Monday, February 17, 2014

Evan James: 4 month stats

Evan turned four months old yesterday.

Excuse me for a second while I go rock myself in the corner whilst curled up in a fetal position.

Okay, moving on.

My baby is four months, so today I took him for his well visit and vaccinations. Here are my sweet love's stats for growth:

Height: 25 inches (50th percentile)
Weight: 14 lbs. 6 oz. (45th percentile)
Head Circumference: 50th percentile

Here are the stats for the other three at four months:

Stella B:
Weight: 12 lbs., 14 oz.  (50th percentile)
Height: 24.5 inches (55th percentile)
Head Circumference: 40.1 cm (35th percentile)


Liam:
Height: 25.5 inches (75th percentile)
Weight: 15 lbs, 11 oz (75th percentile)
Head Circumference: 43.2 cm (75th percentile)


Nora:
Weight: 11 lbs., 13 oz. (20th percentile)
Height: 24 inches long (45th percentile)

Much like I assumed, Evan is bigger than my girls but not quite as big as Liam was! Liam was definitely my chunkier boy. And Nora was always my tiny little peanut. 

At four months, Evan is definitely coming into his own little personality.  He is very content and is a cheerful little fellow. He smiles easily, loves to coo, and can carry on quite a "conversation."  He has recently discovered his voice and loves to hear himself talk and squeal. 

He nurses pretty much exclusively, although he has taken a bottle a few times. We nurse about six to seven times each day, including his dream feed right before I go to bed and there are some evenings where I feed him in clusters before his bedtime at 8:30ish.  Evan naps a few times a day and typically takes a long afternoon nap for 2.5 hours or so! It's fabulous because I am able to have a few quiet moments to myself or get some housework done or spend time homeschooling Nora. He loves to play on the floor or in his bouncy seat, and he is often being held by Nora or Liam (or Stella but that lasts about five seconds).  Also, he's at the stage where everything goes in his mouth.  As I type this, he's in the bouncy seat beside me chewing on some linking letters and talking away. 

We love our little Squish and his big bald head! I just love every minute we get with him and he's brought so much joy to all of us. I will post some much needed pictures once we get our. On our computer back up and running!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Evan James: Two Month Stats

I am WAY behind on posting these stats for Evan seeing that he will be three months old next week.  However, with surgery, Christmas, post-surgery stuff, and a trip to Florida with the Bradshaw family, we've been quite busy around here.  About two weeks ago, I brought Evan in for his two month well-visit and these were his stats:

Height:  22.5 inches (50th percentile)
Weight:  11 lbs., 11 oz. (50th percentile)

Stella at 2 months was 11 lbs., 2 oz. and 22.5 inches.
Liam was 12 lbs., 5 oz and 23 1/8 inches.
Nora was 9 lbs., 13 oz and 21.75 inches.

I think Evan may have weighed a bit more had he not had surgery and lost a bit of weight due to his eating via syringe.  I think he's growing like a weed these days and definitely doesn't look or feel like a newborn anymore. 

During the week following surgery, Evan started sleeping through the night.  I usually feed him between 8:00 and 8:30 pm and put him down.  I will go in and nurse him one last time before I go to bed between 10-11 pm.  He will typically sleep until around 6:00-6:30 am.  I am LOVING longer stretches of sleep and it's definitely given me more energy and mind capacity!

Evan is smiling, cooing, kicking his feet and moving his arms and legs like crazy!  He's such a sweet, content baby boy and we love him so very much!  I have much to update about surgery with pics of how he's recovering, so I'll try to post soon with that information.  Till then!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Two Months Old and Two Days Before Surgery



Today, Evan is two months old! Crazy how fast time has flown and although it is SO cliche to say how it seems like he's always been a part of our lives, it is so true. It is also true that we are all so stinkin' in love with this little boy!

We are two days away from Surgery Day. This day that I've known about for six months and have been dreading from that first moment when I found out he had a cleft lip is here. So many friends have asked how I'm doing, and I can say that right now, at this very moment, that I am doing okay. I want the surgery to be over. I am ready to put this part of life behind us because I know I will not like seeing my baby being pushed away to surgery. I will not like the waiting. I will not like seeing him frail and hurting and in a hospital. But, I do know that this surgery is what's best for him. I know that he won't remember any of this. I know that no matter how hard the days that follow surgery may be that we will get through them. God will give us the strength to endure the feedings, the lack of sleep, the caring for four children, and the unknowns that I don't even know to worry about right now. I think there is a lot about surgery that I don't know to expect, so I cannot worry about those things because I don't KNOW to worry about them. Right now, I am thankful for that ignorance. I am also thankful that the Lord has taught me so much in the past year about being anxious. I am so thankful that even though I battle anxiety--because I do--that He is faithful to equip us with ways to fight those fears and thoughts. He is the giver of peace, and I know that the God I serve is all kind, all wise, and all loving. He is trustworthy. Knowing that, dwelling on that helps me in those moments. I'm praying that on Surgery Day that I can cling to what I know about my Lord.

So, here's what I do know so far about surgery. We will go in sometime early Wednesday morning. On Tuesday evening, they call us and tell us our tentative surgery time. The surgeries are assigned based on the age of the kids lined up for surgery that day. They do youngest to oldest, so hopefully Evan's surgery will be pretty early. He cannot eat anything up to four hours prior to surgery time, so I will plan to nurse him four hours beforehand. His surgery should last between 1.5-2 hours. We will spend one night at Children's hospital and be released sometime on Thursday. Evan will not be able to nurse or have a bottle until his sutures are removed on December 26th, eight days after surgery. He will be syringe fed using a catheter, so I will be pumping and supplementing with formula if needed. Evan will have some pain medication for the first few days, but the nurse practitioner told us that babies typically do really well and don't need the pain meds for very long.

My mom is coming in town tomorrow night to be with us for a few days, and my in-laws will be graciously caring for Nora, Liam, and Stella while we are in the hospital. We haven't even gotten to the hospital, yet we have felt so cared for. So many friends are constantly telling us they are praying for us, meals have been signed up for following surgery, and people are pouring out care in big and little ways. I definitely do not feel like we are walking this out alone but that we are surrounded by a army of prayer warriors and loved ones who are carrying us through it all.

Now that all of that is out of the way, let me tell you about Evan.  What a gift he is!

At two months, Evan weighs about 11.5 lbs.  This is such an answer to prayer! Before he was born (when we were concerned that he would come early, which he didn't because the Lord kept him cooking for a longer time than we expected), my prayers were that Evan would not come prematurely and that when he did come that he would put on weight so that he would be a big, strapping boy prior to surgery.  I was hoping he would at least be ten pounds by surgery, and by God's faithfulness, he's exceeded that weight!  Being breastfed, no less.  If you recall, I didn't expect to be able to nurse him at all.  But, since only his lip is involved in the cleft, I've been able to breastfeed from day one, and apparently I make some rich milk because Evan has consistently put on weight.  This is the faithfulness of our God!  He answered these prayers!  One less worry for me!

Evan is such a sweet boy.  He's very serious, much like Nora was as a newborn.  He is not one to crack many smiles, but when he does---WATCH OUT---it's killer!  He is a great eater and napper, but he has proven to have a hard time in the evenings.  I think that we are through with most of it, but every few days he has a hard time in the evenings where he is hard to console and get down to sleep for the night.  Sleep is inconsistent.....he has had a few nights where he "slept through the night," but those nights are very few and far between.  I really don't see a pattern, but I'd say once I feed him at his "dream feed" (between 10-11 pm) he typically sleeps a 4-6 hour stretch.  Then, when I lay him down he'll sleep for another 3-4 hours.  He usually starts his day around 8:30 am.  He nurses every 2-3 hours during the day and cluster feeds in the evenings (every 1-2 hours), but even the cluster feeding is getting less.  He is generally very content when awake, even with all of the kisses and poking and prodding he endures and the loud, earth-shattering volume that often takes over our house most days.  He doesn't seem phased or bothered by the chaos around him.  Those kids love him so much and cannot keep away from him.

Below are a few pics of Evan that my sweet friend Suzanne captured last month.  These will always be priceless to me!






Here are a few I took on my phone this morning.  Stella was getting some loving in....you can see Evan is thrilled.




Here's my stud muffin at two months!  Such a handsome boy!




Monday, November 18, 2013

One Month Wonderful

 Over the weekend, our little man turned one month old!

 I took him for his one month well-visit last Wednesday, and he came in as quite the chunker:
9 lbs., 10 oz. and 20 3/4 inches long.
That's 50th percentile in weight and head circumference and about 25th percentile in length.

Here are the stats of Evan's siblings at their one month appointments:
Stella: 9 lbs., 2 oz. and 21 1/4 inches
Nora: 8 lbs., 6 oz. and 21 inches
Liam: 9 lbs., 14 oz. and 22 1/4 inches
(Nora was definitely our little peanut, and Evan seems to be a bit thinner but a bit longer than his older brother.  Stella is right in the middle there).

This past month has been wonderful with Evan James.  We have just enjoyed every second of his life! The newborn stage is so fleeting and so precious and so miraculous.  This little life literally grows by the minute and changes daily, and I get to watch it unfold before my very eyes.  

As far as a schedule goes, we pretty much just live life with the three older ones and Evan just goes with the flow.  He eats about every 2.5-3 hours during the day (lately he's been doing three hour stretches more often which lends itself to better feedings each time).  At night we have a hard time getting him to go down (darn witching hour), but once he's out, he usually sleeps for a 5-6 hours stretch followed by a 3-4 hour stretch.  He naps pretty well during the day and usually gets one LONG nap in during the afternoon.

Life with Cleft:  Life for Evan with cleft is really no different right now than life for any newborn.  Thankfully he is able to nurse like a healthy baby, and we haven't had any issues other than the usual learning to latch, burping, occasional gas, etc.  We have not been able to use a pacifier for Evan which has its pros and cons.  Following surgery next month, Evan will NOT be able to use a pacifier or bottle of any sort because his lip will be healing and have sutures.  He will be fed by syringe for a week.  If we had him attached to a pacifier, after surgery he will definitely NOT be able to use it so he would be pretty unhappy at that time if were dependent on it.  So, we have tried really hard to not use one and so far have been successful.  This can be difficult at night because sometimes he just wants to suck for comfort which means that we nurse A LOT in the evenings.  I sometimes feel like a human pacifier (which isn't fun) but my sweet baby boy is worth it.  Also, he is learning to self soothe a bit, so maybe his need to suck will lessen over time.

This Friday we take Evan for his pre-op appointment at Children's where he will get registered for surgery in December.  I'll update what we discover after that appointment.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Four Weeks

Four weeks.  Wow.  Four weeks with four kids.  WOWWWW!

I know there are so many things about these days that I simply will not remember.  I am tired and sleep-deprived and super busy and recovering from pregnancy.  My brain just cannot keep up with all that's happening in our sweet little life.  But there are so many sweet things, so many precious moments that have and are occurring.  There are also really hard days, tough moments.  Moments when my patience is thin, the kids are unruly, and the volume is way too loud.  But, I wouldn't change a thing, I wouldn't miss a moment, and I wouldn't fast forward through these days to a time when we are all well-rested and recovered.

Jonathan is hard-working, committed, strong, and steadfast.  We wakes early, helps me out in the little things like throwing together peanut butter sandwiches or leaving me a hot mug of coffee ready to go.  He runs his business and cares for his patients, then comes homes to care for his children and tired wife.  Some nights he takes the kids out to Chick-fil-a so I can have an hour to myself.  Some nights he cleans the kitchen and bathes the children while I hold a fussy newborn.  But, I have not hear him complain once.  Not once. 

Nora is so caring and so helpful and so sweet-hearted.  She is flexible and funny and fills her role as big sister so well.  She adores Evan and talks about wanting to "eat" him and how "squishy" he is.  She loves to talk to him, hold him, compare her newborn pictures to him.  We all think that at first he looked just like her.  She is forgiving and understanding when her Momma is tired by the middle of the afternoon.  Sometimes she'll just lay in my bed with me while I rest.  She is such a gift and a friend to me.

Liam could not love his brother any more!  He is proud and protective and provoking.....He cannot keep his hands off that baby.  He enjoys holding Evan and imagining what they will be able to do together when Evan is bigger or when he, Daddy, and Evan can do "guy trips."  He is spunky and loud and full of life and energy.  At first I had to be tough on him and Stella because they just didn't understand the personal space and gentleness that babies need, so I think he was frustrated with me for keeping him "away" from Evan and also that so much of my attention was spent of Evan.  But lately, he is my cuddle bug.  When I wake up with Evan in the middle of the night, I always wake Liam up to go "pee pee" before I dive under the covers for a few more hours sleep.  I love that I can once again pick him up and carry him to the potty.  He's so long and heavy, and I know the time is limited that I will physically be able to carry him, but for now, I love it.  I carry him to and from the bathroom in those wee hours and tuck him in.  My favorite are the nights that he wakes up enough to softly say, "I love you, Momma" before I shut the door.

Stella is my little maternal mess.  She honestly has no idea that she is two years old.  It has not once occurred to her that she is any younger than Nora and Liam or in any way limited from doing all that they can.  Her vocabulary explodes daily, and we are in that fun/not-so-fun stage where we are communicating much more.  It's hard when she knows what she is saying but when we just have.no.clue.  She loves Evan and still struggles keeping her hands off of him.  All of his "things," in her mind, are really there for her.  The bouncy seat, the pack-n-play, the swing.  They are there for her use and for her "babies."  She's such a little doll baby, and we enjoy her spunky personality so much. 

Evan.  Oh my sweet Evan.  He is growing so fast, and there is a part of me that is just sad that it goes by in such a quick blur.  I can literally feel him growing, feel the changes in his weight and in how his clothes fit.  He's so much more alert these days, and I am so excited to see his smile for the first time.  Around week two, he began to get fussy in the evenings and wanted to cluster feed every 2 hours or so.  It's easier to walk through that when you know it won't last.  Also, when you know it's your last baby.  It's easier to just let him sleep on me instead of laying him down right away.  It's easier to justify rocking him a few minutes longer because it's not every day I have an eleven day old or a four week old in my arms.  He's doing such a great job with nursing, even though I cam pretty much drenched in milk most days and smell like spit up.  There's such a sweetness to this stage, as hard as it is. 

I want to remember these days and cherish them.  We will one day sleep through the night.  We may eventually get on a schedule.  But for now, I just want to remember.  I want to enjoy.  I want to cherish.  I want to soak it up.  I want to be thankful for the chaos and the exhaustion and the desperation. 

A Baby Story: Evan's Arrival

It seems that from day one Evan has decided to march to the beat of his own drum.  I had three of the "easiest" pregnancies with my first three babies, but from the start things were a bit different with Evan.  I had low progesterone in the first trimester (which I did experience with Stella), at 20 weeks we found out about his cleft and my shortened cervical length, and then beginning around 24 weeks I was under care for preterm labor which means I had weekly ultrasounds up until I was 35 weeks pregnant.  I failed my glucose test, then had to take the three-hour.  I tested positive for a fetal fibronectin test at 24 weeks which means that it was likely I would go into labor within two weeks (YIKES!).  But, then all of that ended up being for nothing because the Lord sustained Evan in my womb far beyond what we all anticipated.

I started to dilate around 34 weeks.  I was 1 cm, then 3-4 cm.  Then I jumped to 5 cm, and the nurse practitioner that I saw almost weekly thought I wouldn't make it but a few more days.  So, I walked around for a week thinking that if I sneezed too hard I would pop out a baby, but alas nothing happened.  I made it to 36 weeks.  At my 37 week appointment, I was still at 5 cm but they weren't ready to admit me because my contractions weren't consistent.  I decided then to stop walking around in that anxious state of anticipation, and I just enjoyed my last days of pregnancy.  Those were my last days with just three children.  Last days with Stella as my "baby."  Last days of "sleep" (although we all know that late pregnancy doesn't equal good rest).  All this time I was having lots of contractions, some very intense, some nights thinking "This is it."  However, my contractions would slow down, we would make it through another night, and I was still pregnant.

My biggest "fear" with this delivery was that things would be chaotic.  Let's face it, there's a lot to consider before I can just be admitted to the hospital.  I have to make sure the kiddos are being cared for, whether that means someone comes to the house in the middle of the night or we have help getting them to and from school, etc.  Also, when I went into labor spontaneously with Stella, I had extreme back labor that was very painful.  I was not a very nice person, and rumor has it that I can turn into a little bit of a "potty mouth" when the going gets rough.  How would all of that play out, say, in the middle of the afternoon.  There were many what ifs and what would wes.  My prayer was that it would all come together peacefully (and I really prayed hard that I would make it to the hospital in time to get my epidural).  Selfish, I know.

On Tuesday, October 15, we spent out last day and night as a family of five.  We had co-op at church, lunch at home, dinner as a family.  Jonathan and Liam went and bought a new television for our living room because our old one (which we'd had for many, many moons) took no shorter than 15 minutes to turn on.  It was time, people.  While the boys were out, we girls painted our nails because it is a necessity to have pretty toes whilst pushing out a baby, right? It was a sweet time with my two little ladies.  We tucked the kids into bed, and I prayed that I would make it through the night and to my doctor's appointment the next morning.  I had been having contractions off and on for several days, but again, no consistency, no strengthening.

On Wednesday, October 16, I brought Liam to school and dropped Stella and Nora (on Fall Break) off to Granna and Geegaw's house.  The plan was that if my appointment showed no progression then I would come get Stella and then pick up the other two once they got out of school.  If my appointment, however, led me to get admited to the hospital, then the girls would already be with them and they could get Liam at dismissal.  I checked into the appointment and was quickly ushered in to leave a sample and get weighed.  As I was coming out of the restroom, I was greeted by my favorite nurse practitioner, Krista, and her nurse.  I saw Krista at most of my appointments since I was going weekly, and we have gotten to know each other very well.  Love her!  She told me how shocked she was that I was there, still pregnant.  My response was, "I know!"  She gave me a squeeze and told me to tell her what the word was after seeing Dr. Yang.

A few minutes later I found myself in the room and Dr. Yang came in, asked how I was feeling whether or not I was ready.  She quickly checked me and said that I had progressed to a 6 or 7 cm. 
"Let's have a baby," she said.  Okay!  She didn't even want me to go home, but wanted me to head straight to the hospital (just down the street).  Thankfully, I had my suitcase packed just in case.  A few minutes later I called Jonathan to tell him it was baby day!  He was so excited, and we quickly hung up so he could get out of the office, swing by the house for a few last minute things for himself, and meet me up there.  I then called Paul and Joyce to tell them the news, and then I called my momma.  About 20 minutes after my appointment time, I was parking my van in the hospital parking lot and pulling my suitcase and my pregnant self up the hill to the hospital entrance.  It was quite funny and seemed ordinary, but it was Evan's birthday.

I checked in and was escorted to my room where I changed and got hooked up on monitors.  Several nurses came in to get my medical history and important information, and I was started on an IV and some fluids.  Jonathan arrived around 11:00 am, and I had left most of our things in the van, so he headed to get himself some lunch and come back with what we needed.  By the time he got back, the anesthesiologist was there to give me my epidural (around noon).  A bit later they nurse checked me and I was at 8 cm.  She called Dr. Yang who came in just a few minutes later and broke my water.  She said I hadn't really progressed past 8 so I asked if I could sit up to see if changing my position and putting pressure on my cervix caused me to dilate.  At 1:20, the nurse came in to ask if I felt pressure or if I needed to push.  I didn't think I did, so she said to call her if anything changed, but that if not, she would be back at 2:00 to check on me. 

At 1:35, Jonathan called his parents who had just picked up Liam from school.  We were so excited to hear his reaction about having his baby brother being born that day, so we wanted to hear his response over the phone.  While Jonathan talked to his folks, I began to feel some changes and lots of pressure.  I could still feel my contractions (although mostly pain-free), so as soon as Jonathan hung up the phone I told him we needed to call the nurse.  That was at 1:42.  The nurse quickly came in and checked me, and I was complete.  "Let me get the doctor," she said.  A whirlwind unfolded as everyone came in and got in position.  I was ready to push and could feel everything I needed to know what was happening.  It was a wonderful epidural and delivery...pain free, but I was still in control of my body.  About three rounds of pushing (counting to ten), and our boy was here!

Evan came out screaming and as mad as a hornet!  Dr. Yang asked if I wanted to hold him, and I so did!  She dropped that messy, bloody, screaming baby boy in my arms and it was love!  I just love that moment and would do it over and over again.  We snuggled for a bit, but his body temperature was dropping and they needed to check him out, so they took him across the room to warm him and weigh him.  Evan was 7 lbs, 2 oz. and measured 19.5 inches in length.  He was just a few ounces bigger than his two sisters (who weighed 6.14 and 6.15).  Liam was my biggest baby at 7.15.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, it quickly became apparent that his lip was the only thing involved in his cleft, so once he got warm, I tried nursing him.  That first time it didn't go so well, but about an hour or so later we tried again and he did great. 

Later that afternoon, the kids came by to meet their baby brother.  They all instantly adored him!  I tried to immediately address Evan's cleft so that the kids wouldn't be upset or confused or anything, but even though I pointed it out, they hardly seemed to notice or care.  All they saw was their baby brother that they loved.  We had several friends visit us throughout our hospital stay, and my recovery was pretty "easy." 

All in all, Jonathan and I both think that Evan's delivery was probably the best one.  It was smooth, fairly quick, and I was so comfortable with the epidural and pushing and knowing what my body was supposed to do.  The Lord truly answered my prayers and calmed all fears.  There was no chaos.  Evan and I were both healthy, and all of our needs were provided for! 

I'm weird, I know, but I love the actual part of having the baby.  Now, I don't know how much I'd love it minus my epidural, but childbirth truly is such a miracle.  Even now, four weeks later, I cannot get over the fact that Evan was INSIDE me!  Our God is amazing.  Conception and pregnancy and delivery and raising babies.....it's beyond my comprehension.  It definitely causes me to stand in awe of my Creator!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

.God Is Gracious.

Two weeks ago, we were so blessed to welcome our newest bundle into the world.  That's right, our fourth child, our second son--Evan James Bradshaw-- was born on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.   And we could not be more in love with this little boy.

I have so much to say about my pregnancy, my delivery, and how wonderful life with Evan has been these past two weeks, but before I get to those things, I want to tell you all something that we have not been extremely verbal about until now.  Many of you may have noticed in a few of the pictures that we have posted on Facebook or Instagram that Evan has a cleft lip.  We found out about Evan's lip during my 20 week anatomy scan back in June.  Being our fourth baby, I didn't really expect the appointment to go any differently than my previous three, so Jonathan stayed home with the other kiddos while I went to have my ultrasound.  After about an hour of checking on our little man, the ultrasound tech finally got around to scanning Evan's brain and face.  He was very low in my pelvis during the ultrasound, so she was having trouble getting good pictures of his brain, but finally got to see all that she needed.  Finally, she got to his sweet face and profile but said she was having trouble getting the shots she needed because his umbilical cord was right in front of his face.  Within a minute or so, my eyes seemed to focus in on Evan and I saw it.  I said, "Is that a cleft lip?"  "It is," she said with a sympathetic, kind tone.

A few minutes later she came back with my OB to confirm the diagnosis.  The rest of the appointment is kind of a blur, but I remember that I held it together pretty well and just kept trying to remind myself that the baby was healthy.  All things considered, a cleft lip is not life-threatening and is usually fixable.  Through teary eyes, I said this to my OB.  She nodded in agreement, then looked at me and said, "That's true. But, it's your baby. You always want everything to be perfect for your baby."  I called Jonathan from the operatory and told him the news.  His response was so strong and encouraging and full of faith.

We made it through that first weekend (I found out on a Friday morning).  Our emotions ran the gamut as we learned more about the condition, we learned how much we actually DID NOT and COULD NOT know about the extent of the cleft, and we told our family and closest friends.  Honestly, we cried a lot that weekend.  We took turns being the weak one and the strong one.  We talked to the kiddos about the baby's "Boo Boo."  But most importantly, we named our baby during those days.  Up until that time, we had trouble deciding on a name, but after his diagnosis, I told Jonathan that he needed a name.  I needed to be able to call him by his name, to pray for him by name.  Evan was one of the names on our list and it was the only name on that list that had the perfect meaning:  God is gracious.  Evan James, God IS Gracious.  He graciously gave you to us.  He graciously made you in my womb.  He graciously brought you into our family.  And He graciously cares for you and takes care of you and loves you.

After those first few days, I came to the conclusion that I could not live in the sadness that I had over the weekend.  I did not want to continue on through the next four months of pregnancy with a sense of fear, anxiety, sadness, or any other emotion that would rob me, rob our family from the joy of this upcoming new life.   We were having a BABY.  A son!  We had so much to rejoice over and be thankful for and we had so much to celebrate.

It's true, we knew very little about the future.  Even with several ultrasounds, we were not able to tell if Evan's cleft was just his lip or if it extended into his palate.  We would not know until delivery.  In August, we met with the Cleft Team at Knoxville's Children's Hospital to consult with them about Evan's case and to learn about what the future held.  We instantly fell in love with the nurse practitioner who coached us on the worst-case scenarios, what to expect, how to feed and how not to feed.  She reassured me over and over that there was nothing I did or did not do to cause this to happen.  She told us how much we would love Evan's smile with his cleft lip and how we would cry when time for surgery because that particular smile would never be again.  She gave us bottles and special nipples and taught us how to feed him if his palate was involved.  We talked about the possibilities or impossibilities of breastfeeding a baby with cleft palate.  She gave us her personal cell phone number and made us promise her we would call her from the delivery room and said to call her any time of day if we have questions or difficult feedings or anything.  She spoke with such confidence of our surgeon's abilities and put so many fears at ease.  We met the surgeon, Dr. R, and learned about the schedule of surgeries depending on the severity of Evan's case.

Here is what we did know:  Evan has a unilateral (one side) cleft lip.  It is on his left side, and from the ultrasound pictures, we were almost certain it was "complete" which means it extends up into his nostril.  When Dr. R looked at Evan's pictures, he seemed pretty confident that his palate WAS involved.  We could be looking at up to three surgeries within the first few years (one at 2 months, one at 6-7 months, and one later down the road).  We walked out of there with lots of information and a feeling of blessing and confidence in the care we would be receiving.

The remainder of my pregnancy was filled with craziness: I failed my glucose test, was on watch for preterm labor, placed on restrictions, etc.  I basically lived at my OB's office.  It seems like every time I walked in there something else came up.  The biggest concern was that I was showing signs of preterm labor beginning around 24 weeks.  I had weekly ultrasounds and biophysical profiles of Evan to make sure he was growing well and that my body was behaving itself.  We had goals of making it to 30 weeks, then 32 weeks, then 34, then 36 weeks.  Then, around that time I started dilating and the doctor was certain I would have Evan any day.

HA!  My prayers from the first sign of preterm labor was that Evan would stay in my belly as long as possible so that he could be as big and healthy as could be.  I knew he would likely have a very rough road ahead of him, so we didn't need to add difficulty breathing or low weight to be additional trouble.  At 38 weeks, 5 days, Evan finally decided it was time to come out.  The Lord graciously, faithfully kept him growing in my belly for longer than anyone expected.

Evan was born on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 1:54 pm.  He came out big and healthy and screaming like a hornet.  I saw him and was instantly in love with him.  He weighed 7 lbs., 2 oz. and measured 19.5 inches long.  Jonathan immediately turned into the dentist that he is and began to scope out the extent of the cleft.  We could immediately see his lip, but after quick inspection we discovered that his palate was complete.  There was no cleft.  Also, usually when there is a cleft lip, the gum line is also involved with a cleft but Evan's was complete.  His lip, while cleft, was NOT complete like we suspected.  It does not extend up into his nostril, but stops a few millimeters below his nose.  We were told that if his palate was involved there was no way I could nurse him.  If it was just his lip, it would be questionable because many times suction is not possible.  Jonathan called Judy (our lovely nurse practitioner) and filled her in on what we knew and she told us to go ahead and try nursing.  I had nursed the other three, so she told me to treat Evan just like I would my other babies.  We will see how things go.

Our days at the hospital flew by, and Evan was a rock star!  He began eating like a champ and had minimal weight loss in the hospital.  Everyone was so kind and encouraging and seemed to be as smitten with him as we were.  We came home that Friday, and the past two weeks have been a blur.  Mostly, I am soaking up time with my little man, trying to cherish every little sound, every little first.  In these two weeks, Evan has grown to 7 lbs, 13 oz. (he gained nearly a pound since his first pediatric appointment last week).  We have scheduled surgery for mid-December, which Dr. R believes will likely be the only surgery Evan will require. 

Whew, I know that is a lot of information to catch up on, but more than anything, I want to communicate that Evan is an answer to prayer and is a testimony to the kindness and greatness and graciousness of God.  We have had so many friends and family praying for us and praying for this baby, and the Lord has blessed us.  Even if Evan's condition had been the worst-case scenario, I believe that God is faithful and kind and great.  I know had it been worse, that He would have given us the strength and might to care for Evan and our other three children.  He would have carried us through those difficulties, and He will carry us through the rough days ahead.

I feel like there is so much that the Lord has taught me, has taught us through these past several months.  He has taught me about fighting anxiety, trusting in him, letting go of things that I cannot control, praying for and fighting for peace, receiving help and care that previously in my pride and self-sufficiency I may not have received.  He has brought Jonathan and I closer together.  He has allowed sweet conversations between us and our children.  And I know that what the Lord has started He will complete.  There are still lessons to be learned here.  Lessons for us, lessons for our children, lessons for Evan.   But so far, the most resounding lesson we've seen is that God is gracious to His children and to those who cry out to him for help and mercy. 

Here are some pictures of our sweet boy.  I cannot tell you how much we love him.  I adore his precious face, his sweet mouth, his cleft lip.  It is who he is and we adore him.  We prayed for this baby, and the Lord gave him to us.  We are so thankful for him!  I cannot wait for you to meet him.