Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our Baby's Name

 We have been pleasantly overwhelmed and amazed by the outpouring of love and encouragement from so many of our friends and family, and even complete strangers!  With so many people wanting to pray for this little guy and our family, we would to introduce you to him by name! God definitely had a hand in helping us chose his name and we would like to tell you the story behind it first.

We actually found out that we were pregnant the night before we left for North Carolina... our FIRST family vacation to the beach!  Once we got to the beach and settled in, we decided it was time to make the announcement to our kids! We had them each write their names in the sand and took a picture of them next to it. Once they were all done, we wrote BABY #8 in the sand and I sat next to it.  Dave called the kids over and with big eyes, they jumped for joy and were thrilled to be adding to our family!

When we got home, we had made an album of our vacation pictures and added that "Baby #8" picture in there. We shared the pictures with our parents and family members and that was how the baby was announced to them as well!

While we were on the beach for that week, we walked every morning around 10 a.m. Even though some mornings were overcast or rainy, the beauty of the ocean and the beach never ceased to amaze us!  The kids would ask to go "shell searching", so we grabbed our sand pails and headed out! We had a certain direction that we would walk because at that time of day, there were plenty of shells to choose from. On about the 3rd day, Dave mentioned to me that he thought the broken shells were neat.  He said, '"Isn't it amazing that these shells have been tossed and turned and smoothed by the waves? It makes each one unique and more beautiful, despite the fact that they are not whole."  Looking down at my bucket, I noticed that most of mine were not whole. There were a few, but my favorites were those that weren't "perfect".  This theme seemed to carry on with all of us. We would lay out our piles of shells at the beach house and talk about our favorite ones. We all saw the beauty in the unique, broken shells.


In August, just days after we shared our story with our Pastor, he gave us an encouraging little book. Ironically, the title of the book was called "My Beautiful Broken Shell".  The book tells how there is profound beauty in brokenness when placed in the hands of the Lord.  Reading the book brought back that conversation that we had at the beach that day.  Since day one of receiving the news of our baby's condition, we still believed that our baby was a wonderful , beautiful blessing despite the medical world telling us he is physically "broken".  This baby is made exactly the way God wanted him, so to us, he is perfect.

 After finding out there was a possibility of T18, we spent days hugging and holding each other every spare second we got.(We're huggy people anyways, so this was really no different!) Dave and I constantly said the words "Whatever happens, it is God's plan!"  I bet some days, we said it 20 times a day.  A couple of verses kept coming to our minds. One of those verses was Jeremiah 29:11, a very familiar verse that I always thought was good, but now I looked at it in a whole new light. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God knows what's best for us, even when we don't understand! 

After finding out for sure about our baby's condition, I couldn't help but have this gut-wrenching feeling that something was taken from us. We had been planning on bringing home a healthy baby.  The girls and I would look at cute little baby clothes when we were out shopping and plan what we would like to buy.  We planned on moving Tucker upstairs and maybe adding on a room addition since we would need a "baby room".  One day,  God took me to Jeremiah 1:5 - "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before your were born, I set you apart.".  It was kinda a DUH moment for me. We never had anything taken away from us!  We were given this baby from the very beginning.  Nothing had changed from the second this sweet babe was "formed in my womb".  THIS situation is what God completely intended. No accident... no whoopsies, he didn't just "happen" to get an extra chromosome.

That verse has been on our fridge since we found out our news. The kids have drawn sweet pictures around the verse and wrote our baby's name around it.  Dave has it on his phone. It is a perfect reminder that things are just the way that God intended them to be. Right away, we both agreed that his middle name should be "Jeremiah".

So it came time to start thinking of first names. (Boy names are so hard for us, that happens when you are on your 6th one!)  There were a few that we liked, but we just didn't feel like they fit this little guy. After a couple weeks of racking our brains, I threw a name out at Dave. He decided he liked it and definitely wanted it to be on the list.  That night, as I was searching the internet, I typed in the name.  The first link I clicked on took me to the "meaning" of the name. The meaning was "OCEAN". My heart just jumped for joy.  (Usually, we are not big on meanings when we come up with our kids' names. Ashton's name means "settlement from the ash-tree grove"...not exactly earth shaking! ha!)  I mentioned it to Dave and he felt the same way that I did. The ocean has had such a special connection with this pregnancy, it made it just feel right! Next, we talked it over with the kids. Our family does everything as a team, so we wanted them to have a part of naming him too. It was unanimous, they loved it and loved the meaning!  It was official, his first name would be "Kai" (pronounced Ky).

Kai Jeremiah... such a sweet, but strong name for our unique little boy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Special Blessing

Many of our friends and family know that we are so excited to be expecting our 8th child!  We are about 19 weeks along and our due date is February 7th!  We figured we better give you an update since so much has gone on with this new little addition to our family!

SOOOO....let's rewind a couple months...

This pregnancy, we decided to do a new prenatal genetic screening.  We have always declined in the past, but now they have a new accurate way of testing and we were encouraged to take part. If nothing else, we would at least get an ultrasound, which would confirm if there were 1 or 2 babies! (Normally, we wouldn't have an ultrasound until we were 17 weeks along.) We both felt totally comfortable with it and proceeded with the testing in August.

At our appointment for the testing, they went over family history and past pregnancy information first.  (Oh how I love that I can say "no" to so many of those health risks!)  With perfect pregnancies and pretty good family history (other than heart disease), the lady assured us that we were not likely to have any type of genetic problems with the baby.  We went on to the next office, which was an ultrasound. During the ultrasound, they measure what's called the "nuchal translucency", which is fluid beneath the skin behind baby’s neck. The ultrasound tech assured us that it was within normal range. She also confirmed that we were having just ONE baby! It brought tears to our eyes instantly, when we saw that little body moving and bopping all around.  The excitement just doubled, that baby was so real at that point. I could already feel that maternal NEED to hold and kiss all over that baby.   As we left the office, Dave looked at me and said "I love your smile honey. You saw that baby and couldn't grin big enough. It just shows the love that you have for our children, even this early on."  As we went upstairs to complete the last part of the test, which was a blood screen, I could feel my cheeks hurting. I couldn't get that smile off of my face. I looked over at Dave and he had the same bright smile! God is so good to bless us with yet another baby! I had my blood drawn and we headed home to share our exciting sonogram pictures with the kids.

For those that are sonogram savy, profile shot at the top right w/ little fists in the air.

Not another thought was given to the testing that was done that day until I got a call 5 days later. The lady told me that my blood work results come back and there was some concern.  The blood screen measures 2 hormone levels.  She told me that both of my hormone levels came back extremely low, which put me at a 1 in 5 chance of having a baby with Trisomy 18.  Those words sent chills down my spine. She asked me immediately if I was aware of what Trisomy 18 was. Unfortunately, my answer was YES. I knew all too much about this horrific chromosome disorder. You see, one of my best friends had a sweet baby girl, Makayla, born with this disorder and I walked that hard path with her until Makayla died at 4 1/2  months old.  Tears filled my eyes instantly.

A few quick facts about Trisomy 18:
* This disorder is caused by an extra 18th chromosome. Instead of getting just ONE chromosome from the father and ONE chromosome from the mother, the baby gets an "extra" chromosome at the time of conception.
*  It is very rare. It takes place in about 1 in 6,000 babies.
* Majority of these babies die before birth, usually within the 2nd or 3rd trimester.
* Most of these babies have structural heart defects (usually multiple defects) and many other internal malformations.  The results of these defects causes them to be labeled "incompatible with life".
* 90 - 95% of the babies born, will die within the first year.
* The average life span of the babies born is about 5 to 15 days.

We shared this news with our immediate family and close friends so that they could pray for us.  Dave and I prayed every single day.  We didn't just pray that this baby would NOT have the disorder, we prayed that we would be able to handle what God had given to us.  We prayed that God would receive the glory no matter if this baby was in perfect health or in fact, did have Trisomy 18.

As Dave and I discussed it, we assured each other that we could get through this with God's help, no matter what the result was.  We tried to think on the positive side.  1 in 5 meant we still had an 80% chance that the baby was perfectly normal.  We were constantly assured that this was just a "screening" test and not a "diagnostic" test.

After talking with our doctor, we decided to do an amnio. It was the only way that we would know 100% if the baby had T18. We would have to wait 2 weeks to do the amnio. Those 2 weeks felt like an eternity.

In the following days (while waiting for our amnio), God led me to so many bible verses... most of those verses were about handling challenges and using God as your strength. I dug into my bible daily, searching for hope and for God's promises. My relationship with God became something that I have never experienced in my life. I knew that God was right there beside us the entire time. Dave and I leaned on each other every day, so many times, talking about what we felt God had laid upon our hearts. We tried NOT to talk about the "what if's", but both of us couldn't deny that those thoughts crept into our minds.

When it came time for the amnio, we both felt very peaceful and we knew that peace came from God!  Before the amnio, we had an ultrasound.  During the ultrasound, they came across some "soft markers" for Trisomy 18.  They assured us that these markers were not a for-sure thing and it could just be that maybe we were not as far along as we thought we were. Dave and I were not "surprised" to see the markers, it was as if God had prepared our hearts.  The amnio went smoothly and we would now have to wait for 3 days to get the results. Dave and I walked to the car and got in to drive away. We sat and cried and held each other a few minutes.  I think we both knew in the back of our minds that we were about to face one of the hardest challenges in our life.

Monday came and we knew the call was going to come. We both knew what she was going to say. Sure enough, the results were in. It was 100% positive that our baby has Trisomy 18.  Several times throughout the process of our testing, we were asked if we would terminate if the results were positive. Of course, that is not an option for us and they have been told that several times.  That phone call was no different. "Do you wish to continue the pregnancy?"  We responded with "Yes, we are sure we want to continue."  She was sure to leave her number and let us know that if we change our minds, we could call her anytime.  You see, 80% of  women who are diagnosed with a Trisomy 18 baby, decide to immediately terminate. This is so sad to me and just breaks my heart.  If we were to terminate, then that would interfere with God's purpose for this sweet baby.  The thought of it just makes me shudder.

At the last second of the phone call, I asked the lady, "Can you tell us if it's a boy or a girl?"  She said "Yes, you are having a boy."  We couldn't help but smile through the tears!  Another boy!  Us girls are outnumbered and loving it!

We told the kids immediately about the trisomy and there was a lot of crying and even more questions.  All we could tell them is that God created this sweet baby for a specific reason, this is the baby brother that God wanted you to have!  He knew this baby's health would not be perfect, but He also knew that this baby would be a blessing to us!  We told them that we may not get any time with this baby on Earth and if we do, it would probably be very short. BUT, thanks be to God, we will be able to spend eternity with this little guy! ETERNITY... Yes!! Thank you God for that promise!

In the next few days, we had to tell family and friends. They were all so supportive. We are so thankful for our church family as well. We've had many people tell us that they will pray for us.  We know they've been praying because the comfort and peace that we've felt has been amazing!  There will be hard days ahead and many tears as well, but we know that with God's strength, we will get through this!

It's been a few weeks since we've known the results, and even though we've felt sadness and heartache during these times, we have never, not even once, felt hopeless or depressed.  We have been amazed how God gives us strength and helps us to see His purpose in this trying time.

We are honored that God saw fit to make us the parents of this sweet, special baby boy.  We are determined to remain positive and enjoy this pregnancy and this baby boy while we can!  He is just as much part of our family as any of our other children. We encourage our kids to talk about him and ask questions often! We don't know what the future holds for us or our baby.  The one thing that we do know is that God promises to stand by our family through this challenge and He promises He will give us strength to get through it. All we have to do is just ask for it!

Isaiah 41:13 - For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gettin' Back in the Groove

I have been getting the itch to blog again! It seems like it was so hard to find the time to post when I started my last blog, but I am bound and determined to get some of these wonderful memories down in the books! What a blessing it will be to my kids (and us) someday!

Ever since we went to the beach in June (for our very first time as a family!), my heart has just been exploding w/ all kinds of emotions!  JOY is number one for sure!  How awesome is it that God sees fit to not only meet our "needs", but also some of our "wants"!?!?  AMAZEMENT is a close second! How crazy is it that the God I meet with every single day is the same God that created and controls the ocean!  The massiveness of that huge body of water is beyond what I can even comprehend.  My kids getting to see that first hand, was truly a blessing and still blows my mind to this day! Anyways, more on that trip later!  That trip is definitely one of the things that got me stirred up to want to blog again!

Our family has experienced so much lately...joy and amazement are just two of those emotions.  We have felt blessed, overwhelmed, excited, heart-broken, encouraged, thankful.... the list could really go on and on! Sometimes, it's almost too much to process when you keep it bottled up, so my husband, being the journalist that he is, says we need to start up a blog! He is going to be joining me on this blog journey and writing some posts along with me. Besides being an amazing father and husband, he is such a talented and creative writer! He's gonna totally have my back, I just feel it! Hehe! =)

So, hang tight with us. The new Blogger has got me totally confused and I know that this blog is going to go through LOTS of changes as I figure it out!  We are just gonna dive on in and figure it out as we go!