Saturday, May 11, 2019

Military Spouse Appreciation

As I sit here on the Saturday before Mother's Day and the Saturday after Military Spouse Appreciation Day drinking my coffee alone, I am thinking about all of the things that brought me to this point - the good and the bad.

My husband is overseeing drill weekend this weekend -- Mother's Day weekend (don't the schedule makers have mommas?) And he leaves Monday for a week long TAD (temporary assignment duty) back to where I consider "home".  I am not sure if it is the coffee in my cup or this lifestyle that is leaving this bitter taste in my mouth.

Being a military spouse is fickle.  When it is good, it is great!  When it is bad, it feels like a hole swallowing you up!  There are so many really wonderful things about this lifestyle.  Things that I just cannot put a price tag on.  The most wonderful thing about being a military spouse is the other military spouses you meet.  The ones who are getting dirty down in the trenches with you.

When living close or on a military base, you know that your built in best friend is right next door to you, across the street or in the pick up line at the school.  You know that you may be meeting a seasonal friend who gets you through this season of life or that you will be meeting a life time friend.  Don't get me wrong. I have 3 good friends from my childhood/teenage years.  But those three friends don't understand the hardships of what I face every single day.  It is not as easy as "It's time for you to put your big girl panties on today" because you know what?  We have to do that every single day.

When I am close friends with other military spouses, they don't tell me to get over something.  They commiserate.  They understand that sometimes we need to vent about this lifestyle to someone who is not judgmental because she's been there herself before. And that the friend will not think any less of you - she will give you support and advice and not tell you that you chose this lifestyle or you could just leave your spouse because you're having a bad moment/day/week/month.

I have also experienced many wonderful trips due to the military.  Whether it was moving to Colorado, visiting Florida (for virtually free) or the many trips I have taken to see my friends that I have met through the military (New Orleans and soon UAE to name a few).   The experiences and culture are rich.  The community is like no other.

But there are negatives -- so many negatives that we are not supposed to talk about because we are supposed to be thankful for every iota of this life that we "chose".  I will tell you, I love my husband.  I love that he serves.  I love that we are the All American Patriotic Family.  I love that my children have the best role model to look up to -- someone who volunteered to put on his uniform every day no matter what the state of our nation is currently in.

What I don't love (and I did not sign up for!) is that we have moved nine times in ten years.  I don't love that my 11 year old has gone to 4 school districts.  Or that my son who loves baseball will have to constantly change teams instead of playing with the same peers from K to 12.  I don't love that my 6 year old barely remembers her first friends from our last duty station.  It is all a blur to them.  We figure out how old our kids were by what house we lived in since that has changed so frequently.

I have started my life over and over and over.  At two duty stations, I had absolutely no friends. Fortunately at one, it was just a one year tour and the other I was working at a jail as a medic.  Speaking of work.  I can't get a job and keep it.  I was making $70,000 a year at a job when my husband and I met.  Not only was the money fantastic, but the job was one that I adored.  I was working 12 hour shifts and that didn't work well with my husband's schedule so I opted to go to college after our second child was born.

College - that is another fun topic for military spouses. I started at one community college for nursing pre-reqs.  I moved.  Continued at another school and practically finished my pre-reqs so I started some nursing classes like Microbiology and Drug dosage calculations.  Guess what?  We moved again to another state -- where at the time, there wasn't an in state tuition waiver for military spouses.  The nursing program was highly competitive and there were 1500 applicants for 24 seats.  And none of my previous classes actually counted when I transferred.  So again, I had to take many classes over or different classes all together.  By the time I would have finished the pre-reqs and gotten selected for a seat, we would have moved in the middle of the program.  Back to square one.  I opted to get my degree online because I had already done so much work that I could not/would not stop.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Emergency & Disaster Management and a minor in Intelligence Studies.  This degree cost me tens of thousands of dollars.  You know what I do with it?  Stare at it on the wall framed in all of its beautiful glory and think about how one day, I may be able to do something with it. 

Here we are, 6 months into our tour in Colorado.  Colorado is beautiful.  It is something really special -- I have never been somewhere quite like it.  I love the location.  I love the scenery and I hate to admit this, I kind of even love the weather here.  But I am lonely.  We are not in a big military town.  We live in a community 6 miles away from base, but it may as well be a world away.  I have not met a single friend here.  I do have 2 friends who were at my last duty station with me but they have lives much like me. I do have 3 cousins and an uncle here as well, and it's nice to see them frequently but it is still not quite the same as having those "been there done that" military spouse friends. 

Military spouse friends are the ones you call in the middle of the night when you have to make a trip to the ER when your child fell out of their bunk bed and need stitches while your husband is away.  They are the friends that call on you to complain that their kids are being monsters and of course husband is at training so you run over with a beer and a bar of chocolate and make a difference in their week.  They are the friends that you can wave to from your porch at the bus stop and know exactly what kind of day they are having by the look in their eyes.

While the spouses don the uniform, receive praise, promotions, pay increases.  We are the silent troops behind them keeping the chaos organized.  They have built in friends every time they move.  They have coworkers at work that they can feel important and social with.  We are the ones running to the same day cleaner across town to get their uniforms cleaned last minute.  We are the ones who feel like they are leaving a piece of their heart and being behind every time we move.  We are the ones drinking coffee alone on a Saturday morning because duty calls.  We are the ones who still must feed the kids three times a day on Mother's Day because who else will feed them when we are the only parent home.  When they are away (especially on TAD), they are being provided with meals, housekeeping and bringing their dirty laundry home - meanwhile, we are here at home, wrangling mountains of laundry, dishes and homework. 

On the offhand chance we ask for a military discount or a stranger finds out we are a military family - HE gets thanked.  He is thanked for HIS service -- While I don't wear his rank, WE serve together.  Without a strong and resilient spouse family behind a service member, he could not lace those boots up and deploy.  He could not keep his head clear from menial family matters.  My husband knows without a doubt, that I have got his six.  On the home front, he worries about nothing.  But he is the one publicly appreciated. 

In closing I would like to throw out a few words that I think of when I think of my fellow military spouses.  Some, everyone may agree with, and some, the average Joe doesn't get to see this side of her.

Resilient, Strong, Bold, Organized, Tired, Proud, Supportive, Patient, Sad, Tough, Dedicated, Independent, Left Behind, Brave, Resentful, Awesome, Courageous, Exhausted, Lonely, Underemployed, Over educated, Patriotic, Resourceful,  Busy, Sacrifice, Adaptable, Regretful, Longing, Peeved, Reserved, Unimportant, Unappreciated, Loved, Excited, Less Than

My message for you, military spouse, I see you.  I feel you.  I AM YOU.  I greatly appreciate how you enrich my life and how you support those who are defending our country.  Without you, our service members could not complete their tasks.  They could not feel that the home front is well cared for.  YOU are the pillar to this country!

This is a quick video I threw together to show my friends throughout the years as a military spouse -- the photos are in no particular order.  It also has some other highlights of some of the things that we have done or been through.  It is not a great video but seeing all of these photos makes me remember how blessed I am to have this community to lean on.  The song, I am Here by Lady Antebellum is one that is my mantra of this life -- What is it that I am leaving behind as a legacy for the future?  Where is my mark to show that I was here?

PS - THIS is why I post so much on FB - So I have a diary of sorts of all of the amazing things I have done with friends!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Birth Story of Rowan Genevieve

The following was written just 5 days after Rowan's birth but it has been a year since I wrote it.  It has been an insane year and Rowan will be ONE YEAR old on April 12.  It truly feels like it was yesterday and yet a lifetime ago all at the same time.  I am finally getting around to posting the photos and telling her story.  I am still blessed with them being in my life as close friends after all of this time and we will be working on making Rowan into a big sister later this summer.


I wanted to sit and write my birth story while it is fresh in my head – Though this will be posted much later once I have photos, I am writing this as baby Rowan is 5 days old.  

I am nervous to do this as I do not want to do this story any injustice.  I want to really capture all of the feelings, all of the beauty – especially what the relationships between myself, the guys and the other beautiful people in my life that have supported me through this.  But how do you convey these feelings so perfectly – so that others truly understand?

The days leading up to induction date somehow went fast – prior to 40 weeks, it just felt like time was standing still.  By 40+4, I was planning for a Thursday induction.  That morning, Melissa, my best friend and business partner, sent me a message saying she was on the phone with Southwest and that they would give a really great military discount for plane tickets for her to come up.  She would be here from Wednesday (40+6) until Monday to help me recover.  I squealed.  I have not seen Melissa since she moved to New Orleans over the summer and even then, I avoided saying “See you later” to her because it was just so hard on my heart.  I didn’t know if she would make it to the birth, but just knowing that she was going to be there to recover is just what I needed!

By the time Wednesday got here, I was feeling relieved.  Melissa would be here at 3:30pm, my doctor was available for delivery at any time, my doula Courtney was available and my photographer and friend had just returned from a destination wedding in New York City.  I was feeling better about everything and relieved that everything would go absolutely perfect as before this, I was feeling nervous about something not going to go quite right.  I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me, just a nagging doubting voice.  It was probably the MFM that told me I was going to hemorrhage or that I would need a cesarean because of the previous shoulder dystocia – regardless, I was feeling a bit anxious but yet still ready for delivery.

I was out running errands (as any mom would do when she is 41 weeks pregnant) and I got a call from the hospital from my Doctor.  She said that Labor & Delivery was quiet and asked if I wanted to come in that afternoon to start induction.  This allowed her to be there for sure since she had some training the next day.  I told her I couldn’t be there until 2 or 3pm.  I had to go get baseball socks for Weston and shower, eat a decent meal. And plus, it was only noon and I was not going to get this party started until Melissa had her feet on the ground in DC.  I messaged the guys, my doula Courtney, Julie the photographer and called my husband. Everyone was in agreement that that day, it was baby day!  

I ran home and put Piper down for a nap.  Checked the contents of my hospital bag, hopped in the shower and waited for Kurt to get home from work before heading to the hospital.  Once I got up there, they assigned me to a room but I requested to move next door so I could have a wireless monitor so it would make getting up and down much easier for the labor.  I got changed into my labor gown then of course they hooked me up to the monitor bedside for a bit to get everything started. Dr. B came in to check my cervix to create our induction plan.  I was just 2cm still and only 50% effaced and baby was at -2 Station (still high).  And my cervix was still very posterior.  I was having a lot of contractions that day – regular contractions, but they weren’t painful.  I thought I might be in early labor so that made me feel better about how the induction would go.  

The plan was to start with Pitocin and skip any other cervical ripeners because in the past, inductions with Pitocin have always gone well for me.  When I was put on the monitor, little miss was not cooperating.  Her heart rate was very high (180s).  Rather than starting Pitocin at that time, they decided to give me a bolus of fluid to see if that would bring down her heart rate – it did, but also increased my blood pressure to what is considered high during pregnancy.  The fluid continued for a couple hours and they even allowed me to have a full meal before starting the Pitocin since we would not know how long the labor would take and it was hours before we could start Pitocin.  

At 6:30 pm, the Pitocin was started.  I was up and down every 15-30 minutes to use the restroom.  I labored mostly in the bed as that is what I wanted. I did labor on the birth ball as well but really, I was happy to be in the bed since I was getting up so frequently.  Time passed by pretty quickly.  Every 20-30 minutes, the nurse would come in and increase my Pitocin and I just wasn’t feeling much in the way of painful contractions.  

Around 4pm, the guys and E’s mom started heading towards the hospital but I told them to go get a good dinner or kill time since the party wasn’t getting started yet.  They walked around the store for a bit then came up and brought me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers.  They hung out for a bit then upon my urging, went and got a great dinner at one of my favorite places – Mike’s American Grill.   They came back close to 10 and not long after that, the Midwife and another doctor came in to check my cervix.  

Somewhere during this time, Kurt popped in with my kids.  I always like when he does this when I am in early labor so they can see that I am going to be okay.  Piper brought me some stuffed animals.  She also sat at the bedside and so lovingly put her hand on mine to make sure I was okay.  Having them check in with me gives me renewed energy.  But sometimes, those kids are too much for me to handle so it was a short visit!  

At 1030pm, my cervix really had not made a substantial change.  It was quite the same – 2-3 cm after 4 hours of pitocin. At this time, the midwife looked at the nurse and said “Whatever Melanie says, you need to believe that” – This midwife is one of my favorite providers at the hospital.  She was in attendance of Aggy’s birth as well as many of my doula clients. The midwife talked to me about breaking my water and bringing baby’s head down to put pressure on the cervix.  This is something I am familiar with as I have had it done in previous labors so I told her to go ahead!  She tried to break my water and thought she saw a trickle but it wasn’t the usual rupture of the membranes you would expect.  She thought that perhaps the forebag had broken but not the main bag of amniotic fluid.  She also hooked the edge of my cervix with the amniohook on accident and that was really painful – She felt terrible about that!  Every time I got up, I waited for that huge gush.  But it never came. I kept feeling like I had exam gel but never felt like my water had broken.  At this time, the IV was at 14 and I was not having painful contractions at all.  When they break the water, they half the Pitocin and see if your body will take over on the contractions – so that is what they did.  I kept laboring through this quietly and comfortably.  Baby Rowan was crazy active during the ENTIRE labor - I have had 5 babies and none of them were quite like Rowan during the labor. Even the nurses & docs were commenting on it.  

The guys were in and out, giving me space yet still being there and checking on me and offering support.  A little after midnight, after trying to relax in the waiting room on the L&D deck, the guys took E’s mom back to the house so that she could comfortably get some rest. They got back to the hospital around 01:30.  They came in to check on me and brought me batteries for the TENs unit I had started to use.  At this time I was starting to have to focus on the contractions and Melissa gave them the heads up that when I was contracting, everyone went quiet so I could focus.  Everyone joked that it was like hitting pause on the TV, then resuming play.  For a minute, I was quiet, eyes closed, focus…. Right back into the conversation and joking and laughing in between.  The TENs unit was a great asset to the birth – I really did feel that it was a distraction from the contractions and I felt it was incredibly soothing.

During this time, my awesome Doula Courtney was giving me foot massages (everyone that came in the room commented on the lotion I chose called Focus – it smelled like tea and mint), Julie was knitting in the corner (apparently a woman silently knitting in the corner is shown to reduce labor time – who would have known?) and Melissa was my right hand (wo)man every time I needed to use the bathroom which was like every 15 minutes.  We had a diffuser going like last time but this time – no Christmas music.  This time we had Lip Sync Road Trip Radio on with all of the best sing along songs coming on.  During contractions, I would close my eyes and bob my head to the music – this was the perfect kind of energy.  

As contraction pain started picking up, my blood pressure started increasing.  I had a reading of 140/101 and that concerned me greatly.  I had my cervix checked at 2:15 and it was 5cm and 90% so things were moving along nicely.  I opted for an epidural at this time but not for pain.  I knew that with a blood pressure like that, they were going to start consider treating it and the meds they treat with during labor makes you feel really bad and out of it.  I also know that epidurals drop blood pressure during labor (which is why they give you a bolus of fluid before you can ever get one so your blood pressure stays stable).  I was shaking uncontrollably, even though I was just a 5.  It was late.  I just wanted to shut my eyes for a few minutes and rest.  Epidural was the best option even though I was tolerating labor okay.  The guys decided to grab a nap in the car or lobby for a bit since I was just halfway to dilation in 7 hours of Pitocin and I was just finally starting to feel contractions so they wanted to rest up a little bit before things really got started.  So with that, they went downstairs.

Melissa texted my husband at 2:12am and said that I was 5cm and everyone thought we had plenty of time to just relax and rest.  Kurt was sleeping but somehow, he woke up and saw the message. He decided to call the neighbor and have her come over for a bit to pop up there and check on me.  At this time, the nurse called anesthesia and suddenly, labor got serious.  Contractions were coming back to back.  They were incredibly painful.  

Anesthesia came in the room and just had this chip on her shoulder.  She consistently had an attitude with me while I was trying to move positions between contractions. She barked orders at me.  While I was sitting up for the epidural, I was giving my amazing nurse the eye – like “Get this lady out of here!”  Melissa was my support person through the epidural.  I was hanging onto her when the Anesthesiologist barked at me to bend my back over.  I was still shaking uncontrollably.  She had an attitude over the TENs pads on my back still thinking she was going to get shocked. Melissa unplugged the electrodes and the anesthesiologist had an attitude over having to remove the pads in order to place the epidural.  

Finally, after all of that fiasco, she starts to prep the area.  Then it happened.  I felt a sudden dropping of the baby.  Literally a drop, drop and I looked at the nurse and said “She just dropped.  She is going to fall out!!”  I continue to hold still through incredible pain while this Anesthesiologist jabs and cranks on my back.  It was a surreal feeling.  The nurse said “I am going to check you as soon as you can lie down!”  Because after all, the Midwife had told her to believe anything I said.

Finally, the epidural is placed but no medication has been pushed yet.  I roll over and the nurse checks me and there is a lip left.  Like I went from 5cm to 10cm in the amount of time it took to get an epidural.  A screen shot of the conversation showed that Melissa messaged Kurt at 2:12 after I was checked and settled and it was “5cm 90% and getting epidural” then at 2:35 it was “Just a lip so very soon.  If you want to come, come now” to which he responded at 2:51 “Do you think she is closer?”  That guy!  Lol

As things in the room heated up, Melissa quickly one handed texted people telling them that delivery was imminent including the dads who were trying to take a nap thinking it was still going to be hours.  The anesthesiologist continued to be a peach and not allowing people back in the room. Courtney and Julie both tried to come back in after the nurse allowed them in, and the anesthesiologist kept kicking everyone out even though they were prepping the room for delivery.   I had not seen my OB since I checked in so I was hopeful she would be around for the delivery.  When she came in, she was surprised and obviously sleeping just moments before. 

At this point everyone started getting the room into action – prepping.  Getting E gloved and splash masked up, ready to catch his baby.  I heard that Kurt was around but had not seen him.  They pulled the bed out from the wall so that Julie could get a great view of the room to take photos.  Dr. B looked over at someone and said “Crank that music up!” and Sweet Caroline was on.  I was pushing while pulling on a robozo being held by Melissa & C across my chest.  Courtney was holding a leg as was my awesome nurse Loni.  It took a few pushes for me to get into the groove of things.  Dr. B was being very cautious since the last delivery had a dystocia so she was really monitoring how the baby came down behind the pubic bone.  

I turned and looked to the side and Kurt was beside me. His visitor’s badge had a time in of 0302 (barely making it as he wasn’t there for the last delivery so this was special).  At 0305, to the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (the song I had chosen the whole pregnancy as the song for the photo collage/video), Rowan Genevieve was born at 7lbs10oz and 19.5 inches.  E helped deliver her and her waters were ruptured at some point before labor so she had low fluid.  It was definitely time for her to come earth side!  As she was born, she was put on my stomach long enough to clean her up a little and C took her to do immediate skin to skin before her cord was even cut.  Once her cord was cut, the guys went to the chair in the corner and oohed and ahhed over her.  She was a gorgeous baby right from the start.  

Though my job was complete, the guys never let me out of their sight.  They took turns coming over to check on me while the other was doing skin to skin.  Time flies so fast right after you have a baby -- you blink and it has been an hour. This applies whether or not the baby was yours or you were delivering as a surrogate.  We were all hanging out just talking about how precious she was, how amazing the birth was and just really taking in the ending of the pregnancy and the beginning of their fatherhood.  Before long, it had been an hour or more since she had been born.  The nurse insisted that she eat and since I was nursing, the guys brought her to me to have her first feeding. 

My last surrogacy, the parents chose to syringe feed what I could produce those first few days (which was next to nothing).  This time, the guys wanted what was best for Rowan and it made sense for me to nurse her.  I had never nursed someone else's baby so it was curious to put a baby to the breast and feel absolutely nothing maternal towards her.  Sure she was gorgeous.  Sure I had carried her for 9 months and just delivered her but there was never an iota of a moment that felt like anything other than nursing a friend's baby.  

Once we were moved to the Mother/Baby unit, the guys were given their own room (even though we were told this would not happen -- there was a room that they were not giving to other patients since the TV didn't work).  After a really long night where we were all up, I snagged a short nap while Melissa hung out with me.  The guys and baby girl were in their own room.  I got a shower and was feeling pretty amazing and actually ready to go home just a couple hours after the birth.  In the state we delivered in, the rules are that the rights to the baby can't be signed over until 3 days after the birth so I had to hang out at the hospital until she was ready to be discharged the next day.  

That night, with my bestie at the hospital with me, we had a slumber party.  When the guys brought Rowan in at around 11, I told them we would keep her for the next couple feedings so they could sleep a little bit better.  You know what they did?  They trusted me to keep her in my room for a few hours so they could have some uninterrupted sleep. That meant the world to me!  I had already gotten a baby free nap and I wanted to return the favor to them!   Melissa and I took turns taking care of Rowan -- Well it was more like me feeding her and passing her right off to Melissa to change diapers and snuggle - the nurses who were not familiar with us thought we were two moms here with OUR baby LOL.  I had all of the access to her that I wanted and yet all I really cared about was feeding her and watching terrible TV while chatting with Melissa! Even though they were so generous with time with her, I still did not feel the bond to her like I did with my own kids.  The best way I can describe it is that we are all wired a little differently.  The same way some of us can be police officers or nurses and some of us cannot, some of us can be surrogates and not have this deep maternal bond with the baby that we carry.  To me, she was the precious little girl of two very dear friends!  


After a year of reflection, I just look at how lucky I am to have had this experience. This type of relationship is exactly what a surrogate can hope for!  There was so much trust between us from the beginning and our friendship really blossomed organically.  I have been fortunate to see Rowan many times over the last year -- from milk drop offs to meeting her extended family including both grandmothers and others!  I have been invited to her birthday party -- a reminder that the guys appreciate me and more, they also value our friendship!  I am so excited that they chose to work with me again as their surrogate as we venture forward to making Rowan into a big sister!  Hopefully this next journey I am better at keeping everyone updated and maybe I can get the birth story up a little sooner than the sibling's first birthday!

Lots of love to E & C and Rowan and all of our readers! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

I am embarrassed to admit...

I am embarrassed to admit that it has been SEVEN whole months since I last updated this blog... it has been a bit of a whirlwind. 

Here are the cliff notes of the last 7 months
  • July 25 - I had major jaw surgery where they broke my jaw in 4 places
  • August 31 - I had a revision surgery for my jaw surgery
  • September 26 - we moved out of our house in Virginia and to Colorado
  • October 15 - we moved out of our temp hotel room and into our house
  • November 14 - my dad passed away back in Virginia
  • Christmas - We went to Wisconsin
  • Last time I pumped was December 22 -- which means in 8 months, I pumped more than 12,000 oz for Rowan and one other baby -- this is about 400 days of milk for a baby who consumes 30 oz a day.
  • Two weeks later, my brother in law passed away in Wisconsin
Which leads me to where we are now -- in 2 days I leave Colorado to go to Virginia to have the testing to make Rowan into a big sister!  

Now a few photos to update the blog -- I will put them in order of the events above but I will try not to over do it - I always take tons of photos!  I might come back and write a more in depth blog about some of the

First -- The surgery. I had a pretty significant overbite and had braces put on when I was 15 wks pregnant with Rowan.  The braces were pretty intense and miserable, but I had the end result in mind.  For the surgery, they cut the lower jaw bone back by the hinge, avoiding the nerve inside of the bone and moved the whole bone forward 1cm.  Then due to my underdeveloped lower mandible, they also cut bone on the chin and moved it forward to give me a nice profile.  Turns out that there were complications during surgery and they rushed through the chin so that was put back on crooked -- at least the other part was good -- I had to go back 5 weeks later and have the chin fixed and now I am as happy as a clam with the results!  It was a very intense surgery to recover from -- no chewing for 6 wks which meant that all of my food had to be delivered via an oral syringe or straw or I was able to start using a baby spoon around week 3 or 4 to pass food such as mashed potatoes through my teeth.

This shows the hardware and the changes in the jaw.  1 is right before surgery.  2 is after the first surgery.  and 3 is ater the chin revision to make it straight

The airway was increased by 1cm.  I do believe the surgery was a success because I am sleeping better at night

Profile progression

These pictures are pretty hard to look at -- this is the progression photos of a few days -- probably about 7 days from the Pre-surgery photo to the last photo on the right. I totally looked like a monster for a few days there.

First photo is before surgery, second is 4 wks post the first surgery. This photo was taken at the surgeon's office when I decided to have my chin straightened the next week.  The last photo was 3.5 months post op from the first surgery.

Profile progression.

A pretty accurate photo of the outcome of the surgery. I am very happy I had it done though it was one of the hardest things I have ever overcome!

Next up was the move -- we moved just 3 wks after my second surgery.  We had no house to live in which meant the kids had no school to go to.... We packed up our house in Virginia into the trailer.  Yes, we moved ourselves!!  Then we set out on a drive across the country with 3 kids and a panting cat...

I get the kids and panting cat, the husband gets the Nonnie and the camper.

Our rescue kitty, Jack, was not pleased to leave the only home he knew.

When at the Kentucky Derby Museum, you must try on the fancy hats and fascinators.

Checking out the Arch in St Louis, MO on the way to Colorado

We finally get to Colorado and begin hitting the pavement to find a house.  This Denver market is unique for rentals.  Base housing didn't have any available even though we had been on the list for months.  Finally, after living in hotels for more than 3 weeks, we found a house to rent and moved in!  The kids had been out of school for those 3 weeks and we went to register them and they were on a 2 week fall break -- You have got to be kidding me?  So what did we do?

We explored!  Here are some photos from our happenings around Colorado since we have been here!
Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Pike's Peak

The top of Pike's Peak

Pike's Peak

Royal Gorge

Royal Gorge
From the top of Flagstaff Mountain, near Boulder, CO

Flagstaff Mountain

We really have gotten out and checked out some local places and we are excited to explore more with warmer weather. Surprisingly enough, the weather here isn't so bad.  Yes it snows frequently, but just as soon as it snows, it starts to melt.  With temps of 15 then 50, the weather is like a pendulum swinging back and forth -- the saying here is "If you don't like the weather here in Colorado, wait 10 minutes, it will change!" and that it does.

What is a surrogacy blog without photos of one of the cutest and happiest babies I have ever seen? I messaged E&C and asked if I could post a photo of sweet baby Rowan.  Of course they each sent me at least 5 of their favorites - how can you narrow it down to ONE photo?  You cant, so you share multiple photos!  Can you believe she is almost 11 months?  I love that we have stayed in touch over the move and the last year.  I think we send messages to each other about once a week still -- something that reminds us of each other or just checking in like friends do --

So without further ado, Miss Rowan:

She is the spitting image of E. The daddies are so in love with her and excited to make her into a big sister!  I just love the updates from them - real and just thankful.  I actually get to see them on Friday after our clinical visit to just catch up and have dinner and check out that sweet face in person!

So that is it for now -- I have the birth story mostly written up, I just need to download the photos I intend to put into the birth story as well as make the video - as we know, not everyone likes to read the words I write (There are so many of them lol!)  Life has gotten away from me this last year with everything that has happened, so I just didn't carve out the time to sit and make a proper birth story.  When I post it, it will be worth it.  The photos are absolutely priceless!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Saved Round -- 3 months of updates

I need to get this out now before my surgery. I started writing this weeks ago but time has not allowed me to get it all done ...

In 12 days I am having a BSSO/Genioplasty.  To say my anxiety is sky high would be an understatement. I have never experienced anxiety in my life. What if I die during surgery?  What if they nick a nerve and I never feel my chin/lips again?  What if they don't get it symmetrical?  How bad will the pain be?  What if I get mastitis because I am pumping through this?  My heart and thoughts race every night.  All day I can't help but fixate on that day. 

Here is a animation video of what the surgery will be:

I am walking around daily -- trying to prep.  My husband took 2 wks off of work to help me recover but the mom in me needs to get everything done.  Make food for me.  Get systems in place.  Clean up the house.  Oh did I mention we are doing a DITY move (moving ourselves for non-military folks) to Colorado.  Our move date hinges on when I am feeling recovered from surgery.  Is that 4 wks?  Is that 12?  I don't really know honestly.   I posted these bullets of important info on my FB recently:

Here’s what you need to know:
• The department head and the chief resident will be performing the surgery
• The surgery is July 25. Kids will be with Nonnie for a week while I recover.
• I will be on a liquid diet for at least 4-6 wks. Meaning smoothies, puréed soup, broth, protein shakes. (Feel free to donate frozen quart size bags of your favorite soups!)
• Kurt will have 2 wks off during my recovery
• Yes, I am still pumping through this. I will be pumping and dumping in the immediate time after surgery. But plan to continue pumping through it until weaning for our move.
• My jaw will not be wired, it will be banded tight with surgical hooks and rubber bands. It will be like this for 6 wks.
• Today I had many molds taken - some for making the splint, some to make a model for the surgeon to manipulate prior to surgery.
• My lower jaw will be advanced 8mm and my chin another 3mm.
• This is not cosmetic. It should help widen my narrow airway causing migraines and sleep apnea.
• The incisions will be in my mouth on the gum line. I will have my bone cut at the hinge of the lower jaw and closer to my chin on each side - so 4 ‘breaks’ in my jaw.
• Swelling will be a MOFO but pain shouldn’t be extensive.
• I am scared out of my mind, but I am hopeful for a successful surgery with a decent recovery. 

This is the cliff note version. Though sometimes ignorance is bliss.  I am preparing but am I prepared?  I am in a Jaw Surgery group and just two days ago, someone posted that at 13 wks post-op, she was able to eat a piece of bread and ham and cheese by breaking them up into tiny pieces and putting them through her teeth that could now open just 1cm wide.  This is what my life is going to be.  I am going to be eating through a female urethra catheter -- like the kind of tube that women get catheters to remove urine from their bladder at the hospital.  I will eat like this for weeks.  probably at least 4.  I have been preparing for this moment for about 2 years.  My first consult with the surgeon was October 2016.  Braces put on on October 2017 (surrogacy hindered the process for a bit!)  Now this moment I have been waiting for, for years... something to fix my quality of life has me terrified.  I know that theoretically everything will be okay.  But that does not help me put the "what ifs?" out of my mind.  The anxiety is bleeding over to many aspects of my life -- I feel like I am spinning in circles.  I am trying to get everything done and yet feel like I am getting nothing done.  

At this point I have made a bunch of smoothies in grab and go bags.  Just dump in a blender with a premade protein shake and we have a meal!

Lots of soups that I have made and frozen in small sized bags.  It is going to take a lot to feed myself and I will likely drop 10-20 lbs through recovery (though I have already dropped 10 lbs in 3 weeks from starting Weight Watchers so YAY!) 
Here is my device in which I will feed myself for 4-6 wks until the bands are removed.  Yep a syringe that I have to put the catheter down my cheek to my molars and feed in the small gap in the back made by my splint.  I just got this on Monday. I knew it would be a challenge to feed myself but didn't realize how much of a challenge.

Here is a photo of me at my pre-surgical consult where the entire plan was hashed out and many molds made. 
A cook book I made for my husband so he doesn't have to guess what I will want to eat and I won't have to eat ramen in a blender for weeks.
Foods that I have gathered to eat when I need something quick

Why the heck would I want to do this?  Three reasons - Sleep apnea (my air way is small and I don't ever get restful sleep due to this -- bringing out my jaw will open up my airway as evidenced in someone elses' before and after x-rays).  Migraines - I have suffered my whole life and my orthodontist told me my first appointment it was likely from my jaw misalignment causing pulling in my neck and head.  Profile - this surgery will significantly improve my profile and create a chin. Maybe now I will want to smile all of the time for photos and not cringe when a side profile photo has been done or one showing my teeth and overbite.

Other stuff surrogacy related!  E&L from my first journey emailed me a sweet photo of Aggy and told me I could post it!  I emailed them asking them about the hype of the Royal Wedding.  They shared this photo with me of Aggy wearing a Union Jack dress for the festivities.  The Union Jack flag is the flag that signifies the unity of the countries with in the UK. Aggy will be 3 in December -- It is hard to be that I carried her that long ago!

On the 12th, Rowan turned 3 months!  I get to see her about once a week and it is pretty fun to watch her and her daddies together.  Isn't she just a doll?  Leah & I had fun putting filters on her during our last visit! 
 Speaking of 3 months - Here are my pumping totals since starting this journey.  I have pumped over 5700 oz since she was born - (In addition to these totals I donated some to someone else because well..... my freezer is so full we are running out of space and there isn't a single other thing in the freezer other than all of this iced cream!)   This amount is more than 7.5 months worth of milk if a baby consumed 25 oz a day!   Insane.  I will be weaning before we move to Colorado (probably will be weaned by around the beginning of September and depending on how surgery recovery goes, I will have about 7 months worth of milk in the freezer and she will be about 4 months by then so my pumping for 4-5 months will get her to about 11 months old!  Not too shabby!)

On a last note -- The fabulous Julie Gayler Photography halfway across the country right after I delivered Rowan so she is now getting our birth photos up on her website so that means the birth story is coming soon! I hope to have it up before the surgery but it takes time to add photos into blogs so I may have to do it during recovery! But I promise - they are worth waiting for.

As a final question -- we will see who read all the way through lol -- during recovery I will have netflix and Hulu -- any suggestions of must see series I can binge on?  I don't like any shows that require a lot of attention to be able to follow and I really love trashy reality -- we all have our vices!!  Tell me the best!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Introducing Rowan!

So it is almost 2 weeks since Ms. Rowan made her great debut -- delivered right into her Papa's hands -- Literally -- E helped deliver his baby girl.

On April 12, at exactly 41 wks pregnant, Rowan Genevieve was born at 7lbs 10oz and 19.5 inches long.  The labor, delivery and recovery were simply beautiful.  I will be posting a birth story as soon as I have all of the images from Gayler Photography - You don't want to miss this story!  The photographs she has given me as a sneak peek are simply moving. 

I cannot say enough about how amazing these two guys are and how they show me appreciation every single day.  This journey has been simply amazing.  I get to see them very frequently as I am pumping for Rowan and they are local so milk pick ups involve catching up on how they are sleeping and getting to see them doting and loving on their sweet and beautiful daughter. 

Here is a group photo less than an hour after birth

And a photo of sweet baby Rowan soon after birth when I first got to hold her after the daddies did skin to skin!

I promise - the birth story will be  worth waiting for!  Sorry it took me so long to post an announcement -- even though I had a super easy delivery and recovery, I have been spending 7 hours a day pumping, cleaning bottle parts and storing milk carefully for this special little girl.  I also have been climbing out of the hole of business, pto and other important things that have needed to be done!  The birth story is practically written -- just waiting to post until I have the photos that coincide with the story!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

40 weeks tomorrow - Last OB appt was today

Tomorrow is 40 weeks and little girl is still snuggled in tightly.  She has no visions of going towards the light yet. 

The pain I feel in my pelvis is incredible.  When she moves, I feel like my pelvis on the back side is literally breaking.  During dinner last night, she was so mobile that I was doubled over in back pain and ended up not being able to eat my dinner.  I don't know why the pain is so bad there when she moves, but generally, the later in the day, the worse the pain gets which makes for some terrible sleeping.  I finally got to bed just after midnight only to be woken up with tailbone burning and pain -- that is a new addition. 

So today is not 40 weeks -- tomorrow is.  But at this rate, I might not get out of pajamas and put real clothes on.  Even putting on pants/underwear/shoes is a struggle.  Cleaning the house?  Non-Existent.  Surprised my family hasn't formed a mutiny.  Food for them -- I have been still preparing it but I struggle with that too.  Standing for long periods has me exhausted.  I wanted to go to bed at 6 last night - but yet when I got into bed, couldn't sleep.  Its a vicious, sleepless cycle.  I need my body to get in tune with the fact that I don't need to be acclimated to exhaustion -- I am not raising this baby.  So if it could get on board with me getting a little sleep so I am well rested for delivery, that would be fantastic.

So here is my 40wk belly shot -- hoping this is the last one besides the hospital photo -- I don't want a 41 week belly photo. 

This morning we all met at the doctor's office at 0730.  My doctor so kindly came in after she had just completed a 12 hour labor and delivery shift and saw us.  She played a little show and tell of things you might see on the L&D deck (vacuum, Intrauterine Contraction Monitor, Internal Fetal Monitor) and told the guys about different things to expect from spontaneous onset of labor to what an induction might look like and of course we talked about cesarean.  Our doctor was clear that she didn't think we would need a cesarean -- but like we always do with our clients, it is better to talk in advance than to talk in the moment of.  We all got a chance to ask questions and really let them get an in depth idea of what to expect.  We talked about birth wishes ...

Then we had an ultrasound to make sure little bug was still head down. Yep.  She checked her fluid to make sure that was all safe -- 2.3 and it needed to be more than 2.  And she checked her heart rate -- 140s. She also said she is not great at guessing weights but felt like baby is not a 9lb baby -- she guesses around 8lbs right now. 

After all of that was done and questions were answered, the guys went on their way and she did a cervical exam on me as well as took another GBS test sample to send to the lab.  Nothing to report in the cervix.  Not much change -- still around 2 cm, not effaced and she says that her head is not that low.  Which is unfortunate knowing that all of this pain I am having in my pelvis is not from an engaged baby head -- so that means the pain could get worse.  She also attempted to strip my membranes but again, my cervix is always very posterior (even during labor) and it is hard to reach it.  Kinda felt defeated walking out of that office knowing that nothing has changed.  No progress.  But the doula in me also knows that at any moment, my body could go into labor and all of the progress happen then.....

So what did we learn today?  What to expect.  Expect the unexpected.  And if baby is not here by April 12, we will induce -- May be with foley bulb but our doctor said most likely, since I have had 4 babies vaginally before that we would start with pitocin because my cervix isn't unfavorable -- we know that my body knows what to do when exposed to pitocin. 

So a long winded update to say .... We wait.