Monday, December 27, 2010

No Such Romantic Christmas

The PLAGUE.

That's how my adoring husband has described me for the past six days. Thus, I'm afraid I have been unable to keep my promise to you (and us) that I made in Deck the Halls of having one last romantic Christmas.

Oh, the plans we made . . .

Wednesday, December 22 was scheduled to be our "romantic Christmas" day together. We scheduled it weeks in advance. We talked about it for weeks. We made "suggestions" about how the day (and night) might play out. Of everything that Christmas had in store for me, it was the one thing I was really looking forward to. He was, too.

I wake up feeling fine. We have breakfast in bed (cinnamon rolls and cheese omelets) and watch General Hospital (we always watch GH, having months of it on our DVR). Later in the morning, I start to feel the tell-tale thickening in my throat but ignore it, playing it off as a little cold trying to set in. I won't let it ruin our day.

We get up and make it to Ladybug Ceramics in Evansville by 1:00PM. I showed you in Deck the Halls the ornaments we made for Gabriel last year. This year, Skyler wanted to go back to make something for Tater Tot:

The snowman ornament I made.

The angel Skyler made. He's very proud of it.

 I feel okay during all of this craftiness but drink an entire bottle of water while I am there because of the throat issue. I never mention any of this to my hubby. If he knows I might have germs, I will be limited to kisses on the forehead.

After ceramics, we go to another traditional holiday activity--he gets a haircut. This takes about an hour because he went to a beauty college to save money. While he gets butchered, I sit and read a magazine and progressively feel worse and worse.

We drive away from the salon. I'm quiet, and my eyes are betraying me (they always do). I find myself leaning my head against the seat, seaking a bit of rest before we head home for the festivities. He asks me what's wrong. I assure him nothing is wrong, but he tells me he knows me better than that. He thinks it's my sad heart that's troubling me.

He makes a quick stop at the grocery store before we head home. As soon as he steps out of the car, I burst into tears, overcome with exhaustion and achiness. I dry it up before he returns, not wanting to spoil the evening or give him reason to avoid me.

As we are driving toward home, I finally break it to him. "I think I better tell you something," I say shakily.

"What is it, baby? What happened?" he asks, unable to imagine what has gotten me so upset.

I bawl, "I don't feel very good!"

"It's okay," he puts his arm around me. "We'll still have a nice evening. We'll still be together, but we'll just cuddle on the couch."

When we get home, he hops in the shower, and I try to get started on the lasagna we planned to make. I'm feeling crazy weak and continually have to sit down for rest breaks. We finish it up together. While it is in the oven, we exchange a few gifts, including gifts to Star (the dog) and Josie (the cat). I can't help myself. I am shaking and making these tiny moaning sounds.

We don't have a candlelight dinner at the table. We eat on the couch in pajamas. It isn't romantic, but we have each other. And we have love. And Star and Josie. And two candles set on the mantle burning in memory of our cherished babies.

At 9:30PM, after 1 1/2 hours of uncontrollable shaking, we finally take my temp. It is 101.3. At midnight, it is 102.8! I'm pretty sure that, after everything, this is what is finally going to take me out. I make it to see the sunrise once more and discover a white Christmas . . . all over my throat! I head to the doc to get some meds, and my husband waves goodbye to me from across the room when he leaves for work.

We are even snowed in--home alone--on Christmas Eve evening and Christmas Day evening. The perfect romantic scenario. That's a big deal for us because our conflicting work schedules make it a rare treat to be home alone in the evening.

. . . but I had the PLAGUE.





Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seeing Baby Jesus in a Whole New Light

You won't be surprised to learn that I cry just about every time I go to church. I try not to let that stop me from going anymore. Before I was pregnant with Gabriel, I sometimes did let it stop me. Once, I ran out of church crying because someone there was pregnant, and I just couldn't handle it. I remember we were singing "Amazing Grace." Now, mostly, I see a baby or a little boy (or now a little girl) in the congregation, I fight back a few tears, and I try to let it go. I did not attend the children's Christmas program a couple of Sundays ago, though. I've cried through it too many times and chose not to put myself through that this year.

This last Sunday, I went to church as I normally do. I wasn't having a rough morning. I wasn't gazing around the sanctuary being overly covetous of other people's children. But when we began to sing "Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him" ("Oh, Come All Ye Faithful"), tears streamed down my cheeks. I pictured baby Jesus; his miraculous birth; his mommy and daddy who loved their baby boy but wanted to please God no matter what they had to do; I imagined those that came to adore him--astonished by this incredible child and a life and birth that could never really happen, but it did.

I thought about Gabriel. I told Gabriel last Christmas, when he was still alive in my belly, that he was just like Jesus and I was a lot like Mary. I told him that I would be giving up the most special part of me so that God could do his important work in him. Gabriel did, indeed, go on to do great things in the name of Jesus. No wonder we are so proud of him.

Never in all my life has a Christmas carol brought me to tears. I hope you don't think it is presumptuous of me to compare Gabriel to the baby Jesus, but he was like Jesus. He was selfless. And sinless. And beautiful. And people came to adore him. They couldn't help themselves. They were compelled to come, like the animals were compelled to come to the ark and the wisemen were compelled to seek out the newborn king.

Isn't that, after all, what we all strive for as Christians--to be like Jesus?

Last Sunday's sermon was not about the baby Jesus, though. It was about who baby Jesus grew up to be--the One who saves us and heals us:

Isaiah 53:4-5 (New International Version, ©2010)

"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."

It is common practice at my church for the elders and deacons to stand at the front and lay hands on those who need prayer and healing. Usually, I just stay in my seat. This Sunday, however, I was soaked with tears, thinking about the healing that could be mine. I wasn't sure if my situation even counted as needing healing; there's nothing physically wrong with me. I waited for the first wave of people to be prayed for and return to their seats. A broken heart is not something to be annointed with oil for and prayed over, is it? I tried to talk myself out of going down to the alter.

Then, I saw a woman that I know, that I feel comfortable with, was no longer praying with anyone. I went down before I could think of a reason not to. I took her hand and said, "I don't know if this counts as needing healing, but it is time to make the new baby, and whatever is inside of me that could make it go away, I want to be healed. I want a baby I can keep."

She put her hands on my belly and asked me to stand in agreement with her as she asked in Jesus' name that I be healed and that my womb house many babies one day. Many?!

More sobbing, more tears, but I left church that day finally feeling confident that this is about to happen for me--if I just trust and believe.

Thank you, Baby Jesus.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Walking Down the Street Naked

I have quoted Cec Murphy's blog a few times in my posts. When I read his November 2nd post, I knew what I had to do. When he was new in the publishing business, a professional writer told him, "If you're going to be a writer, you must be willing to walk down the street naked."



I want to be a writer, so I guess I'm going to have to let you see all of me. I have to see this through. I have to keep going, do whatever needs to be done, to make sure Gabriel's story reaches as many people as possible. My book is finished--and it's beautiful. My magnum opus. It doesn't matter, though, not unless I can find someone to believe in me and my babies enough to try to sell it for me. From what I've read, having a successful blog is a great way to get someone to believe in you. I now have 106 followers. I have seen quite a few published authors' blogs with far fewer registered followers than that. Gabriel, Tater Tot, Skyler, and I thank all of you, my faithful followers, for believing in us.

Because of our passion--and my obsession--for keeping our sweet babies alive through my writing, we have decided to let you all in on the most intimate and private part of our lives--something that will hopefully leave you on the edge of your seats and coming back for more. It wasn't an easy decision, and I'm still not sure I want to let you in on this. I'll do anything for my angels, though. Even if it means letting you see me naked . . .

We started making our new baby today. That sounds romantic, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't. Actually, Skyler was at work. The doctor and I got started without him. Ha! I had an HSG (hysterosalpingogram). It's a dye test to make sure there are no blockages in the fallopian tubes. This being my third HSG, however, we already know they aren't blocked. Shooting the dye through the tubes clears any debris that may be a distraction to those little one-celled swimmers. The chances of conception are increased in the three months following an HSG. Can you get pregnant without an HSG? Obviously, people do it every day. This is high-stakes for me, though. It has to work. I need it to work. It's going to work.

We had a failed attempt at an IUI (intrauterine insemination) in September 2008 before we had Gabriel. It was the only time I didn't have an HSG first. If you have been trying to get pregnant for a while and haven't had any luck, ask for an HSG. Unless there's something else wrong, I bet it'll work.

I was nervous going in today. I was nervous for the monster speculum. It hurt, but I got through it, yacking to the nurses about my babies as a distraction. Then I became very anxious watching the monitor, waiting for the dye to shoot out of me. Suddenly, a new fear shot through me--something I hadn't thought of before. What if this test shows that I'm scarred, damaged from the D&C?

After an eternity of seconds, the screen began to show a perfect black pear (my uterus) and two squirts of dye--one on the left and one on the right--shooting cleanly out of each fallopian tube.



The doctor commented that my uterus and tubes look perfect. Whew! The ultrasound tech stood by my side and watched, holding my hand. She was one of Gabriel's techs and remembers the beautiful pictures she took of me while he was inside of me. She winked and said she expects me to show up in the office in a couple of months pregnant with multiples!

Now, to enjoy our last bit of being emptynesters before we get the baby (or babies?).

Author's note: pic #1--I'm not blonde and we're not skinny, but I thought that pic was pretty funny. Pic #2--That's not my uterus. That's an HSG image I found on the internet.

Author's second note--My husband loves me so much that he is willing to let you see him naked, too (Isn't that nice of him?!). I love him enough that I won't let you see him naked on this blog. You'll have to read the book for that.

Author's third note--I have one request if you are going to read these baby-making blogs: Please pray that God makes me to become pregnant with a perfect, healthy baby that I get to bring home. I know most of you are already doing that. Thank you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Deck the Halls

Last year we did not put up a Christmas tree. Skyler was really busy, and I was really pregnant. And--this is gonna be a shocker--we just weren't feeling all that festive. I know I've said this before, but I don't remember feeling sad or like I wouldn't want to celebrate. I mean, I had Gaby Baby alive and well right inside of me (Okay, I guess he wasn't well, but it seemed like he was.). Still, we were tired and overwhelmed, and we didn't put up a tree.

Look, this picture says December 19, 2009. I'm standing where we always put up the tree. A few days later, Skyler and I made Christmas ornaments for Gabriel. So, I put the three foot evergreen tree I keep in my dining room year-round up in the living room and hung the ornament on it. It was the only ornament on the tree.



This year, I really could have cared less about putting up a tree again. I don't want to feel that way, though. I don't want to continue a tradition of sadness and scroogness (I'm actually kind of a scrooge, anyway.  Christmas is not my favorite holiday.) I tell the Lord everyday that it has nothing to do with me not wanting to celebrate Jesus' birthday. It's just that I want Gaby and Tater Tot here with me. I want to take their pictures in red pajamas in front of the tree. I want to bake cookies with them and surprise them with gifts from Santa. 

Of course, it hasn't always been this way. Christmas used to be a romantic holiday at our house, with romantic dinners and romantic things to do. ;-) This year, we decided, will be that way again. So, after dragging our feet, we put up the tree. This will, afterall, be our last chance at a quiet, romantic holiday. Next year I will surely have someone in red pajamas, don't you think?
  



Saturday, December 4, 2010

Formatting My Manuscript

I feel like I need to crap or get off the pot with this book. I know, that's not a very sophisticated thing to say, but I feel like I've just been talking for months on end about this book I wrote and how I'm a writer and how one of these days I want to write full time, yet I haven't done anything to make any of that happen. It feels like I've been done with the book for a long time, though the truth is I only completed the first draft about eight weeks ago. It seems like I've been done with it for a long time because I thought I was done with it in August. I didn't know I was going to have to craft a new ending.

Based on all the research I've done, editors and agents are super picky about how you submit a manuscript. Everything has to be perfect so you appear to know what you are doing. Just looking nice won't cut it. There are specific guidelines that have to be followed so it is easy to read, but also so that you look like you are serious enough about writing to have investigated the rules.

To help me with this, I purchased Chuck Sambuchino's Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd Edition. It tells specifically where to put word count, title, name and address, how many times to space after typing the chapter titles, where (and where not) to put page numbers, and the thorn in my side--headers! I just got done spending about 2 1/2 hours putting headers on 5 pages of my manuscript. It has actually taken me days to figure out how to put a different header on each page. Word 2007 automatically puts the same header on every page. That is not going to work according to Sambuchino who says my book (a memoir which should be formatted as fiction even though it is actually nonfiction because memoirs read like novels) should have headers something like this:

First page: Title page with no header or page number
Second page: James/LETTERS I'LL NEVER SEND/Contents
Third page: James/LETTERS I'LL NEVER SEND/Dedication
Fourth page: James/LETTERS I'LL NEVER SEND/Epigraph
Fifth and all subsequent pages: Page #s - James/LETTERS I'LL NEVER SEND

I like to never figured all that out! Thankfully, I found a website (Yahoo Answers) that explained it:

"Wherever in the document you need a new Header or a new Footer insert a section break. In Word 2007, inserting a section break is located in the Page Layout tab. (You'd think it would be in the Insert tab, but it isn't...go figure.) So...
1) Left-click on Page Layout.
2) Left-click on Breaks in the group Page Setup and select "Section Break...Next Page"
3) In the new section, double left-click in the header to edit it.
NOTICE that the Ribbon has automatically switched to "Design"
4) In the group labeled "Navigation" left-click on "Link to Previous" to undo the link.
5) Edit the section header to your liking.
Done."

Now, even after reading this, I still had trouble. I had the headers for pages 1, 3, and 4 correct, but page 2 kept changing to what page 4 said. I wanted to pull my hair out! Luckily, I have my manuscript saved in a few different places on my computer and flash drive, so I went to a copy that I hadn't tried to insert headers in yet and started all over. Finally, I got it all straightened out.

Monday I get to conference with a really, really, really smart lady (yeah, I know she's reading this) who has read my book. Hopefully she will help me see what I can do better. Then, I'm thinking about submitting the entire manuscript to Eaton Literary Agency. They don't want query letters. They want entire manuscript submissions. That sounds pretty good to me. Let's cut to the chase and read the book rather than seeing if I can tempt them to read it with a one page letter that tells the story in one paragraph. Plus, if they accept my manuscript, it will be entered into a $3,000 Literary Awards Program, and they will work with me to improve my manuscript.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving? . . . Oh, wait. I mean Happy Thanksgiving!

I gave that title because of this post that says from now on I will say I'm "great." Well, I'm sorry, but on this Thanksgiving, I wasn't great. I didn't try very hard to be, either. I'm sure you all expect more from me.

Two years ago on Thanksgiving I got really upset and ran out of the room crying after a day of watching everyone in my family have their children with them - everyone but me. I didn't have any children then, but I wanted some - had wanted some for a long time. I also had just come off my first attempt (a failed attempt) at an infertility treatment. I remember how I felt. I felt hopeless.

One year ago on Thankgiving I was 23 weeks pregnant with Gabriel. We had known for about five weeks that he had triploidy syndrome and would die. I don't remember being sad, though. Skyler would say that I wasn't doing all that well, but I just don't remember that. I think it's because, from my perspective now, it sounds so wonderful to be pregnant with him - alive and so close to me. I remember what I thought. I thought I didn't know if he would still be alive at Christmas. I do remember how that felt. It felt scary.

This year on Thanksgiving I should have been 22 weeks pregnant with Tater Tot. Instead, I'm 11 weeks not pregnant with her. Nobody noticed, though. Nobody noticed that Tater Tot wasn't there. Only me. Nobody remembered that Gaby would have been 8 months old at his first Thanksgiving if he was healthy and born on his due date and I got to keep him. No one else was thinking about what it would be like to have him there or what his hair would be like or how captivating his eyes would be. Only me.

My sister-in-law asked me to say the prayer. I wanted to say no because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle it, but I don't believe in saying no to praying, so I went ahead. It didn't last very long. I began by thanking God for our family and the food and . . . that's where I got choked up. I wanted to say, "Thank you for Gabriel and Tater Tot" because Skyler and I always say that when we pray. I couldn't, though, because then my family would think I was crazy. So, to keep from looking crazy, I ran out of the room crying. Yeah, that worked!

Later, my niece-in-law brought in her newborn puppy that was about to die. She wanted to save it, but it was too late. He was cold, and he was gasping for air. I couldn't take it. The tiny puppy was just like my Gabriel - cold and gasping for air.  Once again, I fled from the room in tears. I don't know why I did that. I never think of Gabriel that way, never let my mind consider that dying was hard for him. The sick puppy made me think of my baby, though. I just wanted it to hurry up and die so it wouldn't hurt anymore. I wanted to tell her to just let it go, not to prolong its suffering.

This pic is where my mind went - my precious, helpless baby, gasping for air.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mrs. Skinny's Delectable Holiday Ham

We got a few catering orders for Thanksgiving. I ended up doing all the work. How do I keep falling into that trap? Thus, I was too tired (you know, from spending two whole evenings prepping and cooking after coming home from that silly little full-time teaching job that I have) to remember to take pictures to post on this blog. So, instead, I'll give you a recipe. Actually, it's more of a method:

Mrs. Skinny's Delectable Holiday Ham
Half or Whole bone-in ham
brown sugar
cinnamon
nutmeg
cloves
ginger
pineapple rings
pineapple juice
honey
*Allspice can be substituted for nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.

Set ham in large pan. I usually use a large foil pan, doubled to support the weight of the ham. Make a rub for the ham with the brown sugar and spices. I just eyeball everything. I'm guessing about 3 cups of brown sugar, 2 TBSP of cinnamon, and 1 1/2 tsp allspice or 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Rub the ham generously with the mixture, leaving a thick layer of spiced brown sugar on the ham. Cover the ham with pineapple slices secured with toothpicks. Then, pour a mixture of pineapple juice and honey over the ham (gently so as not to wash off all the brown sugar rub). Cover the ham loosely with foil and smoke for about 6 hours at 325 degrees, basting every hour.

After slicing, pour some of the juices back over the ham and sprinkle generously with more of the spiced brown sugar rub. Place fresh pineapple slices on top. Oh, man. It's the best ham ever!

Like I told you in this post, I don't expect you to actually try to make your own ham. Just call or email me, and I'll fix you one for Christmas. I know you'll love it!

BTW: I originally posted the recipe for Mrs. Skinny's Sweet BBQ Sauce, but Phat Skinny saw that and vetoed it. So, you got ham instead.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Hi. How are you?"

The other day, I had a conversation with my husband about my feelings when people routinely ask, "Hi. How are you?" That's silly, I know. Still, it always makes me pause. I work with a lot of people every day. So, naturally, I'm asked several times a day in passing, "Hi. How are you doing?" I know it's just out of courtesy, and nobody is actually asking in hopes of starting a lengthy conversation about my deepest, darkest, innermost feelings. It always makes me stop and think for a second, though. Am I supposed to say I'm fine and keep walking, or are they asking because they really want to know how I'm doing in light of my recent tragedies?

I used to respond to, "Hi. How are you?" with, "I'm fabulous!" and flash a big smile. That wasn't all that long ago. Now, of course I'm not going to say I'm fabulous. I can't really say I'm great. It feels like a lie to say I'm good. So, I've down-graded to "I'm fine. How are you?" giving a slight smile and walking on. I hate that, though. It's so boring. I feel like it's not true to myself - more like, not true to who I used to be, who I want to be.

Still, I get tired of saying I'm something I'm not. I've been doing that for a long time now. It wears me out. I'm not good or great or fabulous. I'm not fine. I'm sad. I'm tired of being sad. I'm tired of being afraid that I'm always going to be sad. I'm tired of crying all the time.

I can't say all those things, though. So, what should I say?

The day after I had this conversation with my husband, I ironically ran across an article in Woman's World (November 22, 2010) magazine titled Follow the 'Pura Vida' Secret to Happiness. It was about how a recent in-depth poll named Costa Rica the happiest country on the planet. According to the article, what is happiness secret #1? "Saying 'pura vida!'" --


"When someone asks how you're doing, you probably say "fine" or "busy." But ask a Costa Rican, and odds are she'll respond "pura vida," which translates as "pure life" but has many meanings, including "no worries," "full of life" or "going great." And by repeating that cheery phrase, everyone subconsciously reminds one another to stay focused on the positive!"

"Live pura vida yourself: Next time someone asks how you are, reply "great!" or "couldn't be better!" The brain's language and happiness centers are closely linked, says Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D., author of The Owner's Manual for the Brain. 'So positive words help keep you happy.'"


Okay. I'm gonna give it a try. No more being "just fine." From now on, I'm great, and before you know it, I just might be fabulous again, too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Midwest Writers Guild of Evansville, IN

Last night I went to my first meeting of the Midwest Writers Guild of Evansville, IN.  They meet on the second Tuesday of each month at Barnes & Noble.  I got to meet actual published authors!  How exciting is that?  I got to tell a group of serious writers about myself, my book, and about my aspirations to become published.  How cool is that?  I also entered a 1000 word short story in their holiday themed fiction writing contest. 

It's time for me to get serious about seeking representation for my memoir.  This requires finding the right agents and sending each of them a query letter.  A query letter is basically a sales pitch and a request for them to read my manuscript.  They may request a nonfiction book proposal and/or sample chapters, as well.  Oh, I hope they do!  The tricky part, I think, is that each of these query letters needs to be specific to the agent.  I need to research the agent and the authors he/she represents and tell the agent why I think my book is a good match for him/her.  Agents do not want cookie cutter query letters.

Below is the first draft of my query letter (minus individualization for different agents).  I have done a lot of research on query letters, but I liked what Cec Murphy had to say about it the most.  Cec Murphy is a New York Times bestselling Christian writer.  He says to follow this format:  1st paragraph elevator pitch; 2nd paragraph bio; 3rd paragraph "May I send you my completed manuscript?" 



Dear Agent:

As a woman who spent four years battling infertility only to become pregnant with a child who would die in her arms just two hours after his birth and then suffer an unexpected and devastating miscarriage the same year, I know all too well the challenges and heartache that grieving mothers face. My proposed title, LETTERS I’LL NEVER SEND: MY JOURNEY TO OVERCOME INFERTILITY . . . AND THEN, EARLY INFANT LOSS, reveals the pain and eventual acceptance my husband and I experienced as we overcame both male and female factor infertility. I then tell the true story of being pregnant with a child that medical tests revealed could not live outside the womb due to a chromosome abnormality that was “incompatible with life.” The story is intertwined with letters to my infant son that offer a very intimate look at a mother’s grief and continuing love for her special baby both while he is in the womb and following his birth and death. Scriptures are added to emphasize my continued faith in God as I relied on Him to carry me through my most difficult times.

I am a writing teacher with a master’s degree in literacy, so I know how to write skillfully and with a strong voice. A 1900 word excerpt from my memoir titled Our Final Hours was awarded 21st place in the memoirs/personal essay category of the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. In addition, I am the author of the increasingly popular blog Mrs. Skinny’s BBQ, Books, and Babies. I invite you to view it at http://bnjames.blogspot.com/ and to check me out on Facebook.

I think my 62,000 word memoir would make a great addition to the Christian Inspiration section of bookstores and possibly retail outlets. May I send you my proposal or my completed manuscript?

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Bonnie James

 
What do you think?  Does this make you want to read more?  Did I hook you with the first sentence, or do you think I can do better?  Should I keep the part about my education in there?  I can't decide.  I am only considering it because it emphasizes that I am a serious writer, not just a first-timer or a one-hit-wonder.  I do want to add statistical information about the number of miscarriages and early infant deaths in the U.S. each year to show that I know the market for the book.  I need to do more research.
 
Agent Kristin says a memoir should be, "A world that is unbelievable but true. A world that is unique but resonates with us. A story that captures a universal feeling and the reader senses the connection.  That’s what makes the memoir powerful. And if a writer doesn’t understand the difference of what I’m trying to explain here, he/she will probably never have a memoir published.  And whether the writer understands this or not is usually very obvious and clear in the query letters we receive."  What do you think she would think after reading my query?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

From the Mind of a Child

Tonight, just after I pulled into the driveway of church connection group at my friend's house, five year old Peyton peaks into the back seat and asks, "Mrs. Bon Bon, where is Baby Gaby's car seat?" 

After taking a moment to catch my breath, I crouch down and answer, "Sweetie, don't you remember, Gaby Baby is an angel in Heaven now."

She bites her lip and looks embarrassed.  The expression on her face says, "Oh, shux, I forgot!"

"If I got to keep him, I would need a car seat, though, wouldn't I?" I reassured her that it wasn't a foolish question.

When I went inside, her mother told me that Peyton couldn't stop talking about Gabriel while getting ready for church this morning.  I already knew that little Peyton prayed for Gabriel everyday.  His picture hangs on their bathroom mirror as a daily reminder.  This morning, though, she asked questions like, "Why did God want Gabriel to be an angel?  Why not me?"

Later, as I was leaving, Peyton reached out to hug me and said, "I can't wait 'til Tater Tot gets here."  At those words, I knew I needed to sit down and clear things up with her, if that was even possible. 

I tried to be clear about explaining to her that both Gabriel and Tater Tot are dead.  I usually don't say "dead" when I'm talking about my babies, but this conversation required me to be blunt.  I told her that Gabriel was my real live baby that I gave birth to, that he came out of my "private girl area" where babies come out.  I had him, and then he died. 

"But why did he die?" she wanted to know.  I could tell she has been trying to wrap her mind around this as long as I have.

"He was sick," I told her.  "You know how you have a brain inside your head that makes you smart?"  She nodded that she understood.  "Well, Gabriel didn't have that.  His organs inside his body didn't work right, so he died."

"How old was he when he died?" she asked.

"He was newborn, just two hours old.  Two hours is how long we are at church in the morning.  It's how long I've been here tonight.  That's not very long, is it?"  She shook her head.

"Well, I can't wait for Tater Tot to come out of you," she says again. 

"No, honey," I say.  "Tater Tot died, too.  She was only this big (I made a circle with my thumb and index finger to illustrate my point).  I didn't get to hold her or put clothes on her like I did with Gabriel."

"Well," she thinks about it.  "We know what Gabriel looks like, but we don't know what Tater Tot looks like."

"That's right.  Now, do you understand?" I ask her.

"Yes, Tater Tot is still inside you," she tells me.

"No, no, no.  Tater Tot is not inside of me.  I don't have any babies inside of me anymore.  Do you understand where Gabriel and Tater Tot are?"

"In Heaven," she says, but I can tell she isn't sure.

"Now, I might have a different baby in my belly one of these days, but it won't be Gabriel or Tater Tot," I tell her, still trying to clear up her confusion.

"Maybe that baby won't die," she says hesitantly, as if it's too much to hope for.

"We're going to pray real hard, aren't we?" I say, so sad for this conversation that a five year old should never have to be a part of.

"Then you'll have three babies," she realizes, "but you'll only have to take care of one of them.  That will be easy!"  Peyton is the middle child of three girls, so she knows what she's talking about on this.
As hard as it is for adults to understand that babies can die, children cannot comprehend it at all.  It doesn't follow the natural order of things.  People die when they are old.  Babies can't die, can they?  Should they?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to REGISTER as a Follower of this Blog

Thank you so much to those of you who have already registered as a follower (and are leaving comments!) and to those of you who I know are viewing but haven't registered yet. I want to get as many people registered as possible because I am trying to use this blog to build a platform for getting my book published. A platform is a following of interested people that would give an agent or a publisher a reason to think, "Hmmm.....A lot of people are interested in what this woman has to say." 

I have 95 followers so far.  How happy would I be to see 100 followers?!


To register: click on "Follow with Google Friend Connect" to the right of this post. It is just above the tiny pictures of the followers of this blog. If you have an account with Google, Twitter or Yahoo, you can use your username and password for those accounts to register. If not, click on "Create a New Google Account." You will need your username and password to leave comments. You don't have to login just to view/read the blog, though.



Thanks a lot! Seeing new followers puts a smile on my face every time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

There Needs to Be a New Rule About This

Skyler and I talked to the fertility doctor Thursday about the blood test.  I have "antiphospholipid syndrome," which is basically that my body goes into attack mode when anything new jumps on board, even my precious baby.  I likely developed the antibodies while I was pregnant with Gabriel. 

That doesn't make any sense, does it?  Is my intuition wrong?  Do I just dream up things in my head?  While I was pregnant with Gabriel, I was worried that he would be my last pregnancy - that I wouldn't be able to to have another baby after him.  Then, when he was born, I "just knew" that a brother or sister would be his gift to me.  All the while, my body was preparing itself to put an end to that next pregnancy, should it come to fruition.

I asked the doctor why I wasn't tested for this before my second pregnancy.  "We wouldn't test for something like that until after a miscarriage occurs," was his unacceptable answer.  A similar situation happened to a woman on this video.  I let it go because at that point, it wasn't going to help Tater Tot.  Telling him what I think wouldn't bring her back, but I wanted to tell him to do things differently.  There needs to be a new rule about this, a new protocol:  When a woman whose baby just died comes in to get pregnant again, for God's sakes, do everything in your power to keep that from happening again because she can't take it anymore!  Give her the blood test.  She won't mind if you wasted her time, but she will be forever grateful to you when she is holding her baby in her arms.

There is a treatment for this, and I am thankful to the women who have come forward to let me know that it worked for them - that even after repeated pregnancy loss, they now have healthy children.  I'm going to give myself two shots of Heparin (a blood thinner) twice a day throughout the duration of my next pregnancy along with a daily dose of "baby" aspirin.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Snuffed Out



Last week I had a blood test to determine if the presence of antibodies caused Tater Tot's demise.  Both my OB and fertility doctor went immediately to the possibility of antibodies when they learned I had miscarried my baby.  I was surprised to get a phone call from the nurse today reporting that these antibodies were found in my blood.  This means my body treated my baby like a foreign body.  My perfect, happy little baby was just snuffed out by me, her own mother - the one who loves her the most.  I just can't wrap my mind around it.  What I really can't understand is why, if a simple blood test can keep a woman from having a miscarriage, wasn't this test done before I got pregnant, especially considering the loss I had just endured?  I am so mad at my doctor right now I can't even see straight. 

I lost Tater Tot 6 1/2 weeks ago, but this news hit me hard today, like it's happening all over again.  I did this to her.  I told you I did.  Maybe not the way I thought, with stress or crying or fighting, but it doesn't matter.  My perfect daughter slipped away from me over something that could have been prevented so easily.  How could this happen to me? 

I was supposed to be 18 week pregnant right now.  This is the week we were supposed to find out she was a girl.  What would it be like right now if these were tears of joy?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Top 100! 79th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition

In May, I entered a 2000 word excerpt from my book in the Memoirs/Personal Essay category of the 79th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. A few days ago, I received this email:

Dear Bonnie N. James,

One of my most enjoyable tasks as editor of Writer’s Digest is passing along good news to writers. This is one of those fun occasions. It is my pleasure to tell you that your entry, Our Final Hours, has been awarded 21st place in Memoirs/Personal Essay category of the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. You will receive your Certificate of Achievement which honors your accomplishment in the near future. Finishing among the top 100 entries is an accomplishment you can be proud of.  Your success in the face of such formidable competition speaks highly of your writing talent, and should be a source of great pride as you continue in your writing career.

All 1,001 winners will be listed at www.writersdigest.com after the December issue is published. The Grand Prize manuscript, the First Place manuscript in each category, and the names of the top 100 winners in each category will be printed in a special competition collection. If you would like to order copies of the Competition Collection, please use the order form which will be included in the envelope with your certificate. The Competition Collections are scheduled to begin mailing in December.

I congratulate you again on your accomplishment, and wish you the best of luck in your future writing.

Respectfully,
Jessica Strawser, Editor
Writer’s Digest


Is that awesome, or what? I just couldn't believe it. My name is going to appear in Writer's Digest! To make it even sweeter, Our Final Hours is one of my letters to Gabriel.

The contest has 10 categories. I don't know how many entries were in this year's competition, but I know there were 13,000 entries last year. So, 21st place in my category means I was 210th out of probably 10,000-15,000 people. That is top 1 to 2%! Hopefully this acheivement will increase my chances of getting my manuscript published. 

To increase my chances even more, I got myself a little congratulatory gift . . .

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tater Tot's Funeral


All the other mommies were crying.  They’re not used to this like I am, I thought.  I imagined what each of their stories might be.  One woman looked to be a few years younger than me.  She cried the whole time while her husband embraced her and comforted her.  I watched her.  I bet this was her first baby.  Maybe she was already into her second trimester.  She thought everything was perfect, and then she found out her baby was an angel and he flew away. 
Of course, you know if you read this post that I didn’t cry.  I am a self-proclaimed non-crier at funerals.  Once during the service, I felt my eye start to water just a little, and I was afraid to wipe it with my finger because my husband may give me a sympathetic look and think I need to be comforted.  I’m not making this up.  This is how my mind really works. 
This was a common burial provided free by The Women’s Hospital to families of babies born before 20 weeks.  Families are required by law to bury infants born after 20 weeks.  Before 20 weeks, you have a choice:  hospital incinerator or the common burial provided by the hospital.  Well, when you put it like that . . .
The casket was full of tiny boxes with tiny miscarried babies inside.  Some of the babies were as young as six weeks gestation, no bigger than a whisper, or as old as 20 weeks gestation and six or seven inches long.  Only the memory of Tater Tot filled the tiny box with our names on it – her memory and my letters to her. 

Later, Skyler and I attended the 8th Annual Walk to Remember at The Women's Hospital in Newburgh, IN.  October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  We walked to remember Gabriel Nicolas and Tater Tot – our little angels. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

46XX


Tater Tot’s test results finally came back:  46XX – a perfect little girl.  

What’s harder to hear?  That my baby died because of chromosome abnormalities – again, or, “Whew!  She was perfect.  It was just a fluke.”  Right now, I can’t answer that question.

Of course, I’m glad to hear that I didn’t produce a child with a chromosome abnormality – that my future in reproduction is still looking bright, but my heart aches to know that a precious, perfect girl just slipped out of my grasp.  

I know this was our fault.  We were under too much stress during her short life, and we knew that when we chose to get pregnant when we did.  We just thought, “Nine months is a long time.  Things will be better then.”  They would have, too, but now she’s gone.  I never imagined that stress or crying or fighting could take her from me.  Lord knows I was under stress during my pregnancy with Gabriel, both from life and from carrying a child that was going to die, but come Hell or high water, my body just wouldn’t let him go.  Why did it give up so easily this time?

My loyal readers don’t know the real Mrs. Skinny.  All you ever read is how I praise Him and thank Him for the miracles in my life.  I do, but my internal struggle with God goes something like this:

1st Pregnancy:
Bonnie:  I really, really want a girl, but I’ll be happy with whoever you give me.  (Cut to Bonnie fantasizing about having a girl and feeling deflated at the prospect of having a boy.)
God:  You didn’t want a boy.  Okay, he’s gone.  Poof!

2nd Pregnancy:
Bonnie:  Lord, I really will be happy with whoever you give me as long as it’s healthy.  (Cut to Bonnie fantasizing about having a boy and fearing that a girl could never heal her heart or make her arms feel good again.)
God:  You didn’t want a girl.  Okay.  Poof!  She’s gone, but she is healthy!

Bonnie:  Please, God.  Please, God.  Please!  Please make me pregnant with a healthy baby with 46 chromosomes and a healthy body with perfect organs and a whole entire beautiful brain that I get to keep and bring home.  Please, God.  Please!  And You can just surprise me on the sex of the baby.
God: 

Is that what He is really saying?  Is that how He really is?  What do you think? 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Letter to My Son - One Year Ago, 10-05-2009

You can read the grown-up version of this story here .
Below is how I told it to my child one year ago today:

October 5, 2009

Dear Gabriel,

Even though Mommy knew we were fine, Daddy insisted on heading to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound. I know he just wanted to find out if you are a boy or a girl. Plus, we love to see you kicking and dancing inside Mommy’s tummy.

Because of your position, the technician had a hard time determining your gender. After a long time, she told us she thinks you might be a girl. Mommy and Daddy were very excited for about 20 seconds. Then, the technician quickly went to speak with the doctor about something she saw on you.

We were so scared and confused. I don’t ever want anything to happen to you. The doctor told us she thinks you might have angel wings. Mommy didn’t know what to do or think or feel. If you have angel wings, it means you won’t be able to stay with us. You’ll have to go do God’s important work. I know God has to make some babies angels, but I wasn’t expecting you to be one of them.

We had to go visit another doctor who knows more about angel babies. She took a closer look at you. She’s pretty sure she saw angel wings on you, too. She needs us to come back next week to take the angel test.

Mommy and Daddy feel so sad tonight. I never imagined you would be an angel baby. We thought you would stay with us so we could hug and kiss you every day. We thought we would spoil you with lots of cute baby things and lots of toys. We thought we would watch you grow up, but now it looks like you are going to fly away before we can do any of that.

Love,
Mommy

***Pic #1 was taken at my regular OB's office on 10/5/09. At 16 weeks, he only weighs a few ounces. Adorable, though, isn't he? You can see that he is kicking, playing, and having fun. Do you see the black, crescent shaped area on his head? That's fluid. If you get a chance, look at a healthy baby's ultrasound picture. It's head should look gray. One of these day's, I'll post one of those on here for you to see. ;)

***Pic #2 is a 3D picture taken at the high risk OB's office on 10/5/09. Incredible, isn't it? He is about 10 cm long and fully formed. He looks just perfect.

Monday, October 4, 2010

How to REGISTER as a Follower of this Blog

Thank you so much to those of you who have already registered as a follower (and are leaving comments!) and to those of you who I know are viewing but haven't registered yet. I want to get as many people registered as possible because I am trying to use this blog to build a platform for getting my book published. A platform is a following of interested people that would give an agent or a publisher a reason to think, "Hmmm.....A lot of people are interested in what this woman has to say. I should represent her because I think her book will sell a lot of copies."

If not for me, do it for Gabriel Nicolas and Tater Tot. They went through a lot to show you all about God's merciful and never ending love. They have much more to say and more people to reach than this blog ever will. So...they need you to register!

To register: click on "Follow with Google Friend Connect" to the right of this post. It is just above the tiny pictures of the followers of this blog. If you have an account with Google, Twitter or Yahoo, you can use your username and password for those accounts to register. If not, click on "Create a New Google Account." You will need your username and password to leave comments. You don't have to login just to view/read the blog, though.

Thanks a lot! Seeing new followers puts a smile on my face every time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Will Praise You In This Storm




A lot of people have expressed to me their fears that I may become angry with God if I have not already done so. Several mommies have told me about how they turned their backs on God after their tiny babies went night-night. I'm not mad at God. God didn't want my babies to go to sleep. He knew that was going to hurt us very badly. He knew because He had to watch his son die, too.

Yes, God knew what was going to happen to my babies. He has always known, even before he knit them together in my womb. It is easy to wonder, "If He knew, why didn't he do anything about it?" I don't know, but like I told Gabriel, God has to make some babies angels. I just didn't know it was going to be my babies.

So, I will praise Him in this storm. How can I not praise Him for my children? Do I hurt more now than I did before I had either of them? NO. Not having them, not knowing if I ever would have them, was way worse. It was hopeless. Would I hurt less if I would have never gotten pregnant with Tater Tot in the first place? NO. Tater Tot spent the six months prior to his/her conception giving me a reason to live and his/her 11 weeks in my womb making my heart beat again.

Thank you, God, for sending Gabriel Nicolas to me, for he made me a mommy.
Thank you, God, for sending Tater Tot to me, for she healed my broken heart.
Thank you, God, for sending my next baby to me . . . healthy, for he will give rest to my outstretched arms.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Damsel in Distress





Yesterday, Phat Skinny’s BBQ catered a wedding, or more accurately, Mrs. Skinny catered a wedding. Phat Skinny had to work, so I had to do everything by myself. I was stressin’.

I prepped the pork at 5:30 AM before work on Thursday (three days ago) thinking that Skyler would put it on the smoker since it was his day off. Of course, I never told him I wanted him to do that, nor did he ever say he would. You’d think I’d just met the guy or something, considering that this scenario sounds nothing like anything he’d ever do, and he has never been one to complete honey-do lists.

The pork did get smoked and pulled on Friday by Skyler’s brother while we were both at work. I chose not to mess with any of the food preparations on Friday night because I wanted to have the night off to relax. Plus, we lack the refrigerator space necessary to store large quantities of prepped food. Thus, I was up early Saturday morning making the final preparations.

On Saturday, I lit the smoker (okay, I made Skyler’s brother get up to do it), prepped and smoked the barbeque beans and reheated the pulled pork on the smoker. I sliced onions and got the pickles and bread ready to go. I also had to clean out the car in order to make this delivery because Skyler put wood in the trunk the weekend of the Fall Fun Fest, and it was a mess.

While the food was on the smoker, I went to town to run a few errands (the bank, the car wash, etc.). On my way back home, I was surprised to look at the clock and see that it was already 1:00 PM! The food was still on the smoker, the pork was not yet sauced, and I was expected to have it in Newburgh, IN, a 30 minute drive, by 2:30 PM. I knew I wasn’t going to make it, especially since Skyler insisted that I stop and pick up chafing dishes and sternos to keep the food warm.

I backed the car up to the smoker, popped the trunk, and brought the scale outside to weigh out the correct amount of beans and pork that we had promised. I added the final ingredients to the smoked beans, weighed and wrapped them, and placed them in the trunk. I then got out the barbeque sauce, stirred it into the meat, weighed and wrapped it, and set it into the trunk, as well. After loading the car with the bread, pickles, onions, potato salad, and macaroni salad, I just had one more thing to do before I was off – find out how to get there!

I finally took off at 1:45 PM (yeah, I said it takes 30 minutes to get there AND I had to make a stop, too). I called Skyler at work, in tears, telling him that I wasn’t going to make it in time if I had to go pick up the extra equipment. He called Gordon Food Services and asked them to have my order ready for pick-up. (I wanted him to say, “Just don’t worry about getting it,” but I knew he wouldn’t.)

The MOG (mother-of-the-groom) asked me to have the food there at 2:30 PM. I pulled up at about 2:33 PM. There were about 30 guests already there, but thankfully the wedding party was not! Breathlessly, and with the help of a few guests who took pity on me, I set up 40 pounds of pulled pork, 27 pounds of beans, a gallon of pickles, a large tray of sliced red onions, 15 pounds of potato salad, 10 pounds of macaroni salad (the potato salad and macaroni salad were a donation from us because it was leftover from the Fall Fun Fest), 80 buns, and six loaves of rye bread.

It was a huge relief when it was done. I heard everyone loved it, and I walked away tired and with the [well-deserved] cash. ;)

Below, you’ll find something that I thought I’d never let anyone see: my secret bean recipe. Now, if you live in the Tri-state, I don’t expect you to actually use this. Just call us or shoot me an e-mail, and we’ll cater your event for you so you can have your beans made by Mrs. Skinny herself!

MRS. SKINNY’S UNBEATABLE BBQ BEANS
2 cans (6 lb institutional size) Show Boat Pork N Beans (well drained)
2 cups of sweet BBQ sauce
4 cups brown sugar
5 TBSP + 1 tsp yellow mustard
½ cup pancake syrup
1 cup finely minced onion
3 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp black pepper

***Smoke on a wood smoker (not too close to the fire) with no lid/cover in a doubled foil pan (two together) or in a shallow cast iron pan for 2 ½ hours at 325 degrees. Then stir together and add to the smoked beans:
¾ cup sweet BBQ sauce
½ cup pancake syrup
3 cups brown sugar
2 cups pulled pork/pork fat


*** Pic #1 - the beans getting prepped
*** Pic #2 - the beans with all the yummy ingredients added, ready for the smoker
*** Pics #3 and #4 - the beans, smoked and ready to be devoured - Oh, yeah!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dilation & Curettage

It’s a fancy name for something so brutal . . .

It felt like being called a liar, or more accurately – crazy. “You’re not having a baby,” I heard. In a moment, the image of last September’s blood flashed in my mind. I’ve been here. I know this feeling. I just want to grab someone and shake them and make them believe me – “I really am pregnant!”

“No. Your baby has been dead for weeks.”

How could I not know this? What kind of a mother am I? There was actually a moment in time when my child’s heart stopped beating, and I was too busy to notice. What could have been more important than my child’s heart?

Within just minutes of finding out my second child had died, I was asked to start making big decisions.

“When your first child died,” the doctor said, “it was like, ‘Okay. That’s just something that happened.’ Now, we’ve had another unexpected loss, so we need to get some answers.” She seemed to be saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

The only way to have a chance at finding out what caused Tater Tot’s demise was to do a D&C. Lab tests would be done on his/her remains. I wanted to keep my baby with me one more day, so I requested that the surgery be performed on Friday (this was Wednesday). You have to understand that, for me, holding a dead baby is better than holding no baby at all. I knew that once the surgery was over and my baby had been scraped out of me, he/she would be gone forever – just like Gaby was gone forever once I laid him in the ground. I have had dreams/nightmares about digging him back up and running away with him – far, far away so that no one could take him from me. I didn’t care that he was dead; I just wanted to hold him again. Thinking back to those dreams, I was in no hurry to hand over my baby.

I carried Tater Tot with me the next day and said my good-byes. Mostly, I told my sleeping baby that I was sorry. Before his/her conception, I thought there was no way that I could ever have it in me to take my child for granted after what happened with Gabriel, but I did. I let myself get upset. I let myself get so caught up in the woes of this world that, at times, I actually spent more time crying and worrying about life’s troubles than rejoicing over my miracle.


“I did this to you, my baby, and Mommy’s sorry, so sorry. I’m glad you get to go to Heaven and be with Gaby Baby, though. He loves you, and I know you two are gonna have so much fun.”


Skyler and I arrived at the hospital at 5:15 AM for the 7:15 AM surgery. Just to give me peace of mind, another ultrasound was performed. We saw our precious baby lying so still. We heard the silence inside my womb where his/her heartbeat should have been. At 11 weeks 2 days pregnant, our baby measured only eight weeks growth. How is that even possible? At Tater Tot’s eight week ultrasound, he/she looked completely perfect – perfect heartbeat, amazing movements, a tiny little spine forming. The baby’s yolk sac was visible at this ultrasound as a tiny little circle that appeared to be positioned above the baby.

“It looks like a tiny halo,” one nurse commented.

“It just proves the baby really is an angel,” the other nurse replied.

I wanted to set her straight. “My baby is NOT an angel!” I wanted to say. But, of course, I didn’t. She didn’t know any better. She didn’t know I already had an angel and didn’t want another one.

Just days later, Tater Tot flew away.

I cried as I lay down on the operating table. I remember the nurse laying warm blankets over me and drying my tears. I remember her prepping both my arms with IVs. I remember the anesthesiologist saying, “I’ve just put some medicine into your IVs.” I remember . . .

Waking up. Crying. Realizing what just happened. Crying and begging the nurses to get Dr. Leinenbach. “Where is she? I need her!” I cried. I remember that I thought I had something important to tell her, but I know what I wanted to tell her because I couldn’t quit telling the nurses. “I miss my babies. I miss them, and I want them back!”


I begged God for my children. I know God made them for me. I love them very much, and I am very thankful for them. But, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to feel? I laid my newborn son in the ground eight months ago, and now I just had my second baby scraped out of me.

Dear Lord, what do you have for me now?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Can I Hold Your Baby?


That was the theme of the 2010 Fairfield Fall Fun Fest – at least for me, anyway. Ever since I found out Gabriel was going to pass away, I have longed to hold a baby in my arms, especially a baby boy. Whenever I see a woman holding a baby I always ask her (in my mind), “Can I hold your baby?” I never really ask, though. Who wants to let a crazy woman hold her baby and pretend he/she is her own? I just stare at them jealously and then go home and cry my eyes out to Gabriel in one of my many never-to-be-sent letters to him.

I told Gabriel in one of my letters:


“They think seeing a baby or holding a baby will cause me pain or worsen my pain, that avoiding babies will keep me from hurting as much, but they don’t realize the longing that I have - how unnatural it is to have empty arms after having a full womb.

I thought about why I would like to hold a baby boy even though I would be trading just moments of relief only to relinquish it for the aching in my heart that would surely double after just a taste of what I’m missing:

It’s like I’m suffocating, and if another mommy would just let me hold her baby boy it would be like letting me breathe her air.

It’s like I’ve had outstretched arms waiting for you to fall into them, but you don’t, and if another mommy would just let me hold her baby boy, it would be like offering respite to my quivering arms.

It’s like when your heart stopped beating, Gabriel, my heart stopped beating, too, and if another mommy would just let me hold her baby boy, it would be like lending me her heartbeat.”


So, this weekend I didn't hold back. I took full advantage of every mommy's sorry heart for me and asked to “borrow” their babies for just a few minutes. They gladly obliged. I wish I would have known it was that easy six months ago.

I held all these babies in between sprints of making a few hundred BBQ Nachos at a time. Fairfield is addicted to them . . . tortilla chips, pulled pork, nacho cheese, pickles, red onions, black olives, jalepenos, and sour cream. Oh, my gosh. It is sooooo good. We also sold pulled pork sandwiches, baby back ribs (they sold out quick!) and, of course, Mrs. Skinny's Lemon Shake-Ups. We were so busy, and now we are so tired.


***A pic of all our Fall Fun Fest cash!!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bees and Babies

Today is day two of the 2010 Fairfield Fall Fun Fest. This is Phat Skinny's BBQ's third year at the FFF as I like to call it. This year's festival was full of two things that left Mrs. Skinny dangling on the edge of an emotional breakdown:

BEES

There were bees everywhere! Mrs. Skinny's Lemon Shake-ups (apparently a.k.a. Nector of the Gods by the Queen Bee) was a serious attraction for the flying pests. All day we battled the creatures in vain. We used a battery operated bug zapper/badminton racket to turn many of them into crispy critters. I sprayed them with bleach (I actually felt bad about this, though.). We swatted them with a spatula (It always attracts customers when they see you swatting at insects with your cooking utensils.). There was no way to discourage the thirsty, sugar-sucking monsters. I just wanted to scream at them and throw a tantrum and cry and beg them to leave us alone!

BABIES

Wouldn't you know it? The Fall Fun Fest was full of babies. I don't just mean babies in strollers. I mean babies in bellies. I'm pretty sure almost every woman between the ages of 30-35 was expecting. Well, okay, maybe it just felt that way to me, but there was most definitely an ironically high number of pregnant bellies - beautiful, precious, pregnant bellies.

ASKING WHY

I have told many people that I learned from my experience with Gabriel not to ask why - not to ask why bad things happen to good people, not to ask, "Why me?" But tonight I'm really tired, and I don't have the strength or self-control to prevent myself from asking such a dangerous, self-destructive question. So, I'll take the bait that has been dangling in front of me all day.......WHY??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why can't I be one of the pregnant bellies?

Why can't I be a part of the joyous conversations about due dates, gender, morning sickness, baby showers, and the excitement of an upcoming miracle?

Why do I have to work my butt off selling barbeque nachos and standing on my feet all day long when I should be sitting up on a pedestal right now because I am way too busy with the most important job in the world?

Why can't people look at me and ache to have something that I have instead of just gazing at me with pity in their eyes.

Why?! Why?! Why?! Why?! Why can't I just have my baby back?!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Carrying an Angel . . . Again?



After viewing out sweet little baby at our eight week ultrasound, it seemed like nothing could touch us. I even posted on Facebook, “Look at our HEALTHY baby.” Presumptuous? Maybe. I know from experience that a good looking eight week ultrasound with a perfect heart beat is no indication of whether or not you'll bring that baby home.

We named our little one Tater Tot after hearing a character on General Hospital (our favorite show) refer to baby Josslyn Jax as “Carly and Jax's little tater tot.” I am really glad that we gave our baby this special name. It helped me make a distinction between the new baby and Gabriel, as we never referred to Gabriel as our tater tot. It was hard for me to separate the two, partly because I told myself I couldn't make the distinction, and partly because Gabriel was inside of me such a short time ago that I felt like he was right back with me. There were a few times when I even caught myself talking about Tater Tot in my mind, and I accidentally called him Gaby. That's okay, though, isn't it? Doesn't every mother mix up her kids' names?

We loved Tater Tot. We talked to Tater Tot. We set our hopes and dreams on Tater Tot. I told him/her every day that I couldn't wait to hold him and kiss him and nurse him. I was never going to let him/her go. I wouldn't have to. No one was going to come and get him and take him away from me and say I could never see him ever, ever again like they did with Gabriel.

This pregnancy was perfect, perfect that is until I just smiled a few too many times. I couldn't have been more excited to go to our 11 week ultrasound. We were going just for fun, just because the nurse practitioner said she would schedule an ultrasound if I wanted her to. “Okay!” I said.

We showed Judy, Gaby Baby's favorite sonographer, Tater Tot's eight week ultrasound photo that was taken at the fertility clinic and told her all about his/her dancing and arm waving. She wanted to see for herself, so she inserted the probe to do a vaginal scan because we weren't quite far enough along yet for a belly ultrasound. It took a few seconds to adjust the image on the screen, then it took a few more seconds to adjust the image so that we could really believe what we were seeing – Tater Tot just lying there, completely lifeless with no heartbeat, no dancing or arm waving. Judy hung her head sadly.

“No!” I jerked away from her and away from the probe that was telling the lie about my baby.

“Guys,” Judy shook her head. “There's no heartbeat.”

“Judy,” I protested. “I am fine! I am fine. There is nothing wrong with me.”

“I'm going to go get the doctor and have her come and look. Would that help?” she asked.

“I know what I see. I'm not stupid,” I retaliated again to a woman who couldn't be any nicer to us but was always in the unfortunate position of telling us the worst news of our lives.

When Dr. Leinenbach walked in the room, I began to try to convince her that I was fine, tried to get her on my side, as if that could change the unavoidable truth. Judy inserted the probe again for Dr. Leinenbach to see. The doctor asked me if I saw a difference from my last ultrasound. I could tell she thought I was going off the deep end. I told her I could see the problem was that there was no difference. My baby was the same size as he/she was three weeks ago but this time with no heartbeat and no movement. I couldn't help myself, though. I kept telling her that I was fine, that I really was pregnant. If my baby was dead, I would know about it.

I got dressed and went into her office. A year ago Skyler and I sat in her office and cried because she told us she suspected our baby had a lethal chromosomal anomaly - something that was “incompatible with life.” Today, we listened while she told us that we needed to find out if a chromosome defect was why this baby had already left us. The only way to do that was to perform a D&C (Dilation & Curettage.). This would allow her to get the baby's remains to pathology and hopefully find some answers. Besides, eventually I would start miscarrying on my own and likely require a D&C anyway.

“But this is Gaby's baby!” I buried my head in my hands and cried as the awful realization of the day hit me. My miracle is gone. Gabriel's brother or sister is gone. The little person that I have been desperate for for months is gone. My reason for not giving up is gone. My chance to have a part of Gaby Baby back in my arms is gone.

*** Top pic is Mommy and Tater Tot 10 weeks pregnant. Bottom pic is Tater Tot's 11 week ultrasound picture. "Night-night, Tater Tot."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

God Resurrects Dreams



During the difficult months following Gabriel's birth, there has been one thing that has kept me putting one foot in front of the other, besides my promise to him that I would – my hope for another pregnancy. When Gabe died, I had made peace with that in the weeks prior to his birth. I did not, however, have closure on the loss of the pregnancy. It was simply ripped away from me without any warning.

Despite my unbearable longing to have a full womb after it lay empty and aching for months, it wasn't easy to make the decision to seek another pregnancy. It wasn't easy, that is, until the day came when I was allowed to try again. Then, we just couldn't get there fast enough! I really didn't feel scared that anything would go wrong again, and I knew in my heart that I would conceive.

With my desire to become pregnant with one child (though my doctor liked to tease me that he knew I wanted twins), the doctor prescribed the exact same protocol that led to my pregnancy with Gabriel – an HSG to flush out my tubes and 125 IU daily of Follistim, which helped me produce two follicles during that cycle. I was completely shocked when the nurse scanned my ovaries this time and found that I produced three follicles! There was actually a chance, though very slight, that I could conceive triplets. There was a decent chance that I would conceive twins. There was little doubt that I would become pregnant with at least one baby.

The day of the procedure, the nurse gave me a lab slip for a blood pregnancy test dated July 20, 2010. I knew then that I would become pregnant. July 20, 2009 was the date on my lab slip for the blood pregnancy test that proved I was pregnant with Gabriel. By July 20, my period was already two days late. The test came back positive for pregnancy. Skyler and I celebrated by going to Garvin Park in Evansville where we celebrated Gabriel's conception one year ago. We were overflowing with hope and joy, something that was not coming easily to me in those days. We were also very anxious, for we knew what I was potentially carrying – or how much I was carrying I should say! It could be twins or triplets! What are we gonna do?

Skyler and I intended to keep this news a secret, at least until we had the opportunity to tell our families. We went to church that night, though, and we couldn't help ourselves. Our mouths practically burst open with the news of our miracle baby! We couldn’t help it. How do you hold in news that fabulous? Stuff like this just doesn’t come along often enough in life. Everyone was beyond excited to hear about this precious gift from God.

I was beyond excited. Ever since I said good-bye to Gabriel, I thought I might never make it to this point. It has been an uphill battle. I promised my son I wouldn't give up. So, when I grew tired and could no longer make the climb, I got down on my knees and crawled.

August 4, 2010 was our first ultrasound at six weeks gestation. I was worried sick that we were going to see more than one sac. I was really, really worried that we would see more than two sacs. The potential for three was lessening the blow for the possibility of twins. The probe was inserted, the screen came on, and we saw one beautiful amniotic sac and one very tiny fluttering heartbeat!

After our big lead up telling everybody that we had the potential of a triplet pregnancy, I suppose it was a bit of a let down for everyone to hear we were only having one baby – not for me, though. I knew we could handle one baby. I knew we could spoil one baby. I knew I would be able to nurse one baby and satisfy that intense craving that left me going crazy after Gabriel's birth. I also knew that, with one baby, I would never have to put him/her down. I was never going to let this baby go. I would be holding that child as much as I wanted. I would be kissing my baby as much as I wanted. I would be gazing at my baby with starry-eyed love as much as I wanted. Oh my gosh! I can't wait!

At eight weeks gestation, we had another ultrasound. We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw our tiny baby on the screen. Its heart was beating perfectly, and he/she was dancing! Gabriel wasn't able to dance at eight weeks, but we didn't know any better. This little tater tot was waving and kicking its arms and legs. It was unbelievable. Even the nurses were impressed. One of them said that all of this embryonic movement was an indication that the baby's neurological system was developing normally. Is there anything more wonderful than a perfectly formed neurological system? Not to me.

The future is looking brighter. I'm smiling and genuinely happy for the first time in a long time. Everyone says I'm glowing. The story of this child's miraculous conception gives listeners goosebumps every time. I cannot wait to grow with this baby and get to know him/her. I can't wait to feel the baby moving inside of me and to fall in love all over again. God is bringing everything back to me full circle. The pregnancy test was on the one year anniversary of Gaby's pregnancy test. The baby's due date is only one week after Gabriel's (March 30, 2011). My pregnancy time-line is the same. This last March, Skyler gave me a promise ring with an aquamarine – the March birthstone. It was a symbol that we would one day have what we thought we were going to have, and here I am carrying a child whose birthstone will be aquamarine. God loves me so much. This baby is a keeper.

***Pictured above is 6 week ultrasound and 8 week ultrasound***

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Saving Myself






My time since Gabriel's birth has been more difficult than I imagine anyone really knows. I'm very good at smiling through the pain, especially through the pain of death, but I don't know why. I've always been that way, at least since a few years ago when Death dealt its first excruciating blow. My mom died in 2005. I didn't shed a tear at her funeral. I smiled and wore a perfect face. In 2006, Death struck again. My dad died, but all that was seen from me was a sparkling smile and perfectly painted lips. So this year, as I laid my newborn son to rest, I stood at the front of the line beaming with pride, comforting the sobbing friends and family who came to pay their respects.

How could I manage that disposition? How did I carry my child in my womb knowing that any day I could wake up to find that he had fallen asleep? How did I put him in the ground just days after he was full of life inside of me? How did I continue living when my reason to live was gone?

Believe it or not, it wasn't that difficult when my baby was inside of me. I loved him too much to be sorry for who he was – or who he wasn't. I was so proud of him that I wanted him to hear me telling the world what a special boy I had. I wanted him to hear me thank God for him. There was no time to be angry with the Lord, as I only had a short time to teach my son about Jesus. Yes, I bawled and grieved for my baby's impending death – in secret. Mostly, though, my grief was secondary to letting my little boy know that everything would be alright. Everything would be just as it should be.

When you leave your house one day with a full belly and come back the next with a confused body and empty, aching arms, it isn't as easy to convince yourself to carry on for the sake of your child. Most days I told myself there was a chance he could still hear me where he was. There was a chance he was listening to how I talked about him. Maybe he was watching to see if I was right, if things were really okay, if Mommy was really okay.

Mommy wasn't okay. Mommy didn't want anything to do with anyone or anything. Mommy only wanted to be close to one person, but he was too far out of reach – so far out of reach that I thought about getting myself to him in the most unthinkable way, in a way that would never really land me in the same place as an angel. So, I did the only thing I could do to get close to my baby. I began to write letters to him.

At first, I wrote my letters in a notebook that I intended to be a keepsake. Rather than talk to my baby about my grief, I wanted to talk to him about his life. So, I started my letters telling him about the joy of his conception (in baby terms, of course). Then, I went on in my letters to tell Gabriel how very happy I was to be pregnant with him and how I looked forward to every moment of it. The time came in my letters, of course, to tell him what the doctors saw on his ultrasound – wings. I wouldn't get to keep him, afterall. I had to tell my little boy that he was going to Heaven soon. I had to let him know that Mommy was so okay with this that I would personally hand him over to Jesus when the time came.

Every night, writing these letters to my baby kept him close to me. It satisfied just an inkling of my longing for him. They kept me busy reliving his life, busy with a project that was all about him. Eventually I realized that I had more than a journal. Gabriel was giving me a special gift, making one of my lifelong dreams come true. I was well on my way to writing a book – a book about our incredible story of loving and mercifully letting go of Gabriel Nicolas.