Monday, December 30, 2013

More hospital time for us both!

So Chris is in the hospital again. His temperature hovers around 99 before spiking up to 102, 103 or 101 every 4-6 hours. All his blood and urine cultures have come back clean. They at first thought he might have had a UTI or something but none of the antibiotics they've been giving to him are working. It'll be 5 days tomorrow. His longest hospital stay ever. And I'm not right there with him. It's hard. 

Blessedly, Chris' mom, Dixie, had bought tickets to fly out and help with Frederick. She arrived Chris' first night in the hospital. Perfect timing. Some friends from our branch picked her up at the airport and more friends watched our kids so I Frederick and I could stay with Chris for some of the day. Then the sister missionaries came over to clean my house: Christmas, a birthday, a 1 week old baby and a recovering mama and papa makes for a pretty messy house. 

The first night we thought Chris would just sleep through it, get better and be coming home the next day so both Dixie and I slept at home. That night ended up being terrible for Chris and his temperature continues to puzzle the doctors. They even have been contacting our Vanderbilt doctors for recommendations on Chris' treatment but nothing is really working. 

We've sort of settled into a routine now. Dixie stays the night with Chris. I go with Frederick sometime in the morning and stay most of the day while Dixie comes home to play with our other kids. Then we switch. I come home and put the kids to bed and she goes to help Chris through the night. 

The doctors said Chris has to be fever free for over 24 hours before they can release him...and that has to be drug free too. (He's pretty much been on Tylenol and Motrin around the clock to bring his temperature down but it also masks the fevers... So looks like he'll still be in the hospital for at least another 2 days seeing how when I left him tonight he had a temp of 102, again. 

Also I took a trip to the ER today. I woke up this morning with part if my back aching a bit and then during the mid morning I had some cramping pain on my left side of my lower abdomin. By the time I got to the hospital with Chris it was hurting enough to want to lay down in his bed and comment to Chris about it. 2 hours later it got SUPER intense and I started feeling nauseas. This, unfortunately, was about the time that the nurses were trying to put a new IV in Chris since his ordinal one stopped working. They tried /poked him 5 times!  I was standing by his bed, holding his hand while he squoze mine through the pain. When the nurses left the room to give him a minute to rest before trying again I collasped. I told Chris I didn't feel well, grabbed a bucket and went to his little bathroom. Hearing me moan and cry and throw up a bunch he frantically got out of his bed, dragging his IV pole and tried to help me somehow. I didn't know why I was throwing up and in case I was contagious I didn't want to spread my germs to him so I sorta made him keep his distance. 

He makes me a place to lay down on the couch in his room and Dixie and the kids walk in to visit Chris. Perfect timing. Dixie ends up helping me and Frederick (who is due for another feeding) and Gwen walk down the drive over to the Emergency Room. 

Before they even take me back, I throw up again in the ER waiting room and my pain stops. 

Anyway...a catheter urine sample and a CT scan later...turns out I passed a kidney stone.  

I always day dreamed (not in the happy kind of way) about Chris and I being joint patients in a hospital, but I thought it would be while I had a baby and he was still being treated for his stem cell transplant. I never would've thought it would happen post baby and post transplant. 

CRAZY. I don't know how much more either of us can take. 

Alec's birthday

I really wanted Alec's birthday to feel special. It is always hard to prepare anything special in advance for the day after Christmas and this year was even harder. I hung up our birthday banners the night before and found 4 frozen pancakes to thaw out in the fridge. He requested waffels for breakfast but seemed equally satisfied with pancakes. We usually wake up before the birthday kid to make breakfast in bed but that didn't happen either this year. Alec is a champ and just stayed in bed playing with a Christmas toy, waiting for me to wake up and bring him breakfast. He's so easy to please and didn't complain about anything on his birthday. 

Chris pretty much stayed in bed most of this day. His headache and low fever hadn't gotten any better. 

We watched some movies and opened a present or two throughout the day while I made the cake Alec requested....a square on a rectangle with a plane crashing on it....vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. 

After a trip to the grocery store to get batteries, a few helium balloons, candles and frosting (that's bought frosting...that's how tired I was) we sang the song, ate cake and ice cream, and opened presents. I'm so glad Alec didn't seem to mind that we didn't have a party or see any friends or even play outside. 

Alec is growing up. He is such a bright, inquisitive, and playful kid. He says some of the sweetest, specific prayers...remembering people and needs more often then I remember them.  He can be so incredibly helpful and loves to be given responsibility.  We love our big 7 year old. 

By bedtime I realized that I had only ever sat down long enough to feed Frederick and my body was feeling it. I was so tired and achy that I asked Chris to put the kids to bed. He sweetly agreed and by 9:00pm we were all in bed. It was during this night that Chris woke up with a high fever and after talking to the on call doctor through Vanderbilt's cancer care line, I sent Chris to the ER with a friend from our branch at 5:00am. 

Friday, December 27, 2013


It was the best of times...

There are many things and moments I loved about Christmas this year. We have all LOVED having Frederick here with us. He is so perfect and kissable and brings out the tenderness in everyone. Even though it was crazy to have him come when he did, even though I would have loved to have Chris feel more recovered and able to help out more than he was... Frederick has come to us safely and in good health. Seriously the best Christmas present ever.  Also my recovery has been really smooth and much faster (so far) than my last recovery after Gwen....I keep trying to tell myself I could be feeling much worse. A major blessing. 

It was so wonderful to have my mom here and keep the house in order and provide comfort and familiar Christmas baking (fruit bread and spiced nuts!). Her perspective and encouragement lifted me up many times. She is an angel. 

It was so grounding to all be home together for Christmas. Just our little family together, at home. A great reminder for what is most important. 

We were also the recipients of wonderful Christmas presents. Santa was good to my kids this year and the happiness of many new toys to distract busy playful energetic children was greatly needed by these tired and worn out parents. Anyone know who dropped this teepee off on our front porch Christmas Eve?! It's awesome. was [also] the worst of times. 

Can it really be a 'worst' Christmas if you have your immediately family surrounding you?  No it can't. But... I can't think of a harder Christmas I've experienced. Even 2 years ago when Chris was in the middle of his 12 chemo treatments and had to go in for another round 2 days after wasn't this trying. I think our extended family visiting at the time help spread the cheer and kept things jolly. 

One of the hardest things has been our older children's behavior. I think the 7 weeks of separation, a tired pregnant then an even more tired postpartum mom and an even MORE tired post-stem-cell-transplant dad has all caught up with the kids. They are testing their boundaries and I've never cried more in my life. Ask my mom. I was a pathetic mess her last night or two. But Chris and I got organized and had a good FHE on Christmas Adam to redraw all the boundaries for the kids in terms of the privaledges and expectations of being an Archibald...and decided together which behaviors we'll label "junk behaviors" and just ignore. Things have been much better since then. 

The other thing hard about this Christmas  was Chris felt sick again.  He started feeling gross Christmas Eve afternoon and barely made it through the evening traditions with the kids (although I'm very very grateful he did!) he was asleep before the kids were with a low grade temperature. My dreams of getting ready for Christmas morning together then doing a puzzle or watching a Christmas movie together were dashed. I was up until 1:00am but thanks to a prayer, Fredericks company and the movie White Christmas I wasn't too upset about it. A clean house on Christmas night (on any night really bit especially that night) does wonders for my soul. Besides Chris will probably feel better in the morning...

He didn't. His temperature stayed just below the 'danger zone' of 100.4 but he was really feeling hot and headachy. Christmas Day he got up with us in the morning and we shared many sweet moments watching our children be so enchanted.  

He kindly tucked me and Frederick in in the couch for a mid morning nap after all had been unwrapped and he had energy to help the kids assemble some of their new toys. So great. But by 4:00 he had hit his wall and fell asleep on the couch for the night. 

The kids survived on tic tacs and fishies but I knew they needed something better so I made PB and J sandwiches for Christmas Dinner...on croissants so it felt special.  Then I cleaned the house and put the kids to bed an hour late. Then Chris woke up and dragged himself to bed and we were asleep by 10. 

Not exactly the Christmas of our dreams. We provided no meaningful service, ate no amazing meal, saw no extended family or friends, spent no time entertaining ourselves.  We just survived the day, tried to make it fun for the kids and find joy in the simple pleasure of being at home together. We've literally felt and expressed to each other at the end of our days, "whew..we made it...just barely...but we made it through another day"  I know the Lord has blessed us with added strength to make it through each day...just barely. Some nights we feel as if we're crawling across the finish line and some mornings I can get feeling pretty sad that I have to start the race alllll over again. 

But back to Christmas... The kids and I had a nice family prayer that night, they were quiet AND still (for once!) and I felt the true spirit of Christmas as I thanked God for our blessings and for the gift of His Son and expressed gratitude for Christ's life, example and sacrifice. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A perfect little surprise!

Introducing Frederick William!
Once I was home from Nashville, we settled in for me getting better and enjoying some quiet family time before Christmas.  Apparently, that wasn't quite yet in the cards.  Brittney's mom had come out to be here to help with Brittney and the kids as I transitioned back to home and regained strength.  What a blessing to have her here.

On Saturday we went for a walk with Thom and Brittany and their kids, showing them some of campus and stopping by the bookstore.  As we returned home from the walk, we had the first sign that something might be wrong.  Brittney was leaking some sort of fluid.  This kept up at a gradual pace for the rest of the night and throughout the next day.  She still felt the baby moving, so we weren't super worried, but we started to think that she might be leaking amniotic fluid, and what we found out about that online showed that this could be a problem, and lead potentially to inducing birth immediately, which was a little concerning, since there was still 3 and a half weeks until the due date for our little one.  All of our other kids have been so strong right from the get-go, that I feel like we have almost gotten to avoid the super-newborn stage.   Having a premature little one felt like a new challenge, and I feared spending the next week or two in some neo-natal intensive care unit keeping an eye on a struggling little one.

Monday morning Brittney called her doctor and got an immediate appointment to get checked out.  I was able to go with her, since I got grades in that morning.  The doctor couldn't get a lot more fluid to come out, and sent us to an ultrasound.  The ultrasound revealed that the fluid levels were super low.  The doctor decided that it would be best to induce labor immediately, due to the risk of infection for the baby.  So we headed directly over to the hospital.  We got there a little after noon, and it took until almost two to have Brittney hooked up to the pitocin.  Over the next 7 or so hours they kept gradually increasing the dosage, with seemingly little impact.  Brittney said that she could feel the contractions, and the monitor showed them as happening, but if I was just watching her I couldn't really tell that anything was happening.  We watched some tv, I took a nap to try and conserve energy for the coming storm, we tried to deal with the weird deja vu of being in a hospital, but with me in the bed, so recently, and we tried to get our minds around the fact that this was really happening.

Around 9:30 or 10:00 the contractions finally started getting painful and feeling productive.  Around this time we had the doctor check Brittney and she was only at a 2 or 3 and her cervix wasn't feeling very ready.  This was a little depressing, but not too surprising, as with previous pregnancies it seems that the painful contractions are the ones that actually do something.  After about two hours of painful contractions, the doctor checked again and very depressingly, Brittney was only at a 4, but the cervix had made huge advances and was pretty much ready.  I think this really set Brittney back mentally, but she pushed on.

It was getting so late, and had been such a long day, that Brittney was quickly hitting her wall.  A little after 12:15 she told me that she wanted an epidural, that she didn't think she could go any longer.  We called the nurse, and she got things set up, then the doctor came in and started things for that.  During this time Brittney had to sit on the edge of the bed, and she wasn't really supposed to move much during the contractions that continued while the doctor got things going.  This was really hard for her, and tough for me, without much I could do to help.   The epidural was all done about 12:45 am, and the doctor said it would take about 15 minutes for it to kick in.  We got Brittney situated back in the bed, and at this point she was barely hanging on, but felt like pushing.  The doctor checked her again and said that she was at a 10! and totally ready to go.  She held off pushing for a contraction or two while the nurses and doctors got everything ready, and then pushed about 6 times through 3 or so contractions and out he came.  The official birth time was 12:59am, and the epidural hadn't kicked in really at all yet.  I think it did do something to help ease the pain of the aftermath, but didn't really help at all with the birth process.   The whole thing was a great reminder of Brittney's strength, courage, and determination.  She amazes me and is the strongest person I know. I sure love her.

The first sound we heard as our baby boy came out was music to our ears: crying.  He was loud and strong, and I knew right away that we didn't need to worry about his lungs being underdeveloped or anything.  They set him right on Brittney's chest, and almost immediately he calmed down.  Both Brittney and I were at or past the end of our ropes (my stamina is still so low due to the stem cell transplant) and tears came easily as we beheld the perfection that is our new baby boy.  So many of our hopes and dreams, faith and prayers, fasting and concerns had been tied to this little boy since at least a year before.  It was quite an emotional event, and I for one was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and joy.  Once the initial commotion died down, I crashed for the night on the couch, and Brittney kept feeding him and caring for him through the night.  He did really well with eating, and seemed strong and again, just perfect.  He was 6 lbs 1.8 oz, and 19 inches long.  He scored 10 on his Apgar, and we have not had any worries about his health.

In the morning Brittney's mom brought the kids by to see their new baby brother.  This meant that we had to finally decide on a name.  We chose Frederick William Archibald.  It was great to see the kids with Frederick.  They each wanted to hold him, and were each so tender and careful around him.

Things continued to progress nicely, and we were able to return home from the hospital the next day.  Now we are finally all together, in time for Christmas.  Never has a quiet holiday all together as a family sounded quite so good and meaningful.  We are so grateful for Frederick's safe arrival, so grateful for his and Brittney's health, and so glad we are a family.   Now on to the challenging rest of our lives: together, healthy, and blissfully happy.