Thursday, March 3, 2011

Charlie, Part 5

 I have a love/hate relationship with the word stable.

I understand that in hospital terms and to the doctors and nurses, being stable or actually becoming stable is a good thing.

To me it is neither good nor bad.   How can it be?  Your not healthy, but your not dying.

Your just stable. 

When I was on bed rest  if I was on the tenth floor I was considered in critical condition.  If I was lucky enough to be moved down to the fifth floor I was then found to be "stable."  Every single morning when the team of doctors would come into the room to do their morning "check in's" the phrase "we are thrilled your still stable" was repeated over and over.

I was not home but I was not on the tenth floor,  I was just


But this time when Jill walked in to tell me that Charlie had been stabilized, the word was music to my ears.

The chain of events that led to Jill taking the elevator down to see me would soon be revealed to me and a man named Dr. Wong would not only become my new hero but a name that will live on forever in the Holmstead and Checketts households.  When my dad and Carras walked into the NICU all they saw was a team of doctors around Charlie's incubator (never a good sign).  Their were cardiologist, respiratory specialists, echo teams, nurses and pediatric doctors.  They had ruled out the idea that it could be his heart, which was of course good news to all, but what was causing Charlie to have such difficulty breathing?

The Blessing was given.  Then.... 

Cue Dr. Wong.

"He needs Nitric Oxide" he told the team very calmly.

No one questioned him.  They just went to work.

Without an actual echo, without the x ray results back, Dr. Wong made a prediction.  His prediction was spot on.

Immediately after the nitric oxide was administered, Charlie's O2 sats shot up.

Charlie came back.  Charlie was stable.

"But" Jill said.  "He's sick Katie.  Charlie is sick."

You see in the NICU there are preemie babies, and then there are the others..."the sick babies" as the medical staff refers to them.  There are even floors to differentiate between the two.  The eighth floor is for the preemie babies and the seventh floor is for the sick babies.  Charlie was now both and making his way to the seventh floor. 

Jill explained that while Charlie was stabilized the x ray was reviewed and showed that his lungs were not receiving the proper blood that they needed to function normally.  Charlie was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hyper Tension,  a condition that primarily exits in babies who are full term, NOT preemies, which is why the team could not find the problem earlier.  It had not been a front runner or a likely problem. 

Charlie was now battling two life threading situations.  One being that he was a preemie with underdeveloped lungs, and two his lungs were sick.

Jill told us that a doctor would be down to see us soon to tell us more.  She then looked at me and said

"I am so sorry Katie."

She did not say he was going to be ok, she did not tell me to take a breath, she just quietly and very matter of factly told me the situation and then said that she was "sorry." 

My parents frantically began texting the family and Carras just held my hand.  Our heads were spinning and our hearts were heavy.  I felt grateful that he was alive, but I was far away from him, and knew nothing about what the future held.  I only knew that the battle we thought we were facing of having a preemie baby just got much more serious.

Charlie's pediatrician walked in moments later.  He was a kind and very gentle man who looked like Harrison Ford.   Dr. Bateman would later come to mean very much to me.  As he spoke to us of Charlie's diagnosis, I heard nothing but the words

"For the next three to four days, it is going to be touch and go."

Wait.  What did he just say?

Touch and go?  I thought for a moment...what does that mean?  I repeated the words over and over in my head.  Touch and go...touch and go. 


I suddenly realized what he meant. 

Dr. Bateman assured us that everything was being done to save our son.  He also assured us that we could not be at a better hospital.  And then he said something I will never forget.  As he was leaving he turned to me and said

"oh and Mrs. Holmstead, just so you know, they don't have Nitric Oxide at Stamford Hospital."

The truth hit me.  Had Charlie not decided to come on December 13th, 2010.  Had Charlie decided to wait one more day, the transfer would have happened and Charlie would have been born at Stamford hospital where there was no Nitric Oxide, the medicine that saved Charlie's life and no Dr. Wong, the man that saved Charlie's life.

I had never in my entire life felt more divinely watched over then that moment. 

While Carras and I quietly comforted each other, my mom stepped out of the room.  Once again, I was helpless still unable to move my legs.  As I watched her leave the room I thought about how strong she was.  I knew that what she really wanted to do was collapse in the fetal position and cry, but off she went to make plans for the girls, as always helping my little family.

While she was gone, I wondered....

How in the world am I going to get through the next "three to four days."

Moments later, my mom walked back in.

"Your bother is on his way Kates.  He is taking the all night flight tonight and will be here in the morning."     

Spencer, my older brother was coming to my rescue. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Charlie, Part 4

Neither Carras or I knew what to do. I demanded to be taken back up to my baby, but the nurses declined my request. They had been told by the doctors that I was specifically not allowed back up on the 10th floor, for the time being. This made me even more upset and more anxious. At this point, I entered a different world. A world that I did not know existed until this moment in my life.  I entered a world of pain so incredible and so severe that it was as if I was not alive. I could no longer see. My vision became blurred and I turned to Carras for help, I could see that his mouth was moving but I could not hear the words. I knew he was trying to talk to me but I was not even there. I was silently praying over and over "Please Don't take my baby. Please don't take my baby." I knew there were people around me, I knew nurses were in and out checking my blood pressure and trying to calm me down.  I knew that Carras was in no position to ease my pain since he felt the same. I knew nothing else but at that moment, I thought I was loosing a child.

The door opened and closed.  Carras walked into the room.

I did not even know he had left.

"Your dad is on his way. he said. "He is bringing oil, so we can give Charlie a blessing."

My mom who had planned to leave earlier also came back into the room.  Once my dad arrived back at the hospital it was the four of us again. We were all together in one room, but instead of talking about Christmas, and big family plans, there was silence. We were quiet, and scared out of our minds.  My dad came over to my bed and knelled beside it.  I grabbed his tie.  I didn't look at him, but straight ahead.  I begged.  I pleaded to him and to my husband to go upstairs and to save my son.

And with that, the two most important men in my life left the room to go and save the most important little man in my life.

My mom walked over to my bed and grabbed my hand.

"It's out of our hands honey."

 She cried.  I cried.  We cried together.  She was right.  I knew, as much as I did not want to think or even say it out loud. This was no longer in my hands.

Nor was it ever.

We waited.  I prayed.  She prayed.  Nurses prayed with us and for us. Nothing else mattered at that point. Nothing else in the entire world mattered but my little family and this new spirit that had come into our lives.  It was a beautiful, scary, eye opening feeling.

I watched the clock.

Twenty minutes later the door to my room opened. My dad and Carras came walking back in.  They both looked...


The doctors had allowed them to each open a door of the incubator. They Placed their hands on

Charlie's feet and a blessing was given that I would hear about over and over for not only my remaining days at the hospital, but will hear about for the rest of my life. The details of the blessing are personal and something that I cannot wait to tell Charlie when he his older.  It has strengthened my faith like nothing else ever has.  I have never been more proud of Carras.  It was as if everything we had been through in our entire lives prepared us for this one moment.  The blessing of life, the meaning of the gospel and the blessing of eternal families all made sense.

 Carras with a firm belief told me that Charlie was going to be fine.

 Not five minutes passed before there was a knock on the door.

It was Charlie's nurse, Jill.

"Katie?"  She said.

"Yes, I'm here."  I answered.

"Charlie's stable."  He's stable!"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Charlie, Part 3

When I say that no one on earth could have prepared me for entering the high risk NICU, it's an understatement.  The tricky part to this whole story was how I, while on bed rest had convinced myself that I was not going to have a preemie baby, therefore how unprepared I was.  Any time one of the doctors asked if they could have one of their "NICU specialist" come to the room to see me, I politely declined.  I was put in touch with several women who had, had preemie babies and wanted to discuss what it was like, again I politely stopped listening.

It just was not going to happen to me...and not because I thought I was above it.  No, quite the opposite.

I thought I would never have a preemie baby because if God wanted to give me something I could not handle, it would be this...something happening to one of my children. 

Even when the "NICU team" came to introduce themselves, I felt like turning my head to see if there was someone else behind me that they were actually talking to.

But my reality was there.  It was waiting for me and I had no choice.

As the doors to the NICU opened I could not see a thing, but could only hear beeps, monitors, and ventilators.  I swallowed hard.  I immediately wanted to be wheeled back out.  Carras held my hand.

"Here he is" his nurse, Danielle said.

I was laying flat on my back, still unable to move from the surgery.  I turned my head to the left and saw the tiniest little baby I had ever seen.  His head was covered with a bandaged hat.  His chin was covered with a chin strap holding the oxygen under his nose.  His eyes were covered.  The oxygen tubes were bigger then his cheeks.  His belly moved up and down and his mouth was wide open as he gasped for every breath.  His Chest was covered in cords, as were both legs and feet.  He was enclosed in an incubator and instead of cries, I could only hear beeps, and more beeps. 

At that moment I wanted to die.  I had never known such pain, yet I had never known such love.  I wanted to reach in, grab him and hold him to me, I wanted to tell him how sorry I was that I could not hold on longer, and that he was not still inside me.  I felt as if I had failed him, I felt as if I could have done more.

I sobbed.

As I sobbed I overheard Carras ask if we could touch him. 

The Nurse slowly opened up one of the doors to the incubator and I reached my weak arm inside. 

"Now most preemie's cant grip the fingers because..." the nurse began to say.

Immediately my baby boy grabbed my finger with his gentle tiny hands. 

I gasped.  I talked to him and told him I was there. 

He gripped harder. 

I cried harder.

There he was, my baby boy.  The same baby that I had spent 57 days and nights with in the hospital  holding on to every minute for his life and for mine.  All of the sudden those days of wishing that I was out of the hospital were washed away with wishes that I could have held on longer.  I would have done anything at that moment to save him these first few moments of life.

We starred at him together for what seemed like hours.  The nurses and doctors talked us through what we were seeing.  They used medical terms such as C paps, O2 stats, and incubation.  My head tried to even partially understand what they were telling us, but all I could do was stare at my baby.   They were thrilled with his size.  He was three pounds and two ounces.  They were thrilled with how well he was doing.  His diagnosis at that point was proven to be wonderful.   

How on earth could anything that was happening be wonderful?  It didn't seem right.

"So...what do you think?"  Carras asked me. 

I knew what he was referring to.  The name.  He wanted to know the name. 

All morning long, we had been asked over and over if our baby had a name.  My response was a definite "no."  I  needed to see him first.  Boy names were new to us, we had spent the last six years of our lives exploring girl names, but boy names were unfamiliar.  Days and nights while on bed rest were spent thinking of the name in desperation to try and get to know this baby boy better, but we never came to a conclusion and now he was here.

"Charles." I said.

Carras was stunned.  "Really?"  He said

I was surprised myself.  I looked around to see if that really had just come out of my mouth.  I looked to Carras, and then looked to the baby and said it again.

"Charles."  It was perfect. 

The beeping on the monitor brought me back to the reality at hand.  The nurse started to move my bed so she could quickly attend to the baby.  I air kissed his finger and promised to see him again soon.  I did not want to leave, but I also could not bare to look any longer.  It was just too hard, it was just too scary.  Carras brought me back out into the hallway of the tenth floor at Columbia.  It was time to go back downstairs to the 5th floor where once again I would lay in the same bed I had been for the many days before.  I was stabilized and so was my baby.

My mom had called my sister in law to pick her up and she was out front waiting.  She leaned down and kissed my forehead.  She told me how was proud she was of me.  She picked up as many things as she could from my room and Carras followed her out with a pile of books, and pictures.

"I will be right back."  He said.

I said goodbye and was alone for the first time since having Charlie.  I laid there unable to move and still numb, cold and tired.  I said a prayer of thanks that I was alive, that my baby was alive and all was well.

Not five minutes had passed when Carras came back into the room.  His head was down.  He dropped the books and pictures that he had been carrying earlier.

"That was quick."  I said. 

No response.

"Carras?"  I asked.

Again, no response.

"Carras?"  Carras what's wrong?" 

At that moment, he came over to my bedside and unable to stand, fell to his knees and through sobs said "Charles isn't doing well." 

"What?"  What do you mean?"  Surely this was a dream, this had to be a dream.  "WHAT DO YOU MEAN?" I asked again.

"He's sick Katie.  They don't know.  They don't know.  He is not breathing."

He's not breathing.  He's not breathing.  The words played through my mind.  If you want to give a women the worst moments of her life.  Cut open her stomach, stitch her up, numb her legs to the point where she cannot move and then tell her one of her children is in danger.  The worst moment of my life was playing out in front of me.  My baby was sick, my baby was in trouble and there was not one thing I could do about it. 

So I screamed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Charlie, Part 2

I felt relieved.  I felt so overwhelmingly relived...that it was over.  I was told the placenta had been removed and that my chances to have more children was still intact (something we were told could very likely go wrong).  Recovery was in the horizon.  I even remember hearing the surgeons talk about what they were going to eat for breakfast.


Andrea was still holding my hand but I begged her to go check on the baby.  She quietly let go of my cold fingers and agreed.

As I was wheeled into recovery, I looked up right in time to see the most handsome man I had ever seen.  He came running down the hallway right in time to dig his nose into my neck.  As he wrapped his arms around me, I could feel the wetness on my cheek from his tears.  I could hear the mumbles of the doctors around us as we embraced.  They told us to "let it out" (which we did).  I even heard one of them say to Carras "Your wife is my hero."  Although I was in and out of consciousness, I smiled.  I loved the sound of that.  I did feel strong.  I did feel proud.  I did feel so incredibly blessed to be alive and I had never been more happy to see my husband.

We held hands as my bed turned the corners into my temporary room.  The talk had turned medical.  I listened as they told Carras how much blood I had loss and how the delivery had gone.  He had many questions and wanted to know everything. While they spoke of blood transfusions and what was next regarding recovery, I looked up to see Andrea walk in.  Her face was no longer covered in a mask, and her hands clutched her subway pass and back pack.

"My shift is over."  She laughed.

"What a shift."  I laughed back.  I closed my eyes as she leaned down to hug me.

"I am seriously so proud of you Katie.... and he is beautiful."

Seeing Carras I had forgotten about sending Andrea to check on my baby.

"He is my first baby."  She smiled proudly.  "So I have to know what you are going to name him."

 I promised Andrea that once we had decided on his name, she would be one of the first to know.  And off she went.  Just like that.  My hero, left her day job and just like any other person hopped on a subway back to her apartment to get some much needed rest.

Before long, my parents walked in.  They were a sight.  They were beautiful.  The two people that had been through everything the past eight weeks with me.  They were tired, but relieved.

Not long after my parents surrounded my bed, in walked my regular doctor (who I get to call Brian).  He was still in his street clothes and his breathing was fast.  He was clearly in shock.  Now over the course of my hospital stay I got to know Brian rather well.  I had decided that if I was to have the baby at Columbia, Brian was the one that I wanted to do the surgery.  He was the first face I saw getting out of the ambulance the night I was transferred and I wanted him to be there for me if anything were to happen.  He was also the only one that knew of my deep dark fears.  He sat with me one morning while I expressed my concerns of my safety during delivery.  Brian, not yet being a parent himself tried to understand a mothers angst of not only being away from her children but also having a condition that can (very rarely) but can end not so good.  He assured me that I was in the best care possible and spatted off the statistics that were obviously in my favor.  We talked about life and yes, we even spoke of death.  He told me why he chose to be a doctor and how many kids he wanted (two girls to be exact).  I told him of my faith and how it had sustained me.  He listened.  He went far and beyond the call of duty.

 As he approached the bed he was speechless.  This was rare for a man who 99.9 percent of the time does not stop talking.

"I'm alive."  I said almost laughing.  "I made it."

"Yes you did, just like I knew you would."  Brian said back.  Switching into Dr. mode he noticed the paleness of my skin and asked if I was cold.  I answered yes and he called to the nurses to bring in more heated blankets. As he apologized over and over for not being there during my ordeal the nurses wrapped me up and hooked me to a special heater that helps regulate your body temperature.  The doctors who actually did do the surgery came in to speak us as well.  I remember specifically Karen saying that she had just seen my sweet boy and that he was doing "wonderful."  I also remember Dr. Jones coming in with his a beanie cap on and messenger bag thrown over his shoulder.  He also had seen our baby and told me that he was going to be "just fine."

"Really?"  I asked.

"Oh yeah" he said again.  His last words...  "They work miracles in this place."

And there he went.  The man who saved my life and delivered my baby walked out the door into a his normal world and left us in our abnormal one.  

It seemed everyone had seen him but us.  We were still waiting for the ok from the NICU doctors.  We were getting anxious, Carras especially and although I was so happy to be alive, I felt so empty not having a swaddled new born on my chest.  The mood in the room was celebratory.  My baby was ok, I was ok and I got to go home and be with my girls for Christmas.  We had no reason to believe that anything at that point was wrong.

Finally a nurse walked in and said

"I just got the ok from the doctor.  Are you ready?"

As my bed left recovery and  I was wheeled down the long corridors to the advanced NICU my heart ached with anticipation and nervousness.  Carras' palms, intertwined with mine started to sweat.  Not a word between us was said as the doors to where our baby boy was opened.

No one on this entire earth could have prepared me for the next thirty minutes of my life.

No one.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Charlie, Part 1

When I look back on the past 4 weeks and all that has happened, I have only one regret, and that regret is not yet writing about Charlie.

I am a sucker for a good birth story.  I love writing about my own and hearing others, but this one was different, this one was oh so different.  How could I sit down and write about the most important, the most traumatic and the most personal thing that has ever happened to me?  Yes, that is the right word, it just seemed all too...


But the conclusion is always the same.  I love to write, and I love the people around me.  I want them to hear the story and I want them to be strengthened by this experience just as I have been.  It is also too amazing of a story to not share (I think).  But again, it is deeply personal and I will obviously only share and only write the things that I am comfortable with.

On December 12th, 2010 at exactly 9:45 PM my nurse Andrea walked in to make sure I had everything I needed.

"Are you ok?"  She said

"I think so."  I told her.  "I don't know what is wrong with me, but I feel off.  Something is not right."

Andrea looked at me funny.  It's amazing how trusting the nurses are of their patients.  I wanted her to assure me that everything was fine, but her look said it all.  She seemed concerned too.

"You are probably just nervous about the big transfer tomorrow" she said as she handed me my sleeping pill (the only guilty pleasure I allowed myself the entire time I was in the hospital).

She was right.  In just ten hours I was finally leaving Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for the first time in seven weeks.  I was going to smell and feel the fresh air.  I was getting out of my horrible hospital room and most importantly I was going to be closer to the girls and to Carras.  I knew I was not going home, but because my little boy and I had worked so hard to get past twenty-eight weeks we were heading to a closer hospital.  This was quite the process.  It took a lot of persuasion for insurance purposes and a lot of back and forth with the doctors at Columbia.  It was very clear they did not want me to leave, but it was very clear that for my emotional state, I needed to be closer to my family and friends.  The ambulance had been ordered, the room packed and cleaned out.  I was ready.

"Your right."  I said back to Andrea.  "I am just nervous."  I swallowed the pill and climbed back into bed.

Andrea stayed, which she always did and tried to get my mind off of the obvious.  We talked about vacations, and her boyfriend.  She told me I had made her want to have children sooner rather then later.  I told her that was the best compliment anyone had ever given me.  I started to feel sleepy and she had other patients she had to attend to.  After she walked out of the room I became scared and panicked again.  I paced the room, and tried to watch a show.  I prayed and wrote in my journal, but nothing was calming me down.

On December 13th at 2:30 AM I called Andrea on the phone and told her I was still awake.  After much debate we decided on another sleeping pill.  I had never taken two in one night but at that point I was willing to do anything.  I worried about sleeping through something, (more bleeding, a contraction) but Andrea assured me she would check on me every hour on the hour and not to worry.   I took the pill and like magic I fell right to sleep.

At 4:36 AM I awoke to Andrea in my room calling (ok screaming) for other nurses.  Grace, the head nurse rushed in and quicker then I had ever seen anyone work slapped a heart monitor on my stomach.

"We have a heart beat!"  Grace screamed.  "We have a heart beat!"  she screamed again.

I looked around and saw Andrea.  Her face was white.  Grace was sweating.  I looked down and saw that my bed, my hospital gown, and the floor were covered in blood.  Within seconds the doctors and surgeons on call came rushing into my room.  They took on look at me and said "we are delivering you and we are delivering you now."

My head was spinning.  I looked at Andrea.  "What about my transfer?"  I asked.  "What about Carras?  You have to call Carras!"  Andrea grabbed my phone as my bed was rushed up to the high risk floor.  "I will call him right now."  She said calmly.  I looked up at the doctors and the surgeons.  It was then that I realized I did not know a single one.  It was the early morning and not one of the doctors that I had grown close with over the seven week course of my stay was in the hospital at that time to deliver me.  This was not happening...this was not happening.  My baby wasn't ready, I wasn't ready.

I did the math quickly.  I knew Carras had a 45 minute drive, he would never make it.  My parents were just as far, they would never make it.  My boy, my baby boy I had been planning on having in seven weeks time and much closer to home was about to be born in the wee hours of the morning in the middle of New York City with not one of my loved ones by my side.   I had to make a decision and I had to make it quick.  As the doors to the surgical room closed I looked up at the Dr I would come to know as "Karen" and asked her if Andrea could stay with me.  Karen looked to Dr. Jones who then looked to the anesthesiologist who then looked at me...and I realized that what I was asking was not exactly common.  "Sure", she finally said calmly.  Of course she can stay with you."  Andrea was then transformed from a twenty two year old nurse straight out of undergrad to a full on hero.  Her blond hair was pulled tightly into her surgical hat, a mask placed over her beautiful smile and a yellow gown draped her body.  She gripped my hand in hers and held my phone in the other.  She walked me through the shots, she walked me through the moments of panic and fear.   She told me I was fine when my body decided to stop breathing and finally through her tears she peaked over the curtain that blocked me from my baby and told me he was out and that he was alive.

She cried, my baby cried and then finally....

I cried.   

On December 13th, 2010 at 5:06 AM Charles Carras Holmstead was born.

But that is not the end....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Wall.

I don't have much in me tonight.

In fact I have not had much in me all week.  I hit a wall and I hit it hard.

I am hoping to give you really good news tomorrow night.

Stay tuned...

(Abigail holding a card made for me by the my youth for the York Town stake.  Adorable).  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keep Shining On...

Carras just sent me a video of he and the girls picking out our Christmas tree.

I am currently practicing heavy breathing as to avoid another meltdown.  Baby Boy and I are sad to not be there.

Trying to cope..trying to find the words to explain how it feels..

I don't think that I am feeling sorry for myself, I know that it might seem that way, but the minute you become a mother your priorities change.  I'm not thinking about myself in this situation, I am thinking about them.  Who wants to pick out a Christmas tree without their mom?  When it comes to my Holiday obsession, Abigail has always been my partner in crime.  And now, she and Molly are doing it without me.

It just doesn't seem fair at times.

There I said it.  Today, it just seems unfair.  

I have not really been able to think much about Christmas, which if you know me is the polar opposite of how I really live.  Christmas music in my house starts on November 15th- much to my husband's dismay.  The Christmas books and DVD's are brought out of storage on the same day.  I start planning decorations, gifts, and cards far earlier then most I know.

This year is obviously very different.  I have yet to allow myself to really even think about it.  I know that there is so much to do regarding gifts for the girls, and addressing cards but in order to survive, I really and truly have not even been able to go there.  The girls brought me their letters to Santa to read, but my tears ended up smearing the red marker making the paper hard to decipher.

Oh and did I mention I drink hot chocolate year round..even in the summer.  It's a family thing.  I would rather have a warm cup of hot chocolate and a cookie for dinner then any fancy meal.

I miss them.  I miss my house.  I miss driving in the car with Carras.  I miss having a normal, regular day being their mom.  I miss wearing shoes, and I miss wearing a coat.  I miss seeing homes decorated with lights, I miss the chaos of driving to and fro trying to get everything done in one day, and I really miss being able to listen to Christmas music.

So today I decided to give it a try.

I found this.

Baby steps.

I love it.

Thank you Coldplay.  Once again, you have found the perfect way to describe how I feel.  Once again, you are getting me through yet another tough time in my life.

"When Your still waiting for the snow to fall.  It doesn't really feel like Christmas at all.  May all your troubles soon be gone.  Those Christmas lights keep shining on."

I will try.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Simply Remember My Favorite Things.....and 28 weeks!

Lately since I have been living in the hospital I have decided to make me life like an epsidoe of Glee.  Every day I pick a different song that deals with my emotions, and I sing them.  Loud.  Sometimes in the shower, sometimes in my bed....And songs as they often do, heal our hearts, make us think, and give us hope.

My song for today is simply "My Favorite things." Otherwise known as things I like to think of when I am sad...

Here is goes...

Waking up this morning to e-mails and text messages reminding me of the special meaning today has...including this e mail.

TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!    
TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!TWENTY-EIGHT!!!   28!!!   

Realizing that I have the mother of the year and Molly has the grandmother of the year for not only throwing her a princess birthday party but dressing up as a her fairy godmother.

For Mel going the extra mile as always and showing up to surprise Molly dressed as her favorite princess.  Could you please look at the two Snow White's reading?  Be still my heart.

For feeling down yesterday and then hearing this song..and realizing that no matter how sad or down I feel, as long as I picture him I seem to be ok.

Hearing my mom tell me about how much Abigail joys and delights in decorating for Christmas.  She has always been my holiday queen and to not be with her this time of year is miserable.  But to know that she still jumped out of bed when she found out it was December 1st makes me smile.

Ordering a early Christmas present for myself.  Merry Christmas to me.

A visit from my cousin complete with these cupcakes.  A little piece of my extended family that I love and won't be able to see this Christmas.

Friends, Friends, Friends....Cannot say that word enough.  It has an entire new meaning to me now....

My Girl Cousins....Yup..their all mine.  How did I get so lucky?

My Family...all mine again.  My absolute favorite thing.

I simply remember my favorite things....and then I don't feel so sad.

Happy 28 weeks Baby boy.  You did it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas decorating with Skype

Every night I have the same dream.  Well, maybe not the same, but always similar.  It involves the girls and our "pre-bed rest" activities.  I dream of coloring with Abigail.  I dream of spending the morning with Molly.  I dream of my home,  driving my car, and spending time with friends.  I dream of putting the girls to sleep and singing them their favorite lullabies.  Molly's favorite-Baby Mine and Abigail's favorite-Families can be Together Forever.  

But then I wake up.

It usually happens every night between three o'clock and four o'clock.  I look at the clock praying and hoping that it is closer to morning then I think.  My heart drops when I see the time.  I have to try to somehow go back to sleep.  I look out my window and see the tall dark buildings.  I close my eyes tight and sing songs in my head.  I repeat uplifting quotes.  Many nights I just lay there.  I do anything and everything I can to not panic when I think about how far away I am from Carras and my girls.

Yesterday the dream was different.  I dreamt that my house was full of my dearest friends.  I dreamt that they had all decided to come to my home in my absence and once again make it a home.  They pulled out the Christmas decorations.  They hammered stockings and hung garland.  They pulled out the nativity and placed the candy canes in glass vases.  Their cars were all parked in my driveway since they know the gate code by heart (I love that).  The flower boxes are replanted with New England pine and my favorite color ornaments.  They vacuum and sing.  They even sweep the garage.  While the hustle and bustle goes on inside my walls, I sit in my hospital bed watching in complete awh.  I watch while these women hold up different ornaments and different decorations asking where each goes.   I try to hold in the tears.  I look away several times gaining composure and strength.   I say thank you over and over, but nothing really seems enough.  They all kiss the computer screen goodbye and I close my lab top.

Skype signs off and I wake up

to find that my dream was real.

Thank you to these friends who made this dream a reality, who brought light into my home again for my girls, who have been the most understanding and service oriented group of women I have ever, ever met.  As mothers you have all put yourself in my situation and what you would do.  Only a fellow mother could understand the sense of loss I feel for my girls and my daily life.  Only a fellow mother could understand the heart ache of missing her daughters third birthday and not being home to watch them decorate the tree.  Only a fellow mother could do what you girls did today. 

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant, a mother is faithful 100 percent!" Horton Hears a Who.

Thank you for being my faithful mothers.....

 100 percent.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Molly turns 3

Three years ago today I woke up early in the morning.  I laid there for a minute only to feel what had woken me up in the first place-a contraction.  I got out of bed and started to pace the room.  It didn't seem to make sense to wake Carras up yet, I don't know why, but for some reason I felt peaceful  and liked the feeling of being alone.  Once the contractions got more painful and I had showered and changed, I gently woke Carras up.

"Its time"  I said.  My little girl was on her way.  

I wish I had a video camera to tape Carras when these moments happen.  Those who know him would probably consider him to be a pretty together and calm person, but in these moments he is the crazed and hyped up one and believe it or not, I am the together one.  He flew out of bed asking me question after question and throwing every electronic that we owned into a bag.  He even asked where is glasses were and laughing I told him that he actually didn't wear glasses.  I reminded him that he needed to get himself ready and that I would go get Abigail ready to bring to my mom.  

Once in the car, the sun was just rising.  The drive was beautiful.  The fall leaves were still visible and the sky was just beginning to show it's natural blue.  It was a perfect New England winter morning.  I remember feeling so calm and so peaceful.  Carras was driving fast and busily changing the radio station every split second.  The seek button must have been pressed more in that 20 minute drive then it had been all year.  I wasn't annoyed.  I secretly thought it was cute.  

Once we arrived at the hospital and checked in my doctor shocked us with the news that I was only dilated to a 3.  She suggested taking a brisk walk and coming back in a couple of hours.  I could not have been more surprised.  Surely she wanted to keep me monitored and safe right there with her, but her suggestion caught my attention when she used the words "speed-things-up."  We decided to do it.  Greenwich, CT had a main street from heaven with every shop under the sun.

Carras and I strolled (well I waddled) up and down, and in and out of shops for well over an hour.  I bought new pajamas and he ordered breakfast at an outdoor cafe.  Soon I found myself lost in Sephora trying to find a new scent.  I tried on various lip glosses and was having so much fun.  I patted myself on the back and thought I had found the secret to happy labor.  Shopping!  I mean why in the world had I not done this before.  I was going to write an e-mail right away to all of my girlfriends.  Everyone needed to be in on this amazing secret.   All of the sudden I realized that it had been several minutes since I had last seen Carras.  I started to panic.  I looked around the store and he was no where to be found.  I looked at the girls in black behind the counter.  I pictured them delivering this baby on their beautiful carpet and then I wondered if it would mean getting free make up for a life time.....

I was brought back to reality when all of the sudden the the mother of all contractions hit.  

And it HIT HARD.  

I put my basket full of items down and slowly walked out the door.  I still could not find Carras.  I reached for my cell phone.  

It was not on me.  

And there in the middle of Greenwich Ave, I sat down on the curb and started to cry.  The contractions were coming more often and were more intense.  I started to curse my doctor.  I wondered how someone so educated could make such a stupid decision to send a woman in labor out shopping!  My cries were in a full blown sob at that point.  I was all alone, 39 weeks pregnant, no husband and I didn't even get to buy perfume.

Within minutes my cries were interrupted when a car came to a screeching halt right by my feet.  The door swung open and there he was.  

"What's wrong!?"  He screamed.  

I screamed back.  How could you leave me!?  I yelled.  "How on earth could you do that to me!?"  

He calmly replied.  "Katie, I told you I was going to get the car and you said ok."  

He did?  I didn't remember that conversation..I was lost in Sarah Jessica Parker's new scent.  It didn't matter at that point, because at that point, this baby was minutes away from arriving.  

We pulled back into Greenwich hospital and I was wheeled straight into labor and delivery.  Exactly 44 minutes later, Molly Kate Holmstead was born.  

To describe the birth of your child is nearly impossible, but to describe her life to this point is completely possible.  Molly is JOY.  Molly is my cup of joy that I get to partake of every single day.  Molly is my sweet and tender girl who comes into the hospital, takes off her shoes and climbs right into bed with me. She rubs my cheeks and asks me if I am "ok."  She tries to feed me my food and helps me take my medicine.  She is obsessed with Snow White and tea parties and her Grandma.  Molly has never come across a person that she does not like.  She loves everyone and frankly everyone loves Molly.  Molly is simply....


The Sarah Jessica Parker scent I picked out on the cold November day was ironically called lovely.  After Molly was born, Carras made a stop by the store to pick up the bottle I had previously thrown to the ground 


I have worn it ever since.  

Happy Birthday to my lovely love, Molly Kate.  

Celebrating in the hospital with Pinkalicous cupcakes


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful from room 536

I have been trying to find the right words to say today.  Nothing has sounded right.  I woke early this morning realizing what day it was and realizing that this would be unlike any other Thanksgiving I have ever had.  I laid in bed and thought.  I thought about all that I had to be grateful for, yet I was still sad.  I tried to hard to focus on the positive, but the emptiness that I felt was still there.  Nurses came in and out wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving and asking when my girls were coming in.  I told them that I was sorry they had to work and many of them told me that had no where else to go anyways..

that made me even more sad..

And for the first time since I have been in the hospital I was so sad that I was literally unable to pull myself out of bed.

I tried to listen to Christmas music.

Bad idea.

Once I finally was able to move I called down to Meriko-a woman who has turned into a life saver, bringing me my morning paper, doing my laundry and best of all making my hair and nail appointments.  I told her that I knew it was last minute and I knew it was Thanksgiving but was there anyone who could come and quickly blow dry my hair and paint my nails (I try to look as normal as possible when the girls come in).

"of course" she said.  "We are here whenever you need us." 

And I was grateful.  I was grateful that Meriko who probably wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else today was here to help me.

After I was finally able to get myself ready for the day I laid back down in bed.  My mind drifted back to the night that Carras and I came to the hospital that very first night.  We were punched with more information that one night then most could comprehend in  year.  And by punched, I mean sucker punched.  The kind that hits you in the stomach and you literally look down to see if someone really just hit you.   After thinking we had taken all we could, we were told that a nurse from the NICU was coming in to talk to us.

This terrified me.  The NICU?  I had heard of it, but had never had a baby who had to be admitted.  My head was spinning as I laid in bed hooked up to machines and monitors.  Carras tried his hardest to listen to the words blindness, deafness, brain dysfunction and more.  I couldn't take it,  I could not listen to one more negative piece of news,  I know that doctors are trained for worse case scenarios but this was all too much.

I asked the NICU nurse to leave.

A doctor that I have grown to love and trust came in and finally painted me with some hope.  He took my hand and said very simply

"Katie, if we can just get you to 28 weeks, this will all be very different."

My mind was suddenly brought back to the present and I opened my eyes.  It was November 25, 2010.  I laid in bed looking out at the gray sky again, but this time I realized how much I really did have to be thankful for.  There is no room or space to be sad today.  I am exactly one week away from this goal that the doctors just a mere 25 days ago thought was a "long shot."  This baby is just 7 days away from his 28th week birthday.

I have family who will start pouring in with turkey and gifts.  I have two girls who will come with giggles and the pictures they have drawn since I saw them last.  I have a husband who is dedicated and so, so strong.  I have my own sister who 18 years ago I held in my arms and sobbed because after four brothers, I finally had a sister.  I have very over protective brothers who would crawl to the ends of the earth if me or my girls needed anything and sister-in-laws that I consider just sisters.  I have cousins by the dozens.  I have a Grandpa who flew here just to spend the Holidays with me.  I have parents.  Oh do I have parents who have made and shaped me into who I am and I have best friends whom I am reminded of every time I look around my hospital room and see the overload of gifts received.

And I have this baby boy.  This baby boy that just 25 days ago I was told might not make it.

oh and I have clean hair and pink nails...

Just for you Abigail.

Happy Thanksgiving, from me and baby boy in room 536.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Daddy dresses me

Yesterday was Saturday.  Always a hard day but exciting as well because I get the girls for longer then a normal visit during the week.  It was a beautiful fall day in the City so I recommended to Carras that he come in the afternoon and make a certain stop on the way for a certain birthday girl whose birthday is just two days after Thanksgiving.  After running the big birthday errand and handling it with grace might I add (this is not an easy place to take two little kiddies by yourself) the girls ran into room 536 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.  

I always know when it's my girls.  I can hear their squeals and shrieks down the hallway and I picture the other patients in their rooms rolling their eyes and preparing themselves for the "loud family" to visit once again.  You see, I am kind of an unusual case here.  Most of the other women are here because they are carrying more then one baby and most of the other women here don't have other children.  It seems that every time a new nurse or new doctor finds out that I have not just one other, but two others children at home they take an active interest and are much more loving.  They feel badly.  How can they not?  Every time one of them mentions my girls, I break out in tears.  I keep thinking the tears will stop, but they don't and probably won't.  

As the girls pranced in yesterday I hugged them until they said enough and I looked down right in time to see Abigail's outfit.  

This was hard for me.  As much as I hate to admit that, this was hard.

The second week I was in the hospital the doctors sent in a Psychologist to visit with me.  As I laid there hooked up to monitors on both sides of the bed, this sweet woman said to me "your situation is about as out of your control as it gets."  As a fellow mother she understood and listened as I talked about my family and being taken from them.  She repeated herself.  "Your situation is as out of your control as it gets."  I was not sure why she repeated herself over and over but once it finally sank in, I realized that I had to accept it.  I absolutely had to accept that the only thing I have control over right now is how I think.

I have no control over what I do everyday.  I have no control over my current medical situation.  I don't even have control over what I wear (must be pajamas) or what I eat.  I shower with latex gloves on my hands to cover my IV's and deal with the non existent hot water.  I talk to dozens of doctors and nurses everyday but I have no control when they come by or what they say or think.  

And I certainly have no control over what Abigail and Molly wear.

Which I know in the scheme of things and in life is so not important.  But letting it go is hard.  Very hard.

So as I looked down, I laughed and pulled out my phone to take a picture.  Abigail of course thought I was thrilled with the outfit and Carras could not figure out what the problem was..I think he was just happy she was even wearing socks with those sandals.  

(Just another Saturday afternoon)

Today I am grateful for my favorite doctor on call, your prayers coming from far and wide, my new Christmas tree I can't wait to tell you about, many visits from friends, painted toes (finally), new pictures of the girls on my wall, a healthy heart beat of my baby boy, a Saturday night with Lily, and new pajamas...

and this on my sister in law's computer.  


Friday, November 19, 2010

Let It Show

Ironically, a week before I was admitted to the hospital we had our pictures taken by Wendy of Blue Lily.  This had been somewhat of a difficult feat because the only way that Wendy was going to be able to work us into her schedule was to meet us at exactly 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning.  I cannot even tell you how many times I almost backed out of these pictures.  I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of getting the entire family ready for a photo shoot in New York City on a Sunday morning.  The only thing that got me through was my friend Mel who was getting her pictures taken as well on the same morning.  We complained, planned, and in the end still decided this was the right thing to do.  Gosh dang it, if we wanted Christmas cards, we needed to just GET IT DONE...but I was dreading it.  

Saturday night came and already Carras was giving me a hard time.  We knew that our alarms were to be set for 6:00 AM and that we needed to be in the car and ready to go no later then 7:00 AM (with happy kids might I add).  Again, I wondered what I had done, and if this was going to be in fact worth it.  

For the past two weeks I have laid in my hospital bed thinking how lucky we are that we did these pictures when we did.  I would lay awake at night with the quietness that surrounded me and picture what they would look like.  Once received, I must have looked through them at least a dozen times.  As I looked,  I could not help but think of my life before this change of events occurred.  I thought of the morning I got the girls in their dresses, and my friend Krista coming over at 6:00 am in the morning to do my hair.  I thought of dragging Carras out of bed and watching him fold his tie as he held his tongue when I knew what he really wanted to say.  I remember the quietness of the city that morning.  Not another person in sight, no noisy taxi's, no beeping horns.  I loved watching the girls run through the cobblestone streets and Wendy snapping away.  I thought of our happy family together...

 and my heart hurt.

 Blue Lily pulling through once again 

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Grateful Journal, Entry 1.

Dear Girls,

I am writing to you both to tell you how much I love you.  I have been in the hospital for two weeks now and my heart still longs to be with you everyday.  Not a moment goes by where I don't think of both of you.  I look at the clock and picture you at your various activities.  I try to focus on other things, I try not to be sad but the fact of the matter is half my heart is missing because it is with both of you.

I have tried to find the words to explain to you our current situation.  At the beggining I was so nervous at how this was all going to affect you both, and if it was going to effect you.  I talked to doctors, social workers and child psychologist and they all told me the same thing.  They answered my questions with surety that you would both be "ok."  I felt comforted by this many times, but the more you have visited and the more that I see your faces the more I know how hard this has been on both of you.  I am your mom, I am the only one who really knows how you are feeling.  Abigail, I can see it in your eyes when you walk in.  Molly, I can sense it in how hesitant you are to come near me when you first enter the room.  How I wish I could take away any confusion or fear that you must have, but I am here for a reason and oh what a good reason it is, even if it is hard to understand.

I am here trying to bring your baby brother into this world.  His little body needs to hold on just a while longer until he is allowed to come.  Mommy is doing her very best to do everything she can to fight for his life everyday.  I know it is confusing, I know it seems unfair, I know you wish that life was back to normal, and I know that you will not understand this for quite some time, but for now and for your baby brother I am where I need to be.

Mommy's friend brought her a journal today.  On the front of the journal is says

"write in me everyday something you are grateful for."

So for my first journal entry I wrote about both of you.

Abigail I wrote about your laugh, your sense of humor, and your LOVE of life.  I wrote about how excited you get when we make cookies, decorate for holidays or go to grandma's to see your favorite dog Randy.  I wrote about how much you try to make sense of everything and your never ending questions.  I love your drawings.  I love your imagination.  I love your cheeks,  and I love how much you hate when I brush your hair.  I love how once you get an idea in your head, it is there for good and how much it drives your daddy crazy.  I love how strong you are.  You are so, so strong my sweet girl and will be stronger for this.  I love your prayers and your faith in what you are taught.  You are one smart cookie.  You and I have always had a connection that goes way beyond being apart for a couple of weeks.  Nothing can ever take that away.  You are my eldest and always will be.

"My Molly" as I have always called you.  I wrote of your tenderness.  I wrote of your sweet, sweet nature, and how much I love when you pat my cheeks and say over and over "are you happy mom?  Are you happy?"  I love how much you love your sister and desire to be with her till the ends of the earth.  I LOVE your girly nature.  I miss getting ready with you in the morning.  I miss you climbing into the shower with me and sitting in the sink while we put make up on together.  I love how you have an opionon on everything that you wear down to the jewelry that you pick out.  I love how much you love your Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Lily.  I love, love, love that voice.   Your kisses are heaven sent.  You are a sweet soul and a light in my life.  I love how much you love babies and can't wait to see you with your new brother.  You are going to be an angel to him.

My friends have been so amazing to you both.  They have taken you in, fed you, played with you, hugged you and loved you more then I ever expected.  They have bought you gifts and wrapped them with tags that say they are from your mommy.  They worry about you and want to help.  Make good friends girls, be a good friend, and I promise they will lift you in your toughest and darkest times.

Your Grandma has risen beyond the call of duty.  I am so grateful for your time with her.  You will never forget it.  I loved my Grandma's and am so grateful to this day for my relationship with them and how close I was with them.  There were many moments in life where I turned to them for a soft ear, and a comfort meal.  They have been with me through this time, just like you Grandma has been there for you.

So today my loves, I am grateful for you two.  I thank Heavenly Father for the gift of raising you, to love you, to read to you and to cuddle you.  I can't wait for those simple moments again.  I love you with my whole soul and everything that I am.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

With Them...There.

(The whole family in Sun Valley)  

My second night in the hospital my dad told me that I needed to find a place in my mind in which I could escape.  Confused I asked him what he meant.  He then explained to me that every time he felt low, or scared he had a happy place that he chose to escape to.  He went on to explain where his happy place was.  It was of course our cabin in Woodland, Ut.  Far away from anything that could possibly distract you from the beauty that is there, this cabin has been a dream of my dad's for quite some time. There is no other place he would rather be.  He described the image that comes to his mind to calm his thoughts.  This image is of the entire family, my mom, all six of his children and four grandchildren sitting around the outdoor fire roasting marshmellows.  The amazing and unbeatable sunset that can only happen in Utah surrounds us and we as a family are all safe, we as a family are all there, together. 

Immediately I knew where my happy place was. 

I have thought of it several times since we had this talk.  Every single time I am poked with needles, I close my eyes and the image rushes into my mind.  Every single time I am rushed upstairs to the high risk floor, I try to close my eyes and imagine this place that is so dear to my heart.  It is place that in my 31 years of life, a year has never gone by where I have not visited.  It is a place where those closest to my heart are with me, it is a place that my daughters now love the same way I did when I was their age, and it is the only place where I don't have to pull my husbands arm to take a week off work to go.  This week is sacred, and we have it once a year.

My place is Sun Valley. 

When Abigail was trying to make sense of how long I was going to be in the hospital and away from her, with a concerned sound in her voice she asked me

"are you going to miss Sun Valley?" 

Luckily I could answer no to that.  With all that I am missing in these next few months it was nice to finally have a positive answer to come back with.  I think often of already missing Halloween, missing Thanksgiving, and worst of all missing my Molly's 3rd birthday.  I have not yet let my mind wander to December, just because the heart can only take so much.  It is a confusing place to be.  On one hand, I know from all the doctors that the longer this baby stays in my tummy, the better, but the longer I am away from my children.  As a mother, how do you grasp that?  As a mother how do you comprehend the thought of not being with your own children for so long?

I don't have the answer, but I am searching everyday.  The only answer that I do have, is that for right now I am where I need to be, with the people surrounding me that need to be.  This baby boy is with me at all times which is such a comfort.  The doctors are thrilled with his acitivity level so far throughout this process.  They get a kick out of the nurses inability to catch him on the monitor and are confident that he is going to be just fine.  He loves to move around in my belly and I love to feel it.  It's has if he is saying

"we can do this mom"

And when we do, I know that Carras and I will be able to look at this trial as faith building.  And soon, before long, as the girls, Carras and I and this baby boy will be riding our bikes through Sun Valley....Abigail's question will be answered.

And I will once again, be in my happy place. 

(My Molly in Sun Valley)