The factory is silent. Its assembly line stands motionless. Somewhere off in the darkness, a buzzer sounds. One by one, lights begin to flicker and illuminate on long-unmanned diagnostic panels, giving a sense of enormity and complexity and scale to the machinery. The low hum of power supplies warming up comes next, followed by the higher and louder whine of turbines and electric motors. A whistle sounds, and one by one, employees begin to file in and take their places at the controls. Purposed for a single task, whose time has now come, the factory slowly comes to life...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hummingbirds and Rainbows

It is a bittersweet day for me today...

Those of you who have been faithfully following this blog from its inception (or back-reading) know that we got our first positive pregnancy test, after about a year and a half of "trying," on June 16th, 2008. Had that baby survived, today would have been the expected due date of our first child.

There was so much promise, so much hope and anxiety and excitement over that first positive test. As the days went on and my pregnancy symptoms strengthened, Craig and I started making plans for our future, and sharing the exciting news with our close friends and family. Though I was a little afraid, I felt a sense of redemption in my heart, and deep down I knew being a mother was what I was supposed to do with my life now. I knew everything would change for me over the next nine months, but with my amazing husband at my side, the never-ending support of our families, and the heartfelt encouragement of our friends, we would learn to adjust together, and everything would be all right in the end.

Around the time I got the positive test, I was spending a lot of time in our backyard. One day I was back there tending to the rose bushes, and I heard a great buzzing noise around my head. I freaked at first because I thought it had to be some kind of giant insect and...well, ugh. But when I heard it again, I saw it was actually a hummingbird who was tending to our giant, lilac-colored, Rose of Sharon blooms. The plant is a relative of the hibiscus, so I could see why they would be so attractive to our little nectar-sipping friends, as we have at least three of the large shrubs in our backyard.

Encouraged, I immediately went out and bought a hummingbird feeder. Soon there were three to five of the winged Valkyries out there, and I added more feeders because they were fiercely fighting with one another over territory. By the end of the summer there had to be close to 10 of them and I could identify several "regulars" at the window feeders by sight.

In the spring last year, Craig's beloved grandma, Betty, passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with this sweet, kind woman only once, a couple of years before, when we went to his grandparents' home in Arkansas for the Fourth of July. She welcomed me into the family right away, and I felt so comfortable around her in her home. Betty loved hummingbirds, and her house was adorned with hummingbird pictures and figurines, and she even had a window in her kitchen where she hung hummingbird sun-catchers and crystals. When the hummingbirds appeared in our yard at the same time as our baby news went public, we felt somehow like it was the spirit of Craig's Grandma Betty coming to visit and keep watch over our little family.

Hummingbirds, like babies in utero, have rapid heartbeats. They are remarkably small, and somewhat fragile, but resilient and persistent in pursuit of their livelihood. The stories of hummingbird survival against great odds are many, and in all these things I also saw the parallels to the tiny life inside me.

But hummingbirds' lives are swift and fleeting, with many living only their first year. (Even those that do survive live no more than a few.) Unfortunately this fate was shared with our first child.

When we heard the words, "There is no heartbeat...I'm so sorry," were understandably in shock. And when the news had more time to sink in, we were devastated. Days were spent in tears, wondering why, and how. How could this have happened when there was so much promise, so many wonderful positives, so much hope, so much love for this unborn child? This tiny, innocent being, this fragile light, did not deserve to have its potential extinguished so soon. It had done nothing to deserve its fate and despite our best efforts to keep the baby safe and growing, we had failed. I indeed felt like a miserable failure. Here I had been personally entrusted to take care of this little one, to guard this beautiful soul and nurture it to fruition, and our baby didn't even make it past the first few critical months. Logic could not console me, and it didn't matter that others had been through this, or felt like I did, and that it was likely genetic mischance that had decided this baby's fate. I had failed.

The days started getting cooler, and the hours of sunlight started to fade. I had found comfort in the daily visits of my little feathered friends, but they started migrating away, and I began seeing fewer of them each day. I knew soon they would all be gone. But like this too, the pain began to subside, and the time started to heal my wounds. Craig and I began to feel like we could honestly live up to what we resolved in our minds: to try again. And soon after the last of the hummingbirds disappeared in October, we received our second positive pregnancy test, and with it the chance to start all over again.

Just recently I learned that, in the grief and support circles, they say that the child conceived after a loss by miscarriage, still birth or infant death is known as a "rainbow baby." As God's promise to Noah after the storm, a pact made to renew the life on Earth, the restoration of faith to "be fruitful and multiply", and a covenant to preserve human life, the rainbow appeared in the sky as a symbol of hope and rebirth. These babies conceived after the most tragic of losses are like those rainbows.

The child I carry now is our rainbow baby. She is our hope and our promise, a symbol of our faith to put things in the hands of God, who knows infinitely better than we do what we need to survive and be strong. My rainbow baby is kicking away at me softly as I write this, reminding me every so often that she is here, and I gently rub my stomach to comfort her, and let her know as much as I can and as often as I can that I will always love her and be with her no matter what.

So as the rainbows will always be symbols to me of this sweet little baby girl, the hummingbirds will always remind me of that child that was ours for such a short time. I loved my "hummingbird baby" no less than the one I nurture now, and I will always remember the joy and the sorrow and the healing and lessons in faith I learned from one so small.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Baby Kicks!

Dear friends, I know it's been a while, but I can explain: I've gotten fat.

You know the the old saying about husbands having "sympathetic pregnancies"... gaining weight along with their wives? I used to think it was a funny image until it actually happened to me about a month ago.

Those of you who've met me know that I'm a pretty small-framed guy, so when I recently put on about ten pounds around my midsection, it showed. Imagine a small, round watermelon cut in half and duct taped to my belly, and you're getting the picture. I suppose a number of factors contributed: my ailing thyroid (now hopefully under better control thanks to better living through chemistry), working from home, my wife's newfound lack of energy (which I'm more than happy to oblige with my own lack of activity), and our now-standard 5:30 PM nap time were each probably to blame in their own way. I was also starting to have trouble sleeping, regardless of whatever sleep-enhancing pill I popped and despite each previous night's lack of rest.

For our regular readers who are sitting there muttering to yourselves, "good... he could stand to gain a few pounds anyway," let me just say this: I agree. However, I'd prefer the weight be spread out a bit more evenly, so I don't look like a lowercase letter "b" from the waist up when I put on a medium-sized t-shirt.

* By the way... a tip for those men out there whose partners are pregnant or may soon become pregnant: do NOT, under any circumstances, mention this sympathetic weight gain, should you experience it, to your lady. At best, you will get a playful "shut up" (repeated on a sliding scale of decreasing playfulness and with greater annoyance each time you mention it). At worst, you'll probably get punched. This has been your free advice for the week. *

So, anyway, tangential rambling aside (there's a story here, I promise I'm getting to it) Wednesday after work, I decided to start doing something about my unwelcome abdominal visitor. I plugged our hibernating treadmill back into the wall and took it for a somewhat vigorous 30 minute walk. I continued the trend yesterday and today. While I've obviously not noticed any physical results, two things have occurred:

1. I've slept extremely well the past two nights.
2. 5:30 PM nap time has now become more like 6:30 PM nap time.

So today, we're laying down for 6:30 PM nap time and I'm too pumped up to sleep, workout-induced endorphins still coursing through my system. At some point, Kathy says "Oh!" in that excited little way that she does immediately after the baby has just moved or kicked inside her. She has been feeling this for a few weeks now, occasionally even feeling our little girl kick from the outside when she places her hand on her abdomen, but I've been unable to duplicate her results when I place my own hand there. And then Kathy's saying "Oh!" again, a little louder and with a bigger smile on her face. "That was a big one!" she grins, "you might even be able to feel her".

So I place my hand on her lower belly and almost immediately -- bump -- there is this tiny little feeling, timid but at the same time forceful, against my palm. I gasp out loud. As if in response, there's another, slightly softer kick and then another little flutter of movement before things settle down again.

There are moments in your life that you never forget. I'll never forget the first time I smelled the ocean, the first time I met my wife, or the way it felt when the chemotherapy drugs finally left my system for the last time.

And I swear to God I will never forget the feeling of my baby girl gently kicking the palm of my hand as long as I live.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Test Results and Halfway There!

Just a quick update because there are two things I forgot to mention...

First, I'm 20 weeks this week! That's the halfway mark! I can't believe it's half over already, but at the same time it seems like there's so much further to go. Maybe it's because the first month or so doesn't even "count." I mean, they start week 1 at the first day of your last menstrual period, so that's like...nothing. Then you don't ovulate for another 10-14 days, and then the baby actually has to be conceived. By the time you're taking the pregnancy test, it's already week 4 -- a month has gone by without you even noticing!

I'm feeling patterns of movement now from baby girl, after I eat, or sometimes when I wake up in the night. Midnight and 7 am are about the only times I've been able to clock though. She has regular spots in which she likes to push me -- right front and center on my abdomen, or very often on the lower right. I can barely feel her from the outside, sometimes, but as soon as Craig tries, she stops moving!

The second thing I forgot to mention was that we got our genetic screen results back, and they are good.

No genetic marker for cystic fibrosis.

The statistical risk for a woman my age for Down syndrome is 1 in 155. Our results came back as a risk of 1 in 190. Therefore the risk is lower than that of just a woman my age. This is good news to me.

The risk of trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome, much more devastating) is 1 in 600-something. So that's a risk I'm not even going to worry about at this point.

Combined with the good results (so far) of our big ultrasound, the doctor's office saw no need for us to go through further, more intensive screening, and neither do we. Good news indeed!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What we've been up to...

So everything's been "ultrasound" this and "checkup" that and "prenatal vitamins" this and "doctor" that. Reading this blog, you'd swear we did nothing but go to doctors every day. While that's partially true, it's not completely true. Here are a few other baby-related things we've been up to lately:

Picking a Name

We just started getting serious about this one last night. I'm taking my next door neighbor's advice and not sharing any ideas or whatever actual name we pick until after it's safely on the birth certificate. Suffice to say, there are a TON of baby names we don't like out there. We went partway through the 2004 edition of the baby name book last night, writing down names we liked as we came across them. I think we made it halfway through the "R" section before going to bed last night and had written down only four potential names. This may be easier than we thought!

There were more "good" names than that, of course, but several factors prevented us from using them:

- Someone else we know just named their baby that.
- Someone we don't like is named that.
- Name doesn't sound good with our last name.
- Name is easily rhymed with or morphed into something mean.

So, if S-Z goes the same way A-R did, we may be down to less than ten names right out of the gate!

Shopping for Baby Stuff

We haven't really started this yet. We've walked the baby aisles at Target twice, staking things out, and we've started reading this book, which we just received in the mail from a friend.

We read the "Bridal Bargains" book by these people pretty extensively before our own wedding, and if we hadn't run off to plan our ceremony in 72 hours, it would have been very useful. This one will come in incredibly handy this time, since we won't have the option of picking out all our baby supplies at Michael's for less than $100 the night before the birth.

Anywho, we should be registered at one or more places once we figure out what we need and want. We're trying to get this figured out quickly, so it's not a massive rush for us to procure everything we need at the last minute.

Based on what we've seen so far, though, Target will be one of our principal baby suppliers.

Getting the Baby's Room Ready

Our "nursery" was, up until about a month ago, the de-facto place to store unopened moving boxes and miscellaneous crap we had no good place for. You could get the door open, but traversing the room from one end to the other, you might as well have been trying to climb Everest. We've spent the past several weekends going through boxes, sorting stuff and finding places for it (or getting ready to give it to Goodwill).

Once we get the room cleaned up, the next two steps will be to prime the walls white (they're currently this disgusting shade of cat-barf-pinkish-brown at the moment [every room in the house was some shade of brown when we moved in, with about two exceptions... who were these people?]) so we can get a better idea of the space we're dealing with, and moving our old bedroom furniture in. I have about four IKEA boxes leaning against the wall in our bedroom, begging me to put them together and replace our current bedroom set, but one step at a time.

So, generally speaking, life's about getting the mundane stuff out of the way so we can get to the fun stuff in a couple of weeks or so. We're more excited than ever for our daughter, and there's so much to do, but it seems like we're getting closer every day, in more ways than one.

Thanks for reading... it's especially fun to see the hit counter at the bottom of this thing keep rising. I hope you're having half as much fun reading about our adventures as we are having them.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ultrasounds rock!

I'm trying to make this a short one, because I'm pretty tired!

We ended up having to wait a long time in the doctor's office today, which made it nerve-wracking. Our appointment was for 2:30 but it was almost 3:15 by the time they called us back to the ultrasound room. The tech today was the same woman who had to give us the bad news at our very first ultrasound last July (but I didn't realize that until later.)

I purposely wore the stretch pants so I wouldn't have to get too "undressed." Sure enough, I laid back, she lowered my pants to below the belly, and tucked a towel into the top of them to keep the gel from getting on my clothes. She squirted on some gel, (hooray for ultrasound gel warmers!) and we were off!

First, she was a really good tech, because she asked right away if we wanted to know the gender. (Heck yes!) She was also great in that she pointed out everything she was looking at while she was looking and marking things off. If we didn't quite see it, she would go over it again and point. Very thorough.

However, some little baby was not cooperating today, and was determined to keep its legs crossed the whole time! The tech tried jiggling the wand to get the baby to move, but the baby was like, "Quit bugging me!" She said most of the difficult ones who keep their legs crossed are the little girls...

She kept looking. She said it looks like the placenta is at the back, which is a good thing. We saw leg bones and arm bones, and the spine. With some more wiggling we saw a top down view of the head, and eye spots, and a nose. Then we saw some cute little baby feet!! (Ankles crossed, of course...)

It's kind of hard to make out, but above the word "foot" is a whitish area - that would be the toes/ball of the foot, sideways (heel is to the left.) The whitish area below the word is the other foot (remember, they look left-right backwards because of the crossed ankles.) Unfortunately, these things are much clearer to see while they're moving!

She kept looking for the gender, and prodded and poked, and finally determined she was 99% sure...

It's a girl!

There are three parallel marker lines they look for to indicate the baby is female, and she could see them, but she had a terrible time trying to get us a picture! This one here is the best she could do:

Imagine if you sat a baby down on a glass table, and looked up from underneath; that is the view we are seeing. Rump is the roundish area on the left, with the two legs sticking out to the right. (The brighter white areas below the words "leg" are femurs or other leg bones.) You can see two of the three lines they look for where the arrow is pointing.

The tech did say she didn't see any "outdoor plumbing" so she felt really comfortable saying its a girl!

She tried to measure the head, but she had trouble getting a good reading. (Sheesh, already she's got stubborn Kraly girl genes!) The baby had one of her arms over her head and another near her mouth. She said, "I'm sorry but we'll probably need to schedule another ultrasound to see everything we need."

Oh no! We'll have to see our baby again in three weeks! [cheesy grin!] She told us to make sure we told whoever does the next scan that we couldn't get any good face pictures, so they should make sure to try and get us some.

She gave us the pics to bring home, and we waited to see the doctor. Craig made me laugh out loud today when he described our doctor's accent as a "cross between Matthew McConaughey and Huckleberry Hound." Spot on!

The doc said everything looks great, and that it seems my due date keeps moving up a few days because the baby looks a little ahead of schedule, which is just fine. (I don't think I ever told them I have a short cycle, about 23 days, as opposed to everyone's standard 28. I bet it makes a difference when calculating dates of conception, etc.)

We told them we still wanted the AFP and CF blood tests, and both the nurse and the doctor asked us why. I thought it was a little strange until I realized that some people may still choose to terminate on bad news at this stage. I never could -- I just told them we want to be aware of possibilities so we know if we need to be extra-prepared for anything. The doctor made sure I also realized that all I was going to get was a number from the AFP test, and I said yes, I know I won't get a "negative or positive", just a risk factor, but that would be good enough for me.

I'm not too worried about it because the doc said everything looked great on the ultrasounds so far. He also gave me a "You go girl!" when he saw my weight. He said I am *right on target*, exactly right where I need to be! Perfect! So that was great news.

The last thing I asked him about was why sometimes at night I get the shakes, especially a couple of hours after dinner, or when I'm tired. He said it's a blood sugar thing, and if I've had too many carbs or sugars, I'm probably getting that spike and then a drop. Nothing to really worry about.

Everyone we've told has been thrilled today! Mom told me last night she was putting in her order for a girl, so it was great to give her the news today. Dad said he knew it was a girl... Veronica said she secretly wanted a girl, as did several other people, so we're happy to oblige. :D

Well, baby is bumping me, so I figure I should head off to sleep. I will be dreaming of sweet little baby girls tonight...

Today's the Big Day!

It's the "big ultrasound" day! I'm getting no work done. I mean, I'm trying, but this appointment isn't until 2:30 and it's impossible for me to focus!

Something else I forgot to mention in previous blogs:

I've started to be able to feel the baby move!

I thought I could, a little, during week 17, but it was a strange, fleeting sort of feeling, like tiny gas bubbles. But when I didn't prove that I was that full of gas, I figured it had to be something else.

The feelings started getting stronger, and more frequent last week. It sometimes feels like a tiny muscle twitching, like if your hand gets crampy from writing and your thumb kind of twitches. Like tiny fingers drumming somewhere inside my abdomen.

Then somewhere around the end of the week, Craig and I were listening to the baby's heartbeat on the Doppler. I had my hand with the wand around my navel and the heartbeat was getting louder and softer, so I assume the cub was moving around. Then it got loudish and...BUMP. One that I actually felt! It was as if to say, "Hey, cut that out!" Seems like someone's already got an attitude...

Wish us luck today! We'll be back with the updates later!