Thursday, April 27, 2017

A New Look

It was during our anatomy scan with the twins, where we were introduced to the fact that Josephine had a cleft... Everything was looking good and measuring well. Hearts had all 4 chambers, blood was pumping... all the boxes were being "checked off". At the end our ultrasound tech told us to sit tight, and that the doctor would be in the room soon... It was normal to have the doctor come in and verify everything, so nothing was really out of the ordinary. When he came in, he pulled out the gel and started to peek around low, at Baby A... he kept trying to get a better look at her face, and for that I took notice. He wasn't counting fingers, or measuring kidneys or looking at the width of her tummy... he went straight to her nose/lip area, to get a better look. As soon as I he saw what he needed to see, he turned the machine off, and sat me up. "So it looks like Baby A has a cleft of some sorts."

He paused for awhile... waiting for me to process his words. He then asked me if I was going to cry or if I needed a moment. I shook my head, that I was alright. He explained how common clefts were, that it was the 2nd highest form of birth defect (heart murmurs being the first). He explained that she had a cleft lip on her left side, but that he wasn't sure if it included her palate or not. He also wasn't sure if it was a complete or incomplete cleft (if it extended up into the nose or not). It was really too early to see those things, but was completely amazed that the tech was able to spot the cleft lip so well. He paused, asked again if I needed some time to process/cry. I looked at him, and the only thing I could think about was asking him if my baby would be able to eat/breastfeed like her sister would be able to. He shook his head and smiled, "Well of course she'll be able to, I just can't believe you're not crying right now. So many people come in here, hoping/expecting for a perfect little child..." I stopped him... "No child is perfect, I know this... we all have something. This is number 4 and number 5... not my first child... and you have no idea the amount of obstacles we had to overcome with my first child that we adopted." There was this look of relief on his face...

To be honest, over the next few days, I was processing this news... researching, praying, trying not to feel guilt as though it was something I did to cause this. There was so much unknown about the extent of her cleft, and that was the hardest part about it. There's only so much that an ultrasound can show you. We had one more scan before we left Oklahoma and moved to Washington, and during that scan, Baby A was turned around so there was no way of getting a good peek of her lip. It was here in Washington, at Madigan Army Medical Center that I sat down with a specialist after an ultrasound. During my scan, Baby A had her mouth open sucking and blowing bubbles, so it was easy for her to see that the palate looked to be "in tact"... from the picture she printed, it looked like her lip had a ripple in it. She shared with me about the support that the hospital would set me up with after delivery... that they would refer us to Children's in Seattle because they have the most AMAZING cranio-facial surgical team in all the lands. Researching continued, and I was completely blown away by the before and after photos. I was connected with other moms, that had experienced this whole "cleft" thing... and they continue to be such a treasure to me. 

Out came Baby A on October 4, 2016... my sweet Josephine Lane. I had about 1 hour with her before I pushed her sister out... She was SO awake, looking at me as I snuggled her in my arms, she was the BEST distraction for the contractions that were picking up. Her eyes were what drew me in when I first looked at her, not her perfectly imperfect lip. Once they cleaned her all up and sucked all of her gunk out, they confirmed that indeed, her palate was fine, and that her lip was an incomplete lip (meaning, the cleft didn't extend into her nose). Days later, we had numerous visits with doctors and specialists... she learned how to breastfeed and we were told that she'd have surgery around the age of 4-6 months... we even met with the entire team that was going to create this "new look" for her. 

February 24, 2017 was the day... We were given the date in January, and prepared our minds and hearts for this surgery. The doctor called it a "simple fix"... but in my mind, how could it be so simple when my little baby was going under anesthesia? The procedure was to take 2.5-3 hours long... and we'd be in the hospital at least 24 hours + for recovery. We were extremely thankful for my mother in law who so graciously gave up some of her time from work to come out to Washington to be with the other kids at home. 

I spent a few days before surgery, just soaking in all of that little lip... I took videos, photographs, and just smooched the crap out of it. It's the face that I fell in love with, how she was created in my womb...

The morning of surgery, Josephine had her last nursing session at 5:30 am, and then had some formula at 7 to help stuff her tummy, so that she could hang tight until her surgery around noon. Keeping her content and happy before surgery was filled with lots of holding and walking around and bouncing… and right at noon, the nurse stole her from our arms to take her back for surgery. Her faithful brown bunny was allowed to head back with her. We received a pager… that would beep when the surgery started/ended or if there was any complication(s) in between. We roamed the hallways of the hospital, ate lunch in the courtyard, and made our way back inside to patiently wait for news.

Just about 2.5 hours later, we received word that the surgery ended and all went well… and we were to sit tight for the surgeon to come out to share details with us. We waited nearly an hour for him… but when he walked in, he greeted us with a huge smile. “All went perfectly, it was a simple fix… it was all there, we just needed to put it back into place.” … This guy was just about as cocky as plastic surgeons come, but… I think if I wanted anyone to be confident in their abilities, it would be a surgeon. He said that it looked beautiful, and that he had to straighten her septum in the nose as well, and built up cartilage. Hopeful that we will only need a little cosmetic surgery down the road, but otherwise, there wasn’t a need for anymore surgeries. I made my way back to see Jo, while my husband stayed with Mable… she wasn’t awake yet, but they were hopeful that my voice might help get her out of the groggy drug sedated sleep she was in. Seeing her for the first time, was something I was told to “brace myself” over… it’s like seeing someone for the first time. When they handed her to me, tears flowed… my sweet little baby’s lip was gone, and there was a whole new face to fall in love with.

We had a rough night… we learned how to manage her pain, how to clean out her incision, tons of comfort feedings, and sleeplessness. But the next morning, they were ready to let us go… she had fed enough, to pee enough, and everything was looking good. They were confident that healing would be best at home from that point on. SO thankful for that decision.

They removed her stitches a week later, and she’s been learning how to make all of her sounds, blurps, etc. all over again. Thankful that she was able to get off of pain meds within a few days… she still is a little frightened by anything that comes near her face. Hopefully, over time, she’ll let me kiss that new little lip of hers, because I’m completely smitten with her new look.
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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Dear Josephine and Mable { 6 months }

Dear Josephine and Mable,

You're 1/2 a year old... wow. If these 6 months flew, I can't even begin to tell you how emotional I get thinking about the fact that you two will be 1 before we know it!

This month brought on so much developmental change for the two of you. There was lots of rolling around... but somehow, you're still struggling going from your back to your belly. Belly to back is no problem at all. In fact, because you despise tummy time so much, you often just flop to your back just so you don't have to lay on your belly... only to start rolling from side to side. You two both do this funny inch worm kick on your backs to move closer to things you want, or each other. It's super cute. Josey figured it out first, but Mable, you mastered it just days later.

You both love playing after you eat. Whether it's with your toys or your feet... you can be fully engaged for at least 30 minutes to an hour, before you want a change of scenery. Josey, your favorite toys are anything that are furry... you just adore the animal puppets that your brother and sisters give you to hold/grab. Another thing you love, is Runyan, our cat. Anytime he's near, your hands go out to grab him/pet him/feel his fur. You smile and giggle, and just love him. Mable your favorite toy seems to be anything that makes a crunching sound. You grab for the blocks that make that chip bag crackling sound... and love it. You also love to grab at Josey's hands... and anytime your feet are exposed, you reach for them.

You two are really starting to grow like crazy. It feels like you're getting heavier (but we'll find out the scale weight at the end of this month at your check up) and you're definitely getting longer, because you fit in 6-9 month close easily. Josephine, you're in a size 4 diaper, thanks to your bootylicious hind quarters... but Mable, you're still in a solid size 3 diaper. Mommy can still carry the two of you at the same time, but it's starting to get a little heavy.

When you're not playing, you're sitting up in your Bumbo seats, watching everyone move around you. You love when we have dance parties, because everyone is moving at the same time... your eyes just go back and forth taking everything in. You both love when we reach for your hands to clap along with a song, or move your arms to the rhythm of the music. It won't be long, and you two will be dancing with us.

Josephine... our bright eyed little baby... you spent most of this month figuring out that new lip of yours. We've finally gotten so used to your look, that Charlotte asked to see a picture of you with the way your lip was. She completely forgot the little ripple that it was. You're super nervous to try out solid foods... anything that comes near your face, you flinch at... probably because of all the cleaning we had to do on your incision. We're slowly trying to get you used to things touching that part of your lip... you don't mind when it's Mommy's fingers... and you're starting to finally let her kiss you on that part of your lip. Today, was the first day you let us feed you a little mush bananas, because we used our finger, instead of the soft spoon. You are waking up to eat in the middle of the night again, and then you want to talk yourself back to sleep (which usually wakes up your sister). You also have this pterodactyl screech... it's your way of jabbing and conversing... so long are the days of that cute coo you used to have. That screech though, sounds JUST like your sister Marley's when she was your age.

Mable... our tiny but fierce little peanut... you are just the sweetest little observer. We've never had a baby that noticed their surroundings as much as you do. You watch SO much... and when it's quiet, that's when you pipe up with your sweet voice. You love food... you figured it out before your sister, that it's super delicious. We've only tried out some avocados, bananas and oatmeal... and so far, you favor the bland oatmeal best. Hoping to try sweet potatoes soon... that was always a favorite for Marley and Finn at this age. You are still sleeping through the night, and that makes us just have complete heart eyes for you. Don't catch on to what your sister does... you're doing fabulous in the sleeping department. What you really love most, is when Marley pays attention to you... you love when she comes super close to your face, so you can grab her hair... she totally lets you too, without complaining too much.

We've been taking more walks this last month in the stroller, and trips to the beach. Most of the time, you sleep that time away (because it's during nap time)... but sometimes you're both awake. You both love the breeze at the beach... you hold your breath every time it hits your face. We are so excited for you two to adventure with us... you'll be old enough before we know it.

This month was the first time we've been plagued with the worst illness in the history of EVER. It pretty much destroyed our entire family... even though Mommy didn't get it, she was up with every one when they were sick. You two both had this bark like cough and the worst runny nose ever. The doctor diagnosed it as bronchiolitis/RSV, and sent us home with a nebulizer to give you breathing treatments. Mable, you were able to get through the worst of it in 3-4 days, but Josey, yours didn't improve... we had to bring you back to the doctor, and it turned out that you had an ear infection. You went on antibiotics, and within 24 hours, you were back to your joyful self again. That week and half, to almost 2 weeks of sickness, pretty much crushed us... Daddy and Mommy have declared it as one of the hardest times since they've been parents. We've had a sick baby before... but two... whew, that's a whole new ball game.

You two bring us so much joy... You're the topic of most of our conversations, and almost everyone in this house drops what they're doing, just to hang with you. Your brother and sisters just love interacting with you more and more each day. It's because you're finally "playing" with them. They want to show you off to their friends too, which is absolutely precious... Marley refers to you both as "my twins."

You two, totally complete our family... we love you dearly,

Daddy, Mommy, Charlotte, Marley and Finn.

click here for their birth story, here for the 1 month post, here for their 2 month post, here for their 3 month post, here for their 4 month post and here for their 5 month post.

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