Friday, June 8, 2012

The end of an era and going out with a bang

When we were quiverful, I truly thought tht I would never stop having babies. I gave birth three times (and suffered two miscarriages) then I experienced secondary infertility. It didn't bother me so much at first because in those four years we completed two internaional adoptions. If anything, I saw that infertility as an easy solution to the reality that I would have had to try to avoid pregnancies during those adoptions, or lose children I had committed to bringing home. When my doctor fixed my thyroid issues, he also fixed my infertility. I suffered yet another miscarriage and began to wonder if my heart wasn't done. Then, I got pregnant with L. Everyone was thrilled.

From the very beginning, I knew something was amiss in L's pregnancy. By 14 weeks, she was diagnosed with IntraUterine Growth Retardation. The OB had never actually heard of a baby being diagnosed so early. However, I had been tracking my temperatures and cycles. Since I had been infertile and then had the miscarriage, I wasn't sure what my body was doing, so I had been tracking it. Due to that, my dates were absolutely accurate and the perinatalogist was comfortable accepting my dates. She poured over my temperature chart as much as I did and then diagnosed the IUGR on L. By 18 weeks, we were on high risk protocals. By 20 weeks, I was informed that if at any point after 24 weeks she failed to grow in a week, because I was on weekly checks with the perinatalogist, they would take her out early. She hoovered at 5% in her growth until 32 weeks. Suddenly, she started to grow, first to 9%, then 12% then 27% and ultimately all the way to 80% according to her ultrasounds. Ironically, after all of that stress and worry, she was born at 40 weeks and weighed 7lb13oz.

A high risk pregnancy changed everything for me. That was when I started moving away from quiverful. Dragging all five of my children to perinatalogy appointments every week, worrying about whether my baby was going to be born safe or not, worrying that every other pregnancy was going to be the same. When I hemmoraghed at her birth, I knew I was done and ready to leave quiverful permenantly. However, we delayed on doing something permenant until we had adopted M. At that point, everyone told me that after M died I would want another baby to pour love into. I wasn't convinced I would but I wasn't ready to rule out the wisdom of everyone who knew me. So, we did an IUD instead.

For those who know the story, the IUD was a collossal failure. God sent J and laughed at my plans. Originally, I thought God sent J so that he would know M. I realize now that God sent J to make us laugh through this journey with M. However, both J and I nearly died. The birth was beyond traumatic. J was induced at 35 weeks and ended up in a surgical birth, simply unwilling to cooperate and tolerate being forced out so early. M had beaten me up so often and so severely that my body was shutting down from the stress. J's placenta was at the front, top of my uterus and the doctors feared that M's sudden focus on attacking me exactly where it was attached was going to result in a dead baby if we waited even another day. I bled so severely I required blood transfusions. J struggled with so many health issues in his first six months that were directly related to being a late-term preemie. There was no question we were done having babies. My body would not tolerate it again. We left quiverful, quickly realizing that there was no mercy for situations such as ours in the paradigm. I had seen a growing trend in quiverful circles of mothers dying in their mid-30s, sometimes in childbirth and sometimes simply without warning or good explanation within six months of having given birth. I knew in my heart if we continued I would be one of them.

The timing of our leaving was fortuitous, given what I would discover a mere eight months later that would complete our exodus from that world forever. We lost a lot of friends, lost our church, lost a lot of our understanding of our lives. I lost my outlook for what my life would look like. Instead of a future where I would always have babies and toddlers, I would have a future where I actually left that season behind me. Of course, J was a mere baby. The idea of leaving that season was something vague for my future.

Soon, my oldest child turns 16. Except for L and J, all of my children are now formally and officially pre-teens and teens. M is developmentally 3-4. However, he is biologically a pre-teen. He is also entering the final days of his life. He will not be a child I actively parent in five years. I have no babies. My last baby is potty trained. He sleeps through the night in his own bed, in his own room. He does wear a pull-up at night still, but he is the last one to do so. There was a point in time when I had four children in nighttime pull-ups. There was more than one season when I had three children in diapers.

This week baby J was formally diagnosed with asthma. I knew this was coming. He had his first asthma attack without warning when he was 15 months old. Until we moved, he only had struggles when he got respiratory infections. Since moving, he has had nearly daily symptoms, exercise induced attacks, and struggled to breath several nights a week without ceasing. I remember my baby brother, the one I raised for LMB, and his struggles to breathe at this age. I remember going through this before and not knowing what I was looking at. This time, I knew. I knew when J was requiring his rescue inhaler several days a week and often more than once in a day, it was time to see a specialist. LMB waited until my brother nearly died at 7 before she sought out professional help. As a physician, she merely prescribed meds herself and treated it herself for years....she wasn't very good at it. She was an ER doctor, good at settling an immediate threat to life and longevity but really bad at figuring out how to prevent them from coming and maintaining good lung care. That I might make the same mistake as her was never even a consideration. However, walking this path again with a little guy was not in my plans for my life.

Still, walking this path with my baby, knowing that there are lots of big siblings whose eyes can be trained to watch his breathing with me is different. Knowing that I won't have to balance a pregnancy or a new baby against his needs to be healthy and breathing. Knowing that I struggle with the same issues and can help him comforts me. His pulmonologist felt that this is a culmination of my poor genetics imparted to him and aftermath of his own late-term preemie status. I remember reading when he was born that late-term preemies had significantly higher rates of asthma and lung disease than other babies, including younger preemies who got more aggressive treatments to protect their lungs than these babies. It's not really surprising this would be part of the legacy for this sweet little dude. Teaching him to tolerate the twice daily treatments....well, let's just say mama bear put in a text to hero Uncle D to ask if he can take a tiny bit of time out from being a Champion today to be Uncle D and encourage baby J to tolerate his treatments. I know Uncle D. He'll do it for his little nephew guy.

Also, after forgetting to do his new maintenance inhalers for two days, I got a tune for my phone that is uniquely his. I got Alvin and the Chipmunks singing, "Shake your Groove Thing," and I set it for 8am and 7pm for reminders on the phone. If I can just convince him that it's okay to do this, even when he's not actually struggling to breathe.

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