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Seven Nights In The NICU

September 12, 2017

Written by Nadine Bubeck, guest blogger

As I sit here 33 weeks pregnant with my third child, I can’t help but picture where I was at 33 weeks pregnant with my first.
I was in the hospital. On bed rest.

It’s kind of weird for me to mentally reminisce, as now my first born is going on four years old- an active, handsome, healthy young boy. I want to press pause. More so, I kind of miss his hectic arrival into the world, as emotional and stressful as it was.

At 20 weeks pregnant with Nicholas, I was diagnosed with complete placenta previa. My Gynecologist told me I’d likely have numerous bleeding episodes (horrifying), be placed on hospitalized bed rest (monotonous), and birth a preemie- all of which happened.

Nicholas arrived the morning after my third bleed. He was six weeks early, 4 pounds 11 ounces- skin and bones. Granted, not anything compared to micro-preemies born every day, but still, in my mind, I had birthed a little doll.

Luckily, he was born healthy. A fighter. Didn’t have any major issues. Could breathe on his own. Clearly living up to his name, meaning, “victorious.” With that being said, he was still quite premature, and so began our stay in the NICU.
I didn’t have a clue what to expect when they rolled my c-sectioned body into the NICU- I thought NICUs were for sick babies…Nicholas wasn’t sick. He was small, but fine. And like any new mom, I wanted to bring him home.

However, home wasn’t an option. As a preemie, Nicholas had to reside in the NICU for an undisclosed amount of time- or in other words, when doctors said it was okay to bring him home.

The NICU was much more welcoming and accommodating than I thought. The area was lined with pods, and we joined a pod that was shared with another family.

We had our own corner complete with a bassinet, changing station and rocker. Our compact area could be enclosed with a screen, granting us privacy to bond with our newborn. There was also a whiteboard, documenting Nicholas’ information and screens with a handful of wires that were hooked up to Nicholas. The wires triggered beeps measuring his heart rate among other things.

That’s what I remember. The beeping. Constant beeping. And when the beeping became irregular, my heart would also skip a beat.

Upon giving birth, every ounce inside of me changed. Like most new moms, I was gifted true purpose- my heart was full- and life before my son was only life leading up to him. Yet, the element of his early arrival took quite an emotional toll on me- I didn’t leave that pod, surrendering my hospital room and the recommended sleeping recovery of a C-section. I also became obsessive-compulsive. I wouldn’t take my eyes off visiting friends and family, concerned Nicholas would break. Truly, I didn’t want anyone breathing on him. That hasn’t changed…nearly four years later.

Nicholas couldn’t keep his temperature up to normal, so he was constantly bundled in clothing, hats and fleece sleep-sacks that he seemed to drown in. (The influx of “preemie fashion” hadn’t seem to hit the market.) I held him and sang to him as much as I could, but mostly sat in the rocker glued to his bassinet, attached to wires and those UV lights that keep babies warm.

It wasn’t until day two (I think?) that a kind nurse asked me if I wanted to kangaroo. My first response was natural- WTF was kangarooing? But then she explained the common NICU term.

Kangarooing was skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby or dad and baby. While I snuggled him as much as I could, I truly hadn’t had that OMG bonding moment with my son, so I welcomed the idea.

The nurse helped set me up, undressing Nicholas to his diaper. She handed me my nearly naked skin-and-bones doll, and closed the curtain. I laid Nicholas on my bare chest, covered us both, and started rocking. And that’s when the tears came. Unstoppable new mom tears. Tears that I prayed would reach any God to look after my baby. I was simply overcome by the magnitude of motherhood that it all overflowed.

That is the most vivid memory I have in the NICU.

We remained in the NICU for seven nights. We had up days and down days. Days when doctors were optimistic we’d be released, and days when doctors insisted we stay. It was an emotional roller-coaster, but even a bumpy journey can be a beautiful experience.

The nurses were amazing. It was as if I had a team of teachers showing me new baby how-to’s. They held my hand along the way. They talked to me. And they sincerely cared for my son.

I never want to claim our story compares to the many preemie-NICU stories I hear so often. Babies born super early, fighting for their lives. Babies who can’t breathe on their own. Families who spend months in the NICU. Babies who don’t make it due to premature birth. In comparison, our story was a breeze. Just a quick stay in the NICU. But to me, it was seven days that changed me forever.

Nicholas, now embarking on four years old, is a kind, compassionate soul. Sweet. Caring. Calm. Peaceful. The flurry of his arrival only resulted in the strong yet sensitive little boy who ultimately stole my heart.

As I sit here, wrapping up this short recap of our stay in the NICU, I can’t help but wish I could spend one more quiet moment kangarooing with my four-pound first born. In a month, I’ll be a new mom again, kangarooing with my healthy third child. But that memory of me and Nicholas will always be at heart, as he’s my first, and the person who made me a mother.

Nadine Bubeck is a TV personality, fashion designer, author and blogger. She documented her first pregnancy in her candid book, Expecting Perfect: My Bumpy Journey to Mommyhood. Compelled to pay it forward, she also launched a clothing line that benefits March of Dimes. 50% of each item sold goes to the foundation. More here: www.mamabdesigns.com

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Do You Believe In Miracles?

August 29, 2017

Written by Shelly Blanco, guest blogger
My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We met when we were 16 years old and I knew instantly he’d be mine forever. We married in our early 20’s and spent the first 5 years of our marriage building a home and traveling the world together. It wasn’t until we turned 28 that we decided to begin our journey to be parents. After only 6 months of trying, I had a feeling something wasn’t right.


We were referred to a fertility specialist where we were both put through the barrage of testing. The testing revealed I had what they called “low ovarian reserve” and my husband had low numbers. For some reason, since both of us were “broken” in the Doctor’s eyes it made us bond together to prove them wrong. We started the grueling fertility treatment journey. Ultrasounds, injections, blood work, appointment after appointment, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, wheat grass shots, we were knee deep in this fight! We started our first IVF cycle in February 2008. To our surprise it was canceled as soon as it began, I didn’t produce any follicles that cycle. The morning we had the ultrasound to tell us there was nothing, we had to fly out to be at my nephew’s baptism, we were his Godparents. I felt like it was God’s way of helping us cope, to realize we had a family that loved us and needed us. While on that trip, I got a call that one of my best friends was pregnant. Isn’t that how it always works? While we are in the midst of a struggle we seem to see everyone else who ISN’T struggling? It was just so easy for everyone.
We started our second round of IVF as soon as the Dr would let us. Again, it was weeks of injections, blood work, ultrasounds, “samples” (someday my hubby should write about his experience!), etc. This time it worked and we had 2 beautiful embryos! The day of the transfer they gave us a picture of them, I rode home laying down in the backseat staring at these two babies that were now in me trying to “stick”! My husband brought me 2 roses, one for each embryo and we waited. I started my period before the dreaded 2-week wait was up, I knew, it didn’t work.
It was at that point I gave up. I met with the Dr after the second failed IVF cycle and he sat across from me telling me our chances of conceiving naturally were less than 1%, he talked about using donor eggs and that because of my husband’s numbers we were not candidates to try IUI. After spending over $20K and hundreds of hours at the fertility clinic, I was done. I physically felt a huge burden be lifted as I prayed to God that He take control, I couldn’t do it anymore.
Around this time, my husband decided he would get a surgery that would potentially help his numbers. It was not a simple procedure and I watched my husband suffer through it so he could help our chances of being parents. We also attended a fertility support group through our church which was probably the best thing we did during this entire ordeal. We sat in the room listening to testimonies and as we listened we realized these stories ended with almost everyone in that room having a child in one way or another. I looked over at my husband and saw him wiping tears away, it was then I realized the toll it was taking on him too.
6 weeks after my husband’s surgery, I realized my cycle was late. Of course, I didn’t believe it. So, I waited. And waited. I took a pregnancy test at 6am on September 11th, 2008. I didn’t see a line so back to bed I went, this was nothing new. But then my husband came storming into the room, “There’s a line! It’s faint, but it’s there!”. Unbelievably we were pregnant, naturally, miracle #1. A month later, my husband had a follow up appointment with his urologist, so of course we took him cookies and took a picture with him as a thank you for this miracle. It wasn’t until a week after that appointment when we got the results of my husband’s post-surgery sample that we realized the surgery did nothing to his numbers, they were exactly the same.
On May 1st, 2009 our son Isaac was born. He was conceived with no medical intervention. We loved on him and spent the first year of his life in utter disbelief he was ours. We told our story to anyone who would listen. I was blessed to be able to nurse him for 13 months. Then, one day after I weaned him from nursing, on May 28th, 2010, we found out, by the grace of God, we were pregnant again. Our second son, Xavier was born on January 11th, 2011, again he was conceived with no medical intervention, our miracle #2.
We lived the next 5 years watching these babies turn into boys, watching brothers play and fight with each other. I felt done, I knew the odds were against us, I was tired too, but my husband felt a pull. He kept saying he wanted a daughter, he could envision himself walking her down the aisle at her wedding. A few years after my 2nd son was born, my husband has his numbers tested and once again his numbers were very low, the same as before. So, in November 2015, after we had “not not tried” for the past 5 years, I got tested again. The Dr called and said, your eggs are “fair” and scored a 3 out of 10….30%, my eggs failed the test. We were grateful and content with our life so we let it be what it was.
One month later, December 30th, 2015, it happened again, miracle #3, we were pregnant. I was certain it was another boy, it was all I knew! On September 7th, 2016, our daughter Valentina was born.
A few things struck me as we were going through all of this, especially during my last pregnancy. I had almost every person I told ask me if we were trying to have another child. It was such an odd question for people to ask me. I know I was older and my boys were older but these people didn’t know our story and didn’t know how hard we had tried to have these children. Every day I realize how we have truly experienced miracles and I am forever grateful for the chance we have had to be parents. It’s hard for me to hear others going through struggles to conceive, I want to reach out to them however I am sensitive to the fact that I have children now and they don’t. But, I do pray that my story will in some way provide a ray of hope to those in the trenches!

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

About A Boy

August 24, 2017

Written by Wendy Garafalo, guest blogger

This is a story about a boy, his diagnosis, and the way LOVE can shift everything….

My son Luca, has autism. It still feels strange to write it, but it’s our truth and it’s something we’ve embraced and learned to love. Luca was an amazing baby, slept well, ate well. He had an incredible way of letting me know when he was done and ready to move on to the next phase. At about 5 months, he took out his pacifier and threw it across the room. I couldn’t ever get it back in his mouth. At about 15 months, after nursing one morning, he rolled off and said ‘bye bye boobie!’ And never asked for it again. He was very verbal, speaking full sentences just after his first birthday. As new parents, we didn’t know any different. We simply thought he was special. And indeed he is!


Luca has a little sister, Aviana. They are about 20 months apart. When Aviana turned 2, She began talking more and she and I started having conversations. Not many people could understand her, but I could and there was definitely a back and forth happening that had never happened with Luca. At the time, Luca was almost 4 and we had recently moved to Carlsbad. He was extremely particular about things. He always had to push the light switch or the garage door button. And if he didn’t get to push it…. Explosions, tantrums, etc. I talked with other moms and they reassured me that this was normal 3-year-old behavior. So, I brushed off my concerns many times.
Until one morning, when my husband approached me, eyes red and puffy. He said he had been on the Autism Speaks website and he was really concerned that Luca might have autism. I froze, I couldn’t handle that thought. I didn’t know much about autism, but there was no way my little boy had it. I put on a happy face and went downstairs to start my day with the kids. Those were probably the hardest couple of days. Watching Luca and feeling the questions start to build in my head.


My husband and I agreed to have him evaluated. And a few months later, we heard that word… autism. And it hit us hard. How could this have happened? Why didn’t we see it sooner? What did I do wrong when I was pregnant. On and on the questions came thru my head. On our way home my husband said to me, ‘he’s still the same boy we’ve always known and loved’. And yes he was, but now we needed to let go of our expectations of how we thought his life might turn out and simply meet him where he is. We needed to work our way thru the blame, and we needed to give ourselves a little space to mourn, to accept and to figure out ‘now what?’ Luckily, where we live offers a lot of help and resources. Right away we got Luca into a special program. We found a therapist who he loved, and we started our journey into the world of autism.
We decided early on that we wanted to share what we were going thru. Day by day, we were realizing that the diagnosis wasn’t a curse, a weight to bear, but rather it gave us a jumping off point. We had been treading water for a while, and now we were provided a platform and could choose a direction to go. At the time of his diagnosis, Luca was obsessed with letters and fonts. It was hard to take him to the grocery story as he wanted to stop and look at each package and try to determine the font. Keep in mind he’s 4 years old. He was incredibly intrigued by words written on glass doors and windows. It frustrated him to walk on the other side and see the words in reverse. His little mind simply couldn’t grasp it. After asking me about it at least a hundred times, he finally seemed to accept it.
A few weeks later I noticed Luca drawing with chalk on some planter boxes we have in the back yard. I watched as he wrote the word LOVE completely in reverse. I came out with a rag to erase it and help him write it the ‘right’ way. He stopped me and said, “I wrote it that way for the plants to read from the inside.” I looked at him, and he went back to drawing. I walked back inside and sat down, my heart exploding, and I cried. I cried because I felt I was just given a little glimpse into how his amazing mind works. His reasoning for love in reverse was simply brilliant. Why would I need to read it, when it wasn’t meant for me?!
I knew I had to share this story, so I wrote it out and shared it on social media. It was our way of telling the world what we had been going thru and how it wasn’t as scary as you may think. This story illustrated it all for me. Luca’s mind works differently, and he’s here to teach me about compassion and love. I felt the need to get this message out, beyond my social media reach. So, I started a company and we started making feel good items that have a message of love in reverse. And we donate to local charities who help kids with autism. The thought is, when you wear the hat, the shirt, the jewelry, Luca’s message of love in reverse is constantly being delivered in to your soul. It doesn’t matter what you wear, or how you look, or your age or your weight. All that matters is the love you feel on the inside. That’s what Luca taught me that day. And now my mission is to share his story, to create awareness around autism. And to remind everyone to stop judging, stop comparing and start loving! It’s all that matters, it’s all that will ever matter.

iam-love.org

Babe In My Arms, Blogs, Uncategorized

Understanding Post Partum Depression

August 21, 2017

•By Dr. Kendra Segura, Guest Blogger

The birth of a baby is a time of joy and precious memories. For some women, however, it can be anything but joyous; instead it is filled with self-doubt, and overwhelming guilt.

Unfortunately, it is still shameful, these days, for a mother to admit feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or irritated, following the birth of their child; and they feel too ashamed to ask for help. After all, a “good mother” is expected to be completely selfless, and have no other feelings except joy and love for their child. But with postpartum depression affecting 10% of mothers, it can no longer stay a shameful secret. We have to get the word out, to ensure those good mothers get the help they need.

The importance of awareness
It is encouraging to see more and more celebrities coming out and saying, “Hey! I am having a hard time adjusting, and I need help”; among them are Brook Shields, Kendra Wilkinson, and more recently Chrissy Teigan who stated — “It does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up.” This is great, because it helps to bring about awareness to the disease. More awareness not only helps patients, but also the medical professional. Physician offices are now becoming more equipped to detect and treat post-partum depression. Most physicians administer a survey at the 6 weeks post-partum visit to screen for depression. On the same note, health care providers are taking more initiative on identifying patients that are feeling overwhelmed, and many schedule closer follow-up, as early as 2 weeks post-partum, instead of only at 6 weeks, depending on their patient’s risk factors. All of this is a great start, but more awareness is needed so that, hopefully, one day, no mother will feel ashamed about asking for help.

What’s normal?
So, is it normal to feel depressed or to have “the blues” after giving birth? Yes, it is. Normal physiologic changes in the mother, after the birth of a child, can simulate symptoms of depression, such as changes in sleep pattern, energy level, or appetite. A benign condition that many are familiar with is postpartum blues, which occurs 2-3 days after childbirth, and resolves within 2 weeks’ time without intervention. And that is one big difference between postpartum depression, and postpartum blues – postpartum blues resolves on its own; so if symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, doctors often begin suspecting postpartum depression.

Symptoms of postpartum depression
Besides feeling depressed, anxious, or upset, mothers suffering from post-partum depression may feel angry with the new baby, their partners, or their other children. They also may: cry for no clear reason; have trouble sleeping, eating, and making choices; question whether they can handle caring for a baby. The manifestations of the disease that make the news, of course, are the extreme cases where the patient harms themselves or the infant due to suicidality or associated psychosis, but these cases are far and few between. Many patients with postpartum depression have debilitating symptoms, but suicide or infanticide is very rare.

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?
Postpartum depression is a clinical diagnosis – meaning there is no fancy, million dollar test for the diagnosis; your doctor may order some lab tests to rule out other possible medical problems, but, really, the diagnosis of postpartum depression is based on the doctor’s careful assessment. Besides asking about some of the above-mentioned manifestations of the disease, physicians will often focus on the timing of symptoms. Postpartum depression can occur up to 1 year after having a baby, but it most commonly starts about 1-3 weeks after childbirth. As mentioned before, symptoms that resolve on their own, within a couple of weeks, are usually of no concern. Besides the timing of symptoms, the severity of symptoms can also help doctors make the diagnosis. Women with postpartum depression can have INTENSE feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair that prevent them from being able to do their daily tasks. Keeping a log or diary of your symptoms can help your doctor diagnose or rule-out postpartum depression.

What causes postpartum depression?
It is still, unfortunately, not entirely clear what exactly causes postpartum depression (another reason for more awareness!!). What we think right now is that postpartum depression is caused by a combination of factors – “the perfect storm” of a sudden drop in the level of hormones (estrogen and progesterone), combined with common stressors surrounding pregnancy and delivery. One common physiologic stressor that seems to increases the risk of postpartum depression is a lack of sleep. Social stressors also increase the chance for postpartum depression, and these include: a lack of a support system, stressful life event (recent death of loved one, a family illness, etc.), a major lifestyle change (moving to new city, change of job). A history of depression itself is also a risk factor for developing postpartum depression. There is also some evidence that postpartum depression can have a genetic component to it (meaning, some people may inherit a higher risk of developing the disease). As an example, there have been studies that show siblings of postpartum depression patients tend to have a higher chance of getting the disease as well.

What is the treatment?
The very first step of treatment is getting help right when you need it. You do not need to wait for your 6 weeks’ post-partum visit to get help. Even if you don’t think you have a problem, if your significant other or family members are concerned about your mental health, get help ASAP.

Treatment may involve “Talk therapy” (psychotherapy), one-on-one or in a group setting. Others patients may need medication – antidepressants that can help restore the balance of chemicals in the brain to balance mood, or a combination of both.

As with any disease, prevention is the best ‘treatment’. If you have a history of depression or postpartum depression, please, please inform your health care provider. You may be referred to have talk therapy during your prenatal care and if you are on antidepressant, you may be advised to continue your medication.

Additions Resources:

Postpartum Support International

National Women’s Health Information Center

BIO
Dr. Kendra Segura is an obstetric/gynecologist practicing in Southern California. She completed her residency in Rochester, New York. She also has a Masters of Public Health earned at Loma Linda University in Southern California. She has worked for the Los Angeles county health department, where she performed disease surveillance and health education.

Dr. Kendra feels that her God-given purpose extends beyond patients that she encounters in the office, or in the hospital. She desires to reach the women she will not see in the above settings, through various forms of media. Her mission to is inform the uninformed, and misinformed.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

A Mom On A Mission

August 8, 2017

•Written by Heather Bienz, Guest Blogger

In May 2015 I lost my 2nd daughter, Reagan, to Turner Syndrome and delivered her still-born during my 25th week of pregnancy. Ten short months later I lost my 3rd daughter, Hannah, to Turner Syndrome as well.

Turner Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that occurs when all or part of one of the female X chromosomes is lost before or soon after the time of conception. It is not connected to or passed on from either parent and there is nothing a person can do to increase or decrease the chance of this happening.

I was looking for a way to process my grief, share my testimony with others and also help support other families impacted by Turner Syndrome. I started a faith based apparel company called Reagan Twenty Five where 25% of profits are donated to Leaping Butterfly Ministry to help sponsor women with TS to attend an annual conference and to also help purchase hearing aids for those who may have lost their hearing due to TS. All shirts are designed by me and are inspired by my journey after losing my two daughters, Reagan and Hannah.

The goals of Reagan Twenty Five have and will always be to glorify God, to help spread His message to others through positive and uplifting messages worn on our clothing to help facilitate loving conversations about our Savior or to plant seeds in the hearts of others for God to grow, to create a community for women and mother’s to know you are loved and not alone in whatever hardships you may be facing and to give back to other families impacted by Turner Syndrome – the chromosomal disorder that took the lives of my daughters, Reagan and Hannah.

By connecting with other faith based women who share their stories with me through this ministry it not only helps to heal my heart, but also reminds me that God provides beauty no matter how deep the pain. We are not alone in our sufferings.

I remember wishing so badly that this wasn’t my life. I hated this new direction God was pushing me and I wanted things to go back to how they used to be. I knew this path, as much as I didn’t want it, would shape me into a different person. The more I looked back and focused on the past, the more depressed and bitter I became. It affected my friendships, my relationships with my family and my marriage. It wasn’t fair. I wanted my girls back. I wanted the “old me” back.

It wasn’t until I decided to stop looking back and to start focusing on the future that I truly and fully started to trust God and His plan for me. It was then that my life started to fall back into place – and as crazy as it sounds, in ways it’s even better than before. I’ve noticed my relationship with God is stronger now than it’s ever been, my respect, understanding and love for my husband is at a level I never knew was possible and the maturity and confidence I now have in knowing who I am and what’s important in my life has given me so much peace and comfort.

In January this year we welcomed our 4th baby girl, Rayna, into the world and she’s as healthy as can be. She’s a constant reminder to us that God is ALWAYS good – in the good times and the bad.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Our Double Rainbow

July 19, 2017

•By Kristie Rossi, Guest Blogger

“You’re going to be a big brother!!” I remember saying these words to my 15 month old son, Brady, shortly after getting my positive pregnancy test. I just knew this was the baby brother we had prayed for. I immediately called my mom and sisters and made a “Big Brother” shirt for Brady for our “formal announcement” to the world.

The “Big Brother” shirt. A shirt that would tell our friends and family the great news. A shirt that would sit in my drawer for 4 years as I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. A shirt that brought back the memories of excitement, followed immediately by grief. And tears.

Almost immediately I began bleeding, and I just knew. A quick trip to the ER to see an empty uterus confirmed this. Then the news this was ectopic. I began the process of an injection and letting my body heal, but a few weeks later, my ectopic pregnancy ruptured. This rupture and emergency surgery changed our plans for giving Brady a brother or sister. For growing our family quickly: 3 boys under 5 years.

Several years before Brady was born, I was diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis. I also had an ovary that didn’t want to stay where it should. It decided to hide and required a lot of work to get back in it’s right place. At that time, my Doctor had told me that I’d be lucky to get pregnant on my own, but would most likely need to do IVF, as there was too much scar tissue. My ectopic rupture surgery also confirmed this, and that Doctor informed me that my 1 remaining tube was twisted. My 1 remaining tube that was attached to my ovary that refused to stay where it should. However, I decided to try Clomid because what did those doctors know? I was told I wouldn’t get pregnant on my own. And I did. Twice!

6 month, 3 cycles of Clomid. Failed. On to IVF. I had officially been diagnosed with Secondary Infertility. Huh? I had never heard these words. After googling, I found an amazing Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) in Phoenix, Dr. J, and began our adventure into IVF. Injections. Injections. Injections. Two straight weeks of nightly shots, then an additional 2 weeks of PIO shots (ouch!!!) and we were ready for our egg retrieval.

Dr J. was able to retrieve several eggs and 3 days later we decided to transfer 3 embryos. Three?!? We knew they wouldn’t all take (Triplets? No thank you!) but we knew that 1 would grow into a beautiful baby. After the longest two weeks, I went in for my pregnancy test and then Dr. J. called and told me the test was negative. Negative? As in not pregnant? As in not one, out of three embryos, stuck? How? A negative test hadn’t crossed my mind. How could it not work? Wasn’t IVF almost a guarantee to get pregnant? We scheduled our WTF appointment and immediately decided we would try again.

We waited three months and began another round of injections. This round I developed a horrible case of Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome. so we decided to freeze our embryos and would transfer them the next month. Walking around looking 3 months pregnant, when I was far from it provided for interesting conversations and trying to cover up what I was going through. The next month, we transferred 2 frozen embryos and again waited. Negative. WTF!?! I got pregnant so easily before hand. How was this not working??

I should also point out, around this time, my mom was losing her battle with Melanoma. I wasn’t sure anymore if I was trying to have a baby for her, or us. I wanted so badly for her to have another grandbaby before she left this Earth.

We chose to switch doctors and our initial consultation with Dr. Z, was scheduled for 2 days after my mom passed. We looked at the calendar and made a tentative plan to do our egg retrieval for January 18. My mom’s birthday was January 17, so I felt this was a sign from her that she was ok. That we were all going to be ok. January quickly came and again we transferred 2 “great looking” embryos.

A few days before my scheduled pregnancy test, I saw a double rainbow on my drive home. Then a neighbor, who didn’t know we had been doing IVF, told me that God had talked to her daughter (8), at church and told her she would need to “help Kristie with her 2 baby girls.” Wow. I knew this was it. I knew both embryos had stuck and we’d be blessed with twin girls. My mom had always joked that Brady would be her only “baby boy” and my other kids would be girls. She knew that my husband and I wanted 3 boys, so I ignored her jokes. Pregnancy test day was here!!! I waited all afternoon to get that confirmation call that “my girls” had stuck! And…Negative. Again. I was now 0-3 on IVF. And the signs? How had all these signs turned into nothing?

I still had 2 frozen embryos, 1 grade A and 1 grade B, at my old RE’s office. Dr Z. said “If you have them, let’s transfer them.” Driving these tiny embryos in this huge chamber was the most nerve wrecking 15 mile drive of my life. By this time, I was already feeling hopeless. I was deflated. I had spent the past 16 months of my life, doing injections, praying and crying. And crying. And crying. So much crying. I tried to remain positive for this last frozen transfer, but it was hard. My heart was broken. I “met” a group of women through The Bump messaging boards that were going through the same thing as me. These women kept me sane over the years during these cycles and cried with me, but were also the biggest supporters.

May 6, 2013
:phone rings:
me: “Hi Dr. Z”
Dr Z: “Hi Kristie. I really wish I had good news for you.”
Me: trying to hold my tears in. “Ok. Should we schedule our follow up appointment?”
Dr Z: “If you want to we can. I think we have run out of options for you. I think you and your husband should explore other options. Your eggs are bad and the odds of you carrying your own pregnancy are slim.”

That was it. Our journey was over. We were one and done. I practiced saying it in the mirror to try and sound convincing when a stranger asked me when we would have baby #2. To try and not let the tears well up whenever this questioned was asked. And let’s face it. It gets asked A LOT.

Secondary Infertility: Two words that prior to January 2012, I had never heard of. Two words that stole so much from me. Two words that pulled me into a such a depression, that I pulled away from my son. Two years. Two years were robbed from my relationship with my son and husband. Two years that I’ll never get back. I only hope Brady doesn’t remember.

And what about those “2 sisters” that God told my neighbor’s daughter she would need to help me out with?

July 22, 2013: While the rest of the world was celebrating the birth of the Royal baby, I was sitting at home in disbelief staring at this. How could this happen? Just 2 ½ short months after I was told to explore other options: Adoption. Surrogacy. 2 ½ short months after my husband and I decided to not talk about anything related to expanding our family until Labor Day. We were exhausted and needed a break. But then this happened.

February 28, 2014: Kallie Angelina was born. Angelina in memory of my mom. My rainbow baby. My miracle.

May 7, 2015: Two years and 1 day after I was told to explore other options. Two years and 1 day after I was told I would never carry my own baby again. Another positive pregnancy test.

December 10, 2015: My birthday present was born. Kelsie Marie.

I am still in disbelief that they are mine. That I went through 16 months of heartache and now have these beautiful blessings. We planned for a family of 5. We wanted 3 boys. I still don’t fully understand why my husband and I had to go through what we did. I do question a lot about my infertility journey. However, for me, my questions all had the same answer – someone, whether it was God, my mom, a little bit of both, had already written out my path to fertility. I will never forget my journey or take my 3 blessings for granted. My heart has ached. My heart has mourned. But with that, my heart is full.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

“Just Relax” They Say

June 26, 2017

•By Kathryne Shrewsbury, Guest Blogger

Let’s keep it real, dealing with infertility issues sucks. It is stressful, time consuming and expensive. You are not in control of the outcome even if you do everything right. I know first hand what infertility looks like having gone through two rounds of IVF, one fresh embryo transfer, one frozen embryo transfer, hundreds of injections, 40,000 dollars spent and countless hours at doctors appointments.

My husband and I decided early on in this journey that we would be open and honest about our fertility issues. We didn’t shy away from the fact that we needed help to start our family with the hopes our story may help someone else who is also struggling. I have pretty thick skin and don’t let what others say get me because I believe most people are undertanding, caring and compassionate. But sometimes others also don’t quite understand what you are going through when it comes to infertility. People may make comments that come from a good place, but trying desperately to have a child it can come off as rude, naive or insensitive. In my opinion, here are the top 3 statements never to say to someone who is TTC/going through fertility treatments.

“You guys just need to relax. It will happen when the time is right”
Do not say this to anyone trying to have a child. This statement is the number one thing that makes my blood boil. There was one person in my life who said this to me over and over during the time we were trying to conceive and even after we found out we would have to go through IVF. I just wanted to reach over, shake her and scream that she had no idea what she was talking about. I think people who say this don’t know a lot about infertility. In my case my husband’s low sperm count, not stress, was causing our infertility issues.

“My sister/cousin/friend did XYZ and they got pregnant.”
I don’t care if your sister started meditating or doing yoga and got pregnant or if your friend started eating some special foods or supplements and got pregnant. Those women and their partners did not have fertility issues that required medical intervention. I understand that the person suggesting these activities/products is just trying to help, but it will not help someone who is actually suffering from infertility.

“Do you really need to be doing that?”
This was something that didn’t really bother me at the time, but looking back I find it very annoying that someone would question the medical decisions my husband, my Doctor and I made together. No one would ever choose to have fertility problems and it’s not like I woke up one day and said, “I’m going to do a round of IVF.”  There were tons of doctors appointments, lab tests, blood draws and stressful decisions to get to that point. So yes. I really need to be doing…IUI/IVF/ICSI/PGS testing etc!

Thankfully my infertility struggles have a happy ending. I have a very active 18 month old son, Renner, and another on the way both conceived through IVF. My family would not have been possible without the help of our amazing team of doctors and nurses as well as the support of our family and friends.

If you know someone struggling with infertility be honest and tell them you don’t know what they are going through physically or emotionally but that you are there if they need you. Ask questions and educate yourself. Personally I am always more than happy to answer questions people have about our journey to start our family. It makes me feel so honored when family, friends and even complete strangers open up to me about their fertility issues. Sadly it is so much more common than most people realize and if we’re keeping it real, the best way to get through infertility is if we do it together.

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Wishing and Hoping and Thinking and Praying

June 22, 2017

•Written by Sarah Lanning, Guest Blogger

I’m a huge advocate for Adoption. It has been a huge part of my life as I was adopted along with my four other siblings.  I met my husband and on our first date he told me that his father was also adopted. We immediately bonded over that and I knew this was the man I was going to marry. After four years of trying to get pregnant and having three miscarriages, I lost all hope in ever having a baby but that’s where our adoption journey begins.

On a late July afternoon, right after Fourth of July, I was more depressed than I’d ever like to admit. I was almost 27 years old with everything I could ever want in my life but I always knew one thing was missing, A BABY!
As long as I could remember I’ve wanted to be a mom, and it was all I thought about!
“Am I ever going to be pregnant?”
“Will I ever be able to give my husband a baby?”
“When will it be my turn to have a baby?”
All these thoughts ran through my head as I lived my life and everyone else around me was getting pregnant and having babies. And all I could do was fake being happy for them because it was the one thing that I wanted most in my life. I hated going to baby showers and getting those dreaded text messages and phone calls “I’m pregnant.”  You always have to pretend to be happy for them because I mean what else can you say besides “Congratulations!”

Thats when I received a phone call that made my heart skip a beat. A friend that I used to work with called to tell me that one of her friends (a girl I didn’t even know nor had ever met) had a co-worker that was pregnant and wanted to place her baby up for adoption. I knew I trusted “D” with all my heart but trusting a girl I didn’t even know to make me a mother was terrifying to say the least! But I listened to everything she had to say about “L” and waited two hours for my husband to come home from work (it felt like an eternity) to tell him all about this. He was very hesitant and it took a couple days of persuading him.

I then called my parents, they had been down this road before and I needed their advice and support- 5 adoptions and 13 fosterings. I knew I could count on them to help us and guide us through this long journey of adoption.
At this point she was 26 weeks pregnant, so we only had 14 weeks to find an agency, an attorney, and to get a home study done. In addition to buy everything essential for a baby, to get our house baby proofed and a pool safety net. We also only had a little amount of time to come up with a very significant amount of money! To say it was a VERY stressful 14 weeks is an understatement!

Tweleve weeks later our home study still wasn’t complete and I got the call “they are delivering the baby tonight…2 weeks early, due to complications.” I’ve never been so nervous and scared in my life. Here we are waiting to have our home study done and our baby is being born across the country. Luckily, she was born  and our home study was also done on the SAME DAY!  That night we jumped on a plane and flew to the East Coast to go meet our baby!

We got off the plane and drove straight to the hospital in hopes of meeting her. We were rudely greeted by nurses that weren’t open to adoption and very foreign to the idea of the birth mother not taking her own baby home.
One hour of sleep in the waiting room, three hours of sleeping in our car, 30 min drive to our hotel, lunch and a 30 min nap and we were on our way back to the hospital for another try at finally meeting our daughter! We got to the hospital and didn’t know what to expect because we didn’t have any contact with the birth mom her whole pregnancy but to our surprise we were welcomed into her room with a big hug and a smile. She than handed us our daughter, a 5lb 6oz teeny tiny princess!


To our surprise they had named her, we came thinking that we would give her the name that we had come up with the last 3 months we were planning for her (we didn’t know the gender so we had a boy name too). When our social worker told us that they had named her Grace Marie my husband and I burst into tears because we had been in a disagreement over names for three months. My husband had always loved the name Madyson Grace since he was 15 and had to name a baby for a school project. I wanted Madyson Anne because Anne is a very special to me, as it was my grandmothers middle name and she has since passed away. When we heard that they named her that we knew that we wanted to incorporate Grace into her name! So after a day or so of talking about it we decided to happily name our daughter Madyson Grace Anne.
At four days old we got to take our daughter home. When most people would be so ecstatic to finally take their baby home from the hospital, my husband and I were on edge. We still weren’t sure if we were going to be able to parent this tiny, sweet babe or not. By law the birth mother can’t sign papers if she is sent home with medication, so we had to wait four LONG days until she finished her medication and could sign her parental rights away. On day eight at 11am I got the second most amazing phone call of my life “MADYSON IS YOURS FOREVER!” I immediately burst into tears and kissed her all over. We hugged and cried into each other arms and couldn’t believe our dreams were coming true. WE WERE FINALLY PARENTS!

After two weeks on the East Coast we were FINALLY cleared to go home. We couldn’t wait to go home and just enjoy being a family. We also couldn’t wait till Thanksgiving to surprise our family with our daughter! We decided to keep our adoption process a secret from our friends and family because we were scared but most of all we were terrified of getting attached and hurting both sides of our family. All we could do was have faith that this would work out and we could surprise our families with this baby! As Thanksgiving Day came we were very excited for everyone to meet our newest little member of the family!

Adoption has FOREVER changed my life in a way that I could never truly express. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for adoption and my husband and I wouldn’t be parents if it wasn’t for adoption. Adoption is very exhausting, stressful and emotional but also very rewarding! I would do it all again to have my daughter because I am FINALLY A MOM!

Babe In My Arms, Blogs

Timing. Is. Everything.

June 20, 2017

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always pictured myself having a big family. Not just 3 or 4 children, I seriously want 10 kids! Even though my two “almost twins” can be a lot to handle and completely test my sanity at times (coffee helps!), I actually still want to have more babies! Ok, ok…so 10 kids is probably a bit outrageous and mainly because logistics…like who’s gonna do all that laundry and would I ever even wash my hair? Gabe and I know that while our family is perfect as it is, it doesn’t feel quite complete yet. So it’s time to start thinking about the next babe and how exactly are we gonna “get it.” The options are naturally (we’ve already agreed no more IVF), another adoption (including foster/adoption) or maybe even both!

First we’re going to try and see if we can’t prove those Doctor’s wrong (again) and get pregnant on our own! That’s why I am so excited about my Ava bracelet. It takes all the guess work out of fertility tracking and will get us on the right course to conception! All I have to do is wear this bracelet at night while I sleep and then sync it to my phone in the morning. No charting temperatures or using those ovulation predictor kits…which by the way I did religiously for about 4 years when we were trying to conceive! Ava makes fertility tracking easy and effortless by charting 9 different body signals and detecting my 5 most fertile days of the month.  I’ve learned that timing is everything and I seriously love my Ava bracelet. Gabe and I are excited and hopeful that we will be able to conceive naturally if that’s God’s plan for us!

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m nervous about this next step. For starters, I’m not even sure that I will be able to get pregnant again and it brings back all those awful infertility feelings. For 4 years we tried everything to start our family and all the loss and disappointment we endured comes flooding back to me. Even though we are technically considered fertile now the scars of infertility are something I will always carry with me.

I also struggle with feelings of guilt about even wanting more kids. I mean, look at me now…I have two beautiful, healthy children! I’m a mom! I have everything I’ve always wanted. And now I want more??? How greedy am I? My heart breaks for the couples who are still waiting on their babes and it just feels wrong to want more kids until they get theirs. Like somehow I’m taking up more than my fair share of the universe’s baby dust.

Although the anxiety and fears I have about starting this process again weigh on my mind, there’s absolutely nothing that’ll stop me from adding to this family. And if I’ve learned anything from the journey to my babies it’s that if you REALLY want to be parent you absolutely will. Do not give up, keep pushing forward, be open to all options and stay the course. I’m guess I better take my own advice …so herrrrrreeeee we go!

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Babe In My Arms, Blogs

What About Dad?

June 18, 2017

•Written by Elizabeth Johnson, Guest Blogger

 

My husband is a solid, secure and wonderful guy. And when I say solid, I mean solid – 6’3, 250 and bench presses almost 400 lbs (yes, that is a real stat). He is funny, sensitive, a serious planner and the most intuitive person I know. We met at a wedding – very cliché, him a groomsman, me a bridesmaid – and started dating soon after. We loved (and still love) planning trips, entertaining our friends and family and going to the beach. The only thing we didn’t plan for was infertility…

Pat and I were married in August 2012 in Northern California, and while we were excited to start a family, to me there was no rush. I said “let’s be married first” with the idea that being a parent is forever, being a newlywed is temporary. But, after a little convincing from him, we decided to “pull the goalie” the following January. After a couple little bumps, we found out we were pregnant at beginning of August 2013, a few weeks short of our first anniversary! We were surprised and excited to say the least. Unfortunately, it only lasted 7 weeks. I was at work one day and I started to bleed, so I rushed to the emergency room. Pat met me at the ER and I will never forget the look on his face and tears in his eyes before we even saw the doctor. After that horrible ER experience (another story for another time), we went home and mourned. But, we also tried to find the silver lining – we got pregnant really fast, I could get pregnant in general and my OBGYN was super optimistic. So we, how you say, got back in the saddle and…
Nothing. For 2 years. Nothing.
We started how everyone does, having sex every other day during the fertile time, taking temps, using ovulation sticks, the works. We would get excited and hopeful, and then…the two week cycle of optimism and then defeat would come and go. Pat has since commented to me that his least favorite words in the English language became “I’m spotting.” And each time I was disappointed he was there to comfort me and say “next time” or “let’s do this differently” always with a solution and not getting bogged down. We did the rounds of clomid and each time while my hormones were up and down, Pat was there to be supportive and calm – yet a little part of him was dying inside. It was getting harder for him to hide his frustration and sadness and when the last round of clomid prescribed by our Doctor failed, he broke down. Tears and beers in the backyard, this wasn’t happening for us how we thought it would. We were at an impasse – take a break or take it one step further and get help. I wasn’t getting any younger so we decided to get help and researched clinics. After choosing the clinic and having our first round of tests (beyond blood tests) in January 2015, we were resolved that this was going to happen – the clinic will figure out the problem, tell us how to fix it and we’ll be good!
We met with the doctor and the diagnosis didn’t go as planned – unexplained infertility. What? Oh there’s nothing wrong with you, we ran every (massively invasive) test but can’t find anything, your infertility is unexplained. We can’t fix it, because we can’t find the problem. WTF?! (literally people, WTF).

But our doc was positive, all the signs pointed towards yes – high egg count, sperm is shaped right and motile, we were a layup, easy peasy, IUI would do it. The light and excitement came back into Pat’s eyes – hey, we’ll get there, we just needed a little assistance. IUI time – let’s do this! IUI, billed as a simple, painless (turkey baster) procedure. Not so much. Turns out, my cervix was a trickster and the doctor kept missing. As I went through the pain of the catheter being reinserted multiple times, Pat went through the pain of watching me and being helpless. I squeezed his hand hard, but he squeezed right back. I got through it, we took a deep breath and he bought me a milkshake (which became a fertility treatment tradition).
Nothing happened, BFN. Another visit to the clinic, rude receptionists, more tests, another IUI, demanding billing department, another milkshake and no pregnancy. We had one more chance at IUI, so decided to try it and if it didn’t work, IVF it was. Ok, game plan! Pat was pumped, he loves game plans. We went in for the last IUI and low and behold, BFP!!! Finally! We had just bought and started remodeling our house, we had resolved to taking the next step if we needed to so we just kind of let it go and there it was! A positive pregnancy test! We were excited and cautiously optimistic. Monday I was pregnant and according to the blood tests the levels looked great, Wednesday, number went up, trending in the right direction, then Sunday, while sitting at brunch with my family, I got the call. Numbers had dropped and I was going to miscarry or it was probably a chemical pregnancy. We left before the coffee came.
When you hit a wall with something, you hit a wall. Pat was done. Done with the clinic, done with the rude receptionists, done with the financial advisors who had no bedside manner when it came to explaining what it would cost, just done.
We were at another impasse – try another clinic or quit. Pat’s gut told him we should switch clinics, I wasn’t so sure. We sat down with our doctor, who he was also starting to lose faith in, but I still loved and trusted, to discuss IVF. Pat brashly decided to ask her about the other local clinics that we were looking into, and she gave the very diplomatic answer that all of the clinics were fine, just went about things differently. When he asked more pointedly about a clinic we were looking into more closely, she seemed uncomfortable and just said “oh they are great people.” Awkward. We went home, and talked a few things out and then tabled the discussion for a few days. When you are battling infertility, tabling something for even a few days feels like a lifetime. I knew what I wanted to do – stick with our doctor and start IVF – but Pat needed to come to the decision on his own. A few more days went by, clock was ticking, and he said he was ready to take the next step and start IVF. Hurray! We would stay at the clinic, begrudgingly, but with a doctor who all but guaranteed us we would have a baby.
At my first appointment to start the IVF process, my doctor came out to the waiting room and asked me to come back to her office, instead of the receptionist leading me back. All I thought was “this can’t be good.” Well, I was wrong, first good news we had in awhile – she was switching clinics, to the clinic we were considering and wanted to let me know personally, so that no more time could be wasted. I didn’t even go to the rest of the appointment, I called Pat immediately. It was a no brainer, leave the rude, expensive clinic and follow her. Finally a sign! At our first consultation appointment at the new clinic, it was a complete 180 – warm friendly receptionist, a financial advisor who understood the burden of the cost and nurses who brought us snacks into our meeting (snacks!) – and we knew we were in the right place. Pat’s intuition once again was right.
Once we charted a course for meds, and shots and egg retrieval we felt, in a way, like ourselves again. There was a plan with set steps to the desired outcome. We made it as fun as we could, played the song “Shots, shots, shots” every time he would have to stick me with the needle in my stomach (yes, I made him do it), and then do a little celebration after, we were on our way. The first ultrasound showed that all of the follicles looked great! I went in for the egg retrieval on October 23, 2015. I was nervous, but ready. I guess I was so excited as I was going under, I was talking about what kind of Halloween themed dishes and drinks I was going to serve at our annual party (Halloween is my favorite holiday), cracking up the nurses. Pat was there for me when I woke up – funny story, as folks know the dad has to make his “deposit” during the retrieval so that the eggs can be fertilized in a timely manner. Well when he went to the designated room, it was occupied, and for a LONG TIME. He panicked and found a nurse and let her know my procedure should be done momentarily, what should he do?! She led him to a regular bathroom and told him to lock the door. Yikes. And like I said, he was there for me when I woke up, sample safely with the doctor, guy can perform (winky face emoji?). All of this related to me as I was coming off the anesthesia, I chuckled and thought the hard part was over!
The doctor came in and let us know they didn’t get as many eggs as they thought they would, but they got 8 which was still really promising. We felt good about it, they would let us know in 3 days how many fertilized, and then in 5 days which eggs became blastocysts and ready to implant. When we came in on day 5, it was a good news/bad news situation – good news, my uterine lining looked great, we should transfer right away instead of freezing the embryos, bad news, only 3 made it to 5 day blastocyst stage – 2 that looked perfect, had super high “grades” and 1 that was about a B+. She recommended transferring 2, hedge our bets, place all (well almost) our eggs in one basket (overused fertility pun?) so we did it! Watching the transfer I cried, we were so happy, this is the moment where our baby(ies) were starting their journey. We went home on cloud nine, celebrated at our Halloween party (me sneaking mocktails and non alcoholic wine without people catching on) and started talking about babies.
I went in for my blood test 10 days later, but didn’t feel the same high. For some reason, I knew. When we got the call later that day, instead of breaking down, I had to stay strong for Pat. It is pretty hard to get some of the worst news of your life and not be able to melt into a puddle. But, we pick our partners based on what we need and in that moment he needed me to be the solid one, so I was. And for awhile, that was my role. I stayed positive and Pat broke down. As I got more injections, I stayed optimistic and he went blank and numb. After the wrong hormone dosage by a nurse that delayed us another month, sending him into a little spiral, we came to our final chance – my uterus was ready for our final transfer.
Going in to the transfer this time was a bit different. It was our last gamble, back to square one if this didn’t take. We transferred the final embryo, our little B+ fighter, and took a deep breath. At this point, it was no expectations. We had even booked a trip to Belize and Mexico (hello Zika) because we would need a getaway if and when we got the bad news. Our embryo transfer was February 4th, blood test scheduled for February 15th. The weekend of February 12th and 13th I was traveling to San Francisco for work and Sacramento for a friend’s baby shower. I still drank the mocktails and blamed not being able to drink with friends on “hormones” but this time I meant it, I felt different. I told Pat, and now him being the skeptic, he just told me to wait to get the blood test. When I got home Sunday night, I bought a test. Monday morning, I took it and there it was BFP. POSITIVE.

 

 

This felt different. I went in to get the blood test and when my doctor called, she said “Could you hear me screaming in excitement all the way from the office?” Numbers were great, 2 days later they more than doubled, 2 days after that, they were off the charts. And we knew it wasn’t twins, one embryo and all, so this was happening!
When we saw the heartbeat at 8 weeks, we both had a milkshake to celebrate (and maybe an In N Out burger too). Telling our families at 11 weeks, on my 35th birthday, was amazing, and our due date was exactly one year after the retrieval – October 23, 2016.

Theodore Hogan Johnson arrived at 7:10pm on October 30, 2016 (yeah he got pretty comfortable in there) and after a stint in the NICU (another story for another time), we have a bubbling, babbling baby boy who is hilarious and because of his mom’s love of Halloween will be stuck with costume parties for his birthday.


They say a mom can forget the pain of childbirth after a while, so that they can have more kids. But what about dad? I have forgotten the pain – of childbirth, of failed tries, of IVF. True, it was a struggle and I know that, but I would do it again. Pat has not forgotten. The pain has stayed with him, and is something we take into consideration when discuss adding to our family. Could he go through it again? I hope that we won’t have to and things will happen naturally, but we will cross that bridge if/when we come to it. Every day I am thankful for my husband and my teammate in this process and parenting our son together has been a dream, messy but I wouldn’t change it for the world. People always talk about the toll infertility takes on moms, and it does, but let’s not forget about dad.
To all the guys out there – struggling, expecting, a new parents or a seasoned professional – you are important in this process, thank you for what you do and Happy Father’s Day.

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