Baby Firefly is a Girl! (And other thoughts)

My second pregnancy sure has been different than the first. I was anxious and worried for every step of the way when I was pregnant with James. Every single step. I constantly wanted to get to the next step. When will I show? When will we know the gender? When will he kick? When will he be here? But this time around, things are moving much slower and much faster at the same time.

We found out we were expecting a baby girl when I was 21 weeks along (I’m now 24 weeks). You can find out as early as sixteen weeks (I think we found out at week 17 or 18 with James), but I wasn’t anxious to know this time. More than likely, this is my last pregnancy. Two kids seems like the perfect number for our family. (Disclaimer: If a third baby comes along, we will be overjoyed! But as of now, we’re not planning on it.) And because this is most likely our last pregnancy, I’m in no hurry to hit milestones, because the anticipation can be so lovely and magical on it’s own. We went in for the ultrasound hoping for a healthy baby Firefly, and left with the unbelievable news that not only was baby Firefly healthy and whole and looking great, but also a girl!

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Needless to say, I was over the moon excited about this news! I always said I’d like a boy and a girl (though two boys would have been just as great). But unlike when I found out James was a boy (which I was also over the moon excited about), I waited a day to announce this news. It wasn’t that I was less excited or anything, it was just that I wasn’t so anxious. I could let myself experience the knowledge and bask in it without sharing it right away, which is new for me.

As I’ve said many times, my first pregnancy was an anxious one. Is he OK? What was that feeling? Am I eating too much? Too little? Will he be healthy? Am I healthy? Should I do this? Do that? Do anything? But this pregnancy has been much calmer. Chasing James helps, knowing (sort of) what to expect helps, and knowing that this is probably our last pregnancy helps, because I want to savor everything instead of rushing to the next thing.

Even though it’s been calmer, this pregnancy has also been harder than my first in a lot of ways–more severe nausea, lots of gastrointestinal issues, sciatic pain that won’t quit–and then all of December I was sick–first a cough that became bronchitis, which caused  a torn intercostal muscle, then a sever sinus infection (which meant two rounds of antibiotics back to back, which I hate because they make me so very sick on their own), then a migraine-strength headache that lasted about a week, which was finally followed by a stomach virus (and that cough never went away and still hasn’t that still irritates the torn, slowly healing muscle). I’m heavier than I was with James (because I started out heavier than I was when I got pregnant with James), which has caused me no end of mental anguish. And I feel guilt this time around–guilt that my sweet, perfect, wild son will somehow feel less than once we bring a second baby home.

But this pregnancy has, in other ways, been much easier. I’m not worried all the time. The idea of a natural labor doesn’t terrify me like it did with James (I planned, and had, a medication-free labor with James, but I was absolutely and completely terrified of what it would be like). The fear of bringing home a whole human to care for isn’t scary at all this time around. (I’m proud to say we’ve successfully kept James alive for nearly two years! We deserve a medal or a trophy or a cake or something.) As a couple, Vince and I have both just settled into this pregnancy more calmly and it’s been really nice. Plus, I remember how awesome having a sibling was, and I know that in the long run, we’re giving him a playmate and friend for life, which is such a great feeling.

Part of me misses the excitement, the fear of the unknown, all the firsts we experienced with James, and part of me is enjoying just being along for Firefly’s ride. When I hear her heartbeat, I tear up (every time). When we see her in ultrasounds, and when we found out her gender, I thought my heart would explode with joy. But it’s nice to just experience it this time. It’s nice to look at James and see what two years of love can help grow and know that we have that to look forward to with our sweet Firefly girl.

James will be two in February, and I know that means that before I know it, Firefly will be here. And then she’ll be one and he’ll be three. And then they’ll be in elementary school. And high school. And college. And have their own lives. And in that way, things are moving too fast. James should still be swaddled, not walking and talking and playing and laughing and making his own little jokes and games up as he lives his life. Firefly should still be a tiny pea-sized idea, not a baby big enough to kick me and startle me and make her powerful presence known. Time is moving too quickly. So I’m trying to enjoy the moments, the breaths, the times when James wants to sit in my lap quietly and drink his milk while he watches morning cartoons and the times when baby girl is doing flips all around while I watch James chase Vince around the house and laugh as his daddy plays in the ways only daddy can. I’m trying to freeze these moments so that one day when I’m comforting James after his first break up, or moving Firefly into her first dorm, or helping both of them figure out how to have independent lives, I can remember these snapshots in time and re-experience them no matter how much time has passed.

As I sit and type this, Vince and James are in the other room laughing like wild men and Firefly is gently kicking toward my belly button, and all I can this is how wonderful this time is, how difficult this time can be, and how fortunate I am to experience every single second of it.

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James’s Surgery

On Tuesday morning (October 27th), James had a cranial vault reconstruction. What this means is, two surgeons (neurosurgeon/Dr. Pittman and plastic surgeon/Dr. Liau) made an incision in his scalp, then cut and reshaped his skull. As James’s mother, this absolutely and completely terrified me to my very core.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30 AM and checked in. Mom and dad were already there, which made it easier for me, but still not easy. Everyone at the desk was so kind and understanding when I was crying too hard to speak. About an hour or so later, Vince and I were called to take James up to pre-op. I’ve never shaken so hard in my life. We changed his little diaper and put a sweet baby hospital gown on him, then played for a long time on the gurney and in the rocking chair. He chewed on the rainbow hedgehog my sweet friend Sarah got for him and rolled all around, growling and talking–the best sounds in the world.

While we were in this room waiting, surgical residents for Dr. Pittman, Dr. Liau, and Dr. Van Wyn (his anesthesiologist) came by to talk to us and meet James (they all commented on his big smile, since it was nearly 8 and he hadn’t eaten since 12:30 the night before), and then Dr. Wyk and Dr. Liau also came by to talk to us. Everyone who came in to talk with us was so nice and gentle with this fragile momma.

Finally, a nurse came by. They gave James some Versed, so he wouldn’t remember being separated from us and wouldn’t remember the mask they’d put on him so he’d fall asleep. The nurse who took him cried when I did, and somehow, that made me feel a little better. She was a momma, too, and knew how hard it would be for me to let go of him when the time came. A little empathy goes a long way.

And then, I had to hand my baby boy over to this exceptionally kind nurse. That was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. My Aunt Linda told me before I had James that I would know when I was ready to be a mom when my arms felt empty. And she was right. We started trying for James because my arms needed a baby in them. But I’ve never felt such emptiness as I did when I handed him over to that nurse, no matter how wonderful she was.

Letting go of James left me with a deep, aching pain. I can barely describe it. It was like someone had ripped my heart out, only so much worse. Vince put his arms around me and walked me back to surgery waiting, and I felt like I was dying inside.

We waited for a while for surgery to actually begin. Once it did, I had another meltdown. It was finally real–they were going to cut into his scalp and skull and rearrange his skull. I knew, in the long run, this was what was best for him, but I also was terrified. They gave us a little beeper that told us when the surgery started, when the first doctor was through, and when to meet his surgeon for a post-op consultation. Two hours after that initial text, mom and I were sitting in Consultation 4 waiting for Dr. Liau.

Dr. Liau is a rockstar. He brought me a little baggy with some of the hair they shaved off (they only shaved a single strip, not all of it!) and told us he did great! He didn’t even need a blood transfusion, which was a major possibility. Our estimated date for leaving the hospital was Saturday the 31st.

We spent the rest of Tuesday, all of Wednesday, and part of Thursday in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) with some of the kindest, sweetest, most wonderful nurses. One nurse in particular, Katherine, was James’s favorite. Every time he saw her, he lit up with the biggest smile. She was with us two days and I am so grateful for her, and all the others, who took such good care of him and us while we were there. Thursday afternoon we finally got transferred to a room on the floor. (It would have been sooner, but construction is going on and a lot of rooms aren’t available that normally would be.) Our room was blue with a big light up turtle on the ceiling, which James LOVED. The staff in this wing was just as wonderful as the staff in the PICU. The nurses and techs who we saw were just so incredibly nice to us, it blew my mind.

We got to come home today (Friday) a whole day earlier than the EARLIEST predicted day. I’m so grateful for our early release, and James seems pretty happy to be home with his mommy and daddy and kitties. (We pick Juno up from her puppy hotel tomorrow, then we’ll all be back together!)

This has been the most emotionally draining, scariest, biggest weeks of my life. I’m so thankful for the doctors, nurses, and techs at UK Children’s Hospital. I’m so thankful for our pediatrician, Dr. Brown, and my momma, for catching this for us. And I’m so thankful the surgery part is OVER.

If it weren’t for Vince staying in the PICU with James the first night, mom staying with James in his room on the floor the third night (and helping me every step of the way), and daddy picking us up today at the hospital (because Vince was still at work) I would have been/would be even more of a wreck than I already was/am. My family is amazing. And SO many people have reached out to see what we needed, to share some love, to give loving, wonderful advice, that I just don’t know where to start with my thank you list. I wish I could bake every single one of you a dozen cookies! (Nothing says love like cookies.) Thank you all for everything!

We appreciate all of your thoughts and love and prayers so incredibly much! James is feeling better so soon thanks to the love and prayer he’s felt all around him this week. I can’t wait until he’s all healed up, and back to his normal self, but I’m so grateful for the way he is today! Thank you, all! ❤

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