Thursday, March 26, 2015

This is life, lately.

What is normal?

I have started this post numerous times in my head, trying to find a way to explain what life has been like the past year and half without sounding like I'm feeling sorry for myself or like parenting is a burden.  Because, believe me, I couldn't feel more opposite of both of those statements.

However, when you parent a child with special needs, the new normal that you settle into after having a baby never really comes.  Spending the first five months of Faith's life tethered to IVs and wires and tubes, while being confined to the very limiting space of a sterile hospital bedroom, isn't really fitting of the soft, squishy newborn phase experienced after the birth of a healthy baby.  That's not to say that parenting a healthy baby doesn't come with it's own set of challenges, but more than likely you're not confronted with mortality or medical interventions that may affect your child's quality of life and, therefore, your life and the life of your family on a daily basis.

Nor do you find that normal once you're home and still tethered to IVs and tubes. Of course, it becomes very rote to flick the bubbles from an IV line or reset a feeding pump every four hours or set your sterile field before you access your child's central line or wait for a delivery of medical supplies to your front door, but never normal.  There is always the sense of, Am I really doing this right now?  

Those five months in the hospital were hard.  We were mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.  I think I've said it before, but I have no idea how bills were paid or how our pantry stayed stocked or how our minds didn't implode from the stress.  I know that our great God sustained us when we truly thought we wouldn't make it another day.  We also had incredible support from family and friends who helped us out with Becks, brought meals, cleaned our home, did loads of laundry, and sent gas cards and gift cards.  They went above and beyond the call of duty, and we are eternally grateful for months of support and love from them.

A Lot of Medical Talk...

I don't think I've ever formally shared Faith's diagnosis, but outside of being born faaaaaar too early and the host of complications that come with prematurity, she also developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) when she was three weeks old, which is fancy talk for the death of her intestines.  In Faith's case, her bowel then perforated causing the bacteria in her gut to leak into her bloodstream making her severely ill VERY fast.  She transferred from the hospital where she was born to Cincinnati Children's Hospital so that she could have emergency surgery.  It was during that surgery where they resected a large portion of her small intestine that had died.  Two subsequent surgeries required more resection, and left her with less than half of her small intestine and 90% of her colon.  Thus, she has Short Bowel or "Short Gut" Syndrome.  Because of this, she is susceptible to malabsorption, malnutrition, and dehydration.  Her body's inability to absorb nutrients the way someone with normal bowel function  does is why she came home on TPN (total parenteral nutrition) and lipids (fats) and a feeding tube.  In the beginning, these three things worked together to provide her the appropriate composition of fluids and nutrition.  As she grew, she needed less and less support from her IV nutrition, which is why she is now central-line free and able to thrive on only her feeding tube and what she takes by mouth each day.

Faith is followed very closely by a team of physicians, nurses, and therapists who ensure that she's healthy and growing.  Outside of our visits to one of the best Gastro-Intestinal (GI) teams in the nation, she has received Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Speech Therapy.
In a sense, I have traded my teaching degree for that of a nurse.  And, it's all pretty overwhelming sometimes. Frustrating, too, because I don't always know all the answers and have to rely on my intuition and frequent phone calls to my GI nurse.  I'm a well-known control freak, and the fact that I have little control over Faith's circumstance makes me crazy sometimes!


If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we have been in the hospital with Faith since Sunday.  She's not been her usual self for sometime, and last week was apparently her tipping point.  Two trips to the ER, a visit to her pediatrician and Urgent Care finally landed her an admission.  Her sodium levels were scary high and she was extremely dehydrated.  She cried all day on Sunday, likely because she had a massive headache as a result of this.  You feel so helpless when you have a kiddo with medical needs who cannot communicate how terribly she feels.  They started her on IV fluids upon admission which helped to correct her sodium levels temporarily, but they've been on the rise on and off all week long.  Because of this, we cannot be safely discharged home.  Further, Faith doesn't have a line anymore so we're unable to run IV fluids at home anymore (nor do we want to!).  Thus, it's trial and error, trying to find the correct solution.

Very quickly we were reminded what a blessing it is to have your family home under one roof.  It's not easy on life in general to have your family separated between home and the hospital.  On one hand, I want to spend as much time as possible with Faith, who's completely out of her element in strange place getting pricked and poked every four hours and not feeling her normal self.  And, then, there's Becks, who's endured such dramatic life changes in the past year and half.  I'm so grateful that kids are so resilient because it's not been easy on him either.  B and I both agree that keeping things as normal as possible during Faith's admissions is important, so one of us has made sure to get him off to school and be here when he gets off the bus each day.  Still, it's not the same to wake up to only one parent and be short your favorite sister.

And, I miss my husband.  While we spend as much time together as possible at the hospital, we don't get to wake up next to each other or decompress about our days as we normally would. B and I would both agree that this past year and a half has tried our marriage in ways we never thought possible.  Marriage in general is far from easy, but the stress of the past year has really stretched us and worn us thin on many occasions.

The Good News...

Faith's hospital stay will be short-lived.  She is not critically or terminally ill, and we are so grateful for that.  We will get to go home and resume life as normal as normal can be, as soon as the team figures out how to regulate her sodium.  In the meantime, we'll rock-paper-scissors over who has to stay on the uncomfortable pull-out chair overnight, take Faith on long stroller rides back and forth across the concourse of the hospital when the confines of her hospital room become too much, and pray that we'll all be home together soon.

 Thank you for your kind words of support and love!  We appreciate all the prayers we can get!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Of Coffee and Christ.

I have been absolutely terrible about my quiet time lately.  

While in the throes of the first trimester, I developed aversions to coffee and sleep - two things that made getting up at 5am to have my quiet time each morning much more tolerable when I was able to tolerate them.  But, after many nights of insomnia, I found myself clinging to every last second of sleep when I could enjoy it, often waiting until I absolutely had to get Becks up for school before I would rise and then creeping back under the covers while he was showering and dressing for the day.  Knowing that I wouldn't enjoy a cup of coffee once I made it downstairs made it even harder to pull the covers back!

Generally, I've felt pretty "off" lately. I blame these crazy hormones that have taken over my body and drained my motivation.  {Admission: I pretty much took up residence in front of our fireplace for the entire month of January, moving only when necessary.  I was convinced I'd succumbed to some type of pregnancy coma and/or depression.  It was awful.} 

 These are not really good excuses for not spending time with my Savior, though, and my lack of connection has really been weighing heavy on my heart lately.  It's especially apparent when I'm feeding Faith her nightly bottle, sitting in the quiet darkness, reflecting back over the day and realizing I haven't spent a single second talking to Him. The one who has done so much, and yet I talk to Him so little.

  I know that I need to dig back into the word and abide in his presence.  Less of me, more of Him.  

Have you ever felt like your prayer life was drab?  Your Bible reading an inferior priority on your to-do list?  Your time with Him non-existent? 

Me, too.  I'm here right now, feeling the disconnect but knowing better.  

Talk to me, friends.  How did you wade out of those waters?  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

From the Materni-files...

How are you feeling?  

So, it's been seven years since I've been pregnant, and I've largely forgot what it's like to be sharing your body with another being.  This may come as a shock and please don't think I am in any way not excited and overjoyed and in love with the final result, but I actually do not enjoy being pregnant.  Baby?  Oh, yes, yes, yes!  Over the moon about the baby!  Weight gain and nausea and food aversions and swollen everything and hormones?  Um, notsomuch.  

 This really isn't a complaint as much as it is a fact for me.  There are those of us who loooooooooove being pregnant, those who don't mind it, and those of us who are miserable and pretty much don't like it at all and could nine months just hurry up already?! I fall into the latter category.   

I'd always imagined myself as the basketball belly preggo.   I am not.  I won't fool you.  I'm going to tell you upfront that I will be large and in charge by the end of this pregnancy.  Mostly because I'm on my second brownie of the night and I don't just gain weight here (I'm pointing to my belly), I gain weight here and here and here and here and here (I'm pointing everywhere, plus my belly).  Also, most healthy things sound completely unappealing, unless maybe someone else is cooking them.  The mere thought of baking a sweet potato or throwing together a salad sounds repulsive.  Of all things, thyme - the spice - is what really grosses me out.  Random, I know, but it's actually in a lot of things, and even though I'm happily beyond the all-day-nausea, the thought of thyme still sends my gag reflexes reeling.  

Overall, though, I feel much better.  My energy has returned, most of my motivation to just wake up and do life is on the rebound, and I am really starting to give my leggings a good stretch everyday.  

How exactly did you get pregnant?  I thought you were infertile...

As many pregnancies are, this one is still a bit of a surprise - especially after four years of infertility.  I've joked with some of my girlfriends (who have also conceived after trying bouts of infertility), that I'm convinced that the science behind getting pregnant is a farce.  All the calculating and timing and crazy positions and drugs and ovulation tests are for naught.  Like, God just looks over at his angels, nods with confidence, cracks his knuckles, and declares, Yup.  Today is the day.  BOOM.  Your pregnant.  Because pregnancy seems to occur when you're least expecting it, right?

This is TMI, so feel free to skip the next paragraph...

I was actually in Walmart, with both kids, wearing a really pretty sundress this past summer when I had an issue that required me pushing the entire cart into the restroom (AT WALMART WITH THE KIDS) so I could determine whether or not I'd actually wet myself or if my uterus had chosen that opportune time to expel itself from my body.  Needless to say, I had to figure out a way to dump the cart and exit the store with my backside inches from the wall.  Then I called my doctor panicking a little bit.  I made an appointment and tried to stay off Google.  Because, you know, Dr. Google is well-known for diagnosing DEATH.  So.

The appointment was your run-of-the-mill exam, until he said, Has anyone ever suggested you may have endometriosis?    

Excuse me, come again?  

I knew Dr. Google well enough to know that endometriosis was code for INFERTILITY.  

So, um, no, doc.  In FOUR YEARS, no one has so much mentioned that to me.  Not any other OBGYNs, nor the fertility doctors that we saw.


So, back in September I had surgery - a DNC and a laparoscopy.  There was a little bit of endometriosis, but also a uterine polyp, and both were possible contributing factors to my infertility.  

However - and this is the best however in the history of howevers - I would not be the mommy to my sweet little Faith if this issue had been found any earlier.  My friend, Sarah, said it best: So amazing how God closed the door of fertility just long enough for you to answer the call of adoption and receive your sweet Faith.  Yes, that!  Soooooooooo that!  

Will you find out what you're having?

Of course!  I can hardly wait!  I'll be 15 weeks on Friday, and will schedule a 20 week ultrasound at my next appointment :)

What do you think you're having?

A girl.  Becks is my little prophet child, and he also thinks the baby is a girl, as does Brandon.  A boy or a girl will be just lovely.  

Do you have any names picked out?

Not a one!  Brandon likes traditional, Biblical names...and I do not.  Being a teacher doesn't help this cause, or the fact that everyone is having babies and have already declared their names thereby making them obsolete in my mind.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

You've Got the WRITE Stuff, Baby!

Hi there friends!!  If y'all are anything like us then you are stoked about NKOTB being on tour right now! #ThrowbackGroupie  A few of my favorite blogging friends got together and we are super pumped to be hosting the "You Got the 'Write' Stuf, Baby!" writing resource giveaway in honor of these yummy guys and... 
our sweet little "new kids on the block!"  All of our precious families have recently grown (or are growing...Abby!) and we wanted to give away a few of our favorite writing resources to celebrate!! 

Check out what each of us are giving away below... 
(Click on our pics to visit our blogs and click on our babies to visit our resource in our TPT store)
Click below for 8 chances to win our "You Got the 'Write' Stuff" Bundle!!  The winner will be announced Sunday evening!!  Good luck sweet friends!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A REALLY BIG update...

Sooooo, it's been approximately eight weeks since I've blogged.  

Eight long, really nauseous weeks.  Full of changes for the Mullins family. 

I have so much to share, so we'll start with the biggest change :)

Let me take you back to December.  Saturday, December 13th to be precise.  

We were on our way home from a Christmas activity, and stopped to pick up some supplies (read: libations) for an upcoming cookie party my sisters, mom, and I were hosting.  As Brandon was getting ready to go into the store, I opened the car window and whispered: Hey!  Wait!  I motioned for him to come closer and then filled him in, right there in the parking lot, that I was more than a couple days late.  Will you go get a test?! I prompted.  

No.  Of course he wouldn't.  

Me?  Pregnant?  That was crazy to even suggest.  It'd been four years full of infertility and several dozen wasted pregnancy tests.  How on earth could that even be possible?  I knew it was likely wishful thinking, so off he ran into the store, and I tried to forget the fact that my suspicions were still unconfirmed.

The next morning at church, the sweet old lady in front of me...ummmm...smelled a little.  No one else seemed to notice, but my senses seemed to be at attention.  By that night I just had to take a test.  I was five days late at this point and thinking that a test would at least rule out the obvious.

I got home, took the test, and before the neutral line could turn blue, the first line appeared in all it's blue glory.  Like, BLUE-BLUE.  Like, I had to go read the instructions to interpret the result because I hadn't remembered seeing that particular line on any of the other 489 tests I'd taken in as many months.  Pregnant!  We were pregnant!

And, just like that, a family of four to a family of five.

I shared the news with Brandon instantly, not knowing that a pair of six-year-old ears were hanging out on the stairs, listening to our conversation.  We hugged, I cried.  Becks found us and said, Mom, what's wrong?!  Happy tears! I explained, thinking that would be enough to reassure him all was okay.  But, why are you crying?  ARE YOU PREGNANT?!

That little stinker heard the whole conversation!  This is EPIC! he responded.  We shared with family and close friends immediately, and then awaited my first appointment to share out.  Which was today.  We heard that sweet little heartbeat.  
This is the 6 week ultrasound :)

I'll be 13 weeks on Friday.  Due August 21st.  

Excited.  Scared.  Nervous.  Nauseous.  Minivans.  Overwhelmed with the Lord's plan for our family.

Honestly, this is the first week I've felt mostly normal.  Weeks six through about eleven were pretty miserable.  I don't know if it's because I'm seven years older than when I was pregnant with Becks or what, but this has been a very different pregnancy.  Plus, the addition of managing two other kiddos?  Maybe a girl?  Who knows, but it's definitely been a challenge!  

I'm definitely looking a little pudgy around the middle.  The whole is she? or isn't she? phase.  I am!  

For your viewing pleasure.  

PS.  I gained 60+ lbs with Beckham.  Anything less than that this time will be considered a win.  Even if it's 59.5 lbs.  

PSS.  I am behind on everything. Email, blogging, TpT.  Everything.  Life has been REALLY crazy, in addition to the whole feeling like crap thing, so bear with me while I get my act together.  

PSSS.  I promise updates on homeschooling (Becks returned to public school about a month ago), the dog (B got a Great Dane for his 33rd birthday), and our move (yes, we ARE crazy).  We wanted to see how many life events we could cram into two years.

Thanks for your patience!  Happy Tuesday to you!