Monday, December 24, 2012

A December to remember


I know December to remember sounds so cliche, so trite -- but that's all I can think of that really sums up this month. December for me is about remembering.

Remembering Christ's birth. Remembering the brief -- but so important -- life of Olivia. Remembering the birth of my precious Madelyn. Remembering the pain of my loss last year. Remembering Christmases with my late grandma. Remembering the baby I should be pregnant with right now. Remembering life before 2012.

And so this month is full of memories and anniversaries.

A few things of significance this month:


We got a call for our very first foster care placement a few weeks ago.  You may have seen my FB posts asking for prayer. Well, this was the reason why.

I got a call from our social worker while I was Christmas shopping. There was a sweet, healthy little girl born the day before. She needed long-term foster parents who would interested in adopting. Would we be interested in being those parents? HECK YES!!!

It's hard to describe the excitement and sheer terror that goes along with trying to get ready for a newborn who could be placed in your home THAT DAY. Ryan and I rushed out to get our vaccines, then got formula and diapers. I tried to contact family. OH, and I was hosting a party at my house that night so I had to get everything clean and ready for that. My family was so excited, even as we knew we still might not be chosen as the family.

I was texting back and forth with our social worker all day, making sure she had all the info she needed, and we were doing what we were supposed to be doing to get ready. She was up front that we were the only family chosen by our agency, but that other agencies were now putting forth prospective families as well for this little girl. She said that we would know for sure the next day.

A friend stayed after the party to help me sort and launder newborn clothes. She left and I folded clothes, packed the diaper bag and got as much ready as I possibly could.

Newborn and preemie clothes, ready to go.

The "go home" outfit I had picked out. 

Grief hit me as I was picking out a go-away outfit. I so wished I had had the chance to do this for Olivia. I wondered if this was our last day as a family of 3. I wondered what she looked like. What I would feel like with her in my arms? With every thought of excitement and joy, I reminded my heart that this wasn't for sure.

My heart was constantly praying. Praying for this precious little girl. Praying for her mom, as they would be separated. Praying for her new family -- hoping all along it would be us.

I don't know that I can describe what it's like going to bed knowing that there is a very good chance you will have a newborn daughter tomorrow -- but that there is still a chance that tomorrow will go just like every other day. How do you even emotionally deal with that? Hope and fear coexisting in your heart. Giving entirely into hope doesn't feel right -- but neither does giving into fear.

So I don't think I did a very good job of balancing those emotions. I got 2 hours of sleep and was completely sick to my stomach the whole night up until we got the call.

My nerves were on edge, I was restless and every call or text made me jump or cuss under my breath. I hate to say it -- but it's true. My sister called while I was taking a shower, and I cussed out loud, hair full of shampoo, and ran out of the shower to answer the call. But -- seeing as it was just my sister -- I hopped back in the hot water and ignored the call, irritated really that it wasn't our social worker.

Finally, as I held the phone in my hand literally at that moment asking God to "PLEASE just let them call!" our social workers' name popped up on the screen.

She called to let us know another family was chosen for this baby.

And there it was. Nothing left to do. All excitement, hope, planning . . . it all seemed wasted and pointless. I felt gutted, even as I did the very best I could at preparing for this call. I cried, a lot. And sadly let everyone know the news. And I grieved. It wasn't a death -- but it felt like a loss. I wondered why. I still do.

I put everything away right away. Although I didn't unpack the diaper bag. I just stowed it away. I guess it's my little bit of rebellion and stubbornness that we WILL have a reason to bring a baby home someday.

I later called the social worker to find out why. And to find out if this situation was normal. After all, in all our training, I was never told we might get a call for a placement, but then be passed up in favor of another family.

She said she didn't know why. But that she was both shocked and very disappointed when she heard the news herself. She said sometimes the worker will chose one family over the other just because one family might live a little closer to where the visitation would be.  She had been talking with the person who made the decision quite a bit the day before, and believed that we were going to be chosen as the foster family. I think the news was hard on all of us.

She also said that in cases where a healthy infant is involved we should expect this kind of roller coaster. That there will be times we will prepare our home, but not get the placement. In a very weird kind of way, it's like buying a house and hoping you have the best bid. Except this is a human being, and you are just hoping you are the "best" family for this little one.

It all seems very strange.

People have said very well-meaning things, but I have to say, it doesn't really help. I have no way of knowing if God was "sparing" me from some worse pain of losing her 2 years later. This year has taught me enough to know that God doesn't always share His plan, and it doesn't always make sense to us. Nor is His best interest always sparing us from things.

I can't say I take much comfort in God's plan -- because frankly -- I don't like it. But I do take comfort in His character as that's the best I can do.

I still pray for that baby. And maybe that's just my purpose in finding out about her. To  pray for her as though she were my own -- while knowing some other family will love her like their own.

A crib I hoped would be full this Christmas.
Instead, it's been empty in Maddy's room for over a year and a half.

We had a candlelight memorial service for our babies (and the babies lost to the women in our pregnancy loss support group.)

It was beautiful service and I so appreciated the donations and volunteer time it took to get it going. Many of you don't know, but I'm an assistant in our group now, and so this was my first big event helping out.

It was nice to have our family there -- to publicly acknowledge my children's lives and grieve together. We haven't had a chance to do that, and it was very meaningful to me.

December 20 was the 1-year anniversary of our loss of Olivia.

The night before was harder for me emotionally than the day of. I grieve the day our child died. I also remember the pain, the blood, the surgery, the recovery -- all of it. It was a very stressful, very painful day in my life . . . so my memories were flooded the night before of all that day entailed.

The anniversary day wasn't as bad. My sister is in town, and my other sister came too, so I got to spend the day with them. I also got a hair cut, and some clothes. I spent a lot of time with my family. I remembered her all day -- but the hard grief (thankfully) wasn't there.

Maddy turns 4 this week, and it's so hard to believe.

This is the first year I'm throwing her a party and inviting 2 friends. We should have a lot of people in our home. Normally I'm just the throw something together kind of person for parties -- but I want to make this year special for her. I guess because this year I've realized that you can never take a birthday for granted.

Trust me. I will be CELEBRATING the life of my little girl this week.

Many people have asked recently how I'm doing, and I'm going to be very honest. I'm not doing the greatest.

For those of you who follow my blog know about my hesitation to start anti-depressants because I don't like how I feel on them, and I don't think grief is a mental disorder. However, at this point I can logically admit that my grief has become overwhelming -- and is impairing me from functioning normally. So anti-depressants it is.

This is uncharacteristic of me, but I'm going to ask a favor. For most of my posts, I crave comments. I crave knowing that people care, and hearing people's words of affirmation. But I have to admit that sometimes sprinkled in those words from wonderful people are hurtful comments -- or at least comments that I stumble to get over.

I truly feel I need to base all my affirmation in God right now and seek Him and His comfort. So if you read this post and in some way it encouraged you, feel free to "like" it if you want. However, for this post, I'm going to ask that you chose to not comment on this blog or my FB post.

Instead, I will assume that with every page view in my stats -- with every "like" on FB -- a prayer is going up for me and my family. That each number or name represents someone who cares very much and wants the best for me and for our family.

And that -- combined with God's Word -- will give me the comfort I need at this time.

Love to you all. And hoping you have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A year and counting

A year ago today, I peed on a stick.

It doesn't exactly seem like a day you would commemorate. Or post about on Facebook. Or write a blog about.

It was just supposed to be a fun day to look back on.

I knew I'd remember how happy and at peace I was. How my sister cried when I told her. How happy (and shocked) my mom was. How everything just felt so right.

But on that day, I certainly didn't think I would commemorate December 3 as an anniversary.

You see, it was just supposed to be the start. A very good day that should have been trumped by LOTS of good days and significant anniversaries to come.

First, there should have been the weekly ritual of counting week to week, month to month. Of comparing my baby to a vast assortment of fruits and vegetables, and taking belly shots to share with friends and family. Then the celebration of passing through each trimester.

There was supposed to be the first day of feeling the baby move. The first kick Ryan would feel. THe first ultrasound. Finding out the sex. Having a gender-reveal party with blue or pink filled cupcakes.

Then there should have been D-day. A day that I would remember for the rest of my life. The day I would always recount with friends and family.  The first time seeing our baby. The first snuggle. The first kiss.

There should have been the diaper change, first bath, first smile, the first time eating solid foods, the first tooth, the first time sitting, the first time sleeping through the night. The first word, the first stand, the first step. The first Christmas, Easter and Birthday.

When I peed on that stick, I expected a lifetime of firsts.

Instead, I have one first to celebrate. The first day I knew Olivia Joy Lewis had entered our lives for a time -- and our hearts forever.

So today, I think of her. And I celebrate the only first we have to celebrate.

I also mourn today. Of course, I'm mourning that her life was so short.

But today, I mostly mourn me.

I am mourning who I have become in this last year, and who I still am becoming. I mourn the loss of my innocence and naivity. I mourn for the brokenness that is always in my spirit.

I have read the words of a grieving father where he explains that everything he experiences is filtered through with the loss of his daughter. He feels he cannot separate anything from his loss. I resonate with that.

"Arbonne is going great." (Olivia is dead.)
"Maddy is wonderful." (I hate that I can't give her a sibling.)
"What a beautiful day." (I feel barren and broken.)
"I just love the holidays." (My womb is empty. My arms are empty. And my heart feels bitter.)
"I'm so excited for this next year and what it could bring." (I am dreading this next year. Will I have another loss to grieve?

Everything I say is true. It's just that each sentiment that accompanies it is equally true.

I wish I could just take this whole year back.

Some people have told me that they find me deeper, stronger, more caring since our loss. A few have told me I'm weaker, less committed, less spiritual. A part of me still cares very deeply about how others view me. But I mostly care about who I see on the inside.

I feel like I've become someone you have to walk on eggshells around. Super sensitive to anything pregnancy/baby related. Any wrong word could make me weather an emotional storm for days or weeks, or months. Some words I'm still trying to get over.

The world feels unsafe and full of grief-triggers. Everywhere I go, I feel vulnerable to reminders. They pop up at unexpected places, and I often find myself pretending to be fine when inside there is a war raging in my heart. "Oh," I hear myself say. "Your baby is just so cute!" All the while, I just want to blurt out "I was supposed to have a baby, too. She would have been this age. You have no idea how lucky you are that your daughter is alive, and healthy and breathing. Do you know what a miracle your child is? Do you fully appreciate what you hold in your arms?"

I feel bitter inside. I hear of pregnancies, and my first thought is "Why not me, God?" When pregnancy-loss friends complain about pregnancies, it's still hard to wonder why they are complaining about being pregnant. Of course, I get that they shouldn't HAVE to do it again. But what about me? I so WANT to do it again, but God's not letting me. Why did I also have a loss . . . then have to wait. Then have another loss. And now I'm back to waiting?

Bitter. Could there be a worse adjective to describe yourself as?  Sad -- not really a fun adjective, but at least acceptable. Jealous -- none of us admit it, but we all go there. Depressed -- even that isn't taboo anymore.

But bitter? About innocent babies and pregnant women? Could you GET less Christian?

Today, Maddy was whining about everything, and I was just about to the end of my rope. (OH, and did I mention I'm much less patient with her nowadays?)

I was so tired of hearing the whining, and I tried every ploy in the book to get it to stop. It was just annoying. I just wanted to yell at her, "Would you JUST get over it already???"

Sometimes I want to yell at myself the same thing. "Would you JUST get over Olivia already? Just get OVER your miscarriage? Just get OVER your difficulty getting pregnant. Would you JUST get over yourself? Everyone's tired of hearing of it. You've cried the same tears, written the same blogs, and spent the same sleepless nights tossing and turning in bed. Would you just freaking get over it???"

But I can't.

Trust me. I hate it. I HATE how I feel inside.

But no matter how many times I see the counselor, no matter how many books I read, no matter how many prayers I pray, I have to learn to live with this new me.

The one who cries a lot, the one that feels angry, jealous and bitter. The one who never feels safe anymore. The one who has a hard time believing in good things. The one who struggles to laugh. The one who needs less time with people, and more time by herself. The one who sometimes hurts others by what she says. The one who is so easily hurt by others. The one who struggles to fully trust God. The one that shys away from others, even from those who are well-meaning. The one who often feels like a crappy friend, wife and mom.

I wish I felt more like celebrating today.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Plan

The office is cool. Immaculate. Cool greys marked by punches of rich color.

His desk, a deep mahogany. Sturdy. Solid. Reliable. Just like him.

I loved this office. From my vantage point in his high-rise, I can see for miles. Each structure in the city a masterpiece of his design. A majestic scene of order and beauty colliding . . . and yet . . . not colliding at all. His plans are always perfect.

I don't remember the day I came here. It's as though life simply didn't exist until he opened the drawer in which I was safely tucked away, and pulled me into the light. In those days, I was nothing more than a stark white sheet of potential.

Life began the day he chose me.

As I sat patiently, expectantly on the warm mahogany. His clear, bright eyes sparkled. They shone with expectation, knowing every stroke, every grand design he would create. I was to be his work, bearing his perfect design. And I couldn't wait.

At first I thought that our time together would be short, maybe a few hours at best. He was the perfect architect. He had already created the most majestic city in the world. What was one more plan? Just one more creation? Why would he take time with ME?

I knew we were in for the long haul from the first day. For hours, he simply looked at me. His deep thoughtful gaze penetrating the fiber of my being. Fear initially squeezed my heart. What if he didn't find me worthy? What if I was too marred? Not perfect enough to bear his name?

Soon, the rhythm of our time together gently pushed that fear away. I learned that sometimes he was simply quiet, pondering. Sometimes he scribbled, line after line, drawing on me with passion and fervor. My favorite times were when he was hard at work, painstakingly measuring, making sure every stroke was perfect. I love perfection. I love beauty. And I loved bearing the weight of his master plan.

I never could see the design he created on me. But every day I was privy to the grandeur of all his designs by day and by night. The cityscape sparkled like stardust sprinkled over the inky sky. By day break, his lofty towers gleamed as the sun rays buffed the steel to gleaming perfection.

 I knew if he had drawn something even half half as majestic on me, my life would be more than complete.

Fear was gone now. Just confidence. Trust. Hope. Excitement. Expectation.

And most of all, love. I grew to love the architect with every every hour we spent, every stroke he commanded, every view of his creation.

Those days weren't simply good. I was good. The architect was good. And everything around me was good.

One particular morning started as normal. The nutty aroma of his coffee compulsively swirling, filling the office. The sun streaming through the deep yellow curtains. It was a buttery, golden day.

He worked on me scrupulously. At times taking breaks to pace his office, or stare at his city below, somehow lost in his thoughts.

That day was just like any other day.

How could I have known?

As the dusk tucked the sun in for the night, the architect slowly rose from his chair, and traced with his fingers each line he had meticulously drawn on my canvas, willing each stroke into memory.

He picked me up, and I savored the feel of his hands. Then, as if my world were suddenly in slow motion, he began folding me. Crushing me. His hands a vice grip, crumpling my very spirit into a tiny ball, then catapulting me to . . .

. . . the trash.

And just like that, my world was over.

At first I was shocked, and refused to believe the architect would abandon me. Though torn on the outside, my spirit refused to question the goodness of the architect. I knew he would quickly change his mind, and pick me back up. Why would he have spent so much time on my design if the TRASHCAN was my destiny?!

When would he remember he wasn't done with me? I knew he would. But WHEN?

The clock ticked.


Tock. Tock. Tock.

My trust weakened. What had gone wrong? Perhaps I was never good enough after all? Perhaps HE was not good enough? Of course, he was the perfect architect. But I didn't just want him to be an architect. I need him to be a friend. Was he a GOOD friend? Was he good?

Each day I watched him at his desk from afar. The day after he threw me out, he took out another sheet of paper and began a beautiful design. I could see it. It was gorgeous.

Just gorgeous.

How I longed to be that sheet of paper under his warm hands yet again.

On particularly good days, I pretended I was that canvas, receiving his attention, his design and purpose. Sometimes pretending is the only thing that got me through the day.

Some days I felt the remnants of his work, marred, smudged and illegible. I tried to remember what it looked like. What it felt like. But each day made it harder to remember the design I once lived for.

On bad days, I hid my eyes entirely. Refused to look at him, or his work. All I could see were the four corners of the cool blue jail I found myself in. I hated my jail. I was alone.

Eventually, I realized there were other half-done designs trapped in this same jail. I had been sure I was the only one he had abandoned. And yet one day, I just noticed that all around me were these crumpled half-designs of his. They had gone before me. All of my days on the desk, and I never knew these new friends existed.

The reason I could even see the architect was because they filled in the spaces of our new jail, lifting me up and supporting me. They couldn't always see him from their vantage point -- but nonetheless, they turned my eyes to him.

 I could make out some of his work on my new friends. His designs, though smudged and incomplete, always imprinted on the soul.

I thought those were the worst days.

I was wrong.

Some things don't change. Death. Taxes. And taking out the trash.

A kind-looking man with a pudgy middle picked up our " little jail" late one night. We were jolted awake by the feeling of tumbling and falling, crashing into each other, and crashing into his squeaky can-on-wheels.

My heart sank with sickening finality. My master truly was done with my plan. My master was done with ME.  And life would never be the same.

We were transferred from bin to bin, truck to truck, for days . . . until the day we simply became undone.

To say that process of shredding, drowning, pulverizing merely hurt would be like saying being eaten by a shark merely tickled. Hurt does not begin to describe it.

I lost myself in that place. There was no shred of evidence that his plan ever existed. My life felt scattered, incoherent. I was pushed, prodded, molded. There is no fighting this undoing. No escaping it. All I could do was surrender all, and hope that somehow, by some miracle, I could make it through.

Just make it through, I thought. Just make it through. 

I had gotten so used to the pain, I forgot what it felt like to be without it. I was so used to the dark and grimy, I couldn't quite remember warmth and peace.

Much like the day I was first pulled from the drawer, I didn't really know what had become of me until the day the architect picked me up again. I don't know how I got back to his office. I don't know how long I was gone. I was just in a fog of pain and loss, nothing really mattered.

But the architect -- my architect -- did indeed pick me up once more. I felt the warmth of his hands embrace me on every hard, angled side, holding my gleaming yellow exterior over his work. And then he drew. Stroke after loving stroke, he used me to create his next magnificent plan.

I no longer just bore his plan. I was now the tool he used to design his greatest masterpieces.

In the day I of my worst agony, all of my old half-finished friends had been there too. We were all enmeshed, fibers from each of us molded and shaped into this pencil, his perfect tool.

I had not been undone. I had simply been redone. As always, according to his perfect plan.

Every once in a while, I felt the sharp pain as he molded and sharpened me, making me exactly what he needed. But he always held me tight when the pain came. I could take anything, as long as I was in his hands.

At the end of the day, I tensed up. What if he is done with me again? What if I have to go through this all again? My fears felt real. But they were just shadows of the past. "I must entrust myself to his hand," I scolded my heart. "Be still. Just trust."

The sun was tucked in for the night. The curtains closed. The coffee stale.

His hands picked me up once again, and I hoped to be safely hidden in the dark drawer until the morning. Instead, he brought me right to his chest, and tucked me into his shirt pocket.

Right by his heart.

Right where he wanted me all along.

And right where I will always stay.

Post Script. I suppose you are wondering about his grand design? The one first smudged, then lost forever? I often wondered about that too. But recently I overheard him share with his friends that he had already built the amazing design he first created on me. He built it in another part of the city, a place we haven't gone yet. But he promised that one day, we'd go together. And I simply. Can't. Wait.

Dedicated to Olivia Joy Lewis, Baby Lews, and Mya Elise Wilson.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A cardigan, a window, a thief and a lesson on letting go

The other day I had a business meeting at Starbucks (seriously, does work get any better?). I was a little warm, so I took off my cardigan, laid it across the back of my chair, and got back to talking.

Later, at home, I went to put my cardigan back on. I couldn't find it. With dread (yes, DREAD) it dawned on me that I must have left it at Starbucks. I whipped out my handy iPhone, googled the number and likety-split was asking a barista to please, puh-lease, look for it.

New customers claimed stake at our table, making it difficult for her to search. I overheard her ask a customer if "that" was "theirs?" They said yes, and she promptly told me, "Sorry. No cardigan here."

"But you don't understand," I wanted to gush, "this is no ordinary cardigan. It is THE cardigan. The ONE and ONLY cardigan that goes with every outfit, is perfectly soft, doesn't wrinkle, hasn't faded in a year . . . oh, and did I mention, it goes with every outfit?? So you see, not finding it 15 minutes after I leave is simply not acceptable. It MUST be there."

I didn't gush the way I wanted. I said "fine" with half-resignation, half-defiance the way my daughter says "fine" when I tell her to turn off her TV, or go to bed, or to stop climbing up that wall, or to stop picking her nose.

But I didn't feel fine. Every time I remembered that my cardigan was out in 'nowhere land' I felt a little panicky.

The next day, I promptly called Starbucks again.

"Hi, I called yesterday. I'm looking for a black cardigan that I left there."

----on hold for a minute ------

"No, sorry, no cardigan here."

Seriously, I thought, this is not OK. So I persisted . . .

"Well, I know that I lost it yesterday. I was sitting by the window, next to the mugs you sell. Can you please look again? At the very least, I'd like to leave my name and number for when you find it." (Notice I said "When" and not "if." Verbiage is VERY important when you're trying to get your point across!)

------ on hold for 5 minutes -----------

"Oh, look!" the barista acted surprised, "Here it is. Someone moved it. Must've been here all along."


So, that afternoon, now finally at peace with the fact that my oh-so-perfect-Nordstrom cardigan is FINALLY home . . . It occurs to me how much I hate feeling like something that I value is lost. I mean, I really, really hate it.

It's a feeling that is always with me. Something -- someone -- is lost. Someone is supposed to be here, but they're not. It's quite disconcerting.

My brother Andrew posted on Facebook about his own disconcerting experience:

Two nights ago, while I was in another room, a thief climbed through my bedroom window and stole my Macbook Pro, as well as the bag that I carry everywhere. 

My bag had a LOT inside: camera, iPod, checkbook, Bible, journal, books, tools, cash, umbrella, etc. 


Altogether, the bag and laptop were probably my two most valuable possessions, in both sentimental and real value, yet they were gone in the blink of an eye. I felt violated and personally offended that someone would enter my living space in order to take things that didn't belong to them.

And with those words, my brother, who could never know what it's like to experience death inside of his own body, has perfectly crafted the words that mark my miscarriage experience . . .

Altogether, [they were my] most valuable possessions, in both sentimental and real value, yet they were gone in the blink of an eye. I felt violated and personally offended that someone would enter my living space in order to take things that didn't belong to them.

And that, my friends, is how I feel about the death of my babies.

Violated by death. Like a thief snuck into my living space --- my BODY --  while I wasn't watching, and took my most valued possessions. Gone, in a blink of an eye.

Simply -- profoundly -- gone.

That feeling I had when my cardigan was lost, the feeling my brother has right now -- that unsettled feeling that things are not right and something is missing -- is how I feel day in and day out. Because my babies are gone. Stolen by death.

 Maybe I will get used to the feeling, and it will be a new normal, and it won't hurt me so much. But maybe I will never get used to it.

My brother has a great lesson in store for us --- as he's never one to take things at face value without finding a spiritual application (something I could learn from him):

Besides learning to close the window when not in a room, what's the real lesson here?
No matter how much or how little you have, never place too much value on the things you own or invest too much energy in preserving everything you have, because no matter how hard you try, you cannot guarantee the security of your possessions. When you die, you can't take any of it with you anyway. I am reminded that the only thing I can fully trust that can never be taken away by any thief or disaster is the love of God, the forgiveness of my sins, and the guarantee of salvation I have because of Jesus. There is no security in placing your identity in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ.
What else? According to the gospel, no matter how good of a person I may seem to be, I'm just as undeserving of God's grace as the thief who stole my belongings on Saturday night. Now, THAT is humbling and hard for me to accept, but it is true nonetheless. I still feel some anger towards the person who wronged me, and my heart/attitude isn't 100% right, but God is using this experience to help me learn and grow, even if it is painful. I'm not sure if I'm there yet, but I know that I WILL forgive that thief, because God has forgiven me for so much already.

Really, I don't know how much better I could put it.

As much as I might love that cardigan -- it's not going with me. As hard as I try to protect my babies, there is no guarantee for their safety or security. While at least I know they will be in heaven, the only thing that I will NEVER have to be separated from here on Earth is God's love and forgiveness. And the HOPE I have in heaven.

And to quote him yet again . . . .

I still feel some anger [...], and my heart/attitude isn't 100% right, but God is using this experience to help me learn and grow, even if it is painful. I'm not sure if I'm there yet, but I know that I WILL forgive that thief, because God has forgiven me for so much already.

I'm not there yet . . . but one day, I will be.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Alphabet soup

Tonight I find myself in a funk.

I FEEL pregnant.

And I suppose that that should fill me with excitement and hope -- even as it's too early to test. But instead, I find myself in a total, and I mean TOTAL, funk.

Yelling at Maddy, low tolerance for clutter or mess, frustration over just about EVERYTHING.

So why?

Am I pregnant, and I'm just hormonal? Am I stressed because IF (and what a big IF that is) I am pregnant, that means I could lose a baby? Am I simply not ready to hit the restart button on this grief journey?

Am I irritated because I feel so sick to my stomach, and I'm nervous about how I'll be able to cope for 9 months? Do I feel guilty being upset about nausea when 7 months ago I was jealous of women with morning sickness because it meant their pregnancies were normal? Is it because I'm being hyper sensitive to every cramp, every twinge, every possible symptom?

Is it that I'm afraid to get my hopes up? Is it that I've ALREADY gotten my hopes up, and fear there's nothing but disappointment ahead? Is it because I'm afraid of how to break the news (again, big IF) if I am pregnant to some of my closest friends who are wanting babies more than anything? Is it because I don't know WHO to tell, WHEN to tell, and HOW to tell IF I am pregnant?

Is it because I'm afraid to have hope?

Or maybe it's just all of it.

It reminds me of this book Maddy loves that I kinda hate reading to her. It's a Barney book (now you know why I hate it), and it's called Alphabet Soup. Barney throws in ingredients starting with each letter of the alphabet. Cool, right? Except that the ingredients sound like they belong in a mystery basket on Chopped:

Graham crackers
Ice cream

Yep. Pretty gross. Surely there's a way to teach decent cooking while teaching the alphabet at the same time?

Right now, my soul's the pot and it feels like something as undesirable as Barney is throwing a crazy hodge-podge of feelings, all stirred up and boiling over.

Frustration and fear
Jaded feelings
Knotted up inside

Geez . . . this is way more complicated than last time. Last time, I just saw a pregnancy test and was over-the-top happy.

I guess I am over the top right now. But instead of being just excited, I'm boiling over with leftover ingredients from the Chopped basket of mystery ingredients.

I wish I just knew what is the right way to feel, and how to make myself feel it.  :(

P.S. I wasn't pregnant. AF defnitely came. I did get pregnant on the next cycle -- but that resulted in a miscarriage at 8 weeks. :(

Monday, October 1, 2012

A day in the life . . .

Image source:
Today began like yesterday.

Laying in bed, ignoring the world. Texting friends. Chatting in my pregnancy loss support groups on Facebook.  Laying in bed some more. Dozing. Researching. Dozing again.

Anything except getting up and facing my day. Anything except facing my loss.

I skipped church today. I felt like maybe last week was a disaster. People -- some of whom I had a relationship with, others who were casual acquaintances -- wanted to talk.

I did NOT want to talk.

"How are you doing? You look tired . . . "

What, exactly, could I say that would be polite or sociable?

"Hi. Well, I am tired. I just got home last night from a trip to bury my grandma. And I'm actually not OK. Not at all. I'm pissed off at my body. I'm pretty mad at God. I'm beyond disappointed. And I'm carrying what I'm told is a baby that will no longer live. Not really sure how I'm supposed to feel about that. And well, my feelings change like the tide. So I don't even know how I am. Except that I am anything BUT fine."

I didn't say any of that.

I just barely nodded, and gave a half-smile. I couldn't even find it in me to lie and say "Fine."

I. Am. Not. Fine.

So -- I skipped church today. And laid in bed. And felt sorry for myself. And let myself feel so, so very depressed.

Then Ryan came home. Off to lunch we most go. I rolled out of bed at quarter past noon. Brushed my hair and teeth, changed clothes, attempted to smear on some foundation and mascara, and off we plodded to lunch. It actually went OK. I was glad to have someone ask me how I was and be ready to listen to my answer.

My in-laws took Maddy this afternoon, so I suggested to Ryan that we head to Barnes & Noble. I was given no information about what to expect from a miscarriage by my Drs' office -- or even when we would start miscarrying -- so I was ready to dig into some information and figure out what the heck is going on with my body anyway.

Hmmm. Barnes & Noble may not have been the best choice.

They had lots of books available online. Only one dealing with miscarriage/pregnancy loss in stock.


And it was called "How to prevent a miscarriage."

Funny title, I thought. All the Drs and resources I've read say that there's not much of anything you can do to prevent a miscarriage. OK, maybe if you've had three losses, they refer you to a specialist for some testing, you finally figure out (maybe) the causes of your loss, and there's a slight chance they actually have a solution to solve your problem. Then maybe you can prevent a loss. But that's after you've already lost three babies. I guess the fourth time is a charm, right?

Maybe B & N carries that book because it sells. Because it offers the illusion of control. Because who doesn't want to prevent a miscarriage, really? And maybe because it just feeds in to what the rest of society tells us....

Miscarriage happens a lot, but, whatever you do, don't talk about it. Don't admit to it -- unless you KNOW it's to someone else who's been there. Then you can be a part of a secret club, and you don't have to bother anyone else with your pain. Baby loss is not appropriate for the public square. It might upset someone.

Pregnancy loss might happen a lot, but it's true . . . we're all in denial. It's much more fun to pretend that everything's OK. That babies don't die. That moms don't have to say goodbye before they ever said hello. Let's just keep the illusion going . . . That we each have control over birth and our pregnancies. That swollen ankles, hurting backs and loss of sleep are all perfectly acceptable pregnancy complaints. But . . . "My baby died" sure isn't.

So I was getting irritated. Irritated that I was just simply trying to find information, and it wasn't there. Irritated that the only way I could even find the information I was hoping for was to stalk a pregnant woman with a burgeoning belly to the right aisle in hopes of finding a pregnancy book that at least addressed miscarriage. (Which, by the way was nothing but two pages in one book. And even that didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.)

But what about the rest of us? The 1 in 4 going through a loss? Don't we have a voice? Don't we deserve information?

I was so irritated I loudly complained that I need a "Pregnancy for Dummy Bodies" book because my body was so dumb it didn't know how to keep a baby, and it feels like it doesn't quite know how to lose a baby either. I said it loudly in front of other couples. I said it loudly in front of the pregnant woman.

Maybe I'm just tired of trying to keep quiet, I didn't care who I said it to.

"I'm miscarrying." There, I said it.

After I settled on reading a book about fertility, we got cookies and coffee and sat and read. Which I actually really enjoyed.

Then I wanted to walk. I want to get things moving. I don't really know why, other than every day is hard and I just want it over. So we walked, and walked, and walked.

Three times I had pain and cramping, my belly felt a little harder and more swollen, and toward the end I felt a little weak -- which I can't really explain (because I have no information!). The cramping didn't cause any bleeding and didn't seem to do anything but be a magical cure for the oh-so-fun pregnancy side effect we all love to hate. (I'll let you figure it out.)

Afterwards we went home, and I hoped that the cramping would keep up.

It didn't.

Today is the end of the month, and I knew I needed to work at my business. So, I put my pregnancy/miscarriage/whatever I'm supposed to refer to this as, in the tiny little back closet of my heart, and set to work.

For several hours, I managed to stay fairly on top of it. I got a great bonus for my work today. And all in all, it was a decent few hours.

A dear friend even stopped by to drop off dinner for us. It was supposed to be for tomorrow -- but we dug in tonight. We swapped stories, caught up, and sympathized with each other. There's nothing better than knowing someone else just GETS you.

Ryan took care of Maddy all night, and took himself to bed. But I wasn't ready to call it quits today. More googling. More asking for advice from friends on FB. And more ... well ... more emotional denial.

As much as I am trying to grieve, I don't feel like I know how. As much as I want to admit that this is a baby, I don't feel like I can. I know it is. But a part of my heart feels locked away. It wants to feel. It wants to grieve. But my grief is caged. And I don't know how to let it out.

Maybe because I know once it's out . . . it's going to hurt. Very. Very. Bad.

Maybe that's why I want information so badly. So I can deal with my loss on an intellectual level -- not on an emotional one.

I've been struggling with wondering how much to write on my blog. How much to share.

I was afraid to post on FB because I didn't want people to feel sorry for me. I was afraid NOT to post on FB because the longer I keep silent, the more I feel like I was carrying a shameful secret -- not just something that is a very real part of my life right now.

Last night I had a dream where a lady was asking me if we were going to have another baby -- and she said something about hearing I had a baby. Pretty much at the top of my lungs I screamed at her. Yes, I want a baby. More than anything. But I lost two. TWO. STOP asking me if I WANT a baby!!! It's not always a CHOICE!!

It felt really good in my dream to just SCREAM and let it all out.

Maybe my subconscious knows I'm tired of hiding. Tired of trying to be polite. Tired of keeping up with social norms. I'm pretty sure it's just time to share.

 I have to believe that others of you have been in this place. Or you will be in this place. Or you know someone in this place.  And I want to the world to know that pregnancy loss happens. It sucks. IT SUCKS. But it happens.

When it happens, you don't have to be ashamed. You don't have to hide. If you WANT to hide, by all means, do. But don't ever feel like you HAVE to.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pregnancy #3 update

It's no secret that we've been trying to conceive.

And last week, we found out we were successful... Or at least quasi-successful.

Apparently, an egg did get fertilized. But where did it implant? That's the big question.

My hCG at 5 weeks was 14 (super-dee-duper low). The day I got the results, I started bleeding. And the next day, my bleeding picked up and I passed some small clots. The next day it slowed, the next 2 days it was almost non-existent, and I haven't spotted now for 4 days.

In addition, I'm feeling a bit more pregnant... But the truth is my symptoms are mild.

And the reason for that is that my hCG is now only 22. Like barely there.

The nurse has told me more than likely it's not viable. And to be honest, I guess I knew that from the start. My gut tells me it's ectopic again. I'm in this constant state of WAITING ... For the pain to come, to get my blood drawn again, for what I believe in my heart to be an inevitable surgery.

And in all this waiting, I can't help but get more attached each day this pregnancy continues.

Why? Why do I have to hope? Why do I research every possible reason for my low hCG, and wonder/hope/pray that this time is the exception to the rule? Why do I still want a miracle?

I tried so hard not to get attached. But knowing that something is trying to become a little baby of mine in there just hurts my heart, and fills it with hope at the same time.

How can I cope? Cope with the wait? Cope with the fear? Cope with the anxiety? Cope with my recent grief? I feel like I mourned this baby, only to find out it survived my the bleeding. Next time I mourn, I think it's going to be so much harder.

I'm finding myself more sensitive again to pregnancy announcements and updates on Facebook. So I've had to pretty much stop checking my newsfeed because it just hurts to much. I'm struggling with major distrust of my body, and I seriously wonder if I am ever going to experience a normal pregnancy.

Recently, going through my grandma's death has me thinking of death a lot. Which probably isn't the greatest thing. I wonder if pregnancy is worth the risk it poses to my health and life. I'm definitely contemplating whether Maddy will be it. For the first time, that certainly is feeling more like a possibility.

I am so thankful to have her... But she deserves to have a little sister or brother. She wants one, and I so want her to have siblings for life.

I regret that my pregnancy with Madelyn might be it. I wish that I had cherished that time more. That I was more grateful, less anxious, less resentful to my little baby. I wish I had just cherished that fleeting rime, instead of wishing away.

It's been hard to process knowing that I am likely carrying a baby that won't survive. And I fluctuate between a romanticized ideal that I just love this little thing in me as long as I can and consider this short time a special time to bond. And part of me is practical, and realizes that this pregnancy might not even be producing a literal body of a baby at this point. That the more attached I get, the harder I will fall.

I'm thankful I'm still in Kentucky away from my normal responsibilities. I'm glad I have some time to process this pregnancy/miscarriage and my grandma's death at this time, without having to worry about business calls, what to plan for dinner, and taking care of a 3-year-old. It's nice to have so much time for ME.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Too much loss

I find myself at a loss of words for what to write. The last few days have been so hard ... Just as hard as the days after we lost Olivia.

Today we buried my grandma. Honestly, I've cried so much since finding out late Wed night that she was gone. At this point, I don't feel like I can talk too much about it. This will have to wait for another day.

About 12 hours after the loss of my grandma, we got my blood results back. I am pregnant. Or maybe I should just say "was" pregnant.

My hcg numbers are super low. I would have been 5.5 weeks, but the nurse gave me no hope that this pregnancy is viable.  I started bleeding that day.

Both losses happened so quickly... It's hard to describe my day on Thursday. Trying to plan a trip for a funeral to KY, going to the drs for bloodwork and ultrasound, caring for Maddy, arranging babysitting for a week, rescheduling my business calendar ... All while grieving for the loss of a new baby and the loss of my very dear grandma. All in 24 hours.

I still don't know yet if the pregnancy is over. I don't know if it's a simple miscarriage or ectopic. I'm definitely questioning if I'll ever be able to have my own baby again.

And I'm absolutely devastated about my grandma.

Sometimes, life is just so hard.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life in the buckets: Moving on and staying put

Do you ever have days where you're not quite sure who you are anymore?

I have days like that. Well, I guess I know WHO I am. I'm just not sure which VERSION of me I am.

I kinda feel like there are two parts of me. Two equally valid parts. BOTH are me.

So, Exhibit A:

  • I'm super excited for my business. I'm a postive-minded, forward-thinking business owner who loves her team, loves her industry, loves her company. I devour personal development books. Few things get me as pumped as the privilege of leading others to the life of their dreams.

  • I cherish my family. Most days, I love being a mom. My favorite part of my day is mornings where my daughter is snuggled up beside me, and I read beside her till she wakes. My second favorite is cuddled up beside her at night, reading books -- trying my hardest to read them like you would hear on an audio tape. Sometimes I throw in an English accent -- ESPECIALLY if I'm reading Angelina Ballerina. Nothing like practicing a squeaky English accent to keep up on my acting chops.

  • I have so many moments where I DO feel content. I feel the warmth of the sun. I snuggle in my hubby's arms. I see the joy in my daughter's eyes. I just drink in moments where I just know that LIFE IS GOOD.
Exhibit B:

  • I feel stuck in my past, specifically the recent past. I wonder when I will feel normal again. I wonder when the sadness will pass. Sometimes, it's not sadness -- sometimes it's anger. I wonder when I'll ever feel like I just BELONG again. When will I be 100%?

  • I see pregnant women and I can't help but feel so jealous. Then I feel guilty for being jealous. Then I'm angry I have a reason to be jealous to begin with. So then I'm jealous, angry, and guilty all at once. Yuck.

  • Sometimes, the good things to come feel very far away. Pregnancy feels very far away, and trying to conceive feels hopeless. I have a hard time picturing a happy picture. A healthy pregnancy. A healthy baby. That dream feels like grabbing at smoke, and having it slip stealthily through my outstretched hand. As a matter of fact, sometimes Olivia feels vanishing smoke.

  • I have many moments where I feel so DISCONTENT. I can see only the bad. I see a never-ending mess I need to clean up. Negative pregnancy tests. Olivia's empty crib sitting in Maddy's room. And I just feel like LIFE SUCKS.

So my big questions for my counselor this week were:

1) Is this normal?
2) Are you SURE this is normal? Because this certainly doesn't feel normal.
3) How can I be two things at once? Feel two things at once? And be authentic at the same time?

And in case you were wondering, here's what she said:

1) Yes it's normal.

2) Yes, I'm SURE it's normal.

3) You can defnitely feel more than one thing at one time.

Think of it like having your feet in two different buckets of water. Before your loss, you pretty much lived in Bucket 1. You were optimistic about the future, you had lots of success in your business, you were looking ahead with lots of positive expectations.

Then you lost your baby. You jumped with both feet into Bucket 2. You were consumed by grief. Everything you experienced went through the filter of your loss. You lived life because you had to. But really, at this point, everything was just about your loss.

Gradually, keeping one foot firmly planted in Bucket 2, you started dipping your toes back into Bucket 1. Then, in time, you began keeping one foot in Bucket 1 and one in Bucket 2 at all times.

It sounds to me like that's how you are living right now. You are living through two experiences at one time, and that's confusing. Sometimes you're going to put both feet in Bucket 1. Sometimes you'll have both in Bucket 2. And sometimes, you'll just be living with both hope and sadness, joy and despair, faith and frustration all at once. Sometimes you'll be moving forward, even while part of you holds on to the past.*

Her bucket analogy really made sense to me. And made me feel so much better about . . . well . . . how I feel.

Being REAL is important to me. So it gets really confusing when I'm full-on business person, excited and happy -- or just full-on friend, wife or mom -- and suddenly, I realize I still am stuck in Bucket 2. Sadness comes, and I can't wish it away. A pregnant woman walks by, and I struggle to remember what I was just saying because something in my gut just feels like it was punched. Maddy mentions Olivia, or wishes for a baby, and I try to keep the tears away.

And there I am . . . trying to be both happy and sad . . . authentically . . . at the same time.

She asks what it will take to pretty much get back into Bucket 1.

"Oh," I respond. "I'd love to have a healthy baby. I'd love to expand my business. I'd LOVE to help some women promote and see more success. I think I could be more happy then, and be able to get back to Bucket 1 more."

But then she reminds me that finding wholeness will never come from those circumstantial things. It has to be something more. Something deeper.

And it's true. I really need to just focus on Christ right now. He alone can make me whole, even as I know a little part of me belongs in heaven.

And in the meantime, I've got to live with the dichotomy.

So if you hang out with me, forgive me if I slosh a bit and get you wet. I've got my feet in two buckets. And it's a pretty messy way to live. But I promise, I'm doing the best I can.

*This is the best paraphrase I can come with from my counseling session yesterday, not her exact quotes. I'm good -- but not THAT good. ;)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A mommy do-over

Just a second ago, I clicked on the little pencil icon  on my blog that indicates that I have something to say, and something that I intend to say well to a lot of people.

But I must admit, I clicked on that icon with no ideas, no thesis, no theme in mind.

Nothing -- but this ache in the very core of me that is so present, so strong, that it makes it so that I can almost feel my spirit deep in my chest. It is a heaviness I bear with me always. But at moments like this . . . well . . . there is no relief. It just is.

I have been surrounded by people today. But I miss the little girl that I never will know here.

And I miss Maddy too. I've been so preoccupied today, I never gave her my full, undivided attention to just forget life and invest myself fully in her best, new (make-believe) friend. (Who's named Nikananga and lives in a lake, owns 5 airplanes -- which Maddy is ocassionally allowed to take for a spin -- and eats trees for dinner). I didn't take time to battle catepillar car versus lady bug car. I didn't take time to make play-doh snakes and scary monsters. She fell asleep in the car, so I didn't even get to read "Worm Diaries" or her infamous bird book.

I did not play baby octopus. Or play hide and seek under the covers this morning. We didn't cook dinner together, and I didn't get to watch her set the table (which always makes me so proud to see her do). We did not share our favorite things from today, or pray together for a new baby, or sing rock-a-bye-baby to each other. She did not beg me for just one more minute of snuggles. I didn't have to pry myself away, wanting to snuggle forever but knowing sleep would never come if I do.

Instead, today, what I did do was occasionally snap at her when she wasn't operating at my pace of life, sigh deeply when I just wanted to potty by myself, and roll my eyes when she clung to my legs when the babysitter left.

Stellar parenting, right?

Some days, I think I'm on top of the mom thing. And then other days, like today, I wonder since when do other people come before the attention I give my daughter? When did it become OK to interrupt her, but punish her if she interrupts other people? Since when is it OK to be so impatient to have a baby, and at the same time, be so impatient with the baby I already have?

Tonight, Ryan and I were watching a movie, and Maddy called out for me. I scooped her up, and rocked her for a long time -- much longer than it took to get her back to sleep.  And I cried, and kissed her sweaty little forehead, and tried to smooth back her straw-like hair, tangled and sticking to itself and her face like spaghetti that's sat too long.

And I just rubbed her sweet cheecks, and kissed them, and told her how sorry mommy was. That none of my friends were more important than her and that my business is not more important than her. I just wished her little subconcious would pick up the message and deliver it to her soul where she would know more than anything how much I really do love her.

But I know that's just wishful thinking. Maybe, deep in the recesses of her mind, the memory is tucked away. But why settle for a wish, a hope, that by some off chance my daughter might get the message that she is one of the most important people to me on this entire planet?

Wouldn't it have been so much better to SHOW her today by my words, my actions and my attention, so that she would have had a message of my love that could never be erased?

I want a do-over. And I guess that do-over has a name. Tomorrow.

As Maddy and I sometimes say, "Today was rough. But tomorrow will be better."

Today was rough. Tomorrow WILL be better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When AF threatens TTC on 13 DPO after 3 BFNs

I can guess that you, my reader, probably fall into 1 of 2 categories:

  1. You read my title with ease -- after all, it's written in the language you practically dream in these days (or have dreamt in at one time.)
  2. You have no idea what the heck this post is all about. But curiosity won out.

If you think the title is crazy, well, welcome to my life.

My crazy life of TTC (trying to conceive.)

I don't even know what to write, other than I feel like I'm going nuts.

Life before ectopic and TTC was much simpler.

  • If Ryan and I had an argument one night, we pretty happily kept to our own side of the bed no matter the day of the month. 
  • I never knew when my period would arrive, and thought it was weird that people ever knew the exact date.
  • When I did get my period, my only complaint was that I ran out of tampons and had to use a pads for a day.
  • When I felt a twinge in my uterus or ovary -- wait, I never felt twinges in my uterus or ovaries!

Life after ectopic and TTC is much more complicated.

  • I have yet to come encounter a conundrum quite like the one where you fought all night, only to remember that you are supposed to ovulate that day.
  • I now know exactly when my period is due, thanks to my handy dandy iPhone app. (And so could the rest of the world if they ever got ahold of it!) 
  • When I get my period, it feels like all of my hopes and dreams have been put on hold and I feel despondent that yet another month has passed and we have to do it all again.
  • And when I feel a twinge anywhere in my body, I obsess over what it could mean. And I mean, OBSESS.

So just to give you a taste of this new craziness . . .

My friend got me hooked on this app where I basically chart everything from CM (cervical mucus) to cramping to breast soreness, to binge eating (does a lb. of grape tomatoes each day count?) to basal body temperature to anxiety to constipation to . . . to . . . to . . . to . . . to.

Seriously, the list doesn't end. I think there's about 80 things you could pay attention to every day if you wanted. And then there's sub-lists on top of that . . . is your cramping light, heavy or moderate?Are your breast really sore? Or only kinda maybe a little sore if your 3-year-old treated them like punching bags? And don't forget CM --- thin, stretchy, watery, creamy, non-existent? (Sorry, TMI, I know.)

Oh, and by the way . . . what "events" happened today? Did you have sex? OPK? HPT? Eat an orange? Get a sunburn?

Ok, so I'm started to get sarcastic. But you get the point. It's a LOT to keep track of.

My friend (correctly) advises me that the longer I put the info in, and the more I enter, the more accurate the app is going to be. So of course I've been documenting as much as I can, because my haphazard approach to BD (baby dance) is simply NOT working fast enough.

So for once in my life, I know the first day of my last period. I know the day I supposedly ovulated. I know the days I will most likely be fertile next. And I know the exact day my period is due.

And I actually really like knowing this info.

But, there's a WHOLE list of things that I don't know.

Did I REALLY ovulate when it said I would? Was I early, or late?

If I did ovulate, is my egg OK? Did it make it through the tube?

Did we time our BD right?

Is my hormone level right, or should I have started those progesterone pills I was prescribed when I don't even know if my hormones are off?

Is my queasiness the overabundance of garlic I ate tonight -- or is it something more?

Am I tired tonight because I worked during the day, and cleaned at night . . . or could it JUST be that I need the extra sleep because of a baby?

Is it crazy to pray that God would bless the baby in my tummy when I don't know that there is one?!

Is the light pink spotting implantation? What about the week's worth of cramping I had . . . implantation, ectopic, or indigestion?

Will I get my period? What if it's late?

I don't even know what BFN stands for, but I know I've had 3 negative pregnancy tests and I don't care if they were called the "Happy Rainbow Test," they still suck!

If 13 DPO (days post ovulation) is not too early to test, why am I still getting negatives? Why is my body not acting the same as it normally does for PMS?

If I have to breathe through cramps, but they only last a few minutes, do I list that as light cramps or moderate? Or maybe heavy?

If I am spotting, does that mean AF (aunt flow) is on her way? Or that my baby just implanted?

So there you go.

If you wonder why I suddenly stop mid-sentence and trail off . . . or develop a glazed look on my face  . . . or if I'm compulsively on my phone . . . chances are my brain is back to what my body is doing at that exact moment. I could be charting on my app. I could be compulsively googling "early pregnancy symptoms," as if some new symptom will pop up since the last 10 times I've googled them this week. Or I could be on a TTC forum, hoping someone, somewhere can just tell me for goodness' sakes if I really am pregnant!

iPhone -- where is the app for that???

So one day, while I'm compulsively checking my phone, I happened to a post that Obamacare now is offering us free birth control.

Oh my goodness, did you just read what I did? They can offer us CONTROL OVER BIRTH!!! FOR FREE!

So, Obama, here's my order:

I want to give birth in 9 months exactly. I want it to be uncomplicated. I want to be fully in control of every symptom and side-effect. I want to have a natural, unmedicated birth resulting in a healthy baby that nurses well, latches on great, sleeps at least 6 hours a night, has their nights/days straight right from the start, and only looks at me with loving, dewy eyes. No screaming, please. Oh, and I'd like that baby to come with a lifetime-health guarantee.

Oh ... and do you do express delivery?

Ok, ok, I'm done with sarcasm.

Here's the truth:

While I'm trying so hard to be in control, the reality is I really have no control. In the end, God does. And I'd probably be better off just investing that time reading my Bible app and praying than I would be searching Google over and over and over again, looking for answers that simply don't exist.

And the fallout of not having control over my body is that I'm craving organization in every other area of my life. (Or at least, I'm pretty sure this is what my therapist will say.)

I almost can't sleep at night because the office is a mess. I've gotten rid of 2 bags of clothes and shoes happily, while CHOOSING dusting, sweeping and organizing over going out to coffee. (Which, if you know me at all, I will happily put up with dirty dishes and dustbunnies if it means I get to see a friend!)

Last night, I literally could not stand the thought of waking up this morning to a dirty rug, so I drug out the vacuum last night at midnight, crossed my fingers it wouldn't wake Maddy, and vacuumed my floor before hitting the sack . . . only lay awake googling "Earliest pregnancy symptoms" and read every single link on the first page.

Then, I'm talking to Ryan about changing everything. Where we live, where we go to church, everything. I'm always so resistant to any change, but now I want to welcome it with abandon (and maybe even without wisdom).

I'll admit that there could be worse fallout than having a clean house and craving change. But I think the key issues for me really are that I don't feel content, and I don't feel at peace.  I mean, there are a LOT of things that I am very happy about now. But the anxiety and discontentment that I feel right now when things around me are stagnant or cluttered or dirty or just plain ugly are simply not OK.

This is not mindset and spirit God has called me to.


Ryan's approach to TTC is so much easier. "Rachel, if you are, you are. If you're not, you're not. Simple."

I know he's right -- and maybe it's just me  -- but TTC is about the least simple thing I've ever tried to do in my life.

Girls -- am I the only one?

P.S.  In case you're wondering, here's how the title should read in layman's terms:

"I want to be pregnant. I might be. I might not be. Grrrr."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Opening up about abortion

Have you ever had words on your heart that you knew you must speak, but dreaded actually opening your mouth?

That's a bit where I'm at tonight.

Since our pregnancy loss 7 months ago, there has been a topic heavy on my heart, but it's a sensitive subject. Well, "taboo" is probably a closer description.

I'm talking about abortion.

Where you find yourself

Now that the "A" word is out, I can already feel the lines being drawn in the sand. You are probably taking one side or the other, arming yourself with a defense as to why your position (whatever that is) is best for women, best for babies, and best overall. Perhaps you have a stance on when life begins. Perhaps you don't believe abortion is about when life begins, but about when freedom ends.

For those of us standing on any side of the fence, we often think about and talk about abortion in black and white terms.

Tonight I don't really want to talk in black and white. I just want to be honest about where I've been and what I hold to be true.

Where I find myself

Blogging is wonderful because you can reach so many people from so many backgrounds. But it's also hard for the exact same reason.

Will my viewpoint hurt you? Will I be able to be sensitive to my readers, who I care very much about, and all your many backgrounds?

I will be posting soon on why early pregnancy loss is important to the pro-life community.

But since there is no way for me to know where you are coming from, I will just have to be very honest and open about where I'm coming from. And hopefully from here we can have a good, honest conversation where there is no battle -- no lines -- no sides.

Maybe we can just be women who are honest and open about our past, our experiences, and our babies.

The beginning

Growing up, my parents taught me the value of life . . . starting with conception. My mom has served for years at crisis pregnancy centers -- sometimes speaking with women facing an unplanned pregnancy, at other times just cleaning and sorting all the donations of gently-used baby clothes and toys. She has worked tirelessly, and she holds my utmost respect for all the ways she has given back to women through the years.

In high school, I chose abortion as the topic for one of my research papers. I don't remember my thesis, but I remember feeling very strongly that abortion was never in the best interest of women. I felt (and still feel) very passionate about standing up for the value of the unborn.

And then . . . 

I got pregnant.

No, this was not from some rebellious teen romance.

I was married. I had a secure job. To the outside world, there was no reason why I wouldn't want this baby.

But I didn't. Not yet. Not this way. Not at this time. Having a baby was NOT in my plans. I had just started a new business. I had earned a trip to Mexico that I would now not be able to go on. I had just gotten married, and wasn't ready for true "adulthood" yet. My husband was still in school full-time. We weren't emotionally, financially or physically prepared for a baby. We lived in a tiny apartment, my husband's work felt helter-skelter, and my body didn't react well at all in the first trimester. (Or the second. OR the third for that matter.)

And you know what? Deep, deep inside, I wanted it to end.

Or at least, I thought I did.

I felt overtaken by an "alien." Even at 8 weeks, I had convinced myself that this "baby" was still surely nothing but a blob of cells. I remember feelings like "Surely there is a pill that would just take this all away." And then I would realize, yes, there actually was. And it was legal. I technically did not HAVE to be pregnant. It was called an abortion.

While I knew that I couldn't go through with it, I did still wish for some miraculous ending to my pregnancy. Perhaps I would just miscarry? Maybe it was all just one big mistake?

For those of you who know me, this could be quite shocking to read these words. Even Ryan might be surprised. I didn't disclose these feelings to others. I kept them safe in my heart, and merely loudly complained to others when I was sick, and announced our pregnancy with tears, and very few smiles.

 But you should know that during this time, I really wasn't acting like myself. (Or thinking, or feeling, like myself. Which is one reason I don't think it's a great idea to rush into abortion ever -- pregnancy hormones CHANGE you. How could I decide on the ending of a life when just trying to clean my kitchen could reduce me to tears?)

For the first time in my life, I finally understood why people get abortions. Here I was, married with a pretty secure future totally ANGRY and FREAKING OUT about pregnancy. If I felt like this, how must a teen feel? How would a girl who was raped feel? How would a single mom feel? How would a woman who couldn't provide for her child feel? How would an abused woman feel?

For the first time in my life, abortion made sense.

A change of heart

June 15, 2008, was a momentous day. It was my 26th birthday. It was Father's Day. I was 8 weeks pregnant. And it was the day I had a change of heart.

That afternoon, as I stepped out of the car to go to my in-law's house, I felt a rush of liquid running down my legs and soaking my pants. I thought I had accidentally spilled water down my pants -- even though I was nowhere near water of any kind. But in that moment, I couldn't figure out what would cause me to get wet like that.

Well, a moment in the bathroom answered that question.

Blood would do that. A whole lot of blood.

I think I was kinda hysterical. My sister-in-law grabbed me some underwear and a change of pants. And at one point, the bathroom door was open with both my ashy-faced husband and my quite-concerned mother-in-law peeking in, handing me clothes and fresh pads, and cleaning up the floor as I sat sobbing on the toilet.

I didn't know what to think, but I was shaken to the core.

Later, as I sat frozen on their couch, trying to keep track of how many pads I was going through, the cramping started. Off to the ER we went.

The week before, we had our first ultrasound where I saw a little glob on a screen with a white little dot that was steadily blinking. I still resented that little bean, but at the same time, my heart warmed a bit to it.

But this time, in the ER, I remember being terrified of the ultrasound. What if that little blob -- who I now immediately started thinking of as a baby -- was gone? What if there was no heartbeat? 

I've had very few feelings since that time that were that intense as that time was -- waiting for hours for the ultrasound that would determine our future. Was our baby alive or dead? Those of you who have been there know this feeling. Hope mingled with absolute terror.

Looking back, I can't believe how sudden my change of heart was. I thought I had wanted a miscarriage. I thought I wanted our baby to be gone. I thought I just wanted it all to be one big mistake.

But confronting what could be the death of our baby head on, there was no relief. I could have cared less about my business, my plans or our tiny apartment  . . . All I cared about was seeing the blinking of a little dot on a little blob on an ultrasound.

When the ultrasound tech finally came, he wouldn't say much of anything. But, praise God, I saw that little blinking dot. Relief flooded my heart.

Our Dr. explained that I had unexplained hemorrhaging near where the baby was implanted. There was nothing we could do but wait it out. I was given a 50/50 chance of our baby surviving. I was to see my OB in a week for another ultrasound, and was given instructions in case the cramping and bleeding (aka miscarriage) continued.

So for 7 days, I waited. I put myself on bedrest (even though the Dr. told me there was nothing I could do at this point.) I just laid there, and prayed for our baby. And begged that he/she would live.

During that time, well-meaning people would warn me that there was probably something wrong with our baby. That this was nature taking its course. And that I wouldn't want to have to "deal" with a special-needs baby anyway.

(I will talk more about this in another post).

But 7 days later, we received the news we wanted. The bleeding had slowed. And that little reassuring blink-blink-blink was going strong.

Our baby made it.

A change of heart . . . .maybe? Or maybe not?

After hearing the good news, of course I was so relieved and thankful not to be going through a miscarriage. But I have to admit, I still didn't TOTALLY want a baby. For the next 9 months, I struggled deeply with resentment toward my baby and my body for this journey I was on. I still struggled, even as I was thankful we didn't lose the baby at 8 weeks.

Some days, when the nausea was really bad, I was just so angry that I couldn't eat. My unrelenting nausea made me desperate, angry, frustrated and resolved me to tears too many times to count.

I used all my sick leave with my miscarriage scare and my early nausea . . . I ended up becoming a very unreliable employee at work. I often got sick at work and had to take a lot of unpaid leave. Plus I had several more scares throughout my pregnancy, trips to the hospital, bedrests and a premature delivery. All of that adds up to more financial stress when we were already wondering how we could afford a baby.

Through my pregnancy, I still worried about finances. I worried about where we would live. When we finally moved when I was 28 weeks along, the stress of the move sent me into threatened premature labor. For the next 2 weeks, I sat around my new house with boxes everywhere, popping pills every 4 hours to stop the regular contractions. The medicine was awful and made me shake so bad that when I was eating, my food would fall off my fork.

When we went for the next ultrasound to determine the sex, I was upset to find out our baby was a girl. Here  I was pregnant, when I originally didn't want to be, and it wasn't even the right gender! Would nothing go right??

(Just to be clear . . Now that I know moms who've discovered at this point that their babies had died or had a fatal defect, and now that I've lost Olivia, I want to kick myself for my totally self-indulgent attitude. Who in the world cares about the gender? At least she was whole and healthy!)

If you have read my past posts, you might know that delivery did not go so well for me either. I actually wanted very much to have a natural childbirth without pain meds. Instead, I had an emergency inducement and unplanned C-section to get her out. I had developed a life-threatening complication, and well, Maddy wasn't doing so hot either. It all went very fast, and it all involved a LOT of pain on my part.

After 4 days in the hospital, I was sent home. I was physically better after 3 days, but was kept an extra day because I had an emotional breakdown. The Dr. ordered strict rest and no visitors.

I look happy here, but just 2 days after being sent home, I had another huge breakdown. At one point, I almost smothered Maddy to get her to stop screaming. (Looking back, this moment is probably the most terrifying of my entire life.)

I didn't know I was suffering from postpartum depression. I also didn't know I had symptoms of PTSD. I knew I needed help. I just didn't know how to ask for it.

Everything's better, now, right?

So, in the end, I'm still alive, Maddy's still alive, we have a new bigger house, and I'm staying at home with my daughter. So everything's all good, right?

Not so much.

I'd had a very traumatic experience that I didn't know how to sort through or share. I had a very needy daughter that screamed day and night due to awful reflux. I got no sleep, and I dropped weight until I was just 99 lbs. I was dealing with postpartum depression, but didn't know it. I had symptoms of PTSD . . . but didn't know that either.

This picture sums up Madelyn's personality as a newborn.

And that was my life for the next YEAR.

So where does this leave us?

Motherhood has perhaps been the single most defining factor of my life. Pregnancy has caused greater physical pain and discomfort than I have ever known before or since. Caring for a demanding infant has stretched me emotionally and spiritually to the edge. Caring for a demanding toddler has been almost as hard, but so far, it's gotten easier as the years have passed. Going on to lose a child in pregnancy has made me feel older than my years, and sadder than I ever knew I could be.

But you know what . . . I wouldn't take back either of my pregnancies. I'm glad that at least for me, abortion was never TRULY an option.

There's not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for my daughter Maddy. Especially after losing Olivia, I do not take one day with her for granted.

I'm so thankful God had a plan bigger than mine. A plan to give me the greatest blessings -- a blessing wrought through fire. I'm so glad that God's plan included little Maddy snuggling with me tonight. Her deep hazel eyes inches from mine, her sweet, toothpastey breath hot on my face. And the best words ever spoken softly to my heart . . .

"You are the bestest mommy ever. I love you SO SO much."

No matter how we feel, God's plan really is the best. This is my truth no matter what.

Back on topic

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I plan to talk a bit more about abortion in the future. It's something that's been heavy on my heart since starting this journey.

I know some of my readers have lost babies to abortion. I know some of my readers have thought about getting an abortion, but didn't do it. I know some of my readers have been encouraged by doctors to terminate the pregnancy. I know women who have had no choice (ectopic pregnancy) but to end a pregnancy through surgery or drugs. I know women whose babies had fatal birth defects, and were encouraged to induce early, knowing the baby would not survive.

So I want you to know, I know that this is not really just a black-and-white issue. I want you to know that on this blog, I will not be pointing fingers. I will not be judging.

I will be breaking some silence. I am breaking my silence

I will also share from my heart what I believe to be truth. And I will do my best to do so with utmost respect and honor to each one of you. And with respect and honor the God who created has created every single life.

From newborn . . . to now.

She was adorable (when she wasn't screaming.)  I was a stressed out mess.

When Maddy was 1.
She was still adorable. I was way too skinny.
 And maybe a little less of a mess.

At 2, things were getting easier.

The beginning was hard, but worth it. Her beautiful smile brings joy to my life!

At 3, things just keep getting better. I still have hard days,
but I love how creative and communicative she is.

Making goofy photos together.
A common pastime here in the Lewis household.  

Best friends for life!

The night she told me I was the bestest Mommy.
I love snuggling her!