Friday, October 13, 2017

We're having another ...


I knew it!

That's 4/4 I've known the gender of from the beginning.

Baby girl is very healthy and growing as she should. I'm 19.5 weeks now, which I'm declaring as halfway through this pregnancy. 

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this, but I'm not ready to go there today so I am just going to leave this as a very quick and short update.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

it's so different {what it's like to try every type of prenatal care available}

My pregnancy and birth history is complicated, which means I have never delivered with the same person or in the same location more than once. The constants at my birth have been Jonathan and my first midwife, but my first midwife has acted as a doula / support person / shoulder to cry on during my subsequent births.

Here's a quick outline of who I've seen and where I've delivered:

Birth # 1: Midwives only, stand alone birth center, all natural

Birth #2: Prenatal care from midwife and maternal fetal medicine doctor (high risk OB), hospital, MFM doc delivered, Pitoicin given, zero pain meds

Birth #3: Prenatal care from midwives and maternal fetal medicine doctor, different hospital from #2, midwife delivered, Pitoicin and epidural used

Pregnancy #4: Prenatal care from OB and completely new maternal fetal medicine doctors and clinic, hospital delivery (different from birth # 2 & 3) and ... who knows the rest. We'll see what happens, but as of this moment I am not planning on a natural birth because this mama has had enough birth trauma / let's try all natural / I can get through this with prayer and deep breathing etc.

This week I had an OB appointment and it was so impersonal. I went through the whole vitals check thing with the medical assistant and then after a while the doctor came in. She spent the visit reading the maternal fetal medicine doctor's notes, asking how I was feeling, checking the heartbeat and then that was it - after she asked if I had any questions.

I feel like I am floating out in the ocean by myself, guys. I know I'm not, but it sure feels like it. I have a GREAT doula and my midwife is going to do her best to be at the birth. Both are available for support via text, which I do require and use, but it's just not the same. I need tea, hugs, shoulder rubs, and heaps of understanding during a prenatal appointment. Ten minutes of interaction where the doctor mostly looks at her computer screen doesn't equal my favorite appointment.

If you need emotional support in pregnancy is that the best environment to receive it in? I'm not even trying because I have others to lean on, but if you don't have that is the ten minutes you get with the OB enough time to get out all the thoughts and feelings you have? And my next appointment isn't even with the OB! I see the nurse practitioner next. AND when I deliver I get the OB who is on call, NOT the one I've been seeing for my prenatal appointments. This system just seems all out of whack to me.

I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking, I have the best relationship with my OB! We talk for hours and I feel so amazing after every appointment.

For me that is not the feeling I carry out of the office with me. I feel relieved the appointment is over (I hate that still moment - or ten - when the doctor is looking for the heartbeat) and surprised I was only at the clinic for thirty minutes.

This is my first pregnancy where the doctors I am rotating between don't know me and my story. They haven't walked with me for years. They don't understand just how anxiety inducing pregnancy and birth is for me. In fact, in the middle of our first consult the maternal fetal medicine doctor said, "Then we'll start non-stress tests, because that often helps with anxiety, but you, well, you seem remarkably calm."

I am excellent at pretending I am calm during appointments, but inside I just want to be done and get OUT, so there's a good chance the doctors will never know how anxious I am. (Well, until birth. Then I just lose my ever loving mind and any sense that all will be well) Holding all my feelings in is on me. I know that, but I am not a person who is going to open up about all my feelings during a twenty minute consult so I'm not sure that is going to change.

Now that I've vented for a solid twelve paragraphs I do have to say this:

I am so grateful for access to medical care, specialist doctors, insurance and hospitals. Thank you Jesus for options and help and doctors who care. It sounds like I think they don't care, but I know the ability to connect gets lost in the mess of our medical system. Doctors today are incredibly busy and under intense stress because our insurance system makes practicing medicine difficult and hard to navigate.

So yes, I am at sea here, but it's not like I'm going to have to deliver this baby in my backyard fifty miles from the nearest clinic with no way to get there other than my own two feet. I recognize and am very grateful for that.

This is just way more difficult to navigate than I thought it would be. I always try to be a normal pregnant mama, but that goes out the window as soon as I start the journey, because the truth is I have had a difficult relationship with birth and pregnancy. I hope as time progresses I connect with the OB a bit more, and maybe develop a relationship with the maternal fetal medicine doctor. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

here we go {homeschool / kindergarten}

Here is the thing about homsechool: I'll probably never know what I am doing and/or feel completely confident.

The first day I had to jettison the Bible curriculum I picked out. I read through the first lesson and Bennett said, "Huh?" And I said, "Huh?" Then I decided since he chose to participate in AWANA this year at our church that was enough Bible curriculum for his age and put the book in the back of the school cupboard.

We're keeping it simple this year, because Bennett is just 6, but I do want him to learn a few things and begin to enjoy learning.

To get an idea of what curriculum I wanted to teach from I read through the kindergarten chapter in The Well Trained Mind. The thing about The Well Trained Mind is that it appears daunting at 800 pages, but you don't have to read it all in one go.

I was planning on teaching Bennett how to read when he turned 7, which is late, I know, but I've done a lot of research and later tends to be better when it comes to teaching reading. However, when Bennett was finished with his second year of preschool he knew all of his phonics sounds and was beginning to blend words so I decided to keep the momentum going. We did a reading lesson every week or so during the summer, and he played the computer game Teach Your Monster to Read quite a bit, but we didn't start one reading lesson per day until the second week of September.

I tried Phonics Pathways and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but I struggled with the concepts. We switched over to The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and the program just clicked for me. Bennett is doing really well with it too. The lessons don't take very long and require very little aside from index cards and the book. Having an alphabet board with letters does help. I put off buying one at first, but since I added it in last week the concepts are setting in a bit more. I am adding in sight word memorization as well because the book covers so few. I also read aloud from a long chapter book on school days.

Bennett's handwriting book is from Zaner-Bloser. I chose it because it's a continuous stroke program, which helps kids switch over to cursive writing. He is beyond the kindergarten book, which I did not realize when I bought it, so we are almost done with the first book. I think we will focus on copy work for the rest of the year and then move up to the first or second grade book the following year. Teaching a left handed child how to write has been challenging, but we're managing!

I also included a math program called Right Start, which the book does not recommend starting at the kindergarten level, but Bennett was very ready to jump into a math program. It was really hard to choose a math curriculum, and this one has him starting on really easy concepts he already knows, but the overall program seems like it will be a great way to approach math. I feel like it might even help me begin to grasp math, which has always been a difficult subject for me. I bought this curriculum from Rainbow Resource which has great prices. It has a LOT of manipulatives, so brace yourself for that!

Some days we do mazes, dot to dot or drawing to help with his fine motor skills, and I have a preschool science experiment book I want to start using once a week, but our core work right now is handwriting, reading and math.

Most days we complete Bennett's schoolwork in 1-2 hours (we can often get it done in about an hour on the days Ainsleigh is at preschool).

It's been a fairly easy transition. I know it's only going to get harder, but right now we both love it.

When I was going back and forth on whether or not to homeschool I wasn't sure it would be the right fit for us, but seeing where Bennett is at right now in his life, and what his needs are, I am certain it is right this year.

I'll let you know how we fare as the year progresses!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

surprise, surprise ... baby #5!

I know baby #4 was an early loss, but I believe every life matters so I am currently expecting our fifth baby.

Now let me give you a moment to recover from the shock ...

Still breathing?

(I'm STILL recovering)

I'm due in March so I'm a couple days shy of 14 weeks. In 5 short weeks we have the all important mid-pregnancy anatomy scan with the maternal fetal medicine doctor. Keeping this pregnancy under wraps has made it zoom by. I've been super sick, because that's how I do pregnancy, but I haven't thrown up as much as I normally do so that's positive!

Since I like to make things uber complicated I am delivering with an entirely new set of doctors. With the kids nearing 4 & 6 life has become a bit more complex: preschool, homeschool, gymnastics and church programs will fill our weeks this fall and I simply don't have time to drive 45 minutes to an hour to see my previous doctors. Also, my maternal fetal medicine doctor retired and the midwife that delivered Ainsleigh moved to a freestanding birth center.

SO - I'm trying a traditional OB this time and the maternal fetal medicine doctors at the local hospital. I've hired an amazing doula and my midwife from my first birth will hopefully be able to be there as a doula as well so I think it will all be fine. With this birth I'll have delivered in 4 different places without moving from our fine city, so that's something of an accomplishment I suppose.

Also planning on an epidural at 4 cm (is that even allowed?) because I am over birth trauma and getting through it and breathing and trying to go natural. Just get this baby out, please and thanks!

I wouldn't say we are excited, but I would like to get to that point, so we are starting to share about this pregnancy. Hopefully if others are excited for us we'll get on board. With that hope in mind I finally posted about the pregnancy on social media last night.

Everyone present thought this was a fabulous announcement idea, but we were on eclipse party day 3 and all feeling a bit rummy so our judgement was questionable. I *almost* didn't post this picture, because we all look a bit rough, but that's us! In our jams, un-showered (I was too sick to host people for the eclipse and shower; it was literally too much) at 10:30, hanging out in our backyard for a monumental event. We are not a well put together family at the best of times (why get dressed when you could be reading?) and this summer has been quite a mess with B going through a massive diet change and me feeling so ill. We went to the doctors in our jams more than once this summer, so this picture feels quite appropriate!

I believe God has a plan for our family and for this baby. And I believe our family is meant to have a third little one to raise, because that is the only way I can wrap my mind around this year of surprise babies. Everyone who has read here, or known me, or talked to me for more than 10 minutes knows the more babies question was off the table. Pregnancy and birth is so traumatic for me I couldn't fathom choosing to do it again. We have two beautiful kids we are raising and that was enough. But through Christ all things are possible, so here we are, expecting another blessing, and hoping we are done with surprises for a while.

Friday, June 9, 2017

honestly - it's been a hard year

This year has been full of brokenness and hard days.

Things really began in December of '16, but 2017 hasn't been easy. We're halfway to 2018 (isn't that crazy?) and I find myself unable to do much but hope the latter half of this year will be easier, because I don't want to imagine what other hard things might be coming.

I'm slowly coming out of a difficult few weeks of extreme illness. Like I have never before been so ill in my life. I know that is not a completely true statement, but goodness I have been sick.

Long story short:

My miscarriage left me anemic. When I finally went to the doctor to find out if I was low on iron I was told my body was so depleted of iron the blood test registered almost none present. My doctor put me on a HUGE dose of iron, which made me really, really sick.


I didn't know the iron supplement was causing my sudden disturbing symptoms.

I felt like I couldn't swallow.

I felt like I had a golf ball in my throat.

My stomach was upset.

I couldn't eat.

I had a massive anxiety attack because I felt like I couldn't swallow and it was the week of Charlotte's birthday, and the kids were really sick ... And I thought: oh dear me this anxiety issue has become a major problem and I should possibly be committed.

Then I lost 6 lbs in 4 days, a tremor developed in my right hand, and my heart was racing.

Oh, maybe not anxiety, I thought. Perhaps my thyroid problems are cropping up again. I called my doctor and asked for a same day appointment. She didn't have room in her schedule and her physician's assistant had recently quit so I was referred to urgent care where I found out that the golf ball in my throat was due to acid reflux and my thyroid levels were perfectly balanced.

Why in the world am I having crippling acid reflux when I have never had a problem with it before? I wondered. And why did I spend a week feeling like this before seeking help?!

Two miserable days later I finally traced the acid reflux issues to the iron supplement my doctor prescribed.

Every day I am off the iron supplement I feel better. (Well, I did until I tried taking my recommended multivitamin. That set me back a few days). The iron supplement destroyed my GI tract. I was only on it for a week, but it was a really high dose and my body did NOT like it.

The only good thing about all of this? I didn't touch caffeine for three weeks and I had hardly any sugar. Before this I would have said, impossible!, to three weeks without chocolate, but when every bite of food makes you miserable you want to avoid eating as much as possible.

Two weeks after my doctor referred me to an IV infusion center for an iron boost insurance approved the procedure and I head in Monday to get my first infusion. And I really, really hope it helps me feel better. And as more time goes by I hope all of the GI issues will settle and resolve. I still have to drink aloe juice 30 minutes before I eat to get food down and keep it down without getting knock me over acid reflux, but I no longer feel like I have a golf ball in my throat which is a huge improvement.

When I think about the stack of issues we are up against right now (B's health and mine primarily, gah it's all such a mess) I get overwhelmed, but in the middle of the swirling chaos that the last few months have brought I see God's presence and help in our lives.

I've written a little bit about going back to counseling at the beginning of the year. I'm still at it. Nearly every week. Yeah ... healing takes so. much. time. But a few things I've learned that have been SO helpful: how to breathe (I'm serious), calm myself enough to stop an anxiety attack (so useful) and use guided meditation when I a) can't calm down or b) can't sleep. It has been so helpful to learn how to manage my anxiety symptoms so I can function fully. Just learning how to use guided meditation (I just use YouTube to find guided Christian meditations, but there are apps) to help me get good rest has been instrumental to my survival during this month of illness.

This has not been an easy, or pleasant, process, but I hope at the end of all these health trials - whenever that comes - I'll be healthier mentally and physically. And in the meantime I am doing the in the deep trenches one day at a time dance, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a worrier like me. Every day I have to evaluate what I can and cannot do, and the kids are learning to adjust their expectations of what I can and cannot do. It's not easy, but we're all hobbling through life together right now and the kids are learning flexibility and compassion.

This is my third health issue since December - broken finger, miscarriage, iron supplement nearly killed me (I'm kidding - ish) - but having so many issues is teaching me a lot about dependency and vulnerability and how to accept the limitations life sometimes puts on me.

After nearly four weeks of having problems eating / being unable to eat I am glad for the basics: food, having enough to eat, being able to eat, and hopefully soon - enjoying food. Right now I still feel wary about eating, but a lot of the anxiety that cropped up when the acid reflux crashed into my life has subsided.

I am so thankful B is done with school. The last week was pure misery for me; I could hardly function. I still haven't snapped his last day of preschool picture, but I'll get around to it. Maybe.

I've talked to many moms like me - worn out, neck deep in health issues, chock full of anxiety. We're so busy hustling and bustling for our babies and families we push ourselves to the back burner until we fall off the stove entirely and require extensive repair to get all the pieces back in order. Whether you're in pieces mentally or physically, or all of the above like me, you're in good company. There's a lot of us down here on the floor trying to figure out how to be healthier so we can continue caring for the ones we love with our whole hearts.

Don't forget to take care of yourself.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

year seven

I have a huge bruise on my right hip from zip lining with friends on Monday.

Can you believe I went zip lining?

6 days before Charlotte's birthday! 

With an anxiety disorder in my pocket (it's always there. I can't take it out, but I'm trying to make it less comfortable).

Because flipping out on a platform halfway up a very tall tree with no way down aside from a zip line sounds like fun!

Typically May is for hibernating, but that didn't make me feel better in years one through six so I thought I should try pulling myself together and living in May instead of suffering through May.

This year Charlotte's birthday falls on Mother's Day, which is making my head spin in ways I didn't know were possible (I think it's so overwhelming a thought I've mostly shut down and decided to ignore it) so when an opportunity to get away with my best girls came up I decided to go for it, anxiety disorder and all.

In utter defiance of the panic attacks that come weekly I packed the car on Sunday morning and said goodbye to the kids and Jon. As I drove to the resort I reminded myself I was going on a break, that it was going to be fun, and that I was lucky to have a chance to spend time with my friends without our kids climbing our legs and demanding our time (the five who went have 18 children here on Earth with us. That's a whole lot of needy babies!)

On Monday morning I ordered room service for breakfast because it is one of my favorite things. I don't care about the cost, or the fact that they overcharge, or anything logical or practical. I. love. room. service.

And then I met up with my friends and after scrambling into a harness with zero dignity and much confusion I climbed up a set of stairs on shaky legs, clambered onto a platform and threw myself into the beautiful cool stillness of a quiet Northwest forest. Oh wait, it wasn't quiet. I was with three other terrified girls; there was a LOT of screaming.

Oddly enough, I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be. By the end I was even stepping up for my turn without a topsy-turvy stomach and shaking hands. I was so busy focusing on what the guides had to say and how to keep myself alive I didn't have time to panic.

In therapy I've been working through the idea that I don't have control over my life, or the lives of those I love. I have a lot I am working through, but the issue of control is a whopper of a problem and the core of my anxiety.

Out there in the forest, soaring through the trees with the beautiful Columbia Gorge surrounding me, I made the choice to relinquish control and have fun. I couldn't zip line without the guides (not if I wanted to live) so I had to let go and allow them to be their job: a guide, a helper, a sign post.

At one point a guide was giving me directions and I cut him off. "I just want to go straight, please. I don't want to turn. Why are you telling me how to turn?!"

He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm trying to tell you how to go straight. You're not listening. Just listen, I am showing you what you want to know."

I quickly shut my mouth, listened to his words, followed his instructions, and zipped down the line just as I wanted to (straight as an arrow, no spinning please! It's enough I am on this contraption, I don't need to spin in circles as I am flying down the line!!)

That interaction was my entire life encapsulated in thirty seconds of instruction.

I spend so much of my time in a STATE of upset I miss what I need to hear. I am so busy trying to solve and manage things on my own I don't see the helping hands all around me. I am so determined to sail the ship and keep all the people alive I forget it is not my job, nor am I able to do so. It doesn't matter how hard I try, or what effort I put forth: I cannot keep the people I love alive, well and safe. Coming to grips with that, which I am still in the process of, has been one of the more difficult things I have done.

The last few weeks I've been hearing the Lord urging me to pick up my Bible, but the lethargy of grief and the buzz of anxiety knocked aside His voice.

Why pick up my Bible when I can spend an hour on Instagram? Why pick up my Bible when I can watch Netflix?

Why pick up my Bible when I am so anxious I can't take a deep breath? Why pick up my Bible when I feel completely lost in the wilderness?

This time of year there is always a bit of a war between God and I and it always comes back to the salient fact that He did not answer the way I wanted Him to when I cried out for Him to spare my baby's life and give her back to me.

So I always circle back to this question:

Why pick up my Bible when you didn't save my baby girl?

But last night I listened and picked up my Bible.

This is what I read:

Psalm 27: 1-2

The Lord is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 34: 4

I sought the Lord and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34: 18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

After inhaling those verses last night my anxiety scaled down a bit. I'm still jittery as all get out, but I have confidence I can get back to a manageable place soon, and maybe even a healed place someday.

Last month I read a book called The Lucky Few. I wrote a review on it, but I am going to re-post part of it here because I need the reminder.

When Heather and her husband are struggling with the medical issues stemming from their first daughter's open heart surgery she breaks down over the stress, which leads her dad to remind her that God is in control:

"Heather. Heather Elizabeth. Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing you do or don't do is going to change that, Heather. God's got this ...

There it was: life-giving, life-changing truth. We had sat in the hospital in the shadow of death. Now we were home, and that same shadow was knocking on my door, but the truth of my dad's words drowned out the racket that death was trying to make.

The truth my dad spoke that night was branded on my heart. And as the days and weeks and months and years went on, I would say the words out loud whenever I needed to drown out the fear that death would whisper in my ear.

'Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing I do or don't do is going to change that.'"

In four days I should be celebrating my first daughter's seventh birthday. Instead I am navigating another year without her. A year that has brought new challenges and incredible valleys I found impossible to navigate solo. But it's also the year when I found the courage to live in May. It's the year I dared to say, I need help, and I am listening, and I feel anxious, and will you walk through this with me?

And it's the year I found a little bravery, jumped off a platform and sailed through the forest with shaking hands and a quick tripping heart.

Every fear I confront is for Charlotte. I want to live my life well because she didn't get the chance to.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

the lucky few {book review}

I was reading through The Lucky Few by Heather Avis when I realized she lived the story I'm in right now. It's a story of letting go of how we expect mothering and parenthood to be, and who we thought would make up our family, as well as relinquishing control over everything - even our children - and giving our families to God so He can direct our steps in the way He wants us to go.

For Heather and her husband Josh, the journey includes the valley of infertility and the rocky uncertain path of adoption and parenting special needs children. Throughout The Lucky Few, which chronicles the Avis family's life as they move from a family of two to a family of five, Heather is honest about her doubts, hopes, fears and strong feelings.

I read The Lucky Few in one day. As I was finishing it up my kids were at the park with their dad, burning off energy before bed. Moments after I read the last words I could hear the arrivial of my family. Ainsleigh was screaming and crying so hard in the driveway I could hear her from the house. While at the park Ainsleigh slipped and fell in a creek. (She is fine, we took her to the ER to make sure, but our sweet girl had a terrifying experience last night.)

As I held Ainsleigh in my arms in the ER waiting room I thought about the chapters in The Lucky Few when Heather and her husband are struggling with the medical issues stemming from their first daughter's open heart surgery. When Heather breaks down over the stress her dad reminds her that God is in control:

"Heather. Heather Elizabeth. Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing you do or don't do is going to change that, Heather. God's got this ...

There it was: life-giving, life-changing truth. We had sat in the hospital in the shadow of death. Now we were home, and that same shadow was knocking on my door, but the truth of my dad's words drowned out the racket that death was trying to make.

The truth my dad spoke that night was branded on my heart. And as the days and weeks and months and years went on, I would say the words out loud whenever I needed to drown out the fear that death would whisper in my ear.

'Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing I do or don't do is going to change that.'"

I know this isn't a straightforward book review - mine usually aren't - but I believe God put this book in my hands so that when we were sitting in the ER waiting room I would recall Heather's words (and her father's) and remain calm.

I've been doing so much work on letting go of my kids and family and asking God to be in charge (because He ultimately is and I'm just wearing myself out trying to steer the ship solo) and then something like last night happens and it reminds me how close all of us always are to the edge.

I can't keep my kids alive.

I can be careful, vigilant, and mindful in my care of them, but I do not have the power to keep them whole and healthy. That is a difficult truth, but it is one Heather Avis comes to terms with in The Lucky Few as she watches God take control and grow her family in unexpected ways.

I enjoyed reading about Heather and Josh Avis and how they created a beautiful family with God's grace and guidance. 

I  received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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