Today was beautiful. Actually, it was freezing cold and I woke up late and rushed out the door without any breakfast or caffeine. But, when I arrived at my destination, none of that mattered anymore. I was walking into a place where love was palpable.
In Dallas, there is a church called Wilshire Baptist, that recently voted on a resolution stating that it would permit all members to participate in congregational life regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, including the ability to consider all members for leadership, ordination, baby dedication, and marriage.
As I am sure you can imagine, in the middle of a red state, in the bible belt, after an extremely contentious election, this has caused quite an uproar. Because of this decision, the church will be expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (although they can still operate as a Baptist church.) This was a consequence of their vote that the congregation understood when they made their decision. What was not expected was that protesters would show up last Sunday, with bullhorns, screaming at the people walking into church about how they are all going to “Burn in Hell.”
Way to act Christian, Christians.
I respect everyone’s right to their beliefs, but I have no respect for people that spew hatred. In my home church the message that “love is love” is preached from the pulpit and that is one of the reasons the members there are my people. I believe in a Jesus who very clearly said that we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves and that everyone is our neighbor- and we don’t get to make exceptions for that.
I have been having a lot of feelings lately, I mean these last few weeks, right?!!! No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think everyone is feeling a little rough after this election cycle.
You know how I got through the election? By drinking an entire bottle of wine in my “command center” surrounded by the TV, my laptop, and my phone, while stress-eating half a bucket of leftover Halloween candy. Around midnight when it was pretty clear how it was going to turn out, my husband had to force my drunken crying hot mess into bed and take my phone away from me.
But I digress. One of my friends from church invited me to a Facebook group of people who were going today to form a line of love in front of Wilshire Baptist. The idea was to serve as a sort of anti-protest just in case the protesters from last week came back.
Luckily they did not, but something magical did happen. At 8:30 on a Sunday morning a small group of about 20, most of us strangers to each other and with no ties to Wilshire Baptist, welcomed the church attendees with smiles and signs of encouragement and thanks. It went so well that a bigger group of us came back at 10:30 to greet the next service.
And I can’t even begin to count the number of hugs I got today. I certainly can’t count the tears that were shed, a large portion of them admittedly by me. All the pastors and church staff came out to thank us, most of them crying, to say how hard this time has been. More than one person expressed to us that this showing of community support meant the world to them. I had one woman tell me that she had not been to the church in almost 40 years because she was not sure she was welcomed and that today was her first day coming back. I think she picked a pretty good day for a homecoming.
For the second service, I brought my kids and husband with me because I wanted them to see this outpouring of love for our community and the impact it was making on our neighbors who were hurting. Standing out there chatting with strangers, hugging everyone, and covering these people with love was not only good for them, it was healing for my soul.
A part of me has had a wall built up around my heart recently. Sometimes I feel like there is a battle inside me between my desire to love everyone well and my fear of what could happen when my heart is that open. The scary state of the world made me want to protect myself-to curl up in a little ball and just hope for it to get better.
Today I got to remember that the best part of life isn’t waiting for the world to get better, it’s doing what little bit you can to actually make it better.
Tonight I decided that I will no longer participate in any conversations about weight- my own or anyone else’s. The big exception to that being with my doctors (and my therapist) of course.
I just wanted to take a moment to explain myself so you don’t find me rude if I change the subject or move into a different conversation when you bring up your new diet, or the 5 pounds you can’t seem to loose, or how the cheese that we are eating is going to go straight to your thighs. It’s not that I don’t get it. In fact, the reason I feel the need to draw this line is that I get it too much.
It is far too easy for me to look at the numbers on a scale or the way my clothes are bunching around my waist and think how much better, how much happier I would be if I could just make that little bit extra of me magically go away. I can go back through my blogs and read One Hundred and Thirty Pounds and see that being skinny was a far cry from being healthy, but that doesn’t mean that the impulse to blame everything that is wrong in my life on my weight has just disappeared (see One Hundred and Fifty Eight Pounds.)
So I am taking action. I am not giving that seed room to grow. My beautiful girls will hear enough of that from the world around them. I refuse to allow them to hear it from me.
And talking about what’s wrong with our bodies is like a competitive sport for moms. And even if we think those conversations are just between us grown-ups and our mommy juice, our little ones see and hear much more than we realize. I am going to step on out of that race. I don’t want to ask my daughters one day where they learned to hate their perfect bodies and have their answer be, “I learned it from watching YOU Mom!!” (Cue the 80s PSA music.)
So I’m not going to do it anymore. I won’t judge you if you want to have these types of discussions, but I will do my best to bow out of the conversation. I am writing this publicly so that if you hear me breaking this new rule for myself you will gently correct me. “We don’t say bad things about our bodies,” will work just fine to help me remember my resolution.
I took a bath tonight. I read a book. And as I got out and I rubbed lotion on my much- scarred belly, my thighs dimpled by cellulite, and my breasts that will never look the same after nursing twins, I made an important decision. I am going to really work to love this body- broken and imperfect as it is. Because a healthy body-image is something I would be proud to have my girls learn from watching me.
I would like to start this post by saying that I am not a doctor, or a scientist, or an astronaut. Although I do know many, many doctors (seriously, I have seen close to 50 different MDs in the last 4 years) a few scientists and one guy who did a summer internship at the Air and Space Museum- so by internet article standards that pretty much makes me an expert. I mostly get my news from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and since his show returned a few days ago (hooray!) with a giant expose on doctors taking gifts from pharmaceutical companies I have seen even more articles pop up in my newsfeed about the dangers of “Big Pharma.”
I get that the pharmaceutical industry is a big money making machine and needs a lot more oversight in place. What worries me, however, is how this discussion feeds into the paranoia that leads people not to vaccinate their children because they believe doctors are only giving vaccines to get huge kickbacks. The doctors John Oliver is talking about are making bank pushing things like Viagra and Anti-Depressants. The Polio vaccine is not a big moneymaker, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have any off-label uses!
I will be the first to say that I truly understand that drugs can have horrible side effects- this is coming from a 35-year-old who has full blown Osteoporosis from all the Prednisone I took in the past few years. But I will also say that Prednisone was the only thing that actually controlled my Ulcerative Colitis. My doctors kept trying to get me off it, but without it, my flares were debilitating- I got Osteoporosis, but I didn’t bleed to death, so I count that as a win.
I would like to highlight here that I also tried everything else possible to control my disease. If you aren’t familiar with Ulcerative Colitis, it is an auto-immune disease where your body attacks your colon and causes these horrible ulcers that are intensely painful and come with digestive problems that I am sure you don’t want to hear about. It was like living with food poisoning for several years. Oh yeah, and I bled- a lot. So as much as I knew that steroids were not a long term solution, I kept begging for them because it was only when on a high dose that I got any sort of relief. I went through 6 or 7 other prescription drugs, multiple specialists, tried all sorts of diets, acupuncture, some wack-a-do thing called Total Body Modification (which did absolutely nothing and was stupidly expensive btw,) and spent months in treatment with a woman who is a highly regarded naturopath.
I did my research and found someone with excellent credentials, wonderful reviews and great recommendations. This woman was lovely and kind and I am sure that her methods work for some people, but it was the holistic supplements that she gave me that sent me into the worst flare of my life, and down the path where I eventually had to have my colon removed.
This is where I get really worried about people who choose to use Complimentary Alternative Medicine instead of the opinions of actual doctors. Because medical specialists exist for a reason. I have a GI Specialist, Colon and Rectal Surgeon, Endocrinologist, and a guy who just focuses on Osteoporosis in young patients because no one person can possibly be a true expert in all of these fields- there is just too much information.
When I went to the naturopath and asked if she had ever treated anyone with Ulcerative Colitis, she said “I treat the whole person, not just the disease,” and then gave me some water that had been blessed by a Shaman to drink. But I bought into it because I wanted so desperately for something to work. Her months of treatment never helped me (she convinced me that all my problems were because of diet, but after 4 months on her strict and gluten free meal plan, my symptoms were no better) and when I got a cold, she gave me some herbs that probably work fine for people without a diseased colon. But because of my medical conditions, something about them triggered a life-threatening flare for me.
And then when I went on prednisone again, it no longer worked. So we pulled out the big guns and I went on Remicade. This is an iv immuno-suppresent with a host of nasty side effects but at this point I was willing to do anything to get some quality of life back. It looked like I was getting a little better for a few months and then it just stopped working. That was the point at which my GI had a long sit down with me to discuss options.
At that meeting he told me that if I wanted to continue to try various perscription drugs there were many left that we could attempt to use. But he flat out told me that in his experience patients that have proven resistant to multiple treatment options often don’t find a drug that works for them, and he referred me to a surgeon to discuss removing my colon. At first I was horrified by the thought, but after a lot of research and discussion with my family and doctors, I realized that this was the best option for my long- term health. I am happy to report that a little more than a year after the first surgery, the only thing I take for my digestive system is Imodium and an RX probiotic. I am pretty much drug free except for my Synthroid (because of the thyroid cancer, but that’s a whole different story!) and my Xanax- which you would have to pry from my cold dead hands!
I tell this lengthy story for a few reasons. First of all, while I don’t doubt that there are unscrupulous MDs that over-proscribe because of the perks they get from drug companies, I also KNOW that there are many doctors who do what they do because they truly want to help people. I’m pretty sure that my GI would have made a lot more money by keeping me on a string of different drugs- at one point I was coming to his office twice a week (and now I only need to see him once a year!) Also, Remicade is extremely expensive (around $7,000 a treatment) so he also could have pushed me to keep trying that for another six months. But instead, he referred me to a surgeon who CURED me! Granted, it was a horribly invasive cure that required 2 surgeries, weeks in the hospital, and close to a year of recovery, but long-term the drug companies are making a lot less money off of me!
Secondly, all of this concern about “Big Pharma” is just fueling the vaccine debate- WHICH SHOULD NOT BE A DEBATE.
As someone who has spent the better part of the last four years either with newborn infants or in a severely immunocompromised state, I beg you to vaccinate yourself and your children.
Measles and Whooping Cough are coming back because we can no longer rely on herd immunity to protect those that cannot be vaccinated because of age or actual medical reasons. Yes, some people have vaccine reactions- some people are also deathly allergic to peanuts. Are you not introducing your child to any potential food allergens because there is a small chance they might have a reaction? If so, fine, that doesn’t hurt anybody but your child who will just be eating boiled chicken and white rice for their entire life.
But choosing not to vaccinate does hurt people. Little babies are getting sick and you can prevent that.
I am truly shocked by some of the things that friends and friends of friends believe about vaccines. For example- I am 99.999% sure that vaccines are not, in fact, made from aborted fetuses. If that is why you don’t vaccinate your children, I am 100% sure that I just unfriended you on Facebook.
And then there are the people I know who are incredibly well read and educated, smart and articulate, who still refuse to give their children vaccinations. And that’s where I circle back to homeopathy.
Most people who don’t vaccinate cite individual examples of vaccine-injuries as one of their reasons. Well, if anecdotal evidence is enough to convince you, then your shouldn’t use homeopathy either because I just told you a story about how I was homeopathically-injured. Therefore, homeopathy must be terrible for everyone and evil and it is irresponsible to give to your children.
Oh wait, but there is a contingent of people who believe they can get full immunization just by using homeopathic products. So they are giving their babies all sorts of herbs and medicines that are not at all controlled or tested by the FDA. Is the FDA flawed? You bet. But it is far better than having no controls in place.
Here’s a fun tidbit for you: Hyland’s, a very popular brand of homeopathic medicine, uses Belladonna in it’s baby teething tablets. Does that sound familiar? It is a highly toxic plant, also known as Deadly Nightshade, that people used to poison each other with in ancient Roman times (I heard about it on a tour of the Getty Villa, but I digress.) Apparently it is such a small amount that it shouldn’t have any adverse effects on children. But there is no one but the company making it that oversees the process and makes sure that the batch you give your babies didn’t get a little extra POISON in it by mistake.
Look, despite my history, I am not an alternative medicine hater. I think that it actually has great benefits for some people if used carefully and with the knowledge and guidance of a person who has actual medical training. But it is called Complimentary alternative medicine because it should serve as a compliment to advice from your MD, not in place of it.
Find doctors that you trust and then listen to them. 10-15 years of medical training is not exactly a “get rich quick” scheme. Most people who go through that do it because they actually want to help, not so that they can secretly inject your littles with mercury and aborted fetus tissue while bathing in $100 bills from the makers of the whooping cough vaccine.
Please, don’t let your internet “research” guide you to leave your kids open to diseases that could kill them or that they could spread to others. Because anyone can write an article on vaccines… you just read mine and I fully admitted in the beginning that I get my news from a comedy program!
I just want to take a quick moment to say I am truly astounded by the outpouring of support I have gotten since my last blog post about starting Mommies In Need. In a little over a week, we have more than doubled our original goal for helping Annie and her family!!!
I was not sure if I could really do this thing, or if I was just being an (even more) insane person. But you guys are backing me up and giving me the courage to keep going. The amount of people who have shared the link, donated, or offered to help in some other way is incredible. I think it has spoken to a real need in society. I have heard over and over again when I explain the idea to people, “I never really thought about it, but I don’t know what my family would do if I got that sick.” Mommies In Need is growing at the rate that it is because it offers a tangible and relatable service to people who are in an unthinkable situation.
So just to keep you in the loop here are just a few things that have actually happened in the last week:
We have the beginnings of the 501(c)(3) paperwork done. This is an extremely tedious process but I am hoping to have at the very least the articles of incorporation submitted to the state by tomorrow. Once that goes through, I can get the rest of the forms to the IRS in the next few weeks.
We have a Secretary and Treasurer for the Board. We will be having board meetings and voting on measures and all sorts of official stuff!
We have a Mommies In Need bank account where all of your incredibly generous donations are going. And by bank account, I mean real bank account, not a bag with a dollar sign on it under a loose floorboard.
We now have a PO Box. Send us something! I recommend a check made out to Mommies In Need, but you could also send Annie a letter or card of encouragement, a sonnet you write about how generally awesome I am, or whatever else you feel inspired to pass along. Our new address is: Mommies In Need, PO Box 601562 Dallas, Tx 75360.
And most importantly, we have raised enough money to fund a Nannie for Annie (sounds like a Dr. Seuss book) for over 2 months!!! I am amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm that everyone has shown.
So please continue to donate or have people send checks to our new address. You can also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if there is some other way you want to get involved or just want to be on the mailing list for any and all Mommies In Need info.
I am so excited that we are able to help Annie and hopefully many more mommies like her in the future. Thank you to all of you for listening, supporting, and sharing! And for jumping on board this crazy train with me!
I have said on this blog before that I no longer believe that everything happens for a reason. Some of you may have heard me articulate this as “I don’t believe that God gives us the bad stuff.” I just can’t wrap my head around a world where the difficult path that I have been down was chosen for me, that I have suffered so much because I am uniquely strong enough to bear it. I think we have a lot more choice than that, and sometimes shit just happens. And it’s not fair, and it’s not because I deserved it, or because I needed it to grow as a person. I am just someone who for a long time couldn’t catch a break. And I went through a long string of crazy health problems and am just now coming out the other side of it.
What I do believe is that people who are dealt a rough hand have the option to bet on it anyway. We don’t always have the ability to change the circumstances that come into our lives, but we can choose to keep going, to get out of bed every day (or most days) and hope for the best. And if we are lucky, we can find a way to turn those things into something great. And sometimes God, or The Universe, or Completely Random Chance (whatever you want to name it that makes sense to you) lets things line up in a way that all that crap makes sense and has a purpose and can be turned into something beautiful.
This is more philosophical than I usually get here, but I need to explain to everyone why all of the sudden I have become (even more of) a crazy person and decided to take on a huge project when I am not quite fully functional myself. I started a charity. Like yesterday. With no real plan in place, just flying by the seat of my yoga pants and praying that it turns out ok.
I have actually been thinking about starting this since I first got sick. Because I always knew how fortunate I was that with the help of our families we could afford to hire a nanny to get me through the worst of it. And I found Wonder J– as I have written before she has been amazing for our family. I always knew that I could focus on taking care of myself and be there for my girls as much as possible, but have confidence that if I hit a wall and had to go lay down, or got dizzy, or was about to poop my pants (sorry for the TMI but we are talking colon removal here!) Flopsy and Curly were in good hands. I can’t even begin to describe how much I needed this help, I am not exaggerating when I say I am not sure I could have gotten through the last few years without a nanny. Cause stay at home mommies don’t get sick days. Ever. Not if you have a cold and not if you have cancer.
Stay at home mommies of young kids don’t have disability insurance and most of us don’t have any sort of childcare set up. Maybe a MDO or a couple of hours of babysitting here and there. Not enough to go to seven doctor’s appointments a week. Or be in the hospital for 20 days in a year. Or go through invasive treatments and surgeries that leave you feeling like warmed-up death. And if you can’t afford to hire help than at best you have tons of different people volunteering a few hours here and there, having to explain your kids schedule to every person that helps you, feeling guilty that there is no consistency in the kids lives, and at worst have to miss vital appointments or treatments because you can’t find someone to watch your kid with strep. Who, by the way, you shouldn’t even be near because you have a severely compromised immune system. Not a great situation, huh?
So when I heard that my friend Annie (who has two darling kids and not-so-cute colon cancer) was back in the hospital following surgical complications, and did not have and could not afford full time help to get her through the rest of her surgeries and chemo, I knew I HAD to do something. See, a few years ago, I would have heard her story and thought, “Aww that sucks, she’s so nice, this is going to be really hard for her.” But now I hear that story and say “NO!!! You can’t do this by yourself, if you can’t get help then I will get it for you.” And then the real miracle happened. Our previous nanny (who left only because she got a full time job, we loved her) texted me and said she was looking for a new family. And I thought, “Hello, all I have to do is put these two together, raise a bunch of money, and I’m off.” So Mommies In Need was born.
But can’t I just raise money for another charity that does this? Nope. If there is one, I couldn’t find it. And my vision is very specific. I want to not only fund the nannies for sick moms, but also provide them with someone who is vetted, background checked, and stamped with the SuperCrazy Mommy seal of approval (as in I have/would leave my own kids with them.) Because when you are in pain is not the time to have to do interviews and reference checks and try to find the right person. My long term goal is that if I get a call for a mommy who just got a diagnosis I can move fast and have a reliable nanny to her in a few days.
I know that there is a daunting amount of work ahead of me, I just opened the new bank account and am starting all the 501(c)(3) paperwork, and I actually do have “Grand Plans” for the future. But already I am amazed at the people who have stepped forward and said they think this is important and want to be a part of it. I am feeling grateful that everything came together at the right time for me to get off my ass and actually start this thing. So is it crazy? Yes. Is it Super Crazy? Yes! But I am doing this because I feel like I finally found the good that I can pull out of all the shit I have been through. This non-profit is my silver lining, my reason for all my difficulties. I actually have an answer now to the question that plagued me everytime I got hit with another diagnosis or huge crisis.
In Mommies In Need I found my “Why?”
*If this blog has ever spoken to you, or made you laugh, or given your day a little lift, please consider donating to MommiesInNeed. If you can’t donate, please check out the fundraising page and share it on any media platform you can. Plus as you will see on the campaign page, if you donate $100 or more I’ll Be Your Best Friend! You can also like me on Facebook for more updates on this project.
I rant a little (or a lot) on this blog. I talk about the crazy things that are going on in my life and how difficult it has been to deal with it all. I have talked about my anxiety, my cancer, my miscarriage, my disordered eating, and my surgeries, in addition to the general insanity of raising twin toddlers. If you want to get caught up quickly you can visit A Brief Timeline of Crazy. And while I have just begun mining the things I want to vent about and get off my chest, I feel the need to pause for a minute and say that despite all of that I never forget that I have also been amazingly blessed. I can’t say anymore that I believe that “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that if you try, you can take the bad that happens to you and make something beautiful out of it. For me that something is a new appreciation of the good things in my life, as well as the ability to be there for others who are going through a difficult time. So here is a list of 10 things for which I will be eternally grateful:
Flopsy and Curly- more than anything else they have been my reason for getting out of bed and my motivation to keep going no matter how crappy I felt. They are awesome and hilarious and they love tutus, purple, and sparkly things (just like mommy!) They were the worst sleeping babies in the history of the world, but I am incredibly thankful that they are relatively even-tempered toddlers. They play really well with each other about 75% of the time, which is pretty good for 2 1/2 and every single day they do something that stops me in my tracks because it is so cute, or sweet, or smart, or funny and I think, “I am the luckiest person in the world that I get to spend my days with these two amazing little people.” Like when Curly put her hand on my cheek and looked into my eyes and said, “You’re my sweet girl.” Or when Curly was getting frustrated with putting on her own shoes and Flopsy said, “I’ll help you” and then put Curly’s shoes on for her. Or yesterday, when they were playing on the swings and taking turns sitting on each other’s lap and swinging together. I seriously almost had a stroke from cuteness.
Sebastian- My husband is incredible. Truly, it makes me mad sometimes because I can’t even complain about him when I get together with a bunch of other moms. He helps around the house, gets up in the middle of the night with the kids when I’m not feeling well, is a loving and devoted dad, encourages me to take “me” time or go out with friends when I can, and managed to pick up all the extra work I could not do this past year when I was really sick. He also has to put up with much more of my crazy than anyone else and somehow still loves me. The most annoying thing about him is that he is almost always right. Please don’t tell him I said that!
My Family- By this I mean my parents, siblings, grandparents, and also Sebastian’s family who have been wonderful through all of our turmoil. I seriously don’t know how we would have survived the past few years without the family support we have had. They have gathered around us like a giant protective hugging net that has kept us from falling- yes a hugging net, I don’t know what that is either but I’m sticking with it.
My Friends- Even those who I have not talked to on a regular basis in the past years have come out of the woodwork to support me. Especially since I started this blog and actually let people in to the realities of what was going on with my life, I have been showered with love from my friends.
Wonder J (Our Nanny)- I have a whole post dedicated to her, but knowing that my kids are in such good hands has taken a ton of mommy guilt off my shoulders!
Dr. Awesome (My Therapist)- she helps me keep the crazy at bay and gives me Xanax. ‘Nuff Said.
That I Had Twins- sure, having 2 babies at once was front loaded with difficulty, but when I got the scary news that my uterus had been removed to save my life, I was devastated, but not nearly as much as I would have been if I hadn’t had two darling babies to go home to. I know that my family is perfect and complete. Plus, I don’t get a period anymore- can’t say that I miss that!
The Body Scan that Found my Cancer- it was horrible timing, but I do realize how lucky I am that a random scan before surgery found that lump and I was able to have it removed long before I ever showed symptoms. Otherwise, that little ball of yuck could have kept growing for a long time and put me in a much worse situation.
Our Financial Security- I am immensely grateful that we had good insurance and the ability to get through these years without the crippling debt that chronic illness and multiple surgeries can bring to a family. Sure, I would much rather have taken an awesome vacation than spend 20 days in the hospital this year, but we didn’t have to choose between paying for my medicines and paying for food. I do realize how very lucky I am for that.
This Blog- I only go to therapy once a week, but I can write here whenever I want! It has given me a sense of purpose, a way to express myself, and an outlet for the whirling dervish of thoughts that are constantly going in my head. It has allowed me to be honest in a way I have never been before. I am very good at putting up a front of being fine when I am actually far from it. It has been so helpful and freeing to me to have a place to let down my guard, to show the mess I have going on inside, and to advertise to the world how NOT perfect I am.
I started thinking that I needed to write this because I have several friends in crisis right now, and I constantly get people saying to me, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. It’s not as bad as what you’ve been through.” I would like to state right now for the record- that is total BS. If you are dealing with pain, difficulty, or trouble in your life, that is yours and you have every right to be upset about it. A dear friend of mine who has been through cancer, the loss of her mom, and many other struggles said something to me that I will never forget. I was saying essentially the same thing to her, that I shouldn’t complain because it could be much worse. And she said, “If that helps you right now, then use it. If it doesn’t, don’t!” I love that thought. Sometimes you need to wallow in your grief or pain or difficulty to get through it. And sometimes you need to look at the big picture of the world and be amazed that in the scheme of things your life is actually pretty good.
Right now I feel the need to show my gratitude to the universe that let me get through this horrible time in my life with myself missing a few organs and a little bit of sanity, but mostly intact. For the first time in a very long time I feel hope. And that is so beautiful. I want to say to those out there who are in the midst of a dip in your life when you feel like things will never get better… I have been there. Like really there, in a pit, thinking that I would never be able to climb out. And while I am not at the end of my journey of healing (so don’t be surprised when I have ranting posts later about Ulcerative Colitis, or surgeries, or other craziness) I can finally see that glimmer that things are going to be OK. It is crazy how that snuck up on me. I didn’t notice I was doing so much better until one day I realized that I could breathe a little easier, that I wasn’t in a constant state of tension waiting for the next of like 40,000 shoes to drop. And for that spark of hope I am completely awash in gratitude. Thank you to everyone reading, commenting on, and messaging me about this blog. You have all helped me to find that spark, thanks for being part of my therapy. But don’t worry Dr. Awesome, I still need to come to you for my Xanax!
I have previously written about my experience with pregnancy loss, and I want to thank everyone for their love, support, and comments on that post. I just found out that tomorrow, Wednesday, October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. The idea is that people all over the world will light a candle at 7pm their time and that it will create a Wave Of Light in support of those that are grieving the loss of a little one. I think this is a lovely idea, especially since miscarriage can feel so very lonely. It is one day for all those who have lost a baby to know that they are not alone and that their little one is gone but not forgotten. If you would like more details or have recently suffered a pregnancy loss, this site has some good resources: www.october15th.com.
I am planning on spending an hour or so in thought, meditation, and prayer around 7pm by lighting a candle and holding our Hufflepuff in my heart (it might be a little later since I will start whenever Curly and Flopsy go to bed.) I would like to pause here and say unequivocally that every single day I am grateful for Curly and Flopsy, they are amazing little people, the lights of my life, and I love them more than I ever dreamed possible. Even as I remember the hufflepuff, I know that had he/she gone to term I would not have my twins. So this is not a time of wishing that anything had gone differently, I believe that the Hufflepuff was never meant for this world. It is just a chance to acknowledge the loss of a little one I never got to meet but loved from the moment I saw that heartbeat on the monitor. If you would like to join me (and everyone else participating) that would be wonderful. I would also like to go one step further and for that, I need your help.
I once had a therapist tell me that sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to “hold a light for them.” Meaning that you sit and quietly listen to and support them without interrupting, judging, or giving your opinion. Just be a place they can talk and feel safe. I think it can also mean just quietly be someone who understands and sends them positive energy. I would like to hold a light for anyone that would like me to by including specific names of my friends, family, and internet friends into my thoughts while I actually physically hold my candle. If you aren’t religious, don’t worry, my prayers in this case will consist of briefly speaking the name of the parent and/or baby (or nickname) and holding them in my heart and thoughts for a moment while sending love, healing, and light to the family.
If you have lost a little one of any age, or know someone who has, and would like me to send a little love your way, let me know by commenting with whatever info you want to share- your name (or pseudonym), the baby’s name (or nickname), how many weeks you were, part of your story, or a link to something you have written about this topic. This is open to anyone who feels a pregnancy or infant loss: miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, IVF babies that never grew, the miscarriage of a surrogate, or even if you terminated a pregnancy and want a little light shined your way, I am here for you. My point is not to judge but to send a tiny bit of support in the best way I can think of. You can comment here, on my Facebook page, on Twitter @natalieehowe, or if you prefer it to be private, at my email email@example.com. And if you see these names and want to incorporate them into your own thoughts and prayers, or light a candle, or just send a little mental hug, I am sure that would be appreciated as well. We who have lost a child in any form are a community who is here for each other, let’s remember that and give a little kindness to each other.
On October 15th, I’ll be holding a light for my Hufflepuff and I would be honored to hold one for you.
A couple of days ago, I had the unicorn of parenting experiences: a tear free visit to the doctor to get a flu shot! My two and a half year old twins were actually excited to get their shots. Yes, you heard that right, excited. As in I briefly mentioned to them that after nap we would be going to the doctor to get shots and when they woke up, Curly said to me, “Mama, is it time to get shots now?!”
In fact, we went to a flu shot clinic and there was a wait, so I said we could go get dinner while we waited and that was when they got upset… because we were leaving the building without getting our shots. I had to promise that we would come back after dinner and they would in fact be poked with needles.
And the actual vaccination experience? Great! Curly went first and while she flinched a tiny bit at the actual shot, there were no tears, because she was eagerly anticipating her Band-aid and sticker. Flopsy went to the table willingly, cried for about 30 seconds after the needle went in, and was perfectly happy by the time we left. Then we met their daddy for ice cream. All in all it was a lovely afternoon, unlike last year’s flu shot debacle, which involved Stage 5 meltdowns from both girls and myself.
I wish I could attribute this stellar behavior to my superior parenting skills, but alas the credit goes to whatever genius came up with Doc McStuffins. Yes, Disney Jr., home of the good doctor, is now my favorite channel ever because my kids are obsessed with going to the doctor, pretending to be a doctor, saying they want to be a doctor when they grow up, and apparently with getting shots. The first thing they said was that it would be “just like on Doc McStuffins.” I jumped on that bandwagon with both feet and my bells on. I let them watch an extra episode on TV that day and loudly led a “Time for the Check-Up” sing along in the car. I even bought Doc McStuffins Band-Aids for them to use on the boo-boos.
I have to pause here and say that when they were first born, I was that parent that was all, “Absolutely no screen time until 2 or their brains will rot and fall out of their heads.” If you took that approach and were able to stick with it, then more power to you! I, however, kind of relaxed those rules around 18 months when I realized just how much I could get done during 15 minutes of Sesame Street. And then as they got older but were still waking up at the crack of dawn, an entire 50 minute episode gave me a beautiful semi-quiet time to mainline some coffee and become a mostly functional human being.
Now, while I still try to make sure we don’t spend all day in front of a screen, I am starting to realize just how much they pick up from the blessed moving pictures machine. And despite all of the TV naysayers, some of that stuff they pick up is pretty awesome. Like the time Flopsy said that something was “humongous” and when I gave her a funny look, she said “that means big, big, big, Mommy.” I know that, but how do you? You are 2 and 1/2! Sesame Street! It’s also where Curly learned the word camouflage, which she thought she was doing when she hid behind a sheer curtain. Not quite kid, but maybe if you keep watching, you will have the more subtle language nuances down by 3!
So if Doc McStuffins makes them want to be a doctor, I say Hooray! I am so glad there are TV choices out there that get kids to aspire to real careers. I mean, if they say they want to grow up and be a princess, I’m not going to tell them that is totally impossible- but we should probably start running in different social circles. And if Angelina Ballerina gets them hyped up for their ballet class, then she can pirouette her way into our living room anytime. Now, if someone can just get Cailllou cancelled, our TV experience would be perfect. For some reason they love that whiny bald kid, and that show seriously makes me want to start drinking at 10 am!
I believe in Maternity Jeans. They are an underrated and underused miracle of modern fashion.
I jumped into the world of maternity pants early because with a twin pregnancy, I was unable to button my jeans at about 10 weeks. The first time I went to Pea in the Pod and slipped into a pair of those pants that look like normal jeans but have an oh-so-comfortable stretchy waistband, I was in heaven. Now, I need to confess that I have always been adverse to pants with buttons (the reason that yoga pants and maxi dresses are basically my uniform.) Seriously, my husband can attest to this, every time I sat down I would subtly reach under the table and unbutton my jeans and then button them back up before I stood.
I refused to go full pajama jean (although I did consider it) but then I discovered maternity pants. The magical thing about them (besides no buttons) is that they fit when you are at your skinny weight and also fit when your stomach is a huge beach ball. At the end of my pregnancy, I was wearing XXL maternity tops and even those were too tight, but my amazing jeans still fit.
I had a c-section with the twins and then a hysterectomy 6 weeks later (see Brief Timeline of Crazy for reference) so I continued to wear the stretchy top jeans for months after pregnancy. I was “lucky” to loose the baby weight fairly quickly due to the awesomely fun combo pack of breastfeeding twins and an increasingly worsening flare of ulcerative colitis. But still I held onto my “magic pants.” About 8 months after having the girls, my husband finally staged an intervention and I tearfully gave away my stacks of maternity clothes and started wearing my old jeans again. Sigh.
Flash forward to February 2014. I had just had an operation to remove my colon and was fitted with an oh-so-stylish ileostomy bag. For those of you who don’t know what this is, essentially I had a piece of my small intestine sticking out of my stomach and a sticky bag thing that I put around it to catch stool while I healed enough to go back into surgery and have my newly created j-pouch (kinda like a fake mini-colon made out of small intestine) reattached. Now, please stop with the fawning over me here, yes my life is glamorous, I know you want to be me, but that is not the point of this particular post.
It was difficult to wear pants while I had the bag and then one day I had a stroke of brilliance (seriously I think a lightbulb went on over my head.) So back I went to the maternity store. I grabbed several pairs of jeans and began trying them on. They were as comfy as I remembered and were perfect to stretch over the ostomy bag. If you are woman with any type of ostomy, please consider getting some. They don’t dig into the bag, they go all the way over it and provide an extra layer of protection, and they help keep it flat so it doesn’t show under clothes!
I gleefully made my way over to the buy the pants and this was my conversation with the lady at checkout:
Her: Nice choices. When are you due?
Me: Oh, I’m not pregnant.
Her: I’m sorry, will you be needing a gift reciept?
Me: No thanks
At this point the woman gets an obviously puzzled look on her face, so I decide to have a little fun. I lean in and say very mysteriously, “I need them for medical reasons.” And then happily leave her stumped trying to figure out what kind of medical condition would cause a skinny, non-preggo girl to need maternity pants!
The pants served me well during the months that I had an ostomy bag and the months after surgery when my belly was still far too tender to wear anything else. And then I got to a place where I could totally wear normal jeans again. I started to think that maternity pants and I had a good run, but it was time to give them up. But then I thought… F that! I have been through so much in the past few years, if I want to wear maternity pants for the rest of my life I am going to.
If people think I’m weird, oh well, wouldn’t be the first time. As women, we are so often putting fashion before comfort, but here’s a chance to wear something comfortable and cute!
Never been pregnant? So what! There is no law saying you have to be a slave to the jeans button, pregnant women don’t have exclusive rights to maternity clothes. I say we stop calling them maternity jeans and start calling them “Happy Pants.” Hey, I know a lot of men who would probably love some stretchy topped jeans- no more unbuttoning at Thanksgiving, you can still eat as much as you want without wearing sweats. Happy Pants for Everyone!!!
So if you see me out and about in jeans, you can give me a little wink, cause you know “Natalie’s Secret.” Those sexy designer pants I’m wearing go all the way up to my boobs and I am proud of it!
Flopsy has been playing a game lately that I am not too fond of. She likes to pretend that Curly is her mommy and she runs around the house saying “Mama, Mama, Mama!” and when I ask what she wants (thinking of course that she is speaking to me) she says, “No, other Mommy! Emma Mommy.” This charade is very frustrating because she has started doing it in public and I look like I am ignoring my child’s cries for me. I get judgey eyes and am like, “Oh, no Sir, she’s not calling for me, she’s talking to her sister…”
At one point I asked her who I am and she said “Mommy” and when I followed up with “then why do you call Emma Mommy?” she said she has two mommies.
And that’s when it hit me. One of her best friends from school and church has two mommies, so maybe in addition to playing a game of house with her sister, she is also experimenting with the knowledge that there are different types of families. The first time she and Curly met “Carter” and his two mommies, I explained that we have a family with a mommy and daddy but other kids may have two mommies or two daddies or just a single mommy or daddy. They are 2 and 1/2 so this giant revelation was met with, “Oh, ok.” Followed by an extremely loud and adorable game of “Ring Around the Rosie.”
At this age kids are just starting to notice differences in the world around them. So if they innocently ask why a man is in a wheelchair, rather than hushing them and walking away, I explain that sometimes people can’t use their legs and have to sit in a chair. To them, that is no more strange than discovering that some kids at school have never seen Doc McStuffins (that was a true shock to their little systems!)
So this is where I have to stand up and give props to our church. We belong to a small, progressive Methodist Church, Greenland Hills United Methodist if you live in Dallas and are interested. And our church is the most truly welcoming to all that I have ever seen. I really noticed this the other day in the parenting group when I looked around and realized that nearly half the people there were gay or lesbian and that one family had just adopted and brought home from the Congo two of the cutest little girls I have ever seen. So when my kids see white parents with black children or vice versa, or two loving same sex parents with their children, they won’t give it a second thought. That will seem totally normal to them since it is what they have grown up with.
And if one day one of my little girls realizes that she is gay, or has questions about her sexuality, she won’t be scared that no one will accept her. Forced to hide who she is because her church, the place she should feel unconditionally loved and accepted, would shun her or try to change her. I truly believe that bigotry and racism don’t have a chance to grow if you really spend time with people of all different abilities, colors, and sexual orientations.
Our pastor, who is one of the kindest and most welcoming women I have ever met, said in service one day that she believes that “Love is Love.” I couldn’t agree more. I am thrilled that we are raising our kids in a community that teaches that God is about love, not condemnation. So if Flopsy needs to play out her interest in Carter’s family by pretending that she has two mommies, I guess I can live with it. I’ll just have to ignore Mr. Judgey at Target with the raised eyebrow. It’s much more important to me that in the long run, when my kids come face to face with people who are different from them, their response continues to be a simple shrug of the shoulders and a quick, “Oh, ok.”