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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Our Story: The final days of pregnacy

It had been so exhausting traveling alone with a toddler three weeks out from my due date. I got home that night and collapsed into my bed. As I lay there, I could feel her flip inside me. I had an appointment scheduled with the midwife the next day, since she hadn't seen me for a month, and she confirmed that the baby was breech. I panicked.

I did not want a c-section. I wanted a completely natural birth. I had had such a wonderful experience with E, and I had been hoping to have an equally great experience with Belalu. Plus, I had E, who had been my constant companion all summer and who I was already worried was going to feel slighted when the new baby came along. He had been super clingy in the past few months and I couldn't imagine that having a baby would make that better. Not to mention, having to stay at the hospital for four days of recovery and then not being able to lift him.... I did not want, could not have, a c-section.

I went to work trying to get her to turn. I had read that sometimes babies flip for a reason, so I didn't want to do anything invasive in case she had the cord around her neck or something equally dangerous. For example, I was offered some homeopathic pills that I decided not to take (and I was forever relieved that I had made that choice, since I had so many what-ifs on my list while we were in the NICU, and this was one less thing to wonder about). I did do handstands in the pool and supported shoulder stands at home. I had done hypnobirthing with E and hadn't really trained with it as much this time, but I did order the CD for flipping the baby. I drove and hour and a half to see a chiropractor specializing in pregnant women. I did acupuncture and moxibustion. I did everything I could to get her to flip back, but nothing worked. The last option was an external version (where the Dr. physically turns the baby from the outside), but it could induce labor. J was due home five days before my due date. I really wanted him to be there for the birth, so we decided to schedule the EV on my due date. I was scheduled to go in at 10 am, and was told to be prepared to have a c-section that day if the EV didn't work.

In all these days leading up to my due date, I felt helpless. I saw a c-section looming and was petrified. I didn't want surgery. On the other hand, all this time I spent trying to flip the baby was time I could have been spending with E enjoying our summer together. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. First, this baby comes out of nowhere and now I'm going to get cut open because of her? How had I gotten to this point? What was happening??!?!? (I'm sure the pregnancy hormones and not having my husband there didn't help my mental state ;) I was angry, I was scared, I was frustrated. I felt completely and utterly helpless. It was my lowest point- those finals days before my due date. Little did I know then, it was all just making me stronger for what was to come.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Story: The Ultrasound and the rest of pregnancy

Since I had no idea how far along I was, they scheduled an ultrasound for my first appointment. I was already into my second trimester, so not only did I find out I was pregnant that week, but that I was having a girl! It was so surreal- we had been hoping for a girl, but even that news was a little muted by the overall shock of me being pregnant and having an important job interview two days later. I had essentially skipped the whole first trimester, at least in terms of the waiting game. Mid-August didn't seem all that far away.

During the ultrasound, the technician made a comment about Belalu's legs being short. No one took it any further than that. And when I mentioned this detail to Dr. Pauli last fall, he told me that it would have been too soon to detect hypo based on leg length. But the fact remains, her legs were shorter than average from the beginning. Incidentally, we didn't do any testing. It was too late for many of them, but I wouldn't have done them anyway, just as I hadn't with Essie. I was very upset that I hadn't been taking prenatal vitamins and had been taking birth control, but the nurses and midwife assured me that the baby was healthy. Luckily, I don't drink much alcohol anyway, so while I had had some while unknowingly being pregnant, it would have been a drink here and there. Nevertheless, all these factors raced around and around in my head when we got Belalu's diagnosis and the nagging question is still there: did I do something to cause this condition?- Even though I've been assured by many Dr.'s that isn't the case, I still wonder, how much do they really know about hypo and the factors that cause it?

My pregnancy was pretty uneventful. I had had gestational diabetes with my first pregnancy, but strangely enough did not have it with the second. I did travel to Argentina when I was 7 months pregnant. It was a grueling trip for work and especially hard while bringing a nursing toddler along. Later that summer J went to Spain to visit his family while I went to Maine to visit mine. He didn't want me home alone with E for a month, so I flew back home with Essie by myself three weeks before my due date. Again, more "what-if" factors for us to mull over while in the NICU.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Our Story: Discovering I was pregnant

I had wanted to have kids close in age, but 2011 was going to be a very busy year. We had three overseas trips planned and a trip to the East coast. I was going to be interviewing for a tenure-track position at the university where I had been working on a contract basis since 2005. If things had gone according to the first plan, my second child would have been born at the beginning of Summer 2011, but with the busy year ahead, the second plan was to have him/her the beginning of Summer 2012.

In December 2011, E was still nursing, but it suddenly got very uncomfortable for me. I was nauseous, but not to the point of illness. I just didn't have much of an appetite. My lower back had begun to ache. I was feeling sluggish, but we had just moved E to his own room in a crib and he wasn't taking it well, so none of us was getting much sleep. It was winter, and the cold didn't do much for my exercise motivation. I figured my back hurt because I wasn't getting enough exercise, and I also blamed the lack of exercise on my lack of appetite.

Three months later, we go to Puerto Rico during spring break. I haul out the summer clothes, and I'm dismayed to discover that they are snug. If I overindulge, my stomach is the first place I show it. I was still exhausted, but that was pretty much a common state for me those days with an active toddler, a full-time job, and a dissertation to defend. Then I almost fainted, twice. Suddenly, (yes, really, it took that long) it occurred to us that I could be pregnant. J said it first. I remember exactly where we were in Ponce, PR. I had just left the Music Museum after nearly fainting. It was hot, there was no air conditioning, I could have been dehydrated... I excused it away, but J pointed out that my back was bothering me, my stomach was looking really round, and I was constantly needing to pee. The possibility began to enter my thoughts slightly, but it was still too terrifying to acknowledge.

The first day after returning home, while J was still at work, I took out the other test from the box I had used with E and gave it a try. Positive. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't get ahold of J, who was in a meeting, so I called my sister. She was excited- I was petrified. This wasn't the plan. It couldn't happen this year. I had too much going on. I was on the mini pill and nursing. I couldn't be pregnant. I had an interview later that week for the position I had been working towards for years. I couldn't start a new job by going on maternity leave.

I called my midwife's office and explained that I thought I was pregnant, but that maybe the test had expired and I should get a new one. She asked me what made me decide to take the test, and when I told her all the "signs," she just laughed and told me I was definitely pregnant. We had to schedule an appointment right away, because I didn't know how far along I was. Though December's discomfort did enter my mind, I couldn't believe I would have made it three months without realizing I was pregnant.

In spite of all my logistical concerns, I was actually pretty happy that I was pregnant, since I had wanted my kids to be close in age. Work pressures had forced me to postpone my original plan, but apparently someone else had their own plan, and she wasn't waiting for me to feel "ready" for her. She was coming on her terms. (I have a feeling this is going to be a life-long theme with this girl ;)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our Story: Introduction

Belalu, May 2012
Around this time a year ago, we were in limbo. We were waiting for an appointment with the geneticist to see if she would diagnose Belalu with a form of dwarfism.  J was pouring over webpage after webpage, trying to determine if she had dwarfism, and if so, what kind. I was trying to stay neutral, waiting to see what a Dr. said before reacting to something that may not have even been true. He would come to me several times a day with medical terminology I had never heard before and couldn't wrap my head around "lordosis" "foramen magnum" "skeletal dysplasia"... My head spun with it all. Then there was the diagnosis. And I began writing here, to sort out my thoughts. However, I never did get around to talking about the year and a half before that: my pregnancy and her first months. I kept meaning to, but just never did. So, now, on the one-year anniversary of learning that Belalu has hydrochondroplasia, I want to do just that. I'll post by stages. I remember first entering the LP world and soaking up every bit of info I could find that could give me some insight into my daughter's condition, so I'm hoping that parents in a similar situation may find this helpful or interesting in some way.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Today Belalu's size finally hit me. Her friends are all different ages and sizes, so I never really saw before how small she is for her age. Some friends of ours have a daughter who just turned one recently. They have an older daughter, and when Belalu was born, they gave us a bunch of clothes for her to wear, and then I was going to pass them back for the second daughter after she was born. Now, the second daughter is passing on her clothes to Belalu. They are almost a year apart and are the same size or in the case of pants, Belalu is far smaller than the other child. Most of her pants are size 6-12 right now, but she also still wears some 6 or 9 month ones, and those are the ones that best fit her leg length.   
As an introvert, I like to observe. I don't like to draw attention to myself, especially if I'm out in public or in a group setting. I get very nervous and ineloquent when everyone listens to something I'm saying and stumble around saying whatever comes into my head. I then spend the rest of the day/night rewording in my head everything I said. So, as it becomes more and more apparent to the random observer that Belalu is different, the more nervous I get about confrontations, difficult conversations, a litany of questions; when all I want is for me and my family to go about our business unnoticed. I know I will need to set an example for my children, and I'm really afraid that I'll think of the perfect response or thing to say... five hours after the fact. I don't know how to prepare myself for what's coming, because I don't know what it will be. And it'll likely be when I least expect it. I try to tell myself that humor and equanimity are the best traits to cultivate. So, I'm working on starting there.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Speed Demon

This girl has no fear.

We were at another family's house this evening for dinner, and Belalu found a tricycle in the garage. Her feet could almost reach the pedals, but she had to strain her whole body forward to get there, which would cause the bike to tip over. She didn't care. She kept climbing back on, falling over, getting up, and doing it all over again. No tears, no frustration, just determination and tenacity.

She has also discovered the joy of riding her brother's balance bike. She makes "brrrrmmm, brrrmmm" noises the whole time. He'll be getting a pedal bike for his birthday, which means we'll be able to lower the seat on this one once he figures out the other. I'm not sure it will be low enough for her to reach, but it'll be close.

Look at that face. No fear, I tell you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hey there

Making it through the week. Balancing final exams, grading, gorgeous weather, some fun social nights, and of course, the kiddos. So happy spring finally decided to make an appearance!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Good morning! I'm in the middle of a glorious, near-impossible feat. A quiet cup of tea and some Internet surfing for inspiring spring sewing projects. Everyone else is asleep. This never happens. So, while I wait for the snow to melt and savor this rare treat, I wish you a happy, warm spring weekend.

(In her book Elevate the Everyday, Tracey Clark reminds us mothers to not forget ourselves as we document our kids' lives. I'm very guilty of getting lost behind the camera, so I've made a pact with myself to look for ways to incorporate my presence more in our day-to-day photos. )

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy May!

This is a picture from exactly one year ago today. Hard to believe, since we woke up to snow today. E said "Mama, it's not supposed to be snowing. It's Spring." Don't I know it. Classes were canceled at the local school, but not at the university. It's my last day of teaching this semester. So, very soon I'll be posting Belalu's stats from her 18 month check ups. Give me a day or two.

I did take advantage of the beautiful weekend, though, to get a jump-start on my lawn and garden, so I'm feeling better than my last post.