The difficult beginning to our journey

I’m going to be completely transparent and open regarding Paisley’s clubfoot journey. I plan on eventually sharing details on the blog about what it has been like to go through the entire clubfoot journey with our sweet baby. My hope is that this will reach other mommies of clubfoot babies and encourage them! I also want to remember, in detail, everything we went through so that Paisley can one day truly appreciate her ability to walk, run,and live a normal life to the fullest degree. I want her to be able to read about this clubfoot journey one day so that she can look back and rejoice that God chose her to have clubfoot so that He could glorify Himself through her. More than anything, I want God’s name to be made great through Paisley’s clubfoot journey and everything He has brought her through.

We were very hesitant to share with everyone that our little baby was going to be born with clubfoot. We eventually decided to share our story and it personally helped me a lot to share it on the blog. If you want to, you can read that post here. I also have a confession to make… When we shared our story, there was a big part I decided to leave out. I left that portion out for quite a few reasons. A huge reason being that we didn’t have all of the answers yet and I didn’t want anyone to worry unnecessarily. It is still a part of our story. I have met several other moms through clubfoot support groups who have experienced it as well so I wanted to share a portion of the beginning of our clubfoot journey that I originally had left out.

One of the main reasons for my hesitation to share with everyone that Paisley had clubfoot was that for a few weeks, the doctors were not sure if it was an isolated incident of clubfoot or not. Apparently when a baby has clubfoot, it can either be a completely isolated problem or it could occur in combination with other musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, or chromosomal problems. The 26-week level 2 ultrasound with the maternal-fetal medicine specialist was the ultrasound which confirmed Paisley’s clubfoot. We had that ultrasound on April 1st. At that ultrasound, we also were told that they found something called an echogenic foci in her heart. I had never heard of an echogenic foci before. Just the fact that they found a spot in her heart was enough to scare this already nervous first-time-mom. They made it clear to us that this echogenic foci would not, in any way, cause her heart to function abnormally. What a relief! However, they also made it clear that the finding of an echogenic foci is considered to a “soft marker” for chromosomal abnormalities. If they had only found the echogenic foci at this ultrasound, they wouldn’t be alarmed at all. If they had only found the clubfoot at this ultrasound, they also wouldn’t be alarmed at all. However, according to the doctor, the combination of those two findings (or, as they described it, “soft markers”) increased our chances for having a baby who would be born with a chromosomal abnormality. As I was lying on the ultrasound table and the doctor was relaying all of this information to us, he was trying to convince me to get an amniocentesis to know for sure. Here I am, pregnant for the first time, nervous as can be already, and now even more scared that something might be seriously wrong with our precious baby. The doctor was trying to act like the amniocentesis was no big deal at all. “You’re tiny. I will go get the supplies and be right back. It will only take ten minutes or so. It will be quick and easy.” I just felt unsure about it. It was so much to take in at once and I wanted time to register everything before we made any decisions. I knew that no matter what the results of the amniocentesis were, we would still keep our baby. I told him I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have the procedure done or not. He reluctantly gave me his business card and told me to call the office if I changed my mind. Gus and I went home totally unsure and devastated that day. We found out our baby had clubfoot AND that our baby may have a chromosomal abnormality and the only way we could know for sure was if we got the amniocentesis done. We let our families and a couple of close friends know about the echogenic foci and the clubfoot, but we weren’t ready to tell anyone else. We had to go to genetic counseling to discuss the findings.

The unknown was scary, but I finally gave it all up to God and put my trust into him regarding our precious baby girl. On April 3rd, 2014, I wrote a private journal entry on my blog to my unborn daughter. We were waiting for the test results and I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Gus and I had a long discussion that night and I finally began to embrace whatever God might call us to. (Like I said, I am going to be very transparent and open on this blog…so I will share that with you):

Sweet baby girl,
Mommy and daddy love you so much already.
We found out on April 1st, 2014 that you have something called bilateral clubbed feet. We also found out that they found an echogenic foci in your heart. These two findings indicate that you could possibly have a chromosomal abnormality or a neuromuscular disorder. Guess what? We are going to love you no matter what. Want to know why? Because God made you absolutely beautiful and nothing in the world will ever change that. We don’t know exactly what these two findings entail. On one hand, this could mean something major which we will have to deal with as a family OR it could simply mean that you have to be in casts for awhile after you’re born to help your little feet heal. Either way, you will be loved. Either way, we will trust God and know that He has a perfect plan for all of us. Either way, we will pray for you every day. We will do anything and everything for our little girl. I never knew I could love someone so much and I haven’t even met you yet! I know we are just going to absolutely adore you when you do get here.
We love you, Paisley Grace.

After a lot of prayer, research, and discussion, we eventually decided that we were not going to have the amniocentesis done. A little over a month later I let my regular OB doctor know that we had decided against the amniocentesis. He was very understanding and encouraging. He also made it clear to me that because of the two soft markers, they were concerned as far as proper prenatal care and my delivery. The hospital I delivered at did not have a NICU and they also did not see high-risk patients. Having a baby with a chromosome abnormality would require me to switch doctors in order to have proper prenatal care and a NICU available for any complications which may occur during delivery. He encouraged me to think about possibly getting a genetic test done called the maternal T21. T21 stands for trisomy 21, which is otherwise known as down syndrome. This genetic test can be done by taking a sample of my blood and then picking up traces of the baby’s blood cells through specialized testing.This would eliminate any of the risks to the baby that are associated with an amniocentesis.  After more research, prayer, and talking with family members, we decided to have the maternal T21 genetic testing done. We had the test done at the end of May and the results took 2 weeks to come back.

Exactly two weeks after I got the maternal T21 test done, I received a phone call from my doctor’s office. I was so nervous as I answered the phone. The nurse on the other end of the phone must have sensed how anxious I was and she quickly got to the point. In a sweet, energetic voice she informed me that the test results indicated that there was less than a 0.001% chance that our baby girl would be born with any kind of chromosomal abnormality! I instantly began to cry tears of joy. I was so thankful! In all reality, Gus and I had begun to mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves to potentially have a baby with serious special needs. I was overwhelmed with joy when we discovered that our baby’s clubfoot was, in fact, simply an isolated incident as far as they could tell, with no additional involvement. I cannot begin to describe to you how we felt.

No matter what the results of that genetic test were, we would have loved our daughter just the same. We prepared ourselves for bad news and hoped for good news. Looking back, we can see the goodness of God even in that trial. We put all of our trust in Him at a time where trusting Him seemed impossible.  No matter what the outcome of the test was, we were thankful for the baby he gave us the privilege to raise.

Being a mother is a special calling and a precious privilege. Having a child with special needs is a very special calling and, dare I say, an even GREATER privilege. Our daughter has a very, very mild deformity which can be treated with castings, corrective shoe wear, and surgeries. I don’t even consider her to have “special needs,” per say, just “special feet.” There are other babies and children out there who have more severe deformities and disabilities and their mommies and daddies have to face a lot more challenges than the everyday parent. I am amazed by those parents. I pray for those parents all the time. I cannot begin to imagine the daily trials they face with extra doctor’s appointments, surgeries, therapies…the list goes on and on. I’m sure they have some really, really rough days. I also know that they have some truly amazing days spent with some of this world’s biggest blessings. Children with special needs have some of the biggest, kindest hearts. God hand-picked each parent to care for those “special blessings.” I admire those parents. Your child is a beautiful part in God’s perfect plan and they are made perfectly — EXACTLY how He created them to be.

If you’re a mom or a mom-to-be who is reading this and you have found yourself in a similar situation regarding clubfoot and the echogenic foci finding, I hope this is an encouragement to you. I have met several moms through clubfoot support group pages whose babies also had the echogenic foci finding in their heart who were born with isolated clubfoot and no associated conditions. Doctors may unintentionally cause you to worry. There are so many clubfoot support groups on Facebook. It’s completely understandable to be scared of the unknown. Reach out to other mommas who are going through the same thing you are! You’re not alone. 

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Paisley’s Birth Story

August 9th, 2014 was the best day of our lives. We welcomed our beautiful little baby girl into this world and it was truly a miracle.

Throughout my pregnancy and even before I was pregnant I absolutely loved reading birth stories from other mommas and I couldn’t wait to one day write my own! Well, now we have our own little girl’s miraculous birth story to tell. I’m going to be honest…now that I’m at this point I am also kind of unsure which details to include and which ones should probably be left out – sorry in advanced if anything is a little bit too personal, but here it goes…

I was one of those girls who truly enjoyed being pregnant. I felt really great all throughout my pregnancy…until I got to about 40 weeks. By the time I hit the end of 39 weeks, I was just DONE. My mom and sister were here and we were all anxiously awaiting the arrival of Miss Paisley. I was ready to meet my baby and to be completely honest I was just tired of being pregnant. I couldn’t sleep at night, I had to pee at least 50 times a day (slight exaggeration), I had awful Braxton Hicks contractions, Paisley was turned the wrong way and I was having awful back pain. Those last 2 weeks we took a couple of trips to the hospital thinking it was time to have the baby and ended up getting sent home because it was just early labor. August 3rd was my due date. It came and went – still no Paisley. I’ll tell you something – that was extremely disappointing. We thought for sure that our baby would be here by then and having to wait even longer to meet her (and dealing with even more of the late pregnancy symptoms) was not enjoyable. Someone very wisely told me that I should anticipate going to my due date or later because they didn’t want me to be disappointed if our baby wasn’t here by then. That was some great advice and I will definitely use it for my future children and pass it along to other friends who are pregnant and having little ones! When we went to my 40 week appointment, the doctor seemed surprised to see that I hadn’t had the baby yet. “It could be any day now” was a phrase we became all too familiar with. I was very thankful I had my mom and sister here with me – they made waiting bearable and it was so much fun to spend quality time with both of them.

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After my due date came and went we decided to start trying all of the “natural ways to induce labor” methods. Gus’ cousin Rachel was staying with us and my mom and sister were in town so we all decided to have fun with it! Rachel, Kassidy, my mom, and I all spent tons of time Googling and researching ideas. We tried everything we could. Friends gave us tons of ideas as far as what worked for them and what we should try. We ended up trying just about everything – bouncing on an exercise ball, swinging on swings at the park, taking a warm bath, lots and lots of walking, eating tons of pineapple, pressure points, labor-inducing cupcakes, raspberry leaf tea, raspberry tablets, and even caster oil! By the time we had tried just about everything I came to the realization that this baby would come when SHE was ready and there wasn’t really anything we could do to speed it up.

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On August 6th around midnight, my “Braxton Hicks” contractions started really picking up and they became extremely painful. Gus and I didn’t get any sleep that night. The next day they continued the ENTIRE day but my contractions were about 10-15 minutes apart. They were getting more intense but I knew they weren’t close enough yet to cause progression. After dealing with the pain for over 24 hours, Gus and I decided to go to the hospital around midnight on August 7th. Once again, even though I was overdue and having frequent contractions, we were sent home because I was still in early labor and not in active labor yet. I woke up Friday morning and the doctor called me to tell me that they wanted to schedule us for an induction. I was scheduled to be induced Sunday, August 10th at 6:00 PM. Although I really wanted to go into labor on my own, having an induction date set was such a relief – especially considering the pain I was in and the fact that my contractions had been about 10 minutes apart for so long. I had contractions all day that day as well. As the day went on, they continued getting more intense. Thankfully, I had my mom, Kassidy, Rachel, and Gus to help me breathe through the pain, time the contractions, and help to keep me sane. The contractions became absolutely unbearable at around 1:30 AM on August 9th and we realized they were about 3-5 minutes apart for over an hour. I wasn’t in a rush to head to the hospital because I was so afraid of getting sent home AGAIN. I remember Rachel and my mom telling me I was crazy and that they knew it was time to head to the hospital. Around 3:00 in the morning I decided to give in and head to the hospital and I was really hoping that this time it was the real thing! At that point I remember thinking that if this wasn’t the real deal that I couldn’t possibly imagine how it could be any more painful or intense. These contractions just felt different. My mom, Gus, and I loaded up in the car and drove to the hospital. Well, Gus drove. My mom sat in the back with me for what seemed like the longest car ride of my life. Oh, and he managed to hit every single bump along the way!!

We got to the hospital around 3:30 in the morning on Saturday, August 9th. Gus pulled up to the carport, my mom got a wheelchair, and we went up to the second floor to labor & delivery. I was in so much pain I could hardly function. My poor momma just isn’t very coordinated and couldn’t even push the wheelchair and so she kept running me into walls and it was just a mess. (Looking back, we can laugh about it but at the time I was not a happy camper.) When we got to the floor, the surgical tech who was there the night before when Gus & I were there looked at me and told the other nurse, “She was here last night. This is the real thing – get her a room.” I guess it was my yelling and crying that gave it away. They didn’t even make me fill out the papers OR make me go to triage. They put us directly into the hospital room right across from the nurse’s station. I was so thankful. When the nurse came in to check me I remember thinking to myself that I can’t get my hopes up because this could just be another false alarm. “Well, you’re a generous 3! Well, almost a 4, actually.” I was SO happy. I told the nurse she was my favorite person in the world! She asked me if I planned on getting an epidural. “HECK YES, as soon as possible” I said. She told me that the anesthesia team would quickly become my favorite people instead of her.

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I got my epidural around 5 in the morning. I started getting really nervous right before the procedure and I told the nurses how nervous I was. I was scared that it would hurt or that I wouldn’t be able to be still during the process. Looking back, there was nothing to worry about. The anesthesia team was so wonderful and the nurses did an incredible job coaching me. Gus helped me to stay calm and still. Getting an epidural didn’t hurt A BIT! It didn’t take long at all, either. I started having a contraction AND the blood pressure cuff started filling up right as the anesthesiologist was about to start the procedure. I told him it was happening and asked him if he could wait just a little bit but he just said “Okay, you’re going to feel a little sting.” And within a couple of minutes it was done. I didn’t even feel a little sting. The contraction and the blood pressure cuff were actually more painful than the epidural itself! (Sounds ridiculous, I know!) The relief I felt after the epidural is unexplainable. I was having contractions for so long that I kept expecting to feel another one but I didn’t! The nurse anesthetist sat down and looked at the monitor. She said, “Okay, Kayla, you’re at the peak of a pretty intense contraction…do you feel it?” I didn’t feel a thing. Crazy, right? For the first time in over 2 days I was able to get some peaceful sleep. The nurse came in and checked me after my epidural and I was at a 5. My sister and Rachel got to the hospital a little bit later in the morning and then some friends arrived and thanks to the epidural I was able to relax and enjoy time with everyone.

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The doctor came in around 9:30 in the morning and broke my water. I was still at a 5, and the doctor said that after they broke my water she knew things would start to speed up. I still wasn’t in any pain or even discomfort. Around 11:30 I started feeling really uncomfortable. I started feeling a lot of pressure and I began to feel my contractions again. I had my own button to control the medication in my epidural and until that point I hadn’t given myself any extra. Once I felt my contractions again and that intense pressure I pressed that button and gave myself all I could. Someone went and told the nurse that I was feeling uncomfortable and feeling pressure and she came right in. One nurse checked me and didn’t tell us anything afterwards. She just said, “Well, you’re doing tremendously well.” Obviously, we wanted to know what that meant exactly. Gus looked at her and said, “So, if you don’t mind me asking what number is that, exactly?” That made me laugh. The nurse said she didn’t want to tell us and get our hopes up and that she wanted another nurse to check me. Another nurse quickly came in and checked me and said, “You’re at a 10! You’re going to have a baby!” I was so happy I just broke into tears. We called our friends and family back in and told them the exciting news. Then, the nurses told everyone except for those that were going to stay for the delivery to head to the waiting room because we were going to start pushing. I couldn’t even believe it. It all went so quickly and up until 11:30 I didn’t even feel uncomfortable! (Thank you, epidural!)

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I wanted to have Gus, my mom, and my sister there for Paisley’s delivery. Everyone else left and the nurses came in and began teaching me how to push and we did a couple of “practice pushes.” We really only pushed through 2 or 3 contractions and the next thing I knew, the doctor walked through the door. Now, I’ve seen several deliveries and typically the doctor doesn’t come in the room until RIGHT BEFORE the baby is about to come. I mean, seriously. Sometimes the doctor barely makes it! Part of me thought that I was about to have the baby but nothing was set up yet and the doctor wasn’t scrubbing up so I knew that couldn’t be the case. Dr. Harris sat at the end of my bed and coached me through pushing. She didn’t just stay there for a couple of contractions. That doctor stayed with me for the next hour and a half helping me push! Looking back, I cannot even believe how helpful she was. Come to find out, I was the only laboring patient at the time but still – she did not have to dedicate so much time to me! She was so helpful. I had to push for a while but I didn’t realize how long it was until afterwards. Kassidy was standing on the left side of me up by my head. Gus had one leg and one of my nurses had the other. My mom was texting people updates, videotaping, and taking pictures behind Kassidy. At first, Gus was the person counting me to 10 during each push. However, he would see how hard it was for me and when he got to 5 he would start to speed up! He asked Kassidy to take over and she did an awesome job counting me through the pushes. Everyone was so encouraging. We had a great little team – two nurses, a surgical tech, the doctor, Gus, Kassidy, and my mom. After about an hour and a half of pushing, the doctor started gowning up and they began breaking down the bed and setting up the table for delivery!

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There were times during pushing when I felt like completely giving up. It was exhausting. I kept asking them how the baby’s heart rate was and how the baby was doing. Thankfully, throughout the entire labor and delivery, the baby’s heart rate looked perfect. I had to push for about another half hour. Everyone kept encouraging me to keep going and not give up. Then, by the time they were able to see her head, they kept telling me how much blonde hair she had and that she was almost here! Despite my exhaustion, the fact that they could see Paisley’s head made me want to push that much more and get to finally meet our precious little baby girl. At around 2:15, the doctor told me that when the next contraction came and I pushed through it that I would be having a baby! Gus’ face when the doctor said that was adorable. You could tell he was so excited. Knowing I was so close to having the baby, I gave the next round of pushing absolutely everything I had.

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The next thing I knew, Paisley Grace was placed on my chest. I can’t begin to describe the amount of love I instantly felt for her. It all seemed to happen so fast but at the same time it felt like time stood still. I really can’t explain it. I looked up at Gus and saw tears streaming down his face as he saw Paisley Grace for the first time. It was a precious moment. I looked at my mom and sister and of course, we all cried. It was really an incredible thing to have my mom and my sister there for Paisley’s birth. I was in awe of this little life I just brought into the world. I just kept staring at my little baby and saying, “You’re beautiful, I love you so much.” (I don’t really remember this – but my mom just so happened to capture the exact moment Paisley was born and placed on my chest on video with her iPhone!) I remember thinking she was SO tiny. I had actually never seen a baby that small in person before. She was only 5 pounds, 12 ounces! She was the most beautiful baby in the world to me and just healthy as could be.

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I’m going to spare you the details of what happened afterwards. (Partly because I don’t really remember all of those details and partly because, well, it’s not exactly something I really want to remember.) To sum it up, I had some complications after delivery. I remember holding Paisley and enjoying the “skin to skin” time immediately after delivery. We were supposed to have something called the “Magic Hour,” which is where mommy, daddy, and baby enjoy some bonding time after delivery. However, that didn’t happen. Within a few minutes after delivery, I began to feel very weak and I told the surgical tech that I couldn’t hold the baby anymore. She told me to focus on the baby and not pay attention to anything else that was going on around me. (I could tell at that point that they were concerned about something but I didn’t know what.) I tried to focus on the baby and enjoy that time, but I got to the point that I really couldn’t anymore. I was in so much pain and realized that I was holding Paisley very tightly. I asked someone to take Paisley and the next thing I knew I was completely out of it. My mom had mentioned to me that as soon as the baby was born, everyone’s attention would turn to her and she would be everyone’s main focus. At this point, the exact opposite was true. My blood pressure went down to 60s/30s and my pulse spiked. Doctors came rushing in and told everyone they needed to leave. They thought I would have to get surgery or a blood transfusion but fortunately, I didn’t need either one! Paisley was so tiny because, even though she was overdue, my placenta went bad and she wasn’t getting the nutrients she needed. Thankfully, Paisley Grace was completely healthy and didn’t have any complications whatsoever!!

When I started feeling better we were able to FaceTime with my dad and Paisley Grace got to see her Grandpa! It was precious and something I’ll always remember.

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We brought our sweet baby girl home from the hospital early in the afternoon on Monday, August 11th.

Our hearts are so full of love for our precious Paisley Grace and we are very excited to begin this journey together as parents!

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Thank you to the very talented Sarah Wilbanks (with Lanters and Feathers Photography) for taking the following beautiful pictures of our family! We are so thankful for these precious pictures!

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Pregnancy update: 39 weeks…and 4 days

Yes, I’m still pregnant…BUT I’m only 3 days away from my due date!! This pregnancy has been great and I’ve really loved (almost) every minute of it. That being said, I’m also really, REALLY hoping this pregnancy update will be my last one before little miss Paisley gets here! I am beyond excited to meet this sweet baby and to be her mommy!!

What’s new the past couple of weeks:
– Last week some ladies from my church had a beautiful brunch for me and I had the opportunity to meet and talk to several other mommas from our church. It was so sweet and we had such a great time!
– My mom and my sister are here! It’s been wonderful having them in South Carolina with me instead of all the way in Florida! I’m so thankful they can be here during this time.
– A lot of my anxiety about labor and delivery has subsided. I’ve been talking to a lot of great friends and different people about it and at this point I feel like my excitement for finally meeting Paisley outweighs the fear or anxiety I could possibly have regarding the delivery itself.
– This week has been pretty rough. Let me just tell you right now – back labor is TERRIBLE. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Thankfully, I’m back to feeling myself again and the past 2 days I’ve felt GREAT!
– I’ve been able to get lots of rest the past couple of days/nights so I’m hoping that when baby girl does decide to arrive I will be well-rested and ready to go!
– Walking, walking, walking. That’s another thing we’ve been doing a lot of the past couple of days!
– Gus’ leave starts August 3rd and he will be home with us until August 20th!! I am very excited and beyond grateful.
– I’ve eaten about 4 pineapples. FOUR WHOLE PINEAPPLES. I no longer believe that they naturally induce labor.

We are SO excited to meet our little girl very, very soon.

Baby belly at 37 weeks

Baby at 37 weeks

Baby at 38 weeks!

Baby at 38 weeks!

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I’m so excited for Gus to be a daddy!

Our lives are about to change & we could not be more excited.

We can’t wait to finally hold you in our arms, Paisley!!! Now just get here, little one!

Pregnancy Milestones to Remember

As my due date gets closer and closer, I’ve been reminiscing on my pregnancy and I’ve realized – there’s A LOT I don’t remember. I don’t mean little things like “Oh, I can’t remember some symptoms” or “I can’t remember how bad morning sickness actually was.” Even though some of those little things may be true, I’m talking about big things like not being able to remember how far along I was when we found out, when we told our family, when we announced it to our friends, everyone’s reactions…the list goes on and on. I wish I could just blame it on pregnancy brain, but it’s not that simple. Until this point in my pregnancy I’ve really just been going, going, going (thanks to nursing school and working all the time) & I haven’t had time to just sit back and fully enjoy being pregnant.

Tonight I decided to go back and look at old pictures, look through all of my ultrasound images, go backwards in my pregnancy app on my phone, compare dates, and sit down and finally figure out little details of my pregnancy I either 1) didn’t know 2) couldn’t remember or 3) somehow convinced myself had happened another way. I decided to share this and the story of how we found out on the blog because even though a lot of these things are personal (yes, personal – consider this your warning) they are precious things I want to be able to remember and look back on. I also want to encourage other expecting mommas out there to remember these details. I know it seems obvious and some people are probably thinking “How can she not remember that?” I’ve even thought that myself. Truth be told, I don’t really know. I think everything just came as such a shock to me from the start that I just kept busy and didn’t give myself time to wrap my mind around it until I was already about halfway through it!

So, here goes an attempt to remember and share some of these precious details of such an incredible time in our lives:

December 9th, 2013: I went to my 10:00 Sociology class just like I did every other Monday. I sat next to my friend Heidi (who has been an incredible friend ever since freshman year and now we’re finally going to be GRADUATING this year with our nursing degrees! Sorry… side note. It’s kind of a big deal for us). I felt really weird all throughout the class and I just remember that I couldn’t focus or anything. I can’t explain the feeling. I didn’t really feel sick, I just felt kind of weak and like something was a little off. When we left class that day, I told Heidi I was going to skip chapel and go home because I wasn’t feeling so hot. I’m pretty sure I even told her I was going to take a pregnancy test just to make sure I wasn’t pregnant. (Obviously, I can’t remember – maybe Heidi knows!) On my way home I stopped at CVS and grabbed a 2-pack pregnancy test. I knew Gus was home sleeping because he had to work a 12-hour shift the night before. I didn’t wake him up, I just came home and took the test. Honestly, I was fully expecting for it to be negative. I also felt funny the day before after Gus and I finished a run outside and it took me quite awhile to recover. I just knew something was off and I figured I should use the process of elimination to narrow it down figure out exactly what was wrong with me. I was on birth control consistently, so I didn’t think for a second that I was actually pregnant! I hadn’t had any morning sickness or missed my cycle, so let’s just say I was SHOCKED when two little lines appeared on that stick. Shocked, scared, terrified. The flood of emotions I felt literally cannot even be expressed. I still didn’t want to wake up Gus so I went in the living room and just texted my mom asking her to call me. In typical mom fashion, she responded “Is everything okay?” “Yes, mom, I just need you to call me.” Her next question: “Is Kassidy okay?” “Yes, Kassidy is fine.” “ARE YOU PREGNANT?” When I didn’t respond for a couple of minutes, the phone rang and when I answered it I was just crying hysterically. I remember repeating the words “I don’t know, I don’t know!” And she told me to send her a picture of the test. IMG_8216She was instantly excited. Meanwhile, I was scared and terrified, yet somehow she was just excited & happy from the start. I told her I thought that maybe the first test was wrong, so I hung up and took the second test in the pack. Of course, the second test was also positive and when I called my mom to tell her she reminded me that I should probably tell my husband! I still didn’t believe two little sticks I bought at the drugstore, so I decided to call the Piedmont Women’s Center, which is a great Christian organization in our area who I knew would do another pregnancy test. I made an appointment for that day at 2:00. This was all happening so fast and I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it. After I called and set up the appointment, I decided it was time to tell Gus. I nervously walked into the bedroom. I sat on the edge of the bed holding one of the pregnancy tests and said “Gus, I’m pregnant. This isn’t a joke.” He woke up, saw the tears in my eyes, looked at the pregnancy test and excitedly said, “We’re going to have a baby!” And he gave me the biggest hug. He was excited from the second he found out. I was relieved that he felt that way, but it wasn’t long after that I broke down and just cried and started freaking out. “I’m still in school! We just got married! We can’t be parents! How are we going to do this?! We weren’t planning on having kids this soon!” Never once did any of those things seem to concern Gus. If you know Gus at all, then you understand why. He’s not the kind to worry – about anything. Him and my mom are a lot alike in that way. That’s just one of the many things I admire about both of them and I totally wish I could be more like them in that area. I left the room for a little while to just go out in the living room and think – and, of course, let him sleep. A few minutes later, I walked back in the bedroom to wake him up and I had a whole new outlook, “You’re right, Gus, we can do this. I can finish school. We will be great parents. God knew we were going to have kids this soon. We have great families who will be so supportive.” And within a short time the emotions I initially felt came flooding back in and it was just a rollercoaster of a morning.

Somehow in the midst of all of this I remembered that I had a nursing test that afternoon! My test was at 1:00 and let’s just say there was NO WAY I was going to be ready to take a nursing test that day. I had way too much on my mind. I e-mailed one of my teachers to let her know I wouldn’t be able to take my test that afternoon. It was almost 1:00 and she hadn’t e-mailed me back, so I decided to just go to school and let her know I would have to take the test another day. I had no intention on telling her that I was pregnant, but after frantically running up to her office with tears streaming down my face, those were some of the first words out of my mouth. She was so sweet and understanding! She congratulated me and, of course, told me that I could make up the test another day.

I didn’t want to go to my appointment alone, but I really didn’t want Gus to have to come with me since I knew he was so tired from working the night before. I texted my sister to see if she wanted to come somewhere with me, and I’m pretty sure she had to skip a class to come with me but I told her it was important. I put the pregnancy tests in a little ziplock baggy and I wrote a cute little note that said “Aunt Kassidy, look under here.” I set the note on top of the bag on the center console of the car and when I picked up Kassidy from campus I was so excited to tell her. She got in the car, saw the note, looked at the pregnancy tests and just screamed. She was so excited. We went to the appointment together and there they did another pregnancy test.
It seemed like it took them forever to come back to the room and tell me the results of the test. The lady at the Piedmont Women’s Center was so sweet and caring. She could tell that I was scared and she did a great job calming my fears and helping me to trust God even in this unexpected blessing. When she came back into the room with my results, she shut the door behind her and as soon as she turned around she had the biggest smile on her face. “You’re going to be a little momma!” She gave me a big hug and we sat and talked for awhile. I finally came to the point where I, too, was excited to be a mom instead of scared of the unknown and unexpected. We obviously didn’t know at this point how far along I was (we later found out that I was 6 weeks pregnant at this point), but they set up an ultrasound for me the following week.

December 16th: Gus, Kassidy, and I went to my first ultrasound. It was another service provided by the Piedmont Women’s Center. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of that ministry and everything they do! We found out based on the baby’s measurements that day that I was about 7 weeks pregnant. We got to see the little heartbeat flicker on the screen and just watched in amazement as the sonographer explained to us exactly what we were looking at. It was a really great experience and at this point I was beginning to get really excited about our surprise little miracle.

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First ultrasound: baby at about 7-8 weeks

December 20th: When I was 8 weeks pregnant, we told my dad and Gus’ parents. Yes, my mom actually kept it a secret from my dad from the time I told her on December 9th! Pretty impressive, I know. We told my dad via Skype, and my mom was able to record the whole thing without my dad knowing!

We called Gus’ parents afterwards and put them on speakerphone to tell them together. They were very excited!!

I honestly can’t remember when we told the rest of our family (grandparents, his brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc) and close friends but it was sometime after December 20th and before January 30th. Gus thinks we told them after January 1st. I really can’t remember. I know, I’m terrible for not remembering when we told them. I want to say it was sometime around Christmas. I won’t bore you with all of the details but we definitely had some great reactions from the people we love!!

I do remember that when I went back to school after Christmas break at the beginning of January, one of my teachers (Miss Hannah, the same teacher whose office I ran into frantically crying the day I found out I was pregnant) e-mailed me before class to let me know that she was going to give everyone in our class an opportunity to share any exciting news that may have happened over Christmas break. She knew I hadn’t yet shared our news with my classmates (who, in reality, are more like a second family) and she also knew I eventually needed to find a fitting time to do so. Some other really exciting announcements were made and afterwards, I raised my hand and told my nursing class about my news. Let’s just say I think that most of them were about as shocked as I was when I first found out!

January 31st, 2014: We announced our little bundle of joy to the rest of our friends on Facebook when I was 15 weeks and 3 days pregnant. [A simple post, you can find it here] It was pretty difficult to wait this long to announce it to everyone, but we knew we wanted to wait until I was at least 14 weeks pregnant and out of the first trimester to let everyone know. Gus wanted to tell everyone right away, but I really wanted to wait. I had an ultrasound the day before, and we thought it would be a good idea to announce the pregnancy the day after that ultrasound.

Baby at 15 weeks & 2 days

Baby at 15 weeks & 2 days

March 20th: We found out that we were expecting a sweet baby GIRL. I was 20 weeks & 4 days pregnant at this point. Gus, Kassidy, and I were able to go to the ultrasound together. We each had our guess as to whether Baby Vanaman was a girl or a boy! Kassidy and I dressed in pink, and Gus wore blue. We made it a lot of fun and it was an experience I’ll never forget. At this appointment, we also found out that our little girl possibly had clubfeet. On April 1st, we met with the specialist and they confirmed our little baby’s clubfeet. If you want to, you can read all about that experience here.

Well, there you go. I guess I remembered a lot more than I originally thought I did. I’m thankful I finally took the time to sit down and write it all out. I’m telling you right now – if I had waited to try to blog about these pregnancy milestones AFTER Paisley got here I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to remember anywhere near as much.
To other expecting mommy’s – really cherish this sweet time in your lives. Take time to remember the little details. It really is such a beautiful experience for you and the people you love.

As I’m wrapping up this post, I’m rocking away in my rocking chair. Not in an “old lady sitting on her front porch crocheting” kind of way, but in a “new mommy who is excited as can possibly be” kind of way. Soon I’ll be holding our sweet Paisley Grace and rocking her to sleep in this chair. I’ll spend countless nights and hours feeding her and singing to her and just cuddling with her in this chair. I cannot wait to be her mommy. Thinking back on all of the special memories of this pregnancy and all it has entailed makes me even more excited to be at the point we’re at now.

It’s definitely been an unexpected journey – but it’s one I would never want to change a single part of. 10414421_10203953725147765_3921106650031762840_n Only 17 days until your due date, baby girl. We’ll meet you so soon.

Pregnancy update: 37 weeks

It’s exactly 3 weeks until my due date! THREE WEEKS.

I can’t fully wrap my mind around the fact that in about 3 weeks our lives will change completely & we will have a little baby joining our family. We are beyond excited.

Everyone keeps asking me “So are you ready?”
My answer: Yes and no.
That’s a pretty loaded question, honestly…
No, because: 
– I’m beginning to get very anxious about labor and delivery. I feel like anyone who says they’re not at least a little nervous about it is either crazy or lying. It’s slightly terrifying. I LOVE it from a student nurse’s perspective, but now that I’m the delivering patient it’s a completely different feeling.
– Even though I may have my birth plan, I’m fully aware that deliveries don’t always go as planned and this makes me nervous.
– I’m actually going to miss being pregnant. I’ve loved it. I love every little kick I feel. I love feeling her hiccup. I love people touching my belly and getting excited when they see that I’m expecting & I love the conversations that typically follow. I haven’t been uncomfortable (with the exception of the first trimester and probably 1 or 2 days since) and being pregnant in the summer hasn’t even been bad at all! I feel like it’s probably because I’m so used to Florida summers that this summer in Greenville has been a piece of cake.
– I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for parenthood. In fact, I know that you really can’t be. It is going to be the biggest responsibility I can possibly think of. I just want to be the best mommy I possibly can be to this sweet baby God has entrusted us with and a part of me is scared that I won’t do a good job. I just know it’s going to be hard.
– It’s all so new for us. Obviously, we’ve never been parents. We don’t exactly know what we’re doing and we have a lot to learn as we go through this journey together.

Yes, because:
– Her nursery is done! It’s everything I could’ve hoped for. I’ll share pictures on the blog eventually – I absolutely love it!
– The diaper bag is packed and ready to go. (Of course, adorable newborn outfits and accessories included!!)
– Our hospital bag is pretty much packed!
– We had a beautiful baby shower in Florida with our family and friends a couple of weeks ago and we received everything we could possibly need for our baby girl. (Thank you again to everyone who came and made it so special – and thanks mom, Becky, and Crystal for putting it all together!!)
– The carseat is installed and the base is already in the car. (We also already put up the window shade and little mirror – can you tell we’re a little excited?)
– We took a childbirth class together. That was a blast. It was pretty long (from 9-4 on a Saturday) but it was very informative and we really enjoyed it.
– We toured the labor and delivery unit at the hospital! It is such a beautiful facility and the nurses and doctors are phenomenal. I’m really excited about our hospital choice.
– All of her little outfits and clothes are sorted, organized, and put away. This little girl is spoiled already. Believe it or not, she owns more outfits and accessories than her mommy does!!!
– Her bassinet is set up in our bedroom. (Thanks again to my amazing nursing class – such a sweet gift from some of my favorite people!)
– I am ready for her arrival to make Gus a daddy, Kassidy an Aunt, my mom a Grandma, and my dad a grandpa. She’ll also make Gus’ parents grandparents for the 22nd time! It’s just a really exciting time for a lot of the people I love.

Overall, even though there are little things I’m nervous about and I may not feel completely prepared for, I am just so excited to be a mommy to this little baby girl I’ve bonded with over the past 9 months. I can’t wait until we can finally hold her in our arms and love on her.

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Baby belly at 37 weeks

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We love you, Paisley Grace! Mommy and Daddy are SO excited to meet you.

Maternity photos

My awesome next-door neighbor (who also happens to be one of my best friends) is an INCREDIBLE photographer. She snapped a few shots of Gus & I (when I was 32 weeks pregnant) and I wanted to share a few of them on the blog! If you’re in the Greenville area and you’re looking for a photographer – check out her photography page! https://www.facebook.com/landf.photography

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Perfect imperfections

World Clubfoot Day Happy World Clubfoot Day! Today is a day designated to bring awareness to this condition and I thought it would be a fitting day to tell others about our own little girl’s clubfoot journey.

On March 20th we found out that we were having a baby girl. Gus, Kassidy, and I were all able to be there together for the ultrasound and find out the good news! We also found out some other information that day which I haven’t yet shared with everyone. After the ultrasound we went to a back room where the doctor asked if he could speak to Gus and I alone. At first, I assumed the doctor always spoke to the expectant parents after the full anatomy ultrasound, however when he asked us to take a seat my heart completely sank. Gus and I sat down across from the doctor as he explained that we would need to go to a specialist for another ultrasound because it looked as though our baby girl may possibly have clubfoot. He explained to us that it may just be the way the baby was positioned in utero, however they would need to do a level 2 ultrasound in order to confirm it. I left that appointment feeling a little bit worried but I honestly just assumed that it was simply the way she was laying and that when we went for the ultrasound at the specialist everything would probably be fine.

When I was 22 weeks pregnant, we went to the maternal-fetal medicine specialist. There they did a very long, in-depth ultrasound which seemed to take forever. That day the specialist confirmed that our baby does has bilateral clubfeet. Clubfoot is a birth defect that affects about 1 in 1,000 infants. Of those cases, about half of these babies are born with bilateral clubfeet, as opposed to unilateral, in which case only one foot is affected. The doctor came in and showed us our baby’s clubfeet in 3D. That’s when it became real to me. The feelings, emotions, and fears I experienced that day are so much different than they are now. At first, I was completely terrified and heartbroken that our little girl would have this deformity and would need  to have her little legs and feet corrected. I was angry at myself for some reason and I felt extremely guilty that somehow this problem was my fault. Now, after much prayer, research, and talking to other moms of babies with clubfoot, I’ve been able to have a lot of my questions answered and most of my fears have subsided. Although some days I still have questions and fears, I’ve come to realize that although our baby will have a little bit of a rough start, after corrections she will be able to develop like any other child her age. All of her major organs are functioning perfectly. She doesn’t have a life-threatening disease or disorder which will be debilitating to her throughout her life.  Our baby  has a deformity which is thankfully able to be fully corrected through casts, a minor surgery, and bracing. God allowed our sweet baby girl to have this specific congenital deformity for a reason. In our eyes, she is perfect because we know she is fearfully and wonderfully made by a powerful and loving Creator.

After showing us her little legs and feet in 3D, the sonographer could tell we were upset. When the doctor left, she turned the 3D ultrasound back on and showed us a beautiful picture of our baby girl's face!

After the doctor showed us her little legs and feet in 3D, the sonographer could tell we were upset. When the doctor left, she turned the 3D ultrasound back on and showed us a picture of our baby girl’s face!

Gus and I were referred to Shriners Children’s Hospital after our appointment with the specialist. It’s not simply a coincidence that we happen to live only 10 minutes away from an incredible children’s hospital which specializes in orthopaedics. Even in that, we can see God’s provision. After our ultrasound with the specialist, they set up another appointment for us at Shriners. The next week, Gus and I went to Shriners Hospital and met with our daughter’s nurses and cast technicians who will be helping us through the clubfoot journey. There, the nurses discussed the plan of care and correction after our baby gets here. The Ponseti Method is commonly used to correct clubfeet. One of the doctors at the Shriners Hospital we will be going to was actually trained in the Ponseti Method by Dr. Ponseti himself! The severity of each baby’s case of clubfoot (or clubfeet) cannot usually be determined until they are born, and because clubfoot can range in severity from mild to severe, the Ponseti method can be tailored accordingly. Although the time frames may need to be adjusted according to her specific case and severity, the general plan of care for our baby is this:
– They will start the casting regimen with our baby as soon as we’re ready. They recommend beginning castings within the first week of her life. The nurse told us we can call them after delivery when we’re still in the hospital and before we bring her home we can come to Shriners and get her casts put on.
– For the first 6-8 weeks of her life, she will have to wear plaster casts on each leg from the tips of her toes to her upper thighs. She will most likely have to have a new cast every week (they recommend changing the casts every 5 days) for these 6-8 weeks. Changing the casts each week allows the bones to gradually align properly.
– After the serial castings, she may need a small procedure to allow the tendons in her foot to lengthen. Most babies with clubfeet require this procedure.
– The serial castings will be followed by a single cast on each leg which will need to be worn for 3-6 weeks.
– To prevent relapse, she will need to wear special bracing equipment 24 hours a day for the next 2-3 months.
– Her corrections will be evaluated and if no further casting is needed, she will transition to only needing to wear her braces at night and at nap time until she is 3-4 years old.

Like I said, each case of clubfoot is different and the Ponseti method is tailored according to each child’s specific needs. I’m thankful that we were able to meet with our daughter’s phenomenal nurses and cast techs and get an idea of what we are about to jump into. When we got to Shriners, they took us down the casting hallway and into one of the many cast rooms. They showed us molds of the serial casts and the braces and special shoes our baby will be wearing. It could have been overwhelming and scary, but instead it was extremely informative and we left feeling more prepared then either of us thought possible. The nurses and cast techs were so excited about our baby coming soon! They referred to her as their “special baby” because she’s just like any other baby, she just needs a little bit of special care at first.

Although we may not know exactly why right now, we know that God has a special reason for giving us a little girl with clubfeet. We hope and pray that throughout this journey, God will be glorified and that others will see Him do awesome things. We want to encourage other parents of children who have special needs – whether it be clubfeet or something more serious. God has entrusted these special children to special parents and He will give the grace and strength needed to get through each day.

We love our little girl. We love her from head to toe – even with her little adorable, perfectly imperfect clubfeet.

clubfootribbon Over the past couple of months, I’ve been able to do so much research and I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about this condition. If you’re interested in learning more about clubfeet or the Ponseti Method, you can check out the links below!
http://www.clubfootclub.org/about http://www.ponseti.info/clubfoot-and-the-ponseti-method/what-is-clubfoot/ponseti-method.html http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001228.htm http://www.ponseti.info/clubfoot-and-the-ponseti-method/what-is-clubfoot/learn-about-clubfoot.html