Mild Panic

In the last six weeks, I have hosted a Daddy/Daughter Dance, had a Eagle Scout Court of Honor to host for our oldest. Took students to an honor band on a Saturday. Celebrated Noah’s 7th birthday including a party at the dreaded Chuck E Cheese. Took a trip to California to see/meet cousins and spend time with my uncle and aunt. Hosted our Middle School Band Solo Festival. Hosted a visiting composer in our district. Took 24 students to go to honor choir this past Friday. I’ve been gelping my husband get ready to host the State Convention of the Knights of Columbus which was also this weekend. And countless other events at school and at home. But that is not what I am stewing about.

My blood pressure is threatening to go out of control because of one recent event. My baby turned 18 a little while back. EIGHTEEN! In my eyes, he’s still so little. The memories of that little baby come clear and fast right now! Like the moment I first laid eyes on him and suddenly learned what true love was. Like the moment I handed him to some surgeons when he was only 14 days old and cried my heart out in his hospital room waiting for them to tell me he was going to be okay. Like finding out he had “decorated” his cousin from head to toe with magic marker. Like taking him and his friends to see Thomas and listening to them fight over who was the line leader. Like hearing HIM tell ME I would be okay on his first day of kindergarten. Like watching numerous t-ball, baseball, soccer, basketball and football practices and games. Like having him tell me he was joining chorus in junior high when he had never seemed to love chorus before then. Like watching him march with such precision and accuracy and pride with his high school band. Like traveling to Minneapolis to watch his team compete in a robotics competition when I had no idea what it was going to be like. Like watching him stand tall in front of our church as he recently took his Eagle Scout oath.

In the eyes of everyone else, he has become an adult. An adult. My beautiful little baby is an adult….according to them! In fact, 7 days after his birthday, he received a jury summons. Talk about adult! But turning 18 and being an adult means graduation, moving out, facing the “real” world.

One problem….I’m not done raising him! There are so many things I want him to know!

I’ve taught him the basics. He knows basic laundry and cooking skills. He does alright with tools. He’s actually pretty great with a sewing machine. But what about everything else?!?!

Does he know that he has the strength in him to get through anything life will hand him?

Does he know that he’s got to work hard not only in his career but on his relationships too?

Does he know how much love he has to give? Sometimes he gives it so freely and innocently people have hurt him with it!

Does he know that he deserves to be loved in return?

Does he know that he’s got everything in him he needs?

Does he know that he will always be enough if he is just genuine and authentic to himself?

But really…Do any of us know these things? I mean really? I’m more than twice his age and I question many of these things often. And even if I don’t question them, I forget them. Why do I think he would have these things mastered?

It breaks my heart to think about these things. I don’t want to watch him struggle. He’s my son and I would give anything to not have him hurt or in pain. I don’t want to watch him get his heart torn in two again. I don’t want to watch him as his dream crumbles in front of him. But then I think to myself, when in my life did I grow the most? When did I become who I am today? When did I find the most pride? It was when I struggled. It was when dreams crumbled right before my eyes. It was when my heart was broken time and time again. It was those moments that defined me. It was when I put my faith in myself and above all put my faith in God.

I know now that I am strong. I am persistent. I am capable of loving. Deep down, I’ve always been those things, but I didn’t realize those things until I had been tested. And when I look at it that way. I guess I do want those things for him. Because I know he has what it takes to survive. And not only survive….but thrive. I see this young man doing good things. He has people cheering for him. We all do!

So here is my wish for him and really for each and every one of you reading this.

My wish is plenty of struggles. Lots of heartbreak. And while we’re at let’s just crush those dreams too. Because in the end, they show us how strong we already were. They let us see and live God’s love and grace. They show us that we are each unique and yet the same too. They allow us to see the beauty that maybe we had taken for granted or perhaps never even noticed in the first place.

You are strong. You are filled with grace and compassion. You are capable. And you are loved!!

 

Defending our Christmas

Our lights are still up people. Not because we’re lazy and haven’t gotten around to getting them down. Not because they’re so pretty we just can’t stand to take them down….well, maybe there’s a little truth in that last statement. But our lights are still up and our house is still decorated very much on purpose. And it’s all going to stay up for a few more days.

Did you know that the twelve days are NOT a countdown leading up to Christmas? The twelve days of Christmas are the days AFTER Christmas that takes us to January 6. Epiphany. The day we mark as the day the 3 wise men found Jesus. (Granted, it took them WAY longer than 12 days….which is often our excuse when our Christmas cards are late as they are most years, but I digress)

It makes me sad to hear people complaining about being tired of hearing Christmas music or seeing houses that STILL have their lights on. I do feel bad for people working in retail, and other jobs that are pretty well overly saturated with all of the extra stuff that goes into Christmas. But I cringe when so many people are “tired of it”.

It’s Christmas!! The birth of our Savior!! The night that changed the world as we know it!! How can we let ourselves get tired of the gift of that tiny babe? How can we be over the spirit and love that comes out so magically this time of year? I don’t ever want to be part of the society that gets tired of the clutter of Christmas! The “clutter” that represents all that truly IS Christmas.

In our house, Christmas decorations and lights go up with the start of Advent and come down sometime after Epiphany. And I’m NEVER sick of the clutter. I think it’s because we do try really hard to keep Christ in Christmas. For every Santa in our house, there is a baby Jesus. For all the references of presents, we have angels nearby as well.

I see stuff going up earlier and earlier each year. Though we have no control of retail and businesses, we do have control over our own homes! Maybe if as a whole, people started waiting a little longer to put things out, maybe they wouldn’t be tired of it so soon. Maybe people wouldn’t get tired of Christmas and would be able to really soak it all in?

Maybe I’m being too judgmental. Maybe I’m being hypocritical. But maybe if I point out what seems obvious to me, I can help someone else. And maybe, just maybe, somebody will point out something obvious that I am missing and I, in turn can grow and change too!

I find myself defending, or at least explaining our Christmas timeline a lot it seems. And I will happily keep doing it. I usually steer away from politics and religion in my conversations, but this seemed to be worth putting my feelings out there.

I hope you are still celebrating Christmas in some little way. I hope the magic of Christmas is still surrounding you! Whether you are like us and still have decorations up, or maybe you are making New Year’s resolutions that lead you closer to God, or maybe you are simply reading this and not judging me too much! I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2017! May the spirit and magic of Christmas stay with you through the rest of the season and for the whole year to come!!!

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Move-in weekend living in a college town

I love living in a college town. There’s always so much energy and optimism. I love Homecoming and Family Weekend. I love bringing snacks to church for the students to have during finals weeks. I love graduation when the flowering trees are in full bloom and lining the streets as if to celebrate with the graduates. But my favorite time of year is move-in weekend. (Which has evolved into move-in week..but I digress!)

You can always spot the freshman and new students. The combination of excitement and nervousness is usually pretty evident on their faces. Walking through Target and Wal-Mart during move-in week is an absolutely adorable experience. Shopping carts full of food and decorations for those new living quarters. Moms making sure their child will have everything they need. Dads unsure of their role and laughing nervously and giving those awkward love punches because they don’t know what else to do. Younger siblings bored and annoyed with the process but still taking it all in with a little awe at their older sibling. And the new student themselves working hard to show confidence while simultaneously realizing they are suddenly unsure of anything they are about to face. And truth be told, I love it all! It makes me reminiscent of when I was that college freshman. So excited, yet full of hesitation all in the same breath. Would I like my roommate? Would I find all my classes? Would I pass all my classes? Did I pack the right stuff? The questions went on and on in my head. And I was walking away from the only world I knew. And some of the best friends a girl could have asked for!

As I look back, I see what a great experience I had!! I was lucky that my roommate and I not only survived the year together, but became life-long friends. In fact we have a circle of girls that have remained close through all of life’s ups and downs! I got a great education, and was able to find what it was I was meant to do. It took a little time, but it was wonderful! And now, I watch the freshman coming to town and can’t help but feel a little wistful for that time of life! This year there is an extra tug at my heart as I think of my oldest niece who is stepping into this chapter of life!

I still remember getting the call that my niece was born. My sister had just had a baby. She was the first person in my life that I watched become a mom. I mean sure, lots of people around me had had babies. I had babysit lots of kids, infants, and even a few newborns. But all of “those” moms…well…they were supposed to be moms. They were already moms in my head so it was no big deal to take that on. But this was my sister. And now she was a mom. Weird.

And she asked me to be the Godmother! Even weirder!

I remember my brother and I going together to the priest to ask for a letter from him so we could be the Godparents. I remember flying out to meet her. I remember looking at this baby and being amazed. Like, really amazed! And then there were the pictures. Oh my, there were pictures. It is pretty ridiculous how many rolls of film were developed by the end of our trip out to her baptism!

I remember when she came to visit in the fall. This adorable little 9 month old baby came to my college housing. I remember when they flew in when she was 13 months for my own baby’s baptism and their luggage was lost. I remember finding out they were moving to Germany. I remember going to visit them in Germany. I remember sending the latest Barbie or Barbie accessory for every birthday and Christmas. I remember long road trips to Omaha when they moved back to watch the girls when their parents were busy with work. I remember worrying when my sister was in the desert and First Communion was coming up. I remember attending her First Communion and laughing at how fast time was going….I remember finding out they were moving to St Louis. I remember finding the right way to include her in my wedding. I remember realizing she was almost as tall as I was. I remember when she made their last move across the country. (Much too far from her Aunt Mandy) I remember her going to high school. I remember realizing she now was taller than me.

And now I have a new memory. I now remember watching her walk across the stage at her high school graduation a few months ago! Suma Cum Laude!!! That is huge. What’s even more impressive is that she is also a National Merit Scholar. I just can’t get over that! My niece is a National Merit Scholar! I am so excited for her. Not just for her accomplishments, which I know she busted her little rear end for, but for what she’s about to experience. She is off in the “real” world. She is going to go out and create her future. I loved college. I loved making the best friends in my life. I loved learning who I was. I loved being independent. (Probably a little too independent at times) I even loved the struggles. It made me who I am!

My beautiful niece, as you go off, I wish you all the best. I know you have Jesus in your heart and that is going to get you through the best things and the worst things. You will have the most amazing moments. And you will inevitably have incredible heartbreak. And in between all of that, you will have lots of normal days. It is up to you to choose to find the joy in all of those situations. You have the most amazing parents any girl could ask for. Your mom and dad clearly love you and have done a pretty spectacular job of helping you become who you were meant to be! You have a sister who is pretty fantastic herself and you guys have memories and bonds that nobody else will ever understand. You have lots of family and friends who will be cheering you on! You have a crazy Aunt in Iowa who has loved you unconditionally your entire life and will always be looking out for you!

As you begin this new chapter, here are my words of wisdom for you and for all incoming freshman!

Be nice!

Work hard!

Laugh often!

Don’t cry alone!

Love with all of your heart!

When something or someone is right, jump in with both feet!

When something or someone is not right, do all you can to spread kindness and hope!

You worked hard to get here, now be sure to take it all in! It is so much more about the learning than the grades. (Don’t get me wrong, they are important, but not the end of the world!)

And pray always! Remember that it is God’s will, not ours that we strive for! If you can cling to that, you will not only find a way to get through any situation, good or bad, but you will thrive with peace, hope, joy, and love!!

I may have shed a tear (or two) watching you walk that stage a few months ago, but those tears were full of love, of pride, of excitement. May you feel God’s love every day as you journey through this life! Enjoy this time in college, it will go so fast! And remember that you are loved!

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Birthday Resolutions

Well, I’m no longer in my 30’s. *sigh* At each milestone in life I’ve hit, I’ve always had mixed emotions. A little regret at some things I did or didn’t do. A little relief that I’m moving forward. A little sadness of what is over and done. A little anticipation of what I’m about to experience.  A little hesitation at the unknown. A little excitement at what is to come. This birthday has been no exception.

I don’t love the fact that I’m no longer really truly “young”. But before you get defensive, let me continue! I’m not saying I’m old….not at all. But when people talk young, they are NOT talking about forty. Forty is in the middle. It’s not old, but it’s not young. There’s still SO much life to explore, but you’ve got some miles under your feet! I’m having a moment of nostalgia for sure!

But just as I start getting a little sad, my oh so loving husband will quickly remind me that less than 2 years ago, nobody thought I would be here. No one. And suddenly, turning 40 seems like something to seriously celebrate! So we did! A trip was planned for our family because of a Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention, but my family turned a “simple” road trip into a vacation to remember. We went to Philadelphia for the sheer purpose of running up the steps of the museum like Rocky and getting my hubby a real Philly cheesesteak. We then landed in NYC where we took in Times Square, did a bus tour of the city, and my oldest and I sat in the 2nd row of the Imperial Theatre to watch Les Miserables in it’s last two months on Broadway!!!  We did a quick pit stop at a certain football field in Orchard Park, NY to grab a photo op for mom. Next, the beauty and power of Niagara Falls took our breath away, and last but not least traveled to the convention held in beautiful Toronto, Canada! The celebrating didn’t stop there! After crossing back into the good old USA, I met up with 3 friends from college and I spent a weekend in Florida. Just when I thought the birthday fun was finally over, I came home to a surprise party with almost all of my best friends and even my mom was there!!! (A few key players from my life were missing, but I was blown away by how many of my favorite people were there!!!)

And guess what? I’m going to keep celebrating! Over and over I have realized what a miracle life is. It is sad to me that it took me so long to see it. Each of us is a miracle. I may have a very unique story, and the miracle is pretty easy to see and acknowledge, but each of us is a miracle. With that in mind, I plan on making some resolutions to myself. Birthday resolutions instead of New Year’s resolutions. A way to keep celebrating the gift of life!

First resolution: Smile more. Let’s be real…I have a bored/mad resting face. I think I give off a much different impression sometimes than what I intend to. I want to purposefully smile more often! I want to look the way I feel!!! I want to share the joy!

Second resolution: Stop the gossip/bad-mouthing. Why is it so darn easy to gripe about every one else’s flaws? I’m going to work hard to look for the gifts in each person I encounter. And those times when I do see flaws in myself  or others, I will strive to point them out only in an attempt to help, and not to simply criticize!

Third resolution: Work even harder to choose joy. Life is hard and devastating and exhausting and scary and unexplainable at times, but it is also beautiful and exciting and fulfilling and glorious and inspiring! We get to choose our reaction to every situation and I am getting better and better at looking for the joy. And when I remember to look…I always find it. I’m also learning that it’s getting easier and easier to find the joy in every situation. I’m not saying it’s actually easy, but I’m learning how to dig deep.

Fourth resolution: Be there for those who truly need me. I want to really be present with my kiddos. I want to care for my husband in every way just like I vowed to do back in December of 2008. I want to be an advocate and motivator for my students at school. I want to help those that don’t have anyone else in that moment find their way, find their light, find their purpose.

There are more things I need to work on, but I’m being realistic and sticking to these four for now. Really truly, in the end I just want to be me. The truest me I can be. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years. I used to feel really pressured to match my peers and be sure to fit into the mold. But here’s the thing. I really like who I am. I’m proud of who I am. I know I can be more, but it’s going to be on my terms, not on what other’s think. So

I’m taking my faith, I’m taking the love of my family,  I’m taking the support of my friends, and I’m going to let all of that positiveness mold and direct me to be the person I really feel like I am supposed to be. I want to live my life so that when I stand before God, I can hold my head high and honestly say I tried. I may have failed miserably at times, but every day I woke up trying to earn the title of “Child of God”! October of 2014 people went to extremes to keep me here! Between the medical staff using every ounce of training and expertise they knew, to the prayer warriors that prayed without ceasing, to my family who came together and never gave up on me, to the community who stepped in and helped our family, I am so blessed! And to be honest, people have been investing in me all my life….just like we all do for each other! By me living my life to fullest is the best way I can think of to show everyone my gratitude. That the extreme effort people have put into me was worth it!!! So here’s to another birthday! I hope you all celebrate too and find endless joy today and everyday!

 

 

 

 

Summer Theme Weeks 1 & 2:Bugs & Camping Week and sports week

I am a teacher. I teach elementary aged kids. It’s in my blood. I don’t even try to fight it. I like projects. I like cute. I like happy kids. Combine all of that, and we do theme weeks during our summers. I’ve done it ever since Jordan was little. (Even before Pinterest existed…imagine that!) Some summers I was great at sticking to the plan. Some summers end up not my best showing, but here we are at the beginning of another summer and I am totally on board this year! Noah and I plotted out the themes with a little help from big brother.

I often try to plan the weeks around things that are already on the calendar. For instance every summer we have a USA/patriotic week and it’s always the week of… you guessed it…the Fourth of July. What do I plan you ask? Usually some crafts of some sort. Maybe a meal or snack will get worked into the theme. Books and movies often find their way into the plans. If we have clothes that work, we make a point to wear those, and sometimes an activity lends itself to be part of the week!

Our first full week of this summer was ending with a night of camping for our friend’s Eli 3rd birthday. So it seemed like a no brainer to have the first week be camping and bugs to coordinate with it. (By the way, bugs and camping are both things I really don’t like! Oh, the things we do for our kids!)

Here’s what we managed to do for our bugs and camping week.

Butterfly wind chime

Campfire cake

Watch the movie “Bug’s Life”

Butterfly mobile

Pom-pom bug creation

Paint resist spider web

And 2 nights of actual camping in a tent!

I know people think I’m an overachiever, but here’s the thing. Really, I do only about one “theme” thing a day. The kids know the theme for the week. They look forward to them and try to guess what we’re going to do, it keeps them occupied on something new each week and I don’t hear my kids whining about summer. I listen to other parents talk about their kids complaining of being bored and I just don’t hear that. And if I do…I tell them to go find something to fit this weeks theme. It’s a super easy solution! By the time you throw in swimming, t-ball, summer concerts and festivals, library time and a road trip or two, summer has flown by!

We are into our second full week and this week is sports week. Mostly because this week we overlap swim lessons and T-ball. I knew I’d have a hard time fitting too much in and those activites play into the theme so they “count” as some of our theme activities. Besides those, here’s what we did ( and are still going to do since it’s only Friday)

Watch a baseball movie….maybe Bad News Bears?

Sports theme letters for Noah’s door

Afternoon of Wii sports

Create an obstacle course including tasks from different sports

Q-tip painting basketball picture

Bowling ball and pins picture done with footprints.

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I’m interested to hear what other people do during the summer? If you were going to create themes, what would yours be?

She was there…

I was a little vague in part of my story about October 6, 2014. It wasn’t the time to go into that part of the story. But with Mother’s Day on Sunday, this seems like the perfect time to talk about the voice I heard as I lay dying on the table in the hospital.

It was a voice filled with love, compassion, patience, kindness, and no judgement.

I have been in more than one situation where I have needed a bigger power with me. I have felt my Grandmother’s presence often. She passed when I was 4 and so she has been my angel for basically all of my life. She is the picture of love in my heart! Grandma Rose has been the one I “talk” to often when I need to clear my head. I know she was there, I felt her in the room as I have on so many occasions! I love her with all of my heart, but it wasn’t her voice that kept me alive that day.

A beautiful girl with curly hair and a spunky attitude has been my role model for years and I consider her to be my angel now for over 4 years. The spirit of Sara is my rock and my guiding principal. I seek her out when I’m desperately trying to live as Jesus wants and I am struggling. Her words and more importantly her actions have had an immeasurable impact on me! She often seems like a made up character, yet she was real, and I grew up with her, and she hung out a few times with my oldest and even held my second son when he was itty-bitty and he made it to her blog as “Scrumptious” which of course he was…and still is!!! And though I feel her spirit often and even hear her voice at times, it wasn’t her either.

It wasn’t my Great-Aunt Virginia who I adored as a young girl. It wasn’t my friend Sarah who died when we were in college. It wasn’t any one who I knew in the typical sense.

Who was it? I’m assuming my Catholic friends have figured out by now that it was Mary. (And I worry that some of you may stop reading now, but I hope you’ll give me a chance here!)

Mary, the mother of Jesus. The one who God picked and sent His angel to.

How do I know it was her? I just do. I’ve never been so sure in my life. She was the one who knew that the one word to keep me here fighting for my life, was the name of my first born. She knew.

I have had the Mary conversation with many people. “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” This is probably the thing I answer most about my faith. The simple answer in my mind is we don’t. At least I don’t. I don’t worship her the way I worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. She is not equal to God. She is not the one who was sent to save us. She was not the one who is Power and Love beyond all understanding. She is not the giver of life.

I do not worship her. But I do honor her. God picked her among all women to bear His son. In my book, that is saying something. And who she is….well I can relate to that.

God’s love is so powerful and perfect and forgiving and frankly, it is beyond my understanding. I believe in it, I accept it, and I look forward to spending eternal life bathed in His perfect love…but I can’t wrap my head around it. But a mother’s love? Yep! That I understand. It is tangible to me. I am human and I need to understand and relate. I suppose in a way you could compare me to Thomas. Though it’s not that I doubt God’s love, it’s just that it is so big it’s overwhelming at times. And I suppose I have to accept that in some ways people will view me as a doubting Thomas. All I can say is that I am human and I am not perfect. My faith is not perfect. I strive for complete faith. And I do indeed have faith in God’s love and his plan, but the reality is, I crave tangible. I crave some level of understanding and I can find that in Mary. And so I often find myself turning to her when I am overwhelmed. When my faith is shaken….which is has been oh so many times. I trust in God, but I also turn to Mary for the comfort that a mother can give. How many times when a little one is hurt, do they turn to their mom! All they want is a kiss from their mom.  A hug and a kiss can make it all better. Well for me, a prayer and closing my eyes and allowing myself to feel her presence is that same type healing and comfort. Do I understand that she doesn’t fix it all? Yes….just like I understand that my kisses do not actually fix my babies’ boo-boo’s. But does my heart find comfort in a mother’s love? Yes! It does.

So my heart turned to her. I allowed her to step in and save me when my body was failing. My faith in God allowed me to have faith in the one who He chose. She whispered to me the one word I needed most. “Jordan”. In that one word, I knew what I had to do. I knew what I had to stay here and live for. My heart has ached for our lost baby. I am comforted in knowing that when I do die, I will be with my little Stephen. But for now, she helped me believe that I was needed here more and that I couldn’t be selfish. I have a job to do here first before I can think about enjoying eternal life. I am here to be a mother to Jordan, Noah, and Josephine. I am here to be a wife to Paul. I am here to be daughter, sister, godmother, aunt, niece, cousin, and friend. I am here to teach the students placed in my classroom. I am here to be a witness to God’s love. Because of her love….because of God’s love. I am here. And that is a beautiful thing!2012-04-01_5025_edited-1-1.jpg

 

Leaving Covenant…the road to recovery continues (Part 3 of 3)

Saturday afternoon came and they confirmed I could go! It was a few hours worth of instructions and preparation to get me busted out of that hospital! We decided to go straight home and Paul would head out later to get the meds and stuff we needed. Not long after we got home. A friend stopped by to visit. I remember pointing out there was no baby to see. She said she didn’t care. She wanted to see me. Cue the waterworks…for two reasons. 1) I had to say out loud there was no baby at home. Yet again, I was leaving the hospital without a baby in my arms. 2) She cared so much, she didn’t care about the baby. She wanted to see me. I am so blessed to have such caring friends!

Putney’s came over later that night. It’s awesome when your best friend just happens to be in nursing school when you are going through a major medical situation. I was able to have her check my portable catheter….can I say AGAIN that I have amazing friends. For her to do that anytime is above and beyond the call of friendship, I mean seriously….and I found out some time later, oh yeah, she just happened to be pregnant at the time. I am SO blessed!

Sunday as early as we could manage, we loaded the van and headed to Iowa City. I had to stop often and get out to walk and have Paul check my incisions. It was exhausting just getting there. Paul had been to UIHC enough lately he knew just where to park to get close to wheelchairs. I was making huge progress walking, and I initially told him I didn’t want a wheelchair. That seemed weak to me. I was walking!  Yeah…That idea didn’t last long. Within minutes I was in the wheelchair. At that point I needed to see our baby so badly, my pride gave way and I allowed myself to be in that chair.

It seemed to take forever to wind our way through the hospital. I lost track of where we were. Paul was talking all the way, but I couldn’t focus. I was nervous. I had been looking at pictures of her all week and I couldn’t find a way to connect with her. What if I couldn’t fall in love with her the way I did with the boys? What if I looked at her and there was nothing? I was scared. She had gone so long without me and me without her. What if we never bonded?

“We’re here.” I looked at Paul. Did I hear him right? This was our baby’s room? All I saw at first was just a bundle of blanket in a bassinet, but was that her? I stood as quickly as I could (which wasn’t quickly at all) and I stepped to her bed. I looked down and there she was. She was beautiful. I mean seriously beautiful. The pictures I had been seeing were ANYTHING but beautiful, but this little baby. She looked just the way I had imagined my baby to look like. The pictures I had seen all week scared me. But she was perfect. She was dressed in all pink and white. I was in love. My family was together and all was right in the world in that moment!

My heart was filled with joy in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Emotions overtook me. I almost missed this. I almost  wasn’t a presence in her life. I had just about left Paul to be a single parent to these three beautiful children. My boys…Jordan and Noah…without a mom. It was too much. It was the biggest feeling I’ve ever experienced. I was saying prayers of thanksgiving to God. Thanking him for allowing me to stay and be a part of all of this.

I just stood at her side taking it all in. At some point, the nurse asked if I wanted to hold her….Um really….you have to ask! Yes, yes, yes, I wanted to hold my baby. It took a bit to get me settled in a chair and propped up so I could handle her. And then the process of lifting that little baby to me with all the cords. Once she was in my arms, I didn’t care about how much pain I was in. I could have stayed there for years! We gathered around our newest addition and finally took pictures of us all. Much too soon it was evident that I couldn’t bear the pain. I had to move. My heart didn’t want to give her up, but it was clear that I had to. We shifted people around and Noah was in the chair next. It had been decided that Noah would be the first to hold her and Jordan was the one who got to announce her name. Josephine Rose Lee was announced to the world…..well it was announced to facebook anyway and to the staff at UIHC that Sunday morning. 🙂

Jordan got his turn to hold her and by then it was about time for rounds. (My sweet husband set aside his own desire to hold her that morning so that we all could have a turn first, since he had held her on other trips before!) We wanted to be sure we were there before rounds so I could finally meet some of her doctors and hear first hand where she was at. I had listened via facetime, but this was so much better! By the time rounds were done, we needed a break. We took the boys to the family area and I had a chance to lay down. To get to this area we had to take a flight of stairs. (I now know there was an elevator down a ways, but at the time we were unaware of it) I somehow managed to go up and down that flight of stairs 2 times that day. With three horizontal incisions and a vertical incision which weren’t even a week old…that is HUGE people. (Bigger than a Donald Trump HUGE as a matter of fact!!!) It was so much work, but I just told Paul (and myself) that this was perfect for me to push myself. It was just the exercise I needed. (I was higher than a kite on pain meds as I was saying this…doing stairs in my shape was dumb and should have been out of the question….what can I say? I was going to do anything I had to at this point to be with my kids. All of my kids!)

As I said, I was able to lie down up in the family area. I was also able to have Paul deal with my incisions and my catheter. Ugh. The trade off of leaving the hospital as early as I did, was that I practically brought the hospital with me. Paul now jokes that he should be able to get his nursing license after all that he learned to do for me that week. Portable catheters are an amazing idea in concept, but it’s still a catheter. Enough said! Ugh!

Paul and I headed back to Josephine’s room to soak in all we could get of her. The only bad thing I have to say about Bay 1 is the chair situation. You are only allowed to have one chair in the room. In Josephine’s situation, if  you are holding the baby in Bay 1 you have to be sitting in a chair. Which means there were no other chairs for anybody else in the room. Normally I wouldn’t have cared, but my pain was still off the charts at times. And not being able to sit was torture at times. I tried to pretend I was fine, but it wasn’t. If anyone else was going to hold the baby, I had to give up the chair. It was a long day….

I did a pretty good job of keeping up with my med schedule. I had timers set for everything. When to take meds. When to drink juice. When to pump. When to check incisions. When to deal with all the other “stuff”. It was a constant set of tasks to accomplish. In between all of that, I snuggled that beautiful girl every moment my body would allow me to. All too soon, the day was ending and we had to go. The boys had school the next morning and I had appointments to get to. I didn’t know how to say good-bye to our little girl. Thank goodness for pain meds…I could time them to knock me out as soon as I got in the car, because frankly, I wasn’t sure how else to handle the emotions!

Monday was spent at Dr O’s office. I wonder what the other patients had to be thinking. Every one of his staff found out we were there and came out to the waiting room to hug us. It was quite the scene right there in the waiting room! The reunions were filled with tears and much emotion. Those poor other pregnant mommas had to be wondering what in the world had happened….hopefully they never found out! We spent hours recounting the story with them and once again giving thanks to God for the outcome! My check up was “satisfactory” and we headed home.

I was not to go back to Iowa City on Tuesday since I needed to rest, so Paul and our friend Ben went without me. Have I mentioned we have amazing friends?!?! Taking the day to drive Paul down was a tremendous gift! I spent the day resting and going to Wal-Mart with my mom. I was moving better and better. Walking without flinching in pain. Starting to be able to stay awake for longer periods of time. Showing more and more progress. Wednesday the NICU wanted me in Iowa City. Josephine was showing signs of being able to start eating and they wanted me there. Paul and the staff lined up a room at Rossi House. Paul had stayed in Ronald McDonald House the week before, but that was not going to work for me. I was making improvements, but I still wasn’t in great shape. I had to be closer and there was no way I could get myself to RMH on my own. Paul and I went back Wednesday and got me settled in. I was going to stay the night by myself and he would go home to be with the boys. I was getting into a rhythm at this point. I was timing myself on the walk from my room to Josephine’s room, and I would challenge myself to beat my own time with each trip. (My competitive drive paid off here!!) Almost every time I could shave off 5-10 seconds from my trip!! I was able to sit for longer periods of time as well. My incision however was not healing as fast as I wanted. It was gory looking to be honest. There was so much that needed to heal. Over the course of three weeks, the incision was healing, but not as quickly as they would have liked. They left the staples in 3 appointments longer than first thought and even then could only take out some of them for fear of doing too much too soon. I was in getting checked about every other day the first couple weeks. Then it moved to 2 times a week, then once a week. It was such a long process. The staff became family. We spent so much time together and had a lot invested in each other as well!

There was no moment when I can say “I was recovered”. I still have pain in the incisions and it’s been over 18 months now. If the weather changes, if I’m really tired, or really stressed out, those incisions burn like crazy. Just a nice little reminder of all I lived through, I guess!

Paul and I make a conscious effort to live differently after all of this. We try, and I stress the word try, to worry only about our people and not worry about stuff. As you all know, that is much easier said than done. I will say though that I am a much calmer and more focused mom. The late nights get me once in awhile, but not nearly as much as it did when the boys were babies. I’m so glad to be here, I don’t even mind some of the sleepless nights. (“Some” being the key word in that last sentence!)

I strive daily to find the joy in each situation. All I have to do is see the faces of those I treasure and finding joy becomes second nature. I know I am blessed to be here and I am trying my hardest to live my life to show my gratitude to God.

Recovery in the hospital after ICU (part 2 of 3)

The baby was born on Monday and on Thursday I was moved out of the ICU. There was a new problem….they didn’t know where to put me. On the OB floor, they weren’t exactly equipped to deal with the medical situations I was dealing with. On the 5th floor, they wouldn’t have the OB recovery resources for me. It was decided that the “life or death” part of the recovery was more critical than the “she just had a baby” part of the recovery and the decision was made to move me to 5th floor.

Before I moved though, one of the operating doctors came in to do a check before they actually cleared me to go. I had seen him a few times and could tell that he worked with authority. He was one of those guys that knew what he was doing and kind of didn’t care what others thought. As he walked in my room and greeted me, I thanked him for saving my life. I knew he had been instrumental in the whole process. He, without losing stride or even pausing to think said, and I quote, “I don’t save lives. I do surgeries. God saves lives.” and kept going with his exam of me.

Woah. I didn’t see that coming. He never once had struck me as a religious man. And my impression up to that point had maybe been that he was a bit egotistical. (Don’t get me wrong, as a surgeon, I actually think that’s a good trait to have. Quite necessary at the very least in this sort of career) And those were the words that came out of his mouth…so effortlessly, so quick, and so genuine. It stopped me in my tracks. I was dumbfounded. Once again, I was overwhelmed by what was going on. This was one of those big moments where I started to realize things had been  bad for me. I mean REALLY bad. And I realized that this was bigger in many other ways too!

He completed his exam and gave his okay to release me from ICU. All of my other doctors had agreed too, so off I was to 5th floor. I was officially out of ICU. But I was not out of the woods. There were still many obstacles to overcome.

I was getting a little numb to all the pain at this point. Everything hurt so bad. And my arms looked like a 3 year had taken watercolor paints all over them. The bruising was amazing. I kind of wished I would have taken pictures of my arms. And my feet. They were SO swollen. I was starting to put pieces together. I had been in surgery. I had a lot of incisions. Paul said I had coded. (Paul exaggerates though, so I kind of didn’t believe most of what he was telling me. At least not detail for detail) But everytime I would ask for clarification about my condition and what I went through, they not only confirmed Paul’s stories, but they would add to it. Again, the whole situation was just unreal. I was constantly in a sense of confusion.

I got to take a shower once I got to the 5th floor. As excited as I was for a shower, the thought of what is what going to take physically was a little overwhelming. How was I going to take a shower? For goodness sake, lifting my arm up was a lot of pain and lots of effort, let alone stand, or move, or anything really. I will leave out many of the details, but I will say that it was not my finest hour. It hurt everywhere. I was exhausted. And frustrated. Oh so frustrated. I couldn’t do anything by myself. Nothing. I was so weak. And in so much pain. I hated being in that condition. It was humiliating. I had to ask for every single little thing. And I’m a fairly independent person so that was a horrible situation to be in. I felt like I was such a burden. I was trying to be an accommodating patient, nurses have such a demanding job and I didn’t want to be “that patient”. I’m pretty sure I still deserved the label unfortunately. I was a hot mess!

PT and OT started seeing me. Little things like brushing my teeth was a 3 person ordeal. I couldn’t get in or out of bed by myself.  And eating was a nightmare. I’m a picky eater anyway and I was in no mood for food. At all. And with the magnesium I was on made it even worse. That stuff leaves the most horrid taste in your mouth. I’m pretty sure I actually cried every single time they told me I had to try to eat something. (Oh and after I cried, I proceeded to take pictures and sent pics along with not-so-nice messages to my loving husband….yet another thing he got to deal with that week!)

One odd thing was when it came to my situation, the baby, or anything of substance, there were no tears. I wanted to cry and just couldn’t. Which of course made me want to cry even more. But for the little things, like the food they choose to bring me, or not being able to reach my tray that had my apple juice on it, I was a mess.

My days were a whirlwind of trying to sleep, listening to doctors and nurses, keeping tabs on Paul and our baby, touching base with family and friends on everybody’s updates, and striving to make any sort of gain in my recovery. At some point, I had to go down to x-ray, and the volunteer came to get me to wheel me down and she and I were making small talk and she was asking in a round about way how I was doing and what was wrong. I mentioned that I had indeed had a rough week, but the worse part was that this all started because I had had a baby on Monday and I hadn’t even seen her yet. She sort of gasped and said, “Oh my, I know who you are! I heard about you. But I didn’t think you had lived!”

The trip down for the x-ray exhausted me and after a nap, I was asked if I wanted to try walking. I knew that was one of the things I needed to be able to do before I could go home, so of course I said sure. We started trying to walk just across my room a few times. I had to use a walker and I had to have someone with me. I did a few laps across my room…you know about 6 feet or so round trip…and collapsed in the chair. It was the first time I remember being in a chair all week. As the afternoon wore on, I wanted to keep working on walking. I started out in my room, and quickly moved to being able to walk in the hallways short distances. By evening, I was walking the length of the hall! I managed to venture out once on my own and at the end of the hallway, there was a hospital worker who was sitting and taking a break. She looked at me and looked at my wristband and saw my room number and smiled! “You’re THAT Mom” she said. “I’ve been praying for you. But I didn’t figure I’d actually get to meet you.” My jaw dropped. How did she know who I was? And did everyone in the hospital know about me? The answer on that day was yes. Yes they did know who I was. Not by name and not by my face. But they had all heard about me.  And they had all been praying for me. And that was the start of the immense weight I started to feel on my shoulders.

I was known through the whole hospital. People looked at me with an odd combination of awe and sympathy. I was a huge story. Me. Little ole me. When did that happen? Why did that happen? Why was I here? How did I manage to pull through odds that defy reason, logic, and science for that matter? What did that mean? It started scaring me. It was as though this was too big for me to deal with. This type of responsibility belonged to someone bigger and better than I. Being a survivor. Almost having hero status on some level. It was scary. I didn’t like it. Mostly because I didn’t understand “why me”. I didn’t feel worthy of any of those titles. People kept telling me how amazing I was. I sure didn’t feel amazing! It was sinking in more and more that what I had just gone through was life-changing to say the least, but it came with an almost suffocating feeling.

Pushing those thoughts out of my mind, I was on a mission. One full day out of the ICU and I was pressing for release information. When could I go home? More to the point….when could I see our baby? I was getting restless. Which was ironic, because truly I was still in bad shape. I had made huge progress, but I still had a lot of risks!

On your board on the wall in your room, they have your stats. My weight was one of those stats on the board. (Thankfully it was in kg and lb….but as I say that, why do we worry so much about the numbers?….it’s pretty easy to look at a person and know if they are overweight…but I’m getting way off topic!) Of course when I saw the numbers, I grabbed my phone and did the conversion…and then I did it again. It was 60 pounds heavier than I was the day before I had the baby. What? How could that be. I did the conversion one more time. Numbers were still the same. I asked a nurse about. Fluid. Those watermelon feet and swollen body. Yep, 60 extra pounds of fluid. Talk about risks! I don’t have a medical degree, but I even I know that’s not good! All the more reason for me to get up and get moving no matter how painful and hard it was. (And it was both, believe me!)

Throughout the week I had a lot of visitors. Family was there. My brother and sister-in-law dropped their lives and split their time between Covenant and Iowa City. I will never forget that my SIL felt drawn to go directly to UIHC the day everything happened. She knew she wouldn’t probably be allowed to be near the baby, but she wanted that baby to have someone there who been loving her a long time already. How sweet!  My sister, oh my goodness,  that amazing woman jumped on a plane and flew up from Florida. From Florida! My heart still skips a beat when I think about that act of love! And of course my mom. She was at the hospital for me, she was at the house with our beautiful boys, she was at UIHC for the baby. And if I know my mom, the Hail Mary’s were flying out of her mouth fast and furious! The baby’s Godparents were there countless hours for me. All three of them are people that God placed in our lives for a reason! I love them so dearly. My Zumba girls came with gifts! I still adore that purple quilt!! A college dorm-mate stopped by with gifts for the baby AND for the boys. How thoughtful was that!?!? I had neighbors stop by. I even had a couple co-workers stop in to see me. I felt so loved! And the texts, phone calls, e-mails, and facebook messages that Paul relayed to me kept me going in those really hard moments! Speaking of facebook…A funny story was when one the co-workers came to visit she told me she knew something was really wrong when we weren’t posting on facebook. We put everything on facebook and yet after the birth of a child it was quiet. No pictures. No comments. Nothing. That’s how she knew things were really bad.  (Sad state of affairs that facebook tells that much…)

The love and support everyone showed us was what truly got me going. There is no explanation as to how I got to the point I did so stinking fast, except for knowing everyone was cheering for us. Paul and I FELT the prayers surrounding us. People all over were praying for us and we could feel it.

Anyway, Friday evening we got word that I could possibly go home the next day. WHAT?!?!? That was amazing news. It wasn’t guaranteed, but I was ecstatic. My night was made even better when my husband showed up about 11:30 that night. He had been in Iowa City with the baby, and I thought he was heading home to stay with the boys. He swung through and decided to sleep in my room that night. It was one of the sweetest things he could have done. It meant so much to have him in the room. I think it was the best sleep I had had that week!

And to top it off, I was going to go home. I don’t think Dr O was all together convinced I was ready to be released. In fact I know he wasn’t. He had a list of concerns. Probably because he knows me too well. I don’t do recovery very well. I tend to push things a little too fast. At the earliest it would be Saturday afternoon when I could go. And he was not going to be the one to release me. Another dr would have to do it. I think that was part of his reservation. He wanted to be there to be sure everything was right. In addition to knowing the issues of me leaving so soon, I had a lot on my mind. I was missing Jordan’s first state marching contest, but Lisa promised to video it for me. I was so ready to see Noah. He had been pretty scared of the hospital all week and hadn’t been allowed to see me very much. I also was busting to meet our new baby. I couldn’t wait to get her in my arms! All of that was on my mind as I got the news that I was going home. But we had another decision to make. It was Homecoming at Iowa. I wouldn’t be home very early on Saturday. Jordan wouldn’t be home very early. And I had very little endurance. Did we try to go down and fight the Homecoming crowds? Could I even handle it? What if we got stuck in traffic? It became clear we couldn’t go to Iowa City on Saturday. I was crushed. But I knew it was the right decision. I would go directly home and rest for a few hours and we would all go Sunday morning as early as possible. I didn’t like it, but I knew I didn’t really have options! And really, I was making progress and I was almost out of the hospital. Only 6 days after coding 3 times and needing 42 units of blood product. I was about to start the next phase of my recovery out of the hospital.

 

“Traumatic Birth Story” does not begin to describe my situation…

Somehow, the baby finally was out. I have no idea how. The last moments of the delivery were a blur. The pain was intense, the fear was even deeper. This was not the scene I had hoped for. It was not what I prepared for…and it was about to get worse. All I remember was something was not right. I can’t put into words how I felt. Pain, fear, exhaustion, and something I couldn’t put my finger on. And then I saw his face. Dr Onuigbo was not smiling. Not. At. All. I looked to Paul. No smile…more like confusion. I looked at my nurse. Fear was on her face. I then saw Dr. O hold up our baby….she was limp. Completely lifeless, and the most hideous color I had ever seen. It was grey. It was not right. I knew in a moment what was going on….I had yet another angel baby. I died a little in that moment. Maybe more than just a little. The world crashed on top of me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even cry. I was done. I had nothing left. I just couldn’t face this again. I couldn’t do it. I was so tired. Tired wasn’t even the word. I closed my eyes. I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell. I wanted to jump up out of that bed and just run. Run away from it all. It was too much. I heard my nurse’s voice. “They’re doing everything they can.” Never once did she say things would be okay. Never once. I watched them all. Moving so fast. Fear was thick in the room. This was it. This was our story. Another baby gone.

That was the last thing I remember inside that room.

I closed my eyes and gave in. I wasn’t feeling right.

And I coded. I’m not sure how soon I coded. But I coded. Dr. Onuigbo told me later that it wasn’t very long. I was down less than a minute. By the time team members responded to my room, I was back up. But I was bleeding out. I was hemorrhaging. (Kind of funny to hear him tell it…it was like it was no big deal. “I was only coding for less than a minute.” Gee, coding at all seems like a big deal to me. But in comparison to what was to come….it wasn’t I guess!)

(Oh, and a side note…..most of this story, the details of what happened are all second hand. It is what was told to me or what I discovered from reading my charts after the fact….and yes! Yes, I did read all of my charts after. The science nerd in me snuck back out and I really enjoyed reading the charts!)

They started looking for the cause of the bleeding. It wasn’t terribly clear at first where the blood was coming from.

The decision was made to take me to surgery. I woke at this point. I looked at Paul. I cried. (At least I thought I cried….turns out, I probably didn’t, I just thought I was crying) I had no words. Our baby was gone. I felt like a failure. I felt empty. I felt horrible. I just wasn’t strong enough to do this. It seemed as though we were in a sprint down the hallway by this point. The lights above me were flying. (I’m sure we weren’t actually sprinting, but I was told in no uncertain terms, that they WERE indeed moving fast. Very fast!!) I was nauseous…but I’m often nauseous. I looked to Paul. He’s always the one who warns the nurse that if I say I’m nauseous, be ready. He was there, but he wasn’t saying anything. We got to the elevator, Paul gave me a kiss. I tried telling him I was sorry. And that I loved him. And I hoped he could still love me after yet another failed pregnancy. He wasn’t listening (more to the point, I wasn’t actually talking….funny thing about being medicated and having oxygen strapped to your face, you think you’re talking, but you’re not!)

Next thing I knew he was gone. But I felt it. I felt the rosary in my hand. He put it in my hand and made sure I had it with me. In having that, I knew I had him too! I don’t remember getting out of the elevator. I don’t remember getting to surgery. I don’t remember as much as I wish I did.

I do remember opening my eyes and trying to get up. I wanted to leave. But the pain…..oh my gosh the pain. It held me to the bed like 10,000 pounds of lead on my chest. I wanted Paul. I wanted my baby. I wanted anything familiar. I heard voices. They were panicked. Almost mad. I heard them yelling because my eyes were open. Why were they yelling? Things didn’t make sense. Orders were flying across the air back and forth above my bed. Some voices seemed familiar…most did not. I couldn’t understand why they sounded so mad. I wasn’t feeling good. Okay….that’s an understatement, even for the state I was in at the time, but I had no idea why all the fuss in the room. In my head, my baby was gone and I didn’t feel good. And I just wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to close my eyes. Why couldn’t they all just go away and just let me be. It’s not a big deal that I was feeling so crummy…I just had given birth….right? My head tried lifting off the pillow. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I closed my eyes. I wanted this all to just end.

But in that moment I heard a voice. It was a woman. And it was close. I felt her. I know she was there. And I knew the voice. Her voice felt like a hug. And all she kept saying was “Jordan”. Sometimes it was a whisper. Calm and patient. Other times it grew impatient, almost pleading. “Jordan”. That was it. My first born’s name. Constant and in a way, urging. I heard it often. I heard it in the chaos. I heard it in the quiet. I heard her over and over. She needed me to hear it. I didn’t want to. I wanted quiet. But I heard her. (I will talk more about her in a later post….those that know me well, may have an idea of who “she” is…)

Little did I know how severe things were. I had no idea I had already coded once. I had no idea that I was bleeding out. I had no idea they didn’t think I was going to make it.

I coded a second time. Things were grim. Very grim. Paul was busy trying to deal with Josephine. She was in bad shape, but apparently I was worse. The poor guy had to deal with all of this. In a matter of moments, his worse nightmare was coming true. Not one, but both of us were in critical condition.

I was bleeding faster than they knew what to do with. They were giving me blood, but I was losing it faster than they could put it in. They were putting out a request to everyone in the hospital to donate. Even some of the nurses I found out later were calling spouses and friends and asking if they could donate. The whole hospital knew on some level what was going on and they ALL rallied around my team.

The operating room was bursting at the seams. Every available doctor had been called. Nurses were lined up outside the room since there was no space left just waiting to be called on for service. Three OB/Gyn doctors were frantically working. Trying everything they had tried before, trying everything they had even heard of. The head surgeon was there, doctors from ICU and anesthesiologists were there. The whole hospital had turned their attention to this one mom. Me. Talk about humbling! The first code had gone out throughout the whole hospital and I was told that there are certain departments that get people’s attention. Code’s don’t happen from Labor and Delivery very often and when they do, it brings the entire hospital to it’s knees. Codes are never okay, but when it’s on a brand new mom….well, nobody wants to think about that!

I woke again. Oh the pain. I wish I could describe it. It’s frustrating to not have the words to fully express what it was I was feeling. Once again there was panic in the room. I started getting a touch frustrated. No one seemed to be listening to me. And they definitely were not leaving me alone like I wanted. I was tired. I didn’t feel good. I just wanted everyone to go away. I hurt. Every part of me hurt in a way I can’t explain and I was telling them this and no one would listen. I felt comforting hands across my forehead. I heard a voice assuring me I would be asleep soon and to just hold on. He told me that he knew how much I was hurting and it wouldn’t last much longer. He kept talking until I was indeed back asleep. (I figured out later that I kept coming to because the medicine to knock me out….the anesthesia, it is in your blood stream….you know…the blood stream that was bleeding out faster than they could replace it. So I kept coming to. And that was NOT what they wanted. The chaos and “anger” I kept hearing was them wanting me to be sedated again….for obvious reasons!)

They continued working. Trying every trick they knew. I coded a third time. My doctor said at one point, it just got to be too much. He had to step out. I wasn’t just a patient to him. He had delivered Noah, he was there when we found out we lost Stephen and he was the one who delivered our beautiful little angel. He had shared in our grief and we had learned of some of his own grief as well. We had cried together many times, for countless hours. We had a bond. He and Paul had spent many appointments chuckling about jokes and pondering life. He wanted to save me. He needed to save me. And he didn’t think he could. He called on the best surgeons in the hospitals. He turned to all the staff he knew and trusted and they worked for hours….seven hours that day to be exact….trying to stop the bleeding, trying to save my life. They had already made the decision to remove my uterus. Not that there was much choice, they had discovered that it had ruptured in my attempt to do a VBAC. That was why I was bleeding. But removing it didn’t solve the bigger problem. I had developed a condition called DIC. DIC is short for Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. This is a condition brought on by trauma and can cause a person to bleed out due to clotting issues.

I was told many stats by many staff. DIC is often fatal in my circumstance. In fact, somewhere I did some math and figured that I only stood a 0.013% chance of surviving.

The nurses and staff that were monitoring the surgery from different parts of the hospital, kept expecting the team to call it. Declare me dead. Stop operating. But the team that was in that room working on me never gave up. From the sounds of it, they had every right too. No one who was watching and knew what was going on would have questioned it. The facts were there and this was not in my favor! But they didn’t give up. Not when it mattered so much!

The truth of the matter though was that after hours of operating, it was clear there was nothing more they could do. As I was told, every time they touched part of me, it would burst and start bleeding. I had gone through 42 units of blood product. FORTY-TWO!!! (A human body holds 5-6 units for reference) They decided it was time to see if somehow my body would or even could take over. They stopped surgery. As Paul describes it, they packed me full of gauze, saran-wrapped me close to try to prevent infection and said a prayer. (Lots of prayers!!!)

Again I came to. I had no idea where I was. I heard voices. This time one in particular stood out. I knew it. I recognized it right away. It was Fr. Ken, our priest. I was glad to hear him, but I couldn’t quite figure out why he was there…it took a moment…oh yeah. The baby. The memory came crashing back. We had lost another baby and someone had asked him to come. (Well, that’s what I was thinking anyway) He was talking to me, repeating himself. “Amanda. It’s me. It’s Fr Ken. Amanda. It’s Fr. Ken” I know he said other stuff but I don’t remember what it was. I kept answering him, but he kept saying the same thing over and over again. Things just didn’t make sense. Once again the frustration set in. Why was no one listening? Why did they all seem to ignore what I was saying?

Fr. Ken recounted what he witnessed in that room with me later. He shared with me that he’s been with many people as they are dying and there is a sound they make. It is the unmistakable sound of dying. He told me I was making that sound. Hearing him say that now…makes my heart skip a beat! It scares me to know how close I was to dying. How I could have not been here to grow old with Paul. I wouldn’t have been here for my boys. I would have never met Josephine. She would have grown up never knowing me…

They monitored me closely all evening, and somehow, against all odds, my stats started improving. By 7AM the next morning (after about a 12 hour break) I was stable! They went to work putting me back together. After a few hours, surgery was complete and I was holding steady….for the most part.

I remember waking up sometime later on Monday. Dr Onuigbo was there. I remember waking and seeing him and making the joke that I wasn’t doing a VBAC next time. A c-section for the next baby would be just fine. He didn’t laugh (Once again remember, I wasn’t actually talking….I just thought I was!)

 

I dozed in and out a lot. I couldn’t quite keep my eyes open. Paul was there. Afton and Matthew were there. Lisa was there. I think my sister was there….wait. My sister was there? She lives in Florida. Why was she there? And my mom and my brother were there. Nothing was making sense. How did my family get there. In my mind I had JUST had the baby. I needed answers. But I finally realized I couldn’t talk. At some point I realized I was intubated. Not cool. Not talking for me is not an option. I mean seriously. This was not an option. A nurse got a clipboard so I could write. But I couldn’t hold a pen very well, let alone write. They wrote out the alphabet and a few common words so I could point and spell. It was slow. But I could do it.

(This picture was Wednesday morning when I was  allowed to look at my computer for the first time since I went into labor on Sunday)

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Paul told me our baby was alive. I didn’t buy it. I had seen her and knew there was no way she had survived! “She was” he assured me. She needed a little help and was in the NICU, but she was alive. (Oh Lord….he’s good. Didn’t actually lie to me, but wow did he leave out a LOT of the story, like the whole life flight to Iowa City….understandably so though!) They showed me pictures. I was foggy enough to let it go and stop asking about her. (I still didn’t believe them frankly and didn’t want to keep talking about it!)

I was still in rough shape. I was fighting the oxygen and I kept slipping into little spells. I know I gave my family and friends quite a few scares throughout the evening.

I remember “talking” with them. I remember laughing a lot. But I remember tension in the room too. At this point. I still had no idea how sick I had been. NO IDEA!

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Dr. Onuigbo came in the next morning. (Tuesday now) He was smiling, but he was more serious than he usually is. He looked tired. He told me we needed to talk. (Well, he talked, I listened) He told me no more babies…I got it. I had stressed him out with that delivery. He didn’t want to go through that again. I nodded, but in my head, I was agreeing to disagree. I could tell he thought it wasn’t a good idea for me to have another, but I knew I could do it! I really wanted at least one more. One more pretty little baby. I would let him think I was done, but I knew better! He went on to tell me they had operated on me. I had a lot of recovery ahead of me. And he was gone. Doctors and nurses were a constant stream of activity in my room through the day. Finally they were talking about extubating me. They would pull the tube, but I couldn’t try talking right away. Really? They would let me know when I could try. I was sick and tired of pointing to letters to spell words, so I would agree to any progress, but I was impatient to get talking! The tube came out and I was free. Sort of. There was a lot of pain. A LOT of pain! It hurt, but I kind of didn’t care. My feet were the size of watermelon. They put massaging wraps on them. They seemed to be concerned about lots of stuff. My feet. My incisions. (That I hadn’t really seen or realized just how many there were) Everything hurt. And I was still tired. But I was glad to visit with people. So many people came in to check on me. It was another day before I even realized I was in the ICU. I thought I was just in a hospital room. Afton got a big picture of the baby and put it on the wall. But I couldn’t see it most of the time. So she taped a smaller one to my bed. Right by my head so I could see her. But it was just a picture. I still didn’t believe she was alive. My sister took video of her so I could see her breathing. And hear her pathetic little cry. Softest cry I had ever heard. And everyone asked about the baby. It was sinking in that the baby was alive. Our little girl was alive. But I was realizing that she was very sick. I somehow figured out that she was in Iowa City. I don’t even remember figuring it out, but somehow I knew.

At some point I was talking with a friend and something she said took me off guard. She asked how I was doing with the news. Okay I replied. She continues on and said she had wondered how I was going to take the news of not being able to have any more kids….

I kind of smiled, but on the inside something clicked. I can’t have kids. Dr Onuigbo. He wasn’t telling me that I SHOULDN’T have any more kids….he was trying to tell me I COULDN’T have any more, but I didn’t understand at the time. Oh my gosh. The tears were threatening to overtake me. Luckily, I didn’t have the strength to even cry. But I died a little at that realization. There were no more babies in my future. At least not from my body. I asked a nurse later about it to be sure I understood. She gently laughed and said “Sweetie,…that beautiful baby girl literally broke the mold.”

I’m not sure what was more painful in that moment….my body or the thought of no more babies.

Dr. V came in and sat on the edge of my bed. He was one of the doctors assigned to my case. I liked him. He had a ton of energy. But he liked the Packers. Oh well, can’t have it all I guess. 🙂  I enjoyed his visits though. Very honest, very real, but very fun and lighthearted at times too! On one visit he asked if I was ready for the recovery I was facing. I grinned and told him I’d had a c-section before. I was good. “Oh honey. What we did to you was nothing like a c-section!” was his reply.

They did a scan at one point to be sure I didn’t have any blood clots in my arm. It seems I was showing some signs of possible clots. Another dr came in to read it. He looked at it and saw a small clot in my right arm. That freaked me out. Was I in line to have a heart attack or stroke? I point blank asked him about. His response. “Yes there’s a clot. But it’s not like it’s going to kill you or anything.” And he just left. (mic drop!) That was his response? I looked at Paul who was in the room at this point. “Did he just say that?” Yep. He sure did. Okay…so I must be out of the woods at this point if that was his reaction to seeing that. We laughed quite a bit after that. It was what we needed. We were scared for Josie. Paul was still scared for me and I just didn’t know it. The poor guy was beside himself. He was running back and forth between Covenant and Iowa City and trying to be with the boys too. In fact he took them by himself on Wednesday to Iowa City to see her. They all saw her before I did. That was a bittersweet pill to swallow. I was glad she was alive for them to see, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact I hadn’t seen my own baby. At least not alive. And at this point I didn’t even know when I would. Conversations started happening about transferring me to Iowa City. Nobody seemed to know how long I was going to be in the hospital. There were many more questions than answers. One thing was becoming clear. We still had a very long road ahead of us…..

Dance Marathon

A year ago we were asked to join UNI DM. We had no idea what we were walking into! A few days before the event we started to sense a buzz and kind of had a guess that the event was bigger then we realized! Oh boy was that true!

We had little expectations for the day. We knew we were going to share our story with a small group of students. We knew there would be meals, and dancing, and activities. I for one, didn’t have a ton of excitement going into the day. It was going to be yet another event. We would do our thing and leave. WRONG.

We arrived that day with a little bit of orange on. Paul had said something about wearing orange, but I for one, didn’t want to overdo it. I hate sticking out in a crowd, and orange isn’t exactly a subtle color. Yea, so overdoing it is not an option when it comes to Dance Marathon! There was orange everywhere. And on everybody. It was awesome! And we were treated like royalty. All of us!

IMG_1756(Right after introductions.)

We had so much fun! We laughed at some of the dances. We cried at others’ stories, especially the ones that didn’t get the same miracle we experienced. We reminisced about our own little angel in heaven. We met so many amazing people. Dancers and families alike! It was an inspiring day.

 

Since then, UNI DM has planned events for us to attend. The Miracle Network is doing fantastic things. Medical research, sharing knowledge, etc, but Dance Marathon does more than just raise money for those things. They try to take care of the patient AND the whole family. Because truly, everyone in the house is affected. Most people can imagine and relate to how hard things are on the parents. The long hours spent at the hospital. Time away from work, from home, from life in general. Sleepless night trying to figure how in the world you’re going to pay all those medical bills. Worried sick about 1)if your child will live, and then quickly replaced with 2) what kind of life will she have if she does make it?

But there are other family members affected, too! My boys had already lost a baby brother, and now they were afraid they were going to lose their sister too. They had a mom who had spent a year grieving and was not able to be the mom they deserved. Then she was so sick trying to have this baby and had a huge recovery of her own to face, once again leaving them without a supportive mom. Their dad was trying to be everything to everybody and didn’t have enough of him to go around it felt like. We had friends and family who swept in and stayed at the house with the boys, drove Paul to Iowa City when he didn’t have the energy to do it himself, brought food and entertainment over. But even with all of that truly outstanding help and support. The boys still had their life interrupted in a “non-refundable” type of way.  And that’s where DM steps in. They create experiences that we may not be able to do. They not only provide the events, but they provide extra caring hands to make the events happen!

I am so very impressed at the philanthropy expressed by college students. This is an age-demographic that can easily get lumped into “a bunch of selfish, lazy kids, who don’t think about anybody besides themselves”. This group of students takes that stereotype and shreds it to pieces. Itty-bitty, tiny, little pieces. UNI DM students bend over backwards to help out! And they do it with love in their hearts, joy in their steps, and a smile on their face!

Their mantra is FTK. “For The Kids”. That’s why they do what they do. And they do it so well.

The big dance is this Saturday. This year I am pumped! I am excited for the orange. I am excited for the dancing. I am excited for the laughter. I am excited for the tears.I am excited FOR THE KIDS!

IMG_1776 (The end of the night last year waiting for the total $ raised!)

Thank you UNI DM! Thank you for dancing for Josephine and all the other Miracle Kiddos!

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least inform you of how to donate if you feel so inclined. Josephine is Team 5 this year. She has a super sweet morale captain named Alyssa.

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Here is her link IF you would like to donate….https://events.dancemarathon.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&participantID=83024.

UNI DM is FTK

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