Prader willi, Uncategorized

Which one is not like the others?

Your eyes are still glued shut but your ears are fully awake. It could be a mile away but a new mom has impeccable hearing for her newborn babies cry. You try to ignore the small sleepy coos. Once the babe lets out a deep throat cry bare feet hit the cold floor at 2am to soothe another helpless baby through the night.

I am all too familiar with crying needy babes at midnight. Nursing every 2 hours was what I expected when we added our third baby. I was ready for the house to be full of noise. I was ready to sit up and comfort her for hours just because she wanted to be held. I was ready for the car rides to school to be full of tears and ear piercing screams. Instead there was silence, heart pounding silence, watching for breath silence.

Elsa is not like others. Friends came to visit the first few weeks home and would ask how we were sleeping. How was she feeding? Does she keep you awake? All of my answers were not the common response from a new mom. She slept too well. She never cried. She was force fed. She was not hungry. She was not like the others.

Two physicians asked me questions that left me with a disgusted and probably rude face. I’m not sorry for my response at such on odd question after a diagnosis of prader-willi syndrome.

“Do you notice that she is different from your older boys?” The MD’s were probably asking out of respect and trying to lessen the blow of her condition with such a question. It bothered me. I’m not one to beat around the bush.

As I was trying to keep my two year old out of the office cabinet of gowns and tongue depressors I let out a scoff. “She is different in every way, in every movement, and in every life giving breath. How could she not be different?”

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Four year check up playing with equipment
We all knew what she had in those doctor offices. We all knew she was different. And I love every different part of her. With her small preemie size toes and tiny palms that can’t grip more than a woman’s pinky finger, the obvious to the unseen differences, I fully embrace with bittersweet love.

~*~

2am hit me with a cold breath of night air. That night I woke David as we listened to Elsa let out a small high pitched sound. She was trying to cry. Instead of dreading the surprise awakening we smiled at each other glad to hear she found her voice. We were thrilled she could muster enough energy and strength to express herself, even at 2am.

Most mothers in my generation feed on demand. When the baby is upset, milk is not far from its mouth. If Elsa was fed on demand she would not have survived her first two days of life. We feed on a strict schedule. No, she never breastfed. I can hear the shock and awe of some. She is bottle fed, and yes it’s all formula, a high calorie formula. There is no cry for food. There is no rooting with her mouth, just a clock that tells us her blood glucose needs food and her brain needs the calories to develop.

Elsa still sleeps in her crib by the foot of our bed. My boys were out of my room at two weeks of life. They made so much noise while sleeping I was up all night. Even my ear plugs did little to drowned out the sounds of them crying. The whole house knew the boys were awake. Elsa won’t make a sound, so much I near her crib to see her chest rise and fall with breath. She is almost 6 months old and still sleeps close by.

If left to her own devices, Elsa would lay on her back all day and all night. She would barely move her small frame. The weak muscles barely able to turn her head would not be curious enough to find a familiar face in the room. I work day and night, bath time, feedings, car rides, and sleeping to keep her stimulated and positioned appropriately to develop strength. Normal babies move with fascination of the world without excessive intervention. Elsa will look with desire in her eyes to move but jailed in a helpless frame of low muscle tone. Her emotions are freely expressed in baby blues staring you in the face, a shy smile struggling to emerge. Without the help of a gentle hand on her back she would not turn to see her brothers. Constant assistance is needed for Elsa to meet her milestones.

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We travel monthly for doctor appointments. Elsa could qualify for MVP status on our airline at 5 months of age. I carry her close to my chest through security, on the ramp to the airplane, and hold her tight as we fly into the air. Her eyes stay shut through loud announcements and the rough Alaskan landings. My friendly seatmates, without a doubt, will comment, “What a good baby you have!”. I politely smile and say yes, she is a great traveler. Inside, I chuckle to myself. Low tone babies will sleep peacefully if held. They melt into your arms with soft support allowing them to relax. She is so different than my boys. Crying on the ascent and descent of flights was typical. Lots of entertaining and snacks were necessary to keep them in the small airplane seats. Elsa really is a great flying companion.

Elsa is different. She is the odd man out. I love it this way. She reminds me we are all made with our creator in mind. A bigger than life, more diverse than our small brains can muster creator that formed us to resemble him. How big and how great is our God? Have we searched him and found him? I am reminded daily he is too big to comprehend in this life. We have all eternity to find him out, to know him more, and yet we will never get to the end of his greatness. Elsa is made in his image. She shows me and everyone else she meets a different side of our Lord. And she shows me God is working in our small, seemingly unimportant lives every minute and second of our days. With each rise and fall of her chest, she breaths the life God has given her. She is different and she is blessed. She is beautiful. And she is the Lords workmanship.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, oLet us make man8 in our image, pafter our likeness. 27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; rmale and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them.

 

 

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Prader willi, Uncategorized

To: Friends and Family From: Mom of a Special Needs Child

This isn’t the way I intended life with kids. I didn’t think I would be traveling day six of my infant’s life. I didn’t think I would be in and out of the hospital while questioning the decision to have another baby. I didn’t think I would be running from doctor office to therapy visit to picking up a toddler from preschool all in 3 hours. It’s just not what I thought it would be.

Life used to consist of entertaining toddlers. It was park visits, gymnastics play, beach combing, and play dates. And some, if not most of life, is still made up of these special moments with toddlers. It is now intermingled with a strict feeding schedule, office visits, specialist appointments in different states, and scheduling in daily physical and occupation therapy for their special needs sibling.20180731_080344.jpg

Please give me grace. Please excuse the unanswered text messages, phone calls, and emails. Please excuse the tardiness and slight inattentiveness. I’m working with multiple calendars of a child’s school, family events, church activities, doctor appointments, therapy visits, work schedules, and a small amount of “me” time. My plate is overflowing.

My head space is usually filled with the “what next”. It’s constantly looking at the clock. It’s thinking of every small move my baby makes, looking for cues of discomfort, happiness, any emotion she can barely muster the strength to express. My mind is anxious more often than not. Am I doing enough? Could I be using the awake hours more effectively to help her more? Did I pay that bill? Did I pack him a lunch? Did I brush my teeth?

I would love to have time for play dates, baby showers, church small groups, and coffee with new friends. It’s just not my seasIMG_20180602_085310_930on of life. Instead, I entertain toddlers in doctor offices. My coffee cup is still in the microwave, and chatting with friends is more like chatting with my new bestie, the doctor’s office manager.

When you do see me, please take the initiative. I’m tired. My mind is usually racing from task to task. I want to catch up, but sometimes I’m lacking the energy. Please say hello. Even if it’s only for 30 seconds of conversation. It reminds me that I’m still me, that I still have friends even when I don’t visit much. A small gesture goes a long way in my world of little people.

Thank you to those wading the swift waters with me. Thank you to the Facebook group of friends I’ve never met in person who lock arms with me. And to the mothers who email from around the country to give hope. You truly are inspirational. Together it’s easier to walk against the current. Together it’s easier to grieve, support one another, and celebrate small victory.

Although the day to day is not what I imagined, I couldn’t have asked for more. My house is full. It’s full of love, hope, and yes craziness. Everything has its season. It’s just a stepping stone to another change around the corner. So friends, I’m still here. I’m just in this space. Be patient with me.

 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Uncategorized

A Hidden Gem

 

The curl of your eyelashes,

Ringlets of red hair at your ears.

The corners of your mouth turning up to smile,

The eyebrow lift of intention.

 

The glow in your eyes when discovery hits

Your pinky finger, no longer than an inch.

The soft quick breaths of air rising from your chest,

A big sigh of effort when trying your best.

Chunky thighs etched with needle pricks,

And growing toes making big steps.

 

Small movements yet, your eyes show me a bigger world.

You’re going to move mountains my dear.

A force of nature, strength beyond compare.

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Uncategorized

Life Lesson 1057…Self-Care

5:58AM, eyes half open to search for my glasses, I can hear silly giggles and stomping feet coming up the stairs. The boys are awake and that means the day has begun, full steam ahead. They are already asking for breakfast and looking for the Lego bin. Elsa is back to sleep after her 4am feed. David is getting ready for work so I subconsciously get a cup of coffee and begin working on breakfast for the boys. By the time it’s 7:30am everyone is fed, dressed, backpacks ready and I’m about to feed Elsa again before we head out the door. Oh but wait…I forgot my shoes, didn’t eat breakfast, didn’t brush my teeth or comb my hair. Somewhere in all the hustle and bustle, the crying, the throwing of toys, and kiss the husband goodbye, the mother is forgotten.

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My boys playing while I was away with Elsa

Recently I have a few friends who are either pregnant or just had their first or second baby. Pregnancy brings a large suitcase of hormones, tickets to a fast and furious emotional roller coaster, and a puke bag in the front pocket of the seat. A first baby means you deliver not just a baby but sleepless nights, ear plugs for crying, so many diapers, and binders full of new subjects to worry over. A second baby, well you still get all of the first but you add to the bookshelf a second edition of worry and volume two of sleep deprivation. Even if you don’t have a child with special needs, motherhood is rough. With the to-do list piling up and more humans demanding your attention relying solely on your care, it’s all too easy to forget about yourself.

Self-care is so important and it is one life lesson where I am still adding knowledge and experience. Lately, I see so many moms in my cycle of friends that might just need a little extra encouragement, a little nudge in the right direction, and reassurance that this motherhood gig is tough but so rewarding. Nothing in my life has brought me closer to Jesus, brought me to tears in prayer, and yet produced so much joy. Here is a little of what I do for myself that keeps me sane, keeps my mind growing, and ultimately makes me a better mom at the end of the day.

~*~

First things first. Taking care of yourself as a mother does not need to take up time. It does not need to be away from the kids and it does not need to cost extra money. It takes creativity and exploring the subjects that are interesting to you. Take a few minutes and brainstorm the things that you love to do and work them into your day as you can.

  • Hot cup of your favorite tea or coffee beverage: Okay maybe your drink is also in a beautiful fluted glass the color of red after 3pm.
  • Nap-time: I take nap-time very seriously. All of my kids nap at the same time for at least an hour. I take full advantage of this time to nap as well. With a baby in our house, sleep is limited and stress is high. A little extra shuteye for me is just what I need most days.
    • Might as well add to this by saying some nights I just need to go to bed early. Toddlers are notorious for early rising. My kids are no exception! If I want more sleep, which makes me a happier and more effective mother, I need to go to bed early.
  • Podcasts: I am definitely not an expert in media and computers but you can find a podcast on just about anything. I’ll listen to a podcast while the kids are having free play in the afternoon, while doing dishes, or while walking on the treadmill at the gym. It’s usually a sermon or a podcast from the Village church on knowing faith, topics of Christianity and debating current topics in Christian culture.
  • Time with husband: My kids are in bed for the night by 7:30pm every night. This time leaves room in the day for us as a couple. We can talk, read together, or just watch our favorite sitcom at the end of the day. This is great self-care but it’s also great for any marriage to spend some time together without the kids around.
  • Reading the Bible: My morning time is essential to my day. Most days it’s only five minutes that I get to read through a passage of scripture and short devotional. Other mornings I get the luxury of meditating on scripture and s pending time praying through a passage. IMG_20180708_193453_131
  • Crafting: Sometimes I’m able to multitask and knit or crochet while the kids are around and sometimes I do this once they have gone to bed. Knitting for the kids is rewarding for me and they look forward to what I’m making. This is one of my favorite yarns because it’s thick, easy to work with, and fast to knit or crochet a project. Currently working on a hat to match this blanket.
  • Books: I’ve been reading a lot lately. I read while the kids are playing, at nap-time, or after they have gone to bed. Maybe I only get a page read at a time but it’s something for me that will keep my mind engaged and keeps me growing in different areas of my life. Here are a few that I am working on at the moment.
    • Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman is a rare book that speaks Gospel truth in boldness. It’s an oldie but a goodie. I highly recommend this book!
    • Gross Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome is the current book I’m reading for Elsa. Although she does not have Down Syndrome, she does exhibit the same hypotonia. This book is perfect to demonstrate positions to help an infant reach their milestones. Super easy to read and to follow the pictures, I’ve been using this book often during our afternoon physical therapy sessions.
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Elsa sporting a bonnet I made

I think what I have learned from motherhood and taking care of myself is that it really doesn’t take much time or effort. It can be simple or it can be extravagant. Either way, it helps me be a better mom. When I’m stressed, at my limits, nerve about to snap, I’m not at my best. When I take the time to breath, to engage my brain in the things that I love, and remind myself that I have an identity outside of my children, I can mother them with more love. Our identity as mothers should not solely lie within our children. It’s crushing for them. Find the time and space to take care of yourself to love your kids more.

~*~

What do you do for self-care? Run, sew, shop, paint, cook? I’d love to hear your way to care for yourself in the comments and share ideas with others.

 

Prader willi, Uncategorized

Dark Rooms, Part 1

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Memories exude a color in my mind. Darkness is the only way to describe a week I did not expect in our journey to a diagnosis with Elsa.

I frequented our pediatrician weekly for weight checks. I pulled myself together for each visit and thoughtfully placed Elsa in her car seat with all the towel propping for our 15 minute drive. I pretended I was brave and non-emotional for each visit. I put my clinical hat on for the hour to discuss every little minute, hour, day of Elsa from week to week. I did this until my pediatrician said she suspected seizures. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I broke down in tears and bewilderment. Was I not catching seizures? Was I a terrible parent?

It only took a day to schedule a flight to Anchorage and see the pediatric neurologist for an EEG. This would monitor her brain activity, asleep and awake, for signs of petite mal seizures. My husband and I arranged our schedules for our two boys, his work, and my travels to Seattle. My friend would pick me up from the airport and drop me off at my hotel. My aunt would meet me the next day at Seattle Children’s Hospital for support.

I was relieved we would see a neurologist quickly but scared there was something more serious going on with Elsa. I had bittersweet moments throughout the day. Thoughts were constantly on her feeding schedule, her wakefulness, her facial expressions, just looking for signs of seizures. It was all my brain could focus on.

This was my first time at Seattle Children’s, a place where I would call home for a week. It was a place where the twisting hallways become my walking route for exercise. I was tired but anxious for her EEG. It was the first appointment of the day so it was quiet in the hospital. We were lead into the exam room and the technician explained each step of the procedure. 20180627_092441Her limp arms did not protest all the wires and goop placed on her head. It would take 30 minutes where we sat and watched her drift from sleep to gentle arousal. My heart was full, heavy, and anxious. I sat in a rocker next to the table staring at her face. She slept peacefully with minimal facial expression. I finally took my book out to calm my mind and preach to my soul.

Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials has pointed me back to Jesus in my dark rooms. I was only on the second or third chapter at this point but it reminded me through suffering and anxiety, through heart wrenching moments, Jesus is still in loving care of our hearts. Pages are filled with scripture that I prayed over Elsa, prayed into my heart, and pleaded with Jesus for peace. It was a reminder that God did not leave me, I was not alone, and I had Him to call upon in the darkness of night.

I prayed these over Elsa as she lay on the treatment table.

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. (Ps 103:19)

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. (Ps. 46:1)

 

~**~

 

Goop was still in her long curly red hair when we left the room. We had to wait another two hours to see the neurologist for the results. My aunt and I ate in the cafeteria where parents and children gathered to escape their hospital beds. Families loomed over the television screen that displayed if their child was in surgery or recovery. You could feel the heaviness that fell on individual tables. You could palpate the anxiety of uncertain outcomes of a daughter or son. And yet, there was light streaming through the big windows and smiles on the children’s faces as they talked with their siblings.

It was time to see the neurologist. Maybe it was on my face or maybe I put on a façade of composure but I was wrecked with anxiety. The nurse measured her head, took her height and took her weight. I was keeping track of all three on my phone and I knew this was not good. She had plateaued. My façade was gone. Tears had already filled me eyes as I met the neurologist for the first time. She gently looked over Elsa. The good news was no seizure activity. This was my small light in the darkness. The bad news, she wanted us to stay and be admitted to inpatient for further testing. Even though this was not what I had planned, it would become a blessing. It’s funny how a moment entrenches us and not long after it becomes a glimmer of hope.

Tears came quickly for half an hour as she explained Elsa was lethargic, plateaued in her weight and head circumference, needed an MRI, and additional blood work. I knew Elsa was sleepy. We lived 6 weeks of her small life feeding her around the clock. We worked endlessly to keep her awake and stimulated. I felt like my ability to mother my child was taken from my hands. My attempts had failed and I didn’t know how to fix it.

The next statement she said gripped my heart even more. I knew it to be true but I wanted something else. “I want to do a FISH blood test specific for prader-willi syndrome.” This is a fluorescent in-suto hybridization that detects errors in the genome by deletion. She also wanted to test for imprinting errors. If you haven’t read my previous blog posts, I had suspected prader-willi day 1. My physical therapy training had me over thinking everything, this included. My gut was right if the neurologist suspected it as well. Clinically I could see all the signs and physical manifestations of prader-willi, but deep down I just wanted to see my daughter. I didn’t want to see Elsa just as a clinical presentation.

One of the longest walks was taken to her hospital room. I was crying through the hallways. Holding Elsa in my arms, two case managers lead me to her room. I’m sure people were staring, but that was not on my mind. Failure was on my mind. Sadness and grief, pain and exhaustion filled my body.

It took hours to get settled into the room as nurses, doctors, and case managers rotated in and out. I hadn’t eaten but a small bite since 11am and it was now evening. I hadn’t stopped crying since we left the neurologist’s office. Once the doctors left for the day I was able to speak more with my husband back in Alaska. He calmed me down. His optimistic words filled my ears and his care for me reminded me to eat, sleep, and look after myself as much as I could. His heart always pointed me back to Jesus too, reminding me to lean on Him. Again I was reminded of a hopefulness that was buried deep in my heart. There would be light again. It might have been buried but it was still there.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (Ps 46:5)