Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Look Back at Our 2017

2017, our year of *Hope & Hearts*

2017 has been quite a year for our PB&J family. We've experienced love, laughter, happy and sad tears and found the meaning of what means the most to us: *Hope & Hearts*

A Painful Start to our 2017
The new year always signals a brand new chapter in our lives. The start of 2017 marked a turning point for our family that we'd never forget: the loss of our angel son. It was within the first week of 2017 that we went through our darkest of days when we learned that our son's heart had stopped at 21 weeks pregnant. He was diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect and it proved to be too great for our angel. The beginning of 2017 marked so much sadness. Losing a child is something no one should ever have to face. We were broken, but through the love and support of our family and loved ones, we remained hopeful for a bright future ahead. In our lowest points, we constantly reminded ourselves that there was a bigger plan for our little family and to forever keep *Hope & Hearts* alive that we'd find our smiles, happiness and hopefully a little miracle baby on the horizon. 
Read about our angel son HERE

Live, Laugh, Learn to be Happy Again
After the devastating loss of our angel son, we picked up the broken pieces of our hearts and tried the best we could to heal and move forward with our lives. One piece of advice that our doctor gave us was to "live, laugh, travel the world, find reasons to be happy again". So that's exactly what we did, find all the ways to be happy again.

What was supposed to be our "babymoon" ended up becoming our "healing trip" to Japan. Japan is forever one of our happy places and it proved to be the perfect remedy to heal our hearts. We found solace in the beauty of Kyoto and magic at our favorite Tokyo Disney Resort!

We decided to fill our lives with as much happiness as we could and continued to fill our year with magical trips to Disney, spending time with our loved ones and even a trip to Spain with my family!
PB&J loves Barcelona, Spain!
Read about our Tokyo travels HERE

Love and Light from the Most Unexpected of Places 
Social media is one of those things that people either love or hate. I fall into the first group of people. It was through social media and the amazing online community of Instagram that I found so much love, light and support during our healing journey after the loss of our son. What started out as a place for me to share my Disney geekery eventually turned into a place of so much love and support. It was through the amazing online community that I was able to hear stories from other incredible fellow angel moms, stories of hope, stories of love, stories of strength. It was overwhelming to receive so much light from strangers who quickly turned into good friends and sources of support. I'm forever thankful for the Instagram community for helping us through our most painful of days.

Finding Rainbows
By the most incredible twist of fate, during some of our hardest days mourning our angel son's due date in May, we found a miracle. We found out we were pregnant again with our rainbow. Not only were we blessed with this little bundle of joy, but we also found out that it was another little boy and he'd be due around the same time that we ended up losing his angel brother in January. It floored us to realize that we were coming full circle, that our angel son above was looking out for our family and helped bless us with our rainbow baby! Our family happily ever after was finally coming together!

Read about our rainbow journey HERE

Weathering Storms
Most recently, we ran into a few bumps in the road to our family happily ever after. Through a crazy series of events medically, a routine eye check up turned into an emergency brain MRI on my part. What happened next became the most stressful times for us in 2017, right next to losing our angel son. We found it ironic that we came into 2017 dealing with something so serious, that it was only natural to end 2017 the same way we came into the year. Thankfully, after finally consulting with our team of doctor's and a neurosurgeon, we were given hope in regards to the future. Whatever they initially found via my brain MRI may not be as serious as initially diagnosed. We aren't in the clear yet and I'll have to do a few follow up tests in the months after the baby is born, but thankfully we're pointed in a positive direction for the future!
Read about our recent medical hiccups HERE

Good-Bye 2017, Hello 2018
You can definitely say that our 2017 has been one for our PB&J adventure book! Our year has been filled with highs, lows and everything and anything in between. Despite the challenges and pain that 2017 has brought us, the one thing that we're always thankful for is the *Hope & Hearts* we hold at he end of each day. We knew that no matter how hard the days may be, as long as we kept hope alive, there will always be brighter days ahead. Now here we are at the end of 2017, ready for the newest chapter of our lives with the birth of our rainbow baby, our little miracle, and for all the adventures, love and hearts that await us in 2018! ๐Ÿ’œ







Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

From our little PB&J family to yours... 


Wishing you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and the happiest holidays, ever!

Thank you for always being such a light in our lives by following along on our adventures on here. Here's to the warmest wishes and a bright new year ahead! ๐Ÿ’œ

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Weathering Storms and Finding Rainbows (Again)

They say the brightest rainbows come after the strongest of storms.


Our rainbow journey is a true testament to this statement. The beginning of 2017 found ourselves dealing with the loss of our angel son. Mid 2017 we then found a rainbow with our little miracle on the way. To say that we experienced some of the lowest lows and highest highs of our lives during 2017 is an understatement. For each one of these moments though, we are thankful. Our journey has shown us how much love their is in the world, that no matter what there is always HOPE.

This couldn't have been true enough during some recent events during our journey. Just when we thought our rainbow journey to our family happily ever after was finally coming to a close with the birth of our son, we were hit with some unexpected news....

From the Beginning
Where to start? Let's rewind to 17 years ago. I was a 17yr old high school student, just trying to get through my junior year when a routine eye doctor appointment ran into a hiccup. My eye doctor noticed I had what she called "something abnormal" looking on my left retina. She sent me to a specialist who ran a few tests and found that I had something called "Retinal Telangiectasia" an abnormal formation of blood vessels on my retina. Being so naive back then I just brushed it off. I had absolutely no symptoms of discomfort and the doctor just assumed it was a congenital abnormality, meaning that it was probably something I was born with and probably wouldn't cause any issues since I had already gone 17 years without anything bothering me.

Flash forward 17 years later, now 34 and pregnant. I was referred to a new retina specialist since it had been over a decade since my last follow up on my eye condition. My new doctor grew concerned once he noticed I was pregnant and after a routine follow up appointment, I got a frantic phone call suggesting that I should go and get an MRI of my BRAIN! What?!

They Found Something...
As you can probably imagine, at 35 weeks pregnant, the last thing you want to hear from your eye doctor is "you should get a brain MRI". I was so confused, but my doctor proceeded to tell me that my retina condition, this seemingly innocent condition that had never caused me any issues for over 3 decades... could be connected to cerebral brain issues, mainly in the vascular systems. It meant that there was a risk, a slight one, but still a risk that my eye condition could be connected to other abnormal blood vessels in my brain. So after discussion with my OB (baby doctor) they all agreed it would be good to just do an MRI to be 100% sure that labor and delivery complications wouldn't arise if I did have something.

So on 12/6, literally one month before my due date I went in for my very first MRI. One of the questions they ask you before your appointment is "are you claustrophobic?". Let me tell you, you never know exactly how claustrophobic you can be until you get put into an MRI. It's basically a large magnet scan with a little tunnel that you're slid into and you have to lay completely still while the machine produces loud noises to scan your body. Since I was doing a MRI scan of my head, they also added in a fun plastic cage over my head to make sure I was as still as possible. Let's just say that doing an MRI for the first time, while 35 weeks pregnant is not the greatest thing in the world. I had a few moments of minor freak outs during the 25 minute session, but thankfully the scans were over before a complete meltdown occurred!

So we left and not even an hour after the scan I got the phone call you never want to get. I got the call that they did in fact find something in my head. They called it a "grade 1 Arteriovenous Malformation" or AVM. What is an AVM? It's basically an abnormal formation of blood vessels in the brain, usually involving arteries and connecting vessels. You can find out more information about them HERE. It is a super rare disease, affecting less than 1% of the general population. Most people don't event find out about having an AVM until it's too late and they experience a brain hemorrhage or stroke. As you can imagine, my world literally crashed down on me after finding out that I had what they affectionately call "a ticking time bomb" in my head.

My first thoughts were for my baby, my beautiful son to be and not knowing if his mommy would be able to watch him grow up or if I'd have to worry about major brain bleeding at any given time. One of the worst things that happen when you have a medical scare is the internet. I probably read through every single medical journal, article, site about AVM's and with each new discovery came a new wave of fear and anxiety.

After the MRI results were released to my other doctors, I got another call, this time from my OB. Since AVM's are so rare, she hadn't even heard of what they were. After some phone calls to other doctors, they realized that whatever was going on with my eye and brain could now also be connected to another rare disease (it just gets better and better right?) called "Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia" or HHT. HHT affects blood vessels of the body, so basically, the assumption is that if I have these funky blood vessels in my eye, now my brain,  and IF they're connected to HHT, they could be EVERYWHERE in my body, mainly my in my lungs, liver or stomach.

As you can imagine, going from being told I had a possible AVM in my brain in the morning, then a few hours later being told I could potentially have them all over my internal organs sent me into a tailspin. I thank God that my mother in law was over with me when I got the phone call and she was there to help console me. My parents were visiting my sister in LA at the time, so they immediately FaceTimed to comfort me and Peter miraculously walking in the door a few minutes later felt like the best group hug from my loved ones in what was one of the lowest points in my personal life.
They helped me through it all! 

Anxiety and Fear
Let's just say that the next week and few days after my initial diagnosis were some of the darkest times of my life, basically right up there with the loss of our angel son. It felt like life had come back and slapped our dreams of a family happily ever after out of our hearts. We were all crushed at knowing that we had to struggle through yet another set back.

There was a flurry of doctor's appointments that occurred, mainly to plan out how to keep me and baby as safe as possible for the remainder of my pregnancy and birth. The biggest concern is that all of these newly discovery vascular abnormalities and potential HHT diagnosis could mean some serious complications for me. Pregnancy does a number on your body. Your blood volume changes and your body pretty much works overtime in your late 2nd and 3rd trimester. So the concern was that I could rupture one a blood vessel, potentially hemorrhage and have major complications. My pregnancy went to from being a miracle to now being high risk.

A week after my first MRI, I went in for a second scan called an MR Angiogram or MRA. It's basically the same thing as an MRI, but much more tolerable since it's less time, thankfully, since it takes a scan of the blood vessels of the brain instead of the whole structure. We anxiously awaited those results since they were searching for any evidence of a potential aneurysm. What we didn't expect was some interesting MRA results.

Conflicting News and Neurosurgeons
During another doctor's visit the next day, my MRA results arrived and basically said that the radiologist who reviewed my scans couldn't see any evidence of aneurysm (yay!) and now here's the kicker... no obvious signs of the AVM!! My primary physician, PB and I were shocked and didn't know what it all really meant. Did I have an AVM and HHT? Or not? The only answers to these questions could come from a neurosurgeon since they're the only ones who could really tell me what going on. So the waiting game began. We saw it as a 50/50 chance at really good news or really bad news.

Literally 14 days after this whole nightmare began, we finally met with a neurosurgeon. There was so much fear going into the appointment. This is the person who would point us into the direction we needed to go into, pretty much answering all of the questions that had been consuming our minds the past two weeks.

Breathe, Just Breathe
The first words out of our neurosurgeon's mouth when we walked into his office were "breathe, just breathe". He sat us down and was absolutely kind, I think he could feel our nerves all the way out in the waiting room. We carefully went over all of my scans together and eventually said "I don't even think this could be a true AVM". He mentioned that there was something found on the scans, meaning that there is something there, but it could be what he called "a venous anomaly" or just an abnormal dilated vein which could be due to me being pregnant or just something that is there and that hasn't caused any problems and may never cause any issues.

We won't know for sure what exactly is going on until after our little rainbow has arrived... is what I have an AVM? is it just a weird vein?...  I'll have to do something called a cerebral angiogram, they put a catheter into one of my arteries, thred it through my body, then inject a dye to get a clearer picture of what my blood vessels are doing exactly. But after speaking with the neurosurgeon, he seemed more than optimistic that the outlook was good. We definitely felt so much better after speaking with him and knowing that he wasn't too concerned with what's going on and that our main priority right now is just having a healthy and happy baby!


Never Underestimate the Power of Love
One thing that I truly believe helped us during this time were the prayers, love and light that the wonderful online community has sent our way during these tough times. I debated whether or not to share our medical complications with everyone. But the more I kept what was going on to myself, the more it made me feel alone. It became hard to put on a happy face when there was so much going on inside. After sharing our struggles with our family and some close loved ones, I noticed I felt better. So when I went public with what was going on, I was overwhelmed with all of the support and prayers everyone sent. It's never easy to let everyone know that there is something wrong, but in this case, I'm so thankful that I did share. I wholeheartedly believe that it was through the amazing prayers and hope everyone sent to us that we were able to get some good news about my condition. We can't thank you all enough for the *hope & hearts* sent out way! It shows that you really can't underestimate the good in the world, that love can help conquer even the darkest of moments.

So what's next for our PB&J rainbow journey? Well because nothing is 100% ruled out, we are still considered "high risk". Our doctor's are all aware of any potential complications that may arise, so I'm being monitored everyday, blood pressure checks 3x daily at home and I'm pretty much not to be alone until baby arrives, but hey, it could be worse right? We're also on track for a scheduled C-Section to prevent any strains of labor, so on the bright side, we have a potential due date for Baby PB&J!

We just ask everyone to continue to please send good thoughts and prayers our way for the reminder of this pregnancy, our C-Section and for everything left to come in the future! We know we're not 100% out of the woods yet, but we're thankful to be heading into a positive direction.

Thank you, every single one of you who sent your light, love and prayers our way! You have no idea how much this has meant to us! Here's to the brightest end to this rainbow journey and to our family happily ever after very soon! ๐Ÿ’œ๐ŸŒˆ

*Rainbow Maternity Photoshoot by the incredible White Rabbit Photo Boutique




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Our PB&J "Babymoon"

Rainbows, holiday magic and a magical Disney "Babymoon"...


What exactly is a "Babymoon"? It's a trip taken by parent's to be as their last duo "hurrah" before their bundle of joy joins them. PB and I love to travel, but in lieu of an exotic getaway or crazy travel adventure this time around we chose to celebrate with our closest loved ones with a "love & rainbows" celebration at Disney's 21 Royal a few months back. We knew we still wanted to do one more getaway to celebrate the upcoming arrival of Baby PB&J, so we decided to keep it simple (and magical) with a trip to the happiest place on Earth!

A Porsche Pit Stop!
PB loves Porsches. No really, his Porsche geekdom is much like my Disney geekdom. So when we decided to make our trip down and realized it coincided with the Porsche Experience LA's 1 year anniversary, we stopped by for some car fun! There was even a special appearance by a real life Sally from Pixar Cars!

Run, PB, Run!
Our babymoon trip was also the same weekend as the last RunDisney race at Disneyland, the Superheroes half! PB had pretty much caught the half marathon run bug after the Disneyland Half weekend a few months back and when he realized that this run would be the last event at Disneyland, he knew he had to sign up! Despite it being a last minute entry, literally 2 weeks before, he did amazing! He beat his past half marathon timing by 30 minutes. In fact, he was so fast, baby PB&J and I totally missed him crossing the finish line, lol. We're so proud of you, PB!
Holiday Wishes and Magic
Last but not least, our babymoon wouldn't have been complete without some Disney time! I love the holidays at the parks. Everything from the festive decor, the seasonal treats and ride overlays bring about so many warm and fuzzy feels.

We can't wait to bring our little Peanut here next year!
Love all of the festive decor, especially around Toontown!

Can't forget about all the yummy Disney holiday treats!
These gingerbread krispies were adorable and tasty, too!
Noms! Frozen hot chocolate and a mint whoopie pie were the perfect holiday combo!

Nothing is more magical than Disneyland's holiday fireworks! It's my absolute favorite, especially when the snow falls to "White Christmas" at the end. It brings back so many happy memories and we can't wait to experience it with our little one next year!
The snowfall, although barely visible in the photo, was falling all around! So beautiful!
Nothing is more magical than this holiday castle all lit up!
It's a Small World Holiday and all of it's festive cheeriness.
And Next Time There Will be Three!
A little surreal to know that the next time we take family photos like this, our little miracle will be with us!

And that's a wrap for our PB&J babymoon recap! It was short, but sweet and magical trip to our happiest place on Earth. We can't wait to be back for future holiday celebrations with our son and get to live out so many more happy moments together! Thank you so much for reading along ๐Ÿ’œ
Can't wait for you to complete our happily ever after!












Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rainbows, Disney and a whole lot of Love: Our PB&J Baby Shower!

We're officially one month away from our projected due date with our little rainbow! ๐ŸŒˆ

We can't believe that we're so close to meeting Baby PB&J! We've cherished every moment we've had during this pregnancy and we're so incredibly thankful the love and support we've been surrounded by our family and loved ones!

A day filled with love & rainbows
We were recently "showered" with so much love for our PB&J baby shower! Our incredible loved ones created the most magical day for us. The theme of the shower revolved around some of my favorite things: Rainbows, Disney and "It's a Small World". It was perfect and we're so thankful for the creativity, love and heart put into the shower.

Team Baby PB&J surprised us with rainbows and tablescapes with hints of my favorite "It's a Small World" details on each table!

The most adorable "It's a Small World" inspired guestbook that my sister found for the shower!

Our favors were PB&J chocolate bars! Each bar was wrapped with a special logo that my dear friend and amazingly talented designer extraordinaire Alison Kim. Alison is not only one of my closest friends since middle school, but she was also our designer for our original PB&J wedding logos from years ago. Our hearts were overflowing with so much thanks and love for her talents in making our updated logo for our shower!

Photo Booth Fun! Alison and another one of my longtime and dearest friends, Joyce dreamed up the most adorable photo booth! A backdrop of rainbows and Disney props!

More beautiful moments captured during the shower!
Double baby bumps! Loved the hilarious shower games
My amazing family!
This cake is everything! It's a caramel and chiffon cake that reminds me of my grandmother's homemade cakes when I was a child. It's literally the best cake ever!

Thankful for all the love!
It was such a beautiful day and we're so thankful to have been surrounded by all of our loved ones, family and friends! We were so busy soaking in the love that we weren't able to take as many detail shots of everything, but I hope you enjoyed the little glimpse into our happy day celebrating our PB&J rainbow on the way! Until next time, thank you for reading along ๐Ÿ’œ






© Our PB&J Adventure Book
Maira Gall