Happy 4th Birthday, Ezra

Dear Ezra,

Today is your 4th birthday. 4. I can’t even believe this will be the 4th year we have celebrated your birthday without you here. Wasn’t I just in the hospital waiting to deliver your tiny, lifeless body?

So much has happened since that day, Sweet Boy. 4 months after I delivered you, I became pregnant with your little sister, our rainbow, Peachy. But that’s not all. There were 4 foster children in and out of our home since then. We moved— my goodness leaving the house we lived in where you lived and died in my womb nearly shattered my heart. I’ve experienced hosts of physical ailments, and a few diagnoses. Your big brother and big sister have gone from toddlers to elementary aged kids. After saying goodbye to you and two of your baby foster brothers who came and left after you, the Lord blessed us with a forever baby boy, your brother Gordito. He’s sleeping now in my arms with a full belly of mama’s milk and swaddled like a chubby burrito.

There has been so much change since you left us, and yet? I still miss you. I still feel your loss in physical and tangible ways.

Sometimes when I am kissing your baby brother, his soft, bubble gummy cheeks, I wonder if you would have looked like him if you had made it. I sniff in his pungent smell and remember all I have of you is a little box of ashes.

Sometimes I think about how different life would be if you had lived. There would be no Peachy, in all her wild insanity, I love her so much I can’t fathom life without her, and yet if you were here, she wouldn’t be. That makes me feel guilty if I think about it too much.

Sometimes when I’m in the living room with your brothers and sisters, I count their heads “1, 2, 3, 4…” and then I go into a mild panic scanning the room looking for you. Where is my other child? There have been times where I have gotten up and looked in other rooms in the house for a fifth child, and as I do, I am overcome with sadness again remembering you aren’t here. There’s no fifth head to count.

Ezra. My beautiful, itty bitty boy. I’ll never stop grieving your loss. I’ll always have a piece of my puzzle missing with you not here. I’ll forever remember you and keep your memory alive in the hearts of your siblings, so that even when I’m dead and gone and holding you in Heaven, your name will not be forgotten on earth.

But for now my love, I know you don’t miss me. You’re complete. You have lived a fuller life in the 4 years you’ve been in the presence of the Lord than I have 32 years on earth. You are held by arms more capable than mine, you are cared for better than I could have done, and you are loved even more than this imperfect mama ever could. I have such great joy knowing you are not mourning, you never have and never will.

God is good— all the time, and I take comfort in knowing that one day, we will be reunited together with Christ.

I love you, sweet Ezra Eugene.

Love,

Your Mama

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One Year Gluten Free

This isn’t a typical post for me, because it doesn’t relate to parenting specifically, but this is a big deal for me, and has really affected every aspect of my life!

One year ago today, I received a call from my doctor, telling me that after years of vomiting, chronic anemia, crippling anxiety, and lots and lots of blood tests, specialists, and dead ends, that we finally had a diagnosis after an endoscopy: Celiac Disease. I was in shock on the other end of the phone as he congratulated me for not giving up and advocating for myself to seek what was wrong with me, and said that a nutritionist would follow up with me. I had never been a big bread eater, and to someone who just thought of white bread when someone said “gluten” I knew I had a lot to learn.

I’m fairly sure my Celiac Disease was triggered by my second pregnancy. During Mamita’s pregnancy I was SICK. And not just your typical morning sickness, we are talking vomit every day, stomach cramps that woke me up and had me in the bath at 2am for hours, unable to eat real food for days at a time until I delivered her at 41 weeks. While there was a slight improvement stomach-wise after she was born, I was tired all the time, and more than typical mom tired.

Then I got pregnant with Ezra, and once again, my body was thrown for a loop. I was going to bed at 8pm, and waking up 11 hours later totally exhausted. While I didn’t vomit as much, I was generally ick feeling and unwell.

During Peachy’s pregnancy, it was back to full blown misery. Vomit, cramping, migraines, anemia, and some of the worst anxiety I have ever had started then. But this time, after I delivered her, the symptoms did not decrease. I was often moaning and groaning on the couch, or writing with nausea on the floor. It became typical for me to just randomly wake up at 3am vomiting. I remember one time being so weak that I couldn’t get up off the bathroom floor, and I began pounding on the bathroom door for Milkman to come get me Zofran to stop the vomiting and help me back into bed.

During this time, I saw endocrinologists, rheumatologists, had scores of blood tests, and ran into lots of “we don’t know what’s wrong with you. Are you sure it’s not in your head?” Scenarios. I was thankfully diagnosed with hashimotos hypothyroidism during this time and for on thyroid medication which helped mildly, but still, the nausea was only getting worse and I was more sickly than ever. I became extremely paranoid, and Milkman was afraid I would become an agoraphobic shut in, as even the thought of getting in the car made me worry we would be killed. I insisted on the kids sleeping in our room, and I checked them for breathing constantly in their sleep, I even checked my husband all night. I became terrified to eat at restaurants, always convinced I would be poisoned and vomit more. Food became my enemy, and I ate foods based on how to minimize my pain when they would come back up. I ate a LOT of crackers because everyone knows crackers calm your stomach, right? Well, except when you are celiac and don’t know it, then those gluteny crackers just poison you slowly.

By the time I got to the endoscopy, I was expecting anything but celiac disease. My grandfather, aunt, and two cousins all had celiac disease, but I didn’t think of myself as a gluten consumer, so I didn’t even consider it as a possibility. After my diagnosis by endoscopy and a follow up blood test to confirm, my celiac friend in Oregon and google became two of my biggest resources in wading through the new waters of my diagnosis. Suddenly, I began to realize that gluten was everywhere. It was in soy sauce, canned chili beans, and even in regular oatmeal. Barley, rye, and wheat became my enemies, and looking for ingredients in the store to check for things like malt or barley syrup turned a typical grocery trip into a long distance marathon. Then I learned about cross contamination. Oh my goodness, was that ever depressing. I was skeptical of cross contamination, right up until I was glutened horribly by gluten free pasta at Macaroni Grill while out of town. I was out of commission for a solid week with vomiting, stomach cramps, extreme fatigue and migraines. No more eating corn tortilla chips or French fries at restaurants because they are fried in the same fryers as gluten breaded items, no more trusting any sauces blindly when out and about, and everywhere I eat asking people to change their gloves.

Life changed drastically in our home. Just 7 months earlier we had stopped making meat a regular part of our meals, as I had begun to associate vomiting with meat. (Something I still have yet to recover from. This pregnancy, I have had a few cravings for red meat and crispy bacon, but we still have not gone back to regular carnivorism, as I associate it too much with feeling ill). My sweet husband voted to make our home a gluten free zone to make our kitchen a safe place for me to eat. This means my husband and children have given up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, good pasta, burritos, and chewy pizza dough. They will enjoy gluten when out of our home, but never in our home. It’s been an incredible sacrifice.

Within a month, the regular nausea all but disappeared. Within 2 months, my anxiety just began melting away. I could breathe easier. I no longer lived in fear about irrational things (like airplanes flying overhead, which was such an awful anxiety that I would make the kids run inside with me when a plane came into view!), I could enjoy food again, I was able to check my children a few times less each night for breathing. Life didn’t seem quite so dismal anymore.

This pregnancy has been markedly different. After spending other pregnancies so very ill, I have struggled with normal first trimester morning sickness this time, and nausea or aversions here and there, but it’s been incredibly normal. I lost weight with my previous pregnancies from vomiting the entire time, and this time I’ve gained (which, let’s be real, I’m not totally pleased with, but it just shows how much more normal of a pregnancy this has been compared to my others!) I’ve needed IV fluids only a few times, as opposed to regular trips to receive bags of saline from extreme dehydration, and have had only a couple of migraines.

My life is drastically different from what it was a year ago, and I’ve gotta say, though I miss things like dark beer, croissants, real bread, and pasta that doesn’t turn into a gelatinous lump, I wouldn’t trade a bite of that for how good it feels to not be sick all the time! While eating gluten free is a fad for some, it has become essential for my survival as someone with celiac disease.

Do you have celiac disease? How has your life changed since giving up gluten?

I Want to be Normal Pregnant

Jealousy is an ugly thing. Jealousy is not something I often struggle with. I am content with my life, with my family, with the old house I rent, with the practical car I drive, with the friends I have, with the modest income we have, and with the opportunities life has given me.

But, as I barely scooted along the halls of the medical building to get to my Perinatology appointment this morning, in excruciating pain, with my loud clunking walker, I entered the OB waiting room to see normal pregnant people. Beautiful, standing tall, perfect bellied, walking with a strong gait, normal pregnant people. And when I saw them, a tinge of jealousy surfaced. I know it’s not their fault they can walk, and sit, and sleep, and probably cook, clean, and work still, but it was a sobering reminder of what pregnancy means for someone with severe Symphysis Pubic Disorder.

I told myself “Count your blessings, woman. You have made it so far this pregnancy. You have reached your goal for staying out of a wheelchair (though that’ll probably happen by this weekend), you have been so much more mobile, you have had so much less pain than in the past.” But seeing those perfect looking pregnant women who exude glow and energy and vibrance, it hurts.

Yesterday was my worst day of SPD this pregnancy. Extremely unstable, my pelvis clicking and popping, grinding and sliding all day long. I spent the majority of the day parenting from a chair and sitting on ice packs, but in the evening, I had a little bit of motivation to clean, so I scooted to the laundry room with my walker and got to cleaning and organizing. I thought that since I was just doing a brief task, I wouldn’t bother with my harness. That was my first error. But then? I tripped over a shoe, and slipped just barely, but enough for my unstable pelvis to make a loud snap and crackle as I stopped myself from falling. I screamed. Screamed so loud, that the whole household came running. I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t walk, just cry. So here I am. One stupid shoe, and I’m likely out of commission mobility wise for the duration of my pregnancy.

So, here I sit in the waiting room. With all the normal and beautiful pregnant women. I called Milkman crying. It doesn’t seem fair. How is it that the little girl who wanted scores of babies, has such awful pregnancies now that she is grown? What is it like to be pregnant and walk normally? What is it like to be able to get your pajamas on at night without your husband’s assistance? What is it like to not need a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair to get around? I’m jealous. And I don’t begrudge them, I wouldn’t wish SPD on anyone. But, it’s still hard.

So there’s my confession for the day: Being jealous of normal pregnant people. I’m going to do my best to count my blessings and be grateful that I have so much to be grateful for. Yeah my pregnancies are awful, but I can get pregnant. Yeah, I’m in pain, but my living babies are healthy and whole. Yes, everything hurts, but I have a stable partner to help me through it. Sure, I need medical devices to get from point A to point B, but at least I have access to them. There’s my self pep talk for the day. Thanks for tracking through it with me.

Why I Won’t Share My Due Date— or Baby’s Name!

It’s funny the things that annoy other people about a pregnancy that is not theirs. There are two things I keep a secret during every pregnancy.

1. My EDD (that’s estimated due date!)

2. The name we have chosen for the baby

Thankfully, those closest to me no longer hound me (except maybe my friend in Missouri who tries to trick me regularly into telling her the name of this little guy haha!) But for some reason, people get real cranky when you don’t tell them these things.

So why keep it a secret?

Our EDD

With our first pregnancy, we shared Captain’s EDD with people. One minor annoyance was as soon as I would tell people “He’s due March 13th” they had the weirdest responses.

“You should keep that baby in til March 16th! My uncle’s dog’s brother’s owner’s sister’s cousin was born then and he’s a great kid.”

“I’m pulling for March 5th! That’s when my son was born! I hope you have your baby on his birthday!”

“Don’t have your baby on March 8th. That’s the day my father in law died. That’s a horrible day to have a baby.”

I have no control over holding this kid in or making it come out. The baby comes when the baby comes. I guess people were trying to relate, but for some reason, I found it really annoying. This is probably because I’m a horrible person and need to learn patience, but it still makes me feel awkward and I never know quite how to respond.

However, the main reason we don’t share my EDD is this: it’s just what it says it is. An ESTIMATED due date. I’ve never had a child on their EDD. One was a couple days before, one was a week after, one was 23 weeks too early, one was 2 days after. I don’t need people hounding me at 38 weeks until 41 weeks every day saying “did ya have that baby yet??” Yeah, I totally had the baby weeks ago and just didn’t tell you. Like, c’mon y’all. You’ll know.

Some uteruses are slow cookers and some are microwaves. Mine is a slow cooker. Gotta let that baby marinate a bit longer til s/he is ready.

Our Baby’s Name

Why keep their names a secret? I think this is multifaceted. Firstly, opinions on names are like armpits. You know the rest, right? So let’s say I’ve picked the name Naphtali for my next child. You tell someone little Naphti is on the way and suddenly everyone is an expert on names. “Aren’t you afraid he’ll be nicknamed Nympho-li in 8th grade?” “Isn’t that gonna be hard for people to spell?” “I knew a Naphtali in kindergarten and he used to pee his pants all the time. Whenever I hear the name Naphtali, I smell urine.” But after that baby is born and named, no one can say anything to your face about it without seeming like a major jerk, and that cute baby is already charming them, so they are more likely to be accepting of his name.

Secondly, names are a really big deal. Like you are pegging someone as a Gertrude or a Lambert for life. What you name them will define them. It’ll sometimes decide if they get hired for that right job someday. It will determine how often it is misspelled or mispronounced. It’s a big decision. And it’s one Milkman and I like to make on our own! We love the fun aspect of having a secret that belongs only to us. Yeah, that’s right, we don’t even tell our kiddos! (Mostly because they are all really young and don’t know how to keep secrets!) I love getting into bed at night and Milkman kissing my belly and talking to our baby, using the name that only we two know.

Thirdly, and this applies to both the due date and the name, surprises are fun. I LOVE surprises! They are my love language. When I called my mother to tell her that I had given birth to her granddaughter and told her said grandchild was named for my mother, she cried! It was beautiful. The anticipation leading up to the baby being born and being named is fun. People guess and wonder, and I get to giggle at their ridiculous guesses! We already know so much before our babies are born, their sex, often genetic issues, how much they weigh (okay, they are basically ALWAYS wrong about that), and with 3D ultrasounds, many know what their baby already looks like (if their baby was modeled out of peanut butter that is). So having something to save for the end is always a treat.

Now, I have lots of friends who tell their due dates, names, stats, and post ultrasounds of their unborn child’s genitals. That’s cool for them, and I love knowing and celebrating with them beforehand. So I don’t judge people who do it differently, and I get why people think we are annoying for not sharing. But in a world of information overload, it’s kind of fun to be different.

What things did you keep a secret before delivery? Or do you like to share all your happy news at once?

Managing SPD and PGP in Pregnancy

If you’ve ever had the feeling of a steel toed boot kicking you in your pubic bone and been told “it’s because your baby is low”…

If you’ve ever tried to get out of bed in the morning only to feel like your pelvis is about to snap in half and been told “oh that’s just because you need to do prenatal yoga”…

If you’ve ever had pain radiating from your SI points down your legs, like electric shocks and firey needles and been told “that’s just normal pregnancy back pain!”…

I’m here to tell you honey, that ain’t normal. And I hereby give you permission to tell your Aunt Barbara, Dr. Know-it-All, and Queen Earth Mother Yogi where to hang it.

I can’t tell you how many times I have read posts like these in mom groups, only for “veteran” moms to tell other moms that it’s normal. Can back pain in pregnancy be normal? Sure. Should normal pregnancy back pain debilitate you? No. Do women experience round ligament pain? Even though that concept seems like a made up term to push mothers out of OB and Midwife appointments quickly, sure, it exists. But is it normal to feel like your pubic bone is about to snap in half? No, ma’am, it is not.

Let’s talk a little about Symphysis pubis dysfunction aka SPD and PGP— that’s pelvic girdle pain. (I’m not a medical professional, so this is in super laymen’s terms… laymoms? That sounds weird. Laymen’s.) SPD is what occurs when your body produces too much relaxin and your joints get all mushy. Your ligaments stretch out, and become useless, because your body thinks it’s time to push a baby out. Except, for most is us with SPD, this hits long before it’s baby time, and often lasts for some time after baby has left. With your joints and ligaments in an uber relaxed state, your pelvis becomes unstable. Nerves get stuck between bones, your ability to balance becomes iffy, and your pubic bone and SI points click and grind. In a nutshell, it’s a little taste of torture, often with no real end date in sight. This can lead to depression, agoraphobia, PPD, PPA, and a whole lot of frustration.

From Pregmed.org

This is my 5th pregnancy, with SPD and PGP. I am taking several proactive measures to (hopefully!) help make for a smoother journey with my SPD this time around!

Here’s what’s worked in the past that I’ll be continuing:

Physical Therapy: I actually didn’t have success with PT during my previous pregnancies. I had PTs who didn’t know what to do with me, handed me a cane or a walker and said “Sorry, we don’t know what to do with you.” However, after Peachy was almost a year, I connected with a great PT who took me seriously and got me strong again! I’ll be working with him this pregnancy, and I look forward to seeing how that will help in the midst of pregnancy!

Acupuncture: I was so hesitant to try acupuncture, partially because I thought it was fake and partially because I had given up on anything working. But at the urging of a physical medicine doctor, who assured me there was science behind it, I gave it a go! I had tremendous results! Now, mind you, tremendous results for me meant 2-10 hours worth relief or maybe 24 hours without a walker, but when you are living in constant pain, those breaks are what keep you going! The acupuncturist I saw, focused on needling and massage, not on herbs. We were a good fit, and I look forward to connecting with her sooner than last time.

Quality medical equipment: I have a wonderful and trusty cane at my ready! I started out with a walker that was for a much shorter person last time, and I was crouched too low. This time, I’m planning on getting a walker that suits my height better! And in time, hopefully I can snag a great wheelchair (my last one was a little rickety!)

Here’s what didn’t work in the past, that I will be doing without:

Chiropractor: I have been to MANY chiropractors. 2 certified in the Webster technique. What I got was really high quotes for treatment, cockiness (two chiropractors told me they were going to hang my cane on their walls for a trophy once they “fixed” me— which neither accomplished!), worse pain that before each adjustment, and no relief whatsoever. Because this is an issue of your ligaments and joints constantly failing you, even if I found a chiropractor who could set me straight, I would be out of alignment within an hour with how loose my pelvis is. Some have found relief, but overall, the ladies I’ve talked to with SPD, there are many of us who have not had success with chiropractic care.

Ill-fitting, poorly made supports: I have 6 or 7 belts, braces, and harnesses in my collection from my last 4 pregnancies. Some given to me my bewildered physical therapists that aren’t even made for pregnant people. Some from amazon, some hand me downs. Some are full over and under the belly braces, others just under the belly belts that cut off blood flow. None of them have worked, but I’ve held on to each one, maybe hoping it might work one of these pregnancies. None of those are made for people with SPD, so none of them address the problems caused by SPD! So, the crappy, useless braces have got to go!

Here’s what I haven’t done before, but am doing this time:

When I was pregnant with Peachy, I read an article about a man in England who had a wife with SPD and had fashioned a brace specifically made for women with SPD and PGP. I told Milkman about it, and he said “if you ever get pregnant again, we are getting that thing!” Well, I got pregnant again, and so guess what? I got “that thing”. The brace is called the Harness Gravidarum Maternity Support Belt. The first time I put it on, I was 10 weeks pregnant, and as I fastened the last strap I let out an audible “ahhhhhhhhh!” The relief was immediate. I’m going to be talking a lot more about this harness and it’s creators in posts to come, but I gotta tell you, I’m already impressed with it! I have high hopes for a better quality of life in this pregnancy!

Yes, please!So! That’s what’s going on with me and SPD this pregnancy! And the next time someone brushes your SPD or PGP off as “normal pregnancy back pain”, you send ‘em to me, and I’ll set them straight!

Have you struggled with SPD and PGP? What helped you find little bits of relief and sanity?

A Forever Changing Family

First, two became one. And that was the day Milkman and I were married. We were going to wait a year before trying for a baby.

2 months into our marriage we decided to “leave it up to God and see what happens.” We were pregnant the next month. Just two weeks before our first wedding anniversary, we became a family of 3 when Captain was born.

We thought we would wait a year before trying again. And then when Captain was 8 months old, we got another positive pregnancy test. Our sweet Mamitas was born 41 weeks later, and we became a family of 4.

When Mamitas was 11 months old, we had another positive pregnancy test. We were so excited to be a family of 5! We cherished each moment we had, but at my 17 week appointment, our little baby love was no longer. I delivered Ezra’s sleeping body 4 days later, and we remained a family of 4.

4 months later, another positive test! Our rainbow baby was the greatest joy of our lives. Peachy was born that Fall, and then we were 5. We knew after such a difficult pregnancy and traumatic labor and delivery that biological babies would not be in our near future, but we had already completed our foster parenting requirements, so we trusted that our family would grow in time.

9 months later, we received a call for two sisters from our foster agency. Within 24 hours of getting a call, we were a family of 7. Three months later, they reunified, and for two weeks, we became a family of 5 yet again.

It was too quiet, so imagine our joy when we received a call for an “adoptable” 5 day old newborn baby boy. Sweet Warrior. He left us just under 3 months later to a non-family relative home. We were devastated.

And the calls stopped. We were just 5 again. For 6 months we sat by the phone, and no more children came. But then, a call. And we were 6, when little Chatito came to live with us. And 6 we have happily been, and 6 we shall remain for a little while longer. Then 5 again when he reuinifies, but not much longer after that…

And we will be a family of 6 yet again. Because the Lord has blessed us with the gift of pregnancy!

We are grateful to God for giving us another baby to love. Our hands are full, but our hearts are bursting. What a joy to have 4 children at my feet to love on while a 5th steadily grows in my womb! Join us in praying for a healthy pregnancy and a sweet, full of life baby in Summer 2018!

I Remember Ezra.

I won’t forget the butterflies I felt when I saw those two lines.

I won’t forget the excited look on your daddy’s face when I told him you existed.

I won’t forget the sound of your big brother and sister praying for their “tummy baby” every night at bedtime.

I won’t forget the first time I heard your heartbeat.

I won’t forget my tummy bulging with you growing inside.

I won’t forget you moving around on the ultrasound, dancing like a little sprite on the screen.

I won’t forget the feeling that something was amiss.

I won’t forget when the Doppler was placed on my stomach and came back silent.

I won’t forget when your body was so very still on the ultrasound.

I won’t forget how hard my body shook as I wept for your short life.

I won’t forget picking out the green yarn for your baby blanket, and wanting you to be warm.

I won’t forget driving to the hospital for your induction.

I won’t forget the awful, heart breaking, soul crushing feeling of my water breaking and your body beginning to detach from mine.

I won’t forget the nurse wrapping you up in a wash cloth and exclaiming, “dear God, he’s so tiny!” As she handed your lifeless body to me.

I won’t forget how we bundled you in the little green blanket I crocheted during your labor.

I won’t forget how we sang to you. 10,000 reasons, stay awake, Jesus loves me…

I won’t forget your itty nail beds, precious earlobes, your miniature nose that looked like Captain’s, your absolutely perfect little feet.

I won’t forget parting your mouth as I dropped a single drop of mama’s milk in between your lips.

I won’t forget when we gave you one last kiss, placed your sweet, small body wrapped in that soft green blanket into the white basket so the nurse could take your body down to the hospital morgue.  

I won’t forget any of it. I will remember. I will mourn. I will miss you. I will cry. I will say your name. And I will keep telling your story, so that other people will remember you, too.

My sweet, sleeping Baby.

Happy 3rd Birthday in Heaven, Ezra Eugene. I love you.