Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wondering how to make your kids behave? I have the secret.

When I was pretty little, like maybe five or six, we got some hamsters. I think they were all supposed to be the same gender but somehow that didn't happen and the next thing we knew, the one named Jenny had some babies.

Even before she had babies, Jenny was a bitch. She bit, she fought the other hamsters. She was the meanest one of the bunch and how one of the other hamsters got brave enough and close enough to mount her or however they do it is beyond me. He must have been seriously in need.... enough to risk his life or at the very least, some body parts. That's a horny hamster. She must have been, too, to let one get close. Actually, he probably mounted her to save his own life.... That Jenny bitch needs to get laid... guess since I'm the only guy here I have to be the one to do it before she kills us all.

So Jenny the Bitch Hamster had her little babies. They were so ugly, they were cute. I don't remember how many she had, maybe around five. I loved them, those squirmy little fur-less rat-looking things.

And one day, we found the babies dead. Jenny had suffocated her own babies! And I may have blocked this out, but something is creeping in and out of my memory about her having consumed some of them....

I'm telling you, it was fucking traumatic. Not only because my beloved hamster babies were all dead but they were murdered by their own mother.

I didn't yet understand the primal nature of the animal kingdom, and it shook me to the core. I mean, up until that point in my life, I felt pretty secure in my parent's love for me and that they wanted me around. I was a good kid. I talked too much but I did what they told me to do, except keep my room clean. And so to discover that some moms will actually kill their own kids was quite upsetting. I mean, what the hell did those babies do to make their own mom want to kill them? It was absolutely baffling and completely terrifying. My parents did their best to explain that that's just what hamsters do sometimes, but I still was not comforted.

I knew my mom wasn't a hamster, but you can bet I kept my ass in line for some time after that. And if I forgot and thought about getting mouthy or not listening, all I had to do was walk past my mom's sewing room, where the hamsters were kept, and see Jenny running along in her wheel, staring me down with her psychotic, murderous eyes to remind me and I would snap right back into shape. Right back.

Today, as a mother, I remember that traumatic time but I look at with a different perspective. One, now I actually understand why hamsters murder their young. It's an awful thing to say but in the darkest moments of sleep-deprivation, stress, and angst, I get it. A lot of us get it. We'd never actually do it, but we get it.

And two, I spy an opportunity. Some people use Santa or the Elf on a Shelf to keep their kids in line. I'm thinking hamsters. Specifically, mean-ass, fertile female hamsters with a male roommate. My parents couldn't have asked for a better kid and they probably don't know this, but Mom and Dad, it wasn't from your parenting skills.

It was from Jenny the fucking hamster.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Crazy Story, Part 5: A Glimpse Into Suffering

The previous parts of this story can be viewed by clicking here for part 1, here for part 2, here for part 3, and here for part 4. Whew.

For two weeks, we waited until our appointment for the echocardiogram of Baby Boy's heart. The relief that he didn't have Down's Syndrome was so intense, and the preceding stress from wondering if he did have it didn't leave very much room for more concern about his heart. It was kind of like once you reach bottom, there are no lower depths.

On the day of the echo, we arrived at Stanford with Nate's dad and stepmom. They accompanied us for support, and it could not have been more appreciated. We found the area we were supposed to be in and I was completely unprepared for what I was about to see. We were in a pediatric cardiology unit in a specialized hospital. I should have known.

There was a couple in the waiting area with a newborn baby girl. The dad was holding her like it was for the last time. The mom had that haunted look on her face that only parents who know they are going to face the deepest depths of grief and hell, but don't know exactly when, can have. She knew her baby was going to die. It was piercing, and I could not look away.

Please don't let that be us.

My name was called and we all headed back. The echo commenced and was basically me laying there, with Nate and my in-laws sitting alongside the bed. It went on for about a half an hour, and then suddenly the technician who was performing the echo said that she needed to go get the cardiologist. She instantly saw by the look on my face what her words had done to me - stopped my heart. She explained that she couldn't get a particular image reading and she needed the cardiologist's help. A few minutes later, she returned with the cardiologist, and the cardiologist resumed the echo. A few minutes after that, the cardiologist suddenly blurted out that everything is great. The heart is perfect. So perfect, in fact, that she does not need me to return for the 20-week follow-up echo.

Another bullet dodged. More crushing relief. CAN WE GET SOME CHAMPAGNE, PEOPLE??? Anyone? Ooooh, that's right, I'm pregnant. We left, and on the way out we passed some kind of prenatal unit. I caught a glimpse of a woman who was about 5 or 6 months pregnant sitting in the waiting room, sobbing into her hands. Just sobbing. A man was standing next to her, despair all over his face, hands flopping about ineffectually. Given the hospital, the unit, and her condition, I had no doubt that they had just received devastating news about their baby. It was a total punch to the gut and the heart to witness. Absolutely heartbreaking. The only-Alzheimer's-will-let-me-forget-that-sight kind of heartbreaking. We reached the elevators, and there was a couple in it looking about as forlorn as you can look; the woman had a hospital gown on and was holding a Medela bottle of pumped breast milk. They got off on the floor of the neonatal intensive care unit, holding each other as though one might fall if the other let go. Again, only Alzheimer's....

Jesus God. While we received fantastic news there, it was a place full of despair and heartbreak. I never want to go back. My heart aches for anybody who has to be there.

Four weeks later, an in-depth ultrasound was performed on Baby Boy to look for those other birth defects that the nuchal translucency indicated could be present. About halfway through it, Dr. S told me that he saw a marker for Down's Syndrome, and I about shit myself. He confirmed that the CVS came back negative for DS, then told me that one of the kidneys was enlarged because it wasn't draining urine. Apparently, DS fetuses sometimes don't have properly functioning kidneys. But this was one of those things where maybe the kidney had a blockage that could be problematic or maybe we just happened to catch sight of it just before it drained.

Good God, will it ever end?

He told me not to be concerned, that he would just watch over it for the next couple of months. He said that he rarely sees these types of things not resolve themselves. And then he performed the rest of the ultrasound and declared the fetus otherwise perfect. 

A couple of months later, another ultrasound of the enlarged kidney showed that it had drained. We were set. A couple of months after that, on August 25th, 2010, Nate and I arrived at the hospital, and he took the last photo that will ever be taken of me while pregnant. It's a bit grainy.

And a couple of hours later, after being prepped for the c-section, we heard the cry of Baby Brandon. 

Even though we had been given the all-clear on him, and he was tested every which way possible, somehow, not until he was born did Nate and I know that he was okay. Our emotions had been so strung out over him that it was not until we heard his cries that we knew he was really okay. And we both cried with sheer relief.

I don't know who the hell this mom and baby are, but here's a nice stock c-section aftermath photo for you. Just kidding, it's Brandon and I. I don't know if my eyes are so shiny and bright from tears, happiness, the operating room lights, the fact that I was getting a tubal ligation at that moment, or all of the above, but I think it's safe to say that I was one happy mama.

That night, when people had left and Nate was sleeping, I was holding Brandon and looking at him and I felt absolute euphoria and bone-deep gratitude. After all we had been through, to be holding this little guy that I never expected and thought I was going to lose several times over, I found myself feeling the happiest and most content that I had felt in probably all of my life. It was fleeting, and it was a feeling of such intensity that I know I will never feel it again. 

After introducing Brandon to the world our friends and family, we got many comments about how he's the Second Coming of Christ, The Messiah, or bound for exceptionally great things, given all that he survived and dodged to be here. Maybe they're right, or maybe he's going to work in a gas station all his life and do nothing greater than help little old ladies check their oil. Either way is fine with me. Most days, I'm just glad he's here.

I've also since paid attention to what people have to say about prenatal screening/testing. Many people who had the screening done and received false positives were later really upset at all the stress they had to go through for no reason (understandable), and they actually became anti-prenatal screening because of it. They felt that it wasn't worth it.

I disagree. I feel that it was worth going through the stress because in the end, we had all the knowledge that we possibly could have had. We had no surprises when he was born. It was worth it to go through the angst and have it be for naught than to have had the other result: no screening, have something be wrong with the baby, and not know until he was born. I believe in the screening and testing because I believe that parents have the right to know so they can educate and prepare themselves for what they are about to face. 

So I'm not angry at all we went through. It didn't make me bitter. If anything, it has given me a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation for Brandon, and for the frailty of life in general. For the first year of his life, every single day, I would feel a brief jolt of deep thankfulness that he was here. I would be holding him or watching him and it would strike me. Thank you, baby, for being here. I'm so happy that you made it. It was an interesting phenomenon because I didn't experience that with the other two boys. Obviously, I'm happy they are here but they didn't inspire that daily feeling like Brandon did. And after Brandon turned a year old and started doing the toddler things that drive me absolutely nuts, and the chaos and insanity amped up quite a bit, the feeling started occurring less and less. Now I'll maybe feel it monthly. It's always there, deep in my heart, but my ability to acknowledge it has waned significantly. It's hard to feel grateful when he's being a little punk. 

And some days, when he's really killing me with his shit, I think to myself, You're lucky we went through all that, or I'd seriously drop-kick you off at the nearest adoption agency right now. I'm not kidding, dude. You're lucky.


So now, being a family where the kids outnumber the parents, it's crazy as shit. There is a significant difference going from two to three kids. In either the next post or the one after, I'll lay out how it has impacted our family and things to think about, if you are thinking about adding a third child to your family but aren't sure. I'll preface it by saying that my opinion is it's something to think a lot more heavily about than adding a second child.

Thanks for being such awesome readers. I appreciate it.

Here's the link to the last installment: Part 6

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Friday, May 25, 2012

One Crazy Story, Part 4: What Does Hell Feel Like?

The previous parts of this story can be viewed by clicking here for part 1, here for part 2, and here for part 3.

This is where it gets tough, people. This is the hard part to write.

So, we've seen a heartbeat at 6 weeks pregnant. Given this and all of the great test results, Dr. S has now entrenched himself in the no-miscarriage camp. He's pretty convinced that, even though I'm not out of the first trimester and still in the high-risk-for-miscarriage zone, if the fetus has survived all it had been through, then it was most likely here to stay. I spent the next 5-ish weeks trying to adjust to the fact that we were having a third child. And listening to everyone say that this was going to be the girl. 

It's a girl! I know it! It's your surprise girl! 

Apparently, a lot of people really wanted us to have a girl.

Sometime in the 11th week, I went to the OB for what I thought was a *standard* prenatal test, the nuchal translucency. I thought every physician offered this test but I've since learned that many do not

It's specific testing on mom and fetus between 11 and 13 weeks gestation and is a combination of a blood draw on mom to test the levels of two different hormones, and an ultrasound of fetus in which they measure the thickness of the back of the neck, called the nuchal sac. (What is it with the term "sac" in relation to pregnancy?) This sac is only present during 11 and 13 weeks gestation, and therefore the test can only be performed during that time. The results are supposed to identify the chance that the fetus has Down's Syndrome (DS), some other chromosomal disorder, or some other birth defect like a congenital heart defect, but the primary objective is identifying DS. The thicker the sac, the higher the chance of DS.

At this time, I was 31 years old, and the risk for a woman to have a DS baby increases exponentially after they are 35, and especially 40. So I was still in the safe zone, and the risk for my age was supposed to be like 1 in 613 or something. Dr. S began the ultrasound. 

He measured the thickness of the nuchal sac, measured it again. And again. Then he said, "I don't like what I'm seeing. This sac is too thick." My heart started thumping. He measured it again and again, each time just trying to get a better result. Finally, he said that the best he could get was 2.7mm, and he needed to see it at 2mm or under. 

He then reviewed my blood work results and delivered the blow: The baby has "screened positive" (not TESTED positive; big difference) for Down's Syndrome. The chances of it actually having it were 1 in 48. Forty-eight.


I crumbled. 

I was absolutely devastated. I could not believe it. I mean, I was young, there is no family history, what the fuck?? Dr. S was careful to explain that I had only screened positive; this was in no way a confirmation of DS. 

To know for sure, I had two options, a chorionic villus sampling (CVS), in which they take a sampling of the placenta and grow the chromosomes from the sample to see if there are any missing or extra ones, or an amniocentesis, in which they draw a sample of amniotic fluid out and test the chromosomes. 

The difference is that a CVS could be done right away, but we'd have to wait two weeks for the results, and with the amnio, we'd have results in two days but had to wait until the 16th or so week to do it. In doing the math, the CVS would yield quicker results, so I told him to sign me up for that option. The CVS also has a slightly higher miscarriage rate than the amnio, but they aren't sure if it's because of the test itself or the fact that it's usually performed at the end of the first trimester, when the miscarriage rate is higher than at 16 or so weeks. 

The other thing was, either one would identify gender, since they had the chromosomes. Oh hey, yay, a perk.

I was bawling. Nate was at work, the two boys were with his mom. So I was alone. Dr. S was amazing with me. He sat with me and did his best to comfort me, but really, what could he say? What could anybody say? He told me all the ins and outs of the test results, what normal range was and how I fit into it. The tiny bit of light at the end of the tunnel was that all three of my numbers weren't too bad, considering. They were out of normal range but only slightly. 

Not only that, the 1-in-48 chance actually translated percentage-wise to only a two percent chance that the baby was DS; 98% that it was not. Because the 48 in the 1-in-48 represents women of my same race and age that are currently pregnant. So really, it was that out of all the pregnant 31-year-old German women in the world at that time, one in 48 of us was going to have a DS baby, not 1 in 48 of ALL pregnant women. So he told me to focus on that 98%. He also let me know that even though I would be almost 14 weeks along when we got the results, he could still perform a termination, if that's the route we wanted to take. I told him that it would be the route we would take.

The medical assistant was getting me scheduled for the CVS, which is done through Stanford a little over an hour away, but fortunately, Stanford has an annex office in my area and so we got to stay local. But they only did them one day a week, on Wednesdays, and this was already Tuesday. Thank God, they actually had a slot open for me the next day. Although, I would have driven out of state that day if need be to get the test done as soon as humanly possible.

After everything was set, I left and collected the boys. I had called Nate and broke the news, but told him to stay at work because there was nothing he could do. I went home and called my mom, sobbing, to give her the news. And then I did what probably 99.9% of people do in this instance: I devoured  the internet. I poured over article after article, link after link, message board after message board, searching for any ray of hope. Armed with the numbers from my test results, I plugged them in everywhere I could, trying to find any comfort I could. I poured over google images of nuchal sacs, and cried and cried and cried. I had printouts of the ultrasound images of my fetus, and I studied the nuchal sac, and its face, because I learned through my research that DS fetuses usually have other telling characteristics, like an extremely small or non-existant nasal bridge. I was pretty sure I could see one in the picture, but given that it was only 11 weeks gestation, it was hard to tell.

That afternoon, a genetic counselor from Stanford (the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital part of Stanford, actually) called and asked me several questions about health and family history, in preparation for the CVS. She also kept asking me about alcohol use during pregnancy, and I had to admit that I had gotten pretty much wasted over Christmas, before I knew I was pregnant. Even though I knew I had done nothing wrong, it didn't feel very good to admit it.

The next morning, we went for the test. First, we sat with a genetic counselor and she went over our test results, and a ton of other genetic stuff. In spite of the extreme stress I was under, it was actually really interesting. She talked all about genes and chromosomes and while that sounds really dry, it actually wasn't. I learned quite a bit. Like, did you know that some women have an extra sex chromosome, and this renders them infertile? Apparently, they actually have the male chromosome in addition to the two female ones and they would never know except via genetic testing, because besides infertility, it doesn't have any impact on them. Crazy. 

She also kept talking/asking about the damn alcohol use prior to knowing I was pregnant. It was getting stressful and alarming and even Nate started to feel weird about it because he finally asked her why she kept asking me about it. He asked if it could be the cause of the baby having DS, and she assured us that it wasn't because the chromosomes are present in the eggs and sperm prior to conception, so alcohol use during the early stages of pregnancy couldn't possibly have caused DS. Not to mention that blood supply to the fetus isn't shared with mom until a few weeks after conception. Then she finally quit hammering me about it. I gathered that they were collecting data for other uses/studies.

Anyway, then they did an ultrasound to determine where the placenta is located. If it's in the lower half of the uterus, then they stick the giant, 5-inch needle used to collect the piece of placenta through the vagina. If it's in the upper half, then they have to stick that needle through your abdomen and uterine wall to collect the sample. 

OF COURSE, my placenta was in the upper half. And of course, they can't do any numbing because how are they supposed to numb the uterine wall? But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst was watching the little fetus on the ultrasound, not knowing its fate. I watched it bucking and turning, stubby arms waving and legs kicking. My heart broke and tore and shattered, and I told myself to just look away, to not watch it, but I couldn't.

Then they were ready to do the procedure. Nate grasped my hand, and I closed my eyes. And to take my mind off of the fact that a giant needle was being plunged through my abdomen, into my uterus, I imagined standing in the kitchen of the dream house I have built in my mind only, and looked at my three children sitting at the counter. I saw Ethan's and Connor's faces, and saw a little baby about 9 months old sitting between them. I visualized the baby as a boy, since, shit, if I was wishing here, I may as well make the baby the gender I wanted, too. There was pain from the needle and pretty severe cramps, but when I felt it, in my mind I looked harder at the kids. I focused on the baby. 

Then it was done. They told me how well I did. I went to the bathroom and they gave me a pad because some bleeding is to be expected. Too much bleeding, and it means a miscarriage. But oddly, I wasn't too concerned about miscarriage; my instincts were telling me that wasn't going to be a problem. In the bathroom, there wasn't any blood, but we still had to get through the next day or so to be sure. 

We left. Now the two-week countdown had begun. Two fucking weeks of straight-up agony. What to do with oneself while waiting for test results that could alter lives? Pray. Hope. Grieve. Cry. Feel guilty, guilty, guilty. Think. Not think. Cry. Hope some more. Pray some more. Cry some more. Research more. Try not to be consumed by the utter hell I am living in.

And finally, I got mad. I got mad as hell. I was so emotionally and mentally exhausted that I couldn't research any more, hope any more, pray, nothing. All that was left was anger. And it was directed at God and it was fierce. He had promised me with that miraculous heartbeat on the first day of the 6th week that everything was going to be okay. He had promised me that I wouldn't have to worry any more. Yet here I was, absolutely terrified that I was going to have to make a decision that was going to break my heart and forever leave me devastated at what I had done. I raged against Him, I poured out my soul, I told Him to make it right.

And then, after raging, I suddenly felt really stupid. Here, I was angry and I wasn't even listening to myself. I was missing the point of the entire situation. God had promised me that everything was going to be fine. So what was I worried about?? Sure, I got some funky test results. But with that heartbeat, I was promised. So with that realization, I found myself in a different place. I found myself cautiously optimistic, just needing those test results to finalize what I knew deep down: the baby did not have Down's Syndrome. Or any other condition or problem, for that matter.

A few days later, I laid down for a nap. I took my phone to bed because when you're waiting on test results like this, your phone becomes part of your body. I got a call mid-nap from a woman who identified herself as being from Lucille Packard Children's Hospital. I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing, stopped moving, I think my heart even stopped beating. She said she had good news but first, I needed to verify my date of birth. Somehow, I strangled it out and she told me....

The baby did NOT have any extra or missing chromosomes. The baby was perfect, at least on the chromosomal level. Did I want to know the gender?


"It's a little boy."

Oh thank you, God. It was a good thing I was already laying down in bed because I think I would have crumpled from the relief. 

However, we were still not out of the woods. Can you believe this shit? Because we have those funky test results, the next thing they have to determine is if there is a major problem like a congenital heart defect. If it's not that, then they still have to perform an in-depth ultrasound to look for other defects, from major to minor. Clubfoot was mentioned. IF nothing shows up, then we just got unexplainable, funky test results, and the baby is fine. But now we have to have an echocardiogram done of the boy's heart. One at 16 weeks, and another at 20 weeks. I was almost 14 weeks.

So we had another two weeks of waiting to find out if our baby's life or health was hanging in the balance. 

The next installments can be viewed by clicking on the links:
Part 5
Part 6

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

One Crazy Story: Part 3

The previous parts of this story can be viewed by clicking here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

So the IUD has been removed. Nate and I left the ob/gyn's office. Things were tense between us, as we were not seeing eye-to-eye on the pregnancy. 

That night, I was getting ready for bed and I felt pretty severe contraction-like cramps, the kind that start in the lower back and work their way around to the front. They hurt like a bitch; it was as though I was in labor. I was still spotting and I didn't feel very good. I told Nate that I was most likely miscarrying, and he hugged me and we went to bed. 

I laid there, knowing I was losing the pregnancy, and I grieved for the little being that I would never know. I had never (knowingly) had a miscarriage before. My heart hurt, my chest was tight, I had silent tears leaking from my eyes. We weren't expecting this pregnancy, but it hit me as I was laying there, knowing that I was losing it, how badly I wanted it. I told the little sac that I was sorry it wouldn't become our baby, that we wouldn't get to meet it, that it wouldn't get to know life. It tore me up that we wouldn't know who it would have been; in fact, I think that was the worst... who were you supposed to be, baby? I felt incredibly sad that I wouldn't even know if it would have been a boy or the girl that nobody in Nate's family seems to be able to have. And I told it that I wanted it. I didn’t want to lose it. I begged it to hang on, to stay. But, the inevitable was happening. And so I said goodbye. Goodbye little baby. I'm sorry that you couldn't stay.

Even for not having wanted or expected this pregnancy, to feel like I was losing it? To feel compelled to say goodbye? It sucked.

Somehow, I slept. I was so emotionally spent that there was nothing else I could do. The next morning, the pains had stopped, and so had the spotting. But I wasn't really sure what that meant. Am I losing/did I lose it? I went and got the first blood draw to test for the hCG levels. A day after that draw, and still with no more spotting, the results showed increasing levels of hCG: the pregnancy was sticking. Another blood draw, another day goes by, the hCG levels had increased like, a thousand percent, or some phenomenal amount. 

By all accounts, this maternal sac was going to hang around. The lab results on the IUD showed NO fetal tissue or cells present, meaning that the sac had been completely unscathed during the removal. It was all looking good. The next day was Friday, and I was seeing doc first thing in the morning to touch base with all the lab work, and to see if the heartbeat was there.

Before I go on, I feel the need to clarify something. I am not a religious person. I don't go to church, I don't worship, I don't follow the Bible. But I believe, very, very deeply, in something/someone greater than us. We usually refer to that someone as God. I believe in God, I just don't follow any kind of organized religion. But I pray, I believe, I have faith.

Now, that Friday was the first day of the sixth week of pregnancy. The fetal heartbeat shows up sometime in the sixth week. I was seeing the doctor in the morning, at 9 a.m. The night before, bolstered with hope from all of the good test results, and that the spotting had stopped, I laid in bed and said one quick prayer. I asked God that if everything was going to be fine with this baby, and I was going to have a healthy baby (boy, please) in eight-ish months, then please let me see the heartbeat in the morning. I told Him that I had already spent the week stressing out about the pregnancy, whether it was going to keep or not, and please, I was done worrying and could He please just show me that I didn’t need to worry any longer. Show me with that heartbeat.

Then, I immediately wanted to take back my prayer. I mean, the doctor had said that he didn’t expect to see the heartbeat until next week. I was seeing him on the morning of the very first day that the heartbeat could possibly show up. Chances? Not good. Not good at all. 

What had I just done to myself?? I mean, what if it didn’t show up? Then I was going to spend the next few days in utter agony, wondering what was going to happen, wondering if that lack of a heartbeat was God’s answer that it was not going to be okay, OR if it was just too tall of an order and the heartbeat was going to take a couple days to show up and everything was still going to be fine. 

But, I didn’t take back my prayer. I took a giant leap of faith and left it at that.

The next morning, I went to my appointment. Dr. S was totally surprised at my lack of an apparent miscarriage and all the test results. He placed the ultrasound wand and…. 

We saw a heartbeat. Yes. We saw a heartbeat. Dr. S was utterly stunned. He just about sputtered, “That heartbeat was not here last night! A few hours ago! This is the morning of the first day that it could have shown up! This is amazing!” And he actually called it a miracle baby. This, from a doctor who is not prone to dramatics. This, from a doctor who has seen a lot.

I watched that little blurb thumping away and I thanked God. I thanked Him for this little being who was just surviving and surviving and hanging in there against all odds. I thanked Him for easing my fears, for showing me that He was listening (I’ve wondered about that on occasion).

Dr. S finished up the visit, and said that it looks like we (as in, Nate and I, haha) were going to have a baby. I jokingly told him that I was sorry to have ruined his perfect IUD track record. He just shook his head and said, “There are greater things at work here than you or I. Life will find its way.”

So here it looks like we are having baby #3. Nate was not pleased. Some heavy, emotional discussions ensued. He said he was concerned about the impact that three children would have on our marriage. He was scared that the marriage wouldn't survive, and he didn't want to take that chance. And I got that. I really did. Having a child is no small thing, and is probably best done when both parties are on board. I didn't want to force him into having another child; we were already at our limits with just the two. But I could not let this baby go. Not only that, if I felt threatened or forced into having an abortion that I was not okay with having, I knew for a fact that I would resent him forever and then there would be zero chance of our marriage surviving. 

For the record, I'm pro-choice. I've never had an abortion but I in no way will ever judge anybody who has. 

I felt that in this case, how, after ALL this baby has done to survive, could he not see that it obviously has some purpose for being here? Did he regret either one of the two we already have? No? Well, then, there you have it, you won’t regret this one, either. Because we’re having it. That’s it. It will haunt me forever if I don’t give this baby the chance that it is clearly asking for.

Eventually, he came on board. He’s a good father. He embraced, very hesitantly at first, the fact that we were going to be a family of five. I thought that the worst was over. 

I thought very, very wrong. It had only just begun.


Sorry to keep doing this, but I'll post the next installment in a day or two! Yeah, I know... it's not over?? Like I said, it's long, it's complicated, hang in there with me, okay?!

The nest installments can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

Part 4 
Part 5
Part 6

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Crazy Story: Part 2

Part 1 of this story can be viewed by clicking here.

So, I've just had a positive pregnancy test even though I have a ParaGard IUD in. I'm at the ob/gyn's office. It's Monday. Nate stayed home with the boys for the first part of the appointment, and when Connor woke up from his nap, the plan was that he was going to join me the doctor’s office. 

Before I get into the visit, I'd like to say a bit about my OB/GYN. He's been in his line of work for something like over 30 years. He's considered one of the best in the field in the area I live in. He's kind of the "high risk" OB/GYN people go to when shit has hit the fan for them, medically speaking. He's seen A LOT. I've had multiple random other doctors (Even a podiatrist... really??) tell me that he is the one they would trust their life and baby to. He has almost no bedside manner. He deals with some pretty serious shit on a daily basis and basically, just gets to the point and does not dick around. And I love him. Not like I want to leave my husband and entice him into leaving his wife, what with my rocking jelly belly and stretch marks, but I truly respect him and have absolutely no problem overlooking his totally blunt manner and actually respect him more for it. I like for people to just give it to me straight.

At the appointment, Dr. S walked in the room, looked at me, and asked, “Why do you think you’re pregnant?”

“Well, a positive pregnancy test, for one. My period never really started, for two; the last week, I’ve only been spotting, which is highly unusual for me. I usually bleed like it's going out of style.”

“Well, you’re only a week late. That’s actually not much. And, you have an IUD in.”

“Yeah. I know.” 

“Let’s do the ultrasound and see what’s going on in there.”

“Sounds good.”

A minute later, “Well, look at that! There’s a maternal sac! Unbelievable! And there is your perfectly placed IUD! I have never had a pregnancy on an IUD that I have placed. Unbelievable.”

So there it was. A maternal sac, in case you’re wondering, is apparently what the blob of cells that is about to become a fetus is called prior to it becoming a fetus. I was so newly pregnant that there was not a heartbeat yet. 

So my OB said that we had two options: remove the IUD and clean out my womb (abort the sac), or leave the IUD in and let it expel the maternal sac, which it probably would eventually do (and when the hell would that be? I was wondering but didn't ask). Instead, I asked why he would clean out my womb after removing the IUD. He responded along the lines of, “Well, you weren’t planning on having another baby, right? And besides, the likelihood of the maternal sac surviving the removal of the IUD is so slim…. See, look here. See how the sac is below the top bar of the ‘T’ of the IUD? When I pull the IUD out, it is most likely going to drag all or part of the sac out with it.”

Since I don't want this to be confusing, I busted out my MS Paint skills and drew you a picture of a uterus, IUD and "maternal sac" for clarity's sake. Although, I'm sure it's debatable just how much clearer I am making this. Try not to be wowed.

I told him that I felt there was a third option, the one I was going for, and it was to take the chances removing the IUD, and see what happens. Do NOT clean out my womb. He reiterated that he was most likely going to pull the sac out with the IUD and I said, “You know what, I am not attached to having another baby. If the sac comes out, it does, and I’ll be just fine. But I am NOT going to be the one to decide whether this pregnancy, that is already is here against all odds, survives. I am not.”

And, the other option of leaving the IUD in and seeing what happens was not a viable one for me, either. I couldn't even begin to fathom dealing with that thing in my uterus, along with a baby. It wasn't going to happen. I had hated the IUD and wanted it out, no matter what.

So we moved to another room and he proceeded to remove the IUD. Problem: he couldn’t see or grasp the strings that were supposed to be visible from my cervix. So there he was, snipping blindly at my cervix with these scissor-like things and tugging, hoping to grab the strings. I jokingly told him not to rip out my cervix, and he misunderstood that I was kidding and in all seriousness told me that he couldn’t get the strings, he didn’t have a choice but to do what he was doing, and then suddenly, he got them and out it came. 

He told me that he was going to send the IUD to the lab to test for fetal tissue, to see if any part of the sac was scraped out by the IUD. Then he took me back into the ultrasound room to see if the sac was still there. Much to our astonishment, it WAS. He told us (Nate had joined me at this point) that he really didn’t think it was a viable sac in the first place and that he didn't expect the sac to survive the trauma of the IUD removal and I would most likely miscarry over the next couple of days. 

He also ordered a couple of blood draws to test for hCG (the "pregnancy hormone") levels; if they are rising, then the pregnancy is sticking, if they are dropping, then it’s failing. He then said that he wanted to see me on Friday to see where we are at, if I hadn’t lost the pregnancy by then, and to see if by chance the heartbeat shows up, which he didn’t expect it to. Nate asked when it was supposed to show up, and he replied probably not until next week, if at all. At this point, I was 5 weeks and 3 days pregnant. The heartbeat does not show up until sometime in the 6th week. Friday was the first day of the 6th week.

So, we were left to just wait and see what was going to happen.

Kind of like I have to make you do since this part has been long enough.

The next installments can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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Monday, May 21, 2012

One Crazy Story: Part 1

I have a story to tell. I know, shocking. But this is a different kind of story than my usual nonsense. It's not really funny (I am assuming that my other stuff is) but it's a giant part of who I am today and why my family is what it is today. I admit that I am a bit nervous to post it because it's really personal, and it opens me up to be severely judged and criticized. But my readers so far have been awesome and I love you for that.

It's a long story that I am mercifully going to break up into several parts. I'll do my best to keep it interesting but I make no promises. I am very specific with the story but I am keeping certain details vague so as to not give away the ending. 

I know. What a drama queen. This is my first attempt at "suspense" and I'm already positive it's going to fall completely flat. Just in case I am successful at keeping you on your toes, try not to die from that suspense. If I'm not successful, then please, bear with me (or, "bar" with me, according to Ethan's spelling). Humor me. Be patient. Those of you who know me in real life already know the outcome of the story.

One year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is one I remember with startling clarity. Which is unusual not only because I can’t remember shit anymore but because nothing actually significant happened that week. But it was the week before my world turned upside down. 

That week, we had Christmas at Nate’s dad’s and step-mom’s house, and we all drank a lot and played Texas Hold ‘Em poker and I was affectionately and drunkenly calling my sweet-as-can-be father-in-law a jackasshole for raising the bet before the flop. My period started, kind of. I had a ParaGard IUD in, and I hated it. I just didn't feel right with it and it gave me gnarly cycles. Connor was a baby and got pretty sick, but ultimately was fine. We had a New Year’s Eve party at our house. And my period was not normal - I was just spotting. So odd was this for me that I was willing to believe that perhaps I was entering early menopause, very early menopause. I did some online research, but didn't really receive any clear answers as to what could be up.

I know. Surprising. At least my searches didn't lead me to believe that I was going to die a horrible death from some rare disease.

Finally, I admitted to myself that there technically was one other reason my period wasn’t normal. On the Saturday after New Year's Eve, I took a pregnancy test, not really thinking that it was going to be positive. I mean, I did have a ParaGard IUD in. It is 99.4% effective. Give me a break. I was so not pregnant.

Well. That's what I get for believing in shit. That test, against all odds, came back positive. I am not joking when I say that my throat actually started to close up a bit. I remember standing there, clearing my throat over and over, pacing between my bathroom and bedroom. I was shaking and my heart was pounding. I finally got the courage to go tell Nate, who was sitting in the living room with Ethan on his lap. His response was something along the lines of “Are you fucking kidding me? We cannot have another baby. We cannot.”

"I know, Nate, I know. I'll call the doctor on Monday and we will figure this out."

We spent the next two days in relative shock, and first thing Monday morning, I called my ob/gyn's office and explained the situation. Due to the IUD, they wanted to see me right away and got me in that afternoon instead of waiting until the 8th or 9th week of pregnancy like they usually do to see a patient. 

Since the doctor's visit story is long, I am going to post it in a couple of days. Is the suspense killing you yet?? I know, I'm really lame. I'm sorry. 

Click on the links below for the rest:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why I Don't Take The Boys Out In Public Very Often....

Ethan had his kindergarten open house tonight. Nate was working, so it fell to me to handle it, and the three boys, by myself. The following events could not do better at demonstrating why I typically refuse to leave my house when I am solely in charge of the boys. 

Just before crossing the street to the school, Connor found a feather. In case you didn't know, feathers are like, amazing to kids. They love them. So Connor has the prize and Ethan doesn't. He frantically looked around for one of his own, to no avail. We started crossing the street, and halfway across, somehow I realized that one kid wasn't with me anymore. I turned around and saw Ethan picking something up from the middle of the crosswalk. 

It took about two seconds for my brain to register that it was a dead bird, that was absolutely annihilated, smashed flat, guts and blood everywhere, and my son was holding it like he just won the best prize ever. I start yelling at him to drop it, DROP IT RIGHT NOW! It's a dead bird!! but he was so hung up on his amazing find that it took him several seconds to actually listen.

Meanwhile, we're all still standing in the street. He finally dropped it and before I could tell him not to touch anything else, he started wiping his disgusting hands on his shirt. So then I told him, "Don't touch anything!" and he looked like his best friend just died. We finished crossing the street and I busted out the alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer and washed him down. I asked him what he was picking up the dead bird for and he morosely said that he didn't know it was a dead bird, he thought it was a feather and he just wanted a feather like Connor. 

Jesus. So we continue on to the open house. The gist of it is, the students have several of their works of art and writing on display for us to see. Some of them are these books they write, apparently about whatever subject they choose.

Well, this was one of Ethan's:


I know his father and I are no strangers to alcohol, but I SWEAR, Ethan has no idea what a bar is. I promise. I mean, we drink at home. I was totally mortified, and asked Ethan what that was supposed to say. He answered "bears" like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Fortunately, his teacher was standing right next to us and I held up the book while laughing in embarrassment and said, "I swear, he has no idea what a bar really is!" She thankfully started laughing, too, and said that she has seen way worse spelling errors, and I believe her. I wanted to ask her what, but didn't feel that it was appropriate to force her into saying "penis instead of peanuts" or "shit instead of shirt" in front of all her students and their parents. 

We wrapped things up and the older two boys headed outside to play on the small playground in front of the classroom. It was pretty chaotic in the classroom and I lost sight of Brandon. After not finding him there, I figured he had gone outside with his brothers, so I went out there to look for him. Didn't see him, so I went back into the classroom. 

You know how you sometimes know something, just before it swims into your consciousness? This was one of those times. He's not on the playground, and he's not in the classroom. I knew exactly where he was just before I moved my eyes to the right and looked at the man holding him out at arms length with a disgusted look on his face, exiting the bathroom.

Brandon had found his old favorite toy and decided to revisit it for old time's sake: the toilet. 

I went over to them and the guy is saying that I definitely want to wash his hands, definitely. He could tell by the look on my face that I knew Brandon had been playing in the toilet. I thanked him profusely for pulling him out of the toilet and then lamely added that I had been looking for him and should have thought to look in the bathroom. He just grimaced and moved quickly away.

Sigh. I washed Brandon's hands over and over, then saturated them in hand sanitizer. I took him outside and figured that I'd find Connor chewing on a cigarette stub or dog crap or something since that was how the night was going. I gathered up the other boys and as we were walking back to the car, Brandon tripped and even though I was holding his hand, both of our hands were still soaked in sanitizer so his slipped out of mine and he face-planted on the sidewalk, scraping his chin up. Then we reached the car and Connor, who was exhausted and in need of sleep, flipped out because Ethan got in the car before him and he felt that Ethan was blocking his way. Ethan was doing his best to make sure he was in the way. A request in my "long-suffering voice" for Ethan to move and for Connor to just get into the car did nothing to rectify the situation and so I got to yell at them in my no-nonsense, "do-it-or-die psycho mom voice" in front of all the other parents who were coming and going.

Oh well. 

Sweet, sweet bedtime....

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Friday, May 11, 2012

My Mother's Day Wish For You

Moms, for Mother's Day, my wish for you is:

That your card from your kids doesn't look like this:

Or this:

But like this:

Or whatever floats your boat. 

I hope that when you pick up your baby, you experience this:

And not this:

I desperately hope that your husband/boyfriend/baby daddy says something along the lines of this:

And not this:

May you receive some flowers...

Or some wine...

Or whatever makes you happy....

I hope that instead of cleaning up messes,

and feeling like this,

you get to do something like this:

Or at the very least, you get to go to the bathroom alone.
All. Day. Long.

And most of all, just remember that no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, you're going to screw something up, because nobody is perfect:

But at least:

So just do your best, and know that the bottom line is, this is who you are in your kids' eyes:

Happy Mother's Day. 
I appreciate you, my awesome readers, maybe as much as your kid appreciates you wiping their ass. Now go have a drink or some chocolate or both and celebrate your descent into the madness of motherhood and unconditional love.

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