Monday, June 13, 2011

the next installment: on love and loss.

i'm trying to remember where it was we left off in the last post (prior to finger fun.) shoot. i can't even remember what i ate for lunch today. :) this should be fun.

let's pick up at the beginning of the year, 2002. my makenna was growing like a weed, we were settled in a new apartment, found us some sweet new friends, and hubby was working his tail off in the months following 9/11. which is probably why it was so surprising when the little test turned up positive! :) you know how the minute you discover you are carrying a brand new life inside of you, you immediately plan out the next 8 months in approximately 10 minutes flat? yep, me too.

i was excited. nervous, apprehensive, of course, but thrilled to death. my hormones had regulated themselves quite nicely over the past year and i really felt ready to add another human to the mix. part of the fun this time was involving makenna in telling daddy our big news :) i bought her the cutest little t-shirt that said "big sister" on the front and when we were all in her room one morning, i asked him to change her clothes. he put the shirt on her and, after straightening it out, read the front and looked at me like "whaaaat?" :) it was priceless. and so the preparations began. i don't remember how we told grandmas and grandpas but we let them know almost immediately. we calculated the due date to be on my brothers' birthday, october 6th. so fun. i went in for my first dr's visit which confirmed it was official. :) after the dr's visit we started telling friends, neighbors, bank tellers, drive thru employees, etc. we started looking at names, bedding themes, getting our brains wrapped around having another peanut in the house.

*WARNING* you are now entering the TMI zone. if you are male (ahem, GEORGE.) and would rather bypass this in-depth analysis of all things "baby", you may want to excuse yourselves now. i will give you a few seconds to decide...

alright then. you have been warned. :)

i was about 8 weeks along when i started spotting. it was a bright red and that set off some internal alarms. i immediately called my OBGYN and she assured me that this was normal and to come in so we could "take a look at that baby". i went in by myself (hubby was working), feeling good that this was nothing to freak out about and eventually found myself on the ultrasound table. it was just me and the ultrasound tech in a small, darkened room - the girl was only a few years younger than me. she started the process and wasn't saying anything. so, of course, i asked. :) "soooo, how's it looking in there?" and she tells me, after a long pause, that she wasn't "allowed" to give me the results of the ultrasound, only my doctor could do that. silly girl. i knew that wasn't right - i'd had an ultrasound tech give me every last detail twice with my firstborn. my stomach twinged and my heart sank a bit. she wrapped up her mission - got all the pictures she needed, i guess - and made a phone call. this one sealed the deal for me. she's all of 6 feet away from me and she says, "hi. i have a patient here who is supposed to be 8 weeks pregnant..." and it went fuzzy after that. "supposed to be". but in actuality, i wasn't? she then instructed me to head directly over to my OBGYN's office where my dr. would discuss the findings with me. big mystery here. i girded up my inner being, took a few deep breaths, and drove to her office.

my OBGYN was sweet, compassionate, a mother herself. she explained to me that the baby just didn't develop and it appeared that my body had just reabsorbed it. there would be no bleeding, no passing of material - just... done. i called my hubby from the lobby to tell him the news and made my way over to my parents' house where i shared the story with them. we cried. it was sad. but we trusted in God's hand, His Omniscience, His goodness. life would go on.

however, the next day i woke up feeling as sick as i had the day before. i felt bloated and gross - you know, PREGNANT. :) i called my OBGYN and her nurse explained that it might take a little while for my hormones to get back to normal levels. so i went about my days for another week or so, feeling worn out, nauseous, FAT. and then i got an urgent voice mail from my OBGYN.

"jenifer. i just got your blood test results and your hormone levels are TWICE what they should be. we may have a viable pregnancy after all. come in immediately for another ultrasound."

ok wait. what?? did i hear that right? i played it back a few times and yes, she did say "viable pregnancy". my hubby was out of town so i gathered up my almost 2 yr old and drove like a mad woman to the hospital where i would have the ultrasound done. i hoisted myself up onto the little padded table, hoping, PRAYING for a promising result. alas, it was not to be. the ultrasound tech explained (what? i thought they weren't allowed to do that! whatever...) that i had, what they called, a "molar pregnancy". i had never heard of it. she showed me on the ultrasound screen how the cells in my uterus were multiplying at twice the normal rate and my body (and my uterus!) thought i was pregnant with twins and twice as far along as i actually was. well no wonder my jeans didn't fit! my body thought i was 18 weeks pregnant! but i wasn't. there was no viable pregnancy. my faint glimmer of hope was officially gone.

since david was out of town at the time we scheduled the D&C for 2 days later. i don't remember the procedure at all but there was some intense cramping to follow. the worst part had to have been when my milk came in a couple days later. that was tough. then i had to go in to my OBGYN's office at least once a week for the next 6-8 weeks to follow up with blood work to ensure my hormone levels were returning to normal. unbeknownst to me, molar pregnancies can, if the abnormally replicating cells have not been completely cleared out, cause uterine cancer. that's not fun stuff. so on a weekly basis i had a consistently bitter reminder that i was definitely NOT pregnant. sitting in the waiting room, surrounded by burgeoning bellies, glowing cheeks, the chatter of impending life-change, was emotionally taxing, to say the least. sure enough, my hormone levels slowly returned to their pre-pregnancy state. my OBGYN suggested we wait a year before trying for another baby. but did we take that advice? c'mon, silly. :)

in the few months that followed, i earnestly sought after God and His purpose and plan. i had to come to grips with the fact that my daughter may be the only biological offspring we would ever produce. was i okay with that? could i trust Him with that? in retrospect, i can absolutely see the purpose through the pain but it's SO HARD when we're in the midst of the trial to ever see a hopeful conclusion. emotions are so thick and all-encompassing that it FEELS like you'll never be free of them. but just as surely as the night descends, the sun also rises. the seasons pass, and winter morphs silently into spring. old becomes new and the flesh gives way to the spirit of Truth. our salvation, our stories are being worked out on a daily basis. the tapestry has not been completed but we are trusting the Artist who SEES, with perfect eternal perspective, the glorious conclusion.

i feel i keep repeating myself. :) but if there's one thing i have learned in my nearly 37 years, it's that a) God is good but b) sometimes things just don't make sense. yet if i BELIEVE that God IS good and He desires the best for me (and for YOU!), can i accept the challenges, as well as the blessings, as all coming from His benevolent hand? that those things which seem to afflict me physically or emotionally, but cause tremendous spiritual growth, be deemed a mistake? no way. i promise you, dear girls, it may be weeks or it may be years, but He will allow you the exquisite blessing of being able to look back to see your circumstances come together with striking clarity to form a most beautiful picture. YOUR picture. the only one like it in the whole entire world. oh, it's gonna be SO GOOD.

"for we know that in ALL things God works for the GOOD of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." romans 8:28 (emphasis mine)

ALL things, baby. ALL. THINGS. in times of painful loss, believe it. cling to it. rest your tear-stained face against it. you are firm in His grip, dear friend. :)

love y'all

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

finger fun and psalm 144

hi sweet friends :)

earlier today i visited with a hand surgeon (again) to discuss the present and future treatment of an "injury" to my middle finger. i have attached a picture. prepare to be grossed out. :) yes, it's my right middle finger - and no, it's not from overuse. :) i have a condition called scleroderma of which a symptom is reynaud's disease. reynaud's is a vascular disease that causes my fingers and toes to lose circulation in cold temperatures (whether it's snow or air conditioning - grocery stores are the worst!) the lack of blood flow to my fingers (and/or toes) can cause the skin at the tips of them to basically start to deteriorate and die, often referred to as a "digital ulcer". (awesome.) i've had a few of these in the past few years (one in the summer of 2008 which became infected and required a 4 day hospital stay on i.v. antibiotics) but they all eventually heal (with scarring, of course.) this latest bugger is on the very tip of my finger which, the doctor explained today, is very precarious because it sits directly on top of the bone so it takes much longer for the skin to regenerate and heal. i have zero use of that finger at all. you know how when you cut back your fingernail a little too far and it hurts like the dickens? it's kinda like that but multiply it by 100. ouch. i am typing with 9 fingers, as i have been for the past 5 months. (not very conducive to blogging. sheesh.) i do laundry with my left hand, basically. anything that is done around the house (dishes, scrubbing bathtubs, hanging clothes) is a potential for me to hit my finger against something which causes sharp shots of pain up my arm. usually about 15 times a day (i'm not the definition of graceful you know.) :)

listen, i realize there are far worse conditions. i realize that other than this offending appendage, i am basically healthy and normal (ok, shut up. i said BASICALLY.) this has been such a battle for me - one minute sinking into self-pity, the next soaring on hope and patience. crying and yelling at God "I KNOW YOU CAN HEAL THIS! WHY WON'T YOU JUST DO IT?? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME??" this has, quite literally, become the ever present "thorn in my flesh". oh, so frustrating... but despite the seemingly "bad news" today (the doctor rattled off several different options such as skin grafts from my palm, attaching my middle finger to my index finger and then using that grafted skin to cover the tip of my finger, cutting down the bone and pulling the skin up over the top of the finger which would result in some weird-lookin "hooked nail" over the top of my finger, etc...) amazingly enough, my most promising option was the only one i would have never considered 30 mins prior to my appointment. to just keep going. that my body knew what it was doing and would heal itself in it's perfect timing. and seeing as how i personally know and trust the Creator of aforementioned body, i think i'll do just that.

i found this chapter during my struggle with my last digital ulcer and love the first verse oh, so much. the whole chapter is pretty stinkin awesome, actually :) i'm printing this baby out and hanging it up somewhere - i might even memorize it and hide it away in my heart. it's good stuff.

Psalm 144

Of David.
1 Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.

2 He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples[a] under me.

3 LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
4 They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.

5 Part your heavens, LORD, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
6 Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
shoot your arrows and rout them.
7 Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners
8 whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

9 I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword 11 deliver me;
rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

12 Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
13 Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
14 our oxen will draw heavy loads.[b]
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.