Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Thoughts

Throughout the month of November, I have trolled social media reading countless "30 Days of Thankful" posts.  I often found myself being annoyed. There are only so many trivial things this girl can take.  Quickly, my annoyance turned to anger and resentment.  "Why do these people get to be thankful for good coffee and sleeping in, while I sit here and wonder if my child is going to make it through the night?"  I have since reminded myself that even just 6 months ago, my list would have been very similar to the seemingly shallow posts I was beginning to despise.  In just a few short months my family and I have learned more life lessons than most people do over the span of 70 years.  A roller coaster of tears and tragedy, love and laughs we have emerged different people.  Better people.  While I  can still appreciate the smalls joys in life, I have learned what to truly be thankful for.

First and foremost, baby Brandt is finally home.  After 12 days in the NICU, being on life support, having a spinal tap, and utterly fighting for his life, our beautiful boy is happy, healthy, and a true bright spot in our lives.  He's laid back, loves to snuggle, and eats very well.  I am so thankful for the phenomenal NICU nurses, charges, NNPs, neonatologists, and unit secretaries that helped care for Brandt and made us feel like  family during our stay.

Dow had a follow-up MRI this week.  The images appear to be stable and we are one step away from starting the first clinical trial, but his physician is so sure we can make the last hurdle he is scheduled to begin December 2.  The people we have met during this process have made the unbearable moments bearable.  Neurosurgeons and oncologists to pharmacy techs and insurance case managers. These guides have been so helpful every step of the way and have made this maze navigable.

And to the countless family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances: we are so thankful to have you in our lives.  We have been humbled by the love, support, and multifaceted generosity that all of you have given.  These are the things I will spend this time of giving thanks thinking about.   I have many more than 30 things to be thankful for, and only one day to express them.  This gesture is small and doesn't even scratch the surface of how deep our gratitude runs. Thank you.    

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our Enduring Titan

Introducing Brandt Atlas Richards, 8 pounds 2 ounces, 20 inches long.  This is how I thought this post might start.  Then I'd go on gushing about the beautiful baby boy we got to welcome into the world this week, and how his birth was a bright shining light on this crazy path we've been led down.  No, that's not how this post is going to begin.  It will begin with a name we chose months ago for a little boy who we felt was being dealt an unfair hand before he even stepped foot in the world.  How could we have known our name choice would be taken to a whole new level...

The meaning of the name Brandt is sword. A sword is sharp and strong and requires much skill to master. Perfect.

In greek mythology Atlas was a titan. A titan whom Zeus forced to stand at the western edge of the earth and hold it apart from Uranus. Therefore he became known as "enduring Atlas." Also perfect.

With Dow's brain tumor diagnoses midway through my pregnancy, we were aware this child was entering a situation no child should have to deal with.  We felt these two names were a perfect fit for a person we knew that would have to be strong and enduring.

We decided to have a planned induction on 11/07/13 for our little bundle.  Controlled circumstances seemed to be the best option for us.  Everything went great.  They broke my water at 7am and started Pitocin.  My epidural was great.  It was just a relaxed day of waiting for dilation.  Finally, at about 5:45pm he was ready to go.  At 6:10pm I delivered a large, perfect, and beautiful baby boy.  A few hours later we noticed he was a little agitated, and grunting a bit. We asked the nurse to take a look and she assured us it was no big deal. Finally around 11pm we decided to send baby Brandt to the nursery so the two of us could get a little sleep. I woke up around 1:45am and knowing they would be bringing him to me to nurse at 2, I asked Dow to let the nurse know I was ready.  What he returned with was the nurse and neonatal nurse practitioner telling us they had moved Brandt to the NICU.

We then spent the next 18 hours watching our perfect baby deteriorate and NICU staff struggle to find a cause.  He was transferred to a larger NICU, started on antibiotics, and intubated.  Labs were not making sense and things just kept getting worse. Finally some news.  His blood cultures grew out and he was septic from Group B Strep.  Anyone who has  had a baby in the last 20 years knows that before giving birth, mothers-to-be get swabbed for this bacteria because it can be absolutely deadly to newborns.  I was swabbed and my test came back negative, when in fact, I was positive.  They then performed a lumbar puncture to check if the infection had spread to his brain.  More waiting.  At about 11pm we were informed that his spinal fluid was clean. RELIEF.

What is suppose to be one of the most joyous moments in life immediately became one of my worst.  Not only is my baby boy fighting for his life, but his fight is indirectly caused by me.  The last four months have tested me in so many ways.  What I have learned is that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, and the bond that Dow and I share is unmatched.  There is no other person on the planet I would want to be doing this with.

Baby Brandt improves with each passing minute and so does our morale.   We will probably spend 2 weeks in the NICU, but it will be well worth it to get our little titan home, healthy and happy.