Baby Hillin #2 | 36 Weeks 

How Far Along: 36 Weeks

Baby is the size of a(n): large papaya or a cabbage patch doll

Gender: It’s a Boy!

Weight Gain: up to 36 lbs. My goal each pregnancy has been to stay around 40 so I might be just that by the end. I gained 50 with Whitlee at 34 weeks. 

Belly Button In or Out: Still mostly flat

Wedding Rings On or Off: Off but I actually think I could still wear them sometimes. When I walk around a lot and my hands hang down, they swell a little so I went ahead and took them off. Wearing my pink Qalo ring instead. 

Sleep: So so so tired all the time. Huck had a slight arrhythmia at his biophysical profile ultrasound at 34 weeks so they asked me to stop all caffeine to see if it improved. I don’t drink much, usually one cup of coffee in the morning and then a Diet Coke with dinner but going 100% caffeine free has sucked any last bit of energy I ever thought about having. The arrhythmia was still there at 35 week appointment so it’s unlikely my caffeine had anything to do with it but they checked for hydrops which was the main concern of any kind of arrhythmia and he was clear there so they’re just going to keep an eye on it. I didn’t ask but they also didn’t say that I could have minimal caffeine again. 😝

Best Moment The Last Few Weeks: I think just knowing he’ll be here soon! And being so proud that I’m S T I L L pregnant! Car seat has been installed and Huck’s bag is packed. My bag is technically packed too but I still have to add the items I use on a daily basis. My MFM recommended when I come for my weekly appointments to travel with my bag packed because I could be told I’m staying any time, so every Friday I finish packing my bag and then unpack it when I get home. 

Miss Anything: caffeine and carbs

Movement: Huck still moves like crazy and I still love it. Every once in a while, he catches me right in the ribs and it takes my breath away. I don’t know if it’s because he’s bigger than Whitlee and that we’re further gestational wise but he is a lot stronger than she was! Also, he’s still in the same position, head down with his back and butt on my right, feet over to the left but he’s starting to move down some and he’s facing my back – all good signs for birthing this boy! Oh and he has a head full of hair!

Cravings/Aversions: I had been craving Mexican food but we ate that finally this past weekend. I could probably go for crawfish one more time! Nothing too specific though. 

Symptoms: My Braxton hicks have increased quite a bit and every once in a while I have a semi painful one. Also starting to ever so slightly get the dark line on my belly. I got it really early with Whitlee and I wondered if it would ever show up this time. 

Additional Notes: I’m so proud to have made it past 34 weeks! I still feel overall “better” than I did in my first pregnancy and still no signs of preeclampsia. Blood pressure is holding stable and my feet, hands, and face have resisted much swelling. I still say “much” because my face is a little bit fuller just from pregnancy in general and my hands and feet are a tiny bit swollen after a lot of activity or a long day but they seem to fluctuate and go back down some when I prop my feet up or just drink some water. 

I’m still going to my doctors appointments in Houston once a week for normal checkups, NSTs, and a biophysical ultrasounds. If you missed my Huck’s Heart update, we will actually be “moving” to Houston soon per the recommendation of our doctors and we’ll stay there until Huck is born and then gets to come home. Currently they are saying he will go straight to the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) while they map out the complex anatomy of his heart and then we’ll start talking about a concrete plan. There are a few situations they want to monitor over an extended period of time to be sure he’s stable before they allow him to go home. We’ll also find out if he’ll need surgery immediately or if it can wait a few months. 

I had another visit with my MFM this past week and we discussed my delivery plan a little more in depth. She said that because I’m currently an insulin dependent gestational diabetic and being “treated” for chronic hypertension, that my risk for a whole list of things go up the closer I get to 40+ weeks so she didn’t feel comfortable letting me go past 39 weeks. She was still very encouraging of the VBAC, but we did discuss the scenarios where she felt a repeat c section may be a better route. She checked me and I’m currently 1 cm dilated and starting to soften. Doesn’t mean much except that my body is starting to get ready since the week before I hadn’t had any of that. But I was so glad! I never even had a hint of dilation with Whitlee. So she said based on that, she felt comfortable scheduling an induction at 39 weeks as opposed to jumping straight to repeat c section. We’ll start a Foley catheter the night of the 17th and see what happens if he hasn’t come before then but between 38 and 39, we’re all hoping he comes on his own. So Huck will be on his way on or before May 17/18!

That means we have 3 more weeks or less. What. In. The. World. I can’t believe we made it this far!

12 weeks vs 36 weeks 


Life Lately

I always end up posting a “life lately” when it seems like we’ve been 90 to nothing and we’ve done all. the. things. but really we haven’t done anything major so it all falls together in one of these posts. 

I haven’t posted much about our Whitlee bug lately but she is just as busy (and sassy!) as ever. We’re still working on potty training but I swear we’re almost there. She can pretty much go all day in panties now but we’re still in pull ups for naps and night time. I think this week I plan to try her at nap with panties on since she’s woken up dry all last week. She’s pretty excited about baby brother coming soon and keeps asking when we’re gonna get him out. Not too much longer, baby girl!

Sassy as ever, exhibit A.   

I know I’ve compared my two pregnancies a lot in my bump updates but I really just feel like they are night and day different. I’m about 80% super pumped to still be pregnant and healthy for the most part and 20% feeling the aches and pains of the last weeks of pregnancy. Still, everything is just different. Here’s one more comparison though. Their little faces look so similar to me. 

We went to the local state fair a couple of weekends ago and had a great time.  Whitlee was finally big enough to ride some rides. And she stole handfuls of funnel cake when daddy wasn’t looking. Mama had a little fried cheesecake, walked around for 3 hours, ended up with very minimal swelling, and blood sugar looked great. I felt so good and Whitlee had a great time so I’d say it was a pretty  successful day!

We celebrated Easter and it was Whitlee’s first time to actually get to hunt Easter eggs. She was super sick her first and second Easters, and I’m so glad we were able to do it this year. She was a little slow to figure out the concept but eventually got the hang of it. (Also, I look huge!)

I can’t believe we’re adding THREE more boys to this bunch in the next few months. Taylor and I are due end of May and Kacie (middle) is due beginning of July. 

We finally busted out our little swimming pool too. The water was a bit cold still but Whitlee loved it anyway. I did too actually. It was super hot that day so I got in and out and got a little sun on my belly. 

Crazy story for the last while – Whitlee got a toy train stuck in her hair. It was so bad. I thought I was going to have to cut her hair to get it out. It was an automatic one and when I asked her what happened she said “I drive it in my hair.” Like oh okay, that’s perfectly normal. 

Seems like Nolan and I have both been nesting like crazy. He’s been getting all of his stuff situated and put away out in the shop and I’ve been getting the house in order. It’s like we both know Huck could come at any time. There’ll be some details regarding that in my 36 week post coming Wednesday! 

Pictures from out in the shop!

So that’s what we’ve been up to lately. April has flown by and I can’t believe it’s almost May – baby month! 

Huck’s Heart | April Update Part 2 

In honor of making it to 34 weeks, here’s part 2 of this crazy journey so far! 

Read Part 1 here 

I started calling on Monday of the following week, asking for the status of our referral. We were told it could take 5-10 days for approval but if we called in, they could possibly expedite the process. Again, trying to shorten the insanity of what we went through, I made phone call after phone call; one to the OB’s office, then another to our coordinator with Texas Children’s to relay information and ask questions, then another to the insurance company, rinse and repeat, until we finally got approval for all our visits the afternoon before our first appointments with Texas Children’s. Talk about cutting it close! 

On Friday, April 7, I was up at 3 am partially because I couldn’t sleep and partially because we had to leave super early to be in Houston for our 8 am appointment and we weren’t really sure about traffic. It was a whirlwind day, with 3 different appointments, each lasting approximately 2 hours. We were basically starting from scratch and letting them build the information from the last 8 months and Huck’s heart in their own systems and records. 

First we met with the MFM (maternal fetal medicine) ultrasound department. We had a full anatomy scan, which at 33 weeks is kind of strange because he’s so big at this point. They measured all of his body the best they could, let us know he was measuring 5 lbs 4 oz, in the 68th percentile I believe, and confirmed for like the 15th time that he is indeed a boy. 🙂 Oh and that his head and belly were measuring in the 90 something percentile. The words “fat tummy” were used lol. He’s a full pound bigger than Whitlee at this point. 

After that we met with the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor that we will see until Huck is born and who we thought would be delivering him (I’ll get to that part). She went through my entire medical history, looked at my blood sugars, talked about preeclampsia and symptoms to keep an eye out for, plan for monitoring going forward, the delivery process, what to expect the next 6-7 weeks, gave me an updated tDap vaccine for this pregnancy, and did a cervical check. And then before we signed all of the consent forms for birth and treatment, she asked “do you want another c section, or would you like a vbac?” She was so casual about it, like asking if I wanted water or tea. I asked what she thought and she said that as long as I’m stable with my gestational diabetes and blood pressure, she has absolutely no problem letting me go into labor on my own, when Huck is ready, and letting me do a trial of labor after cesarean; that they do tons of them there. She said it would be easier and faster recovery for me, as well as beneficial for Huck to travel through the birth canal and help squeeze extra fluid from his lungs, especially in this case. She reminded me I’ll need the ability to go see him in the nicu and a c section recovery might hinder the speed in which I’m able to go there, plus having a 2 year old to handle. There were discussions about the risks involved and reasons why we might still end up having a c section but for now, we agreed to keep a close eye on things and proceed towards a vaginal birth. She may or may not be the actual one to deliver him though since it will be spontaneous. 

I’m so nervous and excited for that part, but seriously so at peace that I know she fully supports the idea and that if she moves toward a c section, its because I truly need another c section. She did confirm during my cervical check that I was not dilated yet (good thing since we’re not quite ready yet) but that he was low and she could feel his head, which at this point was excellent because this is what would begin to soften and efface the cervix when it was time. She would prefer I spontaneously go into labor on my own but was open to inducing if we should reach that point. 

The last appointment of the day was for the echo and to see the cardiologist. They did a full echo, lasting about 45 minutes. Nolan and I kept both drifting off during because she was super quiet. She said that while she did the scan, the cardiologist was watching from a different room. I noticed she went back over some of the same areas over and over, very very slowly. I remember wondering if the cardiologist was asking her for second and third looks at some things. Afterwards she left and the cardiologist came in. She said that Huck has a very complicated little heart, but that it is not hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She did a few scans of her own and then had us sit down for a consultation where she explained the complex anatomy of his heart and how we would proceed. 

She explained that he does actually have two ventricles – one on one side that is large and fully functional and another that is very small, sort of like a pocket ventricle. He also has both of the main arteries that are very important for function of the heart. Then she told us that the large ventricle, she believes is the left ventricle, making him have a ventricular inversion. (This explains why our first cardiologist was hesitant to commit to saying right or left.) This also means that the aorta is attached to the left ventricle and the pulmonary artery is attached to the right ventricle, which is called Transposition of the Great Arteries or TGA. He also has Tricuspid Artresia, meaning his tricuspid valve never developed, and he has a ventricular septal defect, a large hole between the two ventricles, making it look like one ventricle. I know this is super confusing and it still is to us too but this picture explains it pretty well. 

This diagram shows a “hypoplastic” right ventricle because the term hypoplastic means “underdeveloped” and he will still be considered (and treated like) a single ventricle baby. But in our case, if she is correct about the complex anatomy of his heart, he has the stronger of the two ventricles. The left is usually considered the “work horse” of the heart, having stronger muscle walls and capable of regulating blood pressure better than the right. 

So what does all of this mean? It means that he will for sure have open heart surgery at least twice in his life. But for now, pending anatomical confirmation at birth, he is clear of the Norwood procedure that happens almost immediately after birth. Reminder, the Norwood is the most complicated and severe of the surgeries and has the highest mortality rates. They said he will go to the NICU somewhat immediately following birth. I say somewhat because as long as he’s stable when he comes out, they will do his initial assessments in the room with us and that he would most likely be with us for around 30ish minutes before leaving for the NICU. Some of this has been a little strange to explain to people because the natural reaction is “we’ll won’t he be in critical condition when he’s born? I mean he’s missing part of his heart… and some of its backwards… and I just don’t understand.” And the best answer I can give that we’ve had to learn over time is that there are some unique features to a baby’s heart while they’re in utero, like some ducts and passage ways, that allow blood to freely move about the heart in a way that is actually “okay” for them at first. It’s not a perfectly functioning heart but it gets the job done. Those things remain open for quite a while giving care providers plenty of time to do whatever needs to be done. It’s all pretty miraculous. 

Where we’re at now is that my care has officially been transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital. I have appointments there once a week, but they’re usually 3-6 appointments crammed into one day since we live 2+ hours away. We won’t know much more about his heart now until he’s born and they’ll able to do a full echo on him to confirm the anatomy of his heart but if everything matches what they believe currently to be true, he may be able to wait a few months before his first surgery, making him much more stable and tolerant of the procedure. We will be temporarily relocating to Houston in a couple of weeks per the recommendation of our team of doctors at TCH and we’ll remain there until Huck decides to make his appearance. We’re not quite sure how long we will be there after he’s born but our prayer is that everything the doctors believe right now holds true and we know they’ll get us home as soon as it’s medically safe for him to do so. We definitely believe he’s in the best place possible now! 

Again, thank you so much to everyone for continued thoughts, prayers, and donations. There have been so many local fundraisers and it makes me cry every time I think about how everyone has helped. We can’t even begin to put into words how thankful we are for everyone’s continued generosity! 

Huck’s Heart | April Update Part 1

Trigger warning .. if words like mortality rates and information regarding insurance diagnosis codes or hospital outcome data scare you, I would tread carefully through my post. It is all mostly good news for us though. 

One thing I can tell you for sure, being pregnant with a baby that has a critical congenital heart defect, you get to experience ALL the emotions. We were initially told it was “probably nothing, but they needed to check to be sure” and then we were told there was definitely something “not right” so we were sent to a maternal fetal medicine specialist to take a better look. You can read a bit more about all of that here.

From there, Huck was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome or HLHS. And then the endless researching commenced. We read things about how 20-30 years ago, this was considered fatal. And that even now, there are still babies that die from it. Some die from not knowing they have a defect so we were so thankful that we knew about Huck’s so early, but some babies die much later from surgical complications or illness that affects them too greatly. The fact that data exists for each hospital on the mortality rates for the first surgery, the Norwood, was scary. Would our baby be one of those numbers? It was terrifying territory not really knowing the life ahead for our baby. 

As mentioned in the first update, we had an appointment with the pediatric cardiologist and he confirmed HLHS and we talked a bit about the plan. Some of you know I lost my job last year when the oil field market plummeted and I was the one that carried insurance on our family. We were forced to obtain insurance through the marketplace just so that our family didn’t go without insurance. We pay a lot of money for very little coverage. Without going on a very emotional political rant and to maybe make a long story a tiny bit shorter, we started finding out that we had some pretty intense insurance network issues. We were sent to a specific maternal fetal medicine and pediatric cardiologist because they were in network but the recommendation from the pediatric cardiologist for standard HLHS care would be at least 3 open heart surgeries, starting the week Huck was born. He said that we would deliver at the hospital he was associated with, UTMB in Galveston, and then Huck would be transferred to Memorial Hermann Children’s in Houston which is affiliated with the UT medical system. UTMB and UT are contracted with each other. I made phone call after phone call ensuring that this was the best option for us and to make sure of who we were/weren’t in network with. I was told we were in network with both UTMB and Memorial Hermann. So we proceeded down that path. 

Now, as a heart mom, you start to learn a lot about hospital rankings and why they are ranked the way that they are. You also see the scariest things like the hospital outcome data that I mentioned. Texas is so blessed to have the #2 ranked hospital in the United States for pediatric cardiology and heart defects, Texas Children’s. It was assumed by pretty much everyone (including us) in the beginning that with such a serious defect, we would be going to Texas Children’s… until we found out we were not in network with them. Again, I made phone call after phone call and even got some help from some family friends that are on the board of directors but it was determined that if we were in network with another children’s hospital that could perform the surgeries, hospital ranking didn’t matter to insurance. We had to go where we were in network, just to simply be able to come out of this not millions in debt. (Yes, millions. Literally.) 

We ended up researching our specific surgeon and found that his credentials were excellent (he came from the #6 ranked hospital in the US for pediatric cardiology) and we loved our current pediatric cardiologist we’d been seeing. We decided it would all be okay, we were placed on this path for a reason, and we felt confident that they would take the best care possible of Huck. We also decided that we didn’t want to do a transport at all so we were going to go ahead and deliver at Memorial Hermann, so that Huck would be where he needed to be. 

And then another bombshell happened. We found out that there was some kind of misunderstanding during all of those calls and were NOT in network with Memorial Hermann either. Come to find out, the insurance plans offered in the marketplace exclude coverage for care at tertiary facilities… like children’s hospitals. We were not in network with a single children’s hospital. Not a single one. I was not prepared for the emotions of having our baby be diagnosed with a critical heart defect but I was damn sure not prepared for the road blocks we were facing. I had no idea what to do from there. I cried ugly ugly tears that day. 

So I started making phone calls again. Phone call after phone call. I was getting pretty good at making phone calls. I made 43 in a single day one day. I finally figured out that in order for Huck to have his necessary care, we would have to request out of network coverage for a tertiary care facility. At this point, we realized if we were about to go down this path, we might as well go for Texas Children’s. So I reached out to all of my previous contacts and got more information and tried to help my doctors office coordinate with my insurance company to get the referral done correctly. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. Then we found out that our current pediatric cardiologist had not officially made his recommendation for care. He normally does that after the follow up echo, which we were scheduled for the week following all of the insurance chaos. So it was decided that we would see him for our follow up and get his official recommendation for care in order for the insurance referral to be finalized. 

On March 30, we went to our follow up echo, hoping for at least no change. We were praying that they didn’t see any additional defects or any less function in his heart. We were met with good news! They were able to see a bit more on Huck’s left side than they originally thought. Originally they could not see a significant left ventricle, and could not see the aorta (the main artery that comes out of the left ventricle). This time, they could see both main arteries but they looked to be feeding from a single ventricle. It was explained to us that his potential diagnosis could change. (Side note, all diagnoses given during pregnancy are considered potential because he won’t be officially officially diagnosed until birth and they can get a good echo on him.) He said that instead of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, we could be looking at a variation of double outlet single ventricle, and that he was leaning towards saying it was the right ventricle, (DORV) but wasn’t quite sure. (Remember this part – the fact that he couldn’t commit to saying which ventricle other than it looked to be a single ventricle with a tiny second ventricle was a bit of foreshadowing on what came later.) He said this doesn’t mean anything major except that the urgency of Huck’s first surgery may change. HLHS babies absolutely need surgery within the first week to be able to live, but DORV babies can sometimes wait a few weeks and in less extreme cases, a few months. That would all have to be determined for sure after he is born. But we left that appointment with two things accomplished – we were so glad for even the slightest improvement in potential diagnosis and we also got his recommendation for birth and surgeries to be performed at a tertiary hospital. We got the phone call from my OB’s office that afternoon that the recommendation had been submitted to insurance and that finalized the first referral. And then we waited.

To be continued…

Baby Hillin #2 | 33 Weeks 

How Far Along: 33 Weeks

Baby is the size of a(n): pineapple or a head of cauliflower 

Gender: It’s a Boy!

Weight Gain: up to 34 lbs

Belly Button In or Out: Still mostly flat at this point.. it kind of pops out when I laugh or cough. 

Wedding Rings On or Off: On, so crazy to me. I had taken them off long ago with Whitlee at this point. 

Sleep: Give me alllll the sleep. I have been so tired lately. I guess that’s just part of the last bit of pregnancy. I can take a nap just about every day and still be dying to go to sleep at 8 PM. 

Best Moment The Last Few Weeks: Getting good news at our 32 week follow up echo on Huck’s heart. They were able to see a little bit more growth than they did at 22 weeks. This basically means that he may not be as “sick” when he’s born and his first surgery may not be as urgent as thought before. He will still have 2-3 open heart surgeries but the timing of those may have shifted a bit; he may be able to wait a couple of weeks vs a few days. I don’t think we’ll know anything more than this until he’s born and he gets an echo straight on him, as opposed to through me. Full update coming soon hopefully.. we’re still trying to work out a few insurance issues. 

Miss Anything: being able to breathe well. Everything is starting to get super crowded in there. When I sit down I have to give him a few seconds to kind of maneuver around to where I’m not in pain. 

Movement: Still my most favorite part. With Whitlee, I didn’t really miss being pregnant specifically, but I definitely missed feeling her move in there. I’m sure I’ll miss it again. He’s been in the same position for a good while, head down with his back and butt more on my right side and his feet out over on my left. He likes to do this thing where he arches his back or pushes his butt out on my right and kick his feet out on my left. And then sometimes he’s just thrashing around in there making my whole belly jump. 

Cravings/Aversions: Finally ate some crawfish so that craving was satisfied. I felt really puffy afterwards, I’m sure from the insane amount of sodium, but they were so good. Haven’t really been craving anything specifically but the local state fair is going on the next couple of weeks and I KNOW I’ll be craving funnel cake or something deep fried.. most likely will only get a small bite of someone else’s though. Thank you GD. 😑

Symptoms: Needing to pee every 2 minutes is a symptom right? Anytime I stand up, it’s like gravity and the weight of this large kiddo hit me and I have to go right. freaking. now. 

Additional Notes: My pregnancy this time around has been SO different than it was with Whitlee. I still feel overall just “better” than I did with her and I’m sure it was the preeclampsia. My blood pressure is still holding stable and I’m still on the lowest dose of bp meds. No protein in my urine so far. And my feet, hands, and face have resisted much swelling. For reference, this is my foot at 32 weeks with Whitlee and my foot at 32 weeks with Huck. Crazy! 

My wedding rings are still on and I keep saying I think it might be time to take them off but then the next day I can get them on and off just fine. I read on one of my apps that fluid retention is about to increase so I’ll probably take them off in the next week or two just to be safe. 

My gestational diabetes is somewhat under control. My fasting number is being treated with a single insulin shot at night but we haven’t quite hit the sweet spot of the right amount of insulin to lower it enough. We’re bumping it a little at a time but hopefully we’ll find the right dosage soon. 

My personal soft goal for this pregnancy was 34 weeks, which is next Wednesday. I feel like we’re going to breeze right by that, which I am so so thankful for!! My next goal after that is 37 weeks. And then just two more weeks. My normal OB’s office has a growth scan scheduled for next week, just shy of 34 weeks but I’m not sure I’ll still be under their care next week. I may have already had my “transfer of care” by then to the Maternal Fetal Medicine that I’ll see the rest of my pregnancy and that will deliver Huck. My normal OB did go ahead and start bi-weekly non stress tests where I just sit on the monitors for 20 minutes, then if there is anything out of the ordinary they do a biophysical profile ultrasound, then if he doesn’t pass that, we go to the hospital for monitoring. So far we’ve had one perfect nst, and two that landed us a biophysical profile, which thankfully he passed both perfectly. Both times the nst showed a dip in his heart rate (just a tiny one.. I saw it when it happened) and they said sometimes the baby will move and lose contact with the monitor which reads as a decel but they’re usually fine. They just have to do the ultrasound to be sure. I know for sure on the second one, the monitor wasn’t on him just right and every time he moved, the monitor would lose contact and regain it, making the readout sheet look like Morse code. 

So here we are, a week shy of my first goal (34 weeks) and feeling good! Only 6 more weeks to go. I’m curious to see how soon they’ll put our delivery on the books after we do the transfer of care. I kind of think it’s close enough, we may go ahead and get a tentative date. Then we just cross our fingers and pray that we make it to that date!