Today our little Matty is a week old! Perhaps to be expected with a newborn, life has been a little chaotic here in our household. We’ve been to the hospital every morning this week for blood work to resolve jaundice, juggling round-the-clock feedings and indulging in those few minutes of sleep that’s been afforded. We’re all adjusting to new roles and figuring out our place in this world based on the changing family dynamic.
As for Will, he’s settling comfortably into his role of doting big brother. He’s a super helper to me. Each day, he chooses Matty’s outfit, fetches clean diapers and tosses the dirty ones — of course, he draws the line at wet diapers!
He’s made quite a few humorous musings and observations in the time since his brother arrived, and I wanted to share the few that I’ve been awake enough to remember:
1. “Look, he has feet!” — As my friend Laura said when I shared this with her, “Yeah, they come with those.”
2. With regard to breastfeeding: “You know, Mommy … you’re sort of like a cow.” Indeed. Moo.
3. “When’s Matthew going to be big enough to play with me? Because, he’s sort of boring right now.”
4. Picking up a disposable nursing pad: “What’s this, a mask?”
and, my personal favorite:
5. On my post-pregnancy shape: “Your belly’s still big like when you were pregnant. Are you sure there’s not another baby in there?”
Out of the mouth of babes, my friends. He’s lucky he’s so cute.
“Matty” arrived on Friday, February 21, at 10:27 a.m. coming in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces and 20.5 inches long.
We decided on his name soon after we discovered I was pregnant. We wanted something that would convey what a miracle he is and Matthew means “Gift of God.” His middle name, Isaac, means “Laughter” and, let’s face it: We sure could use some of that in our life! The name is also significant because Isaac was the long-awaited son of Abraham and Sarah in the Bible who struggled for years with infertility.
My first words to this sweet, lovable, dream-come-true of a boy (through sobs of joy and relief) were simply, “Hi, buddy.”
We made it.
We’re in the home stretch. Quite literally. Our little boy will be born this Friday, unless he decides to come sooner.
It’s hard to believe that after many months of what has admittedly been a complicated and difficult pregnancy to endure, he will be here. I’m elated and impatient all at the same time. Mostly, I’m just ready to meet him. I can’t really imagine what our life is going to look like once he’s here and a part of it. I’ve dreamed about him for so long and I’ve even seen his little face on more ultrasound monitors than I can count … but I still can’t imagine it.
One of my midwives let me know several months ago that due to my “advanced maternal age” (blah and whatever) there was a deadline of 39 weeks for his arrival. When she told me that, I was still getting weekly progesterone shots and was in the midst of bed rest and experiencing early contractions. I never imagined that I’d make it to 39 weeks. But, here we are. 39 weeks along in 4 days.
I have felt conflicted about his arrival plans. On the one hand, I’ve been rooting for him to stay in utero as long as possible. After our son Will was born premature, I became involved with the March of Dimes, and I know from their research that 39 weeks is ideal for fetal development. On the other hand, I’ve been so miserable here toward the end of the pregnancy and have had so many false alarms over the past three weeks that I’m just ready for him to arrive! Ever wanted to know what 8 POUNDS of fluid looks like when retained in your calves/ankles/feet? Well, you’ll have to keep wondering, because there’s no way I’m showing you!
Ever since I started wishing for a second baby, I have idealized what the birth would look like. The nature of Will’s birth was so unplanned, haphazard and not the way I wished for. I was kind of hoping for a “do-over” with this labor and delivery. You know, the stereotypical “Honey, it’s time!” … water breaks, head to the hospital, short labor and delivery, they hand me the baby, whom I get to keep with me this time instead of having him whisked away to the NICU like they did with Will, and all is right in my world full of unicorns, puppies and rainbows.
Well. Real life doesn’t work that way. Our life is anything but “typical.” We have some serious concerns and issues when it comes to my labor and delivery. One that has nothing to do with the baby or the pregnancy, but certainly has an effect on it: Garnet takes a sleeping pill and his chemo every night. If he sleeps through the night, all is well with the world. If he is woken up, he risks getting very nauseous and/or violently ill. First of all, I hate to think of him being unable to enjoy or be truly present at the birth of his son. Second, we’re not even sure how lucid he would be to drive me to the hospital in the middle of the night.
We have plenty of family/friends/neighbors who are on standby to help us out if this situation were to present itself. But, that being said, having a more managed, planned birth has gradually become more appealing to us. It probably wouldn’t have been our choice six years ago or even six months ago. But, this is our life now, and that’s all we have to work with. There is some comfort in knowing when we are supposed to arrive at the hospital to deliver our son rather than leaving it all to chance. That said, we’re still open to his arrival whenever, trusting that when the time comes and however he makes his entry into the world, it will be his moment and it will be right.
I expect you likely won’t hear from me again until I have delivered. In the meantime, please enjoy the following photo sent to me by my friend, Erica. (The belly is NOT mine, for the record … but I echo the sentiment!)
P.S. I expect that you’ll have this song stuck in your head for the rest of the day!
Since bunches of us are buried under the snow, I thought I’d take the opportunity to update you on the baby and brain situations. Presuming, of course, that you still have the essentials. No, not bread, milk and tp. Electricity and internet access/wi-fi, naturally.
First, Garnet’s MRI. This was his first scan since discovering the return of his cancer and starting back on chemo. The results were stable. The size of the new tumor has not changed. As Martha Stewart and Garnet’s neuro-oncologist would both say, that’s “a good thing.” I know, I know. I really do get how “stable” could be interpreted as less than ideal. But, since this is not our first time at the races, I have learned that in the bizarro-world of cancer, sometimes no change is equivalent to good. Remission, of course, would be better. But, stable is still good. We’ll take stable.
His doctor says that his tumor is slow-growing. Therefore, it will also be slow to respond to treatment. We are mostly pleased that the tumor did NOT a) grow any larger in spite of him being on chemo or, b) get “angry” and respond uncontrollably to the chemo, growing exponentially (we have experience with this second scenario). Slow, steady response is much preferable in many ways. It’s the pace we experienced during Garnet’s first go-round with this disease. It takes a lot of patience, an ironclad will and a bucketload of faith to believe that slow and steady wins the race. But, we saw it work with round 1, so we’re hanging onto the same hope for round 2.
Now, the baby. He is so grounded when he gets here! Before Garnet left for his MRI and neuro-oncology appointment, I joked with him that I’d do my best to keep the baby in so that I wouldn’t have to call him and say, “Hey, when you’re done with your appointments, come directly to the hospital and meet your new son!” Needless to say, Garnet was a tad (read: TON) panicked and less than amused when I had to call and tell him I was on my way to Labor & Delivery.
While Garnet was 80 miles away inside an MRI tube, I was at my high-risk doc appointment, another 30+ miles away from home. Separated from my husband by more than a hundred miles, the baby and I “failed” my weekly ultrasound testing. (It’s called a Biophysical Profile/BPP, if you care to know.) The finding could have suggested that the baby was experiencing some sort of distress, so they promptly sent me to our hospital … roughly 25 miles away. *Sigh* I’m exhausted just retelling this story.
The bottom line? The baby is fine. I was monitored at the hospital for an hour and sent home. I personally think that the failure of the test had more to do with the fact that I had to sit in the doctor’s waiting room for 2-hours and was therefore STARVING when the test was performed (babies seem to respond better when the mother has recently eaten … which would have been the case if I didn’t have to wait for TWO. BLESSED. HOURS). Have I mentioned that I’m so ready have this baby?! 38 weeks tomorrow, folks. Who’da thunk it?
So, there you have it. The life and times of the baby and the brain. I am very grateful for the positive initial report we received regarding Garnet’s treatment. And, until we dig out from this snowy nonsense, I’m crossing my fingers (and my legs) that this little boy hangs out just a little longer.
Stay warm, friends.
The big day could arrive at any time now. Whoa. That’s crazy!
In between naps and nesting, I’ve been satisfying a few late pregnancy cravings. For example, Sweet Frog frozen yogurt. Nectar of the gods, I tell you. My one consistent craving during this pregnancy and my pregnancy with Will was veggie subs. I’m not a vegetarian, so I can’t explain it. I just know that it’s the most delicious thing in the world to me right now. (Tied with frozen yogurt, of course.)
While packing up the baby’s bag for the hospital, I can’t get over how wee the newborn outfits are! It’s hard to imagine that we’ll soon be face-to-face with this small person who regularly kicks and jabs my ribcage. What’s even stranger for me to fathom is that many of these outfits once belonged to his brother, Will. Odder still, Will didn’t wear most of these newborn duds until he was around 3-months-old. It’s going to be quite a novelty for us to have a “normal” size baby this time!
In the meantime, the weather this winter has been enough to make anyone bonkers, but it’s especially making this mama a little extra batty. Apparently, Snowpocalypse 2014 is waiting to descend on us Wednesday night into Thursday. For a gal who has now regular bouts of contractions and all kinds of fun, painful twinges, it’s about enough to make me camp out in the hospital parking lot (or, run back to Sweet Frog for culinary consolation). I have visions of giving birth in my bathroom or on the side of the highway because we’re unable to make it to the hospital on time. I’m literally willing this child to remain in utero until we are clear of bad weather. Here’s to hoping he’s more obedient than his big brother.
Well, folks … we made it to 36 weeks.
You’ll have to excuse me for not jumping up and down. (First of all, not even remotely physically possible.) Don’t get me wrong: I’m beyond the valley of grateful. It’s not lost on me what a miracle it is to have made it this far when we’ve had more than our share of scares and complications along the way. Not to mention that by the time our new little boy arrives, it will be nearly 4 years since we started trying for him. Miracle. But, if you happen to run into me in person, you won’t be able to help but notice the giant fork sticking out of me. In other words, I’m done.
About two and a half weeks ago, an ultrasound revealed that this baby is, in medical terms, “ginormous.” He was already nearly 6 pounds at that point. The sonographer said that if I go to my due date, he could weigh 9 pounds. He also has a head the size of Texas. Seriously. Though his gestational age was only 34 weeks at the time of the sonogram, his noggin was measuring as that of a full-term infant. Have mercy. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Any woman who experiences the last few weeks of pregnancy will tell you that they can be pretty torturous. If not, she’s a lying liar who lies. I’m experiencing all the normal pains of late pregnancy: my feet look like Fred Flinstone’s, bad things happen when I sneeze, and I ”sleep” sitting up because the heartburn is so bad that I often wake up choking on stomach acid. Good times.
Then, there’s the false labor. I have experienced two bouts of it. Last Tuesday afternoon for about 3 hours. I didn’t get too worked up about that episode, because if you recall, I’ve been having contractions since about 16 weeks into this pregnancy. But, I will admit that I felt pretty defeated after Saturday. Seven hours of contractions, 3-6 minutes apart growing stronger and more uncomfortable and then … nothing. They just stopped. That’s about enough to make a girl want to drop some choice four-letter words.
I know that this too shall pass. In a few weeks, this physical discomfort will be over and a new family member will be occupying our days (and nights). But, I will admit that I’ve had an equally hard time during this pregnancy with emotional discomfort.
While the pregnancy has felt very real, the idea of it producing an actual baby, a new little person capable of bringing immeasurable joy, has felt and still feels very abstract and unreal to me. I’m not sure I’ll really believe it until I’m holding that little baby in my arms. Even then, you may have to pinch me a few times.
I have wondered if I would be looking forward to the birth of our son with more enthusiasm if cancer hadn’t come knocking on our door again. Much of the time, my emotions are very centered on how Garnet is doing and feeling. When I can’t sleep at night, which is most of the time, I often think about what the future holds for my best friend, husband and father of this new little baby. During the times over the past four years when I allowed myself to hope for another child, I never imagined it would happen when Garnet was fighting for his life again.
He’s in the midst of his second 30-day cycle of chemo right now. Overall, he’s been doing very well. Better than either of us could have expected, really. But, I think I’m still pretty scarred from our first go-round with cancer. I have had a very hard time controlling the pain I have felt deep down in my soul since we got the news that Garnet has a new brain tumor. It has been hard not to let it cloud the joy of this new life I’m carrying.
Garnet and I discussed this subject at length the other night. I told him how I have felt robbed of the bliss that one should feel during this time, especially considering the long-awaited nature of this pregnancy. How I have resented the timing of everything in our lives. How I have wrestled with my faith these last few months. So much feels out of control right now. I shared how it broke my heart when my son asked me the other day, “Mommy, are you going to smile today?” We agreed that we both need to do a better job of finding happiness in the midst of this upside-down season of life. (Easier said than done, of course.) We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our little boys.
Next week, Garnet goes in for his first MRI since being back on chemo. That scan will tell us what, if any, effect the drugs have had on his tumor. When I consider the gravity of it all … the new baby who could arrive any day now and everything that’s riding on the results of this upcoming test … I can scarcely breathe.
But, much like labor, breathing is exactly what’s required right now. Breathing through the fear and pain. It doesn’t mean the agony is absent, but it does make it bearable … if only for a brief moment at a time.
I will keep you updated on both the baby and the brain as I’m able. Until then, I’ll be the one over here saying one thing over and over to myself: Breathe.
Well, hello there, 34 weeks! So good to see you! :)
It’s worth mentioning that this is the most pregnant I have ever been. Nearly six years ago, we had a newborn in the NICU by this point. My water broke, I spent 5 days in the hospital on some terrible drugs that stopped my labor (the dreaded “Mag” … or, Magnesium Sulfate … brutal, brutal, brutal), and received a series of steroid shots to rapidly mature the baby’s lungs prior to delivery. The good news is that the medical intervention worked. Our Will arrived at 33 weeks weighing in at a whopping 4 pounds and change. He was a strong little scrapper, never needing oxygen or a feeding tube and staging a jail break from the NICU after just 10 days. We were truly blessed.
When I was admitted to the hospital with pre-term contractions five weeks ago, I received the same series of steroid shots to get this little boy’s lungs in fighting shape … just in case. Even though we know he’d likely do okay if he were born at this point, we’re still not interested in seeing him for several more weeks. (No offense, buddy.) For now, we’re just relishing the fact that every day past 33 weeks is a victory. Onward!
I have written a lot over the last year or so with regard to the subject of infertility. Today, I want to point you in the general direction of my husband’s blog where he has written a poignant post about the issue from a male perspective. One thing our experience showed me is that men and women don’t necessarily process through the emotions of infertility in the same manner. His post shows a unique kind of vulnerability and offers a viewpoint that is somewhat different from my own.
Infertility is a really important subject within the cancer community as the disease affects millions of people both before and during their childbearing years. Some forms of cancer treatment do not impact fertility, but very often they do. When Garnet was first diagnosed with cancer, his medical team at the National Institutes of Health briefly mentioned to us the possibility of banking his sperm. But, frankly, at that point we were reeling from his sudden brain cancer diagnosis and were more concerned with saving his life than his swimmers.
Later, we were told that the particular kind of oral chemo he was taking would not necessarily compromise his future ability to father a child. But, subsequent fertility testing would prove otherwise. And, that was compounded by my own bleak fertility test results. Together, our chances of conceiving a child without medical intervention were slim to none. Even with medical intervention, they were pretty bad. Our fertility clinic offers a program in which you pay a lump sum for the opportunity to have multiple IVF attempts and if they fail, you get your money back. The best way I can describe the dire nature of our fertility situation is to say that we did not qualify for that program. In other words, our numbers were so bad that we weren’t worth the gamble; the risk of losing money on us was too great.
All of this is to reinforce the point of what a miracle this pregnancy is. The fact that we got pregnant on our own after three years of trying, cancer, chemo, radiation and failed fertility treatments still boggles my mind.
And, I guess I’m sharing all this for one other reason: If you’re walking this very, very hard road right now, I want to encourage you to hang onto hope. It may be small. Heck, it may be undetectable. I know it’s much easier said from this side of the fence than when you’re smack dab in the midst of the mud and mire. But, me and Garnet are living proof – correction: this little boy in my belly is living proof – that hope can emerge from the darkest of circumstances, the lowest of numbers and the worst of medical predictions. That’s not to say that I know how the journey will turn out for you or anyone else. But, when life is at its most unkind, sometimes I think it’s important just to know … you’re not alone.
I am officially 32 weeks along as of the end of last week! That means … drumroll, please … we’ve reached our first milestone! When I was in the hospital having unexplained pre-term contractions at 29 weeks, the doctor encouraged us to set bi-weekly goals for the remainder of the pregnancy. The first was to reach 32 weeks so that if our little boy were to be born early, he could stay at our local hospital. I sure hope we won’t have to see the inside of the NICU this time around, but we’re awfully grateful to have reached our initial goal.
My contractions have scaled back and I’m otherwise doing so well that both my regular OB practice and my high-risk doc gave me the green light to ease up on the bed rest. Wahoo! Party time, excellent! (Hey, it’s pretty exciting stuff when you can go downstairs and make a sandwich for yourself. Just sayin’…)
Next stop: 34 weeks!