better candidate for surgery.

It is exactly one month today that we move to Edmonton.  It's coming quickly and we're starting to feel that pressure weighing on us as well.  I've been pretty good at starting to get the house organized, but I still have a long way to go.  Hopefully I can be productive in the next month and not get too overwhelmed.  If you love to organize, I have a storage room that needs some serious help! haha

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Long Weekend Love

This entire experience with our unborn daughter has taught us something very important, to protect our marriage.  We know that half of all marriages end in divorce and that your chances of success are lower when faced with tragedy or the death of a child.  With this in mind, we decided early on to protect our marriage as much as we could.  As we wait for Hope to arrive, we've realized that all marriages need to be highly protected and guarded, no matter what is happening in your life.  Marriage is an amazing thing, but it has also failed or fallen apart for so many people.  We feel that this experience has already opened our eyes to the many things around that will try to destroy your relationship.  We have been challenged to fight for our marriage, even while things are going well and our love is strong.  We are no longer unaware of the fragility of all relationships.

Since Hope was diagnosed we have made our date nights with one another a priority.  This past weekend we headed to Jasper, just the two of us, to celebrate our fourth anniversary and invest in our marriage once again.  We had a fantastic weekend away and were sad to see it come to an end.  The Fairmont was kind enough to bless us with a lakefront suite and many perks that were unexpected.  I highly recommend them for a weekend getaway as the staff went above and beyond the call of duty to make our experience amazing.  I believe my large belly earned us free valet services, hot chocolate, candy and other treats throughout the weekend!

I won't bore you with all the details of the weekend, but will give you some of my highlights.  We saw a lot of elk, this is exciting if you're not from Alberta originally.  We went to a matinee, Shawn had to see a chick flick because the theatre was small and the other option was a kids movie!  I would recommend 'The Vow' but you'll have to ask Shawn for the man's view.  We ate some wonderful meals without the distraction of our little girl.  We swam in the heated outdoor pool each night and enjoyed sleeping in every morning and napping each afternoon.  Most importantly, we were reminded how much we love being together, the fun we have and the comfort of each others company. We were also reminded how much we love our little girl(s) and missed Sadie like crazy!

Sadie spent the first two nights with her grandparents and the last night with friends in our home.  She seemed to be perfectly happy when we got home and is adjusting to the changes beautifully.  We even packed her up and dragged her over to a friends house tonight.  She went to sleep well there and didn't seem to worry that we might leave her again.  It is a relief to know that she's doing well when we're away, but we still miss her like crazy when we're not together.  We talked of her often and were both eager to see her smiling face again when we got home.

As we get closer to our departure (4 1/2 weeks), I'm struck with the reality that my friends aren't coming along as well.  I realized today that even if I make time to see each one of them once a week until I go, I'll only see them 4 more times!  I spend many days out with friends and their kids, I will miss the social interactions but also that bond that I have with so many incredible woman in Calgary.  I'm thankful that my mom will be with us in Edmonton, but truly wish I could bring so many of my friends along as well.

Falling asleep at night has become my greatest struggle.  Shawn sent me out of bed tonight as I was keeping him up and he needs his sleep for work.  I toss and turn but can't seem to stop my brain from going wild and it keeps me up.  I've decided that I need to set a suitcase in the basement and start putting things in it that I know I need to bring, but don't currently need.  That way, I won't have to store that information in my brain and try to remember!  I know that the sleepless nights are more than a packing dilemma, I have a lot of fear of the unknowns ahead and the emotional stress involved.  Please pray that God would give me peace at night so that I can fall asleep and get the rest I need.

While we were away, our friends painted Sadie's big girl room and our guest room for us.  This is a task we had hoped to accomplish, but were pretty sure we'd never get to.  It was a wonderful and very kind gift that we are truly grateful for.  The next two weekends have been devoted to the final house renos. Now that the windows, furnace, attic insulation and new roof are all in, we need to do the finishing touches.  We realize that once Hope is home, we won't have the time to paint the baseboards, change the door knobs and finish all the other little projects.  We are blessed to have a group of men that have agreed to come over and help Shawn accomplish these tasks.  It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes one to prepare for a baby sometimes!
Not sure why the walls look pink in this one, the lower picture shows the wall colour

Once again we are overwhelmed by the kindness and willingness of others to jump in and help out.  We are humbled by the outpouring of love we've received and believe that it carries us through the really hard days.  We know that each day will become more stressful as we approach our move to Edmonton, and our due date.  Thank you for continuing to pray for us and standing with us in this journey.  Please continue to pray for Hope's very tiny aorta to grow and that she would arrive with a healthy, natural labour before I have to be induced.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Day of Hearts

February, the plethora of hearts month.  There is no getting away from my thoughts of Hope when the world is plastered with hearts.  Not to mention the fact that, she is moving like crazy and is often placing her knee under my ribs, to remind me that she's there.  Valentines day has never been a very exciting thing to me, Shawn and I don't often do anything special.  I did have a Valentines day when I was 14 that involved the boy I liked, asking me to be his girlfriend, I think it ended before the month changed!

Today we celebrated by eating at Harvey's with Sadie and choosing paint colours at Home Depot.  I don't think I saw another woman in Home Depot that wasn't an employee!  I did force Shawn to watch Foot Loose with me in the evening, he was pretty excited about that.  I had been crying beforehand, this tends to make him do things he wouldn't normally agree to.  For some reason I felt overwhelmed today and felt my due date approaching at rapid speed.

My friends would agree that I like to plan, maybe even a little OCD in the planning department.  You would think that moving to another city for a couple of months and doing a million house projects would be my dream come true.  Instead I spend most of my time thinking about all I need to do and finding it impossible to get up and do it.

I've been reading a lot lately and am continually challenged by the things I read.  Most recently, an author was discussing the fact that many of us believe that good things happen to good people, and bad things to bad people.  I have never asked God 'why Hope?'  I realize that I don't believe that Shawn or I or anyone else did something to cause her heart to be deformed.  I believe today and have all along, that God has given Hope the perfect heart.  One that allows Him to shine through her story and to touch the lives of so many others.  Maybe I will turn my future Valentines days into the days that Shawn and I shower our girls with special love and thank God for their beating hearts.  That every heart we see in stores would give us an overwhelming sense of how truly blessed we are.

When I was a teenager, in those years where you are most impressionable as a girl and longing to be loved, I would wake up on Valentines day and find 6 roses in my room.  The other 6 would be in my sisters room, my dad put them there to remind us girls that he loved us and until the perfect man arrived, that would be enough.  I'm sure my mom was a helpful voice in this act and I desire to play the same role.  I want my girls to grow up knowing that God loves them, but that Shawn loves them dearly as well.  That until a man can love them like their dad does, they need to protect their hearts and wait.

So my question this February 14th is not, why Hope?  My question is not, why not all of us?  We have not done anything to deserve all the blessings we have in life and for all we know, we'll lose them tomorrow.  Maybe your Valentines day was amazing, maybe it was disappointing and lonely.   Either way, if your heart beats as you read this, you have reason to celebrate and be thankful this year too.

I can only hope that this entire journey will finally take some of the commercialism out of all the holidays and that I'll finally find something valuable in all of them, religious or not, and make them worth while to celebrate.  So tonight I will put my stressed out tears to rest for the day and go to sleep with the realization of how blessed I am to have Shawn and Sadie, both with beating hearts as they sleep and then I'll pray that Hope's aorta will is heart day after all!

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Meeting Marathon Update

I can't promise this will be a quick update, I'm not even sure I'll be able to remember everything but I will do my best to fill you all in on the last 72 hours of our life.

We drove up to Edmonton on Wednesday night, it was an odd feeling as I realized that the next time I made this drive, I would be moving up there and staying until Hope was transferred to the Calgary Children's Hospital.  We had an easy drive up, only one bathroom break for the pregnant passenger and Sadie was in Calgary with our friends, so we didn't have to worry about her getting bored.

On Thursday morning, we arrived at the hospital where I will deliver and were instantly greeted by a huge display that read, 'MY HOPE IS...'.  We thought that was cute and knew that our Hope would arrive in that very building in just a short time.  We had our echocardiogram done first, it is always a long test and as I get bigger, I also get more uncomfortable.  After the first 40 minutes I began to feel terrible pain in my hips and pelvis area and had to ask the doctor to let me move around a little.  They were having trouble seeing some of Hope's heart and wanted me to stay still as they were finally getting a good picture.  I just kept praying, "Lord, please help them to find what they're looking for so I don't start crying."  She finally finished and said she would go and get the cardiology specialist to take a look at everything and then he would come and see us.  When I stood up from the table, I nearly fell over in pain.  My entire pelvis was locked and throbbing, Shawn had to help me get moving again so the feeling would come back.  We spent the next half hour waiting, eating animal crackers and talking about how boring these appointments always were...we're like little kids!

The specialist arrived with the news that he wanted to take another look, so I climbed back on the dreaded table and it started again.  He was saying things to the other doctor, but mumbled horribly and Shawn and I were trying to make out what they were discussing.  They decided that they could see some valve they thought was missing and seemed happy with that.  We were then told that Hope's aorta is less than 3mm and will likely not grow any further.  This can cause complications in surgery as it is difficult for the surgeon to work with such a small aorta.  We are asking that you pray, our God is better than science and can make her aorta grow, at least until it is more than 3mm and she is no longer in the dangerous zone for surgery.  Other than this complication, her heart is looking great; no leaking valves, no signs of heart failure and the blood is flowing as best it can without the left side.

We finished the echo about 15 minutes after our ultrasound was supposed to begin, we had to quickly (I'm not too quick right now) walk over to another building and begin the ultrasound.  Thankfully, because we were late, we had to wait for 40 minutes and it gave my body a chance to move and recover from the last test.  We ate lunch in the waiting room and read books as we waited to be called in.

The ultrasound was much shorter in length.  They believe that Hope is now 3 pounds, 7 ounces and is in the 25% for weight.  We need her to be a good weight for surgery, they told us that even 1 ounce can make a big difference.  I guess I can eat as many cupcakes as I want now!  Don't invite me over for salads, but if you make something with some can count on me to eat it!  They also confirmed that Hope is VERY low in the womb.  This was no surprise to me, I feel like she is about to fall out many times and wondered if she was low.  It looks like the cervix is still holding strong and should not be a concern for premature labour, but they will continue to check this at the ultrasounds every two weeks.  Hope needs be at least 4.5 pounds at birth or we would have even more complications to deal with.

After the ultrasound I was thrilled to get off the bed and could hardly move.  We had to wait for the Perinatologist to come in, so I made shawn lay on the bed and give me his chair.  He was thrilled and the doctor got a good laugh when he arrived and shawn pulled up his shirt to start the ultrasound.  The doctor took us into a meeting room and began discussing Hope's case a little further.  He let us know that they will NOT be inducing me, but will let me go naturally unless I get too far past my due date.  I really did not want to be induced and was happy to hear I wouldn't have to be.  Please pray that I go into labour naturally and do not need to receive any induction drugs.  I did not tolerate them well with Sadie and really hope to avoid them.  He realized during the meeting that they had failed to assign an obstetrician to us.  They have since done that, but we were not able to meet the OB and will have to wait until we return next month.  We were at the hospital for 5 hours by the time we got to leave and were both a little zoned out.

We then drove over to the Ronald McDonald house, we wanted to see where it was and what it was like.  We were taken through the house on a tour and told all about the house.  It was beautiful and looks like a kids dream, we're not sure that Sadie will ever want to come home!  I was not prepared for the other guests, we rode in the elevator with a little girl that had just finished chemo and my heart broke for her.  I'm sure there will be many families that capture our hearts while we're there.  We were thrilled to learn that our friends can visit and we can have other people watch Sadie in the house as well.  I think it will be the perfect place for our stay, although it felt weird to picture ourselves living there for at least 2 months.

We finished off the day by wandering around and doing some window shopping before we met some friends for dinner.  It was a good way to take our minds off the day and avoid thinking about the next day and the rest of our meetings.  We hadn't seen our friends since July and enjoyed catching up with them.

We spent Friday morning with Shawn's aunt, she prepared a wonderful breakfast and spoiled us rotten. They were incredible hosts and so hospitable.  We went with her to the 'Enjoy Centre' and shopped around the green house, it's a wonderful place in the winter because of all the sun that shines through.  I'll have to bring Sadie back when we move next month so she can see it as well.  We went back to the house for lunch and then said our goodbyes and drove to the Children's Hospital.

As I stood in the hospital waiting for Shawn, he was parking the car, I was overwhelmed with the reality of where I was.  Knowing that our daughter would go through so many challenges in that very building and experience such pain was almost too much to bare.  As Shawn and I rode the elevators I began to cry and wished our situation was different.  The social worker met us and took us over to the conference room, we could see my mom and sister on the screen when we walked into the room, that was a pleasant and comforting sight.  Our cardiologist in Calgary was video conferenced in as well as the Perinatologist we'd seen the day before.  In the room with us were the Neonatologist, Cardiologist, Social Worker and a nurse of some kind.  The surgeons do not attend the meetings, we won't meet our surgeon until Hope's surgery.

The meeting was a lot of information but a great time to have our questions answered.  We were blown away by the responses.  We were given so many surprising answers that were much more positive than we had been previously told.  We are so glad we chose the Edmonton hospital, as they seem to have much better policies than the others we have read about.  We were told that unless I have a c-section, I am able to leave the hospital as soon as I feel comfortable and can come to see Hope.  I will have to return to sleep but am able to leave without being discharged.  They are also going to try to give me 30 minutes with Hope before they take her and transfer her.  This is much better than we had heard and were thrilled to have that much time.  It was confirmed that our family will be able to come in and see Hope in the NICU, they'll even let Sadie come in for a photo with her sister!

We spoke a lot about Hope's surgery, it will likely happen in the first 5-10 days of her life.  We had been previously told that it would be the first 3-7 days.  The surgery will likely take around 5 hours to complete, it will be a long wait for us I'm sure.  It sounds like they will try to transfer Hope back to calgary within a month of her surgery if we don't have any complications.  We had previously been told that it would be more like 6 weeks.  This was also great news, we'll want to get back to our house and our support network too.

After the meeting, the social worker took Shawn and I over to the NICU for a tour.  Standing in the NICU I started to cry again.  I don't want my little girl to have to live there and I felt such pain for the other families that were there already.  It looks very well run and was good to get a mental picture, but was also a true dose of reality.  The social worker was wonderful and did a great job of explaining everything and making us feel more comfortable.

We began the journey home in the late afternoon/early evening and were able to pick up Sadie before she went to bed.  She looked like she was having a great time and seemed a little disappointed when we put her in the car.  She went to bed without a fuss when we got home and seemed to be happy in her crib again.  I cried on our first night away from her, I realize that we will say goodbye to her often while in Edmonton.  It was a relief to see she was so resilient and just as happy as she is when we're around.  We're blessed to have such an easy going child and we can only pray that she stays that way.

Thank you for praying for us over the last few days, we definitely did better than we had expected and feeling more prepared for our big move in 6 weeks.  Shawn plans to spend this weekend insulating the attic to make the house warmer for Hope.  I'll spend the weekend getting ready for this week with Sadie; trips to the grocery store, cooking and making plans with friends.  It's good to be home, we'll try to enjoy every moment for the next 6 weeks.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Edmonton Bound

Tomorrow evening we depart for Edmonton and begin the planning for Hope's arrival at the hospital.  Sadie is going to stay with our friends in Calgary and will spend 2.5 nights away from us for the first time ever.  Hopefully she'll do well and won't cause them too much grief.

We're feeling very anxious about our trip and also realizing how little time is left before our move to Edmonton.  While there, we'll be taking a tour of the Ronald McDonald House, having an ultrasound and echo done at the hospital where I'll deliver, as well as meeting with all the doctors that will be involved in Hope's care at the Children's Hospital.  We've been told to expect an information overload and a huge dose of reality.  We'll be taken on a tour of the NICU and meet a lot of people that will be a part of our everyday life with Hope in Edmonton.

We're looking forward to having our questions answered, but also fearful to learn some of the answers to our tougher questions.  We're glad we'll be returning to Calgary on the Friday night and have the weekend together to process all we've seen and heard before Shawn returns to work on Monday.  We are so grateful for the company he works for.  They have been amazing through this entire process and completely understanding of our situation.  They have agreed to work with us through this journey and are truly a wonderful company.

Reality of our life in Calgary has also set in, we now realize how many projects we still need to finish around the house before Hope's arrival and that we only have 2 free weekends left to do them!  We are blessed with amazing friends that have agreed to help us out and we're hoping to have everything completed in time.  If only a painting company in Calgary would call randomly and say, "we want to paint all your window frames, door frames, doors and two bedrooms for you for free!"  I can dream right??  It would save our friends from a lot of sweat and hard work around here.

I'm trying to get organized and be sure I have everything in order before March arrives; paying bills, filing our taxes, packing things we'll need there and preparing things we'll need upon our return.  It's a good thing I like to plan, this is sure taking a lot of planning to put together and I'm sure I'll miss some of the things anyway.

We'll update you on the weekend about our time in Edmonton and the information we receive.  Until then, thank you for lifting us up in prayer as this is a tough week and we really need it!

Friday, 3 February 2012

30 weeks...10 weeks until 40!

Today officially marks 30 weeks pregnant for us.  I can't believe how quickly time has gone and how close we are to the end.  Next week we'll find out if they are going to induce me or not, this will give us a better idea of how many weeks we have until the end.  I'm feeling pretty nervous about the trip to Edmonton and trying not to dwell on it.

This weekend, Shawn has gone to Fernie with a friend to snowboard, and I have a friend from Ontario here for a visit.  It's a great distraction for us and keeps us busy so we don't have time to worry about the upcoming trip.  We're taking Sadie over to the zoo tomorrow, I want to spend as much time with her as I can, I'm already dreading the time we'll spend apart when Hope arrives.  Please pray for us as we await our trip to Edmonton next week.