Monday, November 28, 2011

New Beginnings

It's official! I no longer have a cardiologist!  My ECHO came back beautifully.  My cardiologist entered the office and announced that everything looked fantastic and that there was absolutely NO fluid left around my heart.  It appears that delivery finally resolved the remaining part of my condition.  We are SO relieved, and were so excited for these special people to meet the little life they saved.

Waiting for Dr. R and our Nurse to come visit.
We loved our nurse practitioner so much.  She was incredibly comforting throughout the process, and always validated our fears and feelings.  She is truly a wonderful person, and I'm so glad that the medical field still has people like her in it.
Ethan went straight to her.  He grinned and laughed and reached for her as soon as she said hello.  It was almost as if he remembered her voice.  

Lots of love given to a very special woman.
Dr. R came in and wanted to show us pictures of his new pride and joy as well! He has recently welcomed a new son, and he is absolutely beautiful.  We had to convince him to hold Ethan, as he was afraid of spreading too many germs to him.  I told him that I had to have a picture of Ethan with the man that made sure that he arrived safely, so he happily agreed.
Big, happy sighs.  This man will forever be in our hearts as we watch Ethan grow.    He seemed bashful to accept our huge thank-yous, and just wanted to express his own happiness that everyone is in tip top shape.  He is a very humble man, and we have the utmost respect for him.
Finally, after a few tears and big thank-yous, we took a picture together.  I told them both it was bittersweet to leave, as they both determined that there was no need for me to have any more appointments.  My only visits to Centennial Heart will be personal visits to say hello.
We have been so blessed with such amazing care.
We have been so excited for this day to finally come.  This has been the first moment (other than Ethan's birth, of course) that we have gotten the answers we hoped for in over a year.

Our hopes were that we would win our unemployment case and follow it with this appointment, providing complete and absolute closure to this horrible year.  We've been waiting so long for these moments to let us know that the chaos is officially behind us, but of course that isn't the case yet.  Instead I left feeling uplifted, and hopeful that instead of  a final moment in this turmoil, we had experienced our first moment of things turning around for us.  We went to Nashville in hopes of searching for our ending, but came back feeling that we had found a new beginning instead. We've always been told that when one door closes, another one opens, but maybe doors don't have to be closed for new ones to open up.   Maybe sometimes we don't have to experience closure in order to experience a new beginning.  Maybe sometimes they just flow together, and we are able to move forward into them anyway.

Yesterday marks the day of a new beginning.  We are starting fresh with our family.  Good things are going to happen.

No Way to Say Thank You

Today is a REALLY big day for us.  Today is the day we hope to say farewell to our wonderful team of cardiologists in Nashville.

We will head down to Nashville for my last ECHO and meeting with my doctors.  We feel confident that the issue that we have struggled with for nearly a year has finally resolved itself, but tomorrow will  make it official.  Your thoughts and prayers would be most appreciated that we get the results that we are expecting.

While we are excited to be closing this chapter, we are also extremely sad to say good-bye to such an amazing team.  We wanted to say thank you to them in style, so we have been busy at work with some DIY projects for our team. There is truly no way we could ever thank them properly for being so wonderful to us over the past year, but we are sure going to try.  We were so lucky to be placed with a team that has truly CARED for us that was more than medical care.  Our country would be in much better shape if all health care providers were willing to show such love and compassion for their patients the way this team has.  I've said it before, but I could never say enough good things about Centennial Heart.

My cardiologist has recently brought a new addition into his family, so my Mom found some sweet things for the baby and siblings.  Jason designed this and had it specially printed, a true one of a kind.

Seriously, how talented is my husband? SO proud of him.

My nurse practitioner has been a true comfort and help to me throughout this process.  I could easily call her and tell her that I was feeling nervous about recurrence, and she would talk me through it.  It never took her more than an hour to return my calls to reassure me, which I will be forever amazed at.  For an interventionalist that has duties with a number of patients in office as well as in the hospital, she always made me feel like I was her only patient.  She is getting married next year, and we are absolutely thrilled for her.  Jason and I got busy on this for her:
 Jason created the design, and I transferred it to a ceramic tile.  We have a small easel for her to display it in her home after she is married.  We're considering opening an Etsy shop, what are your thoughts?
We are so thankful for our team at Centennial Heart.  It is certainly bittersweet to visit them today, but we are so glad that this visit is finally here.  I am so happy that we get to take Ethan to meet the team that saved our lives and gave him the chance to be brought into this world.  We couldn't be more thankful to be blessed with individuals that were willing to care for us in such a proactive and aggressive way.  They allowed us to keep our family in tact, and that is something we will always remember.  I can't wait to share photos with you all of Ethan meeting our team!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

5 Months

Hi Stinky Boy!

Today you are 5 months old! I can't believe how big you are getting so quickly! You are such a sweetheart, and a huge flirt! Your relationship with your "girlfriend" is continuing to blossom, and I think it is official to say you prefer blondes.

Over the past month, you have been a BUSY little bee.  You are growing, changing, moving, and learning at such a fast rate.  It is almost easier to take video of you than it is to take your picture because you move SO much!  You are still a tiny little thing, just barely big enough for 3-6 month clothing and size 1-2 diapers.

Over the past month we have gotten to do so many new things with you!

Celebrated your very first Halloween as Charlie Brown...

Entered the world of solid food...and you can't get enough of them!
 Played in Granny and Pappy's new cabinets...

Working extremely hard to sit unassisted for longer than 15 seconds at a time.  This is improving quite a bit, although any task you try to accomplish while sitting often throws you off balance.
 Supported Mommy's high school football team by wearing the colors of your future Alma Mater.  Go Purples!  State tournament bound, heck yes.
 Spent lots of time playing with Mommy...
 ...and then curl up with Daddy once you are sleepy...

Passed out from a food coma after too many sweet potatoes on your very first Thanksgiving...

 Somehow discovered how to leave a trail in your crib of socks and paci's...

Became Santa's little helper...
 ...and MET Santa for the very first time! You loved him!

And met your Elf on the Shelf!

You are trying SO hard to crawl, and are managing to find ways of mobility without crawling.  You know how to get your knees into position, as well as your arms, but not at the same time.  Once you master that, I think you will take off quickly.  Mommy is going to have to baby proof the house soon, and I'm hoping that comes AFTER we take the Christmas decorations down this year.

Since you are working so hard at crawling, Daddy thought it would be fun to try to give you lessons.  It didn't go well...

Speaking of your Daddy, today is his birthday too! You love to play with him when he comes home from work, he makes you laugh quite a bit.  I know you will make his first birthday as a Daddy very special.

Your new BFF is Fenway.  Fenway is no longer afraid of you, and is extremely patient with your hands-on ways of discovery.

Make that VERY patient.  We are so proud of Fenway for continuing to show you love and kindness while you rough him up, and we hope to teach you soon to be a little more gentle with Fenway in return.

You LOVE to play in the floor with Fenway, and his puppy like demeanor really makes you laugh.  You would play in the floor with him for hours if he didn't get distracted so easily.  I think he would play with you for hours to if you could figure out how to throw his toys. :) All in good time, I know.

Watching you grow and learn becomes more and more exciting, thrilling, and fulfilling.  I love watching you figure out new tricks and practice them until you have them perfect.  I love when you cuddle with me with your eyes wide open-too sleepy to play, but not sleepy enough.  That is my favorite time with you, you are such a snuggle buddy.  I cannot believe you are almost a half-year old, and that we are coming up on your first Christmas!  Daddy and I have some big plans to make this a special one, even if you may not remember it.  You make every day special for us, and full of excitement.  We grow to love you more unconditionally than we ever have, and you bring our family more light than it has ever seen.

I'm so proud of you.


Friday, November 25, 2011

A Quick Post

We've had a whirlwind week around here, and my blog construction is nearly complete! What do you all think about the new design?

I will be back to regular posting again as soon as the remainder of our holiday visits are over.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Calling All Mommas/Children Lovers!

I'm participating in a children's book exchange with some fabulous bloggers, and I'm looking for a few more participants.  Your contribution is the price of one children's book, and if successful, you will receive 36 books in return for your children's collections! Any takers? Comment or e-mail me and let me know!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ethan Meets Santa

Apologies for my blog still looking like a hot mess.  It's a current "under construction work in progress."

This past weekend we took Ethan to meet Santa for the very first time! We wanted to take him early in the season to avoid the long lines and an impatient 5 month old.  So my first line of duty was to figure out what he was going to wear!! I had two contenders, and both outfits will be used in his Christmas photos, so it wasn't a heartbreaker not to use one or another.

Our two contenders:

My heart is so full of his cuteness!  He's such a smiley baby, I love it.

For my Mom, we took Ethan and Riley's photo together, and then individual pictures for our own memory books.  Sorry they are so fuzzy looking, they are iPhone pictures of the print.

Ethan locked in on Santa immediately, and I'm really sad that the photographer didn't get a picture of his amazement and wonder in this bearded man.  Jason took a video, but it is sadly a little far away.  It was so sweet to see him focus in on Santa.  Riley, of course, is full of the Christmas magic.  She immediately started telling him of "all things pink" that she wanted, especially a pink teddy bear.  She's at the perfect age to capture Christmas magic.

I love these pictures so much!  Ethan would give us much bigger smiles, but somehow the photographer was a little slow, but I'm so glad that we at least got a half smile in his individual picture.

 I have been this excited about Christmas since I was a kid myself.  I know he is too small to be too wrapped up in the fun, but I can't wait to watch him study everything.  I can't wait for him to see the lights, our tree, and let Santa visit our house.  I love being this little one's Mommy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pardon the Mess

Please pardon the mess around here for the next few days! I'm in the process of rearranging/redesigning around here!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What a Mess!

On the day of my unemployment hearing, we had to take Ethan to the pediatrician for his 4 month check up.  He weighed 13 pounds even and was just under 25 inches long.  He jumped to the 50th percentile for height and is in the 10-15th percentile for weight.  I expressed concern to my pediatrician about Ethan's weight because that boy eats like you wouldn't believe.  He's been on 8 ounce bottles for a while now.  

Our pediatrician wasn't concerned with Ethan's weight because it was still within normal ranges.  However, because of his appetite and development, we were given the go ahead to introduce solids!  We decided to try it on a tentative basis, and if Ethan showed any signs that he wasn't ready, we would back off for a few weeks.  His first feeding was quite interesting, to say the least.  He LOVED the taste, and wanted to take the spoon right out of my hand so that he could lick every bit he could find!  We made quite a mess.

He LOVED his squash.  We introduced rice cereal, and the poor boy made the "medicine face," gagged, and began to cry.  We tried it on several occasions and he just hates it.  His aversion to the rice made him cry at any solids feeding, so we took a break for a few days and went back to squash.  Since then he has LOVED his solids, and even asks for more!  After a week or so, we introduced carrots, and I think he likes those even better than squash.  He's an eager eater, and we are able to have dinner time without such a mess anymore.

My boy is growing so fast.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moving Forward

We've had a busy and emotional week.  It has been difficult to accept that cruelty and deception sometimes comes out on top.  Maybe I'm completely naive, but I have always believed that we would end up with the better outcome as long as we remained ethical and moral.  I've felt pretty heartbroken that this wasn't the case.

Thank you all so much for your encouraging words and stories that can relate.  They have been extremely helpful to us.  While I hate that some of you have gone through similar stories, it is good to know that other people have gotten through what we are going through.  It also makes me want to fight the situation harder in other areas.  I feel responsible to prevent certain situations in our circumstance from ever happening again.  It isn't right.  I'm not quite sure what can be done yet, but as soon as I find out, I plan to fight it as far as I can.

There are a lot of aspects to this situation that have caused a world of hurt.  I've been doing a job search, but at a pace that was allowing me to look for something that worked perfectly for my family.  Something that would keep me with Ethan as much as I possibly could be.  We've been thrown into a mad dash of a job hunt, just hoping to find SOMETHING.  I'm angry that this weeks event means I may have to accept a job that will require me to leave Ethan way more than we planned/hoped for.  We've known that I would have to return to work, but unfortunately that return is no longer on our terms.

I'm angry and upset that there really are people in this world that completely lack loyalty, passion and understanding.  I'm upset that people are willing to treat others the way that we have been treated over the past year.  I'm even more upset that they have been allowed to get away with it.

Somehow, we have to move forward from it.  We've spent the week making phone calls, visits, and e-mails to anyone and everyone that we feel may have some idea of a job that will be available quickly, but still allow me to be with Ethan as much as possible.  We're thankful to have some wonderful friends and family that are helping us in the search, and a few that have even given us some very hopeful leads on extremely short notice.  We are hoping that something comes up soon.

Until then, we just have to accept the circumstances, and accept what has happened.  I truly believe that God will not give us more than what we can handle, but I really do wonder sometimes exactly how much he thinks we can handle.  Sometimes I feel He and I aren't on the same wavelength in that aspect, but I accept that He knows better than I do.  I know that SOMETHING good is going to come out of all this, but I really wish we could see it now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How is This Even Acceptable?!

In reviewing my unemployment decision documents, I have been reviewing legal cases that my referee indicated and listed in my documentation was a case of Wimberly v. Labor and Industrial Relations Commission of Missouri.

This case discusses a woman who took leave during her pregnancy, and her job was not available to her when she returned.  She was denied unemployment benefits because her pregnancy was not "caused" by her job.  This case made a ruling that States are not required to approve benefits to women who must take leave during pregnancy.  This ruling states that illness during pregnancy or pregnancy complications are no exception to the rule of "quitting without good cause attributable to the employment."

How is it acceptable that being unable to return to work due to the risk of detriment to you and an unborn child is not understood by our government?! How is it acceptable for employers to FIRE you for these complications and not be held accountable for assistance once your health is restored?  How is it acceptable that you are fired for this cause and the government views that you voluntarily chose this?  Please sense my sarcasm when I say: "Of course I want two heart surgeries and risk my child's life. Sign me up!  Allow me to volunteer for that during my next pregnancy too."

I'm mad. Steaming mad.  I'm bitter and I'm pissed off.  I think it is ridiculous that we, as mothers, are not supported by our legislature in multiple areas.  Our legally required maternity leave time is unacceptable, our options to protect and provide for our families during complications are unacceptable, and our limited abilities to care for our children on our own is unacceptable.  I do not understand how it is possible for those who are blatantly cheating the systems are easily accepted, approved, and assisted, but an individual who wants to do the right thing and follow the rules properly gets slapped in the face.  What is WRONG with this picture?

Our "systems" need an overhaul.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Truth

In a bold attempt to be completely honest, things suck.

Today Jason and I learned that the truth does not always prevail.  We've had an extremely disappointing, heartbreaking moment today that I really never wanted to believe would ever come.  I'm choosing to lay it all out there because at this point, I'm not quite sure what else there is to lose.  I'm choosing to lay the facts out here, but I'm going to attempt to keep my feelings about it at minimum for legal reasons.

Many of you have followed and read long enough to know the events of our past year.  We are coming up on the one year anniversary of my first heart surgery, the surgery that first made us realize how unlikely it was that Ethan would ever enter the world alive.  That surgery completely turned our worlds upside down. We were fearful of my life, Ethan's life, and our future.  Things went downhill from there health wise for a while.

During this time, I had no choice but to be removed from all forms of work.  I was put on restricted activity, as restricted as you can get without complete bed rest.  I had no choice but to take a leave of absence from my job, a job that I very much loved, with clients that I cared deeply for and still wonder and worry about.  As sad as I was to abruptly leave my clients and their families, my doctors felt that work was aggravating my condition, and the suspected virus that I contracted was likely contracted at our summer program.  While these were complete speculations, they are the only answer we have for the cause of my health condition last winter.

It has taken a while to completely recover from this condition, and we are still not 100% sure that the condition will not be long term.  We will see my cardiologist again this month to determine if the delivery of Ethan allowed the remaining amount of my symptoms to diminish.  However, while I was still requesting to return to work during my leave of absence, I was never allowed to do so.  The inability to get a work release from my doctors resulted in the loss of my job in March, when FMLA would no longer protect me.  This was not a pretty 12 weeks between my employer and myself, as I was doing everything I could think of to keep my job.

We were lucky that I had been paying for a short term disability insurance policy when I got sick.  That policy kept us financially afloat throughout the remainder of my pregnancy.  I'm not quite sure where we would be if we hadn't bought that policy, but we are so glad that it was there for us.

Jason received a promotion shortly after Ethan was born, and we had hoped that it would be enough to alleviate the pressure of job searching.  It wasn't.  His promotion was tremendously helpful, but it wasn't enough.  We've known that I would need to return to work in order to provide for Ethan, as we just aren't quite able to become a one-income family yet.  So upon my medical release to return to work, therefore losing my short term disability insurance, I filed for unemployment benefits to get us through while I looked for something that would be best for all of us.  Of course this isn't exactly something I wanted to do, but it was something we had to do in order to stay afloat until I find something.

My previous employer protested my benefits, claiming that I quit my job and therefore should be denied benefits.  The state sided with my employer, and I filed an appeal.  I researched, wrote letters, and provided as much evidence as I possibly could to present in a hearing to prove that I absolutely did not quit my job.  I needed that job.  That job had a wonderful health insurance plan that saved us thousands of dollars in coinsurance for my surgeries.  Unfortunately, we lost that plan when I was fired in March, leaving quite a burden from the remaining medical visits and then Ethan's delivery.  Knowing what would be stacked against us if I did leave my job, I would have never quit.  I had all the proof in the world to show it.

My hearing was last Tuesday, and I can't begin to explain to you the sickening feeling I've had preparing and waiting for this confrontation with my previous employer.  I've been so angry at the way I have been treated, I feared that my stupid mouth would get me in trouble.  I managed to remain calm, answer the facts, and not say the things that I have wanted to say.  I 100% believe that there is nothing else I could have said or done to better prepare for that 45 minutes.

We received our letter of the results from the hearing today, and the decision was not in our favor.  For whatever reason, although I did everything I could to protect my position, requesting medical leave required by physicians that results in a termination has been viewed as a voluntary separation.  While they determined that my "voluntary separation" was for good cause, they did not feel that it was attributable to my employer because I cannot 100% prove that "work" caused my condition.  Of course I can't prove that.  No one knows.  We can speculate.  We can assume.  Although it is obvious that work was aggravating the condition, that is apparently not what matters.

Because a heart condition is not at the fault of my employer, I don't deserve unemployment while looking for a new position in this horrible economy, according to my previous employers.  I didn't ask to get sick.  I didn't ask to be fired.  I didn't ask to have to worry every moment if Ethan and I were going to survive.  I didn't do anything wrong.  Therefore, we are forced to become a one-income family that just doesn't cover it for who knows how long.  I feel pretty crushed, to say the least.  I feel embarrassed to even have to admit what's going on.  I feel that I did nothing wrong, yet I ended up in a situation where someone didn't believe the truth.  They didn't believe me.  I feel frustrated that I don't know what is going to fall into our laps or when it is going to fall into our laps.

I know, and I have faith, that things will ultimately be ok, but that doesn't make them ok tonight.  I know this entire situation is happening for a reason that I may never understand, and that one day it will be such a small piece of our past.  That doesn't make it any easier right now.  I would love to say that I intend to wake up tomorrow with a smile on my face and ready to put this behind me, but that probably isn't going to happen either.  I was really hoping for December 10th to roll around and be able to reflect at how far we had come from such a nightmare tale, but it seems that we will still be wondering where the heck we are going.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wow! What a Picture Overload

We've had a really busy week!  More on that later, but I wanted to catch up and tell you all about Ethan's first Halloween.

I'm not a big fan of Halloween, just because I think it's silly.  Am I the only one that thinks it is slightly strange to walk from home to home of people you don't or barely know and ask for food?  Anyway.  It's not my favorite holiday, but it is more fun now that we have Ethan.

Riley flashed back to our childhood and wore one of my sister's old costumes...She was Rainbow Brite!!  She insisted on being called Rainbow all evening and wouldn't answer to Riley.

We took E to see his great-grandparents, who spoiled him rotten with lots of fun teething toys, books, and a new musical toy he's obsessed with.

Cousin love

My Little Charlie Brown!

Seriously, I have no idea what's going on here, but it cracks me up.

Granny at her finest.

Pappy and Riley

We also took the kids to see some friends of ours! We grew up with Brittany, and she is getting married in April! Riley is going to be her flower girl, and constantly talks about how Miss Brittany is going to be a princess.  

Ethan loves him some Brittany! :)

Brittany's mom, Lisa.  Lisa and Danny (Brittany's parents) have been close friends of my parents way before they had children. 

Mrs. Lisa gave Ethan and Riley lots of fun toys and books for Halloween!

Riley and Danny.  Riley has more fun answering the door to hand out candy.  One child came to the door without a parent.  She said, "Hey! Where's your Mommy and Daddy? You shouldn't be here by yourself."  She also demanded everyone say trick-or-treat to her. Ha!

Ethan with Pappy and Danny

Riley helping out Brittany with the door.

The Crowe Family

Someone was getting sleepy.

Really sleepy.

We loved our mild Halloween evening with lots of fun with the kiddos!