Friday, September 30, 2011

Time goes by quickly

It was only a year ago that Bryan and I were dealing with the devasting news of Nicolas and his diagnosis of Trisomy 18.  Not a day passes where I don't think of him with tears welling up in my eyes.  I continue to grow in so many ways.  Sparks of creativity and powerful writing pushed me to redefine who I thought I was. Even with my accomplishments (finished my Masters, ran a half marathon, got my probabationary black belt), those accomplishments do not fill the void that Nicolas filled in my heart.

Nine months ago we said goodbye, but only for this lifetime.

Now to share the ultra fantastic not another baby...BUT something else amazing. We were selected as a finalist for the Cub Plenty for Twenty contest.  See announcement below.

What can you make with $20? Plenty!
Finalists Announced, We Made It!

Recently Cub Foods advertised a contest to challenge their customers to see what they could make for less than twenty dollars.  The grand prize -- a year’s worth of groceries from Cub Foods.  Who could pass up that opportunity? I certainly could not.

Here is a link to our video 5 Great Dips & Homemade Chips

Limit: one vote per day per Facebook account.  So come back and vote for us daily!

Watching the Cub Foods commercial I thought myself how hard can that be.  I set out to conquer the Plenty for Twenty challenge.  With my daughter, Noelle, at my side, we prepared Five Great Dips: Black Bean and Roasted Pepper, Quick Queso, Tomato Salsa, Spicy Chipotle, and Guacamole accompanied with baked tortilla chips and a refreshing Cran-Rasberry Spritzer all for $19.61.  Plenty of food for your hungry football fans!

Cub Foods is leaving it up to the public to vote on Facebook for their favorite entry.  Public voting starts Friday, September 30th at 11AM and ends the following Friday, October 7th.  With lots of luck and maybe a little help, we have a chance to win the grand prize.  Remember to vote daily!

Challenge yourself…see what you can do with just twenty dollars.

Monday, April 4, 2011

3 months and 4 days

3 months, 4 days.  The is the number of days since I lost Nicolas.  The pain doesn't change only shifts and morphs into something new.  I don't want to hurt anymore, but grief knows no boundaries and grips you tightly when you least expect it. The tender touch of a newborns skin and the soft smell of a baby's breath coats my mind.  I joined a writer's group/class at the end of March to help me find my voice, the voice of a mother.  Not just to Nicolas, but my two girls who mean everything to me.  But through this writing, grief found me once again. So I write, to help and to heal the heart that was torn a part on a day where many others were celebrating new year with new resolutions. My on me, make me stronger, and find more meaning in life than what I felt at the beginning of the year.  Finish things that need to get done, make new goals, dream big.

The day breaks
Dusty blue light shines through
No balloons dancing in the air to announce your arrival
Medicinal aroma fills my nose
No more worries about germs or viruses
It doesn't matter any more
You will never have a chance to be sick
People enter the room quietly
And exit quickly
The only flowers I see are on the door
Paper reminders that you are not here
No one to call
No happy news to share
Salty warm streaming down my face
Plastic bags hold memories of you
Hand prints, footprints, a lock of hair
Physical reminders to prove you were real
Empty belly, empty heart, empty arms
Wheeled down a long hallway
To a back elevator
Its time to go home

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 12

I can't believe how quickly time has passed since New Year's Eve.  Last week feels like a complete blur.  On Sunday I decided I needed to establish some new routines beyond taking the kids to school and picking them up.  I made a choice to go back to Crossfit and Taekwondo.  I know I don't have the official doctor's okay, but my body needed to be busy again.  I didn't want to sit idle on the couch and knew that walking would not be enough.  So I dove in to my workout on Monday.  I did almost all of the Filthy Fifty in less than 29 minutes. I know I told Bryan I was going to ease into it, but my body wanted to be pushed more.  I started off rowing 1000 meters in 4:44 minutes.  I think it helped that there was only 2 of us working out. 

My almost Filthy Fifty
50 box steps (short box)
50 jumping pull ups
50 kettle bell swings 25 lb
50 walking lunges
50 knees to elbow
50 push press 45lb bar
50 back extensions
50 wall balls 10 lb

Time 28:58

I did not do the 50 burpees or 50 double unders. I felt a little guilty, but also know that I have not done those exercises in quite some time.

Yesterday I started back at Taekwondo.  I think it was harder on my body than Crossfit.  It was also a bit sad to put on my full red uniform and tie my belt around my waist. For the longest time, my belt was snug under my belly and started looking like a bow tie.  I also stopped wearing my red uniform some time in the fall. I survived a good class with Mr. Stuart.  We went over the two forms I will need to know for black belt testing in June.

There is part of me that feels extremely guilty that my body is rebounding whereas mentally I am not rebounding.  I know that the grieving process takes time and I definitely have my moments.  It is still very painful and fresh when I have to tell people about what happened.  But I also want to be stronger and be able to talk more freely about Nicolas and the pregnancy so that I can possibly help others who face the same diagnosis. 

As part of of my recovery, I would like to go on a mother writer's retreat at the end of February.  Not only do I want to write about Nicolas and what the pregnancy did for our family, but also finish the pesky Master's paper that seems to forever haunt me.  The biggest obstacle for the retreat is the cost.  I am not sure how I can afford any extra expenses while on leave from work.  I do plan on returning to work on the 31st of January.  I know I could take more time, but also feel that I need to get back to work.  Financially we need the money and I also know I might get a little stir crazy at home. 

Many questions still linger in my head.  I wonder if I could have prevented the still birth or if the doctors knew something and didn't share the information.  That last appointment on December 28th still bugs me because it seemed like a big mishap and no one bothered to correct the issues. It makes you wonder why.  Why did Bryan and I have to hold the heart rate monitor so tightly on my belly? Why did they not reposition it? What was my real AFI score because 19.75 cm was certainly not correct. You think that they would have rechecked that after realizing it was wrong. Like I said so many unanswered questions that I will never have answers for. I think that is why I am having difficulties processing my grief at the moment. I think that is why I have such a strong desire to write about my pregnancy.

Today I wasn't sure if I was going to workout.  Again, my mind was feeling guilty about the body being able to workout.  I went despite my anxiety.  I started with a nice 500 meter row and then moved onto the warm up.

20 turkish get ups
50 kettle bell swings 15lbs
20 push ups
50 overhead squats with the body bar

I think the best part of the workout was when we started punching the bags.  It felt extremely good to beat the crap out of something.  I punched hard and strong on the bag.  As I punched I found myself fighting back tears.  My emotions were raging.  I needed that release.  We then started the actual WOD which was
4 Rounds
7 Knees to elbows
7 Toes to bar
10 leg raises
20 toe touches
20 V-sits
30 Sit ups
30 Russian Twists
40 Back Extensions

I wondered if I had bit of more than I could chew and was hesitant about the intensity of this workout on my core.  I managed through entire workout, all four rounds with only a slight modification to the v-sits.  My time was 28:52.  Mr. Tony and Kenny helped push me through the different exercises and keep going.  I think my almost 3 years of Crossfit training changed my mindset about things.  Sometimes I think I am a bit OCD on the working out thing, but also know how good I feel afterwards.  My recovery is bittersweet.  I miss my Buddha belly and the little guy that filled it.  But I am also thankful for a strong body and mind that will help me recover.  I miss Nicolas and still wish that we could have met him alive even if for a short time.  We all loved him dearly.  I can only hope that maybe in time we will get another opportunity for another child.  To make the girls big sisters once again and Nicolas a big brother.  I don't know if that opportunity will be there for Bryan and I.  So much unknown at this point and both of us are not getting any younger.  Time will tell.  It took over a year for Nicolas after two losses.  It sucks when you want something so bad only to have it taken away from you three times. I know Bryan would be a fantastic father. He has already shown that with the girls and Nicolas.  We will have to wait and see what God has in store for us next...

Friday, January 7, 2011

One week ago

I can't believe it has already been a week since we lost Nicolas.  The hurt and pain is still very real and deep.  We had a beautiful memorial service this evening.  Here are some of the things we had to say about our dear little boy Nicolas.

From me (Natalie)
God and Nicolas had a plan. As a family we may have hoped for a different one, but we are at peace with the path that he and God chose.  Nicolas was a special gift who constantly reminded me of his presence through the bumps and swirls in my belly.  Nicolas radiated love as evident through my beautiful pregnancy glow.  Through 3D ultrasounds from Bella Angel Imaging and Sustaining Grace we were able to learn about our little boy and watch his antics.  We knew that he loved to suck on his left thumb and constantly played in his big bubble.

We didn’t expect Nicolas to arrive so early, and were devastated when we learned that his heart no longer beat.  As our nurse so gently told us, Nicolas had New Years Eve plans.  Nicolas and God had created the perfect plan where Bryan and I could take the time to bring him into this world without chaos.

Even with as much sadness as we felt, we shared a few laughs with the nurses as well.  When my water broke, Bryan and I heard a loud pop and watched as I flooded the bed.  The nurses had never seen so much fluid and we all laughed as we tried to clean things up.  Nicolas arrived into our world at 10 minutes to 10 just before the new year.  Just as we had seen in the womb, he was born with his left thumb secure in his precious mouth.  Nicolas looked like a little dark haired Bryan.  I am still amazed at his full head of beautiful dark hair.

The nurses at Abbott Northwestern Hospital knew we loved our special boy and made sure that he was treated with kindness and respect.  The nurses helped bathe his little body and brought us adorable outfits.  They cared for him after we were physically drained and adored our little boy into the wee hours of the morning.

I truly believe God has a plan for all of us and although the plan for Nicolas may not have been the plan we wanted, I now see the beauty in it all.  Nicolas was with us as we built many beautiful memories within our lives.  We will always have our own little St. Nicolas at Christmas and celebrate his birth into Heaven every New Year’s Eve.  The start of a new year allows for healing and renewal in our faith and love for one another.

We were forever blessed with a beautiful child.
Nicolas, “you're so much more than I ever dreamed. This is forever I believe”

From Bryan
The alter. Quilt donated from Minneapolis Childrens Hospital
Although Nicolas is no longer with us he will always live on in our hearts forever.  I am so proud of Natalie and the way she has dealt with things along the way from the initial diagnosis of Trisomy 18 she never complained once, she was proud to be carrying Nicolas.  Even though she was pregnant she would always make sure that there was food on the table for the girls and I when we would be getting home from work and other activities always putting our needs before her.  I will miss hearing Natalie say that was a good one or Nicolas didn't want to go to sleep last night and kept me up till midnight, I will also miss sitting on the couch with her and feeling the punches or head butts that Nicolas was doing inside. 

I had many plans for Nicolas and a few were teaching him how to ride a bike, throw a football or baseball and taking him to his first Twins games I will always treasure those memories in my heart of what I was going to do with him.

Once again I am so proud of Natalie and the girls on how they have handled everything that has been thrown at them.  I love them all very much.

33 Roses....One for each week of life.
 Noelle read the following poem
Author Unknown
If we could have a lifetime wish
A dream that would come true,
We'd pray to God with all our hearts
For yesterday and You.

A thousand words can't bring you back
We know because we've tried....
Neither will a thousand tears
We know because we've cried....

You left behind our broken hearts
And happy memories too....
But we never wanted memories

We only wanted YOU

Nicolas' hat and teddy was a present from Jena to me
Jena read this poem
An Angel Never Dies
Author Unknown

Don't let them say, I wasn't born
That something stopped my heart
I felt each tender squeeze you gave
I've loved you from the start.

Although my body you can't hold,
It doesn't mean I'm gone.
This world was worthy, not, of me
God chose that I move on.

I know the pain that drowns your soul,
What you are forced to face.
You have my word, I'll fill your arms
Someday we will embrace.

You'll hear that it was "meant to be,
God doesn't make mistakes"
But that won't soften your worst blow..
Or make your heart not ache.

I'm watching over all you do,
another child you'll bear.
Believe me when I say to you,
That I am always there.

There will come a time, I promise you
When you will hold my hand,
Stroke my face and kiss my lips
And then you'll understand.

Although, I've never breathed your air,
Or gazed into your eyes..
That doesn't mean I never "was"
An Angel Never Dies........
Hand and foot prints of our precious boy

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Our walk has ended...

Nicolas Norman Miller
Born into Heaven
December 31, 2010

On Friday, December 31st our precious baby boy Nicolas was born into heaven.  Even though we knew Nicolas faced tough odds of making it to term because of his Trisomy 18, we hoped and prayed he would.  We are deeply saddened by this loss and miss him dearly.  He was a part of our family and touched our hearts.  We cherish the memories of our beautiful 2 pound 14 ounce baby and know he is in good hands.

Please understand that we need time to settle in to our lives without Nicolas.  Although we have our sad moments, our family is very strong.  God gave us a very special little boy and for that we are forever thankful. 

A small private memorial will be held to honor Nicolas.  In lieu of flowers or gifts to our family, we kindly ask for memorial donations to be offered in his name to the organizations that supported our family with such love and respect. 

Prenatal Partners for Life
Church of St. Raphael, Crystal, MN
St. Barnabas, Plymouth, MN
Abbott Northwestern Hospital

We appreciate everyone who has been supportive throughout the situation.

Hug and kiss those close to your heart today.

Natalie, Bryan, Noelle & Jena

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Will my life ever be normal?

I expect that one day I will feel a sense of normalcy about my life, but currently that is not the situation.  Yesterday's appointment was a fiasco and perplexing.  I had a shocking realization of how you need to be absolutely sure on what your appointments are for and what the doctor is thinking about.  I went into ANW expecting an amnioreduction because that is what I thought I was told I needed only to find out that I was scheduled for another BPP to see how things were doing and if necessitated, a reduction.  I am still in shock over the situation and left feeling a little dismayed at how things were handled.  As part of the BPP, I have the heart rate and contraction straps attached to my belly to monitor Nicolas' heart rate and any contractions I may be having similar to the monitoring you would receive in labor.  As the straps were attached and I was thrown back in the chair, I realized that they were not going to get a good reading.  I tried to adjust accordingly, but it didn't work. I was uncomfortable and had to forcefully hold the heart rate monitor with constant pressure to my belly to track Nicolas' heart rate.  After several long minutes, someone finally addressed the situation because the Dr. was noticing the erratic behavior on their screens.  Bryan and I were approached about the situation and informed that because of the poor heart rate strip that they were considering admitting me for further monitoring.  They also mentioned that the dips could be indications that Nicolas was not doing well, but could not be certain because of the Trisomy 18.  Sitting there I was a little shocked because they also indicated that given a normal situation if the monitoring continued as such then I would be faced with an emergency C-section.

I personally was not getting why they could adjust the strap or try a better position.  The doctor decided to go ahead with the second part of testing which is the ultrasound to check Nicolas and the amniotic fluid.  Again, could anything be anymore confusing.  The tech that did the measurements found an AFI of 19.75 which was obviously wrong.  Did she notice the belly on me?  I measure 45 inches round. The good news was that Nicolas although having fallen asleep from his previous antics, was moving well and showed signs that he was practicing his breathing. His score was 8 out of 8 which is better than previous tests.  During the ultrasound I was placed on my right side and was reattached to the heart rate monitoring.  As I laid there on my side, Nicolas held a steady heart rate and didn't have the fluctuations as the previous test.  I have to wonder why on earth would they ever have laid me on my back.  That is not normal by any means. You are always told to not lay on your back when you are pregnant because you can cut off blood and oxygen supplies.

In any case, we left the hospital with some things to consider.  The doctor, who I have seen before, wanted us to consider the level and amount of monitoring we would like from here to the end.  Essentially, possibly not doing any more BPP because the normal approach is if there are dips like we saw yesterday then I would be headed in for an emergency c-section.  A c-section is not high on my priority list like most women and I fear not only being cut open, but the road to recovery thereafter.  I also still believe in the idea that God has a plan for us and to let things happen as He intended.

I think Nicolas is a very strong baby and I have done everything possible to make this pregnancy healthy for him.  I exercise, eat right (most of the time), and take all sorts of vitamins and supplements that are good for both of us. I am constantly told by the nurses how amazed they are by how well I am doing given everything. My body feels strong and I don't feel like labor is going to start any day soon. Nicolas has his daily patterns and is definitely "happier" when I am in my regular routine.  We are in tune with each other.  I can tell on my off days or weekends that he is out of sync.  If something is wrong, I will know or sense it. I think all mothers have that ability. 

Yesterday was a learning experience for both Bryan and I.  First, we have to make some considerations on how we would like to continue monitoring the pregnancy.  We need to decided if the BPP are the right choice and what benefit the test provides given the circumstances if we are trying to avoid any type of emergency c-section.  We also need to question the doctors and staff at the appointments and challenge their recommendations.  If we jump to quickly then what is the benefit to me and Nicolas.  Yesterday could of been one of those days we chose to jump when there was not real reason to do so. Our baby could of been born far to early and I would of ended up with an unwarranted c-section.

The next consideration is the birth plan and what we want to happen during labor, delivery, birth and thereafter.  I have started the process and hope to have it completed today.  I want to make sure that our birth plan reflects the mutual decisions that Bryan and I have made for our family.  Our choices may not be what others would choose, however, we have to do what is right for us.  We also have the right to change the plan if necessary.  Bryan and I are fully aware of the diagnosis given to our son. We understand the immediate complications he will face, but no matter what he is still our child to love and to cherish even if for a short duration of time.

Will my life ever be normal??? I think yes, some day it will feel normal.  But at the moment, I have been on a rollercoaster since June.  I have been through so much physically and emotionally that words truly cannot describe or express my life at the moment. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Post Christmas Update

Now that Christmas is done, I feel like I have a moment to breathe. LOL. Not really.  The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activities between last minute shopping, wrapping presents, and getting kids to various activities.  I find myself looking forward to a few days off of work starting tomorrow <smile>.   Of course, I still have to get up and run kids all over town, but at least I won't be stuck in the office.

Week 31 was quite eventful and emotional.  My doctor appointment on the 17th was stressful for many different reasons.  The most significant reason was because of the pregnancy issues related to the excess amniotic fluid called polyhydramnios.  Normal ranges are between 9 & 25cm.  My levels were at 41cm as of December 17th and my blood pressure is on the rise at 120/90.  Although I was not uncomfortable, the consequences of the excess fluid are not good for me or Nicolas.  I could face pre-term labor because of the excess fluid fooling my body in thinking it is further along than it really is. My blood pressure could force me into an immediate delivery if I get preeclampsia.

I continued to workout at Crossfit and taekwondo as time permitted.  Last week was a very good week with two excellent workouts. Monday was Fight Gone Bad (not for the weak) and the other was deadlifts.  I did scale back Fight Gone Bad a little.  I was surprised with what I was able to do and feel good doing.  My score was 238.  Not bad for almost 32 weeks pregnant at the time.

On Wednesday, December 22nd I went back for another biophysical profile.  My stats went downhill a little further. This time my AFI (Amniotic Fluid Index) was at 49cm, an increase of 8cm in less than a week. I did a little math in my head and figured out that this rate of increase is not good. Also, my blood pressure is slowly creeping upwards and is now approaching 130/90 which I have never seen in my entire life. I am normally 110/70 or less than that.  While monitoring Nicolas' heart rate I watched as all the alarms were triggered because his heart rate fell below the normal marker.  As I lay there watching all of this I wondered why no one entered the room to at least see what was going on.  It didn't last very long, but it seem like an eternity.  Eventually the doctor and nurse entered the room and had me lay on my side.  That seem to help the situation and they think that somehow the cord had gotten pinched.  Although I had been told the previous week that I could continue on with my exercise program, I was informed by this doctor that it would be recommended to scale back. I am still trying to figure this out.  Also, I have to go in tomorrow to have an amniotic reduction to remove some of the fluid from my belly. 

So what does this all mean?????  Tomorrow I will be heading to ANW to have a needle inserted into my belly and have fluid extracted to reduce the pressure and hopefully make things a bit more comfortable. Ultimately I also hope it buys Nicolas more time to grow and develop.  He is a feisty little boy kicking and thumping about in his big ball of fluid.  He has so much room that he can still fully extend those legs of his.  Of course, I can't deny the possible complications of this procedure....pre-term labor or birth.....But then what are my alternatives...not being able to breathe when I sleep, inability to sit, back pain, increased blood pressure, possible hemorrhaging at birth, pre-term labor. Any way I look at it, not good.  So today and this evening I will say my prayers that all will go well.  I hope everything I have done along the way to be healthy and strong will go in my favor. My core strength is strong and mentally I think I can work through the pain of having a needle in my belly for a considerable length of time.

And what about Christmas you ask.....well after all of the flurry of running around was done, we were able to enjoy Christmas Eve Mass at the church and have a nice dinner with my Grandma afterwards.  We enjoyed salad, 4 cheese pasta and shrimp. Noelle had steak because she is not a fan of seafood.  Even though it was getting late we open family gifts and shared in many laughs.  Bryan brought Grandma home shortly after 10PM and the girls wrapped the Santa Paws gifts for the dogs. The girls were in bed shortly after 11PM and Bryan and I fell asleep in front of the TV watching a Christmas Story.  Santa arrived promptly in the early morning of Christmas and Noelle made sure that we were all up around 7:30AM to start the festivities. Next year, I am pushing her back to 8AM.  She is such a Christmas fanatic.  The girls proceeded to dig into their stockings and gifts.  Overall, it was a good morning. However, some time later that morning I started not feeling well.  I thought that by having some breakfast I would feel better, but I was terribly mistaken. Needless to say my breakfast came back with a vengeance and I spent the entire day in bed or on the couch. No Christmas dinner or treats for me.  Although I felt crummy, I didn't want the rest of the family to miss out so I insisted they go to the cabin to be with the rest of the family.  I spent the evening drifting in and out of sleep while various Christmas shows played on the TV.  Bryan and the girls arrived home around 11PM and we all sacked out until almost midnight. 

Yesterday was a better day.  I managed to be up the entire day and played with the PS3.  I ate a small dinner.  I am hoping it was merely a reaction to food as I have dealt with in the past and not something worse. 

Enough for now... lunch is calling and so is work....