The Invitation.

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The wedding invitation is in the mail to us.

It is from our birthmother. She is inviting us to her wedding.

I just cannot get over how cool it is to have this special relationship with the woman who bore my son.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Open adoption – in all its forms – is an invitation. It’s a gift. The opportunity to have a tangible relationship with the woman (and man) who helped breathe life into our son is beyond humbling.

Apart from its metaphysical beauty, it also has incredible application. Case in point: Sienna has been getting strange blotchy spots on her face and has had a cough for a while. I reached out to our donor family and they told me of the family history of eczema, allergies, and asthma. Armed with this information, I knew what medical course of action to take, and Sienna is healing.

I feel so blessed at the way God has created our family.

And, just because it’s been a while, here are some recent (cute) pictures of the Colton kids, introducing the newest member in his/her photographic debut:

Britney

BENIGN!!

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Josh and I went for my needle biopsy on Monday. The radiologist explained my “spot” was only .5 cm, and he could possibly aspirate it. After several attempts, he couldn’t get the needle through “Spot.” It would have to be biopsied. The radiologist took 5 tissue samples.

After the biopsy, “Spot” could no longer be seen on ultrasound. He wanted to do another mammogram to see if the area could be seen by x-ray. After the screening, it was decided “Spot” had disappeared from the image.

Tuesday, after a long day of waiting for results, The Imaging Center, finally phoned late that afternoon. They informed us to be at the clinic @ 2:30 PM the following day to meet with the pathologist.

Anxious, but not overly concerned, Josh and I left John Luke with his parents. They were visiting from Alabama, for what we thought would be my transfer, and subsequent bed rest. When we arrived at the Imaging Center, we were called back to a consultation room. The pathologist walked in and said, “I have good news, we found no cancer.” It was concluded “Spot” was a Non-Malignant Fibrocystic Proliferation, in other words, a cyst!!

The feeling of relief is an understatement. We were ecstatic! Our biggest fear was, if it turned out to be breast cancer, I might be advised to stop infertility medications, and we wouldn’t be able to do another transfer for some time.

We stayed optimistic…however…I couldn’t help wonder about the impact this could have on my chances of getting pregnant with a sibling. My concern would be to “age out” before using our six remaining embryos; or to have a type of breast cancer that might be sensitive to hormone therapy.

Josh and I have emotional ties to these embryos. They are the biological siblings to our son. We’ve been through so much already to get these precious embryos, six years of infertility.

I do not want to minimize the thought of having breast cancer. I watched one of my best friends go through chemo and a double mastectomy, but the idea of not being able to get pregnant with our embryos; or the thought of having to give them up, scared me even more.

We had faith things would work out the way they were meant to, even if, we didn’t get the results we wanted. Ready to move forward, we contacted the NEDC and are scheduled for a May transfer!!

21 week: Questionnaire

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At the urging of my sister-in-law (who is also pregnant, with twins – and donating the remaining embryos!), here is my “Pregnancy Update Questionnaire” (probably more for my own posterity than anything else):

How far along: 20.5 weeks (21 weeks on Thursday).  Halfway through the second trimester!
Current symptoms: So much better than even a month ago.  I threw up every day, and was nauseated all day, from weeks 7-16.  At my 15 week appointment, I had gained zero pounds.  A week later, after feeling better, I’d gained 6(!).  I still have waves of nausea, and still occasionally toss my cookies, but at least it’s not at the same level of frequency or intensity.
Total weight gain: I’m not entirely sure since I don’t really know where I started at, but I think it’s between 10-15 lbs.  At my last appointment, the doctor said I was on track to gain 25-30 for this pregnancy.
Maternity clothes: Yes, since about week 7.  I popped very early on this one.
Stretch marks: Thank goodness, no.  Doesn’t run in my family.
Sleep: Very difficult to come by. I take Unisom on occasion to help me sleep.
Best moment of this week: Getting to see the baby on the 20-week ultrasound, sucking its thumb and rubbing its feet together.
Miss anything: RUNNING!
Movement: All the time.  My placenta is high and in the back, so I’ve actually felt this one move since probably week 12.
Food cravings: I go through waves of salty vs. sugar.  Nothing consistent, though.
Anything making you queasy or sick: I get more nauseated in the evening, or when I’m very fatigued.  I have to eat very slowly.
Have you started to show yet: My co-worker just told me that if I told her I was due in a month, she’d believe me.  So, yes.
Gender: It’s a surprise! We have no idea. I want a girl.  Tygh, Brae, and Sienna each want a boy.

Britney

GAME CHANGER

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A recent routine mammogram revealed an abnormality in my left breast which required a follow-up mammogram for spot compressions.  Having been called back for a second screening in 2007, I was not worried, feeling sure it would again be fibroids.

I explained to the person scheduling my follow-up, I needed the earliest possible appointment.  I was doing IVF the following Wednesday (used that term for simplicity) and would need the results back ASAP.  My embryos were to be thawed on Tuesday.  The soonest they would be able to see me was Friday.  Less than a week before my transfer.

Josh and I had my final ultrasound and lab work at the NEDC that Friday morning, the same day as my screening.  We headed to Knoxville concerned, but optimistic.  It turned out that my lining was the best it’s ever been at 9.75 mm!  When I was pregnant with John Luke, it had been around 7.6 mm.  My Estradiol came back normal, and I received a message later that day from the NEDC, to start the Progesterone and taper the Estrace.

We headed directly back to Johnson City, to my appointment at the Women’s Health and Imaging Center, for what seemed like the longest wait of my life.  After my screening, the tech informed me, I had a “spot” which was denser than on previous mammograms.  It required an ultrasound.

They allowed Josh and John Luke to come into the room with me.  The doctor performed the ultrasound and said there is 3 criteria he’s looking for to determine if it is a cyst.  My “spot” did not meet all 3 criteria conclusively, and that it would require a needle biopsy.  He also advised me to come off the hormones, and postpone the transfer until “we find out what this is.”

Optimistic it is a cyst, we are more disappointed about not being able to go through with the transfer.  Josh and I will go Monday 3/17 for a needle biopsy.  The results will come back Tuesday 3/18, the day our embryos were to be thawed.

Everything happens for a reason.  For now, I’m just trying to stay positive.

Rainbow Sparkle

We welcomed a new member to the family on February 28.  My brother and his wife had their third child, a baby girl named Katie.  Leading up to her birth I talked with Grant and Maria quite a bit about their new baby cousin.  Since the gender was a surprise, we debated whether the baby would be a girl or a boy and what the name should be.  Maria was much more interested in all of this than Grant.  She declared that the baby was a girl like her and would be named Rainbow Sparkle.

When my sister-in-law was in labor, I told Grant and Maria that the baby was coming and they should have a new cousin by morning.  Katie was born after Grant and Maria’s bedtime, so I was excited to tell them the news.  When I told Maria the next morning, she jumped up and down saying “Yay! Yay! The baby came out of Meredith’s body!  Yay!”  Grant wasn’t fazed by the news.

That morning, Katie’s brother and sister were staying at my parent’s house and didn’t know yet that their new sister had arrived.  Jake had an idea, but Leah didn’t understand.  I was dropping Grant and Maria off there for a little bit and realized they knew about the baby, but Jake and Leah didn’t so I told them they couldn’t talk about the baby.  My mom said that Jake mentioned he might have another brother or sister and Grant and Maria looked up wide eyed stating “we can’t talk about the baby!”

We got to meet Katie a little later, but she remained nameless until the next day.  The next morning when the kids woke up I told Maria that her new cousin had a name, she sighed “But I wanted it to be Rainbow.”  She might have gotten the girl she asked for, but naming rights will have to wait until she has one of her own.

Maria and Katie

FIFTEEN MONTH VISIT

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John Luke had his 15 month checkup and vaccinations.  He remains around the 80th percentile in height, but his weight dropped to the 60th percentile.  His current weight is 25 lbs.  It’s down from his twelve month visit.   I was told this was typical as they are more active during this stage.  According to the pediatrician, he is developing normally and is a “thriving” little kid.

John Luke has become somewhat of a picky eater.  I think it’s more of a texture issue as opposed to taste.  The pediatrician said as he becomes exposed to a wider variety of foods the texture issue will dissipate.

We are trying to eliminate the bedtime bottle.  He is still getting at least 4-6 ounces before bed.  We tried putting him down a few times without a bottle, but he would wake up around 4AM hungry.  As he takes in more solids, and acquires more teeth (he now has 6), we are reducing the formula slowly.  The pediatrician emphasized we really needed to eliminate the bottle very soon.  I’m not ready and neither is John Luke:(  He comes looking for it faithfully around 8:30PM every night.

He is babbling around 7 or so words (although the phonics vary).  The pediatrician said his speech is developing normally.  John Luke “Talk” is as follows:

Daddy- Da da

Mama-now sounds like Na Na

Maggie (our labrador)- Agi or Ag.

Outside-Si

No-No

Yes-Yes or yeah

Hot-Hot

One interesting tip learned from the pediatrician’s office is anything that can fit threw a toilet paper tube is too small to play with.  Good to know!  There are a few whistles around the house I need to put away for later.  He is finally tall enough to reach a few new drawers and cabinets.  I am continually baby-proofing as his reach is getting longer, and his curiosity is growing stronger.

Dr. Adams put it best when he said, “He is becoming a real little boy.”

Down Syndrome

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We did the sequential blood screening for Down Syndrome and some other diseases and chromosomal abnormalities.The first test came back normal.  “Average” reading for risk of Down Syndrome for someone my age.The second test came back abnormal, for Down Syndrome.  My risk, for my age, should be 1:250.  It had jumped to 1:39.  All other results normal.

That is still only a 2.5% chance, but it got my attention.  I spoke several times with the genetics counselor, and eventually ended up meeting with her and a perinatologist.  Even if the test came back positive, there has to be an explanation for the hormone levels in my blood, they said.  The other explanation is how my placenta is functioning.  It may be “leaking,” which puts me at greater risk for pre-term labor.

No, I said.  I will not do an amnio.  I didn’t have to, they said.  There is a new blood test that is 99% accurate at detecting Down Syndrome.  It will tell me yes or no.  No probabilities.

I’ll do it.

That was last week.  Over the last week, I’ve had a lot of time to process this.  And, I’ve come to the conclusion that if this baby has Down Syndrome, it is a blessing.  We will have been chosen to care for a very special child.  It’s an honor.

To my surprise, not everyone feels that way.  In fact, over 80% of women who learn their child has Down Syndrome terminate the pregnancy.

That was not going to be us.  We would love this baby.  This baby would be perfect in God’s sight, and it would be a gift.

I just got the call.

99% this baby does not have Down Syndrome.

It’s strange to describe how I feel right now.  For the last week, I had pictured life with a child who has Down Syndrome.  And I had come to love this baby I feel kicking inside of me, picturing a baby with Down Syndrome.

Now, that’s gone.  I feel like there is this new or different baby inside of me now.  I don’t know what it looks like.  I don’t know if it’s a boy or girl (I was so tempted to ask, because they know from the blood results, but we’re keeping this a surprise to the end).  I know it does not (likely) have Down Syndrome, but I don’t know anything else.

I want to cry.  And I’m not sure why.

Britney

PARENTING CLASSES WEEK TWO:

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Here are notes from week two of a parenting class I recently took based on the principles of ‘Love and Logic,’ written by co-authors Charles Fay, Phd. and Jim Fay. 

Three basic techniques for responding to misbehavior:

1)Change Your Location: Grocery store model-  “Keep on trucking.”  Always stay close enough to keep your child in view, but don’t let him know.  Show happiness when he catches up with you, (“Oh, it’s great to see you.”) (“I am so glad you are with me.”)  Helps them develop a sense of autonomy while teaching it is their responsibility to keep up with you.

Use very few words.  Let consequences do the teaching.  For example, when getting to the checkout line with items the child has put into buggy without asking, say “How are you going to pay for that?”  Helps teach children accountability for their actions.

2)Change Location of Offending Object: Take away objects that are inappropriately being used by the child leading to misbehavior.  Distract to another (safer) object.

Remember: Set limit once and enforce it with actions, not repetitive words.

It’s easier to establish this principle when they are young, and the price tag is small.  It gets harder to invoke as they get older, and the price tag gets bigger.  For example, teach them while they are young to respond to you, before they get in dangerous situations, such as in the parking lot of a shopping center, when the price tag and dangers are greater.

3)Change Location of The Child: Change location of the child if they are behaving negatively in their current environment.  Distract to a different location/area.  Make him go to his room.

Give the child a choice about his door staying open or closed.  This allows child to feel that they are empowered in the decision making.  If closed, make sure room is safe.

My advice: Every family has a different parenting style.  And!…What works for one child may not work for another.  The above are just tips from the class that I wanted to share.

PROFILE SELECTION

One question that comes up frequently on the embryo donation and adoption support page is how do you pick a profile? I can appreciate the question and like to see everyone’s thought processes on selection. Some are looking only at embryo stage and grading. Others are looking at physical characteristics. Others look at the age and health history of the donor couple. And others look at some combination of all three.

For us, it wasn’t a question of embryo stage or grading. Honestly, I didn’t know a lot about either and didn’t do a lot of research. With the NEDC, we had instructions to select two profiles (a primary and a backup) and how we could mix and match the stages. Otherwise, this wasn’t a factor in our selection.

When we selected, we had about 40 profiles from which to pick and we looked at physical characteristics above all else. Even though the information we had was limited and genes can definitely surprise you, we thought there would be less questions if our children had some chance of being similar to us.

Once we narrowed it down to eight profiles (if I recall it was 4 at the blastocyst stage and four at either multicell or 2PN) we prayed. There was one that stood out to us and we referred to them as the giants because of their large stature, but otherwise had hair/eye/skin tone like us. I was leaning toward those. God had other plans. After looking at four of the special consideration profiles, we had placed one on our short list. God put them on the top of the list. Even though their medical history wasn’t squeaky clean, they were the ones for us.

I’ve seen many moms post that their embryos weren’t graded that well, but they made perfectly healthy and beautiful babies. I’m glad I didn’t know all the details of their embryo history, such as when they were frozen, grading, etc. I don’t know that it would have changed our decision, but given the fact that we had two beautifully healthy children, those other details just don’t matter.

I won the Lottery!

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Ok, so not that lottery.  But I won the kindergarten lottery!  Simply, this means that Brae got his first-choice for kindergarten next year.  He will be able to continue his Spanish immersion education (that he’s been in since he was 3 months old) by enrolling into our elementary school’s Spanish immersion program.  The kids stay together from K-5.  Instruction is 50% Spanish and 50% English.

We are thrilled. This also means that Sienna has priority when she’s ready for kindergarten.

As you probably know, Spanish is the second most used language in the United States.  There are more Spanish speakers in the US than of Chinese, French, German, Italian, Hawaiian, and all the Native American languages, combined.   According to the 2012 US Census, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by nearly 40 million people.  That is double what it was in 1990.

Spanish speakers are the fastest growing linguistic group in the US.  By 2050 (Brae will be 41; Sienna will be 38; baby in the oven will be 36), the US will become the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, and Spanish will be the second-most-spoken language in the world, surpassed only by Chinese.  That means that English will be spoken less than Spanish.

More and more businesses are requiring bilingual employees.  Bilingual employees can earn $20,000 more per year simply by being bilingual.

With all this data (and believe me, there’s more), you may see why it is so important for us that our children speak another language, particularly Spanish.  But, it’s more than just all these figures.  I began learning Spanish when I was in 7th grade, and continued formal education of the language through college.  It has helped me immensely in my personal and professional life.  My sister is a Spanish high school teacher.  My mom speaks Spanish and is able to use her medical degree to travel the world with “Doctors without Borders.”

Tygh, well, el no habla espanol.  Que lamenta.

There’s also another reason why it was so important for our kids to get a Spanish education early, particularly for Brae.  Brae is a quarter Peruvian.  We wanted him to be able to connect to his Latin roots and have the opportunity, if he wanted, to travel the world with the ability to converse easily with native speakers.

Even today, when Brae speaks Spanish with native speakers, the native speakers (and others watching) are absolutely dumbfounded.  This 5-year-old, pale-skinned, skinny “white” boy is talking fluently in Spanish with them.  They get a tickle out of it.

And I just have to smile at this gift he’s been given.

Britney