Saturday, September 19, 2015

"It's not you, it's me," (My Facebook Break-Up)

Dear Facebook,

You always ask me what's on my mind. So, after months of holding back, here's the answer.

Oh honey, you're great. You have so many qualities I admire. You are always there when I need you. You are constant and predictable. When I leave for a while, you always take me back. You are persistent, hard-working (I mean, who else is open for business 24/7 without running out of steam?), easy on the eyes, and always finding ways to improve. You never forget my anniversary, my birthday, or any other important date in my life. We've had a good time. We have some great memories together (which you remind me of every day!)

I once had a boyfriend like you. When I was with him, I was so happy. We had oodles of fun together, we never ran out of things to talk about, and he was very attractive. Man was he distracting. When I wasn't with him, I could hardly keep my mind off of him. He was exciting! But also, when I wasn't with him, I had this nagging little feeling that something wasn't quite right. That we weren't right. That my future happiness depended on us parting ways. Turns out, he felt the same way. It just took us a long time to finally confess that to each other.

 I didn't think I would make the same mistake twice, but here I am, realizing I've had that nagging feeling for quite some time now, and I've been ignoring it. Facebook, something's not quite right. We aren't right. And my future happiness depends on us parting ways, at least for now.

Let me explain:

1. My anxiety increases in direct correlation with the amount of time I spend with you. There. I said it. The articles about parenting, public education, diet, the end of the world; the videos about all the same things; the passive-aggressive posts that ALWAYS make me wonder if they're about me; the bickering I try to avoid at all costs. It's all just too much for me.

2. I don't like feeling misunderstood. It's inevitable with you. I post something, comment on something, LIKE something, and other people are always seeing it. Lots of people understand where I'm coming from and what I mean when I say things, but sometimes people don't. This is totally not your fault, FB. It's my thing. But it's a big thing for me these days. It's connected to the anxiety. In fact, it's one of my biggest triggers. I made a decision several months ago that I was going to spend less time explaining myself, and more time being ok with myself and not worrying about what other people might think (except in the case that I KNOW the misunderstanding has led to someone taking offense, then I will apologize and clarify). In other words, I decided I needed to be secure in my own skin, and not put as much weight on how other people saw me. Facebook, you are a minefield of opportunities to be misunderstood. I'm not putting myself through that anymore. Not for now.

3. I HATE POLITICS. Okay, I don't hate politics. I actually find them mildly interesting. And I have some pretty strong opinions about several political issues. But I hate political banter (aka people basically telling other people they're stupid/dumb/ignorant/uneducated/not Christian/not patriotic/[insert any negative adjective here] because they believe a certain way or like a certain candidate). And my newsfeed is exploding with it these days. It makes me want to run away screaming! I need a break.

4. I can't leave you alone. My brain and my fingers have been programmed to check you when there is a lull. I open my laptop to search a recipe, and before I realize what I'm doing, I have typed "facebook" in the search bar and hit enter. And on bad days, I forget why I even opened the computer in the first place. And on REALLY bad days, I figure that since I'm already here at the computer with you pulled up on my screen, I might as well just check what's new. This happens even more when I'm especially tired, decreasing my productivity exponentially, and increasing my anxiety even more (see #1).

5. I have a comparison problem. Facebook, you provide the perfect opportunity for me to pool all of the best traits and life events and hobbies of all of my friends and then compare myself as an individual to that collective greatness, as if one person embodied it all and was better than me. One moment I'm thrilled to be living in this duplex on a quiet street, married to a teacher who gets awesome benefits and has awesome hours, with two of the cutest kids on earth. The next moment, I feel cramped in my tiny two bedroom duplex, I wish my husband's job paid at least double, I need to work out a little more, we're never going to make that dream trip to Hawaii, and I'm such a bad parent I should probably put my kids up for adoption. It literally takes two minutes to go from point A to point B for me. Not. Healthy.

6. I don't like your "parties." I try not to really spend money on much of anything these days. I'm a simpleton. Make-up that draws any attention or fingernails that are bright make me feel like a clown (and I will clarify here that I don't think other people look like clowns...I just feel totally out of my element there). As much as I obsess over kitchen gadgets, they're not really in the get-out-of-debt budget. With the exception of my pearl earrings, jewelry drives me NUTS. If I am going to spend money on something like that, I have usually been thinking about it for quite some time, done some shopping around, read reviews, and found a product I feel really good about spending money on. But mostly, I just take hand-me-downs, wear Cover Girl, and leave my nails in their natural state :-) So the parties just don't do it for me. It's nothing personal, REALLY. I love the people who invite me to parties. But I do feel guilty every time I remove myself from a party group, or "unfollow" the party, or decline to attend, or anything related to me having to reject someone else. That's just too much unnecessary stress for me.

7. I am happier without you. Every time we've put our relationship on hold, I've started to feel better. I feel this freedom I can hardly even put my finger on. I spend more time fully engaging with my children, I feel content in my current life situation, I am more productive, I read more scriptures and listen to more conference talks, and I feel more satisfied in general with myself. That's pretty awesome. I'll take that.

So, Facebook, I just want to say "Thank you." Thanks for the great relationship we've had. Thanks for helping me connect with people I love. Thanks for the good times and the bad times. (Actually, just thanks for the good times. The bad times weren't that great, even in hindsight.) Maybe our paths will cross again, when I'm in a better spot and I'm ready for a relationship again. Only time will tell. But for now, I'm outta here.


Monday, February 23, 2015


In my most recent post, I said I planned to spend more time in vulnerability this year. I had discovered that putting myself in the vulnerable spot of sharing our fertility struggles had actually in some way led to the conception of my miracle baby.  A couple months later, I am discovering that it is a lot easier to be comfortable with vulnerability when it is in the past. The anticipation of vulnerability is indeed a lot more uncomfortable than vulnerability in retrospect.

Admittedly, I have set that whole idea of vulnerability on the back burner. I have a pretty cute, 2-month-old, smiley excuse for that. But I also have an element of fear keeping me from stepping into full vulnerability again. And for good reason. Vulnerability can lead to a lot of pain and regret. But in my experience, it can also lead to beautiful connections.

A good friend recommended a TED talk to me yesterday, and I am absolutely captivated! Brené Brown discusses her research on shame, and how it led her to find that people who live happy, connected lives are those who embrace vulnerability. She called these people "the whole-hearted." Doesn't that sound just incredible? To be one of the whole-hearted? To live without holding back? I ache for that. There is a physical yearning in my body when I think about that concept.

Two years later, she explored the issue further, and I was just as captivated by that talk as the first. You have to watch it to really understand why it is so captivating. Caleb asked me to share some examples from what she said, and when I stuttered and stammered and couldn't find anything to share, he decided to watch it himself. Afterward, he said "You're right. It's an amazing concept, but it's really hard to just explain to someone else."

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the talks:

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change."

"Let me tell you what we think about children. They're hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, 'Look at her, she's perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect -- make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh.' That's not our job. Our job is to look and say, 'You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.' That's our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we'll end the problems I think that we see today." 

And so begins my journey to embrace vulnerability, to live whole-heartedly, and to offer connection, belonging, and love to my fellow human beings who are walking the same hard path on this earth. And most importantly, to offer that belonging and security to my children, who are the future of our society.

In order to do this, I need to first become aware of my own vulnerability, and my resistance to it. And as my awareness increases, I will have a heightened awareness of the vulnerability of others. There, in that very place, is the seed of deep and abiding connection.

So, HOW? I'm guessing her books talk about that a bit. But for now, my first thought is to allow myself to be in a vulnerable place more often, by pausing to really feel my feelings when they come. Instead of eating, exercising, facebooking, or talking those feelings into numbness, I can notice them, and say, "Wow, I'm feeling really ______ right now. What is the root of that? What other experiences are connected to this moment? How do I feel about feeling this way?" That makes it sound so easy and automatic. My guess is, it isn't.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: Make It Happen

Last night, Caleb asked me to say our family prayer. I jokingly said, "That's a lot of pressure! The last family prayer of 2014!" But as I prayed, a deeply reflective mood settled over me. I haven't done a lot of reflecting on this year, mostly because I want to forget 90% of it. We lived well below the poverty line this year, something I would have said would never happen to us. We spent a summer living apart from each other. We both lost our maternal grandmothers. Caleb dealt with severe anxiety and depression, which we are still working to figure out. Busy Body had some big behavioral struggles that probably shaved a few years off my life in the amount of stress they caused. We had some very real marital rockiness. We faced disappointment again and again and AGAIN.  But we also experienced the greatest miracle of our lives. I told the Lord that it's been the hardest year of our lives. I cried big crocodile tears and thanked Him for the learning and the strength we've received from Him to carry us through this year.  I told Him how grateful we are to be done with this year, and how much we want a new start in 2015. And I thanked Him for Christ's atoning sacrifice that provides the grace we so desperately need to make it through this life. Oh, how grateful I am for Him.

I have been thinking a lot about long-awaited miracles. I have talked a LOT about my desire for a baby, and how that blessing was finally realized. Speaking up about infertility took a lot of guts at first. And I still sometimes wonder what I was thinking, putting myself out there in such a vulnerable place. But the outpouring of love and support I have received has been hugely encouraging. I have found a great camaraderie among my sisters who have walked (and are still walking) similar paths. And I have felt nothing but love from everyone else, as well. It turns out that my attempt to be real and honest ended up strengthening existing friendships, forging new friendships, and providing a much-needed space for reflection and perspective. And it got me answers that I was looking for, through the connections I made. In some ways, I feel like my decision to blog about infertility ultimately led to the conception of my miracle baby. The vulnerability was worth it if that was the case.

This year, I plan to spend more time in vulnerability, and share more of our journey. I shared some feelings about the new year on Instagram today, and ended with a message to others who have lost hope along their way, and who are still picking up the pieces of their broken faith and shattered hope. It was just as much a message to myself as it was to anyone else: "Hold on. Keep picking up the pieces. You are stronger than you can even imagine. He will carry you through, and your miracle will come in His way and in His time." I am waiting for a few more miracles. I want to see my husband functional and happy. I want our heads to be above water financially. I want to be more loving and consistent in my parenting. And I need to follow my own advice, and hold on. I am still trying to pick up the pieces in my own life. But I have a sure witness of God's goodness and grace. It came in the form of a tiny baby. And I can hold onto that witness as I seek answers to my other burning questions.

My theme for this year is "Make it happen." I felt paralyzed by my circumstances in 2014, trapped in a life I didn't want to be living. While I believe in submission to the will of the Lord, I also believe that He is more willing than we realize to give us what we desire. I hope this year to first focus on being profoundly grateful in my circumstances, whatever they may be. And next, I hope to make change happen by acting intentionally and purposefully. I'm still figuring out what that will look like, and I'm looking forward to the journey. I may not get everything I want, and I don't believe in trying to force things to happen when it's not time, but I will know that I have done my part and not sat idly bemoaning my circumstances.

Here's to a year of acceptance and a year of change. May God bless you and yours with the miracles you have been waiting for this year. And may He bless you with courage in your waiting.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Baby Boy's Birth Story

How do you begin a birth story? I've been sitting here in front of the blank screen, trying to come up with the beginning of Baby Boy's story, but it's impossible. When did the birth experience really begin? I can't put my finger on it.

Weeks ago, we passed around a predictions sheet for members of our family to guess when Baby Boy would be born, how much he would weigh, etc. I had been mulling over dates in my head and for the life of me could not settle on one that seemed a proper fit. My sister would leave on her mission on December 17, so it would be nice if he came before that. But Caleb had Christmas break starting December 20, and it would be nice if he waited to come until then. But then it would also be nice if he came after Christmas and we could spend some time together during break just the three of us, before a new bundle threw off our groove. Basically, anything worked but nothing seemed great. I realized that the date 12-13-14 was the last sequential date of this century,  and that sounded fun, so I chose that. I decided he could weigh 8 lbs 9 oz at 10:11 on 12-13-14. The date stuck in my head like it was my due date. Suddenly, I felt like everything had to be done by that day. So I got working. I finished Christmas shopping, worked on the nursery, etc.

I had a very busy week last week, with obligations every evening. It was busy and festive and fun. I babysat my nephews on Wednesday evening and I remember telling my sister and brother-in-law that I was miserable, and felt bigger than I'd ever been with Kimball, and what if I made it all the way to January 5 (41 weeks)? The thought seemed appalling, but I realized it was a very real possibility.

On Friday morning, I woke up completely overwhelmed. I spent the first few hours of my day helping Caleb with some things, then fell apart and cried about everything I needed to do that day. My little sister came over pretty early in the morning, sat me down and made an agenda for the day. We decided if the baby was coming before she left on her mission, we better get him working on that! So we made my cookie exchange cookies together, went to land Zumba (I had been going to Aqua Zumba to help take the pressure off my joints and belly) and did all the jumping, bought a whole pineapple (which I ate quickly!), and got several other things crossed off my list. Most importantly, we spent time together.

She left early in the afternoon, and I kept going on my list. Busy Body was tired as can be, so I put him to bed at 6:30. I babysat a friend's little guy for the evening, and he played quietly in the living room while I got every dish washed, every crumb swept, every baby item washed, dried, and put nicely away in the nursery, and packed my suitcase. I layed down for a bit after that major surge of energy, and then our friends came to get their little guy. We spent time visiting with them, and laughing our heads off. They are some of my favorite people, and though I was tired, I could have stayed up all night talking with them. We made it to bed around midnight.

At four AM, I woke suddenly and was wide awake. I was having contractions. That was not unusual, so I decided to go back to sleep. But I had this excitement in me that didn't let me sleep. I quietly slipped to the living room and got on my hands and knees to relieve the pressure in my back and tail bone. I tried to time my contractions, but that was hard to do while I was in the zone breathing through them. I got up to fold the last load of towels, and had to pause between towels to breathe through the contractions as they intensified. I kept thinking "This can't be real labor. There's no way I'm actually having this baby on the day I predicted. This is just wishful thinking. But how long until I take it seriously? They're coming pretty fast." I finally got Caleb's stopwatch around 4:30, and told him I thought I was in labor. I urged him to keep sleeping so he could have energy when we went to the hospital. The stopwatch was helpful but I still couldn't really focus on it very well. From what I could tell, they were coming about every two minutes, and they were lasting about 45-60 seconds. Caleb came out a few minutes later and timed them for me. I had been pretty accurate. We only timed about 7 of them before we decided we better do something about this. Caleb called my doula, who said it sounded like we should head to the hospital. This was around 5 am.

In spite of the intensity of labor, I just couldn't handle the thought of going to the hospital unshowered. So I hopped in the shower while Caleb went to get his brother to watch Busy Body. I had to keep pausing in the shower to make it through my contractions, but I was determined to be entirely clean with shaved legs before I left. I accomplished my goal! But by the time I was out of the shower, things were too intense to really do a lot more. I had wanted to dry and flat iron my hair, and put make-up on. Ha! I did dry my hair a bit to get the sopping-wet-rat feeling to go away, and I put on some minimal make-up so I felt somewhat put together. At this point, I started to feel pushy. Caleb arrived home right after I was dressed, and I said "We need to go RIGHT NOW." Busy Body woke up to the blow dryer.

"What are you doing Mommy?"
"Getting ready to go to the hospital!"
"Because of the baby!"
"Why does the baby need to go to the hospital?"
"To come out!"
"OH!!! I didn't realize baby brother would come so soon!"

I was so glad we got to talk for a few minutes before I left. That put my heart and mind at ease.

We got in the car and sped over to the hospital, which is just a few blocks away. When we got out of the car, Caleb was gathering items to take in and I just couldn't stand still through my contractions. I grabbed the suitcase and walked in, and he caught up with me. It seemed totally surreal. We had just barely done a "dry run" one week prior, so Caleb would know where to go and what to do when it was time. I couldn't believe we were back so soon.

They buzzed us in to Labor and Delivery, and asked us to sit in the waiting room (WHAT???). I said I had to pee or I might pee my pants. They asked if I felt like I needed to push. I said a little bit, but mostly my bladder might explode. I had been afraid to sit on the toilet at home in case my water broke or something, so I had been holding it. They told me if I didn't come out in a minute, they would come make sure I wasn't having the baby. That was kind of comforting and kind of unnerving.

When I came out, they had Caleb sign a paper and then walked us to our room. It was shortly after six, so shift change had just barely happened. We met my wonderful nurse, Tricia, and I was so relieved she would be there all day. She checked me and I was only at a 5! I told I thought I felt pushy because he might be posterior, and she agreed. So I spent more time on my hands and knees. My doula, Autumn, arrived a little bit later. Things were getting exciting. When Dr. Harrison came, I had only progressed to a 5.5. That was a little discouraging. She offered to break my water and told me I would probably have my baby in 30 minutes, but that option had not entered my thinking process as I had prepared for delivery, so I asked for a few minutes to decide. She went to do rounds while I walked the halls and kept laboring. When she returned, I was at a 7. It was about 8 o'clock at that point. I had talked to Caleb and Autumn about having my water broken, and both were encouraging, so I decided to do it. This whole time, I was having such an amazing experience. I decided not to use any particular method for pain management, and instead just listen to my body. It was so empowering to follow my body's cues and see how listening helped me find relief quickly and easily. I didn't even want music playing, which I thought I would. I just reveled in the silence and the meditative space I found myself in during each contraction.

A little bit later, they broke my water. I was at an 8 shortly afterward. In what seemed like no time at all, I had this panicky, overwhelming need to push. I was at a 9 and 3/4. I had gotten tired by this point, so I was lying on my side. She said she could easily deliver him in that position, and that I could start pushing. When my next contraction came she said, "Push!" and suddenly I had this major brain freeze. I could not think of how to push. I said "I forgot how!" (How dumb is that?) and she said "Like you're pooping!" So lovely. I started to push and immediately remembered how much I hate pushing. I pushed for four hours with Busy Body, so I think I might have had some PTSD from that. Suddenly, I wanted to run away or disappear or take it all back. I wasn't ready. But there was no other choice. Caleb was up by my head, holding my hand and putting pressure on my forehead. Autumn was behind me, putting pressure on my back and holding one knee. The nurse was holding/putting pressure on my other knee. And Dr. Harrison was at the end of the bed providing perineal support. It was quiet and still, and at the same time it was super intense. I had waves of nausea, which Autumn helped with by putting peppermint oil on my tongue. She also gave me rescue remedy, which helps with shock and panic and intense emotion. I could tell it was helping. There were a few times where I started to lose it. I had been in complete control until now, and had breathed so calmly through every intense contraction. But this was so intense, I started to shake and breathe shallow, short breaths. Dr. Harrison is amazing. When I would start to panic, she would say in a very loving but stern voice, "Amy, I need to you to be in charge. Take control. You can do this." I would calm down and breathe again. I had such an amazing support team.

When he was crowning, they asked if I wanted to see. In my intense focus I could hardly believe they would ask such a thing (now that I'm not feeling that way, I am laughing at myself). No, I did NOT want to see. I just wanted him OUT of my body! Caleb started to say something about his hair and I said "Don't talk!" When my contraction was over, I apologized for yelling. Apparently, I had said it in a very calm voice. But the intensity I felt made me feel like I was yelling. On my next contraction, his heart rate plummeted. Dr. Harrison got pretty intense, but also remained calm because that is her way. She said "Amy, you have to get this baby out NOW. Push. Push even though you're not having a contraction. He needs to come out right now." That was just what I needed to get myself in gear. The rush of adrenaline gave me new energy and I pushed with everything I had. In about a minute, he was out and SCREAMING on my belly. And then he was peeing everywhere. I looked at him and had this moment of "Is that really my child?" It was really weird. I felt almost disconnected from him. Looking back, I think I was just in shock from having him come so early and so fast. Five hours isn't a whirlwind delivery, but it was certainly much faster than the 22 hours I spent getting Busy Body here.

The cord was too short for him to reach my chest, so I opted to have it cut immediately and have him placed on my chest. I started to sing the Angel Song to him, because he has heard it every night as I sang it to BB before bed. He calmed down. He also began to nurse a little. I went in and out of little crying episodes. He was here! My little miracle was here. And he was alive, and healthy, and his delivery had been beautiful and uncomplicated. I remember telling Caleb I wouldn't be able to breathe until he was here safe and sound. And I really felt it. It was as if my whole being was taking a deep breath for the first time in a long time.

I had a first degree tear, which was nothing compared to last time. And I was mostly distracted while the doctor stitched me up. When it was all over, Dr. Harrison told me her daughters had a tech rehearsal for their dance recital, and that they would be glad mom was home in time to do their hair. I was happy to hear we didn't interfere with her Saturday plans :-) And I was also pleased she never mentioned a thing before he was born. Dr. Harrison was perfect. I remember feeling urged in her direction, and feeling strongly that she was the right doctor and UVRMC was the right hospital for me. I worried it was because something would go wrong, and I would need a doctor with a good head on her shoulders, and a hospital with a great NICU. But really, I feel like I was led to this doctor and this hospital as an answer to my unspoken wishes to have a calm and peaceful, easy delivery. Every detail seemed to contribute to that wish of mine, and I am still in awe at how perfectly it all went. I think a big part of that was my team of angels. Caleb, Autumn, Tricia and Dr. Harrison worked so well together, and were so supportive. There was not a moment where I felt discouraged from an unmedicated birth, or where I felt any of my wishes were challenged. They were respectful, supportive, loving, and encouraging.

I could not have been more pleased with the care we received the next couple of days. A former professor of mine described the care at UVRMC as "almost angelic," and I couldn't agree more. They were gentle, loving, and genuine. I didn't want to go home! And my preconceived notions about UVRMC and their attitudes toward natural birth, etc, have all been demolished. It was a fabulous experience from start to finish.

Baby Boy didn't get a name until Sunday evening. I called him Max for most of the day Saturday, but Caleb wasn't convinced. On Sunday evening, we went through our original list of names, and Baby Boy's name made me smile every time Caleb said it. We decided that was a good sign. I am still having a hard time adjusting to it, because he didn't have a name for so long. But it's growing on me and coming more naturally to my lips now. Every once in a while, though, names we never even had on our list will slip out of my mouth when referring to him. Makes me giggle.

I am home now and adjusting to life with two kids. That is a whole post of its own, with all of its ups and downs and surprises. I have lots and lots of loving support from family on both sides, and I am so very grateful for that. Emotions are high with a new baby, a sister leaving on her mission a couple days ago, and jaundice, but I keep reminding myself it will all work out and my emotions will level out soon. And someday it will be Spring and flu season will be over and my anxiety will decrease. For now, I am going to keep breathing.

Here are a few things about Baby Boy:

- He has lots of dark brown hair. Lots have asked if there is red in it. We don't see any.
- He turns onto his side from his back as often as possible.
- His smiles, though frequent and reflexive, are adorable. Can't wait for the true smiling to begin!
- He HATES pooping. He screams every time he's working on a job.
- He hates diaper changes even more than pooping. Sorry, neighbors. I promise we aren't cutting his toes off. :-)
- He celebrity doppleganger was discovered by nurse Krista: Jeremy Renner

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"My Life Does Not Reflect My Values," and Other Lies (That Might Be) Keeping You Miserable

One morning, when I was in the throes of fertility treatment and all that relates to it, I was in the bathroom doing my hair. Let me paint the full picture for you: I was in my 1960's bathroom with pink tile on the walls, a little medicine cabinet under the mirror with slidey plastic doors, and orangey-brown cabinets and doors. I was doing my hair that had not been cut for probably 6 months, and had gotten so full and un-shapely that it was almost worse to "do" it than to just throw it in a bun or a braid for the one-millionth time. I was trying (to no avail) to shame my mane into submission by using my flat iron on every one-inch section of every layer. My husband was at school, which was sucking every penny from us. And I was miserable.

Looking in the mirror, I heard loud and clear in my mind, "My life does not reflect my values." Supporting evidence immediately rallied to support the statement. "My hair is not the way I would choose for it to be if I had the money and time to maintain it the way I liked it. People probably think I just don't care about it or I'm too lazy to make myself presentable. My bathroom is hideous, and so is the rest of my house. My furniture is old and ugly and doesn't match. My decor is outdated. My wreath is falling apart. My bed spread is dingy and ugly and worn out. Our family pictures are two years old. Our couches are dark brown microfiber. People probably think I have bad taste. They probably think I don't know how to decorate. They probably think I don't have an eye for that kind of thing. My clothes....MY CLOTHES. They are frumpy at best. I've had them for years. They don't fit right. They're stained and pilly and worn. I wear the same thing every other day. I've been wearing the same gray dress to every wedding and funeral and everything in between for years. I only have one kid. He's going to be 27 by the time I have another one. People probably think I just can't handle having another one, or that I don't want any more kids, or that we're waiting until Caleb is done with school. They probably think we have our priorities out of whack. The food in my kitchen is not what I would have in there if I could choose what I really thought was best for my family..."

Then it hit me. It was all a lie. A big, fat, devilish lie designed to make me miserable and ungrateful, and eventually lead me to be disloyal to my true values. And I had believed it! I totally bought into, and I was buying into it every day. It was the main source of my misery. And I was letting it just bulldoze my happiness.

As if I had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, the argument commenced. New, truthful statements came boldly to my mind and I stood a little taller with each one:

"I value motherhood. I value staying home with my child and guiding him through his most impressionable years. I make sacrifices to be able to do this, like spending less money on things that don't matter most. I am spending my time and energy (and a lot of money) in pursuit of the possibility that I might be a mother to more children.

"I value my marriage. I value supporting my husband in love and strength. That means supporting his desire to return to school, and believing in him while he does it. In my reality, that involves sacrificing things I want and focusing on things I need, taking on more of that household chores than I would prefer to be doing, doing bedtime with Busy Body every night, and spending less time as a family than I would like.

"I value following the prophet and his teachings. That involves doing as much as I can to remain self-reliant, live within my means, and avoid unnecessary debt. In my current (very meager) financial reality, that looks like forgoing things I want now (spending money on hair, clothes, home decor, etc) for things I truly desire (peace of mind, security, a home of my own in the future). It also involves holding family home evening every Monday night, studying scriptures as a family every day, serving faithfully in my calling, supporting my husband in his calling, and praying with faith as often as I feel to do so. I'm doing those things consistently.

"My life doesn't JUST reflect my values; it loudly proclaims them. Whether other people interpret it that way or not, my life reflects the values that I hold most dear. God sees my heart, and He is the only one I have to answer to."

A new perspective changed the way I saw everything, and the devil on my shoulder sheepishly disappeared. I was empowered. It was an "I am woman, hear me roar" moment for me.

I realized that my life reflects my values but it doesn't necessarily reflect all of my ideals. I still want a beautifully decorated house, a nice hair cut, clothes that fit well and look nice, and a little money to spend on things that are not absolutely necessary. I know that day will come, and I will be all the more grateful for those things because of the time I have spent without them. I am looking forward to when I can enjoy those things. But I won't let their absence in my life affect my current happiness.

Since that pivotal bathroom mirror moment, more lies have tried their hand at destroying my happiness. Some of those include, "You are not as good as [insert name of beautiful, talented, selfless, or any other desirable-quality-possessing woman here]," or "God never gives me what I want." Some lies have begun to succeed in their mission to destroy, but I have caught them much earlier on in their destruction. Watch out lies, I'm onto you. And you're not getting away with that junk anymore.

What are some lies you have caught in their tracks, or found ravishing your happiness and that of those you love? What have you done to overcome them? I'd love to know!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Story

We have a lot of catching up to do, you and I. Sorry for the long absence. Things have been a little....out of the ordinary around here.

You may remember my post from early March about letting go and focusing on my little family's needs, and letting a baby come sometime down the road. When you face infertility, you so often hear, "Just relax. Let go. It's amazing how relaxing can get you pregnant just like that! We stopped trying and we got pregnant immediately." And when you hear that, you usually want to punch the messenger in the face. This is not a story of "just relaxing." This is a story of complete, utter, and painful submission to God and His loving, kind, and incomprehensible will. It is the story of a little girl who has been throwing a tantrum for three hours and has finally succumbed to the exhaustion, curling up to rest in her daddy's arms.

Shortly after that post in March, we found ourselves in a really hard place financially. Things had never been tighter. After a lot of prayer and resistance on my part, I began to look for and apply for jobs. We also started collecting items from people so that we could hold a yard sale to raise the money we needed for April's rent. I found the perfect position at BYU, and felt so good about it. My application was sparkling, and my cover letter made me proud. I had a personal connection, which increased my chances of getting hired, and I felt confident it would work out. Caleb was waiting for an answer from a high school about a teaching internship, and we just felt so optimistic about our future. I started to see how waiting to try for a baby could put us in a much better state financially as well as mentally, and my heart began to soften a bit. Then I started my period. My heart hardened right back up. A couple of days later, I received news that I had not gotten the job I felt so good about. And later that SAME DAY, Caleb heard from the principal that they had "decided to go in a different direction." I was furious. Mad as a hornet. I don't know that I have ever been so angry in my entire life. No baby, no job, no job again, no money, no nothing. We were doing EVERYTHING right. We were serving faithfully in our callings. We were praying and reading scriptures as a family. We were doing our best to help and lift others around us. We were living within our stupidly-scant means. It felt like utter betrayal. I started to cry. Then I started to say unkind things. Then I swore. Then I marched over to the pile of books we had out for the yard sale, and I tore one to shreds. I yelled and I ripped through that book as many pages as I could at a time. The more pages, the harder I had to rip, and the more satisfaction I derived from it. I screamed some subdued screams so as not to wake the oblivious child down the hall, and I scattered pieces of Teachings of Wilford Woodruff all over my living room. Then I wrote a scathing (but polite) letter to the principal (which I thankfully did not send). And then I crumpled in a ball on the couch next to my speechless husband, and cried from the depths of my soul.

I awoke the next morning feeling surprisingly hopeful and refreshed. The tantrum had proven to be cleansing, in a way. I went to my sister's that day and sorted through all of my storage items in her garage. Out came the 8 bins of baby stuff I had saved, and all the baby gear that didn't fit in bins. One by one, I picked through the little outfits and blankets and teeny tiny baby socks, and let most of it go. I held onto the outfits that had special memories or that I especially liked, and the rest I threw in a pile to sell for 25 cents a piece. With each toss, my attachment to having a baby faded, and I soon felt liberated by letting go of these items that served as a painful reminder of my unfulfilled dreams and seemingly unanswered prayers. The twinge of pain came again as these items came through the checkout at my yard sale, and I watched cute pregnant mommies walk away with what was left of my hope. But I felt lighter afterward. And we made enough money to pay two months' rent, for which I was immensely grateful and humbled.

Shortly after the sale, my sister broke her collar bone. I was at her house helping to care for her when my grandmother passed away in Oregon a few weeks later. I was mad again. The only word running through my head was "Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid." I felt the injustice of life so keenly I could touch it. But amidst my fury, a quiet impression came, "Now that Grandma has gone, the baby can come." I brushed the thought off because it seemed so impossible. But the feeling lingered.

We traveled to Grandma's funeral at the end of April. There is so much to say about that weekend. I was surrounded by love and healing and I felt so much peace. For the first time in years, I felt my grandma come alive, and her being was fresh and real to me in ways it had not been during the years of Alzheimer's that kept her from being herself. The resurrection and of the afterlife finally became real to me. I reconnected with cousins I had missed. I stayed with and visited with friends I love and who love me. I was filled. We were invited to bring something to place in Grandma's casket. I wasn't prepared for that, and didn't have anything meaningful to send with her. But I decided to write her a note and ask for her help with things I had been struggling with. I believe that our loved ones who have gone on are closer than we know, and that they are helping in countless, unseen ways. Grandma is a baby lover if I ever met one. She does babies. And had she been able, she would have helped with and loved on little Busy Body in his baby years. So I thought it only fitting to ask Grandma to send us a baby. She loves babies. She believes in babies. She's a nurse. She was the perfect one to get the job done. Among other things, I wrote that in the letter.

Caleb left directly from Oregon to California the evening of the funeral to sell pest control, a decision that was made in haste the week before, but felt more right than anything we had done since having a baby. It was hard to say goodbye. I'm afraid of the dark. I would have to spend three months' worth of dark nights without a husband to protect me. Plus he's my favorite person on earth, and I would miss him during the day, too.

Driving home from Oregon, I had to stop and use the restroom so frequently I thought I might have a bladder infection. I overheated in the van and kept freezing my family out with the air conditioning turned up. I got car sick easily. It was miserable. Then I came home to an empty house, and faced my lonely summer. This was on Wednesday. On Friday, I called BioMat and set up an appointment to donate plasma. My only concern was that it might affect my Zumba fun. My sister was staying the night with me, but she was out with some friends for the evening. I was typing a blog post (which I never published) when it hit me: the pit in my stomach coupled with the feeling of fulness and the I'm-going-to-start-my-period-any-second-now aching were connected. Not to mention the insanely tender breasts and the aversion to any kind of vegetable. These were pregnancy symptoms. Real deal pregnancy symptoms. It was 9 pm and I had ONE pregnancy test left in my bathroom. I had long since stopped paying attention to my cycle, and although I knew the approximate week I had had my last period, I really had no idea when I was supposed to start again. I worried that if I took the test right then, it would be negative either way because I wouldn't be far enough along for a dollar store test to tell me at 9 pm if I was pregnant. I thought about waiting until the morning for more accurate results. But I had to know NOW. So I impatiently took the test. It said to wait three minutes to see results. But as the urine passed the test line, the darkest red line I have ever seen appeared instantly. I stared at it in shock. I started laughing hysterically, and sobbing uncontrollably at the same time. I was a hot mess. I was praying incoherent things out loud and trying to figure out what to do with myself. I felt like I was either going to throw up or go soaring through the universe. I was scared out of my mind. And I was still on the toilet.

I waited until Caleb got off work that night, and sent him a frantic text telling him to check his e-mail and then call me when he was alone. I had sent him a picture of the test by e-mail. When he called he said he couldn't tell what the picture was. WHAT?!?!? Haha. Such a boy. So I told him. And we talked in our shock for a little bit. I did a lot of crying for every reason imaginable.

We told our families and a couple close friends, but we felt so guarded about it. It was a total fluke (or a miracle? Probably a miracle.) We were afraid that just as quickly as it had happened, it could un-happen itself. So we kept quiet. I had an ultrasound to determine the due date (Dec 29), and found out that I was six and a half weeks along. Every time I've heard the heart beat, I have let out a sigh and realized I had been holding my breath, afraid that it might not be there this time. I relied on the help of a few close friends while I spent the summer without my husband, chasing a busy four-year-old, and feeling sick. Blessedly, my sickness was much better this time and I was able to do much more than I thought I could. I am so grateful for that. And I made it through the summer. Caleb came home and I was still alive, the baby was still alive, and Busy Body was still alive. Not only that, we had a great summer.

I am still in shock four months later. And I am so, so grateful. We thought for sure it was a girl with everything that happened with Grandma and the timing. We were going to name her Cleo Fay, after my grandma and Caleb's. I am a little thrown off by it being a boy, but thrilled all the same. I cry thinking about what a miracle this is, and how undeserving I feel. I am sensitive to the fact that I have loved ones who are still waiting for their miracle, and that was part of my hesitation in sharing the news. It is such a personal journey and there are so many details the Lord is working out. I don't know why, when I finally decided I was okay being a one-child mama, I was blessed with a pregnancy. I don't know why it takes longer for some and less time for others. I don't understand the Lord's timing or His will. But I feel a kind of submission and trust that I have never felt before. I know He loves us. I know he sees the big picture. I know His promises are sure, wether now, in the near future, or in eternity. I know that all of our righteous desires will be realized in His time. And for now, I will hold onto that.

The baby and I have a song. It was our song before he was ever conceived. The refrain dances through my mind every day, especially when I worry about the outcome of this pregnancy. (I try not to remember that it is from the Twilight series movies. Ha!) "I have died every day waiting for you. Darling, don't be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years. I'll love you for a thousand more." I feel a connection with this baby that seems to have existed for thousands of years, long before I came here. No matter the outcome of this pregnancy, this baby is living inside of me and he is mine. I will love him for thousands of years to come. And I am so blessed to have his little life inside of me. I, of course, pray for a healthy pregnancy and a smooth and safe delivery. But I am learning to submit to the Lord's will. Instead of needily clinging to that desire and frantically begging the Lord to bless me with it, I have been calmly expressing my desire and letting go. It feels so right, and so peaceful. I am looking forward to seeing the next 20 weeks unfold.

Thanks for sharing my journey with me. I will keep you posted. And I promise not to go another five months before we catch up again!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Do you know where your tibia is?

My mom requested stories from her family for a family history project. This was the first that came to mind. And no, it has nothing to do with fertility:

The kids were whizzing past on their bikes around the neighborhood. I wanted to ride with them, but I knew I wouldn't be as fast as them. My cousin, Brandon, was visiting for the summer, and together we cooked up a plan. I would ride in the plastic baby seat on the back of my mom's bike, and Brandon, three years my elder, would ride it as fast as he could. Seeing that this could be dangerous, and being the safety-conscious girl I always have been, I deemed it best to wear my helmet, and to be strapped in with a bungee cord for extra security. So I snapped on the multi-colored neon helmet, Brandon strapped me in, and off we went. 

The kids on the block thought our little set-up was sweet. They wanted in on the action, so Brandon rode more quickly to avoid having to give them all rides. We were having a blast! My best friend, Marel, had tried to get our attention a number of times, but we paid her no heed. Finally, she yelled that my dad was calling and we were supposed to go to a movie. Movies are highly motivating when you are seven and ten. Brandon came to a screeching halt on the gravel patch along the road. The bike swerved, toppled, and landed on its side. Brandon hopped off just in time, but my seat belt kept me strapped safely in. I screamed a scream I didn't know I was capable of screaming. Brandon propped the bike up and helped me out from under it, but I couldn't walk. So he tried to carry me. Every bounce sent jarring pain up my leg. I screamed with every jolt. We sent Marel to fetch her dad. He came to carry me home, and Brandon bee-lined it in the opposite direction.

A quick check of the swelling, and Tim (Marel's dad) and Daddy decided it was sprained, so they put me to bed. I can still see my swollen shin on the bottom bunk in the room with pink ballon shades; the shades whose cord I had snipped on my scissor spree as a three-year-old. When my mom came home, she immediately sensed there was more to the story, and they whisked me to the emergency room. A million questions and a few x-rays later, the doctors determined I had a spiral fracture in my tibia, and that it was not, indeed, a result of abuse. They wrapped it and sent me home with pain medication that made me vomit all night. That is my first clear memory of the ox in the mire. My mom went to Safeway on Sunday. I think she bought saltine crackers and Sprite. 

This is not my x-ray, but it is an example
of a tibial fracture of the spiral variety.

I returned to the hospital for my leg to be set in a cast. Because of the painful nature of the procedure, they administered anesthetic. I was to sleep peacefully through the whole ordeal. I have a blurry memory of sitting up in the middle of it and looking at the doctor and nurse. They kept turning up the dose to keep me knocked out. 

At seven years old, an overnight stay in the hospital is a fun adventure! I ordered chocolate ice cream for breakfast...and got it! My parents gifted me a large gray bunny with a pink satin bow around its neck. I named him Boonya. And in spite of his pink ribbon, he has always been a boy to me. Boonya made me feel better when the mean nurse tried to make me walk when it hurt so bad I couldn't even think. Twenty-one years later, Boonya graces a spot on the floor at the head of the bed of my four-year-old son, Kimball. Boonya is family, and in my mind, Boonya represents love.