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Ellis & Cole


April 24, 2014

We had a really good Easter this year as we have much to be thankful for: Ellis and Cole of course and my hip surgery recovery.  Easter is a time that I always think of life and death because of the resurrection and I’m still so amazed by the gift of life with our children.

We had a great day at church and with family.  I’m going to share a few photos.

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Infertility, Miscarriage

Resolve to know more about recurrent pregnancy loss

April 21, 2014

Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) isn’t really a popular topic and not something I thought I would experience after having trouble getting pregnant.  Who knew that getting pregnant was only a small step in the right direction?

Recurrent pregnancy loss is a distinct disease from infertility and is defined by two or more failed pregnancies. Some people experience both infertility and loss, like me, and others experience one or the other.

For me, recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility are one and the same.  They are what kept me from bringing a baby home from the hospital for seven long years.   I am infertile and while IVF helped me conceive, I miscarried every time. Recurrent loss is the ultimate problem for me.

Most miscarriages are due to an abnormal embryo — an unlucky accident, with no underlying medical issue, unless your specific issue is age-related or egg quality related.  But, if you have miscarried three times, it is quite unlikely that this is due to three abnormal pregnancies, but rather one specific abnormality or underlying condition.

According to ASRM, although approximately 25% of all recognized pregnancies result in miscarriage, less than 5% of women will experience two consecutive miscarriages, and only 1% experience three or more.

I, of course, am that 1%.

I miscarried five times.  We eventually moved on to gestational surrogacy.

In 50-75% of women with repeated miscarriages, doctors can find no cause for the losses. There may be clues, but no concrete answer.  This was the case with me, as we had treated my clotting disorder and I still miscarried. Because our embryos were thought to be high quality, we could only assume that the problem was with my uterine environment and involved a highly complex reproductive immunological issue.


Sometimes, doctors or insurance companies will recommend testing after three losses, but I couldn’t disagree more.  I highly recommend advocating for yourself to have the necessary testing done after two losses.  Why risk another loss at this point if you could possibly avoid it?

For more information about possible reasons for RPL and available testing, check out the extensive post I wrote on recurrent miscarriage testing .

Dealing with Loss

Dealing with both infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss seemed cruel and unfair to me.  While infertility was emotionally exhausting, dealing with loss after loss, along with infertility, was truly devastating.  My worst triggers always are related to my losses.  Don’t underestimate the emotional toll that recurrent loss will take on you.  Take time to grieve and do it in your own time.  Seek out support from others that have been through the same thing.  A couple of good websites are Still Standing MagazineFaces of Loss and Carly Marie Project Heal.

Learn More

I have written this post for RESOLVE’s “Resolve to know more” theme in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 20 -27, 2014). If you know someone experiencing infertility or loss, consider taking it upon yourself to learn even more about the disease.  You can go to RESOLVE’s Infertility 101 to find out more.

Resources + Connect

Photo by Carly Marie Project Heal

PAO Surgery Milestones & Observations

April 9, 2014

For my recovery, I wanted to record how I felt, some observations in general and when I was able to start doing new things. I’m hoping this will help me for my second surgery and maybe help some of you be aware of what can happen and a timetable for recovery.  Of course, we’re all very different and this varies for everyone. I was 36 at the time of my surgery.

Post Surgery in hospital

  • I was in a lot less pain than I expected. Pain was well controlled with an epidural and a Dilaudid PCA pump.  I woke up from surgery in some pain, but they quickly took care of it.
  • I slept a lot – like all day.  I could hardly stay awake.
  • I was SO, SO stiff.  I described at as having steel poured into me and I couldn’t bend.
  • The internal clunking in my hip was very disconcerting.
  • I was very itchy all over and they constantly were giving me Benadryl and other drugs to help.
  • I felt nauseated the first day, but it was controlled with meds, too.  But, I told them ahead of time to load me up on anti-nausea meds.  By the second day, I was able to eat.
  • On Day 2, I sat up and stood for the first time and thought I would pass out.
  • On Day 3, I walked.  I walked all the way down the hall and back.  It was hard and totally exhausted me.
  • On Day 4, I was unable to walk any more? I couldn’t advance my leg.  I could only use my foot to inch it long or someone had to pick my foot up and move it for me.
  • Had some muscle spasms in glutes.  They gave me muscle relaxers.

First two weeks at home +

  • Very stiff
  • Numbness and nerve damage on op leg: inside of thigh and bottom of thigh ok, middle of thigh and top of knee are super sensitive to the touch, outer thigh is numb (from day one post-op to current day…no change); Also top of big toe on op leg is numb
  • Hard to lay down flat.  It would hurt at first until muscles stretched out a little.
  • Hard to sit straight.  It hurt and I was so swollen that I would tilt to the non-op side.
  • Crazy numbness in foot and calves at night.  This drove me crazy and would hurt and feel so uncomfortable.  I would sleep in the bed for like two hours and then go to the living room recliner for another venue and to help my legs and feet feel better.
  • Can’t sleep hardly at all.  Sleep for only two hours at time.  So, so uncomfortable.  Can only sleep on my back and I’m not a back sleeper.  Calves and feet hurt from weird numbness.  Leg feels “restless” and I just want to rip it off.  Strange, I know…it’s hard to describe.  Pain in hip from muscles not being stretched out enough.
  • Can’t sleep with the sheet and duvet.  It presses on my feet and hurts. I had to strip the bedding and just use blankets.
  • I could not have possibly imagined how constipated I would be.  Ugh.  Thanks, anesthesia and narcotics.
  • I felt really hunched in my pelvis area.  My butt would stick out and it was like I couldn’t stand up all the way straight. Plus, I felt tight when standing straight.
  • I used the wheelchair to get around since I still can’t walk at all. (For about the first two weeks.)
  • My hands would hurt so bad, from using the wheelchair and the walker.  My shoulders, too.
  • Would get cold and get a shiver and it would like roll around in my hip and thigh for much longer than a typical shiver.  Very strange.  (This was for about the first 6 weeks.)
  • My chest would feel funny sometimes.  Like heavy especially when standing or taking a deep breath.  This lasted for about the first 5 weeks.

Two weeks post-op

  • I was finally able to advance my left foot/leg forward.  Previously, I could only use my foot to inch it long or someone had to pick my foot up and move it for me. Started using the walker to walk around more.

Three weeks post-op

  • While laying flat, I was able to slide my op leg so that my knee was up and bent.
  • Was finally able to get into bed by myself.
  • Still taking pain meds every three hours, but only one pill instead of two.
  • Don’t feel hunched any more and look straight when standing in profile on op side.

Four weeks post-op

  • Was able to stop the coumadin and stop wearing the compression stockings.
  • Had my first post-op with my surgeon and they were pleased with progress. I have good bone growth on all of the breaks. My surgeon’s office is three hours away and I dreaded the car ride.  It wasn’t too bad.  I took lots of pillows. I went to five public restrooms on my own and even out to lunch after the appointment.
  • Taking pain meds every four hours, and went up to 6 hours sometimes.
  • Feel like I can bear more weight now.
  • Went up and down steps for first time with crutches.
  • Able to finally march in place now.  Previously I couldn’t lift my op leg at all.
  • Slept 3 hours one night and then up, another 1 hour, up and another 2 hours.

5 weeks post-op

  • My other non-op hip started hurting.  Yes, it’s dysplastic too, but the other one always hurt more.  Clearly it’s hurting from all of the compensation.  It got better after a few days.
  • Totally ditched the wheelchair and use the walker only inside the house unless I need to carry a baby from point A to point B.  Using crutches outside of house.
  • Finally able to lay on my non-op side.  It feels great those first few minutes just to know that I can be in another position, but it isn’t very comfortable and I can only lay like that for about 30 minutes.  Also, this is laying on my other bad hip that hasn’t been fixed and it wasn’t even comfy to lay on prior to surgery.
  • Taking 3-4 pain pills per day now.  (every 6-8 hours)
  • Sitting is getting easier.  Can sit for longer periods of time. Don’t feel tilted so much. Still hurts, but getting better.

6 weeks post-op

  • Feeling very depressed and going stir-crazy.  I had only left the house 3 times up until now – once to my post-op, once to the ER and once to my grandmother’s.  (NOTE: I have twin infants at home, so that had the majority to do with me not leaving the house.)
  • Taking 2-3 pain pills per day. (Every 8-12 hours)

7 weeks post-op

  • Only taking one pain pill per day now.  First thing in the morning when I get up around 4:30 – 5:30.  I feel awful in the mornings and both legs are achy and restless.  It helps me settle down and get comfortable.
  • Sitting became worse again this week. It really bothered me to be going backwards in recovery.  It got better after several days.
  • Took two major outings this week.  One to the grocery store — I used the electric cart!  And, one to my husband’s company Christmas dinner at a fancy restaurant.  We didn’t stay the whole time, because I was becoming uncomfortable, even though the chair was really soft and nice.
  • Still can’t wear my jeans — I’m still swollen (or my body has permanently changed?) and it’s too rough up against scar area.  I can button them, but they feel awful and tight.  Will I wear sweatpants for the rest of my life?
  • Sleep is still TERRIBLE.  This is making me crazy.  It might even be worse now!  Sometimes I only sleep for one hour at a time. I’m so unbelievably uncomfortable that it’s painful.  I can lay on my stomach, but it doesn’t feel good.  Nothing feels good pretty much.

8 weeks post-op

  • Ditched pain meds completely.  At least for now. Fingers crossed.
  • Feeling more mobile — able to do things that I previously could better.  Like getting in and out of a car is much easier.  In and out of bed.  Steps.  Showering.  Etc.
  • Able to help out more with household chores — like emptying dishwasher
  • Able to feed the babies without pain or weakness

 9 weeks post-op

  • Sitting is finally getting better.  I can sit in normal chairs and not be so uncomfortable. I can sit for longer periods of time.
  • I can get in and out of the car much better.
  • I can FINALLY sleep better.  I was able to figure out a way to sleep on my non-op side more comfortably.  Previously it hurt the muscles on my op side and my bad hip on non-op side that needs operated on.  I sleep half on stomach and half on my side with a pillow between my legs.  I’m not sleeping back to normal and not all the way through the night, but a million times better than before.

10 weeks post-op

  • Just feeling more mobile in general
  • Walking more without crutch or walker for short stretches around the house, with a major limp.
  • Only using one crutch outside the house.
  • No change to nerve damage and numb areas
  • Feeling muscles kick back in in my glutes

12 weeks post-op (3 months)

  • Lots more activity. Navigating around the house without walking aid — limping though.  Cooking, carrying babies…resuming normal life.

14 weeks post-op

  • First straight leg raise.  Not very far or pretty, but I did it.  This was a huge victory!
  • Returned to work – would have been at 12 weeks, but had an issue with permission from doctor to return because they cancelled an appointment.
  • Bone growth looks great.  My surgeon is happy with xray and exam.

4 months post-op

  • Feeling stronger and more normal, but still walking with limp
  • Able to get on the floor to sit and play with kids more regularly and get up better
  • Flexion is not what I’d like it to be but surgeon and PT think it’s great.
  • My knee and quad turns in when I bring my knees to my chest (or close to)
Ellis & Cole

Photo Update

April 8, 2014

Ellis and Cole are nearly 6 months now!  I am thoroughly enjoying my role as a mom and embracing it. I thought I’d share a few photos…




March 11, 2014

On this day one year ago, our surrogate told us that she had taken a positive pregnancy test.

We were so elated and hopeful. Thinking back to how we were feeling is incredibly emotional. I have been shocked at how emotional I am today.

I think I am finally realizing this is all over.  Life has been crazy and wonderful and a total blur as well.  I am just now processing it all.

It’s over.

I don’t have to constantly wonder if I will ever be a parent. I don’t have to do any more hormone injections. I don’t have to debate whether or not to keep trying. I don’t have to drive 6 hours round-trip to the reproductive endocrinologist for every visit.  I don’t have to suffer another miscarriage (God willing). I don’t have to wonder if I will burst into tears for an untimely pregnancy announcement.  There’s so much that was a part of my life that I don’t have to do any more.

Sure, I will still remember it all and certain things will sting every now and again.  But, not like they used to.

It’s actually over.  I feel like I can stop holding my breath and finally exhale and let it all go.  All of the pent up frustration, sadness, anger.  It can all go.

It’s crazy to think about all that we went through and we had no idea if it would ever work out.  But, we did it anyway, even when things seemed bleak.  We are one of the lucky ones.  We made it through.  Through our own persistence, through being lucky to afford treatment, through the ultimate kindness of a young woman and by the grace of God.

Infertility sucks so bad and now my heart hurts for everyone out there that is struggling.

Infertility, Infertility Advocacy, Surrogacy

The Attack on Surrogacy

February 13, 2014

I’m tired of reading about how surrogacy is unethical and not in the best interest of women.  I think these are lame cop-out reasons that detractors give and that some of the real reasons behind their attacks are the ridiculous personhood madness and to prevent gay couples from having children.  Regardless of why, as someone who is infertile and who needed gestational surrogacy to have children, I resent this. I resent that people are trying to take away this crucial family-building option.

I resent opponents and lawmakers using personhood to sneakily take on abortion and as a result take away my ability to treat my disease using IVF.  To take an anti-family issue and use it against my pro-family issue.  I take this personally as the personhood fight was brought to Virginia and I testified before the Senate committee against personhood.

I also resent opponents trying to ban surrogacy as a way to prevent gay couples (especially men) from having children.  I won’t comment on this issue as it’s a separate topic, but again I take offense that the ability to treat my disease would be banned as a result.  My issue is that I feel like the innocent bystander who would be a casualty of this war.  What about the infertile women and men in heterosexual marriages?

The reasons that the opponents give against surrogacy are flimsy.

Recently, a bill was introduced in Kansas that would have made surrogacy illegal.  Fortunately, it was later withdrawn by its sponsor, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook.  “Surrogacy undermines the dignity of women, children and human reproduction,” said Jennifer Lahl, president of the California-based Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Proponents of the bill in Kansas said that it exploits women, that only poor women become surrogates.  I heartily disagree.  Women in this country can decide for themselves if they want to become a surrogate. Why take away their freedom to decide? What? Women are too stupid to decide for themselves?

Most clinics will not even move forward with surrogacy without a legal contract in place and without the surrogate and intended parents going through counseling. In Virginia, it’s even illegal to pay a surrogate; you can only reimburse her for expenses.

Supporters of the bill, such as Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, argued that surrogate contracts make children into a commodity. “You don’t see a lot of women who are not poor signing up to be surrogate mothers,” he said. “It seems on its face to be very exploitative.”

My surrogate carried our babies because she wanted to help an infertile couple.  It was not about money for her. She is not poor and this was not a job for her, but rather an act of love. In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts of love that you could give or receive.

I don’t deny that there are some women out there to make money.  While that situation wasn’t right for me, it works for some.  It’s a mutually beneficial agreement between two or more adults that does not exploit the surrogate.  One becomes a parent and one is paid for their trouble.  Some want to call this “renting a womb” or being a “baby breeder,” but I take offense to their attempting to turn a beautiful thing into something ugly.  I am thankful that there are people out there willing to help others who can’t conceive because a disease prevents them from doing so, for money or otherwise.

The Christian Post recently published an article as part two of a series on surrogacy, entitled “Renting a Womb (Part 2).” I was incensed after reading the first sentence in the article.

Although not specifically mentioned in the Bible, the act of surrogacy in order to produce a baby should be considered unethical, says Scott B. Rae, professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University.

So, if it’s not mentioned in the Bible, what gives this Scott Rae such divine insight? Is he God? I am a Christian and I do not feel that surrogacy is unethical, religiously speaking or otherwise.  In fact, couldn’t we consider Jesus to have been birthed from a gestational surrogate? Yes, I think so.

He goes on to talk about the typical stuff – a marriage is considered to be a man and a woman, blah blah. Again, I say…what about me in my heterosexual marriage?  Is surrogacy unethical for me, too, even though I am in a heterosexual monogamous relationship? Even though I can’t carry a pregnancy to term? Sorry, pal, your reasoning doesn’t stand up here.

Rae goes on to say:

Gestational surrogacy is a little more complicated about “who is the mother here” because you can split biology like you never have before, meaning you can have one woman who is the genetic contributor and a different woman who carries the child to term. The question is then who is the mother? A good case could be made for both. My own preference, and I would not go to the stake for this, I think a better case could be made for the woman who gestates and gives birth to the child being the mother. She’s the one that has the real sense of bonding, connection, relationship with the child prior to the child’s birth. I particularly like this term, the surrogate has a much greater, what they call a “sweat equity” in the child that she is caring.

So, is he saying that I couldn’t possibly love my two children because they weren’t in my belly? I can assure him he is dead wrong.  I love my two babies with all my heart and carrying them has no bearing on this. By this thinking, then he’s also taking aim at adoptive parents.  He is saying they couldn’t love their children because the adoptive mothers didn’t give birth to them.  This is so wrong.  Not to mention that the bible encourages adoption as a wonderful act of love.

And sweat equity? Are you freaking kidding me jerk-face?  Yes, my surrogate had a lot of sweat equity. I don’t deny that — she was sick, uncomfortable, had back-aches, high blood pressure, headaches and had to go through child labor. But, I have some equity in this, too! Eight long years building up to this. Treatments, injections, surgeries, losses and heartache beyond compare.  Yes, my husband I and I have sweat equity in this endeavor as well. My surrogate’s sweat equity wasn’t to the children she was carrying, but rather in making my husband and I parents.  That was her goal and her labor of love.

These two babies are not the product of a lack of ethics. They are not the product of exploiting women.  They are not the result of baby breeding.  They are the product of a tremendous act of love and many prayers.

For those hiding behind surrogacy to attack other issues, shame on you.  For those outright attacking surrogacy, shame on you, too.

Resources + Connect

Ellis & Cole

Ellis & Cole’s Birth Story

January 30, 2014

Ellis and Cole are three months old!  I can’t believe it has taken me three months to write this.  Before I forget the details, I wanted to share their birth story.


On October 17th, Nicole was scheduled for a non-stress test and then an ultrasound at 35 weeks.  She went to the non-stress test at the hospital and her blood pressure was too high. She had struggled with this throughout the third trimester and was on close watch for pre eclampsia.  They would have admitted her, but didn’t because she already had an appointment for later with her doctor for an ultrasound.  The ultrasound went great and showed baby girl at 5 lbs 12 oz and baby boy at 5 lbs 2 oz.

I was really ready for them to be born and wanted to get things moving. I was scared that something crazy would happen at the last minute in utero and now that I knew they were big enough, I wanted them to come on.  Also, I knew Nicole was miserable and her BP was consistently very high and so I wanted for them to be born sooner rather than later for her as well.

After the ultrasound, they declared that she officially had pre-eclampsia.  Also, Nicole had gained 12 pounds in one week.  They sent her back to the hospital for pre-e monitoring.

This little song and dance had been going on for a while now.  Threatened pre-eclampsia and early labor.  Labor always subsided.  I was so used to this by now, that I didn’t think much of it, because she had been at the hospital several times before.

At the hospital, she was seen by several people. The mid-wife acted like they would induce, but then the doctor said they would keep her overnight before doing anything.

I had started to get excited and was wondering are we staying or going, but now it’s back to staying.  Ok.  I was planning to get ready to head to bible study…

But…then I got THE call.

Nicole said this is happening, they are going to induce, you better leave now.

HOLY CRAP!  This is it. I couldn’t believe it.

Luckily, since things were heating up, Erick had decided earlier to go ahead and take the dogs to our friends’ houses, so he was off doing that.  So, we really were ready.

I called my parents and my dad brought food over while I was waiting for Erick to get home.  I got our bags ready by the door.

We got on the road at 6:43 pm. I was getting text updates from Nicole and then relaying them to Mom, as Mom and Dad followed in their car.  They had put her on antibiotics, magnesium and pitocin.

I worried that the pitocin would do it’s thing and we’d miss the birth.

We kept texting and I asked her to have Troy take a picture and send to me.  It all looked so real with the picture. I was so excited!

Erick and I were still discussing names in the car on the way down.  I know?!? Can you believe it?  I was pretty stressed by the whole naming issue.  It wasn’t an easy task for us, like those people that had a name picked out since their honeymoon.  I guess part of it was a coping mechanism for me and I just could never consider names.  Then, when things went well with this pregnancy, I was overwhelmed by the possibility and just stuck.   But, we had a few possibilities for each and decided we would make the final decision after we saw them.

We finally arrived at around 11:00 pm.  We went up and were thrilled to be there and to have not missed the birth.  Me, Erick, my parents and her husband were all crowded into her room.  She was 3cm and 50% effaced and having contractions every 10 minutes.

We expected things to move quickly, but they didn’t.  At first she wasn’t in much pain, but very suddenly that changed and she asked for the epidural.  The doctor had several people ahead of her in line.  Finally, at 1:40 am she got the epidural and felt much better.  We jokingly called it her happy button.

About an hour later, she said she just couldn’t keep her eyes open.  Her blood pressure tanked to 58/35.  This, after being really high.  Her wonderful nurse, Kristin, was in the room at the time and jumped into action by giving her two doses of epinephrine.  When this was happening, I didn’t quite realize how serious this was.   The nurse said that when her pressure dropped that the babies’ pressures stayed strong and that was a very good sign.  She said they were the two strongest babies on the floor.

There wasn’t much progress in terms of dilation through the night, but she was nauseous from the meds.  We were all struggling to try to sleep and there weren’t enough chairs in the room for all of us.  We were also freezing as it was like 60 degrees in the room or at least felt like it. Even the guys were wearing blankets like capes. Nicole was comfortable temperature-wise and that’s all that matters.  At one point, Erick fell sleeping off of a stool into my lap. We went back and forth from the room to the waiting room.  No luck getting comfy in the waiting room either as there were two huge guys having a contest to see who could snore the loudest.  At one point, I walked out of Nicole’s room to find Mom and Dad both semi-asleep in wheelchairs out in the hall.

At 3:05 am, our nurse Kristin broke her water to try to move things along.  At the check at 5:00 am, she was 5 cm and 80% effaced.

At 7:45 am, my parents and I went to breakfast and Erick and Troy stayed sleeping in the room.

When we came back, nothing had changed.  I remember wondering if we were in for another whole day of Nicole laboring and how would I stay awake.  At 8:15 am, they upped her pitocin to 22.  We were waiting for a check at 9:00 am.  Our nurse got the doctor to come earlier because the contractions were getting stronger and closer together and because she was due to go off duty and really wanted to know if this would be happening soon. She ended up working overtime just to stay with us and see it through.  We lucked out with such a wonderful nurse.

At this point, she was 9 cm!  At 9:05 am, they told Erick and I to get on our clean suits to be ready.  At around 9:20, Nicole called for the doctor because she felt a lot of pressure.

They came and said we’re going to the OR.  At 9:34 am, they wheeled Nicole back to the OR and Erick and I followed in our “moon suits.”  I started to get really emotional as this was really happening now.  We waited right outside the door while they got Nicole situated and then we went in.  I had my camera around my neck.

I was overwhelmed by the medical staff.  I actually counted and there were 15 people in the OR!  Obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses, residents, interns.  I was half relieved that there were so many people there to help and half worried at why they thought we would need so many people.

Almost as soon as we went in, they were ready and told Nicole to go ahead and push.  Before they could finish saying push, Ellis came out in one fell swoop and the doctor was holding her.  I’ll never, ever forget that moment.  I just bawled. I couldn’t believe that just like that, she was here.  She caught me off guard.  I thought I would be holding Nicole’s hand and she would be pushing and then the head would come and then she’d push some more.  No, nothing like that.  Little Ellis just slid right out.  This has got to be the closest thing to an out of body experience I have ever felt.

Erick cut the cord.

They took her over to the crib.  I was just in shock. I was weeping. I didn’t know what to do. Doctors huddled around her and I craned my neck to see, but my feet were frozen, until one of the doctors said you can come see her and motioned me over.

I went over and soon added almost heart failure to my shock.  She wasn’t making any noise or moving and they were smacking her hard.  Was she breathing? Why was she so red? Why wasn’t she moving? I was panicking.  The silence was deafening.  I finally was able to squeak out, “Is she ok?”  They assured me she was, but I wasn’t convinced.  Finally she perked up a bit.  I was feeling so many things at that moment that I was on emotional overload, just boiling over.  She was beautiful.  The most perfect little heart shaped face and tiny little features and a head of black curly hair, just like her daddy. This was my daughter…my child. I just really could not believe it. She was born at 9:47 am on Friday, October 18, 2014.

A baby had been just talk for so many years, that to see real child laying before me, was just unreal.

Meanwhile, they were holding on to Cole in utero so he wouldn’t flip and they were trying to work him down into place.  They called me back over in time for his birth and again, I was overwhelmed and amazed when he came. He came out thrashing and crying and again I just cried.  I cried out of love, happiness, relief, amazement, gratitude and again shock.  Erick again cut the cord.

We went over to see him and he was gorgeous.  Such a sweet little face and so tiny.  And, again, the dark hair.  He was born at 10:03 am.

They asked us the names and we said we weren’t sure yet, but we quickly huddled after having met them both and decided on Cole William and Ellis Nicole. We had a couple names picked out and were fairly sure, but made the call after they were born.

I went back to Nicole’s side and told her the names.  We wanted to honor her with both of them — she knew we were using her name as the middle name for the girl, but she didn’t know we were using Cole for Ni-cole.   Then, we told the medical team, but it was too late, they were officially named “A” and “B” on the paperwork.

We got to hold them and again it just didn’t seem real.  It was like I wasn’t there and was watching someone else.

They started the process of clearing out the placenta and Nicole was in so much pain.  I felt so bad for her.  She would just wince and wimper and I felt awful.

Before leaving the OR, there was discussion among the various doctors about whether the babies should go to the NICU or not. Ultimately, they decided that they should just go to the nursery.  They were born at exactly 35 weeks and anything sooner and they are required to go.  So, while it made us nervous for them to not go and get the better care, we were thankful that they didn’t have to.

They wheeled the babies out together and we got to stop and introduce them to Mom and Dad.  We all cried some more and then we headed to the nursery. Nicole and I got their bands — they only give two.  So, that means Erick didn’t get them, but they allowed him in the nursery if we were together.

I remember thinking what a miracle it was that I could stand long enough to make it through the birth without being in terrible pain.  I had been in pretty bad pain the night before.

That first day was a blur.  We had been up all night and were absolutely exhausted, but on an emotional high.  I’m not sure how I was able to put one foot in front of the other or string a sentence together.  Soon after they were born, my brother and my niece showed up from Philadelphia and I was really happy and surprised that he made the trip.

We were hoping to get a room, but that didn’t end up happening.  So, that meant that if we wanted to take the babies outside of the nursery, we had to go to Nicole’s room.  It’s a good thing we are close and she didn’t mind, because it was a tiny room and we had Erick, me, Mom, Dad, Cameron and Avery, plus her and Troy all crowded into a tiny room.  And, we had visitors the second day as well.

It bugs me that we didn’t get to have a room in this situation, but they were packed.  Also, after Nicole was discharged, we couldn’t take the babies from the nursery at all.

We spent the day visiting with Cameron and getting to know Cole and Ellis and feeding them.  I also spent a good portion of the day doing paperwork.  Getting Nicole to sign documents from my attorney, getting things notarized, filing birth certificate applications, talking to the social worker, talking to my attorney.  All on no sleep.  It’s a miracle I managed to get any of it right.

The babies were born on Friday morning and they discharged us on Sunday morning.  We were happy that they were healthy enough to go home, but scared.  Suddenly, I don’t have the nurses and doctors to help and answer questions.  I don’t know what I am doing.  They trust us to care for them? Yikes.  Also, I was nervous for our five hour car ride home from Norfolk to Roanoke.  They had a car seat test, but only for two hours.  We had to stop several times on the way to feed and change them, so it ended up taking seven hours.

Our eight year journey is over.  Now we start a new journey as a family of four.  I never thought I would see the day.

We have been greatly blessed by God. I don’t know why he chose us when so many people want children and it never happened or they aren’t there yet, but I am thankful and also saddened for the families still struggling with infertility and loss.

And, we are ever thankful for the woman that lovingly carried our two babies and gave us the chance to become parents.

Health & Fitness, Hip Dysplasia

Another day, another hospital

January 5, 2014

I spent my Saturday night in the least imagined way — in the Emergency Room.

I started feeling bad yesterday afternoon, but hoped it would go away.  My upper abdomen/chest felt funny and  nothing I did would make it better.  It kept getting worse and the best way I can describe it is that it was like someone was sitting on my chest.  And, I had labored breathing.

I was freaked out and didn’t know what to do and the more scared I got, the worse it got.  I just kept saying, “Something is not right.” Finally, my family called 911.  I was embarrassed for the rescue squad to come, but at the same time, I was scared.  I was worried about a clot, but didn’t share my fears with anyone.  I didn’ t have to because the rescue squad guys picked up on the possibility immediately.

  1. I am post-op from major ortho surgery.
  2. I have a clotting disorder, Factor V Leiden.
  3. I had just stopped taking coumadin and stopped wearing my compression socks.
  4. My symptoms.

They took my vitals and decided to take me to the hospital.  By the time they got me in the ambulance, I was panicking. I had never been in one before and never wanted to be in one.  My blood pressure was 135/100 and pulse was 115. I started shaking like I was going to bounce right off the stretcher.  My legs looked like they were possessed.  Also, they took a pulse ox reading and one guy showed it the other like “oh, this is bad” trying to hide it from me and that scared me. I just kept thinking, why am I going to the hospital? I just got out of the hospital. I don’t ever want to see the hospital again.

We got there and I got a hall spot, which was weird.  I started feeling better.  Pain wasn’t completely gone, but much better.  People all around us were in lots of pain or very sick.  Lots of moaning, throwing up, etc.  Not a happy place to be.  Also, my doctor was coughing and blowing her nose.  Super. Mom and I were quickly becoming germaphobes.  It was awkward because I didn’ t have my walker or crutches, nor any shoes on.  I had to go to the bathroom and they got me a wheelchair. I had to stand on the floor in my socks on the dirtiest, nastiest floor you could imagine — urine, blood and who knows what else.  (Those socks got pitched later.)

They did a chest x-ray, which was fine.  Then, they were waiting on bloodwork. It came back with elevated D-Dimer levels, which could indicate a clot.  Great.  Somehow, at this point, I was more calm and really just wanted to get out of there. Because of the bloodwork, they needed to do a CT scan.  After that, it seemed like we waited forever for the results.  Finally, they said everything looked good, but that I did have a nodule on my right lung and I need to follow up in 6-12 months. I have no idea what that is and I don’t even have the energy to think about it right now.

They still couldn’t explain what happened to me and why I felt the way I did, but it was comforting knowing that everything checked out. I still don’t feel great or quite right, but better than last night.  I also feel like anxiety is brewing and I am doing everything in my power to push it back.  I’m not sure if that’s possible, but I experienced crippling anxiety last summer while I was in so much pain and I don’t ever want to feel that again.

I felt so bad because this was Erick’s brother’s last night here and Erick spent it at the hospital, instead of with him.  Also, my cousin had just come to visit and bring us dinner right about the time the rescue squad arrived.

I’m incredibly grateful to my aunt and uncle who came right over when they heard so they could help my dad with the babies.


This all happened one day after my one month post-op with my surgeon in Richmond. I was dreading the 6 hours in the car, but I did surprisingly well.  I got a good report that I have good bone growth and my incision looks good.  My surgeon was a little concerned that the screws appeared to be hitting the femoral head, but said it’s probably just the angle of the xray.  (?)  He said if so, I would know it.  So, really hoping that’s not the case.  Of course, we can remove the screws later.

I was happy with the report overall and extremely proud of myself for handling the car ride AND using five public restrooms on my own.  I know, right, exciting.  For me, yes.


Right now, I am just tired of all of this. Tired of being so immobile. Tired of pain. Tired of my leg not moving. Tired of anxiety. Tired of hospitals.  Tired of doctors.  Tired of rarely leaving the house. Tired of my wheelchair.  Tired of having to worry about things like clots. Tired of not sleeping. Tired of not being able to care for my babies and enjoy this time with them unencumbered.

My other new problem is that my previously “good” hip on the right is now hurting.  It’s become tired of compensating and carrying the extra weight.  So, now, it’s officially my bad hip.  I hope that once my left side is 100% weight bearing, that the pain on the right will be alleviated.

I am making progress. I don’t want to paint everything as negative, but progress is small and slow and I just want to be well.  Also, as soon as one thing gets better, something else gets worse. I can’t win.

I am calling on God in a big way right now, because I give up. This is too much for me.  I can’t handle it. I’m not strong. I need help. I want to cast all of my tears, worry and pain on him.

And, to think I have to do this again just brings to me to tears and I just can’t face it.  It’s too much.

Hip Dysplasia

Slow Progress

January 2, 2014

I’m three weeks post-op now and making slow progress.  During week two, I finally managed to be able to pick up my foot to advance it using the walker.  I was thrilled about this, because it didn’t seem to be the norm for PAO patients.  I was worried something was very wrong.  So, I’m able to actually walk with the walker.

During week three, I started being able to get out of bed better on my own and able to shut the recliner with my good leg.  I know this seems silly and paltry, but it means I can be more self sufficient.

As of yesterday, I have been instructed by my home therapist to change my primary mode of transportation from the wheelchair to the walker.  I know I need to — it’s just challenging.  Especially since I go the bathroom every five minutes since I’m trying to drink more water and the bathroom is on the other side of the house.

I am doing more exercises now and generally doing better.  I can sit better without being so cockeyed and I think my hunch is a little better when standing.

I get to stop taking Coumadin in a few days, so I’m hoping that means I can ditch the compression socks and start shaving again! :)

I am starting to wean myself off of the pain meds. I started taking only one pill each time instead of two and now I’m taking them every four hours as opposed to every three hours.

The only problem is that I’m in more pain with the added exercises and much more walking.  I think this is normal, but it stinks.

We took our first outing — the babies first and mine since surgery — to my grandparents house.  I did a really stupid thing by forgetting to take my pain meds before leaving and then being gone the whole time without them.  Getting in the car was harder than I thought and the ride was harder than I thought it would be.  And, being at their house was also hard. I had assumed I’d be able to sit comfortably at their house, but I was anything but comfortable.  So, maybe not too many more outings in my future.

Also, night is a whole different story.  I am pretty miserable late in the evening and all night.  I can’t sleep good and it’s really getting to me.  I can only sleep 2-3 hours at a time and then only up to five total.  Then, during the day, I’m tired but can’t sleep.  Oh, to sleep a full night’s sleep…

Hip Dysplasia

Post surgery

December 15, 2013

My big surgery was on December 2nd. I could not have dreaded it more.

Thank goodness it’s over. There were parts that were easier than expected and parts that were way worse.

The surgery was called a periacetabular osteotomy and basically involves sawing my pelvis apart and reshaping it to give me a better hip socket. I was born with hip dysplasia and don’t have good enough coverage in my socket. It’s like walking around with a partially dislocated hip all the time and had became very painful and therefore majorly decreased my activity.

The day of surgery, I was supposed to go at 10am, but they didn’t take me until around 4pm and surgery took five hours, so it was a long day. I had to sit around dreading it all day. They put my epidural in before surgery so they could be sure it worked ahead of time. Dr. Jiranek came to visit me and I made sure he was going to be doing my surgery and not his star intern.  He assured me of this and said there’s no way anyone but him is doing it.  Then I had to mark my correct leg and he initialed it.

When I started coming out of the haze after surgery, I was in pain but they quickly fixed that. I don’t remember much from the first couple of days because I was completely out of it due to the pain meds and because my blood pressure was low so I could hardly stay awake.

The day after surgery I got a transfusion, using my own blood that I had given prior to surgery. I also sat up for the first time that day and got transferred to a chair. I felt like I had run a marathon by just sitting up. Prior to this moment, I had no idea what the word stiff truly meant. I felt like someone had poured steel in my abdomen running down my left thigh and nothing wanted to bend. I felt like I had an elephant sitting on my pelvis.

On day three, physical therapy came and got me up and taught me how to walk with the walker. I walked all the way down the hall and back. I also took a shower — what an ordeal. Between those two activities, I was absolutely exhausted. I also got my epidural out and my catheter out. I hated getting the catheter out because getting up to go to the bathroom was such an ordeal.

On day four, I literally felt like I had been hit by a bus, and was so stiff that I could no longer walk. I got taken off my pain pump and switched to oral meds. At first, this was noticeable and painful. I was on oxycodeine and then switched to dilaudid. They talked about discharging me this day, but I said no. I wanted to make sure pain was under control and meds were adjusted properly before leaving.

On day five, I was discharged. The drive wasn’t too bad as I slept most of the time. When I got to my parents house, where we are all staying through recovery, I felt awful though. My aunt Vicki was there and later I asked my mom if she had been there. I thought maybe she had, but I thought it was a dream. It’s like I couldn’t see through the pain. The next day home proved to be the worst day so far. I was in so much pain that I was just in tears.

I am now 12 days post operation, and pain is fairly under control. Some times are worse than others.

I can never seem to get comfortable and I have two whole positions to choose from– reclined or lying flat. This is hard for someone who is a wiggle worm like me. I am swollen in my thigh, my rear and my hip. I can’t stand straight — my rear end sticks out. I call myself Hunchbutt. The whole bottom of my thigh is a bruise and the whole thigh is varying degrees of weird. I don’t have feeling in some of my leg, I have strange feeling in parts, I have parts that hurt just to barely touch. It’s very strange and of course I can’t move it, so it feels like I have a dead leg attached to me.

No matter which of my positions I’m in, my calves and feet fall asleep and get really stiff and painful. My hands ache from the amount of pressure using the walker and from wheeling myself in the chair. My shoulders and arms are sore from putting all of my weight there to help sit up or stand.

I can’t sleep much because I get extremely sore and uncomfortable after 2 hours. So, I sleep in the bed for two hours at night and then move to the living room recliner and dose in it for the rest of the night. I still get very uncomfortable. I hate nights! I’m frequently in tears because I’m so painfully uncomfortable and unable to move myself.

I can’t do anything for myself and it’s extremely frustrating. I have to be taken to the bathroom. I need help getting out of the chair or bed and I stand with the walker and transfer to the wheelchair. Then, I roll myself and someone carries the walker to the bathroom. Then at least I can do the rest.

I get to shower very infrequently because it’s such an ordeal and nobody has time to help me, I have hairy legs because I’m not allowed to shave because I’m on blood thinners. So, as you can imagine, I feel great about myself.

I’m extremely lucky that I have my parents and my husband taking care of me and the babies of course. And, at times, varying other friends and family. During work hours, it’s very challenging for my mom to care for all three of us by herself. Sometimes, my mom is tending to them and I’m in pain and need to be moved or need my meds and she can’t get to me. She has to juggle a lot.

I don’t know how they aren’t sick of dealing with me. I’m sick of me. My mom has provided things before I asked for them, cooked special meals for me and attended to me in every way. My dad has massaged my legs and feet when they are unbearably asleep and hurting and so much more. They both care for the babies around the clock. I feel so guilty for putting them through this. I feel guilty for taking over their house with our newly acquired massive gear — wheelchair, walker, pack and plays, bouncy chairs, etc.

I miss my husband because I never see him. He comes home from work and goes to bed because he has the night shift with Cole and Ellis.

At times, the babies lift my spirits considerably. I try to hold them when I can. I try to occasionally help feed them, but it’s hard because I can’t move my body, I’m reclined, and I can’t sit them in my lap. Today, I was holding Cole and having a hard time. He stared right into my eyes with his sweet little face and it just hit me –this is all for them. I have to be strong. I have to get well. I need to be a present and healthy mother for them. I don’t have a choice. And I just cried tears of sadness, love and understanding. If ever god spoke to me, it was then.

At 12 days post, I still can’t pick up my leg, so I can’t walk per se. I can place my foot flat on the floor and inch it along like an inchworm to advance, so you can imagine how long one step takes. I can pivot and I can walk backwards by sliding my bad leg backwards. I feel like I am making no progress whatsoever.

When people ask how I am, I feel required to say ok, but really I’m not. I’m not in excruciating pain, and for that I’m extremely grateful. However, I’m not “ok.”

This is going to be a very slow and trying recovery. While I know it’s pointless, I have been doing the “Why me, God?” thing. But, I know bad stuff happens to good people and Jesus is interceding on my behalf.

Your prayers are appreciated — for pain relief, for proper healing, for patience in my recovery and with the babies, for no problems with clotting and for the ability to walk soon. And, most of all, for this to be our final and last deep valley to get through.