Sunday, September 30, 2012

Surgery Anniversary

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of Tori's "belly" surgery when the skilled surgeons at Cincinnati Children's Hospital removed 35 cm of her intestines. She wasn't even 24 hours old when they took her into the operating room and neither Jay or I had even held her! Her scar turned out BEAUTIFUL, as you can see, it is barely visible right above her belly button and it is hidden in the folds of her skin when she is sitting down! I thank God each day for guiding the hands of the surgeon that saved my daughter's life!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tori's 2 year old photos


Tori is 2!

In some ways it is so hard to believe that my baby girl is 2 years old today!  It seems like only yesterday I was waiting on her arrival, watching monitors to reassure me that she was still doing OK, that the fact that she had stopped moving wasn't really a big deal, chanting a mantra to myself that "it will be alright".  The mantra was really a prayer, voiced as simply as I could manage that day.  It was the beginning of a journey that changed me in so many ways!

Tori is now a walking, occasionally talking, running, climbing, temper tantrum throwing full blown 2 year old!  She has a pretty decent sign language vocabulary!  She loves her mama, dada, brothers, sisters and nephew Noel (whose name is actually one of the few she will say; "na" is screeched in excitement when she sees him).  She is not phased by her 4 surgeries and sports the scar across her belly proudly (another of her few words "belly button").  She doesn't seem to remember those 57 days she spent in the hospital when she slept alone in an crib instead of snuggled next to her mom.  She loves to eat and although may be a bit smaller than most 2 year olds, she is well proportioned, proving the doctors wrong that she wouldn't grow or gain weight if we didn't use the supplement they wanted her to take.  We just took her bottle away and she doesn't much seem to care, but she has no intention of giving up nursing (which she signs "milk" for and calls "mama-mama") any time soon!  She loves to dance and listen to music. She loves being outside and visiting the cows that live on the farm next to our house (yes, I know, we live on a state highway but we have cows next door!) and explore the woods, creeks and river.  She loves Dora and Spongebob and the youtube video "Gummy Bear".  She is smart, sometimes too smart for her own good!  And her eyes, well who needs words when you have eyes that "talk" the way her eyes do!

This is our story from 2 years ago today!  Hard to believe that it was just the beginning of a very long journey.......

Announcing the arrival of Victoria Zada Riesenberg :


on Wednesday, September 29, 2010
at just over 30 weeks gestation
weighing in at 5 lb 4.5 oz  (and dropping nearly a pound after surgery!)
measuring 18 3/4 inches
and with a tiny peanut head 12 1/4 inches
at 5:09 PM

On Monday, September 27th, things felt different. I had a nonstress test (NST) and an amniotic fluid check first thing that morning, but even though baby passed the tests,my hyper baby seemed to have gotten lazy overnight and wasn't moving the same way she had the days and weeks before. 

Monday evening I noticed a marked decrease in fetal movement and Tuesday morning movement hadn't picked up so I called my OB around 2 PM to see what they thought. They suggested that I drink something cold and sugary and lay down for an hour and see if the baby would move 6 times. My hyper baby, who usually moved 6 timed in 5 minutes couldn't manage to move even 4 times in an hour so I called the office back. They said that although they didn't think it was anything, but that I should come to the hospital and they would do an ultrasound and put the baby on the monitor just to reassure everyone.  So we get to the hospital for what is supposed to be a routine "reassure mama" visit.   After running some tests they agreed something was wrong but they weren't sure exactly what it was. It really isn't very reassuring for doctor and doctor to look over test results and just shake their heads!

Since I hadn't reached the magic 32 week mark, they decided to transfer us to Good Sam Hospital, a bigger hospital that they are affiliated with because it had a better equipped special care nursery. I tried to argue with them that we would be fine staying at Bethesda North, but God's hand gently guided us to where we needed to be, He knew what we didn't, that this was a matter of life and death. As the Reds clinched their division, I was transported by ambulance to Good Sam. They monitored the baby overnight and did another u/s and some blood tests Wednesday morning. It was quickly decided that today would be BIRTHING DAY! The doctor came in and we had a long chat about my surgery since he knew it would be a more complicated delivery because of the placenta accreta, little did either of us know just how complicated things would get!

Placenta accreta is when the placenta attaches too deeply to the uterine muscle and can not separate after birth. In the worse cases, the placenta grows out of the uterus and into the surrounding organs like the bladder and bowel. Because we Riesenbergs don't like to do anything simply, it makes sense that the accreta presented in the worst possible presentation.

We went back to the OR at 4 PM and because of the placenta accreta and the placenta preiva they had to do some repair work first and had to basically open the uterus on the side to avoid the placenta they didn't open the uterus until after 5 PM. I gave birth to a beautiful baby GIRL weighing in at a meager 5 lb 4.5 oz, 18 3/4 inches, 12 1/4 inch head. I got to kiss her before they whisked her off to NICU, Jay followed her leaving me in the OR alone (my choice, I felt he needed to be with the baby). It took them another 4 hours to finish my surgery, they did a hysterectomy, had to do pretty extensive bladder repair, had to separate the placenta from the bowel, and I lost a whooping 4 liters of blood (we later learned that 4 liters is almost your entire blood volume!). OK—side note here-- I watched the whole surgery via a mirror above the incision, I asked for it to see them pull Tori out, and used it to see the 4 hours of surgery that followed!  I watched and counted as the dropped in towels to soak up the blood and listened to them hit the floor near the surgeon's feet.  Yes, I know, very strange to watch your own surgery, but I was convinced that if I let them put me to sleep that I would never wake up and at that point, my dying, was my greatest fear.  Little did I know that soon, the fear of losing my own life would pale in comparison to the fear of losing my child.

In the OR there are 4 doctors (Dr. Holbert, Dr. Namakel, Dr. Freeman, and Dr Basil -urologist), one medical student (Peter Toth), 4 people from anesthesia (Dr. Roth, Tom Meyer CRNA, Allen Dube CRNA, and Jean Venarable CRNA), 5 RNs (Candace, Danielle, Donna, Patty and Carrie) and 3 scrub techs (Jen, LaShanda, and Bridget) not to mention the pediatric team that came in to stabilize the baby.

I come out of surgery only to find out that they had to transfer Tori to Children's Hospital because there is something wrong with her bowel. They suspect a mass because of the “double bubble” that showed on the x-ray they did right after delivery. Because of the mass, Tori couldn't fully inflate her lungs so they had to intubate her and put her on a low level of oxygen. They went back and looked at every u/s and MRI they did during this pregnancy and until the scan they did yesterday, the was no indication that there was anything out of the ordinary.

At 9 PM I am in recovery. I have 2 panic attacks when I try to talk to people about the baby, I literally feel like I can't breath and am dying! Once I eat a few ice chips I seem to settle down!

At 11 PM I am moved back to the same room I was in prior to surgery because they want to keep me by the OR in case I have issues overnight. I call over to Children's and talk to the nurse that is working with the baby. She confirms that she is intubated and that they suspect a lower abdomen mass or looped intestine and that they are doing an u/s as I speak to her on the phone to see if they can determine just what it is. All of the baby's blood work is normal. She transfers me to the doctor who says she will have some results in about 2 hours and she will call me with them.

So Tori arrived with great fanfare! Our difficult birth and early arrival were just the beginning of her story......

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Most days living in a house meant to comfortable accommodate 3 or 4 people with 10 people doesn't bother me and it doesn't seem to bother the kids, but some days it drives me absolutely nuts.  Today (really the last few days) has been particularly difficult.

On Friday Grant and I went to some garage sales.  Found some great stuff!  Great deals on stamping and scrapbooking supplies.  Baseball cards.  A few other odds and ends.  But there was this adorable dresser, well not so adorable as it was but I could see it repainted and re-purposed.  But this small dresser absolutely would not fit in our house.  The is not an inch of wall space that could accommodate it.  No place to put this gem that would have been so handy in storing the things that we use all the time.  Art supplies, table linens, my ideas for the piece were limitless, but my space is limited.  Stupid that a piece of furniture could put me is such a funk.  So I was feeling trapped in this small place.....depressed by our current circumstances...and then today the problem magnified.

Today Grant and Jacob fought.  Not the typically back and forth banter of brotherhood, but physical and loud, the kind of fight that at 42 years old I dare not get in the middle of.  Both boys are well over 6 feet tall and outside of yelling there was nothing I could do to get them apart.  The fight broke up quickly but Jacob's temper raged verbally for probably another 15 minutes and all I wanted to do was make them get away from each other, to get away from me, to each go to their own space and cool off....but THERE IS NO PLACE FOR THEM TO GO...there is NO PLACE in this little house to give them the space they need to just collect themselves.  I finally convinced Jacob to just go outside and sit and try to collect his thoughts.  He argued that it wasn't even quiet out there, living on a state highway makes for a lot of traffic noise most hours of the day and night,  I couldn't rebut what he said, he is right.  Even with the woods behind the house and the nature that surrounds us there, it is loud when you are outside.  You can't even lock yourself in the bathroom for a long hot shower or a soak in the tub because inevitably someone will need to use the toilet while you are in there.

Jacob and Grant made up fairly quickly, probably less than 30 minutes from when it all started, but I am still feeling funky from all of it.  I feel like such a bad mother because we are in this house, we are in the situation that we are in, because of choices that I have made or because of actions that I have or haven't taken.  I feel like a complete failure.  My funk is fueled by helping Emily do some research for a paper she was writing in her English class that lead to me reading comments about poor families breeding children they can't even feed.  I wanted to scream and shout, "I didn't make the choice to have these children knowing that we would be where we are today".  Things were comfortable, life was good, we were living the dream....somehow that dream morphed into a nightmare where we live paycheck to paycheck, spreading what little money we have across bills we can only hope to pay, shopping for food on manager's special and thankfully clothing the kids with hand me downs or on an occasional shopping trip funded by their grandmother.  Most days this valley we are walking through doesn't really get to me, I find an oasis wherever I can and I keep moving forward, but today it IS getting to me, it is BREAKING me.

I am not spewing all of this out there so that those who are doing better than we are feel bad or feel that they can't take joy in the things they have or the good fortune that they encounter or be happy around us.  I just need to get it off my chest, release it to the world so that I can carry a little less baggage with me on this journey.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

UGO! Random scenery pictures!

Because I was curious before we went exactly what this beautiful camp would look like, thought I would share a few pictures I snapped here and there to give you a feel of the place!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

UGO! Day 3

The rain overnight left the morning air quite cool, but despite starting out overcast the day was perfect!

Sophia attended a poetry writing funshop (which replaced an outdoor games funshop because the ground was wet!) first thing in the morning! I spent some of the morning walking around and taking pictures of the gorgeous property!

Because I hate to make a mess for just my own family, we hosted one final funshop...tie dying!  I can't believe that I didn't get pictures of anyone actually dying their garmets but we had a great turnout....the sun decided to stay behind the clouds until the funshop had just about ended, making the weather PERFECT for the activity!

Later in the afternoon Melodie and her girls hosted a hula hooping funshop!  The only snag was Sophia getting stung by a bee!  We still had a great time!


After was time for dinner.  Finally they got it right!  Chicken, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, rolls and tasty pie for dessert!

Time for the talent show! Sophia had spent the past few weeks trying to get Tori to perform a dance with her. Unfortunately Tori got a bit of stage fright and wouldn't dance!

Luke on the other hand, was eager to get on the stage and share his break dancing moves!

After the talent show Andre' and her girls got back out all the fairy/nature craft making supplies and we had a blast making things!

A final camp fire made time for hanging out with new friends!  I even agreed to be interviewed for a documentary that one of the dad's was making on unschooling!
Another very late was probably close to 2 AM before the first of us decided to head to bed, outside of Tori who had fallen asleep in my arms around midnight!  It was bittersweet because we knew when we awake the next morning, we would be heading home, leaving the company of so many like minded friends both new and old!