Sunday, March 30, 2014

Alexa's 1st Birthday

I can’t believe my niece Alexa is one already! It feels just like yesterday that I was sneaking onto the postpartum unit to meet her for the very first time. Last week Danika held a small and simple birthday party for Alexa at my parents’ house, and it was perfect. Just family and a few friends were invited, which helped keep the chaos to a minimum. Alexa got lots of gifts and was super spoilt, and overall, it was a great afternoon.

Cupcakes by yours truly
Happy Birthday Alexa - we love you!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

34 Weeks

So the last few pregnancy updates have been done on a more month to month basis, but things are happening and changing so fast as we near the end, that I felt I needed to do an update sooner. So here’s my 34 week update:

How far along? 34 weeks
Total weight gain: 33lbs.
Ultrasound/ECHO/Dr Appt updates: I officially have an ultrasound and OB appointment every week (they use to be about every other week), and this is due to a few reasons, for which I’m about to explain. Here are the latest medical updates:
1) I passed my fasting glucose gestational diabetes test with flying colours! Such a relief as its one less thing I have to worry about. Bring on the ice cream!
2) Baby girl is 5lbs, 6oz already! That’s so scary because in my head she’s officially full grown and could be born at any moment. Yes that’s on the smaller side for a newborn, but it’s not abnormal. The doctors are very happy with her weight, and her being above average, because the bigger she is, the better it will be for surgery.
3) My amniotic levels are high, and above the normal range. I believe the normal range is 8-18cm (according to Google). At our Edmonton appt on March 5th I was sitting at 24cm. Last week I was 27cm and this week I’m now sitting at 29cm. This didn’t come as a total surprise to me, as it’s kind of a family trait. My mom, sister and aunt all had higher levels of amniotic levels, and had to be monitored. At first they were worried the effect this would have on her heart, as it can add pressure making the heart work extra hard and can lead to heart failure. On Wednesday they checked and so far baby girl is doing well. They can’t see any problems with her swallowing, and her heart seems to be doing just fine. The only thing they’re now worried about is that high amniotic levels often lead to earlier deliveries, so the perinatologist said to be prepared for my OB to ask me to relocate to Edmonton earlier then what we had already planned. Stay tuned….
4) I’m measuring at 36 weeks. The nurse said this is completely normal given the baby’s size, my high amniotic levels, and my body type (I’m short, so there is nowhere else for the baby to go). Friends and co-workers have definitely commented on how much bigger I gotten within just one week. If you compare my 32 and 34 week photos, it’s amazing to see the difference.
Maternity clothes? It’s all I wear. At the mall the other day, I was totally lusting over the regular clothing and can’t wait to not be pregnant anymore so I can buy normal clothes again.
Stretch marks? I’m sad to say that a few small ones have appeared. I have upped my BioOil applications (I was starting to get a little lazy in doing this), and I’ve been trying to drink as much water as possible – which I have found has stopped the appearance of more within the last week. I hope that once baby girl is born, with the continued use of the oil, drinking lots of water and exercising, it will help them fade.
Sleep: Still not sleeping that well, but a friend gave me this essential oil for new mom’s that’s supposed to help soothe the mind and body, and I feel that it has helped me get a better night’s sleep when I apply it before bed. Still, as the days go by, I find I'm getting more and more tired and just want to sleep all the time!
Best moment lately: My beautiful baby shower that my sister Danika and best friend Whitney put on for me. You can read and see pictures from it here.
Miss Anything? Good sleep, regular clothes, walking up the stairs without losing my breath, eating without getting heartburn, standing for 10 minutes without my legs hurting, sitting comfortably, etc.
Movement: She’s still super active, and I have a feeling it won’t end anytime soon, considering she has lots of room and amniotic fluid to move around in. I love it when you can see her move from the outside.
Food cravings: This has changed quite a bit in the last few weeks. I use to like salty fries, potatoes, and cheeseburgers, but I find they just intensify my heartburn. As much as Nick thinks I’m just making up excuses, ice cream has been my best friend. So lots of milk, ice cream and ice water have been what I’ve been gravitating towards lately.
Anything making you queasy or sick: Nothing really at this point. I just find some foods make my heart burn in the evening much worse, so I try to avoid them if possible.
Gender: GIRL! I find it funny how they confirm it at every ultrasound appt (we have a lot). I guess it’s nice to know there won’t be any surprises at delivery.
Labor Signs: Nope.
Symptoms: So the evening heartburn looks like it’s going to stick around for a while, and not only that, but my body has begun to display other lovely “symptoms”. Nick has told me that I have begun to start snoring at night. Great…. Let’s just say that I know my husband loves me very much to put up with my gassy, burping and snoring self. My hands and feet have also begun to start swelling. Some days are worse than others, and it can vary throughout the day. There not as bad as my sisters (sorry Danika) got, and I’m hoping they don’t get that bad (they were seriously pillows! lol). Lastly, I’m now at the point where I have to run to the washroom every hour, and it’s gotten very annoying.
Belly Button in or out? Still in, but it’s small.
Wedding rings on or off? On, but I can’t get them off…. (big oops on my part). It’s not cutting off any circulation, so maybe I can just keep them on. Nick is seriously not impressed with me at the moment.
Happy or Moody most of the time: I’m still being pretty optimistic right now, but I’m now at the point that I just want baby girl to come! I'm done with all this waiting around.
Looking forward to: Only one week of work left!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Baby Shower

A few weeks ago, my sister Danika and best friend Whitney put on a beautiful shower for me, and I’m excited to share a few photos with you today. I told them that as far as themes go, I was going for soft pinks and gold when it comes to the baby room – so they could take it from there. I also mentioned that I saw this idea of a headband making station, and would love if they could do something like that too – the reason being, is it would be nice to have a nice selection of headbands for our little girl to wear while in the NICU, as she will be unable to wear all the cute newborn outfits.

Being the control freak I am, I started looking for invitations back in January to order, and I came across one that was for a Baby Shower Brunch. I thought that it would be a great idea, and showed it to Danika and Whitney. They loved the invitation, so I ordered them, and Danika came up with the brilliant idea of having a Waffle Bar. So invitations went out (my mom had a good laugh when she found out that I was the one who addressed and mailed them out myself, as it was a typical Kierra thing to do. Like I said – I have difficulty giving up control!), and Danika and Whitney got busy planning.
I was really looking forward to this shower, as it’s been a hard pregnancy emotionally, and I just wanted a day to celebrate with friends and family. Danika and Whitney were able to make my wishes a reality, and everyone commented on how lovely everything looked. Lots of people came, and our little house was FULL! The Waffle Bar was a success, and people really got their creative juices flowing and made some beautiful headbands. Nick and I got so many gorgeous and generous gifts for our little girl, and I am just so thankful to everyone that was able to make it and show their support.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

32 Weeks & Edmonton Appointments

Oh, when it rains – it pours lol. That’s the best way to describe the past week. This was a big week for us, as it was the week we had to go up to Edmonton for some appointments, meet the NICU team and get a tour of the Stollery, but other stuff decided to happen and make our week even busier.

Last week on Tuesday morning, Freddy – our cat, started meowing really loudly, so Nick went and topped up their food and water (the usual reason why he would be bugging us), but it seemed to only make him meow louder.
You see, back at the beginning of December Freddy hurt himself, and has slowly been healing. His hind leg only bugs him when he’s trying to lie down or trying to stand up, and he often needs a little help getting up on the couch or on our bed, but he was improving, so we thought nothing of it. However, this morning was different and Freddy was acting extremely upset, limping even worse and overall was very distressed. After discussing it, we determined that we needed to take Freddy to the vet and get him checked out. Nick had just gotten home from a very busy shift and he was very tired, so I told him to stay home and I would take Freddy to the vet myself. I quickly got dressed, emailed my work that I was going be late, loaded Freddy into his carrier and headed off to the vet. I got there around 6am and was happy to see that no one else was there. We were seen pretty quickly, but Freddy was not happy. The vet took him to the back to take some x-rays, and apparently he had had it – he was done. The vet ended up coming out and asked me if they could gas him, because he would not take the pain meds they were trying to give him to help sedate him. I quickly agreed. Poor little guy. Finally she was able to come talk to me about the x-rays and tell me what was wrong.
Freddy has Legg-Perthes disease in not just in one, but BOTH of his hips and would need surgery as soon as possible. Basically Legg-Perthes is necrosis of the femoral head, and the femoral heads needed to be removed.
His right side needed it first (as it was the worst affected side), but his left side would need to be done soon after. The vet sent us home with some pain medication and paperwork so I could discuss the situation with Nick. The x-rays were going to be looked at by their other vet who does this surgery and she would call us to confirm the diagnosis and an estimate of how much this will cost.
I took Mr. Freddy home (who was now high as a kite), got a little more rest (because I was now super tired) and then headed off to work at 10am.
While I was at work, the other vet called Nick to confirm the diagnosis and discuss the surgery cost. When I got home we discussed the situation and determined that though it wasn’t going to be cheap, because Freddy was young, and this was only going to be a one-time (not a chronic condition) thing and it won’t affect his quality of life, we would  go ahead with it. We were able to schedule his first surgery for Friday – the morning after we got back from Edmonton. Our only problem was that Nick and I were going to be gone for the next two days and Freddy needed to be given some medication, so timing was not ideal. Thankfully my sweet cousin and best friend were able to help cover us while we were gone, and Freddy got all of his pain meds!
Freddy before surgery
Freddy after surgery

The next morning Nick and I left at 6am for Edmonton. Our first appointment was an ECHO at 10:30am and we got to Edmonton with lots of time to spare. We got to the Royal Alexandra, but they were running VERY behind. We finally got seen around noon, and it ended up being a very long exam. I found out that a normal ECHO is only supposed to take about 30 minutes, but ours went for almost 2 hours! The reason – baby girl is a MOVER! I asked the examiner if babies move this much, and she said no – that ours definitely moves more than average. Again (like our past ECHOs) the tech had to bring in the specialist (Dr. Hornberger) to view her live and it was definitely frustrating as she kept turning away from them or moving when they were trying to look at something. At one point they had me get up and walk around to try and get her to turn around and calm down!
Finally we were brought into another room to talk everything over with Dr. Hornberger (whom we liked very much. She is a VERY smart lady and knows her stuff). Basically we know less than we did before. Baby girl definitely does not have a Pulmonary Artery and does have a hole between her bottom ventricles (VSD), but it’s the little details they are having problems with. They’re not sure if they can see her ductus arteriosus, and can’t confirm if she has collateral arteries. Essentially, we are dealing with 2 possible diagnoses, and though they seem like they are very similar, they have quite different surgery plans and timelines. The first is still Pulmonary Atresia with VSD, which means she would be started on the hormone prostaglandin after being born to keep her ductus arteriosus from closing, stabilize her and perform open heart surgery within a week or two of her being born. The second diagnosis she may have is called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia, VSD & MAPCAS (yeah, it’s a mouthful). The difference is there is no ductus arteriosus, and instead she has lots of tiny “collateral” pulmonary arteries that are bringing blood from her heart to her lungs, but these little artiertes are super small, are very inefficient and a higher tendency to get blocked. With this diagnosis, they would still start her immediately on prostaglandin just in case she has a ductus, then take her over to the Stollery, run more tests and figure out a surgery plan from there. With this diagnosis they may end up just inserting a shunt, and as long as her oxygen levels remain high and stable, they may send her home for a few months before performing open heart surgery. If they have a hard time diagnosing her when she is born, they may even end up having to do an Angiogram (Cardiac Cath), which are invasive, even for adults.
Now this may seem like a “better” diagnosis, because she gets to go home for a little bit, but let me clarify that it’s not. It just means her heart defect is even more complicated, and they just want to wait until she is a little bigger and older before performing her first surgery. Both diagnoses require multiple surgeries, both within her first year of being born, and as she grows up.
Anyways, I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything, but we basically have to come to terms with the fact that we won’t know anything until baby girl is born (which is a little frustrating).

After our ECHO, we headed over to the ultrasound clinic to have another ultrasound. I felt this appointment went very well. Baby is growing very well (she is currently 3lbs, 13oz) and everything else still looks good. They still are having a hard time seeing her Thymus gland, but again, it’s something we won’t know until she is born. One little concern we’re now facing is my amniotic fluid level. At the moment, it’s still within normal levels, but it’s on the higher end of the scale, and something they’re going to continue to monitor. The reason why this is a cause for concern, is it could indicate an early delivery. Both my mom and sister had very high levels of amniotic fluid – so I am not surprised being told this. If my levels continue to rise they may suggest I relocate up to Edmonton earlier than planned.
Finally after spending almost 7 hours at the hospital, Nick and I were finally able to leave and check into our hotel. We rested for a little bit and then walked across the street to this awesome restaurant that Nick had made reservations to for an early anniversary dinner. The restaurant was called Continental Treat Fine Bistro on Whyte Avenue, and Nick and I were very impressed with their service and food - absolutely delicious.
After dinner we went back to the hotel, watched a little TV, and then went to bed. I was really tired as I had been up since 3am, and after spending so many hours at the hospital and given so much new information, my brain just hurt.

On Thursday we headed over to the Stollery to have our multidisciplinary team meeting, which just summarized what is to come and expect when I relocate to Edmonton and give birth. After all the specialists left, we talked with our social worker Amanda about things to expect, etc. She asked us a bunch of questions about our emotional state, family support and financial situation. She is going to write up a letter for Nick to give to his boss (though they are aware of the situation – this just makes it official and legitimate). She has also put in a referral to the Ronald McDonald house (and they have already called and emailed me stating we’re on the waiting list). She went over hospital rules and made us aware of their role – basically they are a liaison between the medical staff and us, so if we feel we aren’t getting our questions answered or we’re concerned with the treatment plan, then they can arrange for a special meeting where our concerns can be heard. Amanda then took us on a tour of the NICU, which I am grateful for. I was pretty proud that I didn’t cry, but I had to tell myself to breathe a few times because I could feel myself start to get choked up. We found out how many people can be at her bedside, what visiting hours are for everyone but us (the parents). Basically Nick and I will never be asked to leave the NICU, and can be there all hours of the day (though they encourage going home to get some sleep). They want us to be very active in her care, and can come and go as we please.

Finally around 2pm we were done, and we were able to head home to Calgary. I was soo looking forward to getting home to our kitties, as it had been a long two days, and I wanted to see how Freddy was holding up. We ended up coming home to some beautiful and cheery flowers from our friends Whitney and Spencer, and it was just a lovely surprise. 

However, from the drive home, I started feeling ill, and ended up going to bed pretty early. I ended up waking up feeling very sick and a pounding migraine Friday morning. I somehow managed to get Freddy to the vet for his surgery appointment, but then came straight home and back to bed. Friday was by far the worst day for me, fever wise. My head was pounding, runny nose, sore throat, sore muscles – I was miserable, and it’s been a long time since I have been that sick. I ended up being sick all weekend up until about Monday afternoon.

In all, it’s been a crazy week, and I am kind of glad it’s over with. Freddy still requires surgery in a couple weeks on his left hip, and our weeks will become even crazier leading up to and after baby girl is born, but the countdown is on and my due date is getting closer!
How far along? 32 weeks (8 months!)
Total weight gain: 28lbs. Eek, we’re getting close to that 30lb mark, and I still have 2 months to go….
Ultrasound/ECHO/Dr Appt update: See above.
Maternity clothes? Exclusively. I caved in and bought 2 more maternity dresses to get me through the last few months (specifically for the Baby Shower and an upcoming family wedding), but I have already begun to look at normal cloths, as buying maternity clothing has lost its appeal to me. I did buy one regular dress from Target that was super cute and very inexpensive that I hope to fit in within a few months after giving birth (it’s got some stretch to it).
Stretch marks? None
Sleep: I am not happy with how this is going. I seriously use to be the best sleeper and could sleep for a solid 7-8 hours without any interruption. Now, anytime my body feels like it needs to turn over (which is multiple times per night), I wake up and have to find the energy to turn over and get comfortable again. I now have a lot more sympathy towards my husband who is a terrible sleeper in general.
Best moment lately: There have been a few great moments (finally – as I’m sick of writing these depressing posts as it’s totally not who I am). You can read about some of our good news here, and our dinner at Continental Treat Fine Bistro.
Miss Anything? Good sleep, regular clothes, walking up the stairs without losing my breath, eating without getting queasy or heartburn – you get the idea.
Movement: All day, every day. She’s most active when I’m driving, sitting at my desk at work, laying on the couch in the evening and when I’m trying to fall asleep. I find it kind of funny how she starts out low in the morning, and then works her way up during the day. For the few moments that Nick feels her kick he thinks it’s crazy how much she moves, but truthfully he has no idea.
I don’t mind when she kicks, but it can be a little uncomfortable when she’s stretching and puts her arms and legs out and I feel a lot of pressure. I pretty much have to poke back at her to get her to stop (and then Nick yells “don’t poke her!” yeah, he acts like I doing it to be mean lol)
Food cravings: Fries.
Anything making you queasy or sick: Large meals. My stomach is getting squished and so I have to have smaller meals or take my time, otherwise I get queasy and throw-up a little (sorry for the TMI).
Gender: GIRL!
Labor Signs: Nope.
Symptoms: For the last several weeks I’ve been experiencing terrible heartburn in the evenings. This better mean she has hair! I was born bald and so this something I worry about a little. Oh, and of course my growing belly.
Belly Button in or out? Still in, but my belly button has gotten a lot smaller.
Wedding rings on or off? On, but there is no way I could get them off at this point. Oh well.
Happy or Moody most of the time: Happy lately. I think I have started to come to terms with everything, and when bad thing after bad thing is happening I just think to myself that things could always be worse and there are people out there going through way worse situations. I am also trying to think of this as a trial that Nick and I must endure, and something we must deal with as a family. Everyone goes through trials in their lives, and this is just ours. I know I can’t control situations, but I can control how I handle them.
Regardless, I am starting to get excited for our little girl’s arrival, and I just want her to be here.
Looking forward to: My upcoming baby shower that my lovely sister and best friend are throwing for me. They are seriously putting in lots of work, so I know it’s going to be awesome – can’t wait!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tender Mercies & Announcement

Disclaimer: If you don’t want to read this entire post and want to get to the BIG Announcement, you can skip the first half (I won’t be offended – I promise).

Overall it’s been a good week for our little family with only one minor blip. I failed my pregnancy glucose test by a measly .1 (the cut off is 7.7, and I scored a 7.8), so I have to take the 2nd test – you know, just another medical appointment on my long and never ending list of appointments. Nick hates the idea of diabetes (with his line of work, he sees the downward spiral effect of this disease), so I knew he would give me a hard time when he found out and have another reason to get after me and my sweet tooth. My OB wasn’t too concerned, but I still am required to do it. Otherwise baby is continuing to grow well and she moves A LOT (it’s seriously nonstop). The other night Nick was feeling her kick for just ten minutes (and in my opinion her kicking was on the lighter side at the time), and he couldn’t believe how much she was moving. I was like “yeah, that’s nothing”. Her kicking and pushing hasn’t gotten to that hurtful point that some women experience, but man – sometimes it can get to be too much!

Last weekend I used part of my Christmas gift and went and got myself a facial – it felt so good. I definitely plan on having one more in April before I leave for Edmonton. After, Nick and I went to the Calgary Temple for the afternoon with my parents. Later that night we headed for a double date with one of our favorite couples – Whitney and Spencer. Super bummed they are moving soon though. Distance wise, they aren’t going to be any farther from us, but they will now be in a different ward, so we’re going to miss seeing them on Sundays!

On Monday I had held a little jewellery party and girl’s night. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of people to come, but surprisingly lots of girl’s showed up. It was a lot of fun and it was just a good reminder that I have some awesome friends and that I am loved (I know it's terrible, but sometimes it's easy to forget that, but we're all guilty of doing it). 

Our biggest news is Nick was offered a full time position as a Paramedic with Calgary Metro EMS (his number 1 choice)! It’s only a one year temporary position, but hey – I’ve been jumping from temp position to temp position for the past few years now in my own department, and it just takes a while to land that permanent position when you work in health care. This is such a huge blessing and relief for us, and I’m so thankful to his EMS friends and mentors that put in a good word to the supervisor hiring him (as there were a few). I was in the car when Nick received the call offering him the job, and it was so hard for me to contain my excitement. It brought tears to my eyes when the supervisor brought up our baby and the whole Edmonton situation. Nick hadn’t told them yet about me being pregnant and having to deliver in Edmonton and upcoming surgery (he was going too), but someone already mentioned it to the supervisor, and he told Nick that he totally understands, and when the time comes, everything will be taken care of and told him to not worry about getting time off work.. This has seriously been something that was weighing on our minds for the past few months and it was on our plate of unknowns. 
Though Nick was getting lots of casual shifts, it’ll also be nice to have a steady and guaranteed income, and a regular schedule. It was really frustrating when trying to plan anything around Nick’s schedule, because we could plan all we wanted, but then he would get called in and then have to miss out on family dinners, dates, church, get-togethers, etc.
We will aslo have a clearer plan of when Nick can be up in Edmonton with me for the months of May and June and he will pretty much be able to be with me almost 4 days a week!

In all I am so grateful for this major blessing and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s such a huge satisfaction to see all of Nick’s hard work pay off and all of our sacrifices that we've made in the past year have been worth it.

This upcoming week I’m hoping the good stuff keeps coming – though I’m not trying to get my hopes up too high and keep things in perspective. We leave for Edmonton on Wednesday morning for our 2 days of appointments with the Royal Alexandra & Stollery hospital. We have an Ultrasound and ECHO booked the first day followed by a meeting with a specialist (whom I’ve been told “wrote the book on fetal Echocardiograms”) to go over the results.  The next day we have a big multidisciplinary meeting with a pediatric cardiologists, perinatologist, neonatologist, nurse, social worker, and Dr. Fruitman from Calgary (our pediatric cardiologist down here) is suppose to call in. The only person who won’t be in attendance will be the actual pediatric cardiovascular surgeon (the one actually performing the surgery) because they are generally busy doing surgeries. I’m sure it’ll be information overload for us, and it’ll also be a chance for us to ask any and all questions we may have. We then will get a tour of the Stollery and get a better idea of what’s to come. Anyways, I’m a little anxious and nervous for this visit, but I hope it goes well. Nick and I also plan on having some fun and celebrate our anniversary a little early during this visit to Edmonton and get some good quality time together before our life gets turned upside down.

xo Kierra

March 2, 2014 Edit: In church today, one of my visiting teachers gave a beautiful lesson in Relief Society on Tender Mercies, and that resonated so deep inside me. After reading this post over and over again, I now feel that all of these happy “tender mercies” that we experienced this week were small personal blessings he gave us to just lighten our load just a little. This journey/trial that we are experiencing is far from over, but after recognizing these blessings, I know we are not alone, and as long as we continue to have faith, we will be given the strength to get through it together, and make us stronger as a family.