16 Week Update and Gender Reveal

We had another great scan yesterday at 16 weeks and 1 day, but first, the gender reveal! The video is too long to upload here on my blog so if you want to watch it you can see it on my Facebook page (Bethany Weathersby.) For anyone who just wants to know now without watching the video, we are having our fourth BOY. We were shocked when we heard we were having another boy but now we are feeling really excited about him. Of course, my heart aches for Nora, who will never have a sister here on earth. The news of another brother did break open my Lucy wound again (which happens often) so that has been hard. But we are also very thankful to be given another baby to love and parent. Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person in the world. My mom (who has five kids as well) often says she feels like the richest person in the world when she thinks about her kids and grandkids, and that’s how I’ve been feeling lately- the luckiest, richest person in the world to be given five children.

Yesterday baby’s PSV was consistently 22, which is lower than last week! Using the PSV and the gestational age, that can be calculated to a 1.04 MoM, which is normal and does not indicate anemia. Baby’s heart function looked great, he was super active and of course, there were no signs of fetal hydrops or fluid build up anywhere. Dr. Trevett checked the cord and placenta placement again and it is in the perfect spot for an IUT when it is time to do one. It was kind of hard to get a good picture of baby boy since he was so active and kept kicking and flipping all over the place. Here are a couple of pictures from the ultrasound yesterday.

Dr. Trevett also checked my antibody titer again yesterday. Usually once the titer is critical (4 for Kell and 16 for the other antibodies) there isn’t much need to continue checking the titer since the baby is being checked every week with MCA scans (or SHOULD be checked every week with MCA scans.) Remember, the titer just tells you “how many sharks are in the water with your baby” and the MCA scan tells you “whether your baby is being attacked by the sharks and to what extent.” In my case my antibodies are more aggressive than most, and my titer was VERY high at the beginning of the pregnancy. This is why I have been doing plasmapheresis and IVIG to protect the baby until he is far enough along to receive intrauterine blood transfusions. My titer at the beginning of the pregnancy was 2,048 and after three rounds of plasmapheresis my titer was 128. Three weeks later they checked my titer again and it was 256. The reason they are keeping an eye on my titer is because if it reaches 1,024 or above we will do more plasmapheresis treatments to try to bring it down. Yesterday my titer was back down to 128, which is amazing news! I don’t know why it went down but as Dr. Moise said, no need to argue with success. I was expecting it to be much higher but for some reason it isn’t bouncing back up to the thousands.

Dr. Trevett and I also discussed Coronavirus scenarios (at my request, of course) and he said that if I get the Coronavirus, he will continue to treat me as usual, just completely covered in protective gear from head to toe. If he gets the Coronavirus he has to be isolated and won’t be able to treat me. In that case, I will drive to Houston and be treated by Dr. Moise. Hopefully we will be able to avoid the virus but it still makes me feel more confident just having a tentative plan in place.

Since my appointment yesterday I have finally allowed myself to hope that we might actually be able to bring this baby home alive one day. I’m only 16 weeks, so we still have a long way to go, but each week that passes without intervention is such a gift. Each week brings baby’s survival rate up a little more. Again, I feel like the luckiest, richest person in the world to be given this chance to have five children, a lifelong dream of mine. I thought my dream of a big family was destroyed along with Lucy in 2013, but somehow here I am pregnant again with a healthy baby boy. My next scan is on Monday at 17 weeks and 1 day. I will update the blog afterwards! Thanks so much for encouraging us and praying for our baby boy.

Antigen Results and 15 Week MCA Scan

Yesterday Dr. Trevett called with our baby’s antigen results. Right away I could hear the disappointment in his voice. The baby is Kell positive just like our previous four babies. Every baby has a 50% chance of being Kell positive and somehow we get the wrong side of the coin every time. Josh and I are very, very disappointed but we are not surprised. We were expecting another Kell positive baby but we still had hope for a Kell negative baby. I have been pretty overwhelmed trying to figure out how to navigate the rest of my pregnancy with a Kell positive baby in the middle of a global pandemic.

Now we know the baby will be attacked by my antibodies at some point and will become anemic in utero. Until then I will continue to need weekly IVIG infusions and probably another week (maybe two?) of plasmapheresis treatments to lower my antibody titer. I will also need weekly or twice weekly MCA doppler scans to check the baby for anemia. Once the baby is anemic (s)he will need multiple intrauterine blood transfusions before delivery and the baby will be born early, which will include a NICU stay. We are praying that our baby will make it until August before delivery (due date is September 13th.) Besides my weekly IVIG infusions provided by a home care nurse, all of my appointments and interventions will be in Atlanta. This means I will be in and out of hospitals in Atlanta many, many times in the coming months and to be honest, I just don’t know how I will avoid getting the Coronavirus. My family has been self quarantined at home for almost two weeks already but my trips to Atlanta are unavoidable. I also have to make sure I don’t get stuck in Alabama for some reason since no one here can provide the prenatal care that this baby needs to survive. I feel overwhelmed thinking about all of the many puzzle pieces that must come together in order for this baby to survive and for my family to stay safe. So much of this is out of my control.

Even though we are disappointed, we are grieving and we are very worried about the future, we know that we can trust God with all of this. We can trust Him to take care of us and we can trust Him with the lives of our children. He is not surprised by COVID-19 and He is not surprised that this baby is Kell positive. Today these verses were good reminders for me:

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay; and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 45:9 Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, “What are you making?” or “Your work has no handles?”

Should I tell God exactly how to form this baby? Should I tell Him exactly how to write my life story? We are all the work of His hands, including this Kell positive baby. I trust the Creator of this baby to do something beautiful and miraculous in whatever way He chooses. The future is uncertain and I’m not sure how to navigate it, but I know for sure that God is there in the future waiting for me and my baby. He has always been with me, He is with me now and He will be with me in the days to come. He will give me the strength I need to face each day, one day at a time.

Isaiah 52:12 For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Since finding out that the baby is Kell positive I have been so encouraged just by seeing Nora and Callum go about their day, playing, singing, destroying the house, creating things, having hilarious toddler conversations. I had to digest this same news (albeit without Coronavirus in the mix) twice before and now look at these beautiful healthy children I have here with me. Nora and Callum are just as healthy as their big brothers who didn’t have to deal with my anti-Kell antibodies. I remember wondering if Nora and then Callum could possibly survive the pregnancy. Now look at my beautiful babies who aren’t babies anymore (playing on their new slip and slide today):

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On Monday I had my 15 week MCA scan and the baby looked great again. Dr. Trevett couldn’t see any signs of anemia or fetal hydrops. The baby’s PSV numbers ranged from 20-24 and Dr. Trevett goes with the highest, clean scan to be safe so he said 23-24. Using this calculator that comes to an MoM of 1.14-1.19 which is great. Once the MoM is 1.5 or higher the baby will need a blood transfusion. Here’s the baby bump at 15 weeks and 2 days pregnant:

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Photo cred: Nora Juliet

Baby’s next scan is on Monday. Please join us in praying that our baby would survive and won’t arrive until August. Thank you to everyone who has shown us kindness and support so far. We appreciate you all so much. Tomorrow we will share our gender reveal video so stay tuned!

First MCA Scan

On Monday I had my first MCA scan at 14 weeks and 1 day. We started MCA scans at 14 weeks with Callum as well and with Nora we had the first MCA scan at 15 weeks. I was very nervous leading up to the scan and expected there to be no heartbeat. I kept imagining how I would tell the siblings that their baby had died and wouldn’t be coming home. Thankfully we saw a good, strong heartbeat right away. The ultrasound tech measured baby and of course (s)he was measuring about a week or two ahead. Baby was super active and there was no extra fluid collecting around organs (ascites) so that was encouraging. The PSV numbers ranged from 20-22. According to this calculator, that would put the MoMs between 1.04- 1.14 which is in the normal range and does not indicate any fetal anemia. Dr. Moise reminded me that even severely anemic babies at this early gestation don’t show signs of hydrops or ascites so the lack of fluid build up doesn’t necessarily mean baby isn’t anemic. He also reminded me that there are technically no accurate PSV values below 18 weeks gestation that have been researched so he doesn’t know how accurate the calculator is before 18 weeks. There was one study done in Thailand in 2007 where they gathered data to showed normal PSV values for babies as early as 11 weeks gestation. But their MCA/PSV values differ from the values that we use now at and after 18 weeks, so I don’t know how confident I feel trusting these values either. Here is the chart of PSV values from the Thailand study done in 2007:

The values are quite different from the ones shown on both of these commonly used PSV calculators:

https://medicinafetalbarcelona.org/calc/          http://perinatology.com/calculators/MCA.htm

For instance, these are the PSV values that come to a 1.5 MoM at 18 weeks according to each calculator:

Thailand study:                                                          1.5 MoM at 18 weeks =  30.9 PSV

https://medicinafetalbarcelona.org/calc/:            1.5 MoM at 18 weeks =  34.5 PSV

http://perinatology.com/calculators/MCA.htm:  1.5 MoM at 18 weeks =  34.9 PSV

According to the Thai study, my baby’s MoM at this last scan was just under the 1.5 cutoff. According to the Fetal Barcelona calculator, my baby’s MoM was 1.14 at the highest. I think Dr. Moise prefers the Thai study since it has data backing the numbers, but he goes with the perinatology calculator at 18 weeks and up (which is different from the Thai study numbers.) This has made me very uneasy since we basically don’t know if the baby is anemic or not. One thing I do know though, is that Callum’s PSV numbers were slightly lower than this baby’s at 14 weeks. His numbers ranged from 15-20, so that makes me worried that this baby is indeed Kell positive.

One good bit of news is that my titer is still much lower than it was before my treatments started. At the beginning of the pregnancy my Kell titer was 2,048 and after my 3 rounds of plasmapheresis it was down to 128 (several weeks ago.) They just tested my titer again on Monday to see how high it is now and it was 256. That is much better than 2,048. It’s still a very high Kell titer, but I feel encouraged that it hasn’t bounced back up into the thousands. That has given me a small bit of hope this week. Here is a picture of our beautiful baby at 14 weeks:

Please keep praying for us and for our baby and the medical staff treating us. They are going through a lot of extra stress as they try to meet the needs of their patients while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. They also have families of their own who they want to keep safe. It’s a hard time for everyone, especially those who are responsible for women and babies already in the middle of high risk pregnancies. I appreciate them so much. My next MCA scan is on Monday in Atlanta and we are still waiting to hear the results from the baby’s antigen test. We will update everyone as soon as we know!

Baby Weathersby

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!

 

Fetal Center Reunion

For the first time in my life, I have a 19 month old toddler and I am not pregnant. With all four of my other children by the time they were one and a half I was already pregnant with their younger sibling. As Callum grows it feels bizarre not to be growing as well with his younger sibling inside. There is a little bit of sadness but mostly a delicious freedom and ease to life, yes even with four kids. To be able to chase Callum or deal with a toddler melt down without fighting back nausea is such a relief. It makes this stage so much easier as a parent. I am enjoying my four kids so much and savoring the absence of emergency in our lives. I love having my body all to myself and being able to sleep through most nights without tending to a baby.

Our baby Callum is doing well and growing so fast. He was a late walker like Nora, but their personalities are more laid back so I’m guessing that is the reason they walked later than their big brothers. Liam walked at 11 months, Asher walked at 8-9 months, Nora walked at 14 months and Callum was 16 months. It’s fun to have all four kids now on their feet and somewhat independent. I am loving this stage of life with the chaos and the sweetness and the hilarity of young children.

In April we drove to Houston for the Fetal Center Reunion and it was a quick but wonderful trip. The last time we were in Houston was when Nora was a newborn. She was only about 4 days old when Josh and I woke up in the early morning hours in 2015, packed up our room at the Ronald McDonald House and drove out of the city towards Alabama. As we left, the sun was coming up and I looked in my rear view mirror at the city doused in morning light and I cried happy tears of disbelief. We had done it. God had done it. Nora was alive and I felt such a surge of love for the city of Houston, for all the miraculous things that had taken place there. So now to be back in Houston with bubbly Nora who never stopped talking the entire trip was very surreal and special. We stayed at an Air B&B in the medical district and visited some of our favorite places in the area. Again, it was surreal to be in these places where I had experienced such emotional turmoil four years prior, completely desperate for my baby girl’s survival. Now here she was playing with her brothers in the same spot, completely healthy and very much alive. I will never get over the miracle of her life and I will never stop telling of the wondrous things God did for us. He is such a faithful loving God, patient and kind and trustworthy. I truly have no good apart from Him.

Here are some pictures of Nora playing in the park in front of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital where she was born:

At the Fetal Center Reunion we got to see Dr. Moise and many of the other doctors and nurses who treated us during my pregnancy. I saw some of the women who coordinated my care during my pregnancy with Nora and some of the nurses and ultrasound technicians who monitored Nora every week in the womb and assisted during her intrauterine blood transfusions. All of these amazing people worked together to save Nora’s life and to see them all together again was so special to me. My gratitude overflowed. I’m actually tearing up right now typing this because these people mean so much to our family. It really did feel like a family reunion. They were all so sweet and happy to see Nora. Nora was excited to finally “meet” Dr. Moise (even though he had already met her when she was a baby obviously) and Callum loved Dr. Moise too even though he had no idea who he was. I loved seeing Callum with his namesake and Nora with her hero.

I also got to finally meet one of my most dearly loved fellow “ISO moms” Brittany Pineda. She reached out to me several years ago when she was pregnant with her son, Kristian, in her first known ISO pregnancy (anti-D.) I grieved and still grieve with her over the loss of her baby Kristian after his first IUT and encouraged her to try again for her rainbow baby. Long story short, she traveled to Houston for her treatment with her second son and Dr. Moise performed his earliest IUT on Brittany’s baby at 15 weeks. I think that week shaved about ten years off my life I was so anxious. Her miracle baby, Mikah Kristian Joseph was born after 9 IUTs and is now a healthy toddler. Brittany has always been such an inspiration to me and she encouraged me throughout my pregnancy with Callum too. Now our miracle boys share a middle name, Joseph, after our hero Dr. Moise. You can read more about Brittany’s story here in the Fetal Center Newsletter fetalnewsletter-1.pdf

After all of our history together, Brittany and I had never met in person outside of our cellphones. It was amazing to see her and her family face to face finally! Of course we both had to spend most of our time chasing after our toddlers but we got a little conversation in here and there. Here are a few pictures of our families together with Dr. Moise and at the Fetal Center Reunion:

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Callum kept waving at Dr. Moise

Rainbow babies Nora and Mikah, 14 IUTs between the two of them at the Fetal Center:

It was really hard to get a picture of these two together since they NEVER stopped moving! Our boys, Callum Joseph Thomas and Mikah Kristian Joseph:

And of course our favorite part of Houston is always the Korean food:

 

Reliving the NICU

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Last year at this time my newborn Callum was in the NICU and I was staying at the Ronald McDonald House with two year old Nora and my Mom (most of the time.) Since Callum’s first birthday I have been surprised and kind of annoyed by the waves of emotion I’ve been experiencing. The days he spent in the NICU replay vividly in my mind. That night when Josh had to drive Liam and Asher back to Tuscaloosa and I was left alone in the hospital recovering from my c-section and I hobbled down to the NICU at 2 am because I missed my baby so much. I couldn’t hold him yet, I couldn’t breastfeed him or have him in my room, but I COULD look at him, so when my thirst for him just could not wait another minute I walked all the way to the NICU without a wheelchair for the first time, alone. When I finally saw him the pride and goodness of my boy filled me up, but the nurse was visibly irritated by my presence. She side eyed me standing there next to his bassinet and I asked if he had taken anything by mouth. I had been waking up every three hours to pump and then getting up to wash all the pump parts and labeling the breast milk and sending it to the NICU, so I was proud of the breast milk that was available for him now. “Yeah, he had formula and did a pretty good job with the bottle.” “Oh, why wasn’t he given breast milk?” I asked. “I just reached in and grabbed whatever was there and it happened to be formula. He’s been crying for the past hour and I just got him to sleep. It’s not even feeding time so please don’t touch him. It’s not really time for you to be here.” she said. I was stunned into silence. Right after he was born my nurse had told me I could go down to the NICU and see my baby any time I wanted. But now, the one thing that brought me comfort, being able to physically be present with Callum and see him in the flesh, this nurse was taking it away from me? And he had been screaming for an entire hour without his Mommy. And the milk I had worked so hard to pump for him was left in the cooler. I didn’t say anything and stood there like a little kid who just got in trouble for coloring on the walls. Post pregnancy hormones coursed through me and I crumpled into tears and just sobbed, heaving and heaving. It was so embarrassing. Snot and tears trickled down my face and I stood rooted there, body aching from being on my feet for so long but I didn’t know what else to do. The nurse felt awkward and handed me a tissue. I wiped my face and hobbled out the door, down the hall, into the elevator back up to my hospital bed, crying the whole time. I know the nurse probably had a long day and was tired of taking care of somebody else’s screaming baby and wasn’t trying to hurt me, but I felt completely defeated. Now in hindsight I’m irritated with my self for not standing up to that nurse and explaining that if they had certain visiting hours for parents they should have told me, and please give him the breast milk I sent for him. Why do I even care? Callum is literally playing right in front of me right now and he is perfectly healthy and he’s with me ALL OF THE TIME. He has no recollection of that incident so why am I wasting my emotional energy on it right now?

I think having a baby in the NICU is hard for any mother but it’s even harder after you have lost a baby. It’s hard to be empty handed after giving birth, AGAIN. At the time I was in survival mode…pump, go visit Callum, drop off milk, breastfeed, go back to be with Nora, take care of Nora, eat, pump, head back to Callum, etc. (there was very little sleeping going on.) But now, in hindsight, I can make a bit more sense of how I felt. For some reason while Cal was in the NICU I felt like my parental rights were waived and the nurses were his parents, calling the shots. I had to be given permission to hold my own baby or to even be there by his side. I had to ask if I could touch him, feed him, hold him, change him. Most nurses were amazing and I was overcome with gratitude for these women who poured so much love into my baby. They even sent a card to our house after we got home with Callum congratulating us and thanking us for choosing them to care for Callum, which was so amazing. But my mind flits past that and settles on the one nurse who, after I had just met with a therapist about how to handle a preemie, broke all the “rules” I had just been taught and roughly picked up my baby, startling him into screams. She moved quickly and suddenly with him and was not gentle. He cried and I just watched because I wasn’t the parent in the NICU. But if my newborn had been in his little bassinet beside me in my hospital room recovering after the birth and a visitor handled my baby that way I would immediately take him out of her arms and not allow her to hold him anymore. The NICU was different, though, and I had to leave my son there all night with that nurse, and I felt sick leaving him there. I couldn’t sleep either because I worried about him. The next morning he was fine and I felt silly for my strong emotions and fears. But now these experiences replay in my head and I grieve again for the days I lost with Callum. I wonder if I should have been more assertive as his mother? Maybe I was too assertive? Since I felt like I wasn’t the parent, it was hard to bond with Callum like I should have in those early days and that is what grieves me the most, I think. I didn’t get to start truly bonding with him until he came home and I was his mother. People asked ME for permission to hold him and I had the choice not to leave him with anyone I felt uneasy about.

I remember how painful it was after Lucy died to hear women complain about how hard the NICU was. I equated the NICU with “live baby” and envied women who got to experience the NICU. In a way I felt like I was one of the lucky ones while Callum was in the NICU which gave me a weird sense that I was not allowed to grieve the losses I was experiencing. They were on such a smaller scale than the losses of the women who gave birth to still babies. But not grieving properly means the grief can fester and erupt later so now, one year later, I am grieving for the things I lost with Callum in his early days. Tomorrow will be one year since he was discharged from the NICU and I’m hoping this weight will lift and I can move on. I am so thankful to have him home now, healthy and thriving, and I revel in the fact that I get to be his Mommy, just me and no one else.

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Happy Birthday Callum Joseph Thomas!

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One year ago today I went in for my fourth IUT, which had been delayed due to hurricane Irma, and I ended up having a baby instead! This past year has been a whirlwind of joy and answered prayers and busyness of daily life with four kids. And underneath it all there has been the peace of knowing that our family is finished growing and our miracle boy is here healthy and safe.

Callum is a sweet, happy boy who loves his family, his pets, all the food he can cram into his mouth, cars and balls and water and books. He is crawling and pulling up but not walking yet. He can say Mama, night-night, hey, cat, eye, uh oh and a few more I’m forgetting right now. He is officially weaned from the breast and drinks Ripple milk instead (pea protein milk) since he is still dairy intolerant. My dream of having a playmate for Nora is coming true day after day as Callum and Nora form a close friendship and enjoy each other more and more as Callum grows.

I have been thinking all day about how to sum up my emotions in one short blog post. I’ve been reliving Callum’s birth all day, which was traumatic and beautiful all at once. I’ve been overwhelmed by waves of gratitude that wash over me throughout the day. Sometimes it almost feels like the breath is knocked out of me when I think about all the miraculous things God has done for me. I remember on Lucy’s first birthday how heavy the grief was, knowing all that we had missed in that one year; knowing how it felt to live an entire year without my child and looking ahead to the many years I still had to experience without her. I thought the weight of it might crush me. Conversely, on Nora’s first birthday and now, on Callum’s first birthday, I have been overwhelmed by the wonder of their lives. Being able to love Callum in the flesh and to watch him grow over the past year has been such a joy and an honor. An unexpected gift. A whole year of memories and experiences that I can treasure for eternity. A whole year of learning who he is, what his voice sounds like, what color his eyes are, knowing his scent and feeling the weight of his warm little body in my arms. Breastfeeding him for 11 months, singing to him in the dark while the rest of the house sleeps, hearing his first word, watching the love grow between siblings, seeing him snuggled up on his Daddy’s shoulder. Just so much goodness. I can’t do it justice with my words. Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and supported us on our journey to Callum. We are so thankful for our boy. Happy birthday Callum! God has great and mighty plans for your life.