Do Your Thing

Do you ever keep something to yourself and only say it out loud once someone else utters the same words? Miscarriage. Divorce. Death. Depression. Guilt. Jealousy. Anger. Fantasies. Dreams.  Hopes. Failures. Stressors. I am quite certain the more positive words (or life events) roll off our tongues with ease. It’s the dark and painful ones that perhaps reside somewhere less obvious—maybe  hidden, waiting for a chance just to escape and be known. 

I find that something so powerful is the ability to relate with one another…to find common ground, grab a hold of it, and embrace the commonality throughout our journeys. Perhaps it’s a shared loss, similar upbringings, a common annoyance that is the mutual thorn in your side. Not to say that we should all live Stepford Wives’ & Husbands’ Lives in this Utopian World that are so similar it’s creepy and artificial…but to relate as humans with human-like problems or joys is to feel real. 

I have never really had a problem being real with someone. In fact, I have to rein it in sometimes when I find myself asking potentially intrusive questions. I would like to think that I am not socially inept, but rather I really want to know the person I am connecting with. Staying on the surface bores me, and I usually tend to want to go deeper.  My husband would probably attest that in my quest for common ground, I sometimes dig into the ground too deep or perhaps I find a little too late the sign that says, “Call before you dig.”  

A few weeks ago, I should have called before I dug. I asked a woman about her dating life after knowing her for approximately 30 minutes. Although she answered the question naturally and without hesitation, I immediately checked myself. Maybe she hates men, recently had a bad date, is recently divorced and grieving, or many more scenarios I did not think of in that 5 seconds it took for me to ask it.  And no, I wasn’t even drinking.  She easily shared a response, but I apologized for being too forth-right and a bit nosy. She told me not to worry, and ten minutes later, she asked, “Since you asked a personal question, I’ll ask you one…Would you like to have more kids?” 

She did not know that I had experienced a miscarriage just three months prior. How would she? So I respond that we really would like more and that I actually just experienced a miscarriage a few months ago. I could tell she felt embarrassed that she asked the question, but I shared with her that I was not offended and that I was doing well. She was digging deeper to get to know me, much like I had done ten minutes before. I appreciated that more than she knew.  Not that I let that unfortunate experience define me as a woman, nor did she let her divorce or dating mishaps define hers—but it was a loss for each of us that we both allowed ourselves to express, regardless if we knew each other for 30 minutes or 30 months. It was part of our stories.

I think it is important to be real. I do understand not everybody wears their hearts of their sleeves like me, nor are they as sappy, right Sis? Although my sister would probably be the first to admit that she just skims my blogs that are too mushy, she is also the first to say,

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Ok,  my sister. I’m discovering my “thing” must be to dig…to know…to relate…to connect…to love, to feel deeply…and while you can only tolerate a little teaspoon of sap, I will continue to bathe in it. 🙂

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Sleep Baby Sleep

Sometimes the quiet, unpronounced moments are the ones that teach us the most. As I have recently shared on Facebook, I am thankful for Dolly Pardon’s Imagination Library. What an awesome program – encouraging children to develop a love for reading and learning early on, and making this easy for their parents to promote and practice.

I have also commented before how some of the most important things we learn in kinder garden. I am finding this is similarly true with children’s books. If we need a reminder of the basics, just pull out “Sleep Baby Sleep” by Maryann Cusimano Love. It is my new favorite, hands down. In fact, I bargain with Violet every night to read it. We can read “Where Is Spot” first as long as Mom can read “Sleep Baby Sleep” afterwards (compromise anyone?).

“Sleep baby, sleep, snuggled like a sheep. Be always like the lamb so mild, a kind and sweet and gentle child. Sleep baby, sleep.”

Having a tender heart is not a flaw, rather strength. Be kinder than necessary, and love with your whole heart.

“Rise baby, rise. Wipe the sleep from your eyes. Be like the chick that leaves her shell to toddle over field and dell.”

Get your rest and then work hard. It will pay off in the end. I promise.

“Soar baby, soar. The whole world you’ll explore. Fly like the goose who climbs and roams yet always knows his way back home. Soar baby, soar. “

Do not be afraid to try new things or take risks. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But no matter what, I will be here for you.

“Laugh, baby, laugh. Frolic like the calf, nose tickled by the grass and rye, eyes twinkling at the beaming sky. Laugh, baby, laugh.”

Enjoy yourself. Let your hair down. Don’t take life too seriously.

“Look, baby, look, surprise in every nook. Be like the hawk who trusts her sight of canyons grand and feathers slight. Look, baby, look.”

Be open-minded, but also trust your intuition.

“Climb, baby, climb, one step at a time. Be like the cub who scales great trees to peer above the canopy. Climb, baby, climb.”

Do not underestimate yourself. No matter how big the dream is, if you truly want it, go for it. You will get there, one step at a time.

“Sail, baby, sail, calm in the windy gale. Be like the duck who paddles through the storm to glide in waves of blue. Sail, baby, sail.”

Practice grace under pressure. Allow your inner peace to guide you through life’s tough storms.

“Splash, baby, splash. Stand tall as the waves crash. Be always like the hound who dares to find adventure everywhere. Splash, baby splash.”

Be silly. Have fun. Set your own trends. Try new things.

“Grow, baby, grow. From our arms you’ll go, unfurling like a butterfly, cocoon opening to the sky. Grow, baby grow.”

Continue to evolve into this beautiful little human being. You never cease to amaze me.

“Hush, baby, hush. Growing can’t be rushed. Be always like the newborn foal with whispered wind songs in his soul. Hush, baby, hush.”

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up. Although adulthood is appealing, many adults long for the simplicity of childhood. Trust me on this one.

“Shine, baby, shine, graceful child of mine. Be like the firefly who flows no matter how the darkness grows. Shine, baby, shine.”

Be who you are, confidently and with integrity. Don’t let others dim your light, no matter what.

“Peace, baby, peace. All your cares release. Be always like the snowy dove who spreads her wings and sings of love. Peace, baby, peace.”

Find what makes you truly at peace, and hold onto that wherever you go.

“Dream, baby, dream, rising like moonbeams. Be always like the dragonfly shimmering in the misty sky. Dream, baby, dream.”

Envision what would genuinely make you happy, and strive for it, my sweet girl.

“Sleep, baby, sleep. Our promises we’ll keep. Be the miracle you are, a wish come true on a shooting star. Sleep, baby sleep.”

Rest and rejuvenate, tucked comfortably in your bed tonight. I promise to love you for all you are and all you become. You really are a miracle—I know this for sure.

A World Shaken and Perspectives Altered

I think we all have pivotal moments in our lives which have a tendency to reshape our perspectives—the way we view ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. 

When I reflect on my life, but especially my adult life, I can vividly recall a handful of these times. I have shared the obvious positive ones—my wedding, marriage, and the birth of my daughter.  But recently I personally had two of these pivotal “moments” if you will. They were not actually moments, but events that slightly shook my world. I think about these as gentle shakes, not enough to knock me down and then kick me while I’m down there…but enough of a shake to grab me by shoulders, hold firmly, while forcing me to look at my life differently… a large dose of perspective. For those of you who have been forced to swallow a dose of perspective may agree that it can be hard to swallow, may even get stuck in your throat and cause heart burn, but ultimately know it will make you feel better and thus make you a better human being. Perhaps that pill can come in the form of tough love, bad luck, or natural consequences. 

I will start with the first. As I have written about in the last few months, the day I discovered I lost my (second) pregnancy was a day I will never forget, nor will I forget the day five days following when my body expelled the “products of conception.” I write “products of conception” for a few reasons: 1. This is the term the medical community uses to describe this biological event. And 2. It is somewhat difficult to describe what I witnessed as a “baby.” Truthfully, I felt it was shocking and gory. But in all reality, it was a baby that was just in formation a month prior…in development…with a beating heart. And it no longer was. So while “products of conception” sounds medical and technical, it is easier than calling it a baby. It makes it less personal, less sensitive….less painful. 

That entire experience did shake my world. It made me realize that I was not immune to tragedy or grief, and that it can happen to me and not just “other women.” It allowed me to read, to research, to blog, to reach out, to engage, and to relate. If writing has done one thing for me besides allowing self expression, it has allowed me to relate with others, which is  incredibly gratifying and fulfilling, even if what we are relating about is painful and difficult. 

 It taught me how fragile life is. Granted this little life was short lived from conception to death, but it was the loss of a dream and loss of a little person that could have been that compelled me to take a new perspective. As I expressed through Facebook on the 7th day of November in words of gratitude for the month, “Today I am thankful for the miracle of life. The intricate inner making of a baby blows my mind. Scientifically and biologically, everything has to be just so for a child to enter this world safely. I will never take this for granted again.” I know I have been thankful for my first born since the day she took her first breath, but if anything could make me even more thankful, this experience could. Although I would like to have more children, it showed me that my current family is not incomplete. In fact, it is bursting and full. If we did get blessed with a miracle again one day, then our hearts would expand even more to accommodating the growing love. But to be clear, it is full now on this very day, this very moment, and this very second. 

Then shortly after this pivotal event, I was gently shaken again. I had an argument with a lifelong friend. I initially thought it would be a falling out and yet another loss. I was preparing myself for the worse, just as I did when I was lying on the cold hard exam table in September. This “shaking” was a version of tough love that I normally do not respond well to. I have always been tender-hearted (to a point where I begged God for a little tougher of a heart), so when others communicated things in a way that was somewhat painful, I tended to internalize it and make it much more personal than necessary. Through this argument with this lifelong friend, I learned something about myself and about her. I learned what her “Achilles tendon” was…the part of her that was extremely sensitive and should be handled with the greatest of care. At the same time, I realized that although I always prided myself in being kind, respectful of others, and a high communicator, I did have times when I did not practice these traits. The “shaking” was a bit of a wakeup call, yet another dose of perspective that was hard to swallow but ultimately made me a better human being. Who knew that after almost 30 years, one could learn more about herself and her best friend? 

So although the last few months have been trying and difficult, I have a new found sense of inner strength. I have always heard the motto, “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” and I can say that’s how I feel right about now. Granted there are times I am unkind, but I do plan to reflect on my actions and behaviors more closely so that I can be my best self. 

Today on this 10th day of November, I am thankful for those mild earthquakes in life that gently shake us and compel us to look at our world differently and to perhaps swallow a pill of perspective that will make us healthier in the long run.  Here’s to our health—mind, body, and spirit.  

Lack of Immunity to Grief

I am not immune to heart break and grief.  On September 14 2013, this became clear to me. Bad things do happen to good people. Good people do get hurt. 

I spent one month coping in ways that were most comforting—indulging in fat laden comfort foods, trying to sneak in extra sleep when I could, reflecting/writing, reading about other woman’s stories in blogs and books. 

After this month passed and I was dusting myself off, I came upon some events that caused me to stumble a bit. My pregnancy “partners” (those due very closely to my expected due date) were starting to share their wonderful news to the world. The 12 week mark when it’s generally “safe” to announce…20 week mark and half way point…having the opportunity to find out the gender if so desired. That was supposed to be me too. I’m not half way to seeing my baby. Instead, I have a little Angel clip with a March birthstone on the wall in Violet’s room next to a photo of me, very pregnant with Violet. Perhaps I placed it there so I will never forget what could have been. 

Time does heal. It does not heal completely, but with each passing day, it helps the sharp pain fade into a dull more tolerable ache. Although it does cross my mind at least once a day, it’s not debilitating. 

I was in a horrible car accident the day before Thanksgiving in 2007. I never have driven the same since. For months, I would think about it daily and replay the scene in my mind…from the intense impact of the cars smashing into me, to the sound of the window glass being intentionally broken by a good Samaritan so I could crawl out…it replayed until my mind did not have to replay it anymore. 

In a similar way, I keep repeating the doctor’s words in my mind, “You’ve lost this pregnancy…that’s what’s going on” (referencing my bleeding)…the ultrasound tech’s silence..the torturous wait to see the physician once again…it continues to replay until one day when it does not have to replay anymore. All this replaying of this very sad tape in my mind is just that—in my mind. I tend not to talk about this anymore, and most people don’t ask. But not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I reminisce about the morning I saw the two pink lines, July 25th, 2013. 

I did get a dose of perspective recently, when I heard woman I once knew delivered a stillborn baby (full-term). It rocked my world once again. How can I feel so sad for a loss of what could have been when this baby WAS?  I tried not to minimize my own feelings but it made me again think of all the “what ifs” in life that I’ve touched on before. It’s quite amazing and miraculous how any baby makes it from conception through delivery, unscathed, healthy, intact…well, perfect. Everything has to be just so…the stars have to be aligned or something. All the intricate inner creations of the baby in the womb utterly blows my mind. Life is miraculous…and fragile.

Magnificence and Miracles in the Meantime

On a random day about a month ago, I was enveloped by a very real feeling of happiness. It is hard to articulate, but I felt thankful and comfortable. I found myself in a good place, and I was counting my blessings on my drive home from work. 

Shortly after this day, I discovered I lost the baby growing inside me. I was not necessarily shocked but deeply saddened by the words that quickly passed through that doctor’s lips. In sharp contrast to the warm enveloping feeling I experienced just a few days prior, I suddenly felt alone in a cold environment surrounded by medicine, science, and ill people waiting to be examined and treated. I was reminded how life can change so quickly. 

As days and weeks passed, I was overwhelmed by a warm response from my friends, family, and co-workers. The words of hope and encouragement helped me significantly. Something dawned on me though. Life was not going as according to plan. My timetable was screwed, and that frustrated me. This child who would have been 2 years and 2 months younger than my first would no longer arrive. What I originally thought of as the ideal “2 years apart between children” would not become a reality. I would have to accept that if my family did grow, it would not be as soon as I had planned. It was as if life handed me a red Sharpie marker and slashed an X in the calendar of my dreams. March 28th, 2014 would no longer be a day to expect an addition to my family. It will instead be an ordinary Friday in the late spring, or still winter in our unpredictable North Dakota tundra.

So my brain starts to think of new time tables ─a different dream, a different due date, a different plan on this proverbial calendar in my mind. But as muster up the strength to move on from this loss of plans, I realize there is some personal growth to be offered in this experience. I say “in the meantime” I will find joy in all the good things around me, most importantly the daughter I have been blessed with. But I am slowly learning that I do not want to live my life enjoying things “in the meantime.” I want to enjoy them simply for what they are…not as stepping stones to something greater, rather for how truly special they are…just as they are. I want to move past the thoughts of “while I wait for…” or “someday when I have…”  Instead I sincerely want to value all that is in front of me rather than what is planned ahead for me on life’s unknown calendar.  

Although this red Sharpie marker that slashed an X through my plans felt harsh (like a big F on a paper I’ve worked so hard on in school), it serves to remind me that: 

 Magnificence happens in the meantime. 

 Miracles happen in the meantime. 

The “meantime” is my life—new adventures, sudden sorrows, unplanned joys—not just in big events, but in the everyday occurrences. The old adage of “smelling the roses” (or smelling the violets in my case) holds true. Each day is a true gift, even with the twinges of pain and sorrow once in a while. It’s all part of the package and this grand calendar. Perhaps instead I can take multicolored Sharpies and mark it with miraculous and magnificent events that happened this very day instead of what was planned for the future—a funny word that our toddler said for the first time or the little things my husband does for me to make my life easier (allowing me to sleep in, making a Sunday breakfast, just to name a few). 

I do know I will need to be reminded at times of what John Lennon realistically said, “Life happens while you’re busy making other plans.” So today my plan is to not have a plan. Instead, I will capture all the magnificence as it naturally comes. Here’s to this beautiful crisp autumn day and a little cuddle time with the babe and pup (after all, who dislikes time with a babe and pup?)

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Tasting the Bittersweet: Where Do We Go From Here?

A new task has been added to my Mondays—going to the lab so my physician can monitor the HcG levels to ensure my body is recognizing the pregnancy is no longer viable and the “products of conception” have passed.  As suspected after some pretty shocking and painful physical symptoms, the level is going down significantly. It’s bittersweet, really. Yes—it’s good that my body recognizes that there is no baby growing inside me anymore…but on the other hand, there is no baby growing inside me anymore. It’s sometimes hard to articulate how I feel, as some of my grieving is set aside by the job of raising a 1.5 year old. In fact, she is my saving grace. 

However, there are moments when I’m reminded of this loss. I am now acutely aware of pregnant women of all shapes and sizes. I sometimes catch myself watching a woman from the backside betting to myself that when she turns around (to pay the cashier for example), that I will spot a baby bump. Sure enough, I do 95% of the time (Ok, so that percentage is a slight exaggeration, but my point is that every woman, her aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and even grandmas seem to be pregnant right about now). That is another bittersweet thought—to celebrate the joy of conception, healthy pregnancies, and their upcoming arrivals…but on the other hand, it’s those women celebrating this and not me. It was supposed to be me too. 

You often hear “life is not fair.” This is a cliché I know to be true, especially now. It’s easy to ask, “Why me?”  but then I have an internal retort prepared already for myself—“Why not me?”  Why would I be immune from the 10-20 percent of women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage? My physician told me that this is probably a low number and only accounts for documented pregnancies and in fact, 1 in 4 ends this way. So—to better grasp what this looks like statistically, I decide to create a visual. I cut 10 pieces of paper. On 8 of the pieces, I write, “healthy.” On the other 2 pieces, I write “miscarriage.” I put them in a container. If trying for three children , I pick out 3 pieces of paper. First: “healthy.” Second: “healthy.” Third: “miscarriage.” Fourth: “healthy.” Well, there you have it—1 in 4 were labeled “miscarriage.”  I do understand that odds, percentages, and statistics all vary due to the woman’s age, health, lifestyle, etc, but with all factors being simple- it was kind of interesting seeing it this way. Although I don’t want to be just a “statistic,” it helped me understand the odds…in maybe an odd way. 

So my husband and I ask ourselves “where do we go from here?” We have decided to focus our time and energy on our new home and to our daughter, who is learning so fast, I can hardly keep up. In fact, she now says, “Mom, I got you!” Yes, my dear daughter, you do. You have my heart for sure. 

Despite the bittersweet pangs that I often feel now, I try to be mindful. I think it’s important to allow myself to feel whatever it is that I am feeling, acknowledge the feeling, then move through it. Most currently this involves some sadness, loss of future plans and hopes, some anxiety, and a little fear of the unknown. 

Yet another cliché I will throw out there is “this too shall pass.” Yes—it will. In the meantime, I will write about it. 

The Loss of What Could Have Been

It all started with two pink lines. I was ecstatic. We were hoping for a second little miracle to join our sweet girl. The anticipation and excitement were hard to hold back—like a cork on a champagne bottle, we were ready to pop it and celebrate. We almost immediately told our family and friends the good news. We started planning for the future—adjusting our budget for additional daycare costs, arranging where the new baby’s room would be in our new home, and enjoying the suspense of not finding out the gender. After all, it’s one of life’s last few surprises. 

It all went so fast. After moving into our new home, I awakened one night to use the bathroom. Then I see what a pregnant woman never wants to see…blood. I lie there at 1 am next to my husband anxious and scared. I was trying to prepare my mind and heart for the worst case scenario, but unfortunately I would have to wait many hours to call the clinic and hopefully be seen for an exam. Later that day, we were fit into the provider’s schedule. Even before the ultrasound, the nurse practitioner did not seem concerned about the spotting. She felt this sounded normal, and it was likely an old clot passing around the gestational sac. We then released a huge sigh of relief when she then performed the ultrasound and pointed out the tiny heart flapping back and forth quickly. We were able to hear the reassuring “woosh, woosh,” and felt everything would be ok.  I leaned over to my husband,  smiled, and said “I forgot how amazing that is to hear.” She then told us we were not completely out of the woods yet, but everything looked good. 

The weeks passed with a little more spotting every few days. I tried to reassure myself it was normal for this pregnancy. Each pregnancy is different. After all, the provider assured me things looked good. We saw the heart beating. 

It was a cold, gray, rainy Saturday, and the spotting became heavier. I thought it would be best to go in to be seen. Although it could be “normal”spotting, I needed reassurance once again that the baby was still there…and the tiny heart was still beating. I drove alone through the downpour to the clinic, as my husband had to stay back with our 1 1/2 year old.

I explained my history and symptoms to the physician. He ordered an ultrasound. As I sat waiting for tech to come and get me, I do what most people do this day and age—I grab my phone and search the internet for message boards and forums of women in a similar situation. What were their outcomes? What were the chances that this baby was still OK?  Was I searching for false hope from stories of people I’ve never met? 

I eventually was escorted to the cold, dark basement. The tech instructed me what to do. I lied there anxiously waiting to once again hear that “woosh, woosh,” or see that tiny flapping on the screen. She informed me she was not able to interpret or reveal anything to me, and that I would have to wait for the radiologist to interpret the results, who would then inform the walk-in physician. I felt so alone lying on that table. The minutes felt like hours, and in my heart I knew the answer to my suspicions. Although the tech could not tell me anything, she didn’t have to…I did not hear the “woosh woosh,” nor get to see the tiny heart flapping. She finally finished and instructed me to get dressed and wait for the aide to bring me back up to wait once again. I was painfully waiting for the confirmation. Although I don’t have a trained eye for sonograms, I looked at the image on the screen. It was my uterus, and inside was a very small clump of tissue. It was much too small for the gestational age. Again, I knew. 

The final waiting period ended when a nurse brought me back into the room. I sat there again in silence—painful silence. The lack of the “woosh woosh” and the view of my almost empty uterus nagged at me and pulled tightly at my heart. The straight-faced doctor finally walks in, quickly sits down, and states in a matter-of-fact tone the words I will never forget—“You have lost this pregnancy.” As my mind tries to wrap around this confirmation, I say, “Ok…”and the rest is a blur. I recall bits and pieces such as “it was 7 weeks 6 days,” and “no heart beat.”  I start crying, and he robotically hands me a box of tissues. He instructs me to keep my appointment with my obstetrician four days later. It was supposed to be my 12 week appointment to check on the status of my growing fetus. Instead, it would be something much different. 

That evening after I shared the sad news with my husband and family, I decided it would be best for me if I updated everyone right away. I had already shared my pregnancy news with so many people, and although the task of informing them of this sad update was daunting and exhausting, I wanted to get it done with.  I spent the evening texting, calling, emailing…until I was utterly exhausted and crashed. 

The next day is when it sunk in. I felt and still feel a sense of emptiness….a loss of something that could have been our second sweet baby. I would no longer hold him or her in my arms in the end of March as I had envisioned.

Although this loss is still fresh and raw, I’ve been overwhelmed with not only sadness, but of gratitude. I may have shared with numerous people (and then had to explain the sad news as well), but these people were there for me in ways I could not have even imagined. From messages of hope and healing…to flowers…to a care package…I have been surrounded in love. I also met with my physician who was surprisingly comforting. In contrast to the cold and matter-of-fact physician who delivered those painful words, this obstetrician comforted me with words of knowledge and education and made me feel less alone; in fact, he made me feel “normal.” I was grateful he fit me in his full schedule, yet seemed unrushed, calm, and warm. He shared a situational personal story with me which offered some perspective, and I so needed to hear that at this confusing time. Above it all, I came home and found solace in the hugs and kisses of my healthy, beautiful, little girl. I’ve been reminded that although this second child was not in God’s plan for us at this time, we will someday know why. And in the meantime, my intuitive little girl asks me to sing just a few more tunes, cuddle a little more closely, and hold her a little longer. Tonight I will fall asleep in God’s embrace, trusting in the strength of the human spirit and power of hope, love, and faith.