Friday, December 30, 2011

Number Four

To follow up on the bombshell that we announced in the last paragraph of our Christmas letter: Yes, we are having Baby #4.  I'm due on June 21, which puts me at 15 weeks right now.

There are so many things that just amaze me about this baby already.  This baby is completely and absolutely a gift from God.  I'm going to be very real and honest here to explain why I'm so surprised and happy about this baby and what a huge blessing he/she is.

People have asked me if this baby was "planned."  I guess I probably have to say that the answer is "no."  As those of you close to me know, I have miscarried three times: twice between Bryn and Shay and once between Shay and Liam.  Ever since that first miscarriage, I have really been challenged to accept my children on God's time, not my own. 

Obviously, we wanted another child before we got Shay.  She was actually conceived only a month after my second miscarriage, and I had a very hard time being excited about her pregnancy until I was well into the second trimester because I was both afraid that something would happen with her and still grieving over the last lost baby.  After the second miscarriage, I had made an appointment with a fertility specialist to research why I might be miscarrying.  When I showed up for that appointment, I found out that I was pregnant with Shay.  That wonderful doctor was able to monitor me closely throughout the first trimester and help me sustain that pregnancy.  And thus, we got our sweet Shay.

The next time around, I miscarried about two months into my school year.  I was teaching high school English.  That was a very dark time for me.  I had a lot of angst about not being able to spend time with my girls because of my teaching load, and I wondered if I could have even justified another baby if I wasn't going to be around.  I wasn't very happy in that job, but it was a huge financial blessing to our family and allowed us to pay off all our debts.  By the second semester of that school year, I was so anxious for another baby that we again sought the help of the fertility specialist.  I went through six months of fertility treatments but was not able to conceive.  However, I did feel terribly sick for those entire six months.  With a month and a half left in the school year, I learned that my position was not going to be renewed for the coming year, and the rest of the year was a terrible struggle for me after that.  Without my job, we could not afford to continue fertility treatments, so not only did losing that job cause me to cast all kinds of doubts on my professional capabilities, but I also had to let go of the dream of having a third child.  In another complete miracle, Liam was conceived on my first cycle off the fertility treatments, and again thanks to the wonderful fertility doctors, I was able to sustain his pregnancy.

Honestly, I pretty much thought that was the end of the road for us.  While we really wanted a fourth child, I was terrified of facing another miscarriage.  Financially, we knew that fertility treatments were not an option, and they hadn't been successful for me anyway.  Each successive pregnancy has been harder and harder on my body, culminating in terrible vaginal varicose veins that left me largely unable to get around at all during my entire third trimester with Liam.  Once a woman gets varicose veins in a pregnancy, it's guaranteed that they will come back in successive pregnancies, usually significantly sooner.  So while we wanted a fourth child, it didn't seem like that would probably happen.

As Liam got older, I thought a lot about how I wanted a fourth child and eventually got to the point where I said that we would do that "someday."  But I was still completely shocked to realize that I was pregnant this time around.  Shocked and terrified.  I didn't even have a local OB after our move.  Since I was only able to sustain Shay and Liam through the assistance of a fertility specialist, I was terrified that I would lose this baby.  I called around to the OBs in Lafayette, and even after I begged and explained the situation, the soonest that any of them could see me was four weeks away.  If this pregnancy went the way of my second and third miscarriages, I wouldn't still be pregnant in four weeks.  I didn't know what to do.

So I called my old fertility specialist and drove down to Indianapolis for an emergency visit.  They did an ultrasound and reassured me that everything looked good.  They gave me prometrium (progesterone supplements) as a precaution as well.  Even with their help, though, I had the huge worry of my thyroid to contend with.

I have severe thyroid problems since before Ben and I were married, and while they are not the sole cause, they are a definite contributing factor to my miscarriages.  I started with subclinical hypothyroidism, and as my thyroid slowly dies inside me (wish it would just hurry up and finish the process!), I now swing from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism.  I have to have my levels checked every six weeks, and I end up with an adjustment in prescription almost every six weeks as well.  My condition is such a mess that it's almost impossible to keep me regulated; rather, we just have to play "catch up" with the results of each new blood test.  I see a wonderful endocrinologist who is very proactive with my case and I trust and respect completely.  All of that being said, the month that started this pregnancy was the worst I've had thyroid-wise in years, maybe ever.  With our move and change in insurance, I admit that I had been pretty negligent about keeping up on my regular blood tests. I saw the endocrinologist two days before I found out I was pregnant, and my most recent TSH levels were basically off the charts.  I had gained a huge amount of weight (almost 30 pounds) from my thyroid spiralling out of control, and my doctor worried that I might start experiencing body tremors or heart palpitations.   She adjusted my medication accordingly, but obviously that would take some time to take full effect.  To say the least, not the ideal time to find out that I was pregnant.

Against all odds, though, I have managed to sustain this pregnancy.  In fact, assuming that everything else goes well, the gap between Liam and this child will be the only one that does not contain at least one miscarriage.  Assuming that this child continues to stay put until the appropriate time, this pregnancy will tip the balance and I will finally be able to say that I have had more successful pregnancies than miscarriages.

The doctors say that I am now out of the "danger zone" and that there is no longer any reason to worry about losing this baby.  In a mere 5 weeks, we'll have the "big" ultrasound and hopefully find out the gender.  I am so, so thankful for all of the miracles I've seen in the past 15 weeks.  My track record is none too good, and especially considering my out-of-control thyroid and lack of a local doctor.... Well, clearly this baby and all the circumstances surrounding it are straight from God!

Another couple "funnies" (it's definitely time to lighten the mood of this post!!) to demonstrate that this baby is definitely on God's timing, not our own....  For one, my due date is a mere two weeks before my sister's wedding... in which I am the maid of honor.  Since all of my kids thus far have had to be induced (apparently I make such a nice comfy home for them that they don't ever want to come out!), I'm pretty much assuming that I will basically have to check out of the hospital with this baby and then drive directly to Peoria for the ceremony!

Secondly, as I said, my due date is June 21.  Pause for just a moment to consider that we now live and work at a summer camp.  June is pretty much the absolute worst time possible to have a baby!  Everyone we know locally will be in their busiest time of the year, and we don't anticipate much slowing down on account of this baby!

So as I said, God is good!  This baby is clearly on His timing, not ours.  I could not be more thrilled about this child and just know that God has great things in store for him/her!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24:15
 Dear family and friends--                                                                                                                                                   
 Season’s greetings to all!  2011 has been a year of change for the Meyaard-Pfanschmidt family.  Our first and biggest change of the year came to fruition in April, when Ben left his job in corporate finance at Ingersoll-Rand to accept a brand-new position as the Director of Camper Support at Camp Tecumseh YMCA.  In this position, Ben is in charge of fundraising for camperships to enable kids of all different financial backgrounds to enjoy the Camp T experience, which focuses on personal growth, a love of the outdoors, and personal relationships with Jesus Christ. 

 With the change in jobs came a big move for our family, from the Indianapolis suburbs to the rural setting of Delphi, Indiana. We were incredibly blessed to have a wonderful crew of friends to help pack us up in Brownsburg, and we were greeted by the Tecumseh staff for unloading help in Delphi.  After years of living in suburban neighborhoods, our front yard/cornfield seemed HUGE, and the kids settled in to our “log house” and new adventures quickly!

our "log house"

the view from our front porch

forging a new path

Amy and the kids spent most of May traveling back and forth between Indy and Delphi, finishing up all of our activities, while Ben learned the ropes of his new job.  The girls finished up the year at St. Andrew’s Preschool (Bryn’s third there), performed in their dance recital, and got to have plenty of “last” trips to the Children’s Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo with friends.
 June brought summer camp and all of the craziness that goes with it!  Amy attended Camp Tecumseh as a camper and Ben and Amy both worked there as counselors, so we both knew what to expect, but our kids were blown away by the fun of it all!  They became best friends with all the counselors and spent the entire summer eating in the dining hall, singing at chapel, going on trailrides, playing at the lake, swimming in the pools, hiking in the woods, exploring camp’s playgrounds, and attending campfires.  We also managed to work in a trip to Peoria for a family wedding and a trip to Grand Rapids to see Ben’s parents’ new lake house and to meet our first niece, Elizabeth (daughter of Jill and Jim King).  Most importantly, the entire past year has given us daily lessons on trusting in God and knowing that His plan for us is infinitely better than our own.

our camp kids

fearless Shay

Liam explores Main Field

And now an update on each family member:
Bryn, age 6, started full-day kindergarten this fall at Camden Early Childhood Center, the local county kindergarten.  She loves every last bit of it: the bus ride, her teacher, her classmates, lunchtime, recess, and the academics, especially learning to read.  Her favorite stories are the Magic Treehouse series, which she especially likes to listen to on CD.  Bryn also had the opportunity to appear in her first two dramatic productions this year: as a squirrel in “Doo Wop Red Riding Hood” through the Delphi Public Library this summer, then as a young customer in Delphi High School’s “Parfumerie” this November.  She has also kept plenty busy with dance and gymnastics lessons.  The best week of her summer was when she got to be a camper at Tecumseh Day Camp!

Shaylee, age 4, is still full of energy and spunk (some might call it sass….).  She has enjoyed her classes at Sonshine Preschool in West Lafayette this fall, especially loving the crafts and music.  However, the 35-minute drive each way has gotten to be too much for us, so Shay will be learning at home with Mommy next semester, then enrolling in a local preschool next fall.  In the interim, Shay made her dramatic debut in Delphi High’s “Parfumerie” this fall, and she also enjoyed dance and gymnastics lessons.  Her favorite activity by far, though, is playing at camp—she loves taking every opportunity to eat in the dining hall, climb on Fort Discovery, and play with the animals in the mini-farm.

Liam, now 21 months, has developed into quite a friendly, energetic, active, talkative little man.  We think that growing up as “camp kid” is definitely going to make him fearless!  Already, he loves splashing around in the pool (and putting his face in, which neither of his big sisters will do!), monkeying around on the furniture, and achieving daring feats on the playground.  He’s also experiencing quite the language explosion, learning multiple new words every day, with his favorite tricks being animal noises, counting from 1 to 10 (though not always in the right order!), and repeating everything his big sisters say.  Liam has also developed some “favorites” of his own, including trains, Mickey Mouse, dinosaurs, cars, Diego, and animals—all welcome additions to our previously all-princess toy collection!   Liam eats non-stop and loves cuddling up with Mommy for a good board book.

Amy has just finished up her third semester in the IUPUI Masters of Library Science program.  She has loved taking advantage of this opportunity to read as much as possible!  She has also done a good bit of writing over the past year, and this fall, she published a book entitled God Can!, a collaboration with her dad and his pastor.  She occasionally works weekends at camp’s Leadership Center and has gotten active in the local community.  She co-directed Delphi High School’s production of “Parfumerie” this fall and will be coaching their Academic Superbowl team this spring.  Amy was also thrilled with the expansion of her extended family this year: her brother Brian married a lovely woman named Lakshmi this October, and her sister Kristin got engaged to a wonderful Brian of her own.

Ben continues to enjoy his new job and just got back from a YMCA fundraising conference in the Catskills.  He especially enjoys camp’s disc golf course and hiking trails, and has already converted several other camp staff to his love of complicated board games.  He loves living on camp grounds, with less than a three-mile trip from home to office every day, and has occasionally even been known to canoe to work.  His job will take him on the road a lot in the coming year, so don’t be surprised if you get an invite from him for coffee or lunch!

Our family’s next big change will come at the end of June 2012, when (drumroll, please!) we welcome MeyPfan Baby #4 into the world!  We couldn’t be more excited about adding to our sweet family, and we look forward to all of the adventures that the future holds!                                                                       

Blessings to you and yours—
Amy, Ben, Bryn, Shay, and Liam