Friday, December 2, 2016

Happy December + Bennett is 35 Weeks Corrected!

**Please note: I wrote this post on 12/1/16, but now that it's after midnight, it's going to show it was published a day later.**

I can't believe that my little boy is 35 weeks old corrected today (meaning that if he were still in my belly, I'd be 35 weeks pregnant; but as you know, he came 10 weeks ago and we're still 5 weeks from our due date). I am so thankful to finally be in December because, LORD WILLING, we will be bringing Bennett home sometime this month. Finally. The doctors are hopeful that he'll be home by Christmas, however no one can truly say. They think he'll need another good 4 weeks in the NICU, and Christmas is 3 weeks away, so who knows. My heart is telling me that it may be just a little bit after Christmas; maybe we can aim to have Bennett home by New Years Eve. Ultimately, Bennett has to work really hard to figure out how to breathe on his own and eat on his own. More on that in a minute.
Look, I totally get it: people have had *way* longer stays in the NICU than we've had, or are projected to have. Sixty-nine days down, and _(?)_ days to go. But I don't think you can really compare baby to baby; our journey is unique to Bennett Jimmie. There isn't another Bennett. Speaking of comparing, until today, I was 100% oblivious to other babies nearby. I hadn't even given those other precious souls a thought. Somehow, something shifted in me; maybe the monotony of it all. My tunnel vision wasn't as tight and I began to see the larger picture around me.

How is it possible that people can come and go so gosh darn quickly in the NICU while we're still hanging tight? I mean, there was literally one baby at the bedside next to us, then they were gone. The very next day the same thing happened. I was so confused. Did I miss something?

Reality set in and I came to the understanding that my baby boy has a different purpose than their baby. And their baby has a different purpose than the cutie clear across the room. There really is no comparison. The Lord is going to use each baby in the NICU for His glory and I just have to take a sip of that realization without letting the jealousy take over. Yes, I said it. Jealousy. I was feeling jealous and even started crying right there on the spot in my Kangaroo chair while holding Bennett.

It was weird to be hit with jealousy all of a sudden because I wasn't expecting to feel that way. Maybe it was the loud, full-term-sounding baby cry that set me off. Or the fact that I'm running on 4 hours of sleep (rather, "naps") per night and am irritable. Or maybe it's because the enemy knows I'm an easy target. Either way, I felt jealous for the first time in 69 days. No one could've prepared me for the plethora of emotions I would feel while being a NICU mama.

And you know what else I wasn't prepared for? How hard feeding would be. Complete honesty here: I just assumed breathing would be the hardest thing for Bennett. And while he's not 100% on his own, he's very slowly learning more each day. Feeding, on the other hand, is a struggle. Apparently it's all very normal, but I get a little discouraged. The feeding isn't all on him; it's on me too. I have to learn his cues.

It's all very sad that he has to work double just to do something most full-term babies know quite well. When we had Kensington, the thought of, "will she know how to eat" never occurred to me. And for Bennett, he is trying SO hard, and the question of, "will he learn how to eat today?" crosses my mind.

One thing that I've realized is that I am getting to see the beauty in two sides to nearly everything about our kids. One kid was an (obviously medicated) c-section while the other was an unmedicated natural delivery. One kid was born 4 days early, and the other was born 4 months early. One kid was formula fed, and the other kid was breastfed. I could go on and on. I guess the point that I'm making is that I have perspective. A new perspective that I certainly couldn't have understood until this point.

I have good days and bad days (still). Honestly, most days are good days; really good days because of the MIRACULOUS progress Bennett has made. But other days are harder and I resort to buying a cake for my Pity Party of 1. Not literally, but you get the point.

Here's where I'm at: we're on our last lap but I was tired like 3 laps ago. Essentially, I am tired of 1) asking for help, 2) driving 2 hours per day, and 3) worrying sick about my baby boy continually. I need, now more than ever, for others to be patient, supportive and encouraging. Oh and I need others not to expect too much of me right now, because they will be highly disappointed. I am being very selfish with my time, and I'm not willing to give any extra 5 minutes away.

Last thing: you can see by my public Facebook posts & photos of Bennett how happy I've been lately; his progress makes it easy to be happy and hopeful. However, the reality is that I'm not always "good". Please don't take this blog post as a complaint or being a Debbie Downer, because that's not what it is. This blog post is just to show that my emotions fluctuate often (according to my OB and other medical professionals that I've talked to, what I'm describing is very normal for being in our situation), but I'm still holding tight to the promise that Christ gave me.

And now, this guy, because CUTE.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In The Very Middle

*Fair warning: this post may include TMI for some readers. Read at your own discretion.*

It is such a strange thing; the two different lives that I have. One life in the walls of our newly built home, and one life with monitors, dinging, and the typical hospital smell.

The most difficult part has been doing "normal" activities without Bennett. Like going to Kensington's music class. Or Ross, Kensie and I going grocery shopping. Or Kensie and I having lunch with daddy at work. It feels so wrong. Parents shouldn't be without their child. Leaving the hospital each time doesn't get any easier.

I suppose that being a NICU mom wasn't enough hospital time for my body, because I will be spending more time there here in the near future.

Oh geez. Where to begin? Let's just say that my body is being super dramatic in the most strange ways.

First, right after Bennett was born, I got my flu shot. Seems harmless right? I've gotten the flu shot every year, not to mention, being an IVF mama, I've taken my fair share of injections. It's no big deal. But this time was different. The moment the pharmacist stuck the needle in my arm, I knew. I knew that he butchered it so badly and I would be paying the price. It felt wrong immediately.

Fast forward to one month later (which was approx. 2 weeks ago), I scheduled an appointment to meet with my PCP about the unbearable pain. He sent me home with arm/shoulder exercises to do and if there was no improvement two weeks later (now), then we'd go forward with more aggressive steps. Well, I just learned that he wants to do an ultrasound on my arm, possibly an MRI, and physical therapy too.

Unbelievable. Over a flu shot. I couldn't be more irritated that I put my trust in someone (the terrible pharmacist) who knew absolutely nothing about what they were doing.

As if my arm pain wasn't bad enough (it's miserable), my body decided why not add a D&C to the mix? That's right, I will be getting a D&C this Friday. This procedure is typically for patients who are going through a miscarriage and need assistance in getting all of the remnants out of the uterus. Mind you: I just had my baby boy 8 weeks ago. There was no miscarriage inside my uterus. However, my body thinks otherwise. After delivering baby boy 8 weeks ago, some things got left behind. That turned into bleeding which got worse by the day. Over the last week, it's scary how much blood loss I've had. I'll spare you the details.

Lesson learned: I still don't the control that my Type A personality wishes I did.

The part that makes this story still have a happy ending is the truly miraculous progress that my baby boy has been making. Despite feeling like my body is "broken", I look at baby Bennett and realize how miraculous my body really is. I carried a perfectly healthy baby boy for 25 weeks and now-a-days, he is learning and growing before my very eyes.

As of this Friday (the same day of my D&C), we will be 7 weeks away from our official due date and Bennett just has to learn to breathe and eat all on his own, plus be at least 4lbs - which we are almost to! I can hardly believe that I am in the VERY MIDDLE of surviving a storm that I didn't even know I could walk through. Honestly. It feels very surreal to know that I'm smack dab in the middle of it.

It's not lost upon me the magnitude of that statement.

Until 6 months ago, we were in a one of those phases of life where everything was just peachy keen. I knew based on scripture and my past trials that there would eventually come a day, though, when life wasn't so easy. Alas here we are. And we will get through it by your prayers and God's mercy.

If anything, my prayer life has been strengthened. And my thanksgiving has been strengthened. Some days, I will literally hang over Bennett's bed and repeat, "thank you Lord" over, and over, and over, and over again. It's an emotion in my heart, that is so deep, I have no other way to express it except by giving thanks to the God who grew Bennett into the viable baby who is now thriving.

And boy, is my guy handsome or what?
As of last night, Bennett was 1681g (3lbs 11.2oz), in the 20's for his oxygen need, got his feeding tube moved to his nose so we could breast/bottle feed, and has been managing his body temperature like a pro in his cute little crib! What a joy it is to be Bennett's mama.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Bennett's Birth Story

Seems so wild to think that just a week after I wrote this blog post, I would be delivering our baby BOY! Yes, we were totally surprised by so many aspects of his September birth, but the fact that it was a boy gave the day a dose of joy in the midst of a lot of fear surrounding his early arrival. Today's blog post is my baby boy's birth story, plus a few other things that should be noted about my pregnancy/his birth! I am elated to share all of this with y'all.

I wrote this blog post in a specific order; you may be confused if you skip around. Also, this has a lot of TMI that some may find uncomfortable to read. Furthermore, there is a lot of text here. Please forgive the spelling and grammar mishaps.

There were a lot of tears shed while writing this post, so thank you for letting me share a piece of my soul with you.

My prayer before getting pregnancy with Baby #2
The prayer that I had for our second baby was pretty simple: I wanted him or her to have a story to share with the world; a testimony. I even have blogging proof that I wanted this really early on (much before we conceived Bennett). Go here & read the last paragraph.

TLDR? Here's what I wrote word-for-word. "My prayer about our second child is that God would give him or her a story, much like a story that He has given to Ross, Kensie, and I. Whatever which way we add a second child to our home, I want that." Who knew that 9 months later, my prayer would be answered?

I listen to a lot of Matt Chandler podcasts and one thing he says a lot is that things rarely work out how we think they will. So true. When I prayed the prayer about our second baby having a story, I would have never in a million years picture it to look like what our reality is. I thought that when I was praying that prayer, maybe 1) I would get pregnant naturally, or maybe 2) We would have twins, or maybe 3) something completely different; but I DID NOT think a premature baby could be something in our future.

There's no choice at this point, other than for me to cling to what I prayed for and trust that the Lord will be doing something miraculous through Bennett's story.

His name
During my pregnancy, we decided on names very early on. I even had two monogrammed outfits made - one for a boy & one for a girl. We were not planning to find out the gender of the baby until their birth day. And for the record, we are keeping the little girl's outfit *just in case* God decides to throw us a curve ball so I will not be sharing her name. Anyways, we didn't share either names with the public (only close friends & family knew both names) because we wanted to make our second pregnancy special in multiple ways. We decided on the name Bennett Jimmie Skinner for a boy.

One day during our pregnancy, I told Ross that I had heard the name Bennett and that if we had a boy, I liked the sound of it. Oddly, when I told him that, he said that he had heard that name for the first time that very same day. To make matters more interesting, a few days later we went to Walgreens on the way to a birthday party for a last minute gift. Lo and behold, outside of the Walgreens entry doors was a sign that said Bennett. It was a construction company's sign; the construction company is Bennett Construction. You can google it if you want to see for yourself that it is a local company in our area.

Later, when I was googling what Bennett meant, turns out that the meaning is, "blessed." That could not be more true. After we had our first pregnancy (which was completely easy and problem-free), we had no idea if we would have any more pregnancies. Thankfully, when we learned we were pregnant for a second time, we wanted the name to be meaningful - which is exactly why we love Bennett's name so much.

As for Bennett's middle name, we wanted the first born baby boy in our family (if we did have a boy, which obviously we did) to have a family name. We felt like Jimmie (Hubby's dad's name) would be the perfect middle name for our son and a way to honor Bennett's paternal granddad.

Bennett's pregnancy
As with our first pregnancy, we used IVF to conceive Bennett. You can read this post if you want to know more of the background details to getting pregnant with our baby boy.

With IVF pregnancies, you essentially have to take several hormones to trick your body into thinking that you've ovulated. The hormone protocol that I was on was to take birth control, estrace, lupron, and progesterone. The main hormone to sustain the pregnancy (which also is necessary before the placenta really takes over) is progesterone. Progesterone is taken as an intermuscular injection. I took progesterone through week 14 with Kensington, but with Bennett's pregnancy, I took it until 16 weeks because the doctor forgot to tell me to wean sooner. You can't just quit progesterone cold turkey (well you could, but it's not advised) so I just stayed on it a hair longer. I see now, how important those extra two weeks of progesterone were, even though it wasn't obvious at the time to my doctor or myself.

Towards the beginning of my pregnancy (around 8.5 weeks), I was told by my OB that I had a "blood spot" in my uterus. At first, the doctor made it seem like that's where the other baby was (the other embryo which did not take - we had implanted two embryos to get pregnant with Bennett), but we later came to know this "spot" as a subchorionic hematoma (SCH). To this day, I still don't exactly know how the SCH got there. My doc wasn't super concerned at the time. Those type of things typically resolve on their own.

On Thursday, July 21st, I took my last progesterone injection. I was excited to say goodbye to progesterone because the injection is rather painful after taking it for months & months. I actually think I have some nerve damage near the injection sites even as I write this; my bum is totally numb in areas.

By Saturday the 23rd, roughly 48 hours after my last injection, I started having brown discharge. Brown isn't necessarily a bad thing because it means that it is old blood. Red is much worse of a problem to have. I made the assumption that my body was just confused because I had been on hormones since February; I was scared and upset, but I still felt like everything was fine. The discharge really only lasted that day. The next day (Sunday), things seemed back to normal.

On Monday the 25th, I had discharge again in the same color, but I wasn't as content about it this time. I scheduled an appointment with my OB. On Wednesday, July 27, I saw my doctor and he said that I had marginal placenta previa. I was to be on pevlic rest (a modified bed rest) until further notice. Placenta Previa is when the placenta is covering all or part of the cervix (meaning that you wouldn't be able to push a baby out). The issue usually resolves on it's own, especially if caught early. However, one effect of the placenta previa is bleeding. My doctor attributed my discharge to the placenta previa.

I don't exactly remember the date that I started having bright red bleeding, but it was definitely within a week or two of my initial brown discharge. Each doctor that I saw attributed it to either the SCH or the marginal placenta previa. One doctor even said that I had minor bleeding outside of my cervix but they didn't know what the cause of that was.

So essentially, I bled from 16 weeks onward (and obviously it's still happening since I just had a baby). TMI... I warned you.

At the last anatomy scan that I had on September 14 (roughly a month after the bright red bleeding began), the doctor, who is different than my OB, said that my SCH had completely resolved and that my placenta was completely out of the way.

I immediately sent my primary OB doctor an email and asked him why I was still bleeding. He said that, "there is now a blood clot (hematoma) that is present." There was no way I could possibly have been more confused at this point. One doctor said everything was resolved and my doctor was implying a new clot was present. I felt misunderstood, sad, mad, confused and unheard. Around the time of my anatomy scan on September 14th, I also started to have blood clots come out. Both my mom and my MIL are nurses, so I would send them pictures and we all felt a bit confused. I didn't have any answers as to what was happening.

A few days later, we unexpectedly began the laboring process.

Sunday, September 18
Ross & I were staying at a hotel in a little ole town outside of Dallas/Ft. Worth for a friends wedding. The wedding was on Saturday September 17, and we ended up leaving the wedding around 9pm because 1) Kensington was tired and 2) I felt "off". I knew I needed to rest.

After wrestling with discomfort for the few hours we were in the hotel room, I finally got the courage to text my mom at 2:09am some of the scariest words ever: "I'm scared that I'm having contractions." Before I woke Ross up, I needed to know what my mom thought I should do. Moms are like that; you always need them for advice or encouragement.

The conversation with mom went from, "we're going to drive back home to get to hospital there" to "we will be heading to the closest hospital possible." I woke Ross. I knew what was happening. By 2:45am, we were minutes away from a small hospital in Cleburne, TX. I was terrified and in a lot of pain.

When we got checked into our room at Labor & Delivery around 3am, I was immediately put on monitors to track contractions and to check on baby's heartbeat, and I was also checked to see if I had dilated. The look on the nurse's face said it all. Not only was I having contractions fairly close together, but I had indeed already started to dilate. I was dilated to a "loose" 1.

At this point, I am 24 weeks & 3 days pregnant. I'm at a hospital that cannot deliver babies so premature. The doctor advised the nurses to start an IV on me for magnesium and to give me the steroids to help develop the baby's lungs. For the steroids to be successful, they are given intramuscularly 12 hours apart from each other. I also had a catheter put in, and I've decided that I've had way too many of those for only being 29 years old. The plan was to remain on magnesium for 24 hours so that I could get both doses of the steroids.

I had heard the horror stories about magnesium before. I knew that I wasn't going to like it. But I also knew I had to do whatever was best for my baby. Magnesium is said to calm the contractions, but it is also supposed to help give the baby some added protection in the event that they were born prematurely. My first experience with magnesium was absolutely not a pleasant one, but from my perspective, I only had to do it for 24 hours so I had time on my side. (But seriously, a loading dose of magnesium was horrible. Absolutely horrible.)

The doctor did advise that if contractions didn't slow, we would be flight lifted to a Ft. Worth hospital for delivery.

Monday, September 19
Sometime on Monday morning, around 9:30am, I got the catheter taken out and the magnesium drip stopped. I remained on the monitors to ensure that the contractions had calmed down and that our baby was happy. Our goal for the day was that my contractions would hold off long enough for us to drive home.

Praise the Lord, we were discharged around noon and allowed to head home. My contractions never fully stopped but they had slowed down quite a bit. I emailed my primary OB doctor and he said to remain on bed rest until I see him the following week. He also advised that if contractions started to pick up again, I needed to head straight to the hospital about 45 minutes away from our house since they had a great NICU & my primary hospital didn't have the same capabilities.

We were home by 3:15pm from Cleburne, TX and I immediately took a shower and rested on the couch and bed for the remainder of the night. I (think) that I believed this baby was going to hold off until I was full term, assuming I stayed on bed rest... but I also was worrying continually about "what if."

Tuesday, September 20
It was 2:30am (not even 12 hours since we had been home) and the very last thing that I wanted was to wake my husband up again and tell him that I was contracting. So what did I do? I went and talked to my mother-in-law (who was staying the night with us, since she had watched Kensington while we were in the Cleburne hospital). I had just passed a clot; I told her that I wasn't sure if I was contracting again. I didn't know what the right thing was to do. See how important moms & mother-in-laws are?

By 3am, I was waking my husband up and telling him that we needed to go to the hospital 45 minutes away. I was definitely contracting again.

We were in the triage room by 4am at the hospital and my contractions were extremely painful. I was breathing through them the best way I knew how. I was crying. I was not prepared for this. When they checked me, I was still dilated to a 1, but my contractions were fairly close together. I also started to have an increase in blood clots.

The doctors kept saying that they needed my body to "declare" preterm labor. Within a couple of hours, I knew in my heart what was happening. I went from being 1cm dilated to 3cm dilated. I think the doctors finally realized I needed some assistance.

They moved me into a labor & delivery room, started the magnesium drip again, and an antibiotic drip for Group B Strep to protect the baby in case I delivered (they only did this as a precaution; they didn't know at the time that I was immune). This second experience with magnesium was more painful than the first. For whatever reason, my IV burned so badly. Still, I knew what was necessary to protect the baby.

It should also be noted that from my stay in Cleburne to my stay in the hospital near our house, I was rarely allowed to eat. For several days, I would only be allowed to eat ice chips. I had never been so hungry in my life!

Wednesday, September 21
Not a very exciting day, as I remained on magnesium and antibiotics.

Thursday, September 22
I don't remember the exact time, but in the early morning, I was eventually taken off the magnesium and antibiotics to give my body a break and to see what was going to happen. Like I mentioned before, the magnesium slows things down as much as possible. That being said, I never once stopped contracting. I was in a lot of pain for several days of contractions, but I remember feeling much more comfortable by this time.

The doctors suggested moving me to an antepartum room around 10am where I'd be more comfortable. The bed was amazing, I got to eat a real meal, and I had a lot of hope for our second baby to hold off. I even let my mom and hubby have a break from hospital life and I spent some alone time in my room, just relaxing (no TV, phone or reading... I just relaxed as best as I could).

Unfortunately, by1:30pm a lot changed in the short period that I was in the antepartum room. Contractions picked up. By 3pm, the doctors suggested getting back on magnesium. When they said this, I completely broke down.

I don't know if I can put into words exactly what I was feeling but the best way I could put it was that I felt depressed, hopeless, and scared. The word magnesium push me over the top. I vividly remember thinking, "is it my time to meet Jesus?" I cry now just thinking about it. The magnesium was such a horrible experience that I dreaded it. It messed with me mentally and physically. Mentally while on mag, I was thinking horrible thoughts. I was thinking selfish thoughts (although I wouldn't have said that at the time). I was in an extremely bad place. In 29 years of life, I don't remember feeling so low. And as I write this, I'm crying because as broken as I was, I now have to live with the fact that I was extremely selfish during a time when my baby needed me to fight more for him or her. I had 100% given up.

If I'm being transparent, the things that were said in that antepartum room are things that I never would've imagined saying before. I said things out loud like, "I'm done being pregnant." And, "I do not want to get back on magnesium again." And "I'm the patient here too - not just the baby!"


And now I live with that.

I would have never guessed that someone like me who was desperate enough for babies to pursue IVF (costing us more than $15,000) would go so far as to say things like that. When I say that I was depressed and hopeless, I meant it.

The doctor, my mom, and Ross all convinced me that I had to do what was best for the baby, even though it wasn't what I wanted. I reluctantly got back on the magnesium drip. By 6:15pm, I went from being 3cm dilated to 5cm dilated, and the baby was engaged. Doctors and nurses moved me from the antepartum room back into a labor & delivery room.

That night, my mom and Ross knew how depressed I was. Not to mention, I hadn't gotten to see my daughter very much at all, and that was hard on me. I felt like I was failing in so many ways, including not being there for Kensington. Around Kensington's bedtime, I got a little piece of happiness when my baby girl got to come see me at the hospital.
In this picture, I was completely broken, but happy enough to take a picture with Kensington. My right arm is being held up by my chest because the magnesium drip was so painful; I couldn't move my hand. It is also the last picture that I took while still pregnant with Bennett. It's the three of us in the picture, one last time before I would be birthing our son (but I didn't know it then).

Friday, September 23 - Bennett's Birthday
Around 8:45am, the doctors were making their rounds and I knew I wanted off the magnesium, so I asked them. They agreed that we would get off the mag and see what happened next. In my heart, I knew. I absolutely knew what was coming. I selfishly didn't care. My thought was: this baby is going to come soon, and by me getting off magnesium, I will give my body the opportunity to progress further. Women can absolutely increase in contractions while on magnesium enough to have a baby, but in general, the magnesium does slow things down.

By 9:45am I was off the mag. I ate some food and relaxed.

Not even 4 hours later, an intense back pain started out of nowhere. Back labor. It was 1:30pm and I told the nurse. She wasn't buying that it was back labor and gave me tylenol. She did hook me up to the monitors though, so we could make sure baby was okay, and to keep track of my contractions.

My mom and Ross immediately said that we needed to start magnesium again. I wouldn't listen to it. I did, however, compromise and I asked the nurse to check my dilation and do an ultrasound to make sure the baby was still head down.

Around 3:30pm, I was dilated to about a 6 and the baby was confirmed to be head down. Because of this, we decided I needed to get back on the magnesium. This time, I was compliant. I knew the baby was coming soon. Our NICU doctors explained that it's very important to be on magnesium while birthing a premature baby because it contributes to their health in a few different ways.

The contractions continued to get worse and worse. I kept asking for an epidural but the doctors told me that wasn't going to be doable since they were worried about me bleeding out. Mind you, I had been bleeding since 16 weeks pregnant. According to doctors, my levels were not well enough to qualify for an epidural.

The only thing I knew to do was breathe through the pain as best as I could. The fear and tears took over. I had never been so scared in my life. Not only to have a natural birth, but also because I was hours away from having a baby that shouldn't (in my mind) be coming this early in the pregnancy.

From this point forward, I don't remember too much. My mom, dad, and Ross are all in the room and their concern is all I kept hearing, but the doctors weren't paying too much attention it felt.

Around 5pm, I was between 7-8cm dilated. Then by 5:45, I was between 8-9cm dilated. Doctors started to prep for delivery.

The next thing I remember is the doctors asking me to scoot to the end of the bed. There also had to be at least 10 people in the room. The delivery was imminent and our baby was going to need assistance, so we had several people from the NICU team, plus many other doctors/nurses.

Being a premature baby, 8-9cm dilated is enough room to get the baby out. The only thing I really remember is having my eyes wired shut and 3 unmedicated pushes. Between each push, I did not think another push would be possible. I was absolutely terrified and in so much pain. I was shaking and felt every emotion that you can think of.

The baby was born at 25 weeks & 1 day. Someone said, "it's a boy" and I cried. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't believe it. I had a son. Bennett Jimmie Skinner was born at 6:08 via VBAC, weighing 2lbs even at 11.25 inches. I never got to see him or touch him while he was in the labor & delivery room; he was immediately prepared and rushed to the NICU.
I do remember delivering my placenta. That's when we got our answer. The answer that I desperately wished the doctors could've told me during my pregnancy. Placenta Abruption. Albeit minor, this was the cause of the bleeding and preterm labor.

I met my son an hour or two later in the NICU department. I don't really remember the first meeting because I was crying so much. Nothing could have prepared me for the pain that I would feel. I wish I could write this and tell you that I felt joyful seeing him for the first time, but the truth is that the NICU terrified me, his small frail body made me feel like a failure, and every selfish thought that I had while laboring for 6 days straight made me feel so much shame.

Those emotions... I still carry them. I don't want to. I know the biblical answer is that I was never meant to carry burdens like shame and guilt. But I still carry them anyways. I am extremely flawed.

Instead of asking God to remove those burdens off me (which feels selfish in & of itself), I focus my entire being on asking God to heal Bennett. Daily, I ask Jesus to please make Bennett comfortable, please keep him safe, please let him never feel alone, and Lord please heal him.

Lord knows that if there were any way, I would take it all back. I would, at the very least, ask that God would give me the pain that Bennett feels while he's in the NICU. I want to take it all away from him and have him well. While I was selfishly complaining and crying in the hospital, my mom and Ross kept saying that if they could take on the pain themselves (from my experience with magnesium), they would. But I knew that wasn't possible. And although I know it's not possible, I would ask that God would give me all of Bennett's pain and take it away from him.

Having Bennett has completely humbled me in ways that I didn't even know were necessary. In his life thus far, he has given me a new perspective. God knows that I have a lot of work ahead of me. I feel fragile, unpredictable with my emotions, and completely ill equipped to proceed forward. But I have to for Bennett. I owe him everything.

Loving Bennett as been one of the most rewarding but scariest things that I've ever felt. I've come to see, that despite my flaws, guilt, and shame, that Bennett encompasses what joy looks like. There aren't enough words in the English dictionary for me to accurately say how much I love him. I keep saying him that "I love him so deep" because I don't even know what else to say. I don't think that life would be worth living without having had him. The Lord knew, far before I did, how much I needed a son. God knew that I would love him deeper than any other person could, so He gave Bennett to me. I am indebted to Jesus for giving Ross, Kensington and I the sweetest baby boy on earth.

As emotional as I've been lately, I also couldn't possibly feel more blessed by this 2 pound baby boy. This moment right here. It will be in my memory forever. I'm crying again because there's absolutely no words for how special it was to hold my baby boy for the first time today.

Random facts about Bennett's birth & pregnancy
1) Although I didn't know it during my pregnancy, I was being prepared for Bennett's eventual early delivery in two different ways: feelings of peace and a glimpse of what NICU life looks like.

From the very first doctor appointment with my OB and each appointment onward, I always blurted out, "I have a peace over this pregnancy." Never once did I understand why, in the moment, that I was saying those words since I truly never had anything to worry about (especially at the beginning of the pregnancy) until the bleeding started. But the Lord put those words on my tongue to proclaim and I said it, almost in a robotic fashion during each OB appointment.

Another way that I was being prepared, although I also never understood (or really noticed), was during my pregnancy, I was always drawn to stories of babies who were born early. On my personal Facebook page, before Bennett was born, I shared this Stand for Life story and this sweet video. I was touched enough by both of them to share them with my Facebook friends. Weeks after sharing both, we are now in a situation very similar to both stories!

2) God gave me a vision that has not actually come to fruition how I imagined, but I'm believing it means something. Around the time that my bleeding started, I remember always seeing an image in my head of Kensington holding an average size baby on a hospital couch. I assumed this meant that our baby would go to their due date, but I now see that it can mean something completely different - like maybe it's a promise from God that he has made Kensington a big sister even if it looks differently than I expected. Or maybe it means something else! I am not going to worry about the tiny details, but rather focus on that vision which God gave me.

3) A pretty neat fact about our family is that each of us (Ross, me, Kensington, & now Bennett) were all born on Fridays. Too neat not to share :)

4) On 9/23/14, two embryos were put into my body (1 of which later grew big and strong to become Kensington). Well, exactly two years after that happened, our second baby (Bennett) was born! Who knew that September 23rd could have such a special meaning for us. I would have NEVER imagined having two babies so close in age - but it's what I always wanted for as long as I could remember.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Baby Number Two: 24 Weeks

Oh hi!

I always had this idea that being a SAHM and blogging full time would be THE.LIFE., but it turns out that toddlers are go, go, go 24/7. And when they're not going, neither am I. I consider Kensington's scheduled nap time, a nap time for myself too. The perks of growing a baby while raising a toddler. For the record though, my doctor has me on a modified bed rest. So there's that... I'm basically granted a free nap each day, without judgement from anyone.

A few housekeeping things first.

These days, e-mail is essentially nonexistent to me. My apologies. There's this weird thing where I barely have enough time to online shop and blog, and let's just say replying to emails is lower on the list than those two, so I just don't do it anymore. One of these days.

That being said, though, I do read every single comment! Your comments, encouragements, and questions are always something I look forward to. If you're the type that likes a reply, I suggest commenting on here still if you feel so inclined, because I love those, but also visiting my Instagram account and leaving some love on there. I check Insta often (@MrsSouthernMama)!

Now onto today's blog post, because that's why we're all here.

We are totally thanking Jesus for getting us to 24 weeks with Baby #2. Here are a few stats and pictures. Enjoy!

How far along: 24 weeks & 2 days.

Baby Size: Two pounds.

Gender: Your guess is as good as mine. We're waiting until baby's debut in December. My gut is telling me that we're having a girl though. I would bet money. Daddy thinks it's a boy. I would ask Kensie Grace what she thinks, but I'm pretty sure her response will simply be, "baby." That's her favorite word.

Movement: Yep, I've been feeling baby for QUITE some time. I hear with second (and so forth) pregnancies, you can feel things much quicker, and that was definitely the case for me.

Best moment this week: We had an ultrasound yesterday and it was so great seeing our little Mr. or Miss. again. Best moment from that appointment was hearing that my amniotic fluid is at a normal range. When I was pregnant with Kensington, I did struggle a little bit with my eating habits to ensure I didn't develop polyhydramnios - which luckily, I never did. I always had a "normal, but high" level wth her. A few weeks ago, at Baby #2's anatomy scan, they said I did officially have polyhydramnios, but that it has already improved into the normal range with my improved eating as of yesterday. 

Looking forward to: December, baby's birth month! "Technically", baby is due at the very beginning of January, but since we'll likely have a scheduled c-section, they're going to do it at 39 weeks. Plus, um, hello... tax deduction for 2016 if this kid comes before January 1.

What I miss: Not feeling so bloated. Oh gracious, I forgot how hard that part of pregnancy is. But I'm not complaining, because pregnancy is MY JAM.

Feeling/Symptoms: Gaining more weight with this pregnancy than I had planned or expected, but I'm not allowed to exercise, so I guess that's to be expected. I'm feeling like a ball of lard. So far, (praise God) no swollen ankles! I got swollen pretty early in my pregnancy with Kens.

Nursery: So whoops, we're not having a nursery for baby #2. Logic: we co-sleep and love having baby close by, so they will be with us for at least the 1st year. Sometime down the line, we'll worry about a big kid room. In a perfect world, all my kids would sleep in the same room with us for the first few years. Welcome to the thought process of a mom who spent years trying to get pregnant. Not taking it for granted one bit.

Wedding rings on or off? Still on, but! Confession: after I realized I didn't lose baby weight from Kensington as quickly as I had wanted, I went ahead and had my rings sized up. 

Daddy-isms: Daddy felt baby #2 kick pretty early on and talks about how crazy his life is going to be if we have a girl, instead of his guess of a boy. It's so fun to envision how our life will look with two kids come December.

Prayer: Jesus, my healer, thank you so much for this sweet baby. Thank you for this pregnancy and every day that you allow me to grow this little miracle further. Please remind me daily that you are close to me when I'm fearful or nervous about the future. I pray for a full term pregnancy and a healthy delivery for both baby #2 and I. Lord, I pray that you would shine through this new life for years and years to come. Jesus, I pray that this child will change the world in big ways in your name. Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Thoughts on C-Sections

This right here.
I'll explain.

A perfect stranger said something to me well over a month ago, and it's been sitting in my brain drawer filed under, "annoying." (Side note: I've always envisioned that inside my brain, I have little file drawers and sometimes when I'm trying to recall something, I have to mentally look through each drawer just to find what I'm thinking of. It's actually kind of weird, I know). The gal meant no harm, and in fact probably had the most encouraging of intentions. But I couldn't help but feel annoyed by her comment - albeit, I could just be hormonal. I'm sure you're wondering what she said:

"God wouldn't do that to you."

We were talking about our kids (what mom's on the playground do) and she asked when I was due with #2. As uncomplicated of a question as this is, I always have a lengthy explanation for "December" because it's all dependent on 1) if we have a c-section, 2) if I go into labor on my own before the scheduled c/s, and 3) how big the baby is. Oh yea. That last one. That's where this whole conversation got wonky.

Us moms like to hear birth stories (at least I do). I love hearing how has a unique entrance into the world. Call me silly, but it's one of my favorite things (next to looking at wedding pictures - again... one of my favorite things!). So anyways, I gave her my way-too-lengthy of an answer of when baby #2 is supposed to be coming into the world and we started talking about our birth stories.

She proceeded to ask why I had a c-section and my answer didn't sit well with her. My answer is actually very straight forward: "I pushed for two hours until the doctor realized that my baby was too big for my pelvic bone." And for the record, I believed my doctor 100%. I don't think he was leading me on, or pressuring me into surgery. I knew good & well that Kensington was bound to be a larger baby (I can thank my 9lb 15oz born husband) so the possibility that she was too big was not out of reach. After explaining this to the mom on the playground (so cliché lolz), without hesitation she said that God wouldn't do that to me. As in, apparently God wouldn't make a baby too big for my pelvic bone - according to her.

Quite frankly, God knew much sooner before I did how much I would come to appreciate my scar. SEE: I did not appreciate the recovery from the c-section but I sincerely and honestly am so proud of my scar. God designed me and I'm pretty sure he didn't "accidentally" give me a baby that was too big for my pelvic bone. God knew exactly what he was doing on June 5, 2015 when I was in labor.

Back when I planned the details of becoming a mother - when I'd have children and how they'd come into this world, the plan that I created in my head ended up looking a lot different than my actual reality. But what I didn't know during my "planning" phase as 23 years old is that God actually had much more in store for me. More than I could've wished for, prayed for, or even imagined. I would absolutely not want anything different for my life - not WHEN I'd have kids, nor HOW they'd come into this world.

Which is the whole reason I have such a peace over baby #2's eventual delivery. I literally have no plan. It'll either be c-section or VBAC and I am 100% content with how God decides this baby will be born.

The mom on the playground knew nothing of my story; how we got pregnant twice now, and my faith in Jesus. I totally don't hold the comment against her, but I do think she was naive to say what she did. I forgot to mention that she herself had a c-section too, but I didn't bother to analyze why she had one. The whole point of this blog post (I think) is to say that there's nothing wrong with having a c-section, and you may in fact come to realize the goodness that can come from seeing the very visible scar which your baby was born out of.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

An Indefinite Change

Sometimes I feel misunderstood. Or maybe it's just that I am really different from some people, but they assume that I'm just like them. I'm not really sure. Either way, during year one of motherhood, I heard two common phrases that quite frankly began to annoy me. These two phrases came from the moms who may be just a hair different than I am (but maybe they thought that I would relate to these phrases).

-"Motherhood can be so lonely..."
-"I'm sure you enjoy your alone time at work"

I know this is going to be uncomfortable for some people to read, but I can NOT relate to either of these things. (Honestly, don't even get me started on the first point).

You see, I was extremely (!!!) blessed to earn a little income AND also stay home full time with the baby for the first year. For those who don't know, I quit my full time job when Kensington was born and started working evenings part time (Monday thru Thursday from 5-10pm). I even opted out of my maternity leave because I didn't want to pass up the job opportunity! Me working part time was our compromise. I saw myself doing that for quite a while, because it provided me the balance that I wanted: my own contribution to the family income + raising our kid. 

Now, a year later, the time has come for us to close one chapter of that book and take on a new adventure. I am positively thrilled to say that tomorrow is my last day of working part time, and I will be staying home full time with Kensington. What a strange concept to not work AT ALL for an indefinite amount of time. One year? Five years? I have no idea. But I feel like I'm just following in the footsteps that God has outlined, plus Ross & I have talked EXTENSIVELY about me not working - so this is not a new subject in the Skinner household.

Me, being a legit, not-working-an-ounce, person allows a few things: 1) it lets me excel where I feel most confident and useful (at least in this season of my life), 2) it will hopefully allow for a more active pregnancy #2 since during my pregnancy with Kensie I had a 8-5 desk job which lead to a lot of swelling issues, and 3) it will give us more quality family time. 

As my work schedule was (see above), I really only got to spend time with Ross late at night and on weekends. I am so thrilled that we're going to have more family time. Plus, we can join another small group together. When I took my part time job, we had to leave the small group at church that we were apart of and I ended up joining a separate morning time small group.

The reason I mentioned those two phrases at the beginning of this post is because I literally feel the opposite about them than some other people may - which is fine - and it completely relates to this subject about being a stay-at-home-mom. Here's why I feel the way I do: 1) By having a child, I actually never feel alone. I know that what I do (mom-ing) matters and I take great pride and joy in doing it daily. I feel like I have a real purpose, and that includes staying home with her to teach her and experience all of the first's. 2) I HATE being away from my family. Even on the stressful, hard, exhausting days. I simply don't enjoy my alone time; I want to be with Kensie Grace and Ross. (Disclaimer: That's just how I am. That's how God programmed Allison Skinner. If you can't really relate to where I'm coming from, there's nothing wrong with you - or me - we're just wired differently!)

There won't be a huge change in mine and Kensington's daily routine since I already stay home with her full time during the day, but I am confident that having my evenings spent at home (all together, just the four of us - hi baby #2) will allow our fam the balance that we want.

I am so thankful for God's provision and giving me the opportunity to spend even more time with my little girl and my hubby. I think it's really special that God has such a unique plan for each and every family (there's no right or wrong; good or bad plan) and this blog post is simply to share how God has orchestrated little details in our lives. He cares about the details in each person's life and this change in our situation is just another reflection of that. (Seriously from the day Kens was born, God has really shown his presence in our family life. For example: he gave Ross a pretty nice promotion the same week Kensington was born! That's not just a coincidence.)

I feel so much excitement in knowing that I get to spend more time with my family, but I'm also super sad. For one: I get attached to people very easily. I really really like being around my colleagues. Saying, "good-bye" is awkwardly hard for me. I cried earlier just thinking about my departure (oh and I also cried earlier reading an Instagram post, so I think it's pretty apparent that I'm an emotional basket case). Second: the uncertainty of me not bringing any income to the family is a strange feeling too.

I am confident this is the right decision for us but I've always struggled with change.

To end this post, I am just going to say that being a stay-at-home-mom is not always easy. I feel like I'm having to get creative constantly to entertain the baby and still get stuff done around the house. BUT, it has been the biggest blessing that comes along with having a child, and I find that it's full of so much joy and happiness. I really love spending each waking moment with her. One of my favorite (unfortunately unproductive) things to do is to watch Kensie Grace nap. I mean...
p.s. homegirl loves fleece blankies.
p.p.s. seeing these pictures made me hungry to eat her thighs. BRB.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How Baby #2 Was Made

I have gotten several (to put it mildly) text messages and Facebook messages of people inquiring as to if we used IVF to get pregnant this time, and ... well ... spoiler alert: God created baby #2.

I'm sure you want more details, you inquisitive people, so read on because we are ridiculously proud to share our story! I may just cry because I am so excited about this journey!

Backstory: When Kensington was born, I had an internal struggle that I never told anyone about. Essentially, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby, but I also really, really... really... wanted my period back immediately. (Hear me out). Your period CAN come back quickly even if you breastfeed, but it's likely to be delayed. My thought process was this: I want my period back more than I want to breastfeed because there's nothing wrong with formula feeding my baby. 

I was producing good, quality milk for a couple weeks, but eventually the diuretic I was on (to decrease the my swelling) made my production decrease, and I knew that was my "sign" to go with formula. I literally have had no shame in formula feeding, unlike what I read on blogs/Facebook groups about other moms feeling guilty. No guilt here! My baby is extremely healthy (a serious chunker) and smart as all get out.

Long story short: my period did come back almost immediately (happy dance) and we went on with life. I would not say that we were officially trying to conceive. Not to mention, it's highly recommended to have 18 months between deliveries, especially with a c-section. That being said, we also were not preventing a potential pregnancy from happening. I was proudly on zero birth control.

Fast forward eight months and my period was late. I took a few pregnancy tests even though I didn't feel pregnant. I just wanted to rule it out. They were negative. I was not discouraged, even though I kept thinking how nice it would be to conceive naturally. 

I decided to check in with my RE (reproductive endocrinologist) to see if he could figure out why my period was late, yet I had negative tests. Of course, the day of my appointment, February 24, my period came. Go figure. (I just need to point out that God orchestrated all of these things so that I would go to the doctor on that specific day. How cool!)

But, hey, since we were in the presence of the man who helped us get pregnant the first time, we inquired about how much a FET (frozen embryo transfer) would cost. As Ross likes to say, "He is a good sales man." We were not intending to start this process until a couple months later (hi, God!!!), but the timing felt right. A few hours later, I started hormones (that's how determined we were once we made the decision). We knew we wanted to have our kids close in age, God willing, and this was the right step for us.

Because I'm an open book, this is what the price looks like for a FET. Mind you, it's dramatically cheaper than doing IVF because the embryos have already been formed.
  • FET cost (includes appointments, ultrasounds, dethawing embryos, transferring embryos, etc): $2,200
  • Initial medications (birth control, estrace, lupron, progesterone): $564.72
  • Refill of medications; $574.32 to date; however we're expected to need more before weening off the meds. We'll probably have to spend at least $300 more.
  • TOTAL: $3,339.04 (to date) + future refills = A lot of money
Honestly, the only reason that I'm bothering to write those numbers out is because (if I'm being honest), there's a little "earthly" piece of me that gets mad that I cannot just do the FUN and FREE thing that happens between a husband and a wife to conceive a baby. Instead, we drag ourselves into debt before we even toy around with the idea of getting pregnant. *BUT* I know that I was meant for much more than simplicity. God is using me, and I am thankful for that!

I also wanted to put the numbers out there to say: when you want something bad enough, you find a way to make it work. Ross and I are by no means loaded. We have a lot of student debt because we both have our master's degrees and I used financial aid for 99.9% of it. But if there's one thing in this world that is worth millions of dollars, it's becoming a mama. 

Also, I put those numbers out there because I want my girlfriends struggling with fertility to know that although I'm on the "other side", I still feel the hurt and pain from it like you do and I KNOW how it feels. I don't want to be spending money that could be better suited elsewhere to do what should come simply. But ultimately, I know that God is the only healer for the saddness, the financial stress, and the hurt. The good news is that there will be a day when you no longer hurt over this season and on top of that, if "fertility struggles" (the phrase I use instead of infertility) is your path, God will provide a way for you. God provided us money to have these babies. We owe Him everything!

Numbers aside, we knew we were doing this thing and we were crazy excited. We decided to keep it very confidential (only because we wanted to experience the joy that every "normal" couple gets when announcing a pregnancy). I told three girlfriends from church and 1 fellow IVF friend. Here's a little look at our timeline:
  • February 24: Began birth control (this is required of any patient that ever does IVF, just for your information)
  • March 21: Began injections
  • April 19: Transfer date
  • April 24: BFP (big fat positive on 5 days past our 5 day transfer)
  • May 3: Beta test confirmed pregnancy
  • May 24: First ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat (yes, when you're a fertility patient at my hospital, you get to experience the joys of waiting 3 flipping weeks for an ultrasound after they've confirmed your pregnancy. It's torture!)
When we announced our pregnancy on May 24, we wanted to put everything aside (due date, IVF or natural, etc) just to give God the glory that He deserves. He is the very reason we're pregnant. YES, we used IVF but how would IVF even be possible without God leading the doctors?
Oh hi, beautiful 8 week sono :)

Being on the "other side" for a second time (Kensie Grace + baby #2), I think to myself, "it doesn't even bother me that we used IVF to get pregnant." When I go anywhere with my baby and preggo self, people aren't wondering, "how do you think she got pregnant?" Absolutely not. In fact, people probably assume we've been "busy" since my daughter isn't even a year old yet, and I'm preggers. I am so joyful and nothing can take that away. We are just rejoicing to be pregnant again, all thanks to God!

Good golly, y'all! Hearing the baby's heartbeat was music to my ears. I was crying, of course! The day before the ultrasound, I really let the devil get me down. I was so nervous. BUT, the power of prayer is real. I asked my parents and a handful of people to pray, and I felt an ease. I also learned this new technique that all preggos can use when they worry about their baby: instead of thinking about what could go wrong, just start thanking God for what he's given you and you will LITERALLY not have any time to conjure up scary thoughts that the devil is known for implanting. Try it, because it really does work!

And now for the boat load of pictures that I've been hiding for months! Enjoy :) Oh and because I'm sure you're all wondering, as I write this, I am 8 weeks, 1 day which would put my due date in January 2017, however my doctor is scheduling my c-section for December 28, 2016. I would not be surprised if baby wanted to make their way a day or two early. When I was preg with Kens, I was progressing beautifully at 39 weeks, but of course I was induced at 39w3d since I started to develop preeclampsia. I am praying for another full term baby!