Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Welcome to the world Dalton Craig

Wow wow wow! I cannot believe I finally got to title a post that. I was going to have someone else post after his birth but I figured since I am wide awake I would give it a shot to reach out to everyone who has been so amazingly supportive over our journey.
We arrived at the hospital at 5:30 on Sunday evening. The reality began to sink in when Jonathan looked at me and said "We get to meet our son tomorrow". We could not have been more anxious or excited. Everyone at the hospital was so amazing from the moment we arrived. We did start off on a great note with a giant gift bag of goodies from the Green family to help us enjoy our stay more. It was such a thoughtful gesture on their behalf and they still never cease to amaze me. Sunday was a pretty uneventful evening, minus the few "medical procedures" I had done, which at that point let me know that modesty is in NO way possible when giving birth. My nurses were all amazing and never once asked questions, everyone was on the same page! I was ecstatic!
Monday morning came quickly to those who did not sleep Sunday night (cough, cough, me). But it started on a lovely note with the question any woman wants to hear "Would you like your epidural now?". Ahhh! Music to my contracting uterus! I was shocked they gave it to me so early, but I was definitely feeling the pain and dilating quickly so it seemed like the logical thing to do. At about 2:00 we were told that because I had dilated so rapidly that it looked like he would be out around 3:30. HA! Little did everyone know that I held in the back of my mind that nothing about this pregnancy had been planned and I doubted that Dalton was going to let us start now. But I was hopeful.
We spent the afternoon just the two of us reflecting back on what we had learned and the good that had come out of our journey.It was a special time for us to pray and just be us, coming to God to ask for the strength for when our unknowns became known.
Turned out our little man was sunny side up and on a diagonal angle. Stinker. They told me that this was the most difficult way to deliver a baby the natural way. They could have been lying to get me to keep going but I assure you, they weren't. I started pushing around 5:00 pm. Slowly coming to the realization that this was not going to be as fun as it looked in the movies. I need two more bouts of epidural medicine because the pressure was so bad. They let me take a break and rest and we tried on and off until 8:00 while the Doctors decided what was the safest way to get him out. They did not want to use tools to pull him out because of the ventricles in his brain, but they told me if I was able to handle it we could attempt the natural route because Dalton really was tolerating labor well and the tools could be used as a guide. I was determined! I knew that having a C-Section meant not seeing Dalton for 12 hours and having to be in recovery with certain restrictions (on a side note the entire time I was pushing my focal point was an ice cold Diet Coke, no one told me they try and torture you by not letting you drink anything! I felt like I was in a dry mouth prison. If I ever see another ice chip... It's not the same people!).
So I pushed, and pushed, and pushed some more for 2 hours straight. I was making progress and they were willing to let me continue, as long as I wasn't exhausted or going to curse them for not giving me anything to drink. Sparing the gory details, and yes there are plenty. We tried 2 times with forceps to no avail and three times with the vacuum. At that point I said in the kindest tone possible, "Let me get the C-Section, I'm too exhausted to keep going".**Warning words appear nicer than they were in reality**. My Doctor begged me, and told me if I could do 3 more pushes it was going to either happen or not and if it didn't C-Section it was. I do not usually consider myself a strong person by any stretch of the imagination. But at that moment I prayed for the strength and somehow, someway by God's grace Dalton came out!
 I started at him with wide eyes and smooched my sweet hubby. I was so proud of Jonathan, he was an amazing coach never once making me want to punch him or say anything mean directed at him. Jonathan cut the cord and they took him to the table for evaluation from the NICU team. By the way there were about 14 people in here, I apologized to each of them for screaming bloody murder and explained to them that I was usually such a calm person-don't know if they bought it or not.  That first whimper of a cry about a minute later was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. That was when we lost it. First unknown- known, he was breathing! One of the girls from the team came to me and said if we get him stable you can hold him for a minute. I was so excited! They placed him in my arms and to be honest I was in a daze. This precious little angel now sat in my arms for me to care for with God's guidance. It was a moment I will never forget. I got to hold him for a minute and then he went with his Daddy up to the NICU to start his testing.
I got all "gussied up" as the Doctor fixed my war wounds, during which the whole time I kept saying "I am a rock star!"I have to gloat a second, I was just so beyond proud of myself and I am just so thankful that God gave me all the strength I needed to have him naturally.
Jonathan came back about 30 minutes later with the news that he was 8lb on the nose and that the testing was going to be about another hour. By this time it was midnight and I could physically feel my body breaking down. But I was going to see my baby boy before I went to bed! The pediatric cardiologist came and spent time with us after he assessed Dalton. There are 3 concerns with his heart and 1 major one that will have to be figured out before he actually gets to leave.
I want this to be a happy post to remember the positives so I will post more on the actual diagnosis a bit later and after we know more.
Jonathan and I wheeled up to the NICU around 12:30. Going in to see your brand new baby covered in wires and tubes was not easy. But I was prepared for that. I know that what they are doing is helping him, so I was strangely okay. The biggest disappointment was them telling us we could not hold him for a at least a few days, again, I was prepared but hearing it really kind of stunk. I did get to get up next to him and hold his little hand. He is so beautiful. Lots of hair and I even heard a rumor there were some dimples on our boy! I could tell how much everyone up there already loved him by the sweet names they were calling him and how gentle they were when they handled him. That gave me a lot of comfort. The neonatologist explained everything they saw and what the steps were for the next day (today). Like I said, I will do a health update later. Leaving him up there was not the easiest thing especially when we wheeled out and I heard him let out a giant cry. He didn't want us to leave either. The strangest part was, I knew it was him crying. I had a feeling and the nurse came out and said "Did you hear those lungs?". We came back to the room and promptly crashed. Sleep isn't really an option because I am still in a lot of pain. Just counting down the minutes to when I can go back and see our little man.
Thank you all for your texts, phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and more. The support has been amazing and knowing how prayed for Dalton is only continues to give us hope. We love you all so much and can't wait for the world to meet him!

Last night before the hospital. 

Night on the town.

Keeping everyone up to date while waiting to check in.

This was before the drama!

It was like she was there with us!

I got made fun of for this...don't know why!

Daddy and Kyle probably learning WAY more than they wanted to.

Honey, Daddy, and PawPaw awaiting his arrival.

Mommy and Brie 

This may be my all time favorite birthing picture.

Told ya we smooched<3

8 lbs 21 inches

Lots of loving hands working to make him strong.


Daddy and his boy

He wasn't too happy about leaving us.

Daddy will make it all better.

These pictures are never glamorous but I had to do it.

Our family.

My favorite picture.

Us and the amazing team who forced me to do what I knew I could! 

He couldn't escape if he tried.

So hard not to pick him up.

He was sleeping when we arrived.

Quite the grip on my hand.

6! Count 'em 6!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Day Before Dalton, A Dad's Journey

There is not a great place to begin telling my story, and in no way will I be able to express our journey as well as Kara has, but I will share a few thoughts I’ve had along the way.    

If you had asked me 9 months ago if I was ready to be a father, you would have received a quick and definite, NO.  That would have meant that one of my biggest fears could possibly come true.  What if I wasn’t a good dad?  What if I wasn’t able to raise my kids as well as my parents did?  Although I have amazing role models in my parents, I was scared of the idea.  Would I make the right decisions for him even when it wasn’t easy?  How am I going to afford a child?  Would I be able to provide for my family?  

When Kara so eloquently told me she was pregnant, my mind went into panic mode.  All those questions raced through my head.  I didn’t say very much, and we both had to take some time to process everything.  Kara didn’t believe the 3 pregnancy tests so she quickly made a doctors appointment, and I was already thinking about buying a house to take care of our growing family.  Although I was scared of what having a baby meant it didn’t take long for the excitement to grow. 

Weeks 8 through 20 were filled with joy and anticipation, but as all of you know that follow Kara’s blog, our world came crashing down.  We went from the highest of highs to lowest of lows in a matter of minutes.  When Dalton’s original diagnosis of full Trisomy 13 was given to us, my whole body hurt.  It shook me to my inner core.  How could this happen to us?  I don’t ask why anymore, but I would be lying if I told you I didn’t ask it at first.  This wasn’t supposed to happen to us.  We just got married a year ago, how were we supposed to overcome something as great as this?

As difficult as the news was for both of us, I truly believe God used that news to prepare us for the road ahead.  Without a doubt in my mind, I know that my heart has changed, and my outlook on life and having children has made a change for the better.  When we were given the initial news that our son wouldn’t live more than a couple of days, my perspective changed instantaneously.  I no longer thought about if my son would be athletic and want to throw the baseball in the back yard on a Saturday afternoon like I always did with my dad, or want to come out and learn how to change the oil in the car, because he thought it was cool that dad could do it.  Perspective quickly changed, to simply wanting my son to live, so I would be able to know him, his quirks, his passions, and see him grow up to become a man.  All of a sudden, those things were stripped away.   

Kara and I had no place to turn.  We went to each other, but were both so broken that we didn’t have much to give.  I still remember sitting on our couch, staring at each other, and the only image I could think about was Jesus holding Dalton in his arms.  To this day I can still see them together like he was standing right there in front of me.  From that point on, there was no doubt in my mind that Dalton was in the best of hands.  All of my anxieties were turned over to God.  I realized that the only one in control was Him, not Kara, not the doctors, not me, just Him. 
Even with a diagnosis of severe partial Trisomy 13, so much of Dalton’s future is still unknown, but I know in the deepest depths of my heart that God chose us to take this journey, not only for Dalton, but for us as well.  I know that no matter what, God will provide us with the strength to carry on. Dalton has already changed our lives more than we could ever imagine.  He has changed the lives of those around us, and I believe he will continue to change lives when he is here with us.  We just have to keep our hearts open for God to fill them up with his love and grace. 

Ever since I relinquished my control, I have become nothing more than a proud father to my son Dalton.  I will talk about him to anyone that wants to listen.  It isn’t always easy to share our story, especially not knowing what’s in store, but he is my son, and I love him with everything I have.  I can’t wait to meet him. 

Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers.  Please continue to pray for Dalton and Kara as she is being induced on Monday morning.  She has been so strong throughout this whole process and I pray that I can be as strong as her as Dalton’s arrival quickly approaches.  Kara has been ready for this moment for a long time.  She will be the best mother in the world.  She is so full of compassion and she already loves our son more than I could ever imagine.  I pray that the doctors will be blessed and our families will feel comforted by knowing that we are doing ok.  The road ahead may not be easy, and it might be full of hard times, but I think we are up for the challenge.  We have God that will carry us when we need Him. 

-Jonathan, Dalton's Daddy

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ready or Not

Well it's official. Dalton will be here in less than a week. Frightening? To say the least. As of now the plan is to schedule me for an induction on Monday, January 30th. I will be 39 weeks. The Doctors say they would rather know who is going to be on call then have me go into labor on my own at a random time in the middle of the night. A plan. Somewhat. I felt it was fair because I can honestly say that I have had no say in any type of plan this entire pregnancy. This experience has shown me that I am not the one who has to be in control in every aspect of my life, I have to give up the control. I have placed it all in God's hands from my 20th week and have rolled with the punches ever since. This has been an amazing accomplishment for me.

People have been asking me how I am doing. I can honestly say, I am doing okay. I have my moments. At random points in the day I will have a break down but then I snap out of it and continue with the task at hand. I have explained to several people who has asked that I did not know such a wide spectrum of emotions all at once was possible. But it is. I am tipping the scale with excitement to finally meet our little angel but yet I am also on that other side of the scale full of fear and worry for what our reality may be. It's almost like I feel guilty for being sad during what should be such a joyous time in our lives. And it's true, the reality is, I am sad.

I'm sad for the fear I have in actually having him here. I'm sad for what his little body will have to endure. I'm sad for the loss of what should have been a normal pregnancy. I'm sad that I cry so much when I should be jumping for joy that I have the opportunity to bring a life into this world for however long he may be here.

But on the complete flipside, I am happy.

I'm happy I finally get to see his little face in real life. I'm happy I get to cradle him in my arms. I'm happy Jonathan gets to experience what I have for the last 9 months. I'm happy to show him off to the world. I'm happy I get to smell that new baby smell on my new baby. I'm happy to continue sharing his touching story with all who care to listen.

The most important thing that I have wanted Dalton to feel this entire time and when he enters this place is how much he is loved. No matter what his challenges may be, he is our son and no one can take that fact away from us. His Daddy and I tell him several times a day and I know he feels it from inside of me. God has blessed us with an angel and he has given us the opportunity to carry him and know him the best way he sees fit.

The way I have been looking at this entire birthing process has been so different from what I have ever seen anyone else go through. It's not like in the movies, push a baby out, have them snug in a bed next  you, and then go home like one happy family. Being prepared to have Dalton whisked away to the NICU with his Daddy has been something I have been mentally working up to. Luckily, my Mom will be in the room with us to be with me when they both leave. I received the best advice from Kalee a couple of weeks ago. She told me that when she was going through this experience her Mom told her to be selfish and tell people what you want. Now, those that know me, know I have some issues with that. I hate to hurt feelings. But in this situation I am prepared to bring out my innermost Mama Bear and make it all about Dalton, Jonathan, and I. The fact that only two people will be able to be brought back into the NICU with us means that it's not going to be a free for all by his bedside. It is going to be very controlled and peaceful, because that is what he needs. I pray for the strength to allow my wishes to be known to all. We know so many people love and support him, but the trust in any decision making or visitation has got to be put into mine and Jonathan's hands.

The foggy weather in Atlanta this week has been so fitting for our situation. I feel like my head is in a fog when I am trying so hard to keep my focus on the Lord, Jonathan, and Dalton. With so many things clouding my vision I am praying for clarity in what is to come. My need to have everything planned and ready to go will most likely go out the window as soon as I hold our little boy. In these next few days please pray for our peace, clarity, and for Dalton. We are moved in hearing how he has changed so many lives already. One thing is for sure, no matter what, we wouldn't change a thing about him.

We will be giving updates here on the blog so feel free to check back on Monday when we can finally post a live picture of him! We will also let everyone know when he is situated in the NICU and we can start having visitors. Thank you so much for all of your love and prayers for our little boy. I do not think we could have made it through without each and every one of you. We love you all and we feel so blessed!

Dalton at 37 weeks. Yawning profile. Wasn't too happy we woke him up!
Dalton at 38 weeks. Out last 3D ultrasound. So ready to squeeze those cheeks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's in a name?

People have asked us several times why we chose the name Dalton. Everyone has their own opinions on his name but one thing is for sure, Jonathan and I love it. When we first got married I remember sitting around and throwing different names around. Dalton was never in the cards! I was 8 weeks pregnant when we found out we were expecting. A major shocker! But now we could actually start to think about the names. For our anniversary that 8th week I had given Jonathan a BBQ cooking class. He went to the class that weekend and met this guy named Dalton. So random. We were sitting around chatting about the class he had taken and he told me about his new friend he had made over yummy grilled quail and Sweetwater 420. I stopped and told him "I have never heard that name before. I like it." As a teacher I have to say it is extremely difficult to find a name that has not been tainted by an unruly little stinker over the years. I had never had a Dalton in class, nor had I heard of one at our school. It was officially in the name bank amongst several others. No decisions had been made yet, because we were still waiting to find out the sex of the baby.

We found out Dalton's diagnosis the day that we went in to find out whether our little peanut was a he or a she. They told us it was a boy before the Doctor disappeared for 45 minutes, only to come back revealing the most devastating news a parent can hear. Like I have said before, I felt like I was in a nightmare, having an out of body experience.

It was that evening that we knew we wanted to choose a name, we wanted our son to have an identity. I looked up the definitions of the names we had narrowed down and saw that the name Dalton meant "the valley". It was then I knew that the name Dalton, was perfect for our little angel.

This has no doubt been the biggest valley that Jonathan or I have ever faced. The best part about valleys is that they are surrounded by mountains. It is those mountains that we see in the distance that are giving us the strength to move forward. The good thing about our valley is what we have learned from being inside of it for the past 17 weeks. We have learned to lean on our faith when absolutely nothing seems "okay". We have learned that no matter what the outcome, a mountain will be there eventually to greet us on the other side.

I also find it extremely coincidental that the bible verse from Psalm 23:4 is such a popular one, that relates to our situation so well. Just another way in how God works in mysterious ways to reveal his presence to you during your darkest days.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.- Psalm 23:4

I think this verse reveals that so easily, you can let the negative overcome you. You can focus so much on all the bad things and miss out on all the small blessings. Those blessings for me are feeling his little kicks, having Jonathan talk to him every night, and the 24 hours a day I get to enjoy him inside of me. Those blessings are what is keeping me going, fighting to make it to the end.

These upcoming weeks of waiting and finally getting to meet him are filled with anxiety and excitement. We finally get to meet our precious Dalton. The little boy who has taught us and many others so much already. Hearing that our little "valley" has shown people so many mountains is what keeps us going each and everyday. Thank you for sharing with us how our little boy has inspired you and your life.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In Awe...

I could not wait to write about this past weekend. I couldn't even sleep last night because I was just so excited to share about one of the top five moments of feeling loved in my life. The weekend started off a little rough. We had Hallie's memorial service to attend on Saturday. Jonathan and I were both a tad bit apprehensive about going, just with it being so close to our due date. It was kind of like the reality we feared to face. Luckily, Kalee and Matt were right there by our side. It was a blessing for Kalee and I both to have each other to lean on, and even our goofy husbands had each other for support.
Walking into the space felt surreal. It looked magical. The stage was dimly lit with what looked like floating candles. Pictures of Hallie and the Green family rolled on the screen. It was at that point Jonathan looked at me and said "I'm not gonna do so hot". It was the most beautiful service I have ever been to. The music that was sung, the words spoken by Katie and Chris, and the memory of Hallie just filled the room. I felt honored to be a part of something so meaningful. It was perfect. Emotionally draining, absolutely. But we were both so happy that we went to support the Green family and honor baby Hallie. Jonathan and I talked about Katie and Chris' strength and how they serve as an inspiration to us. All of the Moms and Dads we have come into contact with on this journey have, and we feel so lucky to have come to know them because of our situation.
My family was in town from Valdsota and Florida to help celebrate my shower on Sunday. So we got to spend the day with them on Saturday which was so much fun! We hosted our first family dinner party and it was quite successful. I didn't have to lift a finger, my Mom is way too good to me.
So this shower has been in the works since I was like 8 weeks pregnant. Mary Riddick, Brooke, and Katherine have been so thoughtful in planning it and making sure every detail was covered. I'll have to admit I was exhausted on Sunday and prayed that I would make it through without seeming so tired. The second I walked in, I felt rejuvenated. The decor, the food, the music, the games, everything was perfect! And the best part about this shower was, it wasn't about the gifts. They made sure that I felt the love from every single person in that room.
We got the most precious gifts, from a plaque with Dalton's name and "his" verse (Jeremiah. 29:11) engraved, to a dear friend arranging for a photographer to come to the hospital to photograph Dalton, a beautiful birthing gown, and of course more snuggly clothes for our little man. Everything just seemed so thoughtful, and tears were brought to my eyes on several occasions.
Katherine had asked me to bring Dalton's baby blanket with me to the shower. I was a little perplexed, but did as I was told. Secretly thinking, I hope we don't all sign it as a guest book because it is going to be washed eventually (contrary to what Jonathan may say about my baby blanket!) and I didn't want anything to come off in the wash. I was completely thrown off guard when Katherine stood up and spoke the kindest words about our family and our situation. She then asked everyone to come and hold onto a piece of the blankie and pray. We had an open prayer for about 10 minutes, and those prayers spoken and unspoken, were no doubt the best gifts I have ever received. Never in my life have I ever felt so blessed. There was an air in the room of comfort and hope, and you could truly feel God's presence. I have never been a part of something so powerful and I felt honored for these prayers to be sent up on my sons behalf. It was a reminder of how many prayers are being said for our family constantly.
We are so thankful and feel so blessed for all of you taking the time to think of us. We see the work that God is already doing in Dalton's life, and our own. I am a better person because of my son, and for that reason-I would not change a thing.
I left the shower just in awe of everything that the afternoon had brought. My Mom told me how comforted she was knowing that I was surrounded with so much love, even though she is so far away. I wish so much that I could express in words just how touched Jonathan and I are by the amount of prayers and amount of love we feel. Right now we can simply say, thank you.

A beautiful wordle made up of my letter to Dalton

I almost knocked the table over. So big!

Dalton's wish book.

My lovely hostesses- Katherine, Brooke, and Mary Riddick

The most adorable invitation. 

Fell in love with the nautical decor.

Lily Sweet made me a photo album to put pictures of Dalton in.

The beautiful prints from Marsha for the nursery.

A stroller to push our little man around! So happy!

Mommy had this quilt made from my Florida shower.

Feeling so loved and surrounded by God's presence.

Thank you. I will remember this moment always.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pregnancy Update: Week 35

Baby is the size of: Large cantaloupe (really whattoexpect.com, what is the difference between a regular melon and a large one?!) Getting a growth measurement at my appointment on Tuesday.
Symptoms: I have started back at work this week. Wow, was that ever a shock to my system. So much of a shock that I have been having consistent contractions for a couple of days now. They Doctor has told me that it is just my body preparing for labor. Let's just say I will have lots of practice! 
Sleep: With the exhaustion of going back to work has actually helped the sleeping situation. I just crash at the end of the day and am swept into a sweet slumber, only to be disturbed by my son kicking my bladder consistently. Luckily, I have been practicing some relaxation techniques and am able to get back to sleep without letting my mind drift too much. 
Fun moment this past week:Jonathan and I are so excited because Dalton's nursery is finally coming along! We worked on it most of the weekend, even through our crazy New Years Eve (I am totally being facetious here, we fought to stay awake until 12:03). Thanks to Brooke and Will's help we were able to get the room painted and all of his stuff organized. Will and I even tested out his baby video monitor in different parts of the house, we may have had too much fun with that one. We feel so blessed to have such good friends in our lives.
On Monday, Jonathan's brother came into town from Savannah to celebrate Christmas with us Atlanta Koetters. It was so much fun watching Lyla open her gifts. She is the most polite gift receiver I have ever seen, pretty impressive for a 14 month old. Bless her heart, she takes time opening each gift and oohing each one. I love that she likes to stretch out the whole gifting process to show others how much she appreciates her presents. I already know how much she loves Dalton and I bet she can't wait to teach him her sweet ways. 
Movement: All the time! A lot more contractions though then kicks now that he is getting bigger. 
What I am looking forward to this week: MOMMY IS COMING!!!! I am so excited! She along with all of my Valdosta family are coming into town for my Atlanta baby shower. Mary Riddick, Brooke, and Katherine have been working so hard to create a beautiful shower for me. They will never know just how much it means to me. Treating this pregnancy as normal as possible has been a goal for me, and this is just one of the ways for me to continue to have as much hope in the Lord for our situation. I am also looking forward to Dalton's growth measurement on Tuesday. I love to hear that he is getting bigger! 
Reflections over this past week: I have been doing okay this week. With decorating the nursery, getting back to work, I have barely had time to worry. There have been a couple of times when I have been taking a break and I just start to cry. Obviously that is expected. But I feel that my emotions are just so mixed. I am so beyond ecstatic to meet my son, yet at the same time I am freaking out. I usually can't even tell why I start to cry, but it just happens. I let it run its course, then I continue on with what I am doing. I know one thing for sure, I am so ready to be out of this unknown stage and finally get some answers. We are trying to also mentally prepare for Hallie's memorial service on Saturday. I have been thinking about it ever since we found out the date and time. I know it is not going to be easy, but being there in support of Katie is what matters most. My Mom did the sweetest thing the other day. She left me a voicemail of a wind chime blowing in the wind, then she said "That is God playing sweet lullabies for baby Hallie, baby McKinley and all the tiny angels who have left the world too soon". It just touched me so much and now every time I hear a wind chime I think of those sweet girls, and how blessed I have become knowing their stories. I just pray that Dalton can be used as an inspiration for others and showing them what faith looks like. 
Prayer requests: This week I ask for prayers for comfort and strength for Jonathan and I. I also ask for Gods healing hands to be placed over our baby boy so that he endures the least amount of trauma and pain possible. We also ask for peace for our families in knowing that Jonathan and I are handling this situation the best way we know how. There is no instruction manual for how to go through something like this, and we are doing our best with God guiding us through the darkest times. 
I mean, how sweet is this reaction to an ornament?

She loved it!

"Is this all for me?!"

Lyla even helped Uncle J open Dalton's gifts.

A pretty teddy for a pretty girl.

The sweetest girl in my life.

Daddy- so proud of his son's crib.