Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spontaneous Abortion

Since the medical, and insurance worlds live on definitions. Let's speak clinically.

Abortion: Death of the fetus or passage of products of conception (fetus and placenta) before 20 wk gestation.
Late Abortion between 12 and 20 wk gestation.

Nov 19 2010, according to my medical records, I had a late term spontaneous abortion.  I was at my 16 week check up.  I went to the appointment alone; Chris had class and work, and it was a routine 4 week check up with my midwife.  We had decided if our baby was a girl, we would name her Claire. Claire Elise Cope.  While I had initially been overwhelmed by the idea of having 3 kids so close together, I had become very attached to this baby and pregnancy.  I had very recently received a priesthood blessings promising me that the baby was going to continue to grow and be strong.  I had asked for a blessing, because my kids had been sick and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to have the energy to provide them with the care they had needed.  I remember finding it odd, that this promise had come to me, because I hadn't been worried about the pregnancy at all, just my constant tired pregnant mom with a 3 year old and 1 year old state needing energy and patience with sick kids.

Appointment day, I walk in and say hello to my midwife, Guy Cox. He pulls out the ultrasound machine and we get going. Minutes pass. More jelly. Small talk. A furrowed brow.  How am I feeling?  Have I had any pain or noticed anything amiss?  No, I answer. I’m feeling great.  Everything seems to be by the book.  He refers me to a doctor at the hospital.  He wants to be certain, but he can’t find a heartbeat.  He worries about the size of my baby.  It isn't measuring as large as it should at this time.  I look down at my body.  I have certainly grown.  I've been showing for quite some time now, and he is so reassuring that I nod, and make the drive to the hospital.  I call Chris. Something is wrong with the pregnancy. They aren't certain yet. Can he meet me soon?

I am called into the dr office.  It's colder here. I've never met this man before, but he's much older, and seems more clinical and rough around the edges than my midwife for sure.  It takes him seconds to confirm what my midwife spent about 20 minutes trying to conclude. My baby is dead.  My baby has been dead for quite some time. Around 13-14 weeks he surmises.  What?!
He gives me my options. I can elect to go home and give my body more time to figure out that the pregnancy is no longer viable, and have a very painful and possible incomplete delivery at home. In my bathroom most likely. Or, he can admit me, and they can start things now. He promises me an epidural and that I won't feel any pain.  It will be safer, because they will perform a D&C following the passing of the baby.  He is as kind as he can be.

Definition time:
Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus. Doctors perform dilation and curettage to diagnose and treat certain uterine conditions — such as heavy bleeding — or to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage or abortion.  

I'm 26. I have had 2 full term pregnancies, and have miscarried two pregnancies already. They were both around 6-8 weeks.  It was more like a very heavy period than labor.  I'm assured doing this at home will be much more painful than what I've experienced in the past. And that I may not pass everything on my own since I'm so far along, and may need to come in anyway for the D&C.

We elect to be admitted.  I am given medication to start contractions. My mom arrives from Salt Lake. She has left her job early and come to be by my side. My mom had 6 live births, and lost 3 of her children as well.  She comes to stand as a witness to my pain, to hold my hand-attempting to share my sorrow, my grief, and the physical and emotional nightmare ahead of me.  I am not given the epidural I was promised. The dr instructions are missing his signature and he is in surgery.  Hours pass. Contracts worsen.  I am amazed that the pain of labor this early is just as horrible as when I had Ava at 39 weeks.  I hate labor.  My mom, a kind and patient person, is yelling at the nurses and staff. Where is my epidural. I should not be in this pain.  The forms are signed.  I am given my epidural.  It slowly begins, but before I lose all feeling, there is a rush.  My body stops contracting. I look at the nurse and say quietly, shaking, "something just happened."
I have given birth. With no doctor at my bed. She lifts the blanket and confirms that the baby has been delivered.  I lose myself in the reality of what is happening. What has happened. What happened weeks ago.  They bring over a small cloth; it looks no bigger than a wash cloth. They ask if I want to see the baby.  I can't. I'm too lost in the drugs and the grief and the shock of the day.  I nod. I cry. I do not remember what they did with my baby.  The dr arrives and apologizes that his surgery held him from us for so long.  He was saving a baby, saving a mom too, while my dead baby was being 'born?'  He performs a D&C and clears me.  As soon as the epidural wears off I can be discharged.  They assess that our baby had been a girl.  They can make fairly educated guess as to why the pregnancy failed, but they'll never know 100% for sure.  Her intestines were growing outside of her body.  They assure me, it's better this way. While some babies are born with this condition full term, their lives are painful and difficult and the condition cannot always be reversed and some die anyway.  This is told to me, in a reassuring tone.  It's better this way.  It's a kindness. It's the body's way of stepping it and saying-something's wrong, let's try again and next time we'll get it right.

My husband and I go home to our two healthy, beautiful children; we are shattered.  The grief weighs us down and we begin to drift. Hour by hour, day by day...month by month.  It lingers. The fear. The anger. The confusion.  I receive my insurance statement and on it reads:
Spontaneous Late Term ABORTION

While you, reader, may read or hear and understand my experience as a miscarriage, to the medical world, to the insurance world, to the GOVERNMENT, I had a late term abortion.  This realization stung and sent me spinning through more grief. More pain. More anger. More self loathing.  It is only in the most recent of time that I appreciate the gift that is having had this option available to me.  Without the laws that permitted this, I may have been sent home knowingly carrying a dead baby.  For two weeks my body continued to grow, and appear pregnant.  My body hadn't yet recognize that something had gone horribly wrong.   How much longer would it have taken?  Would it have made me ill?  Would I have had to endure all the pain and shame and guilt on my bathroom floor?  Would some of the tissue remained causing infection?  Would my children have had to watch my process in confusion and sadness?  Thankfully I do not have to wonder. Because this option WAS available. Because of this experience, and the myriad of emotional and mental and physical turmoil, I can tell you, this decision should NEVER belong to anyone outside of the woman and her doctor.  You cannot and should not get to judge or decide for another person what is best for them.  For their health. For their emotional health.  You may read this and say, well your baby was already dead-it's not the same.  I'm telling you, it is.

The insurance and medical and government world need very clear language. They need permission from laws to provide safe, sterile, medical care when things go wrong. For me, a dead baby is what went wrong. For the woman in the next room, her 'thing' that went wrong may be very different.  But I can tell you, it's not our place to decide for her.  You cannot carry this grief. It's never an easy, black and white decision with no consequence.  I do not love abortion. But I love that I did not have to endure this on my own.  I am not pro choice because I want to kill babies.  I am pro choice, because at one time, I needed what is medically termed, an abortion.  I still grieve her.  Every day I notice her missing from our lives.  I didn't tell many people about knowing our baby had been a girl. It made the experience too real.

 I was told when I started telling people about our pregnancy with the twins six months later, that God was giving us our baby back.  This statement was horrifying.  No matter if you think this is true, this statement is a painful and never helpful one to make-just so you're aware to never say this sort of thing to someone who is pregnant after losing a prior prengnacy.  This new pregnancy wasn't a do-over.  It wasn't God righting a horrible tragic wrong. No. I was not getting her back.  I was having boys.  Identical boys.  Identical boys who 1/2 way through the pregnancy I was once again given the option to abort due to severe TTTS.  Because of CHOICE, I was able to elect to not abort. We fought- Chris, the twins, the very talented and skilled medical teams and I, along with God and a legion of Heavenly help, and we brought those boys safely and healthy (for the most part) into our lives.  

It has been nearly 6 years.  I have four beautiful, exhausting, loving children.  We have our struggles, and most of the time I am so certain I could have never handled life with more. But I do feel her here with us.  Missing.  Ava longs for a sister, and sometimes I wonder if she remembers somehow deep within her, that we had promised her that she was getting one.  I sometime wonder at what point she'll be ready to hear that she very nearly did have one. Not today though. No, I'm not ready yet either.  Maybe when she becomes a mother? Or struggles to become one.  Maybe then I'll find the strengh my own mother had, to stand at her side, holding her hand and watching her tears and share our stories. Even then I hope I understand, and I ask of you to understand that you can never understand another person's experience wholly enough to judge. Even as a fellow miscarriage/abortion receiving person. You do not know the depth of another's circumstance or story. Life your life. Judge your life. Not ours.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Kirtland 2004

Russ' family has taken a cross-country church history tour this summer, and stopped in Kirtland. I commented that it's my favorite, because it brought Chris to my door.  They wanted more details and so I figured writing it here would be the easiest.  Try not to get lost, this story has a lot of characters and far more details than people other than me could care about and it was 12 years ago so some of the specifics are not so specific----But it's my story, so I'm putting in everything I can remember.

In 2004, I had just finished my 2nd semester of college, was coming up on my 20th birthday and was in an off/on relationship with a boy from home.  We'd been together almost a year, and I was crazy about him. He had flown out to see me at college, and I had taken a road trip with roommates back home on break to see him. Somehow we made it work from across the country.  However, we started talking about the future, probably because my roommates were getting married, and realized it couldn't work. He was from a very Catholic family, and had taken the discussions, grown a testimony of his own.  He was a freshmen in college and had great plans about where his life was going.  Ultimately, and it came down to choosing me & the church, or his family. In the end, he chose his family, which took me years to fully understand.  I was too young to realize what an incredibly difficult cross roads he had found himself.
We had broken up, and then gotten back together over and over for four months.  We would talk about how we shouldn't be together, because we knew we would never end up married.  He didn't want me giving up the temple.  I will always be so grateful to him for telling me this.  We kept falling back together though, and then we'd realize it was just as painful to be together as apart. My heart was torn and I found myself very lost and confused.  I found own heart trying to chose between a boy I loved very much, and my testimony. I was searching the scriptures and praying and then trying to not pray to see if somehow turning down my testimony would make things easier. Clearer.  I remember dad talking to me about how he didn't want me seeing Steve anymore, even as friends for a while.  It was hurting both of us.  I was so angry. 
Ultimately, I made a rash decision to move to Moon township with the older sister of a friend of mine from church.  We barely knew one another, but each wanted to move into our own space, so we found an apartment and signed a lease.  Our move in date was going to be April 15th.
I attended the singles ward in Pittsburgh, as well as the institute activities and classes, even thru my slight turn down of the gospel.  That's how I think of it. I didn't really go in-active, I just lowered my intensity of personal development in the gospel.  I had great friends at the singles ward, and it was fun to head into the city with my sister and helped with my heartache to be with people outside of my usual circle of friends.
Friday, April 9th, I noticed for the first time, a new group of people at institute.  A boy had made a comment, that I no longer remember, that struck something in me.  I walked up and introduced myself to the girl in his group, saying I hadn't noticed seeing them before. She said they had come in from Johnstown-now that's dedication, her name was Robin and she introduced me to Brian and Zak.  Wow, I thought looking at Zak, this guy is so cute!  They asked if I'd be going on the Kirtland trip the next day.  Honestly, I hadn't even considered going.   I'd been before to a youth conference at like 14 and my thought until then had been, been there seen that.  I told them I wasn't sure yet, and they said something like, well we'll be there and hope you can make it.  I woke up early the next morning, put on my best fitting jeans and scrunched my hair and made the 45 minute drive into the city, got into a carpool with my friend Devon, and made the drive out to Kirtland.

I ended up spending much of the day walking around with Zak on the tour.  The tour was awesome.  We sat in the temple as a group, and I was asked to lead everyone in singing some hymns.  I wandered off on my own and sat in the outside pews just taking it all in.  Zak eventually joined me and spent nearly 30 minutes baring his testimony to me.  Over that time, other people from the group came to sit in the area, to pray or read scriptures or just talk.  Once again, I was asked to lead the group in song, this time to The Spirit of God.  I felt something so strongly during that song.  I could feel the Spirit reminding me of all that I had learned about the gospel to be true.  The last part of the tour, missionaries asked us to take some time and think of someone we knew who might want to learn more about the gospel.  It took me a good 10 minutes, and then I thought of Rob.  Rob was a friend of a friend who had been asking me a lot of questions about the LDS faith lately, and went to Robert Morris University in Moon.  I wrote down his name and address.  and then put my contact info down as the person of reference.  We made the ride back home.  The next day was Easter Sunday.  I went to have dinner with Steve's family and later that night, he went to kiss me.  I looked in his eyes, and realized there was something missing.  I shook my head no, and that was it.  We were done flip flopping in and out of a relationship.
Interesting point of fact, April 15th I moved into my apartment in Moon Twp.  Journal entry in Chris's mission journal April 15th, transferred to the Coriopolis area in Moon Twp.  April 17th, my mom called me to let me know some boy had been calling the house asking for me.  Zak had asked someone for my number.  I called him back and we started getting to know each other.  He continued to come to institute, and eventually we decided to date.  He lived almost 2 hours from where I did, 3 in bad traffic. I'm not sure the exact date, but one night May 2004, while Janae (my roommate) and I were home, there was a knock on our door.  It was two missionaries.  One tall, blonde with a huge smile, the other tall, brown hair with an equally large smile.  "Hi! We're missionaries from the...." "Hi Elders!" I interrupted.  They were beaming.  Janae joined me at the door. "How can we help you?"  They introduced themselves, Elder Cope and Elder Salls. Janae's boyfriend was there with us so we invited them in.  As they looked around I could see their faces fall just slightly.  "Uh, we're looking for Rob. Does he live here?"  I remembered the media referral I had given the month before.  I laughed. "uh you guys are at the wrong house.  And late. He moved back home when the semester ended. Why did it take so long for that to get to you?"  We talked more, laughing that the information had been switched and that they were slightly bummed to have come ready to teach someone only to find active members.  They didn't stay long, and left us with a spiritual thought and prayer.
Janae had a friend, Jesse, who she worked with at the airport.  Jesse was hilarious, and he and I became friends over time.  Jesse went to the family ward and worked in YM.  He also went on splits regularly with the Elders.  One night in June, he asked if they wouldn't mind going with him to check on some friends of his.  "They don't really get home teachers, because they live so far from the singles ward."  Once again, Elder Salls, and Cope were at my apartment.  They taught some of my friends once or twice and came for a dinner or two.  Once they came by, when someone had called the police while they were tracting.  Brian wasn't there, so we stepped out, while they went in and onto our balcony.  Then we came back in and made them lemonade.  15 minutes later, when the coast was clear, we stepped out again, and they were on their way.  We had a long piece of butcher paper on one of our walls, where we wrote funny things people would say, and do.  The Quote Wall.  Elder Salls and Elder Cope made the wall a lot.
Elder Salls went home the first week of July, and Elder Banks became Elder Cope's new companion.  I had known Elder Banks from when he served in the Aliquippa area - my home ward.
I had this dream one night....I was on the carpet playing with a little girl, maybe not even 2.  She had blonde hair and blue eyes. A man walks in the door and says "Hello my beautiful family." I looked up and it was Elder Cope's face.  It was the first time I'd ever woken up from a dream like they do in the movies. Scared. Weirded out. Sweaty and breathing hard.  What was that?!  I was dating an amazing guy-and why is this missionary in my dream?!
KK was getting ready to head out on her mission, and mom and dad were living in Monaca.  I moved back with them to spend time with her before I left.  I attended the home ward with mom and dad and was surprised when I walked into church and saw Elder Cope showing off his seriously cool leg scar to some kids.  "what the ?!?!" I thought.  I walked up and said hi to him after meetings, and he asked what I was doing there. What am I doing here-i thought, What are YOU doing here?  He told me there had been an emergency transfer with the Elders in the New Brighton area and he and his companion were both new to the area.  I gave him a disapproving look and said something like...."Dude, if you show up in my singles ward, I'm going inactive." I was mostly joking, but also really weirded out by him being in my home ward.  I continued to attend just the singles ward after that, and Zak and I took turns driving out to spend time with one another.  He came to town for a weekend, and spent a day on splits with ....Elder Cope & his companion.  It rained almost the whole day.  At the end of their day out, I picked up Zak and we ate at the Hot Dog Shoppe, and he was acting very strangely.  I asked him what was up, and he said he had a really weird conversation with Elder Cope.  See, by that time, I had begun considering serving a mission as well.  I was going to be turning 21 the next spring and felt strongly that I needed to prepare to go.  I had been talking about it for a few months and so Zak and I had started studying scriptures together over the phone and helping each other prepare.  Zak said as he and the Elders were in the apartment waiting for me to pick him up, he was reading scriptures when he felt Elder Cope looking at him.  He looked up and asked him what was on his mind.  "You'd better support her goin on a mission man." Zak smiles "Yeah, of course I do." "Because," Elder Cope replies, "otherwise she's totally going to be married by the time you get home." and he laughs.  Zak looked at me and said, "That guy is going to marry you."  I choked on my lunch and laughed. I remarked that he was being CRAZY.  "Dude he lives in UTAH. I'm never going to Utah, I hate it there. Also, why would you say something like that? He'll be transferred and I'll never see him again. That's how it works; you meet missionaries, they transfer and you never see them again."  Zak was convinced, and I laughed it off.
By October, Elder Cope did transfer out to Homestead.  Zak and I continued to date and he received his call to Latvia.  He left. We wrote as friends, having decided we both knew our relationship was more of a friendship than anything romantic.  I continued to visit his family often, and fell in love with them. The Ciotti family is still a huge love of mine. His sister, Sarah and I became sisters anyway. Fast forward to Feb 2005, KK was on her mission, and mom and dad had moved to Mechanicsburg/Camp Hill.  I had moved in with my friend Ash's family while I worked two jobs at the mall.  My friend Jesse was still emailing Elder Cope and told him that I was preparing to leave on a mission and could probably benefit from writing someone who'd been thru it.  March 10, 2005 an email home from Elder Cope was in my inbox. It was his general email home, and I had been added to the list of people receiving them. I had been considering moving to Camp Hill with mom and dad.  Elder Cope was coming to the end of his mission.  I wrote him letting him know that I was going to move to a new mission area.  I told him I was so close to putting in my mission papers.  I was getting my medical stuff taken care of and talking with my new bishop.  My new bishop seemed to be taking ages.  I was on my 3rd temple prep class.  He kept asking me if I was sure serving a mission was the right direction for me.  I was insistent that I'd spent the past 10 months with this single goal. So, yes. I was sure.  When Elder Cope returned home at the end of April he asked if he could have my number so we could talk over the phone instead of just email.  He began calling me, and told me his name was Chris.  We talked about my mission prep progress, his returning home to his job and life.  How things were the same, but so very different.
He called me every night - about 9.   He had to wait until 7pm his time, so that the minutes on his cell would be free. About a month into this, I told him about a situation I had that evening that was super awkward and asked him for some advice.  "So, I was at my friend Jon's house with my brother.  His nephew walked in while a few of his family members were talking with us in the kitchen and asked me who I was. Before I could answer Jon said, "Oh this is your future aunt."  Everyone just looked at me and I just said, hi I'm deb. And then walked out. Isn't that SO weird?  We're not even dating and his whole family just looked at me like we were making a major announcement.  I mean, we hang out a lot, but we aren't together or anything. I don't think so anyway. What do I even do??"  There was a good minute of silence and then Chris said, "Well, I never knew what I wanted in a wife until I met you."  If I had felt awkward from the earlier scenerio, I felt even MORE awkward now.  What was happening?  He continued..."I mean, when I was on my mission I didn't have a thing for you or anything weird like that. But there was something about your laugh and your personality that made me think yeah, I could be with someone like her."  I made some "uh huh" and quickly made some excuse while I had to go.  I could tell something had happened. Something changed in his voice and we had entered a new territory.  The next call I remember, was a Sunday night.  Chris told me he had stepped out to talk with me, and his sister-in-law had asked whom he was talking with, and that she teased him about being in love, and that he realized it was true. He loved me. Once again I countered with awkwardness.  Oh, wow. I mean....uhhh...I gotta go.  I loved talking with him.  He had become a true friend, and confidant.  We were sending photos back and forth, and he was becoming important to me for sure.  But I was going on a mission. I didn't have time for this I love you business.  He asked if I would considering coming to see him, before sending in my papers. "Come out and let's see if this works. " me-"But, what if you're really crazy. My mom had a friend that moved and married a Utah guy and ended up in a weird occult with other wives. What if you're actually like that? And What if your family is really weird?  I don't know anyone where you live, just my brother's family in Salt Lake."  He countered saying that if he was weird, or his family, then I could tell him I didn't want to stay and he'd take me to Russ's house and then at least I'd see my brother's family.  I went back and forth with arguments and ultimately agreed that I'd come at the end of June.  I honestly thought either he would lose interest by then, or I'd be leaving for my mission.  The week before my flight, I tried backing out of the visit.  I "wasn't feeling well and I had so much to do, and I'm sorry I won't make it."  I hadn't told anyone other than my brother, Steve, that I was even supposed to go. Utah was full of gorgeous girls just chompin at the bit to get married, why was this guy still interested in me?!  Yes I would be a little heart broken if he had lost interest, but I'm leaving anyway right?  I got on the plane. I landed and we spent the next 5 days on like 30 different dates.  Chris had planned for me to see it all.  It was a perfect week.  Leaving the hot humid PA summer for 88 blue sky and dry heat was incredible.  I met his friends and his family.  He told his mom that we were going to get married, while we were in their kitchen. I had only been there a day.  My face must have shown pure shock, because she replied, "Does she know that?"
Chris asked me to marry him every day I was there.  I would reply, I'm going on a mission.  Being with him made it difficult to deny that I had fallen very much in love with him.  Seeing how kind he was, and the way he looked at me, every day my answer waned a little more.  Each day I thought more and more about what it would be like to spend my life with him.  I felt like I had so much to learn before I was ready to be a wife.  I continued to make jokes and not give an answer beyond, that I was leaving for 18 months and can't we just figure it out later.  Finally, one night he said, "I'm serious, I want you to think about this. Do you want to marry me? Because I want to marry you.  I feel so right about this. If you pray about it and don't get the same answer, then I'll drop it. But you haven't even asked about it, and I am asking you to."  That night after reading scriptures I prayed. I prayed about wanting to go on a mission and about falling in love with this man.  I prayed that I wanted so much to serve a mission and what should I do?  It's your choice was the answer.  Well great, that's helpful.   I spent more time in thought and prayer, and then, instead of asking what to do I said, I love this man.  Should I marry him?  I received the strongest deepest answer I've ever had.  It felt overwhelming and overpowering.  The answer was mine.  But if I chose to marry him, the Lord confirmed to me that it was the right step for me.  A lage part of me was devastated that all my preparation for a mission was not at all what I had expected.   A  year of going out with sister missionaries, and temple prep classes was preparing me to enter the temple not for an 18 month proselytizing mission, but for marriage.   I don't mean to sound that I was sad to be agreeing to marry someone I loved very much, but more that I hadn't seen this coming.  I told him the next morning that I would marry him.  We announced to his parents, and he called dad.  Dad spent a good while trying to talk Chris out of our engagement.  He told him how much a mission would help me to grow up, and that he hope Chris has a lot of patience, because he was going to need it. This memory is one of my favorites and always makes me laugh. His parents took us and his sisters out to dinner to celebrate.  I flew out the next day.  My bishop didn't even seem surprised when I met with him to tell him I wouldn't be needing to submit my papers after all.  I moved to Utah at the end of August, into the basement of my old college roommate and we were married December 20th, 2005. 
 Reading thru Chris's several mission journals, there is never a single mention of him teaching at our apartment, or the way we ended up in two areas together.  In a small black book - his black book of ideas, at the bottom is my full name and address, but wrong phone number. 
What makes me laugh is that two days later, (my birthday actually) he makes a note to look me up, but the last name is way off.  This is the only mention of me in all of his journals, and with his ADD, he had 4-5 going at the same time, all dedicated to different focuses. One for Zone Meetings and General Conference-this one actually has dad's email written in, in dad's handwriting. Which I find interesting, because it's from October conference of 2004, and by then Chris was serving outside of Beaver Valley.  I've had so much fun re-reading his emails home, and journal entries the last day or so.  Sadly, I don't have any copies of my emails to him.  The emails we have are ones he sent home that his mom had printed off.  I did most of my journaling online, in a site that I no longer remember the log in or website for. Ah the downfall of online journal.
There are so many tiny details when I look back that were so incredible, or just amazingly weird coincidental as some would think.  I truly feel that the Lord brought us together.  There are too many of these coincidences for me to not see His hand in our coming together. The past 11 years have taken dedication, work, and choosing one another day after day.  One the hardest of days, it's a true gift that I can look back and see the Lord's hand in our life, drawing us together time and time again.  I may have entered our relationship hesitantly, I had a significant amount of relationship baggage, and Chris had never been in a relationship before, but I know choosing to marry him has truly the best decision I've ever made.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Two years later...

My friend Keri recently welcomed a 2 year old into her family, as a foster child.  We text back and forth now about how I ever survived having two 2 year olds at a time.  How I handled the tantrums of the twins at that age, and Simon.  I was having a hard time remembering, so I decided to come back here and read my posts from that time.  I realized, that our family has come so far in the past 5 years, and that I really should have kept blogging, because years are blurring together, and I don't want to forget how I'm feeling. right now. As a mom, as a wife and as a person. 
This time 5 years ago, we had moved in with Joye, and I was so uncertain about everything. I still remember the anxiety of a pregnancy that had turned dangerous, and our home going onto the market, and not selling and becoming landlords and parents of 4 kids under 5 all at once.  2011 was a ROUGH year.  2012 is a blur.  Honestly, most of the past 4 are. 
So where are we now? Status report.  Ava, 9 1/2 years old.  Living up her summer spending day after day with friends, and having sleepovers every chance she can with Caroline Christian.  She will be starting her 4th year of Chinese immersion this August. We've promised her a trip to China after 5th, so I should really get started on that trip savings account.  Her sketching skills are blowing me away lately, and her focus is anime art.  She's in an incredible stage where she's both sneaking into makeup (applying it better than I do most of the time) and asking for babydolls from Santa for Christmas.  I keep hearing that I'm in the "back 9" now, and "halfway thru her childhood."  How can this have happened so fast<---very cliche statement, but really. I find myself horrified and in wonder that my daughter will be entering double digits before the year is up.  I am trying to make an effort to take the time to snuggle her, while she's still asking for the cuddles, and to embrace her younger child moments while they're still here.  I'm constantly failing though, and saying something like, uhhh tomorrow? i'm super tired. or another night ok? Your brother needs me now.  When Ava is 240,000 hours into therapy as an adult, her therapist will recognize that the mantra of her life was "Your brother(s) need me right now ok?"  Such is the life of a neurotypical with 3 brothers on the autism spectrum. (spoiler alert)

Jumping ahead here, yes, all 3 boys have received an official diagnosis. I'm waiting for the piles of paperwork that I'll need to store somewhere, but after 5 years of testing and fighting and knowing something was going on, we finally got answers.  Simon has been attending group social therapy since May, and it's been such an amazing help.  He is 7 and has lost a handful of babyteeth this year, all within a few months.  It was kind of hilarious and amazing.  One minute I was worried that he'd made it all thru 1st grade without losing any teeth, and the next he's cashing in big time with the tooth fairy.  Even the dentist got a good laugh at his progression at his check up this month.  He also confirmed that Simon got my mouth-so ... no room at the inn for grown up teeth and braces are sure to be his future.  (yet another savings account to begin) Si-guy will be going into 2nd grade and his 2nd year of Chinese. He had the best 1st grade teacher Biao, and we are excited for 2nd grade.  He really excels at foreign language and math-lucky kid.  He talks all the time about becoming a scientist. He's got the crazy hair for it ;)

Carter- 4.5 years old and a ball of energy.  This kid....he loves to take selfies of himself.  He loves to play minecraft and terraria, and follow Simon around like a shadow.  He has a short temper, but is a love, and a joker.  he's quick to let me know when his dinner is disgusting, dominates the ipad/phone and library computer, and loves his daddy fiercely.   Chris has worked from home since 2013, and so Carter only knows life with all day access to mom and dad.  He loves to walk into daddy's office and give him hugs, and he insists that he get daddy snuggles to fall asleep at night.  Chris is his hero. 

Austen-4.5 years old and the biggest love.  Austen has a magic smile.  Always has had it, and I hope he always will.  He is so incredibly smart, and yet, so young for 4.5.  I'm not really sure how to describe it.  In so many ways, he's still in a 2.5-3 year old state.  He loves to create art. He could sit at the table with paint and paper and glue and stickers and drawing supplies for ages-as long as he has someone to do it with. And to direct to do the art when he is frustrated.  It seems so often that he has a specific plan in his mind, but isn't always sure how to execute it himself.  He tries so hard to communicate it, but often lacks the vocabulary, or even the access to how to convey what he's thinking.  He loves to dance, especially with his shadow.  He struggles with kids his own age, but loves meeting older kids and adults. He showed so many of the same struggles Simon had as a toddler but as he gets older, I'm seeing that he has his own "quirks" as well.

When they were evaluating the twins for ASD, they kept asking what I had noticed that was out of the ordinary. I kept having to explain that, my normal was abnormal, so I was going to need help remembering what "normal" should have been.  I'm on the board of the Southern Utah Autism Support Group now.  I have made some dear contacts here of families with autism, and they've helped us to learn and to grow and understand how to live in this world and teach my children to thrive in a neurotypical one.  So far, we've been blessed and so fortunate to have amazing people in our lives to help us and to teach our kids.  I wish I had written about all of them before, but hopefully I can find the time and remember to write about them from now on. 

Sometimes I'm in awe that this August will be 11 years since I've moved to Utah. Chris and I were engaged June 2005.  It's a mix of feeling that it's just begun, and yet that we've always been together.  So many marriages around us are currently breaking apart, and I'm grateful to say that although we've had some very difficult struggles in our relationship, that we're currently doing well.  really well.  I'm learning not to take that for granted. To recognize that as the gift that it is.  I know time will come that our marriage will be tested and tried again, and I want to have this, here, to remind me that it won't always be hard. It won't always be a fight. Some days it's the easiest thing in the world to look at my sweet husband and feel love and overwhelming gratitude for him.  Neither of us are easy people to deal with-but so far, we're doing alright.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dear Jon

Well technically it's the day after, the 8th anniversary of your death, but since I haven't slept yet...I'm not going to count this as late.  You being the totally cool person you are, will most likely totally let me get away with that excuse too. 

You'd be 32 this year.  Taunting me, no doubt, about my upcoming 30th birthday-but you know what.  I don't mind turning 30.  I'm ready to be done with the 20s, and from what I hear...30s are pretty fantastic. 

I have four kids-this, of course you know.  I am fully convinced that you're watching over the baby we lost a few years ago.  And that you watch over those of us here, every day. 

Today, I was thinking about that fireside we drove to.  You know, the one where I got insanely lost and we showed up late and yet still got AMAZING frontish row seats to hear Richard G Scott speak...and how people kept asking if we were engaged, even though we'd never been on a single date, and that was awkward, so we kept our distance the rest of the night. And then on the drive home, my brother fell asleep in the backseat, and we just talked.  And for 2.5 hours you were a different you.  Instead of the happy go lucky hilarious joker I'd known, you were serious and calm and bore your testimony to me.  For the entire drive, you spoke with passion for your love of the gospel.  You were on fire man.  I just wasn't' sure if I ever told you how much that drive meant to me.  How much it helped me to grow.  How much I lean on it still to this day.  How much I loved you. 

I don't think I ever really told you that.   I was always afraid it would come out meaning something more than it did.  Or wrong.  Or maybe I didn't think I needed to say it, because of course I loved you.  Of course you were an incredible friend who I leaned on everyday.  You knew I had Chris.  I knew you were head over heels for a girl named Kathy.  And yet, I never told you.  So I'm telling and every day since the moment I got that awful phone call, telling me that you were gone.  I love you kid!  I love that you were a total prankster.  I love that you wanted to live life on your terms.  That you loathed your singles ward in Mechanicsburg, because oh man, it was awful.  I love what an amazing uncle you were with your nieces and nephews.  They adored you!  You had a gift with them.  I love that you were friends with my brother.  That we all three hung out and made weird videos on my crappy camera and   that.....even tough it's been 8 years....and it'll be many more....i love that I know that I will get to see you again.  I really hope that when I pass you'll be there to show me the ropes, and make sure that I get to where I'm going. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

From a less extreme LDS mom

These days homosexuality is a buzz.  Everyone is freaking out about same sex marriage and adoption for same sex couples...and finding super secret messages inside of pixar movies.  Here's the deal.  I read an article over a week ago where an LDS mom went on and on about the horrifying gay undertones of the hit song, LET IT GO.  It bothered me. and it has CONTINUED to bother me . So I'm taking the time now to write it out so that hopefully it can stop bothering me.

SO WHAT?!!  Let's just pretend for a moment that Elsa IS a super secret Lesbian character.  I mean, she seems to be pretty anti every fella Anna falls for ;)   Aside from her suspected sexual attraction, what else could we glean from her character?  She strives to be a good daughter.  She spent her life in hiding from everyone, including her best friend, her sister, just so that she could please her parents.  She spent 18 years (or however long "Coming of age" is for a queen) alone, and terrified of who she is.  I'm sure there are PLENTY of girls (and boys for that matter) with same sex attraction who relate to this isolation.  Then, she has this break through where she learns to LET IT GO. acceptance. accepting who she is. accepting what she feels.  Notice how when she fights or hides these feelings the ice she creates is jagged and harsh and harms people.  When she has this brief moment of acceptance, everything she creates is BEAUTY.  She loves herself, for the first time since before she learned these feelings were a PROBLEM, she is creating beautiful, perfection with this gift.  Her father tells the King troll she was "Born" with the gift, when she's fighting Anna in the ice castle, she sings that she is CURSED.  Again, I'm sure this resonates with many tween and teen and even adults.  In the end, Elsa accepts that the way to constantly create beauty in her life and the lives of those around her, is to love herself.  LOVE.  Would it be SO bad for the kids, tweens, teens and adults to have a role model or ten that they could look to and have relate to them?  Would it be so awful if they had something that showed them how to have a healthy relationship with the people in your life while dealing with the stigma of same sex attraction.  I hear you moms, "I don't want the media telling MY kids about same sex attraction at 5" sure. I hear you. It's YOUR job to talk to your kids about it.  We are in an age where we need to tell our kids people love in all kinds of ways.  Families come in all forms.  Every family is different, but every family is VALID. Respect everyone.  Enough with the homophobia.  Enough with the hate.  Bring on the RESPECT.  You don't have to "condone." "appove" or even like the idea of same sex parents/marraige, but theses people are PEOPLE and deserve our respect and charity, just like anyone in the heterosexual community. 

I'm not great with's 1am.  But here's what I really know.  Should one or more of my amazing 4 kids wake up one day, and realize they have same sex attraction, I want them to know that THAT'S OK.  It's ok, because I have loved them since the day they were born....before that even...and love them forever.  I hope they never feel that they need to hide things about themselves from me or the world. I mean clearly teens and tweens hide. heck even Ava wants alone time now and then. Everyone wants privacy, but I don't want them to feel that shame and embarrassment about identity.  I want them to know...CHILD OF GOD. yesterday, today, tomorrow...FOREVER. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I learned an important lesson today..ok more than lesson-something vital about myself.  I can no longer sing solo.  I know there was a time that I loved to be a featured vocalist. I craved it and felt an overwhelming joy in owning the spotlight and sharing music with an audience. Connecting with them. Being a character. Manipulating their emotions to match the mood I wanted to convey. 

Today was the first time in many years that I was to be a featured musical number.  I've had the song for 2 weeks.   I am not exaggerating when I say that I practiced the song for at least 2 hours every day the past two weeks.  Mainly, because my range and ability to hold any sort of whole note was lacking.  But, after much practice, I was really feeling confident that I was going to be able to perform this amazing song and really be able to help bring the Christmas message it had to everyone.  I prayed so hard that I would be able to overcome the anxiety that was building about performing, so that I could sing this song. 

I practiced with the pianist the day before and the run through went great.  She was confident that we only did one run through. 

So, today, I stood up to sing...I had been ringing my hands for nearly an hour, waiting for that moment.  I got through..oh the first line...and then I crumbled. The anxiety of performing in front of this room of people with no one to help me, or to fall back on just began to flood me.  I was overwhelmed entirely by it.  I began to cry uncontrollably, but forced myself to continue in the song.  Someone passed a tissue up front, and with each break in the words, I resolved that I was going to get control of myself and do this song justice.  I even sang most of it with my eyes squeezed shut, trying to beat out the performance anxiety, but 2 words into the next line and the fear would win out all over again.  The song is 5 minutes, so by the end I was off key and just a total mess. 

 I was crippled by fear.  I ran out to my car and had a complete panic attack.  A few incredibly kind people have told me that my song did touch them.  That it was full of the Spirit and really moved them that I was so moved by the song to tears.  Sadly, that wasn't the case at all. The truth is...I have a talent, that is no longer easy or possible for me to share with others.  This frustrates me and breaks my heart.  Maybe I was too proud of my voice as a kid and this is just life balancing things out.  I'm not sure how to face people after this.  I'm mortified honestly.  I know I can't keep myself from going back to church, but I am deeply hoping that people don't mention it at all and we can all pretend that I didn't have a complete panic attack in front of 35 people who are mostly strangers to me.  Maybe soon, I'll sing it for myself, and record it so that I know and can remember that I was able to sing the song beautifully, the way it's meant to be shared. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I miss these girls madly!  They were the best baby sitters, and role models for Ava.