December 30, 2010

"The Babymoon"

For anyone over the age of 30 reading this, I'm sure you've never heard of such a thing as a "babymoon."  As my parents said, "We just worked our butts off till the baby came."  But there's a recent trend in couples taking a final getaway together before the baby shows up to spend some time reconnecting since life is about to change dramatically.  Robert and I didn't exchange gifts for Christmas this year, and instead planned on taking one last trip over Christmas break.  After we found out about Clara's complications, we decided to scale back the trip a little.  Even though the chances of something going wrong at 27 weeks are slim, we did not want to be delivering this baby on a cruise ship or in a remote village in Costa Rica.  Plus, we're saving our money for the impending medical bills.  So, instead we have spent a couple of nights at Beech Mountain relaxing and sleeping and relaxing and eating and relaxing.  It's been wonderful.

When we first arrived, Beech Mountain had recently gotten over two feet of snow.  I stayed in the warm car while Robert shoveled the walkway.  He's a knight in shining armor, really.

We have enjoyed the beautiful snowy mountain views by day:

And the lovely views of sunsets by evening.


The views are best enjoyed from inside though, preferably in front of a roaring fire.


 The fire is even better if it has the world's most adorable puppy snuggled up in front of it.


We enjoyed breakfast at the Pancake House.

Yum, yum.

We scheduled a couples' massage for the afternoon, which they sadly mis-booked and they couldn't see us.  Here was my reaction to that news:

Fortunately, they were able to get us in the next day and ahhhhhhhhhhhh.... bliss.


We also enjoyed a delicious dinner out at a Banner Elk restaurant.  Robert's very rare steak looked mouth-watering (of course, no bites for me.  Thanks, Clara) and I enjoyed some yummy fish.  It was nice to have a nice night out.

But most of our time has been spent just enjoying each other's company and the warmth of snuggles.

And no, I'm not drinking wine.  It's orange juice and gingerale.  It's nice to pretend though.

So, Monday we both return to work and reality.  We've got two and a half months or so to go and lots of preparations still to make.  For now, it was nice to just spend some time away from everything and enjoy loving each other.  Thanks for a good excuse, Clara.

December 22, 2010

Another Sneak Peak

Well, today's appointments all went well.  First we had our regular OB appointment and got "checked off" that everything there was good - weight gain is on track, blood pressure holding steady, belly measuring exactly 26cm (which is perfect for 26 weeks), so all is well.  We talked a little more about delivery options and are definitely going to deliver at Forsyth Hospital.  We had heard that sometimes Baptist will do deliveries and since that's where Clara will be transferred for her surgery and most of her care, we wondered if it was best to go ahead and deliver there too.  But there are lots of negatives for that including: a resident would have to deliver instead of our doctor that we love and trust, they do so few deliveries there that they don't really have the equipment/staff/experience to do them, the post-delivery care for me is not as good, etc. etc.  So we're very satisfied with the plan to deliver at Forsyth, stabilize Clara and then transfer her to Baptist.  Plus, our doctor told us that even if I haven't been discharged yet from Forsyth (due to C-section or any other complication) that she can get me a "pass" so that I can leave for a few hours at a time, go over to Brenner's and check on Clara and then come back to Forsyth again.  So that was also nice to hear.

This afternoon we went for another level 2 ultrasound at Forsyth Hospital's Prenatal Assessment Center.  Have I mentioned how much we love Kathy, the sonographer, who works there?  She is so very loving and encouraging and affirming.  She thinks Clara is as beautiful as we do and was so positive about everything she saw.  We like to hear that.  She weighs 2 pounds, 2 ounces which is the 60th percentile.  The stomach is still above the diaphragm, but liver and spleen are still below so no change there.  We were able to watch her lungs "working" a little.  Before babies are born they kind of practice-breathe the fluid in and out of their lungs and we could see her little chest rising and falling.  That was a great encouragement to us because if she's able to do that then it seems like to me that we're getting some healthy lung growth and development.  They couldn't really say how much lung tissue there is (that's something hard to tell on an ultrasound and better seen with an MRI), but we have no reason to believe that the lungs aren't still trying to grow and develop in what space they have.  Her heart is deviated (which just means it's moved a little to a different place and rotated some) because of the stomach so they can't really get a great look at it, but it was beating strong and sounding good at 156bpm.  We have another fetal echocardiogram in January to take a better look at the heart.  We also saw her hiccup, smile (YES, SMILE!), and suck on her fingers.  She is looking more and more human and we think awfully beautiful (despite Kathy's suggestion that she may have Robert's head).  So, enjoy these new ultrasound photos and keep praying.  It means so much to us. 


Face and hand


Finger sucking
Here's a picture that shows the diaphragmatic hernia.  You should not be able to see her stomach and heart in the same plane and there they are together....

There's our girl.  Robert and I are headed out on a date night - we know there won't be too many more of those before long!  Thanks for sharing in our love and joy and in continued fervent prayers.  A good work is begun, for sure.

December 21, 2010

Pregnant at Christmas

It has been a blessing to be pregnant at Christmas this year.  It has given me a completely new perspective on the Christmas story and allowed me to relate to Mary and Joseph in a different way than ever before.  I’m sure that anytime someone becomes a parent, they understand better the love and sacrifices that Mary and Joseph had for sweet little Jesus, but it has been especially powerful for me to be participating so personally in God’s creation during a time when our thoughts and reflections turn to the story of the birth of Jesus. 

I am glad I’m not riding on a donkey to Bethlehem.  I am glad I do not have to give birth in a stable.  I am glad that I have the support and love of my community and that I am not risking losing my status, my husband, or my future because of a pregnancy out of wedlock.  I am glad that although I feel that I am carrying a burden right now, that I do not carry the burden of bringing our world’s Savior into the world.  How did Mary do it?  She was truly a remarkable woman of God.  My only guess is that she trusted God fully and completely to care for her and provide for her.  I hope that this Christmas season I will learn that lesson from her and give over Clara as willingly as Mary gave over Jesus.  It sounds simple, but I know how difficult it is to truly let go of anything – especially something that you feel so close to, so protective of, and so responsible for.  Kudos to you, Mary.

I also have been wondering what in the world God was thinking when he decided that the best way to save our world was to bring his son onto this earth as a baby.  The past few months have shown me how unbelievable fragile a newborn’s life is.  Even with the medical advances of 2010, there are babies every day who do not survive or who are born with debilitating illness or injury.  All of the things that have to happen just right in utero for a baby to enter this world healthy are (forgive the cliché) nothing short of miraculous.  Not that God isn’t capable of doing such - we are certainly trusting in that more now than ever – but that he would trust us to care for his own son in the form of such a fragile creature is really remarkable and humbling.  So many things could have gone wrong for Mary as she traveled to Bethlehem and delivered in a stable.  So many things could have gone wrong for Jesus as he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  It is just amazing to me that God trusted and believed in us enough to not only give us such an amazing gift, but to give it to us in such a delicate form.  So, thank you Lord.  We know that although Clara is our daughter, she is first and foremost Your child.    We will do our best to care well for Clara and trust in You the way that You trusted Mary and Joseph with Your son.  I am grateful for these reminders at Christmastime. 


Our next appointments with our regular OB and the OB specialists at Forsyth Hospital are tomorrow (8:15, 2:45).  We’ll have another ultrasound, see how well Baby Clara is growing, and check on the status of her diaphragmatic hernia as well as her other internal organs.  As always, we are grateful for your prayers.  We expect no more new news, but remain hopeful for another relatively good report that will encourage us and sustain us for the next few weeks.  I’ll do my best to post a quick update tomorrow. 

December 13, 2010

Where I Am

People ask me all the time "how are you doing?" with a tone that shows they really want to know if I'm struggling physically or emotionally or spiritually at that particular time.  Lately, I've felt like I'm really fine!  As Robert has been saying... we're on "cruise control" until delivery.  We've found out what we can and don't expect a whole lot to change between now and then.  We know that there are not great predictive indicators for CDH and that it's hard for us to know how Clara will do until she actually gets here and starts breathing air.  So, for now we are mostly trying to focus on the positive, remain prayerful and optimistic about her future, and focus on taking care of ourselves and making the rest of this pregnancy as healthy and happy as possible. 

Well, that's lately.  But today is different.  I don't know exactly why but today I'm having one of those days where this burden feels especially heavy.  I'm having trouble focusing on my school children and thinking about anything besides Clara.  And I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now by the enormity of what's ahead. 

At the beginning of this ordeal we said we wouldn't start "Googling" this defect and using the internet for answers to questions, but would rely only on our doctors and their expertise.  For the most part, that is exactly what we've done.  There is an organization called "CHERUBS" which is The Association of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research Awareness and Support - a non-profit group that is designed to support families with CDH and try to learn more about the condition which is relatively unknown and under-researched.  Today, I spent a little bit of time on there reading some of the success stories (only success stories - I couldn't bear to face the ones with a fatal outcome) and I think that the reality of what a difficult thing is ahead of us has really hit me hard.  I know I need to stop reading and put this out of my head for now.  I'm trying to find the balance between being hopeful, optimistic and believing in the miracles that I know God can do and also trying to prepare myself realistically for a difficult trial ahead of us.  I'm finding that is a very fine line and I don't know how to keep my balance walking across it.

I guess it's normal for the processing of this to come in waves, for me to have moments of clarity and strength and other moments of unexpected emotion and fear.  I'm such a feeling person anyways that I know this is my way of accepting and dealing with everything.  But it's hard to have a day like this and to feel so out of control and alone and fearful.  I know that God does not want for us to live in fear or worry, so I'm trying to cling to Him and remember all of the many, many blessings we have to be thankful for.  

So, for those of you who have said to me, "How are you doing?" and want to really know where my heart is, here's today's answer: I am sad.  I have been fighting back tears all day and the thought of my sweet baby Clara entering this world in such a difficult place is breaking my heart.  I feel helpless, because I am helpless.  There's nothing I can do or say to change anything and I understand better now than ever before how much a parent wants to fix things for her child.  I know in my head that I will be given the strength to face what I need to face and that God will provide for us, as He has already, by giving us what we need - including an incredibly supportive community of prayerful people.  But my heart today is sad.  And that is where I am.

I guess it's normal  

December 10, 2010


I don't know this family, but they were blessed with a baby boy, Samuel, on December 5 and are fighting the fight of CDH that we will be fighting in a few short months.  He has been placed on ECMO and it sounds like his case is fairly severe.  Please be in prayer for this family, just as you have been in prayer for us.  My heart breaks for them in a deeper way than I would ever have known it could.

I am also encouraged by their faith, and pray that Robert and I will remain as faithful, hopeful, and committed as they seem to be when we face this in March.

December 9, 2010

The Christmas Tree

Here is the Hardy Family's Christmas tree of 2010.
Do you see all those ornaments?  Well, each one of them is very, very special.  It was a tradition in my family to receive ornaments and also to collect them throughout important stages and times of life.  So there are ornaments that say "World's Best Babysitter" and ornaments from lots of family vacations (including Grumpy the Dwarf from Disney World -- I'm a little offended that of all the Disney ornaments, that's the one they picked for me) and many ornaments given over the years as gifts from friends and family. I can't show them all - there are probably over a hundred ornaments on this tree by now.  But, hanging these ornaments is like a walk down memory lane and a sweet precious time of remembering so many blessings in my life.  

There are ornaments from family:
The first ornament given to me by my "Grandma" in 1981, the year of my birth
The last ornament given to me by Grandma in 1984, the year of her death.
The back of this one reads: "Lisa Davis '77"  That's my Aunt Lisa, but I guess at some point it got bequeathed to me...
On the top, given to me by my Great Aunt Shirley and Great Uncle Cedric in 1982
On the bottom, given to me and Robert by Aunt Shirley and Uncle Cedric in 2007 when we got engaged.

 There are ornaments handmade with lots of love:

Handmade by my Great Grandmother, "Boo"

"To Chrissy - Love, Dad" .... he's always been the artistic one
"To Chrissy - Love, Trey" And he still loves Cookie Monster at age 32. 
Handmade by Robert's Mema for us.... there are several of these and we love them dearly.

More snowflakes made by my great-grandmother

And there are some that are just sort of sentimental for one reason or another...

My first "Jones Mouse" given by Sarah (Jones) Wingfield in the college days...
One of several light-up Moravian stars, given to us at a Christmas shower before our wedding, but a reminder to me of the beautiful traditions, culture and history of Moravian Christmases, unique to Winston-Salem
When theatre used to be a huge part of my life, I always made Christmas ornaments for cast and crew to remember our show by.  Here's a goblet from Hamlet...
And a matchbook from Biedermann and the Firebugs.   There's a whole corner of the tree filled with "show ornaments"

There are lots and lots of ornaments from trips, like this surfboard we brought back from Hawaii (2009)

And every year there are a few more memories that get added to the tree.  Here are two of this year's additions from our two big trips this year:

Backpacking in Utah
And a harp from Ireland

It's been fun to watch our two separate backgrounds and histories blend and merge into this new family.  We've brought our pasts, but have continued to add and build a shared future together. 

I look forward to the new future ahead of us.  As I reflect on my own past and think about each little piece of love, family, friends and memories that hangs on this tree each year, I can only imagine what's in store for Clara.  Next year we'll be picking out an ornament for her with 2011 sharpied on to the back of it.  Hopefully it will be one that she loves and treasures hanging on her tree for many years to come.  I hope to pass on to her this beautiful tradition of ornaments with meaning and stories behind them.  Her story is just beginning....

*Disclaimer: I totally ripped off the idea for this blog post from another blog I read filled with beautiful photos.... My low-light camera lens is about to get sent back to Canon because it's not working correctly and these photos aren't that great.  But I hope it captured some of the joy I feel every year when it's time to decorate the tree.....


December 2, 2010

23 weeks - Lung Development

One of the email lists that sends me weekly updates about the baby's development in utero has this to say today about the 23rd week:

  • "Your baby's lungs develop rapidly this week as they prepare for birth.

  • Her lungs are producing a substance called surfactant that allows the lungs to inflate and deflate without collapsing or sticking together. 

  • Blood vessels in your baby's lungs also are growing and developing in preparation for breathing.

  • Your baby is making breathing-like movements for practice, moving amniotic fluid in and out of her lungs.

  • Although your baby is getting all of the oxygen she needs from your placenta, this practice is important for developing her diaphragm muscles."

  • If this is a big week for lung development, we hope that you will join us in praying that all of these things are happening well with Clara right now and that her lungs can work to the very best of their ability once she is born and starts using them to breathe air.  

    December 1, 2010

    Growing Strong

    No news is good news from the perinatologists and that's basically what we got today.  Yes, she still has a diaphragmatic hernia, but it doesn't appear to have changed much.  The liver is still down, below the hole, and her heart is still shifted, but everything generally appears okay.  Her heart was beating strong at 178 bpm and she's growing well - currently one pound and five ounces which is right on track for where she should be (53rd percentile to be exact).  The increased fluid they found in her kidneys a month ago seems to be back in the "normal" range and everything else about her looks just fine for now.  She's growing strong and that's what we want to hear.

    It was a great relief to hear the status quo today.  I am so grateful for the many of you who I know were praying today (I felt it!).  I knew that my anxiety and fear were unnecessary, but I think it'll take me awhile to expect good things from doctor's visits again!  We're grateful for a report that's keeping us on track and continues to provide hope for a bright and healthy future for Clara.

    One of the silver linings of a high risk pregnancy is that you get a lot of ultrasounds.  We love love love the sonographer who did our exam today (Kathy) and she has cared for us so well.  Today, she took a bazillion photos of Clara and showed us all around.  She even printed out EIGHTEEN (that's right, 18) ultrasound shots for us, and burned us a CD to boot.  So, we have more picture of her now than you probably want to see, but I can't resist showing a few.  I recognize that without the trained eye of someone showing you what you're looking at that these may be little more than blurs, but hopefully you can pick out a few features in them - especially the 3D ones!

    Here's our baby girl, who's growing strong (thank you, Lord.):

    Profile shot, on her back with her legs up in the air.
    Right hand rubbing her right eye.  Must be sleepy.

    Semi-profile with her hands in her mouth... maybe she'll be a thumb sucker like her mommy was.

     And this last one is my favorite, I think.  Even though you can't see her face in it, she's holding both of her hands together with her arms in front of her face and she looks to me like she is praying.  If only she knew how many hundreds of people are praying for her right now....

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