Sunday, February 28, 2010
I hope as I conclude, this has not just been a sad story that cost you a box of tissues. I hope that the end is uplifting and God uses it in some way in someone's life.
Read Journey into Motherhood Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.
On October 18, I began to suspect that I was miscarrying. I was only 8 weeks along and was terrified of another miscarriage. It seemed to be too much. Sure, lots of women lose one baby during their life. But two? That was too many. One more than I could handle. I called my doctor and went in for an ultrasound. The screen showed no problems but instead a healthy little baby with a strong heart beat.
I was still not feeling right but tried to convince myself that it was just fear and negative thinking. My primary cause for distress was the unique distinctive headache which I had felt when Grace had died was throbbing in my head again. We went out to dinner with Seth’s parents and I candidly told them that I feared I was preparing to miscarry. When we came home and got ready for bed, I came into Seth’s arms and asked him to pray that we would not miscarry. He began to pray a prayer expressing a yielded will, telling the Lord that we only wanted His will. I stopped him in the middle if his prayer and shook him. I demanded him to prayer that the baby would not miscarry.
At this moment, Seth and I had conflicting philosophies regarding prayer. He would only pray to tell God that His will was good and we would accept it. He wanted to tell God that we trusted Him with our lives, including our baby. I, although I would not have openly admitted it, trusted God with everything except my baby. This was no doubt the cause for the distance that I had felt from the Lord all those many months. I did not want to tell God that I give Him permission to take my baby. Another baby. I wanted to change His mind. I wanted to convince Him to let us keep our child.
Whatever the approach either one of us took to praying that evening, during the night the answer came.
I woke Seth up and called my Ob’s office. Despite the fact that nothing could be done to stop a miscarriage in progress, we hastily headed to the hospital. I just needed to know if the baby was gone. I was still clinging to a hope that the baby was alive and well. I could not stand not knowing any more. If I was actually loosing the baby, I wanted to know… and I wanted the people at the hospital to tell me if this baby had perished due to Turner’s Syndrome as well.
As we entered the E.R., a nurse sat across a desk from me and began to inquire about why I was there.
“I think I am miscarrying.”
“Is this your first pregnancy?”
“No, my second.”
“Do you have someone watching the other child?”
“I miscarried her too.” And that was all I could say. Seth took over the questions and filled out the paperwork.
I laid down on a very uncomfortable exam table and the hours passed. An unfortunate ultra sound technician was roused from her sleep and came to the hospital to administer the ultrasound. She was friendly despite of the late hour but forewarned me that she was not permitted to tell me any information during the test. A doctor will tell me the findings when she was done.
The screen was much blurrier than any ultrasound machines I had experienced. I could not make out any images clearly so I closed my eyes and just prayed during the ultrasound.
Back in the ER exam room, a doctor with sad tired eyes told us that the baby was gone. Even though I knew that he could not answer this question, I still asked him what had happened between noon the day before when we saw on the ultrasound that the baby was alive and well and now. He looked very sad for us and said that no one would ever be able to know what happened. I asked if we could test the remains to see if this baby had Turner’s Syndrome. He said it was impossible to do at this point, and even if it were, the cost would not likely be approved.
As he left, I turned my head to face the wall. I noticed the wall clock. It was 6 am on October 19th. My 22nd birthday.
We went home and I curled up on the couch for the entire day. Seth made me homemade soup, which was the first thing he’d ever cooked for us. It was really delicious.
Sometime over the next few months, my spirit revived. I gave my babies to Jesus. They were His all along anyway. Clutching onto them was not working and though I was still sad to not have them in my arms, there was peace in simply surrendering them to His care. I fantasized about them in Heaven. I wondered if they were babies, or if in Heaven we have no age. I cannot find many verses in the Bible describing what form my children took… if they are being raised up there, or if that will be for me to do when I get to Heaven, or if when they entered Heaven they were fully matured instantly… but I know whatever Heaven is like it is good. And Grace and our other little baby do always behold the Father’s face.
Despite the restoration that my soul was benefitting from, my emotions were more rampant than ever before. I could literally feel my hormones soaring out of control. The level of control over when I cried was gone. I cried all the time, in the worst of places and when I least wanted to. I stuffed tissues into every pocket and filled my purse with them. Tears would overcome me at any given moment and it was embarrassing and annoying to me.
At a dentist appointment, my crazed hormones would rear their ugly head in the most embarrassing way yet. My dentist is a very very nice man, and is careful to make sure his patients are as comfortable as possible. I was there to have two perfectly healthy teeth removed as part of my orthodontic treatment. Dr. J numbed the area for the injection and then proceeded to administer several doses of Novocain so that I would not feel any pain as he yanked my teeth out. He joked about how intimidated people are of him, despite his stature of barely 5 ft. I had come into the office relaxed but as he joked and continued numbing my mouth, I began sweating. I ignored the uneasy feeling that was growing in the pit of my stomach and Dr. J reached for his metal instruments. I laid there remembering my junior high science class when I learned about the “fight or flight” reflex that we experience in times of stress. I was most definitely in the midst of a real “fight of flight” kind of situation. I was leaning toward “flight”. Dr. J was first to notice the tears that I had not even realized were escaping from the corners of my eyes and running down my face.
“Are you alright? Does this hurt?” The only portion of his face that was visible behind his mask showed concern.
“Um… I don’t… it doesn’t hurt… I’m okay.”
“Are you sure?” Dr. J actually took a tissue and blotted my face for me. Now part of my tears was just pure embarrassment that my dentist was wiping my mascara and tears off my face.
I nodded and Dr. J continued.
I started to feel very cold and actually started to tremble. I’m a California girl living in NY so I’m cold most of the time but rarely do I actually tremble when I’m cold. Dr. J stopped.
“Oh, I know what’s going on here. You’re having a reaction to the Novocain. It’s the adrenaline. I gave you a lot too so that you wouldn’t feel the extraction.”
And so I learned the hard way that after a pregnancy, things change. Weird things.
My list (so far):
-allergic to Novocain
-once a roller coaster enthusiastic, I now hate them because they hurt my hips
- super strength deodorant is now a must
So now whenever I have an appt. with Dr. J, he is careful to use special Novocain, and has a blanket and box of tissues set out just for me, just in case.
As fall turned to winter, our whole family was ready to bid 2005 a dui. Not only had we miscarried two babies but my sister in law had been very ill for most of the year due to complications from a molar pregnancy. I began to read and research pregnancy and miscarriage avidly. I had stopped working secularly and was now volunteering at our church’s small academy. This gave me lots of time to read as many books and articles as I could find.
What I realized was that as much a man has come to understand about pregnancy and the creation of a baby, there is still so much beyond our comprehension, and certainly beyond our control. God rules and reigns above all our medical and scientific advancements. Only He can create life. I felt such peace from the recognition that God was in control. He would determine the final outcome.
For a person who has never faced the possibility of never being able to bear children, the ability to surrender that desire to Him and truly decide to be content whether or not your arms ever hold a baby may seem like an obvious step. Especially when we have already surrendered our life to God. Wouldn’t the area of having a family be included in that acceptance and yielding to His will? But I do believe it is an extremely difficult resolution to actually arrive at when you are in that situation. When the very desire for a baby seems to be God given, for that same God to require the desire to be cast at His feet, it seems almost too hard. Too much to require.
I was struggling with this question of whether God was asking me to give up my dreams of having children. It probably seems like it was premature to really doubt if we’d ever carry a baby home from the hospital but after just a year of this struggle, it really did weigh on my mind. I had spent 7 months pregnant but had a childless home.
I was reading my Bible but had finally deserted the book of Psalms. I thought that maybe God would not give me a special hug from Him because I was a “big girl” now. I should just do right out of character not because of some special sign from Him. I was in the book of Isaiah, chapter 54, when I came across these verses, God’ promise to me. My hug.
“Sing, O Barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud…”
I did not feel like singing. I felt like crying. I’m not sure if I actually qualified as a “barren women” but even if I wasn’t, I thought of all the truly barren women in the world and thought that they probably didn’t feel like singing either.
Later in verses 6 and 7 it says,
“For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, said thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.”
Has there ever been an author like the Lord, who could so poetically and perfectly relay the emotions of the human heart?
Verses 11 and 12:
“O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”
I read these words and thought “Yup. That’s me: “afflicted and tossed with tempest”. The tempest may have my own emotions running me ragged. I had been seeking a special comfort from the Lord and had mostly felt “not comforted” as verse 11 said. Matthew 2:18 tells of the slaughter of all the innocents at Herod’s hands and speaks of Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted because her children were dead. She would not be comforted.
There are some very hard things in this life. I thought of truly tragic situations, far worse than my own, such as people who have lost their entire family in a fire or car accident. Or those parents who have lost their children to cancer after long painful battles. Or people whose love ones are stolen from them by some cruel crime. How can a person find comfort after those horrible events? As the women in Isaiah 54:11, and Rachel representing the children of Israel, there are times in life when comfort is evasive. Some things are so hard, we “would not be comforted”. Comfort is impossible.
But we are blessed to have a God who does the impossible every day.
And then in verse 13, God gave me a promise. Not a general Bible promise that applies to all of His children but I promise specifically to me. I realize that it may sound very presumptuous to say such a thing, or maybe just insane. But when two friends get together, the conversation goes two ways. When God is our Friend, He talks to us within the quietness of our hearts.
“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
God told me that day that I did not need to relinquish to Him my desire to have children. He assured me that I would have not just a child, but children. All He wanted from me was that my children ultimately be given to Him. They needed to “be taught of the Lord”. And the peace that they would enjoy would be from His hand, not my own.
This was the hug from heaven that I had been looking for and needed so badly. It was like I could finally breathe a deep full breath and not just barely have enough oxygen to get through that moment alone. I highlighted the verses in my Bible and thought of them constantly.
True to His promise, we conceived again early in 2006. I wish that I could say I rested peacefully in the promise God had given me but the truth is that my faith wavered for most of the pregnancy. Every “funny feeling” left me convinced that I was miscarrying. I had never really had trouble with the sin of worrying before this and found it to be an addicting habit. The trouble with my habit of worrying was that it bled into all areas of life not just my pregnancy. Worry begat more worry.
I was again extremely nauseated and ended up being admitted to the hospital for dehydration.
At that hospital, I was under the care of a high risk pregnancy specialist. This specialist also was an expert in fertility treatments. One of the resident doctors was looking in on the fertility doctor’s patients and came in to see me.
He was a younger doctor and had an easy going personality. He reviewed my chart and then asked me if I was taking a particular fertility drug.
“No.” I answered, looking at Seth in the corner of the room, who shrugged his shoulders.
“Did you conceive through IVF?”
“No.” I said again.
“Did you conceive via…?” He rattled off terms and acronyms I’ve never heard of.
He put down his clip board and looked at me. “So how did you conceive this baby?”
I know I shouldn’t have but I couldn’t resist.
“Well, doctor, this is a conversation you should have had with your father a long time ago.”
The resident laughed. Seth groaned and shot me one of his “Women, you are trouble!” looks.
This pregnancy, despite my anxiety and lack of faith, progressed normally. Finally, at about 6 months, I felt completely convicted about my lack of faith and trust in God. What a slap in the face of God to trust Him with my eternal soul but not my baby’s life. I again gave this baby, and all my babies over to His care. I continually had to recommit myself to trusting in God in this area. I could not worry my baby into good health. The worry habit was hard to break but breaking it was so helpful to my state of mind in all areas.
October 17th, Madison was born. Healthy and beautiful as any baby girl has ever been. Even as I held her with her cord still attached, I thought inwardly that this would not be the only baby I would parent. I knew God would give me at least one more. He had promised.
A year and half later, on May 7th, Eden Grace joined the family. The name Eden means “delightful” and it certainly suits her well.
And now for you reward for reading this entire lengthy story, I will let you in a secret:
In mid October 2010, we expect another. ♥
Saturday, February 27, 2010
I went to church on Sunday. Other than the Wednesday evening I spent in the hospital, I did not miss any church service or function. The only element about being at church that I dreaded was greeting everyone during our church’s traditional hand shaking segment. I did manage not to cry the entire time I was at church (as far as I can remember) but going from person to person with sympathetic expressions on their faces was pushing my limits. I appreciated everyone’s care and knew that they were truly sad for our loss. It seemed that the whole church had lost a baby. I wish that I had been better able to simply be grateful for their well meaning expressions but I admit that one phrase which was often repeated by a few people greatly bothered me.
“You’ll have another.”
It was said in a few different forms: “You’ll have your a quiver full.” or “You’re still young, you can try again.”
I knew that each person who said it meant it to bring me comfort but it did not. For one, we had no assurance that we would indeed have another baby. We had been told that Grace had died due to spinal bifida, which is a condition that could very likely affect every child we conceived. But mostly what I hated about the “you’ll have another” phrase is that even if I had ten children, they would never replace the one I had just delivered. Would we ever consider telling a parent who lost their oldest living child that they should be fine with that death since they had a younger living child?
Miscarriage can be an awkward thing to know what to respond to. I certainly had never known what to say when a woman I knew lost her baby. To some, it is just a fact of life and not a big deal. Sad, yes. But not really an outright tragedy. To others it is more significant. Added to the confusion in our situation was how late in the pregnancy we had lost our baby. Although I was twenty weeks into the pregnancy, Grace had died at 19 weeks. A week had gone by before we knew that her soul was already in Heaven. A death at or after 20 weeks is considered a still birth, but Grace was considered by most people as a miscarriage. Actually, the hospital had referred to it as a “fetal demise.” I had been greatly disturbed by hearing that term spoken by my nurses in conversation with each other.
Most people expressed their sympathy in simple heartfelt forms. A hug. A sincere “I’m sorry.” A plant, which was actually a really wonderful gesture. It was an assortment of plants in one decorative container. I kept the “dish garden” on my kitchen counter for very long time. I knew that people loved us and were from their heart, sad for our loss.
There is a lady in our church who lost her full term daughter many years ago. When we intersected each other during our hand shaking time, I quietly said, “I know that you know.” And she warmly took my hand and said, “No, honey. Only you know. Only you.” And that was a true statement. I could never know just what her loss had meant to her and she could not know what mine had meant to me. Over the course of the next few months, as the news of Grace’s death spread, I listened to several women who had their own tales of baby loss. Though there is a sisterhood of mothers with babies in Heaven, it is mostly a personal experience. To assume that we could ever fully know just how another person feels, about any difficulty or tragedy, would be a mistake.
As the days went on, I reminded myself that this was not the first hardship I had ever experienced in life, and it surely would not be the last. Since I had become a Christian when I was nine years old, whenever bad things happened, very quickly, usually that very day, God would do something special to let me know that He cared for me. The best way I can think of to describe it is that He would figuratively wrap His arms around me and give me a big hug. After some trials, I would be reading my Bible and it almost seemed that my Bible had fallen open and a specific verse jumped off the pages at me. The verse, though written centuries ago, would fit my circumstance perfectly. It would bring me such tremendous comfort and was like a giant “I love you” sent from God. Sometimes, the special token of affection from the Lord would come in a particular sermon that was meant just exclusively for me, or so it felt. The hugs from God came in a few different ways but they had always been there and they had always come soon after a hard thing came into my life.
As soon as I came home from the hospital, I started looking for my hug from God. Thinking that I would make it easy for God to reveal it to me, I began reading the Psalms. Surely this would be a good place to find my special hug from God, I thought. But I did not find it right away. I read through Psalms without finding my hug from God. I read through it again and again and still did not find it. I listening intently during sermons for my hug from Heaven but did not hear it. I looked for it as I went about my days but nothing came right out and gave me that special message just from my Father to me telling me that He knew and He cared and He loved me and would make everything okay.
Of course, I KNEW that God loved me. He had sent His Son to die on the cross for my sins and had expressed His great love and watch care for me in so many ways I could not begin to count them. It is not that I needed a new sign from Heaven to know that I was saved or that God had not forsaken me. I knew that without a doubt. God was still God and He was still kind and good and right. But what I was searching for was a special hug from God for this particular hour. He had always done so in the past and in this, my saddest period of life, I just knew that He would so again. And so I kept looking, and I began praying for God to send me a special hug.
Early the next week, a small graveside service was held. Only Seth’s parents, siblings, grandma and uncle were present. Grace was placed in a small white coffin with a silver teddy bear in the corner. A hole had been prepared in the same cemetery plot as Seth’s late grandfather. Grace was placed directly on top of her great Grandpa McCoy.
As can be the case in upstate NY in May, it was a chilly overcast day. We huddled in the old country cemetery surrounded by fields and cow pastures while Seth’s father spoke briefly with an open Bible in his hands. My sister in law, who is always one to cry, wept. Seth and I stood side by side staring down at the little box that held our baby. Again, I prayed for God to give me something to hang onto…. a gesture from Him to me to get me through these days. A cold wind swept by and I, being the ever unprepared for cold weather California girl, shuddered. Seth put his arms around my shoulders and squeezed me close to him. My prayer to God for His hug had been continuing in my heart and at that moment, God said seemed to me, “Until you can feel my hug to you, accept Seth’s in its place. He’ll be the temporary expression of my great abiding love for you for the time being.”
And so that is how it was for a time. In all my “expertise” for all things pertaining to marriage, which I had accumulated in less than one year of marriage, I had firmly believed that husband, though the spiritual head of the home should not be the wife’s spiritual crutch. And really I do still believe that statement to be generally true. But at that time and place, Seth became my spiritual crutch for a period. That may not be right but that is the way was for a season.
Another sister in law had brought a bouquet of pink flowers. I was so appreciative that she had thought of bringing some flowers for Grace. Along with all the other things I had not thought of, flowers was yet another.
Our small assembly cried, we hugged and then we walked away. I sat in the passenger seat of our car while everyone was loading into their own vehicles. My mother in law passed by my window and stopped.
“Are you okay?”
And then I said the only thing that I could think of… not a Bible verse but a quote from a silly movie.
“To despair is to turn one’s back on God.” I smiled. It was from Anne of Green Gables.
“Yeah, that’s right.” She laughed. “It’s funny the things that come to mind at these times, isn’t it?”
Before my follow up appointment with Dr. G, I had researched spinal bifida and had arrived with a list of questions. This soon became irrelevant when Dr. G. revealed the pathology report results. Grace had not had spinal bifida at all but actually had a chromosome abnormality called Turner’s Syndrome. A healthy baby’s DNA is based from XY, for a boy or XX for a girl. Grace had only one X. It was caused by just a fluke in the way the cells came together. It was most likely not genetic. Some girls afflicted with Turner’s Syndrome are born and live somewhat normal lives. They are infertile and have physical deformities. Some defects on major organs can limit life span significantly. A common issue with TS is a cystic hygroma, which Grace had on her neck. This was what appeared to be spinal bifida initially. This cyst, which grew so large that it disrupted supplies to her brain, was the actual cause of death for Grace.
The news was somewhat good, since TS would most likely not be repeated in all our children, which is very plausible with spinal bifida. It seemed so strange that the whole time that I was pregnant, assuming that the baby was perfect and healthy and fine, she had been sick for every minute. The name Grace fit her as well as it ever had. She was, and is, perfect and whole in Heaven enjoying the grace of God in person.
It soon became apparent to me and Seth that I did indeed need to take the week off of work. But I stayed as busy as I could. One day I went shopping at the mall for hours. I only came home after a sharp cramp in my side became more than I could ignore. We took a trip to library close to our house. I had no makeup on and though was having a good day emotionally, was not looking my best at all. This made running into one of Seth’s childhood friends, whom I had never met before, less than ideal.
As we chit chatted, he casually asked when we were planning on having kids. Seth, in his easy manner, told him that we had actually just lost our first baby. He faced showed his regret for asking and he apologized. I felt badly that he felt bad, so I tried to lighten the atmosphere.
“Yeah, I don’t usually look like I’ve been hit by a truck!”
It was one of moments when my attempt to make the mood less awkward actually made it more awkward.
Exactly one week after Grace had been delivered; I went for a hair appointment. The person who had been cutting my hair since I moved to NY was very good at hair styling and I loved the way my hair came out every time. But the stylist proudly and loudly held to very liberal and radical world views. Our conversations had always been cordial even as we discussed extremely opposite opinions, and though I had considering finding a different stylist, I had the impression that my stylist had a very bad perception of Christians and I pridefully thought I could be the one to change their mind. Since my stylist had seen me early in my pregnancy, I had to let them know that we had lost the baby. They expressed sympathy and also included that they “didn’t think a baby was anything until they were born”. I still remained friendly, because arguing with a person holding shears to your hair is not recommended, but knew that I would find someone else to cut my hair. Before leaving, my stylist again expressed sympathy. I smiled widely, and boldly looked into their eyes and said, “God is still good.” They nodded in a quiet manner as if to say “If you say so, crazy lady…” and I left.
Summer was upon us and with it the youth activities and trips that youth pastors and their wives are privileged to participate in. I cried every day, at least once a day but was usually able to do so at private times, at home and alone. It was as if the tears and emotion built up throughout the day. If I made sure to release them at appropriate times, they would not burst out when I did not want them to. Most of the time.
At one youth conference we took the youth group to, the pastor’s daughter had also suffered a miscarriage. As the pastor shared part of her story, the tears could not be stopped. They flowed during the entire church service; they flowed as we left the church and loaded our van up with awkwardly silent teenagers, and the tears continued to flow as went to a fast food restaurant. I composed myself as best as I could in the ladies’ room, with one sweet teenage girl doing the best any teenage girl could do to be my friend at that moment.
When I came out to join our group at the tables, a friend from college entered the restaurant. When he first saw us, only Seth was facing him.
“Wow, you guys stayed skinny! I got married, fat and happy!”
As I turned around, his jovial expressive dissolved. I am sure he thought that we were married, skinny and miserable. I can almost imagine that even all these years later, he pities poor Seth McCoy married to that skinny, grumpy girl!
All through the summer, I was reading my Bible and praying. I was doing everything that I knew to do to keep in fellowship with the Lord. But something was not as it was before Grace’s death. It was as if the connection between Him and I was severed. I was still saved, still a child of God. But when I prayed it felt as though my prayers went no farther than the ceiling. When I read the Bible, the passages did not come to life for me. I evaluated myself over and over again to determine what the root of the breech in our relationship was. I honestly did not believe that was angry at God. The prevailing emotion I felt was simple sadness.
I knew that Grace was in Heaven. I knew that God loved her and cared for even more than I could even comprehend. I knew that God hurt for my hurt. But the distance was still there, or at least that is how I felt. The problem was most certainly with me because God is always right and always perfect. Even years later, looking back, I cannot determine what was the exact reason for the lack of connection I felt between myself and the Lord. But I absolutely felt it and it created the loneliest time I ever experienced. I had already been lonely for the year that I had lived in NY anyway, but now with a breach between my Father and me, I was very painfully lonely. The principle that one cannot live life based on emotions became a guiding force in my mind. Though the emotional aspect of reading my Bible and praying was not there, I still continued to do so. I felt like a hypocrite who was only going through the motions, but had to recognize that even just going through the motions was better than not. I kept remembering the day at the cemetery when I had felt God instructed me to let Seth be my crutch. It seemed as though Seth was still spiritually in tune with the Lord. So I had to let that be enough for the both of us for the time being. I made no decisions because my decision maker was broken. Seth was steady and sure, when I was everything but steady and sure. So I leaned on him. Maybe someday, over the course of our lifetime, Seth will need me to be his spiritual strength. I hope that if he is ever the weak one, I will have the spiritual muscles enough to carry both of us.
During the summer, a singing tour group from our alma mater came to our church. It just so happened to be a ladies’ group with consisted of girls that had been my friends when I was a college girl myself. Though none of them were close friends of mine, I was so happy to see them. I felt so light inside being able to fellowship and play the part of a carefree happy person again. As we hung around the hotel that they were staying at, eventually the conservation went to Grace. I told them the basic facts and the carefree spell was broken. The tour preacher preached a sermon about God’s help through times of trouble. I cried big wet, snotty tears the entire time. I had never met this preacher or his wife before this service and really regretted that the impression I would leave them with was of snot running down my face.
As fall approached, we moved into a bigger home. A bigger home that we had thought we’d need for our baby. I hung onto the few bags of hand me downs baby items that I had been given, though I had not taken them out to admire, fold and refold since Grace had died. They sat tucked away out of sight but not out of mind.
Though I still cried daily, I did feel stronger and life began to slowly come back to my walk with God. We went through Grace’s due date of October 6th and though we missed her and knew that we would always miss her, time had done its work and the pain was less raw with each day. Around this time, we discovered that were pregnant again. There was no cute gift or clever way to tell Seth this time. I simply left the bathroom, with the positive test sitting on the counter, sat on Seth’s lap and whispered that we were pregnant. We could not talk about it at first but after a few days we allowed ourselves to get excited. We started to make plans. We started to hope.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I always thought of Chicken Parm as a somewhat fancy dinner since it's featured on many a restaurant menu. But a couple of years ago I realized that there really is not much much to it! So here is the way I make mine. By the way, this picture doesn't look very appetizing to me. It really did look so much better in real life! Kayte = no good at taking pictures of food.
For my little family, three medium chicken breasts does the job. I used a whole pound of pasta and have a couple days worth of leftovers, which the girls gobble up with glee.
If the chicken breasts are really fat, or uneven in thickness, you should pound them out to an even thickness so it cooks evenly, without dry ends or raw insides. YUCK! Put them between two pieces of wax paper before beating the day lights out of them with a mallet.
Then I get 3 bowls/dishes prepared:
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1. tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
I never measure, just whatever looks good!
2 eggs, whisked
Shredded or Grated Parmesan cheese
Pour a couple of Tbs. of olive oil (don't ya feel so little "Miss Healthy Pants" when you cook with olive oil?) in a skillet and get it hot. We want to hear a sizzle when we put the chicken in.
Dredge each chicken breast in flour, then egg, then cheese. I smash the cheese in to get as much on as possible. 'Cause it's good that way.
Put the chicken breast in the hot olive oil and cook, undisturbed for a few minutes. They should get really brown. The point is not to cook through because they go in the oven next. It's just to get the coating somewhat crispy and it sort of seals the juiciness of the chicken inside for the baking process. There may be a fancy culinary term that I just don't know. All I know is that the first couple of years I was married, my chicken was either raw or super dry. When I finally tried the whole coating, frying THEN baking thing, it was one of the best days of my life. Angels started singing the hallelujah chorus, birds landed on my window sill and started singing with them and my roof opened up to allow rays of glorious sun to radiate my kitchen.
Or maybe Seth just complemented the chicken. One of the two happened.
When both sides are very brown, pop them in a 375 oven on a 13x9 in. baking dish for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Bigger chicken breast need more, smaller need less. Duh.
Meanwhile, cook some pasta (I used spaghetti this week because I was feeling boring and uncreative but you can use whatever you like. I think I actually prefer angle hair or thin spaghetti.) and heat up some sauce. I have yet to perfect pasta sauce so if you've got a fool proof recipe for good sauce, I'd love to try it!! My mother in law makes great sauce, in my opinion, but I just can't get it right. She's a non-measuring cook and I think she does it different every time but it somehow always turns out good.
When the chicken breasts are cooked, you could just eat them like that and call it a day. Who needs an extra dirty dish. But if your children are like mine and think that every meal must include something in which to dip something else, which in this case is Italian bread and sauce from the pasta, then you must keep going.
Drain the pasta, pour onto the 13x9 inch pan (I've removed the chicken for a moment onto a plate... the same plate that I'll eat dinner from because I'm anti-extra dish) and mix with some sauce. Place the chicken on top of the whole mess and top with a little more sauce. Then sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top. Then cave in and give the begging toddler (and husband) an extra piece of cheese. Put it all back into the oven to allow to cheese to melt. This is when I set the table, corral the toddler into her high chair, cut bread, throw a load from the washer into the dryer, put dirty dishes into the dish washer and solve world hunger. It's a very long and productive 5 minutes. The we sit down, Maddie prays for 5 minutes, Seth prays for 5 seconds, Eden says two "Amens" and we eat. And then I get up to get the drinks I forgot earlier.
** Alternately, you could omit using the oven and simply pour you sauce over the chicken and turn to heat down to simmer for the 15 or so minutes to cook the chicken through. I personally like finishing as many meals as possible in the oven because, well, what would happen to the world if I didn't have that time to accomplish so much? ;)
We called Dr. G and informed her that we would head to the hospital for induction after a quick stop home to pack a bag. She asked if I had eaten recently, which I thought was funny since she had suggested we go to lunch. I told her that I was actually calling from Arby’s. She asked what I had eaten. I also thought that was funny because what could I possibly be eating at Arby’s other than a roast beef sandwich. She told me to stop eating the rest of my food. I told her I would and I did indeed leave those last three fries uneaten.
My tears had dried for the trip home and to the hospital. I was focused on the task of delivering. I did not know what to expect at all, being that this was my first pregnancy. I wondered if this experience would at all be comparable to a normal delivery. As callous as it sounds even to my own ears, I was concentrating on just getting it all over with and done. The sooner the baby was out, the sooner I could hurry up and cope and move on. Experience would later teach me that my plans were unrealistic but for the time being, that was my mind set.
We went to the labor and maternity floor of the hospital but I was not led into a normal delivery room but rather an observation room. The layout of the floor was one set of security doors leading to the delivery and observation rooms and then a second door led to the maternity recovery rooms and nursery. I would never go past those second doors on this trip to the hospital. The observation room would be where I spent my entire time.
I was given a gown and was settled into my room by a weathered, experienced nurse. She was the kind of nurse that you can instantly tell has been doing what she does for decades. She offered no sympathetic words and her tone was even, if not even a bit cheerful. I was grateful and appreciated her normalcy towards me. I told her that I had a terrible headache and asked if she could give me something. I had not been officially admitted at that second, so she handed me some Tylenol and told me take it quick before I was admitted or they’d have to get a doctor’s approval. The approval would come, no doubt, but it would be a wait. She acted as though this was a great, exhilarating conspiracy and was pleased when we pulled it off.
A mid wife that I had not met during my prenatal visits was on duty at the hospital. She was about to end her shift but came in to see me. She put her hand on my shoulder and said that she was sorry I was here. She asked how I was doing. I offered a wobbly smile which quickly disintegrated into tears. I told her that I was doing okay until someone asked me how I was doing. She smiled and nodded knowingly. She let me know that the mid wife who was taking over would be in soon to start the induction.
About that time, Seth’s parents arrived, followed soon by his sister and her husband. I was glad for him to have them close by and could tell he appreciate their presence a lot. I had called my mom and told her that we had lost the baby. She had instantly swore loudly in my ear. I know it was just a reflex reaction. She might have missed her true calling in life as a sailor. And the Navy would have fortunate to have her; she’s tough cookie.
Soon a different nurse midwife came into the room and introduced herself. She was brisk and professional. She explained the induction process that they would use and went over the effects it would take. She asked me if I wanted to have pain medication available, which I did. I saw no reason to be a brave solider when there would no grand prize at the end.
The induction began around 4pm. The first few hours were uneventful and we watched TV. Seth’s family had left for Wednesday evening Bible study. After church, Seth’s parents returned to the hospital. By then it was about 8 pm and I had received a second dose of the induction drugs, along with a sleeping pill to help me rest before the real work began. Friends of ours, a Christian couple who lived near the hospital, had heard the news through relatives that attend our church. They came to the hospital to see us. The wife in this couple had been on our prayer list for some serious cancer tests. When she came in and greeted us, I asked her how her tests came out. She smiled a big huge smile and said that everything was just fine! God is good! Everything is fine! I was so glad to hear it. By then my sleeping pill was taking affect and my head was bobbing. My mother in law saw me struggle to stay awake, and said that it’s fine to sleep. Whether I wanted to heed her or not, the world went dark and I was out.
I learned weeks later that my friend’s tests had actually come back with news of breast cancer. But she was right: God is good and everything was all right. She had surgery and chemo and lost her hair… and she is doing well now.
When I woke up, it was the middle of night and Seth and I were alone in our dark room. I was in labor now and the next several hours were very intense. I gladly accepted (and asked) for as much intravenous pain medication as I could have. I was in a painful blur and only felt Seth’s hand rubbing my back or holding my hand. I did not know that he had finally been grieving there in the dark.
On May 12, 2005, around 8 am, our baby came. I debate even now on whether to type these details because they are so unpleasant. So not how I would want anyone to deliver a baby. Most certainly not how I wanted to deliver my baby.
I was feeling pressure but not knowing what delivery would feel like, I assumed that I needed to use the restroom. I asked Seth to help me into the bathroom. I leaned on him and my IV rack for the short walk, which felt like a mile. My knees buckled with every step. Seth left me and lightly shut the door. Before I could even understand what was happening, I was suddenly standing in a puddle of blood and water. I cried for Seth to help. He looked in and saw the blood and darted back out for a nurse. Two nurses charged in and pushed me down on the toilet. The baby came there. On the toilet. A urine hat had been placed in the commode and it was what my baby landed in. I did not turn and look at the baby. I was so distraught that the baby had been born on the toilet. I have never experienced hysteria in my life but this moment was hysteria, or what I imagine hysteria to be. The fact that the baby was in the toilet tormented me. A nurse removed my hospital robe and began using it to clean me and the floor up so that I could get back to my bed. I was so sad that the baby was in the toilet but when she started using my robe to clean, I began yelling that I needed that robe. I wanted her to stop cleaning with it and put it back on me. Even as a part of my mind recognized that I was being ridiculous, I could not stop crying and screaming. She repeatedly assured me that she would get me another robe. Poor nurses. They truly put up with a lot.
Eventually I went back to my bed, which had been redressed with clean linens and was given a clean gown and robe. I returned back to the quiet patient I had previously been. I was suddenly exhausted and rested on my bed, with no tears and no outbursts. Seth called his parents and they were on their way soon.
After some time, the same sweet nurse that I had yelled at came in carrying a bundle of swaddling blankets. Without her saying a word, I sat up in my bed and prepared to hold my child.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked. What had been all consuming to us just hours before had been completely forgotten about until the very moment.
“She’s a girl.” The nursed answered with a small smile.
Those words seem to make the loss that much more real. It was not a faceless, genderless baby now. She was a daughter. Our daughter. I had felt all along that I was carrying a girl. It seemed that everyone had known it was a girl. The fact that she was indeed a girl meant that somehow, we already knew her.
She was tiny. Holding her, I only really felt the weight of the blankets. She was pink with translucent skin. Though only developed to 19 weeks, she had so many features and unique characteristics. She looked just like a regular newborn, thought extremely small, with very thin skin. She had blonde eyebrows and eyelashes. A tiny little nose. Pink lips. Three years after holding this tiny baby, we would hold Eden and I would see similarities in their appearance.
If there is anything I regret in life it is not holding her longer. Again, my mindset was to hold the baby, give her back, pack my bag, and get out of the hospital, and go home where I could just hurry up and go through all 7 steps of grief or however many they say there are and be done with the whole ordeal.
I don’t know how long I held her, but it wasn’t long enough. I wouldn’t realize that it wasn’t long enough until days or weeks later. You see, there is no manual for what to do when your baby dies. There was no class on this in college. I did not know, Seth did not know, what we were in for. A nurse came in with a form to be filled out. She asked if we had a name for the baby.
I said no.
I guess I thought that naming her would make it harder, or make it seem melodramatic. I’m not sure why I said no so quickly but I did. After the nurse left, my mother in law, who had been sitting in the corner listening, suggested that we might regret not naming her. We had not discussed names in much depth. Only casually thrown a few names around. But one name came to mind. And I don’t believe we had ever brought the name up before but it was clear in my mind that it was the only name that could be her name.
No middle name. If we had been given more time… if we had made more time… we probably would have come up with a middle name. But questions came too quickly and answers came even more quickly. There are things, such as this, that I wish we had done differently. But how were we to know? We took no pictures. We had no special outfit. We had been operating on auto pilot and had thought of none of these things. I had never known anyone in this kind of situation, or at least not that I knew of. I had never read of another’s experience. We were so utterly unprepared.
After the baby was taken and never seen again, I fell asleep for several hours. In the early evening, I was discharged.
The nurse midwife who was reviewing my discharge orders with me could tell that we were still not yet at terms with reality. She advised me to take the next week off of work, which I did not think was necessary. I was feeling fine already. Really. I was fine. The sweet nurse from early came in before I left and gave me a few mementos. She took a Polaroid of Grace and made an angel ornament from it. It, along with a small pink and white box, a miniature baby blanket, a knit hat, her bassinet ID card and her ID bracelet, was all we had to represent our Grace.
With my precious gifts held in my lap, I was wheel chaired out of the hospital. The ride was surreal and sad. Seth helped me into the car and we drove away wordlessly. Silent tears escaped my eyes and fell unchecked onto my lap for the long ride home. Seth held my hand as we drove but there were no words to say. I had gone into the hospital the day before with a baby on my belly. I left so utterly empty.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
It seems nonsensical even to me but even after my mid-wife was unable to detect the baby's heart beat, I still was not concerned. I was 5 months into my pregnancy and since most miscarriages happen within the first trimester, loosing the baby now seemed inconceivable. Corrine’s face was slightly strained but she also reiterated the fact that the baby was still very small and it was possibly in such a position that kept us from being able to catch its heart beat. She escorted us to the receptionist and instructed her to call the medical imaging office for an immediate sonogram for a fetal heart check.
As Seth and I got into our car and made the very short trip to the medical imaging building, we both wore smiles. We focused on the fact that we were getting an early ultra sound. I remember that by this time, that very small “what if” had grown just a tiny bit. The “what if something is wrong with our baby” question was now about the size of “what if I get bit by a mosquito and contract the West Nile virus?” It was somewhat more plausible than an asteroid landing on our house, but still not enough to cause a panic. Neither of us expressed our inner debate of whether or not something may actually be wrong but instead we talked about the prospect of finding out the gender today instead of having to wait another week.
We were taken back to an ultra sound room as soon as we walked into the door of Oxford Medical Imaging. A petite woman with short dark hair was our technician. I have seen her for subsequent pregnancies several times since May 11, 2005. I do not know if she remembers me but I always and instantly recognize her. She nonchalantly asked what brought us in today. The question surprised me and I wondered if she was asking to figure out if we knew what she knew. I thought to myself that it was strange to ask but she was a very pleasant person so I assumed that she had a reason for asking.
“We couldn’t find the heart beat at my OB’s office” I said, trying to sound unconcerned. The truth was that now being in the ultra sound room and preparing to have a concrete “Yes there is a heartbeat” or “No there is not heart beat”, I was beginning to feel afraid.
I laid down and stared at the screen. Seth must have also realized that we were here to discover something much more important than our baby’s gender, because as I glued my eyes on the monitor, I felt his hand slide onto the table and clasp my hand.
Silence thundered through the small room.
The technician glided the device slowly across my stomach and clicked keys on her keyboard. She did not identify any parts of the anatomy, as had happened in our early ultrasound. Although I was looking at the monitor and knew that the baby was visible, I could not focus. The only one of my five senses that was functioning was my sense of hearing. I strained my ears trying to hear the rapid beating of a baby’s heart. But I could not hear it. Finally, I had to know.
“I don’t hear the heart beat,” I said in a small voice. It was a statement, but a question. And a plea. A plea to be told that I just needed to wait a minute. A plea to tell me that she had not turned the sound on yet. A plea to tell me that all was well.
“There is no heart beat.” She said in a soft but still professional way. Simultaneously, she handed me the tissue box. She rose from her stool, and turned the lights on. She said that she would be right back and she left.
Seth hugged me and I know I cried a few tears. But we had barely begun to allow the words to register. The technician returned and said that we should return to my obstetrician’s office; they were expecting me.
We walked out into the waiting room and through the doors. The other employees had downward cast eyes and sad expressions. I am sure that our faces betrayed our feelings but we robotically walked, one foot in front of the other, out to the hall, down the elevator and wordlessly made our way back to my doctor’s office.
The office was almost empty since it was now lunch time. One receptionist was at the desk but Corrine herself came out to the waiting room and showed us into an exam room. Since Corrine was a nurse midwife and not an actual obstetrician, she wanted to wait until one of the OBs, who are a married couple, returned. Dr. G was on her way.
While Seth still did not cry, by now, I was sobbing. I left the exam room to use the restroom and crossed paths with the poor receptionist who had the most pitiful expression on her face. I wished that I could have changed my expression and given her some assurance that I really was okay; I could not.
Dr. G and Corrine were soon standing the exam room leaning on the cabinets. The ultrasound had confirmed no heart beat and also showed some abnormalities with the baby. The baby appeared to have spinal bifida so extreme that it had taken its life even before birth. Corrine was mostly quiet and stood more like a friend in the room rather than a medical professional. The doctor went over our options. We did not have to decide anything right then. We could even take a week and just come to terms with the situation. This idea, though now seems almost wise, seemed horrific at that moment. To walk around with my child lifeless inside of me was not an option I would even consider. We could have a D&C performed, but this far into the pregnancy it would have to take place in a big hospital a few hours away. Or labor could be induced and I would deliver the baby. My decision was made fairly quickly but I still asked a few questions. What would be the best option for future pregnancies? An induced delivery was best in that regard because of the scarring involved with a D&C performed at 20 weeks. But Dr. G was quick to balance that statement out with a warning that a vaginal delivery would be hard. It would be hard physically and mostly, she emphasized that it would take its emotional toll. I acknowledge that fact, as it seemed obvious but I knew that I would not have a D&C. I told her that I wanted to be induced that day. She suggested that we go eat some lunch and think it over. Now I realize that she was afraid that I was being rash but I am such a person that once my mind is made up about something, few people can change it and most don’t even try. This was Dr. G’s attempt to slow me down.
We went to Arby’s. I remember getting a Diet Pepsi, something I had avoided all pregnancy to try to limit the aspartame the baby received. Seth saw me filling my cup and knew… might as well, right? The baby is gone. As we ate, my resolve to have labor induced as soon as possible only grew stronger. Seth, normally slower than I to make decisions in all areas of life, wanted to just allow me to do what I needed.
I remember so clearly how odd it felt to be sitting in a fast food place. Looking like we had on any other day. No one would ever have looked at the young couple sitting in a booth and would have guessed that our hopes had just been crushed. No one looking at me would know that a dead baby was sleeping inside me. No one would have ever guessed what topic we were discussing: How to address the death of our first baby.
Seth was quiet. Unemotional. Trying to be a source of strength for me. He asked one question. Though I could tell he did not want to sound stupid asking, he just had to ask it.
“So the baby really is gone, then? They are sure.”
“Yes. There was no heart beat…. Yes…” I knew why he asked. He just wanted to make sure we weren’t giving up on a miracle from God if there was still a possibility.
We had yet to learn all that we were in for but here was the first wave of one faucet of what we would experience: The disappointment of one another. As a spouse, one of our primary duties is to comfort each other. The Bible instructs it, even. But comforting one another is exceedingly difficult when you are in such great need of comfort yourself. And when your grief and your spouse’s grief, though stemmed from the same root, take very different forms and are expressed in very different ways, it’s harder to know what the other person needs.
Immediately, I recalled a lesson that I had learned from observation as a teenage girl. Every one grieves differently. A family, who instead of letting tragedy draw them closer, allowed the difficulties to drive wedges between its members. As each person looked solely inward at their own personal losses, they refused to give much consideration to the feelings of others or give mercy as those emotions ran their course. The fact that each person grieves in their own unique way was a thought in my mind on this day and for many months to come. The temptation to focus all thoughts of what I lost, instead of what others have lost, would make this sad time in our marriage weaken us, instead of being a binding force to make us stronger. I so badly wanted at least one good thing to come out of the loss of our baby and that one good thing could be a bond shared by none other but Seth and I. I not only lost my baby. Seth not only lost his baby. We lost our baby.
Grace would be freely offered to each other. It was unspoken between us but true and evident, if to no one else but to each other.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The details of my particular journey are a mix of tragedy and blessing, heavy on the blessing side. I've spent hours preparing this story, mostly for my own benefit. I hope that I never forget a single detail about the children God gave me or the unfolding of events, whether painful or pleasant. And some parts are painful. Initially I tried to make the sad portions of this story not so dreadful... not so raw. But above the goal of an enjoyable read, was the goal to remain accurate and honest. I do believe this to be a very honest depiction of the actual events and my own personal reactions to them, whether for good or bad. I was not, nor am I still, a perfect Christian who responds to every circumstance in a Christ like manner. I am trying to improve but in this story you will see my weakness and my strength, but above all else, I hope you see God's strength and goodness throughout.
Knowing that I am not the first nor will be last mommy to loose babies prompted me to include this in my blog. In my heartfelt desire to remain true to this story, I did not rush the story. I omitted very few elements, and so it has become very long. For this reason, I divided it into chapters.
I had a fluttery feeling my tummy. Excitement. Suspense. Hopefulness. Shock. And then the two pink faint lines made their appearance and the truth was known.
I was pregnant. My husband and I… WE… were pregnant.
I went to my part time job that day as usual but an undeniable relentless smile crept back onto my face regardless of my attempts not to appear too ridiculously daffy. My attempts were half hearted, I realize in retrospect, as I remember walking by co workers who casually asked how I was today and I would bluntly and mischievously reply “Oh I’m good. I’m pregnant.” Subtle, right?
My technique for telling Seth of our happy news was slightly more sophisticated. I made a quick trip to a store and had my purchases wrapped and ready by the time Seth and I met at home for dinner. I handed him the surprise package while he looked delightfully confused. He opened up the box to reveal two bibs: one pink and one blue. Both read “I love my daddy.”
In typical Seth fashion, it took a moment for the truth to register. “So does this mean….”
Married for about 6 months, we were first among most of our friends to be expecting. I had suspicions that some of them thought we were crazy. Or that we would be “missing out” on more baby free years of married life. But if they could have known our true feelings, they would know that we were elated. We felt not a smidgen of disappointment that our carefree days were over. While we tried to grasp the magnitude of our impending responsibility, most our thoughts were of holding a snuggly bundle of baby softness. I had big plans of pink and pale yellow and butterflies galore. We immediately made plans to move to a bigger home since our current apartment was not big enough for even a pet goldfish.
We told our parents right away, and very soon shared the news with our church. I received a gentle reprimand that I had broken protocol by sharing the news before passing the first trimester. But even if we spilled the beans prematurely, everyone was happy.
Because I was feeling some discomfort, my obstetrician ordered a precautionary ultra sound. I was barely 5 weeks into the pregnancy but we were still excited to see a glimpse of our baby’s beginnings. Lying on my back with a very full bladder and cold goo smeared all over, we saw… well… we didn’t know what we were seeing. And the technician of course did not talk much. She pointed out a few blurbs on the screen that were part of the early development of a baby. We gladly accepted the printed out photos of a gray and fuzzy scene of an unrecognizable human that we already cherished. Later that day, I received a call from my obstetrician’s office. The nurse spoke softly and carried a tone of sympathy in her voice. The images in the ultra sound were not what they should be at 5 wks. She warned me that this pregnancy may not be viable. That it could be a blighted ovum. A pregnancy with no actual baby. She let me know that my body would most likely expel the ovum on its own. They would schedule a follow up ultra sound in a few days.
I did not have much of a reaction. Maybe I was in shock. I asked if this was because I had been painting before I knew that I was pregnant. A silly question, I know, but one I had to ask. The nurse assured me that this was nothing caused by my actions. Just something that happens.
It seems naïve but even after that phone call, I still had an unwavering impression that nothing bad was about to happen. Other women have blighted ovums. Other women have miscarriages. Other women have deformed children. Other women have still born babies. But not me. Not us. We would surely not be among those unfortunate parents. There is always a lingering “what if” in the back of a person’s mind, of course. But the possibility of something going wrong with our baby remained a very very small “what if”. It was a “what if” equal to “what if an asteroid landed on our house?” or “What if we won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes?” A slight possibility but thoroughly unlikely.
My belief was solidified even more by an uneventful next few days and an ultra sound in the very same office as a few days prior. This ultrasound, however, showed a beating heart. And the beginnings of a placenta. It clearly showed a life supporting cyst that would nourish the baby until the placenta was completely formed. This ultra sound showed that I was right: we would have our baby. Our baby was safe and healthy and fine. My obstetrician concurred that everything was normal. My dates were probably mixed up or maybe even the baby had just taken a little extra time getting all its necessities in order to show us on screen.
Actual ultrasound measuring our tiny baby of. .68 cm
Months went by and the pregnancy was normal and healthy. Despite being extremely thrilled that a new life was growing in my womb, I physically felt terrible. I was nauseated all the time. I threw up or at the very least gagged all morning. Even in the afternoons and evenings, my stomach was shaky at best. Almost everything aggravated it. Fruit juice, milk, cheese, meat. Nothing set well. I lived off of smoothies, French fries, crackers and almonds. I tried every nausea remedy suggested. Ginger, ginger snaps, ginger ale, herbal teas… I was desperate to settle my stomach but most ideas proved ineffective. I simply learned to live with it and tried to ignore it as best as I could.
We looked forward to every doctor’s appointment. We were especially looking forward to the big 20 week ultra sound when we hoped to discover our baby’s gender. At 20 weeks, we had a regular check up scheduled, at which our all important ultra sound would be put on the calendar.
May 10, 2005 was a Tuesday morning and I was feeling particularly horrible. Driving to pick up Seth at the church so that he could take me to work and have the car for the rest of the day, I had to pull over twice on the five minute drive to open my car door and heave outside. I hoped that once I was out of the car and focused on my work, I would feel a little better. As the hours passed, however, I only got worse. My co worker asked me if I was feeling all right, and I finally admitted that I needed to go home. I couldn’t stop retching and I had the most unusual head ache I had ever had. It was so sharp, concise and throbbing. I called Seth and he took me home. If I had not had a regular appointment scheduled for the next day, I probably would have called my doctor to let them know about this sudden increase in my pregnancy symptoms. But even as miserable as I felt, it seemed silly to call to complain of nausea and a head ache. They are, after all, signs of a very normal pregnancy, and should almost be expected.
After sleeping for the rest of Tuesday, I woke up on Wednesday morning feeling much better. The nausea was much improved and though the piercing headache lingered, I was enthusiastic about my prenatal visit, because I always looked forward to hearing the heart beat and even being measured. I just enjoyed all things related to the process of having a baby. Our baby. I was particularly excited about this appointment because we would schedule our ultra sound for sometime in the next week.
I do not remember the exact circumstance but I recall that Seth was not originally planning to accompany me to this appointment. He had arranged to be at almost all our prenatal checkups but there was something going on that he planned to do instead, with the intention of making sure he could be present for the ultra sound. For whatever reason, though, almost last minute, Seth decided to go with me to the doctor anyway.
There was always a long wait at my obstetrician’s office. A long wait in the waiting room. Then another long wait in the exam room for the nurse. And yet another wait for the doctor himself. We were joking around with each other and were keeping each other company while we endured the usual wait. The nurse came in and asked her routine questions. I laid down to let the nurse check the baby’s heart rate with the hand held Doppler. I was 20 weeks along but did not have much of a belly at that point. I certainly knew I was showing but in most outfits, the outside world could see no evidence of my pregnancy. She placed the Doppler on my tummy and moved it around slowly, searching for the baby’s heart rate. Hearing only the swooshing and thumping of my own heart beat, she pushed harder, and began massaging my tummy in an effort to coax the baby into a better position. She remarked that sometimes their Doppler’s did not work well, and I had heard other nurses say the same thing and complain about low batteries. She went to the cabinet and retrieved a second Doppler machine and went back to work trying to find the baby’s heart rate. She seemed very confident that this time she would find it, as was I. Even after several minutes passed without finding the baby’s heart beat, I was not at all concerned. Again, I was simply convinced that nothing bad could happen to our baby. She very assuredly said that our baby, “the peanut”, as she called it, was still quite small and was probably playing hide and go seek. She said that the doctor, or as was the case for this particular appointment, the nurse-midwife, would check for it when she came in.
The nurse-midwife who came in was my favorite of the mid-wives. Her name was Corrine. She was a Catholic and a very nice person. She had been the “doctor” I had seen since before pregnancy and had made me feel comfortable. She understood and agreed with our belief about the sanctity of life, and she had not made me feel like an uneducated fool when I informed her of our personal decision not to use hormonal birth control methods. I’ll always remember what she said to me when we discussed the topic. “With the pill, you’re risk is breast cancer and stroke. Without it, your risk is a pregnancy. You don’t seem to dislike that second one so much!”
Corrine asked me a couple very typical questions and looked over my chart. Everything looked fine to her. I told her about my horrible episode yesterday. She again suggested crackers and seltzer, and let me know that it was safe to take three extra strength Tylenols for the headache. The visit was brief and within a minute or two, she reached for the Doppler she carried in her pocket and tried again to find the baby’s heart beat.
She was unsuccessful.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I have one of these contoured memory form numbers pictured above. Except mine has mascara stains from the nights I'm too lazy to chisel off my four coats of Cover Girl Lash Blast.
This pillow as been my nightly friend for a couple of years now and I am so glad I have it. At the time, I was having issues with my neck all the time. I woke up one morning with such a sharp pain in my neck and shoulder blades that Seth couldn't even go to school because I could not function at all, let alone care for my then only child. The cycle of waking up with a vertebrae out of whack, seeing our nice chiropractor for a few visits, feeling better and then repeating the whole process again in a few weeks continued for several months. My chiropractor gave me some good suggestions about changing my sleep position and instructed me to do certain exercises but the problem was still chronic.
One day, walking in JCPennys trying to hunt down some bargains, I noticed this contoured pillow. I had always thought a super soft feather pillow was the best pillow on the planet, and this firm memory form stuff did not strike me as the most comfortable surface to rest my coconut on while I slept. But the claim on the packages was what tempted me to give it a try: it would keep my chin off my chest, which we hopefully keep my neck bones in right place.
I really debated about whether or not to buy the pillow. Even though it was on sale, it was still way more than I had ever paid for a pillow. A whole $17. I'm a very frugal person who believes that money should only be spent on the absolute essential basics of life:
No where in my list of necessities is a quality pillow.
But I bought it any way, justifying the purchase by the money we would save if I did not have to go see the chiropractor. I mentioned that my chiropractor is a nice man, and he is. He is also an avid golfer, which is part of why Seth likes him. But I have to say that the reason he is such a good golfer is because he plays every single day. And do you know who pays for that? The McCoy family! ;)
So, lest the good doctor is allowed to play so much golf that he gets good enough for the PGA tour and desserts his practice, I had to buy the pillow. It was for the good of the community. It was a purely selfless act on my part.
The morale of the story? I am so glad I bought this pillow. I have not had one single day of neck pain ever since. Seriously. Not one day.
So there is my recommendation for neck pain suffers!
Do you know anyone else who could write this much about a simple pillow? Something is wrong with me, people. Very wrong!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
To punish the Duke, the King sent his royal army to surround the Duke's castle. In those days, dukes and other powerful men lived in castles with their whole families, servants and followers. King Konrad III knew it was only a matter of time before the people trapped inside would run out of fresh food and water. Then they would have no choice but to surrender.
Meanwhile, inside the castle, the Duke of Welf, whose ancestors traced back to the noble family of Charlemagne, was ready for a long siege. He had already stored a fortune of gold and silver inside the castle, and they were well supplied with food and other provisions. At night, he planned to send scouts through secret tunnels to the city of Weinsberg to buy whatever they needed. The Duke hoped his friends in Weinsberg would send word of his plight to opponents of the King and they would muster a force of soldiers, come to his aid and rescue them all.
King Konrad III and his troops, after waiting impatiently for a few weeks, sent a messenger to the Duke demanding the surrender of everyone in the castle - all of the Duke's men would have to die by the sword, but the women and children would be free to go. The Duke of Welf flatly refused these terms. Furious, the King ordered all roads and pathways surrounding the castle to be barricaded. He sent soldiers to search for tunnel entrances and when they were discovered, he filled them, blocked them, and stationed soldiers by each one.
Back inside the castle, food and other provisions were running out fast. The Duke had sent young spies at night to buy food and provisons, but they were unable to return because the tunnels were blocked and guarded. From the top of the castle the Duke could see that soldiers guarded all the pathways. A quick inventory revealed that the once-ample stores were nearly depleted. In fact, all that remained were two barrels of beans. The outlook was grim - the people inside the castle knew they faced starvation.
Furious that the Duke hadn't already surrendered, King Konrad III sent another message. If everyone in the castle did not surrender that very day by nightfall, he would set the entire city of Weinsberg on fire and subject all its inhabitants to the sword. Now the people inside the castle were truly desperate. Not only was their own doom sealed, but innocent residents of Weinsberg would share the same horrendous fate.
No one knows who said what to whom in the hastily gathered meeting that took place next, or who it was who came up with a certain plan. It may have been the Duke of Welf or it may have been his clever wife, the Lady Uta. It may have been a sharp-minded servant or one of the servant's wives. But before sundown, a messenger emerged from the castle with a letter addressed to King Konrad III. The letter read:
We, the women of the castle, humbly realize that our fate
is in your hands. We ask only that you allow us to leave
at sunrise tomorrow with our children and whatever we
can carry on our backs. For this we entreat you and submit
our lives to your mercy.
King Konrad III considered the proposal. After all, he had already said he'd let the women and children leave in peace. If they took a few pocketfuls of valuables, what was that to him? They could rebuild their lives and he'd be forever hailed as a wonderful and merciful king. Besides, the vast fortune of Duke Welf would be abandoned inside the castle and he'd add it to his own royal treasury. Plus the whole affair would be over. He sent the messenger back with his royal approval.
The next morning at sunrise, the castle gates creaked open. Out stepped the women with their children behind. But that's not all that emerged from the castle. Carried on the backs of the women were their own husbands, while on the backs of unmarried women were their own brothers or fathers. Each woman staggered under the weight of her burden while the men, sputtering with embarrassment on the backs of their womenfolk, struggled to keep from slipping to the ground.
Astonished at the very sight, King Konrad III laughed. His soldiers, outraged at the gall of these women, demanded that all the traitors be executed at once. The King refused, declaring he had already given his royal word that they could take whatever they could carry on their backs, and "a king always keeps his word." Thus the women of the castle were allowed safe passage and to rescue their beloved menfolk as well.
According to legend, the Duke and his men were so grateful that they renewed their loyalty to the King. King Konrad III renamed the castle "The Castle of the Faithful Wives," the name by which the castle is still known today, should you ever visit the city of Weinsberg in Germany.
Friday, February 19, 2010
On the way home I captured the essence of road tripping with a preschooler, a toddler, a handsome man and a high maintenance woman.
Here are the munchkins, just as we like them to be while driving: lethargic.
This demonstrates my high maintenance. Notice the three... count them three... cups representing three... count them three... different fast food places. What can I say? I get hungry.
This is just embarrassing but let's keep it real, shall we? Our van is a gross mess during (and after) these excursions. Plus note the miscellaneous articles of garbage, toys, makeup bag from a certain mother of two who was running so late she had to do her makeup in the car, and the best of all: the sippy cup that has been in the car for who knows how long. Maddie found it when we first loaded up and started drinking whatever mystery liquid is still in there. I almost threw up in my mouth.
Here is Seth breaking the law:
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
It was a morning.
Articulate, ain't I?
While I am at a loss to find the right adjectives to describe our morning, I will simply tell you my condition when Seth came home after his school day.
I was tired. Cranky. Irritable. Hungry.
And whose fault was that?
Really it was. I mean, it was the Devil that made Eden do the naughty things she did today. It had to be the Devil who made me stay up too late last night. And it was for sure the Devil who made the girls get up way too early this morning. And it must have been the Devil that gave Maddie an awful cold. And the Devil keeps the laundry pile growing. And the Devil made me stub my toe, twice. I'm positive it was the Devil who caused the problems with our insurance, which I was on the phone trying to correct on and off all morning long.
So you see... it was the Devil's fault I was tired, cranky and irritable. And hungry! Let's not forget hungry.
Oh all right. The Devil had little, if any, to do with it. It was my fault. All mine.
As Seth walked in the back door, with his coat still on, barely had both feet inside, he looked at my face and said those four beautiful words that make me fall in love him all over again.
"Let's go to lunch."
And so we did. And we didn't go to Taco Bell either! No sirree. We went to a restaurant. Like the kind where a waitress takes your order and the kids have crayons and specials are written in colorful chalks and the booth seat squeaks beneath you in affection.
And I ate. And ate and ate. I ordered a steak and chicken dinner meal even though it was lunch time. I had fries and steamed veggies and bread. Oohhhhoooohhhhh. The feeling of being full made all the tension of the morning melt away like the butter on my warm bread.
As we walked out of the restaurant, I was feeling oh so much better. "Thank you, honey." I said to Seth, "I needed that."
He smiled back and me and said "I know you did.".
What a difference a nice meal can make in a person's attitude and demeanor. I was once again ready for the raging battle against laundry, temper tantrums, germs and the furniture that has been attempting to break my toes. Today I had needed more than a measly peanut butter and jelly sandwhich. I needed substance. I needed to sit and take my time and savor each morsel. I needed a balanced meal of meat and vegetables and bread... and french fries. ;)
As we loaded into the van and headed off to run a few errands, I thought about how foolish I had been to try to operate without any fuel (food) for my body. In a hectic day, I let that basic need slip low on the priority list, when of all the days, it should have been a high priority.
And then it occurred to me that I had done the same with my spiritual nutritional needs. The girls were up and at 'em way before the normal time and my devotions had not happened that morning. On such days, I usually squeeze a chapter... maybe two... of Bible, read hastily and without complete focus. Not only had I been running on empty physically, but spiritually as well.
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Just as a hearty meal revived my body and gave me the energy I so desperately needed to face the day, time spent being fed by God's Word was needed to sustain my spirit. It seems that just as we face the physical symptoms of low blood sugar and the unsteady energy a lack of healthy food creates, we experience the same ups and downs spiritually because we (meaning I) have failed to constantly, consistently, habitually, on purpose, nourish our souls with the spiritual meat of the Bible.
"Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed."
John 6:27It never fails that when my Bible doesn't receive my attention as it should that I become discouraged. My spiritual eyes become dim. I don't see God working my life or in others. When my Bible time become just another item of my "to do" list, I feel like a failure. I feel unsettled and frazzled. My focus as I go thorough my day is on myself and worldly things. Mole hills become mountains because my perspective has been distorted.
Perhaps worst of all, when God's Word is not in it's rightful place in my life, I miss out on feeling God's presence as strongly. My Friend does not talk to me as much, if at all. I know of no more lonely a feeling.
To not feast on my Bible each and every day would be like living at Old Country Buffett and starving to death. All I need is right there, ready and waiting for me to devour and be nourished.
Thank you, Lord, for Your Word. ♥
Monday, February 15, 2010
... Eden said "Ha-woe, Mom!" every time she saw me.
... I decided to back my mini van into my driveway as to make unloading my groceries easier. My driveway is long and narrow and this time of year has snow banks on both sides, making it even more narrow. It took me 10 minutes to back up my van and was the hardest thing I have done since delivering Eden.
... Maddie woke up feeling terrible. Literally, she woke up crying, "I feel terrible!!". She and I both have a yucky cold but her asthma multiplies her symptoms.
... I took a nap and so did not get dinner on the table until 7:30 pm.
... I made stuffed pork chops, and homemade dinner rolls for supper.
... I saved over $50 with my coupons at the grocery store.
... I did not do any laundry. Gonna pay for that tomorrow!
... my mom had out patient surgery on her hand, which went well.
... I tried one of these Yoplait Smoothies and it was yummy in my tummy!
Today was a good day around here, despite some illness. Hope you had a wonderful day as well!