We have some big news to share with everybody (although most of you probably already know!) I’m pregnant and due in September on Callum’s third birthday. We are so excited about this baby and we love him/her so much already.
Our journey to this baby has been different from any of our previous babies. With the first four babies it was a given that we would try for another baby in the future. Even when I was pregnant with Nora I thought that if she survived we would be open to another baby once she was a year or two old. But after Callum was born we really felt like we were done and we had pushed our luck far enough. Even though we had previously wanted five kids, we were tired of being in survival mode and we felt like we could be complete with our four living children. After Callum was born Josh and I prayed that God would give us peace about being finished growing our family and that He would give us confidence as we moved into this new phase of life- out of the family growing phase into the next phase, whatever that looked like. But as we prayed that prayer over and over again God started to do the opposite. He didn’t give us peace about being done. In fact one night I dreamed about my child (whose name meant “bringer of good news”) and I could not get this kid out of my head. I brushed it off for a while and finally told Josh about the dream. He said, “We absolutely are not having any more babies.” I agreed with him. But slowly and steadily God continued to bring this baby to mind, this one last baby, and I felt like He was asking me to step out in faith. So I told God that if He wanted us to try again, then He would have to convince Josh. We found out that the M281 trial was open and accepting patients around that time. It looked like I might qualify for the trial so the possibility of having an intervention free pregnancy and a healthy baby seemed quite intoxicating.
To make a long story short, Josh and I discussed this baby for years and we discussed the idea with our doctors in all three states (Georgia, Alabama, Texas.) Josh decided he was ready to try for our last baby, but it was still scary to take the leap. We know that just because God calls us to do something, it doesn’t mean it will be easy, it will work out the way we want it to or that it won’t involve suffering. But we also know that the greatest miracles and some of the sweetest gifts God has ever given us started with a step of faith. We know from experience that our life story will be so much better if we let God write it. His plans for us are so far beyond what we could ever imagine for ourselves.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory
When making these pivotal life decisions it always helps me to go back to the question, “What is my goal/purpose in life?” Is it to be comfortable, financially stable and safe? Is my goal to please others around me? If it was I certainly wouldn’t be pregnant with this baby right now. No, those are not our main goals and those things will not bring us fulfillment. My goal is to know God, enjoy Him, obey Him and bring Him glory with my life; to invest in others and love them well. I don’t always accomplish these goals obviously (I am selfish and sinful at the core) but I WANT to. And when I pursue these things I find true fulfillment. I’m reminded yet again how thankful I am to have a husband who shares the same goals.
So far, this journey God has brought us on has been one of stress, suffering, growth and joy. We started trying for a baby last year and we had a very early miscarriage in July, then a 7 week miscarriage in November. At the same time I was trying to start The Allo Hope Foundation which was another leap of faith that God called me to years before. I will save that story for a different blog post. But this past year has been really hard for our family, even though we are doing what we feel God is calling us to. On New Year’s Day I found out I was pregnant again and I had very little hope that the pregnancy would progress past the first trimester. This fear had nothing to do with my anti-Kell antibodies since they can’t hurt the baby in the first trimester. I was worried because I’ve had four early miscarriages in the past and I turned 39 in January, so my odds of having a first trimester miscarriage were high. I tried not to even think about the baby (basically impossible) but week after week and ultrasound after ultrasound, we have been pleasantly surprised by a healthy thriving baby. So far I’ve had 7 ultrasounds and every time I see my baby my heart opens a little more and my love for this tiny person grows.
I am now a day shy of 14 weeks pregnant. Unfortunatley, the M281 trial was not the right treatment path for us for a couple of reasons. We discovered at the beginning of the pregnancy that my Kell titer was higher than it has ever been, 2,048. With Lucy it was 1,024. So this made us very nervous and we felt uneasy about starting treatment as late as 14 weeks. The M281 trial starts the drug infusions at 14 weeks if the baby is Kell positive. I also found out later that my measles immunity test was 1 point below immune, so that disqualified me from participating in the trial. I had checked my measles immunity before attempting pregnancy and I was definitely over the threshold and was considered immune. For some unknown reason that number dropped between then and when I became pregnant with this baby. Thankfully we went into this pregnancy knowing that if the trial wasn’t the right treatment path for us we could use the same treatment plan that we used with Nora and Callum. I started plasmapheresis and IVIG at 11 weeks. After the three rounds of plasmapheresis my titer had dropped from 2,048 to 128. That is a HUGE drop! We were all very impressed with how well those treatments worked. We will test my titer again on Monday to see how high it is now. I fully expect it to be back in the thousands again, but maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. After a double loading dose of IVIG right after my three rounds of plasmapheresis were done, I am now receiving IVIG every week to try to protect the baby from my antibodies.
We still don’t know if our baby is Kell positive or Kell negative. Each baby has a 50% chance of being Kell positive/negative because Josh is heterozygous for the Kell antigen. However, we know that our last 4 babies, possibly all 5 have been Kell positive. Asher, Lucy, Nora and Callum are all Kell positive and we have never had Liam tested so we aren’t sure about him. On Monday, Josh and I will have our blood drawn in Atlanta and Dr. Trevett will have it sent to The Netherlands to have the cell free dna test done. Then we should hear within a week or two whether the baby is Kell positive or Kell negative. We did the regular NIPT blood test a couple of weeks ago to find out gender and have genetic testing and we got those results back. Thankfully the baby tested negative for the major genetic disorders (trisomies) and we will share baby’s gender with everyone once we know baby’s antigen results.
On Monday I will have my first MCA scan done by Dr. Trevett in Atlanta. Baby will be 14 weeks and 1 day and we are praying that (s)he won’t already be anemic. Please pray with us for a healthy baby and no signs of anemia. These weeks (13, 14, 15) are the most dangerous for the baby since the antibodies could possibly affect him/her and there is very little that can be done for an anemic baby at 13-15 weeks. Intrauterine blood transfusions (intraperitoneal) are possible at 15 weeks but they are very dangerous and the survival rate isn’t great. I will update everyone as soon as we have our ultrasound on Monday. We are thankful to have you along for the ride!