Saturday, February 21, 2015

We Have Been Heaven Blessed

When babies ask to take selfies, you can't refuse.

Introducing: Miss Nola Adele

"Please, Aunt April.  Let's take a selfie."

Kissie-face selfie

Clint Eastwood  bad-ass selfie

Just a couple of wild and crazy gals selfie

Sleepy baby selfie

Wow, look at all that hair selfie. 

I'm gonna love her forever selfie. 

Isn't She Lovely? 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hold Them Close to Your Heart

Numbers.  My brain has a way of holding onto them. phone number when I lived on Main Street in New Lexington.  I haven't had that number in 20 years, but I know still it. locker combination my senior year of high school.  67...the number of months John and I tried to conceive before our miracle happened.

Babies are miracles.  Our participation is largely primitive and unimpressive, but what happens at the cellular level is truly magical.  Conditions must be relatively perfect for the egg and sperm to unite.  The window for conception is quite small.  It's amazing conception happens at all.  (Unless you're an unmarried and uncommitted teen in the back of a car....that seems to be the recipe for pregnancy.)

I carried a lot of anger inside me while trying to conceive.  It seemed like there were babies everywhere.  Everyone I knew was having a baby.  John's family popped out children like the Duggars.  Yet, it wasn't happening for me.  I longed for the chance to be a mother.

Somehow, with a lot prayer and wine, I made peace with not being a mother.  John and I decided to wait until we turned 30 to adopt.  We planned to travel, buy a timeshare, enjoy our life together.

In March 2007, we went to Vegas.  I was sick the entire trip. I assumed I caught something on the plane.  John was disappointed because "Fun April" was replaced with "Tired as Balls April" in the most liberal city in the US.

When we returned home, I still wasn't feeling better.  A month went by and I was falling asleep watching the 5 o'clock news.  John thought I should see a doctor. No docs.  My friend, Brenda, said I was pregnant.  I laughed at her and went to buy a large chocolate milkshake at McDonald's because I couldn't seem to get enough of them.  (I have never like chocolate milkshakes.)

Shortly after, we had a party and Brenda helped me set up for it.  She was chopping veggies while I sat on the kitchen floor drinking another milkshake.  She opened the fridge door and I caught sight of the dill pickles.  I kid you not, I had to have one.  A pickle and a milkshake.  Brenda said, "We're going to Walmart. You need a pregnancy test."  I finally thought she could be right...I just didn't want another negative test.

We ran to Walmart and I read the test directions on the way home.  The directions recommended waiting until morning.  I couldn't do that.  I had to know.  If it was negative, I was going to get so smashed at that party - drunk enough to forget the hope of having a baby.

It was positive.  I walked out of the bathroom stunned.  I asked Brenda, "What am I going to do?"  Her reply, "You're going to have a baby."

You're going to have a baby.  The most longed for words in my history.

We told very few people we were pregnant.  We kept it from our family.  It seemed too good to be true.  My pregnancy was verified by the doctor and an ultrasound was scheduled for a week later.  I had no idea how far along I was.  I hadn't kept track of my menstrual hadn't mattered.

John had to miss the first ultrasound.  He was traveling for work.  My doctor said, "We've got a heartbeat.  Want to hear it?"  In that moment, it became real.  I really was having a baby.  Unbelievable.  I had no experience with any of this, but I thought it would be odd to have a heartbeat at such an early gestational stage.  It turned out, I was 13.5 weeks along.  My doctor said, "Welcome to the 2nd trimester."  I thought, "well, that was easy." My due date was Christmas Day.  My miracle.

It was mid May, 2007.  We waited to tell my family at my dad's birthday.  I signed the card from John, April and Baby Gano.  It took him a minute to get what I meant.  He asked if we were finally adopting.  Everyone knew I couldn't conceive and no one was expecting a natural pregnancy.

One minute after our announcement, my sister said, "Chris and I are going to try to have a baby too."  Really, she usurped my moment.  I was pissed.

My sister was pregnant by July.  John's sister was pregnant by October.  Why wouldn't anyone just let me have a little bit of the spotlight?

But I got over it.  It would really be nice for my daughter to have 2 cousins to grow up with.  Then tragedy came, as it always does when things are perfect.  Too perfect.

My sister went into labor in December.  She wasn't due until April.  Tyler was born on December 11, 2007.  2 weeks before Christmas.  We knew his survival was slim.  I sat in the window sill in her L&D suite while he died.  I did not hold him.  I could not hold him.  My baby was due in 2 weeks.

How could this happen?  I was so sure he would be a miracle baby.  Born way too early, but strong and relatively untouched by the trauma of his early birth.  It happens.  Why didn't it happen for him?

Have you been following Grey's Anatomy?  The Kepner/Avery story line crushed me.  Last week (SPOILER!) April and Jackson said goodbye to their baby.  April struggled with her faith.  She demanded to know where the justice was in their loss.  She begged for a miracle.  "They happen.  Miracles happen," she cried.

This is on my mind today.  My newest niece will be born tomorrow in the same hospital my nephew died in.  I can't think of being there without feeling the pain of losing him; relieving those horrible few days.  I do not know how my sister puts that memory aside when she enters that hospital.  Maybe she can't?  I do know that she is much stronger than I ever gave her credit for.  Perhaps that is a miracle?

Miracles do happen.  I know because I had 7 pounds of miracle inside me while my nephew was being called home.  Why does that happen?  Why do so many mothers get such few precious moments with their new babies, their miracles? Why do we stumble when the miracle we've prayed for isn't received?

Maybe, we expect too much.  We demand biblical miracles: the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, the dead living.  Perhaps, we are failing to see every day miracles around us.  The pregnancy we were blessed to have.  The ability to feel another human being growing inside us.  The sun on our faces, the snow, the rain.  A smile from a stranger.  The birds returning to the exact same place every spring.  Fruit trees, flowers, nature itself.  The Ordinary Miracle.

Friday, February 6, 2015

I'll be as Honest as I Feel

Life is a circle.  Well, maybe not exactly a circle.  More like a tide or a wave.  Or whatever.  I don't really have any philosophical bullshit to feed you today.

Life can be so good.  So, so good.  Then, BAM!  WHACK!  Out of nowhere, something sweeps your feet out from under you.

For a few weeks, I had been feeling a stabbing pain in my right breast.  It wasn't constant, but it scared the hell out of me.  I felt my breast, my lymph nodes, my groin.  I was sure I'd find a lump.  Nothing.  Until 2 weeks later.

I was in the bath, leaning back and relaxing.  I felt the pain and thought I'd feel for a lump.  And I found one.  It was about the size of a pea.  I yelled for John.  He felt it too.  Then I threw up.  Why? Because that's what happens when you're 35 and you find a lump in your breast.  Breast cancer at 35 is tough to beat.  There is a grave difference in survival rates between women of advanced age and women in child-birthing ages.  Breast cancer kills young women because it feeds on the hormones we still produce.

Panic.  Sickness.  Doom.  My own mortality.  Fear.

I was convinced that one tiny lump would end my life.  Take me from my children.  Finish me before I watched them grow.  End me when I feel like I've just begun.

It was my own fault.  I hadn't been to the OB/GYN since the boys were born.  Yes, I know it's been nearly 5 years and shit like that's important.  But, I've been a little busy trying to be everything to everyone all the time.  Some things get pushed to the side with the intent to catch it up at a later, less busy time.  Less busy...never gonna happen.

I tried to make an appointment.  My doctor had retired.  Greeeaaaatttt.... just what I wanted: a new doctor to become instantly intimate with.  I must say, the new doc was pretty fantastic.  He was extremely professional and didn't judge me for putting my own health absolutely last in my list of priorities.  He was very positive and told me not to worry before the test results were read.

I felt one lump.  He felt two. The mammogram and ultrasound revealed 3.  THREE!

The mammogram wasn't as bad as I expected.  Yes, ladies, they literally squish your breast.  Like a pancake.  After capturing horizontal images of your breast, the technician moves the equipment and vertically smashes your boob.  It wasn't exactly painful, but it certainly wasn't something I'd like to volunteer for often and I'm so happy I am not a mammogram technician because, eeewwww.

When the tech found 3 lumps, she marked them with stickers so the ultrasound tech would have an easier time locating them.  I walked from the mammogram to the ultrasound in nothing but a hospital gown, opened in the front.

The last time I had an ultrasound, I got a wonderful pic of two perfect little boys growing inside me.  It was miraculous and beautiful.  This experience wasn't as nice.  I laid, humiliated, while another woman squirted cold gel on my breast, moved it all over the place and firmly pressed her wand into my body.  And then it was over.

I expected a long wait.  I was starting to put on my clothes when the tech turned to me and said, "Please keep the robe on.  I have to take this report to the radiologist.  You are probably done, but I may need to take more images.  You will knowing something soon."

"Soon" turned out to be about 30 minutes.  The radiologist came into the room.  I was sure I was doomed.  Why else would he take time to talk to me?  He said, "Ms. King, I just talked with your doctor (OMG...I'm terrified!) and I am 100% positive that you have 3 sebaceous cysts in your right breast. They're completely benign. Whenever you feel pain, it's because they have filled with fluid.  Use heat to drain them."

I'm alive!  Healthy and alive.  AND READY TO LIVE.

I have made some promises to myself.  Life is short.  We are not promised tomorrow.  I will be happy with whatever time God gives me.  I will live in a way that pleases me.  I will not die without standing in the Montana valley, smelling the crisp mountain air, feeling so tiny.  I will not die having never known reciprocated love.  I will not waste the rest of my life the way I have so many precious years thus far.  I will not feel anger or resentment for things that were never in my control.  I will not feel the need to reveal my plans, my whereabouts, my business.  I am responsible only for my own feelings.

I've spent forever healing.  I am no longer picking up the pieces.  I am whole.