Sunday, November 21, 2010

A favour

When you have finished reading this post, please say a little prayer for some friends of ours from medical school. They have a two year old daughter and several weeks ago gave birth to twins - a boy and a girl. They were born prematurely, and today, after battling medical complications since his birth, their baby boy died. Our friends know Jesus, and know that they will see their son again one day. But right now they are devastated. Please pray for them - now, and if God brings them to your mind again later. Thanks so much.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shamelessly braggin' on my bebe

On Saturday my baby girl turned 18 months old. Nothing accelerates life like having a child grow up in front of you. There is definitely a part of me that, like every other mother I know, wishes life would slow down a little so they could keep their babies babies for longer. But I am also so excited to continue seeing Anna grow up. Every new stage she reaches becomes my favourite one yet. Of course, as she grows and becomes more independent our wills clash from time to time; I have definitely had my fair share of frustrating days! But overall Anna is a very settled, laid-back and obedient child and I can't think of a better life than getting to stay home and take care of her.

I am totally floored by how smart and awesome she is. (Here comes the brag.) I know every mom is amazed at what their child achieves, but I am really amazed! I made a list of her words over the weekend - and there are over 50 words that she uses consistently and correctly, plus five or six signs. Yup, fifty. She can name blue, green and red, and she holds her crayons exactly the way we hold pens to write (rather than the fist-grab). She can point to her eyes, ears, nose, hair, head, cheeks, hands, belly, belly-button, bum-bum, pee-pee, knees, hands, feet and toes, and can say all of those except belly and belly-button. She knows when something is hot or cold (warm is still kind of tricky!), she tells me when her hands are sticky, and when I forget to pray when we finish reading our bed-time Bible story she picks up my hands and holds them to remind me. She tells me when she pees in her diaper (which I don't honestly think is a sign of early potty-training because she's terrified of sitting on the potty the couple times I've let her try it!). She has overcome her crippling fear of the dog next door and now waves 'hi' to him when she hears him barking. She enjoys 'helping' me clean and do housework (a baby-wipe will keep her busy cleaning for a good 15 minutes!), and loves getting to feed her fish and water our plant every day. She loves Clover and Riah, and asks to see "Baby Cro-Cro" at least half a dozen times a day. She gets so excited about going to the library and picking out her own books, and her new favourite game is playing 'Ring-a-ring-a-rosie'. She has recently started playing pretend with her toys; bringing me her Ted and asking me to put a pair of her socks on him, giving her sippy cup to Elmo, helping Cheetah blow his nose when she has a cold herself... I love it!

I am so very thankful for my daughter, and so proud of what she has achieved in the first 18 months of her life. I love getting to share and experience her view of the world, and I'm grateful for her little reminders to me that acorns are fun to pick up and that airplanes in the sky are amazing. Few things make me happier than feeling her little arms squeeze my neck or hearing her running down the hallway saying "Mama!"

She is first God's child, but I'm so glad she's ours too!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Anna's nature walk

In the spirit of autumnal exploration, Anna and I went for a nature walk this morning. It was so fun! The edge of our neighbourhood borders a little wooded area, so we set off to explore fall colours and plants.

First we collected some acorns and talked about their little hats....

... and decided to try one on! We learned that acorns wear smaller hats than toddlers.

Then we looked at different kinds of stones, and found two that looked "same-same" :)

And then we found a big stick to stir the leaves with and listened to their crunchy sounds :)

And it turns out that children aren't the only ones that can learn things on nature walks. Not having grown up with the beast that is poison ivy, I haven't learned very well to watch for it when playing outside. I do know it has the characteristic three leaves, however, and half way through our walk I realised we were playing quite close to a lot of pretty red leaves - that all came in clumps of three! I've only ever seen green poison ivy in the summer so I wasn't sure what it would look like in the fall. I pulled out my iPhone and consulted google, and sure enough .... "Poison ivy leaves turn a vivid red in the fall. It is usually one of the first plants to change." (Good info here)

We scrubbed our hands, took baths and the laundry is on! So hopefully if it was in fact poison ivy that's the last we'll hear of it. Watch this space....!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Baby steps

It's been a while since I posted about our baby. Part of that was deliberate, and part was the result of life still going on and me still being in it. It's been two and a half months since I miscarried. A few weeks have gone by since the last time I felt like everything was falling apart ... a few hours have gone by since the last time I cried over his little life. I know that my heart is on the mend, one baby step at a time. I also am coming to realise that a little piece of a mother's heart becomes attached to each child that she conceives, and when that child is gone the part of her heart that's left behind will always hurt a little. And the part of my heart that is with my baby boy is singing and dancing with him.

"Sing, O barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor"

This is the verse that was spoken prophetically in church today. I felt that today I had to make a choice. One of my good friends is almost 20 weeks pregnant - about a week off of what I would have been right now. Mark and I have been close to this couple for years, and since miscarrying I have NOT been able to deal well with seeing her. After much soul-searching, I have decided that this is not borne out of bitterness. My struggle is that every time I see her, she represents a joy that that I will never know. She reminds me of my grief. Of the 'should have beens'. And I know that this will not be 'fixed' by getting pregnant again - the joy that I've lost was for this baby. Having Anna, I know what I am missing out on! And that is what my dear, sweet friend represented to me. Lost joy.

At church, I felt that this was the day that God wanted to break that. I think part of that was up to Him ... but He also showed me that a lot of the ache I felt whenever I was reminded of my loss was something I was holding onto, and could choose to relinquish. Paradoxically, it is easier for me to fall back into grief and pain than to be joyful in this situation (why would I choose to hold onto something that is hurting me...?). But God is calling me to sing, to burst into song and to shout for joy - in spite of missing a little piece of my heart.

I cried through worship today, I cried through communion, and I cried as I found my friend and hugged her. But I am choosing to relinquish my hold on the ache.

(And, as a sidenote, I am remembering that this baby of mine is not lost! What an inaccurate and hope-less expression we have developed as a euphemism for miscarriage. I didn't 'lose' my child - I know exactly where he is, and that he is safe and exuberantly happy!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Homemade pumpkin pie!

Mark and I took Anna to the pumpkin patch recently. It was so much fun; Mark was working at a hospital a mile away from the pumpkin patch, and he was having a slow afternoon so he came and joined us for a little while. Impromptu family date :) She was old enough this year to actually enjoy running around and looking at pumpkins, and she picked out a couple pie ones to bring home. For the last two years (since having a child to take to pumpkin patches!) I have made pies from scratch, and really enjoy doing it! It only takes a couple of hours from start to finish, and I get far more compliments on my home-made pies than I ever do when I just buy one from Walmart :) I decided to blog my pie-making experience this year, so here you go: pumkpin pie from scratch! (Note: I am NOT your resident pie-making expert! If you have other tips you can share, I'd be glad to hear them! :) Also, I used a frozen roll-out crust rather than making my own. There's only so much time in one little girl's nap!)

1. Go to the pumpkin patch and get someone cute to help you pick out your pie pumpkin. Ours were about 8 inches in diameter. (This is a guess; they were very similar in size to Anna's head, so find a 17-mo old's head to compare!)

2. Rinse your pumpkin to remove any dirt from the outside.
Tip: before you do anything else, get a Walmart bag and spread it out in your sink so you have somewhere to throw all the mess. This makes cleaning up a lot easier!

3. Cut the pumpkin in half. A serrated knife and sawing motion seemed to be the general online consensus, but I found that a 'rocking' motion with the knife was easier than straight-up sawing.

4. Scoop out the guts. For a smooth textured pie, scoop out all the strings. I used my ice-cream scoop, which was pretty labour-unintensive :)

5. Cut each half of the pumpkin into smaller chunks, ready for cooking. I cut each half into thirds, and then cut each of the thirds into thirds too. Obviously the smaller you cut the chunks, the quicker they'll cook :)

I steamed one half of the pumpkin in the microwave in a pyrex bowl with a lid, and the other half on the stove in a steamer. I didn't find that one was any quicker or more effective than the other. With the size of chunks that I used, it took between 15 and 20 minutes to completely cook. (I set my microwave to cook in 5-minute increments and just kept checking it.) It's done when the flesh of the pumpkin pulls away from the skin easily.

6. Peel it! I found using a dessert spoon to be quite effective. Also, preheat the over to 425.

7. Blend or puree the pumpkin flesh till it is smooth and without chunks. I have used my hand blender each time I did this and the texture is great; I'm sure any blending appliance would work just fine!

8. Get your pie crust out! Like I said, I bought one of those refrigerated rolled-up sheets of pastry and cheated on the crust. I did have to trim it to size and lay it in my pie dish, though, so I stopped one step short of totally selling out and getting a ready-to-bake one :) I baked my crust before adding the filling. If you do that, remember to put tin-foil over the edges of the filled crust once you bake it again, so the edges poking out above the filling don't get burned.

9. Add the following ingredients to the pumpkin puree and mix well. I just used my hand blender again. The resulting mixture will be runny; mine is usually about the consistency of stage 1 baby food. Panic not, the pie will thicken up perfectly :) Pour the pumpkin into your pie shell. I had a lot left over, as you can see from the picture below. I just froze it in a gallon ziploc.

1 cup sugar
1.5 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cloves
1 t ground all-spice
0.5 t ground ginger
0.5 t salt
4 eggs
18oz evaporated milk (= 1.5 tins)
0.5 t vanilla extract

10. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. In my oven, with a pie the size mine turned out to be, this took about 40 minutes. Invite some friends over for dessert, and enjoy!

(I got my recipe from this website. The author has plenty more fun pumpkin ideas on her site!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Little deaths

When I last posted, I meant to write about England and Bible Course, since both had recently happened. I spent so long going through my England pictures that I ran out of steam for Bible course, so now I'm playing catch-up again!

Four days after getting home from England, Mark's whole class left Tulsa for a New life Ranch a couple hours East of here. We spent a week there for Bible course; each day we had different speakers talk to us about some aspect of faith, medicine and the combination of the two. We also had the opportunity to do the ropes course there at the ranch, which was super-fun and filled with enough adrenaline to last the rest of the week!

One of the 'team-building exercises' was belaying for each other so no-one would crash to their death from great heights :)

Climbing Jacob's Ladder. the rungs got further apart as you climbed higher, and the vertical 'beams' were actually just metal cables. Made for a pretty tough climb!

Zip-line :)

The teaching we received was for the most part very inspiring and challenging. ("For the most part" because one of the speakers seemed to have a personality that I find very difficult to get along with, which made what they had to say more difficult for me to accept.) I think the one point that stands out to me the most from all of the teaching was something Dr Chris Berry (an Image grad) said while talking about weaving our faith into the way we practically live out our lives. He was talking about the love of God, and the facts that a) this love was most clearly demonstrated by His death on the cross, and b) we are called in John 15 to "love each other as I have loved you." This means that if we are truly loving the way Jesus does, there will be times that it feels a little like death to us. This is so counter-intuitive to me. When I hear the word 'love', it sounds warm and happy and fuzzy to me. It doesn't sound like dying! But when I am really and truly loving, this will often mean putting aside my own selfishness and sense of self-importance, and replacing those things with somebody else. And that sounds more like dying! But the reason that those little deaths are ok is that whatever I do for the least of these, I am doing unto my Jesus who, ultimately, is the One I want to love.

Now to put it into practice....!

Monday, September 27, 2010

There and back again

I am home.


I have spent the last month travelling, and I think this might have been the first time since moving to the States that coming back to Tulsa really and truly felt like coming home. I think that going back to England will always feel like going home ... but it's nice to know that coming back to the States does too.

After Anna and I had been in England for two weeks, Mark joined us for the last four days of the trip. Then we flew back to Tulsa and had four days at home to unpack, do laundry and repack before heading out again for another week.

England pictures first :)

Anna loved going to Marlow to feed the ducks and swans on the River Thames

She got lots of attention from Gramee and Grandpa!

Family picture sans Mark :(

Picnic on the Rye with Steph, Adam and his sister Laura.
(note the absence of rain in any of these pictures...!)

Anna's first baby doll!

One couch, four generations! Grandma was able to fly in from Canada for the wedding

Going for a walk through some of the gorgeous English countryside near where my parents live. Pushing Anna's stroller was a fought-after treat!

What would a trip to England be without going to the pub...? Matt and I went to watch England play one night. I love getting some good brother-time in :)

And good sister-time - Steph's hen night! (English for Bachelorette party)

Fun times had by all, especially Steph! :)

Decorating her wedding cake the night before the wedding, eek!

The Big Day! Beautiful Steph, proud Dad.

The wedding party outside the church. It rained all morning, but just as their wedding ceremony started the sun came out :)

All the girls!

The prettiest flower girl ever. In my humble opinion. She walked into the church holding Mark's hand. I didn't get to see it, since the bridesmaids came in after her, but everyone said she looked very cute :)

Well, that's a little glimpse into our time in England. I think I'll save the rest of my catching up for later!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sugar and spice and all things nice

This post title is in reference to my sweet baby girl. I am posting from England - woop! - which means we recently flew here. On an overnight, 9-hour plane ride. Without Mark. And got hit with monstrous jetlag which Anna is still not over. And are living in a house smaller than ours at home, with 5 other people (6 when Mark gets here) and only one shower!

But Anna has been such a trooper. She is inundated with new people and foods and environments every day, but is still a bundle of chubby happines and (for the most part!) good moods. She isn't sleeping very well at night; we're sharing a room, last night was the first night in two weeks that she slept through the night, and she's been waking up between 5:30 and 6:30 every morning. So we regressed to a 3-nap-a-day schedule, which is working well and she's taking three really good naps every day.

She is such a blessing to me. It is hard being away from Mark. Even though it's only two weeks. We were laughing at ourselves for having grown soft in our five years of being married; when we were dating, we wouldn't see each other for 6 or 7 months at a time, and now two weeks apart feels almost unbearable! I think part of what makes it hard is that I'm living as a single parent in my own parents' house. There is inevitable conflict in this, which I did forsee and kind of prepare myself for, and which we experienced last time we visited. But it's pretty different when Mark's around to back me up and rub my shoulders when things are stressing me out!

We're having a lot of fun, though. The weather's been gorgeous, we've gone to a lot of my favourite childhood haunts, we're getting wedding stuff accomplished, Steph had a rockin' hen night that came together really well even though I was planning it from Tulsa, it's been AWESOME to get to hang out with Steph and Matt, I've gotten to go watch England play from the comfort of the pub down the road with a pint of delicious cider in my hand, I've caught up with really good friends... life is good :)

We've skyped a couple times with Mark, and Anna gets SO excited to see him. It's hilarious. She tries to poke his face and share her juice with him, and she jabbers away at him and says hi ... and every day she goes and finds this family picture with Mark in it, that my mom has on the mantle, and points at his face and waves at him. Super-cute. [See? Sugar and spice :) ]

So all in all, England is awesome. Predictably :) Pictures coming soon..........!

Friday, August 20, 2010

That tiny boy

Today is Friday again. It's hard to believe another week has already gone by. But it has .... and they will continue to do so, one by one.

And what a week it's been! Emotionally, it has been [as you are coming to expect from me :)] pretty turbulent. There have been days that I have gotten through and felt totally ok at the end of them - paired with days that I've certainly made up for my afore-mentioned 'control' and lost it several times during the day. At the slightest mis-spoken but well-intended word, at something Anna does that just makes me want another little mini-her to watch grow up and do goofy things, at a song or something I hear on the radio. Like the other day - I heard a letter written from the perspective of a 6-year-old to his mom on the first day of school. It was filled with little phrases and messages that I expect would have been very comforting for a mother in that situation to hear, but it just made me fall apart and I could not for the life of me reach over and turn the dumb radio off! "Don't worry, mom, I know today is hard for you and you feel all alone when I'm gone, but this is somewhere I have to be right now. But I am thinking of you and my face is still covered with all your kisses (oh, what would I not give to kiss that little face!), and I'll come home and hold your hand at the end of the day."

Sigh. See what I mean?!?! Basket case on the highway, powerless to turn it off.

Physically, I am doing better now. I had two consecutive nights of waking up having hours of contractions and feeling like my entire uterus was bleeding out. The contractions felt like when I had Anna; I had to focus on breathing through them, try different positions to relieve the pain, just like a normal labour and delivery - but without the promise of a baby at the end! Fruitless. After those two nights the bleeding didn't really start letting up, so my doctor scheduled me in for a dilation and curettage (D&C) yesterday. Had I not been travelling to England early next week I don't think we would have made that arrangement ... but it was something that he and Mark and I all felt better about under the circumstances of my travel plans.

I wasn't excited about the prospect of having a D&C. I knew that especially after those two nights of contracting, the start of our baby's little body was not still in my womb, and I have received a lot of reassurance from Jesus that He is holding our tiny boy. But something still felt to me like this would be the day that he died and I lost him, because of something I (kind of) chose to do. In the very appropriate words of my good friend Amanda .... suckfest.

The procedure itself went really well, according to my doctor's report to Mark while they both waited for me to wake up from my rather long Anaesthetic-induced nap! I'd never been under general before, but I apparently don't have any kind of wacked-out adverse reactions to it, for which we're thankful. I'm not having any pain now, although I am single-handedly keeping Ibuprofen in business! :)

I don't (for two days in a row now...!) feel like my world is still falling apart, and I feel more sociable. I think I mentioned before that if you had any idea of what Mark and I were going through, it became slightly more acceptable to hang out. But otherwise, I pretty much didn't want to see you if you weren't family! I think that although I dreaded having the surgery, and definitely had a lot of pre-conceived notions of what my emotional state of being would look like as a consequence of the D&C, God in His mercy has redeemed it and made it a time of closure and healing.

One of the things I anticipated from the D&C was losing the feeling of still being near to our baby. Even though I knew he wasn't here any more, and really hadn't been since his tiny heart never started beating, I still somehow felt close to him. (Although, as I mentioned in a previous post, that feeling didn't really start till after we found out for sure that we were having a miscarriage.) So I was afraid that having the procedure would take that away from me. But, in His seemingly endless mercy, as Mark drove me away from the hospital I was so very aware of not only God's closeness to me, but also our baby's. Is this theologically sound? Who knows. I certainly don't, but you would be hard-pressed to convince me that what I experienced didn't happen on theological grounds!

As we ate dinner last night, Mark was sitting next to Anna's highchair feeding her, and all of a sudden this feeling of Jesus and our baby being near to me became very intense. And I realised that I could sense an almost palpable presence in the room with us. Now - this is something I didn't see with my physical eyeballs and retinas, but I know that God was opening my mind's eye to be able to see what I was sensing. (Poor Mark - he just sat there feeding Anna, waiting for me to stop bawling and explain what was going on!) Jesus was standing in the kitchen with us as we ate, and he was holding this little bundle in His arms. Anna started laughing at her own goofiness, as usual, and I saw a little arm poke out of the bundle to grab and wave in her direction when she laughed. A fold of the blanket moved and I could see a little chubby face with skin a little lighter than Anna's, and big dark eyes. He didn't look like a newborn - I guess time in Heaven is like time in Narnia or something :) - but more like a 4 or 5 month old baby. He was a little chubs, with those alert eyes that can really look at you and see you. He didn't ever take his eyes off of Jesus' face, though, to look over at us. And I think that made me happy. I know he was aware of us, because he waved at Anna ... and that was enough for me. He has something that I will never be able to - a life lived entirely and fully in the presence of Jesus, captivated by His face, from the moment he became alive. What more is there that a mother could desire for her child? Of course I miss him with my whole heart - indescribably so - and will still have broken-hearted days, and would give almost anything to hold him in my own arms rather than being a spectator ... but I could never wish him to leave the arms that are now holding him.

I will see you again one day, sweet boy ... I love you so much!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Well, I've made it through this week. Today is Friday. It's almost the weekend. Wednesday was the hardest day yet. I was supposed to go get a repeat blood draw to confirm that my HCG level was falling (as would be expected in a miscarriage). I went to the lab at my doctor's office once Anna and I were up and ready first thing in the morning, only to be told that there was some missing paperwork and they couldn't do my bloodwork. For some reason, I absolutely could not handle that. I burst into tears and drove straight home - even though my doctor's office was just down the hall and it would've been a relatively simple matter to just go find out what the confusion was. That was a totally insurmountable task, compared to my tiny reserve of coping ability! I cried all the way home, all the way through Anna's naptime story and lullaby, and sat on my bed and cried for who even knows how long. I cried when Mark came home to have lunch with me, cried when he prayed over lunch, cried when he left, cried on the way back from Walmart, cried while I made dinner ... I think I cried twenty different times on Wednesday. I don't know what to do with myself when I'm swinging between mustering up enough hold-it-together-ness to complete simple household tasks, and feeling like my world is falling apart. I know that it will not always be like this. I know that His mercies are new every morning. I know that my baby is in a better place and that I will see him one day. I know that we live in an imperfect world that is waiting for redemption. I KNOW all of those things!

But my heart is still breaking.

Two days later, and I'm feeling a little better. I think I only had one meltdown yesterday. Thanks for the encouraging messages ... it really helps to know that people are praying. I don't feel especially sociable (yesterday and the day before, unless you were either Mark, Anna or Jesus coming to tell me He's going to do a miracle and bring our baby back, I definitely wasn't interested in seeing you!), but it really is good to know that there are people there when I'm ready to hang out again. I still feel like my level of functioning is limited to just surviving rather than being on top of things, but in the last couple of days I have at least accomplished going to Walmart, dusting and vacuuming my house, and doing some laundry. And getting myself and Anna (and today Riah) through each day without totally falling to pieces. I am planning on going back to the lab today to get my bloodwork done. For real this time. I just feel like my ability to cope with even the simple things in my life is reduced to 'minimal'. My phone is not syncing with the Mac, and I feel like throwing them both out the window; the babies both just started making noise after being asleep for 30 minutes, and I feel like smacking their heads together if they do it again! These are not normally feelings I struggle with!!


I think part of it is that I'm hormonal and my body is in that post-partum stage of trying to reset itself ... on top of grieving. And I'm trying to find a balance between being able to go through a healthy grieving process and still coping with my life and taking care of Anna and Mark. I wonder more and more how people go through this who don't know that they can call on the Creator of the universe for help.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A mega-post. You've been warned!

This is a series of posts that I have been writing but not publishing over the last month or so. The condensed version is this: in June we found out that we were adding a baby to our family, but this last weekend I started spotting. I called my doctor who saw me on Monday, did an ultrasound and found no heartbeat. Labs have confirmed that we lost the baby. It has been a rollercoaster month filled with hopes, doubts, and waiting.
I know that for most of you this entire last paragraph is all new news ... and I apologise for delivering it via the internet. While I would love to be able to tell all of our friends personally, it's just not a conversation that I can bear to have over and over and over again! But we do want you all to know.

So ... that is today's news. If you would like, feel free to read through my thoughts over the last month or so ... but be warned that there are plenty of them!

This year for Fathers Day, Mark got what we thought was the bulk of his gift a few weeks in advance. I was out garage sale-ing and found this awesome propane/charcoal grill, complete with a half-full tank of propane, for $20! Of course I snapped it up, and we've been enjoying it ever since :)

On the actual day of Fathers Day, Mark got home around 8am from 24-hour call at the hospital and found a second gift waiting for him - a positive pregnancy test!! I have taken SO many tests in the last 8 months or so, and (clearly) they have all been negative ... until now! I can't even describe how excited I was when that second blue line appeared in the window :) And of course Mark was ecstatic too ... our little family is about to get one baby bigger! We went to the clinic that afternoon and Mark did an ultrasound to see if we could figure out how far I was, since my LMP wasn't looking to be very reliable, and it looked like I was about 4 weeks. Putting my due date about Feb 27th of next year.

Over the last few weeks, though, my feelings about the pregnancy have kind of changed. I think that as Mark and I were talking about it, I figured out at least how, if not why, I was feeling so much less excited about it. Actually, 'disconnected' was the word that felt the most accurate. So far, the only experience I have had with being pregnant resulted in Anna. So when I think about being pregnant, I identify that feeling with Anna. Now that we already have Anna and can look at her toddling around and playing with us, it's almost as though my mind is saying "well - why be pregnant again? Pregnancy results in Anna, and Anna's already here!" I don't know whether that really makes sense to anyone else ... but it's the closest I can describe to what's been going on in my mind!

We've been going back to the clinic once a week to do ultrasounds, and so far all we've been able to see is a gestational sac. I'm about seven weeks now, and we probably should've been able to see a fetal pole by now. The gestational sac is growing each time we check, and I'm pretty sure we saw more than this with Anna by this time. That kind of worries me. I have my first appointment with my doctor in two weeks, and Mark and I decided that we wouldn't do any more ultrasounds till then. It's making Mark more anxious than me, I think, and he said that he didn't really want to be the doctor when he's supposed to be the daddy. I was praying about the baby yesterday, and kind of wondered at God whether part of the reason I didn't feel nearly so attached to this pregnancy as I did with Anna, could be His preparation for bad news when I go see Dr Ross. It's very possible that Mark and I conceived, the embryo implanted but it stopped developing, and we may lose the baby. That would be one explanation for a growing gestational sack but no baby that we can see inside of it. I'm praying that if that is the case and God is preparing me, that He'd keep giving me and Mark the grace to deal with it ... but that if this isn't from Him that he'd change my heart and my feelings.

So now it's just a waiting game, I guess. We've told our two families that I'm pregnant, and one or two close friends, but we're probably going to hold off telling everyone else till we have some definite news as far as the baby's development. I'm writing this now but not posting it till after my appointment ... I'll probably post it regardless of what the news is, but I wanted to write things down while they're fresh in my mind. And while Anna is sleeping so I can think straight without having to stop and make sure she's not exploring her way to an injury :)

It has been almost a week since I wrote that - and it's been a week of rollercoaster emotions. Until yesterday, I think the predominant emotion that I had was still feeling very detached from this pregnancy and baby. Almost to the point that I didn't think I really was pregnant, despite pulling out my pregnancy tests and double- / triple- checking! I am feeling about the same now (physically) as I did in my early pregnancy with Anna; tired a lot, swinging between feeling constantly hungry or else grossed out by the thought of food, sore boobs, peeing a lot ... the typical early trimester stuff. My psychological state of being, however, is polar opposite from how I felt with Anna. Not excited, not 'feeling pregnant', not attached to the baby. And not feeling guilty about those feelings! This is something that I found very surprising; a month ago, if you had told me I would be feeling this way now, I would probably have started feeling guilty just at the THOUGHT of feeling this way!

Two things happened this week, though, that particularly impacted me. The first was something a good doctor friend of ours said when Mark and I were having dinner with him (he is an adjunct faculty member at Image where Mark is training). Having had some experience with loss of a baby, he said to us, "Well, you can know one thing at least. You will get to hold this baby. Whether it is now, when it's born and placed in your arms, or in heaven. You will get to hold the baby." That really struck me. I suppose the reality of this child suddenly sank in a little. Whether or not I 'feel pregnant', a little life got started and will continue to live. Be that here with us or in heaven with Jesus, I don't yet know. But it will exist for all eternity as my child!

The second thing that happened was part of our church service yesterday. We have been journeying through the subjects of healing and suffering recently. The resounding theme has been that regardless of the presence or absence of healing or suffering, God is good and His love for us is unimaginably huge. (That sounds very cliche as I'm re-reading. I do not mean to sound trite, and it has been a very insightful and well-handled series of sermons that is far beyond simply a collection of Christiany platitudes.) Towards the end of the service, little yellow pieces of paper were passed out. On these, we were invited to write down something (or things) for which we needed to wait on God, and rest in being able to trust in His goodness whatever the outcome. We were given the opportunity during a time of worship to take the piece of paper to the front of the church and leave it there, symbolising relinquishing our 'control' over it and our desire to wait on God's outcomes. One of the things I wrote was "my baby". Mark and I walked to the front together to add our papers to the sea of yellow on the floor ... and suddenly, it was gut-wrenchingly difficult for me to let go of it. I did, eventually, after standing and bawling for what felt like an eternity, and nothing miraculous happened. In fact, I felt as though I was already grieving for this little life, now that I'd given it over to God. (As though He hadn't been holding my baby since the beginning of time...) But throughout the course of the day, I felt a sense of peace filling my heart. God is in control, He is good, He already knows the outcome of my appointment with Dr Ross, and one day, I will get to hold this baby.

Well, today was the day of my appointment with Dr Ross. It was - until he called in sick and his office had to reschedule me. I'm so disappointed! I feel like these last two weeks have been the longest of my life - waiting to find out whether or not my baby is ok. That's not a small deal to me! I'm rescheduled for a week from today, which is really not an extremely long time to wait, but it sure feels like it is. Mark managed to finagle a couple hours off work this morning so he could come with me to see Dr Ross, which he's unlikely to be able to do next week since he'll be working at the hospital. We talked for a few minutes this morning and we may try to get one of his classmates to perform an ultrasound at the clinic this evening after work. I feel like I just want to know ... you know?!

I'm still feeling physical symptoms - tiredness, some nausea etc - and my emotional state of being is a little more stable. And a little more favourable towards the baby, which I'm taking as a good thing! (Just to clarify, my problem has never been not wanting the baby. I want this baby! It is that I have never 'felt' in my mind that it was actually real. I think that is an important distinction to make.)

So ... maybe I'll know something more definitive by this evening. Maybe not. The waiting game continues, and I need a nap.

We have a baby! This evening we got one of Mark's colleagues to ultrasound me after work. We explained the situation - that we thought I was about 9 weeks and that at 7 weeks we still hadn't been able to see a fetal pole, and that my OB appointment had been pushed back another week. So we took another peek, and the first thing we saw was a tiny, white dot in the middle of the gestational sack: our little peanut! However, judging by the size, I am probably close to 4 weeks earlier in the pregnancy than we thought I was. By seven to eight weeks a heartbeat should be present, and the baby is nowhere near being large enough to detect a heartbeat. That puts me at around 6 weeks and moves my due date from the end of Feb to the end of March. [Which, for those of you more medically oriented people, means that Mark found a gestational sack that first time at around 3 weeks! Mad skillz :) ]
On the way back from the clinic I was listening to the radio, and that Mark Schultz song 'Child of Mine' was playing. I'm not a massive fan of his, but the lyrics seemed to be coming straight from God to this little baby.

"You are a child of Mine
born of My own design
and you bear the heart of life"

Welcome to being alive, little peanut!

I had some very light spotting this weekend. We called my doctor, and he called in a prescription for me that might help. He also told me to come see him on Monday (yesterday) for an ultrasound to check on the baby. The good news - by yesterday the spotting had pretty much stopped. The bad news - Dr Ross wasn't able to find a heartbeat. We're not exactly sure of my dates, since I only had one cycle between re-starting after Anna and getting pregnant. But based on the date I took the pregnancy test, we're pretty sure I'm at least 8 weeks. By which time you can definitely see a heartbeat. So we're fairly confident that we lost the baby. I'm doing some blood tests over the next couple week or so to measure the level of pregnancy hormone in my blood (quant. serum HCG), with the expectation that it we'll see it start to drop again. Dr Ross did tell us that he didn't want to totally rule out the possibility of a weird ultrasound that we just happened to take on a 'bad' day, and that he wants to wait for my bloodwork to come back before absolutely settling on a miscarriage, but the chances of that are pretty slim. Mark and I are firm believers in the power of God to bring life to lifeless situations, but we also know that we live in a fallen world and that bad things do indeed happen to good people. God has given me a somewhat out-of-place sense of peace about this ... it doesn't mean I'm grieving any less (I've cried at about a dozen different things today and it's only mid-afternoon!), but I know His presence and I have peace. Peace with tears.

Dr Ross called me last night and told me that my bloodwork was back. It confirmed that we lost the baby. It was what we expected to hear, so in a way it wasn't a difficult phonecall to get through. And in another way it was the most difficult one I've ever had.
Yesterday was a really tough day. I felt very emotional; partly because I think the news is still sinking in, but I feel like a lot of it is also hormonal. It's crappy to go through post-partum stuff without having a baby there to make it all worth it.
Something that I didn't expect to happen is that now that I know the baby is gone, it suddenly feels real to me. I never felt like the baby was real while I was carrying it ... but now that it's with Jesus I totally know that it's real and alive. We both feel like it was a boy, and we'd named him even before finding anything out this week. My grieving feels different from experiencing a death; it feels more like missing someone who is temporarily gone. Like when Mark and I were long-distance and we wouldn't see each other for months. I loved and missed him, and hated not being with him - but I knew that I'd see him again in six months. It feels like that. I just miss our baby. Anna is getting lots of lovin' these days ... I look around the house at her cluttery toys that don't match my decor and get under my feet when I walk around the house - and I'm so unspeakably grateful that they're there!
And speaking of that little bug ... I think she's awake. I'm gonna go grab her and smooch those big fat cheeks. If you made it all the way to the bottom, well done. And thanks for staying with me. I mean that.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's Monday morning...

... and all seems well with the world - or at least, my little corner of it :) I love days like this. Since I left the workforce (hallelujah!), Mondays aren't the dreaded first day back that they used to be. But it's still the start of a new week, Mark is back at work, my to-do list starts over, and it still feels like a kind of first day back. So far, I've gotten to sleep an extra hour (thanks Anna!), got up and made that little girl some delicious yums, remembered today is bin day - before the bin-men got to my part of the neighbourhood, victory - made a mango-strawberry-banana smoothie, mug of coffee and slice of Nutella toast for breakfast, and am now sitting down to enjoy breakfast while I listen to Anna playing in the next room. There are days that I miss nursing ... but today is not one of them! I am so thankful for my amazing husband who gets up at 5:45, goes to the hospital to pour himself out taking care of other people and teaching interns how to be good doctors for 13 hours a day, and comes home exhausted - so that I can stay home and enjoy taking care of Anna. I know he'd likely be doing those things even if he wasn't married and didn't have a child, because that is what God has called him to do. But we recently had a very enlightening conversation in which I got a little glimpse into the difference it makes to his motivation for getting up in the mornings when he knows that his paycheck is what keeps the bread and butter on the table for his family. Yup ... I married a good 'un.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Five years!

Last Friday marked the fifth anniversary of the day Mark and I got married! It's hard to believe it's been that long already! Five years ago we were entering the unknowns of being married after a three-year transatlantic relationship, moving to a city neither of us was familiar with, and starting medical school.

Lots of change all at once is considered a good thing, right...? I hope so, because that seems to be a pattern we're falling into in our marriage! Four years in, we graduated from medical school and nursing school, had Anna, moved house, started Residency and I became a stay-at-home mom. All within 6 weeks!

But it has been good ... so good. Even with the difficulties and challenges, these last five years have been such a testament to God's goodness and ever-presence. My life is a continual reminder to me that this earth is not my home. CS Lewis and God sum it up well when they write (respectively):

"If I find in me a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (Mere Christianity)


"All these people died still believing what God had promised them ... They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland." (Heb 11)

When I lived in England, part of my heart was here with Mark. And now that Mark and I are together, part of my heart is still in England. And I made my peace with that a long time ago. It is a reminder to me, though, that neither England, Tulsa, Mark or wherever we end up on the mission field, are my true home. I'm still waiting for that! But in the meantime, I love that we just celebrated five years :)

Mark planned a surprise weekend trip to Kansas City. We were in KC a year or two ago for a medical conference, and I loved the downtown areas we got to see, but didn't feel like we really got to spend time exploring the city because of the conference. I guess Mark tucked that away, and brought it back out when he was planning our anniversary weekend :) We stayed right in the heart of downtown, and got to walk through the city and explore to our hearts' content. We left Anna with Mimi and Papa for the weekend, and had the freedom to eat when we wanted, sleep when we wanted, wander through downtown after dark without worrying about our poor baby's bedtime ... :) The highlight of the weekend, however, was that our anniversary weekend in KC just happened to coincide with my favourite football team in all the world, Manchester Utd, being there! So I got to see them play live against the Kansas City Wizards :)

I just love that Mark knows me well enough to pull off an anniversary weekend involving going to see a football game. It definitely wasn't the tropical all-inclusive beachside super-romantic getaway that girls always want (and that in other circumstances I would not turn down!). But he knows me well enough to know that given the choice between a cruise and watching Man Utd play live, I'd be in that stadium in a heartbeat :)

So ... thanks for a perfect anniversary weekend, neener! I loved it, and I love you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thoughts on a food fight

So we have entered a new stage with Anna: a departure from her previous unquestioning obedience and acceptance of what we put in front of her. This has so far only come up at meal time and bath time; meal time in that she has developed likes and dislikes for certain foods, and bath time in that she doesn't want to get out. This is very new and unlike our previous mild-mannered, obedient child! Yesterday when Mark started to get her out of the tub, she started flailing around and kicking water everywhere, and when he laid her down on her towel and wrapped her up, she got this (admittedly adorable and hilarious!) pouty face and wouldn't look at him.

I am still trying to figure out what approach I want to take with her when she pouts or throws a mini-fit ... I obviously want her to understand the role of child and parent, and how obedience and respect play into that relationship. But I don't want to entirely stifle her ability to say no and assert her opinion, because at some point down the road I want her to be able to stand up for herself! I read recently that her ability to say no to peer pressure and bad influences in the future depends on her having the freedom to say no earlier in her life as well. I don't think I subscribe to this view, because on the one hand she is acting out of obedience to a higher influence than the one that is tempting her, and on the other hand she's placing her own wishes and feelings over her obedience to me. So I don't think that if I stress obedience when she's young, she's going to end up rebelling and giving in to all kinds of awful temptations as soon as she's faced with them! My intention is definitely to raise children who are well-mannered and obedient, and can respect my God-given authority over them even when it clashes with their own desires. However, I do want them to know that I will take into consideration their preferences and opinions when I'm interacting with them, and I don't want to shape our kids' personalities into something that's rooted in legalism and fear of punishment. I want them to know and experience grace and forgiveness as part of their daily lives, because that is how my Father is raising me!

I know this may all sound a little heavy, bearing in mind I started this blog talking about bath/meal-times and we've had a total of about 3 little fits so far! But something else I read recently that I definitely do subscribe to is that when parents raise their children, they need to do so bearing in mind the kind of adult they are aiming to see their child become. All of the little choices we make when we raise Anna and discipline her, and the little habits we develop in our interactions with her, will have an effect on the adult she will one day become. That kind of makes me want to do it right! How do parents cope who don't have the perfect Parent to follow....?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I am no longer married....

... to an INTERN!!

As of July 1st, Mark is a second year resident. This will mean a slightly lighter schedule, less call at the hospital, a (marginally) larger paycheque each month, and more time at home! This would be a little more exciting if his first weekend as a second year wasn't his call weekend for this month ... but that's ok. He has a month of working 8-5, with some half days sprinkled in there, so we're not complaining :)

The last weekend of June was the annual Image Summer Retreat - a weekend away to welcome the incoming interns, send off the graduating third years, catch up with returning alumni and enjoy the pool and lake at the retreat center! This is Anna with one of her little friends that came to hang out with us for a couple hours during the retreat so her parents could take the older kids horseback riding! It is so much fun watching Anna interact with other kids now - her personality definitely emerges more strongly when she's playing.

In all honesty, I actually have kind of mixed feelings about the retreat; we usually end up more tired at the end than we were at the start and don't get to spend a whole lot of time together because of various meetings the residents have to attend, but it's still a fun weekend.

And speaking of fun weekends ... happy 4th of July to those of you who celebrate it! It's kind of a funny holiday for me, but hey - I'll take it if it means parties and an extra day off for Mark :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Well, summer is definitely here! I don't remember the last time I was able to take the babies outside for their morning walk - it's already so hot and humid by the time morning naps are over that I just can't bear the thought of wearing my Moby wrap and lugging Anna while pushing Riah in the stroller! To compensate for walking, though, we've been swimming a lot recently; Mark's parents put a pool in in the fall, and it's definitely added to the reasons I'm glad we still live within 4 miles of their house! Anna LOVES the water, and I'm probably going to get her a little inflatable pool to put on our back patio so she can swim here too. Mark's schedule this month has been surprisingly nice, considering the fact that he's technically working nights. He works an overnight on Sunday, sleeps all day Monday, then works a 24 hour shift from Monday night till Tuesday night. Then he's home all day Wed/Thurs, and has clinic Friday mornings. We're loving having him around! We've gone swimming, taken Anna to the Aquarium using our family pass that Mark got her for Christmas (which she loves at least as much as swimming), grilled, watched lots of good World Cup football - this is made more awesome by the fact that Anna has a little England shirt! - had picnics together ... as Calvin and Hobbes would say, "The days are just packed!" :)

We're starting to look for tickets to England for the fall - very exciting (though somewhat pricier than when Mark and I routinely flew back and forth before getting married!), mainly because the reason for our trip is that Steph is getting married! We're super excited, both for Steph and Adam, and just to be back in England again :)

Anna seems to have had a 'developmental growth spurt' recently; all of a sudden she is very good at walking only holding ONE of our hands instead of clutching both for dear life, she talks pretty much all day and sounds just like us (with intonation, phrases of differing lengths, different 'words' that mean different things etc), she will happily play by herself in her play-yard for a good 25-30 minutes, and I think the amount that she understands is rapidly increasing. We often play "where's Anna.... there she is!", and have done that for months now, but all of a sudden when we substitute in other words for Anna she can find Mama, Dada, Sushi (her fish), her blankie, her tiger, her books.... and is good at following commands. It is crazy to me the rate at which her little mind is developing and expanding. I LOVE getting to watch that all day!

Well, I need to go shower my poolwater off so we can go out for sushi (uh ... actual sushi. This could become a problem!) when Mark gets back from doing manly man things at Lowes. As I said - the days are just packed :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Home away from home

Most of the time, having now lived in the States for close to 5 years (!), I feel totally at home here. There are some seasons/events that slightly dilute that feeling - significant events taking place in the lives of my family members in England, struggles with the immigration process here, conversations in which Americans bash all things socialised or declare the American way of life far superior to anyone else's (particularly when said American has never left their country of birth to experience the cultures they are so willing to bash) ... and major international sporting competitions. In this case - the World Cup.

Now, before you start thinking I'm about to launch into an anti-American diatribe of some kind, let me just acknowledge that every country has its own biases and of course focuses in on its own little segment of international events. However, few countries that I have experienced indulge in this to the extent that the US does! I am not expecting to find other England fans roaming the streets of Tulsa wearing their home flags as capes, like I would in Wycombe. It just makes me sad that I live in probably the only country in the world whose population, for the most part, is totally oblivious to the fact that the first World Cup game kicked off an hour ago!

I miss England today. I miss walking down the street and seeing half a dozen pubs flying the national flag and touting their World Cup watch-parties and game-specific happy hours. I miss seeing pictures of various nations' WC squads plastered across every newspaper in the country, the double-spread bracket page that every kid in the country has blue-tacked up in their bedroom to fill out as the competition progresses, the way every TV and radio station incorporates the WC into their broadcasts and will stop regular broadcasting to announce game updates. I miss that low-level excitement that is the baseline pretty much anywhere you go in the country. The anticipation that maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that England brings it home again - but even if we don't, that there's an entire nation of people who are staunch, patriotically English, and drunk enough to proudly wear the three lions anyway! (Or to rip their shirts off and paint massive red St George's crosses on their beer bellies/chests and show THAT off instead!)

I'm so thankful that the Crouch family is so into football. I know it may seem trivial, but to me it's not. It is so comforting to me that while I may miss out on a lot of things I would love to be there for on the other side of the ocean, I will not be watching any World Cup games by myself!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Road Trip!

Something that has daunted me a little since Anna was born is the thought of taking her on a road trip. She is normally a pretty laid-back, flexible kid as long as we don't stray TOO far away from her normal routine, but I couldn't quite picture her being in a good mood sitting in her carseat for endless hours while we drove across the country!

Well ... this last weekend was time to test her endurance. We drove to Illinois for Grandmama Crouch's funeral. She passed away on Tuesday morning, at the age of 100. We are grieving for her, but rejoicing at the same time. She had an incredibly close walk with Jesus and was able to recite Psalm after Psalm until just a few months before she died, and we know she is with her Saviour now. It was heartbreaking to see her confined to a nursing home bed not knowing what was going on around her, so although we miss her, we are happy that she is home.

The drive from here to Illinois is about 9 hours, and Anna handled it like a champ! She had a grand total of about 20 minutes of bawling on the way there - potentially a result of the molar we didn't realise she was cutting! - and hardly complained at all on the way back. I am SO thankful for her - she is such a delight to me!

I am realising, though, that parenting has been pretty easy thus far and is about to start getting complicated! She is old enough to start disciplining, and I am becoming aware of the monumental amount of wisdom needed not only to do this in the correct way, but to combine Mark's and my two different upbringings and opinions on the subject! I am so thankful that we have the perfect Parent to model ourselves after.

Here are some of her birthday pictures that weren't ready when I last posted; we had a little picnic on the night of her birthday, and then on the following Saturday we had a big cook-out and had a bunch of friends and family to help celebrate. Her birthday theme was ladybugs, since she's been Daddy's little bug since she was a couple weeks old. I made her little birthday dress the morning of her party!

Birthday cupcake!

Opening fun presents :)

Sweet girl...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A precious girl, a resolution and no tornado

I mention tornadoes because although we didn't have any during this last spate of storms, the sirens (which I have never before heard except on sunny Saturday afternoons) woke us up at 4:30 this morning to announce the presence of -- rain. With wind and thunder, yes, but no tornadoes!

In other news ....

Today my sweet baby girl turns one!

I am so grateful for the last year that I have gotten to spend with Anna. She amazes me every day, and while she will always be my baby, she also seems so grown up. She calls me Mama, she uses sign language for 'please' and 'all done' correctly, she understands and (mostly!) obeys 'no-no', she can put her spoon in the dishwasher, she loves other babies and children, she has a sense of humour already, she is becoming braver about walking with her push-along toys, she can go underwater when we go swimming, she loves looking at books (especially her childrens Bible!) and pointing at the pictures. She gets so excited when she sees a dog or cat that she nearly throws up, and she loves being outside - especially when she feels the wind on her face. Yesterday she found a paper-towel and tried to help me clean up Riah's spit-up from the floor and my leg! She grabs my fingers at least 20 times a day to go for a walk, and loves her new-found crawling independence :) She recently started doing breaking out some baby dance moves (you know ... bobbing up and down in one place when she hears music!). When she hears a prolonged loud noise - the vacuum, driving with the windows down etc - she feels it necessary to match the noise. She has shouted for entire car-trips around town just because I had the windows down and it was noisy!

Here are some pictures from Anna's first year of life ... enjoy!

(Oh - and my resolution? To be better at keeping my blog up-to-date over the coming year. Predictable, I know. But needed!)

Anna was born at Hillcrest in Tulsa, on May 13th 2009 at 00:51 after 22 hours of labour.

Aunt Tiffany babysat for a few hours and took some pictures!

Anna's first weeks included several pool trips ... mainly involving Auntie Megan!

Steph was her first trans-atlantic guest :)

Anna's dedication at Believers Church when she was a month old, while mom and dad were in Tulsa

Starting solids on her 4-month birthday!

My Grandma flew in from Canada to meet her Great-grand-daughter....

... shortly followed by Steph and Matt :)

Trip to the pumpkin patch

And a trip into the pumpkin!

Anna's halloween costume :) We dressed up as Alice, the Mad Hatter and the Caterpillar.

Anna Clause

Mark almost got snowed out on Christmas morning ... but thankfully, after walking four miles in the snow, got home just in time to help Anna open her stocking! What a good daddy :)

Good times in the snow on Christmas day!

She went through a hilarious fish-face stage

Her first plane trip! We went to England at the end of January, and she did so well on the plane! This picture was taken at 2am after having travelled for over 12 hours - bright and cheerful!

England family

Back home in time to celebrate St Paddy's day

Anna's first picnic, in our back yard :)

Easter-egg hunting with daddy!

Anna and Riah in their Easter outfits. It's going on the wedding slideshow...!

She LOVES Mimi's pool :)

Birthday waffles & syrup this morning were a big hit!

Sweet girl, we are so thankful that you are part of our family. May God bless your next year and guard your heart as you learn more about Him. We love you!