Friday, November 17, 2017

Fall Favorites

Greetings faithful blog readers,

It seems like the last few weeks have passed in a hurry. I wanted to document some of awesome events and such that have brightened the fall season for us. It's nice to stop and take in all that's good sometimes. If you're in the mood for happy thoughts, read on!


I didn't take time to blog about Halloween this year, but one thing I love is that Halloween is a BIG freakin' deal in our neighborhood. We get hundreds of tricker or treaters. My neighborhood in Austin was the same way growing up, so I'm so thrilled that we can participate and make Halloween special for a bunch of kiddos. At our house, we give out erasers in Halloween shapes and an insane variety of candy (ordered on Amazon). This year, we ordered over 500 pieces (and it still wasn't enough!) Though we were tired by the end of the night, we really enjoyed seeing all the kids out having fun in their costumes

Meow: Stacy's Pumpkin 

 Pumpkin Seeds

The best part of carving pumpkins is roasting pumpkin seeds. This year, I followed this recipe for cinnamon/sugar pumpkin seeds. They came out so delicious!

Boo: Brendan's Pumpkin 
Stranger Things 2/Curb Your Enthusiasm 

I don't have a photo for this one, but how awesome was the latest season of Stranger Things? I won't spoil anything, but I'll just say I'm so happy the show maintained its original tone and this season did not let me down.

I'm so late to the Curb Your Enthusiasm party (I know), but I started at season 1, and I love the awkward situations Larry routinely finds himself in. It's great to have a funny show with short episodes that I can watch if I find myself with thirty minutes before bedtime.

Little Seed Farms

My friend Tara sent me Rosemary Mint Soap, Body Butter, and Elasticity Serum from Little Seed Farms, and her gift not only warmed my heart but has also made my skin shockingly smooth. I have bumps on my arms, and the body butter seems to be working miracles for me. The products are paraben, dye, and fragrance free and also organic. If you need a gift that says "treat yourself to some relaxation and love" look no further! Also, I love reading their blog and looking at pictures of baby goats! 

Baby's First Book 

Our friends Peggy & Eric sent us baby's first book, and it is beautiful. I can't stop staring at the gorgeous illustrations, and I look forward to reading our daughter these stories about women who have changed the world. If you need a gift idea for a little one in your life (boy or girl), this collection is unique and carefully curated (and randomly has that amazing book smell; I know, I'm weird).

The Great Outdoors 

Weather in Midland doesn't get any better than this. Highs in the high 70s/low 80s, gorgeous sunsets, and nights cool enough to cozy up: check, check, and check. Even though life is busy, we've taken some walks and tried to stop and appreciate this gorgeous weather.

A New Friend 

Life is funny: just when many of my dear friends moved away, a new one came into my life. I'm still in touch with my friends that have moved and love them as much as ever, of course, but I'm happy to have a new local friend. Casey and I have so much in common: we both grew up in Austin, we both love to read, and we share many world views. She's 31 weeks pregnant with her second child, so I'm getting some good new mom and pregnancy tips. Plus, we both love eating right now, so you could say it's a match made in friendship heaven.

Paul Nicklen

Speaking of my new friend, she has already broadened my horizons. We checked out a lecture given by National Geographic Photographer Paul Nicklen at Midland College last night. The free event was hosted by the Sibley Nature Center, and it was so interesting. Nicklen dives in freezing temperatures and photographs within feet of elephant seals, leopard seals, polar bears, penguins, walruses, and all types of whales...he has had near death experiences like plane crashes and being pinned underwater by 800 pound animals, but he does it all to show people the beauty of Antartica and to be able to show people the harm climate change is causing first hand. I don't think I would have heard about the lecture if it weren't for Casey. Dallas Baxter (of NPR's Nature Notes) led the Q&A. Fun Fact: Brendan and I rented Dallas's cottage during spring break 2016, so I enjoyed visiting with her and her husband afterwards. 

Paul Nicklen trying to fit in with the pregnant ladies
Rebecca Watson Creative Writing Awards

Brendan missed last night's lecture (which would have been right up his alley) because he survived one of the two busiest days of his school year: the Rebecca Watson Creative Writing Awards, and he was exhausted. This is one of my favorite events of the year because we get to hear so many of our students read their creative work. Brendan puts so much effort into organizing this contest and awards ceremony and making sure it encompasses everything that Rebecca Watson, the generous donor, envisioned. This year, I noticed a lot of people saying "thank you," and I can't express how much it meant to hear those two small words. After watching Brendan pour so much energy into making this event awesome for the students, it made me happy to hear people acknowledge that the event was special to them. Here's to this year's talented (and thoughtful) group of bright students. It was a pleasure to hear their work yesterday. 

Apples of My Eye 

Remember how my fourth anniversary gift was a Harry and David fruit of the month club? It has truly been the gift that keeps on giving. This month's selection is delicious apples grown in Oregon, and they look as good as they taste (Brendan says their beauty makes him skeptical, but they're not too good to be true!) I think I'll use a few in a Thanksgiving pie. Lucky for all those that get a taste! 

Westin Booties 

My high heel booties are getting too uncomfortable (thanks to the extra weight I'm carrying) and one pair is too tight (thanks to feet swelling). DSW to the rescue! I ordered these booties in two colors, and they seem like they'll be comfortable for teaching in, are work appropriate, and are cool weather friendly. Three cheers for covering all three bases (and not having to leave my house for a time consuming shoe shopping adventure).

Kamiposi Fair Trade Craft Market 

Midland has a gem in Kamiposi Art Gallery located at 510 S. Big Spring. We stopped by the Fair Trade Craft Market and picked up some adorable "aminals," as Brendan calls them, for the baby's room (we have a nursery theme: Southwestern). Everything at the Fair Trade Craft Market was made by women in Guatemala, earning a fair wage for their labor. For gifts you can feel good about giving, stop by Kamiposi between 9AM and 6PM for the last day of the fair tomorrow.

I'd love to hear about what is making your fall awesome. Leave me a comment, would ya?

Hope your "fall" into the weekend goes seamlessly!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pregnancy: Weeks 13-16

Greetings faithful blog readers,

After my fair share of morning sickness, I was happy to put the first trimester behind me. In America, the first trimester marks the point when people usually start sharing the news of a pregnancy. There's no real logic to this, but I think people like the neatness of saying the first trimester is over. Since we made the decision to tell Brendan's family in person (at 15 weeks), we tried our best to keep the pregnancy quiet, but the bump started to get a bit obvious.

Week 13
Baby Size: Kiwi

Enjoy my not yet made bed in the background (I told you I'd be keeping it real!). This week, we selected a pediatrician for our baby. It was a difficult decision to make, but I looked for a practice that was conveniently located, had both doctors and PAs, had weekend/emergency hours, and had good reviews. I also wanted well/sick waiting areas. With many doctors to choose from at the practice, I selected a female doctor who also has young children herself. I figured she'd be a great role model to our baby girl and could perhaps provide me with some new mom tips. I was able to visit the practice in person; Brendan trusted my judgement and was glad when this was checked off our to-do list. Also this week, my sickness was still hanging around (notice my nausea bands in the picture). This marked the one and only time I was late to work (just two hours though) because of pregnancy as there was one morning I could not stop throwing up. This week, I am both looking and feeling SO tired. My Snoogle (pregnancy pillow) arrives. I ordered one without a cover: don't make my mistake (I ended up ordering a cover later).

Week 14
Baby Size: A Lemon

We're presenting at the SCMLA conference in Tulsa this week, and we tell our graduate school friends the news (let's face it: the fact that I'm bar hopping all night and only drinking water would've probably been a clear indicator!) A lady at the conference asks me if I'm pregnant or just fat. PSA: definitely rude to ever ask. I'm shocked that I have the stamina to stay out until 3:00AM. Traveling leaves me tired. I even think I'm getting sick and head to the doctor, but it turns out to be nothing. I manage to make it to yoga class in between trips. Yoga is my favorite these days; it's not a super challenging workout, but the stretching feels good, and I feel like I'm maintaining some strength. At the end of this week, I think I feel baby's first movements, but I realize it's crazy early so it could just be my imagination. My cousin says she wants to throw me a baby shower, and we select a weekend for it. I'm really excited and allow myself to look forward to it (even though thinking about the future is still scary to me).

15 Weeks 
Baby Size: Apple

We fly across the country today to tell Brendan's family our news. The flights leave me INSANELY thirsty and exhausted, but the long trip is so worth it to celebrate with everyone in person. We even get to fulfill my Connecticut in the fall dreams and go apple picking (appropriate for baby's "apple" week). On the way back home, we almost miss our flight (due to insanely long TSA lines) and have to RUN to catch our plane. On Sunday night, sleeping is miserable, and I wake up with a horribly sore back due to not being able to get comfortable. On the bright side, I end up being the only one in yoga, so I get a private lesson to work on it. Also this week, I leave work 45 minutes early with a terrible headache. As soon as I get home, I'm throwing up. Each time I think the sickness is over, it comes back to surprise me. I get a lot of sleep and feel better the next day. I start telling my extended family (aunts and uncles and all my cousins) which is wonderful. The one year anniversary of our first loss is this week, and I feel like I'm juggling a lot of emotions.

16 Weeks
Baby Size: An Avocado

I think this is the last week that my regular jeans fit comfortably. I definitely think I'm feeling baby movements this week. We tell more of our friends and cherish all their sweet/funny reactions. Our doctor's visit (at 16 and 1/2 weeks) goes well; baby's heartbeat is 146 bpm, and I've officially gained 4 pounds total. Two days later, we have a recreational ultrasound (at the doctor's office) and it's amazing. Our daughter looks like a real person and is moving all over the place. Plus, the ultrasound tech confirms the blood test results were right: definitely a little girl in there. My morning sickness returns one day this week, but at this point, I'm used to dealing with it and am able to go straight to work.

I look forward to sharing another pregnancy recap in a couple of weeks. I hope everyone has a great Thursday.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I Don't Want to Write This Post (But I Have To)

Greetings faithful blog readers,

On Sunday, I woke up to the devastating news of a shooting in my home state that left 26 people dead. Only you know what? It didn't devastate me at first because, at this point, I'm so desensitized to mass shootings like this that at first the impact feels like "just another day in the US of A." I hate to admit that, but when your country loses 531 people to mass shootings in 2017 and the year isn't even over, how does one start to react? An additional 1,619 people have been wounded in a mass shooting this year. It seems like the flags at school are always at half-mast. Even though it's clear our system is flawed, (allowing people who've been found guilty of violent crime to legally purchase weapons, states that routinely never report to NICS, the fact that 60% of mass shooters obtain their weapons legally--just to name a few problems), as a nation, we never seem to do anything other than offer "thoughts and prayers" to the victims' families. I can remember life pre-Columbine when schools felt like a safe place. Today, 1 in 8 mass shootings occur in a school. So when I wake up to news like this, I don't feel it at first; there's a numbness inside me, and then, sometimes something penetrates it.

For me, this time, a photo of 14 year old Annabelle Pomeroy on the Sunday evening news left me feeling broken. I recognized myself as a teenager in this young lady: her photo made me recall that state between childhood and adulthood so vividly. The photo also affected me because Annabelle has never been able to vote. As an American youth, she relied on the adults in her country to make sensible laws. But we failed her. Each and every one of us. Other countries don't see nearly the number of mass shootings that we do, so I can't believe there's nothing our politicians could have done by now to keep citizens safer. Who would Annabelle Pomeroy have been? The bio of another church member, 16 year old Haley Krueger, tells that she wanted to be a NICU nurse and help premature babies. Annabelle's bio does not hint at what she would of liked to do. I've imagined her as a teacher, a veterinarian, a minister. What about the other children? Brooke Ward (5), Emily Garza (7), Emily Hill (11), Greg Hill (13), Noah Holcombe (17 months). If they hadn't gone to church on Sunday, would they've gone on to graduate college, dance at their weddings, make a meaningful impact in the life of a stranger, find joy in raising their own children or in building a meaningful career or in living in a creative life?

Should a developed first-world country allow so many citizens to become victims of violent crime simply because they were in the wrong place (a movie theater, a school, a holiday party, a church) at the wrong time? Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome? If we aren't comfortable with so many deaths, why don't we change? Do we really not care?

That last question sticks with me: Do we really not care? 

Looking at Annabelle and the faces of all those who were lost Sunday, I'm relieved to find that I really do care, but I'm worried that living here is slowly numbing me. I don't want to become the kind of person that accepts a terrible reality; I don't want to be apathetic or to start to believe change is impossible. I have close relatives that are members of the NRA. I think there can be changes made that still respect the second amendment. There have to be. Because our system now doesn't work.

And you know what I'm really not okay with?

The fact that I go to work with young people everyday (and some of my students are too young to even vote), and I'm not okay standing in front of them every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and conveying the attitude that this is "just how it is:" that there's nothing the voting adults of this country couldn't do to keep them safer.

Plainly put, we could do better. Today, I beg and implore you to look into the eyes of a young person that you love and ask yourself if a change is worth making. I'm not saying a change that prohibits all gun ownership, but I'm talking about making gradual common sense changes to the process of obtaining weapons. My co-worker recently attended a gun show and said buying her gun was easier than updating the address on her driver's license. But there's a price for every convenience. 

Today, I look at the faces of Annabelle, Haley, Emily Garza and Emily Hill, Greg, and Noah...I look at them because the price of our current barely restricted gun ownership laws happened to be (this time) their lives and the lives of twenty others.

I ask myself who will pay the price next? My brother? My cousin? My friend? My parents? My husband? Me?

Right now, some may appreciate how easy it is to obtain a weapon, but there's a price for every convenience, and if we tap into our basic sense of humanity, I think we'd all agree that, right now, the price we're paying is just too high. 

I hope you still care, and if you do, I hope you still believe change is possible.

"Violence isn't a Democrat or Republican problem. It's an American problem, requiring an American solution."--Dr. Dashanne Stokes

Friday, November 3, 2017

First Trimester Recap

Greetings faithful blog readers,

When we told my parents we were expecting, my mom wanted to know if I was taking weekly pregnancy photos. She was excited to hear I was, but when I showed them to her, she seemed rather disappointed. "I thought you would take them in your underwear," she said. This made me laugh so hard. Thankfully for you, dear readers, I did not take the photos in my underwear. Ever the documentarian, I've been journaling every day, so it's easy to recap for you now. Last week, my friend Erica asked me if I felt like an "earth goddess;" I told her I just felt constipated. And with that maybe TMI joke, a warning: I'm keeping it real (though fully clothed!) in this recap.

3 and 1/2 weeks 
Baby Size: A twinkle in my eye (in other words, too small to compare to anything)

It's the day of our positive test, and we're visiting with Brendan's grandparents in Connecticut. I have zero symptoms and haven't even missed a period. If it weren't for the test, I'd have no idea. Thanks to the test, I've started taking all the precautions right away (bye bye coffee and alcohol). For the rest of vacation, Brendan pretends to make me gin and tonics. I still drink some caffeine, like a cup of tea every now and then. 

4 weeks
Baby Size: Poppy Seed 

We're in Maine with Brendan's family. I usually eat lots of blueberries and raspberries when we pick them, but I forgo that and wait until I can wash them first. Constipation is my first pregnancy symptom, but the good news is that I assume my progesterone is rising. My breasts are sore and will stay that way for months. Vacation is a good distraction from my thoughts.  

5 weeks
Baby Size: Sesame Seed 

We're back in Austin. Exhaustion has set in (though it could be from all the traveling). I'm trying to enjoy the last two weeks of summer, but I'm anxious for that first doctor's appointment. 

6 weeks
Baby Size: A Lentil 

It's my friend's wedding day! I was the designated driver at her bachelorette party a few days ago, which was the perfect excuse for not drinking. In the past week, I caved and told one (also pregnant) friend about our pregnancy. It's good to have another person to talk to; otherwise, it'd be a lot of anxiety for Brendan to deal with alone because I'm officially SO anxious. I've got another new symptom: acne. Oh well. Brendan convinces me not to head to the doctor's for a blood test. He doesn't think it will make feel any better, and he thinks I'll overanalyze the HCG level and what it means. I take his advice and wait for the ultrasound though I hardly sleep the night before because I'm so nervous. 

7 weeks
Baby Size: A Blueberry

Our ultrasound (at 6 weeks, 5 days) went well, and we heard baby's heartbeat (129bpm) which was a hugely emotional moment (I cried the entire time). The next day, I was super sick and vomiting all day (the nurse emailed and said my HCG level was up to 82,000), but today, I luckily feel well enough to lead a new student orientation session. I suck on a Jolly Rancher the whole time which keeps the nausea at bay; Jolly Ranchers are my new jam! I also feel super hungry all the time but I have to eat really slowlyI breeze through the book Expecting Better; I've read far too many conceiving and pregnancy books at this point. I also get my first "gut feeling" gender prediction: Boy!
8 weeks
Baby Size: A Kidney Bean

The sickness has gotten worse, and I've had one more horribly sick day, so I'm on a bland diet this week (think cereal, crackers, scrambled eggs, and toast). I've taken to carrying crackers in my bag now that we've gone back to work (my friend Steph later told me she "totally knew I was pregnant" based on this). I don't miss any teaching but sometimes have to suck on "preggie pop drops" to curb the nausea. I'll get sick in the morning and again as soon as I get home. Brendan buys me wristbands which seem to help me a lot. 

9 weeks
Baby Size: A Grape 

Our appointment (at 8 weeks, 5 days) goes great, and we hear baby's heartbeat at 181bpm which is a huge comfort. I'm shocked to find I haven't gained any weight because if I'm not having a sick day,  I'm having an "eating all the time" day. Plus, my workouts have been cut back due to nausea and tiredness. I feel like being tired makes the sickness worse, so I try to get lots of naps in. I also still prefer bland foods and feel bad when Brendan puts effort into nice dinners because I end up only eating a few bites and then getting sick. Mornings and evenings seem to be the worst times for me. I'm luckily doing okay at work. Brendan donates blood on Labor Day, so we can find out his blood type since I'm O negative. I almost pass out at the blood donation place and have to wait in the car. Then this happens to Brendan and I'm really sick! We later find out Brendan is type O positive, so I will need rhoGAM shots.

10 weeks 
Baby Size: A Kumquat! (Brendan and I used to find this delightful fruit growing in Lake Charles)

I head to the doctors today for a blood test which will separate my blood from the baby's blood and check for chromosomal abnormalities. I'm told we'll have the results in a week or two. While I'm at the doctors, I convince the super sweet nurses to use their doppler and do a heartbeat check. We hear the heartbeat at 167-171bpm, and it really makes me feel better. I'm still nauseated and throwing up. I need to avoid our trash can at all costs. Even Brendan's coffee grounds will set off sickness. I'm still battling anxiety: it's not constant but some days are harder than others. Brendan tries to help me through it by getting me to reframe my thinking, helping me see the positives, and talking me out of fear spirals. He reminds me that the worry won't stop once the baby is here: that part of parenthood entails constant worry. My therapist is a big help too. I try to be patient with myself and give myself grace. I'm doing the best I can one day at a time, and that's still true. 

11 weeks  
Baby Size: A Fig

We're still waiting on our blood test results, and of course, I obsess over when the phone will ring daily. I get a Stitch Fix with dresses to help me hide the pregnancy at work. My parents come to town already suspecting something is up (since I've never suggested they come visit us in September). I swear my mom gives my stomach a once over a minute after arriving at our house! Brendan and I are making dinner, and I wrap a onesie around a bottle of champagne and put it in a brown paper bag. I tell them we got them something in Portland and forgot to give it to them. Telling them makes the pregnancy feel real, and my heart is literally racing as they open the bag. They are really happy and excited to become grandparents, and we spend the rest of the weekend talking about baby plans. I also Facetime with Graham and tell him he's going to be an uncle and text with Erynn. 

Mimosas for everyone else, OJ for me! 
After feeling great all weekend, my sickness returns on Monday. I don't miss work, but I'm throwing up before and after work and Brendan is making me scrambled eggs for dinner--again. 

We do all the gender predictions based on old wives tales, and here's what we get. 

Chinese Gender Prediction: Girl 
Baking Soda Test: Girl 
Body Hair: Girl 
Heartrate: Girl 
Wedding Ring Test: Girl 
Morning Sickness: Girl 
Not Clumsy: Girl 
Nail Growth: Boy 
No Heartburn: Boy 
No Moodiness: Boy 
Eye Test: Boy 
Mayan Predictor: Girl 
Linea Nigra: Boy 

My gut feeling is definitely Boy! I tell Brendan I'm 95% sure it's a boy. 

Once my parents know, I tell a couple of my college girlfriends, Julie and Lauren, a couple of my cousins, Amanda and Stephen. Everyone is super happy and excited especially since they know what we've been going through. My friend Lauren bursts into tears of joy. Since we're waiting to tell Brendan's family in person, I swear the few people who know to secrecy. 

12 weeks 
Baby Size: A small lime

The nurse calls (actually at 11 weeks, 6 days) with our test results that I've been waiting on pins and needles for. She tells me that the baby's chromosomes look healthy while I'm driving home from work. I'm hugely relieved and tell her I'll call her back when Brendan's home so we can find out the gender results together. The five minutes it takes for Brendan to get home feels like forever. I feel like knowing the gender will make me feel more connected to the baby and make the pregnancy feel more real, so I'm excited to know. I've always wanted a little girl, but I've been envisioning us with a boy. The plus side of our long wait to conceive is that I know I'll be excited no matter what the gender. 

We get ahold of the nurse and she tells us we're having a...GIRL! 

I'm super excited and super surprised. My gut feeling turned out to be wrong. So much for my mother's intuition! I immediately call my parents and my brother. My mom and brother had predicted a girl from the get-go :) 

I'm still throwing up and tired. We tell our bosses because they are making the spring schedule this week. Our boss is so happy for us that he cries. This week is a tear fest! I start meditation with a program called Expectful. I find it helpful as one solution for coping with my anxiety. Back pain has set in and sleeping is less comfortable but not terrible. 

At the end of the week (12 weeks, 6 days), we have a doctor's appointment and recreational ultrasound (at our doctor's office). Baby girl's heartbeat is 158bpm, and she's measuring a little ahead at 13 weeks, 2 days (it's normal for babies to measure a few days ahead or behind). The ultrasound is an amazing experience because our little girl looks like a real person and is moving all over the place. Brendan says he teared up. I was just shocked at how much she was moving since I couldn't feel any of it. It was definitely miraculous. We're head over heels in love! I still haven't gained any weight, but my clothes are definitely tighter. My doctor says this is just fine. And with that, my doctor informs me that my first trimester is over. 

I'll be back next week with a weeks 13-16 update. Until then, enjoy this video (unless you're easily offended) which my friend Julie posted to announce her pregnancy. I think it's hilarious! 

Happy weekend, 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

October 2017 Stitch Fix

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Brendan and I are touched by your sweet comments and messages in response to our story. I've found the stories that feel scariest to share are the ones that most need to be heard. To be able to be candid after a year of reflection was refreshing, and I'm looking forward to sharing more about our journey soon. Fear not though: I don't plan on making this blog solely about pregnancy and baby.

So back to some normal programming: my most recent Stitch Fix.  I pay for all my own fixes, and all opinions are my own. If you decide to give Stitch Fix a try, pretty please use my referral link to sign up. I will super appreciate the referral credit. If you don't know what Stitch Fix is, this initial review explains the ins and outs. 

I needed some clothes for the cooler weather that would actually fit, so I wrote Christina a quick note about what I was looking for. My last fix was amazing, and this one started out stellar as well with the Thorne One Pocket Top and the Elizabeth Super Skinny Jean.

I never thought these jeans would fit when I saw them in the online picture, but when they came I discovered the best thing about them: elastic waist. Even though they're in my normal size, the elastic waist should make them wearable for at least another month. This top was so super soft and cozy, and I love plaid. These were both keepers (and not only keepers but pieces that I wore to work the next day!) KEEP and KEEP; Christina was off to an awesome start.

Up next, the Garret Heavy Gauge V-Neck Pullover

The name of this sweater also conveys my main issue with it: it's really too heavy for Midland, TX. We do have colder mornings, but by the afternoon, it's back up in the 70s. I already have a sweater in a lighter weight that is this same color, and there was just nothing special about this sweater to me. It was a return. 

Up next was the Sanai Striped Maternity Dress

When I just saw the photo of this, I absolutely thought it'd be the thing I loved the most. I loved the soft feel of the dress and the warm material, but when I put it on, I realized it just wasn't meant to be. When I buy a piece of clothing, it has to be versatile, and I would never in a million years (pregnant or not) wear this to work. It hugged every curve, and while Brendan appreciated it, he also admitted he could never see me wearing it. This was a return.

Up next was the Mary Knit Dress:

I was kind of bummed to see this in my fix just because my style note says I'm looking to add more color to my wardrobe; I also really dislike the sleeves and the bottom (but realize this is a current trend). The dress was also a little too big on me. It was a return, and once I checked out, I requested no more black or gray in my fixes. Hopefully, that'll help add some color to my fixes.

Despite only keeping two things, I was still really happy. Over the years (more than 3 years now!), I've found some great pieces because of Stitch Fix, and you cannot find a more convenient way to shop. I know I'll wear this shirt and these jeans a lot.

Up next, I'm giving Le Tote Maternity a try. I'm getting bigger and need things that fit, but I don't necessarily want to invest in tons of maternity wear. I'm going to try renting clothes for a month and see how that goes. I know I'll do Stitch Fix again though when I'm needing something for my next special occasion. Especially now that I found a stylist I really like. Christiana actually read my blog and sent me the most personalized note ever. I know she'll continue to send more great pieces, and I'll probably be keeping more too as she gets to know my tastes.

Here's to clothes you don't really have to shop for! That leaves me more time for...midterm grading! (Wish I was kidding, but that's my/our reality these days!)


The (Long) Story Behind Our Pregnancy

Greetings faithful blog readers,

First of all, thanks for all the love, encouragement, and support on Thursday; we are truly grateful to have each of you in our lives, especially as we take a new journey into the unknowns of parenthood.

I wanted to open up on the blog today about topics I've never written about. This post will take a turn for the personal, so fair warning: sad (but authentic) content ahead.

I guess the first thing I wanted to share is that deciding we wanted to be parents wasn't easy for us. Neither of us have "always known" that we wanted kids. We went into marriage with a decision of sorts on the family question which was "zero or two," meaning we thought we'd either have no kids or have two. I didn't start thinking seriously about the kids question until the ends of 2015 (though before that, I annoyed my cousin and mother with some long conversations on the topic which went nowhere). I'd always counted on having a few years for just the two of us before seriously considering the kids question, so that's what I did. If you've been reading the blog for awhile, you know we really made the most out of the past few years. We've built our careers and our savings, traveled, moved into a house, and most importantly, our relationship has strengthened. But neither Brendan nor I are "checklist people." We didn't want to parent simply because it was "what people do;" we certainly didn't want to go into it because we felt like it was expected or just the next "item on the checklist." When I thought about parenting, I felt completely overwhelmed by it. I knew it wasn't a fair decision to go into parenthood because I expected to "get something out of it." If I was going to do it, it'd be for the experience alone; I also knew I'd have to live with having little control (over who my child was, what happened to my child, whether my child would like me even, etc.) I already struggle with anxiety and didn't know if I could accept the staggering responsibilities and all this uncertainty. Brendan said, essentially, I could go either way, what do you want? 

I still didn't know, so I took a break from trying to figure it out. Once I stopped thinking about it so much, I ended up having three experiences that swayed me on the kid question. Written here, they sound ridiculous. That's because the conclusions I drew from them were more emotional than logical. One of them involved a little girl at the college mistaking me for her mother, another was watching a horror movie (The Babadook) with Brendan and a subsequent conversation that followed, and the last experience was a conversation I had with a wise and experienced co-worker I adore. I talked to Brendan about how I felt, and he was excited about the prospect of becoming parents too. We decided to plan one more thing that was just for us: we'd always talked about traveling to Africa, and we decided to make it happen pre-kids.

In all the prep work to leave for Africa, there were a lot of doctor's visits. I made our wishes to start trying for kids after returning known, and we picked our treatments for preventing malaria and what vaccines to get and when accordingly. We had an amazing time on safari, and since we drove over 3,000 miles across Namibia (one of the least densely populated countries in the world), we had plenty of quiet time to talk and sort through all our feelings. When we got back from Africa in August, I was excited at the prospect of taking my last birth control pill.

A few weeks later, in September 2016, I was waiting on my period. I took a test, but it was negative. I felt fine about it but a little disappointed. I knew the odds weren't high that I'd get pregnant that first month, but I'd still gotten my hopes up. A few days later, still no period. I took another test while getting ready for work. It took a few minutes, but that second line showed up. I was so excited that I woke Brendan up to show him. A May baby. I fell immediately in love. We were giddy with excitement texting each other back and forth that day.

Right away though, something didn't feel right. My tests didn't get darker. I felt panicked. I went to the doctor for blood work a couple of days after taking my home test. They called and said to come in for more blood work after the weekend. The weekend felt slow because I was desperate to know what was going on. On Monday, I was so relieved to learn that my levels were more than doubling in 48 hours: everything looked good, and my first OB appointment was scheduled for October 18, 2016.

My anxiety that something was wrong didn't go away though. I didn't experience morning sickness which worried me. I called the nurse who reassured me that everyone was different and not to worry. I did eventually start to feel some nausea, and I did grow some too, but during week seven of the pregnancy, I had a terrible nightmare that I'd miscarried. We were hopeful though: we talked nursery plans and bought a larger car; I kept a pregnancy journal and wrote in it every night. We let ourselves fall in love with this baby. The days leading up to the nine week appointment seemed to crawl, and then we were finally there.

In the waiting room, I was filled with dread. During the ultrasound, the tech asked if I'd been taking any fertility drugs. I thought that was a strange question and told her no. She got really quiet and said she needed to get the doctor. We already knew something was wrong, but I wasn't prepared for the information the doctor gave us next: it appeared I'd lost triplets early on. He said that this was extremely rare and that miscarriage was more common with a multiples pregnancy. He also explained that I was experiencing a "missed miscarriage" (a miscarriage that had gone unrecognized by my body). Blood work confirmed there was no way my dates were off; the pregnancy wasn't going to progress, and I was given two options: take pills to induce miscarriage at home or go to the hospital for a D&C. We were still wrapping our heads around the loss and now grappling with trying to make a medical decision. I felt lost, terrified, and so sad. The same day, Brendan's mom called us with news that Brendan's young cousin had died. It was just the worst day.

To me, the surgery seemed like the better option. I didn't want to feel pain or be aware of what was happening. It was a Tuesday the day we found out, and the surgery couldn't be performed until Thursday. I went to work on Wednesday; we both did. It was midterms week, and our students were preparing for major tests. I needed to be there, but it was hard to act as though it was business as usual.

Thursday morning came. I signed a lot of papers. I had to tell the hospital my religion and sign more papers about not having a living will. For the first time, I wondered if I'd made the wrong choice. It was cold in my room, and I couldn't eat all day. When a nurse put in the IV, I told him I was going to pass out right before I did. Brendan was with me the whole time; I could tell he was scared but staying calm for my benefit. I was nearly in tears before they wheeled me to the OR. I was afraid of something going wrong and suddenly very aware of how many people I was depending on. In a way, it was moving experience as I realized, for the first time in awhile, how interdependent we all are.

When I woke up from the surgery, I immediately felt to make sure there wasn't a scar (a hysterectomy is an extremely rare complication of the D&C, and I'd been worried about that). As I was coming back to consciousness, I told the nurse that I'd really wanted to be a mom to our babies. She started crying and told me I was the same age as her child. She sat with me until Brendan was able to come. We picked up food on the way home. I was starving.

The next day, I woke up and went to teach my 8AM. We both did. I put on my usual teacher persona; those three hours in the classroom were actually a relief. I felt more like myself there. My wise mentor and professor, Amy, years earlier had told me this secret: "to students you're just Professor Egan." The fact that they didn't know what was going on gave my life at least one element of normalcy.

I picked up my mom from the airport that afternoon. She'd changed her flight plans and came directly to us from a work trip. We'd had plans to visit a bed and breakfast in Fredericksburg and attend a benefit concert, but we canceled them. My mom made us get out of the house that weekend: furniture shopping, grocery store, a movie, eating out...she brought us some sense of normalcy in a really sad time. And when she left Sunday, life just went on from there. Brendan cooked, made me eat, did the laundry, and kept the house almost spotless. He did everything he could to take care of me and cheer me. I tried my best to keep going: I got my hair done, we saw my friend's play, did activities with the club we co-advise, handed out candy on Halloween, watched all the Harry Potter movies, and I healed from the surgery. In November, we met up with friends at SCMLA in Dallas. I was starting to feel a little better. Then, the election happened. I don't feel I need to elaborate on how that affected me.

Despite the setbacks, life put good in my path: I was nominated for the Teaching Excellence Award at school, and I found out I was a finalist for PANK's CHAP[BOOK] contest. The holidays were tough, but one thing I've learned about life is that you can't just stay sad. We went on because we had to, and if I looked, there was support to be found where and when I most needed it. In truth, there were also some really hurtful comments thrown my way. Bad things happening to good people is something some people just can't accept. To comfort themselves, they'll try to make a terrible experience related to you having done something wrong. It must have been something you did or a lesson you needed to learn. For every negative comment, there were more people with helpful reactions: people that sent flowers, brought dinners, and made every effort to show us we are loved. I tried to put my focus on all that love. At my post operation follow up, my doctor told me he was sure I'd be pregnant again by May (my original due date). I felt hopeful, but due to my long cycles post surgery, it was December before we could try again.

We did several things to honor and remember our loss. They're personal, so I won't detail them here, but I'll say I never will "get over it." Loss is something that changes you and it's okay. I don't appreciate when people tell me I'll have a child and forget about our first pregnancy; I don't wish for the erasure of the sadness: the sadness is because I lost but also because I loved. I also put my energies into becoming politically active: specifically in trying to protect other women from this disaster, which increases the cost of the D&C and creates more red tape and hassle during an already devastating time. Thinking beyond my own grief helped me to cope with it.

At the end of the year, I found out PANK would publish my chapbook; 2017 started with winning the Teaching Excellence Award (and with it, a spring break trip to San Francisco). While in San Francisco, we learned we'd both been accepted to the Tin House Summer Workshop in Portland. The fact that we'd both been admitted was a big deal and really gave us something to look forward to together. Things were looking up personally, though I couldn't figure out what was up with my body.

In February, I was sick for nearly two weeks, and my cycle was long; I booked a doctor's appointment. After an ultrasound, my doctor thought I may have insulin resistance and put me on Metformin. The drug had helped two of my friends conceive, so I was really hopeful about it. I instantly felt better on it. I was peeing less and needing to eat less; it also didn't make me sick at all. My doctor said it was all a good sign that the drug was working.

I wanted to be proactive about testing, and my doctor let me take the lead. My thinking was if there was a problem, I wanted to know about it sooner rather than later. I'd tell him the tests I wanted, and he agreed to do them. He never tried to talk me out of anything and really let me make my own plan. I appreciated how he listened to my concerns and looked into them. I kept track of everything in a Word document. March testing revealed everything was great on Brendan's end. We had an amazing time in San Francisco and in Napa. I really enjoyed all the wine, which was perhaps the only plus to not being pregnant. We tried two cycles of Clomid (fertility drug) and Ovidrel (ovulation trigger). Thanks to monitoring, we knew our timing was perfect each month, but we had no luck. My friends assured me everything was fine, and I tried my best to believe them.

When May rolled around and we still weren't pregnant, I was super sad. We were doing all these end of the school year activities, and I kept thinking of what "should be." Our would be due date came and went. We went to a friend's wedding the next week; I focused on being present for that joyous occasion, and my heart was happy for Memorial Day weekend. At just the right moment, life would give me something to celebrate. I'd scheduled a HSG (a test that involves having dye moved through your uterus and fallopian tubes for x-rays) for when we returned home, and I felt confident we'd finally have some answers.

The HSG was painful but not nearly as bad as I'd worried it would be. It revealed everything was healthy and fine (no blockages, no fibroids, no polyps). Brendan and I made a pro/con list and decided to give up on the idea of medicated/monitored cycles for the summer. We were going to be traveling (to Taos, Austin, Portland, Connecticut, and Maine) and fitting in appointments would have been possible but annoying. I started envisioning a new future: maybe a trip to Asia, I thought. We let the doctor know our decision and left for Taos the next day.

We had a wonderful month in Taos. We stayed busy with writing, I found a yoga studio I loved, and we spent time outdoors. Being away from the stress of the semester was much needed, but I still didn't get pregnant. I coped by booking us a romantic evening soaking at the hot springs, a massage, and a white water rafting trip. I turned 31 and thankfully still felt as happy about my birthday as ever. We headed home for a few days and then drove to Austin. We celebrated four years of marriage and then flew to Portland for the Tin House workshop. The days were long and busy, but I knew it was the week. Due to the exhausting schedule, I didn't think this would be our cycle, and I'd resigned myself to acceptance. Before leaving Portland, we indulged our love of sushi, oysters, and fancy drinks. When we flew to Connecticut a couple of weeks later, I packed pregnancy tests but only half heartily. At dinner the first night, I only drank half a beer just in case, so I know I was still holding on to a little hope.

I wasn't planning to test unless my period was late, but that first night in Connecticut, I had a dream that I was watching a positive pregnancy test develop. Brendan had already gone downstairs to make coffee; I groggily dug a cheap strip test out of my bag. I carried the test back to our room and set it down where I looked at it for the first time. I'd imagined maybe squinting and seeing a faint hint of a second line, but this was nothing like that: this was an obvious second line within less than a minute. Whoa, I was pregnant. 

I momentarily debated waiting to tell Brendan until further testing confirmed it, but who was I kidding? The moment he got upstairs, I told him about my dream and showed him the test. We took about ten minutes to let things settle in before heading downstairs. It was July 26th, twelve days shy of our one year anniversary of ditching the pill: we'd been waiting for this moment, and it was here. I quickly emailed my nurse who was super happy for us and told me I'd have to call and schedule an appointment. That'd be tricky since we weren't ready to tell family the news just yet. As thrilled and hopeful as we were, a part of us didn't want to get too ahead of ourselves. We knew there were no guarantees.

The next morning, I took a First Response test. The test line came up positive before the control line even. I took it as a good sign of the HCG increasing fast (at the same point in my cycle during pregnancy #1, my tests had still been negative).

I snuck a moment away to call the doctor's office. I purposely scheduled my first appointment for the week after a bachelorette party/bridal shower I was hosting. I didn't want to have my heart broken before my friend's big event. I wanted the party to be special and perfect, so when we got back home, I threw myself into planning and let that be a distraction. I allowed myself to tell one friend: a woman I'd gone to high school with that I'd recently reconnected with. We'd been talking about trying to conceive issues, and she was already through her first trimester. She was amazing and listened to many of my anxieties including my retelling of a horrible nightmare I had the night before my first ultrasound where I dreamt I was pregnant with a shark.

I had extremely high anxiety on the way to the ultrasound. I was hopeful we'd see a heartbeat, and I already knew the miscarriage statistics based on that first ultrasound heart rate. Perhaps that sounds grim, but I wanted to know the realities upfront. I instantly cried when I saw our baby's heart flickering on the screen and heard that beautiful sound, and I cried the entire ultrasound. There it was: one little baby sized .74 centimeters with a heartbeat of 129 beats per minute measuring 6 weeks, 5 days (2 days ahead of what I'd expected). This put us in the lowest miscarriage bracket (6.5%); I felt extremely relieved but by no means did my anxiety disappear. It'd be another two weeks until our first official OB appointment.

The next day, my morning sickness kicked in. I spent the day on the couch; I was nauseated and vomiting all day. I've never been so happy to be sick in my life! I called the daycare where we'd been on the waitlist over a year and a half (I joined the list months before we even started trying) and gave them our official due date. Our baby was the size of a blueberry at this point but already was my whole world. In the next two weeks, I had nausea most days, but only three days where I actually was throwing up. I was extremely hungry all the time but completely turned off by most foods. I'd eat macaroni and cheese and scrambled eggs but that was pretty much it. Poor Brendan took to doing all the food prep as the smell of the trash can and fridge would literally make me vomit. I appreciated every symptom as a good sign. I told Brendan I highly suspected we were having a boy!

The first official OB appointment went great. The baby measured 8 weeks, 5 days (exactly on target based on ultrasound #1) and had a heart rate of 181. We were nearly at the same point where we'd discovered the loss during pregnancy #1. The due date was officially set for April 5th, 2018. I was relieved but still afraid.

I plan to continue with the story of our current pregnancy in a future post, but I'll conclude by saying that pregnancy is an emotional roller coaster: the anxiety has been high, the love I feel for this child is immense, and the process is completely out of my control. All I can do is ask for love, prayers, and support. Some of my friends told me they'd cried when they saw our news posted on Thursday; perhaps they knew the big courage it took for me to post it.

It's not that I don't know what can go wrong, but I'm learning how to celebrate even in moments of uncertainty; it's been over a year since our loss, and I'm just now able to write our story the way it deserves to be told. It's not a story about what we've lost: it's a story about how much we let ourselves love, how we faced the hardest hurt, and how we, despite knowing that potential for more hurt, let ourselves fall deeply in love all over again.

Here's to love: even when it's hard, when it makes you vulnerable, when you can't control what happens next; Because it's still the best thing to live for.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Have you ever really wished for something, so much so that when it finally happened, it felt like a dream, and you had to keep reassuring yourself it was real? That surreal space is the one I'm writing from today when I share my and Brendan's joyful news that I'm 17 weeks pregnant with our little girl, due April 5th, 2018.

In the coming weeks, I plan to write about our journey so far. For now, I just wanted to share our happy news and ask for all the good thoughts, prayers, love, and positive vibes you can send our way. 

We already love and cherish this beautiful girl so much.

Our daughter has 10 tiny fingers, 10 tiny toes, and our whole hearts.

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