Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What do you do?

What do you do when your baby is hurting, but you don’t know how to help him because you don’t know what he’s feeling?  When you sit up wondering if the syringe you just emptied into his mouth is going to help him or hurt him? What do you do?

What do you do when your mama heart is hurting?  When the hour grows late, and sleep eludes you?  When your prayers become lodged between your lips and the ceiling, and the tears fall freely, and you’re weary?  What do you do?

What do you do when your mama heart is breaking?  When your whole world changes and nothing intervenes, and you’re desperate for answers, but there’s nothing to be seen?  What do you do?

What do you do when your mama heart is lonely? When the days are long, and the nights are longer, when your wall countdown’s for hospitals and your alarms are set for medications, and you don’t know who you are because everything is different, what do you do?

What do you do when everything’s uncertain?  When you don’t know where you’re going, and the questions just keep flowing, and you’re begging for some freedom from the life that’s never slowing, what do you do?

What do you do?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Go in Peace

As long as I have been alive, I have identified as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It’s shaped me into the person I am today, and it’s been the foundation for everything I’ve ever done in one way or another.  Throughout my years in the Primary, Young Women’s, and Relief Society organizations, I learned to identify myself as a child of God.  I learned that I was a literal daughter of God, and that His Son, Jesus Christ, my elder brother, died for my sins as long as I would try my very hardest to repent, follow Him, and endure to the end.  I learned that the Godhead was composed of three distinct and separate beings- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  I was taught that if I read the Book of Mormon and listened to the Holy Ghost, which I would feel both in my mind and in my heart, I would know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and thereby, I would know that everything I had been taught by the living prophets was truth.  

A great deal of importance was placed on these testimonies from the Holy Ghost, the Great Testifier.  The Holy Ghost is capable of testifying of truth.  Telling you exactly where you should go and what you should do.  When you read the Book of Mormon.  When you attend a testimony meeting.  When you hear a prophet speak. When you witness the beauty of the Earth, as created by God.  When you learn something new, the Holy Ghost is always there to confirm its truthfulness.  

In the Summer of 2012, I found myself on a family vacation to Washington DC.  One evening, we found ourselves on the temple grounds of the Washington DC LDS temple, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness.  I walked a little way away from my family, and I began to pray.  Without any intervention from me, the sudden, urgent idea came into my mind, “It is no longer right for you to continue living.” As the tears began to flow down my cheeks, I felt the distinctive feeling that I’d always recognized as “the spirit,” the feeling that accompanied my prayers about the Book of Mormon, the feeling that lifted and enlightened me each time I sat through General Conference, the feeling that confirmed my decision to marry my husband, the feeling that met me at the births of each of my children.
“...If it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8)

This “burning in the bosom” that signified revelation from God for my life had confirmed my suicidal thoughts.   How could this be?  

From that moment, a seed of doubt was planted in my heart.  I knew that God wouldn’t command me to kill myself.  So I carried on anyway, but I knew that the feelings I’d relied on couldn’t always be accurate.

At the end of 2013, I found within myself, a desperate longing to learn more about Christ.  I looked for Him in sacrament meeting.  I sought Him in Relief Society.  I prayed fervently that I might come to know Him better.  I prayed daily.  Hourly.  Sometimes nearly every minute of the day.  I was studying my scriptures.  Begging for a calling.  Serving people around me when I could barely keep myself breathing.  I was working with all my might to throw myself into the gospel, and that is precisely the reason I was so shocked when I found my answer.
A casual study of the New Testament began to reveal the startling truth that the Gospel according to Joseph Smith (and the prophets and apostles who came after him), who professed to speak for God, was strikingly different from the Gospel Jesus Himself taught.

Ezra Taft Benson, speaking as a prophet said, “The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.” (Prepare for the Days of Tribulation, October 1980)

Jesus said: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25, KJV)

Joseph Smith tells us, “ The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” (D&C 130:22)

Jesus tells us, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, KJV)

Joseph Smith teaches us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate beings.  (see above)

Jesus teaches us: “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30, KJV) This declaration made the Jews reach for their stones to kill him.  For blasphemy.  

Joseph teaches us: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (AoF #3)

Jesus says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6, KJV)

Throughout my youth, I’d been sustained by my testimony of Jesus Christ.  These verses in Alma 7 comforted me on a very regular basis.

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

I believed in Jesus.  I trusted Him.  I wanted to follow Him.  Why then, were the things He taught so different from the teachings of Latter-day prophets?  My heart was broken, and I was lost.

One night, as I stood trembling on the precipice of this great change, I knelt in prayer with tears streaming down my face.  “Father? Which way do I go?  How could the faith that has brought me this far have been false? How can I remain in the church knowing what I know now? How can I deny my testimony of Jesus Christ to bear testimony of modern prophets?” That was when I knew.  The time had come to plunge headfirst into the unknown.  I was terrified and panic-stricken.  Weeks and weeks of tear-stained cheeks and sleepless nights followed.  The more I learned about the restoration (from church-approved sources) the more I knew I could not trust Joseph Smith.  The less I trusted Joseph Smith, the more I leaned on God.  The more light I shone on the doctrines of the restoration, the more discrepancies I found.

One night, I found myself in the car alone.  The radio was on, and I was blissfully tuned-out of my life.  I felt a distinct impression that I should turn off the music and begin to pray.  Now, I’ve never been one to blatantly ignore thoughts and impressions that felt like they were from any sort of higher power, so I did.  I turned off the radio, and for the first time in my entire life, I let myself speak to Jesus.  I thanked Him for His sacrifice.  I asked Him for forgiveness.  I promised Him my life.  In an instant, my entire world changed.  Suddenly my God emerged from his human-shaped box and was bigger than anything I could ever have comprehended.  More powerful. More majestic. More forgiving. More loving than anything my imagination could have conjured.  For just a moment, I felt released from the weight of my life, and was enveloped in a peace like I had never felt before.  My heart was full, my mind was clear, and I encountered the most encompassing feeling of pure love I have ever known.  After a moment of rest in this breathtaking new kind of love, the feeling gave way to an overwhelming sense of love for the people around me.  For my husband, my children, my family, my friends.  I felt so much love, and all I could think of was sharing it with everyone I encountered.  I rushed home, bounded through the door, and could barely contain myself as I grinned and announced to Christopher, “I want to be baptized.”  

When I found myself upon stormy waters, Jesus beckoned me out of the boat and asked me to have the faith to walk on the water. I spent months thinking, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole,” (Matt. 9:21 KJV) and in an instant, I was transformed.  Jesus taught that He was the truth.  And the truth has truly set me free.

"Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over." 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Climbing Out

Four short years ago, I was a very excited/scared/pumped/terrified pregnant mama.  I didn’t have insurance, so I found myself in a low-cost clinic where they treated every patient like they were not only low-income, but also low-intelligence.  Because I was wary of the box I was being placed in, I had an anxiety attack when a med student approached me at one of my appointments and told me I would be meeting with a social worker before I went home.


A social worker?  What was wrong? How had I messed up already?

I didn’t know what “social worker” meant, so I freaked out.  I walked into her office, and she started questioning me about my history with depression, and informed me that due to my history, I had a higher risk of postpartum depression.  My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty.  I thought they were going to take away my baby.  

So I lied. And I lied, and I lied, and I lied.  

“No, no, no,” I said.  “My life is great.  Everything is going well.  I feel awesome.  Pregnancy is fantastic.  I know the signs of depression.  I’m not worried.”  They let me go, and my relief was so great that I bounced out of the office without a care in the world.

Then my James was born.  His birth was traumatic, and I didn’t feel the way I was “supposed to” after he was born.  I was scared.  Nervous. Confused.  Lost.

And then he started to cry.  And cry, and cry, and cry.  For two weeks, he cried.  And I cried.  One night, as I laid in bed preparing myself for his next screams, I found myself in a room filled with spiders.  They were crawling in around the windows and through the electrical sockets.  They swarmed the walls, and were all coming towards me.  I found myself in the fetal position sobbing.

There were no spiders.

I was sick. I was so sick. But I remained silent.  I was afraid that if anyone knew, they would take away my boy.  I couldn’t feel anything for him, but I knew I loved him, and I was plagued with thoughts that someone could take him away because my brain was broken.

Three months later, Christopher got a job in Louisville.  We moved, we got settled, I found out I was pregnant again, and my depression went away.

The second pregnancy and delivery were easier than the first.  I knew better from my first experience, so this time around, I lied about depression every step of the way.  I didn’t even want to be on anyone’s radar as “unstable,” so I said nothing.  

After Sam was born, the depression hit again.  This time, not so hard, but enough that my whole life was dragging.  I was concerned and confused, so I reached out for help.  My local ecclesiastical leader recommended a therapist.  She immediately started asking questions about my far-distant past, labeled me as a “difficult child,” and asked me for some tips about healthy eating.  Obviously, that was wildly successful. Another therapist, terribly wrong diagnosis, and bad psychiatrist later, I took matters into my own hands. (More about that experience here.)

Through a fantastic blog called Postpartum Progress, I diagnosed myself with postpartum depression.  Everything written here resonated with me.  I knew what the problem was, and I set out to solve it.  I emailed someone at Postpartum Support Kentuckiana who got me connected with the medical professional who saved my life.  The woman who officially diagnosed my postpartum depression, listened to what was really bothering me rather than deciding herself what the problem was, found me the right medication, and turned my life around.  


With my third pregnancy, I told my doctor everything.  I told him that I’d had major struggles with depression.  I told him that each time I’d given birth, I’d struggled with severe postpartum depression.  I told him that sometimes I wanted to die.

Guess what?  He didn’t take my baby away.  He talked through a treatment plan with me, suggested we wait two weeks to see if any “baby blues” would clear up on their own, and let me know that I could call for medication as soon as I thought I needed it.  I called the day after Abby turned two weeks old.  I fought through the depression with the assistance of my medication.  I felt inspired, comforted, and uplifted by following the Postpartum Progress Facebook page and reading through the blog.  Especially this post about the stages of PPD recovery.  

And you know what?  Postpartum depression was still scary this time.  Terrifying.  Awful.  Horrible.  

And short.  I refused to continue suffering in silence.  I reached out for help.  I told my story.  Warrior moms all over the world wrapped their [virtual] arms around me, and I shook off the shackles of depression.  I rose above the stigma.  I looked my PPD in the face, and I beat the crap out of it.

Because I am a warrior.  
I am a survivor.
And I climbed out of the darkness.  


So now, I invite you to help other moms like me climb out of the darkness.  On June 21, 2014, the longest  day of the year, we’re going to “Climb out of the darkness” for Postpartum Depression awareness.  How can you help?  Easy!

First: Register to climb. Find your local climb here.  
In Cincinnati, we’ll be climbing at Harbin Park at 8:30 AM.  Meeting at Shelter 11. Not in Cincinnati?  That’s ok!  This event is international. 

Second: Donate.
This donation to Postpartum Progress will go to help raise awareness for postpartum depression, and guide moms like me to get the help we need.  Your support could help save a mom’s life.  A baby’s life. A family.  

Third: After you register and donate, let everyone know you support moms and babies everywhere! Hashtag on facebook or twitter using #climbout

If you’re currently fighting postpartum depression?

Don’t give up.  It will get better.  The illness you’re fighting with right now is treatable.  The nights are so dark.  It is as hard as it feels.  But you can do this.  I promise.  If I can, anyone can.

See you on June 21!

Monday, April 7, 2014

On religion...and other things.

 This is a long story that may help you understand how I got to where I am in my faith journey today. You may find its contents "anti-Mormon."  As you read, please recognize the words as my thoughts, emotions, and personal experiences and not as personal attacks.  

Twenty years ago, I was a little snot-faced little brown-haired girl.  Freckles all over my face.  I was seven years old, and I was sad.  I was so sad.  Most of the time, I didn't know why I was sad.  There was the obvious-my mom had been dead for almost a year.  My papaw was gone too.  My best friend moved away.  We moved across town.  The kids in the new school didn't like me very much.  I was weird, but more than anything, I was sad. 

One afternoon, I was playing "Beauty Shop" in the garage with my Barbies.  I'd taken a metal bowl from the kitchen and filled it with soapy water, and was washing all their hair.  (Side note: this is a terrible idea.  If you ever want to wash Barbie hair, this is not the way to do it.)  In an instant, I noticed a hammer in my peripheral vision.  I picked it up, and began to slam it into the bone on the inside of my ankle.  I didn't understand why I was doing it, but something about the pain made me feel alive.  Later that year, I threw myself down the steps.  I must have gotten too scared to really go through with anything, because I caught myself enough that there was no real injury.

Years went by, and these inclinations to self-harm never left me.  Freshman year of high school, I used my fists to bruise my hipbones by hitting myself over and over again.  I knew in the deepest darkest corners of my mind that I was the most terrible person who ever lived, and that bruising my hips would help me remember how terrible I was in that I could feel the pain each time I took a step.  I went to the school counselor and told her I was worried about what I was doing, what I was feeling, and what I was thinking, and that I was sure I needed help.

She told me that if I was cutting myself, she'd do something, but I wasn't, so she wouldn't.  Then she sent me to class.

I walked from her office numb, sore, and confused.  Maybe it was normal.  So I carried the pain with me.

In the several weeks leading up to September 2005, I cried non-stop.  I cut my wrists.  I died a little more every day.  Finally, in a moment of desperation, I opened a bottle of pills, and I swallowed a handful of them.  I was sure I would die that day.  I wanted to.  But I didn't.

In all the years between 1994, 2005, and now, I wanted to hurt myself.  Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn't.  The postpartum depression brought those urges closer to the surface than they'd been in nine years. 

So I decided, once and for all, I was going to get a tattoo on the inside of my wrist to remind me that I always come through on the other side of that pain.  That things always get better.

There was just one little hangup.  The church.  My faith told me that I must follow the prophet, and that the prophet had told me the answer to tattoos was no.  Period.  No questions asked.  At least that's what I'd been told.  In a moment when I decided something had to change, I decided to look up what had been said about tattoos.  I found this.

"It is sad and regrettable that some young men and women have their bodies tattooed. What do they hope to gain by this painful process? Is there “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” in having unseemly so-called art impregnated into the skin to be carried throughout life, all the way down to old age and death? They must be counseled to shun it. They must be warned to avoid it. The time will come that they will regret it but will have no escape from the constant reminder of their foolishness except through another costly and painful procedure."

 A few of the words in this quote gave me pause.  
so-called art

These all struck me as words that marked an opinion.  Later in the same talk, President Hinckley referred to body piercings as "absurd." Another opinion word.  I didn't recognize these as words that marked a commandment from God.  I tucked these realizations away, and tried to maintain faith that this prophet had been inspired of God and that God's ways wouldn't change, so this decision wasn't mine to make. After all, "When the prophet speaks, the debate is over," right? I willed the desire to get a tattoo out of my mind.  It held for a while. 

You see, I was a faithful garment wearer.  I put them on the moment I stepped out of the shower, and only removed them for approved activities.  I hated every moment.  They didn't fit me.  They made my clothes fit awkwardly.  [Insert about a dozen other reasons I hated wearing them here.  Elaboration is unnecessary at this juncture.] One afternoon, I was trying to get dressed, and fighting with all the places where my clothes wouldn't fit.  I was in tears, and Christopher looked at me and said, "Maybe you could write a letter to someone.  Find out if you can alter them, or make your own, or something.  It shouldn't have to be this way." In a moment of exasperation, I retorted, "Who would I write to?  And who would respond to me?  I'm a woman!" I gasped.  Surely those words hadn't just escaped me.  How could I raise my daughter in this place if I truly believed that she'd never be heard as a woman?  I closed my eyes and knew what I had to do.

A couple of weeks before this outburst, we had an opportunity to attend another church for an event.  We had a great time, and didn't think much about it until late that night as I lay in bed searching desperately for sleep.  Finally I woke Christopher to tell him what was on my mind, "Christopher?  I felt really good at that church today.  REALLY good.  I couldn't rest until I told you." There wasn't much conversation that night,  I mean, hellooooo...it was like 3am, but finally I could rest.  

The next morning, after hours and hours of prayer, I determined that the best next step to take would be to study the New Testament.  "Surely if the Church is true, the New Testament will point me right toward it," I thought.  So I went to the bookstore and bought a few copies of the Bible in different translations.  I wanted to approach the words of Jesus with a fresh perspective, so I needed to remove all of the footnotes and chapter headings and read the gospels with only God's guidance. 

This is not the place where I will spell out  what I learned.  I can do that at a later time, but if you're curious, I'd urge you to pick up a copy of the bible in a different translation.  I enjoy the HCSB and the NLT.  (And a shout-out for the NKJV if going too far from the KJV freaks you out.) 

Each time I sit down to read, another gasp emerges from my throat as I read something that I never saw before.  After I read it, I go to the KJV, and sure enough, it's right there.  No idea how I missed it all those times. 

Furthermore, the history of the Church brought out some painful realizations.  I tried hard to be fair, but there were some things that I simply couldn't look past.  

This quote from Joseph Smith was the last straw:

“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam... Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”  (History of the Church, 6:408-409) 

In this same sermon, Joseph Smith claimed to have only one wife.  At the time, he had 34. That can be verified on familysearch.org. 

At the moment, I'm not completely sure where I stand.  I think I'm a Christian.  Not the kind you believe yourself to be if you're a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The biblical kind.  We'll see where this path leads, but what I do know for sure, is that I have seen more prayers answered, more peace in my home, and more love in my life since making this decision.  God has guided my path thus far, and I have no doubt about that.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Engulfed in the Darkness: My postpartum depression story.

 Dear family and friends,

The following is the story of my ongoing battle with postpartum depression.  Please be aware that the following post may contain triggers for anyone currently struggling with mental illness.  Please also be aware that it's not a comfortable read.  


Two pink lines.  My heart is racing. I’m nervous.  Excited.  Terrified.  This isn’t my first rodeo, I already have two incredible children.  Two rambunctious, crazy, intense, loving, complicated children.  This child was planned, but the moment I saw those two pink lines, I knew this was the beginning of the end.  I knew this baby would be our last.  

I’ve always wanted a big family.  When my sweetheart and I started dating, I told him I wanted six kids.  I was serious.  Being in a big family has so many perks, and I wanted nothing more than to give my children, my perfect little boys, this big family.  But then I saw those two pink lines.  How could it be?  How could I know this was the end?  How could I stop at only three children? I wasn’t even thirty.  I was still a baby myself, but I knew.  This would be the last time I’d be sitting on the cold, hard edge of this white bathtub with happy tears in my eyes as I watched that gloriously dark pink line appear in the test window.  

My mind begins to swirl with visions of the future.  Tiny baby socks and shoes.  Midnight snuggles.  The feeling of the perfectly new, pink skin against my cheek.  The smell of gentle baby breaths, the little coos and sighs.  I have so many hopes and dreams for this perfect new life.  I’m filled with emotion as I anxiously await the ultrasound where I’ll know if this little person growing inside me is a boy or a girl.  I’m helplessly sick, but I don’t care.  There’s a new little one coming to our family.  

Beneath the visions of the miracle of childbirth and the anticipation of filling our home with tiny baby paraphernalia is a deep, dark, churning river of fear.  I’m fearful for my children.  Fearful for my husband.  Fearful of the consequences of this decision.  I’m not like other women.  The decision to have a child is the heaviest decision I could make in this life, even more burdensome than the decision to marry.  The decision to have a child, for me, is the decision to plunge into the fiery depths of life-threatening postpartum depression. 

The pregnancy, like any other, was a beautiful, wonderful, confusing, tumultuous time.  As I watched the vivid mental images of the exciting days ahead play on a loop in my mind, I scrubbed the bathtub with a toothbrush.  I painted the nursery blue, and then filled it with every pink artifact I could find.  Every detail meticulously planned. My baby girl was going to have the perfect life in her perfect nursery.  I just knew it.  Or did I?  As my belly began to swell, so did my uneasiness about the future.  With each perfect child who had wriggled his way into our family so far, I had experienced this devastating crash and subsequent mental war. Would it happen again?  How could I know?  I worried.  I paced.  I continued to scrub the bathtub.  Nesting is normal.  My pregnancy was normal.  Maybe this time, I could be normal too.  I clung to that meager pink shard of hope.  This baby was a girl.  Maybe things would be different.

The day our tiny princess was born was the most precious day of my entire life.  Everything was perfect.  From the magnificent man holding my hand to the photographer.  From the ice chips, to the doctor.  Perfect.  She was born in a hurry, like she knew our moments of bliss would be numbered.  I have never before, felt such love, tenderness, and serenity all at once.  For two short magical days, I experienced such profound beauty that I’m certain I will never be the same.

Maybe that’s why the crash was so devastating. The stark contrast between the euphoria of our first days and the anguish of the days that followed was too much to bear.  It felt as if my heart was being ripped from my chest and I was being flung into an abyss of endless darkness.

I cast my eyes around the blackness of the pit.  I can’t see anything, not even my own hand in front of my face.  The darkness is so thick it is almost tangible.  This barren wasteland is my mind.  There is nothing.  No warmth, no light, no hope.  My world is silent.  Not even my screams can be heard.  I am alone.  Just when I am prepared to drown in the darkness, I hear someone calling for me.  It feels safe.  It feels like home.  I reach upward for the hand I am certain I will find, for the life-saving warmth that must await me after this painful exertion, only to feel the tips of his fingers slip from my grasp.  And again I am plunging into the icy depths of this cavern.  

Is there no hope?  Is there no light?  Is there no one who can reach me?  How did I get here?  Where am I supposed to be?

I’m angry with the darkness.  Its presence mocks me.  This isn’t where I’m supposed to be.  

I’m supposed to be safe at home with my family.  Snuggling on the couch and giggling with my little ones.  I’m supposed to be reading bedtime stories and tickling toes.  I’m supposed to be sighing in contentment as the tiniest of them all wraps her miniature hand around my finger.  I’m supposed to be holding my husband’s hand and sharing a goofy grin each time our eyes meet.  We’re supposed to lock our doors and feel our home bursting with love and peace and joy.  And light.

I can almost hear them.  I can almost hear those babies singing.  And then the deafening silence returns.

The darkness of the cave is thick and heavy, and it exhausts me to keep my eyes open.  As the cold wisps of darkness begin to envelop my entire being, the ground begins to crumble beneath my feet.  How is this possible?  Surely there is nowhere lower than where I have already fallen!  I stumble across a widening gap in the weakening earth, and in an instant, my eyes close and I am transported to another place in my mind.  A place where I have control.  There’s a light here.  Not a warm light like the home I left behind; a single cold fluorescent bulb.  The room is chilly.  Everything is gray.  I am numb.  In the middle of the sterile room is a long wooden table, and on the table, two objects.  I move closer and recognize the metal on the left.  A knife.  And to the right, an orange bottle of pills.  I know this place.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  This is where decisions are made.  This is the only place where the choice is mine.  

Every bit of desire within me calls for me to pick up the knife, and when I do, I feel power in its cold, molded handle.  It feels comfortable in my hand.  The smoothness of this whetted blade should frighten me.  I’m certain that it is terribly sharp.  In an instant, I choose to take the edge off the numbness; to bring warmth to this gray place.  I drag the cool blade across my wrist, and the grayness of my mind is instantaneously replaced with color.  Red.  I feel the warmth of the blood rising up through the stinging skin, and for a moment I feel alive.  For a moment, I feel something.  In that moment, I realize that I hadn’t felt anything in a long time.  Not for myself, not for my family, not for anyone or anything.  I lift the knife again, prepared to flood my world with color once more, when the residual red is extinguished, and the gray room has turned black.  

In an instant, I hear a baby cry.  

I hear a toddler scream.

I hear a man sobbing.

And then I realize what I’ve done.  I recognize the darkness within me, and I see it flooding my home.  Smashing the windows, engulfing every light.  The choice is no longer mine to make, and I reach for the pills with increasing urgency.  I gather every ounce of feigned love I can muster and declare it as emphatically as I possibly can.  I wrench the bottle open, and immediately feel myself seized by a force much stronger than I could have ever hoped to be.

The impact of whatever has grabbed me catapults the bottle from my hands, and pills scatter.  Knowing that they are my only chance to take control, I fight with the force that is now attempting to restrict my every movement.  In one last, desperate measure to reach the pills, the elixir that will save us all, I kick against my adversary with all the energy I can summon.  We slump against the wall, and I gasp for breath.  When I open my eyes, a sob catches in my throat as I recognize the arms wrapped around me.  The steady arms that have saved me from myself.  The man they belong to.  His fingers softly brush the tears from my cheek, and the quiet strength in his gentle hand presses my head into his chest.  

I am haggard and battle-worn, but for a moment, I am home.


If you are struggling with postpartum depression or any of a whole host of other mood disorders, please check out these great resources.  And please, please, don't stay silent.  Get help.  Share your stories.  You can make a difference.

Postpartum Support International
Postpartum Progress
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Baby Story. Part 1.

In August of 2012, I attended the Louisville Stake's annual Relief Society meeting.  I didn't want to go at all, but I was under orders from my doctor to not turn down invitations to social gatherings, and this counted as one.  I grumbled through my first class, and didn't pay much attention to anything.  I didn't feel like talking to anyone, so I wandered into a class with nobody I knew and strategically seated myself in the front row.  Thankful for the guarantee that I'd sit there alone, I took a deep breath and tried to listen to what the speaker was talking about.  She started telling a story from the Old Testament that I'd heard a handful of times, but never really paid any attention to, and I found myself on the edge of my seat from the moment she uttered the name of the story's heroine.  


Christopher and I have always had a running dialogue of baby names, knowing that we were likely to only ever have boys.  We'd chosen a boy name, and knew, without a doubt, that we'd be using it someday.  With eyes full of tears, I texted him. "What about Abigail?"  He wrote back, "I love it." Curious.  He'd never loved a baby girl name before.  Liked, but not loved.  

As the tears began to stream down my cheeks, I was suddenly cognizant of the feelings that had begun to swell within me.  I knew it was time for us to have another child, and I knew she would be our Abigail. 

In January, I signed up to take a boot camp class at the YMCA.  I went to the first class, and had to stop in the middle of one of the exercises because I was sure I was about to vomit all over the studio.  Embarrassed and somewhat perplexed, I finished out the class, and went home.  I told Christopher that I thought I needed to take a pregnancy test.  I wasn't willing to admit defeat in bootcamp on the first day!  Turns out I was pregnant.  A few months of extreme sickness and fatigue followed, and then a brief "honeymoon" period which we used to go on what will probably be our only vacation as a couple for the next decade.  Our days in Utah with Sarie and Brian were priceless.  Third trimester was riddled with the usual complaints and the knowledge that it would be over soon was the only thing that got me through the weeks that I couldn't walk up or down the stairs without excruciating pain.

The morning we were going to go for an ultrasound to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl, I was willing to face my feelings for the first time.  As I showered, I prayed and wept.  "Heavenly Father, I know I shouldn't ask for this, but if it's part of thy plan, please, please, please let this baby be a girl.  I feel like it's a girl, but I don't know what I'd do if I was wrong." 

She was our Abigail.

I cried.

On September 10, I went to the doctor for my 38 week checkup.  The doctor asked me what I wanted to do, because we'd been discussing induction. (I have wicked fast labors, and was afraid of having a baby on the side of the road.) I reminded him that he'd said we could do the induction on Friday (9/13), and he immediately responded, "We can't do that." I felt such a pit in my stomach!  Then he said, "I can do tomorrow." 

How do you even begin to describe the feeling that fills your heart and mind when you find out you'll be meeting the daughter you've been dreaming about in one day? It's not possible.  I felt elated.  Excited. Scared. Anxious.  Overwhelmed.  Peaceful.  


Look forward to part 2, coming soon!  I have about a zillion birth photos to share.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


I've had lots of people ask what's going on with James this week, so I'll post it all here, and you can feel free to read as much or as little as you'd like. Here's what happened as far as my memory can retell it. 

On Sunday night, the camera on my beloved iphone stopped working.  I take about a zillion pictures a day, so I knew I'd need to get it fixed immediately.   I couldn't get a genius bar appointment on Monday, so I scheduled one for Tuesday morning- 11:20.  (Or something like that.) Once we were there, the Genius working told me that my phone would have to be replaced, and promptly set to work exchanging my old phone for a new one.  During this time, Sam was strapped into the stroller, and James was alternating between sitting in his stroller seat, and climbing up and down on the bar-height stool next to me.  Sam started to seem a little bit cranky, so I asked James if he'd sit in his seat for a few minutes while I held Sam.  I noticed James felt a tiny bit warm when I sat him down, and made a mental note to check his temperature when we got home just to make sure everything was okay.  He was acting completely normal up to this point, but started to seem a little tired.  It was close to naptime, so I wasn't surprised.

I was playing with Sam in my arms, and looking back at James every few seconds to make sure he wasn't climbing out of the stroller, and everything was completely normal.  A minute passed, maybe two, when I felt the strong need to look at James, and NOW.  So I turned, and saw a strange look on his face-glassy eyes, and completely still for a split second, and then the convulsions happened.  his entire body went rigid, and every muscle in his body was shaking.  Fortunately, I'd seen this before, and immediately knew what was happening.  The next few seconds were a blur.  Sam into his stroller seat.  James straight to the floor, turned on his side so he wouldn't choke on any saliva or vomit.  His lips turned blue.  His eyes were rolled back in his head. (I think.  Now that I try to recall the details, I can't!) The convulsing started to slow down, and his eyes started to close.  He was exhausted.  I tried to keep him awake long enough to tell me his name, it took about 10 minutes.

Other things that happened while James was seizing:
an employee played with Sam
Someone asked me if they should call 911.  I said no.
When the seizure felt like it'd been going on too long, I asked someone to call.
When it slowed and the color came back to his lips, I had them tell the EMS not to come.
The guy from the Genius Bar who was working on my phone kept saying that he'd seen this many times, that his brother had seizures a lot as a kid.  Very reassuring.
Someone brought us a stack of paper towels, a cup of water for James to drink, and a phone (mine was still being replaced) so I could call Chris.
The employees asked if there was anything they could do, and my only request: PLEASE hurry with my phone so that I can get out of here. (Was afraid to go anywhere without a phone at this point.

James took a drink of water just seconds after coming to, then refused any more. I set the cup of water on the floor, and James, still unaware of his limbs, promptly kicked it over.  (So now I'm sitting in a puddle of water, holding my baby tight, and trying to make about a dozen judgement calls at the same time.)  I dried the drool off of his face and hair, and asked him a few questions to see if he was conscious.  The only answer I could get out of him came during this exchange:

"Do you still want to go get a cookie?" (The one I'd promised if he would behave while we got my phone fixed)
"[nodding] yes."

So I whisked my barely conscious little boy to the cookie shop in the mall as fast as my legs would carry me.  I'd had a very strong feeling that I needed to get him to eat something, and figured anything would do, even a cookie.  My sweet barely conscious little boy ate about half of an M&M cookie, and fell asleep.

Meanwhile, Chris had made an appointment at the doctor's office, and we were seen in less than an hour from the time the seizure occurred.  The doctor, being cautious, determined that we'd schedule an EEG for later in the week to find out whether the seizures were febrile seizures or seizures with fever, as this was the third seizure in about 20 months.  We scheduled the EEG for Friday, and went home.  James slept as soon as we got home, and for a few hours.  Seizures are exhausting.

Wednesday came and went without incident, except that James's temperature continued to rise slightly, and no fever-reducer seemed to bring it down.  He started sounding a little hoarse, and developed a little bit of a cough.  Because we'd just seen the doctor, I decided to wait and see if the illness progressed. (And I already have an asthma action plan in place.)  We had a normal day, lots of playing outside, even a trip to the grocery store. 

Overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, James's breathing seemed increasingly labored, so we gave him albuterol around 1 AM.  At 5:15 AM, I was awakened by another seizure.  This time, I missed the convulsions, but came in while he was still unconscious.  His temperature had risen to 102.  We scheduled an appointment with the doctor right away, and over the next several hours, his breathing became increasingly more labored.  We called the doctor's office again, and got our appointment moved from 1:00 to 10:30.

Very quickly, we got ready and headed out to the doctor's office- Chris, James, Sam, and myself.  When we got there, the doctor agreed with us that it was likely a seizure in the middle of the night, and sent us to the hospital to have a 23-hour EEG performed.  He also diagnosed James with croup.  We headed for the hospital right away- Dr. James didn't want us to wait. 

When we got to the hospital to be admitted James had a hard time calming down enough to have all of his vitals taken and be moved up to his room to stay. Meanwhile, Chris left to take Sam so that he could spend a couple of days with family in Cincinnati. The doctor came in a few minutes after Chris and Sam left, and was asking me questions so that they could have a full history of what'd happened before James was admitted.  I was in the middle of describing what his seizures look like when he began his third seizure.  I asked if she needed any more information now that she'd seen exactly what they looked like.  She said no.  James was moved to a resuscitation room in the ER.  (Apparently when a child has a seizure in the hospital, it's an emergency.  I didn't know this beforehand.)  We hung out in the resuscitation room for a while, and while we were there, they placed an IV, and told me that the doctor at the hospital, our doctor, and the neurologist had a conference call and determined that the best course of action would be to have a quick EEG done (20 minutes) and an MRI.

James was awake when the electrodes were placed for the EEG, but by the time the test started, he was fast asleep, holding on tight to my hand.

 After the test was complete, they were ready to take us up to James's room.  They put us in the neuromonitoring unit, so that they could have all of the seizure precautions close by.  He was given a bed that looked a little more like a jail cell.  He woke up long enough to say, "This is like Sam's bed!" and then lie down and immediately fall asleep.  He was out for about 2 hours.  I took that time to update family on what was going on, take a few deep breaths, and coordinate dinner (I hadn't eaten yet, and it was 5pm) with Christopher.

James woke up around the time Chris got back, and boy was he happy to see his dad!  We all ate a little dinner, and James was thrilled that I let him have as much of my Jamba Juice as he wanted.  We spent the evening letting him eat anything he wanted, because he would be NPO (no food or drink) after midnight in anticipation of an early-morning MRI.

Night came, and everyone was pretty anxious to get to bed, except for James!  He'd had a pretty strong dose of steroids for his breathing, and was really struggling to rest.  Fortunately, the nurse had taken pity on him and allowed him to take off all his monitors so he could run around the room.  She said just to keep an eye on him and not let him get too worked up because he was still very croupy.  I was happy about this, because it meant that when he wasn't wanting to sleep, he could come lie down with me for a while.  We made silly faces at the camera for fun:

 When James saw this one he said, "Who's that guy?! He just looks grumpy!"
This is supposed to be our super-happy face.  I mostly just love James's expression.

Shortly after the bottom picture was taken, one of the night nurses came in to get James's vitals.  For the first time since Tuesday, he didn't have a fever!  His temperature was close to 98.  I was thrilled and relieved.  I knew we weren't completely in the clear yet, but if the fevers were causing the seizures, they were likely over.

James was up and about or sleeping fitfully (waking up screaming and/or crying every 10-15 minutes) until about 12:45am, when he finally really fell asleep.  That lasted about an hour.  Then from 1:45-4 or 5, he was restless again.  He slept at least from 5-7, and those two solid hours of sleep felt like a vacation! 

Dr. James (our pediatrician) came in to see us at 7:00.  We were so happy to see him!  He talked with us about what the plan was going forward, and checked for James's EEG results, but they weren't available yet. 

The rest of Friday is mostly a blur.  We met with a neurologist named Dr. Mir, and he was WONDERFUL!  And then we met with some neurologists that I didn't like so much.  I guess beggars can't be choosers.  Here's James with Dr. Mir. 

There was a lot of confusion about when we were going to have the MRI done.  We'd been told before 5pm the day before that we'd be having an MRI in the morning, so I was really frustrated to get the news (at 10am) that MRI was booked solid, and we'd be getting in at 3 or 4:00 if at all.  Don't forget, James hadn't eaten since before midnight the night before.  Yikes! I expressed some of that frustration to the team of neurologists we met with, and someone must have pulled some strings for us.  We went down for the MRI around 2:00.

By the time we got to anesthesiology for James to be sedated for his MRI, he'd regained some of his happiness and spunk.  It helps that he'd taken a little power nap as well.  As he was being sedated in Dad's arms, the last words he said before falling asleep were, "Can I eat dinner?"  Poor boy hadn't eaten in 15 hours! 

Waiting for him to come out of the MRI was challenging, but it didn't take too long.  Chris went to get us something to eat (we'd been taking shifts sneaking out to eat, because we didn't want James to see any food!) and we talked/rested for a little while.  They came to get us, and we went to the recovery room to wait for James to wake up.  While we were waiting, I got a call from the doctor who let me know that he'd had them read the MRI immediately, and that everything was normal!  He apologized for the delays, and for the frustrations that it'd caused, and explained sheepishly that it "pretty much always happens."  Hospitals are the worst!  

 It took about an hour for James to come to, but after a few nods and grunts and grumpy noises, we finally found out why he woke up so angry-the first thing he said was, "Can I go to Jason's?"  (Jason's Deli)  We laughed and assured him that we could.  He refused to drink anything, and was all around pretty angry, especially when we returned to his hospital room instead of delivering him directly to the deli.  We tried our hardest to explain that we'd go as soon as they took the IV out of his arm, and he bought it mostly.  In the meantime, they brought us some food, and we slowly coaxed him to eat something that wasn't from Jason's.  

They discharged us pretty quickly (!) and as we walked down the hall to get in the elevator, James seemed really happy.  We took turns asking him, "Are you ready to go home?"  Each time he'd respond, "I mean Jason's?"  

Of course, we took that sweet boy to get his grilled cheese sandwich at Jason's Deli! The manager gave him a free cookie when he heard the story-and James even admitted that his favorite was chocolate chip.  I didn't even know that!

After we finished eating dinner, we went to pick up Sam.  Uncle Matt had dropped him off at the gas station.

Just kidding!  We met Matt and Janelle to pick up Sam at the halfway point between Fairfield and our place, so that nobody would have a 4 hour drive.  James had a lot of fun playing in the back seat of the van while we waited for them to arrive.

Now everyone is home, and all is well.  We're all a little sleepy and pretty worn out from our crazy week, but we're going to be okay.   Sam has croup now as well, so he'll be done with his steroids on Monday.  James has a followup EEG in two weeks, and hopefully we'll have a more clear answer as to what's going on in that funny boy's little head then.

We are so blessed!