Hello Thomas Asher, Pt 1

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Three years ago today, I went into labor. For the first 10 hours I was in complete denial. I was only 33 weeks pregnant, and even though there were already concerns for our baby, I had been told I didn’t seem to be at risk for premature labor. Call it intuition, call it God speaking to me, but I had a feeling I wasn’t going to make it to 40 weeks. I just didn’t think it would be quite this early.

I had woken up around midnight on the 22nd. I was feeling some pretty sharp pains, but chalked it up to Braxton Hicks contraction. I lay in bed waiting for it to pass, then at 2am I moved to the couch.

I did a quick Google search for Braxton Hicks contractions and how to stop them. So I started drinking water and sitting up rather than lying down. Nothing was helping, but I knew I just needed to let it pass.

Nick and Milo eventually woke for the day. We had plans to go to the children’s museum and a Greek food festival, but I told Nick about my night and said I didn’t feel up to going anywhere. He asked if I should be calling my OB, but I refused and said it just needed to pass.

It was almost 10am and the contractions weren’t stopping. I hadn’t heard of Braxton Hicks contractions lasting so long, so I just assumed I was the exception to the rule (nope, just denial). I called the office and talked to the OB on call (this was a Saturday morning). She laughed at me and said to head straight to the hospital.

We dropped Milo off with Grandma Sharon, a wonderful woman from our church. As we drove to the hospital, I told Nick that when they stopped the contractions, and let us go, we should head to the Greek food festival for a quick date. That was wishful thinking!

We arrived at the hospital, and as soon as I stepped out of the car, my water broke. I still couldn’t, or wouldn’t, wrap my mind around this baby coming so early, so I told Nick that either my water broke or I peed myself in a major way. I was more inclined to believe I had peed myself.

I waddled my way into the hospital and to labor and delivery. I refused any kind of assistance because I was mortified at the thought of sitting on something in my pee. It’s a hospital and they’ve seen a lot, but I just couldn’t.

We got to labor and delivery and were taken to a bed. A medical student came in and I told him what had been going on, including that I might have peed myself.

The medical student said in a calm voice, “I’m just going to be looking, I’m not going to touch anything.” He started his exam and immediately popped back up. With a lot more urgency he said, “Ok, I wasn’t expecting this. I’m going to need to touch you now.”

He then told me I’m 6 cm dilated. I won’t filter my response. I looked straight at Nick and said, “oh shit.” It finally sank in that this wasn’t false labor; this was very real labor.

They moved me to a room in the delivery ward and got me hooked up to monitors. We contacted our families and my best friend, Jenni, who was coming to photograph the birth.

As if this little boy, Thomas, wasn’t causing us enough stress over coming early, he had decided to start his arrival process on a Saturday. Nick’s a pastor, so Sundays are a pretty big deal for his job. Fortunately we have a retired pastor, Walter, in our congregation. Nick immediately called Walter who, without hesitation, agreed to preach the next day (and for the duration of Nick’s paternity leave).

As quickly as it seemed my labor had progressed, it was as if Tommy decided to press pause. For hours, I had contractions but didn’t progress in dilation. Fortunately that gave my mother-in-law, Denise, and my photographer/best friend, Jenni, time to arrive.

I passed the initial hours Googling “survival rate of babies born at 33 wks”. A woman in labor should have her access to Google revoked, but I was reassured that 33 weeks isn’t actually all that scary in terms of how early babies can be born and survive. Then I Googled “complications from being born at 33 wks” and sufficiently frightened myself. It’s terrifying being stuck in a bed with no control over your body and worrying about all of the “what if?” situations that might or might not play out.

But nothing seemed to be happening, which was also good news because they had given me a steroid shot to help develop Thomas’ lungs. The longer he stayed in, the longer the steroids had to do their magic. But the longer he stayed in, the more my anxiety started to run wild.

So we waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually Denise had to leave so she could pick up Milo from Grandma Sharon’s and take him home to bed.

Nothing was going as I expected. I wasn’t supposed to be in labor this early. Once I accepted the fact I was indeed in labor, I expected him to come quickly. The hours continued to pass, and shortly after midnight, 24 hrs after the contractions began, we decided Thomas wasn’t coming any time soon and it was best to just shut off the lights and try to get some sleep.

Within minutes of calling it a night, Thomas decided he was ready to make his arrival.

Wounded

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Tommy has been home from the NICU for 2 months. For the first time in his life, he is flourishing. He’s gained over 2 1/2 lbs since discharge, which is the most steady weight gain he’s ever had. He’s not on any medications or supplements and is completely breastfed. He’s had a lot of follow up appointments but, instead of discussions on troubleshooting, we’re talking about how to maintain his success. Things are going well.

Except now I am falling apart. 
The timing is so weird to me. Tommy is doing great. I’m 5 months postpartum, so I don’t have the same hormonal surges. And yet these last few weeks I have slipped further and further into a state of anxiety that I can’t seem to get out of. 

I think it’s the fact that things are better that is making it tough for me. When Tommy was sick, I pulled together all the strength I had to be there for Tommy and still make life normal for Milo. Life dealt us a really crappy hand, but I rose to the occasion and stood my ground. But now things are better, and I’ve dropped my guard. I don’t need to be strong any more. And suddenly I’m aware of the ways this experience has wounded me.

I see a mom with a new baby and my heart sinks. There she is with her child just like it’s supposed to be, but my child lived in a hospital for the first 3 months. I look at the mom and baby and think it’s just not fair. Why couldn’t that have been us?




Or I see this stupid commercial that I can’t even remember what it’s for, but it’s these moms in labor and the baby is placed right on their chest as soon as they’re out. I relive Tommy’s first minutes and the way they whisked him off to an isolette. My first memory of him isn’t in my arms, it’s looking across the room at the nurse who is giving my son oxygen. The first thing I felt when my son was born was fear.

 

I didn’t get the first hour of skin-to-skin time. They wrapped him up and let me hold him for 5 minutes before taking him to the NICU. I had to stay in labor and delivery for 2 hours to be monitored before they let me go see how Tommy was doing. 

And that was just the birthing experience. Then I spent weeks watching my son fight to live and it’s hard not to assume he’s still doing that. I still see him as sick and struggling and it makes me anxious over every little symptom. I can’t shake the feeling that my son is still barely holding on.

I thought I was ok with all of this. I had shrugged it off to just the way things happened, that this was just our story. But now I’m realizing I had pains that went unnoticed while I was busy being strong. They’ve left me with scars that won’t ever fade; I’ll carry them with me as a reminder.

I know it will get easier. I know that the more removed we are from the whole experience, the better I will feel. Everything is still fresh, a little raw. I need some time to heal. But I wish time would pass a little bit faster. Because I’m ready to not feel so not ok. 

(All photos are credit of Joyful Exposures)

(Don’t worry, I’m not completely drowning in anxiety. I’m working on healing, but that’s for another post.)

If I Had Only Known

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Why hello there friends, it’s been a while. When last we talked, I was struggling with secondary infertility. Well, surprise! I gave birth to our second son on October 23, 2016. 
Meet Thomas Asher Jordan. 


He’s beautiful and wonderful. He stares at you with this wide-eyed innocence. I am completely in love. 

But if I had known…

If God had told me the price I’d pay to have Thomas…

…that it would take 18 months of disappointment before he was finally conceived. 

…that I would be so violently ill in the first trimester, I’d end up on bedrest for 6 weeks. 

…that at 19 weeks pregnant we would find out Thomas had some abnormalities. We would spend the rest of the pregnancy seeing specialists and have multiple ECHOs and ultrasounds done. 

…that Thomas would come 7 weeks early and with him a sense of guilt that my body had failed him. I couldn’t give him the time he needed to fully develop. 

…that he would require surgery the day after he was born to remove 15cm of dead bowel. 

…that at 5 weeks old and just days before being discharged, he would be diagnosed with NEC. That I would feel the floor drop from beneath my feet. And that I would spend the next 24 hours pleading with God to spare my child. 


…that we would finally be discharged after 8 weeks in the NICU…


…only to be readmitted 2 weeks later with a NEC-like infection that doctors could never fully diagnose. That on the day of readmittance we would be visiting family, so my sick child would be flown by helicopter back to our hospital. 

…that he would struggle to gain weight leaving the doctors baffled. 

…that he would undergo another surgery in hopes of finding what caused the infection and failure to thrive. 

…that at 3 months old we’d still be in the NICU and uncertain of how the story will end…

…if I had known all of this…

…if God had told me He’d give me the desires of my heart, but this would be the price…

I would have said no. 

No.

But God and I didn’t have that conversation. When that pregnancy test said “positive,” I had no idea the road we would travel. 

And thank God for that. Because I love my Thomas. My Thomas. And had I known, I would have said no. And then I wouldn’t have Thomas. And things could have been easier, that’s for certain.

But this boy. 


Some day he’ll call me Mommy. 

And in the meantime, I’ll fight tooth and nail for him. And be thankful that I didn’t know. Because the not knowing made me stronger for the doing. 

What Would Shonda Do?

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It started a few weeks ago when I was at my mommy group. One of the ladies had brought scones as a snack. I don’t know which woman brought them so I can’t say for sure, but judging by the Pyrex pan they came in the scones were homemade. As I ate my petite blueberry scone, I was completely in awe of the woman who made them. I mean seriously, who can make scones? No one I know makes scones; in all the pictures on Facebook and Instagram, I never see any of my friends baking scones. Scones are made by professionals, the bakers and pastry chefs, not the average person. 

I came home that day and had to tell Nick about the amazing woman, whoever she is, who can bake scones. I was so overwhelmed by her talent, I considered it newsworthy. He seemed less impressed. His only response was, “I’ve heard they’re not that hard to make.”

What?! This couldn’t be true. If scones weren’t that hard to make, more people would be making them. Needing to know if this was true or not, I went on Pinterest to investigate. 

I love to cook and bake, but I would never call myself an expert. At best, I consider my skills to be adequate. But as I scoured recipes, I couldn’t find anything difficult about making scones. It really did seem easy enough. 

So three days later, I made my first batch of scones. It was unbelievably easy! Literally, I can’t believe how easy it was. In less than an hour they were ready to eat (and that’s including having Milo “help”). 

  
It seems like such a silly thing, to conquer baking scones, but the experience really got to me. I couldn’t help but wonder what else in life I’m missing out on because I’ve written it off or judged it as hard or impossible. 

Full disclosure: I haven’t read Shonda Rhimes’ book “Year of Yes“, but I’ve read enough interviews to know the premise and realize I was having a Shonda Rhimes moment. What would happen if I had my own year of yes? What if when faced with something new or impossible I asked myself, “what would Shonda do?”

That’s my plan. To throw caution and assumptions to the wind and take on new challenges. I want to step outside my comfort zone and be willing to fail. Not every experience will have a happy ending like my scone experience, but I want to find that out for myself. 

What does a year of yes look like for me?

Well for starters, I signed up for an adult ballet class. I have NO experience with ballet and I hate dancing. But I need to be in a learning environment and there’s something about my 29 year old self learning ballet that I find amusing. 

  
I want to learn more crochet stitches. I’ve made dozens of blankets using only two different stitches because it’s all I knew how to do. Long ago I told myself I couldn’t learn more, but dang it I’m going to. 

I’m going to watch YouTube tutorials and finally learn how to apply makeup. I have little faith in this one, but I have to say yes to trying. 

And if I can work up enough courage, I just might give Zumba a try. But friends, that will take a lot of courage. We’ll see come December if I’m ready to tackle the beast that is Zumba.

I’m already having regrets about this. Sure my scones turned out great and my first ballet class was more fun then I could imagine, but not every experience will have such a happy ending. I’m going to run into failure and frustration. There will be things I try and truly dislike in the end. But my hope is to learn more about myself. To be known as the person who will try anything, even if it’s dancing. The best skill I may walk away with is the ability to laugh at myself in spite of my mishaps. But even that sounds like an entertaining year. 

A Year is Not a Moment

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I found out on Christmas Day I wasn’t pregnant. It felt cruel to receive that kind of blow on Christmas. A day earlier or a day later would have hurt, but not like that. Not the way it feels to have your heart broken on “the most wonderful day of the year.”

I felt the initial wave of grief for another failed month. But that grief became compounded when I realized here we were in the last week of 2015. The year had come and gone, but there was no child and no hope for one in the near future.

My year suddenly had a shadow cast over it. I felt the loss of the child that was never mine and the time that had gone by too quickly. In that moment, all I could see was what I didn’t have. And I allowed that to define my year and, to an extent, me. 

I sat in this grief for several days. We were with family, but I cried every stolen moment to myself. I felt so empty and overwhelmed with disappointment. But after a while, I felt desperate to feel better. The crying, the pity party, the agony wasn’t working for me. I knew I was only visiting this pain, but I didn’t know how to move on.

And then God spoke and the word He gave me was: stability. I reflected on my year in the lense of stability and realized what a gift God had given me. In 2015, we didn’t move or change jobs. There were no life altering events. Day after day, we settled into what life-as-usual looks like for our family. 

I needed that. I needed for things to stop moving so quickly. In less than 3 years time, I had gone from single to dating to married. From newlywed to new mom. From the place I had called home my entire adult life to a new, small town. From traditional work to stay-at-home-mom. These were huge transitions, and they made it hard for me to navigate at times.

Having another child is the deepest desire of my heart, but I think God knew better. I think He knew I needed a break from the big changes of life. I needed to find a comfortable place to plant my feet before the ground shook again. 

When I take off the despair, and the grief, and look at my year through the lense of stability, it was an amazing year. 

For the first time, I felt confident as a mom and especially as a stay-at-home-mom.

  
I developed such an incredible bond with Milo. He’s just so much fun; I feel lucky to spend my days with him. 

  
I’ve adjusted to being a pastor’s wife. I didn’t feel the same resentment when things like hospital visits and funerals popped up. 

I had an uninterrupted year of running. And it paid off…big. I came within seconds of beating several PRs and placed at every race I entered.

  
I learned to garden. And learned that I loved to garden. That was a big deal to me. I had never kept so much as a houseplant alive. But my garden thrived and I was so proud of being able to feed my family from it. 

   
 And there were so many more moments. Weddings, vacations, projects that added value to my year. I almost dismissed them all because I allowed my grief to cloud my judgment. My year was good. My life is good. 

  
Here’s to all the moments 2016 has to offer. 

Waiting

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I’ve started and restarted this post 3 times and still can’t find the right words. I know what I want to say, but it just doesn’t come out right. So I’m just going to say it. 


We have been trying to have another child for almost 10 months with no success. 

I’m worried that something is wrong and that I’ll never be able to have another child. 

I’m terrified that it will actually work and I’ll have to be pregnant.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am both scared that I can’t get pregnant and terrified that I will. 

For 10 months, I woke up afraid that it would be another day I would end up in the ER getting fluids. At night, I would lie awake in bed feeling whatever was left in my stomach creeping up my throat, ready to pour out if I so much as turned to the other side. 

Pregnancy did not agree with me and I’d be perfectly happy going on with my life never repeating it. But I have a little boy and I long for him to have a sibling. 

I have 2 sisters and they play such important roles in my life. The same goes for Nick and his 3 siblings. We both put such a high value on those relationships; I just want the same for my son. 

I want to try grocery shopping with 2 cranky kids. 

I want to referee their bickering. 

I want to feel suffocated as we all snuggle on the couch. 

I want to have children

I just don’t want to be pregnant. And I’m afraid God is listening to that fear more than anything else. 

And so I struggle between my desire for Milo to have a sibling and my yearnings to keep my body to myself. At the end of the day, Milo always wins. No reason can trump a sibling for him, so we keep trying. But every month I face the brutal truth that it’s just not working. 

And it’s hard. I wonder what’s wrong with me. I wonder why it was so easy the first time and seemingly impossible now. And every so often I sigh with relief, only because it softens the blow. 

Why was it so important to say all of this? Why invite you into this knowledge? Because I’m not alone. There are others out there struggling with the same fears, doubting if pregnancy is right for them, or unable to conceive. And while your story may be worse, countless miscarriages and years of trying, I think we can still grieve together. Because this is a vulnerable issue and it hurts at every level. 

But also because I’m selfish. I need support. Because one of these days I’ll get the news that it’s positive and the joy will soon give way to fear. And I don’t want to be scared. So maybe if we can be collectively happy when it happens, I’ll forget about the fears lurking in the shadows of my mind. 

One Year Here

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We have officially lived in Bartonville for one year. It’s crazy to even say that; it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. In fact, it’s probably been our slowest year given we didn’t have a baby, move, or make a job change in that year. A change in pace that I readily welcome. 

I love Bartonville. In many ways, it reminds me of growing up in Monticello. Kids play outside unsupervised and ride their bikes up and down the streets. Neighbors go door-to-door with extra produce from their gardens that their families can’t eat before it spoils. On brisk fall days when I have the windows open, I can hear the marching band rehearsing. I love it. 

My house is just the right size and I feel like I’m finally making it my own. Sure I’d love to have another room or two, but that’s not out of necessity, just the desire to buy more furniture. We also have the most amazing back yard. It’s big enough for a sizable garden and still lots of room for Milo to play. 

Yes, I love it here. I’m getting to know my neighbors (we even shared an hour in our basement with one neighbor as tornadoes blew past). In many ways, I have a sense of belonging to Bartonville. 

Except in our church. It’s been a really hard year for me in terms of life in the church. It’s not because I’m the pastor’s wife; many people assume our congregation would expect me to help on every committee and be a regular member of the United Methodist’s Women’s group, but they don’t. They give me a pass in all responsibility because of Milo. I’m the only mom (with a toddler) in our church. And that’s what makes life so difficult. 

They didn’t know what to do with or for Milo and me when we first arrived. For almost a year, I did my best to keep him occupied during the service. But as he grew more mobile and independent, it became a meaningless attempt. We would inevitably end up in another room, isolated. That made wanting to come to church incredibly difficult. I spend most of my days alone with Milo at home, there was no need for me to come to church to spend the hour in the same way. 

So for about a month I quit going to church. All I could say to Nick was that I needed a break. I needed to not going through the routine for a little while so that maybe I could return with some sort of renewed strength. In my absence, Nick put together a sign up sheet for nursery volunteers. The response was less than overwhelming, but we did get a couple of volunteers. 

I returned to church and started dropping Milo off in the nursery. He loved it; every Sunday has tears as I try to get him to leave the room and toys. I was hoping this would be the solution, that my desire for church would return, but it didn’t. I couldn’t even fake it; Nick commented on it the second Sunday of Milo being in the nursery. 

The truth of the matter is I just don’t belong. I’m the only female under 50. But I also just don’t like the service. Sigh.  I said it. I don’t like going to my husband’s church. 

I have felt so much shame over this. I want to be the wife who lifts her husband up, who supports him, who wants to worship with him. But if I came to this church once on my own, I wouldn’t come back. I don’t like the traditional prayers and response times, I don’t like having an organ as the only instrument, I miss the sound of others passionately worshipping next to me. I miss the contemporary church. 

But I couldn’t admit it for fear of failing as my husband’s wife, for fear that it meant I was really cut out for him. I couldn’t admit it for fear of what it might say about Nick as a pastor that his own wife doesn’t want to come to church. And I couldn’t admit it for fear that it made me a weak Christian. Isn’t the devoted one able to worship under any circumstance?

I felt so ashamed, I did nothing about the situation. I thought that it would be like exercising, the more I showed up the stronger I would get. Only I didn’t get stronger, I just became resentful. 

Nick suggested that I find a church that better fit my needs and demographic profile, but my ego was too large for that. I couldn’t admit defeat, but also what if I left and then God’s plan for Bartonville wasn’t fulfilled? I had believed that I was part of our calling to this place, so by abandoning it was I not admitting I wasn’t necessary?

But it got to be too much to bear. I felt separated from God and longed to be brought back into the fold. I missed singing a song in church that stuck with me for days. I missed the flooding sounds of instruments that washed over me in worship to God. And I won’t get that at Bartonville. 

So this past week we tried out a compromise; we attended a Saturday night service at a Peoria area Christian Church. It was exactly what my heart had been longing for. And it wasn’t just for me, this gave Nick an opportunity to worship where the spotlight and responsibilities weren’t on him. It gave us an opportunity to worship together. It also gave Milo an hour to play with kids his own age, something we can’t get enough of. 

So that’s the plan. Saturday nights as a family at a different church. I still come to church on Sunday mornings, mostly as a symbol of support for Nick. And I’m coming to terms with the fact that God doesn’t need me to do big and amazing things in our community.

It’s important to me to acknowledge that, even though I couldn’t find my fit at Bartonville United Methodist, I dearly love the people there. They have been kind and generous to me and my family. I love seeing them on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights at our house for small group. Since Nick took over as pastor, there has been a revival in many of the people and the church as a whole. I felt a void that BArtonville couldn’t fill, but that is by no means a judgement on the church itself.