Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving as a family by adding feathers to a turkey on the wall with things we're thankful for written on them a couple of times during November and by getting together with Chris' boss (also American) and almost his entire research group for Thanksgiving dinner.

I ended up making stuffing, rolls, pumpkin pie, blueberry cream cheese pie, and my mom's/aunt's famous yams and apples.  Everything actually turned out pretty good. Lots of compliments on the 'cheescake' as everyone called it, and the yams and apples. No one said a word about the rolls, although I think they are some of my best work, but Chris tells me this is because everyone assumed they were store bought from a fancy bakery. HA. :)

It really was a nice Thanksgiving dinner. I'm glad we brought the kids. They are a nice security blanket to hold, snuggle and talk to during those awkward social moments that happen with a bunch of people who work together but aren't necessarily hang-out-buddies + spouses.

Chris still had to work all week and on Thanksgiving Day because its not a holiday here; but that's ok. He was able to work from home a couple of the mornings to help me out with kids and house work while I took it easy and cried a lot.  (BTW, I am in much better control of my emotions now and feeling completely normal physically....except these pregnancy hormones -I'm blaming it on them- are still wrecking havoc with my weight...blah)


It actually felt a LOT like Thanksgiving despite no one else celebrating it, no extra family, and no Thanksgiving decorations in any of the stores...maybe it was the pilgrim stick puppet craft the kids and I did together.  We're thankful for so many things at the top of the list being each other - alive and normal healthy, our amazing families, helpful friends, awesome house, comfortable job, empowering religion, our compassionate and all-knowing Father in Heaven, and sleeping children.

 

Monday, November 19, 2012

First ER visit

Amazingly Chris and I have both never been to an ER before Friday. Even with three kids, two of them busy boys we've never had to go to the Emergency Room.  I think most of this is owed to Chris who is always watching out for ways the boys could be more careful and is quick to tell them and explain why he thinks they should stop what their doing.  Plus despite being busy and active our kids are also fairly cautious and surefooted, again, traits they've inherited from Chris.  So it seems fitting that our first ER visit would not be because one of the children or Chris, but me. Although it wasn't my fault, it wasn't anyone's fault.

Chris and I found out in September that we were expecting! We were very very very happy with this since we want our kids close in age to each other and the baby was due in June with just enough time to recover a bit before we probably moved in August to wherever we get a job. And it was a good sign that all the chemo treatments hadn't inhibited Chris ability to father children.  I was happy to tell our family and some of our friends but we hadn't told the kids yet, we were planning on doing some fun surprise at Christmas time.  I actually had the thought a couple of times, "Can we really be so blessed?!?"  Everything was working out just perfectly for what I thought was a perfect plan.

We had our first prenatal visit on Wednesday and the doctor said it was too early to check for a heartbeat but next time for sure. She did a very thorough exam and declared everything to be looking just great. That night I started spotting. A little worried since I never spotted that much with the other kids I planned to just take it easy the next day.  I ended up going back to the doctor in the morning just to be safe and she said it could be normal from the physical exam but to just go to the ER if it got heavier.  All Thursday I would be pulled back and forth from worry that it was too much, to calm thinking it was still light enough to be ok.  A friend offered to pick up Alec from school for me and I didn't go to Volleyball that night. By Friday morning I knew things were getting scarier and told Chris we needed to go to the ER.

Another amazing friend offered to take the kids, Alec could walk to school with her kids, and her husband and Chris gave me a blessing before heading to the hospital. I was blessed with peace and glimpse of God's will and that my body would function properly. On the way I tried to stay lighthearted and told Chris we were pretty lucky to have our first ER visit not be because one of our children was bleeding to death.  Ever the quick one, Chris immediately replied, "well, hopefully not."  I guess I can be pretty witty when I do it accidentally.

Most of you probably already know how the ER works but I didn't. Luckily they had everything pretty well labeled and I stood in all the right lines on my first try: first the triage reception, then the admitting reception. They got me in pretty fast, although it wasn't very busy, took me to a room around the corner, told me to change into the gown and the doctor would be in as soon as he could.  I spent the next 6 hours mostly in that room.  But most of that waiting time was after all the tests. A nice resident came and did an exam but couldn't offer a decisive diagnosis. Yes, there was a lot of bleeding and it was coming from the cervix (bad news) but it wasn't open (good news) but he was kindly straightforward when I asked and said his guess would be a miscarriage.  He ordered some blood work and an ultrasound and both of those happened within an hour.  So far I was able to answer no to most of the important questions, no there wasn't a lot of cramping (except for 1 big painful and long cramp early Wednesday morning that I thought nothing of at the time) no, I felt no back pain and no problem with bowels.

A nurse escorted us to the ultrasound room, down some halls, passing by people laying in hospital beds in hallways and in rooms (they mostly kept all the doors open, even ours almost the whole time...with just the curtain closed for privacy).  I felt a little weird walking by all these people who looked much sicker than I felt all out in the open in flimsy gowns. I was cold  in just a little gown myself, one that was very open across the back, and I was glad that I was wearing a longish sweater when I came to the ER because I wore it with the gown for some personal decency and warmth.  But I had to take it off for the ultrasound and for some reason they wouldn't let Chris come into the room with me. It was just me and the technician guy with a thick Eastern Europe accent.

He couldn't see what he wanted to from doing the ultrasound on my belly and asked me to go to the bathroom then come back for an internal ultrasound. He had prepped the bed in my absence with a thick slanted foam block and gave me directions of  how to position myself on my back. A nurse came in to sit by me for this one and when I asked for Chris, they told me no again. After a long attempt to get the right angle and many pictures later the technician mumbled something about how it was very small and he couldn't find a heartbeat but he wanted to get the radiologist to have a look. So he left the probe in me and he and the nurse left the room (thankfully remembering to shut the door behind them). With legs open, cold despite the blanket clumsily crossing most of my knees, slanted 45 degree angle, rear end up, on my back I waited for 15-20 min alone in the room.

Surprisingly this time alone was a real positive experience for me. As I awkwardly lay there  I looked up a the ceiling and felt such LOVE for my Father in Heaven. I took a deep breath and felt peace.  I looked out the window and saw the beautiful clean snow and the clear blue sky and I felt so blessed to already be living a rich life. I have my 3 beautiful, wonderful, amazing children, my sincere husband, and my knowledge of and love for my Savior and Father in Heaven. I felt so blessed. These feelings of love themselves were another blessing and I think related to the priesthood blessing Chris and Jay Harker gave me that morning. For a little bit I wondered why I was feeling love for Them and not having a nice spiritual experience of Their love for me, but I came to feel that the feelings of peaceful love and gratitude were an expression of Their love for me. You know the phrases, God is Love, Where Love is there God is also.  I honestly didn't mind the wait and was glad for the peaceful feelings. I've had to summon them back quite often in the following days.

The guy eventually came back and mumbled something from which I gathered the radiologist wasn't coming, that he didn't find a heartbeat on the ultrasound and the official report would be forthcoming and he left once again. I cleaned up, put my sweater back on and gladly returned to an anxious and confused Chris who thought he was waiting to go in with me for the actual ultrasound. I told him what happened as we were ushered back through the halls to our ER room.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. Noon passed, 1:30, 2:30. With no chair in our room or pillow we tried to get comfortable and took turns laying down on the bed with our head cradled in the other persons lap. I had sent Chris for a some food and we shared (well, I mostly ate it and gave a few pieces to Chris) a bag of Sun Chips, although they could've been Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake they tasted so good. Throughout the morning I started feeling cramps and they increasingly got more painful and eventually spread across my lower back. By 2:00 they ebbed and flowed in intensity much like labor only without spreading the pain across my entire torso, they stayed pretty localized and low and did NOT grow to 10 times more painful then I would like to deal with. They stayed within the bounds of "I can deal with this."

Eventually a nurse came in and was surprised to hear my account of what all the technician told me. I guess the "I couldn't find a heartbeat" really truly sealed the diagnosis. I was having a miscarriage.  This didn't really sink in until another lady came in from the Early Pregnancy Loss Support group. More than a "these are the times we hold group therapy sessions" type of lady I thought she was, she actually acts as my advocate with the doctors and hospital staff.  Her name was Cheryl and as she slowly talked with me about the practical implications and physical what-to-expects I realized I was no longer going to have a cute little sweet angel baby to hold and love and watch grow up starting in June, or even July, August, September, October and probably not even in November. Although I was teary most of the day, I really let it out just then... uncontrollable sobs as silent as I could make them. Chris and I had had plenty of time to create our list of questions throughout the day: what does this mean for future pregnancies? When can we try again? How long will the miscarriage process take? What are the complications/red flags to watch out for? Do I keep taking the hypothyroid medication I was prescribed  3 days ago? On and on we went and as we asked Cheryl she quietly, compassionately, competently answered them.  I practically choked on the last question, "what do people typically do with the...."  She came to my rescue, finishing my question for me with the word, "Remains?" because I had started crying again. The question had plagued me a lot. If I knew what it was when it came out, could I really just flush it down the toilet? What if we never had another child? Would I think of this as our baby we never had and regret just discarding it? But at only 9 weeks, it wouldn't look anything like a baby, and was there really ever a sweet little spirit in it? Was it just a broken shell? I would feel silly if I were to go overboard but I didn't want regrets. Its kind of funny the kinds of question your mind grabs a hold of in times of crisis.

Cheryl was quite mad for us at the wait time we were having to deal with especially as she watched me trying to handle the pain of cramps and back ache and by now a very bad headache from crying, and maybe hunger. She said she'd go stand and stare at whoever she needed to up in the ultrasound result area until they submitted it so the doctor could look at it, then come talk to us and officially deliver the news we'd come to realize so we could finally go home. Within an hour we finally (and for the first time that day) saw the supervising OBGYN. The five minutes we spent with her felt like some of the most pointless of our whole time there.  She stood too close to me and very awkwardly said, "Hi, I'm Dr so-and-so and I'm sorry for your loss" big pause "I'm sorry you had to wait so long." Another pause. "Do you know what is happening?" Pause. She kept pausing like she was waiting for my reaction, maybe she was just trying to go easy and give me time, but I sort of felt like she expected some response from me, like crying or questions or protests. The other people had done their job so well, I was just ready to go home. She wasn't saying anything we hadn't already heard the exact words of from her resident or Cheryl. No, wait, thats not true.  It was from her that I learned I had to go back to a lab to draw blood 48 hours from then to compare the pregnancy hormone levels to verify they were indeed decreasing.  I hadn't yet heard a time frame, 48 hours. Anyways, Cheryl gave us a baggie with pads, a 'texas hat' to catch the remains if we chose, a container to bring them to the hospital for testing if we chose, and some other goodies like rubber gloves and her contact info. They finally said I could get dressed and go home.

I think the actual miscarriage happened during that last hour of talking.  My last bathroom visit as I changed into my clothes also provided evidence to support my thought. This was the loneliest I've felt during this whole experience. With the birth of my 3 kids, their welcome into the world was full of people caring for them and for me and all I had to do was deal with the pain and think of/hold my baby while someone else cleaned up the mess and worried about my health.  Now everything was left to me to deal with in a dirty, tiny, old ER hospital public bathroom.

But I dealt with it the best I could and was happy to wear clothes again and to think of eating something and of lying down in my own bed with a pillow - or 6 as is the case for me. We were home by 4:30 and Chris made me a plate of french bread, brie, grapes and oranges and then picked up the kids from our friends. The same friend who had also managed to clean my house for me while we were at the hospital, and make dinner for us and help the kids draw "get well" pictures for me, and feed them dinner, all with her 4 kids too! She's wonder woman and reminds me so much of my sister, Tiffany.  I felt so happy as I ate food and wrote in my journal and hugged my kids.  It was then that we told our children what happened.

I told my kids that their smiles were like medicine to me and they let me hug them and kiss them before they showed me their pictures. Gwen's said, "Thank you for feeling better for the pink!"  She loves the color pink right now. Alec had really wanted to know what had happened and Chris gathered the freshly PJ-ed kids on our bed to start the discussion. He told them that we had made a baby and it was growing inside me and we were soooo happy about it. But today the baby died (Chris and I both start crying) and so we don't have a baby growing anymore.  That's why we're sad and why mommy feels sick because it hurts her body to have the baby die.  Alec looks very serious and almost teary eyed.  He gets it.  Charlie looks sad and concerned and asks if the baby died. Gwen is bouncing and jumping all over the bed happy and oblivious.  We tell the kids that we also are very happy because we already have 3 beautiful and amazing children.  That they are all, each, a miracle and we love them.  Tons of questions from Alec later, we get them all in bed where they proceed to throw meltdown after tantrum after breakdown.  They pretty much acted like complete pills for the next 24 hours but Chris and I (mostly Chris dealt with them though) kept our cool because we really do love them and this experience has given us fresh and deep reasons to be grateful for them.

The weekend was tough. Cramping and bleeding were still really big factors for all of Saturday and Sunday. So were tears and headaches. I don't really feel up to talking to anyone about it, although I'm happy for people to know, I just am so fragile that any show of compassion or any mention of it longer than 1 sentence makes me fall apart and I'd rather not fall apart everytime I'm in public. Sunday was our Primary Presentation, and as a counselor in the Primary Presidency, it was hard for me not to be up there helping. I did sit in the back with Chris so I could watch my boys then ran out right after the closing prayer so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone.

Today I feel much better and I got results from the blood sample I gave yesterday that says the pregnancy hormone is decreasing very well, which means I'm healing well. So good news.

And there you go. I've got another post composing in my mind about what I'm learning about sorrow and happiness but I'll save that for another time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Winter Wonderland

  We had such a snow dump last week. Seriously, the most snow I've ever seen fall in one sitting. Maybe a foot and a half in just over 24 hours. It was wet and pretty and great for pictures.

 

Luckily, we had just bought some sleds so I could pull the little kids in one every day when I walk to pick Alec up from Kindergarten, since our stroller does NOT work well in the snow.  However, the snow was so deep and wet that it was almost impossible to pull a sled through it. I had to give up 1/2 way across the school field, leave Charlie and Gwen (who was bawling at this point...she did not like being in her snow clothes or being pulled almost at a 45 degree angle in the tippy, bumpy sled) ...leave them stranded in the field so I could run the rest of the way to get Alec since he didn't seem to see us out in the field.  It was a tiny bit easier on the walk home when Alec could help me pull and it got WAY easier once I realized I should just walk in the road where some of the snow was flattened by the cars.

Just before I left them in the field -- But this picture doesn't capture well how deep it was or how high / tilted the sled was because of all the snow stuck under it. Even though the sled is super light and my kids aren't too heavy, the extra 50 lbs of snow caught under it all added up to quite a load.

 
 
 

By the time we got home my head was soaked since my jacket hood kept coming off and I was hot enough from pulling the sled I didn't mind the open air. The boys had lots of fun playing in the backyard. The boys tried to build their own ramp to sled down from the trampoline.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

They did a pretty good job by themselves! The next morning I went out with Charlie (counted it all as my exercise!) and got the ramp pretty big.

 
  The snow is still all here and deep. There was a warmish day a couple of days ago where any shoveled sidewalks melted to bare cement and our car no longer looks like a snow monster.

 
I can still think of this all as Fun Fun Fun. It probably helps that I'm counting on this being our last winter here. But who knows what the future holds or if we'll be able to get a job elsewhere for the next Fall. Oh well, no point worrying about that now. I'm still going to try and enjoy this crazy weather winter. (Maybe another helpful reason is the treadmill we just found on kijiji and got. (!!) Not even the snow can stop me running this winter!! ...although there are other factors in my life besides snow so I can't start planing the next 1/2 marathon yet.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Swimming lessons

Alec has been taking swimming lessons at a local community center twice a week for the past month.  Its been really great. After a year of having no where we had to be at, at a certain time, I was worried what school every day, piano lessons once a week, swimming lessons twice a week, and playgroup once a week would do to our family. Its not bad so far and I actually really enjoy getting our days started early so consistently.

Alec is getting so brave in the water and will put his whole head under for 3 seconds quite regularly  Also he as good confidence at trying things by himself first, like his star floats.  He seems to really enjoy being in the water and he has some good teachers.  The things we need to work on are blowing out air slowly through his nose so he can stay under the water for as long as he can hold his breath, and trusting himself to hold his floats and breath for longer.

 Now that Charlie is 4, he gets to start this week too! They'll actually be in the same class until Alec turns 6 next month.  Both boys are really excited about this, they are such good friends most of the time.  I can't wait to see little Charlie in the water and see how well he does.  He is super brave, quite squirmy and a good risk taker so I think it will be really entertaining to watch him.

Its getting really cold and it was really slushy the past couple of days (most of it melted yesterday!) and so coming out of the warm pool with wet hair seems really uncomfortable.  For this reason, I think we'll stop doing swimming lessons for the first couple of months of the new year and pick back up in early spring.  I'm thinking we'll try gymnastics in the meantime. I love seeing my kids do physical/sporty activities because they are so good at them!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween

This year we had lots of chances to celebrate Halloween.

First, I was feeling in a crafty mood and wanted to do something fun with the kids and we made Halloween T-shirts using fabric paint and freezer paper. I had the kids draw their own spooky picture and then I helped them draw it BIG on the freezer paper and then they painted them! We even found glow in the dark paint to make the shirts super awesome. The sad thing about this whole experience is that we forgot to wear them before Halloween! We were saving them, and then we forgot about them.

 

Charlie and Gwen had a nice little Halloween party at their playgroup last Friday. They had Halloween games, enjoyed a super cute shadow puppet show / poem that we tried to copy at home later, wore their costumes and ate huge cookies.

 
 They got these silly glasses and Gwen looked so funny wearing them while we waited inside the schools boot room to pick up Alec from Kindergarten.

 Friday night we were given tickets to a Spooktacular at the big West Edmonton Mall's indoor amusement park: Galaxy land, costumes encouraged.  We debated getting a sitter and just Chris and I going by ourselves but ended up taking the boys and leaving Gwen to get a good nights sleep since the party didn't even start until 7:30pm.  Good decision. It was fun to go on rides and the boys were so good despite it being so late (it wasn't until the next day that their distress showed....)

 We found some friends to take pictures with!

 The perfect Alec-and-Charlie-sized roller coaster.   I wish I would've gotten a picture of their faces after the first lap! They both looked SOOOO concerned and shocked, but by the end they were smiling and laughing.

 I love their faces in this next one:



 Chris and I were some random Scottish couple. I think we put these ensembles together for our first Halloween as a married couple since Chris had an awesome authentic kilt to work with (a gift from his sister, Jess from her semester in London) and my dress is a hastily cut up dress we found at DI all those 8 years ago.


SHEESH I don't really like these monster posts, but its what I've got to work with at the moment so lets keep plugging on! Next up is Pumpkin Carving.

 I made the mistake of getting pumpkins early (for decoration) and left them outside where they froze in our past weeks of constantly below freezing.  So we had to carve them at a delicate balance between not thawed enough to be mushy but thawed just enough to stick a knife into.  With pot holders to keep our non carving hand from freezing it was actually quite easy to scrape them clean since frozen pumpkin innards aren't actually slimy. 

 
 
 
 
Charlie's turned out pretty cool I thought (below). Gwen's is the smiley face in the middle above. She keeps saying, "My pumpkin is happy!"
 
Alec got to wear his costume to school on Wednesday and I was able to go help with his party. It was fun to stay for an entire day of kindergarten and parade through the school with him, serve treats and work at some of the special Halloween centers with him and his friends.
 
 

Wednesday night we had our little family party and had my friend Anna and her son who is Alec's age and in his Kindergarten class over too. We played the donuts on a string game then went trick or treating before it got TOO dark and cold THEN we came in for a warm dinner of chili and cornbread. I actually really liked doing it in this order. It was fun to be done trick or treating by 7:00 and have some calming down time while we ate a warm dinner and then the kids were almost too full  and tired to eat buckets of candy and didn't complain when we stopped after 2 pieces.  (We've since eaten our fill and Alec is currently laying next to me on the bean bag since we both have tummy aches from too much sugar!)


  Me helping Gwen cheat...

 Gwen cheating on her own...

 
 Chris, just about to win...

 
 
 Waiting for Gwen...


It was SOOOOO cold. The kids wore 2 layers of fleece pajamas under their warm costumes and I wore my biggest winter-est coat and was quite warm until the cold reached my toes and fingers after an hour.  The wind was biting and Chris took Gwen home a few houses early.

Alec was a cheetah, Charlie was Batman and Gwen was a ladybug.  Chris and I put the kids down by 8:00 and watched a few episodes of Mentalist while we answered the door and I eventually fell asleep.  All in all, it was a very fun Halloween.