November 16, 2013

Step Aside, Sorrow, and Make Way for Thankfulness

If I stop to think about things, my heart begins to ache. Keeping busy is the best thing for my sanity, but I'm not quite sure how effective it is in reference to my emotional healing. It is only during the quiet moments of life, when I am alone and allow myself to breathe, that the tide begins to creeeeeep back in; soon enough, I feel as though I can barely keep my head above water as I drown in sorrow, pity, and self-loathing.

Although I can feel that tide washing against my feet, I am not going to let it get the best of me today. NO, SIR. Instead, I am going to dwell on what blessings I do have, the things - large and small - that I am thankful for in this moment. It is the season of expressing thanks, after all.



No, I'm not pregnant anymore, but I still have so very many things to be thankful for today.

Coffee. Lord Almighty, thank you for this blessing that I can now consume in mass quantities again... even if it is just Starbucks.

Bagels. CREAM CHEESE. Oh gosh, so so so thankful for that ridiculous combination. You don't even know. You don't EVEN know.

80's music. Aerosmith. A little ditty about Jack and Diane. Electric guitars. Free Fallin'. Being transported to times past and memories with my beloved momma via radio airwaves.

Our record player. And the fact that Christmas is coming up and I can FINALLY bust out my Christmas records of all sorts. And Christmas music in general. Hanson's Snowed In album is my life during that most joyous season. Don't lie - you know you love it.

Windows. Windows that OPEN.

A day at home on a gorgeous Autumn day, sitting at home with the windows open and the attic fan pulling that glorious fresh air through the house. It makes my heart swell. It really does.

Leggings and ancient sweatshirts... to be worn while being cozy at home, because leggings are not pants.

Hair dye. Because no one actually likes embracing their naturally ashy-brown hair.

Money. Sure, that sounds superficial, but it's really easy to forget to be thankful for the thing that keeps a roof over your head, food in your bellies, clothes on your bodies, shoes on your feet, hot water in your pipes, heated air in your home, gas in your tanks, books on your shelves, the list goes on and on and on. We have lived with very little, and I am so incredibly thankful to not currently be in that dark pit of financial despair.

Cheerful flowers and cards filled with heartfelt messages and cupcakes and mochas and other ridiculously outrageous gifts from some of the most caring and loving people that I have ever known.




There are so many things that I am thankful for today.

Most of all, though, I am thankful for my communities - each and every one of them. My husband. My family. My community group/house church/very dearest friends that we share life with. My church family. My girls... those crazy Juniors that I am so blessed to "lead" (psh... like they need it). My UCO English Ed cohorts, including that brilliant professor/Momma Bear that we all love so dearly. My mentor teacher and my sophomores - I got way, way too lucky on that front. My dear friends from all areas of my life. PEOPLE. If you are reading this, I am thankful for you investing in me, encouraging me, praying for me, loving me. So very thankful.

Oh, and I'm thankful for that bitty fur baby of mine. The one that can sense when something is wrong and snuggles up with her momma when times are rough. Can't forget about her. She deserves some catnip, or tuna, or something.

November 12, 2013

Once Upon a Time, We Lost Our Rainbow Baby

Today is the day after losing our second baby. Today, I would have been 8 weeks along exactly with our second baby; I would have been 30 weeks and 3 days along with our first baby. Today, my womb is empty. Again.

It really hurts to say that.

I tried during this whole second pregnancy to be positive while still being emotionally reserved. It only worked a little bit. I have a feeling that this healing process is going to look quite different from the last one. I can already feel the bitterness rising up, rearing its ugly, poisonous head, ready to strike, aiming directly at my throat.

The baby that was to be due two days after the one year anniversary of my first miscarriage is gone. Now I get to live in the fact that we have lost two babies in less than five months time. We get to live in that very sad, very frustrating reality.


---------------------------------


This time yesterday, I was in my doctor's office being seen by one of the other doctors at the facility (mine was not able to be in the office this week; she is both a family physician and an OB, and she was scheduled to be at the hospital all week). I had an appointment with her last Wednesday when I was 7 weeks and 1 day along. Everything was picture perfect. I had the teeniest bit of discoloration that morning, but it was nowhere near the color of blood, and I wasn't cramping, so it was of no concern. She told me that I wasn't going to get a Pap smear or pelvic exam until the second trimester, just to be safe, based on my history... fine by me. I got my blood drawn and left.


The next morning, Thursday, I started spotting. And I lost it. After my initial freakout, I gathered my wits and my mock-inner-strength and vowed to keep it together until I knew more. At that point, though, I knew that I was losing this baby, too. My sweet friends in our Community Group at church tried to be encouraging as they responded to the news, but I knew it in my gut. My symptoms had decreased over the past 48 hours (which could be normal), and there is no way to explain away a woman's intuition.

The spotting increased over the course of rest of the day and continued into Friday. That night, I had some minor cramping alongside the achey, stretching-of-the-uterus feeling. I was so confused. On Saturday, the bleeding increased even more and I began to have cramping and sharp pains where I knew they should not be. On our way home from dinner with Patrick's parents, I knew that it was going to happen and asked if we could stop and get some pads. We pulled out the pullout couch in the living room where we slept, me with a towel underneath, just like last time. I knew that I was not going to church the next morning, for the fear of losing my baby in public and mimicking our previous experience was too frightening to even think about. I don't remember a lot of Sunday, just two days ago, except that I slept on the couch while my dear husband went grocery shopping for us; I hadn't gone in two weeks and we had zilch. Cramping, bleeding, and passing clots and tissues filled both Sunday and Monday. I kept telling Patrick that I wanted to get this stupid miscarriage over with already. Defense mechanisms were at work, folks.

Like I said, this time yesterday, I was at the doctor's office. We had called the on-call doctor on Saturday night and didn't get much help. We already knew what to expect, but we didn't know at what point it was recommended that we go to the ER; I was being a brat about racking up thousands of dollars in debt for them to just tell me that our baby was dead again. That being said, I called my doctor's office at 8:30 on Monday morning, which feels like an eternity ago. The nurse talked to the doctor on site and they both suggested that I come in for an exam at 9:30. We both got ready to go, and Patrick packed a bag with a change of clothes, pads, washcloths, books, and even snacks to take with us - this poor man has been scarred by miscarriage in a public environment, too.

Long story short, I was told that my cervix was closed, and that I had some bleeding but my mucous plug was still there. Was I surprised in the least? No. I got the same answer the last time that I went to the ER and ended up passing my baby approximately two hours later. I was diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage, had blood drawn again, and was sent home to await my ultrasound appointment at 5:00 that evening.

Longest. Day. Ever.

Lots more cramping, accompanied by lots more blood loss, as well as the passing of clots and tissue, but not nearly as much as the last time around. I was alone, but I tried to keep busy while being planted on the pullout couch bed, or whatever the heck that thing is called.

Patrick came home from work, grabbed the duffel bag, took me to the hospital where my ultrasound was scheduled. Let's just say, I'm freaking tired of ultrasounds at this point. I knew by looking at the screen that nothing was there. I knew by the questions that the ultrasound technician was asking me that the baby was dead at the very least, gone at the most. She was ridiculously sweet and called to see if she could get ahold of my doctor, whom I adore.

My doctor asked to speak to me on the phone. When I answered, she simply asked, with deep concern in her voice, "What happened?" That's when I started to cry. I informed her of the timeline of events, and she informed me that I must have passed the baby this weekend because there was nothing on the ultrasound screen. 

Damn. I knew it.

I don't want to relive those moments walking out of the hospital, trying to get to the car before I broke down completely. Patrick, my dear, sweet husband, tried to console me as we were walking out, but I knew that I needed to get to the car as quickly as possible. We headed home, I yelled about life not being fair, about whores and drug addicts getting pregnant when they don't even want the babies (not my proudest moment, but an honest one), and we both told each other that we were sorry. Because we were, and we are. Because this stupid situation sucks and it is no fun for anyone involved. Because we got to tell people, family and friends, that we have lost another baby. Because we were sad. We still are. We will be. We got home, but I immediately decided that we needed to get out of the house. It was only 6:30 pm and it was dark outside, making it feel like an eternity until it was time to go to bed. We ate at The Wedge downtown. We texted friends and family and informed them of what had happened. I choked down tears along with my humongous cup of Coke, which I was drinking only out of spite.


---------------------------------


This morning, Patrick helped me put up the pullout couch. I ate breakfast before (or at) 9:30 am. I am still in my pajamas, sitting at the table 45 minutes later, but I'm still calling it a win thus far. I will get around to showering eventually. 

I have had to miss two days of school. I miss those 10th grade turkeys when I don't get to see them one day, so being gone for two makes it really difficult. I am supposed to be teaching my Shakespeare unit to my pre-AP kids, but my amazing mentor teacher, who has been so kind and understanding, took over while I have been gone; the same thing goes for teaching my on-level kids The Hobbit.

This is my third day out of commission, and I'm vowing that it is my last. I cannot stay in the house, not seeing anyone at all, for an entire week like I did last time. I guarantee you, I will still be an introverted hermit for a while, but I have to at least get out of the house and get back to some sense of normalcy.

When my kids ask me where I have been, though, I plan on telling them that I had the plague. The Bubonic Plague. The Black Death. Outrageous answers like that work with sophomores, which is why I love high school.

---------------------------------


If you have read this far, I just want to conclude with a little bit of positivity - mostly as a reminder for myself when I go back and read this post one day.

This miscarriage has not been nearly as physically painful, nor as traumatizing, as the last. As far as the physical pain is concerned, I truly believe that it was easier because we had so much of our church body praying for me on Monday. We are still very upset, of course, but I had to get this off of my chest - I couldn't wait three months to write about it like I did last time. 

My head is confused, my heart is hurting, and I cannot even begin to figure out what state my soul is in. This is going to be a long emotional recovery, I'm sure. 

Please, friends and family, do not misunderstand me: 
  • if I don't want to talk about it, or if I seem to be hanging out somewhere in the margins of life, please do not take that as me not wanting you to ask me how we are doing. Please, continue to ask, but please do not poke and pinch and prod.
  • if I open up to you about it, please, please listen, and refrain from finding an answer to give me. Just listen.
  • if I reject your offer to help, please remember that it is because I do not know how to graciously accept help if I do not want it; it is in my nature and my upbringing to convince myself that I can do it on my own, and that it is rude to accept things from other people without giving back. I just don't know how to. It is much better to ask my husband this question. You won't get the answer that you want from me.

I love you all. I love my husband. I love my Lord and Savior, even when it doesn't make sense to. And I love our babies that we can never hold in this lifetime. 

Babies. Plural. That hurts. It really does.

November 1, 2013

Musings of a Student Teacher - Part II

Oh, how bleak things looked to me when I last wrote about teaching!

I'll admit it: I was completely overwhelmed and nervous about everything. The previous two posts have been quite the Debbie Downers, so I felt that I needed to write a positive one to balance things out.  Let me be 100% honest with you.

I love love love teaching.

Really, I do! I do not love the hours, nor do I love how exhausted and ragged I feel. My kids, though... they make it all worth it.



I teach sophomores - five sections of pre-AP and one section of on-level. There are very few behavioral issues, which definitely makes my life easier, but they are also just really great kids in general.

The students have become quite comfortable with me, especially over the past month; I have been able to teach all day several times since pretty early on in the year. I have even had the classroom to myself all day at least three times when my mentor teacher had to take some personal days... and while I was utterly deflated and worthless by the end of the day, I didn't die! And nothing went majorly wrong! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

~

I really have so many things to say, and I could write an entry after every day of teaching if time allowed, but there is no good way to summarize my experiences in a few solid paragraphs. But let me say this - the things that my students say to me are internalized, for better or worse. This week, those statements have all been positive.

One of my students asked me on Tuesday if I would be in their classroom next semester. I replied that I would not. She seemed so sad when I said that, so I quickly interjected that I would love to visit from time to time (which is the absolute truth). I'm going to miss my kids coming in and telling me about their lives; earlier in the semester, this same student charged into the classroom, and she quickly found me:
"Mrs. Womack, I just bombed my pre-AP history test. Like, it was really, really bad. I'm pretty sure that I failed. I know I failed."
I talked to her about how it felt, and reassured her that I know plenty about bombing exams. She is one of my brightest, most involved and caring students. She is going to do some amazing things in the years to come.

Sometimes my students will write itty bitty notes to me on their DGP (Daily Grammar Practice) homework that I grade first thing. I have had several students write on their homework, next to the current assignment where I write their score, the date and "my birthday!" in the margins. They just want me to wish them a happy birthday, and I take oh so much joy in giving them that teeny bit of affirmation in that moment.

I had one student tell me this week after changing his DGP score, "You're not fake! You're real!" Oh, how my heart swelled as he said that! I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my relationship with this student has changed his attitude about learning in our class. He used to be checked out and unwilling to talk, but now he does his homework and is willing to sometimes participate in class discussions. I try very hard to be "real" with my students, to show them that I am not just a person standing in front of the class assigning them loads of work for no good reason. I want them to know that. I want them to know that I care, because they are real, too.

Another one of my students asked me this week if I would be with them next semester. When I said no, another student chimed in:
"When will you get to be a real teacher?"
"After I graduate."
"When is that?"
"December 14th!"
"So, will you teach here?"
"I would love to teach here! There just has to be a job opening, but I would love to stay here."
"You should be the AP English III teacher. Then you would have us."
What he was really saying was that he wanted me to be his teacher next year, because AP English III is where most of my pre-AP kids will be headed. Of course, I told him that I would absolutely love that. First of all, I would looooove to have any of my students again - and I truly mean that, even the ones that are ridiculously frustrating. Second (and I told him this), American Lit is my baby. That is my dream job. I would LOVE to teach that to these kids. What a joy that would be!

~

While it is true that I am still completely overwhelmed and feel as though I am barely keeping my head above water, my experiences during student teaching could be so much worse... SO much worse. It has been a wonderful experience overall. My mentor teacher is knowledgeable, supportive, encouraging, willing to let me take the reigns on so many things, and just awesome in general. My kids - and, yes, they are now my children - have my heart. I truly treasure them, and I just wish that I had more time to just get to know them.

And honestly, I will definitely cry on December 10th when I will be with my kids for the last time. I'm getting choked up even thinking about it.

Sigh. I guess this teaching gig really is what I am supposed to do. The literature sucked me in, my amazing English Ed department chair kindled my desire to be in education, and the kids have put the shackles on me - hand and foot. And as torturous as it can be at times, I really don't want to get out.

September 22, 2013

Once Upon a Time... We Were Going to Have a Baby

"And it happened just like that. There's nothing anybody could do. It isn't fair, there's no reason, but if we start asking why, we'll go crazy."
- Sleepless in Seattle

There is no easy way to say this.

Once upon a time, a time not so long ago, I was pregnant. Patrick and I were going to have a baby together. Words cannot describe the joy that came with the pregnancy, nor the ways in which we grew together in love. That dream-come-true came crashing down upon us far too soon as we struggled to persevere through the most difficult time of my life and, most certainly, of our marriage. We lost that baby, due to no fault of our own, for reasons that are beyond either of us.

I was heartbroken. I am still heartbroken. But I have a story to share, a voice that needs to be heard, a memory that longs to be drawn out of the shadows. I am tired of suffering in silence.

"Because the only thing worse than losing something that meant the world to you is pretending that you lost nothing."

This is my story.
 ~ ~ ~

[Mother's Day] May 12, 2013:
The anticipation was going to make me burst. As I sat in my chair next to my husband at church, I was roasting hot, sweating, and super uncomfortable - almost bloated feeling. My very-pregnant friend, Chelsea, sat on the other side of me as our pastor began addressing the mothers and mothers-to-be in our congregation; he also addressed the women who have struggled to have children for one reason or another, the women who have lost children in some physical, emotional, or spiritual way, and those who suffered the loss of their mothers that have passed on or are/were never the mothers that their children needed them to be. For the record, I have always appreciated him doing so. My thoughts were racing as I tried to stay focused, but I had this feeling, this instinct, this desperate hope that was nagging at me - the feeling, instinct, hope that I was pregnant. Patrick didn't know anything about my inner dialogue that morning - no one knew; only my God in heaven had any idea what was going on in that brain of mine:
I'll buy some tests on Tuesday. I have to wait until at least Tuesday. I will have completely missed it by then.
But it's probably just thrown off because of stress. 
But maybe. I hope so. Oh, God, please, let me be pregnant, but help me not be too discouraged if I'm not. But I really hope so. 
Don't be silly. I'm probably not. 
But I hope I am.

We went out to a quick lunch at Jason's Deli with Chelsea and her husband, Evan, before rushing off to do a very informal Mother's Day Harry Potter watch party with my mother and brother. While we sat at the table, munching on our delicious and ginormous sandwiches, discussing the most recent baby-item additions to their nursery, Chelsea asked me a question - one that I've heard so many times:
"When do you think you guys will start trying?" she inquired.

Patrick and I looked at each other, silently discussing whether or not we should share what we had only recently discussed face to face.

"Well, I have to graduate first, but we're thinking of starting to try in the Fall. It will probably take us a little while based on my family history, on my mom's and grandmom's losses, but probably in the Fall."

Sometime late that afternoon, I made an excuse about having to go to Sprout's for apples; I also secretly went to Target and purchased a box of pregnancy tests... just two tests inside. No need to get crazy. I probably wasn't pregnant anyway.


[Monday Morning] May 13, 2013:
The first day of the week. The first day of my online class, American Fiction since WWII. The day that I just couldn't take it anymore. I woke up bright and early after yet another night of crazy dreams and anxiously waited in bed for Patrick to leave for work - if I had popped out of bed like I had wanted to, Patrick would have definitely paused and pondered what in the world was the matter with me... I don't pop out of bed at 7am for anything. As soon as I knew he was gone, I forced myself to make and eat the breakfast for which I had no appetite, sans coffee. I piddled around the house as long as I could before I couldn't take it anymore.

I took a pregnancy test and let it sit on the bathroom counter while I went to wash the dishes - a task that would force me to be busy for the right amount of time. I came back to a sight that I feared I would never be blessed enough to see: double lines.
Pregnant.


I grabbed the test and, with tears in my eyes, I walked around the house in a complete daze. I recited to myself, "Really?? Really?!" in an almost whisper, over and over and over again. The smile on my face was full of joy and shock at the same time, but the fact of the matter was that I was beyond thrilled. I knew this was big. I knew that I would want a few pictures to document this moment in my life. Still in my jammies but my face hastily made up, I took a single selfie. I never got to share that picture until writing this post.


I simply couldn't believe it. A few hours later, I took another test, just to be sure that it wasn't a fluke.
Nope. No fluke. Definitely pregnant! Best. Surprise. Ever.


Oh my gosh. I get to tell Patrick!
After the initial shock wore off, I got to work figuring out how best to tell the love of my life, the father of this teeny tiny being inside of me (woah), that he was going to be a daddy - that we were going to have a baby.


[Monday Afternoon] May 13, 2013:
I plotted and schemed to the best of my abilities - I am a terrible liar but I love creating surprises. It was one of the most gorgeous days that I had seen in Oklahoma in a very long time, so I made an excuse that I wanted us to go to Mesta Park (our favorite little park in the middle of the city) later on and just enjoy the weather and have some cupcakes, maybe read or play a bit of Backgammon (although I knew that it would never come to that). Patrick wanted to go over his lunch break, but I convinced him that it wasn't long enough to do the day justice; really, I just wanted to make sure that we weren't rushed after telling him the news. I purchased two cupcakes from Cuppies & Joe, found a card that was suitable and filled it out; the contents were extremely personal but I told him how blessed I felt to be married to him, how proud I was of all of his hard work, etc., and below the signature, I told him via postscript to flip the card over, as that was where I shared the news with him.

After Patrick got home from work, I had dinner ready to go (that almost never happens) so we wouldn't miss the best of the evening sitting in the house. We ate dinner and headed over, and I tried to conceal the little gift bag that only concealed a single card - you see, my dear husband's birthday was on the 10th of May, mere days before, so I pretended like it was a late birthday present.

"It's kind of a late birthday present," I said to him as we settled onto our nearly 30-year-old Mexican blanket. I let him read the card with ridiculous amounts of anticipation as I tried to keep my cool, letting him think that the surprise gift was in the brown packing paper gift bag instead of inside of me.

The goofball misread the postscript and started to close up the card. "Turn the card over, silly! There's something on the back!" I teased.

As he read those words that held so much, I watched his face. Patrick got very serious (not surprising). As he looked up at me, his eyes large and inquisitive, he searched my face for even the slightest trace of jesting, trying to discern whether or not his wife was playing a big fat joke on him. Even with tears threatening to spill over the brim of my eyes, his reaction was absolutely hilarious from my point of view. For the life of me, I cannot recall the words he said to me, somehow asking me if those words were true, if I was really pregnant. I just smiled and nodded as the tears began to flow.

Those are some of the most beautiful moments that I have ever experienced thus far. We smiled, hugged, cried, kissed, laughed, prayed, and sat in awe as we realized that our lives had changed forever.


[Thursday] June 6, 2013:
Somehow, nearly a month had passed since we found out the wonderful news but had decided to keep it a secret until entering the second trimester. That's what most people do, so we decided to follow suit. I loathe getting too much attention (if you were involved in our wedding at all, you definitely know that), so keeping it confidential was the easy move, although we were bursting to tell the people closest to us.

The day of my 26th birthday, Patrick and I were helping dear friends prepare for their wedding the next day in Kansas. We had yet to tell Zach (the groom) and David (a groomsmen in both the Rider and Womack weddings) because we most certainly did not want to take any attention away from Zach and Kaylee on their Big Day, but it was killer not having Patrick's two closest friends know the biggest news of our lives when we were all together anyway.

I was a mere two days away being 8 weeks pregnant on this day. What a wonderful birthday present! As the day progressed, I grew increasingly tired and a bit irritable; I was super bloated and trying not to let anyone notice that I was moving a bit slower than normal, and it had become customary that fatigue knocked me down for the count every afternoon around 3:00. We set up for the wedding all afternoon, had the rehearsal, and continued setting up well into the night. During the rehearsal, I was pretty much alone and very stand-offish as I was just about the only person there that wasn't actually in the wedding in some way.

At some point, an acquaintance came up to me and we got around to small-talking, discussing what was up-and-coming in our lives. She asked me the question that I knew I was going to get during this wedding with the eager look of anticipation in her eyes:

"Are you guys going to start having babies soon?" she asked as she smiled.

I answered with the only answer I had been able to come up with - it was truthful but still held our secret captive: "I have to graduate first," I explained.

And just like that, I kept secret the most wonderful news that I could ever share. And I would do it again and again before I wished that I hadn't.


[Saturday] June 7, 2013:
The next day, I had a bit of spotting that concerned me. I reassured myself that it was probably just because I had been moving so much that day; it seemed to increase every time I was overactive and I tried to convince myself that it was nothing to worry about. So many women have minor bleeding during pregnancy and, while it isn't normal, the doctors say that it is the most common abnormality during pregnancy. After all, this had happened once or twice already and everything was still going well. Still, I couldn't let go of the idea that something would go wrong.

During the day of the wedding, I tried not to let it worry me as I enjoyed the celebrations, the lovely weather, and the wonderful company of dear long-time friends. I also tried not to let my bloated belly show, to sit in as normal a position as possible, and not to rub and/or hold my little belly as I had quickly grown accustomed to doing. It was torture not telling some of my dearest friends about the little miracle that I was blessed with, but I simply would not take away that moment from Zach and Kaylee. It was their wedding day. No siree, I would not be that selfish.

During the wedding, David took a quick photo for the two of us. He remarked, "Wow. You can tell that you guys have been married for a while. You guys got in the perfect pose, like, right away." What I wanted to tell him was that 1) it just happens after you get married and have been together for 7.5 years and 2) we're so, so in love with each other and this baby, so we're bound to show it quickly.




[Saturday Morning] June 22, 2013:
Fast forward a couple of weeks. After we found out that we were pregnant, Patrick made it known that we would no longer be living in our craphole of a duplex after our lease was up; it simply was no place to raise a baby. I agreed to my sweet husband's decision and we were blessed with finding the most wonderful little rent house in a clean, quiet neighborhood with the most perfect bedroom for a nursery. We were sold. After a couple of weeks of trying to motivate myself to pack while being completely and utterly exhausted, moving day had finally arrived. Patrick and I stayed up ridiculously late boxing up what we could and eventually collapsed into hideaway bed in the living room, somewhere around 3:00am. 

Saturday morning came. I woke up on the cream-colored sheets to find that I had passed a massive clot sometime during my sleep. Honestly, it was about the size of my palm and scared the crap out of Patrick and me. You see, we had an appointment on the Monday prior to this - our first ever prenatal appointment. My doctor was concerned about my spotting and eventually diagnosed me with a threatened miscarriage. I was so very hopeful that she would say that everything seemed to be fine, but just to take it easy; I knew in my gut that she wouldn't respond that way, though. My heart nearly stopped and my stomach sank as the silence filled that tiny room. I remember her surveying my face, waiting for me to start crying, but I stayed strong for as long as I could, simply mumbling, "Okay," every few seconds. I was holding myself together until she looked at me intently, telling me with her eyes that it was very likely that I was going to lose this baby. I broke down. I could barely keep from screaming in agony as I headed to the lab, as the technician drew blood from my arm, as I watched a mother lovingly interact with her sweet little toddler in that very room, as Patrick led me out the door, down the stairs, across the parking lot, and into the car. 

The next few days were a bit hazy, hence why we were still packing come moving day. There was no ultrasound ordered, so there were still so many questions and feelings of uneasiness. I knew that something was wrong and refused to give in to my gut feeling that came to slap me in the face. Ever since the wedding, I had almost obsessively looked up information and statistics about missed miscarriages. I just knew that something was not right.

After the initial shock of finding the clot that had passed, we quickly decided that I would take it easy that day, which is a lot easier said than done when you're moving. We were so incredibly blessed to have a throng of loving friends and family to come help us move. My sweet friend Chelsea, who was still very pregnant, knew about the clot and was such a comfort to have around that day. Because she was so close to her due date and was there merely for moral support, we made the excuse to run to Krispy Kreme donuts as everyone was loading up the truck. Thankfully, that killed about an hour of time and I was able to skip out on a lot of the heavy lifting, which I definitely felt bad for doing. As the day progressed, so did the bleeding. It was torture keeping up appearances with family and friends that didn't know what was up while there were people in the same room who knew exactly what was happening. Time passed so slowly that afternoon as everyone made small talk after everything had been unloaded into the new house.


[Saturday Evening] June 22, 2013:
After all of our family and friends left, Patrick and I faced a tough decision. While I still felt fine, the bleeding had not stopped like we had hoped. I hated the thought of going to the ER and accumulating bills and it turn out that everything was fine. We called Evan, who happens to be a nurse, and asked for his opinion. On his advice, we took a deep sigh and headed to the hospital. It was a very quiet drive.

I was admitted to a room almost immediately, but it took eons for the doctor to come visit me. While I waited, I changed into a hospital gown; oddly enough, I left my panties on for fear of bleeding on those pristinely white sheets. I know that they make them white for bleaching purposes, but I just couldn't do it. I loathed the idea of knowingly defiling them. Almost as soon as we had arrived to the hospital, I started to feel a bit of cramping.

The nurses eventually visited me, the doctor finally came in, they got to work. They put me on a catheter without numbing me in order to get a urine analysis. Lord Almighty, that was painful. They drew lots more blood for lab work. The doctor gave me an ultrasound on an "ancient" machine but couldn't see much, so she ordered me to receive one from the ultrasound lab. I received another abdominal ultrasound and a transvaginal ultrasound. We got to see our little baby on the screen, but I knew that it was all wrong. There was no movement. The nurse's facial expression was not comforting. She kept assuring me that the sound I was hearing was fluids moving through my body, not a heartbeat. She looked and looked and looked for what felt like ages. She took dozens of pictures from all different angles. She told me that we were finished and called for me to be wheeled back to the ER.

My cramping had increased ten-fold. I remember being wheeled around on that all white bed, lying there completely helplessly, trying to convince myself that the pain wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be. It's just because I have nothing else to think about right now, I thought to myself as we waited for the nurse to arrive. Patrick was with me every step of the way, comforting me, holding my hand as the pain gradually became worse and worse. 

It was complete torture waiting for the doctor to come back to my room, but it didn't take long to get the "results" of the ultrasounds.

Our baby was dead. There was no heartbeat. It had not developed properly and had stopped growing a couple of weeks prior. They gave us our news, official paperwork describing the medical diagnosis - a missed miscarriage - and directions for the upcoming days, my prescription, and then discharged me; there was nothing to do aside from that. The doctor and nurses were sweet as could be and expressed their condolonces, but there was no reason for me to be there any longer. The nurses left the room and allowed me to dress and see ourselves out.

*Let me warn you - if you don't want to read about the not-so-lovely details, stop reading right now.*

Right before I got up to get dressed, I felt the release of a gush of fluid. As I sat up to get out of the bed, I realized that the fluid was both clear and bloody. I took off my panties and there was my little baby. I cannot even begin to tell you how I responded. I freaked. There, right in my hand, was our child. Dead and decaying inside my palm. Oh God, my poor, sweet husband. He was with me for every single second of this horrendous experience, and I know that the Lord blessed him with unwaivering strength and soundness of mind in these moments, because I possessed none of it. We called for a nurse right away. They asked me what I needed; I simply replied that we needed a nurse in the room right now. How could I possibly find the words to tell them what we needed assistance with? Once they arrived, even they seemed a bit out of sorts. They took my baby out of my hands, still lying there in my panties, and laid them both on the counter, unsure of the next step. The head nurse eventually took the tiny dead creature and put it in a plastic cup to send to the lab. They expressed their condolences again, and one sweet nurse gave me a pad from her personal stash and a handful of washcloths. Again, they left. I tried to stand up but was so weak, so dazed, so confused. I needed to get dressed and leave. As I stood and tried to put on my clothes, blood poured out of me. It kept coming. I had no idea what to do - if I sat, I was just bleeding all over those white sheets; if I stood, I bled all over the floor and had no possible way of clothing myself. I lost it, every ounce of reserve that I had left. Thank God for my sweet husband. By His grace, Patrick was able to keep himself together and get me clothed and out the door. I remember looking back into the room as we were leaving; I thought to myself how it looked like a crime scene - a bloody, tragic crime scene.


The days, weeks, and months to follow:
The next 24 hours were so physically and emotionally painful that I will never forget it. It felt like I was in labor, yet I had no baby to show for it, just some paperwork, prescriptions, and lots of blood and expelled bodily tissue. I refused to see anyone aside from my husband for 6 days. Once the worst of the physical pain and bleeding were over, it started to get easier. Breathing wasn't quite so difficult as it had been. For the longest time, I felt fairly numb to the whole thing and basically refused to let myself feel the emotions that were eating at my soul. 

It has been three months exactly since that horriffic day. As time passes, we have told more and more people about our loss, but it continues to feel like the entire thing was a dream that ended in a terrible nightmare.

Despite the tears, the confusion, and the anguish that have come and gone over the past few months, I continue to rely on the support of my wonderful husband, as well as my dear friends and family. But above all, the Lord has been so faithful to remind me that He is here, He knows the pain that I have gone through, and He cares.  We have seen so many beautiful gifts from this experiece, specifically the Lord working in and through the people around us, using and expanding the gifts of the Spirit that they have been given. I have held fast to the Word as my comfort in my most painful times of need, because, honestly, where else on Earth could I go that would provide satisfaction? I certainly have my moments of despair, but, for the most part, I am doing relatively well. I can take absolutely no credit for this, either. My God has sustained me. Our dear church family has lifted us up and interceded for us in prayer. My husband has always been and continues to be the most wonderful person in my life, and I am forever blessed to walk through the storms of life in this world with him by my side.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
- Psalm 46:1-3



August 13, 2013

Musings of a Student Teacher

Student Teaching.
Student teaching has yet to begin for me. For some, they have already entered into the daily routines of their schools; I begin that adventure next Monday, and I am not that excited.

Maybe it's the fact that I am in my last semester at the tender age of 26 (gasp - I know! I look 20. I am aware.) and am so desperate to be o-u-t of school.
Maybe it's the idea of giving up so much of my time and energy for yet another semester to obtain a piece of paper. In the end, that's all it is. It is a piece of paper that says a lot about my accomplishments, but it is just paper.
Or maybe it's the fact that we just finished sitting through two days worth of presentations on how to not get fired and end up diseased and in jail for the rest of your life... 25 years minimum.

I could go on and on and on about the crap that teachers must face in the classroom, what they are morally, ethically, and legally responsible for, and how to react in a million different situations where the lawyer is telling you to do this thing to protect your butt and the school administration is telling you this other thing to protect themselves, because the second you have an issue, they're going to leave you up a creek, without a paddle, going the wrong way in the middle of a storm in order for them to protect their own behinds. *facepalm*

I know this isn't the case for the vast majority of teacher experiences. I know that. But by golly, they certainly make you feel like it in the days before you begin your student teaching.

Several people excitedly inquired yesterday as to how my first day back at school went. The course is Contemporary Issues.
I told them, "It was an extremely uplifting and encouraging experience. Except not really."
Why, you ask? Let's look at the presenting lineup for the two days, shall we? This is from 8:00am to 5:00pm, mind you - two entire work days of sitting in an auditorium about these things:
- Child Protective Services: Child Abuse and Neglect
- Bully Prevention
- Bloodborne Pathogens (If you don't know, look it up - the motto was "If it's wet and not yours, DON'T TOUCH IT!")
- Depression & Suicide
- Legal Issues in Schools I (Social media and interacting with students, via the lawyer)
- Legal Issues in Schools II (via the school board member)
- Basic First Aid
- Substance Abuse (Drugs & Alcohol and how it affects your students)
- Teaching English Language Learners (basically how culture and language affects your students and how best to encourage and help them in the classroom)
- Advice from the Front Line (by far the most positive as it had the most to do with teaching in the classroom; she also made us feel like we could actually interact with our students! *gasp!*) 


Totally wasn't kidding.

What are the things that I have immediately taken away from this course?
- I could easily lose my job. And go to court. And possibly go to jail, but I face a way better chance of not going to jail if I have the OEA lawyers on my side.
- I could get a disease from my students. From ALL of my students, and from other teachers and parents and visitors, because we're supposed to always be super cautious about that stuff. Forget if a kid ran into the corner of the brick wall and his head is bleeding profusely; you better leave him there so you can run and get your latex gloves from your first aid kit in the locked cabinet at the other side of the room first. And don't you dare leave your students alone for a nanosecond because you'll probably get fired.
- I will encounter so many students that will deal with abuse, neglect, substance abuse or exposure to it, bullying, depression, and suicide. I can't even begin to make sarcastic remarks about this because it breaks my heart. I was one of those students. My friends were those students. My siblings encounter this stuff in their schools every day. My heart breaks for each and every one of these students, whether I encounter them or not. I hate it so much. We had 4 different sessions on this stuff and it was so discouraging.
- I also learned how to give "back throws and abdominal thrusts" (because it's not called the Heimlich maneuver anymore) in my classroom, but I sure as heck hope that doesn't cross the boundaries and I get fired for being that close to a student. Sigh.
- I learned some very positive things, though. I learned several key phrases to say to my students in the classroom for various reasons. I learned tangible ways to create a group space for a safe, positive learning environment. I was explicitly told (although we all know this but never hear it put this way) that learning requires vulnerability. Students are being asked to invite new ideas and information into their ways of thinking during every hour of the school day; if they're in secondary education (middle and high school), they're being asked to do that via a different person every hour. I learned explicit ways to help level the horizon and create the optimal learning environment for each student.

Okay, so I lied.
I'm not not excited about student teaching; I'm just not excited about the unknown.
Will I have a good mentor teacher? Will they like me? Will they give me too much too soon, or will they not allow me as much responsibility as I am supposed to have? What grade will I be in? How many student names will I try so desperately to learn and forget? How will the students react to me? Will I encounter one of those horribly tricky situations and get into trouble? What about lesson plans - how will those go? Will I bomb every single time? Will I turn red and break into hives or start sweating bullets? Will I somehow get my mentor teacher into trouble?

The questions are endless, I tell you. Endless. So is the anticipation and the worry; and with that comes the anxiety. And then I graduate in December. Am I going to sub or will I be offered a wonderful mid-year job? Am I going to teach at all? Will I get anything accomplished with my students ever?

I need a serious pick-me-up (Disney movie, anyone?). It's not even 7:00pm on Tuesday and it already feels like Friday.

But good gracious am I glad that it's not Friday yet. I'll take my few extra days to toughen up before my next big adventure begins, thanks!

August 9, 2013

Once Upon a Time... I Paid Money to Run {a 5k}

Once upon a time... I paid money to run. 

I received a text message from my beautiful sister-in-law, Rachel:

"What would you say if I asked you to run a 5k with me ?" she inquired.
"I'd say HECK YES!!!" I replied in two seconds flat.
And those few words sealed my doom.

Okay, okay, it wasn't nearly that dramatic, but about 5 seconds after I replied, I felt uber anxious and unsure of myself. I mean, I hadn't worked out in months. Months. That's how I do the whole workout/fitness thing in adulthood, it seems - I work out for a couple of months, lose a few pounds, tone up, and then my routine trickles away and I don't touch it for 4-8 months. For reals. It's super unhealthy, but I am really great at making lots of excuses, especially during school. The real problem is, though, that I don't have any specific reason to force me to work out in my spare time when I'd rather be reading, thrifting, antiquing, organizing, cleaning, sleeping...... you get the idea.

Rachel solved that problem for me, though.
Except not really.

I believe it was sometime in early September when she sent me that text message, if my memory serves me correctly. The run - the Reindeer Run, to be precise - was scheduled for December 1st or something silly like that. Right after Thanksgiving, right before the week before finals, two weeks before finals, and right before the ruckamuck that is the Holiday Season. We paid our dues and "got ready" for the 5k.

I worked out at the school gym one time before getting really sick for 3 weeks (and I would put money on the fact that I picked up whatever unwelcome germs at that time). I ran outside a total of two or three times maximum before the "run" or "race" or whatever you might like to call it. One of those times, it was outrageously windy and I can remember barely being able to breathe as the wind gusts smacked me in the face over and over again, let alone run in that ridiculousness that is Oklahoma winds.

Rachel came home from the Bahamas (Jonathan came home, too - fancy that!). We all had a lovely Thanksgiving together and ate way too much food. Then we basically jumped right into the 5k together!

The Reindeer Run - 2013

 











I should probably mention a few things:
1. No one should feel required to finish a 5k and put on their makeup within the same morning. We certainly didn't.
2. The runners of the race were encouraged to wear crazy socks. I did. Rachel didn't have any after returning from living in the Bahamas (shocker), so she wore her crazy shoes instead.
3. I should have worn some kind of shorts over my leggings in order to cover my behind a bit better. Alas, hind sight is 20/20. Ahahahahaha! Really, though, I hate wearing baggy clothing while exercising, but innocent bystanders shouldn't be punished for it.
4. We heard obscenities from a very frustrated teenage boy who, apparently, went the wrong direction. It was offensive at the time. It is hysterically funny now.
5. As I type this, I am singing Rachel's "Thing Song" in my head as I remember getting ready for the event. "First youuuuu put the thing on, then you plug the thing in, then you pull the thing through and then..." or something like that - it's like the more annoying and absolutely hilarious version of "The Song That Never Ends!" That one will be stuck with me for days... again.
6. We walked. We ran. We jogged. We walked and ran and jogged some more. We finished! Allelujah.




All in all, it was a wonderful experience that now serves as a fun memory. I'm so glad that my awesome sis-in-love came up with the idea, and I would love to do it all over again with her! Love you, sis! We rock!!

And they all lived happily ever after... once they got some food, of course. ;)

July 29, 2013

Creme Brulee French Toast


A few weeks ago, Patrick and I were blessed to be able to tag along on a trip to Eureka Springs with his parents. We stayed at The Heartstone Inn Bed and Breakfast (visit their website here) for the weekend in a cute little cottage that had so much charm.





If I wasn't in love with the place enough, Rick and Cheri (the owners and managers of The Heartstone) won my love and loyalty forever with their incredible 5-star breakfasts. If you know me at all, you know that good food is one of the quickest ways to my heart; good breakfast food gets you there even faster. Boy oh boy, I think I love them almost as much as I love my own family! Each breakfast that they served was absolutely divine:

Day 1: Creme Brulee French Toast, homemade (from scratch) hominy grits, sausage, and fresh fruit.


Day 2: Artichoke-Potato Quiche, chocolate zucchini bread, bacon, and fresh fruit.


Day 3: Tropical Fruit French Toast, cornbread casserole, sausage, and fresh fruit.


And the fresh fruit wasn't just a side of fruit - it was a blessed mixture of perfectly ripened fruit, always with a slightly obscure melon in the mix. Mmmm... my mouth is watering just thinking about all of that delicious food! The pictures and my descriptions really don't even begin to do it justice.



And - gasp! - the recipes that they make can be found in their very own cookbook available for purchase at the Inn's gift shop! I just about keeled over when I realized that I could bring home a bit my favorite part of The Heartstone; and just like that, the cookbook became mine. Well, I had to buy it, but let's just say that it didn't take long or any amount of convincing. (P.S. You can make it yours, too, by going to their online gift shop here! On that note, their soaps were pretty dang wonderful as well... I would like to make those mine some day soon.)

All that being said, I decided to make the Creme Brulee French Toast this past week for a house church get-together at our new place. We were so glad to be able to host, and the fact that the theme for our meal night was going to be breakfast foods was an uber plus. The french toast turned out wonderfully, and it was super easy to make (which surprised me, to be honest)! Instead of emailing or writing down the recipe several times over for my friends who wanted it, I decided just to post it here for easy access. So, thanks to Rick and Cheri, here is my favorite of all of The Heartstone Inn's breakfast recipes (so far)!

Creme Brulee French Toast
Ingredients:
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
2 baguettes or 1 loaf French bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 c. half & half
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp. salt

In a small heavy saucepan, melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring until smooth and pour into a greased 13x9x2 inch baking dish.

Cut 10-12 (1 inch thick) slices, reserving ends for another use. Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, half & half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and salt until combined well and ladle evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bring bread to room temperature. Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35-40 minutes. Serves 6.

*NOTE(S):
1) I don't think that I'm betraying any confidences by posting this recipe - they have it posted on their Facebook page for The Heartstone Inn. In fact, they post one recipe every Friday, so go "like" their page and get more of their fabulous recipes!
2) I purchased 2 baguettes from Panera. I could have easily used 1 of theirs for this recipe.
3) While it says to chill the mixture overnight, I made it for an evening meal. I had it in the fridge by 9:00am and took it out at about 5:45pm.
4) We had 18 adults in the house for meal night, so there were probably more than 10-12 slices of bread in there. But who knows? I'm not the best at counting.

And there you have it, my dears! Be sure to let me know if you try this recipe for yourself. It is definitely worth the minimal effort that it takes to make it. And be sure to keep The Heartstone in mind if you ever venture out to Eureka Springs, Arkansas; I know that we will be staying there (like his parents have been - 30+ years) for many years to come!

July 26, 2013

Once Upon a Time... I Climbed a Mountain

It has been quite a while since I've written on this little blog of mine. A lot has happened in the past few months... more than a lot - things that have changed me forever and in ways that are purely inexplicable - but I won't write about that now; that's for a later time.

Right now I'm going to write a little story, the beginning of many little stories, actually. I've decided that, since I'm not so great at writing about the day-to-day events of my life, I'm going to write about the moments - big or little - that I want to document for one reason or another. It's going to be my "Once Upon a Time" series, and there will be no rhyme or reason to their order or significance. They will be purely be whatever stories I fancy remembering at the moment. Some stories will be short, some will be long; some will be simple, some complicated; some will be side-splitting, some extremely sad; they will all be mine.

And thus, with that sorry excuse for a recap and explanation for my absence, I will begin...

Once upon a time, I climbed a mountain.
Not just any mountain, mind you, but Mount Royal. Perhaps it is named as such because it is a Royal Pain-in-the-Rear to climb? I'll let you be the judge of that, but it was certainly no picnic! Oh my livin' heck. Just thinking about that beautiful mountain makes me tired. But alas, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.

First, I'll introduce you to The Womack Clan, comprising of three couples:
Charlie (father-in-law)
Bernice (mother-in-law)
Jonathan (brother-in-law)
Rachel (Jonathan's wife, sis-in-law)
Patrick (well, you know him... my favorite redhead)
Nicole (duh... that's me)

The Womack Clan was invited to a lovely little Colorado wedding last summer over the 4th of July weekend and we decided to make a family vacation out of it. First stop: Copper Mountain, Colorado, where the wedding was being held. We actually stayed in this cute little town not far from Copper called Frisco; we instantly fell IN.LOVE. with the condo, the town, the mountain view, the food, the weather, everything!
 
 
I cannot remember which day it was (sometime after the wedding, possibly the day after), but the two younger couples had been doing a bit of P90X before the venture to the mountains (that's another story...) and we four decided that we would love to get a little workout by taking a hike - we were in the mountains, after all! Jonathan got to work looking up the closest and best hike for the four of us and found Mount Royal. After doing his research, he convinced us with his lackluster attitude that it was, indeed, the hike for us. I mean, really, the trail is only a mile and a half long! Let's go tackle that little trail, shall we?!

*facepalm*
I'm never listening to that man again.

The four of us crazies got gussied up for the trek up the trail and had Charlie drive us over to the trail head. We're so dang cute, aren't we? And by golly, we were excited, too!





 (Pardon the sans makeup look... we weren't fools enough to think that it would make a difference.)

And then we started up the trail. I don't know what impression we were under, but it was most certainly the wrong impression (ahem... thanks to some lying fool of a dumbkid)! Let me tell you, that was the worst, longest, most excruciating 1.5 miles OF.MY.LIFE. Oh sure, it's only a mile and a half. A MILE AND A HALF IN WHICH YOU CLIMB 1,500 VERTICAL FEET.
Let me say it again for you.
1,500 VERTICAL FEET IN 1.5 MILES.

Rachel and I thought we were going to die. We were never, ever, NEVER EVER going to get off of that [explicative] mountain alive. And if we did, that tall, skinny brunette of a future doctor wasn't going to live to tell the tale. Oh sure, the first 1/4 mile was peachy. Nice and mellow. Then came the mountain. Up, up, up you go, and when it stops, nobody knows! We felt like we were Frodo and Sam as they were led up, up, up the treacherous stairs of Cirith Ungol by the plotting Gollum... sigh. No technical explanation of that vertical climb will do the dang thing justice, but let me just say that it was 100% awful. And what made it worse was the native elderly people and pint-sized children passing us up on the trail at lightening speeds. At lightening speeds, I tell you! Forget the dogs, they were totally digging it. Thank heaven for those little aerosol cans of oxygen and 237 clif bars that we brought along with us... yes, oxygen. We're from sea-level locales, folks!

By the time we got to the top, I had decided that I was going to spend a bit of time up there; we didn't complete the most ridiculous hike just to turn around and slide back down the mountain - oh heck no! We each munched on clif bars and apples for lunch while Rachel and I sat our tooshies down on logs for a stinkin' break and tried to sip on the water we wanted to guzzle. We admired the incredible view several times. We goofed around. We ate and drank and admired some more.









Alas, there came a time where we had to go back down the mountain, which was a task in itself, for what was so ridiculously steep coming up was insanely tricky to walk coming down! I cannot tell you how many times we slipped (and sometimes fell) simply because we didn't have the right shoes or footing for such a steep walk downhill - I know that Rachel had the wrong shoes period and was spitting nails the whole way down, but she was a trooper if I've ever seen one! The following picture is from the easy part of the trek downward. Do you see how the mountain slopes at the turn? Yeesh.


Eventually, the four of us made it back to the base of the mountain in (mostly) one piece. We gave Jonathan a hard time for weeks to come, but all in all, I think that we were all glad of the accomplishment that was climbing Mount Royal. Even if we did think that we were going to die in the process.





I'm sure there's some inspiring metaphor in there somewhere, but I'm going to leave it right where it is - I'm exhausted after all of this mountain-climbing reminiscing!

Oh, yeah! And they all lived happily ever after... once they were no longer on Mount Royal. ;)