Saturday, December 3, 2011

3 Months Today

13 weeks.  It feels like these weeks have passed by so fast, but something happened the other day at our neighborhood playground that gave me a different perspective.  I ran in to Danielle's NICU nurse, Debbie, the favorite I had talked about in Danielle's birth story.  It was SO wonderful to see her.  I wasn't sure if I recognized her at first but I could hear her talking to her friend and I was sure that she was the patient woman who had sat and chatted with me while Danielle was in the NICU, offering kind words, knowledgeable advice and a listening ear.  She was happy to see us and she held her tiny patient while she caught up on our family news.  After seeing her I realized that it seemed like a lifetime ago that I was sitting with her in the NICU and it made me see that we have since come so far.  I met Debbie the day Danielle was born, although I don't remember much about that first meeting.  I had been wheeled in to the NICU for a brief visit with Danielle while on my way to a recovery room.  I was a shell of myself.  Empty inside.  In complete shock.  The emptiness was followed shortly after by feelings of  helplessness and fear.  Sadness resided in a place deeper inside me than I even knew existed.  That deep dark whole has since been filled with Love and happiness.  The feeling of helplessness faded with knowledge.  The fear, I don't know if it will ever go away completely.  I worry about the unknown future for all of my children, I think that just comes with parenthood, but I have more hope and excitement than I do fear so I think I'm doing alright.  I am so incredibly thankful for this child that I have been blessed with.  I feel so lucky to be her mother.

Although my heart has been healed, Danielle's may still need repair.  She hasn't yet been symptomatic of her heart defect, but after her most recent echo cardiogram her cardiologist suggested that may soon change.  We are preparing for open heart surgery sometime between Jan. and March.  Open heart surgery is scary, and although I was holding on to the hope that the hole in her heart would close without surgical intervention, I'm optimistic (I guess that's my personality and I'm just now in my life realizing that).  The surgery is a common one, with a very high success rate and we are fortunate enough to live in the DC area where we can have our choice of excellent hospitals who staff talented pediatric surgeons.

Feeding has been an ongoing struggle for us.  Danielle was given bottles while in the NICU.  I tried to get her on the breast after she was off the oxygen but she was reluctant.  I've tried and tried since to get her on the breast with the help from many more lactation consultants than I would like to know.  Modesty has left the building by the time you get to your third child.  More people have seen my boobs in the past 13 weeks than you could imagine.  They've been seen swollen, they've been seen deflated, they've been seen wearing nipple shields, they've been seen being sucked down the barrel of the breast pump, they've been seen squirting milk in to my babies face as she wiggled and fussed hoping I would just give her the bottle already.  "Wheres the payoff?"  I got to a point of frustration, but I continued pumping milk for her.  I came to a feeling of disappointment, but kept pumping.   I began considering defeat, but pumped on.  "Is this ever going to happen for us?"  I finally returned the borrowed breast pump to the hospital last week.  Sianara.  Goodbye and good riddens.  Don't call me.  Do you sense some hostility here?  I had spent too many hours sitting with this machine, I toted it around with me for months... I left it behind and didn't look back.  "Did you think I had given up on nursing?"  NO I didn't give up.  I've always had a stubborn tenacious character.  After almost three months of trying, Danielle and I have FINALLY established a healthy nursing relationship.  It wasn't my tenacity though that had fueled my effort to nurse this baby, it was my conviction.  I dreamed of nursing her since the day we knew we were pregnant.  I look down at her when I'm holding her, with her chubby little face smooched in to her warm mommy drunk from the milk that is made just for her, and I am so thankful to have these moments of closeness.  I wish we could stay like this forever.

Danielle is starting to show us more of her character.  She is very smiley and social.  I think she is going to be a funny little thing.  Maybe a bit of a stinker too, but very sweet natured.  She already seems to be a daddy's girl (how does this happen!?).  He comes home from work and sits with her on the couch while I get the other kids in to bed.  He holds her out in front of him and she smiles and coos telling daddy all about her day.  We love our Dani girl so much!  Happy 3 mos. baby!   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Smiles, smiles... Oh Joy!

Another momma I know recently posted something on her Facebook page that I related to and found humorous.  "If the inside of my purse is any indication of the way I live my life then I'm screwed."  Well the inside of my purse (and my van for that matter) ARE an indication of my current lifestyle.  Papers scattered about, coupons I'll never remember to use when I get to the register, missing socks, one shoe of a pair, yesterdays coffee cup... I would go on but I might embarass myself.  My life feels so chaotic right now.  Pediatric and cardiology appointments, early intervention, nursing hurdles, research, research, research, etc, etc, on top of mothering a three and four year old, trying not to be a horrible wife, and household obligations.  Sometimes it feels like a heavier load than I can carry... but she smiles.  When she smiles all of that weight is lifted off my shoulders.  I forget all about all of my current concerns.  I'm late for an appoitment... so what.  The house is a mess... so what.  I haven't had a chance to feed myself yet today... so what!  I'm looking in to her eyes and she's looking at me with a smile on her face.  There's a smile on her face and a smile in my heart ( and on my face too of course.)  My other children are smiling back at her too.  "She's smiling at me mommy!  She's smiling at me!"  My heart is so swollen it might burst!  I wish I could bottle this feeling... I'd make billions selling invincibility.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Give Thanks

I want to write about things I'm Thankful for during the month of November.  The plan was to start on the first, but I'm a bit delayed.  Late has been my style lately.  I have never been the punctual type and now that I have three kids in tow, I'm tardy AND disheveled.  Anywho... Today I want to give thanks for the many wonderful people who are in our lives.  I've always been appreciative of my family and friends, they are an amazing bunch, but I've recently come to realize how much I really need them.  I haven't had much trauma in my life.  I may have had some brief moments where I felt like I needed to lean on someone but it was only recently, after receiving Danielle's diagnosis that I felt like I needed someone to hold me up.  Thankfully, it didn't take long for me to find my legs again, and I'm walking taller than I ever had before, but it's times like these when you realize how important family is.  I received so many wonderful messages in response to Danielle's birth story.  The love and support is just overwhelming, it means so much to me.  Even families whom I have never even met are offering their support and I'm in awe of their acceptance, kindness, and warmest regards.  Some of you had said that you thought Danielle's birth story was beautifully written.  Thank you for the compliment, but it is these words that you had written for me that are truly beautiful.  I am going to live up to the standards of this amazing woman that you all suggest that I am.

I was going to post all of your messages here, but there are so many.  I am however having every one of them printed along with her birth story and you better believe that I'll reflect back on them when I need some uplifting.  Here are some snippets of the inspiring messages that I've received.  

"She is a blessing from God and what is amazing is that he picked you to be the mother of this child. That speaks volumes. He knows that you can be strong and can support his child."

"Your daughter is so beautiful!"

"Tiffany, I love you and look up to you sooo much. You are such an amazing mom! God has blessed Danielle by giving her to you!"

"Your story is beautiful and inspiring to us all. Tiffany you have grown into a beautiful woman and mother. I am so happy life has given you all the JOYS in your life. You have left impressions on my life and thankful to be acquainted to such a beautiful woman."

"Blessings and Love to the Alfonso family!! I love u Tiff ur the most amazing woman and mother I know!! You continue to inspire me!! God has blessed you in everything u do!! Xoxo"

"I feel so blessed and honored to know you and your family."

"Blessings to you and your family! Danielle is truly a beautiful baby girl!!"

"Tiffany, I admire you for your strength, you are truly amazing.. may the most high continue to bless you and your beautiful family ♥ you are truly blessed and so are your children to have you as their mother!"

"Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and inspiring story, Tiff. You and Steve are the best parents. You're both so patient and caring. Baby Danielle is a perfect addition to your wonderful family. I know you will be the best advocate for all her needs. Love you guys! Can't wait to meet my sweet little niece."

"Congratulations on your beautiful baby girl!!!!!"

"Tiffany- your strength and positive outlook are inspiring. Your story was so beautifully written, I was in tears reading it. I am do happy to hear Danielle is doing so well now. You are a wonderful Mama!"

"Tiffany, my sweet sweet daughter, I'm so proud of you and Danielle and I love you both so much."

"Your daughter is gorgeous"

"Tiff, you are AMAZING! Such an inspiration to all mommies! Love u! Danielle is a beautiful gift from God."

 "Thank you for sharing the told such a wonderful story about this new wonderful little addition to the family. She is absolutely precious! It was wonderful to see the kids with their new little sister. I love you guys!"

"Congratulations! Your baby girl is adorable =)"

"Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby girl! Danielle is so blessed to be part of such a loving family!"   "Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story with me. You had me smiling and tearing up as I read your story this morning. God made the right choice in blessing you Danielle, he knows that you have so much love and patience to give her what she will need in life."

"Thanks for your message it was very up building. Makes you really see that God is good in so many ways."

"I am very touched by Danielle’s story.  I truly know how blessed Danielle is to be part of your family." 
"I am so proud to know you"

"I look forward to watching her grow & Flourish into a beautiful young lady!!! She is so beautiful in every way!"

Oh ya, and a blog post just wouldn't be any fun without pictures, so here's a baby fix for ya'll.  This is Danielle in her owl hat (made with love by mommy.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Danielle Jordan Alfonso- 09/07/2011


One month and eight days... that's how long it's been since we were blessed with this beautiful baby girl.  The birth of a daughter.  The re-birth of a mother.  I've been wanting to tell her story but its so hard to find the words.  I have had so many thoughts and emotions over the past few weeks, and I've landed on one that I'm sticking with.  Joy.  Danielle has Down Syndrome.  The day she was born I felt like I had lost the baby I had expected for 39 weeks but now I see that she is EVERYTHING I had expected and more.  She is perfect.  She is beautiful.  She's a child of God.  Her newborn smell is intoxicating.  I breathe her in and she makes my heart swell.  Her beautiful almond shaped eyes pierce my soul.  God must think a lot of me to bless me with this special child, to mother and to love deeper than I ever could have imagined.  I look forward to the world that Danielle will introduce me to and the lessons that she'll teach me.  I am hopeful for her future, and I'll share with her in triumph at every obstacle that she overcomes.

Daddy was there to hold her tiny hand.

Danielle spent her first week and a half in the NICU.  She required oxygen to help her cope with the transition of life outside the womb due to a Ventricular Septal Defect (heart defect).  Her VSD was diagnosed during an ultrasound.  The Dr. told me that this was a "soft marker" for Down Syndrome.  We decided we didn't want to risk the pregnancy with an amniocentesis.  Here's a link to an animation that explains the VSD better than I can.

She's doing very well now.  She's eating and growing without requiring any medications.  Her Cardiologist says its likely that the hole in her heart will close on its own without the need for surgical intervention.

Here is the story of Danielle's birth... the best that I can tell it.
September 6th.  It was a rainy day.  My Uncle Doug was in town.  He was on what he called "baby watch," ready to take on the responsibility of caring for Emily and Justin when I went in to labor.  I had an appointment with my obstetrician that morning.  She "stripped my membranes," during a pelvic exam to see if it would get labor started.  I had this done during my other pregnancies when labor never came on it's own and it didn't work.  I didn't have much confidence in the procedure, but I was 39 weeks pregnant and I was so uncomfortable... real pain.  I'm sure my ribs where bruised from being so full of baby.  We drove home and it wasn't until I stepped out of the car that I realized I was in pain after the procedure.  I hoped this was a good sign. 

The rain was still pouring down so the kids and I spent the rest of the day cuddled up watching cartoons.  I started having contractions around 3pm.  I made dinner, bathed the kids and put them to bed just as I always do.  I put myself to bed around 11pm.  I woke up around 1am with painful contractions coming every five minutes or so.  I shook my sleeping husband awake after a half hour of moaning in pain didn't wake him... geesh!  We left for the hospital around 2am.  The nurse checked my cervix and I hadn't made any progress, I was still only a few centimeters dilated, the same as the morning before when I had the appointment with my OB.  I was ready for some pain relief by 4am.  My experience with my other pregnancies was that after I had the epidural my progress was very quick.  I told the nurse that I was going to take a nap and I would probably be ready to have the baby when I woke up... she didn't think I was serious.

I woke from my nap around 7am.  I was about 8 centimeters dilated.  The nurse said something like "whoa, she wasn't kidding."  She went to go let my Dr. know about my progress and by the time she came back I knew it was time to push.  

5 pushes.  That's all it took.  More than I had expected actually, Emily was four pushes, Justin was three... so naturally, I thought two would be the magic number... but this baby was BIG!  8lbs 7oz.  I am thankful that labor didn't wait any longer... my goodness!  My husband was a great coach.  My family was there for the delivery of our other children and they took some of the responsibility of supporting me.  The person I want with me the most is my husband, and as much as I missed my family, it was kind of nice that it was just the two of us... he had no other choice than to take the lead. 

 I have always believed that things happen for a reason.  Life experiences, people we meet, decisions we make, time and place... all with a purpose, propelling us toward our destiny along the path that has been chosen for us.  Tepeyac Family Health is the practice that I chose after I decided that the Army hospital just wasn't going to work for me.  It really was a shot in the dark when I chose the practice.  They were the closest practice that was covered by my insurance.  As it turns out, they are a faith-based practice.  Their mission is to treat the whole woman, body, soul and spirit.  I didn't realize then that that's what I needed.  Dr. Marie Anderson delivered Danielle.  I knew the minute they gave her to me that she had Down Syndrome.  I couldn't speak, I was in shock, it was like an out of body experience.  My mind went blank and my body felt numb.  The pediatrician confirmed my suspicion moments later.  I can't elaborate about how I felt during these moments after delivery because there were so many emotions and thoughts that I couldn't possibly make sense of it all.  Dr. Anderson helped ease my heart with only a few words and her presence.  She has truly been blessed with a healing spirit.  I'm not sure she knows how much she helped me since my mind had completely left me after delivery.  I'm looking forward to seeing her at my postpartum check-up.  I'll tell her how much she impacted me... I'm sure it will be a sob-fest, lol.


First day without the oxygen.  Yay baby!

Leaving Danielle at the hospital after I was discharged was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do.  As we left the hospital after my discharge Emily saw a family in the lobby getting ready to bring their baby home.  She squealed "baby!" and approached the family to see, sharing in their excitement for this brand new baby.  It took every ounce of strength for me not to turn in to a puddle on the floor of that lobby.  I felt like it should have been our baby that she was squealing for.  I somehow kept my composure... that is until we got to the valet outside the hospital where we ran in to one of Danielle's nurses.  It was Debbi, she was my favorite nurse.  She saw that I had been discharged.  She gave me one sympathetic look, a look that said I'm a mother too and I know how you must feel.  My heart broke every time I had to say goodbye to Danielle but I have to admit that she was in very good care in the NICU... and so was I.  The NICU nurses were AMAZING.  They were kind, understanding, compassionate and comforting.  They were my therapists during the hardest week of my life.   
My babies will never know how happy I was to see them on this day.  I let my worries float away as we cuddled up to watch some toons.

Home, Sweet Home...

Finally!  Danielle no longer required oxygen and her IV had been removed.  She was eating, sleeping, peeing and pooping... all the things a newborn does best.  We spent a few days watching and waiting.  She was doing very well.  There were no more episodes of low oxygen saturation or signs that she needed further treatment in the NICU.  So why isn't there any talk about discharge?  I know that she had charmed her way in to the hearts of the staff in the NICU but she was mine, it was time for her to come home!!  I had to make a case that she didn't require treatment any longer and that she needed to be with her family.  Thankfully the neonatologist agreed.  We put the kids to bed that evening and left them in Uncle Doug's care while we went to get our baby.  It was around 11pm when she came home.  Although it wasn't the way I had imagined her homecoming, the kids faces when they found their baby sister the next morning where priceless, all lit up like on Christmas morning.


Raising a child with special needs may be overwhelming at times, I'm sure, but I'm making a conscious decision to live for today and enjoy my family to the fullest... I'm holding on to this joy!

Worry is not concern which would motivate you to do everything possible in a given situation.
Worry is a useless mulling over of things we cannot change.
Seldom do you worry about the present moment; the present moment is usually all right. When you worry, you either agonize about the past, which you should have forgotten long ago; or you agonize about the future, which hasn’t even come yet.
The tendency is to skim right over the present time. Since the present time is the only time you can live, if you don’t live it, you’ll never get around to living at all.
If you live in the present moment, you tend not to worry.
-Peace Pilgrim

Thank you to our families and friends for all your love and support.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Alfonso Family Easter

Spring time in Fairfax, Va is gorgeous!  The kids thouroughly enjoyed the Easter festivities this year.  The Easter bunny left footprints that lead to bountiful baskets filled with Emily and Justins' favorite things; mommies zuchinni muffins, cookies sent by grandma, easter craft kits, movies and books... oh my.  We indulged in breakfast at the local pancake house and then set off for an Easter egg hunt at Burke Lake Park.  We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful setting.  The kids raced down a lake side trail lined in chocolate filled eggs, Justin following the footsteps of his big sister of course.  I was happy to see that Emily was running so fast that she missed some eggs here and there for her brother to pick up.  There was one that she found and said "look Justin, there's one!" leaving it for him to collect.  So sweet.  Of course there was also an incident where they went for the same egg and Emily made sure to come out on top, no doubt, lol.  We ended our day at bedtime with an Easter book teaching the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the eternal life he gives.  Happy Easter everyone.  Our friends and families are in our hearts an minds, we send our love to you all.