For Her, For Me, For All of Us

In an attempt to get Tayla to be more social, I thought I’d look into some volunteer opportunities she might be interested in… That didn’t pan out but I did find something I was interested in!

The Crisis Text Line.

I’m not sure what it was about their ad in the volunteer section that made me think of Natalie, only that I did and I couldn’t stop.

She had so many friends and so much family that loved her, yet, I’m sure she felt alone- or at least like she didn’t have anyone she could confide in, without feeling like she was disappointing them.

Ironic isn’t it? How many people feel alone?

Sometimes people find it easier to talk with someone they don’t know. They can be completely open and honest because they’ll never have to meet or even speak to the crisis counselor again. And if one conversation can help a person, even a little bit… help them to feel a little stronger or more capable or even less alone… I wanted to do it.

I signed up, I went through training and started my first shift on June 19th.

The 19th. I wondered if it was a nod from Natalie, a thumbs up kinda thing.

I didn’t have to wonder long.

My first text was a transfer from… Natalie. The young texter was feeling down because she’d lost her grandma and to relax, she played the ukulele.

After my shift, the song “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. played followed by “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Two songs I associate with my sister.

Maybe I couldn’t help her, but I know I can help someone.

 

That Was Huge…

I’m sorry for inviting you all (Facebook) to my Improv showcase and then uninviting all of you (in my head).

Here’s what happened.

Back in April, I started taking an improv class at Huge Improv Theater. (Improv 101, taught by Will Roberts, awesome guy). I didn’t know what to expect… He/she/they (everyone at Huge Theater) was super cool and very helpful, even with the uncomfortable stuff… We actually played a game called “Loserball”.

We did some, ok, a lot of things that were outside my comfort zone! Most of them were fun, some of them… not so much but they all served a purpose and help me to grow and develop.

It was 10 weeks, two hours a week and at the end of our last class, we had a showcase! I was excited and made an announcement on Facebook with very little information. The closer the day came, the more unsure I was that I would actually be able to perform…

It’s so much different than stand-up. At Acme, I’m prepared. I know the material and what I’ll talk about and say. I’ve been able to practice. I’m confident in the material I’ve written.

There’s no such thing with improv. Not only do I not know what I’m going to do, I don’t know what anybody else is going to do… and neither do they! No forethought, no plan, suggestions from the audience?!?!

No, I figured I’d just better keep this under wraps.

So I just didn’t mention it again.

Well, the big day came. I did perform. I had a great time, and I’m super glad no one I knew saw me!

I do plan on continuing with the improv but after Olivia is born. The next session doesn’t start until right around her due date.

Now that I’ve had some experience, you can be sure you’ll all be invited to the Improv 201 showcase!

 

Two Years & 20 Weeks Today

“I’m so tired, I can’t even think straight. I don’t know what to do…”

“Just go lie down, we can figure it out when you wake up.”

Wake up.

Wake Up!

WAKE UP! I scream into her eternally sleeping face.

Two years ago today, my beautiful and talented sister died from an opioid overdose. Every day since has been a nightmare.

This is a nightmare. A fucking nightmare.

For me, for our family, for our friends…

but of course, not for her.

She sees the complete picture.

She knows we are not separated.

She can see, hear, feel, touch and taste beyond the physical

She is the one who is awake

and I am the one who is sleepwalking amongst the dead.

Today is also the 20-week mark.

I am five months pregnant today, Olivia is “viable” today.

What about Olivia?

Is she asleep or awake?

Maybe we only fall asleep once we are born into this life, our mission, to rediscover our purpose and bring each other closer together…

Can she still feel God?

Does she remember Heaven?

Is her spirit still there, getting ready for the life that awaits her here?

Is Natalie teaching her, does she know the aunt that will never get to hold her?

Perhaps she is holding her now.

Holding her for me, until I can.

I am trying to balance the two, I did honor Natalie today by doing what she would want me to do (write) and I had a Dairy Queen Blizzard in her name. I also honored my pain and cried the same as I did two years ago. I ached and hurt and got angry…

For Olivia, I played some of Natalie’s music, headphones on my belly. I told her how much I love her and how I can’t wait to meet her.

Until then, goodnight, Natalie. I love you.

Natalie Nicole Allen

9/11/79 – 5/19/16 ❤️

Honestly… Pregnancy Update and an Explantion for Why It’s Been So Long.

Wow. It’s been a few months… I’d wanted to blog along with my pregnancy, but something held me back. Fear, mostly. And feelings, not mine.

Here’s the deal. Very early on in my pregnancy (5 weeks, I think) I was told by the doctor that my baby was not a baby. There had been a “fetal pole” visible on a previous scan that was not visible now. It was a blighted ovum. A blighted ovum or anembryonic gestation (anembryonic pregnancy) is a pregnancy in which the embryo never develops or develops and is reabsorbed. It typically results in a miscarriage.

I was devastated and asked emotionally if there was a chance the ultrasound tech was wrong. “Well, I suppose so. Why don’t you come back in a week and we’ll reexamine you?”

The wait was nearly unbearable. I prayed every day that they were wrong.

I even went to see a psychic medium, a woman I respect and trust, to help reassure me that everything was going to be alright.

Two minutes after we started talking, I wanted to bolt. It never occurred to me that she would give me bad news.

I can’t find the recording now, so I don’t remember how it was phrased but essentially, she told me that the baby was a boy and wouldn’t make it. Oddly enough, she mentioned seeing me with a baby but it was more likely through a volunteer program (I’d looked into volunteering at the local NICU -Newborn Intensive Care Unit to help hold babies that are born addicted to drugs and going through withdrawal).

I left feeling defeated. I still had a day or two before my next ultrasound and I wanted to just crawl into bed and stay there, indefinitely.

Of course, I didn’t. I got up and went to my appointment where not only did they find Baby, they saw the heartbeat!

After confirming that there was an (at this point) a viable pregnancy, I was scheduled for a slew of appointments. I met with Endocrinology, Nephrology, Rheumatology, Cardiology, all the “-ologies”, Internal Medicine and General Surgery (there was a concern of a hernia but it turned out to be nothing). They took 11 vials of blood and a 24-hour urine collection. They ordered a stress test (like this schedule wasn’t enough of one!) and also wanted me to be seen by their Perinatologist, asap.

All of this on top of my regular therapy session, group session, psychiatry session, and work. Wait, I take that back. She wanted me to quit working because of my blood pressure. It was already too high.

I did it all, gladly. Whatever was going to be the best for me and Baby.

The place where I got hung up, strangely enough, was trying to schedule the Perinatologist appointment. They had an appointment set for April 12th. It was March 8th.

“The nurse I met with said she wanted me seen this week or next at the latest” I explained.

“There is no point in being seen before then. There is nothing they will be able to do for you until you reach 18 weeks,” she told me.

I was in tears. Tears of frustration, of fear and of anger.

I called my insurance company and found out where else I could go.

I ended up at a wonderful clinic with fantastic people although our first meeting was a difficult one.

“With all of your health conditions, this pregnancy may have an adverse effect on you. You may need to terminate the pregnancy, for your health.”

They got me in with the U of M’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine clinic. After an approximately 3 hour consultation and another echocardiogram, I was given the all clear.

Also during that time, I found out via genetic testing that I am having a girl.

After so many appointments in such a short amount of time, there has been a let down, of sorts. Boredom is setting in and there is more time for me to worry and wonder…

Since all of my appointments, I have made to big changes. My blood sugars or A1C went from 8.4% in February to 5.7% last week. My blood pressure has gone from around 155/90 to about 122/75. I’m sleeping between 7-12 hours a night and getting in some exercise. I recently even went back to work, since the blood pressure had improved so much.

As much as I loved the people at the OB clinic, they felt it would be better for me to continue my care with the U of M since they are more equipped for anything that may come up and I am more than fine with that as this clinic and these people are so wonderful.

I really feel like I am being well taken care of.

As for the psychic, I’m still a little worried about my last reading though much less so knowing that I am having a girl and that I am now well into my second trimester. I don’t doubt her abilities or her gift, everyone gets mixed messages or can misread signals, it’s just given me a lot of opportunities to listen to my own intuition, trust my own instinct, and be my own guide.

 

 

Needles, Pills & Alcohol -Oh My!

There is probably a reasonable explanation, I just don’t know what it is. Maybe you can help me?

I use Walgreens as my pharmacy because it’s close and because I can pretty much do everything I need from the app. About a month ago, I was scrolling down my list of meds that I needed to refill and checked the appropriate boxes. The next day, Don picked up my prescriptions. Immediately, I saw a problem. There was a box of syringes. I don’t use syringes anymore, I use pen needles. I must’ve clicked the wrong box. Sigh. No big deal, I’ll just bring them back.

“Can I help you?” Walgreens pharmacist asks.

“Yeah, I accidentally refilled the wrong needles. I need the pen needles, not these syringes. Can you please take them off my med list?”

“Ok. I can’t make those adjustments to your list, you can go online and archive them though. That way they won’t be visible but they will still be a part of your history. (Sounds like a therapy session I had…) I will go ahead and order those pen needles for you. Anything else I can do for you?”

“Yes, you can take this box of syringes back. I don’t use them and I don’t want them.”

“I can’t take those.”

“Why? They haven’t been opened.”

“They’re NEEDLES”. She actually looked horrified and like I should know exactly why what I’m asking is absurd.

“But they’re new and clean… aren’t there places that take used needles?”

She seriously looked like she was going to pass out and/or throw up.

“Not HERE!”

So, I took my needles, my confusion, and my anger home.

A few days later, I had an appointment to follow up on my blood pressure.

The nurse sat at the desk, going through my meds with me.

“Welbutrin, Cymbalta, Prenatal, Metformin…”

I nod in the affirmative.

“Are you still taking your Modafinil?”

“No. I haven’t taken that in years.”

“But you picked it up at the pharmacy last week…”

“It was prescribed to me but I don’t want to take it… wait. You can see what I’ve picked up?”

A sly smile spread across her lips and she started to nod like she had just busted me for something.

“Wow. That’s great! (I swear her smile vanished) I wish you’d been able to do that a long time ago… my sister used to scam doctors for pills, not telling anyone the whole story, so she just kept getting drugs and not knowing what interacted with what.”

“Is she ok now?”

Oh, that moment of truth. Do I tell her? Do I keep quiet?

“She’s not taking pills anymore.” The path of mercy, sparing the nurse the awkward, uncomfortable momentary silence.

“She got help, that’s great. Where’d she go?”

Alright, lady, you asked for it.

“She passed away almost two years ago.”

Eyes wide, face flushed and a stammer.

“Oh… I’m, I’m, I’m sorry. Well, I’m hoping this new system will prevent future deaths…”

“Me too.”

I guess I could’ve said Natalie went to Progress Valley. She did get sober there. I guess I was just pissed at this nurse and my perceived notion that she thought I was a drug seeker or a scammer or trying to pull something over on her.

In the end, I AM really glad that the computer system is now linked and doctors can see what you’re being prescribed and what you’ve picked up. Don thinks it’s a little too “Big Brother-ish”.

Finally, I don’t remember what tripped into falling down the rabbit hole but I came across several ads for Jim Beam (oh yeah, Shim Bean) featuring Bette Davis.

I LOVE Bette Davis. One of the scariest movie mo-fo’s I know of.

 

baby jane

But, here she is in an ad for Jim Beam Bourbon:

jim beam bette davis

I don’t know what the intent was if this was supposed to be a scare tactic… probably not but God if I correlated THAT face with THIS bourbon? I’d NEVER drink again!

…Maybe they should re-run this ad… watch AA numbers and AA Alternative numbers skyrocket!

 

Shim Bean

No, that’s not a typo. It’s my lil pet name for Baby. I despise the term “it” and since I don’t know if he is a him or she is a she… shim. Bean comes from all the baby books that tell me “baby is the size of a jelly bean. Now the size of a kidney bean…”

Shim and I went to the Endocrinologist this morning. My A1c was up a little from the last time which didn’t surprise me. I’d given up hope at one point and figured why am I trying SO HARD? (I know, it’s good from my health… and depression is a bitch.)

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that my blood sugars were higher than I wanted and I didn’t really understand why. I’m really careful about what I’m eating, almost to the point of being too scared to eat. I heard the best reason ever. Hormones. The HCG level doubles every two days and the body becomes even more resistant to insulin.

We adjusted the insulin and decided I needed to be “boring”… I’ll give it a shot!

Same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Same cereal and milk. Sandwich for lunch. Etc. The fewer variables the better. At least until week 7, then the resistance drops and the sugars lower by themselves.

Weeks 7-14 are the most crucial, as in the highest chance of miscarriage because of blood sugars.

It’s time to be militant.

And to remember, no one hits the goals all of the time.

Shey said, “If they say they’re hitting their target numbers all of the time, they’re either lying or not diabetic.”

Land of Bland? Here I come.

“Welcome to High-Risk”

I’m going to start with a spoiler: Everything is fine.

Now, for the story.

Friday I had been having some light cramping. Saturday it was a little more intense and a little more consistent. I’ve been checking my blood sugars six times a day. Before meals and an hour afterward. My numbers started to get higher, 198. I’m not supposed to go above 140.

Tayla and I went to my mother in laws just to hang out and chat. On the way home, I just had this nagging feeling that I should go in. It’s 8:00 pm. On a Saturday night. Urgent Care is closed and I’m sure the ER is filling up with drunks.

“I’ll be fine,” I told myself.

For whatever reason, I pulled into the parking lot of the Burnsville ER.

At check-in, there is a sheet of paper for you to fill out the reason you want to be seen. I wasn’t sure I actually NEEDED to be seen, maybe I just wanted a nurse to tell me it was ok. Of course, they won’t do that without you being seen.

Sigh. Better to err on the side of caution, right?

The nurse reads my card “pregnant with cramping and high blood sugar”.

“How far along?” She asks

“8 weeks” I replied.

She notices Tayla. Her eyes get a little wider and her head shifts from me to her and back to me.

“You?” she asked nervously.

I was so stunned for a minute like we’re both so far out of the age range for optimal pregnancy that for either one of us it would be a “tragedy”. Que eye roll.

She takes me back to triage right away and a room shortly thereafter.

“The doctor will be in shortly,” she says.

Needless to say, the wait is longer than short.

Finally, she comes in, apologizing and telling me she “forgot” about me.

WHAT?!?!?!?!?

Lie to me woman! Tell me you were holding a patient as he died or attending to someone who came in via ambulance with several Chinese throwing stars sticking out of their chest? Then maybe I’d be ok with it and let it go… who am I kidding? I let it slide anyway.

So, right to the fun stuff. Urine sample. Blood draw. Ultrasound.

It didn’t actually take all that long and The Hunger Games was on. So we watched the second half of that and the first half of Catching Fire.

When it came time for the ultrasound, I have to admit, I was excited. Baby’s heart starts to beat around 6 weeks and you can see and hear it around 8 weeks.

She moved the sensor thing across my belly and dug in. She moved it around, stopping occasionally, hitting buttons on the computer to take pictures and then decided it was too early to see anything using the wand thing. She needed to use the probe thing. Ugh.

I thought there was pressure before! Holy shit. Ow! It actually hurt. Then she added towels under my butt which made it soooo much better…. right.

Then she decided, no, the first view with the regular wand was better. Grrr.

“Do you see it?” I asked.

“I see something but it’s not an 8-week fetus. We’d see a heartbeat, arms and legs… I’m not seeing that.”

I stifled the urge to say “well maybe you just suck at your job”.

It turns out, there were two “sacs”. NOT TWINS. One in the womb and one near an ovary. It’s more of a cystic type thing. She couldn’t determine which sac was the pregnancy so she couldn’t rule out that the egg may have implanted somewhere other than the uterus.

I have to believe though, that if there are two sacs and ONE is in the right spot… that’s baby.

On top of that, the initial doctor I talked to on Friday was wrong about the conception date and I’m only 4 weeks, 6 days. The ultrasound and the Hcg hormone level support this.

Since my blood pressure was ok and my sugars (by that point) were within normal range, they suggested I follow up with my primary care provider for further blood testing until my numbers reach 2,000. Currently, they are 563 and double every two days. At the 2,000 mark, they want to do another ultrasound.

Oddly enough, my cramps went away without any treatment and I started to wonder if it was psychosomatic and needing to overcome my doubt that this pregnancy is actually even happening.

So, my plan of trying not to worry so much didn’t really pan out…  But, I’m not as freaked out and the cramps are still gone (and there has been zero bleeding), so I guess I’ll follow the ER doc’s suggestion, call my doctor in the morning and go from there.

I do feel a certain peace though. Everything is fine, it’ll all work out. That’s probably thanks to all the praying I’ve been doing and the prayers I know other’s have been saying for us.

Thank you.

 

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

Yesterday I blogged about being pregnant. I was excited and nervous, hoping I wouldn’t “jinx” it by doing so.

I’ve had about 48 hours to sit with this new news. This wonderful, miraculous, terrifying news.

I mentioned that I was aware of the health risks and I am… today it just seems overwhelming.

I’m 40 years old. I’m overweight. I’m diabetic. I have high blood pressure. Low back pain. History of miscarriage…

I’m trying so hard to not let these thoughts scare the shit out of me.

It’s not working too well.

I haven’t had my arthritis medication for over a month and now my knees are swollen. I have looked into natural anti-inflammatory foods and will stock up.

I’m trying to make peace with being ok with whatever the outcome of this pregnancy is.

This is where “Heaven’s Reward Fallacy” comes in. Heaven’s Reward is the belief that in this case, we are taught to believe that input is equal to output. We sacrifice and give our all. We put everything and everyone before ourselves. We give out so much good karma that good things must come back to us.

If I eat right, sleep enough, take all my meds, exercise, do everything right… I will have a healthy baby.

I plan on doing all of these things… and I know that I cannot count on right actions absolutely leading to right results.

This pregnancy was planned and in a very real way, a surprise. I had made peace with the fact that Tayla was going to be my only child. I would work in the hospital’s NICU. I would wait (anxiously) to become an aunt … or a grandma (not too anxiously).

I guess I’m saying that whatever happens, I know I’ll be ok. I just need to reassure myself because this full day of worrying… I don’t want to do this again.

Twisted 2018

What a year 33 days make!

Actually, the past 9 days have really been a trip…

On Wednesday the 24th, I saw an OB/GYN about my fertility. She ordered a blood test to check my “egg reserve”. When it came back, I was devastated.

She knew the number would be low because of my age… but this was incredibly low. A number in the low range is a .5, my number was .070.

The doctor told me it was highly unlikely I’d be able to conceive naturally, if at all. I needed to think about how far I wanted to take this baby thing. Did I want to try IVF? It’s expensive and it might not work. I could look into finding a surrogate… I told her if I couldn’t do it myself, then it must not be meant to be.

I was so depressed over the weekend. I cried a lot. I was angry. And then, I decided to do something different. I called the hospital to look into volunteering at the NICU. There is a program for babies that are addicted to drugs and need cradling and rocking to soothe them while they go through withdrawals. The volunteer told me all about it, I filled out and sent in my application and told myself I’d be alright.

Thursday morning comes and I’m cleaning the bathroom. Under the sink is the last pregnancy test. I think about tossing it but decided “why not pee on it first?”. A few minutes later…

IMG_6551

?????????????????????????????????

I felt my depression lift for a minute before I realized it was probably wrong. It sat too long under the sink. The ph balance is off. God is playing a cruel joke on me…

I call my doctor’s office anyway.

I had an appointment this morning and I got this:

IMG_6556

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The only thing more shocking was my estimated due date: September 11th, Natalie’s birthday.

I’m thrilled. Terrified. Cautiously optimistic… and 8 weeks along.

I know that I am high risk, so much so, the high-risk OB doesn’t feel comfortable treating me… so on Thursday, I’m going to meet my team on perinatologists.

I have informed all of my medical specialists and mental health providers.

Now, I’m just going to TRY to relax and worry about anything and everything that could happen in the coming months.

😉

A Rude Awakening

My eyes were opened… and not gently. No, I felt like Alex DeLarge at the end of “A Clockwork Orange”. Strapped into a chair with my eyelids pried open and kept that way.
A lot of you know that I am in a therapy group. It is a trauma processing group and a lot of times there is what’s called “parallel processing” where one or more people have had similar experiences to whoever is sharing. It can be very difficult and rewarding.
A few years ago, when I was pregnant with Noah, a new group member started. She had recently suffered a miscarriage. I felt awful. I wanted to quit the group, not to be a constant reminder of what she’d lost. I loved my group though and one of the main “rules” we have, is to not “treat each other as fragile”.
As God, or fate, would have it, I lost Noah a week or two after she started. I could be wrong but I’m almost certain that within a month, she was pregnant again.
Then Natalie died.
There was so much grief, I was drowning in it and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to get another full breath.
The following months that passed were brutal, for both she and I.
She was expecting her rainbow baby (a baby born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss) …in a way and also, not really “expecting” anything to go right, terrified she would lose another pregnancy.
I understood, and I tried to be supportive. I can’t honestly say that I was supportive, I don’t know. I hope that I was… and, that time is kind of a blur, further complicated by overwhelming jealousy and grief. I want to say I didn’t talk about the loss of Noah at the time because she had so much anxiety about the health and continuing growth of her baby that I didn’t want to add to it… but I think losing Natalie trumped Noah. Maybe it was both.
It hurt to hear her talk about the pregnancy and all that it entailed…not like a knife to the heart but like a dull, dirty, four-pronged fork.
Spring came, and baby was born. I thought I’d made it through the hard part.
I had made it through A hard part.
She took a break to recover and care for her newborn.
When she came back, she was still filled with fear that something would happen to baby and she would lose him.
More time passed, as it does, and she had friends who had miscarriages. They were triggering for her and she wanted to be there for her friends and also to have the support she needed from the group.
By now, I was getting to the point of being ultra sensitive. Even the mention of the word “baby” and I tensed up, started to zone out. I found myself irritated with this group member, she spoke excessively about her loss, her friends’ loss, her new baby… etc.
“Why am I getting so upset?” I’d ask myself. Her happiness, her grief, her joy and loss, they take nothing away from me…
Somewhere inside of me I heard or felt a voice saying, “I want to be heard too”.
“I hurt too”.
I bring all of this up to finally make my point.
Last Tuesday, I feel like I flipped out on this group member. I had very little sleep the night before. Tayla didn’t go to school, in fact, she ended up in urgent care. Work was crazy busy and we were short drivers…. I was worn out.
Even though I was trying my best to be skillful, I fell short. I said things in a way I wish I hadn’t. If I had it all to do over again, I would simply say “thank you”.
Thank you for being you. For sharing your struggles and joys and your journey. Because of you, I looked deeper into my own feelings and acknowledged that I haven’t yet grieved Noah. That I am entitled to talk about him and mourn him. Thank you for not treating me as fragile.
It has taken me nearly a week to write this and as I reflect back, one thing sticks out the most.
I know she felt attacked and unsafe. She said she wasn’t coming back. I told her if she didn’t, that would be treating us both as fragile. She said something along the lines of “that sounds manipulative” and we all laughed, except her. Maybe she wasn’t joking. Generally, when people are manipulative, it is to get something they want or for their benefit. That’s not exactly the case here. Yes, I do want her to come back… I want her to have her safe place. I want her to have support.

I want that for both of us.