I don’t know of a newer, cooler platform to blast my personal business out there for public consumption, so back to the ‘ol blog I go. Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long and uncomfortable ride. Spoiler Alert and Warning: if words like uterus, baby-making or miscarriage freak you out, stop reading, because that’s my 2016 in a nutshell.
So. 2016, huh? Lemme tell you how that went. First, I have to back up for a sec to November 2015. After yet another ovarian cyst ruptured while I was in Branson with Phen and my parents, leaving me writhing on the restroom floor in a restaurant (that’s sugarcoating all of the dramatics that ensued, I still don’t think I can show my face at the Keeter Center for at least a few more years), I made an appointment as soon as I got home to get this all dealt with once and for all. I marched into that doctor’s office, sternly telling myself that I would not allow this doctor to talk me out of a hysterectomy. This is where things get a little blurry. Because somewhere in that 45 minute visit we went from “gimme the hysto now” to, “what are our options?” MAYBE WE COULD/SHOULD HAVE CHILDREN. I’m sorry, what?! In almost 8 years of marriage at the time, with no birth control (because of course my body couldn’t handle that), we hadn’t had so much as a pregnancy scare. Granted, I’ve always been “regular” and was careful about avoiding that fertile window, but anyone will tell you that’s not exactly a reliable method of birth control. At some point it just became assumed I couldn’t have children. And honestly, with all of my health issues and then going back to school for my masters the last three years, it fell off the radar anyway. But now I was done school, my health (excluding my reproductive health, which, you know, minor detail) had improved, we were in a place of stability. It seemed doable. Of course the first step in assessing your options is to do all the tests. Whether you’re going to a new doctor or some time has passed since your last visit, there’s no shortcut here. You take a test, you wait for the results, you discuss them from every angle, and repeat. My doctor did make one shocking discovery on an ultrasound that almost put a halt to this entire thing–I had a bicornuate (heart-shaped) uterus. Don’t ask me how all of my other doctors missed that (and considering that my reproductive health has been a struggle since puberty, that’s a lot of doctors). If you research bicornuate uterus, you will find that it’s not exactly an ideal setup for a healthy pregnancy. Of course, all of that depended on how severe the “dip” was, which could only truly be determined through surgery. Since endometriosis doesn’t show up on tests or scans, the only way to assess the damage and temporarily treat it is also through surgery. So, the first major step in figuring out our options was to have the surgery. I’ve had two previous abdominal surgeries, so I knew the drill. We scheduled it for the beginning of January.
Looking way too happy before getting wheeled into surgery, and I think this was before they gave me the drugs to relax before administering anesthesia
I came out of that surgery with good news all around. The dip in the uterus was very minor and she said it shouldn’t cause any complications for pregnancy. The fallopian tubes were clear (they can become blocked or even fused shut from endometrial lesions and scar tissue), and she was able to remove all of the endometriosis, which surprisingly, there was very little of (I’d like to credit all of the natural methods and remedies I was taking to control it, because my first surgery was a completely different story). The only thing left was to get the results back from the samples that were sent off from surgery, and there was no reason to be concerned about that. Until there was. I heard her say pre-cancerous and possibly cancerous on the phone. I heard the seriousness in her voice. I listened to her explain the upcoming tests and procedures to determine how “bad” it was. The following weeks were just one big blur of nothingness. I worked. I laughed at people’s jokes. I found myself repeatedly saying, “it is what it is, and whatever it is, it is going to be ok” to the few people I had told what was going on. I didn’t examine anything too closely, I just existed until the next step. The night before the big test (which she had prescribed valium for–I think I was more scared about how that would make me feel than the procedure itself), my oldest brother asked if he could meet with Phen and I in person so he could pray for me. I hollowly agreed to it. I remember it was 50 degrees but I was freezing cold, wrapped in my parka, clutching my 7 year old niece for warmth while standing in the parking lot of an A&W (I even made a fun post about it on facebook, of course leaving out why I was standing in the parking lot in the first place, though I later shared what had happened), and Wayne brought out a Bible, a little vial of oil and prayed an incredibly earnest prayer.
I confess that even as a Christian, I have seriously struggled with doubts about the power of prayer. I sort of had the belief that God had already long ago decided the outcome, and prayer wasn’t necessarily going to change that. Well folks, here’s what we know. Fact: my test results already showed there were abnormalities. It was simply now a question of to what extent. I went in for my test the next day and will tell you I cried through that entire procedure. Partly because yes, it was incredibly painful, but more so because all I heard was my doctor gravely telling the assistant things like, “make sure to get that spot over there. See that? Yes, there too.” Before she had started, she told me she’d have a pretty good indication of how things were since she was looking at the cells through a microscope during the procedure (the abnormal cells turn white when they react to whatever they were swabbing over them–vinegar if I remember correctly, and they scrape those cells to send to the lab for further testing). When it was done, she offered me no assurances. She just held my hands and told me I was brave and strong. More waiting. I continued life, same ‘ol, same ‘ol. I was getting ready to get into the van at work to head for my co-worker’s farewell/retirement lunch when I got the call. All.Clear. Not even one abnormal cell, ya’ll. You can call it what you want to, but that’s what I call a bona fide miracle.
February 25th, the day I received the call, standing with my coworker with a painting I had given her as a retirement gift
Wow, that took way longer than I intended, but I didn’t feel like there was a good way to summarize all of that in a quick paragraph. Well, fast forward to March. Unfortunately Phen lost his grandpa this year. They weren’t terribly close, but it’s never ok losing a family member.
Phen at the church for the funeral with his dad and brother
We took our somewhat annual Spring Break trip in March with my family to a cabin outside of Branson. My mom, Phen and I ended up taking a spill in our canoe which was quite a talking point for us (especially since I can’t swim, and my iPhone miraculously survived the ordeal).
We were told to wait about two months after surgery for healing and for things to regulate before going into baby mode, and March was that month. I had this all planned out. The idea was to give myself until the end of the year to get pregnant (March through December, ten months of intentionally scheduled “special time” is a reasonable amount of time to get that bun warming in the oven, right?) and, being the sensible gal that I can occasionally be, especially when it comes to getting a deal, I decided that if I didn’t get pregnant by December (or November realistically so I’d have time to go to plan B), I would have a hysterectomy (plan B) while I had still met my deductible for the year. I know, very frugal of me. Phen and I both agreed that we were only going to try this naturally–no fertility drugs, no procedures, just the traditional approach, because if it’s meant to be…fill in the blanks. Game on.
At the hospital in May with my bestie and her second little bundle of joy
Oh my gosh you guys. The planning, the over-taking of your mind and life, the waiting month to month and repeat! March through most of June was mostly a blur. I did get to the point of being ready to punch anyone that made jokes about how easy it was for them (and of course we all know or have at least heard of the teenager who has sex ONE time and bam, gets pregnant), or those people that say things like, “you just have to let it happen, it happens when you’re not planning it.” There are certainly enough “accidents” (or surprises as my dad likes to tell me, as I was one of them…actually he is very sensitive about this subject and he will further say that I was planned, I was just early, but God’s plan is always on time so therefore I was right on schedule) walking around to give credence to how often it can happen without trying, but not all of us are dealt the same hand. Luckily, I had a friend at work who was going through this at the same time. She and her husband had been trying for over a year and had already been through the heartbreak of miscarriage. We met weekly to compare stories and frustrations, but assured each other we’d be thrilled if it happened to either of us. I’m happy to report that she is expecting a baby girl in February and I truly am ecstatic for her.
Phen and I ended up taking a spur of the moment vacation end of June/beginning of July. We had originally purchased the tickets to go to a family reunion in Saskatchewan, but then my dad lost his job and it looked like my parents were going to have to back out, so we traded our tickets for a different destination. It was an absolute dream come true. We went to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine. We fell in love with the Maritime provinces and east coast (though I may still be partial to the perhaps biased beauty of my Pacific NW mountains). In the midst of all of this, I had somewhat grudgingly applied for a library position in Wichita Falls, where my dad had just gotten his new job. I was getting a fair bit of push-back from some family members about not letting another degree go to waste, so I applied. Before we left for the trip, I had an interview scheduled on our return. Well, towards the end of the trip, I was having all of the classic pregnancy symptoms. By the time we got back, I was 99% sure I was pregnant.
Celebrating Canada Day near Charlottetown, PEI
West Point Lighthouse, PEI
Cavendish Beach, PEI
No trip to PEI is complete without a visit to Green Gables!
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick
Bar Harbor, Maine (where we spent 4th of July)
Alamoosook (near Bucksport, Maine) was our last stop and we absolutely fell in love with it
We got back and as I was preparing for the interview, I made the sobering and frustrating discovery that none of my pencil skirts (or pants) fit! I had been spending all summer wearing loose, flowy dresses, and for a girl who had still been wearing items from high school, this was a first (welcome to your 30s, am I right?). I remember stuffing myself into the roomiest pencil skirt I had and many jokes were made about it ripping when I sat down for the interview. Well, I went into that interview and completely bombed it. It was hysterical how bad it was, in fact, one of my coworkers actually wrote a song about the interview experience that I still have recorded on my phone, but I think the funniest part was that I still got offered the job (which I had to turn down because it was such a significant cut in both pay and benefits). The next day we were eating dinner at a restaurant with my mother-in-law and I remember I wasn’t feeling well, and by that evening I knew I was no longer pregnant. We were sad and of course disappointed, but also encouraged that at least the mechanics seemed to be working. Fast forward to the end of August–we were back in business!
This one was different than the first. The only symptoms I had were a lot of pressure and bloating. I started to “show” within weeks, though that just had to be from extra bloating since it was too early, but it was enough that one of my coworkers noticed my belly and commented on it, and I even had to resort to using a rubber band on the button to keep my pants together.
First thing in the morning at my “flattest”
I was extremely emotional and mood-swingy, and I couldn’t shake off a sense of fear. It was not helping that I wasn’t really registering any HCG (the pregnancy hormone), but my mom hadn’t either and her pregnancies were just fine. Every single night Phen and I put our hands on my belly and prayed over the future and safety of the life inside of me. This felt like the longest, most agonizing part of the entire year. It was a battle over the mind more than anything–talking myself out of fear, telling myself to relax, fighting the urge to give into the mood swings. I just lived to get through each day. Wednesdays were my week markers, and each one that would pass I would obsessively read all of the changes that baby and I were going through and feel a sense of victory that we made it to another Wednesday. Twelve weeks is typically when people start to tell others they’re pregnant because the risk of miscarriage drops substantially by the second trimester, and that week was on the horizon! My mom was already whispering to some of her friends and family what was going on, but Phen was adamant we wait until the allotted time had passed before we said anything.
I started spotting and cramping that first week in October and I had such a strong sense of trepidation when I called to schedule some tests. I almost skipped out on the blood test because I felt like there was no way I could handle a negative outcome, but I went through with it. I got the results the next morning and a very sincere nurse told me that the pregnancy was not viable. I was to make an appointment if I hadn’t miscarried in the next few days. We were going to a pumpkin patch that next day with my family, and my husband and parents gathered around me and we prayed over the pregnancy. The day passed in a bit of a cloud, I was telling myself it was going to be ok and in fact the cramping and spotting had completely disappeared and I was able to enjoy the day.
We went home and I spent the next day in this weird kind of oblivion. I was extremely weepy and despondent, but at the same time I kept trying to convince myself it was all going to be ok. That afternoon, which was Sunday, October 9th, I miscarried. It was quick and it was horrific. That Wednesday I would have been 9 weeks along.
We were all devastated. I honestly didn’t know how to deal with my feelings. I knew how common miscarriages were. There is a reason they tell you to wait until your second trimester before sharing the good news (and to all of the women that miscarry in the second and third trimester, or have a stillborn birth or lose an infant–I can’t even). I was so consumed with getting pregnant and then finally being pregnant, that everything else had kind of ceased to exist. I remember going into work that Monday, feeling hollow and empty without that “bump.” It was Columbus Day so I was the only employee working in my department, and I figured I would be ok there because the alternative was sitting at home by myself and that wasn’t ideal. I remember my boss walked in unexpectedly that afternoon and we chatted briefly about how our weekend went. I said mine was fine and he went up to his office and that’s when I just fell apart. I couldn’t stay there any longer. I pulled myself together enough to tell my boss I was going home early and would be out for the next few days (I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I have a job where that is actually feasible). He was completely baffled since I had seemed fine just minutes ago, so I explained in as few words as possible what was going on and he graciously told me to go and take whatever time I needed. I called Phen, he came home and we loaded up the car and headed out to my mom’s for a couple of days (my dad is working in Wichita Falls and making the commute back on the weekends, that situation really sucks for my parents, but their hands are tied until their house sells). I was back to work on Thursday and life goes on, doesn’t it?
Later that month we finally pulled the trigger on buying an old travel trailer that we could make a project out of, and even started a YouTube channel to document its progress (for whatever reason it’s not letting me insert a link, but the name of our channel is 1972 Holidaire).
In November Phen and I took our annual trip to Silver Dollar City in Branson. I rode rides until I was sick, determined to see it as the bright side of not being pregnant.
Riding a “mountain coaster” in Branson. Sorry for the crappy quality, we cheated and snapped this pic off the monitor so we didn’t have to pay the $20 for the actual photo
We went to the Andy Williams Christmas show (RIP Andy) and saw Moses at the Sight and Sound theatre. We ate in fun diners and it was actually a very enjoyable trip.
Earlier this month, Phen, my parents and I flew to Maryland to listen to a speaker that Phen’s been a huge fan of (Ken Fish if you’re curious), and we stayed with my aunt and uncle while we were there. Though it was a whirlwind trip, good things came out of it and it was wonderful spending some time there.
Standing with my aunt in front of the coolest Barnes and Noble ever in Baltimore
Here we are now, it’s the end of the year and I am baby-less and, excluding my appendix, still have all of my organs. Failure on both counts of my “2016 master plan.” But you know what? I’m ok with that. Well, to put it more accurately, I’m ok with not being ok about it. If there is anything I have learned about grieving and dealing with curveballs, it’s that you can’t shortcut the process. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, you just have to dig in and do the work and go through it. Carefully of course, so you don’t allow bitterness and resentment to take root (easier said than done, am I right?). The hard part is recognizing when you reach that point where you have to pull yourself out of the stifling darkness and crack a window. Two months after the fact, I still have no idea how I feel about everything. The worst thing you could probably say to me at this point is to ask if we’re going to try again. I’m still trying to work through how I spent most of my life saying I didn’t want children, to I couldn’t have children, to suddenly deciding it was going to happen, and then spending almost a year completely consumed by the idea.
I wrote this post yesterday, but it left me feeling so hopeless, I couldn’t fathom hitting the publish button. I decided to sleep on it and this morning I woke up quoting Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Lately I’ve been learning a lot about the power of words. What we say matters. I can be extremely critical (especially with myself), and I have spent too much time giving ownership to fear and negativity. I want to own that verse quoted above and live it like I mean it.
Earlier this year I made a “Vision Board” on Pinterest and over break I decided to actually print it out and have it somewhere visible.
I have no idea how I plan to incorporate all of that snow in my life, but it’s fun to ponder what it is about these images that made me deem them desirable. It’s by no means meant to be a roadmap, but ideally it can provide a little focus.
If you made it through this entire post, congratulations! Bonus points if you didn’t even have to take a potty break. Now, while this was a blathering novel about my year, I know many of you faced your own challenges and victories. I sincerely hope 2017 will be a year of rejuvenation, hope and growth for all of us. Seventeen is my favorite number (though it certainly wasn’t my favorite age), so I’m going to use that as part of why 2017 will be a good year. I am speaking that truth right now. Happy New Year, my friends! ❤