July 23, 2013

Pregnancy/Bed Rest Update

Tomorrow we hit 36 weeks in this pregnancy, which is a wonderful milestone to hit after the threat of pre-term labor!  I saw my doctor yesterday, who asked me to maintain bed rest until Friday.  He prefers that we at least get to 37 weeks before delivery, but things seem to be going fine for now.  Dr. T will be in Germany through Saturday...of course, there are OB docs on call (he works in the family practice clinic), but if he is around, he'd like to be able to deliver Septimus, and I am perfectly fine with that.  Even though I had to switch docs when I hit 32 weeks (because the one I started with is PCSing this month), I was impressed with my initial encounter with Dr. T.  He is a father of three himself, and he seems to be in favor of a more natural approach to the whole birthing experience, preferring to allow the baby to be with the mother immediately instead of whisked away, etc.  So I'd be happy to have him as our delivery doc!

In the meantime, we're looking at 3 1/2 more days of bed rest!  Ted had the presence of mind to remember that we are scheduled to see our chiropractor Friday evening and to ask if it was all right for me to keep that appointment.  Dr. T said it would be fine, so Ted and I are continuing with the plans we made a month ago when we set up the appointment--we will see Dr. S and then have ourselves a little date night!  Woohoo!

So, life in bed continues, LOL.  I'm slowly making my way through Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, which I began last fall but only had read one chapter before coming home for bed rest.  I finished the book about Sabbath rest.  I'm 19% of the way through the unabridged version of Les Miserables.  I completed one digital scrapbook album, our American history road trip from the fall of 2010, and I am about halfway through our 2011 family album (also digital).

I've read books about diggers and tractors and cars and airplanes over and over and over to Zaden, who insists that most of these vehicles are, in fact, buses.  I've read Dr. Seuss's ABC book to Lucan multiple times and carried on conversations with him and his Doof Dog (who now has next to no stuffing, making it a bit difficult to take Doof seriously, seeing as how his head is caving in).  I finished reading Little House in the Big Woods to Kenna, and last night we began Little House on the Prairie.  Arden and I are about to enter Mirkwood Forest in The Hobbit, and the older three just found out that Professor Slughorn is not, in fact, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher as they had assumed prior to last night's reading of the 6th Harry Potter book.

Friends have come to spend various parts of the day here with us, helping feed the kids lunch, oversee kid activities, and visit with me during quieter moments.  We've enjoyed a variety of meals, from stuffed pasta shells to burritos to roasted chicken with homemade mac-n-cheese.  We've been so blessed by the prayers, encouragement, and practical help coming from local friends and church family.  While part of me is chafing to get up and MOVING again, another part of me is so grateful for the opportunity to see the Body of Christ at work and to just be still and enjoy the precious gifts God has already given me.  I'm eager to meet the new little gift He has been growing inside of me...but I'm praying I can be content and wait for God's perfect timing!

July 16, 2013

Homeschool Recital Performances

Videos for the grandparents!  (And other long-distance friends and family who can put up with the shaky video quality because they love our kids, LOL.)

Arden plays "The Entertainer" at warp speed:

Tobin plays "The Pink Panther" theme song:

Charis plays "Minuet in G" on the violin while Arden accompanies her on the piano:

Charis plays "The Midnight Fire Alarm" on the piano (a bit faster than it should be because of nerves, but she kept it together pretty well!):

July 15, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different

It's time for an update on LUCAN'S POTTY TRAINING!!

I don't know that I've actually blogged about our efforts; I know it has crossed my Facebook status multiple times, though, as well as been a source of conversational laments with my close mommy friends.  So, for those who are uninitiated, here's a rundown...

First, we began to realize that this poor kid just never really had a "prime" potty training window:

  • He definitely was not ready early as some toddlers are.
  • Shortly after he turned 2 years old, his daddy left for 13 months.
  • During the time Daddy was away, Baby Zaden was born.
  • After Zaden was born, Mommy and Zaden had lots of issues related to nursing.
  • By the time Lucan turned 3, Daddy was still gone.
  • Two months later, Daddy returned!  Yay!
  • And then we went on a 30-day road trip.
  • And then we returned to Ohio to pack up our house.
  • And then we moved overseas.
  • And then we lived in a small apartment for two months.
  • And then we moved into our house.
  • And then, as we were FINALLY feeling at-home, Ted left for a 6-week TDY.
  • And THEN Lucan turned FOUR!
Oh, my.

Combine all the transitions and trauma of the last year and a half or so, and it was no wonder Lucan was four years old and still wearing pull-ups.  Added to all that, his laid-back yet focused personality weren't conducive to self-motivation...he hated to be torn away from his building projects!

At the same time, it wasn't as if we didn't put forth ANY effort to train him.  Before we moved to Italy, he had some potty successes, including a few poops!  We were encouraged that maybe it wouldn't be so hard after we got to Italy.  Once we felt somewhat "settled" in our apartment, plus having very little that HAD to be done each day, I thought we'd make some focused efforts and really make some headway.  Well, we did make focused efforts, and he did make...a small bit of headway...but after finding that he had smeared poop all over the balcony one afternoon, I decided that I was NOT ready to deal with this and maybe it would be better to wait until we got settled in our actual house.

More attempts.  More failure.  Finally we decided not to worry about it until after Ted returned from his 6 week course in Texas--I was early on in my pregnancy and not feeling up to the potty challenge.

We desperately tried to get Lucan to even approach consistency, but to no avail.  Plus, he simply WOULD NOT poop on the potty.  He seemed agreeable enough, even sitting on the potty for 10-15 minutes at a time, but with no results.  And he was happy enough to run and pee when we asked him to (even graduating to standing up instead of sitting), but it was NEVER his own idea.

We gave up and put him in pull-ups for the duration of our road trip.

After our return, we ditched the pull-ups (except at night) and told him it would be underwear only during the day.

Also, I found a potty training book (how many of those have I browsed over the years?!) at the thrift store during a Bag Sale Day and figured it couldn't hurt!


That book gave us the idea that was the TURNING POINT!!

There was a special section on kids who were delayed potty trainers for whatever reason, so I just focused on that.  Their solution was to have the child clean up his own mess, and once everything was clean, to have him run from the location of the accident to the nearest toilet and go through the motions of taking down his pants, sitting on the toilet, "finishing," and then doing that whole routine TEN TIMES.

Thankfully, Lucan's first few accidents happened when Ted was home, so we were able to have Ted do this with him instead of me having to figure out how to add this into my regular routines.  As you can imagine, the first couple of times of RUNNING TO THE POTTY were like a game!!  Oh, so fun!  But ten times?!  The fun definitely wore off.

Would you believe...I think Ted only did that with him a couple of times, and all of a sudden, poop success!!  AND Lucan started making sure he got himself to the potty when he needed to pee instead of waiting for us to prompt him!  

We were so excited.  I made a new potty chart: yellow stars for the days he has no pee accidents and brown stars for the days he has no poop accidents.  (Gross, I know, but it is working for him!)

And then I went into the hospital with pre-term labor.  Ugh.  I was away for over 5 days.

We were concerned that Lucan would revert to his original potty problems, but I am SO THANKFUL to report that he is doing GREAT!  The only poop accident he has had in the last week and a half or so was when someone was using the toilet he was headed to and he had to run upstairs...and didn't quite make it!  And only one pee accident that whole time.  He is still wearing pull-ups to bed, but he's been dry maybe 50% of the time, and honestly, that's the least of our concerns now.  Our big prayer was that he would be completely daytime potty trained before the Baby's arrival, and God has graciously brought us through a very, very frustrating time to some profound success in the last couple of weeks.  Thank the Lord!!

It seems like such a minor issue, especially since we really haven't had potty training problems for YEARS! Tobin proved a bit challenging because he thought it was so fun to let fly in...um...unique locations, but Charis took the initiative to train both Arden and Kenna, so it had been awhile since we were actively involved in the process!  But this "minor issue" was starting to consume my life, causing me much stress and frustration, and I hated that.  I'm so grateful that we seem to be over the hump.  Plus, Lucan's new self-confidence and happiness with himself is an added bonus in seeing him graduate to full-time dry/clean underwear!

July 14, 2013


Is it just me, or does God have a gut-busting sense of humor?!

The book my PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) summer study group is reading is...

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, by Keri Wyatt Kent.

Bwahahaha!  And here I am on bed rest, which allowed me to catch up on my homework reading, LOL.  The session started in May, and we've kind of gone fairly slowly through the book--not everyone had a copy at first, and the chapters were long...and then our family vacation happened, so I didn't feel like I really got in a groove with the whole Bible study book routine like I have the past couple of semesters.

But I was excited about the topic, because it has crossed my radar more than once...the idea of being more intentional in creating a 24-hour period of true REST.  In fact, we've even heard sermons (whole series even!) from our previous couple of pastors about this, as well as seen examples in the pastoral staff taking rest days (not Sundays!).

In theory, we absolutely agreed with the idea that "Remember the Sabbath day" was not a command that Christ came to abolish, despite what the Pharisees thought of his healing-at-the-synagogue tendencies.

In practice...well, we never really got around to figuring out just what a "Sabbath day" in the 21st century should look like.  And then we moved into an Italian house a considerable drive from the Support Site Chapel, where we spent a good portion of our waking Sunday hours during the school year since the AWANA clubs meet Sunday afternoons.  Between making two round trips, attending church, plus being involved in AWANA...well, Sundays began to feel more like work than rest.  I gave up and soon began getting our groceries on Sundays as well.  Since we were making the trip to SS, we might as well hit up the commissary, right?!

So reading this book has been very timely.  For one thing, summer has slowed down drastically because of the break in AWANA, allowing us to focus on Sundays as our actual rest days.  We aren't sure what the coming school year will look like as Ted takes over the AWANA Commander position, but for now, we've been purposeful about NOT going grocery shopping on Sundays, preparing meals in advance (or making sure there are enough leftovers!), and spending quality time with each other (and with a pillow, ha!) during the afternoons.

There's more to it than simply resting or avoiding work, though, and that's where this blog post comes in.  I wanted to try to capsulize some of the things I've been mulling over as a result of reading this book so that I can share them with Ted (and anyone else who feels they don't have time to read the whole book!).  I think the easiest thing is to simply quote some passages that have stood out to me so far...

"We can be intentional without becoming institutional" (p. 11).

"If we rest from shopping, buying, or even writing a shopping list, we reject the idea, if only for a while, that we are what we buy.  If we rest from our work, from endless meetings and tasks, we reject the idea, if only for a day, that our value lies in our accomplishments" (p. 30).

"We are never fully engaged, and we never take time to disengage" (p. 31).

"In resting, you experience the abundant grace of God, a lavish gift never earned, only received.  His presence relieves our soul loneliness in a way that no one and no thing ever could" (p. 50).

[Quoting Mark Buchanan from his book The Rest of God]: "The Exodus command, with its call to imitation, plays on a hidden irony: we mimic God in order to remember we're not God.  In fact, that is a good definition of Sabbath:  imitating God so that we stop trying to be God" (p. 73).

"Keeping Sabbath is not only about ceasing but also about celebrating.  How?  By taking the time to do simple things you always say you mean to do but never have time for" (p. 79).

[Another quote from Mark Buchanan's book The Rest of God]: "Sabbath is not the break we're allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations.  It's the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than that God told us we could" (p. 80).

"Our workaholic tendencies are often driven by fear--that we will not have enough; that if we don't accomplish, we don't have value.  Sabbath-keeping challenges us to experience the provision of God and the unearned love of God" (p. 104).

"It's not nicer or better to say yes, because every time you say yes, you're saying no.  Saying yes to one thing means you've said no to alternatives.  Choose your yeses carefully" (p. 127).

[Regarding mothers/women in particular]: "Ironically, because we don't think of what we do as work, we never stop working" (p. 130).

"At each breath, we take only as much as we need for that moment.  We breathe in and breathe out....But then we pause.  The pause, in a typical breathing pattern, is about as long as the inhalation and exhalation combined" (p. 139).

"The key to endurance and strength is resting--not just once a week but on a regular basis" (p. 139).

"You do not have to be an Olympic-level Sabbath-keeper.  The Sabbath was made for people, Jesus said.  It's a tool you can use to become healthier spiritually--more connected with the God who loves you, more peaceful, more joyful.  Not perfectly any of those things.  Just healthier" (p. 167).

I still have one chapter left in the book.  Some things I appreciate about the opportunity to read and learn from Kent's Rest:

  • Learning more cultural information about the hows and whys of Israel's Sabbaths.
  • Some in-depth study about Jewish culture in both Old and New Testament time periods.
  • Practical ideas from a variety of family types, from people in various seasons of life.
  • Continual reassurance that there IS NO FORMULA!!
  • A balanced perspective on keeping the Sabbath because it is a command that is given for our good while remembering the GOOD that comes from it, freeing the reader from legalistic burdens.
  • Thought-provoking treatise on a variety of reasons for Sabbath-keeping...it's not simply "rest."

July 11, 2013

A Roller Coaster Day

After not having been checked or monitored since before dinner yesterday, I was rather surprised this morning to have the Italian doctor walk in and announce that I could go home!  Since I hadn't had any changes during the time I had been without any anti-contraction medicine, they were willing to release me, and I for one wasn't going to question them!  I called Ted immediately, knowing that he was planning to bring the kids in to visit shortly--I wanted to tell him not to rush, because I had a feeling it could still be awhile before the papers were actually signed.

And I was right.

The kids showed up with Ted about an hour later.  I had everything packed and was sitting in regular clothes (hooray for no more hospital gown) when a nurse came in with the monitor.  Of course!  They hadn't checked Baby's heartbeat or my contractions, so of course they wanted to do that one more time.

So I get put on the monitors.  Gina, the liaison from the Support Site, and Cdr J, who is handling my case, arrived soon after that, along with one of the base chaplains and an Italian doctor.  It was quite a circus--all 8  of our family members plus 4 extra adults AND my doctor from SS on the phone trying to talk to me on Cdr J's cell phone while the monitors beeped and swished loudly beside me.

Dr. T expressed concern that the Italians apparently have a different philosophy regarding my situation--for example, since I wasn't showing progress, they were perfectly happy to let me go home to rest.  The American team wasn't so happy with me going home to rest, given my case history.  So he wanted to ask me some questions and then consult with the OB who had been on call Saturday night plus the SS pediatric team.


The monitor was registering regular contractions.  They weren't painful, but they were definitely showing up.  I suspect it was the stress of waiting so long in the hospital after being told I could go home!!  Everyone else in the room seemed utterly unconcerned, though, so I didn't think much about it, thinking only about getting the discharge paperwork so I could go home and get in my own comfy bed.

Finally everyone left the room, with the doctor having said that he would make copies of the paperwork and I was free to go.  Gina said she would come back for my signature and it would, basically, be a done deal.

The little ones were getting very squirrelly.  By this time it was well after 1pm--I was wishing that I had asked that they bring me lunch after all.  I had given the kids every last bite of edible substance that I had on hand, and we were all quite hungry.  We sent Ted and the younger 4 down to the parking lot, with Charis and Tobin to help me carry anything else that needed to go home, assuming that the three of us would meet him at the front door shortly.

I was still hooked up to the monitors.  And still having contractions.

I rang the nurse button to communicate that I was ready to go home, had signed papers, and the doctor was all right with me leaving.  She took one look at the printout, said "Five more minutes," and left.

More waiting.  Longer than 5 minutes.  Another ring on the nurse bell.  Another strange look when I asked about going home--I could tell some of the Italian staff weren't buying the one doctor's notion that I was in any shape to walk out of there.  There was some discussion about paperwork...which I had been under the impression was already finished.

Another phone call, this time Dr. T calling my cell phone directly.  He and the OB had discussed my case, and this was their recommendation...

First, the OB doc had wanted me on bed rest AT THE SUPPORT SITE HOSPITAL.  Dr. T (the family practice doc whom I've been seeing) disagreed, saying that non-sick people don't need to be at the hospital.  However, his concern was my proximity to hospital care.  Since we live in town, plus the fact that I've had this pre-term labor stuff going on, plus the fact that I'm carrying Baby #7, he would "feel better" if I were to basically hang out closer to the SS hospital.

How to do this, you ask?

"The Stork's Nest."  Three rooms (basically bachelor's quarters) set aside for similar circumstances right across the street from the hospital.  Unlike being IN the hospital, no one would be cooking for me (without me making arrangements to have meals brought to me), and, oh yes, we would pay $50 per day for the privilege of staying there.

Are you kidding me?!  How is THAT supposed to help me rest??!  This was beyond confusing to me anyway, because everyone kept saying to me that if I were to deliver in the next week or so, it should take place at the Italian hospital because of their NICU!  So HOW did it make sense for me to move into an unfamiliar place if they would just have to transfer me back to the other side of town should I go into labor anyway?!

Grrrrr.  Dr. T was very nice about it all, and I'm sure this is just a matter of them needing to cover all their bases, but since I was caught in the middle of the question of whether I was even going to be able to leave the Italian hospital to begin with, I simply wrote down his contact info and told him I'd call him back.

I called Ted and told him to bring the kids back so we could at least buy everyone some hospital panini and feed the starving masses.  Back they trudged while I called Gina to try to figure out what was going on.  She stopped by the room soon after to assure me that the paperwork was indeed finalized, and as soon as I got taken off the monitors I could leave.

Ted took the boys and Kenna to get panini and pizza slices while a nurse came in to check my cervix, which I actually agreed was a good idea at that point.  (Still contracting!!)  From what I could understand, nothing had changed, so I eagerly waited for someone to confirm that we could actually leave the hospital.  No one returned.  The kids were beyond stir crazy by this point (well, the younger two boys, actually...my older ones were taking all of this in stride!), so I finally told Ted that maybe he should just take all the kids home and wait to hear from me as to whether I was allowed to leave or not.  So Ted left with the kids--but THANK GOD he decided to stick his head in the doctor's office on the way out to ask what the heck was going on--and the doctor, OH JOY!, waved his hand and said, "Go home!!"

WOOHOO!!  The kids and Ted ran back to get me, and we ALL left the hospital TOGETHER!  I called Dr. T to let him know that we were politely declining the option of getting a room at the Stork's Nest, and after more consultations, he called me back a couple of hours later to tell me basically what we had already decided:

If I go into labor in the next 8 days, I am to go straight to the Italian hospital.  If we make it beyond that point, I can come to the Support Site hospital.  In the meantime, I am on STRICT bed rest.

But I am on MY OWN BED!!!!  How can this not be more restful for me?!  OK, sure, I'll miss the amazing Italian lunches and dinners (but the thought of facing one more breakfast in that hospital makes me want to hurl jam), but aside from that...just being away from my family I think causes me more stress!  At least here at home I can cuddle on my bed and read stories with them!  And we have people willing to help out, so we'll line up some caregivers for next week when Ted goes back to work.  We have a few days to get things in place, and honestly, Ted can take more time off work if he needs to, although I'd rather have him save that for when the baby comes.

Whew.  This has been quite a journey, and Septimus hasn't even arrived yet!  Please join us in praying that we can wait another 8 days or so before that happens!  Thank you for all your prayers on our behalf this week!

July 10, 2013

Day 4--A Fresh Start

My day began around 5am with an uncomfortable awakening--painful contractions plus my arm being stiff from the IV.  After trying to get back to sleep, I gave up, freshened up in the bathroom, and let the nurses know I was having some painful contractions even with the medicine.

More monitoring.  The contractions, which were registering around 25% last night, got as high as 70% or so.  After they removed the monitors, I ate my breakfast, and soon after the doctor came in to speak with me.  The doctors (I think I've seen at least 3 or 4?) speak enough English that I can usually figure out what they are trying to tell me, and this one brought what I consider to be good news.

Since the steroid for Baby's lungs is now fully in our system, they don't like to continue the anti-contraction medicine.  So he had the nurse remove the IV (although the needle is still currently in my arm).  They want to do a blood sugar test just before lunch to see if my sugar levels could have caused the increase in contractions (which I doubt, because they were happening off and on throughout the night plus into the morning, and I didn't eat until AFTER the monitoring).  And then they will recheck my cervix.

Of course they want to keep me here at least today, possibly tomorrow, to see what happens.  IF, by chance, my cervix doesn't dilate any more, if there are NO more labor signs, they will send me home.  If labor begins in the next week, I return here immediately to deliver.  If I make it beyond that, he said it would be all right to deliver at the Support Site.  But the SS hospital is not equipped to deal with babies who arrive early, as I've already been told!  So at least all my info is already on file here.

Now that I have no meds going into my system, I feel like today will be very interesting!  I haven't noticed any increase in frequency or intensity since the IV stopped about an hour ago, so we will see what happens.  In the meantime, "Septimus" has been moving and grooving, and they have not seemed concerned about his well-being, so I refuse to worry about it either!  God is in control...He knit both Septimus AND his mama and put us here at just this time for a reason!

Day 3--Tuesday

Yesterday was considerably uneventful for the majority of the day.  In some ways it was similar to the way I spent Monday.  The family came to visit before lunch; I had a nap after lunch; I passed the time by reading, praying, reading some more, and working on a digital scrapbook.

The "main event," in my estimation, was that I was to get the IV removed, since the doctor had told me he would put me on oral medicine since my contractions hadn't really reappeared.  Apparently the time line I had in my head (from what I had understood originally) did not match up with the Italian time line...which is not surprising!  I did end up asking about the oral meds, because the morning came and went and I was still on the IV.

Around lunch time they finally did remove the IV--but I didn't take any oral medication until 7pm.  I didn't understand this, but since my nap happened in the middle of that time period, and since they did hook me up to monitors a couple of times during this, I didn't really pursue asking.  (I'm probably not as aggressive or curious of a patient as I should be?!)  I don't know if they wanted to wait a certain time between treatments or what--I got my pill around 5:30 but was told to wait and take it around 7:00.

Meanwhile, contractions picked up.  Not terribly, but enough to be noticeable.  Ted returned by himself in the evening so we could have some time with just the two of us, and he was here during another monitoring session, during which time I was hooked up to a more sensitive monitor.  I had noticed that during my earlier monitoring sessions, I was feeling some contractions that weren't registering on the graph, and I mentioned that to the commander who is overseeing my case who called to check on me in the evening.  Obviously calls were made, because then this "new" machine was brought in and I was hooked up.  Thankfully we noted that it was indeed picking up everything I was feeling, which made me feel better--at least the staff were going to get a more clear picture of what was going on.

Ted had to leave before I was finished, so he missed the end of my day--being told that the oral meds (which had been in my system 2.5 hours by this point) were not going to work and I needed to go back on the IV.  Sadly, they had completely removed my original pick line--I should have asked them to keep it in place just in case!!  I even wondered about it at the time, but...again...didn't speak up.  Sigh.  So the nurse, who is incredibly kind and sweet, put a new line in, but this one was in the crook of my right elbow.  Ouch.  It isn't a great place for an IV in my opinion!

The doctor checked my cervix and found that nothing had changed--I was still only dilated to 3cm and Baby's head was not engaged, so that was encouraging.  But when everyone left the room, I confess I shed some tears of self-pity.  I only foresaw being here for days and days, with an uncomfortable IV line in my dominant arm.  To top it off, some of the varicose veins in my right leg (right behind my knee) began paining me greatly.  I didn't know how I was going to get any sleep.

I spent some time reading some precious promises in Scripture, encouraging passages that reminded me that my hope is in the Lord and not in medicine!  Here are a few...

Job 23:8-12
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Hebrews 12:1-3
Psalm 139

I made a list of things to be thankful for and went to bed feeling that this too shall pass.

1. In the middle of summer in Naples, I have an air-conditioned room!

2. I am in a mosquito-free environment!

3. I can look forward to breakfast (and lunch and dinner) in bed! For who knows how long!

4. And I don't have to cook it OR clean up afterward!

5. I have an amazing husband in Ted who is pulling some amazing Daddy duty and holding our sweet family together!

6. I have amazing kids who are rising to the occasion and helping each other and their dad do what has to be done. They are growing through all this, too!

7. I have an amazing family in Christ, both here and abroad, who are showering me with prayers and encouragement.

8. I have an amazing God who will provide everything we will need and get us through this journey.

July 09, 2013

Day 2 at Clinica Pineta Grande

Yesterday's hospital stay was rather uneventful.  I didn't leave the room at all--no wheeling me downstairs to radiology for an ultrasound/cervix check.  A few sessions of monitoring Baby's heartbeat and my contractions and the usual taking of vital signs, and I was pretty much left alone all day.

Ted and the kids came for a very welcome visit about mid-morning.  I can't believe how much I miss our exuberant household!  I had some very sad, lonely moments after they left!  But then they delivered lunch, which was a good pick-me-up...still enjoying the meals here!

So the medical plan was to have me finish out the IV treatment and then give me oral medicine the following day (which is today).  I had some stronger contractions now and then throughout the day, but they were never very frequent, and I guess they weren't anything to cause concern when the monitoring sessions captured everything on paper.

I did enjoy a lot of quiet time--I know this is not something I can get every day, so I made the most of it:

  • Listened to worship music
  • Watched worship videos
  • Listened to a podcast of Sunday's sermon that I missed
  • Stood and did some stretching exercises multiple times during the day
  • Spent time reading through favorite portions of Isaiah and Psalms
  • Did my regular daily Bible reading
  • Prayed for my family and many of my friends (Facebook is a great way to see prayer needs!)
  • Took a nap
  • Updated our budget spreadsheet
  • FB chatted my mom and dad a bit--they are (or were) traveling home from a family reunion
  • Started reading a book Charis and Tobin wanted me to read: Science Fair by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
  • Talked to Ted and Charis on the phone
  • Began a new My Digital Studio project
Wow!  I guess I wasn't too bored!!  I got my last set of vitals/monitoring done shortly after dinner, so I went to bed earlier (about 10ish) and managed to sleep until 7 (with a couple of potty runs).  

Now I'm awake for Day 3 in the hospital...it's a beautiful, sunny morning, my IV bottle is EMPTY, and I cannot WAIT to get this thing OUT of my arm!!  I believe they plan to monitor me another 24 hours after I begin the oral medication, so perhaps this is the last full day I will be here?  Tomorrow marks 34 weeks for "Septimus" and me (Septimus is Latin for "seven" and is our joke of a name for Baby!).  I'm hopeful we can at least make it to 35 if not 36 weeks or longer, and let me just say, I really, really hope that we don't have to go a full 40 weeks with this gigantoid of a son, LOL!

I humbly offer my very sincere thanks and gratitude for all the prayer support our family has received.  Local friends are offering meals and help with child care, and while we haven't formulated a specific plan yet since we don't know if I'll be able to do bed rest at home or if they want me at the SS hospital, we are so appreciative of all the offers and will let people know when we are ready to take them up on those offers.  

In the meantime, Ted has this whole week off work for emergency leave, and thankfully the summer is a slow time for NATO, with many folks taking vacations.  In fact, most Italians take nearly all of August off, so we were anticipating a lot of family time once Septimus was born...we just hadn't ever anticipated the possibility of him arriving BEFORE August!  And maybe he won't!

"I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, 
I always pray with joy..."
Philippians 1:3-4

July 08, 2013

Adventures in Hospital Showering

After a short night (WHAT was going on in the hall outside my hospital room?!), I found myself lying awake at 5am unable to get back to sleep.  Having spent the past 36+ hours in the same hospital gown, I found myself longing for a shower.  I knew it would be an ordeal, but I finally gave up trying to get back to sleep and made preparations...

1. Of course I still had to deal with my IV. I decided to take off my hospital gown as best as I could and loop it over the rack, so that I didn't have to thread the whole unit through the sleeve somehow; also, that would make it easier to put back on when I was done.

2. Italian showers are TINY! I barely could squeeze my preggo belly through the doors.

3. When I turned on the water, it shot EVERYWHERE! I twisted it a bit to get the odd random streams to stop shooting over the top of the shower walls, but then the shower stream itself was out of control--crazy hard pressure. By that point I was committed, though!

4. I discovered that Ted had managed to pack me two bottles of conditioner...and no shampoo.

5. The IV is in my right arm...which is a bit tender, of course, so being right-handed, getting through the whole process was harder.

6. When I finished, I discovered that not only was the floor right outside the shower door a giant puddle, but there was water ALLLLL over the door and walls from the random streams! I had to use one of the towels just to mop up all the mess! My non-Old-Navy flip flops were also soaked.

7. However, I feel much cleaner!!

July 07, 2013

A Day in an Italian Hospital

(Read about the start of this adventure here!)

Our day didn't begin until after 8am or so, when my body wouldn't let me sleep any longer due to the stiffness of trying to lie semi-comfortably in a hospital bed with a needle stuck in my right arm.  In fact, Ted slept (or dozed) off and on even after 8:00.  A lady whom I will ever bless brought me breakfast, and even though it was not as plentiful as I would have hoped, having skipped dinner last night, there was the saving grace of Italian coffee.  Mmm!

The nurses kindly waited for me to finish breakfast, and then one of them wheeled me down to radiology for an ultrasound of my cervix, which was dilated to 3cm.  The docs on base had estimated only 1-2cm last night, so at first I wasn't sure this was a good thing.  But the Italian doc seemed pleased, saying that the medicine they were using for treatment was not good to use for 1-2cm dilation, but only for 3+.  And knowing that I have been dilated to 3 for weeks before delivering previous babies, I decided it wasn't worth being concerned about either!

We came back to my room, where they hooked up monitors again to check Baby's heart rate and my contractions, which were entirely un-noteworthy in my opinion.  They didn't disturb me at all during the night, and even after fully waking, I had hardly noticed any during the various activities.  We felt this was a good sign!  As before, the monitors were only on me 20-30 minutes--and when the nurse came in to remove them, she turned the air conditioning on for me!  Woohoo!  We hadn't even realized A/C was an option here!  A member of the kitchen staff came in to take my lunch and dinner orders, and then we were left alone.  Ted and I decided he would head home to take over kid duty (Carla had texted that things were going well, praise God!) and return later in the day, hopefully with the children for a visit.

Gina, the hospital liaison, called right after Ted left.  She had spoken with the Italian doctor and confirmed what we thought we had understood from him earlier--he is pleased with how the treatment is working, and assuming my contractions don't return, they would likely release me tomorrow morning.  Hooray!  I asked Gina about visiting hours and whether the children were allowed to come...she called me back after checking on that to let me know that as long as we kept the door closed, it was fine for them to come anytime.  Technically, children under 12 aren't allowed here, BUT...that is obviously not adhered to, based on the sounds that came from the hallway throughout the day!

I had a wonderful, peaceful quiet time, starting off with listening to The Job Suite by Michael Card.  A friend had posted it on Facebook, and I thought it was a beautiful and thought-provoking way to begin some worship time.  Renewing my mind and spirit with the water of God's Word was so refreshing...and I realized that the fear and even terror I had felt last night was absolutely, completely gone.  I renewed my hope, my trust, and my joy in my Lord!

Lunch arrived at noon--and what an amazing lunch it was!  It totally made up for my not having dinner the night before!  A bowl of pasta bolognese, rosemary-seasoned potato wedges, grilled pork, a mini-loaf of bread, and a fresh peach.  I had to save the bread and peach for a snack, there was so much food!  (Maybe that's why they give such tiny breakfasts, LOL!)  So, hands down the BEST hospital meal I have ever had, and that includes the "Proud Parent" dinners they serve in the military hospitals after a baby is born!  Score 2 for the Italian hospital care!!

Score 1 for the Italian hospital care--did I not mention specifically?  The LACK OF HOVERING!!  I LOVE that they do vitals, monitor a short while, and then leave me in peace!  I never would have slept at a military hospital last night with all the stuff they would have been doing to me!  The only unavoidable thing here is the IV drip, but that's kind of the point of being here--doing something to stop labor!

After my yummy lunch was consumed (and extra food stashed away for later!), I was free, blissfully free, to lie down for a two-hour nap!  Thankfully the little Italian visitor in the hall stopped running up and down the corridor and banging on my door by the time I was finished eating so that it was actually pretty quiet.

So my hospital room.  I suppose it isn't terribly different from what I might expect anywhere else...but here are a few random observations...

  • Hospital beds in Italy = just as uncomfortable as hospital beds in the States.  They are nearly identical.
  • So are the pull-out couches.
  • Bathrooms in Italy have a bidet!
  • I have a mini-fridge in my room...I don't think I've ever had one in a military hospital!
  • There is a rolling tray to hold meals, etc.  So glad--at first we didn't see it, and it made for difficulty twisting around to reach my water bottle, phone, etc.  But then we located it tucked into place, cleverly fitted into a cabinet unit.
  • There is a TV, which I haven't even turned on for obvious reasons.
  • There is a crucifix on the wall.  Lucan noticed it right away when he was here visiting, saying, "There's Jesus dying on the cross!"
  • My room has a little entryway of sorts...not sure why, but there is a second door and a wall, about the size of an elevator--I suppose it's for privacy?  The other rooms we've seen as we've been up and down the hallway are more open, but I also think those rooms have more than one bed.
After my nap, I enjoyed some reading time before Ted and the kids arrived for a visit.  Hooray!  I was starting to get a bit lonely!  It's so weird not having ANY responsibilities...just me and my IV rolling cart, ha!

The kids were happy to see me, too, which made me feel great. :-)  I was a bit concerned that Zaden would want to yank on my IV line, but thankfully that did not capture his interest, and I was still able to hug and snuggle him a bit before he was ready to explore the new surroundings.  The nurse came in to do another round of monitoring, so the kids got to see and hear all of that excitement.  We enjoyed hanging out together for awhile, and then the kids were too hungry and getting a bit too rambunctious for the space we were in, so Ted took them home to make tacos while I enjoyed some surprises myself: my dinner was delivered by my Italian friend Emilia, the mother of Salvatore who comes to play with our boys a couple of days each week!  I didn't realize she worked in the kitchen here, so it was a fun surprise for both of us!  She was of course surprised to see me here--she and Salvatore had hosted us for a morning of swimming in their pool followed by lunch last Wednesday, and I hadn't seen or talked to her since then.

Anyway, I was just about to dig into my equally delicious dinner (more pasta--I chose that over soup--plus a ball of mozzarella di buffalo and a tomato salad, more yummy bread, and an apple) when another friend dropped by for a visit!  I just met Jacki last week at Carla's house when the Ks hosted a 4th of July party.  Jacki and her family have been in Naples as missionaries for about 15 years!  Carla had called her last night during our flurry of "what do we do now" activity to see if she would be available and willing to translate for us if needed.  Well, since we have a base liaison assigned to us, we haven't needed translation services, but since Jacki lives so close to this hospital, she decided to pop in and check up on me.  So sweet!  I enjoyed visiting with her while I ate my dinner, and then she took her leave and I have been enjoying a quiet evening ever since.

So, as things stand now, I can still feel our little guy movin' and groovin' in my belly; contractions are barely happening at all; and I anticipate perhaps one more round of monitoring before I can turn in for the night.  With the thought of being released in the morning, I'm feeling very optimistic!

All in all, I am extremely pleased with this whole experience, given the considerable shock I underwent at the beginning of it all.  The staff at this hospital has been nothing but kind and professional, and I can't complain at all about the quality of care.  I'm very thankful that the medication worked--even though meds/intervention would not have been my preferred approach, given the time frame we were dealing with and the circumstances, I'm thankful that God has allowed the scientific knowledge for us to have dealt with the contractions to slow things down.  I'm not ready physically OR mentally for a baby yet!!

As far as our little bambino, well, he's apparently not so little, LOL.  I do wonder about the due date--originally at my first check-up, when they did an 11-week ultrasound, the due date matched up perfectly with the date of my LMP.  However, at the halfway point ultrasound, he was measuring about a week and a half bigger than where I supposedly was.  And that's about the same size difference now--measuring about a week and a half beyond where I am.  So, if his current size puts him in line with a 35-week baby, even though I'm 33.5 weeks based on a due date calculated from LMP...well, do I need to be that concerned about delivering him early?  I'd like to think not.  And frankly, the thought of carrying him full term or even late is rather terrifying, LOL!  I thought Zaden was big at 8 pounds, 3 ounces!  (I don't know how my friend Claire has delivered 9 babies, all without drugs, and all weighing around 9 or more pounds, I believe?!  One was over 10!)

So that's where we are at!  And if you are not related to us and are still reading this far, thanks for following our journey and for your prayers!  (Thanks to our relatives for that too, ha!!)  God has once again reminded me that He is sovereign, and no matter what happens tomorrow...or the next day...or the next week...or the next month, I trust His purposes and pray for His glory to be made known in and through us.

What to Expect When You're...Not Expecting THAT to Happen!

Yesterday was quite an ordinary Saturday...for awhile.  Charis and I went to Support Site for a little vendor fair that is starting up once a month, she with some crocheted and knitted items and I with some cards for sale.  We also manned a table for our friend Hannah who just left for a trip to the States but had hair accessories to sell for her and Tuba's adoption fundraising.  It was a slooooow morning.  I did sell $20 worth of cards, and Charis DID get some leads for future babysitting jobs, but other than that...well, we enjoyed the conversation with the women who stopped by and who were at the other tables!

We packed up our stuff, got lunch at the food court, and did our grocery shopping.  I tried to sip water throughout the morning; we were sitting in the shade, but it WAS a hot day.  It was exactly 1pm when we got into the Suburban to head home.  I noted a contraction at the moment I was getting settled in the driver's seat, thought nothing of it, and went on my merry way.  Since I generally have Braxton-Hicks contractions starting at 5 months or so (at least with my later babies), I don't usually notice them.  But another one came at 1:05.  And another at 1:10.  I thought that was a bit odd and mentioned it to Charis.  I continued to sip water and figured I'd get extra water in my system once we were at home and lie down for a nap.

The contractions continued every five minutes.  I left Ted and the boys in charge of unloading the car and went up to my bedroom to lie down.  I couldn't sleep...every time I would nearly drift off, a contraction would wake me up...and I would look up to see the clock and realize that yup, it had been 5-7 minutes.

By now I was getting slightly concerned.  I had reached 33 weeks on Wednesday, so regular contractions were not anything to be happy about. I went downstairs for another water bottle and set myself on my bed with books and my laptop, figuring I could at least keep my feet up even if I wasn't able to get to sleep.

By 4pm, with no change in the frequency or intensity of the contractions, I was on the phone with a Tricare nurse to get some advice.  Even though I had no dire symptoms (bleeding, fluid leakage, pain, etc.), of course they advised me to go get checked out.


I was JUST at the Support Site all morning!!  Now I have to go back?!  I called my friend Carla, who lives just around the corner from us, and as she had been following my FB status updates, she was aware of the situation and willing to drive me to the hospital so that Ted could stay home with the kids and get them supped and bathed, etc.

We left around 5pm.  I grabbed a water bottle, a couple of snack bars, my WORLD magazine, and my Kindle.  I fully expected that they would tell me to go home, keep drinking water, go to bed, and come back if anything changed.

The evening began to drag on as various personnel came in and out of the room to do this, check that, ask me questions, start an IV to make sure dehydration wasn't the issue causing the contractions, etc.  Various tests were run and the on-call OB doc was contacted.  So we continued to wait for lab results and for the OB doc to arrive.

I was so thankful Carla and I had the opportunity to chat!  We joked about at least having the excuse to catch up--we haven't seen each other much this summer!

Finally the OB doc arrived (wearing flip-flops, ha!), and she did some ultrasound checking.  The baby was looking fine--a more-than-adequate 6lbs, 12oz or so, give or take given the small machine they were using.  Still!  Charis was 6lbs, 13 oz at birth, and she came at almost 40 weeks!

After the ultrasound, the doctors left the room to discuss their findings, and Carla and I began making plans for packing up and heading home.

And then the doctors came back in the room.

The test results, the ultrasounds, everything pointed to the fact that my body was, indeed, heading toward pre-term labor.  They had ruled out all other causes for the contractions--which STILL had not subsided, despite extra hydration.

Bottom line?  There was a good chance our baby would attempt to make his appearance early, and the Naval Support Site hospital is not equipped to deal with early labor and delivery.  I was to be transferred immediately to an Italian hospital, where they would do what they could to prevent labor from happening...but in the event that the baby did arrive early, they would be capable of caring for both me and the little one.

The news pretty much rocked my world.  I had been feeling slightly foolish for running to the hospital when I figured I was just a bit dehydrated.  And this is baby #7...contractions like the ones I had been feeling were pretty much normal.  (Granted, the consistency is not something that I had experienced before, but still!)  And now here I was, hearing words like "ambulance," "steroids," "liaison," and more.  It felt like a surreal nightmare.

The staff immediately got busy readying things while Carla and I took a few minutes to pray together, try to clear our heads, contact Ted, and come up with a plan.  I think I went into a bit of a shock mode; my body began trembling head to toe, like when you're in transition during labor and you just. can't. stop. shaking.  That made me feel panicked--what if I WAS laboring?!  More prayer.  More casting out fear in the name of Jesus.  A bit of calm.  Deep breaths.  I didn't expect this--but God knew it would happen before I was even born.

OK.  We can do this!

Ted set about in a flurry at home, packing some items up for me, updating the older kids on the situation, and putting Charis in charge until Carla could come and be there for the night.

Carla shifted into practical caregiver mode, asking all kinds of wonderful questions--will she need sheets and towels?  (You do in many Italian hospitals.) What if she delivers--what happens next?  What if she DOESN'T deliver?  Then what?  I was so thankful someone who could think clearly was there with me!  God knew Carla was just the person I needed with me yesterday evening!

Ted arrived just as they were ready to put me on the stretcher.  During that time of waiting, I got a shot in my bum (still hurts--ouch!) of some steroids to help Baby's lungs just in case he did come early.  I left the hospital wearing a military hospital gown--good thing, because they don't have any of those available here in the Italian hospital!  I got strapped down into a stretcher--a first experience, one I do not care to repeat.  (Can you say claustrophobia?!)

The ride to the hospital was borderline tortuous--but mostly mentally so.  I began trembling all over again, and my contractions were coming harder and closer together.  I can't say for sure whether it was the bumpy road or the fact that my stress level probably shot through the roof, but the last 10 minutes or so of the ride, my abdomen was one hard lump the entire time.

Ted and Carla followed in their cars and then joined me inside the hospital.  Gina, the hospital liaison, had ridden in the ambulance from SS and was with us the whole time, as were the Navy ambulance staff, who were all wonderful.

More examinations.  Another ultrasound.  (By the way, this baby IS, in fact, a boy, if there was any doubt, LOL!)  Drawn blood.  Paperwork.  Translations.  Questions.

It was nearing midnight when we said goodbye to Carla, Gina, and the Navy guys and came to my hospital room.  Now we had no translator available, and the nurse, kind as she was, spoke about 3 practical words of English:  pain? You OK?

I was instructed to lie down, and she brought out what looked like some medieval torture devices.  I had absolutely no idea what might be happening next.  I had to lift up my gown, and she put a series of about 5-6 suction cups with little bulb-syringe-type tops around my chest area, so I assume it was a heart monitor of some sort.  Then clamps went on each wrist and ankle.  I was alarmed.  What the heck was all this?!  Talk about feeling vulnerable!  I whispered to Ted to grab a sheet for me to at least cover my middle--good gracious!  The nurse left the room, Ted got acquainted with our facilities, and I lay there, spread-eagled, on the verge of tears, thinking that I was NEVER going to be able to sleep with all these contraptions on me.

Thank God.  She returned within 10 minutes and removed all the devices.  Oh, yay!!  I had been so worried that they were there for the long haul, since I'm used to round-the-clock monitoring at military hospitals!  Then she hooked up monitors for the baby's heartbeat and to measure my contractions.  Sigh.  Well, THAT at least I could understand.  Meanwhile, another nurse put the medicine in my IV that was to help slow down the contractions.

After about 20-30 minutes at the most, the heart rate and contraction monitors were removed!  Oh, joy!  The nurses were done with me for the night, and we were blissfully uninterrupted the rest of the night hours!  Praise God!  We didn't sleep all that great--I was so hungry, having never eaten dinner, but I was unable to choke down the carrots and crackers Ted had grabbed for snacking.  Ted was on a pullout couch (and yes, he did need those sheets he brought from home!), and the room was stifling.  I opened the windows during one of the times I woke up, but it didn't help a whole lot.

I'll end here and start a new post covering today's happenings!

July 01, 2013

Road Trip, Part 6

Day 13:
Today was our Florence day.  Thankfully Ted had done enough research ahead of time to realize that we were NOT allowed to drive into the downtown area--it is a very restricted zone, and we could see firsthand exactly why.  Traffic is nuts there!  We did locate a parking garage under the train station JUST inside the zone, but we figured that people coming in to take the train would surely be allowed to park there, right?!  Well, we didn't have any troubles, and thankfully despite the awful traffic, we made it to the parking garage, where there was plenty of space for our GWB (Great White Behemoth, as the Suburban is affectionately known in our family).

Off we went on foot to find the Galileo Museum, which was our one and only scheduled stop for the day.  It was a considerable but not unbearable walk.  We spent a couple of hours or so puttering around this very cool, very educational museum, where there was something to capture just about everyone's interest.  Having been in some amazing children's museums with many interactive features, we were a bit disappointed at the interactive offerings--there were two small rooms that allowed kids to check out some of the science behind some of the tools, instruments, and inventions we had seen on display during our meanderings, but really, given the kind of museum this was, there could have been SOOOO much more!  In fact, hands-on, interactive displays in every room would have been extremely helpful for people like us...families with small children who can't read and older children who desperately want to touch all the cool-looking things!

Ah, well.  We had fun.  Here are a few pics...you can see the whole album here.

After the museum we were more than ready for lunch, so we hit up a little cafe right across the street for some pizza and panini.  Then we walked back toward the parking garage by way of the Duomo (pictured just above this paragraph), which I had been told was worth walking by even if we didn't have time to go inside.  Wow, was that an understatement!  Our photos can't really do it justice...it is absolutely enormous and soooo beautiful on the outside.  We had to save the inside for another day, but I'm glad we were able to walk past it at least.

We rewarded the kids for their perseverance in walking through the throngs of tourists in stifling heat by getting some yummy gelato...well, everyone except Lucan got gelato.  Poor little guy conked out in the stroller and missed out!  We were more than ready to get into our air-conditioned vehicle and head out of the city.  It was about an hour and a half (maybe less) back to our hotel in Pisa.  We enjoyed a wonderful sit-down dinner at the hotel restaurant and then crashed for a decent night of sleep before heading home the next day.

Day 14:
Original plan--touring in Florence during the morning, driving home after lunch.  Well.  After battling the traffic and the crowds the day before, we ALL agreed that Florence can WAIT!!  We will return when the weather is cooler and hopefully there are fewer crowds!  It was nice to simply pack up and head back toward Naples.  We stopped at the Support Site to pick up Ted's car, which he had loaned to a new AF guy he had sponsored in shortly before we left for our vacation.  Ted drove the kids home in the Suburban to begin unloading while I took the Alfa to the commissary to get enough food to last us a couple of days--we had wiped out our fridge, freezer, and pantry before our trip!

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.
We've had enough of this traveling gig...for now!  What a blessing to be able to see and experience these things together, even if we DID have our fair share of bickering and complaining and difficulty sleeping!  We thank the Lord for His many, many blessings, including keeping us safe during our 3,000+ miles on the road!