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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Reece Turns One...

A letter to my son on his first birthday

Dearest Reece,

I can hardly believe that a year has passed since you came rushing into this world.  When I think of our family, I can hardly remember a time without you in it and yet I still marvel at your newness.  Each day with you is a new adventure as you grow and change before our eyes…you have brought so much light to our world.  

From birth you have been an easy child with an observant temperament.  You enjoy watching the world around you with eyes that look much older than your one year of experience.  You take everything in.  Your eyebrows are extremely expressive and work independently from one another.  They are the most complimented part of you from strangers.  You, like your brother, seem to be an old soul. 

Everett is, by far, your favorite person to interact with.  You adore him!  It was for him that you laughed the first time and it is him that continues to make you laugh the most.  Hearing the two of you giggle together might be the best sound in the whole world.  You are obsessed with Everett’s toys and have absolutely no interest in your own.  This posses a problem as everything goes straight into you mouth.  We encourage Everett to leave his bedroom door closed as you’ve taken to destroying his toys while he’s at school.  The two of you already play like brothers…giggling one minute and screaming at each other the next.  But Everett has learned to be patient with you and often, when you steal his toys or hit him, he excuses your actions by saying, “It’s okay Brother Reece, you’re just a baby and don’t know better.”  We tell Everett how much you already look up to him.  I hope you grow up to have an unbreakable love.  

You can be feisty, often demanding your own way, especially with me.  With Daddy, you are more content and less prone to crying.  You are not easily distracted when you are focused on something you want.  You are a good sleeper who seems to thrive on a set schedule.  Your development has been typical, which we have found so joyously refreshing.  Your skills just seem to suddenly appear without us encouraging you to develop them.  You sat at five months, rolled at six months, crawled at nine months, and walking is on the horizon.  When new skills are emerging, you become fussier and more easily frustrated.  You are developing separation anxiety.  Your first word was “Mama.”

You are the definition of cute...with dimpled cheeks, rolls on your legs and a toothy smile.  Daddy and I could not have ever imagined how much we would love you.  You have brought so much joy and happiness and laughter to our family.  We have found so much calm in being your parents.  Daddy and I often talk about the dreams we have for you….but above all we desire you to know just how fiercely you are loved.  Happy 1st Birthday, my sweet prince!


Mama and Daddy

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The One We Lost...

Dear Family and Friends,

There was a baby between Everett and Reece…a boy actually.  In June of 2012, Zac and I decided to start trying and after several months we found out we were expecting.  We were thrilled and overwhelmed all at the same time.  

We found out we were pregnant at only three weeks.  From the beginning, the pregnancy felt as if it was in hyperdrive.  Morning sickness kicked in at just four weeks and by six weeks I was so sick and miserable.  By seven weeks I was already showing and by eight weeks I was taking prescription anti-nausea medication because I just couldn’t function! From the start, every symptom felt like it was exaggerated times ten compared to Everett.  But four good appointments with our new OB had us reassured that things were moving in the right direction.  

We took Everett to Disneyland for his birthday that year.  We had a doctor’s appointment the day before we left and the baby was measuring correctly with a strong heart beat.  We had a wonderful trip and came home reeling with memories of Everett’s first time at Disneyland.  However, with 45 minutes of getting home, I began to spot.  Nothing too alarming for a nurse with *some* obstetrical knowledge.  I felt so confident that it was nothing that I waited until the next day to call my doctor.  He reassured me that it probably was nothing but offered an ultrasound.  We met him in the afternoon.  Within 45 seconds of starting the ultrasound, Zac and I knew that something was wrong.  After a minute and a half of silence, our doctor announced that there was no longer a heartbeat.  I had miscarried and by his measurements, it had happened on Everett’s birthday :-(  I can remember apologizing to Zac, telling him that I just wasn’t good at making babies.  He, of course, said it wasn’t my fault.  We went home, devastated, and waited for nature to take its course.  

Nature never did take its course and after a week of calling in sick to work, we opted for a D&C.  The procedure went fine and the recovery was a breeze.  My doctor was pleased at the possibility of finding out why Everett came early so everything was sent for testing (something that doesn’t normally happen with a first miscarriage).  After about a week I was back to feeling like my non-pregnant self.  After two weeks, I went in for a follow up.  The doctor had the lab results and asked if I knew what a molar pregnancy was.  The only knowledge I could dredge up was a faint memory from nursing school that connected molar pregnancies with cancer.  Unfortunately, my memory served me right.  

We experienced a partial molar pregnancy, which is when a single egg is fertilized by two sperm at the same.  The chances of conceiving this way are less than 1% and it is generally thought to be a total fluke phenomenon.  Molar pregnancies rarely result in a viable baby as the child has three sets of chromosomes (one from the egg and one from each sperm).  They do, however, have up to a 20% chance of causing choriocarcinoma, a rare and extremely aggressive form of uterine cancer.  It is actually one of the most aggressive forms of cancer BUT is also one of the most treatable.

I left the appointment with a lab slip for bimonthly HCG blood draws to monitor for developing cancer cells.  In a molar pregnancy, the placenta quickly grows out of control and actually invades (and kills) the baby and surrounding tissue.  From there it can rapidly move on to the lungs and brain.  As the HCG (pregnancy hormone) rises at an abnormally rapid rate, grossly exaggerated pregnancy symptoms are often experienced (thus the early pregnancy test result, severe nausea etc).  The HCG also takes longer to leave the body after the miscarriage because of the invasive nature of the placenta.  Luckily, within eight weeks, my HCG was back to a normal level and I showed no evidence of cancerous cells in my blood.  But the monitoring would continue for six more months.  

During our monitoring wait time, I focused on projects to keep my mind off the possibility of getting cancer.  I revamped our household budget, our insurance, our retirement, re-landscaped, re-decorated, found a support group, lost18 pounds, got healthy, had drinks with friends, potty trained Everett and traveled a lot (we made four trips to Disneyland).  And, of course, I grieved the loss of our baby.

Toward the end of our wait Zac and I began talking about the possibility of trying again.  He was reluctant at first.  I think the possible cancer diagnosis scared him.  It scared me too...thinking that trying to have another child could take me away from the child I already had.  But after a lot of conversations and tears, we decided to try...just one more time.   

We spent the first 12 weeks of Reece’s pregnancy holding our breath.  The problem was, after a miscarriage, no part of a pregnancy feels like safe ground.  We had to worry about the beginning and the middle while hoping to make it to the end.  The statistics on miscarriage are 1 in 4 pregnancies.  When I look at our immediate group of friends, we fit the statistics perfectly.  It isn’t uncommon and the more you talk about it, the more couples you find who have been through it.  I try not to dwell on the sadness of the loss.  There are days of course, like when our due date came and went, that hurt.  Times when I see a baby that would have been his age that my heart aches a little for losing him.  But I try to remain ever thankful for my health, for my not getting cancer, for my not needing chemo, and for my retained ability to have more children (Reece wouldn’t be here otherwise!).   Some women with molar pregnancies end up requiring a hysterectomy.  In the end, I’m just so thankful we were able to have Reece and for my being here to enjoy my two beautiful boys.  


Friday, October 10, 2014

Everett Turns Five...

A letter to my son on his fifth birthday

Dearest Everett,

In this, the fifth year of your life, there has been so much change…probably the most change since the year you were born.  You’ve had your successes and your struggles, your good days and bad days, but through it all you’ve remained our loving “big, strong boy.”

This year you became a big brother.  A title hard-won for our entire family, the pregnancy and introduction of Reece took some major adjusting on your part.  I’m thankful that in the months leading up to his birth, you and I were able to spend most of our time together.  Being off of work allowed me to dedicate myself to your happiness almost completely.  And you loved every minute of having me home.  But you also had to quickly develop some physical independence as I wasn’t able to carry or lift you and many days were spent with me lying on the couch.  Your body kept up with your changing needs and you finally seem equal with your peers.  When Reece was born you seemed neither in love nor in distaste for him.  I called it indifference for the first six months of his life.  You were loving to him when we requested that you be, you were never aggressive or jealous, but I think you often forgot his presence in our household.  In the past few months though you’ve really started to blossom in your job as a big brother.  You can make Reece laugh like no one else can.  You devote time to showing him toys and talking about how the world works.  Reece already looks up to you; always watching you and trying to mimic your movements.  You love showing him off to your friends.  

With the birth of Reece came your stammer.  That stammer stole your voice for the better part of this year.  You’ve struggled with it most days since he was born.  Some days are good days, when your speech hardly catches and everything flows.  Some days are bad days, when you can barely get a sentence out and something that should take a few seconds to say takes a half minute or more.  You’ve been frustrated.  We’ve been frustrated.  We’ve tried to get you the help we thought you needed but overall, with stammers, it just takes time.  In the past few weeks, the stammer has abated and we have LOVED hearing your voice again.  We don’t know if this is something you will always struggle with.  So far it hasn’t made you different from other kids.  You have amazing friends who are patient and wait for you to say your words.  I’m so thankful for their kind and tolerant hearts.

You began formal school in August.  Because of when your birthday falls you qualified for a transitional kindergarten program.  The switch from preschool to regular school has been easy and hard.  It has been easy in that you love school, you made new friends quickly, and you are learning so much that sometimes I am surprised at what you already know.  It has been hard in that you miss Miss Cathi, your preschool teacher and often ask to visit her.  You also miss your old friends and you’ve struggled with the rigid rules that formal school requires.  Sitting still has always been difficult for you and your teacher has to remind you often to “calm your body.”  You also love to be the class clown and are often reminded to stop making silly faces or to stop singing (and dancing) in front of the class.  Your teacher adores you for your sweet temperament and your appreciation for praise.  You are always kind to your friends, are very willing to share, and are concerned when people are hurt or upset.  You play with everyone.

You continue to excel at swimming (which makes Mama’s heart so happy).  You can float and are almost able to keep from drowning.  You are working on your freestyle stroke and just dove head-first into the pool last week.  I find myself encouraging your love of the water, as so much of what I see in you reminds me of myself.  

In so many ways you’ve done so much growing up this year.  You are such a boy with increasing independence, it both excites me and pulls at my heartstrings.  We continue to be amazed and thankful for all that you accomplish.  You are magnificent.  And we love you, every part of you.  Happy 5th birthday to my big, strong boy.


Mama and Daddy

Friday, August 8, 2014

Falling In Love...

Dear Family and Friends,

I think most parents of multiple children would argue that they love each of their children equally.  I think most would say that the quantity and quality of the love they bear for each of their offspring is exactly identical.  I remember while being pregnant that everyone told me that my heart would grow to accommodate the love that I would have for our new baby...that rather than dividing what love I felt for Everett, new love would grow in spaces yet unused.  And all that is true.  But what I find isn’t true, or maybe just isn’t said, is that the type of love that a parent has for each of their children isn’t exactly the same.  Maybe it’s just my experience but I find myself loving my two boys differently.  While I think (and hope) the quantity and quality of love are the same, I know the emotions that go with loving each of them are as uniquely different as they are.  

The love I have for Everett is a primal love, born of my strong instinct to protect him.  I’m used to fighting for him, advocating for him, worrying for him, pushing him to be the best he can be.  It’s an intense love.  And for how intense it is, it is equally as vulnerable.  Because loving Everett, at least for the first few years of his life, came with the possibility of loss.  At times it was hard to fully open my heart to him because the possibility of losing him was so huge.  Call it self-protection, but there were always moments of reservation, seconds of holding my breath, and an unspoken knowledge that every day I loved him more, was one more day of hurt I’d have to endure if he died.  Thankfully, much of these emotions have faded with time, but he can still make my heart stop just by saying his stomach hurts.  And when he started stuttering after Reece was born, I found myself back in fighting mode, trying to get him the help I thought he needed.  I will always have a strong desire to care for him...maybe because he spent so much time being cared for by others.  My tendency is to do too much so that I’ll never have any regrets.  And my ultimate goal is that he knows just how immensely he is loved.  

Falling in love with Reece has been how I always imagined parenthood to be.  After the sleep-deprived fog of the first eight weeks lifted, I found myself completely enamored with this little butterball of a baby.  The love I have for Reece is an easy love, a peaceful love, a confident love.  Born of normalcy, my love for him is without fear or anxiety.  There is no questioning if milestones will be achieved and I’ve found calm in loving him.  I’m content to let him do things on his own and I’m less inclined to panic where he is concern.  I find myself more ready to play and less focused on outcome.  And I’m making a conscious effort to enjoy each moment of his “babyhood,” living in the moment instead of looking forward to the future.  I’m falling more in love each day and cannot imagine our lives without him.  

Until Reece, I never fully realized just how much normalcy we missed with Everett those first years.  I’m so, so thankful that in the story of our life, Everett came first.  I think the journey would have been exponentially harder if we had known how things could have/should have been.  Instead, we find ourselves ever grateful for both our boys, miracles in each of their own unique ways.  The love we bear for each of them is built from different foundations but carries equal strength in our hearts.  As they grow, I hope they learn to love one another as fiercely as we love each of them.  

With Growing Love,

The Bollinger Family

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Everett's Micro Marchers...

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been a dream of mine since Everett was discharged from the hospital to participate in a March of Dimes walk.  I’ve donated regularly to the organization since he was born, but I’ve always wanted to walk in his honor.  Something about putting feet to pavement sounds cathartic.  To be surrounded by families who have traveled the same road, shared the same thoughts, experienced the same fears all of which often separate you from “normal” parents...well, I’ve just always wanted to do it.  Unfortunately walks in our area have been hard to come by, as they are usually hosted in larger cities like Fresno, San Francisco, and LA.  That is until now!  

The March of Dimes is holding a test march in Arroyo Grande on May 31st at 9am.  If there is enough local interest, they will host a full march next year.  Our family (Reece included) will be walking in Everett’s honor.  The march will begin and end at the Clark Center.  It is an easy four mile course that you can walk or run.  All of the donations collected go directly to the March of Dimes and are put toward funding research in the battle against premature birth.  

On a side note, did you know that the March of Dimes is one of the top organizations researching solutions to preterm births?  And did you also know that without their research, Everett would not be alive today?  I say that because it was the March of Dimes organization that discovered the life-saving medication that Everett was given at birth.  It is called Surfactant and before it’s invention, micro-preemies like Everett rarely survived.  It is a drug which coats the lungs and helps them to open so that oxygenation can take place.  Everett received two doses of this medication in the moments following his birth and without it, his lungs would not have been able to breathe.  Because of this the March of Dimes holds a special place in our hearts :-)  

This is a no-pressure update.  I simply wanted to inform “Everett’s prayer warriors” that we will be marching in his honor.  We would be thrilled if you would like to join us.  If you would also like to make a secure, tax-deductible donation, you can do so on our team page via the link below.  Again 100% of all money raised goes straight to funding research.  But no pressure (really).  We are just excited to be fulfilling a dream that has been over four years in the making.  I’m so excited to march in his honor and even more proud to be his mama!


The Bollinger Family

Because one baby born too early
is one baby too many

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mothering My Boys...

Dear Family and Friends,

We are slowly settling in as a family of four.  Having two “littles” is definitely a learning curve...especially the newborn part, which is all new to us.  The first seven weeks were pretty challenging, if only because we really felt as if we didn’t know what we were doing!  With Everett, we had so many luxuries that we took for granted, so much that was already decided and taken care of before we took him home.  Contrast that to leaving the hospital with Reece, when both Zac and I were astonished that they just let you walk out with your tests, no training, no nothing but a “good bye, good luck, and enjoy those sleepless nights.”  Oh ya, those sleepless nights are new too.  

Thankfully, Reece, by all accounts, is an easy baby.  He doesn’t cry often.  When he does, it’s for a reason.  He’s rarely hysterical, most often his cry is a small, short wail that we interpret as if he’s trying to remind us that he’s there.  He’s mellow, like his daddy.  And he looks like his daddy too!  His eyes are blue, his hair is falling out, his complexion is olive, and he has an almost perfectly round face.  He’s advanced for his age.  I’m not saying that to brag but more as a “this is how normal development goes” kinda statement.  Our frame of reference on milestones is so skewed that when I saw him bat at a toy at five weeks old I was convinced that he was some type of baby genius :-)  But really, it’s been refreshing to watch him develop typically.  He is smiling, cooing, tracking, grasping, holding his head up, and is almost laughing.  He’s a great eater.  I call him “barracuda” because when he wants to eat, he gets all wide-mouthed and starts throwing his head from side to side.  His arms join in as his hands start to kneed, and the more frantic he gets the more snorting he does.  Just last week he started sleeping a good six to seven hours stretch each night (from 8:30pm-3:00am), followed by an additional three to four hours of sleep...thank goodness!

Reece’s only issues are reflux (aka GERD) and some food sensitivities.  Those two culprits are what made the first six weeks so hard.  We diagnosed him with reflux pretty much the day he was born (we recognized the symptoms from our experience with Everett) but the food sensitivities went unrecognized until about seven weeks old. After a really bad reflux flare, during which he turned blue a few times from holding his breath too long, we convinced our pediatrician to start him on a reflux medication.  At the same time, I was advised to stop eating dairy, soy and corn.  The medication and the diet changes helped tremendously!  He’s really been a different baby these past two weeks.  He was always very noisy; congested in his nose, constantly grunting, and the reflux had him frequently gasping for air.  Now he no longer grunts, he’s rarely congested, and while he still refluxes several times a day, he hasn’t turned blue in weeks.  We also have him sleeping in a reflux sling, designed and used by NICU doctors.  It allows us to safely elevate the head of his crib 30 degrees to assist with the reflux.  It’s been a life saver!  He is so much more comfortable.  The reflux and the food sensitivity are both issues that he should outgrow as early as 12 weeks old.  But for now we are making it work, although I really, really miss cheese :-)  

Everett has been adjusting well overall.  He’s incredibly affectionate toward Reece, always giving him kisses, telling him goodnight, and introducing him to people as “brother Reece.”  The first two weeks he was rather mad at me...wouldn’t hug or kiss me, would not tell me he loved me.  It nearly broke my heart, but we knew to expect it.  He eventually got over it.  But also around the same time as Reece was born, Everett began stuttering/stammering.  We couldn’t exactly determine if one came after the other but it all seemed very coincidental.  At first, he just stammered with Zac and I.  His sentences would go something like “I-I-I-I need-need-need-to-to-to-to-to go potty.”  But it quickly progressed to stammering with all adults but not with kids or animals (weird, I know).  Then, three weeks ago it peaked with him being unable to get anything out, so he just stopped talking altogether.  We had been trying to handle it ourselves, encouraging him to breathe, think, relax, and we even just tried to ignore it for a while.  When he stopped talking, I knew we needed a professional evaluation.  Of course, by the time we got to his appointment, he wasn’t doing it anymore.  As fiercely as it came on, is as quietly as it went.  He woke up from a nap and the stammer was gone.  The speech therapist gave us a book on stuttering and a list of dos and don’ts (we had been doing all the don’ts) and she told us that this is his reaction to stress.  Because language is his weakest area that’s where his stress manifests.  We can expect it to return when he starts Transitional Kindergarten in the fall.  But because it’s a stammer, not a stutter, and because it resolved in eight weeks, and because he doesn’t have blocking, which is the facial twitching that goes along with stutters, she thinks it won’t be a permanent condition.  Watching him struggle to speak just about broke Zac and I.  Knowing that it was caused by something we did to him (having Reece) tore at my heartstrings.  Add to that post-partum hormones and mommy guilt, well, it was enough to make me feel like an awful mother.  Especially when everything else was spinning so out of control, to have Everett not be that touchstone of normalcy and predictability was hard.  Anyway, I’m glad those weeks are behind us.  We’ve been falling in love with Reece more every day and can hardly remember life before he came.  

I return to work the second week of June; still part-time, still night shift.  By then I will have been off a total of 10 months.  And while I didn’t enjoy being home at first, I find myself very thankful to have had this time to focus so exclusively on my boys.  It will be hard to go back, but me not working just isn’t an option for us.  

Our boys continue to be as opposite an experience as their births were.  I find myself contrasting (not comparing) them a lot.  For every experience we mourned with Everett, we’ve been able to rejoice experiencing it with Reece.  And even more, now I look at Everett and realize just how far behind he was and how hard he had to work to overcome his prematurity...well, I just beam with pride for both my sons.  We have been so blessed with them.  And I wonder when I will get used to saying my “sons” because I’m still not used to hearing it :-)

Happy Easter!

The Bollinger Family

One Month Old

Two Months Old

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


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 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!


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 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.  


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