Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Decision time

I made a hard decision today, but it was necessary. I have to have some oral surgery, and I finally scheduled it for the 29th of this month, which means we will have to TTA this entire cycle. This also means that 2010 has lost all hope of actually turning out well. I was going to write it off as the worst year of my life but avoided saying that in case we actually did end up pregnant this year. That would have redeemed 2010 from all the bad that has come. But now I know we won’t. I am disappointed, but anxious to get the surgery done and not have to worry about it. And if I’m not too hopped up on pain medication at least I can ring in the new year with a lot of champagne instead of worrying that I should be abstaining because I could be pregnant.

But this year hasn’t been all bad. There’s been a lot of good that has happened and I feel like I have aged about ten years in experience and wisdom (hopefully I don’t look like I’ve aged ten years though!). Today is my mom’s PET scan after her gamma knife treatment, since she’s been off chemo for about two months while doing the radiation they need to see what is going on to start her on chemo again. We’re hoping for good news and praying that things work out for her. I do feel a lot of guilt and conflict in choosing to TTA. I know it’s something I almost have to do, my teeth have started to hurt and I don’t want to get pregnant and go nine months with pain and nothing to do about it, but I was really hoping to schedule the surgery before I’d have to make this decision. I feel guilt because of my mom. The longer I go without making a grandbaby for her the more scared I am that she won’t make it long enough to meet her grandchild. I know the thought scares her and I hope the delay just makes her stick around longer and fight harder to be here for that and for us. We do all still need and want her here and I hope that she knows that and is strong enough to stay for us. Aside from that I really feel at peace with this decision. I’m of course, impatient to be pregnant again but I know it will happen when it is supposed to happen and I’m trying to relax and leave this in God’s hands, so having a cycle off of trying and stressing and worrying about every little thing I do will be nice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas, Darling

Merry Christmas, Darling
- Carpenters

Greeting cards have all been sent
The Christmas rush is through
But I still have one wish to make
A special one for you

Merry Christmas darling
We're apart that's true
But I can dream and in my dreams
I'm Christmas-ing with you

Holidays are joyful
There's always something new
But every day's a holiday
When I'm near to you
The lights on my tree
I wish you could see
I wish it every day
Logs on the fire
Fill me with desire
To see you and to say

That I wish you Merry Christmas
Happy New Year, too
I've just one wish
On this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you

Logs on the fire
Fill me with desire
To see you and to say
That I wish you Merry Christmas
Happy New Year, too
I've just one wish
On this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you
I wish I were with you

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gratitude

I’ve always felt that gratitude is the key to happiness. Not felt, known. It’s the only way to ever enjoy anything, and I believe the reason for the tenth commandment. If you are always focused on what you don’t have, it’s impossible to enjoy what you do have, because there is always someone with more and someone with what you think you want. Of course this is all easier said than done, but it’s something I’m trying to focus on and it’s working wonders in my attitude and outlook.

Today I woke up at 7:00 and heard my husband already in the shower getting ready for work. I stumbled out of bed and sat with him while he got ready. I told him I was tired and he replied, “Go back to bed!” I said I didn’t want to because that was lazy. I feel guilty sleeping in when he’s up and working, but he said, “I work hard so you can be lazy.” What an amazing man I married. I love him so much I can’t even describe it, and I am so grateful that he is so devoted to me and my happiness. No matter what challenges come our way I know that I can face them with someone like that by my side.

The other incredible little treat that made today wonderful was from my dad. He recently traveled to Toulouse on business, and I asked him if he could bring me back some real French pain au chocolat (literally bread of chocolate, but it’s just a chocolate filled croissant). There is something so deliciously perfect about these pastries, plus for me they’re strongly tied to memories of being sixteen and living with a French family in Rouen and dunking one in a bowl (yes a whole bowl!) of chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) for breakfast. Sure you can get a chocolate croissant at Starbucks or wherever, but they’re not the same. There’s something about the butter, the technique, the chocolate, that makes the real French version (even the smushed, probably bought at the airport version my dad managed to bring home) far superior to anything available here. The ones here are dumbed down and just a croissant with chocolate filling, which is often tasteless brown frosting-like chocolate flavored goop. The real ones have a layer of real chocolate inside, which melts deliciously with the butter and flaky layers of croissant when you dip it into your morning chocolat chaud or coffee. C’est magnifique!

So I have to thank the two most important men in my life today for making my morning so perfect and reminding me how much I am loved and how much I have to be grateful for. Thank you Dad for taking care of me for the first 24 years of my life and still indulging me when you can. And thank you Michael-Scott for the last five years and being such a perfect hardworking husband.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Unexpected little love stories

As what is starting to seem like always, MS is out of town, right now in Indiana, on his way to St. Louis tonight. We talk and text throughout the day, which makes it a little easier, but I still miss him so much.

Last night I could tell from the increasing unreadable nature of his texts that he had had a few drinks while out at dinner. When he called me he confirmed that he’d had a few beers, and when he drinks, he gets happy and even more lovey dovey.
He told me that the coworker he was out with had asked him when he knew that his wife (AKA me) was the one and was perfect for him. I smiled and assumed I’d hear some cute story about something a said or did when we were dating, you know, before he asked me to marry him. Instead he started, surprisingly, with “It was about a year ago…” I frowned, we’ve been married almost five years and only a year ago you realized I was the one? But I didn’t say anything and just listened. “You didn’t see me, but I came downstairs to the kitchen and you were in there doing dishes, and you weren’t watching TV or anything, but you were so happy you were singing and I thought wow, she just made dinner for me and now she’s cleaning up and is content to be doing this, she is a good woman, and I know she will always take care of me.”
The story made me so happy because I am pretty old-fashioned and I do enjoy taking care of him and being a wife first above everything else. I can’t wait to add mother to that title.

I realized that I had had a similar epiphany about him last year when I felt like I knew for sure that he would always take care of me, and enjoyed doing it. It was after I had quit my stressful job at Four Seasons and was at home reading a screenplay. I was sitting outside in the sun and a big blue jay landed in front of me. I took a picture of it with my phone and texted it to MS, who was, again, in some cold city on a business trip. He wrote back that it looked like it was nice and sunny out, but wherever he was was cold and rainy, and he was out in that cold weather knocking on doors and enduring the chill. I felt so guilty and wrote back that I was so sorry that he had to do that, and he wrote back that he would do anything so that I could be home, sitting outside, being happy. I knew then that he would always take good care of me, and that I could always count on him to put me first.

I am so grateful that I have him in my life, and I know that he will make an amazing father and take good care of our family if we are ever lucky enough to have children.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

This year, my darling husband decided to institute a new tradition. Rather than simply having everyone state what they were thankful for, he had us all tell each other what why we were thankful for them personally. He asked the person being talked about to sit facing away from the group and not say anything, so there would be less awkwardness and no chance to argue or downplay the nice things being said about them. Instead we had to sit quietly and just accept how much everyone loved us. You would think we would have all jumped at the chance to have our egos stroked like this, but everyone was humbly reluctant and uncomfortable, especially MS’s old-school grandfather, who we made go first. He is not one to emote or take compliments easily, so he resisted this “navel-contemplating” exercise, but finally submitted when we told him he couldn’t have any of my freshly-baked-from-scratch pumpkin and apple pies until this was done.

We started telling Poppy why we were thankful for him, beginning with his daughter, my mother-in-law. MS originally wanted to limit the time spent on each person to three minutes, but by the time she was finished talking about how much she loved her father and why, three minutes had passed and the rest of us hadn’t even spoken. So it took awhile, but it was worth it and we all enjoyed talking about why we were thankful for everyone. It is such a habit for me, and everyone, I think, to be picky and critical of others, to complain and find fault. I found it very uplifting and healing to focus on only the good in each person and being able to let them know how much I love them and why was something that I haven’t previously been comfortable doing, especially with my in-laws. We were all touched by the nice things said about us, and I was surprised at how they all perceive me, it is different than how I see myself, as I said, I tend to be a little critical of everyone but the absolute hardest on myself.

We all enjoyed the pie we earned and then MS and I headed to dinner at a restaurant with my family. When we got home we told them the same thing-we have to do this before you get pie. After a few groans and protests, my family also agreed. We started with my grandmother, then my dad, mother, sister, then Michael-Scott, and finally me. I was in tears nearly the entire time. When my father spoke he told me how I was so special to him because I was the one that made him a father, and that being a dad was the best thing he’s done in his life and it is so amazing. I cried because I was touched by what he said, but also because I know being a parent is one of life’s highest callings, it’s all I want, and I’m still so terrified that I might never be a mother. Overall though, it was an amazing experience. I am so grateful to my husband for suggesting this, it made the holiday so much more meaningful to everyone and brought us all closer by allowing us to express how we felt and appreciate and share love for one another in a way that we rarely do. I have never felt so much love for and so much love from my family as I do now, and I hope that their experience was similarly uplifting.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad Timing

When we first started dating, my husband and I talked about how our relationship was a bit like the movie When Harry Met Sally. They were best friends, had a lot in common, had this great chemistry, but they could never get their timing right for their relationship to work until the end.

Our relationship had been similar. I met my husband many years ago because I was dating one of his friends. My boyfriend at the time introduced me to all his friends and the instant I saw my husband I felt that butterfly-in-the-stomach nervous sense of excitement you get before giving a speech or, I would imagine, jumping out of an airplane. He made me nervous and excited I thought he was gorgeous. I won’t claim it was love at first sight, but it was something. Of course, I was happily dating his friend, and he was a good guy who would not actively pursue his friend’s girlfriend. Especially after I broke up with that boyfriend and dated yet another one of his friends. But he was always there, being cute and inexplicably frustrating me. I was always overly critical of his girlfriends and secretly thought that none of them were good enough for him. I was too dense to realize it was because I thought only I was good enough for him and honestly felt like there was no potential for a relationship between us, he just wasn’t right for me and I didn’t waste any time thinking about us ever being together.

It took us many years of sexual tension, late night talks and incessantly teasing and arguing with each other before we finally figured out we were meant to be together. The timing had never been right, but when it was it was amazing and we had that weird, movie magic moment of realizing that the right person had been there all along.

Now I feel again like my life is being consumed by timing and missed opportunities. I thought our timing was so awesome-we got pregnant right when we wanted to and it came at such a wonderful time for our family-what better news to temper my mom's diagnosis than the news of a new baby? The timing seemed perfect, and when I went through the loss one of the worst parts of it was dealing with it and with my mom, worrying that we might not get another chance for her to have a grandchild. The timing couldn't have been worse.

I am hoping that the same happily ever after end result that applied to my dating life will someday apply to my reproductive one as well. I hope that, as some of my well-meaning friends try to tell me, someday I’ll look at my family and realize it was all meant to happen the way it did, and that I’ll love my kids so much I’ll know that there was a reason why I went through this loss. I hope they’re right. It’s hard to imagine when you’re still waiting, trying and hoping.

Right now I just feel frustrated and upset that I should be big, pregnant, well into my third trimester and ready to pop early next year, and instead I’m losing weight, nowhere near pregnant and once again suffering at the hands of bad timing. MS is traveling so much for work, he is gone when I need him to be here. We’ve only been able to start trying again since last month, and it did not work, so this month I had a lot of hopes pinned on getting pregnant and having happy news to share with the family at Christmas, but, due to more bad timing, it’s not looking so good. I know I need to be patient but the idea that I’ll reach my first baby’s due date and still not be pregnant is upsetting and discouraging. I don’t know how I will handle that, except that I have seen so many other women handle that, or worse, with strength and grace, I hope I can be that strong, if I have to. More than that I hope I don’t have to face it at all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A story with two happy endings.

When I posted on Facebook on Oct. 15 for National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness day, I was pleasantly surprised to find a message in my inbox from my mother’s former best friend. The two of them were close from childhood on, and I grew up calling this woman Auntie and playing with her daughters, one who was my age and one a few years younger. Fifteen years ago she and my mother had a falling out for reasons I don’t know and that are none of my business anyway.

This woman contacted me to share with me that she too had experienced two losses. She was understanding and compassionate towards me and understood my pain. I was touched that she reached out to me and shared with her how my mom was doing. Obviously, she was upset to hear my mother had been suffering with breast cancer and asked me if she could contact my mother and try to reconcile. I told my mother what happened and she started crying and showed me a card that she had started to write to her friend but had yet to send. She was thrilled that her friend was open to reconnecting.

Earlier this week, the two former best friends got together for the first time in a decade and a half. They spent hours catching up and talking about what had transpired in their lives since they’d lost touch. My mother told me a story that both haunts and inspires and comforts me.

In addition to the two losses my mother’s friend told me about, she also lost a twin-a vanishing twin, as it is oddly termed-during her pregnancy with her younger daughter. She did not give it much thought, nor did she ever share this with her daughter.

When her daughter was in high school and going through a particularly tough time, she asked her mother if she had been a twin. Her mother asked her why she was asking and her daughter replied that she knew she had a twin because her twin brother always visited her and comforted her whenever she was sad. Her mother shared with her daughter the name she would have given her twin if he had lived.

I am blown away by this story, and while of course I am skeptical, part of me wants it to be true. I firmly believe in an afterlife, and the idea of a brother being there for his sister in spirit, even if not able to in body, is comforting and wonderful. It also reinforces my belief that life begins very early, and that a lost baby is a real child that has died, no matter how early in a pregnancy a loss occurs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You're Not Shaken

The lyrics to this song really hit home for me with the events of the past year.

You're Not Shaken by Phil Stacey

I am sinking in the river that is raging
I am drowning
Will I ever, rise to breathe again
I wanna know why
I just wanna understand
Will I ever know why?
How could this be from Your hand?

When every little thing that I dream of being just slips away
like water through my hands
And when it seems the walls of my beliefs come crashing down
like they're all made of sand
I won't let go of You now
because I know, oh, You're not shaken

I am trembling in the darkness of my own fear
All the questions with no answers
So grip me while I'm here
And I may never know why
Oh I may not understand
But I will lift up my eyes,
and trust this is Your plan

When I am in the valley
of the shadow of death

You're not shaken
You're not shaken

You're right here beside me and
You have never left

You're not shaken
You're not shaken

Monday, October 18, 2010

Outlook: much, much better!

We recently found out that my mom had some brain tumors. The words cancer and tumors are scary enough, but combine them with brain and you’ve got something downright terrifying. We waited and hoped and prayed and spent time together all weekend in anticipation of her consultation with yet another doctor today. We were scared she wouldn’t be treatable. We were scared the radiation would make her too sick to fight the cancer everywhere else. We were afraid that the treatment would leave her radioactive and not able to be around her trying to conceive (and hopefully soon pregnant) daughter (that would be me!).

Today all of our fears were alleviated. Of course I’d prefer that there was nothing wrong with her in the first place, but considering that she has cancer and brain tumors, this is good news. Her doctor explained that brain tumors sound so scary but with recent advances they are so treatable that you could almost say they have a cure because the treatment works so well. They just can't call it a cure because the tumors can return and you often have to continue treatment later.

She has 8 or more small tumors all over her brain. They caught them all early. She has to go in for general radiation of her whole brain 5 days a week for 3 weeks. This should prevent new tumors from coming in. Then she has to have targeted radiation to attack the specific tumors, this will be 2 or 3 times, and takes about 6 hours each time.

During the 3 weeks she has to stop chemo, but she was doing so well with that that her oncologist is confident about her being okay with a 3 week break. She also cannot drive and so we are trying to coordinate that, but my sister should be able to handle most of the driving.

And, the doctor said I can be around her because the radioactivity leaves her body almost immediately so she is not dangerous to pregnant women (again, I am not currently pregnant, just trying to get there so we are being extra cautious!). He said I should not go to the facility, and my mom is so worried she doesn't even want me driving her and going near the treatment center. But at least I don't have to avoid her altogether for the next 3 weeks, which we feared. And it’s only 3 weeks, we also feared it would be another year of treatment like the chemo.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope



Today is National Pregnancy/Infant Loss Awareness Day. Please visit www.iamtheface.org and support this worthy cause.

If you are a mother to a living child, please honor those of us who are mothers only to angels today by being grateful that you have your child here with you. If you are pregnant, please take a day to enjoy it, and don’t complain about how hard it is to have morning sickness or any of the other signs that mean you are going to have a healthy baby. Please keep in mind that some of us would love to be in your shoes, swollen ankles and all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scared

So things were looking up, everything was going well. I was excited that we finally reached the third cycle required to start trying again for a baby. I had a doctor’s appointment and my OB is happy, everything looks fine and we are good to go.
My mom’s arm got better very quickly, the swelling went back down to what it was before and her skin is much better. Her hair is still going but she has a great sense of humor about it. She even bought a “wig” which gave her a bright purple Mohawk.

Today I found out, through my grandmother, because my mother likes to keep things from me so I won’t worry, that she has been having trouble seeing and is going into the hospital tomorrow for an MRI to see if she has a brain tumor. We’re not panicking yet, it could be something else, and it could be operable and no big deal.

So far she has done much better than any of the doctors predicted and beaten the odds at every turn. But hearing brain and tumor together leave me pretty scared. I feel completely helpless and overwhelmed. I believe in prayer and I am praying for her, but after what happened to my baby, despite my desperate prayers, after what I have seen happen to so many other worthy mothers, it is hard to keep my faith strong. There is nothing I want more than to be able to tell her she is going to be a grandma again, and to actually bring a baby into this world for our family to love.

The thought that she might not be here long enough to meet her grandchild breaks my heart, for me, for her, and for my future child who might never know her love. I am comforted only by the hope that things will be okay and the knowledge that she does have a grandchild waiting for her in Heaven if she has to go soon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

First, the good-this cycle is almost over and that means we have waited the requisite 3 cycles since my D&C and are cleared for trying again! I am so excited and relieved and though I am fearful I cannot wait to start trying and get some hope back into my life. I am trying to give my fear to God and relax and accept that I will be a mother, one way or another, when the time is right. That is all I can do at this point, well, that and have lots of sex.

The bad was Sunday. MS and I went and took a walk to a park in our neighborhood so he could use the monkey bars to do pull ups and other manly exercises. Now even though it is a park with a playground meant for children and even though it was a nice sunny day I didn’t expect anyone to be there. There are hardly ever any kids there aside from the occasional surly teenager smoking or dropping the F-bomb every other word in their cell phone conversation, which does not really make me long for a child of my own.

But on Sunday there were kids. Three kids, three beautiful adorable blonde kids-a ten year old boy, a five year old girl and a three year old boy. They were being chased around by a cute woman who looked so young that I assumed she was their babysitter, until I heard her children calling her “Mommy!” over and over as they ran around playing tag. They were adorable. So happy, cute and energetic. I wanted them, I wanted to be her. I couldn’t believe this girl already had three while I was sitting there feeling much older than her with nothing to show for it. I sat and tried to ignore them as MS did his exercises but each gleeful scream of “Mommy!” made my heart ache. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to cry and MS consoled me with his usual “We’ll have kids someday.” And by trying to cheer me up by finding a dried crunchy leaf in the grass, picking it up and putting it on the sidewalk for me so I could step on it. He knows I love stepping on dried leaves. Silly but cute and sweet of him.

And the ugly. My poor mom’s arm. Don’t think I’m horrible for calling it ugly, she would say the same thing. Everything had been going very well with her chemotherapy and treatments. Her swollen arm, which had filled with lymph fluid due to a tumor blocking drainage, had finally started to shrink on its own, defying the doctor’s predictions that it would never improve. It only looked a tiny bit bigger than her svelte left arm, the difference only noticeable by comparison. They sent her to a lymphedema treatment office, where they wrapped and bandaged her arm to try to force the swelling down. She happened to have this done on one of the hottest days of the summer. It was sweltering and humid for Southern California, and my poor mom’s sensitive skin got incredibly itchy bound in the tight bandages. The pain and frustration of not being able to scratch kept her up all night but she endured it and ignored it and went all weekend with the bandage on. When she went back to have the doctor take a look, they found that under the bandage her skin had become so irritated and inflamed that her arm had swollen up again to its old giant size, and is now covered in a bright red scaly rash. Poor thing, she tried so hard to be good and leave the bandage on, which ended up making it worse. She’s now waiting to let her skin heal before trying the bandage and compression again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Anticipation

I haven’t written in awhile because I’ve been busy. Busy and distracted. Not a single day passes that I don’t think about my baby and miss it, but I have to admit, time has made the sadness less intense and consuming. I haven’t cried in a long time and I am so grateful for that.

Part of the reason is that we are finally getting closer and closer to the time that we can start trying again. I only have a few more weeks to wait and I am thrilled and terrified at the idea of trying again. I am thrilled because I want nothing more than a baby in my arms, a sibling for the one we lost, and to see my husband talking to my belly, to his baby, once again. I am terrified because I don’t know how I will handle another loss. Before my loss I didn’t even anticipate what it would really be like to lose a baby. I knew, intellectually, that it was possible, but I didn’t think it would happen to me. I didn’t know the pain would be so overwhelming, that I would feel so much love for my baby so early on and feel the loss so intensely.

Now I know that it can, I know that it did happen to me and I know that it could happen again. I know how devastating it is and I know what to expect, what to fear now. I don’t know if I could handle losing another child. I will be thrilled if we get pregnant, but I will also be scared. I don’t want that ambivalence to taint my joy at another pregnancy, to reduce the amount of love I let myself give to a second child, but I am afraid that it will. I also fear that it won’t be so easy this time.

We were so lucky to so easily get pregnant, and I know it is possible that this second try could take months, years, but I can’t accept that. In my mind I am already assuming it will be just as easy this time, and I have already fantasized about due dates and milestones assuming I get pregnant right away. I don’t know what to do with this fear and these feelings, other than to give them to God and pray for peace and acceptance, pray to know that when it is right it will happen and comfort myself with the belief that if our next child can’t stay here with us, it will have a sibling waiting for it in Heaven.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Grateful

I wrote something very negative that I was going to post. After a very emotional weekend, I decided to stop wallowing in my sorrow and self-pity and try to focus on what I have to be grateful for, because there is really so much, in spite of what I don’t have.

I am grateful I was born in a country and a time where I am free and safe and can pursue my dreams.

I am grateful for the men and women who serve and make sacrifices for our country to protect that freedom.

I am grateful for my husband who works hard so that we can have a wonderful life together, and who makes me feel loved every single day.

I am grateful for my family, who is always there for me, and offer their time, love and support unconditionally.

I am grateful that I am a mother, even if it is to a baby that I never held in my arms. Knowing that pure love and the depth of it has changed me and my life forever and I will never regret being pregnant, in spite of the pain that came with the joy.

I am grateful for all the amazing women that I have met because of my loss. Their strength and love has inspired me and helps me get through the hard times when it seems no one else understands.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"In Praise of Telling Too Soon"

This article on Mothering.com perfectly described my experience.

I am so glad I told the people I did early on. Because I told, I got to have the joy and fun of people being excited with us, and I also received enormous support and sympathy when people found out about our loss. I never could have faked being okay if no one had known what happened.

So, I tell other women to tell everyone-share your joy. It doesn't hurt anything. Hiding in the dark when you are grieving one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through is worse than having to "un-tell." I also think it is sad to go through the first three months of a pregnancy assuming you will miscarry. It's hard not to, but even those of us who have suffered a loss should try to be happy and cautiously optimistic about a new pregnancy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I am happy for you

I truly am happy for you. I am happy for you if you want that child growing inside you. I share your joy if you are grateful every single day that you are pregnant. If you cherish every feeling and symptom, even the morning sickness and swollen ankles, because it means a life is being created in you. I am thrilled for you if you are going to love being a mother, give your heart completely to raising that child, and thank God that you are blessed enough to be able to give birth.

I am only jealous and bitter towards those of you who don’t recognize how lucky you are. You who never wanted to be a mother. You who are only worried about stretch marks and getting fat, who care more about what your body will look like than how healthy your baby is. I despise those of you who take the new life you have been blessed with for granted and don’t give it the care and nourishment it needs to grow properly, you who still smoke, drink heavily, take drugs or abuse your body. You who neglect or abuse that precious child after it is born. I don’t understand why you have a child and I do not.

But you good mothers, you deserving, loving women who want and adore your child, you do not make me angry. It makes me sad that I cannot have what you do, but I am happy for you. I may cry when you share your healthy ultrasound photos as I remember how terrifying and disappointing my ultrasounds were. I might not be able to look at the pictures of your perfect growing belly without thinking about how much I wish I looked like you, but I am happy for you. I want you to be a mother, you deserve the happiness you have because you appreciate and cherish it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing

I've heard this Shania Twain song a few times recently and I was touched by how well it captures how I've felt over the last few months. Not just the sadness, but the way those of us suffering through the pain of a miscarriage try to act okay because everyone expects us to be fine.

Hope life's been good to you
since you've been gone
I'm doing fine now--I've finally moved on
It's not so bad--I'm not that sad

I'm not surprised just how well I've survived
I'm over the worst, and I feel so alive
I can't complain--I'm free again

And it only hurts when I'm breathing
My heart only breaks when it's beating
My dreams only die when I'm dreaming
So, I hold my breath--to forget

Don't think I'm lyin' round cryin' at night
There's no need to worry I'm really all right
I've never looked back--as a matter of fact

It only hurts when I breathe

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spectacular!

My mom had another scan on Tuesday to see how her tumors were reacting to the chemo. From the outside, from what we could observe, she seemed to be doing great. Since she started chemo she’s been breathing better, looking better, able to walk and talk and go out and do things that prior to her treatment she could not do. The chemo never exhausted her, made her sick, nauseous, or anything. Her hair has only started to thin and she still has so much that she hasn’t had to wear a wig yet. Her doctor could feel that one of the tumors in her lymph node had shrunk, and the fact that she was breathing easier seemed to be proof that the tumors in her lungs were shrinking.

But, despite all that, she was scared, and understandably so. I tried reassuring her, all the outward signs pointed to an improvement. I also used the logic that I brace myself with when facing scary results: the truth is the truth whether you know it or not. Knowing doesn’t change anything, for better or worse. I don’t think my words helped much, and I get why. It would be like someone trying to comfort me when I was waiting for the final ultrasound to determine if my baby had died: “Don’t be nervous, if your baby is dead, knowing isn’t going to change anything.” It wouldn’t have helped and I didn’t help my mom. All I could do was tell her to try to relax.
This morning she got the results and they were great. Her doctor called her today and said the results were “spectacular.” The tumor in her lymph node is almost gone, the tumor in her liver is gone, and the fluid in her lungs (which was making it hard for her to walk or talk before she began chemo) is almost gone!
Her oncologist said at first he was worried when the radiologist called him, because normally he only calls when the news is really bad, but the radiologist called because her results were the most dramatic he had ever seen!

I am so happy for this wonderful news. It is such a wonderful blessing for my family and I couldn’t ask for more. Thank you to everyone who has offered support to me and thoughts and prayers for my mother through this. I truly appreciate all the kindness that has been extended to our family and I know that the prayers are working for my mother.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hawaii

I just returned from a week in Hawaii. I went with my husband’s 15 year old sister, Jackie, to visit their other sister, Jenn. Her husband is an officer in the Marines and they are stationed on Oahu. He is currently deployed to Vietnam so Jackie and I spent a week with Jenn and our nephew Straton, who is 3, and our new niece Lyla, who is now 6 weeks old.

We planned this trip months ago, back when I was still happily pregnant. I was so excited, Hawaii is one of my favorite places, I vacationed on the big island growing up, and we went to Kauai for our honeymoon. I was thrilled to get to see another island. I also adore both of my sisters-in-law, and was eager to meet my new niece and spend some time with my nephew. After our loss, I decided I still wanted to go, but I was anxious about how hard it might be to spend a week living with a newborn baby and a 3 year old. I feared it would be too painful, too upsetting, and too hard, considering when I see babies out in public it still stings a little, and I often have to turn away rather than smile at them like I used to.

But, it was fine. It was more than fine, it was amazing. Our first day there, we went out to lunch at a local burger place and then went out for frozen yogurt. Jenn is adorable and sweet, it’s always good to spend time with her, and Jackie idolizes her big sister so she was in heaven getting to be around her. Straton was shy and wary of us, he’s only been around us a few times in his short life, and I’m sure he doesn’t remember who we are. But by the time we got back to their house, and after he opened up the gifts of toys we brought him, Straton warmed up and we were his new best buddies. He remained excited and happy around us throughout the rest of the trip.



We spent most of our time there just hanging out around the house or out shopping. Most days we went out to lunch and then came home for dinner. We went to the beach twice, and Jackie and I went to Pearl Harbor. I was happy to be a part of this little family, hoping I was helping Jenn with the kids and loving seeing what my life might be like if I were a stay-at-home-mom like I’ve always wanted to be. It showed me what I want, reminded me of what I don’t have yet but what I’m working and waiting for. Even when Lyla was screaming and Straton was throwing a temper tantrum, I still felt like I was in paradise, and not just because we were in Hawaii. I want that life. I want a baby to hold and feed and love more than anything, a child to call my own.


As I explained to her, being there didn’t sadden me. On top of giving me a pleasant look at what I am dreaming of and showing me that I really want it, with all the good, the bad and the ugly parts of it, I think my sister-in-law and her husband are good people, great parents, and truly deserve the joy they have. Though I have to admit I have some jealousy towards all the women out there who are blessed with children, I get more upset and angry and sad when I hear of or see women who don’t seem to deserve or even want the children they have. I know it’s not up to me to determine who gets kids and who doesn’t, and I know I cannot and should not judge other parents, but when I see people who are neglectful and dismissive of their kids, who smoke or drink heavily while pregnant, who hate being moms or have kids they never even wanted, I get more upset and jealous than when I see beautiful, functional families like my in-laws. For all the sacrifices they make for our country, I feel that they deserve the utmost happiness and joy and I am glad that they have been blessed with 2 beautiful healthy babies. I just hope that I can give them some cousins soon!

So, I didn’t cry, even when I realized I was staying in the new baby’s nursery, or when I tried on the maternity clothes my sister-in-law insisted I take home with me. I didn’t cry when Straton decided it was a really funny joke to greet me as “Mommy!” every time he saw me, or when I held baby Lyla in my arms and she turned her face towards my chest and tried nursing through my clothes, expecting me to be able to feed her. I didn’t cry when Jenn showed me the baby book she’d started for Lyla, with all the ultrasound pictures that reminded me of the six terrifying, tragic ultrasounds I had, all of which showed my lifeless child, unmoving on the screen.

I did cry once alone at night, but not because of them, or because I was there, just because I missed my baby. I always miss my baby. I always will.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reason

Yesterday I had lunch with my mom at a beautiful lakeside restaurant. We went there back when I was pregnant, and she was newly diagnosed and still could hardly walk. I posted about that day because we had seen both a bald woman and a very pregnant woman, and she had been dreading and I had been looking forward to having those outward signs of our conditions.

Yesterday we were talking about my baby, and how sad I felt that I didn’t get to have my baby here with me and be a mom, and she too shared how saddened she was, not just that I was hurting, but that she lost her grandbaby. Since she has been given about 10 years to live, she admitted she was fearful that she may never get see her grandchildren, or know them well, if she perhaps died while they were still very young.

I was telling her how knowing my baby was up there, especially now when I have no children here with me, made the idea of dying so much less scary and upsetting, because I think, at least I will get to meet my child. We both came to the realization that no matter what grandparenting experience she had here, she had a grandbaby up in Heaven waiting for her, and she would be able to meet him or her, and love him or her and be a grandma to that angel baby someday. We were both comforted by the idea, though it was a little upsetting to be speaking so frankly about her dying. I was comforted knowing that my baby would know my mom, and have her there to care for it and watch over it. She was happy about the thought of meeting her first grandchild and being a grandma. She said, “Thank you for having an angel baby for me.”

I hate the idea that this was all part of God’s plan, or that my baby had to die or was meant to die. I can’t accept that, but, if I have to find reason in all of this, for my mom being sick and my baby dying, maybe I can see it there, or at least see the possibility of a reason. Maybe my mom needs a comforting idea, a grandbaby that she already loves dearly, waiting for her and making her journey less scary. Maybe my baby needs someone to take care of it. Maybe they were meant to be together up in Heaven. I still don’t like it. I still wrestle with a lot of anger at God and the Universe for this happening, but it seems slightly less senseless and cruel if my mother and my child can be together and be there for each other.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A New Understanding

I used to cry in anticipation of bringing you home
Now I cry because I never will.

I used to think I had felt true heartache and knew deep sorrow
Now I know I had only glimpsed the surface of real pain.

I used to look at other children with joy, smile and imagine you
Now I have to look away from them, a painful reminder of what I lost.

I used to imagine what you would look like, if you would have your father’s eyes or my smile
Now I wonder if I will recognize you when we meet in Heaven.

I used to say “I’m sorry,” when I heard of someone else’s loss, not fully understanding their grief
Now I share it and truly feel the depth of their pain.

I used to enjoy telling people about you, sharing our joy with others who already loved you
Now I share what happened, try to express what you mean to me, but words are not enough.

I used to think we were close
Now I fear I will never forgive them for what they said or did not say, for how little they understood.

I used to complain about the things I had to give up to be pregnant
Now I would give everything I have to hold you in my arms, even for a moment.

I used to wonder what happened when we died, if we really went to Heaven
Now I have to believe you’re there and that we will meet, or else I could not go on.

I used to have a smile that reached my eyes
Now it is tempered with the sadness of missing you.

I used to think that time healed all wounds
Now I know it only makes them easier to hide.

I used to fear I was weak because I had never been tested
Now I know how strong I really am.

I used to hold my belly and speak softly to you
Now I close my eyes and pray that you can still hear me.

I used to think my wedding day was the happiest day of my life
Now I know that I have never felt more joy than the day I found out I was your mother.

I used to know my mother loved me
Now I understand how intensely and miraculously deep that love really is.

The Good News


I'm afraid this blog has become too depressing. I realize that most of my posts are pretty down, so I'm going to try to stop only posting the bad, sad things. I'm really coping better than it might seem from the blog. I have been able to go out, see people, enjoy things, even babysit. I think about my baby every single moment of every single day, but I don't cry all the time, and I am looking forward to the future.

The best thing going on right now is how good my mom is doing. She is responding so well to chemo that they might be able to increase her dosage, having her go every week instead of 3 weeks on and 1 week off. I am so proud of her and her outlook. She has remained optimistic and cheerful and isn't whining or feeling sorry for herself. She still does everything, sees her friends, even drives herself to and from her chemo appointments. The only thing she "can't" do is the dishes, but I think that's just because she doesn't want to.

My adorable, perfect, loving husband decided that he would shave his head completely bald in solidarity with my mom, whose hair is finally starting to thin. She still has it, but it's going fast and she's already bought a wig and some hats in preparation. This Sunday we completely shaved MS's head, and I think he looks great! He has always had very short hair, so it wasn't as big of a sacrifice as it would be if, for instance, I chopped off all my hair (it's past my waist), but I still thought it was a very sweet gesture.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pictures of me


One of the unexpected things that makes me sad is looking at pictures of me and my husband. They’re all over the house, of course, us smiling and happy and beaming in love. There is so much expectation and optimism in my eyes, we look so hopeful and delighted with life. It pains me to see how na├»ve and happy I was, and know what is in store for that past version of myself.

I’m extremely lucky that I haven’t suffered much tragedy in my life. My childhood was pleasant enough, grandparents and pets died, but that is an expected sad, a normal part of life. Earlier in my twenties I went through some difficulties with my family, my brother caused a lot of tension, my mother had a breakdown and ended up in a pretty bad place, but we got through it all, and I still felt hopeful and happy. I still had my future to look forward to, I still hadn’t lost that hope that my husband and I would do it right, have a life free of strife and tragedy. I stupidly and innocently believed I could be only happy forever, that nothing bad would ever touch me if I did everything right. It shows in the pictures, in our eyes, our purely cheerful smiles.

Looking at those pictures of a younger us, I feel like I do when watching a movie, when the audience knows that the bad guy is right around the corner, and feels anxious and worried for the hero, shouting at them not to go that way, he’s going to get you! You know something bad is going to happen to the clueless hero by the ominous music playing, by your superior position of omniscience as the viewer. I feel that same sense of foreboding towards my younger self in photos. I want to shield her from all this, warn her, make sure she enjoys how happy she is, because grief is coming. I want to hold on to that look in my eyes, that pure, untainted happiness, because I will never look that way again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A lesson

I have read and heard many words of comfort in the form of articles, poems, and things people have said. I’ve noticed a common theme that runs through the words of encouragement offered to people who have had a miscarriage or lost a child. The idea is that your baby is in heaven and was called to God early because you loved it so much, or it was sent to teach you what a mother’s love truly is, so that you would know God’s love, or appreciate your other future children, that the loss would make you realize how true and deep a mother’s love can be and make you a better mother.

I understand these things are meant to help, and I get that people don’t know what to say. I think that a lot of women dealing with a loss are looking for answers, reason and meaning, and cling to the idea that their losses made them truly appreciate and realize how much they wanted to be a mom. I hope that these ideas bring some people comfort, but to me, they are insulting.

I rebel against the idea that I had to lose a child to know how much I loved it. Or, that because of the pure love I felt for my child, God decided it was okay to take it away before I knew it. Because I knew how much I loved my baby before this happened. I didn’t need to learn a lesson in love. I wanted my baby before it was even conceived. I have been dreaming of having children of my own for as long as I can remember. There is nothing I have ever wanted more out of life, no goal, dream or aspiration I held higher than being a mother. If you took everything else away from me, told me I’d never be successful in my career, that my marriage would fall apart, that I’d lose my health, my friends, that I’d lose everything, I wouldn’t care as long as I could be a mother. I’d give up everything else for that one dream. I felt that way before the loss. I have always felt that way. I didn’t need to be taught how much I wanted a child.

I loved my child from the moment I knew it was there, growing inside of me. I wanted it with all my heart and would have given anything to keep it with me. I don’t want my baby to be some angel up in Heaven waiting for me, someone I can meet only when I die. I want that child here with me now. I wanted to meet it and to love it and to teach it. I wanted to hold it and to know it.

I don’t believe that God took my baby for any reason that I can understand. I don’t believe God does these things to us, and all the poems about my little angel being too beautiful for earth just leave me bitter and angry. Give me an imperfect, ugly little monster who isn’t ready to become an angel until it spends a lifetime here, with me. I will love it enough to make it worthy again. I already know how much I will love my children, how much I love this child that I lost. I didn’t need this to know how deep my love for my child was.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Brighter Side

I started this blog to write, not only about my baby, but about my mother and her battle with cancer. At the time, I thought the baby would be the positive side of my story, my mother the sad part. Now things are reversed. The baby is gone, and that is our family’s great tragedy. My mother, happily, is doing extremely well. She is responding to chemo, her tumors are shrinking, she is breathing easily. Her arm, swollen and painful, has started to shrink down to normal size, despite the doctor’s dire predictions that it would always remain distended and deformed.

She hasn’t lost her beautiful blonde hair yet, though it’s starting to thin. She is vibrant and healthy, positive and happy. Her treatments don’t drain her, or make her sick. She has even been able to drive herself to chemo, and go about her normal activities right afterward. She hasn’t lost any weight, or been nauseous from the chemo.

I’m so heartened by her progress and her success in this battle. One of the biggest worries that the loss of my baby brought to my mind was that it would be too much for my mother to handle. That with her history of depression, and her horrible diagnosis, her mental attitude would be so damaged by this news that she wouldn’t respond well to treatment and would slip back into a depression that would hinder her healing. She is devastated at the loss of her grandchild, of course, but she is taking it well.

She is glad that she knew of the baby for the short time that she did, for while it was still a positive hope in her life, it offered her comfort and helped her through what was an immensely difficult ordeal. The baby gave her hope when she needed it most, and even though it didn’t last, she is grateful to her little grandbaby, which she has named Angel. She thinks of it often and feels it’s presence in a way I never have. She is much more spiritual than I am and assured me that my baby is at peace and happy and she is confident that it was sent to help her, help our entire family, through the difficult times we faced during her diagnosis. I am glad she can see it this way and find comfort in the idea.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Waking Up

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart
The waking up is the hardest part


I heard this song recently and I was moved by how true these words rang for me. I’m generally coping very well. I can go through my day, my normal activities, see people, smile, laugh. I get sad moments but for the most part I’m fine. I can even see babies, pregnant women, and children without letting the grief overwhelming me. I’m handling things fine. But getting up is the hardest part of my day.

Ever since I quit my job and started working from home, I’ve no longer been a slave to the alarm clock, which I love. Before this happened, I still woke at a reasonable time, got up, and got started on my day like a normal person. Throughout this ordeal, I’ve found it harder and harder to get out of bed. I don’t set my alarm, hoping to pass as much time as I can asleep and blissfully unaware of what my real life is like. Whenever I am finally awakened, whether it’s by my husband getting up, a bird chirping too loudly, or the neighbors making noise, I try to go back to sleep. I refuse to accept that I am awake, that this is all true. I stay in bed for a long time, just thinking about what I have to do next.

It takes enormous effort to take that first step, to get up, eat breakfast, and start my day. In the first few moments of waking, the knowledge of what I’ve lost and what my life holds for me comes rushing into my head and nearly paralyzes me with sadness. I know it’s not the worst thing that could have happened. I know I have a lot to be grateful for. I know there are people with much bigger problems than I am facing, but I still have to talk myself into getting up and facing my life. Because this is not the life I wanted. This was not the plan. This is someone else’s horrible nightmare. Something I would observe from afar, and remark at the tragedy. This is the life of a person whom I would pity. This is not what I expected, what I prayed for, or what I dreamed for myself.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

B Positive

It’s all over, finally, officially, really. It feels so empty and complete now. No chance at all that things will ever turn around, miraculously be right again, that there was some mistake. It’s over, done, our baby is gone for sure.

The last time I blogged, Monday, I had tried taking Misoprostol to medically induce a miscarriage at home. I put the pills in and took some Vicodin in anticipation of the pain and I lay down with a heating pad and waited for the horrendous cramping and bleeding to start. Nothing happened. I bled a bit but didn’t cramp at all. I attributed this to the Vicodin, felt grateful that it was so easy, and went to see Dr. Fine the next morning to make sure it all passed.

Of course that was too easy. As Dr. Fine quickly found, it was all still in there. Nothing had happened. She sent me home with another round of Misoprostol and I tried again. The same thing happened with even less bleeding. I didn’t even take a drop of any pain medication because I didn’t need it. I was extremely frustrated and angry. Now I would have to have surgery, or continue to wait. I didn’t understand why my body couldn’t just do what it was supposed to. It was like it couldn’t let go to this baby, no matter how surely gone it was, I couldn’t let it go and it just remained stubbornly.

The next day I talked to Dr. Fine and she told me what I feared. I would have to do a D&C. We scheduled it for Friday so I was left with another few days of waiting. I am not scared of surgery per se. I don’t mind needles, I can handle the little prick of the IV going in, and to me, that is the worst part. I don’t react badly to anesthesia and I always think surgery is the easiest thing, as it’s all up to the doctors to do everything for you. My only worry was the slight risk of complication. I spent that night sobbing to myself, alone locked in the bathroom. I didn’t want MS to see. I just felt so bad for my baby. I felt that I had failed. I said I was sorry to my little one, sorry I had failed to carry it, sorry I hadn’t given it the right genes so that it could live and be healthy. I apologized to my little baby and clutched my stomach for the last time, knowing it was the last night my baby would physically be with me.

Friday morning we arrived at the surgical hospital early. This is the same place where I left my tonsils back in 2006. It is a gorgeous, amazing hospital, a fabulous place to be unconscious in. I went in and was pampered and babied, given a warm blanket and coddled as the nurse attempted to get an IV in me. My veins always give them difficulty. She put one in my left arm, hit a valve, which hurt badly and left me with a horrendous bruise, and had to go in a vein on my right hand. That was by far the worst part. That and I was dying of thirst from not eating or drinking for the now 7 hours prior. The IV started dripping in fluid and I immediately felt better. They brought MS in to sit with me, and I was in good spirits, laughing, joking, spending time with him and trying to enjoy it, in case I actually did die in there, there was nothing else I would have rather done with my final moments than just to be with him.

Dr. Fine and her father came in and reviewed my paperwork and the bloodwork the hospital had done days earlier. Everything looked fine, except of course that it was “very rare” that someone would not react to 2 rounds of Misoprostol. I asked the nurse what my blood type was, as in my life I’d never needed to know this, and she said “B positive.” I decided that would be my mantra going in and laughed at the thought. I will be positive, and I was.

Finally they led me into the OR, I situated myself on a nice warm bed, with nurses and doctors hovering around me, patting my arms, adjusting this and that. My anesthesiologist was a fellow redhead, and I was glad, as I knew she would believe the semi-proven theory that redheads require more anesthesia. I always need several rounds of Novocain to get numb at the dentist, and though studies have shown this to be the result of a mutation of the same gene that causes red hair, there are always skeptics out there. But a fellow redhead would know and believe. They put a mask on my face and after a few breaths I was out.

I woke up later in a recovery room. A nurse assured me Dr. Fine had spoken to me but I had no recollection of it whatsoever. They brought MS in and he told me that, true to form, I had required a lot more anesthesia, and I had similarly proved another old wives, (or I guess old doctor’s) tale, that redheads bleed more. I had hemorrhaged and lost a lot of blood. MS said Dr. Fine had seemed shaken and nervous when she had spoken to him, but assured him I was fine. As she explained to me later, it was a good thing the Misoprostol didn’t work at home, I was better off in the hospital if I was going to bleed that much. With my new “B Positive” attitude, I took that as a blessing in disguise, and decided that, as much as I had resisted, surgery was the best solution for me. The recovery has been perfectly fine. Other than feeling weak and tired from the blood loss, I’ve felt great, no pain, no cramping, no ill effects. I am so sad that our baby is really gone. Even though I know it died so long ago, there was something a little comforting about carrying it with me all that time. I felt like we were still together, it was still there. Now it’s gone, physically, officially, completely.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Today’s the day, finally, after all this waiting I have an answer and a plan. It wasn’t the answer we wanted, on Friday, but MS and I both agreed that finding out the baby was definitely gone was better than not knowing, or finding out that there was something severely wrong and possibly having to deliver a stillborn or a child with such severe birth defects that it would die shortly after being born. I have read the stories of the brave women who have dealt with this type of tragedy, and as painful as an early miscarriage is, I can’t imagine losing a baby right after it was born, or watching a child suffer through a too-short and painful life. I admire and respect the mothers who are forced to do this, and mourn for them and their children.

My doctor wanted me to wait until she could be on-call in case I need an emergency D&C, so I waited out the weekend for today so that I could take Misoprostol at home. I am prepared with my bottle of Vicodin and a heating pad, and hoping that it goes as smoothly as possible. As much as I hate the idea of doing this to myself, I also prefer it to having surgery. Being at home is a comfort, and I am trying to be brave and strong and accept that this has to happen and all I can do is try to make it as painless as possible. I am so grateful for all the support I’ve received from friends , family and even all my E-friends. My lovely friends from my last job sent the beautiful flowers pictured, my 2 favorites-daisies and pink roses. I feel very loved and cared for, and truly blessed that there are so many people I know I can count on through tough times.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Things People Say

Yesterday I had a wonderful day with my mom. My car was in getting service, so I took advantage of the cushy loaner car I had for the day and took her out to the Ventura Harbor where we had lunch at a Greek restaurant overlooking the water. As we talked we got on the subject of the things people say to make us feel better.

We both acknowledged that we didn't fault anyone for the things they said, how would they know what would make us feel good and what wouldn't? If you haven't been in our situations, you don't know what to say, and we know everyone's intentions are good.

Her pet peeves were when people told her stories of their friend who had cancer and got better, or so-and-so that had gone through chemo for a year and never lost her hair. Instead of finding those stories encouraging, she finds them upsetting, putting undue pressure on her and getting her hopes up too high when they should remain positive, but realistic. Those anecdotes bring up her argumentative, logical side that thinks, "Sure there is that one story of that one person who was easily healed, but I could come up with a thousand stories of people who lost the battle."

She also dislikes it being called a battle, and a fight, making her feel that if she doesn't pull through, she is somehow weak, at fault, someone who just didn't "fight" hard enough to win. The whole vocabulary surrounding cancer is odd, it's all about fighting and surviving, whereas with other diseases, you're allowed to passively be a victim. In some ways these fighting words are good. They inspire and make the patient feel like he or she has a chance to beat the odds, but at the same time, they make it the patient's responsibility in a weird way that people don't do with other diseases. No one fights heart disease, diabetes, or kidney stones. You don't call a person recovering from the flu a survivor. There is a sense that other diseases are not the patient's fault, but that cancer is somehow something a patient can choose to overcome, if only they are willing to fight and survive.

I said the same thing, that I feel unsure how to react when people tell me stories of babies who measured small and ended up fine in the end, of faulty ultrasound machines and incompetent doctors and technicians who just measured wrong even though the fetus was perfectly fine. Part of me loves these stories, because I think maybe I too will experience this happy turn of events, but part of me, like my mom, can come up with a bunch of counter-anecdotes that say the first ultrasound was probably right. These stories play with my hopes in a cruel way, raising them up and then dashing them down.

The other things I hate are the platitudes that people only use for a miscarriage. I don't blame anyone for saying these things, it's what I would have said and thought before this happened to me. To someone who has never experienced the loss of a wanted pregnancy, the idea that it feels the same as a death sounds melodramatic and odd. How could you equate losing a tiny ball of cells in your uterus to losing a fully grown child? Until you've been pregnant, you can't understand how instantly attached and bonded a mother becomes to her child, however small and new that life is. We love it, make plans for it, dream about how it will look, sound, and act. We cradle our bellies and smile thinking of the budding life we're helping to nurture and protect. It's not just a ball of cells or a tiny little fetus, it's our child, our baby, already as important to us and loved as a child is to any parent.

When people express the standard miscarriage sentiments of "These things happen for a reason." or "This is God/Nature's way of weeding out the sick and the unhealthy ones." or "It's all for the best." or "You can always have more kids." It cuts mothers of the unborn to the core. Think of how cruel it would be to say any of those things to the mother of a 6 year old who had died of leukemia. You wouldn't, because that would be horrid. I can tell you that the mother of an unborn child, lost at any stage in pregnancy, feels just as much that she is a mother and that was her child as the mother of a child of any age. So telling her that her baby was just a malformed, sick affront to evolution that is better off dead is not helpful, comforting, or kind. Don't say it or anything that makes it seem like this was supposed to happen. Because even though we know it's true, and that if something was terribly wrong it probably is better that the baby died early, the idea that there was something so wrong with our child that it couldn't even live is frightening, upsetting, and awful. And none of it takes away the fact that we lost a child. We didn't lose a fetus, we lost our baby, it died. It will never be in our belly or arms again. We won't get to meet it or see it or hold it and play with it. We can't watch it grow up. It's gone and dead, which is tragic and intensely painful.

The best thing to say to a grieving mother or a diagnosed cancer patient is some version of "I'm sorry, and I'm here for you." That's it. Just tell them how much it sucks, how unfair it is, and that you understand that they're in pain. Let them grieve and cry and feel bad and know that you get that it's a big deal. That alone will make us feel better.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Really, Symptoms?

Having morning sickness and not getting a baby in the end just seems truly unfair. I understand the medical explanation for why I am still having symptoms, but I still don't have to like it. I have felt more nauseated than I ever did before, I'm craving weird things, like Chex Mix (the other day I wanted it so bad I bought all the ingredients and made it myself when I got home, and then ate nearly the entire batch), I'm completely exhausted, and my stomach looks so big and bloated you'd think I was 20 weeks along.

Yesterday I went to empty our bathroom trash, which I had emptied on Sunday. There were three empty toilet paper rolls in there. Three! In three days! During my first exam my OB said that my uterus was right on top of my bladder. No kidding! The worst part is that all the symptoms just serve to intensify my hope. I think, surely something is growing and happening in there if I am feeling so pregnant. I know there is no correlation, but it doesn't stop my hopeful mind from wandering to possibilities and googling the accuracy rate of ultrasounds.

Nothing to do but wait and be grateful that for today, I am still pregnant.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A tiny bit of hope

We had our follow up appointment today. Just before we left, MS grabbed me, gave me a hug and said: “Don’t worry, everything is going to be okay. I won’t let the bad guys get you.” I had to laugh and smile. He really does make me feel better.

I went into Dr. Fine’s office and sat down, miserable. I was just reliving the last time I was there and going through all of the horrible things she was going to say, the difficult decisions and options we would be faced with. I was holding it together okay, trying not to look at all the baby magazines and pamphlets around the office, when in walks an adorable pregnant woman pushing a stroller with an equally adorable little baby boy in it. Everyone else in the waiting room smiled and gushed over the cute baby, which is what I used to do too, but I couldn’t even look at them. I almost burst into tears but I didn’t, and then the little boy turned around and grinned his cute baby grin at me, and I felt nothing but happiness and smiled back at him.

We were called in and Dr. Fine weighed me and I jokingly told MS he wasn’t allowed to watch this part, and then noted that on the bright side of all this I’d lost 4 pounds since last week. Dr. Fine was surprised that I was in better spirits. Better from sobbing uncontrollably isn’t that remarkable, but yeah I was doing better. She told me she wanted to do one more ultrasound and then we’d discuss options in her office.

She started the ultrasound and took a long time looking around. She had me hold my breath several times and acted like there was something interesting going on. She finally said that she thought she saw a flutter. I smiled bitterly, trying not to let my hopes jump up and my heart cling to that tiny bit of hope. But of course I did. She continued to search, magnifying here and there, sighing, frowning, and wondering aloud. Finally she called in her father, who is the other OB in the practice. He was less hopeful but admitted there was a flicker of some sort. She said it could either be a heartbeat or my pulse from blood flowing to the area in preparation of a miscarriage. She told me not to give up hope yet, and that there was definitely something going on and she didn’t want to schedule a D&C or medically induce a miscarriage if there was a slight chance there was something there. A similar situation happened to her with her daughter, and she turned out fine.

So she recommended we give it another week and a half, which I’m fine with. Since the first appointment, I’ve been researching D&C’s and they just don’t sound like something I want to do. It’s not that I’m afraid of surgery or pain, but, since there is a chance of complication, I don’t want to risk my future fertility just to get it over with a little sooner. I can be patient and wait for my body to take care of this, or we can medically manage it. Either option sounds better than a D&C unless it’s absolutely necessary. So, I was going to ask her if I could wait a little longer anyway. Now I’m waiting with the potential that there will be some miraculous growth or surprise awaiting us the next time we go in. I am not sure how I should feel, but I feel totally at peace. I accept that if this pregnancy is viable and meant to be that we will know and are in the right hands to take care of it. If it isn’t, I am already prepared for that and have already been told that twice, so hearing it a third and final time cannot be that much more traumatic than the past week has already been.

No matter what happens, I’m not going to hear anything worse than what I had already believed and accepted. It can only be the same or better. So now I’m just working on being patient and putting my hope in God to show us the right outcome for this pregnancy and our family, whatever that may be.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nine baby bumps

Yesterday I didn’t cry, not even once. I have been on an every other day pattern with being weepy. The sadness doesn’t cease but the tears come and go.

MS and I decided to go to the mall in the afternoon. I knew it would be rough, considering the huge play area that is always teeming with toddlers, and the new Destination Maternity store I’d already been browsing in, not the mention all the cute baby clothing stores and cute babies that were bound to be there.

Before I found out that our baby died, seeing pregnant moms and babies didn’t bother me a bit. I saw them everywhere and noticed them more than I used to, but it made me excited and hopeful. I felt warm happy that someday I would have a cute bump and then a baby to hold and love. It was like when you get a new car, and suddenly you start noticing that make and model everywhere you go. There are probably just as many of that car on the road as there were before you got it, but now that you have one you just notice it more and feel kind of excited when you see it out and about.

That’s how I felt when we were just starting out and I saw a fellow pregnant woman, I wanted to wave and hug them and ask them when their due date was and then gush about how fun it was to be expecting.

Now, I still see the same number of pregnant women and babies. I notice them just as much, but instead of being fun, it is a painful reminder. Now, instead of comparing it to seeing your new car all over, I compare it to when you break up with someone and you feel like you see them, or something that reminds you of them everywhere you go, because you miss them so much and you’re in pain over losing them. That is how it is now when I see those cute baby bumps. I notice just as many (there were nine at the mall yesterday, in addition to about a million babies, including a set of triplets!) but each one is just a reminder that I don’t have one, that I’m not carrying a new life inside me anymore, that I won’t have an adorable baby in January the way I had been planning.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Moving Forward

Yesterday evening I picked MS up at 6:00. It was amazing to have him in my arms again. He makes things feel almost right and I am so glad I have him in my life. Due to the time and the traffic factor we took PCH home. It was a gorgeous sunny California day and as we drove up the coast we passed the Santa Monica Pier. He asked if I wanted to go walk on the beach and I agreed, since in all 29 years I’ve lived in Southern California I have never been to the Santa Monica Pier. We turned into the parking lot and were shocked that, despite it being 2010, the attendant wouldn’t take a credit card to pay for parking. He agreed to let us park if we went to an ATM and then came back and paid. We walked to the pier, and of course it was full of kids and happy families. I tried not to let that bother me, instead I reveled in the day, how happy I was to be here, with my loving husband, in this beautiful place. In spite of everything I know I have a lot of blessings in my life and so much to be grateful for.

After wandering around the pier we finally found an ATM, and it was out of service. We found another, and it too was out of service, defeated, tired, we headed out to leave, but spotted one more ATM. Of course it too was out of service. I guess we weren’t meant to hang out at the pier after all. We headed home and had a nice drive through Malibu Canyon, which is also gorgeous. I tried to focus on the scenery and how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place, and not dwell on the dread I felt about my upcoming appointment.

Today we got up early and went to the radiology center. I was not excited, but not dreading it as much as one might think. I had been praying all night and all morning and in the car on the way over and just had a sense of peace and calm. When we went in, there was a mix up with the referrals and we had to leave and come back three hours later. Instead of being mad, I thought, okay, three more hours to pray, and have the hope that maybe I’m still pregnant.

Three hours later we came back. The ultrasound technician spent a long time working on me. She must have clicked dozens of images. I couldn’t see the screen and tried reading her face for signs of good news or bad. It felt like I was lying there for hours, but it was probably only ten minutes. When it was over she asked me how I was. I replied, “I don’t know, you tell me.” Thinking, I’m dying here, you know whether I have a healthy baby or a dead embryo in there and you’re asking me how I am? I won’t know how I am until you tell me the truth. She just said she couldn’t tell me and the doctor would have to. She left MS and I alone and I sat up and tried to decipher the screen, but she had closed all the images.

We sat for what again felt like an eternity before someone popped her head in and said the doctor would be awhile. Great. I tried praying and staying calm but my nerves were raw and I just wanted to know. I felt completely numb and exhausted and ready for it to be over, whatever the outcome.

Finally they told me to get dressed and go in and see the doctor. They led us to a darkened room full of video screens with images of what had been our baby. MS grabbed my hand and the doctor hesitantly but kindly told us that my doctor had been correct. I didn’t cry, I just nodded and accepted it. I wasn’t surprised. I was just glad it was over and I knew for sure where to go. No more hoping, just moving forward.

We left and walked numbly to the car. I felt completely at peace for the moment, accepting this was just the way it was and that I needed to learn to live with it. We went out to breakfast, even though it was almost lunchtime, and I held it together even as a pregnant woman walked right by me, holding the hand of her adorable little daughter. I just smiled, tried to imagine that someday that would be me, it just isn’t my time yet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Strength from others


I've always been the strong one. I've been through awful things before and held my head up and maintained my positive outlook. I've been the one that other people could lean on. I don't cry easily when I'm sad and I get over grief quickly.

I'm trying to learn to lean on other people now, because this is truly the most upsetting thing that has ever happened to me. I don't feel strong enough to get through it and I am immensely grateful to those around me for offering support. My friends and family have been awesome, but somehow don't really get it. As grateful as I am to have so many loving, caring people in my life, I have found the most comfort from a group of women on The Bump, a forum for pregnancy. I was lucky enough to find this community when we first decided to start trying to have a baby. I learned so much from the women on the forums and also found friendship and a place where I could share both good and bad news. When I got the wonderful news that I was pregnant, these women shared my joy, and now they are sharing my pain and helping me immensely. Somehow, these people I have never even met know exactly to say, what not to say, and I have been overwhelmed with the kindness and compassion they have shown me.

I am also grateful for my husband. Without him, I don't think I could get through this. He is the only other person out there who can understand how upsetting it will be to lose this baby, because it is also his child. He is out of town and coming home today and I was brought to tears when I received a gorgeous bouquet of our favorite flowers. Mine are daisies and his are sunflowers. Together this bright bouquet brought tears to my eyes. I just couldn't help but think that without him I would be truly lost.

After wavering since yesterday, I made an appointment with an imaging center that has more sophisticated ultrasound equipment than my doctor had in her office. I am completely ambivalent about doing this. Part of me thinks I'm just setting myself up for more disappointment and heartache, because I'm clearly clinging to the slim chance that the ultrasound Dr. Fine took was inaccurate and that tomorrow they will find that our baby is perfect and healthy. I'm trying my best to be realistic and accept that they may find exactly what she found and I'll just be given the most horrible news of my life a second time. So I am praying and waiting, and trying not to get my hopes up only to be crushed again.

One of the lovely women on the bump gave me these touching, comforting words: "I know you don't want to get your hopes up, so I'll hold some up for you." For now, that's all I can do, give this pain and worry to God and to all the lovely people surrounding me. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has reached out and offered their support, and gaining strength from them.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First Doctor Visit

Today was my first doctor’s appointment. I’ve been anxiously awaiting and dreading today for a long time. I have been so nervous about losing this baby, which I know is normal, but somehow I felt even more anxious about losing it because of everything going on with my mom. I just kept thinking if something went wrong, not only would it devastate me and MS, but it would crush my mom. This baby, and the happiness it has brought our family, is the one thing we’ve all had to hold onto and cling to and keep us going.

I love my OB, Dr. Fine, she’s sweet and kind but also knowledgeable and smart. I waited a long time to see her, then finally went in, not sure what to expect. She joked that she just saw me, as I had gone in for a pre-conception appointment in April. She talked to me a little about when we conceived, and what to do and not to do, normal things. I was excited to see, among her collection of baby pictures and announcements, a picture of my friend’s baby. She left to let me get undressed for an ultrasound. I was so nervous I was shaking, knowing this was the moment when I would find out if I was really pregnant, if it was healthy, and the first time I would see our little bean.

At first the ultrasound looked weird, to me it was empty. She swished around a little more and then I saw it. The little embryo was there for sure. To me, it looked tiny, but I have no idea what normal is so I waited. She too said it was small and my heart started pounding. She moved the wand around more, trying to get a better look. She clicked a measurement and there it popped up on the screen: 6w2d. Impossible. I know when I ovulated. I know when we had sex to conceive because MS went out of town the very next day. I knew that something was wrong and so did she. She clicked the measurements a few more times, not sounding hopeful. I was fighting back tears, and she calmly, kindly told me that we needed to talk in her office about what was going to happen next. I knew that was not a good.

I dressed, crying alone in the office, wishing I had been able to have MS there with me, or my mom, someone. I slowly stumbled out, unable to find her office. The receptionist pointed me in the right direction. As soon as I sat down I started crying hard. Dr. Fine came around to my side of her desk, sat next to me, and held my hand. She was calm, but understanding, explaining to me my options. She was careful to make sure I knew that I didn’t cause this by eating something wrong, or lifting something heavy. She said the truth, the part we all know but that doesn’t in any way make the grief less real-that there is just something wrong with the baby and this is nature’s way. I know this is true but it doesn’t make it any less devastating. I have loved this little baby since the moment I saw the second line on that pregnancy test. I had hopes and plans for it. We loved it, we talked to it. MS was already sure it was a girl, calling it by our favorite girl name, Winter.


I had worried about the possibility of a loss, but I never really thought it would happen to me. I never thought God would give me and my family this much more pain when we’re already dealing with so much. Dr. Fine was kind, though, having been through 4 miscarriages herself, she calmly and sweetly helped me through my tears. We agreed to wait a week and do one more ultrasound just to make sure that the measurement was correct and it has stopped growing. Then I will have to decide if I want to wait for it to naturally miscarry, or have a D&C. Of course, there is a slight, slim, sliver of hope that it’s just small, that she measured wrong, or that it will miraculously catch up in the next week. I’m not hanging on to that hope because I can’t stand being let down again. For now I’m just giving this to God and hoping for peace and understanding.

I got up to leave, not taking the pregnancy grab bag of pamphlets and samples the nurse had given me earlier, thinking bitterly in my head, "I don't need that anymore!" Dr. Fine grabbed it, put it in my hand and said: "No, take this, because you are going to get pregnant again, and you are going to have a healthy baby." Somehow, that made me smile through my tears and I thanked her and left.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Exhausted

It's been a busy weekend and I am officially wiped out. On Saturday we went to a wedding that thankfully was only a few minutes from our house, but given that I'm normally in my PJs and reading in bed by 9:30, it was tiring to be out dancing that late. When we got home we had to get MS packed and ready for his trip. On Saturday we were up at 4:30 AM to drive him to the airport. Getting up at 4:30 is exhausting enough, but for some reason I've had baby-related insomnia almost every night, and I was going on a few hours of solid sleep. I came home and tried to get a few more hours in before heading to see my family. My brother left this morning so I wanted to spend the last day he was here with him.

I went out to lunch with my family, then my mom and I went out for ice cream and walked around the mall as much as she could manage, which wasn't much. I did discover that we have a Gap Maternity store in our mall, hiding out in the back of Baby Gap, which is awesome. We also have a new Destination Maternity, which is so convenient. I had dinner with my family, and got in a fight with my brother over taking him to the airport today. It was over some combination of him being difficult and me being tired, cranky and pregnant that ended up with me storming out of the house and refusing to drive him. I caved when he called me to apologize for being rude, so this morning I got up early to make yet another airport run, this time to LAX, which is a much more awful drive, especially on a Monday morning, and especially since my brother's dallying put us 45 minutes behind schedule. But, I was glad we made up and I was able to see him off. My mom cried as he left to go home to Virginia. She always gets teary, but today admitted she was especially sad as she thought of the possibility that this could be the last time she ever saw him.

After we got back, my mom took me out to lunch at a cute little restaurant overlooking a nearby lake. As we were eating, we saw a pregnant woman, and I was telling her how I sometimes wish I already had a baby bump, so I could get the same attention and understanding that someone who is obviously pregnant gets. I want people to know why I look a little bloated, why I'm tired, why I can't have sushi or a drink. Soon after, another woman, clearly undergoing chemotherapy, came in wearing a scarf over her bald head. My mom had the same feeling, that unlike the clearly bald woman, she's going through a lot and no one knows why she walks slowly, coughs a lot, and is easily tired.

Although she is grateful that on week 2 of chemo she still has her head full of beautiful blonde hair, and I am grateful I still fit in my skinny jeans, we both kind of want that outward, visible sign that would alert people to why we're so nauseated, weak and cranky. Though she'll probably cry when she does lose her hair, and I'll look forlornly at my bikinis when I have a huge baby bump, we'll have one advantage in that we'll have a badge to wear, and a sign to others going through what we are-hey let's talk babies, I'm pregnant too! Or hey I know how you feel, I'm also battling cancer. In one way it's uncomfortable to have everyone know about your health issues, but in another way, it will be comforting to receive the support and kindness that people are generous enough to extend to both pregnant women and cancer patients.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Waiting

Both the pregnancy and my mom's cancer have truly tried my patience. I used to consider myself a patient person. I can play with babies and kids all day and not get (too) bored with some of the silly, mindless games they insist on playing over and over. At my last job, I was charged with training several new employees, and a few of them were ridiculously slow and difficult. They drove everyone else crazy with maddeningly repetitive questions, taking forever to grasp concepts we all thought they should get. While it was hard, I never lost my cool or showed my frustration to them, and was commended for my extraordinary patience.

But everything to do with this pregnancy has tried my patience and stressed my nerves. First, of course, is waiting to test. They I had the morbid wait to see if perhaps it was just a chemical pregnancy. Now that we're clear of that possibility I'm waiting impatiently to go to the doctor and have a medical professional confirm that I didn't imagine those 10 (okay, 15) positive pregnancy tests, that I really am pregnant, and that the baby is growing healthily in there. Every day is filled with worry and doubt, I question every symptom, or worse, lack of a symptom and pray that I'm being ridiculous. I try to reassure myself that if 10% of pregnancies end in miscarriage that means that 90% do not, but it doesn't stop the anxiety.

And if any of my waiting and anxiety seems intense, it's nothing compared to what my mother is going through, waiting for test results, waiting to talk to her doctor. Waiting to find out how the chemotherapy affects her body. Waiting for her hair to start falling out. So through all this waiting and nervousness, we spend time together talking, laughing, trying to talk about something else when all we can think about is our own personal worry. And now I realize that while I may be able to play peek-a-boo for hours, or politely explain how to open a Word Document 90 times without raising my voice, I really don't know what true patience is, but this experience is certainly teaching me that it is important.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Telling our families

I knew my mother would be thrilled when I told her I was pregnant. In fact, the idea of telling her was one of the things I most looked forward to when I found out I was pregnant. I never envisioned telling her in a little room in the ER of our local hospital. I thought it would be at their house, over dinner, with our family gathered around. We would give her the little photo album I had purchased, the one that said "Great Moms Get Promoted to Grandma" on the cover. She would open it, read it, get it, smile and cry her eyes out with happiness. Everyone else would slowly realize too and be thrilled.

It did happen that way, for the most part, except, we were in the ER. Before I got pregnant I was in the wait until you're out of the first trimester camp, thinking it would be to hard to un-tell people if we had a loss. But when my mom's health started to decline, and out of fear and stubbornness she refused to go to the doctor, we decided she needed an incentive and something to hope for, someone to get better for. Michael-Scott and I decided to tell her on a Sunday. We had seen her the night before when we had gone with her, my dad and my grandma to the New West Symphony. She was in bad shape. Her right arm, which had been continually swelling for a few months, was gargantuan, puffy, red and awful looking. She was now having trouble breathing and could hardly exert herself. I had myself convinced it was just lymphedema, from her lymph nodes being removed or damaged somehow during her bilateral mastectomy in 2004. It couldn't be anything worse, she was fine, a little short of breath, but up and about. Her cancer had been eradicated by the surgery, and she had a good appetite, and as far as I knew, no other major problems, aside from the breathing.

Michael-Scott and I decided that the next day we'd formally announce it to his family and then mine. Then we would have a serious talk with my mom, convince her that she needed to get whatever was making her arm swell checked out, to make sure she'd be around to meet her grandbaby in January.

On Sunday morning, Michael-Scott went on a hike with his 18 year old brother, JME. When they returned, I headed over to their house. I love my in-laws, and I know I'm lucky that we get along so well. Along with everyone else we know, they'd been pestering us about when we were going to have kids since the day we got engaged. As with everyone else, we'd stuck to our story that we were waiting until May of 2011 to start trying. When we changed our minds at the beginning of this year, we kept quiet, wanting a chance to finally have some privacy about our love life, and excited about being able to shock and surprise everyone.

When I got to their house, MS was playing video games with JME and his other brother, Tommy, who is 8, my father-in-law Jeff camped out on the couch. His sister, Jackie, was helping my mother-in-law Traci make pizza for lunch. I was nervous and anxious. MS and I hadn't discussed how we were going to break the news or what we would say, or more importantly, when. We got ready and made lunch, everyone came to the big table in their kitchen and sat down, making sandwiches, laughing and talking. Finally MS said we had some news to share. He told them and it was suddenly a blur of hugs and squeals and crying. It felt like such a huge relief to have them know. I had been hiding it for weeks, and was so thrilled to be "out."

As my father-in-law hugged each of us in turn, he said to MS: "I didn't think you had it in you!" Then turned to me and said, "I guess now you have it in you!" I had to laugh, even though I was a bit embarrassed at the graphic nature of the comment.

Lunch continued happily for a few more minutes, until I got a call from my grandma. I knew my mom was going to go to the ER, but I was so sure they'd find it was something minor, give her a shot or a prescription and send her on her way that I wasn't that worried. My grandma said bluntly, in her stoic, measured way: "Your mom is bad. Her cancer came back and it's all over her body." I nodded quietly, equally stoic, a trait grandma and I shared, and hung up. I quietly explained to my in-laws what happened and left in a rush to get to the hospital.

Driving there felt like a dream where your feet don't work and you feel like you're underwater, movements hindered and slow. Every light took forever and my car wouldn't go fast enough. I picked my tearful sister, Brooke, up from my parents' house and we headed to the hospital. Arriving, Brooke was in tears, I remained calm and explained to the triage nurse what we needed. They let us in to see my mom, making my grandma leave. Dad was in there, the opposite of stoic, a horrible, weepy mess. My mom had been crying too and her face was as puffy as her arm. I don't remember who explained that the swelling was caused by blood clots, and that they had found tumors in her lungs and lymph nodes. The same cancer we thought was gone from her surgery six years ago had lingered and been growing all this time. The ER nurse was sweet and warm, with red hair like me, which comforted my mom. She assured us that we were getting my mom the best doctor around, an oncologist who was treating her uncle.

We held hands and talked and tried to laugh and not cry. My dad was a mess and kept bursting into tears, which would upset my sister and my mom. We all took turns going in and out and finally realized no one cared about the one visitor at a time rule and all crammed ourselves into the crowded little room. At some point MS arrived and we were alone with my mom. We gave her the photo album, just as we had planned, and she slowly realized..."You're pregnant? Right now?!" She was thrilled and started crying, saying that today she had received the worst news of her life and the best news of her life. Just as we hoped, the idea of the grandbaby firmed her resolve to fight and live.