Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our Visitations

Today is one of my favorite Feast Days in the Church, the Visitation.  Not only because it is my feast day, but because of the reminder of the many Visitations we have of Christ throughout our days.  This year is a very special time to celebrate the Visitation especially in the past few days.

I am blessed to have a wonderful friend who has proven to me through the past years the real meaning of friendship.  She has a beautiful capability to love me where I am, is always supportive in my endeavors, yet has the strength to share with me any concern she has with anything I do or say.  She has inspired me to be a better friend, and a better wife. 

Weeks ago I posted "Edify by Example".  That entry was about this friend. Her and her husband have wanted for months to have a baby, and have watched many of their friends who got married months after them get pregnant first.  What a struggle and a heartache.  However, this didn't make her heart bitter or resentful, but she saw it as an opportunity to really minister to her pregnant friends, to be right next to them in the joy each was experiencing.  Holy Guacamole! What an example! 

This past week, she shared with me her exciting news--she is pregnant!  Joy bubbled over through her, and all I could think was "Praise God!" God is so faithful, and especially so to those who remain so faithful in their suffering.  After rejoicing with her, I immediately thought of the Visitation and the joy Mary felt when she knew Elizabeth was pregnant after so many YEARS of waiting, and yearning for a child.  My mom has always said "God sends all the greats in twos".  I feel honored as I yearn to become great, to have another 'great in the making' alongside of me as we travel this journey and deepen the roots of our vocation.

As for the Dunlaps, we are settling in to our new home with a GORGEOUS view of the city.  We have been so blessed to have the help from our families and friends and are so thankful for the generosity we have received.  9 weeks of nesting to go :)

Vivi is doing wonderful--training like a mad woman for life inside me!  We are now on schedule to go to my OB every week for a non-stress test, where she passes with flying colors each time.  My appointments are mostly scheduled in the afternoon--I don't hate it--I lay on a bed for a afternoon siesta and chow on some Twizzlers, while listening to the melody of her heartbeat.  What a beautiful gift to be so close to her, to know what she sounds like on the inside so vividly.  She is a miracle, an incredible gift that I can't believe I get to unwrap in 9 short weeks!  The doctors are still concerned for her coming early.  I told my OB at my last visit Tuesday, "I am really sorry, but it doesn't work in our schedule for her to come early.  She can come at the earliest, the Sunday of week 40, but not a minute before!"  We will see how well she obeys her Mommy :)

Please mark your calendars for Saturday July 14 for Vivian's Victory!  a 5k run/walk at Winton Woods.  I will post the link with all the info tomorrow!  Thank you for all the prayers and support sent our way.  I don't think I can ever explain in words how much we feel them, appreciate them and are living on the graces they are giving us.  We are truly blessed! :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Not Broken, only torn between 2 Loves

This week has been very eventful and it is only Wednesday!  We had another visit at Children's Monday morning and although we had high hopes that all the fluid would have disappeared, it seems to have increased as well as padded her heart as well.  It is always funny for me when the doctors come in because they are so sweet trying to be so sensitive explaining what is happening, and then here I am acting like it's no big thing.  Fluid in my baby's belly and around her heart--no sweat. She is still moving like crazy, so I know she is ok. 

I am learning the medical field, although very advanced and full of AMAZING procedures, meds and professionals, there are still so many unknowns.  The fluid inside Viv is one of those things.  None of the doctors know why it is there or where it has come from. Her heart is PERFECT except the structure, so there is no leakage to the rest of her little body. Infections are ruled out after blood tests.  Genetic disorders are not, but not only would that not change the outcome for Vivi, it has a tendency to induce premature labor.  The doctors discussed early delivery depending on the fluid increase between 33-36 weeks. Not only does that make my eyes bug because that is 3 weeks away potentially, but life and death takes on a whole new meaning when you are already having a child with a heart defect. Her safest place to be is inside me, and inside me she shall stay until 40 weeks :)  Our new mantra is 'just keep swimming Vivi, just keep swimming'.

My family's neighbor found this little story and she gave a copy to be.  Between packing and moving, I haven't had a moment to read it until today.  I Googled it, and it popped up on a blog similar to mine, and the Mom found this story with 3 months to go--same as me!  I know this was Vivi's converstaion with Jesus, and I know because of her love for Him, the lives and hearts of so many will be changed forever.  There are times I wonder if I will be able to comfort her the way she will need to be when she asks why her heart is how it is, or if she has issues because of her scar.  As soon as I read this I had my answer--your heart's not broken, just torn between two loves Vivi.

Half of An Angel's Heart

It's a beautiful day up in heaven. Jesus is rounding up his tiniest angels, to go live on earth, and be born.

One of the sweetest angels says to Jesus "I don't want to leave, I like it here, and I will miss you".

He reassures the scared little angel that everything will be okay, and that she is just going for a visit. She is still not swayed on this idea. So Jesus kneels down, and says, "How about if you leave half of your heart here with me and take the other half with you, will that be okay?"

The angel smiles and says, "I guess that will work". But the little angel is still a little scared. She asks, "Will I be okay with only half of my heart?" Jesus replies, "Of course you will, I have other angels there that will help out, and you will be fine."

Then Jesus gives the angel more details about his plan. He says, "When you are born, your mommy will be scared, so you have to be strong, and when you feel weak just remember that I have the other half of your heart. Enjoy your time with your family, play and laugh everyday. And when its time to come back to heaven, I will make your heart whole again. Always remember that you are not broken, just torn between two loves."
-Author Unknown

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Prayers for Jessica

After reading "On God's Errand"  I know I don't need to say this, but please pray for Jessica and her growing family!


On God's Errand

I hate the morning.  Most people think I am a morning person simply because I smile when I wake up.  Just because I am smiling, doesn't mean I like to get going.  Especially when I am hungry.  Mornings with no munchies are BAD mornings.  Well, at 6:30 my alarm went off this morning--I don't think I really needed it, my stomach had been growling for most of the night.  I had been doing a 12 hour fast prior to a 3 hour glucose test I needed to have done this morning.  What I wanted more than food was water--holy cow how I take that stuff for granted!  My mouth was like chalk, and of course the events of my morning routine consist the running of water, standing in water, having water splashed on my face.  So not cool.  Driving to the hospital for the test, I realized this is the first time I have gone to have blood-work done without moral support.  So not only was I up early hungry and thirsty, but I was going to face my least favorite reason to go to the doctor.

Arriving at Bethesda North, I took a deep breath and walked in keeping the mantra "you can are 25" playing like a broken record to try and calm me down.  When I walked into the lab waiting area, I immediately spotted another pregnant woman and simply asked, "When are you due?" (it probably sounded more chipper than anticipated on her end) and she simply responded, "July 13".  "Congratulations!  It's coming up" I added and with her simple smile the conversation was over.  I assumed that this meeting was over, done nothing was going to come of these short exchanges.

The phlebotomist called me back to take the first round of blood.  That wasn't so bad--one time is enough times.  I then had to drink this DISGUSTING chalky drink (gag reflex here) and not long after began feeling extremely nauseated.  The good thing about this, is you then receive special treatment and get to go lay on recliners in a dark room and catch some of the zzzz's missed throughout the night.  Much to my surprise after the second hour was up and I was rounding home in the third, I had to move from the room I was in to another, where my little pregnant friend was dozing in and out.  We always joke with my mom that she walks into a room and there is a flashing neon sign above her head saying, "Tell me your life story".  I didn't think I carried this same trait, but today I definitely did.

Sitting, I asked the girl what her name was: Jessica.  What are you having?  A boy.  How exciting!  And then the gates opened and the whole story came cascading from the depths of her soul.  My little Jessica is pregnant with her second son.  He first was born with a chromosonal defect and passed away and hour after her came into this world.  That was a year ago.  After this, both her and her fiance were tested to see if this could happen again.  Nothing is wrong DNA speaking with either party.  A few months later, she got pregnant again.  She told me how excited she was, how this is all she has ever wanted and she was even more precautious of every choice she made, her only aim to be the perfect decision for the baby.  At 18 weeks, she found out again she was having a boy, and again there was a laundry list of complications.  He has a different chromosonal defect as well as an enlarged heart and "club" feet.  The doctors aren't certain he will walk, and what his quality of life will be.  As I looked over at her and watched her with all her might try to keep back the tears, my heart sank.  It's amazing how you view the sufferings other people are going through when your heart has gone through suffering too.  She continued to speak, and at this point the tears weren't contained.  "Why?  Why?" she cried "am I having the sick baby when this is all I have wanted and there are people who don't even want their baby and their baby is perfect?" Of course, I was crying with her and I understood and felt the sincerity in her cry.  The only thing I shared with her at this point was that I was having a baby girl in August.  I felt that Vivi's mission was in this moment using me as an in-between. For a few brief moments I shared with Jessica our situation, and her face changed.  I took her hand and told her what has comforted me so much, and what I believe with every being in my body, "We are the honored ones!  We want this baby to love and hug and raise--imagine what would happen if someone who didn't want their baby had a baby that isn't "perfect"?  But Jessica, I go one step further and say your son is perfect.  He is exactly how God created him and he will be the love of your life regardless of what is "wrong" in the world's eyes".  And she just looked at me and said, "You have hope don't you?"  Actually yes, it's all I have.  But I believe in it. I don't know if it was the Spirit moving or Viv's kicking inside me that lead me to ask her if I could pray with her and over her belly.  Timidly she said "yes" and once I said "AMEN" she looked me in the eye and tears welled up again in her eyes.  As they began sliding down her face she whispered, "I want to have hope again".

I believe each of us has a mission--I know Vivi's is a part of my mission everyday, especially on the days I meet Jessicas.  I was thinking about something on Monday (it was Rod and my 1 year anniversary!) A friend of ours told me in January of last year while I saw her for spiritual guidance on a retreat to make sure before anything else the night of our wedding to say the Rosary and ask the Blessed Mother to wrap her loving arms around us and our family.  She said to imagine that we were held inside the circle of the Rosary.  I thought of this because we did said the Rosary on the way from the reception to the hotel and what a grace I do believe that has played in our relationship and during this time of learning about Viv.  I have been graced with the hope and faith and trust in God's plan for Rod and I am for Vivi like Mary did with her family.  This is my mission: to live this hope, this faith and this trust everyday.  Viv and I, we are a lethal pair on God's Errand :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

My First Mother's Day

Happy belated Mother's Day!  I wanted to get to this yesterday, but I had to call it a day as soon as I stepped foot in our apartment.

May 13 is a special day for our family.  It is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and she has played a very special and significant role in Rod and my relationship.  She has been there every step of the way, as a good mom is, and it was very special for me to be able to share my first Mother's day with her on her feast day.  These past few weeks, I have felt her very close as Rod and I have been searching for a new place to live, and as we have begun talking about Vivian's walk that my sister Clare is putting together. 

Yesterday, as my family sat around the table eating lunch at my parents, my brother asked my mom a question, "what has been your greatest joy as a mom?" And of course, everything for Jan has been a joy, which has always been a great example of true mother's love.  My dad then posed the question at me and the past few months flashed before me.  My honest answer was everything.  Of course, there are highlights: when I felt Viv move for the first time, and when we saw her smile last week, but I can honestly say every part of this journey has been a joy.  That is the grace I know Mary has been sharing with me through these months.  As devasting as it was to hear about Vivi's heart, I now see her heart as a complete joy and blessing because that is what makes her who she is, and she is beautiful and perfect in my eyes and in God's.

I received this video in an email this morning and I thought I would share it in light of mother's day.  God gives each of us the most perfect beautiful and wonderful child.  I, am I sure all of you, feel honored and blessed :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vivi's Smile

My most favorite moment as a Mom happened yesterday at the doctor.  As hard as it is knowing that my child has a heart defect, it is super fun to see her so often through the shadows of an ultrasound.  Right off the bat at our appointment yesterday, Viv peaked through my placenta and smiled at Rod and I.  It took both of us by surprise to see a smile, but so like her at the same time. The nurse's response was, "it's not normal for babies to smile".  I couldn't help but smirk and remark, "well, she's not normal."

 For me, it was so reassuring to see such a playful smile--she knew we were watching her and I can't help but giggle thinking what a ham she is going to be.  Every time I get to see her, it makes me feel closer to her, and I can't imagine what a freak I am going to be when she is born.  She is currently 13 inches long and 2 pounds 5 ounces.  All her growth and development is on target which is awesome, and she is falling into the 41 percentile.

As far as the fluid in her stomach--it is still there.  Unfortunately, we didn't get the outcome we were hoping for, but it still isn't something that is treated at this point.  My OB didn't see it the first time--he was looking over it after a report was sent from Children's that some was detected.  As it has become the story of our life with Viv, we have to "sit and wait" so to speak, until our next visit to Children's which is May 21.  My OB is going to start performing non-stress tests every other week at my appointment to make sure everything is functioning together the way it should be.  As long as she is still active, he says we are ok!  She is still training for something in there, so I am still not worried.  Everyday is an act of faith--her life is not mine to hold on to.  She is a blessing, and will be whether she lives 3 more days or 300 years. 

I don't think this an accident, and I hope it touches your heart the way it did mine. My due date changes every time I have an ultrasound.  Yesterday it went from August 2 to the 6.  I was telling someone about that, and she said, "Oh, I won't forget that!  It's my birthday, and the feast of the Transfiguration".  If you don't get chills, I don't know what to say.  Seriously? God is so here!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Mom Gut"

Today has been a long day.  I am thinking that God is not just holding Viv's heart in His hands, but mine as well.  I am not able to go into depth with this, but all I keep seeing in my head is an image of me picking up big rocks with "why" written on them.  While I could be building something beautiful, I started building a wall around my heart.  But then I realize....I am on the wrong side.  Instead of putting myself on the inside, I am stuck on the outside.  So with a huff of frustration and fear, I begin slowly undoing what I have begun to create.  Might seem silly, but it is a small miracle I believe.

Enough about me, lets get to the important stuff, that "stuff" being Viv.  I went to the OB today about the fluid in Viv's stomach found yesterday.  It is so wonderful to have an OB who listens and respects me as a Mom.  Not just any mom, but my Viv's mom.  He explained to me the worst case sceniaro, and the choices we have to handle it.  As I shared yesterday, my "mom gut" doesn't raise any red flags.  I told the OB this, and he said, "I trust you and the connection you have with your body and your baby, if anything changes before your next appointment, give me a call".  That was a kind of crazy moment for me.  I will FOREVER be making decisions with Viv in mind.  I know I already am, but trusting that I am capable of making decisions to care for her, for her life is overwhleming and a HUGE responsiblity.  What a gift.

Dear Vivi

Last night was a little insight into what is to come--I hardly slept.  No position was comfortable--if I was ok, you weren't, and if you were comfy, I wasn't.  Laying awake at some random time early in the morning, I just laid there listening to the birds chirping.  It was still dark outside (honestly i think their time clock is a bit off) but I started thinking about the past few months and what we have been facing and learning.  There have been VERY DARK days of sadness and fear, but even in that darkness, my heart never has stopped humming the song that it started the day my life was blessed with you.  Your 27 week old life has been the joy of my soul and every moment of everyday you fill my heart with such a joyful song.

Every day I anticipate more and more the miracle I will be able to kiss and hug every moment of the day as soon as you come into this world.  I can't wrap my brain around why God has chosen me to love you--it is an honor words can't contain or begin to even explain.  I love feeling you swim around and dance to the rhythmn of my day....these are moments I know too soon will come to an end and I cherish every one.

You are the most precious gift God could ever given to me. 
I love you so very much my sweet Vivi.