You will have significant experiences.
I hope that you will write them down and keep a record of
them, that you will read them from time to time and refresh
your memory of these meaningful and significant things.
Some may be funny. Some may be significant only to you.
Some of them may be sacred and quietly beautiful. Some
may build upon another until they represent a lifetime of
special experiences.
- Gordon B Hinckley

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Welcoming Reece!!!





Dear Family and Friends,

Reece Wyatt Bollinger was born on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:40am!  He arrived weighing 5 lbs 8 oz and 19 3/4 inches long.  He is HEALTHY with ten fingers, ten toes, dark brown hair, grey eyes, two dimples, and he looks just like his older brother.  He is eating like a champ, passed his first bowel movement within hours of being born (we were very excited about that after Everett’s issues), and is a perfectly beautiful blessing for which we thank God.  His name, which we picked out during our last pregnancy, means “enthusiasm.”  Judging from the amount of movement he did in utero and his rushed entrance into the world, he’s going to live up to his name.  We are so excited to welcome him into our family.  

In typical Bollinger form, his birth came as a huge surprise.  It seems we can’t have kids without some level of drama and Reece’s birth was no exception.  As I mentioned in my last update, we were scheduled for a repeat c-section on Wednesday morning (tomorrow).  However, last Tuesday night I began feeling some contractions in the early evening.  I kept track of them and for a few hours, they were pretty steady and consistent.  Our doctor told us to call when I had six an hour, but I never had more than five that night.  Around 10 pm, they stopped, just as my contractions always have throughout this pregnancy.  We felt nothing was unusual and went to bed.  

Around 3 am I woke up with a feeling of “gastric distress,” as if the dinner we’d eaten the night before wasn’t agreeing with me.  I spent some time in the bathroom then returned to bed and fell back asleep.  Around 4 am, I woke again with the same feeling and decided to take a bath to help relax.  At 5 am, I began experiencing cramping pain that radiated down my thighs.  I decided to wake Zac up by yelling at him from the bathtub that I thought the baby was coming.  He woke up fast.  At 5:15 am we called the doctor who instructed us to drive to the hospital.  Zac called our parents and woke them up while I washed my hair and shaved my legs (yes, I honestly did that).  While Zac packed the car and we waited for my parents to arrive to watch Everett, I dried and styled my hair while timing my contractions which were now about 2-3 minutes apart and getting progressively stronger.

Our parents arrived at 5:45 am and we left for the hospital.  As we turned off our street, my water broke.  We just bought a new car (a used minivan) and all I could think about was how I didn’t want to ruin the leather upholstery.  So I pulled up the floor mat and sat on that for part of the drive.  But I didn’t stay sitting long as the contractions quickly became almost unbearable.  So I unbuckled my seatbelt and stood up in the car as we drove into SLO.  As we reached the city limits, the contractions became even more intense.  Zac said I punched at the car window (I don’t remember that).  But I do remember screaming something like “I should have taken a *insert expletive here* birthing class!!!”  My cursing got Zac freaked out, so he started running red lights and passing cars on the wrong side of the road (thankfully he’s a good driver).  At 6 am we reached the hospital.  My hospital has two entrances, an ER entrance that is about as far from the Labor & Delivery unit as you can get and a back entrance with about 50 of the steepest stairs in existence.  I told Zac to park in the back because the ER seemed WAY too far away.  I had a contraction at the bottom of the stairs, then literally ran up them.  Zac said he tried to grab my arm to help me and I told him to stop touching me.  We entered the hospital.  My unit is attached to the L & D unit so I had to walk in front of my coworkers, during shift change.  They started cheering and wishing me luck and all I could do was hold up my hand.  Then I heard Zac running behind me saying “Ya, this is happening now!”  

I waddled onto the L & D floor and was greeted by one of the most amazing nurses ever!  I trained with her during my preceptorship as a student as she is an amazing nurse to watch.  I can’t even describe my relief to find that she was there that day.  She led us back into the triage room to assess where things were at.  She asked me to provide a urine sample and I made it about five feet toward the bathroom before another contraction hit and I told her I felt like I was going to have a bowel movement.  That got her attention so she led me directly to a birthing room.  

Once in the birthing room, things got pretty “primal” for lack of a better word.  I laid down on the bed while the nurse checked to see where I was at.  I was completely dilated and Reece’s head was starting to crown.  Since it was during shift change, and my doctor hadn’t yet arrived, and I was now having a vaginal birth after cesarian (VBAC) which my hospital isn’t typically allowed to perform, there were a lot of people in the room.  As I said in my last update, we didn’t want to VBAC because of the increased risk of uterine rupture.  So it was all hands on deck in the birthing room with the OR on call in case something went terribly wrong.  

Instinctually, I started to push.  Women have always described it as something your body just naturally does and it’s totally true.  And it hurt...A LOT, just as everyone says it does.  I put Zac into a choke hold of sorts (nope, I’m not making this up) with my left arm around his neck and my right hand strung through his belt loops.  As I pushed, I also pulled on him.  Then I started screaming.  I honestly couldn’t help it.  I screamed about how this wasn’t supposed to be happening, about how I was supposed to be having a c-section, about how I wished I read a childbirth book.  My nurse very calmly replied that the sooner I accepted that I wasn’t getting my c-section and surrendered my body to what was happening the quicker it would all be over.

Her pep talk did the trick.  I surrendered.  I pushed a total of seven times.  My doctor arrived for the last three.  In what seemed like an instant, Reece was born, beautifully healthy and crying on the way out!  It was pure magic!!!

He went straight to my chest.  I looked up at Zac and cried out “We just had a baby!”  We were both in shock.  I’d done it...from start to finish in 3.5 hours, a completely unmedicated and surprise VBAC.  We all cried tears of joy as the anxiety of the past 10 months faded away.

Having Reece was the exact opposite experience of having Everett.  It has been such a healing experience overall.  In our very abbreviated birth plan, all Zac and I asked for was to not have Reece removed from our sight unless we asked.  My hospital accommodated this and more.  He spent the first two hours of his life on my chest, nursed within 30 minutes of birth, and we all talked about what an amazing gift it was to have a baby born breathing and crying.  It is the simple blessing of having a child born healthy that commands appreciation.  And we are so very, very thankful.  

Welcome to the world Reece Wyatt Bollinger.  How we have been hoping for you.

With Love,


The Bollinger Family

P.S.  Also in typical Bollinger form, Reece brought the rain, just like Everett did when he was born.  



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Term...

Dear Family and Friends,

We made it to term!!!  Woohoo!  No, no, I’m not delivering today or tomorrow (as far as I know) but at 36 weeks pregnant, our baby boy is now considered safe to deliver at any time.  This means that we can now have him at MY hospital.  It’s a huge milestone for many obvious reasons.  But one not-so-obvious reason is that we have effectively avoided a huge insurance nightmare that would have come from delivering at a competing, out-of-network facility, if he had come anytime before today.  After navigating the insurance payment waters with Everett’s bills for the better part of three years, I can’t express to you what a relief it is to know that we will (hopefully) just have the normal copays this time around.  Whew!!!  And delivering at my own hospital isn’t without perks.  I’ve been able to request a specific room, a specific nurse, and they are even allowing me to bring in a birth photographer to capture baby boy’s very first moments of life.  We are so excited!

I can honestly say that I had my doubts that we’d make it this far.  After my doctors appointment three weeks ago, I was pretty convinced that baby boy was going to come early.  My doctor was also pretty convinced too although he didn’t tell me that until last week.  So all of us are pleasantly surprised that I’m still pregnant.  While we still don’t know what exactly happened to make my cervix change, the week I spent on the couch, followed by two weeks of very minimal activity did the trick.  My cervix hasn’t shortened any more and the baby is less engaged than he was three weeks ago.  All good things!  Of course, none of that really matters now.  Any cervical change from this point forward would just be considered normal and a sign of impending labor.  

We are still scheduled for the c-section on February 12th at 7am.  Zac and I have elected to have a repeat c-section after weighing the risks of trying a natural birth vs another c-section.  Our doctor was supportive either way.  Both methods of delivery carry their own set of risks, but trying for a natural birth after a previous c-section does carry a 1% increased chance of uterine rupture.  While that may not seem like a lot, after having two pregnancies that have fallen into the 1% chance category, those odds seemed a little too large for our personal comfort.  I was initially a little disappointed to not be able to truly labor, but a healthy baby is all that really matters in the end.

Yesterday I had a second round of maternity pictures taken with my now term belly.  Some of them are very intimate, so we’ve chosen not to show most of them around.  But I will say that looking at them has given me a whole new appreciation of the female body and what it is capable of.  I realized that I haven’t trusted my body since Everett was born.  I think deep down I felt as if it failed us, that it was weak, that it was abnormal, and maybe I’ve even been angry at it.  But seeing those photos, seeing what my body has done these past nine months, gave me back some of the confidence that has been missing for a long time.  It was a healing experience and one that I would highly recommend to any pregnant woman.

The nursery isn’t quite finished.  The essentials are all there; it’s really just down to finishing touches.  I’ve been dragging my feet a bit because things still don’t feel “safe.”  I don’t know when that will change (probably not until I have a healthy baby boy in my arms), so I’m not getting caught up in the stress.  It’ll get done...or it won’t.  This entire pregnancy has been an exercise in relinquishing control and maybe now I’ve swung too far the other direction :-)  Either way, I’m just not worried about it.  

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for us and thinking good thoughts for our family.  We are continually humbled by the support we receive from our loving friends and family.  We really feel as if we’ve been blessed with a second miracle in this pregnancy making it to term.  God is so good and we are thankful for His blessings!  We are thankful for all of you too.  It’s amazing to think that my next update might very well be a birth announcement.  WOW!!!

With Excitement,


The Bollinger Family





Thank you Two Happy Lambs Photography for more beautiful photos!




Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Short of It...

Dear Family and Friends,

A few days before Christmas I began experiencing some new pains/sensations where baby boy is “living.”  Having never done this part before, I attributed them to third trimester changes and basically just tried to get over/ignore them (like any good nurse patient would).  On Christmas, they happily went away, but the day after Christmas, these sensations came back and something about them had me very, very irritated.  By Sunday, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.  I called my doctor yesterday and described what I was feeling.  He agreed that it all sounded like typical third trimester stuff and thought we could hold off on a visit until later in the week until I told him I just really felt something wasn’t right.  So he fit me in yesterday afternoon for an ultrasound.  The short of it is that I’ve started to efface, meaning my cervix is severely shortened compared to my last measurement.  And the baby is now engaged, or has dropped (which Zac noticed the day after Christmas, as I was suddenly carrying much lower).  So these two things have us more than a little concerned that baby boy might be trying to make an early debut.  

However, that’s not to say that these changes can’t also happen in a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy.  Many women walk around dilated and effaced for weeks in their last trimester.  But given my history, it’s just worrisome.  Yesterday I received a first dose of steroids to rapidly mature baby boy’s lungs.  I will get another dose today.  I also received some of these steroids with Everett, although he came before we were able to complete them.  This medication will give him the best chance of breathing on his own should he be born anytime after today.  

My doctor and I discussed what we could expect at this gestation.  I will be 33 weeks tomorrow.  A 33 week preemie is a totally different ball game than a 25 week micro-preemie, but he would still require a NICU stay...albeit hopefully very short (like a few weeks).  At 34 weeks, even if I went into full blown labor, they wouldn’t stop it.  Research shows that there is no increased risk of delivering vs delaying birth at that gestation so we really just need to make it one more week.  The best thing I can do is try not to worry and rest up.  My doctor didn’t recommend bed rest but he did tell me to ramp up on my couch time.  So that’s what we will do.

In an odd coincidence, Everett and I delivered Christmas cookies to the SV NICU last week.  It’s something that was done for us at CHLA and we’ve kept up the tradition here at home.  Several times a year we bake for the NICU families and package the goodies up with an inspirational message for the parents.  In the four years we’ve been doing this, we’ve never been allowed back into the NICU itself.  However, this year, the nurses felt it would be a nice idea to have me hand deliver the packages to the NICU families...to give them a face to go with an incredible success story.  I jumped at the opportunity.  And about 30 seconds after walking back into the NICU, I realized that I’d made a very wrong decision.  Being back in that NICU, words can’t even describe how awful it felt.  The last time I was in that room, we were being told that Everett likely wouldn’t survive.  They had shut down the entire NICU, closed our section off, and allowed all our family members to come in.  They dimmed the lights, they moved the chairs into a giant circle, and Zac and I held him as we kept our thoughts to ourselves about what the next 24 hours might hold.  I can remember wondering in that moment if this was going to be the last time I held my living son.  All these emotions came FLOODING back when I stepped into the NICU.  I handed out the packages as quickly as I could, kept a smile on my face and told a few families a very abridged version of our story.  And then I high-tailed it out of there, so nauseous and fighting back tears and so full of every depressing emotion that I never wanted to feel again.  I wasn’t ready to be back there.  And that really surprised me.

So if you could pray that this baby boy keeps cooking and that my cervix keeps holding, we would very much appreciate it!  All we want is healthy...and no NICU if possible.  We are strong enough to handle anything thrown our way...this I know.  But this time we would really, really like things to just be...easy.  We want to hear him cry and we want to hold him in the first moments after he’s born.  I’m just praying we aren’t hoping for too much.  

Happy New Year to you all!

Love,

The Bollinger Family


P.S.  If baby boy stays in, our scheduled c-section date is February 12th, 2014 at 7am.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What I'm Thankful For/What I'm Terrified Of...


Dear Family and Friends,

I am still pregnant!!!  Thirty one weeks tomorrow...and only eight weeks to go.  We are planning on a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks.  We still don’t have a firm birth date but we know it will be around February 12th.  With the holidays and a generally busy season, time has been flying by.  And while eight weeks left to prepare may sound like a lot, I’m already beginning to feel some nesting instincts to get stuff done.  In these past few weeks I’ve finally allowed myself to relax a little, taking reassurance that if he were born now, he’d more that likely survive with minimal complications.  

I’ve been thinking a lot these past five weeks, all of which have been a new experience for us, about what I’m thankful for in this pregnancy.  Several people have told me that I make being pregnant look easy.  It’s not easy, by the way.  The third trimester really is a different beast.  But I am making a conscious effort to be thankful for every day, every moment, every pain, and every experience that we get, knowing that things can change in a instant.  So in a effort to continue to be appreciative for this little life growing inside me, I wrote down a list of the things I’m thankful for during this pregnancy.  

I’m thankful for...

  1. Weight gain: I only gained four pounds with Everett.  I’ve gained *much* more this time.  As the scale ticks up, I’m trying to remember that every pound gained is more weight on our baby and is a sign that my body is doing what it was meant to do.  Sure, some days I don’t necessarily love the way my body is changing, how things are getting soft and dimply, but this baby is SO worth it.  And Zac tells me everyday that I’m beautiful (isn’t he the BEST!)
  2. Creating a nursery while still pregnant: This weekend, Zac and I assembled all the baby furniture...crib, dresser, and changing table and I started to wash the bedding etc.  We stayed up until 1:30am doing it all while Everett slept.  We had the best time; me listening to Zac curse at the dresser for having lock screw hardware (apparently his least favorite), as he watched me fold and refold crib sheets washed in Dreft, which smelled so good.  We talked about what we think this baby will look like, what his temperament might be, discussed which qualities we hope he will and will not have.  It was a night I will cherish always.
  3. Smiles and belly touches from strangers: I think a lot of pregnant women find this phenomena invasive, but I just can’t get enough.  I love that strangers are smiling at me with that “oh, she’s having a baby” face and that every day someone asks me when I’m due.  I’m really loving that people are holding doors open for me and are offering to grab things off shelves in stores.  With Everett, it was never obvious that I was pregnant, so I’m gobbling up the extra attention.  And I don’t even mind the touching of my belly.  I am just glad that I have a belly to touch.   
  4. A clear complexion:  I’ve never had clear skin...NEVER.  Even as an adult I’ve struggled with managing my acne.  With this pregnancy, my skin has never looked better.  Something to do with the hormones I’m sure, but I’m loving every moment of being zit-free and am enjoying the pregnancy glow.
  5. Not being able to reach my feet comfortably: All I have to say is that I now have a really good excuse to get pedicures :-)
  6. Tiredness, shortness of breath, reflux, sciatica pain, restless sleep, swollen feet etc etc: Ok, so I know that none of these are very fun.  Heck, some of them are downright painful.  And I do complain about them from time to time.  But I really am trying to focus on being thankful for getting to experience the pains of pregnancy.  And if I could just get one stretch mark, I’d be over the moon (Yes, you read that right, I want a stretch mark.  After all, it’s the true mark of pregnancy and a sign that you made it to the end).

I’ve also been thinking these past five weeks about what I’m most scared of.  With Everett, we didn’t have time to process everything that happened...all our fears  surrounding his birth, his prognosis, his future...until he was home and real life resumed.  It has taken years to work through it all; to feel every emotion, express it, and deal with it.  This time, especially with being off work, I have a lot of time for my mind to wander.  So I thought I’d also make a list of the things that scare me the most.  

I’m terrified of...

  1. Another NICU stay:  Ok, we are prepared for another NICU stay.  But that doesn’t mean that the fear doesn’t still keep me up at night sometimes.  With each passing week, this fear gets smaller, but even healthy, term babies sometimes end up in the NICU.  I really, really, really don’t want to go back there.  And I can’t even imagine the logistics of caring for Everett, while recovering from surgery, and trying to meet the needs of a sick newborn.  Plus, the baby would be hospitalized at a different facility from where we are planning to deliver.  It just would suck...no other words for it.   
  2. Breastfeeding: When it comes to pumping, I’m a pro.  I did it for Everett for almost five months, and while it was tedious at times, I’m thankful that my body produced milk.  I know breastfeeding can be challenging.  I’m nervous about the whole process.  But I have many friends who are champion breastfeeders and I will be looking to them for support.  
  3. Post-Partum Depression: I’ve never really touched on my struggles with post-partum depression publicly, but those very close to me know that I went a little “nuts” while Everett was hospitalized.  Things got pretty bad and I ended up needing an anti-depressant for a few years after his birth.  It was a time in my life that was very, very dark and took a lot of effort from our whole family to get through.  Being in that vulnerable place is something I never want to experience again.  
  4. Everett becoming a sibling: Everett is not only the center of our world, but he also gets a lot of attention because of who he is and how he was born.  He’s such a sweet boy but he’s very used to getting what he wants, when he wants it.  His world is about to get rocked, big time.  I’m hoping the transition from only child to big brother will be smooth (as smooth as it can be right?)  We’ve started talking to him about getting a brother, but I don’t think he will really grasp what it means until the baby is here.  
  5. Being a first-time mom...again: This is a biggie!  Yes, I’ve had a baby and I’ve cared for a newborn...kinda.  Everett came home at almost six months old.  While he weighed only six pounds, he could hold his head up, he didn’t have an umbilical cord stump, he was medicated for reflux and gas (and any other newborn ailment you could imagine), he was all sorted out on fortified breast milk/formula, he slept through the night (yes, he slept through the night from the first night), we had had six months of getting to know his personality, and I had about a million people dedicated to his care that were only a phone call away for advice and support.  This time, we will be flying solo with a baby we just met.  I’m scared of the true newborn phase.  I honestly can’t remember a night when Everett has ever kept us awake...seriously.  We got adequate sleep from the beginning.  The exhaustion came from the doctor and therapy appointments (and catching up from a six month emotional nightmare).  My saving grace, I keep telling myself, is that at least I work nights, so I know I can stay up.  But I also have so much more responsibility in my life now, and those needs will have to be met, whether I’ve had good sleep or not.  And what will those needs be?  Like I said, it all makes me nervous.
  6. Loving another child as much as I love Everett: I just can’t fathom this.  I love my first born SO DARN MUCH!  I hope I love my last born just as much.  

Overall I’m feeling pretty good.  My cervix is still holding and while I’ve begun to feel some new sensations in my belly, my doctor assures me that everything seems normal.  We continue to be thankful for all the love and support we’ve received from all of you.  We are so blessed in so many ways and we try to be ever appreciative.  We hope each of you has an equally blessed holiday surrounded by the love of family and friends.  

Merry Christmas!


The Bollinger Family  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Maternity Photo Slideshow...

We are the luckiest…



Thank you to Two Happy Lambs Photography for so beautifully and emotionally capturing this moment in our lives. We love you!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Days Forward...

Dear Family and Friends,

Zac woke me up at 12:01 this morning with the words, “Honey...we made it,” followed by one of the biggest sighs that I’ve ever heard come out of my husband.    We are now the most pregnant we’ve ever been...25 weeks and 5 days.  Thank you God!!!

Yesterday was a day for the history books (well, our history books anyway).  It took most of my strength to get out of bed and if it had not been a Sunday, and Zac’s only day off this weekend, I think I would have been content to stay there.  As silly as it sounds, being upright just made me feel like I was tempting this baby to fall out.  But for the sake of Everett, our routine can't stop because Zac and I are feeling scared and emotional.  He still needs to be fed and entertained and disciplined and loved.  Those needs keep the schedule going and keep us from getting lost in the dark thoughts that could so easily consume us.  We did all that we would normally do, while watching the minutes tick by on the clock, ever ready for the day to just be over.  Finally, with a huge sigh of relief, it was.
From all the talking I’ve done with fellow micro-preemie moms, things should get easier from now on.  Each day forward is a bonus we didn’t get with Everett and we already know that just 12 more hours in the womb can make a big difference in outcome.  With each passing day, we hope to gain more confidence that this baby will be born healthy.  With each passing day, more “ifs” and “maybes” should be replaced with “whens” and “wills.”  I’m SO looking forward to that.  

My cervix continues to hold at a normal length and I’ve had no signs of preterm labor (KNOCK ON WOOD).  For those of you who have seen me in person, you can attest that I look totally different than when carrying Everett.  I look pregnant...something that never really happened with him.  We are finding reassurance in each pound of weight gained and in my ever-growing belly.  I’ve only made three extra trips to my doctor’s office for feeling uneasy about symptoms.  I think that’s pretty darn good for all we’ve been through :-)  

We thank you all for your many prayers and good thoughts for us during this pregnancy.  We know it is partly because of them that we’ve been able to get this far.  We continue to pray that we will get to go the full distance.  On Thursday, our doctor informed us that at our next appointment, we will pick out this baby’s birthday.  Just the thought brings tears to my eyes.  February can’t come fast enough.  

Love, 


The Bollinger Family



Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Dreams Are Made Of...


Dear Family and Friends,

When your child is born on the cusp of viability, as parents, you don’t dare to dream about the possibility of normalcy.  At times it feels like such an unattainable goal anyway, a tease of sorts, that you just push it out of your mind.  In the beginning, all your attention is focused on keeping your child alive, making life and death decisions for them, in hopes that they will have the best chance at a quality life.  Then, your child comes home and your day-to-day work with them begins; not only are you responsible for meeting their basic needs as an infant but you are also participating in daily therapy aimed at correcting problems and catching them up to their peers.  As time goes on, your child progresses and you are SO thankful for that.  You develop a profound appreciation for milestones, as if you are witnessing a miracle with each roll, crawl forward, word said and letter learned.  But as your child progresses, so do their peers, and sometimes watching kids born after your child hit milestones well in advance of yours can knock the wind out of you.  You learn to smile and applaud and gush while hiding your own anxiety and fears that your child may never accomplish the same things.  It isn’t that you go through life all doom-and-gloom, but you do often find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop, because experience tells you that it often does.  Then one day, when you least expect it, the dreams that you never dared to entertain come true, and your miracle child enters the realm of normalcy.

Everett graduated from his final interventional therapy, speech therapy, program on Monday.  YAY YAY YAY!!!  After four years of therapy aimed at catching him up to his peers, he has finally arrived.  We are so excited and proud and grateful.  He has worked so hard.  We have worked so hard.  And to see all that effort pay off is the stuff of our dreams.  I attended his final IEP (Individualized Education Plan) on Monday and found myself extremely emotional as I recounted all the interventions he’s endured.  For the past four years, we have participated in weekly therapies (PT, OT, Speech).  There were days that were easy and days that were hard.  There were days that he didn’t want to do it, days when he didn’t want to be messed with, days when I was so fatigued with the whole process too.  Then there were days when he did something AMAZING, when he hit a new milestone, and it all seemed worth it.  And then there were days like Monday, when our dreams came true! 

As I sat with his therapists, signing the graduation papers, I found myself trying to tell them what a big deal this is for us.  I suddenly had tears streaming down my face as I told them that I was in awe of this little boy who has defied every odd that was given to him.  They teared up too as I thanked them for helping him become the best version of himself and for putting up with a mom who has learned to advocate (sometimes loudly) for her son.  While I know the road ahead could still be paved with difficulty (he’s still at risk for learning disabilities), in this moment, our little man is our hero and we couldn’t be happier with the life we are so blessed to be living.  

With Abundant Pride,

The Bollinger Family



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Everett Turns Four...


A letter to my son on his fourth birthday...



My Dearest Everett,

When I look back at this year of your life, I will remember it as the beginning of your independence.  This year you began to spread your wings and even took those first few flights out of our loving nest.  And you have soared...really soared.  

Your first major step toward independence was potty training.  A process that took SEVEN months in total, you dug your heels in the harder Daddy and I tried to push you.  You made your sentiments known by peeing everywhere but the toilet (walls, towels, floors, rugs, the bathtub, in the air, on us) as we struggled to figure things out.  But we did eventually figure them out...bribing you with Hot Wheels cars for making your deposits in the proper place.  By the end of June, you had earned 100+ cars and our household was diaper-free.  

Of course, we were pushing potty training because of another major step in your independence...preschool.  Daddy and I found the perfect environment for you and your first day was in mid August.  You walked into that school and never looked back.  Daddy and I walked out fighting back tears.  By all accounts, you are a sweet student.  You play with anyone and everyone.  You share freely, say “please” and “thank you” without prompting, and are affectionate with your teachers.  You have a hard time sitting still sometimes but you love to learn.  You know the entire alphabet (upper and lower case) with sounds and corresponding animals.  You know all your colors, shapes, and numbers to 20.  You can recite countless songs, books, and movie lines.  You hate art and stickers.  

Your body has brought you more independence as you’ve seemed to develop some finer coordination.  You run now, really run.  You no longer require much help to access play equipment.  And a huge change this year is that you like to try new things by yourself to see if you can succeed.  You have amazing upper body strength; you do full chin ups at gymnastics with your body in an almost vertical position.  Your core is still weak so you have a hard time sitting criss-cross for a prolonged period of time.  But that never holds you back.  You are a natural swimmer...or more like you naturally think you can swim.  You have NO FEAR of the water.  Just last week you took your first unassisted strokes across the pool.  I hope this is the beginning of a life long love of the water.  

Your language has also brought you independence as you can really tell us what you want now (and we can even understand you too).  You talk constantly...CONSTANTLY.  Your sentence length has more than doubled this year, starting at three words and now averaging eight to nine words.  You tell us what you want, what you think, what you do and do not want to do.  You make up stories and songs.  You refer to everyone as a “he.”  You are always concerned with how those around you are feeling, with a common questions being, “Mama, are you happy?”  I write down the things you say that I want to remember forever and put them into a jar.  My favorite was when we asked you if you’d prefer a brother or a sister and you replied, “No, I want a puppy.”  Oh, you’re going to be so disappointed.  
Independence suits you.  You have found your voice, your opinion, and are no longer afraid to ask/demand what you want.  You make your own decisions.  And what I love the most about watching that process is that the undertones of your sweet personality shine through in everything you do.  This has really been a year of seeing who you are going to become...our first glimpse of the person you are growing into.  We have loved every moment watching you discover who you are.  As you spread your wings even wider next year, Daddy and I will be beside you for every flight.  We can’t wait to see what your future holds.  Happy 4th birthday little man!!!  

Love,

Mama and Daddy



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Healthy Baby Blessings With a Side of Anxiety...


Dear Family and Friends,

Zac and I had our anatomy ultrasound last Monday.  It’s the big one where the technician checks the baby for defects, anomalies, and takes measurements of all his/her body parts.  For those of you who have done one recently, you can understand how nerve wracking it can be.  Especially since we didn’t opt for any early testing, seeing our beautiful baby very much healthy and typical was a HUGE relief.  He/she got the award for wiggliest baby of the day and while they did eventually see everything they needed to, this baby gave them a run for their money.  For myself, who has been feeling super frequent baby kicks for over a month now, it all makes sense.  This kid is active!

As you might have gleaned, we don’t know the gender...yet.  Being the HUGE planners that we are, we of course want to know.  But we are waiting to reveal this baby’s gender at Everett’s birthday party next Saturday.  We wanted ourselves and our families to find out together.  So a close friend has the envelope with the baby’s “goods” and Everett will open a present, prepared by her, with either pink or blue balloons.  It’s going to be awesome!  Another reason we chose to wait to find out (we’ve been waiting almost six weeks since our doctor said he knew) was because we really wanted to appreciate that this baby is healthy.  Going through our journey with Everett, we learned that gender really isn’t what is important.  Health is of utmost concern.  We just wanted some extra time to focus on that blessing before getting caught up in everything pink or blue.  So what do we think it is?  Our money is on blue.  My mom and several close friends are feeling pink.  Either way, we will be given what we are meant to have...we couldn’t be happier either way.  And that’s the honest truth :-)  

I am 20 weeks along now and we shall lovingly refer to the next six weeks as the “we are absolutely terrified” part of this pregnancy.  In this last week our anxiety levels have skyrocketed.  We are entering the period when an incompetent cervix (if that’s the problem) would manifest itself.  But so far everything is looking great!  We are also getting close to the window of “viability” for this baby.  Our local NICU will attempt to resuscitate a baby at 22 weeks gestation per the desires of the parents.  At 24 weeks gestation, every baby is given a chance.  That window of 22-24 weeks is a timeframe that couldn’t come and go fast enough.  We’ve discussed what our plans would be if this baby came that early, but I can’t even imagine having to actually make those decisions.  And part of me hates that, given our history, these are conversations we have to have.  Yuck!  

In addition to our general anxiety, Everett’s birthday is coming up next Thursday.  Our little man will be FOUR years old (how did that happen???).  Everett’s birthday has always been a day of emotional dichotomy.  But newly added is that our miscarriage happened on Everett’s birthday last year.  Yup...how’s that for timing?  So October 10th was and continues to be a bittersweet day for us.  We are hoping this year, the day involves nothing but happy smiles from our little man and a whole lot of cake.  

Zac confessed yesterday that he’s been thinking a lot about the NICU.  He was in LA for work and anytime we are down there, CHLA seems to call out to us.  Zac actually drove there by accident/habit once a year ago on his way to training.  He made it into the parking lot before he realized that CHLA wasn’t his intended destination.  It’s been on my mind too.  While we, of course, prepared ourselves that having another NICU experience might be in our future, I think it is finally sinking in that we really could end up back there. Just typing that makes me nauseous.  I told my doctor yesterday that I thought we were more prepared than this.  But now that we are in the thick of “possibilities,” it’s all just a little overwhelming.  I knew it would be hard to carry another baby, but I never imagined it would be this hard.  We are really trying to stay positive...and the vast majority of time we are exceedingly hopeful.  But the tight rope between hopeful and realistic can be a hard line to walk. 

All this being said, any prayers and good thoughts in the coming weeks are much appreciated by us and our families.  We are all stressed (grandparents included) and will be sticking close to home and to each other.  We are keeping the hope, faith and love.  Life, as always, is good.

With Anticipation,

The Bollinger Family   






Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Prayers of My Heart...


Dear Family and Friends,

I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly religious person...at least not in a formal way.  I am more spiritual I suppose.  I believe in God and ever since Everett, I have had a closer relationship with Him.  I pray daily, several times a day, and when I have a life decision to make, I often find myself turning to Him for guidance.  There are events that happened with Everett that could not be explained by anything (in our opinion) other than the intervention of God.  And I’ve never forgotten that feeling of being in awe of His power.  

Our decision to get pregnant again relied heavily, for me anyway, on my belief that God has a plan for my life...and not just any plan but a plan for my benefit.  I understand now that the benefits aren’t always readily seen and sometimes they can take years to manifest themselves.  Reflecting on the past three years, we have had some times of incredible suffering and challenge.  But we’ve also had many times of immense joy and triumph.  Those triumphs would not have come if not for the challenges.  I can see how every aspect of my life has been improved by not only Everett, but by the struggles we had to keep him.  If not for him being born the way he was, I think Zac and I would be very different parents.  I think we would lack patience and would possibly focus on achievement rather than appreciation.  I would not know the direction for my career, we might not live in our current home, and we would not have some of the enduring friendships that have been born from everything Everett.  Years later, I see why he had to be who he is.  I understand it.  I accept it.  And I really feel every part of the long journey was to our benefit.  

With this baby, we decided pre-conception that we did not want any genetic testing.  Then when the time came to make the decision, I waffled a little as the fear of the unknown crept in.  But Zac lovingly reminded me that results of tests wouldn’t change our decision in moving forward.  So we decided to focus on the joys of this pregnancy and deal with challenges if or when they arose.  Getting to that point of surrender was hard.  But I’ve come to realize, it isn’t about what I want or how I’ve pictured my life.  It isn’t even about what I think I deserve.  It is about what I need...what I was meant to have.  And so my daily prayers for this baby always begin with thanking God for the opportunity and then asking Him to grant us the “perfect” child for our family.  I don’t ask for the “perfect” child in the sense of a child without defects, free of delays or anomalies.  I don’t even ask for a boy or a girl, for blue eyes or blonde hair.  I simply pray that the child we receive is one that fits who we are and where our lives are going...the one that is meant for our family.

All of life is an act of faith.  If you really think about it, there is precious little that is in our control.  I chose to relish in the belief that I will not be given any challenge that I am not equipped to handle.  I chose to focus on the thought that in every situation, no matter how dire or life-shattering, there is a benefit and a reason if you look hard enough to find it.  Understanding this helps take some of the fear away, helps shift the burden to someone else.  Nothing happens in life without immense purpose.  We’ve just got to keep the faith.  

With Heartfelt Prayer,

The Bollinger Family

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Our "Stay Pregnant" Plan...


Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for the many congratulations and well-wishes!  It has been genuinely fun telling those we love about this pregnancy :-)  The tears of joy, shouts of excitement, and messages of congratulations are all things which we find sincerely endearing!  They give us further proof that we have never been and will never be alone in this journey.  Some of you have expressed your own anxiety for us in this new chapter, which we also find sincerely endearing!  We are anxious too!  For your own peace of mind, know that Zac and I chose this journey with eyes wide open.  We are aware that there are no guarantees and that in the end, we might not end up with another child.  That’s just our reality.  However, we have a good plan in place and have every hope of going full term and creating a beautifully healthy little life :-)

The “Stay Pregnant” plan actually started many months ago after our miscarriage.  As I mentioned before, it was a complicated miscarriage which resulted in a prolonged wait time to try to conceive again.  It was a blessing (of sorts) because it bought us time to run tests that could not have been done while I was pregnant.  The results of those tests have pointed to nothing specific...nothing.  Also, because our current doctor is not the doctor who delivered Everett (we decided to change practices with our last pregnancy), it has been hard for him to determine what really happened because he wasn’t there.  Long story short, all our anatomy and genetics and blood counts are normal.  To quote our doctor, “I believe Everett was a total fluke.”  

That’s not to say we aren’t taking precautions.  The two major culprits that fit the symptoms I experienced with Everett are preterm labor and an incompetent cervix.  The two often go hand-in-hand so it can be hard to tell which came first.  I will start treatment to prevent preterm labor next week.  This involves taking weekly injections of the hormone Progesterone, which is responsible for relaxing the uterus and helping prevent it from contracting.  The injections will continue until week 37.  

As for the cervix, we’ve been monitoring that from the start with ultrasounds to check the length.  In an incompetent cervix (lovely term isn’t it?), the cervix shortens and opens prematurely due to a lack of strength to carry the weight of the baby.  If this happens, a stitch (called a cerclage) can be placed up to week 20 to help reinforce the cervix.  Many doctors would elect to place a cerclage in a patient with my history.  However, a cerclage in itself can cause miscarriage, infection, and preterm labor.  So we’ve opted to monitor and observe and place one only if symptoms arise.  

Most everyone has been asking about my work.  While lifting, standing on your feet, and prolonged shifts are not proven to cause preterm delivery, I had been experiencing early symptoms that work was possibly becoming too physical for my body.  At our last appointment, our doctor decided to err on the side of caution and has written me out until the baby is born.  To say we are relieved is an understatement!  For me, I know my anxiety level quadrupled on those nights I had to work...always wondering if something I was doing as part of my job could be endangering the health of this baby.  Because our doctor couldn’t guarantee that is was safe for me to be there, we decided this was the best course of action.  I am not on bed rest and likely will not be.  But I am taking it easy, very easy...not lifting Everett, resting frequently, and listening to my body more than I ever have.  We want to give this baby the best chance to make it to term.  That involves some sacrifices that we are totally willing to make.  As I’ve said many times, we’ve lived the alternative.  This is nothing in comparison.  

I want to close by saying that our doctor also told us that a huge component of the success of this pregnancy is hope.  Yes, just like the doctors at CHLA told us with Everett...hope is the best thing, the most influential thing we can do.  So...

We hope this pregnancy goes full term.  
We hope this baby is healthy.  
We hope that the desires of our hearts will be realized.  
We hope that all of you are hoping the same things with us.

With Hope,

Zac, Sara and Everett  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Question of More...




Dear Family and Friends,

There is hardly a day that goes by that I am not asked whether Zac and I will be having more children.  Sometimes the question is posed conversationally from a patient at work or occasionally from an acquaintance.  Most of our close friends don’t ask.  I think they know that for us, it isn’t a simple yes or no answer.  It is, of course, a valid question.  Most people we know are having second, and even third, children.  And our siblings are now adding children to their families (YAY!).  It seems like if there was a right time now would be it.

But for us, it isn’t as simple as timing.  For a long time, Zac and I considered ourselves to be a “one and done” sort of couple.  Having Everett the way we did scared us...A LOT!  So much so that we’ve spent the better part of the past three years being thankful that he survived and grateful for all he’s accomplished.  We lucked out with Everett and we know it.  Through our own experience and that of other friends, we know that ANY healthy baby is a miracle!  There are so many things that can go wrong along the way, so much that is totally out of our control.  Surrendering ourselves to the unknown was just something we were not prepared to do.  And that’s how we felt for a very long time.  

Then somewhere in the past year, something shifted.  Maybe it was because things in our lives have settled.  Everett is doing amazingly well and while we still have an activity/therapy every day, I am not so obsessed with catching him up to his peers.  The repercussions of his birth have settled too and we are in a really good place physically, financially, emotionally, and in our marriage.  We’ve worked very hard to find our “new normal” and I think both Zac and I feel like we aren’t reacting to life anymore...but rather are enjoying it.  We subtly found ourselves having more and more conversations about having more.   As we talked we discovered more reasons “why to” than “why not.”  Just as time heals all wounds, it also heals all fears and I think Zac and I could finally see that the risk might be worth the benefit.  Suddenly we found ourselves really, really excited at the possibility of welcoming another child into our family.  

All this being said, Zac and I are pleased to announce that we are expecting Baby Bollinger #2, due (HOPEFULLY!) February 19, 2014!  Now 14 weeks pregnant, we and our families have known of our expectant addition for some time.  However, we have been reluctant to share our news because we had a complicated miscarriage last fall.  More on that at a later date, but suffice it to say we are ever more appreciative for this pregnancy and the hope of bringing a new life into our family.  

There are so many reasons why this baby is so desired.  Our biggest motivation is that Zac and I do not want Everett to be an only child.  I think there is a bond between siblings that no one else can compare; that a sibling is the one person who understands, without explanation, where you came from.  Add to that the lessons of sharing and selflessness...we are excited for the life skills Everett will learn.  Another motivation is that we don’t want Everett’s birth to be the end of our child-bearing experience.  We desperately desire to know what it feels like to hold a newborn just minutes after birth, to hear a first cry, to breastfeed, to introduce Everett to his little brother or sister.  We desire the normalcy that so many others take for granted.    

That isn’t to say that we aren’t aware that things could end up just as they did before.  But what we didn’t know then, is that we are strong enough to handle it.  We’ve “been there, done that,” and if God desires us to do the task again, we are up for the challenge.  We have faith that we can deal with whatever blessings we are given, knowing that there is always a bigger part to the plan than the moment we are in.  But for now, we choose to bask in the opportunity of getting to love another child as much as we love Everett.  

With cautious excitement,

Zac, Sara, Everett + 1 more

P.S.  I’m sure you’re wondering if we have a plan to keep this baby “cooking.”  Don’t worry...we do.  More on that next time.


Everett's First Day of Preschool!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where We Are Now...

Dear Family and Friends,

There is hardly a day that I’m at work, that one of my coworkers doesn’t ask about how Everett is doing.  In fact, just last week, a “day shifter” from another unit stopped me in a staff meeting to ask after him.  I am always very touched by this...that after these three years, people still remember and think about him.  I also ran into an old friend just after the holidays who was kind enough to tell me how much she enjoys reading updates on Everett.  She said they not only help her keep tabs on our entire family, but that she also loves to hear about how he is progressing.  This also touched my heart and inspired me to write this new update.  I never know if I am boring/annoying people with these.  But for me, these updates serve many purposes.  Firstly, they are Everett’s “baby book,” since no other baby book really fits him anyway.  Secondly, they are a place for my thoughts and feelings, a place for reflection and appreciation.  They help me remember how far we’ve come and how much we have to be thankful for.  

Everett is 3 years 3 months.  On his third birthday, he aged out of all his therapy programs and we had to say good-bye to Marla (his Child Development Specialist) and Kate (his physical therapist).  It was difficult to let them go.  They’ve both been with us since Everett came home.  These women have been such a part of our daily routine that it feels like something is out of place.  I’ve always called them my “baby manual,” but joking aside, that’s what they are.  They guided me through every big milestone of the past three years and to be suddenly cut-off from them has been hard.  Of course that isn’t to say that we don’t still talk and text.  I’m afraid they are with us for life, just like Everett’s nurses and doctors.  But I do miss seeing their smiling faces each week.  

Marla, Everett, and Kate



The loss of Marla and Kate has left Everett’s continued therapy needs up to Zac and I to fulfill.  We knew that this was how it was going to be.  Everett was assessed right before his birthday and he was at actual age or above actual age in every category except gross and fine motor skills (where he is at a 24 month level) and speech (where he is at age level but is still lacking proper utilization of language) .  Therefore, he didn’t qualify for continued therapy through Tri-Counties Regional Center (that’s who’s been providing his therapy all this time).  So we started to traverse other government programs looking for assistance.  The first place we tried was California Children’s Services, but it was determined that Everett’s deficiencies were not severe enough to qualify for their program.  So next we pursued therapy through our school district (which is allowed even though he’s not of school age).  We were accepted into the SNIP (Special Needs Intervention Program) Speech Therapy Program, which gives Everett 45 minutes of group speech therapy twice per week.  The class operates like a preschool of sorts, with almost a 2:1 ratio of children to teachers.  They work on word pronunciation, sentence structure, question and answers, logic, ABCs and 123s.  The kids range in age from 3-5 years old, some with co-existing challenges and some with just speech delays.  We’ve already seen improvements in just the three months he’s been going there.  The big change for me is that this program is NOT parent participatory.  Meaning, I just sit there and watch.  It’s been hard...very hard, seeing as I’ve been involved in all of Everett’s therapy since the beginning.  I have a difficult time watching the teachers interact with him in a way that is different from what we do at home or what Marla and Kate did when they were seeing him.  I often want to speak up for him, to let them know they are doing it “wrong,” but the goal has shifted from integrating Everett into our family to getting him ready for school.  So I am constantly reminding myself that the rules have changed.  I’ve also been having some difficulty in dealing with the teachers directly.  I think Marla and Kate knew how to handle me, knew my heart, and what it needed.  The new teachers don’t know me and I often find myself almost offended by what they have to say.  That probably isn’t fair to them as they are only doing their job, but I need things sugar-coated, I need to hear the good before the bad, otherwise I don’t hear anything.  I also need to feel empowered...I need to be given solutions and action plans to solve Everett’s issues, so that I can feel like I am able to help him.  Otherwise I just feel helpless.  And I can’t stand feeling helpless!  Like I said, it’s been hard.  

The other component of this has been attempting to find a physical therapist to work on Everett’s gross and fine motor development.  We were warned by Kate that this would be difficult.  There isn’t a lot to choose from here.  Everett’s physical needs weren’t severe enough to qualify him for physical therapy through the school district, so we’ve been pursuing physical therapy through our private insurance.  It has been slow going for the last three months.  We have an HMO plan so we had to be seen by therapists that our insurance contracted with, none of whom had experience in toddler physical therapy.  It has been really frustrating to go to these appointments, pay the copays, only to have the therapist tell me that they really don’t have the expertise to treat him.  Arg!  So, one day I pulled out the phone book and started calling every physical therapy business listed, asking if they employed a pediatric physical therapist.  Finally, one business gave me a reference to a therapy unit designed especially for special needs kids.  After speaking at length with the owner, all I can say is that this place is literally my dream come true for Everett!  They have a HEATED pool for aquatic gait training and a suspension jumping unit to help with jumping skills.  The owner has ex-27 week micro-preemie twins so she knows exactly where we are coming from.  What a breath of fresh air!!!  Now, the only barrier is that this company is, of course, out of our network.  So we are in the process of trying to get the therapy approved.  I know we are in for a fight.  But I’m used to fighting for the things I think Everett needs.  The owner told me that I may have to be a “Big B” to get the insurance to approve the charges.  I told her that when it comes to my kid and what he needs, I can be the “Biggest B” in the world!  I am just impatient to get him there.  I think it will help immensely with Everett’s running and jumping (two things he is still having difficulty with).  


As I think you can tell by the tone of this update, at times I find myself fatigued by all this therapy, assessments, appointments, and specialist opinions.  I think a part of me, maybe larger than I realize, thought that by now we would be on the “normal” track, that Everett would be caught up and things would be simpler.  After some deep thought, a few tears, and a harsh look at reality, I realize that we are probably always going to be walking the fine line between “normal” and needing extra help.  That’s not to say that we don’t think Everett isn’t an incredibly intelligent and active child.  This is obvious to us!  But I also think that things with Everett are never going to be easy.  I think we are always going to have to be watchful and vigilant about identifying areas where he might need help.  All this is ok, of course.  I’m willing to do any amount of therapy that he needs to help him lead a fulfilling life.  I just wish, if only for him, that he didn’t have to work so hard to achieve things that come so naturally to others.  I am starting to see his frustration now, his understanding that he can’t do some things like other kids do.  And at times it breaks my heart.  BUT, all these challenges are shaping him into this amazing person that he is going to become.  But for him, I sometimes just wish life was easy.  I don’t want it to come off as if I’m not appreciative because I know things could be so, so much harder.  Our troubles, when compared to many, are very insignificant indeed.  But I have my moments of feeling...tired...of hearing what is wrong with my child.  Like any mother, in my eyes, he is uniquely perfect!  


Our Christmas holiday was magical this year as Everett really understood about Santa Claus, christmas trees, presents, carols, and being good.  His excitement brought back all that childhood wonderment that seems to fade with age.  And we were blessed when I unexpectedly got Christmas eve off work! YAY!  We also hosted “Bollinger Family Christmas” for the first time, with 30 Bollingers at our house for the day.  It was a BLAST (until our septic tank backed up...yuck!).  The New Year found us ordering Everett a second pair of glasses which arrived today.  He actually wore them...really wore them with no issues, until about 5 o’clock when I walked into the living room to find them missing an arm.  They lasted all of six hours!  That has to be some kind of record.  So tomorrow, I will take them back and pray that our vision coverage has a warranty on them!


I hope this update finds all of you well and blessed in 2013.  We are always thankful for the many blessing we have in our lives, including each of you.

With Love,

The Bollinger Family