Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hiccup #2: Can a Placenta Actually Do That?

Alright, two posts ago, I mentioned that everything in the pregnancy is going great because we are seasoned veterans. But I also mentioned that there have been two tiny hiccups so far in our pregnancy. One was what I blogged about last--the antibodies developing in my body due to my negative Rh factor and our children’s probably positive Rh factor. The second hiccup was perhaps made more terrifying BECAUSE of our knowledge of the antibodies present in my body.

First, let me preface this post by saying...it might make you squeamish. You might think it’s too much information, although I did try to write everything in as delicate a way as possible while still conveying facts and our feelings during that day. If that’s what you think, that’s fine. You are welcome to not read this post. However, I am a real person who had a real problem in my very real life. I guess if you can’t deal with reading about real life...you shouldn’t!

May 5th. At school we were planning a full-blown active shooter drill for that day. We have one of these every so often to prepare the kids in case there ever is an active threat in our school. We prepare the kids to run (leave the building as stealthily as possible and get to a safe place), hide (lock ourselves in a room and barricade), or fight (try to take out the shooter if the first two options aren’t available to us and we encounter him). By state law we have to have a lockdown drill of some kind once a semester. Soft and hard lockdowns are different from active shooter drills because active shooter drills mean it is our goal to get the kids out of the building. In case you’re interested:

Soft lockdowns--we can still teach class but no one is allowed to leave the room. These are used when administrators need to locate a specific student immediately but the situation is not dire enough to disrupt the schedule of the entire school. Also, this is what’s employed when the K-9 units are brought in to sniff lockers and the parking lot for drugs.

Hard lockdowns--we stay IN the building but lock and barricade ourselves in. Teaching stops. There is an active threat but it’s outside the building. We have used this during armed police chases that are going on in the area but don’t affect the school directly. However, a crazy person could decide to pop into a school and do some damage, so that’s why we lock down...just in case.

Active shooter/treat--we have a threat in the building and need to protect ourselves from the threat

There you have it. But I digress…

The staff had been preparing for weeks on how to move our 1,000 kids outside of the building as quietly and quickly as possible so as not to attract the notice of the “active shooter” (a police officer acting) while still being able to keep track of EVERYONE. Police were to be dispatched as if in a real incident to take out the “shooter” and medical personnel were arriving to take care of wounded students (theater students in make-up) so that everyone got practice on how to deal with this if it really did happen. I was nervous leading up to this because although there had been another drill of this caliber before, I was on maternity leave with Audrey. And it was the few days Kyle was in Guatemala, so he couldn’t debrief me on how it went. So I really had no idea how this was going to go and how I was going to manage my unruly freshmen class who had no idea how to be quiet or how to listen to anything…! This was estimated to take about three hours. No one enters the school property or leaves it during the three hours besides the police and medical personnel.

The morning of the drill, I woke up to blood. And, so as not to be too graphic, let’s say...blood that made me concerned for the well-being of our unborn child.

Not a lot of blood, but still, blood. Blood that didn’t go away when wiped.

Okay, this could be anything, right? It might not mean what I’m thinking, right?

I called Kyle in immediately to show him. We told each other not to panic. I would shower and get ready as usual and see how the bleeding continued. I told him to go back to bed to try to get more sleep since he didn’t have to be up for another hour.

Talk about the worst moments of my life! I have miscarried before, but that seemed to pale in comparison with this. That time, I had only barely found out I was pregnant, we hadn’t felt the baby kick, hadn’t heard a heartbeat, hadn’t seen the baby moving on an ultrasound. We hadn’t told everybody...oh, Audrey. How would we tell her? How could we explain? Why was this happening? Was it something completely benign? Was I killing it? I had a doctor’s appointment the next week, so it had been quite awhile since I’d had my blood tested to see if my antibody levels had increased. Of course, I became immediately convinced that I was killing my own child and couldn’t do anything to stop it. I couldn’t help but become hysterical. Was the baby even alive anymore? I wasn’t far enough along to feel movement consistently, only intermittently. Sometimes I didn’t feel anything for days on end, so I couldn’t rely on feeling movement as a good tell.

Kyle didn’t end up going back to sleep. Instead he was frantically researching online all the questions the doctor would likely ask when I called after the clinic opened. He did this so I could have a prepared answer and be monitoring myself over the course of the morning. And of course, this had to happen on active shooter drill day. If I decided to go to school, it wouldn’t be easy to leave. Do I need to go in to the doctor immediately? Is there any use in going immediately or would they want me to monitor carefully and have more information for them, thus an afternoon appointment? We were so worried and scared.

Kyle and I cried together for a short while, holding each other and telling each other it would be alright. Kyle told me it that if something had happened to the baby that it wasn’t my fault. We prayed together, and he gave me a priesthood blessing. We kept checking to see if there was any more blood to worry about. After my shower, there was nothing. Kyle reminded me that the doctor told me implicitly to come in if I bled at all. They would need to determine the cause for the health of the baby. However, if the blood was a result of a miscarriage, there would be nothing that the doctors could do to save the baby. It was done and it was happening. It wouldn’t matter if I went in immediately or a week from then. We’d learned that the hard way.

Since the blood was pretty much gone, we decided that I should go in for the drill and leave immediately after. I would be able to throw some subplans together, call my mom to have her pick up Audrey from the sitter and keep her overnight just in case I needed to have multiple tests done. I would be able to call the doctor’s office and set up an appointment and have some time to monitor my progress so they could make a more informed decision. Plus, the drill would certainly keep my mind on other things, so I wouldn’t fall to pieces all morning.

It turns out we’d done the right thing because when I called in, the doctor requested I have an afternoon appointment anyway to keep an eye on things. It was probably the longest three hours of my life. I had to call to set up the appointment from the bus garage, the safe haven where I took my students after we got out of the building (in case you wondered, we did NOT encounter the shooter, although he came in on the same side of the building I am on. We hid first in a locked closet and then snuck out when we received word via the intercom that he was in a separate part of the building. The administrators were able to monitor the shooter using school cameras. Oh, and...my freshmen knew how to be quiet on that day. And they were quite good runners as we got out the door).

After the drill was over, I left for the doctor’s office and got in right away. First they used the fetal Doppler to detect a heartbeat. What an excruciating moment while they were looking for it...but the doctor found it! Nice and strong, thank goodness. Also, she could hear through the Doppler that the baby was moving, although I couldn’t feel it. Whew. A vaginal exam told us the cervix was not at all opened, which would be the case if my body were preparing to expel the baby, so a miscarriage did not seem imminent. I wanted to throw myself on the doctor and hug her, but I just sat in relief instead.

So, why was there blood?

The doctor asked me all sorts of questions about my activities in the last few days, all of which yielded no information as to why I woke up to blood that morning.

Finally she said that probably what happened is the placenta detached itself slightly from the uterine wall, causing blood as a result. Ummm...is that normal? I had certainly never heard of it before. She said it does happen and is usually not a problem. The problem usually repairs itself and everything is fine. I had instructions to continue monitoring and if the bleeding came back to call. Also, I was to not do anything strenuous over the next few days. And no more lifting of anything more than about 40 pounds.

The blood never came back. Everything is still looking fine. But man...what a terrible, terrible day. I went and got ice cream after I left the doctor as a reward for me for all the emotional stress and for the baby for being good and staying alive. I was so grateful that I was spared having to deal with another miscarriage. The day seemed so much more beautiful after that. The weather really was pretty nice that day; I just hadn’t noticed it before. I felt peaceful and happy. I left plenty of messages for Kyle explaining that everything was okay so he didn’t have to wait any longer than he had to to find out. All was rosy in our garden again.

Hiccup #1: The Rh Factor

You are forewarned...it's another long post.  And it's sort of health-technical, so if that's going to make your eyes cross...!

Once we found out we were pregnant, I went to have it confirmed at the doctor so I could begin having regular appointments.  As typical, I peed in a cup and gave blood samples and sat through a mini-orientation of “the folder”.  The folder at my doctor’s office is chock-full of all kinds of literature on anything about babies that you could think to ask about throughout the course of a nine-month pregnancy and postpartum.  I remembered going through “the folder” when pregnant with Audrey (I didn’t sit through “the folder” at the confirmation of our first pregnancy...it was the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving and we all wanted to go home so I opted to come back for it at my 12 week appointment, which obviously never occurred).  “The folder” with Audrey was intimidating because I was a first time mother and the information was overwhelming.  “The folder” with this baby was boring.  There were some things I had forgotten all about, like breastfeeding tips, PURPLE crying, skin-to-skin, etc.  But as soon as the OB nurse mentioned all these things, my brain was like, “Oh, yeah...I remember all that.”  Cake.  We’ve got this.  It ain’t my first rodeo.  I went home and sorted through the folder, keeping like one thing to study because I didn’t need anything else, and got rid of the rest.  Things were going to be so much easier the second time around because neither of us were scared and we knew what to expect.  Plus, we were busy trying to keep a toddler alive, so we don’t have much time to worry...

A few days later, a nurse at the doctor’s office called with the results of SOME of the battery of tests my blood was put through.  All clear.  Everything looked good.  I humorously texted Kyle at work:  “Blood tests negative for STDs.  Whew!”  I’m sure he got a good eye-roll out of that one.  Audrey promptly got sick with an ear infection, so I took a few days off work to stay home with her.  

Audrey learned to paint during one of the periods in which her fever broke

While she was sleeping off her fever one day, the doctor called again, personally this time.

She began with reminding me that I have a negative blood type.  Yes, yes I remember that.  I’ve also shared that on the blog here.  That was the reason I went to the ER after my miscarriage--to get the Rhogam shot since I am a negative blood type.  Read more about the Rhogam shot and what it does here.  I also had the Rhogam shot during my pregnancy with Audrey at 28 weeks and 24 hours after I delivered per procedure.

“Well, it appears that the shot didn’t take.  It is a very rare thing to happen, but it’s possible.  Your blood has antibodies protecting you from the antigen found in positive blood types.”

I was dumbfounded.  I guess I knew this could happen, but I never supposed it would happen to me.  Not to me!  We were told it was so rare a thing.  I think I almost dropped the phone.  “So...what does this mean?”

I think the easiest way to do this is to tell you the questions that I’ve asked my doctor(s) along the way and the answers that we’ve been given.  Obviously I’ve done a whole lot more research on this than in my first pregnancy:

Q: Could you explain to me what all this means?
A: Everyone has two factors to their blood, the type (A, B, AB, and O) and the Rh factor (positive or negative).  If you know your blood type, you are something like AB+ or O-.  You need to know both parts, because both are important.  The Rh factor is a protein (called an antigen) located on red blood cells.  Most people have the antigen and their blood makes it naturally and has been doing so all their lives.  To not have the antigen is not a bad thing and typically does not make one bit of difference in your life, unless you are pregnant or unless you need a blood transfusion.  Just like the blood type, the Rh factor is inherited from your parents.  I inherited a B- blood type from my parents.  The negative Rh factor is a recessive trait, like attached earlobes.  This means that both my parents could technically be a positive blood type, but they both had a negative trait that they passed on to me instead of the dominant positive one.  Since they both passed on the recessive trait to me, I am recessive.  I only have recessive traits to give to my children, because that’s all that was given to me. 

Kyle, however, has a positive blood type.  Since the negative is recessive, he could have gotten a negative and positive from his parents, or two positives.  It doesn’t matter if he got one of each because the positive is dominant and will always overrule the negative trait, just like it does in my parents.  But, that being said, since the positive trait is dominant and that is what Kyle is likely to give, that means that PROBABLY all our children will end up with a positive blood type.  Mathematically speaking, if he has one negative trait, then there’s still a 50% chance of the baby being positive.  If he has two positive traits, the baby will always be positive.  Doctors always will assume that the baby will be positive in these situations and will act accordingly. 

Having a child that’s a positive blood type isn’t terrible.  In fact, it’ll probably make life easier in the long run for most positive Rh factor kids.  People with positive Rh factors can receive blood from those with positive and negative Rh factors (but don’t forget to factor in the letter), whereas people with negatives (like me) can also only receive from other negatives due to the antigens found on the red blood cells.  You can kind of think of it like those who are negative have bodies that are naturally intolerant to the antigens found on positive blood types.  Just like how giving milk to a lactose intolerant person will make him sick, during a transfusion positive blood shouldn’t be given to someone who has negative blood.

To give you a good idea of how many people this affects, my doctor estimated about 10% of the world’s population has a negative Rh factor like me.  Half of those are men.  Since issues only arise during a transfusion or pregnancy, that means that there are only 5% of people in the world (the half of the 10% who are women) who have to think about the issue my doctor was bringing up to me on the phone that day.

Q:  Okay, so if my baby is statistically likely to be a positive blood type and I’m a negative, what does that mean will happen?
 A:  Most of the time, nothing.  That’s what the Rhogam shot is for.  5% of the world’s population are female who have negative Rh factors.  Some of those women are past child-bearing years or choose not to have children, so maybe let’s say 4% of women it is realistically affecting right now or will affect in the near future.  That 4% of people could be in trouble during pregnancy years provided that the man who fathered their children is a positive blood type (which, same statistics apply...90% chance that he is).  If he’s not, everyone’s off the hook and there is much rejoicing.  Now, like in my case, I am of the 4% in child-bearing years with a husband who is a positive.  I have a 3 in 4 chance that I am pregnant with a positive baby.  What could happen is if my blood EVER mixes with that of my child (which is only a risk at a few specific times, like if blood passes from the baby to me via the placenta, delivery, abortion, miscarriage, bleeding during pregnancy, blunt trauma to the abdomen during pregnancy, manual rotation of a baby during a breech presentation, and some types of genetic testing), my blood COULD develop antibodies against the antigen carried in positive Rh factors.  Antibodies could pose a threat to the health of the unborn child because my body is working to protect ME.  I will never be at risk.  But a baby could be.

Now, provided that these aforementioned women live in developed countries with good medicine, they can be given the Rhogam shot, which is designed specifically to help prevent those antibodies from forming.  My doctor stated medically the Rhogam shot is 99% effective.  99%.

Guess what?  I was the one percent.  *hitting my head on the desk*

So you’re telling me of the 4% of people in the world this could affect, I also HAPPENED to choose a partner who was the opposite Rh factor, I also HAPPENED to conceive a positive type child, I also HAPPENED to have been the 1% in which the shot wasn’t effective, I also HAPPENED to have an incident in which Audrey’s and my blood could have potentially mixed, and my blood also HAPPENED to decide to do something about it and develop those antibodies?

“Yep.  That’s what I’m telling you,” said my doctor.

Q:  So how long have I had these antibodies?
A:  We’ll never know for sure when my body started to produce them.  But I can pinpoint a window of time in which I developed this.  I didn’t test positive for these when I got pregnant with Audrey, so it wasn’t due to the miscarriage.  I was permanently deferred from donating blood about six months after I had Audrey, but I didn’t connect the two together (yes, another side effect of this, I can no longer donate blood because they can’t separate the antibodies out of my blood...my blood can’t go to another negative person or they would face exactly the same scenario I’m facing now, and it can’t go to a positive person because my red blood cells would attack theirs).  I’m guessing contact occurred during delivery, although obviously it could have been sooner.

Q:  How do I get rid of the antibodies?
A:  I can’t.  My blood has made them and will continue to make them the rest of my life.  The interesting thing that was explained to me by my high-risk doctor is that the levels of antibodies will vary.  Sometimes they will be higher (usually during a pregnancy of a positive Rh baby) and lower at others (when I’m not pregnant and my body doesn’t recognize a threat or when I’m pregnant with a negative Rh baby and my body doesn’t see it as foreign), but they will always be there.  Rhogam is actually useless to me right now because its purpose is to prevent development of the antibodies, but it also doesn’t hurt, so my doctors are going to continue giving me the Rhogam shot on the off chance that maybe something good comes of it and it can keep my levels low, but the Rhogam won’t make the antibodies go away.  I am being monitored more carefully now because statistically levels rise closer to the end of pregnancy, when the baby is larger and their own antigens are fully functioning.

Q:  What kind of monitoring do I need?
A:  Besides my typical doctor visits, I also need monthly bloodwork to watch the level of antibodies my blood is producing, which will increase to bimonthly if the levels increase quickly or drastically.  Similarly, I also need more frequent ultrasounds to ensure that the baby is not developing anemia.  I have had about five ultrasounds so far (typical at this point is one to two) and will have another in six weeks, and from there, about every three weeks (provided the antibody levels don’t increase).  If they are found to increase, an ultrasound a week until birth.  All the information is shared between my family doctor and my high-risk doctor at the hospital, so there’s no delay in information.  Basically, a lot more doctor appointments!

Q:  What happens if the baby is also a negative blood type?  Couldn’t it happen?
A:  Since we don’t know Kyle’s specific genotype (meaning if he carries the recessive trait or not), there COULD be a 50% chance if he does carry it that the baby also turns out to be negative.  This exact thing happened to my sister, who is also a B- blood type.  Her husband is positive, she got the Rhogam shots, etc. but my nephew turned out to be negative, too.  That just tells us her husband has a 50% chance of producing negative type kids, which is good in their situation!  That means all the shots were moot, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, huh?  She is statistically unlikely to ever develop antibodies.  So there’s no way that my sister now has the antibodies I have, because if her blood did mix with my nephew’s in any way, they were the same type, see?

Q:  Can we get the baby’s blood type tested, just to see if all this worry is even necessary?
A:  My high-risk doctor explained that we can, but it’s extremely invasive and they don’t want to do that unless my titer scores increase to more than 1:8 (I explain what that means further down).

Q:  Worst-case scenario...what could happen to the baby?
A:  Unless my levels are off the charts (and so far, they’re not), with this baby, probably not anything too terrible.  Both my family doctor and my high-risk doctor said that there is a safe zone of antibody levels where the antibodies are present but are relatively harmless, and then there’s an unsafe level in which action is critical depending on how high the level, how many children I’ve had already, and what the baby looks like (determined by ultrasound).  An affected baby would have a disease called hemolytic disease, which you can read about here.  They told me probably worst case scenario for this baby since it’s the first I’ve had since developing antibodies is that it’s born anemic.  This might mean the baby gets blood transfusions while in the womb (crazy what they can do with medicine, huh?!) or after birth.  It might mean that if the baby is too anemic to be delivered vaginally that I have no choice but to have a C-section instead.  Of course, my high-risk doctor said that blood transfusions, especially in utero, are risky, but he also successfully performed TEN blood transfusions on the SAME BABY before it was born!  Can you believe that?!  I feel pretty confident in him.

Notice I said that it depends on how many children I’ve had before since developing antibodies?  The antibodies typically develop after the first baby is born or during a first pregnancy.  Since the antibodies take a little time to mature into a real threat, it usually happens after pregnancy is over and that baby is safe from the effects.  This is what happened with me.  So my pregnancy with Audrey was unaffected.  Depending on whether my levels dip or climb, each subsequent pregnancy might end up being more and more risky.  Let’s say, IF this baby is anemic due to high levels of antibodies and the levels never go down and I get pregnant again and begin with that high level, that next baby would be more at risk for, let’s say, anemia AND heart failure.  If that baby lives somehow, another baby might result in anemia then heart failure and as a result, death.  Because my blood killed it.  Unlikely, yes.  But possible?  Yes.  Know what’s also possible?  My levels rise, enough for this baby to have anemia.  Then I am no longer pregnant, and the levels dip to virtually nothing.  I get pregnant again, but they never rise again to the point where they are an actual threat to a subsequent baby.  Next baby is fine.  It just all depends.

Q:  Will you then make decisions about how many kids you plan to have based off all of this information?
A:  Yes.  For future pregnancies, we might consider getting my blood tested to see what titer score (again, in a second) I’m at before trying to get pregnant to see how bad of a risk it might be to a potential baby’s health.  I doubt this is our last pregnancy because everything is fine so far, but I guess it could be, so I’m soaking it up and trying to enjoy it as if it is.  You never know.

Q:  Am I at risk?
A:  No more than a typical positive type mother is during a pregnancy.  My body is producing the antibodies because it sees the positive Rh factor baby as a threat, so my body is working hard to protect me (and doing a good job apparently, because I feel fine!).  I am at no risk as a direct result of the antibodies.  I guess the only risk to my own health is if we need to have a procedure in which to help the baby and I develop side effects as a consequence from that.

Q:  How are the levels of the antibodies measured?
A:  Titer scores.  Every time I do bloodwork, they take a single vial of blood.  They test it for antibodies.  If it’s positive right away, I have what’s called a 1:1 titer score.  That means they didn’t have to dilute it with anything; it tested positive right away.  Then they dilute it with something (can’t remember what...the high-risk doctor told me, but I just don’t remember).  They dump out half of my blood and put in half a vial of dilution, swirl, and test again.  If the smaller amount of blood with the dilution in it tests positive again, I’m now 1:2--one part blood, one part dilution.  They dump out some more, supply another round of dilution, swirl and test again.  If it’s another positive, it’s now 1:4--1 part blood, 3 parts dilution.  Then it’s 1:8, 1:16, 1:32 and so on and so forth.  An easier way to remember the severity is give each one of these ratios a number.  If you’re 1:1, that’s level 1, 1:2 is level 2, 1:4 is level 3, 1:8 is level 4, etc.  The bigger the difference in ratio, the higher your level of antibodies is.  They will keep diluting and testing until the blood no longer tests positive, or the antibodies are so faint that they’re ineffective.  That tells you what level you are, which is called a titer score.

I am currently--and have been for this entire pregnancy--a level 2, a 1:2.  The high-risk doctor told me anything 1:8 (or level 4) or below is relatively safe...the antibodies are there, but they’re not likely doing anything...hovering around, just in case.  If I were to get to a level 5 (1:16), that’s where we would need to begin to worry, because that’s the start of a tremendous amount of antibodies in proportion to such a small amount of blood.  Remember the woman who had ten blood transfusions on her baby in the womb?  She walked in at the beginning of her pregnancy with a 1:1024 titer score (level 11).  No wonder her baby was in such danger!  But the baby lived and was healthy.

Q:  Should I be worried?
A:  Our doctor stipulated that in my case, any vaginal bleeding at all...ANY...I should come in for a rhogam shot, just in case.  I should not hesitate to call.  She made me promise.

But other than that, not really.

There was one specific instance (the other hiccup I mentioned at the end of the last post and which I will discuss in a future post) in which I was worried.  But overall I feel pretty good, I feel good movement, and the baby looks great so far...I have a positive outlook.  I think Kyle worries more than I do.  As my doctors have both said, it’s a pretty rare thing to have to worry about, but in this case, rare doesn’t mean they don’t know how to treat it.  Our issues are pretty treatable if they do get out of hand, and if they get out of hand and are not treatable...we’ll adapt.  We’ll be okay.  We’ll figure things out.  It’s no one’s fault, not my parents for giving me the blood type, not mine for having it, not Kyle’s for giving Audrey a positive type to cause me to develop these issues, not Audrey’s for putting me in a place to develop it, not the doctor’s because my body didn’t respond to the rhogam, not mine because the antibodies are developing.  It’s no one’s fault and no one has messed up.  We are getting wonderful care and I am positive things will work out the way they are supposed to work out!

For even more reading on our condition, check here and here and here.

Aaaannnddd We're Pregnant!

Well everyone, I’m going to take a minute to update with some details of our second pregnancy.

We have been incredibly blessed throughout the course of this wild now-24 week ride.  We began talking about getting pregnant again right after Christmas.  We felt we had mostly unpacked, life was becoming somewhat normal again after moving and the holidays.  Audrey’s birthday is in September, so getting pregnant in January would put us right on track for our three year plan of kid-spacing.  We were prepared to try for several months, because we knew from experience that it could take awhile.  If you’ve forgotten, it took us about four months to get pregnant with our first baby (a miscarriage).  Often times when I talk with strangers, I will tell them it took us six months of trying before we were pregnant with Audrey, but I word that very carefully, because I never intend to forget our first baby.

We are about 24 weeks pregnant now.  We started trying to get pregnant about 24 weeks ago.

Yep, we got that lucky, just like with Audrey.  After our miscarriage, we began trying again right away, and we were pregnant with Audrey within the month.  So, just like, Audrey, this baby was planned, but completely unexpected so soon!

I put off taking a pregnancy test as long as possible, because I didn’t want to have a negative test.  That completely deflates your heart.  I remember exactly the day we tested, February 9th.  I had had a rotten set of parent/teacher conferences the night before and felt literally sick to my stomach before going to work that day.  We just attributed it to anxiety, but the feeling never went away.  After a whole day of it (even though school was fine that day and there was truly nothing to cause me to continue to feel that way), Kyle insisted that I test.  What was easily one of the worst days of the school year quickly became one of the best.  We’ve taken lots of pregnancy tests before...we’ve had a few pregnancy scares that came back negative, we had several months of trying before our miscarriage that came back negative, our first pregnancy in which the test barely registered as positive, Audrey’s test that registered as definitively positive but it took a while.  This baby?  Positive almost as soon as administered.  A very, very definitive line that wasn’t going anywhere.

Cue crying, shock, laughing, and Kyle declaring, “Well that was easy!”

The pregnancy has been relatively easy so far in terms of physically.  I had a little more morning sickness, food aversion, fatigue, and motion sickness in the first trimester than with Audrey, but I never actually vomited, so I consider myself extremely lucky.  Our symptoms were pretty hard to hide, so we came out and told everyone about our pregnancy earlier than we had initially planned. 

We announced to our families:

Everything was looking good until….

We encountered our first of two teensy-tiny little hiccups in this pregnancy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Potty Training

Well, if you read my coming-back post, you will know that one of my goals this summer was to get Audrey potty-trained.  And, thankfully, I think we’ve finally hit on something that works for us!

To back things up, let’s recount how terrible--yes, TERRIBLE--potty training has been so far.

Audrey showed potty training readiness last June.  Yeah, a whole YEAR ago.  She was interested in watching others go potty, she was able to stay dry for long periods of time, etc.  In all the books I consulted they would print a list of characteristics that show that your child is likely ready to potty train.  She hit pretty much everything on the list.  So, I figured I would give it a go!

Bad, bad choice.  Of course, there was no way for me to know that.  And, given the experiences I’ve had, even if presented with a child very similar to Audrey now, I would probably still have tried the potty.  I guess you never know.  But Audrey did NOT take to pottying.  We decided to do the bare butt method in which you take diapers off so the kid could feel pee running down their legs when they went.  We gave Audrey lots to drink and rolled up the rugs (we were in our old house still at this point thankfully, or we would have had tons of carpet to contend with).  She had some expected accidents and appropriately freaked out that she had peed on herself.  I would rush her to the potty so she could finish peeing in there.  Praise her.  But looking back, she just seemed so confused by the whole thing.  I would set a timer and put her on the potty every time the timer dinged, and at first she was compliant and would sit.  If I knew she was due to pee and hadn’t for awhile, I would give her popsicles to keep her on the potty until she actually went and then allow her to get up.  I would praise her and be super ridiculously over the top about it.  Allow her to play with play-doh as a reward (play-doh was new then).  I kept track of the times she peed and pooped, how much there was, how much made it into the potty, how resistant she was to sitting on the potty.

This was Audrey being "potty-trained" last year, eating a Popsicle and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 

This happened for about two days.  We stayed inside and I thought I was about to lose my mind because I never took my eyes off her the entire time.  It was literally worse than being home alone during maternity leave with a crying baby with no idea why.  I of course had read that kids pick up on this dread though, so I tried so, so hard to be happy and excited and promoting the idea of peeing, thinking that it might just be a sucky week but so worth it in the end. 

The third day I thought we’d made real progress...she was going longer and longer in between pee breaks...we were up to about an hour to an hour and a half!  I put training pants on her (per the method I was following in a book).  She had several accidents and went through about eight pairs of underwear.  Finally I just let her be bare again.  We went several hours without peeing.  “Nailed it!” I thought.

The next day she also went several, several hours without peeing.  In fact, she only peed once that entire day (during her nap when she had a diaper on).  She started to resist the potty, screaming and kicking and hitting and even biting me, which Audrey never did.  She sobbed and threw tantrums if she even looked at the potty.  In the meantime, it had also been awhile since she’d pooped, too.  I tried to give her more to drink, juice even, but she would drink only very small amounts.  It was almost like she was on to me.  I was at my wit’s end trying to keep her hydrated and free of urinary tract infections or constipation...I didn’t know what to do.  Finally, by the end of the week, Kyle took her potty while at church.  She bucked and screamed and cried and hit him, too.  After church that day, we had a very serious discussion that we were doing more psychological harm than teaching her how to potty.  She just wasn’t ready.  We put her back in diapers but left the potty out in case she ever wanted to sit on it.  She didn’t.  And she would scream and get angry if we even suggested she sit on it.  After about two more weeks of that, we put the potty away.  Throughout this time, she still stayed dry in her diaper fairly well, she still was interested in watching us potty, and, thankfully, she began to pee and poop regularly again. 

Okay, so she was too young.  She wasn’t mentally prepared.  That’s okay.  We’d try again later.

By about October, my sitter (who has trained dozens of kids to potty) said she thought Audrey would be ready to try again.  Audrey had noticed that the older three and four-year-old girls wore panties and used the potty, and she wanted to play with and be just like them.  Okay, let’s capitalize on that!  We waited until after we moved and got settled into the new house.  I bought some pull-ups for at the sitter.  After being traumatized the last time, I didn’t have the courage for cloth.  Also, our sitter wouldn’t be able to keep a constant eye on Audrey every second of the day like I could because she also had other kids to watch.  And, in both our house and the sitter’s house, there was carpet in the main living areas where Audrey spent most of her time.  Pull-ups were the right choice there.

Audrey started slow.  She would tinkle in the potty if we forced her to sit on it, and then finish in her pull-up.  It didn’t matter if we or the sitter made her sit there for thirty seconds or an hour.  We tried rewards, but she didn’t show interest in them.  We tried bribery, but nothing.  Sometimes she would refuse to sit on the potty even though it had been hours since she’d last gone.  Just two months ago, Kyle threatened to spank Audrey if she refused to sit on the potty because we knew that she KNEW how to use the potty but was just being obstinate.  He offered her the choice and she took the spanking, which kind of took us aback.  The rest of the day when we told her it was time to potty she would reply, “No, just hit my butt.”

The really frustrating part is that she would teeter back and forth.  Some days she would do really well, and some days she would do nothing on the potty.  We even got her grandmas, her favorite two people in the world, to try to help us.  My mom, who had me potty trained before 18 months, was at a loss.  We would bring her potty out to sit on so she didn’t have to go far to pee, and nothing.  Our sitter did the same, and no results.  When we told her that she couldn’t play with the big girls at the sitter’s house until she peed in the potty, she lost interest in playing with them.  We would ask Audrey where babies peed (diapers) and where big girls peed (potties).  Then we would ask if she was a baby or a big girl.  She would say, “A big girl, but I will pee in my underwear.”  She knew the rules but didn’t want them to apply to her.  AND she would come down hard on any kid she saw who had an accident or who wore diapers, but it never occurred to her that she still did those things.  We just kept consoling ourselves...time, time, time.  No kid goes to college in diapers, right?  RIGHT?!

Finally, a few days after school was out (so only a few weeks ago), it was obvious that Audrey had to poop.  And that she was pooping.  We caught her early, so we rushed her to the bathroom and put her on the potty.  It was traumatizing to her, but she went.  She was so proud that she had pooped in the potty and kept talking about what a big girl she was.  We talked her up, too.  When she pooped a couple of days later, same thing.  She screamed and cried the whole time, but she pooped on the potty.  And she was proud of herself.

At about this time, Audrey went to play for awhile at a friend’s house and this friend had several Disney princesses that Audrey wanted to bring home with her.  I told her if she was a good girl over the next few days (mostly I meant listening, going down for a nap when I told her to, etc.) I would buy her the princesses.  She was, so Kyle and Audrey and I went to the store.  We didn’t find the same ones, but we found a busy book that came with a princess book, eleven princess figurines, a charm bracelet, and a story sheet that you can put your princesses on to play.  We had a sudden inspiration...Audrey had been having a few up days in a row with peeing on the potty...maybe we could make this work?  We made a deal with her.  Do a good job going pee on the potty, and you can have one princess at the end of each day.  A poop in the potty automatically guaranteed a princess right away, no matter the time of day.  She got to pick the princess, of course.  Doing a good job consisted of going without complaint when Mommy or Daddy asked and keeping pee out of her underwear (pull ups).  She agreed, although she probably didn’t realize what she was agreeing to.  We gave her the book that night and put the princesses inside the medicine cabinet in her bathroom so I could open the mirror and show her the princesses I was holding hostage inside out of her reach. 

It. Worked. 

Now, if I would have tried this earlier, would it have probably worked?  I’m guessing not.  Audrey was in the right frame of mind FINALLY in combination with having had a few successful pee days and two poops on the potty (which were rough compared to peeing on the potty).  Also, since I’m pregnant we’ve been talking a lot more about babies and diapers lately, so she’s been seeing diapers get stockpiled again.  She is also very much on board with being a big sister and a big helper, so I think it all finally clicked in her head.  Hallelujah!

There were some hiccups, of course.  She went swimming in her kiddie pool a few times during that first week and twice instead of going inside to pee, she went over and squatted near a tree instead (once was my fault...she had just been in to potty five minutes earlier so I told her she didn’t need to go...oops).  That weekend Audrey went on a trip to Michigan with my in-laws and the pottying was kind of rough since it was a several hour drive and lots of fun in the pool, at the park, and at the zoo.  We waited until after the trip was over to start big girl princess panties.  Audrey has had approximately a few accidents in her big girl panties, twice at the times I was talking to contractors for our bathroom remodel, so I can justify those...she probably was too intimidated by the strangers to come tell me she had to go.  Another day she went through four pairs of panties, but we are chalking that up to her guzzling apple juice (which we usually do not allow).  On the latter day, when she told me she had peed in her panties again, she yelled, "I'm so sorry!  I'm so sorry!" over and over again.

Now we’re about three and a half weeks out from starting the princesses and two weeks out from panties.  We still have some major steps to take, though...she still is afraid to poop in the potty.  We have to sit down and coach her through pooping, if she will do it at all.  Also, she is getting better at lengthening the amount of time between potty breaks (about 3 hours now!) but I’m still the one telling her she needs to go.  This week we are going to try to allow her to figure out when she needs to go and I will be quieter. 

I’m so relieved!  Pun intended!  We are all very excited for Audrey that she is doing so well.  Audrey is so proud to be a big girl.  Audrey still wears pull-ups (now named night-night underwear) for naps and at night, but even those are drier in the mornings than usual, and the naps the last few days have had zero pee in them.  Although we’re far from being completely trained, we’ve come a long way in the last few weeks.  Feel free to put another notch in my parenting bedpost.

Hello, Linden!

Kyle and I looked at many homes in the fall, but most were not very great upon actually seeing them.  As I mentioned, there was a house we became pretty excited about, but eventually went to someone else.  Although we were frustrated and heartbroken at the time, we now see that it was for the best that we didn’t get that house.  If we didn’t get that house, we wouldn’t have gotten ours.

Our Linden house was on the market for about two days when Kyle and I went to see it.  We put in an offer the next day, (a Thursday) but found out we weren’t the only ones bidding.  We were asked to come back with our highest offer and just to wait.  

Please excuse the fact that these are all screenshots...I wanted documentation of how this house looked before we got our hands on it.  So far, we have re-seeded the front lawn, as you can see that it's a little patchy.  The front of the old garage here looks white, but it really is yellow...the exact color of the rest of the house.  The flowers are wonderful perennials...now I just have to keep up with them!  It certainly is a lot more to weed!

We were sick with anxiety.  Every time my phone rang, I thought it would be our realtor.  The sellers' realtor was supposed to meet with them on that following Saturday to go over all the offers, so we hoped to hear that evening.  What actually happened was the other realtor had something unexpected come up and had to postpone his meeting with his clients until Sunday afternoon, so it was going to be another terrible day of waiting.  I felt like I could throw up all day that Sunday.  It was awful.

I woke up Saturday evening at about 11:45 PM with an idea that I should do more to help us get that house.  I had no idea what to do though, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I woke up again at about 4 AM with the same impression.  I had just had a lesson the previous morning with the Young Women about following promptings of the spirit so I got up out of bed and went to our half-packed dining room to think.  

Without really knowing what I was doing, I opened my chromebook to Google docs, thinking I would just type something up about what I was thinking, and I ended up with this:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

To the homeowners of XXXX Linden Street,

My name is Megan, and after my husband Kyle and I visited your home for a showing on Wednesday, we were immediately impressed.  We visited lots of homes that day and throughout the last few weeks, but yours stood out to us for several reasons, all of which were on our original wish list when we set out to purchase a new home.  After the heartbreak of seeing a few “potential” forever homes slip through our fingers within days of coming on the market, we knew we had to act fast so that we could be considered buyers of your lovely home.

It’s hard to say what we love most about the home.  My husband and I couldn’t stop smiling as we toured it and found new things to be excited about.  He and I have very different priorities.  I want ample space for our family to grow, and your home has it in spades.  We have one daughter named Audrey who will be two tomorrow, and we plan to start adding to our family very soon.  If we get your house, Audrey will be staying in the green bedroom, and she will have plenty of room to grow up there.

Audrey's bedroom--the biggest bedroom in the house!  That's alright, though, because eventually it'll be shared.  That's a king-size bed in there, folks!  Not bad for a house built in 1959.

We have since painted Audrey's room a very pale blue and ripped up these carpets to reveal the original hardwood floors underneath.

This was used as an..exercise room?  It houses our computer and desk right now, but it will be baby's room in October.  We removed the carpets and the walls are now a light gray.

Our bedroom.  We haven't done much in here except accidentally scorch the carpet (oops).  That's okay though because, guess what?  Original hardwood floors underneath.  We're thinking of covering the paneling with shiplap, but haven't gotten to that point yet.  All in good time.

Everyone told me that babies come with a lot of stuff, and they were right!  I wanted a designated playroom for Audrey and her future siblings because in our home right now we have to put several things in storage just to have enough living space, which is frustrating to all of us. We intend to make your formal dining room/piano room our play area because it has easy access to the backyard and is easy for me to watch the kids from the kitchen area.  After it’s done being a playroom, I could easily imagine it being a room to hold our future piano--I very much want our children to have lessons.  

The previous owners used this room to house their piano and as a formal dining room.  It's the playroom now.  Still not painted, but that's in the plans for this summer.  Carpet is newer, so it will be staying.  This is an addition, so there's no hardwood floors underneath.  We also plan to replace the light with a ceiling fan.

This room is actually quite huge!  It could be a living room in its own right if we wanted it to be!

I don't have very many pictures of the house right when we moved in, but I tried to capture Audrey's enthusiasm for having a room for just her toys.  Look how small she looks!

Audrey pointing out to Daddy that there are skylights in this room.

I also wanted to have a bathroom separate from the kids’, which is hard to find in a 1950s and 1960s style home.  None of the homes we have seen so far in our budget had double sinks in the bathroom...my heart almost bottomed out when I saw yours!  And as I continued through the bathroom into the master closet...let me just say I wanted to stay in that closet forever.

Our bathroom (you can't see it, but our master closet is just off of this and it's HUGE).

You see how there are even carpets in the bathroom?  Yeah, that's getting removed in a couple of weeks.

My husband of course is very particular about the yard, garage, and parking.  He also was not disappointed.  Your yard is very beautifully kept, and he fell in love instantly.  The yard is wonderfully big for a Muncie home, and he commented often on the deck space in both the front and back of the home.  Last weekend we had our daughter’s second birthday party with all of our family over, and we barely squeezed in (we have only a small strip of grass for backyard right now at our home, so going outside was not an option).  At your home, we could easily visualize having family over for cookouts and allowing the kids to play in the yard.  One of the best things about the home is that everyone would have a place to park instead of having to walk several blocks to our home.  

We're now the proud owners of a riding lawnmower to make this all easy work for Kyle.

Kyle also wants (but never dared dream he would actually get) his own little office, too, which he could have here.  One of my husband’s favorite things about your home?  The fireplace mantle, which he pointed out to me could hold our stockings at Christmastime.

What we use as our actual living room.  Probably this will get made over next summer.  Not pictured behind this room (about where the person taking the photo is standing) is another small room, used originally as an office.  Kyle wanted it for an office at first, but we're going to make it a mud/laundry room instead.
Audrey actually sitting in front of the fireplace during December.

Wanna know where our laundry is right now?  In that closet with the white doors.  Yep.  Since this room used to be a garage, and the laundry was originally in garages when houses were built during this time, our laundry is in our living room.  It actually hasn't been as weird as I thought...I'm actually a lot more on top of laundry because of it and can do laundry and watch TV at the same time!  But...it is going to get moved eventually.

We had this extra room at the front that we didn't know what to do with.  We decided to make it a library.  We have ripped down the bookshelves that were previously attached to the walls, painted the room a light brown, and taken up the carpets in favor of the original hardwoods.  The piano the previous owner left for us will go in this room.

And Audrey’s favorite thing about the home?  We told her we could eventually get a dog if we moved to a house with such a big yard.  She adores dogs.  

We both love that your home is in a safe neighborhood and everyone obviously cares for their homes.  We originally wanted a dead-end street or cul-de-sac but never imagined that we could get something like it!  I am a teacher, so a good school that is close by is important to me.  Your home literally ticks off every item on our wishlist.  If you select our offer, we would be excited to make it our forever home.  We intend to be in our next house into old age, raise our children there, and spoil our grandchildren there.  

The thing I like least about the house is the kitchen.  It's in the middle of the house (since additions were put on after the original construction) and gets zero natural light.  But, I do like that it's sort of in the middle of everything.  We will be adding more cabinets and re-configuring some appliances, I think, replacing cabinet doors and floors, lights, new appliances, etc...next year, when the budget will allow it.

As of right now the only things we've done in this room is rip out the appliance garage and take down the border.  But paint is coming soon.

Please understand that our offer might not be your best offer, but it is ours.  The home is at the top of our budget, but we will gladly spend it to get all the things we want in a home.  We close on our home at the end of this month and are moving out mid-October, so I know how important it is to be reassured that whoever purchases your home will take care of it and respect the memories made there already.  Even if you do not choose us, I wanted to compliment you on the beautiful home you have created and wish you the best of luck on your new journey as well.

I signed the letter and ran upstairs to snatch if off the printer before I could lose courage.  I hopped in my car (at this point, about 4:45 AM), went to the house on Linden, and snuck up to the front door and stuck it in the screen door.  Then I tore out of there like I was being pursued.  

Kyle didn’t even know I had gotten up at all until I came back.  When I explained what I had done, he thought I was crazy.  It might actually have been one of the crazier things I’ve ever done…

I’m not sure if the letter helped us get the house.  In fact, I’m not even sure if the previous owners saw it before they selected our offer.  But I do know they saw it.  They knew I was a teacher when I met them for the inspection, and that Audrey loved dogs, and what room was going to be hers.  They even let us have one of their pianos for when we got Audrey lessons.

I about died of relief when our realtor Kathy called us that evening with the news.  

Now that we’ve lived in the house for about six months, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.  Sure, it needs some work, but we love it.  We truly do.  When we pull in, Audrey loves to say, “Hey!  It’s my house!” and that’s exactly how I feel every time we come home to it.  When I look out on the backyard and see how much space we have, I still can’t believe it’s ours.  

And every time we change something...even something small...I think to myself And here’s to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.