Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Grayson's first three weeks

& first hospitalization

coming home from the hospital

Grayson was born on Monday night. We came home from the hospital on Wednesday morning.

our tiny little guy!


at Grayson's first doctor's appointment

on Friday my mom & I made cookies  
which meant that I sat in the sunshine of the kitchen and took pictures of Grayson on my phone and read the recipe while my mom made the cookies.

My mom went home on Saturday.

We took a drive on Sunday
Daniel took this picture over the weekend

Monday - Grayson turned one week and we had our first day back to "normal"

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithrphotog) on

Tuesday - we spent most of the day on the couch. In the afternoon I noticed that Grayson felt a little bit warm. I took his temperature and it was already 101.5(f) any fever in a baby this little is worth worrying about so we called a friend to come watch the kids and Daniel & I took Grayson to the Emergency Room. But Grayson wasn't displaying any other symptoms and his temperature was going up and then coming back down, then going back up again - so we were sent home. I took Grayson back to the ER around 11pm on Tuesday night. His fever high enough that this doctor decided to do a few tests just to see what was going on.


They drew blood, put in an IV, and took a urine sample. It took several tries for them to get enough blood for their tests. It was pretty rough, but Grayson was really calm, or when he did cry he would calm down again quickly. Unfortunately his urine sample came back with white blood cells in it which meant a urinary tract infection which meant that they needed to do a lumbar puncture to rule out an infection in the spinal column. The spinal tap was not as bad as I thought it would be - the emergency room doctor was concerned that Grayson didn't cry more during the procedure but I was thankful he didn't scream the whole time. It was awful enough without that. I basically just stood in the corner, praying and hoping I would not pass out. Grayson was started on antibiotics while we waited to be transferred to the children's hospital.



We spent Wednesday at the Children's Hospital - we were told we would spend a minimum of 48 hours in the hospital, until the blood cultures were finished being processed.

That was really hard to hear. I was not prepared to spend that much time away from my family and it was pretty scary having my baby hospitalized and not being there for my other kids.  I never thought I'd see the day when I would miss homework time - but I really did! Daniel & Eli came to visit us in the hospital and I cried when I saw them. I hated how much stress I knew this would put on all of the kids, but especially Eli. I called my mom and she came back to help us out.

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithrphotog) on

My friend Olivia brought me some breakfast, a tall coffee and a big hug. She had been at this hospital for three days with her son and knew a lot of what I was going through. It was so nice to see her! Daniel got the day off so he was able to come see me.

Daniel & Grayson
On Thursday we got more bad news - the blood cultures were testing positive for bacteria, we had to wait 24 hours more to know exactly which bacteria it was but they said it was something from the urinary tract infection which meant that the infection was in his blood stream. The doctor told us this meant a minimum of  5-7 days of antibiotics in the hospital. Daniel & I basically sat next to each other in stunned silence. How would our family cope? My mom had only come expecting to stay for 48 hours more or less. Daniel couldn't take another week off of work after just coming off of a week of paternity leave.


On Thursday Grayson got an ultrasound of his kidneys (called a renal ultrasound) they also took more blood to see if the antibiotics were working. I met one of the urology residents on Thursday night. He told me that Grayson's kidneys were a little bit dilated and that he had grade 3 hydronephrosis. Eli had this also, he had grade 4 hydronephrosis and so he had a bunch of tests but didn't have reflux and had good kidney function so he has just been monitored, and he's mostly grown out of it. The urologist resident explained that it was likely that Grayson had reflux and that this was probably at least part of the cause for his urinary tract infection.


Late Thursday night Grayson had a catheter placed in him. That was pretty much the most awful thing - for one thing because it was a surprise, for another because I don't handle stressful situations at midnight as well as I do at other times in the day. I sat on my little sleeping couch and cried right along with Grayson. It was a long night after that trying to make sure that all of Grayson's tubes and wires didn't get pulled. 

Mommy & Grayson
On Friday I met the urologist for the first time, he was really nice. Grayson had a follow-up renal ultrasound and had his VCUG to test for kidney reflux. It took two hours to get all of the images that they needed. I didn't even try to watch the tests I just helped Grayson suck his thumb so that he wouldn't cry through the tests. As soon as the test was over the radiologist turned to me and says "he has severe kidney reflux" it was immediate, it was definitive but I was just relieved that Grayson wouldn't need more tests. At this point I would have been surprised if he did not have some reflux.

But I was not prepared for what would happen next... not at all.


After Grayson's visit downstairs to radiology we came back to our room and got settled. The pediatrician came back to see me once he saw the results of Grayson's tests. He was even more serious than usual - he told me that Grayson has Grade 5 kidney reflux (on a scale of 1-5) he told me that the urology team would be taking over from here and that he assumed the next step would be surgery.  The urologist came later and explained the procedure he would want to do - called a vesicostomy - then he left.

I felt like I had fallen down Alice's rabbit hole to wonderland. I cried and cried and cried in that hospital room. a trip to the ER had turned into 48 hours in the hospital had turned into 5-7 days in the hospital had turned into surgery on Monday?! I could not imagine my baby having surgery at just two weeks old. I could not imagine having a son who would have a hole in his pelvis, or what would it feel like to take care of him. What would it be like to not be able to let him stay in nursery because he needs special care during diaper changes?

Later that night Daniel sent me a link to a YouTube video explaining what was wrong with Grayson. I watched that and also some video diaries from moms who had gone through something similar. They had endured multiple hospitalizations before their children got the tests Grayson had got. Suddenly my perspective changed - I realized how blessed we were that Grayson's reflux was discovered before his kidneys had a chance to be significantly damaged. 



On Saturday it was Josiah's birthday. Grayson & I missed it but my sister Abi came to visit us.  

On Sunday the kids came to visit Grayson in the hospital. 

Grayson got a new IV port put in by our awesome nurse - Giselle. The pediatrician at the hospital said that Giselle could put an IV in "the toe of an ant" and not to worry about it. She was awesome and got  it in with the first try. He also got a pacifier - which made Daniel quite happy.

I got to see the scans from Grayson's VCUG and the pediatrician showed me where Grayson's ureters were enlarged. Even I could tell that they were severely enlarged. One of the pediatric residents said that he thought he was looking at bowels and not a ureter - that is how large they are. Hopefully after some time they will shrink down to normal size on their own and won't need to be surgically tapered.

We also got confirmation that Grayson's UTI was caused by e coli bacteria. I tell you what it was a crazy experience to have doctors tell you that your not yet two week old baby has e coli like it's no big deal, nothing to worry about, this happens all of the time. (craziness I tell you!) But we also got good news that the blood cultures that were taken the day before were not growing the gram negative rods that they had before - so as long as the blood culture stayed clear we would be able to leave the hospital soon, well as soon as he was clear after surgery.


On Monday at 12am Grayson could no longer be nursed in prep for surgery - those were some rough hours for both of us. Grayson was awake crying for about  half of the night. He hated that passi by the morning.


Daniel came in the morning. The resident urologist came and explained the procedures Grayson would be undergoing. The nurse from pediatric surgery was a friend of mine from church and it was such a comfort to have her there. They gave Grayson this sweet little hat, made by volunteers in the community. We met the anesthesiologist and another nurse and then they took Grayson back for surgery. I was thankful that Grayson wasn't old enough to be afraid or to remember that this happened but walking out of those doors without my baby in my arms was one of the worst moments of the day. I cried in Daniel's arms.  


The surgery was over sooner than I'd hoped. Talking to the urologist after the surgery I felt like a million pounds came off of my chest it was one of the best moments of a really difficult day.

first picture of the three of us after surgery
His surgery site looked so much worse than I thought it would. His face was so puffy. When Grayson woke up he screamed and screamed and wouldn't nurse. They gave him a little morphine and that knocked him out for almost the rest of the day. We waited and waited for him to wake up. It was awful. Daniel held Grayson & watched the news. I tried to sleep but all I could do was crawl up next to Daniel & cry. 

Finally around dinner time Grayson woke up and nursed. That was the second best moment of the day. I just smiled and cried and held Grayson while he nursed - so relieved to have my baby back.

That night the urologist came again to check on Grayson he said that everything was looking good and we should be able to leave the hospital soon, but he said I looked really tired and to try to get some sleep. So that is what we did all day Tuesday - nurse & nap. 

Tuesday morning

Grayson's crib at the hospital.


A photo posted by faith raider (@faithrphotog) on

On Wednesday we got to come home!! I spent the rest of the week mostly just eating & sleeping. It was the most physically & emotionally exhausting thing I have been through in a very long time.

Through this whole time I have had so many people to be thankful for - my mom and Daniel's mom who both took time off of work to hold down the fort while I was gone.  To Olivia who came to visit me in the hospital several times and coordinated care for our family with so much joy & enthusiasm. To Sarah who brought me lunch!! (Because we can all agree that hospital food is so gross) For all of the ladies who brought my family meals throughout the past three weeks. For all of the texts of care, concern & encouragement. I am especially thankful for Daniel - who had the hardest role to play - he divided his time and heart between home, work and the hospital. He has picked up all of the pieces that I have dropped and has taken such good care of us.

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithrphotog) on

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithrphotog) on

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithrphotog) on

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithrphotog) on

Now we are home, and Grayson is already over 7 pounds! (Up from 5' 13" at birth and 6' 6" the day he was hospitalized) He's healing well from his surgery. I'm starting to get used to our new routine (All the diapers!! All the laundry!!)  I'm trying to look at the bright side - Grayson is already super good at taking his medicine! He barely spits up at all. We have so much to be thankful for. There are also moments I feel totally overwhelmed and exhausted but we're taking things one day at a time.

Welcome to 31 Days of Brave

I'm sitting here at my computer for the first time in nearly a month, in the dim light of this cloudy fall morning, with a cup of (decaf) coffee and a Luna bar, my newborn sleeping on my chest (he started crying as soon as I sat down, so here we are). My big kids are at school and my four year old is watching a Christmas special on Netflix (because we are even worse than the department stores when it comes to watching Christmas shows!!) and I am listening to this playlist on Spotify. Tomorrow the write 31 days project begins and I thought I'd briefly step out of this newborn mommy fog to write a post to introduce my series for this year. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be brave. I have rumbled with fear, I have had to look fear in the face and keep moving forward, but I have also been learning that being brave has less to do with big acts of fearlessness and more to do with small choices to embrace my neediness and stop hiding my weakness.

During the week that I spent in the hospital with my one week old baby I learned a lot about being brave. I felt like I was drawn deeper into being brave then I would have ever chosen to go. I learned about facing fear with worship, about letting other people help me.  Basically, I got to live out my brave. 

Over the next 31 days I hope to share a few thoughts about what I have learned over the course of this past year about being brave. 

Day 1 a year of brave (Brave by Sara Bareilles)
Day 2 a little bit of backstory (My Anchor by Christy Nockles) 
Day 3 where feet may fail (Oceans by Hillsong) 
Day 4 a little beginning  (I Place My Hope by Ellie Holcomb) 
Day 5 all I have is ashes (Broken Vessels [amazing grace] - Hillsong)
Day 6 in brokenness and imperfection (Need You Now by Plum)
Day 7 in the quiet (You Make Me Brave - Amanda Cook & Bethel) 
Day 8 to go low (Touch the Sky - Hillsong)
Day 9 to go slowly (Shepherd - Amanda Cook & Bethel)
Day 10 in the mud (Let It Be Jesus - Christy Nockles)
Day 11 hedged in (You Make Me Brave - Kristene DiMarco) 
Day 12 in the middle (Just Be Held - Casting Crowns)
Day 13 in the middle part 2 (No Longer Slaves - Bethel)
Day 14 in the middle of the fire (I Am Not Alone - Kari Jobe)
Day 15 the flames shall not consume you (In Over My Head - Jenn Johnson & Bethel)
Day 16 in the middle part 3 (Love Ran Red - Chris Tomlin)
Day 17 lost in the middle (My Heart Is Yours - Kristian Stanfill)
Day 18 my 1am fears (Never Once - One Sonic Society)
Day 20 neediness
Day 24 to be open
Day 26 to lean in
Day 31 recap

Bonus material:



Saturday, September 19, 2015

When I am afraid...

I wrote this blog post before Grayson's first anatomy ultrasound. Today it is Saturday, Grayson has been in the hospital since Wednesday, staring down a surgery on Monday, on the day when he will turn 2 weeks old. 

Today I remembered this blog post I'd written but never published and it seems appropriate to share now. I'll share Grayson's birth story and this hospitalization soon. 

You can also get a little peek into life lately on my Instagram (the link is in the sidebar. If you're viewing on a mobile device go to the bottom of the page and tap the link "view web version" to see the sidebar).

Today I am so thankful for the way God has been preparing my heart for this new journey we have begun and how the roots of my faith have grown deeper over the last years and months and hold me up now in this new season.

Today is my ultrasound. Daniel, Eli & I will get to see our sweet little ninja baby and hopefully we'll find out if this is a boy or a girl. 

I am feeling all kinds of nostalgic, I hold Eli's hand and feel the preciousness of each moment, remembering those months before Eli was born when Josiah who was just a little smaller than Eli is now, snuggled into the crook of my arm and slept with his head against my big pregnant belly. I remember taking a video of Josiah telling our family that he would get to have a brother. Eli is hoping for a similar moment. He says he is going to have two brothers and that this new baby will be named Jake. 

I feel excited, so excited, and yet in the back of my head, a little bit terrified.

I have found that with each pregnancy  between the excitement of announcing our big news and waiting for our new baby to arrive there is a low grade anxiety that settles in for the long haul. This time around I worry about the month that I was pregnant and didn't realize it and all the coffee I drank during that month. I worry every day if this will be my last day to carry this child.

I got to my 2nd trimester, breathed a short sigh of relief and quickly picked up new strands of worry that I knot and braid in my subconscious. I have had almost daily Braxton hicks contractions starting around 14 weeks. I recently started feeling the baby move and (s)he feels like a strong little ninja and this  reminds me so much of my pregnancy with Katie-Abigail...

I remember I started getting Braxton hicks around 18 weeks with her and totally freaked out. I sat in my OB's office asking what was happening. She reassured me that this was not uncommon and not to worry. It was not the first panic-induced conversation I'd have with her. A few months later I called her off-hours  saying I felt like I was going into labor and I hadn't even hit 36 weeks yet. She said "get in a tub of warm water. Calm down. Call me if things don't get better." I spent the next months in and out of that tub. 

Thankfully Katie-Abigail wasn't born until around 38 weeks but she was posterior. It was the most horrible labor I've ever experienced. Telling someone about it awhile later my husband confided that he thought I was going to die during that labor. 

She surprised us by hiding her girl-parts through three ultrasounds. The tech told us at our last one that he was about 75% sure that we were having a boy. We picked out a beautiful girl name and I slipped in a pink onesie into the bottom of my hospital bag "just in case".

My first memory of Katie-Abigail after her birth was when they put her on my chest, I spoke to her and she turned her little head, full of dark hair, and looked at me in my eyes. 

A day later I came out of the tiny hospital shower and my husband said "The pediatrician just brought her back from the nursery. She failed her hearing screening." At the time I knew nothing of hearing screenings. I don't remember either of my older girls receiving hearing screenings. He said "failed her hearing screening" and I heard "she's profoundly deaf". 

Sitting there on the hospital bed wrapped in my husband's arms, I remeber Daniel's strength in that moment and his positive outlook set the tone of the next weeks as I walked the halls with my sweet little girl and mourned for all of the things we would never do together. I remeber feeling especially sad that she would never hear me read a book, the way I had read to her sisters, the way my mom had read to me. I was sad because I knew some things would be so much harder for her than for her sisters. We checked out "Signing Time" DVDs and learned some additional signs beyond the "please, more and all done" that I'd taught my older girls. 

By the time we finally got into the ENT we were 95% certain that her hearing was fine. Watching the doctor peer into her tiny little ears (and they were super-tiny!!) and say "she's perfect. She can hear just fine."  I breathed a huge sigh of relief. 

But there was also a part of me, a little tiny corner of my heart that was disappointed. I felt like I had received a temporary membership card for the tight-knit community of moms of children with special needs, and in that office the doctor took it back. I had three perfect, normal kids and while I am really really thankful and happy for them that we have not had to endure the struggles that we would have if Katie-Abigail had been deaf, I also knew in that moment that we were missing out on something special - friendships our family would never form, people we will never know.

Looking back I wish we had known to ask for additional testing, I had never heard of the term "auditory processing disorder" I thought sensory integration disorders were just for kids who ripped tags out of their clothing, demanded that their socks be in a perfect line and screamed about stuff that other children accept. I didn't know we'd keep on struggling with Katie-Abigail, just not as obviously as with hearing loss.

With this new baby people ask us all of the time, "so are you hoping for a boy or a girl" and my husband has the same automatic response "I just want a healthy baby." I sometimes think "but what if this baby is not? What if this new little one has special needs?" 

I am all about non-invasive tests. Bring them on. I want to be as prepared as i can be. I would never had known about Eli's hydronephrosis if he hadn't had that 30 week anatomy scan and while it has barely changed the landscape of our lives or affected his development, we have added a yearly pilgrimage to the children's hospital to spend the day up to my eyeballs in gratitude for the five healthy children I have been given. 

During the months of anxiously waiting for our first scan - there is that mother-bear of worry lurking right beneath the surface "what if something's wrong?" But there is another piece of my heart, a braver piece of me that says "so what?" Being afraid isn't going to change anything, fearing the worst isn't going to keep it from happening. In the quiet moments I sometimes find myself bargaining with God "let it just me this." "Let it only by that. I think I could handle that." Whatever!! No matter how normal or special this baby turns out to be - it will all be more than I can handle at moments. Since when did I decide that the only life I want to live is the one that "I can handle"?

In the calm before this ultrasound appointment I surrender all of my expectations. I wait hopefully for great news about our perfect new baby, kicking inside of me. I lay down all of my fears. I know whatever happens next, easy or hard - God will be with me, carrying me. Right now on the radio Kari Jobe's song is playing  "I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me." and this is exactly what I need to hear.

Grayson also has hyrdonephrosis (enlarged kidneys) but he also has Grade 5 vesicoureteral (kidney) reflux. Grade 5 is the highest grade of kidney reflux there is and does not resolve without surgery.   Grayson's first surgery (Cutaneous Vesicostomy) is scheduled for Monday.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Grayson's birth story

I texted this quick selfie to my sister as we were walking into the women's wing of the hospital. The time stamp on the text says 8:15pm

Grayson was born at 8:36pm

The plan for this birth was that I would go in to the hospital to be induced shortly after my due date. We went ahead and scheduld my induction date for Tuesday the 8th (my due date was the 5th). The last four out of five births have all had to be induced and with Eli I waited and waited and waited and waited. I felt like if any baby was going to come on his own it would have been Eli - and since even he needed to be induced my doctor and I figured it was pretty unlikely that I'd be go into labor with this one. 

You would not believe how many times I said "It is so unlikely that I'll go into labor. I have not gone into labor in nearly fourteen years. I doubt I'll go into labor now." I said it over and over and over to everyone who asked. Plus my body was not looking like it was getting ready to go into labor any time soon. I wasn't dilating  as much as I had with the others and my Braxton hicks were pretty mild. 

My mom was planning on coming from Atlanta on Monday to spend the night and be here when we left for the hospital on Tuesday morning, but on Monday morning, Labor Day, I sent an email to my mom saying "please go ahead and come early. I think I might be in labor."

started having big painful contractions around 2:30 in the morning, but they were only about an hour apart, so I was able to get some sleep between contractions. We all got up, Daniel & I played the game Captials on his iPad, and we just hung out. 

My contractions started coming about a half an hour apart but I could talk through them easily and they were pretty inconsistent. I texted my sister "it's nice to see my body at least trying to go into labor, even if I'm not really making any progress." They stayed around a half an hour apart and were really mild from 10am to 4pm when they started picking up a bit but were still inconsistent. It was frustrating because I wasn't sure if I was actually in labor or if these were just going to go away. 

By 6pm the contractions were getting more painful and I realized that we were definitely not going to make it to the next day. We called my doctor's office and let them know we were coming and by the time we got to the van I was having to breathe through the contractions. 

Thankfully it wasn't too bad though. The girls got to see me breathe through a few contractions but then saw that I could go back to smiling  and talking about painting their nails. We made it to the hospital in great time and as we walked in the nurses were ready for us. 

As soon as I got hooked up to the monitors two things happened: one was that my contractions started coming so fast that I could scarcely catch my breath between them. I have had intense pitocin induced labor but this was in a category all it's own. The second thing that happened was that Geayson's heart rate dropped with each contraction. I could hear it on the monitor and it freaked me out a little. Then the nurses gave me an oxygen mask (BTW: it is super hard to breathe through contractions with an oxygen mask on) and they had me roll on my side to try to get a better read on Grayson's heart rate. 

As they were messing with monitors the contractions were coming fast and hard and I was saying it's almost time to push when our doctor walked into the room. He was wonderful. I met him for the first time when he walked into the delivery room but he was calm and gentle and have me confidence that we were going to get through this.

It only took maybe two pushes to see Grayson's head and then the doctor said very firmly "do NOT push again. The chord is around it's neck." It was a really scary, intense moment. The intensity on my doctor's face as he worked quickly to get the cord off was unlike anything I've ever seen. It only took a minute but it was one of the longest minutes of my life. During that minute there was a little "m" miracle that I didn't feel the urge to push at all. I just waited as the doctor untangled Grayson. After her was free it only took one more push and Grayson was out. 

Seeing Grayson out was such a moment of victory. They took him right to the nurses station at the other side of the room while I delivered the after-birth, which I asked to see. It was very cool to see the veins and arteries of my placenta. I'd never seen one before and it was equal parts gross and amazing.

Grayson didn't require and emergency intervention and they put him on my chest in just a few minutes. His hands were gray and he was a bit floppy but he started nursing like a champ.

I really could not believe how good I felt after Grayson was born. I didn't feel as shakey or as weak as I have in the past. I felt on cloud nine and soaked up the sweet newborn snuggles.

The big kids and my mom came to visit us the afternoon of the next day. They were all so excited to meet their new baby brother!!
Beth said "I hope he's the kind of baby who likes to be held a lot."
Emma said "he's so hairy! He's like a werewolf."

Katie just smiled the whole time.

Josiah was very eager to hold his brother.

Eli kept saying "Grayson, I love you! You're so cute."

I'll share more pictures from his first week in another post :)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My Publisher product review

When a friend of mine recently asked if I'd take some newborn pictures for her, my first answer was "I'm not booking sessions right now."  I was in that "any day now" window of giving birth and wasn't sure I could do a good job for her - but we decided on a "play date with a camera" type session - I'd come over, we'd hang out, our preschoolers could play together and I'd bring my camera. Our goal was one decent picture for a birth announcement. I said "I can't promise anything but we can try."

We got enough pictures that I wanted to make a book for her so I turned to one of my favorite photo-book creators: My Publisher. They offer professional style books at consumer prices and always have killer coupons and discounts. Plus they offer all the ease of your typical drugstore book creator but with a much more professional look. It was very easy to make my book on my desktop computer using the download. It's all drag and drop, and I could rearrange my page orders fairly easily. I love the simple layouts and the sleek professional design of the book. 

The ordering process was a breeze. There are lots of really good options and upgrades available. I choose matte paper because that is what I prefer but they also have glossy and super-glossy avaialble. I choose to pay a little extra to upgrade the end pages and I am so very pleased with the end result. The pages are just beautiful and were well worth the small extra charge.

I did run into a little bit of trouble logging into my account - I had an existing account from the last time I ordered from them, about two years ago, and while the email help desk was practically useless the phone help desk was wonderful. They were helpful, knowledgeable, and very friendly. I ended up needing to call the customer support line twice and both times they were super-helpful and totally redeemed the entire experience for me.

The book printed and shipped quickly and I was given notice when it was on it's way, so that made me really happy. The quality of the book itself is really high. I have ordered several photo books of various types and this one is my all-time favorite by a lot. The printing is a little paler than I expected, this may be a monitor calibration error on my part (though my original images looked pretty near the same across devices) or may be the result of ordering matte paper. The quality of the printing is really good though, even if the color is not quite as vibrant as I was hoping for - however for the price of the book I feel like I got a very good value. 

I plan on ordering from them again - probably once I take some really good pictures of my new own baby!

Here is the album of images on Flickr & Here is my last review of My Publisher

If you'd like to try MyPublisher for the first time here is a special offer:

This post contains affiliate links. All of the content is original and the opinions stated in this post are my own. Thanks for supporting my blog!

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