G1P0A1

G1P0A1.

This was one of those weeks where you just can’t help but remember.

I went to visit my family doctor for the first time since we lost Elim today for some general prescription refills.  She did the right thing and asked how I was doing since the loss, if we were trying again and then reminded me that at least I know I can get pregnant.

I know.

She sent me off saying that she hoped she saw me again soon with good news.

Me too.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t exist in perpetual fear of another loss. Some days I wonder about losses that I don’t know about.

But, in that appointment, with our conversation, I realized that watching someone type those letters and numbers was bizarre.

G1P0A1.

In medicine, we have what I liken to a secret code when it comes to describing women and pregnancy. G means gravida. Number of pregnancies. P means para. Number of babies born after 20 weeks. A means aborta. Number of babies delivered before 20 weeks. Some expand it to GTPAL with G being number of pregnancies, T term deliveries, P preterm delivieries, A induced abortions or miscarriages and L live children.

When I learned this system, I found it awful. I found it really tough to keep straight and was forever getting my Gs and Ps mixed up. Plus, it bothered me that A was for both induced abortion and spontaneous abortion. People often specified, but both caused pain and one can have repercussions on future pregnancies if recurrent.

The system bothered me because you could look at those numbers and see joy or pain or fear. At least I could. My heart broke for people who had more Gs than Ps. I hated to ask about losses because I didn’t want to bring up that pain. For me, there was always something devastating about pregnancy loss. It was always something I worried about.

On the other side of the desk, knowing what it means, it still sucks. I think my fear of bringing it up with women was a bit excessive. I was uncomfortable then because it bothered me, not them. I mean, it is a fact of life and it kills me more when people ignore the fact that I had that loss than when they ask about it. I guess I needed to see that for myself.

I was grateful that she cared enough to ask how things were and where we were at.

Still. Seeing it on a screen was weird. Especially when I have thought it before. And knowing that really, months before Elim, there could be another G and A that I suspected, but never confirmed because it all happened so fast. It could be G2P0A2. But, I won’t know in this lifetime. And I think I’m okay with that because I never really knew for sure.

G1P0A1.

What if those numbers never change? What if the Gs change but the Ps never do? What if I match my Gs for Ps from here on out?

I can’t predict the future. I wish I could sometimes, but I can’t.

The things I do know are that I am healthy, that God is good and that there is so much to this life that I don’t understand. I know how much good has come out of our journey so far. That I have grown in leaps and bounds in my faith. That we have been tested as a couple and as individuals and keep coming out the other side. The experience has helped me to love other people in ways that I might not have otherwise had the opportunity to do.

I don’t talk about it a whole lot. I has become easier, but I miss my little A1 every day. Maybe I’ll tell you more about that one day.

It freaked me out to see the letters and numbers on the screen. Sometimes the letters and numbers in your head seem not so real until you realize someone else acknowledges the reality of the situation. In another sense, it made me feel better because it is only one, it is real and it is normal.
God is good. His timing is perfect. I am trying to hope in Him and not my future children (or job or spouse).

Letters and numbers don’t make me whole. They don’t save me from myself. They are just statistics. There are bigger things.

Learning in Ultrasound: A Person is a Person…

I can’t believe how fast February flew by.  It is Medical Monday again, which means time to link up with some other lovely medically affiliated blogs.  Check them out at the link below.

As you may know, I am on a radiology rotation.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time I go see some ultrasound imaging.  Other aspects of imaging are more comfortable for me (especially Nuc Med for obvious reasons), but ultrasound is my black box, so I figured learning is good.  So, I am doing ultrasound at the hospital where I usually work.  Lots of livers and thyroids and kidneys.

Then, up on the screen pops up a perfect looking 8 week embryo.  Cool, I think to myself, that might be my kid in another four weeks.

Image from babycenter.com.

I then remembered that all of the obstetrical ultrasounds are generally done at the children’s hospital unless there is someone in emerg.  I asked why this ultrasound was done at the hospital we were at.

Its for the TPU replied the fellow.

Termination of pregnancy unit.

My heart sank.

He said I could leave if I wanted to.  But really, this is part of my learning.  Part of life in a hospital and in this world.

I watched him read four ultrasounds of perfect little embryos between 6 and 11 weeks all with heartbeats and the works.  Perfect little embryos that might have otherwise grown up, although it is tough to say for sure because bad stuff happens.

I went home and cried to Patrick because it seemed so sad and so unfair that these babies had to die when maybe they wouldn’t.  It seemed so unfair that so many women want babies so badly and yet here are people who for whatever reason or circumstance don’t or can’t want their own.

Just over a week later, after losing my own baby, Elim, I sat in that department again.

Yet again, I saw babies getting their photo taken to confirm that they were indeed alive (because the procedure is different if they are alive or dead).  I saw one person who had terminated pregnancies 6 times.

I had an overwhelming urge to go in and yell at these people.  To tell them that I am here, working and trying to piece together what is left of my sanity because my baby died before it would have even been very visible on an ultrasound.  That I really wanted that baby.  That it isn’t fair that they get to choose, but I can’t.  To ask a big huge why.

But, I didn’t.

Because that isn’t fair of me (or very professional).

Their baby dying, my baby dying, really, it is all a loss.  Those kids are all with God now.  They all had potential.  They all died because they were made in a fallen world full of brokenness.

That mom may mourn the loss of her child like I do.  Everybody grieves differently.   Maybe not now, but maybe later.  I have heard of the struggles of moms who make that decision.  And maybe she won’t.  I can’t put myself entirely in her shoes.

We aren’t very good at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes.  We are, however, really good at trying to point out other people’s wrongs.

Image from chzbgr.com.

I’m not here to have the pro-choice or pro-life debate.  In fact, I don’t want to hear it because it is often hurtful, overdone and narrowminded on both sides of the coin.  Sin is sin.  Death is death.   Pain and anguish are universal.   We have free will.  That is all on that.

I read this blog post from The Lewis Note called “Why Miscarriage Matters When You’re Pro-Life.”   It was strangely timely based on the adventures of the last few weeks.  Check it out.

I read this post the night after my second day in the ultrasound department when I was really struggling with the value of life and how we see it as a society.

It rocked my world.  Because it is so true, especially in a Christian context, but I am sure it works for others as well.

I have already experienced both the good and the bad sides of this post.  Some people are really nice.  Other people aren’t.  And some nice people say stupid stuff (I sure do).

Thinking on how I responded to people who lost kids at the same point, I think I had empathy and sympathy for both.  I think I did place more value on the aborted baby.  I also think I had more sympathy for that child’s mother because there was action and potential.

Looking at scans, it is the same.  Already dead babies are already dead, so in a way, it seemed less sad than about to babies about to die.

That isn’t necessarily fair of me.

Both an electively aborted baby and a spontaneously aborted baby were both alive at one point and had potential and value.

And then, there is our approach to the mothers and fathers.

Don’t forget the fathers.  Many people do.

Everyone needs love.  It doesn’t matter how voluntary a loss was, it doesn’t matter how old the child was (although this does often impact they way people can grieve and what is considered “acceptable”).  You need people willing to live the grief with you.  To sit it out with you because that is what you might need, even when it is uncomfortable (just like sitting through scans that are upsetting helps us to learn and grow in a different way).

If you claim to care about a person, to care about life, then you should stand by the mourning no matter what they are mourning and no matter how long that what was alive.  If you want some practical suggestions and examples, check out that post.  I am the first person to admit that I tend to project my feelings on others, so if I think something would weird me out, I tend to avoid doing that for someone else or letting someone do it for me.  I’ve learned that I am often wrong and my assumptions were totally incorrect.  If you aren’t sure how to help or love someone where they are at, ask.

I guess I’m learning more than I anticipated on this radiology rotation.

The Blessing and Learning Curve of Gaining and Losing Elim (“ball of cells”)

Image from tochristifrommommy.blogspot.com.

Less than two weeks ago, I found out I was finally pregnant… I called the baby “ball of cells.”  That was my term of endearment.

My medical training made me cautious.  I know that pregnancy does not equal baby.  I know that life is fragile.  I took 3 tests to confirm before I even told Patrick because I wanted to be sure.

It didn’t change our excitement and happiness.  Talking about the future.  Planning for when to tell people. How to make work function.  What we would have to change or do.  Rejoicing.

I knew the longest besides God, of course.  I remember that first Sunday in church when it was still just our little secret thanking God for the new creation growing inside of me and wanting to tell the world and yet wanting to keep it to myself because if others knew, somehow something would go wrong.  The only other person who found out before stuff started going wrong was Patrick and I told him on Sunday night (with what I believe was a very adorable and entertaining card).

Then, we had to say goodbye to “ball of cells.”

I knew something was wrong mid-week.  I re-took a test.  The line got lighter and although this isn’t a perfect system, it wasn’t a good sign.  I told Patrick.

Usually I am the high-baseline, optimistic person.  This time it was him.  He refused to believe anything bad happened to “ball of cells.”  I didn’t want to go to the doctor.  I didn’t want to hear what I already knew inside.  Finally, I went to the doctor who instilled a bit of hope in me instead of flat out dashing our dreams.   I wanted hope.  Cautious hope, but hope nonetheless.

I went for bloodwork.  It was either going to confirm what I thought I knew or make everything better.  I hoped it would make things better.  I needed it to make things better.

Nothing is more bizarre than being congratulated on your pregnancy, being asked about your due date, where you plan to deliver and all that good stuff while sitting there with that gut feeling that your baby is dead.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them.  I didn’t want anyone to feel what I was feeling.

Also bizarre is walking around all weekend not knowing and yet knowing.  It feels surreal.  I have lovely best friends (three of them) who checked in incessantly.  I have a husband who bought me beautiful flowers, cooked me food and was all around over protective.  I don’t know what I would do without them.  I was just glad I wasn’t on call.

Sunday, we watched the Canadian men win the gold in hockey (WHOO!).  Happily, we went to church still not knowing whether we would be parents of a living baby in 8 months.  I was still having some morning sickness and weird headaches, but the acne was clearing up, the cramping was worse and I kind of felt empty.

I prayed for God’s will in my baby’s life and in our lives.  I prayed for strength.  I prayed that we would glorify him in whatever was to come.

We left church on our way to have lunch and board games with friends at our place and there was a voicemail on my phone.  It was my new doctor.  In summary:  My bloodwork was perfect except that my HCG was less than 5.

There would be no baby.

So much for that hope.

It is funny.  I have always thought pregnancy loss was a big deal.  I remember learning about it in med school and thinking how awful it was.  I remember when the first couple I knew miscarried shortly after telling everyone about their pregnancy.  I remember thinking that I didn’t know how they coped with it.

At the same time, I have always been kind of flippant about it, particularly when it comes to me and when it comes to early pregnancy.  I mean, an embryo is an organized ball of cells and odds are there is some sort of genetic flaw that is incompatible with life.  It just makes good scientific sense to clean up mistakes.

I thought calling “ball of cells” just that would make it more clear to me that it may not make it.  I thought explaining to my friends that I was waiting to make sure things were growing or dying appropriately made it all sound more clinical.

But really, there is nothing to be flippant about.

Sure, life goes on.  I know that.  It doesn’t change the hurt of the life that won’t.  Especially because I was one of the only people who really knew it.  And I didn’t even know it that well.  We only got to hang out for about 3 weeks total.  And 2 of them, I didn’t even know it was there.  And it died at some point in the last one.

I feel in some ways like I should care less.  This is technically still a chemical pregnancy (miscarriage before 6 weeks).  It felt different from what I thought might have been my last ?chemical where there was a squinter maybe positive (but in reality probably an evaporation line) and then definite negatives.  It was sad and disappointing, but really not the same as actually existing pregnant for several days when you know something is happening.  It is the difference between thinking maybe and knowing for sure.

It was literally just a ball of cells that wasn’t able to survive.  “It was God’s will” after all.  It was, I guess.  Still sucks though.  Maybe somehow they did have some sort of potential.

I am, in part, glad it happened so early.  Maybe I am less attached than I would have been if I was further along.  People have told me I should be less attached, at least.  That kind of makes me scared for this happening again later in pregnancy.  I have the utmost sympathy for women who loose babies who are more developed and for those who lose children.  At the same time, I am jealous because I was robbed of the experience of even seeing the little sucker on an ultrasound screen.

Sure, I will have more kids.  Sure, I am young.  I know most women go on to have no issues with future pregnancies and get pregnant shortly after something like this.  The statistics are on my side.  I also know I was in the wrong end of the 50% of women who have bleeding in early pregnancy.  Something has to go right.

It is a funny experience telling people you miscarried when they didn’t even know you were pregnant.  Not that we’re telling many people.  It makes them super uncomfortable.  It makes me uncomfortable too (and I often love embracing the awkward).  But, because nobody talks about, I kind of want to.  I know statistically, I am far from the only one to experience this.    I know because, like the big nerd I am, I have read everything I can on the subject.

Because “ball of cells” was so little, I have had a lot of anxiety around whether or not I would see him or her in heaven. Seems silly, right?  I mean, if you believe life begins at conception, of course “ball of cells” was alive and then died.  But, my scientific mind picturing a little cell collection had a hard time picturing my ball of cells chilling with Jesus and my Grandfather.  But, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)  Pretty cool, huh.  “Ball of cells” was a pretty little child, so I suppose he or she counts.

As a result of this, I then got thinking that we should give “ball of cells” a proper name because I am sure they don’t want to be known as “ball of cells” for all eternity.  That being said, the snarky and cold side of me didn’t want to name it because, well, that would make it more real and felt as if I was making much out of little.  Also, I could have other dead balls of cells that I don’t know of (most people probably do), so what about them (I don’t know how to answer this question)?  And, I didn’t want people to judge me (I, in the past would have).  Patrick liked the sounds of naming him or her too, so we went with it.

We named him or her Elim because I have been reading Exodus recently and about how God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Plus, it is a gender neutral name.

I’d love to say I am all better now, but to be blunt, I’m not.

I’m better in the sense that my body is no longer rejecting the remains of my child.  I’m better in the sense that I know for sure now that Elim died and is in heaven now (while his or her biochemical bits are somewhere in the sewers).

Grief is a funny thing.  And this grief is of a variety that I haven’t experienced before.  Even though I am okay with death, this doesn’t feel okay.  And that is okay too.

I’m sad.  I’m still a bit angry.  But, I feel a whole lot of peace and a whole lot of joy, which is a big testament to answered prayers and the awesomeness of God.

I know, you probably read joy and now think I am taking some sort of pills.  I’m not.

This isn’t smiling, frolicking joy.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. –John 16:22

It is more the I’m happy I’m okay, Patrick is okay and Elim is okay.  I’m happy Jesus came and that I’ll get to see my baby again, even though I don’t get the logistics because he or she was just a ball of cells.  I’m happy because I feel protected and loved despite the crap that has gone down.

The really cool thing is that I get something more now.  I have just a little bit of a better understanding of how much God must love us.

Sure, I’m still ticked He didn’t fix Elim and I’m not still barfy and headachey and pregnant (okay, confession… I was pretty excited when I was feeling physically well today).

The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  -Job 1:21

But, if I can love a little ball of unborn cells that I barely know that much…  So much that I am mourning their death… That is pretty huge.

If God loves me more than that, then I can’t even begin to imagine how sad he feels when we draw away from Him, when He loses one of us.

So yes.  This sucks.  I am not alone in this.  Neither are you.  But, I am growing and learning in my relationship with God and as a physician and human from this experience in ways I definitely didn’t expect.  Funny how gifts come in bizarre packages sometimes.

Image from spiritualinspiration.tumblr.com.

Breaking The Sound Of Silence

This week’s writing challenge with the Daily Post is called “The Sound of Silence.”

I am choosing to approach the topic from the perspective of breaking the silence on a topic.  One that I have been very reluctant to talk about on here, with most of my friends or family and until recently, God.  And yet, I have been toying with a post on the topic for ages (I did kind of address the issue a bit here).

My silence comes from a place of privacy.  Because people don’t need to know all of my business.

But moreso it comes from a place of shame and jealousy, both of which are sin.

In our current small group, we share what we call redemption stories – stories of how God is redeeming our lives for Him.  This was the topic of my redemption story.

Fertility issues and pregnancy loss are getting more attention these days.  But, still they are little talked about.  Even in medicine.

Although before the last year I could tell you that it is not worth investigating the absence of conception with couples having appropriately timed intercourse until they have been at it for a year (if they are under 35).  I also could have told you that it is very common for pregnancy to end in miscarriage, sometimes even before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Then, I lived it.

The plan was always to have a baby in my PGY2 year.  It is the best year in my program to do this.  More flexibility, you aren’t into the swing of being “on service” all that stuff.

My plan failed.

Because it was my plan.  Not God’s plan.  Not even Patrick’s plan (although he was game for it, he was cool with kids before I was).  The best laid plans can fall apart.  And mine did.

We have existed through month after month of disappointment.  I didn’t know I could experience such disappointment.  It seems not that long ago that we were first married and pregnancy seemed one of the worst things that could happen.

I would sit and church and hear about our all loving and knowing God and how He only wants good in my life and I would wonder where my good was.  I would hear baby announcements and be happy and crushed all at the same time.  I would politely smile and answer an obligatory some day when people would ask when we were having kids.

I know all the textbook answers (okay, not all of them, I haven’t done any obstetrics outside of LMCC studying since Med 3).   I know that I have some family history of fertility struggles.  I also know that there is likely nothing wrong with me to cause this “delay” (it doesn’t change my thinking that there is 50 times per day).

I know miscarriages are common.  That didn’t change the hearbreak I felt when I realized that I had a chemical pregnancy and that my body clearly did not want to house that tiny collection of cells for whatever reason.

I felt alone and defective.

And really, I wasn’t.

I mean, lots of people go through this.  Tons.  In fact, it is perfectly normal to not have a kid first go around, or second or even tenth.  It is also perfectly normal to lose a pregnancy.  It is our body’s amazing way of cleaning up genetic mistakes.

Heck, even Sarah in the Bible had these kinds of struggles and she ended up being huge in history.

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.  Hebrews 11:11

I have friends and a family who I could have shared this with, but I chose to keep it a secret.  I tried to keep much of this grief from Patrick too, but that is nearly impossible.

I did this partly because I am selfish and human and wanted to keep my pain just for me.  Partly because I was angry at God.  And mostly because I blamed myself and felt mind boggling shame.

I’d love to say that one day a light turned on and I felt better about it.  But really, that would be a lie.

God has been working me through it.

I have met people in different phases of the journey.  They are great encouragements.  One person said to me that really, we shouldn’t be ashamed.  It isn’t our story.  It is God’s story.  And He isn’t ashamed. We just don’t see the whole picture.

I have heard someone say that shame is often the devil trying to draw you away from God.  Or that shame is a form of selfishness.  For me, it acted as both.  Shame and selfishness begets more shame and selfishness.  It is a vicious cycle that can draw you away from all kinds of good.  When you get caught up in it, you can only see your own hurt and not the good and rational in the world.

In church, we talked about the difference between fundamental joy and joy that we derive from other things.  I am generally a joyful person.  I find great joy in God and in simple things in life.  In Jesus, we have fundamental joy.  I still felt that joy, but felt like a piece was starting to be missing. I was trying to (and still am much of the time) derive joy from something I didn’t have.  That isn’t fair to me or God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  -Romans 15:13

I hate the cliché when people say you need to be satisfied in God before thing X will come about.  But, I think this has been a huge lesson in that.  Especially as someone who has had a pretty darn good life, I have come to realize that I need to be satisfied in God in the times where I feel crummy or am unhappy, not just when stuff is going well.

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  -Isaiah 58:11

I have been reminded countless times that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  It doesn’t always feel like that, but in conversation with a friend this past weekend, I was reminded that the human body is amazing creation that we often just take for granted.  It made me remember that includes my body, so maybe I shouldn’t give it such a hard time.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  -Psalm 139: 13-16

But more importantly, I am coming to realize that this situation is because of our fallen world and that God is still in it with me.

God is still working me through my sin around these struggles and my shame both when coming to Him and telling others.  But, at least I talk to Him about it now instead of just stewing to myself in my head.

Also, I see purpose in the whole thing.  My growth both emotionally and spiritually has been slow, but significant. I now have a new empathy for people without kids or coping with loss.  I have learned a boatload about what people deal with trying to conceive that could one day help friends or patients.

And one day, maybe soon, we will have a kid and that will be super cool and awesome and I can tell this story and show how huge God was in all of it.  Because really, that is what it is all about (cue musical interlude).

I am a work in progress.  That is what makes us human.

I just hope that this glimpse of my humanness, this break of silence will make a difference for someone else caught up in the web of shame, guilt and worry.  It was a big step for me, at least.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

This week’s photo challenge with the Daily Post is called “Family.”

I come from a relatively small family.  I am an only child, but I was lucky enough to grow up with grandparents and aunts and uncles and even great-grandparents.  That being said, I also am lucky enough to have lots of extended family and family-like people.  It is like I get the best of both worlds.

I obviously did not take all of these photos.  Photo props to those who did, including Patrick, the Child, H, Patrick’s Aunt and my Dad.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

This week’s Photo Challenge is called “Unexpected.”

One thing that has been expected are the visitors, our lovely friends L&C who are here for the weekend.

I am going to do a big throwback to over four years ago to our honeymoon.  We discovered something unexpected…

Kittens!!

The inn where we stayed for part of our honeymoon had two kittens wandering around it.  We arrived and decided to go exploring the trails and gardens and such and stumbled upon them.   One was particularly friendly and made Patrick’s day.

100_2890 100_2902

One of the best choices I ever made

My lovely husband Patrick has offered his services as guest poster extraordinaire again today and emailed me this to share as his blog contribution.  Later, you will see that he points out he proposed to me five years ago today.  And I, the heartless, forgetful one did not remember this fact until I was editing the post (fail.).

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference

I’m sure most of you recognize the above excerpt from Robert Frost’s famous and “inspirational” poem, “The Road Not Taken”. However, you may not know that it is the most misinterpreted poem of all time. Frost didn’t write it to inspire the masses or future generations as it has been used.

As I learned in one of my first university English Literature courses, Frost actually wrote it to mock an indecisive friend he often went hiking with. You see “Jimmy” as we will call him found it difficult to decide which path to take when they came to a fork in a road and would always wonder about the path they didn’t take after the decision was made.  I’ll admit that even after finding out this mind-blowing fact that I still sometimes think of the poem after I make a major decision and wonder what the outcome would have been if I decided differently.

We all make many choices everyday both consciously and subconsciously. In fact, you just made a choice by deciding to read this post and hopefully will choose to continue to read it.  Many daily choices are minor ones such whether to hit the snooze button one more time, what to wear or what to eat for breakfast in the morning.  Chances are good that those choices will not have great consequences… Unless, of course, you realize you forgot to put on pants/skirt as you arrive at work.

Of course, not all choices can be made so lightly or without foresight.  I admire people who have to make major decisions that greatly affect their own life or the lives of others.

With Remembrance Day coming up, I think it’s safe to include veterans and current military personnel in that category.  Let’s be clear – I hate war because of all the lives that are lost or changed forever as a result of it. I wish every dispute could be solved peacefully. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t support the people who sacrifice so much to protect the freedoms we take for granted.

Doctors/Paramedics/Nurses also fall into a similar category of making major decisions that affect others and themselves regularly.

How do you make major decisions?

I usually just flip a coin like a certain Batman villain.

Seriously though, there are a few things I usually do.  I talk it over with people who I respect and trust the most such as my wife/family, or long-time friends and mentors.  I pray about it and read the Bible- although admittedly not nearly as much as I should.  I reflect about how I handled similar situations in the past and the results of the decisions I made- both good and bad.  I try to honestly answer questions like, “What do I really want?” “What is the best choice for my well-being?” and “How will my decision affect the people closest to me or the situation?”  I don’t like to admit it, but I also Google articles that are particularly relevant to the situation.

But something I always do with major decisions is something Trisha recently mentioned she does – make a pro-con list. Clearly, another sign we are perfect for each other, right? Writing the list is often the best way to see what I really think about both sides of the equation.  If there are significantly more pros or cons then it makes it easier to decide what the best course of action is.

Now I’m sure you are wondering what one of the best decisions I ever made was where the pros were overwhelming?

Well you see 5 years ago on this very day I decided to ask Trisha to make an important decision.  “Will you marry me?”   I’m very happy she decided without hesitation to answer in the affirmative or to be more specific, “Yeah”.  I’m glad that she also found that the pros outweighed the cons to marrying me…  Or at least decided the cons were not a deal breaker!

I won’t go into all the mushy details of how I proposed.  But, the short version is I had us walk to one of our favorite dating places with a beautiful view of forest and water. It was drizzly and I was worried the heavens were going to open up, but thankfully they did not. I read her a story I wrote because that was the best way I was able to express how much she meant to me. We then went to her favorite restaurant, which conveniently was not far from my Grandparents house, where we later went to let them know the good news. We followed that with going to “High School Musical 3” with some of our best friends. That may sound weird but one of first dates was to see the first High School Musical so it seemed a very fitting way to celebrate.

I wasn’t able to be as spontaneous or surprising as I would have liked but when you live in different provinces there is only so much you can do in that regards. Still, I wouldn’t change it and it was perfect because of the beautiful, intelligent woman (don’t edit that Trisha!). I proposed to. The rest was just icing on the cake.

Looking back it’s amazing to think how the two crazy kids in the picture below, taken immediately after getting engaged, have changed and not changed since 2008.  We didn’t really know much about the realities of marriage or where we’d be living in a few years. In a way, we still don’t.100_2297

But we knew that we loved each other and didn’t want to live without each other. That was enough then and still is now.  I hope and believe that in 5 years or even 50 years we can say the same thing.  After, all, when I said “I do” it wasn’t just a one-time choice. It was a choice to try my best to love her every day as long as we both shall live no matter what. This is one road I thank God every day that I took and have no regrets about the road not taken.

Weekly Writing Challenge: DNA Analysis

Image from wikia.com.

This week’s writing challenge was interesting to me just based on the title “DNA Analysis.” 

I remember first learning about DNA in detail in grade 10 biology.  I am sure I did cover the stuff before, but this was around when the human genome project was just coming out with their successful mapping of human DNA and such and it was HUGE to a geek like me.  It is crazy how far we have come since then.  I mean, just today I was helping to prescribe a drug that targets a certain genetic mutation on lung cancer cells to a person who would otherwise have almost no really useful treatment for the cancer.

Crazy.

Back to the challenge… The folks at the daily post want folks to write about the bits and pieces that make you you and use them as a springboard for a bigger point.  The basic concept is simple, but the whole package is a bit intense.

That brings me back to grade 10 biology.  I loved biology.  Cells are fascinating things.  That is when I learned something fascinating… Cancer can be genetic, so can autoimmune diseases and a million other things.

That is when I realized that things weren’t so simple.  I got the whole nature versus nurture thing and felt pretty strongly that it took a mix of these to put together a person.  But, I grasped at that point that maybe I was doomed to be more like some of my family members in ways that I didn’t want.

I wasn’t just in any biology class.  I was far to geeky for that.  I was in the International Baccalaureate program and I was one of the top in my class.  Because that is how I rolled.

Organized, driven to a fault, keen.

If you ask my parents, heck, if you asked most of my family, I was and still am my Aunt Doreen incarnate.  Seriously, I even look like her to this day (even though I also suspiciously look just like both of my parents).

She died when I was 8 from lymphoma (that may or may not have developed from complications from medications she took for her Lupus) and she was like another parent to me.

Sure, we have our differences.  I am fortunate to be healthier, for one.  Secondly, I am nowhere near as outgoing and social as she was.  She was a big party planner and loved the sorts of events with bunches of people that I hate.  I clearly took after and/or learned those behaviours from my Dad on that end.

But, in so many ways, I am very much like her.

And I like that.  Because I liked her.  And most of my similar traits are useful to have.

Then came grade 10 biology.

I share DNA with her.

I mean, I knew that before, obviously, she is my Dad’s sister.  One doesn’t tend to exist as a spitting image of someone to whom they have no relation.

But, with similar genetics, even if it is somewhere under a half of my DNA, and all of those similar traits, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would run into the same problems.  Was I destined to develop an autoimmune disease?  Am I just one hit away from developing a malignancy?

My similar anal-retentive traits led me to scour the internet for information.

Just like when we would do “fun projects” when we would hang out when I was a little kid (minus the internet, instead we had magazines, encyclopedias and library books).

I am pretty sure I am the only 15 year old who learned about tumor hit loci, and genetic hypothesis around lupus.  I even did a project on it for the class.

Of course, I know now that having a second degree relative with these problems is not that big of a risk factor.  But, at 15 and as an otherwise similar person, this was kind of concerning.

So yes, I know nature plays at least some role in my similarities. My DNA plays a role in my appearance, my capacity for learning and such.

But really, my DNA does not make me organized, nor does it make me love learning or give me my obsessive compulsive personality.  That came from spending days doing “fun projects,” learning how to color code files and singing along with the radio with my.  Just like my dislike for public displays of affection and sense of humor can be blamed on my Dad or how I am “too nice” like my Mom.

And yet, I can be so much like someone I only knew just over 1/4 of my life.

DNA is important, but science has shown it isn’t everything.  Sometimes it takes an exposure, for instance radiation exposure to cause damage enough to provoke an illness.  I guess, it didn’t take a whole lot for me to be like my Aunt.

That is just how I happen to be programmed.

Diagnosing the Cat

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Jeter chilling on my parents’ fridge. No worse for the wear.

Patrick, Jeter and I had an interesting adventure this weekend.

Jeter came home with us, which is not that out of the ordinary.  He is a strangely road-trip friendly cat.

The weird comes in when he had this weird fit getting out of his cage at my parents’ house that I chalked up to being freaked out because his foot was caught.  Then, he did it again on our way to his grandfather’s house.  This time, Patrick thought he was having a seizure.

But, it wasn’t a seizure.

Nonetheless, he hissed at us (something Jeter has never done), so we thought there might really be something wrong. Patrick more than me.  But I have had the fear response beaten out of me.  We bickered about this.  That I claimed our cat just has some autistic type traits (in the end I was kind of right… Not autistic, but OCD, nonetheless something in the DSM.).

So, we took Jeter for his first “emergency room” visit.

We wound up seeing a really nice vet who happened to be in the office tending to a cat who was hit by a car and was subsequently having a much worse day than Jeter.

Jeter by this point was back to his curious self and repeatedly tried to leap off the table to explore the office and get up as high as humanly possible.

While I pinned down our now 6kg cat (apparently this is okay given his giant frame), the vet poked him over, asked us questions and declared him perfectly healthy.

Well, not perfectly.

Apparently, Jeter has a relatively rare and ill-defined syndrome called Feline Hyeresthesia Syndrome or Twitchy Cat Syndrome or Rolling Skin Syndrome.

The fact that he has weird back twitches (that I always thought were normal) and now these more intense “fits” (where he spasms from his head to his back legs) puts it together.  The stress of being in a carrier and being bounced around being carried across the yard on top of the road trip and such made him have worsened spasms.  Or at least that is the theory given the fact he never had ones that severe that we ever paid attention before.

We learned that basically it is some sort of fusion of an OCD type picture.  Anxiety worsens the twitching, the twitching makes the cat thing something is attacking him, he freaks out.  And repeat.  Apparently, it is also kind of neurologic because it seems to start in one dermatome and work its way down.

The good part is that it is generally not severe and often does not require medication or anything like that.  If things do get bad, there are options.  The biggest concern is that he could start self-harming if the twitches are frequent.  He hasn’t shown a sign of that.

Basically, like having a kid with OCD or autism, we have to have him with a consistent routine, make sure he gets lots of exercise and eats well and minimize triggers.  It can be brought on or worsened by stress.

We learned that the carrier seems to be a big issue, even though he is fine with it in the car, he seems to run into trouble when it is more jostled.  So, we tried carrying him to the car and out of the car.  No big fits.

The other tidbit the vet suggested was to keep him safe when the episodes are intense, but don’t interfere too much or he might think you are involved.  That explains the hissing at me. when he is usually so jolly.

Jeter my Mom and Grandmother all visiting one another.

Jeter my Mom and Grandmother all visiting one another.

Since that day, he hasn’t had another “fit,” but I have started noticing his back twitching and that he intermittently bolts for no good reason like something is chasing him (although it is tough to discern whether that is related to the Twitchy Cat or just his general hyperactivity).  We are a bit anxious about traveling with him again, but really, he seems to be otherwise okay, so I am sure we will, so long as we are sure things aren’t getting worse.

So, yes… We learned that our cat is basically weirder than we originally suspected.  And he is strangely well adjusted despite that.   At least now we can explain a bit of the crazy.

My life/marriage as summarized in two Vocal Few songs

I have developed a new musical obsession with the band Focal Few featuring the lead singer from The Classic Crime and his wife.

Seriously, I have been listening to their two EPs incessantly for the last week.

I mean, any band that has a tagline, “A guy and his pregnant wife making music” has to be a win, right?

Two of my favourite songs from this group are two songs that I feel like fit with our anniversary adventure last week.  There is something about commemorating the number of years one is with another person that makes you think back to all of the stuff you have made it through.  There is also something about life that makes you think of all the things you have yet to go through.

“The Road” is one of those songs that looks back at how God has this funny way of planting you right where you need to be, even if it feels like it isn’t.  The journey is important to reaching a destination, but sometimes it feels like you are at a destination when you are still on the journey.

Looking back, it is easy for me to see how our apart time had each of us in places where we needed to be to get to where we are now.  At the time, though, not so much.  I am sure that is just like how I will look back at weekends on call while Patrick goes out camping with the church and such.

“We’ll Make It Some Day” has now begun to appear on my workout playlist.  I find it motivational, as cheesy as it is.

But, on a relationship standpoint, it is also great.  I feel like we have crashed and burned and made a million mistakes.  But really, we have come through them all together.  I also feel like we have spent much time saying “we’ll make it some day.”

Sometimes still, I feel like real life escapes us.  That we are doomed to always be trying to pay back my student debt, that Patrick will always be looking for a job, that we will never have a family of our own.  But, really, that stuff all comes.  And God makes a way for it to come in his time.  And we will look back at this time too and say that we made it.

Pretty cool stuff.

I find it all quite encouraging.

So, there you have it, my marriage as kind of interpreted in two songs by the Vocal Few.   

Less sappiness and nostalgia to follow tomorrow, I am sure.