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


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


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.