RACHAEL HOUSER » photography for couples & families

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I did all my cooking (two pies, no big deal) last night so that Neil and I could eat Thanksgiving breakfast at Cracker Barrel this morning with his family. It will be a relaxed, light (for us anyway) meal so it won’t overshadow our real Thanksgiving dinner that we’ll have with Neil’s family on Sunday. Every year since before I can remember, and probably until she passes the torch over to me, my mom has hosted Thanksgiving dinner at her house around noon on Thanksgiving Day. Lunch today will be no different and I love the stability in that.

I pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your friends, your family, or whoever you have to be with today. If you’re working, I pray the day goes smoothly for you and that someone at least saves you a piece of whatever pie you like. And for all those service men and women away from home defending our country, I pray that you remember that while those at home might be eating without you, you are the only thing on their minds and they are missing you terribly and loving you fiercely.

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Saturday was my dad’s 61st birthday! Happy birthday daddy! He’s not big into celebrating so he and Neil spent most of the day working at his hunting farm but later that evening, he, my mom, Neil, and myself all went to see Interstellar. Neil and I had been waiting for it to come out in theaters, but when my dad mentioned seeing it too, we thought that might be a perfect birthday outing! I don’t want to give any spoilers but it blew my mind, in a good way I think?

Saturday, while dad and Neil were working at the hunting farm, in preparation for tomorrow’s opening season of duck hunting, I was spending my afternoon photographing a Frozen Event!

My dear friend Jenna owns a lovely boutique in our hometown, Sew Southern Designs, selling women’s and children’s clothing and nicknacks for the home. OH and she sews and embroiders anything and everything in her store! She has three young children of her own and after going to a birthday party where the characters Elsa, Anna, and Olaf from Disney’s Frozen were in attendance, she knew what her store’s next big event had to be: A Frozen Event!

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I worked with her last spring, doing Easter mini sessions in her first store, and was delighted to work with her again in her new and bigger store! She had created a portrait backdrop in a corner of her store for the portraits with the characters, but the rest of the store was fair game for the other activities she had planned for the children. Four separate groupings of children, ranging from 12-20 kids in each, arrived at their appointed times and the fun began!

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As the children arrived, they were instructed to start coloring their Frozen coloring page that they would later have Elsa, Anna, and Olaf sign. Then Anna and Olaf appeared, welcomed the group, and directed them the area near the portrait backdrop. She sang the beginning of her first song in the movie: Do You Want to Build a Snowman? to Elsa, who was behind a nearby door. After the first verse, when Elsa didn’t come out, Anna encouraged the children to help her sing LOUDER to coax her out. And so they sang the second verse and what do you know, here came Elsa! Excitement grew when Elsa asked the group to sing Let It Go with her! The children’s little voices just warmed my heart, and I couldn’t help but sing along!

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After the singing, it was time for the characters to sign the coloring pages, and whatever else the children brought to be signed, and for portraits. It was such a wonderful, adorable day! I look forward to Sew Southern Designs’ next Frozen Event in January!

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Kortney might look familiar to you, and she should – she’s the fashion blogger I’ve been working with for a half year now! She also happens to be my sister-in-law’s younger sister so when Harrison called to say he was going to propose, and wanted me there to capture the moment, I couldn’t say no!

Kortney and I had already planned for a fall session but suddenly, the weather turned into winter and we weren’t sure if we would shoot. It was calling for rain that afternoon and snow that evening but Harrison was determined to proposal that afternoon and therefore, I was determined to shoot. Kortney was game either way so I text her – it might be 34 degrees and drizzling but we can still shoot!

The plan was to shoot a few poses of Kortney & Harrison together for their Christmas card and then shoot a few poses of just Kortney for her blog. The surprise Harrison and I came up with was at the very end Harrison would move back in on bended knee. The following images depict what happened after…

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She said YES!!!

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And Harrison did gooooooddd!

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Happy 21 weeks to me! I’m officially in my second half of this pregnancy and boy does it feel good! One of the things tell say about the second trimester is that you start feeling more like yourself again, and I am so thankful for that! You can ask Neil, there were times were I would say that I didn’t think I’d ever feel “good” again. Lately, I’ve been feeling better than good!

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For whatever reason (probably because I was tired and or lazy) I didn’t do a great job of documenting the rest of my IVF experience, but I remember it like it was yesterday!

Where I left off from last Monday’s post, I had just been told that the embryo transfer was planned for Monday, July 21st. Saturday, the 19th, I shot a wedding. Sunday was spent at church or at the church family picnic and doing laundry. Monday morning, Neil & I left extra early and grabbed breakfast before heading to Nashville. We didn’t have to wait long before they took s back to the procedure area. I was instructed to drink 16 oz of water on the drive down and another 16 oz while I waited at the office. However, we didn’t wait long and therefore, apparently I didn’t have a full enough bladder for them to see via ultrasound to do the procedure so I waited for a spell in the procedure room. They gave me a valium, which I told them probably wouldn’t work on me (it was a lower dose than the dose that I took for Meniere’s spells and I never felt those), and started about 10 minutes later. Neil was allowed in the room with me so he witnessed it all. It only took about 10 minutes and then there was two embryos floating around in my extremely tilted uterus! We were given a print out of the two embryos under a microscope before they were implanted and then an ultrasound of them in their new home after implantation. So cool! Once I was in the car, the four day bed rest began. When we got home, Neil set me up in the living room with pretty much everything I would ever need and headed to work. Monday night, the clinic called to tell me my progesterone level was a little lower than they would like and instructed me to start an addition pill 3 times a day. That night my mom came over and Neil was off work Tuesday and Wednesday so I was hardly ever alone. Which was good because, BOY bed rest is not fun!

I completed my 4 1/2 day bed rest after they implanted the two embryos – there wasn’t much pain during that time, just a whole lot of boredom. My mother-in-law Terri, saint that she is!, came over every night to give me my shot in the hip (the same one I’d been taking) and I continued to take my progesterone via vagina insert (yea, sorry) and oral pills. I worked at the hospital the following Monday and Tuesday but, by Dr.’s orders, had to take it extremely easy.

I had done a ton of research and, because my trigger shot was Lurpon acetate based and not HCG based, I knew if I took a home pregnancy test on that Monday, that they chance of it being a false positive was very slim. I also knew that if it was negative, then possibly my HCG level just wasn’t high enough to be detected by a urine test yet. So, the Monday following my bed rest, July 28th, I took one at home pregnancy test. Then a second one, just to be safe. Then a third because when you’ve taken SOOOOO many before and always seeing a negative, you tend to not believe it when it reads positive! I fully intended on not saying anything to Neil because I didn’t want to get his hopes up in that slight off chance that all three were incorrect.

But I just couldn’t wait two more days to find out via our blood test at the clinic! He was excited, of course! We were driving in the car when I told him so we could do so much dancing, and we decided that we’d really get excited when the blood test also read positive.

Tuesday I had some light cramping and later that night, some light spotting. The nurse in me knew that was normal but the first time pregnant lady in me was scared. The next morning, Wednesday, I was nervous on the drive down to Nashville. Neil had to work that morning so my mom came with me. I knew we wouldn’t find out at the appointment – but later that afternoon, just like always, they’d call a few hours after the blood draw. Normally, we’d eat lunch in Nashville before returning home but I knew that Neil would be waiting for us and I was more than ready to get home in hope that they’d call earlier than the normal time: 3:00pm. I sure am glad we didn’t dilly dally getting home! Mom, Neil, and myself were only home for a half hour before I got the call – not only was my HCG level high enough, they were pretty sure that both embryos took. Yup! Twins!

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Picking up from last week’s post, more journal entries! This week is missing Friday and Saturday’s entry because apparently, I didn’t write in my journal those nights.

IVF, Week 2, The Egg Retrieval:

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July 13th: I woke up very early this morning for another Nashville appointment – a blood draw and ultrasound. The ultrasound technician felt certain Dr. V would trigger me (to ovulate) soon! I waited anxiously for Dr. V to call me tonight with further instructions but when he did call, it wasn’t to trigger me… just to keep my injection dosage the same and remind me come back in the morning.

July 14th: I drove to Nashville again this morning by myself. Another blood draw and ultrasound. The ultrasound technician said she was sure Dr. V would trigger me last night and was surprised to see me on her schedule for today. Which excited me! – that made me think that the day after being trigger would be a day without driving to Nashville, a day without getting stabbed in the arm for a blood draw – but found out that wasn’t the case. This evening, when my case manager called, she told me to take the trigger shot tonight but also told me to come in for another blood draw in the morning. When my case manager called to tell me to take the trigger shot, we were on our way to have dinner with friends and was told to immediately turn around to go back to our house so I could give myself the trigger shot. We packed our bags for Nashville to leave early tomorrow morning for a blood draw and the egg retrieval Wednesday… progress!

July 15th: Neil & I woke up early and drove to Nashville for my last blood draw before they retrieve me eggs! No ultrasound today so the appointment was short and we essentially had all day in Nashville, with nothing to do. To pass the time, we did a little shopping at the Opry Mills Mall and are now staying the night at their hotel – which is huge and lovely!

July 16th: We woke up and got to the clinic early and thankfully, they took me back right away. While I changed and signed consents, Neil took care of his “part” for the egg retrieval, and they took me back to the procedure room and started my IV. I spent more time waiting than the actual egg retrieval took but I guess that’s normal. I remember looking at the clock when the Dr. and team walked in – 10:15am – and they immediately started the sedation and I was out. When I awoke, only 30 minutes had passed. I passed out again and woke up again and another 30 minutes had passed, but I was in recovery and they were bringing Neil back to see me. When I was sitting up and more than just half awake, they told us they retrieved 33 eggs! They seemed very impressed with that amount so of course I was too! They released us and we drove home. The pain had already started and the rest of the day was spent being very sore and on bed rest, sleeping off and on.

July 17th: I was on bed rest until around noon today so I just slept in bed. I’m still very uncomfortable but slowly getting better. My case manager called sometime after lunch to give me my numbers – 33 eggs were retrieved, 26 of those were fully mature, and they were able to fertilize 18 of those eggs! So exciting!! But what is more exciting is that they’ll perform the transfer Monday morning!! The icing on the cake is that I’ll be able to shoot this Saturday’s wedding! After dinner we stopped by Neil’s mom’s for the first of no telling how many nightly injections in the hips of the new medication cocktail. It’s suppose to hurt but it didn’t at all! I guess the real test will be if it’s sore tomorrow.

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