WE ARE EXPECTING!
We know this probably doesn't come as a shock to most of you... We've been pretty open about the fact that
we want a big family and that we wanted more kids soon.
When we received Avonlea's prenatal diagnosis of Trisomy13 in December of 2013, you will recall that we were immediately told to expect for her not to live through labor or live long after birth. There were so many facets to the devastation that came along with receiving that news, and part of that was just the simple sadness that we would not have baby in our lives like we wanted. We decided, before Avonlea was born and proved all those doctors wrong, that we would start trying to have another baby as soon as we could after we lost her (which we thought would happen before or shortly after her delivery).
But one of my favorite things about Avonlea and her amazing birth story is how she changed Brian forever the moment he laid eyes on her. Before we started trying to get pregnant with Avonlea, the discussion of kids had been on the table for awhile when Brian said to me, "I am not ready to have a baby. And I don't think I ever will be. I can't see myself ever having a moment of clarity when I realize, 'OK, now I'm ready!' But I know I want children someday, and I don't want to hold us back from having a family. So whenever you're ready, we'll start trying and I will use the time it takes for us to conceive + the 9 months to pregnancy to GET ready." Yep... He's a keeper.
About a year after we had that conversation, I was ready! Once we got pregnant and found out we were having a girl (before the prenatal diagnosis), people told him right and left that having a girl would change him... that she would have him wrapped around her finger. He would laugh nervously and say "I just don't think I'm the kind of person that would happen to." And neither did I! But it did. It happened hard. When the doctors told us at 28 weeks along that we would not get to keep this baby, that Brian could not be a dad right now, he got mad. He wanted her! He was ready to be a dad and when she was born, he fell head over heels for his baby girl in less than a second. She will never not have him wrapped around her finger!
One of the days immediately following her birth, I recall sitting with Brian in the NICU, watching him hold her
with tears in his eyes...
Who IS this guy?
The doctors were talking about sending her home soon. HOME. Like a normal baby! Not home with hospice, not home with breathing monitors or tubes intubated in her neck... just home. Home to live, and to have a life.
With reality exceeding our previous expectations, I asked Brian if we should still try to have a baby so soon. He looked at me and said, "I want to do this again TOMORROW. When can we get pregnant again? Let's do it."
We were all set to give Avonlea a baby brother or sister immediately, until my 6-week check-up with my OBGYN. We told her we wanted to get started again right away, and her response most certainly bummed us out... She told us that after a c-section, we should wait at least a year to get pregnant again, to let my body heal and reduce possibilities of risks in the next pregnancy. We hung our heads and agreed to wait... as much as we wanted another baby and for Avonlea's future siblings to have as many years with her as possible, we also knew that we could not emotionally handle a potentially high-risk pregnancy after everything we had just gone through with Avonlea.
So here we are... Avonlea is 18 months old and we are pregnant and excited to welcome our second little one! We know you all have a LOT of questions (our families and close friends had plenty), so we figured we'd answer the most frequently-asked ones here on the blog, below!
How far along are you/ when are you due?
I am currently 13 weeks along (yes, I realize that bump is BIG for 13 weeks). Our baby is due in March!
Was this planned, or was it a surprise?
I truly doubt that we will ever have the pleasure of being "surprised" by a pregnancy. We've had to try hard to conceive, both last time and this time. This pregnancy was most definitely wanted, planned and prayed for!
How did you find out/ how did you tell Brian that you were pregnant?
Well... um. I took a pregnancy test?
Actually, I took several before telling Brian. I wanted to be sure! We had been trying for 6 months and, though we'd never had a false positive, I did not want to get his hopes up for nothing. I took an e.p.t., a First Signal and a ClearBlue test all throughout a single evening because the first two only showed just the faintest of lines! When the ClearBlue test read "Pregnant," I felt confident enough to tell Brian!
I wrote him a note "from Avonlea," and slipped it in her little hand once she'd fallen asleep in her crib for the night. I found him playing a game on the iPad and told him, "Avonlea looks so cute right now! She's in her crib. You have to go look at her" (he's kind of a sucker for that little girl... I knew that would get him to the note). He immediately hopped up from his game, went into her room and noticed the little note in her hand.
The front of the note told him how much Avonlea loves him, and how great of a dad he is. The note opened up to read "...and I'm really glad you get to do it all again, because I'm gonna be a big sister!" on the inside.
He turned around, yelling "WHAT?!?!" in his most high-pitched *surprised* voice, finding me standing in the doorway of Avie's room. He scooped me up and kissed me, and hasn't stopped beaming since!
Are you going to find out the gender?
Technically, we are not going to be finding out the gender, because we actually already know! ;)
Are you going to announce the baby's gender and/or name?
We're not sure right now. We announced Avonlea's gender and name publicly on Facebook fairly early on in our first pregnancy. I think it turned out to be a good thing, because when we found out that there were problems so far along, everyone already saw her as a person... as our daughter... as Baby Avonlea.
But this time around, we're thinking it might be fun to keep both (or, at least the name) somewhat-private until Baby arrives. Avonlea's birth came along with quite a bit of drama... and hopefully this little one's arrival will be drama-free! Announcing the gender and/or name at the time of birth might be a fun way to give the birth-announcement a little
more "oomph!" Haha... who knows? We'll probably give up and announce at some point!
How have you been feeling?
I had mild/moderate nausea with Avonlea, and certainly some fatigue... but this little one has brought on a whole new ball-game. It has been NO. JOKE! I've thrown up so much. SO MUCH! The first few times, Brian was extremely concerned and attentive. But at this point, we're both so used to it that he knows it's best to keep his distance until I crawl out of the bathroom and need help getting back on my feet.
This first trimester has rocked my world. And not in a good way... Starting at 6 weeks, the only time I haven't felt sick is occasionally during the act of eating (but before and after eating, I dare not move for fear of agitating the queasiness).
Needless to say, it has not bee pleasant.
How are your doctors treating his pregnancy?
Our OB practice is amazing! Every time we've been in over the last few months, all of the nurses recognize Avonlea from her photos on some of the doctors' desks. We've had a lot of the same nurses that we had when we were pregnant with Avonlea, and they all just adore her. They started trying to listen for the baby's heartbeat at only 9 weeks (they usually don't listen for the heartbeat until 13/14 weeks), because they knew our history and just wanted me to hear it and know the baby was safe! The OB's have said that there's no reason to think that this pregnancy won't be completely healthy and normal, and will treat it as such unless they discover otherwise down the road. They did not push any invasive testing and actually, when testing was brought up, Dr. Bhojwani simply said, "I'm actually curious to hear your thoughts on genetic testing with this pregnancy. You've had such a unique experience, and I'm sure you've thought about what you want to do. I'm interested to hear what you guys are thinking." The Bradford Clinic has never ceased to make us feel heard and well attended to. We appreciate them so much!
We did have to go to Maternal Fetal Medicine for an ultrasound (bleh)! These doctors (perinatologists) are essentially the "high-risk pregnancy" doctors who discovered Avonlea's heart, brain and kidney anomalies and did the amniocentesis that determined her diagnosis. They eventually told us, once the diagnosis of T13 was made, that there was no reason to come back and see them, since there was nothing they could do for our baby. I actually sent 1st Birthday invitations to Avonlea's party to both of the doctors we saw there during our pregnancy, and to the genetic counselor we saw in their office. To the doctor who suggested the option of aborting Avonlea (at 28 weeks gestation), I added a handwritten note to his party-invitation, telling him that I did not think he valued life enough to do what he does. I told him how wrong he was about Avonlea, how healthy she was and how glad we were that he was wrong, and I told him that I hoped her story would change the way he practices medicine and make him a better doctor (for some reason, he didn't come to Avie's party- wonder why). We asked for our ultrasound to be scheduled on a day that this particular doctor would not be in the office, but when we came out of our exam room, there he was, standing in the hallway... waiting for us and looking me right in the eye. He looked at Avonlea and I brushed right past him. Didn't say a word or even acknowledge him... and didn't even remember to check out. Just walked out the door... that part was embarrassing. Haha! But I seriously think he came in just to see if I had told the truth about how wonderful Avonlea was, and I hope he ate his depraved little heart out when he saw her. We don't much care for that guy...
Are you going to do any genetic testing?
This was a hot topic for us. Our risk of chromosomal abnormalities in future children only increased by 1% with Avonlea having Trisomy 13. Neither Brian or I have any sort of genetic predisposition for Trisomy 13, and we know dozens of families with Trisomy babies who have several other perfectly healthy children! The statistics are in our favor that everything will be fine and normal.
That being said, the statistics were still in our favor, being young, healthy 20-somethings with no family history of genetic issues, when it turned out that Avonlea had Trisomy 13. Only 1 in 5,000 babies are born with Trisomy 13. Crazier still, only 1 in 25,000 babies are born ALIVE with Trisomy 13. After that, only 10% of those babies live past their first birthday due to immense health complications. Avonlea's geneticist says she's easily in the top 0.5% of children living with Trisomy 13, as she has NO serious health issues and only struggles with developmental delays!
Somehow, we always end up in the "fraction of a percent" category... which has proved to be both a curse AND a blessing! Because we know all too well how easy it is to take statistics and health entirely for granted, we decided to do some non-invasive genetic testing (an in-depth ultrasound + a blood-test) just to prepare ourselves. The test is called Informaseq, and is between 90-97% effective at predicting Trisomy 13, 18 and 21 by extracting the baby's DNA from my blood and visually evaluating the baby on ultrasound. With more accurate tests bringing along a risk of miscarriage, this was as far as we were willing to go at this point.
We had this test done at 11 weeks, and this past week, we received glowing results! The ultrasound showed no signs of developmental concerns, and the blood-work did not reveal any indications of a Trisomy. I'm still keeping it tucked in the back of my mind that the test is only 90% accurate at determining a Trisomy 13 result. I remember all too well how we chose to put so many of the doctors' "it's probably nothing... these extra steps are just a precaution," remarks out of our minds and believed blindly that everything absolutely WOULD be fine. The moment you hear a doctor tell you that something is really wrong with your baby, you sort of lose the privilege of naivety for the rest of your life.
Are you going to do another c-section, or a VBAC?
I don't know, honestly. Like I said, we have this tendency to land in the "fraction of a percent" category. I know that the risk of a rupture with a VBAC is slim, less than 1%, but... being that one-in-a-million case is kind of all we know now. I can't ever look at a statistic again and take it at face-value. I have to envision myself in the worst-case scenario and ask myself "is my desired outcome worth the risk(s) involved?" And when I ask myself that question in regards to a VBAC, the answer is a resounding "Nope."
Don't get me wrong. I get insanely jealous when I hear women talk about their "birth story," where they talk about how long they labored if/ when they got an epidural, how many pushes it took for the baby to be born, cutting the cord, all that jazz. I wish I had been able to have that. There's a running stigma against c-section moms wherein we are made to feel as if we didn't really give birth. I don't feel like I have anything to prove to anyone by not having given birth vaginally, but I regret not being able to have had the experience.
But we want a lot of kids (Lord-willing)...
and I want those hypothetical kids WAY more than I want the "experience" of a vaginal delivery.
At this point, the desire to have that "delivery experience" and "birthing story" seems incredibly selfish in the face of losing my ability to have more children... denying Brian more children... losing a baby... or losing my own life!
If anything happens to me, Brian would be a single-dad of a special-needs baby with a terminal genetic condition.
If I have to answer right now, the answer is no. No VBAC...
But I fully intend to do lots more research and I reserve the right to change my mind if I discover
heavier risks on the opposite side of the argument.
Are you scared?
Out of my mind...
Even though everything looks good and healthy right now, I can't help but remember how "healthy" Avonlea looked until freaking 28 weeks along! The news that everything was NOT ok at that point was a complete shock... unexpected, devastating, and completely surreal. Every time I watch Avonlea struggle with what should be easy, run-of-the-mill, daily activity, I am reminded how quickly all the joy and security can be snatched away... I feel like I have to guard myself against the potential for that same shock this time around.
I did not bond emotionally with this baby as quickly or as easily as I did with Avonlea so early on in pregnancy. I suppose the violent sickness has certainly contributed to dampening my spirits, but I also know myself... and I know exactly what I've been doing: building up a wall...
As soon as I saw that second line fade into view on the home pregnancy test, a flood of possibilities washed over me. And not the exciting kind of possibilities... Even though we had been trying to conceive, and even though I had wanted that test to be positive when I took it, the joy did not hit me without a looming sense of dread. All of a sudden, I was identifying this newly-discovered life growing inside my body, and as precious as that life was (and is), I knew it could be taken away at any moment. That realization presented the immense risk of pain: pain that, all of a sudden, I realized we are not ready for after everything that's happened over the last year and a half.
Certainly the 1st trimester is the time to be most concerned about the possibility of a miscarriage, but our scary news did not come during our first trimester with Avonlea. It came in the third! Having been a part of this new world for some time now, where we talk and interact often with people who are emotionally working through a prenatal diagnoses or journeying through life with a disabled child... it definitely puts things in perspective as far as how and when a seemingly happy, normal pregnancy can take a dreadful turn.
I don't know how to get back to that ignorantly blissful place where all my friends get to live when they are pregnant. I envy them, and I'm angry that I will never get that back. It was so wonderful while it lasted, with Avonlea... to not be one of the few "unlucky" ones... to revel in the assumption that everything is just going to be fine because bad things only happen to "other people." I don't know how not to be jaded.
I love Avonlea more than I ever expected I could love my child. You just have no idea, until you become a parent, the depths of a parent's love! Parenthood exceeds all of your expectations of both joy and difficulty.
Brian and I soak all of this in daily with Avonlea, knowing that she's not ours to keep. Someday, we will have to give her back to her Creator, and just thinking about not having her in our arms literally brings tears to our eyes every time. We can only imagine the pain in losing her someday... but we can imagine it better than the average parent, I think, because it's part of our reality.
Because that pain is so real to us, I know how badly this little baby in my belly could hurt me. Life is never assured... it is precious and fragile. And now that I know what I do of motherly love and the expectation for loss in my life, I feel as though I haven't known how to fully accept this new baby as real...
Finding out the gender last week and picking out a name has definitely helped!
Now that the baby has an identity, it's all starting to hit me. I've begun pinterest-ing and nursery-planning, registering, and we've been saying the baby's name to Avonlea often and having her rub the little belly-bump.
Even though I'm beginning to get more and more excited though, it's still hard not to put all of the "what-if's" out of my mind. It's just not the same as the beginning of my first pregnant...
...I suppose it will never be the same.
How can we pray for you?
Definitely pray that this pregnancy goes smoothly and that this baby is healthy! No abnormal number of chromosomes, no defects or disorders. Just healthy and normal! Pray against any scares or bumps along the road (with the exception of the baby-bump)!
Pray for Avonlea, that she will accept her new sibling into her life easily and that she will not act out when everything begins to change. With her special needs and developmental delays, we can't exactly explain to her what's about to happen. She's not a very social baby when it comes to other kids... she doesn't dislike other kids, but she's not impressed with them either- haha! She kind of just ignores them. We're nervous about her reaction, so prayers for her little would be appreciated.
We also ask that you pray for us, for Brian and I, that this pregnancy and this baby would continue to grow us closer in our marriage. Avonlea has strengthened our love for each other more than we ever could've imagined, but we are about to enter a stage in life where we'll essentially have 2 infants! Even though Avonlea will be 2 years old when her sibling arrives, she is currently, developmentally, at the stage of about a 5-6 month old. When most 2-year-olds become a big brother or big sister, they can walk, communicate needs verbally, hold toys all by themselves, feed themselves to an extent... Avonlea won't be able to do many of those things, if any. This new addition to our family is going to test our patience, and in turn our marriage, in all kinds of new ways! Pray that the Lord give us plenty of grace for our children, and for each other.
More posts to come as we journey through pregnancy #2 and hopefully (prayerfully) welcome Baby #2 in March!
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."
Colossians 1: 15-20