Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas in the Military

This is my favorite time of year. I love the colors, the cooler weather, the goodness of people, the songs, the smells... I guess I like all of it. Recently I was asked what my favorite part of Christmas was and I didn't have to think long before I said,

"I love the excitement. Today, we went to the tree lighting ceremony on base. Before they lit the tree, Santa arrived on a carriage and pulled up right next to us. All of the kids rushed him in excitement. Initially I held my kids back so the man could get to the tree, but I saw how excited Theo was. He was waving and kept saying, 'Hi Santa' over and over. I gave in and walked with him closer to Santa, thinking that Santa would wave and we'd just stand off to the side as we greeted him. We got closer and Theo was so excited, he waved and shouted 'HI SANTA' louder and louder hoping to get a response. He didn't. Then he left my side and started following Santa as he walked towards the tree repeating himself and waving, over and over and over. I just looked at Santa, put my hands to my face and started to think, 'COME ON SANTA, JUST WAVE AT THE KID!' I guess my telepathic message worked, because just then, Santa turned around. Theo was maybe an inch away from Santa's red coat when Santa bent down and greeted Theo. He shook his hand, asked his name and said, 'Merry Christmas'. Theo's face lit up. Once the tree was lit, we were allowed inside for the holiday celebration and as we crossed the threshold, there was Santa, Henrik looked at him, and said 'hi' to him. He was so happy he was so close to Santa. Santa looked at my boys and said, 'I remember you! Merry Christmas, I'll see you soon!" Henrik was just in awe, he looked up at me and said, 'He remembered us!" It was the most magical moment of any Christmas. I just love the joy that kids get this time of year."

It's moments like that that make this time of year so wonderful, at least for me. It's the magic, it's the joy, it's the ability to believe in something that is bigger than you. If you remember my post from last year, you'll remember that Henrik was worried Santa wouldn't find them because we'd just moved and while we had our tree up and Toby, our elf was visiting, we didn't have lights up outside. So, I told him that of course Santa would find us, but I took him shopping to find something to decorate the outside. That was an easy fix to a very important problem, this year we've found ourselves in the same situation.

This year, we happen to be moving, in fact, we are moving out of our house tomorrow and away from Colorado in four days. When we should be putting up Christmas lights, and decorating a tree while we read The Grinch and dance around to Jingle Bells, we are putting away everything we own (in front of our children) in boxes, taping them up, and moving boxes around the house and to a storage unit. Our house has no order, it's complete chaos. This time of year the only chaos should be dealing with wrapping paper, and pine needles. Before we really started packing, I pulled out our elf, Toby, and had him do some less exciting things than he did last year, but at least he was around. And I pulled out our stockings because I thought Santa could bring our stockings before our road trip as a nice surprise. So even though the boys didn't know it, I was sort of thinking about Christmas. I even ordered presents off of Amazon and sent them to my mom's house so the boys could have a good Christmas. I was preparing them for Santa to visit them at their grandparents' houses and they seemed to understand that Santa wouldn't forget about them. But I was wrong.

We came home from a friends house and because we walked over there before it was dark we forgot it was Christmas, we were fooled by the 65 degree day. But on our way home, we were quickly reminded that it was Christmas. Every house had lights on, it was beautiful. Once we were inside and had taken our coats off, Henrik had this look on his face. He got quiet and just sulked as he lay on the Ottoman. "What's up bud? Why are you sad?" He was quite for a few minutes, but I finally coaxed it out of him, "I'm sad we don't even have a Christmas tree. Everyone else has lights and a tree and presents under it". He looked me in the eye. I didn't really know what to say at first. This is my sensitive kid, so when he tells me how he feels, I know it's really important to listen and decode the message, though this message was clear. "Well, Hanky, we told you that Santa was going to come to Mimi and Pal and Grandma's house. They are putting up a tree and they are all saving ornaments for you to help decorate it. We will be there in just a few days and it will feel like Christmas". He put his head down, "Okay" he said. I could tell he was still really upset. "Where's Toby anyway? He's been gone for weeks!" he said after a few moments of silence. I really didn't have an answer to this one. Toby was found playing golf one morning and then he really did vanish. Eric and I searched everywhere for him but it appears he's been packed up and put in storage. Eric looked over his shoulder from the kitchen and said, "I think that Toby probably went to the North Pole and is telling Santa that we are moving." I don't know if Henrik was convinced or not.

Eric took the boys up to bed and while I was feeding the baby I quickly texted my neighbors: "Does anyone have a small Christmas tree with lights? I have a sad kid over here worried that we are going to miss Christmas". It didn't take long for an answer: "I have one. Amanda said she would let the boys have hers". I started to well up.

As soon as the baby was done, I walked up stairs and mouthed to Eric, "should go to the store and get a new elf?" He nodded. He left their room, we had to whisper because they were asleep. "I got a tree from across the street," I said excitedly. "You're crazy, you know that?" he replied. I know I'm not crazy, I brushed off his comment and I went across the street and picked up the tree. I was greeted by my neighbor who was more than eager to help my boys, "Do you need decorations? Here have some candy canes! What else do you need?" I couldn't believe the kindness. Then she said, "Amanda wanted you to use it because she didn't want them to be sad about Christmas". I thanked her, a lot, and went off to the store to find a new Toby.

When I got to Target, I looked everywhere. They had changed the box since we had purchased our elf a few years ago so I didn't recognize it at first. I had to ask for help. I was taken to an elf display but it was a girl, "Is there anyway someone can look for a boy elf in the back? I really need a boy elf". The girl looked at me like I was one of those crazy moms. I knew I wasn't, but I didn't know how to explain myself when she gave me that "you're a crazy bandwagon mom and this elf thing is way out of hand" look. "What is the deal with the elf anyway? I just have dogs so I don't really get it" she finally said. I looked at her and let out a sigh, "Well, it's a story about an elf sent by Santa to watch over the children and report back to him about their behavior. It's a cute story and it's something fun to do for the month. We had an elf, but we lost him and my kids noticed, so now I need to replace ours". She didn't really care, I could tell by the look on her face. "Maybe I'll get it when I have kids," she told me. "You will. When your kids are sad at Christmas, you will do anything in your power to change that." Some one finally arrived with our boy elf and I was saved from the judgy conversation I had with an 18 year old about kids, elves and the limitless love a parent has for their child.

I quickly walked through the ornament section of the store, picked up Super Hero ornaments for the kids (they get a new ornament each year, why not put one on their new tree), and I went to check out. I was so excited on the way home. I couldn't wait to set it all up and to see their faces int he morning. Then I started to think about what Eric said. I wasn't crazy. I wasn't going to let the military screw up my Christmas. Hell, I LOVE this time of year and I missed the tree and the lights. I missed the calm and joy I got from staring at the tree and all of our ornaments that tell just as much a story about our life as the pictures I hang in my living room. I wanted it to smell like Christmas as I burn a candle, sip wine, and listen to Christmas music. I don't care about the presents anymore but I do care about the excitement that my boys have when they come down on Christmas morning. Just because I am moving doesn't mean we don't get to have all of that excitement. Just because the military has thrown a wrench in our life doesn't mean I can't enjoy this time of year with my kids and my family. No one should ever mess with a four year old and a two year old on Christmas. They should all be able to experience this time of year with joy, excitement and happiness. If you can't do that at four, when can you do it?

Then I thought about Henrik, he's already started to ask if Super Heroes are real, he's determined that mascots at sporting events are people in costumes, and while he has yet to ask about Santa, he isn't far from it. Next year he'll be in Kindergarten, he will start to hear his friends and classmates talking about how Santa isn't real. Then he'll ask us and we will be faced with the difficult decision of what to say. I'm not wiling to let the military ruin Christmas at the best ages of our kids' lives. I may not have many years left where Christmas is this exciting, where Santa is real, and where magic is something we can all believe in for 25 days, and I won't miss it because of a move.

After Eric went upstairs and acted as a look out, I decorated the tree, put a toy from their stockings under it, the elf book, a letter from Santa (Santa wrote back after we wrote him a letter at an event we went to for the Polar Express, it just happened to come that day and I just happened to check the mail before I got in the house), and our new Toby. I looked back at the glowing tree and just smiled. I knew I was doing the right thing. And I started to cry as I looked at how beautiful this all was. Yes, I realize I'm hormonal being four weeks postpartum, but at that moment I knew that there really was magic in the world.

It's amazing how an hour earlier I was cursing the military and acting all tough and powerful as I was on a mission and vowed to not let the military run my holiday, but the next minute, I was so thankful for it. This tree really means more than what it will mean to my boys when they see it. It is a symbol of the real meaning of Christmas, and a symbol of how wonderful a military community on a military base is. In a moment of hardship and worry because a military kid was worried about a move, in an instant, our community rallied together to make sure that he was taken care of. It brings me to tears just writing this.

In the morning, Theo woke up and asked for a drink. He walked down stairs, I couldn't stop him, I was nursing Nora. He stopped on the stairs, "HUH?! TOBY IS BACK?! HE'S ON A CHRISTMAS TREE?!" I could hear wonder and joy in his voice. Henrik, who was in bed with me, sat up. "Did Theo just say a Christmas tree? We don't have a Christmas tree". He raised his eyebrows, then he furrowed them. Theo ran up stairs yelling, "I GOT A NEW TOY!" That got Henrik out of bed, I quickly unlatched Nora and ran down behind Henrik. Eric had already turned on the lights to the tree and was waiting out of sight to see their reactions. Henrik had a huge smile on his face, "Toby!" he cried. He grabbed the present that belonged to him and just looked at the tree. He studied it up and down, he touched it and he looked at us. "It's really small... but it's so beautiful". I looked at Eric with a smug, I told you so smile. He smiled back. He got down on the floor and sat with the boys as they looked at the Elf on the Shelf book, their ornaments and their new toys. Eric asked them how it got there, Theo said, "Toby did it!" Hank said, "I think Toby brought the tree but Santa brought the presents". Eric said, "Do you think Toby was gone to tell Santa that you were sad about not having a tree?" Henrik looked at the tree again, "I guess so" he said with confidence. My heart was happy, my eyes started to well up. This is what Christmas is all about.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

November 12, 2014: Part Two

I wanted to wait until I could move my body better before the boys came to visit, so they didn't come to the hospital until the end of the day, around 6 PM. I was excited to see them. I couldn't wait to show them the sister that they'd been asking for for a year before I was even pregnant. I wanted them to meet their Sweetie Precious that they feel in love with before Eric and I knew we were having a daughter. I wanted to show them that our family was complete and better with her in it because they were here to help love her.  When we last saw them, Henrik said, "I'm happy that Sweetie picked today to have her birthday," and I hoped he shared the same excitement when he actually saw her.

When they came in the room, they looked around, I was sitting in my bed, I smiled, "Hi guys!!!!" I said excitedly. "Where's Sweetie?" They asked. There was no "Hi mom".  They actually walked right past her, she was in her hospital crib. I was hoping they'd be more excited to see me, but I understood the excitement of their sister, I mean, they had only been waiting a long 9 months to meet her and they saw me every day.  Eric intorduced them to Elinor. I loved seeing how excited they were. "Awww, she's so tiny", "Awwww, she's so cute" they kept saying. It was adorable how calm and careful they were as they looked in her bassinet. "Can I hold her?" Asked Theo. "Of course! Come sit next to me." He climbed up next to me with no worry or care even though Eric warned them before they came in the hospital that I had a big boo boo on my belly and that they had to be careful around me.

Meeting their sister! 
Here was Thornado, my wild, carefree, full of gusto child, sitting next to me taking his Big Brother job so seriously. He sat still, he used a calm voice, he touched gently. He smiled. He studied her up and down and loved every moment of her sitting on his lap. He couldn't get enough of it. The only reason he put her down was because Henrik noticed the Big Brother gifts from his sister and Theo wanted in on that action.

Henrik was more cautious, he of course wanted to hold her and he smiled a smile so big and said, "She's the best sister, ever". He was just so in love, but he didn't want to hold her as much as Theo did. He'd been a big brother before, and while this new baby was exciting, he's never seen me weak. As soon as he saw that I had an IV in my arm he didn't want to sit next to me. He opted to sit in a chair to hold his sister. When he saw that I had a catheter in, he looked under the bed and on my leg to see what was going on. He checked out all of the monitors, he looked around the room at all of the medical equipment and he asked to see my boo boo. It was covered in dressing, but I obliged and showed him the wrap. Because it was covered in gauze, it made my incision look much larger than it really was. He quietly asked, "does it hurt?" I answered "no" because I was pretty drugged up, I told him I just had to move slowly. He wasn't so sure I was telling the truth. He went back to looking at his sister with loving eyes and kept walking around the room to see what "the hospital" really meant.

At the end of the night, when they were about to go home I tried to hug and kiss the boys, but, they wouldn't come near me. Theo, of all people was scared, he didn't want to hurt me, Eric has pushed that pretty hard before they came into the room. Henrik just looked at me and said, "bye" it was like he wanted more but didn't know what to make of this mother that couldn't help him up on the bed, or bend over to give him a kiss. I was really hurt, but I completely understood. I just didn't like it. They said, "We'll see you tomorrow, mom". I corrected them, "actually guys, I'll be here at least three nights because I had to have a cut in my stomach". Henrik quickly replied, "But you said you'd just be here one night". "I know bud, but because Sweetie had to come out of my belly I am really hurt and I need to stay here so that the doctors can check on me and make sure I'm OK." Henrik just looked at me, Theo quickly replied, "Then we will take Sweetie home and you can stay here". "Well, honey, she has to stay with me so I can feed her, but we will be home soon, I promise". I could tell that my answers weren't good enough. I could tell I let them down, not that I did anything wrong, but because it wasn't what we were preparing them for.

Theo looked at the wall and saw the pain chart. Henrik saw it too. "What are those for?" they asked. "Those are so I can tell the doctor how much pain I'm in. I'm at a 0 right now. I'm feeling really great!" I answered, hoping that it would make them happier. Theo didn't like my answer, "But when are you gonna cry?" "Well, I hope I don't cry". "Yea, but when will you?" I didn't know what he was getting at. I think he was just as worried about me as Henrik was.

Once I came home from the hospital the boys were so excited.... to have their sister home. They made brownies, they made signs and colored pictures. They couldn't wait to take her on a tour of the house and to show her her room and toys, and their toys, and anything else they could think of. After they each got to hold her and love on her, I felt like things were going to settle down and get back to normal, but how could they? I was in pain, on day four, we came home and the pain really started to get to me. I couldn't move well and I was just exhausted. They wanted to sit with me, they wanted to play with me, they wanted to be with me, but I had to keep saying, no. It was the worst feeling in the world. I just wanted to pick up my boys and snuggle to watch a movie, but I couldn't. I just wanted to get on the floor and play cars or play hind and seek, but I couldn't. I wanted to sit at the table and have a family dinner with them, but I couldn't.

Reading his sister his favorite books
Giving her a bottle because he was dying to feed her
For days the boys kept asking me to snuggle them at bedtime and while I wanted to so badly, I also just wanted to sit and hold Elinor. I wanted to just enjoy a few minutes with this new baby that smelled good, snuggled right in to my body and made me feel whole. Here I was completely torn in half by my own children. I didn't know how to feel. For two weeks I tried to have a good attitude, but I felt horrible, was in pain and didn't know how to show the boys that I loved them while I also got what I needed and wanted out of Elinor.

Fortunately, after about a week and a half, I had stopped taking the pain killers and I was starting to move better and feel better. I was starting to feel like myself again. It was a huge relief. I was able to let the boys sit on my lap to watch a show or to read them a book. It became possible to hold all three of my babies in my lap so we could just enjoy one another. I was able to play cars, from my chair, and able to engage in their life a little more. My heart was finally starting to level out and I was able to feel like a good mom again. The boys' behavior started to become normal, the house started to regain order, and life was quickly feeling "right".

FINALLY! All my babes right where they belong! Theo even shared his blanket with her! 
It's been a month since Nora joined us, I have no doubt at all that having her was the best thing in the world. I'm still healing, but I'm able to go on outings with my boys and I'm able to hold them whenever they or I want as long as I don't pick them up. But the power of a mom hug means just as much to as it does them and we are doing well adjusting to the new life of three kids and a mom out of commission for four more weeks. The boys are asking for Dad more than me because they know that I'm either unable to do something for them due to injury or because their sister is eating. They don't show disdain towards her at all, and they just can't get enough of her. In fact, they get excited to see her every time they, or she, enters a room.
It doesn't matter what they are doing, they want her right by their side.
There is nothing more wonderful than having my whole family in my bed every morning while Nora nurses and the boys hang out. There is nothing better than seeing the smiles on their face when they see her every morning and there is nothing more important in the world than how much love there is in our house. Despite my internal setbacks, I can see that the whole time, I was a good mom. I was teaching them to be more independent, I was teaching them to love. I was teaching them to be open and caring and flexible. And I couldn't be more proud of the family that Eric and I have made. I am greatly looking forward to the next four weeks and, actually, the rest of our lives. These boys are going to be wonderful brothers and Nora is just an amazing baby. This is going to be a great ride.

Our whole family, complete.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

November 12, 2014: Part One

Today is the day I'd been waiting for. Not just because my body didn't want to be 9 months pregnant anymore, but because it was the day that my family would be complete. It was the day my husband and I would welcome a daughter to our lives and all that goes with it. We were pros at boys at this point, but the thought of raising a daughter has us excited, confused, terrified and madly in love. Here is the birth story of our daughter.

Saturday, November 8, 2014- 37 weeks, 5 days. 
The boys and I anxiously awaited Eric's arrival after having him gone for three weeks. I kept telling Sweetie that she had to stay in there until her dad was home. She listened, but reminded me with strong contractions that she was getting ready. My body was preparing in every way, I kept track of what was going on, but I wasn't counting or calculating contractions. I kept telling her not for five more hours. Not until 8 PM. She listened.

Sunday, November 9, 2014- 37 weeks, 6 days. 
I knew I was having contractions. I had been ignoring them for much of the morning, I didn't want to take Eric away from the boys. They needed him. We enjoyed our family time, got the boys to hockey practice and during hockey the contractions started to become stronger and more consistent. I didn't say anything because it wasn't time yet and I was really enjoying the day with the boys, knowing full well our days as a family of four were limited. By the time hockey was over, I was ready to go home and sit, but Eric and the boys decided that a trip to Bass Pro Shops was necessary, and I caved thinking, this will be a great story for her birthday, and walking won't hurt the labor process. That evening during dinner I couldn't eat. The contractions were stronger, they were every two minutes (normal for me) and I couldn't stop crying- there was just so much to be emotional about: my last dinner as a family of four, the fear of having another child, the excitement of having a daughter, the fact that I was in labor and about to have a baby, etc. After Eric and the boys finished eating, we packed up the boys' things and sent them to a friends house so Eric and I could be at the hospital. I was excited, I was ready. I knew we were going to meet this little girl and our family would finally be whole.

After checking me out- 3 cm and 70% effaced, they made me walk around to try to progress labor. They commented on how Sweetie's head didn't like it when I was getting checked and how she kept wiggling away from them. But after an hour, they sent me home because they said I wasn't full term yet and therefore couldn't help progress labor. I needed my water broken with both boys so I figured the same thing would need to happen this time. But they wouldn't do it until Monday. Seriously?! So I'd have to come back because hospital policy said so. I was angry that night. I couldn't believe that they'd send a woman home when on her third child she knew she was in labor, but just couldn't progress. I got stuck with both boys at 4 cm and my water had to be broken. I was 38 weeks with Henrik too, so this hospital policy just made me even more angry. I was mad I didn't get to speak to a doctor. I was mad that they didn't believe my body. I was mad that they made me question my instincts. Actually, I don't think there was anything I wasn't mad about that night.

Monday, November 10, 2014- 38 weeks. 
On Monday, after a third consecutive day of not being able to sleep due to labor, the contractions switched to back labor. I called the doctor (because I wasn't allowed to talk to one on Sunday night) and wanted to express my anger towards their policy and how I knew on my third child that this baby was trying to be born. The doctor calmed me and explained that the nursing staff had to follow hospital policy. I got that, but I was still upset that my doctor (who was on vacation) told me one thing and another thing happened. After getting checked again, the doctor confirmed that no more progress was being made still the same- 3 cm. I was told that this doctor would be the on call doctor on Wednesday so if things progressed or the contractions continued, we could come in and she would be there to break my water as long as the baby's head was on top of the cervix. She wouldn't do it if the head wasn't there because she didn't want the cord to come out before the head. I agreed that that would be the safest and best solution for us. So, still uncomfortable and still in IN LABOR, I went home. It was a very rough day full of some of the worst back labor I've ever had, and Theo was pretty rough on me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014- 38 weeks, 1 day.
I woke up Tuesday morning and I was surprised to find that despite all the back labor, the mucous plug loss, and my own intuition that I was in labor for the past three days, that my contractions had stopped. My back labor was gone. I actually felt good. It scared me. Fortunately, I felt Sweetie moving around a little bit, but I was beyond confused. Maybe I was wrong all along. Maybe I wasn't in labor. Maybe I had made it all up? I had a regular appointment scheduled for this day anyway so I went in again and met with a different doctor. This doctor reviewed my chart and we talked about what happened and she noted that Sweetie's head had actually moved up and was no longer on top of the cervix. I was surprised, but new that something was up because all of the contractions stopped. She sent me home, but at least I wasn't upset or angry at this point, just confused. Tuesday came and went and still with no contractions, I went to bed and for the first time in a week I was able to sleep. Theo came in to our room around 11 PM. It was a sign, though I didn't know it at the time. I just figured he knew that the baby was coming and we told him he couldn't sleep in our bed once Sweetie was here. I assumed he was taking advantage of it, but gave in because who doesn't love snuggles when you know they are going to be limited?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014- 38 weeks 2 days. 
Around 2:30 am, I woke up to go to the bathroom, Sweetie was pushing on my bladder, and even though I didn't want to get up because I was finally sleeping, I woke up, stumbled to the bathroom in the dark, peed, and went back to sleep. I didn't want to be woken up, I just wanted to enjoy this great night of rest!  I was startled awake when I gasped and ran to the bathroom. My water had broken. I was in disbelief. No contractions, still. My water had to be broken with both boys, why was it breaking now? I woke up Eric and showed him what was going on. He just looked at me, it was only 3:15 am so nothing registered with him. In fact, he went back to sleep. I called him into the bathroom again, this time he got up.  Once he and I talked about what was happening, we agreed that I should call the hospital to let them know we were coming and to find out how long we had. But, I called my mom instead,  "Mom, I think my water broke, I can't stop it so it's my water right? Maybe you should get on a plane and come out here. She has to be born today". Then I called Labor and Delivery, they told me that I had to be there before 5 am. So, Eric woke the boys, I took a shower, did my hair and asked Eric what he wanted me to do about the leaking fluid. My water had never broken so I had no idea how to deal with it. He kind of looked at me like I was gross, but said, "whatever you decide". He's a real keeper. I decided on a pad and was grossed out the entire drive to drop off the boys and get to the hospital.

When we got to the hospital we got set up in a triage room where they calculate contractions and dilation, etc. I was still 3 cm, and still had no contractions. I was worried about it. I didn't want this labor to last long, I didn't want drugs, I just wanted it to progress normally, but with no contractions it's nearly impossible and I knew that. Finally, after monitoring me, and seeing that there were a few (not that I could feel or would complain about) contractions, they sent me to a delivery room. I was hooked up for about three hours before the doctor came. In that waiting time, Eric and I sent out messages to our family and let them know it was baby day. We updated our Facebook and just waited for some kind of progress.

It's Baby Day 
We had a wonderful nurse, Nicole, and around 7:45 she asked me what I wanted for today. I told her that I wanted a safe vaginal delivery, I didn't want drugs, I wanted an intact placenta, and I planned on having a healthy baby girl. She wrote it all down and we talked more about my other deliveries and things I liked and didn't like about them. It was all very comforting and I felt like I was really being listened to. When the doctor came in just after 8 AM, she said that she expected I'd be getting some pitocin and once the contractions really started she thought we'd have a baby pretty quickly. She did a cervical exam and immediately had this look on her face. Her eyes were huge, like she just saw a ghost. She shook her head and said to Nicole, "we're going to need an ultrasound in here, I don't think this baby is head down". Within a second there was an ultrasound machine in my room and Dr. Ryan put the device on my belly and just sat there with her mouth open. "This baby flipped," she said. "I can't believe it, and, look, there is no fluid in there, we need to get her out. I can't flip her". I didn't really know what all that meant, but I understood two things 1. She was breech 2. no fluid. I got all of that, but I didn't really have a chance to really comprehend the c-section that was about to happen. In an instant the anesthesiologist was in my room, I was signing consent forms and before I knew it, I was wheeled down into the OR without my husband.

Nicole assured me he'd be allowed in once I was prepped for surgery and once my nerve block was in. She held me and helped me breathe as the nerve block was done. "Breathe in, breath out. It's just like if you were in labor, you've done this before". I nodded. On the inside I was terrified. I never even read the c-section of my pregnancy books, it was something that wasn't even on my radar. Nicole kept asking me if I was OK with the c-section, "I know you wanted a vaginal birth, are you OK with this?" "Of course," I replied. "She has to get out. We need to be safe," I told her. I did understand that. I knew in my heart that I just needed to have a baby girl to hold at the end of the day, I just didn't know what to expect with a c-section and an operating room was absolutely terrifying to me, I'd only been in one one other time in my life when I had my appendix out, but I was knocked out before I actually saw the inside of it.

I looked around, the room was so bright and full of metal. There were at least eight people in there, nurses for me and for the baby, and two doctors. The anesthesiologist was there assuring me that I wouldn't feel anything. I kept telling him I could feel his touch as he tested my body. He moved up the block. Eric still wasn't there. An oxygen tube was put under my nose, there was this intense pressure up into my lungs and through my arms. I started to cry a little bit, just out of fear, and where was my husband?!

Finally, they let him come in, they opened the door and he didn't walk in right away, "COME ONNNNNNN" I was thinking, what was he waiting for?! I smiled when I saw him. It finally felt safe. He was wheeling a chair in so he could sit down, but I felt like it took him forever to get to me. They started to cut me open before he got in the room so he moved over to me carefully and slowly. To this day we haven't talked about what he saw. Eric was only by my side for a second when I heard, "There's her foot!" Then a cry, then "Oh no! Baby, don't cry yet, you're not all the way out!" Then I heard the nurses say how adorable she was, and her cry, it was so wonderful and so beautiful. They took her, and Eric over to a side of the room I couldn't see. I could just hear her cry and all I could do was wait. I looked around trying to see behind the curtain, but tears just formed in my eyes when I couldn't see anything except my own blood and insides being sucked through a tube. I said, "That's a horrible spot to put that container" as I watched this giant sucker pump up and down. No one heard me.
It's a girl! 6 lbs, 13 oz 18 3/4 inches long
I yelled, "Is it still a girl?!" "Yes!" the room replied. I smiled, and cried some more. The anesthesiologist came over, "are you OK? Just a few minutes more". I nodded. "What color hair does she have?" I asked. "Blonde" someone answered. I smiled again. It felt like hours before Eric walked her over to me. I looked at her and just smiled. I saw Eric and the pride in his face as he held his daughter. He's never held one of our babies first.

The first picture of Daddy and Daughter
They always give the baby to the mother. I think he loved having her for a minute. She kept crying. I wanted to hold her, to calm her and to have her on my body so we could finally meet one another, but that wasn't an option. I got that, but I didn't like it. "She did really well on her test, 9 out of 10," said one of the nurses. "That's really great for an early Colorado baby, we have full term babies that don't even get that! And she's breathing so well!"

My favorite photo of the whole experience
Eric was told to take the baby to the recovery room, he looked at me, sort of asking if it was OK, I nodded. Though really, I just wanted her in my arms. "Just a little longer," said Dr. Ryan.

My body started to move as the table I was on was shaking back and forth. I watched the blue curtain,  the shadow was just right and I started in shock as Dr. Ryan's arms moved up and down as this giant thread stitched me back together. It's really odd watching your body being stitched up. It was like a scene out of a move where I was supposed to be dead, but I wasn't. I felt like I was Frankenstein and wondered what exactly was going on over there. The table moved a few more times and then it was still. The curtain was taken down, I was lifted on to a bed and wheeled into a room where my husband and daughter were waiting for me.

I looked at a clock, it was 8:56 am. From when the doctor came to my delivery room to the time I was wheeled to recovery it was only 56 minutes. I felt like that was fast. I looked around this recovery room and there was my daughter, and my husband who had a beautiful smile on. I can't explain how comforted I was by seeing them. The nurse said, "we waited to give her a bath and weigh her so that you could see it all". I was honored. I had never seen any of my children get a bath at the hospital. They washed her up and did what they needed to do but I felt like it was forever.

Waiting for Momma
Nicole was by my side making sure all of the monitors were right and she kept checking on me to see if I could move different parts of my body. I just wanted to hold my daughter. And I didn't realize it at the time, but Nicole was trying to make that happen. As soon as I was able to move my arms she allowed the baby's nurse to place her on my chest. It was marvelous.

All is right in the world
 Finally, though it was almost an hour later that I was able to do that. I couldn't stop smiling. I couldn't stop saying, "She's so tiny! She's SOOOOO small". The nurse asked what her name was, as she filled out her birth record, "Elinor Kay Sweetie Precious". They looked at us funny. We told them that her brother's came up with this name before she was born and we just couldn't stop calling her Sweetie and we just wanted to incorporate it into her name.  I'm sure they thought we were nuts, but Nicole said, "I really love that. You can tell there's a lot of love in your family".

She was right. There is so much love in our family.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sweetie Precious

In case you haven’t caught up, we’re having a baby! A little girl actually! The boys are beyond excited and cannot wait for her to arrive. I on the other hand have been having reservations ever since they declared that we were having a sister.

The Super Big Brothers announce that they are getting a sister! 

At about the 15 week mark I thought I was crazy for wanting another baby. But one night while I was putting the boys to sleep I felt her kicking a lot. I thought that maybe they could feel it too. As we lay in the boys’ bed together I took Henrik’s hand and placed it on my belly where the baby was moving around. Sure enough, the baby kicked and Henrik sat up from his almost asleep position. “I felt her kick me! She kicked my thumb!” It was at that moment that I knew that this baby would be welcomed by the big brothers and honestly had my heart warm up and let out a huge sigh of relief.  

The night before the 20 week ultrasound I took the boys to dinner so I could talk to them about the baby:

A: Listen guys, tomorrow we get to see the baby and we will find out if it’s a brother or a sister.
H: It’s a sister.
T: Yup, it’s a sister.
A: OK, but you know, it could be a brother.
H: It’s not, I don’t know what I’d do with another brother.
A: Yeah, actually I don’t know what you’d do with another brother either, but let’s pick out some names just in case it’s a brother.
T: JOE!! We can name him Joe! Den, we can say, “Hey Joe!”
H: Yeah, We can call him Joe Joe!
A: Uhhhhh Okaaayyyy.
H: And if it’s a sister we should name her Sweetie Precious.
T: OH YES!!!! Sweetie Pwecious.

Sweetie Precious

Anyway, after conversations like that about the baby, and waiting those long 20 weeks to find out that we were in fact having a sister, I started to get worried again. Yes, I wanted it to be a girl but only because the boys wanted it so badly. But I started to freak out a little bit about having a daughter, I mean, I really know boys. And, I started to get nervous about having the boys around her. I knew that they would never hurt her, but they would unintentionally suffocate her with love.  Fortunately, Daniel Tiger on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood came out with an amazing three episodes this past summer when Daniel’s baby sister was born. My boys were glued to it. They LOVED it. 

Actually, they loved it so much they refused to watch anything else for three months.
I took advantage of the power of PBS so I started preparing the nursery, with their help.  When it was time to build the crib and bassinet, they did it. When I wanted shelves made for her room, they helped their dad build them. When I started to decorate and put things in place I was reminded to “put sheets on the bed”. They soaked up every minute of being the biggest and big brothers.

Their pride in helping get ready for their sister really made me much more calm about adding a baby to our already wildly perfect family. But the sweetness that ensued a few weeks later, and that continues today, makes me realize that adding a third child to the mix was the right decision, even though we are now outnumbered.

One night, while the boys were in the bath, I decided to use the Doppler to listen to Sweetie’s heart. They came out of the bath and saw my belly out, with goop and this thing that made so much noise. I explained what I was doing and what the noise was. They were immediately sucked in. They wanted to do it and took so much pride in finding her heartbeat and feeling her move around inside me.

Another night when I was in charge of bedtime, Theodor insisted that we lift up my shirt to expose my belly so that “Sweetie can wisten too”.  One morning, Henrik came down stairs and walked right up to me with a smile. I thought he was up to no good, but he said, “Um, Mom? Can I please tell Sweetie something?” surprised, but of course I said yes! He lifted my shirt and spoke to my belly button, “Hey Sweetie, it’s Hanky, I’m going to school today, but I’ll see you later” then he walked away.

It’s these little things that make me so much more relaxed about having another baby. It’s made it easier to talk to them about what I can and cannot do once the baby is born. They seem to understand that they will have to be “big helpers in their family” when Sweetie arrives and they seem to (for now) be totally on board with doing what they can with her.

And as we enter the last few weeks of this pregnancy, I’m still a little overwhelmed by the number of pink items I was given, but I’m starting to be less freaked out about being a mom again and so much more excited about getting to meet my daughter. Even though I have 2.5 children right now, and even though I am totally calm about delivery etc. I am still nervous about raising a little girl. There are so many things I want her to know and understand. There are so many things I want her to want to be, and so many things I don’t want her to go near. But I guess I’ll have to save those fears for another day. For now,  I’ve got to remember that as this is my last child, I need to savor every moment of what’s happening to my body. I have to remember that the boys need me too. I have to remember that adding a baby is something wonderful for the whole family and I cannot wait to introduce Sweetie to her brothers. 
Just one load of pink!

I think that will end up being the best day of my life.

Photo Credit- Mo Barberena

No More Tears

There comes a day when you realize that your baby is no longer a baby, but a full-blown kid. It hits us differently at different times and at different milestones. It could be the time they use the potty without announcing that they have to pee. It could be the night they sleep in their big kid bed by themselves. It could be the first day of school, not having to wipe a butt, doing a chore with out being asked etc. Whatever it was for you, I am sure it hit you hard. First it was a shock, and then you were proud. Then you were sad, and then you were sentimental. Then I’m sure you boasted to your child how proud you were and told all your friends about it on Facebook.

I’ve been there.

But recently, I’ve noticed something that I’m not proud of that my four year old has started doing. Instead, I’m terribly sad that we’ve reached this point in his life. My oldest doesn’t cry anymore. OK. That’s not totally true. He cries when he gets hurt, like bloody hurt, but that’s it.

I don’t remember the first day it happened, but I had been noticing that when he’s angry or hurt or upset, instead of crying, his eyes well up, he scrunches his mouth and furrows his brows. He clenches his fists and crosses his arms while he holds his breath. Sometimes he lets out a huff or a grunt, but those tears are forced to remain in his eyes.

After a few times of this happening, and after he was clearly wronged by his brother a number of times in the same few minutes, I pulled this stiff four year old away from the situation and got down to his level. I asked what was wrong. He didn’t answer right away. Instead, he used his fists to wipe his eyes. He blinked, a lot.

“Hanky, I can see that you are really mad. What happened?”

“Theo……” he stopped. He couldn’t talk. He went back to wiping his eyes with his fists as soon as a tear tried to escape. Fast enough so that maybe I wouldn’t notice.

“Henrik, it’s okay to cry. I cry when I’m really upset. I cry when I’m sad and sometimes, I even cry when I’m happy. It’s OK. Really.”

“I don’t want to cry” he replied.

We never really got to the root of the problem with his brother, and we never really got to talk about the crying thing either. Instead, I pulled him in closer and forced his crossed arms down and gave him a big, long hug. He resisted at first. But I kept hugging. Finally his stiff body started to relax, his arms wrapped around my back and he let out a whimper and a sigh.

It absolutely broke my heart that this four-year-old boy had already learned that crying was not what big boys did. We have never told him that he couldn’t cry. In fact, we’ve been pretty open about emotions and using our words to describe our feelings. We might say, “Stop whining” or “if you are going to cry over not being able to have candy you can go to your room and calm down up there”. But, I guess the latter statement is what caused the problem. 

Cry and “cry” are two different things. But to a four year old, maybe they aren’t. In the last few months my boys have seen me cry a lot. I blame the hormones. They’ve seen me cry at my sister’s wedding, around movies, while talking to their dad, and they’ve started to ask questions about it like, “are you sad?” And surprisingly to them, the answer isn’t always yes. I think they are just as confused about crying as I am. I have no idea why I cry at weddings and at the scene in How To Train Your Dragon 2 when Stoic was killed, but I do.

For much of our parenting life, Eric and I have tried hard to keep our fights away from the kids. We try to keep the conversations civil around them which means they don’t see the damage we can do to one another, but in another way, they don’t get to see the emotions of anger and love mixed together. I’m not advocating that you fight in front of your kids. But I need my boys to know that it’s OK to feel and love and get hurt. That it’s OK to cry when good things happen and when we are upset or angry. I want them to continue to use their words to describe what they are feeling and why. I want them to see that real people that they love have feelings too, and it’s OK.

I understand that our society doesn’t like it when boys cry, and I'll admit, when I see a man crying it makes me cry harder because it's so rare when it happens. But I can't care about that. I need my boys to at least understand that having emotions is normal, and good and expressing them is even better. I realize that it makes them vulnerable to “feel” but I’m OK with that because it makes them human. 

The day I realized that Henrik had stopped crying was heartbreaking because right before me stood a teenager forced into doing something that was socially acceptable, but in his heart not what he wanted. I don’t want that for my boys. Actually, I don’t want that for any boys, or any girls.

And I’ll admit, maybe part of me was sad or hurt that that little boy standing before me tried so hard to be “big” and refused a hug from his mom so he could be big and tough. I know he’ll refuse hugs and kisses later, but I was taken by surprise that I was unable to comfort him so easily.

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed that Henrik has started to cry, not much. Not like his two year old brother does, but some. He still tries to hold back tears, but he’s not forcing it as much. I’ve changed my language too. I’ve tried to explain that whining crying is not allowed. But real crying is. It’s got to be so complicated for a little kid to understand, but we’re getting there. I don’t need him to be a “cry baby” nor do I want that. I do however want him to cry when it’s right, when he needs the release or just to be human.

I realize that as he grows he’s going to try to shelter his feelings from his mother. We all do that, but I didn’t think that it would happen at age four. Until he’s a teenager and stops telling me anything, I want a few more years where I get to have a kid that’s eager to talk my ear off, even when it’s annoying. I want a few more years of calming an “injured” child because of a skinned knee or comforting a kid when they are sad.

It is a surreal moment when your child stops acting like a child, and I’m not ready for it. So for now, I’m going to cherish those necessary mom snuggles, mom kisses and mom-to-the-rescue days, and yes, I’m going to cherish every tear. I know they won’t last forever.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Past Cannot Be Forgotten

Three years ago, today, I was sitting on the patio at my Dad's house enjoying a nice, hot, beautiful, Michigan vacation with family, when my phone rang. It was my husband, of course I answered it. On the other end, there was a lot of noise and my husband frantically said, "What do you want me to save?" I was completely confused. No "Hello" or greeting, just a question. I walked away from my family and went to my room. "What? What are you talking about?" I replied, even more confused but now with a gut sinking feeling in my stomach. "We're getting 10 feet of water. It's going to flood. We have three days to get everything out before the water gets here. What do you want me to save?"

I was in shock. Wouldn't you be? I mean for months we'd been watching the river in the town rise, and to have a little flooding after a long, record breaking winter made some sense, but 10 feet of water? In our house? "Everything...." I replied, quietly." "Well, that's not going to happen, we don't have any place to put this stuff and they are evacuating us, like 12,000 people, Abbey. We can't save it all. We're going to lose everything. Our house will be underwater, do you understand that?"

He wasn't being harsh, or mean, he was being himself. He's logical, he's rational and is very matter of fact. I was holding back tears, it was kind of easy because I was immediately filled with anger and sadness, surprise and shock, but I still was speechless. "I what you can, the big stuff, the expensive stuff, the stuff that is important to us...". "OK, I have to go, we're running out of time. I'll call you later."

And that was that. I immediately went to the computer to get as much information as possible, but there wasn't much. Some reports out of Minot said 3-5 days before the flood waters got to us, but of course, the sirens went off early on June 22, 2011 around 1 PM. In an instant, the whole town felt defeated. The levy had broken. Now it was only a matter of days before the water could get to our house, it would be several weeks before a picture of our neighborhood would come available, and a month before we could see our house and the damage, and even longer before we could start to rebuild our lives.

Over the next year Eric and I spent many nights fighting over the flood, who was to blame for the lack of flood insurance (that we were NOT required to have due to FEMA taking us out of the flood plane thanks to new dams along the river), and how we were going to rebuild our lives, we lost 7,000 lbs of goods in that flood, not including our house. We spent two years trying to rebuild our marriage and our family as Eric worked a full and often overtime job in the Air Force while moonlighting as our cleaner, builder, electrician and plumber. I spent that two years trying to stick to a very strict budget thanks to FEMA and a loan from the city so that we could rebuild our house without losing everything, while raising a newborn and a 20 month old, and having a full time job. It was a lonely, difficult time. There were days when I'd be sick to my stomach, nights I couldn't sleep, and yet, I'd try to put on a smile each day for my boys who desperately missed their Daddy and tried so hard to understand what caused their life to turn upside down.

Of course we talked to them about the flood. Nothing scary, but made it clear that our home was destroyed by a flood, that daddy was rebuilding it for us, that we had to replace a lot of things in our home, that we had to talk about it so that we could start to heal.

All of that hard work paid off, because one year and one day after the flood, we returned home. The house wasn't finished, but it was good enough to live in and resume our seemingly perfect life in our first home. I wanted to move back there, Eric didn't. I wanted the closure. I wanted to have Theodor have his first steps in that house, I wanted him to have a birthday there. I wanted our boys to run around in the yard we picked out for them. I wanted my first house back, I wanted my life back. I wanted the boys to live in the house that their dad built from the bottom up, and I wanted them to see that it was all worth it.
The Water Mark. The bottom marker is from the 1969 flood highest water level (at Eric's head).
The Plate at the top of the telephone  pole marks the 2011 flood highest water level. 
When it came time to move from that house due to a new military assignment, I was horribly sad. I hadn't gotten all of the love out of that house yet. Henrik was angry. He didn't want the house that his Dad made to go to some other family. And of course, he didn't understand what was going to happen to him, or his belongings. He was so worried that he would never see his things again. He asked daily if he would have his toys back, if he'd have his bed back and if we'd be a family. It broke my heart. We'd tried so hard to keep the flood a positive thing for them, but clearly he was affected too.

A few days ago I got a check from the city for some of our sales tax on the materials we paid for during our rebuild. It was the last thing we were waiting on to close that chapter of our life. We no longer could claim the flood on our taxes, the city owed us nothing, we still have flood debt, but man are we happy with our $5,500 debt, we could have much, much more.  Our house is being enjoyed by a new family, and we are a happy family again.  It was over. Finally over.

But, about a week ago we got a lot of rain, I was talking to my step-dad about how much water there was on the ground in such a short period of time and sure enough, without missing a beat, my boys stopped what they were doing. Theo said, "But we need to get a ladder to clean up". At first we didn't understand, but then Henrik said something about all of the water on the ground and I put it together. They were worried that with all of the water, another flood was coming. Why wouldn't they think that? Heck, they hate the Dinosaur Train episode where their nest gets destroyed in a hurricane and I completely understand why: there was a lot of water, they lost their house and the kids were sad because they missed it, but happy they were able to build a new nest. So when Theo made those comments, it was hard to hold back my tears as I told him that we weren't going to be flooded, that there wasn't going to be enough water to flood. We showed them how much rain two inches was, and we showed them how much water we had in our flood (seven feet in our house). They calmed down.

I guess, disasters like this never go away. We may not have to "deal" with it on a daily basis anymore, but the lasting effects of the flood are still inside us. I don't think that's a bad thing.

Three years ago I would have told you that this flood couldn't possibly bring anything good to the table, but I was wrong. I got to know my husband better. I got to know myself better. I got to teach my children about what is important in life. I got to understand what is important in life. I will remember the day I stepped on to our lot the day after we were allowed back in our home. I'll never forget the smell or how I tried not to cry in front of Eric as I saw my scrapbooks ruined, or my grandmother's china safe in the kitchen cabinet as I did a walk through. I'll never forget how my jaws hurt from holding back those tears and the cry that needed to happen, and I'll never forget the look Eric gave me as I looked at our house before we left that day. I will never forget cleaning the things we were trying to salvage and how I laughed at a souvenir cup that made it through, a glass I hadn't used since it's purchase, and thought about getting rid of, but now was the only memento I had from that event and it survived the flood, so I will keep it.

 I will never forget the help we had from our family and friends as they assisted in getting our stuff out before the flood and back in when we moved home. I will never forget the first night we slept back in our house and as I turned out the light my heart was at peace.

These are the important things in life. There are no bad memories, they are just things that build the character within us and shape us into who we are, and for that, I'm glad that I've now realized that that flood will never be over. Time will pass, people moving into our house next may not know the blood, sweat and tears, or the love that built that house for them. But I will. And so will my family.

A Blog From July 2011:

After 24 hours of driving and several stops along the way we arrived in Minot. As we neared Ward County, we could see the Souris (Mouse) River and the damage it left behind. When we came into town on US 2 (Burdick Expressway) that runs next to my neighborhood I looked in horror as I saw what the flood had done to this town we call home. 

Even a mile or more away from our house I could see the sepia painted town that we were about to embark upon. The debris, the pumps, and the damage that people had already begun to clean out seemed fake- like it didn’t belong. This stuff only happens in movies and to people along the Mississippi, it couldn’t happen to me and it would never happen in North Dakota. 

It didn’t really hit me until we turned onto 16th Street into my neighborhood. Dirt took the place of the road, broken windows were everywhere. There was trash and debris along every fence and home. There was water blocking our way- still. And there was a smell. A sewer, moldy, rotten smell that seeped through the car. My neighbors were tired, sad, and  hot, but they worked hard and had a look in their eyes like they were going to win this battle.

I started to choke up as we turned down 18th Street, SE. My street. This was once a lively, but quiet street with a lot of green trees, flowers, kids and families. But not today. It was gloomy, dark, dirty, and brown. It didn’t look like my street at all. Fences broken by swing sets, sheds upside down in yards, cemented down decks just thrown around; how could this be where I lived?

As we pulled in front of my house, I started to cry. It was exactly how we’d left it- minus the giant limb that had unfortunatley not fallen on our home, and the brown, muddy non-existant grass. I no longer hand plants, I no longer had a garden that screamed joy and happiness. There was no color. There was no sign of a happy family living there. 

A few hours later, Eric and I returned, ready to enter the home. It was a 90 degree day, and yet, we put on our HAZMAT suits, socks, boots, gloves and covered our heads and faces. Drenched in sweat after only seconds of wearing our flood gear, Eric looked at me and asked if I was ready. I nodded. He asked again, “seriously are you ready? It’s a mess in there.” I told him that I needed to see it, no matter how hard or bad it was. So we entered. 

The musty, moldy, wet air touched my cheeks and I still could smell it through our ventilated masks. The living room had wine glasses, momentos and mud. The floors were bowed. The walls were moldy, and there was mud everywhere. I honestly cannot describe it. There are no words but “disaster”. Eric and I didn’t exchange many words as he took me on a tour of our home. I managed to hold back my tears as I saw bits and pieces of our life thrown across the floor, damp and destroyed. It was hard to see Henrik’s quilts that didn’t make it out. Hard to see his toys just thrown around the home, and hard to see the house we worked on so hard and were proud to show off look like a condemned disaster zone. 

Then, Eric led me into the office. This was where all of the scrapbooks were stored on the top shelf of the closet. This was where a memory box containing all of the letters Eric and I exchanged during basic training, pictures from our 10 years together, and things we’d collected along the way. This was the room I’d been dreading to enter. The water went higher than the shelf and the shelf collapsed. All of those things were now piles of wet, blank paper. But there on the floor so I could see them, were two scrapbooks that fell apart in my fingers. It was hard to see. Hard to imagine that those books were gone. The memories aren’t but the images are. 

Eric and I managed to get a few things from the home, my Munga’s china- completely unharmed, my teapot, and Munga’s paintings from the garage. They all survived. It’s hard to understand how water works. It has this amazing strength and amazing power to destroy, but it left those things unharmed. Why? 

As Eric grabbed a few more items from the garage and made his way back to the car, I just stood there looking at my backyard. It was the place where we’d spend our Summer nights staying up late eating Smores and drinking wine until we realized that it was morning. It was where we worked hard to make a beautiful garden like on HGTV. We played with Lila back there, we played with Henrik and taught him about the birds and butterflies we’d worked so hard to get to our yard. We spent hours on our deck while we strived to make it the cheaper version of a Pottery Barn magazine. Now, the deck was missing some lattice, and a step. The lawn furniture was thrown all over the place, the grill upside down. The flowers were gone. There was no backyard oasis. It was a mud pit.  

It was then that I started to cry. Eric saw my tears through my goggles. But his touch in our HAZMAT suits wasn’t comforting. In fact, I shook his hand off my arm and turned away. Why? It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be upset, but it was more than that. It was anger, it was loss, it was relief. 

We got out of our suits, got back in the car, nodded our heads at our neighbors, and as we drove away I let out a sigh. It was finally over. 

A Blog From June 28, 2011

Three years ago today, veiled in lace and pearls, I stepped out on a beautiful Greek Revival front porch over looking the Village of Dexter. Greeted by my Prince Charming lookalike soon-to-be-husband, we declared our love and devotion for one another. 

It was there, on that porch, with our friends and family to witness, that we made the most sacred promise to one another- not that we’d be married forever, not that we’d love one another for eternity, but that no matter what we were in this journey together. 

Eric declared, “I pledge to you that no matter the obstacle, our love with remain and strengthen.” 

In return, I promised, “ be there for you in times of sorrow and struggle, in good times and in bad, when our love is simple and when it is complex.”

And today, just a few years into our married life, we were faced with our largest obstacle, our most sorrowful day, and what will become the largest struggle of our life. 

Today, June 28, 2011, we finally got to see our neighborhood. Knowing that this day would come, knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy, and knowing that our house was already underwater couldn’t even have prepared me for this. Being states away from your best friend, your shoulder to cry on and the sturdy column that holds up our family made it more difficult to face the reality of what our life was going to be after this flood. 

Trying to hold back tears, I stared at this image. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and I kept thinking to myself, “Is this real?”. And, when Eric called to wish me a Happy Anniversary at the exact moment I was looking at this picture, I lost it. Comforting me, Eric promised me we’d make it out okay. He promised me that he’d do everything in his power to build us a new home, and he assured me that our life would continue to be the fairy tale we’d lived for three years. He then tried to make me laugh and told me how much he loved and missed me. His words were comforting and kind. They reminded me of our long distance relationship, that we were now reliving. 

June is supposed to be a happy, love month filled with weddings and babies. But this June has been nothing but anxiety and tears...until this moment. On the phone with Eric, I realized that love and anniversaries are much more than flowers, chocolate and dinners. It’s more than the expectation of warmth and butterflies when you see your loved one. It’s more than the anxiety over finding the perfect gift.  It’s the connection you share with someone when life just really sucks. It’s the joy that fills your entire body when your loved one tells you that he will be your Knight in Shining Armor and will whisk you away from the evil, muddy, flood water and build you a new, better castle to start your life in. 

It’s the moment when he says, “Abigail, I love you” that you are able to take in a deep breath, stop crying, and know that he means what he says. It’s then, that you, in return, promise to stay strong and move forward with whatever comes your way and reply, “And I love you”.