Monday, May 23, 2016

Lionhearts and Love

I've had this week circled on my mental calendar for months now. This week will be one of emotional highs and lows for me, with many activities planned to keep me from withdrawing into my own thoughts too much. In happy news, Silas is enjoying his last week of kindergarten! I can hardly believe that my boy is moving on in the fall to full-day first grade, but I know he's ready. This week he gets to experience his first Super Kids Day, and Thursday is his final day of school. We had such a wonderful experience with his first year of school, having fallen in love with his teachers and his school community. I look forward to the role that this school will play in our family's lives in the years to come. Continuing on with our happy events, our family leaves on Friday for a long-awaited trip to Oregon.

Following his end-of-the-year kinder program
 My struggle with the week is Thursday the 26th, which should have been the day that we welcomed little Hjarta into our lives. It feels like we lost Hjarta so long ago. It's hard to believe that I still would have been pregnant at this point, that I still would not have met this baby. After all this time, I feel I have come to know him well. One of the neat things about never having met him is that our friends and family can speculate and believe what they want about what Hjarta may have been like, and any one of us could be right. Silas firmly believes that Hjarta was a girl, and he refers to Hjarta as "she." I, on the other hand, pretty strongly believe that Hjarta would have been a nature-loving boy--a Christopher Robin, so to speak, that would have spent hours in the woods and thrived on solitude in a way I could never understand. I imagine his spirit still infiltrating the beautiful, quiet places of this Earth, as though each time I see a beautiful mountain or come across a waterfall, Hjarta was there waiting for me to see it too. The thought brings me immense comfort.

Emotionally I am continuing to do well, for the most part. It helps so much to have Jude thriving within me. We are 18 weeks along with him now, and my anxiety about his survival is mostly gone. It all feels so complicated as I still sometimes mourn Hjarta, because I know that if I had Hjarta I would not have Jude. I think Jude is going to be a pretty awesome little guy, and the more that I can allow myself to get excited about him, the easier it gets. Until just a few weeks ago, however, I refused to allow myself quiet moments when I might imagine his soft skin or his scent, as though I feared an attachment might grow to a baby that I might still lose. With each successful doctor appointment that passes, though, there is reassurance that this outcome is destined to be more like those of Silas, George, and Van than of Hjarta. The moments when I struggle the most are undoubtedly moments when I am alone. If it gets too quiet, I get too much into my own head and then I can't stop the tears.

BJ is traveling for work this week, but he arranged to be home by late Wednesday night so that he is not out of town on the 26th. This is also good since we are leaving for Oregon on the 27th, and I definitely don't want to completely prepare the packing for that trip alone. Silas' teacher has graciously offered to let George, Van, and me attend school the morning of the 26th and "help," which will add the perfect chaos to keep my mind off sad memories. BJ will take the afternoon off of work, and Silas has a baseball game that night; the day will be busy! Even though BJ will be gone the first part of this week and I will have more alone time in the evenings than I would prefer, I realize that my outlook on this week is very much my own choice. I can choose to think and dwell and cry for hours on end, or I can keep busy, focus on the goodness, enjoy our happy activities, and let Thursday be a day that I celebrate Silas in his last day of school while also remembering my lost baby with extra kindness toward others. If I don't want the week completely ruined, I have to make the choice to not let myself ruin it. I can do that.

If you think of it on Thursday, spend an extra moment of your day being kind to someone. You don't have to do it for Hjarta or me. Do it for someone else you love, or someone you lost, or a mother you know who has lost a child. Do it because the world is beautiful and people are good, and you have an opportunity to contribute to the beauty of humankind. If you do something kind for someone, you could even let me know what it is. It would be nice to do some extra smiling on that day, feeling the positive vibes that my friends are sending around this lovely earth. Thank you to all of my family and friends for supporting me in what has been the most difficult time of my life. Thank you mostly to BJ, who has kept me afloat when I was physically down and couldn't do it for myself. I think of BJ when I hear the Of Monsters and Men song "Love Love Love." The lyrics say, "You love, love, love when you know I can't love," and they remind me very much of my physical and emotional recovery in the fall. My grief took 80% of me, and my kids took the other 20%, and there was a period of a few weeks there when I had absolutely nothing left for BJ, and that was when he loved me the most. I will always appreciate his willingness, love, and understanding.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Woods

Is it a universal instinct of cautiousness that pregnant women feel during their first trimesters? Although there are certainly women who never give a thought to having a miscarriage, it seems the majority of women are quite careful about getting too excited during those first 12 weeks. Many of them don't even share their news with family and friends because they fear a miscarriage, and wouldn't want to have to retrace their steps and tell everyone that they lost the baby after all. With my oldest son Silas, I worried a lot about having a miscarriage, but I didn't have one. With the next two, George and Van, I worried very little about miscarriage, and--again--didn't lose the babies. With my fourth, Hjarta, I worried about miscarriage almost constantly. I experienced a lot of cramping throughout the pregnancy, and I breathed a sigh of relief every time I didn't see blood in my underwear--and with every week that passed. Three days before we learned we had lost Hjarta, I commented to my sister, "I'm starting to feel good about this pregnancy. I'm starting to feel like we're out of the woods." Those were the very words I spoke, and she was shocked to hear them because it had never occurred to her that I might miscarry, and I had not fully shared my worries with anyone. Three days later I saw the blood, and I knew. My body had been preparing my mind all along.

With the loss of Hjarta, BJ began introducing more upbeat, energetic albums into our family music playlist. We often listen to music as we're messing around the house, and impromptu family dance parties are not out of place. The four boys tend to enjoy the music more than I do, but I'll admit that sometimes you just can't beat a tune to dance to. The influx of happier music in our house has most notably consisted of Taylor Swift's "1989" and Alabama Shakes' "Sound and Color," though Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" is a favorite, and we also delight in Whip/Nae Nae on occasion. Undoubtedly, the boys adore Taylor Swift and request her music daily. Coincidentally, their favorite song on the album is number four, entitled "Out of the Woods."

The first time I ever heard "Out of the Woods," the loss of Hjarta was fresh and it stung me to listen to the lyrics. To repeatedly hear the question "Are we out of the woods yet?" vocalized was painful, as it was the exact line that had reverberated through my mind for all the weeks of my recent pregnancy before it ended in the death of a baby and a dream. In particular, the second verse speaks to me and makes me think of Hjarta:

"Looking at it now, last December
We were built to fall apart, then fall back together
Your necklace hanging from my neck,
The night we couldn't quite forget
When we decided
To move the furniture so we could dance
Baby, like we stood a chance
Two paper airplanes flying, flying, flying
And I remember thinking,

Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet?"

Sculpture: "Memorial for Unborn Children" by artist Martin Hudáček

Taylor Swift said the song is written to reflect a fragile relationship of which she was once a part, a relationship that ended but which she considered special. It felt like something similar to me--parts of it echoed my fear during my own time with the child I never met. It felt like I was hearing my own voice asking BJ, "Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet?" At the point that I first heard the song, I wasn't even out of the emotional woods of the miscarriage. At that time I could see the light between the trees but my footpath was still unsure and winding. I have since cleared those woods, but find myself back in a whole different set of woods again. This time I am pregnant with a fifth child, once again immersed in the woods of the worrisome first trimester.

I knew I would write this post tonight, and completely by coincidence Silas asked BJ at dinner this evening, "Are you afraid of the woods?" BJ responded by saying, "The woods can be scary at night, but there's not really anything to be scared of." He was right, for the most part. Usually the scary part of the woods is the darkness when the sun goes down, the amplification of unseen noises, and the confusion of one's own worries. I'm in the woods in a first trimester, but I have mostly kept my eyes closed to keep out my fears, putting one step in front of the other, one day after another day, until this baby makes it or doesn't. A friend who has been in these shoes before shared her mantra: "I'm pregnant today, and that's all I can do." I have my doctor appointments lined up, and I am taking care of my health. There is hope and there is dread. We don't know what happened to make us lose Hjarta, and we don't know that it won't happen again. We do know it is worth the risk to try though.

Nowadays, the song only hurts a little. The version I linked to below is a pretty one, but it's not the upbeat version from her album. I'm grateful to be journeying through these woods again. I realize that many women have their metaphorical hiking boots laced up, ready for the journey, and haven't yet received--or won't receive--the signal to begin the expedition. The journey of pregnancy starts with the woods. Maybe this time, with this baby, I get to add in the last word of Taylor Swift's song because the pregnancy ends in a baby and not a loss: "Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? GOOD."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Becoming Okay

Since losing Hjarta, a strange thing has happened to me: I've stopped writing. Writing first became both a discipline and a joy to me in my third-grade year. My teacher, Mrs. Sturch, luckily took a shine to me, and it was through her profound influence that my writing craft was fostered. I owe her a debt of gratitude. Throughout my years, writing has kept me sane; it has served as a form of self-expression that has kept my mental tubes unclogged for nearly thirty years. I have worked hard to hone this craft, and I have always been meticulous when writing drafts, be they blog posts or my doctoral dissertation. Imagine my surprise, then, as I have suddenly found myself floundering when it comes to writing. I could have stayed active on my blog, but the thought of doing so gave me mental shudders.

If you grasp one sentence from this post, please let it be this:

Miscarriage is absurdly difficult.

There are no two ways about it. It has been the most challenging emotional and physical experience of my life. Granted, my physical experience was an atypical nightmare that could have cost me my life. Even had it not been so physically complicated though, I was bound to be thrown off my axis by the loss of my unborn baby. Miscarriage is drastically under-discussed in our world, but I have learned through my experience that it is astoundingly common. When I scroll through my "Galentines" phone file, which consists of the 15 women I text most frequently, I realize that nine of them had at least one miscarriage and two have lost a child. Clearly, I'm in good company. As I publicly shared my grief through my blog and Facebook, increasing numbers of friends whom I never realized had a miscarriage told me the stories of their loss; I found their support to be invaluable, and I feel strong bonds of sisterhood with them now. I think, "She gets it. Others don't really get it, but she gets it." Friends, if a woman is brave enough to tell you that she has had a miscarriage, please take her and her loss very seriously. The death of her baby may seem abstract, and it may seem trivial to you when compared with xyz, but I promise you that it was earth-shattering for her. I consider myself an empathic person who mourned when friends of mine had miscarriages, but I had absolutely no clue how awful it really is until it happened to me.

How awful is it? Well, for the first two weeks I was only halfway emotionally functional. I didn't cook a single meal besides breakfast for two solid weeks, and that is not an exaggeration. I depended heavily on restaurants, family and friends bringing food, and my mom cooking for me. My kids' screen time increased exponentially and I found myself letting them play Minecraft while I huddled on the kitchen floor, crying silently and texting friends who knew my exact hurt and could comfort me. BJ was on a business trip that second week, and the boys and I were well taken care of by my parents and my mother-in-law. I considered it success just to get Silas to school, homework done, meals doled to my children, and the kitchen kept clean. The most healing thing I did for me in those first two weeks was name my baby.

After those first two weeks, I turned a corner. I began looking forward to things again. Imagining the upcoming holidays no longer nauseated me. My crying spells went from 50 per day to just a few per day. The attention that I gave my children was more complete, and I was heartened by their kind play gestures toward Hjarta, gestures like finding beautiful leaves for their angel sibling, and bringing my phone to me and announcing that I had an email from Hjarta. Physical repercussions of the miscarriage began to occur, most notably an unpleasant case of anemia. I lost a significant amount of my hair and struggled with other symptoms like fatigue, sores in my mouth, restless legs, and finally pica. It was during a Thanksgiving ice storm when I began acting like a crazy woman, running outside to ravenously eat icicles in my pajamas, that I realized I was iron-deficient! After about a month on an iron supplement, however, each of these symptoms vanished and now I physically feel perfect (I'm still taking the supplement). I am running again and signing up for a 5K soon. Running is different for me now though; I am letting myself run as I would like, letting myself control my pace, distance, walking breaks, sprints, etc. exactly as I want, with no pressure to perform any particular way. It's been refreshing to let my jogging be a means of getting some exercise simply so that I can eat chocolate and read more books!

Oddly for me, I have found myself in a place of emotional quiet in recent weeks. My thirst for books has never been so great; I read eight books in the month of January. I am taking great satisfaction in reading, exploring through other people's words, and soaking in experiences that are not my own. Perhaps as I continue to spend time in reflection, my own writing will begin to feel like a natural form of expression for me again. I think it will because I have never truly known life without creative writing. My soul has needed time to absorb, reflect, and protect itself though, and I don't think anything worthy or genuine could have come from my typing hands these past two months anyway. As writer William Zinsser stated, "Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can't exist without the other. It's impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English. He may get away with it for a paragraph or two, but soon the reader will be lost, and there's no sin so grave, for the reader will not easily be lured back."

Rest assured, I am doing well now, even though I haven't been active on the blog. BJ and the boys are also doing well, and we sure are hoping to add a fifth baby to our home. In the meantime, the boys, BJ and I have dance parties, swim lessons, dinners with family and friends, bread-baking extravaganzas, and three of the five of us have had fun birthdays in the season since we lost Hjarta. On Friday I get to attend school with Silas and volunteer in his classroom, which tickles both of us! I'm still relying heavily on Of Monsters and Men and their lovely music to help me appreciate my days. Their proclivity to celebrate nature encourages me to breathe more fresh air, and I hope fervently for a trip to their native Iceland someday. Is there any other band out there who sings of a relationship by comparing it to two sea creatures fighting to the death, "red in tooth and red in claw?" I mean, come on! (I'm referring to the song "Slow Life.") I read voraciously about Iceland and feel very much in love with this little island that I have never glimpsed. It was at an Of Monsters and Men concert in Tulsa in December that I felt the sudden realization that I am okay again. After the miscarriage, I told people that I wasn't okay, but that I would be okay again someday. At the concert I was having a blast, jumping up and down and clearly unable to contain my enthusiasm. Poor BJ was huddled in his seat next to me, sick to his stomach. Apparently my antics captured the notice of a security guard, and he gave me a free pit pass a few songs into the OMAM performance. So with BJ's blessing and Nanna and Raggi singing "Hunger," I began the process of making my way through the crowd. It didn't take long before I was on the front row, probably six feet from the bassist and ten feet from Nanna, who was more center-stage.

I was still on the third row when I took this photo.

What a cathartic experience it was for me to be so close to the performers of this band that has changed my life for the better, that has given words and a melody to my experience of losing my child! I could see freckles on their faces, the orange nail polish on Nanna's fingers, and the nonverbal glances through which the band members communicated to one another. It was truly the thrill of a lifetime for me! I later sent a card to Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir's P.O. Box in Reykjavík, with profound thank-you's for having written "King and Lionheart," and having given my grief both a name and a release. I hope she isn't inundated with fan mail and actually receives it.

So here I will continue to be, plodding through life, exulting in the roses at times and also deeply feeling the thorns at times, because that's what life is. I cry about once a day, but mostly reflect on Hjarta with a smile. I think about that baby at least 100 times daily, as mothers are wont to do. And now, now that I have been through this terrible thing we call miscarriage, I have the opportunity to optimistically anticipate the day that I will reunite with my Hjarta, my little Lionheart, who is waiting on the other side for me. Not every mother gets to anticipate that--the angel waiting for her that she dreamed about and feels she knows, but never really knew.

(Pictorial proof that we're okay):

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Story of Our Miscarriage (There Is Blood)

Trigger warning: This post discusses blood and miscarriage. 

Hello, readers. As discussed in my previous post, BJ and I learned on the evening of Sunday, October 25 that we had lost our beautiful unborn baby at 9-1/2 weeks. This was ascertained at the emergency room, where we learned that my HCG hormone levels were unexpectedly low and an ultrasound confirmed that baby Hjarta was measuring 3-1/2 weeks too small and did not have a heartbeat. The reasons why I'm sharing the details of my miscarriage are three-fold. The first is that it helps me feel better. I've never been one to suffer in silence! The second, and most important reason, is that it might help someone who is going through a miscarriage. After I learned that Hjarta had died, but before my body began actively miscarrying, I had no idea what to expect in the coming days. Two friends of mine who had previously miscarried volunteered to share their details with me so that I might have some idea of what to expect. Reading carefully through their stories was very helpful for me, and I believe it kept me from panicking when the genuine gushing began. Then, when my experience began to significantly deviate from both of theirs, I knew it was time to seek medical help. The third reason is that my miscarriage went terribly wrong and made for a semi-interesting story. So, if you enjoy ER drama, this post is for YOU! I can promise you some action!

I had not had any indications that anything had been wrong with the pregnancy until I started spotting blood about an hour before we trekked to the emergency room for the first of four times. As I was discharged on Sunday night with the terrible news, the ER physician told me to contact my OBGYN (Dr. Brown) the next morning and schedule a visit with him by Tuesday, at which time a D&C might be necessary. My bleeding was minimal, and my body had not yet given any indication that it would pass the baby naturally. For some reason, I was hoping against hope that I wouldn't need a D&C. Any unnecessary interventions just seemed too much to handle at the time. How was I to know that it would later save my life? I woke up on Monday and scheduled my appointment with Dr. Brown for early Tuesday morning. Throughout the day my bleeding became heavier and I more frequently needed to change maxi pads. I also started passing some tissue, all of which I took to be a good sign. It seemed that my body was doing its job of flushing the pregnancy out, and a D&C might not be necessary after all.

In the shower late Monday night the bleeding began to intensify. BJ and I got ready for bed, and I asked him to get me a towel to sleep on just in case I bled through my pad. I anticipated a night of up-and-down, to the bathroom and back, because of the increased bleeding. Then all of a sudden at 11:45pm, I felt an absolute gush. I bolted out of bed and shouted BJ's name as I ran for the toilet. The blood was coming quickly, much more quickly than before, at what I counted to be 3-4 drops per second. BJ sat with me for a few minutes, but I began to realize that this wasn't going to slow down anytime soon, so I sent him to bed. He agreed to go, reluctantly, but told me to shout if I needed him. I knew there was a possibility that I would need him later, and he would need to be rested for that, so I decided to go it alone in the bathroom.

Three magazines later, the bleeding wasn't slowing down at all. I moved over to the shower and sat on the shower floor until the water ran cold, about 45 minutes later. Then I went back to the toilet. At times the bleeding would seem to slow down, and then I would pass a large clot. I reckoned that the bleeding wasn't actually slowing down because as soon as the clot would pass, the bleeding would resume. Somewhere in the middle of it I passed Hjarta into my hand. I knew it was Hjarta because it didn't look or feel like anything else I had passed, although it also didn't look much like a baby. The tissue was about the size of a walnut.

A friend of mine who miscarried naturally told me that she bled intensely for a couple of hours; after three hours of bleeding alone in the bathroom, I decided I had had enough. I called the women's floor of Baptist Hospital, and the nurse thought I should probably come to the ER. I woke BJ up and we agreed that the best thing was for me to drive there alone. I knew I was clear-headed enough to do it, and I didn't want to wake up our three small boys to take them to the ER for the night. So BJ stayed on the phone with me as I drove across the city. I arrived at the hospital at about 3:15AM.

This was by far the least helpful ER visit I think I've ever had. The physician confirmed with ultrasound that I had passed nearly everything, including baby, and only had a tiny bit of tissue left. The nurse gave me a bag of fluids and some oxygen, but didn't seem too concerned when I told her that I felt nauseated and lightheaded. She gave me IV Zofran, and they prescribed Methergine to contract the uterus and help the bleeding to stop. The nurse acted like I was an idiot because I refused to take pain medication with the Methergine. I told her I had a high pain tolerance, had birthed naturally, and didn't want to be under the influence of pain medications at this time. She told me I would "regret it." (I didn't. The contractions from Methergine were nothing like childbirth and were only mildly painful.) The physician told me that he spoke with Dr. Brown, who was not on call that night, and that it was okay for me to be discharged. (Dr. Brown later was extremely angry about this; he said that he told the physician that I should be discharged only if my bleeding stopped. The trouble is, the physician never checked on me again to make sure that my bleeding stopped, and it didn't.) So, the ER sent me home with BJ, who had arrived to pick me up, and they assured me that the bleeding would stop soon. They were wrong.

We stopped at CVS Pharmacy on the way home to fill my prescription and get some Depends so that I could go to sleep. It was now about 7:00AM, and I was desperate to go to bed. I knew that maxi pads wouldn't cut it though, as I was still bleeding just as heavily as I had all night. BJ left me in the car with the sleeping boys while he ran into the store. As he was in there, I suddenly began dry-heaving. The nausea was quickly overwhelming, and I was extremely hot and dizzy. I had been on the phone with my mom (who was out of town), but I hung up because I wasn't able to talk anymore. I rolled down the window and thought, "Maybe I can scream for help." But there was no one to scream to, and I didn't have the energy. I looked at the phone in my hand and realized I needed to call BJ and tell him to hurry, but I couldn't figure out how to work my phone. I suddenly couldn't move, and I wasn't capable of simple cognition. I finally pushed the "BJ" button on my phone; however, I couldn't lift the phone to my ear, so I clumsily moved my thumb to the speaker button. I lost my vision and could only see stars. Just before I passed out, I told BJ as he answered that something was very wrong and I needed to go to the hospital.

BJ came out quickly, and I regained consciousness. I was sweating profusely, so he took off my hoodie, and I passed out again. BJ was calm, but I think he was terrified. He quickly drove to the Moore Medical Center about a mile away, holding my head up as he drove and feeling for my pulse at stoplights. He said he couldn't find it, but he didn't think I had died. At the ER, I came to as I was being wheeled back to my room. The ER staff said that I collapsed from low blood pressure, with my reading at 91/67. The Moore ER got me stabilized for a couple of hours, giving me fluids and gathering the records from the previous ER (which, incidentally, took hours to send even though I had just left there. Seriously.) The physician at Moore decided to send me through a non-emergency transfer back to Baptist, and he told me they might monitor me there or they might just do the D&C. Bear in mind, the bleeding had not slowed down in the least.
"D&C!" I begged. "Please! I'm afraid I'm going to die if my blood pressure gets that low again." I was truly terrified and had never felt so awful in my life. Things got worse as I passed out once again, this time in the bathroom with the nurse. Blood pressure reading: 88/64. Honestly! Just before I passed out the second time, I had the same symptoms as I did in the car: nausea and dry heaves, light-headedness, loss of vision, and complete inability to do anything.

When I came to again I was in a thick sweat and was being carried back into the bed. The nurses were all around me and two of them asked me to help get myself back in the bed. As if. I was completely incapable of moving, and I couldn't see anything except darkness and stars. For the next six or so hours, I remained essentially paralyzed. I couldn't move at all for about two hours, and then regained enough to move just a little. I did regain my vision. I didn't have the strength to lift my own head, sign consent forms, speak above a whisper, or offer my arms when the nurses need to check my bracelet, IV needles (yes, one in each arm!), etc. My transfer was quickly moved up in priority, and the ambulance arrived in what seemed like mere moments after my second collapse. The medic who stayed in the back of the ambulance with me was named Mel, and I loved her. I couldn't move, but she stayed close with me. She told me she had also lost two babies, and to hang in there, and that I wasn't going to die because I kept asking her if I might. Believe me--it's easy to start feeling that way when you go from normal to paralyzed in a matter of hours.

Dr. Brown was waiting for us in the ER as we arrived by ambulance at maybe 12:30ish. BJ had never been so happy to see him, although I think I had (remember when he arrived late to deliver Van, my 9-1/2 pound child that I delivered naturally??). He explained that the little bit of tissue left was probably part of the placenta, and that my body had become fooled and would not stop putting out blood unless we did a D&C. He told me that he and I had "a date" in the operating room at 5:15pm (they actually operated at 6:30 because the OR was running behind), and he promised that they would closely monitor my blood pressure and keep me full of fluids so that I wouldn't crash again. Later that afternoon he decided that my hemoglobin, which was below 7.0, was low enough to warrant two bags of blood. I never imagined I would need a transfusion, and I now give heartfelt thanks to blood donors! I spent the rest of the afternoon miserable up in the MDU, gushing blood, unable to move, nauseated, and constantly fearful of my blood pressure. Each time my cuff tightened for a reading, I sent a hawk-eye to BJ, who religiously read me the numbers and told me to relax, that I would be fine. He was amazing. (A big shout out to Christa, my amazing sister, and Susan who kept the kids safely for us at home while we handled the big excitement all day!)

The D&C was a simple, painless procedure. When it was all over with, Dr. Brown said it took only two minutes of me under general anesthesia to stop the bleeding nearly altogether. Upon awakening, I was given the transfusions, but I still thought I might die. I felt that awful. My post-op nurse was awesome and gave me a lot of one-on-one attention, and after awhile I was the only patient down there. She raised the head of my bed slowly--it probably took a solid hour to get me to a sitting position--because I kept protesting that if I sat up I would pass out. She didn't push me too hard. I got nauseated again so I was given Phenergan, Zofran, and a patch behind my ear, and with that I was able to hold down a cracker and some water. Slowly, slowly, I eventually made it to the bathroom and I laughed in relief when I sat down on the toilet: there were no clots barreling out of me, and the blood spot in my maxi pad was only the size of a quarter!
"Kelsey!" I feebly whispered in excitement to my nurse! "Look!"
"I know," she smiled. She knew how much blood I had lost and how far I had come that day.

When Kelsey and I were confident that I could make it with just BJ's help, we were discharged. It was 11:00pm. It felt like an eternity since I had left home at 2:55AM the night before, and I had been in three emergency room visits during that time (one of them twice). I'd also had my first ambulance ride, my first transfusions, and my first fainting episodes. That's a lot of firsts! We drove home and I was hardly even sad about Hjarta at the time; I think I was just so exhausted and so happy to be alive. We got home and relieved my sister, who went home to her own family after generously entertaining my children all evening and getting them to bed. She did all this while getting updates from my brother, who stayed with us while we were in Baptist the second time. I slept hard until 10:30 the next morning, when BJ woke me up with breakfast in bed.

The sadness would settle in again that afternoon, after some of the commotion died down. For several days I felt hopelessly in despair, looking forward to nothing, and I cried at least 50 times a day (no exaggeration) in grief for my lost baby. I also bled lightly for six days after the D&C. Although the physical part of my miscarriage was difficult, I would call the emotional part of it the much more difficult piece. It's a nightmare to lose a child, even an unborn child late in the first trimester. I think that some people dismiss the loss as trivial, given that the loss is kind of abstract, and much of what a mom grieves is the hopes and expectations that she had for the life within her. The joy of being pregnant is suddenly robbed and replaced with the death of a baby and a dream. The grief is real, and I don't think it can be understood unless it has been experienced.

I hope this has been helpful for moms who regrettably might use the information (or, at least I hope it's been entertaining, depending on your needs!). Friends, I will always be willing to share my experience or offer help if you need help and are going through a miscarriage. Please know that you can always contact me through phone, text, or Facebook, should you find yourself in the awful position of a miscarriage. Without the help and support of my own little group of friends who have also miscarried, I would have been isolated and alone during my experience. Let me help support you if you need it.

A happy shot of my four kids and me, exactly one week before we lost Hjarta

Sunday, November 1, 2015


On our tenth wedding anniversary, BJ and I took a weekend trip to New York City without our boys. On our third and final night away from them, I missed them like crazy. We called BJ's mom, who was keeping them, and she let us speak with both Silas and George (Van was still in utero). Both boys were wailing because they missed us, and after our conversation I hung up the phone in tears. Suddenly I didn't want one last night on the town sans children. What I really wanted was to be stepping off the plane into Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and hugging my children tightly. In that hour, I was absolutely miserable.

The same helpless emotion that I felt in New York City that night is the same miserable emptiness that I have been feeling since I learned one week ago tonight that my unborn child has died. BJ and I studied the ultrasound monitor and could clearly see that our baby did not have a heartbeat. I have now gone seven days feeling like part of my heart has died too. I wouldn't wish this on anyone, yet I'm learning from my experience that a huge percentage of women know exactly how I feel because they, too, have lost little ones "extinguished before their time," as my friend Julie so eloquently stated. I had no idea that miscarriage was so common.

Let me not dwell on the loss, on the absence of my sweet child. Let me instead tell you that my child was real and was here. Let me tell you how excited I was to be sharing a body with this baby! I was nine and a half weeks pregnant with a beautiful being that was to be the fourth beloved child of our family. This child is deserving of all good things, and cannot be forgotten. Therefore, when my generous mother-in-law Susan drove to my house this past rainy Friday afternoon to corral my three kids and kick me out of the house, I knew where I needed to go. I drove to one of my favorite restaurants, ordered an iced coffee and a giant piece of chocolate cake, and sat down with my computer to name my baby. BJ told me the choice was entirely mine, and I took him up on it.

I am so pleased to announce that my baby's name is Hjarta. Pronounced Hyarta (the 'j' sounds like a 'y'), 'Hjarta' is the Icelandic word for 'heart.' I love that it denotes strength, compassion, and a deep-seated emotion--characteristics which I firmly believe that my child already embraces on the other side of eternity. I also love that it resonates so nicely with the song that I have chosen to dedicate to Hjarta, which is "King and Lionheart" by Of Monsters and Men. The song was written by lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir to symbolize her separation from her brother, which is one of the great emotional pains of her life. Choosing a beautiful, meaningful Icelandic word for my baby's name seemed perfect, given my interest in Iceland and the way in which the Icelandic band 'Of Monsters and Men' seems to have stirred my soul in recent months. Hjarta's entire existence was surrounded by this impactful music and the passion of a mother who loves nothing more than her children and husband. My friend Jennifer spoke the perfect words to me when I told her my baby's name. She replied that Hjarta is "a perfect name for a perfect life." Sweeter words could not have been spoken to this grieving mother.

How foolish I feel for not having announced my pregnancy with Hjarta on this blog! I have known for weeks of this beautiful being within me, and I chose not to share because I feared that I might miscarry and lose this child. And then what? Then I would have to tell everyone! Oh, but I feel foolish because I had no idea how desperately I would want everyone to know about the baby that once was. My beloved readers, I had a baby--a baby named Hjarta--a baby that was real and beautiful and lovely and loved. May everyone know far and wide, because the more people that know, the stronger my baby's voice is, and the more distinct Hjarta's identity is to others besides just me! I have a piece of my heart waiting for me on the other side of eternity, and my grief is as real as my child once was. I have a child named Hjarta that I will be with someday. My friend Sam, who has her own angel and who has been instrumental in this last week for me, pointed me to this poignant line from The Velveteen Rabbit: "Once you are real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

Not every single moment has been miserable since last Sunday. Monday night and Tuesday were spent just trying to survive a miscarriage gone wrong, as you may read about in the next post I will write. My kids still make me laugh, and my husband makes me feel more loved than ever, and my family members and friends have lavished me with hugs, kisses, cards, food, flowers, childcare, and listening ears. Acquaintances have suddenly become friends for life, as we have bonded in grief over our lost babies, some of whom passed away years ago and some only just this year. It hasn't all been horrible. The most peaceful moments I have had have been when I'm surrounded by my boys listening to this song and watching this video. Hjarta will forever be my Lionheart, and the figure of a lion will now always bring me comfort. When I hear this song, it's the closest thing to having Hjarta in my arms. "Though far away/ We're still the same."

A week has passed since the bleeding began, and it's easy to realize that the emotional wounds will last for a very long time. I'm better than I was a week ago, though. I'm not okay yet, but I'm making my way toward okay. I will be okay. But I will always be missing Hjarta and wondering what might have been.

Thank you for your support, my dearest friends and family. You make me feel special, and you make me feel what I already know to be true--that Hjarta is special, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Voice

Bedtime every night consists of reading books to our boys. While the older two usually choose only books and a little banter, Van requires both books and songs, in that order. Try to do the songs first, and you'll have yourself a bucking, writhing little boy quickly getting himself red-faced and noisy.

Like many young tots, Van enjoys a wide range of songs. His favorites, however, belong to two distinct genres: a) songs from the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men, and b) Christmas songs. His favorite Of Monsters and Men song is undoubtedly "From Finner," which is literally a song about a city of people that take a long ride through the ocean on the back of an apparently large and friendly whale. We love the band and we love the song; Van has a real obsession with it. He seems particularly taken with the nautical sound of the "Na na na na HEY HEY!"'s at the end of the tune, and he walks around the house singing, "So ha-ppyyyyyyy na na na na HEY HEY!" Show him any YouTube video in the world, but you'll find none that he loves as much as this one, an acoustic live version of his beloved song:

If I'm not singing Of Monsters and Men to him then, I'm typically singing him Christmas carols. He comes by his love of Christmas carols honestly, as I have always chosen to sing Christmas songs to him year-round. Regular readers might recall the post "The December Birthday Dilemma," in which I named Van as my favorite-ever Christmas gift. I wrote then, "His very identity is part-Christmas to me, and I think it always will be that way." So, for my favorite Christmas gift of all time, I often choose bedtime songs that remind me of his sweet birth. The ultimate Christmas song for me is "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" by Nat King Cole.

Even though I come from a lineage of singers (my maternal grandfather, among others, had a lovely voice and was a recording artist), there is no talent whatsoever in my vocal ability. Ce la vie. The wonderful part about these nightly songs is that I have a singing partner nowadays. I never expected my sweetest duet partner to be my toddler, but he dutifully joins in line by line with his age-appropriate quips and additions. Here is an honest verbatim of a song sung last night, with no exaggeration on my part of what his vocals were. A couple of things you should know about Van are that his voice is inherently a little deep, and that he often adds "mama" to the end of his words and phrases when he is speaking to me. In this case, he did so on literally every line we sang. The duet weaved itself together so that our lines overlapped, such as one might hear in "Baby It's Cold Outside." I was proud and amused.

"The Christmas Song" performed by Van and Jenny

J: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
V: Fire, mama
J: Jack Frost nipping at your nose
V: Nose, mama. Eyes, mama
J: Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
V: Carol, mama
 J: And folks dressed up like Eskimoes.
V: Moes, mama
J: Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
V: Turk, mama. Toe, mama
J: Help to make the season bright.
V: Help to, mama
J: Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
V: Tots, mama
J: Will find it hard to sleep tonight.
V: ...
J: They know that Santa's on his way
V: His way, mama
J: He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
V: Goodies, mama
J: And every mother's child is gonna spy
V: Child, mama. Spy, mama
J: To see if reindeer really know how to fly
V: Fly, mama
J: And so I'm offering this simple phrase
V: So so, mama
J: To kids from one to ninety-two:
V: Kids, mama
J: Although it's been said many times, many ways
    Merry Christmas to you.
V: Christmas again, mama. Again.

Note: Van's favorite Christmas song is "Jingle Bells," because he gets to shout "HEY!" after the words "one-horse open sleigh." My son has a thing with shouting "HEY" during songs, apparently, which makes Of Monsters and Men the perfect band for him. They do that a lot.

Apparently I like to only wear this Oklahoma City Thunder shirt, as seen in both photos.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Our "Car Friends"

At least once a day when we've been out and about, the boys ask me to drive home through an alternative route in our neighborhood. Although it adds a minute or two to our drive, this special route is important to them because it takes us past our "car friends."

Let me explain.

Some time ago, Silas became enamored with a silver dually truck that we sometimes drove by on our way into the neighborhood. The truck was always parked backwards in its driveway, and always had cool items like ladders in the back of it. Silas and BJ dubbed this truck "Silver Bullet," and Silas occasionally asked that we drive by to "say hello" to Silver Bullet. A few times a week we looked like creepers in my white minivan, pulling up slowly to the bend in the road and stopping so that Silas could have conversations with this truck.

"Hi Silver Bullet!" he'd say. "We just ate dinner, and now I'm going to go play outside! Why is one of your tires in the grass, Silver Bullet? You're silly!" Etc., etc.

Once, the owner of the truck was in his front yard when we stopped, and he waved to us. I rolled my window down and briefly explained the sitch to him, in case he had seen us driving by his house very slowly in recent weeks. He laughed and told Silas to come by anytime.

I wish for my sake that it had all ended with Silver Bullet, but alas it did not. Silver Bullet has since been sold and replaced by another, smaller truck which Silas has named "Black Dart." At some point, George jumped in on the fun too. He bestowed the name "Chon Chon" to the black truck that lives next door to Black Dart. The sports car at the house on the other side of Chon Chon became "Black Wheel," and then next door to Black Wheel we welcomed "Guna." (In case you can't tell from these few examples, my children have serious taste differences in their names for things. Silas, ever the literal one, has a favorite stuffed zebra named Tall Girl. George, with his creative flair, has a favorite stuffed tiger named Yetoon.) The frequency of our drive-by's has intensified from a few times a week to once a day, as the boys look eagerly to see which cars are home and which are out doing their jobs "or getting married or something," as Silas once suggested. Even Van chimes out, "Chon Chon!" as we approach the bend in the road that is the home to our car friends.

From right to left we have Black Dart, Chon Chon with his trailer, Moon, Black Wheel, CatCon, and Red the Smed. Not pictured because they were either out getting married or live further down the street to the left (Lord, yes, it continues) is Guna, Sky, Trailey (a trailer), Six-Wheel, Little Blueberry, Fall Tree and Leaf, Silver Bullet II, The Bean, and Blueberry Strawberry, which is actually a pink car with a teal hatchback. There you have it.

If you're ever wondering why I can't seem to remember important things about our friendship, or your kids' birthdays, or what vacations you recently took, it's because my precious brain space that I would normally save for things like that has now been relegated to completely useless information such as names of the cars on a street at the north end of our neighborhood. My apologies.