Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take Me Back Anne

This time of year is amazing for many reasons - lots of birthdays, Thanksgiving, Xmas, New Years, etc. but also (arguably at the top of the list) chocolate covered cherries - and not just any chocolate covered cherries but ONLY Queen Anne.  
I have loved these dangerous little morsels for as long as I can remember. In fact tonight we purchased the largest box known to man (refer to picture) - when I realized they are so much than cordials. That $5 investment is able to take me back to a time when my life was so hectic that I was able to live on them for 6 + weeks.

You see, Ella was born on November 26th, 2008 and my maternity leave was anything but enjoyable. Between many doctor appointments for her cleft, no sleep, pumping to feed her, and working from home - Queen Anne kept me alive. She allowed me jiggle Ella (in attempt to stop the 6 hours of daily crying), answer emails, and not kill myself because it only two seconds to pop one of those chocolates in my mouth. Anne truly is a queen.

Now two years later, after recently celebrating Ella's 2nd birthday, those Queen Anne memories don't seem so bad. Don't get me wrong, that time was the hardest challenge I have ever survived, but not even comparable to all the joy that Ella has brought to our lives in her 2 short years.

I know, I know - life is about more than chocolate (sometimes) so I should probably update on some of the recent adventures at Leschisin Petite Ferme.

As I mentioned, Ella turned 2 on November 26th, but she has been celebrating for the last month and will probably claim everyone's birthdays as her own for the next year. She has sang Happy Birthday to herself more times than I can count and is constantly asking me for "birthday cake."
<---She really likes cake!

Today I met with Birth to 3 in hopes of getting a new speech therapist. At this point my expectations are low, but that way it can only go up from here :D

On a brighter note, I was fortunate enough to have my contact information shared with the President of St. Mary's Hospital, to whom invited me to a breakfast meeting in early 2011. The meetings are held once a month and attendees include local business and health leaders. I am hoping to be able to share Ella's story in hopes that changes can be made to the existing program to help future children & families affected by clefts. I am very excited and view this as a huge opportunity to continue to spread Cleft Awareness.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Much Needed Update

I know I know - it's been a long time, but for some reason I have just felt like I haven't had much to write about. I still feel that way, but I know people like to know what is going on in our lives, but more importantly what is happening with Ella.
So what's new? Prepare for a long journal post:

Wedding update: The last time I wrote Joe and I had just gotten engaged. Since then we have managed to make some wedding plans that we are pretty excited about. We booked our location, photographer and DJ - next step, a caterer - which will help to make other decisions once I know what they will and will not be handling on that day. 

Family update: Over Labor Day we went to Joe's parents and were able to get some free time to ourselves, which is very rare and much needed. Before we set off on our own we took Ella to Fawn Doe Rosa. We went there last year too, but this time she was big enough to fully enjoy it.

We were also able to travel back home for Kael's 3rd birthday and Ella had so much fun. She rarely gets to hang out with other kids outside of daycare so she loves anytime we get to spend with our family. She also really loved Kael's new bike, as you can see! She walked around wearing that helmet forever. Even though she looked a bit special, I didn't stop her from doing it cause I figured it was something she probably needed anyways.

In the beginning of October Shawn, Heidi, Paige & Claire came to stay with us over the weekend. It was nice to get to spend some time with them and especially for Ella to play with her cousins. We made a trip to the Madison Children's Museum where we were able to get a great view of the Capitol. I wish we lived closer and could do that more often. Next time we are going to have to go visit them and eat caramel apples in their living room ;-)

Ella update: We have continued speech therapy, with no real results and a lot of frustration. Our mid-program review is tomorrow so hopefully that will shed some light on therapy success, we'll see. In the meantime, we had Cleft Clinic last week Friday where we were able to meet with the speech therapist who specializes in children who suffer from clefts. It was a very beneficial meeting and he really took the time to observe her. This morning I took her in for a second opinion and that appointment was great. We plan to pursue this new option and are crossing our fingers that it may be more beneficial. After Cleft Clinic we went to have Ella's hearing tested where we learned that her hearing levels are down a bit and one of her ears is retaining fluid. Based on that, we decided to schedule her for her next surgery, November 10th to replace the tubes that have fallen out. I am nervous for her to go under anesthesia again, but in all honesty - this surgery is nothing compared to the ones in the past, and I am hopeful that her increased hearing levels will allow her to hear us enunciate words more clearly and hopefully help her speech!

Now we are just enjoying the beautiful, changing fall colors, pumpkin picking and anxiously awaiting Halloween.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Sky's the Limit

First, I apologize for the hiatus from blogging. I have attempted to write numerous times over the last month, but it never felt right- so I chose to skip it vs. posting to just post. It was probably a good decision because some major events happened in the last month that have inspired me to blog in a positive light. **Forewarning, since it's been a month - this post may be long, but I won't be offended if you stop reading, I too have A.D.D.

About two months ago, Joe and I discussed the fact that we were in desperate need of a vacation so I told him to plan something (I always plan) and keep the details to himself so I could have something exciting to look forward to. The weeks ticked by as I patiently waited for the 3 day weekend I was longing for. Finally August 20th came and it was time to kick back and relax.

We went to my parents house to drop off Ella on Thursday night so we could get an early start the next morning. On Friday we got up and set off on our departure, I was still clueless where our final destination would be.

We made our first pit stop in Lancaster to grab some coffee at a cute little shop. As we traveled on we saw a sign for Potosi Brewery and of course made a quick detour, come on everyone loves beer! For being a small town, population 700, their brewery was amazing! We moseyed around, had some lunch, chatted with the locals and moved on.

At this point in our travels I had determined we were on our way back to Galena, IL. We went there right before we had Ella (Oct '08), to spend our last time together when it would be just the two of us. I loved the first trip, but didn't know that it meant that much to Joe, until now.

The first time we were there we took this picture:

On Saturday morning Joe mentioned that he wanted to update the picture we took in Grant Park. We had kept the camera in our room (air conditioned) and the temps outside were sweltering, so when we got there to set up, the camera was completely fogged up and the test pictures were not turning out. Joe was persistent on the fact that it had to work, and I was getting annoyed by the fact that it was taking forever :D Finally I offered the use of our other camera, sat it up and returned to my bench to wait (patiently, of course). I heard him hit the button, but he only had 5 seconds to sit down and he was slowly coming up on my left, when he should have been running to sit down on my right. I was a bit confused, but figured since it was going to take a series of pictures, it would be fine.

As he got closer I began to turn and this is what I found:

While I realize we have been together for 5 years and have a baby together, I was 100% genuinely surprised. I had NO idea he was going to ask me to marry him. Not only was I surprised, but I was HAPPY and so proud of the fact that he was able to surprise me and put so much thought into his proposal.
I don't remember all of what was said, but I do remember the look on his face and how big his smile was. He was beaming with excitement. I know he asked me to marry him twice and I responded with, "Are you serious? Of course!" I didn't cry and neither did he, until he sat down to tell me about the rest of the festivities for the day. He talked about how much my post "Meet You at the Treetops" meant to him and how the only way he could get me to the trees was on a hot air balloon. So touching and thoughtful. I am one lucky girl, and so is Ella. Cheers to being Joe, Kelly & Ella Leschisin on September 17, 2011!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Manic Monday

Wait a minute....it's not Monday, it's Tuesday - maybe it feels like Monday because this day went about as well as most typical Monday's do. Or maybe I am just too excited for next weeks vacation Joe and I are taking or it could be the fact that my workload is just too large right now, but it feels like I cannot escape this week! Seriously.

I would pay $1,000,000 (if I had it) to go back to sitting around the campfire this past weekend. We attended the 1st Country on the River festival in PdC this past weekend for my mom's birthday. It was filled with lots of family, fun and country music. It was not only Ella's first music festival, but also her first time camping. She did great and loved dancing the night away with Grandpa Stevenson and playing with lots of cousins. Grandma bought her glow bracelets that she was fascinated with. We couldn't have asked for better weather and for a first time event, everything went really well. I will go on record stating I have a crush on Blake Shelton - he was a great performer and pretty good looking. That Miranda Lambert is one lucky gal.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hump Day

I have tried to write a post three separate times tonight and wasn't happy with any of them - so here I am. My biggest issue is that I tried to post three times and didn't... which means I am over analyzing my writing vs. just getting my thoughts out there ...which I vowed to not do. So, I am going to blame it on Hump Day.

Had a crazy, crazy day, filled with work, doctors appointments, Cleft Awareness, Kella, etc. The moral of the story;
We met with our surgeon and Ella does not have any scheduled surgeries in the near future. The hole in her palate is almost non-existent and he doesn't think it's contributing to speech issues, so that's great news!

We had our first pediatric orthodontist appointment. First, the Children's Dental Center is phenomenal and I am 100% positive my childhood dental visits were not like this. We met with Dr. Dowd, who specializes with children with clefts ---she is amazing, I really like her. She could potentially be the most helpful person we have met in this entire process. I will cross my fingers. She says Ella's teeth look amazing and everything is lined up really nicely. She currently has all of her teeth, except her 2 year old molars. She may be missing a tooth next to her front tooth, but we will not know that for sure for a while. If so, no big deal!

Ella met with her speech behavior therapist for the second time. This time she was observed at daycare. I have not yet decided if this is speech or behavior therapy. No matter what, our therapist, has offered lots of useful tips on how to minimize tantrums and stop the biting, so ...if something good comes from this, I will be happy! In the meantime I have been working extra hard with Ella to learn more sign language so she can better communicate her needs.

I was able to make a great contact in regards to making jewelry for Cleft Awareness. Julie, from Heart & Stone Custom Jewelry has been amazing and very helpful so I am really excited to see if something can come of this relationship. Although I am super excited to make something, I want to make sure I take my time and make the right decisions so that I like it for a long time. Lets be honest - we all know I have A.D.D. - so it could still happen :D

Ok kiddies - it's no longer Hump Day so I am going to sign off for now. I will leave you with this:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Busy Bee's

Lately we have been pretty busy with ALL parts of our lives so I thought I would provide a brief update of what's going on at La Petite Ferme!

We are scheming up big things for The Cleft Awareness Foundation. Last week I ordered my business cards and I am pretty excited for them to get here Thursday. I am sure that Joe will take some great pictures when they arrive that we'll share later on. What do you think? The back side is white with the full color logo. I love them :D

We already have 350 fans on Facebook and are starting to make some great contacts. I am hoping our Kella Design schedule starts to clear up a bit so we can focus on getting the CA website up and running sooner than later.

My most recent project is making custom jewelry to give to cleft patients when they are going through surgery. I am hoping it would be something that is meaningful for them and their parents. I was inspired by this piece from Heart & Stone Custom Jewelry Design, that was created for Autism Awareness. I have the design all figured out so now I am working quickly to learn all about metal jewelry stamping and what tools I need in order to complete a piece. It might be a bit expensive and excessive in the beginning but I am REALLY excited about the opportunity! Stay tuned.

Speaking of jewelry, I was privileged to guest blog for my friend Merl from clyde's rebirth. tonight. She is on vacation so Ella took care of getting something posted for me. Feel free to check it out and you can view all of Merl's beautiful jewels here. I wish I had more money cause that girl is talented!

This past weekend I was lucky enough to spend time with some great family and friends. My friend LJ turned 27 so we enjoyed restaurant week at Eldorado Grill. This is where I learned I DO NOT like goat cheese. Bah.

The remainder of the weekend I spent time with two of my cousins and had a ball. This is where I learned that I am old. Lol. I love all of my family and would be happy as a clam if we all lived together on the same block. I know, we are not normal!

Last week we met with Ella's speech therapist for the first time. We didn't talk a ton about speech development, but more about behavioral issues we have had with Ella. I think the therapist is great so I am really excited to see how things go.

Two weekends ago Grandma & Grandpa Leschisin came to visit Ella. We had a full weekend of activities. Joe and I were lucky enough to go out to Cahoots Bar for Friday Fish Fry. If you haven't been there to check it out, you should - AMAZING perch! Then Saturday we started our morning by visiting the Farmer's Market, took Ella fishing, grilled out and kicked back at the bonfire. Sunday we took our 1,000,000 trip to zoo this season and enjoyed a picnic in the park, where Ella chased the birds around.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meet You at the Tree Tops

I am so grateful that Ella and I have Joe in our lives. I know, I know - pretty mushy stuff, but simply stated he is a dreamer. Some may even say his head is in the clouds most of the time. I, on the other hand, am self-admittedly a pessimist by nature. I have worked my whole adult life to change my outlook and it's an every day battle - but with the help of Joe, I think I am making progress. Maybe it's a small town thing, but now I’m just making excuses.

Even though I am a pessimist, I still have dreams - everyone does, right? I think what truly separates great people from the crowd is the strength they possess to follow their dreams. Lets be real, it's scary to pursue something you really care about. Succeeding is one thing, but failure is an entirely different thing when you’re passionate.

My biggest goal is to always push and encourage Ella to go after her dreams. No matter how embarrassing it could be or how bad it might hurt to fail - I want her fearless nature to continue into her life goals. This shouldn't be a problem with Joe as her daddy. She will most likely think she can be the first female NFL player, even though Joe's goal is for her to become a professional female golfer - who knows?!?

For me personally - I know I am a strong person, but also know that I don't pursue many dreams out of fear.  I don't necessarily wish to be just like Joe, however I would like to meet in the middle of where I currently sit, feet leveled flat on the ground, and where he is, floating in the clouds – I guess I’ll settle for the tree tops.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Touching Me, Touching You

First things first. A few things need to be addressed before I get down to business:
1. I am normally very against music on sites, especially if it's set to auto play, but it felt necessary albeit cheesy.
2. I apologize to Caroline Mueller for using this song - I swear, I do want you to be happy.
3. I realize Neil Diamond's lyrics state, "Touching You, Touching Me."
4. If you prefer to not hear Sweet Caroline, scroll to the bottom of this post to pause.
5. It touches me that I am able to touch you.

Now - all kidding aside, I feel truly touched in the fact that I have been able to touch so many others through this blog.  If you know me, you will know that I struggled in the beginning. I felt self-conscious that others would read and judge my writing skills and wondered if people would accept my sometimes brutal honesty in regards to parenting.

Shortly after I started, I received my first compliment from an old friend who said she enjoyed reading and looked forward to new posts. Since then I have been overwhelmed with the messages I have received. There have been a lot, however I wanted to share a couple that mean the world to me. I will use initials since I didn't ask permission :o

"I am so proud of you on how you are such a great mom- i read a short bit of your blog and all i can say is wow!! I can't even image how hard it was for you to know before your baby Ella was born all of the stuff you would be going thru. And sometimes you just need to know when people are thinking of you. So here i am thinking of you - and wanted to let you know you are a great mom!" - MJ

"I have been following your Mamma Bird blog and staying updated on little Miss Ella's adventure and I can't help but not tell you how inspirational you have been in my life. I have two beautiful little girls who are completely healthy (which I am truly grateful for) but sometimes as a working mother of 2 children, who just moved into a new home, I tend to get stressed out a lot...and I find that if I take a deep breath and turn to your blogs or stories or even pictures of smiling, precious Ella and everything that you have had the strength to overcome thus far in your life, it makes me feel like I have the power to get through almost anything! Whether it is a tear I shed or a laugh I send across the room after reading your stories, I enjoy every minute of it! You are truly a remarkable mother and someday Miss Ella will realize just how much you have done for her and your family! The people who have and will come into contact with you in the future are truly, truly blessed." - TF

Words cannot begin to explain how grateful I am, not only that people take the time to read what I have to say, but that they enjoy it and then take the time to tell me. I can only say thank you and hope that I am able to reach MANY, many more people and push to continue building a network for Cleft Awareness.
*This is my online version of a thank you. 

Family Fotos

As I briefly mentioned we had our family pictures taken this past Sunday by Don't Blink Photography. Of course Ella refused to nap all day, because that would have made the day way too easy.

We began the shoot at Babcock Park in McFarland. In the beginning I was pretty nervous that the shoot was not going to go well because Ella would not sit still and was a bit cranky from her lack of sleep. Did I also mention she was running a fever all weekend? This type of stuff happens to us all the time.

Much to my surprise, Ella turned it around when we switched to our second location, Olbrich Gardens. She was still crazy and running all over the place, however she was able to ham it up with Erin.

So far we have only seen a sneak peek but we are in L.O.V.E. with them already, can't wait to see them all. Here are a few of our faves to share:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Funkdubious

Sorry to report the funk has not cleared, but we had a great weekend so I wanted to post a few notes so that I do not forget the events.

#1. Joe and I took advantage of our early release Fridays for the first time and went golfing. It was lots of fun however I realized my golf game is not as good as it once was. Oh well, we got some sun and practice makes perfect so we will have to go more often.

#2. We took Ella to her first fair this weekend. The Dane County Fair actually proved to be a great event. Even though it was SUPER hot, Ella really enjoyed seeing all the animals and going on her first pony ride.  After the fair we wanted to find kid-friendly fishing places in Madison and came across The Jennie & Kyle Preserve in Fitchburg. We will most likely be taking Ella there for her first fishing excursion. Lets hope she doesn't fall/jump into the water.

#3. Today (technically yesterday since it's past Midnight) we had our pictures taken by Don't Blink Photography. Even though Ella skipped her napping today, it went okay. Right now Ella is at the stage that makes photography, or almost anything, difficult. Overall we are really excited to see the pictures and hope Erin has some great Photoshop skills to eliminate all the sweat on our foreheads. Stay tuned for the pictures.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bloggers Block

It's official - I started this blog only 3 months ago and I already have blogger's block. It's not that I don't have a lot of new things to talk about, it's just that I don't feel like fully diving into each topic to write about them. Maybe it's because I feel like there are too many unrelated things to talk about for just one posting. Maybe I'm just being lazy. Who know's?!? What I do know- when I started this I vowed to make sure I gave it my all. SO- for now I will briefly mention a few new things going on in our life and when I get out of my funk, I will revisit them and provide the attention they deserve.

1. Ella experienced her first parade over the weekend. I was nervous, but she loved it and was great at collecting candy.
2. Joe, Ella and I participated in our first 5K. It was so much easier and rewarding than I had expected. I just may invest in a running stroller, but don't quote me on that one.
3. I met with Birth to 3 today to set up Ella's speech therapy plan. Overall, I am very optimistic that it will make a change in Ella's speech development, but I am also realistic that it just may make me feel like a better parent because I am trying to do something about it.
4. I scheduled Ella's first pediatric dentist visit for August. When I called to schedule the appointment the receptionist said they usually like to see kids for the first time 6 months after their first tooth. Considering Ella is 19 + months and she has had teeth since 6 months old, we are a bit behind.
5. We will be meeting with our surgeon again in August to re-evaluate whether or not surgery should be pushed up. Ella still has a hole in her palate due to the tear in the last surgery. At our last appointment (May) it was determined that we could wait, however I think the hole may have some effect on her speech - so we are going back in.
6. I called and confirmed that Ella has missed both her 15 and 18 month physical appointments so I have re-scheduled those since no one felt it was important to mention that to a first-time parent.
7. We are getting professional family pictures taken again this weekend. This time we are going to Don't Blink Photography. I am really excited, but that means the stress of outfit selection begins again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Overwhelming Inspiration

!!!WARNING - If you are not in the mood to cry, I would not click on a SINGLE link or video within this post. I am truly a better person after today, but a lot of tears were shed on the road to get there. I will thank God for my family and friends everyday - because no matter how bad things seem, someone out there is always going through so much more than you can ever imagine!!!

Tonight I sat down to research for more cleft lip and palate resources to share with fellow parents on Cleft Awareness. Lets just say if I can see through my tears to write this post, we will call it a good night. Maybe Caroline Mueller is right - I do seem to find the saddest stories online. It's almost as if there is a magnetic force that brings them to me.

In my search I came across a blog called Cleft Notes that offers a few good resources however, the real gem was a section called Families We'd Like to Introduce You To. In normal fashion I was digging through some of the families to read their stories. The first was Cami & Ezra, a California couple with two boys - one born with a cleft lip. Since they had something to offer me, I kept digging.

This is probably the error of my ways. I came across Jenny & Jack. Jack too was born with a unilateral cleft lip and bilateral cleft palate. As I read her recent post, I must never forget.- I was sucked deep down in a spiraling pit of sadness. Jack is a miracle. In addition to his cleft lip and palate he was born with many more serious illnesses and was not supposed to live, but he did. Within Jenny's post she shared stories that she too had come across.

And thus the beginning to the end of my night. She posted a video that was shared from Kara Faith. The story of a beautiful little girl who lived for just short 7 weeks. I cannot imagine the pain that her family must endure every day.


While I was watching the video about the loss of Kara Faith the song playing in the background was beautiful and lets be honest, music is always the dagger that jerks out the tears. So I began to dig to find out who wrote it. It turns out the song was wrote for Audrey Caroline, by her father Todd Smith, the lead singer of a gospel group, Selah. Unfortunately the Smith Family was not as lucky as Joe and I. Their doctors gave them the awful news that their baby girl would not live long past birth, or at all. Audrey lived for 2 and a half hours. Listening to her parents speak about how grateful they were for those 2.5 hours was so amazing. I cannot begin to fathom that feeling. You can watch their entire story here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

You still with me? Remember, I forewarned you of the sadness - do not blame me!

I truly believe the worst feeling in the world would be to let your child go much before their time. When we were first expecting Ella we conducted so many tests. We had decided that no matter what the tests showed, we were having Ella. That was until we were told of another test that checked for signs of rare chromosome diseases. If any of those results came back positive, there was a possibility Ella would not live a long, healthy life - or at all. While anxiously waiting for the test results, I was no longer firm in our decision to keep Ella. What if the results were positive? Would I really be able to be given the greatest gift in the world, to simply return her shortly after? To be honest - I can't answer that question and I am so thankful I don't have to, as the results showed an isolated cleft lip and palate.

After my "research" tonight - I am thankful. I am grateful for the gifts I have. I feel privileged to have a happy and healthy family.

We are truly blessed.

To end on a bright note because we all need some smiles, I will leave you with this. I love that kid.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Double Edged Sword

About a month ago I mentioned that we planned to have Ella's speech evaluated by a pediatric speech therapist. This past Wednesday (June 23, 2010) two therapists from Birth to 3 (an early intervention program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays) came to our house to spend some time with Ella. One of the women focused on all developmental aspects and the other solely focused on her speech.

I knew going in that Ella had to have at least a 25% delay in order to be qualified for the program and to receive an individual service plan. To be honest, I felt like the meeting was going to be a waste of time. I mean - Ella talks! What other kid can say Narley at 18 months? That's talent.

The women were very nice and welcoming, they even brought two entire bags filled with toys for Ella. Despite the bribery, I have never seen Ella so quiet. She wasn't scared, just quiet. She warmed up to them in a few minutes and played with both, but for the most part - didn't say much or make any noise really.

While she played they both asked me a million questions. Does Ella chatter often to herself? How many words are within her vocabulary? How does Ella interact with other children? etc. etc. For the most part I was able to answer the questions, but it would have been really helpful to know some of the questions ahead of time so that I could be better prepared. Example:
Q: How does Ella interact with other children?
A: Well, since Ella goes to daycare because I have to work to feed her, I don't see her interact with other kids often.
In the above case it would have been helpful to speak to her daycare teachers ahead of time so that I could answer their questions more accurately.

Nonetheless, at the end of the appointment the woman who was evaluating Ella as a whole felt she was more advanced than other children her age when it came to social, emotional and motor skills. She was able to complete tasks that were meant for children much older than her. The speech therapist felt it was very evident that Ella understands language, however actually forming words is a challenge.

So - she was qualified for the program and we are currently waiting to receive our individualized plan. I am really happy that I took the initiative to have her evaluated and grateful that she is going to receive help, but at the same time - that day was a bit sad for me too, hence the double edged sword theory.

Everyone wants their children to lead normal, happy and healthy lives. I realize that sometimes I am overprotective of Ella, but she has already been through so much in her short life that I want to protect her from as many things as I possibly can. I guess I can think of speech therapy as a way to protect her. If all goes well, she will be able to speak normally by the time she goes to school and she can avoid other little kids making fun of her. Cross your fingers!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ella Marie Leschisin

This past weekend I was mentioning how far behind I am on Ella's Life scrapbooking endeavor - which made me pull hers out and take a peek back at some of the pages I have done. While looking through I came across the definition of her name that I included on one of her pages.

When we were selecting a name for our little girl, we kept coming back to Ella. Then when we were researching her cleft lip and palate, we came across a little girl whose name was also Ella. Her story was so inspiring it seemed as if it was meant to be and thus Ella Marie Leschisin was "born" - or so to speak.

Take a look at the definition for yourself, it's pretty dead on. I know I may be biased but in Ella's short life, she has this amazing ability to attract people all around her - it's almost magnetic.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I promise to get back on the blogging bandwagon in the coming week, but I wanted to quickly wish Joe a Happy Father's Day! You are a great daddy and Ella and I are both so lucky to have you, our lives wouldn't be the same without you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ella's Story - Part 3

Our second surgery happened on August 27th when Ella was 9 months old. This was to repair her palate and insert ear tubes. Since the lip had been repaired the gap in the palate was much smaller, but our surgeon was still unsure if it was going to be too far of a stretch. Even though it was our second surgery, we still went through the same uncertainty of what to expect. We went into surgery at 7:30 a.m. and since the cleft was so much wider and longer than they had expected, it took a lot longer than the first procedure. Dr. Shehadi was able to completely close the palate, which was great news. Once again we spent 1 night in the hospital however, we should have stayed longer.

The recovery process didn't go quite as well as the first surgery. Ella was not eating and very sad and cranky after the surgery. We struggled to get her to eat anything. We were told that in order to leave she had to drink a certain amount of liquid. Since she was so unhappy she didn’t meet the requirements. Joe thought that since she came close enough, we could take her home and figure it out from there. So, we packed up and came home. The moment we walked in the door she was a completely different child. She was happy and excited to be home and instantly got into her bouncy horse and went crazy.

Maybe it was the fact that the house was filled with family that she loves, but as soon as they all left the atmosphere changed again. She returned to her unhappy phase and refused to cooperate. We were once again struggling with no eating, no drinking and no sleeping. I was starting to panic that she was going to become dehydrated; wet diapers were few and far between. Since Ella refused to sleep through the night, my mom thought that I needed a break and came to help out.

Almost an entire week and a half after surgery was pretty painful for all involved. It was frustrating but I most of all I felt so awful for Ella and the pain she must have been going through because normally she is the toughest kid I know. We were beginning to worry that the experience may change her personality forever. Then, finally the day before I had to go back to work she turned over a new leaf and returned to her normal, happy and smiling self. We were so grateful to have her back and even more appreciative for just how special she is.

At the follow up appointment with our surgeon I understood why Ella might have been in so much pain during recovery. Even though Dr. Shehadi initially closed the palate, the gap was just too far and stretched to thin. Sadly, part of the palate tore open after the repair and a hole remains there today. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been for Ella at the time. I now completely understand her sour mood. Poor girl!

We thought we would need the palate repaired immediately in order to encourage normal speech development and prevent other issues however, we have been back to our surgeon a few times and at this time he thinks it’s OK to wait. We trust him so we will wait until then. We go back to Cleft Clinic in October where we will meet with the team and learn what our next plans of action are. As usual, the waiting game continues.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ella's Story - Part 2

On November 26, 2008 @ 5:29 p.m. our little Thanksgiving turkey, Ella Marie Leschisin was born, weighing 6 lbs. 11 oz. I was able to hold her and she was whisked away to the NICU to make sure everything was okay. We were told she would not have to go to the NICU but I would rather be safe than sorry and let her go.
The next few days were stressful to say the least. Feeding was a challenge. Initially she was tube fed to make sure she was getting all the nutrients she needed. I wanted to be able to breastfeed however the lactation consultant wasn’t much help and deemed it impossible – so I pumped. In order to take her home she couldn’t lose any weight and she had to be fed through a bottle for 48 consistent hours. Seems like a simple task however, if one of the nurses didn’t have enough patience, they would go back to tube feeding – which eliminated all progress made. The only way we were going to take her home was if I personally fed her every three hours, no matter what. When it came time for us to go home, she was not able to go with. She was a bit jaundice so we had to get those numbers down and ensure she was eating before she could leave. I mentioned earlier the worst day of my life was seeing our little girls cleft for the first time. I was wrong. Going home without your baby is the WORST feeling in the entire world, or at least it seemed like it at the time. Ella was born on a Wednesday and we were forced to leave on Friday.  I insisted we go back every 3 hours so we could make sure her feeding success stayed on schedule. There was a lot of stress and very little sleep. Finally, on Sunday November 30th, we were able to bring our little girl home. She was such a tiny little peanut in her car seat. As you can see, her newborn clothes barely fit her.

Home life was a bit challenging. The initial game plan was for Joe to work from home so that we could “figure it out” together. That plan went out the window when he started a new job 6 days before Ella arrived. So, there I was at home, alone, in the middle of winter and no where to go, with a colicky baby who cried 6 straight hours every day. I was struggling to find the time to feed and shower myself, in between pumping, trying to feed her and console her. Whew, being a mom is the toughest job out there.

For the most part Ella defied all the things that we had thought she was going to be based on her cleft. After she got the hang of feeding, it wasn’t that bad. We had our doctors appointments – just like any other newborn. Coincidentally our pediatrician, Dr. Kari Hegeman, had two other new patients with clefts. She was always very impressed with how well Ella was doing and how much weight she was able to gain. At 7 weeks old she weighed in at 8 lbs. 6 oz.

One doctor appointment that was not typical for a new baby was taking Ella to meet the surgeon that would repair her lip and palate, Dr. Ramzi Shehadi. We scheduled our first surgery to repair her lip on March 19th, 2009. Ella was almost 4 months old at the time and we were very nervous and anxious.

In my opinion, the uncertainty of not knowing what to expect is much worse than the surgery itself. The only thing we knew about our first surgery was that it was scheduled for March 19th. We had so many unanswered questions, i.e. what time it would happen, what time we should be there, when should we stop feeding Ella, how long will we be at the hospital, will we be allowed to stay with her, how would we feed her afterward, who would help us, etc.

The night before the surgery we finally got the call to inform us that we needed to be there bright and early in the morning and surgery was scheduled for 8 a.m. We also finally found out that we were to give Ella no food or beverages after midnight. I asked if we should bring our own bottles to make sure she would be able to eat and was told no. They comforted me and said that they would have everything we needed and someone would help us re-learn how to feed Ella. Just in case, Joe and I decided to bring along our bottles...and everything else we could possibly need.

The morning of the surgery we were informed that the anesthesiologist offered parents the opportunity to go in with their child while they were being put under to comfort them. We were forewarned that the children can sometimes do crazy things and reach out for things that may or may not be there. I wanted to be there if Ella needed me, but at the same time, I didn't know if I could handle seeing my little baby lay there reaching for me when I couldn't pick her up and comfort her. The anesthesiologist said most babies that young wouldn't know the difference, so we chose to not go in. When it came time - we walked her down to the double doors and handed her off to a strange nurse. We were way more scared than she was. I thought she would cry and instead she reached out for the nurse and never looked back. What a strong little girl!

Ella came out of surgery at 10:30 a.m. and we were called down to see her. That was a very emotional time. I had grown to love that big bright smile and couldn't even imagine what she would look like after surgery. When we got into the post- surgery area I barely recognized her. She was crying so hard due to the anesthetics that it didn't sound like her and when they turned her over I couldn't tell if she was mine. Her face was so swollen, but I didn't know if it was normal and going to stay that way or if it was truly swollen. Her face still had blood on it from not being fully cleaned up, which was also scary. I held her and tried my best to console her. You could tell as soon as I grabbed her she felt more at ease. I wanted to hold her tight and make all of her pain go away.

After she stabilized we were able to take her to our room where both sets of grandparents anxiously awaited to see their baby girls new face. I think it was hard for everyone to see Ella without a smile on her face. It’s such a permanent fixture on her face, that even during that time, and the extreme pain she was going through, she would still try to smile and forget that it hurt so bad. She ceases to amaze me.

I was dreading feeding her for the first time and no one was coming to help us or tell us what to do, but I knew she had to be starving, so we called in a nurse. She was basically zero help. She proceeded to tell us to just feed her as if it were normal and at home, meaning with our bottles. Thank goodness we were overly prepared. I thought that since her lip was just sewn back together and had stitches and glue holding it together she wouldn’t want to take the bottle but, when I offered it, she latched right on and drank it down. I was so relieved.

We spent one night in the hospital and were sent home the next day armed with our no-no’s to prevent her from touching her face.  For the most part, the recovery process went as smooth as could be expected. Ella and I spent the week home together and the following week I returned to work.

Read Part 3: Palate Repair

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ella's Story - Part 1

On July 15th, 2008 we had our first ultrasound, which was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced at that point of my life. We were able to see her little feet and hands and all four chambers of her heart. Sadly, we had just switched insurance providers, which meant we also had to switch my OB, whom I had never met. Since the appointment was rushed, we didn't get to meet her the day of the ultrasound either. Even though we were excited about our new bambina and adventure ahead, I had a weird feeling as we were leaving. Maybe it was how eerily silent the technician was or how she wouldn’t answer any of my questions. When she handed us our printed picture I remember saying, "Her upper lip sticks out farther than her little nose."
The next day I was finally able to meet (via phone) my new OB, Dr. Kristine Bathke, when she called me at work. I could tell by the tone of her voice that something was wrong and she felt guilty that our first interaction would be over bad news. She went on to say that the ultrasound had detected a cleft lip but, she didn't think it was the palate. When I hung up, I didn’t really know what to do. I went to Google and began to search cleft lip, just hoping to find some promising information. I didn’t find it, so I called Joe.  Since that phone call, we have spent numerous hours researching in order to better prepare ourselves. Unfortunately, that process was not as easy as we had hoped.

We had a follow up doctor appointment on July 18th, where we had a 4D ultrasound with the paranatologist, so we could get a better look. I think it’s safe to say, that was the worst day of our lives. As I lay on the table, Joe held my hand and the tears strolled down my face. The doctors were so cold and insensitive. We were first time parents, so we were scared and nervous as it was. They acted as if this was an every day thing and just grazed over her face, when it was the first time we were meeting her. Once we were able to get a better view of her face and then were informed that she not only had the cleft lip but the palate as well.

We were then rushed out to meet with the genetics specialist, who tried to offer some explanations, what our options were and a ton of information. Due to the circumstances we had JUST went through, I could barely process all of the things she was saying. She asked if either of us had any history of birth defects in our family. Birth defects? What was she talking about? I was so upset I just wanted out of the room. I was trying to be strong and listen to the important stuff but all I wanted to do was scream and cry. She went on to say that a cleft lip and palate is often an indicator that something else could be wrong with the baby. Which meant tests, and LOTS of them. She asked if we were interested in conducting an amniocentesis in order to determine if there were other complications that we would need to be aware of. I knew there was a risk of miscarrying if we did it and I didn’t want to lose our baby.  I thought we would have time to think about it – go home, talk it out. Wrong. We were told if we were going to do the test we had to do it, right then, right there, no time.  We knew that almost nothing was going to stop us from having that baby, but we also knew that we needed to be as prepared as possible. So, we did it. We were rushed into a separate room where I lay on the bed, AGAIN – and a nurse stuck a needle the size of a ruler into my stomach and withdrew the fluid. At the time, it didn’t hurt that badly, maybe it was because I was overly worried about so many other things. Afterwards, it hurt – like a bitch. We elected to find out the sex during that appointment as well. For some reason, I felt it would be easier for the baby if it were a boy.  If there was a scar from surgery, he could grow a mustache. I was willing it to be a boy. Nonetheless, my magical powers did not work, and we found out we were having a girl. This was at least something we could focus on versus the birth defect.

So, we went home. I was supposed to go back to work, but couldn’t. We cried the entire way home. When we got there, we lay in bed and cried some more. Joe is always so positive and hopes for the best but, I just needed a day to be angry, to wonder why life isn’t fair – so he let me, and we cried.

We then waited, 14 days for the results. To our relief, everything came back normal and the cleft was an isolated incident. We met our surgeon, Dr. Shehadi to get a better idea of his plan. For the most part, the appointment was a waste of time. The hardest part of our entire journey has been the, “wait and see” mentality. I am not a wait and see person. I believe you need to be educated and prepared in order to make the end result the best possible outcome. I asked SO many questions and received zero answers.

Besides having more ultrasounds than a normal pregnancy and the weekly stress tests, the rest of our pregnancy was smooth sailing. We took all the necessary classes to make us responsible parents, childbirth education, CPR and even prenatal yoga. We focused on our little girl and prepared for her arrival. The more time that went on the less we remembered the hardships she would have to endure once she came into the world.

Read Part 2: Birth & Lip Surgery

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Regular Routine

As you will remember, in a previous post I mentioned that Ella is an extremely routined child. Since we started daycare we have gone through a lot of transition with teachers coming and going, all which did not affect Ella. However, in the last two weeks we seem to be experiencing issues. Ms. Eva was forced to leave Academy due to her work visa expiring - which is really sad news and we are going to miss her. (Right: Ms. Eva and Ella practices zoo animals)

Even sadder news is that Ms. Toni, our other full-time teacher has been out for the past two weeks. Unfortunately, her husband was in an accident and severely damaged his foot.

With all this transition and Ella's need for routine, we are going through a rough patch at daycare. When I picked up at daycare Ms. Hanna, the float teacher, mentioned that they had issues with Ella biting again and they really struggled with getting her to nap. I have wrote about Ella's need to bite in the past so you all will not be surprised however, she has NEVER had any sleep issues at daycare before this week. I can tell that Hanna is tired of dealing with her and I think Ella shares the same feelings in return.

We are anticipating Ms. Toni's return this coming Monday, and in the meantime hoping Ella can harbor her frustrations in order to not get kicked out of daycare before then. It really will be best for everyone involved when she is back in action. Times like these make me realize how grateful I am that we have a great daycare and amazing people there who love Ella and that she loves in return.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Consumed

....by work and guilt.
I realize it has been a while since I last wrote - but it's not because I don't have anything to talk about. I could write about our trip home this past weekend and Ella's first encounter with a horse, spending time with our family or our time on the river (see pictures). I could also write about the upcoming weekend -our good friends Becky & Jess's are getting married (pictures to follow) --BUT, work, both Kella and Kennedy, are consuming my life. So, I have to keep this post short because it's currently 11:00 p.m. and I still need to color my hair and get all our stuff ready for the upcoming weekend.
Don't worry though - I am going to bribe you with the pics I mentioned above. Please forgive!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Dreaded Phone Call

While I am extremely tired and ready to retire for the day, I know I SHOULD write - so I will. Today I got a phone call from daycare - Ms. Toni - who left a message saying, "I'm calling your cellphone because it's not an emergency BUT......I wanted to tell you that Ella bit somone again today, actually she bit me....AND..it broke through my jeans and actually broke skin!" Hmm....well I am happy I missed that call, how embarrassing. I honestly have no idea how to respond to something like that. Apparently she thought Ella was going to give her a hug and love and instead just bit her in the leg. Needless to say, tonight we made an apology card for Ms. Toni.

Last week (Thursday) we had parent teacher conferences, yes even at a year and a half. In the beginning I thought they were going to be a waste of time, what can they honestly tell me that I don't already know?!? However, I am eating crow now because I really look forward to each meeting and learn a lot of things that I didn't know. Ms. Toni shared a lot of humorous stories with us i.e. Ella helps the younger kids learn their sign language by physically putting their hands together for them to make the motions. Or - Ella is very into routine and was very upset that one of the other daddies started to bring his little boy 10 minutes early which meant that they had to wait to go to breakfast, which did not make Ella happy - go figure, don't mess with that girls food!

We also go over typical developmental things for kids in her age range. Everything was right on track but they were a bit concerned that she may be behind the other kids in speech development. Currently Ella only says Mama and Hi clearly. She tries other words like Narley (random I know), more, milk, sorry, etc.

She is extremely good at repeating and mimicking sounds - she is just not good at physically producing the words. So we are going to have her observed by a speech pathologist just so we can make sure she stays on track and doesn't fall farther behind. I have no doubt in my mind that she will be fine - she is a strong little fighter and doesn't let anything stand in her way.

On Friday last week we had our first daycare fieldtrip to the zoo. Ella loves the zoo and making all the animal noises, so Joe and I both took the morning off to go along and see Ella enjoy her time with her friends. Ella was a bit confused in that fact that all of her friends from daycare actually didn't live at daycare - it was pretty funny. She acted as if, "Hey - how did you guys know I was coming here? And...how do you know my parents?" Overall, I think everyone had a great time, we especially enjoyed riding the carousel for the first time. I think it's the first time I have seen Ella emotionless - she just stared the entire time, as if she were on drugs. Here are a few pics from the day.

Top Pic: Hans, Ella, Elliot - patiently waiting for the tiger to come.
Third Pic:  Jacob, Hans, Ms. Eva, Ella, Anabelle, Elliot, Jenna, Ms. Toni, Carter
Fourth Pic: Ella's first carousel ride with daddy.

BTW - I have not forgot that I promised to continue Ella's story - and I will, just not now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not So Bad After All!

As you all know, I have openly stated that this blog thing is an eery place for me right now and I am still getting comfortable writing openly and on a regular basis. Today (technically yesterday since it's so late) I received the nicest compliments from an old high school friend who stumbled across my blog...and I had to share. When I first started blogging I mentioned that I would use my other high school friend Merl as inspiration because I feel like I can hear her voice and wittiness in every post she writes.

SO..... as you can imagine when Krystal said, "I just wanted to tell you I love your blog and it sometimes brings me to tears because I can HEAR YOUR VOICE when I read it." I was ecstatic! Inevitably this blog was created for Ella and to help my decrepit mind remember all of our great life stories but, it's so nice to hear that people actually like what I have to say and can hear my voice as I write. Honestly, one of the nicest compliments I have received in a long time - thank you again Krystal.
This is a picture of me and Krystal - it's an oldie but a goodie ---->

While extremely grateful for the compliment, Krystal's comment also made me aware that people are seeing my blog that I didn't necessarily think of before. Not going to lie - I panicked a bit thinking of the fact that PEOPLE are actually reading this. After digging into the analytics and data (remember I am a web geek by day) I realized many more people were looking at it than I had thought. After a minor panic attack, I calmed myself and made a promise that I will try to continue to write openly and not filter because of who is or is not reading what I have to say. Besides, this is for Ella, right?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fantastic Weekend

I would love to know who decided that a week lasts 5 days and a weekend is only 2. When God said Sunday was a day of rest, why didn't he say Friday, Saturday AND Sunday are days of rest? It's not like he didn't have the power to make that decision. Seriously!?!
The sun finally decided to poke it's bright and shiny face out from the clouds on Friday and offered us a beautiful day for the Henry Vilas Zoo on Saturday. We haven't gone since last summer and Ella was pretty small then and didn't really care about the animals. This time around was much different. She was very independent and wanted to walk all over by herself and made all of the animal noises as we visited each one. Today was a nice day as well so we were able to hang outside for a bit and planted flowers and played in the dirt. Weekends like this make life so much happier. I love having beautiful weather to be outside and really enjoy spending time with Ella, she is such a good little girl!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Being a Mom Rocks

I would never try to take credit for someone else's work but when Caroline Mueller (a.k.a. Liney) shared this posting with me, it felt almost as if I had wrote it myself. A guest blog post on DesignMom.com titled, "Letter to a Younger Self from Megan Hinckley" is a letter written by Megan Hinckley to her younger self with the advice that she wished she had known when she first found out she was pregnant with her first child.

Sure... there are things that differ in our stories like, she was at least married - me, not so much. She forgot to take her pill for a day or 2 or 3 - me, not on it all. She was almost done with college - me, had just got the first job I actually loved and was focused on my "career path."

Even though there are a few differences in our stories, the similarities are overwhelming. Like Megan, I too was scared as hell with tears streaming down my face as I held the positive pregnancy test in my hand (both of them). I also was selfish and thought about the sacrifices I would have to make, not only to my body, brain and ambition but, what about my social life and fully experiencing what the city of Madison had to offer? I also wondered how I could care for a baby when I lived off of cereal, Easy Mac and granola bars.

The most awing fact is that as I read her post I felt as if she was writing on my behalf - expressing my views of motherhood and Ella that I wasn't able to put into words.
"The little girl who will love you more than anybody else. A girl who will run to find you first thing every morning. A girl who will learn from you, depend on you, and frustrate you. But a girl that will awaken a piece of your heart that you didn’t know you had."

Looking back I was scared shitless when I found out Joe and I were going to have a baby. I did worry about my job, family, friends and money. BUT - since Ella has graced us on this Earth, there has never been a single day when I think about the old times. I can't imagine our life without her and am continuously amazed at what a beautiful, strong little girl she is. Megan is right, being a mom rocks and it is by far the best thing I have ever done!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

G & G Stevenson

As I mentioned, Grams took lots of pics from Ella's stay this past week. Here are a few worth mentioning.

This Friday we have a doctor appointment with our surgeon - Dr. Shehadi. He is going to look at Ella's roof of her mouth to determine how large the hole is and schedule our next surgery. I think it's going to be relatively soon and am actually going to push for that. Even though the last surgery was very painful for all involved - I want to get it done and move forward with the summer. I am curious if he plans to do anything cosmetic during this surgery since her lip looks so great, so we will see. I think that her lip has started to pull up a bit as she has grown and there is an excess piece of skin that hangs a bit on her lip - but I am pretty sure that I am the only person who notices that at this point. I guess we will just wait and see - that's always the motto.

In other news, I came across a family in northern Wisconsin via a Facebook group, who have a son that also has a cleft lip and palate. It's nice to have people to talk to and especially when they are local and can relate to other aspects of your lives. Their son Owen just went through his first surgery this week and I think all is well so far. Looking at his pictures of post-surgery almost brought tears to my eyes. I forgot how overwhelming that feeling was. Seeing Ella for the first time was an unexpected set of emotions. I felt sad that I would no longer see the big "winged" smile, I felt scared that she was in so much pain and I felt happy that one surgery could change her life in so many ways. Most of all I felt grateful for Dr. Shehadi and my special little girl.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vegas Vacation

I realize I have made a few promises in the recent past that I am not fulfilling - but I have valid reasons:
1. In my last post I mentioned "To be continued...Ella's Journey" however, I am not feeling like writing about that yet - so it remains in the to be continued status.
2. I also promised to post something once a week - and you will notice that I have not blogged since April 28 and since today is May 11 I missed a week but, that is because Joe and I were on a Vegas Vacation!!!!

That's right, last week we traveled to Las Vegas - no, not to get married - but to visit our friends Becky & Jess and Josh & Kira. We left this past Wednesday (May 5th) and were gone until Sunday (May 9th). The trip was good but it was very challenging for me to spend that much time away from Ella, especially since Sunday was Mother's Day....without my baby.
Ella spent her time with Grandma and Grandpa Stevenson and I can't wait to see the pictures - as soon as Grandma learns how to put them onto Facebook :D Stay tuned.

Before we left for vacation we went to the park down the street and I snapped a lot of good pictures and captured some great video. Ella went down the big girl slide all by herself, which she initially thought was fantastic until midway down where her face turned to fear. I also was able to capture this video - which may be my favorite to date. This video helped me get through our vacation away from her. Love it and that child!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bad Blogger

So... I am still getting the hang of this blog thing and to be honest, I don't think I am very good at it and I'm not sure if I ever will be - but I will keep trying. I have to force myself to not be so analytical and just write. I want to write how I speak. My goal is to be witty and entertaining and.... ME. Inevitably I want to write like your Aunty Merl, cause her blog is great and I can hear her speaking when I read it.
Anyways, it's no secret that I have a horrible memory and that is why I initially started keeping a journal and scrapbooking our life memories. We do so many great things and I can't imagine not remembering all of those big and small events. I started journaling during my pregnancy with Ella. I can honestly say it was the first time I had EVER kept a journal - (I wasn't your average teenage girl). Soo many funny and ironic things happened when I was pregnant and when I would tell the stories people would ask if I had been writing it all down to share with Ella someday. Alas, the journal began.

Not only did I write about the funny stories that had occurred but I also wrote about how I was feeling, both emotionally and physically - I gained
40 lbs. while prego! Please see exhibit A ---->

Once Ella was born, making the time to write - in between a colicky baby, pumping to breastfeed, not eating...or sleeping, doctors appointments, etc - was MUCH more difficult. My last journal entry was right before I started this blog - so I filled almost 2 years worth of handwritten entries (I am proud). I then decided to start this blog in place of journaling - however I have since decided that I will probably still write, at least once a month. I think/hope someday having my handwritten letters to you will mean something - they better cause it's hurt my hand to write that much, what did we do without computers before?

Having a bad memory was only part of the reason I started to journal/blog/scrapbook. When we first found out we were unexpectedly expecting we were nervous, scared and unsure of our impending future. Then we had our first ultrasound - which changed EVERYTHING. Even at 22 weeks pregnant, the doctors were able to see that Ella had a cleft lip. After further tests we found out that she had a cleft lip AND palate. The journal allowed me the space to express how I was really feeling when it wasn't acceptable to share my thoughts with others. It was okay to write about how we were (unmarried) parents with no idea on how to raise a child, or scared for peoples reactions to our daughter, or how nervous I was about sending my baby into surgery, etc.

To be continued......Ella's Journey