Friday, March 27, 2015

Mazy Grace's Delivery Story Part 1

The journey to meeting our baby girl:

On Saturday, I was starting to think that "the day" was coming! The day we had been praying for, for so long! That night, we were at a friend's house and I started to have some contractions. That night, I woke up about 4 times with them and thinking that Sunday, I could be giving birth! I woke up Sunday morning not feeling the greatest, but decided to go to church last minute. As the day progressed, I started to feel better and better. I kept thinking, WHAT? Then Monday, I woke up with no contractions. 

To be honest, I was a little frustrated and had no problem letting God know that I was frustrated. In my heart I knew that God knew what He was doing, but in my mind, I thought "why wouldn't He want us to meet this baby girl?" I just kept coming back to Proverbs 16:9 which says "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (ESV). God never once left us walking alone and why get frustrated in this situation? If I truly believed that He would establish our steps, then why am I not letting him? I guess our arms were just so ready to love on this little girl!

We actually did decide to keep something else SECRET, and that was the full details of my Friday appointment before her birth. My doctor said that if she did not come during the weekend, that I should come in on Tuesday for another appointment. There I would have a catheter put in to dilate my cervix, be sent home, and then go to the hospital at 5am on Wednesday morning to be induced. Even though we were praying she would come during the weekend, we at least knew that she would be born within the week! That gave us hope - not that we lost it of course, but we knew our dream of being earthly parents was so incredibly close to coming true!

Well, it was less than an hour later after that frustrating prayer Monday morning when my doctor's office called. The nurse said there was an opening Tuesday morning, and that my doctor wanted me to come in Monday afternoon instead, to get the catheter put in. I was elated! I right away called Dan and told him that TOMORROW (Tuesday), we were going to be parents!

I spent the day nesting, getting the last load of laundry done, cleaning out the leftovers in the refrigerator, getting my bag packed, and of course doing things that really didn't need to be done, but wanted to do, to pass time. Thankfully I had decided to be done with work because I knew I was getting close to having her and that this ole body wouldn't take another full day of work well. That afternoon, we headed to the doctor's office to see where I was at. I even wondered if it would be possible to be dilated enough to not need the catheter? When my doctor had first mentioned the catheter that Friday, you could tell it wasn't his favorite thing to do to a patient, so I had a little bit of apprehension about it. God had guided and established our steps in every other way, so I thought why not? Why not pray that I wouldn't need the catheter? Why not ask God to dilate me enough so that I could go home without it?

As my doctor explained the procedure to me Monday afternoon, it was actually less invasive than what I thought it was going to be, but nonetheless, still uncomfortable and not something to be desired. He checked me first to see how dilated I was and as I prayed, he said "I see no need for a catheter because you are dilated to a 3!" As I closed my eyes and did a little pump with my fist, I said a prayer of relief and thanksgiving to God. God, yet again, answered our prayers! I always told Dan that I would do whatever it would take to keep me and our child healthy, and if that meant a catheter, so be it. That afternoon, I sure left that office relieved and incredibly thankful that I did not have to spend my last night pregnant, with a mechanical device to dilate me! 

I went to bed that night not necessarily anxious, but so incredibly ready to meet our baby girl! Scenarios played through my head as I pictured our family of 3 in the hospital room. As I dreamed of what it would be like to give birth to her. To see her face for the first time - a face filled with so much hope, promise, and grace. To hold and gently touch her body for the first time. To wipe away the tears of dreams coming true and prayers answered. My mind filled with so many thoughts!

As I woke up each time during the middle of the night, I found myself putting my hand on my stomach, taking in every last bit of her inside of me. As 3:50am rolled around, I quickly called the hospital (recommended by my doctor) to see if we could come in (since it wasn't an emergency, but an inducing) and of course they were short staffed and asked that I come in at 7am instead of 5am. The nurse said if I could, to go back to bed and get a few more hours of sleep. 

Well, that brings me to this current moment - sleep is highly overrated when you know you are going to be giving birth to your child! I thought eh, I can try and fall back asleep...not a chance! Those dreams are just too real. Thoughts of our baby girl too precious to let go of to sleep. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Having Faith That God Can Heal Again!

It has been an emotional past few days. The ups and downs, the twists and turns, have us laughing one moment and tearing up the next.

Yesterday was one of those days. I had an appointment with my family doctor and as she told me more about the results of my ECHO, I realized how serious of a situation it was. Saturday I was almost hospitalized because of the severity of my symptoms. The doctor told me that their goal right now is to keep me out of the hospital and we can do that as long as my fluid levels continue to go down. The way to measure that is to make sure that I am losing weight almost everyday. If this says anything, I have lost 15 lbs. in the past 3 days - pure fluids. I now know why I felt the way I did, why I had a hard time breathing, felt sluggish, weak, loss of appetite, exhaustion, etc. I imagine carrying 15 lbs. of extra weight and I get tired just thinking about it! So not only is my mitral valve toast, but the left side of my heart is enlarged. It is not effecting the function of the heart (which is actually really good), but it is enlarged. A sense of urgency set in; especially when I was told that 2 doctors were really worried about me over the weekend.

My family doctor was able to speak to my heart doctor personally, which was such a blessing! I had spent the day trying to schedule an appointment with my heart doctor, but kept getting answering machines. After they talked for awhile, they came to the conclusion that we need to wait it out a bit. Yes, there is a part of my heart that is not functioning - but my heart doctor wants to see what losing all of this excess fluid will do. My mom thought that might be the case as well. I have an appointment next week Thursday to determine what the next steps are. My heart doctor feels that my valve declined too fast to all of a sudden stop functioning, without an "outside source" effecting it, like the fluid. Yes, it was weakened with pregnancy, no doubt about it, but to the point of not functioning, that is what is in question.

So we ask for prayers that God would yet again, heal this mitral valve! We know that He can and we are going to believe that He will do it again! I prayed yesterday, with tears streaming down my face, that we would have a faith that can move mountains - a faith that believes that God's good and perfect will for our lives, is being revealed. We just have to trust and let our faith take us through each day. I must say I feel like a different person, so I know that getting rid of the fluids is helping, but we just pray that it will also effect me internally as well. I am on a strong diuretic, which unfortunately has effected breastfeeding, so little Mazy has been a champ and as patient as she can be, when this mama is trying to figure out if she got enough milk at a feeding and if not, how much to supplement. It's been a bit of a challenge, but like the doctor said, our goal right now is to get mom healthy and when I am healthy, I can take better care of Mazy then too. They are right. If I do not take the meds or pass the fluids, then I will end up in the hospital and I will miss out on way more of Mazy's life, than being able to do some of the simple things at home. It is such a blessing to be able to be at home with her!

So this week is spent trying to get back to "normal" fluid levels, while watching how I feel and how this all is effecting me. I have to call in on Friday with an update, with a possible follow up on Monday if needed. Other than that, I just need to take care of myself and care for little Mazy - one of the best things I have ever done! If Mazy Grace only knew how much she means to us - though we tell her 100 times a day!

Mazy Grace is ONE WEEK OLD TODAY! Here are a few random pictures taken throughout the past week:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Blessings No Matter What The Circumstances

Since coming home from the hospital it has been a bit of a whirlwind! I would have loved to have posted more pictures throughout the past days, but the past few days have not been anything like we ever thought. But more than ever, we are proclaiming God's amazing grace. I know that is a phrase that you hear me say all too often, but there is a reason why we felt Mazy Grace was the perfect name for her!

The delivery could not have gone any better! I still plan on sharing that story, but there is another story developing and road we did not necessarily expect to be traveling on so soon. When we arrived home this past Thursday, as the night wore on, I started to not feel very good. Very sluggish, weak, short of breath, and had an incredible amount of swelling. I am no pro at delivering so I safely assumed that this was all normal. Though when I realized that I couldn't lay down and sleep, even sitting up in a recliner made it difficult to breathe, I knew something wasn't quite right. Because of all my past health issues, I am thankful to know my body well enough and be alarmed when something isn't quite right. I called my OB and whenever a heart patient says "shortness of breath" you are guaranteed an appointment within the day. You could call those the magic words!

I saw an internal med doctor and she found it odd that I was retaining so much water. She sent me to get some labs done and within a few hours, I received a call from her that the diuretics she prescribed to help me get rid of the water, were essential. The number was supposed to be 125 or less - mine was in the 2,000s. Yes, you are reading that correctly. My numbers were through the roof and it was effecting so much more than just my heart. I couldn't wait to get home and start taking the diuretic pills, in hopes of feeling better quickly.Meanwhile, Dan got his first experience of giving Mazy a bottle (her first one EVER) as she started to fuss while I was in my appointment. Of course multiple women, including a nurse, the doctor, and receptionist, all came up and asked Dan if he needed anything, as he tried to make up a bottle while holding her. I am breastfeeding, but did not pump yet, so took some formula along for the "just in case". I told him there is something about a man holding a baby - a 3 day old baby - and women's hearts melt over something like that, so to continue to expect it!

As Friday night went on, I did not sleep well at all, and by 6:30AM, I woke up Dan, and through tears, told him that something just wasn't right. The doctor on Friday said that if I did not start to feel better, that I had to go to the ER. The thing is, Mazy was supposed to have a wellness checkup at 9:20 at my doctor's office that morning, so I decided to try and hang on until then, and bypass going to the ER.

When we arrived at her appointment, she thankfully was SUCH a champ! I mean who likes being stripped down to just their diaper and prodded at? Well, she just kept taking it, just showing the doctor her big blue eyes! She passed all her tests (she did fail the hearing test in one ear at the hospital), and only lost 7 ounces since her birth. She is extremely healthy and we are so thankful! After our discussions about Mazy, the doctor dug more into my situation and decided that I needed a stronger diuretic because I needed to get rid of the fluid. It just is not healthy to carry around what he thinks are at least 5-6 lbs. of excess water weight this long after birth. He also was concerned with my heart situation and was able to do an on-demand (as he called it) heart ECHO, which we headed over to the hospital for.

I was so tired that I actually fell asleep 3 times on the ECHO table and had to apologize to the technician for startling like a baby when someone opened the door! You could tell she was laughing inside, but understood the circumstances. A cardiologist was able to read the results and the doctor called me within a few hours with the results. As he put it, my "pump" (the actual heart) looks great and is functioning normally, but the mitral valve is "toast" (in his words). He said it tanked and is not swishing any of the right blood, and whether that is due to all the swelling or not, it is not functioning properly. We were a little caught off guard with this news, but we were honestly relieved when he said it was not heart failure, which is something we feared. A mitral valve issue is something that can be fixed. Unfortunately, that means another possible heart surgery. Am I looking at open heart surgery? We do not know. I have to call this week to set up an appointment with my heart doctor in Minneapolis to determine a course of action. We are praying that if the swelling goes down, the functioning of the mitral valve is better, but we won't know until the swelling goes down.

The doctor mentioned that it is something that might have to be taken care of sooner rather than later. We knew that me having a child could effect my mitral valve, but we just didn't expect it to appear in this way and so sudden. We are hoping that if heart surgery is needed, that maybe robotics could be considered, so that they do not have to open me up again. And we pray that God would yet again heal that valve! He did it once and we believe He can do it again! I just want to be able to take care of Mazy to the fullest without being held back by a heart surgery; especially if it has to happen soon. We hope to find out more this week.

So it has been a bit of a whirlwind since coming home on Thursday, but we look back at the last few days seeing God's AMAZING GRACE in so many ways! Why these symptoms didn't show up at the hospital, we don't know. I am so thankful that my parents have been here this weekend! They were able to help with Mazy and around the house, as I was not feeling well. Yes, the mitral valve is probably toast, but at least my heart is healthy - what grace! The mitral valve can be fixed, unlike congestive heart failure, which was one concern about me getting pregnant. Mazy is as healthy as can be, which makes this mother's heart so at peace. I was able to have Mazy naturally and experience such an amazing birthing process. Dan and I said, before we knew the test results, that if God would allow us to only have one child, we would be content because our experience was such a beautiful experience. I was told by the doctor that yes, Mazy might be our only one, but God graciously gave us such an emotional experience that if indeed we now can only have one, our hearts are at peace. Only God!

As we stare at Mazy, thinking about what a miracle she is to us, we continue to shed tears. Her being in our arms, fulfills so many hopes and dreams. God has used her to reassure us of the goodness of God and His loving hand on our lives. We realize that even though the past few days were nothing like we ever expected, we look back and realize that she is a healthy baby girl and that I survived a natural birth - something that in the past, was in question. God's grace flowing yet again!

We continue to just take it a day at a time and know that in all situations, God's promises still hold true in Psalm 37:4 (the verse hanging in Mazy's room): Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

That verse continues to offer hope and peace. No matter what my future may hold, we still delight in Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, and know that He has graciously given us a child that we desired for so many years. Great is HIS faithfulness!

Here are some pics of the past few days:

 After her first bath - I knew she would scream, but we survived!
 Those eyes...

Check out those long legs!

I will never get sick of those snuggles!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Welcoming Mazy Grace Into This World!

Mazy Grace.

God's most amazing designs and workings in life are not able to be described in words. God's most miraculous events, leave us lifting up our hands saying "only God." In trying to find words to say to describe what holding our first child has meant, all that comes out are tears. God's grace has overwhelmed us and captured us. And His grace has given us new life, in more ways than one.

As the sun started to make it's way to our side of the world, we looked in awe at the vast spectrum of colors and stared in wonder, thinking about that Tuesday morning, what that day would hold, as we drove to the hospital.

As we arrived at the hospital, we both kept replaying in our heads that TODAY was going to be the day we were going to meet our little girl. Our little Mazy Grace. So surreal yet so real as we knew that all of the steps we had to take that day, would lead us to the moment we could hold our baby girl for the first time. 

As we made ourselves at home, nerves set in a tad, but our anticipation and excitement for this day overrode any fear. 

One last "belly pose" before she would make her debut.

As I "held" her in my arms, wrapping my hands around my stomach and feeling her kick, dreams of her in my arms, all too real. It was hard to believe that this day had arrived!

Trying to get her to get a movin' by making laps around the floor. Yes, I am sporting Dan's slippers because my feet were so swelled that mine no longer fit. What a husband!
 Shortly after the walk, I received an epidural, which was one of the best decisions and recommendations my doctor made! Wow, does that make a difference! I would love to say that I was a champ and didn't need one, but I hit a point where they started to become stronger and I could feel my body and heart responding, so I said lets do it! I ended up sleeping quite a bit with it, which was good because I didn't get a good night's sleep the night before.

Enjoying my liquid diet! Basically up until 1 hour before I started to push, I felt so great! The last hour was a bit rough, but worth every second! And before I knew it, I was telling the nurse that it was time to push! She checked me and I was dilated to a 10! The doctor came in and it was go time!
(I plan on sharing the delivery part of the story in a future post, but thought I would share these pictures first, as this post would be a book if I didn't!)

And the moment that changed our lives forever!

Mazy Grace Sterk
Born: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 6:52pm
Weight: 8 lbs. 2 ounces
Length: 22 inches

Holding my baby girl for the first time.
This picture brings so many emotions (as does the one above). Years of dreaming of a baby being placed on my chest. Years of prayers being sent up, praying for this child. Months of praying for a healthy child. She has been worth the wait!

Making sure she has 10 fingers and 10 toes

She did not weigh near what we all thought she would, but for that we were thankful! Delivery went smooth because of it!

She sure has some large dutch feet!

Proud dad!
As a wife, I never knew the joy it would bring to my heart to see Dan as a dad. He is absolutely incredible. To see the love he has and the protective hands and heart he has for our daughter, brings tears to my eyes! Just makes me love him that much more!
Content as can be in daddy's arms!

First family photo with our bundle of joy!
Look at Mazy just stare into her father's eyes!
Snuggles and kisses that never get old!

Some long days apparently!

And this is only just the beginning! We have said countless times that we never knew we could love someone so much the way we now love Mazy! Tears continue to fall as we just stare into her face, telling her how much we love her. We are still so overwhelmed with this gift and can't imagine life without her!

I want to share more about the delivery itself, as that is a God-story in and of itself. We look back on that day with SUCH beautiful memories as it was one of the best days of our lives! 

Thank you to everyone who has said a prayer or said a word of encouragement through this whole process! We have felt so loved and we hope one day Mazy realizes the depth of love people have for her. As we look at her face, we know that we hold her not because of anything we have done, but purely by GOD'S GRACE. We do not deserve her and we know that each day with her is a gift we never expected unwrapping. So thank you for sharing in this moment in our lives and we ask that you join us in praising God for this beautiful life!

Amazing Grace!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Any Day They Say!

Yes, she is prepped to come ANY DAY!

We never imagined that I would still be pregnant at this time, as we were told she would come early because of her size. Well, this little girl has us on pins and needles for weeks now, we have wondered if it is going to be "THE DAY".

I know many of you too, thought she would be here by now, but we know this girl is definitely worth the wait. I mean we have waited how many YEARS for her - years of prayers and tears. I think we can wait a few more days or weeks - though it is getting hard!

I had another appointment today and even though we had a bit of a scare, she is perfectly healthy! He had a hard time finding a strong heartbeat. He wasn't sure what she did inside there, but he was concerned, so they put me on a heart monitor and then also did an ultrasound, and both confirmed a very healthy heartbeat! When he prefaced his sentence with "I don't want to scare you..." I became a little nervous, but my doctor is so great about explaining everything! And like I said, she is just fine, which makes this mom and dad all the more at peace. Plus, I got to sit and hear her heartbeat for 10 minutes, and see her little body again (though maybe it's not so little anymore)!

My body is adjusting and moving right along, so as my doctor said, it could be any day! I have another appointment next week, so we will see once if I make it to that one, or if she comes by then. We know her little body has probably got to be running out of room in there, as I felt like this past week she grew like crazy, but just wait until that little bundle is tightly wrapped in our arms!

Will it be days or weeks? All we know is that she has got to be ready soon, we are ready, and we wait patiently for God to say He is ready to do His work.

And for those who saw Dan at the CMCS' boys basketball game in Minneapolis and not me, I know that probably turned some heads as he was there without me! I know many asked if I was in labor, but I just had an appointment today and didn't want to change it again (it was supposed to be yesterday). I personally told Dan to go because I didn't want him sitting around with me all day, waiting for nothing - and good thing he went because she isn't here yet! We both went yesterday, which was SO much fun and am glad I was able to make at least one game! We had such good talks on the way there, had fun doing one last big "thing" together, and decided we are ready to be mom and dad to this little girl!

Any day, any day...

Last week at the boys section final game...I don't think that jersey can get any tighter!

Yesterday at the CMCS Boys State Basketball Tournament - this girl is going to LOVE basketball! 

The Varsity Senior Girls at the Section Semi-Final game in Marshall on Monday!

Love these girls SOOOO much!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

39 Weeks - Getting SO Close!

Trusting in God's perfect timing is not always easy, but it is the safest place to be.

That is something God is teaching us, as we wait to meet our little miracle, and pray that our dream of becoming earthly parents, is just around the corner! 

The girls basketball season just wrapped up last night, and many have said it's now the perfect time! Not that our ways are God's ways, but as we were thinking about having a child, I still wanted to coach, but just had no idea how this whole pregnancy thing would go. In fact, we wondered if I would even make it through January, let alone the whole season! And God knew that was best and I wouldn't trade it for anything to be honest! Being able to be pregnant and still be able to coach. Those girls have meant so much to me! At each practice, they would ask if she was moving and if she wasn't, I would be sure to wake her up so that they could feel her little feet moving around. The excitement, utter amazement, little shrieks, and looks in their eyes, have made this journey beyond what I could have ever imagined! To be a carrier of life - this still brings tears to my eyes! That is why trusting in God's perfect timing is not always easy, but it truly is the safest place to be! 

I feel I am getting very close, but I am sure that is what most people say when they are 39 weeks pregnant! My legs feel heavy, feeling a little crampy, definitely sitting low, loss of appetite, and a few other things that have caused me to go "hmmm..." but she is right where she wants to be right now! We know that once she comes out, our world will change drastically, but this couple is ready!

She is VERY active and lets me know that she is still running in full gear in there, which I LOVE! Sleeping is a bit of a challenge, but if I am awake and she is awake, we just spend time together, as I play with her little feet. She probably gets annoyed, but I am soaking in every bit of her that I can! Like I said earlier, I lost a bit of my appetite, but I think there just isn't much room in there anymore. Cereal is by far a favorite and could eat it at every meal (as always). Swelling is definitely there in the feet, but can come and go in a day, so just loosening the shoelaces does wonders! If you want to get a good chuckle, just lift of my pant leg and you'll see why :). Really, I am SO thankful for how this ole body has responded to pregnancy! I am not getting any younger, so we were wondering how it would do! Feeling very blessed to be able to do what I do on a given day, not being bound by bed rest, and being able to carry out most of my daily tasks. 

Baby's bag is pretty much all set, my bag has a start (need to add toiletry items last minute) and her room is good to go! We would like to get a rug in there yet, but it's not like that needs to happen tomorrow. I have sat in the chair in her room, reading her books, and I just can't wait to do that with her in my arms! What a day that will be!

Feel free to laugh - as you can see, some of my maternity clothes should maybe be retired. I didn't realize how short this shirt was until I saw this picture of myself! I wore it at school all day today with a cardigan - maybe it's time to put this one away for awhile :). 

We are blessed beyond what words can even say!