Sunday, June 21, 2015

Weathering the Storm

When I was in elementary school we lived in Oklahoma, and I lived each day in constant fear of tornadoes.  In the morning I would wake up and peer out the window at the sky and try to determine the likelihood of a tornado destroying our home or my school that day.  If it seemed questionable at all I began implementing a strategy to stay home.  If there were storm clouds on the horizon I would suddenly feel a stomach ache churning.  Every slight chance of rain was met with a cough and possible fever.  I was sure that a tornado would come when I was away from my family and we would all be separated or killed.  The danger felt very real to me and I could not seem to shake my fear.  I checked the news, called time and temperature daily, and learned all of the signs of trouble: wall clouds, green skies, and anvil shaped thunderheads. 

I remember driving home one stormy night with my family through a severe thunderstorm and feeling the panic rise within me.  My anxiety transformed into a slew of questions. "Could lightening come into the car?" "If a tornado came what would we do?" "How could we be sure that we were safe?"  As a scientist my dad answered my questions, explaining that the rubber in the car would conduct the electricity into the ground, and providing logical answers for my other questions.  But none of that seemed to calm me.  Then I remember him turning to me and asking me a question.  He asked me to look at his face and to decide if he looked scared.  I looked at him and decided that he didn't seem to be afraid at all.  Then he told me that whenever I was afraid I should look at his face, and if he wasn't scared, then I didn't need to be either. 

My whole life I have looked to my dad in moments of joy and pain as a confirmation of safety and peace.  When I have felt overwhelmed or afraid I have gone to him and felt his calm comfort and reassurance that things would work out.  When I have been worried about a major life decision I have looked to him and felt his complete confidence in my ability to make good choices.  When I have experienced great joy I have looked to him and felt his joy magnified. 

On the day that Jonah died my dad was doing research on the north end of the Great Salt Lake.  The news traveled to him slowly, and then he began the long drive on dirt roads and highways to the hospital.  I remember the moment he finally walked in the room.  I saw his face and felt such a release, like I could let go of some of my strength and that he would help me carry this new sorrow.  In that sacred space he mourned with us and gave us blessings so that we could endure our new heartache. 

After Jonah's funeral service and burial we all retired to our homes to rest and recover from an emotionally exhausting day.  A storm moved in while I slept and I woke to the sound of car doors closing and my family arriving with food to sustain us.  I walked outside and looked to the sky.  The dark storm clouds were receding and the setting sun shone across the valley.  Two vivid rainbows arched over our home.  I stood in our yard amazed by the poetic and biblical feeling of the moment. Then I felt my dad's strong arm reach around me.  He leaned down and whispered that rainbows are symbols.  They are a promise from God that we will never have to pass this way again.  Before that moment I felt so much uncertainty and fear.  But as we looked to the sky together I wept and let my heart believe in that promise, because I knew my dad believed it.  

My dad has calmed my fears, celebrated my victories, mourned beside me, and let me lean on him for strength. I believe in a benevolent God who loves his children, because of the way my dad loves his children.  His love for each of us is unique and unconditional.  In those times when storm clouds seem to gather on the horizon and fear builds in my heart I remember my dad's counsel to me as a child.  When time or distance separate us I know that I can find the same peaceful reassurance in looking to my Heavenly Father.  I also know that when the storm finally passes, God's promises will be clear and reflect the beauty and pain of all that we have experienced.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

This,Too, Shall Pass

Last night I woke up at 3 am and began my usual pilgrimage through the dark hallways of our house to the kitchen.  I stood in front of the glowing refrigerator trying to decide which midnight snack would be least likely to give me heartburn, and took my chances on peanut butter and jelly toast with milk.  Then I walked a few laps around the kitchen and living room to relax my muscles.  After feeling my way back to my room, I gingerly crawled into bed trying to minimize the pain in my pelvis, as I adjusted a multitude of pillows to support my growing belly, elevate my head, and take the pressure off my joints. Then I waited and prayed for sleep to come.  It was elusive.  My mind was filled with thoughts.  Not anxieties or concerns, but random thoughts, like how to spell "Absaroka," the name of a county in Wyoming.  I read a little, worked on my meditative breathing, and eventually got up again two hours later to have a bowl of warm granola as the sky began to lighten and the birds starting singing their morning song. 

Each night when I feel overwhelmed by my cumbersome shape and the possibility of never sleeping again; when the frustration and emotion of sleep deprivation come creeping in I think to myself "this, too, shall pass."

I know some people don't like that phrase.  Perhaps it seems too easy when applied lightly to deep heartache and sorrow.  Maybe it has been overused or just used too flippantly.  But for me it has become a reminder that all things pass away, whether it is sleepless nights or difficult pregnancies or years of infertility or grief.  It also reminds me that when difficulties pass away there are often accompanied by blessings and beautiful moments that pass with them.

When Jonah died I prayed and prayed to find a job that would feel meaningful and give purpose to my days.  After almost a year of applying for jobs and being rejected I found the perfect fit, but realized that while I waited and struggled I had learned to love the simple time I had with my husband in our home.  We grew to love each other more deeply in the waiting space.

The same is true of our journey through infertility.  Jordan and I began searching for ways to have more children shortly after Jonah died.  We knew their would be obstacles because I am a carrier of the Treacher-Collins gene, but I had no idea how many obstacles we would face on our path to become parents again.  We began six in vitro cycles and had 3 canceled, due to unforseen issues.  We spent thousands of dollars on tests and procedures.  We experienced two miscarriages and spent many nights and days crying and praying for relief from our trial.  After 3 years, I found out I was pregnant with twins and we were overjoyed, but I also realized that I had found incredible support and joy in my work as we waited.  I had developed deep friendships with the girls I worked with and knew that as this trial passed, so too would my time working alongside my dear friends. 

When Jonah was with us I could have spent my days and nights wishing away his genetic condition, or praying to move beyond the struggles and surgeries he faced.  But his time with us was short, and I'm grateful that I didn't wish away even the difficult times, because they are precious to me now. 

And when Jonah's spirit left our home, and we plunged into grief, we also entered a realm of love a support that I can only describe as angelic.  Now, sometimes, I miss the deep emotions of the grief and loss I felt, because it was always paired with the comforting presence and peace of God's love for us.

In the middle of the night as I try to fall back asleep I recognize how fleeting this moment really is.  This will probably be the last time I get to be pregnant. Which means that I may never experience the heartburn, anxiety, fatigue, body aches, hemorrhoids, nausea, and pain that comes with growing a baby, or two, in my body.  But I'm well aware that it also means that I may never again get to feel the incredible sensation of little hands and feet moving and pressing inside of me.  This may be my last chance to marvel at how powerful and capable my body is of changing and supporting the life of another.  I may never get another chance to witness Jordan exclusively taking care of me and protecting me.  As the heartburn and joint pain pass away, these blessed moments, too, shall pass.  They will be followed by new experiences filled with frustration and joy, but I will never be able to return to them.

So in quiet of my room, as the singing birds signaled the approaching dawn, and as I shifted positions one more time, I waited in the dark for the babies to kick, and tried not to wish the moment away.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Motherhood and Miracles

Motherhood is complicated.  Even as I sit here at my computer ready to write, my heart and head can't seem to agree on the message I want to share.  My life as a mother has been a dichotomy of intense sorrow and overwhelming joy.  I have had the unique experience of dipping my toes into motherhood, sampling it's trials and triumphs, and then watching and waiting on the sidelines wondering if I would ever return. Even now as I type and feel my expanding belly press against my thighs I wonder if I will return.  Will we all make it safely through the next three months into the realm of motherhood and family again?  How can something seem simultaneously tenuous and inevitable.

This morning as I dried my hair I had myself convinced that this Mother's day would be joyful.  I even preached to Jordan about women needing to let go of the guilt, pain, and sorrow that often accompanies this day. Looking back I'm pretty sure this was a pep talk for myself. We talked about how men never seem to feel guilty on Father's Day. They just seem to soak up the love and adoration of their families.  Why shouldn't women do the same? Walking out the door I felt empowered, grateful, joyful, radiant and ready for Mother's day.

Then I lost it, sitting on a hard metal chair on the very back row of church.

I was fine in the beginning.  Three beautiful young women who are about to graduate from high school spoke about their mother's and how their mom's radiate Christlike attributes. While they spoke I peacefully gazed at my belly watching little feet, hands, and unidentified body parts pop and glide across my stomach.  My pregnant belly and the babies inside are nothing short of a miracle to me.  My attention is always on them and I feel like I have been blessed with abundance as I watch them move.

I felt really good. Then the children in the congregation got up to sing a song for their mothers, and my heart began to break and I could not reign it in.  As a rule for daily living I try not to focus on what Jordan and I have lost. Most of my grief and sorrow has transformed into gratitude for the experience of being Jonah's mother.  And after years of infertility and longing for motherhood I feel like it was a miracle that we had him in our home, even for a short time.  But seeing those children at the front of the chapel singing to their mother's tugged at my heart and brought my grief to the forefront in a way I haven't experienced or allowed myself to experience for years.  I felt the profound loss of our sweet Jonah.  It became so real to me that he would be four, almost five, singing with the children at the front of the chapel.  Mother, I love you, Mother, I do. I started crying tears of grief and sorrow as my more sensible side tried to "keep it together."

As the meeting came to a close I wiped my tears from my red and swollen cheeks, accepted the token gift of mother's day chocolate from one of the young men and realized that motherhood is a messy endeavor.  The choice to be a mother, whether realized or unfulfilled, is an act of faith and vulnerability.  When you desire to be a mother you open your heart to the depth of all of life's emotions. Sometimes those emotions are amazing and sometimes they are devastating.  I've decided that is why this day is so hard for so many.  Everything is exposed and there is no place to hide.  It is possible to feel intense gratitude and a multitude of sorrows in the same breath.  But that is also the beauty of motherhood.  It is frightening endeavor that is full of possibility.

I came home, ate lunch, and settled in for a long Sunday nap.  When I woke up Jordan was lying beside me.  I asked him if it made him sad to see those children singing.  He said it did.  I embraced the feeling, uncovered my round belly, and waited and watched for the babies to kick.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Baby A and Baby B! 18 weeks

We got an unexpected treat of having an early ultrasound this week to check on the twins and to find out their genders!  I have no words to describe how grateful I am that these two are healthy and moving and have beating hearts.  I am overwhelmed by the opportunity to carry them and feel them move.  It seems as if I pray for them every minute and every hour.  I often wondered if I would get this chance again, and can't believe they are growing inside of me.  It is so amazing and still feels unreal, but it also feels like the most beautiful miracle possible.  

Here is a short video of our two little ones.  


We are having a girl and a boy!  

"The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."  Joseph B. Wirthlin

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Season of Joy

On an indian summer day before Jonah died I remember feeling pure joy.  The moment was simple.  Jordan was home from work laying in the blue nylon hammock strung up between a fence post and our pine tree. Jonah was in his swing, giggling uncontrollably each time he approached my waiting arms.  His laugh was infectious and seemed to fill the air and my heart with the same magnitude.  I had a sweet moment where I recognized the pure joy that I felt.  It was a feeling of love and gratitude without fear or longing. It felt set apart and holy.  In hindsight I know that it was both of those things.  

Only a few days later our whole world seemed to crumble around us. We said goodbye to Jonah, soaked our pillows in tears, and tried to pick up the pieces of our home and family. 

In the three years that have passed since Jonah's death I have felt an amazing array of emotions. Some that I would not have believed were possible.  The day we lost Jonah I experienced indescribable pain and the feeling of my heart being crushed by the weight of intense sorrow.  In quiet lonely moments I have felt anger that burned inside of me and seemed unquenchable, peace that surpassed my limited understanding, and overwhelming fear as we faced seemingly endless disappointments.  I discovered a deep and new found empathy for the heartaches of loved ones and total strangers.  I have also fallen deeply in love with my husband as I have witnessed his kindness, endurance, and constant selflessness.  

But I am not sure I have recaptured the joy that I felt in that moment in our backyard.  I have experienced happiness, laughter, peace and love, but joy has felt elusive.

Twelve weeks ago Jordan and I began our third and final round of in vitro.  We had two remaining embryos to transfer and several obstacle to overcome including genetics, my killer immune system, and a blood clotting disorder.  I felt excited about the possibility of getting pregnant, but I also felt an overwhelming fear of the additional pain and heartache that might come with another miscarriage.  I woke up every night worried and anxious, my heart racing and my mind imagining all of the ways in which my heart could break again.

After a long two weeks of waiting I went for my first blood draw I braced myself for bad news and disappointment, but only good news followed.  I was pregnant and my hormone levels looked great.  Still each day I wondered if I felt sick enough or tired enough and waited for the signs of another failed pregnancy.  

At 6.5 weeks we went for our first ultrasound expecting the worst only to discover that we are pregnant with TWINS!  We were both stunned. 

We have had five ultrasounds and each time Jordan and I are a bundle of nerves, yet each time we have seen and heard beating hearts, wiggly arms and legs, and growing babies. It is nothing short of a miracle.

And yet I am still so afraid. Every day I wake up and wonder if I am still pregnant. I have been afraid to share the news because it feels like celebrating will inevitably be followed by heartache.  Each time I say the words "I'm pregnant...with twins" it feels like a lie or a crazy dream. But I am trying to be brave and say it and rejoice in it.  I want to be joyful and I want to share that joy with our amazing friends and family who have supported us, and prayed with us, and loved us through 5 very difficult years.  

I fully recognize that it is still early and anything could happen.  But I think my fear has become a barrier to the feeling of pure joy I want to recapture. I felt prompted this morning to read in the book of Ecclesiastes about times and seasons.  I read the following words:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Heaven knows that we have had our time to weep and mourn.  It has been a long, painful, and sometimes shockingly beautiful season.  But as I read this scripture I felt like I was given permission to move into a new season - a season of joy, and hope, and laughter.