Monday, August 29, 2011

God's grace through Abbi's battle

(Warning -- LONG post :)

Many of you have been asking about what has been going on with my sweet baby so I am going to try to write it all out for you and also for my memory. I'm sorry that I could not give updates at the time; we had no idea we would be going to the ER and did not take our computer. And once we were home, it was too confusing and I was too sleep deprived to try to figure out how to explain it. Plus, Abbi was pretty inconsolable after all she had been through and only wanted Mama so if I had a rare moment to put her down, I tried to catch a minute of sleep. And please bear in mind that I have not had a normal night's sleep in 6 days so my mind is incredibly foggy and I am likely to ramble and write many run-on sentences and will undoubtedly be long-winded :)

A mother's worst nightmare is to see her child in pain or fear and not be able to comfort her and take it away. I have a few friends who have spent much time in the hospital with their little ones, watching them suffer and be hooked up to machines, and I always wonder how in the world they do it. I look at their pictures and tear up just thinking about it. But now I have a taste of how it feels. It simply hurts. A lot. Our frightening time was thankfully short in comparison to most and I praise the Lord that my baby came out completely healthy, because I know that we are very lucky. But I will never forget it. And oh, how I pray that Abbi will not remember any of it. My heart just aches thinking of all she went through and please don't ask me to talk about it because I will be too overcome to do anything but weep. But I am getting ahead of myself...

Tuesday (Aug 23) Abbi took amazingly long naps. She even slept though the earthquake without stirring a bit. That night when I went to feed her before I went to bed, she was alarmingly hot. I knew she had a fever, but I don't usually get scared by a fever. God gave it to us to fight whatever sickness is attacking our body. So I simply set my alarm to check on her regularly throughout the night and nurse her even if she didn't wake up, because dehydration is the biggest concern of a fever.

Abbi continued to have the fever Wednesday through Thursday, but she showed no other symptoms which is typical of many viruses that just have to run their course. Abbi was eating well and waking up every hour to nurse at night, so I wasn't worried about dehydration. She actually had short, happy play times in between naps and wasn't tremendously fussy or lethargic. I was thinking that it was probably Roseola or Hand, Foot, and Mouth, which are both viruses that run high fevers for a few days before the rash develops.

Thursday night, however, her temperature spiked and it seemed like something had changed for the worse. She was very fussy and not eating so well. She was up about every 30 minutes fussing but nursing didn't seem to help. And her fever never broke. Most fevers rise, break when they get too high, fall, and then rise again and continue the pattern until it has fought the virus. But this one was not following a normal pattern and my mother's intuition was alarmed. Something had changed from the simple virus we had been fighting. I no longer felt comfortable battling this one alone so we were at our pediatrician's office before the doors opened to beat the crowd and get home quickly. I fully expected to be home in an hour with just a prescription from the doctor. I had simply thrown on a shirt, brushed my teeth, and rushed out the door in the comfy lounge pants I had been in all night as I tended to Abbi. Mark threw me a banana as I rushed by him. I hadn't even washed my face or had anything to drink.

When my pediatrician (whom I love!) saw Abbi, she was immediately concerned about the high fever + lack of symptoms. She agreed with my conjecture that it probably started out as a normal virus, but the change indicated that a bad infection had "jumped in the back door" while Abbi's body was busy fighting the virus. Since there was no sore throat (Strep) or stuffy nose (sinus infection) or ear ache (ear infection) or other symptoms to point to a small infection, my doctor worried that the bacteria had gone somewhere worse -- to her chest (pneumonia), brain (meningitis), or urinary tract (uti). When is the last time that you hoped you had a urinary tract infection? Because we were sure praying that was the only problem!

My doctor immediately recommended that we go to the ER to take blood, do a catheter, and a spinal tap. As you can imagine, I was utterly shocked and just stared at her in horror at first. Then came denial and I begged her to do the catheter there because if it was just a UTI, we could avoid the ER. And with that, my nightmare truly began. My poor sweet 6 month old baby, (who has until now never had to cry more than a couple of minutes before Mama came to her rescue) had to be held down hysterically screaming, her eyes just pleading with me to help her. I know that sentence sounds overly dramatic because many children have to endure such things and it was for her own good, but believe me that it is different when it is your own child. This was my baby and it was just such torture because she just couldn't understand why I wasn't helping her. And then it didn't work. She had evidently just filled her diaper because they couldn't get any urine out of her. All that torture for nothing. And it was just the beginning.

I still desperately wanted to avoid the ER if at all possible because I knew I would lose all control over my baby and that they would do so many horrible tests on her. So did something that I thought would make my doctor think I was crazy and tried to explain about my holistic doctor and how she can diagnose without all the horrible invasive tests. I begged her to let me try to see her first, before going to the ER. To my surprise, my pediatrician asked me her name and to my even greater surprise, then said that she knew her and had even shadowed her a bit to learn about what she does! She said that if I wanted to call her first and see if she could see Abbi, that would be fine, but she really wanted me to get a blood culture for Abbi ASAP. So I called my holistic doctor and tried to explain on her answering machine, but found that I was too emotional to even be able to say the words spinal tap. I erupted into a blubbering mess on her answering machine but figured she would just call me back and hopefully I could get myself together by then. I then called Mark and told him that I needed him because my lack of sleep the past 2 nights coupled with my emotional breakdown had thoroughly rendered me unsafe for driving in busy traffic to a hospital I had never visited. Plus, I really just needed his support and wanted him to be there to hear what the doctors were saying because I was so sleep deprived and emotional.

While waiting for him, I had to drive in circles in the near-by Food Lion parking lot because the air conditioning in our old Camry does not work unless we are moving. And I sure didn't want Abbi's fever to get any higher! I would stop every few minutes to text family and friends to pray for Abbi and for wisdom for us. I was so upset but quickly began to feel God's love shown to us through our friends. So many people texted me back, said they were praying, and offered to help in any way possible -- notify others, bring us food, watch our big girls, etc. I began to feel more of a peace about the situation because I was reminded that my God was in control. I began thanking God for our good friends and for giving me such a great pediatrician who understands where I am coming from. I got ahold of myself emotionally and did not shed any more tears until several hours later when watching Abbi's spinal tap.

Mark finally got there and one of our other friends notified us that my holistic doctor was out of town for the weekend. I knew then that I had no choice but to take Abbi to the ER and do the tests to find out what was wrong and make sure that she did not have meningitis.

We are blessed to have one of the few children's ER facilities only about 35 minutes away. The nurses and doctors were ever so nice to us. They got me some water and a turkey sandwich because by that time it was noon and I was shaking and feeling weak because I was sleep-deprived and had eaten nothing but a banana all day. They quickly admitted Abbi and took blood and did another catheter on her (also miserable, but so thankful that it worked!) And then the waiting game began. It seemed to take forever for the initial results to come back. I was so thankful that I took my Ergo carrier because Abbi was so exhausted but is used to sleeping in her crib and would not fall asleep unless I put her in the carrier and pulled the hood up so it was dark. I spent most of the day in between tests walking and bouncing her with the carrier to comfort her and get her a little sleep before they came in to do something else to her. (My legs were ever so sore the next day but it was totally worth it to be able to calm her down so easily after she would get so distraught during procedures.)

We finally got the news, but it was not what we had hoped. Abbi's white blood cell count was very high, much higher than normal, and it was split. If the increase had been only in her lymph nodes, we would have known it was just a virus and would not have to continue torturing her. But an equally high number were found in places that indicated bacterial infection, so now antibiotics were needed. And if the urine came back clear, we would have to do the chest x-ray and spinal tap. Oh, how we hoped for bacteria in that urine!

I usually try to avoid antibiotics if at all possible because they greatly damage the gut and make it more easy for other infections to attack, as well as reducing the effectiveness for future use of antibiotics. So I usually try to save antibiotics for emergencies only. Both Karis and Karlie have made it thus far without needing any antibiotics at all. We have successfully fought ear infections, sinus infections, and even strep throat with only natural remedies. But the possibility of meningitis is obviously a scary one that qualifies as one of the emergencies that warrants an antibiotic!

Unfortunately, the urine came back clear so a spinal tap was needed. This is what had scared me the most and was utterly heart-wrenching. The hardest part is that it takes a long time! They said that most parents leave the room, but when I asked if I would be able to hold Abbi immediately after the procedure, they said yes. I wanted to be as close as possible so that I could grab her the second they were finished. It took about 12 minutes of listening to my baby scream hysterically because they drew blood at first and had to keep going until it was all clear spinal fluid. I am now convinced that watching your baby have a spinal tap is probably the worst form of torture a mother could ever endure. Thankfully, God had it planned out so that my Mom was eating lunch with a friend whose son had endured a spinal tap at the same time I called to tell her that we needed to do the spinal tap. Mom gave the phone to her friend and I really needed to hear her encouraging words. She told me that I would probably never forget this but that Abbi would not remember it at all. And I kept telling myself that over and over again as she screamed through the procedure. When it was all done, Abbi just collapsed into my arms and fell asleep. We had much longer to wait for results, so just bounced her and kissed her head and thanked God that the part I had feared most was over.

Before those results came through, we had to get the antibiotics shots and do the x-ray. The shots were in her legs and extremely painful. They were especially difficult because the pain lingered after they were done and then she was very sore for some time. She was quite inconsolable for a while after and that was so hard to watch. It was the first time in her little life that my snuggles or milk could not calm her down. Just heart-wrenching.

The x-ray wasn't so bad because it was very quick and painless. But it was still scary for her because they put her in a little contraption -- sort of like a bicycle seat surrounded by plastic walls and squished her in with her arms raised up. I had to hold her arms up while they took the x-rays. Scary for her, but thankfully very quick and painless.

All that was left now was to wait and wait and wait. Finally, the initial results came back clear (praise the Lord!) and they said we could go home. We finally left around 5pm. What a day!

I was so glad to in my own home again and thought that things would get better quickly. But our trial was not over yet. Abbi had a rough night, waking every 30-45 minutes and crying but refusing to eat and screaming for long periods of time before being able to go back to sleep, even when I was trying to comfort her. I think she was still in a lot of pain from all the tests and shots and severely sleep deprived which made her a little crazy. She finally started doing better around 6am, eating well and sleeping soundly until I woke her up at 8 to feed her and put her back down for a nap. Then she slept soundly until 11pm when I had to wake her to feed her and take her back to the ER for her next round of shots. Her fever was down to 101 and I was so thankful to see her smile again! She played happily with the girls while we got ready and it seemed like I had my happy baby back again!

But when we got to the ER, we found that her blood culture had grown bacteria, which was uncommon. They wanted to take more blood from her to do another culture to make sure the first one was not contaminated. They tried to do it with an IV so that she could get the antibiotic without the painful shots, but could not get it to work (just like the 1st time they took blood... my doctor later told me that the more chubby the baby, the harder it is to find a vein and Abbi sure is a chunky one.) So I had about 10 minutes to comfort Abbi from the blood transaction and then they came in with the shots. They did it right next to the spot they had given her the shots in the day before and I think those spots were still sore because she screamed harder than in any of the other procedures and nothing could settle her down for a really long time afterwards. We tried everything, but she was just inconsolable.

Once we got home, we realized that the trip to the ER had really traumatized her. Before leaving, she had been taking good naps and playing happily on her blanket. But now she would not go down for a nap for anything and we ended up having the worst night yet. She was just so traumatized that anytime I tried to put her down she would scream hysterically. And she wouldn't sleep on me, either. She desperately wanted to look around. After all she had been through, I was not about to put her down to scream in her crib so I pretty much walked her around all night. We tried everything. I could no longer use the Ergo because her legs were so sore from the shots and it hurt her to use it. We tried just driving around because she normally LOVES the car and falls asleep easily. But she screamed the whole time. The storm from the hurricane finally stopped so we tried walking around the house in the dark, which she liked but would not lay her head down on my shoulder to rest.

She had been refusing to nurse the last few hours so I finally decided to try to give her something else so she wouldn't get dehydrated. She eagerly gulped down coconut water and home-made chicken broth. And then she finally went to sleep in her crib for an hour. The next hour she was up and mad again and it took me forever to settle her. That cycle continued all night and it was just so heart-breaking and scary. I desperately wanted to avoid going to the ER again because I really thought that the experience had traumatized her and caused her screaming, but how could I be sure that it wasn't something else that was wrong? And why was she refusing to nurse? Every time she woke up screaming and refusing to be comforted I faced the dilemma of whether to go back to the ER. But the Lord helped me through each spell and we finally made it through the night. By 6am she was doing better, still waking up every hour but eating and going right back to sleep instead of screaming.

Abbi did great all Sunday morning and was happy during her brief awake times, and we (my parents and Mark and I) were all convinced that her horrible night was simply a result of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and a terrorizing ER visit. However, we were supposed to go back to the ER for the 3rd antibiotic shot that afternoon. And oh, how I wanted to avoid that! I just couldn't put my baby through that again, especially knowing how it would affect her all night long. We finally decided to try to get ahold of my pediatrician and see if we could just wait til morning to get it at her office instead of going back to the ER that afternoon. I love my pediatrician! She totally understood what I was thinking and agreed with me that another trip to the ER might do more harm than good. Since Abbi's fever had gone down, she called in a prescription for a high-power oral antibiotic that I could give Abbi myself. We were able to stay home and Abbi improved drastically!

Last night Abbi still woke up every other hour, but she wanted to nurse and then went right back to sleep each time. I was just so happy that she was eating well and not fussing! This morning I took her back to my pediatrician and she checked out well -- no fever and nothing to be concerned about! She had only lost a few ounces throughout the ordeal, which is really good. Today she has done extremely well and it seems like my happy baby is back to stay! Oh, I am so relieved! We found out that her blood, urine, and spinal fluid cultures came back completely clear so I am now able to take her off the antibiotics! Praise the Lord! I am just so thankful to see that precious smile back on my baby again! I pray to never have to watch her go through something like that again!

Thank you for all of your e-mails, texts, and facebook messages to let us know that you were praying for us. They were such an encouraging reminder to us to trust God in such a scary situation. It was truly one of my worst nightmares come to life, to see my baby suffering so much and not be able to help her, but it also made me rely on God. My faith has been strengthened through this and I praise God for it.

And here is my happy baby today:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our First Day of Pre-school!

Monday was officially our "first day of school" and I had several fun things planned for the girls. (Click HERE if you want to see our detailed "schedule" (that I follow very loosely) and my LIST of things to do with them this fall. I didn't take pictures of everything, but tried to get the highlights :)

The girls woke up to new world map placemats and fingerpaints at the breakfast table! We have had so much fun with the placemats -- the girls love pointing to places and asking about everything on the map. It kind of drives Mark crazy because we have a hard time having a conversation in between questions but I love that they are learning geography without even trying!
The girls had helped me make special cinnamon rolls for the first day of school and had been eagerly waiting to eat them :)
Of course Karis ate all the icing off first!
And my butter-lovin, change hatin, Karlie Sue wouldn't touch the icing but demanded butter on her cinnamon roll and ate every bite (but only after she ate the raisins first!)
We used our new chore cards to get ready for our day and then headed outside for our morning walk. And of course I just had to get our first traditional "first day of school pictures!"

Do you know what the best part about pre-school at home is? That you can have your babydolls do absolutely everything with you!!
And yes, "My-na baby" did indeed get a little bit of fingerpaint on her. I bet you cannot imagine how that happened :) (And I have to now confess what a horrible mother I am -- my eldest is 4 years old and had not touched fingerpaint until her first day of pre-school!) They had a blast painting with their fingers and have since begged to do it every single day!
We had a very special "healthy" fudgesicle snack after naps! Although usually I let the girls help me make everything, I made these while they were sleeping because if they had seen the green avocado going in the blender, no one would have touched them :)
But as you can tell, every drop was devoured with pleasure!
Even Abbi enjoyed a cold treat of frozen banana to help with her poor, aching gums. (To make the first week of school even more exciting, Abbi decided to wake up several times a night screaming in pain because her bottom two teeth were coming! So glad that is over with for a little while!)
The girls had fun with a new animal stencil set
They had a lot of fun stuffing shells for dinner and sprinkling on the cheese!
Speaking of cheese... yes, they are quite the hams when they want to be!
The played together in the living room while waiting for dinner to cook... still so excited about their day!
This is probably my favorite picture of all time (except that I can't see their faces very well... but I just love to see them reading together so sweetly!)
Karis regularly builds a book house for Abbi :)
Daddy gave them a manicure before bed :)
And our fun day ended with tickle time!

Don't you just wish you could go back to preschool?

Monday, August 15, 2011

2nd Taste of food: fried egg yolks

Ok, I promise I won't do a running commentary on each food that Abbi tries, but it just always cracks me up how delightfully messy she gets :) Just allow me to show you how much fun she had with her eggs yesterday morning, ok? I made fried eggs for us to eat with our toast and gave her the yolks that were nice and soft.

I gave her the first bite in a spoon because she just loves to chew on a spoon...
THen she started shoveling it in and trying to eat up her fingers again...
The happy smile of a messy baby...
but once you whet the appetite....
...that mouth never stops opening for MORE!

Awesome Giveaway at Prayer of Hannah!

Prayer of Hannah

Most of you know that I have been writing for Prayer of Hannah, an encouraging blog for mothers, for over a year now. My awesome friend, Leah, just redesigned our look so please check it out and let us know what you think!

The best part is that Leah also made 15 amazing "busy bags" for little ones that she is willing to share with you! (Click HERE for a great description of what is included!)These would be fabulous for Mamas, teachers, babysitters, Grandma's, and anyone who spends time with little ones. (Seriously, folks, I wish I could win! I'm going to have to make some of the them myself!) She even put them in a cute tote, all ready to go:

So head over to POH and let us know that you want to win!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Because I want to remember...

Karis: "Abbi, did you know that you are so precious to us?" (melt my heart!)

Karis and Karlie were playing dress-up. Karis was wearing a fancy white dress and Karlie a pale pink tutu dress...
Karis: "We need to go to Mama and Daddy's room to get married! ... I think we need to hold hands!"
(when I went in a minute later to check on them, they were holding hands, dancing in a circle, singing, "hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah, PRAISE YE THE LORD" very loudly, over and over again)

Me: Karis, please go pick up your clothes off the bathroom floor
Karis: Well, I don't want to leave My Baby because she might cry
Me: I'll listen and tell you if she cries
Karis: ok (and she goes to obey)
Karis (coming back) Did My Baby cry?
Me: no, she was sound asleep
Karis, suspiciously: How do you know if she was crying because she cries very softly!
Me; I'm a Mama and I know how to listen for a baby's cries
Karis: How can you tell if she is crying when she is just pretend?
Me: I can pretend, too!
Karis just smiles :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Abbi's first taste of food!

I was not in any hurry to introduce Abbi to the world of table food... the third time around I fully understand that it just means more mess to clean up! Abbi has been having fun just chewing on a spoon filled with cod liver oil, coconut oil, or butter and that was fine with me. But her big sister Karis has been eagerly awaiting the day when Abbi is big enough to eat. She has been extremely disappointed that I haven't done any bottles with Abbi and bursting at the seams to help feed her. So when Karis went with Daddy to the store today and saw him getting avocados, (which were actually for some yummy, healthy fudgesicles that I wanted to try) she was so excited and very determined that Abbi try them just as soon as they walked in the door! So I gave in:

"you want me to eat this green stuff?"
"well, at least it is fun to play with!"
"Hmmm... one finger is not too bad!"
"I might just suck on this finger all day!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My sweet roly-poly at 6 months!

Happy 1/2 year birthday sweet Abbi Grace! What a roly-poly you are! You can get to anything (given enough time) by twisting and turning and grunting and complaining and rolling, rolling, rolling! You are one determined little girl and rarely stay on your blanket to play anymore! Your sisters are always calling me in the room to flip you back on your blanket as they play with you. You are the happiest little thing unless there is a toy out of reach and then you will let the world know you want it!
Abbi has enjoyed sleeping without her swaddle for the most part (although a few times I have had to use again it if we are out and she misses her nap and is too overstimulated to put herself to sleep). She plays with her toes and little soft toys until she falls asleep and almost always ends up on her belly. She randomly started waking up more at night this week and I was afraid I was going to have to let her cry it out, but today I noticed her first little tooth popping through and I'm sure that was the problem. Hopefully she'll go back to being a good sleeper again soon and until then, I don't mind giving her a few extra feedings to help soothe the pain.
She is such a busy baby! Going out to dinner or sitting at church is quite the workout because she wants to stand up most of the time and grab EVERYTHING! Whew! This Mama gets worn out anytime we go anywhere. Now that she is not swaddled, Abbi does not like to have her feet restrained so she gets mad if I put her in the sling to go to sleep. She still loves the Beco and Ergo (thanks goodness!). However, it is still a battle to get her to go to sleep when we are out because this alert little baby does not want to miss a thing!
Abbi has also reached the point where she will not nurse if there is anything distracting around (like her sisters!) so now I always have to take her in her room to nurse and tell the girls to stay out. She no longer nurses well in the car or with a nursing sling so I just have to plan to be at home when it is time to nurse. She just doesn't want to miss a thing! I still haven't really started her on table food, yet, although I often give her a spoonful of cod liver oil, coconut oil, or grass-fed butter to chew on while we eat. I'll probably start giving her tastes of whatever we are eating this week. She was 17 pounds, 8 ounces (80%) at the doctor's office today, so she is obviously getting all she needs from my milk. Can I just say that I love our pediatrician? We switched before Karlie was born and it was the best decision ever. She doesn't mind when we decline shots, she loves that I give my girls cod-liver oil, and she keeps telling me I need to teach a class on feeding babies since I only give mine breast-milk and "real" food rather than the canned stuff :). My pediatrician is a winner!
Abbi is definitely a Mama's girl right now and although she will smile at everyone, she doesn't last long when others take her away from Mama. Other than Daddy, that is. She thinks he is just the greatest and will fuss like crazy if the other girls hog his attention when he comes home from work.

Karlie and Karis have both been tremendous helpers with Abbi and they love to play with her and pile on the toys! Karlie is in these pictures because she wanted her "My-na baby" to have a 6-month photo shoot like Abbi :)
Abbi can kind of sit up by herself for a minute or two and she loves it, so we often put her in the boppy to protect her when she topples over :)

Oh, she is such a sweet little baby and I am just not ready for her to grow up!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fun at Marbles!

Last Wednesday, we wanted to escape the heat and do something fun. So we went to the Marbles Museum in downtown Raleigh. The girls had so much fun! But don't expect any great pictures... they were so excited and way too busy to look at the camera even once!

Picking from the garden...
At the "grocery store!" This was probably their favorite place. They would have stayed there all day long had we not made them go check out the other areas :) Both of them were quite excited about the "lobsters." We always stop and look at the lobsters at our grocery store when we go, so they had fun inspecting these.
Poor Abbi was in desperate need of a nap but couldn't stop looking at all the excitement around her. I had forgotten the hood that straps to my Beco carrier, so I finally went to the dress-up area and put a shirt over her head and she conked out :)
Karlie was so excited about the check-out line and cash register!
And Karis thought it was so much fun to buy food just like Daddy does :)
And her purchases grew and grew and grew.... and she would never have stopped piling on the goods if we hadn't made her! Definitely going to have to do some Dave Ramsey training eventually...
Karlie loved the "barn..." she kept piling all the animals in just that one stall
The vet was probably Karis' second favorite place. She kept going back to it to play with the animals
Karlie enjoyed giving the dogs a bath
Listening to the doggy's heartbeat...
Pretty fish!
(And I'm getting tired of writing captions... you can see what they are doing, right? :)