Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rainy Days Gotta Be Good for Something

So if you've spent any time with me or even around my little corner of the know I'm a coffee fanatic. but there is one thing that will cause me to set down my cup o' joe and choose something else for my mug.

What? Gasp! No! Say it ain't so!

Now before you freak out, I'm not giving up on my bean juice, I'm just broadening the horizons a bit.

A while ago, I joined Smiley360 to give my opinion in exchange for free stuff.  So far, this relationship is working out pretty darn good for me.  I fill out a survey, see if I qualify for the latest mission item and if I do, in a few short weeks a box arrives at my door containing the product.  All I have to do is say I got the product for free then honestly share my opinion of it.

This time, Tazo Chai Tea was the mission, and I happily accepted.  My kit arrived with three tea bags and coupons for full sized concentrate - one for me and two to share - I chose vanilla caramel, my friends chose pumpkin and the original chai.

The vanilla caramel chai concentrate...oh my bob. Let us just take a moment to enjoy the sweet and spicy aroma of this.....the sweetness of the vanilla and caramel satisfied my sweet tooth while the spiciness of the chai woke my palate and said "you know, this is going to be a good day."

The concentrate makes it super easy, you just add milk.  I love that the milk is not already in it since I can't have regular milk - so I made a 50/50 mix of the concentrate and my beloved soy milk and voila, instant latte and I didn't even have to put on real pants.  It's delicious hot or iced and if you're feeling particularly fancy, top it with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

The bags are slightly trickier in that you need to make sure you've brewed it long enough to get all those delicious flavors - honestly they are tasty just as a cup of tea but much better once you add that touch of milk to make the creamy chai latte we've come to thoroughly appreciate.

Overall I give this product two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Just that kind of a day

You know the one. the one where the fly ends up in your coffee before you even get a sip. The one where your three year old shoves a cup of yogurt in your face demanding you help her "with the end" (meaning scrape the bottom of the cup and feed her) but today it's a half full cup of yogurt which she promptly drops on the floor you JUST steam mopped yesterday....the one where the allergy headache started before you even woke up and you feel like there's been an invasion of tiny gnomes with tiny hammers beating on your head and face....yeah those days.

It's been a challenging couple of weeks....the the rising temps don't really help a lot. Note - I am not complaining about summer. I like summer. I'd rather deal with the sweltering heat than the snow any day of the week.   I'm talking about that "I'm just sitting here in front of a fan and I'm still soaked with sweat" type of day...those are the ones when my toddler screams help like the mutant spiders have invaded with such an edge to her voice that I immediately sprint to the other side of our apartment expecting the worst and instead....
....wait for it...
discover she can't get a sticker off a page....
spilled a single drop of smoothie on her shirt....
"can't reach" the cup sitting next to her hand.
....yeah those days.

Those are the days when it is so hard to not just sit down and cry and eat my weight in ice cream.

Those are the ones where I tell my darling daughter "Bean if you would just..."  and dispense wisdom about how if she'd look up she'd see her cup, or if she'd tell me with actual words what her problem is I could help, or if she'd watch where she's walking instead of insisting on walking backwards everywhere she might not run into things....
and that's when I wonder if to God sometimes I'm a three year old.

"Eye....if you'd just stop whining and start listening you'd realize I already gave you the answer.  If you'd stop trying to fix it yourself you'd see that I can do this...." mean like when I tell Bean that if she wants me to fix the toy she has to hand it to me?  If she wants me to give her something specific she has to tell me what it is?  If she is hungry she needs to eat the food I give her?  something like that?

My kid is in the why phase.  Every. Single. Thing. gets a "why?"
Here's a gem from yesterday:
Bean: I'm hungry.
Me: ok, let's get some lunch.
Bean: why?
Me: You said you're hungry.
Bean: Why did I said I'm hungry?
Me: You tell me.
Bean: Because I want to eat something. Come on mama let's go to the fridge and figure it out!
Me: Ok, coming.
Bean: why?
Me: Purple. because aliens wear hats.
Bean: that's just silly. why are you silly?
Me: Let's get mommy some coffee while we're at it.
Bean: Why?

Maybe I don't spend all day asking the Almighty "Why" but it kind of seems like I question him without actually questioning him.  Ooh. existential. Go on, what do you mean by that?

Well, if I say "God I trust you to provide. I trust you to take care of..." then I sit there and crunch numbers, or cry, or panic I'm kinda questioning the ability or maybe even the willingness.

I talk about my kid a lot. Yes. I'm that parent.  I adore my child. Yes, there are days when I wonder how many more minutes until naptime, but really - I've got it good.  I have an incredibly smart, sweet, funny, caring, tenderhearted little girl.  She's brilliant (how many three year olds do you know that can read and do math?) and she's got such a sweet tender heart - if I cover my face with my hands, she runs to my side asking what's wrong. She doesn't care if she was in the middle of a class three meltdown over the granola bar being broken.
When we lost our sweet Baby Sprout, she was too young to understand what was happening...but she knew mommy and daddy were very sad.  She responded by being extra cuddly.  One day, I couldn't keep the tears in check - I did not hide my grief from her, but I did try to not cry all day.  But I was at a point where my broken heart and body hurt too much to hold it in. So I sat down, and I let the tears slip down my face, trying to just watch my little girl play. She stopped what she was doing, climbed into my lap, laid her little head on my chest and said "mommy's here. mommy's here"  the same way I've always done for her as I hold her close to soothe her fears and owies....
She's taught me a lot of lessons.
I look at her and I marvel at the miracle.  I helped make a whole person.  I love her more than life itself, and I've injured myself more than twice keeping her from injury, it's just what you do.  You don't think about it, you just do.  and if I can do this, this imperfect human complete with selfish much more does God love us?
I get why God was willing to take our punishment.
I'd rather be commode-hugging-can't-get-off-the-the-bathroom-floor-don't-even-let-me-smell-food sick than have her have a runny nose.  If there was a way for me to take illness and owchies from her and put them on myself, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Bean knows she's loved. If you ask her how much her mommy loves her, she'll smile and tell you more than coffee.  Anyone who knows me will smile and tell her "that's a LOT."  She knows that it doesn't matter how busy I am, how tired I am, how much I don't feel good - she KNOWS if she needs (and I do mean needs) her mama, I will be there.  She knows that I will stop typing mid-sentence, drop the cell phone, turn off the sink/stove/steam mop and come running.  She knows I will hold, her pray over her, kiss the boo-boo and trap the scary things.  She knows I love her unconditionally and that even when she has a "threenager" day, I'm still going to love her. I'm still going to hold her and kiss her goodnight and pray with her and tell her I love her.

Now take that and multiply it by infinity and we've scratched the surface of how much God loves us.
Astounding isn't it?

If you haven't read it, Crazy Love by Francis Chan is an amazing read on the topic.  Go check it out. I'll wait.

Let's give this a shot!

So, there was a day, I ordered some ink from Amazon.  It came, I tried to install it in my printer and discovered that *gasp* the seller had misrepresented the ink. It not only was not compatible with my had leaked a huge mess en route to me. I contacted the seller to no avail...and finally filed a complaint and a one star review on Amazon - that got their attention. I got emails asking me to remove my review and they'd replace the product....
um, yeah, it doesn't fit my printer. Just give me my money back dude.
we went back and forth for days - they actually threatened to not give me my refund unless I took down my review - they also said that Amazon wouldn't let them give me a full refund (which is bull).
So I went to Amazon directly.
Can you say amazing customer service??
They took care of it right away - I got all of my money back, including return shipping and the seller....well I don't think they are allowed to sell on Amazon anymore - the customer service rep listened to everything I said and agreed with me that it's not right to ask a customer to remove a bad review.
Bad reviews aren't great for business...but the thing is....they give the fuller picture.  I had another amazon experience - the product was so-so, and I reviewed it as such. I got an email with some follow up questions and a free sample of another size of the product which worked much better.
I was happy to amend that review.  This company said "please try this size and let us know how it works, if you have a better experience would you consider updating your review."  No pressure, no "do it or else"

Reviews...powerful little things...they help us to decide if a product is good or bad, a place has great chicken or really needs a new cook...

So when I heard about Smiley I thought, hmmmm I should look into that.

I'm a frugal mama. I adore coupons, sales and freebies, so of course there are a few websites I keep tabs on - one of which is Stacy's Freebies - and she mentioned this Smiley company - free stuff for honest reviews.  How great is that?
so...I'm trying it.

And if you want to join me, you can too. It's free, they don't seem to demand a lot of info and well for me, I kinda like the idea of having a voice about products on the market!
So click here for more info.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What are you thinking?

I'm sure you've seen them out there...the "what a stay home parent really does all day" posts.  Some are hilarious. Some are sanctimonious.  Some are heartbreaking. Some are a mesh of all of them.
Guess what? this isn't a post about being a stay home mom.
This is a post about this particular mom, who woke up with a lot on her mind.

I also woke up with a monster headache. Allergies are mean.

Had a "moment" with my daughter and got her back to bed for some much needed sleep. I despise the days she does not nap because she's that three year old that really does need it...otherwise she reverts to newborn sleep habits which I do not so much enjoy.

I decided to stay up, get some coffee and read my Bible...even spouted some profound thoughts to Twitter.

The verse that's sticking with me today is in Psalms - actually it's two verses. Psalm 139:23-24.  I generally read from the ESV, which says: "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,  and lead me in the way everlasting!"

You've probably seen it in the NIV, where it says "anxious" instead of grievous.

When a verse really grabs me, I like to look at it in several translations, one of my favorites being The Message.
"Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life."

That's a heavy lesson for a day.  Basically saying ok God, you see it all anyway, lay it out for me. Where am I screwing up so I can fix it?

Ouch. I mean really who likes to have their faults pointed out?  Who likes to be reminded that they are not perfect?

My husband has been spending a lot of time studying the pursuit of holiness - a holy life. Wow, that seems ambitious doesn't it?  I think a lot of people will confuse holy with self-righteous.  Which can get ugly fast.

Guess what?
I'm not perfect.  I don't have wonderful thoughts of all the wonderful things all day long. I worry. I stress. Sometimes I react instead of respond.  Does that mean that I can't pursue a holy life? Nope.  Does it mean I'm "doomed and a bad Christian?" Far from it.  It makes me a human in need of grace and mercy.  Good thing God is loving and forgiving and full of grace and mercy He's aching to hand me as soon as I figure out I need to ask for it.

Sometimes I don't say I'm a Christian when I'm asked about my faith. It's not because I'm ashamed. It's not because I think that I need to hide.

It's because unfortunately there are some people with a spotlight and a stage who call themselves Christians and then open their mouths and cast a horrid light on the rest of us.  I say I have a relationship with God. It's not a religion.  Because to me, it's not. it's about my relationship with God. My realization that I cannot draw breath without God.  My understanding that God is real, that I've seen him move in my life, heal my body, answer my prayers and comfort me when I'm destroyed.  I don't need a stage.  I don't want a spotlight.  I do want for those that do want the stage and the spotlight to think before they speak.  So many people I've encountered tell me that it's Christians that have turned them off to God, that they seem worse than people just trying to live a good life.  That they are hurtful and judgmental and mean and even cruel.  That they are high and mighty and look down on everyone around them...reminds me of the Pharisees in the Bible.
I'm not called to call everyone out on their sin.  I'm called to love my neighbor, to be kind, to fill needs as I can.  I'm called to be an ambassador for Christ.
I'm still figuring out how to do that.

So, here I sit, open heart asking God to "show me what I need to fix, and give me the strength to fix it."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Life Is Good.

I'm sitting on my couch, listening to Bug play his guitar and sing while Bean dances around singing. She's thrilled because she gets to stay up a little late today since she took such an amazing nap. (YAY!)

The scale said I lost a little more weight, and I was satisfied to eat a big bunch of celery with just a little bit of first chocolate in a few weeks. Man that tasted good...and even a bit rich.  Half a serving was more than enough to quell the sweet tooth and I didn't even sit there wishing for more.

Man my man can SING.
sorry. well no I'm not. He's good.  And he's adding a nice relaxing element to our evening.

So Bean had us laughing was a rare night when we let her come to the master bedroom for bedtime.  She calls it "our room" and she loves the "big bed" ...although more often than not she calls it "our bed" these days.  She's all tucked in between us, kisses have been given and all is quiet.  I'm about to drift off when I hear "um guys, can you roll over?"  Apparently the smallest member of the family requires the most space for sleeping.  After I stopped laughing she announced that she was "stuck" and wanted to go to her room.  I tucked her in and she looked up at me with those huge beautiful sparkly blue eyes and said "are you happy mommy? are you proud of me?"  I kissed her and scooped her up to sit in the rocking chair for a bit.
Me: I'm very happy, peanut and I am SO proud of you.
Bean: 'Cause I'm a good girl!
Me: Yes you are. and you're sweet, and kind and have such a tender heart.
Bean: We be kind and respectful.
Me: *choking back tears* Yes, sweetheart we should be kind and respectful.
Bean: I need to use your pillow because I love you.

I love how her little mind works.  And she is always thinking, listening. observing...she remembered that mommy is supposed to be taking it easy (injured back..grrrrr mommies don't get days off, but this particular mommy has an amazing husband who washes dishes and does laundry and says to stay off my feet as much as I can and not to worry about the housework.)
I was washing a couple of dishes tonight and Bean was watching.
Bean: Mommy are you washing dishes?
Me: Yes I am.
Bean: are you supposed to do that? MOMMY! Don't do dishes! Sit DOWN!

and I leave you with our post nap conversation
Me: you took a great nap, Peanut!
Bean: I'm feeling a little cold so you have to snuggle me.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Can you hear me now?

I adore my daughter.
She's such a little character and packed full of personality.  She speaks amazingly well for a three year old.  She's brilliant, and I'm not just being "that mom" her doctors say so too.

I suppose that's why it's so frustrating when she does something typical of a shredding a box of tissues or peeling the paper off an entire box of crayons just to see what's underneath.  Some of the crayons broke and she demanded that I fix them.  I love that she thinks I have the super power to fix anything she hands me.  I love it less when she has a level three meltdown because I can't put her cereal bar back together and it doesn't matter that she's just going to take another bite because "MAMA IT'S BROKEN!"

She's started to take after her mother and randomly quotes books and movies.  Sometimes the timing is hilarious, sometimes it's perplexing but I did nearly spit my coffee and tried not to choke laughing when she looked at her little hands, covered in fingerpaint and gasped "OH NO! My hands are RUINED!"  This after she was offered her choice, paint with a brush, a qtip or her fingers and she chose her fingers....

She darn near broke me in half wandering around the house telling me "I'm looking for my sister" until it clicked a few days later that she was quoting Frozen.

I do wonder how much she understands...we don't talk much about the baby we lost with her but sometimes I think she remembers.

There's this thing we do...I pick Bean up and put her on my lap and ask if she wants to "Check in."
She grins and places her little hands on my cheeks, and I take her little face in my hands and generally its just a quick how are you doing let's focus on each other for a minute.  Sometimes she improvises.

Me: Hi Baby.
Bean: Hi Mom.
Me: How are you doing?
Bean: I'm good. How ya doin'?
Me: I'm good.  I love you, peanut.
Bean: I love you. I'm squishing your face. You're a fish now. You need to swim away.

I adore her imagination.  I love that she's figuring out her own names for each and everyone of her stuffed animals and dolls.  I love that she thinks of things like making sure her doll, Maggie, can see when they watch Veggie Tales together.

We planted a few things this week...basil, cilantro, strawberries, tomatoes and sunflowers.  We started them in little pots and put them in a sunny window - we learned lessons while we planted.

We put the hard growing material discs in each pot and added water, turning them into soft usable dirt.  I told her this is like when we are ready for Jesus to put lessons in us.  I gave her the seeds, one at a time and told her each seed was like a lesson we needed to learn - to be kind, to be respectful, to be obedient, to be loving...she repeated each lesson as she placed the seeds.  I told her it's very important that we push the lessons all the way down into our hearts as we covered the seeds with dirt and watered them.  We put them in their place in front of the window and Bean asked if she could pray for her plants. I told her absolutely and dutifully bowed my head while she asked Jesus to make her plants grow.

The next day she came running out to her plants...and was rather disappointed that the red pot did not have strawberries in it, but was still just a pot of dirt...I think our next lesson is going to be on patience....she checks the pots several times a day to see if anything has changed. (I may cry if they don't actually sprout anything).

I think this is an excellent time to print off the life cycle of a plant coloring page.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Meanest Thing in My House

What's the meanest thing in your house?

If you ask my daughter she'd probably tell you the "nap time rule."

For me, it's the scale.  It doesn't care that I feel insecure today. It doesn't care that I'm feeling incredibly unpretty right now and that I'm annoyed at my utter lack of willpower.
Nope. There it is.

Confirming what I already knew....I gained back everything I had lost.

I don't get it...all I did was stop exercising (boo winter), and ate whatever I felt like eating without regard to quantity or hour of day.....

....oh wait...

Being a full time mother is easily the hardest job I have ever done.  There are no vacation days, sick days or personal time. I can't even guarantee I'll get a shower every day.  I'm responsible for this whole other life....and it's funny, I thought once I became the parent I'd be the one in charge....but my schedule is still dictated by the inquisitive three year old wanting to know what that sound is, what color is that shirt, what's the hand gonna get to (we're working on telling time in home school), what are you doing, mommy? lather rinse repeat ad nauseum.

I should be at my skinniest.  And yet...I'm close to my heaviest.

The scale just sits there. It puts the display right up there on my tv not caring how harsh that number is.

Mean as it is, the scale is the reality check.  The reminder that maybe I should drink another glass of water instead of finding the bottom of the candy bowl and as much as I want it to be, chocolate is only a vegetable in memes.

It's time to pull the blender back out and remember that I really do like kale smoothies. (no, really, they are delicious with some frozen berries and vanilla protein powder!)
So today, I'll share some of my favorite "yes, you should eat this instead" type snacks.

Ironically, last night I made one of the healthiest dinners I've eaten in a very long time...
I made a sauce of fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, fresh basil, oregeno, salt and pepper.  I added fresh mushrooms to that and instead of boiling up some pasta...I sliced some zucchini on my mandolin and made those into "noodles."  Even Bean ate it and liked it.

Kale Chips - rip kale into bite sized pieces and toss in olive oil and a little sea salt (if you like spice add some crushed red pepper) bake at 350ยบ for around 20 minutes or until crispy then hit them with a touch of citrus (I like lime best) when the chips come out.  They're supposed to keep in an airtight container for like a week but I think they taste best fresh.

I belong to Spark People, and they are awesome at healthifying recipes - even delights like mozarella sticks so this one is from there.... take fat free or reduced fat string cheese, cut them in half, dip in egg wash, roll in panko, and bake on an olive oil greased pan until crunchy on the outside.

I know what I need to do. I just need to stop being mad that I got here and remember that I know full well the way out.

Is it possible to find hope or even beauty in ashes?

As a courtesy, I want to give you a heads up that miscarriage is discussed in this post.  My hope in sharing the story of my loss is to provide hope to someone experiencing the same thing.  It's horrible. It's painful, but as one who has made it to the other side....there is hope. I'm no expert. I'm not a doctor or a counselor.  I haven't experienced multiple losses.  I'm just a mama to two - one in my arms and one in Heaven.  I'm just someone who faced the unspeakable and survived.

I've heard countless times about finding beauty in ashes.  The Bible says that weeping may endure for an evening, but joy comes in the morning...but the thing is...sometimes that evening endures much longer than one night.

I've experienced the joy of positive pregnancy tests twice in my life.  The first time was in January 2011.  It was 4:30 in the morning and I was staring at those two purple lines, bleary eyed and not believing what I saw.  I woke my husband with a joyful shout, and there we were, the two of us trying to decide if that faint second line REALLY was there or if we just wanted it to be....we resolved to go back to bed and I'd take another test the next day.  That test was much clearer.  I was pregnant.  Being that I'd never been pregnant before I did what any logical woman would do...I took another test the next day...and the next...ok. Five.  I took five tests.  On the last one the "you're pregnant" line showed up before the control line.  Later that year, I gave birth to a beautiful TINY five pound, eight ounce, 18 inch long baby girl.  If you're a frequent visitor to my little corner of the internet, you've read about her many many times, our sweet baby Bean.

But wait, you said twice? I've only read about Bean....

Yes, I did say twice.
The second time was Father's Day weekend, 2013.  This time there was no doubting those lines.  Or the very clear "PREGNANT" printed on the digital test.  My husband skipped off to work, grinning ear to ear, thrilled about the best father's day gift ever.  We were scheduled to go camping with our small group and decided we should still go, and we "broke the rule" and shared our news with our friends.  We were over the moon. We told Bean she would be a big sister.  We decided on a nickname for this baby, just as we had with Bean.  This one was dubbed "Sprout."  We taught Bean to point to my belly and say "Baby Sprout" and that she would be a big sister.  We thought all was fine.  I went to my first prenatal visit, got my due date and an order for an ultrasound to find out just how far along I was.
I began journalling the pregnancy as I had the first time.  We had an estimated due date, which would be confirmed by the ultrasound.  I went to that appointment expecting to come out with a picture of a tiny bean shaped baby to send to my family.
That's where the slow journey began.  They couldn't find the baby on the ultrasound.  The tech was very kind to me, saying maybe I just wasn't as far along as we thought.  Her supervisor, not so kind.  Rough and rude in her words "there's nothing in your uterus. There's nothing outside of it."
I sat in that little room, sobbing, wondering what had happened - I hadn't experienced any bleeding or cramping.  I had multiple positive pregnancy tests - even the blood tests from my doctor had confirmed there was life growing within me, so what was wrong?
My OB ran more blood tests and confirmed yes, there is a baby there, just could be a little further behind than we thought, we'd do another ultrasound in a couple of weeks, and how was I feeling.  I calmed down, reassured by the lab results.

But then a week or so later I felt a trickle that sent a cold chill up my spine and a trip to the bathroom confirmed some spotting.  I started to shake and cry as I called Bug.  He asked what I thought I should do. I told him I would call the doctor...which I did.
They asked  if there was any cramping and I sadly realized there was.   I was immediately sent to my closest ER.  The staff was kind and ran all the usual tests and sent me home saying that my hormones were the low end of normal but it was likely implantation bleeding and to just keep my next OB appointment.
We left, relieved and headed home.  Then I looked at my discharge paperwork. It said "incomplete miscarriage." I nearly threw up on the sidewalk.  I got home and paged my OB right away, who told me that he'd been called by the hospital, but that I'd been released when he called back and he was so glad I'd called. I had something called threatened miscarriage and he wanted to see me first thing the next day.  He said that there was still the chance it could turn to a miscarriage but that we didn't know anything for sure at this time.
I was comforted, but still scared. I reached out to my support system, begging for prayers.  My sweet cousin has suffered this loss four times.  She was so supportive and gentle in letting me know that I should rest as much as possible - if it did turn to the unspeakable, and she was not saying that was this, I could feel labor pains.

If you are squeamish, now's the time to turn away. If you are uncomfortable with talk of bleeding and medical things, turn away. Skip to the end, do a control + f search for ITSOKTO LOOK (all one word) to get to that part.

I woke up full of hope the next day.  Bug and I headed to the OB and as we waited for my name to be called I started to feel more and more uncomfortable. I used the bathroom and passed a large clot. Instant terror.

I was starting to recognize those pangs in my lower back.  The doctor came in and asked about the bleeding and pain and told me I needed to go straight to the hospital.  I asked if I was losing the baby. He said he didn't know, that it could be something decided to bleed, or I could be losing the baby, we wouldn't know until some tests were run.  He was kind, soft in his words. He didn't offer false hope, but he also didn't scare me.  We left for the hospital, two blocks away.  The same hospital where I had given birth to Bean.  We sent a quick text to my mother and the person watching Bean to let them know what was up.  I felt my hope slipping away...even more so as I realized the bleeding was getting worse.  I give the hospital a lot of credit.  They kept me in the ER rather than sending me to the maternity floor.  They put me in a room far away from all the other patients.  They were quick to get to me, hook up the IV, draw the blood and schedule an ultrasound.  The attending on call that day was hilarious and did his best to keep the tension in the room low while still showing the proper seriousness for what was going on.
They said they needed a urine sample.  The cup I returned to them looked like I'd filled it with Hawaiian punch.  Hope was a distant glimmer.  The pains were intensifying. I'd been here before.  I opted for a natural birth with Bean.
I went down for my ultrasound and the tech informed me they'd be doing both external and internal. She did the external and sent me to the bathroom.  Anyone who has ever had a natural birth will tell you that there's a point where your body just takes over and does what it needs to.  It pushes for you, draws all of your strength into that moment and pushes.
And that was the moment mine took over.  I felt it push.  I looked and saw a "clot" about the size of my fist and I knew.  Sprout was gone. This was it.  There was no more hope.  Not knowing what to do, I left everything as is and shut the bathroom door.  I returned to the ultrasound room and took the last of my courage to tell the tech what had happened and I didn't know what to do.  Her face echoed back some of my pain. She told me to lay down and she'd take care of it.  She was kind enough to call the attending from another room.  She came back and finished the ultrasound quickly and quietly as I tried not to cry.  She put me in a wheelchair and called for transport and I sat there.  Just trying to hold to it together and figuring out what I would say to Bug.  How had we gotten to this place?  I was 9 weeks along.  We should have been talking about creative ways to publicly share the news in a couple of weeks.  Instead, I had to tell him that we lost our baby.
As I sat there, a tiny infant was wheeled in and parked next to me.  That was the tipping point.  There was no holding back the tears. They fell, soaking my gown.  The transport lady arrived and I tried to tell her through my sobs what room I was in.
I walked in and a nurse was with Bug.  I threw myself into his arms and said, "I have no more hope." It was all I could manage.  He asked if something else had happened and I told him.  Then it hit me even harder and I knew I was about to throw up.  The nurse sprang to action and got me a basin and went running to ask my doctor if I could have something to stop it.  She came back with the necessary medicine and put it in my IV as another nurse came to take my blood pressure, all the while I was trying to pull myself together.  The attending and his assistant came in and he gently asked about my bleeding.  I sniffled and told him what had happened.  He looked at me and did what I must imagine is one of the hardest things for a doctor to do. He confirmed my baby was dead.  "We got your blood work back, your hormones are slipping. I'm so sorry, you've lost your baby."
I wailed. I leaned against my husband and I wailed.  I now understand what they are talking about in the Bible about the wailing of the mothers that could not be stopped.  The doctor told us he'd give us some time to deal with the news and pulled everyone but Bug away from me - even the nurse mid blood pressure read.  I looked to the doctor and asked if there was anything I could have for the pain since the baby was gone.  He said of course and left the room, saying that he would also call down someone from OB to assess me.
He left and shut the door and Bug and I just leaned on each other crying, baffled, hurt, sad, scared even.  Then I made the only call I was able to. I called my mom, and when she answered all I could say was "we lost the baby."  She knew what was coming. She'd been in my shoes and probably knew before I did because of it.  I asked her to make the necessary calls because I just couldn't.  She told me not to worry about it. She told me she was so sorry and she wept with me.  I hung up the phone and texted the couple of people I knew were waiting for news. "Baby Sprout is with Jesus now."  Bug called his parents and his sister, who was watching Bean.  He called Bean's godparents and in the midst of that call, the room started to get very dark and spin.  I gripped his arm and said something is wrong and told him what was happening.
He hung up the phone and ran for the nurses' station.  The attending was who returned.  He told me I was losing far too much blood and that he needed to get someone from OB down now to help things along and that they'd get me started on more fluids and hooked up to a monitor.  The nurses worked quickly and quietly, administered the pain medication which sadly didn't do much for the intensifying contractions I was feeling.  They were close together, and getting to be unbearable.  I think it was because this time I knew that there was no purpose to this pain. With Bean, every contraction brought me that much closer to holding her.  There was a reason for it, therefore it was tolerable despite the intensity.
The resident who came in tried to be sensitive. I felt bad for her. I think she said it was her second week of residency.  She called the contractions "cramps" for some reason, I think to soften the blow.  But then she reviewed the ultrasound report and said that it looked to be "a complete abortion" so a D and C wouldn't be necessary.  Abortion? That made it sound like I had a choice here.  I thought she was trying to soften the blow.  I tried not to be angry at her. It wasn't her fault that this is the medical terminology they use.
The chief resident came in after that and explained what she needed to do and warned me that it would be extremely painful.  She was right. I told her which medicine I'd received and she said good, this is really going to hurt.
I shudder to think how much it would have hurt if the medication had not been circulating through my system.  It was far more painful than giving birth.  Bug said one of the hardest parts of that day was seeing me there, writhing in pain knowing there was nothing he could do.
It was so unfair. There I was, going through the pain, the labor, the turning my body inside out...and I would not be going home with a baby.


I've been asked how I got through it.  I've heard "I know you're a woman of faith, but THAT?"
Yes. It was easily the worst day of my life.  It was even worse than when my brother died.
If you've been there, you've got a good idea of how I can say that.  If you haven't been there, I pray you never find out.  Some asked if I was sorry I'd shared our news because now I had to take it back. I was not sorry. In fact, it made it easier to tell in some aspects - they knew about the baby, the estimated due date, all of the questions you usually hear when you tell someone you're there weren't a lot of "oh wow, I didn't even know you were pregnant, how far along were you, was it a surprised, were you excited..." type statements.  Instead, it was a flood of support....or at least attempts at it.

I heard everything. "It was meant to be this way.  God needed the baby more than you.  At least you have Bean.  Just try again."  Some of the comments cut deep.   It was not that I thought I was pregnant and I wasn't.  I was pregnant.

There was a baby growing inside of me and it died.  There is nothing ok about that.

I also heard the things meant to be more supportive "It's ok to be angry at God" was something I heard a lot of.  I never was.
Looking back His hand was evident through the day.  Angry? No. Baffled? Absolutely.  I still don't understand how God could allow us to conceive a child that had no chances at survival.  We were told that the baby was so chromosomially deficient it couldn't survive.  That as harsh as it is to say, it was a mercy of sorts - that the handful of children this deficient that do survive to birth live very short, very painful lives.  I was grateful that my baby never felt pain.  I think it was a boy.  I have nothing to go on, but I think it was a boy.

So many people wanted to be sympathetic.  They tried, they really did.  But they just didn't get it and they didn't understand why I wasn't "better" in a few days.  Someone told me that most people understand the loss of a loved one, most people have lost at least one person in their life, but no one knows what to say to someone who has miscarried.  I told her I'd rather hear "I don't know what to say to you" than the "buck up" type stuff.  I think the biggest misconception is that people don't get that a miscarriage is a death too.

I read article after article, blog after blog about how much harder it is to grief the loss of an unborn child.

The easiest way it was explained was that when we lose a loved one, all of our emotions are rooted in the past.  The day we met, our lives together.  We have memories and photographs. There is a wake and a funeral to bring us closure.
With a miscarriage, all of the emotions are rooted in the future.  The due date, the name, who would s/he have looked like?  There is no wake or funeral.  In our case not even an identifiable body.  It went from feeling a life within me to an empty ache where the baby used to be.  And that's not something you just get over.  There was an instant bond that formed between Sprout and me the second I saw that positive test.  I fell madly in love with my baby as soon as I knew there was one.  To say goodbye before getting to say broke my heart.

YES. I have gotten through this valley - but I will never get over the loss of my child.
The most helpful thing going through that pain was a sweet kindred spirit who reached out to me, shared her own pain and told me of her loss.  She checked in on me, told me I was in her thoughts and prayers and that if I needed to talk I could talk to her.
After that a few more women who'd been there reached out to me and I discovered that being able to talk with someone who had been there, to openly share what had happened, to hear their survival stories helped to heal the pain.

That's where the truly supportive things came from. "There is no expiration on grief.  Take your time. It's ok to cry.  Lean on your husband, share this with him, he lost a baby too. Keep your doctor in the loop, make sure to tell him about your pain level both physical and emotional."  My cousin sent me a care package and openly talked about how she and her husband handled their losses - the things that helped, the things that didn't; she understood when I needed to just talk through the day, every minute of it and try to figure out where it all went off the rails.  She comforted and offered suggestions, never a "you should..." but a couple of "look, this is a you need to" but never in a way that made me feel like I wasn't allowed to feel.

There were a couple of big ones in there.  Like talking to Bug and remembering it wasn't just my loss. I went through a period of self-blame. "I had one job. To care for this baby and grow it and safely bring it into the world and I FAILED. It's all my fault.  What if I ate something wrong?  What if...what if...what ifffffffffffffff"
My doc kept close watch over me, prescribing the necessary things as they were needed to help me heal physically and deal emotionally.  So I was covered there...but I was beginning to feel like I had to close off.  Just internalize my pain because people were "sick of me being a downer."  I had put a short message on facebook, simply asking for prayer and saying we'd had a miscarriage.  I figured it was the easiest way to spread the word because I was certain that there were those among the "inner circle of knowing" that had that moment of "I'm not supposed to say...but guess who's pregnant..."
It just seemed the easiest.  Yes, I opened myself up to many comments meant to comfort but instead hurt deeply.  I tried to focus on the intention instead of the words, but more often than not it just made me angry.

It was remembering those feelings that prompted this post....

If you're the friend/family member/loved one/spouse of a woman who has gone through this, you've never experienced it for yourself, but are reading this anyway, looking for ways to be comforting and helpful to the Angel Baby Mama, God bless you.  My best advice? Go at her pace. Let her talk about it as much or as little as she wants to.  If you can't handle the details of the actual loss, be honest and up front about that.  And one thing? Never say you know exactly how she feels because you don't and can't, and that is not a slam against you.  All you need to know is she is hurting.  Meals were incredibly helpful, offers of child care for my daughter were as well.  Notes/texts just to let us know we were being thought of were nice.  People understanding when we couldn't put our feelings into words, and just offering their condolences.  There were times I needed to just be silent, but there were times when I needed to talk through it.  Not having to be silent about my pain was huge.

If you're reading this because you've experienced that heartwrenching loss, first of all, I am so very very sorry for your loss.
I'm sorry you said goodbye before you could say hello.  I'm sorry you had to share the news that your good news is no longer good.  I'm sorry that you endured that physical pain.  I'm sorry that your heart hurts.  Talking is good.  Keep your doctor posted on how you feel both physically and emotionally.
I pray you are able to find peace and comfort.  Take your time, there is no expiration date on grief.
People are going to say unbelievably stupid things.  It's ok to distance yourself from those people.  It's not ok to isolate yourself completely and drown in your grief.  You need someone to talk to.  When I tried to bottle it, the illogical took over, the what ifs drowned out any sort of comfort...but when I was open with my husband, sharing OUR pain, I found a sweet comfort in the midst of the grief.  There was even comfort in crying together.
Talking to those women, other "Angel Baby Mamas" (I love that term.), showed me it was possible to get through this unfathomable grief.

You're not alone.  Your pain is shared.

Psalm 34:18 tells us that God is near to the brokenhearted; He's close to those who are crushed in spirit.  The message translation says "If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath."

It's my hope that my story offers comfort, peace, maybe even some wisdom.  I'm no expert.

I'm just a survivor.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Ok. You've figured out you believe. Now what?

I'll never forget it as long as I live.
I'd grown up in a Christian home. I went to church every Sunday, even many Wednesdays.  I went to AWANA. I memorized scripture, I accepted Christ personally. I was baptized.  I sang the hymns, I prayed, I knew God wanted me to be good. I knew that I needed to live a life pleasing to Him.  This was just a given.  It was the life I knew.  I primarily went to Christian schools, with only two years in a public school system.  The first time, the culture shock was astounding.  I couldn't believe the language I was hearing in open hallways. And none of the teachers said anything about it.  That was the first crack in my shiny bubble.
The next crack surprisingly occurred in a Christian school setting...I learned that I could easily convince my parents I was at a sanctioned activity but be off doing whatever I wanted.  That was a big crack.  The kind of crack that makes you wonder if your parents really knew what they were talking about.
I still held to my faith, but I wasn't as diligent about it.

Fast forward a few years.  I'm a bright shiny freshman in college, having graduated high school a year early I feel I have a bit to prove to the professors as I sit in class, feverishly taking notes and wondering how tests work in college and marveling at the "attendance policies."  It was official. I was "grown up" and it was on me to decide if I'd learn or fail.

I had my goals. I would attend a community college, transfer into the local four year school, and then go on to law school. I would become a brilliant lawyer. My mother joked that it was so I could bang on tables and yell objection.  I worked carefully with a transfer counselor to make sure not one hour of classes would be wasted.  I knew that I would graduate with an Associates Degree in Applied Sciences, then go on to get my Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Philosophy/Pre-Law.  It was a perfect plan.  I loved my Philosophy classes.  Looking back, I think it's because that's when the rest of the bubble shattered and I realized that I couldn't just believe because I was told to.  I couldn't just ride on the coattails of my parents' faith forever.  I had to make it real.

Make it real?  What does that even mean?  As a teen I attended a few "Acquire the Fire" events.  They were amazing.  If you didn't leave without rededicating your life to God you clearly weren't paying attention.  At the end of every prayer we were led in, the teacher would say "now, make it real."  He meant to take his words and mull them over.  Decide if we meant it and if we did, tell God so.  It took me years to figure that out.

I was sitting in my very first Philosophy class, shiny brand new textbooks next to me, fresh notebook and pen.  I was ready to learn. I was also a bit excited about the sanctioned arguing encouraged free debate we'd have.  It was in that first Philosophy class in community college that my faith was truly challenged for the first time.  In a Christian elementary school we can get away with the usual church answers "Jesus. Bible. Pray."  That didn't fly in that class.  Neither did "because my parents said so." No, that's when I heard that they didn't care what my parents believed, they wanted to know what I believed.

What I believe?  Didn't I just tell them?  Maybe I didn't....that forced me to take a hard look at my life, my walk, my faith and decide if it really was mine or if I was just being obedient to my parents.  (we'll just focus on the whole obedience thing in the aspect of reading my Bible, praying and going to church and not get into the whole I was an invincible 16 year old....)

I remember sitting in that classroom, fighting passionately for what I believe and it hit me.  I do believe.  I believe with every fiber of my being that God sent his son to this world, that He created the world that he sent his son into, knowing full well Jesus would be mocked, scorned, even hated and tortured.

I always knew it was a huge sacrifice.  I got a better picture of it when I became a parent.  The first time I had to take my daughter to the emergency room - they wrapped her in tight swaddling blankets to try to put an IV in her dehydrated little hand and she looked to me, screaming as if she was saying "mommy how could you let them do this to me?" I think I cried almost as much as she did.  There I was knowing she had to go through this, and that I could not take her pain away.  I had to stand there and watch my baby be poked over and over until they were finally able to get her IV in to give her restoring fluids and help her tiny sick body start to heal.

Funny the lessons God teaches through my daughter, but we'll get back to that another time.

I walked out of that Philosophy class floating on air and feeling a new passion for Christ.  For the first time in my 17 years I KNEW exactly what I believed.  That fueled me for a few more years and then I began to listen to the world around me...and slowly I let myself be led away...never all the way.  I knew I still loved God, but I was too busy for church some Sundays.  And reading my Bible could wait.  I'd realize the place I was in and cry and repent but eventually I'd end up right back in that place again.  I couldn't change until I was willing to change everything and it's entirely possible I have a touch of a stubborn streak (mom stop laughing.)

There I was, 21 years old, not really understanding how unhappy I was, but thinking "this is my life. I just need to live it."  I was sound asleep on March 16, 2002.  It was just before 7 in the morning and the phone rang.  I rolled over toward it but decided to let my dad answer it.  I'm glad I did.  The caller was my step-grandfather.  He had the news that would forever alter my young life.  I still remember the pink flowered pajamas I was wearing as my dad came in the room.  He sat down on my bed and looked at me as if the words were causing him pain.  I said "what?" he just looked at me.  I started to cry "what daddy, what's wrong?"  His next words knocked all the air out of me.  "[your brother] was killed in a car accident."
I instantly ranged every emotion thinking he had to be wrong.  He had to have it wrong. The wrong person. It's a common name...I went from it can't be to oh no to I can't breathe in seconds.  He told me he was going to see my mother and I could come if I wanted to.  I tried to think. I had plans for the day, but they needed to be cancelled.  I made the two calls I needed to and put on a black turtleneck with Michael Jordan's number on it...borrowed from my brother's closet years before and never returned.  In a haze I walked to the driveway and it hit me and I started to violently throw up.
Family friends arrived, crying and saying they couldn't just stay home when we were going through this.  They clung to us, they prayed with us, they cried with us.  Dad and I drove in silence, save for my sniffles and sobs.  My brother was living in a fairly large city at the time, and I had assumed something had happened on a highway in his Mustang.  We drove past the church I was attending, and I realized a truck was being pulled up the embankment, a truck with the top cut open and one of my brother's closest friends looked up with a tear-stained face as we drove past.  I pressed my hand to the glass as if I could reach out and comfort him.  I remember gasping and asking my dad if that was where it had happened.  He said he didn't know what happened, only that it had happened.

We pulled into my mother's driveway, and I saw her through the window. She looked out and saw me and drew in a huge breath.  She pushed away all of the people near the door so that she could be the first to greet me.  She was wearing a yellow Old Navy fleece with blue letters.  A single tear was on her right cheek.  She hugged me and I asked "what happened?"  She did a good job of keeping a semi steady voice as she quietly told me [driver] was driving.  My breath drew in so sharp it hurt.  "Was he drunk?"  She couldn't speak, she only nodded.
You see, I knew this guy. We grew up with him.  He was infamous for drinking, doing drugs and being incredibly stupid and driving anyway. This time it cost my brother's life.  My legs fell out from under me as I started to scream. "I want him prosecuted! This is his fault! it's not fair!" My mom was trying to be gentle "Eye, no, no..."  I looked past her shoulder to see our pastor standing there.  I was shaking with rage and pain and asked how I was supposed to ever forgive that.
I will never forget his words. "Right now you don't. Right now you grieve. Right now you feel, and forgiveness will come later."

Later there was a slight misunderstanding and my nine year old sister thought we were unable to afford a casket for my brother.  She returned from her room with an envelope, her unspent allowance of a dollar and a note saying it was for mom so we could get a casket.  My mother clung to my sister and the shards of my shattered heart broke even more and I fled to the room I still had at my mother's house. I threw myself on the bed and cried until there were no more tears, and then I sobbed some more.  I cried out to God saying I didn't understand. Why, why, why whywhwywhwywhy....and I felt a strong pair of arms encircle me.  I opened my eyes expecting to see my dad...but I was alone in that room.  I still felt the arms.  God had not abandoned me.  And while I may never understand why my brother had to die, I understand that I was never alone, even hiding in that room crying myself into dehydration.

The next days were a blur of preparations for the wake and funeral, countless agonizing calls to let people who shouldn't have to read it in a paper know the tragic news, then finally the funeral and burial.  I stood there in that cemetery watching the casket be lowered into the ground thinking at any moment someone would pop out and tell us it had all been a cruel joke and my brother was fine.

For most of the world, business as usual resumed the next day.  I felt like it was a betrayal.  What, we bury him then forget him?  After that, I started to notice changes in the people around me.  It was as if this death had finally woken some up - the things my brother had shared with his friends, inviting them to clicked and hearts softened and opened to the possibility that maybe they really did need to believe this God stuff.  As for me, the thought of Heaven comforted me and I slowly started walking back to my real path from my selfish detour.

Over the next few months, much changed in my life, my eyes were opened to the life I was living and how wrong it was...I faced new heartaches, but with them came such a freedom.  I was back.
I'm not saying I've never slipped back into selfishness and my own way because I'd be lying.

I'd love to tell you how I found the straight and narrow and I've never strayed from the path again.  I'd love to tell you how perfect life is....but again...I'd be lying.

My path is more winding than straight.  And there are days when I stop and sit under a tree instead of walking.  But, the important thing is, I woke up. I realized I need to be on that path and talking isn't enough.  I need not only to believe, I need to understand WHY I believe.

Do you believe? Do you know why?  Do you know what to do with it?

I could sit here and write for hours about all I believe and why....and maybe you'd find it inspirational. Maybe it'd move you to pray, but I fear it would only provoke an emotional response.

You see, I've learned that a lot of times it's emotions that put us on that high, but it can never be sustained. We attend a good service, we read something fuels us for a few days but it's not sustained because it's kind of like a contact high.  It's not until we can sit there, staring in a mirror knowing I, myself, me, I am a sinner. I deserve the wages of my sin.  I don't deserve grace but somehow God showed me mercy.  His love for me is so great that He was willing to let his only son go into a world that was doomed, to be mocked. hated. spit on. tortured.  Until we face the reality of what happened, pick it apart and find the personal aspect, we cannot know that we believe, much less why.