Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Secret Loss

I knew before he said, "this isn't good" with a condoling look. I knew the morning before when I saw the first spot.  I may have even known twelve weeks earlier.  It was too good to be true.

The initial "I'm not worried yet" and other optimistic comments that day from the doctor, the nurse, my husband, and my mom weren't enough to assuage that feeling.  They were just saying what they are suppose to say. But, I already knew.  

I felt bad for this doctor.  This was the second time with this pregnancy he was telling us we lost the baby.  The second time he had to deliver this news and share our options.  The second time the appointment ended with me in my husband's embrace as tears fell.

Seven weeks earlier, at our first appointment, I laid on the examining table as he performed the first ultrasound.  There was a feeling of “is this really happening” as a excited smirk grew across my face. I watched the machine and waited to see our little blueberry.  

Then, the doctor sat down on the stool and studied it. Never a good sign.  After a pause and silence, my patience gets the best of me.  I ask, “What do you see?”

He says he doesn’t see an eight week baby in there.  Not even the sac that holds the baby.  Tells me in a professional tone what could be happening in my body: miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or the slight chance everything is fine and I’m not as far along as initial thought.  He will know more after some bloodwork.  

We hadn’t told many people.  Instead of telling my mother-in-law I was pregnant, we told her I was having a miscarriage.  This news came exactly one month after she lost her husband.  

After the excruciating long two day wait, the blood work came back with great news.  My hCG levels had doubled; I was still pregnant.  The doc himself called and told me there was a 98 percent chance of a healthy pregnancy.  Repeat the ultrasound in a week.  I jotted down notes of all the test results and took to Google later to understand.  Still cautiously excited, I held my breath as day of the ultrasound approached.  

When I heard the heartbeat, I nearly cried.  

At that moment, I understood what every mother-to-be meant when she said, “as long as our baby is healthy.”  More than anything, that is all I wished.  

I left that appointment with my baby’s first picture and a bounce in my step.  I was six weeks and one day.  I was high on happiness.  Doc asked if I could wait six more weeks for another appointment.  Of course I could, I said without thinking twice.  He just told me everything was great.  

As the weeks passed, I slowly grew more optimistic and started sharing our news.  I signed up to receive weekly updates on the progress of my baby and body.  I bought books for my husband and me to learn what to expect and answer our questions.  I started planning what fall would look like with our little Halloween baby.  Knowing the holidays would be especially rough without my father-in-law, I thought about how blessed we were to be having a little miracle to distract us.   I envisioned what the nursery could look like and how I was thankful to have all summer to decorate.  I began taking notes for sub plans for my maternity leave thinking I would be taking the rest of the semester off and return after the first of the year.  I created a pregnancy journal to share and remember all the milestones for our little nugget.  I even considered asking my parents to babysit for the first time on my thirtieth birthday when our baby would be about a month old.  

Then, the day before my twelve week appointment came.  When I woke up and went to the bathroom, it was the first time I noticed it.  I kept it a secret all day, hoping it wasn’t anything. Knowing if I talked about it, it would be real.  I spent any free moments at work on Google, skipping lunch and eating at my desk to see if Google knew what has happening.  It wasn’t until that night that I hold my husband.  

He did everything he could to reassure me that it will be okay.  I called my mom because I need to hear her voice say it will be okay.  There was nothing I could do but wait.  

When I woke up the next morning, the day of my appointment, it was worse.  I called the doctor the minute they opened.  The nurse called back within minutes and assured me it was nothing to worry about; it was probably from recent intercourse.  Her voice was patient and gentle, but did nothing to calm me.

Sitting through tedious curriculum meetings that morning was the worst.  I did anything I could to keep my mind off of it, knowing those closest to me could see the worry written all over my face. When I returned to my classroom that afternoon, the cramping started.  I struggled to make it through teaching my last class watching every minute tick.   

I text my husband and told him I was leaving the minute I could.  He said he would leave the same time to meet me at the doctor’s office.  

When we are called back, the nurse asks us if we know what hospital we will be using.  I can’t think that far ahead right now.  I tell her, honestly, we haven’t thought about it.  She returns with brochures detailing our options.  I’m barely listening, knowing I won’t need them.  

She takes notes of my vitals and asks about any issues.  Uh, yeah.  One.  She is the fifth person to tell me it’s normal and mostly likely everything is okay.  

The doc rushes in and asks the same questions the nurse did. He must see the look on my face when he asks if we should listen to the heartbeat first or talk first.  Before he starts, he warns the mobile heartbeat doppler may not pick up the heartbeat right away. We may need an ultrasound to confirm it.  

He stops, looks me right in the eye, and says, “I’m not worried.”  Sixth person.

Cold goo on my stomach as he presses the doppler around, searching.  As he stands over me, he mutters something. I hear a noise and, for the first time in two days, exhale.  He immediately follows it with a, that’s you. I clarify, not the baby.  He shakes his head as he continues searching.  When he can’t find the heartbeat, he goes in search of a room with an ultrasound machine.  As he steps out the door, he pauses, looks me in the eye again and restates, I’m not worried yet.

When the ultrasound doesn’t give an answer, he suggests a transvaginal ultrasound and steps out of the room so I can undress.  At this moment, it was confirmed for me.  I look down and repeat over and over to my husband, this isn’t good.  He grabs my arm to comfort me and tries to ease my fears.  
Time slows down a bit.  I know what is coming.  It doesn’t take long for him to find our baby this time.  I see the outline of our little one, head, body, and no heartbeat.  The doc does a few more things with the machine, double checking, triple checking.   I’m sure buying time until he has to tell us.  I couldn’t imagine delivering this news as often as he must.  When he does tell me, it’s like a whisper, a secret he is sharing with me.  I had already resigned myself to this, knowing.  He says our baby stopped growing at nine weeks.  

His tone is more sympathetic than it was seven weeks ago when he told us similar news.  I can hear the pity in his voice as he explains my two options:  I can let nature take its course and miscarry on my own, which could take days.  Or, I can have a D&C.  He has time the next day over his lunch hour.  I already had that Friday off, my first personal day all year.  I planned to do lunch and pedicures with my sister.  Instead, I would be having surgery.  The thought of doing this on my own scared me.  

When I call my mom on the way home, I can’t get the words out.  If I say it out loud, it will be real.  I can’t hold the tears back anymore as they fight to the surface.  

I experienced a loss, but it was a secret one.  Made it feel less real.  Less important.  Though I know something was wrong. Something is missing.  There is a place in my heart that can’t be filled.  

I thought I was alone.  I thought I did something wrong.  Even though it was his loss, too, my husband didn’t quite understand and grasp the reality of it.  Nothing had changed for him yet.

Then, I shared it.

Then, everyone else shared.

I realized I know more women who have had a miscarriage than those who haven’t.  Some of the women closest to me held this secret.  I held on to their stories as they shared their experiences.  

It made it so much better to talk about it and connect with others who had been through the same thing. My emotions became real and justified when others shared similar ones.

It's important to tell.  

It is a loss.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

To my husband of one year, "I Won't Give Up on Us"

"I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up"

You picked this song the minute you heard the first verse.  It ended up being my favorite moment of our wedding.  We had just said our vows, "I do, I will, I promise," and went to light the unity candle.  And we paused.  And we savored it.  
It is the most vivid memory I have and hold dear.  Then, your dad and my mom joined us to witness the signing of our marriage license.  We hugged, cried, and prayed.  As I signed Mrs. Smith for the first time, I knew giving you all my love was the easiest decision I ever had to make.  

"And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend 
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not, and who I am"

There couldn't have been a more fitting song to show the strength of our relationship and first year of marriage. Through loss, challenges, and celebrations, we didn't break, we didn't burn.  With each new trial thrown our way, we had to learn how to bend without the world caving in.  Somehow, we protected our love from the forces life threw at us.  

"I won't give up on us (no I'm not giving up)
God knows I'm tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We've got a lot to learn (we're alive, we are loved)
God knows we're worth it (and we're worth it)"

I think about the speech your dad gave on that magical day.  How he told God, "we got this one right" when talking about our love.  Even though I don't have the faith like your dad did, I know He knows we are tough enough and we are worth it.  

I am honored to fight through life with you every day. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Love, Summer 2014

Full disclosure: This post is more for my students than anyone else.  

This is the first summer, ever, that I haven't worked two or more jobs, taking two more graduate classes, planned a wedding, or any combination of the above.  Instead, I became addicted to reading.

Yes, of course.  I have always loved reading.  Hence my career choice.  But this summer, it was different.  Anytime I picked up a book, I would inhale it.  I quickly learned I better not start one until I had a day to finish it.  I would lay in the sun, on the couch, with the dog, and just lose myself in story after story.  It. Was. Awesome.

In true BuzzFeed fashion, here is a quick look into my summer of reading....


If I Stay by Gayle Forman

This was a short and quick read. The story follows a senior in high school who has been in a terrible car crash. The narrator has to decide "if I stay" as she is the only survivor.  The story flashes back and develops a history for her.  It was a fun lighthearted story and easy read.  Seems like the ending was a little abrupt.  I needed more of a wrap up.  The movie release date is this Friday!


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

One from my list last summer: On their fifth wedding anniversary, a wife goes missing and the husband is the prime suspect.  A well-known premise with a great twists.  It had me hooked all the way through.  Switching points of view give reads so much insight.  However, I didn’t like the ending.  But, to Flynn’s credit, I don’t know how else it could have ended.  Definitely excited for this movie in October.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Tina Fey, who I love, chronicles her rise in the entertainment word from Saturday Night Live to 30 Rock.  I guess I don’t love her enough.  It seemed like the entire book was an inside joke that I just wasn’t getting.  I ended up skimming it.  Fans of SNL and 30 Rock, I’m sure, will enjoy much more.  In the end, I do admire all that she has done and her success.  

Gregor the Overland by Suzanne Collins

The first series by the famed Hunger Game author, and just as good.  While chasing after of his younger sister, Gregor is transported down to a new Underworld where he is immediately reversed.  He must go on a quest to earn his way out and discovers much along the way.  A great action book, especially for upper elementary and middle school kiddos.  

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

This one has been on my list for years.  Gladwell tries to explain how we “think without thinking.”  One fascinating factoid that will stick with me: within the first six seconds, you can tell if someone is going to be a good teacher.  He discusses how this same instinct is true in so many facets of our lives.  

The Spectaular Now by Tim Tharp

On the plane ride to Key West, I was debating between this book and Sharp Objects.  Casey chose this one.  As I kept reading, he wanted to read it more.  Jimmy Buffett + Seagrams + Parties, it was like I was reading my husband’s teenage life.  A fun read as a partying-teenaged boy takes on a “girl” as a project.  A fun read, sarcastic tone, and not the predictable ending you would expect. (Oh, and it’s a movie, too.)

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

I was so excited by this premise and so many spoke so highly of it. The story explores what it was like for victims of the Columbine shooting who were “survivors.”  I loved the beginning and seeing the perspectives offered.  Then it tried to do too much with it’s storyline and couldn’t hold my interest.  After 500 out of the 700 pages, Lamb lost me.

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

If you liked Tuesdays with Morrie, you’ll like this.  Albom has been asked by his rabbi to write his eulogy.  As a man who has gone away from his faith, Albom spends time getting to know the rabbi outside of a religious setting.  These encounters spur Albom to other directions where he meets a pastor who had an unconventional journey to where he is now.  Great parallels to make anyone think about faith.  

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Definitely one of my favorites of the summer.  After his sister tries to commit suicide for the third time, Tom Wingo hopes to shed some light on her, and their families’ history, to her psychiatrist.  Conroy writes in such beautiful way about so many heartbreaking matters.  And you thought your family had problems.  

The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio

After reading a few heavy books, I needed some lighthearted, easy reads.  This one is brilliant.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio is, by far, my favorite book of the year.  When I say this was a thing, I had to read it immediately.  Thank goodness for Nooks.  This gives the bully’s perspective.  Fascinating.  Touch.  Wish I could teach both of them.


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I loved the premise of this one.  Two twin girls start their freshman year, and they could not be on more different paths.  One of them, Cath, writes fanfiction, while the other one, Wren, finds out what it is like to have independence.  Both of the try to find a balance their freshman year.  I enjoyed the story, but skipped reading most of the fanfiction excerpts included.  Too distracting.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

In true trashy summer reads, I found this book.  A college freshman trying to stay out of trouble finds the bad boy of the university.  You can probably guess where it goes from there.  Predictable Fifty Shades of Gray-esque book with much better writing.  

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

A young journalist returns home to cover the stories of two young girls who have died in eerily similar ways a year apart.  As she digs into their stories, she uncovers more than she can handle about her small town’s history.  Still disturbed by this one.  Must mean the writing was great.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finding a Haven at Blue Heaven

If you go to one place in Key West, this has to be it.  

When we were recommended this place by a local bartender at the Key West Pub, we were also warned there would be a long wait, especially for brunch.  If we know that going in -- and they have cocktails -- I can prepare my husband.  (Restaurant waits are one of the only times he is impatient.)  Our friendly bartender used to host here, so we got to hear stories about Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown visiting their favorite Key West place. 

As soon as we approached the restaurant, I knew we'd be fine to wait.  Just off of Duval Street, Blue Heaven is tucked behind gates that lead into an island paradise.  Trees and plants create a canopy over the patio, bar, and outdoor stage.  Even though it was ninety plus degrees and humid, this cover provided some need relief from the unforgiving sun.  Since it was a Sunday morning, we were entertained by a local artist on the stage.  

We ordered cocktails and found a seat at the bar.  Casey got the "Goose Driver" - the best screwdriver he has every had with Grey Goose Vodka and fresh squeezed orange juice.  I chose a Bellini.  Half way through the first round, Casey didn't ever want to leave.  He was plotting and planning to eat at least one meal at Blue Heaven for the rest of our trip.  And this was even before we ordered food.

As we waited, friendly chickens and roosters waddled around patrolling the restaurant.  Seemingly unbothered by the customers, they roamed around, engaging with each other in chatter and babble.

Then, there is the food.  The waiter greeted us and explained the specials.  As soon as Casey heard Lobster Eggs Benedict with Bacon, he was sold.  I ordered my avocado omelette.  The blueberry pancakes sounded too good to pass up, so we opted to split it.  It dawned on Casey as the waiter walked away that he probably just ordered a twenty-five dollar breakfast.  It was worth every penny.  

We couldn't leave without one last drink at the bar.  Our brunch just turned into a two and a half hour ordeal.  Casey truly enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere where his fave artists as played, while soaking up some vodka, too.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Key West Escape (aka Casey's Homage to Jimmy Buffett)

I don't want to be an on the bus tourist, I want to be an in the bar tourist, says my husband as we sit at the Green Parrot for the third time and watch a trolley full of tourists go by.  Every time we saw one he made a point to observe how bored the passengers looked, hence his traveling philosophy.

After he said this, I realized a couple things to be true about this vacation: One, each bar we went to was a museum to him, full of history and stories he has heard in his songs for more than thirty years.  Two, this could quite possibly be the last trip we can run around like drunk twenty-somethings and sleep until noon.  On that note, here are the ones worth mentioning.  

Tour of Bars: The Smittys' Review

The Original Margaritaville

While it has become more commercialized than a lot of the other dives we visited, we most definitely could not go to Key West without at least a drink here.  Had to have this shot when we heard the name: Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw. (For all of you non-Parrotheads, look up the song.)

Green Parrot

One of our faves. And a fave for the locals, too.  We'd fit right in down here listening to live music with a cocktail in hand.  

Blue Heaven 

Probably some of the best drinks we had all trip.  Casey said his Goose Driver made with fresh orange juice and Grey Goose vodka was the best thing he ever had.  He was feeling pretty good as he started the second one.  My Bellini went down pretty easily, too.  We will definitely be returning here next time.  More on this place later.  

Captain Tony's Saloon

The oldest bar in Key West.  As all Parrotheads know, this is the same Captain Tony who was elected Mayor.  Again, look up the song.  This place was a true museum with so much history of Captain Tony, Jimmy Buffett, and all of their friends on the walls.  Photos, newspaper articles, autographs, and bras kept my husband busy.  

Willie T's on Mojito Monday

Best mojitos on the island!  And I'm pretty picky  I had the Parrot Bay Mango and Casey the Cruzan Banana.  This place also had thousands of dollars stapled to the walls.  We had to leave our mark, too.

The last day of our week long trip, we looked at each other and decided we were tired of drinking, tired of eating, tired of sweating, and tired of spending money.  A successful trip.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer is for Teachers

You would think the school calendar allows for a two month break for the students benefit.  As I finished my sixth year of teaching, I can't tell you how wrong that assumption is.  Summer is not for kids, camps, amusement parks.  These are just the convenient side effects needed behind the real purpose of summer. 

Summer is for teachers.  If there wasn't a summer to rejuvenate, reenergize, and refresh, I wouldn't go back in the fall.  

These are the women who help me get through each day, week, and month of teaching.  When I need an idea on how to reteach something, I turn to them.  When I need the tact to reply to a parent email, I turn to them.  When I am emotionally drained and frustrated, I turn to them.  It was my pleasure to host a night where we could gather, giggle, and chat about things other than school.  

My amazing grill master at work.

Coco confused by all the people.  She was wore out the next day and let us sleep in.