Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Valley

These past several weeks have been the hardest of my life. The amount of pain and sorrow I feel continue to take my breath away. The sadness is so deep people can't even imagine. It is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. 

Olivia. Cancer. 

I could blame it all on God. Point the finger and demand a reason why. Despite the desire to accuse God of this sorrow, despite my heart aching in pain and anger, my soul screams that that is not the God I know. 

The God I know is loving. The God I know is good. The God I know does not take away babies or give people illness. He is a comforter, a protector, and healer. He cries with me, as he knows the pain of losing a child too. 

Living in this world we are told that pain and sorrow will touch our lives. Not if, but when. 

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.
Isaiah 43:2-4

We all have our own storms. Unfaithful spouses, infertility, loss, disease. But what do you do when that storm comes? Do you rely on yourself, trying to outrun the rain or keep your head above water? Or do you draw close to God, who has a big 'ole umbrella to protect you?

Olivia. Cancer. This is my storm. This is my pain. This is the valley that I will walk through. 

And I am hunkered down next to God, trying to squeeze as closely to Him as possible. Holding on by a thread, scared of what may happen if I let go. Knowing the only thing that keeps me going each day is hope in Him. Hope that He isn't done with me yet. Hope in knowing I'll be with my sweet Olivia one day, forever. 

I'll remember the suffering that your LOVE put you through,
And I will walk through the valley, if you want me to. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Keeping you posted

I will be going in for surgery to remove my thyroid on Tuesday, February 25th. Myself and the doctors wanted to remove the cancer as soon as possible, so soon after I delivered Olivia we scheduled the thyroidectomy. 

The pre-op appointment was this past Wednesday and I was told that the cancer had advanced to stage 2; the tumor has grown in size and they suspect it has spread to some surrounding lymph nodes.

This doesn't change the prognosis or treatment plan. The likelihood of beating this is still near 98% and I will receive the anticipated radioactive iodine treatment in the near future. 

The specific prayers we need:
*The surgery goes flawlessly, without complications. 
*The biopsied lymph nodes come back negatived for cancer.
* That recovery is quick and easy.
*For me to have peace and confidence in God. For me to feel his closeness and protection. 

Thank you for continuing to think of us and love us through it all. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014


It may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that is not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'd never go alone...

11 days ago we kissed and said goodbye to Olivia. It seems like yesterday, and an eternity ago. The hurt and pain continue to be paralyzing. My days are consumed with mindless activities to keep me busy, interrupted by bursts of sobbing and screaming silence.

How strange is it that the world continues to move. People go to work, have birthday parties, complain about the weather, and keep living their lives. But of course they would. Why wouldn't they continue to live?

They live on Planet Earth. I live on Planet I Lost My Child.

Me, and a handful of people, are the ones whose worlds have turned upside down. In a split second my life went from perfect, to a nightmare. From a happy family of three, to the empty arms of a Mom and Dad.

I feel stuck.

I'm not the same person I was 12 days ago. Yet I can't go back to who I was before Olivia. I am changed. I grieve for Olivia and the life we were suppose to have with her.  I don't know how to live in this new normal.

I cry out to God asking for comfort. I yell at Him and ask Him why. At times I feel Him and hear him so clearly. Other times I feel so alone.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit.

Oh how my heart is broken and my spirit is crushed.

Please continue to pray for me and Josh. That we continue to survive each moment, hour, and day.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sweet Olivia's birth

My sweet Olivia. Her birth story is actually the complete opposite of what I thought. Who cares about natural versus epidural versus cesarean as long as you got a baby in the end, right? But I didn't get my baby.

While this post may be painful to read and the pictures may be difficult to see, this isn't for you. I think I need this to help the healing and grief. And so I won't forget a single detail of the last hours spent with my perfect little girl.

It all started with my weekly 38 week appointment on Tuesday, February 4. I was actually 37 weeks and 3 days. I felt surprisingly good. I had experienced sharp low abdomen pains and pelvic pressure the day before, but the doctor said that was to be expected. We had received a bit of freezing rain that morning and more was anticipated. Even though Josh had been up all night with a stomach bug, he drove me to the appointment. We agreed that he could just stay in the car, as he didn't want to get sick in the waiting room. Since it was just a weekly appointment, all they were going to do was check to see if I had progressed, measure my belly, listen to her heart beat and send me on my way.

I walked into the clinic and was informed that they were not opening due to weather until 10am (my appointment was at 8:00). I told them we could reschedule, then a nurse walked up and said Dr. Scott Bailey, a doctor I had met previously but wasn't scheduled to see that day, was there to see anyone who happened to show up. Dr. Bailey ended up being a blessing from God; a man who has an amazing gift of comfort and love.

I waited for a bit, then they called me back. I had gained an additional 2 pounds, making my total weight gain 22 pounds and my blood pressure with 110/62. Right on track. Dr. Bailey walked into my room and greeted me with a smile. I thanked him for seeing me, despite the bad weather. He asked how I was feeling that week and if there were any problems. I, of course, said everything was going fine. He then asked about my thyroid nodule and felt around my throat, saying he knows I'm worried about it but that I am in good hands with the doctors at UAMS. He then measured my belly, but I don't remember him saying the measurements. He then grabbed his Doppler to find her heart beat. He went straight to the spot where we could always hear it. And, silence.

He moved the Doppler around a bit, searching and searching but couldn't pick anything up. I knew something was wrong because, from our very first visit, her heartbeat was always strong and easy to find. He then took me into the next room to do an ultrasound. I could tell he was trying to ease my panic by being calm and confident. I told myself "Josh is going to be so jealous that I got to see her on the ultrasound!" but I also had a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

On the ultrasound screen I easily saw her round head then chest and abdomen. Dr. Bailey scanned back and forth, but within a few seconds that pit grew overwhelming larger. I broke the silence, saying "I don't see much movement." Dr. Bailey replied, "Neither do I sweetheart." He then went to point out her heart, indicating no beat or movement. It was so quiet and still in that room.

He hugged me and then left me alone to send a nurse to go find Josh. I sat there with my hands over my face in utter shock. No tears. Just complete disbelief. Questions raced through my mind: When did I last feel her? What could have happened? What did I do? Wasn't she completely fine less than a week ago?

Josh walked into the room and I could tell he had been sleeping soundly in the car. He had wrinkled sleep spots on his face where he had his hand pressed against it. His expression was one of shock and fear. I had to utter the words, "She has no heartbeat."

Dr. Bailey then moved us to another room where we held each other and sobbed. Deep, sorrowful weeping. The doctor sat down with us, hugged us, and said comforting words. He suspected a knot or tangle in the umbilical cord, stating it happens maybe 1 in 1000 pregnancies. So rare.

And when we were ready, he then gently talked us through the steps of how I would go through with delivery and how recovery would be. He prescribed me a pill which would thin my cervix and start contractions. He told us we could stay at the hospital, or go home and wait. We opted for the latter.

We got home and stood in the kitchen, holding each other and sobbing some more. My mom, dad, and step dad were already on their way. At 10am I took my first pill; I was to take a half dose every 6 hours and if nothing happened by the next morning I could start taking them whole. Until my family arrived, Josh and I sat in silence. For hours it was so quiet. We kept stating the same things over and over: I can't believe it. I just want to feel her kick. This is unfair. I am so mad. How could she be taken away now?

My mom and stepdad finally arrived. More silence. More crying. More holding.

The whole day we just waited, filling our time with mindless tasks. Puzzles. Baking bread. Watching House of Cards. The word was spread to family and friends, and prayers and messages came pouring in. I took another half pill at 4. Then another at 9:30. Josh and I laid down around 10 to close our eyes.

At 11:30 I woke up with low abdomen cramps happening every 4 minutes or so. When I got up, I knew my water had broken. I woke up Josh asking him to get my mom and that we needed to go to the hospital. I took my time taking a shower and packing my bag. We arrived at the ER around 1am. Then made it to a room by 2. I was complete effaced but only dilated 1.5cm.

It took a while, but I finally got an epidural. While I originally planned to go drug free, this was far from the original plan. All I really wanted was to sleep through the whole ordeal. Once the medicine kicked in, I was able to do just that. I feel asleep around 4 am, with Josh right beside me. At 7:30am my sweet nurses Shannon and Anita checked me and said I was completely dilated; that I was ready to have my baby. Josh quickly called my parents who had returned to our house to sleep, thinking it would take at least 5 hours or so to dilate. Luckily the hospital is less than 10 minutes from our house. The staff began prepping me and by the time I was ready to push my mom was walking through the door.

The whole time the room was eerily quiet. Just Anita encouraging me when to push and telling me I was doing it perfectly. I remember trying to use all the techniques I had learned in my pregnancy fitness classes. To breath. To engage certain muscles.

I couldn't feel a thing.

After about 40 minutes, the doctor came in. I pushed a few more times. Sweet Olivia was born asleep at 9 am on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. The cord was tight around her neck. Something that happens so often, yet is rarely fatal.

Josh and I got to love, hold, kiss, dance, and sing to our precious baby girl for 8.5 hours. We dressed her in a sweet sleep gown and cap. And because of a wonderful organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, we were able to take priceless photos of time spent with our angel.

Around 5:30 Josh and I kissed and said goodbye to Olivia, painfully handing her over to our amazing nurses. I don't quite remember leaving the hospital. Between the pain medicine and the overwhelming sorrow I don't remember much after kissing Olivia. I know I got home, crawled into bed, and Josh and I cried ourselves to sleep.

Looking at these pictures give me peace and prove that she was real. That she was our precious little girl, that I am a mommy, and that she was perfect in every way.

I love you Olivia. I my heart aches to hold you and kiss you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Week 37: Full term baby!

Baby Girl is full term and can come out any time now.

I'm feeling surprisingly great this week. I attribute that to my consistent level of activity every day. In my previous update I mentioned I had joined a prenatal fitness group and many people asked for more details. The program is through Terra Tots, a local, natural parenting store in Northwest Arkansas. Seriously, this place is amazing and the instructors rock. To the pre-prego Alex these fitness classes may seem "mild", but now at 37 weeks they very much kick my booty.

I've been pretty busy this week. First off, the nursery is finally complete. I plan to finally share pictures later this week. It's simple and calming- just what I was going for. Even though she will be staying in our bedroom for the first several months, I didn't feel like we were ready for her to be here until the nursery was done. I can't wait to share it with you guys!

Also this week I began freezing meals to make it a tad easier when Baby gets here. So far I have vegetable beef stew (thanks to my mom's amazing friend), chili, and chicken taco soup. I should probably freeze a few casseroles and such so there is more of a variety- although I could probably eat soup for a month and not be sick of it!

I even had a prenatal massage on Thursday. She focused on my hips and lower back- spots that apparently spread and ache this late in pregnancy. I have another appointment on the 10th, but I wish I could afford to do it every week until she gets here. Good thing Josh is willing to rub me down.

And just for giggles, here is a comparison of me at 12 weeks. It seems so strange to see me without a belly; I almost forgot what non-pregnant Alex looks like!

Baby size: While the average size is 20inches and 6.5 pounds, my doctor doesn't think she is that big. They are thinking she is still less that 6 pounds.

Total weight gain: 20 pounds. I haven't gained a pound since the last doctor's appointment- apparently that can be normal. I'll take it.

Doctor updates: We are now going to the doctor every week. This past doctor's appointment (at 36wks4days) I was 50% effaced and slightly dilated. Also, my iron and Strep B tests came back normal. Yay! I had never heard about Strep B before I got pregnant and for some reason I was really nervous about the results. Apparently it is a bacteria that the mom can have which is dangerous to the baby during childbirth. The solution is just a simple IV antibiotic during labor but luckily I won't need it. Whew.

Symptoms: Strangely I haven't been hungry at night. It could be a combination of the "full" feeling from reflux or the fact that I'm just ready for bed, but a small bowl of cereal is all I really want. And guys, I pee like every 30 minutes- it is so annoying.