Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lists in Progress

What I Know
·         Love is real, and the most powerful energy, tool, and philosophy
·         Perspective is personal, and the whole is necessary for Truth – one is weak; many is powerful and closer to truth
·         Gratitude and humility are crucial to a happy life
·         Serving others and operating outside myself make me a happier person
·         Science is not Truth, but it is the pursuit of truth
·         Faith is not Truth, but it is the pursuit of truth
·         Religion is created by humans, and thus is inherently flawed
·         Humans are beautiful – Humans are terrible – Each and every human is both at once – “good” and “bad” are subjective and not definitive

What I Believe
·         God exists
·         An afterlife exists
·         God is love and operates by love
·         Free will is crucial to God’s plan for us – our personality, our choices, our experiences mean something
·         Christ taught Truth
·         God is actively involved, and inspires and directs humans
·         The only way to move closer to God and heaven is by becoming more one with all humans – moving together, and not building walls
·         People have the capacity to change, and are never beyond that potential to change
·         Scripture is the pursuit of truth; the Book of Mormon (along with many other works) was inspired by God

What I Hope
·         God is mutually male and female
·         Eternal progress is essential to God’s plan
·         Christ is my Savior, and I have the potential to become more whole as I have faith in Him and His teachings
·         God gives humans part of Her/His power to act and to do good and to build good things (including religion); that power becomes greater the more humans work to attune themselves to it

Monday, October 16, 2017

To Remember

Isabelle has been sick for over a week. Nothing serious, just a cold, congestion, and cough.  But with that congestion and cough combined, she's been throwing up pretty regularly - the congestion "primes the pump" according to Ray.  Her throwing up has been pretty manageable; she's historically been a "happy spitter" so we're in no way unfamiliar with milk spit up.
Tonight, we put Isabelle to bed like normal.  We've been trying out the Cry It Out process, and she's been doing pretty well.  Tonight, she cried off and on for a total of around ten minutes, then quieted down.  Suddenly, I heard her screaming out of no where.  I considered letting her cry it out, but it was a strange enough outburst that I figured I'd better check in.  The poor kiddo was sitting up in her crib with real throw up (not casual spit up) in front of her, and a second round coming up.
I pulled her out of her crib.  Ray stripped her bedding, while I stripped her pajamas.  We cleaned up, and I laid her down in our bed to try to get her back to sleep.  She sat up, crawled around, I'd lay her back down, and she was back up and at it again.  This kid doesn't slow down lately!  Finally, she was laying quietly, though still with eyes wide open.  I laid on the bed next to her, avoiding all eye contact, so that she didn't think this was playtime.
Suddenly, Isabelle sat straight up.  She looked directly at the moon nightlight turned on in the hall and got a big smile on her face.  The light shown on the top half of her face, the bottom half shadowed.  Isa started chatting; babbling, giggling, and clapping.  She never once looked at me, so I have to believe that none of this was a show; she was just excited to be looking at the light and avoiding sleep for a bit longer.
I watched her as she continued this for the next five minutes.  I watched her big, round eyes shining with all the innocent happiness that only babies can have.  Her mouth twisted and widened with shouts and laughs and smiles, and I had to lower my head so she couldn't see me smiling back.  I was so happy to see her there, the sadness of her earlier pain forgotten.
I had to write this down because I never want to forget her joy, her sweet pleasure in such a simple thing as a night light.  Or maybe it wasn't the nightlight at all, but some incredible, unknowable, beautiful thoughts dancing through her mind.  I never want to forget the swell of pride and happiness and near-painful love that I felt for this incredibly perfect human being.  Being a mom is the best.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Isabelle's Birth Story

February 9th.  That was going to be our daughter’s birthday.  When our induction was scheduled for February 8th, I felt a weird twinge of annoyance or sadness that our baby would be born on an odd-numbered day.  It was something I’d never even considered or thought about, and I’m certainly not a superstitious person, so my disappointment surprised me as much as anybody.  Still, the prospect of getting rid of back pain and joint pain, finally facing the day I’d prepped for so long, and most especially, meeting our daughter for the first time; these are the things I was excited about, and they far superseded my annoyance at an odd-numbered birthday.

I got home from work on Wednesday evening (the aforementioned February 8th).  Ray and I finished packing our bags, I took Mabel to my parents’ house, and we ran some of Ray’s homework up to the school for him.  Our next stop was the hospital.  I suddenly got panicky about the single plain pita bread I was able to get down for dinner.  How was a plain pita bread supposed to fuel me for the upcoming unmedicated labor I was working toward?  But I was too nervous to eat anything more.

Up the elevators of the LDS Hospital, to the fourth floor – Labor and Delivery unit.  My nerves were so high, but so was my excitement. The day was finally here!  We were going to be parents tomorrow!  Ray and I just kept looking at each other in shock.  We met with my first nurse, Carlie, who would be attending to our CytoTec administration throughout the evening.  She was so sweet and comforting, and showed genuine excitement for us. Ray and I did our best to get comfortable in the hospital for a long night in, with our baby’s heartbeat as our background noise.  I was told that I had been having mild contractions throughout the evening, but I hadn’t felt a thing yet.

At 6am, my nurse let me know that my doctor would be showing up soon to break my water, and that in the meantime, I could order a light breakfast.  I was so grateful that my doctor was allowing me to eat – I didn’t feel prepared to take on a day of laboring with nothing in my stomach.  I ordered some French toast and fruit, and was able to get a decent amount of it eaten.

At 7:30am, Dr. Hannele Laine met us to really get the process moving.  I was still measuring at 1+ or 2 with about 60-70% effaced.  She broke my water – and can I tell you how odd of an experience that is? To be completely out of control of what basically amounted to a river flowing out of me was something I was not entirely prepared for.  But worse than that were the streams that continued to flow into the makeshift diaper I was given each time I moved.  I could not stop being horrified (and amused) by it all, and Ray couldn’t stop laughing at my discomfort.  My mom joined us soon afterward, ready to be a part of the action of her granddaughter (and panicky that she’d miss something important since water breaking meant baby coming!)

Ray, my mom, and I talked and laughed and prepped ourselves, and I’d get excited anytime I would begin to feel contractions.  After three hours, we were checked by our new nurse, Jamie.  She let me know that I was still dilated right about to a 2 with a bit more effacement.  It was not the progress I wanted, but it was progress.  At this point, we began administering Pitocin – the drug I’d heard horror stories about in regards to women trying to have a natural birth.  Pitocin is the brand name for oxytocin, a hormone meant to stimulate contractions.  All the stories I’d heard was that Pitocin very quickly throws you into the depths of hard labor – and so while I was wary to start hard labor, I was also excited to get the process moving.  It was 10:30am, and I was hoping for a baby to show up by the evening hours.

Jamie started the Pitocin off slowly, at a dosage of just two milli-units.  Every 30-40 minutes, she could come in and up the dosage by two more units, working slowly with my body so that I would be able to handle the oncoming contractions.  The process began slowly, but it was exciting to watch the contraction monitor and see any changes that would occur and begin to feel more intensity to my cramping.  The day moved forward and time was a weird blur to me.  At moments, I felt things moving so slowly, but I’d check the clock again and be shocked to learn it was noon, and then 1pm and then 2pm, so quickly.  Ray and mom passed the time by sending out updates, browsing the internet on various devices, checking the contraction monitors, and refilling my water.  I apologized numerous times for things being so boring – after all, progress was slower than we all expected – and tried to be an entertainment when I could.  Still, contractions continued to get stronger, along with a decent amount of back pain, and I had high hopes that the next time my cervix was checked, I would be far more progressed.

By early afternoon, it became apparent that progress was not happening the way it needed to be.  Eventually, my nurse installed an intrauterine pressure catheter in order to monitor contractions more clearly from inside the uterus.  At the time of insertion, the nurse stated that I was now dilated to a three – simply because inserting the IUPC caused the nurse to push on my cervix enough to open it a bit more.  The IUPC would give us an MVU (Montevideo Unit) measurement which would tell us if the uterus was contracting enough to open the cervix. I needed a MVU score of 200.  After twenty minutes, we got the first reading – 146.

Because I was already at a dosage of 20 milli-units of Pitocin – the most they generally like to do on unmedicated patients – and contractions were not powerful enough, the decision was made to shut off Pitocin entirely and give my body a break.  Apparently, the body can get flooded with Pitocin to the extent that it stops responding.  Flushing the system of the dosage and restarting at a base level can get contractions moving to become productive.  I was given an hour of rest off the Pitocin and allowed to eat something very light to keep up my energy level.

I was so grateful for the rest period as my contractions and back pain had become fairly intense at that point.  Eating something was also so appreciated – though I could only get down a few bites of fruit, cheese, and a roll.  My contractions continued throughout the rest period, though at a much lower intensity than before, and so we were encouraged that a rest and a second dose of Pitocin would move things along.  By this point, it was about 6:30pm, and I was ready for a bit more action.

Our second start of Pitocin began around 7:30pm along with another nurse change, Lynnette.  This time, we had permission to move up in intervals of four milli-units of Pitocin to reach a level of up to 30 milli-units, if needed (though fingers crossed, I wouldn’t need that dosage). Contractions began again, this time with even more back pain.  Ray and my mom were so helpful in providing back massages and counter-pressure.  I breathed through contractions just how I’d been reading for months.  I had renewed energy, though I must admit I was already a bit worn down from the long day.  We spent a few more hours upping the Pitocin dosage and breathing through the pain.  Around 8:30pm, our MVU score was only 99.  By about 11pm, and a dosage of 16 milli-units with the option to move up to 20 (for the second time), the MVU score was only 126.

I cannot convey my level of disappointment each time my cervix measured at a three without moving, each time we received an insufficient MVU score, each time my determination to work through contractions and breathe through the pain yielded no results.  I was so thoroughly exhausted and disheartened from the long day, the constant contractions, the continual disappointment.  I was writing pro-and-con lists in my head over and over.  How much more of this could I take?  How much more time will it take to open my cervix if we continue to up the Pitocin?  How much more pain can my exhausted brain and body handle?  If this is only early labor pain, how can I handle the more extensive pain and required energy of second stage labor?  Will my body even respond to higher doses of Pitocin if I haven’t responded so far?  Will the 24-hour ticking clock on my broken water run out before my cervix can open enough to make a difference?

My mom was encouraging, insisting even, that I finally get the epidural I had been working so hard to avoid.  She had a whole list of reasons why it didn’t make sense for me to continue as I was going.  She probably didn’t understand or recognize that I was making that same list over and over in my head, wondering whether getting the epidural might allow my body to relax enough to get my cervix opened.  But I kept hearing the whisperings of all those people who had told me that I wouldn’t be able to make it without an epidural – that labor was too hard, and I would definitely cave for the medicine.  I logically knew that their skepticism and mocking didn’t matter, but I felt so much like I was letting myself down by not smashing their skepticism to pieces.  And I thought of my dear friend who made it through three days of induced labor unmedicated and wondered why I didn’t have the same stamina.  All these thoughts ran through my head as my nurse stood there, wondering whether I wanted to up the Pitocin dosage back to 20, while my contractions were distracting me from the matter at hand, while my back pain was so distracting that I could think of nothing else but breathing at the peak of them.

I sat in silence on that hospital bed, Ray giving counter-pressure for my back labor, for what felt like an eternity to me, though I have no understanding of how long I actually sat there in debate with myself.  Finally, my exhaustion won out, and I agreed to get an epidural.  The next few minutes were a whirlwind, with the anesthesiologist, Dr. Harold Rust, coming in with jokes I’m sure he thought were funny while prepping my back.  I sat there in so much disappointment and frustration – and so much fear.

It’s funny; I had never been afraid of the labor process.  Women have been laboring and birthing babies since the beginning of time. I’d seen videos of tigers and elephants birthing their babies.  It was the most natural thing in the world to me.  I never even considered that my body wouldn’t be able to do it.  There was no fear in the natural process for me, even if it did mean some pain.  But being prepped for an epidural, that was terrifying to me.  I didn’t want tubing running into my spinal column.  I didn’t want foreign medicine introduced into such a vital area of my body.  I didn’t want to lose feeling in my legs.  I certainly didn’t want a catheter run into my urethra because I couldn’t feel the urge to urinate.  I didn’t want people adjusting my body, pushing my legs around or shoving towels under my hips, because I couldn’t do it myself.  I didn’t want to contemplate on the risks that come with deadening the feeling in half your body.  I didn’t want to think about what might come next if the epidural didn’t work…

The epidural was finally installed, after minutes of emotional agony, holding tight to Ray’s hand as Dr. Harold did his quick work and babbled on.  All of my mental faculties were in use keeping my brain calm, coping with the endless cycle of fears and anxieties on loop in my mind, trying to ignore the sensations of tubing and medication running through my spine.  I was shaking uncontrollably, and I was convinced (honestly, still convinced) that it was out of fear and anxiety even though Dr. Harold insisted it was a completely normal reaction to the medication.  But, I do have to admit, feeling the complete relief of contractions, and especially the back pain, was an entirely welcome sensation.  I completely zonked out within minutes of receiving the epidural and slept like a rock for the next two to three hours.

At some point in the middle of the night, I heard Lynnette come in and check my monitors.  She let me know that we were at a Pitocin dosage of 26 and still showing an insufficient MVU – my body was still not responding at all.  I knew what was coming and said it before Lynnette even had a chance – I was on my way to a C-section.  Lynnette said she was going to call Dr. Laine and get her advice.  But I knew it, I think even before I got the epidural.  The Cesarean operation was the only way my baby was coming out.  I laid in the hospital bed, my legs awkwardly propped around a peanut ball in hopes of opening my cervix further, so exhausted and so ready to be done with labor and so overwhelmed by all that had happened in the past thirty hours.  I didn’t have a chance to even consider a yes or no to a C-section – at that point, it seemed like the inevitable end to our birth story, the only answer.  Lynnette came back in soon afterward to let me know Dr. Laine was on her way in, and my C-section would be happening within the hour.

Through my middle-of-the-night exhaustion and epidural haze, I watched Ray get into scrubs, watched him debate about where to put his phone – he needed it handy to take photos and white surgical clothing protecting scrubs do not have pockets.  I was so grateful for his steady presence, for his love and his trust in me and my body, even as it was doing so little to produce our daughter for us.  He has always given me space to make my own decisions, and I was grateful for his steadiness while my brain felt like it was in a haze of emotional turmoil and exhaustion.

Dr. Laine came into the room, gave me the rundown on the surgery, and I signed paperwork agreeing to the Cesarean.  My hospital bed was rolled down the hall and into the operating room.  My body was lifted by a number of nurses onto the operating table and the protective screen was put up.  Dr. Harold came in, and I remember, even amongst all the emotions I was experiencing, feeling a bit of annoyance that this was the person sitting at my head, being my watchful eye.  Dr. Harold gave me a rundown, which I don’t remember at all, of all the medications being pumped into my body.  Ray sat at my head holding my arm, and all of my focus and attention was on his hand, on his comforting touch – the one thing I knew in the midst of this whirlwind of the unknown and unknowable.  I began shaking uncontrollably again; I could feel my head, shoulders, and arms (that is, all of the parts of me that were feel-able) basically jumping off the table.  Again, I’m convinced that this was out of fear, anxiety, and nerves even though Dr. Harold again insisted that it was a completely normal reaction to medication.  I began to feel nauseated, and Ray held a bag to my cheek as I threw up into it.  The nausea was soon gone after Dr. Harold pumped yet another drug into my body.  In the meantime, behind the curtain, I could hear a volley of actions and directions being tossed around the room as my body was prepped and the doctors and nurses began to perform what was mundane to them.  At one point, someone asked me if I’d like the opaque curtain dropped so that I could watch “the delivery” of our baby.  I believe I simply said no, but my real reaction in my head was, Hell No.

Soon, the announcement was made that the surgery was to begin and I felt a bit of pressure at my abdomen.  I kept my eyes trained on Ray’s face as a distraction from paying attention to the various pressures and tugging feelings I could sense happening to my torso.  (Though watching him was not always comforting as there were a number of times I saw the color drain from his face in response to what he would occasionally see happen on the other side of the curtain.)  At some point, I heard my doctor mention something about me having tight abs – a comment to which I think I must have said thank you, and I still feel an inordinate amount of pride regarding.  Perhaps because it was the first time I felt like my body had something praise-worthy to be mentioned in this whole process.  I heard Dr. Harold say that the delivery was about to happen.  There was an air of excitement in the room, and Ray prepared his phone to take some photos of our daughter being born.  Dr. Laine said she could see our daughter’s cheek, and Ray said, yep, she’s going to have them being a part of this family.  It was my first introduction to what my daughter might look like.  I felt the oddest sensation of my stomach being pulled out, emptied upwards.  I don’t recall a single snippet of what was said, but I saw the tears well in Ray’s eyes as our daughter was brought into this world, and I felt so much love for him and for our daughter in that quick moment. Dr. Laine held her just above the curtain, just for a moment, for my first glance of her, and I saw her tiny purple body and a large amount of spit or amniotic fluid or something else begin to fall from her mouth as she was pulled back over the other side of the curtain.  Our daughter was officially born, with my cheeks, at 3:24am.

I asked Ray to join our daughter in the next room as she was cleaned up, weighed, and measured.  And the operation continued on the table as we could hear the occasional crying out of my daughter in the next room.  The doctors made comments about hearing her strong cries, and I laid there on the table.  At some point, either out of exhaustion or the haze of medication, I zoned out to the point of near incoherence.  Ray brought our daughter in, and I could see a dimple on her cheek.  We took a couple of family photos on the operating table.  I struggled to remain present.  At some point, the operation was completed, and I was moved from operation table to hospital bed.  I saw bloody materials, and wondered what part of me was being thrown out – but it was just blood-soaked gauze.  We had a conversation about the placenta – I have no clue if I asked about it, or if someone asked me, but I fought against the haze in my brain to watch Dr. Laine present that amazing organ to me.  I have a very brief memory of seeing the tree of life that sustained my daughter in my uterus.  And then I was wheeled out of the operating room and back into my laboring room for recovery.  Even now, I can’t remember if I held our daughter while I was wheeled back.  Back in the recovery room, the first person I saw was my dad, and I was grateful and surprised to see him.  By this time, it was 4:30am, and it was such a kind gesture for him to be there with my mom when we were finished.

During our two-hour recovery period, Ray and I decided that our daughter would indeed be named Isabelle Ferne.  We had the name picked out very early on, but neither of us felt comfortable deciding upon it until we could match the name to her face.  Now we could.  I also got the opportunity to breastfeed Isabelle, and she latched on immediately and perfectly.  We officially had our daughter.  And we were officially unbelievably exhausted.  That day, Friday, is a complete blur to me.  We slept a lot, nursed the baby a lot, announced her birth to our family and friends and on Instagram and Facebook.  I was interrupted a lot for vital signs to be taken and instructions to be given.  I mostly remember doing my best to keep my eyes open and appear attentive while people spoke to me, but I was mostly unsuccessful.  But through it all, I kept glancing into our baby’s bassinet and marveling at this perfect little person who was now a part of our lives.

My labor and Isabelle’s birth was wildly different than what I had expected, anticipated, and planned for.  We thought that we had planned for a February 9th birthday for our daughter.  And in the end, we got a February 10th birthday, an even day, which ended up making me happy.  Isabelle Ferne was named after her Great Grandma Belle and her Great Grandma Ferne.  We received a phone call that Friday, Isabelle’s birthday, from Ray’s mom telling us that she had just realized and remembered that February 10th was Grandma Ferne’s birthday.  And I think that’s the most amazing miracle in this story.  Nothing turned out as we expected or planned.  And yet it still turned out far more perfectly than we could have dreamed.  God is in everything.  God is in Isabelle.  And we are so grateful to have her, and Him, with us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Because I Haven't Journaled Enough

I sort of accidentally quit journaling.  And I miss the process of writing down my thoughts, but I also miss all that spare time I had to write down my thoughts.  The days seem to be so full from morning until night, with the morning routine and work and a lunch break and work and Young Women’s activities or baking or spending time with friends or spending time with Ray.  The truth is not that I have less time, but that I have changed my priorities.

With a baby on the way, those priorities are about to be tossed in the air to land, hard, on the ground and be picked up in the pieces that truly are most important.  And I fear that journaling won’t be part of that picking up either.  So here I sit, at work, parsing through my thoughts from the past six months of being pregnant.

Six months?  Can that be true?  We got our positive pregnancy test on June 6th (no, I don’t remember – I had to look it up; heaven bless my phone apps.)  That’s four and a half months from June 6th to October 25th.  I get to add a month to those numbers since pregnancy “begins” before this sweet baby was conceived.  And so, yes, we’re knocking on six months’ door.  That gives me three and a half months to prepare for baby’s arrival.  Sixteen weeks and one day if you want to be exact; though if you really want to be exact, probably at least fifteen weeks and possibly up to seventeen and a half weeks, give or take a margin of error of a few days.  Why do we have due dates?  That’s a quick way to mess with any expecting parent’s head.

I felt this little growing nubbin move for the first time sometime in August (it must have been the 12th – I looked it up) when I was on a youth conference trip.  I was lying flat on my back across the hard bench of a picnic table, shaded from the hot sun by a tied-down parachute roof lazily flapping in occasional breezes.  I breathed slowly and deeply, meditating out to the sounds of teenagers playing Gadianton Robbers, a Mormonized version of the card game Mafia.  My mind drifted to my belly, stretched over my uterus where I knew there was a growing fetus inside.  And was it my imagination, or did I feel the slightest and gentlest bump of movement inside?  Google does say you can feel movement as early as thirteen weeks along, but what are the chances?  I guess this is to say, I THINK I felt this little growing nubbin move for the first time that August 12th.

All other subtle popping and bumping movements in my stomach after that point, a few weeks after and rarely at that, were deemed ‘possibly the baby.’  At some point between a few weeks after August 12th and a few weeks before now, I began to know those movements quite clearly and distinctly.  My little baby nubbin was moving and kicking and healthy and, I hope, happy.  There’s a funny thing about being pregnant – the “guarantee” of healthy baby when you feel those bumps and thuds is actually no guarantee at all, because any budding mother can make up horror stories about how maybe the baby is having seizures or is jolting from fear or absorbed too much sugar from the cupcake she just ate and is now in sugar shock.

That’s something they don’t tell you – or maybe they do and you don’t listen.  The hours before you go in to hear your baby’s heartbeat, you know the heart has slowed or stopped.  The hours before you go in to see an ultrasound, you know your baby has stopped growing or is missing a limb.  The other day, I had a nightmarish thought of my baby being born without a face, and then I happened to read a story on the internet (seriously, it just popped up in my feed without me looking) about a baby born without a face. You become obsessed with unhealthy research into abortions or horrifying birth stories or every odd symptom you feel (I mean, I obviously and absolutely had Cholestasis for a few weeks, despite what my doctor said, until I found out my sister got itchy feet during her pregnancy, too.)

But something else they don’t tell you – or maybe they do – is how much dreaming and planning you can do in the space of an hour and a day and a week.  When we found out we were having a girl, and I could begin to put a name to the dream toddler running around in my brain, so many possible futures began to unfold before me.  Futures filled with hockey games or pretty dresses or reading books or introducing her to my favorite music or watching her learn letters and numbers or just putting her to sleep.  It doesn’t matter if or when any of those futures happen, but it does matter that I can begin to see them and to hope so much for her.  We’ve already imagined the arguments we’ll make when anyone tries to push our little girl into little girl stereotypes, and we’ve already pushed our little girl into stereotypes.  And I can’t wait to see what futures she decides for herself despite, and hopefully a little bit because of, our pushing.

How do you raise an entire person?  How do you assign a name to this creature, this person who will make her own decisions and find her own place and be only who she wants to be?  Parents have this incredible task of pretending to know anything at all about exactly how a person should become the person they will become.  I almost wish I had become a parent ten years ago when I began to believe that I knew pretty much how people should be.  Now, at thirty years old and with so many experiences and assurances and questions and unfulfilled dreams and fulfilled dreams, the world seems to have more blurred lines than clear lines.  Because even those clear lines, the things I know with all of my heart, can be questioned and torn apart and stamped on or set to fly by someone else who knows a thing with all of their heart.

I just hope my heart will be enough for my little girl up until she can know a thing with all of her heart, and hopefully not begrudge me too much for giving her my heart with all of its blurred lines.  I hope she will discover those blurred lines in her heart herself and grasp to the things that make the most sense despite the blurriness.  I hope that one day, she will get the experience I have now, to think about all the futures before her and the pasts behind her, and decide to give her heart, too, however that ends up looking.

And you know, maybe that’s the real reason that most of the human race feels the unquestioned need and desire to have children.  Maybe we just need to be able to give our heart to someone who will take every bit of it, even if only just until they can find their own.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

In Which I Explain My Two Year Absence

It’s funny, I never meant to abandon this blog space when I posted my last musings on March 5th, 2014.  And I could blame a million reasons for my internet silence (on this space, anyway).  Perhaps my increased use of Instagram is to blame.  Or caring for a home, taking on a church calling, growing my bakery business.  These are all valid reasons to semi-give up on long-form social media (aside from the fact that it all just begins to feel redundant when I’m posting multiple other places regularly).  But perhaps more than anything, I began to find that posting felt… dishonest.  I couldn’t, or rather, didn’t want to, talk about the thing I was thinking about most.

In January of 2014, Ray and I decided it was time for us to have a kid.  It was perfect timing – he would be finishing his undergrad soon, I was getting exhausted with my job and wanted a reason to step away, we were preparing to purchase a home.  Everything fell in to place, and mostly, we knew that we wanted to try our hand at being parents and providing a home for a sweet baby (or rather, toddler and child – babies kinda bore me, quite frankly).  I was scared and anxious, but so excited.

The first few months were disappointing, but normal.  I come from a long line of “we accidentally got pregnant and had three kids in four years,” and Ray’s parents had a semi-similar history.  I expected to get pregnant right away, and was disappointed that it took us month after month.  But I had plenty to distract me, and despite the purchase of ovulation testing strips, we did little else to increase our chances because, surely, they would come.  Six months were spent anxiously counting days and waiting.

I returned home from a girl’s camp trip late on July 11th, fell into bed, and woke up early on the 12th to make treats and prepare to throw a baby shower for a best friend and make a cake for another friend’s wedding.  It had been a week since my missed period.  When I finally had a moment to myself that afternoon after dropping off the cake, I stopped at a store to buy a pregnancy test and drove home with a fluttering heart.  The test came back positive.  I took two more.  They came back positive.  I was pregnant!

I couldn’t think of anything more creative to do than to walk out to Ray and just say, look.  He wasn’t even sure what to think initially.  I didn’t have a wide grin on my face, perhaps because I was still in shock.  But when the realization hit us both, we laughed and kissed and hugged and laughed some more.  We were to meet friends for dinner 15 minutes later, and spent the car ride wondering how we were ever going to hide our joy from those friends that evening.

We wanted to wait until the 9-10 week mark to tell everyone.  We wanted this to be sure.  It was planned out – our first doctor’s appointment would be at 8 ½ weeks along.  Following that appointment, we’d have a weekend to ourselves, in which we could announce to my family and our friends, and then we’d take a trip out to see Ray’s family the following week and share the happy news.  Although, I quickly found I was not going to be able to wait that long to keep the secret between Ray and I.  So I shared my news with my best friend, Kristin.  She was my confidante on mornings when I felt the tiniest possibility of morning sickness, or when I wondered if my boobs would always hurt this badly.  We waited for the appointment and talked about what life would be post-birth.  We bought some children’s books and stuffed dinosaurs.

Our doctor’s appointment was on August 8th.  I got off work early and met Ray at home.  I began to feel nervous and my stomach hurt.  Anxiety, I guessed.  But I couldn’t wait for that moment, I hoped, of hearing our baby’s heartbeat.  We got to the doctor’s appointment, and I gave a urine sample.  My first bad sign – blood.  The tiniest bit of it.  In the exam room, our nurse told us all about my choice of the doctors at our clinic, and Dr. Hannele Laine seemed like a great option.

“Well but wait, nurse, so I… found some blood when I peed…”

Our nurse got straight to work and let me know right away that more blood was to come.  I knew at that point that my earlier “stomachache” had been cramps that I was unwilling to admit to.  She did a handheld ultra sound and… no.  No heartbeat to be found.  She assured us that she’s been wrong about finding heartbeats before, and we were rushed to the hospital for a quick couple sets of full ultrasounds.  But by that point, waiting in the hospital sitting room, Ray and I were already discussing our baby in the past tense.  We knew, and held to each other, and made plans for the future.  Ray held my hand throughout the ultrasounds and stayed strong and positive.  The ultrasound tech gave us very little information.  I texted Kristin that, you know, actually March sounds like a bad time to have a baby.

After our ultrasounds, and an in-between run to Del Taco, we met Dr. Laine for the first time, and she sweetly confirmed what we already knew, that yes, this is a miscarriage.  She told us to guard our heart, to be gentle with ourselves.  I felt surprisingly calm and at peace.  Ray and I went home in a daze, not really sure how to feel.  I spent that evening between crying and hoping to laugh, and sometimes actually laughing.  We went to Pat’s BBQ, where we had planned to go regardless of whether the night would be a celebration or a consolation.  We had so hoped for a celebration.  We spent that night holding to each other and crying ourselves to sleep.

The next morning, I woke surprisingly happier than the night before.  I woke to a familiar feeling – I know how to not be pregnant; I’ve been not pregnant before, and now, today, I’m not pregnant.  It wasn’t comforting, necessarily, but it was an acknowledgement that, yes, I could do this.  I was, and am still, eternally grateful that it was a weekend. That I didn’t have to pick myself up to go to work.  That we miscarried while in the loving care of nurses and doctors – it made the process feel rather medical and less emotional.  I feel incredibly lucky that the first bleeding didn’t happen while I was at work.  I feel grateful that Ray was there with me, that I didn’t have to tell him and worry together until we could reach a doctor.  The day was filled with blessings despite the grief.  And I was able to begin recognizing those blessings that morning after.

Ray and I spent that weekend together; we went on a beautiful moonlit canoe ride down the Provo River.  We joked about how easy it would be to trump everyone else’s campfire stories that night by dropping the bomb – I’m still in the midst of a miscarriage.  Our friends found out (through internet forums and the lack of secrecy you can keep from someone that knows your typewritten voice too well.)  They gave us such sweet words of support and love.  I told my mom the news and we cried together.   I told my dad, and he gave me the warmest hug.  I told my family and my sisters all responded with, oh yeah, miscarriages are hard!, and the evening continued on.  It was nothing new for them – they had felt that grief.  There was comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone.

We spent the following week with Ray’s family, and so much enjoyed the time we all had together.  It didn’t matter that there wasn’t our own personal happy news to share – any time with family you rarely get to see is happy time.  We didn’t share what was happening because it didn’t seem necessary.  We wanted to wait to share happy news, and so we would wait, until the next time.

At first, I counted the days and weeks to follow in terms of ‘since the miscarriage’.  It was a week since.  It was a month since.  It was shocking when it had been more days ‘since the miscarriage’ than the days that numbered from July 12th to August 9th – the days that we were happily pregnant.  The months marched on.  And on and on.  I watched one of my best friends have a baby, and saw them experience so much joy.  My cousin had a due date nearly identical to what mine had been, and seeing photos of that sweet baby boy now causes me a pang of almost a nostalgia – what could have been.

I spent the months counting days, and we tried and counted days.  Always waiting to find out if we’d be waiting again.  But we also spent the months being busy, and happy.  Ray built us a fence, and we got our sweet Mabel.  This sweet dog-face was not a replacement for a child, but she has filled my heart with more love than I thought was possible to have toward an animal.  She gives me the opportunity to love with a nurturing heart, to kiss and hug, and post a million social media pictures.

Ray continued his undergrad studies and graduated in December.  He took another class the following semester, and then we spent one glorious summer class-free.  He continued to kill it at work.  I lost more and more interest in my job, and finally got the push I needed to step out of that company after nearly eight years.  I found a new job at a great company with people I’ve grown to love dearly.  My bakery business grew, and I’ve spent countless hours up to my elbows in flour.  I spent my time serving God and young women in my church callings.  I was called to be the young women’s president in my church ward where I get to be not a mother, but perhaps a form of big sister to so many beautiful and hilarious and strong 12-18 year olds.  We kept on counting days and waiting.

I tried to pick up books or articles about improving your chances to get pregnant.  I picked up the books, and put them down after feeling mostly helpless.  I began temping (a process of monitoring your basal body temperature and noticing changes that indicate ovulation), and that helped only if, at the very least, it was a fascinating insight into the workings of female bodies.  We kept on waiting and trying.  We kept on loving each other and finding new ways to move forward.

We booked and went on a life changing trip to Iceland.  We found great open silent spaces, and joy surpassing anything I’d felt before.  I came to understand how truly big and unknowable God is, how small I am; how a little fog is scary but when it lifts, you find that it concealed a great magnificence that was only just beyond sight.  I ate Icelandic cheese and lobster and we slept under a midnight sun and I found that this world holds magic that we can’t grasp or capture, and that magic is accessible and real.  I learned that Ray is the best person in the world to share that magic with.

I had planned a youth conference for our Church youth, and it happened to land over the weekend that marked one year since the miscarriage.  I was an anxious mess due to the stress of parading thirty teenagers around a large city and trying to provide opportunities to feel the spirit of God; I was an emotional mess anytime I contemplated one entire year ‘since the miscarriage’. I barely held myself together when one of our advisors announced her own pregnancy; I crumbled to the ground when the plans for youth conference fell apart mere hours before they were to take place.  It was one of the more difficult moments in my life ‘since the miscarriage’.  But I also had to plan a lesson on what it means to love God with all your might, and I also had Jack’s Mannequin’s “Swim” on repeat in my car.  And I had hope.

Ray began his Master’s program in August 2015 and the next phase of adult life began.  I contemplated how difficult it would be to have a child in the midst of his Master’s program.  We still wanted a child.  We kept trying and waiting.

My wildest hopes suggested that I might be pregnant in September.  I ordered an oviraptor and a massive egg from Amazon just in case.  I took out one of the pregnancy tests that had been waiting under the bathroom cupboard, and on September 13th at 6 am, the test came back positive.  I was shaking with joy, and did my best to go back to sleep (Ray would stay asleep for the next three hours, I knew).  I rested with a smile on my face.  By 7 am, I got out of bed again.  I placed the test in the massive egg, covered it with a scrap of paper detailing our estimated due date in May 2016.  I placed the oviraptor figure on top, and wrapped it all nicely.  By 8 am, I couldn’t wait any longer, and woke Ray to tell him I got him a present.  The oviraptor by itself would have been enough, but our excitement spilled out the moment he saw the positive test.  He wondered, ‘is this a joke?!’ and I wondered how he’d ever think I could play that kind of cruel joke.  We laughed and kissed and our hope grew brighter.  We were pregnant again, after twelve long months of waiting.

The next few weeks were spent with cautious optimism.  I repeated positive mantras to the cells growing in my stomach – affirmations that sometimes caused my breath to catch in realization of how much I feared them to not be true.  I meditated and sent down good thoughts.  I told the baby there was so much joy in the world, and so much I would introduce him or her to, if only she or he could make it out.  I prayed and prayed, God, please let this one stay.  I know you can let this one stay, so please let this one stay.  And then, as I’ve been taught to do, but God… Thy will be done.  I realized one car ride home, while sending positive thoughts the baby cells’ way that, if we shouldn’t get to have this baby, I would be fine.  I would live through it.  We would still make our way in life.  And then I prayed, but God, no, let this one be real!  I’d be fine, but don’t make me have to be fine!

I spent the weeks getting blood drawn to test for HCG levels.  They were growing as they ought to, and I took comfort in that.  My hormones were insane, and I knew I was being crazy and unreasonable with Ray about pretty much everything and I couldn’t stop it.  I remembered that I felt that way while I was on birth control the first year of our marriage, and I vowed to never be on birth control again.  We got an ultrasound where we hoped to see our baby’s heartbeat, and unfortunately, the baby had not yet developed past an egg sack.  My longer period cycles pushed our baby’s due date back a week than what we’d expected.  Not a concern, just a bit longer to wait until we’d get to see our baby.  I bought the softest, cutest onesie at Carter’s.

And then, on October 2nd, my temperature dropped.  I’d been monitoring my basal temperature, and it remained high throughout the pregnancy.  But there, on the 2nd, a drop of six degrees.  I prayed it was a fluke, and continued my positive affirmations.  The temperatures remained lower than usual, but climbed by one degree on the 3rd and on the 4th.  And then, late Sunday night on the 4th, blood.  The tiniest bit of it.  It all added up, and I couldn’t stop the tears that began.  I went out to Ray who was lying in bed.  One of our favorite songs was playing on his phone.  I asked him to please turn it off.

I don’t want this song to have a bad memory and I, um… I’m not sure, but… I think… I think I’m probably having a miscarriage.  He jumped out of bed.  We hugged, and I cried and held to him tight.  He asked if I was sure and I said that spotting sometimes happens while you’re pregnant, but my temperature dropped, too.   We agreed to call our doctor in the morning, and Ray read me a talk from one of our dear apostles about gratitude.  At moments, the words felt hollow.  How could I ever convince myself to be grateful for this moment?  And yet, there were words, too, that held hope, moments during that reading that I knew I might be able to be grateful again, even if not tonight.

In the morning, October 5th, there was no need to call the doctor.  The blood confirmed my fears from the night before.  I stepped into the shower to begin my day, and sobbed.  I gasped for breath and prayed for help and asked God why, and then stopped asking why and asked for help. I begged that God would help me find ways to be happy as we moved forward again.  And then I got out of the shower and went to work.

I spent the day feeling empty.  I went in for a blood draw on my lunch break.  I texted my family and friends because I couldn’t bear saying the words out loud yet.  My mom called me to express her love and support.  I got an outpouring of love from my family and friends.  They weren’t sure what to say.  There was nothing right to say, but there was love.  And that’s what I needed.  And I felt hope and peace.

I didn’t count the days after the miscarriage this time.  I just wanted to forget about it.  I just wanted to move forward.  We met with my doctor, and she assured us that technically, we’re still considered fertile and without problems.  It’s normal to have a miscarriage.  It’s not as normal to have two in a row, but it’s not yet a ‘concern’.  It’s normal to have to wait up to a year to get pregnant.  It’s not normal to go over a year, but we had gone just barely over a year, so it’s not yet a ‘concern’.  I felt aimless.  How could I wait possibly another year to get pregnant again?  How could I move forward if it was another miscarriage after that?  How could the doctor say that we were normal when we’d been trying to get pregnant for nearly two years now with no results?

Our doctor recommended a reproductive endocrinologist.  We began to do testing.  We’re in the middle of testing.  We’ve spent hundreds of dollars beginning the process with blood draws and semen analyses and hysterosalpingograms and endometrial biopsys.  We have follow-up appointments in the coming weeks.  Our first meeting with our kind RE, Dr. Gurtcheff, was calming and comforting.  I feel like we have a path forward, I feel like we’re doing something.  Nothing and everything explains why we’ve had problems.  There are little issues, things that we’ve been assured can be treated.  Nothing implies that we can’t get pregnant.  We have gotten pregnant.  Dr. Gurtcheff assures us that she fully expects that our next pregnancy, in every likelihood, will happen and it will result in a beautiful baby, and that we will do everything we can in the meantime to assure that that happens.

I don’t know if I’ll find that I’m pregnant tomorrow, or if I’ll find that I’m pregnant in six months or twelve months, or longer.  I don’t know if that pregnancy will be viable.  I don’t know when I’ll ever hold a child of my own in my arms, when Ray will get to hold his baby in his arms.  I don’t know and I’m scared, but I have hope.  I have faith in the process we’ve been through, and I have faith in the knowledge of doctors who assure us that we have a path forward.  I have gratitude that we’ve gotten pregnant before – that we have learned so much over the past two years.

I see Ray’s oviraptor, the indication of our second pregnancy, on a daily basis.  I feel sadness when I see it.  Sometimes I feel anger at that mother dinosaur protectively guarding her children without guarding my own promise of a child.  But I feel grateful for that moment Ray and I shared when he first opened that box.  I am grateful for that little reminder, even when it’s painful.

I have a bag of items hidden away, the books and stuffed animals and onesies we purchased during the hopes of both our pregnancies.  I don’t mind keeping those hidden away.  I want the happiness they held when they were purchased to be preserved; I want to feel that happiness the next time we have the hope to pull them out again.

I’m happy.  I have peace in my life.  I laugh on a daily basis.  Ray and I get to hold hands and go out together often.  We’ve been to the movies together more times than I can count.  We take Mabel for walks and hikes.  We have faith in each other, and support each other through the journeys we can take right now.  We regularly count the blessings we have at this stage in life, being together and having this time to grow.  There are too many blessings to count.

Sadness is inevitable.  It shows up at moments I expect and don’t expect.  I say hello and acknowledge this old friend.  I give it a place in my heart, and introduce it to the other friends in my heart, the joy and the anger and the hope and the fear and the peace.  This is quickly turning into a scene of Disney’s Inside Out, which I think is appropriate.  Without sadness, the joy wouldn’t feel as sweet.  And I have a lot of each right now, but honestly?  I have more joy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March is for New Things

I think anyone who reads this blog already knows that we bought a house.  But we did!  We closed a week ago today, and got the keys on Friday.  It feels really surreal so far.  Each time I pull into the driveway to bring in more boxes, it seems both more and less familiar to me.  "This place is ours," I keep reminding myself.  But it doesn't FEEL like ours yet.  It doesn't have our furniture or our smell or our personal touches.

But it does have our money.  A whole lot of it for the next thirty years, or until we sell it (which will definitely come first).  I keep wondering, was it worth purchasing, worth spending all our money?  I'm sure once we move in, that answer will be a resounding YES.  At least, I hope and pray it will be.  In the meantime, and since I wrote our last rent check today, I just keep getting the slightest bit anxious about all that.

Still, I'm so excited to have a home!  And a dog.  To tell people our address, and not have to add "apartment #..." to the end of it.  I'm excited to hang curtains and to pick color schemes to decorate.  To have front porch parties.  To install a gas stove line because it doesn't matter that it requires tampering with gas lines and cutting holes in walls.  I'm excited to sleep in an open and airy bedroom.  To have natural light pouring in.  Give me a few weeks, and hopefully I'll have a whole new perspective on this whole house thing, since we'll be living there.  Officially.  Crazy!

In the meantime, I'm so grateful to have the ability to buy a home right now.  We've had a few recent small windfalls that have really made this home-buying thing possible, and I attribute that 100% to God's tender mercies.  He knows our hearts and our desires, and He has helped to make this possible for us.  I'm forever grateful.

On to other March New Things, I received a call today that I will no longer be needed to work at Tulie Bakery.  I knew this was coming.  In fact, I even requested it myself.  But it still hurts, just a little.  I mean, firstly, I'm REAL excited to have my mornings back.  Waking up at 4:30 a.m. was certainly taking its toll, and I've been tired more often than not for the past few weeks.

But... I'm sure going to miss baking on a regular basis.  It's so funny, because it's not like I don't bake at home.  I do.  A lot.  And I learned a lot at Tulie that I can bring home to my own kitchen!  (And have done already, like that swirl work above that I learned there.)  But something about working at the bakery felt very chasing-my-dreams-esque, and I'll miss that.  I hope to be able to increase the little side business for baking for people.  And who knows, maybe one day, we'll have the finances available that I can go to working at a bakery full-time, rather than just for fun on the side.  For now, the little cakes I make for others will have to do.  And I'll get to keep improving my work!

My hair... that can't really be considered a new thing at this point, can it?  But I still often feel like I'm getting used to styling it.  Every day feels like I have a new hair style because my hair grows or lays differently.  I did buy a new curling iron! And this was the result:

I loved it in the morning.  By the end of the day... I felt a bit like a poodle.  So... we'll have to give it another shot, and hopefully my confidence in a curly short cut will increase.  (Oh my gosh, so excited to no longer have a BRIGHT yellow bathroom.)

And, now on to nothing new at all:

Ray still loves to eat horrifyingly enormous burgers.  This one wasn't even an on-the-menu burger challenge!  He just did it for kicks, I guess?  In related news, Lucky 13 has really delicious burgers.  Go there!

And that's all the new for now!  Pretty excited about life.  And a little anxious at times... But what do you do.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mini Batch Cupcakes: Fresh Strawberry on Chocolate

Listen, I know I JUST posted a dessert.  But I'm apparently not getting anywhere on this diet, because I went ahead and made another dessert.  To be fair, I made a mini mini batch of cupcakes.  Only three!  So I can't be tempted to eat a ton at once.  Progress.

Have you ever been to Sammy's?  There was one in Salt Lake for a half a second until it closed down.  I'd call it a tragedy, but since I only went there twice in the entire year or two it was here, I can't exactly act too disappointed.  There's still a Sammy's in Provo, as well as in Rexburg.  So attend one of those when you can!  It's worth an extra drive.

Sammy's makes a cupcake shake, using Sweet Tooth Fairy cupcakes.  And a craving struck big time tonight.  But since I'm no where near a Sammy's, and since I can make pretty dang good cupcakes if I say so myself, I figured I'd whip one of these up on my own.

Below you'll find the recipe for three cupcakes.  Just three!  That can in no way be considered indulgent.  Share one with a husband, roommate, friend, or child, and you barely have enough left for yourself!  I had planned on husband eating a shake with me, so I knew the cupcake had to be chocolate.  And we had some strawberries at the end of their life in the fridge.  I've been meaning to make fresh berry frosting for a while, so this was a perfect excuse.

Seriously, this is nearly as easy as that microwave mug cake, but a hundred times better tasting.

Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes (via)
Yield 3 or 4

1-2 Tbs. chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 Tbs. butter, room temperature
1/4 c. sugar
1 large egg (about 1 Tbs. white removed)
2 Tbs. oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbs. cocoa powder
2 Tbs. room temp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tin with 3 or 4 cupcake liners, or spray with cooking spray.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave at short intervals, or in a pot on the stove top over medium low heat.  Set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl, use a fork to blend the butter and sugar together.  Add cooled chocolate to butter mixture and blend well. Add egg to mix and combine.  Add oil, vanilla, and yogurt and again mix to combine.  Measure the flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder into the bowl, then use your fork to combine until no dry streaks remain.  Add the water, and mix til just incorporated.  Spoon the batter into your prepared cups, filling the cups just 2/3 of the way.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes onto a rack to cool (you can place them in the fridge at this point, for about 10 minutes, to quicken the cooling).

Small Batch Fresh Strawberry Frosting (via)
Yield about 1/2 cup

1/4 c. chopped strawberries
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. water
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. butter, room temperature
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. heavy cream
pinch of salt

Combine strawberries, sugar, and water in a small saucepan, and place over medium heat.  Allow the strawberries to begin to soften, and use the back of a wooden spoon to smash strawberries as they cook.  This should only take two minutes or so.  Add the splash of balsamic vinegar, and continue to cook til the mixture thickens a bit, about two more minutes.  Remove from heat and set in a bowl to cool (it can still be slightly warm, but not much more above room temperature.)

Place 1 Tbs. strawberry mixture with the butter in a small bowl.  Use a fork to combine well.  Add powdered sugar, cream, and salt to the bowl, and use an electric mixer to whip to combine.  If mixture seems too runny, add additional powdered sugar.  If it seems too thick, add additional cream until the preferred consistency is reached.

And if you want a shake?  Just put 1/2 cup of milk, 1 cup of ice cream, and your frosted cupcake into a blender!  Done and done.