Caringbridge Journal Entries

·                                 THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2011 9:35 PM, CST
I'd like to start by sharing some thoughts i'd initially posted as notes on my facebook page. 

Abraham and Isaac by Keri Harris Kitchen on Saturday, 25 December 2010 at 23:33
I've been thinking quite a bit about Abraham and Isaac lately. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac simply because God clearly instructed him to do so. Scripture says "God tested Abraham." God wasn't toying with Abraham, He was helping him grow.

James 1:2-5 (New International Version, ©2010)
Trials and Temptations
 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

God has so much to teach us, and we have so much to learn. I know I've not been asked to sacrifice my precious baby... but I have been asked to Trust God and be willing to let go of the hopes and dreams I have had for this little one that i love so very much. I know God will provide. Though I hope and find myself praying that He will provide a ram... or in a literal sense, by some miracle we'll find out that the diagnosis was wrong (because it would take an absolute miracle), I know He will provide whatever it is that we truly need. As crushed as I am, and as much as it hurts, I also have a sense of peace I know has to be from God. I don't know what God has planned but I know that even when it seems cruel, God acts only out of his great Love for us; and I am so thankful that God's love is so much more real, so much more lasting, selfless, and unconditional than our human love could ever be.

Genesis 22:1-19
Abraham Tested
 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
   “Here I am,” he replied.
 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
   “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
   “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
   “Here I am,” he replied.
 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
 15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”
 19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.


by Keri Harris Kitchen on Saturday, 01 January 2011 at 23:21 As I look ahead to the year in front of us, I have a mixture of emotions. It's been a bittersweet holiday season. I know God has amazing things ahead for us, even though I'm looking ahead with a broken heart and eyes red from crying. Just hearing "Happy New Year" wishes (while appreciated) is almost hurtful in itself.... because my initial thought is that it doesn't feel very "happy" so far. However, I'm learning so much about the coexistence of joy and sorrow, and I'm feeling the peace that comes only from our Heavenly Father. I know He loves us. So, even if the new year doesn't feel "happy," I know it is already filled with God's love, peace, and comfort... and that does give me happiness.
still believing. by Keri Harris Kitchen on Saturday, 08 January 2011 at 21:23 Just thinking tonight about how none of the "what to expect" books about pregnancy could possibly prepare anyone to face the loss we're facing. There's really no ideal "how to" about coping with it, and it's so hard to figure it out. We want to be excited because we have two babies we love so much, but it's hard to be excited, knowing one of them isn't expected to survive after birth. It's hard to make plans for baby a, who seems to be healthy and doing well, but it doesn't seem fair to him or her not to make plans, and doesn't seem fair to baby b if we do. I want to enjoy working on the nursery, but just thinking about it hurts. Overall, nothing about it feels "fair." 

Even so, I still have no doubt in my mind that God could give us two healthy, whole babies, even though they say there's no hope for baby b. I KNOW He is able. However, even while praying for that miracle, I'm trusting that God WILL give us a miracle, even if it's not the one we want. Simply the fact that He gives peace during times like this is a miracle in itself. I KNOW He has plans for us, and that regardless of what He allows to happen, He allows it out of His great love for us. He's not cruel, it's not in His nature. We've chosen to Love Him, which means we're going to put His will first. in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love Him. Not just in the pleasant things.

Romans 8:28 (New International Version, ©2010)
  28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a]have been called according to his purpose.

Throughout this experience, it has been so evident that God is already working in our lives in so many ways. It is humbling how many people have told us that they are praying for us. I used to feel like telling someone I was praying for them sounded so empty and inadequate, even though I fully believed in the power of prayer then too. My attitude has changed on that. I crave to know people are praying for us, and feel the power of the prayers. It's not empty or inadequate when people tell us they're praying. We WANT prayers for peace, comfort, and strength. It's easy to feel helpless when on the praying end, but in reality, that IS all any of us can do at this point, but it is so very important. Thank you for all who have been praying. 

I've also been amazed at how many people have told us they've lost babies, whether by miscarriage or after birth. I'm praying about how I might be able to be a comfort to others in the future who are going through similar circumstances and ask that you all be praying for me in this area too; for wisdom and guidance. I know God has plans for us. I will not let this experience, or the story of my babies be for nothing. If God is allowing it, there is a reason and I want to be open to whatever He has for our futures. I still believe that our Heavenly Father is a Loving God who is not selfish or cruel. Because He Loves us, I know we're going to make it. So thankful He gives us what we need, even in our most painful times. 

·                                 THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2011 9:55 PM, CST
We went back to our OB/GYN on Jan 10th for a routine visit. We learned then that Baby A is definitely a boy. The tech said she was pretty sure Baby B is a girl.... though she actually said, "it looks like baby b was a girl." I couldn't speak at the time or I would have corrected her. Baby b IS a girl. She's our girl. Her heartbeat had sounded a bit off the past two ultrasounds and still didn't sound quite right to us. Baby A still looked like he was developing as he should be. We were given pictures of our boy, but didn't realize she wasn't printing any pictures of our girl until after we were finished. That hurt. I know she was trying to be sensitive, but we love BOTH our babies, regardless of their conditions.
When our Dr came in, he told us that he wanted to send us back to the specialist to have an echo of both babies' hearts. We wanted to rule out other complications, and we understood this to be a normal process for twin pregnancies.
I'd like to pause for a moment to say how much we appreciate our doctor. We know he believes in prayer, and he was so compassionate as he spoke with us. That really means something to us. We're thankful to have found him.
I was continually concerned that our girl's heart would stop beating before we got to the next ultrasound. I know we will make it through whatever happens in this pregnancy, but I still hope to be able to at least spend some precious moments with BOTH our babies. I was also concerned that if something happened to her, it would put our baby boy at an increased risk.
On January 24th, we went back to the specialist's office (we love the staff there too, they were wonderful and so very compassionate). It was very difficult but went relatively well, considering. Our baby Boy is developing right on target and everything measured just right. His heart looked good, though the tech had some difficulty because he just wouldn't hold still. He was so active. At one point, she commented that she was trying to get a good look at his nose and lips, and as soon as she said that, he curled his little fingers over his nose like he was trying to keep us from seeing. He also put both fists up by his face like he was ready to box. I think Aaron was rather pleased with this considering his interest and training in martial arts. Looking at our baby girl was beautiful and painful. I asked if she was much smaller than him, and the tech told us she's just about a week or week and a half smaller than him in development. She, too, was active and seemed to enjoy putting her hands up by her face. Her heartbeat sounded good.
We were told that both babies' hearts looked good. It didn't change the fatal diagnosis of our sweet baby girl, but that in itself seemed like an answer to prayer for me. I asked the dr what we could expect if something happened to her before birth. He reassured us that she will most likely continue to develop normally at least throughout the second trimester and if something does happen to her, our baby boy would most likely not be at higher risk. The pregnancy as far as my body goes looked good, as did my BP. 

It's so hard for us to understand why things like this happen when we truly love and want our babies. Regardless, I know God has plans for us and we can see Him working in amazing ways already. I've never known such pain, but I also know that we can have peace and joy in the midst of pain because we are not alone in this.

I don't know how i would make it through this if we became bitter, or if we didn't believe there was a purpose for our babies' lives. We know they BOTH have a purpose and it's already so evident. Our baby girl's life may be incredibly short, but she's already made such an impact on our lives. She's already such a blessing. Our baby boy is a reminder that God has plans for our future and even though our hearts are broken now as we anticipate the loss of our girl, we will go on. God's not finished with our story yet. 

Because of our circumstance, we decided we needed to find names with significant meaning for us. We're learning so much about God's love for us throughout this experience. Because of this, we've chosen the name
Carys for our baby girl. It's a welsh name that means love. Aaron found a middle name for her. Carys Rainn. Rainn is a name that means "abundant blessings from above." We are thankful that even during our sorrow, we can recognize that God is still blessing us. We've not decided fully on a middle name for our boy yet, but His name will be Paxton. When we originally came across the name (the same day we came across Carys Rainn), the meaning said, "peace." How fitting for our baby boy, who is blessing us so much already with his presence. 

Overall, we have such mixed feelings. We're blessed by both our babies and want to celebrate them. We're heartbroken knowing that our baby girl won't be around long enough for all the "firsts" we had been looking forward to so much. At times the pain is overwhelming and it's hard to imagine continuing on with our daily routines like everything is ok. However, we know that God formed both of our babies thoughtfully and intentionally. He knew them before we knew about them. He designed them BOTH with purpose. He's not cruel, He's not selfish, He's not toying with us. He loves us and He knows what will shape us into His vision for us. Like gold is refined by fire, we have to realize that some pain is sometimes necessary to help us become more complete.
·                                 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2011 10:37 PM, CST
The nursery is painted. I appreciated the help from the babies' grandmas and Aunt Leslie (and the offer of help from Aunt Beth and others).  It's a very pretty light green. Mom, Dad, and Beth came out tonight and Dad anointed the nursery and prayed for the babies.
I've had the nursery concept planned out since long before I knew Paxton and Carys existed. It's just harder to be as excited about it now. I can't help but wonder if we'll have the chance to bring
Carys home at all. I know it's possible we could have a few days with her, though I believe it's not likely. Still though, I want to be prepared, just in case. It just seems like it's not fair to only talk about our plans for Paxton, even knowing that we've not been given the option to keep Carys long and it's beyond our control. 
So many things are beyond our control. That seems to be a theme these days; both at work in my counseling sessions and in my personal life. Human nature leaves us wanting to be independent and in control, but it's not always possible. I see so many people who become depressed and/or angry when things are not in their control, but the reality is that it doesn't change a thing to focus only on what we can't control. No matter how much we dwell on those areas, they're still going to be beyond our control. 
With our situation, there are moments I feel almost frantic, like I want to scream and do SOMETHING for my baby girl; to fight for her and demand that we get to keep her. But it wouldn't help. I know I'd probably just become bitter because it wouldn't change anything. It all goes back to trusting a loving God to meet our needs. I know He is capable of making her whole, but I also know that He doesn't always work that way. I was thinking earlier about how a loving parent will take a sick child to the doctor. The parent will allow the doctor to give the child a shot because he or she knows that it is what the child needs. To the child, the shot may be painful and traumatic, especially if she is too young to really understand how the pain can actually make her feel better. She may pout at the parent or allow the parent to comfort her. 
I choose to not pout at our Father. I know He's caring for us, even when it hurts. I know that when I begin to feel frantic, I have to run to Him, not away from Him. I need to be still and know that He is God... and what that really means. 

Psalm 46:10 (New International Version, ©2010) 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
·                                 THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2011 11:30 PM, CST
Monday night, I was working on something on my computer and had my arm across the top of my belly, about where Carys is. I kept feeling a little, gentle kick, so I had Aaron come in. He got to feel a little kick too. He didn't say much, but he did have a big smile. I'm so thankful that we can have and appreciate those moments while we have them.

We had another checkup yesterday (Wednesday). Everything looks good, considering. We have no new concerns at this point. We got a better look at
Carys this time and got several pictures of her too. Both Paxton and Carys were pretty active again. Carys seems to like staying up almost under my ribs on the right.

Even though visits are still so bittersweet, and the pain and sorrow are still so very present, we're also feeling peace. 

We could easily focus on the pain and sorrow, but it helps to focus on the peace and the knowledge that God is working through our circumstances. A passage that's been on my mind quite a bit lately is Philippians 4:8.

Philippians 4:8 (New International Version, ©2010)

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

As a therapist, I frequently see what happens when people focus only on the negative, and the things beyond their control. I know it's not helpful or healthy. It's easy to do, but it's not healthy. What we choose to think about really does make a difference. 

The pain isn't going anywhere, but I'm so thankful for what we DO have. We haven't lost our baby girl yet, even though we know we won't have her long. We can feel her moving, we can talk to her, play music for her, and bond with her. We know she's with us now and we are blessed to have her here. We love our babies so very much.
·                                 SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2011 8:24 AM, CST
There are moments when I feel so overwhelmed that I think, "I can't do this." But the reality is that I don't have a choice. This is where I am, and I can do nothing about it. I feel helpless.

I was reminded yesterday of when I was spending a semester in
Ormskirk, England. There was a specific day when I was running errands in town and it really struck me how strange it was that I felt so at home there. Even though the same language was spoken, I was in a foreign country, far away from my comfort zone where I was born and raised. I missed being truly "home," and I missed my family and friends, but I felt completely at peace. In that moment, it was like God was telling me that wherever He asked me to go, I would be at home because He would be there with me.

The thought hit me kinda hard when I remembered it yesterday. Even though physically I've not moved away, I am in a foreign place. It's like nothing I've ever experienced (or ever wanted to experience). Even so, this is where my Heavenly Father has asked me to go. In these moments when I feel like I just can't do this.... I have to remember that. I know we've not been abandoned. I know we're not the only ones who have ever been asked to come to this place (and my heart breaks for those who have come here before us and those who will come here). More than anything, I know that this is only part of our journey- because I know God has plan.

Meanwhile... still praying for strength, peace and comfort. I know the months to come are going to be filled with beautiful, difficult, bittersweet moments and decisions.

Philippians 4:13 (New International Version, ©2010)
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

·                                 SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2011 8:28 AM, CST
Last week was pretty rough. I think it was harder on me because I'd gone the previous friday to start registering for baby items for Paxton. I've had Carys' funeral plans on my mind a lot. It's all such a crazy mix of emotions and sometimes it's hard to know what I feel other than overwhelmed.

Friday, Aaron and I talked a while about everything (as we do quite often). We both agreed to be praying specifically for peace and comfort through this. I truly want to make the most of this time we have with both of our babies. I've been able to smile more the last couple of days (in spite of feeling really rough with allergy/sinus congestion!), and I have felt more at peace. It still hurts, and I still cry... but I'm a bit more focused on the peace. I'm still amazed at how God is working in and around us through this.

I've had so many people tell me lately that I'm strong. Truth is, I'm not. I'm only holding up because I have a loving Heavenly Father who is able to provide what I lack when I need it the most. It's so easy to get distracted by the negative thoughts and feel like crumbling (and I'm sure I'll continue to have those times throughout) but I'm thankful that when we focus on Him, there is a difference. We can't always control when emotions come (especially with pregnancy hormones mixed in) but we can learn to manage and redirect them a bit.... moreso with help. 

Psalm 29:11 (New International Version, ©2010)
11 The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.

I also wanted to share an excerpt from one of my all time favorite books, The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom:

I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can't die! You can't!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”"

So.... I will do my humanly best to focus on the fact that God knows what we need when we need it. He knows we're hurting and hurts with us.... but He sees the bigger picture. I do trust Him and His plans for us. 
·                                 MONDAY, MARCH 7, 2011 9:01 PM, CST
I've thought a lot lately about the statistics. I've read that Neural Tube Defects (NTDs, such as Anencephaly) occur in about 1 out of 1000 births. I've also read that taking folic acid prior to and during the first few months can prevent up to about 70% of NTDs. Smoking is another risk factor. I don't smoke, and took a prenatal vitamin with folic acid for months prior and have since. With that thought, it looks like we are in something like 30% of 1 in 1000 births.

Rather than feeling bitter, however, it makes me think of what a miracle all babies truly are. If something is going to happen, it's going to happen. I still have my questions, like "what if I did something that caused this?" but the reality is that If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. God formed my babies... BOTH of them... intentionally and thoughtfully, as He does all babies. It is totally out of our control. We can do our best to make the environment more favorable for healthy development, but we can't MAKE it happen.

I'm continually amazed at how intricately designed our bodies truly are- How everything works together to give us life. Science has brought us a long way... but nothing compares to the power of our creator.

Another statistic that has been on my mind lately is that somewhere between 90-98% of pregnancies where babies are  diagnosed with Anencephaly (depending on what study you read) are aborted, or "terminated."

We were given that option when
Carys was diagnosed. "Selective termination." I can't even imagine how it would be if I'd chosen that route. It wasn't really an option for us. Knowing her life would be horribly short did not change the fact that she's our baby girl. If we only have this time with our daughter, we want every moment. I can't imagine not being able to feel her move, or to watch her squirm on the ultrasounds. I want to meet her face to face. As much as this hurts, I think it would hurt more to know I chose to shorten her already-too-short life even more and not have this time. The length of her life is not my decision to make. God designed her and He has a plan. (Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”) I've chosen to be vocal about her story and how she is impacting our lives because I know she will be leaving behind a legacy. Such a tiny life, yet such a big impact.

Our hopes are different for our babies, but we have hopes for them both regardless. Paxton's purpose is already playing out as well. He's already making a big impact on our family by just being there to help us see more toward our future.

We continue to have good days and bad days, good moments on bad days, and bad moments on good days. We're so very thankful for the prayers and support during our most difficult times. In spite of the pain we're going through, we have many blessings.

Today we had another visit with our
OB.  With all things considered, it went well. Everything about the pregnancy itself continues to look good. No new concerns. I had to do the glucose test, so I'm hoping everything looked good with the bloodwork too. 

I'm thankful things are going well physically for me (aside from the heartburn, reflux, fatigue, etc... which comes along with the territory)... I know it could be worse even than what it is if I had to also deal with other complications on top of this.

Though each ultrasound is bittersweet, we're trying to enjoy the moments we have to see them on the screen, squirming and interacting with each other. They've moved positions now. Paxton's head's up on my right side, and
Carys is head's down on my left. While we were seeing them on the screen, they were pushing back and forth at each other, like they were fighting for what limited space they have. We had to laugh. I kept thinking, "Mom, he's on my side!!" "Get your foot out of my face!" I'm thankful they have this time together now.... even though Paxton can't remember it. We can.  We don't know how much Carys weighs, but Paxton's weight was estimated at about 3 lbs... he's ahead of schedule with his development. We're at 7 months now.

So, our hearts are still broken, but we're still finding peace. We appreciate continued prayer and will still have our good times and difficult times. We're still trusting and believing that we have a loving God who has perfect plans, beyond our understanding.

·                                 SATURDAY, MARCH 19, 2011 11:16 PM, CDT
I'm exhausted. I know that fatigue during pregnancy is expected... but it's beyond that. I'm weary. On top of the physical fatigue, i'm so emotionally drained. I know we'll be ok... but i'm just exhausted.

Matthew 11:28 (New International Version, ©2011)
   28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

·                                 SUNDAY, MARCH 27, 2011 2:05 PM, CDT
I've had Heaven on my mind a lot lately. I have so many questions. I've wondered how we'll know our loved ones who have gone on before us, and what they will look like. I've been wondering if babies will still be babies, and just how it all works in general. I prayed a few days ago for a better understanding, and a better picture of what Heaven will be like. I know it will be amazing, and there won't be any more pain or tears or loss, but it's still hard to fully grasp the concepts with my human brain.

We went out of town this weekend for our anniversary. While we were gone, we browsed at a book store (as we normally do). I found a book called, "Heaven is for real" and it's about a little boy's account of his visit to Heaven while he was very near death due to a ruptured appendix shortly before age 4. I recommend the book for anyone who has faced a loss, whether infant/pregnancy or otherwise. It wasn't a long read, i bought it yesterday afternoon and finished it last night, only a few hours after i stared reading it.

Thinking about the reality of Heaven (and not as some place we just read about) has given me a new wave of Peace. Today, I saw some baby girl clothes in a shop, complete with little princess outfits and ruffles and all the things many little girls love... and for the first time since
Carys' diagnosis, they didn't make me want to bawl. Ironically, I noticed the imperfections; the wrinkles, thetemporary. I felt reassured that it's okay because God has other plans for her- she's not missing out on anything. We mourn over the things that we had dreamed about and planned for when we learned that she existed, but I know that it's okay. We don't have to wonder what-if, because there really is no what-if. God has bigger plans for her than we ever could have.

I truly believe that the moment she leaves us here on earth, she's going to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. She'll quickly meet our loved ones who are already there. The angels will sing to her and she will learn all the mysteries of this world that we have yet to ponder. Best of all, it's not just a fairy tale. We WILL go join her some day, in God's time. It will be hard, and we will miss her horribly while we are apart, but it is not final.

Carys is serving her earthly purpose before I've even seen her sweet little face. Like the meaning of her name, she is teaching us about love- God's love. And Paxton, our "settlement of peace," is giving us so much to look forward to on this earth while we wait for our family to be reunited in Heaven.

Revelation 21:1-4

A New Heaven and a New Earth  1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
·                                 TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2011 11:02 PM, CDT
We had another checkup yesterday. We're scheduled to be back to the high risk specialist next week. For the most part, everything is ok, but our dr is sending us back to the specialist because Carys has a little too much amniotic fluid in her sac, which creates a higher risk for preterm labor. He just wanted a second opinion and to keep an eye on it. From everything I read early on, I know that polyhydramnios (too much fluid) is a common complication of anencephaly because babies with anencephaly have more difficulty swallowing the fluid, and it can be very uncomfortable for me if it gets worse. From my knowledge, it can be treated by amniocentesis to pull off some of the fluid (also not sounding very comfortable). I'm hoping (praying) that it doesn't continue to build up. Everything else looks pretty good, considering.  

Paxton's estimated weight is already about 4 1/2 lbs, putting him into about the 72nd percentile.
Carys is still a bit smaller than him. They've also managed to complete swap sides, with Paxton now on my left and Carys on my right, and they've seemed to be very active lately. We also got to see their sweet little faces in 4D.  

Though we have peace in knowing that we will be ok, and that God has plans for the good of our family, we're still brokenhearted and exhuasted. It's impossible to really get a break from the emotional roller coaster. I know God is working, and I know we're ok, but we're just drained. All we can do now is wait to see what He's going to do next. We're broken and waiting, in faith.
Psalm 27:14 (New International Version, ©2011)
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. 
·                                 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6, 2011 3:48 PM, CDT
So, we're back from Lexington. The specialist told us that he thinks the best approach is to just keep an eye on her amniotic fluid and watch for any signs of preterm labor. We want to keep the babies in as long as possible, but the fact that we are already 32 weeks made him feel more comfortable with just waiting and watching. He believes that if we tried amniocentisis to pull off some fluid, the benefits may not really outweigh the risks since i'm not having any major complications or symptoms at this point (it has been somewhat uncomfortable for me, but certainly not unbearable). IF we were to go into labor early, we could manage (though we're still praying that doesn't happen!). Meanwhile, he told me to stay off my feet as much as possible and recommended that I consider stopping or at least cutting back on time at work. I have been resting a lot while I'm home... but I have a feeling I'm not going to be allowed to do much of anything around here for a while. As soon as we got home, Aaron asked, "So, why don't you go lay down for a while?" :) He's taking good care of me (even with his torn ACL, meniscus, and other knee injuries at current... He's such a blessing to me!). So much for some of the plans I had in the next week or so!

Though the heartbroken feeling doesn't go away, I also feel at peace knowing that God has not left us. I know He is working even now and recognize His presence. My thoughts are often on Heaven and I'm so thankful we can know that it's real. In fact, Heaven has never FELT so real or so close to me as it does in these days, and I never want to lose that. It is such a peace-inspiring feeling to know that Heaven is forever when this world is not. I'm still tired, and I'm still on the emotional roller coaster, but I am feeling somewhat more rested... and I know a lot of that is coming from all the prayers. Continued prayers are still appreciated, we've still got a tough road in front of us and some decisions to make that won't be easy.

Psalm 46:10 (New International Version, ©2011)
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
  Isaiah 40:31 (New International Version, ©2011)
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Oh, I also wanted to add that this sonographer estimated Paxton at about 4 lbs.. so he may not be as big as we thought before, I guess we'll have to wait and see! I was recording their heartbeats on my phone today (i'm wanting to make heartbeat bears, i bought the recordable sound boxes) and Carys was moving around so much we couldn't even get a good long clip. :)  I guess I'll have to loop or try it again. I didn't even give them caffeine! 
·                                 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2011 6:36 PM, CDT
Our regular appt with the OB on Monday went relatively well. We're down to an appt every week. I have to admit, I'm having a pretty hard time with knowing we're getting so close. We still hope to make it to 37 weeks. Saturday will be 34.

The baby shower was Saturday and I'm very thankful for all the love and support we received, along with the gifts of course. I just keep thinking, this is really it... we're getting close to delivery and having to say goodbye (at least here on earth).

Yesterday evening, I had an unexpected call from the hospital to pre-register us for labor and delivery. I ended up giving the phone to Aaron because I was having a tough time even talking. After that, I was just an emotional mess. We both cried, and talked about the things that help us cope. Mostly, we talked about Heaven. We talked about how she won't have to wait for us because there's no such thing as time there. We talked about our loved ones that we look forward to her meeting there, and how she's not missing out on anything. It helps to remind ourselves of those things. We know she's ok, it just hurts. Though she won't be in the constraints of time, and the separation isn't forever, we're still stuck in time and will be waiting for the day we can all be together again. We know we're going to make it, but our hearts are so broken.

 Acts 7: 55-56
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

I know it's real. Praise God, it's real. 

On a lighter note, I have an audio clip on my phone of Aaron playing the guitar for the babies back in January. I've been laying my phone on my belly lately and playing it for the babies. Yesterday, I played it about 6 or 7 times in a row and had to laugh because there's a certain part of the song where the rhythym changes a bit, and every time it got to that part, one of the babies (I THINK it was Paxton, it was more on his side) gave the phone a big nudge. I think he liked that part :) i was trying to show Aaron today, and Paxton did it once... too bad Aaron missed it. :) So... there it is, I'm trying my best to end the entry with a smile! 

I love our babies so much.
·                                 FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2011 10:29 AM, CDT
I am continually amazed and blessed by how many people tell me that they're praying for our family. I think I've said it here before, but I really used to think it sounded insignificant or empty when i would tell people I was praying for them, even though I was sincere. It always feels like it's not enough. 

In reality, it is so much, and in situations like ours, there's really NOT anything else that can be done. The helplessness is part of what makes it so difficult. The helplessness is what has the potential to draw us closer to the Heavenly Father in prayer, because He CAN do something. 

I've had many people tell me they're still praying for "a miracle." I know that by that, they mean they're praying that Carys will be whole and we can keep both our babies. In December and the first part of January, I was praying for that too, while knowing that may not be what God's plan is. I fully believe He's able to make our baby girl "whole," but I also believe I received a very clear answer from Him. I believe that part of the story is already written. Our baby girl has Anencephaly, I don't believe that will change. Each ultrasound we see, it is a very obvious situation that she didn't develop fully. 

With that said, not only do I believe God IS going to give us a miracle, I believe He already has. Carys IS a miracle for us. The depth of impact she has already made on our lives (and the lives of many  more) is incredible. God formed her very intentionally and lovingly, just the way she is. It's easy to look at her and think, "she's not whole, God needs to fix her" ... but God doesn't make mistakes. He knows exactly what He's doing, and I trust Him with that, even though it is painful for us here on earth when we don't understand. We don't WANT to be separated from her because we love her so very much. We want to bring both our babies home to share our lives and teach and watch them grow. Carys has a different purpose, and as hard as it is to say, that's ok. She's been such a blessing to our families and friends. She's strengthened an already close marriage and brought our families even closer together. She's helped us to grow spiritually in amazing ways. She's made Heaven feel so real and close to us. She's an amazing little miracle, continuing to grow and squirm and kick until the time comes for her to go home (and on a side note, she moved so big the evening after the baby shower that mom could see it from across the room and it caught my breath.... don't know what she was doing in there, but she did it with emphasis!! :) ). 

I know God has plans for us after we're separated from our baby girl. This is an experience that I believe we needed to go through to better face whatever plans He has for us. I know there are so many hurting people we will meet who need to feel understood... and how could we understand if we've never been in their shoes? 

If you've not already been to the resources page of our journal here, go click on the link for "I Will Carry You" by Selah. It's a song we first heard after the diagnosis in December and so perfectly fits the situation now. Carys has us so Heavenly minded that even my shoes reminded me of Heaven yesterday. Yes... my shoes. I was wearing sandals with jewel-toned beads, and i started thinking of the gemstones in the walls of the New Jerusalem. I was thinking of the glorious light that radiates from the Father and Son, and how amazingly beautiful that must look reflecting off the walls of the city. I normally share at least a verse, but I'm going to share the chapter of Revelation 21 today... maybe someone else needs something to think about too. :)

Revelation 21 A New Heaven and a New Earth  1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb  9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
 15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia[c] in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits[d] thick.[e] 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.[f] 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
·                                 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2011 11:25 AM, CDT
Ok, so I felt like I needed to share a quick update about what's going on. We went in for our appt monday and after the exam, we were sent on to labor and delivery. Apparently I've been having contractions and just haven't been feeling them (sounds crazy to me, but i'm not complaining about not feeling them). They've been giving me meds to stop contractions, and steroids to help lung development, trying to hold off on delivery.

We've had so many people offer to help however they can, or bring us things we need, etc. and we truly appreciate all the support and prayers. The biggest things we truly need right now are prayers and rest. I'll update again later on after the babies have been delivered. I've really appreciated the staff here and their dedication to trying to help us make the most of the situation and the difficult, bittersweet nature of our delivery. They're being very accommodating to ensure our privacy during this time.

The babies are being frequently monitored and last night, we had some concerns that Paxton’s heart rate was not as reactive as we would have liked to have seen. After about two hours (and prayers), we’d tried giving them some fruit and a candy bar to perk him up, but then I decided to try playing the audio clip of Aaron playing the guitar that Paxton seemed to enjoy so much the other day. Paxton perked up and we saw what we needed to see. So thankful!

Though our hearts are breaking, we’re excited to meet our babies face to face. We know we’re going to be okay through all of this and feel God’s presence strongly. We appreciate the continued prayers and support.

·                                 FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2011 12:10 PM, CDT
Paxton Cole Kitchen was born via c-section at 8:19 am yesterday, April 21st, weighing in at 4 lbs, 10 ounces (17 inches long). Carys Rainn was born at 8:21 am, weighing in at 3 lbs, measuring 12 1/2 inches long.

Because he is a preemie, Paxton was quickly taken to NICU and is doing great. He hasn't needed any help with breathing at all, and is only having some difficulty with eating (due to being early, he's still a bit weak so he may end up with a feeding tube for a little while). He's a laid back, handsome little fella with strawberry blond hair and he's perfect.

Carys stayed with us from the time she was born. We spent an amazing 7 hours and 13 minutes with our beautiful baby girl. I hadn't let myself hope for nearly that much time but it was incredible.

She exceeded many of our hopes and expectations. Though we didn't know if she would be able to make any noise or cry, she was very vocal and we so enjoyed listening to her little squeaks and whimpers that sounded almost like giggles. She also had a strong grip on our little fingers (and our hearts!) and we were able to introduce her to our immediate families. We even had the chance to bring in one of our ministers for a brief baby dedication ceremony with the family.

We are overwhelmed by the peace God has provided for us. I had counted on having peace during this time but was unprepared for the degree of peace we have been feeling. Our anxiety and grief peaked the evening before delivery but from the time we were situated in the delivery room, we were overcome with peace, comfort, and happiness. We know the Great Comforter is with us and we have been able to truly celebrate the time we have had with
Carys and the birth of our beautiful baby boy. 

The last four months have been filled with grieving and sorrow, knowing we were going to lose our little girl, but though we are physically tired from the week, we both feel more spiritually and emotionally rested than we could have even imagined. We are completely at peace and have tears of happiness rather than sadness.

Carys is our miracle. She left such a huge impact on us and we are so thankful to be her mommy and daddy. She really is perfect, even if we didn't get to keep her here. We spent the day yesterday telling her how much we love her, how thankful we are for her and talking to her about our loved ones in Heaven. Her daddy read scripture for us describing Heaven and we talked about some of the things we were excited for her to have the opportunity to experience there. We will miss her as long as we are on this earth but we are so very blessed to know that our separation is not forever. Our baby girl is in the arms of our Heavenly Father and she will never know anything but love.  We are absolutely in awe of our babies and amazed at God's presence throughout this experience.

We have joy in our hearts as we go into this Resurrection Day weekend. It's Good Friday, and though we have mourned, we know that Sunday is coming!!