GREAT news at 33 weeks!

33 weeks today. Another ultrasound, and this time they did a growth check on both baby and the mass.

Baby looks big and strong - possibly in the 5 lb range right now. It made us laugh out loud seeing baby's face - HUGE ol' cheeks on that sucker. Crazy what two weeks can do in terms of putting on a little weight!

Baby was also doing the practice breathing consistently the entire time. While it made the tech laugh, it also made her job a lot harder. She spent a TON of time trying to find and measure the mass.

As time went on, it became apparent that it wasn't just the practice breathing making her job difficult.

The mass is smaller!! 

No, it's not disappeared, and it's still a "considerable" size. She could still see it from a certain angle, but she couldn't get the right measurement  because she couldn't exactly tell where it started and ended.

Also, the heart is starting to go back over to the correct side of the body. Meaning... the mass must be getting small enough for this to happen.

These are very, very good signs for us. The doctor came in and told us the mass is smaller, the heart is slightly back on the left side of the chest, but these things could be making it harder to measure the mass. Therefore, I'm still delivering in Milwaukee. If at some point they cannot even FIND the mass, then I'd be in the clear to deliver at my normal hospital. It makes total sense and puts my mind at ease knowing that if there is even a slight chance of baby needing medical care after birth, we're in the right place.

A couple of months ago if someone told me that this mass could shrink to the point of being undetectable, I would have thought, "Yeah, and it could also balloon in size, take over, and cause serious, serious problems." After today's visit, I feel less inclined to look at the very improbable negative side, and start looking at the very improbable positive side.

Part of what made this whole ordeal so overwhelming was that nobody could assure us of anything. They could give us a million outcomes and let us know in each one there were options to help baby. But they could not pinpoint which part of the spectrum we were in. We were given the gamut of outcomes and repeatedly told, "But there's hope. Lots of hope."

After we picked Boy Wonder up from school we stopped for a few groceries. While we were leaving, we saw a donation display for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. I still have no clue if the baby will be there, or when, but I stopped, emptied my purse, and let the kids drop coins into the display. I watched them, and the video that was playing of the sick children and their families, and I saw it differently than I had in the past. In the past I saw families stricken with overwhelming news and obstacles, and my heart broke. Now, my heart still breaks, but I see families who don't always know what tomorrow will bring. They are laden with medical terminology, inundated with information about their child's case, and have slowly reached a place where the unknown is the new normal. While that sounds kind of depressing, the new normal comes with hope. It comes with acceptance and the will to get through the small things just to make it to through to overcoming the big obstacle.

I'm so thankful and a little bit in shock that we're coming through on the other side. I'm a different mom than I used to be, and I definitely have a new outlook on how amazingly fortunate we were in past pregnancies that we had absolutely no complications or scary moments. We still don't know why this happened to baby, and we don't know why it's getting better. Part of what makes this so frustrating is knowing that there are moms and dads out there who are going to have this drop on their heads out of nowhere. That feeling of not knowing whether or not you'd ever get to meet your baby, even after making it through the first trimester unscathed, is something I'll never forget.

So while I'll still think angrily to myself "That's so unfair!" every time I see those poor little munchkins sick in the hospital, I'll still try to remind myself that their parents are choosing hope, even when they have no idea what to expect. It's a weird place to be, but just like everything else, you do come out on the other side in some form or another. In our case, it's definitely in a better place than a couple of months ago!

The weekly countdown has entered the single digits!

Our 31 week ultrasound brought even more reassurance that baby is on a path to being born perfectly fine and healthy!

The mass hasn't grown since our last appointment (keep in mind that a slight increase or decrease is considered "no change"), and baby is continuing to look good. For the very first time we got to see the "practice" breathing that he or she is learning right now! So crazy to see the baby "breathing" in there - we were used to the regular kicks and jabs.

They also decided that we won't be measuring growth every two weeks. Instead, they'll eyeball the mass, and do a growth check (both on the mass and the baby itself) every four weeks instead. We didn't get a measurement on baby's size this last time, but the tech told us to expect a half pound increase every week, and using that method, we'd have approximately five pounds of baby in there right now!

We are scheduled to meet with neonatology in a month, and our patient's advocate told us that there is a very real possibility baby won't even need to be in the NICU after birth - which is really exciting. Again, this is one of those things we'll know following birth and seeing how baby's breathing is. At any rate, it looks like this isn't going to be an urgent scenario, and we're kind of taking everything in stride.

I'd like for Boy Wonder and Sparkles to come with to an appointment at some point in the future to see their little brother or sister. (Sunshine won't get it, so I think she'll sit it out). They're getting excited for baby, and it would be pretty cool for them to see it up on the screen.

I've been going over how and when I'll tell the kids about baby's condition. It feels like less of an overwhelming task now that we have a little more stability and foresight, and we can pretty much reassure them that baby will be ok. I'm holding off on saying anything just yet, because I know that Boy Wonder especially will analyze it to death and I'm not sure I want to go down that path with more than two months left to go.

Sparkles is facing her own set of scariness next week. She's having her tonsils and adenoids removed. While I know this is a very common procedure, and am pretty excited to have her NOT choking from coughing so hard, I am nervous about her mood following surgery. She's in "big girl" mode. "Look at me! I'm a big girl!" and nothing gives her more of a kick than doing something brave. I'll be giving her a little insight to her upcoming surgery - nothing technical, and nothing to scare her, but enough to give her the idea that she might not feel very good following the surgery. I think right now I'm more nervous about this than baby!

With all of the appointments coming up (averaging two a week, with three this week all for separate things) and end of school things for Boy Wonder, I am wondering if we'll have a chance to catch our breath before baby gets here. Part of me is really grateful for the distractions, since time is about to get reaaaaally slow in the last couple of weeks.  And it will be nice to have a healthy Sparkles as well!

This is by far the fastest pregnancy I've had... even if it was one of the scariest! It's unreal the amount of change you can go through in a relatively short amount of time.

Going with the flow

Today is the beginning of May! Ahhh, almost 90 degrees, and while that temp might not go well with being 29  weeks pregnant, I'll still take it.

We had another ultrasound for baby today. Still breech (or transverse... not head down, in any case), but 3 and a half pounds and a week ahead of schedule.


the mass is a teeeeeny tiny bit smaller.

Say what?!

I read this was possible, was told this was possible, and yet - I didn't think it was possible for us. After reading about the mass and understanding the size of the one we were dealing with, I braced myself for much worse than this.

Now, it's still considered a "no change" scenario. It's not like the mass is a lot smaller or disappeared. It's still one of the first things we see on the ultrasound. But, no change is good. We're staying even, baby will be growing even more rapidly, and everyone has a lot of good things to say about the outcome.

We still don't know exactly what will happen as far as right after birth, but there is a lot less apprehension and the window of the unknown has become a lot smaller.

Our doctor came in and spoke with us, and he told us that although he only spoke with us once before, it seemed like we were going with the flow. We answered that we kind of had to, didn't we? Both he and the nurse answered that not everyone reacts that way.

To be honest, there were a lot of moments where I felt absolute dread, fear, deep sadness, and just flat-out go-into-a-tailspin anxiety. I think back to the first days where I didn't know if this was a death sentence for our baby or if it was something that was going to be much more drawn out and painful. There were moments when I felt actual pain hearing about other women's pregnancies going so well... not because I wasn't happy for them, but because I wished with all of my heart I could focus on my own happiness, and not the fear that was eating me from the inside.

There were moments when all I could talk about with the Hubster was baby. Spit out all of the things bouncing around in my head and hope he could sort them out for me. There were moments when he would clam up and express his sadness in silence. There were moments where I wanted all of the answers RIGHT NOW and waiting one weekend was almost asking too much of me. There were moments when I considered dropping out of school for one semester, because what mom would stay enrolled full-time at a challenging university when she found something like this out? There were moments when I wondered what kind of scar this would leave on me as a mother, and if I was strong enough to face something even remotely bad happening to my child.

Then there were the weeks in between. It's hard to believe there have only been 9 weeks, because they have felt much longer. The doubt and pain changed slowly to acceptance and faith in things turning out. The nights of constant research turned into evenings with my husband, laughing and being thankful for what a crazy beautiful life we have. The moments of mentioning baby with a pang in my heart not knowing if baby would ever see our family turned into laughing fits picking out names and feeling bad for the little guy/girl entering a house of pure madness. Resigning myself to my worst semester has turned into celebrating the fact that I'm getting the best grades of any semester ever, kids or pre-kids. Anticipating ultrasounds went from nauseously counting down the days to looking forward to seeing just how big baby got.

I think back sometimes to losing my dad when I turned 14, and watching it devastate my family, and I'm not just using that phrase poetically. I've been asked many times how I dealt with it. It stumped me. I don't know...? I supposed I could go into some sort of coping mechanisms I used, but to be honest, it was ugly. There are still scars I deal with to this day. But I didn't really have a choice, did I? So many people have been through so much in this world. They wake up with the knowledge of this crushing pain, go to sleep with it, and go through each and every day with it. Somehow, things get better. You do enough to get by and slowly you're laughing and smiling again. Slowly, you're living your life again, albeit one with a little more "experience".

It felt weird for awhile talking so nonchalantly with surgeons, doctors and nurses about baby developing heart failure and to the reality of having an entire lobe of its lung removed at some point. It's not that it doesn't scare me and make me sad, but it's that we have to do this. There is nothing on this planet that I can do to make it go away. There is no amount of bitching that could make the doctors do a better job. There is nothing I can do but go with the flow.

I will admit that a lot of this has been made better by the fact that my baby is not in immediate danger. But just 9 weeks ago I was terrified and questioning my own strength. Today I remember that I know how to get through things. And I know that I have my husband to turn to for support, even when his heart is breaking as much as my own.

I know the kids won't remember much of this. Boy Wonder might have the best recollection when all is said and done, but part of me thinks 3-year-old Sparkles will only register this as a blip on her radar when she's older. What I do hope is they learn something from us about holding on until things start getting lighter. I hope they have the faith in themselves to make it to tomorrow. I hope they see how the Hubster and I turn in to each other, not away, when the going gets tough. Let's be honest, we're about to be a family of 6 making it on one income, in a 100+ year-old-house, a parent enrolled full-time in school.... it's not all sunshine and sugar in our future. But we do have one thing going for us, and that is strength. Going with the flow doesn't mean you're oblivious to all of the jostling and rolling around... you endure it, that's all.