Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Watching Him Become Daddy

We were 19. You wore your LSU hat backwards, drove a shiny red truck you kept in perfect condition, and loved to drive me crazy. There was no fairy tale beginning for us. It was actually pretty ridiculous. We spent months saying we were "talking" (what does that even mean??) and then 3 days later we weren't. And this went on for months. You weren't ready for a relationship, I didn't know what I was ready for. All I know is, even though this is pretty cheesy, the first time I met you, my soul knew. It recognized you. And in the blink of an eye, I had forgotten about every rotten boy that broke my heart, led me on, or tried to use me. Gone. I had no problem diving right into playing mind games with you, on and off, kisses and cuddles and awkward hugs when we were supposed to be just friends, being tipsy at a party and you would come sit next to me and I would be praying you'd put your arm around me or hold my hand or SOMETHING. Going to one of the parties at your apartment and somehow you'd end up right next to me, wearing that backwards hat, drinking a beer, when you'd look down at me and say "Sup". Seriously, you must have known you were just killing me because you'd give me this grin and those dimples and in the blink of an eye you'd be across the room joking with your friends. But when I would search the room for you later, among 50 drunk college kids, it seemed like every time you'd be looking for me too, and we would kind of half smile from across the room. Watching you play xbox with your roommate until his girlfriend and I threatened to destroy it. Tiger Woods golf and Madden was almost the death of you both. I watched you make some questionable decisions and I watched myself make some incredibly stupid decisions. I tried to pretend it didn't bother me when you talked to other girls, when really it made me crazy jealous. I actually cracked up a few days later when you confronted me about talking to another guy. You were jealous too. This wasn't love yet. I don't know what it was other than two kids who met and knew, but just weren't ready. Until one day, a few months after one of our fabulous pseudo "break ups" (because how do you break up with someone you aren't really "with"?) you looked at me and said you wanted to talk to me (every girl knows what that means- its either really good or really bad). And after discussing the whole thing with my mom (I really needed some solid advice), I decided why not give this another chance? It was fun and crazy and I was crazy about him. And March 24, 2004, after 6 month of what-are-we, I-need-to-focus-on-school, I-like-you, we're-just-friends-but-you-kissed-me, we finally said it. We are together. Not like high school together, we were done dating other people and playing and all that. We spent the summer with the windows down in that red truck, my feet hanging out of the window, riding down River road, blaring classic rock, even though I hated it, (I learned to love it because you did), and sometimes classic country- because who doesn't love George Jones (you learned to love it because I did), we laid blankets on the levee, went camping with our friends, and we figured out pretty quickly that going to parties now were pointless, because we'd always end up in a corner talking to each other. We were so young. So so young. Relationships are tricky and scary and exhausting at that age any age. But we did it. We sailed through going to school and living an hour apart when I started nursing school, we never questioned whether we could do long distance. Even when you looked into internships in Texas. None of it mattered. We were in it for the long haul, and distance wasn't an issue for us.

Dating was easy, being engaged was easy. Full of romantic dates and too much wine and pasta and desserts(and where did this extra 25 lbs come from??). Getting married was something I had dreamed about, like most other girls, since I was a little girl. Babies and houses and vacations filled my head. But who knew its the hard times that really make us? The fairy tale moments, the times that make our hearts flutter, those are great. But how we handle those hard times end up being the bones of a marriage. Holding each other's hands and holding each other up and plowing through something so awful you never imagined would actually happen to you? Those are the times that change us.

Fast forward 12 years, and here we are. Married for (almost) 9 years, 3 precious little girls and another on the way (yes another girl- pregnancy post coming soon!). We have moved all over the place. We have both changed. We've grown up- together. No longer 19 and tipsy, flirting with each other at a party, now we spend our Friday nights sprawled across the couch wrapped in a blanket, you drinking a glass wine totally exhausted from working all week, and I'm dosing off while leaning on your shoulder, and there are little ones and a dog draped all over us and the rest of the couch. We talk about life and jobs and moving and money, and how was everyone's day, when out of the blue one of the girls hops up and wraps her little arms around your neck. She loves you so much that you can see it on her face. All three of them do. You're Prince Charming. You are it for them. And I pray every night that one day each of our girls finds a husband just like you.

The boy I fell in love with is now the man that has helped me recover after three births and two miscarriages. The man who grins ear to ear every time I tell him we're having another baby, and held my hand as we walked into the ER the night we lost our baby last fall. The night I was hemorrhaging and he helped me to the bathroom in the hospital, and even though I've never felt more embarrassed in my life as I was covered in blood, he never flinched, just held my hand and helped me into the shower. And then he held my hand and was terrified right there with me when we found out a year later that there was another on the way. The man who has seen me give birth, and throw up and cry and breastfeed. The man who has held my hand and rubbed my back and went through every contraction with me. He's cut umbilical cords and held all three of our babies seconds after they were born. He walked me through the depression that felt like it lasted forever after we had Maggie. I was so scared he would think I was absolutely crazy when I told him how I felt and about the awful battle raging in my mind, while cradling our first baby in my arms. He just looked at me, exhausted with circles under my eyes, confused, and sad, and said "I would never think you are crazy. I love you more than anything in the world and we will get through this together." And we did. And what a nightmare it was to see you walk in the door after being laid off, only to watch in absolute amazement after you landed another job less than a month later. Who knew we would go through so much together in just 9 years? And who knows what we have in store for us?

It feels like just a second ago I was staring up at those big brown eyes and dimples, with that backwards white LSU hat, and then I blinked, and now you're a daddy of 3, and we're laying there on the couch and you've got your hand on my belly feeling another one of your babies move. You make pancakes on the weekend and we dance barefoot in the kitchen. Our marriage isn't perfect, and you're not perfect and I'm far from perfect and we still annoy each other sometimes but we try. Every day we try. We still find ourselves in the corner at a party talking to each other. We still have nights, although now few and far between, when we drink entirely too much and laugh entirely too much and feel like we're in college again and remember very clearly the next morning that we're not. Sometimes money is great, and sometimes it would be great to have more. But what a blessed life we live, even with all of the hard times. And I feel so blessed to have watched you go from the wild college boy I fell in love with to my husband and the daddy of our babies. And I couldn't adore you more.

Friday, August 28, 2015

These Tired Eyes

I know you can see them. Sleepy, heavy, sometimes bloodshot. I look in the mirror and see the dark circles that surround them. Sure, some good under eye cream might help a little, but that's not what I'm talking about. I know you see the exhaustion on my face because I see it too. I wear makeup to cover what I can, and what's left, well... that's motherhood. My eyes tell the story of this phase of my life. They tell the events of the night before, when a potty trained 5 year old and a potty trained 2 (almost 3) year old wet the bed in the same night, hours apart. They tell how I changed two separate sets of sheets at 2:30 and 4:30 in the morning. How I help sleepy bodies into clean jammies and tuck them back into their beds. How I crept back to my own warm and cozy spot, trying not to wake my husband (who gets up at 5:00 for work) only to lay there for what seems like hours. Wide. Awake. I lay in bed, thinking of my beautiful children. Thinking of my husband that I adore, that I am so very thankful for. I think about money, and bills, and what to make for dinner tomorrow tonight. And after laying perfectly still for what feels like days, I start saying Hail Mary's and beg for sleep to come. I doze off, only to hear the creak of my door and see the hallway light spill into my room, with a little silhouette in the doorway. "Mommy, I had an accident." And then the cycle begins again.

Sometimes these tired eyes tell a different story. They tell the story of a Mama bear who loves her babies so fiercely that mere life changes evolve into stress. Stress that creeps across my face and settles under my eyes. I hear people say constantly "time slow down!" I say it sometimes too, because the days are long, but the years are short. And I feel like I was pregnant with Maggie just yesterday. But today? Today my sweet girl turns seven. SEVEN. And with that comes so many emotions. Excitement, happiness, and fear. So much fear. Field trips and new friends and slumber parties. And all I want to do is protect her. So many stories of sick sick people in this world, and its all I can do to keep myself from crying when I read the horrors that so many children have had happen to them. I want to protect my girls from pain, from hurt, from dangerous situations that could change their life forever. I think about what I would do if something happened to them... And I think I might literally turn into a grizzly bear. But the line. You have to draw a line. You have to cut the apron strings, even if its just a little. You have to teach them to be smart and strong and not to be afraid to fight, and then you have to let them go and use what they've learned. Sometimes these tired eyes tell the story of a mama who is scared to death.

Then there are times when Mama bear needs a moment. There are times when the kids wake up when daddy leaves for work at 5:00 AND DON'T GO BACK TO SLEEP. Yes, those days, when everyone is up far too early and when two out of the four of us at home are NOT MORNING PEOPLE Maggie and Mommy, ahem, and there isn't enough coffee or concealer in the world to mask my exhaustion. When I'm three cups in at 8:00 and I'm like a sloth on the couch and I look over at three little nuggets snuggling under a blanket I realize just how little they are. And then I feel guilty for being the biggest jerk-mom ever. But, sleep. I needs it so bad. I peel my tired bones and tired eyes and tired head off the couch and I clean messes and do laundry and kiss bo-bos and sweep eight million times a day. I wonder WHO IN THE HELL forgot to flush the damn toilet again. I referee games and fights and Barbie dolls. I hold hands and buckle car seats, and no don't touch ANYTHING. I walk through grocery stores with a small circus, and NO I SAID DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING. And am I the only mom who literally thinks every time I go to put a child in the grocery cart "DEAR GOD PLEASE DON'T LET THIS BE THE CART THAT HAS SOME AWFUL ILLNESS LIVING ON IT." Because Lord knows, if its on this cart, one of my children will lick that spot out of shear randomness. I wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe and hope for the best. I load children and groceries and contemplate dinner, which I likely thought of at 2 am when I was awake with someone. I bathe children and dress children and feed children. And then, I think "What on EARTH am I going to be when I'm not 'Mommy' anymore?? When they are old enough to do this on their own?" And then someone runs into the kitchen screaming and I forget how sad I almost was. Thankfully. No time for that now. Save the nostalgia for bedtime when their sweet non screaming bodies are under blankets, and you can have the whole night to feel guilty for being jerk mommy this morning, and then remember that tomorrow is a new day. To be gentle with yourself. To start over. Tired eyes are also thankful eyes sometimes.

Then there are the eyes that have been crying. Yes, you know the ones. Puffy and sad, ready to break the dam at any second, and release ALL THE TEARS. The eyes that see an article about miscarriage, or a baby that was born around the same time our last was due. Or the eyes that see a soft blue blanket at the store and wonder if maybe, just maybe the baby was a boy. How sweet that would have been. Or another girl. Another sister to add to the team. The eyes that see 3 precious little girls and a daddy who would all love another baby in the house. Eyes that a nearly a year later still can't believe the way it all ended. And eyes that are hopeful and full of promise and settle on a rosary on the nightstand and feel like having faith in God and His timing and His plan will ease the pain. Tears come easily, especially with homesickness in the back of my mind. Days where it seems like if we just lived closer to Louisiana then it would be easier, better, WARMER. But, we are here, doing everything we can to make the very best of life. Sucking all that is good and sweet and fun out of this place and this phase of our lives. Seasons of life, where things just happen and sometimes life isn't a fairy tale. And all you can think is putting one step in front of the other. And before you know it, you've healed a little. The pain is still there but its not as intense. But the dam. Well, sometimes the dam breaks and you break. And you sob. And then, after its all out, what's left are tired eyes.

These eyes aren't just tired from everyday life. They are tired from years of making plans, and daydreaming and stress and tears and laughter. Laughter from a silly daddy who tickles and plays and throws the wee devils into the air amid squeals and giggles. Laughter from the girls' hilarious re-enactment of movie scenes and someone getting licked in the face by Brody and Mollie showing up to the table for dinner dressed head-to-toe as a witch while casting spells on her spaghetti. Side splitting laughter while playing hide and go seek with the DOG around the kitchen. And sometimes tired eyes come not from children who wake up in the middle of the night or who get up early, or from a bad day or a long day. Sometimes tired eyes come from sitting up way too late on the (NEWLY FINISHED!!) back porch with my husband, clutching a glass of red wine under the glow of twinkle lights. Talking about life, love, babies, our future, our past. How we need to start working out again, but wine. And cupcakes. And quiet time together right now is better spent over a bottle of wine. And we hear ourselves say things like "its 11:30 ALREADY?!" Things that make my 19 year old self cringe, because the time I go to bed now is the time that we would leave to go out then. Life changes. Seasons change.

Tired eyes always have a story to tell. We roll with the changes, we adjust, we move on. One day these eyes will have slept all the sleep they can, with no little people to wake them. Days won't end in exhaustion because of little people making messes and fighting and needing baths and saying prayers and helping little girls get dressed. One day I'll be helping them into their wedding gowns. One day it'll just be Chris and I, saying our prayers alone at night. One day this season will be over. So for now, I'll take these tired eyes. And I'm okay with you seeing them too.

Monday, January 12, 2015

True Grit : What Doesn't Kill Me Better Run

Part 2: A Series of Unfortunate Events

(Probably need to read Part 1 if you want to have any idea what's going on...)

I have struggled my whole life with accepting how others see me, and how I come across to other people. For the most part I'm okay with the loud, talkative impression that I give off, because that I cannot change. There is a different side of me that I wish I was better at controlling. I started this blog hoping that by sharing my faith in God, that I could help others who were maybe having a crisis in their faith, or maybe feeling empty, or somehow lost. But then this other part of my personality comes out and I'm afraid it takes away from what I'm trying to do. The side that has a temper, gets fired up about children's clothes (ahem...) maybe uses questionable language sometimes(never around the kids of course!), probably doesn't have the patience of a saint, and maybe doesn't exemplify the good Christian woman that I so badly want to be. Its a battle within myself, to be honest. Its who I am. But the Lord knows me, and He knows I'm not perfect, and He knows He made me this way. In the hardest of times, the darkest of places in life, my place of refuge, where I know I need to be, no matter how unbelievably bad things get, has been church. The worse each situation got, the more I craved being in mass. "Give it to God." Well, I would go and I would pray, and I would say "God, I have a lot to give you, I can feel the weight of it all making my knees buckle." But I wouldn't feel like God responded. Then I realized that I was doing all the talking. And I try so hard to stop talking and just listen. But that talkative side, well, its hard to shut her up sometimes.

"The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints."

WARNING: If you don't want to read details about a pregnancy loss, bleeding, etc., I suggest you either skip this post or skip ahead about 4 paragraphs. Seriously.

We found out on Monday that we lost the baby. I wish I could have stayed in bed with the blankets over my head. But, life can't stop because something awful is happening. The girls still needed to go to school, Adeline still needed to be cared for. As hard as it was, I had to go through the motions of every day life. At night when it was quiet, I wanted to sit down and have a glass of wine so bad. But there was still a baby inside me. It felt so disrespectful to drink as if the baby wasn't there any more. I wanted to be rip-roaring drunk. Black out drunk. Go away from the world drunk. But instead, I sat, stone cold sober. As drunk as I wanted to be, I knew the pain wouldn't go away. It wouldn't help anything. It wouldn't change my reality.

Every moment after was full of anxiety, fear, and confusion- When would this "labor" begin? Am I still "pregnant" even though the baby had died? I was still exhausted, and hungry, and nauseated- the feelings that just a few weeks ago gave me comfort are now constant reminders of what was happening. My first miscarriage, a "chemical pregnancy", was over almost as soon as it began. I found out I was pregnant and then within a week it was over. It was still heart wrenching, but the longer you are pregnant, the more excrutiating this becomes. The recovery from the first miscarriage was relatively simple, as it was much more of a heavy period, because it was so so early on. This? This was different. My body carried a baby for 11 weeks. I had already started putting on baby weight. I was preparing my mind and my body for what was to come. And I was terrified. By Wednesday of that week, I still had no signs of the "big event". I was spotting, and that was all. I prayed for it to begin. Well, I begged my body. I had conflicting emotions: I wanted so desperately to stay pregnant, but knowing that the soul of that baby was already gone, I wanted even more for it to be over, for my body to just have some mercy on me. Put me out of my misery, for crying out loud. I wanted to be able to grieve, I wanted to be able to start to move on. How do you move on from something that's not over? And I was mad, I felt cheated, and I felt like my body had failed. I stared at myself in the mirror, the slightest bump had already grown. It was tiny, but I could feel it. I ran my hand over it and felt so much sadness. Then I began to feel guilt. Overwhelming guilt. WHO THE HELL AM I? I HAVE three beautiful, healthy daughters. HOW GREEDY to ask for more. There are so many women who suffer so very much with infertility. How dare I? There are women who lose full term babies, this should be easier! Then why did it feel so agonizing? Why was my mind so full of guilt?

Yes, the cruel voice in my head was laying down guilt. Inner voices are mean sometimes.

Thursday started out the same- light spotting, no cramping. Then by around 4pm, things began to change. I started having some light cramping. I was tired, but as the hours went on, it became apparent what was happening. My body had obliged. After about 3 hours of increasingly painful cramps, they stopped. And then the bleeding began. It started out light, and then, as if a faucet was turned on, I began to get concerned. Clot after clot, getting bigger and bigger, golf ball sized and only getting bigger more frequent. I started to worry. "This doesn't seem normal..." I thought to myself. This is a lot of blood. I finally decided after going through several pads in a 20 minute span, to go ahead and call the doctor. The on call doctor said "I can't tell you how much bleeding is too much." Uh, thank you? I decided it was time to head to the ER. As soon as I started walking around the house and getting the girls ready for an impromptu slumber party at our best friends house next door, I felt the bleeding get heavier. And heavier. With every step, I could feel it pouring out. I was getting more and more light headed. By the time we got to the hospital (about a 10 minute ride), I could feel blood all over my pants. I started to panic. I'm not one to lose my cool- I'm generally level headed in emergency situations. But this was different. I felt like I was going into shock. They brought me back to triage as soon as I told them what was happening. I sat down, the nurse began to check my vital signs, and then asked me how far along I was. It hit me. I felt like I was hyperventilating. I couldn't calm down. "Almost 12 weeks" I choked, tears pouring down my face. "Okay, its okay sweetie, calm down." I can't calm down. I can't. Something is horribly wrong.

After a series of ultrasounds, examinations and blood work, it was determined that I was in fact bleeding entirely too much, and I had much more to go. The bleeding I had experienced was only the beginning. My uterus was still "full". They said if they sent me home, I would be back within hours and likely in need of a blood transfusion. I needed to go in for a D and C. Like, now. Sad that the last time I had surgery was when I was 11 and had my tonsils removed. I kissed Chris, and within minutes was wheeled back into the OR. My mind was blank. I was stunned. They said I might feel a tingling going up my arm, and once I felt that I'd fall asleep. They were right.

I woke up in recovery, overcome, again, with conflicting emotions. Now that everything was over, I could move on, right? Yeah, but now I felt something new. I felt empty. And I never anticipated that. My belly was still just a little swollen, I was a little sore, but overall I felt okay. They said everything went fine and that they would be discharging me with a prescription for pain medicine. It was 2 am. We headed home, Chris helped me out of the car and into bed.

Within a few days I was up and basically back to "normal" whatever the heck that was. Physically I was fine. Emotionally I was an absolute wreck. I couldn't understand that we had been through so much. I couldn't stop. Trauma had a grip on me and this time it wasn't letting go. I was sucked into a world where all I could think of was what I was missing. My mind was filled with daydreams of the baby we would never have. I cried. A lot. I talked with one of my very best friends who had suffered several miscarriages. Talking with someone so close to me who had been through it before was instrumental in my mental recovery. It was normal to feel overwhelming sadness. It was normal to cry. Whatever I was feeling was normal. It was important to actually grieve. Even more surprising was that I could expect to be angry. And I was.

A week later we headed back to Louisiana for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful vacation with the girls, my family, and I even got to see some friends and squeeze in a few photo shoots. I felt refreshed. I was able to spend time with my parents, Chris got to see his wonderful grandfather, and Chris and I even got to sneak away for an incredible date night. Going home for a few days was exactly what we needed. I felt so much better than before we left. I was healing. I wasn't crying every day anymore.

We got home Sunday night.

Tuesday morning around 4 am I woke up to an excrutiating stomach ache. I tossed and turned for a few hours. When I woke up around 6:20, my whole abdomen felt tender, but the pain was radiating from my lower right quadrant. I knew right away it was my appendix. It was textbook pain. After throwing up a few times I called Chris and for what seemed like the 100th time in the last two months, to tell him I needed him. He came home, we packed the kids up (it was before school even started) and headed to the ER. Again. I hobbled out of the car and down the hallway to the ER registration desk. Chris stayed in the car with the kids because really, who wants to take 3 kids into an ER during flu season? Yeah, no. I'm a big girl. I can take it! Ha!

A few minutes later, I had an IV and was resting after a dose of morphine. Still in pain, still uncomfortable, but I felt better than before. A CT and yet another ultrasound, it was confirmed- appendicitis, oh and a massive hemorrhagic cyst on my right ovary that I get to deal with later. Yay. I call Chris and tell him I'll be heading back to surgery to remove my appendix. He brings the girls to school, and heads back to the hospital in time to give me another pre-emergency-surgery goodbye kiss. Doesn't get easier that's for sure. A night spent in the hospital and the next day my parents arrived to help. Thank God for help. They stayed a few days until I was up on my feet more. We were so very grateful.

As we had so many times before, we settled back into a routine. Within a few days of my parents leaving, I was up and out, taking the kids to school, even Christmas shopping. GET. BACK. TO. NORMAL.

9 days after my appendectomy, steri strips still on my incisions, still slowwwwlyyy getting up out of my chair, I decide that I need to get out of the house for a little bit, and that I want to go back to the store to return a few Christmas presents. Chris gets home early from work and I spot my opportunity. I tell him that I really want to go return these few things, and I should only be a little bit. He says "Okay, be careful!" Success! I'm freeee! I'm going to wander around Target for hours! I might even get coffee! Yay me! Its about 5:30 in the afternoon, but its winter, so its pretty much already dark. I live in a nice neighborhood. Its safe. People are always walking around, walking their dogs, kids are skateboarding. Its busy. The street is busy with people coming home from work. There's actually traffic! I get in my suburban, put it in reverse (the doors automatically lock, thank you Chevy!), and I wait for the cars to pass. Finally I'm clear to pull out of my driveway. I start to reverse, but then I see in my side view mirror, a man walking relatively quickly across the yard across the street. "What is this guy doing?" I thought... He comes across the street, and I assume he's going to turn onto the side walk and keep walking. He seems to be in a hurry. Hmm... But no, he crosses the street, crosses the side walk and heads straight in between my truck and Chris'. I'm startled and annoyed. I mean, hello, can you not tell that I am making an escape to Target?! I have things to do, chief! Whatever it is he wants, I'd like to tell him "No" and get on my way. I'm not interested in helping anyone by myself in the dark. I've seen "The First 48" and "I Survived" enough times to know that people are nuts and you don't get out of your car at night to help anyone when you're alone. I crack the window. "Yeah?" I'm clearly annoyed already. Then, the jackhole pulls his coat up over his face and screams "GET OUT OF THE CAR".

Surely, he did not just tell me to get out of my car.
Oh, okay this is happening. Okay, here we go.

I tried in an instant to remember what it was that I always said I'd do in this situation. I always yell at the tv... "WHY DID YOU GET OUT OF YOUR CAR YOU CRAZY WOMAN?!" I LAY on the car horn, hoping to draw some attention. He starts banging on the window and trying to open the door. I realize relatively quickly that laying on the horn will take forever, and then it dawns on me.
I'm in a car. A SUBURBAN. I'm already in reverse. I don't care what this guy is screaming at me. I have to comply for him to be in control. And speaking of control, I haven't had any control over CRAP for the last 6 months. I am in control of this situation. I refuse to be this idiot's victim. My dad has drilled into my head since I was a child that you never ever get out of your car. And if you can RUN THEM OVER.

I slam my foot down onto the gas and reverse away from him. In an instant, he's in front of my car. In front. I assume he wanted to car jack me, but what if he wanted more? What if I got out and he tried to beat the crap out of me? What if I got out and he forced me back into the car and kidnapped me? WHAT IF ANYTHING. He intended to do harm to me in one way or another, I was in fear for my life.

Up until this point I suggest you do exactly what I did. DON'T EVER GET OUT OF THE CAR. HELLLLOOOO YOU ARE IN A CAR. You automatically win! DRIVE AWAY. Even if there is a gun in your face. You assume nice man with the gun pointed at you is just going to steal your car. Nice man might not be a nice man. He might intend to kill you the second you open your door. STAY IN YOUR CAR.

Don't judge me for what I did next. I was petrified, my mind frozen in "fight or flight". I have always had the tendency to focus on "fight." I was angry. I was scared. And I was not giving up control.

I put the car into drive and floored it towards him. He dodges the front end.
I reverse, spin the wheel to face him again, and floor it. He dodges again.
A third time, I gun it towards him, tires screeching. He finally takes off running back to where he came from. And I peel out of my driveway to make the block.

I call Chris (I have no doubt he's getting a little tired of all of these emergencies I keep calling him with)and tell him we need to call 911. Like now.
The police arrive, I give my description and shortly after, they apprehend someone a few blocks away who fits my description. I'm able to identify him, and within a few minutes, the entire ordeal is over. I was shaking, I was screaming and I was FURIOUS. The next day we had our alarm installed.

You've tried so many times, but you'll never take me. I'm stronger than you. I know far too well how blessed I am, how lucky I am, and how much I have. There are days where you creep in. You remind me of the awful times we've had in the last few months. You put me in a terrible mood, and you make me feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I find myself in tears for no reason. Some days I see pregnancy announcements and its like a punch in the stomach. But those days are happening less and less. This is a process for me. A decision that I make every single day to move on. Its hard, I can't say its not hard. Sometimes, I feel the weight of stress pushing hard on my back. I feel anxiety pulling between my shoulders. I see the guy's face at my car window, yelling at me to get out. I see the fire outside my bedroom window. I feel the knot in the pit of my stomach when I found out we had lost the baby. And so, I pray. (I'm learning to listen more and talk a little less.) And before too long, I feel the warmth of happiness again. I remember that I am so lucky- I have a roof over my head, food on my table, three beautiful healthy girls and an incredible husband (who is also healing and recovering well from our ridiculous last few months) to share my life with. Maybe one day we'll see those two pink lines again. For every blessing in my life, I am so very thankful. Like it or not, life goes on. Everyone goes through hard times. Don't let them define you. When I think about this past year, I want to think about when we took our girls to Disney World, birthdays, vacations, summer time and all the smiles and cuddles and fun we had. The traumatic times will not win. There was too much beauty, and joy and happiness. And there was love. SO much love.

And lastly.

Friday, January 9, 2015

True Grit : Miscarriage, Trauma, Heartache and Surviving It All

Part One: You can't make this stuff up.

I'm no stranger to life's curve balls. Like everyone else, I have experienced my fair share of tragedy. I've been blindsided by the news of death, punched in the gut with the phone call of a family member with a medical emergency, and of course there have been lay offs, moves, illnesses and unexpected bumps in the road.

But nothing that I have gone through, and I mean nothing, can compare to the last 6 months of my life.

I have struggled with whether or not I want to share what has happened. But when I think about my own healing process, I know that reading about other people's experiences and feelings has been very therapeutic for me. I can see myself in them, and it makes me feel more, normal somehow. Maybe somehow this will help someone out there in their own healing. Maybe knowing you are not alone, its not just you, and maybe you don't have bad luck, will help you recover. I hope you find this post before you lose your faith. Even though you might not feel it, as hard as it is to wake up and get out of bed, He's there, wrapping His arms around you, and helping you up. Keep your faith.

"Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage, and calms His child."

Shortly after my last post about Maggie's battle with Kawasaki Disease, we packed up and headed north to Chris' new territory, which changed a few times, but for the sake of privacy, we'll just say its north of Louisiana. Maggie was healing well, we didn't have any more issues with her health once we were discharged from the hospital. After a few weeks in a hotel with the three little ones (which was a real joy, let me tell you), we finally closed on our new house. It was done. Thankyoulord.

We hit the neighbor jackpot. A family, right across the street, with three kids the same age as ours. How could we get so lucky? The kids got along great, went to the same school, it was perfect. Life was moving right along. We walked the older kids to school in the morning and home in the afternoon. Our weekends were full of playing, dinners on the back porch (that I loved so very much), and we were happy. Our hearts were full.

With only one terrifying experience of finding out my two oldest daughters climbed out of their second story window and onto the pergola, which we chalked up to them being adventurous and us being naiive, we were settling in nicely, enjoying the last few weeks of summer. Well, the truth is, that is where the streak of insanity began. At 7:40 on a quiet Saturday morning, while laying in bed watching cartoons with our 2 year old, my husband and I half asleep, but enjoying the laziness of the morning, our doorbell rings. Weird. Early. Rude. I mean, sheesh, buddy, our older two kids are sound asleep!

Or so we thought.

Nope, not rude, but angelic. Amazing. Considerate. Concerned. Chris answers the door to see a man who says "I don't know if you know this, but there are two little girls climbing in and out of the second story window in the back of your house." Chris managed to spit out a "OH MY GOSH THANK YOU!" before running up the stairs 3 at a time to the girls room. Sure enough, they were just climbing back in onto Maggie's bed. WHAT? Wait, WHAT?! How? What? HOW WERE THEY NOT TERRIFIED?! I mean, just about every person that I talked to with a two story house and small kids didn't have any type of extra child proof lock on their windows. But even after hearing that, I felt like I had failed. Within hours we had debated whether we should get a lock they couldn't open or an alarm. We settled on putting a high pitched alarm on every window in the house, that functioned with magnets. If the magnets separated, an alarm so loud would sound you would feel like your ears were bleeding. We talked about locks but eventually decided against it, in the off chance we had a house fire. I mean, there is no way we would ever have a house fire. But the little nagging voice in the back of my head and common sense told us to do the alarms. I wallowed in the "what ifs" for a few days, and prayed so very much- prayers of thanks to God that my precious babies were okay. Prayers of thanks that an amazing neighbor, who we haven't seen since it happened, found it in his heart to tell us what he saw. We don't even know where he lives. He was a good Samaritan out for a morning walk. Thanks that their guardian angels held their tiny hands as they balanced on the boards of the pergola. My heart aches just thinking about it. But learn from my experience. The alarms were $8 for a pack of two. Took about 2 minutes to install. Save yourself the trauma that we dealt with.

We moved on. I eased myself to sleep every night for a month after repeating the words "nothing happened, they are okay" over and over in my mind.

About 2 weeks later, I found out something that made me giddy with joy.
I was pregnant.

We were overjoyed. We had actually planned this! How wonderful that we could get pregnant so easily! How amazing that we would grow to a family of 6! I was thrilled, and again, found myself full of so much thanks to God. This time for blessing us with another baby. I love being pregnant. I love everything that comes with it. I was beside myself with excitement. A month or so later, we went to our first doctor's appointment. I mentioned that my sister had twins when she was around my age. (I had secretly been hoping for twins!) My doctor suggested we do an early ultrasound to take a peek. I should have been around 6 weeks or so by that point.
I was so excited! We would get a sneak peek at our next baby! I couldn't wait! As if looking at the baby on the screen meant that he or she could look back at me, I felt like having ultrasound would be our first little bonding experience.
"Hmm...." the ultrasound tech was sweet, and personable. As she started the ultrasound, I could see just a smidge of concern on her face. My doctor was in the room right next to her, and I could see it on her face too. Not big concern just... "Hmmm...."
I looked at the screen. Having had three babies before, I knew roughly what I was looking for: A fat little jelly bean cuddled tightly to the sac. But there was no jelly bean. Just the sac, and a perfect circular yolk.
My heart sank.
"You are probably just earlier than we thought. The sac looks perfect, you are showing no signs of miscarriage. Sometimes it takes a while to implant, which can throw your dates off. My guess is next week we'll see a tiny little one and a heart beat. A lot can happen in a week. Let's do some blood work and I'll see you next week, so we can check again."
They were reassuring, but Chris and I were both concerned. I had my blood drawn and began the most anxiety filled week of my life. Every second of every day I spent terrified that I would start bleeding. But every day, there was nothing. And every day that went by I felt a little more confident that everything was fine. I got the first set of lab results back, and the nurse said they looked good, my progesterone was a little low, but aside from that I was fine. HCG was good at 66,000. "Go ahead and get your second set of labs drawn this afternoon so we can compare results." Okay.... I was a little nervous, but I went back to the lab. The next day I got a phone call from the nurse that, to put it plainly, broke my heart.

"Katy, your labs came back. It doesn't look good, honey. Your HCG didn't double- it only went to 77,000. There's a good chance you'll start bleeding this weekend. If it gets too heavy, head to the ER."

My stomach sank and I swallowed back the tears that were trying to choke me. I was at my fabulous neighbor's house when I got the call. Had I let one tear fall, I would have dissolved. I got the kids packed up and went home. The feeling of loss slapped me in the face as I opened the door. I called Chris and he came home within a few minutes. I held onto him so tight, like I did after our first miscarriage, as if clinging to him would make the pain go away. After I finally stopped crying, I started to do some research. And of course I saw signs everywhere that said everything would be just fine. I mean, I believe in signs. I do.

It turns out what the nurse said wasn't entirely accurate. By the end of the weekend I was convinced that the baby could very well be fine.
Tuesday finally arrived after the longest week in history. I was shaking with anticipation, fear, excitement. The doctor confirmed our research and said she also thought everything would be fine.
And then, the ultrasound.
There it was. The tiniest little jelly bean, with the faintest little flicker at its center.
Thank you, God. We were elated. The baby was healthy, and only a few days earlier than what my dates predicted. We left with the most incredible sense of relief. And gratitude. Again, I was overwhelmed by how thankful I was. I was thrilled to be pregnant before, but after this scare? This was my miracle. I vowed this pregnancy would be perfect. I would eat right, exercise, and do everything I could to keep this precious little soul safe.

Before too long, the shock of the whole experience wore off, and we were back into our daily routine, only with mine taking out the wine and adding the vitamins and water. I woke up on my back with my hand cradling my tummy which, by 9 weeks was starting to stick out just a tad. I loved it. I scoured the internet for maternity clothes, broke out all my old baby names books, and really settled into being pregnant. I told close friends and family, and just basked in the glow of pregnancy, in all of its nauseating, exhausting glory. I was thankful for those symptoms actually. They felt like reassurance to me that the baby was snuggling in and getting comfortable in my belly.

One Sunday evening, we decided to have steaks for dinner. I prepped the potatoes and asparagus, and Chris ran the grill outside. It was an amazing dinner of course, mainly because my husband can cook an incredible steak. We put the girls to bed and we weren't too far behind. Hey, I was an exhausted lady, pregnant with baby #4 and a belly full of steak. I was tired to say the very least.
We doze off, and what seems like minutes later we hear a noise. Like something hitting the ground. Chris gets up, walks around the house, checks on the girls, and then we decide it must have been something outside.
It was.
It must have only been a few hours later, around 3am, that we were jolted out of our sleep by a WOOSH sound. I felt like someone slapped me in the face, I jumped up so fast. I could hear a loud noise coming from outside. I look out my window and I am horrified.
Huge, bright orange flames right outside my window, and I could see more coming from the porch.
I run up the stairs, yank the girls out of their beds, grab my comforter off my bed (it was about 28 degrees outside), Chris gets the baby and we head for the door. Just as I'm about to open it, someone BANGS on it. I open it to see a police officer, calm as can be. "Okay everyone, out of the house!"
Yeah, you don't have to tell me twice.
Just as Chris went to get Brody from the house, two officers went in ahead of him and carried out our darling pup.
We (the girls and I) were petrified, shaking, barefoot, curled up on the sidewalk across the street, watching as 3 fire trucks unloaded a hose of water onto our back porch. Our friends next door came over and brought us into their house. They lovingly opened the doors to their home in the middle of the night, put on movies for the kids, and made breakfast. Good people. Incredibly good people.

There aren't many words to describe what this whole situation feels like. Another good Samaritan throwing newspapers saw the flames and called 911. Had he not called, we surely would have lost the back half of our house. We are so grateful to him, because somehow we had no interior damage. We were just incredibly traumatized. It turns out the noise we heard was the BBQ pit falling over. Either an animal or the wind knocked it over. Which is bizarre in itself.

Trauma. What a slippery slope, full of what ifs, nightmares, and anxiety. We gave ourselves a day to deal with it. Chris could see that I was rapidly dissolving, and said "We can't let this define us. This was one event in our lives. We need to move on from it. No one was hurt, our house was fine, we have insurance, and we are moving on from this."
Wise man.

No trauma. You cannot have me.

Even with all the positive thinking, and the "decision" that we weren't going to be depressed from this, I found myself reliving that night nearly all day every day. It was on a constant loop. The noise, looking out the window, the look of horror on Chris' face, the look of terror and confusion on the girls faces. Every day, I worked at it, with help from my parents, talking about it with Chris. After a few days or so, yet again, we were settling back into a routine, determined to make the fire a blip on the radar of our memories. It still hurt, and I was still dealing with it, but it seemed to get better day by day. We talked to the girls about it after it first happened. They were scared, but so resilient. They drew pictures, told us how they felt, and slept in our bed for a few nights after until we made sure they knew that they were safe. I won't pretend they weren't traumatized too, but we knew that getting back into our normal routine would be the best thing for them. We were making it, all by the grace of God.

Exactly one week later, the day before my monthly scheduled OB appointment, I laid in my bed, so comfy and warm, opened my eyes and stretched. The girls were getting dressed, the usual morning chaos swirling around me. I was excitedly planning how I would announce that we were having #4. A picture? A cute little rhyme? Eh, I need to get out of bed, but I'm so warm! I rubbed my little belly. 11 weeks! I was finally back to pregnancy bliss. I finally convinced myself to sit up. As soon as I stood up felt what I knew immediately was blood.

"Please no, please God, no. PLEASE GOD NO."
I went to the bathroom to see bright red blood.

I called Chris in hysterics. "I'm bleeding, honey, I'm bleeding!!"
"I'm on my way!"

I called my ob office and made an appointment for that morning. The ride to her office is a blur, I just remember praying the whole time. Desperately trying to convince myself that lots of people bleed during pregnancy. "It could be anything. The baby is probably fine! Yes, he or she is fine. Its probably a boy. We really need to decide on names." I was almost calm.
Chris stayed in the car with the girls because, unbelievably, all three had a stomach virus. I went in, shaking with fear, praying. If it seems like I say that I'm praying a lot, its because I am. I was praying pretty much non stop for about 3 months for one reason or another.
They call my name and walk me to the exam room. I climb up on the table and run my hand over my belly. "Its okay, sweetheart. Its okay." I began praying, of course. After what feels like an hour, but was probably only a few minutes, my doctor walks in. "Having some bleeding? Lets go take a look."
Another ultrasound. Only this time, when the screen showed in my belly, there were no reassuring smiles.

"Katy I'm so sorry. Although the sac continued to grow, it looks like the baby stopped growing just shy of 7 weeks. The sac the baby is in is starting to crumble. I'm so so sorry. Honey, there's no heartbeat."

Hot tears streamed down my face. I tried to stay calm. I tried to be mature. But inside, I was crumbling. Again, fighting every urge in me to break down, I listened to the doctor's instructions: "You'll probably start bleeding within the next two weeks. Your body knows what's happening because the sac is already collapsing. If your bleeding gets to be really heavy, you know more than two or three large pads in an hour, call our on call doctor. You might go through kind of a labor. Your cramps might get pretty bad, go ahead and take some Motrin. You might pass some grey tissue, and that's normal too. Oh Katy, I'm so so sorry..." Her voice trailed off.

My mind raced. We had already told the girls. How were we going to explain this to them? I felt so stupid. Why did we tell them so early?! What was I thinking?! How could we start telling people before the first trimester was over? When would I actually miscarry? How could I not have known when the baby's heart stopped beating? How could this have happened? My heart ached. The baby that I had spent the last 11 weeks daydreaming about snuggling, nursing, nuzzling, would never be in my arms. Too many questions. Too much pain. "Keep it together" I repeated to myself. I didn't want the girls to see me losing it. But why? This was real, this was excrutiating. As hard as I tried, the tears still made there way down my face. I got into the car, and shook my head to Chris. I didn't have to say a word. He knew. He wrapped his arms around me and told me he would take care of me. He's more than I could ever ask for, and in horrible awful times, there's no words for how incredible he can be. And while we quietly discussed how to tell the girls, Maggie started asking questions. "Mommy, what's wrong? Mommy? Why are you sad? Are you crying? MOMMY WHAT IS WRONG?!"

"Sweetheart, sometimes when a mommy has a baby in her tummy, the baby gets very, very sick. And sometimes when that happens, God takes the baby out of the mommy's tummy and back to heaven so they can play with the angels again."


And then, "Oh. So our baby went back to heaven?"
"Yes, sweetie. Our baby is in heaven."
"So no more baby names? No more feeling your tummy, or talking to the baby?"
"No baby, I'm so sorry."
"Mommy that is so sad. That makes me so so sad."
"Me too, sweetheart. Me too."
"But the baby's not sick now that he's back in heaven?"
"Nope, he's healthy and playing with the angels and all of our family that has gone to heaven already."
She smiles.
And we cried.

And then, three days later, after literally begging my body to release this baby, it happened.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Its called Kawasaki Disease. Yes, just like the motorcycle."

I'm writing this for two reasons. One, because all the details are still fresh in my mind, and two, because I desperately want to help bring awareness to an illness that is somewhat rare. I posted on my personal facebook page that our oldest daughter, Maggie, had been admitted to the hospital for suspected Mononucleosis. That was Monday, June 30. Here's what happened after she was discharged. Well, actually, here's the entire story (brace yourselves, its a long story):

Thursday June 26, I brought all three of the girls to a local restaurant that has a pretty nice play area. Lots of space walks and games to keep them busy. We were meeting a few friends with their kids for lunch, and although it was crowded, we still had a great time. The next morning Maggie woke up complaining of a belly ache. She ate breakfast, so I thought it was just a passing thing. But by 10am, she was throwing up and had two bouts of diarrhea as well. I waited a while, and then offered her some water. She said she was starving and felt sure that her belly was better. She had a few bites of applesauce, but then my poor baby got sick again. After getting her bathed and her clothes changed, I tucked her into bed, and went back to the front of the house to keep an eye on the other two girls. I had been running back and forth between checking on Maggie and making sure Mollie and Adeline weren't getting into anything, and just as I finally got everyone settled, my phone rang. I immediately knew the number and my stomach sank. See, we are trying to sell our house before we relocate, and whenever I get a call from this number, I know that I'm about to have to speed clean the entire house so that someone can come see it. I mean, you can't walk around all day praying for someone to buy your house and then turn them down when someone calls to see it, no matter how inconvenient the circumstances. SO, I ran around for the next 3 hours cleaning the house, checking on Maggie and then cleaning up whatever mess the two little ones made behind me. Thankfully, my mom showed up to help, and within a few minutes we had packed everyone up to head to Grandma and Paw Paw's for a sleep over. We got to my mom's and although Maggie hadn't thrown up in hours, she was still feeling nauseated. I decided to just camp out on the floor of the bathroom with her until her tummy settled down. I curled up next to her and felt her forehead. She was burning hot. I took her temperature. 101.4- and this is important. Friday was day 1 of fever. She finally ate a popsicle, and some soup, her fever came down, and by the morning she seemed to be feeling a little better. I packed the girls up to head back to our house for a day to rest and relax a little, and to be honest I spent a good part of the day kicking myself for taking them to the indoor playground on Thursday. I never go to places like that because I've always been terrified of them picking up some kind of stomach bug or some other disgusting virus. I'm paranoid about those things, and trust me, I know its ridiculous. You can't live in a bubble. You can catch those things anywhere. I've heard it all, and that was what I was telling myself when I agreed to go. I waited all day for the next person to start complaining of a belly ache. My ultimate fear was realized a few months ago when each one got a tummy bug on different days, and each on a different surface in my house. It was a nightmare and I thought for sure the next one to puke would show herself any second.

Saturday we spent inside in the air conditioning, and Maggie seemed to feel okay, I suppose. They played quietly and she laid around a good bit. We made "slime" from a pinterest recipe, and they happily played for a little while with that. To be honest, I was so tired from the day before that I spent most of the day counting down until bed time. I was glad to make it through with no new sick people in my house. I patted myself on the back for somehow keeping Maggie quarantined effectively and keeping the other two from getting sick. If I would have only known....

Sunday morning Maggie didn't seem to feel good or bad, just sort of blah, somewhat cranky and a little emotional, but nothing that concerned me too much. Then around 1pm she started complaining of her throat hurting when she would swallow. I gave her a little Motrin and didn't hear much more about it, until bedtime, when she started saying it was bothering her again. Another dose of Motrin, a cup of water on her nightstand, and I tucked her in for the night.

Monday morning she slept in just a little, so after I got up with the baby and Mollie, I went in to check on her. I walked in to see my beautiful fair skinned little girl sitting up in her bed, her face beet red, eyes swollen, holding her mouth open. She could hardly talk, and managed to croak out the words, "mama I barely have any water left in my cup." I ran over to her and felt her head. Of course she was hot- I could see she had a fever from across the room. I checked her temperature, and this time watched as it skipped several degrees at a time. It finally stopped at 102.7. She told me that her throat hurt so bad she couldn't swallow, and her tongue was hurting terribly too. She wouldn't swallow and her lips seemed tight and dry. I thought we were dealing with strep, so I made an appointment for her to be seen later that morning. My mom came over to watch Mollie and Adeline, and I headed to the doctor with Maggie. Two and a half hours after her first Motrin dose, her temperature was still above 101.

We gave her a dose of Tylenol in the doctors office and we all agreed we thought it was strep throat. After swabbing for strep and flu and both coming back negative, I started to get nervous. Maggie was still very hot, and she was becoming more and more lethargic and weak. She would barely pick her head up of the table when the doctor came in the room. I could see the pediatrician was feeling uneasy too, and I knew she was concerned when she sent us over to have blood work done. I thought for sure Maggie would wake up and fight me and the phlebotomist once that needle went in, but her weak little body hardly moved. All she did was let out a low "owwwww" and then she went back to sleep. I could see something was happening with my girl. She had never been that sick before, and the more time went by the more I knew we were dealing with something bad. We went back to the office, and the pediatrician said that she felt fairly confident we were dealing with mono and it was really taking its toll on Maggie. She wanted to give her two Rocephin shots in her legs in the off chance that it was a bacterial infection, and then discuss possibly admitting Maggie for dehydration. In the meantime, the nurse came in to check her temperature, and I noticed some petechiae under her arm. We pulled up her shirt to see a bright red rash all over her back. It looked like a tight red lace, almost like a severe sunburn. She was given a hefty dose of Benadryl to slow down any potential reaction from the Rocephin, or really whatever was causing the rash. I told her doctor that although I haven't worked in a while, I was a pediatric nurse, and I felt comfortable that I could get Maggie to increase her fluid intake. I would rather sit next to her and tell her every 10 seconds to take a sip, than have to admit her, especially just for fluids. She agreed and said "if Maggie can finish this little cup of water you can take her home and get her to increase her fluids from there. If she's not drinking within the next two or three hours bring her in." Well, Maggie took three sips of her water and threw up everything that she had to drink that day. There was my answer. She was admitted for dehydration and possible Mononucleosis. Thank God we were in Louisiana for this. My mom and dad happily took Mollie and Adeline off my hands while I stayed with Maggie in the hospital. Poor Chris was in Kansas City working this whole time. Once Maggie was admitted, there was no question, he was flying home as soon as he could.

Her face was puffy and red, her eyes were bloodshot (I attributed this to being exhausted and sleeping off the Benadryl), and she had a thick white coating on her tongue and lips. I felt stupid for ever trying to talk the pediatrician out of admitting her. It was so obvious to me now how badly she needed fluids. After a night of IV fluids, Toradol for pain, and her fever constantly creeping up and then inching down, Maggie woke up the next morning looking a little tiny bit better. Her initial mono test came back negative, but we still thought it was mono because many times that particular mono test can show a false negative. She was still weak and not looking good, but the on call pediatrician and I agreed that if she was able to increase her fluid intake and improve throughout the day they would let her go home. By the evening, her energy level drastically increased, she was eating a little, and drinking water and eating popsicles. She looked better, but something still didn't feel right. By the time we got her home, her temperature was up to 101.6.

Thank God for the wonderful doctors at Pearl Acres Pediatrics, her doctor wanted to see Maggie first thing the next morning to check on her. We woke up Wednesday morning to a VERY cranky and VERY angry Maggie- so angry I started calling her The Hulk. Her tongue was so sore that she couldn't even take a sip of water without cringing. I gave her Tylenol for her pain, in hopes that it would give her enough relief for her to be able to drink fluids. When we arrived at the pediatrician's office, she was itching her entire body from the rash that was still on her back and had now spread to the rest of her body. I put her onto the table to be examined, and when she took her shoes off, I noticed something about her feet that sent me straight back to nursing school. The skin was peeling off of the bottoms of both of her feet. It wasn't extreme, but they were definitely peeling. And let me just tell you, in nursing school, there are a few "key phrases" that stick out in every student's mind, phrases that make their way onto your tests, phrases that come up on the state board exam to obtain your license. "Skin peeling off of hands and or feet" is one of those such phrases. And instantly I knew what her doctor was going to say when she saw her. After examining her, without hesitation, her doctor wrote direct admit orders for us, and for us to see a cardiologist upon arrival. And then, there it was, just like I knew she would say: I think Maggie has Kawasaki Disease. She'll need some additional blood work and an echocardiogram to confirm it, but she has all the signs.

We went home, packed a bag, dropped poor Mollie and Adeline off to my parents again, and headed into New Orleans. I worked at Children's right out of nursing school, so I felt confident that our girl was going to be taken care of, but of course I was googling the entire way into the city, trying to remember every detail that I could about it. I remembered that its treated with high dose aspirin, and I could remember it was somewhat serious, but that was it. I couldn't remember anything else. And I couldn't find much either... which is probably a good thing. Dr. Google is an awful beast. I called my incredible cousin, who is also a pediatrician at Children's, and told her we were on our way. Luckily she was in the ER that day, and was there when we arrived. There is no way for me to describe how thankful I am to Maggie's pediatrician, to my amazing cousin, and to the rest of the Children's hospital staff for being so knowledgeable, and for being so genuinely concerned for Maggie's health. Her case was puzzling, and at this point, we weren't 100% sure hat she had. Thank GOD her echocardiogram came back with no damage to her heart at this point, but she's no where near out of the woods. She was presenting clinically at this point like either Adenovirus and Kawasaki Disease. The plan at that point was to run full blood work panel, to see how her ESR and CRP looked, and to run a viral panel to test for Adeno. Around 10pm, one of the doctors came in to tell us that the viral panel came back negative and that Maggie did not have Adeno. The next step was to treat for Kawasaki Disease, which would be an infusion of IVIG. She tolerated the infusion well, but developed a severe headache, a 102.2 fever and was throwing up within a few hours after it was completed. She became extremely irritable and refused to take any medication by mouth to treat her headache. We watched our beautiful, vibrant, smart, incredibly funny little girl literally writhe in pain on her hospital bed from the severity of her headache. Our hearts were broken. We were on Day 6 of her being completely miserable, with very little to relieve her pain. Finally, she started feeling a little better, but only after throwing up her first dose of Tylenol. The doctors were confident that the headache, fever and vomiting were side effects of the IVIG, and they would watch her for another 24 hours before making the decision as to whether or not they would do a second infusion. 24 hours later, she hadn't developed a fever, and had no other symptoms aside from extreme exhaustion, and a pretty scrawny appetite. They released her Friday afternoon, exactly one week from the day her symptoms began.

Kawasaki Disease is an illness that absolutely must be diagnosed within the first 10 days after symptoms begin, or severe irreparable heart damage can occur. Follow your intuition. We were lucky enough to have doctors that are very concerned and cautious regarding the care of their patients, but some kids aren't so lucky. If you feel like what your little one has in more than just a virus, and they develop any unusual symptoms, don't just brush it off. If they have fever persisting for longer than 5 days, and two or more of the following symptoms: red, swollen, extremely sore strawberry tongue; peeling, swollen hands and or feet; and what looks like pink eye without drainage; rash; and swollen lymph nodes they might have Kawasaki Disease. Its an inflammatory response of the body, not contagious, not genetic, and at this point they have no idea what causes it. (Which means she didn't catch it from the icky play place!) It is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children. That means Maggie will likely have to see a cardiologist on a yearly basis (at least) to be sure that the illness didn't cause heart damage.

Maggie is looking better every day. Her appetite is returning, and she's regaining more and more energy every day. Its probably better that Dr. Google wasn't giving me any good answers on the way to the hospital that day, because since being discharged, we have learned that left untreated, KD can cause coronary artery disease, coronary aneurysms, and in some cases it has been fatal. Chris and I were terrified for our precious daughter. I was reluctant to share this story because I felt like it got to be too personal to put on facebook. But once we were "in the clear" to a certain extent, I realized that we had to share this. We have to bring awareness to this illness, because as "rare" as it is, one of my close friends tells me that her son, who is one of Maggie's best friends, also had it. That means it can't be that rare. This illness can be extremely serious if its not caught in time. Be aware of the symptoms and look out for them so that if by chance your little one does get sick, you can catch it within the ten days to treat it effectively and prevent serious damage. Our babies are the most important part of our lives. We protect them, we'd do anything for them. I am still in shock to a certain extent, that this even happened. That I held my baby down so she could have an IV inserted, that we have to play games and come up with songs to convince her to take her aspirin. I can't believe that had her pediatrician not been on her toes, very concerned, very in tune to Maggie, we could be in a whole different situation.

Oh, by the way, our house is being packed up and we are moving across this country to Chris' next territory this week- its changed a few times, but we're going to keep the actual location private ;). So when it rains it pours. Our stress level maxed out about 4 days ago, and we are trudging through this insane time in our lives by the grace of God. It seemed as if the Gospel this morning must have been talking right to us when he said "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, for I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for my yolk is easy and my burden is light." If it were not for our faith and the doctors taking care of Maggie, we would be in a completely different place.

Monday, June 23, 2014

To My Girls, When You Turn Sixteen

I can remember waking up at 6:45 in the morning, dragging myself out of bed, putting my high school uniform on, fixing my hair- curling it just a little, and then up into a pony tail with a ribbon tied in a bow. I put on a little make up, slip on my penny loafers and throw a sweatshirt on. I walk into school, and look at the faces I've been in classes with since I moved here in 5th grade. I think I know everyone, and most of all I think I know myself. But at just sixteen? I barely had a clue of the woman I would become. When you turn sixteen, my precious girls, you will feel so grown up. Sometimes you will be so confident in yourself that no one could break you. And sometimes you will be so insecure that no one could build you up. At sixteen you aren't a little girl anymore. Your face has changed and matured, you have grown tall, your clothes are much different than when you were little. You might feel so old, so independent, so ready to be on your own, but my precious girls, not yet. You still have so much to learn.

Don't be a mean girl. Be the type of girl that is genuine and real- but never judgmental. Do everything you can to build other girls up. There will be some who will do what they can to tear you down, they will mock you, they will judge you. Don't be that girl. Be the girl that is so sure of herself that she has nothing to lose by pumping up the confidence of other girls. Don't judge anyone by what they wear, where they go to school, what kind of car they drive. I drove a 1993 4 wheel drive Chevy Suburban for 4 years (starting in 2001!). That truck became my signature, in a way. Go a step further- don't ever judge anyone for any reason, and certainly don't judge them by their mistakes.

Avoid toxic friends. There will be people that will come into your life and change the path you were on completely. You will meet people who will help you become a better person, who will support your decisions, who will build you up- and you will be the same for them. You will also meet people who will think only of themselves. They have no interest in anything except what makes them happy. They may be on a spiral downward, their parents have no input in their wild and reckless lives. If you can help them, then do it. Be there for them if they need it. But always, always, my dear, be guarded. These are people who will sabotage every relationship or friendship you have. Be careful with them.

Value yourself. You are worth a hundred million times your weight in gold. Don't give the most precious, sacred part of yourself away. There will be so many boys that you will feel sure that you are in love with, and they will gladly fill your innocent heart with promises of loving you forever, planning your wedding, mapping out your life together- if that's what they think you want to hear. The boys who will really take care of you, who will be so careful with your heart, the boys that would do anything for you, and respect your morals? Those are the ones you should get to know. Forget about the ones that are trying everything they can think of to go as far with you as they can. The boys who spout out how much they love you, when really you're a little surprised because you just started dating? Those are the ones who will steal what they can from you, and then they will move on to the next girl. Guard yourself, sweet heart. The one guy who waits patiently for you is the one who is worth marrying. The rest are just boys who think they are acting like men. A real man would never try to talk you into anything.

Never, never, forget who you are. Maybe you love dancing, or softball, or fishing. Maybe you love to draw, or you love theater, or you would rather curl up with a notebook and write more than anything. Your favorite movie might be an Adam Sandler classic. You might love tennis, or knitting, or reading. Whatever it is, whoever you are, be true to her. The right people will come into your life and fit just right. The people who don't will find their way out of it.

Be confident, but not conceited. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who holds her head up high when she walks into a room, isn't afraid to have a conversation with people, and isn't self conscious. At the same time, being self centered takes away from your true beauty. Know that you are breathtakingly beautiful, but be humble. You are a precious gift from God, always remember to act like it.

Find beauty in everyone you meet. Whether its a teacher who seems to understand you, a classmate who you heard has a crush on you, or someone you know who seems to be having a hard time. We all have a story, we all have struggles, and seeing beauty, seeing God in everyone who crosses your path will help you empathize with them.

Study hard. Now, in high school, and even more so in college. You are actually preparing yourself for adulthood, and with good grades come good jobs. And like it or not, one day you'll have to have one. And even though it seems so far away, when you get to college, major in something with a specific job in mind. As in that degree is required for xyz position. Its important, trust me.

Stand up for yourself. Don't let anyone talk down to you or make fun of you. Its very important to (respectfully if possible) enforce boundaries and never let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. Demand respect. People will only take as much as you let them. Remember this quote- "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt. Its the absolute truth, and you will be surprised by how many times you will have to tell yourself this.

Dance. Always dance. If the choices are dance or don't? ALWAYS DANCE.

Hold tight to your faith. I pray you don't but one day you might feel totally alone. When you feel like you have nothing, you will still always have your faith. Pray every single day. Pray out loud and in silence. Talk to God, but also be quiet and listen. Pray for yourself and your family, thank God every day for your blessings.

Try to remember that when we look at you, sometimes we will still see the little girl in pigtails. We see the princess with the fairy wings, the toothless grin, the precious girl who needed a nightlight. We know that you want to be independent, trusted, and on your own. But now that the age 40 is closer for us than the age 16 (ouch!) we can see your teenage years from a different perspective. Living on your own, making your own choices, and doing everything on your own, will come in time. Try not to hate this time in your life too much, because the time between now and when you will be an adult is brief. We are cradling our time with you, wishing every day for the hours to slow down, just as we have since you were a baby in our arms.

Remember that no matter what road you take in life, good decisions and bad, we will always, always love you. Always.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Dear New Orleans, I'll Be Seeing You

It was like any other Saturday, nothing particularly exciting going on, except one little thing- it was date night. Chris and I don't do date nights all that often. Maybe once a month or every 6 weeks or so. We usually decide that the hassle of getting a babysitter and the anxiety of leaving all three girls just isn't worth it, and we wind up buying steaks and wine from Whole Foods and we stay up late and drink too much all at home, and we call that a date night. But this night was different. We had planned a big date night. Which meant we were headed into the City- something we only do once in a blue moon.

Some couples go out to one of the bajillion incredible restaurants in New Orleans every weekend. Some go several times a week. I am not-so-secretly envious of those people. There are more non-chain places to eat here than you could ever, ever imagine. I've lived here my entire life (save the last two years spent up north) and I'm not even close to being able to say I've tried them all. After a week of throwing ideas back and forth, we had narrowed our restaurant choice down to two places we had never been. Emeril's and Herbsaint. (I know, if you're local you're probably wondering how we had never eaten at either of those places. Just bear with me.) We have eaten at many of the notable New Orleans restaurants- Commander's Palace, Antoine's, The Rib Room, Galatoire's, and Couchon, among a few others. Which is like barely a blip on the radar. I know this. Which is why when we do decide to go out to eat, we pick one of the places we've never been to, instead of somewhere we've already been. We also expect to spend anywhere from $150-$200 on dinner, which is yet another reason why its not something we do every weekend, or even every month for that matter. Its usually reserved for special occasions.

(from our anniversary dinner last year)

So we got all dolled up, kissed the girls goodbye, high fived my fabulous niece/babysitter, and all but ran to the car. We talked the whole way down to the City, on gorgeous St. Charles Avenue, parked, and finally, we had made it. In the end, we had settled on making reservations at one of the incredible Donald Link restaurants, Herbsaint. We were seated at a small table, fairly close to the entrance, with what seemed like half of the city packed into the building. It was loud, but so comfortable. I didn't know anyone else in the place, but it was like we all agreed on the same restaurant, so we all must get along on some level. The atmosphere was lively, fresh, and personal. We each got a drink- Chris, a classic Sazerac, and myself, a Ponchatoula Sour (they had me at homemade strawberry syrup- yum!). We ordered our appetizers, and a few sips into my incredibly delicious cocktail, I was finally winding down. I looked up at Chris and felt so, so at home. I mean, here we are, at one of the best restaurants in the city, only a half hour from our house, and we were surrounded by more history and culture than anywhere in a several hundred mile radius. New Orleans is famous for its history, its food, and its culture. And of course its people. And we were submerged in it. At that very moment, I looked up at Chris to see him staring over my shoulder. I turned to see what had his attention, but before my eyes focused, I knew what it was. I felt the rumble and heard the low hum of the streetcar making its way through the city. I looked back at him, and he said it. The words stung, mostly because I don't think either of us believed him, but both of us desperately wanted to. "We're never moving away from here." Then he got romantic on me. "I'm sitting here, in this amazing place, drinking a Sazerac, eating this insanely delicious dinner, watching street cars go by. We have all of this at our fingertips. Why would we ever leave?"

About a month later, that night came crashing through my mind like a freight train when I got the phone call I knew would one day come, but prayed it wouldn't be this soon. "We're moving to Louisville."

I grew up in New Orleans East, and moved to the Northshore when I was 11. I have seen New Orleans at its best and at its worst. I cried as I packed my bags to evacuate from a hurricane when I was in high school. I was 15, dramatic, and full of anxiety, I just knew that every hurricane that brewed in the Gulf would be The One. If you're from here, you've heard about Camille and Betsy, the two most notorious Hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast before Katrina. I had heard stories my whole life about people having to use axes to tear through their roof to escape the rising water in their house. That hurricane was not The One. It would be about 6 years later that we would meet Her. I cried as I watched the roof of the Superdome cave in on the news from my sister's house where we evacuated to, in Jackson Mississippi, in the early hours after Hurricane Katrina (that bitch) ravaged the whole state and coast for that matter. I prayed that my parent's house would still be standing when we came back. (It was). I was here as we (Southeast Louisiana) bonded, rebuilt, and came back stronger. I said my vows in the same beautiful church that I made my First Communion in so many years earlier, and spent my wedding night in one of the most romantic, historically rich hotels in the city- Hotel Monteleone.

I have been drunk on this city, among other things, yelling for beads at Endymion, sucking heads and pinching tails at crawfish boils every other weekend, screaming "Who Dat!" while watching the Saints year after year. I walked through the doors of Miller Hall on LSU's campus, pledged my sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta), and locked eyes with a brown eyed boy that stole my heart. I've fallen asleep on the parade grounds in early spring, yelled at the top of my lungs "Geaux Tigers!" until it felt like my throat would bleed, and as a victim of beer funnels and best friends, Chris managed to get us thrown out of an LSU game before it ever began. Ahem.

I've bonded with this city. I have a relationship with this area, and I feel like I'm leaving with so much left unsaid. I mean, let's face it, this city is so much more than Bourbon Street and voodoo dolls. There are so many things that I've never done while I've lived here that I'm ashamed of. How is it possible that I will be 30 this year and have never been to Jazz Fest? I hang my head in shame. Does this make me a, dare I say, "poser"? Gosh, I hope not. I will be back, I will fill my soul with this precious city once more. I will again shop Magazine street, picnic in Audubon Park, and go to mass in the Cathedral. Eventually, we will eat at every restaurant this city has to offer. I will hang a Michalopoulos painting on my wall (one day!) and remind my girls every day to never forget their roots. Because even though we will move again, (and again...) their roots are already planted. They will know Louisiana like I do. They will reel in massive bull reds in Hopedale, watch speckled trout dance just under the surface of the water from a glowing light on a pier over the lake, and taunt large mouth bass in the brackish waters in the neighborhood canals. They will stand on that very same St. Charles Avenue, elbow to elbow with their cousins, first and second, and wait as the men in our family crawl march in the Irish Channel Saint Patrick's Day parade, with half of the city, handing out flowers for kisses. Yes, they will know this city well. Come to think of it, they already do.

(With Paw Paw)

New Orleans, you are full of romance, history, and intrigue. You are so much more than even what I've mentioned. I'm sorry I have to leave you, again, before I could learn all of your secrets. I may be leaving for now, but know this: I'll be back after not so long. My Dear New Orleans, I'll be seeing you.