Abby Update: 18 Days Old

 photo Abby_zpsd293b2bf.jpg

Weight: Almost 2 pounds, 15 ounces
Feedings: 25 milliliters fortified to 24 cal every 3 hours given over the course of 1 1/2 hours

This week Abby is just making slow and steady progress. Now that she is off the breathing support and has reached full feedings, she really just needs to keep doing what she’s doing and gain weight. Once she reaches 32 weeks, she’ll be allowed to start learning to nurse (although it will probably take two or three weeks before she “gets it”). Until then, this Saturday, no news is good news.

Abby has continued to spit up at the end of her feedings. On top of that, her blood sugars were starting to drop. So the nurses began to check her blood sugars a couple of times a day. This weekend they extended her feedings to stretch over 1 1/2 hours to try to help the blood sugar issue. Dan and I were just thinking today that Abby is literally eating half of the time! Today her blood sugar levels were nice and high so tomorrow she will probably go back to hour long feeds. As for the spit up issue, she continues to spit up, especially if we move her at all, but the amount is small and no one is really concerned.

For about the past week Abby has only been gaining about 15 grams (half and ounce) every two days. Now that she is getting 25 ml every three hours and it’s being fortified to 24 calories, she is expected to gain faster. Since the last weight check (they weigh every other day) she gained 45 grams (about an ounce and a half) which is much better.

On Friday Abigail reached the age at which Lydia was born. I pulled out Lydia’s NICU scrapbook and have been reading my updates that correspond to Abby’s current age. Contrary to how things have seemed to us, Abby is not progressing faster than Lydia. In fact, they’re pretty much at the same pace. However, with a busier schedule and a toddler to chase around, time seems to be going faster this time. And Dan and I were commenting that, although we never would have expected to say this a couple of years ago, Abby makes Lydia look like a chubby baby. Hopefully that won’t be the case for long!

As for the rest of us, we’re doing much better than we were a week ago. Dan’s Mom came down last Wednesday and stocked us up on some fresh produce. Then, his Aunt Debbie joined her on Thursday and together they unpacked us and moved us in. This is the second time we’ve had a baby in the NICU and had to have others move us in and it is SUCH a blessing. Now we don’t have to go home to boxes and dig around to find our stuff.

Our NICU Routine

How do you manage parenting a toddler and spending time with a NICU preemie? Leading up to Abby’s birth I really thought this would be completely impossible. When Lydia was in the NICU we were busy enough, never eating regular meals, never getting to the grocery store, never getting any sleep…however God gives us the grace we need to meet our present needs. Three different families are taking turns watching Lydia from Sundays through Fridays and we keep her all day on Saturdays. For a family that never left Lydia with anyone ever, it’s a little strange to pack her a lunch and drop her off at someone else’s house, but we are grateful for the help. Another family is picking up fresh produce for us once a week and bringing it to us at church. We’ve put together a weekly meal plan and have actually been able to sit down together for dinner almost every night. Other families have helped by bringing food, gift cards, and gifts for Abby. We certainly would be floundering without our family and church family.

Others have asked how they can help. At the moment the best thing anyone can do for us is pray. For those who are able, we do enjoy having visitors and showing off our tiny bundle. I’ll post the times we are usually at the hospital and available for visitors, but it’s always best to give us a call ahead of time to make sure we’ll be here so you don’t waste a trip. The bold times are when we have Lydia with us and are easier times for us to have visitors as we probably won’t be holding Abby during those times. (Getting to hold Abby is quite the process. We have to get her out of her isolette with all those wires and wrap her up in warm blankets with Mom or Dad. Then she gets her feeding while we hold for an hour or more. We usually don’t have people in to visit while we are holding.)

Sunday: 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM (we come right from church) and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Monday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Tuesday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Wednesday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Thursday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Friday: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Saturday: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Praise the Lord
We are thanking the Lord for:
-Abby’s continued progress with no major bumps in the road yet
-generous friends and family who have helped and are helping with moving, food, and watching Lydia
-a more relaxed pace as we settle into a routine
-a sweet husband who has been sacrificing his turns to hold Abby and letting me hold her instead (he says it’s “good for a Mommy’s heart)

Please Pray
-that Abby would gain weight and that spitting up would not be a problem
-for continued healing for me…it takes a long time to recover from a c-section, I am learning
-for strength, energy, and endurance for all of us as this is a tiring lifestyle

The Birth Story I’ll Never Tell

 photo birthpicture_zps6003534d.jpg

As our due date approached, Dan and I felt very prepared for labor and delivery. I had studied up on childbirth and knew what to expect and different methods for coping with the contractions. I had written up a “cheat sheet” for Dan, telling him what I wanted him to know and what I wanted him to do to help me during labor, without getting into too much of the medical jargon or graphic details (he doesn’t do so well with anything medical). We were hoping for a natural birth, but were surrendered to whatever course God had for us. When my water broke, I called Dan at work and let him know. Soon enough we were at the hospital, and Lydia was being watched by a family from our church. Labor progressed steadily and just when I didn’t think I could take it anymore, our sweet baby was born. She let out a cry and the doctor handed her to me to hold right away, just like I had wanted. The next couple of days were filled with happy phone calls, lots of pictures, and some welcome visitors. Lydia came to the hospital to visit and we let her hold her new baby sister. She was so proud, and she even started learning to say her name! Two days after delivery, Dan wheeled me down to the hospital entrance and our nurse followed wheeling a cart with some flowers, a balloon, and the rest of our stuff. I got to hold the baby. Dan went to get the car and we loaded everything up and drove home. It felt good to sleep in my own bed in the apartment we had just moved in to a couple of months before our due date. Dan’s mom came down for a week to watch Lydia and I mostly rested with the baby as generous ladies from church provided us with two weeks worth of meals…

If you have been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that this was not our story. Lydia, our first little munchkin, was born 9 weeks early. Abigail, our second, was born 11 ½ weeks early. The births were eerily similar: my water broke when I was sleeping at around midnight, contractions started within an hour, the doctors were unable to stop or slow labor, and we found ourselves in the NICU with a preemie. This time, however, we had to have a c-section.

While the doctor was “putting me back together” and I was laying paralyzed on an operating table, she told me that she thought she knew the reason I was having early babies. Then Dan and I both thought she said I had a unicorn inside of me. Finally we got things cleared up a little bit and learned, as the doctor and nurses looked inside of me like some sort of weird science project, that I have a unicornuate uterus.

 photo uterus_zps2b167544.jpg
Photo Credit:

Basically that means that, half of my uterus is just solid muscle with no cavity, and the other half is normal. That also means that, when I’m pregnant, my babies only have half of the amount of room to grow, so when Baby reaches about 3 pounds, she runs out of room. My water breaks, labor starts, and we have another preemie.

I had a long talk with my OB a couple of days after Abby was born. Yes, I am still able to have more children. However, I will probably never make it past 32 weeks gestation. And, I have an increased chance of having breech babies.

The night after Abigail was born, I woke up in the middle of the night and was awake for a couple of hours trying to process this new information. I had a few difficult realizations:

I will never get to nurse my newborn.
I will never get to hold my newborn baby.
I will never get to bring my babies home with me when I’m discharged from the hospital.
My deliveries will always have to take place in the operating room adjacent to the NICU so my babies can be rushed out of my sight to the waiting team of doctors and nurses.
My babies will always have to spend weeks or months in the NICU.

There have been so many thoughts swirling around in my head since this discovery. This is perhaps the most significant event in my life so far that has made me mourn the affects of sin, the curse, and the brokenness in this world. It makes me long for heaven.

This morning, as I was thinking about all of this once again, I pulled out one of my favorite missionary biographies on Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. There is one chapter in particular that describes a year in Amy’s life when two of her spiritual mentors died and then one of the children that she had rescued as a baby also died. Many people began to console Amy by saying “It is very hard to see how this can be for the best”. Amy responded,

“We are not asked to SEE. Why need we when we KNOW? We know – not the answer to the inevitable Why, but the incontestable fact that is is for the best. “It is an irreparable loss, but is it faith at all if it is ‘hard to trust’ when things are entirely bewildering?”

So, as Dan and I continue our NICU visits, and eventually bring Abby home, we’ll keep processing this news and its implications for our family. And we will continue to cry out to God for grace to trust that all of this is for the best. I know there are plenty who have suffered far greater losses than this, and I don’t mean to minimize their trials. I’m just trying to be a little transparent about the trials God has allowed into our lives, hoping that some will be comforted or encouraged.

And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my Father,
Until it be according unto mine?
But, no, Lord, no, that never shall be, rather
I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.

I pray Thee hush the hurrying, eager longing,
I pray Thee soothe the pangs of keen desire –
See in my quiet places, wishes thronging –
Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.

And work in me to will and do Thy pleasure
Let all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry content my Well-Beloved’s leisure,
At last, at last, even as a weaned child.

Amy Carmichael

Abby Update: 2 Weeks Old

 photo blogupdate_zps48dc2035.jpg

Weight: 2 pounds, 13 ½ ounces
Feedings: 23 mililiters fortified to 22 cal every 3 hours given over the course of 1 hour

Abby keeps on cruising along. Preemies are given lipids and TPN through a PICC line. The lipids are basically fat. The TPN is basically food. As Abby has increased her feeding amounts each day, she has needed less and less of the lipids and TPN. On Sunday the doctor gave orders to stop lipids and on Monday her TPN was replaced with clear fluid. Yesterday they took out her PICC line! So now little Abby only has a feeding tube and the leads that monitor her breathing, heart rate, and oxygen level.

Yesterday the nurses started to feed Abby by connecting her food syringe to a pump that slowly gives her the food over the course of half and hour. Today they slowed it to one hour. Previously the food was just “plunged” in the syringe and given to her by gravity. However, research seems to show that babies do better with the slower, consistent rate of food being given using the pump. We’re hoping this helps reduce the amount of milk Abby is spitting up. Preemies often develop reflux, so it’s not terrible if she does too, but we’re hoping to pump will help.

Now that Abby has reached her “full feed” amount of milk, she has started receiving fortified milk. This means that formula is added to the milk to give it extra calories and is pretty typical for every preemie. We’ll wait and see over the next few days to find out how much weight she starts to gain with full feeds and fortified milk.

As for the rest of us, thank you all for your prayers! Yesterday as I held Abby I was so filled with thankfulness and peace as I reflected on God’s leading in all of this. What a change that was from a few nights ago! I am encouraged to think that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed” and also that our trials and suffering produce perseverance, character, and hope. I have also been thinking about how God definitely does give us more than we can handle on our own, but never more than we can handle with His help. God has been helping us and the past couple of days have been so much better. We are so thankful.

On Monday night, a couple from church came over to babysit while Lydia slept and Dan and I got to spend some nice time alone with Abby. Dan also started going in to work for a few hours on Monday and Lydia and I have been surviving alright without him. Since I’m not able to lift Lydia for two more weeks, I’ve been building “stairs” up to her high chair and crib for lunch and nap times. The first day was rough at nap time, but she’s figuring things out and cooperating very sweetly.

We are growing more and more certain that Dan’s nausea was due to stress, lack of sleep, and irregular meals. As we continue to adjust and figure out a routine all of those things have been starting to improve. I am enjoying our new apartment a lot already, even without having unpacked anything yet, and Lydia loves it here now that Dan has started taking her to the pond to feed the ducks every day or so. Since we expect to spend another 6-10 weeks in the NICU and then have a newborn at home, we know that we’ll be sleep deprived for quite a while (though I, at least, get a nap a day when Lydia naps) so if anyone has any tips for keeping our energy up besides drinking caffeine, we’re all ears!

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-Abby’s continued progress, that she is off her PICC line and continuing to breath well
-a new normal, settling into some sort of structure and no longer feeling quite like chickens running around with our heads cut off
-an apartment that is already feeling like home (to me) and doesn’t appear to be the cause of Dan’s illness
-that our first little munchkin has done so well with an irregular schedule, lots of different babysitters, late bed times, and less play time with Mommy and Daddy
-generous friends who have offered help in so many ways: watching Lydia, providing healthy food and gift cards, and so many who are praying

Please Pray
-that Abby would gain weight quickly, continue to breath and digest well, and not have problems with reflux
-for a more consistent routine for us
-for strength as we are both (Dan and I) very tired

Abby Update: 10 Days Old

 photo smiling_zps294f6522.jpg

Weight: Almost 2 pounds, 12 ounces

Feedings: 16 milliliters (about 1 Tablespoon) every 3 hours

Abigail is doing great!  She is almost back up to her birth weight and is due to be weighed again tonight.  As her feedings continue to increase by 3 milliliters each day, she will slowly be weaned from her IV and the doctors will be able to remove her PICC line, which is the line that goes in through her arm and feeds her those fluids.  Today they took away her lipids (fats that they have been feeding her).

Abby’s is off the bilirubin light and digesting well.  Over the past couple of days she has begun to spit up some.  It is very common (but inconvenient) for preemies to develop reflux, so we are praying this will not be the case with little Abby.  Her nurse today said she seemed more relaxed and has only spit up once today, for which we are glad.

The big news is that Abby is off her cannula and breathing on her own.  If she struggles to breath, they’ll put her back on the cannula, but so far she looks like she’s doing great.  As more of the wires and stickers are being removed, Abby looks more and more like a term baby, although still much too small, and today she was wearing her first outfit!

While Abby is doing great, we would appreciate prayers for the rest of our family.   On Friday, the young people from our church moved us into a new apartment.  They did an amazing job.  One young man used his incredible packing skills to rearrange our laundry room into a storage and useable laundry room.  I was also surprised when I opened the cupboards in the kitchen to find nearly all of our kitchen unpacked and put away.  And our super sweet pastor’s wife loaded our fridge with some produce and other healthy foods that she had made.  If anyone who helped ends up reading this, consider this a HUGE thank you!  While everyone was working so hard, I was relaxing in the hospital typing out Abigail’s birth story.

 photo moving_zps78e1cee9.jpg

While Abigail continues to do well, the rest of our family is in need of prayer.   Taking care of our bigger Munchkin, getting in Dan’s time for work, visiting Abby, getting some small amount of rest, and trying to move in, eat, and keep up with at least a little bit of laundry is proving to be a lot.  We have yet to figure out a workable routine, and Lydia is not cooperating well enough to continue bringing her with us to the NICU.  Abby is doing well enough now that we could hold her twice a day, but we haven’t been able to figure out a workable plan that allows us to hold her twice.

Back in May Dan and I moved in to a condo in Ann Arbor, but soon Dan was experiencing all sorts of weird symptoms (feeling sick and nauseous whenever he was home) that we finally attributed to mold.  We rushed out of that condo to a temporary home in Plymouth.  We took a long time finding another place to live, trying to be careful to find a place that wouldn’t make Dan sick again.  However, when we got to see our current apartment, it smelled so strongly of cleaning chemicals that it was hard to tell if there was anything else weird in the air.  Today Dan started feeling nauseous again.  Honestly, it’s too much for me to think about right now.  In fact, I’ve developed a new coping technique where I don’t think about anything except what I’m doing at the moment.  The thought of having to move again is completely ridiculous.  But if Dan is really going to feel very sick whenever he’s home, the thought of staying there for a year is also ridiculous. So I am overwhelmed and at a loss as to what to think or do.  Please pray that his nausea passes, that it’s not related to the new apartment.  Or, pray that if we really are going to have to move (I can barely stand to write that down!) that it will become very clear to us within the next day or two.

Praise the Lord

We are thanking God for:

-Dan’s Mom who helped pack us up for our move and spent a couple days helping with Lydia

-the youth at church who moved us all in a couple of hours

-Abby’s weight gain, breathing success, and freedom from the bilirubin light

Please Pray:

-that Abby will continue to gain weight and breath well, and will stop spitting up (can’t stand to loose those calories!)

-that we will figure out a workable routine-that Dan can get in his hours at work and I can get in the rest I need to stay healthy and strong

-that there will be nothing in our new apartment making Dan feel sick, that he’ll feel much better very soon and we’ll know within a day or two if something needs to change

Abigail’s Birth Story

 photo Abigail_zps507fb867.jpg

Ever since Lydia was born two years ago, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So now, I’m going to take my own turn to share Abby’s birth story. So here is my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

The weekend of September 6-8, God began to prepare us for Abby’s birth. I originally had scheduled my next prenatal appointment for September 11th, which turned out to be Abby’s birthday. However, the week before she was born I suspected that I had developed an infection and we scheduled a quick appointment for Friday, September 6. The infection turned out to be nothing serious, and nothing that would affect Baby. During the appointment, our midwife decided to go ahead with the normal prenatal care instead of waiting until the next Wednesday. Because Lydia was born early, the doctors had been periodically doing ultrasounds to measure the length of the cervix. A shortening cervix is an indication that labor could start soon. All of our previous measurements had been around 4.5 cm, but this time it was only 2.5 cm. While still within the range of normal, Dan and I were concerned at such a large change in just a few weeks. Our midwife wasn’t concerned, so we scheduled the next visit to take place in two weeks, and headed home.

On our drive home, Dan and I discussed the unusual change in length. I decided to research it a little bit, but couldn’t find anything conclusive. I sent out messages to friends and family asking for prayer. Dan and I started to wonder if perhaps Baby would surprise us by coming early…again. On Saturday, Dan and I decided to take our belated anniversary date in fear that it might be our last chance before Baby was born (and we were right!). Sunday I had a long talk with a friend at church who happens to be a midwife. After hearing the details of my situation, she also was concerned and recommended I try to stay off my feet as much as possible.

Also during the weekend, a couple different families offered to watch Lydia, should I go in to early labor. Everything was falling into place so that if Baby came, we were ready (as ready as we could be).

The next few days I stayed off my feet as much as I could. Dan took over all of my chores and I made a little calendar countdown to 36 weeks, my goal for Baby 2. We decided that each Saturday we made it without having Baby, we would reward ourselves with a treat. Still, we kept talking about how we were mentally preparing for Baby to come.

Dan and I were hoping for another natural delivery with this baby, and I was reading up on all that goes on during labor, ways to handle the contractions, and how Dad can be a good coach. Dan doesn’t do well with medical things so I was taking notes to make him a little cheat sheet with the things I felt he should know and the different ways he could be helping me. Tuesday night, I stayed up late reading over some of this material, taking lots of notes. In fact, I stayed up far later than I should have, and it was close to midnight before I was ready for bed.

Tuesday had been a strange day for me. I wasn’t sure if it was just the strangeness of staying off my feet for a few days in a row, or something else. I had started taking two naps a day, and during my afternoon nap I felt Baby moving like crazy and in positions I hadn’t felt her in before. In the evening we decided to run to the grocery store as the rest of our week was looking pretty busy. I went along for the ride, but stayed in the car while Dan and Lydia went in. Dan came out with some “extras” that hadn’t been on my list: a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me, some tasty snack food, and a frozen dessert treat, which we were calling the treat for the coming Saturday, assuming Baby wasn’t born yet. Then we had gone home, tucked in Lydia, and stayed up late reading. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite “right”, so after I got ready for bed, I stayed up for about 10 minutes reading about the signs of labor, trying to find some correlation to the strangeness I had been feeling all day. I couldn’t find anything definitive, so when Dan came in, we prayed together and then I went to sleep.

12:00 AM, September 11
Ten minutes later, I felt a huge gush of liquid and realized with dread that my water had broken. For a moment I wondered if I could have just wet the bed, but I got up and ran to the bathroom. By the time I was fully awake I knew Baby was coming and I burst into tears. Scared and shaking and wishing this wasn’t happening I yelled for Dan. He came toward the bathroom asking what was wrong and I told him: “My water just broke!”

I was losing amniotic fluid like crazy, so I just stayed in the bathroom, giving Dan instructions on what to pack for me and asking him, “What are we going to do with Lydia?” I was trying to keep it together, but I kept thinking about months in the NICU, this time with a toddler… “I can’t do this”. Dan called my midwife friend, who happened to be awake. She agreed to come over with her baby and stay with Lydia so we wouldn’t have to wake Lydia up and take her somewhere.

During the phone call, Dan asked which hospital we should go to. There was a hospital just minutes from our house in Plymouth or the one in Ypsilanti where Lydia was born and we were preregistered, but that one was 30 minutes away (I had just preregistered on Monday). No one was really sure but our friends advised us to go to the hospital we knew the best, so soon we were in the car on our way to Ypsi. Later we found out that the hospital near our house in Plymouth has no NICU and doesn’t know what to do with babies. Had Abby been born there, she probably wouldn’t not have survived. In the best case scenario, they would have put me in an ambulance and sent me to the Ypsi hospital anyway.

During the drive Dan prayed for me and Baby, and for Lydia as well. I took half the drive to tell Dan all the things I wanted him to know about labor, because we were pretty sure Baby was going to be born by morning. I told him some things like, “Answer as many questions for me as you can, especially if I’m in the middle of a contraction”, “If they ask about pain medicine, let me answer first and then if they keep bugging me, just keep telling them what I want. That way they won’t get mad at you”, and “Most importantly, just don’t leave me. Stay as close to me as you can. I like you more than them!” (During Lydia’s birth the doctors pushed Dan out of the way and he could only reach out sometimes and hold my foot. I was not a fan of that situation.)

Once I had filled Dan in, I told him that I was freaking out.  I knew that wasn’t going to help anything. So we decided to sing a song. We sang “Before the Throne of God Above” and then spent the rest of the drive praying some more. Suddenly we were at the hospital, but we couldn’t remember where to go! We made a couple of wrong turns and then Dan got me to the right drop off place. I told him to park the car and run in. I wanted to be dropped off, but I didn’t want to go in alone.

When he dropped me off, the security guard asked if she could help me. I stood there awkwardly for a moment trying to figure out what to say, “Uh…my water broke…and I’m only 28 weeks along…and I don’t remember where to go.” She grabbed a wheelchair and looked toward the parking lot. “Is he fast?”, she asked me. “Yes,” I assured her, “I told him to run”. Dan had caught up to us by the time we were at the elevator and he was soon holding my hand again. Apparently I like him to hold my hand non-stop during labor and delivery.

1:00 AM
At triage I had to fill out and sign a few forms. I was flustered, trying to get in as fast as possible. Dan, annoyed at the delay, asked if we could hurry things along. “She’s only 28 weeks!” The nurses assured us they were going as fast as they could. Over the next couple of hours Dan and I just wanted them to give me the shot of bethatmethatsone, which is a steroid that helps early baby’s lungs…if it has enough time to get into their system. We suspected, from Lydia’s birth, that they would not be able to stop labor, and that our time was extremely limited.

By this time contractions had started and I was battling the physical pain along with the emotional trauma of imagining the next few months of living in tbe NICU. After all of our hoping, praying, extra prenatal care, and precautions, Baby was still coming early in a scenario that was eerily similar to Lydia’s birth. I was devastated, but trying not to dwell on the next months as I knew I needed to be emotionally strong and mentally focused to make it through the next hours.

Soon I was in a triage room and the doctor had wheeled in an ultrasound machine. “She’s breech”. Another blow. On Friday she had been head down. I looked and Dan and told him, “She must have been flipping during my nap. That’s why it felt so strange.” That stinker. The doctor went on to poke and prod me in lots of unpleasant and painful ways. Dan was my hero, when she kept asking, “How are you doing?” I kept squeezing his hand and he answered for me, “She’s hurting a lot.” Finally the doctor got what she needed and made a rough estimate that I was dilated to 1 cm. Then I was wheeled into a labor and delivery room.

1:30 AM
By this point my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and were lasting about 45 seconds. I was able to focus on the clock or the cross on the wall and take deep breaths, and it wasn’t too bad. Occasionally a doctor or nurse would comment on how “stoic” I was, that they couldn’t tell how much pain I was in. We met two more nurses who started hooking me up to antibiotics and fluids through an IV. The antibiotics were to protect Baby in case labor had been triggered by an infection. Then they told me I would have to be on magnesium and they would be giving me the bethatmethatsone shot soon.

I have been dreading the bethatmethatsone shot since I got it with Lydia. When Dan saw the nurse preparing the shot, he told me he understood why. Apparently it is a very thick liquid which makes it hurt a lot as it enters the muscle. I was so nervous for the shot, I kept flinching and couldn’t relax. In the end it wasn’t quite as terrible as I had dreaded. It hurts, and it takes a while to inject it all, but I just lay on my side moaning into my pillow and soon enough it was over and I was just a little sore.

Then it was time for the magnesium. Magnesium, some suppose, may help stop labor. More than that, it protects Baby’s brain and decreases their risk of getting Cerebral Palsy. Magnesium.  Everyone who mentioned it apologized and told me how terrible it is. It only took a few moments before I felt the effects. You suddenly get very hot. You feel like you’re in a fog and everything is slow and groggy. You start sweating like crazy and your body feels heavy. And while the nurses and your husband put cold wash cloths on your head you try to think clearly and ask how long the magnesium will last. Twelve to twenty-four hours. And on top of that, you’re still sore from the shot. You’re still having contractions which are getting more intense. And you’re still trying not to think about everything that’s in store for the next months with a preemie in the NICU. You’re devastated that this is happening again. And then the doctor comes in to tell you that you have to have a c-section.

Because Baby’s head would be so big in comparison to her tiny preemie body, there was a danger that the head would get stuck on the way out, and all of that trauma would go to her fragile neck.  The doctor went on to explain the difference between a classical and transverse caesarean section. A classical c-section uses a vertical incision to get to Baby and is reserved for deliveries with complications or that need to be done very quickly. Many women are able to have natural vaginal deliveries after a c-section, but not after a classical c-section. Once you have a classical c-section, there’s no going back.  No more natural deliveries.  There’s too much risk of the incision reopening during delivery.  The doctor explained that, because Baby was breach and so early, a natural delivery was not possible. And based on Baby’s specific position, it looked like we would need to do a classical c-section.

Dan asked if there was any other option, besides the classical c-section, but the doctor wasn’t optimistic. As I lay there with my contractions and my magnesium, and my disappointment that Baby was coming early, the doctor began to explain all of the risks of a c-section. I know she had to do that for legal reasons, but it was a bit ridiculous given the circumstances. When she finished talking I managed, through my haze, to inform her that Lydia’s labor was extremely fast. “If you’re going to do a c-section, I’m guessing you want to do it before it’s time for me to push baby out, right?” She agreed. Dan and I warned her that they better check me often, because with Lydia no one knew I was really in labor until it was time to push.

2:30 AM
The doctors gave me instructions to call them immediately if I felt pressure of if the contractions began to get more intense. Multiple times they urged me to tell them what I was feeling because I was so “stoic” that they couldn’t tell how much pain I was in. They asked if I wanted a NICU representative to come in and tell me what’s involved in having a 28 week old baby and I said “definitely not”. That was the last thing I needed to be thinking about right then. They had checked me and confirmed that I was only dilated to 1 cm, then left me to labor away.

Once they left, I lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. I kept thinking and telling Dan, “Some women just have to go through labor! I have to go through labor pinned to a bed with painful exams, shots, and magnesium, the devastation of failing to get to term, the dread of the coming months, the disappointment of having a to have a c-section even though Baby was head down a few days ago, and now the probability that I could never have a natural delivery again”.  I think the nurses picked up on my wanting to be left alone, so they didn’t bother us much at that point. Over and over again throughout the labor, Dan had been helping me so much. This was another one of those moments. He began to sing to me “Jesus, all for Jesus” (one of our wedding songs and a family favorite) as he put wet wash cloths on my head. He assured me that things were going to be ok, that God was in control even over this, and that I was doing a good job. I still couldn’t stop crying, but was grateful for my wonderful husband.

I don’t know how long we were left alone. When the nurses came in and saw that I was crying they asked why, wondering if it was from the pain of the contractions. “Everything”, was all I could say.  I was overwhelmed by it all.

3:00 AM
It wasn’t long before my contractions did start to feel more intense. I reluctantly called in the doctors and they decided to check me. Now I was dilated to 2 cm and they took some time to decide what to do. At this point, my doctor had showed up and was calling the shots. She said, while we could wait until I was dilated as far as 4 cm, it was getting risky because we didn’t want Baby to “fall out” and get stuck. We also didn’t want the c-section to be rushed.  On the other hand, laboring longer gave time for the steroid and magnesium to work. It also gave time for labor to stop on its own (which we weren’t expecting). Our doctor decided to go ahead with the c-section and left to get things lined up.

3:30 AM
Things got busy as nurses began to prep me for the c-section, explain what would happen, and gave Dan clothes for the operating room. They told us we would have to be separated briefly but that Dan would be with me during the procedure. I asked Dan, “Aren’t we going to pray?” and he asked everybody if we could have a moment. They all politely stopped what they were doing and we took a moment to pray for Baby, me, and a safe delivery.

4:30 AM
I was wheeled into an operating room and separated briefly from Dan. As soon as I saw some metal instruments I got scared and thought I would be the random person for whom a spinal block wouldn’t work. They gave me a numbing shot (which did hurt) and then the spinal and I lay down on the operating table. Soon enough my legs felt warm, then tingly, then I couldn’t lift them. An anesthesiologist near my head kept asking what I was feeling to make sure the spinal was working. She told me I should be able to feel pressure, but not pain. Finally I confirmed that the spinal worked, even though I was bothered by how clearly I could feel what they were doing, just not the sharp pain associated with it.

Dan came in to join me and I realized that there was a glass cabinet to my side that allowed me to see what the doctors were doing behind the curtain they had put up to block my view. I told Dan not to look and then made sure not to look myself! The procedure was miserable. It’s one thing to breath and relax your way through contractions. It feels natural. Your body is doing what it was made to do. The pain of the c-section was completely different. No, I couldn’t feel sharp pain, but it felt like they were ripping out my insides. I groaned and moaned and cried my way through and the anesthesiologist by my head kept telling me I was doing great.

At 4:53 AM, our Baby was delivered. Dan got to see her before she was rushed to the NICU. He told me, “She’s purple, and I think she has hair.” As the doctors put my insides back in (or that’s what it felt like) a NICU doctor came to report that Baby was doing well. She weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces and she was 15 ¾ inches long. She was crying and was able to breath without a ventilator, just a CPAP.

At some point as the doctors were finishing up, my doctor told me some good news. I had labored long enough to make some extra room for the surgery and they were able to do the transverse incision after all. No classical c-section! I breathed a silent prayer of thanks to God, because I had been praying over the past hour that He would make it possible to do the transverse incision.

Dan was ushered out of the operating room and a nurse asked me if I wanted to see my placenta. I said, “No thanks”, but she said, “I’m going to show you anyway”. As it turned out, Baby’s umbilical cord had been connected to the membrane, that is, the sack of “water” that broke. The nurse showed me the umbilical cord with all the blood vessels and then a big hole right next to it where my water broke. “You’re lucky,” she said, “Someone’s watching out for you!”. I learned later how serious it could have been if those blood vessels had disconnected when my water broke. Under those circumstances I would have been immediately put under and there would have been an emergency c-section. However, without that connection between me and Baby, both our lives would have been in serious danger and even the emergency c-section might not have been fast enough to save Baby or possibly me. (That’s my best understanding of the situation, at least) It was one of those moments, in the middle of a lot of bad, when God reminded me that He was taking care of everything after all.

Recovery was miserable. I received multiple different pain medications, including two doses of morphine and I was still squirming. Dan was loyally staying by my side, waiting to see Baby with me after recovery. However, he hadn’t slept in about 36 hours and was really struggling to stay awake. I was struggling not to be mad at him for being sleepy! Our “two hours” in recovery somehow turned in to four, but finally we got to go see Baby.

We spent a few minutes in the NICU looking at our new Baby, and by 10 AM we were back in the Mother/Baby unit (finally) alone. We were able to pray together and confirm Baby’s name: Abigail Faith. Then we made the phone calls to our parents telling them that Baby had come early.

And now little Abby is working her way through the NICU. We have a long road ahead of us, but are grateful for God’s hand in everything that has happened so far. He prepared us mentally and emotionally for Baby’s coming. He provided someone to watch Lydia and advice that sent us to the right hospital. He gave us peace during the car ride and a unity that lasted through the whole labor. He gave us a special moment together just before the c-section to worship and refocus on trusting Him. He allowed us to pray together before the surgery, and display to the nurses and doctors where we were placing our trust.  He protected me and Abby when her water broke from severing the umbilical cord and putting us both in danger. He allowed me to labor just the right amount of time for the doctors to perform a transverse incision, opening the possibility for natural labors in the future. He gave us a baby who is feisty and strong, big for her age and amazing at breathing even though there probably wasn’t time for the steroid shot to really reach her. And He revealed the reason I have been having early babies (but I’ll post about that later).

God is good, and taking care of us. We are so grateful that, even during a labor completely different from anything we ever wanted, He was in control. While it was all happening, I was devastated, but looking back I only see His goodness and protection.

Abby Update: 8 Days Old

 photo 02_zps96048ea3.jpg

Weight: 2 pounds, 9 ½ ounces
Feedings: 7 milliliters (about 1 ½ teaspoons) every 3 hours

Yesterday when Dan and I walked into the NICU our nurse informed us that Abigail has been hungry. Standard procedure in the NICU is that for the first seven days of life babies are only allowed to receive their MEN feedings (minimal enteral nutrition) which is only four milliliters every four hours. The point is to get things going in the digestive system without causing any problems. Well, Abby wasn’t happy with her MEN feedings. She was hungry! Our nurse asked if she could get her feedings bumped up a day early, but the doctors turned her down. That’s ok. Today Abby is getting more food at last. Now we can really start watching her gain weight.

Yesterday Abby was off of the bilirubin light. Her bilirubin had come down from 7 to 4.6, but today she was back up to 6.6 and had to go back on the light. That’s ok. She may come off and on a couple more times before she’s done for good.

The other excitement today was that Abby is being weaned from her cannula. She has been on 2 liters and today the nurse turned it down to 1.5. If she continues to breath well, and she seems to be, they will continue to wean her until she is breathing on her own. Last night Dan and I helped give Abby a bath, and she was off her cannula for almost an hour with absolutely no problems. Out of all of her achievements so far, it’s the breathing that amazes me the most. She seems to have very strong lungs, especially considering how early she was born.

And, thanks to all who were praying! Abigail’s first brain ultrasound came back normal. She will have a few more ultrasounds as she gets older to make sure there is no bleeding in her brain, but so far, so good.

  photo 03_zps695c5a49.jpgHow is Lydia handling her new role as big sister? The first couple of visits to the NICU were a few steps short of disaster. She wanted to touch everything and when she couldn’t she screamed and cried (not an ideal situation when there are babies in critical condition). However, she’s been doing much better and will not sit happily with us as we read to her and listen to Adventures in Odyssey. Every time we visit, Lydia gets a sticker from the nurse at the front desk. Then she tells everyone we pass, “Abigail!” as we head in to Abby’s room. Once there, she knows that she has to wash her hands (she loves throwing the paper towel in the trash). We hold her up to see Abby and then she entertains herself, or we entertain her, until it’s time to go. When we leave, she says “Bye!” to Abby, blows her kisses, and then says “hug” and won’t let us go until she, Dan, and I all take turns “hugging” Abby’s isolette. It is precious.

Abby and her Quilt Updates

 photo 01_zps1b18a460.jpg
Weight: 2 pounds, 7 ounces

Today we said goodbye to my parents who have been helping us out since Saturday. Their visit allowed us to formulate a rough idea of what the coming weeks will look like, rest and recover as they chased around Lydia, and spend time alone with Abigail. They also helped out with cooking, cleaning and laundry. I don’t know what we would have done without them!

Abigail is continuing to do well. Within the past couple of days, she has begun to digest her milk! She is breathing very well on a high flow nasal canula, although she doesn’t like it and often gets caught trying to pull it out, and her feeding tube as well. Until today, Abby was kept in an isolette with humidity, to protect her skin. Today, our nurse informed us that her skin looks great (and has since birth) and they turned off the humidity. The only slightly unhappy news is that Abby was back on the bilirubin light, although we were warned that she would be. Her levels have climbed over the past day and she still has bruises from the labor and delivery. Both the bilirubin and bruises will go away as her liver continues to do its job.

Dan and I are pretty worn out from all the running around. My parents helped us make a massive grocery trip, stocking up on nonperishables for the next month so we won’t have to go out again. Today was also nonstop as Dan and I signed our lease for the apartment we are scheduled to move into this Friday. However, I have been able to hold Abby on three different days and Dan has gotten to hold her once. Those times are very special, although a little scary as she is so tiny and is connected to so many wires.

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-My parents visit and all of their help
-A plan that is starting to come together
-Special times alone with Abigail
-Abby’s improved digestion and that she’s off humidity

Please Pray:
-that Abby will gain weight
-that her bilirubin levels would drop as her liver improves
-for continued healing for me as we are often on the go
-that Abby’s ultrasound tomorrow would show no bleeding in her brain

The rest of this post is actually a post I wrote the day before Abby was born, intending to post on September 11, which turned out to be her birth day. Rather than take the time to change it, I am posting it as written, even though Abby is obviously here now. (Time is a scarce resource around here these days)

Thanks to all who gave feedback on my quilt color dilemma a couple of weeks ago! I so appreciated all of your creative and girly ideas. Now it would only be fair for me to share my revisions and update you all on the quilt’s status. As a refresher, this was my initial design:

 photo quiltpic_zpsd703f854.jpg

But it was too green and not very girly. I had played around with the colors but was just stuck. My Mom and sister, Christina, sent me these color revision ideas:

 photo newideas_zps919a77f7.jpg

And many others made suggestions as well: make the sheep pink, lighten up the colors, use patterned fabric for the hills…I liked a lot of the ideas, but couldn’t incorporate them all. Here are some of the ideas that I had to give up on:

 photo ideasthatdidntwork_zps111e00f0.jpg

1. I actually had this idea from the start, to put Baby’s name right there on the quilt. However, I also thought that maybe Baby would want to use this for her own kids someday (one could only hope), and so I decided to leave her name off of it just in case.

2. I think the quilt could have looked really cool with some patterned fabrics. However, I am new to this whole quilting thing and not extremely artsy myself. Just walking through the aisles of fabrics at the store was overwhelming. On top of that, I think it would have taken me ages to find fabrics that all went well together and I had an impatient toddler and eager-to-leave husband wandering around the store while I made my decisions. In the end, it took long enough just to find solid fabrics that went well together!

3. I think this picture with the bow on the lamb’s ear is very cute, and meets that girly need. But, what I don’t have shown in the picture, is that the sheep and sun are going to have “rag quilt” seams. I’m already nervous about sewing some curves and a friend a church suggested using the frilly external seam to make these curves less bothersome. So, the sheep and sun will have different textures and 3-D-ness already, and I didn’t think I could fit a bow in on top of that without things getting too busy.

4. I love the way this ruffle edge looks on the quilt, and I may still end up using it. However, with all of the embroidery, hand-quilting and stitching, and curves to navigate, I think this project is going to take me ages as is. So, while I may change my mind, for now I’m going to stick to the traditional binding.

So what am I going to do?

 photo ideastokeep_zpse59e185a.jpg

1. First I took the collective advice to lighten up the greens. I’m actually not a fan of pastel colors, and was hoping to keep the blanket bright. However, I realized it didn’t take much adjusting to make the greens look more girly and to make them more compatible with other girly colors.

2. The second thing I did, that made a huge difference, was take out the orange and lighten up the sun. The orange was clashing with almost everything I had tried.

3. Next, I lightened up the black on the sheep to a grey. I had never thought to do this and it also made a big difference. I decided to play around with the colors on the border a little more as well.

4. Once I picked out new colors for the quilt borders, I added in some embroidered flowers using the same colors. This brought the pinks from the border into the quilt and seemed to tie things together.

So, here is:

 photo quiltcomparison_zps33a626ee.jpg

On the left you see the original design. On the right is the new and improved color-scheme. (The flowers on the real quilt will not look like a four year old drew them) The writing around the border will match the darker pink, and the writing on the hill will remain a dark green.

After I came up with a design that Dan and I both liked, we took a trip to Jo Ann’s and bought some of the first supplies. However, I realized, in the process, that it’s not always so simple to match fabric colors that are available in the store with a picture on a computer! So, I did my best, wrote down the fabrics I liked, but only bought the light pink and embroidery materials. I know embroidering that passage is going to take a very long time, so I’m going to wait before buying everything else. Only time will tell how the quilt will turn out in the end, but I’ll keep you updated as I make progress.

 photo pinkquilt_zpseecd8495.jpg

AND to go along with an update on the quilt, I thought I might give a Baby update as well. I am now just past 28 weeks!  Reaching 28 weeks is a big deal because 90-95% of babies born after 28 weeks survive. However, a recent prenatal appointment gave us a heads up that Baby just might want to come early after all. So we’re taking extra precautions, making preparations for Baby to come early, and I’m handing over my “standing” responsibilities to Dan and Lydia while I keep off my feet as much as possible. It makes things a bit more chaotic than they were before, but we’re adjusting ok. Dan’s already taking over so much (laundry, dishes, cooking, Lydia’s baths, cleaning…) so I was mentally preparing myself for a slightly messier house, toys always all over the living room, and an unmade bed each day. It was to my own pleasant surprise Monday morning when I walked into our bedroom after Dan left for work and the bed was made. It’s the little things.

Abby Update: 4 Days Old

For pictures of Abigail, visit our Facebook page

Things have been such a whirlwind since Abby was born last Wednesday, that I haven’t had much free time to write any updates.  Dan and I are hoping to figure out some sort of (somewhat) sane routine soon, and in the meantime my parents are here to help us keep things together.  But, here is an update on the past few days.  I hope to eventually share Abby’s full birth story, and I really think it’s a good one, with God’s hand so obviously involved in the events that happened.  Then again, I am a little biased.

When Abby was born (via C-section), she was rushed to the NICU.  Even though she was born 2 weeks younger than Lydia, Abby has not had to use a ventilator at all.  She was given a bubble CPAP, which supplied pressure to her lungs to keep them inflated.  After a treatment of sufactant (the liquid that lines our lungs), Abby’s breathing improved even more.  By Sunday (today!) Abby was transitioned to a nasal cannula, one stop closer to breathing on her own.

Abby’s birth weight was 2 pounds, 15 ounces.  By Saturday night it had decreased about 18% to 2 pounds and 9 1/2 ounces.  This isn’t a concern yet, but we certainly don’t want her losing any more of that weight!

Nurses began feeding Abby a couple of days ago and today she just started to succeed at digesting milk (which I pump for her).  She gets a whopping 4 milliliters every 4 hours.

Overall, the nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists are thrilled with Abby’s progress.  Her breathing amazes me, as she is doing so well even though she was born earlier than her sister.  If there was any complaint, it would be that our munchkin is feisty and doesn’t care for the tubes!  She is constantly pulling them out, keeping her nurses on their toes.

As for the Parents…

Dan and I are starting to wrap our minds around what is actually happening.  Both of our parents have taken turns helping with Lydia, meals, cleaning, laundry, and giving us a chance to rest and get away to see little Abby.  I am recovering well, but still sore, and won’t be able to do much of anything for a while still.  The first few days were hard, physically and emotionally, but so many people have offered prayers, encouragement, loving words, and help.  We feel overwhelmed with the love and support.

Praise the Lord

We are thanking God for:

His hand in the delivery, at least two specific instances when He led and protected us in life or death circumstances.

Abby’s wonderful progress.  The NICU is a roller coaster but we haven’t had any drops yet.

A plentiful milk supply and that Abby is starting to digest.

Please Pray

That Mom will heal quickly as there is just too much to do when Mom can’t help!

That Dan and I will figure out a workable schedule to be able to parent Lydia and Abby, get Dan’s time in at work, and actually sleep and eat!

For Abby’s continued progress, and our patience as we begin what will be another long NICU journey.

That Abby will be home quickly.  I’m praying she can be home by Thanksgiving, but expecting by Christmas.

Introducting Abigail Faith

Here’s is my promised pregnancy shot from the past weekend.  The picture on the left is me 28 weeks along with Lydia.  The picture on the right is me at 28 weeks with Baby 2.

 photo pregnancies_zps233c3fe6.jpg

Here’s Lydia on her birthday, just 2 weeks and 6 days after that picture was taken.

 photo Lydia_zpsad5f6b45.jpg

And here is Baby 2 on her birthday, just 4 days after that second picture was taken.

 photo Abigail_zps507fb867.jpg

Introducing Abigail Faith Taylor

Born: September 11, 2013 at 4:53 am

Weight: 2 pounds, 15 ounces

Length: 15.75 inches

Well, little Abby decided to come even earlier than her sister.  While so much of this labor and delivery was not what we had prayed or hoped for, God’s handiwork was all over it.  From the preparation of our hearts and minds leading up to labor, His provision for everything we needed, just before we needed it, answered prayers during labor and delivery, and Divine Protection, God was definitely in charge of this situation.

 photo Justine_zps11067ec9.jpgI plan to post the details of Abigail’s birth story later, along with updates on how she is doing.  For now, Baby is doing very well (for her age) and Mommy is recovering well too.  We are currently trying to figure out a plan for handling our Munchkin along with this new little one, as we expect to spend the next two or three weeks with Abby in the hospital NICU.

Anniversary Date

 photo hands_zpsc4b33aed.jpg

During the past week, Dan and I realized a few different things:

1. We had yet to take our belated anniversary date
2. A recent doctor’s visit revealed the first warning sign that Baby 2 could be born early
3. The next four or five weekends are all full (weddings, moving, church events)

We concluded that if we wanted to get in our special date before Baby 2 is born, we were going to have to take it on Saturday. (We realized this on Saturday morning)

After a few quick phone calls, Dan had made arrangements for a family from church to watch Lydia for us all afternoon. This was only the second time that we had left Lydia with anyone ever. And, it was the very first time we’d left Lydia with anyone to go out on a date, just the two of us. Was I excited?

I was excited.

 photo munchkin_zpsc69b134b.jpg

So we dropped the Munchkin off and soon she was happy playing with her friends from church. To be honest, there was a part of me that wondered if it’d feel weird not having her with us. I even wondered if we would run out of things to talk about. When we got back in the car, there was a moment of silence and we realized we hadn’t driven anywhere together without Lydia since she came home from the hospital over two years ago.

Soon, however, we were chatting away and the GPS on Dan’s phone, Waze, was taking us back to downtown Plymouth for our date. We were well on our way to the restaurant when all of a sudden I glaced up to see a ferris wheel in the center of the road! To our surprise, this weekend also happened to be the Plymouth Fall Festival, a relatively huge carnival that takes place right in the heart of Plymouth. So, we ditched our plans to sit by the lovely fountain (because of the extremely loud music, crowds of high school couples, and cheerleaders) and found a cozy little bench just outside of all the activity.

 photo fallfest_zps74e70bcd.jpg

On our way to this bench, we noticed some obscenely large stuffed animals, and kids abducting aliens (a funny twist you don’t often hear about, we thought). Anyway, we enjoyed just sitting on a bench, not carrying a diaper bag, not chasing a toddler, free to chat away for more than three minutes without interruption.

Don’t get me wrong. We love Lydia. We love having her around. We love chasing her around. And we get plenty of time to talk when she’s napping, in bed, in the car, or during meal times. But, well, we loved this too.

Eventually we decided to head over to our chosen restaurant, a highly recommended Italian place. We opted to sit inside to escape the Festival noises, and enjoyed a much longer and much more expensive dinner than we usually eat. Everything was delicious. And I particularly enjoyed sitting and waiting for the waiter to bring the bill because that meant I wasn’t trying to entertain a Munchkin with a much shorter attention span than her parents.

 photo dinner_zps0229b0ef.jpg

After dinner, Dan offered to buy me a frozen lemonade or other treat of my choice. Having spent a lot of money already, I opted for our favorite not too expensive Starbucks drink (I’ll tell you all what that is in a later post). There are three flavors to choose from and (don’t get weirded out), the green one actually tastes the best.

 photo smoothies_zps040eff67.jpg

Our two-hour parking limit was about to run out, so we drove back to a park near the home where Lydia was having the time of her life without us. (For someone who never gets left with anyone, separation anxiety is definitely not a problem for her) We walked a little, and found a picnic table where some child had forgotten his or her stuffed animals. Both of us found it humorous that even without the Munchkin, we were hanging out at a playground.

 photo playground_zpsd611d7c2.jpg

So we wrapped up our date chatting away, and sitting in the quiet, enjoying some uninterrupted time together as the sun was just starting to sink in the sky, making everything glow in a way that reflected the happiness of the day. Our third anniversary date was belated, and it wasn’t exactly what we’d planned, but it was absolutely perfect.

 photo end_zps244ac45f.jpg