So I’m a stay at home mom now. It’s not something I had planned on, but with Colette’s complex medical journey, staying home became the obvious and only choice. It’s hard but I really do love it. However I am going a little crazy. I'm not stir crazy, but like, if I’m gonna stay home I’m gonna stay the fook home. I’m doing this thing.
I’m reading books about plants and cooking and getting into it. In a dream world I would like to be in either the middle of a city or in the middle of nowhere. Which is why I’m in the suburbs. Best of both? Or of neither? Or something? I don’t know but I could move to a farm right about now, were it not for Trever’s work. I’m sure there’s a rip roaring fashion industry in Paso Robles, no? But then there's the fact of his general indoorsyness that may not be suitable to farm life. **Which spell check just changed to farm wife which is a mother cussing sign if there ever was one!
But for now the farm will come to me. I live in a neighborhood built in the early 1900s, so unlike a lot of coastal southern California we have yards. Not just patios. My house is the size of a motorhome squared, but I’ve got an orange tree so I’m winning. We’ve built some garden beds with radish and butter lettuce babies growing inside. I thought they were taking too long and surely had died young, but I just saw a little green sprout and got reaaal happy about it.
Also nothing and no one is spared from my antics. Like Trever and his office for example. After getting large empty egg cartons from local restaurants (like a freak) I planted kale, leek and lettuce seeds in them and left them in Trever’s office to sprout. His office now smells a little like dirt but it sort of already did so whatever. When he tastes that crunchy fresh kale, half eaten by a squirrel, he’ll remember why he married me.
Everyone I talk to who has had a go at gardening, tells me how hard it is. All the bugs and squirrels and birds and fungus. But I’m in the honeymoon phase right now. New love is blooming and I have lofty dreams of our future together. I can see it now - all of us happily chomping on cabbages, not a care in the world.
My plant babies are part of my weird mom routine. I slip on my berkenstocks over my socks and tighten my robe, squinting my eyes at the sun I adjust my glasses and pull my hair back into a messy bun to water my herbs and garden bed, then grabbing a clump of chocolate mint to deeply inhale on my way inside. Motherhood suits me. Trever probably agrees.
Sometimes I think about poor Colette. What will she say about me? Not only am I wearing socks under by berks but I’m permanently displaying the inside of my brain on the world wide web. Actually she probably won’t care, future Brooke will super care. She’s like, “sshhhh” from 30 years away.
Speaking of being crazy. Trever and just decided I need to take some time for myself to read, think, write, and become normal again. I think it’s a pretty good idea.
My friend Annette once said to me that having kids saved her from herself. At the time the only thing I heard in that statement, was that it would take me from myself. I heard the negative of what I would lose for this opaque gain of mothering, or more precisely, of loving. In giving up part of ourselves to another, there is loss. I don’t have a job anymore. I don’t think as deeply. I write less. I read less. I interact less. My days feel mundane sometimes. I feel isolated sometimes. I feel small. I’m tired. I feel simple. And I hate to say it, but on bad days I feel trapped.
I was talking to a friend once about marriage. He was so disinterested in it because it just sounded hard. He rattled off all that seemed difficult, the required selflessness, the loss of independence, all the effort it is to maintain, the 50%. I remember thinking, well ya, that’s all there, but you’re missing the goodness of it. The love. Maybe you don’t know it until you know it, but when you do, all the work is nothing. The love, as I understand it, bears the weight of all the toil.
From Annette I just heard that mothering might keep me from myself, from simple pleasures, from part of my happiness. I didn’t take into account what it would save me into. It’s a bit of a risk, by choice or not, to lose simple goodness for strenuous greatness. It’s an act of “dying into life.”
Maybe our lives are made up of a bunch of tiny deaths that lead to greater life. Everything is reflective of what it is to live. The acts of emptying ourselves in exchange for connection, for purpose, for holiness, brings us closer to heaven on earth. We start to see a pattern, that when we lose part of ourselves to love, what we gain in return is to truly live. It’s inception. It’s a ton of tiny analogies for life inside this life, that even in heart stopping death, we are simply coming to greater life.
It’s better to lose ourselves to love than to own ourselves. It’s a big blaring sign for belief if we see it, by the grace of the cross, death leads to life within this life, and so, it will keep leading to life beyond it.
For those that have the eyes for it, it is the gospel on repeat in our lives. In both big and small ways, loss of parts of ourselves to sacrificial love, whatever the form it takes, truly and completely saves us from ourselves and saves us into life.
Thank God I'm not made for me. Thank God for Colette.
I was walking from my parked car with my mind still spinning at the quick pace I maintain when doing things like unloading Colette and all of her accessories from my car. Have mercy, do babies need accessories. I used to judge moms while thinking, just have less stuff, people in Africa don’t need all of this (always a sound and educated argument, or whatever). It was our first beach trip, which meant walking down the boardwalk while she slept in her stroller. She is still easily over stimulated because of all that time in a temperature, light controlled 10x10 room, so we’re taking it easy on the new experiences. I turned the corner to arrive on the boardwalk, looked out at the sparkling water for the first time in almost seven months and it hit me. I felt really happy.
For the past month since coming home, I have felt really flat. I felt a lot in the hospital but in bizarre soul wrecking ways, then after there was nothing. I'm coming back to normal and realizing how mixed up I was. I feel like I'm just now thawing out. The expectation was to be all mended once the hospital was over. I thought that with a rush, the moment we walked out of the hospital, I could be back to myself. I didn’t expect residual effects to creep into my new life at home. I don’t think I quite understood the toll the last 5 months had taken on me.
Are you surprised by my surprise? Me too. The self is the hardest to see I guess.
This is why my celebration felt off. I could be walking down our street with Colette in her stroller doing exactly what I had dreamed of for all those months in the hospital, I would look around me and think, I’m so happy - just think it. It was completely cognitive. I hadn’t had that tingly feeling I get when I think about all the things that could be, like a fun trip, or a good new book, or dinner with friends. I never felt completely relaxed the way I used to when I took a bath or did yoga. I never felt energized from a good run or accomplishing all my goals for the day. I just felt flat. I had the memory of the feelings from these experiences so I would paste the knowledge of the correlating feelings on and figured all was normal, except a little not normal.
But today at the beach I felt the first whiff of real joy. I’m coming back to myself, my new self anyways. The last couple of years did some things to me that will always be. In all the joy I’ll eventually return to, there will always that temporality. I don’t think I’ll forget how fragile it all is, or how likely it is that we’ll hit tragedy and pain again. So celebration will always be for this moment. Second, I’ll always think of those who never got bailed out. I had significant pain, but for the most part I have had relief. Colette survived with little lifelong repercussions so I’m healing from a bad experience that ended. But others have to heal without the relief of circumstances. I think about that all the time. I think about how one day that will be me.
On a lighter note I have more oranges on my tree than there is champagne in the world and what else are oranges for? My sourdough starter is barely surviving but I plan to pick up my bread making again. Also, we re-did our bathroom during the hospital stay, because when life is crap why not move into a Best Western Plus for two weeks? But now that we’re finished with our house we’ll take some pictures and show before and after.
Also, I went to the gym and I was remembering the last time I properly ran. It was the day before our IVF appointment to implant the embryo that would become Colette. I remember thinking about how it was the last time I would run with abandon for a while. I had to spend my pregnancy with caution and fear. This was my time back, I could just run as fast as I wanted without concern for anyone else. I could finally let all that anxiety out with deep breaths and aching muscles. I love that feeling. So I did it. I ran a twelve minute mile and almost puked. Wait, what?
Expectations > Reality.
Lastly, I have just begun reading after not picking up a book since Colette was born. I could have read an entire library’s worth of books in the time I sat in the large green hospital chair staring at a wall. I could have learned French. I could have crocheted a blanket the size of a mini-van. But for whatever reason I couldn’t do any of it. So now I need book recommendations. Also, on the list of Obama’s books he recommended for 2017 was A Gentlemen Moscow. Which I read! So it’s like we were in same place. Not at the same time but we were both there. He also liked Chance the Rapper’s, “First World Problems”, which I liked. I’m just gonna say what I’m thinking, Obama would probably like me. Anyways, book recommendations would be great.
P.S. I really want Colette to like being outside but she mostly just squints and gets grumpy at how bright it is. Trever's an indoor guy if you know what I mean. I'll tell you what I mean, he wears suede designer boots and skinny jeans when he goes to the beach. I will not allow Colette be her own person in this regard. She will not inherit indoorsyness. I will force her to like the beach if it's the only thing I do for her, because the main reason I had a kid was so I could have someone to go to the beach with.
P.S.S. As we can all assess per this post, clarity of mind and linear thinking has not yet returned to me. Maybe it's time for a new hobby.
I should be sleeping. "Sleep while the baby sleeps." But my sister Hayley sent me these photos that she took of us. They make me so happy I can't sleep. I'm so tired but so happy. That's the definition of motherhood isn't it?
Last year, this week, we had our first ultrasound. Because of our infertility I had an elevated sense of fear that we would lose our baby to miscarriage. I wasn’t fully celebrating pregnancy because I was so convinced it would end tragically. This first ultrasound would be the point I could finally let myself take a breath. The appointment went well, the ultrasound tech was really positive and we left with the first sense of relief we had felt for a long time. A few hours later on our way to my in-law’s we got a call from our doctor with the news of Colette’s omphalocele.
With it came a risk of genetic abnormalities, congenital heart disease and underdeveloped lungs. I was sitting at the table for Christmas dinner while holding my phone under the table and spiraling down into the google pit of information. I was a wax figure that night, forming my face up into a smile and hoping it would hold. I held it together until we got in the car, and then I cried, a loud animal cry that I couldn’t control. I remember lying in bed that night and becoming so overwhelmed that I thought I would be sick, so I focused completely on breathing in and out. With each breath I remember praying, “I need you,” until I finally fell asleep.
We went to the mountains the weekend after for Christmas with my family. We were all trying to be positive but the fear was saturating everything. I remember my laugh even sounded fake and felt separate from me. Internally I was spinning in chaos. I wasn’t present in any experience because I was processing worse case scenario and begging God for mercy. At our new years party I was pasting on smiles and having pleasant conversation while my mind was living in really deep grief and fear. Not many people knew yet so everyone was celebrating our pregnancy, while its very existence was my nightmare. Each mention of it and congratulatory hug was a reminder. It was the deepest loss looming over so recent a blossom of love.
Even thinking back on it I feel sick to my stomach. The fear is still palatable. Anniversaries of experiences might be the way I’m forced to process this last year. Bit by bit I’ll feel the darkness of that particular moment again, remember the pain, grieve what was lost, review how it changed me, and maybe learn to accept it all. This day a year ago I remember feeling half alive, both numb and painfully awake.
Now looking back a year later, it was all so much harder than I could have imagined at the time. The fear, the pamphlet the genetic counselor gave me, the encouragement to terminate, the heart diagnosis, months of begging for a miracle, watching her go after delivery, months in the hospital, x-rays, infections, kissing her goodby in the O.R., breathing machines, doctor’s worried faces, medications, the recovery, the love, the fear.
Colette is in her room sleeping right now. She has her chubby arm draped over her chubby cheek. It was so hard because she was so worth it.
A year ago my perfect plans for life were shattered. I’ll never regain the blissful ignorance that life will go as planned. I think about the future differently, I live today differently, I’m darker and deeper and brighter all the same. 2017 was the worst and best year of my life. I’m writing this when I should be packing for the mountains for Christmas with my family. Colette will stare at all her cousins being crazy and loud as my family has always been. I’ll genuinely smile. My laugh will be mine. I’ll be present to the moment. And by the grace of God, Colette will be there with me.
So cheers to 2018
Here’s to hoping for better days ahead, to letting fear go, to celebrating each moment in the moment, and in spite of the loss that defines this life, to loving.
I thought the hospital would be this phase that would exist and then would end. That I would come home from that unfortunate time and be who I was with a baby in tow. Of course I never thought we would be there five months and I never thought we would almost lose her. Except maybe I did think those things, I just blocked that out and figured I would survive it and then return to Brooke when it ended. No matter how it ended.
Colette had a follow up appointment with her cardiologist yesterday. During the appointment I watched her laying on the bed that I laid on just nine months earlier when we got such horrible news that she had major congenital heart disease, potentially incompatible with life. Yesterday she was just staring at the echo screen and the doctor was making light-hearted small talk and just five minutes after he started he finished by saying, “everything looks great.” Nine months ago I sobbed in that room. Trever and I both did, the doctor had to leave the room so we could break down and pull ourselves together enough to make it to the car. Nine months ago I had stared at that same echo screen playing out what it would look like to lose our baby girl. I also experienced a miracle in that room when her diagnosis got reversed. “Woops, we got a bad angle.” Yesterday I looked up at the ceiling tiles I had stared at 9 months ago with all that nausea and fear swirling around. I looked up at them and I looked down at her and I held it together just long enough to make it to my car.
Because all is well. The people around me are celebrating Colette in ways that make me weak with gratitude. No one is tired of her story. They keep applauding her miracle and I’m humbled. They help me celebrate. Because the dark truth of it is that sometimes it’s hard for me to celebrate. I’ve come out of the hospital and our whole family is different. Colette is just representative of how we’re all slowly healing and weaning off our survival drugs (her: morphine / me: a stiff upper lip). I’m learning the new me as all the strength wears off and the leftover pain settles in. I can’t figure out how to feel less afraid. I have a short fuse that once was long. I have low energy that gets me just barely to the end of the day. With every celebration of our miracle I grieve with those who were left with tragedy. It’s weird and dark. I expected candy canes and silver lanes when the reality is that I celebrate with a remaining shadow. I suppose it’s that dark truth that life is unpredictable and I can’t unlearn that lesson. Or it’s a delayed response to all the pain. Or it’s the baby girl that was our NICU neighbor who is still there without a predictable end date. There is a heaviness to my being that won’t slough off. Or maybe it’s a realism that will never go away, I have a new view of life that will always carry with it the truth of pain.
I’m learning this new part of me, discovering new scars and making peace with them. But I’m celebrating every second with her too. Every time we sit in the backyard and she stares at the sky. Or every walk we take and she dozes off in her stroller. Or every time we have friends over and we peacefully have dinner with her in our laps. Every bit of it is a celebration.
You’re part of what is helping me celebrate. Thank you for applauding and crying and sending happy emoticons and warm meals. I try and follow that secret social media protocol, not too many picture, less baby photos, don’t try so hard, etc. etc. Well I used to, and now I just post too many photos and even though I’m a bit uneven you’re helping me see the brightness in it all. Thanks for loving her. Thanks for getting excited over all my ridiculous mom posts. It means so much, especially right now while I learn my new self. You're our cheerleaders and I didn't realize how much we needed it. Thanks.
I’ve been silent on here for a really long time. Silent because I had nothing to say. I don’t have a treasure chest full of profound thoughts that have been accumulating over the time I’ve been living in the upside down. I thought that’s how it would be. These last couple of years have been so difficult and through it I’ve learned a lot and had so much to say along the way. But that was the kiddie pool. It was the time where I was keeping my head above water, finding my feet after each new wave. I didn’t realize that there would be a point where I would become overwhelmed and resort to tucking my head, pulling in my arms and legs and becoming just moving sediment in the ebb and flow of crashing waves.
I’ve had a few epiphanies. But not really. I’ve just been surviving. And there is nothing poetic to say about that. I have no deep thoughts about what it does to your faith to walk passed a prayer room in a children’s hospital every day and see sobbing parents as desperate as me for a miracle. In the stinging moments when we thought we were losing her I had no beautiful and miraculous peace. I'm not sure how to make peace with seeing two friends lose a child in the five months we were scrambling to save ours. I don't know what to do with the empathy I have for God, for as greatly as we love our children it must break him to watch us suffer. Maybe as I look back I’ll have some thoughts about it all. But for now I’m not sure what to say, so much happened but it was all swirling and chaotic. Maybe when it all settles I'll see a little more clearly.
But that’s all for another day because today I went for a walk. Colette is home and it has been the biggest relief of my life. She's cute and chubby and mellow and I love not having to say goodbye. The leaves in my neighborhood have all turned and are starting to decorate the sidewalk with autumn colors. Colette was sleeping peacefully in her stroller and the sun was just warm enough to make the cool breeze comforting. I’m typically a futuristic person, until I learned that life doesn’t play out the way you plan it to. So I’m getting better at appreciating the moment without the fear or hope of what tomorrow will be. And today the weather was truly perfect. As are Colette’s blue eyes and chubby cheeks. I woke up in the morning and pulled her out of her bassinet and into bed. I made dinner while she napped in her room. We’re all starting to heal a little bit and it sort of feels like I’m coming back to life. Maybe there will be things to say later, but for now I just wanted to say, thank you. There was a lot of darkness in the last five months but a spot of brightness was the kindness of the people around us. So, thank you, it made a difference.
We're surviving, if you’re wondering. So much has changed and my life looks really different than it did just two months ago. I love being outside and being active but now I sit in a chair all day inside a fluorescently lit room. I love travelling and going new places but for now I have the exact same routine every single day. I love my friends but I’m currently alone the majority of the time. I like my work and I just quit last week, which I sobbed over for a day straight while dramatically uttering - who am I?
But that’s nonsense really because Colette will be ok and some people would kill to sit in a comfy chair all day and binge watch Glee. Yes, Glee. Trever threatens me often with angry words over the fact that our daughter might like musicals due to this recent addiction. But, DGAF. So what if her favorite childhood movie is Newsies. People who like Newsies are really. cool. people.
As far as a medical update, it has been drama. Post surgery, Colette started eating and got to about half of where she needed to be to go home when she suddenly stopped tolerating her food. So they did a contrast study with an x-ray and found that once again her stomach is kinked and there is no food passing through. So surgery again. But first they have to wait for her bowels to completely heal from her last surgery, which would put us back in the O.R. in about a month. So for now we wait.
Every time things start going well, in my head I subconsciously move out of the hospital and prep for coming home, only to hit another block in the road and find that my fragile, flickering light at the end of the tunnel has just tragically gone out. So I have to re-adjust myself and settle back into hospital life. It usually takes about a day and involves a lot of crying. You should know my lane of emotional homeostasis is very narrow. All of this crying is very distressing.
But also, she’s growing up and getting so cute. She coos and smiles and holds her head up like a champ. She has a super mellow personality and doesn’t really fuss much. She has strong eye contact and has inherited my big eyes and thus a resting shocked face. In her photos people comment, “the Brooke look”. For the rest of her life people will think she is perpetually surprised and for the rest of her life she will probably feel perpetually mellow.
I’m trying hard not to miss it. I think constantly - I can’t wait until Christmas because we should be home by then and this will all be over. But then she’ll be six months old and her little baby phase will be over. I don’t want to spend those few precious moments wishing I was somewhere else. So I’m settling back into the hospital way of life.
We’ll be ok and that's my update for now.
P.S. this is a light-hearted post. I also have majorly depressing thoughts due to daily walks through the lobby of a children’s hospital, but I’ll save those for later and it might do you good to avoid them.
Kids are going back to school now. I’ve missed the summer. It’s a weird feeling to have an entire season pass you by and feel as though you have been stagnant the whole time. I feel like I’ve gone away to live in a bubble and social media has allowed me to peak into the life I would be living were I not in such a bubble. We haven’t seen our friends in 7 weeks and I’ve left the city of Orange only twice. I come home and sleep and then head back to the hospital where I feel trapped and yet it’s the only place I want to be. I feel so deeply alone and yet the idea of seeing people sounds really exhausting. So for now our friends and family support us through prayer, text messages and baskets of food that keep showing up.
My nephew was in a NICU for a bit and my sister’s nurse said to her - even though there is no clear end date, today we are one day closer to it. This helps me. You know if you’ve ever done distance running what hitting the wall feels like? Well the only way passed that is a choice to change your mental focus. You have to stop thinking about the finish line because that’s what is so overwhelming, you have to focus completely on the next step and that’s it. One more step. Then after a while you’ll start calming down, breathing more rhythmically, your muscles will stop panicking and eventually you’ll look up again and settle back into the pattern of the race.
I’ve hit the wall so many times. It’s the first time in my life where I’ve thought to myself - I don’t think I can do this, I don’t know how to keep going. But I’ve gotten pretty good at calming myself down just enough to make one more day bearable, and so we keep going and we’re starting to look up a bit.
Colette is doing better and has healed from surgery and her infection. I knew it was bad in the moment when she was so sick but looking back I can’t even believe how bad it actually was. It’s a black whole of chaos and grief and I can’t even remember much of it. The feelings come back to me though, when I see the few pictures we have of her during that time and I can hardly believe we all pulled through.
Days are brighter now though. She is starting to eat again and for the most part keeping everything down. Today she takes 8cc’s every three hours…we go home when she gets to 40cc’s. One step at a time.
When we almost lost her, surviving the NICU got put in perspective. I’ll spend all the time we need to in the that sterile room because we are starting to the see the flicker of what might be the light at the end of this crazy long tunnel.
I need a nap. And also a lot of sunshine and fresh air. And also potentially some therapy.
Thank you for all the continued love, support and prayers - it is what’s getting us through.
Also please forgive my writing...my mind is spaghetti.
Hello. Sorry about the radio silence.
I figured I would give a little update but I don’t know where to begin. Everything is in contrast. I feel like I’ve lived a million lives since July 4th and yet also like it’s been one long day. My world has shrunken down into a tiny NICU room and at the same time has expanded beyond what I could have previously imagined. The NICU is so much harder than I thought it would be but only because Colette is so much more to me than I thought she could be. This explosion has left me wordless and incapable of processing at the speed in which I'm experiencing things.
But I'll do my best to give a update. The short version is that we had a scheduled C-section for July 6th. In between a pool party and a BBQ on July 4th Trever and I went home to take a nap which lead to a quick check-up at the hospital where I suddenly started contracting. They planned to monitor me overnight and sent Trever home to get our things and in the 30 minutes he was gone I had progressed so far that we were being wheeled into the O.R. just minutes after he returned. At 11:45 on July 4th Colette arrived.
I don’t know how to say what it felt like to hear her cry or see her perfect face. Nobody tells you how utterly terrifying it is to love someone that much. Nobody tells you what it’s like to watch your spouse love someone the same fierce way that you do. Nobody tells you that all your other silly dreams pale to colorless when she arrives. Or maybe they do and I just didn’t have a way to hear it.
As far as a medical update we’re still in the NICU. For the first couple of days they were just monitoring her heart. By the end of the first week she was scheduled for heart surgery. I was at home comatose with grief when the cardiologist called to say surgery was cancelled. They decided to re-evaluate her scans with 6 other cardiologists and when they did the majority of cardiologists thought she would be fine without surgery. So they took her off the medication that would reveal if her heart would be ok and as it turns out, it was. We were also told her pulmonary veins were in the wrong place and a scan revealed they weren’t. Oh and her lungs work great which can be a really big problem with baby’s who have Omphalocele. I would like to say this in a more dramatic way so you can understand the relief it was to have such a miraculous turn of events but I don’t have the words.
Then about a week ago she started getting sick with a fever. They couldn't identify the infection and they had her on antibiotics but nothing was working. They started getting concerned that antibiotics weren't reaching the infection which meant blood wasn't reaching the infection which meant she likely had dead bowel. I was sat down in a conference room with the surgeon who told me he was very worried about Colette. He said he was stuck in a bad place between not operating and having her get more sick from infection which would ultimately claim her life, or to open her up and potentially not be able to close her up because the majority of her bowels are only covered with a thin membrane which is hard to sew up. We opted for surgery and she was in the O.R. within an hour.
Rock bottom is when an anthesthesiologist tells you to kiss your daughter goodbye and you walk out of the pre-op room with nothing to do but wait. One big blur and a few hours later the surgeon came and told us she made it through the surgery and all her bowels were healthy. He was able to re-position her bowels to help with food tolerance and the found the infection which was the omphalocele covering itself and then he was able to close her back up. We walked out the waiting room to find our families waiting for us and we all sobbed and breathed a huge sigh of relief. They started her on new antiobiotics and all of her levels are finally dropping showing the infection is finally going away.
The grace of God has been so apparent that my underserving soul can hardly understand it. And yet I’m asking for more. Our big hurdles are to keep her infection numbers dropping, to get her to drain the fluid she is retaining from surgery, then re-starting feeds which we're hoping we have better luck with post-surgery. Once we're in the clear and she's eating she can come home and we won’t have surgery on her abdomen for quite a while. Prayers welcomed.
We get little updates from friends every once in a while about the amount of people praying for us and just about every day baskets of food, warm meals, tiny dresses and stuffed animals show up at our door. When I get my head above water I'll thank you all individually. But know that every prayer and every act of love and support means so much more to us than we could express. Thank you.
Five or six months ago Trever and I had dinner with our friend Kathleen. It was right in the middle of receiving all of the worst news about Colette and we were kind of spinning and emotional. The future was extremely unknown and the encouragement from everyone was to trust God because we would find our peace there. Of course there was no peace in that moment as most grievers know, straight out of the gate is reserved for the roller coaster of anger, grief, confusion, questioning and the like.
I remember I was trying to fix it all. Doing my best to put all my emotions in order and find helpful answers to my questions. Christians in the sunny bright of the day were doing their best to get me to a place of peace with all their encouragement. It was like someone put me in dark room and from the other side of the door people were telling me that I should be able to see light so long as I looked hard enough, because they themselves were seeing the light perfectly fine. So I was grasping for clarity and progressing in no way accept to wear myself out even further.
So, back to Kathleen. Trever and I were processing all that was happening and I remember that she really accepted that we had all these questions and that in fact she was not interested in, or capable of, answering them for us. She understood the truth that these answers would only come by way of a Divine gift. So, she told us to write our prayers and questions down, to accept our incapacity to find answers to our great questions about God and instead ask him to answer them. Essentially throw our hands in the air and in a ‘no vote’ for me, ask for intervention.
I did it. I wrote my prayers down and forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago when I opened it up and read it. I had this bizarre connection to the words because they made so much sense to me. I remember clearly being in the place I was when I wrote those prayers but I don’t think I realized how far I had come since then. It was like I stood against the doorframe and realized that somehow I had grown two inches since the last pencil hash mark and I had no idea it had happened. Here’s a little excerpt:
I haven’t prayed because I don’t know what to say, and probably partly because the only control I have is giving you the cold shoulder for what has happened. I feel like a fool for ever believing you intervene and I feel like a fool for thinking this baby was a miracle. I feel like a fool because I let the pregnancy help me with my unbelief and I shouted it from the rooftops, when in fact just a layer below lie the truth of doubt and confusion that was exposed by the searing affect of pain. I’ve been told to allow you to bring a wisdom and understanding that I can’t gain on my own. It’s a risky game but I suppose it’s all I’ve got.
And then I go on in even less articulate ways to hash through my questions. Pleasant isn’t it?
There is a chapter in Mere Christianity about faith. C.S. Lewis starts out by telling the reader that if they’re not in the place where this chapter makes sense then to just pass it by. The reason being that one can only truly understand some questions and concepts of faith when one is on the other side of them. When we have accepted our bankruptcy and understand that we cannot conjure up answers to questions or brainiac our way to faith, it’s then that we are open in a different way to new forms of understanding. Suffering is one such way of exposing our bankruptcy so that all we have is to open our hands and beg for meaning.
I was talking to my friend Nick about this because I remember meeting with him days after all the horrible doctors appointments. I was badgering him with questions for how to get through everything. I needed a formula so I asked him for books and he laughed and said, “there’s nothing I can give you that will get you through this.” So I asked him how he got through his own suffering because maybe that would give me answers. He responded but not in a very satisfying way, he sort of just said he did. He talked a little about the peace that he came to but it was in another language for all it meant to me.
It wasn't until I read these prayers and reflected on who I am now that I finally understand Nick and Kathleen’s silence. I understand that there was nothing they could say. I understand that there is no formula. I understand I was incapable of understanding. I understand that if they had tried to explain whatever process they have been through it would have been incomprehensible in any real meaningful way, because I could only learn through the release and through the receiving of understanding via nothing but the grace of God. As C.S. Lewis says, “All this trying leads up to the vital moment which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this, I can’t.’ It is the change from being confident about our own efforts to the state in which we despair of doing anything for ourselves and leave it to God.” We typically only get here because we are forced to, but it creates in us a desperation that we would never choose and yet it's the only thing that finally allows us to grow.
I’ve grown a few inches, but of course the truth is I’m quite happy with my current height. I don't want to learn anything in the coming weeks through pain, I want bailed out. I would like to stay at my height for a good long while. I’m grateful for how far I’ve come but would like to take a break. I had really bad growing pains when I was little. I hated them. I will always hate them. But I suppose it's the only way I stopped having the stature of a child.
How is this life what it is? I can’t handle the movement of it. I remember the minute before I walked down the aisle at my wedding and wanting so desperately to take the moment in and yet knowing full well that I just couldn’t. There was no way to fully understand, embrace and experience the change that was happening. I wanted to feel every little thing, the leaving of one chapter for another. I felt like I was straining to open my eyes really widely to stare intently at the turning of the page so that I realized it and was aware for every second of the turning.
But we can’t soak it in completely. The page turns at its own pace with a ticking movement and then once it's turned we can’t go back really, except to remember. We have to let go to move forward. And so it seems I’m moving into a new chapter and cannot for the life of me figure out how to soak in these last weeks. Trever and I have been married for almost nine years and it’s all we know. It sounds so silly but it’s blowing my mind that we’ll be a family of 3 in just a two weeks. TWO WEEKS! It has been just us, travelling when we wanted, late nights when we wanted, only the two of us to plan for, deep sleeping, young, married, a family of 2. People try and tell us the changes and feelings we’ll experience but no one can know them until they know them. This is for almost anything in life, no one can tell you what it’s like up ahead until you know. So I sit here with a blurry future certain of nothing but change, thrilled for what's ahead but slightly sad for what we're leaving behind.
I’m not the type to dwell in the past and I tend to like change, it’s just that I know how significant this is and I sort of wish I could slow it all down so I had time to process it. I want to etch it in stone the feelings of pregnancy, to encapsulate this season of life so that I remember every bit of it and be sure that I have felt the whole thing while it’s happening. I’m afraid to let it become a memory. I hope I loved every second of this decade of life, I hope I soaked it in while I had it.
But then who really cares, because I’ll get so see what her face looks like and if she has long fingers like me, or green eyes like Trever. This vacillation is where my mind can spend hours - toggling between thoughts of what will be different, what we’re letting go of and thoughts of what we’re stepping into, what we’ll become and who she’ll be. Of course in any new chapter I never wished to go back, so I know once I'm there I'll be nothing but thrilled. But today I just feel the intensity of the movement.
My sister Hayley texted me and asked me if I’m in the phase where I cry all the time. I wasn’t really but I’m suddenly very raw, I feel every single thing, like all my nerves are fired up on all cylinders. So I’m assuming the tears are around the corner. Tears over change, tears over excitement, tears over fear, tears because I’m hot and need a nap, tears because I’m turning 30, tears because going out to dinner will feel like a treat, but mostly tears because we cannot wait for this new person that will become, in an instant, an inseparable part of who we are.
P.S. I keep having irrational delivery fear in the middle of the night, although it's not because of what you would think. It's things like...people always say, 'pack your hospital bag'. What's a hospital bag? What do people bring? I don't have a bag? Why doesn't anyone tell you what's in the hospital bag? Are there secret mother things that should be in said bag? Should I set a bag out with chapstick and a hair tie? I don't know. If someone could enlighten me that would be great for my REM cycle.
P.S.S. Someone say a prayer for Trever for obvious reasons, most notably paragraph five in this post. Also, the father's day card I gave him read, "Let the great adventure begin." T minus 14 days until the adventure. Woah, let's do this.
So as it turns out high stress levels, international travel and eating out for two months can cause some problems in the ol' bag of bones. Trever and I are trying to remedy those effects, which are played out by high acid causing painful stomach cramps. Drama.
Everyone is always talking about how we have these crazy high acid diets due to overly processed foods with added sodium, too much caffeine and alcohol, low nutrients in plant foods from modern farming practices and blah blah we’re giving ourselves cancer. I cook really healthy but when you’re trying to heal from the damages of an unbalanced pH you gotta get crazy with the alkaline diet, as in not just green salads but green salads and no lemon or vinegar for the dressing. yummmm. Of course lemons and vinegars are ok in a normal balanced diet and over the long term assist in pH balance, but when trying to reverse some acid effects those things are out, aka flavor is out, aka a month of rabbit food.
So here’s what I’m learning:
First, our calcium/magnesium ratios are generally off (too much calcium) which plays into high acid levels. You can take supplements but a great way to absorb magnesium is by taking Epsom salt baths.
Stress adds to an acidic levels. Do yoga. Or say no to things. Or don’t renovate a house.
Drink alkaline water and not coffee. Or maybe replace coffee with a turmeric latte if you’re a real bad ass. Trever and I tried those and lordy are they somethin’ else. It takes some serious commitment to develop a liking for that (1 tsp. Tumeric // 1 tsp. Honey // 3 parts Water // 1 part Almond Milk) Although I haven’t tried it with fresh turmeric only dried, so maybe that will help. Not likely. Another healing option is licorice tea - blerg.
Peanuts are acidic, switch to almond butter. Also avoid dairy, switch to almond milk.
Almond milk is soooo easy by the way. It’s a 1 to 4 ratio of raw almonds to water. Soak the almonds overnight. Drain, then add almonds to water and blend it up real nice. Filter it through cheese cloth and there you have it. To add sweetness, soak dates for an hour and blend them into your milk with a splash of vanilla. This way you don’t have all those weird additives they have in store bought almond milk.
Avoid cereals and grains other than plant-based proteins like quinoa, which is obviously the grossest of all the grains.
Eat any raw fruits and vegetables.
Don’t eat sandwich meat. Actually don’t ever eat sandwich meat, ugh, murderers.
Of course with balance things like lemons, berries, vinegars, eggs and wine (quality of life) can all be added back in. But for now we’ll be having quinoa with avocado and a sprinkle of salt, apples with almond butter, broccoli salad with creamy almond dressing (recipe to come), and I’ll be giving a lot of my sourdough bread away.
If we’re lucky Trever will drop another ten pounds, per his usual response to diets, and our fat cat Grey, Colette and I will keep putting them on. I hope you learned something utterly fascinating from my health related antics, if only that I'm a total nut. Cheers.
I heard a reading the other day which encouraged the Christian to contemplate whether they could truly desire God’s will over their own blessings. It’s such an interesting encouragement to make for a couple of reasons. The first is, of course, the general assumption that a blessing is to be lucky or to have good fortune. This mindset is reinforced by facebook blurbs such as, “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed #childofgod.” I actually saw this post and of course my brain exploded when I read it. It’s such an American Christian way of talking about God’s work in our lives. I wonder if you could get those words out in front of a tortured Chinese Christian, I wouldn’t recommend trying. Blessings can only truly be understood in light of the greater purpose of this life, otherwise we will have a terrible misunderstanding and attribute only our good fortune to God and have quite a confused soul when tragedy inevitably comes our way.
The second is the difficulty of such a task. I think about the way I pray for Colette and wondered momentarily if I was capable of praying for some greater purpose to be accomplished, even if that meant suffering for my unborn daughter. The answer is I’m not, all I can truly desire is her healing. I suppose Jesus prayed for the task of crucifixion to be taken from him. If he could have had it another way he begs for that to be so. Maybe that means we're allowed, or even made, to pray that we are spared life's pain.
Yesterday we went to St. Joseph’s hospital, where we will be delivering, to have a tour of the unit and have a medical conference. It was all quite overwhelming, even looking at the operating room Trever and I were both a little faint…so that should make D-day pretty interesting. Like who catches who? After the tour we sat in a waiting room allowing the blood to make its way back into our brains and discussed the horrible lighting that is itself 90% of why people want to faint in hospitals, the other 10% is the smells and the beeping.
We were then called into a conference room not knowing what to expect and found ourselves at the head of an enormous table surrounded by 15 or so hospital staff. There sat the chief of general surgery, cardiac surgeon, Labor and Delivery charge nurse, NICU director, and a lot of other people I can’t remember. We were not expecting this! They went around discussing their part of the birthing, NICU, transfer, testing, surgery process with kindness and reference to Colette by name. It was simultaneously comforting and terrifying. Comforting that they take this so serious and that we are in very good hands. Terrifying because her condition actually deserves all of this.
They didn’t give us a ton of new information for what to expect after she’s here because basically they don’t know enough until they see her to make any educated guesses. But one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’m going to be your realist. Expect a slow long process and then if it’s shorter you’ll be relieved. This is far better to clinging to expectations of a speedy and easy process and finding yourself disappointed for every day that it drags on.”
So I got home and climbed in bed with a new reality check and slept for two hours. I knew that moment was coming, I had become far too positive over the course of the last couple of months and knew something needed to bring me back down to reality. This was it.
I was asked the other day about my range of emotions as we get closer to delivery – I said 85% excitement and 15% fear, anxiety, stress and general light-headedness (per the florescent lighting in my future). Also nobody asked me this, but I would like the world to know my back hurts and I weigh more than my husband, who by the way has returned from Italy and with tornadic (derivative of tornado which spell check tells me is not a word) energy has put our house together and made it home. People come over and assume I have good taste because I have clearly decorated my house so well and I nod my head until they ask me, “who painted that?” I usually respond with my name for the piece, “oh the blueberry donut? Not sure.” It breaks Trever’s heart, his little color obsessed heart.
Opposites attract as they say, but I digress. At this point we’re one month out from meeting Colette. I want it to come quickly and I want time to slow down too. I want her to be healed quickly and preparing my heart for the long journey that awaits. I want to make almond milk in my new kitchen and I also want to take a nap. I am very even keel these days.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for all your kind responses to my maternity photos. It meant a lot to have so many people celebrating with me. Thank you!
My friend Shannen took maternity photos for me the other week. We drove to Malibu and she had this crazy way of making me feel comfortable while being photographed. I was feeling nervy about it but it ended up being really fun. We were romping around the fields saying, we are Gwyneth, we are Gyweneth, while unknowingly there were tiny little bits of weeds making their way into every segment of our clothing and bags. It was worth it though and I totally sobbed when she sent them to me. I debated doing maternity pictures but I'm glad I did, I'm happy to be celebrating and documenting this crazy season of life.
I use this app that compiles a one second video from every day into what is now a several minute video full of my life. It’s probably really boring to an outsider, but to me each second represents a flood of memories and it makes me really nostalgic and grateful. It also makes me kind of stressed out because I can literally watch my life passing by. There are so many lives I wish I could live, like why am I not a farmer? But that’s a rant for another time.
I was watching the video the other day for the first time in a while and there are certain clips that represent some of our darkest moments this year. There is a hardly noticeable clip of a beach view in Laguna, but I remember the day so vividly. Trever and I had received some really horrible news the week before and we had pretty much stayed home all week. Saturday came along and we still didn’t want to see people but we wanted to get out so we went to Laguna with puffy eyes and had lunch on the water. I remember exactly how it all felt. I was so raw, all the callouses has been ripped off and I was so alive to pain and grief and God in some bizarre ways. The pain was so acute, the fear overwhelming, our unknowable future taunting, and yet somehow in the middle of it there was peace. There was a connection to hope I had never before experienced. There was a proper view of life and what mattered that I wish I could bottle. There were parts of how I felt that I wish I didn’t have to let go of.
But of course we settle in, and when we were once positive we would never feel normal again we do. Human nature is to crawl back to that homeostasis for survival, but sometimes that normalcy is numbing. It makes us complacent. We forget what we learned in the darkness. We forget what matters. Where the veil between us and the divine was thin in tragedy, we find it once again thick and elusive in the mundane. Our longing for the hope of the eternal fades to the background because life feels ok.
I feel this way. Right now I dream a lot about having a kitchen and less dust and more homemade coffee. The day-to-day has captured me and I can remember clearly what occupied my mind just months ago. This is not to say I don’t think often of Colette and melt into a puddle of fear begging for mercy on an hourly basis, but in general my mind has compartmentalized leaving extra room for mostly the mundane. Now all those spiritual practices that were once part of survival have again become disciplines, choices made because they should be made. Now that my happiness feels within grasp I want it more than anything. I think I want it more than the hope that once held me up, well the hope that still does hold me up whether I remember it or not.
Maybe this is human nature that we’re made to find balance and peace. It seems it’s how we survive and yet the flip side is we lose our souls to it, we so easily lose our purpose to complacency and new kitchens. But maybe it’s ok that I rest in this moment of peace seeing as how we're just SIX WEEKS away from meeting baby girl and all that will come with that. I don’t know.
Things to notice in my video– First, anytime my brother-in-law Tyler is in the video he’s flipping me off, which could either be representative of a contentious relationship between the two of us or his general bad attitude regarding documentation in the form of videos. Second, Trever at one point is wearing a facemask, this is actually a regular occurrence post turning thirty. Third, my friend Jessie can complete entire sentences in a one second clip, she believes this is a skill, we just think it’s very loud. Lastly, my cats are very fat; we would appreciate if you would hold off on the judgment as we are currently working very hard on getting them a legitimate diagnosis so as to alleviate us from our responsibility for their obesity. If you know a shady vet hook it up!
Also our kitchen is done today. We all need a good happy cry over this! Pictures to come.
I keep thinking I have nothing to write about but I think it has more to do with the fact that I don’t have space to sit and think. But we’re all bored of hearing about the moving saga so I’ll let that one lie until I can show you before and after photos.
We have just returned from the alternate universe that is vacation. It was perfectly timed and it was absolute bliss. We went to Ojai, Santa Barabara and Los Olivos. We napped every day, stared off in the distance for long periods of time, I read a little, we swam a little, we picnicked at my favorite winery in Los Olivos, we ate dinner at 9pm, and we binged watched really bad TV. I mean, what else is vacation for?
Then within twenty-four hours we left Los Olivos and the zen of the golden hills, came home and started working on the house, went to Hoag hospital to see my newest nephew Rory come into the world and woke up at 6am for a garage sale. Rory is absolutely perfect and no matter how many of my sister’s births I witness (we’re not Mormon) I will never get over what a miracle the whole thing is.
As a side, 6am is apparently not early enough for the garage sale types. People should sleep later on Saturdays, it bothers me that they don’t. But it doesn’t matter anymore because we have decided garage sales are not worth it for the Hoehne’s. Neither Trever or I are in sales for good reason, we sold a washer/dryer set for $15, a BBQ for $10, and after we got bored of it all we just put a big free sign up and went inside. We ultimately got what we wanted though, big annoying things that were taking up space went away.
Then! On Sunday we went to my sister Brittany’s church to see Crosby, her youngest of four, get dedicated (really though we’re not Mormon, we have brown hair). You expect to go to your own church and have everyone tell you how much they’re praying for you and your family. You don’t expect to go to your sister’s church and have people you have never met know you and your unborn daughter by name and tell you that they’re praying for you every day. It was really humbling.
It was also Mother’s Day that day. I felt so celebrated for my mother-to-be status and yet with each reference to the norms of mothering I thought about the abnormal. For the mothers that have been lost, for the empty wombs. I think about them not to pity them or pity myself but because the validation in recognition can bring ease. The pain should be noted in the midst of the good because there always is pain in the midst, as that’s the reality of our world. I celebrate perfect babies being born all around me with real and full joy because it’s really good news. But of course the grief is there. Abnormality is cruel isn’t it?
The funny thing is in the afternoon I had a conversation with my brother-in-law’s sister who had high-risk pregnancies and births. We talked about the abnormal and it took away the loneliness of grief. It was all I needed, to laugh about the normal mom’s who lose their minds over a medication they don’t want to take or not being able to breastfeed for three years. I hope I’m that person for someone one day, the normalizing comforter. In a weird way we’re lucky when we get to be that person for someone. It puts to use our pain, which is the best thing we can ever make of it. Then at least it has a purpose.
Also I got a new doctor. One of the first things he did was ask Colette's name and called her by it the entire appointment. He validated her humanity and it was everything I needed from him. Hallelujah for that.
It’s been rather quiet over here on my blog. I am not cooking so no fun recipes and I have no time to read or think much so I don’t have any particularly interesting thoughts to share. But we moved people! We Moved! Some really generous friends came over and helped us lug our life six blocks from our old place to our new one. We loaded up pretty much everything into our back bedroom and our garage so all we have is a bed. But I made it very cozy so at least there’s that. All of our kitchen appliances are currently in our dining room as the kitchen is down to the studs. The cats are losing their minds and so are we a little bit, but we woke up this morning and wandered around our tiny space dreaming about what it would be. And the really lovely news is that our kitchen will be done in just two weeks thanks to our magician contractor and his team. We’ll be sure to take good before and after photos.
In other news, we had a meeting with our cardiac surgeon today. He said there’s only a 50/50 chance the heart condition Colette has been diagnosed with even exists. Apparently it’s hard to see aortic arches. If the condition is present it’s a very common and uncomplicated surgery and they might even be able to go through an incision in her back. He was very unconcerned and we left a meeting with a doctor feeling buoyant, which is a new experience.
I feel lighter recently and excited to meet her. I feel hopeful that’s we’ll all make it through this with some scars but a ton of strength. By the grace of God we are seeing miracles happen in her tiny body and we are getting through it all with peace and an unexpected joy.
Sometimes I have moments of sadness when I remember that this isn’t normal. I walked into target and saw a cute little baby outfit and thought how bizarre it was that I haven’t bought anything for her. I remember that my celebration is tentative, that it almost makes me sad to have joy because it reminds me that I might have to let go. But we’re celebrating in ways that don’t feel overwhelming. My sisters, my mom and I did a spa day and Glen Ivey for a mini celebration. Some friends are taking me to a fun lunch at Pelican Hill. I was in a team meeting at work and all my co-workers stood around me and prayed for me and I sobbed because I suppose I believe in prayer. The amount of people that reach out to me and remind me they are praying daily for Colette could make me sob in this café I’m sitting in. Our people are celebrating joyfully with us in just the ways we need them to and they are very tangibly a source of strength in moments of weakness. For all of this I am so grateful.
This is all to say that in the chaos we’re quite irrationally ok.
That’s all for now, more to come.