Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thankful Hearts and Arms full of Love

It's been a minute and a bit since I last posted, hasn't it? Sorry but life has a tendency to get in the way and Foggy Mommy Brain has hit me hard this time round.

For those who don't know, we welcomed a little bundle of boy into our family back in September.  A little teeny tiny 5lb5oz baby boy named after his late Great-Grandfather Rodney and his Grandpa Al. He is a firecracker and has been since he was born-after a 24 hour labor, he couldn't wait to join us so he beat the dr into the room by 5 minutes.

Not long after he was born though, we found out his sugar levels were dangerously low. As in undetectably low. The pediatrician ordered an IV and some oral glucose but after two days without any sign of his sugar levels stabilizing, we were sent to the NICU.

We ultimately spent almost 3 weeks there with me going home every few days to get more clothes and see the rest of my family. That few weeks span ended up being the hardest weeks of my life thus far. I was recovering from giving birth and my newborn was in the NICU. I was living out of a suitcase in a lonely hotel room in an unfamiliar city. I wasn't able to do more than hold my baby, feed the occasional bottle, and change his diapers during the hours I spent with him in the hospital and I certainly couldn't stay with him all day/all night. If I was with R, I couldn't be with my family but if I went home and saw them for a few precious hours, I was away from my baby. And on top of it all, my grandmother passed away while R was still in the hospital and I wasn't able to make it for the funeral. I've never felt more torn. I was dealing with the emotional upheaval of having given birth, being away from all that I knew and was familiar with, a beloved family member passed on but I couldn't be there to say my goodbyes, and my baby wasn't getting better as fast or as well as we'd initially hoped so our stay was getting extended almost daily. Thankfully, just as I hit my breaking point and didn't think I could handle another bit of bad news without breaking down, R started improving and after another week, we were finally told we could go home.

But coming home had it's own struggles that I wasn't prepared for. Suddenly I went from having all these medical professionals to help me with his care and answer my questions to having to do it all by myself and second-guessing everything. There was always a doctor or nurse nearby and monitors attached to the electrodes that showed his vital signs but at home, there was just me.  That first week home was so hard because I was so scared he would have another dip with his blood sugars and I wouldn't know it. I was nervous because after three weeks of hearing the beeps, boops, bee-bumps of the monitors I'd grown used to telling me what my little boys' vitals were, I suddenly had nothing.  He was colicky and fussy, I was pumping and bottle feeding while trying to transition him to breast feeding (which wasn't working), and he refused to sleep unless he was cradled in my arms. You can just imagine how this all felt to me-emotionally drained, physically exhausted, still recovering from childbirth me. Yeah...

But, as it usually happens, things have gotten better. My nervousness and fears have faded, R's colicky tummy has settled, and, while nursing didn't pan out and my milk supply has dropped significantly, I'm still able to pump a little bit to feed him along with his formula bottles.We've slowly found our way through this whole experience though and we're doing really well now. R is gaining weight and meeting his milestones on time so the dr is happy and doesn't think there will be any lasting effects of his rocky start to life. For that, I'm SO grateful.

And I've found the good that's come from this.
I've learned that even though I've been through so much over the years with my mental health struggles and my infertility/recurrent miscarriage experiences, I can endure even more than I ever thought possible. And come out stronger for it.
I've seen just how much me and my family are cared about. During that three weeks R was in the hospital, we had so many people reach out to offer help. Whether it was babysitting or meals or coming out to see me while I was staying with R or a phone call or text to let me know we were being thought of or prayers of hope and healing being sent our way. I've never felt so much love as I did during that time.
And I've experienced the kindness and caring of the many doctors and nurses who went above and beyond to ease my fears, care for my baby, and help both of us get through those trying weeks in the hospital.
I also learned that I was one of the lucky NICU moms. After a while, I was at least able to pick my baby up and hold him in my arms. I could feed him his bottles once he transitioned back to oral feeds. I could talk to him, sing to him, snuggle his sleepy little self in my arms, and we got to go home after *just* 3 weeks. Some NICU babies are there for several weeks or even months and some moms can't do more than talk to their baby through an opening in the incubator.

It's not easy having endured so many losses and so many trials on my journey to motherhood and I'm so incredibly thankful that my arms are full again. After 11 miscarriages, I never thought I'd get the opportunity to have another baby but I did. He's truly my miracle baby because I nearly lost him more than once during those rough first months and then his rocky start after birth just makes me even more aware that I'm very blessed to have the family that I do.

So in this Christmas season, this time when we celebrate the birth of yet another baby, take the time to count your blessings to and to say a prayer of thanks. I know I sure am.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Hardest Thing Is To Hope

Let me tell you a story.

Back in the middle of January, two inquisitive little children found their mother's stash of pregnancy tests. Tests she needed to have on hand so as to find out if she were expecting as soon as possible in order to start her medications right away. Tests she both loved and loathed. Loved because that positive test may mean another child to love. Yet equally loathed/despised/utterly hated because those two pink lines also mean the odds of this mother carrying that child to term are so dismally low.

But I digress.

The boy and the girl decided this crinkly blue and white package was something to investigate. After all, it MUST be a present or something fun to play with or a cool gadget to show off to Dad, right? With a quick rip and a toss of the wrapper, the digital pregnancy test was reveal. Huh, that's interesting but what do you do with this thing? Eh, just toss it in the corner and let's go find our books. So off the brother and sister scampered, leaving the test laying there.

Their mother walked by a few hours later and saw that test. Out of the packaging. Not able to be saved for the next 'I just KNOW I'm pregnant' moment. She knew she wasn't that month. The chances were slim to none and she just didn't have those inklings. She'd even been checked out a few days prior and the result was negative. Besides, it hadn't been happening as easily as it had before. There were those two positive tests a few months back but that ended so fast and it was the first positive in a year and a half. She just couldn't be pg again so quickly. No, she was definitely NOT pregnant.

But something about that test wouldn't let her just toss it in the garbage. The mother picked it up and stared at it for the longest time, debating what to do with it. She'd spent good money on it after all and since it couldn't be saved til next month when it was opened, why not just use it now? It would only read 'Not Pregnant' and she could then throw it away knowing it had been used and not totally wasted. (Thus is the mindset of a woman who has a stash of pregnancy tests in her bathroom at all times. You NEVER waste a pregnancy test by throwing it out unused. E.V.E.R.)

So she did. And three minutes later, her world spun when the test blinked 'Pregnant'. She kept waiting for the 'Not' to show up too but it didn't. She shook the test, thinking it was faulty. She rubbed her eyes and blinked several times.

But the test still showed 'Pregnant'

Finally, she could no longer NOT believe it.

Looking at that one word being displayed by this little white plastic contraption, she realized that life was changing once again.

And she was right.

If you haven't guessed yet, this is my story. It's how I found out I was pregnant way back in January. Unexpected. Somewhat unhappily. Yet definitely undeniable.

And let me explain the 'unhappily' part. You see, pregnancy is not an easy joyful time for me. It's a time of terror, tears, and trauma. I've had lost 12 babies over the years and I have spotting/bleeding in the first months even with my successful pregnancies that makes it very difficult to enjoy those weeks. I have to have bloodwork done frequently in the first weeks, multiple doctor appointments in the first months, and usually 2-3 ultrasounds by 12 weeks. I'm on 2-3 medications from the moment I find out I'm pregnant til 14 weeks minimum and those meds make me drowsy, sick, trigger spotting, and extremely dizzy. My history means I have extreme anxiety, crippling fear, and even a touch of PTSD according to my therapist. In other words, I'm under incredible stress in my first months.

All of this means it's so very VERY hard to hope. Fear is my constant companion for weeks on end and even now, I still have my moments where it beats back every scrap of hope I have mustered.

But Hope is strong. It keeps quietly to itself until something comes along to fan the flames-a positive ultrasound, another day closer to being out of my high risk months, passing my loss milestones, etc.

No matter how much my mental and emotional strain conspire to stifle Hope, it's never happened. No matter how many losses I've had, I've never lost Hope that I'd have another child.

But, oh, is it hard sometimes...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Baby Brain

Nope, not me.

No, the babies I'm referring to are of the bovine kind. On our farm, we have our cows calve seasonally so they avoid giving birth in the hottest part of the summer and the coldest part of the winter. This means we have two calving seasons each year-Spring and Fall. Spring runs mid-March to the end of June and Fall is mid September to late November/early December. We're currently at the end of the craziest, most hectic, INSANELY nutso Calving Seasons we've ever had and let me tell you, it's been one for the record books. We've had the usual amount of cows having babies but there have been some moments that made for a whole lot of stress. Like having ten cows give birth in three days...Here are a few other head-scratching moments we've had from the last three months.

One late August afternoon, I headed out to bring cows home for evening milking. When I got out to the pasture though, I saw a small group of cows shuffling around in a circle. Now this can be normal cow behavior so I wasn't worried at all but something made me look closer. To my utter amazement, the cows were circling around a wee tiny calf! This was a shock because we weren't supposed to have cows giving birth for another month and all of the cows who were due at that time were in a different pasture. At first we didn't know who her momma was because there were four cows who all thought the baby was their own but we figured it out. Momma Cow had her calf 3-4 weeks premature and because of a mixup in the records, she wasn't even listed as pregnant. Hence the reason why momma wasn't out with the other pregnant cows like she should have been. Oopsie. The calf was so itty bitty I couldn't NOT name her even though we usually just give our cows a number. She became known as Liina-which is my shortened up version of Thumbelina. Liina is now 4 months old and despite her early birth, she's doing great.

We had two other calves born 6-8 weeks early according to our breeding records and since they were healthy and normal sized, we knew there was another paperwork mixup somewhere. I put on my detective hat and sleuthed around until I found last fall's breeding papers.(Well, the hubby found them and brought them over to the summer barn so I could figure out where the mistake was made.) Once I had the right paperwork in front of me, it was a simple matter to figure out what had happened and change the records. One was a skipped entry on some paperwork and the other one was an ear tag number that got written down wrong. One more puzzle solved.

Then there was L450. She had miscarried her first calf at about 4-5 months and the resulting hormone fluctuations caused her to produce milk. This was unexpected (as in 'NEVER HAPPENS' unexpected especially considering that this was her first pregnancy) but we brought her into the milk herd and she's been there ever since. Then one September evening I went to get cows home for chores and found a small black heifer giving birth. I assumed it was the small black heifer that my husband had brought over from the winter barn the week before so she could get used to the barn and the milking routine. I was utterly shocked when said small black heifer walked past me in a totally different part of the pasture less than a minute after I left the new momma tending to her newborn baby bull. Not trusting my eyes, I hurried back to the mom and babe to find L450-the cow we were CERTAIN wasn't pregnant-had been the one to give birth! Our only explanation is that when she miscarried in May, she lost one calf but unbeknownst to us, she was actually carrying twins and the other one survived.

And speaking of twins, we went out for morning chores a few weeks back and there were two new mommas with three calves between them. My farmer husband brought the moms and two of the tots to the barn but the third calf was feeling a bit spirited and galloped off to hide. Because we couldn't compare the three calves until we found the missing one, we couldn't tell which of the cows had twins. It took a fair amount of hunting on the part of my hubby as well as myself but we found the impish young'un hiding in a patch of tall grass and shortly after I deposited the babe in her new pen, I was able to figure out which momma had Double Trouble.

Then the other evening L went out to check the cows who are due to calve only to find one momma and two newborns. One baby was off by itself and it had stumbled into a bit of a mud puddle while the new mom was tending to the other calf. We brought the muddy baby up to the barn and after she was cleaned up, we saw a small black and white calf with an upside down triangle on her forehead. The calf being tended to was a milk chocolate brown with white speckles on it's legs and looked nothing like the mother who was fastidiously cleaning up the newborn. The black and white cow (who has an upside down triangle on her forehead) had been bred to a Brown Swiss bull and Brown Swiss are milk chocolate brown cows so we didn't know what to think. One calf looked like the daddy and one looked like a nearly exact copy of the mother but the two calves didn't look anything like each other. We checked the other cows and discovered the two babies were indeed twins. It's uncommon to get twins that don't look at least somewhat alike but for them to be so incredibly different is pretty rare. They do have *some* similarities though. If you look closely, you'll see both calves have nearly identical white speckled patches on their hind legs, they both have colored tail tips (the black/white calf has a black tail with a white tip and the brown calf has a brown tail with a black tip), and they both have matching white patches on their bellies.

And there you have it. We've had mismatched twins, surprise pregnancies, and itty bitty babies to tend to. There's been other weird calving seasons too (like the one where we had four sets of twins born in two months or the one where 1 out of every 6 calves born was a boy), but this one tops them all.

At least til the next Calving Season starts anyway. 😉


Well, that's how it goes I guess.

As I've mentioned in the past, I was writing a monthly column for a family newsletter and it seemed like my creative juices kept me writing more for that and less for this little old blog 'o mine. But alas, ye old family newsletter is at an end (or at least on hiatus) so I suddenly find myself at a loss for words...Well not really. I'm just at a loss as to where to put my words.

And then I remembered my beloved blog. So here I am again.

When I started writing for the newsletter, I found it was sometimes hard to figure out what to write about. You see, the hard thing about writing about farm life is while each day is different to me, it's hard to write about it without it sounding repetitive to the reader. Or, even worse, boring.

So I struggled at first. For two years I wrote that monthly column and gradually, I found it a bit easier to find inspiration. Sometimes it literally leapt out at me (or, in the unfortunate skunk incident, ran under me) and sometimes I had to hunt, but I always found *something* fun/interesting/humorous/crazy to write about.

And now I'm in habit of writing things down because I never know what will strike me as good column fodder. I'm in the habit of producing a monthly column and I'd just started a puzzle feature as well. But my place of publishing is no longer there. I'm sad but I understand all too well how life has a habit of getting overwhelmingly busy and sometimes you need to stop something because of that.

So I'm back. I can't guarantee a daily blog entry. I can't guarantee a weekly one either. But I can say that now that I'm in the habit of writing at least once a month, I'm going to try and keep it up here.

I've missed my blog. It's like an old friend.