Lucky Lucy

Wednesday October 24th, I gave birth to the most perfect little human I’ve ever seen. Her name is Lucy Rose Ells. Weighing in at 7lbs, 14oz and 22 inches long, Lucy was a force from the start. With the help of excellent doctors, nurses, Zach, and my mom, I succeeded in bringing her into the world safely.

Tuesday night, Zach and I went to Lankenau to begin the induction. I took my first dose of medicine and settled in for the long haul. As I laid in the hospital bed with Zach at my side, we watched the first game of the World Series. Talk about my “labor plan” not going the way I thought. I never thought I’d have to be induced and I never thought I’d be watching a Red Sox World Series while being induced. Once again, life proves not everything goes according to plan. In the middle of the night, the contractions began and the discomfort set in. I think the contraction pain rivaled the pain of watching a Boston sports team. I was able to push through the hours and focus on my goal. I was on the final leg of my journey to meet our baby.

10.24.18

At 7am, the resident taking care of me told us we were moving to a labor and delivery room. I walked to the next room in my hospital gown looking like a surge protector. Multiple wires hung down from me from my IV to the heart monitor they had strapped around my belly.

Once settled, I was given more medicine to make the contractions increase. By 10am, I got the epidural and life was blissful. I couldn’t feel my hips or my legs and it was great! I sat chatting and laughing with Zach as we guessed at what it would be like to be parents and what our baby would look like. Even as I sat there unable to feel my legs with wires attached to me and monitors beeping off and on, I could not comprehend that I was going to be pushing a human being out of my body.

My parents and Zach’s parents came through and various family members appeared. Everyone was brimming with excitement. I expected it to feel like it would drag on, but I think time flew by. Before I knew it, my doctor was telling me to push.

I had Zach and my mom to my left side and a nurse on my right. Front and center was my doctor, Dr. Hammerel. Dr. Hammerel has been with me since the beginning of my journey. She rearranged her schedule that evening because, in her words, “I feel like I’m meant to deliver this baby.”

I couldn’t have asked for a better team. With Zach in my ear counting to ten for each push and telling me he loved me, my mom telling me how strong I was and how proud she was, and the doctors and nurses continuously telling me I was doing an amazing job, labor honestly wasn’t that bad.

I conjured up a strength from the deepest parts of me. All of the feelings I had developed over time fueled my power to push my baby out. This was it. This was the moment I had waited for. This was MY time for MY baby. Everything that had happened leading up to it happened to make me stronger. It all happened so this particular human being could have a place in this world. This child was meant for greatness. This child was meant to be with me and Zach. With each passing push, I felt stronger. I focused on my doctor as she coached me through the final pushes. It was such a blur. Quite literally, considering I didn’t have my glasses on.

6:41pm

As I pushed with every ounce of myself and roared through my teeth, the doctor pulled my baby up into view.

“It’s a girl!” Zach proudly announced to the room.

I was shocked! A girl! I had a girl! My mom rejoiced, “A girl, a girl! My girl had a girl!” The medical staff celebrated. My baby entered the world the way every baby should, to a round of applause. The staff cleaned her up and brought her back to me. She instantly calmed down as she rested peacefully on my chest. Finally, I got to feel the greatest feeling in the world.

Zach and I couldn’t take our eyes off of her the rest of the night. After meeting both sets of her grandparents and her aunts and uncles, we were moved to the next room. Our nurse came in and explained to me how to take care of myself and asked me about my pain level. Pain? I felt no pain. The love and admiration I had for Lucy overpowered any other feeling in my body. I was a mom, Zach was a dad, and this blessed gift from heaven was our baby girl.

1-4.jpg1-3.jpg

10.25.18

Lucy’s first full day with us was magical. We had a few visitors come through, including a photographer who took beautiful photos, but for a majority of the day it was just us. Our new family of 3. We watched her as she slept and hung on every little sound she would make. Her eyes didn’t open much, but when they did it was easy to get lost in her mesmerizing gaze.

Near midnight, I fed Lucy and the nurses came to take her for her evaluation. The nurse asked if I wanted them to keep her until she was ready to eat. I remembered my mom saying, “If they ask if you want her taken to the nursery at night, do it. Get some rest with Zach because you won’t be getting much when you get home! It’s a good opportunity for the nurses to keep an eye on her too.”

They took my baby from me at midnight. Zach and I drifted off to sleep as dreams of being with our Lucy flooded our minds.

15-DSC09553.jpg

Photo courtesy of Bella Baby Photography

10.26.18, 2am

I heard the door open and the lights went on in a flash. I eagerly sat up thinking it was time to feed my precious new baby.

A tall man in a white coat approached my bedside, but Lucy was not with him.

This doctor sat down in a chair next to me and a flood of information came at us. It was all a blur. Involuntary movements, blood tests, spinal tap, possible MRI, EEG, maybe a strep infection, possible meningitis. Those are just a few words I can recall.

Was I dreaming? I just saw her two hours ago. My baby was perfect. What the hell was this guy talking about? He had to have the wrong baby, but he kept saying her name.

Lucy.

We are monitoring Lucy. Lucy may need further testing. Lucy is exhibiting involuntary movements. Lucy may be having seizures. Lucy has been sent up to the NICU.

My Lucy?? Lucy Rose Ells, my first baby? My rainbow baby? My baby is in the intensive care unit? Zach and I sat there immobile. I don’t remember taking a breath. I held it hoping I would wake from this nightmare. Zach may have asked questions, but I can’t remember. All I remember is nodding my head as the doctor said, “We will contact you with more updates.”

Our hearts ached. Unsure of what to do or how to process it, I called my parents. They answered on the first ring. I relayed what I could to them through intermittent sobs. I knew they could calm me down with their combined medical knowledge and of course their soothing way of talking. I needed to hear their opinions. I just needed to hear their voices. There I was, a new mother, calling on my own parents to help me.

I told them not to come yet and that I would call with any news. Zach and I told each other it would all be okay. I don’t know if either of us believed it or if we said it to calm each other, but we laid our weary hearts to rest and attempted to go back to sleep.

4am

Our door opened again. I shot up in bed. My heart instantly felt a calmness. My parents had arrived. Even though I told them not to come, they knew in my voice that I needed them. My mom hugged me and it calmed me in a way only my mom’s hugs do.

After talking, the four of us fell into a broken sleep until the doctor came back a few hours later. At that point, he said he had already ruled out various problems, which was good. All her lab results were coming back normal. His primary concern, however, was her brain. The seizures were a result of some event that occurred in her brain. He wanted to send her for an MRI and an EEG asap.

It was her brain. Something was wrong with our baby’s brain. How could this be? She seemed normal. How did we not catch that something was off? The doctor said the seizures she was having were so subtle that they were hard to identify. The normal movements newborns make are already sudden and weird that catching the slight involuntary movements she was making was hard to do. That’s why they needed an EEG done, to monitor her brainwaves and catch how often she was seizing. God bless the nurses in the nursery who caught these subtle movements. Thank God I listened to my mom and sent Lucy to the nursery for the night.

Morning to afternoon

As the day wore on and we waited and worried, more family appeared. My three older brothers left work to be with us. Zach’s parents and his sister and brother-in-law came. A few of my aunts came. The texts and calls came flooding in from various family members and friends extending their prayers. Word traveled fast that we needed prayers. No matter what was going to happen to this baby, she had a lot of people to support her. The nurses and the social worker on staff at the NICU who spent the afternoon with us commented on how much support we had. That’s what family is all about. In times of need, family shows up.

Waiting was hard, but not being able to hold our baby was grueling. Zach and I yearned to hold her and comfort her. We felt so helpless. We sat for hours with our family. My dad, brothers, and mom used their medical expertise to try and figure out what it could be. Being from a family of doctors and a nurse and having worked in a medical office, I am familiar with the terms the doctors were throwing at us. I understood the severity of the situation, but part of me wished in those moments I was ignorant. Maybe it would have been easier to digest if I wasn’t familiar with what it could be.

Various scenarios uncontrollably passed through my mind. First and foremost, what if she died? What if she had some sort of severe brain damage that she couldn’t recover from? What if we were going to leave the hospital without our baby girl? It was a morbid thought, but I couldn’t help it. I felt like I had to prepare myself emotionally and mentally for any possible outcome. What if she was going to struggle the rest of her life? She didn’t deserve that. She is an angel. Why did she have to go through this? Why did Zach and I have to be tested again? Didn’t we learn enough lessons already? Why was God being so cruel?

By late morning, we were allowed to see Lucy in the NICU. It was the first time we saw her since midnight. Poor little Lucy was hooked up to monitors and her face was puffy from the fluids. She was groggy from the seizure medicine, so she wasn’t responding to us except for the occasional grip on our thumbs. There was a screen monitoring her heart rate, blood pressure, etc. She didn’t look like the baby I had held just hours before.

As we sat with her, we witnessed her seizures. In retrospect, we realized we had seen the subtle movements the day before. If we hadn’t sent her to the nursery, we may have brought her home never knowing she was struggling. We watched as her head twitched. Her little hands and feet shook so lightly. She was so dainty even her seizures were dainty. We held her hands as the tremors set in, whispering in her ear that she was going to be okay. We told her how strong she was and how we would do everything we could for her. We told her how much we loved her. She clutched Zach’s thumb as he kissed her on the head. I had to look away at moments, it was too much for me. But Zach, Zach kept his eyes focused on her the whole time. It was the hardest moment of our lives watching our baby girl in distress.

1-5.jpg

They did an ultrasound of her brain and those results showed there was no active bleeding. However, the MRI results came back with evidence. One of the doctors overseeing her care guided us to a small room. There were three spots of damage on her brain. Lucy had suffered a form of stroke. They weren’t sure of the severity of it or even when it happened. The doctor started firing questions. “Did you have complications during pregnancy? Did delivery go okay? You’ve had two miscarriages, was this a natural conception? Did you take fertility drugs? Do you have a history of a blood clotting disorder?” I understood she had to cover all the bases and get my proper history, but my mind was spinning out of control. There were no complications, pregnancy was natural, I didn’t take any medicines, I had no history of blood clotting issues. My miscarriages were random. Why is she asking this? Was this my fault?

After further monitoring, the NICU doctor decided that they weren’t able to provide the care Lucy needed. An adult neurologist reviewed her MRI results and what they needed was a pediatric neurologist to review it. They didn’t want to keep pumping her with more seizure medicine when they weren’t sure of the dosage she needed or how to move forward. She suggested we transfer her to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) NICU for further evaluation and a firm diagnosis. My family is personally familiar with CHOP and my brothers wives have friends who work in the NICU. They took to their phones to ensure Lucy would get a spot. My dad called our childhood pediatrician right away and he gave him the number of one of the neurologists there. Zach and I are so grateful for the care the doctors and nurses at Lankenau gave to Lucy and to me. We are most grateful that they recognized so quickly that they couldn’t provide what Lucy needed. In situations like these, time is of the essence. How lucky was Lucy to be born in a city with the best children’s hospital in the country.

As details were being finalized, I went back to our room to lie down. I needed to get off of my feet. I was so concerned for Lucy that it didn’t register that I was in physical pain. I had to remember that I was in recovery and I needed my strength so I could be there for my baby. I sat alone in the hospital room crying. This was not how I pictured my second full day as a mom. Okay, God. I get it. Life does not go as planned.

The door opened and my three big brothers came in. “What stuff needs to go?” I told them and without hesitation they started gathering my things. With the help of the doctor in the NICU and the contacts we had, Lucy was secured a room at CHOP and an ambulance was coming. All I could do was cry and thank them. The three of them reassured me it was going to be okay and they reinforced how strong I was.

I drifted off to sleep. I have no idea how much time went by, but I heard the door open again. It was my dad. He came up to my bedside.

“She’s going to be okay, Kate,” he said. I looked in his eyes. Tears were welling up and there was a cracking in his voice. My dad is the strongest and smartest man I know. It was one of the few times I have seen him vulnerable. I wasn’t sure if he believed what he was saying or if he was being a Dad and saying it to make me feel better.

“Are you sure?” I croaked.

“She’s not going to die from this,” he said firmly. It’s as if he knew my mind was drifting in and out of the darkest corners. He knew that’s what I thought might happen. “She’s going to be okay. And if she needs help along the way, we will all do everything in our power to help her. She has the resources.”

“Okay,” I said.

I believed him. I always believe and trust in my dad. This was one of those moments in life when I felt like an adult. He was talking straight with me. No sugar coating. His vulnerability was real. I believed he knew in his heart that my baby was going to be okay. If my dad believed it, then I believed it.

When the ambulance arrived, one of the responders was a girl I knew when I was younger, another guardian angel for Lucy. I watched as this girl from my youth assisted with packing my baby up on a stretcher. It’s amazing how people resurface in your life in different ways. She was so kind and professional and I felt reassured that Lucy was with someone I knew.

6pm

By the time Lucy was ready, everyone was already at CHOP waiting for us. Zach’s parents drove us down behind the ambulance. I could see through the windshield into the back of the ambulance. I was in a car following an ambulance with our baby inside. I cried to myself the whole way there, Zach’s hand clutched in mine. I turned a few times to look at him. We didn’t need to say anything out loud, our eyes spoke for us. Everyone kept telling me how strong I was being. Zach was the reason for that strength. Not sure what I would do without Zach. As a team, we have become an unstoppable force. The path to becoming parents had bumps in the road and now our first days as parents were turning out to be the most stressful of our lives. With the darkness I felt in my heart, I still felt an overwhelming positive feeling that we would get through it together.

We entered the hospital through the back entrance with the responders and Lucy. We got to Lucy’s room in the NICU. The team greeted us and before I knew it, Lucy was set up in her bed with the monitors going and a plan was in motion. My baby was where she needed to be and we had met incredible people along the way to get her there. Zach and I both felt a little relief.

The plan was to stop the seizure medicine and hook Lucy up to an EEG machine for an extended period with a camera on her so the neurologists could track her brainwaves along with viewing her movements.

After getting her set up, we went back out into the waiting room. Our visitors took up the entire room. We were surrounded by support and love. We sat down to talk with everyone. They offered us food and encouraged us to reenergize so we could be strong for Lucy. As we sat there, comforted with the love of our family, one of my brothers switched the channels on the TV. I looked up and there was an infomercial for I Love Lucy.

“Oh my God,” I said through my tears. “If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what it is. When do you ever see an infomercial for I Love Lucy?!”

It showed various clips from different episodes and we all laughed together. God was with us and he understood our pain. He knew we needed a moment of levity. He knew how much we loved Lucy.

Visiting hours came to an end and our extended family went home. Zach and I set ourselves up in the room they provided us. We had two single beds. We each sat down on our own bed. The room was small, but I felt so far away from him. All I wanted was to lay my head down next to his. For the first time all day, he sat with his head in his hands, he look defeated. He said, “I want to cry for her. But I’ve cried so much, I don’t know if I have anything left.”

I walked over and I hugged him. I wanted to lift him up after he had been holding me the whole day. Here we were experiencing the worst day of our lives, but somehow we each still had the strength to lift each other. That’s what love does. That’s what love is.

1-6.jpg

Lucky Lucy smiling through her ordeal! This photo was taken by Zach. I had heard a baby crying from our room and I asked Zach to check if it was Lucy. He came back with this photo and said, “That baby crying wasn’t Lucy. This is Lucy right now!”

Saturday-Monday

The weekend wore on and we continued to hear only good news about Lucy’s progress. Her vitals were fine, no seizures on record. With the help of my timekeeper, Zach, I pumped every 3 hours so my milk supply would be ready when Lucy was ready. He woke me through the night, he cleaned the pump machine, and bottled the milk. He was Lucy’s personal milk man. By Saturday evening, she was eating bottles of my milk. By Sunday, she was off the EEG machine. She was eating more. She had a glowing evaluation from the neurologist. By late Sunday night, they took her IV out. Everything was working out for Lucky Lucy.

1-8.jpg

The doctor said what happened to Lucy was hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). At some unknown point, there was a dip in her oxygen level affecting the blood flow to her brain. It could have been in utero, it could have been during delivery, they just don’t know. The MRI noted three infarcts, small localized areas of dead tissue resulting from failure of blood supply. The part of her brain that it affected was the frontal lobe. This particular region is not responsible for any major functions. In other cases when this happens, it can affect major functions and can cause lifelong debilitating issues. Lucy is seriously lucky.

Other regions of Lucy’s brain would be able to make up for what she lost. The doctor said Lucy exhibited mild symptoms and babies in her case turn out fine. The seizures she had were an affect of the event. He said typically in this scenario the child will exhibit seizures soon after the event but only for a couple days. She had the seizures Thursday and Friday. She exhibited no seizures from Friday night on. He reassured us that she would have little to no lasting affects. If she does have any deficits, they will likely be some learning issues that can be helped with early intervention. He instructed us to continue to monitor Lucy as she grows and to call if we ever notice an abnormality. He can’t predict the future. She may have affects later that we won’t be able to notice until the age of three or four, but as of now he is reassured that she will probably be fine. So, we continue on like normal parents, we will monitor our baby’s development. 

By Monday, Lucy was breastfeeding. The team came through again to give her the final evaluation. Monday evening, Lucy was cleared to go home.

1-9.jpg

Excited to be going home!

It’s been four weeks since she was born. It has been such a fun experience at home. Each day we see that she is growing and developing. Each night she is making her voice heard. She has a strong voice and a strong will, especially when we try to change her diaper or her outfit. We are so blessed to know this new type of love. She has not only brought Zach and I closer, but she has affected the lives of many. Since she was in the hospital and since being home, we have heard from various people about how many groups have prayed for her. Pretty sure the entire order of the Sisters of St. Joseph have prayed for her. Prayer groups in various states have her name on their list. Extended family and friends continue to text and call to check up on Lucy. Thank you to all those who have prayed and continue to pray. Thank you to all of those who have been our strength when we felt we couldn’t be strong. Thank you to my baby girl Lucy for being. 

Lucky Lucy Rose Ells has reminded us of the power of prayer and love and the importance of showing up when others need you most. She has been with us about a month, but has taught us a lifetime of lessons. She is a miracle. She is an inspiration. I know I am biased because I am her mom, but it’s really true. I don’t know why this had to happen to her, but I know there must be a deeper meaning. For some reason, we had to weather one more storm before our rainbow could come home. This child has touched the lives of many and I know she is destined to continue to do so.

1-7.jpg

Nobody, baby, but you and me

It’s been 10 weeks since I last wrote. I’ve had the urge to write but haven’t made myself sit down and type it out. It’s just after 6am on the morning that I am going to the hospital to be induced for labor. I just had a bowl of Coco Puffs. The next time I spend a morning in my house, I’ll have a baby here.

The doctors decided it’s best not to let me go past 40 weeks due to my history of high blood pressure. I am only going a few days before my due date, which they decided to bump back to October 27th, the original date we started with in the beginning. I am 39 weeks and a few days pregnant. How did I get here so fast?

People say the last few weeks often drag on. Not for me. I think the only part that dragged on was the beginning of the pregnancy. I didn’t feel so well for a few weeks and I think I was kind of a wimp about it all. I was super nervous about everything going well and didn’t focus on much else. Once the morning sickness passed and I felt reassured the pregnancy was a successful one, life went in fast forward.

Now, here I am. The nursery is finally ready. The car seat is installed in the car. The clothes, blankets, hats, and socks are all washed and neatly folded in their places. We have an abundance of diapers and wipes, which I am sure we will go through faster than we are expecting. Our hearts and our home are ready to welcome a baby.

I finished work last week so I would have a few days to chill out and get more things in order. Sunday night, my parents had my immediate family over for dinner as a final send off for Zach and I into parenthood. When I got home that night, I watched TV with Zach. Before I went upstairs to get changed, I hugged him. I began to cry and expressed that I was scared. Anytime anyone has asked me how I am, I have responded with a chipper, “I’m fine! Feeling super calm, actually.” While this is true, of course there has been slight trepidation lingering on. Zach reassured me that it would all be okay, no matter what. He’s definitely gotten very good at calming me down. One can try very hard to be strong in front of others, but occasionally you have to let it all out.

After he helped me settle down, I went upstairs alone to get changed. I sat in our room with my hands covering my belly, feeling the kicks and squirms of my little one.

“This is it,” I said. “We’re going to meet you soon.”

Pregnancy can feel lonely. I am not discounting the endless support of my husband and other family and friends. I have had people to count on the whole way. I’ve never felt more blessed. I mean lonely in the sense that this particular experience at this particular time was only happening inside my body. It’s like I felt when I had miscarriages. Women take on this task of completely altering our bodies, minds, and souls from the moment of conception. Yes, things change for men, but those tangible changes aren’t in full effect until the baby arrives home. It can feel isolating, like a lot of things women have to go through. It’s hard to describe to someone exactly how you are feeling when what’s happening inside of you is simply, well, indescribable. 

As I held my belly, I began to cry again. I haven’t cried much through this pregnancy, which surprises me, and most of it was happening in this evening. I did a heck of a lot of crying before it, that’s for sure.

As I cried, I smiled. How could I be so selfish? I haven’t been alone in this experience. As I felt my little one push back against my hand, I realized, I’ve had someone within me the whole way.

“It’s been me and you,” I said to my belly. “It’s been me and you the whole time. We’ve been in this together.”

This tiny human residing inside me has given me more strength and confidence than I have ever known. I have had various moments in my life when I have let fear of the unknown stunt me. A lot of of those times were last year when I had the two miscarriages. I don’t feel that fear anymore. I don’t have that self doubt. He or she has helped my heart grow and see the world more clearly than I had been seeing it. My eyes were cloudy, but I can see now. I can physically see the love within and the love that surrounds me. I can do this. We can do this, as a family. Me, Zach, and this brand new life we created together.

The time has now come to share this little one with the world. It’s time for the world to meet this strong, courageous little person I have come to know and love these last nine months. 

“We’re going to be okay,” I said to my baby. “We’re really going to be okay.”

IMG_8403.JPG

“You and Me” – Penny and The Quartets

 

Because of You

Only handful of weeks before we get to meet our precious little one!

 

IMG_8228.jpg

It was a Sunday morning when I found out about you.

Your dad was away for the weekend, so I was by myself.

I’m not sure what made me want to take the test, but I did. Maybe I just knew you were already there.

When I saw the two lines on the stick, I breathed a sigh of relief and excitement.

I had to go to your cousin’s christening that day. A full day with extended family and I couldn’t say a word about you. It was tough. All I could think about was you and how happy your father would be with the news. I was quiet that day, mulling over in my head all the possibilities of you.

Later that night, I picked up your dad and we went to our house. We were in the basement together when I told him about you. He wore that smile that I fell in love with when I first met him. He held me like I was the only person in the world. His excitement surged from his body to mine. I took a second test that night to ensure it was true. It was. Our lives were taking yet another turn.

There were two times during the year when our hearts were broken like we’d never experienced. We found ourselves tumbling along together trying to make sense of it all. Even though there were days when we didn’t feel strong enough to keep trying, we did anyway. We did because our love for each other and our dreams were stronger than the hurt. We overcame together. That love created you.

Because of the thought of you, we persevered. Because of the possibility of you, we kept our heads held high. You were our driving force.

Because of you, our hearts have been healed in a way we couldn’t imagine.

You are our light, our heart, our rainbow at the end of the storm.

29

I had grown to hate the number 29. To me, 29 reminded me of my crappy year. From the day I turned 29 things started to suck. I found out my blood pressure was kind of high so now I take blood pressure medicine. Then the whole pregnancy adventure began. It was a transformative year for my body and mind. Why were the events all taking place at the same time?! I yearned to be 28 again. 28 was a good year. 

When I was in the thick of my personal struggles, I associated the number 29 with anything that went wrong. It’s interesting how we can associate inanimate things with sad events. It could be a song, a movie, a picture, or in my case a number. When grieving, you give these triggers the power to transplant you back to the moment in time when you struggled. I associated the number 29 with my personal, physical failure. In the lowest of my lows, there was nothing that could change my mind. I hated 29.

Today I am 29 weeks pregnant. Today, I decided, I like the number 29 again.

I’ve made it through 29 of 40 weeks of pregnancy. 11 weeks or so until I deliver a baby into this world. A little living creature is going to come out of my body. It’s a miracle, kind of a freaky miracle, but a miracle nonetheless. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that fact, but that’s a blog post for a later time. In about 11 more weeks, I get to hold the little one who has begun to kick and squirm every day reminding me that he or she is there and getting ready to make their debut in just a few short months. 29 weeks. As I reflect on the past 29 weeks, I’m not even sure how I got to this point so fast. The year leading up to this felt like it lasted an eternity, but these 29 weeks have flown by in a flash.

As we travel through life, different triggers will bring us back to our defining moments. I don’t think this can be controlled. We can’t stop ourselves from thinking of these defining moments, whether good or bad. It’s human nature to occasionally dwell in the past and reflect on the why and how. The key to it is how we process and act on the feelings these triggers evoke. It goes hand in hand with how we handle the event itself. It’s yet another step in the process of comprehending the changes that happen in life. 

 

Gifts

It’s strange to me sometimes that when people die it is said we “lost them.” I think of the word lost in the context of misplacing items. People who pass on aren’t misplaced. We aren’t going on a search to find them. They left us for another world. Maybe it is said that way because we really don’t know where they went.  Religion teaches us they went somewhere else like heaven or something of that nature or they left their body only to begin life in a new one. So they really aren’t “lost,” they move on. They move on from us, from this world. I like to think they aren’t lost. They know where they are going, we just don’t know. It is impossible to grasp and sometimes impossible to accept. But, maybe it is supposed to be that way, so we can learn to trust and have stronger faith.

A couple months ago, a friend Zach went to school with passed away suddenly. Zach had known him since college and I had gotten to know him over the years since I have been with Zach. He was a guy Zach spoke to pretty much on a daily basis. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was genuinely a really kind human being who genuinely cared about other people. And now, he’s gone.

He was 30 years old. 30. In what kind of world is this tragedy fair? He was so young. He had so many plans ahead of him, just like the rest of us. He left behind parents, siblings, a fiancé, friends.

When we heard the news, I said to Zach, “This doesn’t make sense. We aren’t old enough to have a friend die.” We had a really hard time processing it at first and it’s still weird to try to comprehend. Just a friendly reminder from life that this stuff happens every day to people. Hits you when you least expect it. Life likes to pop up and put you in your place whenever the hell it wants.

Here we are in the midst of such happiness. New house, new baby on the way, and then we hear our friend died. Why are we so lucky to have good fortune? Why did this happen to him, his family, his soon to be wife? He didn’t deserve this. These are just a few questions that linger in times of tragedy. Questions I don’t think I’ll ever find the answers to.

This hit me differently than other losses I have experienced, one because I think it’s the first time a personal friend our age passed away, and because of my pregnancy journey. As I stood listening to his family speak at his service, I placed my left hand on my pregnant belly and clutched Zach’s hand with the other. I was at a service to honor a life that had moved on and inside of me a life was actively growing. The moment was a collision of life and death.

His mother spoke. She said we should think of his life as a gift. The way he lived with his whole heart and his kindness should act as an inspiration for us to continue. We were blessed for the time that we did have with him. His lasting gift to us is helping us maintain the ability to cherish each moment, each day.  As I held my hand over my growing gift in my belly, I cried. I cried for all the adventures of marriage and starting a family that our friend would never get to experience. I was amazed at how composed his mom was and how she was able to reflect in such an eloquent way. Her strength and faith was inspiring.

I want to try and live that more often, treating others and experiences as what they truly are, gifts. It’s hard to when you get caught up in life and your perception gets skewed. If we step back and reflect and really try to see reason, every experience can be perceived as a gift. I’ve been caught in dark places the last year and a half with the hardships I have encountered personally with my miscarriages, but hearing our friend’s mother speak inspired me to be stronger. Those experiences have given me the gift of having a greater respect for life, for my body, and the way my body knows what is right for itself.

The idea can be carried over into my workplace as well. A few patients I have come to know pretty well over the last few years have passed on recently. I get so accustomed to seeing certain people and then one day, just like our friend, they’re not there anymore. When I get caught up in the reality of death at work, I will remember to think of the gift in my belly. When I feel the kicks of my little one, it calms me. I will also try harder to remind myself of the special moments I shared with these patients and try to see my moments with them as gifts not only to myself, but also I hope my help was a gift to them. 

I remember Zach telling me that when our friend heard about us having a baby he was so excited and he looked forward to meeting our little one. We’ll be sure to tell our baby all about the gift of his friendship and the life long gifts he left with us in his passing….the gifts of love, friendship, and cherishing life.

Trust the Process

The end of this month would have been the due date of my second pregnancy. I’m unsure of what the exact date was, but I know it was the end of April. I said to Zach the other day, “It’s crazy all of the stuff that has happened to us and here we are right now in this moment. It seemed as though during some of those times I felt like I wasn’t going to get through it. Time seemed to stand still. How did we do this?”

A recap of Kate and Zach’s year and a half:

-I got pregnant
-We found a house we liked
-I had a miscarriage
-We decided to buy the house we liked
-We went through a nine-month process to buy the house
-I had another miscarriage within the nine months of trying to buy our house
-We moved out of our apartment and into my parents’ house and had to put most of our belongings in storage
-We FINALLY officially bought the house and decided to do some renovations before moving in which we thought would only be a few months
-We are still currently residing on my parents’ third floor awaiting a final move in date

Our plans didn’t work out as we had hoped. If they did, we would have a baby, the house renovations would have been done months ago, and I’d be writing this blog post from our office on our second floor rather than my parents’ living room.

I think the house ordeal helped keep mine and Zach’s minds off of the pregnancy losses. But often times it added more stress to my already clouded perception of life. These grown up experiences were making it hard to keep the faith and trust the process.

In early February, I decided to bring some clarity to my cloudy outlook on pregnancy and have some labs done. Noticing that I hadn’t been myself for a while, my dad stepped in and advised that in situations like these, the not knowing what the problem is can sometimes make it all worse. He said even when talking to his sick patients, they seem to be more at peace when they know answers. He said I had resources to investigate what’s going on and I should use them. After begrudgingly admitting to myself that he was right, I went to the doctor with Zach and we discussed my options. The doctor suggested I get tested for common blood clotting disorders (which can cause miscarriage) and also get my thyroid tested. I thought the plan sounded good. I was convinced something would come back weird and it would be something we could fix and we could move on.

Everything came back normal. Zach was encouraged, and I felt, well, I felt terrible. Seeing NORMAL blood results is supposed to be a good thing, but in this case it made me even more frustrated. I still had NO answers. The doctor seemed positive I would be okay and suggested we keep trying. She said if I was still having trouble or had another loss by August, I should seek counsel from a fertility doctor. I left the office feeling indifferent. I passed all the blood tests, my overall health was fine, what else could I do but move on and hope for the best.

About three weeks after my visit with the doctor, Zach was away for the weekend and I was at home. I had a lot of time with my own thoughts. I thought about everything that we had been going through together. I thought that I didn’t even care anymore. Maybe if I just gave up, something good would happen. Early Sunday morning I woke up and had a strange thought. It was about the time in my cycle when I could take a pregnancy test. I thought maybe I should wait until Zach got home, but I was convinced it would be negative. No harm in just taking one.

Two lines appeared. Positive!

After sitting on the floor crying, I calmed myself down and went back to bed. Later that morning, I went to my nephew Michael’s christening with my immediate and extended family. All through the day, I had this positive test on my mind. Was it true? Was I pregnant again? It could be a false positive. It could all go away in just two weeks. My mind was racing with every thought possible and I couldn’t say a word to anyone. I waited until Zach arrived home later that night. He had been helping move some things from his grandparents’ house, so we went to our house to drop off stuff they had given us.

We were standing in the basement of our home when I showed him the picture of the positive test. A mix of excitement and fear flowed from my eyes. Zach wore the smile. I’ve written about this smile before. The smile he wears proudly anytime we hit a new life milestone together. With each pregnancy, he’s given me that smile. Knowing that this 3rd time made him just as happy as the first two calmed me. Even though my body had tricked us twice, Zach was just as excited, as if this were our first time. We embraced and I cried harder. I cried for what my body had been through, I cried for the amazing support Zach had given me through it all. I cried, hoping this third time would be the charm for us.

I took another test later that night: positive. I was very early on, only 4 weeks. Knowing what could go wrong, we proceeded with caution. We told my parents and his and kept to it to ourselves for another week or so before we told our siblings.

The day after I found out, I called the doctor immediately. I wanted to know what I had to do considering my history. They measured my HCG and progesterone levels. After two long days, I got a call from the nurse practitioner. According to her, my levels were beautiful. This brought some comfort to me, but knowing I had never made it past week five or six, kept my excitement contained. The next Tuesday, I woke up and I said to Zach, “I feel different. I’m really afraid.”

I was so convinced that whole day that I was going to miscarry. I couldn’t fully explain it, but I didn’t feel right. I felt like my body was changing again, but maybe it was all in my head. Taking matters into my own hands, I had my dad order labs on me and he drew my blood at the office. My HCG levels were fine, but I noticed my progesterone level had dropped. The Progesterone hormone causes the uterine lining to thicken and helps to provide a safe environment for the fertilized egg to grow. Could this have been the cause of my first two losses? Did I catch the problem? I had heard of people taking progesterone supplements early in pregnancy to maintain the levels, so I called the doctor. The nurse explained that their practice found there was no hard evidence that taking progesterone could “save a pregnancy” and they didn’t offer it because they didn’t want to give people false hope. But, she said there was no harm in taking it and if I felt it could help, she would prescribe it to me. I began taking it that night.

When I was six weeks, I went to the doctor for an ultrasound to make sure there was something growing. I laid on the exam table half expecting an empty womb. When we looked at the screen we saw a tiny little flicker, a heart beat. Baby Ells was growing.

I’m just about fourteen weeks now. Baby Ells is due November 1st. Who knows why it worked this time. Could it be the extra help from the progesterone pills I was taking? I don’t know. Perhaps, this was just meant to be. This little one is supposed to be our rainbow baby.

I’ve gone through all the first trimester symptoms: nausea, morning sickness, and crazy fatigue. I’ve never been more excited to feel so out of sorts. My body is changing each day and so is my heart. While I still harbor some fears, my heart is returning to a familiar place where it once was. A place filled with excitement and hope. Together with Zach and baby Ells, I will continue to keep the faith and trust the process.

P.S. Go Sixers!

unnamed-1.jpg

Kate vs Zach: A Brief Sports History

In May of 2012, the Philadelphia 76ers played the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. The Sixers took them to Game 7, but unfortunately Boston was victorious. Zach and I had only been dating for about six months at that point. Our teams had not played each other in a serious game before that. During the series, a side of me came out that I didn’t know I had. I became defensive of my team and my city.

I’ve always been a sports fan. I typically have a cynical attitude towards my teams and can often be found calling them a bunch of bums when they’re not playing well, which has been often in my sports history. Growing up, I was primarily around people from Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. Even in college, a lot of the kids were from nearby, or just a few hours away at the most. A lot of my close friends weren’t very big sports fans, so I rarely found myself in a position where I had to defend my teams or my city.

And then I met Zachary Ells.

Zachary Ells, this strange creature from Massachusetts. Zachary Ells, a Boston sports fan. I had been to the the city of Boston once in my life. I never knew anyone close to me from there or anyone who rooted for Boston teams. I went from not knowing anyone who rooted for Boston to meeting and falling in love with a minorly obsessive Boston sports fan. What a life altering change.

I was thrown into Zach’s dedication to his teams, particularly the Patriots, early on. We met in November, and the Patriots played in the super bowl agains the New York Giants in February. Since the Eagles rarely made it to the Super Bowl when I was growing up (just once in 2004 against the damn Patriots), I thought of the Super Bowl as a social event. I watched for the commercials and enjoyed the Super Bowl cuisine my mom would provide.

I watched the Super Bowl of 2012 with Zach at his apartment. I quickly learned it was a serious event. It was me, Zach, and a few of my girl friends. None of his guy friends could make it. Poor Zach. His beloved Brady bunch failed to conquer the New York Giants. They lost 21-17. I remember staying quiet through most of the game as Zach sat on the edge of his seat. He didn’t eat much and I couldn’t stop eating all the snacks. I had heard from others that Boston fans were known for being loud, obnoxious, and foul mouthed. I had concerns going in to the game, but as we watched, I was happy to see Zach wasn’t any of that. He was mostly pensive and quiet. A few days after the game we didn’t see one another and hardly spoke. I remember him texting me saying he appreciated that I left him alone because he was upset over the loss. I passed my first test dating an avid Boston sports fan.

Fast forward a few years. Phillies and Red Sox had played each other a few times, Celtics and Sixers were once again matched up in regular season games. Years of smack talk from me trashing Zach’s teams, only to have my teams lose to his. A lot of me yelling saying they’re cheaters and it’s not fair. I was embracing my true Philadelphia attitude that there was no reason to reveal before knowing him. Who knew dating a boy from Boston would strengthen my ties with my own city.

540579_3425538885450_499730860_n.jpg      522734_4755053882494_387681930_n.jpg

984152_10202638435750291_5559885775859173520_n.jpg

When we began planning our wedding in 2015, I looked up the Patriots schedule to see who they would be playing the Sunday after our Friday wedding. I had learned early on to begin checking sports teams’ schedules ahead of time so I could plan events accordingly. I remember thinking, it’d be so funny if they played the Eagles. 

Omg, they were playing the Eagles. I can remember Zach acting confident insisting that the Pats would win because the Eagles weren’t a very good team that year. I laughed along with him saying he was probably right. We watched the game at our apartment with two of his friends from Boston. The Eagles beat the Patriots 35-28. I laughed through the whole game, not believing that my team was beating my new husband’s team the weekend of our wedding. That is hilarious. The last time they had played each other in a regular season game was November 27th 2011. That was only a couple weeks after I met Zach and the Pats beat the Eagles. I honestly only just learned that because I googled Eagles vs Pats history. I had no idea they have played each other 14 times since 1973 (including this year’s Super Bowl). Eagles are in the lead with 8 wins. That win in 2015 was the first win against the Patriots since 1999.

We all know what I am leading up to, right?

14364766_10207701503003808_6623143719901838229_n.jpg

Sunday, January 28th, Zach and I watched the Patriots just barely beat the Jaguars 20-24. After that game, we witnessed the Eagles destroy the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. For the first time in 13 years, the Philadelphia Eagles were going to the Super Bowl and they were going to play the New England Patriots! We were getting our revenge game and this time I was married to the enemy.

Zach and I had been dreaming of this game. We had joked about it because, for years, it was a joke. The Eagles had their ups and downs and the Patriots were, I hate to say it, really good. However, this Eagles season was miraculous. Carson Wentz and the whole squad were unreal. Zach had even admitted that the team looked really good and the Super Bowl talk around the city wasn’t that far fetched. Was Philadelphia actually developing a positive attitude towards their football team?

Then in a game against the Rams, our hero Wentz down. In typical fashion, I, along with the rest of the city, resorted to resentment and anger. This wasn’t fair! We were doing so well. Part of me gave up and I came to terms with the fact that this, once again, wasn’t our year. I resorted to yelling that the NFL was rigged against us and the Patriots were cheaters.

But then, an act of God happened. St. Nick stepped in and played the best games of his life. He guided the team on the remainder of their journey to Super Bowl 52. God bless St. Nick.

foles.jpg

Sunday, February 4th, was a day that will not only go down in infamy for the city of Philadelphia, but also for my marriage. About an hour before the game started, I challenged Zach to a game of air hockey. I had said if I won, then the Eagles were going to win the Super Bowl. It was an intense back and forth game, an offensive shoot out. He fought hard, but I was victorious. I knew then, we were going to win the Super Bowl. 

27460009_10211730024834336_8091378235994981202_n
Game day

As soon as the game began, I tried to contain my excitement with each passing touchdown, knowing that my husband, his sister, and her husband were internally weeping on the sofa next to me each time the Eagles scored. It’s difficult to harness the emotions when you’re on the Eagles roller coaster. How does a woman act when she has such love for her husband and wants to support her husband’s interests but at the same time wants her team to crush the team he holds so dear? I tried to remain even keeled but it was impossible. The game was incredible. It was a good old fashioned offensive shoot out. It’s listed as the 2nd best Super Bowl in NFL history. Second to the Patriots/Falcons Super Bowl that went into over time.

I was excited, I was nervous, I was eating all the snacks. Zach on the other hand didn’t eat a thing until the game was over. Evidently, I am the one who eats their feelings in the relationship. I was yelling at the TV, every few plays I denounced them and said we were going to lose. I always wondered how I’d react to an Eagles/Pats Super Bowl while being married to a Pats fan. I should have figured I’d react like a crazy person. It was a lot of fun and while I do feel sorry for my husband and his family, I am overjoyed for my fellow Philadelphia fans. I never imagined sports could evoke so many conflicting emotions in my personal relationships. It was a great and much needed win. The Pats fans in attendance were gracious in their loss. Zach held up his end of our bet and sang part of the Eagles fight song while wearing an Eagles hat on video and I posted it online.

He watched some highlights with me and listened to me rehash all the amazing plays made by my team, particularly the Philly Special. After all the years of seeing his team win or at least make it to the Super Bowl, I finally got to see mine make it and win.

Amongst all this Super Bowl glory, I must take time to make a confession. I am not a perfect person. I wore a Patriots jersey during their championship game against the Jaguars. Yes, I did it. There was photographic proof on SnapChat but thankfully it disappeared. It’s also not the first time I did it and I apologize. It was a jersey Zach had given me for my 26th birthday. My nephew said to me, “What are you pretending you’re from Boston or something?” My niece looked at me with a puzzled face, “Why are you wearing that? It’s the wrong color.” Another nephew shouted at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU ARE FROM PHILADELPHIA!” I tried to explain to them, I felt like I had to support my husband. BUT, let the record show, when it mattered, I wore my Eagles jersey during their championship game AND I of course wore my Eagles jersey and extensive Eagles accessories during the Super Bowl. I felt in this season of Lent, I needed to come clean to get my discretion off my conscience. #TheThingsYouDoForLove

I attended the Eagles Parade on February 8th. The surge of excitement downtown was electric. There were people of all ages and backgrounds gathered together in support of a team that gave them something they were yearning for for decades. In a time when our country and politics are in a state of divisiveness and unrest, it’s good to see hundreds of thousands of people come together (relatively) peacefully in celebration.

Super Bowl 52 was a victory for the city of Philadelphia and a victory for mine and Zach’s marriage. Despite the fact that our teams faced off in the ultimate NFL game, we came out of it still married, with only a few ego bruises on Zach’s end. I look forward to what lies ahead in the coming years in the sports rivalry of our relationship. Perhaps a Phillies/RedSox World Series?

An Unexpected Year

January 19th marked one year. One year since that wretched day when Zach and I entered the doctor’s office thinking we were going to see a picture of our baby and we left defeated with the knowledge that my body had betrayed us.

The image of an empty womb still haunts me. Zach and I will never forget it. How can we? It was tramautizing. I was so completely confused. I was tired, I was throwing up, my boobs hurt, I had no period. All the signs pointed to a baby. Why was there nothing in there?? I had never heard of such a thing to happen to a person. I had heard of miscarriage, but what the hell kind of miscarriage was this?!

Being a year away from the first miscarriage and 5 months from the 2nd one, I’d like to say I have a whole new understanding on life and I have it all completely figured out and I believe 100% it’s going to be sunshine and rainbows from now on, but I don’t.

I’m enlightened, yes. I appreciate life and time and what I have more than ever. I have joined a new world that I never thought I’d be a part of and I think I have gracefully embraced my experiences and tried to work through them in a positive manner, with the occasional complete ugly cry breakdown. I have had two experiences in something that is not talked about often and I have mustered the courage to splatter my opinion and feelings about it all over social media. I seem like I am doing the right things and healing in the right way. I’m trying to be proactive.

But, I’m still sad. I still cry. I still have doubts.

And I think no matter how far removed from these experiences I become, these feelings of sadness and doubt will still linger. I’m going to have two empty places in my heart forever, no matter what else I fill it with. I have to keep reminding myself that this is part of my story now. It happened. I was told it probably won’t happen again and then it did. And hey, I survived it. I’m still alive. 

But am I going to be cautiously optimistic forever? Am I ever again going to feel free to be excited over something right away, without thinking of the downsides first? I guess I won’t know until I have that first successful pregnancy. I’ve read that some women who have had miscarriages don’t feel completely better until they experience a successful pregnancy. Maybe I am one of those people. Maybe it’ll all make sense when I have my first baby and I am holding a new life in my arms. Until then, I am choosing to be proactive rather than feel sorry for myself.

I have spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself over the year. I have been the only attendee at my pity party and I don’t want to be the person who tries to keep the party going when it should have ended hours ago. Life is moving on, whether I am ready for it or not.

Like I said before, my new year’s resolution is to live in the now and focus on what is in front of me. I’m not going to forget what has happened, but I am going to learn from it rather than allow it to keep dragging me down. This is hard. I can’t sugarcoat it. This shit is downright difficult (sorry I cursed, Mom). So far I am accomplishing this goal, unlike my other new year’s resolution of working out on a regular basis. I have a very strong, long relationship with Oreos that I just can’t seem to end. They comfort me more at the end of a long day than the treadmill does.

I guess one of the biggest lessons I have learned over the year is how to live a happy life while being sad. I’ve learned how to get excited, enjoy life, interact with family and friends, all while trying to riddle out these things that have happened to me. I’ve seen many around me have babies and get pregnant. I’ve learned not to project my problems on to them, but instead bask in their happiness. I ask them what it’s like and how they’re feeling. If anything, by the time I am blessed with being pregnant, I’ll be even more prepared because of all of the knowledgeable women I know. Some days I am not very good at it.

Some days I’d rather sit at home and wallow than go out with friends or hang out with my family. That has happened more often than not over this past year. Some days, though, I feel like my old self and I’m energetic and ready to take on whatever life has for me. I think it’s all about finding a balance with these insane feelings swimming around in my head and my heart. I don’t want to be that sad sap, but it’s okay to be that side of myself on occasion. I’m human and I don’t know the answers to it all. I need to admit when I am lost and need help, which I have trouble doing. I’d rather figure things out on my own, but in this day and age with all the advancements in everything, there’s no reason to go through things alone. I am going to the doctor, which I have been hesitant to do. I need to find out more information to settle my mind and talk it out with someone who knows more than me. Even though I think I know it all from reading articles on Google. It’s hard taking that step to admit that I’m scared and unsure and I need to know if I am doing the right things. Nobody likes to admit when they feel defeated, especially a girl who has grown up with four brothers. I have this notion in my head that I have to be strong and independent. But everybody needs help at some point and that’s okay.

This year has been one that I never expected. To say I am grateful for it sounds bizarre, but in a way I am grateful. I am grateful God, or whatever higher power is up there, has chosen for me to experience a struggle. I am grateful that I found a person like Zach to go through this struggle with me. Together we have made a good team tackling this. Oh God, “team tackling this.” Did I just use football terminology to describe my relationship with Zach? Must be the thoughts of the Eagles vs Pats Super Bowl. There’s another struggle God has ‘blessed’ us with. Not sure I am grateful for that one. Why couldn’t the Pats have lost that playoff game? They played terribly. They have had too many Super Bowl appearances, they need to go away.

Sports rivalries aside, I’m surprised I’ve survived this year with a positive attitude towards life still intact. I’m stronger than I thought. It sucks that we have to go through crappy stuff to find out what kind of  person we are, but that’s life. You gotta roll with the unexpected.

Until next time, GO EAGLES.

 

 

Staying Present

I’ve always loved Christmas. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my Christmas list. I can remember paging through toy catalogues at the breakfast room table documenting what I wanted. I would also put together a list of what I wanted to buy for my family. My grade school often had a Santa’s workshop set up each year and we could buy trinkets for our parents and siblings. Willow Grove mall was also a go to spot for holiday shopping. I was and still am a huge fan of Christmas.

At my parents house each year, the tree is set up in the room at the foot of the front steps, the library. The library has shelves of books of course and some furniture. It’s like an extra living room. At Christmas time, the library and the surrounding rooms become a Christmas wonderland.

Christmas Eve we would go to mass together. After mass, we would have pizza for dinner and make chocolate chip cookies.“Santa and the elves” would set to work after we all went to sleep. My aunt Clare and my mom’s friend Kathy would often stay over night on Christmas Eve and help with setting up. My aunt Clare would stay with me in my room. I can remember anxiously waiting for her to come up after helping my parents. “Oh my God, wait till you see what’s down there,” she would say. I would lie there, unable to sleep, imagining what was down there.

On Christmas morning, we would wake up together and wait at the top of the stairs until my parents were ready. My mom would ring a set of bells and shout, “Good bye, Santa. Thank you! Okay, everyone. Come down!”

The five of us would come down the stairs to a room full of gifts. Each of us had our own pile. The stereo played Christmas music, the train set raced around the foot of the tree. My dad had a video camera in hand and my mom greeted each of us with a Christmas morning hug. We would sit around and open our gifts and exchange gifts that we bought for our parents and for each other. The remainder of the day would be spent playing with our new toys and electronics as my parents prepared Christmas dinner. It was magical.

Even as a teenager, I couldn’t contain that familiar Christmas spirit. Over time, it became less about the gifts and more about the time spent with my family. I relished it. Now that we are all married and have started/are starting our own families, the chain of events has been altered. The past couple years we haven’t all been together for Christmas, but the magic of the Sprandio Christmas still surges on. I attribute this Christmas magic to my parents. They have this unique ability to create a welcoming, happy environment in their home any time of year. But at Christmas, it’s extra special. They are the heart of all of this. Their ability to share their generous hearts with those they love is so natural for them. It’s admired by anyone who encounters it. They have an ability to make you feel like a kid again on Christmas. They inspire fun and wonder. They have instilled this magical excitement in all of us and we have shared it with our new families.

This year on Christmas morning it was me, Zach, Shane, and Nina at my parents house. We spent Christmas Eve setting up for the kids. John, Grace, Leo, Sadie, Joseph, Jane, and Michael all had their own piles. As I helped assemble the gifts, I thought about how I was once a little one in this house trying to sleep while my gifts magically appeared in my pile. Now I’m helping prepare the Christmas magic for my nieces and nephews. I felt privileged to be in the position to create a happy environment for them.

The kids came over later in the day and opened their gifts. It was so sweet watching all of them investigate their new treasures. I recognized the wonder and excitement that had filled that room for over twenty-five years. Seeing their happiness inspired me, but I also felt a tinge of jealousy. I yearned to feel the way they did. I no longer had that innocence and I have struggled to find it and get in the spirit this year. This time last year, Christmas 2016, I was dreaming of what Christmas 2017 would be. It would be my baby’s first Christmas. I would have a little one to share in the fun with cousins. Instead, two miscarriages later, it was me standing in the corner watching my nieces and nephews with a jealous heart. I felt the all too familiar urge to cry, so I left the room and went upstairs to gather myself. I cried for the little one who could have been and for the pregnant belly I could have had at this time, I cried for Zach, I cried for the disappointment in the way I was feeling.

Zach came looking for me. He found me upstairs and asked what was wrong. I tried to explain it to him using too many words when in reality it was simple. I was sad. I was sad on Christmas and I was mad at myself for acting that way. I thought of everyone downstairs, my brothers, the kids, my parents, my aunts. I thought of how they would be disappointed in me if they knew I was upstairs crying. After talking it through with Zach, I rejoined the family downstairs. A few more times throughout the evening I had to step away to contain my emotions.

This holiday season has been a lot about reflection for me. As much as I think I have worked through a lot the last few months, I am still having trouble owning my feelings. I am still thinking of them as a burden. I am still trying to fight them rather than embrace them. Christmas Day was a reminder of this. I was surrounded by happiness, joy, and innocence. I allowed myself to get caught up in what COULD have been rather than focusing on what WAS. That’s not what the season is about. That’s not what I am about.

As this new year approaches, one of my new year’s resolutions that I am determined to keep, is to focus more on the now. I need to get my head out of the rut that it’s in and focus on what I have in front of me, such as my loving husband, my nieces and nephews, who I am so blessed to be able to see whenever I want pretty much. I was chatting with a friend and she said to me she knows it must be hard for me, but she said think about all the special moments you have with your nieces and nephews. You get to spend a lot of time with them right now because you are available and some of them are at ages that they can start to appreciate the fun memories. I didn’t think of it that way. I appreciated her input and will make it part of my thought process now. I get to be available to these sweet little ones. Maybe that’s what I am supposed to do right now. I need to take advantage of this time I have before the plans of having my own family fall into place. I need to rediscover my faith that there is a reason for everything. And when the time is right, I’ll be more ready.

Focusing on the now is easier said than done, but I think it is part of this journey that I am on. I am struggling with this step, but putting in writing will make more accountable for it.

For those of you who have had experience any kind off loss recently, especially a miscarriage or a child, know that I am praying for you. Keep your head up. The holidays are difficult when you’re feeling low, but be sure to stay in the NOW. Each day is a new day to lift yourself up and feel a little better. What happened has happened, continue to be strong and continue on your personal journey.

God bless, happy holidays. I wish much health and happiness in the new year.

Rut

One of my favorite bands is The Killers. Their new album Wonderful Wonderful was released a few days before my birthday this year. I preordered the album, got the fan club t-shirt, and the early access code, the whole shebang.

It’s been 13 years since I started listening to the Killers. They have been 13 formidable years. So many songs over the years that I have played on repeat while doing homework, rocked out to in my room, or in the car while driving. Songs that meant something to me in times when I wanted to celebrate or times when I felt lost or upset. The timing of the release of this album was ideal. I downloaded it September 22nd, a month after my second miscarriage, eight days before my 30th birthday. I listened to it on repeat maybe three times the day I got it.

One song that resonated with me most is entitled Rut. With the first listen, I cried.

“Don’t give up on me. Cause’ I’m just in a Rut.”

I’ve been in a rut, stuck in my head and heart trying to riddle out why this crap had to happen to me this past year. I encountered changes in my life and body that I had never faced before. Through the year, I have felt the need to apologize to those closest to me for not being myself and for being so consumed in my own pity.

“Don’t give up on me.”

I know my loved ones would never give up on me, but when you’re stuck in your own grief it feels like you’re a burden to others and you create an irrational fear that they’ll give up on you. At least that’s how the process has gone for me.

“I’ve done my best defending, but the punches are starting to land. I’m sliding into something you won’t understand.”

There are so many ups and downs with this process. You can feel great for a while, feel like you’ve been strong and defended yourself against sadness. Then some days the sadness hits you and there’s no energy to fight back. You get knocked out and it takes time to heal and rejoin the fight. As hard as I have tried to make others understand what it is I am feeling, it’s difficult. This is such a personal, internal experience that it is hard to convey. Only those who have experienced it can understand it best. But even then, it’s still a unique personal experience to your body. Every person’s body is different and reacts differently.

“I keep climbing but the walls keep stacking up.”

I feel like this line is applicable to the 2nd miscarriage I had. I was just becoming okay with what happened the first time and then God decided I needed another lesson. Are ya kidding me? How am I supposed to overcome this if it keeps happening?

I’ve made the decision again and again to keep climbing.

“So I’m handing you a memory
I hope you understand.
That steadily reminds you of who I really am.”

I’ve said before, I try not to let this bad experience define me, although at times it can. Even though I let the fear and disappointment get the best of me, this “sad sap” personality that surfaces isn’t who I really am. And I know that. But this feeling of needing to remind others of that bubbles up inside. I feel like I have to tell my husband and my family, hey, I’m sorry, I’m feeling defeated, but this isn’t who I am. I feel the need to remind them, I won’t let my happy personality slip away. I know I can overcome this. It’s really a strange journey this whole ordeal has taken me on. I am constantly thinking, am I processing this correctly? Is it taking me too long to understand what happened to me?

As good as it feels to write this out, I do feel redundant. I want to reach outside of myself and write about different topics, but there’s something inside me that urges me to keep writing about this. My selfish hope in writing these blogs is to write myself out of this rut. Thanks for bearing with me as I continue to overcome these hurdles.