Hawaii of the East: 72 Hours in Okinawa

 

Okinawa has been referred to as the “Hawaii of the East.” As Japan’s southern most prefecture, the island of Okinawa offers a tropical climate that can be an easy escape from the more northern parts of the country. Memorial Day weekend gave my family a couple of days to take the quick trip and do a little exploring ourselves.

We booked our trip through our base’s IACE Travel department, which made things so easy from the start. The flight and car rental were arranged, and we were given a choice from a variety of hotels. We chose the Rizzan Sea Park Hotel Tancha Bay. Our plan was to arrive on Saturday afternoon, have two full days Sunday and Monday, and then head back Tuesday.

The plane was only about half full, so both Jesse and I had our own row. We split the kids, and we had landed in Okinawa in what felt like just a few minutes. For a relatively small island, Okinawa has a decent sized airport. After we departed, we hopped a shuttle bus that carried us to our baggage claim. Within a few minutes, we had our items (as stated in one of my earlier blogs, Navigating Tokyo , Americans always stand out because of our immense amount of luggage. My family is working on downgrading with each trip) and on board another shuttle headed to get our rental car. Since our three suitcases, two carry ons, two car seats, a camera bag, and a double stroller didn’t fit in the first car, we had to upgrade to the next sized vehicle. But once we were all settled in, we were off to the Rizzan.

The drive from the rental car agency to the Rizzan was about an hour, but was completely worth it. I made Jesse pull over at one point so I could snap a picture of the emerald waters with the mountains in the background. Pictures truly don’t do it justice.

We don’t like to waste too much time in hotel rooms while we travel, so once we were checked in, we turned right around and jumped back into the car. It was already the afternoon, so we knew we couldn’t adventure too long, but being the military family that we are, we wanted to check out the Kadena Air Force Base. We spent some time shopping at the Exchange, which is much larger than the one we are used to, grabbed some dinner, and headed back. We ended our evening splashing around in the hotel’s indoor pool.

On Sunday, I wanted to head to the Mihama American Village. This American themed area is filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment. The main spot in the village is called the American depot. The maze-like area is massive and filled with shop after shop. We spent several hours shopping and dining, and there was still so much we just couldn’t cover. If you want a touch of American food and clothes, the American Village is definitely a place to visit.

It may sound strange to some, but one of my little bucket list items is to one day get a fish pedicure. I planned on doing this (and still do) in Thailand or Vietnam, but the American Depot gave me a a little glimpse into how it would be. Although not a full pedicure, we did find an area that allowed customers to sit and have doctor fish (a family member of the Carp)  eat away at your feet. I, for one, could not wait to do this. We paid 500 yen for 5 minutes, and I honestly loved every minute.  I had no idea if it would hurt, but I quickly found out it simply tickles in the beginning. After a minute or so, it just feels strange. As for my feet after the 5 minutes? They actually were really smooth.  As soon as I was done, Jesse was throwing down another 500 yen and giving it a go as well.

Part of our travel package was a free dinner at the hotel. With five resort restaurants to choose from, we instantly decided on one of our favorites: Yakiniku. Popular in Japan, Yakiniku restaurants allow guests to cook their own meats and vegetables on top of the flame grill located in the table. We were seated right on the ocean and surrounded by tiki torches. It definitely closed the evening with the tropical feel we were seeking.

After breakfast on Monday morning, we decided we needed some beach time. There was no way we were going to a tropical island and not spend some time on the beach. We rented an umbrella and stretched out for a bit. I was so excited to get Maddox in the ocean that I had purchased a cute life vest, beach ball, a float in the shape of a jet, and a pail and bucket. Unfortunately for me, Maddox may not yet share my love of the beach. Other than the pail and bucket, he wasn’t having any of it. He threw a fit when sand touched his feet, so an hour and 800 yen later, we packed everything up and headed to the pool. He enjoyed that scene a bit more, so at least the float got some use.

Early afternoon, we headed back to the room from the pool to get cleaned up. Fifteen minutes later, we were on the road and headed  to the end of the island to explore the Okinawa Churami Aquarium. The kids were asleep, and it really allowed us to take in the beauty of this island on the hour drive. Jesse even commented just how much Okinawa is similar to Hawaii in both beauty and culture. Aquarium passes were included in our package, and when we arrived, we couldn’t wait to see the heavily advertised whale sharks. Once we parked, we followed a long trail pass intricate hedges and cafes before entering the actual aquarium. Once inside, some of the most beautiful fish were displayed, many native only to Okinawa. Maddox had never been to an aquarium and was completely fascinated with the fish in the smaller tanks. We kept explaining there were big fish and sharks to be seen, but he was perfectly content where he was. After some coercing, we managed to bring him into the aquarium’s main attraction: the whale shark tank. There were small tables set up on the side where a guest could grab a snack or coffee and sit. I mentioned to Jesse that I was grateful none were available, because I would never leave that spot. We just sat with Maddox as he screamed and pointed to each shark, fish, and manta ray that swam by. The size of each of these species was incredible to see in person but we had to move on to the rest of the aquarium.

Before exiting the main building, we went through an exhibit which displayed skeletons and activities geared towards teaching more about underwater creatures. Maddox tended to pound on the glass too much, so we could only stay there for a short time. Once we left, we went across the trail into the next portion where we saw manatees and sea turtles in their underground viewing room. We had just missed the dolphin show, but were able to see several of them playing in the pool at the end of the trail. After exploring what all there was to see, we started to make our way back to the car. We did let Maddox play a bit in the fountain before our drive home, which must have worked because he fell asleep rather quickly on the drive.By the time we arrived back at the hotel, we were completely exhausted.

The next morning, we packed up our things, had some breakfast and headed back to the rental car agency. Okinawa is only about 466 square miles, but there is quite an abundance of activities. A 72 hour trip to this tropical destination was the perfect getaway for Memorial Day Weekend, but Jesse and I are already talking about when we would get to visit this beautiful island again.

View from a coffee shop at the American Depot.
Trying the soda flavored iced candy. Advertised as the “only one in the world.”
Trying some hard iced candy
Toy Kitchen rainbow snow cone
Coffee stop in the American Village
Only a small portion of the American Village
Yakiniku at the Rizzan
Baby Asher
Our personal Yakiniku chef
Very upset with sand getting on his toes
Finally playing in the sand-on a towel
Pool time went over better
Sea turtles
Massive whale shark
Aquarium
Small fish tank
Aquarium
Entrance into the Aquarium
View of the ocean from the aquarium
Intricately designed hedges along path to aquarium
Intricately designed hedges along path to aquarium
Playing in the fountains

A Kid in Kyoto

The second most visited place in Japan is the city of Kyoto. With a population of over 1.4 million, the city is filled with tourist hot spots, and my family couldn’t wait to visit as many as possible.

My husband, son and I decided to use Veteran’s Day weekend to take the 2 night, 3 day trip to the city. We had two options-drive 5 hours, or take the 2 hour Shinkansen (bullet train). I had been wanting to take the bullet train since we arrived in Japan, so that was an easy decision. Many of our friends had recommended AirBnB, so that is the route we decided to take. Our rental was approximately two blocks from the train station, so very convenient to access the train throughout the weekend.

No handrails-simply steps cemented into the wall. Terrifying, especially with a toddler.
Our AirBnB. It was small, but very neat and modern.
The only panel that was operated using the electrical panel in the shower stall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived around 3:30 pm, and with only about 48 hours to see as many (kid friendly) sites as possible, we knew we had to make it count. Here are our Top 5 Must-See Destinations in Kyoto:

 

  • Nijo jo Castle

About a block from our AirBnB, was the Nijo-jo Castle. The castle lets in its last guest at 4:00pm, so we had to hustle; fortunately for us, we were the last ones allowed in. Built over 400 years ago, the Nijo-jo Castle was the residence of the most powerful man in Japan and first Tokugawa shogun (military government ruler), Ieyasu. In 1893, it became an imperial palace after the fall of the Tokugawa before being donated to the public in 1939. Today, visitors can walk throughout the castle, viewing each of the numerous rooms and learning of its purpose. Some rooms were designated for the less ranking officials, while others were held for special guests. Breathtaking murals are painted throughout the castle, each with a distinct meaning and purpose. Some rooms are covered in tigers, while an adjacent one may have floor to ceiling pine trees. The most unique feature of the castle is the “nightingale floors.” To warn against sneak attacks or assassins, the boards were intentionally structured to make a bird chirping sound when anyone walks on them. Walking through this centuries old palace and getting a glimpse into the style of that time period can be considered beautiful in itself, but when guests exit the building, they are surrounded by acres of gardens, moats, and elaborate gates once used to protect the castle from outside enemies. English audio tours can be rented for 500 yen (around $4.50), and we wish we could have taken advantage of those. I’m sure we would have learned even more about this destination; however, being the last visitors, we simply ran out of time. Fortunately, there are signs throughout the castle explaining much of the site. Cameras are not allowed in the castle, so it really is a spot one must see.

 

Cost: 600 yen per person (kids are free)

 

Kid Friendly: Unlike many castles that go up, this one is considered a flatland castle. There are very few stairs; however, strollers are now allowed. Shoes also must come off before entering, but both strollers and shoes can be safely stored at the entrance.

 

  • Fushimi Inari Tight

The next morning, we headed to the most famous shrine in Japan, theFushimi Inari Taishi in southern Kyoto. About a ten-minute walk from the Kyoto train station, the shrine has thousands of torii gates dating all the way back to 711 A.D. Each of the torii gates were dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and their names and dedication dates can be found in kanji writing on the backside of the gate. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, so many statues are located throughout the grounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon arriving to the destination, visitors will quickly see the gates start to ascend up a mountain. Many hikers will explore the full 2.5-mile path; however, all guests are welcome to turn back at anytime.

Cost: Free

 

Kid Friendly: Strollers are not allowed on the trail; however, the mountain is not steep, and with the flexibility to turn back at any time, it is definitely manageable with children. Take comfortable walking shoes.

 

 

  • Arashiyama

Arashiyama is a full sightseeing district and definitely worth the trip. Thinking our son would love it, we decided to take the hike up the Iwatayama Mountain and see the monkey park. With over 150 macaque monkeys up close and personal, the monkey park is about a 30-50 minute hike.

Being six months pregnant, this proved to be a bit more difficult for me, but there were benches located throughout the train that several visitors were utilizing. The trail itself had some dangerous areas, no railings and steep drops, so there were several spots we wouldn’t allow our one year old to walk and needed to be carried. Towards their top of the mountain, and just short of the park, is a “resting area” with a small playground. Once we left the playground, and ascended another 100 feet, an absolutely incredibly view of Kyoto opened up for picture taking. For a few moments, we didn’t even pay attention to the monkeys walking right next to us because we couldn’t take our eyes off this beautiful city, but once we broke away, the exhaustion from the trail was quickly forgotten. Our son loved the monkeys; however, he did decide to throw a tantrum when we wouldn’t let him play with them. Visitors can purchase food to feed the monkeys and there is no shortage of spots where monkeys are relaxing, but there are signs everywhere to not look them directly in the eyes. After half an hour or so, we decide to head back down the mountain, which proved to be much easier!

Cost: 550 yen ($5.00) per adult. Kids 4 and under are free

Kid Friendly: Semi depending on age. Strollers are not allowed, so be ready to carry small children.

 

Once we exited the monkey park, we took the 10-15 minute walk to the bamboo Grove, passing dozens of shops and restaurants and crossing a bridge with even more gorgeous sites to take in. I was so incredibly exited to get to these paths, which cover over 500 meters, and it was completely worth it. Shaded and peaceful, the bamboo forest really allows visitors to take in the tranquil surroundings of the area. If traveling without the kids and for a bit of a romantic feel, rickshaw rides can be rented for 5000-7000 yen (roughly $40-60). English tour guides on the rides will take up to two guests on private trails, picturesque spots, and provide knowledgeable information on the area. Although we snapped dozens of photos, none can convey the atmosphere in person, making it an easy (and free) must see.

 

Cost: Free

 

Kid friendly: Very. Strollers are allowed, and guests can turn back at any time.

 

  • Golden Palace

On our last day in Kyoto, we knew we wanted to check out the Kinkaku-ji , which became a favorite stop for my family and the most photographed temple in Japan. After a quick bus ride, we arrived at the Kinkaku-ji, better referred to as the Golden Pavillion, the Kinkaku. Dating back to 1397, the temple was originally built for statesman, Saionji Kintsune, and later purchased by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After Yoshimitsu’s death, and designated in his will, his son converted the complex into a Zen temple. In 1950, a crazed monk burned much of the original structure, but the pavilion was restored to its original design, including the gold-leaf coating that covers the temple. Besides the obvious gold element that makes this temple so unique, the building also boasts three floors of different styled architecture. The Kinkaku-ji is located in the middle of a pond, and although it cannot be entered, often the windows of the pavilion are open, where statues of Yoshimitsu and Shaka Buddha can be seen on the first floor.

Visitors can continue to follow the garden path around the pond and up a slight hill where a tea house will end the tour. The beautiful shaded trail is a must-see during the fall season when the leaves are changing colors.

 

 

 

Cost: 400 yen per adult & 300 yen per elementary/middle school aged child (toddlers/babies are free)

Kid Friendly: The garden path is a flat pathway and very easy to walk with small children and strollers; however, there are stairs towards the end of the trail (and must be climbed to access the tea house). We took turns going up the stairs to check out the tea house and small markets located at the top of the hill, while one of us stayed with our son (about an additional 10 minutes each). We then simply turned around and went back down the way we came down the path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Kiyomizu Sera

 

Once we left the Golden Pavillion, we jumped back on the bus and within a few minutes we were walking our way up towards the Kiyomizu Dera. Our last major stop on trip, this Buddhist Temple was founded in 780 and is best known for its “stage” that extends from the main building providing stunning sites of Kyoto. Like many sites throughout Kyoto, the Kiyomizu Dera is located up a steep mountain; however, the path is considered the Higashiyama District and is aligned with numerous shops and restaurants catering to tourists.

We were surrounded by both men and women in Kimonos and couldn’t help but to stop in a little shop to pick our son up his very own.

    

Throughout the Kiyomizu Dera are areas where guests can stop to pray, whether with the use of incense or in front of a statue. Once visitors exit the temple, they descend down a trail lined small waterfalls and even more views of Kyoto.

 

Cost: 400 yen per adult (kids are free)

 

 

 

Kid Friendly: The HigashiyamaDistrict is very crowded, but strollers are allowed; however, they must be left at the bottom of the temple due to the amount of stairs needed to climb. The temple itself is an easy walk with children.

 

What we wish we could have done:

There was one thing I really wanted to do on our short trip to Kyoto, but we simply ran out of time. I wanted to see a Geisha! Upon leaving Kiyomizu Dera, we decided to walk to the train station versus taking the bus. The walk was much farther, but it allowed us to walk through Gion, the area to find a Geisha. We had learned that dusk was the ideal time to spot one, and timing wise, we may have been a bit early, but that didn’t deter us from looking down every alley we passed. If you have extra time to sightsee, check out the neighborhoods of Hanami-koji-dori in Gion, especially n the weekends and holidays, but remember, snap a photo from afar since many geishas don’t have time to stop for a picture, as they are usually on their way to an appointment.

Overall, our trip was amazing. Kyoto is beautiful and has over 17 UNESCO World Historic Monuments. Traveling with a child (or children) will slow any family down, but children should never be an excuse to not explore the world.

Why I’m Pro-Life

Maddox just turned 4 months old.  Every night, I say the same prayer for him: to be protected, healthy, kept safe, and to one day accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  I am a Christian, and I try my best to put God at the center of my life-every decision.  Sometimes, I fail, but for this election, I held true to my values.

When I look at Maddox, I realize how truly pro-life I am.  The moment I heard his heart beat at just a few weeks in utero, I would have done anything for him. I cannot support a politician who doesn’t flinch if a woman wants an abortion for unrelated health purposes.  I have been told, “There needs to be separation of church and state.” I disagree. The more we push Jesus out, the worse, I believe, our country is getting. “What a woman chooses to do with her body is her right.” What about the baby’s rights? Women have options if they do not want to raise a child, but as a Christian, I view abortions as murder.

When I was about 20 weeks pregnant, I was given the option to test for disorders such as Down Sydrome.  I asked around to a few of my friends on whether they got the test or not, as well as their reasons for it.  I heard a few mixed answers.  One that struck me uncomfortably was, “Yes.  I recommend it. That way, you can decide if you want to keep the baby or not.”  I was totally left speechless, and then I asked one more person. My friend Brittney.  Brittney has been one of my closest friends since childhood, and she is the epitome of a Christian woman.  Her response spoke volumes to me: “No, I wasn’t tested. It didn’t matter.  If God wanted to give us a child with Down Syndrome, then He obviously thinks we can handle it.”  That was all I needed to hear. I spoke with Jesse, and he agreed. There would be no test for me, but abortion would not be an option.

After Maddox’s birth, my 0pinion on the subject was even stronger. I look at him and thank God for this wonderful blessing. I have friends who have adopted and love their children just as much as I love mine.  These parents are also thankful to their children’s biological mother for choosing life.  That choice not only saved the lives of the babies, but brought a new love to a family.

I’ve often wondered why God allows some women to get pregnant so easily knowing they do not want to have a child, while others pray relentlessly for one-only to never have the chance.  I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m not supposed to.  Jesse and I became pregnant with Maddox very quickly, and four days after his birth, we knew we wanted more children. The same may not happen again for me as quickly, or at all, but that is out of my hands.

My mom and I have talked about abortion often. She knows my stance, and she sometimes reminds me that I did not feel this way as a teenager or college student. I was fine with abortion, but I also feel people change.  I didn’t know then what I know now.  I had never heard a heartbeat or had seen a sonogram.  I hope one day abortions become illegal again.  I know that is  a controversial statement, but that is the beauty of being American. I have the right to    say what I want to say, just as those who oppose me can do the same.

I believe every life is a blessing from God, and I believe every baby is created in the image of Him. To destroy that breaks my heart, especially knowing there are so many families out there who would love to raise a child.

Ecclesiastes 11:5

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.

Just Stop!

32 weeks pregnant with Maddox
             32 weeks pregnant with Maddox

“Make sure to do squats.”

“Definitely don’t do squats.”

“Don’t go hungry. Eat plenty.”

“Don’t eat too much. Stay under 35 pounds.”

“Don’t jump too much.”

“Jumping will help that baby come out.”

“Riding a bike is a great cardio workout while pregnant.”

“Riding a bike is the absolute worst thing you can possibly do while pregnant.”

“Everything you can have in moderation, except alcohol. Do not touch it.”

“You can have a glass of wine here and there. It’s fine.”

“Stay out of the sun. You’ll burn easier.”

“Make sure to get some sun. You need that Vitamin D.”

 

Everyone of these statements were said to me throughout my pregnancy by loved ones.  They all meant well in their advice, but to be honest, it got old!  I have no doubt that others have experienced similar statements, probably even more bizarre.

When I first became pregnant, I didn’t want to take any chances with my unborn baby, so I tried to listen to everyone! About halfway through my 2nd trimester, I snapped.  At first, I thought it was one of my crazy hormonal breakdowns.  I had just come home from spending an evening with some girlfriends and began to unwind for the night.  I slipped on my pjs and realized they were now too tight.  I’m not sure if it was the realization that I could no longer fit into even my baggy clothes, or that the pregnancy was quickly nearing the end, and I still had no clue what I was doing, but I just fell to the floor. I cried and cried and cried.  I truly believe that everyone has their breaking point, and this was mine.

My husband was home, and he happened to come into our closet to find me in a fetal position just staring at my too small clothes. At the time, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Why was I acting this way?  Like any caring husband (who has no clue why his 7 month pregnant wife is on the floor crying), he sat with me and just listened.  I told him my fears, my concerns, and everything that was on my mind; however, even after talking it out, I couldn’t figure out why I was still so down, and then I simply said, “I’m so sick of listening to everybody.”

My husband said the simplest, yet profound words that changed my entire outlook on the remainder of the pregnancy: Then stop.

And at that moment, I did just that-I stopped. I stopped listening to everyone who wasn’t my doctor, and I began listening to my body.  As long as my Obstetrician gave me the go-ahead, I kept doing what I wanted.

Riding my bike at 34 weeks pregnant.
Riding my bike at 34 weeks pregnant.

I did my best to watch my weight while still eating, for the most part, what I wanted. I went to Zumba several days a week, rode my bike miles (even on a busy highway-gasp), took long walks, and didn’t touch alcohol.

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Enjoying the day at the beach.

And guess what-I never felt better.  I was happy and still smiled when I got the occasional advice, but I just didn’t care anymore.  Every pregnancy is different, and each should be treated as such.  For every article or statistic stating what a woman should do, there is another one rebutting the same “facts.”

So now, the only advice I ever offer is simply this-Listen to your doctor and your body, and enjoy this time in your life.

Mimosas and a Baby Shower

girls 1

My milspouse girlfriends celebrating Maddox.

Maybe it was how I was raised. Maybe it is just my personality (maybe both?), but I have never been a huge fan of wedding or baby showers.  I’ve been told countless times, “Micah, it’s not about you. It’s about ______.” Yes, I understand that, and I am completely ecstatic to celebrate in a friend’s happiness, but those couple of hours of celebration are so long…

I’m not sure if it is any one thing specifically, but the mere detail that most showers are very traditional.  Wherever the location (a house, restaurant, etc.), there is usually limited “fancy” food.  Often the items are little bit sized, something or others I can’t pronounce, and if a giant veggie tray takes center stage on the food table, I’m already starting off depressed.  The guests then tend to sit around and socialize with one another.  I don’t mind this part, depending on how close I am with the other guests.  The beautiful bride or mommy-to-be then opens her presents.  Ok, this one is up for debate.  If we can chit chat while she opens her gifts, I’m completely fine watching her and oohing and ahhing when appropriate.  If we end up being silent, while she painstakingly opens each gift and reads each card, then I will slowly start to die inside, but my least favorite part of all…

The games! I despise them. Fill in the missing nursery rhyme. Match the celebrities to their babies. How well do you know the bride? Who can guess closest to the size of her belly?  For a long time, I thought I was the only one who dreaded this part.  Everyone else seemed so into it, but the more I talk about it, the more I find that others don’t care for them as well. I’m sure some still love them, and great for those fortunate ones! Honestly, I wish I was more like you. I’m just not.  So for me, I knew my baby shower couldn’t be completely traditional.

When I got married, I didn’t even want a shower, fearful of it falling into the traditional category, but my husband insisted.  We ended up having a couples’ shower during the Florida vs. Florida State football game. The shower was football/tailgate themed. Guests wore their team colors, and the food was phenomenal.  We opened gifts in a very casual way.  Our 40 guests moved about and chatted with one another, and the only game we had was the one on TV! Also, there were drinks-lots of drinks! It was perfect for me!

However, a baby shower is a bit different.  It would be just the girls, but I am very fortunate to have close friends who offered to throw it and are not exactly traditional either.  It ended up being wonderful!

It took place at one of my hostess’ beach house in Fripp Island-a tightly gated community.  It was brunch styled and the food suited that well-no veggie tray!  The brunch started off with lots of mimosas (8 Champagne bottles worth), and just as I suspected, they were completely gone within 2 hours.  A friend of mine who lives in another state said to me, “I don’t think I would want drinking at my baby shower. I wouldn’t be able to drink, so I don’t want others drinking.” My response, “Why!?!” I want people to have a good time, and seeing others happy and socializing is wonderful! I didn’t have a desire to drink.

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Socializing and enjoying one another.

The music was blasting through the house, and people were moving about meeting others and catching up with friends.  When I opened presents, the music remained loud, the guests continued talking, and drinks continued pouring. There was nothing awkward about it.

The best part? No games!  In addition, two guests mentioned they would usually skip showers, but they had heard that I didn’t want games, so they decided to come!

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The shower lasted about 3 hours and a few of the girls    stayed to hang out by the pool afterward.   I had several guests tell me it, as well as the hostesses, that it was the best baby shower they had ever attended. I could not have asked for a better baby shower.

Again, I am not trying to criticize those that love tradition. Quite honestly, I feel I am in the minority, but to simply acknowledge that not everyone is the same.  I love things that are different and fun. My style may not be the same as yours, but take my advice, Mimosas help!

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Results of Mimosas. Lots of Mimosas.

Handle It

A few snapshots from our ultrasound at MUSC.
A few snapshots from our ultrasound at MUSC.

Yesterday, my alarm was set for 5:45.  I don’t know why I even bothered setting it because I wasn’t going to be able to rest fully through the night. I began waking at 4:00 am and finally got up at 5:30 as my husband continued sleeping peacefully for another 15 minutes.  Once we were both up and moving, we quickly got ready, and we hit the road headed to Charleston for our 8:30 appointment.

I thought I may be a basket of nerves, but honestly, I was at a peace.  I was trusting God to heal this baby, and there was nothing more I could do. We signed in and were called back within a few minutes.  The ultrasound technician came in-a cute, little blonde with a massive smile. She looked like she had just come out of technical school, but there was something about her that was very comforting.  She began the ultrasound, and we were able to see this little guy up close and personal.

The first priority was to check out this heart.  The arrhythmia was still there, but his heart valves, fluid, development, etc all looked perfectly healthy. We learned this baby of ours was in the 75th percentile for weight, growing 2.5 weeks ahead of scheduled and weighing in at 3.10 oz. I’m growing a linebacker!

We then shifted to a 4D ultrasound. Something that I had not experienced before since the average pregnancy usually doesn’t get this added step.  It was pretty awe-inspiring, and we even saw him yawn. I guess he takes after his daddy, getting bored when he’s by himself.  An hour later, the ultrasound ended, and she gave us a printout of a handful of the better pictures. She left the room to deliver the test results to the doctor, and we waited.

Jesse and I chatted and snapped pictures to pass the time, and about 20 minutes later, the doctor and a young, medical student came in to give us our results.  They both put on hand sanitize, and the doctor sat down, while the young student stood right behind him. He clearly took the part of shadowing literally.  The doctor looked at me and stated,  “It is a fetal arrhythmia.” We knew that. Give me more.  He went on to say, for the most part, doctors consider it a “benign” symptom and most likely to go away on its own, possibly 1-2 days after birth.  The biggest concern is to monitor his heart rate with my own doctor and make sure that the heart rate doesn’t drop too low or go too high.  If that happens, I would have to head back over to MUSC for further care and medication.

I did, however, have to do my due diligence. I had to cut caffeine completely out.  Since my last doctor’s appointment, Jesse had already done some research and noticed that caffeine could be linked to arrhythmias, so I hadn’t consumed coffee or tea for almost a week. I told the doctor this information with confidence, and then he countered me, “What about chocolate?”

Yep! Got me. I eat chocolate. Everyday. Every.Single.Day.  Not only did I need to cut it out, but I especially needed to stay away from dark chocolate-my favorite!  Ok, I can do this.  No coffee, tea, or chocolate. Check!

“Do you use cocoa butter lotion for prevention of stretch marks?”

I paused for a minute, hoping I was dreaming. “Yes, everyday since the moment I found out I was pregnant.”

“Toss it out. Find an alternative.”

It would have never crossed my mind that my cocoa butter lotion, with an image of a pregnant woman on the label, would have caffeine.  Here I am rubbing it all over myself. “Ok,” was my only response.

IMG_2709
Maddox Vann experiencing his first 4D ultrasound.

In addition to cutting out these vices of mine that I loved so, I would need to continue seeing my doctor every week until the arrhythmia was either gone, or until it was time to deliver.  Although, not a perfectly ideal situation, I can handle it. We’ve been very blessed so far with a smooth pregnancy, and if I’m being honest with myself, cutting out coffee, tea, and chocolate is probably a good thing. Hey, my teeth should even get whiter!

As I sit here typing this, Maddox is moving all over the place, and I can see my stomach bulging out in various locations. I know that I’m not doing this for me. It’s not a diet, a cleanse, or vanity related. I am doing this to benefit the health of my unborn son, and for him, I can handle it!

Letting Go

Maddox Vann
                                 Maddox Vann

There is quite a bit going on in my life at the moment, and instead of trying to tell my husband every little detail, or going crazy keeping it cooped up in my head, I decided to put my thoughts in words.

To begin, I am 29 weeks pregnant with my first child-a boy. Everything has gone really well: weight in check, baby’s growth on track, measurements perfect, etc.  A perfectly smooth pregnancy up until last week.  I was scheduled for just a random check up. My husband, Jesse, goes to most of the appointments with me, but on this particular day, I told him to just go to work. There was nothing eventful scheduled. It ended up the appointment that changed the meaning of “don’t take things for granted.”

The doctor listened to the baby’s heart rate. I expected the same cute, little rapid beats that I’ve become accustomed to hearing, but this time, it was different. At first, the beats sounded normal, then a louder beat, quick silence, and back to the beats.  My doctor, bless her heart, does not have a poker face, and her scrunched nose, wrinkled forehead, side mouth, and head tilt gave away that this was not normal. “What was that?” I quickly asked.  Tears already beginning to fill my eyes.  She didn’t answer me at first. Just listened. I heard that loud beat again. Silence.

“It sounds like your baby has an arrhythmia.”

I didn’t even know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good.  “We are going to get you over to ultrasound right now for a better look.” I couldn’t hold back the tears now. They were streaming down my face as she handed me the tissues.  We quickly exited the room, and she escorted me down the back hallway into the ultrasound room. In that room, which originally I cried tears of joy from confirmation I was going to be a mommy, I now cried tears of sadness to hear that something was wrong.

The technician told me that Maddox’s heart would beat 15-20 times and then “drop.” After a few more tears and quick pep talk from the technician, I was sent back to the exam room to see my doctor.  After several text message exchanges with my mom, and a dozen or so tissues soaked, the doctor came back in and confirmed that the baby did have a fetal arrhythmia.  “I’m sending you to MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina) in Charleston. They will do a fetal echo and take some better looks at his heart.”

She tried to reassure me that many times, arrhythmias heal on their own. She then said those words that doctors have to say, “Try your best not to worry.”

It was with those words that I left the doctor’s office and headed to meet my husband to tell him the news.  Of all the doctor’s appointments I told him to not come to…

So now, we wait until we go to MUSC.  I am a woman of God, and I have faith that everything will be fine. I prayed, Jesse prayed, my mom and dad prayed, and now I just wait.  I am not worrying anymore.  I truly believe in “Let go, and let God.” So as far as my worrying, I’m letting go.