Thursday, August 30, 2012

The End of an August

Hello there everyone! Hard to believe summer is nearly at an end and we're heading into September...except for the continued high temperatures and humidity in this part of Kentucky. I'm excited for September since that should bring lots of cooler nights and moving adventures! I'll try to catch you up on our month-the Cliffs' Notes version.
First, an update on Baby Crist. We went to Florence KY today for our 9 week ultrasound. All went well, I've been pretty sick feeling lately but nothing too terribly dramatic....the baby's heartbeat is strong on the ultrasound and we could see his little arm and leg buds-he has a head half the size of his body...but that's normal for this stage of development. He will be growing toe and fingernails this week as well as hair follicles-and he may look enormous on film but he's barely over an inch in length! Dr. S_____ talked with us about our upcoming move the first of October and suggested that we see the Fort Knox OB/GYN before we leave, but for now our visits to Cincinnati/Florence are at an end. It was a little bit of a emotional moment for us as we thanked him and the staff there for everything done. They are so very kind and I'll miss the friendly openness of their office, plus the fact that we never sat in the waiting room for an appointment longer than 10 minutes! Efficiency-amazing!
Our new due date is April 3,2013...but who worries about them anyways? I read a statistic quoting that only 5% of babies that are born on their due date. I told Lou he'll probably be born on April 1st....just to start off with a bang! Florence has a Red Robin, one of Lou's favorite restaurants, so of course we headed there afterwards to celebrate...then on to the Goodwill to stock up on Ebay inventory. :) Our traveling activities are sounding very similar by now to our long term readers!
Speaking of due dates-with our move coming up, we were hashing out what to do with our two outdoor kitties, Missy and Jasper.
 Being the kind of cats we lovingly named "our welfare cats", we worried about leaving them to fend on their own with a rental family or if the house was vacant. Their favorite activity is lying on the back deck sunning themselves and waiting for moment from the house that suggests a possible food bowl filling! My sister in law Betsy agreed to keep them while we're in AZ and last Friday I made the 8 hour trip to Rock Hill, SC to deliver them, spend a few days with family, and hopefully be there for my sister Debbie's delivery.
First, the cats. Yikes. A friend loaned me a medium dog crate for the journey-as I hated to keep them in the tiny cat carriers I had on hand for the entire trip. I lined the back of my Escape with a waterproof tarp, set the carrier in it, set up the litter pan in one corner (with minimal litter), a puppy pad in the other and put water and food dishes on that side. All that done, Friday morning when I left I located Missy and put her in first, then went back inside to bring out Jasper-my high spirited fight loving male cat. When I managed to put them both in the cage and lock it...what ensued looked like a living reenactment of a tornado? hurricane? tornadocane?......Cats, fur, litter, water and food all blurred together in a flash of sheer "we must escape somehow from this" production that ended in the cats meowing and yowling for the first hour of our drive down the interstate! Forget that cats normally are clean animals who disdain water and dirty fur. These ones looked like abused asylum inmates by the time I got to SC! They managed to mix litter and water together and dip random pieces of fur into it....when I stopped for breakfast I opened the hatch to give them a piece of sausage to placate them...they stared past me like zombies-no interest whatsoever-just sheer psychosis. Happy ending though, after spending two days hiding out on Betsy's lawn away from sight once we arrived, they discovered her back patio and began showing up for their feeding as normal. Whew, I was really so worried for those couple of days! Did I mention that we have Gus and Teddy, our friends' cats living with us until the 15th of September? So, we are not cat-less but Gus and Teddy are cats of a different stripe than our bums! They live inside exclusively, love to kill flies, and jump up to the sky on all 4s when Lou startles them. :)
My visit to Rock Hill was a fun one, as I was able to see my brothers John and Daniel, sister Debbie, brother T and sister in law Betsy. John and Daniel are both starting work at different local area Walmart stores in the management department. They will be living in the area for a while so at this point I think South Carolina is the new state of Messer-dom, now that most of us have moved from Virginia. :) We had breakfast out at Cracker Barrel Saturday morning and then spent the entire day (8 hours' worth) walking in town as Debbie attempted to put herself into labor. No go....Wes (their soon to be born son) stubbornly would not cooperate! :) Debbie's husband Ryan is deployed to Afghanistan this year  so she moved temporarily from Fort Lewis, WA to be with family while he's gone.
We girls had a terribly lazy weekend, Grandma Austin (Betsy's mom) had taken all Betsy's and Debbie's kids for a mini Mom vacation until Tuesday, so the house was strangely quiet and things we normally do, like fixing food, bottles and baths all stopped for several days! Instead we took walks, shopped, ate, watched NCIS re-runs and reminisced about old times! Mom, Lee and Melissa were able to stop for a night's stay on their way home from the annual beach trip-so we had our "puzzle" time together-one of Mom's, Debbie's and my favorite slow time hobbies. We also squeezed in a fun shopping night out with my sister in law Christie at the Charlotte mall. It was a nice time for relaxing. Tuesday Betsy and I drove back to Virginia to pick up most of the kids (these are T and Betsy's 6 beautiful little munchkins below). We had a trip full of memories as we passed the college we attended nursing school at, the hospital where we worked, the gas station we always stopped at since it was the cheapest place in the county! Driving up I-81 always fills me with nostalgia and who better to share it with than Betsy, my dear friend and sister! :)
We left 3 of Betsy's girls: Kate, Ashlynne and Bekah with Grandma Austin as Debbie still hadn't gone into labor and made the 3 hour drive back to Rock Hill. On the way we had good news from Debbie, she had her doctor's appointment that afternoon and was able to get an induction time for the next morning-hoorah! I had to leave that morning to head back to Kentucky and Lou but she went to the hospital, started labor and had Wes by the time I was halfway home! The best part was that Ryan was not on a mission, so he was able to watch via Skype during the entire labor and delivery-such an answer to prayers!
Wes is a beautiful little boy, he weighed 7lbs, 6 oz. Betsy guessed his weight exactly, I was 2oz off, rats! :)
Baby Wes looks a bit miffed in this photo but I'm sure there will be many more smiling ones to come if he's anything like his older sister Lily and brother TJ! The photo below was taken before Ryan deployed in April-but they haven't changed much!

It was wonderful to see family and visit, but also good to come home to Kentucky with my little house and big husband waiting for me. :) I feel somewhat as though I haven't stopped driving for the past week, since I was in the car 8 hours Friday, 7 on Tuesday, 9 yesterday and then 6 again today with our trip to the specialist! Whew, I'm ready to stay home for a while. :) Lou was a trooper while I was gone, cleaning, feeding and entertaining cats, working and just being the all around sweetie that he is. This morning he got up and spent the morning cleaning and washing my car after its long journey, checking all the fluid levels, etc. before driving to Florence. :) I love seeing friends and family during travels but its hard to be separated from my Lou for any amount of time after our year apart!
In closing, I know April was a while ago, but this just came out recently and I wanted to share it with you all! I was so thrilled to be a part of my friend Whitney's wedding this spring, she and her husband Frank are now living in El Paso, TX and we hope to see them very soon! El Paso is "just" 5 hours from our new fort in AZ and when it comes to the southwest and Texas, 5 hours' travel is an afternoon jaunt! :) This movie was produced by the Hedrick Brothers Productions as a memory of their wedding day. They are located in southwestern Virginia and have a Facebook page as well if you want to check out more of their work! Frank + Whitney from Hedrick Brothers Productions on Vimeo.
I think that's all the news around here for now, but if we have any excitement I'll be sure to update you all! God bless!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Picture of Life at 6 Weeks

How do you begin to write about one of the most important things to happen in your short life here on earth? I've hashed it over in my brain trying to come up with profound phrases and poetic language, but everything sounds so trite when I try to express myself aloud.

Talking with Louis about this coming baby is a comical interaction- I find myself saying (multiple times in the day), "Isn't it amazing? I'm so excited? Its crazy that there's a baby inside me right now!" and he concurs, just as excitedly so I don't feel quite so much like a broken record.
It feels like its been a lifelong journey, but that's an exaggeration, of course. Lou and I will be married 5 years on December 15th. We always wanted children, I remember talking over the # question when we were dating. (Doesn't everybody? Or is it just us weird homeschooled kids with poor social skills, haha)  It was the 4th of July and we arrived to Hand & Hand Park in Blacksburg early so we sat on the tailgate of his pickup truck and talked. He asked me,"How many kids do you see yourself with?" and I responded,"Oh, I always wanted to have 12, you know, a dozen of them...but now I think I'd probably do better with 8"....haha, my poor husband. He calmly swallowed, paused and said,"How about 4, that seems like a manageable amount." Wow, weren't we in blissful ignorance! So, the time came, we were married...we grew up a little and started realizing how much of our lives were spent in forming ideas that were neither realistic or necessarily in our best interest spiritually. We decided to wait and see what God had for us, baby-wise. So, we waited. And then, after Lou's graduation in 2009 we were stationed at Fort Benning GA the following January 2010. By this time, we wondered if there might be something going on underneath the surface, perhaps hormonal imbalances on my part...because I've always had weird unexplainable problems healthwise it just seemed like a good idea to have a check-out. Too bad medical check-outs aren't like the department store, where you leave with some beautiful things for your home and you, even if your wallet is lighter! Instead, at Benning while Lou was either in the field for his infantry officer training or at Ranger School for May-July, I saw a specialist who ran multiple tests and completed different studies to check my ovulation schedule, tubal and general health status. When Lou returned from the field he was also tested. The final results were given to us in September 2010, with the words,"You'll never be able to conceive naturally, really in vitro is your only option." This news came as we were traveling to Kentucky for a house hunting weekend, and it was difficult to hear. We cried tears over our situation and prayed, but just left it at that, as we were moving to Kentucky in the next month. We also didn't have $15,000 lying around the house for in vitro- as it isn't covered by the army medical insurance. So, we arrived in Kentucky in October and Lou deployed to Afghanistan on January 15th. Prior to his leaving, we discussed babies and such and decided to spend the year of his deployment researching facilities, procedures, and costs, saving money and gathering information for when he came home. This was a low point in 2011 for me. I struggled with my fears over Lou's safety a lot, and when I would begin researching, a tiny voice would ask,"What if he doesn't come home? Then this is all for naught, you know. You shouldn't even both, he might not be here next year." I know that it was Satan's way of demoralizing and defeating me, and at times it was very effective. I would shut down the computer and lay on the bed sobbing and asking the Lord to keep Lou, that I didn't mind not having a baby as long as he came home to me. Graciously, the Lord brought him back and before he even returned I had become strong enough to both talk with people about the in vitro process and figure out the best route to take in this journey.
In March of this year we traveled to Cincinnati to meet with a specialist at the Institute for Reproductive Health. I had read about the clinic and was impressed with the reviews it received as well as its rates-with its "no patient refused treatment" rule, it was not padding its success numbers as so many infertility clinics do, by picking only more promising patients. We went and saw the doctor, who after reviewing our records from Georgia and talking with us, leaned forward across the desk and said,"You know, I think that the numbers here aren't so dramatically poor to make in vitro our first option. Would you guys be open to trying intrauterine insemination first?" We were of course open to any suggestions, and began the trial month in April. We were allowed 4 months of IUI as it is known prior to having to progress to the in vitro process. The IUI was much simpler, much less painful and also cost $600-700 per month, as opposed to the $12-15,000 for in vitro. We started, and each month I arrived at the end only to not be pregnant. During the months I would experience hot flashes, night sweats, hormonal changes and emotional "rollercoasterism" (haha) because of the medications. My dear Lou took all these in stride. This big strong guy that I married became the dishwasher un-loader, laundry washer, and took on a host of other jobs that I routinely do because of my nausea, exhaustion or what have you. He really saw it as a labor of love and I'm so thankful that he is the man God chose for me to walk this path with!
This past month, July, was the final month before we were to move on to the in vitro process. We had the procedure done towards the beginning of the month, and even then I wondered if we should even bother or just move on to the other since we were moving in early October and I wanted to make sure we had enough time to complete the procedure here at Cincinnati with the doctors we liked and were familiar with. Our doctor assured us that we'd have adequate time for in vitro and we went through July as all the other months, talking about it from time to time but mostly just waiting for the end of the month to come. I mentally had already blocked off all August and was gearing up emotionally for in vitro. Lou prayed each day for us to have a baby but I was already set that it wasn't happening until we put out the big bucks. God works in mysterious ways, you know! :) We were with Lou's folks camping in West Virginia when the time came and I happened to have a pregnancy test in my purse, that my dear friend Lynn gave me a previous month "just in case" while I was at Clarity, the womens' pregnancy center I volunteer at each Tuesday. How ironic at times to be working around so many pregnant women and girls, many in unexpected situations, while all my pregnancy tests were coming up negative. I'll tell you, it really makes you stop and think and ask God many questions!
Well, I took the test early on the last morning of our stay so I could take ibuprofen if it was negative, for the drive home. I left it on the counter and went back to bed, getting up an hour later to chuck it, as usual and to my surprise-two pink lines!! I couldn't have been more shocked! I run pregnancy tests at Clarity often so I know exactly what to expect but I just stood there, not believing my sleepy contact-less eyes. Once it sank in, gone were all the creative ways I had planned on telling Lou, poof from my brain. I had one thought,"I must tell him." However, Lou was still it was before 7am. Lou doesn't wake up easily from Pastor Vance can attest to. Once, while Lou was living with the Vances in their basement apartment, thieves broke into the basement and stole his laptop right off his desk! Lou slept through it all, but Pastor Vance claims that the thieves actually didn't take it from his desk, but had to climb over his bed to get to it, laying a kiss on his sleeping cheek in the process! lol. Well, I carried the test into the bedroom and held it clenched in my fist while I gently woke him. Then I stuck it right under his nose (like a kid would hold a bug under one's nose) and said,"Look what I caught in the bathroom!" For some reason, I have this horrible habit of falling into prank mode at serious moments...and this was one of them. He jumped and bounced back, then his eyes focused and he was like,"You're pregnant?" Rejoicing ensued. :) Well, we couldn't hold it back so we told Mom, Dad, Jess and Cor at the breakfast table- it was a beautiful ending to a wild 4 wheeling in the mountains of West Virginia 4 day vacation! (See photos below of our muddy post ride state!)

 When we arrived home, the clinic had me go to the fort hospital for blood draws, both on Friday and Monday. The Friday stick bruised me pretty well in the left antecubital and the girl on Monday exclaimed in horror over that bruise as she drew blood from the right. Oddly enough, the bruise she gave me was twice the size of the left one...but I do bruise easily. The doctor's office called to say that my HCG levels rose dramatically from Friday to Monday, from 128-960 and all was well. These high numbers have people speculating about the possibility of multiples. Each month with the medication I took I would produce 3 eggs according to the ultrasounds, so there is a slight possibility...... I've always wanted twins, even as a girl. I read "Jack and Jill" by Louisa May Alcott and announced that I would have a boy and girl and name them "Jack and Jill" when I grew up. Now, I'm pretty sure I WON'T be naming them "Jack and Jill". :) But, I still love the thought of having twins.
So, tomorrow is the big day. I'm going to Clarity in the evening with Lou to see the heartbeat on our little one for the first time. Or little ones, depending on who you talk to. I'm not going to post this blog until tomorrow night, because I want to include an ultrasound picture with it and let you know how many they are, gulp! But, in the meantime we're rejoicing that God has preserved our little guy thus far and amazed at his goodness to us, his children! To be continued.........on August 10th..........
Hello again folks! This blog was NOT updated on the 10th as planned..I'm blaming my evening "morning" sickness on that one. After our ultrasound yesterday evening I was up late baking for a friend's bridal shower, but the nausea makes me half as speedy as normal in the kitchen! But, is the little fellow!
See the little blurry "lentil" in the middle of the black oval? That's my uterus and that's the little guy hanging out inside. What a surreal feeling to be watching this on the screen and see the little heart beating. The heart is a huge part of the baby right now-when it beats it looks like two little mittens clapping together. The heart rate was 122 so that's strong and healthy. The wonder of new life is amazing!
Lynn also got a photo of the yolk sac, which is formed prior to the placenta to nourish the little guy. At this point, the yolk sac is larger than the baby and when viewed at 6 weeks, it resembles a "diamond ring". :) Best diamond ring I ever was given!

Yes, at the moment we're only seeing one in that picture, and that's just fine with us! We couldn't be happier with God's blessing on us and look forward to sharing more pictures of his ultrasound viewed life with you all, our dear friends!
Lou and Kim