Changes: 27 Week Pregnancy Update

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Anyone like me enjoys seeing the numbers, so here are the latest countdowns.

6 days until I reach the 28 week milestone.
10 days until I reach the gestation when Abby was born.
26 days until I reach the gestation when Lydia was born.
34 days until I reach my 32 week goal.

Every day counts.

Friday I had another prenatal appointment, and it was the one we have been expecting and sort of dreading.

First of all, the resident who started my appointment measured my belly at 32 centimeters, which would put me at 32 weeks. As much as I would love to be at 32 weeks, I was only 26 and 4, so she decided to let our doctor remeasure me and she went on with the ultrasound.

While I lay on my back for the ultrasound I started to feel sick, really sick and really fast. I tried to just wait it out, but the resident was having trouble finding what she needed and I eventually had to ask to sit up for fear that I might faint if I waited any longer. (This is a normal part of pregnancy and occurs in about 20% of pregnant women. This is also why pregnant women are told to sleep on their sides, not their backs)

A few minutes later our doctor came in and remeasured the belly, but still measured me at 31 cm. It must have been the way Baby was positioned so he decided to double check with the ultrasound machine and measure Baby’s belly. This time he propped me up on a pillow on my side, which helped a little. He worked quickly and took a rough measurement of Baby’s belly measuring at a whopping 28 weeks. So it looks like Baby is bigger than Lydia and Abigail were (they were both very average). Some more ultrasound images showed that my body is indeed preparing for labor. We observed the same changes with Abigail and she was born five days later. This time, we’ve taken extra precautions, so we just have to wait and see if Baby 3 follows in Abby’s footsteps or gives us a little more time.

Since the appointment, I have been trying to stay off my feet as much as possible. No one really knows if this will make any difference, but it’s all we can do at this point. Dan has taken over washing dishes, putting away laundry, giving baths, cleaning, getting the girls up in the morning and ready for bed at night, and cooking on weekends. He’s considering asking to work from home more so he can help when it’s time to carry Abby upstairs or cook dinner. In fact, we’ve optimized our routine to such an extent that I’m only walking up the stairs once or twice a day.

Every night I go to bed half expecting to wake up at midnight in labor. Every little ache and pain puts us on the alert, paying careful attention to decide, could this be it? Baby could come today. Baby could come in a month. All we can do is wait and pray.

A lot of people have been asking the question: Is it safe yet? My honest answer to that question is this: 37 weeks is considered full term. Even a term baby is born with risks, but anything earlier than 37 weeks is indeed preterm and that’s just not great. Of course, we aren’t expecting to get that far, so maybe these numbers are more helpful: about 90% of babies born at 27 weeks survive the first year. Twenty eight weeks is a significant milestone when babies do remarkably better, spend less time in the NICU, and have a decreased risk for preemie-related problems. About every two weeks mark another similar milestone.

We’d love to make it another week. We’d love to make it past Abigail’s gestation or Lydia’s. And I would be thrilled to make it to 32 weeks. Right now we are just doing the best we can with the knowledge we have, hoping, praying, and trusting that God’s plan and timing are best.

The Story of Dan’s New Job

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A few week ago, Dan started a new job. I wanted to share this as a testimony of God’s provision and answers to our prayers concerning Dan’s work over the years we have been married so far. I believe this is only the beginning…

When Dan and I got married, we were both finishing college. Dan was working part time as a math tutor on campus with only foggy ideas about his career. He had considered ministry, but more recently, and after prayer, felt God wanted him to pursue a Master’s degree. So, Dan finished up his last semester and started a Master’s degree in math just as Lydia was born and spent her time in the NICU.

As a Master’s student, Dan was able to teach some classes and continued tutoring until summer. That summer, hours were low and we were preparing to live on our lowest budget yet, when Dan was offered an internship at a small engineering company in Ann Arbor. So, God provided the first real job of our married life.

Dan’s internship turned into a full-time job, but during that time Dan’s aspirations changed. He came home one night and said to me, “I think I want to start a business”.

I was doubtful but didn’t say much and just listened as he explained further. Over the next several months I came around and together we brainstormed countless business ideas. (My favorite was to publish a book entitled: 100 Businesses I Didn’t Start but You Should) Investing all of our future hopes into starting a business, while working in someone else’s business turns out to be quite challenging, and trying on the whole family. When Dan’s job ran out of work for him at the beginning of the year, it was a bittersweet transition.

Should he start a business now?

Should he try to change to a different field?

Should he get a PhD (this has been constantly under consideration over the past few years)?

What next???

We prayed and prayed and Dan applied and applied. He was eventually offered a job as a software engineer at a young, but growing, company in Ann Arbor. The day he accepted the job I was devastated, convinced that he would be stuck programming for the rest of his life dreaming of businesses that he would never start.

Through it all, we continued to pray. We prayed for wisdom and guidance, and we prayed that God would provide a more fitting, enjoyable job for Dan.

The software job wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t nearly as mathy or intellectual as Dan would have preferred, but the company invested in a ping pong table and the ping pong seemed to make everything a little better. Eventually I stopped asking Dan, “How was work?” and started asking, “How did ping pong go?”

We kept praying.

Then one day, so gradually and unexpectedly that I can hardly remember it, a small start-up contacted Dan on linked-in. While he was interested in their offer, he didn’t think he stood a chance at landing the job, so he didn’t even mention the upcoming interview with me until it came up during a Skype chat with his mom.

During the interview, Lydia and I prayed. We prayed mostly that, if this was a job God wanted for Dan, that he would land it whether he was qualified or not.

Dan came home that evening and told me they wanted a second interview.

The scene repeated itself. I don’t remember how many interviews Dan had, but it felt like a lot. Each time he would come home surprised and tell me they wanted to talk to him again. Each time he would insist he didn’t think he stood a chance at landing the job. Each time I became more and more convinced that maybe this really was a job God wanted Dan to take.

The day came for the final interview, but they didn’t get back to him right away. They didn’t get back to him the next day either. The next day, during the afternoon, I felt a strong urge to go and pray about the job. I spent a few minutes praying for the company, praying that Dan would be on their minds all day, praying that he would be the right match, praying that they would choose him. And when Dan came home that night he told me that they had.

We were in the middle of buying a house and skeptical about starting a new job. We didn’t want to do anything to slow down the housing process, but closing was almost a month away and the new company wanted Dan to start immediately. We talked it over with our mortgage lender and eventually decided Dan should start…that Monday. And he did.

This is the first time Dan has to check the clock to make sure he leaves work on time. It’s the first time he is invested and interested in the product. We love it. Protean is a small start-up, so they can’t offer all of the benefits of an established company, but they can offer other fun perks like generous vacation time and free lunches every day.

So now, Dan is a data analyst for the company called Protean. Their product, which they hope to launch later this year, is basically an all-in-one credit card that works with an iPhone app to hold all of your credit and store loyalty cards (anything you swipe, really). Dan’s job is to sort through all sorts of data and make meaningful graphs to display that data and help the company make good decisions.

Sometimes, when I need the car, we drop Dan off at work in the morning and pick him up at the end of the day. The girls and I have gotten to meet a lot of his coworkers and we’ve spent a little time lounging in the work area while we wait for Dan to finish. Lydia is already making friends for herself.

We don’t know if this job will last for one year or twenty, and we don’t know where God will lead us next. But after about three years of praying and waiting and wondering, we have seen God answer this prayer for a good (enjoyable) job for Dan, and we want to give Him the credit and the praise. (Even if there’s no ping pong 🙂 )

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

The Great House Hunt

You probably already know that Dan and I are in the midst of shopping for a house. It has been a long road so far, sometimes exciting, often disappointing. At the time I am writing this we have gone with our realtor to look at 22 different houses, two of them twice. We’ve driven by more homes and opted not to go look at them for one reason or another. We’ve hearted and starred and saved more homes online whose prices were too high or homes that we thought we might go see in the future. Today I thought I would give you all a glimpse into our housing hunt so far.

I remember the first home Dan and I liked. We had just gotten pre-approved for a mortgage and both of us noticed this cute little home go up for sale. We booked a visit and waited. The family got sick and we had to reschedule. The day before our appointment someone made an offer on the spot and the sellers accepted. So we never did get to see that cute, little house.

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A few days later this charming home came on the market. We called our realtor and got to go see it that night. We prayed and prayed on the way to see the house, not wanting to rush anything. We loved it. The neighborhood seemed perfect, the house was move-in-ready, and the fenced-in back yard had a gate that opened up to soccer fields and a walking trail behind the neighborhood. That night we Skyped Dan’s parents and decided to make an offer. Later we found out that we got beat out by someone else who had made the same offer, but with cash.

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Oh was that disappointing.

A few days later another home came up that was in the same neighborhood. It needed a little work, and it wasn’t as nice, but we jumped on it. Someone else offered way more than the asking price and we lost that one too.

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So the search continued. We looked at a few more. Eventually we found another ranch in another neighborhood that was a little less nice. The house was beautiful though and also move-in-ready. We made an offer and heard back that night, “Is that as high as you can go?”. There was another offer. So we raised our offer a little, but the other offer was “way higher” and we lost that one too.

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So our search has continued. There have been two other homes we’ve really seriously considering offering on, but decided not to for various reasons.

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Some homes have been in bad locations.

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Some have had no yard.

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Some have had damp basements. Some were too close to highways or busy roads and the noise was unbearable. Some have smelled damp or moldy. Some have been cheaply redone and were overpriced.

And so, 22 houses later we are still on our housing search. Every day was ask God to give us the right home, at the right price, in the right time (and that the right time would be soon!). We have a few on our radar right now and I am confident that we will be in a home of our very own…someday.

A Lesson from Almond Butter

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A couple of weeks ago Dan and I started buying almond butter. Our peanut butter consumption is at an all-time high, and almond butter is healthier than peanut butter, so we finally made the switch despite the price difference. Now we alternate between almond butter and peanut butter.

Lydia loves it. She calls it just “butter” and asks for it every day when we’re eating breakfast. Yesterday morning we were having some oatmeal when she asked me for “butter in a circle”, which means she wants me to draw a circle on her oatmeal with the almond butter. Circle drawing is easy with things like honey or ketchup, but not almond butter. So, she got an almond butter “glob” instead.

She strategically spooned the glob into her mouth without getting any oatmeal in the process and asked for another “glob”. I told her no.

She had a minor breakdown before I explained she could have more almond butter after she ate some oatmeal. Almond butter is, after all, much more expensive than oatmeal and we’re not going to eat straight almond butter for breakfast. Lydia shoved one spoonful of oatmeal into her mouth, threw her spoon into her bowl, and demanded more “butter”.

Again I told her that she had to eat more oatmeal, and the scene repeated itself. She was, as I had instructed, eating more oatmeal, but this wasn’t at all the attitude I was hoping for, so I started to explain,

“Mommy will tell you when you can have more. I just want you to eat your oatmeal until Mommy decides you should have some more almond butter.”

But even as I was talking, God was taking my words, turning them around, and directing them back at myself. (again)

How many times have I been waiting for something that I really want? And I pray to God and ask Him for it.

And God tells me, “Not yet.”

So one day goes by and I ask again.

“Not yet. Just wait.”

And another day, another breakdown. “God, I can’t wait any longer, I need it now.”

“Not yet. I’ll give it to you when you should have it.”

And the scene repeats itself.

Then this moment happened and God said, “I will tell you when you can have more almond butter what you’re waiting for. I just want you to eat your oatmeal wait until I decide you should have it.”

How many times have I waited impatiently like Lydia and even demanded what I want? A baby. An apartment. A job for Dan. A baby to come home from the NICU. Or sleep through the night…the list could go on.

God opened my eyes this morning to see in a new way that I need to always, no matter what the issue, wait until He decides the timing is right. It was such an easy lesson to recognize, but, oh, so hard to do.

One thing I do know. Most of the reason I denied Lydia almond butter was because of its price and our budget. God is not denying me anything because of its price or His lack of funds. His timing is for the best.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:25-26

Abby Update: 58 Days Old

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Gestation: 36 weeks, 6 days
Weight: 4 pounds, 5 ounces
Feedings: 37 milliliters every 3 hours by gravity or bottle

If you’ve been paying close attention to Abby’s weight, you’ll see that she’s lost 7 ounces in the past 7 days. In the past couple of days she’s made more steps backward, which is always hard, but we got some answers too.

On Wednesday, I got a call from the NICU doctor. Now, in the six weeks Lydia was in the NICU and in the 8 weeks we’ve spent there with Abby, we’ve never gotten a call from the doctor before. He was calling to tell us that Abby was being taken to radiology for an upper gastrointestinal test to find out why she was losing so much weight. The test revealed that everything is normal, but the esophageal sphincter (that is, the valve at the top of Abby’s tummy) is wide open. Therefore, anything that goes down into her little tummy can come right back out without much trouble.

There’s not a lot that can be done to help with reflux. Abby has been taking Zantac, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much so they will be upping her dose today to see if it helps. Neonatologists differ about their use of antacids in preemies, but in this specific case, our doctor thought it was worth a try. In addition, Abby is being held upright for half an hour after a feeding. Today they also started to thicken her milk with rice cereal.

As Abby has been spitting up a lot and loosing weight, she has also started to drop her temperature. Yesterday morning we were running late to the hospital so I called our nurse to let her know we were still coming. After I let her know, she informed me (so we wouldn’t be surprised when we got there) that Abby’s temperature had dropped a lot so she was put back in the isolette. During our visit Abby was too exhausted to nurse and she only took 16 ml from a bottle.

Yesterday afternoon we got another call from the NICU (which we’ve learned is never good) informing us that Abby had failed to take in much milk by mouth so often that they had to put her feeding tube back in. Now she’s back to her old feeding routine: she eats as much as she wants by mouth and whatever she doesn’t take is put in through her tube. At our evening visit she nursed about 15 ml and got the rest through her tube.

Abby has been on a new formula for the past couple of days, and in that time she has failed to stool on her own. This is something Dan and I are watching out for, because every time she stops stooling, she stops digesting well, and then she stops eating as much. However, this time the doctor isn’t concerned how long it takes her to go as long as her tummy stays soft. We’ll wait to see if she can handle the fortifier this time.

The pediatric surgeon came by Wednesday afternoon to take a look at Abby’s hernia. He recommended the surgery be done before she comes home. However, he’s a busy surgeon and the surgery couldn’t be scheduled until at least halfway through next week. This is no longer a problem, because Abby is not going to be home that soon.

Finally, the good news is that Abby’s blood count was up to 28.3 this week (from 24.5). Now that it’s increasing, it should continue increasing until it reaches a “normal” level.

Throughout the time we’ve spent in the NICU, I’ve tried to include on our updates how the rest of us are doing. This time, it’s more difficult to put into words. We are so ready to be home with Abby. We’re tired and weary and longing for home and togetherness and to be one whole family. The past eight weeks, however quickly or slowly they may be going by for others, have dragged on and on for us. Unless you’ve spent an extended amount of time in the NICU with your own baby; unless you’ve seen her make so many tiny steps forward from the isolette to the open crib to bottles to being feeding tube free, only to hastily return to the isolette and get her tube back in; unless you’ve heard the doctor predict “home” in two or three weeks, only to hear three weeks later, “she won’t be going home for a while”; unless you’ve watched your tiny little blessing put on weight one ounce at a time, only to see her once chubby cheeks shrink back down, I don’t think you can completely understand what this specific situation feels like. And I’m sure all of the moms who read this can imagine the fears that temp to fill a Mommy’s mind as she watches her little one grow too tired to eat and too weak to keep herself warm.

We’ve had a hard, a very hard week. I’ve recently been dropping Dan off at work and driving home, then driving in to pick him up later. One day I decided to start putting on music, and I found that listening to worshipful songs was helping my attitude. This morning as I drove home an old song came on that resonated with our situation.

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Praise the Lord
We are thanking God for:
-an increased blood count
-that we won’t have to come back to the hospital for surgery once Abby comes home

Please Pray:
-that Abby will gain weight, eat more, and keep her temperature up
-that Abby will be able to tolerate this new formula being used for fortifier
-that the attempts to fight Abby’s reflux (Zantac, upright holding, and rice thickener) will be successful
-for Mommy, Daddy, and Lydia, who are heartsick and wanting Abby to thrive and come home

Life in Chaos

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Transitions

Last April, Dan graduated with his Master’s degree and we were both so excited to move off campus, get settled, and begin life without school. In May, we moved into a spacious two bedroom condo that was conveniently located right next door to Dan’s work. It was wonderful. After a while, though, we realized that there was a serious problem with the condo (mold was our guess) and it was making us, Dan in particular, sick.

In one week we searched for another place, any place, that could take us immediately and that brought us to the lovely town of Plymouth. While our Plymouth home is beautiful, it has its downsides too. It’s a long commute for Dan to get to work, especially when he already has to sit at a computer for eight hours a day, adding on another hour or two of driving hasn’t gone too well.

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Unpacking

My biggest struggle, though, has been the unpacking. This place is fully furnished, which means there’s just no room for all of our stuff. Well, that’s not true. We have found room for all of our stuff, but there’s not room to unpack and really move in. So all summer, I have felt like I’ve been living in chaos.

The laundry room, stairwell, and corner of the living room are full of boxes. Lydia’s room, which is actually an office, now looks like an office that got into a fight with a playroom. Half of our clothes are unpacked, and a lot of them are sitting in piles on open shelves in our bedroom, in boxes on the floor, and on top of storage containers on the floor of our closet. I can’t get to my cleaning supplies, my measuring cups, or our water pitcher. I can’t find the iron. Oh, and my nice organized collection of very important documents ended up in storage.

To add to the chaos, I’ve been off of my routine ever since my first trimester, when nausea prevented me from doing much of anything. I thrive on a schedule, but my schedule went out the window back in May with the first move. Without it, I was getting nothing done, and getting frustrated in the process.

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Time for a Change

So, I sat down a while back to pray about things. And then I set some goals to tackle one at a time:

1. Go to bed earlier
2. Wake up earlier – pack Dan’s lunch and get him breakfast, and actually see him before        he leaves for the day
3. Take shorter naps
4. Get outside at least once a day with Lydia
5. Unpack one box a day

How did it go?

Well, it has been about a month since I set my goals. So how have I been doing? Well, I tackled the first one and started getting to bed earlier. About a week later I asked Dan to start waking me up when he’s getting ready in the mornings. We’ve settled into a lovely little routine to start each day, which makes the schedule-dependent-mommy in me happy. I succeeded at shortening and sometimes even eliminating my naps, but that one feels like cheating because I’ve been feeling so much better in my second trimester anyway. Lydia and I get outside almost every day, unless it’s raining. In fact, our day up to lunch has become pretty predictable, again, making me happy. As for unpacking, well, I gave that one up long ago. There’s just no point. Once I got things clean enough to host Leslie’s bridal shower, I decided it was good enough and that I’d just have to suffer through the rest of the chaos until we move.

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How much longer?

I would love to know the answer to that one! Dan and I have a signed lease at some nice Ann Arbor apartments and we are tentatively scheduled to move in on September 6. However, we have also applied for a mortgage through our bank and are waiting to hear back from them. If it’s a “yes”, we’ll begin our search for a house, stay where we are until we find one, and then work our way through the complicated process of buying.

In the meantime, I’m sticking to my routine – even if it isn’t as regular as I like. I’m using Mr. Jenkins’ (our landlord) old plastic liquid measuring cup (with half the numbers worn off) for all of my cooking measurements. And I’m continuing to remind myself of the ways God has provided – this home, and all of our previous ones! I’m thankful for a flexible landlord, and a diligent husband who works hard to find us a place that will really feel like home. So life goes on, more chaotic than I would like, but completely in God’s control. We’re, as always, learning to trust as we wait.