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. 

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

Pregnancy update: 30 weeks

Only about 10 more weeks until we meet our little girl!! Wow.

“Welcome to your third trimester.” When my doctor excitedly said those words at my appointment last week I just froze. I sat there with a huge smile on my face and I had to let the words sink in before they finally registered. THIRD TRIMESTER ALREADY! Unbelievable. When you’re so busy with work and school or other daily activities it’s easy to let time slip right past you. I can’t believe I’m already 30 weeks pregnant. I thought women who were seven months pregnant were supposed to feel unbearably uncomfortable, exhausted, not able to hold their bladder for more than 30 minutes, brace their backs as they waddle with every step, and have swollen ankles/feet the size of a watermelon (okay, slight exaggeration). Instead, I feel GREAT. Yes, I know I have another couple of months to go and those symptoms will most likely hit me very soon, but for now I’m feeling wonderful. I’ve been going on walks, hiking, fishing with Gus, spending time with friends, and working 20+ hours a week.

Here’s a little update:
– We moved into a 2 bedroom duplex! We love it. It’s much nicer than our tiny one-bedroom apartment and it’s the perfect home to start our family in. Oh, and our next door neighbors are awesome. It’s really cool to see the little ways God provides for us.
– Cravings lately: just fruit, really. Watermelon, strawberries, blueberries – you name it. But if you know me well you know that I love fruit a lot already, so that’s nothing too new. Oh and chick-fil-a. (Their grilled chicken sandwich is amazing). Nothing too weird or crazy. The funniest craving I’ve had throughout the entire pregnancy was when for about a month straight I craved blue (and ONLY blue) powerade/gatorade. We would even make special trips out to stock up on it!
– I’ve gained 9 pounds so far. The new goal is 20. Someone come over and eat donuts with me.
– We are going to Florida at the end of June! We cannot wait to see our families!!
– The #1 comment I hear from people is “Wow, you hardly even look pregnant.” or “You don’t look that far along!” Well gee, thanks. I really am. I’m sure soon I’ll hear comments regarding the exact opposite like, “You look like you’re ready to pop!” It’s funny how when you’re pregnant, EVERYONE (including complete strangers) has an opinion on just about everything.
– Our little girl’s crib, dresser, and changing table are here thanks to my amazing mom! Grandma is doing a great job of spoiling her little granddaughter already! We are so excited to put everything together and continue working on her nursery!
– Baby kicks me ALL the time. I love it. She’s especially active at night and early in the morning. It has gotten to the point where I can just look down and watch my belly as it moves.

Pregnancy is an incredible thing. There’s something I want to make 100% clear. There is a HUGE difference in not necessarily planning on having a baby and not wanting to have a baby. Those are two COMPLETELY different things. Some people I’ve talked to don’t seem to understand that. Like I said, when you’re pregnant a lot of people offer their opinions, even when they are completely irrelevant and you may not want to hear them. To be completely and totally honest with you – there are a lot of those opinions and harsh comments which have really hurt me and I’ve had to learn to start letting those types of comments go in one ear and out the other. That being said, I want it to be perfectly clear that although Gus and I did not necessarily plan on having a baby so soon, we are beyond excited and grateful that we are going to be parents and we would not change a single thing! God obviously had a greater plan for our lives than we had for ourselves and now we could not ever imagine our lives any other way. This baby is the most precious gift and I am so excited to be her mommy!

Baby bump at 29 weeks

Baby bump at 29 weeks