Friday, November 10, 2017

Imogen's Birth Story

She's here! She's home!

In the yard at our house - November 5, 2017

Those really are the most important things. In a lot of ways, it feels strange to think back and relive the delivery and the hospital stay. It still felt weird to fill out a birth plan and set expectations. We told everyone who asked - we want the medically appropriate things to be done. That's the end of our birth plan.

Just like with Everett, Elizabeth was induced at around 38 and a half weeks. In this case, we scheduled it so that bitty would most likely be born in October, leaving the November birthday for Oberon.

Elizabeth's parents came to watch Everett, which was a huge help. It was very nice to be able to relax and not worry about Evie while we were in the hospital.

Elizabeth was admitted on a Saturday around 11 a.m. We got put in a room right away, but then there was a big lull (like, over an hour) with no one coming by. Eventually, Chris started roaming the halls to find out what was going on. Long story short, a bunch of people had just come in and were moving along very quickly, so we were simply at the bottom of the priority list.

We watched football and waited. The doctor came in and explained to us the things that might happen. Elizabeth was already dilated 3cm, so no cervical balloon this time (yay!). They started pitocin at about 4 p.m. Grandma and Grandpa F. brought Evie for a quick visit before dinner and bed. He was enamored with the hallways at the hospital and all the things in the room to explore! Not at all out of sorts from Mommy and Daddy being away.

Later in the evening, about 9 p.m. or so, the doctor talked about breaking Elizabeth's water to speed things up. The pitocin wasn't really getting things moving - still at 3 cm. We talked about it, but opted to get some sleep and break her water in the morning, rather than break it late at night and then get zero sleep. Plus, Elizabeth's OB was on the schedule for Sunday morning, so if she delivered after 8 a.m. there was a good chance her doctor would be there.

So we slept. And no one had to get up to console a whiny toddler. Intermittent checks of Elizabeth's vitals did wake us from time to time, but all things considered a pretty good night's sleep for everyone, including bitty who was doing great.

In the morning, the doctor again brought up breaking the water and also an epidural. Since Elizabeth's labors were very fast with Oberon and Everett (once things got going), they didn't want to miss the window for pain relief. It felt extremely odd to get an epidural before the pain set in, but that's what we did. Elizabeth was having contractions (and had been for hours), but she could only feel them when bitty was in a certain position.

Elizabeth's water was broken in the morning, maybe around 7 a.m. Things did not move quickly. Elizabeth's doctor did come by to check on us when she arrived, but soon after was in an emergency C-section and wouldn't be available for some time. Finally, at around noon, things picked up. Again, they told Elizabeth not to push while her doctor got out of surgery and down to the room. This was the most difficult pushing of the three deliveries (who knew that working out really does make a difference?), but still not too bad. Four contractions worth of pushes, and there she was!

Welcome to the world, Imogen Ruby Fiorani Thoma - Born 10/29/17 at 1:23 p.m.

Just like with Everett, Imogen was put right onto Mama's chest for skin-to-skin. She opened one eye, but it took her a while to get the other one open. No one was in any rush to do checks or measurements, and we got a good couple hours of snuggle time.

Bitty was the biggest beastie at birth - 7 lbs 12.9 oz

We were moved to Mother/Baby and again spent a lot of time waiting for doctors and other people to come by. It felt so different than our stay with Everett where there were constantly people coming and doing checks. It was somewhat unsettling - is this what a typical birth experience is like?

Grandma and Grandpa F. brought Evie to meet his little sister the night she was born. He wasn't very interested and preferred to play on the computer and push around the bassinet - but who could blame him? We would have preferred more snuggles, but toddlers have things to do and we get it.

 Troublemaker - October 29, 2017

Grandpa and Grandma F. meet Immy - 10/29/2017

Thoma family - 10/29/2017

Slowly, we began ticking off the required things before discharge. Things like a hearing test, lactation consultant, wet diaper, poopy diaper, and a brain ultrasound. The ultrasound technician remarked that usually she did ultrasounds like this for babies in the NICU, and we felt like responding, "us too."

We didn't see any NICU nurses or neonatologists, a first. The social worker said she remembered us, and Chris recognized one of the pediatricians, but we didn't recognize any other doctors, nurses, or medical personnel in Mother/Baby.

It was bittersweet checking off the boxes on the discharge board. With both the boys the section for the baby was crossed out with the note "NICU" next to it. And there we were, one by one ticking off the must-dos before discharge. Barely 24 hours after Imogen was born, we were being wheeled out to drive her home.

Mommy and Bitty Beastie - ready to go! - 10/30/2017

Everett's delivery was so different from Oberon's, but we still had a NICU experience that was triggering and difficult. With Imogen, it was even more different. So much so that it was in some ways unsettling. Elizabeth had a baby, and then we went home. And no one was worried about her.

She even got to dress up for Halloween and trick or treat at two days old.

Halloween 2017, Yoda, Luke, Ewok, and Leia - May the force be with you.

So far, Immy is doing great. Evie seems to be adjusting well, Elizabeth is feeling pretty good, and Chris is taking care of everyone. We're sure there will be challenges and triggers ahead, but right now we're enjoying this time.

Friday, October 20, 2017

This October

It's October, and there is a lot going on. Sometimes, the best thing for us to do is compartmentalize, and that's certainly been happening lately.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Awareness Month. What does that mean for us this year? Similar to the last two years, it means our social media world turns pink and blue. Elizabeth participates in the Capture Your Grief photograph event, we attended the HAND Service of Remembrance, and we participated in the Wave of Light on October 15th.

HAND Service of Remembrance - October 1, 2017

Wave of Light - October 15, 2017 - Everett loves candles now

It's an emotional month, but didn't hit as hard this time. That sounds like a good thing, but sometimes it's hard to tell. The distance between us today and the us that held Oberon is greater. That always sucks. It's very hard to find the balance between being able to function with grief and being guilty that it isn't overwhelming. We still experience moments that overwhelm, but as time goes on they become less frequent. It's a difficult adjustment to come to terms with, but we're working on it.

Everett 
This kid is in a really fun stage. Language exploding, running and climbing, sometimes listening, and all-around silliness. Yes, tantrums are picking up, but that means he's growing and developing - which is awesome.

Some of Everett's latest hijinks and activities - October, 2017

Especially since he's in day care during the week, we try to make the weekends more exciting. This means lots of trips to the park, bringing Evie on errands, and we took the plunge and signed up for his first activity class. He'll be going at least once a week to The Little Gym, and if it's anything like his trial class it will be a mix of tantrums and all-out loving it.

We talk to him about Bitty, his little sister, but it doesn't really seem to be clicking. We know his life will drastically change in the coming weeks, and we truly hope the adjustment isn't too hard on him.

Bitty
Elizabeth has officially passed the 37 week mark (and progesterone shots are over!). We've been preparing, but wouldn't say we're prepared. There are still things on the to-do list (like a name), but we may need to face the reality that it won't all get done.


Part of it, we think, is pushing to the side thoughts of labor, delivery, and the newborn period. It gets overwhelming very quickly to think about or hope for a particular story line to play out. Will she need the NICU? Will Elizabeth have complications? Will we get to bring her home? These questions are so real to us, that it just isn't something we spend a lot of time on.

So that leads to...not really facing up to the possibility of a newborn being in the house very soon. We've bought the things and cleaned the things, but we aren't really thinking about it. At least, not yet.

And for now, that will have to be OK. One day at a time, one moment at a time.

And next month? That will be a big one for all kinds of reasons.





Maternity Photos with Abby Alger Photography - and a whiny Everett - 9/16/2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Pregnancy Is Not An Invitation Into My Personal Life

It's amazing the things people say. It's even more amazing the things people say when you're visibly pregnant.

At 7 months pregnant:
  • "Wow, you must be due any day now - you're so big!"
  • The next day, "You're so tiny!"
  • A medical professional: "Your chart says you are measuring small." No one had ever told us Elizabeth was measuring small, and it turns out she wasn't. We were told baby was, "definitely not small."
  • A medical professional, the next day: "Your belly is so small!"
First of all, commenting a pregnant woman's size is incredibly rude. We're not saying it's rude to talk about these things with people you are very close with. It's natural to compare pregnancies and experiences with loved ones. It is not normal for acquaintances and people you are meeting for the first time to feel like they can comment on your body. 

About 32 weeks pregnant with Oberon, Everett, and Bitty. A lot depends on the style, angle, and where her hands are.

We're pretty sure this would be annoying even without our history. But being parents after loss, it's downright infuriating.

Comments about Elizabeth being big are stressful because she was bigger than average when pregnant with Oberon. She had extra amniotic fluid and Oberon was big for his gestational age. Neither of those things were good things.

Comments about Elizabeth being small are also stressful. Babies that aren't growing within the expected ranges can have medical reasons for that low growth. 

You would think that at least medical professionals, especially those that work with high risk patients, would keep these kinds of observations to themselves. Inevitably, they don't.

When people are meeting for the first time, there's this moment when the group is trying to find a topic. The weather comes up, travel stories, the usual. Enter, a pregnant person. All of a sudden, the pregnant person's personal life is latched onto as the obvious topic. This happens, a lot. 

Sometimes, Elizabeth is able to deflect gracefully before things get awkward. Sometimes, other people talk about their own families and she can simply smile and nod and then walk away. Other times, people are persistent. Peppering her with questions and ignoring the one word answers and closed-off body language. 

She knows she risks being perceived as rude, but it's just getting to be too much. She didn't bring up her personal life or her family, the only reason it's being discussed is because she's visibly pregnant. That visibility leads coworkers, flight attendants, receptionists, restaurant workers, baristas, and random strangers to launch into personal questions. Every single day. It's exhausting. 

A lot of the advice is to answer these people honestly - people shouldn't ask questions if they aren't ready for the answers. But answering honestly also puts Elizabeth in a difficult situation. Lie, or tell the truth and deal with the emotional avalanche that comes with it. Or don't say anything, look like a crazy person and still deal with the emotional avalanche.

Did we mention it's exhausting? Because it is.

Not everyone wants to talk about their personal lives. Especially not as "small talk." Not everyone has simple, happy stories. Some people might love talking about the complications and tragedies and differences in their personal lives. We promise, if that's the case, these people will bring it up on their own - you do not have to drag it out of them. 

In general, we could all be more respectful with personal questions. But for now, we'd settle for people not using a pregnant woman's body as an invitation.

Why write this? If you're reading this, we probably wouldn't mind talking to you about this pregnancy (we're kind of an open book). But that stranger in the office, airport, or coffee shop? Take a beat before you assume she wants to talk to you about her pregnancy, her body, or her family.

You made it to the end of a rant post! Thank you for listening, here are some pictures of Everett playing. We totally dig it when people ask us about Evie at the park! <3
9/4/2017

9/4/2017
 
9/4/2017


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

So Long, Summer!

Just like that, we're heading into Labor Day weekend, into football season.


All smiles at the pool - 8/26/17

The weeks are flying by, and we are all a little overstimulated. We had Chris's birthday, Elizabeth traveling for work, Elizabeth's birthday, a big house party, meeting lots of neighbors, and a quick weekend trip to SoCal. Not to mention that both of us have pretty intense work obligations this time of year.

Oh yeah, and we got lice!

Whenever we think we'll have some down time, it just doesn't happen. We haven't had time to sit down and settle on a name for Bitty. We haven't put closet doors in our bedroom yet. We haven't been hiking in months.

All that said, it's been an enjoyable summer. Everett enjoys things like cake and presents this year, and he participates in video chats which brightens up work trips (or working late).




Playing at playgrounds and in the back yard - August, 2017

We took the time to walk around and meet the neighbors. It was very nice to introduce ourselves to the people who live on our street. We invited them to our open house party and quite a few took us up on the offer. Of course, inviting them into our home meant opening up to questions about Oberon. Chris was more vocal about it than Elizabeth, but it was good to get our story out there. We don't want to hide him, but it's still difficult to talk about in small talk situations.

The open house was a wonderful day. It actually felt relaxing and enjoyable to spend time with the people we share our life with here. So much so, that we didn't take a single picture! There were kids playing in our yard and adults having happy conversation. It felt...good. If you'd asked us a year or two ago, we wouldn't have been able to say for sure whether we'd ever have a day like that again. Whether we'd ever feel comfortable in a group social situation like that again. We're not sure whether it's that many people already knew about Obie, or that we were in "our space" where Obie is everywhere, or simply that more time has passed. It's never going to feel normal to have a child that isn't alive. But it's also our reality, every day, and has been for coming up on three years.

Hanging in Obie Corner - 8/2/2017

The visit to SoCal was a little hard on our hearts. Seeing our nieces interact with Everett is so joyful, so wonderful, that we can't help but wish Oberon was growing up with the cousins too. We miss him. And we feel guilty when life takes up so much space that we don't give him the attention he deserves.


 Mom: Did you just eat sand? Evie: No...yes. 8/26/2017

29 weeks with Bitty - 8/29/2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Keep Growing

So much is changing, and suddenly it seems so fast.

Our house is nearly where we want it to be. The to-do list is getting very short, and that feels awesome. We’re starting to really settle into our new home. Finally trusting that yes, this is indeed our house and our home.


Everett has been upgrading too - a water table! 7/23/17


Elizabeth’s body is changing too. Her belly is swelling to accommodate a growing (and kicking!) Bitty. Pregnancy aches and pains exist, but they aren’t too intrusive. She continues to be monitored closely (so far, no red flags). It’s hard to compare how she feels physically between the three pregnancies, because the circumstances were so drastically different. Emotionally, it’s markedly less intense - veering into disconnected. There’s so much pulling at our attention and time that there just can’t be as much focus on the pregnancy, or on grief. It makes it easier to get through the days without breaking down, but it carries with it some guilt.


24 weeks with Bitty - 7/23/17


Everett’s changes are the most visible. He is learning new words all the time. He is getting more brave climbing and running. It’s such a joy to watch him figure things out, to watch him be proud of himself. As we barrel through toddlerhood, it’s clear that Everett won’t stay little forever, won’t stay a baby.

At this point, many parents would be tempted to say something like, “stop growing!” or “he’s growing too fast” or “I wish he would stay little forever.” Not us. Definitely, not us.

We know what it’s like when a child doesn’t grow, and stays little forever. It’s not an outcome any parent would actually wish for. It seems like an innocuous thing to say, but it isn’t. We aren’t the only loss parents who react badly to sentiments like that.

Watching Everett grow and change is the most rewarding part of parenting. Providing love and support may be the number one responsibility as parents, but helping our kids grow and change is a close number two.


All smiles at the Happy Hollow playground - 7/29/17

We never got past love and support for Oberon. We made decisions that were best for him and our family, we gave him as much love as we could while he was alive - and there’s so much leftover that we continue expressing it now.



With Everett, and now Bitty, our biggest hope is that we get to help them grow and change for the rest of our lives. We’d never wish for it to slow down or stop.


4 generations in Michigan - 7/7/17 

Hanging out with cousins, refusing to sit still - 7/8/17

Playing and learning at Impression 5 - 7/9/17 

Hanging with old friends at Impression 5 - 7/9/17

More friend time in Michigan - 7/9/17

 Evie's first solo amusement park ride (Happy Hollow) - 7/29/17

Horsing around on the way to the grocery store - 7/30/17

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Riding the Waves


We're not sure if you know this, but California (and much of the western U.S.) is in a crazy heatwave right now. On Father's Day it was 108 degrees! Our house is still a work in progress, and this heatwave week has turned out to be a particularly bad time to have no insulation in the attic. Thankfully, our air conditioning is working some and it hasn't gotten above the mid-80s inside the house.



Morning playground time on Father's Day - 6/18/2017

Speaking of the house, we are making some progress. Putting things on the walls, building closet organizers, buying patio furniture, and getting bids on turf were all big activities over the past month. We've both been able to stay pretty chill about the continued chaos, but impatience is starting to creep in. While not necessarily a bad thing (it will push us to manage the work and GET IT DONE), it does remind us that emotional regulation is a different beast after losing Oberon.


Obie and Evie newborn canvases - UP! 

In some ways, the enormity of Oberon's loss makes it easy to let the "small stuff" roll off our backs. It makes sense not to get wound up over things that don't really matter and simply let the waves wash over us. In other times, the exact opposite is true. For whatever reason, something gets stuck and we can't properly manage it. Being able to recognize those moments is helpful because we can clue each other in - "I know I'm overreacting, but this is really affecting me." But recognition doesn't always help with the internal struggle. Heart racing, stress mounting, tears welling, it can be hard to stop the spiral. Coping mechanisms that used to work (deep breaths, logic, talking about it) aren't reliable anymore.

Weathering the different types of waves is a learning process we'll be in the rest of our lives. Little waves we can ignore, little waves that compound and turn into huge waves, and legitimate tsunamis are all going to happen. Acknowledging that sometimes helps.

One set of waves we've been handling lately is a bit familiar. For the third time in four years, Elizabeth is pregnant. We are excited, yet measured. Hopeful, yet anxious. Things are so different from our first two pregnancies, but there is still familiarity.

Hard to see, but Elizabeth is holding Obie's O - so technically it is the five of us - 6/18/2017

There was still the early part of pregnancy when we didn't really believe it was happening. Especially this time because we were surprised with how quickly it happened.

The first trimester was a lot tougher on Elizabeth physically than with Oberon or Everett. She was nauseated a lot more and for a lot longer. Her belly "popped" a bit earlier as well, and it was difficult to keep it a secret for very long. We've had to manage the emotional response to telling people a little bit sooner than we had originally intended.

When the telling began - 4/27/2017

One thing that made us feel a (tiny) bit better about sharing the news was the Harmony Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) that we did early on. This test only checks for major chromosomal abnormalities, but it was nice to have something tangible during the first trimester. We found out that Bitty Beastie has the normal amount of chromosomes and we also found out that she's a girl!

Bitty needed souvenirs from her first Disneyland visit.

She's our first girl, and she's also the first girl (after many boys) on the Fiorani side. It's nice to have an excuse to buy some things specifically for Bitty. She'll use a lot (a LOT) of hand-me-downs, but she'll have some new things too.

In general, the waves of Bitty's pregnancy have been smaller and easier to handle than Everett's pregnancy. We've come up with lots of reasons for this, but who knows which one is really impacting our emotional state.
  • Easier physically: Now that the nausea has subsided (for the most part), Elizabeth is having a relatively easy time physically. Maybe it was the back-to-back pregnancies, maybe it's just different this time. So far, ancillary discomforts have been minimal.
  • Time is going faster: After Oberon died, time dragged. Each day felt like a marathon. That's less true now. We find we aren't always sure exactly what week of pregnancy it is, and sometimes we are surprised when we do the math. It's a nice difference.
  • Everett: For a couple of reasons, having Everett here (and healthy) is making this pregnancy less consistently stressful. Evie is growing and changing so much, and we are really enjoying parenting him. It's a lot of energy to take care of (and keep up with!) him, but it really does keep us from focusing too much internally.
Even with distractions and differences, there are still waves to handle. We have less time to focus on anxiety and worry, and that can start to feel like jinxing. In addition, it can lead to guilt about not focusing on the pregnancy and honestly guilt about not feeling as anxious. We don't know the outcome of this pregnancy, and ignoring that can feel wrong.

More big waves came as we had the anatomy scan. (Spoiler alert - no concerns identified!) The ultrasound technician asked Elizabeth whether she wanted to focus on anything specific given our history, and Elizabeth just started crying and couldn't speak. She pretty much cried through the whole appointment (luckily Chris is a good hand-holder). 

The technician and the doctor were both pretty gentle, but there are always words and phrases that just hit us in the heart. Although it was a tough day, the most important thing is that Bitty looks healthy. 

Another new thing for this pregnancy is that Chris is giving Elizabeth her weekly progesterone injections at home. For those of you who know Chris, he is really not a fan of needles so this is a big undertaking for him - and he's doing great.

If you've made it this far, congratulations! You get to find out Bitty's bug...although we think it's pretty obvious...

JJ paw photobombing the BittyBug



And her color is indigo. We've already started finding things in our three colors!