Monday, December 27, 2010

No Such Romantic Christmas


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.

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.