"What would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the Lord's goodness in the land of the LIVING. Wait, hope for and EXPECT the Lord. Be strong and of good courage and may your heart (Ned) be sturdy and enduring.....Yes, Wait For and Hope For and Expect the Lord."

Psalm 27:13-14 (Amp)

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Like Christmas Morning

That's how Travis always terms unexpected surprises.....the really good ones that warm your heart even though they may not be that big. It makes me think about how I would sometimes get some things in my stocking that I hadn't asked for, I hadn't even ever thought that I wanted them, but they were my most favorite gift that year. That's kinda how our doctors visits felt to me this week.

I guess when you're expecting bad news, just a little good news is great!! Because my fluid levels had gotten significantly higher last week, I guess I just expected that trend to continue and I was fully expecting that the baby would show at least some signs of hydrops (again meaning that he would be retaining fluid around his heart, abdomen or brain). However, when we got to our appointment at CMC on Tuesday, the baby showed no signs of hydrops and my fluid levels had maintained where they were last week if they haven't dropped a bit. I was so very thankful as God answered some very specific prayers I had listed last week.....again He shows me how faithful He is when I lay things down at His feet. On top of that, the baby's growth curve had jumped back up to normal and if he continues at this rate he should be around 8 lbs. at birth (assuming we make it till January 21st)!!! The ultrasound technician also said that the baby had tons of hair....I think the term he used was "dread locks"?! That came as such a surprise to both Travis and I because he looks "exactly" like Jack and since Jack didn't have any hair until he was almost two, it's really hard for me to envision this little version of him with a Bob Marley wig. I guess we'll just take the technician's advise and take a brush to the hospital with us?

This week was really great news for us. We know that the baby's condition is severe, but any other development that shows signs of normalcy gives us great hope. As I have mentioned before, there was a time when I knew that the Lord was taking us into a very dark valley and I had to come to a point of surrender where I was willing to say, "I will follow you through the deepest, darkest valley even though I don't know where we're going or what our next step will bring. I will hold fast to your guidance and I am believing that you will bring us out on the mountain top". This week for me was a glimpse of the mountain top. We still may be a long way off before we reach the top, but when we get there, we'll know that it was only by the grace of God and through his miraculous nature.

Have a very merry Christmas. May God bless your lives in a very real way during this time of year.

Loving you all!

Betsy, Travis, & Jack

Monday, December 17, 2007

Somewhat Expected Complications

I have fallen a bit behind in posting last week's blog. I had promised myself to keep this current, but I just needed some time to process the information I received last week. It wasn't all that upsetting, but it just took me some time to put it all in perspective.

Before I get into details, I want to thank everyone who has emailed me with prayers and well wishes. I apologize that I haven't had a chance to respond to them all yet, but I am saving them and I will eventually get around to thanking everyone personally. Your concerns have all been very appreciated.....you'll never know how they have lifted me up and given me hope!!

Last week was a (2) visit week. The first visit went very smoothly....stress test showed that heart rate and movement still appeared normal. The baby still looked great during my second appointment for the bio-physical profile. The only concerning thing was that my amniotic fluid levels had risen from 26cm the week before to 34cm this past week? We expected to potentially have this problem, I was just hoping they would fluctuate back and forth and the increase would be slower.

What causes the fluids to rise? All babies practice breathing while still in the womb. They inhale amniotic fluid and it processes through their bodies and is then excreted back into the amniotic sac. Because our baby's organs are all pushed to the right side of his body due to the CDH, it is more difficult to process the fluid and the whole procedure is much slower than normal. My body then generates more amniotic fluid to compensate for what he has ingested, then he passes some and my fluid levels rise. It's a vicious cycle of both of our bodies doing what they are supposed to do without knowledge of how the birth defect is throwing a wrench in things. On the positive side, I like to think he is in there really practicing his breathing so that what little lung he has developed is very ready to work hard!!!

The main concern with the fluid levels rising too much is that it will cause me to go into premature labor or that the baby will develop hydrops. What will most likely happen is that they will send me to Chapel Hill to have some amniotic fluid drained unless my levels go back down. We'll get a new reading on this tomorrow when we go to CMC. They will check my fluid levels as well as for hydrops. Hydrops is when the baby is unable to process the fluid and it begins to hold fluid around the heart and abdomen. In the case of hydrops, they'll decide whether to attempt to drain the baby's body with an injection or to deliver early. With all that said, I'm really praying that my levels will drop a bit at least for a couple more weeks. His little lungs need all the development time they can possibly have and I really want to be home with Jack for Christmas!

Now, having caught everyone up on the medical viewpoint, I'd like to share what the Lord brought to my mind this week. I have met so many wonderful people through this whole experience. Many of them have been very strong Christians in whom I have found much strength and wisdom. I really got that on my mind in the bed Friday night and I was reminded of 1 Kings 18. I remembered that during the time of famine under King Ahab, the prophet Obadiah had lived in King Ahab's castle as part of his court and, therefore, had been unaffected by the hunger the famine had brought on the land. Obadiah had taken 100 other prophets and hid them away in a cave so that King Ahab could not find them to harm them. Obadiah brought the 100 prophets food in the cave.

When I first studied this scripture, I felt sorry for the hundred prophets who had to hide away in a cave while lucky Obadiah got to live in the kings palace. But the more I thought about it, it was Obadiah who lived the more complicated life and he didn't know it. He had to live a lie in Ahab's palace every day, day in and day out sneaking food to the other prophets and attempting to hide his allegiances to God. Now, while the hundred prophets didn't have much from a world perspective, they lived in the protective environment their Lord had provided them. He was also providing them with food....everything they actually needed. Meanwhile, they lived all together in a place where they could share with one another about what God had done in their lives and what he was teaching them on a daily basis.....what a wonderful place to live.....they were living in their King's palace.

As I have met these friends, I have found so many times that it's almost unbelievable that we were in some way connected or share some kind of a similar past history. It has given me some insight to how I believe heaven will be. For an eternity, we will meet and share with other Christians and through our common histories and experiences, we'll gain a better and better understanding of how God worked even through the difficulties of our lives for the good of his other children. I believe our understanding of how we are all interwoven will be overwhelming and it will give us more and more reason to praise him for his wisdom and sovereignty!!

I'll update you as soon as there is something worth sharing. Much love to you all-

Betsy, Travis & Jack

Friday, December 7, 2007

Answered Prayers

Well, I had (3) doctor's appointments this week so I just waited to give an overview of all of the information we received rather than overwhelm everyone with too much medical information.

On Tuesday, I had what will now be a weekly stress test at Kings Mountain. He passed with flying colors meaning that his heart rate was stable for about 20 minutes and he's moving well....very frequently, in fact.

On Wednesday, we went to Chapel Hill. I was very anxious about this visit. I had prayed that Dr. Wolfe, the radiologist, wouldn't be there. I just hadn't taken to her bedside manner during my first visit with her. Travis said I shouldn't pray for people to be out sick, but I said she could be off Christmas shopping for all I cared. Well, she was there, but she didn't come in my room after the ultrasound....thank the Lord for the small prayers He answers. It relieved the whole day for me so much. The ultrasound shows that my fluid levels are somewhat high (which we expected to start at some point), but not at a dangerous level at this point, but there is no indication of hydrops which would mean that the baby was holding too much of this fluid and it would be building up around his heart or abdomen. Hydrops would be one problem we may encounter that would cause us to need to deliver early which we really want to avoid. The baby is also somewhat small for his gestational age. All the doctors assured me that it isn't at a dangerous level, but we are praying that his growth will pick back up to a normal rate. If he can continue on a normal rate from here and make it to 39 weeks, we expect him to weigh around 8lbs.....which would be wonderful!! They also noted that he was performing fetal breathing movements which is like "practice breathing". That was a very promising sign that he is getting whatever lung he has prepared to work.....very thankful for that news as well.

Also, I had discussed with the baby that I didn't want him letting the ultrasound tech look at his feet. Last time we were there, she had thought she saw and extra toe and although Dr. Wolfe couldn't confirm it, she presented it to us as if she felt much more certain that he had a genetic disorder. At that point, we had had about (6) ultrasounds and all had counted 5 fingers and toes. I chose to dismiss their diagnosis, but I just didn't want to go through it again with them. Regardless of what all they think is wrong with this baby, I want them to give him the best shot at survival. The more evidence that they can find leading them to believe his chances for survival are slim, I'm afraid they won't give him their best effort. So, when my little man kept kicking the ultrasound probe when she got near his feet, I knew he had understood my instructions.....just hope he'll keep listening as well.

On Thursday, I saw Dr. Chamberlain in Kings Mountain for my now weekly bio-physical profile. Much more of the same news except Dr. Chamberlain said that he thought the fetal breathing movements he saw were d*** impressive!!! I was so proud of the little monkey!

So, for the moment, the following are my main prayer requests:

1. Baby's growth rate will increase to put him back in the normal range
2. Amniotic fluid levels will remain within the normal range
3. Hydrops will not begin developing around the baby's heart or abdomen
4. We will continue to see God's hand in this situation so we can easily rely on and trust in Him
5. Pray for the other families whose children have already arrived and are fighting to get stabilized and go home. It will be a difficult Christmas for those still in the NICU. You can see the attached links to check out their progress.
6. Begin praying for January 21st- my scheduled delivery date. I am praying that I make it to that date and that God will restore my child to full health.

I'll at least keep everyone updated weekly (I hope)! Love to you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Uneventful Doctor's Appointment....Yeah!!!

I had my first weekly visit with my regular midwife in Kings Mountain today. I was somewhat apprehensive since we have planned to leave for NYC tomorrow. Lots of normal readings.....measuring normal (which means my amniotic fluid levels can't be too high), no gestational diabetes, normal blood pressure and normal hemoglobin. These were test results that I would have taken for granted during my first pregnancy, but now I am so thankful to receive them!!

From this point forward, I will go to my regular doctor's office weekly and have ultrasounds scheduled for every other week either at CMC or Chapel Hill. For the moment, I'm just going to give God praise for the wonderfully uneventful visit today and focus on being Thankful.....what a fitting time of year to do so!!

I hope everyone has a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

November 19, 2007

As most everyone knows, our unborn son was diagnosed on 08/27/07 with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). We have decided to use this blog to keep everyone updated and informed on his prognosis. You will also find links to further information about CDH and the potential complications since it is a widely unknown birth defect.

As we have already been given a very grim prognosis by the medical community, we intend to use this site to glorify God by sharing the goodness that he shows us during this very dark valley. In some way, sharing gives me a sense of purpose in this and also serves as a reminder to me when things look really bleak how big God is and how faithful he has been to answer my prayers and meet my needs in the past.

Just for some background info- we met with a doctor in Charlotte after finding out about the baby's condition. The diagnosis and prognosis we received there was extremely grim and barely informative. So far, those were our darkest times (I'll share more from my prayer journal regarding this a bit later). Then we went to Philadelphia to the Children's Hospital (CHOP). While the dianosis wasn't much better, it was some better and we felt really assured about the information they were giving us. The test results seemed really conclusive.

Because the baby's condition was so severe and our potential hospital stay is likely to be lengthy, they refered us to Chapel Hill to meet with a ped. surgeon there who had been at CHOP for 10 years (Dr. Daniel Von Allmen- please keep him in your prayers). We met with him and felt really comfortable with him and the hospital team and their practices. So, in January (assuming I'll make it to full term- another prayer)I'll be delivering in Chapel Hill.

We have been back to Chapel Hill one other time and are scheduled for another visit on 12/05/07 with high risk OB. The last visit wasn't our best day. The radiologist really pushed the amnio test again which I have refused to have. I just have a really bad feeling about the risks associated with the amnio? The tests would show any chromosome abnormalities that may exists. In the event that the baby has both the CDH and a chromosome problem, his chances for survival will be very slim to put it mildly- I believe the doctor's termed it "incompatible with life". They said it would be better to know ahead of time and we could meet with the Neonatal Hospice....that didn't seem like such an added benefit to us so we're just trusting in the Lord and allowing Him to carry us through this. I just feel like we have made the best medical decisions possible considering the situation and at this point I am willing to surrender and hand this whole thing over into the hands of the Almighty.

When I was first diagnosed in Shelby, I was by myself since we weren't going to find out the baby's sex. I told Travis just to stay at work because it would be completely uneventful....seems almost comical now. Anyway, when they gave me the diagnosis, I knew immediately that God was asking me to trust Him with that which most valued..my children. All through this process so far, when I come to places where I feel completely overwhelmed and without hope, God comes to me again and again saying, "are you going to trust me". When it comes right down to it and you know that the Lord of the universe is speaking to you, you have to trust Him....I mean completely lay it all in His hands.

I know this entry has been really scattered. There is much more I can share and intend to. It was just a bit difficult to cram the two busiest and most spiritually enriching months of my life into a single blog entry. I'll get everyone caught up and answer any questions I receive as I muddle my way through this. I do want to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, cards and concern. It has meant so much to us! We are really hoping to settle on a name in the very near future so you can pray for him by name?

Betsy, Trav & Jack