Thursday, August 31, 2017

13 Years Ago...

13 years ago on this very night, I delivered our second baby girl.

An ultrasound done the day before showed that the baby was already measuring between 9-11lbs and my due date wasn’t for another 10 days! My OB didn’t want this baby getting as big as our first baby (10 lbs at 2 weeks late) so she scheduled me for an induction the very next day.

After having labored for 9+ hours, with very little progress, it was decided it was in my best interest to have a c-section. 

At 9:21pm, Rachel Marie Fraser made her grand entrance into the world. And what a grand entrance indeed. As my OB was delivering her (all 9lbs 5oz of her), it was discovered that Rachel had been born with an undetected birth defect not picked up on any ultrasounds I’d had throughout my pregnancy. 

I’ll never forget how Dr. Koch announced to the delivery team of her discovery. I’ll never forget the feeling of laying on that table knowing I’d just given birth to a child with an undetected birth defect. I’ll never forget the feeling of being left alone for them to finish stitching me up and stabilizing me while I insisted Steven accompany Rachel to the Nursery to be checked over. I’ll never forget laying in recovery, dozing in and out of a sleepy consciousness asking for information about the baby I’d just had. Just as I’m sure Steven never forget how it felt to carry our new baby down the hall, shielding her face from our eagerly awaiting family standing in the doorway of the waiting room awaiting the joyous news of a new arrival to our family. Just as he’ll probably never forget how it felt to tell our family of her birth defect.

It was close to midnight before I was wheeled into my room. Every one of our family members had left to go home except for my parents. They waited until I was in my room, to see me, to see that I was okay. I remember telling my mom we had quite a long journey ahead of us. Thus the name of this blog.

After they left, Steven crawled into bed beside me. We talked about what lay ahead of us with this new baby with a birth defect. We cried together. We wondered why after 8 months of praying for a healthy baby, that God allowed us to have a baby with a birth defect. We’d already experienced a very difficult baby hood with Hannah, in and out of the hospital with aspiration pneumonia due to a swallowing problem. THIS baby was supposed to be our easy baby. Our healthy baby. We prayed together over all that lay ahead despite our not understanding.

The days following Rachel’s birth were kinda somber ones. We were grieving for that ‘perfectly healthy baby’. We had friends bringing us stacks and stacks of information printed from the internet regarding Cleft Lips and Palates. We had social workers and case workers visit us with such little information as to when Rachel’s first surgery would be, etc, etc. We had so many questions and really no answers.

I had a friend who was a pediatric nurse at the hospital I was at. She scheduled herself to work when she’d found out Rachel’d been born with a cleft lip and palate. She was my nurse the day after Rachel was born. She took care of me. Anticipating pain meds, gave me meds that would help with some of the trapped air pain that followed c-sections and abdominal surgeries. She made sure I ate. SHE TOOK CARE OF ME. I will always appreciate that. To do this day, she holds Rachel very dear to her heart. She’s one of the few people, aside from family, that have seen how far Rachel has come in the last 13 years. 

It wasn’t too long after Rachel’s birth when we started learning about all the health problems that sometimes accompany cleft lips and cleft palates. We’d learned that God really had answered our prayers for a healthy baby. Rachel had none of the other problems that some kids have. Her problems were fixable through surgeries. 

Thirteen years later and I can tell you God has been there every step of the way. He’s guided and directed the surgeon’s hands in all of her surgeries (5 thus far directly relating to her birth defect), plus an appendectomy). He’s opened doors for an amazing Speech Pathologist and Orthodontist. And he’s given me plenty of opportunities to encourage, be supportive, and offer advice to mom’s behind us on this same journey through email, and through this blog. 

God’s got special things in mind for our Rachel. I was reminded of that today when her and I went to lunch for her birthday and she prayed for our lunch. She prayed for all the people who were without power (the city the girls go to school in were experiencing a power outage) and she prayed for protection for the firefighters we’d just seen battling a new fire started a couple miles from our home. She has a heart of compassion, she’s caring, and God’s gonna use her somehow to continue to bring Him Glory. 

So on this night, 13 years later, I’m reminiscing. I’m filled with emotion. I’m thankful that Lord always has us in His hands. Always has His plan in tact. And I’m thankful He chose us for Rachel’s parents. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A New Phase for the "I Am Hallway"

In October 2011, we were contacted by a longtime friend who works in the Marketing Department at Loma Linda University Medical Center about participating in a special new project, called the "I Am Hallway". People's stories were to be shared, each having the tag line "I Am" followed by a descriptive word for their story. These stories were to be displayed in the major hallway of the Medical Center.
Rachel's tag line is "I Am Beautiful".
Rachel next to her picture, January 2012. 
That hallway debuted in January 2012, where Rachel's picture hung for a couple of years, and then was moved to another hallway to make room for the next set of stories to be shared.
The third phase of that hallway debuted recently with yet another set of stories to be told. And today, I picked up Rachel's picture from my friends office. 

I'm not quite sure where we'll put it as it is rather large. Maybe someday Rachel will want to hang it in a home office or something. But one thing I do know is that we were honored to be a part of the very first "I Am Hallway" that shared just a little glimpse into Rachel's Journey. 

* My original post on the "I Am Hallway" can be viewed here.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Orthodontic Progress

Last month marked 3 years since Rachel started on this current Orthodontic phase. Because of the cleft in her alveolar ridge, her two front teeth were totally crocked and sideways. She was beginning to feel self conscious and even had some teasing from kids who'd not known Rachel all of their Elementary School life.

At that time, in order to start the process on turning those two teeth, she simply had two brackets. We watched those two teeth move quickly and we were left amazed at the progress. This picture shows the before and the after of the two brackets. 

Over time, she has had an entire set of top braces put on. For the last year (maybe longer) we've been waiting on this one tooth to make it's presence known. Wouldn't you know, two days after her last Orthodontist appointment, Rachel began complaining about her mouth. Sure enough that tooth was finally breaking through!! And thus our 12 year old was dealing with "teething pains". Wherever we went, I carried Motrin and Ora-gel to aid in her discomfort.

We saw Dr. Garcia on Friday. She was very excited to see that tooth had finally made an appearance and a new plan was put into motion to now bring it forward to align with the other teeth. 

The brackets that were on some of Rachel's front teeth had to come off so that new ones could be repositioned in order to put the new plan into action. This was the first time in 3 years we'd seen her teeth straight and without brackets! It brought tears to my eyes to see the difference in the before and the now.
She now has a coil from one tooth to another and and then a bracket on the new tooth tied to that coil in order to bring it forward. She had quite a bit of pain over the weekend, and thankfully stacking Motrin and Tylenol and staying on that regularly has helped.

This little mouth has come a long way in the last ::almost:: 13 years! 

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Rachel's Journey: A Photo Scrapbook

A little less than a month ago, my cousin who is a NICU nurse at a local hospital approached me about making Rachel's story into a photo book. She told me that periodically she has babies that are born with a cleft and while they do have a photo book of a child with a cleft on the hospital unit, the book doesn't go past the first year. My cousin knew I'd kept a blog for Rachel and shared way beyond the first year of Rachel's life and knew it would be helpful for families on the same journey. 

When Rachel was born, we had no idea what having a cleft baby entailed, when the surgeries would be, or how many for that matter, we had trouble feeding her, we had a ton of questions. We had a friend who printed countless pages of information from the internet and brought them to us at the hospital. They were helpful to some degree, but we were overwhelmed. If only there had been a person who could tell us themselves how this would all work out, we would have felt so much relief.

For years I've wanted to be a resource to parents who'd given birth to a baby with a cleft. Many, many times I talked to the social worker at our Craniofacial Team appointments sharing my desire to be a resource and while the social worker thought it was a great idea, nothing ever came to fruition. So I poured myself into Rachel's Journey and through the years have met countless families over the internet who have had babies born with a cleft lip and palate. I have been able to offer tips, advice, encouragement, and have special bonds with these Moms despite having never met in person, with the exception of just two, all because we have cleft affected children.

So when my cousin approached me about making a book, I knew with all my heart it was an opportunity I didn't want to pass up.

I put together the book in a matter of a week and a half. And then I took the time to edit, fine tune my words, and to just let it sit. It was very emotional for me putting together this book. Revisiting each road block, bump, and detours of this journey has reminded me once again how the Lord has been so, so good to us throughout Rachel's Journey.

I finally sent it off to be published last week. I ordered one to give to the hospital in which my cousin works at, and I ordered one for ourselves. 

It arrived today. And I'm moved to tears all over again at seeing how far our little Rachel has come. And I could not wait to share it here on her blog for all to see!!!

The book is 26 pages. It starts with newborn pictures of Rachel, gives pictures and details about the five surgeries she's had, shares pictures and information about her need for Speech Therapy, tubes in her ears, her brain anomaly diagnosis, as well as helpful information in regards to feeding a cleft baby, arm restraints, and even information pertaining to her dental and orthodontic issues. 

Once I deliver this book to the hospital, I  have no idea who will see this book, I pray it encourages families. I hope and pray they will contact me so I can offer help and encouragement to them in person. But most importantly, I hope it opens the door to being able to share the Lord and all He's done for us on this Journey thus far!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hello Out There!!

It's been a while since I've blogged. 

Rachel's Journey has been quiet and really uneventful the last few years, so there's not been much to blog about in way of that. I should have been better at keeping this blog updated even Rachel's day to day adventures and adventures we've had as a family, etc. 

At any rate, I'm going to try and be better about my blogging...

Here is our beauty of a daughter. She recently started 7th grade at the middle school and will turn 12 years old in less than 2 weeks. Middle School!!! 12 Years Old!!!! :::Shaking My Head::: 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blessed, Blessed, ... Blessed

We aren't watchers of Duck Dynasty. We've watched an episode or two, when it was known they'd be featuring Mia Robertson, who like Rachel, was born with a cleft lip and palate. 

But when I learned that Missy Robertson had written a book about their journey with Mia, I knew I JUST HAD to have that book. And there's nothing better than having Amazon Prime when something is first released! I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book and start reading. 

I read the book in two and a half days. 

It was a book I could hardly put down. But at the same time, I had to keep taking breaks, because as I read, I was reliving our journey with Rachel. Every anticipated surgery, every recovery, every struggle, was not only Missy and Jase's journey with Mia, but it was also OURS. It was Darcy and Steven's journey with Rachel. 

Once Mia's story came to play in Chapter 3, every emotion, every feeling, every thought that Missy expressed as a Mother, it was as though she'd been in my head. She and I could have been the same person. 

We knew that the Robertson family had strong Christian values, but I had no idea until I read this book just how true and devoted they are to loving Jesus, to living life pleasing to Him. 

This book definitely touched me in more ways than one and I recommend it to anyone who's life has been affected by a child born with a cleft. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dental Appointment and a Tooth Pulled

Today was a scheduled, routine dental check up for both Rachel and her sister. However, Rachel ended up having a tad bit more done than just cleaning and a check up. 

At Rachel's November Orthodontist appointment, Dr. Garcia gave Rachel one month to work on loosening up a tooth. She told her to wiggle it as she sat and watched TV, etc. If it wasn't out or close to being out by the time we saw her at the next appointment, she would write our dentist a note, asking that she pull that tooth. 

No amount of wiggling was going to make that tooth come out, therefore we came with a note in hand today to have Dr. Hoffer pull the tooth. Thankfully, Dr. Hoffer had an Olaf Rachel could borrow to cuddle while her nitrous gas took effect and through the process of having that tooth pulled. 

Once the tooth was pulled, there was no doubt that ANY amount of wiggling on it would not have helped. This tooth was not coming out on its own and it HAD TO BE pulled. Check out the root on this thing!!!

As always, Rachel was a trooper and nothing that a little Motrin and a McDonalds McFlurry didn't help take care of! 

Now there is room for the tooth that was needing to come down to come down and perhaps soon, she'll have the rest of her top braces on!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Two Months of Braces

Rachel had an orthodontist appointment today. It's been two months since she got her braces on and whoa! what a difference two months has made. This picture really doesn't do it justice, but her two top teeth have straightened out tremendously!! 

The one tooth on the left used to be almost completely sideways, and now it's almost completely straight!

It's been amazing to watch how quickly things are changing in her mouth. Needless to say, she's had quite a bit of pain and discomfort and Motrin is a friend kept close by!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cleft Affected Families

There have been a lot of comments being left recently on old posts I've written through the years from Moms who have kids with cleft affected kids and have been days away from surgery, etc.

I'd love to email with you and be available to answer any questions or just offer you encouragement from a "Been There, Done That" Mama!!

My email address is:  DarcyFras < at > AOL  < dot > com.

Please feel free to email me!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

10 Years on this Journey

Ten years ago today, our lives were forever changed. 

Forever changed in two very big ways. 

The first,  that we welcomed Baby #2 into our family and we became a family of four. 

The second, not only had we welcomed another baby, but I had given birth to a baby born with an undetected birth defect in the form of a cleft lip and cleft palate. 

And thus, ten years ago today we began this journey, Rachel's Journey. 

The days following Rachel's birth were ones filled with disbelief, shock, sadness, grief, and to be perfectly honest...we questioned the prayers we'd prayed for nine months for a healthy baby.  

You see, Hannah, our firstborn, had many health problems her first year of life, including three weeklong hospital stays, and surgery. It was a rough and stressful first year. We prayed fervently for Baby #2 to be born healthy, with all its fingers and toes and limbs. And when Rachel was born with a birth defect, we were left perplexed as to why God didn't answer that prayer request. 

But He did answer our prayers.

Rachel was born perfectly healthy

Rachel had no other syndromes or diseases that often times accompany cleft lips and cleft palates. She had all her fingers, toes, and limbs. And in all actuality, what Rachel was born with, was fixable. It took several surgeries, but it's fixed. However, it does continue to be a big part of Rachel's life, and ours, to this day...

If it weren't for her birth defect, she wouldn't have needed braces at the age of 9 1/2 years old.

If it weren't for her birth defect, she wouldn't have needed years and years of one on one speech. 

If it weren't for her birth defect, she wouldn't have more surgeries down the road. 

But more importantly...

If it weren't for her birth defect, we wouldn't be able to give God all the glory for all the prayers He has answered in the last ten years. 

If it weren't for her birth defect, we wouldn't be able to give God all the glory for how wonderful things have turned out for Rachel in the terms of having just the right doctors, and acquiring the best Speech Therapist all around. 

If it weren't for her birth defect, we wouldn't have started this blog and been able to provide information and encouragement for the families who started a similar journey to Rachel's after us. 

This journey hasn't always been easy, nor has it been one without tears.  But on this special day, Rachel's 10th birthday, we celebrate this journey...For how far the Lord has brought us and carried us, and for the road ahead, where He already knows whats ahead and what we'll need when the time comes...

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
Your works are wonderful..." 
~ Psalm 139:14

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Getting Braces On

Today, Rachel got braces. It's the beginning of a new smile for her. And while she's excited about the end results, she was nervous for this mornings appointment. 

Overall, it went well. There were some tears, both from Rachel and from Mommy. This journey is tough at times. It's hard to see your child upset. 

Her mouth was pretty sore after the appointment. I gave her a dose of Motrin before we even left the parking lot, next time I'll give her a dose before we leave home so it'll be working by the time all the adjusting takes place. Here's hoping the Motrin, and a chocolate chip frappacino from Starbucks kicks in quick!

After the Motrin and Frappacino kicked in, she was all smiles! For now, she has brackets on her front two teeth connected with a wire. She also had bands put on her back teeth that will anchor the additional brackets that will be placed later.  The immediate goal is to straighten those two teeth, and then in a few months, additional brackets will be added to the rest of the top teeth and some more straightening and room made for teeth that need to come down. 

In regards to Rachel's braces, as opposed to Hannah's braces, the progress is going to be noticeable! There's a lot of moving those two teeth have to do. We've learned through Rachel's surgeries that she has a very high tolerance for pain, so we told her if her mouth hurts, she needs to tell us so we can give her something for the pain and discomfort. 

We return to the Orthodontist in 8 weeks. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Let the Ortho Adventure Begin

Let the Ortho Adventure Begin!

Today we visited Dr. Garcia's office to have impressions made, pictures taken, and spacers put between a few of Rachel's back teeth.

This is Rachel's smile now. Her top two teeth are completely jacked up as a result of her cleft alveolar ridge. We love her no matter what her smile looks like, but we're excited to see how her new smile at the end of this part of the journey.