Overall Everything Looks Great…

This post has been a long time coming. Over a month to be exact. We were never really sure how or when we would share, but we knew that eventually we would. Warning: This post is definitely on the longer side, but we truly appreciate your time and energy in reading this blog. You’ll see why once you get there.

Back on December 8th we had our anatomy scan. As I mentioned in the previous post Isabella wasted no time sharing with us that she was a girl. But, not unlike her mother, she’s stubborn.  She wouldn’t give us a solid view of her face. At this point we’ve now had two additional 3D ultrasounds since the anatomy scan and each time she likes to hide. Erin has even tried to bribe her with presents…still no luck.

Here’s the closest we’ve gotten to truly seeing our daughter’s face.

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Of course she’s cool enough to give us a little “thumbs up” to let us know she’s all good in there, but this is the best we’ve seen.

You may be asking yourself…”So what if she didn’t give you a great view of her face, why did you have two more 3D ultrasounds?”

We’ll get to that soon I promise.  So back to the title of this blog, “Overall everything looks great…” I struggled to try to find a launching off point for this blog, so I decided to use the exact same phrase our doctor used when she walked in after the anatomy scan. “Overall everything looks great…but…”

As soon as I heard that “but” my heart dropped.

I immediately started thinking, “What was wrong with my baby? What did you see? I didn’t see anything during the scan. Everything seemed fine. I didn’t notice our ultrasound tech mark anything or take any extra pictures. What is happening?”

“…but we noticed that she has a cleft palate and cleft lip.”

We both stopped. Stunned like we got kicked in the gut. Neither of us really sure what to think, feel, say, do.

Our doctor continued to talk to us and let us know a brief overview of what we could expect in the coming days/weeks. We were moving back from “normal pregnancy” to working with the Maternal Fetal Medicine team. Ok…that’s not a big deal…it just means that we have to drive to Hope Drive a few extra times. Once we scheduled our meeting with them they would advise us on what else we could expect.

We were planning our gender reveal for two days later and just got this news. We had planned on going to Babies ‘R’ Us to pick out a cute outfit for our boy or girl once we knew what our baby was just because we finally could. Should we cancel everything. Just keep to ourselves and try to figure out all of this cleft lip and palate stuff?

No!

Ok, well maybe sorta, but eventually the answer was NO!

We drove home, both almost in tears. Not really sure if we were ready for this but by the time we drove down our street we decided to keep going and go to Babies ‘R’ Us anyway. We found the cutest little outfit for Isabella. (Yes, I know I’m screwed and need to find about 3 extra jobs just to pay for all of the cute clothes Erin is going to be buying.)

We talked to our parents about it, and shared with my siblings but that was it. Since then we’ve told a few other people. But for the most part, we’ve been keeping it to ourselves. Mostly because we wanted to be educated on what exactly to expect and for how long.

It was yesterday that we finally got a TON of answers. We also found our guides through this entire ordeal. We met with the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic and now feel like it’s time that we can share this information with the world. Again, at this point we are in no way experts (and please do not take any of this information as 100% accurate as I’m going from memory, notes, and what I can find from fairly reputable sites on the internet.)

So first, here’s a little bit of information on cleft palate and cleft lip.

  • It’s the most common birth defect, affecting 1 in 700 babies.
  • There is no known reason why a cleft happens.
    • There are certain syndromes that clefts are associated with.
    • Most often a cleft happens with no family history or syndrome.

For more information check out Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic’s website.

Here’s a rough overview of what we have ahead of us:

  • Isabella will need special bottles and nipples and will need to be held upright in order to eat.
  • Lip Surgery – 3-4 months, once Isabella reaches about 10lbs.
  • Cleft Surgery – About 1 year.
  • Speech Therapy – As needed, but constantly monitored.
  • ENT Specialist – Babies born with cleft palates and lips can develop hearing issues and often have multiple ear infections and require tubes in their ears. (Often put in their ears during the cleft surgery).
  • A bone graft from her hip into her gums to assist with her teeth having somewhere to anchor.
  • And much more.

With that said, both the team at Hershey and the team at Lancaster Cleft have made us feel extremely comfortable and while I doubt we will ever be truly “ready” for all of this. We are as close as we can get. We met with our feeding specialist already and met the Executive Director and many others at the clinic. It was comforting to finally find out how feeding her will work. As we filled out the registries we had been unable to select any bottles or other feeding items.

The “TEAM” that we now have includes:

  • Plastic Surgeons
  • Feeding Specialist
  • Orthodontist
  • Speech Therapist
  • Audiologist
  • ENT
  • Pediatrician
  • Dentist
  • Prosthodontist
  • Social Worker
  • ALL OF YOU

When I started setting up and writing this blog we thought our Family Journey would go in the direction of Adoption and possibly IVF. But as life tends to do, it threw us a curveball. We ended up getting pregnant naturally and are now on a completely different journey than what we imagined.

I’m going to do a special blog next week with some thoughts on our first few months of blogging and some of the amazing feedback we’ve gotten so far. Stay tuned.

 

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Our not so fun end of 2016…

Typically when you get out of work 4 hours early, you arrive home 4 hours early and get to enjoy some extra time relaxing and together.  Unfortunately, on December 30th, that wasn’t exactly how everything played out. Here’s the story of what happened to end the crazy year that was 2016.

Erin’s day, like most state workers on the 30th, was ending early and she was heading home around 11:15 a.m.  Driving up State Street with relatively heavy traffic for the time, but it was New Year’s Eve eve and that meant an early dismissal for everyone.

At the same time at home, I’m working on a few things around the house expecting Erin to be home soon. We’ve made plans to go see a movie at 1pm. We figured there would be plenty of time to grab some food at the theater and enjoy a movie with the extra time together. Especially since we won’t have that 1:1 time as much once Isabella has made her arrival.

It’s now 11:30 and I’m on the phone taking care of a bill payment issue and see three straight calls from our friend Stacy, Erin’s co-worker. Figuring something is going on, I quickly get off the phone and call Stacy back. I’m out the door and in the Jeep before she even told me where they were.  Erin has been in an accident and the Police, Firemen and EMTs are all either on their way or already at the scene.  I find out that I’m heading to 16th and State Street and make my way there as quickly as possible.  Stacy reassures me that Erin is fine and the accident is minor, but in my head (and I’m sure any other expecting parent would agree) there is no MINOR!

I arrive at the accident scene and park. I notice one of the responding officers is a guy that I went to grade school with and played on the same peewee football team. I think to myself, “Ok whew, at least there is someone I know here and if I need anything he’ll be able to help me.” They seem relaxed and I look around to figure out exactly where Erin’s car is. He directs me over to Erin’s car.  Erin is just sitting in the driver’s seat sipping on her water and looks up at me, “I’m fine, it wasn’t bad. I just want them to check on the baby, but I’ve felt her moving around.”  WHEW! Ok. My heart has now resumed beating at a semi-normal rate. The EMTs come over and take Erin to the ambulance. They check her out but still recommend that we head to the hospital for the doctors to check everything out.

I tell her I’ll meet her at the hospital and they are off. By about 12:30 they’ve already gotten her back into an ER room and the waiting game begins.  With no apparent injuries we likely got moved to the back of the line in terms of service at the ER.  They’ve checked her blood pressure and they used the doppler to listen to Isabella’s heartbeat and everything sounds good…but we are waiting for a doctor to come in to check her out.

And we wait…and wait…and wait….it’s now about 3pm and they’ve come in once again and taken Erin’s blood pressure and checked Isabella’s heartbeat. Again, all sounds good but still no doctor.  About 3:15 the ER doctor comes in, look at us, asks a few questions and then says, “I think we are going to send you up to Labor and Delivery for monitoring just to make sure everything is good.”

“Why couldn’t you have done that three hours ago?” we both said at the same time after the doctor had left the room.

We got up to L&D and they once again check Isabella’s heartbeat with the doppler. It’s again all good sounds. However, this time the speaker is set little louder and we’ve figured out that Isabella is a bit of a drama queen when it comes to hearing her heartbeat.  She tries to kick the doppler wand off of Erin’s stomach every single time.  (Even when they hooked up a doppler to someone else for monitoring in a nearby room and we could hear the heartbeat she was still trying to kick it away.  It’s those little things that put a smile on my face.)

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By about 4pm they hooked Erin up to the fetal monitor just to ensure that there are no contractions to be worried about. At the time they told us it would be about an hour so I went down to get us some food while Erin downed about a gallon of water since the ER didn’t give her anything at all to eat or drink.

We figured we would make the most of our trip to the hospital and enjoyed some food from the “Hidden Door Cafe”. It’s sort of a Knode family tradition that if you go to the Harrisburg Hospital you have to eat there. Hell, that’s how Erin’s cousin let the family know that their baby had arrived in December. We all got a text message that simply said, “Anyone up for some corn nuggets?”

Finally at about 6:15 pm we got the all clear and began to make our way back to the Jeep.  Erin’s car has only minor damage but it’s truly the fear of the unknown that made the 30th so crazy for us.  What was supposed to be an extra 4 hours together was still spent together, but not in the way we had planned.

We’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has been reading this blog and following along our crazy journey. We’ve had some amazing support and we know that support will only grow stronger as the journey continues.  Thanks everyone!

Merry Christmas…just for Kicks

Since our last post we’ve seen alot of changes. Not only has Erin finally felt like the bump is harder to hide but Isabella has been super active and we’re really enjoying our “family of three” time.

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Erin has begun to feel her kicking and punching throughout the day, but she seems to get especially active first thing in the morning, when Erin gets home from work, and then again as we settle into bed.  Last night we decided to check to see if we could actually see her moving rather than just feeling her.  WOW. I wish I could capture video of what I could see. It’s incredible. People always tell you that its really cool when you can feel the baby move, and that you can eventually see them moving a foot or hand across the stomach, but last night I swear she was just showing off. She seemed to push her entire side outward and I think I saw basically the entire arm from her shoulder down and then her hip and entire leg.

On another note, the reality of everything is setting in. We are under 16 weeks from when we may get to meet Isabella. Her nursery is slowly coming together, but with Christmas just days away and New Years Day shortly behind we know we still have a ton of work to get done in a really short time. We took some time on Sunday and had some fun registering at Pottery Barn Kids, and plan to hit Babies R Us later this week or early next week. I’m in complete research mode now since I have several days off of work so if you have any recommendations on “must haves” for new parents feel free to leave them in the comments. I’ll definitely check them all out.

With that said…MERRY CHRISTMAS…for the last time as a family of two.  Wow…that’s weird.  Here’s to 2017 and big changes coming!!!

It’s a….

What? You thought I would tell you in the blog title? Come on. That’s too easy. Now I just need to take up enough characters that you can’t even tell from the text preview…Ok. I think that’s enough.

On Thursday we had our anatomy scan. Going into the scan we were excited and anxious because of course whenever you check the internet for anything you always hear the worst case scenario. Would the baby face the right direction? Would we get a clear picture? With Erin’s history, would a fibroid get in the way of what we needed to see?

Well…the answers are Yes, Yes, and No, respectively.  With that said we didn’t quite expect to get the news on if it was a boy or girl quite that quickly (I’d say within the first 15 seconds of the ultrasound picture coming up on the screen) so now I feel like I have to make you wait longer. You know, raise the anticipation levels. Did you seriously read all of that and not skip ahead? If you did call yourself out in the comments.
Ok fine, I’m done messing around…

Please welcome…


Isabella Grace Hannaford. It’s a GIRL!!!!

We’re beyond excited…although the reality of having a daughter is slowly starting to creep in for Matt but it’s definitely exciting.

Thanks to everyone who picked Team Pink or Team Blue last week. We’re looking forward to everyone meeting Ella come mid-April!

The Bump Begins…and a kick?

For weeks now, Matt has been able to tell the beginnings of the bump but with Erin’s clothing style it’s likely that if you’ve seen her in person, there is no way you would know she was pregnant from looks alone. However, that is starting to change.

As we head toward the end of week 18 and move onward to week 19 on Wednesday (and finally getting to the anatomy scan on Thursday), Erin’s beginning to notice that some of her clothes aren’t quite fitting as they once did. As she put on a sweater this morning, she broke down and wrote a post on Facebook…

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It’s there. Others can sort of tell now. Well, depending on what she’s wearing. That bump is there and we’re getting even more excited now. It’s one more step in this journey that just makes it feel that much more “REAL”.

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If you look close you can see it there. It might be small, but it’s an outward sign of our growing family.

With the bump beginning to show there is also another sign of our growing family.  In the last few days, Erin felt our little fruit ninja moving a few times now. At first she wasn’t quite sure if that was really it, but after talking to our doctor last week about it she assured us that it was what Erin was feeling. Matt thinks he might have felt it, but we’re pretty sure that’s just wishful thinking.

It’s just one more sign that this journey happens fast. People keep saying that it flies by, but it doesn’t really hit you as to how fast it really does until someone says, “You are halfway now.” Wow. Yes, 18 weeks isn’t usually halfway, but when we’re only heading to week 37 or 38…we’re right there at that halfway mark already. It’s flying. It’s crazy. But it’s incredible and we couldn’t be more excited.

Coming up on Saturday we’ll be sharing the results of our anatomy scan. Pink or Blue? Leave your guess in the comments.

The Registry…

When you get married many times you do a wedding registry for things to start your life together. Sheets, knives, a coffee maker, maybe even a toaster. But when it comes to a baby registry…or even just walking into the baby section of the store (or a speciality baby store like Babies R Us) can be downright intimidating.

When you registered for your wedding, you typically have a clue about the products. You’ve probably used a toaster and coffee maker before. But have you ever used a baby bottle? Sure…maybe you helped feed a friend or family members baby but just wait until you realize that not only are there 30,000 brands of baby bottles, but each one of those brands have 3-10 different “versions” of not only bottles, but also nipples for each of them. Talk about overwhelming. And don’t even get me started at how fast my head started spinning when we looked at car seats and strollers.

Erin is definitely a planner, and while I’m a little better with short deadlines, when it comes to this baby, both of us are trying to stay as far ahead of the game as we can. However, until December 8th we are at a bit of an impasse. We’ve realized that not only is it hard to find truly gender neutral things, we really want to know before we get going too much into the registry. With that said, the first few things have been purchased…a small stuffed animal, a carrier, and probably the most exciting (and it’s definitely making everything more “real” again) the crib and mattress have been purchased. (And put together in 13 minutes! — Small victories for Matt.)

It’s starting to feel more and more real each day. Now we just need to sit back, relax, and try to get through the next three weeks until we find out what we are having. (And don’t worry…we’ll be sharing that information here on Saturday the 10th.

So for now…feel free to let us know what did you feel when you first walked into the store to set up your register and realized just how many options are lining the walls.

Hiccups – Nope, nothing bad…the cute kind.

So we’ve gone for two more appointments since the last post.  We had our genetic testing exam / blood work and then just our “normal” check in.

During our genetic testing ultrasound we were shocked at how quickly the baby is growing. I mean it was only about 2.5 inches at the time, but after seeing everything from the faintest of circles in a black hole, it’s incredible.

The ultrasound nurse held the scanner over the baby for a few seconds before zooming in and doing the actual measurements for the test and let us see the baby. It hit us when we first saw the little kick before, but now, it was really real. As we left the doctor Erin called her mom and said, “Mom, it actually looks like a baby now.” And it did. We saw our little baby relaxing on it’s back, knees tucked up and legs crossed. And we all had a nice little laugh as we saw a few little hiccups.

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Check out that cute little face. It’s crazy to think that over the next few months we’ll only be able to see our little “fruit ninja” a few more times. But again, we’ll likely see more than most because of needing to monitor the baby’s size so that we can plan the c-section.

Now comes the part that isn’t as much fun. We’ve had so many ultrasounds up until this point that we’ve gotten used to being able to actually see our baby developing. Now we wait. We won’t see the baby again until December. It will be about 6 weeks since we last saw our little one. Every time we’ve gotten a new photo there has been such an obvious change. Now we can’t wait to see how big our baby will be by the beginning of December. They told us once we were released from “high risk” that we might feel some ultrasound withdrawal. Matt definitely does.

We’ll have another appointment in between but the date has been set… December 8th. Finally on December 8th we’ll have our anatomy scan!

While you are here, (and thanks for reading this by the way), leave some feedback and thoughts on the first three posts.

The first few weeks…

The first few weeks after we got the positive pregnancy test were hectic to say the least. Erin was on vacation Sunday through Tuesday evening and then had a long day of scheduled meetings on Wednesday. That meant we couldn’t get to the doctor until Thursday to do blood work and get “official” results.

**Author’s Note**
— Our story is likely different than many others when it comes to pregnancy and doctor visits, so we consider ourselves very lucky when it comes to the opportunities we’ve had so far. —

We went to the doctor’s office on Thursday for blood tests. The results came back positive, but there was a hitch. Of course there was a hitch, why wouldn’t there be one? We’ve done everything else the hard way why would our pregnancy be easy? Erin’s progesterone level was slightly low. Not super low, but considering the circumstances our doctors recommended supplements.

Erin had to return to work after the morning appointment so it was up to Matt to figure out where to find the supplements. And of course…it was the Thursday before Labor Day and there was ONE pharmacy in the area that had the supplement. The problem is the short shelf life and the high cost. Most pharmacies won’t stock the item. We were lucky. It was only 10 miles away….this time.

Friday we went back to the doctor…again. We could tell right away that this was going to become a pattern.

The doctor did an ultrasound on Friday and we saw a black hole. Literally…that’s all it was. A black hole.

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“The Black Hole”

We had to come back on Tuesday. The doctor couldn’t confirm a pregnancy from just a black hole. We came back after what could have been the longest long weekend ever. Luckily, we had plans with some awesome friends and were distracted for much of the time. Here’s what we saw the second time…

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The Black Hole with a Yolk Sack

If you look REALLY close you can see a small circle inside the now slightly larger black hole. Apparently that’s the yolk sac which confirmed that it was definitely a pregnancy, but again, couldn’t give us the “good pregnancy” designation.

So again…we wait. Another few days and another appointment and another ultrasound. Still no true “confirmation”.  We know she’s pregnant, they’ve said she’s pregnant, but they’ve never given us the “it’s good” report. So many questions…in fact…

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Two heartbeats?

When they did this ultrasound there was a question as to whether or not there were two heartbeats. There was a definite solid heartbeat near the top of the “blob” at 164 BPM. That one was good. But then they found another one…sort of. They couldn’t get a good listen on it, but we could “see” it near the very bottom of the “blob”. At 8 weeks our doctor said that in her 16 years of doing this, she’s NEVER had a “?” on her reports. We were the first…but as seems to be the way we do things…why wouldn’t we be?

Finally, at 9 weeks…more than a full month after we started this crazy trip, we got a solid determination of a good pregnancy, everything looked perfect and we were finally released from “high-risk”. The doctor looked at us and now said the words that we had been waiting to hear. We were “normal” and everything looked “perfect”. We were elated.

 

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You see that? For the first time it actually looked like a baby. It punched and kicked and we could see it. A lot of people say that the heartbeat sound is what makes it “real” to them. For us, it was seeing the punch and the kick. Our little “fruit ninja” was real. This whole thing was finally actually becoming a reality.

 

 

Our first post…sort of

A few months ago we wrote a blog post. You can find that entire blog post below, unchanged, because it was written with our hearts.

This whole thing hasn’t been easy, but after writing the  blog, and sitting on it…we waited. We didn’t want to share the post until we knew what the next step was going to be. We waited for the inevitable. At least it seemed to be inevitable. One more month. One more fail. One more heartbreak. We made the decision to go back to the doctor. We were going to try to figure out how to financially afford not only a child, but the cost of IVF to finally have one. We had already filled out the paperwork to get on the waitlist for adoption but with that list being about 4 years long, we were going to skip the other options and go right for the best chance at conception…

We were going to wait until we knew for sure that we failed one last time.

But we didn’t.

FINALLY!

It was early in the morning on a Sunday. Not just any Sunday, but the Sunday that Erin was going to be heading to the beach with several of her friends. After feeling like her period would start at any moment for at least 3 days, and being 4 or 5 days “late”, she decided to test. It was 5:15 a.m. Matt was passed out in bed hoping to sleep for another 45 minutes until the rest of the girls got to the house to help pack up the Jeep and see the ladies off to the beach.

Erin walked into our bedroom and simply said (in one of the most serious tones possible), “Matt, you need to wake up and look at this.”

Confusion ensued as Matt thought that one of the dogs had made a mess of the house or something else terrible had happened. Instead, he was shown the test. It said “Pregnant”. Really? Did it really say that? Are we sure? Did it finally actually work? It’s been almost 3 1/2 years…is this real life? Am I really going to be a dad?

All of those questions would have to wait because it’s now 5:35 and the girls are supposed to start arriving at the house at 5:45 a.m.  Ok, we’ve got about 2 minutes to try to process and celebrate and then its back to Erin doing her hair and Matt making sure that everything is set for the girls at the beach.

The girls arrive and we act as though nothing is different even though our entire world has changed in the matter of a few moments in the early morning on a Sunday in August.

We’ll share more about our journey throughout the pregnancy and birth. Our little one is technically due May 3rd, but we’ve already discussed with the doctor that our baby will come somewhere between week 37 and the beginning of week 39…likely closer to the 37 week mark so let’s get ready for an Easter baby!

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— Original Blog Post As Written in Early August 2016 —

It was a little more than a year ago that Erin first made our situation public via a Facebook post…

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While the post doesn’t talk about our struggles with starting a family, it was our first public discussion about it.

Just over 9 months later, we shared a blog that really hit home.

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That was our first posts that truly told people exactly what was going on.

But it’s now time to move forward. Since April we have remained unsuccessful in our attempt to begin our family. So as you will be able to read in the Our Goal and Learn More About Us sections we have made a decision that adoption is part of our journey.

Our journey begins here in Harrisburg, Pa., and we have no idea what to expect moving forward. All we know is we have each other, and a strong network of family, friends that might as well be family, as well as other friends and co-workers who are supporting us through it all.

We aren’t really sure where exactly our blog is going to take us, when we will be able to finally begin our family, or even how often we’ll post. Our promise is that we will continue to share this journey in hopes that someone else draws hope and inspiration to take their own journey as others that have posted theirs and helped us through this emotional rollercoaster.