loss | part 2

She was quiet for too long, I knew, as she studied the monitor during my first ultrasound. I had waited weeks for this appointment. It felt like forever since I'd taken that positive pregnancy test, and every day I felt unsure, not knowing exactly what was going on or if I was really even pregnant. I had every symptom in the book, but this was all new to me and I just wanted a doctor to tell me all was well. I had been so nervous as we sat in the waiting room, and Luke had told me not to worry, but now amidst the silence I saw the look on her face and I worried. I didn't dare look at the screen. What truths did she see there? How could I bear them?

Just before the ultrasound, I remember saying to Luke that I might not be ready for whatever was about to happen. I meant it more in terms of the positives, the joy--what would it be like to actually hear our little one’s heartbeat and have everything sink in? Could I really be ready for that? But deep down I also knew there was a chance that things might not go as we hoped and planned. Despite the fact that I wasn't exposed to it growing up--my mom gave birth to 5 children naturally and never miscarried--I was well aware of how common miscarriage is and never really thought it couldn't happen to me. In recent years, especially, I'd heard of numerous women who joined this "terrible club," as one friend aptly put it. Maybe God allowed me to be exposed to these stories, these realities, so I wouldn't be shellshocked when it happened to me.

“Well, you ARE pregnant…" she finally said. I almost had time to sigh with relief, but her voice still held concern. First she told us that she thought I wasn't as far along as we'd suspected. Not surprising. The truth was I had no idea how far along I was--I'd made an assumption based on a guess at the date of conception, but I'd never kept track of my cycle. She told us she thought I was 6 or 7 weeks pregnant versus the 8-10 weeks I thought I was. And then she spoke the words that made my heart sink: there was no heartbeat that she could see. She told us it could possibly be because it was still so early, or it could be that the pregnancy has ended.

I don’t remember really what happened next. I was devastated, scared and frustrated to still be in this place of unknown. The rest of the appointment was a bit of a blur. She explained that I should wait another week or so and then get another ultrasound, but in the meantime, I could get blood taken to test my levels of pregnancy hormone, which should multiply every day if the pregnancy was healthy. We agreed to do it.

Luke kept telling me we had to stay positive, that we didn't know anything for sure yet. He didn't want me to lose hope or let my mind go to dark places. It was a massive struggle over the next couple of days as we waited, but work kept me busy and the Lord kept me at peace somehow. When the day came to find out my blood test results, I dreaded making the call. I spoke to the girl at the front desk and thought she'd transfer me to the doctor or have her call me back, but instead she just read me my numbers from the blood tests: 30,000 and 32,000. I can't blame her for reading them off like the final score of a game she didn't really care about, but to me, those numbers held the difference between life and death for my child. I  didn't know what they meant, so I implored her: was that good or bad? She said the doctor would call me to talk about it. I immediately googled info about hcg levels. I couldn't figure anything out; I read one thing and started to cry because it hit me that those numbers probably meant something bad, but then I read something else and got a little hope back. Everyone's experiences are so different. When the doctor called me back an hour or two later, she told me the numbers were "not a good sign". She too, delivered this news as if it weren't the most earth-shattering information I'd ever received, as if I somehow wasn't still holding onto hope that our baby's heart was still beating, as if I'd actually accepted the fact that it was unlikely I would ever hold him or her in my arms. She asked me if I was bleeding (I wasn't). She said I should still go get an ultrasound later that week "just to confirm." That word rang in my ears. Nothing was "confirmed" for me; I still believed that our baby could be healthy and knew the Lord has power to do whatever he wants against all odds. But deep down, devastatingly, I felt there was no longer life in me. My symptoms were lessening by the day, the glaring nausea, the super sore breasts, the constant need to pee. Still, my body wasn't showing physical signs of loss so I still felt caught in between two realities. It was a scary place to be.

loss | part 1

I remember it clearly, sitting at my desk in the All Across Africa office a few days after returning home from a road trip with my Mom. We had driven nearly the entire coast of the Western United States, from Seattle to San Diego. It never occurred to me along the way that I could be pregnant, otherwise I probably would have skipped that glass of Pinot Noir in the Sonoma Valley. Sitting there at my desk, I got a strange feeling in my belly. It was brief, but unfamiliar, so I decided to stop on the way home and pick up a pregnancy test.

I took the test that evening and it seemed to take no more than 5 seconds to display “PREGNANT” on the screen, like the test was just that sure of itself. I can’t even begin to describe what emotions followed—I remember looking up at myself in the mirror, my eyes wide with shock, my hand instinctively coming up to my mouth. I felt unbridled excitement followed by a wave of panic. I think I may have started hyperventilating slightly, but my mom and sister were out in the living room so I had to keep these feelings quietly to myself. Worst decision ever: to find out you are pregnant with your first child but not be able to tell anyone because your husband isn't at home and you can’t tell your mom and sister before him and you’re in the middle of a project and you have to go about the rest of your day as though it’s normal even though your life is actually completely changed forever.

After what seemed like a very long time, Luke got home from practice, but immediately got in the shower. I couldn’t wait any longer so I took the test to him in there. “I have to show you something,” I said as I held up the test so he could read the screen. He stared, blinked a couple times, and then finally looked at me, mouth open, eyes wide, similar to the face I’d made at myself in the mirror earlier. He asked me if I was messing with him and I remember adamantly telling him that no, I did not in fact stage a fake positive pregnancy test just to trick him. He had to sit down in the shower. I was laughing at him but I sat down on the bathroom floor too and we just looked at each other. I had already gotten used to the idea of being pregnant after just a few hours—it’s amazing how much the worry and uncertainty fade when you’ve spent time imagining all the wonderful things about having a sweet baby. I was a little concerned about his apparent ratio of panic to excitement, but I didn’t blame him. He assured me he was actually happy. I believed him.

 

IMG_0742.JPG

1) 2-3ish weeks. Didn't plan to share this but it's one of few photos I have of myself with that little life still in me.

2) Luke wanted me to take a second test before we told my mom the news.

3) A day after we found out I was pregnant. Minds blown.

a post about nothing and something

Last Thursday Luke set off for Vegas to do some recruiting and I made my weekend list. Now, I love my husband more than anything on earth and I absolutely adore spending time with him. When he leaves for a recruiting trip, I get sad. But then after I’m on my own for a little while, a couple things happen...

First, I get uber-productive. I make lists, I accomplish tasks, I clean the house, I tackle things that I’ve been putting off. It’s AWESOME. A less awesome thing that happens is that I revert back to being in some kind of weird bachelorette mode: I stay up too late watching bad television, I sleep in, I don’t cook a darn thing. Tonight I had chips and salsa and wine for dinner, although I must say it was delicious homemade salsa with avocado, mango, kiwi, tomato, cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic & lime. TRY IT. My new basil plant lost a leaf in transit so I chopped that up and tossed it in to boot. Why not?

Earlier in the evening, since the apartment was empty, I had all the time in the world to let my jog linger on and on. I haven’t done much running lately, but I ran 2 miles down to the beach just as the sun went down. The thing about sunsets here is that they, too, linger on and on. Long past the time the sun sinks below the horizon, the sky is alight, shifting from pinky peach to burnt orange to dark blue. I love sunsets, the way they slowly change. You think they’re good, but then they get better; right up until the last tiny bit of light fades from the sky, they are beautiful. Good ’til the last drop. I walked down to the water and watched for awhile. I sat on the sand and listened to the waves. There’s something about being right there on the edge of the land, imagining how far and long and wide the water stretches out before you. Because I’ve learned that sometimes a simple change in perspective makes everything come alive, I turned my head sideways. I noticed the clouds, illuminate, small and scattered at random across the sky. I studied the way the colors of the sunset faded from one to the next—a perfect gradient. Then I sang a couple songs to myself. I thought about joining a choir again.

After awhile I got up and started jogging again, only because I wanted to speed up the next leg of my journey to a local co-op market. The best. I knew that the moment I walked in those doors, life would slow down once again. It would be nearly as peaceful as the crashing of the waves—strolling the aisles, basket in hand, taking in the bounty of fruit and vegetables and plants—I wasn’t expecting the baby plants!—and all kinds of other wonderful products. I was there for a few simple ingredients for the salsa, but as I said, the baby plants seduced me and before I knew it I had basil and heirloom tomatoes and three packets of seeds in hand. How could I not, when the beet packet boasted of greens in 20 days, beets in 40?

When all was said and done, my bill came to $23.13. I walked out of the store with my brown paper bag and marveled at the incredible resources I have access to. How thankful and blessed I am to be able to afford $23.13 for a few items at the market. I have to say, these days Luke and I have less than we’re used to in the way of finances. I’m trying to run my own business as my primary means of income, and that’s shaky ground to tread on. It means that we’ve gone without some of the things we’ve enjoyed regularly in the past: meals out, an overabundance of groceries, the occasional clothes shopping trip or home decoration item. But what I’ve found is that the money equation is really quite simple: you make more, you spend more. Making a lot of money is great, and I would never fault anyone for it. It's the natural thing to want to do and pursue. But the flip side of the equation is also simple: you make less, you spend less. Right now we’re in a season of making less. There are things for our apartment that I’d like to have. In fact, I’d like to not have an apartment at all—I’d prefer a beach cottage or bungalow. But these days we are going without the bigger place, the weekly restaurant jaunts, the $12 movie tickets, the nicer car, the newer clothes…and I am none the wiser, folks. I’m actually more aware of every blessing I have. I’m more thankful for every want and need fulfilled. And I am keenly aware of God’s provision in our lives, which never ceases to blow me away. These days our emptier bank account really seems to go further. Our goal is not to have money in excess, but to be generous with what we do have.

Anyway, by the time I was walking home from the co-op, it was dark out, but I felt completely safe. The air was cool but I was comfortable. As I considered my blessings, I thought about how lucky I am to live here. This thought comes to mind all the time. Daily my eyeballs are bombarded with beauty: the constant sunshine, the sparkly marinas, the pretty boats, the bursting florals, the breathtaking landscapes, the waves crashing on cliffs, the soaring palm trees, the masterpiece sunsets. It’s an amazing place and I wish you could all be here with me. I won’t pretend it’s all easy—it’s very hard sometimes, of course. The toughest part is being 3000 miles away from most of my family. But overall I can’t express how grateful I am for this place in our lives. It’s a sweet time for sure.

Luke said something about me that gave me a lot of joy and pride awhile back. At our community group we were asked what each other's life motto would be if we could assign one to our husband/wife. Luke stole mine from North Face: “Never Stop Exploring”, and I loved that. What an amazing life motto to have. Never stop exploring the beauty of this world. Never stop exploring how much you can love others. Never stop exploring the depths of Christ’s love for you. Never stop exploring how far you need to step out of your comfort zone to find real excitement and fulfillment. Never stop exploring how much you can give and be amazed at what is provided. Never stop exploring the endless things you have to offer. I never knew it was my life motto, but I’m glad Luke revealed it because now it’s time to live it more. 

I don’t have an ending for this blog post and it’s already incredibly long and choppy, so I’ll end with a story from the other night. I was walking in the Target parking lot and a homeless guy asked me for money. Whenever I get asked for money, I give it, as long as I have cash. Everyone approaches this type of thing differently but I always think of something our old pastor offered on the issue of giving money to beggars: “People say you shouldn’t give cash because ‘They might use it to buy beer.’ Yeah? Well, YOU might use it to buy beer!” Touche, Pastor Frank. That I probably would. So I gave him a dollar and he thanked me, and then he spouted off this long monologue that made absolutely no sense. He said he was going to get some money soon because he was the King and people owed him tax money. He said some other nonsense and then abruptly ended with “Well, thanks again! Love you.” And he reached out for a fist bump. There was a crazy innocence in the way he said it. I think it was because he was strung out, but still, it really struck me. I fist bumped him back and said “Love you too” and went into the store. He was gone by the time I came back outside.

valentine's weekend

Hello hello! It's been forever since I've posted a personal update, but this weekend we broke out our "real" camera a few times so I wanted to share those photos with you. Friday was Valentine's Day and Luke brought home FOUR DONUTS after his team trained in the morning. Yes, we did eat them all. Yes, you have permission to call us Valentine's Fatties.

DSC02380-2.jpg

Our one tradition for the day is a dinner of homemade soup, which began in 2008 when Luke ended up getting sick on our first Valentine's day as a couple. In past years we've made broccoli cheddar, tomato, creamy potato, and vegetable beef--I wish we'd kept yearly recipes! This year the soup of choice was chicken tortilla. So good.

DSC02382.jpg
DSC02383.jpg

I did write down the recipe loosely this year which I'll try to get on a printable recipe card for you. It has a béchamel base and gets its flavor mainly from cumin, chili and cayenne seasoning which is what I happened to have in my cupboard! I don't know where I'd be without my trusty cumin supply...

Then yesterday we drove up to Newport Beach to go on a whale watching trip. It was really fun to be out on the water and thrilling to see the wildlife! A pod of dolphins swam and played alongside our boat at one point and we saw a huge gray whale surface in between dives several times--it was the first whale I've ever seen in my life! Everyone on our boat gasped and cheered whenever he showed just a fraction of his massive body, which was such a testament to the power of nature even in our world of ever accessible larger-than-life photos and HD video.

DSC02390.png
DSC02389.jpg

(Luke actually gave himself a haircut later on in the day Friday after 6 months of growing it out! In case you wondered what's different about him here…)

DSC02393.jpg
DSC02399.jpg
DSC02402.jpg
DSC02409.jpg
DSC02408.jpg
DSC02411.jpg
DSC02415.jpg

So that was our sweet little weekend. I hope you all had a good one, too! I'll try to be back before too long to give you an update on my work and business. Have a great week, all!

just popping in to say...

Life is crazy. Not in the "I'm-soooo-busy" way, although there's always that. What I mean is that life is a crazy ride, and when lived in obedience to God it will NEVER be boring. God's prompting via books I've been reading (1, 2 and 3), messages at church, and the voices of those who love me have caused me to realize that I need to step out in faith knowing that God is calling me to something deeper with Him. I honestly don't even know what that means or what it entails. Those are just the words echoing in my mind for the past 3 or so months. So when I feel that I'm being called to something deeper, and then receive opportunities to act on that calling, I want to say "yes" without hesitation.