The story of Olivia Hope

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Incredible Growing Boy!

I bought this onesie at Target a while ago for, like, $1.74 and thought it would be a great monthly picture for my little dude-one each month until his first birthday. I forgot all about it the first month but I guess 2 months is still an ok place to start.

Our mini-man turned two months on Oct. 31st and he was all but 26" long and a hair under 16 pounds at his check up!! The onesie is size 18mos and, as you can see, is definitely big but not swimmingly so! I actually got his six month clothes out this past weekend and they are a perfect fit! Needless to say the little guy is a tiny giant! We compared him to Gwen AND his daddy at the same age and he has far exceeded them both! My doc said that I was "making butter" and someone else said "magic milk"! Ha!

Lewis is amazing! I love him so much and he has definitely brought us much joy! I can tell he is going to be a tender hearted little guy and probably a momma's boy-well actually he already is a momma's boy! You know what, though? I don't care! I love that he wants me more and that he lights up when I'm around! The fact that he wants me so much makes me feel all warm and gooey inside and I'll snuggle him all he wants!! I love my little/big Incredible Growing Boy!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'm so in love with this little guy!

I really am! If you remember when I first posted that I found out we were having a boy I had mixed emotions about it. I had wanted a girl and I didn't know what on earth I would ever do with a boy! As my pregnancy went on I was totally fine with the idea and even excited but, as a lot of you know, you don't really know your capacity to love your children until the minute they are out and in your arms! Truth is I can't imagine him not being here!

My little dude is:
a cuddle bug
loves kisses on his forward and sticks his little face out for more
a great sleeper
a great eater (a Fretz for sure!)
already in size 3 mos clothes (some brands)
pretty chill most of the time (unless is time to eat)
born to a mom, dad, and sister that love him more than we will ever be able to express.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Not that I have anything major to say about Hurricane Irene, but since this is kinda like my journal I thought I would post about the damage to our place. As you can see it's very minimal and for that I'm grateful. This poor apple tree has been standing and rotting since we moved here a couple of years ago and I've often wondered why the landlord hasn't taken it down. Well I guess he'll be around soon enough to finish the job.
Andy and I got our porches ready for the storm yesterday morning and had a lazy day at home waiting for it to come. We decided (prompted by a friend) around 8:00 pm to take Gwen and Winnie over to his parents house for the night just in case I were to go into labor. With all the talk I heard about barometric pressure inducing labor and the fact that I'm due tomorrow we agreed the last thing we would want to do in that event was brave the storm on the way to their house and then the hospital. We dropped them off at around 9:00 pm and came home and started a movie. Around 11:00 pm our power went and boy was that weird. Every house on our street was black. I wasn't scared but I didn't like it with what was going on outside. His parents still had power so we went over for a sleepover too. I guess the change in barometric pressure never got low enough because I'm certainly still pregnant!
The power was back on this morning when we came home and no flooding! I was concerned about those two things-that we would have some flooding in the basement and/or be out of power long enough to lose food in the freezer. I'm so grateful that neither of those things happened and I'm definitely thinking about those that did have hardship with this storm.
Tomorrow is house cleaning day! Maybe if I run up and down the stairs enough something will happen! I'll let you know!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

waiting waiting waiting...

I had on my to-do list to make a blog update today but I really have nothing to say. Been to the doc a couple of times since my last post and we have come to a decision to induce on the 31st of this baby doesn't come before that. I don't LOVE the idea but the Doc was very firm with me that this baby is big and he doesn't want to be sitting with me in the office at 41/42 weeks with a baby that could be, at that point, between 11-12 pounds! I have to let myself believe that I made the best decision. I really don't want to be induced (and maybe I won't be) but the doc insisted that we have a plan so that's our plan.
This week has been pretty normal. Just maintaining the house, keeping busy and on my feet (to help things out of course) and entertaining Gwen. I did catch a bit of a stomach bug or something in the beginning of the week that hung on right up till today. I actually went to the hospital upon the nurses encouragement to make sure I wasn't in labor. I didn't think I was but I also know that I shouldn't take any sort of minor GI distress lightly when I'm this far along!
So for now I'm sitting on the couch watching "Gone With the Wind" (it's been on my list to watch since I finished the book several months ago) and hoping that Irene has her way and induces me herself! I've heard several times today that those sort of things are common! I really don't care if the weather is bad, I just want this kid out!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm ready!

I AM ready! A week ago I was still panicking. The baby's beds were not set up, clothes not washed or put away, bags not packed, no organization...but I worked my little (ok, big!) tail off and within a couple of days I am SO, and probably overly, prepared for the coming of this little one. I was also able to catch up and get the rest of my house in order and have come up with a weekly schedule of what I need to do daily to keep it that way! Sounds a bit dorky, yes, but it's working and it feels good knowing that if I have to drop everything and leave for a couple of days I'll come home to a house that's ready and welcoming!
Until then I just stay as active as possible glad for the distraction and hoping my activity will bring on labor! I'm also anxiously awaiting another Doc appointment today which should be quite interesting. I am 38 1/2 weeks now and this is the point they will start checking me and encouraging inducing early. My gargantuan kid was estimated to weigh about 8 pounds 3 weeks ago so of course we are all expecting at least a 10 pounder! I know these end ultrasounds are routinely inaccurate but I still don't doubt for a minute this kid is big! I'm actually battling with this a lot. I've been doing some research and talking to friends and I'm not yet convinced that inducing early is the best option for me. Reason being that I've been induced before (with Gwen) and it was certainly NOT an ideal experience. I had little choice in that situation because I had a bit of high blood pressure at the end my pregnancy with her so they induced me when I wasn't even close to going on my own. Much harder than an ordinary induction/delivery.
The second reason is that there are no concerns they see specifically in me that would cause complications, it's just an "across the board" thing-"these are the complications we can sometimes see with having big babies". Well, here's a news flash-I'M NOT A SMALL PERSON AND THIS ISN'T MY FIRST RODEO! Honestly though, if it's truly baby time won't he, for the most part, come naturally and MORE easily than if I was induced?!?! I am open to your experiences and advice so bring it on!
I suppose I'll know more at 12:10 today! Until sometime, as you can see in the pic, all my bags are packed...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Much to catch up on!

Once again I've dropped the ball on keeping this thing updated. (sigh) Anyway, it's been since MAY that I've last posted and I am ashamed of myself!
Let's see, what has happened...
Well may came and left with wrapping up our MOPS year, Mother's Day of course, a trip to the beach with some ladies from church...Oh-Andy and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary! I can't believe we've been married that long! I know it's really not THAT terribly long but it feels like it has been and to think of what all we've been through in our short life together. I can't imagine going through anything without him.
June was our dear Aunt Stella's 100th birthday!! We had a big ol' bash for her and my sister in-law, Kristi got to come out and be a part of that. Aunt Stella was delighted to have all her family around her. She's an amazing woman that has been blessed with an amazing long life and a wonderful family. She's sharp as a tack and I'm sure she'll celebrate more birthdays!! I also joined my dad this year as staff at Camp Conquest! It was Quest week and I was a little nervous about being 7 1/2 months pregnant and trekking up all those stairs and hills. Turns out it was one of the best weeks of my summer! I'm so glad I did it and can't wait till next year! (BTW I didn't really have to trek as much as I thought; they were more than willing to take me around in golf carts!)
July was our vacation to the shore with my in-laws! Kristi (sis in-law) got to join us again. She's also pregnant, expecting a boy) and we enjoyed being prego's on the beach together! Trust me, she was super cute with her little bump and I was, I'm sure, mistaken for Moby Dick more than once sitting out there in my maternity bathing suit! At this point who cares though, right?? At least pregnant women have an excuse!
I also had a lot of Pampered Chef business in July and traveled twice to Lancaster for some shows there! I love being there and seeing my family on those trips but I'll admit, it was getting a little much for this big momma to haul, drive and entertain with this huge belly of mine! I did get curtains for my house made while I was there which made me feel like I at least got a little more "checked" off my list! I also brought home a bunch of stuff from my parents garden which I was able to can 21 pints of tomatoes! THAT felt great considering I don't know how much of my usual canning I'll get to do before/after this kid comes.
And now it's August (I can't believe it!!) and here we are! I'm down to a weekly check-up at the doctor and each one brings about the same news-weight gain is great, blood pressure is great-baby is active-oh, and baby is HUGE! I've mentioned this before but we are expecting a rather large little boy! I've known this since the 20 week ultrasound but now, as we're coming down to the last days, I'm encouraged every appointment to induce a week early. An ultrasound a week or so ago showed the kid is already estimated to weigh over 8 pounds and my due date isn't till the 29th! (It also looks like he MAY have a mohawk, but we shall see about that!) I don't love this idea and I'm torn about what to do. On one hand I'm huge. I'm starting to feel like my whole front is just going to fall of one day and I certainly DON'T want to go over with this one. On the other hand I was induced with Gwen and it wasn't exactly a great experience. I had many, not-so-common, issues with that but I'm told that most likely, since this is my third, I don't need to expect that again. I also would like as natural of a birth as possible and would like to go into labor on my own eliminating as many drugs as possible. Some of my complications with Gwen's delivery were due to drugs and having Olivia with nothing at all was really the best! Of course the situation was NOT the best but I now know the difference between the two and would take her delivery any day (IN THE HOSPITAL!!) over Gwen's! I guess all that to say just pray that I'll go into labor on my own early!
So yeah, I'm all ready, everything is set up...oh wait no it's not!! I'm not ready at all! With all the traveling lately and wrapping up some of the things I'm involved in I haven't done much at all to get ready for this little guy! We did finally, with the help of my in-laws, get our furniture set up and ready to go but I have yet to finishing washing, folding, packing, getting things organized, etc. I'm done with cooking shows and traveling now for awhile so I can pretty much just stay home and do things till he comes! Maybe the more work I do the quicker he will come on his own!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I wish I was one of the cool bloggers... know the kind. The kind that updates their blog every other day with cool pics and a way of writing that causes you to rush to the computer to see what they're up to! I really have good intentions of being this kind of person. I love the idea of documenting my life. At any time I can look back on what exactly we were up to a year ago. I can look at the pictures of Gwen and see how much she's changed. I can use this tool as a way to continue to heal and to share and to...well, just get it all out there! I really do have good intentions! Maybe someday...

ANYWAY, I guess you have all heard by now that we are expecting a SON!! I admit I was pretty weirded out when they first told me that we had "changed the recipe"! Are you kidding me?!? A BOY?!!! What the heck am I going to do with a boy?? That probably sounds weird to most of you. I really did want a girl. I'm not hoping or trying to replace Olivia. Trust me when I say I know that can never happen. I don't think I could feel for any other one of my children how I feel for her and I know she will NEVER be replaced or forgotten. But if I'm being completely honest I would have to say that, in some aspect, I believe I would like to gain back what I've lost. I do want Gwen to have a little sister at home, to dress them a like and have two pretty little girls that love each other. I want her to have that a sister to grow close to over the years and share everything with. And who knows, maybe that will still happen some day. Anyway, by the end of the day I was thrilled! This little (or should I say big!) boy has been given to us because this is what we are supposed to have at this time! And yes he seems to be perfectly healthy!! We are blessed!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When I look back...

This has been quite a week for us! We have celebrated the birth AND the going home of our dear little girl. Today is actually day Olivia went to be with Jesus but, to be honest with you, I haven't really thought about it too much. We have a GREAT support team (all of our friends and family) and they have really encouraged us and carried us through.
I mentioned in the last post that I would write at a later time about our "festivities" that we had planned for O's birthday. We had the honor of celebrating her birthday with an intimate group of people this past Saturday. I had tossed around the idea several months ago about having a first birthday party but didn't know if I really wanted to and how it would be viewed. I was encourage to "go for it" and so on Saturday we had a birthday party with cake, gifts and the whole nine yards! Yes, I said gifts! Instead of bringing a traditional gift for a one year old, we asked people to make a donation of any kind to a charity or ministry of their choice-something that was "near and dear" to their hearts and in honor of Olivia Hope Fretz. If they didn't have something in mind they could bring a donation of diapers, clothes, money, etc to the party to be later donated to the NICU at CHOP. We asked everyone to wrap the "gifts" up as they would a present and we opened them at the party and shared aloud what each family had chosen to do! We had quite a remarkable turn out of donations and I pretty much bawled the whole time as I thought about all the thought and love that was put into each gift! It was truly a precious time and gave me much happiness to have everyone be together and honor our little girl they way they did! Thank you everyone for making that evening so special!
So while this week could really be a bummer of a time for me, it truly is the opposite! I have much peace and contentment about where we are right now and the things that I have seen in the last year when I look back! I NEVER thought I could get through anything like this but I can, have and will continue to do so because God's promises are real! I see that everyday! Like I've said, there are still hard times and probably always will be. No new baby can replace my love and desire to have Olivia in my arms. I want her and nothing will ever change that but time does have a way of changing your perspective and I know that without going through this terrible ordeal I would not be the person I am today and the woman I am continually being formed to be. Just who that is is to be determined but I know I am changing more and more all the time into the woman He wants me to be.
And BTW, if some of you didn't catch the memo, we ARE expecting our number three sometime late August! I am 17 weeks and gettin' fat and sassy! As exciting as this news is it still brings a lot of mixed emotions for me so that's why the announcement is a bit late. Just pray for me as I do my best to keep my mind focused on the happy and positive of this pregnancy and away from the "what if's". We have no reason to fear but I will until this baby is safe in my arms! I have my ultrasound scheduled for April 12th. That will be the usual 20 week ultrasound that will show us the general health and well being of the baby. This is the same appointment that first showed us something wasn't right with Olivia and changed my life forever so as you can imagine I am anxious to get in, get out and have a clean bill of health! Oh, and YES we will find out the sex!
The picture above is me surrounded by some very special women. I first have to say that ALL of my friends have been tremendous to me in supporting me and just being there for me. I have heavily relied on a few of you and can't thank you or express my love enough. The woman in the picture have all lost children similarly to our loss and it has been such a blessing to get to know them and to have them in my life. They truly know the emotions and fears that I have and, although I hate HOW we met, I can't imagine not knowing them and not having them in my life. I love you Kerry, Jenn, and Michele!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Birthday My Precious Daughter!

We celebrated Olivia's first birthday this past Wednesday. It was the 16th. I can not believe it's already been a year since she was born here at home, right on the living room floor!! If you haven't read THAT story and want to hear more check it out here! It's a good one! But Anyway it's really mind blowing to me to think of all the things that have happened and how our life has completely changed in the last year! There have been some hard times but honestly I wouldn't take any of it back! Yes there's been a lot of pain that I care to never experience again and I know some of it will continue, but our precious bundle, as short as her life was, brought to us a very special gift! The Lord used her to teach us more about Him, ourselves and the people that surround us than we could ever have imagined! We are forever changed!
We didn't do much on her actual birthday. We will be having festivities at a later time but we wanted to keep things small and intimate on Wednesday. We took Gwen out to the grave and left some pansies and a birthday balloon. Gwen wanted to sing so we choked out the words to happy birthday and talked a little about Olivia being "there" and the other little babies; mostly baby Owen who is right beside Olivia. I know she doesn't quite understand but I am comforted in knowing that, despite her young age, we do everything we can to keep her reminded of her sister and the situation to the best ability that a 3 year old can understand. Yes, she is now 3! Just on the 9th, in fact!
After the grave we went out to lunch since we would normally do that for a birthday! It was nothing special but at least it's something we can carry on and our family will always acknowledge Olivia's birthday the same way we do with everyone else. I also want to keep the birthday cake tradition going but I didn't have to bake a cake this year! My "sister's", Jenn and Michele, surprised Gwen and me with a beautiful birthday cake with Olivia's picture on it the last time we were together! They even had a "one" candle and all the kids (all 11 of them) sang happy birthday and gave me homemade cards and pictures that they had made for her. Talk about a misty moment! I love those girls! I had plenty of cake to bring home and share with Andy!

More later but I'm pooped and need to get my beauty sleep!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blah Blah Blah Blah...

...Which pretty much describes my mood perfectly lately. It's been a rough winter! I'm sick of snow, sick of cold, sick of clouds. I guess saying I have spring fever would be the understatement of the year! I've never really been too affected by the winter blahs but this year it has really hit me. I guess it's a combination of things. The weather, the fact that it's coming up on one year since Olivia was born, and we've been thrown a couple of "curve balls" in the last few months with new developements in our family. Nothing to worry about and I'll probably explain more another time. I'm definitely ready for sun, warm and some vitamin D! Don't get me wrong, I'm not depressed and I'm certainly functioning properly, but there are days it has been a struggle and I'm very thankful for friends and family that have kept me moving and smiling!

I've thought so many times about posting something but I feel like I've had nothing to offer! We've just been sitting inside and waiting...waiting...waiting...

I have been doing a lot of cooking lately. I like cooking and being a PC consultant I've had fun trying lots of new recipes and using all my new tools! Andy has been working lots of overtime this month so I've used my "alone" time (yeah right, like I'm ever alone!) to cook 3 or 4 meals at a time and package them up in individual servings. Since he hasn't been home for meals it's been nice to have many options to grab and take to work and for me and Gwen at home. One of the new recipes I tried was Lemon Greek Chicken and since many of you asked for the recipe here it is!

Lemon Greek Chicken

3 lemons
1/4 c olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 T dried oregano leaves
3/4 t salt
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
8 petite red potatoes
1 med red bell pepper
1 med red onion
8 oz white mushrooms

1. Preheat oven to 400*. Using zester/scorer, zest two of the lemons to measure 1 1/2 T zest. Juice one of the zested lemons using citrus press to measure 2 T juice. In stainless (4-qt/4-L) mixing bowl, combine zest, juice, oil, garlic pressed with garlic press, oregano, salt and black pepper; mix well. Place chicken on center of large bar pan. Using chef's silicone basting brush, brush chicken with about 2 T of the lemon juice mixture.

2. Cut potatoes in half using crinkle cutter. Cut bell pepper into 1-in strips using santoku knife. Cut onion into 1-in wedges. Thinly slice remaining lemon using ultimate mandoline fitted with v-shaped blade. Combine potatoes, bell pepper, onion, lemon slices and mushrooms with remaining lemon juice mixture in mixing bowl; toss to coat.

3. Arrange vegetables around chicken on pan. Bake 1 hour or until pocket thermometer registers 180* in thickest part of breast, brushing chicken and vegetables with pan juices after 30 minutes.

Pretty tasty but Andy and I both agreed that it had a bit of a bitter after taste and I'm wondering if that's because of the lemon slices. So maybe omit those and add a bit more zest??

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I was asked to give my testimony in church on Sunday. I wrote out what I wanted to say and read this word for word. It was hard, at times to get through it with all the tears but I'm glad I did this. It's a bit long so beware! Most of you already know all of this from following the blog already but I wanted to post anyway!

Child of Hope

by: Jennifer Fretz

It's a horrific thing to hold your child in your arms as she takes her last breath. Before 15 months ago I would've told you it was my worst fear; I'm sure every mother's worst fear. But that's exactly what happened on March 22, 2010-a year that I'm happy to leave far behind me, but at the same time, learned more about myself, my family, and the God I serve than I ever could've imagined. It's a challenge to sum up the last 15 months into a 10 minute speech! Quite honestly I've been agonizing over it (no offense, Chris :) ) but this is my best and very honest from-the-heart go of it soooo her goes!

The words “it just doesn't look like the text book picture we would like to see” replayed over and over in my head as I sat in my doctor's office listening to him go over the findings of my 20 week ultrasound. It's never a good thing when the doctor himself calls you into his office. In fact I was already suspicious since the ultrasound had taken over and hour and the technician spent a good 45 minutes on my baby's head. I remember quietly convincing myself that surely, if anything was wrong she would've gone and gotten the doctor by now. Surely if anything was wrong she would tell me...but as I nervously sat back in the waiting room, texting my best friend to tell her it was a girl and waiting for what seemed like decades to have my usual checkup I knew something was up. My feelings would very soon be confirmed.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing! My little girl's brain did not look like it was developing correctly!?! Dr. M showed me a picture of the text book he must have been referring to earlier and compared it to the picture of my child's head and sure enough, they did not look alike. He also pointed out her cleft lip and told me that it could be coincidental but often times these things go hand in hand with an abnormal brain structure. He pretty much left it at that and sent me to a specialist that would do a better ultrasound and give us a better understanding of what this could mean.

A couple of days later my husband and I learned that our baby's cleft was very severe but more concerning was the structure of her brain. We sat in a consultation room of the specialist we were seeing and he introduced us to a term I had never heard before but would soon become very familiar with-Trisomy 13. He said that his guess was either this or Trisomy 18, both of which were “bad players” and would leave the baby not compatible with life. Most people would terminate, he said. If we chose to do the same we had about 4 to 5 weeks to make that decision. After the 24 week mark, in the state of Pennsylvania, termination is no longer an option. He encouraged us to go even further with testing and see the physicians at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who would run even more tests and give us our final diagnosis.

This could not be happening to us! Hadn't we been through enough? Hadn't we just gotten back on our feet from a five year long strain of one hard time after another? In the last five years I had already been through a miscarriage, my husband losing a job that he was told he would be promoted in AND finding out the same day I was pregnant with my firstborn, my husband losing another job while having a newborn, Uprooting my whole life and selling the house I loved, the house I had started my family in and wanted to stay in forever to move out of state to a place where I had no friends and move in with my inlaws because we couldn't even support ourselves, again, while having a newborn. Honestly at that point I thought that was it for the hard times. Andy's unemployment had put a brand new spin on our relationship and had brought out new things in each of us that made surviving a daily struggle. I was sure that the answer was to relocate to where we could have the support of our families. After all we had just had a baby and what better reason to actually make the move? The Lord sold our house with no more than a phone call to friends! We knew they were looking to buy, they came and looked and they bought! We were off to PA where the job market was plentiful! Andy soon got a temp job at Johnson and Johnson and we were able to catch up on bills begin to climb out of our depression and over all just breathe a little easier! It could only go up from here, or so I thought. A few months after we had moved in with my in-laws my husband fell very sick and after a three day stay in the ICU at Lansdale hospital we were absolutely shocked to learn that he had type 1 diabetes!! While learning this answered some questions for us all we were faced with a $43,000 hospital bill and no health insurance! The Lord provided, we were able to get comfortable with our new diabetic lifestyle and I was trying my best to learn all I could to help my husband manage his disease.

Six months later, June of 09, we were able to move out on our own! I was so excited! It was like Christmas in July as I was going through boxes of my precious possessions that had been in storage for almost a year! Even though we were only in the position to rent and this house was not “ours” I was elated to have my own kitchen again, to decorate my living room and to doll up a pretty little bedroom for my little baby girl! All was going well and Andy was even moving from a temporary position with J&J to a permanent one....until about a month later. Due to the economy they no longer had work for him and he was given a two week notice of termination. Oh boy, not this again, PLEASE LORD NO!!! The blow softened a bit when very shortly after I learned that I was pregnant! Apparently we like to celebrate our pregnancies by being unemployed!! Although we hadn't planned for this child and were actually trying to wait a bit before adding another stunningly beautiful child to the world we were pumped! The Lord was looking down on us and, for whatever reason, this was the right time to bless us with another baby! Andy soon started his current job working for Comcast! No more temp positions and finally benefits and lots of opportunity! We were good and I finally felt that we were on the path to living the “American Dream”

The dream quickly shattered in mid-November as I walked out of CHOP after a twelve hour day of various tests and consultations. I was about 22 weeks along. Andy had just started his job and we knew that there would probably be many other times for him to take off work so my dad accompanied me down to the city at 5:30 am where we started a very long and very hard day. At the end of the day we sat and listened as the two doctors explained to us the findings of the tests that they had run. They used a 3D model of a human brain to show me how my baby's brain did not look and confirmed the severe cleft lip and pallet and also saw that my baby had an extra digit on the each hand and foot. Her other organs appeared to be fine but without an amniocentesis to confirm they were 95 percent sure that she did have Trisomy 13. They offered me the option of terminating the pregnancy. There was no chance that my baby would ever live a normal life or even live any significant amount of time. Most of the time they don't make it out of the first trimester and if they do they usually die in the womb soon after. My daughter had done neither so far and we were told that if she makes it to birth chances of her making it through birth or any real amount of time after were slim. We were told to expect minutes and I sat, stunned, as the best doctors in the world encouraged me to end this pregnancy and walk away. I told them that my husband and I had already discussed that no matter how bad it got we would not do that. They went on to say that it would be best for ME if I did. Why, I asked. They told me that any pregnancy is hard on a woman's body and since I had already experienced a bit of high blood pressure in my previous pregnancy chances were that would happen again. I asked if this pregnancy would affect me any differently than if the baby were healthy and the answer was no. I again told them that we would not terminate. They offered to set up an amniocentesis but, after talking with Andy later, we decided that it wasn't worth the extra stress or risk to get an amnio. We knew all we needed to know and an amnio confirming or not confirming would not change our decision. We had already decided, and there was little discussion about it, that God gave us this precious little baby. He chose us to be her parents and who were we to determine the outcome of her life? We were very realistic about the severity of the situation and, although we prayed for a miracle every day, we didn't go forward with false hopes. We went forward knowing that we would carry, care for and love her for as long as we had her and when it was time for her to go to her creator it would be because He would take her. Her days were numbered in HIS book, not ours. We soon named her Olivia Hope. I had loved the name Olivia and had wanted to use it anyway and Hope obviously had significant meaning to us at this point. The only way we were going to get through this situation was because of the Hope that we were clinging to.

The following five months of the pregnancy were filled with day to day survival. I grieved hard for the first couple of weeks. Getting out of bed was easy when I had a 1 ½ year old to take care of. Andy had to go to work and I had no choice but to resume my everyday “mom” stuff. Getting through the day without sobbing and begging God to change this was NOT easy. I must have prayed a million times a day for a miracle. After a while I had prayed so many times, the same thing over and over, that I would just lay in my bed, unable to muster up the energy to pray the same thing again, and know that the Lord knew my heart of hearts and I would imagine myself curled up in His hand and be reminded that even if I felt that He wasn't close He was carrying me.

A friend had given me a book written by a lady who had lost an infant due to a genetic deformity. Her daughter's name was Hope, ironically enough, and her devotionals gave me everything I needed to hear and be reminded of each day. The first study I did was on the book of Job. I used to cringe at the term “modern day Job”. Any time I heard anyone referred to as a “modern day Job” my first thoughts were “yeah right, like you or anyone else in the world has ever or will ever go through anything close to what Job did”. Job lost all of his livestock, servants and CHILDREN all at the same time!!! How could anyone compare themselves or anyone else to Job? My study quickly led me to a better understanding of this man of the bible. I learned that the book of Job is not about the horrible things that happened to him and the loss that he experienced. It's about how Job responded to such calamity and that was by falling on the ground and worshiping God. My modern day Job changed from a person falling on many hard times to a person that, amidst the hard times, would chose to praise, would chose to trust and hold on to hope that only comes from above. I wanted to be a modern day Job.

I soon started my blog, which most of you are familiar with, and called it Child of Hope. It started as a way for me give others medical updates and that sort of thing and turned out to be a therapeutic way for me to journal and have an outlet for my emotions. I was always encouraged to see the comments that people were leaving and to hear of all those who were reading my blog. People all over were reading and praying, some I didn't and still don't even know! News spread quickly of us and I would sit and cry sometimes of the reports that I would hear of those all over the world, LITERALLY, that were praying for us and our precious baby. God continued to show us at just the right times that his hand was in this. One particular story, and I'll try to make it short, is of the son of a family that attends my dad's church. I don't know this man's name and I don't remember the church that he goes to. My dad passed on this info to me one day: This man is a prayer warrior and when visiting with his father, who goes to my dad's church, was asked “what's on your prayer list lately?” The man went on to say that a number of things were but particularly he was praying for this girl, Jen Fretz. He had heard and he wasn't sure how, that she was pregnant and her baby was in real trouble. The man's father asked several times if he was sure of the name and he was. I don't need to go further with the story to show you that indeed people everywhere were praying for us and a lot of them didn't even know us! Here was a man who didn't even know how he had heard about us and didn't know the connection between his father or mine but the Lord was using him to lift us up! How could that not be a clear reminder to me that God was in this?

We continued to take it one day at a time and each day God gave us what we needed to get through. I had decided that I was going to handle this like I was having a baby, because I was! I wasn't going to put time and energy into setting up a nursery but I was going to be prepared with the minimal supplies I needed, because a baby WAS coming! I didn't necessarily think I would be bringing my baby home. I had been praying for months for a miracle and I would think about her being born completely healthy and I ached to see the reaction of the doctors if she was. To prove to them that there is a greater physician was something I wanted so badly to happen but I knew that no matter what, even if He chose not to heal her, He was still the greater physician and He was still good.

Olivia Hope was born on March 16, 2010, a gorgeous spring day! I still, to this day, often forget the details of that day. I had woken up sometime in the middle of the night with uncomfortable gas pains! (go ahead and laugh!!) I throughout the night did everything I could to relieve the pain and got bits of sleep here and there. At around 7:00am I had decided to call a friend to get her opinion on whether or not she thought I was in labor. You see, I was induced with Gwen and this all felt so incredibly different from what I experienced with her. Only when it really started to get uncomfortable did I think something might be up. My friend told me that she thought I was in labor so I decided to get around to packing a quick bag and going to the hospital. I grabbed a quick shower, woke up my husband who THANKFULLY was off work that day and we worked together to get a bag packed, feed Gwen and make arrangements with my mother in-law to take her so we could go. By 8:00 things were progressing quickly and I carefully made my way to the car when my water broke and I could feel things happening and moving very quickly-to spare you the details! I told Andy as I did the best I could to make my way back to the house to call 911 because there was no way we were making it to the hospital. VERY long story short and not even 20 minutes later she was born on our living room floor! 20 minutes is a pretty short amount of time but long enough for millions of thoughts to be running through my head. This couldn't be happening! This was NOT good. This baby was sick and she would need immediate medical attention! What if she died in labor right here at home?! What if I did?! Why would this be happening on top of everything else?! Not to mention the fact that I wanted an epidural! The EMT's go there just in time and she and I were rushed of to emergency medical care and we started to see, bit by bit, the puzzle pieces all coming into place.

Olivia and I were both taken to Lansdale Hospital where there is no maternity ward or NICU of any kind. Our original plan had been to have her at Grandview where they would do as much for her as they could and it was in the Lord's hands from there on. We told this to the EMT's but they were more comfortable driving us to Lansdale I guess due to distance. I was in great discomfort the whole way there due to the fact that my placenta still hadn't delivered and even more so for the fact that I didn't even know who my child was with, where she was and if she was even alive. I hadn't even seen her because as soon as she was out they literally took her and ran. I arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes after she did and was greeted by a technician who told me that she was breathing and doing “ok”! I was taken to the same room as she was but there was a curtain in separating us and I couldn't see her or see what they were doing to her. I learned soon that they were intubating her because she had aspirated during delivery and due to her already weakened condition was having trouble breathing. The doctors told us that they had called Abington to see if they could send Olivia over there for better care but Abington had already sent a Trisomy13 baby to CHOP earlier so Lansdale wanted to send her there too. We told them, again, of our birth plan but for reasons that we still don't fully know they wanted to send her to CHOP. We saw this as God's hand and agreed to have her lifted to CHOP, again, not knowing if she would even make it there alive and if I would ever see or hold my baby before the Lord took her. All we could do was trust.

Soon after she left I was rushed to Grandview where I could receive better care. My placenta still hadn't delivered and I was soon facing surgery if things didn't move along. I was quickly taken up to maternity where they did what they needed to do (sparing you many details) to deliver the placenta. By this time it was about 2:30 in the afternoon, over six hours after delivery. Andy occasionally called CHOP to check on the status of our daughter and we breathed a little easier each time as they reported back that she was stable! I was told that as long as I could walk and use the bathroom by that evening that I could be discharged since I hadn't had any drugs or stitches. My delivery, as traumatic as it was, wasn't very invasive (again, God's hand) so by 9:00 pm I was out of Grandview and on my way to the Children's Hospital where I would live for the next 6 days.

Arriving there we made our way up to the NICU. I was so nervous as I walked in, I had no clue what I was about to face. What would she look like? Would she be sick? Was she still alive? What would she be hooked up to? Could I even hold her? We both stood and cried as we laid eyes on our beautiful daughter for the first time. She was beautiful. Yes, she had a pretty severe cleft lip and the shape and size of her eyes was definitely not “normal” but she had beautiful pink skin, dark redish hair and long dark curly eyelashes just like her big sister! I right away saw similar traits, and despite her deformities, she was a Fretz!

Olivia stayed stable for the majority of her stay there. Through many consultations with doctors they were able to do things to treat her lungs and get her back to a “normal” state for her condition, something they wouldn't have been able to do at Grandview. We cherished every minute we had with her and did many precious things to capture that time. On the sixth day it was decided that it was time to take her off the ventilator and that she was doing well enough on her own to give it a try. We had to make the hard decision to not put her back on if she didn't do well. They told us that if she started to decompensate it wouldn't be due to the fact that she wasn't ready to be off the vent but because of her condition that was not fixable. We prayed and had peace that if this didn't go well it was in God's hand's and we had done everything we could. She had been in the best hospital she could possibly be at and with the best doctors. She wasn't originally supposed to be here and we were told that, because she was here, we certainly got more time with her-much more.

Olivia slowly passed over a time span of about 9 hours. We used the time to be a family of four. Our good friend and professional photographer came and did precious pictures of our family. We did canvas boards of hand prints and made sure to capture Olivia's hands and feet in 3D plaster molds. After all our friends and family left we sat together with Pastor Larry in our little corner of the NICU and I cradled my daughter in my arms as she took her last breath but even harder than that was putting her down and walking away....

But story has a happy ending! The ending is that Olivia went to heaven to be with her Father. What more could a mother ask for? Of course I want her here. Of course I was looking forward to sleepless nights with a new baby, to screaming the word “no” a million more times a day than I already do! I wanted and still want more children. I'm not going to say that everything is totally fine, and I'm totally fine because she's in a “better place” because no matter what, no matter if this was God's perfect plan, I'm a human and a mother and I want my child. But the truth is Olivia will never go through the hurts that I have, or that her sister will. She will never get sick or hurt and will never have to deal with a broken heart. Her life was short but it made a huge impact in the lives of many. I know this because you have all shared with me.

We buried her on March 27th, another beautiful spring day! Many came out to celebrate her life and not a person left not hearing the gospel that day as my dad preached a great sermon.

The days go on and I'm not going to say it's been easy. For the most part we are doing good! The Lord has given us much peace and I'm convinced it's only due to the prayer and support of all of our friends and family. We still have hard days but Andy must go to work, I must be a mom to Gwen and we have both tried our best to help Gwen understand as much as a 2 year old mind can. Gwen knows that baby “Eva” is in heaven and that we are going to go live there with her someday. Sometimes she askes if we can go today! Oh, if only! I've never looked forward to that glorious day so much...

So we keep on keepin' on! I am nervous about the future. The Lord showed me that he could carry me through my worst fear and come out the other side, but my fears have changed and I can't help but wonder sometimes how much worse it could get! I WANT to say that I hope we get a break! Our little family has been through a lot! I don't want any more pain or heartache for any of us and don't we deserve to have a break now?! The truth is though that as long as we are living for the Lord hard times will come! We were never promised that our Christian life would be easy, in fact we were told it wouldn't be and what we truly deserve is death. I WANT to say that the worst thing has happened to me, losing a child, so it should only go up from here! And of course I hope that true! But of course I have no clue where it will go from here and all we can do is take it one day at a time and trust the One who has this all under control. I can't deny his hand in the life of Olivia or the other things we have been through and I know, I have faith, that no matter what is yet to come He will be there and He is in control.

The big happy ending is this: We have Hope. No matter what comes in our lives, as children of the Lord, we were given the Hope of eternal life because of God's gift to us which was his son dying on the cross for our sins. We gave our daughter the middle name of Hope because of this and we knew that she would be a very real reminder of this to us for the rest of our lives. On mother's day I got a tattoo of this reminder-the word “hope” on my wrist. I wanted to honor my daughter and hope is pretty much the base that our family is built on. I chose my wrist because, not only did I want to see this reminder all the time but the wrist symbolizes Christ being crucified which is why we have this hope. I chose my left side because it would be easier for ME to read and it's the “heart” side. I do welcome others to notice it and ask about it and have been able to share our story with them because of it.

So we are taking it one day at a time! We still have two daughters! Olivia lives, although not here, and she's still our daughter and sister and we do everything we can to represent her in our lives. She was given to us for a short time and for reasons we have come to learn but I'm sure many more we will never know until we are face to face with her and our heavenly Father. What a day of rejoicing that will be!!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

THIS was my holiday baking this year!

15 hours of construction (not including drying time)

5 pounds of powdered sugar (yes, I said 5 POUNDS!)

and who knows how many pieces of candy later....