Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CJay says the darndest things

I came up with this blog idea while I was pregnant. I actually thought of it on Saturday after Thanksgiving and planned to write it on Sunday, but instead I was at the hospital!

Sometimes, CJay really does say the darnedest things, and he's fortunate enough to have a wife with an incredible memory (and a wonderful sense of humor and lovely hair and awesome baking skills ... but I digress). Ha! I decided it would be funny to share some of the comments he made while I was pregnant. I do have his approval for this, but only if I include a disclaimer: "CJay is not a terrible husband and none of these comments made me mad." At least half of that statement is true. :)

(After I got home from class one night at 10:30 and took off my shoes.)
Your feet would only look worse if they were bloody stumps.

Yeah, your nose does look a little bigger.

Have you always had that big freckle on your stomach?

You would not believe how tired I am right now!

Whoa, your hands are really huge!

What are we gonna do if this kid acts like you?

Are you having a contraction? Is this the big one?

I forgot what you looked like when you weren't pregnant.

Can't you just punch yourself in the stomach and get this thing started?
And last but not least...
(When I was ~5 hours into labor)
I'm having terrible heartburn, if that makes you feel any better.


Just because I'm sharing things about CJay...

While I was sitting in the OR waiting for the doctor to stick a giant needle in my spine, the nurse/surgical tech/whoever she was asked me how I thought my husband was doing in the other room and if I thought he was really nervous. I said, "CJay's probably fine." Later that night I was looking through the pictures CJay had taken when Nathaniel was first born, and there was a picture of him. A picture of him in the other room waiting while I was getting a giant needle stuck in my spine and the lady was asking if he was okay. This is the picture...

As it turns out, CJay was doing just fine.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two weeks already

It's hard to believe that 2 weeks have passed since Nathaniel first made his grand appearance. I'd say we've been adjusting pretty well to his presence. My mom stayed with us for several days and that made such a difference. She is particularly good at decoding baby language, and CJay and I felt like she shortened our learning curve by miles. I'm recovering better this time around. The doctors assured me it would be an easier surgery because it wasn't emergent, and thankfully, they were right. I've been able to move around and do much more without assistance. I even took my finals last week, and I managed to make an A in my class!

Without further ado, some pictures of Nathaniel.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nathaniel Is Here!

Nathaniel Christopher is here and he's perfectly healthy! He was born via c-section at 2:41 pm on Sunday. I went into labor around 1:30 am Sunday morning, but my contractions weren't close enough together to head to the hospital until 8 am. It was a long wait! Unfortunately, my labor slowed dramatically around 1 pm and the doctor was concerned that Nathaniel was no longer getting enough oxygen from the placenta. I had really hoped for a VBAC this time around, but the doctor said he had a nagging feeling that Nathaniel wasn't going to do well if my labor continued so slowly. I wasn't happy about the c-section, but of course, there was no question that the baby's well-being came first.
We're all doing well right now. I'm sore, but this time around has been nothing like the first. I'm moving around much better and feeling like I might actually heal sooner. Hopefully, we'll be taking the little guy home on Wednesday. I'll post more pictures soon.

Nathaniel's first moment on earth.

Looking a little like Mr. Magoo!

Friday, November 12, 2010

38 weeks!

I'm doing well and things seem to be progressing normally with the little guy. The doctor says she thinks he won't be a very large baby, maybe 7.5 pounds. I'm okay with that as long as he's healthy! I know she could also be wrong with her estimate, but we'll find out soon enough. I'm feeling all the normal aches and pains, and I'm extremely swollen. But those are really my only complaints! I'm almost finished with this semester too. Part of me hopes Nathaniel will hold out until I'm done. Unfortunately, that means he would have to wait until Dec. 7, and for some reason, I don't see that happening.

I had to post this picture just because Risi is in the background.

Faux Thanksgiving

CJay and I decided to have Thanksgiving last weekend. I was saying that we might not have turkey and dressing this year for obvious reasons, and I was really going to miss the feast. CJay suggested we go ahead with the dinner. I cooked all day and couldn't walk by 7:30, but we had fun pigging out at our faux Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I don't like having my picture taken on a good day, which makes pregnancy pictures even less exciting for me. But for the sake of posterity, or something like that, I have been taking belly pictures. (I'm refraining from posting the ones where I'm making faces, but I do have a lot of those.) I hope you all really, really appreciate these!

30 weeks

32 weeks

35.5 weeks

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Courage is a first step, but simply to bear the blow bravely is not enough. Stoicism is courageous, but it is only a halfway house on the long road. It is a shield, permissible for a short time only. In the end, one has to discard shields and remain open and vulnerable. Otherwise, scar tissue will seal off the wound and no growth will follow. To grow, to be reborn, one must remain vulnerable - open to love but also hideously open to the possibility of more suffering.

- Anne Morrow Lindbergh from Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead

When I told people I was pregnant again, someone called me courageous. Courageous. I remember thanking her but thinking "courage will only get me so far." I suppose courage really is the first step. It took courage to decide to try for another baby, but courage isn't enough. As the days pass and Nathaniel's arrival draws nearer, I struggle with what I know now: life's last breath in your arms, death of a newborn, profound grief.

Immediately after Isaac's birth and death, I knew I wanted another child, but that certainty waned as the grief grew. The first days afterwards aren't the worst. You might think they are, but as the days pass, your brain begins to comprehend the magnitude of what's happened. And you're hit again and again and again with the pain. I considered the possibility of never having another child because of the pain. I couldn't imagine being pregnant again and facing life's harshest reality. That burden would surely be too big to bear. At times I still think I'm crazy. Crazy to be pregnant again and know life has no guarantees—that living through a tragedy doesn't stop tragedy from finding us again. And yet here we are 7 weeks away from Nathaniel's due date.

I suppose all this is why I'm so drawn to Lindbergh's words. I had my shield up for some time and now I'm vulnerable and hideously open to the possibility of more suffering. But I'm ready. More ready than I thought I would be. Whatever the outcome and as much as I want a perfectly healthy child, I'm ready.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

27.5 weeks

We had another ultrasound on Monday and all is still well with the little guy. This pregnancy seems to be going much faster than the last, but I'm assuming it's because we're not living under the same strain. I've been carrying pretty small, even though the baby is measuring in the 71st percentile for weight. That's about 2 weeks ahead. We'll see if that means he comes 2 weeks early! (I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet!)

Here's a shot from the last ultrasound in July. The baby is 21.5 weeks.

These are from Monday's photo shoot. 26.5 weeks. The top photo is the baby's nose and mouth. I hope you can see it!

And finally, the belly shot. I know I'm not smiling but it's the best CJay got before I lost patience. What can I say? Pregnancy, weight gain, hormones - who wants pictures taken??

** The painting of Isaac above my head was my Mother's Day gift from my mom, who has maintained a tight lip on her exceptional artistic abilities. She painted Isaac's portrait after almost 30 years without picking up a paintbrush. (I'm still shocked by that. 30 years!?) As you can see, it's an awesome painting and the picture doesn't even do it justice!

Monday, August 9, 2010

6 months (and feelings)

All is going well with baby Nathaniel. We had another ultrasound at 22 weeks and the doctor once again assured us that everything looked perfect. I know it's good news (wonderful news), but I don't believe it. Ok, I don't intend to sound like Negative Nancy here, but I just can't fully believe that this child is healthy. That he'll come home with us. That he'll even be "normal." People say they understand that I don't want to get attached. It's a way to protect myself. Tell me how a mother isn't automatically attached to the child growing inside her? Maybe there's a way, but I sure don't know it. The truth is that I'm not trying to stay unattached. I'm trying to deal with this world's harsh reality: babies die. My baby died. I have to brace myself.

To even consider getting pregnant again was a leap of faith. I'm sure anyone who's lost a child would agree with that. You're actually signing up with the understanding that it could happen again. And this time, you know how much it's gonna hurt. That's really where CJay and I are now. We dance around the idea of having a son to bring home, but we quickly withdraw our excitement. I'd like to save it all. Save it all for when Nathaniel is born and he's pink and healthy and screaming. Then I'll exhale.

I'm not saying I'm expecting something bad to happen with this pregnancy or that I think this child will be sick or die. On the contrary, there are times when I think he's going to be fine. He's going to grow up and drive us nuts. Of course that's what I hope and pray for every minute, but I want to hold on tight right now and not forget where I've been. Babies die. Babies live. We don't get to chose.

I don't want you to think I'm down or unhappy. I'm not. I'm incredibly thankful to be pregnant again, and I've enjoyed all the little kicks and punches so far. It's just impossible to ignore the grief that sneaks in through the happy moments. I miss Isaac, and this pregnancy reminds me even more so of his absence. I'm trying to remember everyday to be thankful for this son and remember one of the important lessons that Isaac taught me: he's worth whatever lies ahead.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How nursing chose me

When I was a kid, my mom was a home health nurse. There were times when she had no choice but to take my brothers and me with her to visit a patient. Most of the time we stayed in the car and waited on her, but on occasion she would say a particular patient wouldn't mind if we came inside. I have vivid memories of those homes. We lived in a small mountain town, and my mom visited people who lived, literally, on the side of the mountain. I remember dirty trailers, scrawny dogs, dirty dishes, and bugs. But most of all, I remember the first time I watched my mom clean someone's tracheostomy. The time I saw her clean someone who had an "accident." The first time I saw her help someone out of a wheelchair and even when I helped her brush a lady's long hair. You might think this is why I'd like to be a nurse now, but in fact, these are the very reasons why I decided not to go into nursing in college. (In all fairness, the number of chemistry classes turned me off to the idea just as much!) Honestly, I said I would never be okay with cleaning up vomit and poop or touching infected pussy wounds. No thanks! What is that old cliche? Right, never say never.

Finding my calling wasn't so easy. Finding my calling meant I had to survive my son's death. As excruciating as losing Isaac was, it brought me here. I believe the reason I came to this decision and can see it so clearly now is due to my time spent with my counselor. Don't ask me how because it was a process. A long, long process. But when I started thinking that I'd like to do something else with my life, I knew rather quickly that nursing was calling. When I began looking at programs and classes, the pieces fit.

I've always respected nurses, and I've always spoken highly of them. I'm always proud to say that my mother's a nurse. The truth was that it took losing my son to realize what it meant to be a nurse. When I recounted the story with my counselor (in the way only a counselor can make you pull out details and thread them together one by one), one thing always stood out: the nurses. The NICU nurses. My labor and delivery nurse. The nurse who cried as I spoke of Isaac. My neighbor, who has been a NICU nurse for more than 20 years, came to the hospital when she was supposed to be on vacation simply because I asked that she be there to take out Isaac's breathing tube. She didn't have to be there, but she was. My L&D nurse came to my room the day after Isaac's birth and told me she couldn't sleep thinking about us and Isaac. She cried with us.

I have so many stories of those nurses who cared for Isaac. They mourned with us and made us feel as if our child, our situation, was just as difficult for them as it was for us. They were patient and sincere. These experiences completed the picture that began with my mother so many years ago. The part I couldn't grasp as a child, I can understand now. My mother was first and foremost caring for people. Her priority was always their well-being. Spending the most difficult time of my life with so many wonderful nurses made it clear. A nurse will clean up vomit. She will bathe smelly people and wipe poop. But that isn't what completes the nurse. The real nurse is there for you, for your mom, your brother, or your child when your emotions are overwhelming. When you're not even sure if you'll breath again, a nurse will show you how. A nurse can hold your hand and cry for you and give you strength you didn't know you had. What an honorable profession. What an amazing way to change someone's life.

In the midst of all my pain, this is how nursing chose me. I just didn't know it until now.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Tiny Announcement

We're expecting another baby boy this November. Nathaniel Christopher is due on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25), which means I'm 18 weeks along. The doctor told us everything looks perfectly healthy so far.

Here's the baby at 17.5 weeks.

I'm 16 weeks here and not very big yet, although I'm definitely bigger than I was last time!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Maybe you're all wondering how I've been feeling lately. I know I haven't said. I didn't write anything about Isaac's first birthday or describe how CJay and I felt. Truthfully, I didn't want to. Truthfully, I've felt good. The funny thing about writing that (or even saying it) is it makes me feel a little guilty. I'm not sure why someone's death makes you feel as if you shouldn't keep living. Perhaps a wiser person could explain that to me.

I dreaded March 5, but it wasn't March 5 that got me. It was March 4. For months after Isaac died, CJay thought the 4th was his birthday. We had gone to see the specialist on March 4 at 4 p.m. for another ultrasound, and by 6 p.m. we were admitted to the hospital. We didn't sleep that night; Isaac was born at 1:31 a.m., and we waited until almost 8 a.m. to see him in the NICU. All of this to say ... all day on March 4 of this year, I was sad. Reliving the moments leading up to that appointment, to that moment when the doctor told us we had a choice: go home and he won't live or have a c-section soon. That moment started the avalanche.

And so, for CJay and me we watched the clock on March 4. We did play-by-play, remembering so many of the details and the emotions. We sat on the couch that evening picking through those hours leading up to Isaac's birth. We recalled waiting for my mom and feeling sick with worry. We talked about the surgery and hearing Isaac's two little cries. He was surprisingly loud and strong to have been so ill. We watched Isaac's video and looked at the pictures. And we cried.

On March 5, we celebrated. We talked about what Isaac gave us. We listed the ways in which we'd changed. We bought a cake and champagne and we toasted a strong-spirited child who gave every ounce of what he had. And we smiled.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A long time comin'

I certainly didn't intend to go so long between posts. We've been busy! I decided before Christmas last year that I wanted to go back to school - nursing school to be specific. That means that in January, I started taking a prerequisite class and preparing for the GRE. In the mean time CJay was taking classes to prep for yet another CPA exam and trying to survive tax season. If you've never lived with an accountant during tax season, try it. It's tough. Just as we came to the end of my semester, the end of tax season, and one day past my taking the GRE, CJay sprained both his ankles. Yes, both of them. Of course you want to know how he sprained both of them. Everyone asks that. Well, I didn't see it happen, but apparently, he fell on some of our landscaping rocks in the back yard. The rest is history. I spent almost a month taking care of him as he slowly started being able to walk and drive. Whew! That was a tough job! He's still not back to normal and will be in an ankle brace for another month, but at least he's mobile. Things have just been hectic since January and even more so since March.

I hope you'll forgive my absence. I started another class a couple weeks ago, and now I'm volunteering at a health clinic in town. All for my application to nursing school at UVA. I'll apply sometime in October but won't know the outcome until January. I think the story of why I want to attend nursing school is another post entirely. And I promise I'll write it. I want to share how I got to this decision, and why I'm so determined to do it. Until then, pray I survive the busy weeks ahead!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Just wanted to repost Isaac's slideshow in honor of his birthday.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Getting closer

CJay and I are doing okay as March 5 draws near. I feel a sense of regression — back to some of the grieving I was doing months ago. There's no getting around it though. We have to get to March 5 and 6, and we have to trample through the memories and the pain. I've been studying Isaac's pictures a lot lately. I haven't done that in a while, but I'm glad I can take the time now to retrace his small features and marvel at his hair, his fingers, and his funny feet. I'm thankful that grief changes as time goes on. It was incredibly difficult for me to imagine a life without the extreme pain, no agony, of losing Isaac. Unfortunately but expectantly, that sensation has surfaced again with his upcoming birthday. It's amazing what humans can endure, isn't it? Only 6 months ago, I would have told you I wouldn't survive this. I didn't care if I did. This road has been rough, and I would have never picked it (who would), but it's our road to travel. And I'll forever be thankful that we met Isaac traveling down this road.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Pit and the Pendulum: Part I

Edgar Allan Poe isn't one of my favorite authors, but I've always marveled at his ability to tap into the dark recess of human emotions. His writing is somber yet intimate. When I was younger, say high school, I didn't understand many of the feelings Poe described — for example, in The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator is paranoid, insane, murderous. I never fully appreciated how someone could be insane or murderous, but I understood those feelings were real.

As we creep toward March 5, I've had Poe's works floating around in my mind. I'm not sure why. Maybe because he was a sad man who experienced a great deal of loss and pain. Maybe because now I understand some of the dark moods Poe evoked in his stories and poems. His writing reflects his fascination with death, and honestly, these past couple weeks and the weeks to come, I too will be focusing on death — how it changed us, how it leaves a hole, it's ability to redefine whomever it touches.

The Pit and the Pendulum is one of my favorite stories. For some reason, this story, with its prisoner who continues to hope in the face of certain death, reminds me of what CJay and I went through during Isaac's poor prognosis both before and after his birth. I hope I'll be able to convey what has been circulating in my brain these past few days. If not, at least I can stop thinking about it.

The narrator is a prisoner sentenced to death and being held in a dimly lit dungeon. After investigating his surroundings and discovering the room contains a deep pit, the prisoner falls asleep. He awakens to find he's been strapped to a wooden board. Above him hangs a pendulum, shaped like a crescent and razor sharp. The pendulum swings back and forth progressing slowly toward the prisoner's heart.

While I gazed directly upward at it (for its position was immediately over my own) I fancied that I saw it in motion. In an instant afterward the fancy was confirmed. Its sweep was brief, and of course slow. I watched it for some minutes, somewhat in fear, but more in wonder.

What boots it to tell of the long, long hours of horror more than mortal, during which I counted the rushing vibrations of the steel! Inch by inch — line by line — with a descent only appreciable at intervals that seemed ages — down and still down it came! Days passed — it might have been that many days passed — ere it swept so closely over me as to fan me with its acrid breath. The odor of the sharp steel forced itself into my nostrils. I prayed — I wearied heaven with my prayer for its more speedy descent. I grew frantically mad, and struggled to force myself upward against the sweep of the fearful scimitar. And then I fell suddenly calm, and lay smiling at the glittering death, as a child at some rare bauble.

There was another interval of utter insensibility; it was brief; for, upon again lapsing into life there had been no perceptible descent in the pendulum. But it might have been long; for I knew there were demons who took note of my swoon, and who could have arrested the vibration at pleasure. Upon my recovery, too, I felt very — oh, inexpressibly sick and weak, as if through long inanition. Even amid the agonies of that period, the human nature craved food. With painful effort I outstretched my left arm as far as my bonds permitted, and took possession of the small remnant which had been spared me by the rats. As I put a portion of it within my lips, there rushed to my mind a half formed thought of joy — of hope. Yet what business had I with hope? It was, as I say, a half formed thought — man has many such which are never completed. I felt that it was of joy — of hope; but felt also that it had perished in its formation. In vain I struggled to perfect — to regain it. Long suffering had nearly annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind. I was an imbecile — an idiot.

Our pregnancy with Isaac was like this. We waited for the pendulum to fall. We hoped. We chided ourselves for hoping. Some days I prayed for it to end quickly, for the pendulum to descend.

The prisoner doesn't die. The rats in the dungeon chew through the strap holding him to the wooden board and he is free — in one sense of the word. Much like Isaac's birth set us free. We were free from watching the swing of the pendulum (the ups and downs of our many doctor appointments). We were free from our hope that felt in vain. We weren't freed from what lay ahead — the agony of grief.


This post was going to be too long, so I'll post the second half later. I hope I didn't bore you readers with my English lesson. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What I'm thankful for in '09*

My family has a tradition at Thanksgiving. After dinner we sit around the table and say one thing that we're thankful for. I didn't want to do that this year. I wasn't ready, but now I am.

I'm thankful for ...

Isaac - His 2 days of life taught me more than my 27 years. I've been living better since he left us. What a sweet child.

CJay - I desperately love CJay. In my weakest moment, he gave me strength. He kept me focused when we had to make the toughest decisions about our child's life. He makes me laugh and laughs at me. He's always kind and sensitive, even when he's exhausted. Not only is he extremely intelligent, but he's also practical, rational, and patient. There's no way I could have made it through 2009 without him.

My parents - Loyal. Thoughtful. Loving. Godly. Are they the perfect? No. But they gave me the skills to wade through this difficult year. They taught me what is most important in life, and when I held Isaac in my arms, I was thankful they had warned me just how much I would love him. I know they miss him too.

Seth (my older brother) - He confided in me about how excited he was to meet Isaac. He was there with us when Isaac died, making us laugh, playing music for Isaac on the iPhone, and keeping us all sane (or insane?). He stepped up and made decisions about the memorial service, the casket, the flowers, and much more. He took pictures of my postpartum butt, and he pointed and laughed when my hospital gown wasn't closed. He lives up to his big brother role quite well.

Devin (my younger bro) - I wrote an essay in college about Devin called "The Gentle Giant." I still think of him that way. He's so tenderhearted. He would have made an exceptional uncle to Isaac. I remember last Christmas when Devin put his mouth close to my pregnant belly and made animal noises for Isaac just so he would kick. I know Isaac would have loved Devin like I do.

CJay's parents - Bill and Connie are two of the most generous and sensitive people I know. CJay and I both wanted to protect them from the pain of losing Isaac. We worried about what it might do to them. They gave so much of their time to Isaac before he was born. Painting and hanging curtains and ironing and washing and assembling. They did and would still do anything we asked. I feel fortunate to have such caring and kind in-laws.

Those who cried with us - It meant so much to know that we had friends who were grieving with us. Thanks for keeping us close in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks for loving Isaac even if you didn't know him.

* In no particular order.