Wednesday, October 5, 2016

" One Day" - A Reflection / Poem on Suffering and Longing for God

"One day," when I was feeling triple D (down, discouraged, depressed), I wrote this. But don't judge, I am no poet. Just something that poured out of my heart.  I can say I am trying to be like St. Faustina was in her journaling...she did randomly throughout her diary write poems to capture the love that was pouring out of her heart for Jesus at that present moment. 

by Agnes

One day....
The suffering of this world will finally come to an end.
One day...
We will finally stop hurting each other, causing each other tears, and drowning in our own pity and misery.
One day...
Everything will pass away.
One day...
When we finally bring our cross to the top of Golgotha, and when they cricify us along with Jesus, we will rise again with him.
One day...
There will be no more tears.

No more suffering.
No more fear.
No more worry.

One day...
We will start living a new life, an eternal life in Christ Jesus.
And we will no longer remember the tears and the pain that we have experienced in this life.

This life, this life in Christ Jesus, is what I am waiting for...
This life is what gives me hope and strength to keep going.

And I don't despair ...
Although this present life can sometimes be so murky, so painful.

I keep walking...
Even though the weight of the cross is piercing the flesh of my shoulders, even though its' heaviness is bringing me down to the ground, taking away my strength to keep walking.

I get up again and again, and a third time... because You did, too.
I feel stronger - Strengthened by this very suffering and weight of my cross.
And I feel armed - Armed with get through the difficulties of every day.

And I keep walking
...because You are at the end of the road.

I am heading toward You...
And You are enough.

One day...
I will get lost in your embrace,
And tears shall be no more.

One day...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How Violette came into the world: a birth story

I promised this story way back when. But sorry, ya'll know I was busy living the hardest year of my 26 years here on earth. To be described in more detail soon enough.


My dear sweet little Violette was originally due on January 21st, which also so happens to be the Feast Day of St. Agnes, which happens to be the name of her mother. Therefore, to St. Agnes I prayed and actually considered giving Violette that middle name, but was afraid of people judging me as egoistic. I love St. Agnes - the brave, pure virgin martyr, I don't so much love myself - a great sinner...but all people would say is that I'm naming my daughter after myself...

But off tangent I went. Back to the story.

The first week of January, I took a PTO day from my residency (which never happens..but come on, I was 37 weeks pregnant!), not really to take a rest, but to be able to squeeze in my OB appointment, as the weekly ones started at this point. The OB also gave me the option of having one last ultrasound to see the baby's growth. To the ultrasound room we arrived, as we have done 2 times before. The technician did all of the measurments, confirmed Violette is a girl, and took some nice pictures while Violette was turned towards the front. The US tech told us all the measurements are good, but that Violette is definitely a smaller baby - in the 9th percentile on the growth chart. "She'll be no more than 6lbs when she arrives," the tech informed us and smiled. My husband and I both smiled excitedly, as I was relieved that I will not have to deliver a 10 pound baby. Of course I could have suspected it, my belly was never that big in the first place. When I was 8-9 months pregnant, multiple people commented that I only looks 5-6 months. I had such a smooth and easy pregnancy (You can go back to my Bump Posts if you have not followed the whole journey). In the first trimester, I puked maybe 3 times, and that sums up my pregnancy troubles. No swollen feet, back pain, inability to sleep, sweating, discomfort, waddling, acid reflux, UTIs, etc etc. My pregnancy past that first trimester was all rainbows and butterflies (except the timing wasn't ideal of course, I would enjoy the pregnancy a lot more if I wasn't doing my residency at the same time. But then again, God's timing IS IDEAL, even though we may not think so initially...but then we usually see it in hindsight).

Sorry, off on a tangent again. Back to the story.

From the US room we went back out into the waiting area, and shortly were called in by the nurse to see the OB. My OB doctor, who is a super nice guy, went through his whole checkup and was about to discharge me from the appointment. Then he asked if we had our ultrasound done. And I said yes. Was everything normal? I said yes. Then he looked in the computer and saw that our little girl had such low measurments and kind of freaked out. He proceeded to shout Laura's (the US tech) name across the hallway to confirm the measurments. Once Laura confirmed, again with a calm voice as if everything is completely normal, the doctor proceeded to worry about the baby's size. He said he is worried that the placenta may be "getting old" and the baby is not getting enough nutrition. He said he's afraid we might have to "get the baby out sooner than later.""No later than 38 weeks, but you will have to see a high risk OB to confirm this." It was around 2pm and the high risk OB that was closest closed at 2pm on Fridays...but they made us an emergency appt and the doctor said he will see us before they close. The high risk doctor did another ultrasound himself to confirm the measurments, and he also came up with ~10th percentile and weight of just over 5 lbs. He said I need to be induced next week. When I heard that, my world came crashing down. Well not exactly my world, but the plans I had the whole pregnancy - plans of trying to have a natural, vaginal birth...even to try it without the epidural and offer up my pain for the conversion of sinners and for unborn babies. Now they're telling me I have to be induced. And I heard horrorish stories from people about how unnatural, frequent, and intense the fake, drug-induced uterine contractions can be. I did not want to hear the word induction, did not want to hear the word Pitocin. That is not how I imagined the birth of my very first child. Along with this change of plans, the hospital I planned to have the baby at and registered had to be changed last minute, because my OB was at a different hospital on the day he wanted me induced.

I then had a fetal stress test. I didn't even know what that was. Working in the medical field, when you say stress test, I think of a person running on a treadmill, plugged into machines that monitor the activity of the heart. Or in case of a pharmacologic stress test, they get a medication injected that "stresses" their heart by making the heart rate go up. Turns out a fetal stress test also has to do with monitoring the heart. Similar concept. It monitors the response of the heart when "stressed" by movements, specifically looking to see if the heartrate/pulse and blood pressure go up appropriately with movements. We got plugged up, I laid back and relaxed, but of course she wasn't going to move...probably snoozing her life away tucked inside the dark, warm, snuggly womb of her momma. So then we started talking to her and poking her. Greg pulled up some baby music on his phone and put it against my belly for her to listen too. And yes, she passed the stress test with flying colors.

We left the OB office on that Friday afternoon and I had to call my residency director right away. "Hey Susan, I'm giving birth this Wednesday! I plan to be at work up until Tuesday, then have to be at the hospital at 7am on Wednesday." I was 2 weeks into my 6 week critical care rotation. I was also smack in the middle of my research project: phase II, aka writing "the antibiotic book." I was scared to even call my research preceptor....well, not really scared....but I just didn't want to, because he is a sucky person that brought me a lot of misery up until that point in residency. I procrastinated calling him up until the very last minute...Tuesday afternoon before I left for my 6 week maternity leave. But he was cool and told me not to worry and to not dare and touch my project during my leave - just to enjoy the time with the baby. I ended up working on my project during the last half of my very short leave anyways, because I was already so behind, having the largest and most time consuming project of all my co-residents. That was hard as hell, let me tell you, but I will whine about it in a different post. Gee, I still have the actual story of the birth to get to.

I remember I actually worked that weekend before I had my baby. I was on my 12 day stretch. I remember the hospital called me to get all of my information when I was at work on Saturday. I remember telling everyone at work that weekend that I'm having the baby in a couple of days. And one of the staff / operations pharmacist that was always on the same weekends as I bought me a cake and brought other refreshments to celebrate. Except they spelled my name wrong on the cake: Agnus. Well, I guess they were just spelling it the original way, literally spelling "lamb" in Latin (Agnus Dei = Lamb of God). I got quite a few presents for Violette from my co-workers, which I really appreciated. I added it to the stash of presents I received at my baby shower  a few weeks back - which was also a huge blessing.

Monday and Tuesday, I shared the news with some more people, and complained some more about having to be induced with my first baby, which is not how I planned this, etc etc.

Alright, let's get to the fun part now.

Tuesday night, neither of us could fall asleep, thinking about and trying to imagine what the next day would bring. Wednesday morning, we got up a little after 6am, got dressed, put the hospital bag that has been packed for a while now in the car, and drove into the sunrise and into happiness! LOL

 We arrived at the hospital, checked in, I got my bracelet, then my nurse came downstairs and got me. She asked me if I need a wheelchair. I kindly declined. We rode up the elevator with her. She was this young, short, cute, blond girl...and you could tell she was MADE to work in OB, because she was so sweet and gentle. I changed into a hospital gown, but left on the little red socks I was wearing ( I remember thinking later that I picked the perfect color, because you couldn't see the blood and amniotic fluid stains on them after the OB perforated my amniotic sac). The cute little nurse turned out to be new and was going to be starting my peripheral IV and inserting my foley catheter. Another nurse was watching her technique. I have never had an IV or a catheter placed, so I was a little nervous. But all worked out fine. Then the real fun began when they started the oxytocin (pitocin). I have obviously never had contractions before, so I did not know what to expect. Every hour, they turned up the rate/dose of my pitocin infusion by 1-2mcg. Long story short, I couldn't tolerate the contractions and the baby couldn't tolerate them either. The contractions were long, frequent, intense, with almost no break in between. I have never had natural contractions before so I don't know how those feel, but the pitocin induced ones definitely did not feel natural. The monitor that was tracking my contractions wasn't even picking up the fact that I was having them! The lines were flat. And I'm telling the nurse, "oh they are definitely happening, and I am timing them on my phone." Even though the contractions were already pretty intense, I wasn't opening up at all. I came in 1.5cm and I stayed 1.5cm...everytime the doctor checked on me. This baby just wasn't ready to be kicked out of the womb, and my body wasn't ready to be pushing her out. Everytime they turnt up the dose of the drug, Violette's heart rate would drop - she had what is known as 'decelerations." And everytime her heart rate and blood pressure dropped (it must have been a significant drop), like 5 nurses would run into the room to respond to this emergency. They tried turning me to my side and put an oxygen mask on me. The 2nd time it happened, they even called the on-call OB (who was not my doctor, just the one that was always in the hospital in case of emergencies). My OB came a little later, explained to me that Violette is a small baby, and small babies are known not to tolerate labor as well. He was offering me a C-section from the get-go, but I kept refusing. NO WAY JOSE. I wasn't planning on being induced in the first place...and I DEFINITELY wasn't planning on having a C-section with my first baby! The doc gave us 3 chances, and Violette used up all 3. After the 2nd deceleration, the doc told the nurse to turn the pitocin off for a while and give the baby a break. The pitocin was turned off and I was actually having contractions on my own (or maybe they were still due to the residual of the drug in my circulation). The contractions have gotten pretty intense and I asked for the epidural. I did not want to wait until it is too late. I remember I felt bad about it and was kind of mentally beating myself up for it, as I planned to sacrifice and go natural and offer up the pain of my labor for the conversion of sinners. My husband encouraged me to get the epidural too when he saw me in pain. I will not get into the details of the process of me getting the epidural, all I'm going to say is the anesthesiologist had to poke me twice and it was not a pleasant experience. After the epidural was placed, my labor stopped. Not sure if pitocin wore off at this point, or if it was due to the epidural (epidurals can slow down the progression of labor). But I laid there, doing nothing. No contractions. Still not opening up. AND this was after the doctor already burst my amniotic sac to move things along and help labor progress. Well, labor wasn't progressing. So they restarted the pitocin, once again, at a low dose like in the beginning. Almost right away, even with the low dose now, baby Violette de-celerated and my own blood pressure dropped to 80/40 and I almost blacked out. At this point, they called it a real emergency.
Hubby holding my hand after I almost
passed out from hypotension.
After my vitals became unstable, they gave me a 2 liter fluid bolus and wheeled me over to the OR. They told my hubby to quickly change into scrubs and bring the camera. At this point, I was okay with the C-section. We have been there since 6am, and it was now 6pm and obviously if my body AND Violette's body both weren't ready for the process of labor, then we had to get her out another way.  I had been praying the whole day and I laid everything in God's Hands. I told Him that if THIS is HIS WILL, then it is MY WILL, TOO. The only reason why I kept refusing the C-section all day in the first place, is because I still believed this myth of "if you have a C-section, you can only have 2 kids." I was devastated by that. That is exactly why the doc proposing a C-section to me with my very first baby was like hearing a death sentence, because I knew I wanted to have a big family. Of course my doc dispelled this myth for me, but not until I was there for my first post-natal appointment. I was so relieved when he told me he has patients that have successfully had at least 4 C-sections. And he also told me I would be the perfect candidate for a VBAC with my 2nd one.

To finish up the story....IT WAS, IN FACT, GOD'S WILL FOR VIOLETTE TO BE BORN VIA C-SECTION, on January 13th, at 6:32pm. It was also God's will for me to get that epidural, as the anesthesiologist just used it for my c-section anyway, instead of giving me spinal anesthesia. It was just a tad bit frightening as I have never even been in a hospital ( as a patient) since birth, never had any surgery, so even though I knew the guy numbed me from waist down, I was scared to feel them cut me open. But I didn't. Just like they said, I just felt them tucking at my belly, pulling the baby out, but absolutely no pain. The whole procedure was very quick. Hearing that baby cry for the first time was the most amazing thing. Greg and I were both bawling our eyes out. I remember Greg's tears falling on my face.  He definitely cried more than me. I was just shivering terribly from the anesthesia and the cold fluids they infused in me. I remember I couldn't speak. Greg was holding Violette next to my face as they were sewing me back up, and I just cried silently. I was so deeply, indescribably happy.... and no words were necessary to express that deep, profound joy.

Unfortunately, since Violette was a 'very low birth weight' (VLBW) baby, they were afraid her blood sugar was going to drop (as is common in VLBW babies), therefore they took her away from us and gave her her first feeding from a bottle. Once my belly was sewn back, and they wheeled me back to my room from the OR, they brought Violette to me and I asked the nurse to let me have her for some skin-to-skin. It was the sweetest thing to have this baby, fresh out of my own womb, now snuggled up on my breasts, her head touching my face, my nose smelling that awesome newborn baby scent on her copious hair. Ah...just thinking back to that moment brings tears to my eyes.

I don't think I even want to get into the story of my breastfeeding experience - I will stick to the birth story itself, as is the purpose of this post, but all I am going to say is that it was VERY, VERY hard and I cried many tears over my nursing struggles. In a nutshell, I struggled with very low milk supply, even though I tried basically everything suggested in baby books, blogs, forums to increase just was not happening. And then I went back to residency after 6 weeks...and I had to be away from my baby for 12 hours a day in my 12 days in a row craziness. And there was NO time to pump. I know I know, an employer cannot deny you the right to pump, and must provide the TIME and the SPACE to do so...but I wish you all knew just how insanely demanding residency is. And how low my milk supply was. 30-40 minutes of pumping would only yield like 1-2 oz.  I had to pump 2-3x of 30-40min each to even give her one feeding. I pretty much had to supplement with formula from the beginning - I just did not produce enough milk to give her enough nutrition... So there, there is my breastfeeding journey in a nutshell. I still want to cry over it, as some of my friends/acquaintances, who had babies around the same time are still nursing....and my baby doesn't even know what breasts are for. I cried and I prayed, and I promised God that with my next baby, I will try EVEN harder and I will not give up. Things will be a little easier then, since I will have a full 3 months to build up my supply and I will have time to pump at that I am no longer a resident.

Back to the birthstory. The rest of the hospital stay was wonderful, thanks to God and MY HUSBAND! My husband was SO SUPPORTIVE. I mean, o My God, these great feelings of love for this guy just rush into my heart when I think back to how much help and support he has provided. He was there for me ALL the time for EVERYTHING. I recovered so well from the C-section...the nurses were so amazed that I barely even asked for any pain meds - I think just a couple of ibuprofens my entire hospital stay. I never pushed the call button. My husband was my nurse and my patient care tech, lol. Oh man how much I love that guy. I could totally have like 10 more babies with him. When I got home, stupid me, instead of taking it easy after having what's considered 'major abdominal surgery', I was not just walking, but running up and down the stairs right away. I then had some issues with hemorrhaging and passing very large blood clots. At one point, there was so much blood I got really scared. I then decided to take it easy and rest in bed with the baby.

Overall, I had a really wonderful experience having my first baby. I remember when I was a little girl, the things I was most scared about in the future, being a woman, is childbirth. It was always so scary, even though in past, it was just an abstract, future concept. But everything was just amazing. Although not as planned by me, it went as planned by God. Moral of the story? As most morals of stories on this blog: TRUST GOD'S PLAN AND GOD'S TIMING. Just TRUST in Jesus, and everything will always work out. I don't know how many times I repeated "Jesus I trust in You" while going through my first labor and delivery, but it sure helped tremendously. Although a little scary and not according to my plans and expectations, everything turned out perfect. Violette is perfect, as is every child of God. And even though she was only breastfed for a little while, she is now 8 months and has not yet been sick - which is what I was afraid of. She is a healthy and happy girl. And so am I!

Thanks be to God.

And Thank God for good husbands. I definitely do not deserve the one He gave to me.

Hope you enjoyed my story.

Yours in Christ,

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pharmacy Residency combined with motherhood - what a ride!

Oh what a freaking ride this past year of being "double blessed" has been.

Words cannot even begin to describe the journey God put me on as a pharmacy resident and a mother. Brand new to both. Knew nothing about either. Yet, He gave me the right tools, the right attitude, and enough perseverance to come out on the other side victorious and proud. Yes. The end was certainly victorious, though the beginning was shocking and the middle was just...HARD AS HELL and filled with lots of struggles and tears.

Residency in a nutshell?
Hardest year of my life.
70+ hour weeks, working 12 days on, 2 days off all year long. Countless projects, presentations, deadlines. Intertwined with all that was my research. Research, research, research.  I got to work before the crack of dawn and left work waaay past sunset because I was constantly working on my research project...which was the hardest and most time consuming project of all my co-residents and I would say way more involved than those of many PGY-1 residents whose presentations I later saw at the Great Lakes Pharmacy Residency Conference.

Add first time motherhood to that.
Birth not exactly as planned. Only 6 weeks of maternity leave, then having to come back to the 12days on, 2 days off craziness.
Struggling with very low breastmilk supply.
Crying for the first 13 post-partum days.
But receiving so much help and support from my husband and being so amazed at his involvement, love (the real DO type of love, not TALK kind of love), sacrifice.

I'm now officially done. I don't know how I feel about it yet. It really hasn't hit me yet that it's over.

I just waived goodbye to my in-laws, as they got in my husband's car so he can drop them off at the airport. Thank God for my mother in law these past 6 months,  we could not have done it without her help.

More on the crazy journey to come.

Now off to my first official shift as a clinical pharmacist (yes, I got a wonderful job post-residency and it was all worth it!!!)

But more on everything later.

I missed my blog. Will try to write more and keep up with my life story now that I will have more time. Thanks for sticking around while I was gone livin' the dream....or rather making the dream come true by working my arse off!

Yours in Christ,

Monday, February 8, 2016

3rd Trimester Bump Updates (Weeks 29 - 38) & Birth Announcement!

WEEKS 29 - 38

Week 29 

  • Baby is the size of an ACORN SQUASH

Week 30 

  • Baby is the size of a CUCUMBER

Week 31

  • Baby is the size of a PINEAPPLE

Week 32 

  • Baby is the size of a SQUASH

Week 33 

  • Baby is the size of a CANTALOUPE

Week 34

  • Baby is the size of a BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Week 35

  • Baby is the size of a COCONUT

Week 36

  • Baby is the size of a HONEYDEW

Week 37 

  • Baby is the size of a PUMPKIN

37 Week Ultrasound

Week 38

  • Baby is the size of a WATERMELON


And here she is!
Welcome to the world baby girl Violette!
Born January 13th, 2016 at 6:31pm via emergency C-section
Tiny little peanut weighing 5 lbs, 10 oz, measuring 19.5 inches

Happy daddy holding his little girl.

Most importantly, she is a healthy and happy baby girl. And first time momma has survived the first 3 weeks of her newborn's life. Sleep deprived and struggling with breastfeeding a bit, but overall mama and baby are content and really enjoying each other's company. Overall impression so far: WOW, MOTHERHOOD IS INDESCRIBABLY WONDERFUL. I have never cried from joy this much in my life...not even at our wedding.

XOXO, Agnes