The Miracle Baby

HaPpY BiRtHDaY to my darling angel, Trinity. She turns nine years old today! As many of you know, it is an unbelievable miracle that she’s even here with us. Today’s article is dedicated to her, and other miracle babies like her.

Why do I call her the miracle baby? hmmm… We need to travel back a bit and go over a few hurdles we (and especially she) have had to endure in less than a decade. Let’s list some of the things that lead me to call her a miracle:

I’m HIV Positive
I realize that this post is about Trinity, and not me… However, this is a very important fact. Being HIV+ has me facing many facts. Until medical science caught up, one of those facts was that I would never have a child. At least not without the possibility of transferring HIV to my wife and/or child. Hence, until about a dozen years ago, Kristine and I assumed we would not have children. That changed when a form of in vitro fertilization (IVF), called ICSI, was approved for serodiscordant couples (where one partner is HIV-positive and one partner is HIV-negative).

You can read more about IVF here: healthywealthytribe.com/creating-life-in-a-laboratory.

Another potential miracle part is that Kristine and I made attempt-after-attempt before the fourth one finally took. Kristine actually got pregnant on our first attempt and then lost the baby at ten weeks. This was devastating. We nearly gave up after the next two attempts didn’t take at all. We decided to take one more crack (no pun intended) at this, and Kristine got pregnant. We were very close to giving up entirely…

Breech Baby
From before she was born, Trinity was a stubborn baby. Right around her due date, we found out that Trinity was sitting breech in the womb. The doctor made some simple attempts at turning her, but such a headstrong child was not moving for a mere doctor. Kristine was admitted for a cesarean section.

During the C section, the doctors exclaimed that something was wrong with Kristine and she was losing too much blood. Her whole body went deathly white and they wrapped her in heated blankets to keep her warm. I’m certain that they covered up a serious problem by telling me that there were complications, but that she would be fine. Again, this doesn’t have a direct correlation with Trinity, but she might very well have lost her mother from day one!

Esophageal Atresia
When Trinity was born, she didn’t cry immediately. And, her breathing sounded a tad raspy to me. I turned to the nurse and said, “Something is wrong.” The nurse disagreed and said everything was fine. Within minutes they were scurrying around looking flustered like a barn full of clucking hens. I knew something was serious, but didn’t know what. Asked to leave, I went to get something to eat from the cafeteria. In a matter of minutes, I thought we were close to losing Kristine, and now, something was wrong with Trinity. My head was swirling.

Returning from eating a meal, I found Kristine crying. She explained to me that Trinity had esophageal atresia and needed an immediate surgery to live. Essentially, Trinity’s esophagus had not fully developed and it wasn’t connected to her stomach. To top it off, she would need to be transported to Children’s Hospital for this emergency.

About 1 in 2,500 babies is born with some form of esophageal atresia. The scary (and another miracle) part is that all babies with this disorder born prior to the operation invention (approximately fifty years ago) died from starvation! Can you say, miracle?

While couped-up at Children’s, the first communication that Trinity had was grabbing my finger. She reached out, grabbed it tightly, and peered into my eyes as if to say, Don’t worry Daddy, I’m strong and will be fine. I knew that she was special, and dare I say it… A miracle.

The doctors told us that she was strong when she pulled out her feeding tube. Actually, they couldn’t keep it in… She refused to give in! Strong heart this one…

MRSA
Another situation occurred while Trinity was still in Children’s Hospital. She caught Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a staph infection and bacterium that’s responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections. It is especially dangerous in young children. Considering that approximately 10% of people with MRSA die from it, I would say that warrants another Miracle Baby check-mark.

Oxygen Deprivation
When Trinity was a wee-little-one she had oxygen related issues. Kristine brought her in to see the doctor and the doctor immediately called an ambulance. She was taken to the hospital on a few occasions to tackle this problem, and she spent a few nights in an oxygen tent. Even as a little baby, she was still dealing with life threatening illness and troubles. And, perhaps more importantly, she was surmounting these deadly issues as soon as they came.

Asthma
At a young age, Trinity was diagnosed with asthma. Nothing like some of the things she dealt with at birth, this is still a tough challenge and something she will deal with for her entire life. I’m confident that her headstrong attitude and downright stubbornness will get her by this speed bump without a hitch.

Hemophilia
Most women born to hemophiliac fathers do not get the disease. Rather, they become carriers, but lead normal “clotting” lives. Never one to miss an opportunity, Trinity was tested and revealed the fact she, in-fact, is a type A mild hemophiliac.

I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but you get my point. Obviously there are things she’s only been able to tackle with the advent of modern medical miracles. However, I feel that above those things, my darling daughter, Trinity, is a miracle baby.

Like her Mom and Dad, she is a loving and caring person. Talented and smart, she was born to be a leader and survivor!

Everyone is rightfully proud of their kids. Today I salute a wonderful human being, a miracle…

HaPpY BiRtHDaY, Trinity Viola Ripley!

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Birds and Bees

In today’s fast moving, internet-based lifestyle, I think it is more important then ever to teach our children about the birds and the bees at a younger age. Some folks will argue with me on this one, but come on… Kids have their own phones at seven or eight years old (not mine, but their friends do!) now. They have 24-hour access to sex and sexuality. With the advent of the internet, we cannot possibly hope to keep them completely protected from pornography and sex talk. With that in mind, I prefer to be the one communicating with my child. I mean think about it… Do you want Axl Rose and Madonna raising your children?

My wife and I have decided to take this bull by the horns and be ahead of the curve. Many of the TV shows that our daughter loves are already getting into relationships and sketchy (sexual) situations. Instead of panicking and trying to keep her tightly tucked underneath our proverbial wings, we choose to proactively sit her down and chat openly about life, puberty, babies, and… Say it with me (no whispering) SEX!

Take note… I’m not suggesting a certain age here. I think that age is very individual and child dependent. You need to decide for yourself. This discussion is more about the actual talk than when to have it. Capiche?

Another Note: I am not flippant about this subject. I take it very serious. However, I am a joker and fun guy… I prefer to find the light in dark places. If I offend anyone with my humor, it is not intentional. Please understand that this is a very personal topic and we will each deal with it differently and in our own ways. I can be a very serious man when it comes to things like protecting my family or getting things done. But, when I can, I laugh, giggle, and make jokes. That’s my personality. Do what you wanna do, and be who you wanna be!

One thing to think about is that this will be a difficult discussion that gets embarrassing from time-to-time (for you and your child). The important thing is to stick with it and explain that it might be uncomfortable, but that you guys are willing to talk right through that. Joking is okay, but don’t let that take over. I believe that it’s important to treat your kid adult(ish) during this talk, but still have fun and laugh with them too. Open conversation is the key to success with such tough subjects. Also, remember that this is not a onetime chat that will never be brought up again. Let your child know that you’re always here for them and will ALWAYS be open to talking about sex and so on and so forth.

Disclaimer: This post is purely my opinion and belief on this subject. What might be good for my kids and family may not work, or be good, for yours. Use your head on this and think this out carefully. We are talking about a very serious subject that could mean the difference in your child’s beliefs and attitude.

Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge with us, let’s dabble into the different subjects and some of my thoughts on how to approach this. Here’s a list of some of the topics that Kristine and I will tackle with our daughter (and later our son):

  • Puberty: Body and facial hair appears, boobs grow, body odor appears, and our feelings about the opposite sex change. Girls start puberty around 10, and boys usually start around 11. Girls normally have their first menstruation at 12 and boys have their first ejaculation at 13. Also, growth often accelerates (height and weight) during puberty.
  • Private Parts: Boys have penises and girls have vaginas. Laugh and have fun with this one. Try to enjoy yourself during all of this nervous chatter.
  • Love: Talk about mommy and daddy and what soul mates are.
  • Relationships: Dating, going steady (or whatever they call it these days), puppy love, all the way to marriage.
  • Divorce: This isn’t a birds and bees discussion, but it is an appropriate time to talk about this often whispered topic. Considering that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce, your children probably know several kids (if not themselves) going through this reality.
  • Baseball (AKA: Sex): Here’s where the rubber meets the road (no pun intended). Discuss, the stages (or bases as it were) of sex. Here’s an example through the baseball metaphor:
  • First base Mouth-to-mouth kissing, especially French kissing;
    Second base Touching or kissing the breasts or other erogenous zones can be either clothed or not clothed; manual stimulation of the genitals;
    Third base Oral sex, or stimulation of the genitals with your mouth (this is often where the conversation turns extremely tough – stick with it);
    Fourth base (home run) Sexual intercourse (he… could… go… all… the… way!);
    Strikeout Failure to engage in any form of foreplay or sexual activity.

  • Masturbation: Some people do it, some people don’t. You might have your own opinions about this, but remember that your child is an individual and will form their own opinions too. Talk about it, and move on…
  • Babies: This is a good time to talk about sexual organs, sperm, eggs, and how babies are conceived and born.
  • STDs: Safe sex and condoms, people!
  • Pregnancy: Continuing on the condom talk, you can talk about other forms of birth control and abortion. I choose to cover everything… Children need to understand that their decisions often have life altering consequences. Responsibility is a big subject during this phase.
  • Pornography: As tough as this one is, the odds are that your child will be introduced to online porn at the young age of nine! This is a fact of life, folks… So, we need to at least discuss it and explain some things. I will use this time to also talk about human trafficking and how unreal pornography is.
  •  

    I also plan to include diagrams of reproductive systems during our “birds and the bees” discussion. I found some good ones here: www.sexualityandu.ca/

    Girls Have Vaginas
    Female
    Female
    www.sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/understanding-your-body/female-sexual-organs

    Boys Have Penises
    Male
    Male
    www.sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/understanding-your-body/male-sexual-organs

    I realize that we went over some extreme subjects that most of us are uncomfortable about. No one ever said that our job as parent was going to be easy, and it often is much tougher than we ever imagined. However, think about the other side… If you don’t have these very tough talks with your children, where will they learn about sex from? That’s right… Other kids, TV, and the internet. Think about that carefully. That is a scary thought if you think about how many myths and untruths they will experience through that avenue. Be an adult and a loving parent and bite the bullet on this. Your children are your responsibility, and it is up to you to raise respectful adults who will treat the opposite sex the way they deserve.

    Along those lines, this is a GREAT time to talk about chivalry and respect for women to your boys. Kids look up to their parents more than we want to believe, and they will listen to us when we talk about these things. Raise them to be mindful and respectful of each other. With proper planning and strong conversations we can literally affect the next generation. I choose to raise boys and girls who do not bully, who respect each other, and who will risk their very lives to protect each other.

    For those of you who have already gone through this, please chime in and give us newbies some pointers!!! Also, please share your experiences and stories…

    Your friendly neighborhood sex-ed instructor,
    V

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    Creating Life in a Laboratory

    Let’s talk babies! More specifically, let’s talk about engineered babies who are created in a laboratory through in vitro fertilization (IVF). My wife, Kristine, and I went through a scientific process called IVF to have our two beautiful children. We actually did ICSI (pronounced: ick-see); which stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. We went through five IVF procedures to have our two kids. In other words, two of our five attempts were successful. And, it was the last two tries that gave us our lovely progeny!

    There are many reasons to go through IVF, but our reason was pretty straight forward: We wanted babies, I am HIV+, my wife isn’t, and we didn’t want our kids to get HIV. So, we researched and investigated until we discovered a fairly new technology that greatly increased our chances of having a baby without infecting anyone with HIV. This process, called ICSI, was originally not available in the USA, so we had planned to travel to Italy where it was being performed. Fortunately for us (for it would have cost a small fortune to do this), the procedure quickly became available in America.

    Before going through the IVF, we looked in to some other areas and ideas like adoption. Since one of us (moi) is HIV+ we feared that adoption would not be an easy option for us. Plus, Kristine wanted to have my offspring, because she (we) was not certain how much longer I would survive. So, we decided that adoption wasn’t for us. Next, we researched having my dad be a sperm donor. In this way, we could have part of my genes in our child(ren). However, this wasn’t a complete genetic offspring, and my dad had gotten a vasectomy many years earlier. So, this was not an option either. Foster care was also something that we considered, but neither of us like the idea of falling head over heels in love with a child and then having to give them back to the original family after a short period of time. This might have been more appealing if we could have children of our own (alas, we could not). Foster parenting felt like a tortuous thing to put ourselves through. So, for a while anyway, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t have children.

    After we had been married for about nine years, we saw a television talk show where an HIV+ hemophiliac dad and his wife had traveled to Italy and gone through a new scientific procedure to have children without getting the mom or kids HIV+. This was amazing and exciting to us. So, Kristine and I both started looking into this. Our plan was to travel to Italy and do a similar IVF procedure. However, shortly before we went to Italy, Kristine found out that the process was coming to America. So, we got on the list to do the ICSI IVF here in America.

    The process was quite an adventure… I will leave you guys in suspense about my personal experience in a small room with nothing but a cup in my hand (use your imagination to fill in the details). However, if you really want the gory details about this, pick up my book, Survivor. Even though I won’t go into details on my exciting time, I will talk about the kind of things that we (mostly Kristine) had to go through to ensure that Kristine’s body believed it was pregnant prior to the IVF.

    Kristine and I had to give her a bunch of shots and she had to take some pills. Her experience broke down like this:

    Pre-Egg Removal Operation
    1. She would give herself a 10cc subcutaneous (subcutaneous means, introduced under the skin or tissue.) shot of “Lupron” (leuprolide acetate) each morning for 15 days.
    (Leuprolide acetate is a synthetic nonapeptide analog of naturally occurring gonadotropin releasing hormone. Obfuscation aside, it increased her estrone and estradiol levels. Basically, it is used to trick her body into believing it’s pregnant.)

    2. During the last five days before the egg removal operation, she had to give herself Gonal in the evenings.

    3. She finished up with a shot of Avidril hCG as the final subcutaneous shot two evenings before the retrieval operation.

    All in all it was a bunch of shots and Kristine was a trooper!

    Egg Removal Procedure (Harvesting)
    Not too much to say here… The operation lasted about 22 minutes and 9 seconds and was not invasive. Afterwards, Kristine was pretty sedate and adorable.

    Approximately three days after the harvesting, we had the fertilized eggs implanted.

    Post-Egg Removal and Insertion
    1. That evening she started taking Doxycycline orally.

    2. Then she started giving herself an intravaginal medication called Prometrium, which is projesterone.

    Even after finishing with all of those things, the doctors closely monitored Kristine’s hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels. These indicate that the embryo was good and growing at a healthy rate.

    Getting pregnant is not as easy as you may have thought!

    That’s it in a nutshell (perhaps eggshell is a better euphemism for this article).

    Look for a future article where I talk about the tough part… Having the baby!

    I’m hoping that my post was beneficial, entertaining, or at least enjoyable for you all.

    Happy baby making,
    Vaughn

    Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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