Monday, June 19, 2017

no, I'm just fat

My body has been through a whole hell of lot these past few years. I've had weeks where I've gained 10 lbs and others where I've lost 15. 4 pregnancies in 3 years with lots of emotional highs and lows will do that to you. Sometimes I'd have an "I don't give a fuck" attitude, and I'd fill the void with ice cream and wine. Other times I was so depressed I could barely keep a bite of food down. Pregnancy loss does a number on your self esteem, especially when it comes to your body image.

I was raised to believe that my weight was equated to my worth. Like most women, I've struggled with body issues and self love. Society's unrealistic expectations of how a women's body should look hasn't helped, either. It's funny, women that I think are thin and beautiful still complain about their body. It's like we're all programmed to believe we are never enough.

Since having Faye, I've been working really hard to get back to feeling *good*. I want to feel like me again, and I want to have more energy to do all the things I want to do. Maybe I'll never be that skinny mom at the pool in her teeny tiny bikini, but I want to feel good in my own skin again. I want this hatred of my body and weight to go away.

I'm also the mother of a little girl now and she is going to see my relationship with my body. 

After 4 months of hard work, I've finally made it back to my pre-Faye weight. I still have a ways to go before I'm at my post-Grace weight, but I'm getting there. (And yes, sadly that is how I gauge my weight now.)

We went out to dinner with some friends on Saturday and I finally fit into a dress I wore on our honeymoon. It was still probably way too tight to wear, but I was so excited that I could actually get it on that I didn't care. I decided to go with it, and when I came downstairs, James recognized the dress right away and said I looked just like his bride. I was feeling good. Really good.

After dinner, my friend's daughter came up to me and started touching my stomach. She told me that it looked puffy and then asked, "Is there a baby in there?"

"No, I'm just fat."

My response just fell out of my mouth so fast I didn't even register what I was saying. I was sad and angry and embarrassed and all I could think was -- well, kids say what everyone else must be thinking. I was upset I ever put that stupid dress on and I left hating my body again.

I woke up the next morning still thinking about it. But instead of feeling embarrassed that I looked fat, I was embarrassed with how I handled the entire situation.

I read an article a long time ago written by a mom with a daughter who has a rare skin disease. I remember her saying how sad and isolating it felt to see other parents rush their kids away whenever they'd catch them staring at her daughter. She gave some great advice in that article that I've carried with me as a parent -- she said to teach your children to celebrate differences. To address the difference head-on and not shy away from it. When it came to her daughter's skin disease, she suggested telling kids something like, "Skin can come in all different colors. Isn't that cool?"

Her advice has impacted me so much that I've used it several times with Joe. I was at a restaurant with him about a year ago and a man in a wheel chair with no legs came in. Joe didn't say anything, but he stared at him trying to make sense of it. I leaned over and told him that some people have legs, and some people don't. I said, "It's pretty cool he gets to ride in a wheel chair that goes really really fast, isn't it? It's kind of like his own race car." I remember Joe's eyes getting really big and a huge smile came across his face. Joe is pretty much infatuated with anything that goes fast. The man in the wheel chair must have overheard our conversation, because he gave me a nod and smiled.

So then why, when a child's innocent comment was directed at me, did that mother's advice get thrown out the window? Why on earth did I use that atrocious word -- fat. This little girl was only 5 years old... she shouldn't have to feel the pressures of fat and skinny yet. Why didn't I take the opportunity to explain to her that women's bodies come in all different shapes and sizes? That even women with "puffy" bellies are beautiful. That it's okay to look different.

Instead, I let my own insecurities get in the way.

I have seriously been beating myself up about this since Saturday. I keep replaying the whole scenario over and over again in my head, coming up with all the responses I should have said instead.

I am the mother of a little girl now.
She is going to see my relationship with my body.
She is going to hear how I answer those kinds of questions.
It will be my job to teach her that her weight doesn't equate to her worth.

Can I do this?






Saturday, June 3, 2017

untitled 66 photos

I was attempting to organize my millions of photos during my lunch hour on Friday and came across an untitled folder on my desktop. I opened it up and there they were...the maternity photos we took when I was pregnant with Grace. It was right there among my folders titled Faye's Maternity Pictures, Faye's Newborn Pictures and Joe's First Birthday.

"Untitled 66 photos"

She deserves more than that. She means more to me than that. I renamed the folder "Grace's Maternity Pictures," moved it over to my external hard drive and just sat there with a pit in my stomach. And then it me. June 4th. She should be turning one.

It's not like I completely forgot about her due date, but I haven't exactly been sitting around anticipating it like I did last year. I remember having the realization back in May that the day was approaching, but I sort of just shoved it in the back of mind. And honestly, I've been busy. I've been adjusting to being a full-time working mom of two. Faye still isn't sleeping through the night, and I've been working hard trying to meal plan lunches and dinners for the week. I don't know, I've just been...preoccupied. But that's not an excuse. Actually, the fact that I feel like I have to somehow justify it breaks my heart.

It's my responsibility to keep Grace's spirit alive. If I'm not thinking about her, nobody is. And today I just feel sad. Really really sad. Sad that no one else is thinking about her on what would have been her 1st birthday. Sad that I don't get to post pictures of her and her smash cake. Sad that June 4th crept up on me without me realizing it. Sad that my photos of her will never go beyond my 1 folder now titled "Grace's Maternity Pictures."

I felt like I needed to do something to feel her close to me again, so I desperately started looking for other photos to add to her album. I added random quotes about grief that I have saved to my desktop, the picture of her footprints I had taken after we lost her and pictures of Joe touching my belly. I even dug and found the random pictures of rainbows I've taken over the past couple of years. I know it probably sounds silly, but it gave me some peace. Grace has a folder of memories now, too.

I don't think I will ever stop thinking about her, but I guess it's inevitable that as time passes, I will think of her less often. Some days though, like today, still hit me like a ton of bricks no matter how many days have passed. 

I know that I have enough love in my heart for all of my babies, here and in heaven. I know that. And I know that thinking about Grace less often doesn't mean I love her any less. But today, on what should be her 1st birthday, I wish so badly that she were here so I could give all my love to only her.


Happy birthday, sweet girl. 


Sunday, May 14, 2017

the mother without a place

I don't belong anywhere.

I want to work. I want to be able to say I'm a working mom, the toughest job in the world. I want to have a career. I want to feel that sense of personal achievement when I get promoted or give a killer presentation. I want to be able to say that all those late nights climbing the corporate ladder weren't for nothing. I want to be Hadleigh AND mom. I want to spend time everyday working toward something that is uniquely mine. I want to use my education that my parents bent-over-backward to provide for me. I want to know that if anything happens to my husband, we will still be okay. I want to contribute to our family's finances. I want to have my own retirement plan. I want to easily pay for all of our kids' college tuitions. I want to buy things without feeling guilty for spending money. I want a break from my kids so I'm more engaged and appreciate the time I do get to spend with them. I want the time we're all home together to be family time, not time to hand off the kids to my husband. I want someone else to teach my kids the alphabet and numbers so the time we spend together can just be focused on fun. I want my kids to be independent and socialized. I want Joe and Faye to be raised by a successful and independent woman. I want Joe to view his future wife as an equal in the household. I want Faye to know that she can be valued both at home and at the work place. I want her to see first-hand that there is no glass ceiling. I want to be happy.

I want to stay home. I want to be able to say I'm a stay-at-home mom, the toughest job in the world. I want to spend every second with my kids because I know how quickly these precious moments will pass. I want to be the one to snuggle them and kiss them all day. I want to be the one to teach them the alphabet and numbers so I can watch their minds grow. I want my kids to have a deeper bond with me. I want them to feel safe and secure at home. I want them to stay out of the classroom as long as they possibly can. I want my kids to spend their summers outside, running the neighborhood and just being kids. I want to spend my summer watching them do so. I want my kids to take the bus home with their friends and not have to wait around in after-school care. I want to witness every single milestone first-hand. I want to be the one to comfort them when they get boo boos. I want my husband to feel secure that others don't just assume he doesn't make enough money. I want to nurse for a year and never have to pull out a pump. I want to be able to pick up our house. I want to start dinner before 6pm. I want to go grocery shopping before 8pm. I want to be able to cook my husband dinner more often because he deserves it. I want to not have to pay for child care. I want Joe to grow up with a mom who is present and is a more compassionate man because of it. I want Faye to know that being a mom can be fulfilling enough. I want to be happy.

I want to be a working mom, but I don't want to be away from my kids.
I want to be a stay-at-home mom, but I don't want to give up my career.

I am the mother without a place.



Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Much Loved Baby and An Impossible Choice [guest post]

Written By: Allyson


I’m sharing our story because our choice mattered. This choice shouldn’t be taken away from parents. I believe we all do the best we can with the information we are given. And we should be trusted to make the right choice for our babies and our own bodies. My hope is that others will get to continue to choose what they feel is right for their babies and their families.

Sunday, September 16, 2016 was one of the happiest days of my life. I told my husband to go to the drug store to get a pregnancy test. I hadn’t slept well the night before because of many pregnancy symptoms. I just KNEW I was pregnant. But I didn’t believe it could happen our first month of trying. That disbelief went away as soon as the word “pregnant” came up on the digital test. I had so many plans on how I was going to reveal it to my husband. However, I was much too excited to do any of those things. I immediately screamed while skipping towards my husband. “We’re having a baby!” That’s all I could get out as tears rolled down my face.


The following weeks, I was excited but also nervous about miscarrying. I spent those weeks pleading with God not to allow me to lose this baby. I was so in love with our baby from the moment we found out we were expecting. At our 10 week appointment, my Dr. found his heartbeat on the Fetal Doppler. It was strong and my husband thought it sounded like a train. We were so joyful that we cried the whole time we heard the heart beating. At that appointment, our Dr. discussed genetic testing with us. He told us our chances of having a baby with any fetal abnormalities would be low. We were healthy and young - so a 1 in 1200 chance of abnormalities - we were pretty confident our baby was fine. We scheduled our NT scan and genetic testing blood draw for 12 weeks.


Our 12 week NT scan looked beautiful. Our baby was measuring normally, the heartbeat was strong, and he had great placement. I was so overjoyed I couldn’t speak. I really just wanted to make sure the tech was concentrating, so she didn’t miss anything. She was pretty happy, so I was confident that things were really looking good. She asked me if I wanted to know her guess of the gender. I was so curious, I immediately said “yes!” She thought it was a HEALTHY girl, so I left the scan to do our blood draw for the genetic testing - I had zero concerns or nerves. I just knew our baby was healthy, and that was all that mattered to me.


Six days later, the day before Thanksgiving at 4:55 PM, I saw I had missed a call from my Dr. He left me a voicemail which was kind of confusing to listen to. Looking back, I don’t think he looked at the results until he dialed my number. He had no reason to believe there would be any abnormalities. I immediately called him back. I could tell by the sound of his voice something was very wrong. He said “Your baby is low risk for all Trisomies except Trisomy 21.” I didn’t understand - I didn’t believe it. So I asked, “What is my baby’s percentage risk of Trisomy 21?” He said, “There is a 99% chance your baby has Trisomy 21 based on this test.” He asked me if I wanted to know the gender and I did. He said our baby was a boy. Because this was the exact opposite result as 6 days before, I was in complete denial. I was so sure that they had gotten our test mixed up with someone else, so when my Dr. suggested an amniocentesis, I agreed.


I continued to be in denial the next week, but I still cried. I cried so much over the fact that our baby could possibly be sick. But I didn’t believe that the NT scan could be so wrong. So I held on to hope until the following Tuesday when we saw the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctor. As soon as the tech confirmed our baby was a boy, I just knew the test was accurate. The MFM looked somber when he walked in to explain what he saw in the ultrasound. He explained they saw two soft markers, which would correlate with T21. One of the soft markers was the heart and the other was a sandal gap. He explained that he would never recommend we make any decisions based on an ultrasound. So we scheduled an amniocentesis for a week and a half later. Before he left the room, he asked us if we had any other children. We both looked at each other and then said, “No, this is our first.” His eyes were teary and he said, “This is not the way the first is supposed to happen, I’m so sorry.”

The next week and a half was agonizing. We spent those days researching Trisomy 21. I really didn’t know a lot about Down Syndrome. I just thought it was a person who had physical and developmental delays - which is true, but in many cases it’s much more than that. We started to read as many articles and watch as many YouTube videos as possible. Many of the articles we read were uplifting stories, which made it sound like our son’s life would be as fulfilling as we wanted it to be. The videos showed happy children and adults that shared jokes and laughter. But the more we dug, the more we read about the hardships that our son could possibly live with.  People with Down Syndrome have increased risks of heart problems, Leukemia, early onset Alzheimer’s, and so much more. My heart dropped when I read all of them. Heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s all run in my family, so they were my main concerns. Because of our family history, our child would be at an increased risk of that, AND because of T21, there would be another increased risk of those issues on this baby. He was already a probable candidate for heart surgery. I already couldn’t imagine bringing a tiny baby into the world with so many struggles. But we continued to research, clinging on to hope that there would be something that might give us a sign that our baby was going to have a good life. When we came across parents who had raised their children with Down Syndrome, who could no longer take care of them—it was heartbreaking. The way they described the pain they felt knowing that their child would be alone after they passed away, was something I never wanted to experience with our child. We encountered parents who shared how their child has never spoken, laughed, walked, or fed themselves. It started to become clear that we needed to ask more questions as to what our baby’s quality of life would be like.

So, we went into our amniocentesis with a list of questions for our MFM. One of those questions was, “Can you tell us whether or not our baby will have a mostly normal life, with only physical and developmental delays?” He said, “Unfortunately, you most likely won’t know the type of life he will have until he is born.” My heart dropped. We awaited our amniocentesis results with so much hope. I prayed and cried and pleaded for a miracle.  Unfortunately our miracle didn’t come. The amniocentesis diagnosed our baby with Down Syndrome. The doctor asked me, “How would you like to proceed with your pregnancy?” I wanted to sob uncontrollably. I just let the tears roll down my face, took a deep breath, and then tried to make the following words sound as loving as I could, “We have decided to terminate.”


The only thing I would like to go into detail about the termination is that besides the physical appearance of the clinic, the whole experience was as good as it could have been. The doctor, nurses, and volunteers are some of the most loving and compassionate people I have ever met. They held my hand, they cried with me, and they told me they understood our decision. They truly made a difference during such a tragic situation. And I thank and pray for them every day as they continue to help people like my husband and I get through such devastating experiences.


I swore up and down I would never share our whole story with the world. Part of me was ashamed that we had chosen to end our pregnancy. But as the days continue to pass and the more I learn about the type of my life my son would have had, best case scenario, I know we did the best thing we could have done for him. The words termination and abortion sound like the most hateful words out there. I can tell you as someone who understands how important my choice was to have this abortion, that for me it is a love-filled word. Our decision was and is something that was only filled with love. A decision filled with love that keeps our son, who we lovingly named Bradley, from a life of struggle. A decision filled with love that keeps Bradley out of hospitals. A decision filled with love that keeps Bradley from battling cancer. A decision filled with love that keeps Bradley from ever having to be alone in a group home and not know who he is. I fully believe that Bradley is in Heaven. I believe that God is holding him close and telling him how much his mommy and daddy love him. I believe that God knows our decision was made with love for our son. That is how I live with our decision. Our son will always know who he is in Heaven. Our hearts will never stop aching for him. I will never stop wondering what he would have been like, how tight his hugs would have been, or what he would have looked like. We gladly will hold those burdens of wonder and heartache, because we know that Bradley will never have to experience a day of suffering. 



Friday, April 21, 2017

the value of life

As I sat among Right to life members on Tuesday waiting for the committee to get to SB 1180 on the agenda, I kept asking myself one question. What do all these pro-life people do for a living? 

Pro-life groups are probably the most well-organized and out-spoken groups of people I've ever encountered. They have the numbers, they have the funding, they have the passion and they are everywhere. Outside Planned Parenthood, at pro-choice rally's, online, in state and federal hearings...I don't think I have participated in any advocacy work thus far without coming across a large group of them. And they aren't all old retired people, either. They are middle aged men, young women, teenaged kids. So I honestly want to know, what do they all do for a living that they have all this extra time to be everywhere at all hours of the day? It's impressive.

If the strength in numbers and the amount of energy these groups have were put to use to actually support people's lives, imagine the amount of amazing things they could accomplish. 

We wouldn't have any unplanned pregnancies because birth control and contraceptives would be easily available. We wouldn't have any young, single mothers on welfare. We wouldn't have any children go hungry. And we wouldn't have any children stuck in foster care or up for adoption.

A friend of mine has been battling the US adoption system for over a year now. Her and her husband are probably the most fun, sweet and compassionate people I've ever met. To say that they would make amazing parents is an understatement. They've filled out all the forms and passed all their home inspections and have literally just been waiting for that perfect match. And the most honorable and beautiful part about their intentions is they don't want to adopt a baby (which is absolutely honorable, too), but they want to adopt siblings between the ages of 3 to 12 so they can remain with their family.

I've had quite a few conversations with my friend about the struggles with the adoption/foster care process. Each time we talk about it, I leave with a heavier heart. Did you know approximately 75-80% of children in foster care have been either physically or sexually abused? In turn, many of these kids have behavioral issues and lash out by hurting others or themselves. Many of the kids are on behavioral medication and antidepressants. Many of the children with disabilities never find a forever home because people can't take on the financial burden to care for them. The more I learn, the angrier I get that these sweet children have to endure such horrific things.

So I'm trying to wrap my head around it. If these groups are all about the life of the unborn, wouldn't they want to support the lives of these children once they ARE born? Wouldn't they want to support birth control and contraceptives so that abortions wouldn't have to happen in the first place? Wouldn't they support the mother's life AFTER they decide to keep their unplanned pregnancies so that no child would be born to a mother who couldn't physically, emotionally or financially take care of their children (thus no children would ever need to go into foster care)? Wouldn't they all foster and adopt the children currently in the system?

So when did pro-life and anti-abortion become synonymous? To me, pro-life means to support life. And I'm honestly not trying to be snarky here because I truly believe the majority of pro-life activists are good people. I just think their efforts are being directed at the wrong thing.

What is the value of life? I believe it's more than just a heartbeat.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

hitting my limit

Yesterday, after spending another day of my maternity leave at Legislative plaza, I learned at 5pm that the committee decided to table SB 1180 for a day due to some amendment written by a Right to Life representative. A delay tactic, if you will, in an attempt to lose the opposition's steam. I returned to my car, paid yet again for the expensive city parking, then sat in traffic for an hour and a half battling downtown Nashville in the rain. I listened to my daughter cry hysterically in the back seat while I cried hysterically in the front. I was angry, sad, defeated and consumed with guilt.

Yesterday, I officially hit my limit.

I hit my limit with the affiliations I'm helping support. I know I'm an ideal face to abortion for you. I get it. I'm a white, educated, middle class mother. I can speak coherent sentences and I look like the committee members' daughter or grand daughter. But I am not some puppet you can parade around. This isn't some "story" for leverage, this really actually happened to me. In real life. So every time you put me on the spot and drag me into a room with a politician to share Grace's story (without even so much as asking me first or thanking me for doing so), you need to understand that a little piece of my heart gets torn away, stomped on, and left on the floor of that office.

I hit my limit with men in politics. I am so sick of you having the authority to create and pass abortion bills with absolutely no medical training or basic knowledge on the topic. The truth is, you will never understand the power of womanhood and the choices we face. A friend once said to me, "We have the power to create life and end life, and men will always be threatened by that power." 

I hit my limit with the stigma that surrounds the word abortion. Stop fearing it. It isn't some scary and taboo thing that only bad people choose to do. 1 in 3 women in this country will have one in their lifetime. Believe me, you've met one, you work with one, you're friends with one, you might even live with one. You do not live in a Christian bubble of righteousness.

I hit my limit with our political system, both Republicans and Democrats alike. Everyone votes by way of their party out of fear of reelection, and votes are decided long before committee meetings even begin. Did you know that politicians trade votes? Like if one politician is trying to get their bill passed, they make deals with other politicians to vote a certain way for a vote in return? Maybe I've just been living under a naive political rock my whole life, but this was news to me. If state level politics are this sleazy, I can't even imagine what goes on at the federal level. 

Yesterday an extremely influential politician at the Capitol listened to my story in the privacy of his fancy office. He sympathized with me, he agreed that we made the best choice for our family, he expressed how he felt this bill was unconstitutional and cruel. And then, this man (who I will not name because at this point it doesn't even matter) looked at me and said, and I quote: "But no one is willing to die on the sword for this bill."

And so, I'm stepping away for awhile. I'm going to enjoy my last few weeks of maternity leave with my daughter. I'm going to work on her baby book and wear sweat pants and take naps with her and cuddle the shit out of those chubby little cheeks. And I will just have to live with the guilt of throwing in the towel. 

I did the best I could, Grace.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

do-over

On Tuesday I testified again for Tennessee's SB 1180.  My first time testifying against this bill was with the House Health Subcommittee, and this time was with the full Health Committee. I felt really anxious going into this testimony because the last time I testified, Representative Hill dismissed me immediately after I shared my story stating that "for the record, this bill doesn't even apply to her."

So, needless to say I was pretty fired up as I prepared my do-over testimony. I took some time to read through the bill and attempted to come up with some rebuttals based on my personal experiences.  The first testimony I wrote was a bit aggressive and directly called out Representative Hill for dismissing me last time, but the lobbyist I was working with suggested I omit it because the legislators don't respond well to combative language. (Disappointing, because I really wanted to stick it to em.) She suggested I take more of a sweet, relatable approach. So, I had to tone back my Chicago sass and make my case through fact and story telling only.

The morning of my testimony was typical mayhem. Joe refused pretty much every breakfast option I suggested and demanded not to be rushed. I swear, every time I need to be somewhere he somehow knows it. He wouldn't let me dress him because he HAD to do it himself. Ah, the struggles of motherhood. We finally got out the door and into the car and Joe randomly announced -- Mommy, I'm Spiderman and you're Wonder Woman! All of my frustration was gone with one innocent statement from a 3 year old. It was probably the best compliment I could have gotten to start my day. You're damn right I'm Wonder Woman, buddy.

When I arrived at Legislative Plaza, there was a line out the door waiting to get through security. There were about 50+ people wearing name tags, and as soon as I got close enough, I saw that they were all from Tennessee's Right to Life. Right To Life is an extreme pro-life group here in Tennessee that "defends the right to life of the unborn." What are the odds. My stomach dropped and I felt instantly nauseous surrounded by the enemy.

I had Faye with me because well, I'm still on maternity leave and she's still feeding every 3 hours. So I don't really have a choice but to drag her around to these events. Not sure if that makes me a terrible mother or an incredibly badass one, but it is what it is. I made my way into line and the minute the Right to Lifers saw her, they swarmed my stroller "ooing" & "ahhing" over how cute she was. It was just too perfect of an opportunity to not use to my advantage. We talked for about 15 minutes as we stood in line. I went on and on about how much of a blessing she is to our family and how much I love being her mother (which of course is true, but I typically wouldn't gush about that to complete strangers). I smiled as I learned all about their grandchildren, their ages, names and how advanced they were in pretty much everything, and I thanked them when they complimented how nice I looked after just having a baby. The irony of the whole situation had me roaring with laugher inside.

I finally got through security and met up with the folks from Healthy & Free Tennessee and Planned Parenthood. The room was already packed, and I recognized a lot of my Right to Life "friends" sitting in the crowd.

I don't get too nervous speaking in front of people anymore. I have to present quite a bit for my job, and I've done enough advocacy work now to know I can emotionally get through my story. And this time especially, I didn't have the nerves of having to deliver a sub-par testimony. I felt fairly confident that I was putting my best foot forward.

Shortly after the meeting started, the Chairman called my name to take the stand. As I stood up, I could almost hear the jaws drop from all the Right to Life people sitting behind me. It was perfection. I wanted so badly to address them all. I wanted to explain to them that motherhood and abortion are not mutually exclusive things. That women who abort their babies later in pregnancy are not malicious murderers who just woke up one day 20 weeks pregnant and decided they didn't want to be. That we are good, loving mothers who aren't so different from them. Anyway, I delivered my testimony, and if you watch the video of it, you can see their faces and reactions behind me.

When I was finished, Representative John Ray Clemmons (Democrat from Davidson County) asked me some questions to help prove his points. I wasn't expecting a q&a session and I wish I was more prepared. I knew he was trying to use my answers as ammo to fight the bill, but his first question felt long-winded and a little confusing. I was trying to read his mind of what he wanted me to answer, but I was too overwhelmed, emotional and nervous. I did the best I could, but it's so hard to watch back on video because I have a million better answers than the ones I gave.

I will say, the hardest part about testifying wasn't the testimony itself or even the q&a session afterward, it was having to listen to the legislators argue about it after I returned to my seat. After I no longer could respond. I had rebuttals about pretty much everything and I got so angry with myself that I didn't include this or that in my testimony to shut them down. Representative Matthew Hill said at one point that the goal of this bill is to stop elective abortions from happening after 20 weeks. And if you watch the video, you will hear all the Right to Life members in the room cheering after that statement. But here's the thing people -- it's already illegal!

Our current Tennessee law makes abortion illegal after the 1st trimester of pregnancy and only allows them until viability (not defined, but medically speaking is 24 weeks) in extreme cases to protect the life or health of the mother. You cannot abort a healthy baby for no reason in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy in this state, and I'm pretty sure you can't in any other state for that matter, either. And even when you have a solid case (like me), it can still be denied. But now that Representative Hill seeded that statement, people think they do. And all the Right to Life people are applauding like he is saving all these babies from "murder". It's all scare tactics and it's disgusting. I guarantee that the majority of the Right to Life members do not know the current laws in this state. (Because if they did, they wouldn't be applauding such a false statement.)

If you ask me, the goal of this bill is to restrict women's rights. Let's just call it what it is, people. Requiring a 2nd doctor's approval (thus adding longer wait times and more financial stress for women), changing viability to 20 weeks (even though there is no medical evidence that a baby can survive outside the womb before 24 weeks), and further narrowing the definition of medical emergency (restricting access even further for those in medically needed situations), does not do anything to help protect 2nd trimester abortions from electively happening when it's already illegal. And like I said in my testimony, you need medical documentation to prove that you and/or your baby are sick and at risk to have one.

The legislators voted and it again passed by a landslide. The only people opposed were the few Democrats on the committee. The second it passed, I just started crying. It was embarrassing but I felt so angry and defeated. I thought I made solid points of why this bill is outrageous. I thought the Democrats in the room made great arguments, too. I thought Representative Hill's answers were unsupported and lacked validity. I thought the committee was actually listening and emotionally connecting to my story. And yet, they all put their heads down to avoid eye contact and voted to pass it.

Afterword, I got to talking to some people and learned that they were likely going to pass it regardless of my testimony and the discussion to follow. I was told that Republicans do not want to go on record for voting against an abortion bill because their main goal is to get re-elected next term. Even if they think this bill should not pass (which many Republicans stated during side discussions prior to Tuesday's meeting), they are going to pass it anyway.

I left feeling completely hopeless. These restrictive bills are going to continue to get passed because of America's 2 party system. Only the most extreme views of both parties ever get represented. Not all Republicans are personally pro-life. Not all Democrats are personally pro-choice. But we are all forced to pick a party and pick a side. Shouldn't politicians be required to pass bills based on human decency to protect the safety and health of the people? If many of the Republicans in the room felt deeply about my story (which I know they did, because some of them thanked me afterward for my bravery) and they truly believe this bill is garbage yet STILL voted to pass it, what more can I do? What more can we do?

I don't know y'all... I'm starting to lose hope. But I guess I'll continue to fight because I have to do something.

You can watch the full House Health Committee Meeting here.

You can read media coverage from the Tennessean here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

happiness

A few of my friends that have experienced pregnancy/infant loss have recently asked me what it's really like having a rainbow baby. Does she fill the void? Am I happy? Have I had any postpartum depression?

Here's the best way I can describe it: Faye has glued the pieces of my broken heart back together, just with the pieces in different places than they originally were. My heart finally feels whole again, but it will never be exactly the same as it was before my miscarriage and abortion. Let's be honest, I'm not the same, but I am still really really happy.


Faye is 2 months old today and I can't believe how fast time is flying. The first few weeks of Faye's life felt really surreal. I had waited so long for her that it almost felt like it wasn't possible that she was here and healthy. I think because of that, I had some trouble bonding with her at first. It was hard to open my heart again and welcome in happiness. At about 3 weeks, I finally stopped resisting and let down my walls, and let me tell you, it has felt so good to let her in. It feels so good to feel happy again.


Given what we've gone through, I've tried to be very honest, aware and proactive with my emotional state. I was on high alert for postpartum depression because I had such a hard time emotionally during my pregnancy. Luckily, I haven't had any signs of it yet. I'm actually surprised with how relaxed I've been with her. I can see the joy she brings to my husband and son, too. It's the most amazing thing to watch. 


I won't lie to you, having a newborn is still really hard. No matter what road led you here, it's hard. But I can tell I appreciate it all so much more this time around. With Joe, I felt a lot of pressure to get him on a schedule and get him sleeping through the night. It felt like the amount of hours he consistently slept in 1 night equated to how good I was at parenting. I don't feel like that this time. I think that's partially because of what I've gone through, but also because I know how short lived all of it is. In a blink of an eye, Joe now sleeps in big boy underwear in a big boy bed for 10 hours at a time. I couldn't wait to get to this point, and now that it's here, I wish he still fell asleep on my chest, was still contained in a crib and still needed me like he used to. So now, I'm just trying my best to enjoy each phase as it comes.


While 2nd time parenting overall has been easier, becoming a new parent again after loss has had its own unique challenges. Part of me wants to close my eyes, forget everything that happened and just enjoy this little miracle God has brought us. But, that's impossible. Faye grabs my Grace necklace a lot and squeezes it so tight that I literally have to pry it out of her hands. And sometimes I feel the exact same way. My two losses can't and won't be forgotten -- they are what brought me this beautiful baby I have in my arms. 


This might sound crazy (who am I kidding, most of what I write about probably sounds crazy), but I do feel guilty for feeling happy. I feel guilty talking about being happy, and I feel guilty right now for writing about being happy. I have made so many connections and friends because of my miscarriage and termination, and I have leaned on them heavily these past 2 years for support. Some of them have already gone on to have their rainbow babies, but many of them have not. They have all been so supportive and happy for me, but I do feel bad talking about Faye and the joy that she brings when I know they are still struggling. I've also felt guilty about having 2 healthy children when I was so close to having a child with disabilities. Maybe that part isn't guilt exactly, but there are definitely some complex emotions around it. Let's just say I don't take any of it for granted.


To those friends currently experiencing loss, who are struggling to conceive or are currently pregnant with their rainbow babies, I'll keep holding onto hope for you. I hope you know that I haven't left you behind. I pray that happiness is just around the corner for you, too. Love to you. <3






Friday, March 10, 2017

confronting legislators

On Wednesday, Faye and I participated in Planned Parenthood's Take The Hill event. The goal of the day was for Planned Parenthood advocates to meet one-on-one with state legislators to educate them on the importance of women's healthcare needs, and to oppose 3 new Tennessee bills that directly threaten a woman's right to safe and legal abortions. (I've included a brief summary of the 3 bills below for those who are interested. Tennessee friends -- please be sure to check them out!)

It felt so empowering to have my daughter beside me throughout the entire day... like it's all come full circle. I'm fighting for Grace AND Faye now. She must have felt the intensity of the day because she slept through most of it.  :)

Up until this event, most of my advocacy work has been focused on educating the public through various media outlets. I have never spoken directly to legislators, and let me tell you, it's a completely different ball game. Mad props to the warriors who do this work for a living.

As most of you know by now, I am an extremely passionate person. I have no problem challenging people when I strongly believe in something, and let's just say I more than strongly believe in a woman's right to choose. So when I found myself face-to-face with state legislators who disagree with my beliefs, I could actually feel the blood in my veins begin to boil. It was extremely difficult to keep my composure when a white, middle-aged bald man looked at me and said "well, women use abortion as a form of birth control."  I mean, how could I not want to reach across the table and strangle the guy?

After a long morning of meeting with legislators, the Planned Parenthood team asked if I would be willing to sit in on the House Health Subcommittee meeting and possibly testify against bill SB 1180/HB 1189.  (This bill would change the definition of viability to 20 weeks, require women to have 2 physicians certify the need for the abortion, and further narrow the definition of "medical emergency") The committee was going to review and vote on the bill, and if passed, would then proceed to the House & Senate for a vote. I was told that there were a lot of items on the agenda and it was unlikely that the committee would open the floor up for testimonials. I was basically there on standby just in case.

Well, they opened it up for testimonials.

There are 19 people on the House Health Committee that were voting on this particular bill, 3 of which were women. The entire setting felt really intimidating. The first time I'd even heard a testimonial was just minutes before mine on an unrelated bill. And after I heard theirs, I panicked that mine wasn't good enough. Nobody really gave me much direction on what testifying was all about, so I had to go with what I had.

I took a second to purposefully look all the men in the eye before I began, and I tried to speak a bit more conversationally instead of speech-like, as I typically do with the media. Once I was finished sharing my story, the committee thanked me and I returned to my seat. It felt very awkward to just stand up and walk back to my seat after sharing such a personal story. I received no feedback and couldn't read the room. Did I sound okay? Did anyone on the committee have a reaction? What were people thinking?

Almost immediately after I sat down, Representative Matthew Hill, the man proposing this ridiculous bill, announced into his microphone: "I just want to clarify, this bill wouldn't even apply to her."

I had just poured my heart out about my daughter's death to a room full of strangers and all this man could think about was getting his stupid bill passed. It was so belittling and completely untrue. Of course this bill would directly affect women like me. It's shortening the window of legal abortion and narrowing the definition of medical emergency. I wanted to stand up and scream "Actually it does, asshole!" but I no longer had the floor. I was just another spectator in the crowd listening to a group of politicians discuss additional restrictions we mothers would have to face.

Following Hill's statement, Representative John Ray Clemmons pushed back pointing out how the bill is unconstitutional and that it's sole purpose is to make abortion less accessible for those who need it. For a brief moment, I felt like there was a voice of reason in the room. It had been a long day banging my head against a wall, so it was so nice to hear someone fighting for me for once. (For anyone in District 55 / Davidson County, please, contact him and thank him for his support on this bill.) But sadly, he was the ONLY voice of reason in the room. The committee voted, and 17 of the 19 members voted to pass the bill. It was extremely disheartening and made me realize how red my state really is.

The entire day was a very eye-opening experience and I certainly learned a lot. For one, I realized how uneducated our legislators truly are on the topic of abortion. I knew going in that there were a ton of misconceptions out there, but it is absolutely insane to me that the people creating and voting for these bills don't know the difference between fact and scare-tactics. It's also shocking to me that the vast majority of our legislators are middle-aged men. MEN! Men are voting for bills that directly impact my body as a woman.

Most importantly, I feel like I got a better understanding of how bills are reviewed, evaluated and passed. Like I said, I had no idea what testifying entailed and now I know what to expect. I think next time I will become more educated on the specific bill in advance and write my speech with the restrictions they're proposing in mind.

To be honest, I didn't enjoy this type of advocacy work. It's emotionally draining and flat-out hard. But, it's probably the most important work I've done to date. These are the people who are creating and passing laws that directly affect women like me, and it's important to get in there and try to enact change. I guess the saying is true...if it were easy, everyone would do it.





NPR article on my testimony can be found here.

--------------------------------

Here's an overview of the current Tennessee bills directly affecting a woman's right to choose:

SB 1180/HB 1189: An Open-Ended Ban (20 week) sponsored by Senator Joey Hensley & Representative Matthew Hill

  • Change the definition of "viability" of a fetus to 20 weeks (versus 23). 
    • This change is in contradiction to current medical understanding. 
  • Redefines a "medical emergency" more narrowly than current law. 
    • This causes further limitations for a women and does not protect women who's baby is sick and will die in utero, shortly after, or will live a life disabled or in pain.
  • Requires at least 2 physicians to certify that an abortion is needed based on these new definitions.
    • This would force women to find a second physician, wait for an available appointment and then travel to the office, threatening time (on an extremely time sensitive issue) and costs for women.


SB 244/HB 108: A 6 week ban sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers and Representative James Van Huss

  • Bans abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically at the 6 week mark
    • Majority of women don't even know they are pregnant yet at this point
**This bill was tabled until 2018 on Wednesday - A win!!

SB 766/HB 101: A 20 week abortion ban sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers and Representative Terri Weaver
  • Bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy 
    • 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks of pregnancy, and those needed later are due to the health of the mother or baby
Tennesseans -- Please reach out to your legislators to let them know you oppose these bills! You can find your legislators here: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators/


Sunday, February 19, 2017

newborn photos

Well, our photographer did it again -- we are so thrilled with these newborn pictures of our sweet Faye. I still can't figure out who she looks like. Me, my husband and son were all born fair-skinned and completely bald. I just can't get over all her hair!

I apologize for the picture overload! I tried to narrow down some of our favorites to share, but it was incredibly difficult when we loved all pictures we received. If anyone in the Nashville area is looking for a photographer, I highly recommend Jessi with avaphotodesign.com.





































Sunday, February 12, 2017

redemption

Earlier this week I took Faye to her 2 week appointment. One of the first things checked during these appointments is the baby's weight, and if I remember correctly, the goal for the 2 week appointment is for your baby to be back up to birth weight. Faye was born 8lbs 11oz, and when we left the hospital 2 days later, she was down to 8lbs 3oz. I remember being panicked with Joe when he dropped in weight, but as a 2nd time mom, I expected it this go around.

I've been incredibly lucky in that I've been able to exclusively nurse Faye without any issues. But as many breastfeeding moms know, it's a lot of pressure to be solely responsible for your baby's growth. You have no idea how much milk you're producing, nor do you know if your baby is eating enough per feeding. I've been trying to take her lead and feed on demand, but sometimes she goes 4 hours between feedings, and other times it's an hour.

So when the nurse placed my naked little babe on the scale, I held my breath and began to feel the anxiety build. Within seconds, her weight flashed on the screen: 9lbs 15.5oz.

The nurse turned to me and asked if I was breastfeeding or formula feeding, and when I answered breastfeeding, she responded, "Wow, seriously? That's impressive! I've never seen such a significant increase from breastfeeding alone! Way to go, Mom!"

I can't even describe what that nurse's words meant to me. It probably sounds silly, but I feel like the weight I had been carrying for 2 years was finally lifted from my shoulders. When you experience pregnancy loss, no matter how many times you are reminded that it's not your fault, deep down you carry that responsibility. As their mother, I carry the weight of my losses every single day. It was my body that miscarried Sprout and it was my body that made Grace sick. My body has failed me over and over again and at some point along the way, I think I began to resent it.

So when I received that small affirmation that my body is doing something right for once -- actually, doing something well -- I felt like I finally redeemed myself (from myself). I didn't know I needed that comfort and validation, but apparently I did. I started to tear up as I picked up Faye from the scale. The nurse asked if I was okay, but I was just so overwhelmed I could barely mumble the word "yes."

I am okay. I'm better than okay, I'm so incredibly happy it almost scares me that the other shoe is going to drop. The journey of motherhood after loss continues to bring highs, lows and lots of surprises. I find myself staring at her sweet little face breathing in her shallow breaths, and I probably check that she's still alive at least 10 times a day. I have been waiting so long for her I just don't want to miss a second of it. I love the way she places one hand over the other when she sleeps, I love her little patch of dark hair in the back of her head that shoots straight up like a female version of Alfalfa, I love the the way I always catch her staring back up at me when I think she's sleeping, I love hearing all those precious little squeaky noises throughout the night... I just love everything about her. She's so perfect I can't believe she's mine. I have to admit, this feeling was absolutely worth the wait.





Saturday, February 4, 2017

faith, trust & believe

On January 23rd, my husband and I welcomed Faye Elizabeth into the world. She weighed 8 lbs 11 oz, measured 19 inches long and has a head full of black hair (which is shocking, because her blonde older brother was bald until he was almost 2 years old!) But more importantly, so far our sweet little girl is healthy. That still feels surreal to say.

The name Faye has always been at the top of our list. Back when we lived in Chicago, there was a local jewelry store called Fey's Jewelers. Whenever my husband and I walked past it, we always talked about the name Fey (we prefer the spelling "Faye") being a cute girl's name to remember for some day in the future. I thought the name was simple and sweet, but still had some strength behind it.

When we revisited our baby names list this pregnancy, I decided to look up the meanings of some of our top choices. I learned that the name Faye is French, and it means to have faith, to trust and to believe -- the 3 things I needed to do to survive this sub-pregnancy. I took it as a sign from our sweet angels, and we decided Faye was the perfect name for our double rainbow.

The days leading up to Faye's arrival were some of the most difficult days of this entire pregnancy. I was 8 days overdue and the wait really messed with me emotionally. The nursery was complete, the tags on her new clothes were cut and everything was washed and put away.... and I don't know, I just started to panic. I think I had too much time to think. I swear, from week 35-40 I was more excited than scared. But the second I hit 40 weeks and 1 day, for some reason, something in my brain switched and I convinced myself that something terrible was going to happen at delivery. I had nightmares about delivering a stillborn baby and had a few full-on meltdowns to James about all the  "what ifs" that could happen. So when my doctor suggested we induce on the 23rd due to lower fluid levels and her size (she was measuring 9 lbs 11 oz), I felt ready to put myself out of misery.

We arrived at the hospital at 4:30 am and one of the first things the nurse did was a review of my medical history. Included in that lovely review was of course my pregnancy history -- 1 living child, 1 miscarriage and 1 "loss." Even the nurse didn't want to call it what it really was. James squeezed my hand tight and we both looked at each other, and in that moment, I felt the presence of our sweet angels. They were there with us. I didn't need my medical history said out loud to remember that they led us to that delivery room, and they were going to lead us to Faye. I finally felt a sense of calmness rush over me, and I entered into the induction process feeling at peace.

Our sweet Faye was born at 2:24 pm after a seamless delivery. The second the doctor placed her in my arms, every ounce of pain and fear and sadness were sucked out of my heart and were instantly replaced with pure joy. I breathed in her sweet baby smell and exhaled from deepest part of my lungs.

She's here, and she's perfect.











Thursday, January 5, 2017

hold on through the awful

I couldn't sleep last night. I just laid awake replaying the car ride to the hospital over and over in my head. I opened my computer and attempted to write but I had nothing to say. Today, one year ago, was just so fucked up. There's no other way to put it.

A friend of mine who has gone through her fair share of hardship posted this quote the other day. It felt fitting for today, on the 1 year anniversary of our loss.

"Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing; hold on through the awful; and relax and exhale through the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul healing, amazing, ordinary, awful life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful." - LR Knost

I love love love this quote, so much that I saved it to my phone so I can reread it from time to time. But after reading it again this morning, I realized that Knost somehow neglected to point out a very important piece to his wisdom -- the awful is what's key to a breathtakingly beautiful life. Because without the awful, you don't fully breathe in the amazing, nor do you truly relax, exhale and appreciate the ordinary. The awful is what gives us perspective.

In 10 days I'm due with my double rainbow, and I am so looking forward to breathing in every bit of her amazingness. I imagine it will be the deepest breath I will ever take.

Just hold on through the awful, friends.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

grief

A few days ago we had a new member join our Ending a Wanted Pregnancy support group. She was one day post-surgery and asked the group, "I haven't cried yet. Is something wrong with me?" Her question hit so close to home.

This time last year I was in turmoil. James and I had just learned our daughter's diagnosis and had made the decision to end our wanted pregnancy. We were frantically making our own arrangements, calling around to various doctors to understand the requirements and laws. I was dealing with my obgyn's office, following up multiple times on our requests to send my medical records to the hospital, and James was dealing with our insurance company to see if they were going to cover any of the costs of the procedure. All of this, mind you, while grieving.

Grief.

What an unbelievably complex journey it's been. The weeks between our diagnosis and our abortion were excruciating. I cried most of the day and couldn't eat, sleep or function. I was pregnant yet losing significant weight. Our families had to come help take care of Joe because I couldn't even get out of bed.

But once I was out of surgery and back at my parent's house in Chicago, I just felt numb. I didn't cry. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that it was over and I could finally try to move forward. The purgatory of still being physically pregnant with a baby I had already emotionally lost had been absolute hell.

We had planned to stay in Chicago for one week post surgery to "recover." I planned on crying and grieving as much as I could that week so I could return to my normal life with my son at home. Instead, I didn't shed one tear. I found myself going out to dinner and watching movies. I felt guilty that I wasn't sadder. I remember asking the same support group, "I haven't cried yet. Is something wrong with me?"

Ah, I was so naive.

The past 2 years have taught me that grief is not linear. It takes on so many different forms. It does not follow some neat and tidy 7 stage process, where you get to fully feel and process one emotion then move onto the next. There is no last stage or ending to grief. You cannot plan ahead for it. You cannot assume how you will feel and when you will feel it, and you can't predict which triggers will cause you to spiral down into a dark hole of despair.

About a week after returning home from Chicago, I pulled out a stack of plates while setting the table for dinner. Somehow I lost my grip and accidentally dropped them all on the floor. James came running into the kitchen to make sure I was okay and found me lying among the shattered plates, sobbing hysterically. I'm not sure if it was the sound of glass breaking or the loss of control, but it triggered a pain in my heart I had never felt before. I spent the rest of that night on the bathroom floor while James tried his best to console me.

Grief is a journey that is uniquely ours. It's raw and challenging and beautiful all at the same time. I can't believe this Thursday will mark 1 year since our abortion. I've somehow survived this rollercoaster for a whole year now.

I wish I could explain to that sweet woman in my support group that she's going to be okay -- that she is going to feel a million different emotions over the course of the year that she isn't going to understand. I wish I could take away her guilt for thinking she's not grieving "correctly," because I know now that crying isn't the only result of sadness. I wish I could tell her that this time next year, she too may be 38 weeks pregnant and approaching her due date with a new sense of appreciation, excitement and hopefulness.

But, I can't. She has to live out her own journey to really, truly understand.


I recently found this picture that James took of us in the hospital room 
just minutes before I left for surgery. We have survived one year, babe.