Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month-Meet Nancy

Meet Me. This is my story and these are my words.

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October 11, 2011....that day will forever be etched in my mind. That was the day that my world fell apart. That was the day that I learned just how strong I was. That was the day that I said hello and goodbye in the same sentence to my baby girl Violet. 



The last time I felt Violet move was on a Friday night. We were out to dinner, celebrating my birthday. We got dessert and she gave me a few hard kicks....I joked about her liking sweets. Saturday came and went and by Sunday afternoon, I started to become a little uneasy about the fact that I had felt no movement from her. Sunday night I didn't sleep well. Monday morning I called my OB's office and I made an appointment as the nurse on the other end of the phone said, "to ease my mind." 




Nolan met me at the doctor's office and we went in holding hands. I can remember nervously looking at him and holding his hand for comfort in the waiting room. 

We were called back and a the nurse couldn't find a heartbeat. She said not to worry, that they baby was probably just turned funny. I could see the worry in her own eyes, no matter how hard she tried to hide it. 



A doctor came in with an ultrasound machine that looked like it was a billion years old. She hooked it up and again, found no heartbeat. Again, we were told that they would need to take a look another ultrasound machine before they could confirm anything. As we were walking over to the ultrasound room, I remember trying not to cry, trying to hold myself together. The doctor was talking about how the machine she just used is old and sometimes not as clear, so we shouldn't give up hope. Hope was gone. I already knew my baby girl was dead.



We went into the room....the room that just a few weeks ago delivered the happy news that we would be having another girl....the room that confirmed our pregnancy. This time the news would not be happy. This time we would see our little girl on the monitor, but she would not be wiggling. This time we would not see or hear her little heart beating. 



That night we went back to the hospital to be induced. After about 22 hours of labor Violet Fletcher Lichti was born silent. She weighed 1 lb 10 oz. She had little wisps of blonde hair. She had long finger and big feet. We admired her just as we would if she would have been born screaming and kicking. 



The next few weeks resulted in many sleepless night, numerous tests, lots of crying, and finding a new normal for our family. We found out the results to Violet's tests and she had a chromosome problem that was incompatible with a normal life. Nolan and I also had testing done to see if there were any issues with our genetic makeup that might make cause something like this to happen again. Our tests came back normal. What happened to Violet was a one in a million thing....just some fluke. Some fluke that ripped my heart out and stomped on it. 



The doctors were actually baffled by the fact that I was pregnant with Violet for over 26 weeks. Most babies with her genetic make up would have been miscarried in the early weeks of pregnancy. We didn't have any genetic testing when I was pregnant and there were no signs that she had any issues at our 20 week ultrasound. She was just measuring a little bit small...not a big deal. It was supposed to be nothing to worry about, right?



Many may think that because we had children since Violet's death that we are somehow "over it." Maybe they think that we have moved on. That is just simply not true. I ache everyday to hold her. I think about how fun it would be to see her playing with her sisters. I would love to feel her little arms wrapped around my neck giving me a hug. 



For parents who have lost a child, the pain never goes away. It's always there. There is always a hole in your heart. There is always someone missing at the dinner table. Birthday parties hold a little bitterness in the celebration because while you are celebrating the birth of one child, you know that you will never get to throw a party for your child in heaven. Not only do you miss birthdays, but first steps, starting school, best friends, first dates, plays, soccer games, graduation, heading off to college, weddings, and babies. There is always the "what might have beens" that go through your mind. 



Violet brought me to my lowest point....it couldn't get much worse. It was a nightmare. I feel like if I just let myself dwell in my sadness over her loss, that would do nothing to honor her. The best way for me to honor Violet is to be happy, to help others and to keep her memory alive. 


Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month-Meet Shannon

Meet Shannon. This is her story and these are her words.

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After 10 years of marriage, we finally decided we were ready to have a baby together. We assumed conceiving a child could take up to a year or even longer if we ended up having fertility issues like many other couples we know. Instead, it happened so quickly that we were ecstatic...so much so that we couldn't keep the news to ourselves. We told our family and a few close friends almost immediately, and I made an OB appointment for 10 weeks into the pregnancy, which, according to my dates, was September 2. 


Sam and I were so excited about my first appointment that we felt like the day would never arrive. I woke up on September 1, went to the bathroom, and realized I was bleeding. I didn't panic, having read that this happens all the time -- spotting can be normal, especially in the first trimester. The bleeding increased dramatically, and I knew the my pregnancy was over when I saw the fetus along with the nutrients and lining necessary to support a life. I was really scared, but the strange thing was that none of this was causing me any physical pain. My 10-week pregnancy had ended in less than 20 minutes.
My husband and I drove to the doctor's office in a fog of despair. I was trying not to be an emotional wreck. I was trying not to think about the life that had just ended and all the hopes and dreams that ended with it. I was thinking about my own mom, who miscarried eight times in her life and carried only one baby full term: me. I was thinking that I must have some hereditary condition and that I would suffer the same fate that she did. And I was thinking that I didn't know if I could handle one out of eight odds, and that it wasn't fair that my husband would have to handle those odds, too, just because he chose me for a wife.
My OB was wonderful. The first thing she said to me was that this was not my fault. She told me explicitly that I am a healthy person and that there was absolutely nothing I did to end this pregnancy. She said that in actuality, it's very difficult to end a pregnancy by a mother's actions. I told her about my family history of miscarriage. She said, "Your mom's history of miscarriage has not dictated this miscarriage. You are a completely different person, and just because a woman's mother miscarried 8 times does not mean that she will miscarry even once. It has no statistical bearing whatsoever."
She gave us some excellent advice then. She said that miscarrying is the loss of a loved one, and that expectant parents need to grieve this loss. She said that I should take the standard 3 bereavement days off of work, and that Sam should, too, to allow ourselves time to grieve and to respect this loss in our lives just like we would the death of any loved one.
We followed her advice. Sam took the brunt of calling most of our family and the few friends we had told. That evening, several of them came to our home and brought us dinner and flowers. They showed us love and let us cry, and we really needed that. 
The OB assured me that she would run tests, but that it was very unlikely that any tests she could run on the fetus would explain the cause of the miscarriage. I asked her to try to find out just the same, but the results were inconclusive.
We were advised to wait three months before trying again. We soon became pregnant a second time, and we gave birth to a sweet baby girl at 39 weeks. I'm writing this on her first birthday as she sleeps peacefully in the next room. I feel so thankful to have her in my life. She is precious to me beyond anything I could have imagined...and the little one I lost remains precious to me as well. 


I learned an ugly truth through this experience: women lose babies a lot. Almost every woman with whom I have spoken about this has experienced a miscarriage or even a stillbirth or had a grandmother, mother, sister, and/or daughter who did. It is more common than anyone seems to realize, but at least now, people are less afraid to talk about it. When our grandmothers were having babies decades ago, the subject was taboo. Now, as I talk to people of that generation about what happened to me, I hear the relief in their voices knowing that, finally, they can talk about their experiences openly after all these years and not have to feel that it is wrong to discuss with someone else.
I have to say that if one has to miscarry a baby, the way that it happened to me is probably the "best" way it can happen (if you can even discuss a miscarriage in those terms) because it happened before I even started showing, and once it started happening, it ended quickly. I say this not to be callous, but because I have heard stories of women who found out during their 20-week ultrasound that their baby had already died inside of them, and they had no idea -- they were expecting to learn the gender of their baby during their appointment. I can't imagine the shock and pain of that news. Or those who lose a baby farther along into their pregnancy -- this is a fear I held all 39 weeks that I carried my daughter -- thankfully a fear that was not realized.
Yes, my experience was awful, and I am not trying to minimize it. I'm just saying that I'm glad I knew almost right away. I had 15 minutes of panic and uncertainty, but then I knew exactly what had happened when I saw the fetus, and I had no false hopes. I could begin to mourn and deal with the loss without having to wonder and worry and wait. I had no physical pain, my bleeding was over in a couple of days, and I did not have to go through a D and C. Everything happened very fast in my case.
I'm actually glad we told our friends and family about our pregnancy before the "safety period" had elapsed. In hindsight, it was good that we told people we trust, as they were excellent supports for us. A select few friends and family want to be there for us through thick and thin, and to do that well, they know what's really happening in our lives.


Life is terrifyingly precious from the start, and miscarriage and infant loss are more common than many of us realize. I encourage women to talk about their experiences with other women, as there is strength in that exchange. You will learn that there are many others who have lost a baby -- even people in your own family may have stories to share that you have never heard -- and the support and love these women can give to you in invaluable as you heal over time. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month-Meet Melissa

Meet Melissa. This is her story and these are her words.

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Our plan was to have 3 kids and be done by the time I was 35. Our oldest girl was born in December of 2004. #2 made his appearance in April of 2007. We decided to start trying shortly after he turned 1 so they could be close in age but it took us a year to finally get pregnant. At my first ob appointment (9 weeks) we were unable to hear a heartbeat on the doppler, but just figured it was too early. We also chose to not have any genetic testing done, because we had 2 healthy kids, what could go wrong? Oh how naive we were then! We scheduled another appointment for 11 weeks and went away on vacation to Gulf Shores without a care in the world. It was here we decided our baby's name would be Colby. Little did we know that this trip would be the last time everything in our lives was normal.


At my 11 week appointment. we once again were unable to find a heartbeat, so the doctor sent me in for an ultrasound. It was here that they noticed the first soft marker, the baby's nuchal fold was measuring larger than was the norm. The doctor was not too concerned, but decided to move my level 2 ultrasound up to 14 weeks. (I was already considered high risk because i would be 35 at the time of delivery) At this ultrasound more soft markers were found. Choroid plexus cysts, IUGR, and possible heart problems were detected. Over the next several weeks every appointment seemed to hold more bad news so we went ahead and consented to an amnio at 20 weeks. I remember standing in the shower, crying uncontrollably, and praying our baby girl had Downs Syndrome because our other possibility, Trisomy 18, was considered incompatible with life.



I will never forget October 14th, 2009. It was the day I received the most devastating phone call of my life. The geneticist said, "I'm so sorry, your baby has Trisomy 18." I managed to get off the phone and make sure my daughter was ok and my son was napping before I went outside to our front porch and just fell to the ground hysterically crying. I called my husband, Jeff, and all I could say was "Come home, it's bad." That day I was beyond devastated and could not even imagine ever being ok again. We chose to continue the pregnancy, this was our baby, we didn't care how sick she was, we loved her from the first moment we knew I was pregnant! 


On January 28th, 2010, at 36 weeks and 3 days, Colby Elizabeth joined our family! She was born alive and my wish to be able to kiss her and tell her how much I loved her came true! (I chose to deliver early to give her a better chance at being born alive.) She weighed 4lbs and 2ozs and was absolutely beautiful! We chose to give Colby comfort care, we did not want extraordinary measures (resuscitation, ventilator, etc) taken to keep her alive, we personally felt that just wasn't fair to her. We found out shortly after her birth that her esophagus and stomach were not connected, so at 4 days old she had surgery to insert a gtube for feeding. (comfort care is ensuring they are warm, fed, have oxygen, so the surgery was a must so she did not starve.) 


Much to our surprise after we learned how to do the feedings, we were able to take Colby home when she was 1 week old! We went home on hospice care for Colby, where she stayed in the living room so we had room for an oxygen tank, suction machine, and heart monitor. The hospice nurses taught me how take care of her with all of her equipment, and much to their surprise, I didn't really need their help, I wanted to do it all for my baby!


On February 20th Colby's heart monitor went off and she was turning blue, this wasn't the first time this had happened but I knew right away that this time was different. I knew she wouldn't be with us much longer. I called hospice and our nurse Joni came right away. We called all the grandparents and they all dropped everything and came to our house. I sat on the couch holding her close to me while Jeff unhooked all of her monitors and cut her feeding tube off so we could hold her closer. I told her how much I loved her, how proud I was of her for being so strong for so long and that it was ok to go. At 7:50pm on February 20th, 2010 Colby Elizabeth passed away in my arms surrounded by all of her family. She lived for 23 days but will forever live on in our hearts.


My life will never be the same. I miss her with all that I am and am thankful for everything she taught me.I am a better wife and mother because of her and am so thankful that God chose me to be her mom.


Most of 2010 was a blur after Colby died, we were all grieving in different ways. Once the fog lifted I made a conscious choose to be happy. My kids needed me and it would not have been fair to Colby to always remember her life with sadness. Remember my plan I talked about in the beginning? Well, God had other plans for us! In November of 2011 we welcomed boy #2 and in August of 2013 boy #3 joined us! Both were wonderful surprises! When people ask me how many children I have I always tell them 5, because you may not see her, but Colby is always with us!

Below are not my photographs. Melissa asked that I share these images of Colby on this post. 


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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month-Meet Katie


Meet Katie. This is her story and these are her words.

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When Michael and I talked about having kids, we wanted our kids to be 3 years apart. He and his brother are 2 years apart and my sister and I are 4 years apart, so 3 seemed like a good in-between. So we decided we could start trying anytime after Dylan turned 2. Dylan's birthday is in March, and I had the best maternity leave. I had him right before spring break and then took the rest of the year off, and had summer break to boot. I wanted to aim for another leave similar to his, and since his conception was so simple for us I thought it would be no problem getting what I wanted. I decided we should start trying as soon as school was out.




June came and went and the whole time I joked about it happening right away. I wanted to be really positive and upbeat about the whole thing. The week before 4th of July I felt "odd" and took a pregnancy test. It was negative. I was fine with that and really enjoyed partying with my friends over 4th of July weekend. Monday came and my not-so-friendly visitor didn't show up. This visitor is always showing up like clockwork, so I took a test. I go the faintest second line ever, but everything I read said a positive is a positive. I started getting excited. The next day I took another test to see if it darkened, and it hadn't. The next day (or the day after that) I took another test and this one was negative. I felt like this was so weird, but the next day my visitor showed up. After some research I realized this was something called a chemical pregnancy. I was bummed, but not devastated. I decided we would just keep trying.

Towards the end of July I started having some interesting symptoms. One night I had to have garlic fries, I couldn't stop thinking about them and drove to Red Robin just to get some fries to go. The next night I was at a party and I couldn't stop eating. And I was already visiting the bathroom frequently. I had a hunch that something was up, so I took a test that Monday. 2 lines! I didn't want to get my hopes up, so I took a test almost everyday and got the same results. I was still almost a week away from even expecting my visitor again. That day came and passed and I still got the same results. I started to let my guard down and mentally planned our future.

One week later and I started having weird feelings in my stomach. I got nervous and bought a test from the Dollar Tree (I had already spent a lot on pregnancy tests). That night I took it and it was negative. I immediately did research to look at reviews. I got mixed results, so I wasn't sure if the test was right or wrong. I had so much trouble sleeping that night and the next day I felt terrible. My stomach was hurting even worse so I decided to take the day off. I couldn't find my information to call in for a sub (not happy with our new sub calling system at that time) and had to go in to school to find it. By the time I called it was too late for a full day, so I was going to take a half day. Shortly after school started my principal let me know we wouldn't be getting a sub and they would have to split my class, but I could go right away. I felt guilty pawning my kids off, but I physically and emotionally wasn't up to staying.

On my way home I stopped for another test (a brand name one this time) and it showed positive. My nerves were somewhat calmer, but I was still uncomfortable. I laid down to sleep for awhile and was feeling much better. *GRAPHIC ALERT* Then I went to the bathroom and realized I was bleeding...really bleeding. I called the doctor on call because it was Friday afternoon and the office was closed. He said there was nothing they could do at this point. I knew what was happening, and the control I like to have over situations was impossible to gain.
I was miserable that weekend, but I went on with things. I have a family and they needed me to continue moving forward, even if I would have preferred staying in bed with the covers over my head. Besides, being around people felt good. Monday I called into school so I could see a doctor, and I emotionally didn't feel stable teaching without crying. I cried through my entire appointment (and almost cried in the waiting room). The doctor was patient and kind and comforting, but it didn't make me feel any better. Everything she said was logical and made sense, but I didn't want to make sense of it.I went back to school the next day. Though my day began rough I began feeling better. Teaching doesn't give you much time to ponder personal thoughts, so that's a plus.



It took a while for the sadness to go away. I stayed positive and leaned on the support of my friends and family. That's part of what helped me to heal. I realized how important it is when someone is going through something like this to say "I love you and I'm here for you". 

A month after this whole ordeal, I took another positive pregnancy test. I am happy to say that I am now 10 weeks along and everything looks good. I am nervous a lot, but I think that's just par for the course.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

bryant+libby+ellie

Before I had the twins, I didn't have a lot of experience photographing babies, especially newborns. Once Evie and June arrived in our house, while I didn't have time or energy to do a lot of the shoots that I wanted to do, I did get more comfortable with babies. 

When Libby, a friend of a friend, contacted me about doing a newborn shoot I was beyond excited. This would be my first time photographing a baby that I wasn't the mother of or a friend of the mother. A strangers baby. Yea!!! 

I think Libby had more confidence in me than I had in myself! I told her that I didn't have a ton of experience with newborns and she was cool with that. She saw other photos I have done and liked those....she was sure it would be fine. That helped me not be so nervous!

Here are some of my favorites of little Ellie. She was a doll. She was absolutely perfect and sweet and sleeping the entire time. I had a great time photographing her! It made me wish that I would have done more photographing of my own girls.....or at least hired someone else to take the photos :)












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Libby and her husband Bryant have been married for 4 years. They met through a married couple that each of them worked with, Libby worked with the wife and Bryant the husband. And beautiful little Ellie also has two furry siblings that I met while photographing at their home. 

Three words that describe.....
Libby-kind, loving & patient
Bryant-full of integrity, committed, & intelligent

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month-Meet Sabrina

Meet Sabrina. This is her story and these are her words.

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Our pregnancy began much like any other. There were no problems through most of the pregnancy.  My father was born with Spina Bifida so at our 20 week scan we went to a high risk doctor for our ultrasound so they could check the baby’s spine and make sure that her spine was developing perfectly.  That day we found out that we were going to have a baby girl.  We were hoping for a boy, as both my hubby and I wanted to have a boy first but we were very happy to be having a girl.  Her name was chosen immediately. She would be named Catherine Victoria, Catherine after my late grandmother and Victoria after my husbands 97 year old great-grandmother.  



At this scan Katie was actually measuring about two weeks bigger than her gestational age but the doctors were not worried.  At our next appointment according to Fundal height, Katie was right on schedule size wise.  I did not think anything about this and the doctor was not worried.  My next appointment was two weeks away.  In that two weeks Katie went from right on schedule to a week small.  I was seeing a nurse practitioner that appointment and explained to her that this was the third appointment where Katie did not grow. She relayed the information on to my regular doctor and she mentioned that pregnancies go through changes so there might be periods of non growth, so again the doctor was not worried. A few days later I had not felt Katie move so we decided to go to the hospital and they could not find a heartbeat so they did an ultrasound to confirm and to check size.



After we were notified of our loss, they explained to us that Katie was measuring about the size of 24 weeks when I was about 32 weeks which is about the time the measurements started dropping. So we were induced and gave birth to a beautiful sleeping baby 14 inches long and weighed 2 lbs 4 oz on June 4 2012. An autopsy was done and they confirmed that the placenta had stopped working properly as part of the condition Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). Therefore only about 20% of the placenta was working which meant that Katie was not getting the supply of oxygen and nutrients that she needed.



Since our loss, we gave birth to our rainbow baby Aston Allen on July 29, 2013. I was induced at 39 weeks just as a precaution due to my late loss. Aston was 20 inches long and 7 lbs 5 oz. He is now 3 months old and won’t stop smiling. He will grow up knowing that he is a younger brother to an angel and that his sister is gone, but not forgotten.