Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stupid* antibodies, and a friendly reminder from God

Jesus' friends had been so afraid, they had only seen the big waves. They had forgotten that, if Jesus was with them, then they had nothing to be afraid of. No matter how small their boat - or how big the storm.
-The Jesus Storybook Bible

Curled up in bed one night I cried and confided in Johnie. I was feeling so insecure. So nervous. So worried. Just five days prior I had learned that I tested positive for several antibodies which cause my blood to clot abnormally. This puts me at an even higher risk for miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, slowed growth of the baby and pre-term labor than lupus alone.

I was thankful that they caught it this early in my pregnancy and I was thankful my levels weren't so high as to require blood thinner injections right away, but I had still been disappointed by this news.

I had prayed specifically, since I learned about lupus and some of the pregnancy risks, to not have to deal with this issue if I ever did become pregnant. In the moments after I learned the news I felt like it was just the beginning of my deepest fears for this pregnancy being realized. What other bad things were going to unfold in the days and weeks ahead?

But after spending some time in prayer with God, I began to feel better about things. Less panicked. More peaceful. Over the years, when troubles arise in my life when I feel like I am trying to do the Lord's will and I wonder why He is allowing obstacles to get in the way, I sometimes think of people like Mary. I have thought of her a lot during my pregnancy. If anyone ever deserved a pain-free, care-free pregnancy, it was Mary carrying Jesus. But she was so young and her story was so unbelievable and she had to ride on a donkey for several days and deliver her baby alone in a strange, unsterile, humble place. Why should I expect to have it easier than Mary? I mean, I already do have it easier than Mary, and why am I expecting even better treatment than the chosen mother of the Savior?

The fears didn't vanish though. They kept creeping back up and I kept fighting them back each day. Earlier this particular day I noticed that the Lupus Foundation of America had posted a new article about pregnancy outcomes of women with lupus and the antiphospholipid antibodies. I refrained from reading it for several hours until curiosity got the best of me. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

It was worse.

The fears just overwhelmed me. And as Johnie tried to calm me down, I got even more anxious and started veering into fears of my parenting skills and how this baby would affect our marriage. For each problem he tried to solve, I replaced it with twelve new ones. Finally, he just listened and waited for me to calm down. And when it seemed like I had said all I could think of to say, he pulled out the Jesus Storybook Bible.

You see, it is very important to my mom that babies are read to, even before they are born. She read the Bible to my brother and me still in the womb. I have always planned to do the same with my kids. Johnie and I have heard wonderful things about the Jesus Storybook Bible from many of our friends, so it was the first baby purchase we made. I thought we were getting a little carried away reading to an earless -- and even heartless when we started this tradition -- baby. But, I reasoned, we could probably stand to hear the Bible story each night even if it didn't quite reach our baby yet.

This night we were on The Captain of the storm. Johnie began reading and turned the page and I picked up until I got to:

They had forgotten that, if Jesus was with them, then they had nothing to be afraid of.

I could only cry. Thanks, God. What a sweet way to let me know I should probably just chill out and trust You.

He has sent me many words from friends and family and His Word in the last few weeks to reassure me He is with me in this. I randomly got a card a few days after the storm story from a women's ministry that I have done some small volunteer projects for (and that has done some major ministering in my own life) with a note (from someone who didn't even know I am pregnant) letting me know she had prayed for me and these verses came to her mind:

Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold me by my right hand. -Psalm 73:23

My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -Psalm 73:26

She also offered this prayer: May God strengthen your body today and remind you that He is walking beside you, holding your right hand!

I don't understand why God decided I should carry this baby. I don't understand why I have to deal with this stupid* antibody issue. Or why any number of mothers have to deal with any number of pregnancy issues. And I don't know how this is going to work out.

But I am thankful for a sweet, loving, gentle, trustworthy Father who is by my side and helping me through it all. I need to be reminded constantly: I have nothing to fear. Because of Him.

*Writing this post made me realize I should probably begin now (while my baby hasn't yet developed the ability to hear) to significantly decrease my use of the word "stupid."

Friday, April 24, 2015

I really AM pregnant

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
-Psalm 139: 13

From the time I saw those two lines I wanted more information. What did this mean? Really. I wanted an ultrasound so we could get to the bottom of what was really going on.

I didn't get one at my first appointment and waited impatiently for the second one. I didn't feel like I could really accept that I was going to have a baby until I actually saw that there was a legitimate baby growing inside me.

While I was relieved that this first sonogram would be performed by a highly skilled OB, I was nervous about the actual encounter. First of all, he is a man. I usually refrain from allowing men that kind of access. (Women too, actually, but I more easily make exceptions for female doctors.) Also, a couple of my friends already warned me about their bad experiences with this particular doctor. I had hoped I would be scheduled with someone else in the practice.

Not having my doctor of choice only added to my anxiety about this appointment. I was afraid my uterus would be empty, or implanted with something unable to grow into an actual baby. And what if it was a baby, but without a heartbeat? The midwife was sure there would be a heartbeat, but I wasn't.

Several of my friends tried to assure me that there are several legitimate reasons why a heartbeat couldn't be detected that early. Namely, if I wasn't as pregnant (as far along) as I thought I was. I tried not to get my hopes up about a heartbeat, but from everything I read and knew about the timing of everything, I knew there should be a heartbeat. (Although I conceded that my not-being-able-to-get-pregnant calculations were obviously wrong, so maybe I was just COMPLETELY wrong about everything going on inside my body.)

I tried to control my anxiety about everything as I waited for the appointment. I would just feel so much better if I knew, I thought. Johnie and I had planned a fun April Fools Day announcement to our friends and family. But I wanted to chicken out. Why not wait until after we see a heartbeat and make a less fun announcement?

But after I saw the heartbeat, then I'd worry about some other thing and want to wait until after that thing was resolved before telling people. I talked with Johnie and as we kept playing out the "wait until" scenario for telling, we got to the point at which I delivered the baby and thought we might as well just have some April Fools Day fun and pay whatever potential consequences the following day at the appointment.

It was a long day of waiting. I couldn't really find the energy to do anything but wait that day. (And think. And pray.) Finally it came close enough to an acceptable time to leave the house and we got in the car and headed toward Lexington.

At the doctor's office, I waited and waited. My nerves would get the best of me and I would start crying as I waited, playing out all the possible scenarios in my head. Then I would try to pull it together so I wouldn't be crying when they called me back. Then I would start crying again because they STILL hadn't called me back. Then I would straighten up again. And again. I worried maybe they missed my arrival or my appointment. Or that I would find out the doctor wasn't there or the ultrasound machine wasn't working... and I'd just have to wait another week.

Friends were texting me well wishes throughout this time, which calmed me... and also made me cry. And then I'd pull that together.

(It was only 45 minutes... I'm not so good with waiting.)

And then I finally got called back and had to do those enjoyable things like pee in a cup (I had been waiting for that too), and have my weight displayed and... while I was getting my blood pressure taken and trying to will it to be low, I was given the following information: "The doctor has a student shadowing him this week. Would it be okay if he is also with you for the ultrasound?"

Another boy?!? Blood pressure, stay down. Where would he stand? What would he do? Stay calm, blood pressure. Should I ask Johnie what he thinks? No, I need to make this decision myself. I really don't want anyone else in there. But am I being unreasonable? I mean, he's a student trying to learn. Should I just say its okay and get over it? Is this affecting my blood pressure? Why would they ask me this while taking my blood pressure?! Are they finished with my blood pressure reading yet? What happens if it's high? Will they be mad if I say the student can't come in? I'm just going to say it...

The nurse was really sweet and early in my mental acrobatics she added, "No pressure, and it's your decision." Currently she was trying really hard to focus on a chart and not make eye contact. In case maybe I might feel intimidated?

"I'd really prefer if he didn't, if that's okay."

And the blood pressure was normal. Whew.

Then I went into the ultrasound room and waited some more for the doctor to actually come in. I'd start my nervous cry again and then clear it up when I heard rustling, and then the tears would well up again when the door didn't open.

I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself of everyone who was praying. And of God who was with me in that room. And I still really wanted to see inside my uterus once and for all, but I felt more calm and peaceful.

After what was probably only 5 minutes or so, the doctor came in. And I immediately liked him. He was warm and friendly and shook our hands. He seemed grandfatherly and that only increased when he actually started talking about his grandkids within two minutes of meeting us.

The ultrasound got underway quickly.

I thought seeing my baby for the first time -- with a heartbeat, especially -- would cause some sort of maternal bubble to explode inside of me and I would immediately feel overwhelming, inexpressible love. I thought Johnie and I would instinctively grab one another and cry tears of joy.

But that little blob came up on the screen, and this is how it went down:

That's the baby! Okay, so I really am pregnant. I really am. That little flickering thing, that's the heartbeat. My baby has a heartbeat! It's little heart is beating!

"You're seeing the miracle of life," the doctor said. "See that flickering? That's the heart."

Okay, so I really am pregnant. And the heart is beating!

"Can you see the heartbeat, dad?"

I heard a muffled yes from behind me.

This is the weirdest thing. I have a baby inside my body. I really do. Look at that little heart beating! How can they even tell this is a baby? I wonder which end is the head? I wonder where the baby is at inside my uterus?

"Okay, now we're just going to check your ovaries."

Wait! Just let me watch the baby for a few minutes! My ovaries? That might be cool to see.

"Here's your right one. Looks normal. And over here... your left one. You got pregnant from your left ovary."

You can tell that?! That's where I had the pain! I do know what's going on with me. In your face doctors who didn't believe me!

The baby came back on screen.

Oh, it's the baby! I really am pregnant. I have a baby inside me. Right now. A real live baby. With a heartbeat and everything. God, I can't believe this. I really am pregnant. I really am. This is for real. This is a big deal. Like, major. I'm really pregnant.

It all felt way more clinical and detached than I thought it would. I couldn't believe we were looking inside my body.

Then the ultrasound was over and the doctor talked to us for a few minutes. He said some of the sweetest, most reassuring things, telling me I hadn't made any mistakes and that the Great Physician was in control. And he listened to me and confirmed what I thought about what was going on.

He had said a lot of things during the ultrasound that I didn't understand (dictating notes to the nurse). He never said anything was bad or sounded alarmed, but I wanted to make sure. "Was there anything that looked abnormal or raised any red flags?"

He assured me everything was normal.

I was left alone to clean up and get ready to see my normal midwife. I looked back at Johnie who was staring down at the baby pictures in tears. "I don't know why I'm so emotional," he said.

So my husband cried at the sight of our baby's heartbeat and I could only stare in shock.

I laughed. "I have some idea. You just saw your baby, and it's beating heart, for the first time. I think it's pretty normal. And sweet."

The midwife, knowing our situation, asked me if I had been able to come to terms with the pregnancy any more in the last week.

And then I teared up, "That's a hard question. I feel like I've only really known I'm pregnant for about five minutes."

They took multiple vials of blood from me that day to test for all sorts of lupus-related possible pregnancy issues and I was cleared to not come back for another month. I was thankful to not have to go back for several weeks, but did not settle in comfortably for another month of waiting.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What about the husband?

Goodnight. I love you.

I have always thought Johnie would be a great dad. It is so sweet to see him play with little ones. This was never reason enough for me to actually get pregnant though. Because, you know, I'd have to actually grow a full size baby inside my body, get it out somehow (still haven't figured out how that is supposed to work) and then be his/her mom for the rest of my life. I was content just to watch him with our nieces and nephews.

But if I'm getting this surprise, this is a part I look forward to. Watching Johnie in action.

I just had to laugh the evening I told him our news. I think I could have asked him for anything that night and he would have given it to me happily. No complaints. (That has since died down.) He held my hand as we watched TV that night. He went out to pick our dinner up. And brought home flowers. He volunteered to do several little chores I would normally do.

And if any of you know Johnie and his track record of trying to say sweet things and failing miserably...One night before bed I was telling him how I just couldn't get over how quickly everyone just got excited about this baby and already loved him/her. They already started making plans for the baby.

I just couldn't get there. "I just don't know," I said. "I mean, am I just going to miscarry? Am I even really pregnant? Is the baby going to come early or late? Or be sick or healthy? I just don't know anything about this baby."

"We know this baby has a really great mother," he said.

Did those words just come out of the mouth of the man who said we would never work when he was trying to convince me to date him? Yes, they did. More than one miracle was conspiring around me.

When people asked us how we were feeling I said, "nervous and scared." He said, "more excited than I thought I would be."

I didn't want to bother him with added stress at the beginning of his new job so I recruited my mom to go to my baby appointments with me. Only he already planned to go with me himself. And talked with his boss to work out a schedule that would allow him to work around my appointments.

One night we were running errands and it was a couple hours past dinner and I was very hungry. I decided a chicken breast (two, actually) from Bojangles would do it. But the lady at the drive-thru informed us it would take 12 minutes. I didn't feel like I had 12 minutes, so I made him take me to McDonald's. But the line there was around the building and I wanted chicken anyway. So I screamed. I've never done that before in my life. (I have screamed before... just not over having to wait a few minutes for food.)

He took me back to Bojangles and we waited for the chicken. A couple bites in I felt settled down and embarrassed for acting so horribly. "I'm really sorry," I said. "I don't know what came over me. There's no excuse for that."

"Ummm... you're growing a person. You need to eat. I think it's completely understandable. I can't even imagine how I would act." (At which point I hoped I really was pregnant... Otherwise my behavior would have been even more inexcusable.)

He's given me the "Amy, you're growing a person." pass plenty of times since we learned the news.

There are things he does stress out about. In the first 16 hours after the positive pregnancy test, he wanted to buy all the nursery furniture, pick out a name and make a decision about vaccinations.

Randomly, a couple weeks ago, he felt it imperative to change out several of our door knobs so they would be safer for the baby... when s/he starts walking. I asked if he felt like it was something he needed to do that day. He said yes.

And, little things will pop up every now and then that bring him pause or that put him in a bad mood. But mostly, he's just really sweet.

He began reading to the baby that first night. And each night before we go to sleep he kisses my belly and says, "goodnight, I love you." (He started that on his own.) Now that I think of it, he was the first person to ever tell the baby "I love you." Pretty sweet.

One night I asked him a question I wasn't even sure I wanted to know the answer to: "If you could go back, would you change things?" I had no idea what he would say. And I didn't even know what I wanted to hear. But he gave the most perfect answer I could think of given our surprise with this baby and my deep-seated quality time love language.

"That's a trick question... I really want to have longer with just you, but I already love this baby."

With all I am nervous about with this little one, the father isn't one. (I love you, Johnie! And thanks for being awesome!)

Friday, April 10, 2015

How do I even know I'm pregnant?

The first pregnancy is a long sea journey to a country where you don't know the language...
-Emily Perkins

I have worried so many times that the negative pregnancy test results I received over the years were actually wrong and that I was actually pregnant and I would surprisingly just go into labor one night. Too many I didn't know I was pregnant episodes, I guess. When I got the positive result, I was also skeptical.

How could this be? I mean, really? It didn't make sense. I felt like telling everyone, "We had a positive pregnancy test... we're checking into what this may mean." I showed Johnie the test and I showed my mom the test just to get their confirmation that it was, indeed, two lines. Unanimously everyone who looks sees two.

But I have been a little shocked by how eagerly everyone just accepted the news. I just said (or someone else said for me) basically, "I'm pregnant." And everyone just believed I was carrying a baby inside my body. I started getting presents for the baby within hours. (I already have a shelf dedicated to baby items in my basement.) Some people already had a feeling I was pregnant before I even knew myself. Some people already knew the sex of the baby. They even instantly began calling me mom, momma, little mommy, baby mama. Did they not need more proof of my impregnation, or especially of my mothering skills first? I sure felt like I did. I only had one friend who actually demanded (okay, not really demanded) to see the test with her own eyes. She was with me on not being able to believe it.

I was kind of afraid that I somehow wrongly took the test. That I would wake up one morning and things would be normal and I wouldn't be pregnant. And then I'd have to tell everyone, "Nevermind. I wasn't actually pregnant after all. Isn't that funny? I'm just going to hide now." I'd be the girl so stupid she didn't even know that she wasn't pregnant.

I even took another test two days later just to see if it was still positive. I was also a little worried because shortly after learning I was pregnant my short list of possible pregnancy symptoms vanished and I felt like I normally do. It was still positive.

Still though. I had heard of chemical pregnancies (though I'm still unsure what those actually are) and ectopic pregnancies and other types of pregnancies that trigger a positive test result but fizzle out quickly. How could I know I didn't have one of those types of pregnancies?

I scheduled a doctor's appointment and thought maybe that would help me be sure I was, in fact, pregnant. Even the lady on the phone when I scheduled the appointment congratulated me. (I guess we do just have to take people's word for it whether or not they are pregnant.)

Many of my friends assumed I'd have some kind of ultrasound during that first appointment. Maybe those things are common for first appointments, especially with first pregnancies and high risk situations? I really wanted to see inside my uterus. Babycenter told me the baby was only the size of a sesame seed, but I wanted to see that little seed with my own two eyes. How else could I know it was actually in there?

I tried to prepare myself for a disappointing appointment. Of not being able to hear the heartbeat yet because sesame seeds are so tiny. (Believe me, they're even tinier when you think of them as real live people... How anyone comes to be is a mystery to me.) I had even prepared myself for no ultrasound at all.

Which is what happened. No peek inside my uterus. No confirmation more sophisticated (in my opinion) than the one (two) I had received at home. And yet, having a doctor's official opinion of the reading of the test somehow made my pregnancy more legitimate for some people. "So you really ARE pregnant," they said.

Myself, I questioned the midwife's confidence in my condition. Because I am high risk, she scheduled an ultrasound to be conducted by a high risk OB the following week. "We will hear a heartbeat," she said. She said it just like that. It kind of scared me. I usually try to refrain from definitive statements. How could she be so sure? Do they teach you something in midwife school that allows you to just look at a newly pregnant woman and know the tiny little heart she's growing is beating? Or is there a third line for doctors' pregnancy tests that indicate "beating heart?" (If so, they really should have told me that.)

How was everyone else in the world more sure of this pregnancy than me? I didn't know. Maybe some sort of wisdom is imparted by people who are actually parents and they understand pregnancy better than us unexpecting (maybe that is a bad word choice) newbies.

At any rate, I took my appointment card and resigned to wait another week for some visual -- concrete -- confirmation of this tiny baby.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My disappointing reaction

For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline.
-2 Timothy 1:7

I don't feel ready for a perfectly healthy little angel baby. So I really don't feel up for anything less than perfectly healthy. And part of my initial reaction of hoping this just wasn't true was because of fear of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy, childbirth and infancy.

I feel a little justified in some of my fears since my health issues make this a high risk pregnancy and my chances of miscarriage are higher than normal. But, truth be told, even if I didn't have lupus I'd still be terrified of a miscarriage or of birthing an unhealthy baby. I mean, Johnie and I don't have the most stellar genes to work with from the beginning. And I've never been good at eating healthy or acting healthy or living healthy in general, lupus or not.

I always feared being unable to produce a healthy baby. Now those fears were in overdrive. I thought I could calm them by doing some research online (I know, I obviously wasn't thinking clearly), but I just became more anxious. And discouraged. It was so early my baby's heart wasn't even beating yet! How could I know if it would start beating? What if it had some chromosomal defect? What if? What if? What if?

This baby's due date also made me nervous. November 22nd. My grandmother, who is the most influential person in my life, died on November 27th. My grandfather, her husband, died thirteen years later on November 19th. That was their time. It was my time to grieve them and remember them. How could I handle adding another sad memory to that week? Or how could I handle delivering a baby and trying to be happy about it on the anniversary of the hardest thing I've ever had to endure? "Lord, please don't let this baby be born on the 27th," was my prayer.

My mom thought maybe God was giving me a gift, giving me something back to signify and help rectify the losses in my life. She was also completely certain nothing could be wrong with this baby. Two days after we learned we were pregnant, I sat out on the steps in my sunroom talking with her. "You just need to be open to what God can do," she said.

I was open. I knew I could have a good pregnancy and a healthy baby, thanks to God. But I also knew that there were many other less appealing possibilities. Thoughts of friends' babies who were miscarried or terribly ill or unable to survive flooded my mind. If tragic things could happen to my closest friends, they could happen to me too. One of the many injustices of living in a fallen world still groaning toward redemption is that not even sweet little innocent babies are exempt from hardship.

But I reflected on things that evening looking out over the field behind our house. There are no guarantees for a hardship-free life. We get tough surprises all the time. Even if I had a perfectly healthy baby, my world could still get shaken up in other ways. Tragedy can strike and life can be changed forever at any point. I've had it happen before. And God is always there to get me through it. I went to bed thankful that whatever happened, He would be by my side.

I woke up the next morning and continued to reflect on the night before. I want to be a light for the Lord. I want to bring Him glory. I try to live my life so that when those hard moments come unexpectedly, I bring Him praise and honor. I felt like I had failed miserably. Instead of trusting Him to get me through any storms that may be ahead, I just was very afraid.

That wasn't the only thing I felt guilty about. I have prayed for several years to clearly, specifically, know the will of God in the details of my life. I was at war with myself with decisions to move from Kansas to Kentucky, with decisions to take jobs and quit jobs. Always wanting to do His will, always wanting to make the right decision in His eyes.

I can't tell you how many times I have prayed, "Lord, just tell me. Whatever it is you want me to do, I'll do it. Anything." And He asks me something as simple as "be pregnant." And, at least initially, I would have refused.

I had hoped I would have reacted differently. But I didn't. I was disappointed in myself. But I slowly began to change that morning. After eight years of begging and praying, "Lord, if I am pregnant, please, please, PLEASE let the baby be healthy" I changed it that morning to, "Lord, whatever is in store for me with this life inside of me, I trust You with it. And if this baby isn't healthy in some way, I still love You and I still worship You and I still want to do Your will with my life and with this new life." And I thanked Him for answering my prayer to clearly show me what He wanted me to do, even if it was an unexpected answer.

I still want a healthy baby. I still get afraid. I just try to give it to the Lord quickly and let it go myself. And I'm sure I will continue to make disappointing mistakes in the days, months and years to come. But I hope I am growing toward a life more in line with His will.

I don't know how things will go in the weeks and months ahead. And I still don't feel excited yet. But I do feel peaceful now. And I'm letting that be enough while I wait.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sharing the news

Love and pregnancy and riding on a camel can not be hid.
-Arabic Proverb

There was little I was excited about in the first 24 hours after I learned I was pregnant. Actually, I could find two things to muster excitement for. First, since we were not even teenagers my best friend and I had always talked about some day being pregnant at the same time. She was six months along in her pregnancy, so if I was going to have a surprise I was thankful from the first few minutes that it was at the same time as my friend. We had let go of that dream a few years ago for multiple reasons, so we both saw the timing of our pregnancies as a gift from God.

The other thing I could get excited for was telling people. I had thought about different ways to share the news for years... if I ever did get pregnant. Now it was here and I wanted to have fun with it. I woke my best friend up and she quickly decided it was the best wake up call ever. Johnie's brother almost choked, we think. (Those who know us well had pretty much given up any hope that we would ever birth children.)

We told my mom we wanted her to make the announcement to the church family. She said no for about five seconds, then cried about being offered such an honor and enthusiastically agreed. I sort of thought she would just shout out something like, "I'm going to be a Memaw!" Or, "Johnie and Amy are having a baby!" With a jubilance (I may have made that word up) only she can achieve.

But all on her own accord she wanted to be ornery too. She thought about telling everyone that there was a new special someone in her life, leading them to think of a romantic relationship. But she settled on another idea that I think was even better.

Circled up to pray my mom was given the floor for her announcement: "I just wanted to let everyone know I'm getting a new car (Karr)!"

Everyone clapped politely, albeit confused. My mom already had a nearly new car and isn't usually one to get caught up in material things.

"A new little baby car (Karr)." People were still clapping and some didn't really hear her. Those who did thought she was talking about a compact car.

A couple seconds of awkward silence. Finally Johnie said, "Do you want to give any more details?"

"Well, I'll get it probably around...." She looked to me. "In November," I said. I thought everyone might catch on then. But there was still confusion.

Finally she brought her arms up like she was rocking a baby. "A new little baby car (Karr)." And people started to get it.

Unfortunately I have managed to miss all the group pregnancy announcements among our church friends to date. I always end up being out of town, or sick, or with some conflicting appointment on the one burrito night I didn't make that year. They probably react similarly to anyone who shares baby news. Or maybe we were just the least likely couple to ever make such an announcement. (One friend said, "you just know some things aren't a possibility so you don't even consider them," when talking about why it took everyone a bit to solve my mom's riddle.)

I was overwhelmed. There were squeals of joy and hugs and laughter. I looked around and people were high fiving and hugging. Some had their hands over their mouths. Others were crying. I was thankful that my mom and Johnie were there to absorb some of the attention, but I was shaking and feeling all tingly.

Maybe it was too much too soon for me to handle, but my heart was reassured to see all the joy on everyone's faces about the life inside of me. As I told them as they asked how I was handling it and apologized if they were being obnoxiously excited, I just felt so thankful to see others feeling about this baby the way I wish I could feel. And in those fear-filled moments, I always found reassurance in a community who already loved and cared for my little one.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Two little lines

A grand adventure is about to begin.
-Winnie the Pooh

Within hours of learning I was pregnant I felt compelled to write. I decided quickly to journal. The decision to blog came more slowly. I feel like there are more than enough motherhood/pregnancy blogs already, and they all do a much better job than I could ever do. But what would it hurt to share my experiences too? It's already been proven people don't have to read what I write. So here goes...

Upfront you should know I did not want this to happen. My husband and I were scared away from having children almost eight years ago when I thought I might be pregnant and later learned that I wasn't. We never really recovered from the shock of sudden responsibility we felt as we waited for a negative pregnancy test.

Ironically, it was that experience that sealed the deal for me quitting hormonal birth control. I had health complications with the three different types I tried (migraines, moodiness, weight gain, etc), but the fear that it could potentially harm my unborn child (unwarranted or not) was enough for me to stop it for good.

Within a few months we settled on natural family planning. I read several books. I still remember reading a warning that if we weren't going to be serious about NFP, then we shouldn't claim to practice it. The author lamented that NFP had such a low success rate because so many people did it incorrectly or took chances they weren't supposed to take. Also, most NFP "failures" happen in the first year.

I took the responsibility seriously and was diligent that first year. I followed every single rule. Measured and charted every indicator every day. To be fair to NFP we have not strictly followed the rules since then. It's just that some of the fertility indicators are tedious to measure, and if you track everything month after month you begin to learn about your body. (For example, my temperature swings happen later than for most women. I stopped taking my daily temperature years ago because it just wasn't as reliable an indicator for me as other things.)

 And there have been a handful of times when I have been wrong. I thought the indicators were or were not there only to learn after it was too late that I had misread my signals. That's not what happened this time. We had very good reasons to believe my fertile window had opened AND closed. And no other indication to the contrary. Still, in the hours following the positive pregnancy test I felt like a failure. How could I have let this happen?

I have always been paranoid about a surprise pregnancy and have taken dozens of pregnancy tests over the years. It has been a common refrain for me to link some symptom or issue with possible pregnancy. This particular time it was back pain.

My mom had back pain with both her pregnancies very early. When my back began hurting, I thought I might be experiencing the same thing. I lay in bed at 3 am the day of my missed period and whispered to my husband, "I just can't stop worrying about if I'm pregnant."

Eight years is a long time to be patient. Having heard it all before he replied simply, "Amy, you're not pregnant." And he rolled over and went to sleep. I nursed some hurt feelings and planned to talk to him the next evening about being more respectful to my concerns.

The next day I took the test. For the first time in my life the first little pink line began to appear. I blinked my eyes several times. It was still there. Two lines? Two lines! TWO lines?!?!?! "Dear God, no. Please no. I'm not ready. It's not time," I prayed.

I took a picture. Both lines showed up in the picture. I held it up to the light. They were still there. My heart started beating out of my chest and my breathing sped up. My skin flushed. Was I going to faint?

I talked myself through until my heart rate and breathing slowed. "It's okay. It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay. Everything will be alright."

My next thought was having to tell people. It was close to April Fool's Day. Every previous time I thought I might be pregnant around March, I always thought an April 1st announcement would be fun. So that might work out. I began thinking of how I would tell my friends. They would probably ask me how I am feeling. I actually thought I was handling it pretty well. I mean, I hadn't cried or anything. I panicked at first, but that was just for a few seconds really. How was I feeling?

I looked at myself in the mirror and said to myself, "I'm terrified." All composure was lost as I melted into sobs. I could hear my husband in the next room in a conference call meeting. On his first day of work at his new job. I couldn't really tell him until after his work day was finished. And I didn't want him to hear me, rush out and learn about our pregnancy with me a blubbering heap.

I tried to pull myself together and took several deep breaths. How do teenagers do this? How in the world do single moms handle this? I am old and married and middle class and love kids and I feel completely unprepared and unqualified. Downright unable. (Every mom in the world gained even more respect from me that day.)

Johnie had an hour before he was finished with work. How would I tell him? I really didn't want him to learn about his first child through heaving sobs. I thought about friends who had bought onesies or dad-to-be items and given them to their husbands. I didn't really have time for that. "Oh, hey... we're pregnant" seemed lackluster. What could I do?

I settled on telling him I got him a surprise for his first day at his new job. That was about the best I could come up with. I willed myself to hold it together, but his meeting ran long. And in the minutes between when he was supposed to get off work and when he did get off work I lost it again. And pulled it together again.

He didn't act like he suspected anything when he saw my face. "So, I got you a surprise for your first day of work."

"Oh, really? You didn't have to do that. What is it?"

This is harder than I thought it would be. I swallowed and could only whisper, "I'm pregnant."

His eyes got wide. "Really?!?"

I shrugged. "That's what the test said."

A tiny smile tugged his lips upward. But only for a few seconds. Serious, he asked, "how are you feeling?"

"How are you feeling?"

We were hugging. I couldn't see his face. What is he going to say? What is he going to do? How is he going to react? What is this going to mean for us? The seconds ticked slowly by. Was he waiting on me to answer first? I wanted him to answer first.

Finally he spoke. "I'm just really worried about how you are feeling."

"I'm scared."

We began discussing how and when to tell people. My best friend had always made me one of the first people she told (after her husband) about her pregnancies. Johnie agreed we should do the same for her. So she was our first call. We tried to call my mom but she wasn't available. We called Johnie's parents and siblings and grandparents.

We would be seeing our church family the following night. We live in a very tight knit open community. We strive to share life like a real, authentic family. This was rocking my world. I couldn't see my friends and not tell them. If it was even possible, it would have felt dishonest. But the thought of Johnie announcing our pregnancy and then everyone looking at me was overwhelming. I never like a lot of eyes on me and especially in a situation like this. I told him I just couldn't handle it.

He suggested I stay home and he announce it without me. That'd be a great way to have everyone at my house -- sick with worry -- in less than ten minutes. We agreed to call the friends we would see the next evening before we were to be with them. That way things might be settled down a little before I actually had to have anyone looking at me.

That was until we talked to my mom. She was ecstatic. Beyond ecstatic. She kept thanking the Lord over and over again. And she told us this was the best moment of her life so far. My husband tried to clarify -- with both of her children also on the phone -- and she said that her own births were the most amazing moments of her life when they happened. Emphatically, this was the best yet, she said, and that it would only get better when the baby arrived.

I knew my mom would be excited. But I had no idea her reaction would be so over the top. It actually helped me feel a lot better. I mean, everyone we told had sweet reactions. But my mom's response was priceless. I was already feeling a little guilty that my initial reaction was void of happiness and Johnie's lacked much enthusiasm. At least this baby had others who responded in such pure joy.

She also had plans with close friends in the coming days and was unsure how she could not tell them. Johnie received an email that night from a dear friend and we almost had to call him and his wife to tell them the news because Johnie didn't know how he could hide such a huge life event. (That friend later said he knew by Johnie's short reply that something was up.)

So, Johnie and I decided that night that mom should be the one to make the announcement to our church family. We weren't sure how she would do it, but we did know it would be great. And almost certainly better than any way Johnie or I could manage to tell anyone in the next 24 hours.

In true mom fashion, she didn't disappoint. Neither did our friends.