Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Picture drama

So a long, long, time ago, back in July 2011, when Lucas was 3 months old, we got pictures done by a photographer I found on Craigslist. Big, huge, massive, epic mistake.

We purchased a first year package which was supposed to include a couple prints from each session, a 3x5 album of prints from all the sessions, a keepsake disc, and 4 photo sessions- 3 month,6month,9month,1 year. We paid half upfront and were going to pay part of the rest at 6 months and 9 months. She told us our pictures would be on her website in 7 day, a month later they finally were. She kept avoiding my questions about the disc and the 3x5 album (was it a disc after each session or one altogether?--she never answered at all.) And we were very underwhelmed with the pictures (although I was nice and did tell her I liked them. I liked them as much as I would have liked a random 16 year old "photographer" at Walmart or JCPenneys or BabiesRUs.) Anyway, since she started getting pretty sketchy/evasive early on, I asked if we could change our package to the one time basic package (which included 3 prints and a disc of all purchase images- per her website) and use the remaining $100 to just order prints a la carte from her website. We ordered 10 extra prints at $10 each. She agreed to this and told us the order would be in, in 4-8 weeks.

So eight weeks go by with no word from her. At nine weeks, I email her. No response. I email her again, no response. I try to call her. No answer, plus her voicemail is full and won't let me leave a message. I post on her facebook photography page, a nice comment "just wondering where our pictures are that were taken in July, since it's November"...she ignores this message too. FINALLY, when I email her threatening to make a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and take her to small claims court if necessary, she replies THAT DAY, within hours. She claims that she has had my pictures for "weeks" and has been trying to contact me to get my address. Her emails must be getting sent to my spam folder. I check my spam folder every couple days so I knew that wasn't the case, plus, when I filled out the "contact me" form through her website it included all of my information including my address, phone number, etc. So she says she will be sending the pictures THAT VERY DAY via priority mail and she will email me a delivery confirmation as soon as she has it.

No delivery confirmation came. She says there has been a death in her family and will get the pictures out next week. Fine. We finally got our pictures (from July) the last week of November. (In the meantime, we had Luke's 6 month pictures taken and back already from our new photographer.)

Except there was one huge problem. On her website, every image was in color and black and white. So for example, image number 1 was color, image number 2 was black and white. I ordered them by number, and we ordered them all in color except for one of his hands in ours we got in black and white. Every print that received was in black and white, EXCEPT for the one that was supposed to be in black and white came in color. (So basically they were the opposite of what we ordered.)

I emailed her about this immediately and gave her a week to respond before I started filing claims. She responded with an apology and that she would send a "rush order" to fix the pictures and that the pictures would be fed ex'd to us directly when they were done. I also mentioned in the email that the disc we were supposed to get with our package was not with our prints and to please send us that at least. In early January, we received the disc. (I think I had to email her again about it but I would have to go back and check.)

Life got busy and I figured the pictures might take 8ish weeks so I didn't try to contact her again until towards the end of January. (I think. I have every single email I've ever sent to her, and she's ever sent to me, so I can check the exact date later, but for now that's not really important.) I received no response. Here we go again. A couple weeks ago I made one more attempt, telling her all we really want is our correct pictures, and to at least please respond so I know what is going on with that. Still no response, so I emailed her once again giving her a week to reply or that I would file a claim. Still nothing, and I gave her two weeks because things were busy, but I finally filed a claim with the better business bureau this weekend.

I guess she received it because today I received an email from her saying that all of my descriptions were completely false. That a disc was never included in the package. (Her website now has different packages, the one we bought has the same name but now offers much less for the same price, luckily I took a screenshot of it and printed off every package.)  That she sent it as a courtesy. And that she had no idea what I was talking about with black and white and color pictures, they are all in color. She was going to be very nice and offer me a $25 refund to resolve this. Oh, and she also mentioned that I "publicly criticized her" in her response. (I assume she's talking about the facebook thing, which is just funny, because she has no idea how much "public criticism" she is going to get once we finally have this resolved.And it will go well beyond Facebook.)

I replied back that I had saved and submitted her email about her rush order of pictures to the Better Business Bureau (true) so they know she is lying. Her options are to refund us the entire amount we have paid (because I figure by now at this point our kid is 10 months old- we have much better pictures of him from 6 and 9 months I'd rather get prints of and display anyway.)  Or she can just send us the correct pictures, which is really been my goal all along, just to get the freaking pictures that we ordered.

She replied back that she "is not going to argue", she will "submit a 3rd order on our behalf" or refund the $25, but since we have the disc, we really should just take the $25 and get our own prints.

I told her that it was interesting that she is now saying that there will be a "third order" when earlier she said there was nothing wrong with the first prints. (Admitting that she was supposed to send the 2nd CORRECT order, in her previous email, remember, she said she had no idea what I was talking about.) And the way she worded "submit on your behalf" about the "third order" makes me think that she will put the order in and then tell us to pay it (again.) So I reiterated that her options were to send us the correct pictures (whether she has to reorder them or not, I don't really care, the point is I want the pictures and I do not expect to pay a dime more than we already have for them.) OR she can refund us $150 for the prints- ($100 for the a la carte prints we ordered, plus $50 for the prints that were supposed to be included in our package.) If she can't agree to either option, we will gladly take her to small claims court. We have never spoken in person except for the photo shoot. I have every single email I have ever sent her, and every single email she has ever sent me, and exactly what the package we purchased was supposed to include, as advertised on her website. So this will be easy to prove, and she has backpedaled on so many lies already (that I can prove), she has only helped my case. All she had to do was take our pictures and actually give us what we ordered, and all of this drama could have been avoided. I guess she thought she could evade us and lie enough that we'd just go away. She thought wrong.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why we will walk...

We really owe the Pre-Eclampsia Foundation, especially the forum and regular (and formerly regular but now MIA) forum members a lot.

In part, I am still alive, thanks to them. And Lucas is here, thanks to them. Olivia is not here, but they gave me a place I could talk about her and learn from people who had been through similar experiences. I think they also have probably saved my sanity (or at least what was salvageable.)

My case of pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome (or just HELLP syndrome, if you've been through my medical records and are as technical and rule-following as I am) was not normal at all.

My blood pressure never got very high. My kidneys never spilled protein (at least not that we know of, they never ordered a 24 hour urine test since I always easily passed the dipstick tests with no trace of protein, even in the hospital). The technical diagnostic definition of pre-eclampsia is two blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher at least 6 hours apart and 300 mg of protein in a 24 hour urine test. Those were not my symptoms (although my doctors still say I had pre-eclampsia which kinda makes me crazy because I'm too literal.) Though most people consider HELLP as a form of severe pre-eclampsia so I guess that is where they are coming from. (In most cases people show signs of pre-eclampsia that turns into HELLP.)

What I did have was SEVERE pain. And swelling. The pain started as a pinch in my lower shoulder blade and back. At first, I chalked it up to normal pregnancy stuff. And it quickly (by that first night) got so bad that I considered going to the ER, except for Joe was out of town on a sailing trip with some friends and I didn't think I could drive myself there. (Duh, in hindsight, I could've called my parents. SHOULD HAVE called my parents.) I am a person who goes to the regular doctor, maybe once every five years or so, and the ER even less than that, so for me to consider going to the ER for pain that is so bad- that should have really gotten my radar up. But I thought it was normal pregnancy stuff and was going to tough.it.out. It was a miserable night of shifting and NOTHING being comfortable, I got the heating pad out and lived with it under my shoulder, and that made it almost tolerable. I remember going to one of my younger brother's baseball games and shifting uncomfortably in my chair and trying to rub the "knot" out and my aunt looking at me sympathetically because I was clearly in so much pain.

And then just as quickly as the pain came, it was gone. For days. And then it was back. And gone again. One of the times it was gone, happened to be a regular OB appointment, I told her about the pain, and she was mildly concerned but not too much since everything seemed mostly normal, but she mentioned that "since you are now over 20 weeks, if you have to go to the hospital, go to L&D". The next week I was back again, the pain was so bad that morning as I was getting ready to teach in Hell City, it made me throw up, I could barely stand. How in the world I still managed to get ready, drive myself 25 miles, and sort of teach (silent reading day, kids!), I have no idea. I mostly sat at my desk but moving around got easier and easier as the morning went by. I already had planned for a half day since I was supposed to have a growth ultrasound, and on my plan time, I called my OB's office to see what they thought about my pain and maybe getting an antibiotic for my "kidney infection"--I thought maybe I had a kidney or bladder infection for an embarrassing reason I will not write about here but if you've been pregnant, you probably know what I'm talking about. They said, "uh, you need to come in", and managed to work some magic to get me in to see my OB in an hour or two.

My blood pressure was normal. My urine was clear. I was no longer in pain by the time she saw me, and I had a hard time pinpointing exactly where the pain was even coming from...under my ribs? my ribs? my shoulder blade? my back? all of the above? IT.JUST.HURT. She figured it was probably the position that the baby was in, and recommended I try prenatal yoga. (I will never ever ever do yoga because of this.) Then we saw on the growth ultrasound that Olivia was way way smaller than she should have been (like had barely grown in 4 weeks), and she mentioned the words "pre-eclampsia" and "delivery soon". (As in, I might be heading towards it, and if the baby did not start to grow better, we would have to deliver soon...)

The pain was on and off for most of the week, usually gone during the day, and there at night, which made me think it probably WAS just the baby and how she was positioned or whatever. I posted about the "stabbing pain in my ribcage" on a fertility website message board and lots of people chimed in that it was normal. And my doctor said it was normal. So I powered through, even though it seemed like every time the pain came back, it was worse than the time before.

And then Sunday night rolled around. I started off uncomfortable, working on lesson plans for the week while Joe went to bed, and the pain got worse and worse and worse. And the heating pad didn't help. Tylenol didn't help. Heartburn meds didn't help (sometimes in the past with "the pain", heartburn meds had helped, for some reason, maybe entirely coincidental.) As I got increasingly miserable, I started googling. Pre-eclampsia, especially, since that was the main thing I had to go on since it was the word my OB had mentioned, but that was really confusing since I didn't have high blood pressure. I ended up on the Pre-Eclampsia Foundation webpage. And I ended up joining and posting. And by this time, the pain was getting so bad that I was starting to have trouble breathing because it just hurt. And some people nicely posted, "get to the hospital, [you dummy]". I called my OB at 3 in the morning on her exchange line and she pretty much said the same thing. So I made up a quick lesson plan for the sub (yeah, idiotic), emailed it to our secretary, emailed the secretary and principal that I would not be in, woke up Joe, and we headed in to the hospital.

I brought a book to read while we waited and my purse, because I seriously thought they were going to figure out what was wrong, fix it, and send me home. I was tragically, beautifully naive. (I still haven't finished reading that damn book.)

By the end of Monday, I had been diagnosed with HELLP, transferred hospitals in an ambulance, had an emergency c-section, Olivia had been born and died, and I was put on awful magnesium sulfate to prevent me from seizing immediately after her delivery.

(Even though I was in a lot of pain, my initial bloodwork was nearly normal with my liver enzymes just slightly elevated. They kept me anyway, and my OB reordered the labs for six hours later. In that time, my liver enzymes more than doubled while my blood platelet numbers dropped by 100,000...normal is around 250,000. It got very bad, quickly, but it started out almost normal, and I'm also lucky that my OB and the hospital didn't just send me home when things looks mostly normal at first. If they had sent me home, I know I would have NEVER went back for the same thing again on my own.)

In one of the many conversations I had with my OB weeks later, she mentioned that if I had not gone into the hospital when I did, I probably would have came in by the next day seizing or worse.

So anyway, The Pre-Eclampsia Foundation was the place that told me that this was Not Normal. This was not something that prenatal yoga would fix or that the baby kicking my rib cage was likely causing. And "hey, dummy, get yourself to the hospital!" (This seems totally obvious NOW, but at that time, I thought they would think I was an idiot or a big wimp, and send me home.) I am lucky that one of those earlier episodes of severe pain did not result in me going into organ failure or worse, especially considering I had the pain off and on for about three weeks. I have no idea how much longer I would have tried to tough it out, had I not come across the PE website and forums, possibly a lot longer.

There are many women and babies who are not as "lucky". A few months later, my aunt in another state, lost her coworker due to HELLP syndrome. The coworker was an ultrasound tech, married to a doctor, she thought the pain was normal, "toughed it out", and it killed her. Pre-eclampsia and HELLP kill women across the country each year, and an appallingly high number of women die in developing countries from these diseases.  "Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year." --The Pre-Eclampsia Foundation http://preeclampsia.org/health-information/about-preeclampsia

Obviously Lucas could not be here if I had not survived, but he also is here in part thanks to the brave couples who came before me. When you are in the less than 1% , with no family history, and then you are told that for another pregnancy, your risk of getting pre-eclampsia again is as high as 60%+, and a 12% chance of HELLP again, it's pretty damn terrifying. But then I read the stories of women who had first pregnancies like mine on the PE forums, and had healthy take-home babies. And it gave me hope that I could do it too. And while we were in the trenches of ttc and then a stressful high risk pregnancy, they lamented over my charts and frustrating cycles, then as I stressed over miscarrying, and gave me tips on how to make lovenox shots less painful, and questions to ask my doctors, and what testing to expect or ask for. And we made it. I have no idea if it was pure luck, a guardian angel, the hundreds of lovenox shots, the daily aspirin, or all of the above, but whatever it was, Lucas is here. And we are so lucky to have him.

This is the first year we will have a walk for the Pre-Eclampsia Foundation in St.Louis. I am helping with the planning. And I am so excited to have one here. The money the foundation raises goes for research to develop tests like this and to keep the forums going for anyone who may be googling like I was, and to raise awareness which may save lives. Even though people may have heard of preeclampsia, they don't always know what to watch out for (and sometimes they do but are told its normal), they don't always realize how serious it can be, and some tend to believe in myths like eating lots of protein aka the Brewer diet, or eating less salt, can prevent it. There is no known cure except for delivery (and even after delivery, it tends to get worse before it starts getting better), and there is no known prevention (but lots of guesses and hopes.)

We walk in honor of Olivia and the 500,000 babies worldwide each year who die from preeclampsia and HELLP. We walk in honor of the 75,000 women worldwide each year who don't get to go home with their babies or significant others. We walk in honor of all of the babies born too soon who spend days, weeks, months, away from their parents in NICU's. And for those who don't survive the NICU. This year, Joe, Luke, and I will walk.

If you would like to join us or help support the PreE foundation,  (Walk is $20 for adults, $10 for children, includes shirt. Saturday, May 12th, at Millennium Park in Creve Coeur, MO), you can register to join our team or donate here:  http://www.promisewalk.org/pfpw/teampage.asp?fundid=1741&nnaffundid=49  (team name is Brooks, the link to the registration page is in the center of the page below the picture and main page description ).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When you lose a child (repost from Franchesca)

Many of you have probably already read this, but Franchesca (the babylossmom who made my blog pretty) describes it so well, I thought it was worth reposting here with her permission. (Go see her amazing blog and photography and artwork here: http://smallbirdstudios.com/2012/02/05/when-you-lose-a-baby/

When You Lose a Baby

You don’t know what to expect.
People surround you. For a couple of weeks. Making sure you are not going to kill yourself, refuse to get out of bed, or start rocking a baby doll like the crazy lady they heard about from a friend.
You get lots of sympathy cards, clearly written and designed to be sent to console a daughter losing her father. Not the other way around.
You get free baby formula in the mail. For months and months and months.
And free baby magazines. And free baby coupons.
You secretly envy every pregnant woman. But not without a tinge of guilt, because you know all too well that she might be one in four- expecting her rainbow child.
It seems like the whole world is expecting a baby.
You have baby stuff around your home. Because you never imagined you wouldn’t need it.
You feel jarred. In the grocery store. At a birthday party. At the dinner table. At Christmas. Driving.
The baby you never knew, but lost changes every part of your life. Every. single. part.
You see baby clothes and it brings tears to your eyes.
You get sick and tired of crying. You never knew it was possible to cry this much.
You find yourself angry at God. Angry at yourself. Just angry.
You sware you can feel them kick but they’re gone. They call them phantom kicks. I call them painful, all kinds of painful. But sweet too.
You know, or you have a strong feeling of knowing what your child would have looked like, and been like. You see a child in the store, or on the street. Their hair color, dimples, smile, their personality and suddenly you are reminded of your child. You miss your child even more, if that’s even possible.
Your Babies R’ Us Registry is still active. There is no delete button on their site. The babies r’ us people don’t make a dime on people like us. Why bother right? You have to call them, plead with them to remove your freaking’ registry, because there will be no baby shower. There is an awkward silence. There is sadness. There will be no baby.
You get hospital bills about 3-4 months after you buried your child. You have to pay for the baby you delivered but didn’t bring home.
You find that moment of happiness in life for the first time, but the guilt swallows it up almost immediately.
You remember the size of the casket. The size of the plot. The face of the funeral director. The expression of those that attended the funeral. The feeling of raw pain, like your chest has literally been ripped open.
Somehow you convince yourself that you deserve happiness. Because you really do. But in the happiest, purest moment, there is still that hole that only they were meant to fill.
People compare your pain to their own pain. The loss of their grandmother, husband, their failed marriage, rebellious teenagers. Somehow this comparing leaves you stranded. If they can compare their pain of a situation to the loss of your BABY, they will likely never get it. Babies are not supposed to die. End of story.
You lost a dream. And it almost feels like you imagined their entire existence up. Their name becomes a distant memory on the lips of others.
There is awkwardness when you talk about your child in a crowd. No one knows whether to cry, walk away or pretend you never brought him or her up.
You lose friends. You find new ones.
You can’t believe that women have actually survived this and you never knew about it. Not really, anyway.
You would do anything for another minute with your child.
You cry when others bring up your child, not so much because it hurts but more so because it such a precious and rare gift.
You long for the rewind button, even after many many instances of acceptance.
You want to know what went wrong, and why…
You find a new appreciation for moments in life that make you laugh… you laugh harder and love stronger.
You know that you can die bitter, or die thankful. There is no in between.
You never ever, EVER get over your child. The one you hoped for, prayed for, carried and loved for the weeks and months they were with you.
You learn to live with the pain.
You are better for having known them at all.

I can't top anything she already wrote, so that's all for today.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This and that

Everything has been pretty chaotic lately which does not leave much time for sleeping, let alone blogging, but I will try to get a post done before Luke notices me on the laptop and makes his way over to "help" me type. So bullet point update it is.

- This deserves a separate post, which I might do later. One of my friends and fellow babyloss mom's lost her husband (who I was also friends with though I didn't know him as well as her) about a week and a half ago. No one should have to bury their daughter and then their husband within 6 months. A lot of us are still reeling from this while also trying to help as much as we can. It just sucks. They have been on my mind all the time and she is probably sick of me texting her 3 times a day. I know that like babyloss, this can't be fixed or made better, but oh, how I wish I could.

- Olivia's due date was the 23rd. It's still a very bittersweet, mostly bitter and not very sweet, day for me. Oh, what could have been. I can't say how many times we end up in a group of several or many boys, babies and older kids, with no girls or one girl. Ironically, a lot of my local babyloss friends have lost girls, so the absence of girls makes her and their absence even more glaring.

-Luke is all over and into everything, all the time! He still loves dog food though we are getting better at keeping him away from it. He had pizza for the first time the other day and LOVED it. He is cruising everywhere and it probably won't be long before he's walking, though I really hope he takes his time with it. We are not encouraging walking AT ALL. He has two bottom teeth and one upper tooth that just finally became visible and another upper tooth coming soon. He is not good at sleeping, either naps or bedtime lately. He is talking more and more and seems to be getting more comfortable around strangers. We had his 9 month pictures last week and his 9 month well baby visit, all is well. He was much harder to get pictures of this time around then he was at 6 months, he'd stay somewhere for a few minutes so she could get a few pictures, then decide he'd had enough and start crawling away. I am excited to see the pictures though. I can't believe I need to start thinking about his first birthday soon. Oy.

-School is okay. So far, I have all A's, but it's only the 3rd week. I have two teachers who aren't very good at teaching. (I had to argue that cc is not an abbreviation for milliliter. Really? Poor Brooke had to hear all about this and approve my argument.--Yes, I know that they are the same volume, but the question was specifically the abbreviation for a milliliter, thus cc is not correct since it is the abbreviation for cubic centimeter.)  My third teacher is awesome (and makes the class easy.)

-Volunteering is okay. It's either really slow or really busy, and not much in between. I don't really mind it, but being gone 4 nights a week plus having to do stuff for an online class is hectic, so I will be glad when volunteering is done. (2 months done, 2.5 months to go.)

I think this is all for now.